Last night made it a lot easier to not hate Ryan Klesko.
It's a sports hate, mind you, not real life hate like I have for the Dodgers, the Dallas Cowboys, and wasps (the honey bee is fine, and serves a purpose, but what do wasps do other than scare the living crap out of most of us?). I've heard good things from a couple of reliable sources telling me Klesko is a very nice guy -- he just had a bad beginning with me, with with long tenures on two teams I don't like (Braves, Padres), and testosterone leaking from his pores every time he strikes out.
However, he's a Giant, so I've made an attempt to at least meander down the path to indifference. It's been difficult to this point, since he's been doing a convincing job at showing he's not worth any more than Mark Sweeney, yet getting paid another 800k.
But while last night's home run was pretty much useless (other than making sure there was no save opportunity for 'Mando...yay) as Noah Lowry shut down the Astros mostly by himself, it was symbolic that Klesko can still hit one.
Well, check that, symbolic he can still hit them in a live game -- he apparently hits a bunch of home runs in batting practice.
But what about Lowry? What's the differences between this year and last year? Not much, in a sense -- his k's per 9 innings is much the same (4.75 in 2006 vs. 4.92 this season), and his k/bb ratio is actually much worse (1.5 last year, 1.18 this year).
But, the differences? Huge -- he's all of a sudden become an extreme ground ball pitcher as opposed to a somewhat flyball pitcher. He's running an almost 2-to-1 ground ball to fly ball ratio this year (1.80 g/f), whereas three of his first four seasons saw him allow more fly balls than ground balls.
What's all that really mean? Well, part of my worry about Lowry last season was his large dropoff in his strikeouts. There's nothing wrong with being a flyball pitcher, but it's difficult to be successful over a long period of time allowing more flyballs while not striking out a lot of hitters, because nowadays that tends to mean you're going to allow more extra-base hits overall -- and last season Lowry allowed his highest SLG % (.452) in his career by quite a bit.
So...this season, a lot more groundballs than flyballs, an absolutely huge drop in SLG % against (.305...are you kidding?), and double plays are getting turned behind Lowry at almost twice the rate of 2006 (10 this year so far in 60 innings pitched...he had only 14 last year in 159 innings pitched last year).
Hey, it's working.