Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t get me wrong, I love this hot start for the Giants offense, I just don’t expect it to stick. When they start playing more games in their pitcher’s paradise of a home stadium and the pitcher’s arms strength gets up to snuff, they’ll need their big boy hitters to start carrying things.
That means that it’s time to move Hunter Pence to the third spot of the order.
It’s a very long season, but the Giants can’t get Pence going fast enough. The best way to do that is to get him some reliably good pitches to hit, and moving him in front of Buster Posey would go a long way in doing that.
Some hesitation would be natural if Pablo Sandoval was off to a hot start in that spot. After all, what would be the point of risking cooling him off just to get Hunter Pence going? As you can see, though, neither guy is exactly off to a torrid start.
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So there’s no real risk in shaking things up, is there?
Sandoval is such a unique player, and every manager, pitching coach, and pitcher in the league knows it. He’s such an aggressive swinger at the plate that even hitting in front of Posey, pitchers aren’t terribly inclined to give him the heavy dose of fastballs that would normally come with batting in that spot.
Batting fifth wouldn’t get Sandoval as many fastballs to hit but remember, the strength of Panda’s game is how good of a bad-ball hitter he is. Putting him in a spot where he’d get more bad pitches to hit wouldn’t hurt him that much.
Pence’s offensive game reminds me a little of Jeff Kent. Like Kent, he’s very aggressive, but not quite like the Panda. When the Giants moved Kent in front of Barry Bonds midway through the 2002 season, it paid off immediately.
In this case, another benefit would be Pence’s speed advantage over Sandoval. Given how hard it is to hit the long ball in San Francisco, you definitely want to see someone who can reliably score from first on a double, or second on a single. Sandoval isn’t terrible in that regard, but I’d much rather have Pence on the bases for Posey if Buster puts one in the gap.
So, what would a new lineup for the Giants look like on paper?
- Angel Pagan — As long as he’s healthy, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that he’s the lead-off guy.
- Brandon Belt — A nice left-handed bat. I’d be more open to the idea of hitting him third, except that’s a power position and AT&T Park just kills left-handed power. I’d rather have him and his high OBP in the two spot.
- Hunter Pence
- Buster Posey
- Pablo Sandoval
- Michael Morse — Perfect guy for this spot of the order. He can crush opponents with his power, but you’re not expecting too much from your No. 6 hitter.
- Brandon Crawford
- Joaquin Arias
Every one of these guys would be in the proper spot for their skill-set.
At this point of the year, you don’t want to mess up anything good, but teams should also want to tinker a little bit with the struggling parts of the lineup to get them going. When guys like Belt and even Posey begin to cool off, Pence and Sandoval will need to pick up their games.
Since Pence and Sandoval are both struggling to find their power now, there’s no reason not to take a preemptive strike to get things going. Why wait until your hot hitters cool down to hope that things get going for the currently struggling stalwarts?
Get Pence the better pitches to hit and see if Sandoval can hit better a few spots down where there’s a little less pressure on him.