Hector Sanchez to the DL, Eli Whiteside Called Up

Earlier today, the San Francisco Giants placed Hector Sanchez on the 15-day DL with a left knee strain, with Eli Whiteside coming up from Triple-A Fresno to replace him. Sanchez’s injury isn’t supposed to be all that serious — it won’t require surgery, and he should be fine within a week, but according to Baggs, with Sanchez likely out for a week, the Giants felt it made more sense to just DL him and go with Whiteside as the backup for the time being.

Most are likely bemoaning the return of Whiteside, and understandably so. He’s spent the entirety of 2012 in the minors, in a hitter-friendly environment, and all he has is a .292 wOBA to show for it. That said, the dropoff in backup catcher production from Whiteside to Sanchez won’t be all that significant over the course of a couple weeks. And for what it’s worth, Whiteside is easily the more advanced defender — and that difference is perhaps understated. Earlier this year, Max Marchi published an article at Baseball Prospectus quantifying the cumulative effect of catchers’ defensive skills, and he found that Eli Whiteside had saved +35 runs from 2008 to 2011 (5146 PAs) — largely because of his game-calling. By this measure, he’s one of the better defensive catchers in baseball.

Not that any of this really matters — again, the difference between Whiteside and Sanchez over a few games is minimal at best. The bigger implication of this injury is how it affects Brandon Belt. Just yesterday, Bruce Bochy was asked if he believed Sanchez’s bat is preferable to Belt’s. His answer?

“Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. Wouldn’t you?”

It’s difficult to infer exactly what Bochy means by that statement, but it is quite telling. Hector has been receiving steady playing time at the expense of Belt, and frankly, at the expense of the team. When Hector catches and Posey plays first, the Giants are worse off both defensively and offensively. Belt (110 wRC+), by all accounts, is a better hitter than Sanchez (78 wRC+). Posey needs his rest obviously, but it’s gotten to the point where Hector is starting nearly as many games as Belt. In July, Hector has started five games; Belt has started six. If it’s merely for the sake of giving Posey rest, why not give him actual rest by letting him sit on the bench? And if it’s not merely that — if it’s to get Sanchez’s bat in the lineup more often — then why?

So the silver lining here is that Hector’s injury opens the door for Belt to get consistent playing time at first base the next couple weeks. He’s been scuffling lately, but this might give him ample opportunity to seize back an everyday role — a role which he really shouldn’t have to fight for. The good news is that there’s just no way Whiteside will get the kind of playing time Hector has been getting. These next couple weeks could prove to be very important, though. There’s already talk of the Giants trading for a first baseman, or Belt himself being traded with the deadline approaching.

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4 thoughts on “Hector Sanchez to the DL, Eli Whiteside Called Up

  1. Bochy starting Posey and Sanchez more frequently was a stupid idea and not justifiable by any stretch of the imagination. Even ignoring Belt’s situation, he increases the chance of one of his catchers getting injured by 100%, and that’s exactly what happened.

    I wouldn’t put any stock into first base rumors with San Francisco. Unless the Giants are trying to acquire Paul Goldschmidt, it’s more likely Huff returns and edges out Belt than a new 1B finding his home in AT&T.

  2. At this point, I want Belt to be traded. I really like the guy, and I think he has tremendous potential. I also think Bochy doesn’t like him, and that his potential will never be realized as long as he feels like he has to hit it out of the park every AB in order to get playing time.

    I’m really, really unhappy with the way the organization has treated him. They haven’t just thrown him under the bus; they keep driving it back and forth over him.

      • I’d amend this to, Picturesquely said, Darkrose. Bochy said, as I understood him, that Sanchez is better than Belt at the moment, with Belt in a deep slump; and Bochy also said that young players typically get into such slumps, and that Belt has been working very hard in the batting cage trying to get back into form. The Giants have repeatedly said that they think Belt has great potential. One only wishes he showed it by more than fits and starts.

        My sense is that once one cuts through or jettisons all the furor and salty tears over the treatment of Belt, the only constructive suggestion–at least, that I’ve seen–is that Bochy needs for the time being to reconceive Belt’s role in the batting order. That is, he should bat higher up in the lineup so that his splendid OBP becomes of much more use to the team than it is now, and hence that he doesn’t need to worry about knocking the ball out of the park. In fact, were he to bat before Cabrera and Posey, and so have a better chance of getting good pitches to hit, he might knock a few more out of the park.

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