Cliff Lee Dominates, The Frustration Builds
I can’t say I’m entirely surprised that the Giants couldn’t manage to score anything off of Cliff Lee. Mostly I’m monumentally disappointed in the approach that just about every hitter took the whole game. I realize that Lee is a good pitcher with masterful control of the strike zone, but this was only helped by Giants hitters going up to the plate and looking like they didn’t know where they were.
The modern day Major League hitter has a bevy of technology at his disposal to improve himself. This is the age of hitters that can take an at-bat, and then review the results almost instantly on video to see what they did right or wrong. They spend hours upon hours every day working on the tiniest details of their swings, talking with hitting coaches, and pouring over scouting reports of opposing pitchers. By the time they get up to the plate, ideally they should have some sort of plan of attack against a given pitcher. Tonight, it looked like the Giants hadn’t done their homework.
The plan of attack against Lee tonight went something like this: swing at the first pitch, swing at the second pitch, let the third pitch that’s well in the strike zone go by. Hitter after hitter went up to the plate looking utterly lost. While I’ll attribute a good amount of this to Lee and his considerable ability as a pitcher, let’s also remember that this is the same guy who gave up 10 hits and 5 earned runs to the Padres two starts ago. Given that any player under the age of 24 isn’t allowed anywhere near a Bruce Bochy starting lineup, there’s no excuse for looking this lost at the plate on a consistent basis.
Speaking of young players not being allowed to play, Brandon Belt was optioned back to Fresno today to make room for oft-injured utilityman Mark DeRosa. Rumor has it that as a result Pat Burrell may be released upon his activation from the disabled list. Here’s a choice quote from the press release:
DeRosa, 36, has dealt with wrist problems since 2009, limiting him to 44 games as a Giant since 2010. He almost literally has nothing left in his wrist to injure, having completely torn the ECU tendon.
This has robbed DeRosa of power but not his ability to make contact.
The Giants organization saw fit to activate DeRosa, who’s hit all of .185/.264/.238 when he’s healthy, and play him in favor of Belt and Burrell. The same Mark DeRosa who no longer has any tendons in his wrist, making it so he literally has no power to speak of.
This season has seen more baffling decisions by the men in charge than I can recall in any other to date. The veteran-fetish has always been bad, but it’s never really hurt this much. This organization has been churning out Todd Lindens and Dan Ortmeiers that were also blocked by older players, but at least that wasn’t (a) in the middle of a postseason chase and (b) an obviously misguided decision hindering a talented young player’s development. Linden, Ortmeier, Bowker, et al weren’t stars in the making. Brandon Belt is.
Let’s play a little game with some advanced statistics. We’ll use wOBA (a measure of offensive contributions per plate appearance), wRC+ (runs per plate appearance scale where 100 is average), and just for fun, BB% (percentage of plate appearances resulting in a walk).
- Aubrey Huff: .288 wOBA, 7.3 BB%, 78 wRC+
- Brandon Belt: .306 wOBA, 12.2 BB%, 90 wRC+
Belt, in limited playing time, still outperforms Huff across the board. But no, apparently Aubrey Huff oozes veteran grit, which makes him the better starting candidate despite his lack of quantifiable hitting ability. A team can only be run off of gut feelings and blind veteran loyalty for so long until it starts to lose ballgames. With Huff starting and Belt in Fresno, the Giants will lose more games. When Pat Burrell is released while Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand are still allotted regular playing time, this team will lose more games. Decision after decision by the management has put this team in a hole at a point in the season where there’s little margin for error.
Now let’s compare Rowand and Burrell.
- Aaron Rowand: .294 wOBA, 3.3 BB%, 82 wRC+
- Pat Burrell: .338 wOBA, 13.4 BB%, 113 wRC+
What stands out to me most here is Rowand’s 3.3 BB%, which is absolutely atrocious. The fact that Rowand’s been allowed to lead-off in 43 games this season is unforgivable. It’s like whoever’s in charge is seeing the right decision, and going out of his way to make the wrong one instead. Delve into any metric you want and it’ll tell you that Aaron Rowand is in no way a better player than Pat Burrell. The only difference is that the organization saw fit to give him a lengthy contract worth $13 million a year.
Hoping things are a little brighter tomorrow, as I’ll be participating in a roundtable discussion with such well-known Giants sites as Giants Nirvana, Giants Pod, Productive Outs, and Crazy Crabbers. It should be posted right before gametime so I hope you’ll enjoy it.