Monday, May 17, 2010

A Pragmatic Posey Post (Hopefully)

I don't like evaluating my former teammates. Being friends, my evaluations are usually short of objective, and I feel they have enough people judging them. Is my short-sighted opinion really needed?

Today I'm going to make an exception. With all the hoopla surrounding Buster Posey, and after Brian Sabean's ridiculous comments, I thought I'd follow my last post with a couple of statements. So I'll try to brush away my knowledge of Posey as an affable, well-liked guy, and strictly look at his baseball skills.

Statement #1

Buster Posey can play in the big leagues--right now.

Now, before you go too crazy, read on.

Buster Posey should not be playing in the big leagues--at least not right now.

On the surface, they're two completely contradictory statements, but they're more compatible than they seem. Let's take a look at the first.

We all know Posey's bat is glowing like Frodo's Sting Sword down in Triple-A. But since numbers such as .346 BA and .549 slugging don't matter (according to Sabean), we have to throw those numbers out.

As I look at Posey's swing, I'm confident it will play in the big leagues. I don't think fans should expect Fresno-type of numbers there, as yes, the pitching is better in the big leagues and the two parks are DRAMATICALLY different. But you can expect a lot of doubles in the gaps and a more than respectable batting average from him during the first couple of years.

As for his defense, his blocking is fine and his arm is very good. The release is quick, the strength is there, and the accuracy is solid. (Hopefully he avoids the Saltalamacchia yips.) He will do fine in the running game.

His glove and the "ability to call the game" are the two traditional knocks on him. Having thrown to him, I can say that his hands are great. He's only been catching a couple of years, and so the experience with catching pitches with movement still needs to come, but the hands are there. They will continue to develop.

I thought he called the game adequately. He's a smart guy, and there is a solid thought process to his game-calling. Of course, this improves with experience as well. Just don't expect him to be Bengie Molina upon arrival.

So, all in all, I have no problem saying Posey can play in the big leagues right now. He may not be an All-Star catcher yet, but he could more than hold his own.

Now, statement #2.

Just because he could hold his own doesn't mean that he should be in the big leagues right now. The main reason is because he's not really needed. Molina is hitting .330. Whiteside is hitting .324 as a backup. Both are very, very good defensive catchers.

"So he could play first base," some people say.

I don't like this idea at all. The production out of Posey's bat won't be as impressive as a first baseman. It will play much, much, much better as a catcher.

His catching skills need to continue to develop. Yes, I thought his hands were wonderful and his game-calling was adequate, but I'm not Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain. Far from it. It's a lot easier to catch my crappy fastball than some of the best fastballs in the game.

Some might say there's no better learning experience than actually doing it. You might as well just throw him in the big leagues and let him catch those guys. But again, there's no need for catching right now. The pragmatic move is to allow his glove to continue to develop in Triple-A, where, believe it or not, he's still catching some pretty darn good pitchers.

So, yes, he can do it. But no, he shouldn't be doing it.

Hopefully that makes sense. Go ahead and scream at me if you'd like.

65 comments:

Claude said...

Makes perfect sense to me (and consistent with what else I've read). Thanks for the post!

Ben P said...

Thanks for your unique perspective on the debate, Garrett. It's exciting to hear a positive firsthand review of Posey's defense.

I'm okay with letting him blast away at AAA pitching and catch every day, but only as long as Molina continues to play well.

A lot of people seem to think he'll be up soon, but I am convinced that the front office will leave him in the minors until September unless Molina or Whiteside gets hurt.

Mike Scout said...

Now if Sabean had just come out and said this, do you know much less of a prick he would have sounded. And people may have actually agreed with him?

What an amazing concept.

Always enjoy reading what you have to say.

corn said...

You say that Molina is a "very, very good defensive catcher." After watching his performance over the last few weeks, can you still say that? He's not blocking balls that seem blockable by a very, very good defensive catcher. He's slow out of the crouch in throwing to second. I think that age and conditioning might be catching up to him. My perspective is purely amateur, of course, but I don't know that I'd label him "very, very good defensively" anymore.

Love your writing, by the way. Look forward to each new entry.

Garrett said...

Thanks everyone!

corn: I'll admit I haven't been able to watch enough of the games over the past couple of weeks to assess Molina's current catching abilities. Just relying on his reputation over his career.

As you say, this can change over time do to various things.

I CAN say that I loved throwing to Eli the little I worked with him.

Thanks again!

Kristina said...

Really great to hear from someone who has been there instead of just hearing that he needs to work on gamecalling and defense. It's hard to be patient and wait for him to come up but I don't want to rush him. I think he should definitely be up when Molina starts to tire. Bengie hasn't been up there defensively, the game he caught on Saturday against the Astros was poor defensively on his part, and he has only thrown out one runner (though this is hard to knock him on since the pitchers haven't been able to hold runners). But reading this makes me want to wait, instead of just hearing the whole - he can't catch major league pitching because he hasn't caught major league pitching - business. Thanks GB, great post.

Tully said...

Garrett,

Well, if anyone would know, it's you. I think what you're seeing is a lot of residual frustration from Giants fans over the decision to re-sign Bengie over the off-season. I know I was unhappy about it, because as a follower of Mr. Molina's exploits, I'm convinced he has lost much more than a step behind the plate, with the exception of his game calling skills (I'll defer to the satisfaction of Mr. Lincecum, among others, in that area). It was my feeling that Bruce Bochy would be unable to resist batting Bengie in the cleanup position again, which is not remotely ideal for him any longer based on his middling power and extreme lack of speed. It took a few weeks for Bochy to move him back to that spot, and while Bengie's batting average and OBP are up, his power numbers are down (he's on pace for 20 doubles and 10 homers). He is also becoming a detriment at blocking pitches and throwing out runners (he is currently 4 for 30 in Caught Steals).

Ultimately, the Giants found themselves in a quandry, with Bengie's decline accelerating more quickly than Posey's skills behind the plate. With no other decent free agent options, they didn't really have much of a choice but to gamble that one more year of Bengie would be more ideal than rushing Buster. The season is going to have to play out before we can accurately determine if they were right or not on that decision. I think catcher's can always use more seasoning in the minors than other position players, even if the pitching in AAA isn't very good (sez Brian Sabean, anyway).

FWIW My one game scouting report on Posey, for which I was paid and deserved absolutely nothing, was that he had a very strong arm but had footwork issues on breaking balls (which he also seemed to exhibit in his cup of java late last year with the big boys). He went 3-4, with a homer and two doubles, albeit against California League pitching.

Michael Taylor said...

Thanks for such a balanced, first-person analysis of the Buster Posey situation. I've never understood this obsession with bringing Posey up so soon. Sure, he's hitting well in the minors -- exceptional players tend to do that -- but his hot bat would cool off against major league pitching. At that point, many of those same fans who've been chanting for Posey to come up would dismiss him as another expensive bust.

I don't think we should mess around with this kid -- take it slow and steady, then bring him up when he's ready to make the most of the opportunity.

You don't pull dinner out of the oven half an hour early just because you're hungry. Good things are worth waiting for, and if that means we don't see Buster Posey in the orange and black until September, so be it. We'll still have Lincecum, Zito, Cain, and Sanchez come 2011, and Buster will be better prepared to do his job behind the plate.

hitnrun said...

I don't have a problem letting Posey totally learn the catching nuances in Fresno, but if the Giants don't come out of this team slump they will bring him up in panic. Molina ia still an asset, but he is definitely showing a loss of power and Whiteside is in no way a .300 hitter. More like .240

Geno Espineli Fan said...

Hey GB! Good stuff. I've been following Richmond and Daryl Mayday has been great. Do you know if he has changed something or is tapping unused potential or is just off to a hot start? Just curious. Thanks! -Rob

gbroshuis said...

Michael: If they gave out Pulitzers for blog comments, you would win it with your "pull dinner out of the oven early" analogy.

Rob: I think Maday is simply maturing as a pitcher a bit. He has good sink on a solid MLB fastball, and I think he's learning to trust this sink. It's playing out with an excellent groundball rate right now.

Of course, the Giants probably won't like his low strikeout rate. Hopefully he's not doomed to Double-A like Chris Begg (though Maday throws a touch harder than Begg, and is still young.)

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ncawthon said...

Calling a game is somewhat redundant, given Bochy's nose, hat, chin, nose, chin ear before every pitch.

Fergie said...

IMO, looking at the numbers reveals a pretty consistent hole in the Giants approach to hitting. Most of their peripheral stats are ML average, but on two counts they come up way short. They are a *very* aggressive team, with consistently high OSwing% and low walks. You don't have to throw strikes to these guys to get them out and the league knows it.

Garrett, what are your thoughts on this and how would you rate Posey and other possible call ups in this regard?

Thanks for continuing to contribute to the conversation in this way. Your blog is one of the better baseball blogs out there and I'm glad you're keeping it going.

Thanks, JF

C.A. said...

Amen, well thought out and well said.

If we didn't have Benji and Eli at the dish, I would be all for bringing Buster up. But the fact is how do you set a guy down(Eli) when he's giving you a lot of reasons to keep him up. Can't send Benji down. Can't trade him cutting him makes even less sense. So Buster gets to work on his game in the minors. But at least he'll be more ready than if he had just been thrown to the wolves.

Personally I think that we have more needs than Catcher. As you related, 1st is a need. This team also needs a younger Middle Infielder to spell the old guard. I thought sending Eugenio down in exchange for another arm in the Pen was a mistake. We have the best 1 through 5 on the bump in NL. Another arm in the Pen isn't going to change anything. Especially when Field Defense has been suffering and when the bats are cold(the juggernaut Posey argument) it's not a move that pans out. To me that's throwing in the towel and expecting your arms to throw more Ks'. In his first five starts I think that Lincecum whiffed 52 hitters? Cain pretty much equalled that stat, Zito was serving up dirt to the hitters and both Sanchez and Wellmeyer have done as well as can be expected in the 4th and 5th spots. I think that only Wellmyer has been our weak link. But it doesn't matter if the bats aren't there. And they aren't cause Boch has to "follow the percentages" and rework the order every other day. Nobody can get comfortable in their spot because of it and that will affect your offense EVERY time.

In any case great points for both sides of the argument. Very much appreciated.

OKCgiant said...

Just saw Posey play a 4 game series in town a week ago. I love his patience at the plate.
The guy doesn't swing at too many balls. The biggest thing I think he needs to work on is his power,
and driving the ball.

I'm not really sure I agree that Molina is getting it done. While his bat has been good so far, people are stealing bases on him,
and he's very slow. Those are two things Buster does better right now.

I wanted to know your thoughts on Decker? I noticed he was very hands on with the players, and Buster in particular. I think Buster should come up sooner than you, but I do think that anytime he spends with Decker is valuable.

Love your blog so far.
Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

You ought to fight for Sabean's job.

Randy said...

Great article. The irony here is that the only positive thing about Sabean has been the pitching success that came from the farm system. It also shows his unwavering dedication to older players. I guess that is why half our roster is injured in May. We will post close to the record on number of games missed by players because of injury. But for me, whether Sabean was good or bad overall in his time with the Giants, it is time for some new blood in management and Sabean's comments confirmed that notion that he has been here too long and does not have the proper perspective to be the GM moving forward. Once again...I have to state that after the steroid era, the only good thing Sabean has done is improve the farm system and the pitching staff. All of which is spit on in a couple of sentences.

Thank you for the well written article. I really enjoyed a calm perspective to my building frustration with Sabean and Bochy.

Randy said...

Once again, a well written, concise post. Like others have said, why can't Sabean just say what you wrote?

For me, I feel bad for Whiteside. He has been a really good defensive catcher and calls a really good game. He also has some pop in his bat. So I am over Molina and actualy hoped we would bring in Torrealba. But that ship has sailed. Whiteside is perfect for now and the guy we need to transition to Posey next year. But I am also good with going with Whiteside for now over Molina because I think he has a better arm and keeps base-stealers honest compared to Bengie. But Bengie is older and more experienced...which is the death-nail for the younger players. I can't believe we have to deal with Bochy/Sabean for another year after this one.

Bushwick is Beautiful said...

This season needs to end with Posey starting, and Whiteside his backup.

Molina is not the future, not the answer this year, and not doing much right now after a decent start at the plate. I'd say wait a few more weeks, and bring Posey up for good. He's a star, a cut above everyone else in our minor league system, and needs to be up with the big boys sooner rather than later.

mrschaeff2000 said...

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Flavor said...

They drafted him as a catcher, there's nothing written in stone that he has to be a catcher (ask Pablo Sandoval). He's our 2nd or 3rd best hitter RIGHT NOW in our entire system, including the major leagues. Put Huff in LF, Buster at 1B full time, and watch the best offense we have unfold. Win now, catch later...
oneflapdown77.blogspot.com

Flavor said...

and I can tell you right now, Sabean is a huge M. Buble fan.....

gbroshuis said...

Fergie: One of the things they emphasize in the org is being aggressive. The Giants don't really have a take pitches, work the count approach, and that might hurt their OBP at times. With two strikes, you would like to see people shorten up of course, but it doesn't always happen when they have the aggressive mantra in their minds. I'd say Posey has good plate discipline, but he's still susceptible to good breaking balls. Overall his strikeout percentages are pretty good. Last year he had almost as many walks as Ks, and he's on pace to do the same this year.

gbroshuis said...

OKCGiants: I'll try to have some thoughts on Decker soon. That'll be a post in and of itself!

Thanks to all the new readers! Feel free to ask questions via comments, twitter, or email.

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