clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mac Williamson needs to get it going

Recency bias is about to get him benched.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

For the second day in a row, the Giants’ starting lineup does not include Mac Williamson as the left fielder. It’ll be Austin Jackson playing there for the first time this season.

It’s not a huge surprise, though, as Williamson went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts in his start the day before yesterday, and since he’s returned from the disabled list and concussion rehab, he’s struck out 18 times in 56 plate appearances, or 32% of the time. Those plate appearances cover 15 games (14 of which were starts), so I’m not typing about a playing time injustice. As Doug puts it:

If you’re an Online Person, you know that “recency bias!” is a common lament, but it’s clearly human nature. Our brains don’t have net neutrality; exigent circumstances — “Williamson has been bad for two weeks” — get thought traffic priority. It doesn’t matter that Austin Jackson has been incredibly bad all season, the sunk cost fallacy dictates that because he was signed based on past success, that past success will be future success. Just gotta stick with it.

Then again, we’re not even midway through June, Williamson has been struggling, and who knows about Austin Jackson. He’s looked completely lost at the plate all season. Bochy has decided he’s tired of seeing Williamson’s version of that song, though, and that’s where Williamson might be totally boned.

“Right now, Mac is going to get the lion’s share in left field.”

As you can see in the video title, the perception was that Mac Williamson was the de facto starter. It came on the heels of this Baggarly tweet:

It doesn’t take much to see what happened here, though: Mac Williamson was the “everyday left fielder” until Hunter Pence was recalled. At that point, knowing he’d have to mix and match two fourth outfielders, Austin Jackson and now Pence, he said that Williamson would get “the lion’s share” of playing time.

{sticks thumbs under suspenders, paces the courtroom}

Now, it seems to me... that if a manager calls a player the starter, that the player should be treated like a starter. If he struggles, then he struggles, because baseball players have been known to struggle. Getting two days off to give back up players and the backup to the backup player a chance to show off and basically duplicate the starter’s present performance doesn’t help the starter and it surely doesn’t help the team.

Hunter Pence surely made a nice play on defense last night, and Austin Jackson knows the rules of baseball, but neither of them have shown in this calendar year a spark, even the suggestion of a spark, that they’re close to recapturing some intensity of their former fire.

Evan Longoria gets a day and Andrew McCutchen gets a day and that makes sense because it’s of a kind with the notion that it’s a long season. Nick Hundley’s hot Spring Training and hot start makes it even easier to rest Posey or move him around the infield, too, because you want to save as much of Posey’s legs and bat for as long as possible.

We’ve seen how Mac Williamson has been incredibly unlucky in his career — hot performances halted by lengthy injuries and recovery. We’ve seen that Bruce Bochy is always looking for an out when it comes to players from the farm system.

In this particular case, it’s not an outlandish move, it’s just disappointing. Sure, Austin Jackson has a higher exit velocity (88.3 mph) than Mac Williamson (86.1 mph) and their hard hit contact rate is roughly the same (36.7% and 37.5%, respectively), but Williamson is more likely to hit a home run or a double (Jackson has seen 648 pitches this season and barrelled only 2 of them) and Jackson’s defense in left field won’t save the Giants.

There’s no scenario where Evan Longoria or Andrew McCutchen or Buster Posey get two days off after a rough stretch. He should be given the same amount of rope as any starter, if he’s really the starter or the plan is to give him “the lion’s share” of playing time, but let’s all make peace with the fact that it’s not going to happen.

The next time Mac Williamson gets a start (he’ll be in there tomorrow), he’d better hit a home run just to keep his job. Better yet, make it two home runs.