The Nickel: 3-5, The Season: 7-9
The Developing Theme:
In Nickel #1, I warned you not to get too excited about the run production or too worried about the weak pitching. Eight games later, witness mean reversion at its finest. Penny and Lowe looked good, Perez and Seo looked O.K., and Tomko still looks like a mole sent by the Giants to infiltrate our starting rotation. That's about average for the league, and probably translates to a strength in the NL West this year.
The cut that hurt, though, was the hitting. 3.6 runs per game seems fine at first glance, but anyone who's been watching lately probably feels like something's amiss with that stat. There is: 13 (45%) of those runs were scored in a blowout victory at Pittsburgh. The problem seems to be the infield. Outfielders Drew (.869), Cruz (.868), Repko (.944) and Ross (2.125) all OPSed well. In the infield, only Saenz (.774) broke .700. Alomar went 4/8 with four singles and no walks, but Navarro (.478) struggled. If this keeps up, Colletti may want to rethink stocking up on shortstops.
So the developing theme appears to be mediocrity. Or something slightly less. We're only 10% into the season, though, so there's still plenty of time for good developments.
The Hot Ones:
Brad Penny still looks great. He followed his strong first nickel with another: 1.00 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, only one walk (again). He has control, velocity, and the ability to punch guys out. It's starting to look like we have an ace in the rotation.
Jason Repko continues to make me smile. This is a character guy, a guy that adds color and enjoyment for the fans. I wouldn't take him on his numbers alone, but these are the kind of guys that make people hate statistical analysis. Then again, I'd take him on this week's numbers: .944 OPS, which includes a .500 slugging percentage and four walks in as many games. If he keeps this up, we're not going to mind sitting Lofton one bit.
Takashi Saito has been the top reliever for Nickel #2. A WHIP of 0.21 in four appearances made questions about who will be "setting up" for Baez go away. While the notion of a setup man is a tenuous one, the notion of a reliable reliever who strikes guys out (7.7 K/9 for the nickel) and doesn't allow base runners is very appealing. He was used three days in a row, and still pitched effectively. If he can keep this up, we're in good shape. Of course, that's what we said about Baez last nickel, and he turned in a Tomko-like performance this nickel.
J.D. Drew is also off to a good start. I'm not throwing any parades for an .869 OPS out of an $11 million outfielder, but does anyone remember last year? The good start should take some heat off of him, as long as he doesn't get hit by another pitch. Plus the ninth inning heroics on Tuesday were fun to watch.
And, of course, there's Cody Ross: a 2.125 OPS for the nickel, and goodbye. This would be a case of selling high, if we were selling. But a DFA to make room for our fifth shortstop is the order of the day. Good luck to Mr. Ross.
Brett Tomko is not really a disappointment proper: he would have to be doing worse than expected for that. But he is doing worse than a fourth starter for a contender should do, and that is disappointing. The nickel: 1.64 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 6.55 ERA. He'll have to get better or Colletti will take some heat on this one. Giants fans have got to love this.
Danys Baez moves from hot to not this nickel. In the first eight games he looked like Eric Gagne, in the second eight he looked like...Brett Tomko: 1.64 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 0.00 ERA. The only stat that's different is the ERA. Closers have to get by those errors or lose their magical status. Anyway, its just one nickel. But I'm disappointed, because if he could have closed last night, we'd be .500 on the season (and the nickel).
First base is still sub-par. While Saenz managed a respectable .774 OPS versus both left-handed and right-handed pitching, the extra playing time should catch up with him as the season progresses. So why was he playing? James Loney looked like he was being rushed this week: .297 OPS. That includes a .083 slugging percentage for the four games in which he appeared. On the upside, Nomar goes to Vegas for rehab, and when he's back, Saenz's usage should drop (until the next time). Not to beat a dead horse, but I'm pretty sure Hee-Seop Choi would be doing better than this.