Wendy Thurm

wendythurm

Wendy was born a die-hard Mets fan but overcame that affliction when she moved to San Francisco in the early 1990s. Now she's a die-hard Giants fan. Baseball has always been a big part of her life. She started writing about baseball in early 2011 when she created HangingSliders.com, a blog devoted to baseball analysis, commentary, humor and poetry. Wendy is now a contributing writer at FanGraphs, Baseball Nation and Getting Blanked.

Recent Posts

New York Yankees v Miami Marlins

There’s nothing like an early June visit to south Florida. The temperatures hover between 80 and 90 degrees and the humidity never dips below 90 percent. Afternoon thunderstorms roll through daily but provide no relief from the heat and humidity. It’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s sticky.

But my parents live in south Florida now after years of splitting time between there and New York. My kids were just out of school and flights were relatively affordable. Oh, and the Marlins were in town, for a weekend series with the Mets. A chance to see Marlins Park and its glorious home run sculpture, even if the game to be played on the field wasn’t likely to offer much in the way of entertainment. So we found ourselves in the muggy swamp that is south Florida the first week of June.

What? Matt Harvey‘s pitching for the Mets against the Marlins on June 2? Well, afternoon thunderstorms be damned. What a great time to visit Miami!

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San Francisco Giants v Cincinnati Reds - Game Four

Barry Zito took the mound for the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night with a winning streak on the line. Dating back August 7,  2012, the Giants had won 13 consecutive regular-season games started by Zito.  When you add in the 2012 postseason, the streak stretched to 16. Impressive, but still a ways off the franchise record, held by Carl Hubbell, who pitched the New York Giants to 22 consecutive regular-season victories between July 1936 and May 1937.

Zito’s streak ended in flames at Miller Park. He pitched only 2 2/3 innings and gave up nine earned runs. The Giants clawed back from a 9-3 early deficit, but fell short. The Brewers won the game by the score of 10-8.

Still, the Giants’ winning streak with Zito on the hill was notable because, well, it was Barry Zito — the $126 million starter who’d failed to live up to his contract since joining the Giants in 2007. Heading into the 2012 season, the Giants were 65-76 in games started by Zito. He’d pitched so poorly in 2010 that Giants manager Bruce Bochy left him off the postseason roster, as the team romped to their first World Series victory since moving to San Francisco.

But something changed in 2012, particularly in the second half. Zito’s strikeouts-per-nine rose from 5.02 in the first half to 6.20 after the All-Star break. His walks-per-nine dropped in half, leading to a second-half 2.68 K/BB. That also dropped his WHIP. On the other hand, batters hit .272 off Zito from mid-July through the end of the season, compared to .244 early on. His BABIP was higher and his left-on-base percentage was lower. And his velocity? The highs and lows varied from game to game, but Zito experienced no discernible increase in velocity as the season wore on, as shown on the velocity charts on FanGraphs.

So how did he do it? How did Zito propel the Giants to 11 consecutive victories to end the 2012 season?

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I was a guest on a San Francisco Giants-themed podcast on Tuesday, the night before Game 1 of the World Series. Danny and Thomas, the fine hosts of Two Guys, A Glove & A Coke Bottle, asked me if I’d noticed that the Giants had only faced right-handed starting pitchers through the National League Division Series against the Reds, and the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, and would only face right-handed starting pitchers in the World Series against the Tigers. “Hmmm,” I said. “I hadn’t noticed that,” or words to that effect.

I was deliriously tired after the podcast, as I’d attended Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS at AT&T Park, and spent my other waking hours since Sunday writing about the Giants and baseball. I know, tough life. I’m not complaining, just explaining why I didn’t immediately do any follow-up research on the Giants’ postseason-streak of facing only right-handed starters.

Yesterday, my friend Anna, the lovely and talented @SFBleacherGirl, wondered aloud on Twitter whether any team other than the Giants had faced only right-handed starters throughout the postseason. “Oh,” I said in my empty home office, “I meant to look at that after the podcast.” “Thanks Anna,” I tweeted back, “I’m going to write a post about that!”

So here we are.

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Perhaps it was inevitable. A once-in-a-generation player. A player so talented, so fluid, so powerful, so fast, so agile. A player in his nineteenth big-league season. A player saddled with injuries and questions about his health and his toughness.

Baseball’s highest-paid player struggling on the biggest stage. In the biggest city. For the most successful team in the history of the sport. In an age of immediate information and instant analysis and second-guessing. The manager fills out his lineup card and the focus shifts to the missing name. A-Rod benched. In the biggest, most important game of the season.

The Yankees lost last night in Game Three of the American League Championship Series with A-Rod on the bench. He didn’t start, replaced at third base by Eric Chavez. He didn’t pinch hit. He sat, with his Yankees windbreaker jacket keeping him warm on a cool Detroit night.

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There’s still a glimmer of hope for a Bay Bridge World Series.

The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics won close contests on Tuesday night, and stayed alive in their best-of-five Division Series. The Giants entered the game against the Cincinnati Reds down two games to none, and eked out a 2-to-1 road victory in ten innings. The A’s lost the first two games of the series on the road but beat the Detroit Tigers 2-to-0 before a raucous home crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.

Both teams won with superb pitching, outstanding defense, and just enough offense. Both teams will need to repeat that formula in today’s action to force a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.

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The chill in the air. The changing colors of the leaves. The earlier sunsets. So much to look forward to as the calendar turns from summer to autumn. Except, of course, for the dwindling days of the baseball season. Those are no cause for celebration, but instead bring the anguish of a long baseball-less winter.

But do not despair, baseball friends. Let us rejoice in the season nearly completed. And let us honor the great men who rose from the dugout bench, night after night, to enter a game in progress and make it their own. The pinch hitters. The middle relievers. The heroes of the Impact Index.

That’s right, it’s time to hand out the awards for the most Impact Index-y hitter and the most Impact Index-y pitcher of the 2012 season.

Let’s start with the Impact Index Pitcher of the Year.

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Of all the teams now leading their division, the Cincinnati Reds have the largest lead over the team in second place. After Tuesday’s games, the Reds lead the National League Central, with the St. Louis Cardinals 10 1/2 games back. Barring a catastrophic collapse by the Reds, and a 2011-like run by the Cardinals, the Reds will win the Central and head into the postseason.

But the Reds don’t have the best overall record in the National League. That honor, for now, belongs to the Washington Nationals. Why does that matter? Because the team with the best overall record will play the Wild Card winner in the League Division Series. The Wild Card winner comes out of a one-game playoff between the two teams with the best records that didn’t win their division. And if there is a tie for one of two spots to even get in the Wild Card game, then those teams will play a tiebreaker just to get to the Wild Card game. So there’s a big advantage to having the best overall record in the league.

In the last week, the Reds have benefited from stellar performances by relief pitchers but been burned by a young prospect-y type player. Together, they are the Impact Index Players of the Week.

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