Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Return of Buster Posey

With the Giants having reported to spring training, all eyes now fall on Buster Posey and his surgically-repaired left ankle. Reports have come out saying that, although he has spent less time behind the plate than would be expected of a catcher, he has shown that he can still bat and catch like the pre-injury Buster Posey. That in and of itself is more important to the success of the Giants than all of Brian Sabean's offseason moves put together.

Buster Posey is the single most important player on the Giants, without question. The pitching staff as a whole is very important, but if you take out any pitcher from the rotation or bullpen, there is another pitcher waiting to take his place straight out of the minors. Eric Surkamp showed last year that he can be a major league starter. Heath Hembree has been generating buzz this offseason and looks to be a key part of this year's bullpen. The pitching staff should still produce even if injuries pile up like last year.

The lineup is not so safe, however. Take Buster Posey out of the equation and our biggest bat becomes Brandon Belt, who only has one season of experience and struggled to hit during that season. This is our lineup without Buster Posey:

CF Angel Pagan
2B Freddy Sanchez
1B Brandon Belt
3B Pablo Sandoval
LF Melky Cabrera
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Eli Whiteside
SS Brandon Crawford

If you insert Posey in the cleanup spot and move everyone behind him down a spot in the order, the middle of the order can be at least called threatening. The Giants really struggled to score runs last year. If Pagan and Sanchez can get on base consistently, there are three RBI batters coming up in Belt, Posey, and Sandoval who can bring them home. A lot of it really depends on Pagan's abilities as a leadoff man, but without Posey in the lineup, the entire recipe is down to two big bats. And in my mind, a lineup needs at least three to be able to consistently score runs. (note: Melky Cabrera cannot yet be called a big bat after hitting spectacularly for only one season after many years of average stats)

So far, I have ignored the possibility of Posey playing first, which is almost guaranteed for at least part of the season. In that scenario, Belt would be moved to Cabrera's or Schierholtz's spot in the outfield but would keep his spot in the order. Posey would switch to 1B and bat cleanup and Whiteside, Chris Stewart, or Hector Sanchez would play catcher and bat 7th or 8th depending on who's playing shortstop.

With Posey, the Giants resemble a team that can compete with Arizona for the NL West crown. Without Posey, the Giants will likely struggle to score runs again. We saw how pitiful the offense was without Posey in the lineup last year. Even though Sabean made some offseason moves to bring in some bats, the return of Posey will hopefully provide the biggest spark of all. And we saw how far a little spark can take a team during that magical run in 2010. Let's hope for another one of those.

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