Advanced stats have Posey optimistic about power

Advanced stats have Posey optimistic about power

SAN FRANCISCO -- This must be a new season. Buster Posey cited modern metrics.

Posey tends to take a dim view of statistics -- traditional or otherwise -- with the exception of victories. Yet the Giants' four-time All-Star catcher reluctantly acknowledged the significance of Statcast™ calculations that indicated that he's not becoming as powerless at the plate as his raw home run totals suggest.

Posey hit 14 homers last year, representing his lowest output for a full season. But according to figures compiled by Statcast™, the three-time Silver Slugger Award winner continued to connect as solidly as ever.

Asked Friday about his decline in power, Posey mentioned that his "hard-hit rate" -- his exit velocity, which conveys the ball's pace as it leaves the bat -- was roughly unchanged from 2015 to last year. Somebody, Posey said, pointed this out to him.

According to Statcast™, Posey's exit velocity actually rose to 91.3 mph in 2016, up from 89.6 the year before when he hit 19 homers. He also recorded favorable season-to-season comparisons in barreled balls -- defined as batted balls where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle typically yields a minimum batting average of .500 and a base slugging percentage of 1.500. Posey amassed 28 barrels in 2015 and 30 in 2016.

Posey, in town for Saturday's Giants FanFest at AT&T Park, did not quote any statistics. He prefaced his remarks about the metrics by commenting, "I'm a little bit hesitant to say this, because I think you have to take all the new analytics for what they're worth."

In Posey's case, they may explain his drop in power.

"That tells me I was probably hitting too many balls on the ground," said Posey, whose .288 batting average last year was another full-season low.

Posey's assumption was accurate. Baseball Savant calculated that he hit 252 line drives or fly balls in 2015, compared with 227 last year.

"More than likely it probably is mechanical," Posey said of the increase in grounders. "Hopefully there's an adjustment I can make where I can keep that consistent hard-contact rate but maybe get a few more balls in the gap or better."

Posey hit three homers after the All-Star break last year, prompting a reporter to ask whether he felt "worn down" by the end of the season.

"You feel worn down at the end of every year, regardless of whether you have power numbers or not," Posey said. "You usually feel a little bit better when you are hitting a few more homers. That's just the way it goes."

Though Posey will represent the United States in next month's World Baseball Classic, he and Giants manager Bruce Bochy aren't concerned that the extra activity could result in fatigue. Not only will the U.S. have two other catchers, Miami's A.J. Ellis and Texas' Jonathan Lucroy, but the Americans also will be managed by the highly regarded Jim Leyland.

"He's a great manager because he cares about his players," Bochy said. "He's not going to abuse anybody."

Bochy did say he wanted to find more opportunities to rest Posey, who started a career-high 122 games at catcher.

"I don't want this to be a big thing, headlines of 'Buster is not going to play as much,'" Bochy said. "I just said I'd like to pick my spots a little bit more. There were times we wanted to give him a break last year but we didn't have that luxury because somebody was sick or hurt."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.