Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 8-7: Dodging Some Cards

A large proportion of the Giants fan base are in a tailspin over this road trip, and particularly the 3 game sweep by the lowly (but now leading) 'Dres.  However, at the start of the season, if a Giants fan were told the following, we would be "OK, that sounds about right":

  • The Giants are 8-7
  • The pitching has been great
  • The offense has failed the pitching on numerous occasions
  • Panda is our leading hitter; Lincecum is our leading pitcher
  • Bowker and Wellemeyer have been struggling to perform

I'm not saying that everything's great but I am also not saying that it's the end of the world, as one bad stretch caused a lot of the Sabean Naysayers to crawl out into the daylight and complain their familiar drone.

The problem seems pretty clear, as far as the recent drop in offense:  nobody was getting on base ahead of Pablo, killing potential rallies and opportunities to score first and put the other team on their heels.

As I discussed in a previous post, I like to look at what I call Offense Wins and Pitching Wins (more accurately, it is defense, but I think pitching is the key to our wins in that regard), where if the offense scores 4 runs or more are counted as offense wins and if the pitching can keep the runs allowed to 4 runs or less are counted as pitching wins.

Offense Wins:  9-6
Pitching Wins:  11-4

So, overall, both have done well, but with small samples, the mix ended up as 8-7 instead, with the 10-8 loss to the D-gers the most egregious blown opportunity.

Unfortunately, they cannot hope to get much better soon, even though they start a 9 game homestand, as they are facing the Cards, Phillies and Colorado.

Game 1:  Jaime Garcia vs. Tim Lincecum

Jaime has been on the verge of breaking out and appears to be doing it this season:  0.69 ERA so far this season.  However, his K/BB ratio is only 2.0 and his K/9 is only 6.9 K/9, and the key to his success is that his BABIP is .152, so he should eventually regress to the .300 mean.  However, he's been doing it with extreme amounts of ground balls (3.14 this season).  However, a look at his minor league stats suggest that he is not one to avoid the .300 regression to the mean (.308 BABIP career minors).

And, of course, he's going up against the one pitcher (probably) that has an even lower ERA in Lincecum.   Still, the offense has been sputtering and thus it should be a low scoring game all around and Bochy will need to do something to shake things up and get the offense going.  Yesterday, he moved DeRosa up to the #2 spot, and he got two hits there, but then the rest of the lineup was cold except when Pablo hit that huge (though solo) homer.

In addition, Garcia is a LHP, and the Giants have been struggling against them.  This probably means and OF of DeRosa, Torres, Schierholtz and IF of Sandoval, Renteria, Uribe, and Huff.  The good news is that Huff has been hitting very well at home as well as against LHP, and Schierholtz has been hitting LHP well too.  Unfortunately, the offense will probably be crippled by Torres and Renteria up top, as neither have been doing the job for most of this short season so far.

Bochy will probably leave Torres leading off because there is no prototypical  guy, but maybe he'll go with DeRosa #2 again because of his success yesterday and place Renteria 8th.  Or even Renteria leadoff and Torres 8th, that might be better right now, Torres has done nothing so far, even less than Renteria has since his hot streak, and that takes some doing.  We should win but the way things are going, I would put it even.

Game 2:  Adam Wainwright vs. Barry Zito

Wainwright had an incredible season in 2009 and yet has improved on that with a 1.50 ERA.  Zito had an amazing season (for himself) in 2009, and yet has improved on that in 2010 with a 1.86 ERA.  It's going to be a tough battle between two pitchers who are very on so far.  First one to blink is the loser, but given that they have Albert Pujols on their side, I would have to lean towards the Cards in this match-up.

Game 3:  Brad Penny vs. Matt Cain

Brad Penny continues the gauntlet:  1.29 ERA thus far.  Cain has been his normal good self, with a 3.86 ERA, which suggests that we could end up on the short end of the stick here.  Still, Penny is not THAT good, and Cain has actually improved on his walk rate over last year, so this should also be a good battle.

Giants Thoughts

Normally, going back home would cure what ails for a team, but the Cards are no ordinary opponent, with a pitching staff that is humming along even better than our rotation (see how their #5 Jaime Garcia is doing versus our's) and a lineup that includes Pujols and Holliday.  Things do not look good for this series and the Phillies follow them, then Colorado.  At least Colorado is muddling along like we are, so they will probably be our best beat to break out of our current offensive funk.  The Giants would be lucky to finish 3-3 against the Cards and Phillies, then hopefully can grab 2 of 3 from the D-Rox.

The Giants need somebody in the lineup to step forward and break the team out of its funk.  Ideally, it would be someone atop the lineup.  A hotter Huff would work too, but he's been about what we could hope for, so that is why I think someone up top needs to heat up, who would then be followed by Sandoval and Huff.  Schierholtz has been hot, but his contributions have been muted by a bottom of lineup position.  If he were moved up and he stayed hot, that could be the trigger we need.

Some, predictably, are clamoring for Posey to join the team.  The problem is that we need a CF.  In addition, he is not doing that well in the minors, at least not well enough to say he's a sure thing to hit well in the majors immediately.  His MLE is .291/.361/.400/.761, which is good if he were catching, adequate most anywhere else, and borderline at 1B (Huff is hitting slightly better at .268/.369/.411/.780).  He is no cure-all for our offense, and could hobble it further if he struggles in his initial games like Matt Wieters did last season.

The CF who are the closest are Ben Copeland, Mike McBryde, and Darren Ford.  None of them are hitting particularly well, though Ford looks like he's perking up.  Copeland is doing OK for AAA; those numbers would be more than acceptable if he were able to duplicate them in the majors, but most likely it will take a steep plunge.  McBryde is horrible for any league.  Ford can't even hit what Copeland is hitting and he's at a lower level hitting against easier pitching.  Apparently his great spring is not translating to AA.  Plus Copeland and McBryde are not on the 40-man roster either.

I don't know how Schierholtz or Bowker would work off defensively in CF, but Nate has some speed (he has stolen double digit bases regularly in the minors) and Bowker played CF in AA and was positive defensively there in around 20+ games played.  DeRosa, Bowker, Schierholtz might be better than starting Velez or Torres in CF and the leadoff spot right now.

In any case, I would rather see Bowker get regular ABs based on what he did in AAA last season than to give it to a journeyman like Torres or a player who hasn't done it at any level consistently for a season, like Velez, while Rowand is out (can be back May 2nd I believe).  I'm still not sure where all the love is coming from for Velez, some see him as a 5-tool guy but I've really only seen the one tool, speed and SB, and even there he is borderline bad, 73% success rate, so he's not even using his speed correctly.

However, we will probably see a lot more of Velez, Torres, and probably Bowker too, because when Sanchez is finally ready to start at 2B, the Giants will need to drop someone off the 25 man roster, and they are the prime candidates right now.  Velez (according to Baggarly) still has an option;  so does Bowker.  Torres would have to be exposed to waivers, but I doubt anyone would claim him right now.


  1. Some interesting tidbits from Hank Schulman:

    First, Lincecum is 4-0 with a 1.61 ERA against the Cards.

    Second, Sandoval apparently started slow because he was still adjusting to taking more pitches, but this week against San Diego, he finally got it synced up so that he is driving the ones that he hits while also looking at more pitches.

    That is what Bam Bam has been working with him during the off-season, not to change his ways per se, but to get him to understand that, yes, he can drive balls out of the zone and get hits, but if he lays off those, he'll 1) make the pitcher throw more pitches, 2) get more walks when they are not giving him anything, 3) and the other will throw more in the zone, where he can drive the ball better and get more big hits like homers.

    That's why I love Panda and Lincecum, both were pretty darn good the way they are, but the great players then ask the tough question: how can I still improve myself? Lincecum had less to worry about, but he still added what is now his most devastating pitch, the changeup. Sandoval worked on his fielding the prior off-season, and this off-season, worked on his fitness (he'll never be slim, but he can get his percentage of fat lower and build up his muscles) plus on laying off pitches in the zone.

    There was a great story somewhere that I read, about how he learned to play catcher because he wanted to be a leader on the team (though perhaps that is the Giants story, like the one about Fred Lewis being behind because of his football then he says he don't know why people say that because he's played baseball his whole life, that it's his first love).

    There is also the story of how he learned to throw right-handed (and this I heard him say, though his English is horrible) because he wanted to be like his hero, Omar Vizquel, and play SS. Anybody who can do that has the drive and determination to do anything, I think.

  2. I like your idea of pitching wins and offense wins. I think that I am going to borrow that.

    You put some good perspective on where we are, it sucks to have a bad road trip but this is a long season and the Giants are not in a whole they are still above .500 and sitting in second place. This is not a bad plce to be at this point in the season.

    Thanks for the post.

  3. You forget Velez' most important weapon - his facial hair. That's 4 tools all in itself.



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