SAN FRANCISCO Buster Posey can't possibly appreciate what he's doing right now.
He's too young, too inexperienced, too consumed by a pennant race. He's a modern, into-the-moment catcher. He also would rather count cracks in the sidewalk than analyze his performance, particularly after watching the Dodgers squeeze out a 3-2 victory at AT&T Park.
But that shouldn't stop the rest of us from noticing. And commenting. Posey's effort on Saturday two hits, one RBI, one walk, and three strikes that caught Hanley Ramirez (twice) and Andre Ethier trying to steal is but a small sampling of an exceptional, unexpected season.
There's his batting average (.325), his slugging percentage, his presence behind the plate. There's that powerful right arm that enabled him to throw out a career-high three Dodgers. But there's also a surgically repaired left ankle that becomes cranky on occasion, causing him to grudgingly accept a role as a part-time first baseman.
"I have to say, I'm surprised how well that ankle has done, has held up for him," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's a credit to his rehab and the maintenance work our strength people do with him. To miss all that time (all but 45 games last season) and put together a year like this, it shows you what type of talent this guy has."
Posey, 25, was the Rookie of the Year in 2010. He has that kind of talent. This year, he is a leading candidate for the National League MVP and Comeback Player of the Year awards, and once again, he's the key figure in the clubhouse.
In an intriguing, eventful season that includes Melky Cabrera's 50-game suspension, Tim Lincecum's mystifying and prolonged struggles, Brian Wilson's injury absence and persistent questions about the organization's ability to survive with a closer-by-committee approach, the most critical question has been asked and answered.
The Giants' best player is again the Giants' best player, albeit in a somewhat altered role.
Posey, of course, would rather count those cracks in the sidewalk, lose to the Dodgers and swallow castor oil than talk about his accomplishments. That much hasn't changed. He still stands by his locker, with those blue eyes staring right back at you, responding to questions in short, occasionally insightful bursts. And about that experience at first base? He's not now and never has been crazy about it.
"It's such a long season," Posey said, slowly, with the flash of a grin. "It's nice to get a blow once in a while. I feel OK over there "
He is who he is. He's a catcher. He prefers to yank on his gear, crouch his 6-foot-1, 218-pound body behind the plate, work with Giants pitchers and throw out as many opponents as possible. On Saturday, he caught the speedy Ramirez trying to steal second in the second inning, and then in the ninth, threw him out trying to slide under Pablo Sandoval's tag at third. Ethier went next; he was greeted at second by a Posey laser and a swipe tag by Marco Scutaro.
About the only thing Posey didn't do was save reliever Jeremy Affeldt from surrendering the Ramirez double that allowed Adrian Gonzalez to score the winning run in the ninth inning. That, and snag Matt Cain's wild changeup that bounced into the dirt and back toward the wall, allowing the tying run to score in the eighth and ruining the right-hander's afternoon.
"I told Buster in the weight room afterward, 'Man, you were quick out there today,' " related Affeldt. "Those were key throw-outs for us. He kept us in the game. That's the kind of catcher he is. But did I think he would come back and catch as many games or come out of the chute hitting like this? I think everyone around here would say he is exceeding expectations."