Sometimes I think the Giants could be the perfect Greek tragedy. The performance would be full of strikeouts, bad hitting, and a comedy of errors and at the end of the night we would learn a very important life lesson; don’t start defensive liabilities in the outfield.
Last night was exceptionally tragic. Lincecum was throwing well enough to win until Upton hit a flyball — on a pitch that was maybe an inch off the ground — into LF. This is a good spot to tell you that Bruce Bochy started Aye-You-Hay-Knee-Oh Velez in LF for tonight’s game. We’ll come back to this in a second. Upton makes contact with the pitch and it takes off, a lot harder than you would have expected, but if the Giants have learned anything in this series, it’s that Upton is very strong.
Contact is made. The ball shoots in LF. Velez makes a bad first step. Attempts to readjust. Jumps. Ball shoots over Eugenio’s head and rolls to the wall.
2 runs come in, Arizona takes the lead, and Upton is standing on third base with a hit that’s scored a triple for some reason.*
* Quick mini-gripe: How was this a triple? The ball was hit right at Velez and while it did seem to “take off” for the last few feet as it shot past his head, how many LF’s in the National League make that play? 80% of them? 90%? I don’t want the game replaced by robots or instant replay, but there’s got to be a better way to standardize hits and errors. In my orange and black eyes, it was an error. C’est la vie.
Baggs — who I think is dominating the Giants news scene these days, you go Andy! — discusses the play on his excellent blog. He also posits at theory: the Giants have been historically harsh with players who have melted down defensively in big situations (Cody Ransom says hello) and could Velez be the next to suffer such a fate? His time may be tick-tocking. For a guy with a shaky defensive reputation, he’s not hitting much either: .252/.290/.378 with a 74 OPS+ on the year. His 2nd half numbers look nicer: .306/.333/.454 but be warned, small sample size. Velez has been an interesting player to debate since he tore up the Sal League as a grown man in 2006. The tools are exciting — speed most noted — but he’s rarely put them together at the BLL (Big League Level). How much patience the Giants continue to exercise with him is a mystery that I’ll leave up to them. You can’t take too much from one game, but last night’s OF gaffe probably didn’t have the Giants hurrying to pencil him into their longterm plans.
It’s easy to look back on the bad moves managers make — Bochy starting Velez in LF — and criticize them, but Bochy’s submission to the almighty ‘Matchups’ did him in last night. With the left-handed Randy Johnson on the hill Bochy opted to start the switch-hitting Velez in LF over the lefty-hitting Dave Roberts. We all know that Roberts has never hit LHP, career line of: .237/.318/.310, but Velez isn’t killing the ball when he’s facing southpaws, either. He has a career minor league line of: .227/.278/.338 which looks drastically worse if you translate it to the bigs via MLE’s. I’ll spare you the displeasure but I’m talking 400 OPS bad. In a short 50 AB’s against LHP in the majors, Velez has only hit: .208/.296/.250. The difference between Velez hitting and Roberts hitting off of Johnson is nonexistent. When you have two guys who are going to hit the same, I’ll take the one that can play a stronger defense. That’s Roberts. He’s no longer a CF option but he can play an above average LF defensively.
Tim finishes the night with a line of:
(17-4) 8 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 0 HR, 2.46 ERA
Some quick PITCHf/x numbers to throw at you before I wrap this post up:
~ Tim’s velocity was down after his 138-pitch start. He lost nearly 1mph off of his fastball. The average velocity on his fastball was 93.2mph as compared to his season average of 94.2mph. The slowest fastball on the night was a 90.3mph fastball that Tim threw in the 2nd inning.
~ Lincecum noticeably threw more breaking stuff last night. Maybe a response to his decreased velocity? Take that how you will. But, compare Tim’s seasonal averages for his fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider with last night. On the season Tim has thrown his fastball 66.7% of the time, his changeup 17.8% of the time, his curveball 13.7% of the time, and his slider 1.8% of the time. Last night he threw his fastball 57.6% of the time, his changeup 22.8% of the time, his curveball 11% of the time, and his slider 8.4% of the time.
~ Lincecum threw 118 pitches in the game and his 3,502 total pitches lead the National League. He’s also top-3 in innings pitched. Lincecum could finish the year with around 230 innings pitched. The last Giant to throw 230 innings or more in a season was Livan Hernandez in 2000 and before Livan, it happened 7 years previously when Bill Swift threw 232.2 innings in 1993.
~ Another concern about Lincecum was not only was he throwing slower, but his FB was moving less. In his complete game his fastball broke in on RHB’s on average of -4.01 inches. Last night it was down to -2.7 inches, losing nearly an inch and a half of horizontal movement. If he’s losing movement and velocity, is he getting fatigued? And if so, do his injury chances increase? I still can’t stress to you enough, the Giants have ridden Lincecum harder than any other Giants pitcher that I can remember in the last few years. Maybe Schimdt was ridden harder. But that’s not a comparison I would feel good about making.
Speaking of Jason Schmidt, Lincecum is only 8 strikeouts away from tying his SF-era record high of 251 K’s in a season. Since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, there has only been 16 seasons — including Lincecum’s 2008 — in which a Giant pitcher has struck out 200+ hitters. You can find the list here, it includes some of the all-time greats: Marichal, Perry, Montefusco, and Schmidt.
With the Giants extending Lincecum an extra start on the year, he should be able to break the record. Hooray for short-term rewards?
Comment Starter: Open thread, discuss whatever you want to. Lincecum, Velez, or your new haircut.