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Buster Posey takes some heat after an interesting play at the plate

May 14, 2014, 8:21 AM EDT

Posey Heyward

The second run of the Braves-Giants game last night came on a Freddie Freeman single to right which scored Jason Heyward. But it was a bit more interesting than that.

See, the ball was fielded by Hunter Pence who fired it home, and the ball beat Heyward to the plate by a wide margin. Buster Posey fielded it and attempted to tag Heyward, but he just missed. Or, at the very least, he appeared to have missed, acted as if he missed and then the safe at home call was upheld on replay. Watch here.

My first thought upon seeing that was “well, Heyward is 6’5″ tall, is more athletic than he even seems and just managed to use all of his length and juking ability to contort his way out of being tagged. Tough break for the Giants, but whaddaya gonna do?”

Not everyone agrees with me that it was just a weird play and a tough break. Andrew Baggarly of believes this to be a systematic problem for Posey. That, whether it’s his being gun shy at the plate since the Scott Cousins collision in 2011 or whether it’s just a function of Posey’s philosophy on defense, Posey is hesitant to initiate contact on plays at the plate and that he’s hurting his team because of it:

Maybe a catcher doesn’t sign up to be a crash test dummy. But he signs up for contact. He signs up for the occasional collision. And frequently, it’s his job to initiate it.

Posey does not initiate contact. He is taught to stand in front of the plate and reach back, swiping at the runner. At worst, apply the tag with a glancing blow. For the second consecutive Tuesday, Posey needed to do more.

This doesn’t touch on the new impact rules at the plate, given that the ball was there well before and those rules do allow a catcher to block and initiate contact at the plate, even if they do not allow the runner to initiate contact. Rather, this is more about approach and philosophy and maybe toughness, depending on how you feel about such things.

I don’t watch enough Giants games — certainly not as many as Baggarly doees — to know whether this is an issue with Posey. I do wonder, however, whether this sort of play comes up enough to where it’s worth making an issue out of it given Posey’s value to the Giants and how bad off they’d be if he got hurt.

  1. baberuthslegs - May 14, 2014 at 8:45 AM

    Posey’s value as a hitter does outweigh the risk of getting hurt in a collision, and I wouldn’t be surprised if management has told him to be careful out there when it comes to plays at the plate.

  2. rbts2014 - May 14, 2014 at 8:55 AM

    I don’t think Posey is too gunshy on this play – he seemed to me to be following the new home plate rule as he wasn’t blocking the plate and going for the tag until he had the ball.

    I don’t think this kind of play matters much in the long run – you’d have to think his bat is too valuable for him to continue playing catcher and wreck his knees. The tough nut to crack is what you are going to do about brandon belt if you are moving posey to first base. If Belt sees significant time on the DL, problem solved. 😉

    • HitsDingers - May 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      As Craig mentioned, the new home plate rule did not apply to this play. Posey was holding the ball, so he is allowed to block the pathway. He just punked out, plain and simple.

  3. danaking - May 14, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    So he’s wrong for blocking the plate because of the risk of injury, and he’s wrong for not blocking it because…what? It’s not manly? The Giants need Posey in the lineup. Giving up a run in May is inconsequential if he’s not available in October, when, I wager, he’d block the plate in that situation.

    I’m all for playing hard, but this isn’t football, where they only play once a week and teams treats players as disposable assets.

    • HitsDingers - May 14, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      No, he’s wrong for not blocking the plate and handing ATL a free run in a 1-0 game (at the time). This would have been the 2nd out of the inning. After this play, SF walked Gattis (with Freeman on 2nd) and then Johnson grounded out fielder’s choice. That ground out would have been the 3rd out. Instead, the inning continued and ATL scored 2 more runs. That’s 3 total runs that Posey should have prevented. I understand that SF didn’t score even 1 run, so they can’t win anyway, but a 1-0 game is a lot different than a 4-0 game.

      Making things even worse, this isn’t a play where Posey was sitting in front of the plate waiting to get run over. He just had to run into Heyward like touch football. I understand if you’re saying that Posey is too valuable of a batter to play catcher and risk any consequential injury whatsoever, but if that’s the case, don’t play him at catcher.

      • bigdicktater - May 14, 2014 at 1:49 PM

        What makes you think that Johnson was inevitably going to ground out?

        Posey has been told to make swipe tags.
        Belt is accomplished on offense and defense now. I wish Posey could (or would) play third, because I don’t think Pablo is coming back.

  4. Carl Hancock - May 14, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    If the catcher already has the ball he can position himself in front of the plate. He can’t do so while awaiting a throw. Posey had the ball almost before Heyward rounded 3rd (ok not that long) and didn’t position himself the way he should have. This has nothing to do with the new rules on plays at the plate. Posey just got out played because he has an (understandable) aversion to contact at the plate. Anyone who doesn’t think this is a problem for a catcher, even with the new rules, doesn’t know baseball. I’m sure Posey feels bad and I hope he gets over the psychological aspect of his prior injury. For those that say it doesn’t ultimately matter, Posey cost the Giants a win last week due to another play he missed at the plate where he should have got the out. So it does matter. I chuckle when people say a loss in May doesn’t mean anything. But it does when your team finishes 1 game out of first place. Posey will eventually need to be moved to first base. I I were the Giants is be looking at grooming a minor league catcher or drafting a good catching prospect to plan for the inevitable. It’s a shame, he’s a nice guy and a great player. Is there anyone out there that still thinks Posey is a better catcher than Yadier Molina? I’d say anyone that still believes that hasn’t been paying attention.

    • emdash01 - May 14, 2014 at 10:21 AM

      Better catcher is debatable, but he’s been a better overall player so far.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 14, 2014 at 10:44 AM

        No he hasn’t. Not even close. Buster is a wonderful players. But he still has a way to go.
        Just ask the Cardinals pitchers and coaches what they think. You can’t put a price on the way Yadi manages a game. That alone stands him apart.

      • emdash01 - May 14, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        It’s pretty difficult to say since he always works with strong pitching staffs, don’t you think? That the pitchers think he’s calling games well is great, but it’s not evidence one way or another.

        And it’s not to say that his catching isn’t somewhat more valuable than Posey’s, but Posey is very good defensively, calls a good game with a lesser staff, and is the superior offensive player. That adds up to a better player.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 14, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        I am going to have to respectfully (albeit vehemently) disagree Dash.
        Admittedly biased…but I expect Yadi to retire as one of the all time greats.
        So your post is blasphemy in my opinion.

      • paperlions - May 14, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        Molina always works with strong pitching staffs? Feel free to peruse the history of Cardinal staffs since Molina came up….they often have had 1 or 2 good or better pitchers…and they have typically had 3 not so great back of the rotation starters to go along with them. This having a bunch of young live arms thing is completely foreign to the franchise.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 14, 2014 at 10:42 AM

      Noone is saying anyone is a better catcher than Molina. If they are…they aren’t being honest with themselves.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 14, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      I don’t think that is the standard. One does not need to be “better than Yadi” to be an excellent catcher.

      As far as this play goes, he probably could have positioned himself better. That said, he has an OBP approaching .400, 7 HR and a .300 avg. If he gives back one of two runs with these kinds of plays, he still comes out ahead. How many runs did Miggy give back playing 3B the last couple of years? He still won a couple of MVPs.

    • illuminancer - May 14, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Posey got out played because he under-estimated Heyward’s athleticism, period. Once he had the ball, he assumed Heyward would give up on the play, so he wasn’t prepared for the drop and slide.

      • bh192012 - May 14, 2014 at 2:09 PM

        I agree, that Posey underestimated Heyward. He may have also thought he was further to his left and better blocking the plate (not giving Heyward a lane.)

  5. bigharold - May 14, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    I certainly don’t watch enough of the Giants to make a definitive statement about Posey’s toughness but that one play certainly looked like someone not wanting to be run over by a much bigger man with a full head of steam. So, congrats Buster you’re normal. That said, considering Posey’s history, the new rule regarding blocking the plate and the likelihood that the Giants went to considerable length to council him on not taking unnecessary risk I don’t see any reason to disparage Posey’s play or commitment.

  6. jm91rs - May 14, 2014 at 9:46 AM

    It just looked like Posey got beat, simple as that. Having never played catcher or really thought much about the technique, it would seem that being a little lower would have helped since you know Heyward had to go to the ground to have any chance at reaching the plate. It honestly looks like Posey just expected Heyward to run into the tag and wasn’t prepared for the nice juke move. Not sure he would even be thinking about a collision here, he probably either expected Heyward to give up and run into the tag or turn around back to 3rd.

    • HitsDingers - May 14, 2014 at 12:52 PM

      Calling that a “nice juke move” is offensive to juke moves everywhere lol

    • illuminancer - May 14, 2014 at 1:42 PM

      This is pretty much exactly what happened.

  7. lazlosother - May 14, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    I don’t see a big problem. NY won multiple WS with a catcher that didn’t like contact on plays at the plate. Like Buster he had a significant injury resulting from one, though he was still in the minors. The G-men have won two WS with Buster at catcher, one after the collision. I don’t think he needs to be moved off the plate, he’s one of the two or three best catchers in the game and he’s still in his 20’s.

  8. sisqsage - May 14, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Their offense stunk in that game, including Posey whiffing with two runners in scoring position and two out when it was like a 3-0 game in the seventh. That was a far more pivotal play involving Buster Ballgame than one play at the plate in a game you end up losing because you can’t even push a run across the plate. Bochy went on record after the 2011 collision saying he wanted Posey to avoid that kind of contact and use the swipe tag. It worked perfectly over the weekend in LA. It won’t every time. But that’s the price you have to pay to keep him in the lineup and off the DL at the most dangerous position in baseball. We need his bat more than we need him “initiating contact”. If they lost 2-1, yeah, it would be worth more analysis. But the final score wasn’t close. Panda is still below .200 and Morse is like 7-for-43 in May and was weaker on defense last night than Posey. Belt is out for two months. These are bigger issues. Posey is likely to drive in 100 runs this year. With his team-ordered style of catching, maybe he doesn’t prevent, what three runs from scoring this year? The team wins by a wide margin in that tradeoff.

    • bluburt - May 14, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      I disagree with you. If the tag was made by Posey, that is the second out of the inning and with the subsequent fly ball out, Vogeslsong and the Giants escape that inning down 1-0, instead of 4-0. That is a big difference. It changes quite a bit…

      No matter what the reason, that was a brutal play by Posey…

  9. blabidibla - May 14, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    He got juked. Great running by Heyward.

  10. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 14, 2014 at 10:12 AM

    He had all the time in the world to just put his glove in front of the plate and apply the tag as the runner slid in. Did he choke? Was he spooked? Who knows.

  11. moocat51 - May 14, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    How do the baseline rules apply to a play like this? (I actually don’t know how the apply – I can’t ever remember seeing anything similar applied before) I wonder if that’s reviewable.

    Posey is on the outside of the foul line and Heyward is practically coming from the dugout. Would things be different at second base? If the runner was taking the same line, it seems like he’d be halfway to the outfield grass.

  12. stlouis1baseball - May 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    This is a terrible play by Buster. Absolutely horrendous. Bad…bad…bad.
    But I still love his game.

  13. hcf95688 - May 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    We all saw Hayeard running home from third. Possey saw Scott Cousins.

  14. tysonpunchinguterus - May 14, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    I’m not sure how Baggarly can knock Posey for not initiating contact and also include this: “Posey does not initiate contact. He is taught to stand in front of the plate and reach back, swiping at the runner.” That sure sounds to me like he’s doing what the team told him to do.

  15. psunick - May 14, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    That’s true, tyson. The Giants expect that of him.

  16. mikhelb - May 14, 2014 at 1:28 PM

    One part of the problem is when a catcher in reality is a middle infielder dressed as catcher, he might do the basic things catchers do, but nobody can ask them to block the plate on wild pitches, nor to have a strong accurate throw to the bases because they never refined those aspects, they just picked the body armour of a catcher and began to play.

    Same thing for collisions at the plate, in Cousin’s collision with Posey, Buster was poorly positioned, but MLB made sure to change the rule and give catchers the advantage at home so they could hurt and injure runners with their knee protectors or in general with their body armour by allowing them to initiate contact, something prohibited to runners… to whom the rules might change in the offseason to make sure they are also at a disadvantage in the other bases (LaRussa accepted that is one of the main topics to be discussed this next offseason).

  17. illuminancer - May 14, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Using the amateur psych methodology that has led Baggs to insist Aubrey Huff was faking his anxiety disorder and that Buster Posey is spooked by memories of 2011, I conclude that Baggs is pissy because CSN Bay Area cut the beat writers’ travel budget and he can’t cover road trips, so he’s passive-aggressively retaliating by posting a series of trolling columns.

  18. codenamez - May 14, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Considering the Giants have one of the best records in baseball, I’ll give up a run here or there to not just keep Posey in the line-up, but also relatively healthy.

  19. bobulated - May 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    I think some folks are forgetting that Buster had the equivalent of an NFL tight end steaming down the line at him; I would have no interest in taking a shot from Jason Heyward either especially if I had previously lost a big chunk of playing time due to a home plate collision. Discretion is the better part of valor especially when your manager has warned you not to take those hits if you can help it.

  20. silasdogood1 - May 14, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    Anyone who wants to criticize Posey who and has not caught much less been thru what he has needs to suit up or shut up.

  21. sonoco - May 14, 2014 at 11:52 PM

    It’s worth living with a handful of plays per year like this if you greatly decrease the odds of losing him long-term. And oh bye the way, hurting his team? . . . one of the best records in baseball and he’s hurting the team?

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