It's mid-May and the Giants are in first place. They are tied with Milwaukee (!) for the best record in the National League. They are still hitting home runs all the time which is completely new. Their starting pitching has turned the corner save for the consistently inconsistent Lincecum. The bullpen has been a strength all season thus far. And they're 17-12 against their NL West brethren, including a beautiful 7-3 mark against the Los Angeles Dollars, er, Dodgers.
So what's wrong with the Giants?
Well, they're about to get tested and here's why: Their bench has been ridiculously awful. To put into perspective how bad the bench has been, Hector Sanchez is hitting .236 with a .262 OBP and a .662 OPS and he's been San Francisco's best bench player. Granted, Sanchez has had some big hits. But those overall numbers are bad bad bad. Like Neifi Perez bad. And that's the BEST our bench has to offer.
The rest? Yikes.
Mr. Utility Joaquin Arias is hitting a robust .164 with a .207 OBP and a shockingly bad .371 OPS. Madison Bumgarner can hit better than that in his sleep.
Gregor Blanco, the White Shark, is hitting .100!! If you threw ME up to the plate 10 times... okay, I wouldn't get a hit. But that means Gregor Blanco is only getting 1 more hit than I would every 10 AB's. Let that sink in.
Ehire Adrianza is batting .176 with a .194 OBP and a .430 OPS. I keep wondering why Adrianza is even still on the team until I realize he's been our SECOND BEST BENCH PLAYER!! How depressing is that?
Finally, we have Juan Perez. Nevermind that Gary Brown is actually hitting in Fresno this year. Or that there's about a dozen guys wearing Grizzlies uniforms that couldn't possibly do any worse. What does Juan Perez add to the Giants 25-man roster? Speed and defense? Well he's speedy. And he plays good defense. But Bochy has Blanco for that role. And what good is speed if you can't get on base? Also, if somehow you find yourself on base, you should probably be able to steal. Juan Perez is 0 for 1 in steal attempts. There's two things wrong with that stat. One, he only has 1 attempt meaning he hasn't even attempted to use his one solid tool (speed) to steal when he's miraculously found himself on base. Two, he wasn't successful when he DID try. He is batting .050 with a .095 OBP and an amazing .145 OPS. In the history of baseball, there may never again be such an ugly slash line. It's so astoundingly bad that part of me has to believe Bochy and Sabean are keeping Perez up in the bigs just as some sort of joke. Like how ugly can the numbers get? And I don't even think Perez sucks. He was one of our better prospects in 2013. He's likely never going to be an every day outfielder but he at least was putting up some numbers that suggested he could maybe be a decent 4th or 5th outfielder. Not at the moment. He needs to go down and get AB's every day. His rhythm is completely off and he's lost at the plate.
So the Giants need some bench help. Sabean made it a point to mention the bench as one of his offseason priorities last winter. He didn't really accomplish that particular goal. While it looks like he hit a home run with his free agent signings (Morse and Hudson) he neglected re-tooling the bench. The thought was that Blanco as a 4th outfielder would instantly make the bench better as opposed to Blanco the every day player. And sure, if/when Scutaro comes back (I don't think he will, at all, but IF) then Hicks moving to the bench would likely help. But the Giants need to do something soon. Right now it hasn't been a huge issue because the Giants have been winning. But Bochy loves to play matchups and he loves resting his regulars early on in the season so they're more fresh down the stretch. In order to do that without sacrificing games is to make sure you have enough depth where the downgrade isn't akin to falling off a cliff. Right now, any time a regular sits, it's like falling off a cliff.
I mentioned the Giants are about to get tested and that's because Brandon Belt is out 6 weeks at least. That's a big hit. It's not quite losing-Pagan-in-2013 catastrophic but it hurts. The team was already missing its starting second baseman. Now it's missing its starting first baseman. A guy who, while streaky, has been a solid middle of the order bat so far this season. Given the state of the bench, a couple things NEED to happen right away:
Pablo needs to start hitting. It looks like the Panda finally got it going in the series finale against Los Angeles. But he has to prove it wasn't a one game reprieve. With Belt out, the Giants NEED Pablo to be Pablo. He needs to start crushing baseballs. Aside from Pablo, the Giants have to make a move and call in some reinforcements for the bench. Arias isn't going anywhere. He has a guaranteed contract and he's a veteran. Bochy and Sabean don't cut those guys loose too often. Neither is Blanco for the exact same reasons. That leaves Adrianza and Juan Perez. Perez has options and he should be sent down immediately or, at the very latest, when David Huff is ready to come off the DL. Adrianza should be cut loose as well. Adrianza is tougher for the organization to swallow because he is out of options, which means the Giants would have to be okay with the risk of losing him to another team potentially for nothing. But at this juncture, I think they can. The only reason Adrianza has lasted this long in my opinion was as insurance for Brandon Crawford. If Crawford went south, the Giants wanted to have a shortstop that was solid defensively who possibly had some offensive potential. I think while that potential is still there for Adrianza, the Giants no longer need it. Not only did they lock up the underwhelming Arias for this year and next, but Joe Panik is hitting the ball well in Fresno. If Crawford had to be replaced for any reason, the Giants at least could get by even if they sacrificed Adrianza. Thankfully, Crawford has been playing out of his mind both offensively and defensively which further detracts any solid reasoning for keeping Adrianza around.
The Grizzlies roster has a number of players that are actually doing good things at the moment. Any one of them would be an upgrade over what Juan Perez and Ehire Adrianza are currently doing at the MLB level. The Giants brought Tyler Colvin up when Belt hit the DL so there's a chance the bench might already be slightly improved. But they need to do more. A baseball season is full of ups and downs. Right now, the Giants are on an "up" streak and the complete lack of a bench has not yet really been a factor. But there will come a time where SF will need production from its reserves and when that time comes, the Giants quite simply need better options.
Regardless, as always, and as the Giants have been doing so far this season: BEAT LA