Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jenkins: Why Not Play Posey Elsewhere?

Chronicle columnist Bruce Jenkins asks this question in a recent column, "Who Cares If Posey Can't Catch?" He says what if the offense is struggling and Posey is killing AAA pitching, should he be brought up and play other positions. My answer: any Giants fan should care.

Giants Thoughts

Catcher is the position at which Posey provides significant value. If he were like Matt Weithers, then, yeah, he could be very valuable at almost any position with the way he hits (assuming he can field decently at other positions), including 1B. Posey, however, is only valuable at up the middle positions, he would be average at best for the corner positions and below average at 1B, unless he can field that position as well as the greats do. And catcher is where he would be especially valuable, unlike CF, 2B, and even SS, where offense is available to a great degree.

Looking long-term, while catcher can be a debilitating position, I think Posey is posed to have a career similar to Craig Biggio and it would fit in with our current prospects/personnel. Posey can be our catcher during his pre-free agency years for the most part, then shift to either CF or 2B as needed, though most probably CF as we have Burriss and Noonan coming up who might hold the spot for a number of years if they develop, whereas we don't have any great prospects coming up in CF, only average ones, maybe Mike McBryde in the near-term or Wendell Fairley eventually. And SS is always a position in need, though hopefully Brandon Crawford could be the long-term answer there.

At that point, hopefully one of our other catching prospects might be ready to take over. Jackson Williams is suppose to be a very good defensive catcher, maybe by that point, our offense can afford to have a poor hitter like him catching (or he could develop enough offense, catchers often take until their late 20's to develop their hitting) and be the defensive stalwart that he was projected to be. We also have other catchers, like Hector Sanchez, who might develop by then as well. Then at some point Posey could possibly be moved to another position, depending on the Giants need and extend his career as a valuable player.

This is the lack of patience that Henry Schulman noted the other day that I blogged on in my last post, that is fueled in part by the impatient press corps who follows the Giants. Both the Chronicle and Mercury have been lambasting the Giants the past few years for their alleged lack of development and long-term thinking when, as I've been showing those same few years, that the Giants have a plan and that plan revolves around great pitching and great fielding overall.

Yet these same people, some of which whole-heartedly advocated trading away Lincecum for Alex Rios (now that would have been the worse trade of all trades in Giants history, and we have doozies just in the SF era, of great players traded away for almost nothing: Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Dave Kingman, George Foster, Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey, Bill Madlock, Jack Clark) think that they know how best to get the Giants moving forward.

Sure, if you want to maximize your play in 2010, playing Posey at other positions at mid-season when the team is struggling would probably be a great idea for the short term. But who are you going to get to catch for you in 2011 and beyond? He's not going to improve if he's playing other positions and he might start to let up mentally on this catching if you get him thinking he might play other positions.

Now, if Jenkins is talking only about September and the playoffs, then this would be a brilliant idea. Most NL teams are hamstrung when they get into the playoffs and particularly in the World Series, as there will always be players struggling or injured. Posey could step in at that point for a month or so, and be the utility starter (giving needed rest to the regulars) while also being the backup catcher which would be his main job.

Then if the Giants would be so lucky to make the World Series, he could be a worthy DH for the team, whereas most NL teams have been and will be hamstrung with a bench player thrusted into the DH spot (remember our DH's in 2002? Shinjo, Dunston, Feliz, players who had no right to be DHing). Now THAT would be a great advantage to have, adding a Buster Posey to the lineup during the World Series.

13 comments:

  1. This is the dumbest artcle I've read lately regarding the Giants. You are talking like Posey is an established stud hitter that can be moved to other positions like 2nd base or CF. He's hit minor league pitching well, but so have most of our callups lately, and, other than Panda, most have fallen on their faces. Wait 'till he shows he can hit MLB before you place him all over the diamond.
    And, I know he is athletic, but catcher to 2nd base to CF is a wide range of skill sets. What makes you confident that Posey has all those skills.

    OSF

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  2. Uh, responding to the actual post...

    I agree - he will be a much above average catcher, but not at any corners. And I tend to doubt that C and SS are really switchable positions on the spur of the moment.

    And Panda excepted (who can play 1B anyway), as the negativists say, the Giants are hardly short of alternatives if someone goes down.

    Maybe, yes, his presence, somewhere, might help the offense in the short term, but if his whole problem is catching MLB pitchers, if anything that delays that even more. Wherever he is, he should be catching. Even in SF, I'd hate to see him catch one out of five days - experience is only going to come with experience.

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  3. OSF, that's the dumbest comment I've seen EVER on my blog, and there have been some doozies (though this is as bad as another blogger who thought that the columnist I was critizing was my opinion). As Marc noted, it might behoove you to know what I'm writing about vs. what Bruce Jenkins is advocating.

    I guess you are new to Giants fandom, but Buster Posey started out originally as a SS before converting to C, hence the worry that he isn't ready to catch, he's relatively new to the position, and hence the worry that he won't last there long-term, as his build is slighter than most, and hence why he can slide back to 2B, another middle infield position, since he was a SS before. And the history of baseball has a lot of examples of SS, who tend to be the most athletic players, who have moved easily to 2B and CF.

    Perhaps you are refering to my use of Biggio as an example. He moved up the middle as his career progressed and why I used him as an example. Will Posey be as good a hitter as Biggio? Who knows, I don't think I said that they are the same hitter.

    But given Posey's status when drafted and success hitting in the minors, yeah, he looks like he's going to be a stud hitter... eventually.

    And that is where I differ from many Giants fans. Most of them (and most of the outside baseball experts/analysts) are acting like Posey IS an established stud hitter, and thus are lambasting the Giants for signing Molina.

    I think that Posey hasn't shown enough in the minors, given age, level, and performance, to warrant such expectations for him in 2010. Hopefully, with development, 2011 and beyond, and it looks like he will, but I don't think it is a gimme that he will hit well in 2010 if given the starter's spot.

    And that does not imply he's a stud hitter. If he were, which Jenkins was making him out to be, I would have said that he could play the corner positions too. I didn't.

    I said that he's probably best up the middle, but his offensive skills, per scouting reports and performance thus far in the minors, suggest that he would at best be average there, and below average, in particular, at 1B. Hence, if you actually read and retained what I had written, I wouldn't have to repeat myself.

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  4. Marc, I see your point about him in SF.

    Thus, I'll motify my position to be strictly waiting until late August or just do a September call-up with Posey (if we can loophole him into the playoff roster), so that he can get as many starts catching in AAA as possible before bringing him up plus give him time to acclimate to major league life before he gets to play in the playoffs for us, assuming we can win a spot.

    FYI, Posey in his senior season did play every position on the field in a game, including SS and P (he was a pretty good reliever in college; maybe he could be the first hitter to become a closer late in his career?).

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  5. Should have waited to finish my thought: Posey could be like Babe Ruth when he was a starter. Ruth used to be a starting pitcher, but he hit so well that soon he was playing OF when not pitching. Posey could start as a position player at the start of the game, then move into relieving when needed, particularly if closing, or if setup, he could move back to his prior position when the closer comes in.

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  6. OC - I agree with your spin that Posey is best served in starting the year in Fresno. And yes, he was predominantly a SS before converting to C in his Soph. year at Fla. State. He also played in one game in which he played EVERY position. And, he also did some relief work as a pitcher. Not sure about 2nd...why not SS? Crawford cooled considerably when he was promoted to AA last year, but did have a good winter ball season.

    The guy I hear the team is high on (he needs to develop his stick) is Ehire Adrianza (Low A in August last year).

    You mentioned earlier that the team doesn't really have any good prospective CFs (whereas we don't have any great prospects coming up in CF, only average ones). What about Darren Ford? He put up very good numbers last year in SJ, AND was added to the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. How can you say he isn't a good prospect for CF?

    If you want a bit more opportunity to talk Giants...I suggest you visit "The San Francisco Giants Blog. Unauthorized... at http://oneflapdown77.blogspot.com/.

    Lots of knowledgeable and passionate Giants fans.

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  7. Chi, yes Ehire is the SS of the far off future. He was late teens in Augusta last season, fields like a pro (reportedly) already but just needs to figure out the hitting part. He didn't do that well in A-ball and probably will repeat Augusta in 2010.

    But there is no shame in that, plus I like that he didn't strike out a storm, only 17% of the time, and he was facing pitchers who were 2-3 years older than he was, with all the extra experience they had, PLUS this was his first time in a full-season league and away from home for such a long stretch.

    I also like that he did well initially in April and May, not striking out that much, then the pitchers figured him out and he was striking out all over the place in June and July, then he was back to his disciplined self again in August/Sept. When he is going good, his walks was about equal to his strikeouts (only the best hitters can do that) plus his strikeout rate was not above 15%.

    So I like him a lot.

    But at 20 in A-ball in 2010, he probably won't sniff the majors until 2014 probably, and maybe a year or two to start because his bat is probably going to take time. Still, he'll only be 24 in 2014.

    Meanwhile, Renteria is probably gone in 2011 unless he returns to his former 800+ OPS goodness, and Crawford will probably split time between AA and AAA, and reportedly is a great fielder as well.

    By then, Posey should be starting to produce and Sandoval should be established, and the Giants might be able to afford a poor-hitting SS with a good glove like Crawford, unless he can develop more and start hitting better.

    SS is a very demanding position physically, and if we have a good hitter, hopefully a key hitter in our lineup, it would be better to put Posey at 2B so that he can continue hitting and not be beat up by playing SS (or C).

    But for now, he's young and can handle it, so start him at C and when it is starting to wear him down, make the switch.

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  8. I don't think much of Darren Ford. He didnt' have that great a year in San Jose and he was 23 years old, so he was about the same age as everyone else there, which means that if he cannot rise above his peers now (peers being A-ball pitchers and hitters), how does he hope to reach major league level?

    Now, it is not like he can't continue to learn. That is why the Giants kept him on the 40-man roster and not risk losing him. But a guy who strikes out 106 times at any level should be hitting a heck of a lot better than he did in 2009, whether for power or OPS. And that is at Advanced A. He still needs to conquer AA, then AAA, then the majors.

    See what I mean by we don't have any good CF's who might make the majors in the next year or two? Ford will need at least two years to get past AAA unless he suddenly figures something out (unlikely for anybody, let alone him). And 2009 was his third straight year in Advanced A, he can't afford to take three years to climb each level, else he'll be like Lewis, 29 YO and stuck on the bench.

    So he's not a good prospect for CF.

    Now, could he possibly play CF for SF in a few years? Sure, but that is not likely at the moment, the future is hazy for him because he's already 24 YO for the 2010 season and just reaching AA. And even if he made the majors, he doesn't look likely to produce much right now. That's not a good prospect. He's only just a prospect.

    To me, a good prospect is one who looks like he will make the majors and be an average MLB player. Schierholtz, Bowker, Lewis, Ortmeier, Frandsen, Burriss. The great prospects look like they will be at least a good MLB player, Sandoval, Posey, maybe Bowker if he continues to get on base at so great a rate. I think we should have higher standards when judging prospects, that is what we need for our team average to good players.

    And when I say prospective CF, I mean somebody who should be here in a year or two. Ford is at best 2-3 years away unless he suddenly starts hitting great in AA and jumps to AAA in 2010, like Ishikawa did a couple of years ago.

    Ford is just a prospect to me. He has a lot of good tools, his main ones being speed, defense, and ability to get on base, in that order.

    But he strikes out way too much for someone whose main value is getting on base and keeping the ball in play. And he took too long to figure out Advanced-A.

    Hopefully, whatever he figured out will continue in AA so that he won't spend three years there too, at which point hopefully all of us will agree that he's not a good prospect.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lastly, ChiPower, (and it's OGC, BTW) I don't mind if you put your blog URL at the bottom of your comment, but I think I give plenty of opportunity here to talk Giants and I've already placed your blog on my side list of Giants blogs. My comments is not an area to advertise yourself and to give me the back of your hand while doing that.

    If I had wanted to be the popular guy that people go to for Giants info and discussion, I would have joined Only Baseball Matters years ago when he asked me.

    But I see things as I see them, and if people are scared off by my passion for the team and the conclusions I have come to, so be it, but I didn't start my blog to be a watering hole where lots of casual fans can go and chat about things, or to post innane jokes, or to make it a business, it is my platform to put forth my thoughts on how the Giants are doing and what they should be doing, if I disagree with their actions, plus to get corrections if I'm wrong.

    And I would love to be told where I'm wrong, but as I've discovered over time, there was layers of gray regarding right and wrong, and a lot of it is just opinion on my part (on their part).

    But I feel what I feel, and if that is too much for some people to comment, I'm OK with that. I feel for any viewpoint that I espouse, you are either all in or not, and if it is not a viewpoint I feel strongly about, then I would take a more on the fence status, in which case, I don't waste a lot of time thinking about it.

    But as a full-time analyst, former math-whiz, and amateur statistian, when I see something, that is what my stance will be until I see evidence that convinces me otherwise.

    People misunderstand my strong stances to be stubbornness or inability to change positions. One of my strong stances long ago was that Sabean sucked in the draft, until I researched it and found out that it was the draft that sucked, not necessarily Sabean, and it sucked even worse when you were a winning team. I can't think of a better example of how I can change my position once presented with evidence to the contrary.

    I only care about viewing the Giants correctly, whether good or bad for them. I love the team, I loved them when they were winning, and I loved them even more when they were losing.

    I only want to set my expectations correctly on what they can do, whether they be forecasted in the cellar or predicted to make the playoffs or beyond.

    I really don't gave a damn if I get an idea or position from someone else, I only want to have the most accurate view of how the Giants are going to do, so that I can set my expectations for them. I don't really give a damn if I was wrong as long as I'm corrected at some point.

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  10. You have to admit Martin, that though baseball history is full of people switching positions, the idea of a guy playing multiple YEARS at Catcher, which takes its greatest toll on the legs (you said play catcher throughout his pre-FA years, so it seems you're talking 4 years at least) and then switching to CF, which places its greatest premium on speed, is pretty blatantly absurd. (even more absurd than the notion of Jackson Williams developing into a major league hitter 5 years from now, and I didn't think I'd ever see anything that far outside the realm of believability).

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  11. Although I will grant you, that looking at the record, Biggio played more years at C than I remembered -- a fair amout of 3.5 years. And he did play CF in his career -- though never well it must be said. Some years near the beginning actually played CF during his non-C days which just seems crazy. Since they also threw Berkman out there in CF for a few years, I guess we can make the supposition that Houston just didn't much care about CF from a defensive standpoint.

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  12. Roger, first, I see your points about the legs, but at what point does the legs get so bad that you can't run well anymore?

    My point is that this type of transition has happened before, Biggio being the example I brought up. Maybe Posey is beat up like you say and he can only play 2B. I don't know, you don't know, but players have moved to other positions.

    FYI: Biggio started out as a high school infielder but was switched to catcher by his college coach because of need, similar to Posey.

    And here is Biggio's progression: he caught for roughly 3.5 seasons (as you noted) before moving to 2B for 14 seasons, with a brief interlude in the OF (later in his career) where he stunk defensively.

    So I can go for your point that going to CF isn't that great an option. I wasn't wedded to that thought, I'm fine with Posey moving to 2B for the rest of his career. The point was that Posey could move on to another position where he can be a valuable player and extend his period of plus production.

    One thought I had before was that he and Sandoval could be each other's backup at C and 3B, respectively, while starting. While Posey is probably only average at 3B, at best right now, that could be another position he could move to when Sandoval moves to 1B at some point. Obviously, the Giants personnel at the time the move is made will dictate where he ends up (say if Noonan or Burriss develops and holds onto 2B).

    Hey, I doubt that Williams can become a good hitter too, that is why I led with the Giants offense being good enough to handle his poor bat.

    But there have been hitters in the history of baseball who finally figured things out later and catchers are among those. Matheny was pretty bad in the majors as a hitter until he reached 32 when he became passable. And his defense was so good that he was getting significant ABs since he was 26. Williams was supposedly very good defensively.

    Looking at Jackson's stats, he is clearly improving offensively from year to year, improving walks, decreasing strikeouts, even as he is rising. He has also been suffering from playing in pitchers parks in SJ and Conn.

    Not that he's ready soon to hit in the majors, but at this point I think it is a positive that he's been able to improve his batting peripherals each year he's been a pro.

    Whether that arc is good enough to make the majors, I don't know, hence why I said the offense would have to be good enough to handle someone with as bad offense as he got.

    Still, looking at his monthly stats, you can see a general improvement over time, though very up and down, unlike Noonan's very sharp break for the better the last two months of 2009.

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  13. I agree that it's ridiculous to play Posey at a different position. C is the toughest position to fill in baseball, and if you have a player that can hit (even an average ML hitter) and stick at that position, you fill it. That being said, there's no way Posey could play either CF or SS in the Major Leagues. He runs decent but not well enough to play either of those positions. To be athletic enough to do it in college is one thing. To do it in the MLB is quite another. I completely agree his value is totally diminished at 1B or 3B, obviously. He is so highly regarded as a catcher because it's well believed he can be both an above average defender and hitter at the position. Period. If he wasn't a catcher, he probably wouldn't of been a 1st round pick.

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