Thursday, August 12, 2010
The good and the downright scary
Nothing like playing a going-nowhere team without its manager, best hitter, two traded-away middle infielders, and horrendous bullpen to really make you examine the state of your team.
I can't remember a Giants team changing its problems and strengths so frequently, and so unexpectedly. It's just so damned weird. We go to Atlanta, pitch pretty damn well, and can't hit a lick. We come home, pitch at an average to below average level, and smack the tar out of the ball like it's going out of style.
All the while, we managed to take 3 of 4 from a collective walking disaster called the Chicago Cubs. In all seriousness, this should have been a relatively easy sweep. On the other hand you've got to give Chicago a little credit for sacking up, having a little pride and playing their tails off. They know they suck, but their young players really stepped it up.
With this ESSENTIAL three game series against San Diago looming, we've gotta examine the good and the downright scary.
The Good: Pat Burrell & Pablo Sandoval
Doesn't it get your goat even more that Bochy was benching Burrell after his initial tear as a Giant? So dumb. The guy can flat out hit, and he's truly in a groove. Honestly, we haven't had 2 hitters like Huff and Burrell since the days of Bonds and Kent. Granted the Burrell/Huff combo of power hitters is a poor man's version of Barry and Jeff, but still. I just can't say enough about what Burrell has added to this team after his midseason acquisition.
Even Huff, who himself is a clubhouse sparkplug, seems re-energized by Burrell. My favorite part of the veteran Burrell is his even-keel approach to hitting. As Krook has pointed out, the guy's demeanor is dialed in, unfazeable, and simply professional-- for lack of a better term.
Take the grand slam he hit in the final game of the Chicago series. He calmly stood in the box. There was no fidgeting, no long walks outside the box, no batting glove readjustments. He stoically took two fairly close pitches. Boom. 2-0. Hitters count.
He knew he had to get something good to hit, or else he'd let it go. Hence the hitters count-- the pitcher either comes in to steal a strike, or risks running up a 3-0 count with the sacks full of Gyros.
We all know how that ended. Yup. Great scene.
Here I am, gushing like a schoolgirl again. OMG! OMG! Pat Burrell!
Perhaps Burrell's patient success has something to do with Panda's recent resurgence.
Now look. I'm going to be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS about Pandoval and his recent play. The man tripled and donged one into McCovey Cove on Thursday. He drove the ball on Wednesday. He is 13 for his last 35 at Mays Field (.371 avg). In fact, his pattern of non-awfulness stems back to the Mets series about a month ago. From that time through the Cubs series, Pablo is hitting .284 with 11 extra base hits. Most importantly, he tripled and homered on Thursday, finally... FINALLY driving the ball like a man!
Again, I'm going to be cautiously optimistic about him. I was seriously on the verge of writing an article advocating that the Giants send him to Fresno for a week to send a message. Honestly. I was like 5 or 6 more groundouts away from doing it. Instead, he somehow managed to stop swinging at crap 100% of the time and actually waited for the ball to reach the plate before swinging.
Honestly, the difference between Panda's swings on those two hits versus the Cubs was night and frickin day to the garbage he's been pulling the whole season. He was relaxed, waited on the pitches, and transferred his power from the back leg to his front leg, and effing turned on those pitches... LIKE A REAL HITTER!
It was so beautiful, I nearly teared up watching the replays. That's the swing. That's was it. Now quick, do it again.
That's my main concern with Panda. I've seriously advocated for a medical evaluation of him for a couple months. As 22Gigantes pointed out a few days ago, ritalin is the main reason for Andres Torres's development as a baseball player. Before the pill popping, Torres was a distracted career minor leaguer. With hard work and the help of the medication, he's now a top line leadoff hitter and gold glove candidate in CF.
This relates to Panda because he has an uncanny ability to totally forget about his past successes and failures as fast as I change GAC when a Rascal Flatts music video comes on. I just worry that as soon as he's found his stroke, it'll disappear again into a grey washout of dribblers and 6-3 putouts. Let's hope I'm wrong, and that Panda really is back.
The Downright Scary: Tim Lincecum
I don't even know what to say. The other 3,447 Giants blogs out there have talked about it ad nauseum, so I'm not going to go through stuff you already know. That's why you read this one and not that other regurgitated crap on the internet.
There are a number of theories as to what exactly is wrong with Timmy. Some just say he needs to start smoking dope again. Some think he doesn't take his workouts and mechanics seriously enough. Some say he's been overworked and that he has a tired arm. People think his velocity is down because he can't control a 95 mph fastball anymore. The likely theory that's been floated is that he simply has lost his fine-tuned mechanics and hasn't been able to find them on his own.
Coming off two Cy Young seasons, this is just not the type of article I ever expected to have to write.
Carl Steward of the Merc really made a good point filling in for Baggs the other day, and it's an idea that the blogging public has floated as well (including myself). The guy needs his dad to put in for some vacation days up at Boeing and fly his ass down here to work with Timmy.
This is something that Dave Righetti can't fix. Why Tim has always been so amazing is his crazy windup and his crazy torso torquing and over-extension. The analogy is that he's a finely-tuned sports car, and you don't bring that into the Speedee Oil Change & Tuneup for service.
The interesting aspect of this story is that it seems like Timmy and his dad Chris aren't getting along these days for whatever reason. A lot of it has to do with the fact that fathers and sons have been pains in each other's asses for thousands of years. Timmy just wants to fix it himself, but unfortunately Chris knows best, and is the only one who can fix him and his complicated ass.
I would even go so far as to suggest that Lincecum should skip the start against San Diego on Sunday. I know you may think I'm nuts, but he's not right, and he didn't last 4 innings against the Cubs. If Zito can go Sunday on 3 days rest, and a day off Monday, this would give Timmy time to rest, and hopefully work out his kinks.
The reason I say this is because, yeah, I don't know if you've looked at our upcoming schedule, but, what can I say, it's a bear.
Following San Diego, we have 3 in Philadelphia and St. Louis. Both are playoff-bound teams in hot weather cities. Then we have the potentially playoff-bound Cincinnata Reds in San Francisco for 3. Those are 3 powerful teams all fighting for playoff position, and a bad Lincecum would not help our cause... at all.
Look, I know it's a radical suggestion, but it's just one skipped start...
Think about it?