Friday, January 6, 2012

First Base 2012

In the teenage lingo of lore, getting to first base isn't so great. But getting to start at first for the 2012 San Francisco Giants--well, that's something. There's only one first base, and four candidates to play it: Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt, Brett Pill, and Buster Posey. I'd like to think there's some way to make this work, but the scenarios are pretty involved--and imagine all the typing that this would involve when we've all got that same bad feeling that Aubrey Huff is going to eat up most of the games that Posey isn't starting at first (which could be between thirty or forty games). And you know what, if those pilates are paying off (seriously), and Huff returns to 2010 form, so be it--although I'd prefer that he does this while playing left field.

But what I don't want to see from the guy that amassed the team-leading 579 plate appearances is this kind of thing in 2012 (via McCovey Chronicles)*:
To be fair, only 280 of those PAs were at home.
That's a great skill if the Giants need a guy to give Freddy Sanchez some practice fielding, but otherwise it's a rally sink-hole. And though I can imagine that Huff's going to be in the starting lineup come April, I'd like to think that he can't repeat 2011 again, Bochy's veteran-love or not.

But if Huff's job is not guaranteed, and if he doesn't stay in the starting lineup or platoons, who shares his spot? I wouldn't have thought this to be much of a question until Pill was called up late last season.  He seems to be the natural candidate for a lefty/righty platoon with Huff. In contrast to Belt's troubles (whether they were his fault or the fault of being jerked-around between San Francisco and Fresno), Pill hit a home run in his first major league at bat. Those are the kind of things that seem to get stuck, like some ingratiating top 40 jam, in the heads of the management. It seems counter-intuitive, but the platoon could be, as it could have been in 2011, Huff/Belt. Sure Belt struggled at the plate, but he seemed to have it down against lefties:

vs LHP as LHB 29 51 16 .348 .412 .522 .934
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/6/2012.

In fact, now that I mention it, we shouldn't even be thinking platoon. Let's face it, if Huff stinks it up, then he can sit on the bench and do the Pat Burrell thing for 2012, and maybe hit a crucial home run or two. And if it comes down to starting Pill or Belt, I think Belt gets a chance first. Sure, Pill hit for a .300/.321/.560 AVG/OBP/SLG, but with so few walks he has to hit the ball to be effective. And if he can, I'll be rooting for him. But look at Belt's numbers: though it's a .225/.306/.412 line, if he can raise his average just a bit, he'll on base more often than Pill, and even Huff (whose 2011 line was .246/.306/.370) for that matter. In fact, I think, in the best case scenario for 2012, Belt would be the starting first baseman.

*Duly noted: the real chart is still pretty disconcerting.

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