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The Curious Case of Travis Ishikawa

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I don’t want to be the guy at the rave who tells everyone around him that they’re all going to have flipper-babies because of the pills they’re popping. I really don’t want to be the dreary buzzkill. But Travis Ishikawa isn’t this good.

Pause for dramatic effect.

Oh, you knew all that. He could still be a useful player, of course. I’m not advocating that the Giants should release him while he’s hitting .342. I’m just not sure how much the Giants should go out of their way to get him at-bats. He’s hitting .342/.395/.507 right now, which is just swell, but it’s also completely unsustainable. His .397 BABIP isn’t going to last, and, really, we’re talking about 81 at-bats. A lot can happen in 81 at-bats.

I could see Ishikawa turning into a player who could hit .280/.350/.450 with nice defense – FanGraphs brought up a J.T. Snow comparison, which would work on a couple of levels. Snow didn’t get his career going until he was in his mid-20s, and his minor league stats weren’t all that great, especially for the Pacific Coast League. Snow turned into a pretty valuable player for a while. It was pretty unexpected, but it wasn’t Andres Torres-freaky. Ishikawa has a chance to follow the same path.

Things I’m sure of:

  • Ishikawa isn’t a .342 hitter.

After that, I’m lonely and confused. I could see him repeating his pretty lousy .261/.329/.387 from 2009 for a few years. I could see him reaching that Snow peak. I have no idea which one is more likely, and I can’t muster enough know-it-all blogger nerd rage to form a coherent opinion as to what the Giants should do. Should the Giants keep riding the hot hand, and start Ishikawa a few times a week, hoping that Ishikawa has turned a corner in his major league development? Yes. Should the Giants assume that Ishikawa’s resurgence is a sample-size fluke, and continue to use him mostly for pinch-hitting and defensive-replacement duties? Yes.

So I’m glad to report that my position is that I don’t have a position, and that I reserve the right to complain about whatever decision the Giants make because I’m too much of a weenie to commit. Most of us here have no problem giving the Giants management team a lot of guff – oodles of guff, even – for flubbing the easy decisions. On this one, though, I don’t envy them. They’re most likely going to ride Ishikawa until he has a significant slump, similar to what happened with Nate Schierholtz early in the season. If Ishikawa is able to avoid a complete dirigible accident of a performance in the second half, the Giants will have to wonder if he could be a cheap, cost-effective option for 2011. And I don’t envy that decision.

Here’s hoping that Ishikawa really did turn a developmental corner, and here’s hoping the Giants will make the right decision however it turns out. Also, the pills probably won’t cause flipper babies. Long, leathery proboscises jutting out from foreheads? Maybe. But that's the risk you take. And I'm not really a doctor. This is all non-binding advice. Live your life however you want to live it, man.