The Dodgers swept the Giants out of town, winning in the bottom of the 10th with, you guessed it, a walk-off home run. Schmidt’s 8 shutout innings were wasted, as the Giants hitters refused to allow Greg Maddux to work up a sweat. Maddux needed just 68(!) pitches to get through eight innings of shutout ball himself. The loss, the Giants 16th in their last 19 games, brought this stunning admission from Felipe Alou:
…. Three weeks ago Sunday, the Giants had won five in a row and had come from behind to take an eighth-inning lead against San Diego. But Terrmel Sledge homered off Armando Benitez in the ninth, the Giants lost in 12 and nothing has been right since then.
Asked if the last three weeks might have been different had the Giants won that game, (Felipe) Alou said yes.
“That was a momentum killer,” he said. “That was the beginning of the killer losing streak. Things have never been the same. I don’t know if we’ve saved a game since that night, maybe one. It looked like the whole wheel fell off. Everything was happening, saves, coming from behind, walk-offs. After that, everything died.”
Usually, I’d be ripping Alou up for admitting that he was unable to right the ship after that devastating loss, but he actually was able to get the team through it fairly well. The problem was, Benitez proceeded to blow the save in the ninth inning the next night as well, and then two days later, he did it again!.
How many games has Mariano Rivera blown like that for the Yankees? I can remember two, the Sandy Alomar home run in the ’97 playoffs, and the Dave Roberts’ Game Four comeback against the Red Sox in ’04. That’s in ten years. Benitez has probably done this to his team about twenty times, maybe more. It’s the one thing everyone was worried about when the Giants signed him. Sure, he’s a big-time power pitcher. Sure, he’s got the look of a closer, he’s a huge, intimidating guy. He also has the baseball IQ of a walnut; failing time and time again to understand that just throwing hard ain’t enough.
Then again, some might argue that the Giants GM has a pretty low baseball IQ. In this age of baseball enlightenment, we field a group of players who do virtually none of the things that have been established as part and parcel of winning baseball. Taking pitches, working walks, getting into a team’s bullpen early, avoiding the double play, striking out hitters, preventing walks; these are aspects of the game that this Giants team does as poorly as any team in baseball, things that are the stated goals of winning teams.
Command of the strike zone, on both sides of the plate, pitching and hitting. The greater your command of the strike zone, the greater your chance of success. The Giants treat the strike zone like the Bermuda Triangle, a mystery for the ages.
Giants pitchers have combined to strike out 693 hitters this season, one of the worst totals in the league. They’ve also walked an alarming 428, which means that they have struck out the fourth fewest hitters in the NL, while walking the fourth most; an astoundingly poor combination. No combination of stellar fielding statistics can overcome the fact that your pitchers are not doing their job.
Many of you have commented that the Giants field a very good group of starting pitchers. You’re right, sort of. The Giants starting pitchers are ranked 9th in the league in strikeouts (which is to say, they are mediocre), but third in walks allowed. (Which means, of course, that our relief pitchers are atrocious, ranking dead last in all of baseball with only 224 strikeouts in 311 innings)
On the other side of the plate, Giants hitters have earned a walk only 374 times, also the fourth worst total in the league, but have proven to be the most difficult team in the league to strike out (just 615 times). Unfortunately, this free-swinging ability to make contact has contributed to the Giants leading the league in grounding into double plays, something they’ve done an amazing 115 times this season. To put that in perspective, the league-leading Mets have grounded into a double play just 69 times, but then again, the Mets are young and fast, while the Giants are old and slow.
Any way you slice up this team, you see no reason to expect them to be any better than they are. They’ve accumulated the fourth fewest extra-base hits, they’re 43 for 66 stealing bases, they don’t have many extra base hits…. I could go on and on, but I gotta get my day started. The Giants are in last place, and they’re gonna stay there.