Giants 2009: State Of, 10/24 Part 2 Of 2
(originally written 10/24/09)
It seemed with each moonshot into and over Triples Alley, or the Cove, he was becoming simply invincible; we as fans were more shocked when he DIDN'T get a big hit than when he did.
The outrage over Shane Victorino's selection to the All-Star game over Panda's was deep and deserved—Sandoval, in his first full major league season, carried this team on his broad shoulders while guys like Randy Winn swung out of their shoes hitting into 6-4-3 inning-ending double plays and Fred Lewis stood looking at so many strike 3's he should have been charged stadium admission.
Sandoval is, as I mentioned, in his first full major league season. A year and a half ago, he was in A ball. The grind of the Wild Card race and the long MLB season is clearly wearing him down and proving him to be human. He has been pretty ordinary lately, and who can blame him? It is easy to forget he is a kid, but there is a bright future ahead of him as long as he does not begin to idolize fellow heavyweight Prince Fielder and seek to cause tremors at home plate (staged or otherwise) that topple his teammates over.
Without the dominant, first-half Pablo terrorizing opposing pitchers, the Giants have had a hard time doing anything consistently right at the plate. If you look at it one way, their struggles are ALL Panda's fault, because after watching him hit .300+ with a strike zone the size of a small planet, all his teammates think they can do it too.
Wasn't it Yogi Berra who said "If you can't imitate him, don't copy him?"
How many times have we watched Bengie Molina, who is a very good player, strike out on a pitch closer to the first baseman than to the catcher?
It is one thing to whiff on a breaking ball that starts in the zone and ends up out of it. As somebody who's played the game, I know they can fool the hell out of even the best batters when executed properly.
Answer me this, though: Who throws a pitch that starts ankle-high in the lefty batters' box that breaks back over the plate? Apparently, Bengie has met someone who can, because more times than I can count, he chases that very pitch as if he expects it to break UP and into the strike zone. It is not excusable for a major league hitter to do that more than twice a season. Bengie can do that twice in an at-bat.
It isn't sufficient to say, "Oh, that's Bengie. He's aggressive." That's not aggression, that's moronic and Bengie isn't a moron. For all the big hits he's had for this team, honestly, he's had the same number of deflating strikeouts. There are K's, and there are deflating K's—K's that the pitcher did not earn; K's that the batter caused with a poor approach. If Bengie could discipline himself to whiff at, say, 10 fewer of those pitches a year, my estimate is that four at-bats go different ways.
In those four at-bats, he could get a hit, draw a walk, maybe hit a three-run bomb. Little things like that change games. They can turn four losses into four wins. Four more wins for SF right now would put them VERY CLOSE to the playoffs.
But after 10+ years as a big-leaguer, Molina isn't likely going to change the approach that has made him generally successful.
The flip side to that coin is the aforementioned Lewis. Fred Lewis IS disciplined. He is so disciplined that he will stand through any at bat and watch three strikes go right by him. The amazing part is that as he walks back to the dugout he has a look of disgust on his face, as if he forgot he was supposed to swing at the STRIKES and take the BALLS.
Fred Lewis often brings thoughts of Willie Mays.
The statue outside the park, not the actual player.
I can recall a time not long ago when we clamored to see more of Fred Lewis. He has talent much like Milton Bradley, without the scrambled head and menacing eyes. We've seen him park balls into McCovey Cove, gracefully leg out triples a la Devon White, make ridiculous diving catches in clutch moments.
Sometime during the last 12 months, that Lewis has become the inanimate one that has weakened the 2009 Giants. For a time he was completely incapable of hitting a fair ball, and any ball hit to him in left field had as good a chance of growing a tail as it had of landing in his mitt.
Like with Rowand earlier, it hurts to come down on Fred Lewis. If you don't know his story, early in his pro career he was behind the wheel in a horrific car crash that left his girlfriend and others dead. Though he was not entirely at fault, you can imagine the toll that would take. It was a great story to hear him rise from that to make it to the major leagues. We all wanted him to succeed.
But now that he's a big leaguer, he must play like one to stay one.
His tragic backstory will not help the Giants win games.
What will: being the anti-Bengie by not staring at balls down the middle as if they're exposed breasts, and start knocking them around AT&T; Park like he once did! Go, Giants.