Friday, August 21, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 66-55: Rocking D-Rox

When you take a road trip to Cincinati, it is what it is: you never really know what is going to happen, even when the Reds are scuffling, like they are this season. Oddly enough, in a park known for being a hitter's park, we got to see two great pitching duels after a blow-out type of game in the first game of the series. We were lucky to get out with a series win, and yet we were not that far away - one key hit - from sweeping the series. In this wondrous season that we have had, we have not had a lot of those.

Again people complain about the offense. And I understand it, sort of, because it IS not very good. But first, you have to give Arroyo and Harang credit: both are good pitchers capable of shutting down the opposing team, whether a 90 pound weakling like the Giants or teams with a good offense, like the Mets earlier in the season or the Phillies. Second, it's a rebuilding year, there is always something wrong with a rebuilding team, even if they happen to be good enough to be competing for a playoff spot. It's like Doogie Howser: he was advanced for his years in his brains but still developing regarding his social skills and such. The Giants are advanced in pitching but still developing regarding their offense. Rushing either is futile and counter-productive.

Lastly, people get too hung up and defensive about the offense, like it being bad reflects badly on them, seemingly, or others have a "size" problem with regards to offense, where if it is not good at any position, the offense is hopelessly flawed. I think part of that comes from people used to the great offenses of the 1960's and others newbies who only knew the great offenses with Barry Bonds in the middle. If there is one hitter who is not pulling his weight, then we must go out and trade for some mega-superstar hitter from Team X.

The point is not about having an offense that can pummel the other side into submission, the point is situating the offense and defense such that we can win more games than we lose. Surprisingly to me, this point is missed by so many people, they run around like chickens with their heads chopped off or the sky is falling, but the fact is the Giants are 66-55, only 2 games out of the wild card, 5.5 games off the division lead. Chill, act like you've been in a pennant race before.

Da Rockies

These upcoming games are the most important 10 game stretch for the Giants in years. With the Giants close to the Wild Card leader, D-Rox, they play 4 against them in Colorado, then play another 3 against D-Rox the following week at home. These games could put the Giants in control or too far back in the wild card race. Winning the series in Colorado would bring us back to even with them in the Wild Card race. This is the time for the players to show what they are made out of.

In the first series, the Giants will throw at them these starters: Sanchez, Martinez, Lincecum, and Zito. They will face Cook, De La Rosa, Jimenez, and Marquis. They are D-Rox's best starters, with us missing Hammel. That seems to be too much of a coincidence to not think that they planned this ahead of time. At least we got our best against their best, Lincecum vs. Jimenez. And, in fact, they all seem to be evenly matched, based on overall stats, Sanchez vs. Cook, Martinez vs. De La Rosa, Zito vs. Marquis.

And we have pitchers who can or have done well in Colorado. Martinez has allowed 53% ground balls, which is what you want in Colorado. Sanchez also gets a fair amount of ground balls too, about 40%, which gives him a career GB/FB ratio of about 1.0, which is not too bad for a power strikeout pitcher who relies less on secondary pitches that often fail to do their magic in the thin air of Colorado. Of course, Lincecum gets a lot of groundballs, about 45% for his career, which is good and about 10% more than flyballs, along with all his strikeouts.

Zito is a contradiction. Unfortunately, Zito is a flyball pitcher, with a GB/FB ratio safely under 1.0, meaning he gives up a lot more flyballs than groundballs, and that's bad news. The good news there is that a good number of them are usually infield flyballs, but the bad news then is that this was when he was an A's pitcher, this year is his first with the Giants where his infield flyballs is near the percentage when he was with the A's (12.2% this year; 13.6% for his career, lowest as A's was 13.3%, avearge almost 16%). However, he has pitched well in Colorado: 4 starts, 27.0 IP, 21 hits, 12 BB, 14 SO, 3.00 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, so who knows?

In the second series, the Giants will throw these starters: Lincecum, Zito, Cain. It should be the same matchups unless D-Rox skip Hammel so that Cook faces Cain: Lincecum vs. Jimenez, Zito vs. Marquis, Cain vs. Hammel. Cain vs. Hammel should give us an advantage in this series, so that is not too bad. And the Giants have rocked at home this season, for the most part.

If we can get series wins from each, 3-1 and 2-1, we would be one game ahead of them in the wild card race (though with Florida big streak until the two most recent games lost, they could be passing both of us up soon, plus Atlanta is making a move too). Even if we split the first series and win the one at home, that still leaves us only one game behind D-Rox, which is still pretty good.

Of course, I would prefer the Giants go on a 10 game winning streak and just put them all behind us in the rearview mirror. We haven't had one good winning streak this season, and yes, that is because the offense has been so inconsistent this season. Still, as I noted in one of my comments somewhere, the offense with Franchez batting 2nd is an improvement so far, even though his OBP, SLG, and OPS are nothing to smile about (but .304 BA is), with the team averaging 4.77 runs when he starts.

And, aye, that is the rub, he hasn't started every game the Giants have had since obtaining him, only 13 out of the 20 games. He won't get his option vested if he keeps on missing so many games. And we won't get into the playoffs. Hopefully the training staff can keep him going, at least for the games against Colorado and LA.

What's That in the Road, A Head?

Looking ahead, after this 10 game stretch, there is a 9 game stretch starting on September 11 where we play the D-gers 3 games at home, then 3 games at home against D-Rox (last games), then 3 games on the road against the D-gers. Depending on how the Giants do in this 10 game stretch, that stretch could be even more important to our pennant hopes as we are playing both of our main competitors for the division title and the wild card race.

The good news is that interspersed with all these important games, we play a good number of games against losing teams. In-between the two series with D-Rox, we get to start our homestand next week against the D-Backs. We then get a tough road trip against the Phillies and Brewers, though the Brewers have experienced a second half slide, but then we start a home stand against the 'Dres, before that possibly important 9 game stretch against LA, CO, LA. Then we end the season with 4 against the struggling Cubs, 3 against Arizona in the last series at home, then travel down to San Diego for 3 against the 'Dres.

We potentially have 19 games against teams who are either down or sliding down in the second half mixed in with all the games against LA and CO (out of 41 games remaining). And even if we should not be up to the task and fall further behind after all these important games, with 10 games that should be easier to win at the end of the season, the Giants might still be able to make a late charge (with Bowker, Guzman, Rohlinger, Matos, Pucetas, Espinelli, and others on the bench) and threaten the leaders. And, of course, if we should be in the lead, put some more distance between us and them.

Go Giants!


  1. Yes, and with a rebuilding team, hopefully there is something good - and there is. This team will be playing "meaningful games" in September, and is a pleasant surprise.

    And I agree completely - many Giants fans were spoiled by having Barry Bonds. There is no such thing as "one big bat" - every player is a marginal upgrade or downgrade, and what the team needs is a handful of marginal upgrades - which may already be there with Nate, Velez, Posey on the way, Bowker maybe, plus that guy who we can't guess at who's in AA right now.

    The pitching is, IMHO, insanely good, and one must remember that all but Zito are still lads. That does most definitely count, and pythagenport still works whether you score 700 or 800 runs.

    I'm a lot more optimistic about the pitching matchups, especially with Zito coming up in the world. If he can keep it in the yard, I see good things ahead.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Marc.

    Well, I would not jump to say that we will play meaningful games in September yet. I can still remember a few years back when we all thought the Giants were in it, and it all fell apart in a week (Lowry was injured but pitched two games anyway and got totally toasted, if I remember right).

    But yeah, I'm very encouraged, which is probably more your point. This team, even last year, was around .500 most months, they just had two really bad months.

    This season, they have avoided the bad months and added their first good month in ages, in June, when Panda went wild hitting HR.

    I qualify that our pitching is insanely good only lately, since basically the no-hitter, as both Sanchez and Zito started bringing everything together and being more consistent in performance. Hopefully it will continue - probably in Zito's case, based on history, possibly in Sanchez's case, as we don't know how long into the season he can pitch effectively into.

    And Zito is not over the hill, he is still only 31 years old, pitchers like him can pitch effectively into their mid to late 30's.

    Sorry, I usually talk about the pitching matchups but was rushing to get it done during lunch hour before a meeting.

    Yes, I would agree with you that Zito is probably a better matchup, just because of how well he has pitched lately and how well he has pitched in Colorado. But Marquis has been doing all season long, and I've given up dissing him, he's like Rueter, able to pitch with the funkiest peripherals and still win with it. I thought for sure he would be exposed in Colorado, but I tip my hat to him for his accomplishments there so far, which is mainly his ability to keep hitters from hitting HR in colorado.

    Sanchez vs. Cook, Cook has actually been hit around by the Giants previously at home, his home numbers vs. them are not good, over 5 ERA. Still, Sanchez has probably been hit harder in his career and was the last time he was in Colorado, just a month ago. I have to give them the edge here.

    Martinez vs. de la Rosa, Jorge has actually been pretty good lately, his ERA is only bad due to a number of disaster starts. He has had 5 straight good starts at home after struggling for most of the season at home with a lot of bad starts. He is their version of Jonathan Sanchez, and like ours, he suddenly figured things out in early July. Does not look good for Martinez, though I note again that he's built for success here, lots of ground balls. I have to give de la Rosa the edge here, due to experience and recent success at home.

    Lincecum vs. Jimenez. What can I say, other than: when Titans battle, you don't know who will win. He's been very good at home this season, very good for his career. He appears to be built to succeed here. Still, Lincecum is built to succeed anywhere. He actually has a higher ERA in Colorado than Jimenez, but great pitching line suggests that he was unlucky before, so this can go either way but leaning our way.

    Zito vs. Marquis. Like Marc, I would have leaned towards Zito, but Marquis is also built to succeed in Colorado. He has a good ERA this season, even better before when pitching for other teams. It can go either way.

    So that's the bad news about this series: the team looks more likely to end up 1-3 than 3-1, based on the matchups and how their pitchers have been pitching lately.

    The good thing is that a number of our hitters have been hot lately, Winn, Rowand, Schierholtz, Renteria, Lewis, Sandoval, the offense should bust out if they continue hitting like that.

  3. I think Velez needs a day or two off. He's been stinking up the joint.

  4. Yeah, personally, I would have started Winn over Velez, since Winn was hitting, just because I want to maximize our chances of winning (wouldn't have said that about Winn until now, though) against D-Rox.

    Luckily, Rowand continued his hot hitting. He really should be DLed when he's at the point where all he's doing is getting Oh-Fer's every day. Just look at how good he is when he is healthy, in the last 5 games, he has gone 11 for 20 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 runs scored.

    Renteria too: that was his 5th 2-hit game in his last 7 starts and he has an 8 game hit streak. 12-31 with 5 runs scored, only one double though, plus a SB.

    Molina said in an interview that came out today that he's playing for himself now, whatever that means because normally when you play for yourself, you get hits and stuff that also benefits your team. Not like he's going to steal bases selfishly to pad a stat. He went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run, so I hope he plays for himself more often.

    The article also mentioned that he had become pull conscious, and hopefully his double to center shows that he's not doing that anymore.

  5. All he wants is a 2-yr deal and Sabean made it seem that Posey might not start next season as the opening day catcher. Molina could start maybe half the season and mentor him. But if he ends up a type A after the season it would make more sense for the team to offer him arbitration.
    What are your thoughts on the team making a waiver claim on Gary Sheffield? I don't mind another bat with postseason experience but would he become an everyday starter? Spot starter/PH? Who's the odd man out, Lewis? I guess it doesn't matter now.

  6. Yeah, sounds like Posey is not going to start in 10. And a two year deal is doable, he starts in 10, trade in after 10, only one year deal, get something in return to make up for picks we don't get (which aren't worth that much either).

    Sheff's a good hitter, he's definitely starting in LF, with occassional rests. It would be Sheff, Rowand, and not sure about RF. Could matter if Mets release him.

    What a game! Our vets come through, as well as young guys, Sanchez had quite a game and the pitching was good for the most part. People get mad about relievers but really, nobody is going to not give up a hit or walk, nor not give up a run. What matters is the W.

    Keep it going Giants!

  7. Hard to believe the team would score 11 runs and still lose. I'd say 99% of the time 11 runs would be enough. Oh well.
    Nice to see the bats still going. The team should win the next 2 if they can contiue to hit so well. I wish I still lived in Wyoming so I could see the games on FSN Rocky Mountain.

  8. My thoughts while listening to the 11 run Colorado rally was that this was probably the worse feeling I've had since Game 6 of the World Series, though I suppose the drop by Jose Cruz probably is another in consideration.

    Then I was off for dinner and shopping and missed the great rally.

    Sure, they didn't come back to win, but they got back 5 runs. If the bullpen had held even after Miller's horrible outing, we could have won the game possibly (have to remember that Street would have been out earlier had the score been closer, and who knows if Panda would have been able to blast one against him).

    I'm actually encouraged greatly by this outing, as badly as it turned out. Like it has on other occassions this season, the offense does not stop when they are down a lot, they can come back on occassion. This was clearly Coors aided, with 5 Giants HR, but still, our team does have some power options, Sandoval and Garko, plus Rowand and Schierholtz on occassion.

    Blow outs happens, and the Giants as good as they are, will have them sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to the other team. However, it shows some fortitude to fight back even when down 14-6 when you once led 6-1, some teams just lay down when that happens. That's the silver lining to this game, bad as it was.

    I think Lincecum will want blood and will take it out on D-Rox tomorrow. I expect him at his best.



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