Why Buster Posey's hot start likely won't lead to batting title chase

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Why Buster's hot start likely won't lead to batting title chase originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

This four-game series between the Giants and Cincinnati Reds has featured two hitters who have a good shot at taking the National League batting title this season. But neither is Buster Posey

Posey went 3-for-5 with a huge three-run double in Wednesday's win over the Reds, raising his batting average to .374, but you won't find him on the official leaderboard. Reds outfielders Jesse Winker and Nicholas Castellanos lead the NL at .343 and .338, respectively, but Posey doesn't have enough plate appearances to qualify. 

MLB rules require a player to get 3.1 plate appearances per team game to qualify for the batting title, which would be 502 over a full season and 133 at this point for any Giant. Posey has just 113 and it's very unlikely that he'll get enough action by the end of the year to qualify for what would be his second batting title if he could finish ahead of others. 

Gabe Kapler has stuck to a strict plan for Posey, never starting him more than two games in a row. In nearly every three-game series, Posey has started the first two games and then watched Curt Casali on the third day. During this eight-game trip, he started three of four in Pittsburgh and two of four in Cincinnati. Even after again showing his impact on Wednesday night, Posey was out of Thursday's lineup for a day game, setting him up to start the first two against the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The plan was put in place this spring to keep Posey, 34 years old and not far removed from hip surgery, fresh through a 162-game season, and while Posey's production has occasionally caused Kapler to second-guess himself, he hasn't wavered. Posey is on board, too. 

"I think it's been working well," Posey said over the weekend. "I think a lot of credit goes to Curt, just because I think he has the trust of the pitching staff and the coaching staff and Kap to go back there and lead those guys. It's been working out well."

While Casali has had a rough year at the plate, pitchers rave about his work and the Giants are 12-3 when he starts. In addition to his usage plan for starts behind the plate, Kapler has avoided using Posey at first base and hasn't asked him to pinch-hit a single time. That's put him well behind pace to reach 502 plate appearances, which he hasn't done since 2017. 

With 118 games left, Posey would need to average 3.29 plate appearances per Giants game to get there, but that would be if he played every day. Even if you assume the Giants use Posey a bit more down the stretch and give him 70 percent of the starts the rest of the way, he would need to average 4.69 plate appearances in those games. In the games he has started this season, Posey is averaging just 4.03 plate appearances. Throw in anything that would cause him to miss a series of a week and it would be impossible to make up the ground. 

RELATED: Pence not surprised by Posey's hot start

In his 12th year, Posey isn't losing much -- if any -- sleep over individual acknowledgments that might slip away. He has the Giants in first place and said his body "feels pretty good" through nearly two months.

"Ultimately it's always going to be about trying to win games and if I think what we've got going gives us the best chance to win, that's what we'll do," he said. 

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