Matt Cain has just allowed 9 hits and 7 runs in the bottom of the third inning at St. Louis this morning. So, for the fourth time in their last five games, a Giants starter cannot hold the opposition below 4 runs. Over the team’s last 11 road games, they’ve allowed 10, 11, 6, 10, 10, 5, 4, 6, 9, and now 7 in what is now the fifth inning.
Not much more to say. Whatever is going on appears to be happening to every pitcher at the same time. I stand by my earlier post; either the league has figured out what the Giants overall pitching approach is, or every pitcher on the team spent the entire off-season watching highlights of their title parade and eating Taco Bell.
Kickham notwithstanding, but what the hell has happened to our starting pitchers?
Lincecum has allowed an awful 34 runs in 60 innings.
Cain has allowed a staggering 39 runs in 64 innings.
Zito has allowed a Zito-esque 34 runs in 56 innings.
Bumgarner has allowed a pretty decent 27 runs in 72 innings
Vogelsong has allowed an astounding 44 runs in 46 innings.
Kershaw has allowed 18 runs in 80 innings.
Zimmerman has allowed 15 runs in 73 innings
Corbin has allowed 14 in 68 innings
Harvey has allowed 16 in 78 innings.
Our starters have the fourth worst record and ERA in the league. This is supposed to be the strength of the team. What the hell is going on? Anyone?
Every time I turn the game on, it’s already 4-1. If it wasn’t for our league best offense, we’d be in last place by a mile.
Don’t expect any significant changes. These guys have to figure out what the league has figured out about them. They’d better get it done soon. The Giants are about to be on the road for most of the next month, and starting every game down 4 runs is a recipe for last place.
UPDATE: Not that it pertains to this post, but the Giants are down 5-2 in the 7th inning, and the three batters that just came to the plate (Belt, Torres and Crawford), and all three of them swung at the first pitch and flied out. Unbelievable.
UPDATE, PART II: Well, Lincecum looks completely lost. The only question is how much longer can the Giants keep running him out there. I can understand Bochy letting him hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, with the team about to be away for most of the next month, but Holy Christ, he walked out for the top of the fifth and just shit the bed completely. What the hell?
Sandoval isn’t helping. 2 for his last 25. Swinging at every pitch. Jeez.
As tough as it is watching Lincecum struggle, it is easily the most surprising and astounding turnaround to watch Barry –the Hit Man– Zito turn around his career. Kudos to Zito for handling his difficult time with class and dignity, never sniping, complaining, or really doing anything to convey his dissatisfaction with anything that was happening to him during his first five seasons with the team.
Really, that is perhaps the most inspiring part of his story. Between the horrible pitching, the constant pressure on him because of his huge contract, the booing, the demotion for the 2010 playoff run…. Zito has been a model player in the clubhouse, in the press, and apparently, everywhere else. The result is a player whose return to success is easy to root for, and is really one of the best redemption story imaginable. A player who is celebrated for his ability to turn around what had once seemed to be the end of his career and not only play well, but to even contribute to a championship of his own.
…. “It gets back to competing,” (Bruce) Bochy said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in this game: pitching, swinging the bat, playing defense – it’s all about competing. He’s as tough a competitor as I’ve been around.”
His success so far this season has been a breath of fresh air, and reminds us that comebacks can happen, that people can overcome adversity, and they can do it with grace and class.
Good for him, and good for the Giants.
UPDATE: Jonah Keri goes deeper on Lincecum in Grantland today:
…. Baseball Prospectus writer and pitching mechanics expert Doug Thorburn addressed this in a pair of articles last year: Lincecum’s delivery depends on perfect mechanics, and that trademark gigantic stride. As he wrote in an e-mail:
…. He was able to generate ridiculous momentum early in his career (a huge advantage), and he found a timing pattern with it that he could repeat, which was critical for commanding the fastball and keeping that split-change buried under the zone. That stride and momentum required excellent lower body strength, and when his delivery fell out of whack back in 2010, the solution was rooted in conditioning — he had lost his timing because he could not consistently generate his usual stride pattern. Last season, his momentum was noticeably down when compared to his peak, and he struggled to find his timing for most of the season — I thought it was telling that he did so well out of the ’pen, where he could go all out rather than conserve stamina.
Thorburn expressed some mild optimism that Lincecum could bounce back a bit if he can fix his mechanics, which could in turn allow him to better control where his pitches are going. But the beast of four years ago, the guy with the fastball that hit the high-90s and the split-change that was one of the most unhittable pitches in the game? That guy’s almost certainly not coming back. Research on pitcher aging curves by Mike Fast and Jeremy Greenhouse suggests that a pitcher this young shouldn’t be suffering from this steep of a performance decline, and that it can be very tough to improve once that decline starts.
The worst thing is that I agree with him. If the loss in velocity, now around 5+ MPH since his rookie season, is unfixable, he’s either heading to a closer role, or he’s done. Either way, I think it’s safe to say Sabean looks like Nostradamus by holding the line on Lincecum’s salary demands over these last couple of years. At any time over these last three years or so, Lincecum could have been signed to a five or six-year deal that right now would be terrifying to the team. Instead, they failed/succeeded in ensuring that whatever deal they were discussing, it didn’t work for someone, and the Giants are actually looking at being able to walk away from Lincecum should this season be another train wreck.
UPDATE, Part II: Well, today did nothing to dispel my concerns. Lincecum looked completely lost, missing his spots by a foot or more. The hitters bailed him out again, but, holy Christ, he looks awful.
Tim Lincecum won his first start, but walked seven, matching a career-high. This Sam Miller piece, a BP Premium article, suggests that Hector Sanchez may have been responsible for much of the damage. In fact, the article outlines, using GIF’s, the exact ways Sanchez fails to adequately frame Lincecum’s pitches, and shows that Lincecum was robbed of perhaps as many as a dozen strikes, many
of them not even close to borderline.
The article explains the obvious fact that Sanchez is a subpar framer, and any analysis of his work shows that he lunges, drops his head, and generally acts like he’s constantly surprised by the location of the ball. For all the talk throughout the Giants organization about players being ready for the majors before they are brought up, it’s a little surprising to see that Sanchez is a player who is clearly not ready for the action on major league pitches.
And Miller highlights an article by Tim Kawakami that details the possible reason Sanchez has somehow become Lincecum’s personal catcher:
…. It’s almost certainly true that Lincecum has never told Bochy he disliked pitching to Posey, and I know Posey wants to catch Lincecum.
But it’s probably just as true that Bochy knew that Lincecum was more comfortable with Sanchez or Eli Whiteside.
And it’s beyond doubt that Posey is nothing like Molina, who coaxed his pitchers, pumped them up, and especially was on the same emotional wavelength as the improvisational Lincecum.
Posey likes to make a plan, stick to the plan, and has been known to utter a few sharp words to pitchers—even Lincecum, even when Posey was young—during games to get them back on the plan.
Whether Lincecum realizes this is unknown, but he is struggling with Sanchez behind the plate (18 0f his last 20 starts), and Sanchez may very well be why. In fact, maybe the reason Lincecum was so lights out as a reliever in last season’s championship run had nothing to do with the fact the he could “air it out” and not have to worry about running out of gas, and more to do with the fact that Posey catches and frames his pitches better, so he gets the calls.
Terrific start to the season by the pitching staff. Barry Zito’s seven shutout innings today gave the starters a run of 26 innings without allowing an earned run so far. Not quite as impressive as the Nationals domination (1 run allowed total, in three starts), but not too shabby.
The hitters haven’t caught up yet, but not too many teams are scoring runs in bunches anyway.
Congratulations to Buster Posey and the SF Giants. Posey signed a new contract, locking him up til 2021 for the tidy little sum of $167 million dollars. Wow.
I sure hope he can stay healthy.
Sorry for the lack of posts.
As the SF Giants head into their defense of last year’s World Championship, I’ve been paying attention on the periphery, as work and family have kept me on my toes. I’m happy to see Brandon Belt looking like he’s ready for a breakout season. He could help alleviate some of the drop off that’s expected from players like Scutaro, who can’t possibly repeat last seasons scorching .360 batting average as a Giant.
But reading today’s little piece about Pablo Sandoval “accepting” his body weight for the next couple of seasons makes me more than a little worried:
…. Pablo Sandoval came to San Francisco Giants camp fat this year, like he does pretty much every year, because there are two truths about Pablo Sandoval, and one of them is he does not do skinny.
The other is that he’s a remarkable hitter, preternaturally gifted like only a handful of players, maybe less. At 5-foot-11 (give or take – no, take – two inches) and 262 pounds (give or take – no, give – 20 pounds), Sandoval hits everything everywhere anytime anywhere. If anyone in baseball today is going to stroke a single off a pitch that bounces before it reaches home plate, it’s him.
…. “I’ve got this year and next year to change all the things,” Sandoval said. “It’s going to take me a while, but I can do it. I know I can do it. You need to learn. You need to grow up. You need to step up and know the difference between what you can do and what you can’t.”
Yeah, well, I’m a bit skeptical. As the article points out, Pablo’s missed at least 45 games each of the last two seasons, and whether you think the weight is the reason or not, allowing yourself to just walk around 40 pounds overweight all the time…. as a professional athlete, that’s just something Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy must be concerned about.
You’re talking about defending a championship, every team in the league is coming after you. After what happened in 2011, everyone associated with the Giants has to be thinking about heading into the season with a different attitude. Roll with it might work when you’re trying to win a title, it doesn’t work when you’re defending it.
Hat Tip to Baseball Musings
In the face of so many calls for stricter penalties by so many misguided moralists in the mainstream media, Commissioner Selig has come out and said he is in favor of increasing the penalties for PED’s. This is, of course, absurd. The penalty system is fine. The testing system is as good as it needs to be:
…. In the year ending with the 2012 World Series, there were seven positives for performance-enhancing substances and 11 for stimulants among 3,955 urine tests and 1,181 blood tests, according to a report issued in November by baseball’s independent program administrator, Dr. Jeffrey M. Anderson.
So, .003% of all the tests come back positive, and the Commissioner, as well as the complete fools in the media are all in a tizzy about solving a “problem” that doesn’t exist. Again, the program works fine. But if you’re in the mood for a different take, David Pinto has a suggestion:
….I would suggest, however, that suspensions may not be the way to go. My recommendation would be to hit the players hard in the wallet. Every positive test moves the start of big money back two years, or does a reset to the minimum salary. So if a first year player gets caught, he has to wait five years instead of three for arbitration, then eight years instead of six for free agency. If he is already collecting an arbitration or free agent salary, the next two years are paid at the minimum. In other words, cheating takes away the salary guarantee. A player might take a chance for 50 games. He might not take a chance for millions of dollars.
It’s an interesting take, but again, the system works. Players are being harmed by the suspensions, teams are being harmed. Melky was essentially an outcast in SF after his suspension, banned from the postseason, and from an eventual championship. What more do you want? Shoot them? It’s a game, people. Someone cheats, they get suspended. Three strikes and you’re out. That’s enough. The Players Association should resist any further calls for tougher penalties. They have no incentive, and they are not required to.
UPDATE: Eric thinks the system isn’t working. Well, I think it is. I think we’re talking about something working versus a completely unrealistic goal of 100% eradication. We’re confusing “works” with “perfect.” No system will catch everyone, for the exact reasons you just stated, the incentives are too great. The idea isn’t to eliminate use to the point of 100% clean. That’ll never happen. To even come close to 100% would entail a level of personal invasiveness no player would thoughtfully agree to. That’s why we shouldn’t listen to the sportswriters, the players, or the owners, oreven the commissioner when it comes to this issue. They aren’t experts. Far from it. They are consumers, they are sheep. When they say things like 11 positive tests out of almost 4000 vials of urine means the system isn’t working, it just illustrates how out of touch with reality they are.
There will always be a small percentage of people willing to do anything to achieve success. For the most part, those people are lauded as our heroes. The players agreed to this system. If some of them want to circumvent it, so be it. Some of them will get caught, and some won’t. That’s life. We could easily insure that every single person who ever speeds gets caught. Put GPS tracking devices in every car, and have it automatically issue a ticket every time you exceed the speed limit. Anybody want that? I could go on. How come it’s OK to ask Derek Jeter to allow someone to come to his house any hour of the day or night and ask him to pee in a cup? Because he plays a game? How is it so hard to see the absurdity in this situation?
The players have already given huge concessions in this situation. To give more baffles me.
If I were in the majors, I would never vote to allow that kind of intrusion in my life. But that’s me. I find it amazing that so many people would actively petition for the removal of another person’s privacy.
Having just learned that A-Rod will undergo surgery for a cyst in his hip, my mind wondered back to a story, or perhaps it was a rumor that another Yankee had undergone a similar procedure. Was it in “Ball Four,” that I had read that Mickey Mantle had a cyst in his hip –caused by an infection due to a dirty needle used for a vitamin B shot– that caused him to miss significant time?
Using Baseball-Reference.com, I can see that Mantle missed significant time in 1962 and 1963. Was that what happened?
And if it did, doesn't it raise the question of whether A-Rod's cyst was caused by an infection? An infection that could have started because of a dirty needle?
Two questions come to my mind:
1. Now that we know that forty years ago, elite athletes were already well aware of the powerful effects of steroids, isn't it possible that Mickey Mantle may have been experimenting with steroids?
2. How come no major news media outlet has taken the steps to ask what, exactly, is the cause of the cyst thatA-Rod has?
A few answers come to mind right away. First off, none of these so-called “keepers of the flame” will investigate whether their hero could have been sullied by the steroids cloud, so the Mantle question will be left for us to ponder. And as for the question about A-Rod, no one has asked it because nobody thought of it, until now. All I ask is a plug from the writer who picks up this thread.
Meanwhile, two former players have come out with their own personal tales of steroid woes. The first one is an anonymous pitcher who details his use in this Philadelphia Daily News story by Paul Hagen:
…. He was, he said, largely unaware of steroids when he signed his first professional contract. Of course, back then his fastball was consistently in the mid-90s and he could throw it effortlessly and without pain.
That was before the elbow operations. Still, he persevered. He worked his way through the minors. He said he still knew little about performance-enhancing substances. He reached the majors and began to have some success. Then he began to have more problems with his elbow and shoulder and faced further surgery. He worried that he might not make the team the following spring. He began looking for ways to recover more quickly.
“I felt pressure that I put on myself,” he says. “It wasn't external. When you struggle for a while, you realize that maybe your performance isn't up to par because you were playing through some injuries. But the bottom line is, the performance wasn't that good. “I had surgery right after the season. And spring training was only 6 months away. So I was looking for something to help speed up that process, to try and regain my health as quickly as possible. Because I felt that pressure of having to perform and compete and throw the ball well right out of the gate or I was going to lose that job.
“I was supposed to be in my prime for a pitcher. But my physical skills deteriorated to the point where it was like, 'OK, I've got to address this or I'm not going to be able to play at this level.' ”
He began asking some of the veteran players if they had any suggestions. About this time, he also became acquainted with a guy who worked out at the same health club he went to during the offseason.
“He wasn't involved in baseball in any way, shape or form,” the ex-player says. “And just by looking at him, you knew he wasn't much of an athlete. He was a big guy who carried a lot of weight on him. Let's just say he was on the lumpy side and it was obvious he wasn't in the gym training for the next body-building event. “Over time we became friends, and as it turns out his work is focused on the health and fitness field, as he had a master's degree in exercise science and nutrition. He ran a small practice out of a family doctor's office, where he counseled people on health and nutrition issues. He incorporated a lot of homeopathic and natural cures into his program, and I had become more interested in that.”
Eventually, he made an
appointment. They talked at length about maintaining a healthy diet. And then the conversation moved to a different level.
“He started talking to me about growth hormone and anabolics,” the ex-pitcher says. “I was very ignorant about it at the time. But with this guy's educational background and experience, I really had a strong conviction that he understood what he was talking about. To my surprise, he talked about anabolics in a much more positive light than I had ever heard before.”
Well, of course that would be a surprise. The demonization of all drugs not endorsed for profit-making by the powers that be means that any information disseminated about them be made up of lies and distortions. We wouldn't want people to make informed choices when there's no money to be made.
And over the NY Daily News, Darryl Strawberry opened up his mouth and made headlines:
…. “Hell, yeah, I would have used (steroids). Are you kidding me?” Strawberry said as he kicked off a week as a guest instructor at Mets camp, during a defense of Alex Rodriguez. You know what, it's just the point of being in sports. In our nature we're competitive creatures. We have a tremendous drive and high tolerance and all of these things in us. I'm not saying that was the right thing to do, but if somebody asked me if I would have faced it, what would I have done if that was going on in the era of the '80s, it definitely probably would have been in my system, too. I probably would have been a part of it, too. And I wouldn't have denied it, because you guys know I don't deny anything.”
Refreshingly candid, although Darryl seems to have forgotten about his tougher times, when he did, in fact, deny a lot. But, hey, at least he's being honest, unlike Reggie Jackson, who clearly played in a time in which amphetamine use –at the least– was widespread throughout baseball; but Mr. Jackson wants us all to know that he's saddened by A-Rod's admission that he used PED's.
Yes, I'm sure Jackson never used anything to get an edge. I'm sure that during his whole career, he was a clean as the driven snow.
Here's an idea. If all of these sad ex-baseball players want to do something to help clean up the game, to end this charade, to make the stories be about baseball again, and not whether this guy or that used this or that; they should all come clean.
That's right, open your mouth, and have something come out that's worth listening to. Every living baseball player knows, absolutely knows that either he used something stronger than coffee, or he knows that most of his teammates did. If baseball's fraternity is so strong, then they should all line up together, and tell the fucking truth. They should all stand up and say something like this:
The truth is that elite athletes use anything and everything to gain an edge.
The truth is that if you're not in this world of elite athletic endeavor, you cannot understand, you cannot possibly fathom what goes on. You cannot come close to dealing with the pressures, the constant pain, the fear, and the rewards of an elite athlete. You cannot grasp what it's like to live the life of a superstar, nor can you really understand what it's like to be the 24th guy on the team.
We do. We're living it. We pay the prices, we reap the rewards, we make the decisions.
And then they'd ask the one question that ends any debate:
If you were told that you could take a drug that would earn you and your family millions of dollars, or even hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing you to reach the pinnacle of your dreams, would you use it?
If you were told that using this drug would enable you to stay in the game, after you started to notice you were on your way out if it, would you use it?
If you were good, but could be great, or even the best ever, would you use it?
No one could honestly answer that question unequivocally, either way. You couldn't say absolutely no, and you couldn't say absolutely yes.
You'd have to be there. And if you've never been there, and you still think you know the answer, all you're doing is yelling at the rain.
Mike Lupica calls for the feds to get involved, in another of his rantings and ravings about what a dick A-Rod is:
…. There is only
one way for Major League Baseball and for the rest of us to get the answers we need on Bosch the “biochemist” and Braun and A-Rod and all the other misunderstood ballplayers who have made the PED version of the Dean’s List, known as Bosch’s List: Get everybody in front of a grand jury and make them tell their stories under oath, not to their PR men.
It’s interesting that, in an article about Ryan Braun, Lupica still finds a way to make it all about A-Rod. Interesting that a sportswriter thinks it is so important to find out whether a guy who plays a game for a living did something Lupica doesn’t agree with, that he should be investigated by the federal government; and that he gets to say that in a major newspaper without being vilified for his ignorance and foolishness.
This is the the second
piece Lupica has written suggesting that the only answer, the only way to get to the bottom of it all, is to bring in the feds:
…. You may be one of those who didn’t care what Armstrong was taking, doesn’t care if Bonds or Clemens were juiced to the gills. You may be one of those, like Armstrong’s enablers, who fall back now on the defense that Everybody Was Doing It. But if you believe these guys are cheats, if you are one who believes that what the juicers have done is a form of athletic fraud, then you should want the government to get to the bottom of this with Rodriguez and everybody else.
He should have to tell his story under oath, not to Oprah or Katie.
In a country going through a recession, a country racked by illegal money manipulations at the highest levels, a country where one of the political parties has decided to bring normal government to a screeching halt with no consequence; in this country, Mike Lupica thinks the federal government should spend millions more investigating baseball players for using drugs to help them play better. Great perspective there, Mike.