Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Too Early to Call Giants the Winners? by Ed Stern

Marty: In the face of those of us who have spent much time already during this baseball season decrying the tendency to predict the ultimate outcome of the 162 game season, here goes another rash prediction. It is being done without being even slightly embarrassed by earlier sentiments which described the Giants as a “bad ball club”. That’s one of the delights in being a fan. In the early going the team fit the description. That judgment gradually changed over the past weeks. It culminates in today’s opinion. All it takes is courage and the willingness to be seen, at the end, as a misguided enthusiast and somewhat foolish, to boot.

The sixteen game schedule, commencing with the Toronto series and concluding on July fourth with the A’s series was described here as a test, the result of which might call for further evaluation of the club’s prospects. Having won nine of the first ten games, which included taking two of three from the Red Sox and sweeping the Dodgers in four games, we are emboldened to demonstrate a lack of concern over the outcome of the remaining nine games, six against the A’s and three against LA.

Click Below for more of Ed’s analysis.The Giants not only beat LA these past four days, but left them looking demoralized. Two of these games were close, one run wins; the remaining two simply wiped out LA, eleven to five and nine to three. This sweep was accomplished without calling on the best pitcher in the league, Schmidt. Schmidt will face both the A’s and LA in the upcoming series.

The Giants, for the past month. together with the unlikely Tampa Bay, have had the best record of any team in either league. Since May 19th the Giants’ record is twenty-four wins and eight losses. The Dodgers record, for instance, is fifteen and sixteen since then. Last year they spreadeagled the field. It may be happening again.

At various times since the beginning of the year certain observations were made which pointed to the weaknesses which were being demonstrated. The inability to protect Bonds with batters hitting behind him was an obvious concern. Bonds was being walked two, three, four times a game with a confidence in the opposition that succeeding hitters were not to be feared. The starting rotation clearly showed the need for at least one and probably two pitchers who could last more then five innings. The likelihood of finding such pitching among three of the starters seemed remote. Durham was still on the DL. The club was notorious for hitting into double plays with men in scoring position.

There has been a sea change in this perception. Durham has returned, apparently healthy. He provides the team with the most effective top of the order presence they have had for years. His play in the field has, at times, bordered on the sensational.

Alfonzo, Pierzynski, Feliz and, surprisingly, Cruz have provided Bonds with all of the hitting support needed to force opposing teams to think twice before continuing to walk him at every opprtunity. The other teams have not yet come to the realization that with Alfonzo on a hitting streak, driving in runs, with Pierzynski hitting close to .300, with Cruz hitting .325 it makes less and less sense not to take their chances with Bonds. Moreover, the hitters in front of Bonds are continuing to get on base. Durham, Tucker or Mohr, Grissom
finish a lineup, from top to bottom, which has eight hitters who can create runs. This has become a team tough to pitch against. The Red Sox and LA have discovered this. Others will.

This leaves the pitching. This was always the most difficult aspect of the team about which to be optimistic. It didn’t appear that Sabean was going to have an easy time finding starting pitching on the July market. First line pitching doesn’t show up too often and when it does the competition is fierce. In the last month, however, unexpectedly. at least to this observer, there may be reasonable hope that the present staff will provide the strength a team needs to be successful. Rueter has thrown two very strong games in his latest appearances. Yesterday Tomko, given up by many based on his continued failure to get out of the fifth inning, pitched well against LA. One game a season doesn’t make, but there is hope there where there was little before. Hermanson has pitched well on most occasions. Williams has had his problems the last few outings but he is a survivor. His last appearance wasn’t one of his best efforts but he still went into late innings without giving up more than two runs.

Nothing more need be said about Schmidt. Whenever he pitches one chalks up a win automatically and he always comes through. This is a likely Cy Young winner.
The bullpen has had some problems but, overall, it does what is asked of it. Herges has been stronger in the closer role than could reasonably have been expected. It has reached the point where Alou feels the need to call on him to get the last out in the eighth on too many occasions. There shouldn’t be that need if the bullpen is all one could desire. Rodriguez is the problem.

Christiansen is on the DL which may account for his poor showing this past month. Rodriguez is another story. When Herges is called on in the eighth it is usually because Rodriguez has stumbled again. He is unreliable, as has been the case for too long. At some point this is going to have to be recognized. There may be a team out there, come July, looking for a closer, which might be over-impressed with a 96 mile an hour fast ball. Unfortunately, for the team for whom he is pitching, major league hitters can hit 96 mile an hour fast balls when the pitcher can’t control where they are going. This might be the chance to rid themselves of him for some profit.

The prediction? It is going to be difficult to stop the Giants from running off with the Division. It won’t need 100 wins to lead the pack. Whatever it does need the Giants will be there. They have too much strength, up and down the lineup, for LA and the Padres to cope with. It may be a weak division, but just as it was last year, the Giants beat not only weak teams but strong teams. They could still use one more strong starter but they will overcome without him.



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