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Inbox: Could Giants bat Posey in third spot?

MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

Why don't the Giants bat Buster Posey in the third spot? He seems to lead off way too many innings and doesn't come up with many runners on base. They have a .240 hitter third, Posey at .350 and a .250 hitter at best behind him. So opponents constantly pitch around him. Doesn't make sense to me.
-- Steve J., San Jose

Many adherents of modern metrics claim that batting orders are overrated, because hitting's hitting, regardless of role. Using this logic, it doesn't matter where Posey hits. Personally, I'm with you. He's not a classic fit for the cleanup spot, since he's not a pure power hitter. I'm old enough to have learned about baseball when Willie Mays hit third. I see Buster fitting that same mold as the team's best all-around hitter (did you know that Mays batted second 120 times in his career?). However, as you pointed out, Posey's run production depends partially on the success of the hitters bracketing him.

Why don't the Giants bat Buster Posey in the third spot? He seems to lead off way too many innings and doesn't come up with many runners on base. They have a .240 hitter third, Posey at .350 and a .250 hitter at best behind him. So opponents constantly pitch around him. Doesn't make sense to me.
-- Steve J., San Jose

Many adherents of modern metrics claim that batting orders are overrated, because hitting's hitting, regardless of role. Using this logic, it doesn't matter where Posey hits. Personally, I'm with you. He's not a classic fit for the cleanup spot, since he's not a pure power hitter. I'm old enough to have learned about baseball when Willie Mays hit third. I see Buster fitting that same mold as the team's best all-around hitter (did you know that Mays batted second 120 times in his career?). However, as you pointed out, Posey's run production depends partially on the success of the hitters bracketing him.

What are the responsibilities of the pitching coach and assistant hitting coach? How accountable are they for the team's success and failure?
-- Paul L., San Francisco

Coaches can only do so much. The responsibility for a club's performance ultimately rests with the players. That's the way it was, is, and always shall be. Coaches can be like surrogate managers -- particularly with the Giants, since Bruce Bochy tends to delegate authority without completely ceding it. That's why he'll someday be enshrined in Cooperstown, because that's what good managers do. But I digress.

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One of a manager's top priorities is to put his players in position to succeed (i.e. you don't send a lousy bunter to the plate in a sacrifice situation). The coaches provide the foundation of this process. They fine-tune each player's physical mechanics to the point where those movements can be repeatable as often as possible. Also, never underestimate the mental aspect.

I once asked an ex-Giant-turned-hitting coach essentially the same question you asked me. His response: "My job is to make sure that every player thinks he's [a formidable player] when he's done's with batting practice each day." In other words, they provide positive reinforcement. Because at the Major League level, everybody knows the ins and outs of a good swing or an effective pitching delivery.

Look into your crystal ball and predict the Giants' starting outfield in three years, the 2020 season.
-- Gerald L., Columbus, Ind.

Let's try this: Austin Slater in left field, Steven Duggar, who is the Giants' No. 4-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, in center and Bryan Reynolds, who's rated No. 3, in right. Heliot Ramos, this year's No. 1 Draft pick, might need another year or so to develop. As of now, he's only 17.

You previously mentioned, and I agree, that the entire Giants front office is responsible for the poor decisions that have resulted in this season's collapse. I would also have to fault the poor scouting, particularly when you see the results of the caliber of players being promoted to the Majors has yielded. Your thoughts on this.
-- David W., Carmichael, Calif.

Go ahead and call me a wimp, but I have trouble blaming the amateur scouts and scouting director John Barr for a barren Draft or two. Evaluating amateur baseball talent might be the most inexact science in all the major professional sports. Who could be sure that Tim Lincecum would not only perform as well as he did in the Major Leagues, but also last so long? Who was certain that outfielder Gary Brown, the Giants' No. 1 Draft choice in 2010, would struggle to the degree that he did?

That said, teams with the first two or three selections in the Draft -- which might be the Giants' dubious privilege next year -- had better not waste them. Ballclubs picking that high ought to possess the smarts to feel relatively sure that they'll draft an impact player -- such as Will Clark, the No. 2 overall pick in 1985, and Posey, fifth overall in 2008, to cite a pair of Giants examples.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Buster Posey