Last night's game was the kind to give me hope. Most pundits and typing heads have forecast a serious decline for the Giants in the coming years. The Giants in the Barry era were never great enough to liken them to the Roman Empire, so it isn't appropriate to reference the fall of the Roman Empire with these predictions. It'd be more like the declining membership of the Elk's Club. Whatever your analogy of choice is, the message is clear; the end is nigh, don't forget the hydrogen peroxide when you go down in the shelter, and we'll see you a few years after the earth has been scorched.
Bah. Flimshaw. Poppycock. Maybe. But the young pitching is encouraging. Beyond encouraging, even. Exciting. Noah Lowry pitched beautifully last night, as Lefty recounts. Lowry's strikeout rate has been trending in the right direction, and he had both his curveball and change last night to keep hitters off balance. Four baserunners? There are at least three relievers on the team who seem to average that per appearance.
Lowry is rounding into August Lowry shape, which gives hope that he'll be August Lowry for the remainder of this year, and for all of the next few years. It's becoming a Waiting for August Lowry kind of a thing, but he's still only 26. If his ceiling is as a number two starter-type, Giants fans would take great comfort if he were to reach that. My irrational optimism, though, tells me to hold off on setting any artificial ceilings just yet. That goes for the all of the youngsters at this point.
Matt Cain is still so disgustingly young that any marked improvement at all is news. The news has been favorable. He's still hard to hit, and still hard to make contact with. The strikeouts have been coming at a furious clip. Jonathan Sanchez is starting again with modest success, and Tim Lincecum is proving to be a pretty special arm. The kinks to be worked out -- and they're kinks at least as big as one of the Davies brothers, if not both -- are almost all control related. It's pretty obvious that the Giants will never be blessed with the great stuff/great control prospect like Mark Prior. That's partly because they don't come around very often, and partly because they're the Giants. Russ Ortiz, Joe Nathan, Shawn Estes, Jesse Foppert....if the strike zones were only 15' x 15' they all would have been Hall-of-Famers right out of the chute. However, it's better to have the exciting arms with control issues than to not have any exciting arms at all. That isn't exactly a stunning revelation.
This isn't to write what the young pitching will do, but what it could be reasonable to hope they can do. Everyone who has followed baseball for longer than a few years knows the perils of young pitching. You might even know an unpleasant acronym or two. There isn't any point in naming names; to wheel out ghoulish examples of young injured pitchers past, as if this were some sort of flashlight campfire story. But it's an unpleasant truism that young pitchers aren't the best thing to stuff your 401k with.
Bah. There's probably still someone stuck in a time warp, wringing their hands about Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz or Hudson/Mulder/Zito, waiting for one of the young arms to burst into flames and prove the cynics right. Comparing the young arms of the Giants to those troikas is madness at this stage, but it isn't crazy to start hoping for something beautiful beyond the smoggy horizon of a failed pennant chase. I'll deal with the bad news when it comes, not a second before.
Every time one of the young pitchers has a game like Lowry's, the hope starts to get everywhere. Like sand from a beach. Which is impossible to completely get rid of. I mean, that sand gets everywhere. You wouldn't believe the places I've been finding it; clothes I didn't even pack, toothbrushes, orifices I was previously unaware of.... But that's a story for another time.
Hope. It isn't just for wayward Shawshank Redemption quotes anymore.