This game was the blueprint for winning Giants baseball in 2008 — something that we probably won’t experience much of. With the anemic offense, the team has to pitch well and play defense. This is exactly what happened in last night’s 1-0 win over the San Diego Padres. Let’s check out the “Blueprint” and see what the Giants did right.
1. Great Starting Pitching – Sanchez went 6 innings while striking out 10 — the highest total for a Giants starter this season. He gave up 3 hits and walked 2. Sanchez, who has always been high on tools but not so much MLB success, looked like the pitcher that we’ve all been waiting for. Working in the low-90′s with an easy pitching motion and mixing in the occasional breaking pitch and changeup. I thought it was encouraging that Sanchez had pretty good control of his breaking pitches. Because of his lower arm slot he’s often had trouble keeping the pitch down, but he did a very good job last night.
Let’s check out some PITCHf/x numbers from Sanchez’s start.
Sanchez threw a total of 102 pitches in his start. The breakdown by pitch type looks like this: 77 Fastballs, 15 Curveballs, and 10 Changeups. Sanchez threw his fastball 75.49% of the time and it’s a testament to how good the pitch is for him. He shows above average velocity at times for a left-hander. According to PITCHf/x from pitch number 25 to 49, Sanchez threw 25 straight fastballs. Pretty impressive that he handled the Padres so well when they most likely knew what was coming.
I plotted Sanchez’s fastball velocity as the game progressed. Here’s the plot.
Sanchez’s top fastball was pitch #2 to Brian Giles in the 1st inning, that fastball was clocked at 94mph. As you can see, Sanchez touched 92mph quite a few times as the game progressed, even as late as pitch #86 to Adrian Gonzalez in the top of the 6th inning. That’s very nice velocity from a left-hander. Of course, like most pitchers, Sanchez’s velocity dropped gradually as the game went on but I still think he’s conditioning himself as a starter and his arm strength could still be a little low? Hopefully this start will convince the Giants to continue to let him start instead of putting him back in a relief role.
On the night, Sanchez’s average fastball was barely under 90mph at 89.95mph. The average velocity on his change was 83.40mph and 81.73mph for the curve.
The other positive from Sanchez that you can take away is that he only walked 2 hitters over 6 innings, Sanchez has had trouble throwing strikes occasionally in the past and it’s good to see him be more consistent.
2. Good Bullpen Work – Valdez, Taschner, and Walker combined for a line of: 3 IP, 2 Ks, 1 H, 0 BBs, 0 Rs. With such a poor offense, the bullpen is going to have to keep the Giants close in games and that’s what they did last night. Gold star for the bullpeners. Merkin especially has been a pleasant surprise so far in this young season and I’m very happy that the Giants made the right decision to hang onto him.
3. Good Defense – Despite Gold Glover Aaron Rowand botching an easy deep fly ball in the 5th inning, the defense looked pretty good. Fred Lewis made the play of the game in the 7th when he barely caught a flare down the LF line, just above his shoe-tops, and made a strong throw to the plate to throw out Jim Edmonds. Lewis’ defense has been questionable at times but he made a very nice play that saved the game. Lewis should see his playing time increase now that Roberts is out and getting ready to undergo surgery which could sideline him for a large portion of the season. Guy just can’t stay healthy.
Honorary props goto Dan Ortmeier and his PH double — his first AB after abandoning switch-htting — to win the game. Ort hit a ball slightly over Edmonds’ head, a ball he would have gotten to a few years ago, to score Rajai Davis and win the game. I think the Padres OF defense is going to be a source of problems for them this year. Hairston-Edmonds-and-Giles are all poor defenders. Edmonds is going to get stretched playing CF in Petco and the large parks of the NL West, last night his defense cost the Padres the game.
All-in-all, a good game that had a lot of positives going for it. Now, just keep Sanchez in the rotation and I’ll be happy. He’ll have growing pains but his stuff is very attractive. Watching him battle for the 2 remaining outs in the 5th after Rowand’s error was great to see. He struck out Bard on three pitchers — Bard who went up to the plate hacking did us a favor. Then he struck out Germano after a lengthy AB and got Giles to fly out to LF to end the inning. A good night for Sanchez and hopefully predictive of more good nights to come.