This was not supposed to be the year that the San Francisco Giants won because of their catchers. Gone is our beloved Buster Posey, who skipped off to Georgia to do whatever it is that 30-somethings do with their wife and kids and $200,000,000. I will soon know what they do, as I am only a wife, kids, and about $200,075,000 away from that very same situation.
They sought to replace a 2021 All-Star, Silver Slugger, and MVP vote-getter with someone who was in AAA last year for a reason, and a backup catcher who is, to use the parlance of the guy who founded this site using the parlance of The Simpsons, cromulent.
I am not criticizing the plan. I’m merely detailing it. Of the 183 plate appearances by Joey Bart and Curt Casali, 163 of them have come from the nine hole. Fangraphs projected them to be the fifth-worst catching crew in the Majors.
And yet here we are. In wholly unconventional — which, for the Giants, is entirely conventional — ways, the Giants entered their series against the Colorado Rockies with the fifth-best hitting backstops.
They’ve done it by striking out more than any other group of catchers, and walking more than any other group as well. To highlight how unconventional of a route to success this is, let’s use wRC+, Fangraphs’ offensive statistic that weights offense. 100 is league average. 150 is 150% of league average. 80 is 80% of league average. You get the drift.
Entering Monday’s game, the Giants catchers had a wRC+ of 116, which means they were 16% better than league average ... not league average for catchers, but league average for all hitters.
That was with a strikeout rate of 38.0%. The next closest group of strikeout-loving pitch-callers, the Houston Astros, sport a wRC+ of 27. That’s significantly worse than Madison Bumgarner’s career mark.
It’s truthfully not much better on the walk front, where the next-BBiest catcher cadre belongs to the Baltimore Orioles, who have a wRC+ of 44, which is exactly Madison Bumgarner’s career mark.
But the Giants catchers don’t have a 116 wRC+ anymore. They’re no longer hitting 116% as well as the average MLB hitter.
They’re hitting a whole lot better, because Casali went to Coors Field and found that it was exactly as advertised in the Lonely Planet: Colorado book.
Both teams caught a rough break in the top of the third inning, when Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela tweaked his back throwing a warm-up pitch and had to leave the game. It was bad for the Rockies because ... look, I’m not going to explain to you why losing your starting pitcher to injury is bad. You’re a grown ass adult, I presume. You know why. If not, Google it. It’s free.
But it was bad for the Giants, too, who had not only been banking on facing a pitcher who was allowing basically two baserunners per inning, but had tailored their lineup for a righty.
And then Poof! he was gone. And standing where Senzatela once stood was none other than Giants 2018 Opening Day starter Ty Blach.
The first batter he saw was Casali, one of only three righties in the Giants lineup. And the seventh pitch he threw was tattooed into the bleachers, which tied the game 1-1.
Casal-orado ⛰️ pic.twitter.com/i2AvbFnn9H— SFGiants (@SFGiants) May 17, 2022
And then Blach settled in and spent a few innings doing that thing that he ... look, I was gonna say, that thing he did so well when he was with the Giants, because that’s just the kind of thing you say in scenarios like this. But the reality is that Blach did not pitch very well with the Giants, and we can all want to give him a hug while also accepting this reality.
So instead I’ll just say that he settled in and spent a few innings doing that thing he did that one time when he shockingly had a complete game shutout, which I could have sworn was at Coors Field, and upon further reflection I deemed to actually be against the Los Angeles Dodgers, until Baseball-Reference broke my heart and informed me that it was actually actually against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Anyway, Blach set down the next six batters in mild-mannered order, and then led off the fifth by walking Thairo Estrada, before allowing a line drive by Darin Ruf to be hit so hard that it went straight into C.J. Cron’s glove and emerged on the other side unscathed.
Which brought Casali back to the plate. Which meant it was time for offensive success, because that is, as we have now determined, what the catchers do.
Déjà vu pic.twitter.com/Za4d4hVDnv— SFGiants (@SFGiants) May 17, 2022
And with that spectacular home run call ringing through our ears, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all that Trevor Brown existed. I guarantee you that you have not thought of that name in at least five years. And I also guarantee you that as soon as I said it you saw his face perfectly in your mind.
Multi-HR games by Giants catchers, since 2010:— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) May 17, 2022
Curt Casali, Tonight
Buster Posey, 4/20/21
Buster Posey, 5/28/16
Trevor Brown, 4/12/16
Buster Posey, 8/26/14
Héctor Sánchez, 4/23/14
It also led to a delightfully wholesome exchange on the team’s Instagram account.
But it is Coors Field, so the Rockies would not let a 4-1 deficit suffice. They would tie it up by putting up two runs in the fifth inning to knock Alex Wood out of the game, and then another in the sixth on a Ryan McMahon home run.
But it is Coors Field, so the Giants would not let a 4-4 tie suffice. They would tack on two more in the seventh, with Casali once again getting involved. Ruf doubled. Casali singled, but there would be no Ruf is on the move! call, as the Giants kept him at third. Austin Slater walked and the bases were loaded.
Then Wilmer Flores hit a ball 55.1 mph with a launch angle of -39 degrees, which was bad enough to confuse McMahon into a run-scoring error. A Mike Yastrzemski sacrifice fly later, and the Giants led 6-4.
But it is Coors Field, so the Rockies would not let a 6-4 deficit suffice. They proved the old adage true that two funks make a fine, as they countered Tyler Rogers’ funk with their mile-high humidor funk, and emerged from the bottom of the seventh with two hits, two walks, and, crucially, two runs.
But it is Coors Field, so the Giants would not let a 6-6 tie suffice.
They waited until that magical moment in baseball games, which is to say two outs in the ninth inning. And then Yastrzemski said, in the immortal words of Cartman, screw you guys, I’m going home.
Except he wasn’t actually going home, because the Giants are in Denver. And because there was another half inning of baseball to play. But you get the point: he homered.
Ya ski strikes again pic.twitter.com/4bLSXUiDdc— SFGiants (@SFGiants) May 17, 2022
But it is Coors Field, so ... no, this one isn’t about the Rockies not letting a 7-6 deficit suffice. They let it suffice. Oh they let it suffice big time. No this one is about the location of Coors Field (Colorado) and the distance of Yaz’s home run (420 feet) and the adorable need for Javier López to point out that connection, not once, but twice.
i love our stoner booth— あや ניומן ✌ (@jewishbuttercup) May 17, 2022
It makes me chuckle that even the Bay Area broadcasters feel the need to make weed jokes when in Colorado, as if they’re not ... you know ... coming from the Bay Area.
Anyway, Camilo Doval handled the ninth with stress befitting neither the game nor the venue, and the Giants won 7-6.
Let Timmy smoke.