Possible outcomes for the Giants in the opening series of 2017, ranked:
- Winning four games
- Winning three games
- Winning two games
- Winning one game
- Winning no games
It is my opinion, then, that there were much better possible outcomes for this opening series, and that we should be upset about this.
It was noted in the broadcast and on Twitter, but it truly is remarkable: The Giants led in every game of this series.
It’s a fun stat because of just how little fun is contained within, but my brand requires me to hammer this home with perspective and feelings. As such, I’m going to have to require that you consider what it feels like to take a lead. Base-hit up the middle. High, deep, outta here. An error where the other team looks dumb. Really, leads come in so many different varieties, and they’re all beautiful. One second, the good guys aren’t leading. Then they take the lead.
It’s a joyous feeling, ranging from “hey, yeah” to “WHROOOOO” depending on the stage of the game. I’m not going to pretend it’s a sacred feeling — teams take leads and screw games up all the time — but there are some expectations that come with the lead. Hey, things are looking up. The mental FanGraphs win-expectancy graph that you’ve had in your head since you were seven, even though you didn’t know what it was called, ticks in the right direction. The Giants don’t just have a chance to win the game; they have a better chance of winning than the other guys.
So that’s three games now where that’s been lit on fire and blown in your face, like baseball is Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear. It’s at this point that my lawyers are advising me that it’s been only four games out of 162, and that we shouldn’t panic. Indeed, one of my favorite games of the last decade was when Barry Zito shut the Rockies out in Coors Field, and that’s because it came after the Giants were swept in Arizona to start the season. The year was 2012, and things worked out.
But I don’t like the feeling of being secure with a baseball team’s ability to baseball and then realizing they forgot how to baseball all the way down the stairs. The Giants held leads in four games, and each time it looked like their starting pitcher was in his ideal rhythm. In each of those games, the starting pitcher screwed up to some degree. In only one of those games did the lineup score enough runs to make us laugh it off.
Coming in the next few months: games where the starting pitcher just keeps pitching well. I promise.
Until then, here are four baseball games to chew on. Sorry about dropping three of them in the port-o-potty.
Jeff Samardzija has dingeritis, and it’s a chronic condition. Scientists are working hard, please, don’t draw too much attention to it, he’s doing the best he can. Twenty-five batters faced him, and three of them hit a home run. Say, about that humidor, folks, ha ha?
But, deep exasperated sigh, that ignores just how good he looked for much of the game. I don’t want to make excuses for a six-run outing, but Samardzija got 15 swings and misses in the game. As far as I can tell, that’s the highest percentage of whiffs in one game for him since joining the Giants. He threw pitches that were so awesome, the professional hitters in the box couldn’t even make contact.
And then he gave up a dinger and a dinger, and I don’t know what was happening in that sixth inning.
It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. It’s so Samardzija. Hey, here are some early season stats for you:
- ERA: 10.13
- FIP: 7.96
- xFIP: 2.03
- Boy, this guy was terrible
- Well, he wasn’t that terrible ... but he was still pretty terrible
- Hey, guys, he just had bad luck on his fly balls. He’s probably still pretty good.
The answer is between #2 and #3, where it’s been for Samardzija’s entire career. He’s pretty okay, and he’ll throw 200 innings, so don’t complain him too much.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to watch when it isn’t working, though.
The good part about the Giants losing by six runs is they can say things like, “I’m concerned about Aaron Hill’s defense in left field” without anyone being too angry about the experiment. Giants left fielders didn’t get a hit in the series, and they struck out a whole bunch, so you can’t blame Bruce Bochy for looking for a little offense with his double-switches. He kept the guy who homered over the guy who doesn’t have a hit. Fair enough.
At the same time, Hill hesitated on a ball that dropped in front of his dive, leading to two runs, and he gave up on a ball that an average outfielder might have caught, leading to another run. If he shows up on Baseball-Reference with a 1.933 OPS tomorrow and a negative WAR, well, you know why.
That’s not his fault. It’s not the Giants’ fault for experimenting. And he might improve, too. The point is that I’m glad his foibles came in a game that was largely blown away from his watch. It was basically a Cactus League game by the time a ball was hit to him.
Here’s how I’m thinking about Hill, and it’s pretty simple: He’s a right-handed Conor Gillaspie. No more, no less. He’ll give you tough at-bats. He can play third and first, but you don’t really want to play him in the outfield. He’ll give pitchers some trouble and work the count. Has a little pop. A professional-hitter type. The only real difference is the handedness and an ability to play second base.
Is that what you’re looking for? Great. It’s a description that would appeal to more than a few people looking to build a bench. Don’t dismiss it.
Just don’t think it’s so valuable that you have to put up with weird, learning-on-the-job defense.
The Giants had four hits, and I spent my time discussing the starting pitcher and a defensive replacement. We all have regrets, here.
That’s okay, everyone. Just pack it up and head to, let’s see, oh San Diego, that’s great, I’m fine with this, this is looking up, glad to get a change of scenery, alright, San Diego, wheeeeee.
I’m assuming Madison Bumgarner is starting because of the off day, right? Yeah, that’s probably right. Just won’t check the probable pitchers and wait until first pitch to confirm. This is all going according to plan.