It would be arrogant to write that the young pitchers the Diamondbacks have collected are like kryptonite to the Giants. In that analogy, the Giants would be Superman, which is way over the top. Miguel Tejada hitting leadoff would be like Superman having irritable bowel syndrome, which he couldn’t because he’s Superman. The analogy has already failed.
So let’s say that Superman and Lois Lane had a kid. His name is Mark. Mark’s a good enough kid, half-super, and he grows up to be the best CPA in the world. He has a girl, Samantha, who grows up a quarter-super, wins a silver medal in Olympic beach volleyball, and has a boy named Franklin. Now Franklin is eighth-super, and he regularly tests out at the 95th-percentile on his standardized tests, and his teachers think he’s a really nice kid, but he’s not really interested in school. He plays drums for a band called King Solomon Grundy’s Mines, and he likes to play NHL ‘93 on an old Sega Genesis he found at a Salvation Army. If someone were to bring over a kryptonite-studded belt buckle to Franklin’s house, he would get a pretty bad headache.
The young pitchers the Diamondbacks have collected seem like a kryptonite-studded belt buckle to Superman’s great-grandson. Daniel Hudson is kind of like that for everyone -- dude’s just good -- but Joe Saunders, Barry Enright, and Ian Kennedy have that je ne hack quoi that used to befuddle the Giants so. They live on the corners, hoping that hitters will chase, chase, chase those tantalizing pseudo-strikes.
In the past, the Giants would oblige, and to be fair, it’s worked for the Giants. It’s not like the Diamondbacks have dominated the Giants with their pitching -- exactly the opposite, actually. In both 2009 and 2010, the Giants went 13-5 against the Diamondbacks. That’s a combined 26-10 in two seasons (math!), and the Giants have averaged 4.6 runs per game over those games (more math!).
So is it time to dismiss the idea that the Giants don’t do well against soft-tossing control specialists? Nah. For one, a lot of those runs were scored against the Arizona bullpen, which was one of the worst of the modern era last season. For another, it’s likely that everyone thinks that their team does poorly against pitchers who rely on control rather than velocity.
It’s just so danged frustrating to watch a corner-dweller nibble, maneuver, and tease professional hitters when he has command of his stuff. It’s our right as a fan to complain and think nasty thoughts, like our team is somehow predisposed to swing more at the stuff they should ignore. That used to be true, but it isn’t so much anymore. It just feels like it. It does for every team when they’re shut down by a pitcher like Saunders, Enright, or Kennedy.
Don’t get too down about it when it happens. Just remember that Kirk Rueter had 105 wins for the Giants. In every one of those wins, there were thousands of the other team’s fans who wanted to grab a bat and take a few swings against Woody on their own.
An even better solution: the Giants should, you know, hit these guys. For the sake of our sanity. It’s not like they’re bad pitchers, but when Clayton Kershaw shuts down an offense, it doesn’t take a frame-by-frame analysis to figure out why. For the Saunders/Enright/Kennedy triumvirate, all you can think about is the two-seamer that just broke back over the plate, the changeup that had a hitter out in front with a runner in scoring position, or the breaking ball that just dipped out of the strike zone before weak contact was made. It’s called pitching. The Diamondbacks have pitchers. They might not be the best -- they might have a little bit to go before all of them are league-average, even -- but when they’re successful, it feels like your team was totally outsmarted, and that’s especially frustrating.
So don’t give them the satisfaction, Giants.
Hitter to watch
Justin Upton is still just 23. That’s how old Buster Posey was last year, and he sure played the part of a young, fresh-faced rookie well. It seems like Upton’s been around forever because this is his fifth (!) season in the majors, and every year he’s someone’s pet breakout candidate, but seriously, one of these seasons, he’s going to go nuts on the National League.
He’s off to a hot start now (.295/.392/.568), so maybe this is the year. Maybe it isn’t. But he’s still just 23, and he’s already a career .273/.353/.474 hitter. I have a sick feeling we’ll eventually feel the same way about Upton that we did about Adrian Gonzalez, though that will make it extra-special when Upton is subsequently traded to the Red Sox for a pile of prospects who will be ready in 2020.
Pitcher to watch
Well, all of those control-mongers up there, to start. But I’ll take Joe Paterson, the former Giants farmhand. As much as it’s kind of annoying that the Giants protected some of the guys they did over Paterson, there was no way he would have seen a major league bullpen with the Giants this season. So good for him for making the Diamondbacks, and if he does become a Javier Lopez-type, hopefully they’ll keep him out of the Giants games so we don’t have to root against him.
At no point will I think, "Man, AT&T Park is cool, but wouldn’t it be radical if it also had a pool?!?"