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Buster Posey Called Up; My Head Explodes

May 30, 2010

I suppose it is only fitting that the Giants call up Buster Posey two days after I suggest they keep him in AAA Fresno for the rest of the season.  For an organization known for making puzzling moves when it comes to position players- the most recent debacle being the organization’s mismanagement of the Fred Lewis situation- it should really be no surprise that the Giants call up Buster Posey to play a position he is not meant for.  To me, it seems more of a move out of desperation than anything else.  Andrew Baggarly covers a lot of questions regarding the Posey callup, which you can find here.  My reactions to some of them:

Q: Why call up Posey to play first base? Wasn’t he still in Fresno because his catching skills needed more work?
A: Rest assured, Posey is the Giants’ catcher of the future. I’d wager any amount that he’ll be the opening-day guy behind the plate next season. But with Mark DeRosa out at least another week, and Edgar Renteria at least two, the Giants see a window for Posey to get some at-bats at first base. They’d like to give him the opportunity to get his feet wet.

I don’t care much for this answer.  If Buster Posey is the Giants’ catcher of the future, it is more logical to let him catch than to play out of position.  The sole purpose of playing Posey in Fresno was to let him continue to develop his game-calling in a lower pressure environment.  Pulling him away from that for an unknown period of time stunts his growth behind the plate.  There is no question that the bat is ready; let the glove finish developing.  Don’t put it at a standstill simply because you need someone to fill the void for a few weeks as your frail veterans recover from their respective injuries.  Now that Bruce Bochy is telling the media that the Giants are playing Posey until they “get their guys back,” it is becoming more apparent that they are viewing Posey as a potential short-term solution.  If the Giants are looking for a short-term solution at first base, why not allow an actual first baseman- say Brett Pill, who is already on the 40-man roster- get a few at-bats?

The Giants are calling Posey up to the Majors because of his scorching hot bat- and while he is undoubtedly a far better hitter than Pill, or any other of the Giants’ internal right-handed first base options, it seems counterproductive to cut in to Posey’s development behind the plate.  If he’s a short-term solution, then that means he’ll be getting about 60-75 plate appearances.  If Posey’s current talent level is as a .350 wOBA hitter in the Majors, and Pill a .290 (based on Brian Cartwright’s MLEs), then we’re looking at a run differential of about 4 runs.  This is assuming, of course, that both players perform to their estimated MLE talent levels. The sheer amount of luck and random variation within 75 PA alone suggests Posey could have a wOBA between .295 and .405; Pill .238 and .342.  The chances of Posey outperforming Pill are quite good, of course, but the question is how much of a difference there would be in such a limited amount of time.

This assumes that the Giants had to call up a player in the first place.  If they felt so compelled to move Huff to left field, they could have shifted Sandoval to first and moved Downs to third.  Anyways, more on Posey’s development as a catcher:

Q: But they are stunting his development as a catcher!
A: The Giants are doing this because they recognize Posey is a smart, level-headed young man. He isn’t easily distracted or thrown off by things. The Giants believe he’ll handle this little diversion to first base just fine. He knows the organization believes in his skills as a catcher. He’s almost a finished product behind the plate and he remains comfortable in the knowledge that’s where he’ll be long term. And who knows? Being immersed in big league games, even from another position, might teach him a few nuances that he couldn’t have learned behind the plate at Triple-A.

I find this quote to be the most interesting of Baggarly’s.  Keep a close eye on those first two sentences.  Now, read this:

They didn’t want to promote Posey amid a desperate situation in which all eyes would be on him to perform miracles.

If Posey is a “smart, level-headed young man” who “isn’t easily distracted or thrown off by things,” then it would seem that calling him up during a cold stretch wouldn’t be a problem.  Either Baggarly misremembered what the organization actually told him, or they’re giving him conflicting information.  I’m just not buying this.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it feels as though Posey’s callup is more of a business move to appeal the fans than it is a baseball one.

If it was a legitimate baseball move, it would seem that the Giants would replace Molina with Posey.  While the Giants’ pitching staff is comfortable throwing to him and believe he calls a good game, there’s no disputing the fact that the other facets of his defensive game- such as throwing out opposing baserunners, and preventing wild pitches and passed balls- is sorely lacking.  Matt Klaassen over at Beyond the Boxscore has Molina at -3.1 runs in 1100 PA.  Prorated to 6,000 PA (close to a full season), that’s about -15 runs.  He better be a great gamecaller- otherwise, he’ll be a defensive liability unless he can improve on those aspects of his game.  Posey excels at throwing out opposing base runners, and he’s improved immensely at preventing passed balls.  Even if he doesn’t call as good of a game as Bengie does, it would seem that he’d be an improvement of sorts.

I don’t like the position they’re putting Posey in.  If he doesn’t perform exceptionally well in the short-term, the Giants are going to take that to mean he’s not Major League ready (considering how much they make out of small sample sizes) and they’ll ship him back to Fresno and say that he’s not ready.  If he does perform well, then they’ll keep him up here as a first baseman and stunt his development as a catcher.  This move seems counterproductive to me, although I’m sure there are many out there who will disagree with me.  I simply want Posey to play every day as a catcher.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in AAA or in the Majors; he should be catching.

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