Ryan Vogelsong pitched an excellent game today. Through the first six innings, that was the story. Some things happened later in the game that distracted from this story, which is a shame. But kudos to Vogelsong for another strong outing.
Anyway, there were a couple questionable decisions by Bochy that contributed to this loss…
Yes, this, again. The difference between Huff and Belt over the course of 500 plate appearances — defense notwithstanding — is what, roughly 20 walks? And that’s about it. Seriously. Check out their ZiPS rest-of-season projections. Based on how they’ve performed up to this point, we can expect pretty similar production in terms of singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. The big difference, at least as it pertains to offense, is the walk column. And again, that’s a significant difference — probably an extra win over a full season (and of course, potentially more, given Belt’s upside). But on a game-by-game basis, that difference is greatly masked. Hitting is volatile by nature, and some days Huff will hit well, and some days Belt will hit poorly. In other words, the decision to play Huff over Belt won’t hurt the Giants every time. Eventually, though, it all evens out. That’s what this game was. Things being evened out. This was one of those games in which the decision to play Huff over Belt really cost the Giants.
A review of Huff’s day at the plate: weak pop-up, foul out, GIDP, weak groundout. Additionally, there were a couple plays at first that he failed to make that Belt probably would have made.
The decision to send Vogelsong back out for the seventh inning
Vogelsong came up to the plate in the seventh inning, the game tied at one. A runner was on second base. Instead of putting in a pinch hitter, Bochy left Vogelsong in. He struck out, the game remained tied, and then he went out for the 7th inning — already at 95 pitches. Vogelsong labored through the seventh, but the Mets scored a couple runs. Why was this a poor decision? Vogelsong just came off the DL, and was already near 100 pitches; as a general rule of thumb, pitchers are markedly worse their third time through the lineup; and it’s not as though the bullpen has been overworked this season. At the risk of hindsight bias, I’d have to say that decision was probably a mistake.
Vogelsong still finished his day with a pretty strong line: 7 IP, 5 H, 8 K, 2 BB, 3 R. But if you remove that seventh inning, things look even better: 6 IP, 3 H, 8 K, 1 BB, 1 R. He now has 15 strikeouts in 13.1 innings. What a marvelous surprise he’s continued to be.
When Barry Zito loaded the bases in the first inning, then subsequently allowed a two-run single to Neil Walker, it was looking like Monday’s Zito was all but history. But he settled down with a 1-2-3 inning in the 2nd, and was ultimately great the rest of the way. There were some hiccups on defense — including a couple errors at the hands of Pablo Sandoval — but Zito ended up giving the Giants seven solid innings with three runs allowed (one of them unearned). I was a bit surprised when Bruce Bochy sent Zito out for the seventh inning, as he was at nearly 100 pitches; and I can’t help but wonder how much Brian Wilson’s absence factored into that decision. But I have to hand it to Bochy there, as Zito managed to escape the seventh completely unscathed, retiring the top of the Pirates’ lineup in order. His velocity chart was particularly interesting, as he amped it up in the later innings (although “amping it up” to 84 on the radar gun isn’t necessarily impressive).
So, kudos to Zito. He’s started off his season like this: 16 innings, two earned runs, eight strikeouts, one walk. And I never could have imagined Zito stringing a couple starts like this together. In fact, this is the first time in Zito’s 13-year career that he’s ever begun a season with back-to-back starts of 7+ innings pitched — which is pretty amazing. Will it continue? Probably not (at least, depending on how you define “continue”). I don’t expect a lot from Zito, but he’s more than proven that he’s capable of mediocrity. And that’s all the Giants need from the fifth spot in the rotation. Plus, to echo Josh, the lack of walks from Zito thus far is a pretty encouraging sign.
As for the offense, they extended their 4+ runs scored streak to a whopping eight games, which is the team’s longest such streak in five years. This didn’t come as much of a surprise, of course, as Charlie Morton was on the mound. When it comes to left-handed hitters, Morton essentially throws batting practice. They’ve hit .335/.415/.530 against him for his career, and last season (which was his best season), they hit .364/.460/.500 against him. The Giants’ starting lineup, one through nine, was composed entirely of left-handed/switch hitters.
Angel Pagan, who I expect will start to heat up, finally collected a couple of hits (single, triple) and stole a base. Aubrey Huff, hitting out of the cleanup spot, was downright terrible today — three groundouts and a strikeout. Of all the hitters in tonight’s starting lineup (excluding Zito), Huff was the only one who failed to reach base.
In the ninth inning with the game tied at 3, following a single, Bochy made the ridiculous decision to send Ryan Theriot to the plate against Chris Resop to bunt — instead of pinch hitting Brandon Belt. Theriot failed to lay down the bunt, and eventually worked the count full. Then he singled. Of course, that doesn’t justify sending Theriot (an awful hitter, especially against right-handers) up to the plate in lieu of Belt. Bochy used a couple pinch hitters tonight, going with Gregor Blanco and Ryan Theriot, and leaving Belt on the bench the entire game (although it looked like Belt would have come to bat had Burriss not singled).
It was poor decision-making — not utilizing Belt, though it didn’t end up mattering. Belt hasn’t started a game in a week, but he’ll apparently be starting tomorrow’s game. His playing time for the next week or so could be determined by how he performs tomorrow, so hopefully he pulls it together. He’ll have the benefit of facing Kevin Correia.
Anyway, with that 4-3 walkoff win, the Giants are now .500, and things are really starting to roll. Ryan Vogelsong makes his return to the mound tomorrow.