The Giants added Michael Morse and Tim Hudson and called it an offseason. It seems amusing and ridiculous to think about that with the benefit of hindsight. Amusing because of course that's what they needed to do. That's exactly what they needed to do. Ridiculous because an 86-loss team with deep pockets should probably do a little more.
Instead, it was Morse and Hudson and pennies in a fountain. It was basically the same team. But this team is so much better. It's counterintuitive. What's so different about the 2014 Giants compared to the 2013 Giants?
They score more runs and allow fewer runs, stupid.
No, no, play along.
Dingers and Tim Hudson isn't Barry Zito.
The dingers you know about. Last year, they had 42 through 53 games; this year, they have 60. That 18-dinger difference is Morse and Brandon Hicks, who replaced players who homered every other eclipse. Through 53 games last year, the Giants were hitting .270/.328/.406. This year, before tonight, they were hitting .244/.308/.409. They were much better at avoiding outs last year. They had a 20-run advantage over the 2014 team at this point.
The dingers nourish us, though.
We're off track, as we're not here to talk about that difference. The other thing that's different is that Tim Hudson is not Barry Zito. That's what we're here to talk about. It feels ghoulish speaking ill of the unsigned, especially since the Zito story ended with deus ex machina nonsense that turned him into a hero. What a twist! But even considering that, it's important to note the ways that Tim Hudson is not Barry Zito.
1. He's economical
When Hudson is at 70 pitches at the end of the fifth inning, I think, "Hey, he's not that sharp." When Zito was at 70 pitches at the end of the fifth inning, I thought, "Wait, why is Zito in the game in relief? What happened to the starter? This is awful." Hudson is a delight to watch, if only for the economy. He works quickly and gets outs.
2. He throws strikes
We're at six walks in 70⅓ innings, which is good for the lowest walk rate in the National League. He's always had outstanding control, and that mark is likely to regress a bit, but there's probably a little kernel of truth in that low rate, considering he's pitching in one of the most forgiving ballparks in the majors. A 3-1 challenge is probably a little easier to swallow 'round these parts.
3. He doesn't allow as many "earned runs"
This is probably the most underrated part of Hudson's game compared to Zito. Pay attention to this subtle difference the next time Hudson pitches. Fewer runners touch the white pentagon in front of the catcher, and this helps his team win baseball games.
Okay, fine, there are other differences -- Ryan Vogelsong's rerenaissance, well-timed hits with runners in scoring position, and a surprisingly stellar bullpen -- but give me dingers and Hudson as the biggest. There weren't any dingers tonight. So appreciate Hudson that much more.
On May 9, Pablo Sandoval took a walk. He didn't want to. It was intentional. The last walk he took before that was April 29. That was also intentional. The last unintentional walk Sandoval took was April 23, against Tyler Chatwood.
Hitting coach Hensley Meulens on the subject of walks:
"We don't like for him to be taking pitches and working walks."
There was a time, around the turn of the millennium, when this sort of quote would have set off a nerd frenzy. Whaaaaat? Walks good, outs bad. There is no nuance, there is no debate. Walks good, outs bad.
It takes a player like Sandoval to relieve you of that dogma. For 99 percent of the baseball-playing population, it's important to wait for a good pitch to hit. For Sandoval, it's important to assume every pitch is a good pitch to hit. This ability will desert him with malice when he's in his early- or mid-30s, but it's mesmerizing right now.
(I know that his RBI hit was a bloop, but he gets his own star-divide callout because he looked like a terrifying hitter again, the kind that make pitchers experiment with shuutos and eephuses because they're out of ideas.)
(Also: your monthly reminder that Sandoval led the 2008 Giants in walks.)
The White Sox and Indians are still playing right now.
Since 2000, the Giants are now 79-37 in games in which they don't allow walks. I have this crazy idea about pitching and baseball and walks and pitching, now hear me out ...