June 5, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcherBuster Posey
(center) talks to starting pitcherTim Lincecum
(55) and catcherHector Sanchez
(29) before a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco Giants backup catcher Hector Sanchez gets a lot of undeserved grief and I’m far from innocent when it comes to blasting the Giants backstop.
After all, it’s not his fault that the Giants brass has continually praised his offensive abilities when he frankly is nothing special in that regard. Yes – he can hit for a semi-respectable average for a catcher, but he has below average pop on his best day – he has no speed – his on base percentage is vomit inducing and his plate coverage is iffy. Granted, at only 23, he still has plenty of time to improve but right now obsessing over his offensive ability as the Giants have is a bit questionable to say the least.
On the defensive side, it really doesn’t get much better. His fielding percentage is below league average, his throwing is nothing special and his skills behind the dish are lacking as he’s not very good at framing nor is his footwork anything to get excited over. All that said – again, he’s only 23, so that’s not an attempt to bash Sanchez for a lack of Major League ready skills – it’s just that many Giant fans couldn’t help figure out why the Giants felt it was so necessary to have Sanchez catch Tim Lincecum as if it was clockwork.
Manager Bruce Bochy has continually denied that Sanchez was acting as Lincecum’s personal catcher, but the results were obvious. Lincecum had thrown to Sanchez in his first three starts this season, he threw to him in his lone postseason start last year and 8 of his final 10 starts of the 2012 regular season. The two starts where Lincecum threw to Posey in that ten game stretch, he tossed 11.2 innings of two run ball, striking out seven in the process – no small feat for a player who ended the season with a 5.18 ERA.
Lincecum’s first three starts this year (again caught by Sanchez) were a mixed bag – a career high seven walk game (in five innings) in his season opener despite allowing zero runs, a six run outing in six innings against the Rockies in his second start and allowing four runs in five innings against the Cubs with the wind blowing in – a relatively difficult task.
Enter Buster Posey who after last night has caught Lincecum’s other two starts of the season and shockingly – the results were pretty damn good. No, Lincecum wasn’t flawless by any stretch last night and yes, both starts did come against a relatively weak offensive team in the Padres, but it’s hard to argue with 13.2 innings of 2 run ball, which is what Lincecum has put up with Posey behind the plate. Bochy went even as far as to admit that he felt Posey was a helping force in Tim’s improvement, which says plenty in itself.
I’m not clamoring that Sanchez shouldn’t catch Lincecum in the future – if the two happen to line up together, that’s fine. If Posey needs a rest, great. But trying to force the pairing together as has been the case – the results just aren’t good enough to do that. It hurts the team across the board and there’s no reason to voluntarily handicap yourself.