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Giants sweep Rockies behind Hwang, Blach

The Giants are rolling, and the Rockies are reeling.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at San Francisco Giants Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for some baseball game theory. The Giants, having been swept six times this year, just completed their first sweep of the 2017 season. They’re looking like a real team at the moment, but they’re still 30-51, and they would need the longest winning streak in baseball history just to reach .500. The season is officially half over, and they would have to go 60-21 just to reach 90 wins.

This means if you’re looking for a way to consider the second half of 2017 a success, you’ll have to focus on something other than wins and losses. There’s a way to be happy for the next three months, and it won’t have anything to do with looking at the standings.

Jae-gyun Hwang hitting long, punishing home runs and staring at them for a beat would make me extraordinarily happy.

The Giants have hit more than seven home runs this year. At least eight. And some of those have been no-doubters. Buster Posey’s walk-off in the 17th inning, for example. The one he hit off the scoreboard in Milwaukee. Austin Slater’s moonshot in Milwaukee. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. The Giants are adept at hitting is-it-maybe-idk-hopefully home runs, partly because of the ballpark.

Hwang’s home run was liquidated. It came on a high fastball, and it just kept soaring, high into the left-field bleachers, up where Andres Galarraga used to hit them. While the internet was hoping for Hwang to flip his bat like the ape in 2001: A Space Odyssey, he delivered something just as good: A healthy stare, followed by a bat drop.

The last month for Hwang has me mighty intrigued. He learned to take a walk in Triple-A. After two months of unsettled certainty, he looked like a player who belonged in the majors, and the opt-out in his contract gave him that opportunity. The Giants might not have been thinking about him as a possible call-up, but some agent maneuvering back in February made it happy.

Pretty happy about that right now. As are we all.

Because i’m legally obligated to be a buzzkill, the odds are against Hwang being much more than a bench contributor. ZiPS had him as a .252/.299/.392 hitter before the season started, and while the projection system has been wrong before and will be wrong again, that’s a good start when it comes to looking for the available evidence. Lots of power. Little plate discipline. Uncertain defensive flexibility.

The odds were against Joe Panik, too. And you’d better believe they were against Brandon Crawford. Austin Slater’s stats didn’t make people giddy before the draft, and there were reasons to be skeptical the entire time he was progressing through the organization. That isn’t to say that statistical projections are always wrong. Just that if you’re interested in Hwang more than the stats suggest you should be, it’s fine to follow your gut for a little while. Wait for him not to succeed before you assume that’s his fate.

Until then, look at that baseball fly into the sun. It won the game, it did.

And I’m still thinking about the guy who wears a foam triceratops costume having a bad day because of it. If that’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

I don’t wish the Rockies specific ill will, mostly because they’re chasing the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, which, bleah. When the Rockies struggle, the other two thrive. That’s not very exciting.

At the same time, I’ll take any NL West rival struggling at the hands of the Giants. It’s just that much more fun to watch. Rockies, Padres, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, it absolutely doesn’t matter. It’s always fun to watch any of them get swept at AT&T Park to extend their lengthy, unbearable losing streaks.

This time, it just happened to be the Rockies. Good. It’s not like the Giants didn’t owe them.

Ty Blach was down two runs before recording his first out, in a day game after a 14-inning night game. He couldn’t cough up a 70-pitch, 3-inning blem. This was the kind of game that screws with a pitcher’s career ERA because the manager is willing to leave him in until he allows 12 earned runs. There were a lot of ways this could have ended poorly.

Instead, Blach was stellar. He got 11 swings and misses from the Rockies today, which is as many as he got in nine April outings combined. And while I just spent a half-hour learning that the correlation for his increased whiff rate wasn’t very meaningful (R2 of 0.09), it’s still satisfying to see him make hitters swing and miss.

As I’ve pointed out before, it’s not enough to see him give up doink after doink and assume he’s unlucky. Doinks are what happen to pitchers who don’t miss bats. My hope, then, is for the guy to miss bats.

This was an encouraging game, then.

The biggest hit of the game was the two-run homer from Nick Hundley, and I have to point out that this was the plan. The Giants spent extra money (especially considering the salary-cap tax) for a backup catcher with power, and it hasn’t worked out this way.

Look at some of the successful teams around either league this season. The odds are strong that they have random bench contributors enjoying unlikely seasons. Good for them. The jerks. The problem with the Giants is that they’ve had almost none of their bench contributors enjoying anything close to their expected seasons. It’s one thing if they’re not hitting .340 with surprising power, or whatever. It’s another if they’re completely incapable of even sniffing the ZiPS projection from February.

Hundley was a good idea. This was why. It would be helpful if he could do it some more.

Nolan Arenado, you stay away from my children.


(holy heck what a play)