At the beginning of the trip, I would have been happy with 4-2

But now I just have a bitter taste. Luckily we won the game Schmidt pitched, but the way the offense hit that day, the Giants could have won with anyone. And like I noted below, they talked about Schmidt pitching 132 pitches tiring his arm out but then they go and have him throw another 120+ on a day that he obviously didn't have it.

I understand the lack of confidence, perhaps, that he may have for the bullpen - I think that they have been OK since the early problems the whole unit had initially at the start of the season - but they couldn't have been any worse than Schmidt was doing by that point of the game.

What's up with Durham? The way he has been going, coming out late in games, they should just bite the bullet and put him on the DL now and get him healthy because once he is healthy, the offense just humms. Notice how the offense perked up the past week once he started hitting, even if he was hitting lower in the order. Lets just face it, he's injury prone now and you may as well just get it out of the way and get him healed now.

To get by while he is out, the Giants should make Alfonzo eat his pride again and play 2B while Durham is out. That allows the Giants to play Feliz at 3B full-time, which then allows Moises Alou to play LF full-time, which then allows Felipe to put Ellison into the lineup more often. He has been playing well and perhaps they can put him in a rotation with Grissom and Tucker in the OF. I would even go as far as to keep Ellison in but platoon Grissom and Tucker, though not strictly L/R but rather, which of the two has hit the starting pitcher best during his career (or L/R if neither has much ABs against the pitcher). At least until Ellison cools off totally.

I would try to find ways to get Niekro into games as well, he really should have been starting the games in Pittsburgh against the lefties. At least until the league catches up with him as well.

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.

Bonds has yet another operation on the same knee...

Read and curse... The Chronicle reported that Bonds had his third operation on his knee, this time to clean out an infection. That means at least another two weeks of no activity until the infection is cleared out by antibiotics before he can even consider rehabbing his knee again.

That's depressing... And yet, the Giants, as I had hoped, are hitting the way I thought they might in Bonds absence: pretty damn well for the most part. They are averaging 5.2 runs per game. [Addendum: Merc notes that the Giants led the NL in scoring - plus I heard it during the game and forgot to add it here - and OBP at the start of the game Tuesday. Not too shabby for a team missing Barry Bonds from their lineup] And that's with Alou being out for two weeks plus taking another week or so to get back his hitting groove. However, the offense has been also a bit hit or miss, they would score a lot, like the 9 runs on Monday, then be totally shut down the next, scoring only 2 runs on Tuesday. But overall it has been doing a good job scoring runs.

Too bad the pitching hasn't been as good as hoped for. The staff overall had a 4.62 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, and .262 BAA. And the problem is throughout the staff. The starters have a 4.94 ERA and 1.41 WHIP while the relievers have a 4.30 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. And that's with Hennessey's great start included. If the starting pitching were as good as last year - starters had 4.18 ERA with 1.32 WHIP - the Giants could have been leading the division right now instead of sitting a few games back in third place.

Williams and Lowry have been huge disappointments thus far. Tomko is not far behind. Even Schmidt is underachieving with a 3.76 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Rueter is about where most thought he would be, 4.50-5.00 ERA, with a mid-1.3-ish WHIP. The good news is Hennessey and Cain have been lights out in AAA so if the starters don't shape up by, say, the end of May and these two prospect continue to dominate, some starters could lose their job.

Believe it or not, the bullpen is actually improved over last season. Last year they had a 4.53 ERA with 1.54 WHIP vs. the 4.30 ERA and 1.43 WHIP they currently have now. And that's including Benitez' 5.79 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.


Human Nature

It is sometimes said that most decisions are usually made before hand and then we find the reasons to justify that decision. I think that is what happened with the Schmidt affair.

To recap, Schmidt's turn on Sunday was pushed back to Monday, ostensibly because he was overworked by throwing 131 pitches in his last outing. So Hennessey was brought up to pitch today (and he did marvelous!, helping the Giants win their 5th in a row) and the naysayers can say, "I told you so Alou, why are you overworking him? It was senseless to have him throw that many pitches when he was relatively ineffective anyway that game."

Not that I disagree with them but that's not the real reason this was done, at least from my reckoning. Alou never admits that he did something wrong. If he worked Schmidt 131 pitches, by god, he has no problem with that, Schmidt's a strong guy, he can handle the high pitch count, even this early in the season.

However, which would you rather do, use Schmidt to pitch against a poor offensive team like the Pirates or pitch him against one of our division rivals, in fact, one (the D-backs) that is ahead of us in the standings, and instead use a minor league call-up to take on the Pirates? That would be much better use of Mr. Schmidt's abilities, throw him at our division rivals and let a prospect we can observe and give him some MLB experience tackle the Pirates, especially since we have already won the series by winning the first two games.

But how to change his spot in the rotation and push him back a day? Oh, yeah, we had him throw 131 pitches, mea culpa, we better delay his turn in the rotation a day, yeah, that's the ticket. And there's your easy reason to justify doing exactly what you wanted to do without appearing to purposefully (god forbid) pushing back our best pitcher to face a rival, which would appear wimpy.

Now about the game, what about our young'uns, Ellison, Niekro, and Hennessey? Ellison and Niekro have been hitting above and beyond what they had done in the minors and giving the Giants that extra push they need while Bonds is out. And Hennessey came in and, excepting the two Ward homers, shut down the Pirates. This is pretty exciting stuff, hopefully they can keep it up.

Ellison's amazing start

The Giants have won 4 in a row and Ellison has been a big part of that. In his 5 game hitting streak, he was 10 for 15 with a double and 2 triples, 8 runs scored and 2 stolen bases. Nothing to get too excited about yet, both hot streaks are most probably temporary. But they both are certainly nice and better than the alternative. Go Giants!

FYI: the Giants send down Scott Munter, whom they had called up but not used after sending Jerome Williams down (he did horrible in his first start in AAA, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 0 HR so I guess he'll be staying down longer to find his stuff) and brought up Brad Hennessey to start the game on Sunday (today). Since there are not that many days off ahead, he might get bounced back down after the game and see another reliver brought up (since Munter has to stay down at least 10 days after getting sent down), perhaps Kevin Correia or one of the major league relief retreads populating the Grizzlies roster.