Brian Sabean

Odd man out: Renteria or IshiGarko?

Freddy Sanchez will be back either tomorrow or Monday, and not a moment too soon. The Giants could explode for 10 runs today on national television against Yovani Gallardo, but that doesn’t erase the fact that they’ve scored 5 runs in the first 4 games of their current road trip. The lineup needs help, and the addition of Sanchez couldn’t hurt.

It’s pretty clear from recent statistics and Bruce Bochy’s comments that when Sanchez goes back to second base, Juan Uribe is going to stay in the lineup…and he should (one thing that drives me crazy: when unnamed announcers almost complain about how whenever Uribe takes a hack, he swings as hard as he can — isn’t a hitter who actually tries to hit homers something this team desperately needs?)

(Update: Just after I wrote that last sentence, Uribe hit a home run-length fly ball that landed five feet foul, then clubbed a homer halfway up the left field bleachers at Miller Park that completely flummoxed the 94-year-old Dick Stockton…that was the worst home run call I’ve heard all season, but I’m not complaining…1-0 Giants, maybe that 10-run outburst off Gallardo will come after all!)

With Pablo Sandoval hurting, the obvious move would be to relocate Fat Ichiro to first base, stick Uribe at third, and keep Eugenio Velez as far away from the infield as possible.

But is that really the best move? After all, if you ignore Edgar Renteria’s turn-back-the-clock game last Sunday, when his grand slam brought more noise to Mays Field than any non-Barry Bonds moment since Benito Santiago’s playoff homer in 2002 that put Duane Kuiper’s home run call on the map, he hasn’t exactly been the frontruner for the Willie Mac Award.

Then there’s Travis Ishikawa and Ryan Garko, the literal two-headed monster. Only we’re not talking about the Patrick Willis/Dwight Howard/Albert Pujols type of monster. We’re talking about a monstrously bad tandem who’ve combined to hit around .200 since Garko joined the team; the monster known as (dun-dun-dun) ISHIGARKO.

The Ishi portion is a great fielding first baseman who occasionally comes up with tremendously important home runs, hits righties relatively well when he’s at home and clearly takes failure way too hard. The Garko half is someone who fields his position pretty poorly, can’t hit righties but supposedly mashes lefties (well, when he finally gets used to the National League anyway, or so we’ve been told).

So even though Renteria has spent the entire year in the starring role of the new feature film, “The Curious Case of Brian Sabean,” it seems pretty clear that he’ll be the weak link of the Giants’ upcoming double-play combo for the majority of September and beyond (hey, a little optimism is good for the soul sometimes).

Sticking Uribe at third reduces the amount of stress on Sandoval’s achy calf, and also prevents Uribe from playing shortstop. Renteria’s UZR/150 is a mediocre -1.9, while Uribe’s at SS is a brutal -13.0 — Uribe’s stats are much better at 2B (UZR/150: 11.0) and 3B (UZR/150: 2.0). Not to mention Sandoval’s a more capable at first than at third himself.

The sad thing is IshiGarko could have made this a contest, but their lack of hitting will eventually make mean they’ll finish the season as a combination half late-inning defensive replacement, half pinch-hitting option against lefty relievers.

That’s the short-term prognosis: an infield of Sandoval/Sanchez/Uribe/Renteria. In the long-term, it’ll be interesting to see if the Giants’ off-season shopping list will include a power-hitting third baseman (making Sandoval a most-of-the-time first baseman and sometime backup catcher and pushing Uribe to the bench), a power-hitting first baseman (keeping Sandoval at third), a power-hitting corner outfielder (pushing Fred Lewis and Randy Winn off the team, instead of just one of them) or a corner outfielder and first or third baseman (what they should do).

Regardless of what they choose to do, only organizational laziness and/or frugality will keep IshiGarko around next season in any meaningful capacity. To any team thinking about acquiring one or the other, I have one bit of advice: don’t make IshiGarko a package deal.

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