Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The PG Beat: Two in A Row, Zito and Relievers Solid, Offense Unspectacularly Gets It Done, Huff Continues

All right Giants! 3-0 win over the Astros! 2-0! That's how you do it to start off the 2010 season. Combine that with a Rockies loss and a "likely" Diamondbacks loss to the Padres and we're looking at the Giants being in sole position of first place in the NL West (update: Padres take down the Diamondbacks 6-3; Giants in sole possession of first place!)

Granted, it's only after two games, but dang it, I'll take it for now. You can't ask for anything more if you're a Giants fan. (Well...other than a decent leadoff hitter, but we'll leave that for another time. After all, it's only two games, right?)

Anyways, great ugly victory by the Giants. I have a lot of respect for Wandy Rodriguez as a pitcher, so to squeak out a win against him in my mind is no small feat. Heck, taking two from Houston's two best pitchers (Roy Oswalt and Rodriguez) is a pretty good feat, especially considering the pitching drops off so quickly after Rodriguez. Is Oswalt the same pitcher as last year? No, but he's still a solid ace when he's on.

In true PG Beat fashion, let's check out some notes from today's game against the Astros.

-- First off, Zito looked great. Seriously, this is not something Giants fans are used to seeing out of Zito. Usually in the beginning of the year, Zito looks like a wreck. His velocity is down, his breaking balls hang and Giants fans are usually happy if opponents ONLY score three or four runs against him in a game. Well, Zito surpassed those expectations and then some. Six innings, five strikeouts, three hits allowed, and only one walk.

Yes, Tim Lincecum set the bar pretty high last night, but Zito pretty much reached it in my mind. He was going against a better opposing pitcher, a better lineup (Chris Johnson is an upgrade over Geoff Blum in my mind) and he still got the job done. I know it's only one start and it's the beginning of the year, but don't be surprised to see Zito actually be in the All-Star discussions. He may not reach it, but if he is anywhere close to his second-half self from last year, he may reach it.

Today, he made Giants fans believe he is still that "2009 second-half" Zito against the Astros. I haven't said this in a while, but I'm really, really optimistic and happy to have Zito on the Giants roster.

-- Also, I know I have been critical of the Giants bullpen. I have been hard on Brian Wilson, and I actually have lauded the Dodgers for having a slightly better bullpen than the Giants because of Jonathan Broxton and George Sherrill.

I take that all back. The Giants have the best bullpen in the NL West. Wilson has put the nail in the coffin with ease twice already and looks to be worth the cash the Giants handed to him before the season began. Sergio Romo has looked great in two outings. Waldis Joaquin and Dan Runzler weren't perfect, but they certainly got the job done and it was nice to see them get some innings.

And the most amazing thing? The Giants haven't even strolled out their best setup man (Jeremy Affeldt) yet this season. That's how deep the Giants bullpen is. That's why they are better than the Dodgers bullpen.

I deeply apologize to Giants nation for thinking otherwise.

-- Tonight's game offensively for the Giants was a struggle to watch: eight hits, eight singles, three double plays (Rodriguez isn't necessarily an exclusive groundball pitcher, but he still sported a solid 1.21 GB/FB ratio last year, so this isn't necessarily a surprise), no extra base hits.

Yeesh. And I'm not even counting our leadoff batter's performance (another 0-for-5) or the fact that we only had one guy with a multiple hit game (Aubrey Huff, more on him later). However, you can't argue with the results. Three runs is three runs and win is a win, so you can't complain too much.

My main problem right now with this offense? It just doesn't seem to be much better than last year. The Giants still don't seem to take advantage of situations (e.g. grounding into double plays). They still don't seem to hit with much power. They still don't work counts. And lastly, they're still pretty much a station-to-station team with no speed and not willing to play small ball. If the pitching blows up, chances are the offense this year isn't going to cover it, much like last year.

Is that a bad mode of offense? Not really. The Giants won 88 games with this model last year, so I guess if we did it before, we can do it again. However, it makes me wonder: are the Giants just getting incredibly lucky and their luck is going to run out at some point? Or is the Giants pitching so dominant that an around-league average is enough to make the playoffs?

The Giants fan in me wants to believe the latter. The pessimistic baseball fan? Well, I think it's pretty obvious.

-- Speaking of Huff, I'm convinced more and more Huff is going to be a Sean Casey clone with the Giants tis year. I think Huff is going to put up a solid average (in the .270-.300 range), and he's going to get respectable RBI totals (though that really doesn't matter, but for most baseball fans and fantasy guys, let's just pretend it does), but as far as the power, I just don't think Huff is the answer. I'll be surprised if he hits 15 home runs, let alone 20. The power doesn't seem to be there, and I don't know if it'll be there for the rest of the season.

It's early, and maybe Huff is still tweaking his swing. I'll stick with that for now as an optimistic Giants fan, but just so you know, in the back of my mind I'm still thinking "Aubrey Huff: Sean Casey 2.0." (And if you don't believe the comparison, check out Huff's swing on his RBI single tonight and a Casey double in 2008 against the Blue Jays...eerily similar, huh?)

The Giants are 2-0 and that is good enough for me, right now. The Giants have Matt Cain on the hill tomorrow, so I feel even more optimistic than I did yesterday. The fact that the worst case scenario at this point could be the Giants taking two of three in Houston is still a solid way to start to the season.

Let's hope Cain can keep this momentum going.

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