Batting title highlights Posey's amazing comeback
Giants catcher ready for rush of postseason with teammates by his side
SAN FRANCISCO -- Buster Posey told teammates as the regular season ended, "I'm looking forward to that Little League feel."That's the best way, Posey believes, to handle the Major League challenge of performing in the postseason.
Posey reached the 2010 postseason with the San Francisco Giants, who proceeded to win the World Series. That concluded a remarkable campaign for Posey, who won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.Once again, Posey's swimming in individual achievement. He won the NL batting title with a .336 average, which could propel him to the league's MVP Award. As the Giants' cleanup hitter and one of their most formidable performers in the clutch -- he batted .340 this year with runners in scoring position -- he will occupy the spotlight as San Francisco confronts Cincinnati in the Division Series beginning Saturday at AT&T Park -- on TBS at 6:30 p.m. PT. But, as numerous Giants have echoed, it's all about the team in the postseason. That's why Posey has that Little League feeling. "Even more so than the regular season, there's so much that rides on each pitch, each play and each at-bat," Posey said Friday, describing the emotional and mental rush the postseason provides. "To me, it feels like this time of the year, more so than even the regular season, guys are pulling for each other and have each other's back." Posey sensed the strength of this bond among the Giants. "I think we all like to win. I think that's a common feeling among guys in this clubhouse," he said. "From the start of the season, we had a plan to play hard each day. It worked out to winning the division, and we keep going. It's like we start fresh now. It should be fun." To an extent, Posey started fresh as this season began. The catcher endured a rigorous recovery after sustaining multiple left leg injuries in a home-plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins on May 25, 2011. The Giants weren't sure how much Posey could play this year. Manager Bruce Bochy estimated that the 25-year-old might exceed 100 games and perhaps approach 110. So when Posey played 148 games, including 110 starts at catcher, and appeared among the league leaders in virtually every significant offensive category, observers were left in awe. "To come off a devastating injury like he had and bounce back, and not just have a good year but win a batting title, is truly amazing to me," Bochy said. "It really demonstrates the talent that this guy has. I couldn't be happier for him -- not just in coming back, but being the force that he is." Posey became the second Giant to win a batting title since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. Barry Bonds topped the league in 2002 and '04. Five New York Giants won batting titles, including Hall of Famers Roger Connor (1885), Bill Terry (1930) and Willie Mays (1954). So when Posey said of his feat, "I don't think it's something you ever think about," he meant it. Posey emphasized that his was an individual accomplishment in name only. He credited head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and his staff for guiding him through his injury rehabilitation. He thanked batting coaches Hensley Meulens and Joe Lefebvre, as well as teammates, for stimulating his ideas about hitting. "I feel like I've gotten better at making adjustments from game to game and even during at-bats," Posey said. Posey also singled out Bochy for preserving his energy through the 162-game regular season by resting him just enough and starting him in 29 games at first base, which kept his bat in the lineup while sparing him from the rigors of catching. Posey's stamina was evident as he hit .289 before the All-Star break and .385 afterward. Posey has displayed similar progress as a catcher. Matt Cain, San Francisco's Game 1 starter, provided an example of Posey's seriousness about his defensive responsibilities. "From what he did in 2010 to what he's doing now, I think he's really trying to lead us and find ways to try to pitch to guys," Cain said. "... He knows that we're all trying to pitch different, and he's trying to pick our brains before starts, maybe about what we're thinking throwing to guys. He's done a good job of taking that role. He just kind of jumped right into it. He didn't really say anything to us about it. He started doing it ... and it kind of started being a routine." Giants players expressed their admiration for Posey after the regular-season finale at Los Angeles by presenting him a gift to commemorate his batting title. "You're with these guys every day for the past eight months," said Posey. "It feels good to enjoy this with them." The Giants believe that they'll have more to share with Posey. "Absolutely he's the MVP," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "Now that he's won a batting title, I certainly think he should win the MVP," Bochy said. "I'd hate to think where we'd be without him."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.