For seven innings today, Ryan Vogelsong was at the top of his game. Through the first 4.1 innings, in fact, he was perfect — sending each of the first thirteen hitters straight back to the dugout. Seth Smith eventually broke up the perfect game bid with a single into right field, but that would be the only hit off Vogelsong on the day, as he promptly coaxed a double play out of Josh Donaldson and proceeded to tack on another couple scoreless innings. He needed to face only 22 batters to record 21 outs. For a guy that’s had a rollercoaster of a career, this is quite probably the best game he’s ever pitched; the game score — 79 — marks a new career-best.
Both teams were scoreless through six, but the heart of the Giants’ order came through in the seventh, with Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, and Angel Pagan combining to drive in four runs. And that would be all the Giants needed, as Javier Lopez and Clay Hensley were shut-down mode in relief.
- I hate the idea of Brandon Crawford batting second in the order. It’s a common-sense thing — why give one of the team’s worst hitters the second-most at-bats? That said, it is nice to see Crawford starting to find a groove. It’s worth noting that he’s been somewhat unlucky to this point; after today, his line is up to .233/.276/.342 on the season. I don’t think he’s much better than that, but he’s certainly capable of fighting his way to a .270 wOBA and smoothing out the defense, and that’ll at least be a step up from the replacement level production he’s given the Giants thus far.
- Angel Pagan has gone hitless once in the last 31 games. After that one horrible week to begin the season, Pagan has managed to bring his numbers up to .304/.353/.462 — and he’s eight for nine on stolen base attempts. It’s made his frequent defensive gaffes a bit more tolerable.
- What a godsend Gregor Blanco has turned out to be. In not even 100 plate appearances, he’s already posted 1 WAR. He’s currently getting on base at a clip of .416, and he’s drawn a walk for every strikeout. He’s also swiped four bags and looked solid with the glove. Aside from the lack of power, he’s pretty much the whole package, eh? Another brilliant minor-league signing.
- Speaking of which, three players in today’s starting lineup — Blanco, Arias, Vogelsong — were originally acquired via minor-league free agency; nothing extraordinary, but it struck me as noteworthy.
- Quick — who leads the majors in multi-hit games? You can’t go wrong with either M. Cabrera — Melky and Miguel are now tied for the major-league lead in multi-hit games, at 19. For all the problems with the Giants’ current infield, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cabrera-Pagan-Blanco trio in the outfield.
- The Giants signed Brad Penny to a minor-league contract. This is a guy who averaged 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 31 starts last season, so I’m (understandably) not expecting much. At the very least, I hope he isn’t needed in any important situations.
On the day it was announced that Pablo Sandoval would miss the next six weeks with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, the Giants didn’t do much to raise spirits. In fact, these last three games against the Marlins have featured some pretty shoddy baseball on their part:
- The Giants scored five runs this series. They managed to strand 23 baserunners in this three-game set. They drew a grand total of five walks. As promising — by which I mean “potentially acceptable” — as the Giants’ offense looked at the beginning of the season, they’ve fallen back to earth. Over their last few sets (Reds, Padres, Marlins), they’ve averaged 2.7 runs scored per game. Yuck.
- After collecting a couple hits in back-to-back games, I have to think the whole Brandon Belt fiasco is actually nearing its end. He’s raised his overall line to .292/.370/.396 (120 wRC+), and given that the Giants are starved for run production right now, I think Belt has finally reached the point where he’ll be given regular playing time. At least, I hope so. What a relief that would be.
- With today’s 0-for-2, Brandon Crawford‘s numbers have dropped to .208/.228/.338. That’s a 43 wRC+. At least his glove is…oh, six errors on the year already? I’ve been pretty back-and-forth on the issue of Brandon Crawford. It took a while, but I eventually warmed up to the idea of him as starting shortstop. I’m not hopping off the bandwagon yet, but I’m close. He’s gotten off to a miserable start this season.
- This was Anibal Sanchez‘s fourth career start against the Giants. In 31 innings, he’s now allowed four runs. 24 strikeouts, five walks.
- This is only the second time the Giants have been swept at home in the last year. The last time? Another ugly series against the Marlins.
- We’re a few days into May, which means there’s a lot of baseball left. This Sandoval injury is by no means a nail in the coffin for the Giants. But things are looking pretty bad at this point. They’re already five games back in the NL West, and that alone feels like a lot of ground to make up (of course, there are also a couple wild card spots up for grabs). They’ll need to somehow tread water until Sandoval’s return; with near-automatic outs slotted in at third base, shortstop, and second base, that’s an unenviable task. These next few weeks could very well be disastrous. One can only hope that today was the low point of 2012.
- With today’s performance, Ryan Vogelsong brought his ERA/FIP down to 3.42/3.43 respectively. Through four starts, he’s quietly remained great at the back end of the Giants’ rotation, which was far from a sure thing heading into this season. At least there’s that.
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.