Game 1 proves we know nothing


Game 1 proves we know nothing

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest for complete wrap-around coverage of Game 2 today at 4pm leading up to the first pitch, and again right after the final out, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

We are one game into this World Series, as you have probably deduced, and already this is shaping up as one of those series where we all discover how much baseball we actually dont know.

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We learned (or maybe re-learned, depending on how well we are able to process new information in place of old) that if you cant have a 97-mph fastball, its good to face guys who like to swing at 97-mph fastballs while youre throwing them 84-mph fastballs. And we also learned that 84 and located properly is as good a plan as 97.That would be Barry Zito.We learned that our preconceptions of employees have to be revisited from time to time. The Giants, who used to swing from each others heels because swinging from their own heels seemed too disciplined an approach, have actually become careful and well-trained hitters who will hit a bunch of foul balls to get to the one they want to put fair. They have developed their skills so that they can force Justin Verlander to throw 38 pitches in an inning, and have 27 of Verlanders pitches be fouled off. Thats in four innings.And thats Hensley Meulens, the hitting coach.We learned that we dont know nearly as much about pitching construction as we thought we did. We thought Madison Bumgarner had to make only one start in this series because of his mechanical problems. We thought he had to paired with Tim Lincecum because of Lincecums newfound ability to throw in long relief. We learned that Tim Lincecum isnt shackled to any one strategy, but is for the moment a true long reliever, used to put out the first fire on the horizon rather than the one that threatens the village. And we found out that Matt Cain isnt the ace in every situation, because the hot hand must always be served.RELATED: Giants,Tigers World Series capsules
And thats Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti, who if they were interested in what you thought of their sense of structure would say, We dare you to outthink us.We learned that Pablo Sandovals weight fluctuates at-bat to at-bat as opposed to meal-to-meal, and when he hits as he has been, he cuts quite the svelte figure. We learned that Melky Cabreras talents can be replaced, though not in the linear ways we thought. We learned that individual matchups dont matter nearly as much as team constructs, as in Buster Posey doesnt have to be the key to the series, as long as hes at least one of them. We learned that its not always a stupid idea to pitch around a pitcher. We learned that defense matters, and defense requires athleticism as well as judgment.And we learned that the World Series doesnt always revolve around one guy, especially not a starting pitcher -- in this case, Verlander. Or maybe we have learned all these things, but forget them from time to time. Or maybe we know them but the need to talk incessantly between games makes us fill the day with nonsense about this guy-vs.-that-guy, and this trend-vs.-that historical anomaly. Or maybe were just better off zen-ning the whole thing, letting it unfold before and admiring the event instead of trying to prefabricate it. That last part, though, probably takes discipline than we have. We too are free swingers, in a game that demands of everyone a whole lot more patience and precision than sweeping vistas and giant presumptions allow.In short, we are one game into this World Series, and we know nothing. And let us embrace it.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.comAP Images

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves


SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.