This is a fine game to unveil a Players The Giants Really, Really Hope Are Fixed By Next Season Power Ranking.
- Matt Moore
- Brandon Crawford
- Johnny Cueto
- Hunter Pence
- Jeff Samardzija’s luck
This power ranking does not include any of the injured players, even though Brandon Belt’s injury is certainly concerning. I’m just talking about the players who have sorely disappointed the Giants with their performance this year. Samardzija’s luck isn’t anything that a little time, a wetter baseball, and a better defensive outfield can’t fix. Pence was starting to swing like his old self before his hamstring tweak. Cueto’s truncated spring, blisters, and subsequent forearm tightness don’t all have to be fixed by next season, but it wouldn’t be a hyper-surprising development if he were the pitcher of the previous seven seasons instead of the version of 2017.
Which leaves us the top two. As of the beginning of August, there was no hope. There was only shame and regret. Crawford had somehow avoided hot streaks for an entire year, and Moore was forever a pitch away from plunking Chase Utley and getting Jeremy Affeldt in the game. The Giants’ fortunes aren’t irrevocably tied to these two players ... but they each mean an awful lot.
In Wednesday’s game, the Giants looked like a team that could beat a contender.
In the series against the Brewers, the Giants looked like a team that could beat a contender.
In the month of August, the Giants have looked like a contender. They’re 12-10, scoring more than 100 runs in a month for just the second time this year, and there’s a week left. They’re pitching well. They haven’t lost a series at home in their last six tries.
They look like a normal team, really.
And, yes, I’m going to tie that to Moore and Crawford, both of whom excelled today.
Moore threw his third straight quality start, and while the merits of that particular stat are up for debate, I find it a useful designation in this case. It’s shorthand for “not pitching like Matt Moore was pitching earlier in the year because, holy crap, did you see how bad that guy was?” That’s a mouthful, so just stick with “quality start,” and it conveys the same information. That’s still just 11 quality starts out of 26 chances, but the line graph is sure going in the right direction. It beats eight quality starts out of 23 chances, which is where we were at the beginning of the month.
While I don’t think Moore will ever have stellar command, I’m less worried about him pulling a hamstring in his brain and walking the pitcher on four pitches. There might not be perfect command, but there’s at least a semblance of control. And when his offspeed stuff is working, that’s usually fine enough. His changeup was the pitch he threw for strikes most often, and his curve was the pitch hitters swung and missed at the most. I don’t think we’ll see Matt Moore, All-Star and Cy Young vote-getter again — 2013 was a long time ago — but you can see why the Giants kept trying Moore and hoping it would work, even as the fans yelled a lot.
(Contrast Moore’s obvious stuff and upside to Tim Lincecum throwing 87 mph without any idea where the ball was going. Then remember that Lincecum got almost five years to prove that he wasn’t going to find some upside he had left in an old coat pocket.)
It might be false confidence he’s building. But I’ll take it because the Giants weren’t going to give up on the experiment before next season, so having a little confidence is all we can ask for. He’s pitched well. Moore has pitched like a normal variation of what we might have expected from him. That’s a helluva improvement.
And, lookie here, the Giants win when he does that.
Crawford wasn’t exactly the hero of the game, considering that of his two line drive hits, only one led to a run, and even that was an insurance run. But he’s hitting line drives. He made several fine plays in the field on Wednesday, taking away hits and starting impossible double plays.
And, lookie here, the Giants win when he does that.
The Giants are 12-10 in August. Brandon Crawford is hitting like himself. Matt Moore is pitching like himself. It’s hard to move straight from correlation to causation, but I’m ruling out coincidence. The Giants need them to be right next season if they’re going to be halfway interesting.
I could go for halfway interesting right now. But I’m more interested in spoiling everything for the Diamondbacks and beating the stupid Padres. Priorities, people.
Of course, the real reason the Giants won is because Jarrett Parker hit a check-swing double at the perfect time. After a Denard Span double and a Gorkys Hernandez HBP, Kelby Tomlinson had a very 2017 at-bat:
And, not to be forgotten, Bochy may not have liked the strikeout call to Kelby pic.twitter.com/YSAihCGf4h— Ahmed Fareed (@FareedNBCS) August 23, 2017
When they showed the side angle of the pitch, it wasn’t just at the bottom of Tomlinson’s knees. It was unambiguous ankle action, a dreadful call. And it looked like the Giants were going to get hosed again.
(The Giants don’t get hosed more than any other team. They just need the runs more than other teams, so you notice the slights more.)
That’s when Parker thought better of a swing on the first pitch he saw from Jacob Barnes and hit it down the line anyway. Hernandez — maybe the Giants’ best hitter, even if he hasn’t hit a single home run, I don’t even know anymore — scored his second run of the game, and the blown call was immediately vindicated. That sort of instant justice hasn’t happened an awful lot for the 2017 Giants.
If Parker hits into a line drive double play, I’m not sure if we’re so excited about Moore. Heck, they might still be playing. So he’s the accidental hero of the afternoon.
Just as long as we’re clear that Kelby Tomlinson would have hit the Coke bottle.
Parker has 14 RBI in August. That’s tied for the most by any Giants outfielder in any month this season.
It seems that every fun fact has a touch of melancholy behind it these days. Ignore it. The Giants won a series against a contending team, and I didn’t remember that being possible.