Sunday, May 24, 2009
Not So Memorable Memorial Day Weekend
The first time I ever visited Petco Park, to watch the Braves and Padres play in 2006, its reputation as a place where offense goes to die had already been firmly cemented. It was well-known by that point that the last portion of Ryan Klesko's career was essentially one long running joke, the punchline being the big league frowny face he was sporting walking back to the dugout when every one of his long fly balls was caught at the warning track.
When I saw a game there, imagine my surprise when five home runs were hit (one of them a 475-foot blast by Andruw Jones that I believe is still the Petco record-holder for distance) and the Braves ran up the scoreboard to the tune of an 11-3 victory. The previous day, the score was 15-12, and the third game of the series ended at 10-5. What? I felt like I'd entered some sort of bizarro San Diego, some sort of pocket universe where runs were easy to come by.
Petco Park has now become a nightmare zone for the Giants, much like Coors Field used to be, and I dread when the Giants have to face the Padres there. Not only is it just frickin' impossible to muster runs, the Giants somehow always find a way to lose in ridiculous ways. It all started here. They blow saves, they give up game-altering hits to the crappiest of players, and...oh yeah...Scott Hairston kills them in every way possible. Seriously, when Hairston came to bat against Brian Wilson with the bases loaded Thursday night, I should have just turned off the radio, but my inner masochist kept me around to endure the inevitable. It was more painful than watching Adam Lambert disgrace U2's "One" on live TV.
At Safeco, against a miserable team with an equally pitiful offense, the Giants dropped two of three, and I missed the one win because I was out seeing the new Terminator movie.* I was around to watch the horrid 12-inning fiasco on Friday night and this afternoon's loss to King Felix. The weekend drops the Giants to 19-24 and the hopes of being a sneaky contender are falling fast.
The Good (boy is that ever relative).
Aaron Rowand is hitting again, perhaps rejuvenated by the move to leadoff. Fred Lewis is hitting with power, finally. Pablo Sandoval is still hitting, but he's hurt again. The starting pitching is still solid, for the most part. Matt Cain is finally getting the run support and the breaks he's deserved for two years. Jeremy Affeldt is still awesome, but Justin Miller has almost been as good.
The offense, obviously. Brian Wilson is just a mess right now. That commercial airing now where Lincecum flips the ball to him in the meat locker and tells him to finish off the hapless executive is an 11 out of 10 on the mind-numbingly pathetic scale. Jesus Guzman's glove is worse than anyone could ever have imagined, and that's saying something, because we all figured he was the second coming of Dick Stuart, anyway. I've seen people whiff epically while striking out, but never when receiving throws from the second baseman while trying to play first base. The Giants still don't have a home run from a first baseman this season, and we're almost in June. That's embarrassing beyond words.
Stankeye will be at Mays Field tomorrow for Memorial Day. I'll be sitting in the right field arcade seats with my Tim Lincecum jersey, busily cheering on the good guys. I'm rather pissed that I missed Lincecum by one day, and instead get to watch the inevitable never-ending conga line of Atlanta baserunners resulting from Jonathan Sanchez's inability to find home plate. Oh well, come say hi if you're in the vicinity. Or throw beer at me, whatever.
*Which, shockingly, is not bad at all. Being a fanboy of the first two films, I was really expecting the worst, especially from a film directed by McG, but it delivers the goods, with some pretty solid action sequences.
It is one of those movies, though, that if you really start to think about it, the cracks start to show. Like, when John Connor and the good Terminator dude are storming the machines' compound at the end, and all the machines know that they're there, why the hell do the machines only send one terminator in to kill them? Why not send like a hundred?
Monday, May 18, 2009
Friday's game was particularly infuriating because Bochy trotted a clearly fatigued Lincecum back out to pitch the seventh inning, and things promptly went straight to hell. Lincecum's velocity was down, he had no control, Merkin Valdez came in and, before you could howl, "Sergio Romo, where are you?", the game was tied and all momentum was with the Mets.
After two innings of heretofore typically brilliant relief work by Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants' appointed "best reliever" came in and literally threw the game down the left field line. Memo to Brian Wilson: The badass closer look, with the mohawk and the tats and all, works as long as you're blowing high cheese by batters and making them quiver in their britches at home plate. Until then, you just look like a fucking idiot.
Matt Cain played the stopper Sunday, running his record to 4-1, as he's seemingly getting the run support he's long deserved. Ironic, because he's probably pitching as bad as he has since he came up. His K/BB rate is easily his career worst and his strikeouts are way down. Even in Sunday's ballgame, he walked five guys and had runners crawling all over the bases. In his walktastic second inning, the Giants seemed destined for a depressing repeat of the previous three games, but Cain got a double play to escape a potential disaster. So for a guy whose career has been rife with bad luck, it's amazing how suddenly the leprechauns have taken a shine to him.
Some probably look at Cain's bad peripheral numbers and his glistening 2.65 ERA and say that this tower of blocks is perilously close to tumbling. Fair enough, but perhaps his ability to squirm out of trouble is a testament to his superior stuff. Cain has always been tough to hit, and guys with good stuff generally have lower BABIPs simply because they give up less line drives. So maybe he's better suited to getting out of jams than your everyday Joe? Does that make the abundance of baserunners okay? I don't know, but darn it, it'd be so much easier to watch if he'd just stop walking people.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Who Is Shairon Martis?
To be fair, Martis isn't exactly blowing anybody away, with a mediocre 21:17 K/BB ratio in 41 innings. He's gotten more than a little lucky, shocking since he's a flyball pitcher and the Nats have a miserable oufield defense, as evidenced by Josh Willingham's bumbling around on Monday. Martis also wasn't a great prospect, but he was good enough not to be thrown away for an interchangeable left-handed reliever for the stretch run in a lost season. Whatever soured the Giants on Martis is probably lost in the history books forever, but he's 22 and doing some good things in the majors, so the trade that looked weird at the time could really come back to bite the Giants in the ass.
On the bright side, the Giants won two of three, finally showing some life at the plate. Daniel Cabrera will do that for you. I mean, is that guy awful or what? I wonder, if you're going to have a bad team, is it better to have good hitters like the Nats do but a horrible pitching staff that will give any lead back right away, or decent pitching with a horrid offense? It's a toughie, but the Giants have generally been the latter since 2005 and they've been pretty excruciating to watch much of the time.
Erstwhile offensive black hole Travis Ishikawa's bat came alive in the series, but that presents a curious chicken-and-egg question. Is the Ish just legitimately seeing the ball better, or was he just feeding on the really awful Nationals pitching? He still hasn't connected for a home run, and neither has any Giants first baseman, which is just unacceptable. Adding salt to the wound, apparently we have to tolerate this powerless attack while Brian Sabean didn't even consider signing Adam Dunn, who already has 11 bombs. What a joke.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The thing about that home run, is that Sandoval went up there taking pitches, waiting for that one to crush. If this is a trend, if he's actually looking to be a bit more selective (I'm not talking Adam Dunn or anything, just so he isn't swinging away at anything and everything), he'll be an impact hitter for years. Whew, that was exciting!
Monday, May 11, 2009
Giants Win Series Against Dodgers; Casey Blake Is Apparently a Total Prick
Friday: I got a good laugh when Juan Pierre was gunned down trying to steal third with Andre Ethier at the plate early in the ballgame. I could just picture Dodger fans everywhere exercising their gag reflexes watching their Manny replacement piss away a rally in an act of unbelievable stupidity.
Do we dare to believe that Barry Zito is back? He's now strung together four straight solid starts, his velocity is up, his changeup is looking mean, and his control has been terrific. What's going on here? The whole Zito is overpaid/sucks punchline has been the flapping dickey go-to joke for many a Giants blogger for more than two years now. Suddenly he has his stuff together? What are we to do?
Seriously though, I say a little prayer every night now begging for this to be the Zito norm for the rest of this season and, hell, the rest of his contract. I'm just too terrified to get my hopes up, though.
Saturday: Jonathan Sanchez walked a lot of batters and Eric Stults did his best Tom Glavine impression. Wait, that's not fair. Against this Giants offense, vintage Tom Glavine probably would have pitched a perfect game, so I guess this is just Stults impersonating any mediocre, soft-tossing lefty when he faces the '09 Giants.
Sunday: It was an epic kind of game, but I missed the last half due to Mother's Day stuff. Brian Wilson blew his second save of the year when he served up a tomater to Casey Blake in the 12th inning. The Giants won the game in the next inning, but the story didn't end there. Apparently Blake got back to the dugout and started mocking Wilson's endgame salute to his late father. The two teams don't meet again until August, so any potential animosity will probably have been cooled by then.
All right, so Blake is a dick and it clearly didn't take long for the evil Dodger symbiote to engulf his body. I will say one thing to those who want to see some broken rib cage action in future encounters: Wilson only comes in to close out games, obviously, so if he drills Blake and puts a runner on in a save situation it's pretty damn dumb, no matter how justifiably pissed off he may be. Wilson is better off just striking Blake out and yelling at him to go eff himself or something.
Two of three from the now Manny-less* Dodgers, with the Giants now returning home to face the crappy Nationals. Before we get too complacent, though, the Nats aren't that bad. Their pitching is atrocious, but they have a solid lineup that can plate runs. They're seen as a joke, but they won't be pushovers.
*My favorite part of the ManRam saga is when one source claimed that the substance Manny tested positive for was simply prescribed to him to treat sexual dysfunction. As a friend of mine remarked: "I think I'd rather be known as a steroid cheat than a guy whose dong doesn't work."
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Send In the Clones
After watching Tim Lincecum (our own little "Rowengartner") mow down the Cubs yesterday, I was thinking: wouldn't it be great if we could somehow concoct a similar formula by taking some of the pitching talent from Tim Lincecum and injecting it into regular, everyday schmoes to get a rotation full of super-pitchers? Five Lincecums would have the Giants steamrolling to a pennant. If one gets hurt, you can just grab one of those guys outside the ballpark who hold up signs telling you to give them money because their family was kidnapped by space ninjas. Inject him with the stuff and, voila! Instant ace.
The Giants could have used their Lincecum clone today, getting blown out at Coors Field today. Randy Johnson looks like he's getting into a habit of alternating good starts with horrendous ones. Today his fly ball tendencies got the best of him, and he's now surrendered seven homers in six starts. More games at Mays Field should even that out, but yeesh.
Coors Field used to be a place where the Giants would roll in, hit the ball all over the place, but still lose, often in unspeakable ways. Nowadays, it seems like they just go in and lose, without any drama or wacky Matt Herges antics. If Matt Cain can redeem himself for last Saturday's sloppy start and the Giants win tomorrow to split the series, I declare it a series victory. Coors Field is always a get in, get out, hold your breath, pray the bullpen members haven't lost the use of the limbs and/or minds, and maybe get a win or two out of the whole debacle.
Monday, May 04, 2009
*Pablo Sandoval. His average is up to .322 and he's smoking everything, validating our hopes and dreams that this big guy can just flat out hit. He's still doesn't take many walks, but there's a difference between being a free swinger and being out of control, and to start the season Sandoval was definitely the latter. Now, he's laying off pitches in the dirt and pitches over his head, stuff that nobody in their right mind would swing at, he's getting better pitches to hit, and he's been red hot.
*Fred Lewis. Take his high batting average, mix it with his exorbitant strikeout totals, and you've got a recipe for a looming BABIP crisis. Still, Lewis is getting on base and is the most productive Giant beside Pablo thus far. But, please, Fred, cut down on the K's.
*Bengie. Okay, so the fact that he hasn't drawn a walk in 90 plate appearances is cute right now. If, however, at the end of the year, his OBP is still lower than his batting average, it's probably not going to be so charming, because it means the bottom has likely fallen out. As of now, though, he's getting it done, and watching him rumble his way to a triple last Wednesday was one of those great joys in life that only baseball can provide.
*Emmanuel Burriss. Ok, buddy, you say, how can a guy who came into the Wrigley series with a line of .216/.301/.241 be described as "doing things right"? Well, jerkface, it might be a stretch, but Burriss has actually shown competence at the plate in the past week, including the kind of patience we saw flashes of last season. There will never be any power, but if he hits like .280 with walks he's valuable because of his very solid defense, and he's showing signs of figuring it out.
So those are the players now who really can't be faulted for the team's slow offensive start. Everybody else is fair game, except Nate Schierholtz, who rotted on the bench all month before finally getting some much-deserved playing time when Winn was shaking off an injury.
Can the Giants keep winning with this miserable offense? Almost certainly not. Something has to happen to get this team scoring runs, whether that be by trade or by someone like Travis Ishikawa or Edgar Renteria suddenly coming to life. I'm confident that Winn can come out of his hitting doldrums; Rowand, not so much. Until that something to improve the offense happens, we just have to hold our noses and pray that the pitching will be good enough to tread water in a weak division.
--I wrote this last August about AAA veteran Matt Palmer, who was not impressive in a few spot starts with the Giants last year...
"Palmer is what they call an organizational soldier, and guys like this often don't get many chances to hang around. They're good enough to act as fodder to fill out a AAA roster, but rarely do they get more than one shot to stick with the big club...So let's raise a glass to Matt Palmer, because we probably won't ever see him again."
Well, let's just say that if Palmer has a Twitter, it most likely says: "@paulie: screw you dickhead. and u2 sux."
If you flip over to Baseball Reference and check out the Angels page, you'll see that Palmer is there, with two wins in two starts. His K:BB rate still stinks and he's probably not going to last long, but who cares? He showed he's resilient enough to hook on and pitch well for a team that won 100 games last year, right after being crapped out the back end of an also-ran that didn't see much in him for like seven years. Rock on, Matt Palmer. Rock on.
--So a lot of my time last week was spent cobbling something together for this silly Baseball Prospectus contest, the winner of which gets to write for them for a year. You have to submit a baseball-related article to them with a limit of 1500 words, and I figured I'd give it a shot. Since I'm not a hardcore stat cruncher at all, I sent them a sort of quirky thing that has some marginal insight (they say you can send in anything, from research to humor).
They'll post the winners on Friday. They'll also post, apparently, some that they thought were interesting, but just didn't make the cut, or some that were just uniquely terrible. If my submission doesn't fall into any of those categories, I'll post it here on Stankeye.