Nate Schierholtz Hints Pitching Not the Only Hope for the Giants' Future

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer IAugust 23, 2009

Much has been and will continue to be made of the San Francisco Giants' superlative pitching staff. Rightly so.

Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have been Cy Young-worthy in 2009 and clock in right around 25 years of age (Cainer is a bit shy of the mark while the Freak is a couple months beyond it). Jonathan Sanchez has continued to struggle with consistency, but the 26-year-old southpaw has started to string together good outings in August and famously boasts a no-hitter to his '09 credit.

Barry Zito—once a 31-year-old albatross around the organization's neck—has rediscovered his old form and has been hurling gems even if his numbers don't totally reflect it.

Then there are the kids down on the farm—the 20-year-old Madison Bumgarner, the 24-year-old Henry Sosa, the 24-year-old Kevin Pucetas, and the new kid on the block (19-year-old first-round draft pick Zack Wheeler).

Lest we forget, there are also the surfacings of Ryan Sadowski and Joe Martinez: Both are 26, though Jolted Joe is several months younger. Both rooks have shown flashes of brilliance although Martinez' look less flukish considering the mental adversity he's already overcome.

Not only has the kid bounced back from a grotesque line drive to the noggin, he's done it in the white flame of a postseason chase.

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Check it—his first Major League Baseball appearance after the frozen rope off his bean came in Minute Maid Band Box against a game Houston Astro club. It wasn't exactly pretty, but the Gents got the W, as did Martinez.

Then it was indoctrination into the blood-feud with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a roadie against the New York Mets just miles away from his childhood home, and the National League Wild Card-leading Colorado Rockies in Denver on Saturday (which didn't go all that well...).

So, yes, los Gigantes estan muy bien when it comes to pitching—both established arms and cannons in development.

However, the overflowing cup on the mound has blotted out the sun of due credit from a couple of heavenly-hitting bodies.

Pablo Sandoval has gotten a bit of praise, although his All-Star snub proves it isn't yet adequate. The 23-year-old Little Panda is a special player—especially with the splinter—and the rest of baseball is beginning to get the message.

But there is a second diamond in the very rough Giants offense. His name is Nate Schierholtz.

Nate the Great is finally getting consistent playing time and simultaneously demanding the treatment continue. Since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 12, the 25-year-old has registered nine hits in 29 at-bats (.310) with six runs batted in, two runs scored, four doubles, a triple, and a monster home run in Colorado on Saturday.

That snapshot fairly represents his career to date, all 435 plate appearances of it.

The kid can hit. No, he can rake.

Schierholtz has one of those swings that looks short and effortless, but the ball absolutely explodes off his bat—something I take as a sign of tremendously quick, strong hands. There isn't a huge amount of torque anywhere, no vertebrae-threatening violence that would indicate extreme effort.

Just a nice, fluid motion that brings the hands to the ball with lightning-like immediacy.

You can see it when he plays or you can see it in his numbers.

Quick hands translate to gap power at a younger age. Consequently, Schierholtz doesn't goggle the eyes with his big flies. Instead, he's tallied a 162-game average of 31 two-baggers and seven triples in his still-green career. Once he adds a little more bulk and enters his power prime, the touch-'em-alls will come.

In bunches.

When that happens, look out. Because the bat is not the extent of this young ballplayer's fabulous tools.

The dude is tough as nails. He plays with an old-school edge—as evidenced by taking out the catcher in the Olympics or his batting glove preference, which is commando.  There is no quit or give in Schierholtz.

And my man can burn.

Nate can run, flat-out. He's much too fast for a man his size (6'2", 215 lbs.) and exhibits the same ease of exertion in mid-stride as he does in mid-swing. When the kid sends one into the alley, I'm reminded of Minnesota Viking running back Robert Smith because he flew down the field without appearing to try, thanks to long strides.

Schierholtz does the same thing. Though he'll probably never be an extraordinary base thief since his first 90 feet are not his fastest, thievery is not the only important element to base-running.

Finally, there is his arm. I saved it for last on purpose.

Oh, that beautiful, beautiful cannon.

Enjoy it while you can because the Show will learn, is already learning—you cannot run on Nate Schierholtz's right arm (another reason to love the kid, he's one of those bats left/throws right anomalies). You can try, but you will fail.

Nate the Great would've had another outfield assist on Saturday had Sandoval hung on to the perfect one-hopper. Alas, Little Money dropped it and Brad Hawpe survived the gamble despite being caught dead-to-rights—the exception that proves the rule.

So marvel at the San Francisco Giants' pitching all you want, there are many undeniable reasons for which to do so. But save a little admiration because the Gents are slowly developing into a multi-trick pony.

With Pablo Sandoval already entrenched as an offensive building block and Nate Schierholtz making a strong argument to be considered the same, this recent spate of offense might be a sign of things to come.

Probably not for the stretch in 2009, but let's not get too greedy...

**www.pva.org**