…. At a loss

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to write about, and I’m coming up pretty empty. The Giants are a season-high 13 games under .500, 9 games behind the Padres, and Bonds’ knee is swollen again.

At this point, all but the most diehard (and asleep) Giants fans understand that ’05 is all but lost. And the reasons for that are clear and -unfortunately- predictable.

The Giants went through the winter believing that they had a pitching staff capable of preventing runs at a rate that, combined with their very effective offense (bolstered by the addition of Moises Alou), would allow them to contend for that elusive World Series title. In fact, it turns out that they were wrong about just about everything, about as wrong as they could be.

They were wrong to conclude that Brett Tomko’s strong second-half was indicative of some breakthrough, and that he could be counted on to pitch that way for a full season (something he had never done at that point in his career).

They were wrong to conclude that Jerome Williams and Noah Lowry, (two young pitchers with winning percentages that belied their actual performance) could be counted on to handle the bottom of the rotation.

They were wrong to expect that Kirk Rueter would rebound to his (abnormal) career norms of winning without striking anyone out.

They were wrong to believe that Armando Benitez was the one pitcher who would stabilize the roles and therefore the performance of their entire bullpen, a bullpen made up almost entirely of cast-offs and waiver-wire claimees.

They were wrong to believe that they could continue to beat the odds and run out one of the oldest starting nines in the history of baseball and keep it healthy for any significant length of time.

And they were wrong to expect that Barry Bonds would be the catalyst that would take their collection of misfits and castaways and power them to a September to remember, as he had done for most of the past decade.

There was no decision made by Peter Magowan, Brian Sabean, Ned Colletti, Dick Tidrow, Felipe Alou and Dave Righetti that was made in ignorance, or without access to information that would inform the decision. These decisions were made, as always, with all of the information needed to make them, out in the open, with reams and reams of statistics, analysis and data.

Clearly, the starting pitching decisions were based not on performance, but by looking at won-loss records. The field of sabermetrics, now well over thirty years old, could not have been utilized by the archaic and “old-school” Giants, because any amateur sabermetician could have told Sabean that Lowry and Williams were virtually guaranteed to come back to earth given their modest performance. He could have told Colletti that the bullpen could not duplicate even the mediocre performance of the previous season given the vast numbers of baserunners the entire group of pitchers were guilty of allowing. He could have told Righetti that Kirk Rueter would never again be a reliable starting pitcher, and that he never should have been one in the first place. He could have told Sabean that there is no way a starting catcher could save runs at a rate that justifies giving $10 million dollars to an old, slow, out-making Neifi Perez look-alike.

Indeed, going back over the last two or three seasons worth of decisions illuminates the thinking Giants fans’ frustrations, as decision after decision has been made by the Giants braintrust that flies in the face of analysis, and so, here we are.

What can be done for a team that has no reliable starting pitcher, no reliable bullpen arm, no reliable RBI man, no reliable leadoff hitter, no Gold-Glove caliber player at any position (save, perhaps, Vizquel at short), no depth, no farm system stocked with up and coming talent, no speed, no baserunning threat, no gun behind the plate, no hitter at any spot in the lineup that gives an opponent pause, no nothing?

What trade could revitalize this team? Sorry, Kent, but Vernon Wells ain’t the answer. This team has so many holes, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which they can recover this season. Schmidt for perhaps two young, ready for prime time starting pitchers and a reliever or two, plus Bonds comes back after the All Star break and hits thirty second half home runs is about what it would take. Anybody imagine that coming to pass?

UPDATE: After today’s utterly embarassing and humiliating and depressing and disgusting and futile and repulsive and shameful and disgraceful and weak and putrid 16-0 loss to the A’s, the Giants find themselves in rare position, at least since I’ve been following the team. 14 games under .500, with only two teams in the NL with more losses, and with a National League-worst 17 home wins. That’s right, the Giants have the fewest home wins in the NL. The Rockies have more wins at home, the Reds have more, for crying out loud, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have more home wins than the Giants! The Mariners, the Tigers, the Brewers…. the only team in the entire league with fewer home wins than the Giants is the Kansas City Royals.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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