San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean Won’t Stand Pat

Brian SabeanThe San Francisco Giants are currently carrying two relievers and a marginal fifth starter in the rotation. The two relievers are Chad Gaudin and Tim Lincecum, and the fifth starter is Barry Zito.

Gaudin had two really good starts in place of the injured Ryan Vogelsong. For two turns through the rotation, he was Chad Gaudin, Staff Ace. That was fun while it lasted, but it was never likely to last long.

After all, Gaudin has 426 innings under his belt as a starter and a career ERA of 4.70.

Over five-plus innings in his third start, he allowed eight hits, a walk, two dingers and four runs while failing to strike out a single hitter. That’s more in line with his career track record as a starter than the 12 brilliant innings he delivered over his first two starts.

Tim Lincecum’s failures aren’t for a lack of effort as they were back in August of 2010 when his current troubles were foreshadowed so well. After winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards in the previous two seasons, Lincecum went 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA in August of 2010. He started working out harder to help propel the Giants to the NL West crown and eventually the franchise’s first World Series title since coming west to San Francisco.

Over the last two years, Lincecum has tried everything to get back to being the ace he once was—or even some serviceable level below that—to no avail. Over his last 47 starts since the beginning of 2012, Lincecum has the sixth worst ERA in baseball at 4.99. On Sunday night in from a national audience, Lincecum battled threw six laborious innings to deliver only his 18th quality start over the past season-plus. The Atlanta heat and humidity forced the sweat to bleed through Lincecum’s jersey all evening as the Braves continually threatened with 11 baserunners. To his credit, he only allowed three to score, and two of those were the result of Andres Torres’ buffoonery in left field.

Torres appears to have caught the yips in the outfield. He’s endlessly losing balls in the lights, letting the ball get through his legs, or struggling to figure out which way to turn his glove as the ball rushes past him and runners sprint around the bases towards home against a pitching staff that can ill afford to allow any free bases. It’s not like Torres is Pat the Bat with the stick.

Burrell is probably out humping for talent for general manager Brian Sabean as an advanced scout for the Giants. Three years ago, his clutch power hitting helped push the Giants over the top despite his defensive shortcomings in left. If Torres isn’t going to catch the ball, the Giants ought to play the gifted defender Juan Perez in center and Gregor Blanco in left. The offensive drop off would likely be nonexistent given that Torres is hitting .261/.304/.376.

Zito is mostly unwatchable, even if the results are sometimes good. Many of his starts are of the noncompetitive variety, to paraphrase Curt Schilling.  His 4.79 ERA is marginally acceptable—less so when you factor in the eight unearned runs he’s allowed. The Giants could live with Zito’s mediocrity if Vogelsong wasn’t terrible before getting injured, if Lincecum was more serviceable, and if staff ace Matt Cain hadn’t delivered four horrendous starts in which he allowed six runs or more. The rest of the rotation has been bad, with only Madison Bumgarner delivering an ERA below 4.00 to this point (3.30). Thus, Zito’s inconsistent performance is no longer as palatable. The other four in the rotation aren’t pitching well enough for the Giants to be able to punt half of their fifth starter’s starts.

That gets us to Sabean—or Sabey-Sabes as he’s derisively called in Moneyball—getting out on the trade market in search of a starter. The early rumors have the Giants looking at Bud Norris and Ricky Nolasco. Both profile as #3-type starters. If the Giants were to acquire a starter to slot in behind Cain and Bumgarner in the middle of the rotation—presumably, Cain and Bumgarner can pitch like top-of-the-rotation arms going forward—and if Ryan Vogelsong can pitch like it’s 2011-2012 again when he returns from the DL, suddenly Zito would be an accetable fifth starter, and Lincecum and Gaudin can strengthen a depleted bullpen.

One trade and one starter coming back from injury can turn this whole thing around. The NL West is wide open with four teams within two games of first place and the cellar-dwelling Dodgers only 7.5 games out. Any team can win this division. The Giants are 35-33 and they’ve been outscored by eight runs. Like Zito, they’re a mediocre outfit at this point without enough juice on the heater.

But, they’re within striking distance and they’re lurking. They’ll eventually get Vogelsong, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, and Santiago Casilla back. More importantly, Sabean isn’t going to stand pat, he never does.

He delivered Scutaro and Hunter Pence at last season’s trading deadline, and Jose Mijares shortly thereafter. He delivered Carlos Beltran, Orlando Cabrera, and Jeff Keppinger at the 2011 deadline. In 2010, he kept improving the team throughout the year by promoting Bumgarner and Buster Posey from the farm system, trading for Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez and Jose Guillen, and picking up unwanted parts in Burrell and Cody Ross.

Sabean is a scout. When he watches this team play right now, he has to know that it isn’t good enough as presently constructed regardless of the injury situation. His team isn’t competitive enough because they don’t have any idea what they’re going to get from the starting rotation on a day-to-day basis.

Sabean will deliver a starting pitcher because he always delivers the goods. This is a man who has brought the organization three World Series appearances and two titles during his tenure. You don’t have that type of success by lying to yourself about what you see on the field.

This team isn’t good enough right now, but Sabean’s history suggests that he’ll do everything in his power to make sure his club is on top when the final bell rings.

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