Archive for April, 2007

…. Zito, Cain, and pray for rain?

That was some smokin’ hot homestand. I’m talking about a season-changing, critic-swaying, bandwagon-building homestand. Damn!

Matt Cain earned his first win of the season, dominating the D’backs in a tense, 2-1, complete game win. Bonds homered again, and the Giants starters lowered their overall ERA to an NL-best 2.81. The Giants completed a sweet, 5-0 homestand, moved over .500, and seem to be hitting their stride as they head to LA in a showdown with the hated Dodgers, who own the best record in baseball.

In the five game homestand, the starters pitched over 40 innings and allowed but 6 runs, but as impressive as that sounds, let’s look at Cain’s start to the season:

29 IP 11 hits 3 XBH 5 ER 21 SO 13 BB .83 WHIP .117 BA against 1.15 ERA

He’s walked more guys than you’d like to see, but other than that, you could make an argument that he’s been the best pitcher in all of baseball; and I’m not the only one who might think that.

… Knowledge is power

After Barry Zito came out for the eighth inning yesterday already having thrown 111 pitches, I was a teeny tiny bit concerned. He ended the game with 126, which is pretty much right at the redline for today’s pitchers. It was a shutout, and sure, he could have ripped through the eighth in 6 or 8 pitches, so OK. But after reading today’s Chron, in which I found this gem of an puff piece by Ray Ratto, I’m quite a bit more concerned:

…. “One-twenty isn’t always extreme,” Bochy said. “I think sometimes it’s good for a pitcher to stretch it out sometimes, and if his mechanics stay sound and he’s still putting the ball where he wants it and he’s not laboring, he can go 120, 130.”

Great. Let’s have our seven-year, $126 million dollar pitcher “stretch it out” every once in a while. After all, what’s the worst that could happen, right?

Losing Zito for a 8 or 16 months due to a blown out rotator or a torn elbow ligament shouldn’t be cause for caution, should it? The cautionary tales of Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Francisco Liriano, Kirk Reuter and, oh, I don’t know, any one of the hundreds of pitchers who have seasons and/or careers derailed because of overuse needn’t worry Giants fans, ‘CAUSE WE’VE ONLY GOT $126 MILLION DOLLARS LOCKED UP IN THIS GUY OVER THE NEXT 7 YEARS!!!

Oh, and in case you think Bochy might be just giving Zito a little extra opportunity to finish because of his experience, think again:

…. Bochy displayed his willingness to extend his big-ticket pitcher beyond conventional limits Saturday, and indicated he might be just as willing to do that with Matt Cain as well, even though Cain’s body of work has much less body to it.

How it works out remains to be seen, but at least we got a nice, long look at the manager’s brain Saturday, which made the cold and wet afternoon worth the bother. As they say at Faber College, knowledge is good.

Yay!! Knowledge is good!! Who cares if the knowledge is that your manager, who is in charge of a $100 million dollar a year investment, is a backwards-thinking, uninformed jackass who thinks nothing of making in-game decisions that jeopardize the health of irreplacable players.

Sure, Durham is as healthy as he’s been since he’s been here. Look at him, he looks like a million bucks. He’s also 35-years old and has been injured almost from the minute he arrived in SF. I know Vizquel is a good base runner and quick as lightning. Watch him go, he looks like the second coming of Jacki Robinson out there. HE’S 39 YEARS OLD!!!!! Dave Roberts is 34. Aurilia is 35, Winn 32, Bonds 42, Klesko 35.

Ratto’s happy-go-lucky “article” notwithstanding, we’re talking about a significant, important, unavoidable issue here: if our manager is blind to the risks he’s taking with his players, then he is gonna put them in harm’s way.

His little “we’re gonna put pressure on the defense” approach is doomed from the start, it’s based on logic that doesn’t work. It’s speed that puts pressure on the defense, not recklessness. Recklessness makes it harder for your offense to be effective. Recklessness gets guys hurt. Not only do you need guys who are young and fast to put pressure on the defense (which you don’t have); you also need to take care of your old guys, because this is a long, long season, and you’re gonna send one (or more) of these guys to the DL if you’re not smart. It was great fun to see Bonds score from second the other day. It would have been catastrophic if he would have blown out a knee while doing it.

Allowing a pitcher to go for a shutout is always a complicated and difficult decision. Three, four times through an lineup is a big challenge. The rule of thumb in today’s game is that unless you’re Livan Hernandez, you need to be under 100 pitches in the eighth to have a chance. Zito was at 111, with six outs to go. He averages about 14 pitches per inning. That means he would have had to be perfect to even have a chance. That’s just stupid, a stupid risk the Giants simply cannot afford to take.

Pushing our starters longer than they can handle could end up costing us the season, just like losing Bonds to a twisted knee, or Vizquel to an ankle injury, or Durham to a bad hammy would. And this isn’t the kind of issue that just goes away on it’s own. Ratto’s empty, suckup of a puff piece on this issue is insulting to the fans who live and die with this team. Remember Felipe?

Felipe Alou came here and immediatley put more pitchers on the DL in his first two seasons then Dusty Baker did in ten. He ended Reuter’s career, ten minutes after the Giants gave him an $18 million dollar extension, by ignoring the facts about Woody’s pitching stamina. He destroyed Jason Schmidt by allowing him to go up to 130 pitches time and again, (flushing tens of millions of dollars down the drain, by the way), and wasting several promising seasons in the process.

If Bochy’s gonna bring more of the same, old school, tough it out, rub some dirt on it bullshit, (which, by upon initial introduction, he is), then the Giants have no chance. You can’t go 162 games on a “rub some dirt on it” philosophy when you’re team is actually older than said dirt.

…. Jumpin’ Jack Tasch

The obvious story of the night was Russ Ortiz beating his former team, who are paying most of his salary. The less obvious story is the one developing in the bullpen, as Jack Taschner continues to throw strikes, get guys out, and state his case that it should be him in the ninth inning, and not Armando Benitez, who earned the save despite being essentially unable to command any of his pitches.

My friend Pete calls Benitez’s saves “DL’s” as in didn’t lose’s. That’s about right. Four-run lead, give up a three-run homer and get the last out with a man on third. Last night, he walked the first batter he faced on five pitches, eventually getting the final out with runners on the corners after throwing about thirty pitches, some of which were just about uncatchable. What made his struggles more frustrating was the stark contrast with the work of Taschner, who simply blew the D’backs away in an 11-pitch 8th.

It is both terrifying and positive that Taschner has the best ERA on the team, (1.93), since he ranks 62nd in the NL, which means that there are about 5 pitchers on every team posting a better ERA than the best we have, (including about 10 Dodgers) but his early season performance should be giving Bochy and Rags ideas about a possible change of strategy for the ninth.

Actually, Taschner is one of the few relievers on the team showing any effectiveness right now, as the Giants post the second-best ERA among starters, (3.29), but have just about the worst set of relievers in the league, posting a staggering 4.35 ERA, a league worst .283 batting average against, a second to last slugging percentage against (.454), and OPS against (.797). Chulk is playing his way out of the league, (13 baserunners in 6.1 innings), Kline has no strikeouts, and Correia and Sanchez are giving up way too many hits. This is a bullpen that needs to get it together, although, to be fair, over the last week, the Giants team ERA is 1.91, and only Correia and Chulk have been blown up in that stretch.

Nonetheless, I think it’s time for Sabean to stop wasting Linceum in Triple AAA. The team actually needs him, and he ain’t getting better dominating minor leaguers anymore.

UPDATE: The Giants finally made it to .500 this season, as the Barry and Barry show delivered on some of that promise. Behind Bonds’ 739th home run and Zito’s seven-plus shutout innings, the G-men won 1-0 to pull even at 8-8.

Next up, Cain goes for his first win of the season, as the Giants go for the sweep.

Where we are

So the Giants are still in last place, under .500, and still one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. With all that, a sweep against the D’backs this weekend would push them right back in it, (however unlikely that may seem). Today, we’re gonna take a quick look at our offense, and see just how likely it is that our current stretch of scoring continues.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem likely. The Giants, as they currently rank, are simply abysmal. They post an abysmal .246/.309/.376 line as a team, they’re last in home runs with 7, they have but 116 hits overall. They have 8 stolen bases, but 4 caught stealing, of which at least three were the strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play variety, (as in, the true inning killer). Add in their top-three 12 grounded into double plays, and the only hope we have is that most of these stats were compiled during their horrible start. Is that true?

Well, yes. In the last week, the Giants have posted the third best OPS in the NL (.829), and have averaged over 6 runs per game, with 12 doubles, 6 triples and 5 home runs during that stretch, which is pretty damn good, actually.

Is this the real Giants? That remains to be seen. I’d like to see them a little less risky on the basepaths, and try to remember that most of the team is on the far side of youth and abandon. I’d like to see them score some runs for Cain. I’d really like to see Klesko continue to take a lot of at-bats away from Feliz, (who seems to have lost the faith of his manager after he swung at five straight pitches in the dirt from Trevor Hoffman in that loss to the Padres a week ago).

I’d like to see them reach respectability, first and foremost.

Go Giants.

…. Respect

Maybe, after today’s nice little win against the slumping Cards. Down 2-0, the Giants scored the next 6 runs, and Noah Lowry picked up a solid win. Rich Aurilia continued his hot streak, pushing his batting average over .350 with a 12-game hit streak.

The Cardinals hitters look completely lost, even Pujols, so keeping them down was easier than usual, (although maybe it was the pitching, stupid). Even so, the Giants improved to 6-8 heading into their showdown in Arizona.

On an American League note that simply cannot be ignored, Alex Rodriguez hit his second walk-off home run of the year, his 10th overall, (more than seven National League teams, including the Giants, who have just 7). Talk about hot, his line looks obscene, .351/.418/.965; he has 20 hits, and with 5 doubles to go with his 10 jacks, he’s simply destroying the ball. Oh, and he’s had a hit in every game this year. Wow.

…. Wet and wild

Bonds threw one into McCovey Cove, and Rich Aurilia, (hitting well over .300 in his return engagement), won it in the 12th.

…. “We won the game. We pitched well. The bullpen pitched well. Rich got a clutch hit. There you go,” said Bonds, who didn’t want to talk about his home run as much as the victory.

Bonds’ 738th career homer — he’s now 17 shy of matching Hank Aaron’s record — tied the game at 5-5 in the eighth and came off Ryan Franklin, the 437th pitcher to surrender a Bonds homer. Bonds pulled a 2-2 pitch and knew it was gone. Everyone knew. The only question was whether it would reach the cove.

The real pitching hero of the game was Sanchez, who worked three scoreless inning for the win. Matt Morris pitched well enough to get a win, but was undone by 4 unearned runs, (although he was involved in the error that led the runs to be unearned). All in all, a fun game against the defending champs, and a win is a win.

All is not golden for the hometown orange and black, however, as both the hated Dodgers and the D’backs are off and running with a league-leading 10 wins, while the G-men are sitting ugly with only 5.

On a separate note, my site will not accept comments until after we complete the switch to WordPress, so send me an email if you have something to say.

…. Bounce

The Giants needed a big game from Zito, and they got it. Six shutout innings (I coulda swore he went seven), and a nice, 8-0 blanking of the Rockies pushes the Giants to within sniffing distance of respectability. 4-7 isn’t particularly pretty, but they are scoring some runs, and getting some pretty decent pitching performances, and that’s a good combination.

A solid finsh in Colorado would put them in position to build some momentum coming home, which could be a portend of a turnaround. Matt Cain goes today, and if the team can maintain any of the offense they’ve just started to produce, it should be an easy win. A lot of if’s, I know, but, that’s the way it goes.

…. Broken Cowboy

Hank Waddles, aka, the Broken Cowboy, recently read the new Jonathan Eig biography of Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately for the Giants, they didn’t play yesterday, so no one on the team got to wear #42; but here at OBM, we’ll do our own tribute by bringing Hank’s work to the front page:

…. The author’s stated ambition is to demythologize the story of Robinson’s struggle, and he clearly achieves this goal. More importantly, however, he gives us a more detailed picture of the man before he became a legend. Leaning heavily on newspaper reports of the day and interviews with Robinson’s wife Rachel and others who experienced the events of 1947 firsthand, Eig tells the story from a fresh perspective, free of the weight of the past sixty years.

Certain stories which we have come to take for granted might have been exaggerated — or even concocted. Most notably, teammate Pee Wee Reese’s famous embrace, meant to show support for Jackie in the face of abusive fans in Cincinnati, doesn’t seem to have happened, at least not in 1947. Also, the threatened league-wide boycott which was rumored in the early days of the season appears to have been all smoke and no fire.

Not surprisingly, Eig discovers that many of the apocryphal stories we hear about players of yore are untrue. Terrific work by Hank, he also lands an interview with Eig, and he has an excerpt from the book:

…. The test case represented by Jackie Robinson was one of towering importance to the country. Here was a chance for one person to prove the bigots and white supremacists wrong, and to say to the nation’s fourteen million black Americans that the time had come for them to compete as equals.

But it would happen only if a long list of “ifs” worked out just so: if the Brooklyn Dodgers gave Robinson the opportunity to play; if he played well; if he won the acceptance of teammates and fans; if no race riots erupted; if no one put a bullet through his head. The “ifs” alone were enough to agitate a man’s stomach. Then came the matter of Robinson himself. He perceived racism in every glare, every murmur, every called third strike. He was not the most talented black ballplayer in the country. He had a weak throwing arm and a creaky ankle. He had only one year of experience in the minor leagues, and, at twenty-eight, he was a little bit old for a first-year player. But he loved a fight.

His greatest assets were tenacity and a knack for getting under an opponent’s skin. He would slash a line drive to left field, run pigeon-toed down the line, take a big turn at first base, slam on the brakes, and skitter back to the bag. Then, as the pitcher prepared to go to work on the next batter, Robinson would take his lead from first base, bouncing on tiptoes like a dropped rubber ball, bouncing, bouncing, bouncing, taunting the pitcher, and daring everyone in the park to guess when he would take off running again. While other men made it a point to avoid danger on the base paths, Robinson put himself in harm’s way every chance he got. His speed and guile broke down the game’s natural order and left opponents cursing and hurling their gloves. When chaos erupted, that’s when he knew he was at his best.

You can read much more, just dance on the links.

…. Smart mouth

Bruce Jenkins has really started to change his tune lately, he’s becoming more of a kvetch, like me:

…. In roughly two weeks, on the occasion of Pedro Feliz’s birthday, (the Giants) won’t have a single player in the starting lineup under 32. No wonder people are getting ahead of the game, fast-forwarding the discussion to Barry Bonds and the home-run record. Since that seems to be the most relevant topic…

…. Aaron did a wonderful thing this week, telling reporters that he has no intention of attending any Giants games. He was pretty cold about it, too, stopping short of direct criticism but suggesting he might get around to sending Bonds a telegram.

Aaron doesn’t admire Bonds as a person, and he is certain that steroids, not talent, will have taken down his record. Why in heaven’s name would he show up as a hypocrite, pretending everything is great? The conversations, regrettably, won’t be about Aaron’s career and what it was like to step in against Sandy Koufax or Juan Marichal. They will be about legitimacy and performance enhancement, and remember, this isn’t some one-day vigil. The wait could last for a week or more. In Aaron’s case, a week of lying. This is a man who always shunned the spotlight, built a career around quiet brilliance and tabbed Jackie Robinson, a pillar of dignity and courage, as his personal idol.

Plus, what if somebody asks Aaron about the proliferation of amphetamines during his playing days? What if he joined the cast of thousands, as some suspect, and popped a few greenies himself? It wasn’t a big deal then (or ever, truth be told), but at some point, that issue will surface. Aaron doesn’t want to head down that road at all.

Quiet brilliance? Well, come on…. I still say all of this talk about Aaron being “brilliant” is more of the same “players were better in the old days” horseshit. Aaron was a very good home run hitter who benefited from a late-career move to one of the true launching pads in baseball history. That’s why he’s the home run king, and he’s certainly not one of the three starting outfielders on the GREATEST TEAM OF ALL-TIME, regardless of Jenkins’ overdone honorarium.

And although I agree with much of what Jenkins says here, I still can’t understand why he and everyone else is so quick to denounce Bonds for using PED’s, while simultaneously giving everyone a free pass on using speed. It makes no sense, but, then again, that’s standard fare in today’s world. It’s just extra irritating when he does it in a column that’s titled, “Setting the record straight.”

…. Ouch

Another shutout, another loss, worst offense in all of baseball…. What to say?

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, or any other organization mentioned herein.

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