After a historic 2010 postseason performance, the entire baseball world is now familiar with just how good the Giants pitching staff is.
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner came through for San Francisco under the bright lights in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Texas. Brian Wilson finished off their gems with brilliant outing after brilliant outing of his own.
But something that has been overshadowed by the club's amazing pitching is that the Giants defense was virtually impenetrable: As a team, their fielding percentage was .988, and they committed just 73 errors all season. The position players behind the man on the mound made plays, and it translated into victories.
This season, though just beginning, is a different story thus far: The Giants have already committed 12 errors in 15 games and seven of the 12 errors have come from the left side of the infield.
Pablo Sandoval lost 40 pounds in the offseason and looks even trimmer than he did in 2009 when he had a breakout season as a rookie. While Pablo has regained his form—and his confidence—at the plate, hitting .340 with four home runs and 10 RBI thus far, his defense remains as concerning as it was last year.
Sandoval has committed four of the team's 12 errors, while his partner on the left side, Miguel Tejada, has committed three, including a key misplay of a throw from catcher Buster Posey on a steal attempt that wound up costing San Francisco a sweep in Arizona over the weekend.
Who would you rather see at shortstop for the Giants?
Meanwhile, Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff have looked extremely uncomfortable in the outfield. Burrell has committed two errors and Huff looked woefully lost in his attempts to chase down fly balls in right field, including the now infamous scene at Dodger Stadium on opening weekend, when he couldn't track down a fly ball hit to the base of the wall.
So what does Bruce Bochy make of all this? Well, Bochy is more than capable, as he proved with the decisions he made down the stretch in 2010, all of which seemed to go exactly as he envisioned. Everything he touched in last year's postseason seemed to turn to gold, and Giants fans hope that will continue on into this new chapter for the club.
Sandoval's Bat Is Too Important
Obviously you can't take Pablo Sandoval's bat out of the lineup, and for him, it may be that the Giants will have to bite the bullet if the Panda continues to play poor defense at third.
Mike Fontenot or Mark DeRosa Should Be the Everyday Shortstop
As for shortstop, Mike Fontenot would clearly be the best defensive choice right now. Miguel Tejada has already made three errors in the young season, and has cost the club in the win column.
While he is certainly an offensive threat, he is only hitting .224 so far, and Fontenot has proven that he can bring value to the lineup as well, hitting a game-winning homer for the Giants when he got a start last week against the Dodgers. Fontenot also filled in admirably when the Giants were in a defensive pinch in the 2010 postseason, when Pablo Sandoval was costing the club at third base.
Another option Bruce Bochy could consider at shortstop is Mark DeRosa. DeRosa has played 139 games at short in his career, and has .974 fielding percentage over that span. Not super, but better than Tejada thus far, and DeRosa would be a good bat to have in the everyday lineup.
Benching Miguel Tejada could also light a fire under him, and competition for a spot in the everyday lineup is always a good thing when it comes to a talented team like the Giants.
Huff Needs To Be At First Base
Aubrey Huff needs to be at first base. Huff is comfortable there, and played very well there despite concerns about his defensive skills in 2010. The reason he was in right field was to accommodate Brandon Belt, the sensational prospect who made the team out of spring training.
Belt should be in the outfield while he gets his bearings in the big leagues. He hasn't been swinging well at the plate lately, and his development, while important, needs to be secondary to the team's overall defensive ability.
What's the best role for Pat Burrell?
Bochy is going to have to put the best defensive unit out there, and if Belt continues to languish offensively, he may need to be sent down to Fresno when Cody Ross returns to play right field. But Huff must be the everyday first baseman. What he brings offensively –leading the team in home runs and RBI last season—makes him indispensable to the lineup, and he needs to play where he's comfortable in the field.
Pat Burrell Should Be A Pinch-Hitter
Pat Burrell has not only struggled defensively, but he's also only hitting .190. He does have four home runs, however, and would be a great threat to come off the bench in a pinch-hitting role.
This move could open up left field for Brandon Belt, if he can handle that position, which would keep the rookie in the lineup everyday when Cody Ross, the Giants everyday right fielder, returns from the disabled list.
Pitching and DEFENSE win games
While offense has always been the question-mark for these San Francisco Giants, they proved in 2010 that pitching and defense wins games, and ultimately, championships. Bruce Bochy would be wise to remember that adage if the Giants are going to successfully defend their World Series title in 2011.