In 2003, when A.J. hit .312, he hit only .295(avg)/.336(OBP)/.440(SLG) at home, while hitting .328/.381/.486 on the road. They also complain that he won't have power hitting at a park biased against left handed hitters like SBC, but that comes from their own misconceptions about what to expect from A.J. He's only hit double digits in home runs once, and the type of hitter he is can make good use of SBC's spacious outfield and deep gaps.
And as for double plays, he hit the same number of GIDP's (13) as the starter he replaced from last year, Benito Santiago. The difference is that A.J. played in 29 more games than Santiago, so he is an improvement there.
The bottom line is that A.J. is a better hitter than he's shown, and there is no real reason to believe he will keep up this poor hitting. In fact, after he hit a season low .188 in his batting average following an 0-4 Thursday against San Diego, he has gone 4-8 to raise his average back to .232. He may not hit .300 for the first time in three years, but he should rebound to be a major contributor to this team.
Neifi Perez: Will Not Get Better. Seriously, I don't know what Sabean was expecting from Neifi Perez. In his last full year as a starter, he hit .236 for KC in 2002. Even in Colorado, Neifi couldn't break the .300 plateau. He simply has never hit outside of Colorado, and is riding that wave still, thanks to our GM. After a solid start, he has dropped bellow even his terrible career usuals, and after logging an 0-3 against the left hander Ishii, the type of pitcher he's supposed to be able to hit, dropped to an incredibly bad .178/.221/.233. He made the ridiculous comment that, since the former switch hitter will only be hitting right handed now, no pitcher had better hang a curveball to him; right now, I don't think he could base hits if he was hitting from a tee. Maybe he'll get his average back up to over .200 at some point, but if Feliz is going to get everyday playing time, it's time to seriously consider it at shortstop.
Edgardo Alfonzo: Will Get Better. Unfortunately, it really does appear that Alfonzo's prime has past, and the Giants may have made a mistake in his deal. He is off to his second terrible start for the Giants in as many seasons, and despite his 2nd half turnaround in 2003, this has become a bit of a sore spot for Giants fans.
What's most disturbing is that, despite this having happened last year, Giants management still seems to be clueless as to what's wrong with him. Perhaps the answer is in Pedro Feliz. Last year, when Alfonzo hit bottom with a .216 average, he was sat for two games against the A's, and Feliz played enough to impress a lot of people, thanks to some big homers. After that, Alfonzo went on his tear for the rest of the season. The Giants have done that again recently, benching him against San Diego, and he went 4 for 11 in the following three games, raising his average over 30 points before an 0-2 on Sunday. But even Sunday's performance had two walks, a good sign for him. It might also help that he's now batting 3rd ahead of Bonds, a move that was credited (rightfully or not) for getting Kent out of his 2002 slump. Alfonzo is a lot like former Giant Rich Aurilia, he'll never return to his glory season a few years ago, but it's early enough, and he's shown signs of returning to being a .275 hitter.
Michael Tucker: Will Not Get Better. I thought I saw the reason for Sabean picking up Tucker in the offseason this year: his platoon numbers vs. RHP (.274/.342/.474) mixed with the previously signed Hammonds' numbers vs. LHP (.333/.538/.556) would be nice, it would increase outfield depth, and it added another left handed bat against a Giants team that was terrible against right handed pitching last year.
Now, I'm speechless.
I don't know what bothers me more, that we gave up a first round pick on purpose for this guy, or that he seemingly doesn't care about how he's doing. I watched him last Thursday laugh off a double play he hit into to end yet another inning, and that sealed it for me. I want to see players who care about what's going on with them, and neither Tucker nor the fans have much of anything to laugh about right now. He can't hit the changeup, and everyone knows it. And he isn't trying to improve himself, or at least lay off the pitch. It's a recipe for disaster for the Giants, quite frankly.
J.T. Snow: Will Get Better. To be even clearer, he already is getting better. The Giants briefly tried hitting him against left handed pitchers, a terrible idea, and then decided to put him back into a platoon with a very appropriate Pedro Feliz. That combined with a better swing helped things much. Starting last Friday at home against Los Angeles, he went 7 for 20 with 4 doubles over the rest of the homestand, and raised his average from .182 to .245. He suffered a set back this weekend going 0 for 6, starting one game in Los Angeles, but he should continue to improve back to his career norms of hitting .260-.275. He might do better moved out of the 2nd spot in the order, where his doubles might be used better in driving in runs, rather than leading to being left on base. Despite getting on base 10 times during that streak, he only scored 4 times. Others, like Durham, Grissom and Bonds, have been getting on base at better clips, and need a solid hitter behind all of them to drive in runs.
Barry Bonds: Will Not Get Better. What, you want him to improve on a .500 batting average? Enjoy him while you can folks.
If two of those three guys I listed get back to their career norms, this is a much better baseball team. Despite a couple of recent wipeouts, this team has played tough and close in many games. With some improved hitting to keep out of double plays and drive in a few more of the runners that have already been getting on base consistently, this team will improve a lot quicker than people expect.
OTHER NOTES FROM THE WEEK THAT WAS:
It is, indeed, still early.
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