When the San Francisco Giants lost catcher Buster Posey to injury last year, the team knew that there was no one on their team or available to them anywhere who could come close to replacing the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.
So, the Giants turned to journeymen backup catchers Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside and asked them to play good defense, because their hitting was going to be atrocious.
Whiteside had played a good role as backup catcher in 2010 when he didn't have to catch much, especially down the stretch. When a team has a stud catcher like the Giants do in Posey, the backup needs only to be someone that the pitchers like to throw to every once in a great while. Eli Whiteside was that kind of player.
Whiteside's shortcomings became brutally obvious as soon as he had to play on consecutive days. He appeared to get tired and a bit lazy defensively, and his hitting was as bad as advertised. The Giants tried to lessen his load by platooning him with Chris Stewart, who is possibly a worse hitter than Whiteside.
I'll give Stewart and Whiteside credit for doing what they could in a less-than-optimal situation, but what last year proved is that Eli Whiteside has probably played his final game as a Giant.
In my opinion, Stewart is a much more valuable player to the Giants than Eli Whiteside.
Stewart's caught-stealing percentage was 39 percent, which was second in the NL (22-of-34), while Whiteside's was 25 percent (18-of-53). While both players had their offensive inadequacies and defensive shortcomings, Stewart was more consistent than Whiteside. Whiteside's catching deteriorated when he played regularly, and his arm is far inferior to Stewart's
When you are comparing these two players and deciding which one—if either—will remain on the team as the backup catcher, it really comes down to the one aspect of their games where one stands head and shoulders above the other: throwing arm.
I've never seen a catcher with as quick a release as Stewart, yet who can also be so consistently accurate. The Giants will need a backup catcher who might have to play more often than most—especially at first—and one who won't significantly deteriorate due to playing time.
When the Giants sign Carlos Beltran to a two-year, 32-million-dollar deal (my own prediction based on nothing concrete), they'll need to make room on the 40-man roster for him—and the casualty of that need will most likely be Eli Whiteside.