SweetSpot: Joe Thatcher

Bud Black's sixth inning not his best

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
1:00
AM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- I'm absolutely sure that I'm missing some key piece of information, but from where I was sitting, Bud Black did not have a particularly good bottom of the sixth inning.

His starting pitcher, Clayton Richard, had given up just one run but escaped a few jams, gave up a number of well-struck blows, and never seemed to have any real grip on the proceedings. From the beginning, he seemed to just be hanging on until the cavalry arrived; anything more than five innings would be a real bonus for his manager.

Leading off the sixth against Richard, Buster Posey hit an easy grounder to shortstop. But Pat Burrell ripped a double into the left-field corner. Aaron Rowand, a strong (if little else) right-handed hitter was dispatched as a pinch-hitter. Bud Black's bullpen is absolutely loaded with right-handed relievers who eat hitters like Aaron Rowand like they're M&Ms.

Black stuck with Richard. Rowand hit a two-run homer.

Black took out Richard, and summoned one of those right-handed relievers. Not his best right-handed reliever. Not his second-best right-handed reliever. Or his third-best. Black called on Ryan Webb, a fine pitcher who is the Padres' fourth- or fifth-best right-handed reliever.

Hey, it's still just the sixth inning and Black obviously didn't want burn his best relievers so early in the game.

No, it's what happened next that I couldn't quite figure.

Well, not exactly next. What happened next is that Webb walked Juan Uribe (no easy chore, by the way), struck out Edgar Renteria, and gave up a double to Cody Ross.

All the while, super-situational lefty Joe Thatcher was heating up in the bullpen.

Why? I wondered.

Aubrey Huff was still a few batters away, and Huff is essentially the Giants' only dangerous left-handed hitter.

After Ross's double (his second in two innings), Black took out Webb and brought in Thatcher to face switch-hitting Andres Torres, who has a huge platoon split this season -- .223/.303/.346 against lefties, .288/.360/.537 ... but essentially no real split in his career. Maybe Torres is simply a different hitter now, or maybe Black was seduced by a small sample size. You decide.

Either way, Thatcher -- one of the great lefty relievers in the game, at least this season -- was used for exactly one batter. Torres reached base (and drove in a run) with a swinging bunt, and Black yanked Thatcher in favor of Luke Gregerson, who finally nailed down the third out.

But the Giants scored three runs in the inning, and Black won't have his best lefty if a scary situation should arise.

I just wonder if he would do exactly the same things, if he have the bottom of the sixth to do over again.

Giants' bullpen nearly matches Padres'

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
11:16
PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO -- If Clayton Richard settles down the Giants dig themselves out of this four-run hole and this game turns into a battle of the bullpens, you'd probably figure the Padres have the edge.

And you might be right. But you might be wrong.

Yes, San Diego's relievers sport a 2.81 ERA, lowest in the National League. But the Giants aren't far behind, in third place with a 3.09 mark.

Let's look at their specific guys.

The Padres have Heath Bell (1.86 ERA, 86 strikeouts/27 walks), but the Giants have Brian Wilson (1.83, 92/26).

The Padres have Luke Gregerson (3.21, 88/18), but the Giants have Santiago Casilla (2.08, 53/26)

The Padres have Mike Adams (1.80, 71/23) , but the Giants have Sergio Romo (2.24, 68/14!).

Really, the Padres have just one real weapon the Giants don't: left-hander Joe Thatcher, who's been almost unbelievably brilliant in his 63 games -- and only 35 innings -- this season. If Bud Black needs to retire a lefty swinger in a key spot, he can bring Thatcher in and feel really confident.

As edges go, though, this one's particularly small tonight. Because the Giants have just one key left-handed hitter, Aubrey Huff. And I'll bet Joe Thatcher's thinking about Huff already.

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