At the risk of being too much of a downer after a win, you’re clear about how the rest of this season is going to go, right? Even if the Giants go on a month-long tear, it probably won’t be enough. Wins here and there will be greatly appreciated, and we’ll savor each the details of each one. But there’s a strong chance that whatever value Giants fans find in the 2017 season will be something we have to mine for. It won’t be as obvious as it was in 2014, or even 2016.
Ty Blach, major league pitcher, would be a heckuva consolation prize.
The Giants in the Buster Posey Era won championships because of the pitchers they developed. They went from Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez/Bumgarner to Cain/Bumgarner to Bumgarner/Bumgarner/Bumgarner, and it worked each time. Gravity was a jerk to the last homegrown ace, though, which meant the Giants had to scramble. And the homegrown options haven’t been too kind for them lately.
Homegrown starts since 2010:
- Madison Bumgarner, 217
- Matt Cain, 181
- Tim Lincecum, 172
- Jonathan Sanchez, 52
- Chris Heston, 32
- Ty Blach, 9
- Eric Surkamp, 7
- Mike Kickham, 3
- Joe Martinez, 1
- Dan Runzler, 1
Imagine that list being a line graph, with the line sinking straight into the earth. The first four were instrumental parts of the 2010 championship. The fifth one was responsible for a glorious moment in time, and I was optimistic for a bit. But the overall trend is disappointing, with the established pitchers fading and the younger pitchers never becoming established.
Hats off to anyone who remembered that Mike Kickham made one start for the Giants, much less three.
Blach is climbing the list, though. This run of success doesn’t have to guarantee anything — consider that at the end of July, 2015, it was almost a given that Chris Heston was going to be with the Giants for the next five years, at least — but this is exactly the kind of positive development that makes a lousy season worthwhile. His ERA is under 4.00 now (3.83, to be exact), and his strikeouts per nine went from 3.0 to 3.47. I’ll take both improvements, thank you.
Blach is an anachronism, a pitch-to-contact fiend who would have been absolutely in his element in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but sticks out today. The fastballs are getting faster, and when it seems like they’ve gotten too fast, they get a little faster. Mike Foltynewicz throws in the triple digits with a wipeout slider (usually), and he fits in. That’s the archetype for the modern pitcher.
Maybe, and I still can’t figure out how to test this hypothesis, the anachronisms will rule this new era of 100-mph fastballs and sluggers uppercutting their way to better launch angles. Maybe it’s the anachronisms’ time to shine. RISE UP, CONTROL MAVENS AND SOFT-TOSSERS. RISE UP AND TAKE WHAT IS YOURS.
If you don’t want to get too excited about the future of the Giants and Ty Blach, that’s prudent and fine. Every pitcher up there on that bullet-pointed list made me say, “Wellll, maybe” at some point, and it’s our duty as fans to have blind spots covering the older blind spots. You can focus on the shorter-term ramifications, where the Giants lost their best pitcher and are still getting excellent starts from a left-hander, somehow.
They even got an RBI from the dude, which continues to be one of the most unexpected benefits of Blach. It’s a nice touch for someone trying to be the stevia to Bumgarner’s sugar.
I do wonder what would have happened if Bumgarner didn’t get hurt. Matt Cain hasn’t pitched his way out of a job, not even close, which means Blach would have been stuck in the unfamiliar long-relief gig, toiling and toiling, doing nothing for his career in the long term. He would have been just another guy.
And maybe he will be again. For now, though, I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of a pitch-to-contact homegrown lefty in the Giants’ indefinite future. He’s fun to watch when he’s rolling, and he seems to be rolling a lot.
Nick Hundley was supposed to do this:
He was supposed to hit the occasional dinger. That’s the point of Nick Hundley as Buster Posey’s caddy. He won’t hit .300, but he’ll run into one more often than the average backup catcher. His career slugging percentage is over .400, and that’s good enough for me.
Except he got bit in the neck by AT&T Park or 2017 or, heck, I don’t know. It just hasn’t worked out for him yet, just like it hasn’t worked out for anyone on the Giants’ bench. Justin Ruggiano has a couple of homers, Michael Morse had one off the bench, and Aaron Hill had one in a start. Other than that, though, man, there just hasn’t been a lot.
Here’s one! It came on an absolute failure of a slider. That pitch was so bad that when I watch the video over and over, I’m not even paying attention to Hundley. I want to see how a slider can be that bad.
My conclusions so far: I have no idea how a slider can be that bad. Future updates as events warrant.
Brandon Belt had a dinger that looked like maybe a double off the bat, and he had an out on a ball that looked like a homer off the bat. That’s probably his fault in some way, and we should look into how he should fix this matter of perception.
The ball that looked like a homer made the opposing pitcher do an “Aw, jeez” hand gesture:
It was so gone. Except it wasn’t, and I’d like to take this moment to express my undying annoyance that Ender Inciarte still exists, while appreciating that he isn’t in the NL West anymore.
The most important part, though, is that Brandon Belt is good and hitting home runs again. May he do this for the next four years, at least.