In between coverage of the Hank Aaron/Barry Bonds "controversy," Willie Mays' 76th birthday celebration, and Roger Clemens returning to baseball, they played a baseball game last night on ESPN. It wasn't a bad game either: Phillies 8 - Giants 5
Game notes follow...
*** Tim Lincecum got hit around a bit, but I'd still call his debut a success for San Fransisco. I consider that a pretty interesting statement, the more I think about it. It reminds me of a quick back and forth I had with somebody in one of my fantasy leagues about Billy Butler. I commented that Butler reminded me a ton of a young Manny Ramirez (a tad hyperbolic, maybe, and a huge thing to say about a 21-year old, but a comparison worth talking about, I think) and a fellow owner responded by talking about Butler's 4-12 start at the plate not being all that reminiscent of a young Manny. I guess I honestly don't know how to respond to something like that - if you want to judge a young player strictly on early results, you're putting unnecessary limits on yourself as a baseball fan. Lincecum's results weren't there in his first start, but his stuff looked good - the fastball had a ton of velocity (95-97 MPH) and movement, and his curve is already a plus pitch. A top-3 NL offense hit him around in his first major league start on national television...the sky is not falling.
*** When the Giants starter went to the plate for the first time since high school, my only thought was this: Tim Lincecum = Henry Rowengartner
*** My other player comp from the game: Vinnie Chulk
, Giants reliever = Travis Lee
, big loser...they could be brothers, right?
*** Cole Hamels was getting squeezed in the first inning - he threw four strikes to Ray Durham (2 called balls) and appeared to have Pedro Feliz struck out on a perfectly placed changeup. He also got no help in the first from Wes Helms, the freaking statue masquerading as a big league third baseman. Hamels looked pissed off as he headed into the dugout and I thought for sure that the one run he allowed in the first was going to be all he'd give up on the night. I was wrong, but the young lefty still pitched brilliantly.
*** Hamels went into last night's start 20th in baseball in Baseball Prospectus' pitcher abuse points. Then he threw 118 pitches, his 4th category 3 start out of 7 overall. This isn't necessarily cause to freak out quite yet, but the Phillies should wise up and start being more careful with their young ace.
*** Joe Morgan, a guy that I have ripped countless times in this space, had a decent point when he brought up Ryan Howard's change in batting stance this year. I'm no hitting coach and I won't pretend to be, but it seemed like Howard had an uncanny ability to let the ball get as deep on him as possible during his hottest stretches in 2006. Howard would wait, wait, wait...and then hit the hell out of the ball just when it looked like the pitch was about to find it's final destination in the catcher's mitt past him. I'm not 100% sure if there's anything to all that, but it's a theory that jives with Howard's crazy success hitting the ball with authority to left and center field - you need to be able to wait on the ball to hit it the other way, right? Anyway, Joe Morgan's observation is that Howard is setting his feet unnecessarily early thus locking himself into swinging earlier than he ought to. Howard has enough sheer natural talent to delay locking his feet in as late as possible. When he starts doing this again, we should see more of the dead center field shots that Howard hit in the third inning of last night's game.
*** I don't understand why Rod Barajas has been granted the role of Cole Hamels' personal catcher. I know Barajas has a great reputation when it comes to dealing with pitchers and I know a lot goes on behind the scenes with regard to the pitcher-catcher relationship that we are not privy to, but I also know that I hate the way Barajas has called Hamels last few starts. You need three good pitches to succeed as a big league starter and lately Hamels curveball has been ignored - as good as his fastball/changeup combo has been, he's going to need to further develop that curve if he is to become the pitcher we all expect him to be. No need to go crazy and move completely away with what has worked so beautifully thus far, but I still think that it will be hugely beneficial in the long run if hitters are made well aware of the curve as a weapon.
*** Speaking of Barajas, he still stinks, but his plate discipline this year has been a pleasant surprise - the Phillies multi-million dollar backup catcher is well on his way to topping his career high of 26 walks with 9 already this season. I have no idea why I threw that in there, just felt like saying something nice about Rod...it's a nice change of pace from continually knocking the poor guy. Rod, if you are reading (and you know he is)...it's not you that I'm mad at, I know you are trying your best; it's management's fault for signing you, I'm mad at them and maybe sometimes I take it out on you. Nothing personal, big man.
*** Michael Bourn had his best appearance of the year - two steals and a heads up jaunt home on a grounder to shortstop. I got this text message from a friend after Bourn scored: "bourn is a speedy fucker." Just about says it all, right?
*** Amazing fact that completely slipped under my radar: Cole Hamels is sixth all time in strikeouts spanning the first 30 starts of a pitcher's career since 1900. I knew he was awesome, but I didn't realize how historically fantastic he's been so far.
There's more to say (Shane Victorino's hilarious rundown, Freddy Garcia's hilarious injury, other hilarious things that I'm sure happened but I can't recollect)...but it's time to wrap things up. Phillies go to Arizona next, should be fun.