Dave Cameron recently wrote about Casey McGehee hitting leadoff for the Giants. He did this because he hates you and every single Giants fan on the planet. But he also did it because he was looking for a way to minimize McGehee's double play problem. The article includes these words:
So when you take into account the negative value of the extra outs McGehee is making by hitting into double plays -- and at FanGraphs, we have a metric called RE24 that does just that -- we find that he's been the very worst offensive player in baseball to date
The numbers back up what you were expecting, then. This has been one ugly season for the new Giants third baseman. Fans always need a scapegoat, in case you don't remember the bizarre #FreeGaryBrown movement that vilified Gregor Blanco last year. No one is a better scapegoat than an unfamiliar veteran on a one-year deal. Giants fans have never seen McGehee succeed. This version is all we know, and it's so easy to pick at.
Before digging into the question posed by the headline, it's worth examining our own biases. McGehee has absolutely no sentimental value to Giants fans. He didn't come up in the organization, he's not a prospect, and he wasn't on any of the three championship teams. Add to that, he's replacing a fan-favorite who was all of those things and, gulp. What a tough spot. If Matt Duffy were struggling in the same fashion, there might be a lot of calls to send him down, but there certainly wouldn't have been the vitriol.
Remember, this is the site that gave Fred Lewis chance after chance after chance. I'm the moron who moaned about losing John Bowker in a trade. And if you dare suggest that Brandon Belt is overrated, why, we'll cut you. One of us will. The closest one to you. Homegrown players get a leash that McGehee would tithe for right now.
The front office doesn't have to look at it like that, though. They get that it's a business, and for all their sentimental overtures to keep the roster together, there probably isn't as much of a difference in their eyes between homegrown players and mercenaries as we might think. Your job is to look at McGehee impartially, without the bias of fandom. Evaluate him as a player type, if not as an individual player. First, start with the theoretical upside of McGehee.
- Solid contact
- High average
- Willing to take pitches
- Uses the whole field
- Better than internal options
Then move on to the opposite side of the ledger.
- The hell you talking about, "theoretical"?
- We're in the middle of it
- It's cold in here. I'm cold
- The shadows in the dark of my mind are whispering, chattering, telling me to sleep
- It's so cold
Also worthy of inclusion: McGehee can't run, field, or hit for power, and he is the greatest double play-intoer of his generation. Specifically, if he isn't hitting for a high average and posting solid OBPs, he lacks a single skill that a starting third baseman should have.
However! A .300-hittin', .360-OBP-havin' third baseman would sure help the Giants do what they're trying to do. At the risk of spoiling things, if you give McGehee 1,000 seasons, he's probably not going to post a 40 OPS+ in more than one or two of them. This is as bad as he can get, and judging him on it is as silly as giving Justin Maxwell a five-year deal because of his start to the year.
With all of that out of the way, how long do the Giants give McGehee?
Also keep in mind that Matt Duffy is far from a sure thing, and while he likely provides defense and baserunning where McGehee does not, the offensive profile is roughly the same. McGehee has also hit 23 homers in a season before; the odds are still against Duffy hitting 23 in his career. Don't just assume that the homegrown player you like is better than the mercenary you're starting to dislike.
(He's probably better. Still, hear me out.)
The updated rest-of-season projections take his unfathomably awful start into consideration, and still have him worth about a win over replacement level, which is roughly where Duffy is. And don't forget that Bochy could start Joaquin Arias, too, who is almost certainly worse than both McGehee and Duffy. Which is all to say, hold on, Kris Bryant isn't walking through that door.
My guess: one more month. That is, a month for McGehee to hit .260 or .270, with all of the OBP and SLG that implies. He won't have to crush the world and end May with an overall line that's more or less what we expected. He'll just have to hit as well as expected, or just a tick worse, for a month to keep his job. The Giants are patient, especially with veterans. Without an obvious improvement behind him, McGehee will have time.
I would almost be okay with that, except it's been a long time since McGehee has done anything for anyone. His stats last year were almost entirely buoyed by his first-half stats. While that might be statistical noise, it makes intuitive sense for a player who was starting in the majors after a two-season absence. There was unfamiliarity, but then the scouting reports fixed that, in theory.
McGehee almost certainly isn't as bad as he's shown. He'll get more chances, even if the Internet and talk-radio circuits won't like it. He also probably isn't as good as we might have hoped, though, and the odds are at least decent that someone else is playing third by August 1. The Giants will keep trying, though.