Dickey: Posey proves he belonged all along

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Will their failure to call up Buster Posey earlier, or even start the season with him as their catcher, cost the Giants a playoff berth?

It isn’t that Posey was a surprise. He’d been a collegiate star, with offensive statistics far beyond his peers. He was a first-round draft pick (No. 5 overall) by the Giants. And he was 23 in March, young for a Giants rookie, admittedly, but an age at which most clubs like to bring up players. Atlanta started 20-year-old Jason Heyward in its first game.

The Giants wanted to coax one last year out of Bengie Molina, who had been a productive player for them, so Posey was sent out.

But Molina was no longer that player. His bat speed had slowed, so his mighty swings simply produced flies to medium center, not home runs or doubles. He had trouble throwing out base runners, so other teams were running at will against the Giants.

So, what was left? Supposedly, the Giants starters liked to work with Molina. This is one of baseball’s little superstitions. Pitchers often have favorite catchers. And what happens when that catcher is not available? The pitchers win with another catcher.

That’s exactly what’s happened with Posey replacing Molina. As the Giants starters had their best stretch in weeks against the Mets, including two shutouts, Posey got credit from Matt Cain for calling a great game, challenging him to throw different pitches. Meanwhile, he has improved the Giants defensively because he’s throwing out base runners.

And offensively, there’s no comparison. Posey has given the Giants’ offense a serious jump start. From the get-go, it was obvious he was a very good hitter because he will take an outside pitch to right field; most hitters have to be taught how to hit to the opposite field. He even hit a home run to right this past weekend at AT&T.

He didn’t originally hit for power, but he busted out on the Giants’ road trip before the All-Star Game and had eight homers in his first 42 games. Molina had three in 61.

Could somebody please explain why Posey wasn’t in a Giants uniform earlier?

Even with Posey, the Giants were still 4½ games behind the San Diego Padres after the Mets series. Nobody expected the Padres to be leading the division, but their pitching has been even better than the Giants’ and they score just enough to win.

They’re not going to go away.

The Giants are a stronger team than the one which started the season. In addition to Posey, Andres Torres is playing regularly, either in center or one of the other outfield spots, and he is a better hitter than the much more expensive Aaron Rowand.

Torres is also a better fielder and the Giants’ one base-stealing threat. Veteran Pat Burrell adds some punch, either off the bench or in left field. Travis Ishikawa has been surprisingly effective as a pinch-hitter and even as a semi-regular on the last road trip.

They’re still facing a tough battle to make  the playoffs, and if they miss out on the postseason because they waited too long to make the move to Posey, that’s really going to smart.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. E-mail him at glenndickey@hotmail.com.

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