*Please ignore Curt Casali’s 2021 batting line. We are only nominally interested in these digits.
Curt Casali is a back-up catcher straight-out of Central Casting. He’s not flashy, his facial hair is well kept, his name is an alliteration, he keeps his head down and sticks to the game plan.
Sure it would’ve been nice if he happened to be a Darin Ruf at the plate (they kind of look similar?), but it wasn’t in his job description to hit for average or get on base or do much damage at the plate.
Casali was expected to soak up every third game and have a little better rapport with the pitching staff than Joey Bart did in 2020.
Curt delivered that in spades for the San Francisco Giants in 2021.
He also provided some fun learning moments for us fans.
He also got to make baseball history.
Through five games in April, Casali became only the fifth catcher in MLB history to catch five consecutive shutouts in a row, and was the first to do it with five different starting pitchers.
That last tid-bit is what is so impressive to me. This wasn’t Gerrit Cole throwing blanks to Kyle Higashioka for 45 innings. Not only was it five different starting pitchers, Casali caught four to five different pitchers in each of those games. Not to mention juggling a diverse cast of characters on the mound: Johnny Cueto’s shimmying, Tyler Rogers’s submarine release point, Jake McGee’s country hard ball and Kevin Gausman’s rock heavy splitter, to name a view.
And, like a true back-up catcher, Casali deflected the praise to the manager and the rest of his team after the fifth shut-out: ‘I can’t take that much credit for it. It was planned perfectly.’
We all know Giants have been spoiled for the past decade when it comes to catching. Curt Casali’s April in 2021 was something we didn’t deserve, but gleefully indulged in.
But what about next season?
Curt Casali is arbitration eligible (projected at $2 million) this year and will be a free agent in 2023. With Posey still around, Casali’s arbitration offer would be dependent on whether the front office wanted Posey to help train Bart or not. If they offered Casali arbitration, Bart was probably going to be used as a hefty trade chip, and they would probably try to ride 2021’s winning backstop combination for another season—but I don’t know why I’m wasting my time writing all this because that’s just not the case anymore.
Buster Posey is gone, Steven. He’s not coming back. He’s not. You just have to get over that.
Curt Casali’s importance to the 2022 San Francisco Giants just doubled, quadrupled, quintupled—I don’t know, I think he’s going to be really important.
Now his job is going to change from keeping pace with a future Hall of Famer to Obi-Wan Kenobi-ing a young Joey Bart and possible Face of the Franchise/Chosen One.
Maybe that’s putting too much pressure on Bart. Maybe that kind of pressure is why Anakin Skywalker soured—that and his raw ability coupled with his untenable temper. Does Bart have that kind of anger inside of him? TBD. Probably not. It could be a refreshing change of pace to see that kind of “Bad Boy” personality on this straight-laced dad squad.
But from what I’ve seen of Bart, he seems more of the consummate professional Posey clone. He’s not the wrong guy to imitate.
But can we please dive deeper into this Star Wars analogy to help us understand San Francisco’s catcher situation?
1999, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Buster Posey is the soft-spoken an aging Qui-Gon Jinn, a potential member of the elite Jedi Council. Curt Casali is Obi-Wan Kenobi, young-ish and capable, while Joey Bart is the talented but raw Anakin Skywalker. The plan was for Jinn to take Skywalker back to Coruscant where he would train him in the Jedi Arts. Obi Wan would then be free to bag a possible Jedi master gig of his own somewhere else in the galaxy. But of course—spoiler alert—things didn’t go as planned. Qui Gon Jinn is killed in a very cool lightsaber battle against a thorny-skulled, hell demon and Obi Wan is then forced (pun) into the role of reluctant master to a stubborn apprentice.
What went down a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—exactly the same situation in San Francisco.
Or—Steven—after the year Bart had in Triple-A, the Giants front office might just decide he’s ready to be a full-time starter, in which Casali would probably resume more of the role he had in 2021. Or Kapler could test the waters early and the two backstops would do more of a 1-2 punch (see 2005’s “Revenge of the Sith”) to see who takes over. Or the Giants let Casali walk, trade Bart for Wilson Conteras, or some other proven starting catcher while Patrick Bailey matures in the coming season or two, and do something completely unrelated to Star Wars.
Tune in next week, in which I compare Brandon Crawford’s resurgent season to Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls.
All in all, I think Curt Casali’s consistency calling games behind the plate in 2021 allowed the Giants to relax and take a deep breath when Posey was out of the lineup. He wasn’t amazing, but he did his job, which is a huge plus when a lot of teams just hope their back-up catcher isn’t a liability.