Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lincecum dominates Rockies, Sabean faces roster decisions

It wasn't the most normal night in Colorado. Nate Schierholtz hit a Heraclean home run into the upper deck of Coors Field. Pablo Sandoval walked 3 times, seeing 17 pitches total and only swinging at 3 of them. What was somewhat normal was seeing Tim Lincecum pitch the way he did, beautifully summed up by Grant at McCoveyChronicles:

Lincecum’s ‘07 velocity + his ‘09 changeup + his ‘10 slider + a sprinkling of improved command = what you just watched.

It was a fun night for the Giants, beating the division leading Rockies. I'm not surprised by the number of people who have jumped on the "Rapril" (yes, that is what some Rockies fans are calling it) bandwagon, because it's natural, but one look at their schedule tells you a lot. Before last night's game, their opponent's combined winning percentage from the 2010 season was .440, and none of their opponents finished over .500 (the Giants 2011 opponents had a .495 winning percentage last year).

Cody Ross is rejoining the team, and any minute now we may know the fate of Brandon Belt. Surprisingly, I'm rather torn about this decision; Nothing about Belt's short time in the big leagues has me doubting his ability. He has shown that the two skills for which he is most lauded, patience at the plate and 1st base defense, are very real. Yet he hasn't been hitting the ball much at all. Some of this is bad luck (Aaron Rowand's great start is benefitting from the opposite kind of luck) but it is true that his power has disappeared since that impressive home run in Los Angeles. He also looks late on a lot of fastballs in the middle of the plate, and there have been quite a few groundouts to 2nd base. These are all things I believe Belt could fix up here. But just as we said he should be on the team because he could help them win, and it's only fair to apply that same urgency when he is struggling like this. What's most important for him (individually) is that he plays regularly.

The only possible players I see being sent down to make way for Ross are Ford or Belt. Rowand was the popular choice at the beginning of the season, and while it'd be foolish to believe he perform like this consistently, it's impossible to cut a player who is making that much money and hitting well to start the season. There's no way they send down Heracles after his home run yesterday. I'm not a big fan of Darren Ford at all, but he's a better bench player than Belt, not only because his skills (running, defense) are bench skills, but because there shouldn't be any concern about him getting consistent at bats as there is with Brandon Belt.

I'm not saying I want Belt sent down. Not at all. But I don't have the strong negative reaction towards it that might be expected. The service time advantage that the Giants could have by sending down Belt is also pretty attractive. All these factors tell me that sending Belt to AAA would not be a disaster. If Sabean and Bochy decide to stick with him and give him regular starts, I'd be ecstatic. It would be a great sign, for us and for him.

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