Monday, August 9, 2010

Pitchers Have to Do It All (to be successful)

Over the weekend of August 5-8, 2010, the Giants visited the Braves in Atlanta, Georgia.
When it was all said and done,the Giants escaped with a victory.

An anemic batting lineup needs all the help it can get. That is to say, if you cannot hit the ball you had better catch it. In Saturday's game, the Braves had the bases loaded with nobody out and Matt Cain dealt. Before you knew it there were 2 outs and the bases still loaded. No runs had scored.

But when Troy Glaus stepped into the batter's box, Cain immediately fell behind. As Jon Miller is wont to say, 'Just like that, the count is 3 balls and one strike.' Cain's next pitch was right down the groove, so now it's full at 3-balls and 2-strikes. Cain is still forced to come in because a pitch out of the strike zone forces in a run. So he lays it right in there and Glaus is all over it. Only his liner was right back at Cain and Cain flinched as the ball went by him. He had a chance to make the play but he short-armed it like a little-person bullfighter.

Then to compound his inability to get in front of the ball, he lays one in there to a struggling Rick Ankiel (if he had 8 at-bats up to this point, he struck out in 6 of them) and the former pitcher turned outfielder ripped it off the wall for a double and a run batted in making the score 3-0. This happened to be the final score.

What made Greg Maddux so good was that he could field his position. For the most part, he got into position to make the play. It's why he won all of those Gold Glove awards. Former Giant left-hander, Kirk Rueter, lost a shot a winning some Gold Gloves because of Maddux.

I mention Rueter because he was the best Giant pitcher, to my knowledge, at getting in position to make a play. His career had the longevity it did because he made the play with his glove that others are unable to make. And therefore, those players are no longer in the big leagues.

A starting pitcher needs 5 innings (15 outs and the lead) to qualify for a win. He has to both field his position and handle the bat. If that means sacrificing runners over or just fouling off several pitches as to add a degree of difficulty to the opposing pitcher's outing then so be it. An inability to field one's position and handle the bat gives that pitcher a lesser chance of succeeding (winning).

Holding base-runners on base is another facet of the pitcher's arsenal. Those who pay little attention to the runner usually pay the price. Earlier this year, Jonathan Sanchez lost 1-0. San Diego reached base via the base-on-balls and that runner proceeded to steal second and third because Jonathan didn't feel the need to keep at least one-eye on the runner.

The upcoming series against the San Diego Padres is huge! This is a team where fundamentals are everything. The team that is able to execute those fundamentals WILL win the 3-game series.

Notes: David Ross, of the Atlanta Braves, has made a career out of beating the Giants like a drum. As a Dodger, Pirate, Red and now Brave, he has homered. He has 68 career homers and I'm thinking he has double-digits against the Giants. (I don't know how to look it up, if you know how please do and I'd be interested to see what the tally is as of 8/9/10.)

Kevin Marquez