SF Giants: Neither Matt Downs Nor Merkin Valdez Belong With the Big Club

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJuly 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02:  Merkin Valdez #47 of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 2,2008 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles,California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

After getting back on track with a clutch victory in the series opener with the Colorado Rockies, the San Francisco Giants laid a dud in Game Two, losing by the final of 8-2. To be fair, starter Jonathan Sanchez did not have his best stuff, giving up five earned runs in five innings.

However, despite the sub-par start from the young southpaw, the Giants had numerous chances to put some runs on the board and each time those chances ended on an at-bat by second-baseman Matt Downs.

The current "everyday" second-baseman for the Giants went 0-3 and came up short with runners on base during every rally. With one out and runners at first and second in the fifth, Downs grounded out to shortstop leaving it up to the pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to drive in the runs. It is safe to say, Sanchez didn't come through.

Unfortunately, since Downs' out was only the second of the inning, the stat sheet doesn't include those runners as "left on base" but in reality they should be because Sanchez is hitless on the season.

Furthermore, with one on and one out in the seventh, Downs again grounded out to shortstop, this time for an inning-ending double play. In both of these situations, the Giants were still very much in the game down 3-0 and 5-1 but Downs could not come up with the clutch hit.

Going 0-3 with what should be three runners left on base, Downs is the clearly the scapegoat on a team that should have never sent down Kevin Frandsen. The current Fresno Grizzly had gone three for his last six at the plate before the demotion.

Meanwhile, Downs is now batting an atrocious .170/.245/.270. Even for an eighth place hitter, that is just flat out bad.

Why the Giants sent down Frandsen and pulled up Downs has been frustrating Giants fans for the last few days and if Downs continues to struggle at the plate, the Giants would be insane not to pull Frandsen back up once he is eligible to return.

Now not only did Downs' poor performance cost the Giants' multiple chances to put some runs on the board, but Merkin Valdez took the ball in the bottom of the eighth with his team still in the game and walked off the mound at the end of the inning in what was now a blowout.

Perhaps six runs doesn't qualify as a blowout but when two teams are vying for postseason contention and playing against one another, a six-run game is worthy of being defined as a blowout.

Going into the eighth the Giants were down just 5-2, a score which isn't nearly insurmountable even with a mediocre Giants offense. With this series being played at Coors Field, a three-run lead is far from safe.

Yet, Valdez decides once again to give up three earned runs in a single inning which he has now done three times in his last six appearances. For a pitcher who is suppose to blow hitters away with a devastating fastball, it is crystal clear that Valdez has been failing at locating his pitches.

Other than his fastball, Valdez throws a slider but not much else. Giants broadcasters will tell you he throws a changeup but he rarely, if ever, has the confidence to use it. But meanwhile Valdez has a slider that reminds fans more of Armando Benitez than Robb Nen and a fastball that is never to a corner.

In his most recent appearance against the Rockies on Saturday Valdez threw three straight fastballs to an excellent fastball hitter in Brad Hawpe. The first fastball saw Hawpe swing through extremely late and the second fastball broke his swing down as he went fishing for a ball that was nearly in the dirt.

With an 0-2 count, Hawpe was set up for a breaking pitch but Valdez stuck with the fastball and Hawpe drilled a rocket hard single to right field.

Three straight fastballs to a good fastball hitter is not a formula for success. The Giants reliever would go on to allow three earned runs in the inning and the Giants' hopes at a comeback went from plausible to impossible.

The appearance raised Valdez's ERA to 5.18 and his WHIP to 1.52, with his walk total now up to 17 in just 33 innings.

Walking batters, especially as a reliever, should be your ticket to the minor leagues or the waiver wire.

Now whether or not a different second baseman drives in the much needed runs, or a different reliever keeps Saturday's game close is something we will never know but the Giants continue to give bad players playing time.

Who knows, if Giants GM Brian Sabean had perhaps at least asked about Matt Holliday (the Athletics claim the Giants never even contacted them about their former slugger) or if he had acquired Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez to play second base then maybe the Giants wouldn't be getting crushed so often on the road this season.

A few weeks back I wrote a piece on why the Giants wouldn't make the playoffs and the gist of the article was that the Giants were not putting the best players on the field in order to succeed.

Games like Saturday's are why the Giants aren't going to make the playoffs because they don't put their best talent on the field game in and game out.

Heck, even Bobby Howry (who isn't having the greatest year) should have been put out on the mound ahead of Valdez.

In truth, it is indeed pointless to overuse a reliever like Jeremy Affeldt in a game that the Giants are losing, but there has to be some pecking order in terms of pitching. Instead of just getting guys innings (like it would be fine to do on a last place team) there needs to be some type of hierarchy.

Valdez is by far the Giants' worst reliever but time and time again he gets into the game ahead of guys like Howry and Brandon Medders.

At this rate, the Giants only have 23 guys that have been helping the team win and they have two guys who have absolutely stunk up the joint and no longer belong on the Giants' roster.


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