Monday, July 13, 2009


First Half Pablos

Am I the only one who thinks the Home Run Derby is intensely boring? Watching players hit home runs off of batting practice fastballs for two hours just strikes me as monotonous as all hell. Plus, a lot of the time the players who hit the most total home runs don't even win the damn thing, like when Josh Hamilton dominated and set all kinds of records last year but lost in the last round. If that's going to happen, who even cares?

Also, the unholy announcing trinity of Chris Berman, Joe Morgan, and Steve Phillips has got to be the worst collection of nincompoops ever to be clustered into a booth for a popular sporting event. I tuned in today just in time to hear Berman's ear-immolating "Back! Back! Back!" home run call and another of his horrible player nicknames, and that was all I needed to change the channel faster than the speed of light. There was no way in hell I was going to sit through that for more than five seconds. Luckily the MLB Network was playing the 1971 All-Star Game (Reggie Jackson's light tower shot off of Dock Ellis), and my baseball craving was sufficiently satisfied for the day.

On to the Giants, and some first half heroes and zeroes. Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first...

1st Half Most Valuable Hitter

Pablo. Let's see, He's first on the team in just about every major offensive category (including second in walks...WTF?!). He's handled third base with reasonable aplomb when everybody thought he'd be a sort of infield Glenallen Hill redux at the position. To top things off, he's cooler than a sloth of polar pandas jamming to Van Halen's "Ice Cream Man". Yeah, that's really cool, if you didn't know.

So we all thought Pablo had the ability to hit .330. He did it over and over in the minors, after all. No one thought we'd see this kind of power display though, at least not yet. I think 15 home runs for the entire season was an optimistic projection for Sandoval. In fact, I predicted he'd do just that back at Bugs and Cranks. Now 30 bombs is a realistic goal. That's crazy. Being able to hit .330 with this kind of power is elite. All the more frustrating that he got completely shafted in the All-Star picks.

1st Half Most Valuable Pitcher

Tim Lincecum. Duh. Is he walking on water yet? Maintaining that ridiculous strikeout rate while cutting the walk rate by a third is, as we cool kids say, taking it to the next level. He's been able to pitch deep into games without racking up big pitch counts and he's on the fast track to Cy #2.

He'll get the All-Star start tomorrow, one year removed from unfortunately having to miss the game last year due to a massive hangover debilitating flu-like symptoms. Luckily Jason Schmidt broke the weird Giants pitcher/All-Star Game curse in 2003, probably when he domed Edgar Martinez with a fastball.

Least Valuable Hitter

Edgar Renteria. He's not exactly quieting the naysayers who called him washed up, is he? He isn't hitting for any power, he isn't getting on base a lot, he isn't playing particularly good defense, and he's getting paid $9 million this year and next. Other than that, no problem.

Least Valuable Pitcher

Groan. I've spent so much time over the years dwelling on the bad (awful contract; obnoxious, uninformative Twitter account, etc.), that we should probably look at some encouraging points here. Yeah, his ERA is back over five, but his strikeout rate and his velocity are both up this year, and his walk rate is down. That, and a run of pre-2007 Zito-ish effectiveness in May and June, could provide some hope that Zito won't be a complete waste down the stretch. I can't help but be reminded of a certain song by The Who, however.

Stories For Boys. We were all clamoring for the youth movement to start, so how's it going? All things considered, not bad. We all know about Pablo, of course. Nate Schierholtz is finally getting some playing time, and he's impressed with both bat and cannon arm (Cody Ross still doesn't know where that throw came from).

I'd still like to see the Giants throw up their hands and give Kevin Frandsen the second base job, but Lefty Malo has a good point about sticking with Juan Uribe as long as his bat is hot, since his glove is top-notch. I generally agree, but I wouldn't put money on Uribe hitting .301/.328/.464, or anything close to that, for much longer.

Travis Ishikawa's career looked dead as a doornail as May dawned, but he's found some of that old AAA power stroke and he's been at least acceptable, with more room to grow. The burning question: If Ishikawa basically tops out as a .270/.340/.430-type, is that enough to support his great glove? The Giants lived with J.T. Snow basically doing this in the early years of the '00's, but then again those teams had a great offense surrounding him. This is a lineup that needs all the help it can get, so common sense dictates that the team look for an offensive upgrade at the position where it's easiest to find it. That glove sure is sweet, though.

The only real youngster washout was Emmanuel Burriss, who fell into an 0-for-bajillion slump and found himself on a bullet train to Fresno. He's now out for the season with an injury. Yuck. He's talented enough to be a good player, even if it's not as a starter, so here's to a speedy recovery.

Funny fact: I liked to justify Burriss's powerless bat by telling everyone who would listen that his glove was so good, it didn't really matter that he couldn't hit it over the first baseman's head. Then I looked at the numbers. Turns out, Burriss has a UZR of -3.9, so he was actually costing the team runs in the field. Again, I think Burriss will be a good ballplayer, but damn, he really was terrible this season.

Wooly Bully. Last, but not least, let's hear it for the bullpen, the unsung collective MVP of this team. Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo have been steller, Brian Wilson has been pretty good, for the most part, but most surprising has been the performances of Justin Miller and Brandon Medders. Miller has proven adept at squeezing out of tight jams, while Medders has transformed from disposable mop-up man to a guy who doesn't scare the crap out of me if he comes in to a crucial late-inning situation.

Not many are talking about it, but one of Brian Sabean's most impressive accomplishments this season has been to turn what was a mishmash of unknowns in 2008 into one of the team's key strengths. Wilson is still suspect at closer, but it's nice to have bullpenites like Affeldt and Romo who you have complete confidence in. It hasn't been this way since the Felix Rodriguez-to-Robb Nen days of yore, I don't think.

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