I had a very bad day on Thursday. It started out well. I woke up all excited about Opening Day, had a nice visit with Crawnik, who stopped by on his way home from work, scored tickets to next Saturday’s game at Oracle Park, and had a successful first meeting with the graduate seminar I’m teaching this quarter. Finished class and hopped on the bike for a 45-minute ride and then headed to the kitchen to start on my Opening Day dinner menu.
Then I checked my email, and I’ll be vague, but I got some awful news at work. I’m still reeling from it. I went ahead with the Polish dogs and opened a bottle of wine and hoped that the Giants game would temporarily take my mind off my troubles. For awhile, it did. But then–well, you all know what happened, and Greek Giant had a colorful headline for his gamer yesterday.
Here’s the good thing about baseball, though–there’s (nearly) always another game the next day to wash the bad taste out of your mouth. And last night’s game did just that. Buster Posey and Evan Longoria both hit their second homers in two games, Donovan Solano had his usual clutch hit, Johnny Cueto was good enough, and unlike on Thursday, the bullpen got the job done.
Buster is on pace for 162 homers this season 🙃 pic.twitter.com/EWiyisBCdE
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 3, 2021
So what can we say about these two games, taken together?
- The offense, especially against lefties, looks potent. It was potent last year, and I predicted last week in my Cactus League wrap that it would continue to be potent. So far, so good. The Giants, in two games against lefty starters in a pitchers’ park, have scored 13 runs and hit six homers. In fact, guess which team is leading MLB in homers right now? Savor this moment. And OK, the lefty starters weren’t exactly named Kershaw or Snell, but they aren’t complete schmoes, either. In fact, Kikuchi pitched well enough to win last night and had ten strikeouts.
- The rotation has gotten off to a solid start. I was dubious about the rotation, and I’m honestly still nervous about it. But Kevin Gausman went into the seventh inning and pitched beautifully, and Cueto almost got through six and was well over 100 pitches, and though he appeared to be scuffling a bit, he got better as the game went on. Logan Webb is up next, and he was by far the star of the spring. We’ll see how we feel a week from now, after Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez, and then Gausman face the formidable Padres lineup, but after two games, no complaints and even some mild pleasant surprise.
- The defense has been a little better than I had feared. OK, that Brandon Belt throwing error in the first game was a big problem. But it’s a tough play, and Belt usually makes it as well as anyone. Putting that one aside, we’ve seen solid infield work from Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Solano, Belt, and Wilmer Flores. It’s early, but remember the Keystone Cops routine the Giants had going in the first week of last season? It’s better so far.
- I don’t really believe the bullpen is as bad as what we saw on Thursday. I took an early morning walk today and caught up on my Giants podcasts, recorded on Thursday before the opener. In the Baggs and Brisbee podcast, Baggs was talking about how last year’s bullpen couldn’t throw strikes and had long, exhausting innings that led to infielders making mistakes. He opined that though this year’s bullpen isn’t a bunch of household names, the Giants went out and got the new guys because they worked quickly and threw strikes. They’ll be “crisper and easier to watch,” he said. Well, I had to chuckle as I listened to that with the benefit(?) of hindsight. But here’s the thing–I think Baggs was right and that the bullpen will be better. And they were better last night. Jake McGee looks great so far. Wandy Peralta did a fine job, earning the win. I do worry that Gabe Kapler is too enamored with Tyler Rogers and will use him too often–he overexposed Rogers last year, in my opinion. Reyes Moronta is the only reliever who hasn’t appeared in a game yet, though he was warming up last night. I know they’re concerned about his velocity and command after his major injury and long layoff, but if that’s the case, why not have him rehab in Arizona or at the Alternate Site for awhile? Why fill one of your three(!) right-handed bullpen spots with someone you appear reluctant to use? Stay tuned on this one.
The Triumphant Return of Buster Posey
My most optimistic hope for Posey coming into this season was that he’d channel his 2017 season. Now, 2017 was a bad year for the Giants, and that’s putting it politely. But Buster had a good year, hitting .320 with a .400 OBP with an fWAR of 4.7. He only hit 12 homers, but it was still a solid season. He was an All-Star. He got at least one MVP vote. He won a Silver Slugger award. But now he’s 34 years old, and since 2017, he’s had hip surgery and then opted out of the 2020 season. I assumed he’d still be great behind the plate, and I hoped his batting average and OBP would bounce back after a disappointing 2019 season. But I figured his homer-hitting days were well behind him.
Well, surprise on me. He’s hit two homers already, and that first one was a thing of beauty.
I liked what I saw from Buster in Scottsdale last spring. It was disappointing, if completely understandable, when he opted out. I believe this is going to be a good year for him, and I agree with those who believe he’ll back in a Giants uniform next year. I don’t know if they’ll pick up his team option or work out a new deal, but as Baggs and Brisbee noted, he saved the Giants $8 mil by opting out last year. Maybe some of that could roll into a new 1-2 year deal for Buster?
Giants at Mariners, 6:10 p.m., T-Mobile Park
Logan Webb vs. Chris Flexen
Who is Chris Flexen, you might ask? I didn’t know, either, so I looked him up. He is a 26-year-old right-hander making his Mariners debut tonight. He pitched briefly for the Mets in 2017-19 (not well, I might add), and spent 2020 pitching in Korea. We’ll get our first look at how the Giants will line up against a righty starter. Sadly, it seems likely that it will be Curt Casali and not Buster Posey catching Webb. But Casali is a veteran, and from his quotes during the spring, I know he thinks highly of Webb’s stuff, especially his changeup. Hopefully they will work well together and Webb will keep building his confidence.
Off-day tomorrow on Easter Sunday, oddly enough. I’m just so happy that baseball is back. Enjoy the game tonight. Lefty out.