San Francisco Giants: Why Schierholtz Should Hit Third, Sandoval Fourth

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJanuary 27, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 17:  Nate Schierholtz #12 of the San Francisco Giants bats against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at AT&T Park on June 17, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants are a team that believes in the wildly popular notion that a team's best all around hitter should hit in the No. 3 hole in the lineup. While this may be true for most teams, the Giants still don't have enough power for their best all around hitter in Pablo Sandoval to hit in the three spot.

Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa as four/five hitters does far from putting hope in the minds of most Giants fans.

Compare that to the likes of the Colorado Rockies who have Troy Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe in those spots, the Dodgers with James Loney and Matt Kemp, and the Diamondbacks with Adam LaRoche and Mark Reynolds.

Huff and DeRosa don't exactly scream to hit in their projected spots in the order. But a move that could help San Francisco increase their offensive production is to hit soon to be 26-year-old right fielder Nate Schierholtz in the third spot and drop Pablo Sandoval to cleanup duties.

Neither Huff nor DeRosa are going to hit any worse one spot lower in the order than they would have at fourth and fifth, respectively, but hitting Schierholtz in the three hole will significantly increase his production.

Instead of hitting in the seventh slot behind Bengie Molina which will decrease the value of Schierholtz's speed on the base paths, Schierholtz could best utilize his talents higher in the order.

As Giants fans witnessed last season, Schierholtz carried the team during his insanely hot stretch from late June to early July. San Francisco's right fielder raised his average from .258 to .321 with 18 hits in 34 at bats (.529 average) over a 10 game stretch from June 23 to July 3.

Due to inconsistent playing time the last month of the season, Schierholtz' final line fell to .267/.302/.400. But if Schierholtz proved anything last season it was his knack for destroying left-handed pitching despite hitting solely from the left side.

Plus while he only hit five home runs, any Giants fan will tell you that he has shown much more pop in batting practice and the fact that he hit all five of his home runs between June 14 and August 22 (the portion of the season where he played mostly everyday) shows he can hit 15-20 homers a season given full playing time.

The guy can hit the fastball. Put him in front of Sandoval and he will see a lot more fastballs come his way. Opposing pitchers will not want to walk him with Sandoval hitting behind him. Nobody wants to set the door for the "Kung Fu Panda."

Having Sandoval protecting Schierholtz in the lineup will give Nate the opportunity to potentially finish with a line of .300/.350/.470 with about 15 HRs and 90-100 runs. 

If he were to hit behind Bengie Molina? More likely he'll finish around .275/.320/.420 with 7-10 HR and 50-60 runs.

Granted Schierholtz needs to work on laying off the down and in breaking ball from right handed pitchers. But with Sandoval on deck, pitchers will think twice about throwing down and in breaking balls to Schierholtz. Even a moderate improvement by Schierholtz in laying off/fouling off that pitch will also help him get more fastballs in the zone.

The slight improvement in that area and Sandoval protecting will make his numbers start jumping off the page.

With Schierholtz and Sandoval as the three/four hitters and Sandoval and Huff as the four/five hitters, the Giants match up much better with the other National League contenders.

Considering Sandoval is still San Francisco's best power threat and the only player on the team with the ability to over 30 home runs at AT&T park, hitting him cleanup makes the most sense. 

Getting Sandoval as many at-bats as possible by hitting third is nice, but Sandoval needs to have guys on base in front of him. He is their best RBI man on the team but only relying on Aaron Rowand and Freddy Sanchez to get on base in front of him is not the way to go.

Sanchez is a quality number two hitter and doesn't need protection in the lineup as he knows how to adjust to the off-speed much better than Schierholtz.

By getting Schierholtz extra fastballs in the three spot will make it so Sandoval is hitting with at least two guys on base much more frequently than he would hitting third.

Of course the Giants will probably do just what they always do and let the 32+ year olds man five out of the first six spots in the lineup. Not to mention declining and injury prone ones at that.

So much for going young.


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