I understand that the national media hasn’t been following the Giants day in and day out all season. I know they need to sell magazines, or drive traffic to their sites, or get ratings. I get all that. But, please allow me this rant on the national media.
One of the things that bugs me most is the shock and awe at how good some of the Giants have performed. Fact: Barry Zito is not a great pitcher like Justin Verlander. But he had a good season, and it’s not completely unreasonable that he shut out a team like the Tigers (who have struggled against left-handed pitching) for five innings.
If you haven’t been paying much attention to the Giants Zito (despite the teams 11 straight wins in Zito starts heading into the post-season) sure seems like a “where did that come from story.”
I’ll give them a bit of a break on that one. But to act like Pablo Sandoval and Madison Bumgarner drank a magic elixir before the World Series started is just craziness. Pablo Sandoval is a really good hitter. It’s lazy to look at a stat sheet and go “OMG he only hit 12 home runs in the regular season.” And it’s true, he only hit 12 home runs, but he has the talent to hit 3 home runs in a game. The magic elixir story works for Brandon Crawford or Gregor Blanco. Not Pablo.
And then here’s the one that really fires me up: Madison Bumgarner is a really, really good pitcher. Driving around yesterday, listening to ESPN radio, you would have thought the Giants were starting me against the Tigers last night. It was ridiculousness to the nth degree.
It is borderline criminal that Bumgarner didn’t make the All-Star team this year. As of late July he was a legitimate CY Young contender. He did have a bad final month (he had a similarly bad start to 2010). But, the point here is he has the talent to pitch like he did last night (and better I might add).
Talented players will have great nights.
The Giants aren’t lucky because Pablo sold his soul to the devil to acquire a magic bat with home runs in it. The Giants are lucky because one of their very talented players had a great night in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Giants aren’t lucky because Madison Bumgarner was digging around in his backyard and found the holy grail of cut-fastball awesome. The Giants are lucky because their supremely talented young left-hander regained his form in Game 2 of the World Series.
So, let’s be clear: these are very talented guys, doing their best at just the right time.
While on the topic of luck…playoff baseball is weird. Weird stuff happens all the time. Giants fans have long suffered through earthquakes and flukey home runs and rally monkeys and Gold-Glove right fielders who drop balls at the wrong time and Cody Ransom and Benny Agbayani and Bobby Jones and Neifi Perez and on and on it goes.
If you want truth in baseball look at seasons and look at careers. If you want crazy and weird watch post-season baseball.
Sometimes Jose Cruz Jr drops a ball (bad luck) and sometimes an Ian Kinsler home run bounces off the top of the wall and lands back in play (good luck).
Giants’ fans have been on both sides.
Anyone who makes it through this far is the beneficiary of some good vibes.
But, as Michael Rosenburg points out, good teams help make their own luck.
2 examples from last night: if you watched Gregor Blanco closely last night it was obvious what he was trying to do…he was going to lay down a bunt to move the runners over but also try to turn it into a hit. His first attempt shot foul. Sometimes when you try to bunt the ball goes foul. And then sometimes it lands in the perfect spot.
So, did Blanco try to lay down the perfect bunt? No. But he was trying to get on, not just make an out and it happened to go in the exact perfect place. Tip your hat and get the next guy out.
Example 2: two Tiger at-bats demonstrate the point further. In the fourth inning Miguel Cabrera lined a ball right at Pablo Sandoval that the Panda will be feeling in his hamate-less hands well into his offseason workout regimen. Before that though, he swung through a 91 mph fastball on the outside corner. This is what Madbum does when he is right. He goes in and out and makes right-handed batters get so far out in front of pitches that they can only hit foul balls down the line. Cabrera happens to be a great hitter and was able to keep his fair but right at a fielder.
In the seventh, Omar Infante ripped two foul balls down the left-field line. Same principle: Bumgarner put them there on purpose…if the batter makes contact (especially non-Miguel Cabrera batters) the only place the ball will go is foul.
On the third pitch Bumgarner went up and away and the frustrated Infante went after it and missed. Joe Buck, on the first two pitches of the AB, seemed to suggest that the loud fouls were examples of Bumgarner running out of steam. I told Joe, as politely as I could, that this was exactly his intention. Then the strikeout.
My point is, there are some arguments today that Madbum’s success was the product of good fortune, but he made his good fortune happen through executing his pitches. Big difference.
Posey didn’t homer, but he was a huge factor in Game 2. Still expect him to have a big offensive game at some point in this series.
I also expect Games 3 and 4 to play out a lot more like Game 2. They will be close, tight games which favors the Giants and their bullpen.