Yesterday, in a move unfamiliar to the ethos of this blog, Drew Fairservice wrote a post suggesting that the San Francisco Giants brain trust was doing something right with its use of reliever Sergio Romo.

With newly found confidence thanks to Fairservice’s endorsement, Giants manager Brian Bochy made a bold and decisive statement by writing out a lineup card ahead of his team’s game against the Atlanta Braves with Hector Sanchez at catcher, Buster Posey at first base and Brandon Belt relegated to the bench.

According to the collective voice of San Francisco Giants fans:

What. The. Fuck.

Bochy’s presumed mismanagement of young first baseman Brandon Belt has long been a sore spot among Giants fans. To be more accurate, it’s an open wound that occasionally clots over, only for Bochy to scratch open the scab and dump salt on it, assuming feces isn’t readily available.

Brandon Belt is a vastly superior batter to Hector Sancez. It isn’t even close. At every level of professional baseball, Belt has outperformed Sanchez, including this season, wherein Belt has provided the Giants with their fifth highest level of offensive contribution in terms of batting runs above average despite far fewer opportunities than the teammates that surround him in the rankings. If we look at any of the important rate numbers, Belt consistently rates as the fourth best Giants batter behind Melky Cabrera, Posey and Pablo Sandoval.

Given the numbers and his pedigree as a prospect, it’s quite obvious to any neutral observer that Brandon Belt should be playing more, not less. So how does Bochy continue to justify not handing him a job as a regular on the team? The latest reasoning centers around Sanchez having the hotter bat.

After Bochy told reporters he’d be sticking with Sanchez ahead of last night’s game, Comcast Sportsnet’s Andrew Baggarly asked the manager if he prefers the catcher to Belt. Bochy’s reply:

Yeah, I think that’s fair to say, wouldn’t you? He’s coming off a pretty solid game. That’s why I decided to go that way.

Sanchez, indeed was coming off of a solid performance. He went 4 for 6 in the team’s last game against the Houston Astros, knocking in two runs including the winner in extra innings. However, the only reason the game went to extra innings was because of his dropped third strike and subsequent misfire to first base. Meanwhile, Belt spent the series avoiding outs in 40% of his plate appearances.

Sure. Sanchez played well in a single game, but Belt’s played well over the entire season to date, and over most a professional career. This doesn’t seem to matter to some, though.

 

 

Hopefully, we can agree that a manager is doing a disservice to his team if he doesn’t put a lineup together that has the largest possibility of finding success. You can justify not putting such a lineup together for the sake of ensuring better performances in the future. For example if a player is fatigued or if something is off in his mechanics that needs work in the batting cages rather than in a game situation. However, for the most part, a manager’s job is to ensure that his team has the best chance of winning a game.

In my opinion, to do this, a manager should rely on overall capability, and not recent success as a means of lineup construction. Baseball may be the only sport where the question “What have you done for me lately?” shouldn’t be asked. There are far to many samples and examples at a manager’s finger tips for him to only look at what happened most recently. When it comes to batting, failure is the norm. I will always take the player with a proven history of failing less than another player with a proven history of failing more.

Of course, it all ended up not mattering much last night as Sanchez injured himself after getting on base in the fourth inning, and Belt replaced him as a pinch runner, promptly stealing second base and later scoring a run. If Sanchez’s injury proves significant enough to miss some time, Bruce Bochy will have to find new excuses to keep Brandon Belt’s above average bat out of the lineup.

Update: Sanchez has been placed on the Disabled List, and Eli Whiteside has been called up to replace him as the backup catcher. Thank god Aubrey Huff will be off the Disabled List soon. Otherwise, it would’ve been difficult to justify giving playing time to Whiteside over Belt.

But don’t just take it from me. Here’s two-time World Series winning manager Cito Gaston, offering his opinion: