The Bay Bridge Series, which starts tonight at AT&T Park, will determine which of the teams is better at this point, but nothing more. Both teams are pretenders, not contenders in the race to the postseason.
The A’s have been a surprise this season, at least in part because they have a solid manager in Bob Melvin and they got back pitching coach Curt Young, who specializes in developing young pitchers, perfect for the A’s who have a new crop of them every year.
A’s general manager Billly Beane has struggled with his managerial choices. He inherited Art Howe, a nice man whose baseball philosophy hadn’t changed since his first year as a player with Pittsburgh in 1974. He was a poor fit for the A’s, who had been using the new mathematical theories developed by Bill James since the mid-’80s. Ken Macha was a solid manager who had a personality conflict with Beane. Guess who won? Beane then picked his friend Bob Geren, who was the Peter Principle in action, a good minor-league manager because he had the players, but totally lost on the major-league level.
Melvin is a proven manager, NL Manager of the Year in 2007 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but right now, he’s managing with one arm tied behind his back. Three of his best players — Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Inge — are on the disabled list. And even healthy, the A’s don’t match up with the division-leading Texas Rangers.
The Giants also have a significant injury loss, with Pablo Sandoval out with a broken hamate bone in his left hand.
Without Sandoval, the Giants are without their main power hitter, but even with him, they were struggling to score runs because they play so stupidly. At a time when smart teams are working the count, to drive up the starting pitcher’s pitch count, and trying to swing only at strikes, the Giants are just hacking away.
On Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants faced a tough left-hander, Jaime Garcia, with a patchwork lineup, which was all the more reason to have patience at the plate. But no, it was another night of, “Throw the ball and we’ll swing at it, no matter where it is.” They lost the game 4-1. Surprise.
It doesn’t help that, even when they had Sandoval, manager Bruce Bochy had two free-swingers, Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera, as his 1-2 hitters. Those guys are supposed to be “table-setters,” but Pagan and Cabrera rarely see a pitch they don’t think they should swing at.
And have I mentioned that the Giants are butchers in the field, too?
Yes, the Giants still have outstanding starting pitching, with Tim Lincecum seemingly coming out of his early season funk, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong. Barry Zito is starting his return to normalcy, but as the fifth starter, his turn can be skipped at times.
But great starting pitching isn’t enough if you shortcut potential rallies by hacking at pitches out of the strike zone, and you can’t make the plays in the field.
So enjoy this Giants-A’s matchup because you certainly won’t see it in the postseason.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.