Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Giants Pitching Preview 2006: Cha-Cha-Cha-Changeups
Noah Lowry 13-13 3.78 1.32 WHIP 172 K's 204.2 IP
Last year when I wrote about Lowry, not only did I intentionally confuse biblical characters, I was also skeptical of Lowry's chances of repeating the half-season success he enjoyed in 2004. After going 6-0 in the second half of the '04 season, fans and commentators fell all over themselves heaping praise on our newfound Tom Glavine clone. Being the pessimistic jackass that I am, I figured that once batters figured out that pretty much all Lowry's going to throw are changeups, they could sit on their back foot and crush the pitch when it came over the plate, and hence Lowry would struggle.
Sure enough, my skepticism was initially proven to be valid, as Lowry did a faceplant out of the gate in 2005, struggling with his control and also having problems with hitters sitting on that changeup, as I had feared. Lowry limped to the All-Star Break at 5-9 with a 5.07 ERA, totally disappointing totals for a guy with such high expectations heaped on him.
But as the age-old saying goes, baseball is a game of adjustments. National League hitters adjusted to Lowry's repertoire, but fortunately for Giants fans, Lowry adjusted right back. He improved his breaking ball and started throwing it more, and made some adjustments to his pitching motion to hide the ball better and to mess with the hitter's timing.
Thanks to these changes, Lowry was a different pitcher in the second half. He cut his walks, homers, and hits allowed (a 1.10 WHIP as opposed to a ghastly 1.52 in the first half), and finished with a post-Break record of 8-4 with a 2.43 ERA. In August, he was positively Koufaxian, going 5-0 and allowing just three runs the entire month (about 40 innings) and running away with the NL Pitcher of the Month.
So whereas last year at this point I was questoning Lowry's future success, now I'm positively giddy over his prospects for the next few seasons. Looking back, a lot of my pessimism about Lowry's supposedly poor stuff was misplaced. Like a bad media pundit, I conveniently ignored any evidence that might contradict my argument just so I could sorta look like I knew what I was talking about.
For one, Lowry's strikeout rates were always solid, and any analyst will tell you that good K/9 rates tend to project a long and effective career. Even though 90 mph is basically a rumor to Lowry's fastball, he can strike guys out because his changeup makes his four-seamer look, as I like to say, "sneaky fast". That is, his changeup is so awesome that his 88 mph fastball starts to look like 98, and hitters have a hard time catching up to it when he can pinpoint it. Keith Foulke and Trevor Hoffman are the poster boys for this pitching phenomenon. Sid Fernandez (ah, El Sid) was also a good example, piling up K's despite rarely topping 90 mph because batters couldn't pick up the ball out of his tricky delivery.
Also, Lowry wasn't quite as bad as he looked in the first half. While he was generally crappy, his pre-All Star Break numbers were skewed a bit by two abominable starts in Coors Field, and who can blame him for that? So I've done a complete 180 on my opinion of Lowry. Scorching hot second halves from 24-year olds tend to mean good things. This isn't a 31-year-old Brett Tomko having a fluky-good half of 2004, then whizzing himself in 2005. Lowry is just 25 and has a chance to establish himself as an All-Star-caliber starter.
There are still aspects of his game he has to work on. He walks a few too many and is prone to the innings where he can't control the changeup to save his life. He's also helped a lot by his home ballpark, and could stand to improve on the road. One thing to consider as well is that he's a flyball pitcher, and with those haggard old men limping around in the corner outfield spots, some of those fly outs could turn to doubles and triples.
But those concerns are relatively minor. I'm very excited about Lowry, and I see a terrific season in the works. Hopefully I'm not doing this reverse jinx thing, where now that I'm praising him he suddenly craps out, whereas last year he had a solid season after I hated on him. Lowry is looking like the best young pitcher the Giants have trotted out of their system since Russ Ortiz (yeah, I know, Matt Cain and all, but lets wait a year shall we?), and I don't see why he can't break out a Shawn Estes-1997 type of season without the walks. Of course, let's hope that Lowry doesn't go all head case on us like Estes and, like Estes did, break his ankle sliding horribly into second base before hopping off the bag to make an out in a crucial playoff game. I think Lowry has a better head on his shoulders, obviously but, then again, he does share a surname with the burned-out bureaucrat from Brazil who ended up losing his mind in a self-made malaise. You never know.
I'll try not to get carried away with a projection for Lowry, but screw it, it's a good day. We'll say 16 wins and an ERA in the 3.20 area, with around 200 Ks.
More Stankeye Stuff
-The guys at Fire Joe Morgan tear apart a column by Rich Draper about Steve Finley that recalls an image of two monkeys grooming each other. Rich Draper columns provide low-hanging fruit for the snark blogs, but that doesn't make this any less hilarious. Required reading.
-Just when you thought the Barry Bonds situation couldn't get any more bizarre... I'm not even going to comment.
Friday, February 24, 2006
Stankeye Quote of the Week 3/24
-Jim Lefebvre, after decking Tommy Lasorda in a fight.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Here It Is, The Worst Game of 2005
The game I'm talking about happened on June 26th in Oakland, as the A's pulverized the Giants to the tune of 16-0. The A's pounded out 16 runs on 24 hits, adding three walks and two home runs (both by Stankeye fave Nick Swisher). The Giants? They squeaked out one measly hit off of Rich Harden and two A's relievers.
How bad was Tomko, the Giants starter? Let's put it this way: the A's were Michaelangelo, and Tomko's ass was the canvas. He was bombed out of the third inning after giving up six runs on ten hits, and relievers Bradon Puffer (!?!) and Jason Christiansen fared little better. It was so bad that Jason Kendall, he of the .321 slugging percentage, smacked three hits, two of them doubles, and knocked in three runs. Noted masher Marco Scutaro had three hits and pretty much everybody in green and gold turned into some form of Joe Rudi or Reggie Jackson at the plate.
If this drubbing came at the hands of like, the Pirates, I wouldn't really care. Giving up 16 runs in a game is embarrassing, but I could move on without it really staying with me. But the fact that it was the A's, our Bay Area rivals, those Moneyball bastards and their fat white elephant mascot...it burns the soul. In my younger days, I had a pathological hatred of the A's. I hated McGwire, Canseco, the Hendersons. I even hated the crappy players, like Ron Hassey, Mike Gallego, and Mike Oquist. Five years ago this kind of thing would have sent me into full-scale Jack Torrance mode, but as the years have gone by and as Moneyball has changed the way I view baseball, my anti-A's stance has softened and I'm actually at the point where I'll actively root for them against most teams, so I didn't go berzerk and start eating live quail.
Well, this game still blew. What hurt more is that not only did the win give the A's the season series, it gave them the lead in the all-time series since Interleague play began in 1997. Going into the year, the teams were tied at 22 apiece, but came into this game with the A's holding a 25-24 Bay Bridge Series lead. A win would have kept it tied, but obviously the rest is knee-in-the-groin history, and the A's hold a 26-24 lead going into 2006.
The only consolation I have is that maybe this was just some sort of karmic retribution for this game that happened in 2000, when the Giants thoroughly bitch-slapped their Bay Area counterparts by a score of 18-2. Jeff Kent smoked two home runs. Bonds homered, Ellis Burks homered, and even Bill Mueller hit a bomb off some jerk named Rich Sauveur. 18 runs on 19 hits...ohhhh yeaaaaaah. The only positive for the A's was Sal Fasano shattering a window in the box seats behind the bleachers on a home run off Shawn Estes. Look at the box score some more. It helps make the 16-0 castor oil go down a little easier.
Maybe next year we'll get our revenge and retake the all-time series from the A's. Well, we'll have to wait until May. Until then, just to return the smiles to the faces of you Giants fans depressed over the memory of this game, here's the Masturbating Bear:
Man, I love that guy.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Giants Pitching Preview 2006: The New Bird
I want to preface the Morris write up by linking to a post on Giants Cove in December that caused some minor controversy throughout the Giants universe. They compared the numbers of Matt Morris and Brett Tomko over the past two years and argued, essentially, that Tomko has been the better pitcher and thus it's asinine to be giving Morris $27 million for three years when he's just a glorified version of Tomko.
Now, the first reaction to this comparison would probably be to throw Cheerios and spew invective at the computer screen, but unfortunately the similarities between the two pitchers are just too evident for my tastes. Ignoring irrelevant win-loss record, Tomko and Morris have essentially been league-average inning-eaters over the last two seasons. However, due to the deceptive magic of wins and losses, Morris is valued as a "proven winner" while Tomko gets pissed upon.
My only rebuttal to the Giants Cove argument would be that Morris's track record is way better. Since 2001, he's been one of the better starters in the league, and his only really bad year came in 2004, and that was clearly a fluke due to the uncharacteristically high number of home runs he surrendered (35; he has never given up more than 22 in any other season). Tomko, on the other hand, also had a fluke year, in 2004, but it was his best year since 1997. Everything else has been mediocre to awful.
As for the financial part, well, I have a harder time rationalizing that. Sure, the screwy market for starting pitchers dictated handing Morris $27 million, but that's an awful lot of money for a guy who really hasn't performed too well the past two years.
As I mentioned before, Morris was one of the best pitchers in the league from 2001-2003, and the reason was because of one pitch: the curveball. His yakker was yakking better than just about any pitcher in the big leagues during that stretch, and he could pinpoint the damn thing wherever he wanted in the strike zone. I remember Morris throwing one of his curves to Shawon Dunston in the 2002 NLCS, sending Dunston buckling towards third base as the pitch floated harmlessly over the plate for strike three. Dunston (who was, um, never my favorite Giant) walked back to the dugout shaking his head in bewilderment. The pitch made a lot of hitters look foolish. He complimented the curve with a low-90's fastball and superb control. And until Game 1 of the 2002 NLCS, he always, always beat the Giants.
I haven't seen Morris pitch much the last two years, but from what I hear through the grapevine, the curveball isn't breaking like it used to. Ol' Uncle Charlie has apparently discovered the bottle and is becoming increasingly erratic and unpleasant at family get-togethers. Morris had arm surgery in the winter of 2003 and apparently his curve hasn't been the same since. He had his bad 2004 and then, after seemingly recovering in the first half of 2005, completely imploded once again. His strikeout rates have been sinking like a rock, never a good sign, and his hit rates have been steadily rising, an even worse omen considering the Cardinals had one of the best defenses on baseball the past few years.
I see Morris having a season more or less in line with his 2004. The move to Mays Field won't really make much difference, since Morris doesn't give up too many home runs anyway. At worst, Morris is a reliable guy to eat up a bunch of quality innings and keep you in most of the games he starts. There's a theory, mostly spread by idiots, that Morris will be rejuvenated by a reunion with former catcher/medicine man Mike Matheny, but this idea is overblown and rather reminiscent of these guys.
Morris is no longer an All-Star, even if he's getting paid like one, but he provides a stable arm in what was a very shaky rotation last year. I'd say about 13 wins and a 3.80 ERA in 200 innings seems about right.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Not Baseball Related, Buuuuuut....
Giants Pitching Preview 2006: Coming Back From a Schmitty Year
Jason Schmidt 12-7 4.40 1.42 WHIP 165 K's 172 IP
Ok, before we get into the ins and outs of Schmitty's crappy 2005, I just want to send a message to Felipe Alou. A serious, personal message, straight from my heart to his melting brain. Felipe, when Jason Schmidt, our beloved staff ace, has just pitched five grueling innings without his best stuff, and his pitch count is at like 110 and he's clearly gassed, please, for the love of God, do not trot him back out to the mound! There were at least five instances last year when Alou kept Schmidt in the game even though Schmidt was done like two innings ago, and as a result he got tatooed. Now, I know Schmidt's a tough guy and a gamer, but he's also a tough guy and a gamer with a history of arm troubles, and this kind of thing can't be good for his fragile elbow.
There's no doubt in my mind that Alou's whip-cracking was a major contributer to Schmidt's down year, and there's no clear reason why Felipe was so oblivious to the fact that Schmidt was constantly wearing down. Maybe he's just a bad manager, or maybe he was too preoccupied with the little green alien spinning around his head. Whatever the reason was, I plead for Alou to be a little more considerate of Schmidt's arm this season. Yeah, he's a tough guy on the mound, but even the baddest badasses break down eventually.
Schmidt gave up a home run to the first batter he faced (Cesar Izturis) in 2005, and things never really got any better from there. Schmidt's formerly blazing 94-97 mph fastball was now coming in at around 90-92 with very little movement. His formerly unhittable changeup was now simply landing in the dirt. His normally pinpoint control was now anything but, and 3-2 fastballs would no longer paint the black on the outside at the knees, but instead would sail high and away.
There was all kinds of speculation as to what was wrong with Schmidt. Injuries, lack of concentration, flaws in his mechanics, the whole she-bang, but no one could really figure it out. He just never at any point last year looked dominant, and he didn't come close to resembling the Schmidt we all know and love. Even in his best month, August, he wasn't really blowing guys away (23 K's in 31.2 innings), and there was a bunch of talk about how he was transforming into a finesse pitcher who could get guys out on less pitches.
While it's easy to take the optimist route and denounce Schmidt's 2005 as a fluke, there are warning signs abound. I talked about the loss of velocity and command, and it showed in the numbers. Schmidt threw 172 innings and struck out 165 batters, good, for sure, but still his worst K/9 rate as a Giant. His K/BB ratio took a disturbing fall to 165/85, compared to 208/46 in his masterful 2003 and 251/77 in 2004. Opponents also hit .246 off Schmidt, again not bad but also again his worst as a Giant.
Like the coming of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (warning: gratuitous Ghostbusters reference) these trends do not portend good things. Schmidt has now seemingly suffered from every pitching injury known to man and his body is beginning to resemble something like Lee Majors's. It's entirely possible, with the combination of age, injury, and mileage on his arm, that he's just starting to hit a major decline.
As for this idea that he's suddenly become a finesse pitcher, two things: 1) I'm not buying it, and 2) if true, ahhhhh shit!. First, Schmidt was still striking out a healthy number of batters even without his best stuff, and he walked a bunch of guys, even in the month when commentators were rambling about his newfound philosophy. Finesse pitchers live and die on control and low pitch counts, not strikeouts, free passes, and high workloads, like Schmidt did last year.
Second, if Schmidt is trying to find success with reduced velocity and a lot of ground balls, it's bad for his image. In past years, Schmidt was an "Ah Bloody Hell" pitcher, as in, when you read opposing fan message boards you'd see a bunch of cries of "ah bloody hell, we're facing that guy, we're going to lose! No hope! Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria!" From 2002-2004, Schmidt was just mean on the mound, throwing high cheese at batters' chins and sending assorted Kleskos and Burnitzes sprawling on their butts. If he's now turning into a pudgy-faced version of John Burkett, lord help us all. Having your own badass pitcher is fun, and Schmidt transforming from Rambo to Larry Darrell is a disturbing thought.
Schmidt has been an object of near man-crush proportions for me the past few years, so last season's breakdown was obviously disappointing. I've been a mincing little pessimist for this entire post, but I really don't see any good signs here. It'd be fun to just go hog wild and project a 20-5, 2.22 year for Schmidt, but at this point, with all the injuries and question marks, I'd say that 14-9, 3.60 is a pretty optimistic prediction. When you look at it, a bad year for Schmidt is actually a reasonable year for a lot of pitchers. It just demonstrates the kind of expectations we have for him now, and maybe as he enters his mid-30's we should temper those expectations.
Ah, the hell with it! 20 wins or bust!
-Note: Somewhere in this text I inserted yet another gratuitous Ghostbusters reference. Why? Is it because it's the greatest comedy of all time? Is it because I live a sad life of memorizing 80's movies line by line? Or is it because of some bizarre brain lesion? Who knows, just see if you can find it.
-Oh, and, apparently Barry Bonds is bitching about stuff again. Yawn. When does the season start?
Friday, February 17, 2006
Stankeye Quote of the Week
Stankeye Quote of the Week is a new none-too-inspired feature that I'm going to be doing every Friday. Since it's the end of the week and I'm always bruised and battered after basketball, it's just too tempting to toss up baseball quotations in lieu of actual intelligent analysis. And just for the hell of it, with it being the inaugural QOTW and all, here's a bonus quote from Billy Sample, an obscure Texas outfielder from the late '70's:
"I'm like Daffy Duck in cartoons. I'm black, I've got big feet, and I'm always bitching."
Next week I'll start the Giants pitching preview as spring training kicks into high gear. Great weekend, everyone!
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Favorite Kuip Moment
There are any number of great Duane Kuiper calls, but I have a personal favorite that I'm sure has been long forgotten. Let's flashback to 1998, as the Giants were facing the Phillies at Veterans Stadium in a hotly contested four game series in early August. The Giants had won the first two games by an eyelash and the teams were now squaring off in a Sunday matchup in just gawdawful heat.
In the seventh inning, Ricky Bottalico nailed Bonds on the knee with a pitch that was clearly intentional. Teams had been throwing at Bonds for weeks now, and apparently this shit wasn't going to fly anymore, so Bonds charged the mound and tackled Bottalico. Typical bench-clearing chaos ensued, and Bonds and Bottalico were ejected. When the game resumed, with tempers still flaring, Snow came up and absolutely obliterated a Wayne Gomes (yeah, remember him?) fastball over the right field wall. You knew the ball was gone the second he hit it, and Kuiper went into a smug home run call that I will never, ever forget.
"Snow! He hits it high,, he hits it deep, he hits it WAY OUTTA HERE!."
Snow, normally a good-natured fellow, couldn't resist sticking the Phillies' faces in it, and Kuiper was lovin' it:
"Snow flips his bat high in the air...and he is takin' his time!"
Snow not only took his time, but he acted like an absolute ass, and to this day it's my all-time favorite J.T. Snow moment, even beating out his 2000 playoff home run. As he watched the home run sail over the wall, Snow trotted up the first base line, flipped his bat high in the air, and proceeded to run the bases in a pace barely faster than a walk. The Phils seethed, and the Giants rolled to a 15-3 stomping. Did Snow act unsportsmanlike? Well, yes. Did the Phils deserve it? Abso-fucking-lutely. That's what made that moment so memorable.
Kuiper realized it, too, and his call was dripping with schadenfreude. Out of all of Kuip's great calls, this ranks as the all-time pimple-raiser as far as my memory can trace.
As an addendum, the bad feelings between the Giants and Phils didn't stop there. The next day, with the Giants once again manhandling the Phils, Snow and Gomes faced off once again late in the game. This time, though, Gomes struck Snow out on a breaking ball. As Snow was walking back to the dugout, Gomes furiously charged off the mound like a ruffled peacock and screamed at Snow to "go sit down!" Snow turned around and went after Gomes, the two exchanged some F-bombs, and the benches cleared once again. Order was restored and the Giants ended up winning. It's funny that I remember these two games so vividly, much more vividly than I remember Barry's 71st homer game (in which the same Wayne Gomes played a huge part in the Giants' losing cause), but brawl games are just inherently exciting, no? Especially if it's your team on the winning side, rubbing the dirt in the face of the loser.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The Great Ones Locked Up
If there's one thing I love to listen to, it's Mike Krukow's commentary. It's obvious the guy lives and breathes the game, and his analysis of any given play is colorful and amazingly insightful. The thing I love about him is that even though he's a baseball old-timer, he's not one of these fussy pricks who think they know everything just because they played, like Tim McCarver. He's out there having a good time. When he talks about a batter bailing on his swing, or a fatigued pitcher throwing across his body, you listen. You constantly learn new stuff from Kruk. His comments always have substance; they're not cliched and brainless like McCarver or Joe Morgan.
Lest we forget, Krukow also popularized the term "stankeye", which I used for this blog's namesake. His "Krukisms", terms of his that describe otherwise run-of-the-mill plays and whatnot in colorful dugout terms, are another gem. Again, it's not just him trying to be clever, it's just Krukow talking.
Some of my favorite Krukisms:
-A few years ago, he dismissed Cardinal pitcher Juan Acevedo as a guy whose pitching philosophy was to "rear back, fill your pants and throw".
-Upon watching Kirt Manwaring chug home from second: "Here comes the beer truck heading home."
-Any hot liner into the Giants dugout is deemed an "ugly-finder" by Krukow.
-"Mooseman is a piece of work." If anybody remembers Mooseman, I'd love to hear about it. He stopped appearing at Giants games in 1996, but was a long time denizen of the right field pavilion, and naturally, a fave of Kruk's.
My personal favorite from 1999: Shawn Estes was facing Gary Sheffield with the bases loaded and two out. On a 2-0 count, Estes threw a fastball right down broadway. Sheffield hit a frozen rope to Bonds in left field to end the inning. Krukow, obviously shaking his head in disgust up in the broadcast booth, couldn't help but criticize Estes: "You have to spot your pitches in that situation. You can't just close your eyes and throw 'Help me, Jesus' fastballs and hope to get guys out."
If you have a personal favorite Krukism, please post it. I'm sure there are a ton of great one that I can't recall right now.
-Just to piss people off, here's John Sickels' prospect retro of A.J. Pierzynski on his blog Minor League Ball. Some Giants fans have weighed in on the comments section, and unsurprisingly have had some unflattering things to say. I've neglected to write anything, for fear of being run out of town on a rail, but if I did it'd probably be some sort of mindless defense of A.J. Not sure why I still like the guy, although it probably has something to do with my love of the '86 Mets, a team chock-full of fiery jerk players just like Pierzynski.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Valentine's Day Fun
-Today, I'm announcing that Randy Winn has become the Official Stankeye Player of the Year, mostly since I'm sponsoring his player page on Baseball reference. No one expects him to continue the Mickey Mantle impressions but it'd be nice if he put up another great season to justify my sponsorship. If he hits like Neifi Perez, though, his page sponsor might mysteriously morph into "Jose's Live Octopii and Veal Eatery", not that I have any association with any such place.
-And for those of you without a sweetheart on this Valentine's Day, well, just be happy you aren't this guy.
Five Best Games of 2005
Doing this kind of thing with a team like the 1997 version of the Giants would be remarkably easier, because there are so many moments from that season that stick out in the mind. I can immediately think of at least ten awesome games from that season. Finding the greatest games of a 75-win team...eh, not so easy. I'm basically grasping at straws, but hey, at least the list includes a game where fat Livan got his comeuppance of sorts. Anyway, here we go...
5. Alou Goes Yard and Ginter Makes an Ass of Himself as Giants Beat A's
Ok, so this is here because of personal reasons, but it was a fun game. You see, this Interleague game between the two Bay Area rivals was featured on Sunday Night Baseball on May 22. The A's and Giants had split the first two games and were gearing up for the rubber match. At this time, I was in Las Vegas with some friends, doing all kinds of crap that I can't really remember too well. My buddy, an A's fan, decided to bet me $20 that the A's would win.
I was out in the Stratosphere Hotel pool trying to catch the last rays of the day and eyeing various bikini-clad ladies as the game started, so I didn't get around to catching it until about the sixth inning. When I clicked on the TV, the Giants were coming up to bat down 1-0. Sure enough, within like a minute of me flicking on the television, Moises Alou hit a line-drive bomb off of Barry Zito to put the Giants ahead.
Later on, my pal, who was in the process of losing an obscene amount of money, walked in to see the A's trailing, and then watched his money go down the toilet as Keith Ginter single-handedly gave the Giants another run in the eighth inning with two errors (one on a dropped pop up). Not surprisingly, Ginter wouldn't last too much longer as a regular. I was given my twenty bucks (which I subsequently blew on roulette), and tipped my cap to Moises for his heroics.
Also, before this game, SF Weekly's Tommy Craggs conducted a one-on-one, um, interview with Joe "Sabermetrics-killed-my-cat-and-raped-my-dog" Morgan. This bizarre exchange turned into this absolutely hilarious article about how Joe has basically no idea what he's talking about. A classic read.
4. Randy Winn Hits For Cycle Against Reds
This was pretty much the game that touched off Randy Winn's Sherman's March against the NL over the last month and a half of the season. After this game, Winn was insanely good, and it seemed like he was threatening the cycle like every other game. Of course, the Reds' pitching sucks and all, but Winn actually knocked three legs of the cycle against Aaron Harang, a good starter and Cincinnati's best pitcher. It was the first time a Giants player had hit for the cycle since Jeff Kent did it in 1999, and it was the first sign of a hot streak that would provide some much-needed excitement for Giants fans.
This game is also notable because Pedro Feliz had three walks! At least, I don't think that's a typo. I guess the Reds' pitching staff is so bad that they turn Feliz into Kevin Youkilis. I'm guessing it's the last time we'll see that in a long while.
3. Giants Stay Alive With Win Over Hoffman
Easily the most exciting game of the season, as the Giants staged a miracle comeback against the Padres to keep their meager playoff hopes alive. Down by a run in the ninth, with two out and one man on, Randy Winn smashed a triple off of San Diego's great closer Trevor Hoffman to tie it, and J.T. Snow singled to put the Giants ahead a batter later. Amazingly, the Giants were able to stage this rally in an inning where Pedro Feliz, Mike Matheny, and Edgardo Alfonso all batted. Talk about miracles.
This game conjured up the kind of fist-pumping emotion that had been lacking for so long. The last time I was so excited over the Giants was when Feliz launched that grand slam against the Dodgers in September 2004. Of course, it turned out to be a big dry hump, as the Giants lost the next three games to put the noose on their postseason hopes.
2. King Barry Returns
In the most anticipated game of the season, Barry returned from three knee surgeries and lots of mindless media speculation and nearly hit a home run in his first at bat. Duane Kuiper's butchered home run call on the play ("It is outta here!...No, it's off the wall!) is now stuff of legend. The double was Bonds' only hit in the game, but it was well worth the price of admission. The energy at Mays Field was simply electric as Bonds stepped to the plate. Watching him hobble around in the outfield was less pleasant, however.
The Giants got down early thanks to Kevin Correia's typical Nuke LaLoosh impression, but were able to come back behind Ray Durham's home run and Matt Kinney's inexplicably solid relief outing. Unfortunately, I had to catch most of the game on highlights because it was playing on a dinky little TV in the corner of the sports bar I was at that night. The Monday Night Football game took precedence on the big screen, so instead of watching an exciting Giants game I got to witness Michael Vick single-handedly destroy my fantasy team from within.
1. Moises Hits a Game-Winning Bomb Off Fatso; I Rejoice
Ok, this whole disaster of a season was worth it just for this game alone. In this late-season game in D.C., our favorite Cuban gastropod Livan Hernandez was dominating the Giants as he's always done since leaving in 2003. Going into the ninth, the Giants were doing nothing against him, and it looked like he was going to close out an easy complete game win. But in the final inning he walked Omar Vizquel and Bonds, and then Alou came up and absolutely smoked a first pitch hanger over the wall for a three-run homer.
I was in my school library doing homework when this happened, and I could only keep up with the game using MLB Gameday. When the browser refreshed and I saw Alou's blast I nearly exploded. Seriously, it took all my might to keep from shouting "Take that, you fat sack of crap!" in the middle of the computer lab. All the years of pent up frustration since Livan's unfortunate appearance on the pitching mound in Game 7 were released with that home run. It felt so good to see that portly bastard sulking on the mound as Alou rounded the bases.
This was also the game that Todd Linden lost and won on the same play. In the bottom of the ninth, Armando Benitez did his best to negate Alou's emotional home run by loading the bases with two outs. With the bags drunk, Brad Wilkerson sent a scorching liner to left field. Now, the ball was smoked, but it normally would have been a routine play for just about any half-way competent fielder.
But oh no, not for Todd Linden. Linden first broke in on the ball, then scrambled madly backward before making an amazing, awkward sprawling catch of the ball. If the ball gets by him, it's game over. The catch was awesome, but it shouldn't have even been a tough play in the first place. Typical Giants 2005 stuff.
-Random Stankeye Stuff
-If you haven't signed this petition to change the name of the Giants ballpark from the depressingly corporate AT&T Park (or whatever) to the much more pleasing Mays Field, do it now. As Dave Matthews said, to change the world, start with one step.
-I don't for the life of me know what this awful show is still doing on the air. Maybe it's a conspiracy by FOX to drive me completely insane, or maybe it's a sign that our civilization is in rapid decline. I mean, it's not totally implausible that mediocrity of Rapaport proportions brought down the Roman Empire. Maybe that flood Tool was talking about will wash Hollywood away after all.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Unsurprisingly, Matt Cain is ranked #1. The #2 guy, second base prospect Marcus Sanders, is a guy I know precious little about, but it's good to see that the Giants have a young guy with potential ready to replace Durham when he leaves.
The guy I'm really excited about is Eddy Martinez-Esteve, who Sickels rates with a B+. EME has shown great all-around hitting ability in the minors, hitting for average and power and drawing a lot of walks. There's every reason to believe he'll turn into a great hitter down the road. Unfortunately, he's a rather large, immobile boy and his defense apparently channels memories of Glenallen Hill, so sadly he might not make it as anything other than a DH. When scouts are calling your fielding ability unsalvageable when you're 22 years old, maybe an Edgar Martinez-style career path is inevitable.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
The Horror! The Horror!
Now, the Giants' keystone situation is enough of a disaster already. My deteriorating psyche just doesn't need this. I'm already waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats, shouting the word "Sweeneikro" as I clutch my Teddy Bear. The last thing I can handle now are Jose Vizcaino and Pedro Feliz and his front-foot flailing act invading my dreams. Seriously, has Alou gone insane? Is it time to send him to a mental hospital so he can go all Randle P. McMurphy on some mute Indian with a broom? Vizcaino would be the worst third baseman in the majors, hands down. Heck, I'd have trouble naming a worse regular third baseman over the last ten years.
I'm thinking maybe the guy on McCovey Chronicles simply misheard Alou (please?), or maybe Alou was just sleepy and was talking out his ass so he could hurry up and get his nap. If he was serious, though, Giants management has just plumbed new depths of insanity in what's already been a goofy offseason.
-In a non-baseball-related story, apparently Dick Cheney enjoys playing The Most Dangerous Game during the weekend. This is one of the most hilarious things I've read in a while. It couldn't have happened to a better guy...er, I mean, bigger asshole.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Beethoven's 5th...Starter (God, What an Awful Pun)
The deal shows us two things: 1) Fogg is apparently retarded and 2) the Rockies still have no idea what in holy hell they're doing, but is that any surprise? It's really hard to figure what Fogg is thinking. The Giants offered him a minor-league deal, which isn't as secure as the deal the Rockies gave him, but when you're a fly ball pitcher moving into the worst place on the planet for pitchers, maybe taking a risk trying to make it as a spring training invitee isn't such a bad idea. I think Fogg would be horrible pretty much anywhere, but he'll be lucky to toss up an ERA under 6 pitching in Coors Field this year, which makes his prospects for getting a major league deal in 2007 very shaky. If he'd accepted a spring training invite with the Giants he'd have had a very good chance of making the club. If he got lucky and threw up a 4-something ERA thanks to Mays Field (or whatever dumbfuck corporate name they're giving it now), he'd stand a good chance of getting a multi-year deal from some stupid organization that can't see the forest from the trees (think, Cincinnati Reds).
With "The Fogg" now ceasing to be a threat to the Giants, the team looks like it'll go with Brad Hennessey as their fifth starter in 2006. Hennessey was a remarkably schizophrenic pitcher last year. In one start he'd looked like Greg Maddux, in the next he'd look like Rich DeLucia. Just looking at his game log tells a story of night and day. He'd have a few starts that were brilliant, and then suddenly a few where he was battered out of the second inning. Overall, Hennessey went 5-8 with a 4.64 ERA in 118 innings.
He was horrendous at home (5.77 ERA), which is something that usually portends improvement for next year, because most pitchers pitch better in their home ballparks. However, his poor K/BB rate (64/52) doesn't exactly scream future success. If you aren't striking too many guys out and you can't find the strike zone, that's a lot of runners on base. From the looks of his 1.51 WHIP, Hennessey was probably bailed out by his defense quite a bit last season. Taking this into account, next year's prospects for an ERA under 5 don't look too good. If a few of those grounders find holes next season, the ERA balloons like Al Gore's waistline. In fact, he's flat out lucky his ERA wasn't 5.64 last season instead of 4.64.
Unfortunately, the Giants don't have too many other options. I like Kevin Correia, who has much better stuff than Hennessey, but he seemingly can't throw a slider within ten feet of home plate, so he's likely not an option. Merkin Valdez seems too green to vie for a spot in the rotation, and he's likely to land in the bullpen anyway. Non-roster invitee Jamey Wright is just a horror show, any way you look at it. So it looks like the fifth starter job is Hennessey's to lose.
Seriously, if Hennessey can toss up around 150 innings of 4.50-quality work, I don't think anybody'll complain. Some teams, like the A's, have five quality guys to trot out who can put up an ERA under 3.80, but these days most major league clubs struggle to even find a respectable fourth starter. I'm not optimistic about Hennessey repeating even his modest success last season, but as fifth starters go, he shouldn't be too bad. And at the very least, he's a secret weapon against the hard-hitting Cardinals, having not allowed even a single run against them in 14 innings last season.
-Random Stankeye stuff:
-It was nice to see U2 mop up at the Grammys last night. I know the Grammys are a worthless joke, but at least the best band in the world got proper recognition. U2's music has sort of turned into a bunch of treacly mush in recent years, but they still beat most of the garbage that was up for awards last night. "City of Blinding Lights", which won the Best Rock Song award, is a legitimately great song, but the rest of their How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb album is fairly mediocre and pales in comparison to their fiery, politically-driven works of yore. Anybody who wants to see U2 at their absolute best should check out their "Live at Slane Castle" DVD, released last year. It's just an amazing concert, with Bono at his flamboyant best.
-OK, for those who liked those Jessica Alba pics yesterday, here are some more clips of another ridiculously hot lady, Uma Thurman, romping around on the beach in a rather ill-fitting swim suit. Whoever said papparazzi were bad?
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
No Time To Write Anything Intelligent, So Here Are Some Hot Pics Of Jessica Alba
Anyway, we all know Jessica Alba is, like, amazingly hot, but these pics of her cavorting on a beach in Hawaii are just...wow. I found these on Aaron Gleeman's Twins website, and I must say, Mr. Gleeman, you're a true hero to all of us.
Anyway, more actual baseball stuff tomorrow. Until then, enjoy.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
It Ain't Easy Being Greene
Once upon a time, Baseball Prospectus predicted that Greene would turn into a 40-homer pounding DH with some AL team. Not exactly one of their better forecasts. And for some reason Greene seemed to take some sick pleasure in beating the Giants the past few years. He went 6-17 with two homers against them last year and has a ridiculous .333/.407/.750 career line against them (six homers in 48 at-bats). If he faced Kirk Rueter every time up, Greene would be an MVP (but then again, who wouldn't be in recent years?).
As backup catchers go, Greene is pretty good. His defense is apparently average at best and he can't work a walk to save his life, but he does have a lot of pop and he at least makes opposing pitchers think twice before grooving a first pitch fastball, which is a lot more than you can say about a guy like "G" Haad. He also hits lefties pretty well. It's a minor-league contract, which means basically zero risk, and he's one of the better backups and is oodles better than Haad, who I'm pretty sure I could strike out with my wrong hand. Also, he's pretty much a better hitter than Mike Matheny, so if Matheny got hurt, he could fill in more than adequately for a few weeks, so I like this deal a lot.
Other random Stankeye stuff:
-Barry Bonds is apparently getting his own reality TV show on ESPN. I can't imagine this being even remotely interesting. I mean, when you're following the plights of a decrepit, washed-up rocker like Ozzy Osbourne, whose manic, incoherent ravings are broken only by swaths of profanity, and whose ass-ugly kids would raise anybody's eroding self-esteem, it's a 10 on the entertainment scale because these people are interesting, if in a morbid kind of way.
But Bonds? He's not exactly the most charismatic fellow in the universe. His off-field persona is one of a surly, standoffish jerk who insults media members and hates whitey. Why would watching him sit around on his Barcalounger bitching at people be any kind of fun? And isn't this concept the sort of egocentric ploy that has the media hating Bonds in the first place?
- I ran across Lindy's 2006 Scouting Report at the bookstore today, and found some of the usual stupid scout quotes that mix the cliched and hopelessly subjective with the just flat out wrong. Any publication that refuses to realize that Neifi Perez is an abominable hitter isn't worth two cents.
Some of the dumber comments came from the Mike Matheny profile, which isn't surprising given how every coach, pitcher and scout want to take a little hike with Matheny to Brokeback Mountain based on his defense and magical game-calling abilities. Here's some of what they had to say. I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the book in front of me. If scouts are afraid of losing their jobs and reputations to the stat revolution, maybe they should start using their brains instead of just their vaunted "eyes".
"Anything he gives with his bat is gravy."
Not really. Since Matheny had his best year with the bat last season, we'll cut him some slack. But on a team that couldn't score runs, his .701 OPS didn't exactly help matters. I'd take a mediocre game-calling catcher with an .800 OPS any day.
"He just takes control of the game."
Wrong. Just...wrong. What the hell does this even mean? I swear that's an exact quote. How do you prove that? No numbers, no anything, just a random statement that I'm sure is based on his reputation alone. Yeah, Matheny took control in all those games the Giants won last year. All 75 of them. I don't mean to pile on Matheny, but crap like this is why we're paying him way too much money while he'll be a serious detriment to the Giants' winning cause with his punchless bat.
-Today is the one-year anniversary of this blog's birth. It's been a rocky ride, with at least two long layoffs and semi-regular posting even when active. Anyway thanks to those who have kept reading (mostly just friends who feel sorry for me and depraved lunatics who like ALF references) and those other bloggers who were kind enough to add me to their blogroll. Here's hoping the next year will be a little more consistent.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
You Were One of the Good Ones, Man
Snow was a good Giant for nine seasons, and while his 2001-2005 years were marked by a ton of fan and media derision, he seemingly couldn't help but come up with a big play when he needed it. In the first half of 2001 he stopped hitting and fans began screaming for his head. In a panic, Brian Sabean acquired Andres Galarraga to take over first base for Snow. With flame lit firmly underneath ass, Snow turned it on in the second half and hit .306 as the Giants narrowly missed the playoffs.
In 2002, Snow had a miserable season, hitting just 6 (!) home runs, and once again fans wanted his head as the Giants moved into the postseason. But once again, Snow saved his best for last and had a smoking hot postseason, including an amazing .407/.448/.556 in the World Series. Oh, and he also saved Darren Baker from being bulldozed by David Bell.
After a decent 2003 season Snow, in an impressive display of loyalty, took a drastic pay cut to stay with the Giants in 2004. He rewarded the Giants' trust by absolutely demolishing NL pitching in the second half, tossing up a mind-blowing 1.142 OPS after the All-Star Break. Of course, the alien that was inhabiting Snow's body for that half-season soon left to explore different galaxies, and Snow's production tanked in 2005.
Amidst his up-and-down final years as a Giant, few forget the terrific seasons he put up with the team from 1997-2000, when he was one of their better run producers. In 1997, his best year, he hit .281/.387/.510 to help lead the Giants to the division crown. And that glove. Oh man, that sweet glove. Whether scooping up errant throws in the dirt, or making amazing catches while falling on his butt on Angel Stadium's crap warning tracks...
...Snow had no peers with the leather. While the cliche "he saved games with his glove" is overused dreck, I do remember several instances where Snow got the Giants out of jams with amazing, acrobatic snags of scorching liners at first.
I remember a game I went to in 1998, where the Giants were facing the Reds. The Giants had loaded the bases with nobody out, but Reds starter Steve Parris proceeded to bum the crowd out by striking out Jeff Kent and Joe Carter, putting Cincy on the brink of getting out of the inning. But then Snow came up and smashed a grand slam over the right field fence, and the Candlestick crowd went into a frenzy, demanding a curtain call with chants of "J.T.! J.T.!" It's certainly one of my fonder Giants moments.
And, of course, no Giants fan will ever forget his game-tying home run off of Armando Benitez in Game 2 of the 2000 ALDS. Behind the various heroics in 2002, that moment ranks as one of the most scintillating in Giants history.
This post is now wandering dangerously close to man-crush territory, so I'll end it here by saying that Snow was one my favorite Giants, along with Bill Mueller and Rich Aurilia. No matter what he does in another uniform, he'll always be a Giant. We'll miss ya, buddy!
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
First Base Foibles
As many know, the aforementioned Branyan is well-known throughout the baseball universe for his prolific Three True Outcomes ability, that being that when he comes to bat, the fielders can take a smoke because he's either going to walk, homer, or strike out. If Rob Deer and Dave Kingman met in a seedy hotel room and had a love child (OK, THAT summons up a disturbing mental picture), you'd pretty much get Branyan, a guy who was once a highly-touted Indians prospect but whose inability to make contact initially proved to be his undoing. In 1,464 career at-bats, he has a mind-boggling 597 strikeouts (against 340 hits). He's never eclipsed 315 AB's in a season, but if he were given 500, he'd easily blow past 200 K's.
All that waving and missing and that ugly .232 career batting average actually mask the fact that he's a pretty productive hitter, and when he does hit the ball, it goes a long, long way. Last season with Milwaukee, Branyan did his usual strikeout thing (80 in 202 AB's...yikes!), but also hit .257/.378/.490. Against right-handed pitching, he absolutely mashed, raking them to the tune of .280/.405/.538. For his career, Branyan is OPSing .814 vs. righties. Compare that to Pedro Feliz, our beloved third baseman, who hit an abysmal .243/.281/.404 against right-handed pitching in 2005 (and a just-as-yucky .245/.280/.424 career).
There could have been some serious upside here. Play Branyan at first base against righties, with Neikro in against lefties and Sweeney back in his more familiar role as super bench player. Occasionally, when facing a right-hander, the Giants could play Branyan at third in Feliz's stead and they could start Sweeney at first.
For a power-starved lineup this set-up would seem to make sense, but unfortunately guys like Branyan get underrated by many baseball people because of the whiffs, which is stupid and short-sighted. Come on, the guy slugged .480 last year, and he, unlike the Neikro/Feliz/Sweeney trinity that figures to contaminate the bottom of the batting order in 2006, can actually take a walk. The Giants don't need this...why? What did we get from the corners last year? J.T. Snow and his 4 homers, and a lot of punchless flailing at third from Edgardo Alfonso and Feliz. As for concerns about his defense, his glove at first certainly wouldn't make anybody forget Snow, but he's also not Dick Stuart around the bag or anything.
Obviously, Branyan wouldn't turn into the cure-all for the Giants' offensive woes, but he would have gone a long way toward making the lineup a little more formidable. And he wouldn't have cost anything, a typical zero-risk, high-reward type that Brian Sabean tends to ignore (as opposed to medium-risk, zero-reward types like Jose Vizcaino and Michael Tucker). Instead, a cheap potential solution is gone and the Giants still have a gaping flesh wound at one end of the keystone.