Baseball is a game of adjustments, and that holds true even for a seasoned veteran like Giants catcher Buster Posey.
After sitting out the 2020 season, the 34-year-old Posey made some changes to his pregame and in-game routines to help him stay on the field and continue to be an impact player. The results have been encouraging so far.
Through his first eight games, Posey is batting .286 with an .855 OPS and two home runs. He’s flashed his strong arm behind the plate as well, throwing out three-of-seven (43 percent) attempted base stealers, tied with Zack Collins of the White Sox for the most in the Majors.
“It's definitely nice,” Posey said. “I think the exciting thing for me is I feel like I'm still progressing to where I think I can get to an even better place offensively. It's definitely nice to be off to a good start. The goal is to try to just get better each day.”
To give himself the best chance at keeping his body -- particularly his surgically repaired right hip -- healthy, Posey has refrained from taking batting practice on the field hours before first pitch. He said he prefers to do his pregame preparation in the batting cage a little bit closer to game time to avoid cooling down and then having to warm up again.
“My goal is to try to get hot, meaning get loose, just one time,” Posey said. “And not necessarily stretch at 4:15 or 4:30 [p.m.] and then hit and cool down. So I’d say that’s probably the biggest difference for me this year to years past. Trying to time out my preparation and schedule to get stretched out, get hot, and then go warm up the pitcher and play the game. So far, I feel like it’s been good.”
Posey underwent season-ending hip surgery in August of 2018, but the aftereffects of the injury seemed to linger into the following season, when he logged a career-low .688 OPS over 114 games. He appeared poised for a rebound in 2020, but he ended up sitting out the pandemic-shortened season after he and his wife, Kristen, adopted twin baby girls who were born prematurely last July.
After a year off, Posey is looking like his old self again. He’s been one of the Giants’ most reliable bats to start the season, and he's had an easier time turning on pitches and pulling the ball. He homered in two consecutive games to start the season, including an Opening Night blast that went out to left field at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
“I don’t know if the goal is necessarily to hit the ball in the air; I think when my swing is right it just happens on its own,” Posey said. “I think there’s a correlation between mechanically being in the right place and the body moving the correct way to more balls being in the air, whether it’s line drives or fly balls.”
Posey has also been changing the way he positions himself behind the plate, occasionally incorporating a one-knee setup to help frame pitches at the bottom of the zone. An added benefit is the new setup isn’t as taxing on the body as a full crouch, which could also help Posey stay fresh over a 162-game season.
“It’s helping him catch the ball at the bottom of the zone, and I think the most important factor here is that he feels comfortable in that position and athletic in that position,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “We believe that it’s going to allow him to be the best receiver he can be, while also keeping him agile and athletic.”