Posted By Jeff Fletcher on May 11, 2011 10:59 am
It was a pretty easy storyline to draw last night. The Giants opted to keep Darren Ford on the roster instead of Manny Burriss or Ryan Rohlinger. Then, a few hours later, there was Ford coming out to pinch-run, easily stealing second and scoring the winning run from second on a “single.”
To which I say, no so fast (pun intended).
Ford absolutely provides something to the Giants with his speed. He is the fastest guy on the roster, and he can definitely do things that no one else on the roster can do. However, I think it’s easy to get carried away with the value he provides in relation to the roster spot he occupies.
First, if a guy’s sole purpose on the team is to be able to use his speed, you’d sure like to see him be able to use it more effectively. He has been caught stealing three times in seven attempts so far. That’s a not very good percentage. Yes, it’s a small sample. Yes, two of the times he got caught were by perfect throws by Pudge Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos. But, you know, this is the major leagues. Catchers will do that. I’ll submit that Ford’s early numbers are not out of whack with his base-stealing ability, and as Exhibit A I’ll provide his career minor league stolen base totals. He’s been caught 74 times in 369 attempts (an 80-percent success rate) in a career that includes only seven games above Double-A. The catchers in A and AA are not all Pudge Rodriguez, so a guy with his pure speed shouldn’t be caught even that much.
Speed is more than just stealing bases, of course. There was that Pittsburgh thing. No doubt that was impressive. However, advance reports being what they are, I don’t think that will happen again.
Factoring in all that Ford provides with his speed, there is still the issue of how much speed is worth on a roster, if doesn’t come packaged with something else. (Now that Andres Torres is back, the Giants don’t even need Ford’s defense.)
Unless you can get by with only six relievers, which the Giants seem unwilling to do even though they probably could swing it, you only have room for five bench players, and one of them is the backup catcher. You’d like the other four to be able to do as many things as possible. The Giants roster is not all that flexible. Pat Burrell, for example, takes up two spots when he starts, because you need someone else to go in for defense for him. When he comes off the bench, it’s only to hit, not to run or play defense.
So, as exciting as it was to watch Ford do his thing last night, there are going to be games when the Giants get caught by not having enough different tools at their disposal on the bench.
Of course, this isn’t Ford’s fault. It’s not even necessarily the Giants’ fault, because they don’t have many alternatives right now. The real problem is this team was designed to have Pablo Sandoval and Miguel Tejada starting, with the useful Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot on the bench, and right now that’s not the case. Eventually — in theory — they’ll be back to a Sandoval-Tejada left side of the infield and there will no longer be room for Ford on the roster. I believe the Giants will be better off then, even though we may miss watching Ford run.