Anyone who has suffered through the downturn in the San Francisco Giants fortunes, then survived a surprise playoff run in 2009, isn't about to start picking at nits after the club's 4-0 start this week.
Well, almost nobody would point out tiny flaws in a team that is on pace to finish 162-0.
During Friday's comeback win over the Atlanta Braves in their home opener, the Giants watched shortstop Edgar Renteria continue his push for the NL MVP award (hey, the guy's 11-for-16 and hit the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth off Billy Wagner on Friday. That's MVP stuff...if he keeps it up for 150 or so more games).
The Giants also saw that, maybe, the lack of patience at the plate will haunt them. While San Francisco pitchers gave up nine bases on balls—the Giants drew just one walk before winning in the bottom of the 13th, 5-4.
Some acknowledged weaknesses that resulted from the club's effort to punch up the attack showed the inadequacies of the bench players.
Travis Ishikawa replaced Aubrey Huff at first base late in the game.
With the game on the line and one run of great importance, manager Bruce Bochy had backup catcher Eli Whiteside pinch-run for Bengie Molina. Whiteside's not fast, but Molina's dreadfully slow.
Pablo Sandoval looped a double to start the 12th. After Andres Torres pinch-hit for the pitcher, who was batting in Huff's spot. He dropped down a sac bunt and advance Sandoval to third base. The glaring weakness that the bench presents became clear.
The hitters due up with a simple fly ball, at least, needed to plate the game-winner were Ishikawa and Whiteside. They are arguably the last two players the club wants at bat in that situation.
The Braves, conversely, were thrilled.
A weak ground out and a strikeout ended the inning.
That particular situation brings to question the importance of one game in April. If all games are equal and a game in April means as much as one in September, the question begs to asked, doesn't it?
Who would fans prefer at bat with the game-winner on third? Whiteside? Ishikawa? Buster Posey?
Yeah, I know about Posey's arbitration clock and the need for him to catch everyday in the minor leagues. But, on Friday, Posey's presence with the big club would've given Bochy a chance to keep Whiteside or Ishikawa on the bench with Posey at first base or behind the plate. And, his big league-ready bat in the middle of the order.
And, clearly, Renteria and so many others are playing so impressively that a call for Posey could seem foolish, but...if the Giants had lost on Friday and then, say, lost a playoff spot by one game...how important Posey's arbitration clock seemed at the moment the club was eliminated from contention in September?
It's not a fan's job to worry about the organization maximizing Posey's dollar value. Fans buy tickets and dream of the World Series.
The club's a little heavy on lefty-swinging bench guys. If Nate Schierholtz isn't going to play right field, and can't get some platoon time in center with Aaron Rowand, what purpose is he serving? Jermaine Dye's 37 and still unsigned and he'd provide a legitimate lefty-righty platoon in right field with John Bowker.
Torres is valuable off the bench. It's unfortunate that the game has changed to the point that Bochy had to waste him to get a sacrifice bunt down. It would've been nice if he could've pinch-run for Sandoval at second in the 12th.
There was a time when big league clubs relied on pitchers to get their own bunts down. At the very least, it would've been nice if Bochy could've counted on one of the starting pitchers to lay down that bunt and then bring Torres up to hit for Ishikawa or Whiteside.
A team with a limited bench absolutely needs pitchers who can bunt for themselves.
The Giants are 4-0, so who's flipping over Sergio Romo's inability to bunt?
The bullpen's been outstanding, save Dan Runzler's trouble finding the strike zone. (Anyone not willing to be patient with that lefty is crazy, though!) It's absurd to consider putting the knock on Romo for not being able to bunt as well as (name a reliever from 1966). Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain? All three of them should be able to lay one down and advance a runner.
A 4-0 record could become 4-4 or 4-6 in a hurry. The bench, the bunts or how Torres is used don't matter at 4-0. They could make a great deal of difference at 4-6—and so could Buster Posey.