Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It Had to be Hunter Pence

Remember when it was only photoshopped?
Today, I'm a changed fan. Hunter Pence is now part of the San Francisco Giants, and I don't have a problem with that. I haven't mentioned him on this blog yet, and I'd only said a few things about him on twitter during the season. But if you would have asked me about him while the Giants were playing the Phillies, I'd grumble about how damn annoying he was, but otherwise with the unconventional swings, the awkward gait, and his enthusiasm for swinging at pitches outside of the zone, he was often pretty entertaining to watch against other teams. 

Wait. Unconventional swing? Awkward gait? Enthusiasm for swinging at pitches outside of the zone? I should have known--he was destined for the Giants. Except that he was part of the hated Phillies, and he had been batting .329/.366/.566 with 3 doubles and 5 home runs at AT&T Park. Of course, logic dictates that he accumulated part of those numbers as an Astro, but it felt like all of those extra base hits happened during high leverage situations while he was a Philly. I could look it up, but, well, now the point is moot.

In what will surely become the Hunter Pence controversy, the Phillies received Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz, and Seth Rosin. If the Giants win the World Series in 2012 or 2013 (while Pence is under contract), this controversy will not emerge. Odds are it won't if they get to the playoffs.

However, this is baseball, so things don't always go smoothly, and there will be fans who always remember Tommy Joseph, who will probably turn up in the majors in the next few years. He might even rake at first base, and if you were against trading for Carlos Beltran (due to the price of Zack Wheeler), and then you fixated on Joseph because you felt that Brett Pill never got his chance thanks to that other awkward guy (hell, maybe you were on Twitter demanding that the move Nate the Great to first!), this trade will be the perfect storm of bitterness. You're going to flame Hank Schulman for a few weeks, and troll over at McCovey Chronicles, and then you'll probably slump off and start rooting for the Oakland Athletics because they're a prospect bonanza. They collect and horde. Have fun.

And you probably won't read this blog ever again, since I think it was bound to happen. Maybe not Pence for Joseph (and those other guys), but with Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez on the roster, and Joseph and Andrew Susac, one of the prospects was going to get traded. I will take Pence any day over the likes of Shane Victorino (who goes from the once hated Phillies to the F%&#ing Dodgers), or Scott Hairston. Pence is a better player, he'll be around longer, and...the potential for GIFs is probably endless.

While I'm at it, one more thing. If things turn around and the Giants get hot, we're all going to have a good laugh at Panda/Pence batting back-to-back. Opposing pitchers are going to have to throw three feet off the plate if they want to get a pitch past those two. But these two would then be bright lights on a team of guys who can't stop hacking. It's nice to see Marco Scutaro join Posey and Melky Cabrera (and Brandon Belt when he's not slumping) on the small group of Giants with plate discipline.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Preview: Hanley Ramirez

Whoever scheduled a Giants-Dodgers series right before the trade deadline has a real sense of humor. Sure, it was probably a computer, but whenever some mere mortal combed over the printout, he chuckled to himself when he saw that the Dodgers would be in San Francisco, the Phillies in Atlanta, the Red Sox in New York, and the Houston Astros. Definitely laughed at the Astros.

The key to the next three days is to maintain composure, no matter what happens. Recall that the last time the Dodgers came to town, the Giants were three games back and it seemed impossible that they could catch up to first place. Many of us would have been happy taking the series. Instead, the result: 27 scoreless innings. That's probably not going to happen again, but I'd take it if it did. Conversely, the Dodgers probably aren't going to sweep San Francisco, not with Matt Cain and Ryan "Won't Wear Dodger Blue" Vogelsong taking the mound.

In any case, keep your composure, as losing perspective and demanding an invincible right handed power hitter no matter the cost we've got to keep first place and flaming Hank Schulman on Twitter can only lead you to a dark place. 

Especially if you're Brian Sabean, because if you follow that black tunnel you're going to wake up on July 31st and Scott Hairston's going to be standing in right field and Gary Brown is going to be teammates with Zack Wheeler. You don't want that. I don't want that. Gary Brown doesn't want that.

See the calming hand of Hanley Ramirez up there? He's saying to you: "No matter what happens, this series is not about me, and its not about the trade deadline."* Make it so at your own peril.

* In fact, it's probably going to be about Barry Zito, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. Warning: do not combine with fastballs middle in.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Giants Snap Losing Streak, and A Brief Argument Against Home Plate Collisions

(Updated below)

There's nothing like winning the first game back from the all-star break, especially after that awful 1-5 road trip through Washington and Pittsburgh. Sure, the All Star Game was a hoot and all, with the Giants lighting up the scoreboard, but there are plenty of skeptics who will consider the game meaningless. And if your team isn't contenting--then, sure, it is meaningless (zing!).

But I'm sure that the Washington Nationals will appreciate home field advantage when they defeat the Texas Rangers in six this year. Wait a moment! Who typed that? There are so many things wrong with that sentence. Do we really have to watch another World Series with the Rangers? And, of course, the Giants are on their way to the playoffs, so don't even consider it...

Now, where was I? Ah yes, so the Giants snap their two game losing streak, and they did it with style. Madison Bumgarner continued to be Madison Bumgarner, at one point retiring thirteen straight Astros. I know, the Astros are even worse than before--that is, sans Carlos Lee. But if you recall last year--of course you do: after he embarrassed the Giants on August 25th, you were outraged that the Giants gave up Henry Sosa for Jeff Keppinger, see how alternative-universe-y things got?--you can't just expect to automatically defeat wretched teams. You're definitely afraid of what's going to happen tonight when Tim Lincecum takes the mound, but if we could cherry-pick numbers for a moment, Lincecum has 3.99 ERA at home with opposing hitters hitting .227/.322/.330, while opposing pitcher Lucas Harrell's away numbers are 2-5, 6.59 ERA,  with opponents batting .293/.348/.467.

And Buster Posey's home run in the bottom of the first. I missed most of the Barry Bonds era, which overlapped with some of my non-baseball watching peregrinations, so that was the first time I've ever seen a ball land 448 feet out in dead center.

The only blemish was Pablo Sandoval's collision at home plate. It was the first test for Giants fans, who haven't seen, from what I can recall, a Giants runner collide with a catcher since Posey returned. I couldn't think of anything but Posey's collision. I've gone on record that it's time to change, but read Grant Brisbee's more extensive arguments.

I don't really care whether Chris Snyder is cool with it or not, there's no place for collisions in baseball. Ryan Theriot can't tackle José Altuve to avoid a double play, and Alex Rodriguez can't slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove on his way down the first base line. The rules can change, catchers can be protected, and run-covetous teams (including ours) will still figure out ways to score runs. You'll see. I can already tell that you're making excuses, but think of whether you'd want to use them in other situations. To wit, your arguments boil down to:
  1. Anything that the Giants do is good, even if we're pissed when anything happens to Posey (this is the universality-be-damned approach).
  2. The status quo is good (i.e., baseball should never change, which is false).
  3. Victim blaming (catcher in the way, he was asking for it, etc.--If you're a decent person, I shouldn't have to explain to you why this argument is fucked up).
See, you don't exactly like where that's going, and you wouldn't use these arguments in the rest of your life. So scoff if you like, and pretend that what happens on the diamond stays on the diamond, but you know that I'm right.

Update (8:30pm):
Alex Pavlovic on Bruce Bochy's response to the home plate collision:
Bochy talked to Posey about the way Chris Snyder blocked the plate last night. It was kind of a refresher course for everything Posey was taught in the spring. [...]
Bochy said he has never had the “no collisions at home” conversation with his position players, even after he was so vocal last year about Posey’s season-ending injury. But he added that he would pull a guy aside if he thought a runner went at the plate the wrong way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Giving Vent to a Groan

This first game against the Nationals is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had written up something about Ryan Vogelsong's last start.  The part about those two pitches up and in while he was trying to bunt, and his enraged, bat-spiking response. Not many people talked about it, but it sure snapped home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna out of whatever pain he may have felt after being scorched by a foul ball. Or the part about all-star Jay Bruce's leap at the fence...uh...missed jumper, whatever it was that won the game for the Giants. Seriously, he must have been napping in right, and when Pagan hit that fly ball and he turned around and saw people at ground level, outside the fence, he must of thought he was in the parking lot of the Great American Ball Park.

I had even planned to link to this, as a palliative in case the Giants had lost. You can have it now.

So, tonight's game. It was lost, and I watched it all anyway. I'm not sure why. During the rain delay I did some reading--but then I kept watching. Maybe searching for positive signs, such as indications of Gregor Blanco (3-for-5, 2 RBI) breaking out of his slump, or Brandon Crawford (3-for-4, 1 R) getting it together at the plate. 

Oh, and Bryce Harper, with whom (along with Mike Trout) we'd all probably like to eventually compare Gary Brown. All three played, incidentally, for the Scottsdale Scorpions in last year's Arizona Fall League. Brown got off to a slow start this year in Richmond (AA Eastern League), but in his last ten games has put up a .390/.468/.610 slash line to bring his season numbers up to .268/.342/.352.

Ah yes, of course, tonight's game. It all really started to fall apart when Lincecum lobbed that hanging curveball to Jordan Zimmerman, who sent it down the right field line for a double. Danny Espinosa scores.

That curveball. The curve that mantles the vista far and wide while Zimmerman waits until the glowing orb of the moon shine forth--

--O! Mr Dedalus cried, giving vent to a hopeless groan. Shite and onions! That'll do, Ned. Life is too short. 

Fine. Back to reading.