Happy New Year!
Today we talk about one of my favorite guys--Nate Schierholtz. The Olympian One was plucked out of Chabot College in Hayward in 2003 when he was a 19-year old and swung his way to San Jose by 2005 and on to Fresno in 2008 where he posted a .925 OPS. He got 24 starts for the Giants in RF in 2007 and another 18 in 2008. Things picked up in 2009 with 86 games and 61 starts followed by 109 games and 41 starts in 2010. Last season Nate had the most starts of his career (77) with 70 in RF and 7 in LF. He had the most PA as well with 362. He would have had more but for a season-ending injury in August. Nate's .278/.326/.430 line rates a 112 OPS+ with B-R and a 107 wRC+ with FanGraphs. Would it surprise you that he's about 10% better than the average hitter? I sorted NL hitters with 350+ PA by OPS and discovered that Nate's .756 is 53rd of the 117 listed, sandwiched between Alfonso Soriano and James Loney. Pablo Sandoval was 10th at .909, just behind Carlos Beltran (.910). The rest of the lineup was terrible: Cody Ross 66th (.730), Jeff Keppinger 97th (.677), Aubrey Huff 98th (.676), Andres Torres 111th (.643), and Aaron Rowand 115th (.621). Nate, when given the everyday job, delivered the goods. He wasn't a superstar, but he wasn't asked to be one, either. More important than that, he didn't stink. I know, I know, damning with faint praise. But he didn't. The other guys did stink, and that matters. Note that four of those names are no longer on the team.
I have good feelings about Schierholtz and 2012. He's under team control (arb-eligible this year, FA in 2015), he's not quite 28 (February), and his game is still improving. We've seen his tremendous glove and the value it delivers to the team, now we hope to see his bat show more polish and consistency. He has over 200 more games played in the minors than majors (and over twice as many PA) so he is still developing. I think we saw a lot of positives before the injury and I'm expecting more of the same. If I've learned anything over the years, it is to appreciate what a player can do rather than what he cannot. And that a player who has never had a full season has not had a real chance to reach his full potential. Nate can give the Giants solid production, speed on the bases, and range and athleticism in the field with a deadly goddamn cannon to boot. He needs to stay healthy, be steady, and play his game. If he can do that the 2012 Giants will be much improved over the 2011 version.
May your 2012 be much improved over your 2011!