Decision Time for Giants With Slumping Leadoff Man Andres Torres
All of that great pitching has simply carried a lineup that relies heavily on guys who hit the ball over the fence -- hello, Cody -- and they don't even do that very often. The Giants have been unable to generate much in the way of sustained offense for, what, six weeks now, and one of the main reasons is that their sparkplug has been extinguished.
Andres Torres came out of nowhere to be a revelation at the top of the order, but lately he's gone right back from where he came.
Torres was not the only goat in the Giants' 6-1 loss to the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLCS. There was also a wobbly outing by Jonathan Sanchez, team-wide defensive lapses and a bad pitch by reliever Santiago Casilla that turned into a three-run double by Jimmy Rollins, but those things were more isolated incidents that can be shrugged off. Torres' performance has been a nagging problem for weeks, and he hit rock bottom on Sunday.
Torres struck out all four times he came to the plate. He whiffed at fastballs and whiffed at breaking balls. For the postseason, Torres is now 3-for-25 with 12 strikeouts. Even worse, two of the three times he got on base, he subsequently got caught stealing.
"He's not seeing the ball very well," hitting coach Hensley (Bam Bam) Meulens said. "He's not being able to catch up to those fastballs. He's in between, out in front on the breaking ball and behind on the fastball. When guys are struggling, that's what you see."
A little six-game blip might be excusable, especially because it has come against playoff-caliber pitching, but this slump started long before the playoffs. Torres hit .197 in the final 33 games of the regular season, with a two-week break in between to have his appendix removed.
"You start battling yourself a little bit," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think that's the case with Andres, and he is certainly a guy that makes us go when he goes. But it would be nice to get him going, no question."
Now, what's Bochy going to do about it?
That was no doubt one of the questions he would ponder on the six-hour flight back to San Francisco, and on the off day on Monday. When the Giants return for Game 3 on Tuesday, against left-hander Cole Hamels, don't be surprised if Aaron Rowand is in center field. The switch-hitting Torres is even worse from the right side (.226 this season), so it's a logical move.
It remains to be seen whether Bochy will pull the trigger or give a little more rope to one of the Giants' catalysts, a guy so beloved in the clubhouse that the players voted him winner of the coveted Willie Mac Award. The award, named for Willie McCovey, goes to a player for his performance on the field and his inspirational nature in the clubhouse. Think Rudy, but with talent.
Torres was one of the top feel-good stories for the Giants. He was years into his career before he discovered that his attention-deficit disorder (ADD) was causing him to have trouble focusing at the plate. Once he started taking medication, he began making progress toward the big leagues.
He didn't earn his first everyday big-league job until this year, at age 32, and he made the most of it. With Gold Glove-caliber defense, a little pop and lots of speed, Torres made the Giants offense go over the summer.
Now, not so much.
Torres admitted that he is feeling the pressure of his role, even as he tries to portray a don't-worry-be-happy personna.
"I've been trying to put a lot of pressure on myself," he said. "I need to slow things down. I need to do something to keep myself calmed down. Sometimes I try to rush and everything is so quick."
As he stood in the middle of a thicket of reporters after his four-punchout game on Sunday, he smiled and gave credit to the pitcher -- Roy Oswalt made a lot of Torres' Giants teammates look bad too -- and he talked of the adjustments he plans to make.
"I have worked hard in this game," Torres said. "I've been through a lot in this game. I'm not going to give up. I always try to be positive. This game has ups and downs. I'm trying to do my best. I don't want to strike out, but sometimes that's going to happen. You learn from your mistakes and try to make adjustments and go forward."