2007 Giants Report - v. 1.3 - Hitters
by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
June 4, 2007

2007 Giants Report – v. 1.3: Hitting

By Richard Van Zandt; BaseballEvolution.com

June 3, 2007

Last week, as the Giants hit the quarter season mark, I took a more in-depth look at the state of the Giants pitching staff through the first 50 games.  Now it’s time to take a closer look at how the Giants hitters have fared so far in 2007.

On the whole, the team has not hit well at all.  Going into Sunday’s game against the Phillies, the Giants ranked 13th in the National League in team batting (.252), 14th in OBP (.314), tied for 9th in slugging (.393), and 12th in OPS (.708).  They are tied for 9th in runs scored (239) and 8th in runs per game (4.43).  Among their starting pitchers, only Matt Morris has enjoyed good support.  He ranks 6th in the NL in run support at 6.30 per game (including 13 on Friday night in Philly), but Matt Cain (4.69 p/gm – 32nd), Barry Zito (4.35 p/gm – 42nd), and especially Noah Lowry (3.66 p/gm – 55th) have not been supported well at all.  Rookie Tim Lincecum would rank 49th at 4.05 p/gm if he had enough innings to qualify for the league leaders.

Been Swinging a Hot Stick

While the Giants offense as a whole has struggled all season long, that doesn’t mean everyone has been cold.  Randy Winn in particular, in 35 games since April 24 (the day I stated he had been “simply awful”), has batted .340/.378/.517 with 4 HR and 14 RBI while doing an admirable job of filling in for injured leadoff hitter Dave Roberts.  In 25 games at the top of the order, Winn has batted .303/.356/.459 with 15 runs scored and 4 stolen bases in 5 attempts.  Winn is also tied for the fifth longest hitting streak in the majors this season, after having hit safely in 20 straight from April 29 to May 21 (33-for-85 - .388/.409/.565).  He has also been hot at critical times, batting .310 w/RISP, .313 w/men on, and .383/.414/.605 with no outs, indicating that he not only has been capping rallies, but starting them as well.  Randy, if you read what I wrote earlier and I managed to light a fire under you, then please don’t read this for fear of complacency.  Randy Winn of late, folks, has been simply awesome.

Perhaps the team’s most consistent hitter all season long though has been catcher Bengie Molina.  The free-agent pickup has batted .302 and slugged .459 through June 2.  He had 5 home runs to that point and had driven in 32, second behind only Ray Durham’s 33 for the club lead.  In the clutch, Bengie has been outstanding.  With runners in scoring position, Molina is batting .419/.469/.535 (18-for-43, 1 HR, 25 RBI) and with men on base, he is batting .333/.370/.507 (25-for-81, 3 HR, 30 RBI).  When the game is late and close he, is batting .400/.390/.555 (16-for-40), and in an even more critical situation - with 2 outs and RISP- he is hitting an unbelievable .542/.607/.750 (13-for-24, 20 RBI).  His approach at the plate has been remarkable and even his poor OBP of .328 would rank as the second highest of his career. 

First baseman Ryan Klesko has also swung the bat consistently well this season, if with a distinct lack of power.  Through 35 games, Klesko has batted .310 and given the Giants someone who gets on base well (.373 OBP).  However, he has just 1 HR and as recently as May 19 he was slugging only .370.  Over his last six games though, he has gone 9-for-19 (.474/.500/.842) with 4 doubles and that lone home run to raise his slugging percentage to .460.  He has also been a bit fragile, recently missing time due to a bad back after missing all but 6 games in 2006.

Been Cooling Off

Barry Bonds started off very hot batting .362/519/.828 with 8 HR and 17 RBI in his first 20 games, but since April 29 he has hit only .219 and slugged .419 (16-for-74, 4 HR, 9 RBI).  Granted, he has been getting on base a lot (.477 OBP – 37 BB), but with 13 intentional passes during that span, it’s clear that he and the Giants would benefit greatly from increased protection in the lineup.  For the season, he has 14 walks - including 11 intentional - when there has been a runner on second base only.  With runners on second and third, he has come to the plate three times and been intentionally walked three times.  With RISP, he is batting .333 with a .688 OBP, but also sports 19 intentional walks in 48 plate appearances.  When there is nowhere else to put him (runner on first, runners on first and second and/or bases loaded), he has hit .333 and slugged .667 (11-for-33, 2 2B, 3 HR), though he still has 13 walks and a .532 OBP in those situations.  To say it is critical to the Giants success to acquire another hitter would be understating the need greatly.

Ray Durham was batting .300/.377/.450 when I last checked on him back on 4/24.  He too has cooled off considerably since then, batting only .238/.281/.368 in 30 games since that time to drop his overall numbers down to .261/.317/.410.  The Giants will need him to get hot again, and there is hope for that if the previous two years are any indication.  Durham hit .314/.367/.530 with 21 HR and 85 runs batted in combined in 481 second half at bats the last two seasons.

Rich Aurilia is another player who began the season red hot but has gone south since I last looked at how things were going.  Through 4/23, Richie had been batting .323/.357/.462 and had just notched a career-best 14-game hitting streak.  Battling a sore neck since that time, Aurilia has gone into a deep, deep funk, batting just .178/.226/.280 in his last 29 games and drawing just 5 walks in 115 plate appearances while showing none of the increased patience I had lauded him for earlier in the year. 

When I last looked at the Giants, Fred Lewis was still in Fresno.  He was recalled on May 10 when Roberts went on the DL and Todd Linden was mercifully designated for assignment (Todd hit 182/.250/.200 w/23 K in only 55 AB before the Marlins claimed him off waivers).  Lewis made an immediate splash, going 5-for-6 and hitting for the cycle in his third big league game of the year in Colorado.  But he slumped badly in his next 14 games before going 2-for-5 with a grand slam Friday night in Philly.  This essentially means that in four games at Colorado and Philadelphia – two of the most hitter friendly parks in baseball – Lewis has hit .474/.476/.947 (9-for-19, 2 HR, 11 RBI), but he has hit just .192/.288/.269 (10-for-52, 0 HR, 1 RBI) everywhere else.  And on top of that, Lewis has displayed a remarkably bad ability to read fly balls and/or get a good first step to the ball, making him a serious defensive liability.  Meanwhile, Nate Schierholtz is hitting .335/.359/.520 (67-for-200) with 26 extra-base hits down at Fresno.  A change would seem to me to be in order.

Haven’t Been There Yet

Roberts, signed in the off-season to spark the Giants lineup, has been on the DL since May 10 after undergoing surgery on his left elbow that is expected to sideline him for 6 weeks.  He wasn’t providing much spark before he was disabled.  In 27 games before the injury forced him under the knife, Roberts was batting .216/.283/.371, although he had 4 triples and 7 stolen bases (in 8 attempts).  On the other hand, the layoff for Roberts, who has never appeared in more than 129 games in a big league season, could be beneficial down the line.  A successful return to the form that saw him post on-base percentages of .356 and .360 the last two seasons would go a long way towards righting the Giants’ ship.

Omar Vizquel remains one of the top defensive shortstops in the game today, even at age 40.  He has been charged with just 4 errors in 250 chances (.984 %), and one of those errors was the result of questionable official scoring while another was the result of a questionable umpiring call.  He dazzles with the leather (and often his bare hand) almost nightly, and is very popular among teammates and fans alike.  Unfortunately, he’s also been hitting like a 40-year-old shortstop: very, very lightly.  After batting .295 for SF last year, he has hit just .225 through his first 50 games this year while reaching base at a .274 clip.  Heading into play on Sunday, he had hit only .125/.189/.208 in his last 14 games (6-for-48).  He has been moved from the 2-hole down the order to the 7th and 8th spots and contributes, as I mentioned, with his glove on a daily basis.  But considering his stated desire to play another year, it would behoove him and the team to prove that his bat – like his glove – is still on this side of the hill.

Ah Pedro Feliz.  Old Pete Happy – that hitting wonder extraordinaire – began the season with a career line of .252/.288/.436.  Through his first 47 games this year, Feliz was hitting .251/.287/.441.  Some things never change.  Oh sure he’s had a hot streak (though it wasn’t even all that hot); you can count on those, as I’ve painfully documented.  But sure enough, he’s remained the inconsistent, hot/cold-like-a-house-with-bad-plumbing-hitter most sensible Giants fans have grown to loathe. 

Feliz - 2007




























































Well at least he remains on track to win his third consecutive Dave Kingman award.

Been Good….and Bad

How else to describe Giants backup catcher Eliezer Alfonzo?  Much more suited both defensively and offensively to a backup role, Alfonzo has hit a solid .273/.304/.409 with a home run and 5 RBI in 44 at bats of sporadic play.  However, Alfonzo has also drawn just 1 walk and struck out 16 times in those 44 at bats.  And continuing a remarkable trend he began last year, Eliezer’s lone walk this year was of the intentional variety.  He now has in 330 career at bats, 10 career free passes, an amazing 8 of which have been issued intentionally.  That’s just 2 un-intentional walks in 355 career plate appearances!  I swear, one of these days he’s gonna actually swing at one of those intentional balls.

Hitters Summary

The Giants have not hit much this season, going through spurts when they have.  They have not had their pitchers’ backs, giving them little leeway for mistakes.  If they want to make a run at the NL West, two things will have to happen.  First of all, several key hitters (Durham, Aurilia, Roberts, Vizquel and of course Bonds) will have to come around and start hitting more consistently, or in some cases, start hitting at all.  Secondly the Giants will need to acquire another bat.  It’s clear that so long as Bonds shows he still has something left in the tank, pitchers will simply walk him rather than let him beat them.  Without another big bat, the Giants have no shot. 

Brian Sabean, I applaud you for moving swiftly following the balking debacle in the Big Apple, but there is still work to be done.  You’re on the hot seat as you well know, and if you want to keep your job in San Francisco, then it’s time to work some of that old Sabean magic.  It’s time to go and get a big hitter Sabes.  Soon.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, California and can be reached at richard@baseballevolution.com.