SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Buster Posey recently won MLB.com’s “Face of Baseball’’ tournament-style bracket, beating out such competitors as Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera and David Wright (who interestingly was in the final against Posey). Posey was a good choice given that in just five seasons he has been a rookie of the year, an MVP, a comeback player of the year (whose broken leg helped spur baseball’s anti-collision rules), a batting champ, a two-time All-Star and a three-time World Series champ.
In addition to being the Face of Baseball, though, Posey might also be the Back of Baseball or the Shoulders of Baseball in San Francisco, where his name and No. 28 on replica jerseys are as ubiquitous as cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge or sky-high rents.
“It’s definitely Buster,’’ shortstop Brandon Crawford said. “I’ve seen a lot more Madison Bumgarner jerseys these past few weeks, but Buster is by far the top jersey seller.’’
“I see plenty of other jerseys -- our fans represent all the team,’’ Posey said. “It’s still cool to see mine. Whether it’s driving into the ballpark or even at the game. Just for me -- I’ve been a fan of baseball since I was a kid -- it’s still neat to see somebody wearing your name on their back.’’
Posey doesn’t just carry Giants merchandise revenue, though. With the departure of Pablo Sandoval to Boston, Posey may be carrying an even greater load in the San Francisco lineup. Especially with right fielder Hunter Pence out with a broken left forearm until possibly late April.
“I try not to [feel any pressure],’’ Posey said. “Obviously, Pablo was a big bat. But since I’ve been here, we’ve lost guys, like Melky Cabrera halfway through the year in 2012. Hopefully, experience for all of us will play a factor in that, for us to realize you do your job. Just do what you’re capable of doing and that should be enough.’’
Casey McGehee, who will replace Sandoval at third base, likewise says he’s trying not to feel the pressure of filling in for a player who averaged 16 home runs a season for the Giants.
“I try not to think about that,’’ McGehee said. “It doesn’t really have any bearing on me doing my job and thinking about it doesn’t help. I get it and I understand it -- Pablo was great when he was here. But at the same time, I can’t go out there and try to replace him. I just have to go out and play my game.’’
This year’s offensive challenge is nothing new for a team that plays at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. The highest the Giants have placed in runs in the National League the past five seasons was fifth last year with 665. They won the World Series in 2012 despite finishing sixth in runs (718) and in 2010 after finishing ninth (697).
Plus, while Sandoval was a key part of San Francisco’s offense, his hitting has declined significantly. He went from a .330 average and .943 OPS in 2009 to .268 and .732 in 2010. The Giants won their first World Series that year anyway. Sandoval rebounded to hit .315 with a .909 OPS in 2011 but his OPS has been below .800 since, falling to .739 last year, when the Giants again won the World Series. He was tied for third on the team with 16 home runs while Posey led the Giants with 22.
“Did we lose a little power with Pablo? Yeah,’’ Crawford said. “But we have a pretty good hitter in Casey. He drove in a bunch of runs last year and he’s a good line-drive hitter, which works for AT&T Park. It’s not a big power-hitter park anyway. I think with him and the speed and contact we’re getting from Nori Aoki, it should be a good combination. I don’t think we’ll lose a whole lot.’’
McGehee hit 23 home runs with the Brewers in 2010, but his power has since dropped off. After spending the 2013 season in Japan, McGehee hit .287 with 76 RBIs and a .712 OPS, which was close to Sandoval’s numbers (.279, 73 and .739). Aoki hit .285 with a .349 OBP.
Posey said that people harp a little too much on the Giants' lack of power.
“We lose sight of the stretches where we have hit some homers,’’ he said. “In 2010, toward the end of the year, we hit a fair amount of homers. And then in the playoffs we had some good power. Even last year, Michael Morse with his eighth inning homer [in Game 5 of the NLCS] and Travis Ishikawa with his [pennant-clinching home run]. The home runs might not come very consistently, but we’ll have some stretches where they leave the park.’’
Besides, the Royals reached the World Series despite finishing last in the majors in home runs with just 95, 37 fewer than San Francisco. And hey, the Giants managed to win the World Series even though Posey didn’t have a single extra-base hit in the postseason and hit just .154 against the Royals in the Series.
So maybe the challenge of winning in an odd-numbered year will prove as great as compensating for Kung Fu Panda’s exit. Either way, Posey is a great player to rely on no matter what needs to be done. As starter Jake Peavy told reporters after Monday’s game, “Having a great hitter like Buster as your catcher is awesome.’’
“He’s one of the best players of today,’’ Pence said. “He’s a great individual and family man. He has an incredible baseball mind, incredible talent. He’s just an all-around good guy. And he’s a tremendous leader in all facets.’’