The Giants broke out the brooms for the first time in 2012, sweeping the lowly Cubs to stay within three games of the NL West-leading Dodgers. Here’s what I saw.
If you’ve read any of my other game recaps so far, you’ve probably noticed a trend, namely pitching leading off my thoughts on each game. Today is no different as Ryan Vogelsong was solid once again, giving up one earned run in 7 innings on Monday. The performance marked the fifth time in nine starts that Vogelsong gave up one earned run or less and the sixth time in those nine starts he’s gone at least 7 innings.
This time last year people were wondering, and rightfully so, whether or not Vogelsong was a flash in the pan and simply a nice little story during the first half of the season. Fast forward to today and there is little doubt that he is as legit as it comes and perhaps the best #4 or #5 starter in the NL.
Let’s play another quick game of name that pitcher, shall we? Below are the numbers for Voeglsong and one other pitcher since the beginning of 2011. See if you can guess who the mystery man is.
Vogelsong: 247.2 IP / 2.62 ERA / 188 K / 87 BB / 4.6 WAR
Pitcher X: 236.2 IP / 3.73 ERA / 270 K / 61 BB / 2.5 WAR
Figured it out yet? Pitcher X is none other than Milwaukee Brewers ace Zack Greinke, a former Cy Young winner and one of the players who should be a big winner in free agency this coming off season. Now obviously Vogelsong can’t stand up to the strikeout-to-walk ratio Greinke has put up, but with an ERA over a full run lower he’s been every bit as effective even if you adjust for defense and luck. Vogelsong has a better ERA+ over the same time period as well, so he’s not being buoyed by his favorable home ballpark either.
Quite simply, Vogelsong is damn good. Yes, he does walk a few too many hitters as he tends to nibble at time. And yes, he is not what you would call dominant as he doesn’t miss quite enough bats. What Vogelsong does is provide a steady, consistent performance just about every time out, giving his team a chance to win more often than not. Yesterday was no different as he got himself into a little trouble early on, but as always, fought his tail off and the Giants did just enough offensively to get the win.
For someone like myself who really appreciates pitching and pitchers, watching Vogelsong work over the last season-plus has been a true joy. Who knows how long this run will last as he is already 34-years-old, but I plan on enjoying it as long as it does.
Over the last few seasons, Giants fans have unfortunately grown accustomed to seeing the offense struggle in run scoring situations and yesterday was no different. Three times the Giants loaded the bases with less than two outs and scored only twice in those situations, and it should have been less as a mental error by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro led to the tying run in the 5th.
Meanwhile the go ahead run scored when Joaquin Arias grounded into a double play with no one out and the bases loaded in the 7th. And no, Kruk and Kuip, the batter should not be given an RBI in those situations.
Luckily for the Giants they were playing the Cubs who can’t get out of their own way these days, but against a better opponent these missed opportunities will cost the Giants in the long run. As a team the Giants are hitting .209 with runners in scoring position and that is simply not good enough.
Ryan The Riot
I still do not believe Ryan Theriot is the answer at second base of the #2 spot in the lineup, but I will give credit where it is due as Theriot did his best Freddy Sanchez impression yesterday, helping to sweep his former club.
His second inning strikeout with one out and the bases loaded was ugly, but two more hits on Monday gave him six hits in the four-game series. Theriot also made the two defensive plays of the day, corralling a hot smash in the 7th to quell a Cubs rally and climbing the ladder to snag a line drive to end the game.
In typical Giants and Bruce Bochy fashion, we’re overreacting to a small sample size here, but it appears Theriot will be the every day second baseman and #2 hitter for the foreseeable future, including when Pablo Sandoval returns from the DL. With few viable options on the big league roster, the Giants will be happy to ride it out with Theriot for the time being.
There has been a ground swell of support for Triple-A second baseman Brock Bond to get a shot in the big leagues, however I’m skeptical. Bond, a 24th round pick out of Missouri in 2007 is tearing up the hitter-friendly PCL to the tune of a .383 BA with a 13-to-10 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Bond is a nice player who has worked his way up every step of the ladder, but at this point is a non-prospect with little to no upside. A switch-hitter with very little pop, Bond would probably be an upgrade over Manny Burriss on the big league roster, but his inability to play any position other than second base limits his value. Should there be an injury to either Theriot or Burriss (or both), perhaps then we would see Bond, but for now it’s Theriot’s job.
Brandon Belt got back to doing what he does on Monday, reaching base three times in four plate appearances and scoring the Giants first run. The game raised Belt’s OBP to .360, just a couple of points behind Buster Posey and good for the fourth best mark on the team.
The last time Brett Pill reached base three times in the same game was April 23rd against the Mets and he currently has a .269 OBP. Aubrey Huff, he last did that on April 13th against the Pirates and is sporting a .303 OBP to go along with a .151 BA. It’s clear to me that Belt is the best option the team has at first base, but unlike Theriot, Arias and Crawford on the infield, Belt continues to sit against lefties and whenever Bochy decides he wants to throw Huff a bone.
Belt should get another chance to show what he can do tonight in San Diego against the Padres and right hander Anthony Bass and here’s hoping tonight is the night he breaks out of the pack.
Starlin Seeing Stars
Cubs shortstop Stalin Castro is one of the best shortstops in the game today, but perhaps no player will be happy to get out of San Francisco more than the 22-year-old.
It was Castro’s mental gaffe that probably cost the Cubs the game on Monday when he forgot how many outs there were and subsequently failed to turn a double play that would have ended the inning. The Giants scored the tying run and we all know what happened after that.
But really it has been a series of horror for the young shortstop who got AT&T’d several times in the series, driving the ball into the gaps only to be turned away by the dimensions of the park and the speedy Giant outfielders. Castro picked up two hits in the first game of the series, but reached base only once after that, lowering his BA to the lowest it has been since April 12th.
The Giants are back at it again tonight in San Diego looking win their 5th straight. Check back later for a complete run down of that game and be sure to like, comment, share and follow.