Monthly Archives: June 2012

I’ll order the Sweep with the trio of Shutouts on the Side

What a way to greet the Dodgers on their first trip to SF this year. And who would have guessed that this would have been accomplished with Cain and Bumgarner in the dugout, patiently waiting their turn. Even before this series started, it seemed to me that the Giants were a better team than the Dodgers. (Note to self; record thoughts like this before they are mere hindsight.) In the last 30 games, the Giants have been a better team than the Dodgers, consistently gaining ground. On the chart below, that maps the winning %s of both teams, you can see the records slowly merging. The Dodgers have had two other major skids in that time. Whether or not the Giants are better than the Dodgers + Kemp is up for debate; but he will be on the DL for at least another 2 weeks, probably more.  And keep in mind that the Giants haven’t been without their own injuries this year. We lost Pablo for quite a bit, Vogelsong started on the DL, Theriot has been a surprisingly impactful player since he came back from his injury, and Wilson is out for the season. As Zito said, the Dodgers took advantage when the Giants were hurting, and now the Giants have to pay back the favor.

Image 

Lately, Zito has been Zitoing. After such a strong start to the season, in his three appearances prior to Monday he was 0-3 and had given up 17 earned runs in 14.1 innings pitched, raising his ERA nearly 1.5 points. It was good to see him have another strong outing on Monday, particularly against the Blew Crew. Let’s be real, no one really expects Zito to finish the year 16-8 with a 2.84 ERA. That ship sailed long ago; or rather it sank under the weight of that contract. But so far this year, Zito is 4-1 against the NL West. The Giants play the majority of their games against those 4 teams, if Zito can always give them a chance to win against the division, he’ll be an impactful part of the team.

At the risk of sounding like a skeptic (which I am), I’m not going to say Timmy is back. On April 28th, he threw 8 innings giving up only one unearned run. The Giants lost the next 9 games Lincecum started. Frankly, he looked better on April 28th than he did yesterday. Yes, I know he pitched fairly well in Oakland and now has 12 consecutive scoreless innings, but his problem all year has been maintaining that focus for a whole game. So I’m not going to count the Oakland game since he wasn’t good for the whole time.

But I’m also not going to say that this was a huge step in the right direction for Lincecum. Admittedly, that wasn’t exactly a top notch lineup that Mattingly threw our way yesterday, but after 9 straight losses and a no decision, a solid win against the franchise rivals could do a world of wonder for him mentally. Daniel Brown of the SJ Mercury recently wrote an article in which he got Bengie Molina’s opinions on the struggling ace. Having caught both of his Cy Young seasons, Molina was of the opinion that it was a mental issue. Something like an important win against the Dodgers, putting the perfect capstone on a shutout sweep, could be just what Lincecum needs to “regain his swagger”.

As if going 30 innings without scoring, 125 trips to the plate without a run (almost 14 times through the lineup), stranding 23 runners on the bases, and going 0-19 with RISP wasn’t enough…the Dodger’s equipment truck broke down on the way out of SF. Something tells me that they aren’t looking forward to their next trip up north.

Anyone else going to follow the Dodgers game tonight to see how far they can extend their scoreless inning streak?

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Game

It’s only June, but…

I don’t care that it’s only June. I don’t care that we have over half the season to play, or that the Giants and the Dodgers have 14 more games against each other this season. And I know that a large game differential can be made up in a month (see Giants vs Padres circa 2010). What I do care about is that the Giants have shut the Dodgers out twice in a row bringing them within one game of first place; it doesn’t matter what month it is. 

I also don’t care that Kershaw is a brilliant pitcher; he is a Cy Young pitcher and earned himself the Triple Crown of pitching last year. He is a great pitcher, no one is going to quibble over that. This year isn’t quite up to the standard he set last year, but he still has a sub-3.00 ERA, a winning record, and nearly a K per inning pitched. But all that matters this year is that he is 0-2 against the Giants and Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong continues to be one of the best feel good, come back stories in baseball. He is well on his way to proving that last year was no fluke. I have to admit, coming into the year, I wasn’t ready to put my full confidence in him, but he has proved me, and all the other skeptics, very wrong.  And he’s done it quite admirably, with a 2.34 ERA with a 7-3 record and a scary intensity that is well documented. He has turned that intensity up when facing Giants killer, Clayton Kershaw, defeating him in two matchups so far this year.

There are many things that contributed to last night’s win, not the least of which was Vogelsong’s pristine performance and Cabrera’s solo shot. But I think two plays that had an equally important role happened out on the bases. In the bottom of the fourth, Pagan stole second. That set him up to score on Pablo’s single, despite Tim Flannery’s best efforts. That gave the Giants an insurance run, taking much pressure off Vogelsong.

Following that, in the top of the 5th, Dee Gordon decided to show his own speed, but got cut down at second by Posey. That ended the inning and got Vogelsong out of a mini jam getting the largest speed threat the Dodgers have off the base paths. I think that without these two plays, it is possible that the game has a different outcome.

Given two shutouts against the Dodgers, would you have ever guessed that one of those games would be won by Barry Zito and the other lost by Clayton Kershaw?

Cabrera is leading the majors in hits and multi-hit games. Why is he fourth in All-Star balloting? Get out there and vote!

Sweep LA!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Watching Perfection

There are some things that many baseball fans never get to see. Pirates fans never get to see a winning season. I think there are some Dodgers fans that have never actually seen a game.  And almost no fan gets to see the elusive perfect game. Now I, along with my wife, my parents, and 42K other screaming fans, are part of the Exclusive Order of People who have Witnessed a Perfecto. We can now hold that over other fans for the rest of our lives and have automatic credibility in any sports bar. While I’ve seen many amazing things in my years following the game, like Barry Bonds hit the leather off balls, the Giants win and lose Championships, I don’t think any of them are quite as special as what I witnessed last night.

There was a big difference between a World Series and a perfect game. As a team fan, you have to love and covet a World Series Championship above all else. After all, that’s what they are playing for, right? However, as a baseball fan, it doesn’t get much better than a Perfecto. Lincecum shut the Braves out to start the 2010 post season run, and he ended it on a high note against Texas with 10 Ks. As amazing as both of those games were, he wasn’t perfect. In each of them, he made a few mistakes. A team can win the WS without being perfect, but each AB is an opportunity to blow a perfect game. Even more so, each batted ball threatens the perfection.  I might have let out a high pitched scream when Blanco laid out on the warning track, at the furthest point from home plate possible, with the ball in his hand. There is absolutely no reason that should have been caught; Schafer should have had a triple. While that play instilled some confidence that something magic was happening that night, it also highlighted how fragile a perfect game is. Once Arias double clutched and made a shaky throw to Belt for the final out, the entire stadium let out a sigh of relief in the form of a thunderous roar.

Some of the stats flying around

  • First Giants Franchise perfect game
    • That means 128 years without
    • Those years included Christy Mathewson, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and a host of other greats
  • 22 perfect game in the history of baseball
  • The only other perfect game that included at least 14 strikeouts was thrown by Sandy Koufax
  • Ted Barrett became the first Major League Umpire to call two perfect games
  • Aubrey Huff bruised his knee…jumping over the dugout rail after the 27th out

I think that any long term contract that rivals the GDP of many small countries is ridiculous for any player, especially a pitcher. But as long as they are going to happen, these past two days have made me very happy with some of Sabean’s recent transactions. Obviously, I’m talking about Bumgarner and Cain. In relation to his peers and what he has (and likely will) do, Bumgarner’s contract is a crazy good deal. Looking out to the end of his 5 year, $35 million deal will put Bumgarner at the same point in his career as Lincecum is now; same service time, except two years younger. And I don’t think it is unreasonable to think that he will have similar stats to Timmy coming into this year; he is capable of an ERA in the low 3s, and he got started at the right time (missing the dreaded post-Bonds win drought) to rack up some serious wins by then. The main differences; he’ll make $11.5-12 million in that year (compared to Lincecum’s $22 million this year) and have accumulated about $35 million by that time (Lincecum’s wallet is padded with about $64 million at this point). It makes that contract look like quite the bargain. Heck, even if he crashes and burns, the whole contract is less than what the Giants spent on Zito, Rowand, and Renteria in 2010 alone.

Cain’s contract is quite a bit larger, but it sure feels good to have that guy locked up for so long. He continues to prove that he is worth that long term investment.

Do you think Lincecum’s season would be going differently if he had signed the contract offered to him? It worked for Cain and Bumgarner.

I wonder if when the celebrations in the clubhouse were dying down, Bumgarner went up to Cain and said, in that Southern drawl, “That was cool, but you didn’t hit a homerun.”

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

2010 vs 2012: Building a Dynasty

The Texas Rangers are coming into SF for a “2010 WS Rematch”. The only problem, the Texas pitchers will face a whole new lineup. Sure, the pitching staff is nearly the same. Swap out Vogelsong for Sanchez and you have the same starting rotation (if we had to choose right now, would Timmy be the starter left off the WS roster? That’s a weird thought). Ramirez, Mota, and Wilson are missing from the bullpen. But Affeldt, Casilla, Romo, and Javier are still anchoring the late innings for us. Yes, the Giants are built on pitching. But who from the WS lineup remains? Buster Posey. Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez are the only other members of that lineup that have a shot at starting this year, but they are both on the DL. Schierholtz and Huff are the only other two left over from that team; neither are starting now.

But when the Rangers come to bat, it’s going to look very familiar. Elvis Andrus, Nelsen Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, and Michael Young all remain in the Rangers starting lineup. They are only missing Bengie Molina and Vladimir Guerrero from the 2010 team. Is it any wonder they were back in the WS last year? Or that they are first in their division this year? It’s the same team!

I want to make it clear that I loved the 2010 Giants, I don’t know who couldn’t have loved them. They put SF on the map as a legitimate baseball town and filled out of town ball parks with orange and black. That was the team where Timmy was Timmy and real men wore red thongs. Huff and Burrell reigned supreme, rewarding homeruns with solid punches to the chest and holding court in the Marina after home games. But that was a team of stop gaps. Everything went right, everyone performed as advertised, or better. Everyone was healthy. But most of the players weren’t chosen based on their long term potential; based on their ability to form a baseball dynasty.

Let’s look at some of the 2010 Giants hitters:

  • Aaron Rowand – I don’t need to talk about him that much. He was meant to be a key component to the team when he was signed in 2008, but by 2010 he was a bench player and clearly declining at a player
  • Andres Torres – I love this guy and he was a significant part of the World Series team. His value was even greater given that he filled two very glaring holes; CF and leadoff. But looking at the rest of his career, the Giants clearly got lucky with him. Even if he had been able to do a repeat performance in 2011, he was already entering his mid-30s, so his long term value in terms of building a dynasty was limited
  • Juan Uribe – Signed to be a utility infielder, Uribe definitely supported a rather shaky infield in 2009. He split his starts evenly between 2B, SS, and 3B (35,34,35). He established himself as a SS in 2010, starting there in about half of the games. Given what he has done with the Dodgers, the Giants were wise not to bet on him for the long term. In 2010, he was only 30 (if you believe his birth certificate), but was never intended to be a long term part of the team
  • Edgar Rentaria – I always thought this was a bad signing. Again, they Giants were buying high. Yes, he was still relatively young, but you can’t sign a 32 year old middle infielder and expect him to be an impact on the team for years to come (unless, of course, his name is Omar Vizquel). Best case scenario, he over performs for his 2 year contract…which would have meant being an average player
  • Huff – The Giants had a back log of promising first-basemen in the system, they had all but given up on Ishikawa as a starter, so they bought low after a bad year from Huff. They were hoping to get the 2008 Huff (.304, 34 HR) rather than the 2009 Huff (.241, 15 HR). Turns out, they got a satisfying compromise, .290, 26 HR, plus a good clubhouse presence. But despite that, it’s clear that he was never intended to be stationed on the right corner of the diamond for the next 5-8 years
  • Jose Guillen – no comment
  • Burrell – He is one of my favorites from that team. I will never begrudge Sabean from signing a player past his prime to a minor league contract, just like Brad Penny this year, in the hopes that a fresh town and start will revive a storied career. If Burrell couldn’t cut it, he wouldn’t have made the team. But he could and did and was a huge part of that team. That said, even he didn’t see himself as a long term member of the orange and black
  • Cody Ross – the NLCS MVP was a great pickup. But let’s face it, he was a mistake. Sabean claimed him off waivers to keep the Padres from getting him. He was sure surprised with the Marlins just let him go. He was great for us and had the potential to be a longer term player at just 29 in 2010, but we all know that didn’t pan out (currently hitting .271 with 8 HR in Boston)

Now you look at 2012 Giants lineup:

  • Posey – We know he is going to be on the team for a long time, and a key contributor on the field, at the plate, and in the clubhouse
  • Brandons – While these guys are still a little shaky, I don’t see the Giants giving up on them as long term prospects. They have both proven they can do it in the field, they are both young and under team control for quite some time, they just need a little confidence with the bat to be key contributors to this team for years to come
  • Pagan/Cabrera/Blanco – Not only does he anchor the trio in CF, Pagan is also the elder statesmen in the OF at only 30. Blanco is 28 and Cabrera is 27. A lot has to happen for this trio to be long term contributors, including repeat performances, but they have the tools and age on their side
  • Pablo – His ability to contribute to the team is directly related to his ability to grow up. Once he realizes that he can’t do (or eat) whatever he wants, that he can’t be at bars at 1am when he should be rehabbing (even innocently), that goofiness is fine and good in the clubhouse but he has to be serious at times, then he can be considered a long term solution. If he grows up, I can see him anchoring the IF for the next 3-5 years. And by then, Selig will have likely forced the NL to adopt the DH rule, so Pablo can do that
  • That only leaves 2B unanswered, and possibly RF. But it is potentially 5-7 players who can produce for this team for the long term

I, and the rest of Giants Fandom, will forever remember the winning, unique, thong-wearing, beard-growing team of 2010 very very fondly. There is nothing like seeing a rag-tag bunch of outcasts get a second chance, pull together, win the World Series, and make a whole city go crazy with Giants mania. I will forever dedicate a substantial portion of my limited memory to that year. But it was hard to feel the promise of that team. Even as the streamers stopped falling and the dried champagne was cleaned off the floor at Texas Stadium, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those guys we would see again. Two years down the road, I know the answer, and I couldn’t be more excited about the Giants I’ll see for the next five years. Lock ’em up, Sabes!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Giant Thoughts

Giants Game Brain Dump – 6/5/2012

When I watch the Giants, a million thoughts course through my mind. Usually, I have an output for these thoughts. When I’m watching the game on TV, it’s often my wife or a friend. When I’m at the game in person, it is my Giants game buddy, my dad. But when there isn’t anyone…it is you. The following is a rambling, unconnected stream of thoughts that came up during the Giants game. Enjoy.

Man, I love watching Timmy go out there and deal from the mound. Retiring 14 out of 15 batters, striking out 8, countless swing and miss pitches, making good hitters (yes, the Padres still have a few, they won tonight on the long ball) look bad; classic Timmy. Oh ya, I started watching in the 3rd inning. I’m getting tired of saying this; Lincecum looked great…except for that one inning. (I promise that I’ll do some research and figure out his stats on this year without that one inning, but here is a teaser, 30 of his 43 runs come from 8 innings). Since it is fairly consistently one inning that is doing Timmy in, it seems clear to me that it is a concentration issue. Earlier in the year it was a bit easier to accept that it is mechanics or his conditioning is off, but when he deals like he does for 5 out of 6 innings you can’t tell me that his mechanics are off. Even if they are off for that one inning that is just a concentration issue. He knows what it feels like, he knows how to do it, and he just isn’t. He’s got to keep that concentration through that one inning; the Giants are 2-10 in Lincecum starts. That needs to change.

Yes, Timmy should be the ace of the staff. He should be winning games for the Giants. Any starter always shoulders the responsibility of winning the game for the team. But he’s not along; this is a team sport. Lincecum gave up four runs in 6 innings, Affeldt gave up 1 run in 1 inning, and Edlefsen gave up 1 run in 0 innings. Timmy didn’t do his job, and we would have won had it not been for the 2nd inning. But two other pitchers didn’t do their jobs either.

Melky Cabrera has been doing it all year long. He steals bases, he has his signature shoe-top running catch, he throws strikes from the outfield, and he is leading the majors in hitting. And he does it all quietly. Tonight, he decided that people weren’t talking about his base running enough, so he put on a clinic. In the 6th inning, in the midst of a rally, the hottest hitter in baseball comes up with a runner on second and lays down a bunt. I know that statistically the bunt is almost always a bad play; I know 99 out of 100 managers would never have their hottest hitter bunt in any situation…but I admire a guy who can lay down an advantageous sacrifice in the middle of a rally and a personal hot streak. I admire that guy even more when he can beat it out for a single. Cabrera is a good basestealer, he is on par for around 20 steals this year. But he’s an even better base runner. He’s been doing this all year as well. I’ve rarely seen a player who can read the ball and fielders better than Melky. He often runs full boar on balls in the air that would have most runners pausing. Today, on a hit and run, he read Pagan’s line drive perfectly, didn’t slide into 2nd and advanced to third, which set him up to score on the sacrifice from Posey.

Giants fans are spoiled. It’s true. Yes, we have the best pitching staff in the majors. The view from basically all the seats is pretty awesome as well. There aren’t too many ball parks out there with the breadth of food that we get served up to us. But I’m not talking about any of that. Those are perks, but not the spoils. When was the last time you were at AT&T Park and the visiting fans out numbered the home fans? Can you imagine hearing cheering erupt from the seats if Kershaw struck out Posey? Or Tulo chants echoing around China Basin? It can be hard not to take the dedication and spirit of Giants fans for granted, but every time I watch our team play at Petco Park it reminds me that not all teams have that sort of fan base.

When will they start automatically tazing anyone who steps one unauthorized foot on the field? Clearly a night in the slammer, a fine, and an unenforceable lifetime ban isn’t enough to keep the idiots off the field. I’ll bet 50,000 volts would be enough.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

aMAYzing

May was a fun month to be a Giants fan. The Giants eeked out a winning record in the month, going 15-14, the team batting average was .258 (15th in MLB), 24 stolen bases (7th), and 3.39 ERA (5th). Those are nice stats, not great; stats of a .500 team. It’s nice to see the lineup hitting over .250 and smack dab in the middle of the majors rather than trailing. We are starting to see some speed on the bases and the ERA was pretty good.

However, those middle of the road but acceptable stats don’t tell the whole story. May was a month in which the team seems to have found itself. I was listening to Sergio Romo on KNBR yesterday morning and he talked about how everyone on the team is beginning to figure out their rolls. Half of the starting fielders weren’t on the team last year; with that many new players they don’t automatically know how they fit into the team. But now they are really starting to mesh and figure out their roles. It turns out Pagan isn’t the leadoff hitter, but that’s ok because Blanco is. Don’t worry about 3B; Arias, who has barely ever played that position in his career, is doing a solid job of shoring up the defense at the hot corner. Vogelsong is the staff ace and Casilla is holding down the 9th inning. These were all question marks coming into May.

Out in the field

When was the last time the Giants had a consistent outfield that was hitting .333 with an OBP of .443? Oh ya, and they have 25 steals. The numbers get cartoonish when you look at what that trio did in just the month of May; a .378 average and .498 OBP. On top of that, Cabrera, Pagan, and Blanco have started 79 out of 87 starting opportunities in May. That is just a model of consistency. Not only that, but these are three center fielders. We don’t have any stop gaps out there or a LF who is there just to get his mediocre bat in the lineup. Even if these three guys weren’t producing at the plate like Mighty Casey, this would be a great outfield. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that they probably won’t hit .378 for the rest of the year; they probably won’t even hit .333. But it seems likely that these three players will be a driving force on this team through September

The ‘Pen

The bullpen, which has been a strength of this team for the last few years, had an ERA of 2.75; if you adjust for Lopez’s uncharacteristic 3 run inning due to “Bullpen Phone-gate”, it would go down to about 2.45. That is a very solid crew to finish up games. Affeldt threw 7.1 innings without allowing a run. Romo was in for 9.1 innings, only giving up one run. Cassilla threw an impressive 14.1 innings, allowing only two runs and notching up 10 saves. The bullpen hasn’t missed a beat since losing Wilson for the season. I think this is something that we can count on continuing throughout the season.

Individuals

Obviously, Melky Cabrera has been unbelievable in May. His 51 hits tied the Giants franchise record for most hits in a month (tied with Randy Winn) and he is currently leading the majors in total hits with 78. He beat Willie Mays’ hits record for a month, and being mentioned in the same sentence as The Say Hey Kid is always a good sign. The numbers extend across the board, with 3 HRs, 5 triples, 7 doubles, 17 RBIs, 24 runs scored, and 4 stolen bases. Not to mention flawless fielding and one of the best plays of the year. It made me tired just writing all that. He hit for an amazing .429 average in the month, and his year average of .373 is 2nd, trailing Paul Konerko who is hitting .381 right now. He has done all that while starting 50 out of 51 games. Last year, he displayed some solid durability, so it seems safe to expect the same from him this year.

With the video game like numbers that Melky put up, it was hard for anyone else to stand out. But Ryan Vogelsong had an amazing month as well. His ERA for the month was 1.51, lower than any other starter. In 6 starts, the Giants won 5 and he was credited with 3 wins and 1 loss. He’s been consistently putting the Giants in a position to win. He leads the team in innings pitched for the month, with 41.2 innings, which is 3rd in the NL behind Hamels and Kershaw, both with 44 innings pitched. It seems undeniable that he is the ace of one of the best pitching rotations in baseball.

Matt Cain actually raised his ERA this past month, but had a good one nonetheless. His May ERA was 3.10, which I think most pitchers would be satisfied with. He also had a rather lucky month, especially for a Giants pitcher; he added 4 wins to his total and only 1 loss. Two of those wins came in starts in which he gave up 4 runs. He also struck out 40 batters in 40.2 innings pitched.

 

Other standout May performances:
Jeremy Affelt – 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, .130 Opp BA, 7 K, 6.2 IP

Sergio Romo – 0.96 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, .097 Opp BA, 16 K, 9.1 IP, 6 holds

Santiago Casilla – 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .193 Opp BA, 12 K, 14.1 IP, 10 saves

 

Angel Pagan – .375 BA, .884 OPS, 13 runs, 11 RBIs, 8 SBs

Gregor Blanco – .315 BA, .884 OPS, 20 runs, 7 RBIs, 5 SBs

Leave a comment

Filed under Giant Thoughts