SAN FRANCISCO - On a team known for stellar pitching, bushy beards and quirky personalities, the unquestioned leader of the Giants is their understated catcher, Buster Posey.
From his prowess behind the plate, shepherding the staff through its ups and downs, to the bat that delivered the National League batting title, Posey is the biggest reason why the Giants are back in the World Series for the second time in his three big-league seasons.
"I'd hate to think where we would be without him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The numbers, they speak for themselves. But also his leadership on this club. We saw what life was without him last year. ... I don't know a player that's made a bigger impact on a club than what he has on our club. He's just a tremendous talent. We're lucky to have him."
Posey has returned from a horrific, season-ending injury in 2011 to the top of the sport this year: starting All-Star catcher, batting champion, possible Most Valuable Player and World Series trip.
It's a remarkable story that Posey even made it back on the field this year, much less performed the way he did. It was his devastating injury that derailed the Giants' repeat hopes a year ago and led many to question whether Posey should ever catch again.
In May 2011, Posey broke a bone in his left leg and tore three ankle ligaments on a horrific collision at the plate with the Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins.
"I think after an injury like that, it's just nice to be back on the field," Posey said last week. "And then to be recognized not only for your accomplishments — but really for just being back in action — it's nice."
The Giants never really recovered from that blow and were unable to make it back to the postseason last year without their star catcher.
But his presence at the start of spring training this year set the tone for the entire season in San Francisco. He batted .336 to become the first catcher to win the NL batting title since the Boston Braves' Ernie Lombardi in 1942.
"For what he has been doing behind the plate for us has been tremendous all year," ace Matt Cain said. "He has done such a great job from coming back from last year's injury to doing what he's doing this year. I don't think you can really put it into words what he's done. Not a lot of guys could do what he's done. That's a special talent."
Posey had 24 homers, 39 doubles and 103 RBIs while handling the pitching staff and dealing with the wear and tear of crouching behind the plate and absorbing the foul tips and balls in the dirt that make catching such an arduous chore.
Bochy spelled Posey a bit by giving him 29 starts at first base, but both the Giants and Posey are adamant his future is behind the plate.
"We really treated him with kid gloves there early, and as we got deeper into the spring training I got more and more comfortable with how much he could catch," Bochy said. "This game is not that easy, especially when you miss as much time as he did last year, and yet it didn't take him long to get into the flow of the game, get his timing at the plate and get back to handling the pitching staff."