While it would be foolhardy for us to put our Pomeranian up for sale to save up for playoff tickets (like in The Big Lebowski, the dog’s got f—ing papers), these aren’t your ex-girlfriend’s San Francisco Giants.
No, last year, as you were suffering through a terrible relationship with that girl who insisted on playing Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” every time you got in her car (that Scion xB with the vanilla tree hanging from the rearview mirror), the Giants were suffering through their worst offensive season in history. Well, recent history, anyway. And just like how your ex-girlfriend couldn’t get any of your jokes, the Giants’ hitters of 2009 couldn’t hit any new pitcher they faced. Veteran pitchers with track records? Well, most of the time they couldn’t hit those guys either, but sometimes they’d break through for a 3- or 4-run explosion against the Oswalts and Zambranos of the world. But last season, any new, unheralded, young pitcher without a pedigree might as well have been a hybrid of Sandy Koufax and 1984 Dwight Gooden.
That’s the biggest difference I see between this year’s squad and last year’s. The defense, for all the hand-wringing in the last two weeks of spring training, isn’t noticeably better or worse than before. The pitching is the best in the National League so far (.617 OPS against!), and their offense has taken almost twice as many walks through 8 games (30) as they did in 2009 (16). Still, that’s not the main thing that comes to mind.
Last year, the worst thing a Giants player or fan could hear was they were facing a pitcher they’d never faced before. Brian Burres, a former Giants farmhand that got away? He was almost guaranteed to pitch 7 shutout innings and induce a few double plays. OK, maybe the double plays are still a problem, but the shutout innings look like a thing of the past against borderline Major Leaguers. No longer does going through the Giants offense 3-4 times seem easier than bowling against a 3-legged cat.
But before we get into the hyperbole zone and I start writing things like, “This is the best bullpen the Giants have ever had!” Or, “Pablo Sandoval and Tim Lincecum will finish 1-2 in the MVP vote!” Or, “‘It’s Magic Inside’ is so good, I forgot anybody ever said ‘Humm-Baby’,” let’s check out which of the good tendencies the Giants should exhibit all season, and which ones you won’t see against teams that rhyme with “Mass Stroh’s” or “My Ritz.” Mmmm, Stroh’s and Ritz. That would be a good snack right there.
Will the team’s batting average hover around .300 this season? Sure, they’re at .297 right now, but their top hitters for average right now are Bengie Molina (.455), Edgar Renteria (.382) and Juan Uribe (.344). Answer: NO
Best pitching staff in baseball? Hard to quantify. How about a better question…
Best pitching staff in the NL West? You could say that Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa cancel out Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. You’d be wrong, but you could say that. But especially after today, who in the world would take Greg Smith, Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel over Zeets, Jonathan Sanchez and Todd “I might as” Wellemeyer? Especially with that incredibly cool nickname I just made up? Thought so. A broken Huston Street doesn’t help Colorado, either. Answer: YES
Do the 2010 San Francisco Giants lived a charmed life? It sure seems like it, but the luck will run out at points this season. They’re only one walkoff loss in San Diego or Colorado away from everyone demanding that Brandon Medders is tarred-and-feathered in the middle of Civic Center. But even during yesterday’s close loss, didn’t it seem like the Giants were going to come back? Even after the botched double play by Renteria and the meatballs thrown up there by Medders, the Giants were a Sandoval homer away from tying that game. And Matt Cain pitched worse in the first three innings than he did in any three inning span I can remember last season. Answer: MAYBE
Will Aubrey Huff ever stop hitting balls into triples alley? You gotta give it to the guy, he’s really persistent. It’s almost like Huff’s old teammates on the Orioles called him when he signed with the Giants and said, “Nice going, buddy. Good luck hitting a homer in that hellhole.” But for the Giants, this is great. You know they’ll take a bunch of doubles and triples with the occasional inside-the-parker thrown in as long as Huff doesn’t get pull-happy at home. Answer: NO
Will the team stop showing those creepy “slow-mo-action, regular-speed-talking” commercials? They just aren’t right. Seeing as this team went with the “Gamer” slogan for an entire year, I think we’re stuck watching Panda mumble incoherently about bobble heads all season, with Matt Cain looking like he may or may not be cast in the role of “Corky” in the movie version of that old TV show Life Goes On. C’mon Giants, you stole Marty Lurie away from the Oakland A’s, can’t you steal they’re ad agency, too??? Answer: UNFORTUNATELY, NO
Is 2010 a lock to be the most exciting season in the last five years? Let’s see, they’re 7-2, they actually show some semblance of a collective gameplan at the plate, Tim Lincecum (along with Brian Wilson and Barry Zito, from what I’ve heard) is proving the worth of medical marijuana and Sergio Romo pitches the seventh inning for this team. Answer: YES YES YES YES YES