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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now What?


By now, everyone knows the gory details of what happened to Buster Posey last night. There’s no sense in going over the details, or arguing whether or not it was a clean play that took him out (I’ll leave that for Twitter). No matter how it happened, the Giants are going to be without their offensive centerpiece for months. That’s all that matters.

How do the Giants even begin to replace Posey? The short answer is they can’t. Posey’s bat, his defensive prowess behind the plate, the way he handles pitchers and the leadership he brings to the clubhouse are all things that can’t be replaced. The Giants haven’t faced a long-term injury to a player this important since Barry Bonds missed virtually all of 2005 (he was replaced by Pedro Feliz, and…yeah, that didn’t go too well).

So given that they can’t replace Posey, the Giants have to do their best to find ways to win without him. There are obvious fixes, like Aubrey Huff snapping out of his season-long funk, Pat Burrell playing more regularly, and Brandon Belt getting a run of uninterrupted starts so his bat can take hold in the middle of the lineup. They can start leaning more towards small ball: stealing bases, moving runners over, playing for one run instead of hoping for the big inning. It may not be the most exciting brand of baseball, but if they execute well enough it can be a winning brand for a team like the Giants.

They can even go out and find a stopgap catcher until Posey’s healthy again. I doubt the Giants will be comfortable with Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart behind the plate until that happens, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see them go out and get someone. Pudge Rodriguez makes the most sense, given the fact that the Nationals seem to be fazing him out and would likely move him at a reasonable cost. Other names like Ryan Doumit and Ronny Paulino are sure to come up, too. There are options out there; none of them are Posey, but they can provide more help than the current catchers on the roster.

While losing Posey is a huge blow, it’s important to remember that this isn’t a team built around offense. The Giants have the worst offense in baseball- it’ll likely get even worse without Posey, but stick with me for a second. The Giants live and die with pitching, while getting just enough offense to get by. Even without Posey, it’s very possible for them to stick with that formula and stay in contention. Their pitching is still top notch, and their lineup has enough bats in it (assuming they start to hit, of course) to keep them winning games.

However you look at it, it’s a lousy scenario for the Giants.  There are no good solutions but only ways to slightly lessen the problems. It’s not the end of the world, even though it certainly feels like it. The Giants are still a good team, with their all-world pitching staff intact that can still win the NL West even with a weakened lineup.  Posey’s absence hurts, but they can work through it and still be successful.

That’s what I’m trying to convince myself of, anyway.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Aubrey Huff at 3B and Other Signs of the Coming Apocalypse

There’s an old saying I can’t quite remember that has to do with desperate times. Something about what they call for…some kind of measures. Desperate ones, maybe? Yes! That’s it: desperate times call for desperate measures. Glad I remembered that.

The Giants’ offense is awful. It ranks near the bottom of the league in almost every category. Two of their most productive hitters, Pablo Sandoval and Andres Torres, have missed significant time with injuries. Torres is back and hitting again, but Sandoval’s absence has created a giant sucking void on the left side of the infield. Mark DeRosa and Miguel Tejada have both been terrible while filling in, and third base has become the weakest position in an already weakened lineup.

Since Brandon Belt can’t play third, the Giants don’t have a lot of options. Conor Gillaspie, the third base prospect closest to the big leagues, sprained his ankle recently and may have to miss some time. That leaves the Giants with only one option left to improve the position and their offense: Aubrey Huff.

No, seriously.

Seriously.

I joked about Huff playing third on Twitter about a month ago, but apparently the Giants are seriously considering it. Huff’s played third in the past, but hasn’t logged any significant time there since 2008 with Baltimore. He’s three years older now and his athleticism likely isn’t what it used to be (flashback to his stint in the outfield at the beginning of the year), but the Giants wouldn’t be moving Huff to third for his defense.

Offense is what they’re concerned about, and moving Huff to third would represent the clearest path to adding more offense without sacrificing what little the Giants have currently. It’d allow them to bring up Belt and let him play his best position (first) while inserting his bat in the middle of a lineup that desperately needs a boost. With Huff moving across the infield instead of to the outfield, the Giants can play two players from the Ross/Burrell/Rowand/Schierholtz conglomerate depending on the matchup. Instead of Belt/Huff/DeRosa/Outfielder in the lineup, the Giants could replace DeRosa with a player who can actually hit. And that’s pretty important.

Is it the ideal situation? No, of course not. Huff could be a disaster at third and the Giants could scrap the experiment right away. But until Sandoval comes back, the team is in a tough spot. DeRosa looks like he’ll never get a hit again and Tejada is better suited for the occasional spot start instead of playing every day. Huff has struggled this year, but he’s still a better hitter than DeRosa and Tejada. If they can keep him in the lineup while still managing to get Belt and their hottest-hitting outfielders in there with him, the Giants have to at least try.

On a completely unrelated note, I sure hope Pablo Sandoval is a fast healer.


- My friends over at Stadium Journey have added to their list of Giants’ minor league ballparks, this time doing a write-up on the home of the Augusta Green Jackets: Lake Olmstead Stadium. Be sure to check it out here. Their website is a great resource if you’re planning a baseball trip. Check them out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Breaking: Brandon Belt Can Hit Minor League Pitching


When Brandon Belt was sent down to Fresno weeks ago, one of the arguments I saw repeated over and over again was that he needed to prove he could hit Triple-A pitching before the Giants brought him back up again. Since he’d basically skipped Triple-A, the argument went, he was overmatched in the big leagues and needed to get his confidence back in the minors.

Well, Belt’s played 18 games for Fresno so far and has accumulated 55 at bats. His stat line looks like this:

.400/.521/.600, 22 H, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 16 BB, 3 SB, 33 TB

Confidence back? Check. Can hit minor league pitching? Check.

I believe the Giants mishandled Belt from the start. If they weren’t going to stick with him through his inevitable big league struggles, they shouldn’t have had him start the season with the big club in the first place. One of the reasons he did start in the big leagues out of spring, though, is because there was nothing left for him to prove in the minor leagues. That was true when Spring Training ended, and it’s true now. Belt is simply too good of a hitter for minor league pitching to stand a chance against him.

Whether or not the Giants handled Belt correctly is irrelevant now. They sent him down to get his swing back, and he’s done that in spades. He’s destroying Triple-A pitching, just like he destroyed Single-A and Double-A pitching the year before.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense is struggling to the point where Mike Fontenot was starting to look like a viable 3rd-place hitter. Darren Ford is taking up a roster spot based on the fact that he can pinch run late in the game, and it’s likely he’ll never see an at bat unless he’s inserted as a defensive replacement. With guys like Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff struggling, the Giants could use an impact bat in the middle of their lineup.

They happen to have one of those sitting in Fresno. How long can they wait before they finally bring Belt back to the Majors?

I’m not sure. I’ll have to contemplate that the next time Ford comes in to run for Pat Burrell in the 8th inning.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breaking: Brandon Belt Can Hit Minor League Pitching

When Brandon Belt was sent down to Fresno weeks ago, one of the arguments I saw repeated over and over again was that he needed to prove he could hit Triple-A pitching before the Giants brought him back up again. Since he’d basically skipped Triple-A, the argument went, he was overmatched in the big leagues and needed to get his confidence back in the minors.

Well, Belt’s played 18 games for Fresno so far and has accumulated 55 at bats. His stat line looks like this:

.400/.521/.600, 22 H, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 16 BB, 3 SB, 33 TB

Confidence back? Check. Can hit minor league pitching? Check.

I believe the Giants mishandled Belt from the start. If they weren’t going to stick with him through his inevitable big league struggles, they shouldn’t have had him start the season with the big club in the first place. One of the reasons he did start in the big leagues out of spring, though, is because there was nothing left for him to prove in the minor leagues. That was true when Spring Training ended, and it’s true now. Belt is simply too good of a hitter for minor league pitching to stand a chance against him.

Whether or not the Giants handled Belt correctly is irrelevant now. They sent him down to get his swing back, and he’s done that in spades. He’s destroying Triple-A pitching, just like he destroyed Single-A and Double-A pitching the year before.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense is struggling to the point where Mike Fontenot was starting to look like a viable 3rd-place hitter. Darren Ford is taking up a roster spot based on the fact that he can pinch run late in the game, and it’s likely he’ll never see an at bat unless he’s inserted as a defensive replacement. With guys like Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff struggling, the Giants could use an impact bat in the middle of their lineup.

They happen to have one of those sitting in Fresno. How long can they wait before they finally bring Belt back to the Majors?

I’m not sure. I’ll have to contemplate that the next time Ford comes in to run for Pat Burrell in the 8th inning.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Trading For Reyes Doesn't Make Sense


Trade rumors are fun. Half the time, I think they’re made up by bored writers looking for something to talk about.

Recently, the Giants have been linked to rumors involving Mets SS Jose Reyes. On the surface, it makes sense: the Giants have a gaping hole at SS since Miguel Tejada has been awful, Reyes is one of the most dynamic players in baseball when he’s healthy, and the Mets may be looking to rebuild since contention in the NL East is unlikely for them this season. Moving Reyes would net New York a nice haul of prospects, and the Giants would correct a major flaw in their lineup. Makes a ton of sense, right? Ok, let’s do it!

Except, well, no. Trading for Reyes doesn’t make much sense at all.

For one thing, the price of acquiring him is likely to be extraordinarily high. The Mets aren’t going to take Tejada, Mark DeRosa and Nate Schierholtz for him; unlike the video game MLB The Show ’11, there’s no “force trade” option in real life that turns other GMs into idiots. For Reyes, the price is going to be top prospects, plural. You’d have to think the Mets would ask the Giants for Zach Wheeler or Brandon Belt as a starting point and work from there.

If Reyes had a contract that ran for a few more years, the Giants might consider making a move for him in spite of the prospect cost. Problem is, he doesn’t: he’s a free agent at the end of the year, and all indications are he’s going to ask for a deal similar to the one Carl Crawford signed with Boston this past off season (7 years, $142 million). After Barry Zito, I’d say the chances of the Giants signing anyone to a 7-year deal are remote at best. Reyes would hit the open market at the end of the year, and the Giants would be left with a stripped minor league system and the same glaring hole at SS. Half a season of Reyes is not worth the cost.

Another important thing to consider: Reyes has a long, detailed injury history. He’s had injuries to his calf and his hamstring, and has had problems with his thyroid gland in the past. If you’re going to give up your top prospects for a player (and then sign that player to a long-term deal), you want a guy with a better track record when it comes to health.

Would it be nice to have Jose Reyes at the top of the Giants’ lineup? Of course. He’s a major upgrade over their current crop of middle infielders, and he’d be the best leadoff hitter the team has had in almost a decade. The cost of getting him doesn’t make sense for the Giants, though. The top prospects in the system for an injury-prone guy who’s likely to walk at the end of the year? Pass. There’ll be other trade targets down the line that won’t cost as much. They also won’t be as good as Reyes, but the team’s future won’t be compromised. That’s most important.