Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Giants and Changing Times by Ed Stern

Marty, The times, they are a-changin, as the poet says. And few places more than in the way the game is played today. Let’s look at the Giants, by way of example. The team’s present roster, which has a way of changing from day to day, with players being shuttled in and out of Fresno as the perceived need arises, consists of 13 pitchers and three outfielders. Of the thirteen pitchers, five are starters, the traditional number these days in a rotation, and the remaining eight are in the bulllpen. The makeup of these pitchers is interesting. One of them, Brower, has given some evidence in his recent starts, when called upon to leave the bullpen and join the rotation, of being capable of starting and holding the opposition in check for what has now become the requisite number of innings, namely, six. However, when the return of Rueter from the DL took place it was Brower who was moved into the pen. It isn’t as though all of the remaining starters were tried and true, proven, successful six inning pitchers. (These days it appears that six innings of success is all that is being asked for; they call it a “quality start”) Brower, however, has shown that he can pitch successfully in relief. Recently, Alou pointed out that on an occasion when Brower had successfully managed a starting role, the team , in games on either side of his start, were lost and that Brower, had he been available to pitch out of the pen in those games, might have saved each of them. This observation was merely Alou questioning whether Brower was more helpful in the the bullpen than as a starter. The Giants have put together an exceedingly strong group of relief pitchers, who are called upon constantly to give the team three innings. and occasionally more, of shut-down the opposition pitching. To accomplish this over a season’s length, it is necessary that the relief staff consist of more than three accomplished relievers, which, in the past, was usually enough. The bullpen is called upon by the Giants to throw so many innings that, with a much smaller pen, they would never be able to accomplish this without a burnout before the season was close to a finish. Ergo, Sabean has collected a group, eight pitchers, each of whom has a role to play and who play it very well. However, this raises other problems. Let’s start with the outfield. From the beginning of the year the outfield personnel left much to be desired. The team began the year with Bernard and Rivera the reserve players. It quickly became apparent that they were not winning players which merely confirmed what had been or should have been suspected all along. They dumped Rivera and continue with Bernard, either on the DL or, when playing, hitting under .200. For the better part of a few months they have been playing with three regular outfielders. However, upon occasion one of the three cannot play. Injuries occur, Bonds at 39 needs a day off occasionally. Unfortunately, most teams feel the need to put three players in the outfield rather than two. The Giants have solved this problem in their own determined manner. They have, when the occasion demanded it, played a third baseman in the outfield despite the fact that the third baseman plays the outfield as one would suspect a third baseman would. The other day, they went so far as to play their backup catcher who has been catching regularly since before the All Star break because of Santiago’s injury, in left field. Apparently, Alou saw him take some balls in the outfield in batting practice and believed that he could play left field adequately. Torrealba, in fact, had one chance in the outfield and played it very well. Why haven’t the Giants brought up an outfielder and sent one of their pitchers down? They did bring up Torcata, a former third baseman, by the way, who couldn’t make the throw from third base, and was moved to the outfield in Fresno. He can’t make the throw from the outfield either. When Rueter came back, Torcata was sent down. The Giants now play and will continue to play for the foreseeable future with five starters, eight in the pen, and only Feliz to play the outfield in an emergency. In fact, when Zerbe went on the DL the other day, the Giants brought up another twenty-two year old pitcher, with double AA experience, to fill his place rather than bring up someone from Fresno who can catch and throw the ball in the outfield. This is the way the game is played these days, at least as far as the Giants are concerned. Who wishes to argue with success? The team is twenty-eight games over five hundred, in first place, with a ten game lead, and fifty-eight games to play. It is clearly felt that having the luxury of a pitching staff capable of getting thru the last three innings successfully is more important than having an outfielder or two in place to pinch hit successfully when the occasion demands it and catch and throw a ball in the outfield when called upon. Perhaps if Marichal showed up or Foppert or Moss began to go more than six innings, the situation could change. There is much hope that Williams can be more than a “quality” style pitcher so much in vogue today. He has already shown in a number of starts that he can pitch a complete game and throw 120 pitches in doing so. Foppert has the potential to do so but has yet to prove it. Leaving the pitching aside for a moment, the team needs a hitter to bat behind Bonds. Sabean may be considering the possibility of moving the one player on the roster capable of enticing a team with a player who can fill that role. That player is Rodriguez. Someone may have the unlikely idea that Rodriguez might be an adequate closer. The Giants can spare him. Herges may be the recent acquisition to take his place in the bullpen setup. Respecting changing times, it was not so long ago that managers liked the idea of having a set lineup. Alou has been successful in moving players around, both in the lineup and where they bat. His move of Snow into the number two spot has worked. Snow’s on base average is close to .500. He is a patient hitter and has kept his batting average close to the .275 mark all year. If he had a number five hitter he might be able to have a more consistent batting order on a daily basis. The one small concern which is still hovering around is the health of Schmidt. This is the pitcher the Giants can’t do without. Wednesday might relieve that concern when Schmidt goes against Dusty’s Cubs at Wrigley.


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