2011 Season in Review: The Infielders

I already reviewed Pablo Sandovals season, but here’s a look at the rest of the infielders; most of them didn’t accumulate many plate appearances with the Giants throughout the season, whether because of injury or because they were with a different team for most of the year. None of them, unfortunately, had anything near the kind of success that Pablo had in 2011. So it goes…

Mark DeRosa: Ah, DeRosa. There was a time when we thought his career was over — I certainly did. When DeRosa came back from the disabled list, rendered nearly useless with his paper wrist, the Giants opted to send Brandon Belt down to Triple-A in favor of him. It was one of the most mind-boggling moves in a season that had plenty of them. I was outspoken in my criticism of DeRosa, who I felt had no value at that point. And I was wrong, as it would turn out. From that point forward, DeRosa was used pretty sparingly, but managed to get over 50 plate appearances, and he hit quite well (.367/.439/.388). He didn’t hit the ball with much authority, as 17 of his 18 hits were singles, but he was surprisingly useful. I don’t think he’s got much left at this point, but I would not be the least bit surprised if he signs a minor-league contract with San Francisco this offseason.

Conor Gillaspie: Gillaspie’s contributions at the major-league level this season can mostly be summed up in one photograph. He has one career home run to this point, and it’s an inside-the-parker.

Brett Pill: Pill was exciting to watch in September and frequently put a jolt in the ball; he actually slugged .560 in 15 games, which was the highest mark on the team (if you set an incredibly low minimum for playing time). In any event, he walked just twice in those 53 plate appearances. If the 26-year-old is ever going to be a useful major-league player (and he’s probably not, at this point), he’ll need to show some better plate discipline.

Brandon Belt: The most mishandled prospect in all of baseball in 2011, Belt was yo-yoed around,and never really a got a chance to settle in at the major-league level. In particular, his strikeouts (57 in 209 plate appearances) were a bit concerning. Nevertheless, he was essentially a league-average hitter (98 wRC+) on the year, and even managed nine home runs in 187 at-bats.

Bill Hall: One of the most forgettable midseason acquisitions in recent Giants history, Hall hit .158/.220/.211 in 16 games. I don’t know that there’s much else to add.

Freddy Sanchez: As I noted in the recent Sanchez extension post, 2011 was not Freddy’s year, as he only played in 60 games before his season came to an end. When he did play, however, he provided the decent production at second base that was expected of him.

Jeff Keppinger: Keppinger gets the “2011 Empty Batting Average award” for his special inability to a) draw walks, and b) hit for power. This, in addition to his incredibly bad defensive skills. He played second base like Dan Uggla, except without any redeeming offensive skills. In all fairness, I’m probably a bit too harsh on Keppinger — it was a reasonable acquisition, but he just wasn’t a fit as an everyday second baseman. I’m hoping the Giants don’t bring him back next season.

Emmanuel Burriss: 152 plate appearances. One extra-base hit — a double.

Brandon Crawford: He got things off to a nice start (with a grand slam off Shaun Marcum in May), but ultimately proved futile with the bat (.204/.288/.296, 60 wRC+). His defense, however, somewhat made up for it, and he did show promise in one aspect of his offense: 23 BB/31 K. If he is in fact the Giants’ starting shortstop next year, I’m hoping he can show some more improvement in his hitting.

Orlando Cabrera: Awful batting average. Awful walk rate. Awful power numbers. Mediocre defense. The most inexplicable trade the Giants made all season.

Mike Fontenot: Of all the players listed here, Fontenot probably had the best season (for better or for worse). In 85 games, he played passable defense at short (along with solid defense at second), got on base at a respectable clip, and actually showed some good power. I’m hoping the Giants tender him a contract, because it’s really in their best interest to do so.


10 thoughts on “2011 Season in Review: The Infielders

  1. I know this will seem like I’m just ragging on you. I actually agree with most of what you write here. I just think it’s lazy and way overly simplistic to say Belt was mishandled and leave it at that. The story is really a lot more complicated than that.

    The Giants have had a lot of success with rushing hot prospects through the system. From Matt Cain to Buster Posey, none of their homegrown young stars spent much time at any level. I don’t think the original plan was for Belt start the season in SF, but with the Ross injury and his good spring coming off a fantastic 2010, I think the Giants got a bit of irrational exuberance going.

    Belt was completely lost at the plate to start the season and Huff was even more lost in the OF. Yes, it was a short sample size, but no contending team was going to wait around to see if there would be a positive regression. Belt was brought back in May and looked a lot better but promptly broke his wrist or hand. The Giants properly let him rehab it in the minors after it healed. When they brought him back, he got a reasonable amount of playing time and as you noted hit 7 of his 9 HR’s in August and Sept. He had a disappointing series in Arizona at the end but otherwise put together several very nice multi-hit games. He still had his ups and downs but gradually grew more comfortable at the plate.

    Other than the premature MLB debut, I don’t think he was jerked around at all. You certainly can’t blame the hand injury on the Giants! I think Belt grew as a player over the course of the season. I do think it’s time to hand the keys to either 1B or LF over to him in 2012 and let him play through the ups and downs and see what they have in him. As of now, it looks like he will most likely be the starting LF as Huff will most likely get a chance to rebound from his horrible season last year. If the Giants sign Beltran, Cuddyer or Willingham, then Belt will start the season in Fresno, which wouldn’t be a terrible thing for him either. I think Huff will be on a much shorter leash this year and if Belt starts the season in Fresno will get a callup if Huff is doing the same things he did last year.

    • I know this will seem like I’m just ragging on you. I actually agree with most of what you write here. I just think it’s lazy and way overly simplistic to say Belt was mishandled and leave it at that. The story is really a lot more complicated than that.

      No problem. Where’s the fun in any of this if we don’t have anything to debate about? That said, this was sort of meant to be overly simplistic/lazy.

      Other than the premature MLB debut, I don’t think he was jerked around at all.

      Here’s where I strongly disagree.

      The premature debut, sure. The DL stint, sure. But toward the end, there was no reason for him to be going back and forth.

      To review, here’s what it looked like…

      July 8: Belt activated from DL, optioned to Fresno
      July 19: Belt recalled from Fresno
      August 5: Belt optioned to Fresno
      August 13: Belt recalled from Fresno

      How was it best for his development for him to be sent down on August 5th? I can say with assurance that was “mishandling” him.

      f the Giants sign Beltran, Cuddyer or Willingham, then Belt will start the season in Fresno, which wouldn’t be a terrible thing for him either.

      Here’s where I disagree even more. There’s no reason to believe Belt can benefit from more time in Triple-A. He needs a steady does of major-league pitching to overcome his problems, and his problems aren’t too great at this point anyway. He did, after all, slug over .400 in the majors this year. It would absolutely be a terrible thing for him to start in Fresno, and moreover, it’d be a bad thing for this team — a team desperately in need of offense, offense which Belt is capable of supplying.

      • Just by my observation, Belt is a much better player now than he was at the beginning of last season. Maybe he would be even better had he been a starting job in MLB the whole season, but that’s conjecture. He started the season as strictly a first baseman with huge holes in his swing. He ended the season as a first baseman, but also a competent corner OF and a much better looking approach at the plate. Because of that, I think it is an over-simplification and misleading to say he was “mishandled.” He was moved around a lot, but I think overall the season was a growing experience for him.

        As for what happens next year, I think if the Giants give him a starting job and leave him there, he will have some ups and downs but will end up with a BA of about .240 or so with about 25 HR’s. On the other hand, he’s only had two full seasons of professional baseball experience and it would not be detrimental for him to get more AAA AB’s before he permanently settles into a major league career.

    • “If the Giants sign Beltran, Cuddyer or Willingham, then Belt will start the season in Fresno…”

      No. That cannot happen. Only if he’s injured or somehow looks lost in the cactus league (but you’ve seen the DWL lines). Huff is probably cooked and should be relegated to back up duties. He’s the one hoping the Giants don’t sign an outfielder. If they do sign Beltran, which it is kind of looking that way, perhaps they should try to send Huff and about 8 million dollars to somewhere like Milwaukee.

  2. I agree with Dr. B on this……Belt wasn’t mishandled for all intents and purposes. If you want a prime example of mishandling, look up one Fred Lewis……I still think Lewis might have outgrown his bad defense and blossomed, had Bochy not shifted him from the starting #3 hole hitter on Opening Day to leadoff to 5th and back again before he could adjust. But I digress.

    It is sad that Belt wasn’t allowed to work through his difficulties the same way that was afforded others, for instance, Miguel Tejada. However, when Belt’s swing was analyzed, there was a ‘loop’ that needed some correction. He was sent down. He appeared to handle himself much better after that, then WHAM! Broken bone. And for all the rushing the brass did to get him up here, they weren’t about to push him too much to return too soon, seeing as he is one of our genuine, pivotal roster pieces for some years to come.

    If Belt doesn’t start in some way shape or form on Opening Day, one of a few things has happened: He’s hurt, Huff has outperformed all his competitors, or Beltran has a new contract and Scheirholtz is tearing it up. Again, I don’t see the Giants picking up Beltran. Really, this is the time to let him loose.

  3. Oh, I apologize for not commenting on the article itself. My estimation is the same as yours, Julian. Fontenot and Crawford (simply due to the promise of his glove and his youth) are the only ones who should be back among the outsiders of this group. Hall? Wow, I really did forget him. Burriss I’m afraid simply doesn’t have it……maybe Gillaspie too. Kepp did not live up to his career lines whatsoever, OCab was a complete dud. And sorry to say it, but DeRosa needs to go the way of Burrell.

  4. With the outrageous INF market this off-season, Fontenot would be a wise investment.

    I don’t get the Burriss dislike, however. The Giants have very little team speed, and Burriss would add in that department and can be a useful bench player.

    • Speed is useful, but Emmanuel Burriss can’t hit. He has a career slugging percentage of .281 …just not gonna cut it.

      I’d be shocked if the Giants don’t non-tender him.

  5. Brandon Belt’s splits versus lefties (29 games, 51 PAs): 348/412/934. Bochy went from being way too high and rushing him to the show to completely shunning him. That was my problem. The best example was his return July 19th against the Dodgers. Wins the game by himself, HR, 3 RBI. Goes 0 for 4 with 2 Ks the next day against Kershaw. Benched immediately after that. Sporadic starts and pinch hitting/late inning until he gets sent down. At the end of the year a lot of raving about Pill’s ABs and benching Belt against lefties despite great numbers.

    All I ask is for his role to be clearly defined. If he’s the starter, he needs a full month of rope before getting pulled if he struggles. If he’s going to start in AAA and be the cavalry when Huff can’t hack it, Nate gets hurt or whoever is in left sucks/gets hurt that’s just fine as well. But I agree the Giants did the worst job in the majors last year with the best prospect (non-Buster division) they’ve had in a long time.

    I’d be very happy with DeRosa on a minor league contract and Fontenot back. The middle infield market is crazy.

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