San Francisco Giants: 6 Reasons to Forget Scott Cousins and Replace Buster Posey
Five hits in 28 at-bats.
.179 batting average.
Those are the offensive (so to speak) stats compiled by San Francisco Giant catchers Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart in the eight games since Buster Posey's season was ended by a brutal home-plate collision.
Regrettably, the Giants front office has spent much of the last week obsessing over the Posey injury, looking back when they need to be looking ahead.
There's no discounting Posey's injury; it's a bitter blow to him. And it creates a huge challenge for Giants GM Brian Sabean.
But turning a bad situation into a bad Lifetime movie script makes no sense. Sabean needs to stop obsessing about Scott Cousins and start working on a plan to address the Giants' deficiencies behind the plate.
Here are six factors making it essential that the Giants trade for an established catcher, sooner than later.
Can't Afford Distractions
Here's what New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said after star quarterback Tom Brady was lost for the season to a knee injury in the team's 2008 opener: "As a team we all just have to do our jobs. That really doesn't change ... He played one position; he played it very well. We have somebody else playing that position now."
Granted, that was football, with its unique lexicon replete with references to war and battle and all that.
Baseball isn't about blood and guts. Severe body-to-body contact injuries are rare, and they're as likely to result from teammates colliding (two outfielders chasing a fly ball) as opponents.
That said, the Giants have turned Posey's situation into a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. There've been enough institutional statements issued to keep three PR people occupied.
Enough already. An All-Star caliber catcher has been lost for the rest of the season. Time to get on with it and find a temporary replacement—one who can hit.
Can't Allow Sentiment to Get in the Way of Logic
Eli Whiteside, by all accounts, is a wonderful guy and popular teammate. Pitchers say they love throwing to him.
He's had one of the most difficult jobs in sports, backing up a young, budding superstar who hated to take a day off.
Then, in the blink of a brutal home-plate collision, he became The Man.
The Giants have had this glowing "we're all for one, one for all" thing going on since last season's Band of Misfits magic.
Their front office seems almost phobic about publicly acknowledging that anything is wrong with anything. To a degree, that's laudable. Continuity is generally a good thing.
But the facts, as they say, are the facts. In Whiteside's three seasons with the Giants, he's batted .228/.238/.176. His success throwing out would-be base stealers has steadily declined: 39/29/17 percent.
Notice a trend here?
Seeking to address an obvious need this far in advance of the trade deadline is far from ideal; other clubs surely will demand more in any trade package.
But Brian Sabean can't pretend the Whiteside/Chris Stewart thing is working, because it isn't. He needs to do something, soon.
The Rest of the Offense Is Too Creaky
The 2011 Giants, offensively speaking, are like a used car creeping toward 100,000 miles on the odometer.
Some parts work OK, but something else always seems to be breaking down.
Aaron Rowand filled in splendidly while Andres Torres rehabbed his strained Achilles; Rowand has gone into the deep freeze since Torres returned.
Pat Burrell homered four times in the season's first nine games while filling in for the injured Cody Ross. Ross returned, and Burrell stopped hitting.
Miguel Tejada started out slowly, then slowed some more, then simply fell down.
Aubrey Huff struggled for nearly two months before showing signs of life on the last road trip. Rookie Brandon Crawford has been an enormous boost at shortstop.
But Brandon Belt is now DL'd with a broken bone in his wrist.
But it's not, and they can't.
There's No Obvious Internal Candidate
The Giants have already reached deep into its farm system, promoting SS Brandon Crawford from class A San Jose to the major league club. And, so far, that's worked.
Two promising catchers are in San Jose—Hector Sanchez and Tommy Joseph, the latter a 2009 second round draft pick.
Sanchez has a less glossy pedigree than Joseph, but better numbers. At high-A San Jose, Sanchez is hitting .304 after batting .274 at class-A Augusta in 2010. He's thrown out 42 percent of would-be base stealers.
Sabean has already raided the Giants top minor league affiliate, Fresno, promoting Chris Stewart to back up Whiteside.
Sanchez has the raw skills. But he's very young (21; Crawford is 24), and Sabean may be reluctant to put him into such a high-pressure situation, handling an elite pitching staff.
There Are Attractive Trade Options
I wrote yesterday about several attractive trade options for the Giants to boost their offense; three were catchers:
Ronny Paulino, Mets
Miguel Olivo, Mariners
Ryan Doumit, Pirates
All hit relatively well and have sufficient experience to be able to step into a high-pressure situation. Doumit is out for a month with a non-displaced ankle fracture.
Sabean may be reluctant to pursue a trade until he gauges how much of a boost Pablo Sandoval (whose return is imminent) provides. The view here is that even if Sandoval hits as he did before his hand injury, the Giants creaky offense will still be ... creaking.
Every Run Is Precious
Ask Madison Bumgarner. He's 2-7 after Saturday's 2-1 loss to the Rockies. His ERA is down to 3.42 after allowing one earned run in seven terrific innings.
The Giants are operating on an incredibly thin margin.
They've scored three or fewer runs in 33 of 58 games. More than half of their games have been decided by one or two runs. They have suffered twelve one-run defeats.
And, among NL teams with winning records, their net run differential is a mere +2.
The point: with this club, every run matters. And playing a catcher who doesn't hit and isn't a defensive standout is a deficiency this team can't afford.