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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rethinking Andres Torres

Should the Giants rethink Andres Torres?

It's a difficult question to consider, given how critical he was to the Giants World Championship run last year, and the spark he has represented at the top of the lineup.

But, Torres' extended funk can't be overlooked, especially given his advancing age (33) and the possibility that we're seeing Torres returning to the mediocre terrain on which he spent much of his career.

He is now 4 for his last 28, dropping from .264 to .236. In that time, he's been able to get on base enough to remain serviceable at the leadoff spot (a .351 on base percentage over that short period). He has largely avoided the running game, perhaps a signal that he is not yet confident he can push his Achilles Heel, which he injured earlier this season.

But when you look at his numbers over a longer period, Torres' decline is alarming.

Torres is 17 for his last 78, a .218 batting average. That goes back to the second game of that infamous late May series against the Florida Marlins. So, since Buster Posey has been out of the lineup, Torres has not been one of the guys to pick up the slack.

Worse, his hitting troubles have been with him since shortly after his return from the disabled list. After going 7 for his first 15, Torres has hit .193 (22 for 114), and not exactly fulfilled the duties of a leadoff hitter, drawing 17 walks in that time for an on base percentage of .298.

After stealing five bases in May, he has only swiped one in June. That is not sustainable at the top of the lineup. It would all be excusable if he showed any of the power he had last year, but, alas, there has been little to speak of.

You want to go further back? Since late August, just prior to and since his return from emergency appendectomy, Torres is hitting .224 (64-for-286) with an anemic on-base percentage of .290. That's not a small sample. It's a trend.

Over the period, he's had six home runs, 19 doubles, stolen 12 and was caught stealing five times. He walked 27 times and struck out a whopping 82 times.

That includes an OK post season, in which he hit .278.

You get the feeling Torres is drafting off the glories of last summer, when he was hitting in the .290s, leading the National League in doubles, popping out those unexpected home runs. He's been riding the same feel-good wave as Aubrey Huff. You begin to wonder if Torres' expiration date has come and gone.

One reason I looked Torres up is that there is talk about platooning Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz so that the Giants can get Pat Burrell back into the lineup for a much-needed power jolt.

Well, if you want to get Burrell in, fine. But Ross would be the last player you should take out of the lineup now. He has been the Giants' most consistent hitter in June. He is 20-for-63 in June (.317), and dating back two games into May, he is 23-for-71 (.324) over his last 19 games.

Schierholtz has been playing more consistently, and he's basically kept a level .250-.260 batting average through the season. Middling yes, but the numbers belie the impact of his offense (he probably leads the team in hits to tie the game or put the Giants ahead), and he appears to finally hitting a stride. It would be a shame to take his bat out just when he seems to be figuring this game out.

Ross has the ability to play center. He is not the defensive whiz that Torres is, but he's got good range, a good arm, and great instincts. He is athletic enough to handle the position.

Now, I'm not necessarily advocating dropping Torres from the Giants' plans. But if there is pressure to add Burrell's bat, the odd man out should not automatically come from one of the corner outfield positions.


Pablo Sandoval's return calls into question, once again, whether the Giants pulled the trigger too quickly on an injured player's return. Ross and Mark DeRosa looked overmatched when they first returned from their lengthy stints on the disabled list. Even Torres, who started out 7-for-15 coming off the DL, wound up going 7 for his next 45 (.155).

Sandoval is 5-for-25 (.200) after his DL stint, and seems to have reverted to his old, undisciplined ways of flailing at changeups in the dirt and swinging wildly at eye-high fastballs.


The Giants sure know how to turn pitchers' fortunes around. Trevor Cahill entered Sunday's game having allowed 22 earned runs in his most previous 26 2/3 innings (a 7.35 ERA), walking 21.

His outing against the Giants (8 IP, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts), however, was not totally out of character.

Cahill had seven previous starts with similar numbers, giving up one run in six of the starts and none in the other, with low walk totals (49 IP, 10 walks, 6 earned runs for a 1.10 ERA).

Here's what the Giants are up against with the Minnesota Twins coming to town:

-- The Twins have won seven in a row, nine of 10, and 14 of 16, outscoring opponents 74-38.

-- In that stretch, the Twins, once given up for lost, improved their record from one of the league's worst, 17-37, to a more respectable 31-39.

-- Their offense has improved from one of the most impotent to better-than-average: they're hitting .268 in the last 16 games with 4.6 runs per game.

--Their pitching has been their strength. The three pitcher facing the Giants in the upcoming series have ERAs in June of 1.44 (Carl Pavano), 1.77 (Nick Blackburn) and 2.81 (Brian Duensing).

Tuesday's starter, Pavano, 4-5 with a 4.20 ERA overall, has had complete games in two of his last three starts (against the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals). The 6-foot-5, 250 pound 35-year old right hander has given up 22 hits, five walks and four earned runs in the last 25 innings.

Miguel Tejada has the most successful history against Pavano: 5-for-12 with a triple and HR (though all his history must be divided between the inflated Steroids years and the declining Aging years); Pat Burrell is 7-28 with 3 doubles and a HR; Aubrey Huff is 6-for-21.

With rookie Brandon Crawford living down to his no-hit, good glove reputation, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tejada back in at shortstop on Tuesday.

Blackburn, 29, a 6-foot-4, 240 pound right hander, has been nearly as dominant in his three June starts. He's given up only 4 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings, his most recent start eight shutout innings over the White Sox.

Only Burrell has any sort of history against Blackburn: 2-for-3 with a double.

Duensing, a 6-foot, 205 pound left hander, turned around his season as soon as June hit: he'd had an 8.76 ERA in May, but threw 8 shutout innings over Kansas City, and held the Padres to two runs in six innings in his most recent start.

No Giant has had any significant history against Duensing.


  1. Just when things look their absolute bleakest, the G-Men manage to turn it around. Oh, and having suffered from an Achilles strain, you don't get over it that quickly. It takes a long time, lots of therapy and the most important thing of all:

    Stay off the foot. Period. No exercise.

    Why do you think I'm no longer on a treadmill or walking every night?

  2. Though, Andres still runs faster than most on the Giants, even if it may not be 100 percent. He recovers fast from injury (remember his return from the appendectomy was quick too), but it's really a question of his overall hitting. Has the grind of daily baseball been too much for him? It's hard to sustain a swing, keep in consistent at the big league level, as he's finding out.