George Kontos

Unlucky 13: How much longer can the Giants keep an extra pitcher?

Travis Ishikawa World Series parade SF Giants

The Giants are actually 13th in Major League Baseball in batting average, which means they’re in the upper half. Hooray! Yet they’re hitting .231, and it’s a punchless .231 at that. Boo.

The worry going into this season was that their rotation would collapse under the weight of injuries, overuse and a lack of true aces other than Madison Bumgarner. The rotation has actually performed alright, by and large. But with this bloated pitching staff that includes 13 guys, the Giants don’t really have a bench.

Bruce Jenkins did a great job explaining the quandry Bruce Bochy faced last night:

Down 3-0 in the fourth inning, and immersed in a terrible scoring drought, the Giants really needed to pinch-hit for Tim Hudson with two out and two runners on against right-hander Christian Bergman. With only two real options, neither of them left-handed (it was too early for Posey), Hudson was allowed to hit and struck out to end the inning.

Hudson ended up going seven innings, which was a nice break for the bullpen. But Jenkins was right — forget the bullpen in times like these. The Giants have scored eight runs in the last six games, and not coincidentally they’ve lost their last five.

The position players can be divided into two groups.

Run producers: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Casey McGehee, Brandon Crawford, Travis Ishikawa, Justin Maxwell

Posey is dealing with a neck injury of some sort (he grimaced noticeably last night after the swing he took before driving the ball to the warning track); Pence and Ishikawa are on the DL; Belt is playing through a groin injury; McGehee is making his way back after a bone bruise caused enough pain to send him to the dirt in San Diego; Crawford already looks tired and may have gotten HR-happy after his blast in Arizona; Maxwell is a doing about as well as could be expected (.231 average with a couple runs batted in).

Table-setters: Nori Aoki, Angel Pagan, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, Gregor Blanco

Aoki has been awesome; Pagan isn’t much for throwing to the correct base, but his offense has been there; Panik is 3-for-25 since Opening Day; Duffy is hitting .300 with a few walks; Blanco hasn’t done much of anything.

Guys who are just kind of there: Joaquin Arias, Hector Sanchez

Arias is 1-for-9 with a homer and Sanchez is 3-for-17, neither player has a walk.

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With five guys in that first category dealing with injuries, and an already short bench, it’s no wonder that the Giants have had so much trouble scoring runs since leaving Phoenix. Awful production with guys on base hasn’t helped, either. But reinforcements could be on the way, if the Giants choose to use them. Ishikawa is 4-for-14 with a couple walks in Sacramento, and Adam Duvall is hitting .478 with two homers in six games.

Just one question (and it’s not an easy one): Which pitcher do the Giants remove from the active roster?

The idea going into this season was that George Kontos and Jean Machi were the last two pitchers on the staff. Kontos has given up at least one hit in each of his four appearances, but he hasn’t allowed a run in 5.1 innings. He isn’t going anywhere. Machi has allowed four hits, three walks and two runs in four innings, but is that enough to convince the Giants to give up on a guy who might have been their best reliever in the first half of last season?

Then there’s Ryan Vogelsong, who’s allowed 15 hits and 12 runs (11 earned) in 8.1 innings. But he looked better than his numbers in that start in Arizona, and he was the sacrificial lamb in San Diego after Bumgarner got shelled. Oh, and he’s guaranteed to make $4 million this season.

The Giants may have figured that a pitcher other than Cain would go on the DL by this point (like Jake Peavy), and that’s how they’d go about adding a much-needed bench player. That’s how they kept Erik Cordier when he was going up against Kontos and Machi this Spring. Maybe giving someone like Peavy, Vogelsong or Machi an extra two weeks of rest is how they’ll end up squeezing Ishikawa or Duvall onto the 25-man roster. The other options (DFA’ing a veteran pitcher or going with an extremely short bench) don’t seem all that great at this point, as the Giants are reminded on a daily basis that carrying 13 pitchers comes with a price.

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