One of baseball’s most repeated aphorisms is that batters don’t hit home runs, pitchers throw them.
It’s obviously a hyperbolic saying, but you can forgive it - “batters are partially responsible for hitting home runs but pitchers are roughly equally responsible for allowing them” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
But it’s certainly true.
Entering the day, the Cubs were third in the National League with 157 home runs. The Giants, recent hot streak be damned, were 13th, with 108. This isn’t because the Giants have a preponderance for facing pitchers who don’t allow home runs. It’s because the Cubs are better at hitting them.
Chicago had three home runs on Wednsday, hit by three batters - Albert Almora Jr. (10), Javier Baez (21), and Kris Bryant (25) - who have combined to hit more than half as many dingers as the entire Giants squad.
So you give credit where credit is due.
And yet, the “pitchers throw home runs” mantra was equally on display, as it is with most home runs (non-Pablo Sandoval category, at least). Tyler Beede served up three fastballs right into the happy zone of each hitter. They didn’t have a lot of movement. They didn’t have any deception. They came in 0-0, 2-1, and 2-0 counts.
They were home runs begging to be hit, and the Cubs, gracious guests as they are, happily obliged.
Beede’s counterpart, Tyler Chatwood, served up a few home run pitches of his own, but the Giants hitters were unable to capitalize on those opportunities.
That’s the reality of baseball, especially in 2019. You don’t need to hit home runs to win games, but your margin for error evaporates pretty dramatically when you can’t. The Giants hitters were unable to capitalize on Cubs offerings, and instead had to make all their luck; the Cubs hitters were much happier to meet in the middle, and smash some balls over the fence. It won them the game.
The Cubs may have won, but the real winner was everyone in favor of robo-umps. It was not a good day for home plate umpire Jordan Baker. In the Giants first at-bat of the game, Brandon Belt was called out on strikes and . . . well . . . we’re kind of used to him getting this treatment, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
A few innings later, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out of the game for arguing an equally egregious strike call. It was that way all day long, with the strike zone expanding in funny places on a whim.
Beede’s start can be seen as half-full or half-empty. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
The negative is obvious - he gave up three booming home runs, all on pretty bad pitches. He allowed 11 baserunners and four earned runs in just 5.2 innings.
But the positives were there. He gave up just one walk, giving him a total of two walks in his last four starts. Two walks in 27.1 innings. That’s tremendously encouraging for someone who, prior to that, had given up 28 walks in 37.2 innings.
There’s a chance that Beede is figuring out his control, which would give him an incredible ceiling, given the dynamism of his secondary stuff. Beede’s curveball was on full display on Wednesday, prompting Mike Krukow to exclaim, “that’s called unfair” after one pitch.
He had 20 strike-throughs, per ESPN - twenty! - and seven punch-outs.
19% of his pitches resulted in swings and misses, and he walked only one of the 27 batters he faced. That’s a recipe for success. Today, it didn’t yield success, and that obviously can’t be ignored. But there was a lot to like in the start.
The Giants had another good bullpen game, largely on the backs of two players new to that part of the team. Drew Pomeranz made his second relief appearance of the year, and got Beede out of a bases loaded jam. Pomeranz pitched 1.1 innings without allowing a baserunner, and struck out two. As a reliever, he has now faced 10 batters, retired them all, and struck out six of them.
And Sam Coonrod - who got his first career win last night - pitched equally well in a less glamorous position. He easily set the Cubs down, despite an error from Brandon Crawford.
If the Giants trade a reliever or two, they should at least feel good about their ability to replace them with pitchers like Pomeranz and Coonrod.
All things considered, this had the feel of an early season loss. The Giants lacked firepower (excepting Stephen Vogt, who was 3-4 with two doubles), and simply looked like the worse baseball team.
But these things happen - to good teams (which the Giants may be), bad teams (which the Giants may be), and average teams (which the Giants likely are). It’s still just the team’s fourth loss in July, and they’re still above .500, and they still won the series.
On to the next one.