The Giants are just beginning their rebuild and the Padres are somewhere near the final quarter mile of theirs. I’m going to say that games played by teams in such stages have common traits and can be characterized in two distinct ways:
Rebuilding team - Beginner
Small home crowds
Blown out early
Blown out late
Early leads given away
Late leads given away
Bad starting pitching
Bad relief pitching
Bad offense, defense, starting pitching, relief pitching, and managing
Rebuilding team - Advanced
Above average home crowds
Early leads given away
Bad relief pitching
Now, am I cherry picking qualities to set the stage for this recap? Absolutely. Tonight, the Giants played like a beginner rebuilding franchise for a lot of the game. The Padres played like a veteran rebuilder nearing the end.
The Giants frittered away a lot of their opportunities in the early going — a double play to kill a rally in the first, a hit with a runner in scoring position that didn’t lead to a run in the second, the top of the fifth that saw a 3-1 Giants lead become a 4-3 Padres lead — and the Padres capitalized on their mistakes.
Despite their 33-33 record heading into the this series and overall improved play year over year, the Padres’ weakness has been their bullpen. Outside of their closer, Kirby Yates, they’re a group with a collective fWAR of just 0.7. They have the highest home run to fly ball rate of any team in the National League (18.1%) — and are third in baseball in this category behind just the Orioles and Tigers — and a middling 4.46 ERA (13th in MLB; 10th in NL).
But they were up against the Giants’ offense, a group that has been known to do absolutely nothing in the face of opposing pitching. And yet, as a group, they’ve done well against bullpens. Just check out their totals for walks, hits, and runs from innings 6-9 coming into tonight’s game:
WALKS: 94 of 194 (48.5%)
HITS: 218 of 483 (45.1%)
RUNS: 121 of 246 (49.2%)
Tonight looked like this:
WALKS: 3 of 4 (75%)
HITS: 3 of 9 (33%)
RUNS: 3 of 6 (50%)
Rookie Chris Paddack had the Giants on the ropes for his five innings of work thanks to his devastating 94 mph - 84 mph fastball - changeup combo. Those were the averages. His fastball was hitting 96-97 in punchout situations, leading to six strikeouts on the night.
It looked like one of those games where the Giants would have to hold the line and hope to get to the bullpen to do the most damage. As it stands, Paddack’s early season dominance has waned over his past few starts, where he’s allowed 12 earned runs in his last 14.1 innings of work. But, again, and I can’t stress this enough — these are the Giants, and it felt safe to assume that whatever hiccups he’d experienced of late had been quelled by the jump scare that is the Giants’ offense most of the time.
But then he couldn’t fool Tyler Austin on an inside fastball leading to an RBI single. Steven Duggar guessed right that he’d see a changeup after a fastball and crushed a 2-run home run to give the Giants an early 3-1 lead, and suddenly, the Giants weren’t quite playing like a rebuilding team on the beginners level. Suddenly, the Padres looked like a rebuilding team starting a rookie pitcher.
But the Giants started a rookie pitcher, too, and as great as Tyler Beede looked in his first four innings — after allowing a lead off home run to Fernando Tatis Jr. on the very first pitch of the game — he looked extremely rebuild rookie in a 36-pitch top of the fifth that saw the Giants lose their lead.
Here’s my scouting report on Tyler Beede: he’s got great stuff and the talent to be in a major league rotation. From the outside looking in, which is as close as I can get to the organization and the man himself, it looks entirely as though the last bit of work he needs to realize his potential involves his mind.
Wil Myers led of the top of the fifth with a walk. Beede threw 30 more pitches after that six-pitch at bat. Why? He moved from the windup to the stretch. But it wasn’t all just changing his delivery that caused him to unravel. Wil Myers was a speed threat at second base. Beede had the scouting report in his mind while at the same time trying not to groove one to Austin Barnes — which he nearly did.
He’s trying to remember the signs while figuring out his sequencing, remembering both the batter’s scouting report and the base runner’s. And then he’s got to repeat his mechanics, but from a slightly different angle. Don’t forget about the thousands of people watching in the stands and on TV.
I want to tell Tyler Beede to take a deep breath and relax, but nobody in the history of the world has ever relaxed when advised to relax, because to relax means to return to a state of lax. In the case of a major league pitcher — a rookie major league pitcher with the pressure of being near the top of an organization’s prospect rankings — he’ll never be lax about the opportunity before him: the chance to have a long career as a major league pitcher.
We’re watching someone try very hard to meet expectations. Check out this series of missed locations from today’s game. This first one actually comes last and was supposed to be a high fastball above the middle of the plate — so, top middle of the strike zone box:
Here is a curveball that did not go where Vogt wanted it:
And here’s an illustration from the broadcast of the very first pitch of the game — the red circle is where Stephen Vogt setup and the green circle is where the pitch went:
Technically, the pitch went into the centerfield bleachers, but you get what I mean.
Beede couldn’t get through that fifth inning but he didn’t completely fall apart, either, despite leaving with the bases loaded. Part of that is because Beede has managed to gain a modicum of confidence despite not experiencing overwhelming success just yet and partly because he had Stephen Vogt as his backstop.
Stephen Vogt is not what the SABR kids consider a hip, hidden gem of a defensive catcher. None of the advanced metrics rate him as a net positive defender. He’s not even close to Buster Posey in that regard. That’s probably why he’s the best catcher to handle Tyler Beede right now — none of that catching genius baggage to weigh down their interactions.
Seriously. It might be a little intimidating for Tyler Beede to work with Buster Posey. He’s the face of the franchise and has been the best catcher in baseball for a very long time. Tyler Beede might be thinking, “Hey, this guy works with Bumgarner, he worked with Lincecum and Cain — who am I?” Or maybe not. Maybe Stephen Vogt just has a really calming voice or can really turn a phrase. Still, it’s not hard to imagine Buster Posey’s aura being a distraction.
Just look at the work Stephen Vogt did tonight. Here’s a good frame job to save a strike that might’ve been missed:
And here’s a solid job saving a pitch that wildly missed location but stayed in the zone:
How many times have we seen a catcher move his body and react in such a way that it caused the umpire to assume the missed pitch was out of the zone? Vogt didn’t panic and that certainly helped Beede rack up a career-high seven strikeouts.
He’s been a good pickup. Same with Trevor Gott. Same with Tyler Austin, whom I’m spotlighting for a moment because Bruce Bochy decided earlier today that platooning a guy with such an explosive bat doesn’t quite make sense right now. Austin’s RBI single in the fourth was the second-hardest hit ball of the game (108.5 mph) and his six-pitch at bat in the sixth inning, despite ending in a strikeout, was also admirable when you consider this was his swing on the first pitch:
Farhan Zaidi’s additions haven’t saved the franchise, and the roster churn of the first six weeks felt like more trouble than it was worth, but I’ve just named three guys who’ve been standout contributors in a very short period of time.
This shaky start by a rookie, though, is where the rebuild creep begins. This is exactly how a team trying to figure out a new path churns through the schedule, hoping for quality starts but settling on and dreaming on the positive flashes. And don’t think for a second this game didn’t have its negative flashes. Here’s a play that every rebuilding squad has at least once a month:
"Why worry about something that isn't going to happen?"— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) June 12, 2019
"Oh, that's perfect. They should put that on our money." pic.twitter.com/IUMxlwQZ82
That was the bailout Beede got in the fifth inning. What followed, though, was a chain of spirited, disciplined plate appearances by veteran hitters culminating in hard contact and a game-winning rally in the seventh. And then Will Smith, the Giants’ best pitcher, made it look all to easy in a 2-strikeout save.
We already know there will be games that are just nine innings of that fifth inning, but given the experience on the roster, we also know that they’re not all we’ll get. And sometimes, that experience can pull them out of the dive to land a hard fought win.