That’s more like it.
The plan hasn’t always come together for the San Francisco Giants in the first half of this season, but ending it with a 1-0 complete game pitched by your ace sure does make it easy to forget all the times it didn’t.
There’s been a sort of drag coefficient with Webb for a decent chunk of the season. Indeed, coming into today’s game, he had a 4.40 ERA (3.58 FIP) in his last 7 starts (45 IP) and on the season, a striking 2.36/4.24 home/road ERA split. Still 20% better than the league average pitcher, but not at the level of an All-Star like Alex Cobb, who was named as a replacement to the team over the weekend.
I had kinda-sorta seen Webb as a sneaky All-Star snub, and his last two starts have more or less proven that (15.2 IP 2 ER 2 BB 21 K). He’s buddies with Alex Cobb in what’s actually more like a mentor-protégé relationship, and so seeing him join Cobb with a shutout this season can only be described as delightful.
Towards the end of last season, Dave Flemming interviewed Webb on air during a game and their relationship came up:
Logan Webb: Yeah, he’s really fun to be around. While he’s throwing his bullpens and catch play, he’s very serious. You know... he probably has, like, ten cues that he uses — that’s how you know a guy’s been around for a long time. He really knows what he’s doing. I’ve really tried to learn a lot from him throughout the year because I do a lot of the same things he does. I might throw a little more breaking balls than he does but, it’s splitter, it’s two-seams... it’s almost like... he’s joked around, it’s almost like I’m him ten years ago.
But, yeah, he’s been great. You can tell by the advanced numbers — I think FIP and stuff like that. It just shows that the year that he’s having compared to what his ERA says.
How does any of this tie into today’s game? 11 strikeouts in his last start against a much better team, his 10 punchouts this afternoon suggests that last time out wasn’t some fluke, that maybe Webb really is shifting back to relying less on his defense. He came into today’s game riding a 3.40 FIP, much higher than last season’s 3.03 FIP which came in the face of one of the worst Giants defenses in recent memory, and way off his phenomenal 2021 (2.72 FIP).
He got two double plays today because groundouts will always be a part of his game, but consider the 4-6-3 turned by Bretty Wisely and Casey Schmitt late in the game was helped largely because it was Casey Schmitt powering the throw at the turn. They both came against the two best hitters in the Rockies’ lineup, too, but you pair that groundball ability with simply getting swings and misses against a lineup that strikeouts in the top third of the league, and you can see that strikeouts were his goal today.
In the 9th, he struck out the side thanks in part to a generous check swing call against Kris Bryant. If you were to make a list of pros and cons from the first half, “Umpire strike zone accuracy” would be on that list of cons. I don’t think one bad check swing call that helped them out makes up for the ones that cost them runs in other games, but it’s a stsart.
It helped a lot that Webb’s stuff was on point. He leaned on his changeup 49% of the time and got 10 swings and misses on it, including 6 of his strikeouts. The other 4 came on his slider, including the final swing and miss of the game. If you are anti “analytics” for some reason, even now, in the year 2023, then I regret to inform you that Webb’s changeup is, officially, the best changeup in Major League Baseball.
So, he threw his best pitch the most and it got the best results. Sometimes, advanced statistics isn’t more complicated than “throw your best.” It’s not always the case that a pitcher has his best stuff, but it’s usually the case that aces are the pitchers on staff whose stuff can be most reliable.
Reliable isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a reliably great baseball player, then that means you can give your teams performances that inspire everyone in the clubhouse and send fans home euphoric.
Kyle Freeland dislocated his non-pitching shoulder fielding a grounder. I’m mentioning that here because you should avoid watching it at all costs, in case you missed it during the game. It was sad to see 1) because you never want to see players hurt and 2) the Rockies don’t deserve to lose the only pitcher who has been reliably solid in Coors Field for them in this recent era. He’s a part of their identity, such as it is, and it’s just tough to see.
There was a young Rockies fan sitting behind home plate. He had a huge smile on his face for a lot of the game and then that happened. Scary stuff for all involved but also really sad.
The Giants’ lone run came off the bat of J.D. Davis, his 11th home run of the season.
It was just his second home run since June 1st. Also just his ninth extra base hit during that time. The team will really need his power in the second half, but everybody heads into this All-Star Break feeling pretty good.
The Giants weren’t totally the team they thought they’d be, but they did plenty great throughout 90 games and there should be a lot more positives over the next 72.