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Giants Roundup

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In football, the purist is the fan who shows up shirtless, a green 'G' outlined in yellow painted on his torso for a December game at Lambeau Field. The mindset of the beer-swilling (or in the case of San Francisco, turtleneck wearing and zinfandel sipping) aficionado is not all that different from the 22 men running around the field.

Baseball's another story. A majority of the outsiders who really love the game haven't played an inning of the game since they were 11, and even then, they couldn't get on the field much. The baseball purist of today was once the kid who loved the Sunday sports section because it devoted an entire page to listing the statistics of every Major Leaguer. And his infatuation with the game steadily waxed as he majored in statistics with an actuarial emphasis and now devotes his free time to developing statistics with esoteric acronyms such as SNWAR (Support Neutral Wins Above Replacement) and ISO (Isolated Slugging).

Another one of these foreign metrics is PAP, short for Pitcher Abuse Points. Developed by Rany Jazayerli of Baseball Prospectus -- the holy grail of baseball geekdom -- PAP is a measure of the strain a pitcher's arm is subjected to. For those who know the basics of pitch counts, it's generally accepted that pitch 100 is the point where a pitcher's arm begins to be stressed. PAP builds on this idea, theorizing that every pitch after 100 is progressively more taxing. Essentially, pitch 105 is more stressful than pitch 104, which is more stressful than 103 etc.

At number three on the list of most abused pitchers is Jason Schmidt. His high, or low, depending on your perspective, ranking on this list comes as a surprise for several reasons. First, Schmidt enjoyed a stint on the disabled list that probably cost him three starts. And at 134 innings pitched, Schmidt barely cracks the top-75 in game time logged. Furthermore, Schmidt hasn't been all that good this year, and for obvious reasons, good pitchers generally rank high on the list of abused pitchers.

After 3.5 years of Cy Young quality pitching, Schmidt has been only slightly better than the league average in 2005. Not only has his velocity in 2005 consistently been timed 3-4 MPH slower than a year ago, his peripherals have taken a turn for the worse as well. His strikeout rate has dipped slightly while his walk rate has surged to twice its 2003 level.

These facts all beg the question of how healthy Schmidt really is.

As has been well publicized this year, however, the Giants are still "challenging" for a spot in the postseason despite not being within driving distance of .500. For those who haven't heard though, the playoff dream is a mirage. Every day, Baseball Prospectus publishes the current playoff odds for all teams. Currently, the Giants chances are estimated to be 1.4%.

However misguided, the Giants are gearing up for a push in 2006 with a "healthy" Barry Bonds. It's why they decided to mortgage their farm system to acquire such vital cogs such as LaTroy Hawkins and Randy Winn. Clearly though, a postseason in 2006 isn't even theoretically possible without a return to form by Schmidt. So in the interest of the future, why not put Schmidt on paid leave for the rest of the season?

With just over 40 games remaining, Schmidt likely has about nine starts left. Allow Jeff Fassero to make a few spot starts in August, and then when the rosters expand in September, allow uber-prospect Matt Cain to fill Schmidt's turn in the rotation.

At 20, Cain is overpowering his triple-A colleagues, allowing just 109 hits while striking out 160 hitters in 134 innings. Unfortunately, the rest of his stat line doesn't paint quite so rosy a picture. 70 walks in 134 innings is worrisome, as is 19 home runs allowed.
Still, improvement can be expected once he reaches his legal-drinking years.

The hope would be that Cain has a strong September and is ready to join the rotation next spring. Of late, Noah Lowry has been outstanding (7 earned runs in his last 5 starts), and should he carry this performance over to next year, the Giants could have the makings of a good rotation -- as long as Schmidt is back to lead the staff.

Then, all the Giants would need is for Bonds, Moises Alou and Omar Vizquel to meet up with Ponce De Leon at the fountain of youth over the winter, and that elusive World Series ring might finally be had.

On another note, I'm no talent scout but I haven't figured out why Jack Taschner is pitching in Fresno instead of San Francisco. During his nine-inning cameo with the Giants a month ago, Taschner fanned 9 batters in 9 innings and had an ERA of 3.00. The rest of 2005, he's spent punking Pacific Coast League hitters to the tune of a .177 batting average-against and 54 strikeouts in 45 innings.

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