Well, that went better than I’d expected. With Barry Zito going up against a tremendous offense, I wasn’t exactly confident about the Giants’ odds in this game. Zito got off to a good start earlier in the season, but he’s quietly lost a lot of steam, and entering today’s start, he had a career-worst 81 ERA+ (that is, if you don’t count last year’s 54 innings).
But as Zito is wont to do, just as I had lost almost every ounce of faith in his ability to give the Giants something better than replacement level pitching, he came out and pitched well — and he did so against the National League’s best offense. Nothing fancy, but 6.1 innings of two-run ball — the only damage having come off the bat of the absurdly powerful Allen Craig on a pair of solo shots. Perhaps the best part? Zero walks, something that you don’t often see out of Zito.
And on another promising note, a bullpen that has been disappointing of late managed to shut the Cards down. (Actually, to say they’ve disappointed recently is probably an understatement — this is a team that’s supposed to get top-notch pitching from their ‘pen, and instead they’ve been mostly run-of-the-mill).
- In order to clear room for the newest bullpen addition, Jose Mijares, the Giants placed Shane Loux on the DL with a neck strain. Not sure if it’s a phantom injury or not, and I’m not sure if it really matters anyway. The bullpen just got better.
- According to Hank Schulman, the Giants have looked into signing Lyle Overbay. In terms of what we should expect over the rest of the season, there’s not much of a difference between Overbay and Aubrey Huff.
- I neglected to mention this, but the Giants signed Xavier Nady to a minor-league contract a few days ago. I doubt Nady will play much of any role with the Giants this season, nor should he — he’s been all sorts of horrible this season: .157/.211/.275, 31 OPS+.
- Angel Pagan continues to heat up. He reached base a couple more times today, and if it weren’t for a nice play by Jon Jay, Pagan could’ve added an extra-base hit. Even so, he’s raised his OPS a good 40 points in the past five days.
…and with that, I’ve fulfilled my obvious headline quota for the week. Buster Posey put up a strong first half, hitting .289/.362/.458 across 312 plate appearances. His performance was good enough to earn him his first career all-star nod. But Buster Posey has been on an absolute tear in the second half of the season. Among players with at least 30 at-bats since the all-star break, Posey’s 1.287 OPS leads the majors. After yesterday’s two-hit performance, Posey has now raised his season OPS by exactly 100 points; he currently boasts an overall line of .325/.391/.529, which is good for a 149 wRC+ and 161 OPS+. If the season ended today, that OPS+ would rank as the 11th highest single-season mark ever by a catcher. After missing most of 2011 following that devastating ankle injury — which, for all we know has had pretty substantial lingering effects, Posey is having a season of historically good proportions.
San Francisco Giants history isn’t exactly rife with great catchers. There’s no Johnny Bench, or Carlton Fisk, or Yogi Berra. Instead, there’s Dick Dietz, Tom Haller, and Bob Brenly — that’s probably the big three. Then again, the Giants have been playing in San Francisco for more than fifty years now, and they’ve cycled through countless catchers in that time. In that context, Posey’s season is even more impressive. Through 96 games, Posey has tallied 4.1 rWAR. Even though there are still 55 games left to play, Posey is already within a fraction of a win of the best season ever by a San Francisco Giants catcher:
Reminder: this is Buster Posey’s first full season in the majors.
The Giants tagged Clayton Richard for four runs in the first inning of tonight’s game and it was cruise control the rest of the way, as Ryan Vogelsong held the Padres to one run over seven innings, and Buster Posey added a three-run blast in the fifth inning for good measure. Pretty much everything went right — or at least, everything that needed to go right. The Giants’ 2-3-4 hitters each went three for four, and Clay Hensley and George Kontos combined for two perfect innings of relief. And now the Giants sit at 54-42, still 1.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ryan Vogelsong: 7 IP, 6 K, 3 BB, 4 H, 1 R.
Here’s what I wrote about Ryan Vogelsong’s first half, a couple weeks ago:
To say he’s exceeded expectations would be an understatement. Through 16 starts (110.2 innings), Vogelsong has actually managed to post a lower ERA (2.36) than he had in 2011 (his FIP, 3.72, while less incredible, is still good). The term “consistent” is often bandied about meaninglessly when discussing baseball players, but I can’t seem to avoid it in writing about Vogelsong. He’s epitomized consistency this season. Here are his innings pitched by start this season: 6.1, 7, 6, 7, 7.1, 7, 7, 6.1, 7, 7, 7.2, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7. Fifteen of those were quality starts.
And it continues…In his first start of the second half, he allowed one run across six innings in Atlanta. Tonight — his second start of the half, he made his fifteenth consecutive quality start. That puts him in company with Gaylord Perry, Tim Lincecum, and Juan Marichal. His ERA now stands at 2.26; he’s unbelievable.
After today, Buster Posey has collected 3+ hits in five of his last eight games (seven extra-base hits over that span), and is now hitting .317/.383/.506 (142 wRC+) through 355 plate appearances on the season. In other words, he’s more productive than he’s ever been, which is typical for a 25-year-old star. But he missed most of last season with an ankle injury, and his health was a giant question mark coming into this year. It’s easy to take this stuff for granted. Man, is it wonderful to have him healthy and contributing like this.
And that home run he hit — ’twas no cheapie. It’s rare to see a right-handed hitter go opposite field for a homer at AT&T Park. Speaking of which, according to Baseball-Reference, the Giants had one opposite-field home run before tonight’s game. Guess who hit it?
I’m kind of sick of talking about Brandon Belt at this point, but Belt’s a pretty important topic right now, so I feel obligated to address this — especially since I’ve been one of his more ardent supporters. After Sunday’s ugly game — in which Belt went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, I’ve moved past the “it’s just a slump” stage. I’m convinced there’s a deeper underlying problem with Belt, and I have no idea what it is. I’m clueless when it comes to hitting mechanics and the like, so I won’t bother speculating on that front. But I know a few things:
- Brandon Belt needs to play every day
- The Giants need production out of their first basemen
- The Giants’ in-house options are not acceptable
I think the best option right now is just to keep playing Belt until things get really bad.
With the trade deadline fast approaching, rumor season has arrived. Via Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi (FOX Sports) comes word that the Giants are interested in Indians reliever Chris Perez:
The San Francisco Giants, seeking late-inning help, are interested in Perez, according to major-league sources. The Indians could entertain moving Perez for two reasons – they are deep in relievers, and Perez likely will earn about $7 million next season in his second year of arbitration.
The Giants definitely stand to benefit from some relief help, but I’m not sure Chris Perez is the answer. He’s a “two-time all-star” and he’s under control through 2014, so he’ll inevitably get expensive over the next few years. The extra years of team control also mean he’s got relatively high trade value. He’s a pretty good reliever (150 ERA+ over the past three seasons), and he’s improved his peripherals this season (2.08 FIP constitutes a career-low — his previous best being 3.54), but the Giants would probably be wise to hold on to whatever trade chips it would take to acquire Perez.