Friday, May 20, 2011

Nate and Romo Love

There are two misbeliefs out there that I disagree with (at least two that I will tackle in this post :^).  One is that the Giants and Bochy don't like Nate Schierholtz.  The other that Bochy don't like Romo.  The latter is more opinion, less fact, but it is what it is.

Nate the Great

I see a lot of people saying that Bochy doesn't like Nate but I just don't see it.  Looking at his usage pattern in the past, if anything, the Giants have tried multiple times to bend over backward and give him the starting RF job, but he would eventually hit his way out of the lineup, which I've attributed to 1) his penchant for injuring himself and 2) his penchant to continuing to play when he wasn't 100%.

In his first season, 2007, out of the Giants last 25 games, in September, he got into 24 of them, starting 15 of them, for a total of 73 PA/71 AB.   He hit .282/.288/.394/.682, showing some potential.  In 2008, he didn't get a call-up until September, but out of the Giants last 25 games, he got into 19 games, starting 18 of them, for a total of 81 PA/75 AB, hitting .320/.370/.493/.864, showing more of his potential.

In 2009, I think he was out of options, so he was with the team the whole season.  Lewis, Rowand, Winn were the starters so he didn't get a lot of playing time, though still compiling 116 games, 285 AB.  Lewis got a lot of rope, basically not hitting from mid-April to mid-June before Bochy mercifully sat him down, which opened starting time for Nate.

Nate starting getting regular starts on June 11th, and he earned his time over the next 3 weeks, starting in 16 of the next 21 games (playing in all), batting .406/.443/.609/1.052 with 3 HR in 64 AB.  But as hot as he was then, he then cooled off over the next 3 weeks, still starting, 14 out of 19 games (playing in all), but hitting .242/.262/.339/.600 with 1 HR in 62 AB, until he injured himself and went on the DL.  Once he returned, he continued to get starts, starting 15 out of 23 games (playing in 20), but hitting .200/.250/.383/.633, so he fell out of the rotation, only starting 6 of the next 26 games (though playing in 18), hitting .219/.286/.281/.567 with 0 HR in 32 AB.

In 2010, he lost the battle for RF in spring training, but Bowker soon hit his way off the team and organization.  It also helped that Rowand got injured and opened playing time for Nate to show he belonged:  over 3 weeks, he started 16 games out of 17 games, hitting .393/.469/.607/1.076 with 1 HR in 56 AB.

However, he made a diving catch in the first inning of the Phillies game in SF on April 27, 2010, which appears to not affect him immediately as he continued hitting well for the next 7 games, but he admitted this year that his right shoulder severely affected him the rest of the season, particularly after diving back into firstbase on May 19th.  By then he had already been in a horrendous slump - .171/.209/.171/.380 in 11 starts out of 12 games - and the injury took him out of games for two days and out of the lineup for a week.

Once he returned, he started 3 of next 6 games (played in 5), hitting an anemic .091/.286/.091/.377, and after that, from June to the rest of the season, he didn't really get a chance to start again, which made people mad at Bochy and the Giants, but as Nate noted, he couldn't really hit well regularly as his shoulder did not heal because he came back too soon and it never ready got healthy until he stopped doing things over the off-season and worked at getting his shoulder healthy.

So this timeline is why I didn't really believe the rumors that Schierholtz was seriously on the trading block.  Bochy has previously put him into the lineup and kept him there until his poor hitting forced the Giants hand.  And clearly, to me at least, injuries have played a significant part of his cold periods and eventual benching.  As Bochy said in an interview after the 2011 season began, it was a given to him that Nate was coming up with the Giants, never in doubt, though apparently Nate did not know that until nobody told him to pack up.

And that brings me to yesterday's game when I heard about Nate's dive.  I instantly flashed back to all his other diving injuries which led soon to his benching.  I really like Nate as a Giants and been rooting for him since he was clobbering pitchers in the Sally League for Hagerstown, and really loved him when I learned he was a Giants fan, like me, even though we grew up in the East Bay, plus I have college rooting interest as we both "played" baseball at Chabot College (I only took their summer program, thinking I would get into games, but there was maybe 2-3 people showing up, so we ended up spending the whole class feeding the pitching machine to each other; which was ultimately even better as I got to face high velocity pitches for the first time and got an appreciation for the hitters who claimed that they could see the stitches on the ball rotating; it was great just getting to hit over and over like that).

I think the Giants really like Nate's abilities, based on how they have given him the starting job, for the most part, a number of times and let him keep it for a while even while he struggled.  But when Belt comes on the team, it will push one of the outfielders off the team, and it has appeared to me to be Nate all off-season so I was pretty sad thinking about that, as I still think he can be a good regular starter in the majors.  An injury now won't help his case, though if he stinks it up really good, maybe no team will touch him and we can stash him in AAA until 2012.  But his defense is so good that I wholeheartedly believe that another team will pick him up and stash him on their bench, an up and coming team looking for good pieces for their team in 2012.

So I'm rooting hard for Nate right now as this could be his last chance to stick with the team.  He's been hitting very well and if he can continue hitting like this into mid-season, at least to July, that increases the chances that the Giants might decide that the best thing to do would be to DFA Aaron Rowand and eat his contract.  He does not even have to hit for that much to be very valuable to the team given how good his RF defense is.

Our 2012 OF, believe it or not, is actually not that certain.  Pat Burrell and Cody Ross are both free agents, and Andres Torres, as much as I believe in his new batting mechanics and abilities to sting the ball, will still be 34 years old, an age when players abilities often fail them and the end is nye.  So keeping a young guy with potential like Nate would behoove the Giants, I believe.

And then there is Rowand, whose new batting stance is about the weirdest I've ever see a professional hitter use, and I recall Joe Morgan's elbow flap, seen Mel Ott's leg lift, heck, I would even rate it weirder than Gary Brown's jittery batting stance in college.  It looks like he is bending backwards unnaturally then suddenly snaps to the proper normal batting stance once the pitcher starts throwing.  I don't see how he can keep his eye on the ball while his head is moving like that.  Just seems to add another layer of difficulty on his eyes and brains needing to adjust for that head movement while the pitcher is throwing.

Heck, I guess I should be glad, he has been so cold for the past month (from April 18-May 18: .196/.265/.272/.536) that if he continues this for another month or two, the Giants would be hard pressed to release someone as talented defensively as Schierholtz for someone like Rowand who at best is average defensively today and hits worse than Nate.  Rowand could then go mountain biking for another team this off-season.

Romo Usage

Like others I've been concerned about Sergio Romo's usage, or lack thereof, lately.  He clearly have great stats and works well against both righties and lefties.  Yet he has hardly gotten many innings, with Bochy going regularly to Lopez, Ramirez, and even Affeldt, who is having another bad season.  However, Brian Wilson's twisted ankle and walks brought comments that perhaps he's not fully recovered from his oblique strain that DLed him to start the season, so that gave me a thought about how this usage might make sense.

Speculation on my part, but my thought is this:  what if Romo is respected enough by the Giants that they want him around to save Wilson, so to speak?  Now that's not an absolute, as he got into a game the other day in the 8th and then they took him out, though I don't blame Bochy for swapping out to Lopez, he has been lights out versus LHP and the game was in play at that point, I like that Bochy is aggressive in going for the win at key points like that.  Also, you have to give Romo some in-game pitching to keep him sharp.

But given that Wilson has not exactly been his 2010 self since the season started and, if you would recall another oblique injury that lingered (Lowry) all season, a sensible person would be prepared in some way for the possibility that Wilson might not be at his best any particular day and holding back Romo would make sense as a tactic in this scenario.  Plus, who do you want pitching if Wilson has pitched and the game is tied and we could go into extra innings if we don't score in the bottom of the 9th (that's how Wilson got all those wins, pitching when the game was already tied or got tied with him pitching).

Again, just my speculation, but that is what makes sense to me right now given the idea that Wilson might not be 100% yet (or ever) this season.

Another thought I had previously but never got to write on it is that perhaps the Giants are showcasing Santiago Casilla (obviously the DL probably ruined this possibility), Ramon Ramirez, and Javier Lopez as potential mid-season trading pieces.  The Padres picked up Cameron Maybin for two relievers, maybe the Giants can pick up a prospect in trading away a bullpen piece, what with Marc Kroon ready in the minors, Heath Hembree potentially ready by year end, a la Runzler in 2009, or 2012 at the latest.  There is also Dan Otero, returned back to AA after an injury knocked out him out for a large portion of his 2010 season, but previously he was a closer on the rise up the system.  But with how well they have been pitching, it would be hard to trade any of them now, I assume, but if there are arms that they think are ready for the majors, why not?  So I thought I would throw this in.

But really, if Ramirez/Lopez can handle the 8th, why not save Romo to potentially save Wilson and/or pitch well for us into extra innings, giving us two innings (since he's getting more rest, he can pitch longer if necessary)?

A's Series

Yeah, not really up for a full exploration yet, but with Vogelsong vs. Cahill, Lincecum vs. Brett Anderson, Jonathan Sanchez vs. Gio Gonzalez, it could go either way, with an edge to the Giants because they are home.

Had the rainout not happened, the rotation would have been Linecum, Sanchez, Cain and I would think we would have won that series.

I like Vogelsong but Cahill has been lights out this season, hard to bet against him in that matchup, looks like win there.  Lincecum is facing the "worse" starter of the three, and as long as the last start was just the occasional blip all good pitchers have, the Giants should win that one.  Which leaves the last matchup and Sanchez has been good enough most of the season, and the last two games have seen great improvement, only 2 walks total with both games the most IP in a start this season, but Gio has been even better this season, so that is a push, and so is the series.

Good news for the Giants offense is that Andres Torres, Freddie Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Nate Schierholtz, and Cody Ross have been relatively hot, on and off, and if they can pull it all together at the same time, the offense will be more than good enough during this short two series homestand if the starting pitching holds up.  I don't care for the A's (or rather, I don't care for their fans so I root to beat the A's) so I feel good that the Giants can pull out a series win, but it's no sure thing and a sweep either way would be improbable.

Go Giants!

3 comments:

  1. I agree. Nate has had his chances under Bochy and continues to have his chances. He's gotten more PT as he has earned it. Looks like you were right to be concerned about the diving catch because now Nate's shoulder is sore again, although it sure didn't keep him from throwing a laser beam to 3B in Friday's game.

    I'm not so sure about Romo. The official explanation from Bochy now is that he Lopez is so good against LHP's, he is playing matchup ball in the 8'th inning rather than having a classic setup man, but isn't that a backhanded way of saying he doesn't trust Romo against LH batters?

    I like Bochy as a manager, but all managers are human. Bad experiences tend to linger on the mind for a long time. I'm not sure Bochy has gotten over his "near-death experience" when Romo gave up the bomb to Eric Hinske in the NLDS.

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  2. Nate's shoulder looked fine today with that clutch 2 run bomb. We really have mastered torture baseball so far this season.

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  3. totally talked about nate and romo in my weekly recap. nice.

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