Friday, April 28, 2006

Walking the Line: These Boots Are Made for Walking

I was noticing a state of the Giants article on sfgiants.com by Rich Draper and the intro blurb on my RSS reader was that the Giants offense is fine, but the rotation and bullpen will need to do better in May. Meanwhile, people on McCovey Chronicles - the best board for Giants fans - are regularly gloom and dooming over the Giants during these first days of the season. And all I can say is: enjoy the baseball where you can and be more patient.

Get A Grip

First, it is really too early to be so worried about the team but particularly so because they are in first place! Sure, only 11-10, but first place! OK, first until Colorado won on Thursday, but still, only half out. It is not like Pittsburgh, which is already 11 games out or K.C., which is 8.5 games out - we are only half a game out with 141 games to play. Breathe.

The naysayers say it's the "NL Worst", anybody can lead that, and, frankly, the silver liners don't really have much to say, the team has not been that good or consistent. But all that don't really matter right now because the MLB season is a marathon and all that matters right now is ending the season with the golden ticket clutched in your hand, the ticket to the playoffs you get for winning your division or getting the wild card spot. It don't matter if your division is bad, all that matter right now is that we get that playoff spot and we are in a great position right now.

All That Matters is the Final Stretch

Second, yes, the team as currently performing would not go far in the playoffs. Luckily, see above, there is 141 games left to play. You don't need to play well now, you only need to play well enough. The time to play well is late in the season, to get a good streak going. For now, let the players get a chance to work themselves into a good rhythm first, they should get two months to do that, then revaluate the team.

Often, it is the hot team at the end who gets into the playoffs. The Giants in 2002 rode their late hot streak to snatch the wild card and push their way to the 7th game of the World Series. Look at the Marlins in their World Champion season. They were crap until May then something clicked in and they played, like, .700 ball from that point on and went on to win the World Series. Same with the Giants in 2004, they were totally out of it but something kicked in late May (mainly Schmidt's health) and they played their way back into contention, though not the playoffs. Last year, the A's were crap, their new rookie starters were not doing well, but then something kicked in late May and suddenly all their pitchers were pitching great and their hitters, particularly Chavez, starting hitting too. As long as the Giants are not that far out, fans need to be patient and let the players play to the best of their abilities.

Smell the Roses

Meanwhile, enjoy the baseball moments that shine, like Cain's no-hitter for 5 innings, Brian Wilson coming in like a fresh new song, Bonds homering to tie the game pinch-hitting, Moises with his key bombs after a Bonds walk, Vizquel enjoying his renewed youth until his brain realizes that he has an old body now, Wright pitching as if he were our ace and not our 5th starter.

There will be time enough later in the season to bemoan Feliz's daily hacking at pitches you swear your grandmother could hit, to ask Benitez to try that Subway sandwich diet that helped their spokesperson lose all that weight and gain a well-paying job, to ask why Durham is so brittle after being nearly an ironman in his career before joining the Giants (I blame the A's, they ruined Durham for us :^), to cry once more about the Pierzitski trade, to wonder what we can buy on the free agent market next off-season when all that salary comes off the books (Bonds, Schmidt, Alou, Durham, Finley, Kline, Feliz - that's around $55-60M).

My State of the Giants Thoughts

First, obviously, the bullpen needs to get better. Clearly, the bullpen just totally blows except for Kline and Wilson so far and Wilson is on the DL. Their collective ERA is 7.04 (16th, last, in the NL) and almost everyone has been struggling, one way or another, even Worrell, who did so well initially, has suddenly started channelling Tyler Walker's pitching abilities and giving up runs left and right. It is almost like that Star Trek episode where the Jack the Ripper spirit jumps from one body to the next, making Piglet a blood-thirsty murderer, so it seems like whatever was spooking Tyler Walker jumped from him to Worrell once Tyler got DFAed.

Second, Draper got it wrong, the starting pitching has actually been the strong point for the Giants, particularly impressive because the rainouts affect the starters more than the position players, more than the bullpen. As I showed in my PQS post, they have been doing OK - not great, but good. Sure there have been a couple of bad games, but you are always going to get those type of games in any season, particularly when you pitch in Colorado so often. Then you had the Morris ejection mucking things up . The starters have a 4.62 ERA, good for 8th in the NL, right about average. Same for pitching OPS (7th, .754) and WHIP (7th, 1.34). And remember, that ERA is inflated by the fact that the bullpen has been more kerosene than fireman in putting out fires.

Lastly, Draper got it reversed, it is the offense that needs to get things going, not the starting pitching. The team's offense is scoring 4.76 runs per game - while that is normally good, right now it is only good for 12th in the NL. Clearly, the pitching across the league is not season ready yet, pitchers have been giving up a lot of runs.

And the Giants, as we fans have seen, have not been adept so far at delivering the big hit at the key moment, except for maybe Bonds and Alou, which is appropriate since they are our two best hitters. Even our nemesis Finley, who delivered big against us, hasn't been able to give us some big hits in some key situations the past few games. But baseball is a team sport, we cannot spend the season waiting for the two to deliver the big hits, we need the rest of the team to chip in offensively and right now Durham, Niekro, Feliz, and Matheny have been mired in a big slump so far and Winn has been switching back and forth between being cold as ice and hot blooded, you'd almost think he was a Foreigner.

I think the Giants have done all that they can do, we just have to let them play and hope that they get out of their slumps (or get into shape, which is what I suspect for the many players who participated in the WBC by sitting on the bench only to sit around waiting for the rain to stop long enough to play a spring training game). The time for consternation and teeth-gnashing is when June strolls around or we fall back more than 5 games out, which ever comes first. Until either happens, certainly be unhappy when things don't go well but try not to get so upset over everything and be so gloomy, like an Eeyore, and certainly try to enjoy the pure moments of baseball joy that will come along, and they will, like May flowers bloom after April showers (which we've certainly had a lot of this year).

Let the Sun Shine! Go Giants!

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