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Could Buster Posey be the next Craig Biggio?

Jan 25, 2010, 10:28 AM EDT

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins freely admits that it’s bar talk, not news, but it’s bar talk season so let’s hear him, um, talk:

Off-the-wall thoughts bouncing around the 3-Dot Lounge: What if Buster Posey is an infielder, in essence, and not a catcher? And what if he’s
hitting .438 with 15 homers in Fresno around the first of June? . . . As catchers go, Posey is slightly built. It seems almost criminal to
shorten his career – or at the very least, torment his legs – by
keeping him behind the plate exclusively. He’s a born hitter, and he
was an infielder until making the switch to catcher at Florida State.
He could play an acceptable shortstop at any level, he’d be absolutely
fine at third base, and a no-brainer at first.

I like “what-if” scenarios, and as I sit here right now I like to think what life would be like if Buster Posey was, say, a catcher-turned second baseman like Craig Biggio.  But I’m not sure Biggio was ever considered as good a defensive catcher as Posey is purported to be.* I haven’t had a chance to see him catch, but  according to Keith Law’s prospect rating last year, Posey “is a plus defensive catcher with a plus arm” and those don’t show up on your doorstep every day, especially with a good batting eye and mid-range or better power.

In an ideal world, Posey is given a chance to start behind the dish — a chance even Biggio got, by the way.  Of course, the current San Francisco Giants’ decision makers don’t live in an ideal world. They live in a land where Bengie Molina is given the starting catching job until his having full time employment puts his Social Security benefits at risk.

*Biggio’s conversion has been officially chronicled by history as “the Astros wanted to save his legs.”  I don’t know if that’s really true or not, as I can’t find a reference to Biggio’s time behind the plate that doesn’t treat the conversion like some super hero origin myth.  Maybe he just wasn’t that good back there? Anyone who watched him more closely as a catcher back in the day care to weigh in?

  1. Old Gator - Jan 25, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Is Buster Posey (one wonders not at his choice of “Buster” for a first name after being saddled with “Posey” for a surname) any relation to my beloved goddess of the Indies, Parker Posey? Just curious.

  2. Chris - Jan 25, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    Well, the SI Vault didn’t have much on Biggio’s catching prowess, but it did offer this retrospectively-hilarious tidbit criticizing the Astros’ decision, during the 1990-1991 offseason, to rid the team of aging mediocrities in favor of some unproven youngsters:
    “Over the past several months, the current Houston management has stripped last year’s 25-man roster of no fewer than 11 veterans, all of whom were at least 30 years old, and several of whom were the Astros’ best talents. Five are pitchers who accounted for 41 of those 75 wins as well as 35 of the Astros’ 37 saves. Three are hitters who accounted for 55 of Houston’s 94 home runs.
    “Even before the 1990 season was over, the Astro front office had traded away reliever Larry Andersen and second baseman Bill Doran. After the season, the Astros lost six other players as free agents, including starting pitcher Danny Darwin, who led the league with an ERA of 2.21; closer Dave Smith, who saved 23 games; and outfielder Franklin Stubbs, who had a team-leading 23 homers. Houston then completed its winter clearance by trading away slugging first baseman Glenn Davis.
    “We want to know, of course, what the Astros got in return. We are told that Davis was dealt to Baltimore for three young but as-yet-undistinguished major leaguers: outfielder Steve Finley and pitchers Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch. For Doran, Houston got two minor leaguers and a second-string catcher. For Andersen, Houston got Jeff Bagwell, a promising young infielder. And that’s it.”
    All they got for Glenn Davis, Bill Doran, and Larry Andersen was Curt Schilling, Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Jeff Bagwell. Man, what suckers!

  3. Rotobuzzguy - Jan 25, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    I’ve actually been saying this for a year and a half now. I grew up in New York and actually went to the same High School as Biggio, watching him play throughout my youth. I remember that day in May of 1988 when he first got called up as if it were yesterday.
    Now that I’ve been out here in the Bay Area for a few years and have watched Posey even closer than I did when he was at Florida State, I started to make the comparison (the ironic thing is that I was tending bar in SF the first time I gave my discertation on the similarities of the two). It’s not that they are/were at the same talent level behind the dish, as yes, Posey is a better defensive backstop than Biggio ever was. It’s that they are the same type of player. The same effort every game, same style swing, similar speed, similar knowledge of the game at a young age, etc. They are very much alike in how they approach the game of baseball.
    I can definitely see Posey catching for 5 or 6 years and then being moved to second base (a la Biggio) to preserve his body. He should excel there for another 5 or 6 years before eventually being moved on to the outfield to finish what should be a very illustrious career.

  4. motherscratcher - Jan 25, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Just taking a stab in the dark here, but wouldn’t it be more of an advantage to Posey that he is “slightly built?” It seems that if we are worried that his knees couldn’t handle the strain, it might be an advantage that he isn’t carring more bulk around. Less weight = less stress, no? Probably quicker blocking balls and coming out of his crouch too.
    A hitting catcher with plus defense is tough to find. I sure as heck wouldn’t move him unless I had to. Anyone have any better info on a catchers build correlating with longevity?

  5. jjcole - Jan 25, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    I had the good fortune to watch Biggio’s entire career unfold. He was OK as a catcher. He was quick, he blocked pitches well, he had command. He did not throw well but his pitchers did not help much. I thought he was too small to be a catcher. (That was before I met Yogi Berra at an Astros spring training game. Biggio was bigger than Yogi.)
    Moving Biggio to another position to save his legs sounded reasonable to me but as an Astros fan I would not have complained if he had remained at catcher. The Astros had bigger problems that that.
    When I saw him in spring training after it was decided to convert him to second base what I saw was a catcher playing second. Awkward. I gave the experiment no chance. I expected to see him in centerfield before the year was over.
    The miracle workers were coach Matt Galante and Biggio,they worked hard, kept at it. By the next spring training Biggio looked to me like a somewhat awkward infielder but one who could do a passable job. I still had my doubts. By the end of the year he looked like an average second baseman. By the next spring training he looked better than that.
    This is also an example as to why the HOF should have a coaches wing.

  6. Wupuck - Jan 25, 2010 at 8:20 PM

    I’ve liked the idea of Posey playing on the infield since the Giants Drafted him. Catchers careers are notoriously short as it’s so physically demanding on the legs. The Giants would do well to switch him to another position within a year or two of him hitting the big-leagues full time. At the same time; Posey will learn the game at a different level catching, so some big league time behind the dish won’t be a bad thing.
    W/ regards to the asinine comment about the Giants and Bengie Molina; What were the viable alternatives at catcher in the meantime?
    I-Rod signed away from SF the first chance he got and Torrealba didn’t want to come back. Molina isn’t that bad especially since he should be batting 6th this season. Considering all he’s done for the Giants these past 3 years, playing above his ability level… talk about ungreatful…

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