Right Ingredients, Wrong Recipe

The Giants have been changing their lineup more than Lisa Marie Presley has been changing lovers. There are no missing pieces; it's just a matter of patching the pieces together to make the perfect picture. With many new players and a new manager, there has been some drastic lineup juggling throughout the first month and a half of the season.

So April's gone, and now three weeks into May, Felipe Alou has kept himself busy. The new skipper has been playing around with lineup changes all season long, but what has been working for the Giants? Barry Bonds not being in the starting lineup?

Before I get tomatoes thrown at me, let me clarify. The Giants are 6-2 this season so far with Bonds starting on the bench. Skill, determination, more focus with the big guy on the bench - however you want to put it, the Giants are almost faultless without Bonds. Maybe if Bonds got pitched to, the Giants would be flawless. It's nice to know that the team picks up when its star is on the bench, an experiment that has yielded good results for Felipe. But what about his other experiments?

Pitching has been superb and the defense solid as usual for the Giants. The bullpen has been responding and the Giants have high hopes for their pitching department with young prospects. The phantom that this ballclub needs to overcome is the lack of offense. The Giants have not had as much trouble getting hits and getting men into scoring position as they have driving those runners home. In an attempt to find the perfect formula for the Giants' offensive game, Alou has made several shifts in the order.

Hitting in the #1 spot, Ray Durham is exactly where he needs to be. Durham is the best leadoff man in the league right now, with an outstanding on-base percentage. However, the Giants have not been able to use that on-base percentage recently, as an ankle sprain landed Durham on the disabled list.

The #2 spot has had the most changes for the Giants. Alou began the season with a sizzling hot Jose Cruz, Jr. batting second. Alou then switched Edgardo Alfonzo to the #2 hole and moved Cruz to behind Bonds in the hope that Cruz's hot hitting would make up for Alfonzo's inefficiency at the plate. Unfortunately, Cruz has since cooled off. He still has a high on-base percentage, but I'm sure the team would much rather see him get hits. Although Cruz is spending more time at the bottom of the lineup now, it is preferred that he's at the top because of his on base percentage and capacity to hit the ball. Cruz has been shifted around in the lineup more than any current Giant, but his statistics show that he has had the most success batting second. Cruz's speed and constant ability to get on base make him perfect for the #2 slot so the lineup can transition to the power hitters.

That brings us to Rich Aurilia, who is finally showing signs of heating up, having hit safely in eight straight games. With five straight hits on his bat's return to life, the new and more mature Aurilia looks for the base hit rather than for the long ball. Although he's picked up hits in eleven of his last thirteen games, only one has left the park. He still has the ability to jack one out of the park every now and then, but his base hitting will be more valuable in the Giants' struggle to get men home. Even with deep sacrifice outs, Aurilia is able to help advance base runners like Durham and Cruz, who have good speed in the #1 and #2 holes.

Now onto Mr. Bonds, who belongs in the #4 spot so he can do what he needs to do and get pitched to, with the assumption that the first three hitters have done their jobs. Having your slugger produce in the #4 slot often depends on the effiency of the first three batters. Even so, Bonds can still do what Bonds does best: smash baseballs into the stands. Many might argue that Bonds will not get pitched to as often in the #4 hole as in the #3 hole, but no matter where Bonds is, he will get his walks and he will get his opportunities.

Because Alfonzo is heating up, he needs his original spot behind Bonds back. Cruz and Alfonzo are interchangeable, but Cruz is preferred at #2 because of his speed. Recently, Alfonzo has not only displayed power, but also an ability to get base hits with men in scoring position. Benito Santiago has shown us that he is still able to deliver, no matter where he is in the lineup. His combination of power and base hitting makes him the perfect person for the #6 spot. Santiago has also taken over as the RBI man on the team and batting sixth gives him a lot of RBI opportunities. J.T. Snow belongs in the #7 slot because of his ability to get base hits to drive in runners. Snow does not have much power, but as we saw earlier this season, he is able to bring men home. Snow's hitting has cooled since April, and the Giants have cooled off with him, proving how valuable Snow's RBI hitting is to the team?s success. It was a mistake to move him up in the lineup because that distracted Snow's rhythm. It was also a mistake because Snow is not a power hitter, so moving him up will only give him more pressure to crush the ball out of the park, which isn't Snow's style of play.

Marquis Grissom needs to be in the #8 spot due to his speed and hitting. Once he gets on base, his speed enables him to advance on a bunt by the pitcher, who bats directly after Grissom in the ninth slot. Grissom has also shown that he is able to deliver as the team's leadoff hitter, which is a relief for the Giants, who have been looking for a substitute leadoff man while Durham is benched.

Neifi Perez is doing a decent job at second base defensively, but he has struggled offensively. The Giants need Durham back in their lineup as soon as possible because Durham plays an important role as the leadoff hitter, not only able to get on base, but also able to give the Giants a leadoff roundtripper every once in a while. Being as injury prone as he has been this season, the Giants will have to be careful with him, as well as all the other starters. Having any of the starters benched for a long period of time has cost the Giants some close games, and with the Dodgers gaining in on them, the Giants can not afford to make any more mistakes. At least the Giants found a satisfactory solution to their empty leadoff slot by placing Grissom there, but as good as Grissom has been in the leadoff, the Giants would very much prefer to have the league's best leadoff man on top of their lineup.

Well, doesn't this lineup sound familiar? It's the same lineup that the Giants started the season with. It's the same lineup that the Giants went 7-0 with because this lineup works. I have to give Felipe credit for trying to make things better for the Giants, but he is trying too much to experiment with different players in different slots, shifting players up and down in the lineup. Why disturb the balance? This lineup makes a good transition from speed to power hitters to base hitters and back to speed, which is the exact prescription that the Giants need to get back into their groove. All the components are in the pot. There is no need to take away anything or to add anything; its just the matter of finding the right recipe.

Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps and other articles for SFDugout.com. Sara can be reached at shoot_hoops33@hotmail.com

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