Sunday, August 06, 2006

Und Der Wunderkind Shall Lead Them

Hopefully this is just one of the many dozens of times in his long career with the Giants that Matt Cain will end a bad Giants losing streak (11 losses in 12 games before) with a great pitching performance. 7 IP, 6 hits, 1 BB, 12 strikeouts, 2 R/ER, 1 HR. And his 8th win, putting him back at .500 for the season, but 7-3 since his start was skipped to get him straightened out. Out of 110 pitches, he threw 76 strikes, almost 70%.

The team was prime for another step back after losing Lowry's game in such a bad fashion. Teams sometimes go in the dumpster after a lackluster performance like that. Fortunately the Giants fought back and avoided the sweep, scoring 6 runs in support of Cain (though Cain did help his cause with an RBI single in the 3 run 6th inning).

What he had to say after the game sent chills down my spine. I've heard similar things before and been disappointed (Jerome Williams being the latest one), but Cain seems different, seems special, and as a fan, you hope against hope that it will be true this time. Here is some of the text from him in this game account on sfgiants.com:
"It's one of those things where you keep challenging guys and make people put the ball in play," said Cain of his outing, which featured the kid at his coolest. No worries, no amps racing through his psyche in the early innings, as before when he was struggling.

He trusts his stuff now.

"Definitely from the first inning on, I feel relaxed and calm and understand what I need to do," said Cain, explaining it's not just mindset, but perhaps the grind of the year that's helping. "I almost feel as the season wears on your body and you get a little tired ... maybe not tired, but comfortable and in a relaxed state, instead of hyper."

That's another of the starters starting to pick great, with Cain feeling it. Since the All-Star Game, he has 5 starts, 35.1 IP, 23 hits, 13 R/ER, 4 HR, 13 BB, 36 K, 3.31 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, around .180-.190 BAA, 3.3 BB/9, 2.8 K/BB, 9.2 K/9. Lowry, as I've been trying to document, appears to be out of his funk and back to being the Lowry we Giants fans love to watch, after seeing yesterday's game, dare we say that the Lowry of August 2005 is back? And Schmidt had his first truly great game since his 16 strikeout complete game on August 2nd, after being relatively ordinary in July, so hopefully he's back on track.

That leaves Morris and Wright, both of whom have been pretty bad for a while now. Morris has not pitched that well since the first week in July, Wright since the first week of June. But Morris' peripherals look OK except for his gopheritis since the ASG, at nearly 2 per 9IP! His K/9 is also low but he compensates with an even lower BB/9, keeping his K/BB at 2.0. The scary thing is that the same thing happened last year: could Morris be strictly a first half player now? That's something to monitor for the next few starts, but right now it doesn't look good. Wright, well, he is pitching like the 5th starter, so that is fine, and it is good the Giants will occassionally skip his turn to keep the starters on track for a start every 5 days.

But for another win streak to start, we need the offense to heat up as well, and Durham has cooled down considerably. So we need someone else to turn things on and get the offense going again. The good news is that Feliz homered the other day and then drove in 2 runs today and Hillenbrand has been hitting a little better this series as well. Vizquel has been hitting well too. If Winn could just get going like last season, we could put together a good win streak against our NL West opponents and get back into the mix for first place. But he has been mysteriously cold or off and on.

However, my Dawber's feeling better now, thanks to Cain!

Chulk Appears to be the Real Deal

Another noteworthy performance from today's game was Vinnie Chulk's two inning stint, 1 K, else nothing for the opposition. That's 6 scoreless outings out of 7 appearances so far, 8.2 IP, 4 hits, 2 BB, 12 K, 4 inherited runners stranded out of 5. He was noted in the above link plus had some good coverage in this article as well. Other than being older than Accardo, he sounds like he has Accardo's tools: "94 MPH fastball and slow cutter that barely reaches a fool-ya 80 MPH." He also notes that he has a slider that he uses. I like this part of the first article:


When Alou is confident in a reliever, he'll test him out in late innings, and Chulk's clean eighth and ninth innings on Sunday were an eye-opener.

"In this business, it's not about blowing people away -- it's about pitching," said the skipper.

Chulk is a 94-mph hurler, but it's his location that's primo at the moment.

"I'm eager to get the ball whenever he wants to give it to me -- whether it's the sixth, eighth, it doesn't matter," said the right-handed Chulk, who was a long reliever initially for Toronto before being demoted to the Minor Leagues, where he pitched in the latter innings.

"I'm throwing now with more of a downhill plane, so it's harder to hit it on the barrel," said Chulk, who said advice from pitching coach Dave Righetti and bullpen coach Mark Gardner has increased his accuracy.

"They [tell me] to keep my hand closer to my head when I throw because the ball seems to have a lot more action," said Chulk. "I feel it, and it'll be a perfect pitch. I need to do it every time."
I don't know why Chulk was in Gibbon's doghouse but he was a good reliever the past two years and looks to be good for us going forward and is only 27 years old and we control him for another 3 years. Score one for the coaches, particularly Righetti.

This is a great deal for the Giants, it looks like we got a reliever who will replace Accardo's production because he appears to be the real deal. PLUS we got a good hitting 1B in Hillenbrand, who is a huge upgrade over Niekro and his injury proneness. Niekro appears to have more power but that's useless if he's sitting on the DL.

4 comments:

  1. Nice analysis. As I've noted regularly in the past, I'm concerned with Sabean's choices. Nonetheless, this deal (Chulk and Hillenbrand) for me was a decent one. Keep up the good work Martin.

    Kent

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with both your dauber up and down posts, Martin. It is hard not to be discouraged, given that we are more than 2/3 through the season. To date, the team has all the earmarks of a losing team: lose two games by a run, then win the third in a blowout; never put it together (good SP, no hitting; hitting/runs, so RP, and etc).
    Clearly if most of the team performed to their usual numbers, we would easily win the division. But Bonds, Alou, Schmidt, Morris, the bull pen have all performed less than expected. Can they turn it around? Yes. Will they? Hard to say. Some of the explanation has to lie in the inexplicable 11 for 12.
    Even tho this road trip is very important, even if it goes poorly (and it looks like it will) you never say never. But all of the above have to solve their season long problems and start to hit/pitch.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Although I have no hope for this season, I agree that the Accardo trade was a good one for us. To me, it's basically Accardo for Chulk - pretty even there. Hillenbrand is just a bonus, and seen that way, is a plus. (He's not a monster hitter, but useful. Ideally, we'd have 2 impact hitters in our lineup and 4-5 useful Shea-type hitters surrounding them.)

    This off-season will be, in the immortal words of Artie Johnson, verrrry interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, the fickle finger of fate will wag at the Giants next season, saying Sock It To Me or Here Comes the Judge, as the folks in lovely Burbank, CA ponder the vastness of Tiptoe Through the Tulips once again.

    I don't see Arte much in TV anymore. I regularly see Henry Gibson and see Jo Anne Worley once in a while. Of course, Goldie Hawn still does the occassional movie, but not as much as her S.O. Kurt Russell (I wonder what Disney would have thought of that relationship).

    (With apologies to those of you not blessed to have been innoculated with the wonder that was Laugh-In; I'm surprised it's never been resurrected, just because TV execs are so lazy and uncreative, I guess it was too tied into the times)

    ReplyDelete

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