Monday, September 29, 2008
I am also happy to announce that I am the proud owner of a Tim Lincecum Giants shirt. Walking around Mays Field yesterday, I was just overwhelmed by how pumped up everybody was about Lincecum and the season he was having. In a 90-loss season, it was great to see Giants fans revved up about something. When they could have just stayed home and watched the, ugh, Raiders, they turned out en masse to watch and root on the most exciting Giants pitcher in a long time. With the Lincecum love so infectious, I decided I just couldn't leave the stadium without dropping 25 bucks on a Timmy shirt. Needless to say, there won't be any disparaging photos involving the Lincecum jersey on this site any time soon.
The 2008 season ends on a high note, and honestly, how many of us would have ever thought that coming out of Spring Training? If you're a Giants fan and, at the beginning of the season, you told me that you'd be excited about the team on this day, September 29, I've have called you either a liar or assumed you were perpetually high on pain killers. I think most of us just assumed that by this time Lou Seal would have hanged himself from the Coke slide and we would have all developed writer's cramp from the endless hate mail we were sending Brian Sabean.
No such misery, though. As opposed to last year, when the roster was stocked with a bunch of boring veterans with seeming death grips on starting jobs in 2008, now we have a group of young players who might actually be good major league players. Pablo Sandoval can rake, Fred Lewis is fun, Sergio Romo looks freaking awesome, Emmanuel Burriss is an interesting find, and Eugenio Velez is...well, a pretty bad player. OK, I guess all the young guys can't be good, but there's suddenly a lot of promise in the Giants organization, especially with Tim Alderson, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, and Conor Gillaspie not too far away from the bigs. I can't believe I'm saying it, but I think I'm almost excited to be a Giants fan again.
Leaving the ball park yesterday, it became clear that I'm not alone. On the way back home, I was listening to Michael Urban's show on KNBR, and caller after caller chimed in raving about the team and the positive direction it was going. Most of the comments were typical mindless sports talk blather, with the usual ridiculous trade scenarios thrown in for good measure (someone proposed an asinine trade involving Aaron Rowand for Brandon Phillips, illustrating why I just refuse to listen to sports talk anymore), but whatever. It was just cool to hear such enthusiasm from so many people about the team, a far cry from the days when listening to KNBR post-game shows would only get you Larry Kruger making racially insensitive comments about the team's collection of bad hitters. One caller basically professed his undying man-love for Urban on the air, so things got a little, uh, carried away, but the fun never stopped.
Urban did drop one little nugget of insanity during the proceedings, though. Perhaps he was still high from the Lincecum 13-K performance and scintillating win, but at one point in all the post-game revelry, Urban said that he expected the Giants to improve by 15 games next season. Whoa, there, buddy. I'm excited about the Giants in '09 too, but let's not start waxing each other's bikini zones just yet. 15 games? I'm not sure Urban realizes how drastic an improvement that is. That essentially means that the Giants would be strong playoff contenders next season and, brother, I don't see it.
The Giants aren't the Tampa Bay Rays, a team overloaded with talent that just needs a tweak here or there before they become a title contender. There are still a lot of problems here. Even when the youth movement gained steam in August, the team offense still wasn't very good. The team OPS was just .720 in September and was only four points higher in the second half of the season than it was before the Break.
There are still a ton of lineup questions to be answered. I'm not convinced Travis Ishikawa is the answer at first at all, Sandoval seems like a stretch playing third base every day, no one knows if Burriss's plate patience is for real, and the team is kidding itself if it thinks Velez is an everyday player. They need to find some room for Nate Scherholtz, but that would involve trading Randy Winn and how easy is that going to be? Will Aaron Rowand find the bat that he lost in May?
Behind Lincecum and Cain, there are just as many worries with the pitching staff. Is Zito going to put it together? Is Jonathan Sanchez anything but an injury-addled tease? Kevin Correia was a mess this year and the fifth starter spot is wide open with no appetizing in-house options. The bullpen is basically a Magic Eye poster; look real hard and maybe something is there, but it certainly just looks like a big jumble of crap at first glance.
Expectations should be tempered a little, is all I'm saying. The Giants made it clear in the second half that they're committed to building the next winner through their system and not with crappy short-term fixer-uppers, and that's all we really asked for in 2008. If the Giants can improve to 80 wins next year I'd say that's a reasonable goal. With a little luck, they might outwit ol' Pythagoras and sneak into the playoffs in a poor NL West.
What I don't want to see are misguided moves to acquire veteran stopgaps, led on by the idea that the Giants are a hairsbreadth away from being a contender. This only sets the franchise back, but it seems that the front office has finally learned from its mistakes and won't go that route. If the Giants stay good on their commitment to developing the young guys and don't make any dumb free agents signings this offseason, then it's clear that 2009 will be the most anticipated Giants season since 2004.
--Omar Vizquel was brought out of the sixth inning yesterday and received a huge ovation. I have to admit, he wasn't my favorite Giant. In the last two of the four years he was here, he was flat out awful, and in 2005 he didn't exactly set the world on fire either. You can make a great argument that signing him wasn't nearly the priority that the Giants made it out to be.
All in all, though, he was a Good Giant. His defense was still good and his acrobatics were fun to watch, and it's always neat to have a guy finish up a terrific career with your favorite team. He was loved by fans and teammates alike, and it's easy to root for a player like that. I certainly stood up and joined in the thunder.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Dodger-Hating Weekend Redux
I'll be at Mays Field on Sunday trying to snap my own personal losing streak to the Dodgers. I haven't attended a Giants-Dodgers matchup that ended in a Giant victory since this game in 1991, when I was eight years old and only cared about Darryl Strawberry playing in right field. Since then, I've gone to games in 1998, 2004, and 2006 that all ended in a Giant defeat at the hands of the evil ones in blue. The 1998 game was especially painful because they got shut out by Carlos Perez, the same guy who in the next year would go berzerk and go ten rounds with a couple of water coolers with a baseball bat after getting pulled from a game. If the Giants had beat Perez, they would have ended up winning the Wild Card that year. Just tragic.
Tomorrow I may or may not be live-blogging the Giants game. I had planned to do this for a while, and wanted to do a Giants-Dodgers matchup, but the combination of the Dodgers clinching and possible lack of access to a laptop means that I'll probably be putting it off until the World Series. My plan is to sit there with some friends and live blog the game inning by inning with a gigantic supply of beer on hand and see if it ends up even remotely coherent. If the conversation deviates from the game to a drunken dissertation on the recurring motifs in The Dark Knight, well, at least it'll be entertaining.
So keep an eye out for that maybe tomorrow, as well as some stuff on Bugs and Cranks, and have a great weekend!
--TGIF vid. This is absolutely one of the most awesome videos I've ever seen in my life. As a person who has done this hike, I gotta wonder, how the hell did he lug those bagpipes up there????
Labels: dodger hating weekend
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Quick Stuff and Shamless Plugging
--I didn't watch or listen to a single minute of tonight's game, but the box score tells it all. Jonathan Sanchez has done two things with his rough second half. He's put his spot in the rotation in danger for 2009 and he's also destroyed a lot of his trade value. Potential trading partners are going to look at Sanchez's high ERA, his second half breakdown, and his history of DL stints, and they'll think long and hard about giving up something of any value.
Sanchez always comes up in the "let's trade this guy for hitting" strategy that pops of every week on various Giants message boards, and it does make sense given the quick ascent of Tim Alderson and Madison Bumgarner. However, there are red flags flying everywhere right now and it's not clear if any team would be willing to trade a good hitter for the honor of waiting to see if Sanchez can ever put it together. It might have been better off for all involved if the Giants had just shut him down altogether when he got hurt in August.
--This is really cool. The Giants are going to bring J.T. Snow out of retirement and have him start on Saturday so he can officially end his career as a Giant. This is pure ceremony and the more cynical of us might call it sappy, but Snow was one of the mainstays in the team's 1997-2002 glory years and I always loved him, even when his bat went south in his later years with the team. When a guy shows this kind of loyalty to the Giant franchise, how can you not love it?
--Lastly, we all know that it's been a little rough being a Giants fan for the past few years. Losing sucks, but at least there's some hope on the horizon. We should all thank our lucky stars, though, that we're not Washington Nationals fans. Goodness gracious.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Double the Stankeye
Luckily, Aurilia lined a single and the Giants won. My fist shot up instead of forward and I yelled triumphantly in maybe the most exciting game the Giants have played in four years. It's fun to be able to watch games that mean something again, even if that consists of taking joy in pulling your team's mortal enemy down into the pit of baseball despair that we Giants fans have become so well-acquainted with the past few years.
Dodger-hating weekend #1 was a success. Now we wait for Round Two this coming Friday at Mays Field. I have my tickets for Sunday's game, and boy oh boy do I hope the Dodgers have the playoffs on the line for that game. Can you imagine the Giants spoiling LA's playoff hopes, then watching Manny Ramirez sulk off the field and Ned Colletti slump back defeated in his booth? I can see Colletti's mustache making it's own little frowny face as the Dodgers' season goes down the tubes. It's a joy I can only dream of.
To see more of my mini-take on the Giants and the big matchup this weekend, go here and read. That's right, I've taken on an assignment as the new Giants writer at Bugs and Cranks. That means I'll be pulling double duty, writing both here and at B&C. So if you're a regular and like reading here at the Stankeye don't hesitate to follow me on over there. It's double the dosage of Paulie and should be a lot of work but a lot of fun.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Let Dodger-Hating Weekend Commence
Anyway, one of the first things a coach will hammer into you when you're an outfielder is to never, ever, break in on a fly ball hit in your direction. Always take your first step back, because if the ball is hit over your head, your momentum is taking you back already, and if the ball is hit in front of you, you still have time to recover and go in for the catch. If you step in and the ball is hit over your head, you're fucked because you have less time to recover and by the time you've reversed directions the ball is already rolling to the warning track. Needless to say, I never did put that advice into practice when I was playing.
Unfortunately, neither did Eugenio Velez last night. His mishandling of Juston Upton's liner to left field last night allowed two runs to score and prevented Tim Lincecum from getting his 18th win. Maybe Velez has a future as a utility player or something but I think it's probably safe to say that the Eugenio Experiment can be brought to a close. When a major league player's fielding ability resembles me stumbling around in the field when I was ten, it's probably best to cut bait and look elsewhere.
The silver lining to the whole series loss in Arizona is that the Diamondbacks didn't lose any ground in their (most likely fruitless) pursuit of the Dodgers for the NL West. Now the Giants enter a stretch where they'll play the Dodgers six more times in the next week, and damned if they won't play the spoilers. They were in this situation in 2006 and completely fell on their faces. This time, though, the ghosts of '82 will be set free, and hopefully we won't have to sit through an October of Dodger Blue.
--TGIF vid. This video has been circulating this past week, and is repulsive yet absolutely hysterical. The best part is the sheer enthusiasm with which he tells his story.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Dive In and Swim
So why is this exquisite work of art generating so much controversy? Because Lincecum's 12-strikeout masterpiece just happened to be a 12-strikeout, 138 pitch masterpiece. Um, yeah, that's a lot of pitches. As in, no one has thrown that many this season, or for a very long time. Lincecum is 24, so thus he is still in that pre-25 danger zone when a lot of young pitchers tend to hurt themselves. So naturally, he is being worked like a dog, for a team not in contention. This is a tad precarious.
Once again, I'd like to reiterate that I'm not a pitch count nazi, but letting Lincecum go back out there to finish the game with a 7-0 lead was just flat out retarded. I'd like to think we're past the point in our baseball lives where our eyes mist over because of that shiny "1" in the shutout column. Bruce Jenkins may have shat himself at the sight of Lincecum "finishing what he started", but the Giants are risking the future of the franchise because of some old-fashioned macho bullshit. It's that simple.
If the Giants were battling it out for a pennant and Lincecum was hanging on to a shutout with a slim lead, then yes, I sure as hell would rather have him out there than Brian Wilson. A 7-0 lead for a team with a stranglehold on fourth place, though? Start mass-producing the pink slips please, with the first one sent via express mail to Bruce Bochy.
Some have chosen to froth at the mouth over the team's handling of Lincecum, some have decided to just hide under some coats and hope everything works out. My opinion? Well, those coats are awfully cozy. Perhaps Timmy is just a freak whose unorthodox mechanics will keep his arm relatively healthy and protect him from moronic managerial decisions. We can certainly hope and pray that he's one of those guys who comes along once in a blue moon and never has a serious injury, despite a heavy workload, like Nolan Ryan or Roger Clemens. If, however, there comes a day that Timmy has to leave a game complaining of tightness in his arm and suddenly goes the way of the Foppert, don't say it couldn't have been prevented.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Freddy-Loo, We'll Miss Yooooou!
Lewis' 2008 line finishes up at .282/.351/.440, with nine homers, 11 triples, and 21 stolen bases. In a lineup full of hackers who would seemingly rather wear a bonnet of bumblebees than take a walk, his patient approach at the plate was a breath of fresh air. Even though the Giants did everything they could to keep him from getting everyday playing time the past few years, Lewis did what he has always done in his career when he finally got that chance...hit.
Lewis should enter 2009 as the Giants' regular left fielder once again, provided the Giants don't continue their tradition of playing crappy, expensive players like Dave Roberts in front of him. He's not likely to improve much beyond this season's numbers (he'll be 28 already next year), but he's a nice cog to have in a lineup that just maybe, maybe, is showing signs that it could start producing runs somewhere in the not-too-far-off future.
So here's to Freddy-Lew and let's hope for a speedy recovery. Can't wait to see you out there next season, buddy!
Labels: fred lewis
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Tim Lincecum Vs. the Frightfully Outdated Methods of Performance Analysis
If I had spoken to Lowry I would have definitely wished him good luck and a speedy return to the mound. While he probably won't pitch at all this year, he's slated to throw in Winter Ball and be back in the rotation in 2009, hopefully in place of the increasingly awful Kevin Correia. In a perfect world, Lowry regains the bite on his changeup and puts together a year more like 2005 than 2006 or 2007. If Jonathan Sanchez can build on the promise he's shown and if Zito (who, as we speak, has just finished six terrific innings) can be average-ish, then the Giants should have one hell of a rotation. Hopefully the nerve problem that sidelined Lowry all year was the cause of his one ghastly start in the spring and he won't be doing Nuke Laloosh impressions the next time we see him. Hopefully he also enjoyed the amazing DMB version of The Maker as much as I did.
--If I had bumped into Tim Lincecum instead of Lowry, not only would I have gone out of my way to shake his hand, but I'd likely have bowed to him and chanted "I'm not worthy!" Geez, how good is this kid? Another dominating start has put his record at 16-3, and he leads the National League in pretty much every category that matters. He should, should, be the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young, but sadly a lot of writers still stick to the sad, old-timey belief that pitching wins are a true determinant of pitching performance, and thus Lincecum is in a neck-and-neck battle with Brandon Webb, who has 19 such wins.
Even adjusting for ballpark, Lincecum kicks Webb's butt in just about every category (his ERA+ is almost 40 points higher). If this disparity in performance holds up, it'll be a crime if Lincecum doesn't win. I've said before that most of the major award voting is a sham (don't even get me started on the Gold Gloves) and normally the writers give out the awards to the best story instead of the best player. Just the fact that Carlos Delgado is even in the MVP conversation serves to illustrate how far the insanity has gone. When the BBWAA completely fucked up and gave Bartolo Colon the Cy over Johan Santana in 2005, based on Colon's 20 wins, I just stopped taking this stuff seriously.
However, when a Giants player becomes involved, I'm forced to care again. The Giants haven't had a Cy Young winner since 1967 when Mike McCormick won it, so it's been a long enough wait. Jason Schmidt was robbed of the Cy in 2003, and that pissed us all off royally, but this season if Lincecum loses it'll be an even more egregious snub. If the writers can't even recognize the (far and away) best pitcher in the league then they should just scrap the Cy Young. Seriously.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Welcome to the Party, Pal
For those who don't know, McClain was drafted in 1990 by the Orioles, and since that point his career has been an odyssey of home run heroics through the farm systems of the Orioles, Mets, Devil Rays, Rockies, Cubs, A's, and Giants, and also through the Japanese leagues. He's smacked 362 home runs over the course of his professional career, making him sort of a, yes, as cliche as it sounds, real life Crash Davis. This season was his second with the Fresno Grizzlies, and he ripped to the tune of .300/.388/.553.
Why has McClain never been given an extended chance in the major leagues?
(looks around frantically for help)
Well, you're asking the wrong person, because I have no friggin' idea. Sure, McClain is a long-in-the-tooth 36 while destroying AAA pitching, but he was doing exactly the same thing when he was 24. While the Devil Rays were bumbling around with charred veteran corpses in the late-90's, McClain was bashing 30-plus home runs for their AAA affiliate. While the Giants have been busying themselves with a clothespin-over-nose parade of has-beens and never-will-bes at first base the past couple of years, McClain has been hitting 30-plus homers for their AAA team.
It sucks, but quite often a guy like McClain will get stuck with a Quad-A label and those are just not easy to shake. Just ask Jack Cust or Val Pascucci. Unfortunately, as often is the case, many teams simply mistake lack of opportunity as lack of skill. I mean, come on, McClain has had 50, count 'em, 50 major league at-bats. Does that constitute a true window for McClain to show off his ability? Hell no. In a world where Ross Gload and Miguel Cairo hold down starting first base jobs, how is this fair?
Anyway, raise a glass in honor of McClain and his long, arduous path to major league home run number one. Lefty Malo wonders whether the Giants will retain McClain as a corner-utility guy next season in lieu of re-signing Rich Aurilia. That would be awesome, and McClain has certainly earned a shot at this kind of role and he would probably hit better than The Goateed One, but I wouldn't bet on this happening. More likely, the Giants just go with their usual "evil we know" strategy and McClain continues to wither away in the minors, holding some flavor of the month's dick in the bus leagues, to quote the great Crash.