Giants 2013: State Of The Giants, 5/31
(originally written 5/31/13)
It's an oft-repeated cliche that dates back to the black-and-white era, the days when batting helmets didn't exist and nicknames like "Dummy" were totally acceptable:
"Don't ever look away from the ball game. You might see something you've never seen before."
Whether it's a wild-pitch third strike rolling directly to the first baseman for the out, a pitcher falling down in the middle of his windup, a fan tossing a ballgirl a foul ball he caught, or a third baseman and shortstop colliding while fielding a ground ball—the early weeks of the Giants' 2013 campaign have been a clinic in head-scratching abnormalities and unintentional slapstick.
It's been an interesting two months.
Our G-Men, though scuffling a bit lately, are four games over .500 and only four games behind Arizona in the NL West. (Plus, the Dodgers and their $642 million payroll are in last place wrought with internal issues, which adds three or four quasi-victories to the ledger.) I'd like to briefly assess the performances of a few key Giants at this point.
He hasn't really caught fire yet, but Pagan has registered two walk-off hits (and another eighth-inning game-winner) in 2013—including arguably the most thrilling home run in AT&T Park history.
According to the next day's CSN Bay Area Giants telecast, when Pagan sent the Rockies home unhappy on May 25, he became the fifth major leaguer since 1994 with a game-ending inside-the-parker, joining Marquis Grissom (8/1/94) Bobby Abreu (8/27/00), Ken Griffey Jr. (8/29/01) and Rey Sanchez (6/11/01).
(Beginning with this column, upon mention of any member of the 1994 Montreal Expos—in this case Grissom—we will pause for a moment of silence for said '94 Expos, whose dismantling stands as one of the worst injustices to a team's fanbase in MLB history. But I'm not here to talk about the past.)
One fact about Pagan: If he weren't a Giant, he'd irk me to no end. He's got the Shane Victorino "I have to make sure the whole ballpark knows I didn't agree with the ump's strike call"-itis—and he's got it bad. Not even Barry Bonds ump-grumped to Pagan's extreme.
If Pagan doesn't agree with a strike call, he'll openly gripe to the umpire, saunter into the grass to pout, then resume batting with a conspicuous expression of disgust. He takes himself out of at-bats this way; I've actually begun charting such at-bats and will have statistical data for you in my next update.
Pablo "Panda" Sandoval
He began this season with as much discipline as a hitter like him will ever be able to muster and has cranked out two of the Giants' most dramatic four-baggers of 2013. But over the last week or so Sandoval has battled the flu, and he's had trouble getting around on hittable heaters—fouling off several the opposite way (tardy) and whiffing on fastballs that split the dish.
Worse than that, Pablo's resumed his fly-swatter at-bats, as I call them (swinging wildly, usually missing). In the past week-plus, Sandoval has repeatedly chased dirt-dusters and even popped up a pitch that was headed for his shoulder. Somebody get the big fella some Nyquil. STAT.
Since his memorable game-tying triple on May 21, Blanco—normally a platoon LF hitting down in the order—has been forced into regular leadoff duty subbing for the bursitis-stricken (again, courtesy of CSN Bay Area; many reports list his ailment as a hamstring pull) Pagan in center field.
Blanco had but one hit in 19 at-bats before a two-hit game on May 29; he is one of those guys whose value decreases the more he's exposed. Pagan and all his pouting can't get back in the lineup fast enough—San Fran is 1-3 since he went down.
During Scutaro's scorching 19-game hitting streak (.481, 38 hits in those 19 games) he beat pitches well outside and inside the strike zone, in addition to punishing anything over the plate. The upside: he hit .481 with 38 hits.
The downside: It's only natural to assume you can continue to employ an Eric Gregg-sized strike zone in every plate appearance—before you know it, S-L-U-M-P. (Eric Gregg. He always seems to find his way into my articles, even years after his death.)
In basketball, when a shooter has made a few long jumpers in a row, he will often "heat check"—toss up a low-percentage shot just to test how hot he really is. (They almost always miss.)
Scutaro heat-checked himself several times during his 19-gamer and went hitless in his next seven at-bats, but has since ripped eight more hits in 21 at-bats (.381). Impressive.
Now if only Marco could heat up defensively—he has been brutal in the field.
No one knows better than me that you cannot comprehensively measure defense based solely on errors, but in Scutaro's case, six of them since April 27 (including three leading to runs, a fourth that should have and one for a walk-off loss) spells brutal. That's not even including May 29, when his diving deflection turned a Seth Smith (Oakland) single into a double.
Next update: Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, the starting five and the best Kruk and Kuip exchanges of 2013. Thanks for reading and go, Giants!!!