The Mercury News
Purdy: Bochy, Posey give Giants edge in playoff showdown.
Attention, seekers of Giants truth: Do not believe the mystics and fortune tellers. The concept of odd and even years has nothing to do with winning baseball games. You know what does? Brains and proper execution.
So. If the Giants win Wednesday night’s wild card game in New York (as I expect) and again start rolling through October (I’m not sure about that part), it will be as much about their IQ as about the calendar. And once more, they will have two of the smartest guys on their side, taking the SAT test. That would be manager Bruce Bochy and catcher Buster Posey. They’ve worked together since Posey’s rookie season in 2010. You’ve seen the test results: Three championships.
As much as any managerplayer combination today, Bochy and Posey are the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady of baseball. Except in this case, Posey plays both offense and defense. Behind the plate, Posey calls pitches and controls the game’s pace. At
the plate, he is the fulcrum of a lineup that does not have much power, but for stretches of the past season — luckily, including the last week — was capable of producing runs in bursts.
In October, baseball also mimics football in the sense that before every game, with all the scouting information and data available, Bochy and his staff can plot out every possible matchup and tendency down to individual pitches. It’s high-IQ ball, which means that the guy behind the plate must also be involved in carrying out the game plan.
One of Bochy’s other critical attributes is his unique ability to shift gears in October, unlike some MLB managers who struggle to make that adjustment. During the long regular-season grind, Bochy utilizes patience and ego-stroking to reach the finish line. Then he quickly shifts into a postseason mode where he operates as if every out or at-bat could be the most important one of a game or series. And he gets complete buy-in from his players about that notion, most critically from Posey, who is the clubhouse center of gravity. When Posey adjusts his swing and goes to the opposite field so a runner can advance, the other Giants notice.
Wednesday night against the Mets and flame-throwing pitcher Noah Syndergaard, that will again be the instruction: Don’t worry about loving October. Let October love you. Just go up to the plate with an idea to get on base. One base. With this next pitch. Or if not, then the next one. Don’t think about the bigger picture.
“I think when we’re clicking offensively, that’s what we’re doing,” Posey told reporters after Tuesday’s workout at Citi Field. “We’re not trying to do too much. I’m sure it’s similar for a lot of teams. You’re keeping the line moving. I think that’s particularly important in the playoffs when you’re facing good pitching. You’ve got to go up and just anyway you can try to be productive.”
Posey tends to talk in cliches. But are they really cliches if they accurately describe his method and mindset? Tuesday, he was asked how he will approach the wild card game as far as pitch-calling strategy.
“I think the flow of the game will a lot of times dictate what you do,” Posey said Tuesday when asked how he will approach the Mets from behind the plate.
Seems basic stuff. But during the Giants’ last World Series run in 2014, I discovered just how much the ability to read the “flow” can matter. As mentioned, in today’s baseball, information is plentiful. Every team has piles of numbers and statistics to ponder before a series begins — or in a single-game winner-take-all situation, such as Wednesday. The Giants leave a printout of their opposition scouting report at every locker. There is also a playersonly website they can consult to call up granular stats on every pitcher or batter. Posey can look at the site to see which pitches an opposing batter most frequently swings at and misses. He can dial up video of every at-bat an opponent has had against Madison Bumgarner or any other Giants’ pitcher.
But in 2014, I learned from Posey and other Giants that while he consults all of the information, he takes it to the field and selectively ignores it. Posey will respond to what he’s feeling in the moment — from his own pitcher, opposing batters, umpires, even the weather conditions. That’s more high IQ technique.
We saw an example of that last Saturday, when Giants rookie pitcher Ty Blach unspooled those remarkable eight shutout innings to earn a crucial victory over the Dodgers and starter Clayton Kershaw. Blach gave much of the credit to Posey and the way he called the game, utilizing Blach’s fastballs of varied speed and locations. There were very few non-fastballs, just enough to keep the Dodgers on alert.
I asked Posey if he had gone into the game with that exact plan.
“Not really,” he said. “Just how it went.”
In other words, the whole thing developed organically — with the “flow of the game.” Just like a quarterback calling an audible. By now, Posey and Bumgarner are so locked in together, they do all of this telepathically. But let’s see how many times Bumgarner waves off a Posey pitch call Wednesday night. If it’s more than twice, I would be stunned. It’s why the Giants should win, assuming they ... wait for it ... keep the line moving on offense.
After that, it would be on to Chicago, where the task will be far more difficult. But because this is a column about high IQ’s, I feel compelled to use at least one Latin phrase before the final paragraph. So here goes: In this Annus Mirabilis of Northern California professional sports, it would be a fitting capper to witness another World Series at AT&T Park. After all, in 2016 we have already played host to the Super Bowl, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final. No other metropolitan area has ever matched that. So why not complete the grand slam with baseball’s main event?
With the Belichick and Brady of baseball, the Giants have a chance to make it happen.