I'm paid to make bad baseball predictions. I don't know how it happened, either, but it's true. And before every season, I study rosters and pretend like they're going to reveal secrets of the ancients, like they're going to be relevant in six months. Hours will go into the predictions, and they'll be revised and reworked for weeks. I'll present them proudly. This year's predictions went something like this:
The Giants don't have trustworthy pitching behind Madison Bumgarner. They can hit a little, but the rotation will be an issue.
And do you know what baseball is? Baseball is a troll in the comments.
Hey, you forgot about Chris Heston.
Wait, who? I mean, he had a good season in Triple-A last year, but he's literally eighth or ninth on the depth chart. If he gets meaningful innings, something will have gone horribly wrong.
Chris Heston will probably be the second-best starting pitcher on the Giants this year, really. You should show him more respect.
Look, I appreciate the feedback, but ... you realize that's not rational, right? There's no statistical or anecdotal reason to believe he'll be in the majors, much less pitch that well.
He's basically as good as Madison Bumgarner, really.
Oh, I get it. You're a contrarian at best. A troll at worst. You're just trying to get under my skin.
I could see him with a lower ERA than Bumgarner by the end of July, really.
I would close the tab and roll my eyes. People on the Internet, man. Get a load of this unhinged twit.
Except that's all true. The Giants would be a mess without Heston, and he's clearly the second-best pitcher on the team right now. The Giants started the season with seven starters ahead of him and he kept moving up.
On Tuesday, Heston used his sinker and curveball to flummox the Padres. If you didn't watch the game, you have the performance already in your mind's eye. Sinker in the back door, sinker in the front door. Sinker, sinker, curve! Sinker, curve, sinker to the torso! Ha ha, sorry about that sinker to the torso, but here's some sinker, sinker, curve, sinker for you. It was the archetype of an excellent Heston start.
We're at the part of the season where Heston can have archetypical excellent starts and it's not weird in the slightest.
If I were to rank the Rookie of the Year contenders in the NL before the season, it would be Matt Duffy, Joc Pederson, Kris Bryant, Chris Heston ...
LOG OFF, PAL. Baseball doesn't work like that.
Until baseball feels like it, at least. Then you get things like Chris Heston, irreplaceable rotation workhorse.
And for the second time this season, we have GUM-GATE. The Juicy Fruit Dome scandal. Whatever you want to call it.
Start with the dinger.
It gets top billing among the dingers because a) it was a grand slam, the sixth of the year, b) the 65-grade bat flip, c) the kerfuffle that followed.
First, take it from Sanchez's perspective. He's been passed over, Fredo-style, by Andrew Susac. The opening for Susac was created by horrible, career-threatening concussions. Sanchez struggled for a month, went to Triple-A indefinitely for the first time in years, and then he got another concussion. He returned to the majors after two months and Craig Kimbrel was his first at-bat.
After all that, the Padres walked the bases loaded to get to him. They dismissed him entirely. Hey, that's our job, Padres.
So hitting a ball like that, after going through those various indignities, has to feel remarkable. And to be fair, Sanchez didn't pretend that the bat was a telescope, and that he was following the ball for its entire flight as it sailed to the moon. No, he just gave the bat a good ol', medium-sized flip.
Okay, it was a little demonstrative. But it was earned. It felt good.
Now take it from Dale Thayer's perspective. He just gave up a grand slam, annihilating his ERA, and he looks just like Dale Thayer. Now some dingus is admiring that home run. If you wouldn't wing your gum at the dingus, you would at least consider it. You don't know all that stuff about concussions and Fredo.
Everything was self-contained, then. There was a beginning, middle, and end. The dumb stuff with the benches half-heartedly clearing was a sequel nobody asked for. Before that, though, there was a grand slam. I like grand slams. You like grand slams. Hooray for grand slams!
Good thing we like grand slams. That was the sixth of the year, and we're just out of the All-Star break. The Giants have hit seven in three different seasons since moving to San Francisco: 1970, 1998, and 2000.
I would like to propose the Giants break this team record, doing so with two more grand slams. Preferably well-timed. No rush.
Brandon Crawford is the third-most valuable shortstop in San Francisco history according to WAR, and he has a fair chance of catching Rich Aurilia by the end of the season. Not bad for a defense-first backup who needed to scrap for time with a mummified Orlando Cabrera. Not bad at all.
Hunter Pence, since coming back from the DL: .317/.390/.610. The Giants have the best record in the National League since then. Small samples? Sure. My counterargument is this: Hunter Pence.