Let's start with the positive: The Giants have neat uniforms. All French vanilla at home and traditional grays on the road, classic without being stodgy. I don't know if I'd be a fan of orange if I grew up in a different state, but I sure love it now. It's distinctive without trying too hard. Hooray, Giants uniforms!
Okay, that's out of the way, so let's talk about the negative stuff. The "everything else," as the French call it. After sweeping the Dodgers in early May, the Giants are 14-18, and it's felt worse. They've been outscored on the season, making the two-win buffer over .500 seem like a mirage. They can hit but they can't pitch -- a cruel twist that was a little too abrupt for the critics. It was a twist for the sake of a twist, you know?
Hoo boy those uniforms, though.
Today, though, I just wanted to point out something that's been bad. Worse than the Giants had a right to expect. It's also something the team has less control of than you think. Behold, the Giants' wretched bench production:
Not included: whichever one of Gregor Blanco or Andres Torres isn't playing. They've both been pretty okay, and that's probably much more important than the silly ol' bench. The Giants took a gamble with those two in the offseason, and considering the cost, it's been a fantastic return.
The rest of the bench, though. Oh me, oh my. The thing about bench players is that they aren't really supposed to be good. At least, not that good. It's rare that a team is so loaded that they have a Matt Carpenter or Brian Giles or Hector Sanchez farting around on the bench because there's no other spot for them. No, bench players are usually the guys who aren't good enough to start. The backup shortstop for every team is Joaquin Arias, give or take. The backup catcher for every team is Guillermo Quiroz.
Take the Braves, for example. They designated a guy (Juan Francisco) with an 85 OPS+, which would have been the best bench performance on the Giants. They've received good production from Gerald Laird, Ramiro Pena, and Jordan Schafer, none of whom are really this good. Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker both have their OBPs in the acceptable-to-good .350 range for the Dodgers, even though they're the same person putting on Groucho glasses in the dugout to appear like two different people. Scott Van Slyke has a bunch of dingers.
But look at the Brewers or Nationals: total wastelands. The Brewers even make me feel bad for suggesting the Giants have a problem. Their bench is horrible. The guy the Braves designated for assignment? He now has a -35 OPS+ for the Brewers.
This brings us to the Great Unification Theory of Bench Construction:
- Always try to build the best bench possible
- Don't be surprised when it ends up a grease fire
That's it. The Giants certainly could have built a better bench, but I don't think they built a bad one. Arias was quite good for them last year, and he's better than his stat line this year. Brett Pill would be the worst starting first baseman in baseball, most likely, but he isn't the worst right-handed bench option in baseball, which is what you'd think based on this season alone. Quiroz is probably hitting up to his potential, give or take a few points from his batting average, but I'd expect a little bit more from Noonan.
All this underperforming has cost the Giants a win, maybe. I don't want it to seem like this is the biggest problem facing the current roster. It's 38th or so, at best. Just something I've noticed.
The good news is that the way to fix it is available to the Giants. That is, they can cross their fingers and hope, which is about the most foolproof way to get help. The Giants might be able to swing a deal for a right-handed 1B, but really they're just hoping a couple of these guys can sample-size their way back to respectability. At the bottom of that list up there are a couple of new benchies who have been impressive so far, Tony Abreu and Juan Perez. Maybe they'll fluke their way into the good graces of the Giants and stay hot.
That's about all the Giants can do right now, perhaps with the exception of running dingerz.exe with a Roger Kieschnick call-up. The Giants can sit and wait for the bench to get better, and it probably will. Benches can be real jerks sometimes. This is one of those sometimes.