Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's high and outside: strike 2 for the Giants

The following is written by David Kamoe, a life-long sports fan whose sister is a close friend. David is an avid A's fan, wen to to high school with Drew Gooden and can't believe that Giants commentator Mike Krukow used to refer to the right-centerfield expanse at Pac Bell Park as "Finley Alley," referring to Steve Finley who remarkably wore a Giants uniform for a season. David will likely be stopping by these parts a few times a month, so treat him right. And no sister jokes.

The infield of my youth was the 1989 World Champion Oakland Athletics featuring Mark David McGwire at first, Mike Gallego at second, Walt Weiss at short, and Carney Lansford at third. I still hold these men in high regard save McGwire who cannot be shown on film or in still photographs from his rookie year until the mid-90’s because of “the juice.” This will not be an article about the 1989 Oakland Athletics infield. It is instead about Carney Lansford and hitting.

Lansford is currently the hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants. One of the Giants bright young stars is Pablo Sandoval, a free-swinging 22-year old from Venezuela. Most of the Venezuelan major leaguers I can think of are not free swingers. People like Magglio Ordonez and Omar Vizquel are fairly patient hitters. Marco Scutaro is leading the Blue Jays in walks and ranks high in the AL lead for runs scored. Sandoval, on the other hand, is a disciple of the “You don’t walk off the island” mantra common to the Dominican Republic.

Highlighted in a recent Sports Illustrated column by Lee Jenkins, Sandoval was in A-ball with a cousin of Vladimir Guerrero. Whether or not Guerrero had a direct influence on Sandoval is not certain. What is certain is that Sandoval, like Guerrero will swing at anything close to the plate. This is much to the chagrin of Lansford who is quoted as saying, “We don’t have a lot of what I call ‘professional hitters.’”

Lansford does not stop Sandoval from free swinging but I’m guessing he is probably trying to curtail it. Lansford was himself a long time Major Leaguer playing for the Angels, Red Sox, and A’s. During his time in “the Nation,” Lansford re-worked his swing so that he could bang doubles off the Green Monster. Playing the original Coliseum, he became a gap-to-gap hitter with some pop and a masterful ability to cover the vast foul territory down the left field line.

As you can imagine, I am in the Carney Lansford camp all the way. It really isn’t even bad that Sandoval is a free swinger. What is the problem is that the Giants seem to have allowed free swinging to become the order of the day. As someone who remembers tales of Will Clark having 20-10 vision and dominating the 1989 NLCS, I can’t figure out the change. People harp on the Giants for not having a lot of power hitters since the departure of one Barry Lamar Bonds. I’m no studier of the Giants for the following reasons: I’m an A’s fan and I’m not being paid to follow the Giants.

Consequently, I cannot say for certain that all the Giants hitters are free swingers like Sandoval. What I do know is that if they are, it is not likely that they’ll go far in the playoffs.


JMC said...

the giants couldn't take a walk if their lives depended on it. The only one with any clue is Fred Lewis and he has apparently lost his ability to hit this season. Sandoval, at least, can swing at anything and still hit .330, and has shown a marked improvement since the beginning of the season - he has learned to (mostly) lay off the high fastball at his eyes. He's becoming more selective - which is not to say he'll ever take a lot of walks, but at least he'll manage and OBP slightly higher than his average.

The rest of the team is just awful. They swing at bad pitches all the time, and they never seem to consider the situation at hand (ie your pitcher just went first to third on the bases - might be a good time to take until they get a strike on you). The worst is the pitches in the dirt - they all strike out swinging at unhittable pitches in the dirt. Unreal.

als said...

I'm fine with Sandoval swinging at anything. But it isn't cool when EVERY OTHER PLAYER ON THE TEAM DOES IT.

ugghhh. The Giants couldn't take a walk against the Warner Robbins LL team.