It got worse. Frank Francisco came into the 9th for the Mets to protect a three run lead. The easiest mathematical save situation was never more difficult. Three of the first four hitters reached including Buster Posey who came into score. That was it for Francisco. Tim Byrdak came in and got a lefty for two outs. Terry Collins made his final change to bring Rauch into the ballgame. Heading into the game Rauch had allowed three base runners in 8 innings. Rauch faced Brandon Belt who promptly popped up behind shortstop and center field. The pop up ended up dropping, and it was ruled one of the saddest hits you'll ever see to tie a game. The three run lead had been blown.
It was not Rauch's fault in the least, but Francisco did let those runners on. Here is where the two players numbers stand after yesterday's debauchery.
Rauch: 8.1 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 4 K, 0.00 ERA
Francisco: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 8 K, 8.53 ERA
This was Terry Collins after the game: “I’m going to talk to Frankie tomorrow. I don’t like to do too much right after the game is over. He’s not happy with what happened. Remember, we are as new at this as anybody else. When he pitched as well as he did earlier in the season, it could be something. I don’t know what it is. But I want him to understand [closing] is why he’s here. He fell behind today in counts, and that hurt him.
The trust issue came when I said ‘here’s the baseball. Go stop this.’ He’s been scuffling, and hasn’t been making pitches. I just said ‘I want someone in there who I hope will make the right pitch.’ I know Frankie is going to be fine. Again, it’s early in the season and he’s pitched so well. I think the inconsistency of the kinds of games we’ve played where he hasn’t gotten out there three days a week to get comfortable. I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.”
One thing that many sabermetric writers preach is sample size. Without a large enough sample size, it’s hard to draw a solid conclusion from any given player’s numbers. All offseason long we've looked at numerous players, analyzed the numbers, and drawn our best estimations as to how each will perform during the 2012 season. There in no reason why only 50 or so at-bats or about 20 innings worth of performance should change our minds -- assuming player “x” still exhibits the same skills (i.e. fastball velocity) and is completely healthy.
Wainwright is 0-3 in his first three starts this season. Hitters are batting .310 against him - an 86 point jump from the guy that he was in that brilliant 2010 season. He has only pitched 6% of the innings he pitched in that season, but is already one-third of the way to his home run total allowed in that season. Those numbers paint a very ugly picture, but I'd be much more inclined to buy low than to sell low. Wainwright will right the ship.
We can manipulate the numbers in other ways. Wainwright has 14 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. That's a very solid rate and is actually a little better than the two prior seasons (8.32 K/9 and 8.19 K/9 respectively). He also is not walking very many hitters relative to the strikeouts. His 3.50 K:BB is rate in the middle of where it was in 2009 and 2010. As far as when the ball is put in play, his line drives are up a touch while the ground balls are down just a touch. That explains the increased batting average a little, but keep it all in perspective. This is a very small sample size from a player that can still be classified as rusty. Looking at some of the other recent Tommy John success stories, we have given them fair time to get back to their craft. Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg had the opportunity to pitch in September of 2010 and 2011. Joe Nathan last season lost the closing job after tripping out of the gates last year before getting things back together.
My best advice is to make an offer for Wainwright if you don't own him. I would trade Gio Gonzalez, Yu Darvish, Matt Garza, and Mat Latos one-for-one without any hesitation. Here are some more notes to consider:
In terms of where Hanley would go now in a draft, he would have to be taken in the top three or four players. Certainly Matt Kemp is on a planet by himself, but with eligibility at multiple positions and the proven ability to be a top five caliber player you can make a case that Hanley is as valuable as Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera. Obviously this requires that he stays healthy, but that's the same with any player. He is clearly healthy right now and has played at least 142 games in every season with the exception of last year. To me, that's a pretty safe player when you factor in the age. I also think getting him out of harm's way on double play balls isn't the worst thing. I would trade Joey Votto straight up for Hanley without any hesitation, and maybe that kind of deal would fly if someone is still obsessing over the draft results.
It did not look like saves would be Casilla's right away though. On April 14, when Wilson's season was already over, Casilla came into a tie game in the 8th inning rather than the 9th. Javy Lopez eventually got the win in the 9th. Something has caused Bruce Bochey to change his mind over the last 72 hours though and Casilla was used exclusively as the 9th inning guy yesterday.
Although the way he went about was horrible for me personally (I never anticipated Casilla would get the job because of how he was used on April 14), I like the decision. Casilla gave up only 1 home run to the 211 hitters he faced last year and just 2 to 225 hitters he saw in 2010. He should be a stable source as far as saves go for this season - which of course means nothing because nobody has been steady this season. The Giants are the 8th team in the last month to change closers. Here's some more odds and ends:
Justin Verlander hit 100 MPH on three of the final four pitches of the game against Alex Gordon to preserve the victory last night. That sort of thing obviously isn't normal, and I also can't imagine that it is healthy. That said, it's not the first time that Verlander's pitch count has climbed into the 130s. Last season against the Red Sox in late May he threw 132 pitches and he also threw 133 pitches in one of the playoff games. What made him an MVP was that he was a guy that would pretty much guarantee his team innings and a high pitch count.
Verlander only threw 104 and 105 pitches in the first two games of the season, so it would seem that a small jump would have made sense. Jim Leyland stopped using good sense in this one. As Verlander put it after the game Leyland told him, "You're going to get me fired."