There’s part of me that doesn’t want to overreact to a silly, meaningless series for the Giants in the middle of August. The Giants beat the Cubs two times in three games because baseball can be silly like that.
There’s another, larger, part of me that realizes I won’t have a lot of chances to overreact for the rest of the year. So go for it.
I’d like to propose that this series gave the Giants a blueprint for how they can possibly be good next year. How’s that for overreacting?
First, watch Madison Bumgarner throw a baseball like he’s one of the best in the world at throwing a baseball. Because he is. And we take it for granted now that he’s back and a few starts in, but I really do want to keep harkening back to the day when we heard BROKEN RIB and GRADE 2 SHOULDER STRAIN, OMG, because those were dark times. And when I read GRADE 2 SHOULDER STRAIN, OMG, I wondered about the fate of the franchise.
I’m still wondering about the fate of the franchise, but it’s tempered a bit because I know that Madison Bumgarner sure looks like the pre-dirtbike pitcher that we were so used to. I don’t want to gloss over that. It was so, so possible for him to come back and be erratic, which would force me to make excuses for him because c’mon he’s rusty or he’s just building his strength up. Instead, he’s roughly the pitcher he was when he left, which is a treat to watch.
Not only that, but he pitched a brilliant game against a team that normally crushes left-handers. They can crush normal left-handers, but Bumgarner is no normal left-hander, he said in his best Éowyn voice. This rationale bleeds over into last night, when Ty Blach pitched much better than the Cubs were probably expecting. Those two in a rotation gives me confidence in 40 percent of the games. That’s like ...................... almost half of the games.
Next, move on to Hunter Pence, who pummeled an opposite-field homer in the worst park in baseball history for opposite-field home runs. It’s possible that we’ve overrated Pence over the years, mentally adding his ebullience and wonder right onto his WAR, but here are his career WARs over the years:
Career WAR, by year
2007 - 3.4
2008 - 2.3
2009 - 3.9
2010 - 3.0
2011 - 5.6
2012 - 1.0
2013 - 3.8
2014 - 3.7
2015 - 1.0
2016 - 1.9
Or, if you don’t want to buy WAR ...
Adjusted OPS, by year
2007 - 129
2008 - 105
2009 - 116
2010 - 112
2011 - 139
2012 - 103
2013 - 133
2014 - 121
2015 - 119
2016 - 118
Even in his bad years, Pence was pretty okay. He’s worth -0.8 wins this year. His adjusted OPS is 74. This is the worst year of his career on several levels, and because he’s 34, I’ve mentally filed him in the rolodex of no hope.
But what if he’s okay next year?
Not an MVP candidate, but okay?
Jayson Werth went from a brutal season to okay for the Nationals. There are a lot of examples like that, especially when it comes to players who performed close to an All-Star level for years. What if Pence is just okay next year? That would be most welcome. And not totally unrealistic.
What if Pablo Sandoval is better than he was in his three seasons with the Red Sox? After grumbling about his defense in the first inning, he made sweet plays in the later innings.
Easily the best play Sandoval has made since returning to the Giants: pic.twitter.com/PAb9jiPQqH— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) August 9, 2017
I can’t express just how low my expectations are in this particular situation. But the Giants just won their second series in a row — both against teams that were actually trying — and I’m rolling with it. What if Pablo Sandoval enjoys a renaissance with the Giants? Stranger baseball things have baseballed.
What if Sam Dyson is the Pablo Sandoval of closers? What if he’s given away because he’s so awful, except it turns out he isn’t so awful? That’s eight percent of the next contending roster that was just handed to the Giants. Here, you figure something out with these guys.
Odds of this happening: eight percent. Multiplied by another eight percent. Which ... oh, boy, but I’m afforded some temporary confidence.
What if Jarrett Parker is going to be the Giants’ Logan Morrison, the guy who shows up in his late-20s and says, “Right, right, sorry about that, I’ve figured it all out now?” They’re owed one of those by my count. Ryder Jones, too. He should be Jake Lamb. I’ve just decided that.
If you want a reason not to believe, you can examine the hits that led to the Giants’ seventh-inning run. There was an infield single from Denard Span that could have been scored an error by a less generous official scorer. There was a Ryder Jones single that went 400 feet in the air and still found a spot to nestle in the outfield grass. And there was a single from Jarrett Parker that he couldn’t have rolled out there any better. That was how the Giants scored their second run, the one that put them ahead.
On the other hand, if Pence was going to rope an opposite-field homer, they were going to win anyway. So I’m not even going to complain. The Giants pitched well. They fielded better than the other team. And they scored more runs. Got more hits. More walks. And more runs.
This was an example of a bad team playing a good team, winning, and wondering, well, shouldn’t we be as good as this good team we just beat? I’m still leaning toward “probably not,” but that’s waaaaay better than “lolololol” or “hell no” or “get out of my house i have a gun,” which were the responses from just a month ago.
I’m still not sold on the Giants’ plan to reload instead of rebuild because I’m lacking confidence in their ability to fix what is broken ... but when I afford myself some confidence, the visions of the happy future look like this.
I like this.