Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Baseball Thinking

     Halfway through the baseball season now, the All-Star break upon us. Time to take stock of our favorite teams and consider the prospects for their postseason runs...

     The San Francisco Giants end the second half in fairly good shape, albeit on a down note of 1-5 finishing road trip. Just before the fatal encounter with Washington and Pittsburgh, the Giants had shut down the Dodgers three days in a row and held the Reds to another shutout, and a week before, Matt Cain pitched a perfect game, the very first in Giants history (128 years of it).  The pitching this year has been good, if struggling with one lame wing.
     The lame wing belongs to the team's ace Tim Lincecum, who took a nosedive this spring with a 3-10 record. The surprise of the year for the Giants is that their wunderfreak Cy Young winner of three years back is now learning the facts of entropy, and arms lose velocity as they age, and that he isn't fooling people with the change-up like he was when things began. They are figuring him out. I like him but he needs to make adjustments and make new strategies. He should make a book on all the batters and how they've dealt with him, and vice versa, and work it, the way Greg Maddux did, and do more to finesse people than just slam fastballs past them.

     The other big surprise was the resurgence of Barry Zito, after three years, finally earning the top dollar the Giants paid for his contract. At 7-6 Zito has kept the team afloat- especially in the opening weeks of the season- and has been more reliable than any time int he last two seasons.

     Their off-season trades for Melky Cabrera and Jose Pagan paid off well. Cabrera is hitting at the top of the NL on as many days as not and while there have not been home runs, the team's offense looks better than it did last year. A half game behind the faltering Dodgers for first, they caught the Dodgers and may well pass them up and take hold of first by the end of August. If.
     There have been disappointments amongst the surprises. Aubrey Huff freaked out about his bad year last year and wore it on his sleeve into this year, and went down due to anxiety attacks. It could be a great cause of anxiety to have such frustrating declines in batting average and making outs in key RBI situations. Brian Wilson went down, but in my opinion, that was not such a bad thing.

     I have been no fan of Wilson's pitching, even as I enjoy his personality. A closer is supposed to go in and shut down the opponents. Not let them keep going! The Giants "torture" is all on Wilson Seven years ago when he came up I was cringing every time they'd bring in Wilson. You never knew if you were going to get a save or a blow. He's still like that. He improved over a couple of years and in 2010 he was passable, more saves than not, but only just. You want a guy who can bring you 1-2-3 outs. Like Sergio Romo is able to do. I would not mind seeing that scenario play out, Romo replacing Wilson as the Beard closer..

     The Giants bad week on the road won't affect their renewed vigor after the break. Four Giants were voted to the starting team, in no small part due to Giants fans stuffing the ballot boxes. As for that, I say, about time. All those generations past, spent watching the East Coast teams pack the ballot boxes with Yankees, Braves, Phillies, Red Sox players - I like seeing Giants on the All-Star team. The Giants Nation grew and picked up new fans in all those other baseball towns around America. No Giants fans are a presence in the foreign stadiums. The Giants have a vibe no other team has this year, even if they (still) don't yet have that one BAT.

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