This is just beginning, you know.
You might remember #hotnarratives like Lincecum threatening Posey with a broken pool cue, or #freshsportstakes like Brandon Belt's body language and how the Giants can't win because of it. Oh, and that thing about the guy who gained too much weight. Now get ready for discussion about Angel Pagan's defense for the next four years.
We'll get to the part where it's not fair to blame Friday's game on any one player, much less when he isn't the pitcher giving up the line drives. But your first reaction to that game was probably pretty close to mine: Boy, I wish Pagan could have caught one of those two balls in the ninth inning. The first one was a sinking liner that Pagan couldn't corral. The second one was a much tougher drive to the wall. A great center fielder catches both. A good center fielder catches one. An average center fielder catches one every other time. I'd peg Pagan as an average fielder. Which means this was not the other time.
It's not that Pagan has poor range; it's that he's kind of herky-jerky and foot-thumbed. He's surprisingly awkward, too. He's like a Puerto Rican Hunter Pence after going through Tom Cruise's class in Magnolia, and I don't think he gets enough credit for the crazy eyes, awkward motions, and overall hilariousness. That is, overall hilariousness when it comes with a Giants win. Not so hilarious now.
This wouldn't be a problem on a few teams -- at least, not a noticeable problem that would make the rabble rabble rabble start. Is Pagan an okay center fielder? Yes. On a team without any other options, the discussion will end there. Except here's where the debate starts for the Giants: In just about every game this year, the Giants' best defensive center fielder in the lineup will be playing left field. We haven't seen Blanco that much in center, so I'm reticent to make too many assumptions about how good he is. But he's probably pretty danged good. And I don't think Torres even has to dive on the single from DeJesus.
The reluctance for Bochy to play Pagan in a corner isn't likely to become a big story this year. But there are three seasons left after this one, and at some point things will get noisy. If it were up to me, I'd have Blanco or Torres in center whenever they played. But if it were up to me, John Bowker and Kevin Frandsen would have led the 2010 Giants to 105 losses, so I'll admit there could be some sort of confidence boost that makes it worth it for Pagan and the Giants. For now, that will fly. In 2015, I'm thinking it won't.
But if we're pointing fingers, let's take some time to note that Sergio Romo threw some horrid, horrid pitches, and that's really why the Giants lost. The game-ender to Castro was a belt-high sinker over the middle of the plate. It happens. Just be glad it doesn't happen often.
Confession: I was planning to lead with a Romo tribute after the Cubs' bullpen spit up. Some of you were probably chuckling at how bad the Cubs' bullpen was. We get it, baseball gods. You're real crusaders of justice.
For the 85th time in his career, Matt Cain received two or fewer runs of support. This has happened in just over 36 percent of his career starts, and he has a 3.17 career ERA in those games. But it's not that far below the run support a typical starter gets. Barry Zito has received two or fewer runs in 32 percent of his career starts, as has Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum. Bumgarner is at 31 percent.
Think of the extra four percent, then, like you would when it's the difference between a .260 hitter and a .300 hitter. You know the difference when you see the statistics, but you can also sense the difference when watching games. You're not going to watch 162 games without statistics and know that a guy is hitting .300 on the nose. But you can watch 162 games stat-free and say "Player X gets more hits than Player Y."
That's why you think Cain gets hosed more than most pitchers. He does.
It was a lot worse earlier in his career, of course, when the post-Bonds Giants were regularly fielding the worst lineups in the majors. His win-loss record used to be well under .500, then it got a little closer, and now he's over .500 by a few games. Still, when he pitches well without any run support, it's easy to wear the pessimism like a comfortable old sweater that smells like hot dog breath and cabbage.
And he did pitch well. He was off early, with his velocity and location well below his usual standards, and it made you realize how unusual it is for Cain to be off. Not only that, but it's easy to forget how easy it must be for pitchers to get out of sync -- how rhythmic and mechanically sound guys like Cain are most of the time. Right after DeJesus's home run, Cain snapped back into place, and he was Matt Cain again. Slider was slidin', and the high fastball was getting swing-throughs.
All the while, he was doing it with a here-we-go-again feeling that he's somehow managed to tuck away in his subconscious, but we haven't.
I don't remember ever seeing a Posey takeout slide at second before. Maybe that's because he's slow, which means he's rarely on top of the second baseman at the same time there's a play at first. Hunter Pence slipped coming out of the box, and that's the only reason there was a chance for the Cubs to turn the double play in the ninth.
Without that slide, the Giants don't come back.
Of course the slide was the perfect example of a takeout slide. You kind of get the feeling Posey could walk around the diamond and tell everyone how to do their job. He's like the shoeshine guy from Police Squad, except he's always filled with knowledge on how to do baseball things the right way. The only way that takeout slide could have been better is if he got to say, "That's how you slide into second, you goon" to Matt Holliday as he jogged off the field.
I love that Andres Torres is back. I desperately want to add stories to this section
I do not love that Andres Torres is the first option off the bench against left-handers. I do not love that he's part of a strict platoon, and that he'll start against most left-handers.
Both things can be true. The first priority for the Giants should be to get a right-handed outfielder to take Nick Noonan's spot on the roster. Before the ninth-inning nonsense became the story, Torres's double play to close out the eight was the big one. Well, that, and the Giants getting sloppy-dooked to death by a guy who makes Bronson Arroyo look like Craig Kimbrel.
(Ah, Wayne Franklin, you truly are the gift that keeps on giving.)