San Francisco Giants: Is Travis Ishikawa Here to Stay?

Andy BenschSenior Writer IJuly 10, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 25:  Travis Ishikawa #10 of the San Francisco Giants points to the sky as he crosses home plate after he hit a three run home run in the seventh inning of their game against the Atlanta Braves at AT&T Park on May 25, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After raking a three-run triple in his first at-bat of the season, Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa was seemingly invisible at the plate for nearly six weeks.

But on May 25, Ishikawa had a career game that jump-started not just his season, but perhaps his Major League career.

Ishikawa powered the Giants to a 8-2 victory by going 4-for-4 at the plate, scoring three runs, and launching his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the seventh inning.

Going into the game, the Giants first baseman was hitting just .219, had an OBP of .303, and was slugging an abysmal .271.

However, after his breakout performance, Ishikawa was batting .250, had an OBP of .327, and was slugging .330.

Including his breakout performance against the Braves, Ishikawa's offensive numbers since that game have been quite impressive.

In 87 at-bats, Ishikawa has racked up 29 hits, which equates to a Pablo Sandoval-like average of .333. Along with the tremendous batting average, Ishikawa has hit all seven of his home runs in that span and has picked up 17 RBI.

The turn around offensively has been a huge boost for the Giants this season, who have suffered from the likes of Lance Niekro and Ryan Klesko at first base since the departure of J.T. Snow in 2005.

Ishikawa's seven home runs in just the last 27 games works out to 42 bombs in 162 game season.

Granted, Ishikawa isn't likely to perform at this level for an entire season, but 25-30 homers per season during his prime isn't a far-fetched idea.

At the rate he is going now, a 20-homer season is not out of the question.

Plus, not only has Ishikawa's bat been producing as of late, but his glove has been at work all season.

And speaking of Snow, the way Ishikawa digs out throws in the dirt reminds Giants fans of the former six-time Gold Glove award winner.

Now, the current Giants first baseman has a long way to go before he matches Snow's six gold gloves. But on the season, Ishikawa has made just two errors, giving him a .996 fielding percentage.

Only four other NL first baseman who have played equal or more innings than Ishikawa have a higher fielding percentage. Plus, the fact that Ishikawa's scooping abilities are amongst the top in baseball, the Giants' first baseman is in the running for his first Gold Glove.

The combination of average, power, and superb defense has given Ishikawa the chance to stay at the major league level, despite his extended slump to begin the season.

His recent resurgence may have saved his career, as the Giants were high on minor leaguer Jesus Guzman, and further down the line there is still Grade A prospect Angel Villalona.

But for now, Ishikawa is the first baseman in San Francisco, and his job looks to be as secure as any job on the team.

His success has given the Giants ample time to let the 18-year-old Villalona progress through the minor league system and not feel pressured into bringing him up before he's ready.

Four or five years down the line, when Villalona is ready to take over first base duties for the big club, the Giants will have a decision to make on who they want to keep.

Ishikawa will be the more veteran presence, and as we saw with Snow, rock solid defense can be the deciding factor on whether a team sticks with a player or trades them away.

However, Villalona is the player that everyone seems to project into a 35-40 homer, middle-of-the-order bat.

Either way, for the first time in many years, the future at first base for the Giants looks incredibly bright.

And who knows? If Ishikawa keeps hitting the way he has been, Villalona may end up as great trade bait. Whether it is this year, next year, or a few years down the line, the Giants will part ways with one of these players.

And since both of them look to be successful first basemen for a long time, the Giants will get tremendous value in return for a trade.

But until then, the Giants and their fans should be excited to have a rock solid presence at first base with Ishikawa.