Friday, May 14, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 18-15: Licking Our Wounds, Facing the 'Stros

Well, that couldn't have gone any worse.  And we get to face them again in SD at the start of the next road trip, after this series with the Houston Astros.  And this time we were not reeling from the loss of Rowand from the top of the lineup, replaced by an wholly ineffective Eugenio Velez.  Luckily, the Giants have been so damn good against other teams - 18-9 record against everyone else - that we are still 3 games over .500, though now only 1.5 games ahead of the surging D-gers.

But that's the NL West every year in recent years.  One teams charges to the top, other's charge up and down, usually there are changes in the leader.  It is up and down all year, very disorienting sometimes.  But do you want to be the pilot spiraling downward with no sense of the ground or the one who is oriented relative to the ground?

We still have one of the best pitching staffs around.  The offense, while clueless so far against San Diego, particularly Matt Latos, felony vandalist (idiotically flung a ball into a public parking area in SF, where people walk to and from the park, particularly people like the family of ballplayers, and luckily - well, not for the owner of the car - all it did was destroy the sun roof of the new car of one of the Giants announcers, Dave Flemming), has been pretty good otherwise against the rest of the NL, at least the NL we have faced so far.  So now we face the Astros at home.

Game 1:  Felipe Paulino vs. Wellemeyer

My recent discussion with Boof reminded me that I'm no staunch supporter of Bochy - I like most things but am afraid that he won't have what it takes to get us that World Series Championship - and this bothered me.  The talk early this week was the possibility of skipping Wellemeyer in the rotation and starting Lincecum on Friday.  Which is fine, then we have our three best starters going against Houston.  But then I find out that even if they start Lincecum on Friday, they would still start Wellemeyer on Saturday, to keep the other starters on schedule for rest.

Then why even think about doing this?  The whole thing would only give Lincecum one less day of rest and Wellemeyer one more day.  That goes totally against what Bochy said earlier about giving Lincecum and the other young starters plenty of rest to keep them fresh later in the season.  And, frankly, as far as I'm concerned, Wellemeyer is dead man walking, holding the spot warm for Bumgarner later in the season (and which I was hoping for since we signed Wellemeyer).

Plus, which would you rather do, have Lincecum face Paulino and Wellemeyer face Oswalt?  That would assure one win and one loss.  Whereas with this configuration, we have a good chance of winning both.

Paulino is 0-5, 4.67 ERA, walking way too many batters.  Wellemeyer has even worse looking ERA but the key thing is he's pitching at home, where he has a 3.31 ERA so far.  And the one time Paulino pitched here, he was bombed for 9 runs in 2 innings, by our poor offensive team from last season.  Have to lean in the Giants favor here for this game.

Game 2:  Roy Oswalt vs. Lincecum

Oswalt righted himself after losing to the Giants, he's got a 2.63 ERA now, but he's facing Tim Lincecum, with a 1.86 ERA overall, 2.01 ERA at home this season (and wow, he's been basically the same home or road his whole career).  And it is not like Oswalt did that poorly in his game against us, it was not like we owned him, it was just that Lincecum owned Houston.  Plus, Oswalt has not done well in AT&T, 4.39 ERA, good K/BB, but poor K/9 and thus a lot of hits.  He's good, but Lincecum is better, but still, he's good, so I would lean towards the Giants as this is certainly no gimme, even if it is a Lincecum day.

Game 3:  Brett Myers vs. Zito

Myers has also righted himself after losing to the Giants, he's got a 3.52 ERA now.  Zito has been nothing short of amazing this season, but he was back to his old ways in his last start.  Has the wheel gone off that bandwagon?  I don't think so, I think Zito should have a good start.

However, he'll need to because Myers has pitched pretty well against the Giants in SF.  Only two games, but if you look at his K/BB and K/9, he has been dominating.  He pretty much shut them down in his last time here and the one where he was bombed the prior start, it just looks like one of those days where the balls just fell in (or perhaps Pat Burrell was playing LF), as he still struck out 6 in those 4 IP.

I think the rubber game is a toss-up, both pitchers should be going good, plus Myers is a LHP, and the Giants have been scuffling against lefties lately.

Giants Thoughts

After the tough sweep at the hands of the 'Dres, the Giants get another tough series against the Astros.  Still, they have a good enough chance of winning the series, though also a good chance they might lose.  It looks like it could go either way, but I lean towards the Giants because we have a good chance of winning the Paulino start and strong possibilities of winning the Oswalt start.  And we will need a series win because we face the 'Dres for a two game road trip after the Houston series, and Sanchez gets to face Latos again (three's a charm, hopefully, for us).

DeRosa is expected to sit out this series.  He has gotten a cortisone shot to help the nerve problem calm down and the timetable right now is to see where it is at on Sunday.  If it's not getting better, he'll probably go on the DL.  Baggarly reports on it here and Schulman here, and it sounds like the Giants are not even sure if surgery is needed to fix things up, at least not immediately (it does sound like there is a "good chance" that it will happen eventually).  Sounds like the Giants are going to try all options up to re-doing the surgery to get DeRosa contributing this season.

I really like Schulman's take on it, I think he nailed it.  Every signing involves risks and obviously the Giants have lost their bet so far.  But the game isn't over yet, in their view, whereas most people act like the two years are up already and we are ready to judge.

With DeRosa out, Bowker and Torres look to be getting starts based on a platoon basis, though I assume that if Bowker is hitting well, Bochy will keep starting him.  I do like how Bochy handles his hitters in general, unlike fans who bury a player forever or fall in love with another, I have not seen Bochy do this much, though many fans think he does.  He gives his players chances to play, even if he hasn't delivered this season, based on prior good performances.  But if the players cold, he will give others the opportunity to start and see what they can do.  He can't help it sometimes if everyone is slumping, he goes with the vet.  I would too, that is proven prior performance.  For the young guys, you give them rope but at some point you have to look elsewhere if they are not performing, and particularly if suddenly someone else is performing.

If he really had anything against using Bowker, as some have commented at sites I go to, he would not have been getting occasional chances to do something, he would not have gotten the chances to deliver in key pinch-hitting spots, and would not have gotten the start yesterday.   I'm still hopeful for Bowker to deliver, but with Schierholtz hitting, I would give him the job too.  Whoever is delivering, whoever wants it more, whoever, it seems for our young Giants, isn't pressing more.

ogc'ed:  Defending Sabean

As I noted in my comments, can't be more succinct than DrB in his comment on his site here.  Also, I liked what some guy wrote on MLBTR, he said he was "ogc'ed" when I replied to a comment of his:  so I recently ogc'ed someone on Extra Baggs:

Defending Sabean is easy:  Best rotation in the majors once Bumgarner is ready, by far, 1 to 5, possibly one of the best rotations in a generation or two (I can only think of the Orioles rotation in late 60's and early 70's), great bullpen with possible improvements lurking in the minors, we have potentially one of the best hitters of his generation in Sandoval and Posey looks to be just as good and at catcher, they should make our middle of lineup look great from 2011-2015 at least, and there are a lot of good prospects in the minors who could become solid cogs on the team of the '10s, Belt, Noonan, Kieschnick, Crawford, Neal, Sosa, Gillaspie, Joseph, Adrianza, Peguero, RafRod, Stoffel, Dominguez, Perez, Pill, Tanner, Bond.

You don't throw out the baby just because the diaper is dirty.  And if your GM isn't making mistakes, he's not trying hard enough to win, there are going to be mistakes made because the process is imperfect, humans are imperfect.  You have to look at the big picture and know which mistakes are forgivable and which are not.

The rotation could be the equal to the Giants lineup of the 60's and the Bonds prime lineups, and studies by Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times show that it is pitching and fielding that gives a team a competitive advantage in the playoffs, that offensive might provides no advantage in the playoffs.

Offense is not a core competency, for those of you into business strategy, it is just hygiene, for those of you into Geoffrey Moore, of Crossing the Chasm fame:  something your business needs to function but not critical to the long term success of your company.  And for that Moore recommends that you outsource that function, which, in baseball, means you go to hire free agents.

But unfortunately, this is not like a grocery store, when you need a great hitting OF, all there is is a great hitting 1B and maybe he doesn't want to play in SF.  So rebuilding an offense is never a quickie, it takes time to do that so that the offense is good enough to win with the great pitching you have put together.   Fans need to be patient with the process.

I can only imagine that Bobby Cox probably got all these comments while he was rebuilding the Braves.  6 years of wretched losing, the Giants only had about two years plus two more years of bad enough losing.  But it takes time to rebuild correctly.

And look at how he rebuilt them.  The hitters come and go for the most part but was anchored by Chipper Jones all those years.  Sandoval is hopefully that hitter for us, but it could be Posey too.

But it was their pitching that carried those teams, that was their identity.   And what a rotation that was, especially once they signed Maddux:  Maddux, the premier pitcher of his time, Glavine, and Smoltz.

We have our Maddux in Lincecum, then have Cain, Sanchez, and Zito as well, if he can continue pitching like this, well, that is a huge bonus.  Plus we have Bumgarner who should be joining soon enough.  And Wheeler looks to be good as well.

The Giants are set to be one of the dominant teams of the 2010's and all you Sabean Naysayers can do is sturm und drang about past mistakes.  They happened:  get over it.  Open up your eyes and see the team as if you were looking for a team to follow for the first time and you didn't know what a GM is.  Then maybe you will focus on the most important point:  the Giants have a great team and a great future.


  1. Yes, the Braves were good for many years anchored aound a staff of Maddux, Glavine & Smoltz. Yes, the Giants can possibly have a staff that is similarly anchored.

    However, the Braves were not a on-dimensional team built solely around their pitching. They also had better tahn average hitters throughout their good years which is where they differ from the Sabean-led Giants. They had real hitters like C. Jones, A. Jones, F. McGriff, M. Grissom, J. Lopez, D. Justice, R. Gant, T. Pendleton, etc. Hell, they even had D. Sanders & G. Sheffield for a short time. All real hiiting talent that the Giants sorely lack.

    This is where your comparison does not hold up as the Giants only have a piece of the picture. That is why the Sabean nay-sayers are critical of his performance. It's not because we can't see what good is there, but we also see what is sorely lacking and the half-hearted attempt to address it year in an year out with past-their-prime veterans. That formula is tired and played.......and so is Sabean.

  2. That's where you fall down on your criticism. I'm aware of all the players you mention. I'm also aware that Cox lost horribly for 6 seasons in order to give him time to gather all those players and prospects together. It was in his 7th season that the players that produced actually started winning. Next season would be the 7th season after the losing started.

    You all have been on Sabean's back for a number of years now. You wouldn't have given Cox such a long leash either. Yet, see what he did in those six years.

    If Sabean were to duplicate what Cox did, we would still be losing big time with the team we got. We would be looking to finally win in the 2011 season. Next year's team would be the proper team to compare with the early Braves, in terms of how long it took the team to turn around from losing to winning and gathering good players together.

    But I know details like that bore you because this is not the first time I've written this.

    In fact, we've been like those two half-white, halt-black aliens on that classic Star Trek episode, always battling, always repeating the same things.

  3. The thing is, there is one area that Cox failed in, and that is in the area that is considered the best thing he put together, his rotation. Great rotation, yes, but in recent research studies of what brings success to teams in the playoffs, Baseball Prospectus analyzed that and found that it was teams that had high K/9 pitching staffs that derived competitive advantage in the playoffs.

    As great as Maddux was, he was never a big strike out guy. Neither was Glavine. Only Smoltz was.

    Lincecum and Sanchez are big K/9 starters and Cain, while not as good as those two, is still better than Maddux was most of his career. Bumgarner looks to add another one to the rotation. This is the reason why I would rather try to figure out the offense without trading off one of these pitchers.

    Another area where Cox fell down in was developing a great closer. BP found that the teams that did derive competitive advantage in the playoffs had a closer who had a high WRXL (their proprietary closer metric).

    Wilson is not the best, but for the years 2008 and 2009, only four closers had a higher WRXL both seasons and only six had a higher WRXL total for the two seasons. So I would say that he's among the better closers in the league, in terms of consistency (both years he was middle of the pack in terms of WRXL).

    I don't know how those Braves teams did defensively. I know Andruw Jones was among the best when he was at his peak. I don't know how the Giants compare today either, for some reason BP stats is available for almost everything except for defense. Makes me think that they gave up on that, maybe, or took it away to re-tool since UZR and similar defensive ratings, came out.

  4. OK, I've thought of a way to compare both teams on a more even basis, to make it a fairer comparison.

    Boof listed many, many great names, but they were not all there during the developing years when they were rebuilding from a losing team to a winning team. Let's compare based on the number of years since the losing started and from which the team had to rebuild from.

    In their fifth season after the losing started, the Braves had these starting players (including closer) with OPS+ or ERA+ greater than 100:

    * Jeff Blauser 108
    * Lonnie Smith 168
    * John Smoltz 124
    * Marty Clary 116

    They had four in total. The Giants in 2009, their fifth season after the losing started had:

    * Pablo Sandoval 142
    * Tim Lincecum 177
    * Matt Cain 151
    * Barry Zito 108
    * Jonathan Sanchez 103
    * Brian Wilson 160

    The Giants had six such players. And I would say that the quality of our top players was better too.

    So yeah, the Braves had all those great players on their teams, but they were all added after they were done rebuilding, very few of them were around and doing well when Cox was assembling the team.

    And good thing they did take longer, if they had pushed to win after four seasons, they would have missed out on drafting one of their key puzzle pieces, Chipper Jones, in the 1990 draft, which they earned by sucking (63-97) in that 5th season. Clearly, the Braves would not have been as good as they ended up if they never picked up Chipper Jones in the draft.

    And what the Giants may lack in hitting talent, again, I must point out once more that Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times determined in two separate studies, using two separate methodologies, and both came to the conclusion that it is pitching and defense that helps teams win the playoffs, and they both found that offensive prowess, however you wanted to measure it, did not affect (at least significantly so) the teams' chances of winning in the playoffs.

    So Boof, you and all the people who bemoan the lack of hitting talent on the team, at least according to two of the leading sabermetric analyst groups, are worrying about things that don't matter when talking about winning in the playoffs. The studies show that you could have the best homerun hitter ever, the highest scoring team, and that would not improve your chances of winning in the playoffs. So why is it so important to you that the team is not developing great hitters?

    For all these reasons, I would prefer that the Giants figure out the pitching first, then cobble together a good enough offense to support the pitching (while keeping good defense in mind, on an overall basis).

  5. Oh, I just realized that Boof's point was about hitters and that I didn't update the list of players to compare.

    So basically the Braves had Lonnie Smith and Jeff Blauser.

    And the Giants had Pablo Sandoval.

    Even though they had two of them, I think I would rather have Sandoval over the two of them.

  6. You don't understand the so-called "offense doesn't matter in post season" argument. Almost all teams who make the post season have at least average offense. Basically all those analyses show is that when teams with roughly equivalent offenses meet, pitching and defense decide. The fictional Giants playoff team won't meet a roughly equivalent offense. They'll meet a superior offense and a roughly equivalent pitching staff. If the Giants weren't involved, who would you like?

  7. Hey, thanks for the shout out, OGC! Yes, I pretty much agree with your thesis here on Brian Sabean. The man obviously has flaws, but most, if not all, GM's do. Remember when Billy Beane was the greatest GM of all time? I think Beane is a good GM, but he has his flaws and not all of his moves have panned out either.

    One thing I really like about the Giants current approach is that even with the extra expenses of Timmy, Cainer and Wilson they are still being aggressive about acquiring young talent in the system and aren't afraid to look to to the long term future by drafting HS players, signing young international talent, and trading for young talent like the Escobar kid they got from the Rangers.

    I am more excited about the long term future of this team than at any point in my memory, and I go back to the mid 60's as a fan.

  8. It is not with roughly equal offense, I don't know where you get your information, but I have BP's book and it states that it does't matter how great your offense is, so there is no qualification regarding how equal those offenses are. I believe that THT's study said basically the same but I haven't re-read that in a while.

    Therefore, as long as the Giants score enough, whether average or not, to win with their pitching, they will make the playoffs and be able to compete with the teams there.

    Even if the Giants were involved, I like Phillies, Cards, Braves, and Rockies. I don't think the Padres pitching will hold up over a full season, particularly if the hitting doesn't start. I think the Braves pitching will settle down, particularly with Medlen in the rotation.

    I think the Giants chances are improved with their pitching but I don't think that it guarantees anything in the playoffs. The way I read BP's book is that the playoffs is governed by a lot of random factors that pop up in short series, so even with their pitching, the Giants would still have a hard time getting to the NL Championship round, let alone the World Series.

    But I think that they are maximizing whatever chances that they have in the playoffs, if they make it, and I think the team is set up to win something eventually with the pitching we got.

    Sure, the offense might be lacking a bit this season, but once Posey is prepared to hit in the majors, we should be OK with him and Sandoval in the middle of our lineup.

    Right now, I just want to get into the playoffs and see what happens. Expecting to win it all with this team is pushing it, but I think getting into the playoffs is doable and with our pitching, they could do more. It'll be interesting and exciting.

  9. No problem, DrB, you're welcome! I have enjoyed your rundowns of each game and particularly of the minors, and you have a lot of knowledge about the minors that I don't see elsewhere.

    Yeah, I agree on Billy. It seems that nobody gets on him for letting go of good players for little or no compensation (as I've been saying forever, the draft picks are crapshoots) and particularly for giving a huge contract to the one player he probably should have let go ahead of everyone else, Chavez, that probably killed his chances during the life of that contract. He's made a lot of mistakes too in the free agent market and he killed his farm system as well (because you cannot effectively rebuild your farm system while winning), but nobody is willing to touch him in the blogs because he's like the patron saint of sabermetrics and thus they let him off easily. And while there are good trades, I never hear about how he traded away Ethier. I should write on this sometime.

    Yes, that is a great point about their current approach, about their willingness to look long term while the team is battling to make the playoffs now. That should pay off in the long run in building a dynasty.

    Totally, I agree that this is the most excited I've been about the Giants franchise in my nearly 40 years following (1971 was my first season so I guess this is my 40th season!).

    Excited about the present, excited about the future, excited about the possibilities.

    We've certainly never had a pitching rotation like this. And as much as people have bitched and moaned about the offense, the team is averaging 4.40 runs scored per game, slightly below average, and teams with dominating pitching have won in the playoffs before, with the D-gers being a big example of that in the 60's.

    But with Posey around the corner, I'm not too worried about the offense for the future.

  10. There is simply much more random variation possible on the pitching side than there is offensively. A hitter half as good as the league leader would not even be playing, whereas a pitcher would be about average. Same applies to staffs or position players taken as a group.

    I appreciate the trip down memory lane re: the Braves, but remember they had pretty heavy roster turnover during their run and those hitters are spread out over a decade plus. It seems like a spurious comparison to me.

    BP's study of post-season success is well-trodden ground and is quite striking. Your starting eight are your starting eight, but in the playoffs you can use the cream of the pitching staff (almost) as much as you want. Three starts by Lincecum in 7 games isn't dominant? I'm never sure why people don't acknowledge that short series are different than a six month season.



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