Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Klesko Back to Normal? Looks Like He Might Finally Be There!

I was listening to the Krukow morning show today and it was noted that Klesko, having been out for almost the entire 2006 season, would take a while to get into baseball shape. I had noted in a recent post that he had turned things up a notch in May and I thought it would be good to note his first home run hit yesterday, a splash hit, nonetheless, which shows conclusively that the Klesko that Bochy said he would be - from before all his shoulder problems - appear to be back, it takes quite a hit to get a splash hit, so it is very encouraging that he mashed one like that, it is like a harbinger of his return to past prowess.

His problems started in 2003, dropping his OPS from the elite 900+ level to the still good but relatively ordinary 800 OPS level. He had a genetic problem where his shoulder bone, both of them, eventually became bone on bone, a very painful condition, that was solved one at a time, first one shoulder then the next in 2005/6 (not sure when exactly the surgery was, but he was out almost all of the 2006 season.

He was hitting poorly the first month, in April, .282/.333/.359/.692, with only a double and triple and 3 BB/9 K, but with his big game yesterday, he is now hitting .289/.373/.489/.861 for the month of May with 6 BB/4 K, 4 doubles, a triple, and a HR. If he can get another 2+ HR the rest of the month, I think that would be a great sign that he is back to his former level of hitting.

If Klesko's Back

If he is back to his former 900 OPS level of hitting, about a batting line of .290/.385/.520/.905 with 25+ homer power (20 AB/HR rate), then my master plan that I was espousing before the season can come true, only delayed by about two months. At 900 OPS, or even the 850 OPS, and particularly his high OBP, he could take on the JT Snow role a few years back, batting 2nd, like he did last night, or 3rd, and getting on base and driving in runs.

He would basically get 1B starts against RHP unless Bonds is resting, then he could play LF sometimes (or Ortmeier would get a start), it could open up the possibility I noted in spring where Bochy could decide to play Ortmeier (Linden originally) in LF, Klesko at 1B, and Aurilia at 3B, or he could decide to play Feliz at 3B, Aurila at 1B, and Klesko in LF. Now you can even throw Frandsen in the mix for 3B.

After Feliz's great defense at 3B the last few nights, I think people can see the value he brings defensively, but if Aurilia can hit around 800 OPS and Feliz is struggling around the low-to-mid 700's, then the falloff, though probably slight since Aurilia was a SS previously, would be worth the additional hitting that Aurilia can provide. And Aurilia was right around there most of April until that stiff neck problem caused his hitting to fall like a boulder in a road runner-coyote cartoon - through the ground - so he could find himself sitting as well while Feliz plays. It depends on who has the hot hand at the moment.

Also, with Vizquel's struggles at the plate - he's now hitting a Neifi-ish .235/.264/.265/.529 in May after a 1 for 19, 2 for 23 skid, after going 14 for 40 at the start the month, May 3rd - I can see situations where Aurilia would play SS, particularly if Klesko ends up taking up all the RHP ABs at 1B, the Giants would then slide Aurilia over to play SS and 3B more often, depending on matchups, though Vizquel and Feliz will probably still see most of the ABs at those positions, particularly Vizquel.

As much as I would like to see Frandsen more, clearly Bochy is only giving Frandsen about one start a week, and Aurilia will probably see most of the "rest" games for Vizquel and Feliz. Hopefully the Giants will notice that when he starts a game, he is 8 for 19, with a walk, double, and triple, .421/.450/.579/1.029 thus far (OK, only 4 starts but still :^).

Still, the main thing is whether Klesko is back to his former self or not, and in April, one would say "no" but he's swinging the bat great in May and also has been hitting very well in SF, despite the fact that he's a lefty and lefties often get screwed batting there. If he can bring a 900 OPS bat to our lineup, he would be the good hitter Giants fans have been clamoring for since the season started and, I think, should be good enough to push our offense to the next level of performance.

Already, with him hitting like this, the Giants are averaging 5.7 runs per game in May (really only 5.2 runs per game, taking out the 15 run game that skews things greatly) and this with Bonds going through his big slump of the season. Still, they have scored 6 runs or more seven times this month, out of 20 games, and only went 5-2, they really should win any game they score 6 runs in, so that's on the pitching for that. But they also had five games scoring 2 or less runs, so that's on the offense there, we went 1-4 in those games. For games where we scored 3, 4, 5 runs, we went 3-5 so that's about right, you expect to go .500 in those games, that's close enough.

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