SAN FRANCISCO – Johnny Bench, the great Hall of Fame catcher, ended his career as a third baseman.
Could Buster Posey find himself migrating from behind the plate to the hot corner as well?
It’s a thought that Giants manager Bruce Bochy has volunteered more than once – and he did it again in a relaxed pregame session with reporters on Wednesday.
“I think he’d be a really good third baseman,” Bochy said. “We like him where he’s at now. And this is something (that would happen) if he took the time to learn it in the offseason and spring training. But he’s an athlete and he has the hands and the arm.”
It’s not hard to trace the lines in this pencil sketch: The Giants hope Pablo Sandoval will be primed for a big season next year as he aspires to put up numbers and position himself for free agency. Then they’d let him sign elsewhere and move Posey to third base in 2015.
(Or, if Sandoval remains part of the plan here, he could move to first base. That’s Brandon Belt’s spot and there are no plans to move him, although Bochy acknowledged that if the club saw a route to boost the offense by acquiring a first baseman this winter, they would consider moving Belt to left field.)
According to one popular argument, Posey should stay at catcher because his offensive numbers have the most positional value there. But there’s a big piece missing from that postulation: You can't just operate in a vacuum and assume Posey, as he gets older, would put up the same numbers at a more taxing position.
It would be easier to keep Posey’s bat, legs and body fresher as a third baseman. He’s on pace to start a career-high 124 games behind the plate this season, and in a possibly related note, he’s having a second-half slump for the first time in his career.
“It’s a good question and I can’t answer that,” Bochy said. “I don’t know that for a fact, (but) it always can play a role and we’ve had a tough schedule. Even going to the All-Star Game from San Diego, the travel involved there, it takes a toll. Sure, that’s why I try to give him days off.”
Posey only has one RBI in his last 10 games, and that was on a foul ball sacrifice fly Tuesday night that Boston right fielder Shane Victorino didn’t need to catch.
He’s hitting .226 with a .592 OPS in the second half; 13 of his 14 home runs have come before the All-Star break. That’s a huge difference from the two World Series championship seasons; Posey hit .385 with a 1.102 OPS after the break last year to lock down the NL MVP award.
Posey said he hasn’t been battling any chronic injuries, and he feels like his swing isn’t far away.
“My body’s felt pretty good all year,” Posey told me. “I feel pretty close right now. There was a stretch the last homestand there where I felt a little off. But the last trip, especially, I was seeing the ball really well.
“A few pitches I’ve been a tick off, and it’s a game of inches. You go up there and try to have a good approach, regardless.”
What about this season, as it’s gotten away? Is there anything more Posey believes he could have done to stanch the bleeding?
“Honestly, I try to look at the game at hand – not worry about what happened a month ago or a week ago,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
What’s the goal the rest of the way?
“It’s about being proud of what you do and playing the game the right way,” Posey said. “We’re all fortunate to be major league players, especially in the Giants organization. When you see the crowds we’re still getting even though we haven’t played great baseball, it reminds you what you’re playing for.”