I’ve mentioned it on the podcast before, but I’m pretty sure I’m certifiably nuts. While I’ve mentioned it in general, in this case I’m specifically talking about my goal to try and score every single game the Giants play this year. Am I going to succeed? Who knows — I may give up and decide I prefer sleeping at some point (I closed at work today, and it’s nearly 3 AM now that I’m finishing this), but in the meantime, I’m learning a lot about the sweet art that is scoring and how being engaged in a game changes the way that I consume and follow it. And along the way, you always come up with a few interesting tidbits, so at the conclusion of the series, in parallel to our new series reviews, here’s a few things that I couldn’t help noticing over the course of our opening series at Chase Field!
Disclaimer: All observations are based on my own scorecards and note-taking. There will be errors. Feel free to point them out in the comments and I’ll swing back around to correct stats and things in the future if I can.
- A Sight for Sore Eyes: Several Giants drew walks this series, a contrast to what has historically been a problem for an antsy, swing-hard-swing-early Giants offense; the Giants drew a whopping twelve walks in four games, which for recent watchers of the Misfit Era is something like watching the second coming of Barry Bonds as far as plate discipline. Of those twelve walks, three came around to score (and another walked in a run). Most surprising? Five of those walks belong to Sandoval, Pence, and Morse, easily three of the most aggressive hackers on the team. Extra points to Sir Bam Bam and being fresh off of Spring Training? Only time will tell, but I’m enjoying this.
- Batten Down the Hatches: The Giants issued 7 walks in the series; four of those walks were to Miguel Montero (who, in fairness, reached base in 5 of 5 plate attempts on Monday and warranted some caution.) Six of those walks came during the first two games of the series; during the last two games of the series, the Giants walked only ONE batter (Cliff Pennington, in the 7th inning, by David Huff) who did not come around to score. Tim Hudson’s control is legendary, and is really something to see, but by golly, I might be willing to accept this new, mysterious “crappy contact, throw it for a strike” version of Tim Lincecum yet.
- Rally-Killer Award: Second baseman Aaron Hill, who left four on base during Tuesday’s game (two on in the second, one on in the 4th, one on in the 6th) and ended an inning for the Diamondbacks on three different occasions as Cain settled down.
- Tiger Belt: Brandon Belt’s homer in the first on Thursday was a Pablo Sandoval special — he went down and fishing and just lofted a ball clear out of the yard, and for those of us who have transitioned from Belt apologists to Belt celebrants (looking at you, Jen “I ❤ Lefty First Basemen” Cosgriff) seeing Belt catch a low ball and knock it clear into the stands is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. We should know; we got to practice our “did you see that” looks three whole times this series, as Belt exploded. As always, the discipline-oriented Belt is still somewhat strikeout-prone, racking up 6 K’s over the course of the series, but when he does choose to swing, he’s making significantly better contact and choosing his spots better, which seems like a great sign.
- Kung-Fu Grip: Every time I see Brandon Arroyo, I appreciate his crazy delivery a little more. Precious few pitchers are going to show you not only a high leg kick, foot flexed and straight out — one that, as a dancer, I’m actually really envious of, because I went to college for kicks like that and I still can’t do it — but also pitches from, as Krukow kept pointing out, three different arm angles. You watch for a while and see the three-quarter angle and catch what’s going on there, and then suddenly, he drops to a sidearm angle and puts a filthy amount of movement on a ball that bends up and back into the zone. It’s as close as anyone’s ever going to get to being Pat Venditte without being, well, Pat Venditte.
- A’s on A’s on A’s: Both sides benefitted from the A’s inability to hold onto talent long-term. While the D-backs showed pitchers Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, and Brad Ziegler, all of whom were both brilliant and vulnerable by turns, the Giants’ Brandon Hicks (22 games with Oakland in 2012) came off the bench twice in the series and produced a pinch-hit walk on Wednesday and a monster of a home run off the bench on Thursday. Word is that Bochy tends to prefer to start most of his players at some point during opening week as the team eases into larger workloads during the season, but if Hicks wanted to carry his torrid spring into the season and gain himself some attention, damned if he didn’t pick the right time to do it.
- Veteran Presents: As former A’s go, how about Tim Hudson? Huddy was a joy to watch on Wednesday and really took full advantage of the chance to show off, pitching 7.2 innings and striking out 7 without a single walk. Hudson’s resumé has always been one featuring control and contact, but the kind of spotting Hudson was doing on Wednesday is something that I can only hope begins rubbing off on the rest of the staff.
- A Weakness to Gold: The jokes about Tim Lincecum’s choice of performance-enhancing substance are really never going to end, and as a native San Franciscan, I really can’t complain about that too much. Paul Goldschmidt’s performance-enhancing substance, on the other hand, appears to be Tim Lincecum. Goldschmidt hit another blast off of Lincecum, and it wasn’t a cheap one; I’m not sure Timmy has the faintest idea what he’s supposed to do with that kind of ownage. Think the Collective Bargaining Agreement has anything for guys that hit about one home run per game off of you?
- Shiny Swing Sets: It’s hard not to joke about Hunter Pence’s batting stance and all, but we really were treated to some sweet swings this series. Goldschmidt’s and Crawford’s are smooth in different ways, but Mark Trumbo and Buster Posey have to have two of the sweetest swings that baseball has ever seen. Whether they’re going inside or outside, nothing gets cut off in their motion, and both of them can really get a charge into a ball no matter what side of the plate it rolls to.
These observations will only get worse as time goes on (we’ll see how many useful bits of information I can pull out of a mid-July three-game series against the Marlins without coffee), but hopefully, I’ll be able to share some of the tips and tricks I pick up scoring as we go. I’ll post some of my terrible, terrible scorecards in the next couple days. If you have pro tips on scoring baseball games or interesting personal quirks that make tracking games easier for you, mention them and let’s discuss!