Monday, September 14, 2009

Your 2009 Giants are 77-66: Sweeping D-Rox, Part Deux?

Just like last time, the Giants need another unbelievable three game sweep to bring themselves within spitting distance of the D-Rox in the wild card race. Unlike last time, they are now in a horrible streak of playing and even a sweep would only bring them within 1.5 games of the lead. The D-Rox showed great poise and stability in not collapsing after getting shown up by the Giants that way, just as the Giants showed great poise and stability in not collapsing after getting shown up by the D-Rox the week before in Colorado.

Now we got the rubber match with the D-Rox playing three in SF, and the Giants needing another miracle sweep. Aiding that possibility is the fact that the rotation gods have the Giants sending out the same three starters who spearheaded that sweep to face Colorado again. Can they do it again?

Game 1: Lincecum vs. Jason Hammel

Lincecum with rest facing one of the D-Rox's mid to back of the rotation guys. Hammel, however, has pitched well in the two games since facing the Giants. And he didn't really do that poorly against the Giants, with good relief, he would have won facing Matt Cain. 2.92 ERA on the road now, and he has pitched well in SF. It should be another close game with Lincecum squeeking by unless Tim is too amped up and starts throwing wild. However, those days of Lincecum should be behind us now and he should show us he's the gamer who shall lead us back to the Playoff Land once again.

I was impressed with Lincecum going public with his thoughts about the Giants position right now, and what they have to do to get back into the playoff chase. What was impressive was that he did that without pointing the finger at anyone other than the team itself. That is showing off more leadership than he had shown before, showing development and maturity. This season's bonus playoff chase is paying off with some of our young players learning things about themselves that will pay off in future playoff chases.

Game 2: Zito vs. Ubaldo Jimenez

Last time, Ubaldo lost to Lincecum in a duel of the two team's pitching titans, ace vs. ace. This time, while Zito has been pitching better, like an ace at times, Ubaldo should get the upper hand. He pitched as well as usual in the two starts since, and just has pitched well all season, 3.32 ERA overall, 3.42 ERA on the road, 2.60 ERA in the second half, 3.55 ERA in 4 starts in SF. Does not look good.

Looks even worse looking at Zito. While he has had a stellar second half, it looks like he left it all on the field with his great outing against Colorado, where he went 8.1 IP, 8 hits, 1 ER/R, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts. In the two starts since, he didn't go past the 5th inning once, and had a 5.00 ERA. We need the Zito of that start and the 8 starts before that where he had a 1.92 ERA. Without that Zito, we can forget about winning this game.

The only silver lining is that in 10 career starts against Colorado, Zito has a 1.92 ERA. Talk about coincidences!!!

Game 3: Cain vs. Jorge de la Rosa

Jorge de la Rosa is another of the D-Rox's mid-to-back of rotation starters. However, just like with Hammel, don't let that fool you. Though he has a 4.37 ERA overall, he is much better with his splits: 3.84 ERA on the road, 3.21 ERA in the second half, 1.32 ERA in 2 starts and 3 appearances in SF. These all speak well of his chances.

However, Cain is no push over either. With a 2.61 ERA this season and improved DOM%, Cain has took a step up in his pitching performance this season. However, he has not been the same in his last 8 starts, 3.83 ERA, which is good but not as good as he was earlier in the season. And he has been steadily getting worse: in August, his ERA was 3.74, in September thus far, 4.15.

In fact, looking at his starts this season, his strikeout rate appears to have started its downslide around the time he went to the All-Star game, which is just after he had that ball hit him on his hand. Not that he hasn't pitched well, any pitcher would be glad to have his stats, but his K/9 has dipped severely - only 5.9 K/9 in his last 6 starts, though at least he has been able to reduce his walks too, keeping his K/BB ratio at a high 2.25, which is good for starter.

So this looks like it will be a battle to win the rubber match of the 3-game series and it can go either way, though I must note that de la Rosa is on an uptrend and Cain has been on a downtrend. It also don't look great that Cain had his two of his worse games in months, heck, even the season, against Colorado last time and LA in his last start, meaning Cain had a chance to step it up for the Giants twice already and didn't. Despite a 3.48 ERA for his career, he has a 4.13 ERA against the D-gers, though at least he has a 3.16 ERA against the D-Rox. However, in this season, Cain has a 3.60 ERA against the D-Rox and 15 walks vs. 23 strikeouts in 25 IP plus gave 5 HR.

Giants Thoughts

Same as last series, both the last series against Colorado and the last series we just played against LA, though now even more so: we need to sweep. Luckily, we did sweep them last time, but since then our Giants look like they left everything on the field in that series while the D-Rox went on to beat up on the teams they faced, the teams they were suppose to beat up on, going 9-1 on their homestand and 10-1 after getting swept by the Giants. If they didn't lose twice to the Padres over the weekend, and almost lost all three, the Giants were pretty much out of the race without much chance of recovering.

Even now, if the Giants were to somehow sweep them, we would still be 1.5 games behind them. The good news is if the Giants were to accomplish that, the D-Rox would be on a 5 game losing streak, played poorly in two straight series on the road against San Diego and San Francisco, and would be facing more road games (and tougher teams) headed into the few weeks of the season, while the Giants would face weaker teams and play more games at home.

However, the Giants look like they are more headed towards winning the series 2-1, which would leave us at 3.5 games behind them with only 16 games left to go and none against them. While I have seen (and read about) teams that blew a big lead like that with that many games left to play, the odds are not that great that the D-Rox will blow it like that. Particularly since they have played so well since Tracy took over, and since they have played even better when the games counted while the Giants have struggled to stay at .500.

The only two months where the Giants played above .500 - June and August - took the performances of players doing very well. In June, it was Sandoval breaking out and supported by hot hitting by Schierholtz, Rowand, and Ishikawa, among others. In August, it was the entire pitching staff carrying the team into the win column. As I noted in the last series, we need another group effort of hot play to carry us closer to the D-Rox and to push past them.

I wonder what Bochy is going to do this series. Ishikawa inexplicable has been hot at home this whole season, a point driven home by his 3 hits last night. Does he keep Travis in the lineup for Colorado? If he does, then where would Uribe play, as Sandoval would be at 3B and Sanchez is at 2B, which means then he supplants Renteria at SS, which would hurt Renteria's feeling (though he hasn't really hit for much of anything in September). Sanchez hasn't done that well either since his return, so perhaps he might sit for Uribe sometimes, but he had two hits himself last night. But you can't sit Uribe the way he is hitting right now either. Looks like Renteria sits again tonight and Ishikawa and Uribe starts.

And in the outfield, Schierholtz, Rowand, and Winn have not been hitting at all in September. Will we be seeing more of Velez, Torres, and Bowker in the games to come? Not today, outfield of Velez, Rowand, Winn. Winn has been getting on base lately, so Bochy is going with the hot hand. Lewis actually is 6 for 7 against Hammel but Bochy, like last time, is saving him in case we can pinch hit against Hammel in the game with runners on base. We'll see how that works, though I must note that between starting Velez and Lewis, I would have to go with Velez right now. And Rowand vs. Lewis, I would have to go with Rowand's defense, particularly in AT&T.

The big news is that Sandoval is finally batting 4th and Molina 5th. This is the first time all season that Molina has not batted 4th when he was in the lineup. It is a changing of the guard, a sign for next season when Sandoval will be the big RBI bat in the lineup and Molina most probably is gone. Finally, this should have been done probably at the start of August when Molina had been scuffling up to then (if I recall right, he started hitting again in August).

And when will we be seeing Buster Posey? We are basically nearing desperation point now. I don't see Bochy playing him against the D-Rox - you win with those who brung you to this point, so you have to go with Molina in the series - but will he see any starting action at all? One would hope so and the sooner the better.


  1. Velez, Molina, Uribe, Ishikawa, Rowand, Lincecum! And a dash of Fred Lewis.

    Powerful if wild (4 walks) return for Lincecum, 7.0 IP, 6 hits, 1 R/ER, 11 strikeouts.

    Since Bochy made his lineup based on what scored all those runs the day before, he most probably will go with the same lineup for tomorrow's game.

    Hah! The D-Rox juggled their rotation to get Jiminez to face the Giants in this series. According to a Rotowire newsbite, Jimenez was suppose to start on Saturday but reportedly his hamstring felt something, so he got moved to Tuesday's game, which was the ideal spot for him to pitch, against Zito. Otherwise, the Giants would have bypassed him this time around.

    Part of what makes me think this is the manager's quote: "Could he pitch on Saturday? Yeah, he could." The reality is that every player has all sorts of bumps and tweaks all over their body, so if the team really wanted to, they could DL whoever they want, push off whoever they want, if that benefits them in some way.

    Else why Tuesday, 3 days rest? Why not skip the start and give him more rest? Why not just 2 days rest? Or 4?

    Instead, they sent up a rookie to face the 'Dres on Saturday and lost that game, while saving Jimenez to face Zito.

    With today's 9-1 victory, the Giants are now 3.5 games back. Playoff relevance is coming into the mirror. But they cannot relax, each day, each game, is important. It will be the highs of highs and the lows of lows, it is late season relevance.

    Also, the Marlins lost, they are now 2 games behind us (didn't realize that they were that close to catching up with us).

  2. Just wondering, why do you call them the D-Rox?

  3. No problem, thanks for asking.

    Just me being obsessively compulsive. At some point, I noticed that many references to the Diamondbacks used the term "D-backs". Then at some point I realized that I could call the Dodgers, "D-gers". So that got me looking at the other teams.

    The Padres became'Dres, which was easy because there is a D in their teamname. But what to do about the Rockies, which has no D?

    So I put on my thinking cap (or what others would call procrastinating cap) and recalled how on SNL they had a skit where the fans would call the team, "Da Bears". "Da Rocks"? D-Rocks is what I came up with, but at some point I Rox somewhere, and I liked that more, so now it is D-Rox.

    Just been doing this for a long while now, just me being me. :^)

  4. What do you think about the speculation about Giants getting Prince for Cain in the off season. I think Cain is too much, but J. Sanchez with some other prospects not named Posey or Madison would be a better price.

  5. This rumor has been around for a long while now. No!

    And that's even before Prince did his bowling ball impression.

    Cain is much too valuable.

    Sanchez with other for Fielder I can stomach, but I don't think the Brewers would go for that, they would want Cain (or Lincecum :^).

    IMO, I think Sanchez is more valuable to us than Fielder would. Fielder would get the Bonds treatment, even with Sandoval behind him, and the rest of the lineup would still be average at best. Even with Bonds in 2007, we only scored 4.2 runs per game (though Fielder is now probably a better hitter, but not by much). And his defense at 1B is average this season, but had been costing the Brewers 1 win every year before this. His hitting contributed roughly 4.5 wins this year, but only 2 wins last year.

    So which Prince will be hitting in 2010: the 2008 version or the 2009 version?

    Meanwhile, assuming Sanchez will finally pitch this way from day one of the season, our rotation will be stellar from top to bottom, particularly if we can re-sign Penny.

    That will be harsh on any team that faces us. Not one break the whole series. And that will wear down teams as the season progresses and teams realize what we have in our rotation.

    Now, we could have that if we promote Bumgarner in 2010, but given his hiccup in AA this season, I think the more prudent development path is to promote him to AAA next year, then he can be our K-Rod in August/September and the playoffs.

  6. I would have no problem dealing Sanchez & prospects (not Posey or MadBum) for Fielder. I think he would be a huge upgrade to our lineup and it would have a positive ripple effect with the placement of the other hitters in the lineup.

    Totally agree that Cain should not be moved in a deal like this and that MadBum is not ready for the majors yet. I was at the game behind home plate where he pitched against the Padres and I can tell you that he still needs work before he will be successful at the ML level. I am not as concerned about his velocity (only 88-91 MPH) on the fastball as I am about the lack of movement on it. He wasn't exactly facing a Murderer's Row of hitters and they were teeing off on any fastball that was above the knees. Even the outs were hit hard. He kept his secondary pitches down well, but he really needs to develop a cut fastball that is not as straight as his fastball is right now.

    WTF is Boulderhead's problem with Buster Posey? He's had 2 chances in the last 2 games to put him in at the end of the game and nothing, zippo, nada. I cannot understand why you wouldn't take advantage of those opportunities. Hell, even the Rockies pulled their starters last night and gave some youngsters ABs.

  7. Wow, maybe they weren't just moving Jimenez to play with our rotation: he was horrible last night, though he did still strike out so many even though he didn't throw that many strikes.

    According to accounts of the game, the Giants hitters were more patient, taking pitches. So that helped.

    It also helped that it was the same lineup as the day before when they scored 9 runs, and basically the same as on Sunday when they scored 7 runs. I expect to see the same lineup today, though supposedly Renteria says that he is ready to play. He should just sit this game out, let Uribe and the lineup take on Colorado, then get another day of rest on Thursday, and be fresh to Beat LA this coming weekend.

    Zito was dealing! As I have been documenting over the past year, his improved velocity has resulted in his being able to strike out a lot more batters overall, and in short stretches. A sign that he is on is when he can strike out 8, 9, 10 batters in a game, like he did last night. Despite his improved velocity, he hasn't really had that many of those games this season. Yesterday's game was a great sign that the other games were just lulls and not a downturn.

    However, hopefully that line drive off his arm won't have long term effects. I was pretty scared when that happened, it was confusing at first what exactly happened. Not that it would bother him pitching, just more if the resulting bruise affects the way he throws in his next start. His next bullpen session will be a big test of that.

  8. The way the Giants are beating down on Colorado this series has to make me wonder if this could be the shift in momentum that the Giants need to get into the playoffs. In the prior two series, neither team really beat up on the other, both did just enough to beat the other team, squeaking victories for both sides. So neither's confidence got too high or too low.

    But this series so far has been totally dominated by the Giants. Not only that, but their ace starter had a horrible start and you know how hammies are (Durham!), and how they can linger (Durham!), so they probably can't rely on him down the stretch.

    They also lost another starter already, forcing them to pick up Contreras, who has been OK for them so far (and both in Coors!) but he hasn't been good for a number of years now, and he only pitched 3 innings in his last start (only 1 R/ER). Showing how confident they are in him, they pushed him aside today and allowed Jorge de la Rosa to pitch instead, which is another juggling they did to bring their best pitcher into this series.

    Technically, that's not totally accurate, as de la Rosa is pitching with his normal amount of rest, which happened because Jimenez had his start skipped, then inserted into the Giants series. He would have pitched today if they did not push Jimenez back and replaced him with a rookie. And more importantly for the D-Rox, he pitched very well in his last start and so far in the second half. Still, they could have just given him more rest, their manager clearly grasped that he needed to bring all his biggest guns to this series.

    And still lose, 9-1 and 10-2.

    They have somehow been holding things together, too, until now, despite a lot of key players being injured. They lost Manuel Corpas soon after the All-Star break, which probably prompted their acquisitions of two good relievers. They lost Aaron Cook, which forced them to get Contreras. Perhaps their biggest loss was when they recently lost Huston Street, who saved their butts this season when their regular closer couldn't do it in spring training and he took over beautifully until now.

    Now they are on a 4 game losing streak, could have been on a 5 game if not for that comeback against SD's closer, and got whumpped by the Giants twice.

    However, I must give them their due, they have been great since Tracy took over, so they have been doing very well for a long time.

    Still, this is their first real bout with really bad adversity, where they were beaten badly by a close competitor, so it will be telling how they react to it. It's easy to win when it comes easily as it mostly have for them since Tracy took over. This will show how much moxie they have when the opponent gets a nice upper cut and they are on the canvas. Do they get up and battle or is it a TKO? Interesting times...

    Still, I would rather be in their shoes, multiple games ahead of the other team, with so little games left. We still need a bit of a collapse on their part to get into the playoffs.

  9. I should also link to Baggarly's report:

    "The Giants clinched the season series with Colorado (10-7 with one to play), meaning they would be awarded home-field advantage in the event of a one-game playoff.

    That's no trifling detail. The Giants are 7-1 against the Rockies at AT&T Park, but just 3-6 at Coors Field. The Giants and Rockies have the two best home records in the National League. "

    Good to know, though it should be noted that they are 3 wins ahead of us right now.

  10. FYI, to bring up Randy Johnson, Justin Miller took the Big Unit's place on the 60-day DL to open up a spot for him. He has problems with his elbow that he was already struggling with then he was bombed for all those hits.

    We would have been better off DLing him then and allowing the Giants to bring up Runzler instead, maybe we would have another win now.

    Miller will be a free agent after this season and I hope the Giants look into retaining him, but I suspect that he'll probably be the one to go if Waldis Joaquin and/or Dan Runzler make the team next season. Then again, he signed on a minor league contract this season, so maybe he's willing to do again and risk being in the minors all season.



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