With Major League Baseball rosters expanding for September, the Giants have recalled relievers Steven Okert and Derek Law, along with catcher Tim Federowicz and utility-man Orlando Calixte. Some fans had high hopes of catching a glimpse of the Giants’ future, however the front office chose the Arizona Fall League as a better development path for the organizations top prospects. Chris Shaw (#2 prospect), Tyler Beede (#3 prospect), Steven Duggar (#7 prospect), Aramis Garcia (#8 prospect), and Tyler Cyr (unranked) will all be joining the Scottsdale Scorpions while #1 prospect Christian Arroyo will be honing his skills as a member of the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League.
While none of the 4 names the Giants recalled will inject any new fan-excitement for the remaining 26 games, they will serve one significant purpose – ensure 2017 doesn’t end up any worse than it already is. Prior to today’s game with the Cardinals, the Giants’ 83 losses are tied with the Phillies for the most in all of baseball. They are 30 games under .500 and 40 games behind the Dodgers. Fans might assume that things couldn’t possibly get any worse for the 2017 Giants, but let me illustrate just how close the Giants were to jeopardizing the future of the franchise in a completely meaningless game.
With the bases loaded and 2-outs in the top of the 8th inning, and the Giants trailing 5-1, pitcher Albert Suarez threw a 95mph fastball to the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong, which he hit to Joe Panik for an inning-ending groundout. The significance of this pitch in terms of the game and the season was minimal, however had DeJong elected to either take (not swing) the pitch, or swing through it, Buster Posey would have been hit directly in the side of the head, immediately putting his health and future in jeopardy (ie. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who retired due to concussions).
As you can see from the video, Posey got crossed up – meaning that he Suarez threw the wrong pitch. In all likelihood, Buster called for a slider away, but because of the runner on 2nd base, Buster went with a 2nd set of signs (to ensure the Cardinals couldn’t relay the pitch and/or location to the hitter), which went unaccounted for by the pitcher. As a result of the non-verbal miscommunication, Suarez went with the incorrect sign sequence, setting the entire sequence up for disaster.
Getting crossed up isn’t all that uncommon, even in the Major Leagues. However, the majority of the time, it occurs the other way – where catchers anticipate a fastball coming, while the pitcher throws an off-speed pitch. The way Suarez and Posey were crossed up is much more dangerous. As you can see from how the pitch played out, Posey was anticipating movement to the outer half of the plate, and when that didn’t occur, he instinctively turned his head to the side, leaving his entire body exposed to the 95mph pitch.
A similar occurrence happened last year with Posey when he just missed getting hit by a 92mph fastball from Jeff Samardzija.
How does this happen, you might ask?
Without me trying to write out an explanation, former Major Leaguer Billy Ripken does a good job of laying out the basics of the sign-giving system.
As it pertains to Posey, the Giants dodged a huge bullet here. Not only has Posey already spent time on the Disabled List this season with a concussion, he’s beat up, currently playing through a bone-bruise on his thumb that he’s been playing through since August 20th. The last thing the Giants need right now is for Buster Posey to get hurt, especially when it involves something like recurring concussions which, as we’ve seen with both Brandon Belt and Joe Panik, can have long-term (and sometimes permanent) effects.
With Brandon Belt still ailing from his own concussion, and Ryder Jones doing next-to-nothing, the time is right for the Giants to play out the remainder of 2017 with Buster as their 1st baseman. Both Nick Hundley and Tim Federowicz are more than capable of taking over the remaining 26 games behind the plate. A move to 1st will not only take Posey out of harm’s way (for the most-part), it allows him to finish the campaign individually on a high-note as evidenced by a 69-point increase in batting average, 55-point increase in on-base percentage, and 131-point increase in slugging percentage this season. Regardless as to whether or not you agree Buster should be moved permanently to 1st base (which I debate in full here), there is no upside for him or the Giants in using him behind the plate for the remainder of the season.
With significant injuries this season to Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, Jarrett Parker, and Will Smith, combined with top prospect Heliot Ramos being hit in the head, the Giants need to cut their losses and just go into survival mode.
Regardless as to whether they lose 95 games or 105 games, this season will go down as a failure – there’s no reason to make it more catastrophic than it already is by jeopardizing the future health of their only impactful offensive player.