Where Is Buster Posey?

The San Francisco Giants and Brian Sabean are quickly running out of excuses to keep former fifth overall pick Buster Posey off their 25-man roster. Improbably, the Giants are 22-21 and right in the thick of the NL West race, only 3.5 games behind the Padres. Buster Posey is 23 and has a .960 OPS at AAA after putting up a .902 OPS at the same level in 2009. Meanwhile, the Giants offense has a wOBA of .316, sitting 14 runs below the league average.

The strong performance of Eli Whiteside has been a decent enough reason to keep Posey in AAA so far. His .383 wOBA currently leads the Giants, but that’s completely unsustainable given his paltry walk rate of 3.8%, a BABIP of .364, and a HR/FB of 14.9% that suggests above average power when he has hit only 15 home runs in the minor leagues in just over 500 PAs since 2007. Even considering his solid start, ZiPS only projects Whiteside to post a .296 wOBA the rest of the season.

Perhaps starter Bengie Molina‘s roughly league average performance (.332 wOBA) is keeping Posey off the roster? Molina is posting a career high walk rate of 8%, but his power has all but disappeared. His ISO is down from .177 to .084, and as a 35 year old catcher, Molina is certainly at the age where a drop in HR/FB rate could just as easily be decline as random variation. Even if Molina continues to produce at this clip, his hitting is his only asset. Last season, Bengie Molina was 4.5 runs below average on the bases according to Baseball Prospectus’s EQBRR. According to our own Matt Klaasen’s catcher defense rankings, Molina has already been 3 runs below average, and was another 3.4 runs below average last season.

Supposedly, defense is the reason that the Giants are keeping Posey down in the minor leagues. Posey has excelled with the arm this year; he’s thrown out 44% of basestealers so far this season. That reason, however, breaks down when we see Buster Posey spending time at first base as he is in today’s lineup for the Fresno Grizzlies.

Posey’s MLE for his current line at AAA is a .293/.366/.437 triple slash line. Prior to the season, both CHONE and ZiPS projected Posey as a roughly average major league hitter, just above what they projected Bengie Molina. Taking into account defense, baserunning, and upside, and Posey was surely the correct choice for a team wanting to make a run at the postseason. Posey is producing at an even higher level in AAA this season, suggesting that he’s even better than these pre-season projections.

Especially with the position that the Giants are in right now, there is no excuse for Posey to remain in AAA. He has nothing left to learn there. The Giants need has bat in the lineup, and they need it before they lose any more ground to San Diego and Los Angeles.

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25 Responses to “Where Is Buster Posey?”

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  1. tommybones says:

    Posey will miraculously become major-league ready in about 10 days. This reminds me of the Brewers letting Braun languish in AAA before finally bringing him up and missing the post by a game. Brilliant.

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  2. xeifrank says:

    As soon as Posey is clear of Super-Two status he will get the call – whenever that may be.

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  3. Zach says:

    You don’t understand. Brian Sabean says AAA pitching sucks, and therefore Posey isn’t really that good.

    Don’t you get it???

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  4. Bias says:

    “Improbably, the Giants are 22-21 and right in the thick of the NL West race,”

    Really? It’s improbable that a team that won 88 games last year has played .500 ball through mid-May?? Give me a break. Brian Sabean is a dunce, but the Giants aren’t a bad team. Let’s not confuse a poor front office for a bad team (checks again to verify that someone honestly and legitimately ranked the Giants 22nd and the Mariners 6th in the preseason organizational rankings with a straight face. There couldn’t be any Seattle bias, no lead writer here who’s a Mariners homer).

    I don’t think there’s anything confusing in the least bit in waiting to bring Posey up at this point. It’s at most about a month before Posey will pass Super Two status (meaning he’d have to play through 2012 to reach arbitration). Getting 25 extra games of Posey is not worth $10-20 million in extra arbitration money. It’s a business decision, and it’s a smart one, Posey has very little chance of being the deciding factor in the Giants playoff hopes. We’re looking at (at most) a 1 win upgrade for a month of Posey, hardly worth the risk.

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    • TCQ says:

      Do we really need to keep bringing this up? Hasn’t been hashed out as thoroughly as it possibly can be already?

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      • r.w.g. says:

        I agree with you, it’s kind of been beaten in to the ground. Doesn’t make it any less true, though.

        6th was a joke then and it’s just gotten funnier since.

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      • joser says:

        But does it have to be brought into every comment thread, no matter how tangential or unrelated? Ok, if the commentariat here want to make everything about the Mariners, how about this: Posey for Cliff Lee, straight up.

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      • r.w.g. says:

        No, it shouldn’t be brought up in every thread.

        I imagine the reason it happens, though, is because Dave Cameron is smug and smarmy — much like every single other writer on this site.

        I love this site, read it every day, and pretty much agree with +90% of the content posted. I just think there is a fair amount of passive aggressive douche-baggery in the general tone the crowd here takes with dissenters.

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  5. PJ says:

    Ah, the classic “catcher that can’t catch” argument. It’s such a fail. It’s not even factual. I don’t know how people like Sabean can keep a job, while throwing their best prospect under the bus.

    And how Whiteside or Ishikawa is on a MLB roster is beyond me.

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  6. Jay says:

    Oh, it’s even worse than you think. The current idea is that Huff will be moved to left, Panda to first, and Uribe to 3rd. Not only that, but the odd many out of the outfield would be Rowand, not Schierholtz! That’s right, Aaron Rowand, he of the .242 average and .281 OBP (our leadoff hitter!). For comparison, Schierholtz is hitting .298 with a .365 OBP. Edgar Renteria got enough hits in the first couple of weeks to artificially sustain his average so it still appears decent, but he’s really not good at all, and has zero power and zero speed.

    What does this have to do with Posey? He’s also being groomed to be able to play 1B. An easy option if Posey stays in AAA would be to bench Renteria and play Uribe at SS, keeping Panda, Huff and Sanchez at their normal positions. Or, what I would prefer, put Posey at 1B, Huff in LF, Uribe at SS, and Torres in CF.

    Still no Phillies, but this lineup would be better than what we currently have…
    1) Andres Torres, CF
    2) Nate Schierholtz, RF
    3) Pablo Sandoval, 3B
    4) Juan Uribe, SS
    5) Aubrey Huff, LF
    6) Buster Posey, 1B
    7) Freddy Sanchez, 2B
    8) Bengie Molina, C

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  7. Mark says:

    How much is it worth to make the playoffs? More than the Giants would (likely) save by avoiding Super-2 status with Posey?

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    • OremLK says:

      It’s not an either/or choice. They increase their chances with Posey. The question is by how much, and how much that increase is worth.

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  8. Bias says:

    “Do we really need to keep bringing this up?”

    Oh absolutely. It was a moment of absolute insanity, and the fool(s) who came up with that ranking deserve to be mocked for it. I haven’t personally said anythnig about it before, and I certainly feel I have the right to comment on it. It’s simple, you let your personal interests get in the way of your writing (becoming the typical Bill Plaschke/Murray Chass blowhard), you deserve to be criticized. A gross display of ignorance (or worship to a certain type of GM, damn the rest of the organization) from a normally bright group of writers.

    “Hasn’t been hashed out as thoroughly as it possibly can be already?”

    Maybe you should consider that most of us aren’t reading every articles’ comments. But if you think people should say nothing about it, well, that’s incredibly disappointing. The rankings may take a lot of work to compile, but the quality of the work was awful. If you’re going to throw out most of the relevant factors and solely rank the reputatation of the GM’s in place, then don’t do the rankings at all. The Mariners will be lucky to make the playoffs once in the next three years, and their odds of doing so probably aren’t better than the Giants (and that’s not to mention the handful of other awful rankings). The whole thing was just a joke.

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    • JoeC says:

      So the Mariners aren’t making the playoffs this year, huh? 25% of the season gone by is enough for you to make that proclamation, huh? Okay, Nostradamus.

      So where were the rankings incorrect, oh holy one? (besides the Giants should’ve been higher-ranked than the Mariners)

      Don’t just be a hater and tear down something if you don’t have anything to offer in its place.

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  9. Kriz says:

    Game calling is one of the reasons Posey is still in the minors. One the Giants higher ups (don’t remember who) said that on local radio recently. They claimed coaches call the games in college and he needs to work on that.

    If that is the reason… Why the heck is he playing 1st?

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    • Carlino says:

      Because of money (duh). I just wish that it was okay for Sabean to be honest about it, I can understand a business decision. Imagine the backlash he would get if he just came out and said so. See you in a few weeks Buster.

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      • Bill says:

        In Sabean’s defense, no GM’s are honest about this. They can’t be. It’s one thing to manipulate the system, it’ quite another to brag about it in public. Sabean is, for once, making the correct business decision. With the Giants’ young pitching, they should just get better. Having Posey for an extra year on a better team than the one they are currently fielding is worth it.

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    • GreenLantern says:

      Maybe so that Posey can be an everyday player. Have Posey catch 30-40% of the time and start at 1B the rest of the time? Considering the way he’s raking in AAA, it might make sense.

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  10. B says:

    Sorry Jack, but you’re dead wrong on this one. Sabean is a pretty poor GM, but in this situation, he’s doing things right.

    First, let’s deal with the idea of Posey playing 1B. He’s played in 42 of the 44 games this season, and about 75% of the games he’s played he’s started at C. What’s wrong with that? When they want to give him a break, a very reasonable thing to do since he’s a C, they play him at 1B instead of on the bench so he still gets at bats. There’s no issue here.

    Second, Posey is unelikely to make a meaningful impact at the MLB level right now. Molina’s doing fine. Even if Posey is a slight upgrade, it’s not big, and it’s not going to make a difference for the Giants. We’re essentially a .500 team based on talent. We need more than Posey if we want to make a legitimate run.

    “He has nothing left to learn there”

    How do you figure? There are concerns about his catching skills, and it seems reasonable to think he just needs more reps to hone them. Playing C full time in AAA, which is exactly what he’s doing, is perfectly acceptable for developing the skills he needs to work on. The big key is wherever he is, he needs to play C full time. He’s doing that now, it’s fine.

    Overall, this is a smart long term move. There’s almost nothing to be gained in the short term by bringing Posey up. Instead, we’re delaying his arb clock, allowing him to hone his skills and become MLB ready to contribute as much as possible when we do bring him up. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if we left him down there all year, or at least until Bengie stops producing. Let’s not confuse “Sabean is a bad GM” with “every move Sabean makes must be wrong because he’s a bad GM”. In this case, he’s making the smart move for the Giants when you weigh the long term benefits against the short term costs.

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    • MetsFan says:

      The PCL uses a DH, so if you really wanted to rest him and get ABs, DH is a better choice.

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      • B says:

        Maybe, it’s a fair point, though I think it’s not necessary relevant to this conversation. Posey really is getting full time C duties, and that’s what matters. Whether his “days off” should be spent on the bench, at 1B, or at DH seems like a whole different issue to me….

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  11. Joe says:

    Something that should be included in the discussion is Jonathan Sanchez’s preference in pitching to Eli Whiteside, who’s known for his game-calling and defense — both of which have helped Sanchez tremendously. As has been mentioned before, most of the Giants pitching staff have stated at one point or another that they feel comfortable and trust Molina behind the plate.

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