The Giants go on the road and score 13 runs in one game, 15 in another. Then, they return home and it’s the same agony of low-scoring, one-run wins or losses. They scored six runs Wednesday night — but it took them 14 innings.
What’s going on here?
1. On the road, they were playing in some real hitters’ parks, especially Wrigley Field. If the wind is blowing out at Wrigley, routine fly balls become home runs. (Conversely, Greg Maddux once said he preferred pitching at Wrigley when the wind was blowing out because it helped his breaking pitches, but Maddux was able to put his pitches exactly where he wanted them. Other pitchers aren’t that precise.)
AT&T Park is quite different. Occasionally, on that rare very warm afternoon, it is relatively easy for right-handed hitters to hit a ball out. It is never easy for left-handed hitters not named Barry Bonds because they have to either pull the ball right down the line or see 400-foot drives die in the gloves of outfielders.
2. The Giants are mainly “mistake” hitters. If a pitcher misses his spot, they can hammer it, but they’re generally helpless against top pitchers.
There’s only one exception in the current Giants’ lineup: Pablo Sandoval. It doesn’t matter to Sandoval where the pitch is, he’ll hit it — even if it’s cap-high or in the dirt. Now that his weight is manageable, he’s resumed hammering the ball.
Freddy Sanchez is a good hitter, too, with doubles power, but he can’t stay healthy. He’s on the disabled list again and may not even match the 118 games he’s played in each of the past two seasons.
Buster Posey is the Giants’ best hitter. He hits all kinds of pitching and with good power. But the Giants won’t see Posey again until the 2012 season and his replacements, Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart, can’t come close to matching him.
Hitters such as Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell are capable of big hits but they’re not fundamentally sound hitters. Nate Schierholtz, who hit two homers on Wednesday night, is a good player who should be playing regularly, but he’s a mistake hitter, too. He’s been hitting under .270, and that’s the kind of hitter he is.
It’s unlikely the Giants will be able to trade for a hitter who could change the equation. Giants general manager Brian Sabean made some good pickups last season, but they were Huff, Ross and Burrell, all mistake hitters. There wouldn’t be any point in acquiring more.
And, other teams would demand a pitcher in exchange. Sabean has wisely refused to trade pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who was the one most teams wanted. It would be foolish now to trade anybody on the staff or top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, who has been impressive at San Jose.
The one ray of hope is that Brandon Belt, now at Fresno, will be a consistent hitter when he returns, but he’d have to replace a starter, which would be awkward.
So, Giants fans have to resign themselves to more of these agonizing games. After all, that formula worked well last season.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.