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Giants bring back OBP specialist Molina

1/28/2010

Just ran across this little gem:

    As part of their efforts to improve the fifth-least-productive offense in the majors, the San Francisco Giants parted with catcher and cleanup hitter Bengie Molina, who delivered the most home runs and RBI on the team over the last three years.

    That might sound counterintuitive, but the Giants want to change their hitters' mind-set, a process that began when they replaced hitting coach Carney Lansford with Hensley Meulens after the season, and Molina's .285 on-base percentage did not fit with the philosophy.

    Plus, when you register the lowest OBP in baseball (.309), relying purely on instinct might not be such a good idea.

    --snip--

    Giants hitters drew by far the fewest walks in the majors (392), and it wasn't just because Molina registered 13. Of the 16 batters who logged at least 100 at-bats in a San Francisco uniform, only Fred Lewis averaged a walk or more per 10 plate appearances. Compounding the problem, the Giants slugged .389, third lowest in the majors, so they had no choice but to play small ball.

    But they were largely incapable of achieving the most fundamental necessity of such a tactic: getting on base.

    "We have some work to do," manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged. "When you're not getting on base and your slugging is way down there, you have an issue."

    --snip--

    Said [GM Brian] Sabean: "I think you have to find an identity early on, which we didn't necessarily do last year, and it came back and bit us."

This article was actually published two weeks ago. And, of course, this joke has a pretty good punchline: a week after this was published, the Giants re-signed Molina to a one-year deal for $4.5 million.

Which was hilarious, but understandable because Molina, even with his .308 on-base percentage, certainly is worth $4.5 million. Or would be, on most clubs. As it happens, the Giants have a perfectly good catcher in Buster Posey. I know that Posey's raw, with only 42 starts above Class A. But if you're not going to spend a great deal of money and you've got a serious deficiency, you've got to make some tough choices.

The problem, I suppose, is that Sabean had an extra $4.5 million around, which just wasn't enough to add a hitter who could actually get on base at a good clip. Granted, Johnny Damon might wind up signing for not a lot more, but could Sabean have known that a week ago?

Anyway, left field's not available because Mark DeRosa's playing there. DeRosa can't play third base because Pablo Sandoval's playing there, and Sandoval can't play first base because Aubrey Huff is playing there.

In retrospect, I probably would have played that a bit different. The Giants' only real hope for a better OBP is that Nate Schierholtz hits like he did in the Pacific Coast League, and underperformers like Edgar Renteria and Aaron Rowand remember that they're not terrible.

Hey, it could happen. And Bengie Molina will be there every day, cheering his teammates along.