The rarest sight of this season hasn’t been a win, it’s been a pitcher throwing seven innings. Shaun Anderson became the first pitcher since Madison Bumgarner on April 13th to pitch at least that many innings, and just the sixth instance of it happening all season long.
No Giants pitcher has completed more than seven innings, but that’s not important. Not because modern baseball has evolved past the point of a starting pitcher needing to be able to throw as many innings as possible, but because it’s better to focus on what actually happened this afternoon in Baltimore: Shaun Anderson picked up his first quality start, his first major league win, and confidence.
If this team plans to develop any of its current non-championship talent for the future, they’re going to need confidence. They’re going to need to nurture their successes. Shaun Anderson might not be on the next good Giants team, but today he took the first step towards solidifying a major league career. It doesn’t matter that he did it against the Orioles or, as Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News noted,
Shaun Anderson had one swing-and-miss entering the 7th inning of today's game. He finishes with four.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) June 1, 2019
7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks on 105 pitches.
He ended his day with a 21-pitch seventh inning, but that’s okay. The Orioles scored eight runs off the Giants last night, including six in the first inning — it could’ve broke bad for Anderson and his teammates very quickly. We saw it happen all of May. That didn’t happen here and we can only assume so much before looking silly.
Is Shaun Anderson just a grittier pitcher than the ones the Giants have started most of the season? Maybe, maybe not. Numbers-wise, Statcast puts his four-seam fastball in the top 30 and slider in baseball’s top 50 in terms of their respective spin rates, which makes it harder for hitters to barrel pitches (his 5.4% barreled rate heading into today’s game was below the league average of 6.2%).
He threw these two pitches the most today (43 four-seamers, 39 sliders), and the four aforementioned swing-throughs all came on that fastball. He hit 96 mph with the fastball but averaged 92.8 mph on the day and threw 72 of his 105 pitches for strikes.
This was a great day for a 24-year old starting pitcher on a rebuilding team. The Orioles would love to have prospects like him they could rely on. For all of us, what a sigh of relief... breath of fresh air... “yes” in a sea of “nooooooos”.
In the top of the third, Buster Posey worked himself into a 3-2 count after fouling off three of four 93 mph fastballs.
If you’ve had a nagging thought in the back of your mind lately about how the older Giants seem to be capable of only fouling off high velocity fastballs, the eighth pitch of this plate appearance might’ve compelled the first sigh of relief of the day.
That eighth pitch wound up becoming Buster Posey’s third home run of the year.
The dang thing had an exit velocity of just 98.6 mph, but it was enough to get over that right field wall. Posey is just slightly behind last year’s pace (he hit his third home run on May 28th), which doesn’t mean anything negative, really.
His 2018 season ended with hip surgery. That he’s back and hitting baseballs at Statcast-measured exit velocities and averages equal to or better than his career norms is good and encouraging. That was his first home run since May 5th and today was only his third two-walk game of the season, and his overall line might not be top of the league, but he’s still a very valuable player...
Which is why his departure late in the game because of “right hamstring soreness” is concerning. Get well soon, Buster. I’d very much like to see you play a lot more this year.
Brandon Belt singled in the first inning to drive in Mike Yastrzemski (1-for-3 with a walk) and Buster Posey (see above), but a call later in the game might’ve made those the only big runs the Giants scored today.
After Posey homered in the top of the third to make it a 3-0 game, Brandon Belt struck out on this called third strike to end that inning:
With the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning, Orioles reliever Miguel Castro came in and tried to dot that same outside part of the plate to try to get Belt to chase or to get a friendly strike called. He was... unsuccessful.
Brandon Belt knows the gosh danged strike zone (BreakingT even made this shirt about it) and the Orioles are so weirdly bad that it’s reasonable to think that the Giants hitters stepped into the box not thinking they could be outmatched in a given a-b, but it’s almost just as easy to imagine that after last night’s ordeal, the season overall, and the b-s called third strike in the third that Belt could’ve stepped into the box a little distracted by all that badness and uncertainty.
Instead, like the pro that he is, he just waited for his pitch. A reminder that that’s what good hitters do. And a reminder that confidence isn’t magic and it doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from this simple formula: time + success.
Brandon Belt’s great quantities of both helped him out today and Shaun Anderson started stashing small quantities of both in his confidence piggy bank.