The Giants’ offense is not what it once was, and Buster Posey, despite the real hope that remains for a bounce-back season, is not the dominant hitter he once was.
For the first time since July 5, 2010, when he was a rookie, the Giants catcher is starting a game as the seventh hitter in the order.
It’s both eye-opening and unsurprising. It is a reflection of a team that has severely improved its hitting since 2019, when Posey last played, and is under new leadership, with Bruce Bochy’s unfailing loyalty replaced by Gabe Kapler’s and Farhan Zaidi’s pragmatism.
Kapler brought up Posey’s spot in the lineup without prompting, choosing to highlight it as a telling sign of how deep the 1-through-9 is.
“It just provides a lot of confidence to see [Donovan] Solano hitting in the 3 hole and carrying that through [to] Buster hitting seventh — we’re talking about a perennial All-Star and a Hall of Fame-caliber player,” Kapler said before the Giants opened against Seattle lefty Marco Gonzales on Thursday. “It just speaks to the depth of the lineup that we can throw out there against left-handed pitching. I’m proud of the group that we’re putting out there today.”
The manager said his catcher, who had opted out last season to care for his newborn twins during the pandemic, is a “true professional.”
“I think our players understand that, in particular this year, if you’re batting a little bit lower in the lineup, it’s because somebody really capable is hitting a spot higher,” Kapler said over Zoom before the matchup at T-Mobile Park. “I think our players are professional enough to understand that.”
Also in the lineup are Brandon Belt (hitting fifth) and Brandon Crawford (eighth). In a run-of-the-mill game, both may have been benched against the southpaw, but Kapler acknowledges the extra meaning applied to the season opener. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the ninth time the trio of Posey, Belt and Crawford are starting together on Opening Day. The only other trio of Giants players to do the same, since 1900, is Willie Mays, Juan Marichal and Willie McCovey.
Kapler made sure to credit the club’s medical staff, which helped Belt (October ankle surgery, COVID, mono in a very rough few months), Posey (some hip tightness in camp) and Evan Longoria (plantar fasciitis) be ready for the April 1 lineup.
Here’s that lineup, behind Kevin Gausman, in full:
1. Austin Slater, LF
2. Mike Yastrzemski, RF
3. Donovan Solano, 2B
4. Evan Longoria, 3B
5. Brandon Belt, 1B
6. Wilmer Flores, DH
7. Buster Posey, C
8. Brandon Crawford, SS
9. Mauricio Dubon, CF
Left out are lefties Alex Dickerson and Tommy La Stella and righty Darin Ruf, who is the biggest victim of the NL losing the DH. He may get a first base start this series against a lefty-heavy Mariners rotation.
“I feel good about the weapons that we have coming off the bench,” Kapler said over Zoom.
Last year the Giants’ offense excelled against lefties, posting the fourth best OPS in baseball (.838). They brought in La Stella to shore up the look against righties, against whom the Giants were 11th last year (.764 OPS).
They may face three lefties in Seattle, and the lineup — and its depth — will be tested early.