Monday, April 4, 2011

Blaming Brandon Belt?

That is a provocative headline to say the least and it's part of the story that Howard Bender of SF Giants Report goes with for explaining the Giants early season losses due to a less then stellar defense.

The Giants current 1-3 record can be tied to Brandon Belt’s presence on the Giants roster. After all, if he doesn’t make the team, then Aubrey Huff is playing first base and we would have either Nate Schierholtz or Aaron Rowand over in right, both of whom would have made those plays yesterday. But what are you going to do, blame the kid for being too good? Of course not. But like every great crisis…and after hearing some of the panic-laden fans, this is apparently being deemed a crisis….we need a scapegoat. Someone is to blame for this start to our title defense, and the people want answers!
In reality, he finds fault with Bruce Bochy but I don't blame him for going with the attention getting headline. Bochy should be the one who is behind the decision and he's the one that should be raked over the coals. I don't agree with this, but here is Howard's point:

And I’m not going to sit here and trash Huff for his play. That’s like blaming your waitress because the kitchen screwed up the temperature of your steak. The guy is out there giving it his all, but is sadly over-matched in the field. He’s certainly not out there thinking “Man, I hope I can screw this up somehow and make myself look like an idiot out here.” He’s giving it everything he has, but what he’s got is just not enough for the outfield.

Again, the kitchen in this case is Bochy. We have the players to make this right, but he isn’t using them. You want to keep Huff in the lineup regularly? Fine. Move him to left field where the ramifications of his shoddy defense have a slightly lower impact. Put Burrell’s ass on the bench and get either Rowand or Schierholtz into right field, though, and make this right.
I can see the logic in this argument but I can't get behind it. I don't think that Bochy made a dumb move or even the wrong move in this situation. The defense wasn't great and Bochy could have put out a more athletic lineup, but there is no reason to believe things would have unfolded the same way had he done it.

The opening day roster was a series of trade offs. Once Cody Ross went down with an injury, the Giants could have gone one of two ways; sacrifice offense for some defense or sacrifice defense for offense. Neither is particularly fun or an easy decision to make and Bochy decided that having the best offensive lineup was the better trade off to make and the one that gave the Giants the best chances of winning.

I would stand by that decision if I were him. In the short term, defense is much more fluky than offense. This should be fairly apparent to people that are stat inclined. The general rule of thumb is that it takes three seasons to get a good read on a player's defense but only a few hundred at-bats to get a good read on a player's offense.

Over the course of a four game series, an offensive player is going to get 15-20 at bats and maybe have the opportunity to make a handful of plays in the field. If I am the manager, I am more concerned about those at-bats than plays that may or may not happen.This isn't to say that I would downplay defense. What I'm saying is over a short horizon, with all things being equal, I'm willing to trade defense for a better offense.

It's easy to second guess after the fact, but Bochy made the right move to put out his best overall team (even if it wasn't his best defensive team) on the field and it burned him. Sometimes it happens, but you can't let fluke events force you to make stupid decisions going forward.

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