Come See Barry, Jason, and Armando...Wait, What's That You Say?
by Mark T.R. Donohue
While San Francisco sportswriters bemoan what might have been, the actual '05 Giants product on the field stands at 18-19 (and they're not as good as their record, having been outscored by a hefty 20 runs). The Giants took a huge gamble putting off rebuilding for yet another year, signing old warhorses Armando Benitez, Omar Vizquel, and Moises Alou and putting their faith in the word and surgical team of the enigmatic (to choose a neutral word) Barry Bonds. Well, you can't win them all. Benitez is probably gone for the year with a hamstring injury, Alou has already spent significant time on the DL, and Bonds...well, you'd have to check his website. At least Vizquel has been pretty good.
The Giants are also minus their best starter, Jason Schmidt, who is in the midst of a DL stint for a strained right shoulder. The rotation in his absence consists of retreads, representatives from the Giants' perennially disappointing (and arm-centric) farm system, and the amazing Kirk Rueter, who continues to post better numbers than a lot of MLB pitchers despite stuff that could charitably be described as batting-practice quality. In this series the Rockies will face young Noah Lowry, young Brad Hennessey, and old Brett Tomko. (They miss Rueter and Jeff Fassero -- more's the pity.)
Lowry, who will face Joe Kennedy tonight, is a lefty who relies mostly on a straight change. Like fellow left-handed changeup guy Mike Remlinger, Lowry gets whacked around by lefties (.338 BA last year) while staying pretty tough against righthanders (.238). Let's see if Clint Hurdle's lineup tonight will reflect this oddity. My sources point to...no. Brad Hennessey's miniscule strikeout rates in the minors do not point towards a guy headed to long-term starting success in the bigs. His faceoff with Shawn Chacon on Wednesday night could be a slugfest. Tomko has experienced something of a career resurgence with the Giants, helped by the pitcher-friendly nature of SBC Park. In his last four starts at Coors, he's given up five homers and 21 earned runs. Advantage: Jeff Francis, who will go up against him in the Thursday day game.
The Giants' offense right now is keyed by two guys whose names you might not know: outfielder Jason Ellison and Pedro Feliz, who doesn't really have a position (he's been starting in left in The Barry's absence but has also been seen at first, third, and last year even short). Feliz is an OK hitter who the Giants have kind of done a disservice to the last several years by keeping him on the major league roster but not giving him a starting place for his very own. He's got an .808 OPS on the young season with five homers. Ellison on the other hand is a genuine young guy, at least by the Giants' standards, who at 27 is having a completely insane .372/.417/.577 season entirely out of line with his minor and major league record to this point. Coors Field is a bad place to predict the trend to come to an end.
The rest of the Giants' hitters are a bunch of guys you can't believe are still playing (and probably, they wouldn't be, were it not for San Francisco's largesse): Ray Durham, Marquis Grissom, Edgardo Alfonzo, Mike Matheny, J.T. Snow. In short, this is an old, old, old team that is helpless without its surly superstar and should be headed in the opposite direction in the standings as Colorado for the next several years. Might as well go ahead and get it started now. I want a sweep after that disheartening showing against the Diamondbacks.