Tuesday, April 10, 2012

San Francisco Giants baseball - The Twilight Zone Redux

Alright, now raise your hand if you saw Zito's complete game, 4 hit, 0 walk shutout coming.  That's what I thought.
This is the point where my audience would look like my statistics class on a Wednesday night (not only half empty, but also answerless and baffled).  It's a crazy, mixed up time for Giants fans right now - we live in a world where the aces get shelled and Zito is lights out.  A world where the Giants defense plays like a scene from the Three Stooges remake.  A world where runs are becoming easier to attain than outs.  Have we entered the Twilight Zone?

Not quite.  Some of these are anomalies and some of these are not.  Let's separate fact from fantasy after the first four games of the season.

Lincecum, Bumgarner and Cain getting shelled - obviously fantasy is a poor choice of words here; perhaps a better way to describe this would be a nightmare.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who foresaw a mediocre start to the season - after all, the Giants were opening at Chase Field, the home of a team that squashed San Francisco's hopes of repeating fairly early last season.  I just figured it would be of the 3-1 variety with the runs coming on some sort of bullpen breakdown.  I didn't think Timmy and Co. would be tossing the Snakes batting practice for the first three games of the season.

Luckily for Giants fans, this is a nightmare - one they'll be waking up from soon.  Lincecum settled down for a good four innings after getting smacked around early, while Bumgarner is prone to getting slapped from time to time and Matt Cain was left in perhaps a few batters too long. All of them suffered the consequences of some poor fielding (on an even worse infield in Arizona), making it difficult to end innings that otherwise would have been squandered rallies.  If you're panicking about the Giants' starting rotation, knock it off.  This is not a cause for concern - yet.

Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey audition for The Three Stooges - This is also a fantasy.  Posey is still getting his bearings at catcher, undoubtedly with some jitters in the wake of the Scott Cousins incident.  Brandon Crawford is suffering from a hand injury and the infield position players have yet to field a routine ground ball.  As Posey returns to form and Crawford's hand recovers, this should even itself out.  I certainly don't foresee this season becoming a comedy of errors, that's for sure.

The Giants line up can actually hit the ball - With the exception of Angel Pagan and Ryan Theriot, I would say this has become a fact.  That's not to say that Pagan and Theriot will hit .190 the rest of the way while the rest of the order hits near .300, but this team has shown some pop and I doubt that it's an anomaly.  The Giants decision to go with power in the lineup seems to be paying off.  Melky Cabrera looks like a stellar addition.  Pablo Sandoval is crushing the ball.  Buster Posey hasn't missed a beat at the plate, and the young guns aren't too bad at hitting the balls themselves.  The Giants won't be Cespedesing the ball all over the field for the next 157 games of the year, but they won't be historically bad again offensively.

Barry Zito is going to baffle batters and shock the world - I'll leave this one up to you.  Given this town's ability to insanely overreact when anything out of the ordinary happens, I wasn't shocked by the outcry of praise and hope after Zito's latest shutout.  In fact - I called it. 

But will it last?  His mechanics changed, as promised, and as a result he was able to get his velocity up (88 mph on some of his fast balls, certainly not Santiago Casilla speed but better than the 80 mph we knew and loved last year) and locate his curveball.  The question is whether he can find longevity for this new form and keep hitters from figuring him out.  But if you’re into taking risks, go ahead and grab those Zito jerseys now so you can profess that you saw it coming.  After all, it's a crazy, mixed up world we live in, and when it comes to Giants baseball, anything is possible.

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