Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Batter Up July 31st

The A’s and Giants are right on schedule as to where they should be in the 2004 pennant race.

Good pitching and tight defense are still the two most important attributes a winning ball club must have.

When the A’s turned the corner in 1999, the front office reluctantly realized that to win the division the team had to catch and pitch the ball effectively and not just rely on whacking the ball to win games.

Click below for more of the Column!The 2004 Athletics lead the American league in defense and pitching. Combine the two with the A’s offensive philosophy of relentlessly picking over the pitches thrown by the opposition before swinging the bat and you have a combination guaranteeing success each season.

During the course of the 162 game season, the A’s will see top flight starting pitchers (ones that throw strikes consistently) about 40 times. Ordinary pitchers (above average ERA’s) make the remaining 122 starts.

The A’s have an excellent chance to defeat these second line pitchers with their “I won’t hit it unless the counts in my favor approach.”

The A’s are always in those games and if the bullpen is on, good things happen.

The pattern becomes more visible each summer after the all star break when the overall pitching in the league plummets due to fatigue. No surprise that the A’s are again rolling as August approaches behind its overall pitching and excellent defense.

Just wait for the 19 games (13 at home) that begin on August 10th against the also rans of the league.

The Giants on the other hand are struggling with their overall defense. Devi Cruz is not the answer at shortstop, a key position. The outfielders have made numerous mistakes in the field costing the team victories. Ray Durham simply cannot turn a double play often enough to bail out the pitching staff. Let’s not talk about AJ Pierzynski’s defense.

The Giants overall defense, unfortunately, is ranked ninth in the league, tenth in errors.

The pitching is no better. The woes of the bullpen have been well documentd. Immediate help is needed. The team ERA is over 4.40, trailing the Cubs, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, New York, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Florida, Houston, and Pittsburgh.

No surprise that the Giants are struggling right now. Unless they tighten up the pitching and defense, they are in danger of falling further behind in the division and wild card races.

The Giants are seriously looking for another shortstop, another outfielder, and for additional bullpen and starting pitching help as the July 31st trade deadline expires.

When analyzing the two Bay Area teams, the A’s are in better shape for the stretch run because they catch and pitch the ball better than the Giants do right now.

On offense the Giants rely on the best slugger in baseball history, while the A’s are thrilled getting their walks mixed in with some timely hitting against second line pitchers.

Minnesota has quietly put another outstanding pen together. JC Romero, Juan Rincon, and Grant Balfour consistently get the ball to closer Joe Nathan, the Twins version of “Game Over”.

The White Sox had a tough week. All of a sudden sluggers, Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas may both be gone for the season with injuries. First half, top of the order hot shots, Willie Harris and Juan Uribe aren’t getting on base much anymore. Unless the Sox starting pitching carries the team, things could unravel in Chicago. Things change quickly in the Midwest.

The Yankees starting pitching is in shambles. Who knows how Kevin Brown will hold up? Same goes for the ancient one, El Duque. Jose Contreras still can’t get out of trouble in big games. Mike Mussina’s elbow is barking. Javier Vasquez has been the steadiest of the bunch, but he hasn’t been lights out. But, boy, the Yanks can hit. It might be enough if pen stars Mariano Rivera, Tom Gordon, and Paul Quantrill hold up.

The New Yorkers are ripe for the picking in the postseason.

The Angels keep talking about Randy Johnson. Forget him. Anaheim has enough pitching to win right now. They better start hitting again and hope the DL is a thing of the past for the big hitters.

I still say it will be the A’s and Angels down the stretch.

The Cubs pitch and catch the ball with the best in the NL. If Mark Prior stays healthy, a big if, then maybe the Cubs could afford to trade Matt Clement for Nomar Garciaparra. The Cubs are very much alive in the NL wild card race.

Nomar would push Sammy Sosa, Derek Lee, and Moises Alou for a second half run. The rest of the Cub team is playoff caliber, although one more reliever would help too.

Here’s hoping Greg Maddux doesn’t get his 300th win this Sunday. I’d like to see him go for the milestone in San Francisco the following Friday night.

Ever hear Rick Sutcliffe do color on ESPN. He must be paid by the word. He finds it necessary to comment after every pitch with the most inane observations this side of Tim McCarver, another boring broadcaster.

MVP for Texas: Pitching coach Orel Hershiser who used the sinker during his career, and now has the Rangers throwing the pitch. Former Cal pitcher Ryan Drese is his prize pupil.

The A’s computer guys are worried about Marco Scutaro’s walk totals (about 11). Forget the walks, the kid has filled in for Mark Ellis admirably in the field and gets big hits. He’s a huge reason the A’s defense leads the pack.

Now, on the other hand, a left handed hitting outfielder would be a welcome addition to the A’s lineup.


1 glenpark { 07.31.04 at 10:31 pm }


Today’s trades accent your comments about defense.

Boston is a terrible defensive team, but today got golden glove infielders. They also apparently got Dave Roberts from LA –very solid outfielder.

The uproar over the LA trades overlooks the fact that now Shawn Green can go back to RF, Finley to CF and Bradley to LF -aaand Jason Weeeurth looks very good—this is much better than what they had — and Choi may have a loop in swing, but he is a big and agile 1B — and they got Penny for their rotation.

Chicago got Nomar, he may not be better in the field than Gonzales, but Gonzales will always be branded in Chicago with booting that DP last October. And Nomar is a leader who will fire these guys up

The Giants got LeDee — and to be honest, their OF play has been reallly weak all year — Cruz was a star there last year, especially in the SBC RF, letting him go was a gamble. Their IF play is not stellar, they could have used Cabrera, it will be a struggle for them down the stretch.

As for the A’s — once again they are proving what an incredible team they are — they are by far the most intriguing team I see out there — and hopefully a solid August is in store for them. I think Texas will fade, they have no pitching depth, and for some reason, Anaheim just does not seem as scary as they did during that April series at the Coliseum.

Will be great to see the A’s going into NY and Minn — should be top notch baseball.

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