I’m a Giants fan. I thought the Giants would beat the Reds, and then the Cardinals, and now the Tigers. But I’ve been totally surprised by the way it’s happened. I thought Cain and Bumgarner would be big, Lincecum would prove to be a big game pitcher (he was better the second half of the season–he was showing signs of being Timmy and then had two bad final starts). I thought the bullpen would be really good, although I was worried about Romo as a closer. I even thought the Giants would get some hits and runs on Verlander, only because they seem to hit fastball pitchers. It seemed likely that the Tigers would be stale, only because it always seems to happen that way.
But not Zito. Not Sandoval. (I wouldn’t have predicted Scutaro, per se, but it seems like there’s always a middle infielder that gets a ton of singles in the playoffs and becomes an impossible out). Definitely not hitters hitting doubles off of 3rd base, hitting the ball 3 times in one swing, and pitchers getting 4 rbis in 4 games. And Buster Posey and Hunter Pence doing pretty much nothing offensively.
It’s sort of a weird experience. In 2002 and 2010, there was all this pride–especially as a west coaster living on the east coast, and dealing with the annoying east coast bias–that all these guys who I knew were good, were getting a chance to show it. Bonds, JT Snow, Jason Schmidt, and Russ Ortiz in 2002 (or the failed playoffs in 2000). The incredible starting pitching staff in 2010. But this year… I wouldn’t have pushed Barry Zito, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, or even Ryan Vogelsong. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not like when you can boast to your friends because they didn’t listen to me all year about how good Barry Zito was.
(On the other hand, it is nice to see Verlander get slammed by the Giants. Verlander is a great pitcher. He throws 100 miles an hour. But is the 100 miles an hour giving him more star power in the way that Blake Griffin’s dunks make him seem like a better player than he really is? Compare Verlander’s stats to other elite pitchers of the recent past–he has one great season (last year). Compare his stats to Pedro Martinez run between 1997-2003, Maddux between 1992-98–not close. Compare his career stats to Lincecum. Lincecum had an era of 5.18 this year, and his career era is still better than Verlander’s. He’s a great pitcher, he pitched some great close out games this playoffs. Is he at the level that he can be an ass to his pitching coach in the middle of the game? I’m guessing he’s not the kind of 2 time cy young award winner who would keep his head up and pitch in long relief because his manager asked him to.)
So, it’s one thing for guys to play at their best in the playoffs and finals. But how many guys play better than their best, and for a fairly sustained period of time? Sandoval hits 3 home runs now? Zito pitches back to back great games against great hitting teams now? Romo, who wasn’t even the clear closer this year, is suddenly lights out in the 9th? Scutaro? And since when is Bochy an absolute genius? (And because he’s an absolute genius, I’m not going to ask why he used Lincecum today with a 6-1 lead in the 6th with the seemingly real possibility that Madison Bumgarner has a dead arm and is going to get hammered tomorrow, and if that happens, the Giants are 1-1 going to Detroit, and if they lose the first 2 games in Detroit are they really going to beat Verlander again? Sure, why not?