San Francisco Giants: Young Players Aren't Getting a Second Chance
When any self-proclaimed "die hard" Giants fans talk about their team for more than five minutes, the dismal managing duo of Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean almost always comes up in the conversation.
And what is the biggest issue that makes this tandem of field manager and general manager so maligned by the fan base?
The biggest issue that irks the die-hards is San Francisco's inconsistency in giving young players a chance to pull out of an inevitable slump (for almost every young player not named Pablo Sandoval or Evan Longoria, slumps are bound to occur).
Most established big league players struggled early on in their careers, but in order to have gotten to where they are today, there was one team that let them work through these struggles.
Aaron Rowand for example struggled in his first full season after impressing in 61 games as a rookie in 2001. Rowand hit .293/.385/.431/.816 during his first stint in the big leagues, but he hit just .258/.298/.394/.692 in his first full season with the Chicago White Sox.
In Rowand's third season, he was limited to just 157 at-bats in 93 games but improved his offensive line to .287/.327/.453/.780.
By bouncing back in this fashion, Rowand was given an everyday role in 2004 where he really took off with an offensive line of .310/.361/.544/.905 in 487 at-bats over 140 games.
Giants fans can say what they want about Rowand being nothing but a fraction of his former self as a member of the orange & black, but at one point in time, the Oregon native was an impressive all-around player.
But the reason he was able to sign a five-year $60 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2008 season was because the White Sox gave him a chance to prove himself.
They didn't give up on him.
Unfortunately, it seems as if the Giants have made giving up on a struggling young player the team motto.
Unless you're a mega-prospect, either shine right away and never falter or get out.
Whether it is former Giants Rajai Davis and Jeremy Accardo or current Giants Kevin Frandsen and Travis Ishikawa, young players with obvious potential never seem to be given a second look in San Francisco once they hit a funk.
Between the veteran free-agent signings and Sabean and Bochy's preference for older players, numerous younger players haven't been given time to work through slumps in San Francisco.
Now, were Davis and Accardo sure things to go on and have success after their stint with the Giants? No. But everyone who followed them could see the potential they brought to the table.
In 2005, Accardo came up from the minors and pitched extremely well for the Giants in 29 2/3 innings as he recorded a 3.94 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and a .232 BAA.
The following year saw Accardo's ERA jump to 4.91 but his WHIP remained relatively similar at 1.21. Because of this drop-off, the Giants felt Accardo was expendable and traded him midseason to Toronto for Shea Hillenbrand and Vinny Chulk—neither of which are still with San Francisco.
Accardo finished the year with even worse numbers after being traded, but the following season he became the Toronto closer and absolutely dominated. In 64 appearances in 2007, Accardo converted 30 out of 35 save opportunities with a 2.14 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a .206 BAA.
Over the last two seasons, injuries have caused Accardo to make only 42 appearances, but the Blue Jays haven't given up on him. Toronto knows the talent Accardo brings to their bullpen when healthy and because of it, they're willing to keep him around.
Like Accardo, current Oakland A's outfielder Rajai Davis impressed with the Giants immediately. After being traded from Pittsburgh in the middle of 2007, Davis shined in the second half with San Francisco.
Both offensively and defensively, Davis was a gem. In 142 at-bats in 51 games, Davis posted the following offensive line:
.282/.363/.380/.743, with 17 steals in 21 chances.
Defensively, Davis made highlight-reel grab after highlight-reel grab with his blazing speed in center field. For his career, Davis has a 16.6 UZR rating and an 11.3 UZR/150.
Throughout his career, Davis has shown to be one of the better top-of-the-order type outfielders in the game when given everyday playing time.
But after only 18 at-bats over 12 games to start the 2008 season, the Giants released the speedy outfielder.
Of those 12 games, Davis was in the starting lineup just three times and while he only had one hit in that span, he was still 4-for-4 in stolen bases.
Worst case scenario, Davis was a good option as a fourth/fifth outfielder, but the Giants flat out cut him.
And nearly immediately after the Giants released him, he signed with the A's. While Davis finished 2008 with poor offensive statistics, Oakland kept him around in 2009.
That move paid off for Oakland as Davis dominated as a speed threat in the two hole for the A's. Davis finished 2009 with an offensive line of .305/.360/.423/.784 with 41 stolen bases.
Heading into 2010, he will be Oakland's starting left fielder, a speed threat at the top of the order with excellent defense. Hmmm, sounds just like something the Giants could use right about now.
As for current Giants Kevin Frandsen and Travis Ishikawa, it seems as if the Giants aren't willing to give either of them another shot at everyday playing time.
Despite the fact that Frandsen hit over .350 in his last month-and-a-half of everyday playing time at the major league level back in 2007, the Giants seem steadfast on not giving him a second look.
The San Jose native was hurt for the entire 2008 season, getting in just a single at-bat late in the season. In 2009, Frandsen was given just 50 at-bats in 23 games, and given no more than four starts in a row to prove himself.
Did he struggle? Of course he did, as hitting .140 for the year is a terrible mark, but he was never given a chance to break out of his slump before being relegated back to the bench or Triple-A.
Frandsen's style is exactly the same of a Freddy Sanchez, and yet the Giants won't give him another chance? A contact hitter with solid defense at second base is what both of these players bring to the table. Yet even though Sanchez can't stay off the DL, Frandsen still hasn't gotten another shot.
Furthermore, first baseman Travis Ishikawa has seen his job taken over by Aubrey Huff, who the Giants signed as a free agent this offseason.
Could Ishikawa have put together a stronger 2009 season? Yes, he most certainly didn't play up to expectations. But was he really that bad? Ishikawa was absolutely phenomenal defensively and showed some promise at the plate.
An offensive line of .261/.329/.387/.715 leaves much to be desired from a first baseman who is supposed to bring power to the table.
But 2009 was a tale of two sides for Ishikawa.
At AT&T Park, Ishikawa raked last season to the tune of .349/.400/.535/.935.
On the road, Ishikawa was awful, hitting .162/.250/.221/.471
Home/road splits of such a contrast are quite rare, and a team can look at it two different ways.
But considering the total package Ishikawa brings to the table, why not see what he can do in his second full season?
Understandably, the Giants wanted to upgrade power-wise at first base over the offseason. But after Adam LaRoche spurned them, it makes no sense to sign an over-the -hill veteran who has been inconsistent his entire career.
Additionally, it's not as if Huff will be the long-term answer because of his age and lack of defensive ability. Considering the Giants don't exactly have a first-base prospect waiting in the wings like they do a catcher, why not give Ishikawa another shot?
Look, nobody can know for sure if young players are ever going to pan out, but most of the top rated prospects in baseball history didn't pan out.
It is essentially a crap-shoot about which minor league players will go onto have successful MLB careers.
But if a team never allows young players to work through their struggles, they could be losing potential stars in the making.
Considering there aren't any guarantees when it comes to prospects, the more chances a team gives their young players, the better likelihood that some of them will become successful major leaguers.
Until the Giants organization realizes this and starts giving their younger players second chances, over-the-hill veterans will continue to make their living in San Francisco.
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