He may not be the big bat that everybody was hoping for—he doesn't have the big-name appeal of a Matt Holliday or a Victor Martinez—but new San Francisco Giants first baseman Ryan Garko is certainly a welcome addition to an offense that needed something.
Garko's numbers so far this season won't blow anybody away—a .283 average, 11 home runs, 39 RBI in 78 games (65 starts)—but they are definitely something that the Giants could use as they attempt to continue their unexpected run towards the National League Wild Card.
He's not a complete masher—his career-high was 21 home runs in 2007—but he has shown in the past the he is more than capable of driving in runs whenever need be. And with the Giants ranking near the bottom of almost every offensive statistical category in the National League, bringing in a proven commodity like Garko is a definite improvement.
The price to get Garko is certainly something to be happy about when you consider what other names the Giants have been linked to might command.
Left-hander Scott Barnes’ numbers at Single A San Jose were damn good—a 12-3 record with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts, adding 99 strikeouts in 98 innings. He was the No. 9 ranked prospect by Baseball America before the season and was certainly making it look like he was worth being selected as an eighth rounder in 2008.
But let’s face it—with Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson, Kevin Pucetas, Henry Sosa, and a few other lesser-known names ahead of him in the pecking order and Zach Wheeler being drafted sixth overall this past June, the Giants were willing to part ways with the 21-year-old Barnes.
So spinning a surplus arm for a proven major league hitter straight up? I think any general manager would make that deal.
For a disappointing Cleveland team last season, Garko finished the year tied for the team lead in runs batted in with Grady Sizemore in 16 less games than the stud center fielder, which is saying something.
The 28-year-old Garko does have something that a lot of Giants hitters don't have—an on-base percentage and a low number of strikeouts. In 273 plate appearances this season, he's only struck out 40 times.
He has also crushed left-handed pitching this year and throughout his career. In 2009, Garko has hit to a clip of .333 with a .960 OPS which is an improvement over an already impressive number .318 career batting average and .906 OPS against lefties.
In comparison, the Giants as a whole have hit just .249 with a .673 OPS against southpaws this year.
That’s a step up in my book.
The Giants still don’t have the big bopper in the lineup that everybody wants and won’t shut up about, but they do have somebody who is going to debut in orange and black on an absolute tear.
In his last 19 games, Garko has hit .343 with three bombs and a .893 OPS. Look at his numbers from even more recent games, and the batting average and OPS get even bigger and more impressive.
Keeping the mojo going would certainly be a good first impression.
Giants GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy say he doesn’t intend to use Garko as the cleanup hitter right out of the shoot, probably fifth or sixth, which is something that is understandable considering he will be seeing National League pitching for the first time in something other than Interleague play.
Remember Pablo Sandoval started the 2009 season batting fifth, got muy caliente, and is now the regular No. 3 hitter and the Giants' leader in basically every category there is.
Things can change in baseball and there’s no reason to think that Garko will be super-glued to the fifth or sixth spot in the order as the season heads into the final stretch.
Bringing Garko along is not just a move for this year. He is arbitration eligible after the season and is now under the Giants’ control until 2012. Sabean’s comments after the trade was announced made it seem like Garko is definitely going to be with the team next year, something that will certain help the nerves a little as he prepares to make his debut.
Travis Ishikawa can look great at times, hitting for power and average, but he can also look miserable as well. He has a classic case that a lot of Giants hitters coming out of the system have dealt with this season—a chronic case of swinging at junk in the dirt.
This trade is not being billed as the move to completely shift the balance of power in the National League but it does make the Giants a better team.
First base wasn’t the biggest priority on the list, but getting Garko definitely adds a little more flexibility for Bochy and adds another solid run producer for a lineup that certainly needs one.
That’s what all of us want, right?
Nod your head and say yes.
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