Sunday, July 26, 2009


Road Trip Over; Permission To Stop Panicking Granted

So the Giants come away from a 10-game road trip that could have been incredibly painful and find that it was just...mostly painful. In a scenario like this, on the road, entering the dog days, facing two ultra-red-hot teams, you just have to realize that you somehow managed to win three of these games (including none that your uber-stud pitcher started, amazingly), count your blessings, and be happy to be coming home. Tomorrow, Tim Lincecum touches off a seven-game homestand by facing a stripped-down Pirates team that has its disenchanted fans selling their loyalty on eBay. What better way to start nice winning streak?

A few comments on the Colorado series. Coors Field is usually a place where the Giants lose in the most horrible ways possible, like building up a 15-run lead and blowing it in the ninth when Fred Lewis loses a fly ball after being tackled by Morganna the Kissing Bandit, or something. This time, the only crazy thing that happened was a hawk swooping in and nearly killing Andres Torres in the outfield. The Giants lost the last two games in routine, boring fashion. They got behind early and couldn't catch up because their offense sucks. Simple. Easy. No giant leads blown or Neifi game-winning bombs to speak of.

Anybody who hasn't been indoctrinated in the wonders of DiPS theory and still thinks defense is overrated obviously hasn't seen Troy Tulowitzki play. Good God, does anything get by this guy? A Giant would hit a hard grounder up the middle. Would it slip through for a single? Nope, there's Tulowitzki. A Giant hits a slow chopper past the pitchers mound. Can he beat it out for an infield hit? Nope, there's Tulowitzki. A fire breaks out in the luxury boxes and a damsel in distress screams for her life. Will she perish? Nope, there's Tulowitzki.

For those who are flabbergasted why Jason Marquis suddenly looks like a genius after years of wallowing in overpaid mediocrity, look no further than the Tulo/Clint Barmes middle infield tandem. The Rockies have a staff anchored by a bunch of extreme groundball pitchers, and when you have this caliber of fielder around the diamond gobbling up everything that moves, it's not hard to see why the Rockies' pitching as a whole has been so good this year.

Speaking of defense, when the Giants trot out an outfield of Randy Winn, Nate Schierholtz, and Andres Torres, that's one of the best outfield defenses you'll see these days. That's very important, because if you go here, you'll see that the Giants have a staff full of extreme fly ball pitchers. Obviously, if your outfielders cover a ton of ground, and your pitchers give up nothing but fly balls (which are less-likely to go out in Mays Field, to boot), that's going to lead to a lot of outs.

This is why I shrug a little when fans demand a trade for a defensively-challenged slugger like Adam Dunn or Josh Willingham. Yes, the offensive gain is enormous, but you can't just stick a sloth in the outfield behind this pitching staff and expect everything to be okay. If you think Barry Zito's ERA looks bad now, just imagine all those fly balls he surrenders suddenly dropping for doubles because Dunn is out there running like he has a boulder in his trousers.

--I hate to say it, but I think we're seeing the real Big Sadowski. Yeah, maybe I'm overreacting to one bad start in Coors Field, of all places, but just look at the fateful third inning. With runners all over, in a strikeout situation, Sadowski started nibbling. And nibbling. And nibbling.

Why wasn't he going for the strikeout? Because he has no strikeout pitch. Once it became clear that he didn't have anything to challenge Rockie hitters with, it looked like he was just closing his eyes and praying they would chase breaking balls out of the strike zone. Not surprisingly, Bruce Bochy got him the hell out of there while the game was still close.

--I'm not sure you can say enough about Justin Miller this year. Plucked off the scrap heap before the season, he been one of the team's most valuable relievers. He came in today to snuff out the third inning rally before it became a complete debacle, then pitched a scoreless fourth, as the bullpen as a whole did a good job of keeping the game close.

Miller has proven himself adept at both squirming out of late-inning jams and providing quality work as a general long man. He serves a purpose that is not glamourous, but seeing as how the Giants have suffered through so many mediocre middle relievers over the past few years, he's a godsend right now. I'd love to see him back next year, and he further justifies my undying allegiance to the Cult of the CHUB (CHeaply Utilized Bullpenite).

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