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Friday, May 7, 2010
FanGraphs: Giant surprise in right

By Dave Cameron, FanGraphs

While the San Francisco Giants have put together one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they entered the 2010 season with legitimate questions about where they’d find any offense. A month into the season, one of the early answers has been Nate Schierholtz, a guy who didn’t even crack their opening day lineup.

After collecting three hits Thursday night, including his first home run of the season, Schierholtz is now hitting .381/.458/.587, and is establishing himself as a potential every-day player for the Giants. He had shown the ability to make contact and hit for power in the minors, but an undisciplined approach led to unproductive major league results, such as his career .329 on-base percentage. However, Schierholtz is showing signs of offensive development at age 26.

In addition to the three hits Thursday night, he also drew his seventh walk of the season, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize that he managed only 16 walks in 308 plate appearances a year ago. He’s managed to work his way on base while simultaneously cutting down on his strikeouts, which is no easy feat. The combination of improved contact and better selectivity has allowed Schierholtz to make the most of the offensive skills he’s been given, and the Giants have to be thrilled with the results to date.

He won’t keep hitting .381, of course, but Schierholtz’s overall game is fairly similar to that of former Giants outfielder Randy Winn, who combined gap power, good contact skills and quality defense in the outfield to become one of San Francisco’s better regular players. UZR thinks very highly of Schierholtz’s glove in right field, so if he can sustain the newfound patience and keep hitting doubles with some frequency, the Giants may just have found a new right fielder.

Dave Cameron is a writer for FanGraphs.