Buster Posey Injury: 5 Immediate Implications
While the Giants' medical staff sorts out the extent of Buster Posey's injury, the front office is already adapting to his likely absence for the rest of 2011.
But, the ripple effect of his injury extends well beyond filling an immediate void at catcher and the cleanup spot.
Here are five near-term implications of Posey's extended absence.
Other Vets Must Step Up
Huff's laggard start to 2011 is well-documented. With Posey gone for an undetermined period, Pablo Sandoval still weeks from returning and the club starved for offense, this is Huff's moment.
Bruce Bochy will have to re-assemble a batting order lacking a dependable run-producer; Huff likely returns to the No. 3 or No. 4 hole.
He may also return to the outfield; Brandon Belt's recall suggests that the Giants intend to play him at 1B, displacing Huff.
More than his bat or glove, Huff needs to galvanize a clubhouse that has to be dazed by the cumulative effects of losing Posey on top of Sandoval, Fontenot, Ford, etc.
Aubrey, now's the time to earn the big contract.
Even More Pressure on the Pitching Staff
Pitching has carried the Giants through their prolonged offensive struggles. Losing Posey's offensive productivity imposes even more of a burden on the starters to limit opponents' scoring.
The staff stalwarts—Lincecum and Cain—have done their part, but Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner—hard luck aside—have to get it together and keep it together.
The Giants have been fortunate to get such unexpected productivity out of Ryan Vogelsong, but exceptional starting pitching will be needed to offset a prolonged loss of offense.
Dan Runzler and Jeremy Affeldt need to be better, as well. Santiago Casilla will be ready soon; wouldn't be surprised to see either Runzler or Affeldt demoted or released.
Youngsters (finally) Have Their Chance
I could go all cliché on you and suggest that Posey's injury has a "silver lining", but even an eternal optimist would see through that.
There's nothing good about losing the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year.
That said, this is a moment to assess how well the Giants' farm system has done in developing a crop of position players.
I've been flummoxed at the Giants' reluctance to promote Brandon Belt; terrific pitching has deodorized the stench of poor productivity from Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada. A crowded outfield, to me, wasn't an excuse to keep Belt in the minors.
That's irrelevant now. Belt will get a shot to play regularly, and his development will accelerate.
Even more intriguing, to me, will be the opportunity afforded Brandon Crawford, the highly-regarded shortstop prospect drafted in 2008. He's most recently been at Class A San Jose, where he's batted over .300 after struggling the last two years while toggling between A and AA.
It's not clear yet if Bruce Bochy will play Manny Burriss at SS and have Crawford replace Fontenot as a utility player, or drop Crawford into the lineup as he has with other new call-ups. Either way, Crawford gets a shot; we'll see what he's got.
Chris Stewart, 29, has bounced around several organizations without making an impact at the major league level. He had a good spring with the Giants; he'll back up Eli Whiteside.
Managing Just Got Tougher
Truth is, Bruce Bochy has never had it easy. He dealt with low-budget, cost conscious management in San Diego, then inherited the last (and mostly negative) vestiges of the Barry Bonds era in San Francisco.
Through it all, Bochy has been even-keeled, adaptable and highly regarded by his players. The euphemism "players' manager" has always bugged me; it implied a tendency to go easy on very well-paid, pampered athletes.
That's a misread. Bochy has solid baseball instincts, uncommon patience, an understated manner and terrific communication skills. As a contrast, see the latest eruption of discontent among Oakland A's players with manager Bob Geren.
Filling the void left by Posey's absence will be a huge tactical challenge for Bochy. It's unclear just how competitive the club will be over the long haul, but the Giants are fortunate to have a proven guy like Bochy dealing with the challenges.
The NL West Just Got More Competitive
A tepid NL West just got weaker. And the Arizona Diamondbacks are the most obvious beneficiaries.
Posey's injury is only one (and maybe not even the most significant) key loss to an NL West club this week. Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies' most effective starter this year, is out for the year after elbow surgery.
With the Dodgers teetering and the Padres standing still, there's an opening for Arizona. The D'backs were already on the rise, moving two games over .500 this week after consecutive wins over Colorado.
They now trail the Giants by just two games. They're scoring runs in bunches. If their pitching stabilizes, the D'backs might emerge as a legitimate playoff contender sooner than anyone imagined.