The 5-Hole Quandry

One week gone by, and there's some surprises and some things we knew all along are happening. But early in this season, one thing is for certain: The Giants need to find an answer for the question of who is going to hit 5th, behind Bonds?

There are a lot of issues the Giants need to answer if they are to repeat as N.L. West champions, and none is more glaring than the black hole that has been the fifth spot. Giants hitters so far have gone 6 for 38 (.158) with 7 strikeouts in the fifth spot, currently shared by Alfonzo, Pierzynski and occasionally Feliz. And that doesn't include Alfonzo's ineffectual pop up batting after Bonds pinch-hit on Wednesday's game against Milwaukee. Alfonzo, who has had the lion's share of the time there, hasn't had a single RBI while batting there, and Pierzynski has looked particularly lost in his last start there on Opening Day, Monday.

It's not a very ideal situation for the Giants. A couple of the hottest hitters on the team are locked into their spots in the order (Durham leading off, and Neifi batting 8th). Then there's Grissom, and you can never feel too confident putting a 39-year-old only coming off a career year behind your top hitter. (Of course, considering the age of the top hitter, all bets may be off on that conventional wisdom)

The truth is, the hole at spot #5 is simply showing the weakness of the Giants lineups so far. Durham is great leading off, but behind him is a cacophony of guys hitting where they normally wouldn't or shouldn't. J.T. Snow, despite his high OBP, is not a #2 hitter. He doesn't have the speed to score from second on many singles, nor could he score from first on any doubles. With his high RISP hitting last year, I'd be more comfortable seeing him further back in the lineup. Michael Tucker is not an ideal #3 guy, nor is any of the RF platooners. Grissom moved Tucker back to third, but is he the best guy to have batting 3rd?

The answer may be, in all things, to simply change the #5 hole to the #4 hole. Move Barry up to third in the batting order.

Barry was the one who thought he could help the team best batting fourth, and in most teams, I'd agree. But the truth is, right now, the Giants do not have enough guys to bat ahead of AND behind him like that to play effectively. If Bonds moved back to third, Grissom could be used more effectively behind Bonds, batting fourth, with Alfonzo batting fifth.

And then, just to lose the credibility I may have earned by saying that, I'd move Pierzynski up to 2nd. He's hit .300 in 3 of his 4 last years in the majors, and can do it again. He might do a lot better batting ahead of Bonds without that much pressure. Sure, he runs on a catcher's legs, but that in itself is an improvement over Snow's.

We'll see what happens. If there's one thing that's true about Alou, it's that he doesn't mind shuffling his lineup. I don't know how long it'll take for him to try this, with the batting behind Bonds being a total failure.

Other notes from the week that was:

  • It's time to get worried about A.J.
  • It's time to stop worrying about Marquis Grissom.
  • Speaking of A.J., there was some grumbling over the stolen bases allowed against Milwaukee. Don't. Those were all on the pitchers (particularly Jerome Williams) for not keeping the runners on, and taking too long to get to the plate. Runners have been getting jumps so big that they'd have beaten the throws if they were being transported directly to 2B by the Starship Enterprise.
  • Seen the new Cingular Wireless logo sitting above the Foghorn on the scoreboard structure? It looks to me like a huge radioactive bug flew headfirst into the thing, like so many do to my windshield when driving cross-country. Oh well, at least it's orange.
  • If you haven't been to a game yet, the scoreboard now shows a lot more info for hitters, and has the pitcher's line up all the time. All the new info might be an overload to some, but it's refreshing to me.
  • One of the big problems early on for the Giants was that they weren't taking any pitches, particularly when the umpires were squeezing Giants pitchers. The Giants have done a much better job of that recently, but it might be a problem we'll see a lot this season, particularly with Feliz, Neifi, Tucker and A.J.
  • Oh, and get excited about David Aardsma. The #1 Player in Baseball History will have a great career ending games eventually. He's not been perfect in his rookie campaign, but it doesn't help that the umps are calling him with a strike zone shaped like a lava lamp, moving around home plate like it were being used in a game of ‘Spin the Bottle.' It's a rookie squeeze, and it won't last.
  • As impressive as Neifi's hitting has been so far this season, I'm still very upset by his miscues on the field. In San Diego, he really hurt Tomko by hesitating on his throw and allowing a runner on. After a hit and run play that would have been an easy groundout with a runner on, Neifi then fell asleep on Giles' triple. If Neifi were doing his job, he'd have been watching the runners and calling out to the cutoff man (Durham) where to throw the ball. He didn't, so Durham turned the wrong way and then rushed an errant throw to third, which became an error and allowed Giles to score. Neifi's hitting has been a pleasant surprise, but the Giants can not afford many more miscues from their supposedly Gold Glove worthy shortstop.
  • From the "Look for Answers From Within (The Organization)" Department: Through Tuesday, Todd Linden is batting .429 with 2 walks and 4 SO in 21 at bats. He has only one extra base hit (a double), but he seems to be taking the Tony Torcato approach to getting a callup. It'll be hard to hold off the switch hitter if he keeps it up. Also, are the Milwaukee scrubs we traded for really better for our bullpen than Kevin Correia (3.60 ERA after a 5 inning start in Fresno, giving up 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 5)?

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