Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right: A Center Field Saga

Hats are always funny.

“As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing baseball blogging than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”

-H.L. Mencken, edited for relevancy

Or something to that effect. I’ve been writing recently about the future of Aaron Rowand, the outfield configurations, and who might see the ax when Cody Ross comes back. With all of the permutations, unreliability, emotions, Front Office decision quirkiness, and ring ceremony fanfare, the only thing we knew for sure was that Andres Torres would remain the everyday center fielder and leadoff man.

Well, that was a bust. Torres left Saturday’s game against the Cardinals with a strained Achilles tendon, which he hurt while stopping to catch a line drive in the top of the fourth inning. He’s gonna miss some time and, while nobody really knows much more than that, it means that the Giants are going to have to plan around him for at least a series or two.

On the one hand, this is terrible. Torres has reliably been one of the best players on the team. He’s an amazing defender, a great hitter with pop that belies his small size, and he’s the only player on the Giants who stands a decent shot of stealing more than 10 bases per year. His success story as a journeyman minor leaguer-turned-rockstar is an inspirational one and, well, it’d make a pretty good movie. Oh wait, I’m not the first person to think of that.

On another, more silver lining-y hand, this is a good opportunity. When Cody Ross comes back from his DL stint, the Giants brass will have to make some decisions about the future of the Giants roster – most likely an inevitable choice between Nate Schierholtz and Aaron Rowand. The addition of Brandon “Babe” Belt to the major league roster at the beginning of the year made it apparent that neither of them would get much playing time.

Now, while we’re waiting for Mr. “On-Base” Torres to get healthy, we might actually see Schierholtz or Rowand playing everyday. We’ve seen that even pigs can fly across 14 at-bats (Rowand’s 1.071 OPS in 2011 to date), so I’m actually a bit excited to see what each of these guys could do if given 100 ABs before Ross’s return. It might be pretty crappy, but at least the bosses would be making decisions based on slightly more significant data, rather than being trapped in Small Sample Size Theater.

Schierholtz gets my vote as the lead-off man. His .315 on-base percentage is nothing too encouraging, but we could certainly use someone with his speed in the lineup. Mike Fontenot batted lead-off today, and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, so let’s not try that again. Mark DeRosa’s not a terrible candidate to lead off, but he’s not a great one either, and it’s not clear where he’d fit in defensively if the regular starters remain in their normal positions.

Schierholtz has never actually played center field in his major or minor league career, but his speed and his killer arm make him the best candidate to handle the wilds of AT&T Park, particularly with Aubrey Huff in right field. I’m not particularly clear on the different skill-sets necessary to play the different outfield positions, but if Aaron Rowand can play center field, then Nate certainly can.

We’ll see what Bochy tries tomorrow against the Dodgers. Knowing him, he’s probably going to try as many permutations as he can until he finds something that works.

***

You’re not going to see much post-game analysis here. The games on Friday and Saturday were crazy.

Today, not so much. We looked bad; they looked less bad. Barry Zito looked great, and then he didn’t. Bochy probably should have brought in Mota earlier to stem the rally, except that Mota didn’t exactly do the job right away either. Our guys looked like they knew what they were doing and manufactured a run, until they got distracted by something shiny and forgot to bring their bats up to the plate.

I’m not particularly worried, at least any more worried than I was earlier in the season. We sent our JV squad up to bat against their best squad, and we lost.

Takeaway: score more runs, allow fewer from the other team.

What's your ideal outfield until Torres comes back?

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