The traditional second half of the season is about to begin, and if the San Francisco Giants wish to continue the momentum of the last several games, they need to learn a few lessons.
The good news is they can learn from themselves.
Four Simple Lessons
Learn plate discipline from Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell.
Huff may well be the team’s MVP whereas Burrell has been just a “nice acquisition,” but what they have in common is a great approach at the plate.
Even Burrell, who has been slumping as of late and is prone to strike out, averages more than four pitches per plate appearance, compared to Pablo Sandoval’s 3.44. Plus, Burrell walks 12 percent of the time, compared to Sandoval’s eight percent. I wish I had access to the number of times Sandoval has hit into first-pitch double plays. I only know that he leads the league in GIDP with 19. Teams will now walk a player to get to Sandoval.
Learn patience on the mound from Matt Cain.
Not just this year but every year Cain has also been Mr. Hard Luck.
After watching his teammates embarrass the Brewers in Milwaukee last week, outscoring them 36-7, Cain had to face Stephen Strasburg in the first game of the Nationals’ series. Suddenly the offense was good for one run.
Despite the lack of run support, Cain maintains his composure on the mound, never revealing disappointment in facial expression or body language. Jonathan Sanchez could learn from that and become a much better pitcher in the process.
Learn humility from Travis Ishikawa and Aaron Rowand.
With Rowand it’s hard to ignore his contract, but no one can ignore the quality person he is. He’s always rooting on the team in the dugout and ready to play quality defense when asked. True, he is no longer the Gold Glover, and at the plate he often looks lost, but other players would take a demotion to the bench with obvious anger and resentment. He doesn’t.
As for Ishikawa, he has accepted every role. And all he has done has become one of the best pinch hitters in the league this year. Now he is close to being the starting first baseman. Batting .354 with 15 RBI in just 65 AB, he should be.
Learn resiliency and control from Sergio Romo.
Romo, thanks to a wicked slider, started the year as the primary right-handed setup man. His status dropped dramatically after a few of those sliders found too much of the plate and ended up in the bleachers. He quickly became a whipping boy on radio talk shows.
But to his credit, he did not lose confidence or control. As a result, he is moving back up the depth chart. Unlike other relievers who can’t seem to throw a strike, Romo knows the value of strike one. ( Just don’t make it too good for Manny Ramirez! )
Put these lessons together and a pattern emerges. The Giants need to be a more patient and disciplined team where players know their roles and understand that roles can change.
Bengie Molina won two Willie Mac Awards, but that didn’t keep him from being traded.
Aaron Rowand is being paid more than any offensive player, but that isn’t keeping him in the lineup.
Barry Zito is having a great comeback year, but that didn’t mean Bruce Bochy would keep him in the game when he was just one out shy of what should have been an easy win.
Changing roles lead to new opportunities. Buster Posey started going crazy at the plate only after Molina was traded. Andres Torres developed into a steady leadoff man once Rowand was banished to the bench. As for Zito—well, he’ll still be a starter, but I’ll bet he’ll throw more strikes next time out.
To make a legitimate playoff run, the Giants probably need another bat. Then again, if the players on the team who are underperforming would learn from those who are doing well, the offensive boost could come from within.
After all, who really saw what Torres and Ishikawa were going to do?