San Francisco Has a Giant Problem With Its Glut in the Outfield

Kevin O'BrienCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 21:  Randy Winn #2 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with Aaron Rowand #33 after scoring in the third inning against the Texas Rangers during a Major League Baseball game on June 21, 2009 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With Nate Schierholtz back in the lineup healthy, Giants manager Bruce Bochy is put in an intriguing situation when it comes to his outfield.

Who will be the odd man out?

Already, one guy has been eliminated from consideration.

John Bowker, who has been lighting it up at Triple-A Fresno this year, doesn't seem to have a place on this Giants roster this season.

Until the July acquisition of Ryan Garko from Cleveland, Bowker's best shot at playing for the Giants would have been at first base.

Now with Travis Ishikawa and Garko platooning the first base position, a crowded outfield, and Bowker not putting up eye-popping stats at the Major League level this year, he seems to be destined to spend the rest of the season at Triple-A.

Other than Bowker, things get tricky.

When Andres Torres gets back to the lineup after healing from a hamstring injury, the Giants will be suited with six outfielders who can certainly merit consideration for regular playing time.

Torres, Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn, Schierholtz, Eugenio Velez and Fred Lewis are all players who can play regularly in the Giants outfield.

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So far, two guys have earned starting outfield positions for the rest of the season:

Velez and Schierholtz.

Velez deserves regular playing time simply because he is the best option for the Giants at leadoff currently. While he does not have a lot of stolen bases, Velez's combination of ability to make contact and speed on the basepaths make him a player that the Giants simply can't afford to bench.

As for Schierholtz, he has the best arm in the Giants outfield by leaps and bounds. After spending time on the DL, Giants fans were reminded how much they missed his cannon arm with constant ducks by Winn who replaced Schierholtz in right field.

Schierholtz makes baserunners and basecoaches think twice about sending a guy home when the ball is hit to right field. Even in this series against the Mets, speedster Luis Castillo has nearly been caught twice by Schierholtz throws.

I guarantee you with Winn or even Velez patrolling the right field position, those throws would not have been close as they were.

In addition to his gun, Schierholtz is a left-handed bat that the Giants need on a consistent basis.

With a .294 batting average, .323 OBP and four home runs and 20 RBI, he is the kind of player that has the kind of pop that the Giants need for the stretch run in August and September.

So, with Velez and Schierholtz mainstays in left and right field, who patrols the centerfield position?

Basically, it will come down to two veterans that have underachieved this season:

Rowand and Winn.

Lewis is eliminated simply because he is a defensive liability, but that isn't to say he should be buried on the bench Kevin Frandsen-style.

His approach at the plate has been refreshing as evidenced by his batting average rising 23 points since July 23. Furthermore, he currently has a .471 batting average, .571 OBP and a 1.218 OPS in August.

Unlike some critics, Lewis getting starts every now and then shouldn't be out of the question. His high OBP in comparison to other Giants outfielders, and sudden resurgence in the batters box is valuable to this Giants team.

That being said, he simply can't make plays defensively in the outfield. He bobbles too many off the wall, has iron hands and takes bad angles.

It is an adventure for him out there, and because of that, he just can't be trusted to be the regular outfielder he once was.

So with Lewis out, and Torres also suited more to being a spark off the bench ala Dave Roberts circa 2004, should the Giants go with Rowand or Winn?

Whoever Bochy decides upon, it isn't going to be pretty.

Despite signing with the Giants prior to the 2008 season with the expectations of being one of the centerpieces of the Giants offense, Rowand has been a bit of a letdown, especially this season.

Rowand has struggled mightily at the plate, and while his .266 average, .321 OBP and nine homers and 45 RBI might suggest otherwise, you have to see what he's done lately to see how badly Rowand is playing.

In the month of July, Rowand hit only .190 with a .235 OBP and struck out 18 times in 63 at-bats (a high number considering he struck out 28 times in 97 at-bats in June and 22 times in 106 at-bats in May).

August has been even worse for Rowand. This month he has a .186 batting average, a .205 OBP and has struck out 12 times in 43 at-bats (his strikeout number boosted by a hat trick on August 13 against the Mets).

Sure, Rowand is a great defensive player and certainly a leader in the clubhouse. Yet his woes at the plate are simply killing the Giants offense.

As for Winn, while his July numbers were respectable (He hit .276 with a .330 OBP in July), his August numbers are even more atrocious than Rowand's.

After today's game against the Mets, Winn has hit .184 with a .262 OBP and sports a woeful .184 slugging percentage this month.

Winn is less susceptible to the strikeout than Rowand (he has only six this month and had only 13 in July in the same amount of at-bats as Rowand). However, he simply can't hit the ball out of the infield, as Giants fans have been accustomed to the sight of Winn grounding to the second baseman or shortstop on a regular basis.

In order for the Giants to continue to stay in contention for the Wild Card spot, either Rowand or Winn is going to have to improve upon their late meager performances, and perhaps claim the centerfield position during this road trip.

The Giants need stability in centerfield, and considering both Rowand and Winn's histories, either player is more than capable of being a solid producer at the position in terms of at the plate and defensively.

Whoever the odd man out is though, it undoubtedly will be a blow to that player's ego. I'm sure it won't be easy for one of them to be regulated to situational status after going into the year with expectations of being a regular starter.

Yet with a playoff berth on the line, I guarantee you both these guys will make the necessary sacrifices in order to have a chance at a World Series ring.

At this point, it is tough to say who will be the centerfielder for the rest of the year. Both guys are playing too poorly for Bochy to make a definitive decision.

The first guy who steps up and starts showing signs of life and production most likely will be the player Bochy will lean on in September.

Whether it is Rowand or Winn or whoever, Bochy and company better make a decision quickly.

After losing two of three so far in this road trip to the Mets, the Giants need to get things settled in the lineup to stop the bleeding.


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