San Francisco Giants Milking Hefty Venezuelans
The Giants beat the Mets tonight 8-5, and Yusmeiro Petit won again, his fourth win against zero defeats in six appearances and five starts this season. The game was tied 4-4 when Petit left after the sixth inning, but the Giants scored a run in the top of the seventh, and the Gigantes got two big outs from 31 year old rookie Jean Machi in the bottom of the frame.
For what it’s worth Petit is listed as 6’1″ and 255 lbs, while Machi is listed as 6’0″ and 260 lbs. Petit was once a highly promising young pitcher who didn’t develop, while Machi appears to be one of those long-time minor leaguer pitchers with good stuff who finally found his command. Given their dimensions, I am tempted to describe them as “bovine” in order to play up the “milking” reference in the title of this piece, but this season they have been anything but “sluggish, dull and stolid.”
There are few stories I enjoy more as a baseball fan than those of long-time minor leaguers who suddenly put it together and establish themselves as major league stars, or at least valuable major league players, at an age that is typically a major league player’s dotage. In recent years the Giants have been found an inordinate number of this kind of player: aside from Petit and Machi, Ryan Vogelsong and Andres Torres a couple of years back.
By definition, this kind of player tends not to have many good years before they get old again, but the Giants sure got a couple of extremely valuable season out of Vogelsong and Torres and might yet get a couple of valuable seasons out of Petit and Machi. The odds that Petit might be for real are particularly good given that he is still only 28 years old — he only seems older because he had significant major league experience between age 21 through 24 before pitching the last few seasons in the minors.
The realist in me says that Machi’s 2013 is probably a fluke, but he certainly has pitched well this year. His 2.63 ERA to date this year is no fluke, at least in terms of his other numbers — in 48 innings pitched over 46 appearances, he’s allowed 44 hits, two HRs and 12 walks while striking out 44. His minor league numbers also suggest he could continue to be an effective major league reliever if he has, indeed, finally developed plus major league command.
The Giants have been particularly good in recent years at getting surprisingly good seasons out of marginal major league pitchers. Some of that is due to the skills of pitching coach Dave Righetti, and some of it is due to the fact that AT&T Park is a good place for pitchers to develop confidence in their ability to get major league hitters out.
The longer I follow major league baseball, the more convinced I become of the value of self-confidence as a key to major league success. I’ll have to do some research on this, but I do think that hitters become better home and away when their home park is Coors Field, the Ballpark at Arlington, Wrigley or Fenway, while pitchers get better home and away when their home park is Petco Park, Safeco Field, Dodger or Shea Stadium, simply because their home park performance convinces them of their own abilities.