Record: 30-22. Pace: 93-69. Change on last season: +1
Looking on the bright side, the three earned runs for which we tagged Tim Lincecum this evening actually ties a season high for the Giants hurler: in his ten previous starts, he'd allowed a total of only 15 runs. We won't see many better pitchers this season, outside perhaps of Zambrano, Peavy and Santana; that's the kind of level Lincecum has reached. And the scary thing is, he is still only 23 years old, with his birthday not until next month. Over his first ten starts, he had an ERA+ of 195 - since they lowered the pitching mound at the end of 1968, only one qualifying starter aged 24 or younger has had a better figure.
That would be Dwight Gooden for the 1985 Mets, who had a 1.53 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young voting at age twenty. While Lincecum will likely hit a roadbump or two along the way, we could certainly be looking at comparable seasons to Mark Prior (178 ERA+ in 2003), Jake Peavy (171 in 2004) or Brandon Webb (165 in 2003). The phrase "scary good" comes to mind, and with him on the mound, you wonder how the Giants ever lose any games. They have, three times this year: they were a 3-2 defeat, another where Lincecum got tagged for four unearned runs, and one where the bullpen allowed five in the eighth and ninth innings.
Against him, we needed Dan Haren to be on his very best form and, as the last time through the rotation, we didn't get it. The first inning was fine, but the second proved more problematic, requiring him to get out of a second and third, one-out jam, after Miguel Montero couldn't block strike three to Bowker. A pair of groundouts resolved that quandary, but there was no such escape for Haren in the third. Again, there were two on with one out: he did get the second out, but then a hanging meatball to Bengie Molina [who is hitting like the previous incumbent of the Giants' clean-up spot, over the past couple of weeks] broke the scoreless tie and gave San Francisco a 3-0 lead, one which would never get less than that the rest of the way.
Haren finally got through six innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and a walk. He did strike out seven, but has now allowed 17 hits and nine runs in his last couple of starts, covering 12.1 innings. On the other hand, things would have looked a bit different, save for the mistake to Molina, and he was getting absolutely no support at all from home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, whose strike-zone seemed distinctly Giants-friendly. That worked both against Haren, and in favor of Lincecum, who was the beneficiary of a couple of calls that seemed generous at best. I trust Questec will be having a quiet word or two with Wendelstedt after the game.
Again, however, you won't win many games scoring three runs, and the offense has to come in for its fair share of criticism. Hudson had two hits and a walk, and Jackson a pair of hits - both are not back to batting above .300, I note. Young also reached safely twice, on a hit and a walk. However, the rest of the lineup seemed to have no clear idea. The lineup put out by Melvin was stacked with left-handers, obviously to counter Lincecum. But the replacements this policy brought in - Salazar, Montero and Tracy - did, if anything, worse than everyone else, going just 2-for-11 on the night.
I am beginning to grow seriously concerned about Justin Upton, who was hitless for the seventh consecutive game. Over that time, he has gone 0-for-24, with no less than [bold, italic, underline please] seventeen strikeouts. It's a swoon that has whacked forty-four points off his batting average, which has dropped from an impressive .318 to a ho-hum .274, in barely a week. One significant change is that of those most recent seventeen strikeouts, ten have seen J-Up caught looking. That compares to just eight out of the first 43 K's he had this season: he doesn't seem to be recognizing strike three when it arrives. While we've previously mentioned his walk-rate, he's now also on pace for 187 strikeouts, which would be the most for any hitter under 24 since Bobby Bonds had the same figure in 1969.
[Click to enlarge, in new window]
Master of his domain: Orlando Hudson, +3.6%
God-emperor of suck: Dan Haren, -21.2%
Dishonorable mention: Justin Upton, -11.4%
Pipped over 400 comments in the thread, even if we got distracted somewhat by debating the merits of beer commercials. It was probably more entertaining than the actual game. Present were foulpole, dahlian, njjohn, DbacksSkins, seton hall snake pit, soco, mrssoco, unnamedDBacksfan, acidtongue, hotclaws, TwinnerA, kishi, dstorm and RAMJB, on a night where about the best thing we can say is, "Well, the Dodgers lost too." Still, we could be the Yankees, who blew not one, but two separate four-run leads against the Orioles, as well as a third edge in the top of the eleventh inning. With the winning run for Baltimore being driven in by former D-back, Alex Cintron [remember him?].
Of course, the big news in Arizona is Eric Byrnes finally being put out of his misery on the disabled list today. This announcement was brough to you by Hastings & Hastings, the discount accident lawyers because, "It's about time." Melvin seemed to think otherwise: "We've been going this route for quite a while. He's not 100 percent, in my opinion, not even close, his hamstrings are bothering him, and he needs all his weapons to be Eric Byrnes -- and we need him to be 100 percent. We need him to play a certain way, and he's just not able to do it." And hasn't for quite a while, so it's hard to say exactly what triggered this change of heart. Byrnes sounded positively defensive when asked about the decision:
Look, I couldn't run the same way, there's no doubt about that, I knew that. I'm not going to blame my hitting slump on my legs; I won't do it. Did it help? No, it definitely didn't help. That's something that I've gone through before. Look, no one is immune to that in here. You're starting to see that, even some of these young guys are starting to struggle. It's the reality of baseball. I mean, I went 9-for-95 before. I've dealt with things like this before.
Let's just close by saying that we hope Byrnes can get well, come back, and be the player we hoped to have - I'm certain that is something on which we can all agree. But the way he has been sputtering of late, I think we can all agree that this is for the best, not only for Eric, but for the team as a whole.