San Francisco Giants: Competing For Playoffs Without a Competent Manager
After going through computer issues while taking in my first month of college life, there wasn't much time for yours truly to bash the man in charge of the "Orange & Black". However, with my computer back and having down time on a Friday afternoon, there are two succinct advantages. First, I no longer have to borrow my roomate's laptop, and second, I now have time to dissect the absurd decisions that Giants manager Bruce Bochy makes on a daily basis.
Before leaving the comforts of the San Jose area, I started a list of what was called the "Dumb calls by Bochy log" but unfortunately I forgot to bring it with me to San Francisco. Luckily, Bochy continues to make poor managerial decisions game in and game out so my evidence against the Giants skipper continues to grow.
Over the last few weeks, the biggest issue the Giants fan base has with their manager is how he fails to start right fielder Nate Schierholtz on a daily basis. Even if the 25-year-old right fielder couldn't hit worth a lick, his defensive prowess by itself is enough to deserve an everyday spot in the lineup.
Schierholtz, who has only played in 539 1/3 innings, is currently tied for seventh in the National League with 10 outfield assists. Compare that to the slumping Randy Winn who has just four assists this season despite playing in almost exactly twice as many innings (1079).
Granted Winn has yet to make an error this season and Schierholtz has made two, any baseball fan would be laughed at if they argued Winn as the better defensive outfielder.
However, with the category of defense clearly in the favor of Schierholtz, then the intuitive assumption to why Winn continues to get more playing time is that his offensive production must be incredibly higher than Schierholtz.
But as the statistics show, Winn doesn't even produce better offense numbers. In fact, Schierholtz has a significant advantage when it comes to offensive production.
Schierholtz: .273/.306/.412/.718, 260 AB, 32 R 71H, 17 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 28 RBI
Winn: .264/.315/.362/.677, 489 AB, 58 R, 129 H, 32 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR, 48 RBI
As the numbers prove, Schierholtz provides significantly more thump in the lineup then does Randy Winn. At 25, "Nate the Great" does not ever need a day off and his production on both sides of the ball clearly show that he should be the everyday right fielder for the San Francisco Giants.
In 229 fewer at-bats, Schierholtz has three more home runs and when you put his averages into the same amount of at-bats as Randy Winn, you clearly see how Schierholtz produces more runs.
According to the numbers, Schierholtz would have 60 R, 133 H, 32 2B, 3-4 3B, 9-10 HR and 52 RBI.
And last but not least, you can add in Schierholtz's average against left-handed pitching as a solely left-handed batter. The Giants' young stud is hitting a blistering .400 against left-handed pitching this year. Compare that average to the average of the switch-hitting Randy Winn who is hitting an absolutely putrid .158 against left-handed pitching.
Clearly, Schierholtz is the best option in right field. Why Bochy only plays him sporadically is a question the majority of fans would love to ask if given the chance.
But not playing Schierholtz isn't the only issue that drives fans up the wall in regards to Bochy's poor managerial decisions.
When it comes to the lineup, the Giants have got to lead the league in the total amount of different lineups used. Granted the Giants have been decimated by injuries. Mid-season trades have also forced lineup alterations, but unlike most good teams, the Giants lineup is as big of a mystery prior to a ball game as what play call Patriots coach Bill Belichick just called Tom Brady to run prior to the play.
The issue that really drives this point home is the recent road series in Philadelphia. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel went with the exact same lineup in all three games of the series despite the fact his offense scored just three runs in the three game series. However the Giants lineup was completely different in all three games.
For an example, how bout just running through a few different Giants players and see where they played in each game of the series.
Randy Winn: Game1: sixth in lineup, Game 2: Bench, Game 3: fifth in lineup
Aaron Rowand: Game 1: third in lineup, Game 2: sixth in lineup, Game 3: eighth in lineup
Nate Schierholtz: Game 1: bench, Game 2: seventh in lineup, Game 3: bench
With the exception of Bengie Molina who always hits cleanup when he is in the starting lineup (even though the whole world knows he does not belong in that spot), Pablo Sandoval who always hits third, and a healthy Freddy Sanchez who always hits second, the Giants lineup is like a revolving door.
There is zero consistency in the lineup, and therefore hard core fans who watch pre-game live before Giants games are always curious to see the lineup because they know its not going to be the same as in the previous game.
With the lack of consistency, players like Schierholtz, like Uribe, and Ishikawa to name a few have been hard pressed to find a groove because it is never clear when and if they will get playing time.
But not only is the lack of consistency hurting the Giants, but the part of the lineup that is consistent—Panda in the three hole, Molina at cleanup—is also hurting the Giants. Therefore the lineup problems are twofold with Bochy's inability to put out an ideal group of eight ball players. Bochy doesn't consistently put his best players in the lineup and the part of the lineup he consistently leaves alone is the part of the lineup that needs some tweaking.
Now in order to see these issues more clearly, we need to take a look at a typical Bruce Bochy lineup. With a healthy Giants club, the "typical lineup" for Bochy (the use of quotation marks is due to the fact that it is almost a paradox to use the words "typical lineup" and "Bochy" in the same sentence) is as follows:
However, there are multiple things wrong with this lineup. First of all, Winn should be nowhere near the starting lineup on a daily basis, his season has been awful. Secondly, if Renteria continues to ground out to second shortstop while trying to move a runner over to third, he is no longer deserving of a starting spot. Third, Molina is not a cleanup hitter, and the Giants best deep threat is Sandoval, which is why Pablo should hit cleanup.
Based purely on the styles of the hitters (for placement in lineup) and their production this season (why they should be starting in the first place), the best Giants players who deserve to be on the field are as follows:
1. Velez LF
2. Sanchez 2B
3. Schierholtz RF
4. Sandoval 3B
5. Uribe SS
6. Molina C
7. Garko 1B
8. Rowand CF
There really is no arguing the fact that over the entirety of the 2009 season, these players are the top eight position players on the Giants roster in terms of OPS (on base, plus slugging percentage) at their respective positions.
Yet, despite this info, I can guarantee you that Bruce Bochy has never used this combination of players as his starting eight.
However, as bad as it is that Bochy is this awful at putting together a lineup, his poor decisions go farther than just lineup miscues.
Just as a few examples, here are some poor in-game decisions Bochy has made this season.
1) Letting Randy Johnson swing away in a clear cut bunting situation
2) Putting on the hit and run with one out, Garko hitting with a 3-1 count, and Sandoval on first. The pitch was clearly a ball that Garko (who has a great eye at the plate) would not have a swung at if the hit and run wasn't on. However, Garko swung at ball four, Sandoval was thrown out easily (in fact it turned into a run-down if I'm not mistaken) and Garko proceeded to pop up the next pitch to end the inning. If Bochy had just let his players play, the Giants would have had first and second with one out, instead of heading back out to play defense two pitches later.
3) Sending out closer Brian Wilson in multiple tied games and multiple five-out save opportunities. Bochy needs to get one thing straight, Wilson is a good closer, but he is no Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. He may have 34 saves, but he's not 34/36 or 34/37—he is 34/40 which is not exactly elite status. Therefore Bochy relying so heavily on him makes Giants fans squirm on their sofas.
4) Using Merkin Valdez in any situation. Valdez is just flat out bad. The Giants reliever is like Brian Wilson with zero control. Both pitchers have just two pitches, fastball and slider. Only difference is that more often than not, Wilson can put his pitches where he wants too. However, Valdez has no such control, and often is out there with just a fastball. It doesn't matter how hard he throws, because as Mike Krukow always says "big league hitters can hit a fastball, they wouldn't be here if they couldn't".
5) Taking Schierholtz out of the game in the late innings. Typically managers do this as a double switch and or as a defensive replacement. However, taking Schierholtz out late in the game does absolutely nothing but hurt the Giants' chances to win.
6) Taking Zito out one batter too early in the two starts where had a chance for his first complete game as a Giant. First instance came against Florida, when a one out bloop hit in the top of the ninth forced Zito out of the game. However, even if the next batter (Dan Uggla) were to take Zito deep, the Giants would still have been up 3-2, and with the confidence Bochy has in Brian Wilson, the game should essentially still be over. Yet, showing no faith in his left-hander, Bochy took him out of the game.
Instance number two: In late August, Zito threw an absolute gem against the Rockies and had a 5-0 lead going into the ninth inning. Just like the previous chance to get his first CG as a Giant, Zito retired the leadoff hitter. But this time the next batter (Brad Hawpe) took Zito to the opposite field for a home run.
The solo shot meant that the Giants were still up 5-1 and only in need of two more outs. Clearly Zito should have at-least gotten one more batter to face. Considering the fact that Hawpe beat a good pitch ("it was not a hanger" as Krukow would say) and with the Giants still up by four, why Bochy had to go to the bullpen so quickly was quite surprising.
7) After a leadoff double by Velez in the late innings against Philadelphia, Bruce Bochy did not give a bunt sign for the next hitter. Instead of having Renteria bunt Velez to third, the Giants let Renteria swing away. The Giants shortstop grounded out to his counterpart and failed to move Velez to third. Pablo Sandoval then proceeded to ground out to second and Bengie Molina flew out to center to end the inning.
If the Giants had bunted like they should have (especially considering their offense was sputtering big time and the fact they were down just one run) the inning would have been set up completely different. The Phillies would have had to decide whether or not bring the infield in and therefore Pablo's grounder may have scored Velez instead of getting him over to third but then with two outs.
In reality, I could keep going and give many more examples of how the Giants manager makes head scratching move after head scratching move. These few examples are just scratching the surface.
Just look at one of the recent lineups, and you see Randy Winn hitting fifth? He has a whopping two home runs on the season and he is batting fifth? Excuse me but the fifth position is a power position in the lineup, not somebody who hasn't hit a home run since the opening month of the season.
The examples against Bochy are endless and the fact that the majority of credentialed media and a select group of fans continue to say that Bochy "must be doing something right because nobody predicted the Giants to be in contention" makes me sick to my stomach.
San Francisco is having a much better year this season because their team was upgraded with talent. If anyone should get some credit it is the much maligned GM Brian Sabean.
Sabean brought in Jeremy Affeldt, Juan Uribe, Freddy Sanchez, Brad Penny, Ryan Garko, Justin Miller, Bob Howry, Brandon Medders and last but not least, Randy F***ing Johnson.
When you add to that group a few players from last season who are getting full playing time for the first full season like Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo, and it is clear that the 2009 Giants team is much more talented than the 2008 version.
This year the Giants have been winning games because of their pure talent and it has little to nothing to do with what Bruce Bochy has been doing as a manager. Perhaps Bochy may be a positive influence in the clubhouse, but his on-field decisions have done more to hurt his team's chances than they have helped his team's chances at winning.
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