Wednesday, June 09, 2010


The Pros and Cons of Pat the Bat

See what happens when you drop a couple of competent hitters into the lineup? Good things tend to occur. More runs are scored, there's less of a burden on the pitchers, and I don't have to grind my teeth to a nub after the umpteenth double play ball. Okay, so I still have to do that, but at least it seems like it's not happening as often. Ever since Andres Torres and Buster Posey were inserted into the batting order as regular it just seems like the Giants have been scoring more. I'm too lazy to check the numbers to see if that's true, but I'll take a placebo over watching Bengie Molina bat any day.

Of course, the sane thing to do, if the Giants want to keep winning, would be to bench Aaron Rowand once and for all and jettison Molina now. This crazy dream that Rowand will get going again only lives on in the minds of baseball salts who aren't aware that mediocre 30-somethings with zero plate awareness rarely just "get it back". Molina's early season walk binge was fun and all, but those walks have now dried up, and he isn't even hitting for power now, which means he's just a horrible player. Maybe, you say, he'll straighten things out given some more time. Ahem, I refer you back to the Rowand example.

Rowand is making big money and Molina has some Randall Flagg-type magic spell placed on Giants management, so neither are going anywhere. That's a bummer for us, and Nate Schierholtz, who now looks to be in serious peril of falling into the dustbin of forgotten and misused players, along with Fred Lewis and Kevin Frandsen. At least the Giants aren't being complete idiots in their willingness to keep Posey in the majors for good; they're just being idiots by making him play out of position, thus also necessitating Aubrey Huff's move to the outfield, which promises all kinds of fun...if your idea of fun is a defensive nightmare. Which brings me to...

Pat Burrell. In desperate need of a power bat, the Giants added Burrell to the already hopelessly muddled outfield mix. Burrell has been decent enough in a few starts so far, but I'm confused as to what happens when (or if, I suppose) Mark Derosa comes back. What good is a super-utility guy when he has no place to play? You can't bench Juan Uribe and Freddy Sanchez right now. If Burrell hits like he's consuming Philly cheese steaks again, you won't want to bench him. This is quite the conundrum.

Anyway, about Burrell. What he brings to the table, obviously, is a big stick and an ability to take walks. Well, that would be the case if it were 2008. Once the Phillies recorded the last out of the '08 World Series, Burrell morphed into a big blob of suck, and his bat hasn't been seen since. Perhaps a return to the National League will help cure what ails his weak stick (yes, I know there's a Viagra joke there...lay off). Maybe, but Burrell has those much-dreaded "old player skills", which means he's likely fallen off of a cliff that can't be re-scaled.

Burrell's fielding at this point is an embarrassment about on par with Ronny Cedeno's eyeblack mustache (that was a fail if I've ever seen one). In fact, the Rays thought they were getting the deal of a lifetime by signing Burrell as a DH so they wouldn't have to witness him clomping around cluelessly in the outfield. Well, the joke is on them; they didn't have to watch him field and he still turned into an albatross.

So Burrell is a defensive liability and his bat may never wake up (and he's also possibly a bit of a creep). Hey, he's 33, so he fits right in with the organizational philosophy! The reward here is reasonably high if Burrell can regain some of his former mojo. The risk is low because he can be dumped like a bottle of Mezcal if he stinks it up. I just can't help wondering if this isn't a huge redundancy when Schierholtz could provide 3/4 of the bat and twice the defense, rendering this whole Pat the Bat experiment redundant.

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