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Offseason Decisions for the Giants, Part I: Catcher

My secret two-pronged plan for the catching position in 2010:

  1. Buster Posey starts. And if he hits .210/.290/.330 for his first 200 at-bats, he still starts. And if he allows a passed ball per week, he still starts. The Giants don't a roster that would be favored for a playoff berth right now. If they ever have that kind of roster in the near future, it will probably include Posey being an impact player. So the team needs to figure out if Posey can be an impact player in the short-term. 

    If the Giants somehow repeat their 2009 win total without Posey in 2010, the burning question in 2011 will be, "Gee, can we afford to start a rookie catcher with this pitching staff keeping us in contention?" This would also happen if the pitching staff implodes, mind you. It would probably happen if the pitching staff was just okay. The Giants have youngbackstopophobia, and the best cure is to confront those fears. Just do it quickly, like a Band-Aid.

  2. Private detectives bug Bruce Bochy's house to determine his least favorite catcher in the big leagues. This catcher would be the new backup to Posey. Does Eliezer Alfonzo, or whomever, set up too late for Bochy's tastes? Does he call too many breaking balls in the first pitch of an at-bat? Too few? Great, he's the target. Because we know that Bochy thinks one of the worst hitters in the upper levels of professional baseball can make up for his offensive deficiencies by calling a good game, holding the running game in check, and showing off sound movement behind the plate. A catcher who does those things well in Bochy's estimation is a catcher who will be starting in May if Posey has a bad first month, regardless if said backup catcher hits like Kirk Rueter on peyote.

There it is. The secret formula. Build a roster designed around the inherent distrust of your manager's decision-making ability. Because the organization has run studies and everything.

Moderator: Okay. Scenario two. There's a runner on first, two outs, and Albert Pujols is up. What is the pitch sequence?

Minor league catcher with more than 500 games caught: Well, I'd try to steal a strike with a breaking ball if I'm confident in my pitcher's ability to keep the ball down. It really depends on the pitcher's strengths, really. If I'm catching a guy with a nasty two-seamer, I'll work away for the first part of the at-bat to set up a two-seamer inside, off the plate.

Minor league catcher with fewer than 500 games caught: Pujols? Screw that guy. Fastballs. And if my pitcher can't throw a fastball past him, then screw that pitcher. Shouldn't be in the big leagues. I'll call for a fastball right down the middle, and if my pitcher shakes me off, I'll tell Pujols what my pitcher's about to throw. Because this game isn't about strategy; it's about one man trying to throw a baseball as hard as he can past another man trying to hit a baseball as hard as he can. And if you don't believe that, then screw you.

See? That's science. I think Posey is the exception to that fewer than 500 games caught rule, though.

There's a special place in my heart for the people who are legitimately worried about Posey's ability to call a game. That concern assumes a) that there's some magic algorithm to calling a game beyond knowing the strengths and weaknesses of players, and b) that veteran catchers all become master tacticians through experience. The world is filled with people who play poker for twenty years, but still chase flushes and straights when two other people at the table are representing a full house. I'm not going to assume that every veteran catcher has had the secret of pitch sequence revealed to them as if they were an OT VIII-level Scientologist.

Posey should start, and there's every indication that he'll instantly upgrade the Giants offensively and probably defensively. I feel like Rod Serling is narrating my life as I write this. There's no reason this should even be a debate.