One of the first teams that I followed on a day-to-day basis was the 1996 Giants. They were less than good. If you want to be poetic, you could use the word "bad." They were bad. One of the reasons they were bad was the starting pitching, which was ridiculously inconsistent.
Osvaldo Fernandez led the team in quality starts with 14, which is about 13 more than I remember him having. When a pitcher reached the seventh inning, it was an event. When a pitcher allowed a single run, it was a big story. The rotation featured Fernandez, William VanLandingham, Allen Watson, and Mark Leiter -- in retrospect, all of them were the 1996 equivalent of Eric Hacker, but they were the only options the Giants had back then.
So I know what it's like to follow a team like that. I know they exist. I remember what it's like to follow a team like the Royals last year, who said, "Hell yes, we want Bruce Chen back!" But the memories are getting hazy. Every freaking time Madison Bumgarner starts a game, it seems like he pitches into the seventh. A one-run outing isn't so rare that we need to make a big deal out of it.
It's hard to put into words just how spoiled we are. Most teams hit on a first-round pitcher once a decade. The Pirates and Orioles wish they hit on a first-round pitcher over the past ten years. The Giants did it three times in six years, and that means we can spend the better part of a decade grousing about the peccadilloes of our manager instead of how awful the pitching is, which is how the other half lives.
With Lincecum scuffling a bit, I'm pretty sure that Bumgarner's my favorite pitcher to watch. Tough competition, sure, but one of my favorite pitches in baseball is the left-handed cutter/slider that bores in on righties. There's something about the off-center camera angle that makes it seem even more impossible to hit than it already is, and if executed well, it looks like the best pitch in the world. Bumgarner got two of his six strikeouts with that pitch, and both times the hitter was probably really, really glad he didn't make contact. Just an awesome pitch.
I want Bochy to make one of those lists with the pros of cons of letting Bumgarner start the eighth with a three-run lead and 100+ pitches thrown. That's all I want. An itemized list. Not a single, "Well, he's throwing well", or whatever. Pro: confidence, less taxing on the bullpen, et cetera. Con: Chance for fatigue later in the year if he's worked too hard in April, he's still just 22, et cetera. That's all. Because I'm pretty sure the risks outweigh the rewards, and Bochy sure loves leaving his starters out there these days.
Here's a side effect of Aubrey Huff being out that I wasn't expecting: Now Bochy can have a lineup against left-handers that's completely right-handed. The first time he stared at the active roster and realized he could do that, I picture him reacting like Tuco trying Heisenberg's new stuff for the first time. Four switch-hitters and four right-handed hitters combine to form a Voltron of right-handedness, and Bochy never has to watch a lefty hit against a lefty again. That doesn't mean it's a good thing.
I'm not going to make an argument for Theriot vs. Burriss or vice-versa. That's a zucchini soda vs. butternut-squash soda discussion. There are literally a million things that are worth arguing more. Literally. We're in Police Academy 4 vs. Police Academy 5 territory.
It's not quite the same with Crawford vs. Arias because of the defensive discrepancy, but if you're desperate for offense and willing to take a defensive hit with a fly ball/strikeout pitcher on the mound, I'm not going to argue for Crawford. Arias has been hitting for the last five months, and while it's probably a mirage, it's not like the Giants are missing out on much whenever they sit Crawford in favor of anyone who hits better than Kirk Rueter.
Brett Pill doesn't have a history of lefty-mashing -- he's been pretty neutral over his career. But while he has only 75 at-bats or so in the majors, I don't have a huge problem with him getting a little playing time until he fails for the first time in the majors. Spot starts against lefties (at the expense of Nate Schierholtz) are good ways to get Pill in the lineup without exposing him.
I still think Pill will be exposed when the league figures out that he swings at as many pitches out of the strike zone as Pablo Sandoval without making the same kind of hard contact. But, heck, let him struggle before completely burying him. My problem isn't with Pill.
My biggest beef is with the idea that Hector Sanchez can hit lefties because he's a switch-hitter. Not because of anything he's done in the majors. Not because of anything he's done in the minors. Just because he switch-hits. All those little paragraphs up there, where I make stupid little arguments for and against different hitters -- I feel like that's more effort than Bochy puts into his lineup against lefties. Just a guess, and probably more cynical than it should be, but I doubt Bochy has dug deep to find out how Sanchez hits from the right side, or how checked out what the scouts and stats had to say about Belt's performances against lefties in the minors.
I could be wrong! I'm your SB Nation Giants Outsider and proud of it. Bochy might have 100-page binders on each player, developed by the most brilliant analytical minds of our time, and that's how he makes his lineups. But it seems to come from a stubborn belief that lefties can't hit lefties can't hit lefties can't hit lefties. And it's a little weird.
Wait, was that two negative things out of three for a post-game thread after a series win? Man, I can be a weenie. Posey is still putting beautiful, powerful swings on just about everything. Santiago Casilla is still looking like an All-Star closer (which sounds more impressive before you remember that about half the closers in each league make the All-Star Game.) After losing three straight one-run games to start the season, the Giants keep winning series. It was a beautiful Sunday of baseball.