Freddy Sanchez has been missed.
It’s sometimes said of a player, “You have to see him every day to appreciate him.” I think this is generally true of well-rounded players such as Sanchez. He’s not the best hitting second baseman. He’s not the best fielding second baseman. But watching him for nine innings at a time is watching a player who takes the field and rarely costs his team anything other than his salary and the occasional misguided sacrifice bunt. Another way to appreciate Freddy Sanchez is to do the opposite, to watch his team while he does not play for an entire month. Sanchez affords many opportunities for this type of appreciation with his many trips to the DL. While one of inadequate replacements is floundering around on the field, it is impossible to not wistfully remember what it was like to watch Freddy Sanchez and his amazing above-averageness.
[Manny Burriss fails to catch ball hit slightly to his left]
“Sanchez would have had that.”
[Manny Burriss hits ball, ball fails to go anywhere]
“Sanchez might have gotten a hit there.”
[Bill Hall fails to turn double play in comical fashion]
“Sanchez would have at least conveyed the impression that he’s played second base for a professional ball club.”
But all that is over now. Second base has essentially been childproofed by the return of Mike Fontenot and the acquisition of Jeff Keppinger. These are Freddy Sanchez replacements that can make you sort of sad that Sanchez is injured instead of pretty angry that Sanchez is injured. Fontenot takes too much crap from fans (including myself) for not being an exciting option. He’s not a great hitter, nor even a particularly good one. But he is an average hitter, and a decent fielding middle infielder. He’s an average player, which makes him a great bench player and a good insurance policy. Keppinger has less power an more batting average than Fontenot, and yet still has roughly the same value. Both are within spitting distance of being league average hitters, and can play second without invoking fond memories of Ray Durham.
That makes them a goddamn godsend after a month of miserable play at 2B. Fontenot was already hurt when Sanchez went down, and so was not able to prevent the Burris/Hall spiral into awfulness.
This is what Manny Burris did with his month of starting playing time. He hit .169/.263/.183. I can’t get over that. 1 – 8 -3. That would be bad for a batting average, but it’s a seriously incomprehensible slugging percentage. That sort of thing was what was causing calls for Bill Hall to get more playing time, as though that were a normal thing to want. Hall sucked in his sporadic at bats against lefties, too. The Giants got an entire month of a platoon that produced a wOBA of .231. In essence, there’s as much difference between that and Keppinger/Fontenot as there is between Keppinger/Fontenot and a borderline hall of famer.
The Giants have a slightly better offense than they did a few weeks ago without having lost any defense. Sometimes in the right place, an average player (or two) can be one of the most valuable guys on the roster.