San Francisco Giants: Even with Carlos Beltran, Offense Still Struggling

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San Francisco Giants: Even with Carlos Beltran, Offense Still Struggling
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Following the Giants3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies and Cliff Lee last night at AT&T Park, several numbers jump out at San Francisco fans. 

The first is two, as in the number of wins out of eight games that the Giants have won since trading for coveted outfielder Carlos Beltran. While most couldn’t expect Beltran to immediately belt home runs with his new team, it’s a tiny surprise to see the Giants struggle so mightily at the dish with his presence in the lineup. 

In the eight games with Beltran, San Francisco is batting .223 with a .576 OPS. However, the most daunting number during Beltran’s short tenure so far is the team’s 24 runs scored in eight games. Amazingly, that includes the eight runs in their victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on August 3—not exactly the infusion that the Giants were hoping for when they went on a July shopping spree for offensive weapons to restock their water pistol arsenal. 

The Giants were one of the busiest summer shoppers, being involved in three separate deals before MLB’s non-waiver trading deadline despite several suggestions that they wouldn't be active at all.

On July 19, San Francisco acquired middle infielder Jeff Keppinger from the Houston Astros for two Double-A pitchers. With an unsavory combination of overdone veterans Miguel Tejada and Mike Fontenot, and green, unripe performances from youngsters Brandon Belt and Emmanuel Burriss, the Giants needed a stable presence in the lineup to fill the absence of second baseman Freddy Sanchez. 

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Unfortunately, filling Sanchez’s No. 2 spot in the order, Keppinger has yet to show signs of life at the plate. In 14 games, he is batting .259, which isn’t entirely horrible considering his team’s overall average; however, he has driven in only one run and has a .315 slugging percentage. Still, attaining Keppinger wasn’t meant to light the offense on fire. 

More, Keppinger handles the bat quite well (for his career he has more walks than strikeouts), and is an ideal situational hitter. Of course with the assumption that the hitters in front of him reach base. With the generally poor season from their leadoff hitters, it’s hard to generate early offense, even with the steadiness of Keppinger. 

Beltran, meanwhile, hasn’t ripped the cover off the ball either, though his sample size of eight games is not enough to truly evaluate his longer term potential to spark this ballclub. The number to highlight for Beltran is four, as in the cleanup spot in the order that he is hitting in. 

True, the Giants lack multiple players with viable pop. But having Beltran hit fourth will hopefully allow Pablo Sandoval to see better pitches. So far he has, as Panda is hitting .400 over the seven games. Though runs have not been aplenty with Beltran in the lineup, it should only improve as time goes by. 

The last acquisition was shortstop Orlando Cabrera right before the deadline. Though not known as an offensive juggernaut, he was brought in from the Cleveland Indians as an upgrade for Tejada. However, at 36, Cabrera is only one year younger than Tejada. 

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Cabrera possesses little power and is not much of an improvement. And batting him in the five-hole shows how desperate the Giants are at filling their lineup with veteran bats. So far, in five games with San Francisco, Cabrera is hitting .211. At this stage in his career, there is little to expect from his bat. What the Giants hope he brings is playoff experience and defensive savvy to help balance the team as they make their playoff push. 

Still, if the past couple of weeks are any indication, there are some glaring numbers that the Giants have to be wary of. 

Three is the number of games that the Giants have lost from their lead over the Diamondbacks in the NL West in the 10 games. As of today, San Francisco has a half-game lead, and with their incredibly shrinking offense, the number looks more like .000005. Arizona has a powerful lineup that can score runs in a hurry, something that is necessary every once in a while when the pitching isn’t quite meeting its usual standards.

Fifty is the number of games left in the Giants’ season. Practically tied with Arizona atop the NL West with 50 games to go, San Francisco needs to do all that they can to ensure they remain in front. In order for that to happen, their offense needs to pick up the pace. 

Already ranked 15th in the National League in scoring, San Francisco should really concentrate on providing their starters with run support early and often. Despite having the second-best ERA in the NL, the Giants could afford to relieve the pressure off of their aces. 

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To do that San Francisco should shake up the lineup a bit. Swapping Beltran and Sandoval would give Beltran more opportunities to drive in runs. With his ability to accumulate extra-base hits, having Beltran in the three-hole will create more scoring opportunities for those behind him as well. Otherwise, he’ll be left stranded in scoring positions as Cabrera and Huff come up empty. 

Cody Ross should be in the fifth spot of the lineup. Though he has not had tremendous success this season, he will come up big when needed, driving in runs in clutch situations. Having him bat behind Sandoval would generate some consistency in the order. 

This would be more evident with the benching of Cabrera. In a coin flip between two aging tinystops, Tejada can generate some life into the club with his energy. He wasn’t exactly smokin' through July, but he did bat .333 with a .902 OPS. Keep the chemistry alive by having Tejada as the near-daily shortstop. 

If the Giants are to hold off the D-Backs to win the NL West, they’ll need to get their offense off the ground. But in order for them to get out of their season-long offensive funk, they’ll need make some adjustments. No team can realistically estimate that three players acquired midseason can gel smoothly and regenerate an abysmal offense. 

Expectations are high in San Francisco, and fans hope for nothing more than their team to play ball by the numbers. Specifically, again, the number two. As in two consecutive World Series championships.

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