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Winning: It's What's For Dinner
by Derek Smart
That's 6 of the last 7, folks. Home is where the wins are, I suppose.
There's never been a question about Ryan Dempster's stuff. Sure, he's not a mid-90s guy, but his pitches have always had tremendous movement. The concern has been, not that they weren't nasty enough, but that he couldn't put that nasty in a useful place - that the filth would either move itself right out of the zone, or directly into the sweet-spot of someone's bat, leaving a terrible smudge on some poor bleacher fan's hands.
Neither scenario occurred yesterday, as Ryan threw what was clearly his best start of the year. I'll play wet blanket for a moment and note that while striking out 12 men is always impressive, doing so against an offense as terrible as the Padres removes some of the shine. Still, the fact the Dempster's been this good early has made the entire Rich Hill debacle easier to swallow, as Ryan's essentially performed at the higher levels of expectation one would have had for Hill, and outperformed any reasonable expectation for himself by a sizable margin. They have, in effect, switched places for a time.
He can't keep it up all year - last I saw his BA allowed on balls in play was unsustainably low - but even if he settles into a level that's 85% of where he's at right now, that's still a very solid pitcher, and still better than any prognostication I'd have made.
It was good to see The Savior get a hit in a big situation yesterday. My impression has been that he's scuffling, and when I checked what had gone on during the six games previous, it turns out he's been hitting .200/.200/.480, has grounded into two double-plays, and left 17 men on base. I think that passes scuffling muster.
In fact, he's been terrible the entire month, hitting .207/.258/.345 over his 62 PAs. The good news is, the middle ground between his April (1.118 OPS, .364 BAbip) and May (.603 OPS, .208 BAbip) is still going to be good, and if nothing else, we can expect a turnaround soon based on that May BAbip number.
The other guy who's been slipping of late has been Geovany Soto, hitting .190/.292/.333 during this recent run of team goodness. He's been playing a ton - starting x out of y games so far this season - so you have to wonder if the workload is getting to him a bit, and with that in mind it was good to see him rest yesterday. Hopefully, with Soriano on a tear, Lou will feel more like he can sit Geo every so often. He's been such a rock, I'd hate to see him get Martinized and essentially lose his late season/playoff productivity for the sake of a few extra first-half starts.
There's been so much ink spilled around the situation that I'm sure there's only so much more you can read without losing faith in humanity, so I promise this is the last thing I'll say about this guy that isn't directly related to his play on the field: You know how there are some players that just don't fit in certain uniforms, men who put on a particular jersey, and in so doing, make your entire worldview quiver to its core? You look, you stare, you gawk, and even though you so desperately want to turn away, you can't. It's a car accident, a clown suit, the slasher pic kill viewed between finger slits. Like it or not, no matter how much anyone tries to make it go away, I'm going to feel that way so long as Greg Maddux is a Padre.
Mr. Gallagher - or Starboard Sean, as I've decided to call him - has a chance to solidify his spot in the rotation today. Assuming he does - and based on the potential ripple effect of good work from him, good work from Hill, and more of the same horror from Jason Marquis, it is a thing devoutly to be wished - the only thing I'd ask is that someone, somewhere, do something about his MLB.com profile picture. Seriously. What must his mother think?