Monday, July 06, 2009

The 2009 GIants are 44-37: Reeling in the Marlins

The Giants just took another series, taking down the Houston Astro's pretty decisively, winning first 13-0 then 9-0, behind the Big Sadowski and the Kid, before losing to Roy Oswalt (no shame there, he's a pretty good pitcher). More importantly, Randy Johnson injured himself swinging the bat in the loss and he is probably out indefinitely. He got an MRI today to check things out, and while the results were not released, he has been put on the DL and Frandsen has been called up.

Even if he had gotten a healthy bill of health, I would think the Giants would still just skip his next start, which is the last one before the All-Star game and just have him rest until the rotation is rejiggered after the All-Star break. This will give his old body a long extended rest, which is good. Also, it would give the Giants the chance to start Jonathan Sanchez and see how his time off has fixed him up (or not, as the case may be).

And with a stretch of 20 straight days of games to August 6th after the break, the Giants could feasible run a 6 man rotation during that period so that all the pitchers would pitch on the same number of days of rest as they would when there is a day off in there. That would be three starts for each before we would need to take the 6th man out. That would give Sadowski and Sanchez a good number of starts to see how good they are with the league scouting them and trying to figure them out. It would also give all of our starters, both young and old, less starts during the season and thus less wear and tear.

And if that works, then starting August 14th is another 17 straight days of games, or about another 3 starts for each of the 6 starters, if the Giants decide that they should continue that. Heck, if it is working, they could just keep the 6 man rotation going through the stretch between August 7th and 12th.

The only thing I would advise is setting up and/or revising the rotation to make sure it is our three best starters facing the D-gers from August 10th to 12th and ideally against the Rockies from July 24th to 26th and during the games in late August. Plus, adjustment of the rotation should have our best starters facing the D-gers in September for those two series, sacrificing the D-Rox series in-between, if necessary.

The Giants are now leading the race for the wild card playoff spot by 1.5 games over the Brewers, 2.0 games over the Rockies and Marlins (who happen to be our next opponents), and 3.0 games ahead of the Cubs. In addition, they have currently 7.5 back, which is getting close to striking distance, but still pretty far back. I think there will be hope if we are at within 6 games by the All-Star break.

Coin Flip - Almost - Giants Making Playoffs

In any case, according to AccuScore, which projects current stats and situations and similates that for the rest of the season, the Giants improved their chances this past week to 42.5% of making the playoffs. They still have a 8.2% chance of winning the division (D-gers according to AccuScore, is a lock at 89.2% chance of winning the NL West) but have a pretty good chance of winning the wild-card spot, though still not likely to do that, approximately a third of a chance.

Marlins

The Giants could pull a bit farther away from a competitor for the wild card with a series victory, or push them away one arm's length with a series sweep. However, a sweep is not likely and even a series victory will take some doing, we would have to outperform to do that.

Game 1: Cain vs. Sean West

Sean West beat the Giants for his first major league win about a month ago, but since then has a 6.30 ERA, allowing 5 runs twice in his last three starts. Cain, meanwhile, has been one of the best pitchers in the majors, earning his first All-Star berth, along with Tim Lincecum who earned his second, but will be making his first (hopefully) because last year he was hospitalized with flu symptoms before the game. The Giants should win unless West is a Giants killer.

Game 2: Zito vs. Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson is the Marlin's ace, 7-1 with 2.76 ERA, 1.13 WHIP. The Giants missed him the last time around, but Johnson has been pretty good for the most part, except for a blip last week against the Nationals, so he should be tough against us, he hasn't been carrying forward bad performances.

Zito, meanwhile, has been able to strike out more than one per inning and yet has been hit like pinata for those games too. He hasn't had a well-pitched game since late May, early June. This should be a loss unless Zito is able to take advantage of his extra stuff that he has shown lately. Over his last 7 starts, in 37.1 innings he has struck out 36 and walked 19, but given up 41 hits and 5 HR. Both are bad luck figures, as his BABIP is .336 during that period and during his career it has been more in the .260-.280 range, and his HR/9 is 1.21 when it is 0.94 for his career. He's also a bit over on walks, but his increase in strikeouts should have covered that. It was the extra hits and homers that have hurt his ERA, which was over 6 for those seven starts.

Game 3: The Big Sadowski vs. Chris Volstad

In a season of nice stories, Sadowski is the nicest. Hardly ever used in college, his mother contacted all 30 major league teams to get them to send their Miami area scout to check out her son in a private session. Only 2 did so, the Giants being one of them. However, soon all the teams wanted to check him out, and the Giants ended up selecting him in the 12th round of the draft, even though he had not played much college ball.

Then, once he started playing for us, he started having headaches and got so sick that he couldn't pitch in the playoffs. After the season, while at home, his doctors diagnosed that he had a subdural hematoma (basically bleeding in the brain cavity) that he speculates happened when he fell in a shower earlier in the season (but he doesn't believe that was it), which the doctors had no idea how that got there. After emergency brain surgery to remove the blood and two days of intensive care, he was OK, but needed protection for his head where the surgery was, so he constructed his own plastic protection device that wasn't so bulky.

Then a couple of years ago, he had a more conventional injury (shoulder injury) that nonetheless kept him out. But he kept on working hard and learning, and then finally had some good luck (for him) in that the pitcher more likely to be called up was Kevin Pucetas, but he had just started and thus would be starting on two days rest, so Sadowski got the call and now has racked up two straight shutout performances. Not bad for a pitcher who, when his AAA manager called him in, thought he had been sold to a Japanese team as per the rumors he had heard.

His background and his limited "stuff" suggests that major league hitters will catch up with him sooner or later. At minimum, clearly he won't end his career with a 0.00 ERA, but he has shown that he knows how to pitch, so he at least should be effective for at least a little while longer.

Meanwhile, he faces Chris Volstad, a prospect with a lot more hype than Sadowski ever had, but who, after a nice 6-4 season last year with a 2.88 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, has a 5-8 record thus far with a 4.85 ERA but nicer 1.28 WHIP. Unfortunately for him, batters have been homer happy against him, with 17 HR in 98.1 IP and 17 games, which is pretty bad. And he has shown no recent trend that suggests that this might end, other than facing the heretofore punchless Giants lineup that blasted out 30 HR in their last 33 games, and 23 HR in their last 20 games. And he is a RHP and our powers are from the left. Still, he has had a nice start in 2 of his last three starts, plus pitched well against the Giants a month ago, so I would have to put this game as up in the air.

Giants Thoughts

This series can go either way. It will take some more good pitching from Sadowski and/or good hitting from the lineup to win the series, as we should win the first but lose the second. And the Marlins have been hot in recent games too. But as long as we are not swept, I would be OK with the results.

With Johnson on the DL, we get to see how Sanchez has improved (or not) with his time off to set himself straight while also rewarding Sadowski for his great performance thus far. This will give both a chance to shine or not. And that's what we need this season, see how our young prospects can perform, or not, for us.

While Frandsen is not starting today, I have to hope that Bochy would start Frandsen more times than not while Johnson is on the DL. Again, we need to see how Frandsen could do, not allow a washed up infielder like Uribe a lot of ABs when we have a valid prospect who could be something. Frandsen has earned that chance.

This series is a critical one for the Giants lineup. Schierholtz and Ishikawa is starting to cool off from their hot hitting since they started getting regular starts. Rowland too. However, Molina and Winn has started getting hot lately, which helped with the explosion of run scoring in recent games. The Giants have scored 6 or more runs 7 times in the past 11 games. In addition, they scored 9 plus runs in 3 of the past 7 games, while also scoring 2 runs or less 3 times also.

As noted, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were named to the All Star game. Pablo Sandoval can be voted in, so I suggest you go out and vote for Kung Fu Panda, like I did. He really deserves to be named, but every year there is always someone who deserves to go but is snubbed.

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