Buster Posey, Juan Uribe, and Pedro Martinez Could Put Creative Giants On Top
Save your sabermetrics and your OPS and OBS and all those other statistics that address a hitter's ability to produce.
The 2010 San Francisco Giants, when healthy, score a few more runs a week than the 2009 Giants did. This bunch, however, is no better than last year's club at scoring a run when they really, really, need one.
The easiest way to score a run is, naturally, to jack a ball over the fence. Pablo Sandoval is a consistent home run threat. Beyond Sandoval, the club is without a true source of power.
The fact that the Giants are without extra-base power leaves us muttering about them being poor situational hitters. And, since rallies come three hits at a time, we pay a lot more attention to their performances with runners in scoring position than do fans of the St. Louis Cardinals. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday make it a little easier to live through their teammates' failures to hit a sacrifice fly.
San Francisco played very well in taking two of three from the Cardinals. The Cardinals are, arguably, the best team in the National League. Pending the series at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Giants could end the upcoming week firmly planted among the best teams in the league.
If the Giants do play well against the Phils, it will be a remarkable testament to a brilliant pitching staff. First, the Giants will have played well in games started by Jonathan Sanchez and their No. 5 starter. (In this space, the No. 5 slot has yet to be given forever and for always to Todd Wellemeyer). The bullpen will have had to pitch longer, but just as well as they have all season.
Isn't it nice to head into a three-game set with the defending NL champions knowing that even the Phillies figure they'll have to play exceptionally well to win on Wednesday afternoon when they face Tim Lincecum? Lincecum is such a wonderful distraction for folks who realize that these Giants don't have many options offensively.
The good news is that Nate Schierholtz is asserting himself at the plate. That means the Giants have one of their few players with speed on base and in right field playing defense.
The bad news is that Schierholtz laying claim to the right field job means there's one less position to choose from when the Giants go looking for ways to add punch to the lineup.
The everyday outfield will, eventually, include Mark DeRosa, healthy Aaron Rowand and Schierholtz. Once in awhile, Schierholtz will sit against a tough left-handed pitcher.
That's where the Giants need to get creative to start scoring runs to keep another week of brilliant starting pitching performances from being put at risk.
The club's not going to trade for a hitter. The Giants aren't interested in signing outfielder Jermaine Dye. The cheapest, most logical move, would be to recall catcher Buster Posey from Fresno.
No. Wait. They need to recall hitter Buster Posey from Fresno, whether he catches or plays elsewhere defensively is irrelevant. When he arrives in San Francisco, he immediately becomes the most versatile, athletic defender on the roster. He can catch, play either corner infield spots and play the outfield. (He did it in college. Mark DeRosa became a starting left field -- this season ... in the big leagues.)
The Giants have pitching enough to win the NL title and that means only fans with pocket protectors care about the payroll in 2013. Save the talk of how keeping Posey down saves the club money.
If Posey gets the call, he could play first base and catch. Hasn't it reached the point where Aubrey Huff's .238 batting average has taken from him any right to lay sole claim to the first base job?
The best hitter most easily available is a kid who can catch (and the Giants have a productive backstop in Molina) and play first base. So, bring Posey north and if he out-hits Huff ... maybe the Giants have to find ways to get Huff at-bats because the kid will get the bulk of swings at first base.
Posey played all nine defensive positions in one college game. He was Florida State's closer. Baseball hasn't always been sold as such a complicated game. Used to be, a position switch meant the equipment man giving a guy a new glove.
Huff would get his ABs when Posey's behind the plate. And, Posey needs to be behind the plate in the big leagues a couple times a week. Huff can play some left field, too, because Mark DeRosa's .235 mark hasn't done much to give him a lock on the job against some righties.
Why is it so hard to get folks to agree that Posey and Sandoval at the corner infield spots is exactly that move to get younger fans have been screaming for?
The Giants are going to get Rowand back soon. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez will return by mid-May and he will produce with the bat. That will free Juan Uribe to play somewhere other than second base.
Some hesitate to bounce a utilityman like Uribe into and out of the shortstop spot. So, any chance that Uribe can play left field? The guy has hit from the minute he put on a Giants uniform. Sure, he can spell Edgar Renteria at shortstop and Sanchez at second base.
Uribe needs to be in the nearly impotent lineup every day.
Where are we?
Everyday players include Sandoval, Molina, Posey, Rowand, Uribe, Schierholtz, Freddy and Sanchez. (Let's not quibble over Rowand, OK?)
DeRosa can either out-hit Schierholtz or return to the role he's been in for the bulk of his big league career. DeRosa, like Huff, has been a supporting player in very productive lineups or a good hitter on a weak team. Perhaps, Posey and Schierholtz join Uribe in relegating DeRosa and Huff to those roles in San Francisco.
Neither of those guys sold themselves as 100-RBI stars, did they?
How many times do the Giants want to enter the bottom of the eighth inning, after Barry Zito pitched as brilliantly as he did on Saturday, hoping to score a run to break a scoreless tie?
Is Matt Cain going to go two months without a victory just because his ERA is 3.80, which is a stratospheric number amongst the Giants starters?
There isn't a single reason to risk wasting another great start by Zito or Lincecum. Sanchez is emerging and, it seems, a Lincecum-Sanchez 1-2 punch could be every bit as likely as a Lincecum-Cain duo dominating for years.
Posey's time is now because those pitchers need him. (And, seriously, third base...the outfield...wherever they need him.)
Schierholtz has played his way into the right field job until he quiets skeptics (like this one) forever or loses the job for good.
Uribe's going to have to be in the lineup every day, even when Sanchez returns. And, that means DeRosa and Huff are going to have to lose plate appearances.
If it all adds up to a run or two more a game, the Giants could inch past the San Diego Padres atop the NL West.
There! Don't think the playoffs are there for the taking? The Padres lead the NL West.
There's no way to account for enough runs every fifth day to help Wellemeyer. There's a plan, though, that might bolster the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez is preparing for what he figures will be a mid-season return. The Phillies aren't interested in signing him right now. So, the veteran who went 5-1 down the stretch for Philadelphia a year ago is just a phone call and an affordable contract away from bumping Wellemeyer.
And, don't try to spit out something about how Martinez will block a "kid" pitcher. He's a Hall of Fame talent. The guy is still big-time box office. His duel with Lincecum last year was epic and gave no hint that Pedro was inching up on his 38th birthday.
Still don't think Martinez would be a great addition? Well, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the market for starting pitching help and, guess where Pedro began his professional career?
That's it. That's all.
It takes more creativity and willingness to change course and give a nod to perhaps ill-advised free agent signings, but it all would add up to the Giants giving the Cardinals and Phillies all they could ask for.
Ted Sillanpaa is a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area sports writer. E-mail Ted at: email@example.com
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