A win for the Giants! And a big one at that. It certainly had some frustrations and some moments that would do damage to any manicure, but it was a decisive win, and had a lot of good things going on for the Giants.
Edgar Renteria was acting a lot like he belongs in the second spot in the order, wasn’t he. Taking pitches, working the count, drawing a walk, going 2 for 3 with an RBI… his swing looked good, and I’m almost ready to believe that those bone chips were responsible for his dismal performance last year.
Mark DeRosa also made his mark, with a walk, 2 runs, and a squeaker opposite field shot that added another insurance run to the game… Plus a fantastic barehanded play off the wall in left field that turned a double into a single.
Molina made some big contributions behind the plate and with the bat. Perhaps the best thing I saw him all day was advance from first to third on Bowker’s soaring single to left with a good read on the fielder, putting himself in position to score on Uribe’s sac fly despite his atrocious lack of speed on the basepaths.
John Bowker got the big hit to keep the rally going, and made a capable if not spectacularly difficult play in the corner in right field that makes you breathe just a little bit easier about his defense. These guys are playing like they belong.
And Uribe did about as much as you can ask an 8-hole hitter to do.
Little needs to be said about Lincecum. He fell behind in some counts in the later innings, but what matters is that he didn’t walk anybody, he didn’t give up any runs, and despite putting some balls in the air, they stayed in the park. And it certainly beats getting chased off the field by the Brewers after the third inning, like last year. 7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K.
Not everybody was so convincing. Rowand looked… well, like he did at the end of last season. 0 for 5, with two strikeouts and three weak grounders up the middle, swinging early in counts. Huff contributed a hit, but also grounded into a double play. Ishikawa came in as a defensive replacement and bungled an important play. And Medders gave away the shutout and made the game a lot closer than it should have been.
But then Brian Wilson came in and shut the door about as hard as I’ve ever seen him. Over and above any funny business, he was painting the corners at 97 miles per hour.
This was a team that came in with confidence and did what they needed to do to win. This is the sort of attitude that can give them these important wins on the road over the course of the season. Playing .500 on the road is essential to their playoff chase, and if they can repeat this sort of performance with any regularity, they’ll have me sold. Rowand was flat, and Pablo and Huff didn’t do much cleaning up, but five contributing members on offense at the right time gives the Giants an easy win. Let’s hope this is a launching point.
I was going to look at the theoretical “everyday lineup” more in-depth, but I think it is a subject I will return to when we’ve had a few more games to see what kind of production they are getting in the meanwhile
The 2010 season begins today, and regardless of what the year may hold, I am so. Freaking. Excited. Baseball season holds so much meaning to me, and I’ve frankly had my fill of college basketball, plus an extra helping or two. Spring is my favorite season, and the return of baseball probably has a lot to do with that. And the idea of the 2010 season seems so fresh to me today, in no small part because the 25-man roster was only solidified yesterday.
For your edification:
Starting Pitchers (5): Lincecum, Zito, Cain, J. Sanchez, Wellemeyer
Relief Pitchers (7): Joaquin, Mota, Medders, Runzler, Romo, Affeldt, Wilson
Catchers (2): Molina, Whiteside (b)
Infielders (5): Huff, Uribe, Renteria, Sandoval, Ishikawa (b)
Outfielders (6): DeRosa, Rowand, Bowker, Torres (b), Velez (b), Schierholtz (b)
Expected Additions: F. Sanchez (DL), Posey, Burriss (DL)
Possible Additions: Bumgarner, Pucetas, Rohlinger, Martinez, Sosa
Expected Subtractions: Lewis (DL), Whiteside
So, what does this tell us? The pitching is as advertised. Our starters all seem capable of 10+ win seasons, if Wellemeyer’s spring training performances are to be trusted, and the other four all have the tools to dominate a game, though the flashes of brilliance are more common in Cain and Lincecum. Zito is still looking for that strong first half to put together a full season, and Sanchez is clearly the wild card, but it’s fair to say that when any of the four are in top form, they are unhittable. Sanchez’s line of 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11K from two starts ago is a taste of what could be ahead should he keep his mechanics in line.
The lineup is odd, if not out and out strange. With the exception of Renteria and the pitcher’s, the entire lineup is capable of hitting 15 home runs. But we can’t be lulled by the prospect of DINGERZ! The Giants’ lineup has to see improvement in its on-base percentage, fundamentals like bunting and the hit and run, and its discipline at the plate. Now, none of this is a great secret, but the Giants have already shown themselves at their best and worst in Arizona. The worst is first pitch outs when they should be working the count (Renteria, Renteria), striking out at back foot sliders (Schierholtz, Nate and Ishikawa, Travis), and 6-8 pitch innings (everybody). The best we’ve seen are late-inning comebacks, hitting for power, three or more batters with multi-hit games, and Bengie Molina drawing walks. It’s feast or famine again with the Giants, and we can only hope to see more of the former this year.
As nobody expects the Giants to run the bases very well, relegating them to the status of a “station to station” offense, the other big question mark seems to be defense. There’s no question that the right side of the field is significantly downgraded from a year ago, with Uribe, Huff, and Bowker supplanting Burriss, Ishikawa, and Winn/Schierholtz, however temporarily. The left side is mostly unchanged although it is older, for better or for worse. Whether that will cost the Giants some games remains to be seen.
I would group the player-specific questions as follows: Will Lincecum and Zito start strong this year? Will Cain tail off in the second half? Will this finally be Johnathan Sanchez’s breakout year? Will we see the 2008 model or the 2009 model of Edgar Renteria, Aubrey Huff, and Mark DeRosa? Will Pablo Sandoval continue his meteoric rise to superstardom? Will John Bowker earn a permanent place at the major league level? When and in what condition will Freddy Sanchez return? When will Buster Posey arrive, and will he hit like every expects him to? And will the Giants finally make the push to return to October baseball?
I will look at some of these questions tomorrow, after we have seen their season opener against the Astros. First up on the slab is the day-to-day management of the lineup. Exciting, right? Right?! Right.