Giants catcher Posey named NL Rookie of Year

Giants catcher Posey named NL Rookie of Year
November 15, 2010, 7:04 pm


Mychael Urban

Though he hit the big-league scene a little late this season, Giants catcher Buster Posey did enough in four months to trump the huge head start, not to mention the national publicity that came with the splashy debut, of Braves outfielder Jason Heyward.Called up to the Giants from Triple-A Fresno on May 29 and handed the starting job behind the plate on June 30 after Bengie Molina was traded to the Rangers, Posey on Monday was named the National League winner of the 2010 Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award. Posey's selection, voted upon by select members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, marks the sixth time a Giant has won the award and first since John Montefusco in 1975. Gary Matthews won it in 1973, and the other Giants so honored are Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda."It gives me chills," Posey said Monday afternoon. "Those guys were unbelievable players and great ambassadors for the game -- and still are. I'm just humbled to be mentioned in the same category."Posey, 23, batted .305 with 18 home runs, 67 RBIs, a .357 on-base percentage and a .505 slugging percentage for the Giants and handled a pitching staff that helped the Giants win the NL West title and World Series. In voting that closed before the postseason started, Posey was named first on 20 of the 32 ballots cast by two writers in each NL city. He placed second on nine ballots and third on two to finish with 129 points, based on the 5-3-1 tabulation system. Heyward (.277, 18 HR, 72 RBIs, .393 OBP, .456 SLG) made the Atlanta roster out of spring training as a 20-year-old, homered in his first at-bat of the regular-season and was featured in an April issue of Sports Illustrated that declared him a "Legend Before His Time." The Braves phenom finished second in the voting, receiving nine first-place votes and finishing with 107 points. "I definitely was following him," Posey said of Heyward. "I remember seeing him hit the homer on Opening Day, and as a baseball fan myself it was a really cool moment. He had an unbelievable year."St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia (13-8, 2.70 ERA) got one first-place vote and placed third with 24 points. The other two first-place votes went to Florida Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.273, 19 HR, 85 RBIs), who finished fourth with 18 points. In all, nine players gained mention.Posey, who deflected any talk of individual accolades as the Giants chased down their first world championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958 (and since 1954 overall), dropped his guard a touch Monday when asked if he'd allowed himself to dream of claiming the top-rookie trophy in the two weeks since the end of the World Series."I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't think about it once we finished up," he conceded. "All the talent in the National League this year makes it even more special." Posey, a first-round draft pick in 2008 after winning the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player that year, made his big-league debut late last season, batting .118 (2-for-17) without an extra-base hit or an RBI.
Despite a solid spring training, Posey was sent to Fresno for the start of 2010. The Giants said they wanted him to further develop defensively as a catcher; he started his college career as a shortstop and also pitched at Florida State. His eventually proved too potent to keep on the farm, though, and he forced the offensively-challenged parent club's hand with a torrid start to the season (.349, 21 XBH, 32 RBIs, .442 OBP, .552 SLG.) for the Grizzlies."It gave me an opportunity to work on some stuff that maybe I wouldn't have had the leeway to work on in the big leagues," Posey said of his time at Triple-A this season.Played primarily at first base upon being promoted, Posey collected three hits and three RBIs in his 2010 debut, and shortly after Molina was traded he embarked on a 21-game hitting streak (July 4-28) that was the longest of the season by a rookie in either league."It was a good, confident span," Posey said of the streak. "I felt like every time I was up at the plate I was going to hit the ball hard. Baseball's funny like that. You go through streaks like that. .. But just like that, you can lose it."Posey slumped occasionally, but he never quite lost it. His seven home runs in September included a solo shot that gave the Giants a huge 1-0 win at Chicago on Sept. 21, when he also guided four pitchers through a two-hitter and threw out a runner at second base. It was what many consider Posey's command performance on the way to becoming the sixth catcher to be named NL Rookie of the Year, joining Johnny Bench, Earl Williams, Benito Santiago, Mike Piazza and Geovanny Soto. True to form, however, Posey went the humble route at every turn during his conference call with the nation's media.
"I was just trying to make an impact with the team and get some wins," he said.