Tag Archives: Giants

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.

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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?

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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

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Consistency

There seem to be two schools of thought about Brandon Belt when it comes to the fans andmedia; those who think he is the team savior and those who think he’s overrated and needs to be sent back to Fresno. The former thinks the Giants need to be a little patient with him while the latter think that he’s gotten plenty of playing time and can’t cut it. I don’t think he’s exactly a savior, but I would probably side up with the patient crowd. While he has played in 96 major league games which might seem like plenty of opportunities, he hasn’t been given very consistent playing time, which I think is the crucial point.

Bochy has said on numerous occasions that they need to see what they have with the young guys, which makes a lot of sense. Assess what they can provide the team and make a decision on whether or not they will be a long term contributor to the team. The problem is you can get a good idea of how a player is going to perform at a major league level if he doesn’t get consistent playing time! Instead of focusing on the game at hand and what he needs to do to help his team win it, he will likely be thinking about whether or not he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow.

Going back to last year, Brandon Belt has seen 1 streak of eight consecutive starts. He got seven games at once last year as well. Other than that, he’s had 1 five game streak, 5 four game streaks, 4 three game streaks, and all the rest of his starts were standalone or in groups of two. His longest so far this year has been 4 games. This is out of 96 total games he has played in over those two years; you do the math.

Now let me offer up a few players from bygone years who were not subjected to this.

  • Robby Thompson: started 20 out of 20 when he was brought up, batted .244
  • Rich Aurilia: started 21 out of 25 games when he was brought up (16 in a row), batted 240 with 2 HRs
  • Matt Williams: got to start 71 out of the first 73 games after he was called up (and the two he didn’t start were double headers, in which he started only one of the games), he batted .192
  • And of course there is Willie Mays: started the first 15 games in a row, he hit only .218 and 2 HR. (The day after the 15th game was a double header in which Mays went 8 for 8 and never looked back).

All four of those gentlemen above went on to have fantastic Giants careers. Imagine if they had been benched after 4 games of not performing. Of course, we don’t know that Belt will turn out like any of these guys (though I think we can say with fair certainty that he won’t be the next Mays), but we do know that those 4 great Giants likely wouldn’t have gotten the chance to find their swing and prove themselves on this current team, and, who knows, maybe that means they wouldn’t have turned into the players they were

I know this has been beaten to death over the last year and a half by anyone who knows how to type, but I’m proposing that Belt plays 20-25 games in a row. And by that I mean Bochy taking him into his office and telling him (and the press) that he will trot out there every game no matter what. That would be 20-25 games of Belt not glancing into the dugout after swinging at a ball in the dirt, not worrying about whether he will be playing tomorrow, or the rest of the year, but instead thinking about the current AB, the current game. If he could get that kind of consistency, and he still couldn’t cut it, then fine, send him down. But don’t drag it out, starting him in fits and bursts for the next 3 years until he is burned out.

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Opposite Day at AT&T Park or The Love of the Baseball Gods

The Giant’s celebrated Opposite Day yesterday. The Board of Directors took tickets at the gate while the normal ticket takers sat in the owner’s box. People with club level seats were directed to the bleachers while the standing room only folk found themselves in the luxury boxes. Beers were given away for free, but the shirts that the Orange and Black Squad threw out into the crowd had to be paid for. On the field, Matt Cain struggled mightily with his control and gave up 4 runs with a season high 7 hits; but the team picked him up and got him a win. Manny Burriss made a great baserunning play by making a double play impossible allowing a run to score. The offensive outburst was led by the Brandons. The Giants batters walked an impressive 9 times with only 1 strikeout. The Cardinals drew only 1 walk with 8 strikeouts. And the Giants may not have won had it not for a bad fielding error.

No, this isn’t the latest Giants promotion, though maybe it should be. Yesterday morning, on the Murph and Mac show on KNBR, Sergio Romo said, “It’s gotta bounce our way sometime, right? Baseball gods have to love us at some point, right?” I think I might want Romo to be my new investment advisor. As he predicted, the Giants got some of that good luck that has been eluding them all season. Or you could attribute it to the hard work of some of the younger players who have put in lots of extra time with the coaches; correcting flaws in their swings and fine tuning their fielding. Either way, it worked.

The two young Brandons were a collective 4 for 8 with a walk, 3 RBIs, and 2 runs scored; and maybe most importantly, not a strikeout between them. That accounted for half the hits and RBIs of the whole team. Both hitters worked extensively with Bam Bam Meulens to fine tune their approach, which seems to be paying off. Another difference is that Crawford was batting in the two spot rather than right in front of the pitcher. This likely gave him more quality pitches to hit and maybe even a little confidence.

Matt “The Horse” Cain gave up 4 earned runs, his second highest of the season, and 11 baserunners, his highest by 3 on the season. He didn’t look great to start the game, giving up 7 hits and all 4 runs in the first 3 innings. Prior to yesterday’s start, the Giants offense has scored an average of 0.33 runs for each inning that Cain has pitched, or 2.99 runs for every 9 innings he pitches. Cain’s career average is 3.6 runs per 9 innings pitched (the MLB average during that time is 4.6 runs). However, yesterday the patched together lineup scored 5 runs in the 6 innings that he pitched (or 7.5 runs per 9 innings). And Cain, who is so often the victim of fielding errors, benefitted from Freese’s 6th inning throwing error that led to the go ahead run for the Giant, putting Cain in line for the win.

Some other oddities in the game last night;

  • 9 walks in one game for the G-men. They had drawn 95 walks in 37 games before yesterday, which averages to about 2.5 walks a game
  • There was only one strikeout; they’ve averaged almost 6.5 per game so far
  • Burriss, who is frustratingly bad at baserunning for a player whose speed is supposed to be his main asset, made a great move on the bases. Rather than running into an out at 2nd, he slowed up forcing Schumaker to chase him down for the out, eliminating the chance for a double play

I think the Giants got plenty of favor from the baseball gods in 2010. The roster was nearly devoid of any injuries to key players, and everyone got hot just when the team needed them to. Maybe that is why the team wasn’t graced in 2011, the Giants used up their allotted favor on the epic World Series run. For whatever reason, that favor seems to be back. Whatever baseball prayers the Giants are saying, whatever superstitions they are embracing, whatever ladies undergarments they are wearing…I hope they keep it up.

 

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Small Ball, Its a Good Thing

The Giants play in a ball park with very unusual dimensions and deep gaps. The line up doesn’t have a whole lot of power, especially with Pablo out. Melky hit 18 HRs in his best season. Posey is capable of 25-30 HRs if he has a good year. Other than those two (and the hurt Panda), there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity for power on this team right now. Some of the guys (Pill, Belt, Sanchez, etc) have potential, but they are unknown quantities at this point.

However, the team does have a lot of speed (ever think you could say that about a Giants team?). For about the last week we have consistently seen a line up that includes Melky, Pagan, Arias, and Blanco.  Pagan has had two 30+ SB seasons, plus one minor league year when he swiped 67 bags. Melky peaked at 20 steals. Blanco’s MiLB seasons range from 25-40 steals a year, while Arias has gotten 40-64 a year in the minors. All guys who can cause an impact on the base paths if they hit well, which they are all doing at the moment. That seems like a team  primed for playing small ball.

Then why don’t they play small ball?

After the game in which they left 13 runners on base and went 2-17 with runners in scoring position, Bochy lamented that the hitters have to do better in those situations. Let’s take a look at some. In the first inning, after Timmy threw a very rare 1-2-3 11 pitch top of the first, our table setters immediately did their job and got on first and second with two consecutive walks. With our lead-off hitter at second, we got a strikeout and two flyouts to end the inning. What would the game have looked like if Bochy had played some small ball there to get his struggling ace a 1-0 lead to start the game? Instead, he plays for the big inning with three players who have 6 hits all year with runners on first and second and are hitting a combined .225 with runners in scoring position.

I know some would argue that it doesn’t make sense to play that way with the heart of the lineup coming to the plate, but what about at the bottom of the lineup? In the 4th inning, they had Charlie Culberson at 3rd and Crawford at 1st with one out. Burris (.227 at the time) was up with Lincecum on deck. This was a great time to try some small ball, something like a squeeze play. What’s the worst that could happen? An inning ending double play with the pitcher on deck, that’s all. Instead, Bochy let his 8th place .227 hitter swing away, striking out, leaving it to the pitcher to get it done (which doesn’t happen). In the 6th inning, there were again runners on 2nd and 3rd, this time with three sub .230 hitters coming to the plate; Bochy has them all swing away. In the 8th inning, after Rex Brothers (who has one of the best names in baseball) walked the bases loaded with 12 balls and 1 strike, Bochy sees and opportunity for the big inning (at a time when we only need 1 run to take the lead) and Belt hacks away at the first pitch. A pitcher who clearly couldn’t find the strike zone strikes out Belt and Cabrera swinging on 7 total pitches.

I know that small ball isn’t always the proper tactic and the Giants have some hot hitters right now. But this team and this ball park seem custom made for that brand of baseball, why not give it a try?

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What are the odds of the Giants making the post season if they end the season with 207 errors, which they are on track to do?

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Giants Beat the Dodgers!

Dodgers: 6  Giants: 2  Matt Kemp: 0/5

As far as I’m concerned, keeping Matt Kemp off the bases right now, particularly with the bases juiced in the 8th, is more impressive than beating the Dodgers, so I’m chalking this up as a win for the Giants. Kemp is putting up video game numbers (as Kruk and Kuip like to say) and he looked lost up there at the plate. Clearly he was expecting Timmy to be as ineffective as he has been in his previous starts, not the 93 mph fastball and a slider that got its bite back.

Aside from the obvious issue of losing to the Dodgers, there were some other concerns I came away with.

I’m a huge Nate Schierholtz fan and think the GMen are a better team with him in RF. I think he isn’t given fair opportunities at the plate. So I was overjoyed to see him in the lineup today. He continued his ownage on Chad Billingsly and went 1 for 3 with a walk. But his base running has gotten increasingly worse. I don’t know if the steal was his initiative or called, but that and overrunning second cost the team at least 2 runs.

Why is Posey striking out so much? Yes, he is under more pressure with no Panda in the line up, but his strikeout rate is way up from where it has been, roughly double what it was last year. Many of his swings just look ugly! Last night was just the third time in his young career that he had 3 strike outs. One of my favorite aspects of his game when he first game up was his plate discipline; he never seemed overwhelmed and was never pressing at the plate.

A positive note is that Joaquin Arias is killing it in the field. He reminds me of a less talented Jose Uribe. Doesn’t look good doing it, but somehow manages to pull of great plays. And he is nearly as ugly as Uribe as well (either Uribe).

I’m glad that Magic Johnson lowered the price of parking to $10. Now, why don’t they add a line item to the budget to allow the ball dudes to toss the foul balls in the stands. Just saying.

I guess if I’m going to blog about the Giants, I can’t ignore Tim Lincecum. His line wasn’t that great yesterday, but I feel good about what he did.

IP 5 H 8 ER 4 BB 2 K 8

He gave up some runs, but not in the first. 4 runs in 5 innings is and inning and a run away from a quality start. In the first three scoreless innings, he struck out 6, 8 overall; that’s the old Timmy we all know! Only 2 walks is a good sign as well. And most importantly, his fast ball was back to the 91-93 mph range. That is what was worrying me the most. I know, I know, his mechanics were off. But you see so many good pitchers turn bad, mostly because they lose velocity. Seeing his quirky motion shoot 93 mph fastballs and some sliders with good movement in the strike zone gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

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