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Monday, April 18, 2011

Hey, it's not all on Miguel Tejada

The Miguel Tejada signing was a puzzle from the beginning: aging ex-star whose power dropoff coincided with the discovery that he'd been taking steroids. But it wasn't his bat that had most worried. It was his range at shortstop.

Saturday night, he provided more fodder for his worriers/haters, dropping a perfectly thrown peg by Buster Posey on a two-out eighth inning steal attempt by Xavier Nady. It should have been the third out. Instead, it led to a run, extra innings and a 6-5 12-inning loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It looked like Tejada was simply eaten up by Posey's throw. It was a bullet, and Tejada's reflexes were slow on it. The SF Chron's Henry Schulman described it as Tejada trying to make a tag before he caught it. That's a misread.

He simply put the glove out and misjudged the flight of the throw. Posey's throws have have similarly eaten up Freddie Sanchez at second and Pablo Sandoval at third. He's got such life on his arm that it's hard for even veteran major leaguers to get a handle.

Tejada made another error in the ninth, on an easy two hopper that just popped out of his glove. Though it did not lead to a run, it was more evidence in the case of the People vs. Tejada.

But the rub is this: Tejada has actually been playing a solid shortstop. He's made all the routine plays and a few difficult ones. He's still got a great arm.

The real problem is his hitting. After taking an 0-for-5 collar, Tejada is hitting .241, with only 1 HR and 6 RBI. He's in a 4-for-25 funk (.160). Granted, he has hit some bullets without reward: he probably leads the team in Atom Balls (balls hit right at 'em). But until he starts to heat it up with the bat, the glare of scrutiny will continue to shine on his defense.


Sanchez has been so steady at second, and has had so many big moments with the Giants with the bat, that his fielding lapse in the eighth slipped under the radar/got a pass from the peanut gallery.

It was right after the Nady "stolen base": a Miguel Montero grounder to the right side that should have ended the inning. Sanchez had to range wide to his left, but it was playable -- he's made much more difficult plays, let's just say. But instead of rounding on it and squaring up to field it, Sanchez went into a semi-skid and lost track of it as he tried to glove it.

In his zeal to stop any groundball from getting into the outfield, Sanchez flubbed a fairly ordinary play. That was just as costly as Tejada's muff, because it kept the line moving.


Manager Bruce Bochy had a quandary in that fateful 8th inning: Does he bring in right handed reliever Sergio Romo to face rightie Ryan Roberts with runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs? Left handed journeyman slugger Juan Miranda loomed on deck to hit for pitcher David Hernandez. But Bochy, worried that Arizona Manager Kirk Gibson would bring in Miranda early to face Romo, stayed with southpaw Jeremy Affeldt.

The book on Affeldt is that he's actually better against righties than lefties. From 2007-2009, he held righties to lower batting averages than lefties. Last year, they were even, but evenly bad: both righties and lefties hit .290 against him.

This year, it looks like righties are catching up to him. They're hitting .400 against him (6-for-15). Worse, his work in clutch spots is alarming: He's given up four hits in seven at bats with runners in scoring position with two outs (a .571 average).

Bochy seems gun shy over using Romo vs. lefties, probably because of his slow start (he's given up two hits in four at bats to lefties). But, though he's demonstrably more effective against righties, he isn't bad against lefties. Last year, righties hit .185 against Romo, but lefties only hit .241 against him.

The question: was Miranda really all that threatening a presence to keep Romo from coming in? Miranda, a 6-foot 220-pound Cuban, had hit a three-run pinch hit HR April 13 against the St. Louis Cardinals' Bryan Augenstein.

But I'd venture to say it was highly doubtful Gibson would have hit Miranda for Roberts.

Roberts is one of the hottest Diamondbacks' hitters and he has no preference for who he punishes with the bat. He was hitting .333 against righties (6-for-18) and .333 vs. lefties (4-for-12). And he was four-for-six with runners in scoring position.

Roberts had some history with Romo, 2-for-5 with a double; not exactly ownage, but enough to make Bochy hesitate. And Affeldt had retired Roberts in both previous matchups.

But Romo has been deadly so far, his frisbee curve and newly developed changeup looking like money. And Affeldt is looking like he's moving further and further away from his 2009 form.

I would have gone with Romo.

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