Tag: John Bowker

San Francisco Giants: 10 Biggest Surprises of 2010

2010 has been a year packed with surprises, from the success of unsung heroes to the struggles of previous years’ stars. Let’s take a look at the Giants’ 10 biggest surprises. 

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Streaking Giants Didn’t Pay Dearly To Fix What’s Not Broken

The are people who refuse to acknowledge reality and continue to insist that the San Francisco Giants needed to make a blockbuster deal before the trade deadline passed.

The Giants did exactly what they should’ve done. They gave up a minor leaguer for a veteran right-handed relief pitcher. Then, they traded two players with big league experience, but not much success, for a left-hander for the bullpen.

How anyone who has been paying attention to the club and its competitors since the All-Star break ended can think the Giants did anything but the right thing is baffling.

The Giants are scorching hot and just one and a half games behind the San Diego Padres in the NL West. They’ve managed stirring back-to-back wins that push the Los Angeles Dodgers further off the pace and put more room between San Francisco and the Colorado Rockies in the division.

The Giants are building a nice, little lead in a wild-card race where only the Philadelphia Phillies seem particularly imposing. The Cincinnati Reds are two games back and the Phillies three and a half. After that, there’s a log-jam that includes the Dodgers and Colorado Rockies between five and a half and six and a half games behind the wild-card race leaders.

The Giants didn’t need a journeyman hitter. Fans and media types who insist they should’ve landed someone like Washington slugger Adam Dunn ignore that the Nationals were asking for pitcher Madison Bumgarner.

So. lefty Javier Lopez comes from Pittsburgh for two popular Giants who just didn’t perform in fairly extended opportunities to do so at the big league level. Pitcher Joe Martinez and outfielder-first baseman John Bowker are Pirates now.

Bowker is a fringe big leaguer and a Triple-A all-star. Martinez is a right-handed starting pitcher who didn’t pitch well in the big leagues for a team that doesn’t need starting pitching to begin with. Love those guys? Well, they’ll get a chance to prove in Pittsburgh that they didn’t really get a chance in San Francisco.

Right-hander Ramon Ramirez comes from the Boston Red Sox for a kid pitcher named Daniel Turpen. 

There are going to be spouting the numbers that Lopez and Ramirez have put up in 2010. They’ll say that the two won’t help the Giants bullpen at all. They’ll be ignoring that the Giants have gone on a 15-4 streak that includes an 8-2 run without a lefty in the bullpen and without Brian Wilson to close in their last two victories.

At some point soon, somebody’s going to complain that Ramirez isn’t any better than the reliever the Giants send to Triple-A to make room for him. Before that somebody shouts the praises of, say, Santiago Casilla, consider that Ramirez has 31-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42 innings pitched this season.

So, yes, many of the same people who’ve complained that Giants relievers don’t throw enough strikes will complain that they traded a minor leaguer for a strike-thrower and sent a notoriously inconsistent pitcher to the minors.

Incredible, isn’t it?

People are still lining up to moan that general manager Brian Sabean just can’t build a winner.

The Giants are winning with free agent acquisitions Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe playing very well.

If Sabean gets the blame for Aaron Rowand’s contract, he deserves all the credit in the world for Huff, Burrell and Uribe.

And, boy, are Sabean’s detractors hoping that no one mentions that Andres Torres was a 31-year-old career minor leaguer when Sabean invited him to spring training in 2009 and is paying the mercurial lead-off hitter $426,000 to play all three outfield positions, hit .286 and lead the league in doubles.

Yep. The boys in the Giants front office are responsible for Torres being in San Francisco.

Fans are going to whine that Sabean and the Giants didn’t add a big-time run-producer as they completely ignore the fact that catcher Buster Posey was added to the big league roster in May. Posey has had more impact on San Francisco’s lineup than any hitter who was traded in the last two weeks will have on his new team’s lineup.

Fans who’ve noticed that the Giants are playing the best baseball in the National League are pleased to know that the Giants didn’t try to fix what isn’t broken.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at tsillanpaa1956@gmail.com

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The San Francisco Giants’ Best Trade Option: John Bowker


While some members of the media are clamoring for the Giants to trade for a big bat and Brian Sabean is kicking the tires on every non-impact bat available, the Giants’ best trade option is right in front of them: John Bowker.

Bowker’s detractors would say that he’s had his chance and failed to produce, that he’s a AAAA player who feasts off AAA pitching or that he doesn’t fit what the Giants need; but Bowker is a left-handed outfielder with power. This is exactly what the Giants are looking for. Bowker has absolutely raked in Fresno this year, while hitting .329, with a .408 OBP, .629 SLG good for a Bondsian 1.037 OPS and 12 home runs in 167 at-bats.

Some people may remember Bowker’s 2008 campaign when he burst on to the scene and had a great first half, but sharply declined in the second half of the season. That year he hit eight HR’s by the end of June in only 198 at-bats, but only hit two more the rest of the year. However, Bowker’s plate discipline was horrible, once pitchers realized he would swing at anything that’s exactly what he saw. His BB percentage in 2008 was an anemic 5.4 percent and that was only after a strong August in which he saw his BB percentage jump to 11.8.

Bowker spent most of 2009 in Fresno, but unlike so many other players who have poor command of the strike zone, he did something about it and his BB percentage skyrocketed to 16.4. The increased number of walks he drew helped bump his OPS up to an impressive 1.047, and he hit 21 homeruns in 366 at-bats.


Although the Giants planned to give the starting right field job to Nate Schierholz out of spring training in 2010, Schierholz didn’t hit, while Bowker did and won the starting spot. Bowker stumbled out of the gate and then got Bochy’d.

In case you’re not familiar with a player getting Bochy’d it works one of two ways depending on the classification a player falls in to: For younger players, their job is always in jeopardy, go through a slump or see your batting average dip and you will be benched. Also, it is assumed that left handed batters cannot hit left handed pitchers—ever, and vice-versa for right handed batters. For older grizzly gamery veterans, when their production declines they will continue to get starts and at-bats even when said slump continues for months, and in the case of Aaron Rowand years. It will also be assumed that veterans are always on the up-swing and never on the decline; consequently they will bat higher in the lineup than they should and even the smallest hitting streak will be met with increased starts, at-bats, etc. It started in San Diego and has continued in San Francisco.

Having Bruce Bochy can make it tough on young players, especially those who don’t have ice in their veins or aren’t named Posey. Many young players struggle even when they have their manager’s and club’s support. For example, in his rookie season, Barry Bonds hit a paltry .223, the great Willie Mays hit a very un-Mays like .274. Matt Williams came up in 1987 and hit an anemic .188 and didn’t put it all together for three more years. In fact Williams’ numbers after two seasons in the majors are pretty close to Bowker’s, except worse: .194 avg., 16 HR’s, .241 OBP, .366 SLG, compared to Bowker’s numbers: .238 avg., 15 HR’s, .285 OBP, .394 SLG.


MinorLeagueSplits.com, uses a formula that adjusts for a player’s league, the jump in talent level at the major league level and various other factors to use a AAA players stats to create their Major League Equivalent (MLE) or what they are likely to produce at the big league level. Currently Bowker’s MLE slash line is: .283/.346/.509/.855 with nine HRs over the remainder of the season.

The Giants already went out and spent big dollars on Freddy Sanchez who compares unfavorably to Kevin Frandsen—another player who got Bochy’d—and Fred Lewis is a major contributor in Toronto. The stats for Sanchez, Frandsen and Lewis:

Player           AVG / OBP / SLG / OPS / HR / 3B / 2B / SB

Sanchez  .275 / .331 / .335 / .666 / 1 / 1 / 9 / 2
Frandsen .288 / .336 / .367 / .702 / 0 / 0 / 11 / 2
Lewis .284 / .347 / .457 / .804 / 6 / 5 / 27 / 11

Even if he doesn’t produce at epic proportions he’s proven to be a good bat off the bench, coming through with a number of big hits earlier this year in pinch-hit roles, including his home run against Francisco Rodriguez. Before Sabean goes out and trades for Shea Hillenbrand, Freddy Sanchez or another non-impact bat that will cost more money, maybe the Giants should find out what they have in John Bowker.

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San Francisco Giants Need Triple-A Team To Produce Marketable Talent

The San Francisco Giants really need another left-hander out of the bullpen now that Jeremy Affeldt’s sidelined with a torn oblique muscle.

The club also needs minor league talent to attract a proven big league run-producer in trade.

Todd Wellemeyer’s pitching well for the Fresno Grizzlies in the Pacific Coast League, but that doesn’t mean that fans calling for the club to trade Jonathan Sanchez for a hitter have any idea how difficult it would be to fill the No. 4 spot in the rotation.

Oh, there are starting pitchers in Triple-A—but there’s a good reason that only one has ever reached the big league level and for the big club’s hesitance to turn a starting spot back over to Wellemeyer.

The organization does have some talent other teams might seek in trade, but the most proven player in Fresno is middle infielder Emmanuel Burriss and the Giants could use him themselves down the stretch.

Such is the playoff frenzy among Giants fans that some are insisting that Gino Espinelli is the answer in the bullpen.

Gino Espinelli?

Here’s a look at the key players in Fresno. Remember, the Giants can lure a big league hitter without giving up minor league talent and, rest assured, the organization would rather gut the Fresno roster than touch the nucleus of the Richmond Class AA team.


Matt Yourkin, LHP – Giants fans haven’t heard a thing about the 29-year-old journeyman left-hander, but he has pitched well in 16 starts this year (he hadn’t made a professional start in his five previous seasons). He’s 6-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 89 innings pitched. He pitches to contact. A Giants bullpen that has an excess of stuff and a need for command could potentially use Yourkin down the stretch. He has 76 strikeouts and only 26 walks.

It would require altering the 40-man roster to get Yourkin to the big leagues, so enjoy him in Fresno.

Dontrelle Willis, LHP — He’s 28 and serious baseball fans no his story. The Giants have him in Arizona where they are totally rebuilding his wind-up and delivery. Once the minor league pitching instructors feel he is ready, Willis will be sent to Fresno where he work as a situational relief pitcher. The Giants need nothing more, and more quickly, than they need a lefty in the pen. For anyone to expect Willis to provide big league help in a pennant race, after losing command and control of his emotions, would be a stretch.

Eric Hacker, RHP – He’s 11-5 in 20 starts, but that 4.52 ERA has enabled to bypass him a couple of times when there was a need for a fifth starter. Hacker has walked 42 and given up 122 hits in 109 2/3 innings. 

Joe Martinez, RHP – The righty replaces Affeldt on the big league roster in a bullpen without a lefty. His big league career has been nondescript, but he is 5-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 starts in the Pacific Coast League. The 1.28 WHIP could make him a potential throw-in if the Giants need to add a potential big league arm in a trade for a hitter. 

Steve Edlefsen, RHP – The numbers add up. He’s 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA and five saves. His 41 strikeouts and 22 walks in 48 innings indicate that he throws strikes. The 25-year-old is never mentioned when the big league considers adding a reliever. 

Gino Espinelli, LHP – Watch the Giants bullpen cough up leads in the middle innings often enough and, yeah, Espinelli starts looking good. The 27-year-old could find his way to San Francisco with only Jeremy Affeldt working as a lefty in the pen right now.

Espinelli is 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA and eight saves in Fresno. His inability to break through to the big leagues stems, in part, from the fact that he was judged a full-time reliever in 2007 and has never developed strikeout stuff big leaguers tend to need to shine late in games. 

Alex Hinshaw, LHP – If Martinez got the call to replace Affeldt, it’s unfathomable that the big club can’t look past Hinshaw’s 2-3 record and that 4.73 ERA in Fresno because the 27-year-old had 49 strikeouts in 45 2/3 big league innings with the Giants in 2008 and 2009. The lack of command that showed in the big leagues (36 walks) has slowed him in Fresno.

It doesn’t make much sense for a big league team with erratic, right hand relievers to look past a potentially capable lefty with 47 Ks and 27 BBs in Class AAA. Does Martinez help more coming out of the pen late in a game than Hinshaw might? Really?

Waldis Joaquin, RHP – The 23-year-old throws hard, but hasn’t thrown strikes in a couple stints with the Giants. Regardless of his numbers in Fresno, though, he’ll be in San Francisco in September when guys like Edlefsen and Hacker are headed home. Joaquin might be the most marketable arm in Fresno when the Giants talk trade.

Position players

Tyler Graham, OF – The Pacific Coast League is a hitter’s league, so it’s hard to tell what Grahma’s .343 batting average means in terms of big league potential. The 26-year-old lacks power, but has 24 stolen bases. His being a right hand hitter won’t hurt his chances of a September call-up. He could be a near big league-ready talent that could be a throw-in if a trade for a big league run-producer presents itself. 

John Bowker, OF-1B – Those who think 183 games and 475 big league at-bats aren’t enough for Bowker to have shown he’s really more than a .238 big league hitter will continue to insist he be recalled so that he can try, again, to turn PCL MVP-like numbers into serviceable big league stats.

His value on the open market hinges on which team the Giants deal with. Bowker’s minor league numbers would impress fans, briefly, as they bid farewell to an Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, etc.

Juan Guzman, 3B-1B – The guy is a minor league hitter who, unlike Bowker, hasn’t received much opportunity to start and rack up big league ABs. He’s got 13 homers and 39 RBI. Guzman’s hitting .309, but has proven to be a big league DH who might attract limited interest as part of a bigger trade package.

Ryan Rohlinger, 3B-SS – He’s hitting .310 with five homers in Triple A, but has looked increasingly like a big league utilityman. He was recalled on Saturday to replace fallen Eugenio Velez, who suffered a concussion when struck by a line drive foul ball.

There are teams willing to accept a 26-year-old Rohlinger who can play multiple positions—as long as he’s packaged with younger, more touted prospects. 

Brett Pill, 1B – His 11 homers and 58 RBIs show he has upped his power potential at age 25. Pill could, in theory, be an attractive piece in a trade for a big league hitter—especially with Brandon Belt on the fast track to becoming the big league first baseman. Pill’s most certainly in line for a September call-up if he isn’t traded first.

Emmanuel Burriss, IF – The 25-year-old was the Giants opening day second baseman in 2009. Injuries sidelined him for more than a year, but he brings the big club a lot of what it needs. Burriss adds speed to a lead-footed lineup.

While he didn’t develop into the big-time big league shortstop he was drafted to become, he can bring young legs and range to the position. Burriss is a switch-hitter who, most certainly, will be on the big league roster soon. He’s batting .282 in 117 Triple-A at-bats. He has youth and a sufficient upside to be a key part of a trade for a big league batter.

Brock Bond, 2B – The Giants are committed to Freddy Sanchez, with Burriss ready to return to the big leagues. Highly touted Nick Noonan is considered by some the second baseman of the future (although Noonan’s struggling in Class AA this season).

Bond is a 24-year-old switch-hitter hitting .287 with 29 RBI. He’s not a power hitter, but gets on base (.405) OBP. It’ll be interesting to see if the Giants, or any other big league club, are noticing that the guy’s having a really good first year in Triple A.

So, there they are. Joaquin, Burriss, Pill, and Graham are all marketable minor leaguers. None, however, is the centerpiece of a trade that’s going to net the Giants a hitter.

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San Francisco Giants: Bengie Molina Swap Creates Job for Brett Pill

The San Francisco Giants’ decision to trade Bengie Molina creates an opening in the everyday lineup, primarily at first base.

The club surely isn’t interested in returning Aubrey Huff to first base, with Buster Posey the everyday catcher.

Huff giving up his spot in the starting outfield creates a spot that could only be filled by returning Aaron Rowand to his role as the starting center fielder, with Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, and Nate Schierholtz sharing the other two starting jobs.

(Burrell’s listed as an outfielder-first baseman, but it’s hard to imagine the club moving him and creating even more chaos in that outfield.)

Torres hasn’t torn it up in the lead-off spot lately. Schierholtz, clearly, isn’t in the Giants’ long-term plan.

Burrell, arguably, merits the everyday left field job, even though the club can’t be certain he will return to the form he showed in his heyday with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Molina deal does bring a credible relief pitcher in Chris Ray. The Texas Rangers reliever was, at one point, the Baltimore Orioles’ closer of the future.

That didn’t pan out, but relief pitchers given a second and third chance are exactly the guys who catch lightning in a bottle and become lights-out set-up men. And, boy, do the Giants need a lights-out set-up guy.

The Molina trade wasn’t made to go back to the outfield merry-go-round, even though it does give Posey the full-time gig he deserves behind the plate.

The Giants have had slick-fielding Travis Ishikawa on the bench all year. The first baseman’s presence is inexplicable, save that he’s done well as a pinch-hitter.

Ishikawa’s chance to follow John Bowker, Nate Schierholtz, Eugenio Velez and others into oblivion, or to prove he can be a big-league contributor, has arrived. He’s hit well enough off of the bench to fill part of the hole left at first base.

He’s still young and he’s flashed power. Barring an accompanying trade for a first baseman, which is unlikely, Ishikawa will be in the lineup now.

The Giants aren’t prepared to send Ishikawa out there against left-hand pitchers, though. That means they’re likely ready to call on slugging, right-hand hitting first baseman Brett Pill.

He has 10 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .298 batting average at Triple-A Fresno. And, remember, the Giants were anxious to give Pill a shot at winning a big league job this spring before other holes in the roster became more pressing.

Pill is 25 years old and he’s hit for more power the last few years in the Giants organization. He’s a good enough defensive first baseman to platoon with Ishikawa.

The front office likes Pill and, at 25, they can’t wait forever to give him a shot.

Look for Ishikawa and Pill to become the everyday first baseman with Burrell, Torres, Huff and Rowand sharing the outfield slot.

No, Pablo Sandoval isn’t the answer in a platoon with Ishikawa. Sandoval’s lost his stroke completely from the right side of the plate.

Finally, an Ishikawa-Pill platoon for now gives the Giants a bit of a youth movement when one considers that Posey will also be taking over behind the plate.

If Ishikawa and Pill don’t do the job in the coming weeks, there would still be time to see where the club stands and deal for another outfielder to free Huff to play first base.

Posey, Ishikawa and Pill. Giants fans are about to find out that they gotta love those kids, because they will be in the lineup.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Contact Ted at tsillanpaa1956@gmail.com.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

San Francisco Giants Are Who We Thought They Were

Damn that Brian Sabean!

Bruce Bochy is ruining everything!

Geesh! How in the world could Sabean not anticipate that Mark DeRosa’s surgically-repaired wrist ligament would rupture even after DeRosa was given a clean bill of health by team doctors and other physicians?

DeRosa wasn’t considered that “old” when the club signed him and then got off to a fast start in April. But, hell, now it’s apparent that Sabean just can’t help but sign broken down old free agents—like the 35-year-old DeRosa.

The Giants need hitters. They need a veteran presence in the middle of the order. How could Sabean have not signed a frontline slugger like (name a frontline slugger who hasn’t been injured or flopped since entering free agency) ?

Sure, DeRosa’s a veteran. And, OK, he’s put up good numbers while playing up to five different positions.

Sabean was wrong to sign him, though, because after doctors told Sabean that DeRosa was healthy, Sabean signed DeRosa and then DeRosa got hurt.

The Giants can’t start Buster Posey’s arbitration clock. It wasn’t that important to have their No. 1 minor league hitting prospect on the roster because that fast start in April made his presence in San Francisco irrelevant. Sure, they lost a couple games in that early-season burst that, maybe, Posey could’ve turned around.

The Giants’ long-term financial health is far more important than two, three wins in April.

Man, this is laughable! The Padres are 3.5 games ahead of the Giants in the NL West. The division is right there to be won and the Giants’ brass must be held accountable for frittering away games in the spring for lack of hitting or for lack of speed. They have a kid like Posey in Fresno and they let that fast start become increasingly meaningless because the big club didn’t have him around when they really needed him.

Jonathan Sanchez is running out of rope. Tim Lincecum’s been brilliant. Barry Zito’s bounced back from being lost in the wilderness to being incredibly good. Matt Cain’s the best No. 3 starter around. Ol’ Cainer…”Shotgun,” fans love him! Then, out comes Sanchez to muck things up.

Sanchez had a 3.00 ERA entering Thursday’s start against the Padres. It’s such a luxury to have him as the fourth starter. Instead of always wondering how the club can get a hitter, it would make so much sense to build a stronger defense behind him. Cain walked six batters in Tuesday’s loss. Sanchez was magnificient in Wednesday’s loss.

Let’s get it fixed.

Sabean just doesn’t get it!

It’s not easy being a Giants fan who believed that the fast start was greasing the skids for a quick, easy glide to the NL West pennant.

Everything we believed in the off-season got turned on its ear in the first month. The club pitched better than we expected and, obviously, was far more productive with the bats than anyone had reason to imagine.

We even went a couple weeks without someone demanding that John Bowker and his .200’ish batting average be inserted in the lineup. Things were really good, remember?

Now, they’re really bad and we don’t know what to do. So, we blame the general manager and we blame the field manager.

It’s ridiculous.

Have you noticed how terribly the bullpen has performed lately? The club really thought it could win with young set-up guys like Sergio Romo and Dan Runzler?

Come on.

Hold on. We all loved them when they were mowing guys down in April, but we must’ve secretly acknowledged that, when the club hit the skids, we’d be able to quickly blame those relief pitchers for failing to deliver.

The Giants are exactly who we thought they were.

Well, there two positive surprises. The starting pitching has been even better than anyone anticipated…and we’d never have imagined that was possible. And, the MVP has been a player most fans wanted to run out of town — center fielder Aaron Rowand.

Beyond that, the Giants have good-not-great bullpen, a worthless bench and an everyday lineup that could reasonably stand an upgrade at every single spot. They’re not, nor have they been, in position to tweak and tinker and steam to a title.

This bunch can win or it can implode and finish far off the pace. Just consider the three key everyday players fans count on the most:

Pablo Sandoval keeps getting bigger and bigger and that makes him an increasing defensive liability at third base. The idea that a guy as young as Sandoval is struggling at bat because he’s fatigued from playing every inning is a red flag. It’s May 13 and the guy is already tired? (Personal experience shows me that carrying 30 extra pounds, or more, around will tire a guy out really quickly.)

Bengie Molina has gotten to that point where his thickly-muscled legs are causing him enough trouble that he’s a bit of a liability once the club relies on him to hit No. 4. He’s not going to be out there every single day, so…who else can hit fourth?

Juan Uribe will be in the lineup every day, even with former batting champion Freddy Sanchez returning to play second base. Wherever Uribe plays in the field will make that position a defensive liability.

Anybody still calling for Uribe to be the everyday shortstop? Didn’t think so.

All that and they manage to keep Travis Ishikawa on the bench, eating a roster spot, because he’s a wonderful defender at first base.

The Giants can win it all, even with the shortcomings we all knew they had all along.

Remember when we all agreed that patience was key?

The Giants were cruising in first place and the idea of bringing Posey to the big club was mocked because, how much impact could he make? Remember?

It’s a long season.

Hang in there.

Things will get better and, man, after that hot start…it’ll be worth the wait for Posey (starting in June) and for Bowker to get the next last chance in left field and all.

Or, not …

It’s mid-May and the club isn’t scoring runs. The defense has booted games away.

Damn that Sabean! Letting Bochy foul up such a good thing!

Oh…oh…you know, one of the KNBR guys said that Lincecum is going to the Yankees?

Yep. The Yankees!

Well, the guy said that the Giants haven’t mentioned Lincecum being a “career Giant” and that the Yankees have more money than any other team and that, he figured, most great players pass through New York but…

Timmy’s gonna be a Yankee? Great. What else can go wrong?

How could they let us believe that the bright, happy April would become a dismal mid-May?

The Giants are who we thought they were. Who they become as the season unfolds will be up to the guys who swing the bat, throw the pitches and make the plays.

Feel free, however, to blame every loss on Sabean or Bochy and every win on the grit of a bunch of over-achievers — and to worry about where Lincecum will be when he turns 30.

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If the Giants Can Learn To Finish, They’re on the Brink of Something Big

Enough with watching these Giants snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and having to listen to some knucklehead impersonate a first-grade teacher and say, “There’s no reason to panic. It’s still early in the season.”

Oh, we’ll hang with the Giants through all 162 games. It’s the folks who think anything short of accepting every loss gracefully is actually a show of pure panic.

Some of us realize that the 2010 Giants could have put some distance between themselves and their NL West foes by now. We don’t look at the record they have and say, “Boy, that’s better than we expected!” We look at the record and think about the games the Giants gave away and we fume.

We don’t panic.

We know it’s a long season.

We just know how important it is to take full advantage of Tim Lincecum’s magic or the inexplicable games where Nate Schierholtz goes 5-for-5. (Or, of games where Lincecum was magical and Schierholtz had five hits.)

Look, we agree that this is a flawed Giants team. In fact, it’s knowing that they have flaws that makes a 12-9 record entering the big three-game set against the Rockies hard to swallow.

Is it a show of panic to suggest that the Giants need to be able to beat the Phillies twice—then figure out how to keep a 4-1 lead with one out in the ninth and Lincecum on the hill?

Lincecum is the best pitcher in the National League.

He had thrown 106 pitches the other day and needed to get two outs in the ninth—before the Phillies he’d baffled all day could score three runs to tie.

The Giants had a signature Lincecum masterpiece on their hands. He is the heart of the franchise. The crowd was ready to believe that anything was possible after he just embarrassed the defending NL West champions for 8 1/3 innings.

Then, he walked a batter on four straight pitches. (Yes, we realize they were high. And, we know that the average pitcher who misses high is showing signs of fatigue. There’s just nothing average about Lincecum.)

Juan Marichal was 25 years old in 1963 when he dueled Warren Spahn through 15 1/2 scoreless innings. Willie Mays homered in the bottom of the 16th. The Giants won 1-0.

Lincecum’s 25 right now and he got the hook in favor of Brian Wilson after throwing 106 pitches. One media type actually said, “Sure…leave Lincecum in to finish that game…then come and see me when his arm’s hanging off in September!”


Marichal threw 225 pitches that night in 1963. He skipped his next start, just to be safe. Then the Dominican Dandy came back to dominate the National League for seven more brilliant seasons. (Spahn was 42 years old. His arm didn’t fall off after 16 innings either.)

No one was worried about Marichal’s arm that night in 1963. So, it’s tough to yield to the beliefs of the touchy-feely types who fear for Lincecum’s health.

It’s impossible to let their voice rule the day. And, because we feel that Lincecum should’ve finished does not mean we’re in a state of panic.

Wilson came in and walked a batter, suffered some bad luck on that looper that landed on the foul line to clear the bases.

The Giants blew a chance to finish a win that would’ve further defined Lincecum’s reputation as the stud of all studs and the guy to whom the club can hitch its wagon when everything is on the line.

That’s the type game Lincecum has been groomed to start, dominate and finish.

So, never again!If Lincecum’s not pushed well past a reasonable pitch count, the guy deserves to win or lose his own games. Period. Talk about the reasons that going to Wilson made sense…but, nobody is ever a better alternative to Lincecum with the game on the line.

The Giants can afford to fritter away a game like that.

It doesn’t matter if KNBR types are chuckling about how the Giants are going to lose heart-breakers in a long, sometimes painful, playoff run. There was no reason to lose to the Phillies on Wednesday. There have been other games they’ve lost that are no easier to swallow simply because they’ve won more than we expected.

Getting greedy has nothing to do with feeling panic after a loss that appeared for all the world to be a win.

Eugenio Velez has tools that few Giants possess.

He can run and flash power at the plate. If he can’t catch a routine fly ball like the one he dropped Wednesday, how many bases must he steal and home runs must he hit to help more than he hurts the club?

His speed can kill—and has killed the Giants a couple of times. There’s a reason that the New York Yankees haven’t signed Usain Bolt to pinch-run. It doesn’t matter how fast a guy runs if he doesn’t run based on situation and score.

Velez has run into boneheaded outs that breaks one of those baseball rules like, “Never make the first out of an inning at home plate.”

So, don’t buy the notion that fans are going to have to live or die with Velez in left field or running the bases like a runaway wind-up toy. John Bowker can catch every routine fly ball in left field. He can’t run like Velez, but he doesn’t run the bases like the Cub Scout who’s making his baseball debut at summer camp either. And, if it helps sell the idea, Bowker’s got longball power, too.

There was a point late last year when Fred Lewis botched a routine fly ball and some of us said, “He has to go! That’s it! He can undo eight wonderful innings from a starting pitcher with that glove of his.” On Wednesday, the Velez misplay that enabled the Phillies to plate the eventual game-inner became a he’s-gotta-go situation.

The Giants need Velez to run or hit off the bench?


Whatever he can do is lost in a sea of silly mistakes. Bowker has enough power to pop one out of the blue without ever missing a routine fly ball or just running blindly into an out.

(There’s a slightly better trade market for Velez than there was for Lewis. The Giants could get a minor leaguer in a trade—a minor leaguer who is actually identified. They dealt Lewis for a player to be named later.)

The Colorado Rockies are in town over the weekend for a big early NL West series. Given that the Giants have played better than expected overall, they should be 1 1/2 games ahead of the gifted Rockies.

The Rockets are going to get red-hot soon. They’ll blow past the Giants in the process if the locals can’t finish a sweep against a Phillies. And, the Dodgers won’t play .364 baseball all summer. So, some of us see reason to worry because the Giants have played well but are only 4 1/2 games up on a Dodgers team that’s struggling mightily.

The Dodgers and Rockies won’t get worse. The Giants might fall off precipitously, so they should do what they can to win while the other contenders are struggling.

There’s no panic involved. It’s common sense. Win while you’re playing pretty well, because there will be a long stretch where losses are well earned by ineffective hitting and weak defense.

Don’t argue against recalling Buster Posey from Fresno. Brad Penny said the Giants made his job easier by refusing to work the count and by swinging at first pitches. Posey works the count and he puts the ball in play. And, here’s betting he would’ve caught that fly ball that Velez missed…even if somebody had handed Posey an outfielder’s glove at the top of the inning, said, “Hey, do your best” and sent him to left field.

Posey’s a gamer. He knows how to win.

Recalling Posey’s not a panic move. It’s a savvy response to the weaknesses the club has shown. The Mets recalled their No. 1 prospect to play first base. Giants official Larry Baer said Posey’s recall is not at all based on his arbitration clock or money. So?

Aubrey Huff’s hitting .227. Don’t tell me that it’s too early to tweak the lineup.

If the No. 4 hitter’s struggling, it’s “panic” to suggest Bengie Molina hit fourth and Huff drops down to No. 6?

Finally, the club has shown the ability to really fight back. So, more Guillermo Mota and Dan Runzler to keep a deficit to a minimum would be in order, too. A two-run lead should stay at two, you know?

A club that gets giddy at the prospect of Andres Torres getting one or two hits probably has no business thinking about the playoffs. But, the Giants are different. If Torres gets a clutch hit or two with Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain or Jonathan Sanchez pitching well—it could win a game.

And, just because we figure this Giants team will be in contention and that every win needs to be locked away, rather than frittered away, doesn’t mean we’re in a panic.

We just realize that this could be a magical season.

Ted Sillanpaa is a San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area sports writer and columnist. Contact Ted at tsillanpaa1956@gmail.com.

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