In case you can't tell, Hunter Strickland is something of a fascination of mine. His fastball is my spirit animal. And there are people -- Giants fans, even -- who enjoy besmirching him. Besmirching! Well, I won't stand by and let him get besmirched. No way, no how. Unless he gives up four different bombs in the same postseason to left-handed hitters, which ...
I'm not the only one fascinated. Bruce Bochy really wants to make Hunter Strickland the "fetch" of his bullpen. He's going to keep trying to make it happen. This isn't because of a gut feeling of his, I'd reckon. This has to do with the state of the Giants' bullpen, and the options Bochy has been sifting through in the late innings. An extra high-leverage arm would mean so very much. It would allow guys like Jeremy Affeldt to get rest if he pitches the first two days in San Francisco, and it would allow Bochy to be more creative with Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez if there's a Cain/Hosmer/Butler situation in the late innings.
Strickland should work. It's why Bochy wanted to make sure he was right before he figured the same thing regarding Tim Lincecum.
Lorenzo Cain swings at fastballs. He often misses fastballs. Buster Posey called for a fastball. I love it when a good plan works out.
Posey set the mitt in the middle of the plate. There was a six-run lead, and walks weren't an option. Strickland's fastball had serious movement on it -- not typical for him. If he could, uh, figure out how he did that ...
I have no idea why Ned Yost sent Greg Holland up to hit in the f ... oh, no, this is still Cain. Is that the worst swing of the postseason? It was away from the target and never close to being a strike. Cain swung like it was a slider, or like it was a 97-mph fastball that was somehow thrown by Barry Zito. Did the Royals skip over Strickland in the scouting session because they figured he wasn't going to be on the roster? It's like Cain didn't think he would see a fastball.
If the last swing was that poor, go back there again. This time Strickland hits the target perfectly. Cain was absolutely helpless. It was the most impressive sequence from Strickland since the postseason began.
Ah, a left-hander. Kryptonite. Though Strickland didn't show any platoon splits in the minors, it's certainly possible that Bryce Harper, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Matt Adams were a window into Strickland's future. I think they were four hitters who were ready for terribly located pitches in the exact location they were terribly located, which isn't a combination I think we'll see a lot in Strickland's future.
Regardless, this is the right idea. Away to lefties. Away, away, away. Strickland just misses.
Probably not a strike? Eh, give him the benefit of the doubt for throwing the baseball exactly where he wanted it to. This is probably my favorite pitch of the inning.
Posey sits up away. The pitch goes away. Away, away, away. Maybe Matt Adams would have ripped the ball to the opposite field with this approach. As long as Strickland has the command to do this, i'm not sure what the advantage would be of him working in to left-handers. It's not like Santiago Casilla does it.
The first breaking ball. It missed the target, but at least it missed down. Hitters are still comfortable guessing fastball.
Unless the slider looks like it's going to be a strike, that is. What could Hosmer do, here? It looked like it was going to be a fringe strike, but there was a two-strike count, and the umpire had already called a ball down. I could see Pablo Sandoval hitting that ball for a double. Against everyone else, it's a perfect pitch.
ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
The worst pitch of the inning, without question. It was a strike and put Josh Willingham in a hole, but it was a hanging whatsadoodle. In a tie game, this could have been the death blow.
Of course, you can pull up a 14-pitch inning from anyone in the Giants' bullpen and find at least one pitch like this. That, combined with sample size, is why it's so tricky to evaluate relievers.
Perhaps the second-worst pitch, albeit at 97. Posey wanted it outside. It tailed in.
Great 0-2 pitch. Lorenzo Cain swung his Powerade cup at it from the dugout.
Away from the target, but not a bad miss. It was up, with movement. I was stunned that Willingham didn't swing.
To the Felix Rodriguez comparisons: Look at that slider, suckers. Some people call it a power curve, but at 85, I'm sticking with slider. That kind of slider comes with a free Deep Purple CD. Remember that bit about hitters sitting fastball? If Strickland can harness that pitch, he'll be Robb Nen. Hey, he's about the same age as Nen was when he broke out with the Marlins. Don't squash my dreams.
Don't squash my dreams.
Here we have 14 pitches in a ninth inning that was not a high-leverage situation. Your response might be "So?" It might be "I still don't trust him." Right now, though, I trust Strickland more than Jean Machi. Depending on the situation, I might trust him more than Sergio Romo. Regardless, I'm still convinced that Strickland can be a big part of the next three to six games. It's not like he's guaranteed to be a crucial part of the World Series -- Javier Lopez didn't even pitch against the Tigers in 2012, remember, so an entire postseason series can pass by without a need to use a reliever in a tight spot -- but if the Giants need him, they can feel a little bit better about their chances.
Hunter Strickland is an important part of the bullpen, even if you don't want him to be. Last night was an encouraging sign. Me and the other strickolytes meet in the community room Tuesdays at 7:00 p.m.. Refreshments will be served.