Jekyll & Hyde: The Strange Case of the 2019 San Francisco Giants

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by DrLefty

I was never confused by the 2017 Giants. Starting with Opening Day, when expensive new closer Mark Melancon blew a save/lost the game, into April when ace Madison Bumgarner crashed a dirt bike and landed on his pitching shoulder, it was painfully obvious that this was a bad, bad, bad team having a terrible year.  When the backup catcher wins the Willie Mac Award and the only feel-good story is a former first-round pick having some success as a middle reliever (just good enough to get shipped off to Pittsburgh for Andrew McCutchen), well–you know it’s just not your year.

The 2018 team gave me some temporary false hope–see this optimistic post I wrote in June of that year:

If the Giants go into a tailspin, you can go right into the TWG archives and throw this back at me in a month or two. But I’ll get off the fence now. The 2018 Giants are good and getting better.

So…about that tailspin. A 5-21 September–a month the Giants started at .500 for the season–pushed the team right back into lottery pick (#10) territory in the draft. The 2018 Giants were not good, and they got worse.

The 2019 Giants are different from either team. After two really bad seasons, I think all of us, with the possible exception of Surf Maui, had realistic expectations, and I think most of us still do. If anything, we’re pleasantly surprised, if not flat-out shocked, that they’re anywhere near .500.

But they’re Jekyll and Hyde in the sense that any given night, you never know which team is going to show up and whether the team’s strengths (and they do have some) are going to make us forget their substantial weaknesses for a few hours.

So let’s break this down a bit.

 

There are so many things to note here, but I’ve highlighted a couple. First, the Giants’ record is (much) better on the road than at home, but oddly, they pitch better at home. Second, they’re the worst team in baseball in the first inning and one of the best in the ninth (and beyond). They’re close to unbeatable in extra innings (now 12-2), and their record in one-run games is so far ahead of the pack that it looks like a typo. (After last night, the Giants are 29-11 in one-run games. The Braves are second at 21-13.) Third, they have (or have had) one of the best bullpens in baseball, but depending on which metric you use, they have the worst, or one of the worst rotations–and that’s with Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija having good years.

The sum total of all of this is that on any given night when we hapless fans flip on the TV, the laptop, or the radio, we have NO IDEA what we’re going to get. Will it be a young starter (let’s call him Schmyler Schmeede) getting pounded early while the washed-up/journeyman opposing starter (let’s call him Schmomer Schmailey) looks like Cy Young for 6-7 innings and the Giants’ lineup looks checked out/comatose–but suddenly wakes up around the eighth inning or so? Or will it be one of these gut-wrenching one-run wins that are keeping an entire region’s worth of cardiologists well-equipped with sports cars and yachts?  Or will it be one of those rare birds, a delightful, no-drama, 7-0 win with last year’s hero (Schmereck Schmodriguez) partying like it’s 2018 again?

To quote Forrest Gump, or maybe it’s Marty Lurie: “That’s baseball. You never know what you’re going to get.”

 

Last night’s game: the ultimate Jekyll-and-Hyde troll

I had this Jekyll-and-Hyde theme in mind before last night’s game, mainly from musing about the 7-0 Thursday night win and how unusual that kind of game has been for the 2019 Giants. I even started drafting the post yesterday afternoon when I didn’t feel like working.

So then last night happened. Just a typical game, right?–The Giants live and die by the long ball and the weak bullpen blows multiple leads. Just like we’ve all gotten used to see–no, that’s not what we’re used to seeing, not at all. The only familiar elements were (a) a good start by Samardzija (b) a one-run win (c) an extra-inning win and (d) Mike Yastrzemski being a hero. (So has Yaz leapt into the Willie Mac Award lead, especially now that poor Pablo’s elbow has gone all Matt Cain on him?)

I think we’ve figured it out. The Giants don’t know what to do with foreign objects like “a five-run lead.” But once they got into their comfy one-run/extra-inning space, it was all over for the Snakes.

There is so much to say–and some things to worry about, starting with Tony Watson and Will Smith–about that wild, chaotic mess of a game. But I’m just going to leave it at two great Tweets from beat writers.

 

[Logan Webb, in case you missed it, is the 22-year-old rookie pitcher slotted to make his major league debut tonight. He was in the dugout watching all 12 of the home runs the Giants and Diamondbacks combined for last night.]

OK, I do have one more thing to say, with a hat-tip to the Reverend Hunter Pence:  Yaz! Yaz! Yaz!

 

Tonight’s game

Giants at Diamondbacks, 5:10 p.m. at the Snake Pit

Logan Webb (0-0, — ERA) vs. Taylor Clarke (4-3, 5.46 ERA)

 

So…will it be Jekyll or Hyde tonight?  Or–BOTH?!  Fasten your seat belts and stock up on your Xanax/Digitalis/weed/booze–whatever you need to get through this Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of a season. Lefty out.