San Francisco Giants Are Failing at Maximizing Their Talent

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJuly 9, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 13:  Pablo Sandoval #48 of the San Francisco Giants bats against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park on May 13, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

With the 2009 San Francisco Giants essentially shocking all of Major League Baseball by continuing to hold the second best winning percentage in the National League, one would think the orange and black were maximizing their talent.

However, despite being a eight games over .500 and leading the Wild Card race, the San Francisco Giants repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. 

Currently, there are three main issues that continue to raise eyebrows, first of which is the rest that Bengie Molina has been getting of late.

Now, in all fairness, it is difficult to have your catcher (Bengie Molina) as one of your main, middle-of-the-order bats because every now and then he will need a day off.

But since right-handed rookie starter Ryan Sadowski made his big league debut on Sunday June 28th, the Giants have played 11 games.

In truth, Sadowski is 2-1 in three starts during that stretch but in each start, Bengie Molina has been out of the lineup.

Therefore, in three out of the last 11 games, the Giants have been without their "everyday" cleanup hitter.

Clearly Molina shouldn't be the Giants' "everyday" No. 4 hitter, but if not hitting fourth, Molina would be hitting no worse than fifth in the Giants lineup.

In any case, with the All-Star break soon on the horizon, Molina will have plenty of time to rest up before the second half begins.

With the break coming up, is it really wise for one of your middle-of-the-order bats to be out of the lineup three times in an eleven game span?

The entire baseball world knows that the Giants are winning this year with a sub-par offense. Knowing that, can San Francisco really afford to give a quality hitter in Molina  a day off every fifth game?

Despite turning 35 on July 20th, Molina is still a work horse, and if you were to ask him, he would tell you that he never needs a day off.

Last year as a 33-34 year old, Molina appeared in 145 games for the Giants. Now some of those games were obviously off the bench but the overwhelming majority of those appearances came as the everyday catcher.

So far this season, Molina is on pace for 148 appearances but if the current stretch continues, "Big Money's" pace will drop well below that mark.

However, all Giants fans know that Molina does need a day off here and there to keep him fresh. But the fact is the Giants are going to be in a dog fight to make the post-season.

Last year Molina played in 145 games during a season in which nobody raised an eye brow when the Giants catcher had a day off because the team was so incredibly awful.

But this year the Giants are in contention, and it is apparent that this will be Molina's last season in the orange and black.

Therefore when you combine the fact that Molina is in the last year of his contract and that the Giants are in a playoff race, it is arguable that Molina needs to play even more than he did last year.

With San Francisco in the always crap-shoot of a Wild Card race, each and every game matters. Knowing this, the Giants need Molina in the lineup as much as possible because he provides tremendous punch in the middle of the order.

Even if Molina is burned out when the regular season comes to an end, if the Giants are in the playoffs than that is all that matters, right?

As a fan, would you not rather have your team in the playoffs with a burned out catcher, than hitting the golf courses early with a well-rested catcher?

But, not only are the Giants giving Molina too many days off late, they are playing Eli Whiteside in his place.

If you aren't a fan of the Giants you may be thinking, who in the H, E, double hockey sticks is Eli Whiteside?

Well he is one of a string of backup catchers in San Francisco that are career minor leaguers who have no business seeing the playing that they do.

Whiteside is going to turn 30-years-old in October and was called up from the minors this season.

Why a 30-year-old career minor leaguer is taking the spot of Bengie Molina every fifth game in this recent stretch is beyond me.

Especially considering that the cult-hero "Kung-Fu Panda" Pablo Sandoval is a natural catcher playing third base, it is odd why Whiteside is seeing so much playing time.

For awhile, Sandoval was playing first base because an injury to his throwing elbow could not allow him to make the throws from third.

However, "Little Money" has been back at third base for quite some time now and so seems plenty healthy enough to crouch down behind the plate when needing a day off.

That way, a better defensive catcher and bat are still in the lineup. With Pablo catching, either Juan Uribe or Rich Aurilia can play every fifth game.

Nobody is going to say that they would rather have Eli Whiteside's bat in the lineup over Uribe or Aurilia.

Clearly the catcher position can be better used to maximize talent, but that is not the only issue that needs changing.

Aaron Rowand is a prototypical 6th-7th hitter in any team's lineup, but yet Giants manager Bruce Bochy has him hitting leadoff.

Rowand has struck out at-least once in his last twelve games, and in five of the twelve, the center-fielder has struck out twice.

With nine home runs and 37 RBI, Rowand's numbers are those of a middle-to-bottom of the order bat, not leadoff.

It is painfully obvious to the San Francisco faithful that the "experiment" with Rowand at leadoff is no longer working. Not only has he struck out 17 times in 12 games but he only recorded 3 walks in those 12 games.

Leadoff hitters are supposed to work counts and fight off two strike pitches but more as of late, it seems as if the overwhelming majority of Rowand's at-bats are decided in three pitches or less.

So why Bochy continuously pencils in Rowand as leadoff every game is beyond me.

And finally, the third issue where the Giants fail to maximize their talent is with the bullpen.

The Giants have arguably the best bullpen in the Major Leagues, but just as the starting rotation had an Achilles Heel with Jonathan Sanchez, the bullpen has an Achilles Heel with Merkin Valdez.

Valdez's stat line as a reliever is just plain awful. The numbers are almost too hard to even glance at.

In 27 innings pitched, Valdez has let up 25 hits, 15 walks, and 15 earned runs.

Which works out to an even 5.00 era and 1.48 WHIP which aren't even respectable numbers for a starting pitcher, much less a reliever.

Clearly Valdez is the worst pitcher on the team, yet he gets to pitch before Brandon Medders?

Granted the Giants didn't score a single run in the bottom of the ninth, and San Francisco was shut-out by a second-year pitcher, but a 4-0 lead isn't insurmountable.

The Giants had their 2-3-4 hitters coming up in the ninth, and a 4-0 deficit would have meant that fans were still in their seats and the at-bats would have mattered a lot more than they did facing a 7-0 deficit.

Medders was plenty fresh to pitch in that situation having thrown just two innings in the Month of July. And even though Medders' WHIP is nearly exactly the same as Valdez, his ERA is 2.94, now a full two runs lower than Valdez's ERA.

The issue is simple, two pitchers need work equally and Bochy rewards the player with worse numbers?

How does that work? It is not as if Valdez has better numbers against the hitters he was facing because Valdez hasn't been in the league long enough to have faced anybody on the Marlins more than a couple of times.

However, it is clear what Bochy was thinking. Bochy was thinking that Valdez throws 98 mph and has a good slider.

But if you cannot locate your 98 mph fastball and your "good" slider hangs up at the belt, you are going to get smoked by professional hitters.

The more experienced Medders was clearly the better choice to pitch that situation, no ands, ifs, ors, or buts about it.

The Giants are failing at maximizing their talent, and they can ill afford to waste playing time with players that are doing absolute jack to help their team win.


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