A trendy and transparent method of managing -- in the business world, at least -- is to give two positive notes to an employee for every criticism. As in, "Janice, we applaud your commitment to saving money. Also, you are using the tools we've given you, which is nice to see. Now take your goddamned salad from last month out of the breakroom fridge before it grows thumbs and learns how to use a gun."
So in the interest of being a fair writer, I'll try the two-positive/one-negative thing. The Giants just took a series in Atlanta. They're 5-1 since the All-Star Break. It's a 162-game season, and if you overreact to games like this, your head's going to melt like someone opened the Ark of the Covenant next to you.
Positive: Madison Bumgarner is still a delight to watch. The extra homers he's giving up this year are a concern, and if there's ever a pitcher who throws too many strikes, it's Bumgarner. Still, after a few years of Jonathan Sanchez (and Russ Ortiz, and Shawn Estes, and …) I still can't get over the joy of a young pitcher who comes up without any control problems.
Positive: Tim Hudson isn't in the NL West. He might be the most annoying pitcher the Giants have to face, and that doesn't have to do with him, really. He seems like an okay guy, and he works quick enough. But his pitching style seems like it was designed in a lab to neutralize Giants hitters. Sinkers. Quick sliders. Command. Control. Contact. For a free-swinging team like the Giants, that's kryptonite. That's what's so annoying about it. You see the accident coming, and you do one of those exaggerated "Noooooooooooooooo"s that seven-year-olds do when they're mimicking slow motion.
But lighten up. He could be on the Padres, right?
Negative: Say, I'm not sure if anyone noticed, but Bruce Bochy pinch-hit for Brandon Belt with a runner in scoring position. Which, okay, Belt's struggling and we all get that. O'Flaherty is nasty. If you have a lefty-masher on the bench, that's fine. If you have Justin Christian on the bench, there's a good chance that you have Justin Christian on the bench.
I'm not as down on Christian as a lot of folks. He's a perfectly fine fifth outfielder, and I don't mind him being a late-inning option against lefties. I really don't.
But at some point, I'd really like the Giants to explore the idea that Brandon Belt might be one of those odd ducks with reverse platoon splits. His career:
|vs RHP as LHB||342||7||47||88||.206||.316||.344||.659|
|vs LHP as LHB||111||6||10||30||.316||.387||.582||.969|
Thar be small samples, sure. But it's worth exploring if Belt's unusual swing and approach are better served against lefties. Maybe it's a lot easier to pick up the breaking balls that move away from him. Maybe he can keep his swing flat through the zone better when he isn't worried about the slider at his back foot. Or maybe it's just all a big ol' mirage. Heck, I don't know. Over his career, though, he's hit lefties much better than righties.
If you have Shea Hillenbrand in his prime -- he really did have a prime! -- maybe you don't want to get cute and chase after what could be a sample mirage. But the Giants have nooooooothing on the bench when it comes to right-handed options. Christian's okay if you're sending someone up to pinch-hit for a pitcher or Emmanuel Burriss. There isn't a lefty-thumper, though. You know, one of those guys who would be studying for the bar exam if they couldn't hit lefties. Wes Helms or Greg Dobbs or some crap.
It's probably time to give Belt more of a shot against lefties. Because for all of the failing he's done in the majors, that's the one area in which he's been consistent. Help a fella succeed. Put him in a position to succeed.
Positive: The odds are that Belt would have made an out. The odds are that Buster Posey, Jose Bautista, or David Ortiz would have made an out. That's baseball, alright. And you know what you're not reading about now? Belt making that out. Instead, look at that shiny box score! A 1-for-3. He's a .333 hitter, he is.
Positive: Good gravy, this is an annoying style of management. So obvious. Just gimme the critiques. I'm a grownup. Just go back to handing out copies of Who Moved My Cheese? or something.
Negative: I liked it better when Angel Pagan was good. Because he's been just awful over the last month. Coming into today, he was hitting .214/.280/.274 over the last 30 calendar days. He struck out thrice today, and it's been hard to watch.
Remember, though, when Belt strikes out in the at-bat after he singles, make sure you keep the cameras on him when he moves into the dugout! Talk about the hole in his swing. Really, really play it up. When Pagan has another miserable at-bat, look for gamer babes in the stands! Because the first one is a character flaw and something that will never change. The second one is just one of those things that happens in baseball, and you just have to fight through it.
The Giants lost a game in which they gave up three hits. Those will always put you in a bad mood. Here's a site with a bunch of corgi-mix puppies.