When National League MVP Buster Posey sat down recently with the producers of “MLB 13: The Show,” he not only got a behind-the-scenes view of video game development, he found new appreciation for the amount of work that goes into making virtual Buster throw, swing and slide like the real deal (just don’t block the plate!).
“The big thing is these guys are just constantly trying to soak in information and absorb knowledge in any way they can,” Posey said by phone as we talk video games and baseball. “I think a lot of the ways they do this is by looking at statistics. One of the more interesting things for me: I was pitching as Matt Cain and it was a 3-1 count, so on beginner mode, they’ll highlight the fastball for me because that’s the highest probability, his highest-percentage pitch, and his most effective in that situation. Depending on the situation, they’ll call for that curveball in the dirt or that slider or changeup, and I think it’s a great way for kids and people who might not understand baseball to learn along the way.”
Posey met with the PlayStation crew in Tampa, Fla., as he is one of the seven candidates for the "MLB 13: The Show" cover (along with fellow nominees Miguel Cabrera, Andrew McCutchen, and CC Sabathia) who is filming a series of viral videos to support each of their campaigns.
“First and foremost, looking at all the guys who are in the running, any of them are going to be great cover athletes for the game,” Posey said. “The whole process has been really fun for me. Going down and getting to hang out with some of the guys who helped make the game, and getting to see what goes into it, and seeing just how complex and detailed they’re getting with this game has really been interesting for me. The way they made the game this year with the beginner mode, anybody can pick it up and play, whether you’re somebody like me who doesn’t play too many video games or somebody who plays a lot. There are different levels, and it teaches you as well, so finally you can sit down and play the game at your own speed instead of just jumping right into the fire.”
ESPN Playbook: When you were playing “The Show” as the Giants, you mentioned how the game helps call pitches for you. How accurate did you find the game in calling pitches as opposed to what you would’ve called for Cain in real life?
Buster Posey: I thought it was pretty accurate. The only thing you’re going to miss in a video game is that instinctual feel you have behind the plate. I guess the person with the controller can try to manipulate that for themselves.
The video you shot on how to take care of your trophies was pretty funny. Did you ad-lib any of that from personal experience?
[Laughs] They had a script. Those commercials took a few hours, but it was fun because they had some really creative stuff about how you have to apply lacquer and keep the trophies out of sunlight.
Is it cool to let fans see a more humorous side of you in these videos?
Yeah. I think people who are close to me definitely know I have a lighter side, you can say, but most of the time when people see me on the field or during the game, I have that focus going.
In terms of the cover vote, I’m still expecting a late push from the San Francisco crowd. In terms of San Francisco athletes, in my mind there’s Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Willie Mays and you when it comes to popularity. What do you think of the love and support the city of San Francisco has given you so far in your career?
It’s hard to put into words. I think about it all the time, how fortunate I’ve been to play my career here. It’s only been three years, but already, so many great things have happened, but without the fans, it wouldn’t have been as special. They’ve been with us, and I always go back to 2010, when we were about halfway through the season and we were five, six, seven games back, but those San Francisco fans were still packing it in every night, and that means a lot to us as players. Not that you should need any extra motivation, but it makes it exciting for us to come out and play there every night.
My dad waited his entire life for the Giants to win a World Series, and now he’s seen two in three years. Are you hearing a lot of stories like that from the die-hard fans?
Yeah, and you know what, growing up in Georgia, I didn’t know about the history of the Giants like I do now. Obviously, it’s a very storied franchise, coming from New York, and they’ve had so many great players in the San Francisco era, it’s hard to even imagine that there wasn’t a championship [in San Francisco] until 2010, and now another one in 2012. I’ve been very fortunate to take the field with a great group of players, and having the ownership and front office that really, really wants to win and is only concerned with putting the best guys out on the field that they can.
You guys looked all but done against the Reds, then next thing you know, Hunter Pence is out there yelling at everyone and the complexion of the playoffs completely changed. What did he say that lit such a fire under the team?
I think more than anything, and it’s really hard to explain, but it brought a calm to everybody. We lost those first two in San Fran, and then Hunter came and delivered that speech to us, and we were like, we’re going to go out and give it everything we’ve got and play for the guy who is sitting next to you and play to the last out. That’s what we did, and we had that break in Game 3 where we won in extra innings. After that, we just felt like we were going to give it all we had. And then getting down again to St. Louis, there we were back in the same situation, so we needed to use a little more of that Rally Hunter again.
And Pence got one of the biggest, and at the same time strangest hits I’ve ever seen in a postseason, with his broken bat that ended up striking the same pitch three times before taking an incredibly strange trajectory into the outfield. Have you ever seen anything like that before?
I’ve never seen anything like that. I guess there’s a chance that this has happened before, and I think if you didn’t have that super slow-mo, you wouldn’t have been able to tell in real time. But in that super slow-mo they have now, you can see all the details.
Between the broken bat and the super slow-mo of the rain falling, it looked like a scene out of a movie.
Yeah, it was really neat.
So the question now is, if the 2012 Giants play the 2010 Giants, who wins?
Ha. Oh man. Well, they say good pitching always prevails, and we pretty much had the same staff, so let’s call it a draw.
Were you surprised the Giants were able to keep Angel Pagan, Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro? I thought you’d at least lose one of those guys to free agency.
You’re right, and it’s always hard to know because a guy like Pagan has worked his whole life to get to free agency, and he wants to maximize it. Then a guy like Affeldt, he’s not old, but from a baseball standpoint, he’s trying to figure out how to maximize his deal, and same for a guy like Scutaro. I think it speaks to, number one, our front office wanting to keep this unique and special group together. Also, those guys, Pagan, Scutaro and Affeldt, feeling like we do have something good here. It’s a nice place to come and play ball every day, and I was very happy to see all three of these guys return.
Millions of people are going to play “MLB 13: The Show” when it hits in March. Why do you think people should play as the Giants?
We’re the reigning World Series champs, and that’s pretty good in itself. When you play as the Giants, we’re putting a pretty good team out there, and you have to like your chances. If you want to win, I think we’re a pretty good team to go with.
How about for people stepping to the plate as virtual Posey? What’s the best way to approach an at-bat as you?
Depending on who the guy is out on the mound and how he’s throwing, you might want to jump on something early, or you might want to see a couple of pitches and wait for a mistake. There’s just so much that goes into it, and you want to try and have that good game plan going into it as a hitter. You have to let the pace of the game help you decide what type of approach you should take.
Sony is finishing up “MLB 13: The Show” right now. Any advice on what you’d like to see out of your character this year?
I’d love to see more speed, but I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. [laughs] I think they’re trying to make the game as realistic as possible, so I doubt my speed is going to be really high, but that tends to happen when you squat for 120 games a year. Getting to play the game early, I think they’ve done a really great job with it, and it’s better than anything I’ve seen that’s out there. Fans are really going to enjoy it.
So when you play as yourself, do you try to steal bases in the video game since you stole what, all of one base last season in real life?
No, I try to win when I play. [laughs] I’m smarter than that.
Head to the official “MLB 13: The Show” home page to vote for Posey to land on the game’s cover before it’s too late.