Saturday, July 2, 2011

They say luck is the residue of design

Madison Bumgarner matched his mates with another great start. He flashed his strikeout weapon again--getting nine Tigers in 7-1/3--and gave up only five hits and one run. Tim Lincecum gave the team 7 IP with 9 K (and only one run) on Wednesday and Matt Cain gave the team 7 IP with 6 K and no runs on Thursday. For those of you who like to keep track of such things, those are Game Scores of 70, 74, and 72. I also like the walk totals: two, one, and one. Only four walks to go along with the 14 hits and 24 strikeouts in 21-1/3 innings. That's some serious 1-2-3 from the young bucks. Yeah, we know all about bullpen (and Brian Wilson) meltdowns and the scary lack of offense (they got the hits last night, though), but I prefer to focus on the starting pitching. I still have a hard time accepting a pitching-dominated team. It's not that I don't love it. It's not that I fail to be in awe of it. It's just, well, I'm a Giants fan. Bonds, Clark, Williams, Clark, McCovey, Bonds, Cepeda, Mays. "Bye-bye-baby" was my lullaby, fer chrissakes. The Giants never had enough pitching, Game Six was the apotheosis of not-enough-pitching. It's so interesting to watch a pitching club. It's so fresh and new and I feel like I learn so much more about baseball every day because of the team's collection of studly young arms and the new emphasis on pitching and fielding. A fellow in the pub said to me the other day while we were watching a bit of ball and saw a good play that he thought defense in baseball was much more exciting and impressive than offense. I thought it was a lovely observation and hard to argue with. Sure, the most dramatic moments are those winning hits, the ones where you leap from your chair and holler. But plays in the field, with their timing and execution, where speed, agility, and baseball smarts come to the fore, produce the most visually arresting moments. Hitting may be the hardest thing to do in sports, but it's the nine fielders who show off the game's athleticism. Last night, despite the great work from MadBum and the clutch hitting from Pablo Sandoval, it was rookie Brandon Crawford who saved the game with his glove.

I often complain that the Giants are lucky. I know that sounds funny, but what I mean is that the team's wins are too luck-dependent. The Giants play a lot of close games and do well in them, but over the long haul those things even out for most teams. Even some great teams are only "meh" in one-run games. Last night the normally-stalwart 'pen almost blew a three-run lead. Four runs is a lot for this club--they average a mere 3.51 rpg. The Giants got lucky in that the ball Brennan Boesch hit that ended the game could have hit the bat a few millimeters from where it did and perhaps traveled a few centimeters from where it did and suddenly it's not in the glove but trickling into the outfield. Such things decide games. I don't know if the Giants are just good at making that happen or what, but I fear the team's three-legged stool of pitching, fielding, and hitting is just too wobbly for comfort. But I'm a Giants fan, as I explained. Colossal failure right at the brink of success is more my style, it's what I'm used to. This defending champions thing is cool, but it's like having new jeans that haven't been broken in and are stiff and uncomfortable. I strut my World Series swag all the damn time, it's not that I'm not enjoying myself. It's just hard to feel secure when the team plays every game on a tightrope. Here's an old baseball man's take on the end of the game (Jim Leyland, from the Chris Haft story, emphasis mine):
"For us, it was hit in exactly the wrong spot, and for them it was hit in exactly the right spot," Leyland said. "That's a tough one. You don't have to be very far off [the base]. I mean, you're trying to score. There's nothing you can do about it. Just a freaky play."
The Giants were 17-11 in June (their best month) and are tied for the fourth-most wins in all of baseball. It was the only month in which they met my RS > RA requirement (albeit a miniscule +7). We are past the halfway point and nearly to my mom's dividing line of the season--the Fourth. Mom always told me that if a team was "in first place on the Fourth of July" then they should finish the season in first place. OK, I'll go along with that.


1 comment:

Brother Bob said...

You're right about the Giants, historically we've always been a team of sluggers, and trade talks always center around "Where can we get another power hitter?" But ultimately what you want is "players", guys who can do the job in the field and execute when at bat or on base.