Of course, as one would expect, Bonds in the line up is better than not. His replacements have not done well either. So how fared all the starting position players who have regularly missed time (as of August 18, 2003):
Neifi Perez: With (65 games) - 4.58 runs, .538 (works out to 87-75 season)
For perspective, the D-Backs as of the games played to August 18th, had a winning percentage of .524, which is lower than the lowest reserve above, Neifi. In addition, Neifi's .538 would lead three of the six divisions, including the NL West.
Implications for Playoffs
What this all means is that when one of these reserves are in the game, there has been little fall off in offensive production - if not improved production - with them playing. And it could have been much, much better, if I had wrote this article before the road trip where Aurilia, Durham, Snow, and Bonds were all out of the lineup: Galarraga's and Perez's winning percentages would have been much better except for that long, losing road trip, where AAA call-ups were playing. So obviously, we cannot just replace all these regulars and expect the same offense, but with one or two replacements from this group at the same time, the Giants offense has not done much worse than when the full lineup is in, which bodes well for the playoffs.
This means that double switches can happen in the playoffs without much impact on the offense (unless of course, if it is Bonds or Durham) in the playoffs. This means if the Giants make the World Series, they will have a battle tested DH ready to contribute to the offense, instead of weak reserves unprepared or just plain not good enough to contribute, like last year. This means the Giants have a greater chance of going all the way this year instead of coming up a game or so short like last year.
Implications for Post-Season Moves
This also have implications for what the Giants may do over the off season as far as resigning our own position player free agents. First off, it doesn't look so good for Aurilia and Santiago. Both of their reserves have done very well in their absence: Neifi Perez for the most part in Aurilia's case and Yorvit Torrealba in Santiago's case.
In Aurilia's case, there were only 29 games where he was out but the offense only went down 0.19 runs a game and the defense was improved enough to boost the winning percentage from .585 with Richie to .621 with Neifi, which over a season is about 5.6 games in a year. And the pitching was approximately the same for each because Richie was out for extended periods, allowing Neifi to go through the whole rotation, instead of maybe lucking out to playing when Schmidt pitched.
However, I believe that this is more a function of misplacement of Aurilia in the batting lineup than Neifi being that good a player. Aurilia is at or near the bottom of the league for all batters in a certain spot of the lineup when batting 2nd, 3rd, or 5th, as he has most of this season. This hurt the offense when he batted there. If he would bat 6th or 7th, he would be have been league average or better, which helps the offense.
Neifi, on the other hand, batted 8th a lot when subbing for Aurilia and was about league average there. He also batted 2nd a lot early when he was subbing for Durham, so the Giants lost two ways there. Surprisingly, because of the team's success with him at shortstop, Neifi's batting average is horrible playing shortstop, but somehow that didn't affect the offense much. Unfortunately, however, the team's relatively good success with Neifi in the lineup combined with Neifi's hefty $2.5M contract for next year looks to spell the end of Aurilia's tenure here with the Giants and probably see Cody Ransom as the shortstop reserve for next year.
In Santiago's case, however, that is 44 games, over a third of the season so far, where Torrealba played so the fluke factor is less, though perhaps he could have lucked out and got Schmidt pitching when Benito got a rest. But with Yorvit, runs scored went up 0.40 runs per game and the winning percentage from .558 to .652, nearly 100 points and amounting to about an extra 16 games won in a season. This in spite of Torrealba's poorer offensive year this year and the turmoil in his life with his wife's problems with her pregnancy. Yorvit is younger and cheaper and the Giants appear to win more with him behind the plate, so it doesn't look like Benito will be retiring a Giant unless we win the World Series and he decides he wants to go out on top plus probably Trey Lunsford will take over as the new backup catcher.
In Galarraga case, Giants fans would have expected his results because of the way he has hit all year, but Pedro Feliz's numbers have to open the fan's eyes. In 48 games, the Giants runs scored was higher for him than any other player examined here except for JT Snow. And while his batting stats look horrible for the most part, it is his home runs (and thus slugging percentage) that has caused him to shine so brightly offensively when his batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS look so bad or ordinary.
In addition, he has hit well with men on versus bases empty: .295 vs. .155. So he should really bat behind Bonds when he plays, instead of ahead. That would explain all those RBIs he got batting 6th and 7th versus 2nd and 3rd. However, ironically, he has batted best in terms of batting average and OPS 2nd and 3rd. And he was almost Bonds-like playing left-field in terms of homers, RBIs and slugging percentage, though, obviously, not batting average or on-base percentage. Of course, the caveat here is that all of these were with limited ABs at each lineup position and position played.
So while Giants fans might not be so wild over having Pedro Feliz on the team, so far this year, they have been winning with him playing significant time with the team. Thus look for him to be on the team next year, perhaps as a super utility regular replacement like this year. He may not get hits regularly, but he sure can homer at opportune times, at least this year. Plus he probably is playing himself into position to take over 1B at some point if the Giants are unable to re-sign Snow.
Speaking of which, given JT Snow's stats above, the Giants should pursue resigning him to a contract, probably a one-year with a team option at about $1-2M per year contract. The amount does not recognize the value that Snow has brought to the team this year but rather is a reflection of the market for old platoon first basemen who is obviously in the decline of his career. Fans may groan at signing older veteran players but they can come cheaper than young studs and sometimes can perform as well or better, especially for the smaller amount of money.
As far as our two new reserves on the team, Eric Young and Jeffrey Hammonds, neither has contributed much yet because they were recent acquisitions. Eric Young, while in his mid-to-late 30's already, had a relatively good year this year, so he probably won't stick around and take over Neifi's position as the middle infielder reserve. He probably would seek a starting role somewhere else unless he wants to be with his buddy Barry Bonds for a year. Jeffrey Hammonds, however, don't have many options as his career is clearly in decline for some time, despite his relative youth, so he may come back next season and become the reserve outfielder, especially if they don't re-sign Marvin Benard, which is very likely.
So overall, the Giants regular reserves over the season so far - Torrealba, Galarraga, Feliz, and Perez - have done very well in contributing to the Giants in winning games when replacing the regulars in the lineup. And this will help the Giants make their way through the playoffs again like last year and they are better than the ones that the Giants had last year as they have been contributing regularly all year. Lastly, it will probably lead to a number of changes in personnel related to resigning free agents for next season, as we probably say goodbye to old favorites Aurilia and Santiago plus perhaps Snow, depending on how much he is willing to accept to play 1B next year for the Giants, and see a lot of new faces populating the roster and bench.
Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fan's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player. E-mail him at GoGiants_25@yahoo.com and maybe he'll reply back.
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