Pitch to My Daddy 

Three games into the season, and Barry Bonds looks mortal. It's painful watching him run in the outfield, and there are signs, yesterday's two intentional walks notwithstanding, of opposing teams being less fearful this year.

Sign #1: Jake Peavy going right after Bonds on Opening Day with a man on second and first base open.

Sign #2: Shawn Estes repeatedly trying to bust Barry up and in with mediocre fastballs (88-90 MPH), until he got too close and plunked him.

Sign #3: Barry striking out yesterday on four straight changeups down and away.

All these signs will melt into obscurity if Barry launches a couple balls into the Cove this weekend, but here's the pattern that may emerge if teams feel he's lost a fraction of his legendary bat speed:

Pitchers will throw hard stuff in, especially in big parks like Mays Field and Petco, betting that Bonds won't have the speed to yank those pitches down the line and inside the foul pole, as he seemed to be able to do at will before last year.

Once Bonds is primed for hard stuff inside, pitchers will go with soft stuff down and away, like those Ken Ray changeups (by the way, Ray is a right-hander, not a lefty, which makes you wonder which game Ray Ratto was watching).

Bonds is probably the smartest hitter in baseball, so if anyone can adjust to declining skills such as a drop in bat speed, he can. We may see him slap more balls to left field; we may see him lay off the borderline inside fastball, forcing pitchers to prove they can paint the corner.

No doubt the steroid-enhanced swirl around Bonds this year will continue unabated. We'll know who the real baseball aficianados in the media are if they pick up on the fascinating story of an aging slugger making in-season adjustments to his declining game.


Notes: Opening day was a blast. The sunshine was the real hero of the day, very welcome after, what, three straight years of rainy days? That's what it has felt like 'round these parts.

Best moment of the game: Pedro Feliz murdering a 3-1 fastball after showing great patience against a pitcher who was obviously struggling.

Worst moment of the game: Watching Noah Lowry do twisty back stretches behind the mound. Uh-oh.

* It was also opening day for the Giants' farmhands. The lovely and talented Steve Shelby has posted the year's first "Minor Lines" over at the McChronic. Marcus Sanders' OBP? Know it. Learn it. Love it.

* I'm off to Chicago tonight for a conference. I'll try to get to the Sunday night Cubs/Cards game and post a report. Does anyone want to sponsor me if I wear a "Bonds 25" jersey into the Wrigley bleachers? You never know, but maybe Cubs fans will be sympathetic to Barry's plight. As this deeply scientific survey shows, Chicagoans may not know what biotech is, but hey, they kind of like it. What are performance enhancing drugs, if not the cutting-edge intersection of biology and technology?


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