Yeah, I get it. It was a horrendous loss. It was very similar to the 2002 World Series, we were sooo close to winning and had it pulled from our grasp in very quick and ugly fashion.
To paraphrase Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own: "There should be no crying in baseball." A Major League Baseball season is a war of attrition. Any particular game is but a battle among the whole of the war. This loss hurt, but it's a long season.
Too many people are still living in the past, whether the past few years when they were losing, or back in the 70's and 80's. It is a new era, I've been saying this since Ann Killion asked a number of years ago, after the Giants parted with Bonds, what the Giants plans for the future is, what their identity will be, because she didn't see it, and what I wrote then I'm still writing now: pitching is the Giants identity and plan, it has been for a long time for those who took the time and interest to study it in detail. Don't live in the past nor miss what is under our noses now, our pitching is developing and maturing, and it should only get better, particularly once Bumgarner joins our conga-line of ace starters.
Do You See What I See?
The Giants are 12-9. That's pretty good, last I heard. And Sabean is the guy who put that together, the guy who is the butt of jokes among the Giants fan base.
Their pitching is great and look to continue humming along, though I doubt they will continue to be THAT good over a full season. They just took on the two best NL teams and won the series from both of them. They were 4-2 against them, beating good pitchers like Jaime Garcia (some are touting for rookie of year already), Adam Wainwright, and Roy Halladay. They also beat Jamie Moyer and almost beat Cole Hamels.
So yeah, the loss to the Phillies stung and it stunk, but we got away with a win against Jaime Garcia that was handed to us when we probably could have lost that game. And how often will Whiteside help us beat Roy Halladay with his offense? A season will be filled with games like these, some going against us, some going for us.
So stop venting for a moment and think: if you were told before the homestand that we would take 2 of 3 against the Cards and Phillies for a 4-2 homestand before facing D-Rox, would you have been happy or sad? If you were told that our offense manhandled the Phillies pitching staff, both starters and relievers, and including especially Roy Hallday, would you have been giddy or morose? If you were told that our pitching staff manhandled the two teams expected to battle for the NL League Championship, making them look like something the cat dragged in, would you have been jumping for joy or off the cliff?
We would have been very, very happy.
If the Giants are to do anything in the playoffs, assuming we get in (and I think we will, the offense looks like it can deliver it), we will have to take care of the Cards or the Phillies at some point in the playoffs, and likely both. They are going to remember that our pitching sliced them up like they were a bottom dwelling team, one after the other. We silenced their bats and took care of their pitchers enough to win 4 out of 6 and to win both series. And we did that to their best pitchers for the most part (only missing Carpenter).
They will also remember Schierholtz manhandling them defensively, taking away extra-base hits, throwing them out on the basepaths (the Cards must have seen the highlight plays on SportsCenter). You can't tell me that their 3B coach won't hold up runners on hits to RF if we play them again in the playoffs. But where will that show up in the sabermetric fielding measures, particularly once Schierholtz won't catch the other team off guard anymore?
Offense Beating Good Pitching So Far
I have been pleasantly surprised that the offense has been scoring so well off so many good pitchers. When I tried to look ahead to the month of April, it looked like we would have a tough month, but here we are 12-9, already assured of a winning month and with a win tomorrow, a great month, and while the pitching has been great, the offense has been good enough enough times. And at 4.57 average runs scored per game, that is approximately what was projected for the Giants using the average of all the projections for the Giants (CHONE, Bill James, Shandler, Marcel, etc.) plugged into the lineup calculator, so it is not like the offense isn't doing what it isn't capable of doing, they have been doing almost exactly what they were projected to do.
Both had been producing big time (high OPS) until a recent 3 game no-hit streak, and while not hot since, they at least are getting hits since. Both are among the team leaders in RBI's (hard to do when the #1 and #2 hitters weren't getting on base when Velez and Renteria were in their oh-fer-multiple-games stint, during our losing streak), plus Huff has scored 14 runs to lead the team by a wide margin. Not producing?
OK, Huff's only hitting .111/.138/.222/360 with 1 HR in 27 AB in his last 8 games, but nobody is hot all the time, give him some time, his OPS was .862 when he hit this bad stretch.
Hate to think what he would write about this other free agent who signed in the off-season: he also has 14 runs scored and 8 RBI's, bat in the middle of the lineup for his team, but in his last 8 games, he's hitting a paltry .167/.219/.167/.385 with no homers during that stretch. That drops his batting line to a below average line and relatively poor batting line for his career. So it would make sense then that the writer would throw this guy under the bus too?
The only difference is that he signed for a huge 7 year, $120M contract and Matt Holliday don't have one of the top prospects in baseball who maybe could play his position for a while sitting in the minors. I'm sure Holliday would have been happy that a team reporter was looking to replace him already with a hot prospect on the basis of an 8 game cold streak.
2010 and Beyond
The more I see how the rotation is working out, the more convinced I am that having a strong rotation, top to bottom, is the sure way to playoff success. And given the way the Giants have been playing thus far, I don't see how they don't make the playoffs this season.
While the 'Dres are ahead of us right now, they are winning because of their pitching, not their offense, which has a low .243/.321/.388/.709 OPS. Do you really believe a rotation of Correia, Garland, Richards, Latos, and LeBlank plus bullpen will sustain a 3.29 ERA (3.45 ERA for starters) over a full season? I don't.
Injuries have decimated the rotations for the D-gers (Padilla), D-backs (Webb, Benson) and D-Rox (de la Cruz, Francis), and both the D-gers and D-Rox are in such bad straits that they could not even announce who would be pitching for them 2-3 games ahead because their rotations are in such flux over the injuries and/or lack of performance. You can't tell me that they have adequate - or more importantly, equal - replacements sitting in the minors ready to contribute long-term this season. And the 'Dres lost Chris Young (again), earlier this season, so they are not immune either. And D-Rox sent down Hammel plus their starting pitching staff, other than Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge de la Cruz, has been very hittable.
Meanwhile, the Giants pitching, while it won't be as good as it is now, should still be pretty good 1-4, for the season. Cain, if you can believe, has been our worse pitcher, and he's only doing what he has done for his whole career, pitch good baseball. And the offense has been about as good as expected, with both Huff and DeRosa not contributing as much as they possibly could over a full season yet, though Uribe really contributing greatly at the bottom of the order, as has Schierholtz. And Velez and Torres contributed ugly Oh-fers much of this season as well, along with Bowker's invisible RF act.
The performance so far has convinced me that the offense can do it for us this season and get us into the playoffs in 2010. And Posey's addition to the lineup for 2011 and beyond should just make the lineup that much better, with two consistent bats (as well as base runners) in the middle of the lineup, who are also athletic enough to be good base runners as well (Pablo just keeps on doing it scoring at home in highlight fashion). That plus a rotation of Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner for at least 2011 to 2013 should make the team annual participants in the playoffs going forward and should get us into the World Series at some point within 2010-2013, if not multiple times.
Dominant Rotation Mojo
I think this season so far shows the power of the Dominant Rotation (tm). When you have good pitching top to bottom, it is hard to go into a long losing streak (though it will happen occasionally), but generally, with an OK offense, it will win more than it will lose over time. And that should result in a good winning record at the end of the season and get you into the playoffs.
Part of that is that even if we end up with Lincecum not starting out any particular series, we then could match up Zito, Cain, or Sanchez against the other team's ace and still feel we have some chance of winning that game. That's because our rotation is capable of producing a DOM start over 50% of the time (Cain over his career, Sanchez when he's on, and Zito recently and in the deep past; Lincecum is close to 80%, roughly).
Plus, even more importantly, we clean up when our guys face the other team's #3 starters (and #4 in some cases), because our guys are that much better, generally.
However, before I oversell it, that is just generally, over time and a lot of iterations. In short series, anything and everything can and will happen. I think I will include this analysis during the season to see how it works out over time. But when your rotation is that much more Dominant than the other rotation, your rotation should win out over time. It should have an edge in any short series, particularly if we can manipulate Lincecum to pitch the first and fourth starts (and seventh as needed). Not only that, but we should be able to win the series early, which will give our starters extra rest, and perhaps allow us to start a series with Lincecum more often.