Busterless in San Francisco

Sometimes, when a star player goes down with an injury, a rookie or otherwise obscure substitute steps in and saves the day. Wally Pipp’s headache provided Lou Gehrig’s opportunity. When one door closes, so they say, another opens.

Sometimes. But not always. And apparently not, at least so far, in San Francisco as the 2011 Giants deal with replacing the production of injured catcher Buster Posey.

Since the 2010 Rookie of the Year went down for the season with a broken leg, the Giants have played 13 games. Over that span they’re 7-6: not great, but obviously not slumping either. No reason to panic over that result.

But it’s clear that San Francisco has avoided a slump not because of the performance of the substitutes filling in for Posey, but despite it. Erstwhile backup Eli Whiteside has taken over as the new first-stringer, and minor league journeyman Chris Stewart has been called up to become the new backup.

Over these 13 games, Whiteside and Stewart have combined to go 4-for-40 (a neat .100 batting average) at the plate. All four hits have been singles. They’ve combined to score one run, and drive in one.

And, over these 13 games, opposing baserunners have stolen 13 bases, while being thrown out just twice.

Certainly, 13 games is a very small sample. While neither Whiteside nor Stewart has a track record of good hitting, they’re not going to hit .100 all season long.

Still, it’s just too obvious that they’re off to a terrible start at the unenviable task of replacing Buster Posey. The Giants simply cannot expect to hold first place much longer unless they begin to get at least something approaching acceptable performance from their catchers.

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  1. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    Arguments make sense, but so far the Giants overall have responded well to the challenge post-Buster.

    With Buster Around:
    3.54 RS, 3.58 ER, 3.26 ERA

    3.69 RS, 3.31 ER, 3.14 ERA

    So, despite the shortcomings of the catching replacements, as delineated above, the pitching/fielding (defense) has been slightly better and the offense as well, with Sandoval looking to return soon and boosting offense further.

    Of course, what are the odds of Vogelsong continuing what he has been doing, but perhaps the addition of Sandoval will negate that.  Also, how long will Lincecum struggle?  Also, Huff appears to be getting out of his funk, he’s not swinging and missing as often as he was earlier, which means that if he can continue and once his BABIP reverts to mean, he’ll be hitting much better.

    But the Pythagorean for the 13 games (yes, SSS) since equals roughly 88 win season, which if they can continue that pace, should leave them somewhere among the pack contending for the title.

  2. Steve Treder said...

    Well, we all need to bear in mind that 13 games is a teensy-weensy sample size.  Extrapolations from such a sample are the furthest thing from reliable.

    That acknowledged, I would say that the even if Whiteside/Snyder have actually had a meaningful degree of impact on that extremely subtle reduction in run prevention you note, their very direct and obvious negative impact on the team’s run production capability overwhelms it.

    It’s certainly correct that catching is just one position, and the performances of Sandoval, Lincecum, Huff and many others will largely tell the story.  But the inescapable fact remains that it’s very difficult for a team to play at a contending level while getting something literally close to zero offensive output from its catchers.

  3. Pat said...

    Nobody can replace Buster.  I just hope Buster can fully recover from the torn ligaments, because oftentimes injured ligaments never return to normal.  The Giants should focus on trying out young talent (cheaper than established players) to fill the batting void—players like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Darren Ford, etc.

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