Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just a Note on changes to the blog plus WOW, what a game!

As I noted in a post, I have added links to the posts regarding PQS and Giants injuries down and to the right, under the title "Some of my posts" until I think of something more original for that. :^)

The are both updated as of yesterday's BE-U-TAY of a pitched game by Schmidt plus Niekro getting over his head cold, though the way he is hitting, he should take more of a rest. Dominating! And Feliz powered another ball out of the park, and more importantly, got a hit in a road park not named Coors (or seemingly so). Fans are calling for his head but I think he'll be fine, as I noted in my pre-season post on him.

Same with Niekro. I thought that he wasn't doing that well, but I missed that he had a nice 6 game hitting streak going that brought his average up from a horrible .212/.278/.303/.581 to a more respectable .269/.345/.385/.729 at his peak. Then he takes a few more O-fers and he's back down to his lows of before.

Small Base Means Huge Fluctuations

It shows clearly how widely fluctuating players' stats and fortunes will be early on in the season and how you cannot rely solely on that for a pulse on what is happening with him. Obviously you would rather he just stings the ball, but we knew going in that he's just not THAT special a player - but that's OK because if he can just be the player that he was early last season PLUS can take walks like he appears to be doing now, that would be good enough for our offense.

Meanwhile, fans are missing that Feliz and Niekro appears to be working - and well - on taking more walks. At his peak, Niekro had 6 walks and only 7 strikeouts, very near the 1.0 BB/K ratio that marks the good hitters of the game, before picking up 3 K's. But if I remember right, 6 walks was like the sum he would get in 2 months worth of AB's last season. And he was striking out left and right at the end of last season, he was totally lost except that he was taking more walks.

Feliz Needs to Hit on Road

But now is crucial for Feliz and I guess similarly so for Niekro. Feliz needs to show now that he can hit on the road. He is hitting .300/.357/.420/.777 at home (yes, .357 OBP, which is very good and very small sampling) but only .140/.137/.280/.417 on the road. Hopefully this is a sign that he finally has figured out how to hit at AT&T Mays Field.

He started off the road trip nicely with a 2-run homer yesterday, that will boost that average up even if it was his only hit. And he has two nice hitters park to hit in, Miller's Park vs. the Brew Crew and the Phillies home, which is a homer haven, before returning home to that nice average. He needs to fatten up his average over the next two weeks (ends with a trip to Houston's bandbox of a stadium), then a 3 game series at Oakland, then another six more games in SF. With 20 of the next 23 games condusive to his hitting, he better pick things up this month.

Niekro Needs to Mash LHP As Before

Same with Niekro only along another dimension or I guess you can say all dimensions. He needs to hit better at home and on the road and vs. RHP. But he especially needs to establish his mastery over LHP again. Last year he killed them to the tune of .324/.361/.657/1.019 with 9 HR in 108 AB - this year he is horrid, I wouldn't even call it hitting, he has a .200/.250/.400/.650 batting line with no homers but in only 15 AB, so very small sampling and he can change that in a hurry once he gets to face a LHP, seems like he either misses them or something, with so few ABs.

In addition, last year he was not able to figure out how to hit at AT&T Mays Field but hit a very nice .278/.326/.511/.838 on the road. He is again hitting better on the road than at home but is not hitting so well on the road: .200/.217/.289/.506 on the road vs. .250/.364/.321/.685 (wow, .364 OBP on the road, though only 28 AB and 5 walks vs. 5 strikeouts, very good). But he's getting to hit at some good hitters park the next 5 games plus some games in Houston, so he will have a chance to boost his numbers. And he gets to face a LHP today in Dale Davis, so hopefully he can start hitting today vs. LHP or his numbers will look that much worse. But Davis is pretty good, so we will see.

Obviously, it would be better if he could hit RHP well too, but right now we only need him to hit LHP and beat them like a drum when he is batting so low in the order. Then he can build on that and try to hit RHP as well. I have more hope for him as an RBI machine than I do for Feliz, much as I like Feliz, because Feliz has never hit that well with men on base, which is a shame since there are so many on before him, but hitting 7th minimizes that annoyance.

However, as long as Niekro cannot hit well against either, Feliz will see games hitting 6th. I think Niekro will eventually figure it out but will he do it in time before someone from the farm system comes up? I think we will see improvement from his this season but not enough to stave off a challenge from either EME or Ishikawa in the coming years. But he seems like he is learning, his walk rate is elevated in certain situations, he needs to do that in more situations. And to do that, he needs to stay healthy too.

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