The Tigers are rusty? The Giants have momentum? Well, fine, I guess we have to go with that


SAN FRANCISCO — The crowd at AT&T Park cheered a 5-4 putout in the first inning of last night’s Game 1 as though it were a walkoff home run in Game 7. This is not a criticism. It is merely an observation. They were hyped from the get-go — I think it started with the Blue Angels flyover following the National Anthem — and had every reason to remain hyped throughout.

So hyped, I assume, that they wouldn’t want to think too hard about the fact that the Giants won Game 1 in the 2002 World Series too, and that their playoff series wins so far this year all began with Game 1 losses. Put a less annoying way: it is still only one game and anything can happen in a seven game series, even if it did feel like the beginning of a trouncing.

I’ve mocked narratives pretty constantly lately, but two of them which were widely adopted before last night’s game started have fresh currency today: (1) the Tigers were going to be rusty; and (2) the Giants had momentum. They may not have a basis in reality, of course — Justin Verlander’s velocity and lack of command of his fastball was such that fatigue, rather than rust may be the bigger problem and, if anything, the Giants habit of losing the early games of the series and then roaring back is anti-momentum — but I doubt that will change the overall story. The Tigers layoff and big San Francisco MO are likely going to be all the rage today.

A few things we certainly can take away from Game 1 (apart from Pablo Sandoval’s history-making performance anyway):

  • The Tigers looked lost against slow junk like Zito was flinging. The Giants shouldn’t give them fastballs all week;
  • That little weird double that kicked off the third inning rally — the one that ricocheted off the third base bag — is the second weirdo vodoo hit the Giants have had in the past two games. If they get something like that or the Hunter Pence broken bat dipsy-doodle in Game 2, they are officially charmed and wicked in some strange way;
  • It may have been overlooked because the game was already out of hand, but the Tigers bullpen is still a hot mess and based on how he looked in mopup duty last night Jose Valverde should not be given the ball again. Not even once. Even in a blowout he’s so unreliable that Leyland has to use other relievers just to bail him out. He should be done.
  • It’s random, but someone needs to talk to Delmon Young about where he’s playing left field. I watched the game from way up high in the auxiliary press box in left, and I could not see Young, he was so close to the wall.  Given how bad his arm is, anything hit out that way to him should be an instant double. Not sure what that was all about.

That’s all I have as far as in-game action goes (I’ll have more on-the-scene observations a bit later this morning). The Tigers have to shake this one off. It’s still just one game. If people still want to credit momentum, fine, but the idea of momentum being your next day’s starting pitcher has been around a lot longer than the current momentum story. So it’s up to Doug Fister to re-set the storylines.

Mike Trout has yet to strike out this spring

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Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.

But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.

To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).

According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.