Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hit or Lose Your Spot

During the course of a 162-game season a manager (we'll call him "Bochy") is going to make changes in the batting order according to how well the players- he chooses to play- perform.

Playing those- with the hot hand- in the game is how the majority of managers make out the lineup.  Why would you mess with a good thing? 

In this 2012 season for the San Francisco Giants, Manager Bochy has the tall order of watching how his star catcher is doing (the healing process) after last year's season-ending injury to Buster Posey's lower extremity (ankle).

Bochy is using Posey at first base when he probably should be leaving Brandon Belt there and I say this because too much time on the bench can turn a hot bat cold.  It is understandable that Bochy wants Posey's bat in the lineup and to relieve him from the grueling duties of catching because of the foul tips and errant pitches that often deflect off the catcher's tools of ignorance.  Sometimes there's a lack of luck involved and these deflections hit the catcher in unguarded territory.  Get enough of these bumps and bruises and it will effect the catcher's plate appearances, to be sure.

Brandon Belt is seemingly on the fringe of coming out of what began in 2012 as a difficult time at the plate.  While he is only now finding a bit of a groove at the plate this is the time to just stick with number 9 (in your San Francisco Giants' program). 

Hector Sanchez, who catches on days when Posey plays first, is the backup catcher so he expects not to play every day.  It's a mindset but it won't help his plate appearances if he spends too much time on the pine.  

So you can see Bochy's job is a tenuous one at best. I say that because even when one of the aforementioned three players gets hot he most likely will have to sit- at some point- so the one player not getting enought at-bats (usually Sanchez) can get enough swings to avoid getting rusty.

I understand the 'hit or lose your spot' mentality but you have to also give some players room to let their talents play out.  Who is producing?  Who has a better on-base average?  Who is having the best at-bats?  All of this should be figured into who gets slotted where in the lineup.

Currently, Sanchez should be the odd-man out because he hasn't seen a pitch he didn't like.  And until he gets to Pablo Sandoval status you have to go with Belt at first and Posey at catcher.  Until Sanchez shows more plate discipline and is willing to take a walk, Bochy has to not be so quick to put him in the game at the expense of his slick-fielding first baseman.  And that's the other thing, the team loses when anybody other than Belt is at first base because he has exhibited a natural ability to make the throw to second on a grounder or pickoff attempt and that's been said, by past first basemen, not to be an easy play.

Posey is the type of hitter, like most big leaguers, when he gets hot you leave him in there until he cools off.  Then his rest is best for him and the team.  Belt is the type of hitter who takes walks and will put the ball in play with authority.  When he's swinging and missing on a regular basis he then becomes a candidate for riding some pine.  Last, but certainly not least, is Sanchez.  Only because Hector doesn't have the plate discipline to take walks. When the time comes that he learns this skill then he'll challenge for more playing time.  It shouldn't be any more complicated than that.

C'mon Giants!  Don't let the Nationals be gnats to you in the nation's capital. What's the old idiom:  Strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.  Mind over matter is easier said than done but you have to find a way.  Afterall, you're the Gigantes!

Kevin J. Marquez