Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Take the Z Train

Barry Zito seemed to have a little trouble finding the plate last night, throwing 42 balls in 93 pitches and issuing 3 walks. But he kept racking up the outs, getting 10 ground balls and pitching into the 7th after a 6-pitch 6th. Superb relief work by Sergio Romo sealed the deal. Coming in with 2 on and nobody out, he struck out Ronnie CedeƱo on 3 pitches, gave up an RBI single to leadoff man Akinori Iwamura, then struck out Andrew McCutcheon and Lastings Milledge. I love watching him throw, the ball does some funny-looking things when it gets close to the plate, shooting off to the side and plunging downward. I can't imagine trying to hit it!

I'm not quite ready to send Hensley Muelens' name off to the Vatican for sainthood yet, but the Giants put on another offensive display last night, pounding out 12 hits and 9 runs. Pirates pitchers also issued 6 walks and 2 HBP. Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, and Bengie Molina combined for 9 hits and 7 runs, and Molina's 4 RBI moved him past Bob Brenly on the all-time club list for career RBI by a catcher. Bengie seems to have stolen Edgar Renteria's mojo, as the shortstop had 3 strikeouts and saw his average plunge below .500 for the first time this season. The buzz on the new guys--Huff and DeRosa--is that they are "professional hitters" and bring a "veteran presence" to the lineup. That sort of talk makes me think of those idiotic GMC ads that say "We are professional grade." Jaysus, I hope so, why would you buy a truck that wasn't? And we've had a succession of "veteran professionals" (Rowand, Molina, Uribe) that have hacked and hacked and hacked away like Mamelukes on crack, so the very presence of grizzled greybeards in the lineup is not a sufficient explanation for a ballclub suddenly able to take pitches, work counts, hit the other way, etc. etc. Not that I need an explanation! I'm happy to say it is all because of Bam-Bam or Veteran Savvy Clutchness or clubhouse chemistry or what-have-you, and sit back and enjoy the ride.

Here are the facts: the Giants are 6-1, tied with the defending NL champs for the best record in baseball. They are 4th in the league in runs scored with 40 and second in OBP at .368! We knew the Giants could pitch, and we aren't surprised by their league-leading 20 runs allowed, .598 OPS against, and 2.85 FIP. But no one expected the offensive output we've seen so far. It's April, and we are allowed some leeway to be irrationally excited about ridiculously small sample sizes.

Matt Cain tonight. Go Giants, keep on rockin'!

--M.C.

3 comments:

Zo said...

Henry Schulman asks a question to lead off his article in the Chronic this morning: "Barry Zito earned his 33rd win as a Giant on Monday night in his 100th start, a ratio that falls far short of the team's desires and expectations, especially against dollars earned.
So, a question to the faithful: If Zito turns it around in 2010 and helps the Giants reach the playoffs, or beyond, will it all have been worthwhile?" Then, Mr. Schulman struggles to answer a non-answerable question. Gee, we bought a 5 bedroom 4 bath mansion, then realized it was too big and gaudy. I wonder if these gold plated faucets in the guest bathroom are worth it? Dumb question because it is, at this point, meaningless. That house is bought and you've got the loan payments whether you like them or not (apparently, this example not applicable to the real world). Here is what is not meaningless: Zito won game number 2 and the Giants are 6-1. Astounding stat from last night - Zito is something like 97-5 when he has 4 runs of support. You can tell Zito is pitching well when he gets the ball and throws it. He gets in trouble when he walks around and appears to think about what he is doing. I guess a cushion gives him some confidence. Funny that a guy who exudes cool seems so affected by things he cannot control like his team's offense. Not zen-like at all. I think that Bam-Bam has had some influence, but I think the real influence has been the ability to split up some of the hackers in the line-up. If Pablo takes a swing and makes an out or gets a hit in a pitch or two, then Bengie hits into a dp (not last night, though) one pitch later, then Rowand, and the defense is back on the field in about 5 minutes. Having Huff and DeRosa in the middle of the line-up is a big plus. Last night was Huff's first extra base hit of the season. You can read that two ways - either he is not much of a number 4 hitter, or the Giants have been able to do pretty well without a slugger in this spot. Rbis - they good.

Bob said...

"Mamelukes on crack?"

Anonymous said...

I think that people forget that baseball players are people too. They react to things like losing, making mistakes, failure to do what they're paid to do, etc. A happy ballplayer will play ball better. They've been playing like they wanna win the "whole damn thing."