Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

A More Kindly Look at the Giants by Ed Stern

Marty; An astute baseball fan, namely, my wife, told me yesterday, in no uncertain terms, that it was past time that I discontinue referring to the Giants as “a bad baseball team”, as I have been doing since the start of the season. In the first place, she points out, it is simply bad form to constantly bad-mouth the team whose success we most wish for, and, more to the point, the expressed opinion is incorrect.

Please click below for more of Ed’s analysis!
Being always open to a voice of reason, forever willing to concede the possibility that I have been wrong, let me make the best case for the Giants, using the lineup which showed up for last night’s game with Toronto, excluding for the moment the pitching staff.

Durham is back and apparently healthy. He ran well last night and we assume that he will be able to stay off the DL for the remainder of the year. If so, they have a leadoff man who hits with some pop, is fast, has athletic skills and plays the position more than adequately. He is the best leadoff man the team has had in many years.

Tucker has developed since early April. He is hitting well, with some power and lends speed to the team. Cruz played right field well enough last year for a Gold Glove but the team has not suffered significantly with Tucker out there.

Grissom continues to hit over three hundred, plays center field better than one would expect of an aging ball player and has the advantage of getting good pitches to hit, by virtue of hitting in front of Barry.

These three batters, hitting in front of Bonds, are going to get on base with sufficient regularity that Bonds should be coming up in situations where he can do damage to the opposition. They will be walking him when there is an open base. When they must pitch to him he will continue to hit in typical Bonds fashion, at a .375 clip with power.

Batting behind Bonds, in the fifth, sixth and seventh slots, are as important as the first three hitters in the lineup. Too often, since April, the players hitting in these positions have failed to provide the protection needed to take advantage of Bonds’ talents. As a result, Bonds gets walked two, three or four times in a game. It has, unfortunately, not been uncommon to see a batter hitting fifth with the bases loaded and one out, ground into a double play. The Giants have been grounding into double plays with a dismaying consistency, whether the bases are loaded or not.

This may now be in the process of changing. Hitting in these three positions are Alfonzo, Feliz and Pierzynski. Alfonzo, recently, has given hope that he is beginning to hit as he did during the last half of 2003, when he was driving in runs and hitting for a decent average. Following Alfonzo is Feliz. Feliz is one of the pleasant surprises of the season. He has played three infield positions. His play at first base has consistently improved. This is a new position for him. It has been a learning experience from day to day. In the last few games, he has made plays at first that only accomplished first basemen make. His hitting is still a work in progress. He strikes out too often. He has to learn patience and the location of the strike zone. He is getting better at it. He has 11 home runs, 12 doubles and two triples. He has batted in 36 runs. This is a much better than average ball player. When he eventually is allowed to settle in at one position, probably first, both his hitting and fielding will improve. This is the team’s first baseman of the future.

Pierzynski, batting seventh, is beginning to show the kind of hitting that induced the Giants to trade a very good pitcher for him. It has been a long time coming, but he is showing some power and hitting for an increasingly better average. It would not be surprising to see him end up with the sort of numbers he had last year with the Twins, over three hundred with his share of long balls. Any problems he had with the pitchers in the early going seems to have evaporated. Schmidt, Rueter and Williams have recently given him high marks for his ability to call the game for them.

These three hitters should provide enough hitting behind Bonds to make opposing managers think long and hard about how to handle Bonds. Bonds, of course, continues to be the 600 pound gorilla for the opposition. There is no good answer for them if the team is hitting well in front of and behind Bonds. It’s been tough enough dealing with Bonds when he wasn’t getting this type of support. It is going to be a much more difficult task if Bonds is getting the protection good hitting, up front and behind him, can provide.

Optimistically examining the pitching, putting the best face on it, is difficult to do. First, for the easy part. Schmidt is one of the premier pitchers in either league. He rates right up there with the likes of Schilling. Martinez, Johnson, Woods, Prior. Williams is one of the best young pitchers around. He could very well have eight wins by the halfway mark. He pitches well into the late innings and usually gets better as the game progresses.

Having said that, the going now gets dicy. Rueter had a good game last night against a weak- hitting team. This was one of the very few decent outings he has had. There is no guarantee that he will continue to be as successful. His previous record, failing to get out of the 6th inning, over and over again, and, in those six innings, showing very little control of the game, doesn’t auger well for future success. He is not the pitcher one wants to throw out there when a game has to be won.

Tomko’s record is dismayingly similar to Rueter’s. This is not a pitcher one can rely on to keep the team in the ball game past the fifth inning. Hermanson has been pitching as well as one can expect of him. He is, at best, the 4th or 5th pitcher in a strong rotation. This is not a strong rotation.

The team needs at least one, and probably two, starting pitchers. There doesn’t appear to be anyone in Fresno who can fill the bill. Bringing up Lowry, who doesn’t inspire confidence, may be the measure of the farm system’s failure to stockpile talented youngsters who have a reasonable chance to make it upstairs.

The bullpen has been adequate. Not outstanding, but with a
team possessing the strengths described above, coupled with the incomparable Bonds, and one or two starters who can eat up innings, they could do the job. There are doubts about both Christiansen and Rodriguez but we are being optimistic.

If all they need is one winning starter to be a team which can go all the way to the playoffs, does this add up to a description of a team as something other than a “bad ballclub”? A reasonable answer might be, in such event, this is a good ball club. If they need more than one starter, if they can’t rely to any extent on Rueter, even putting the best face on it, one shouldn’t be calling this a good ball club. Pitching is still the name of the game. However, as requested, I will stop calling this a “bad ball club”. With some amount of help they could be a very good ball club. It remains questionable whether that help will be forthcoming.

These thoughts are taking place before the start of the Red Sox series. It seemed appropriate to do this before these next 16 games commence. The answer to the question may become self-evident when we see how they made out when we look two and a half weeks from now.



1 Anonymous { 06.18.04 at 12:46 pm }

I agree that it is unfair to call the Giants a “bad ball club”.They are about a slightly better than average ball club at the moment and need help in pitching and
perhaps a big bat. Clubs will be making moves in the next 30 days to either unload payroll or to bolster their playoff chances. Sabean has to be working the telephones and the club may have to spend some money to get to the top of the division. Right now they are not too far from the lead and will be playing the
Red Sox for 3, Dodgers for 7 and Oakland.
Tough part of the schedule.

Jerry F

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