The Giants Road Struggles

sfgiantsThe Giants road struggles have little to do with the road.

The Giants are struggling on the road this year, just 2-8 entering Tuesday’s game in Chicago. So the easy excuse is to blame the ivy on the brick walls of Wrigley field for being out of bloom, or the cavernous alleyways of Petco Park. Even the Dodgers supreme dominance at Chavez Ravine has masked the real culprit, just look at what this team does at China Basin; they’re 10-4.

But the real problem lies in the fact that the bats residing in the cave like tunnels underneath Wrigley are showing more life than the bats Mike Murphy’s clubhouse attendants are setting out in the visiting dugouts.

This isn’t a home and road schism. The Giants have scored 84 runs this year, the fewest in the majors. Thankfully they have only given up 89, also the fewest in the game. When looking at that it’s a fairly remarkable feat that they find themselves at 12-12 on Cinco de Mayo.

Who’s to blame? Well, we knew this was the make up of the team coming into the spring. The Giants were going to be pitching strong and hitting weak. The fact that the hitting is so benign isn’t a huge surprise, but I don’t think anyone expected the pitching to be this good either, in particular Zito and Sanchez.

Currently there are 3 Giants doing their part at the plate; Pablo Sandoval, Bengie Molina and yes, Emmanuel Burriss. Burriss is the brunt of a lot of criticism, but his defense has been superb, and since tax day he’s raised his average 129 points, .095 to .224. Burriss is also second in the NL with eight stolen bases, which is pretty remarkable considering how infrequently he’s been on base.

Bengie is Bengie, and he is, for better or worse, the Giants best hitter when you factor in clutch performance, power, approach and his veteran savvy. He’s also now fourth in the Senior Circuit in runs batted in. Really it’s time the guy makes an All-Star team; he’s knocked in 23 of the Giants 87 runs this season.

Sandoval is probably the most gifted athlete at the plate. He can poke one out into the cove like a compacted Barry Bonds, or lace it into “triples alley” for a Rick Reuschel in fast forward-esq three bagger. He’s also adjusted well to the early scouting reports that had pitchers throwing fastballs at the letters, the letters on his helmet, and he’s now laying off those pitches in favor of more hittable offerings.

Edgar Renteria has been better than advertised, on both sides of the ball, and while he’s not a world beater nor is he the All-Star he once was, the free agent will greatly exceed the offensive production the Giants got from that position last year.

That leaves the entire outfield and first base as ground zero for this team’s lack of offensive respectability.

Randy Winn
Image via Wikipedia

Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Fred Lewis, the Giants’ opening day outfield, came into play Tuesday with a combined average of .248, four home runs, 18 RBI’s, and an on base percentage of .337. For comparison’s sake, the Cubs right fielder Kosuke Fukudome is hitting .312, with four homers, 15 RBI and an OBP of .443. He’s also drawn 19 walks compared to the 29 issued to the Giants triumvirate.

Travis Ishikawa has also been an offensive zero up to this point, especially when considering his impressive spring and his first at bat of the season; a bases loaded triple on opening day. Ishikawa is hitting just .210, no homers, only 9 RBI (6 since the 2nd inning of the season opener), and an OPS of only .528 (Matt Cain has an OPS of .425).

But since I’m willing to give Obama more than 100 days, I have a similar tendency to advise the Giants, and their fans, to employ patience with Ishikawa.  This is the 25 year old’s first protracted stint in the big leagues.  He’s shown a great glove at first, and his approach at the plate, while overly patient is one trait a few of his teammates could benefit from.  Though I’m advising a caring approach with Ishikawa it may be hard to ignore the presence of Jesus Guzman in Triple-A. The iron gloved, but silver slugging first baseman is tearing up the Pacific Coast League, and was named the PCL’s hitter of the week, batting .500 with 4 HR and 13 RBI’s. On the season in Fresno Guzman has 6 round trippers, 20 RBI, and is slugging .582 with a .308 average.

The solution? Well, there isn’t one. I’m sure Brian Sabean is trying to move Randy Winn, but his contract and performance of late may be a bit of an obstacle. Aaron Rownad is also available to anyone who wants him but the same is even more true regarding Rowand’s skills and salary. Nate Schierholtz seems to be capable of playing everyday, but there aren’t enough at bats with the roster’s current constitution. If this season isn’t going to find the Giants in a pennant race, and looking at the Dodgers hot start it’s likely the division could be a forgone conclusion, then they at least need to know for sure whether or not guys like Ishikawa, Lewis, Burriss and Schierholtz are holes or plugs.  It’s a frustrating reality considering their pitching is so great that the Washington Nationals line up could be fighting for a division title with their support.
Theo Fightmaster also writes for The San Francisco Giants Examiner. Please follow the link provided to read his work there.

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