Smell the Glove
I have a pretty good idea what to expect when a hitter jumps from 14 home runs to 30 in a season, or when a career .250 hitter hits .310. Well, I don't know what to expect when a Giant does that, but I've heard rumors of players doing that around the league. When a player surprises like that, it's probably a good idea to expect that he'll regress.
I'm not sure, though, what to do when a pitcher exhibits better command than he ever has. Ryan Vogelsong walked almost six batters for every nine innings in triple-A two years ago. Last year, he made the All-Star team and picked up a stray Cy Young vote because he hit his spots consistently all season. That's like Eli Whiteside hitting .330 in a full season, and while that'd be fantastic, I'm almost sure I wouldn't expect anything close to a repeat the next season.
It's easier to believe in pitchers when they exhibit plus (or even average) command. When a pitcher starts throwing strikes and tease the edges of the strike zone repeatedly, it's easier to believe that he's figured something out. After years of repetition, they've improved a skill as if it were a muscle they were exercising. Sandy Koufax was Jonathan Sanchez until he learned how to throw strikes, and then he was Sandy Koufax.
That's probably a dumbed down way to look at baseball, but welcome to McCovey Chronicles. Still, when Vogelsong pitched well in Fresno in his two warmup starts, he walked a few people. And when he struggled in the second inning of Sunday's game, it was because he wasn't hitting his spots. He wasn't as fine with his command in that inning as he was last year. The voice in the back of my head stopped whispering things about the Illuminati and weather machines long enough to mumble something about Vogelsong losing the command he had last year.
Nah. He was the pitcher we remembered, and even though the Giants lost, it was still encouraging to watch Vogelsong throw so well. He was the pitcher that we remembered, which is to say not the pitcher that anyone remembered before 2011. It's almost possible to take Vogelsong for granted after he was the most surprising thing that has ever happened in American history. Starts like today's will help us take him for granted and expect him to be awesome again.
It's impossible to be angry at the offense after eight straight games with four or more runs. And that makes this a weird recap to write. Uh, let's see. I think my favorite Scorcese movie is still Goodfellas, but I still can't get over how good Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore is. If the Giants only flail in every ninth game, it'll be a pretty sweet season, but I'll have to write "positive" things about hitters, which would be like Skynyrd writing ska songs. I mean, it could be okay. Just so weird to think about.
Somehow, I don't think I should be too worried. But it'd be pretty rude to excoriate the lineup after it's done so well this year. There's something that rankles about losing to Kevin Correia when he's pitching to contact, but every team is going to lay an offensive egg a few times in a 162-game season. This was one.
The next time it happens, though, I'll make sure to flip out. I'm a slave to routine! I can't stop! Maybe there's some sort of prescription medication that can help!
I wonder how long Schierholtz will get, and I'm not writing that with #freeBelt in mind. Schierholtz was the starting right fielder in 2010, hitting .375/.444/.563 through April, and .333 on May 14. But then he went 2-for-27 and was never seen from again. That decision worked out. But it was still an amazingly quick hook for a player who hit for the first month-and-a-half of the season. Is there something about Schierholtz that Bruce Bochy doesn't trust, or is Bochy confident that he can tell the difference between a hot-swingin' Schierholtz and an HBP-swingin' Schierholtz?
Or maybe Schierholtz was 26 years old, but with training and perseverance and dedication, he overcame the obstacles in his path and turned 28. That's the kind of thing that would show Bochy something, alright. Not sure, but after a couple of good performances, Schierholtz looked like the familiar bench asset/lineup liability today. Lots of iffy swings. One game doesn't mean anything, but I have no idea if his leash is still as short as it used to be.
Not freaking out about the bullpen just yet. Danny Otero got two ground balls, and then the Pirates bunted the Giants into oblivion. But it's not hard to see how the bullpen could start to look thin with a man down, and everyone moving up a spot. I'm not sure when Jason Grilli became some sort of freaky power reliever with a frisbee slider, but it would've been cool if the Giants could have nabbed him when they were accumulating pitchers like Clay Hensley, Brian Burres, Boof Bonser, and Vogelsong over the past couple of years, trying to get the band back together.
Hensley's somewhat-wonky control aside, he looked nasty today, so that isn't a bad consolation prize.