…. Bounce Back

Barry Zito earned his pay last night, leading the Giants to an impressive 3-0 whitewash of the NL’s best offense. Zito threw a ton of pitches –which I don’t like– but held the Mets in check through seven innings. Taschner pitched an economical eighth, and Hennessey got the save. That’s right, even though Bochy is backing his beleaguered closer, he didn’t use him last night.

…. “I don’t think you give up on a guy with two blown saves. Looking around the league, there are other guys with more blown saves. He’s had some good outings, too. This is probably one of the tougher parks for him to pitch in, but you’ve got to put aside your emotions. You’ve got your 25 guys, and Armando is the guy we’re using.”

When reminded that the fans’ animosity goes back to last season and is driven by Benitez’s body language and blaming others and his hubris, Bochy said, “You understand the frustration. You’re going on the past and what happened last year. You have to remember he had some (physical) problems last year. He’s been healthy to this point. Now his knee has flared up. You have to do the best you can with the players you have. … We’ve got to close these games out and we’ve got to use our best option.”

Note that Bochy didn’t address the unprofessional and immature act that Benitez brings to the mound, the constant displays of emotion that distract himself and his teammates; and that fuel the opponents drive to beat him. How many times have we seen him strike out the first batter, pump his fist like he just won the world series, and then proceed to walk the next two batters?

He wants us to remember that Benitez only has two blown saves, but he has three losses too, which make him directly responsible for 20% of the teams’ losses. Add in the rest of the times he failed to prevent inherited runners from scoring, and it’s easy to see that he’s failing to do his job. Put it this way, he’s made 18 appearances, and he’s allowed the leadoff man to reach 7 times. He’s thrown an astounding 308 pitches in 17.1 innings. He’s allowed 26 baserunners, and 9 earned runs in 19 appearances. That’s atrocious. Sure, he’s got 9 saves. Hooray. The league leaders are already approaching their 20th.

His numbers in May are abysmal. In 8 appearances, he’s gone 8.1 innings, 9 hits, 4 walks, 2 home runs, 7 earned runs, 2 saves, 2 losses, 1 blown save, and a 7.56 ERA.

Once again, Sabean missed whatever chance he had to make a move that mattered, when he could have pressed for a trade partner after an April in which Benitez ran off seven straight scoreless appearances. On May 4th, Benitez ran his string to eight, lowered his ERA to 1.80, and will, in all likelihood, NEVER AGAIN BE AS VALUABLE.

Of course, for Sabean to realize that Benitez’s value at that time was an illusion, he would have had to look up his stats; something I imagine Sabean must be allergic to; because anyone who analyzes stats as a normal part of their job would have seen that Benitez was a ticking bomb, waiting to explode and destroy everything in his path. He would have seen that, even though Benitez was lowering his ERA, getting saves, and “doing his job,” he was walking a tightrope without a net.

Benitez threw 9 innings in April, and finished the month with 7 saves and a 2.00 ERA. But those aren’t the numbers that matter. The numbers that matter are these, I’ll give you April and then May, so you can see:

April 9 IP 8 H 5 BB 170 pitches thrown Batters Faced 40
May 8 IP 9 H 4 BB 138 pitches thrown Batters Faced 38

I took out the .1 for May so the numbers line up. Do you see? He was laboring to get through those innings, throwing tons of pitches, getting lucky, and the NL was wising up to him. See how the number of pitches has gone down, while everything else has remained the same? Teams have realized that they can sit on his fastball –he can’t thrown anything else for a strike– and, like Delgado two nights ago, they are raking him.

But that would have required analysis and foresight, which are sadly absent from the Giants “braintrust” these days. However, those of you seeking it can come here, where I will continue to make Nostradamus-like predictions of doom and gloom, while Sabean tells us that all he cares about are “results,” regardless of the fact that using stats to bolster an argument is what fools do.

You use stats to learn something that the eye cannot discern, you use them to peek through the curtains, to gain understanding; and to predict, if possible, the future. We all saw how much angst was involved in Benitez’s appearances, even when he was going well. A closer look told us that his current problems were predictable, even expected. If Sabean was gonna move him, he should have done it back when his obvious numbers may have duped another GM into thinking he had value. Problem is, Sabean was the dupe. So now, we either release him, keep using him, or make him a mop-up guy. Either way, we’re fucked.

UPDATE: El Lefty Malo listened to KNBR today and heard Sabean telling Raplh Barbieri that, for all intents and purposes, Benitez is done as the closer for the Giants. Well, if it’s something that Sabean can get done in the next 48 hours, it’s gonna be too little, too late. Sabean’s options will either be dump him or get a player to be named later type of deal. Anything more than that would be a miracle.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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