Before the start of play on April 19, 2009, the Padres were 9-3. In those nine wins, the Padres came back from six-run deficits, scored with ninth-inning rallies, and regularly humiliated the Giants. The point of bringing this up is twofold:
- To remind everyone that a great start to the season, complete with thrilling, come-from-behind, ain’t-gonna-break-a-my-stride wins, doesn’t necessarily mean that the team is any good. The Padres were not very good last year despite a hot start, and…
- …to remind everyone that even when the Padres aren’t very good, they can still humiliate a team when they’re in the mood.
I don’t care that the Padres are throwing someone named Richard Clayton or something tonight…let’s see…wait, no, that’s Clayton Richard…I think…let me look him up…low strikeout rate in the minors…high walk rate in the majors…two first names for a full name, which is always a bad sign…acquired as one of the main pieces of the Jake Peavy trade? Wow. So in a skewed way, you could almost say the Giants are going to face Clayton Richard tonight instead of Jake Peavy.
Don’t care. If this road trip shares any DNA with the first road trip of 2009, this will be a miragey, 6 IP, 10 H, 3 BB, 1 K, 0 ER performance for Richard. I don’t care that the Padres are starting a bunch of n’er-do-wells and miscreants from the bowels of other people’s farm systems. Don’t care. Why? Well…
Hitter to watch
When the Padres traded Scott Hairston to the A’s last year, Hairston was hitting .299/.358/.533. Billy Beane probably remembered Hairston’s prospect status as a Diamondback, and figured he’d take a flier on Hairston’s flukey start being legit. For the rest of the year, though, Hairston hit .232/.262/.391, which would have made him one of the worst hitters on the Giants, even. The difference, of course, is that the A’s didn’t play the Giants after the trade. If Hairston hit 12 home runs for the A’s in a three-game series against the Giants, which is a conservative estimate, his overall line would have improved to .287/.310/.596, which is much closer to the line he had when the A’s acquired him. You’d think Mr. Moneyball Smartypants Einstein Face would have foreseen this with his supercomputer, but no.
So the A’s, disappointed, traded Hairston back to the Padres. Which is where he is right now. Scott Hairston is on the Padres right now. Good god. So my hitter to watch is David Eckstein: let’s all marvel at this brave new world in which Eckstein is not the most annoying hitter on his team.
Pitcher to watch
The Giants have been very active in the baseball community, promoting their charity since 2005. The charity, RRRT! (Reducing Rough Rookie Transitions!) is committed to making sure that burgeoning young superstar pitchers don’t get too discouraged in their initial major league experiences. When a prospect gets slapped around upon arriving to the majors, they can lose confidence and struggle even more. RRRT! makes sure that one team is always there to swing at first pitches, chase sliders a foot off the plate, and not execute with runners in scoring position. At some point, other teams will join RRRT!, but until then, the Giants will fulfill their commitment to the community by themselves.
So Mat Latos is the pitcher to watch. Good stuff, stellar minor league numbers, less-than-impressive major league results. Fella needs a hand, don’t you think?
Every series preview from here on out will be a festering sore of negativity because the alternative – openly writing things like, "Man, we should really clean up against the Padres" – would be the jinxiest jinx that ever jinxed. Maybe if the Giants win the World Series, I’ll do that for the entire season that follows, just to see what it feels like. Until then, every series scares me. And until it’s, say, August and the Giants are still hitting, I’ll write as if the other cleat is going to drop at any second. Sorry about that.