Why the San Francisco Giants Will Not Make the Playoffs

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJuly 7, 2009

PHOENIX - JUNE 11:  Starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez #57 of the San Francisco Giants meets with catcher Eli Whiteside #22 and coach Dave Righetti on the mound during the major league baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 11, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Giants 2-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Before I begin, let me plainly state as clearly as possible, I hope I'm dead wrong about this.

My beloved San Francisco Giants are two full games up in the National League Wild Card race and only seven games behind the division and MLB-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, for as much credit as General Manager Brian Sabean should receive for not trading away his prime prospects, there should be just as much ridicule for the increasingly irritating game-to-game decisions.

To be fair, the lineup decisions that have been increasingly befuddling the San Francisco faithful are made by Manager Bruce Bochy.

But in reality, the manager is hired by the GM, and so all of the idiotic moves Bochy makes land squarely on the shoulders of Sabean.

The latest gaff that inspired this article is none other than the decision to have the much maligned Jonathan Sanchez take over Randy Johnson's spot in the pitching rotation.

Now, it is unclear who the fans should be more upset with in this case.

Sabean made the decision to replace Johnson's roster spot with middle infielder Kevin Frandsen, seemingly giving Bochy limited options in filling in Johnson's spot in the rotation.

However, as manager, Bochy is in control of deciding how much playing time each of the 25 players will receive and when they receive it.

So perhaps, the blame is 50/50.

Sabean didn't really give Bochy a legitimate option other than Sanchez to take over the spot in the rotation, but Bochy didn't really get creative in filling in the spot either.

Therefore, unfortunately for Giants fans, Sanchez is back in the rotation. The former fifth-place starter, who was banished to the pen less than two weeks ago, has already found himself slated to start a game on the rubber.

This decision is not only extremely odd due to the fact that the Giants are just 3-10 in Sanchez starts this season, but also because the 26-year-old lefty has pitched tremendously well in three innings of relief since being demoted to the bullpen.

In three innings of work, Sanchez has allowed just a single hit, struck out four and walked none.

It has been well documented that Sanchez has lazy arm action that makes it seem as his fastball sneaks up hitters. Plus his breaking pitches can be flat out unhittable when his location is on.

However, it has also been well documented that despite his awesome repertoire of pitches, Sanchez always seems to fall apart at one point or another when asked to try and throw six or more innings.

With the entire baseball world knowing such tendencies, why not just leave Sanchez in the bullpen, where he has proven to be more effective in his career?

Instead of calling up Frandsen, Sabean should have brought up Triple-A starter Kevin Pucetas.

The casual fan may not know that Pucetas was in line to replace Sanchez ahead of Ryan Sadowski, but Pucetas had just made a start in the minors at the time the Giants needed to call up a starting pitcher.

Thus, Pucetas was passed up for Sadowski, and Giants fans aren't complaining.

Sadowski has yet to allow a run in 13 innings, but the die-hard Giants fan wants to see what Pucetas can bring to the table.

So far this season, the 24-year-old is 8-2 with a 3.22 ERA, a miniscule 1.18 WHIP, 57 strikeouts, and just 27 walks in 103 1/3 innings.

With the Big Unit going down with injury, the most obvious move for the Giants to make was to bring up Pucetas, especially considering San Francisco's claims to be leaning toward letting the young guys play.

However, Sabean has elected to bring up Frandsen instead. Which in essence isn't a bad move because the Giants desperately needed another position player after spending about a week with just four players available on the bench.

Yet, Frandsen is taking the wrong spot on the roster.

Clearly, Frandsen should have been called up to take either Sanchez' or reliever Merkin Valdez's spot. (If the Giants were so keen on Sanchez starting, he may as well work out his kinks in the minors.) 

Granted, the makeup of the Giants' roster was a bit abnormal with 13 pitchers and four bench players, but it is odd to call up a position player when a big-name starter hits the DL.

When you think about it, when was the last time a No. 2 starter hit the DL and was replaced with a position player?

I, for one, cannot remember a single instance in which a starter wasn't replaced with another starter.

And the problem with bringing up Frandsen instead of Pucetas is two-fold. Not only does it show that the Giants are continuing to put too much faith in Sanchez, but they are also putting too much faith in Valdez.

Valdez, a hard throwing 28-year-old reliever, is seldom used and has underperformed this season with a 4.15 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP.

But, like Sanchez, because he has "electric stuff," the Giants' management is reluctant to let him walk even though the team's bullpen is stacked with quality relievers.

Even if Valdez were to be picked up by another team and go on to have a brilliant career, it is not as if the Giants will be left with a hole on their roster.

San Francisco has a rock-solid bullpen without Valdez and seemingly infinite prospects coming up through the system.

Simply put, Valdez is a waste of a roster spot. Not only is he seldom used, but he is NEVER used in crucial situations and has done little in helping this team win.

If the Giants wanted to bring up the typical fifth bench player and send down/release a pitcher, Valdez was the pitcher to move off the roster.

Now, when it comes to Sanchez starting in replace of the Big Unit, the question to ask is why?

Unlike other sports, games in April and May count for just as much as games in August and September. Knowing this, if Sanchez were to lose a start or two or three while taking over for Johnson, the Giants may find themselves just 3-11 or worse in Sanchez starts.

And no matter how well the Giants continue to play the rest of the season, they will still have a chunk of 13 to 17 games where they significantly decreased their chances to win with an absolutely terrible starting pitcher.

With a team that is trying to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2003, a stretch of that many games may just come back to haunt it, as San Francisco can't afford to throw games away.

Even though the men in orange and black are two games up in the Wild Card race, whether the team can hold the lead is very much in question.

With Aramis Ramirez returning to the Cubs after nearly two months on the DL with a shoulder injury, Chicago is prime to make a run with its potent lineup and devastating pitching.

When healthy, Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano have the capability to lead a rotation to the playoffs, and the Cubs' lineup is as good as they come.

The combination of Derek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, and the return of Ramirez will make Chicago a difficult club to hold off in the Wild Card race. Combine them with the Cardinals and Brewers, and there is a three-team race to win the NL Central.

Knowing that there is a three-team race for the division crown, there is a good chance two teams from the Central will make the post-season.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets have been injury plagued all season long, but when healthy, they have one of the most potent lineups in Major League Baseball.

Not only can New York make a second-half run, but the Colorado Rockies are just two games back of the Giants and are always capable of making a late-season push.

Just two years ago, the Rockies won 20-of-21 down the stretch to win the Wild Card on a one-game playoff. They then rode the hot streak all the way to a National League Championship.

With so many teams having the capability to turn their fortunes around, the Giants need to stop messing around and get down to business.

Valdez is a waste of a roster spot, and needs to be moved down (allowing other teams the ability to pick up off waivers) to bring up Pucetas.

Pucetas being called up will allow Sanchez to go back to the pen, which has proved to be the best place for him.

As for the lineup, Aaron Rowand is not a lead-off hitter. The experiment worked for a while as Rowand went on a 17-game hitting streak, but he has cooled off. He is hitting a respectable .270 (10-for-37) in his last 10 games, but he has racked up 15 strikeouts.

You heard that right, 15 strikeouts in his last 37 ABs. Not what you want from your lead-off man.

Also, even though the Giants and their fans are seemingly done with outfielder Fred Lewis, he wasn't put in the best chance to succeed.

One of Lewis' best assets is his speed, so why they quenched that asset by hitting him fifth behind Bengie Molina for a good portion of his starts is quite puzzling.

In fact, even though current regulars Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz aren't nearly as quick-footed as Lewis, neither one of them should be hitting behind Molina.

However, both of them have seen significant time in the fifth spot behind the Giants catcher, which is quite unfathomable because both of them are just as qualified to hit cleanup as Molina.

And the intelligent fan knows that it's more valuable to have the faster runners hit in front of the slowest runner in the league than it is to have them hit behind him.

To be fair, neither Sandoval or Schierholtz received enough playing time last season to show their true talent, so Molina was the best option to hit in the No. 4 spot.

But remember when Molina first took over the cleanup spot, all us Giants fans thought the same thing: "We're never going to make the playoffs with Bengie Molina as our cleanup hitter."

For as much as we all love "Big Money" Bengie Molina, he is not a true cleanup hitter. And now that the Giants have options like Sandoval and Schierholtz, who actually have the ability to be true cleanup hitters, the Giants need to make the lineup change and put them there.

If the Giants want to make the post-season, they need to drop Molina to the fifth spot in the lineup.

Even though Molina is not a true cleanup hitter, he is an RBI guy. Therefore, the fifth spot would be ideal.

The current top of the lineup looks as such: Rowand, Winn, Sandoval, Molina

Most of the time, "Big Money" is only going to have Sandoval on base to knock in, because neither Rowand or Winn are having the greatest season.

But, if both Sandoval and Schierholtz are hitting in front of Molina, the catcher's RBI numbers will start to sky rocket, as Sandoval and Schierholtz have on base percentages of .386 and .336, respectively.

And one last final issue with the Giants lineup is that Juan Uribe should not be starting at second base.

His bat off the bench is quality, but Uribe is no longer an everyday player at this point in his career.

Frandsen has more range defensively and is a natural second baseman who has the ability to hit .300 and record an on-base percentage of .350+.

Like I mentioned in starting this piece, I sincerely hope this article goes on to be proven wrong, and the Giants go on to make the post-season.

However, with other clubs prime to make late-season runs and the Giants continuing to make frustrating roster decisions, it is hard to envision San Francisco holding on to this Wild Card lead.

With Rowand hitting leadoff, Molina hitting cleanup, Uribe starting more than he should, Sanchez taking over for RJ, Pucetas still in the minors, and Valdez taking up a valuable roster spot, the Giants aren't maximizing their talent the way they should be and that will cost them in the end.






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