Q: Brandon Crawford is having a fantastic year at the plate (.285/.356/.459). Is this improvement for real, or is he still a below-average hitter who is just on an early-season heater? Also, what are you feeding Marco Scutaro and where can I get some?
A: I can see Crawford as a below-average hitter, still. Two months shouldn't be *that* convincing.
But I'm pretty much ready to retire the "way-below-average hitter" label, which is huge for someone with his defensive abilities. If he can just be okay with the bat, he's a big deal. A's fans used to players from Mike Bordick through Cliff Pennington know what that's about.
Scutaro is just a wonder when he's right -- an all-wrist, quiet lower-half hitter with amazing bat control. Here's a GIF of his 14 hits in the NLCS.
It's just my favorite. Not a lot of cheapies.
Q: Tim Lincecum has bounced back a little bit from his disastrous 2012, but his numbers are still nowhere near his Cy Young years thanks to elevated walk and homer rates. On one hand, his velocity is at a career low, but on the other hand, some of his peripherals (LOB%, HR/FB) seem unsustainably poor and due to regress toward career norms. Do you see him bouncing back any further, or is this just the pitcher that he is now?
A: I'm getting more convinced that we're in some weird historical transition when it comes to eyeballing strikeout rates to evaluate pitchers. Jim Palmer won three Cy Youngs despite a strikeout rate that wasn't much different from Kirk Rueter's. It was a different game back then. Using strikeout rates as a proxy for a pitcher's efficiency wouldn't have worked. I think the pendulum has swung in the other direction. Just an unsubstantiated theory from a guy who wouldn't know how to test it, so take it with some mouthfuls of salt.
That written, yeah, he's probably not going to snap out of this. His problem is command more than velocity, and I'm not sure how the command comes back. I think the command and velocity have to do with the same thing. Arm strength ... mechanics ... balance ... something that was messed up by age and isn't coming back.
Q: Is Chad Gaudin really only 30 years old? Because I swear he was on the A's, like, 10 years ago. And is he really this good now? He's off to a fantastic start in San Francisco's bullpen, and I hear that he might get a start in this series with Ryan Vogelsong now on the DL.
A: In every bullpen, there's a hotshot reliever who didn't start his new life as a late-inning option until he was 30 or so. Think Grant Balfour. So is Gaudin going to do that? It's way too early to say, but I don't doubt relievers who suddenly show promise after years of not doing much.
He probably isn't going to start, though. They like him in the bullpen.
Q: What's up with Matt Cain? His peripherals are more or less in line with his career norms, but he's giving up a ton of homers. Small sample fluke or cause for concern?
A: Sample size, most likely. The problem is that all of the home runs, more or less, came on bad pitches. So it feels like calling it bad luck is a cop out. But I don't think we realize how many bad pitches pitchers get away with every outing. At least, there's no real way to measure that yet. If there were a stat called "crap that misses the target by a foot", that would be the best way to see if Matt Cain is really different.
Q: Which Giants player would you most like to go to lunch with? It's Hunter Pence, isn't it? Does he eat normal food, or just whatever animals and children come within arm's reach of him?
A: I honestly think I'd enjoy Matt Cain the most. He doesn't seem to take himself too seriously, and he has a really good sense of humor. Maybe Brandon Belt, who's a goofy bastard, though I'd have to pick where we ate.
Q: In one word, describe your thoughts on the last-place Dodgers and their 20-27 record.
Q: Earlier this season, you posted a picture on Baseball Nation of a pathetically small crowd at the Coliseum which drew some ire from Athletics Nation. Anything you'd like to say about that to clear the air?
A: Yes. Yes, I would.
I like the A's. 156 games out of every year, I'm an A's fan. I go to A's games with my daughter. To y'all, I'm a tourist A's fan, and I get that (and deserve the label.) I don't live or die with the team. Not even close. But I don't hate the A's.
That written, I was fascinated by an empty ballpark. It doesn't matter if it's the A's, Rays, SK Wyverns, or Helena Hellboys -- a stadium that size with so many empty seats is inherently compelling. I loaded the post with context -- crazy cold, following a terrorist attack at a sporting event, less-than-compelling opponent, Tuesday night -- but I don't care if we're in day two of 28 Days Later, with zombies roaming around eating brains outside. That kind of picture will still be compelling to me.
If it were a small, minor-league park, it wouldn't be compelling. The size and scope of the Coliseum plays a part in my fascination. But the Oakland Athletics Baseball Club and their yearly (or day-to-day) attendance isn't important.
I sold bottled water as a vendor at Candlestick on 45-degree Tuesday nights. I know what it's like to be a fan in an empty ballpark. And I also know that it doesn't mean a damned thing when it comes to how hard you root, or how loud you cheer when the winning run crosses the plate. I don't like making fun of attendance to make fun of attendance.
Except for the Marlins. Because **** those guys, right?
So I don't apologize for posting the picture as something that interested me. I do apologize for offending people who thought I was taking a dig at the A's. There probably isn't a way to do it without giving off that vibe, so maybe it's not worth it. I learned my lesson.
First pitch is at 1:05pm. Dan Straily takes the hill against Madison Bumgarner. Billy Frijoles will have your thread.