Barry Bonds is hitting .167 and is homerless over his first games, yet the San Francisco Giants are 4-2 over that stretch. The Contra-Costa Times’ Eric Gilmore has reached the following early conclusions :

One: This Giants team is deeper and stronger than the one that scuffled to a 75-87 record last year when Bonds missed 14 games because of his knee surgery hat trick.

Two: Bonds’ mere presence in the lineup, even when he’s hitting below .200, strikes fear in opposing pitchers and managers and translates into more Giants runs.

Three: If he can tweak his knee while doing something as innocent as striding and planting his right foot while taking a pitch in the dirt, then Bonds’ situation might be even more tenuous than we imagined.

ESPN’s Buster Olney is equally pessimistic about Bonds’ physical condition.

Bonds seems to be having trouble maintaining his balance on low pitches, apparently because of his knee trouble, and so over the weekend the Braves pounded the strike zone low and away; this way, if Bonds is having trouble reaching down, he cannot put leverage into his swing and drive the ball the way he has. In past years, Bonds had the leg strength and balance to drive outside pitches for home runs, but perhaps not any more. Through six games, Bonds is 2-for-12. He isn’t worried about his slow start. Even if Bonds is diminished, he is still perceived as very dangerous: He’s got seven walks already. However, it may be that opposing pitchers will finally see a quandrant of the strike zone they can throw at without getting hammered by the guy.