March 31, 2016
Winter Is Leaving
San Francisco Giants
There are a lot of easy storylines when considering the coming season for San Francisco. It’s 2016, which is, by my calculation, an even year, so we could talk about their forthcoming championship season in that light. There’s the departure from previous norms in regards to spending as they’ve rebuilt their rotation from scratch. There’s the incredible amount of homegrown talent they feature, including their new-found ability to channel #CardinalsDevilMagic by churning out above-average bats from seemingly middling (offensive) talent (Crawford, Panik, Duffy). But there are a couple obvious reasons why the Giants are poised to challenge for a fourth championship in seven years, too. In the words of our dearly departed R.J. Anderson “we’ll spend a thousand words on Austin Hedges but can’t do the same for Buster Posey because he’s old.” Let's rectify.
We’ve taken Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner’s consistent brilliance for granted, because their production is essentially baked into any analysis that says Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija push the Giants over the top, or that Joe Panik is the reason the Giants won the title in 2014, or or or. It’s not that we’re ignoring their superlative output, but rather it’s so widely accepted that a response of “tell me something I don’t know” is not only reasonable, but perhaps warranted.
Still, when we talk about the Giants, what we’re really talking about are Bumgarner and Posey. You could call them the heart and soul, respectively, but the casual nickname for any pitcher/catcher pairing serves far too aptly in this situation; they bring the team to life, allowing other players to function as required. They’re quite simply the Giants’ battery.
While Bumgarner certainly gets his share of praise, it’s reasonable to say he’s overshadowed a bit due to Clayton Kershaw’s dominance. Posey though, doesn’t share the same affliction. There’s no one who has even threatened his status as the top backstop in the game unless you want to go way, way in on Kyle Schwarber (a million Cubs fans felt their ears burn). In fact, Posey is the Kershaw of catching.*
It’s not just how good Posey is (more on that later), but how good these two are together, and what that means to the Giants. A look at the batteryWARPs (SP WARP + C WARP) using individual seasons from 2013-2015 reveals that the Posey+Bumgarner pairing lands all three seasons (2013, 2014, 2015) in the top 10, bested only by the otherworldly 2015s from Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and their respective catchers, and a 2013 Yadier Molina/Adam Wainwright effort.
*Yes, yes, with postseason success.
This is a good start to describing the casual brilliance demonstrated yearly by Posey and Bumgarner, but the effect is amplified when looking at cumulative batteryWARPs over the same time period.
Over the last three years, the combined WARP of Bumgarner and Posey is 10 wins higher than the next-best pairing. Think about that. Don’t just read me telling you to think about it. Think about it. It’s mind boggling! That’s a Mike Trout season! TEN wins! T E N W I N S. Good gravy.
The other thing you’ll notice is that this, this is where Posey truly shines. Posey and Pitcher X have combined for five of top 20 batteryWARP seasons, and the most amazing part of all of this is that it excludes Posey’s 9-WARP 2012 season. Outside of Posey, only Jonathan Lucroy appears on the list more than twice (four times). Posey’s brilliance puts him and Ryan Freaking Vogelsong in the top five of batteryWARP in this time period. You can’t pay a higher compliment than understanding how ridiculous that is.
I’m still thinking about the 10 wins thing, by the way. Absurd.
There are going to be a lot of storylines to follow in San Francisco this season. Which Johnny Cueto shows up? Which Jeff Samardzija shows up? Can Denard Span stay healthy? Is Matt Duffy for real? Will Brandon Belt finally stay healthy/break out?
But the relevance of any and all of those things hinges on Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner holding their charge. Should they begin to corrode, so too will the Giants playoff aspirations. Of course, Posey won’t be having that.
Thanks to R.J. Anderson and Reggie Yinger for their help with this article.