Monday, August 25, 2008


Hot Streak

As local sportscaster/unwatchable jackass Grant Napear might say, "Turn the sprinkler systems on, because the Giants are on fire!" My apologies for using that gag-inducing catch phrase, but it's true: the Giants are on a certified hot streak, having won five games in a row and eight of their last ten. Timely hitting and good pitching (including a couple of starts from Barry Zito that pleasepleaseohgodplease may be a sign of a return toward league averageness) have all contributed, as has the long-overdue influx of young players into the lineup. Replacing Jose Castillo's limp bat with the exciting firework potential of Pablo Sandoval is an upgrade too large for words.

This morning, Andrew Baggarly wrote a piece about how some Giants are still expressing optimism about coming back to win the mediocre NL West (link tip to Giants Win). Well, nice to dream, anyway. As much as we'd all love for the Giants to stage a furious run a la the 2007 Rockies, in this little place we like to call reality the Giants are ten games back with a little over a month to play. Also, as sucky as it is to point this out, the crest of this streak has come when the Giants swept the Padres, a team even crappier than our boys in black and orange. Miles crappier, if that can be believed. Baggarly also quotes two Giants players who reference the Rockies of '07, but they are the anomaly, not the norm. Late-season surges like that almost never happen.

That said, the Giants at this point are as watchable as they've been since that fateful ball left Steve Finley's bat in September of 2004. Sandoval at this point is a better player than Rich Aurilia (hell, maybe even Bengie Molina if he keeps his hot hitting up). Travis Ishikawa may go the way of the Bowker eventually, as his career minor league numbers aren't too inspiring, but maybe the strides he made at AA and AAA are for real. Emmanuel Burriss and Ivan Ochoa don't inspire a lot of confidence long term, but better them than the sad ghost of Omar. Ryan, well, he's better than Bocock! I'm sure.

As the season wears down it'll be at least worth watching to see if the new-look (of sorts) Giants can at least perform well enough to give this season a modicum of respectability. Just a few weeks ago this team looked well on its way to a loss total in the high-90's. Right now, though, the team is on pace to lose only 89 games, and with every win that total shrinks and this season looks less and less like a complete debacle. In twenty years we want to be able to look back and at least say, "well, during this down period in the late aughts the Giants were bad but not horrendous."

That, of course, will be followed by the inevitable: "What the fuck was Jose Castillo doing getting 400 at-bats?"

--Matt Cain tonight will try to even up his record for the first time since any of us can remember. Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a faction of Giant fans that are down on Cain, and not because of his mediocre won-loss records. There seems to be some aura of disappointment because Cain hasn't turned into a star pitcher already, that he hasn't become what Lincecum is. This is just silly.

First, he's just not as good as Timmy. Deal with it. Second, he's a 23-year-old with a career 120 ERA+. Yeah, how dare you, Matt. Yes, he still walks too many batters and a lot of his starts are grueling descents into pitch count hell, but right now he's a well-above average pitcher who gives the team a ton of innings. That's pretty effing valuable, and of course there's a high likelihood of him improving as he gets older. If Cain, over the entirety of his Giants career, simply stays at this level, would that make him a disappointment, or just a victim of exceedingly high expectations?

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>> If Cain, over the entirety of his Giants career, simply stays at this level, would that make him a disappointment, or just a victim of exceedingly high expectations?

A victim of high expectations. Fans of teams do it all the time, expecting such-and-such prospect to be the next Tom Seaver, but what Cain has given the Giants, as you pointed out, has been great. If Cain finished his Giants career with an ERA+ of 120 that's not bad at all, Jason Schmidt, who had some monster years for the G's, finished with a ERA+ of 126.

He's a fine pitcher and I think people forget that he's actually younger than Lincecum and already has two full (soon to be three) seasons under his belt.
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