November... Still Coping -- Part 5

by Gregg Pearlman

Saturday, November 28, 1998

The offseason continues to be woefully underburdened with news about the Giants. They did sign Marvin Benard to a two-year deal and have said that they're actively interested in re-signing Orel Hershiser, but that's pretty much it. Oh, they hired Ron Roenicke to be the manager of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies, which I guess means they've kicked Jimmy Davenport back upstairs for some reason. They connection here is that Roenicke played for the Giants in 1985, the year they lost 100 games. The man at the helm? Davenport. Now don't tell me EEEEEE! goes to no effort to uncover the story, willya?

This installment could well be called the EEEEEE! Haiku Issue, since that's pretty much what it'll consist of. (Or maybe I'll just call it Pearlwinkle's Corner.) The origins are lost in the mists of antiquity, but I think I'm the visionary who got the Giants newsgroup involved in a huge haikufest over the last week or two -- fun, but still sad, since it just puts the exclamation point on the sentence, "Nothing's happening with the Giants!" Still, I hope you'll enjoy it. Nothing heavy in this installment.

That said, I wanted to let you know that I'll be taking the month of December off from EEEEEE! Much as I love this stuff, it does rather take its toll. I can't remember the last time I took even a week off from weekly installments, which I tend to write when I'm by myself at home on the weekends, or when my wife and child are asleep.

I've been planning this little hiatus for some months now, and I feel a smidgen of guilt -- let's be honest: a smidgen at most -- about taking the time off, mostly because when I do miss a week, I usually receive frantic e-mail from at least a few readers wondering just what the hell's going on. Okay, to be honest, it's mock frantic, but still, it's great to be appreciated, and I never want to disappoint.

EEEEEE! won't lie fallow throughout December, though. Staff writer Richard Booroojian and I have been discussing the idea of him doing an installment next month, just to pick up some of the slack, see what it's like, etc. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with. I'm hoping that Tom Austin and David Beck can come up with some stuff, too.

I'll still be around to upload whatever articles there might be, and I'll certainly continue to frequent the Giants newsgroup. I'm just going to take a brief break from the actual writing, and I intend to start the new year fresh and ready to dive wholeheartedly into continued agonizing about the Giants.

This, my very last
Installment of season notes
Of the year, features:

Brian P., Erik, Grant, Billy, Paul, Julie, Richard, Tim I., Jonathan, John G., Jim J., Anson, Jeff C., Brian I., Donald F., and Jesse.

In announcing to the Giants newsgroup that I had uploaded the most recent installment of season notes, I offered a sincere and heartfelt apology for the fact that since I've run up against my filespace limits, I'd have to take down some previous years' notes until I could figure out what to do with them. Brian P. cuts through that noise, though, and instead focused on a key concept from the installment itself. "You hate peas?" he says.

Well, let's put it this way: If I eat them -- which is always accidental; trust me -- I feel like reacting more or less the way I did as a baby, which was to return them in a high, graceful arc over the table. And yet I like split-pea soup. Go figure.

Erik -- a former, longtime newsgroup regular who I hope we'll see lots more of -- responds, and I'm so glad for this:

Slip Gregg stealthy peas
Watch then the "high, graceful arc";
Laugh till you puke, too.

Sick, say you, reader?
What else can I do for fun?
I like the Giants.

And rightly so.

The haiku brigade is out in force, and indeed this installment will expose you to heretofore unexplored depths of culture. Here is the Haiku Compendium of Grant:

Poor Mr. Torres
He buckled under pressure
At least he brought Shawn
Ah, good old Jeff Juden [1]
Wish Marvin chewed his knees off
Have fun on waivers
Sixty-three ABs
Not one freakin' base on balls
Please, go home Diaz
Man, are your ears big
I mean, really, really huge
I'm not kidding, Kirk [2]
40-man roster
Isn't the same without you
But stay gone, Terry [3]
And you better believe I counted on my fingers....

Editor's notes:

  1. Six syllables, man. The Haiku Committee can't possibly pass this one through.

  2. "Well, you know what they say about little pitchers," offers Billy. Of course, I don't know what they say about little pitchers. If I led a less clean, guile-free life, I suppose I'd have guessed something having to do with big jugs. Good thing that didn't even cross my mind, though.

  3. Mulholland? Kennedy? Which Terry? I have the sick feeling it's someone obvious....

Actually, there's some debate, I guess you could say, about just how haikuesque these haikus are. "A haiku is not just the 5-7-5 form, but is also supposed to have some kind of seasonal theme," says Paul. "I believe that there does exist some form without that restriction, which goes by a different name."

"Indeed!" agrees Erik.

Its name is Larry.

I'm guessing that haiku, in theory, is supposed to be reasonably meaningful even when it's not about the Giants. In fact, my dictionary, the 1973 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, which I was awarded at my junior high school graduation for being beaten up so frequently, defines haiku as (a) a word whose plural is "haiku," so I guess "haikus" is just plain wrong, and (b) "A Japanese lyric poem of a fixed, 17-syllable form that often simply points to a thing or pairing of things in nature that has moved the poet." So I guess that since these haiku (note usage of correct plural) are about the Giants, they're not strictly haiku after all -- unless you accept the entirely correct premise that the Giants continuing to avoid World Series rings is but one facet of the nature of life as we know it, and that it moves the hell out of all of us, mostly in an anguished sense.

Julie clarifies further by telling us that:

Non-nature haiku,
I've heard, is called senryu.
That's what we're writing.

Well ,I didn't know that, and I've read Shogun. Julie further informs us:,
"Haiku Headlines of the Day,"
Is where I learned this.

She brings us these nuggets:

As for the Giants,
this time of year's so hopeful.
But look out each fall!

We get to the Series
Finally, in '89,
Then the earth shakes. Done.

Will I ever see
My Giants team win it all
In this, my lifetime?

Not with leftovers
On the pitching staff, I fear.
I miss John Burkett.

Richard offers: "I was going to post the following:

A sad fall result:
No Giants' championships
For 44 years.

"But I fear that (a) this is not seasonal enough and (b) others have already soared far beyond this feeble effort."

And Tim I. chimes in:

Win clinches a tie
Torres is pitching today
Better luck next year.

"That's just cruel," Jonathan says. "Can't someone do one with Bobby Thomson, or the Clark at Wrigley [game, i.e., Game 1 of the 1989 LCS, in which Will Clark hit two homers, including a grand slam], or Mathewson's three [World Series] shutouts? I mean, we don't have to only be depressed."

But... but... that's our job!

Paul answers: "If you want optimism, this is the best I can do:

September: Johnson
Goes deep in dramatic twelfth
Sends Dodgers to loss.

Okay, then, here are some of mine:

Uncle Gregg's birthday
Giants 18, Dodgers 4
Sure hard not to laugh

Ryne hits a grounder
Robby has it -- throws to first...
We win the pennant

Hank does play-by-play
I'm yelling like a ninny,
Happy as a clam

"I haven't written Giants-related haiku," Erik says, "but I did write a Shakespearean sonnet last year that I never shared with the group. This was a losing entry in that Baseball Prospectus contest that Gregg won; I admit that 'sturdy mountain grass' is a questionable vegetable. (The contest, for those who missed it, asked participants to compare general managers to vegetables in 100 words or fewer.)

"I am not a moron." -- Brian Sabean [1]

Indeed, Brian, no imbecile you --
Rather as a sturdy mountain grass you stand,
You sourest vegetable, and bitter, too,
The roughest roughage for the Giant fan.
We eat you, Brian, and your forcéd words
As elders did castor: you clean us out.
Clean of Matty we are (Lewis plays third)
And so will be bases when Bonds hits it out.
Toxic weed! What offense this offense gives!
A flash of Barry, the rest dim and stark.
Stale mediocrities: Hamilton, Viz --
At second this 'Kent' had better be Clark.
High does Brian on Glenallen Hill grow
Out of range of my pleas, loving the Snow. [2]

Editor's notes:

  1. Now wait! I'm pretty sure Sabean said he wasn't an idiot.... Erik says, "Could be. It was a lot fresher when I was full of the muse, so I don't really remember now." Well, I think the key is, Sabean has never admitted to not being a moron.... (Oh, come on, Bri, I'm just funnin' ya.)
  2. I betcha Erik counted on his fingers. And did the little syllable-stressing thing. (I would've: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?") Erik says, "Sure did. Shakespeare and Pope and all those guys did, too, until their fingers didn't work anymore. Then they had enough cash to hire people to count for them. This is why bad writers were always young; only the good ones made enough money to hire counters when their natural ones gave out."

    Okay, that's the part I don't believe. Guys like Shakespeare and Pope didn't write potboilers about young, firm-jawed lawyers, so they couldn't have gotten rich, especially without all those scenes involving the exposure of pert breasts. But it's a good theory nonetheless.

From Erik's profession (of which I know little), I'm guessing he'd know more than I would about this stuff, because my knowledge of sonnets comes from a single college English class (that I attended, I mean, as opposed to teaching it, which I wouldn't have done anyway, not being a teacher), but aren't the last six lines supposed to be in the form of "ababab" or "abcabc"? Or can they be a bit freer in form?

"That would be the 8-6 structure of the Italian, or Petrarchan, sonnet," Erik says.

Oh, yeah. I knew that. I did. I really did. Twenty years ago. And who says you don't get an education in EEEEEE!

"Mine was in the 4-4-4-2, abab-cdcd-efef-gg mode of the English, or Shakespearean, sonnet."

Sorry -- don't mean to nitpick. I know how easy it is for us contest winners' heads to swell up as if caused by an allergy to peanuts....

"If you ate peanuts, though, you could just cram down some peas real quick and get rid of them," says Erik. "No problem."

No, peanuts I like. But that should work. I'll have to suggest it to the parents of a kid I know who can't eat peanuts. The real challenge, at that point, will be getting them to speak to me ever again.

But back to the established form of poetry. Paul says, "Being particularly bored, I decided to render an entire game in haiku (yeah, it lacks the seasonal theme, so sue me) -- this being the July 20 game against the Padres, the only game in that whole series which they won (and one out of two that I saw, the other being the particularly heartbreaking one two days earlier when Jeff Reed served up the home run to Greg Vaughn -- but that's a whole 'nother story)"

Estes starts poorly
Saved by timely double play
Gets out of first jam

Oh no, it's Chris Jones
Meekly grounds out to shortstop
Scoreless after two

Ramon Martinez
Kent's replacement gets first hit
Batted in by Rich

Bottom of the fourth
Chris Jones caught stealing this time
Ramon still perfect

Estes still going strong
Breezes through top of lineup
Middle of the sixth

Seventh: Pads threaten
Gomez walks with bases full
The lead shrinks to one

Bring in the closer
Isn't it an inning early?
No problem for Robb

Ramon strikes again:
The rookie goes three-for-three
Giants score two more

Robb breezes through "nenth"
Padres go down one-two-three
Giants finally win!

"Very, very, very good," says Richard. "This could open up whole new vistas for the Giants beat writers. Maybe next year I should do a season's recap in haiku. Should work for about three stanzas, after which point my brain would likely explode."

"Here's my contribution of a happy haiku," says John G.:

Mitch's heat is up
Clark spanks it through the middle
Giants win the flag.

I'll do this one:

Russ Hodges hollers,
"The Giants win the pennant!"

(Or, as an alternative for the third line: "Cop falls off his bike." Which happened, Hodges said. Seems he got pulled over by a Dodger fan.... A more depressing alternative could be, "Back in fifty-one.")

"'The Giants win the pennant' could be the middle line of many a worthy haiku," says Richard. "Especially if they would win a few more of them."

And even if the haikus aren't necessarily about the Giants.

"I like the happy ones," John says. "Offseason is for dreaming and reminiscing--and continued worry about the roster."

I've gotta say, I like the happy ones, too. Of course, the happy ones come from a time so long ago that they don't seem real, but they're still cool. The ones saying "Brian is an idiot" seem all too real.... (Aw, c'mon, Brian! Still just havin' fun! At your expense!)

Jim J. breaks his silence to join in the fun, too. He says, "I call it... '1987':

Sweet swinging Candy
Forever chasing fly ball
Never to be caught

Mitch, Thrill, "One Flap Down"
silent against John Tudor
Giants Hammakered

Jose Oquendo

"Not strong enough," says Richard.

"[Here's] one of my favorite quotes from Duane Kuiper in 1997, Giants two games back of LA, playing against them, Bonds batting," says Anson:

Kuiper's famous quote:
"He HITS IT HIGH, and... DEEP, and...

"Actually he had a very similar quote from an earlier game in '97 that I liked more, but it didn't fit into the 5-7-5 format as well, and it wasn't in a crucial game. Maybe I was the only one who liked it so much, but I'll never forget it:

Duane Kuiper: "He... hits
It HIGH, he... hits it DEEP, he...
Hits it OUTTA HERE!"

"I especially liked the way he purposely spoke in an extra low and deep voice (which is normally fairly low already) and the way he dragged the he real long. Well, you have to hear it yourself to get what I mean."

Says Jeff C., "As much as the Japanese half of me would like to contribute, the Korean half won't allow it because it's jealous about haiku being a Japanese form. I'm sure that if we were doing limericks about a man from Nantucket, it wouldn't mind so much."

Richard's response:

Said the Giant's GM, "Hey, I know
What I'm doing by re-signing Snow
While it's true he can't hit
Everyone likes his mitt,
And for ladies, J.T.'s quite a show."

"(Hope that's not too sexist.)"

Ah, the Giants were great in those days
The three M's: Willie Mac, Juan, and Mays,
Now to dress up the yard
We've had Marvin Bernard,
Morman, Sanchez, Fernandez, and Hayes

How I wish that the Giants would win
Before my rigor mortis sets in
But I know that they will
Never quite climb that hill
And I live with this fact with chagrin

"Wow, limericks are much harder than haiku, and I'm not sure these even scan right (or whatever it's called). Still, Jeff, this should open up the field of engagement for you to lob a few."

Brian I. offers this collection of month-by-month offseason haikus:

Awards were announced
Major league stars toured Japan
Now it's Turkey Day

Free agent signings
Will mystify this newsgroup,
Must be December

Nothing going on,
Though the Super Bowl distracts.
January suck

The end is in sight
Pitchers and catchers report!
February... yay!

Playing in Scottsdale,
A phenom will impress us
And sent to Fresno

"I'm sure pretty soon we'll be writing Christmas song lyrics," says Anson:

Barry sucks, Carter sucks, Morman all the way,
Oh what fun, it is to ride
On the J.T.-bashing sleigh....

Billy, our resident Braves fan, notes with some consternation that the Braves have signed Brian Jordan to a big-money deal: "Five freaking years, $8 million per," he says. "Bonds is a bargain."

Spoofing some of the sillier trolling in the newsgroup, I said, "You are wrong. Bonds sucks."

His response: "Oh yeah? You are wrong."

Brian Jordan, I
Remember your trash talk from

My contribution:

Brian Jordan, I
Do not remember you from
Your football career.

Richard received an e-mail from Donald F., whom neither of us otherwise know. "The haiku thing is picking up steam" outside the newsgroup, Richard tells me, quoting Donald as saying, "Some guy on Fellner's newsgroup wrote some rad Giants haiku, so I decided to add to the trough. These are all focused on the Giants of the '80s (you had to be there to understand)."

First, let me say that neither Richard nor I are aware of Fellner's group (Donald isn't Fellner), but hey, Fellner, if you're out there, feel free to drop me a line. Here's what Donald passes on (alas, without the ones I'd be afraid of getting sued over):

Yo, Donell: Wake up!
Said Roger Craig, too often.
We need pinch-runner!

Orange hair and 'stache,
Gave us bad indigestion.
Ugh: Buffy LaCoss.

Old man, David Green.
That's who we got for Jack Clark.
Nice Jheri Curls, though.

Would you ever guess,
Looking at his caboose now,
Chili played center?

Stop smiling, Trevor.
Just cuz girls squeal at your ass,
Doesn't mean you're good

Jose Oquendo.
Ugly, small man. Big Helmet.
Hate, hate, loathing, hate.

Amazingly, the talk turns to actual baseball, but not for very long before turning back to haiku. John G. brings us a wire service article saying that the Giants have re-signed Marvin Benard to a two-year deal. I was very surprised. Well, amazed but not surprised, really. The article says, "Financial terms were undisclosed. Benard collected $235,000 in 1998, including $10,000 in incentive clauses for having at least 200 plate appearances."

I'll go out on a limb and guess "more than $235,000" and "more than $10,000 in incentive clauses."

"Benard hit a team-high .322 (92-for-286) in 1998 with three home runs, 36 RBI and 11 stolen bases in 121 games. He excelled in the leadoff spot when Darryl Hamilton was dealt to Colorado, batting .371 over the final 66 games and helping San Francisco reach a one-game playoff with the Chicago Cubs."

This he did.

"Benard led all National League leadoff hitters in 1998 with a .442 on-base percentage and batted .356 (68-for-191) atop San Francisco's lineup. He also is a .296 lifetime pinch-hitter (29-for-98)."

Granted, not much of a sample size, but: wow. It would never have occurred to me to even look this up, because the concept of Marvin Benard having the top OBP for leadoff hitters just didn't exist in my mind. I have to say I'm impressed, even given so few at-bats.

"'Marvin has been one of the team's up-and-coming players,' said Giants general manager Brian Sabean."

My gut reaction is to go, "Oh, come on!" But hey, sure, maybe 1998 was a fluke for him, but I do have to admit that he improved dramatically. Seemed to do a lot better in the outfield, too, but that's just observation, for what it's worth.

"'His dedication and recent productivity has given him an opportunity to be a front-line major league outfielder and leadoff hitter. We are happy today to reward his hard work with a new two-year contract.'"

I wonder if they're rewarding him for what they think he can do. Javier, it seems, was rewarded last year for what he did in (what was, for all intents and purposes) the absence of Glenallen Hill.

"Benard put up some impressive stats last season," says John. "Sabean's comments imply that Benard will be the opening day center fielder; it's his job to lose."

I'd call this a concern....

"Some have feared this would happen, thinking that his last half season was an aberration not likely to be repeated next year."

I'm not sure why he couldn't give us, say, a .380-.400 OBP over a full season. Dunno that I trust him, either. This is kind of an extreme example, but Dave Anderson hit .350 one year... and won continued employment, during which he hit like Dave Anderson. His .350 year came in a hundred at-bats, with no particular power, lots of whiffs, and no walks... but suddenly he was being called "super-sub" in the papers.

Just saying I'm skeptical, that's all. But you knew that.

"I like Marvin because he plays hard, but I share others' concern that he won't be the leadoff hitter he was after Hamilton left for a whole season. We'll see.

Well, now John's done it: He's left me nothing to disagree with.

Erik says:

Marvin Benard signed?
Eek! Seems a little crazy.
Good pennant run, though.

Hey, wait: That's no sonnet.

Jeff Kent received enough MVP votes to finish tenth in the MVP chase, just a few places behind Barry Bonds. "He's not close to Bonds," says Jonathan.

Erik again:

Sad, dim reckoning:
Bonds' greatness sells no papers;
Hence the Jeff Kent vote.

In his article "Masters Among Men" on the StrikeThree site, Derek Zumsteg says, "If you watch or listen to a lot of baseball games, you've probably heard any number of players referred to as 'sure hall of famers' or 'one of the greats.' But if Joe Carter is considered even marginal material for the Hall, what does that make Ken Griffey, Jr.? High Dominator of Center Field for Life?

"I want to take a minute to look at two players who dominate the game and where they already rank in the History of Baseball, along with where they'll end up, and possibly why they don't get the recognition they so obviously deserve. You know the suspects, but I hope to unearth some new information for your brain-expanding pleasure."

Specifically, he talks a lot about Greg Maddux and Barry Bonds, and since this is EEEEEE!, I'll focus mostly on Bonds here.

"As good as Maddux is, and that's freaking incredible," Zumsteg says, "if he has three more years in him he'll only have had as good a career as Barry Bonds already has. Maddux has dominated pitching four years in a row; Barry Bonds was the best hitter in the league four years in a row from 1990 to 1993, and then he did it twice again in '95-'96. Up to 1996, he led the league in on-base percentage four times, slugging percentage three times.

"Barry Bonds, were he to retire at the beginning of this season, would have been the 15th-best player to ever play the game, ahead of Stan Musial, and after this season he'll be just behind Mickey Mantle. A couple more 'average' seasons from Barry (say, three), and he'll be the fourth or fifth-best player ever to play the game, right up with Cobb and Johnson.

"And yet we don't hear about Barry Bonds and Greg Maddux twice as much as, say, a ticket-puncher like Wade Boggs, trying to reach those career milestones at the expense of his expansion team. Why's that? I humbly submit that it's because the national sports media is lazy.

"I've harped on this before, but briefly: by over-focusing on nearly meaningless stats like RBI and wins, the media ignores the flashing neon signs of greatness, and so deprives the public of knowing that these two, and greats like Ken Griffey and Alex Rodriguez, walk among them. Barry Bonds is one of the greatest hitters ever to play the game. Where's MVP Juan Gonzalez on that list? Not in the top 500, not even within shouting distance. The total productivity of all of Juan Gonzalez's seasons -- all of them -- is worth Bonds' '92 season, or a little better than Maddux' '94.

"Why aren't they noticed, and voted MVP? Barry Bonds supposedly isn't a good clubhouse influence; he's not a team player. And I say the Giants without Barry Bonds are the Pirates or the Reds or the Rockies. How's clubhouse chemistry when you're being slapped around like a bunch of schoolgirls by teams like the Expos, huh? Huh?

Later he says, "Barry Bonds at work is one of the smartest, most talented hitters, preying upon the best pitching talent like a hawk on wounded pigeons. He is deadly and utterly without mercy, and after my own heart, he walks when others would whiff.

"These should be baseball's poster boys, the Michael Jordans marketing types decry baseball for lacking. Maddux and Bonds play baseball nearly as well as Jordan played basketball, they are the best in the game, two of the best in the history of the game. Watch them when you can; there has never been a better time for fans anywhere in the country to watch these great men play out their stellar careers, and to appreciate their greatness." I have to admit I'm not all that familiar with the StrikeThree site, though I do have it bookmarked and have read some good, funny stuff there -- much of which, no doubt, was written by Zumsteg. It's just a shame that, as a web writer and not some team's beat writer, he's got maybe a little more of a chance than I do of having these entirely correct opinions listened to.

"With my brand new STATS Handbook," Jonathan says, "I realized that the STATS managers pages go back exactly as far as Dusty Baker's career. Typically, I look at his year once I get the book, and then forget what I saw; this year, I decided to construct a little history.

"First off, a little example for those of you who are convinced that you can remember everything that happens in the games you watch. It turns out that Dusty made one huge change this year. I'll save it for later, to let you guess what it was.

"Base stealing. Dusty's Giants are typically runners; the Giants have never led the league in attempts during 1993-1996, but usually are in the top group. Success is rarer. The 1995 Giants were tops at stolen base percentage; the 1998 version was tenth (all rankings are by manager, not team, so in-season changes affect rankings)."

"That's no surprise," says Richard. "The Giants really have had no accomplished base stealers other than Bonds in the last few years. Hamilton seemed really poor at it. [Probably the last reasonably good base stealer was Brett Butler -- though Stan Javier generally is a high-percentage thief. -- GP]

"Somehow, though, I don't mind a team being aggressive on the bases, though it helps if they are more than occasionally successful. I guess it's more exciting to watch them try to do something as opposed to just moving around the bases one at a time."

"I'm inclined to agree with you," says Jesse. "I think that as long as there really isn't much negative effect, it's worth doing... keeps the other team on their toes, you know. On the other hand, there's no sense in doing it with guys with poor stolen base percentages or in crucial situations."

Jonathan says, "It will surprise no one here that Dusty's teams bunt a lot. In the six years, Dusty has been second in sacrifice attempts twice, and fourth three times. In 1997, for whatever reason, we were tenth, but back to fourth in 1998, so it was just a fluke."

"This I wish he would cut out," Richard says. "However, I think a lot of it stems from having no real quality base stealers in the lineup (again, except for Bonds).

"I bet [Baker] led the league in having his players bunt into double plays this year."

"Why does Dusty feel compelled to call hit-and-runs and sacrifices constantly?" says Jesse. "Drives me nuts -- they have to be the two most ridiculous plays in existence. Even when the club has one of the best offenses in the league, the man is bunting in the second inning."

Jonathan presses on: "Didja all know that Dusty loves the hit-and-run? He led the league in the strike year, and has never been worse than fifth in the league."

"This actually surprises me," says Richard. "I never think of him calling for it that often. Maybe we got so used to Roger Craig doing it every other pitch that it just seems like Dusty never calls it. I guess I don't really ever notice other managers calling it either, except when it is successful."

Jesse says, "It seems like maybe this is why it's so pervasive -- it's so noticeable when it works, and you don't really notice when it fails (with the exception of the occasional line-drive double play). I mean, the last time someone was running and the batter flew out to left, did you think, 'He probably flew out because he had no choice but to swing at that pitch'? I don't. If I recognize the hit-and-run, I'm more likely thinking that it simply had no effect."

"Dusty started below average in issuing intentional walks," Jonathan says, "but has gradually increased his rate; this year, Dusty was easily the NL King of the Intentional Walk. Which isn't easy, what with the Giants having the most intentionally walked hitter in the NL throughout the period."

"Another thing he does that I don't like," Richard says. "What is the incidence of the next hitter hitting a homer, as a percentage of intentional walks listed by manager? I bet Dusty has that category nailed, not that it is necessarily his fault."

"Dusty just seems to feel compelled to do things," says Jesse. "I think we should pay Larry Dierker to go with Dusty and fish or hunt or whatever it is that baseball managers do, and teach him about The Hidden Game of Baseball."

Jonathan says, "The big change was pitchouts. In 1993-1997, Dusty ranked either first or second in pitchouts every year. In 1998, he cut it out. He still ranked fifth, with 41 pitchouts, but that compares to 93 and 96 in the previous two years. Dusty typically doesn't guess right very often: 21 out of 93 in 1997, 6 of 41 this year. My impression has been that he automatically calls the pitchout any time there's a guy on first and an 0-2 count. Anyway, he stopped doing it all the time in 1998. Anyone notice during the season? I sure didn't."

"No, but it doesn't hurt my feelings," says Richard. "The Giant pitchers have a hard enough time throwing a strike with a two-strike count as it is."

This is one of Dusty's little quirks that drives me nuts: Pitchouts on 0-2. First, you're gonna have to show me some evidence that people actually run on 0-2. No, seems to me that typically, runners attempt to steal when the count is in the hitter's favor, or when it's 1-1. (I guess you don't see too many 2-0 or 3-1 steal attempts, because runners don't want to take cripple pitches away from hitters. Well, maybe they do want to, but I bet the hitters hate it.)

What I'm saying is, an 0-2 pitchout is a waste of time an energy. You're not gonna nail runners on it. Guess it could be worse, though. Roger Craig seemed to become so caught up in his reputation as one who frequently calls pitchouts at the right time that he'd do things like have, say, Greg Minton pitch out on the first three pitches to a hitter. Come on. I mean, after the first one, you have the runner guessing a bit, but after the second one, you know he's gonna stay put, and now you have a 3-0 count on the batter. How smart is that?

"From 1993 to 1997," Jonathan continues, "Dusty gradually increased the number of games in which his starter threw at least 120 pitches from zero in 1993 to 17 in 1997. With the Three Old Men, he cut it out this season, with only eight 120-plus outings. That one I did notice."

Richard says, "As I recall, he had a pretty fragile rotation in 1993 (well, I guess Burkett wasn't, but he also pretty much threw strikes).

"Compared to some of the abuses Jim Leyland dealt out to Livan Hernandez this year, I don't think of Dusty as being that bad in this area. In fact, as you note next, perhaps the opposite is true."

"Yeah," says Jesse. "And Muggsy Bogues is huge compared to the Lollipop Guild.

"I think the problem in '93 was the fact that the only two relievers he ever used were Mike Jackson and Rod Beck, and he came close to ruining their careers," says Jesse. "Beck is now an off-speed pitcher, and Jackson had a big dip while his arm recovered.

"Maybe the fact that Shawn Estes' arm was abused in '97 contributed to Dusty's relative mindfulness this year. I thought he did a relatively good job.

"The one good thing I can say about Sabean's midseason bullpen swaps is that he seems to bring in fresher guys. The one good thing."

"He's more likely to use a quick hook than a slow hook, in general, but it shifts around year to year," says Jonathan. "In 1998 there were 12 slow hooks and 15 quick ones; in 1997, 3 slow, 20 quick. I don't know the exact definitions, but they're based on runs allowed and innings pitched (so if you've given up one run in five innings and you get yanked, it's a quick hook).

"Hey, I'm not saying any of this stuff affects who wins games; I just find 'em all interesting."

Agreed. See, this is one of the fun things about being a baseball fan: finding new, different, interesting ways of analyzing what you're seeing on the field, with an eye toward understanding what it takes to win. It's too bad that when folks take the time to do this, they're so often derisively called "statheads" by other folks who choose not to learn something. Let me tell you something: Statheads are the people fans learn from.

For EEEEEE!, this is an amazingly short installment. Perhaps that's music to your eyes. Perhaps you like 20 or 30 pages of notes a week. Either way, thank you for reading my articles, and those of Richard Booroojian, Tom Austin, and EEEEEE! Contributing Editor David Beck. We're all tickled with the comments we get, and very pleased and thankful that you're interested in all this stuff.

I'll be back full time in 1999, so in the meantime, I wish you all well during my personal offseason.

Copyright ©1998 by Gregg Pearlman

Last updated 11/30/98
Gregg Pearlman,

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