Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Magician Making Magic Again

Merkin Valdez has had a long and torturous history as a Giants player. A secondary player in the Russ Ortiz trade to the Braves, as Damian Moss was suppose to be the key player but fizzled out, he set Giants fans' hearts a flutter with his fastball and a lot of strikeouts. He was so good that at one point he got the nickname of "The Magician".

But despite various pronouncements, he didn't rise as fast as hyped nor did he even make it up to the upper levels without needing to be converted to relief, as he was suppose to be the future ace starter in Giants fans minds, though at least he was used as a closer in AAA. Sabean had set the hype in motion a few years ago when, in a pre-season interview, he listed Valdez as a prospect who could make a significant contribution to the team that season - obviously, that didn't happen.

Then the whispers of the need for Tommy John surgery emerged. Baseball America reported it in August of 2005, but then had to retract it when there was no confirmation. Then Valdez had a horrible 2006 and the Giants finally had him do TJS, which wiped out his 2007.

Which brings us to today. Out of options, Valdez was basically on the bubble but had a great spring training to remove any doubts whether or not he belongs on the 25 man roster. Of course, as a reliever, it is what have you done for me lately, and Merkin has continued to do well during the regular season thus far, opening up some eyes with his emergency start the other day. In 2 innings pitched against the D-gers, he had 4 strikeouts, striking out the side to start the game.

Bochy noted, as reported in most media accounts, "I see him sooner rather than later, as a guy helping out in the late innings." As reported by Andrew Baggarly in the April 5th Merc, "one major league scout said he considered Valdez one of the four premier arms in the organization, along with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Brian Wilson."

His emergence couldn't have come at a better time. Brad Hennessey was suppose to be the 7th inning bridge to Walker and Wilson, plus helping out with late game duties, but has been horrible in two outings thus far. Never a flamethrower to begin with, relying on off-speed stuff, his velocity is down around 4 MPH this season, as reported by Andrew Baggarly on April 5th.

Giants Thoughts

It has been a long time coming for Merkin, so this has been very encouraging thus far. If he does move into late game situations, that would make our bullpen that much stronger, with Valdez and Wilson shutting down the opposition with flames coming out of their pitches. That's the type of shutdown bullpen you need with the great starters we have in our rotation, and should result in a huge improvement in the Giants won/loss record in close games this year.

Of course, first, they have to start scoring more regularly to win, but people forget that D-ger Stadium is one of the most extreme pitchers park in the majors, topped probably by only San Diego's and Detroit's stadiums, so any team's offensive weakness would only be magnified there. I don't think we will get a good view of the team's offensive capabilities until we get a month's worth of games under the belt. And despite the cries of fans over the starting vets, I expect the young players to get plenty of play all season long.

4 comments:

  1. I had also wanted to write about Bocock too, but didn't want to muddy the waters, but man, as powerless as he has been, he has been an on-base monster so far, getting a lot of walks, but starting to hit. I wonder how much he would have to do to displace Vizquel? (a lot more than this, but he's exceeding the expectations I had for him by a lot, enough to make me wonder)

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  2. I must admit to be being very pessimistic about our beloved boys this year. Your very persuasive and consistently optimistic (while being totally realistic) arguments are really starting to win me over. I COMPLETELY agree that our bullpen is much better and that can make a BIG difference in the win column. I also agree that Bocock is doing great, a real inspiration! It is wonderful to watch him stay within himself and be patient. (Of course, his base running is a little scary so far!)Needless to say there is always the joy of watching Matt, Tim and, as you point out, Merkin.
    So, bottom line is that I really appreciate your efforts here. There are a ton of "negative nellies" of there ( I'm one of them I guess) and I sure needed to hear the other side.
    Wow, I'm even looking forward to watching Zito today....maybe I'm going overboard now.
    (Thanks for the linky!)

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  3. That's what I don't get, being called optimistic. I think the Giants are going to lose more than they win this year. But is optimistic compared to and relative to most other people's gloom and doom, so I guess that's it.

    I do try to look at the positive side of things. Life's too short to waste a lot of time with things I can't control, you may as well enjoy the good stuff that IS there.

    Yeah, the team sucks offensively, but man what a pitching staff it is turning out to have! Both starting and relief.

    And there are positives to take from the offense. What about Bocock? Why not enjoy his nice start? Rowand has been good too, though it's disappointing he's out with injured ribs. Velez has been continuing what he was doing in spring, so that's good too, I didn't expect him to do well coming up, to be honest, that's why I haven't written much on him.

    But to your point, Bocock's running has been very disappointing given the speed and abilities he had shown previously in the minors. Hopefully Roberts is giving him tips daily. ;^)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I just don't agree that the pitching staff is that great. Outside of Cain & Lincecum, what is there that has any real substance? It has been firmly established that Zito is a colossal, expensive bust. Sanchez is grossly overrated (has a nice fastball but he just cannot locate pitches enough to be reliable). Lowry is injured (and not that good). Correia is, at best, a journeyman 5th starter/long relief type. There are some arms in the bullpen that have possibilities (Wilson, Valdez, Threets) but they have a long way to go before you can say that they really belong yet. The rest of the bullpen......UGGHH!

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