Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the Reds had to be particularly frustrating for Giants fans, considering that…
– Hunter Pence went 5-for-5 and the team as a whole collected 15 hits
– The team left 15 men on base, it’s high total in a nine-inning game since 2008
– Chad Gaudin, the club’s best starter of late, was roughed up for six runs in 3 2/3 innings
Reds starter Mike Leake pitched six innings of one-run ball despite surrendering 12 hits. Every last knock was a single. The Giants’ only extra-base hit came when Pablo Sandoval delivered a two-run double off Logan Ondrusek in the eighth.
Leake became the first pitcher since the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco in 2011 to allow 12 hits and give up just one run. The last Red to do it was Tom Hume in 1978. The last time a starter did it to the Giants was the Pirates’ Bob Moose in 1972.
At least dating back to 1916 — which is as far as Baseball-reference’s wonderful play index goes — no one had ever had an outing as short as Leake’s and still managed to give up 12 hits and just one run. The next shortest was 6 2/3 innings. Which makes sense: it’s awfully, awfully hard to cram 12 hits into six innings and get just one run.
Pence’s 5-for-5 game was also pretty unusual. It was the first 5-for-5 game to feature no extra-base hits or runs scored since Detroit’s Roger Cedeno pulled it off on Aug. 15, 2001. It was also the first time a player went 5-for-5 for a team that lost by five or more runs since Adam Kennedy did so for Oakland in an 8-1 loss to the White Sox on Aug. 15, 2009.
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.