clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why the Giants aren't starting Michael Morse

And why it makes sense.

Thearon W. Henderson

Michael Morse looks fantastic at the plate right now. It's the darnedest thing, a completely unexpected boost the Giants' chances in this weird postseason run. After more than a month off, Morse came back with a patience and discipline that's pairing well with his natural aggression. Maybe the oblique muscle is in his eye, and it's been strained this whole time? I'm not a doctor, but it seems likely.

A hot, productive Morse makes the Giants lineup so much deeper. It puts a power threat -- in theory -- from the third spot through the seventh spot in the order. It allows the Giants to break up the lefty-vulnerable Pablo Sandoval/Brandon Belt duo. If only there were a way to get Angel Pagan a robo-back. Seeing as that's not happening, though, the Giants actually do have the option to start Morse. They can make the lineup better.

They were right not to start Morse for any of these games. My logic is simple and convincing. Here, drink this and follow me.

The Giants were an organization that didn't care that much about Morse's defense in left. They were fine with the concept of giving up outs in the field to get dingers at the plate. They had experience with the Pat Burrell gambit, and they were fine with using Gregor Blanco or Juan Perez as Morse's defensive caddy. As the season went on, the Giants were less interested in replacing Morse in the seventh inning or later. They still did it, but it wasn't the automatic move most of us expected. During this time, Morse was hideous in the field. Worse than Burrell. Worse than a 42-year-old Barry Bonds. It was as bad as advertised, and the defensive metrics agreed.

The Giants were okay with this. The hitting made up for it, and Morse was a net positive when it came to the Giants' efforts to win in 2014. I was wrong. They were right.

Cut to: present day. The Giants are in the World Series. The actual, honest-to-goodness World Series. I think they won a drawing or something, I can't remember anything before Travis Ishikawa's home run. The Giants, being in the World Series, would like to win baseball games. They're absolutely desperate to win baseball games. They want to win two more, specifically, and they would sever limbs and digits to do it. They also know that Michael Morse would make the lineup better, much better.

They don't want to take the defensive risk. They've seen things we can't imagine.

Remember the part up there about how the Giants didn't care. They signed Morse in the first place. They made him a starter. They kept him a starter, even after his midseason slump, even with his poor defense, because they were so convinced that his offense was going to return, and that made up for his defensive sins.

The Giants watched Morse over the last few years, and when they were looking for outfield help last winter, they said, "Yeah, that's a guy we can live with in left." They watched him play all season and thought the same thing until his injury. They were okay with the package. They weren't stressed about Morse's defense.

Now they're watching him in pre-game drills and saying, "Oh, goodness, there's no way this guy can play the field."

Can you possibly fathom how immobile, how rusty, how untenable he must look out there for the Giants to say that? They're watching the same at-bats we're watching. They're watching Ishikawa's carnival ride in left and grimacing, just like us. Morse is ostensibly available. How much worse can he be than Ishikawa in the field?

Worse. So much worse. The Giants, being a team that was completely okay with Morse's defense, are suddenly convinced that the defense has become so spectacularly awful, it's just not an option to play him out there. I haven't seen him roam around an outfield after returning. I haven't seen him shag fly balls. All I know is that if the Giants are saying this, and I thought they were being too sanguine with their opinion of Morse's defense in the first place, it has to be more horrible than we could possibly imagine.

It has to be bad enough to keep a first basemen who can't hit very well in the outfield. What could possibly make a team play a first baseman out of position to keep the better hitter on the bench? An outfielder encased in carbonite, completely unable to move or throw.

It seems odd. It feels like the Giants wouldn't lose anything by making the switch, and they would have all sorts of things to gain. The Giants have seen things, though. They've seen things you can't possibly imagine. I hate to appeal to authority, but on this one, I have no choice. If the Giants were okay with that Morse in the field, but they're terrified of this Morse ... they have their reasons. I'll trust those reasons. Ishikawa it is, then.