After a day of triumphs, the Giants spent the next afternoon embarrassing themselves in Philadelphia. They didn’t do anything well and at every turn, when they weren’t looking overmatched, they looked unprepared. Have the July vibes given way to August losses?
Jake Arrieta, who’s pitching with bone chips in his right elbow, struck out three of the first five batters he faced. It was 9-0 after four innings. Dereck Rodriguez didn’t strike out anybody in three-plus innings, but did walk two and give up a home run on the tenth pitch of Cesar Hernandez’s at bat that led off that fateful fourth. Kevin Pillar’s double was the Giants’ only extra base hit.
It was just one of those games, maybe. Yeah, that’s it.
Will anyone be surprised if, after the Giants don't trade Bumgarner, they go on a 10-15 game losing streak?— Ann Killion (@annkillion) July 31, 2019
No. Stop. Don’t listen to any of that. Nobody knows anything. The Giants were just bad today. That’s all...
Because he can’t strikeout major league hitters — again, literally zero today, but a 6.2 K/9 on the season — Dereck Rodriguez’s best starts are usually a combination of sharp and superb defense. Neither quality materialized in this one and the Phillies spent most of the day whacking the ball away from the Giants’ defensive shifts and scoring runs in bulk.
I don’t know enough about advance scouting and defensive shifts, but it seems like at least a mistake or two were made on the scouting side. Twice was Mike Yastrzemski shifted away from balls hit to left field, Brandon Crawford was shifted a little closer to third on a ball that he might’ve been able to knock down if he’d been in his regular position.
Of course, the very little I do know about shifting strategy is the same as what you know: the second part of it is getting the pitcher to essentially pitch to that defense. Dereck Rodriguez couldn’t spot anything today, and while Alfonso Marquez managed to fluster him — and me — with a small strike zone, when he tried to throw strikes he almost exclusively threw pitches right down the middle. Eight of the 17 balls put in play by the Phillies against Rodriguez had exit velocities of 95 mph or greater, which Statcast defines as “hard hit”.
“Middle of the plate” is not a pitch zone that plays into a hitter’s tendencies, it’s the spot where any professional hitter can annihilate the baseball, rendering shifts and schemes irrelevant. Still, how different might today’s game have gone had Brandon Crawford been able to cleanly field Jake Arrieta’s batted ball in the bottom of the second? He fields it cleanly and the Giants get out of the inning without allowing a run. Instead, as expected, a key error in a pitcher’s at bat led to a big inning and a fast unraveling.
... but are the Giants really about to experience some sort of Killion curse? Have all the changes to the roster over the season really been fool’s gold?
Kevin Pillar sacrificed life and limb to try to catch a J.T. Realmuto home run to straightaway center (the end result is today’s recap post image) which is the exact same kind of effort he would’ve expended in July. His ridiculous swing at a slider in the dirt when Jake Arrieta refused to throw him a strike was also the exact same kind of swing we saw him waste last month, the only difference was that his teammates might’ve picked him up afterwards.
The at bats today didn’t look appreciably different than what we’ve seen of late, but the results were far out of whack. That doesn’t seem like the key difference between the April-May Giants and June-July Giants. If they play in August and September how they played in June and July, then I think we’ll see outcomes more like those months than the first two.
Mike Yastrzemski is having a rookie season in that his enthusiasm fuels his competitive drive which leads to positive results, but just as often leads to some costly mistakes.
In the top of the fifth, the Giants had a chance to revive those July vibes with the bases loaded and no outs and two runs in to make the score 9-2. Stephen Vogt worked the count to 2-0 then flared a fastball to right field that just went foul, then lined a ball to Cesar Hernandez at second base which turned into a double play after Mike Yastrzemski took off from second thinking the liner was going to go through. And then Tyler Austin flied out to end the inning. Does better baserunning by Yastrzemski change the outcome of that inning?
Here’s Jake Arrieta peppering him in his first at bat with two sharp curveballs (pitches #3 and #4).
Still, he recovered to have a nice day and still manages to work the count in most of his at bats. There might’ve been a battle brewing between Austin Slater and Mike Yastrzemski, but for all of Yastrzemski’s flaws, he’s still managed to be fairly consistent with the bat (he was one of four Giants with two hits today) while Slater’s stock has fallen in the 64 plate appearances since his grand slam — just 11 hits and 21 strikeouts to 7 walks.
Yeah, the Giants are just going to have to suffer through these mental mistakes and those plate appearances when he’s simply overmatched. They don’t really have a superior option yet, and especially with Alex Dickerson hitting the IL.
Sam Selman finally made his major league debut in the bottom of the fifth inning. After being drafted in 2012, he considered retiring this past offseason after not being able to get a call-up. Here’s one more plug for Doug’s interview with him last month.
He struck out the first batter he faced and the rest of his inning was a total FIP-case. A reminder of FIP: it measures just what a pitcher can control, so, just strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and home runs. He hit three of the four FIP elements.
He showed a solid fastball around 92 and a really nice slider that broke perfectly to hit the corners. Selman definitely appeared nervous in his first few pitches, but after an uncharacteristic low and outside strike call from Alfonso Marquez that Maikel Franco assumed was a ball, Selman locked in to strike him out. But then this happened:
New ball, we have to talk. This isn't working out. It's not me. It's you. https://t.co/Q4WVlLRWV9— Grant Brisbee (@GrantBrisbee) August 1, 2019
Yeah, I don’t know. Tough to be too mad about that one. He didn’t make it more difficult for the Giants to come back and win the game and there’s nothing you can do when a juiced ball gets squared up like that.
Welcome aboard, Sam Selman.
This wasn’t Jandel Gustave’s major league debut (he’d pitched 20.1 innings with the Astros) but it was the 26-year old’s first major league action since 2017. He didn’t strike out anybody, but he looked solid. If Selman is a soft replacement for Pomeranz, then Gustave could be viewed as a soft replacement for Dyson and/or Black — a high velocity sinker guy with a sharp slider.
Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, Sam Selman, Jandel Gustave, and Sam Coonrod (who pitched an uneventful bottom of the eighth) are not the Giants’ best pitchers — in fact, the reverse order of this list might well be the bottom five names of the pitching staff’s depth chart — and the lineup is going to be a work in progress for the rest of the season, so I’m going to look at today as just a really bad road loss on getaway day and not a portent of things to come. I suggest you do the same. And I say that because it brings me comfort, even if comfort does not mean assurance.