The playoff-hopeful San Francisco Giants face several potential franchise-altering decisions in the upcoming offseason that could drastically change the makeup of their current ball club. At 65-59, the Giants have a solid chance of at least earning a bid in the 2014 National League Wild Card Game, but don’t appear capable of making a deep postseason run.
The Giants’ success hinders largely on the production of Buster Posey, who has silently posted below average numbers in a season where the orange and black needed him to reclaim stardom in the worst way.
The Giants average just 3.88 runs per game this season, which is on level with sub-par production from their ugly 76-win campaign in 2013. They rank near the bottom of the league in nearly every offensive statistical category, including batting average (.245), on-base percentage (.304), slugging percentage (.377) and OPS (.682).
On paper, the Giants are a flat out bad team. It doesn’t matter that they flaunt one of the most well-rounded pitching staffs in all of baseball because they simply can’t score runs. A 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning against seemingly inferior opponents, like the Chicago Cubs, is a virtual nail in the coffin for the Giants.
That’s how bad the Giants have been in 2014, and Posey deserves a big chunk of the blame.
For the Giants to maximize their run-scoring potential on offense, Posey needs to make the permanent switch to first base. It’s an inevitable reality that ticks louder than a grandfather clock. This has to happen if the Giants are going to squeeze every penny out of the whopping $167 million contract they gave to Posey before the start of the 2013 MLB season.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Posey’s future is not behind home plate.
The Giants are perhaps more familiar with career-threatening concussions to catchers than any other big league franchise. Current St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was forced to retire due to suffering multiple concussions while with the Giants in 2006. Matheny, a 13-year player, received his career-ending diagnosis from concussion specialist Micky Collins, the same doctor of whom Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is reportedly seeking help from this week.
Posey’s eventual switch to first base is a demented closed-loop.
He will eventually take over Belt’s soon-to-be former position. That transition would either force Belt to make a switch of his own to left field, where he’s played 35 career games in less than four full seasons, or lead to a potential blockbuster trade with Belt as the centerpiece.
General manager Brian Sabean has his work cut out for him, regardless of what happens to Belt, who isn’t the only Giants player to suffer a rather serious concussion in 2014. Backup catcher Hector Sanchez could miss the remainder of the season after suffering his second concussion of the year while on a rehab stint with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate last weekend.
Posey’s numbers are flat out better at first base than at catcher, making the permanent switch a logical solution for the Giants’ run-challenged linuep. The Giants’ franchise player owns a .363 career batting average with 45 extra-base hits and 59 RBI in 397 career plate appearances as a first baseman. To compare, he’s slashed a .291/.360/.460 career batting line as a catcher.
Posey’s slugging percentage while playing first base is more than 100 points better (.564) than his mark as a catcher. Granted, he’s logged nearly 1,500 more plate appearances at catcher than first base, but the sample size is big enough to be considered significant.
Posey has already suffered one grisly injury while playing catcher. The Giants’ brain-trust does not want to chance Posey encountering the brutality that Sanchez has endured. They simply have too much money invested in him for that.
Rookie catcher Andrew Susac has flashed serious signs of competency, both at the plate and behind it, which could make Posey permanently transitioning to first base the ultimate no-brainer.