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Giants say no catcher needed, expect to use Brandon Belt off bench

May 27, 2011, 7:07 PM EDT

Brandon Belt Getty Images

Runs?  Who needs ’em?  After all, the Giants are in first place now despite having the NL’s worst offense.

Speaking out prior to Friday’s game, Giants GM Brian Sabean said that he hasn’t made any inquiries about finding a replacement for Buster Posey and manager Bruce Bochy stated that the newly recalled Brandon Belt would be a bench player.

From the San Francisco Chronicle’s Hank Schulman comes word the Giants have heard from teams willing to part with a catcher.  However, Sabean said that he wants to give Eli Whiteside a chance to take over as a regular for now.  He hasn’t inquired about any possible replacements, such as Ivan Rodriguez or Ryan Doumit.

As for Belt, an obvious candidate to provide some sock out of the cleanup spot with Posey absent, Bochy said he’d see some time at first base and in the outfield, but that he’d mostly come off the bench and appear in games as a result of double-switches.

Belt hit .337/.470/.525 with four homers in 31 games after being demoted to Triple-A Fresno.  He was teeing off on right-handed pitching, batting .378/.515/.581.  It suggests that he’d make a great platoonmate for the right-handed-hitting Pat Burrell in left field.

The Giants, though, have been primarily going with a defense-first alignment and putting Nate Schierholtz in right field, with Cody Ross playing left.  It’s worked out OK, since Schierholtz has exceeded expectations by hitting .256/.309/.456.  Ross, though, is hitting just .215/.271/.337.  In all, Giants outfielders are hitting .254/.331/.391 with a mere 55 RBI in 561 at-bats.  That might make it worth sacrificing some defense to get Belt’s bat in there.

  1. skerney - May 27, 2011 at 7:31 PM

    Old Aubrey Huff is hitting .215 at first base. Old Pat Burrell or Old Aaron Rowand are their left fielders. The Giants can’t score any runs. They just lost their number 4 hitter. By all means, sit Brandon Belt on the bench next to Mike Fontenot and let him watch this offensive powerhouse team play baseball. Heavy weighs the crown.

    • lust4kix - May 27, 2011 at 9:47 PM

      Aren’t the Giants in first place? It seems your reasoning for their demise is a little, uh, skerney.

      • JBerardi - May 27, 2011 at 10:12 PM

        The Giants aren’t first in run scoring. Or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth…

      • seeingwhatsticks - May 28, 2011 at 3:26 AM

        Fortunately they don’t award divisions, pennants, or World Series Championships based on runs scored.

        They weren’t top 10 in runs scored last year either, and that turned out ok.

      • thehypercritic - May 28, 2011 at 6:07 AM

        Seeingwhatsticks –

        Pointing to the fact that their offense was putrid last season doesn’t make much sense to me.

        It’s unlikely they would have made the post season last year if Jim Tracy didn’t make a habit of refusing to use his best players in their proper roles and winning eleven games in October is as much about the luck of small sample sizes as anything else.

        The regular season is where baseball decides the best team and the post season is where they crown a champion — the lesson of last year was that a good, but deeply flawed, team can get hot and win but they still have major problems to address.

        The Giants’ front office seems to be laboring under the delusion they were the best team in baseball last season and are traveling down a familiar path in the hopes that the lightning of fluky performance will strike twice instead of addressing the team’s weaknesses and giving them the strongest chance of defending their title.

      • simon94022 - May 28, 2011 at 7:31 AM

        The Giants Pythagorean record in 2010 was that of a 94 win team. Nobody in SF thinks they are the ’27 Yankees or denies that the offense is a big problem, which has gotten much worse this year. But a team that outscored its opponents by 100+ runs was not a fluke like the ’87 Twins either.

        The NL West team that depends on fluke hot streaks is the Rockies, who almost made it a 3 team race last year until the Giants stomped them in Coors Field in late September. And whose fans thought that having the best record in MLB 3 weeks into the season meant they would run away with the division. Now they are below .500.

      • seeingwhatsticks - May 28, 2011 at 2:05 PM

        Simon made the exact point about run differential that I was going to make so I’ll just add this: the object of the game is to score 1 more run than your opponent and the Giants did that as well as anyone last year and are doing it again this year despite a struggling offense because they pitch as well or better than anyone else. They were 2nd in baseball in runs allowed last year and are 4th so far this year, even though they started the year without their closer, Bumgarner struggled in his first few starts, and they’ve basically been without one of their better relievers and their 5th starter all year.

        While the Giants were not a perfect team they were the best team in baseball last year. They won 90+ games in a 3 team division and then won 3 consecutive playoff series. I do understand the argument that 162 games is a better indicator of a team’s true talent level than the playoffs but we’re not picking arbitrary series to decide the champion: both teams playing know that those are the biggest games of the year. Everyone knows what’s at stake and knows what they have to do and the best teams get it done.

    • jwbiii - May 28, 2011 at 12:15 AM

      Fontenot’s on the DL, too, now with a strained groin. He’ll be sitting next to Brandon Crawford.

      • jwbiii - May 28, 2011 at 12:30 AM

        Now I see that Brandon Crawford just hit a grand slam. Emmanuel Burriss, maybe.

  2. thehypercritic - May 27, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Beyond the baseball smarts of punting production for mediocrity, why intentionally stunt the development of one of your top offensive prospects by denying him regular at bats??

  3. lust4kix - May 27, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    Bochy’s a genious last year, now he’s an idiot. Let the man work his magic! Of course, if it doesn’t work I’m sure he’ll be an idiot again…monday morning managing is so easy!

    • thehypercritic - May 27, 2011 at 9:36 PM

      Bochy got random performances from a variety of veterans picked off the scrap heap and an unsustainably dominant performance from his bullpen. That’s not genius, that’s showing up to the ballpark on the days when the ball bounces your way.

      Blocking Posey’s path to the big leagues nearly cost the Giants the postseason last season and actively hurting Belt’s development in favor of marginal talent doesn’t bode well for this season or beyond.

      • lust4kix - May 27, 2011 at 9:41 PM

        It’s better to be lucky than good. I’ll wait to see what Belt does before spouting premature prattle about his success or failure.

      • JBerardi - May 27, 2011 at 10:14 PM

        Well you’re going to have to wait a while. I don’t know if you heard, but the Giants aren’t going to give him regular playing time.

      • thehypercritic - May 28, 2011 at 12:18 AM

        Over any length of time, it’s actually better to be good and process-oriented than lucky and results-oriented.

        Additionally, Belt’s ultimate success rate isn’t at issue so much as the Giants’ organizational philosophy towards young position players — a billion dollar company has made an active decision that both stunts Belt’s growth AND degrades the team’s offense moving forward.

        If they believe he’s ready, they should play him. If they don’t think he can contribute, they should keep him at AAA. Promoting a legitimate prospect to ride the pine shows a stunning lack of active brain function.

      • seeingwhatsticks - May 28, 2011 at 3:28 AM

        By what measure was the bullpen simply lucky? And by what measure did they get lucky with the position players? It’s not like the guys they played had no track record and put up monster years.

      • thehypercritic - May 28, 2011 at 5:41 AM

        Seeingwhatsticks –

        Their bullpen allowed *three* runs in September. Aside from the notorious variance in relief performance, this isn’t the greatest bullpen ever constructed and their winning percentage of nearly .800 in one run games is simply not sustainable.

        Torres had a WAR of 6.6 at 32 after never being above 2.2, Aubrey Huff had a WAR of 5.8 average averaging less that 1.0 for the past five seasons, Cody Ross decided to play the best baseball of his life in the fall..

      • seeingwhatsticks - May 28, 2011 at 2:40 PM

        Sure, the bullpen allowed 3 runs in September, but you can’t make the case that over 162 things even out and that’s why the Giants weren’t really the best team, like you did above, and then say that the numbers over 162 for the bullpen are misleading because of a hot stretch. They had the best bullpen last year and the 2nd best overall pitching staff, and in 2011 they are in a similar position compared to the rest of the league.

        Let me put it this way: Pujols has struggled this year. Let’s say he struggles for another month or 2 and then goes bonkers in August in September and ends up with numbers very close to his career averages. Would you say that’s just Pujols being Pujols, or that it was a fluke based only on a strong August and September?

        Torres’ greatness was a bit of a fluke, but the disappearance of the Panda was also a fluke, so it’s not like every break went their way. Even though Torres came out of nowhere, in hindsight it’s pretty explainable. He totally changed his hitting approach from his younger days and stopped trying to be Ichiro. He finally started treating his ADD with medication. And most importantly he was finally given a chance to play every day.

        Huff had a career year last year but it’s not like his numbers were way out of line with his career averages:

        ,281/.343/.471, 25 hr, 91 rbi, 55 bb, 90 k

        2010 season:

        .290/.385/.506, 26 hr, 86 rbi, 83 bb, 91 k

        So basically Huff walked more than normal, which shouldn’t really be surprising from an experienced hitter who spent a good chunk of the season without much protection in the lineup.

        Cody Ross is a notoriously streaky hitter who got hot at the right time, which was fortunate for Giants fans, however Huff and Posey (and the forgotten Panda) didn’t really light it up in the playoffs. It was a surprise that Ross did what he did but it’s not like the Giants suddenly started scoring 8 runs a game out of nowhere and playing way above their collective talent level once they got to the playoffs. In other words, what they did wasn’t as surprising maybe as who was doing it.

        As much as I disagree with the individual points you’ve made, what I disagree with even more is that you seem to be starting with a premise, that the Giants weren’t the best team, and then working backwards from there with your stats. You’re looking for only the ones that prove your point and discounting the ones that work against your argument. Every champion has some luck on their side at some point and the Giants weren’t any more or less lucky than any other champion of the last few years. I’d also add that the Giants played pretty fundamentally strong baseball through the second half of the season and the playoffs, and while it didn’t generate a ton of style points it was damned effective. It’s not a style of play that will impress the stats community but if done correctly it can win a lot of games even when a team isn’t as talented or even playing at its peak ability.

        Like I said above, the goal is to score 1 more run than your opponent and the Giants did that better than anyone last year. The Giants won the World Series and deserve some respect for doing so, from Sabean to Bochy and especially to the players themselves. I can’t remember the last time a champion was so easily discounted, and it started almost immediately after the final out was made.

      • thehypercritic - May 28, 2011 at 3:53 PM

        Seeingwhatsticks –

        I don’t care enough about the Giants to respond to all of that, but if there is a human being that can look at last season and honestly believe that the best team in the 2010 baseball season wasn’t the Yankees or the Rays…

        Well, let’s just say that they should have their heads examined and be deeply ashamed of their ignorance. You’d have to find someone as detached from reality and basic logic as the TEA Partiers to say that the regular season doesn’t determine the best team with a straight face.

        And above all else, you’ve admitted time and again that the Giants don’t have a great offense and aren’t doing much to address it — what is the possible excuse for this when they have resources they are misallocating?

      • seeingwhatsticks - May 28, 2011 at 5:04 PM

        If the Yankees and Rays were the best teams in baseball last year, why didn’t either of them beat the Rangers when it mattered most?

        Misallocation of resources? The Giants won the World Series with a tema built around pitching and as I stated above they still pitch as well or better than anyone else in baseball. There are 2 cliches that come to mind:

        “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
        “Pitching and defense win championships.”

        The Rays finished 4 games better than the Giants, and the Yankees finished 3 games better. The Giants changed their lineup considerably by the end of the year and won the games that mattered most. The Yanks and Rays both failed to do that. Exactly how does winning 2% more games and losing the biggest ones of the year make either team better?

      • thehypercritic - May 28, 2011 at 8:44 PM

        The Rangers beat the best clubs because baseball is full of enough randomness that seven game series don’t reveal anything about the teams aside from who scored more runs on a given day. That’s why even the worst teams can beat the best teams one time in four and dominant hitters can disappear for fifty games at a time.

        The Giants have elite starting pitching, but had a bullpen full of fluke performances from pitchers without similar track records and even the best relievers fluctuate performance from year to year because you’re only talking about 60 innings of data.

        The Rays and Yankees finished games ahead of each the Giants while beating up on each other and facing the Red Sox and Blue Jays a disproportionate number of times.

        The Giants faced the Padres and Diamondbacks and Dodgers for that same sample size.

        You can’t take a 162 games played against vastly different competition and pretend they’re in anyway equivalent.

        But of course, since you’re able to type, you’re not dumb enough to believe anything you’re saying and are just trying to rile people up with nonsense.

      • seeingwhatsticks - May 28, 2011 at 11:25 PM

        Just so I am following along, your arguments have gone like this:

        1. The Giants offense was mediocre, therefore they weren’t the best team.

        Then it was pointed out that they had the 4th best run differential in baseball because they had the 2nd best pitching staff, and this year so far have the 4th best pitching staff. Let me also say that on opening day last year Bengie Molina was batting cleanup and the starting outfield consisted of Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, and John Bowker.

        2. The Giants got fluke years from a number of mediocre players.

        Then it was pointed out that with the exception of Torres (good) and Panda (bad), every player put up numbers similar to their 162 avg.

        3. The Giants bullpen isn’t that good because they had a great month and they have no track record.

        Then it was pointed out that you can’t argue for a 162 game season being the end all be all and simultaneously discount portions of it that don’t suit your argument. I’ll also add that Affeldt was arguably the best reliever in baseball in 2009, Wilson has the most saves in baseball over the last 4 years (maybe only the NL, I could be wrong) while improving his K and BB numbers every year, Javier Lopez has had a sub 3.25 ERA in 5 of the last 6 years including 2011, and that Sergio Romo’s WORST year was 2009 (his second year) when he had a 3.97 ERA 41 K 11BB in 34 IP.

        4. The Giants don’t play in the AL East, therefore they aren’t the best.

        And now I’m pointing out that the Padres had a better run differential and won more games than the Red Sox and the Rockies had a better run differential than the Blue Jays, so the NL West isn’t the Giants and everyone else. The AL East is better than the NL West but the AL East is also massively overrated. Let’s carry your argument one step further. What would a team in another division have to do for you to say they are the best team in baseball? Win 110 games while leading the league in runs for AND runs against? 120 games? Seriously, what would it take? Why don’t we just create a new league for the Sox, Yanks, Rays, and Jays to play in? We’ll call it MAJOR Major League Baseball and the top two teams in the league can play a 31 game series in October every year to decide the Universe Series. The winners will be known as the Masters of the Universe (He-Man style).

        Absolutely, the worst team can beat the best team 1 out of 4 games but the worst team isn’t beating the best team 4 out of 7 times. Not when both teams have their pitching lined up and are playing for all the marbles without thinking about saving themselves for the next series or resting key players. That’s why I don’t buy your theory that the playoffs prove nothing.

  4. simon94022 - May 28, 2011 at 7:45 AM

    It’s pretty obvious that Belt struggled with the pressure when they made him a starter in April — he has said so himself. Announcing that he’s now the cleanup hitter who will replace Posey would be exactly the wrong way to handle him now and would likely hurt his development. As a spot starter and late inning defensive replacement for Burrell or Huff, Belt will get plenty of at bats over the next few weeks, and if he heats up he’ll become a regular.

    What’s really interesting is what they’ll do with Brandon “Grand Slam” Crawford, who has a better glove than anyone on the left side of the Giants infield. If he continues to hit above the Mendoza line, it should end Miguel Tejada’s career.

    • thehypercritic - May 28, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      Belt was also judged on a month’s worth of at bats. Any player being assessed on such a small sample size will be dealing with undue pressure because you can’t tell anything about baseball in a month’s worth of games.

      And prospects need as many at bats as possible. I don’t care if they’re in AAA or the major leagues, jerking around your most valuable prospect is what ruins or stunts a player’s growth.

      Plenty of at bats over the next few weeks? If it’s less than 100, then it’s not enough to know anything (and even 100 is on the low side).

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