Vets, youth in the mix for SF this year

Of old bats, live arms and the best use of Barry Bonds
What do we know about the 2005 edition of the San Francisco Giants? That they’re old.

Except when they’re young.

Yes, the Giants have the league’s – if not quite baseball history’s – oldest regular lineup. Yes, the trio that will be patrolling the PacBell outfield this year will have a collective age of 117 by midseason.

But that’s the everyday players. On the mound, San Francisco will have a young staff, which features babies Noah Lowry and Jerome Williams, as well as an ace, Jason Schmidt, who’s just 32.

Live arms and veteran bats are what general manager Brian Sabean and manager Felipe Alou are banking on for another run at the World Series. All in all, not a bad formula for winning the National League West, perhaps the weakest division in baseball.

Of course, all of San Francisco’s strength on paper revolves around one man – Barry Bonds. He’s the paperweight to the Giants’ paper lineup.

The talk right now, as it has been for the past couple of springs, is about distractions and how they’ll effect Bonds.

Two words: They won’t.

A meteor hurtling at Earth wouldn’t distract Bonds from hitting baseballs into the stratosphere to greet it. That much we’ve learned about the taciturn slugger over the years.

Age, too, hasn’t slowed him down a bit. True, he had knee surgery a few weeks ago, but he’s already looking fit and healthy at spring training as he rehabs on schedule to start in his usual spot on Opening Day.

So there seems to be very little chance that the Giants aren’t going to be able to rely on Bonds for 45 home runs, 190 or so walks and scared looks on the faces of opposing pitchers. The question, though, is whether they’re exploiting Bonds’ production in the best way possible.

That’s the question posed by John J. Perricone, who runs the Only Baseball Matters blog (www.onlybaseballmatters.com) – which is essential reading for Giants fans. Perricone has crunched the numbers and theorizes that the most productive possible batting order San Francisco could use would look like this:

Bonds .609; Alfonzo .350; Grissom .323; Alou .361; Pitcher (?); Matheny .292; Durham .364; Vizquel .353; Snow .429

The number following the names is that player’s on-base percentage last season. It’s Perricone’s theory that it’s a waste of Bonds’ incredible knack for getting on base not to bat him first, so he gets the most possible plate appearances over the course of a season.

That makes some sort of sense, but what about the bizarre placement of the pitcher and weak-hitting catcher Mike Matheny in the heart of the order? Surely that’s crazy talk.

Perricone explains that with Bonds leading off, you would still want him slugging away with runners on base when he bats in the later innings. So Perricone’s solution is to put some high OBP guys down at the bottom of the order to increase the chances that Bonds will have some runners to knock in as the game progresses.

Again, there is some logic to this, and Perricone’s numbers add up (as far as this non-math whiz can tell, anyway). But is there any chance Alou will do anything with his batting order remotely resembling this?

Of course not. Still, some day someone will, because baseball’s stat revolution continues to hammer away at the most hidebound of conventional diamond wisdom.

Notes in the margins:

– If you read the Green Phone, you may have noticed that we get complaints. The latest: not enough coverage of Gilroy wrestling and Gavilan baseball. Here’s the thing – there’s just so much quality sports activity going on in our area at any given time that it can be tough to give all of it the space it deserves.

That’s not the greatest situation in the world, but we think that it’s a whole lot better than the alternative – nothing to write about..

– Hats off to the area basketball teams. The Gilroy and Hollister girls were well-coached and always fun to watch. Expect one of these two teams to finally knock Notre Dame off its pedestal in 2006.

The ‘Baler boys went out and surprised a lot of teams that thought all they’d have to do was focus on TCAL MVP Kyle Sharp. When Sharp went down in midseason, the rest of the team learned how to succeed without him. The Gilroy boys started league 0-4 and it looked pretty dismal. Then they got it together and went 5-1 the rest of the way to make the playoffs. That’s called picking yourself up off the ground.

– In case you hadn’t heard, two sisters from Gilroy took a first-place and a third-place at the Las Vegas World Archery Festival in late January. Adrianna Zepeda, 15, was first in the Young Adult Freestyle Limited competition (498/600 with three X’s). Her sister Monique, 17, placed third in the Young Adult Freestyle Unlimited event (580/600 with 19 X’s).

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