5.04.2005

Velly interrresting... a return to a four-man rotation?

Not to date me, but I loved Laugh-In! :^D

In the sfgiants.com yesterday, in the notes preceding the game, there was a very interesting note mixed into the discussion about Brower being the main man for save opportunities (not too surprising given how he was used last season). Apparently Alou gave an opinion on how he would like to see the pitching staff constructed, at least at the moment. In the article, it was noted that "[i]deally, he'd love to have four starters and eight relievers on the staff -- as he does now -- giving kudos to some of his current late-inning guys on fulfilling their roles..."

This is the first hint anywhere that I've seen where a manager might go back to the old world way of using four starters with a spot fifth starter going as needed. I forgot where I saw an article on research that discussed the return back to that way of managing (probably Baseball Prospectus in their latest book; most excellent purchase even if they seem IMO to be biased against the Giants, they appear to be the type who would not believe that bumblebees exist because the numbers don't support it) because using five starters take away many starts from your best starters and gives it to your worst starter, but that makes a lot of sense for the Giants this season. With Jerome Williams scuffling performance-wise - I am guessing that perhaps there is more going on still with his dad than has been reported lately and thus more on his mind - and despite Alou saying that all these manueverings with the staff was to get Jerome to the point of returning soon, this would make sense on a number of levels.

First, with Hennessey and Cain looking like they are slumming in Fresno, this would give the Giants the opportunity to bring both of them up regularly during the season - along with Williams - and give them more MLB experience. Foppert could enter the mix once/if he gets himself going like he was before his injury and Misch is also looking like he could use the extra competition (he is on the Lowry development path - his key pitch is the changeup as well - and thus far has outdone Lowry at every level). Plus look at how well bringing up prospects has worked the past couple of seasons because the Giants got to get a good look at a number of their top pitching prospects up here because of injuries and such.

Second, this would give Jerome time off mentally so that he doesn't feel as pressured while his dad is recovering from his surgery. Again, not that I know anything about it, but it appears to me that there could be other things on Jerome's mind. He is not pitching like he is capable of, especially since he came into camp in good shape this year, a reverse of the situation last season. This shows how mature he is, doing it right away after learning last year that it didn't work, unlike past Giants pitchers (Beck, Livan) who did not try the "push-away" diet that Conte advocated for Benitez during Armando's rehab. However, he still seems to have something on his mind that is sapping his performance. Whatever it is, perhaps time in the minors can help him clear his mind, though so far that hasn't worked because he was blasted in his first start down at AAA, perhaps he needs more time.

Third, it allows the Giants to give a reliever prospect a taste of the majors as well since they are yo-yo-ing the starters, as shown by the recent surprise call-up of Jeremy Accardo, plus give the Giants major league staff some time to evaluate their young relievers up close and personal. Munter too, though he didn't get into a game, it allowed the major league staff to observe him, his habits, and to give him tips that he could use once he returned back to the minors. Under this plan, then the Giants can bring up other relievers who are doing well for cups of coffee, perhaps we'll see Correia, Aardsma, and Bateman at some points during the year.

Fourth, it allows the Giants to have another bat on the bench, allowing Alou more options in late innings situations. Alou obviously loves to switch out players and pitchers and this would give him another move that he can do, whether switching out with the pitcher or just being able to pinch-hit one more time. It also allows Alou another option he can go to depending on matchups.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly of all, it allows the Giants to keep Lance Niekro up. Clearly he has been impressive in his stay up here so far, he has been eating his Wheaties the way he has been muscling up the homers at such a fast pace. Despite playing part-time, he was briefly tied for the team lead in homers yesterday when he homered until Feliz homered to break the tie (partly a sign, too, of how sad the Giants HR power is with Bonds and Alou out for an extended period at the start of the season).

I was talking with Steve Shelby about Neikro's prospects before the season, and I was ready to dismiss him as a prospect because he was essentially a Tony Torcato until he started showing some, but still little, power last season and I thought too little too late. But Steve Shelby saw something in him that I didn't see to want to give him a chance still. Fortunately, Lance has proven me proven me wrong (I'm ecstatic when prospects surprise me on the upside) and has immeasurably improved the Giants bench by giving us a HR power threat off the bench when he is not starting against LHP.

His development (and the previewing of pitching prospects) will give the Giants trade options this season, should Sabean be looking to pull a deal of some sort. He is now a valid trade bait. Also, since he could be Snow's new platoon buddy, that allows Sabean to think about trading away either Alfonzo and Feliz to upgrade another position, whether CF or closer or even either 1B or 3B, depending on the situation.

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