Bruce Bochy contemplates his next move
The Giants got shut out again Thursday night in Atlanta, yet again wasting another brilliant performance by their ace, Tim Lincecum. Bruce Bochy handed the ball to the two-time Cy Young award winner with hopes that he would go out, give them a quality start, and give his team a chance to split a four game series with the Braves, and improve to 4-3 on their current road trip.
Lincecum did even better.
He went out and battled through seven innings, giving up one mistake, a solo home run to Chipper Jones. Scattering five hits while striking out seven, Lincecum actually lowered his era from 2.58 to 2.53, giving him the third best era in the NL behind Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati and his teammate Ryan Vogelsong.
Bochy got exactly the performance he needed out of Lincecum. Unfortunately, the offense decided to take the game off again and the Giants lost 1-0.
Lincecum, the consummate teammate, took the loss in stride and blamed himself after the game. Bochy, who told reporters after the game the Giants are missing their mojo and they need to get it back, needs to follow Lincecum’s lead and put some of that blame on himself.
It is very clear to everyone who follows the Giants how many key injuries they have had to sustain this year. Many teams would’ve already fallen completely out of the race if they had lost two hitters in the middle of their line-up, but the Giants' pitching has kept them close, which has been an amazing feat considering how bad the offense has been.
The Giants have the third worst team batting average in the entire major leagues, and they have scored the least amount of runs in the National League, by 20 runs! Only the last place Seattle Mariners have scored less in both leagues, and they are 16 games under .500.
The horrific lack of run production could be attributed to the aforementioned injuries and a couple of key players that are really struggling this year, both of which are very plausible.
But here are three reasons why the coaching staff has to step up and take their share of the blame.
As I’ve stated before, the Giants' offense is very similar to the definition of insanity. The same guys head up to the plate, do the same routine, and it’s the same result, time, after time, after time, after time...well, you get it.
If I have to watch Aubrey Huff pull a long fly ball foul, into the right field upper deck, only to weakly bounce out to the right side of the infield on the next pitch, I’m going to go insane.
Why isn’t the coaching staff reminding him about an inside out approach, stay back, use the entire field, at least the middle?
Aaron Rowand continues to have the same at bat regardless of the situation, pitcher, field, or place in the order. Cody Ross is another one who continues to struggle and has forgotten about the entire right side of the field for most of the season. It’s the coaches' job to remind them, work with them during batting practice, and force their hand.
It’s even more dramatic when it comes to situational hitting. The Giants have to be the worst team in the history of baseball when it comes to sacrificing a runner in from third base with less than two outs (I haven’t checked the actual stats to back that claim, just a hunch).
The worst part about it is they don’t change their approach to represent the RBI sitting at third. And that is coaching problem, especially when that one run could end up being their entire offensive production for the ball game.
In Bochy’s defense, there has been some improvement lately. On Wednesday night against the Braves, the Giants' announcers were commenting on how a struggling Mike Fontenot had changed his approach, using the opposite field, staying back on the ball, and it was paying off with a 3 for 5 night.
A day earlier, Jon Miller told the story of Carlos Beltran and Pablo Sandoval hitting together right after Beltran arrived. He said Beltran told Sandoval to use the opposite field, and that he had the power to drive it out to all fields. Miller made the comments after Sandoval hit an RBI double off the opposite field wall.
It’s great to see somebody taking a different approach, but there needs to be more. Baseball is a game of constant adjustments. Giant hitters make very few.
The Giants are an incredibly undisciplined hitting team and it hurts them on a nightly basis.
Thursday night’s 1-0 loss to the Braves was not the first time Lincecum has lost in a 1-0 game this season. On July 20th, Lincecum was outdueled by Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, as Kershaw shut down the Giants with relative ease. No shutout is easy to take, but it’s at least understandable when it’s a pitcher of Kershaw’s caliber.
What isn’t easy to swallow is when the Giants offense is regularly handled by a number five starter with a five-plus ERA, or a rookie who is making the third or fourth start of his career.
It is too often that an opposing pitcher starts off a game out of sync, having trouble finding his rhythm, and the Giants' offense bails him out. Most great hitting teams are very disciplined, patiently working the count, allowing the opposing pitcher to beat himself before they jump all over a mistake.
The Giants seemingly refuse to walk on a regular basis, evidenced by their rank of 26th in the league in base on balls, preferring to go up hacking even though the approach continues to be unsuccessful.
If a pitcher is showing signs of being wild, or if he is a young pitcher who has just walked the previous batter on four pitches, most big league hitters would be taking until they got a strike.
Not Giant hitters. They step right in swinging away, usually bailing the pitcher out, allowing him to settle down and find a rhythm. This cannot be allowed by Bochy and it is something he has to enforce.
A perfect example was earlier in the season when Luke Gregerson of the Padres decided to walk the Giants to victory in the 12th inning. After showing no command of the strike zone with multiple walks, bases loaded and nobody out, Tejada is sent in to pinch hit.
In true Tejadian fashion, he comes in first pitch swinging, popping a ball up in the infield that was up and out of the strike zone. Tejada should’ve known better, and if not, he should’ve been ripped a new one by Bochy, or at least Hensley Muelens.
Gregerson went on to walk in the winning run, and a whole lot more, but those are the Padres. Good teams recover from mistakes, especially when you bail them out.
If a pitcher is on the ropes, be disciplined enough to understand the pressure is on him and make him beat you, don’t bail him out. If Giant hitters continue to be this undisciplined, Bochy needs to put take signs on, bunt more, and make it clear to the hitters what he expects out of them.
Bruce Bochy and Tim Flannery
It’s long been known in baseball that a guy who is getting paid a lot of money is going to play. Even if he is completely struggling, he has to be really bad before he is going to get time on the bench, and even then he will get every opportunity to get back on the field.
There are two parts to that line of thinking. Usually it’s a veteran who has performed before and coaches keep hoping he will snap out of his slump. The second part is owners don’t like having a player they are paying millions of dollars to sitting on the bench.
The Giants have a few guys who fall into this camp, and it’s time for Bochy to come to a realization that the status quo is not working. Between Rowand, Ross, and Huff, the giants have well over 30 million dollars wrapped up in three players who are severely underperforming. And yet he continues to put them in key spots in the lineup that end up really hurting the Giants' ability to score runs.
While it is understandable that Huff continues to be in the four spot with the latest rash of injuries the Giants have sustained, that should change when Keppinger and Beltran are back.
Huff shouldn’t be higher than the six hole, Ross should be in the seven hole, Rowand should be on the bench, and guys like Schierholtz and Belt should be given their shot in the middle of the lineup.