Monday, May 23, 2011
Revenge of the 10-Year-Old, A's-Hating Paulie
Hahahaha, A's! Sweep! Defending World Champs! Sweep! No ballpark! Crowds of 5,000 nightly! We own San Jose! Kevin Kouzmanoff! HAHAHAHAHA...
Ahem. Sorry about that. I'm sure that little bout of schadenfreude will come back to bite me in the ass next month when the Giants roll into the Oakland Coliseum and stumble around for three games, as they have a tendency to do. You see, when I was a young baseball fan growing up in plastic cleats and stirrups, I just hated the A's. Nowadays, I don't care about them that much, and I even root for them often, but when the Giants play them and beat them, some of the old A's-hater in me rears his ugly head.
The Giants were lucky enough this weekend to run into a team with an offense crummier than theirs. The Giants haven't been doing much hitting, but the A's make their lineup look like the 1982 Brewers. Oakland's starting first baseman is slugging .285. .285! Daric Barton is bound to hit for a little more power as the year goes on, but that kind of anemia is typical of basically the entire A's lineup. Their three big offensive additions, Josh Willingham, Hideki Matsui, and David Dejesus, have all been busts so far. It's little wonder that Tim Lincecum cut a swath through their lineup while barely breaking a sweat.
As for the Giants, they've been winning despite their offensive ineptitude, but I doubt they can stay on top of the NL West if they can't get the bats going. They have a shiny 27 wins now, but their Pythagorean record is a less impressive 23-23. That isn't surprising given that every single win has seemingly come in the ninth inning on a bloop single or a Colby Rasmus Little League mishap.
The disparity in actual record to Pythag record is due mainly to the fact that the Giants have won a ton of one-run games this season. Yes, I realize that some of that is due to the good pitching and the solid bullpen work so far, but most of it is due to plain old dumb luck. Take the Oakland series. If a few breaks went the A's way instead of the Giants, then the good guys could easily have lost two of three. Like if perhaps Grant Balfour had decided to not throw a challenge fastball right in Nate Schierholtz's wheelhouse.
All of the walk off wins are fun (the Giants have won a ridiculous seven games in walk off fashion), but a team can't sustain success like this, I'm sorry. At some point you have to score some damn runs and win games like normal people. When is Panda coming back? Argh!
--How unlikely was Schierholtz's game-tying homer yesterday? For starters, it was only the thirteenth of his career. Secondly, it was off of a guy who barely gives up any home runs at all (26 in 295 career innings for Balfour). Lastly and most amazingly, it was the first time Schierholtz had actually hit one out of Mays Field since his first career home run. That's right, coming into the game, all but two of Schierholtz's career homers came on the road, and one of those hit in San Francisco was an inside-the-parker. Schierholtz hadn't hit one over the Mays Field wall since doing it in 2008, making yesterday's dramatic home run even more unlikely and awesome.
--Ryan Vogelsong started on Friday and pitched well. Again. We're roughly a month into his improbable comeback and I can't believe I'm stringing those words together. Bad memories of Ryan Sadowski fly like evil spirits at a seance, but Vogelsong has yet to falter. Where once he was simply a punchline to dangle in front of weeping Pirates fans, now Vogelsong has charged in to the rotation like a bull and is challenging Bruce Bochy to make some very tough decisions once Barry Zito is healthy.
So is The Vog for real? No clue. Not a whit. Chris Quick at Bay City Ball gives it a go at explaining Vogelsong's sudden success, but it appears even Pitchf/x may be baffled. Perhaps this is just one for the X-Files crowd, a mystery for those who like to obsess over Cold War conspiracies involving the Russians and a spaceship full of deformed children. Some things just can't be comprehended by man. Next thing you know, we'll see a 32-year-old career minor leaguer suddenly blossom into an All-Star-caliber center fielder and become a key cog on a Giants World Champsionship team. Hey, wait a minute...
--Not to pile on the A's here, but closer Brian Fuentes, who was tagged with the loss in Friday night's thriller, now has an insane seven losses. He's a reliever. And it's May. That ain't good. Oh, and now he's bitching, too. This could get very interesting.
--Darren Ford needs to hit enough to have a career, only so we fans can be endlessly entertained by the tracks of fire that follow him when he motors around the basepaths. That is all.
Monday, May 16, 2011
The Not-So-Great Timmy Debate
The fact that Lincecum was even facing Gonzalez was a point of controversy following the game. Personally, I would have pulled him for Jeremy Affeldt on the spot. Lincecum looked out of whack and his pitch count was getting ugly fast. He'd been walking batters and had generally been looking shaky for the past few innings, and I would have pulled the trigger.
Of course, this is why Bruce Bochy gets paid the big bucks to make decisions like these instead of second-guessing pricks like me who rave about it in their underwear at hideous hours of the night. Credit Bochy with at least giving a reasoned argument after the game for why he left Lincecum in. Bochy stated that he felt that Lincecum was still throwing the ball well and had his good stuff, so he thought he could get Gonzalez. Plus, he's the ace and, as Mike Krukow said on the air, when you win two Cys and close out a World Championship, you get a big leash.
Fair enough. I guess the counter-argument would be that Lincecum clearly (in my view) looked like he'd had it and should have been pulled for a lefty. It's early in the season still and, with his pitch count rising, I think the team still should be somewhat cautious about extending him in a game like this, ace or no. Then again, if Lincecum strikes CarGo out and the Giants go on to win, then Bochy looks like a genius and no one cares. Such is the nature of baseball. After Bochy's terrific postseason machinations last year, he's earned the benefit of the doubt in these situations.
--Nate Schierholtz hit another bomb today to temporarily give the Giants the lead. Schierholtz has been a guy I've been rooting for for a long time now. He's one hell of a fielder with a rocket arm and good baserunning skills. The only knock, and it's a big one, is that he doesn't hit enough to merit a role as anything more than a defensive replacement.
With injuries and Pat Burrell's sudden decision to harken back to his Tampa days, Schierholtz has found some more playing time and, wouldn't you know it, he's actually hitting. When he plays right field next to Andres Torres and Cody Ross, it's one of the best defensive outfields you'll see in the game today. Those three almost negate fly balls completely. It's an amazing thing to watch, really. If Schierholtz can continue to his just .280 with the occasional long ball to keep pitchers honest, he'll force Bochy to get him more time, and Giants pitchers will have the benefit of having that defense behind them more often.
-The Giants' win on Saturday degenerated into a hilarious bout of wiffle ball-style antics, and the result was one of the ugliest looking victories in Giants history. With horizontal rain whipping around for hours, there was no reason the game should have been played, but the Giants scratched out three ill-begotten runs and somehow came away with a victory.
Ryan Vogelsong got credit for the first complete game shutout of his career when the game was called after six innings. He was likely helped by a windstorm that would have taken a cannon to hit a home run in. The Cubs gave away two runs by throwing a slippery ball all over the field. Duane Kuiper apparently said that in all his years in baseball those were the worst weather conditions that he'd seen a game played in. Yeesh. Beautiful stuff only because the Giants won.
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Survival of the Freakiest
Tim Lincecum provided all the ammo tonight with his right arm, striking out twelve Mets en route to a shutout win. The Giants blooped and blorped a couple of runs together to make Timmy's brilliant pitching stand up. All of these injuries have pressed backup players like Mike Fontenot and Nate Schierholtz into larger roles. Not ideal, of course, but to their credit they've stepped up, with my Totally Random Moment being when Schierholtz launched a mammoth upper deck home run in Coors Field two weeks ago.
I was starting to worry a bit about Timmy a little, to be honest. Despite a nice start against Washington, he had walked six Braves batters the start before and had walked three in seven innings before that. I checked the box score for today's game briefly at work and saw that Lincecum had already walked three batters in two innings. The sudden lack of command was worrying me.
Naturally, my fears were abated in a hurry. Lincecum didn't walk a batter for the rest of the game and cruised through seven innings. The pitch total of 127 is eye-opening, but I think Giants fans in general are through fretting about such things. Two years ago, the entire fanbase would have been ready to crucify Bruce Bochy for letting Lincecum throw so many pitches in just seven innings, but these days everybody figures Timmy can handle a high-pitch outing here and there.
The good from the last two games: Aubrey Huff, who looks like he is finally getting his bat back in order. Darren Ford, who is a joy to watch on the basepaths. I hope to goodness this guy hits enough to hold a job in the majors, because he's a lot of fun. Brian Wilson also wins kudos for a string of gritty saves. After a rocky first few appearances, I think we can safely say The Beard is back!
The bad: Buster Posey is struggling, but I think he's also running into a lot of bad luck. His BABIP is .289, a mite below average. Cody Ross looks awful right now, but hopefully this is attributable to his injury. Miguel Tejada...well, need I say more? It's the Miguel Tejada Pissing On Blog! Subscribe now!
Monday, May 02, 2011
Catching Up...With Injuries!
The team has a legitimate excuse for much of the offensive ineptitude, however: half the bloody roster is seemingly on the DL. Pablo Sandoval, heretofore the team's best hitter in 2011, suddenly broke a bone in his hand and will be out for a month. The team's leadoff hitter, Andres Torres, has been out for three weeks. Mark Derosa is back on the shelf with a wrist injury, in perhaps the least surprising news story of the year. Cody Ross missed the first three weeks of the season and looks totally out of whack at the plate. Aubrey Huff...well, he's not hurt, but he's sucking to such a tune that the wags that called his 2010 a fluke are starting to chirp a little louder.
In one of my previous barely-coherent posts on here, I mentioned that the number one threat to a Giants repeat is injury. Lo and behold, the Giants are being bombarded by a deluge of broken limbs and strained calf muscles to start 2011. Last season the Giants avoided major injuries to all of their key players (unless you count Derosa, which I don't). Now they have so many that we're back being subjected to the sight of Emmanuel Burriss on the major league roster. Is this the price we have to pay for winning a championship?
The obvious answer to all this would be to just ride out the storm and wait until the entire team gets healthy. That's when the real run at the West will begin, right? Er...right? The only problem is that some of the injured players, like Torres and Derosa, are in their 30's, where nagging injuries start to become major problems. Sandoval's injury seems flukish, but remember that this isn't exactly a team of strapping young go-getters. There's a lot of gray hair in the lineup, and these types are susceptible to injury and decline. Of course, if you've been a Giant fan for the past decade, you don't need me to tell you that.
Take Barry Zito, who is on the DL now. He's soon to be 33 and coming off of 11 straight seasons in which he's averaged about 200 or so walk-filled innings. Even for a guy with good mechanics and no significant injury history, that's a lot of mileage, and it's not out of the ordinary to see a relative soft-tosser like Zito completely break down once he dives deeper into his 30's. If this happens, the Giants are out one of the best fifth starters in the game, regardless of ludicrous contract.
Maybe it's just one of those seasons. The Giants, like every championship team, needed just a pinch of luck to run all the way to the gold in 2010. Perhaps a complete reversal of such luck is conspiring to bring them down in 2011.
--I don't mean to turn Stankeye into the Miguel Tejada Pissing On Blog, but man the guy is awful. I, like many a fellow Giants fan, was an extreme skeptic about Tejada's signing in the offseason. It's now a month into the season, and he looks like a player ready for the glories of the DFA line.
Fears of his nonexistent range in the field have proven to be reality and his usual hacktastic ways are even more of a problem because he isn't hitting for the power that he's known for. Well...that he was known for in 2005. Um, why did the Giants sign this guy again? Hey, at least he's not as whiny as I thought he'd be.
--Like a (Vogel)Song. Yeah, there was absolutely no reason for me to headline this blurb, but far be it from me to miss a chance to slip in an idiotic U2 reference. Last Thursday, Ryan Vogelsong returned to the majors to make his first start in the big leagues since (no joke) 2004, the year A.J. Pierzynski was delighting Giant fans with his crotch-kicking ways. Vogelsong pitched well and won the start, making for a nice little story of perserverance. After flaming out with the Pirates completely, he sifted through the minors and the Japanese leagues before making his way back to the mound on that day.
The most amazing thing about all of this, though, is how long it's been since Vogelsong played a role in one of the greatest shaftings of Brian Sabean's career. It seems like only yesterday that Vogelsong was packaged alongside Armando Rios in a trade that brought the Giants Jason Schmidt, but it was ten freaking years ago! Obviously, that trade turned out to be one of the greatest steals in Giants history, as Schmidt became an All-Star while Vogelsong and Rios did very little with Pittsburgh. Now, after all this time, Vogelsong is back in a Giants uni and filling in for Barry Zito. Amazing story, but why do I feel so old?