San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey, right, hits an RBI double as Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, left, catches during the first inning of their game Monday in Los Angeles. The Lee County native finished the regular season Wednesday with a .336 average to win his first National League batting title.
SAN FRANCISCO — Lee County native Buster Posey’s trophy case is officially busting at the seams.
National League Rookie of the Year award?
World Series ring?
NL batting title?
And the NL MVP?
Check back in a month on that one.
Posey, who was drafted No. 5 overall out of Florida State in 2008 and is in just his third year of pro ball as the star catcher and unquestioned leader of the San Francisco Giants, wrapped up his first career NL batting title Wednesday with a .336 average when the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen — who was in second place behind Posey to start the day — went 1-for-3 during a 4-0 loss to Atlanta. But really, the race was over before Wednesday’s games ever began. McCutchen (.327) would’ve had to go 6-for-6 and Posey 0-for-6 for the Pirates’ star outfielder to catch the former Lee County star. Posey, meanwhile, finished the Giants’ final regular-season game Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers by going 0-for-2 before being lifted.
“I don’t think it’s something that you ever think about doing,” Posey told The Washington Post following the game vs. L.A. — a 2-1 Giants loss. “It’s such a long season, and from day one you try to grind out at-bats no matter what the situation is. And if you can go up there and are able to make some adjustments, good things will happen.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy, a catcher himself, was in awe.
“It’s incredible,” Bochy told the Silicon Valley (Calif.) Mercury News. “What he’s accomplished, for a catcher to win the batting title, is impressive. To come off a devastating injury and to bounce back and not just have a good year but win a batting title is truly amazing.
“I couldn’t be happier for him. My hope is that he will win the (NL) MVP. I’d hate to think where we’d be without him.”
By winning the title, Posey becomes just the third catcher in NL history to do so, joining Bubbles Hargrave (Cincinnati, 1926) and Ernie Lombardi (Cincinnati, 1938 and Boston, 1942) as the only catchers to win earn the honor in baseball’s modern era.
Posey, 25, is the seventh Giants player to win the batting title, becoming the first since Barry Bonds did it in 2004.
Posey, however, wouldn’t have won the honor had teammate Melky Cabrera not been suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs last month.
Cabrera, a lifetime .246 hitter who was signed by the Giants this offseason, was enjoying a stunning resurgence and batting .346 when he was banned 50 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for testosterone. Shortly after, Cabrera — who still could’ve won the NL batting title because he’d played the minimum amount of games to qualify for consideration — withdrew his name for and was subsequently left off the NL West champion Giants’ playoff roster, even though he would’ve been eligible to return to the lineup if San Francisco won its first series, which will be take place in the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday in Game 1.
Of course, the fact that Posey was even healthy enough to play a full season was an accomplishment in itself. After winning the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, his sophomore season was cut short following a vicious home-plate collision last May against the Florida Marlins, breaking Posey’s left fibula and tearing three tendons in his ankle. He missed the rest of the year, rehabbed and came back strong this spring — much to Bochy’s amazement.
The San Francisco skipper hoped to get around 100 games out of his star catcher — some behind the plate and some at first base — but Posey surprised everyone when he played in 148.
“He’s exceeded those expectations quite a bit,” Bochy told the newspaper Wednesday. “He toed the line every day. We thought we’d have to handle him with kid gloves but he’s just responded so well.”
Posey is just glad to be back.
“I give a lot of credit to our entire training staff for all the work they did in the offseason to get me back on the field,” he told The Post. “Even though this is an individual accomplishment, there’s other people who deserve credit.”
Posey ends the 2012 regular season with a .408 on-base percentage, with 24 home runs and 103 RBI to go along with 178 hits in 530 at-bats. Most impressive, however, was his second half of the season following the All-Star break. He led the Giants to the NL West title and is considered the leading candidate to win the NL MVP, despite reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers nipping at his heels.
The NL MVP award won’t be announced until after the World Series is over, but following Wednesday’s regular-season finales across the majors, writers around the country will cast their votes.