Tom Verducci runs through the five biggest problem positions for contending teams, and for some reason this one piqued me:
- 2. Giants at first base: Cactus League slugger Travis Ishikawa was a mirage, managing only six extra-base hits once the real games began. San Francisco first basemen were last with a .640 OPS (25 percent below average at the position) and a .335 slugging percentage with two home runs. Isn't this supposed to be the easiest position to find offense?
Solution: The Giants may have to use left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to get Jorge Cantu or Nick Johnson, or possibly trade for Miguel Tejada or a discounted Garrett Atkins to play third base, with hackmeister Pablo Sandoval set at first.
I'm not real big on Cactus League stats, but I'm also not sure that Ishikawa's performance in March was completely a mirage. Last season in Double- and Triple-A and finally the majors, Ishikawa hit 27 home runs. This year he's got one home run, which obviously isn't good. But his batting average and his on-base percentage are right in line with the projections, and I suspect his moderate power will come back eventually. Two more open questions, though.
One, is even the projected Ishikawa good enough to play? His .274/.337/.432 line with the big club tracks with his presumed abilities, and those numbers really aren't good enough for an every-day first baseman, even one with Ishikawa's (reportedly) excellent glovework.
Two -- and here's the bigger question by far -- in which sense might the Giants be considered "contenders"? They're so far behind the Dodgers that the division title is more than a long shot. And while the Giants' 30-27 record puts them in the wild-card hunt, the same could be said of another half-dozen clubs.
That doesn't mean you don't try to get better. But you can't trade away for your future to boost your wild-card odds from 8-to-1 (and that's being overly kind) to 7.5-to-1 or something.