What's Wrong With San Francisco Giants' Fred Lewis?

Matt RichardsContributor IJuly 23, 2009

SEATTLE - MAY 22:  Fred Lewis #14 of the San Francisco Giants runs to first base during the game against the Seattle Mariners on May 22, 2009 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners defeated the Giants 2-1 in twelve innings. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Fred Lewis' first full season with the Giants began on May 10th, 2007 in Colorado. In his third game of the year, he went 5-6, hit for the cycle, and drove in 4 runs in a 15-2 victory, and he was only 26 at the time.

While not a perfect player, he showed promise, good power, and well above-average speed.  In total, Lewis hit .287 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 58 games in 2007. His on base percentage was .374, and he allowed expectations to rise. Also, Lewis struck out 32 times in 157 at-bats which equals a strikeout 20.4% of the time he came to the plate.

In 2008, Lewis maintained a respectable batting average at .282, and he hit 9 HR with 40 RBI. His .351 OBP was a drop from the year before but still not too bad. The problem, however, was his 124 strikeouts in 468 at-bats (26.5% of the time he struck out). 

He walked 10.9% of the time which was a minor dip from 12.1% in 2007. He gained much more playing time in 2008, but no one ever wants to see a lack of discipline, especially a digression in plate discipline.

And now we are well into 2009, and Lewis' struggles have blossomed.  He is hitting only .243 with 4 HR and just 12 RBI in 74 games. One of the most discouraging signs is his strikeout rate has increased greatly to the point that he is now striking out 30.3% of all his at-bats.  He has walked 11% of the time this year which is consistent with his past totals, but his lack of plate discipline must improve. 

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Too often Fred Lewis finds himself in 0-1, 0-2, or 1-2 counts to see the pitcher's best pitch.  He goes out of the strike zone too often and prevents himself from seeing fastballs over the heart of the plate.

He began the season well, hitting .299 in April with a .420 OBP, but he struck out 27 times in only 67 AB's (40.3%). His average dipped to .258 in May, but then he tumbled to a .167 average in June in 42 AB's. That trend has continued into July as he is hitting .150 for the month going into today's finale in Atlanta.  

To show his digression, here are a few of his worst games of 2009, his third full year in the big leagues:

4/15/09 @ LAD -- 0-4 with 4 K's

4/19/09 vs. ARI -- 0-3 with a BB and 3 K's

In addition, he struck out 3 times in one game on 4/25, 4/27, and 4/28.

Some of his worst games came in April, but that was also his best month overall. 

In total, there have been 15 games in 2009 in which Lewis struck out at least twice out of 74 games played. He has even had 6 games in which he has struck out at least three times, the hat trick.

It's time the Giants deal with Lewis. It cannot be said that he still has to work a few things out because he has had time enough already. True his playing time is diminishing rapidly in favor of Schierholtz and Bowker, and maybe he will find his true stroke as a pinch-hitter/part time player, but something must be done. 

Every year hitter's look for something to improve in their game, and discipline is the most important aspect of the major league hitter. As all Giants fans know, Barry Bonds (nevermind the steroids and IBB's) had a great eye at the plate, and that gave him the opportunity to get pitches he could drive into the seats or even the bay.

Even guys like Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa, and Nate Schierholtz have worked on laying off pitches below and above the strike zone, and it has clearly paid off. Sandoval, who is known as a bad-ball hitter, and swings at pitches out of the zone often is only striking out 16.3% of the time this year. 

Iskikawa is at 28.2% this year, high but still manageable compared to Lewis, and Ishikawa has proven he can play defense while Lewis has struggled in the field too.  Schierholtz is at 21.2% while hitting .291. 

Fred Lewis has already run his course in San Francisco, even if it has been only 3 years.  The Giants have a crowded outfield with Schierholtz, Bowker, Winn, and Rowand, and Lewis has become the odd man out.