Ty Blach, who shut the Phillies out and lowered his ERA to 3.24, is quietly becoming the best part of the 2017 season.
Quietly? Loudly. Aggressively. Patiently. All of the above. Whatever, you’ve noticed. And I’m pretty sure that I’m completely into this.
After the first pitch of Friday’s ballgame, I typed the following note:
hot dog, i actually look forward to this guy’s starts
That was after one pitch. Maybe that’s because I pawned his eleventy-run outing against the Reds off on poor Doug, but when I settled in to watch a late-afternoon Giants game, I wasn’t immediately angry or tired. I wanted to watch Blach pitch. It was a welcome contrast to every other pitcher on the Giants, and that’s not to impugn the other starters. Johnny Cueto can also be a delight, but he’s right-handed and has the raw stuff to blow hitters away when it suits him. Same with Jeff Samardzija. Matt Moore is left handed, but he’s more brute force than artisanal nibbling.
Blach is into artisanal nibbling. He’s hitting Buster Posey’s glove and hoping the other team is too jumpy or inexperienced to help themselves. The Phillies, on this night, were too jumpy and inexperienced. Blach struck out four in his shutout, and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, he also got 14 swing-throughs, which is plenty for him. He didn’t just dominate the Phillies in the box score; he looked like the player with an idea of what he was doing, and they didn’t.
And I’m still not sure what to make of that. This game provides the perfect contrast. Jerad Eickhoff is a solid young pitcher. He was one of the main pieces of the Cole Hamels trade, and he was a revelation last year. He throws hard and has a wicked curve. As of six months ago, I would have traded Blach for him and wrote an article like this:
That’s not to say that Eickhoff isn’t the better young pitcher, or that he won’t start an All-Star Game or make the Hall of Fame, I have no idea. But on this night, the contrast was stark. Their guy had stuff, but zero idea what to do with it. Our guy had several ideas to do with what limited stuff he had. Blach doesn’t have to turn into Dallas Keuchel just because I want him to, but he’s a reminder that effective starters come in a lot of forms.
There was loud contact, and there were at-’em balls, so it’s not like this was a thorough, dominating exhibition. But if Blach pitches that well regularly, he will make scores of millions. Hundreds of millions. We’re getting ahead of ourselves, but that’s how well he pitched. He pitched like someone who didn’t know the strikeout was invented, but happily accepted them when they came along.
Reminder that we’re two years removed from Chris Heston looking like a rotation mainstay, and we’re not exactly broken up about him being gone, even if we have absolutely no idea who the Giants got in return. That’s not to suggest that Blach = Heston because that’s an oranges/kumquats comparison. It’s still useful to remember that a couple months don’t always add up to a long-term solution.
But that was Blach’s fifth straight start of seven innings or more. They’ve all been quality starts. I don’t know if this will continue, but I’m not seeing where he’s failed in the past, either. I’ll write it after every start: Maybe there’s room for a pitch-to-contact sinkerballer in the wacky, wild world of uppercut swings and dingermania. Maybe we shouldn’t make out with K/9 and FIP with the same fervor that we once did.
One of my favorite Baseball-Reference pages of all-time is Jim Palmer’s, because he had a Hall-of-Fame career while striking batters out like he was Kirk Rueter. I’m not trying to draw a direct comparison, but rather remind everyone that effective starters come in a lot of forms, so I’m not going into the cynic’s cave to subsist on MREs and FIPs just yet.
This particular form was awesome, though.
More of this, please.
Dude runs like he plays the washboard in a jug band that’s running away from the cops, though. We know this because Blach walked three times in the game. Three times! That’s as many (if not more) than any of the following players who have played for the 2017 Giants:
- Kelby Tomlinson
- Justin Ruggiano
- Jarrett Parker
- Drew Stubbs
- Chris Marrero
- Mac Williamson
- Michael Morse
- Nick Hundley
- Every other pitcher on the team combined
Blach is now halfway to Denard Span and close to halfway to Brandon Crawford, but we’re not here to pick nits. Blach was the first pitcher to walk three times in a game since Aaron Cook in 2009, and Cook was the first pitcher to do it since Joaquin Andujar in 1984. This doesn’t happen often.
My favorite discovery from this is that the last Giants pitcher to walk three times at the plate was Ray Sadecki on September 1, 1969.
The time before that was Ray Sadecki on August 23, 1969.
I love this sport.
Of course, the lineup didn’t run through Ty Blach. He is but a footnote to the prodigious offensive explosion. The Giants scored in the double digits for the first time this season (they did it twice in their first four games last year), and they did it with the help of Span, who had five hits for the fifth time in his career and first time since joining the Giants. Eduardo Nuñez continued hitting well, taking a walk and pulling line drives where no one could catch them, except for the one time he roped a line drive right at a Phillies outfielder.
The Giants took 10 walks, which just doesn’t happen a lot. There were balls that found holes because the Phillies are having a season that’s just as miserable as the Giants, but the line drives were loud. There were balls in the gap and bases loaded walks, too.
It’s possible the Phillies are bad.
Good enough to win the next two games, of course, but they didn’t convince a lot of folks that they were a dormant juggernaut like the Astros from a couple years ago. The Giants got to say, “Man, look at those guys” for the first time all season. I don’t know if it will continue through the weekend, but it was satisfying to watch right now.
It is mildly amusing that Buster Posey left five men on base in a 10-run rout, though. As someone who doesn’t care about RBI, it’s something to laugh at, not get frustrated with. It’s June, he’s a cleanup hitter with a .344 batting average, and he has 11 RBI.
That’s funny, right?
On nights like this, it’s funny. He’s still awesome. But it’s not not funny.
Kids, make sure to share this hot new meme with your fellow youths:
See, it’s a play on the band “Slayer,” which ... ah, hell, go away, it’s funny to me.
Austin Slater worked the count tonight, and he got his first major league hit. He took a walk and probably deserved another. I can’t remember if he fielded a single ball in right field, which is probably a good thing.
Put him in the next lineup, then. That’s enough to move on to the next round.
Mark Leiter’s son pitched in this game. I remember sitting in a VW Bug on my lunch break during a winter job at the Emporium, listening to his second straight complete game. I was pretty convinced he was the ace the Giants were looking for.
He was not. And now his son, older than I was while listening to those games, is in the major leagues.
I would crack a joke right now, except I’m too busy quietly decomposing.