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6.10.2004

No Nen, and Other Obvious Gaping Chasms 

This isn't a big surprise, but the Giants have finally admitted that Robb Nen isn't likely to return this year.

Now they need to admit that Pedro Feliz isn't likely to take an off-speed pitch out of the strike zone when the bases are loaded.

Conventional baseball wisdom holds that April and May are for evaluation, June and July are for fine-tuning the roster, and in August and September, you make your big rush to the finish line. That wisdom's a bit outdated, given that teams have figured out how to keep trading, cutting and adding players well beyond the July 31 trade "deadline." (The Giants added Eric Young last year in late August; in 2002, the Angels added Francisco Rodriguez to their roster in September and, because of a loophole, were allowed to use him in the post-season, where he was quite possibly the difference in the World Series.)

So June is one-third finished, and the Giants have learned several things about this year's club:

- Jerome Williams and Kirk Rueter are not #2 starters. The very talented Williams may soon be, but he's young and inconsistent. Rueter is Rueter, but this year a lot less so. Dustin Hermanson is a solid pitcher when healthy.

- Everyone knows that other than Bonds, the Giants will swing at distant rumors of strikes even when there's no need to do so. Jayson Stark's most recent column quotes a scout who says the Giants will "swing at a can if you toss it up there." The Giants lead the National League (7th overall in MLB) in on-base percentage, but when you remove Barry Bonds, they drop from .351 to .318, which would drop them to third-worst in the majors.

(A side note: the Cleveland Indians have the majors' best OBP, at .361, with more than half their position players over .350. They have young hitting. The Giants have young pitching. How's about a trade?)

- The Giants are terrible clutch hitters. In the last two games, they are a combined 0 for 7 with a sac fly, two strikeouts and three double plays when they have a man on third and less than two out. Small sample size, true, but check out these numbers:

Wtih two outs and a runner in scoring position, the Giants are hitting
.193/.339/.313.
Opponents are hitting
.304/.408/.473.

With men in scoring position, the Giants are hitting
.250/.374/.383.
Opponents:
.293/.365/.465.

Remember, the Giants' OBP in these situations is heavily skewed by Barry Bonds, who has more walks (37) than official at-bats (24).

The worst offender with men in scoring position?

Pedro Feliz: .222/.230/.264. In real-world terms, that's 72 at-bats, 13 singles, three doubles, and 13 Ks. (OK, Jeffrey Hammonds was slightly worse, but in only 26 at-bats.) With runners on, no matter the base, no matter the outs, Feliz is hitting

.243/.261/.333.

When no one is on base, he's hitting

.301/.316/.656.

Guess who leads the major leagues in at-bats with the bases loaded? Yep. 4 for 17, with one extra base hit (a double), no walks and seemingly thousands of double plays.

He's like a musician who plays great when no one is listening, then freezes as soon as the spotlight warms the stage.

- The Giants will need bullpen help. Rodriguez, Brower and Herges are all on pace to throw in 85-95 games.

So, more bats, more bullpen help, another starter or two. If Sabean can pull all that out of a hat, he should be executive of the year in the same way that a closer who walks the bases loaded then gets the final out on a fly ball to the fence in center field should get the save.


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