Sitting in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains this weekend a fleeting thought struck me. I wonder how the Giants are doing right now? It was a brief, inconsequential thought about the team as they played their last few days of regular season baseball. Over the past weekend I celebrated my first wedding anniversary with my lovely wife in a small cottage in Virginia minutes away from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. We toured the historic house that Jefferson built and it was an amazing experience. I’m a sucker for presidential history and Monticello was as beautiful as I had hoped. The house is absolutely stuffed with history, invention, and Jefferson’s own twist on what it meant to be human.
It was great.
After we toured Monitcello, found some dinner in Charlottesville, and came back to our small cottage, I turned on the Giants game just in time to see Pablo Sandoval sock a home run all the way across the country in San Diego. Modern technology is amazing. Sandoval’s blast sailed past the CF wall and just like that the season was gone. It’s fitting that the Giants won their final game of the year on a Sandoval HR. No other player stepped up on the offense like Sandoval did in ’09.
The Giants best three hitters from this past season ranked by wOBA:
Sandoval was by far the best hitter on this horrible hitting team. Past Sandoval, you’ll find Juan Uribe’s surprising season and Fred Lewis — who by July and August was chained to the bench. I found that when Sandoval’s ball left the park and the Giants closed things out in the bottom of the 10th inning, I was already missing baseball. The one thing I won’t miss was the offense. For all the fun and joy this 88-win team brought us, the offense made this team darned hard to watch. There’s more to baseball than just offense and it’s true that the Giants excelled in all things not-hitting in ’09. Their team ERA+ of 120 is probably the best cumulative pitching effort that we’ll see for quite awhile. The last time a Giants team ERA+ cracked 120?
Try the 1954 New York Giants with an team ERA+ of 132. Check out this list of some of the top ERA+ scores and IP totals for that team. An * denotes that the pitcher was left-handed.
To have such a prolific year on the mound you need skill, health, and a good bit of luck. Take for example Ruben Gomez. In ’54 the 26-year-old right-hander threw 221.2 innings of 141 ERA+ baseball despite leading the league in walks with 109. He would go on to win Game 3 of the 1954 World Series and he would never have the same level of success again in his big league career. Only once more would he break a ERA+ score of 100. To expect the Giants’ rotation to have the same level of success in 2010 as they had in 2009 is foolish. What we saw from the mound this year was the best pitching performance since the team moved to San Francisco 51 years ago.
Wrap your head around that for a second. What we saw this year only happens 2-3 times per 50 years. The Giants probably won’t have the same luxury of pitching next season as they had in this one. The pitching should be good, but I’m not sure it’s going to be 120 ERA+ good.
In short, the 2009 Giants are dead. Long live the 2009 Giants! I’m already counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Thanks for all those that have emailed me, posted on this site, and shared their collective frustration (and occasional joy) on the Giants. It’s been a wild year and I’m thankful that you’ve joined me on this ride we call being a fan.