Matt Cain is 3-1, the same record as Tim Lincecum, but he’s been the staff MVP thus far. It doesn’t matter than Lincecum has struck out almost twice as many batters (50 to Cain’s 28), or that Lincecum starts bring more than 5,000 extra fans to the ballpark than games pitched by other Giant starting pitchers. Lincecum starting out with a .750 winning percentage was like Barry Bonds hitting 7 home runs in April when he was in his prime. It was a given.
Bengie Molina has 7 home runs after slamming 2 today in the Giants’ 8-3 win in Colorado, a game that showed that Jason Marquis has as much power over the Giants as 45-year-old Randy Johnson does over the Rockies (good enough for one dominant game, but damn that unbalanced scheduling can come back to bite you). Molina is not as important as Cain, or even Barry Zito.
Molina’s a great player, one sure to be remembered fondly by Giant fans for decades as one of the most potent slow and impatient hitters in recent history. However, a hot start for Molina was a given, just like Timmy winning 3 games in his first 6 starts and/or reaching double-digit strikeouts on a “GiantsK” promotional night. Bengie’s in a contract year and his body is fresh. Will he be hitting .300 with an RBI per game in September? No way, unless the Giants only allow Steve Holm and Fat Ichiro to catch Zito.
And why not do that? Zito obviously works better with non-Molina catchers for one reason or another (the most popular right now — game tempo), and along with Cain he’s the most important Giant. That is, if the team wants to take advantage of Manny Ramirez’s fear of growing a set of Phil Mickelsons (sorry, there’s going to be a lot of HCG jokes in the coming days…just be prepared).
The Giants aren’t exactly a high upside team. The Unit’s going to alternate brilliant and horrible performances, Jonathan Sanchez is the epitome of a fifth starter (not that there’s anything wrong with that), and not one position player has surprised anybody with either how well or how poorly they’ve played. The wildcards for San Francisco in 2009 are Cain and Zito, two pitchers hyped for different reasons (Cain for his size, velocity as a 21-year-old and filthy batting avg. against; Zito for his Cy Young, gorgeous curveball and some sort of contract or something). If Cain is really the sort of pitcher who can take advantage of a 5-walk outing via only giving up 1 hit like today, and Zito still has it, the Giants will rise far above the 74-win season everyone predicted.