Posey named NL Comeback Player of Year
Giants catcher recovers from leg injuries, wins batting title, leads team to NL West flag
ST. LOUIS -- Buster Posey was recognized Friday for his arduous yet fulfilling journey following extensive left leg injuries when he was named the National League's Comeback Player of the Year by a landslide margin.The San Francisco Giants catcher, who garnished his league-leading .336 batting average with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs, received 27 of 30 first-place votes from MLB.com site reporters who participated in the balloting. Posey accumulated 159 points in a 5-3-1 system from the writers, who also selected second- and third-place finishers. "I think after an injury like that, it's just nice to be back on the field," Posey said before the Giants opposed the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series. "And then to be recognized not only for your accomplishments -- but really for just being back in action -- it's nice." Atlanta right-hander Kris Medlen garnered two first-place votes and 53 points to place second, while Washington first baseman Adam LaRoche received one first-place vote and 34 points as the third-place finisher. St. Louis right-hander Adam Wainwright, Pittsburgh right-hander A.J. Burnett, New York Mets left-hander Johan Santana, Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Ronald Belisario and Cincinnati left fielder Ryan Ludwick also received votes. Posey's latest distinction continued a rewarding year in which he set an NL record by receiving 7,621,370 votes from fans in All-Star Game balloting and helped the Giants win the NL West. Winner of the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2010, when he contributed to the Giants' World Series triumph, Posey endured a harrowing home-plate collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on May 25, 2011. The catcher sustained a fractured bone in his lower left leg and torn ligaments in his ankle. Posey underwent surgery four days later to have two screws inserted in his leg to provide stability. They were removed on July 22. By October, Posey had resumed running and catching pitchers' throwing sessions off bullpen mounds. He was physically ready for the start of Spring Training this year, but the Giants regulated his activity to minimize the risk of his re-injuring himself. "I do think that there was a break-in period for him to get back into the speed of the game," manager Bruce Bochy said. The Giants maintained a degree of caution with Posey throughout the season. Though he appeared in 148 games, Bochy accented the 25-year-old's periodic rests by playing him at first base, which spared him from the rigors of catching and maintained his valuable presence in the cleanup spot. Posey started 111 games at catcher, 29 at first base and three as a designated hitter. As a result, Posey felt fit at the start of the season and didn't wear down. He became more productive as the season progressed, reflecting his physical recovery as well as his adjustment to playing after missing the majority of the 2011 season. Posey developed into a strong NL Most Valuable Player candidate by hitting .385 with 23 doubles, 14 homers and 60 RBIs in 71 games after the All-Star break. Posey said that he stopped feeling conscious of his ankle about two months into the season.
"It was easier to run the bases, and cutting around the bases was a big thing to start the season," he said. "When that started to become more natural again, I think that helped overall with just not really thinking about it."Besides winning the batting title, Posey finished among the NL's top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, RBIs, multi-hit games, total bases, hits, doubles, walks and sacrifice flies. The right-handed-batting Posey also established himself as a formidable clutch hitter, compiling a .340 average with runners in scoring position while amassing 18 game-winning RBIs and 31 go-ahead RBIs.> Defensively, Posey threw out 31 baserunners attempting to steal, the Majors' second-highest total. Posey is the first Giants player to earn the NL Comeback Player Award since Major League Baseball instituted the honor in 2005. Three Giants were named Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News: left-hander Mike McCormick in 1967 for his Cy Young Award-winning season, first baseman Willie McCovey in 1977 for hitting 28 home runs at age 39, and Joe Morgan in 1982, when he hit .289, a 49-point increase over the previous year.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.