Friday, May 21, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 22-18: Licking Wounds Again, But in O-Town; Gamer-tude?

You hate to lose games like that, but when the home umpire appears to be drunk or high - there is no other explanation for what the announcers reported, a moving, ever-changing strike zone - sometimes you end with up with the sharp end of the stick in the eye.  It happens, move on, act like you've lived a little, as Gary Radnich likes to say.

But the stats are ugly, the Giants are 18-6 outside of the NL West, 4-12 playing our NL West rivals.  We are singlehandedly keeping them in the race for the pennant, even playing even with them would put them squarely behind us instead of third.  Still, we are only 1.5 games behind so it's not like it's the end of the world, unlike all the pitchforks and lynch mobs that permeates most Giants boards.

Now the Giants get to return home, but play on the road:  yes, it is time for interleague play against the A's.  The A's are also reeling from a 2-game sweep too, so one team is going to get well at the expense of the other today.  The A's have been having their problems, after a nice start, and are now 4 games back, hardly anything to worry about this early in the season, but still it will take a while to get back to the top.  I wonder if Giants fans will outnumber the A's at their park, like they did in San Diego the other day, the A's attendance has been poor and so there will be a lot of seats available for Giants fans to buy and attend.

Game 1:  Trevor Cahill vs. Zito

Part of the A's young core of pitchers, Cahill is only 22 YO, and doing pretty well, though not a league leader yet.  He has progressed this season, but his K/9 is absolutely horrible, there have rarely been any pitchers who can survive in the majors with a sub-5 K/9 (4.5 last season, 4.0 this season).   He has typically pitched better at home, but only has one start at home so far, albeit a shutout, because it appears he missed the early part of the season as he only has 4 starts so far and most have around 9.

Zito has done poorly against the A's since moving to the Giants, so the outcome of this game will hinge greatly on whether the new, improved Zito 2010 shows up or his prior self.  Pressure situations like this often cause pitchers to amp up and lose their command of pitches, though the pressure is usually all internal, because it's his old team.  He says he's fine, that it is old now, as the players he knew are gone and the treatment he got from A's fans when he did return, plus it's been so many years now.  I think the new Zito shows up, but Cahill's pretty good at home usually so it will be a tight battle, though I lean towards Cahill since he's done well at home, he's a pitcher (not a fireballer) and the Giants seem to flail against the non-fastballs.

Game 2:  Gio Gonzalez vs. Cainer

I guess the Giants lucked out with the A's, missing the starters with the best ERAs, as Gio Gonzalez has the best ERA of the three facing the Giants and he has the fourth best ERA out of the starters who has at least 4 starts so far.  Injury has taken away two, and the Giants miss facing Mr. Perfect Game, Dallas Braden.  

The oft-travelled Gonzalez, who has had two different stints with White Sox, sandwiched by a year with the Phillies, is still only 24 YO for this season.  He has improved each season, in terms of ERA, but appears to be lucking out with his BABIP this season plus he has suffered a sharp drop in his K/9, which while still good at 7.9, is not in the 9.0+ range it was before.  Now some players ratchet back that to get better command, but his walk rate, while down, isn't good yet (still over 4 BB/9) and his K/BB ratio is worse than last season.

He is slightly better at home this season, but he was worse before, which is odd because their park is a pitcher's park.  Cain, on the other hand, has improved his road numbers the past couple of seasons to be almost even with his home numbers, so this should be a good game, a tight battle as well.  What could be the tipping point is that he's a lefty and the Giants have been vulnerable to them, though they handled Cole Hamels fine, and that he has made adjustments and is pitching a bit better in May in terms of peripherals, despite his poorer ERA.

Game 3:  Ben Sheets vs. Sanchez

The A's ten million dollar man has not been earning his pay:  5.66 ERA, striking out less, walking more, giving up more homers and hits.  The good news on him, from the A's perspective, is that his BABIP is high, .331.  And, he's been pitching very well at home, he's mainly been hammered on the road.  However, he was beat upon by the lowly Mariners in his last home start, though he started looking like the Sheets of old in his prior two starts where he got 8 K's each.   He did miss all of last season, so a transition period, even with spring training, is probably to be expected.  Was his last start just a bump on the road to returning to his dominant old self?  Possibly.

Dirty has had a better month in terms of peripherals but a regression to the mean on homers has costed him in terms of ERA, doubling his April results, basically.  He has pitched well in the Coliseum before, and after two horrible starts when he was suffering from a cold, he has pitched well in sabermetric terms.  This should be another battle.

Giants Thoughts

This series seem like a toss-up.  Each are pretty evenly matched, so the edge probably belongs to the home team, the A's.  This should be another test of the Giants resolve, of their gamer-tude.  Yesterday was a horrible game.  Will that linger into this first game and result in a bad loss, which would set up a series loss?  Or will they pick themselves off the ground and battle again?


Given that the Giants have been doing well this season and the A's have not, I'm leaning towards a series win for the Giants.  I think we are seeing a new Zito, he's been showing gamer-tude all season.   Cain started showing Gamer-Tude last season.  And Sanchez, I think, is getting there.

The offense too has been showing signs of this too this season.  Beating good pitchers like Oswalt, Halladay, Myers.  Scoring a lot of runs too.  The Giants have scored at least 4 runs 24 times this season, 5 or more runs 20 times.  And the Giants were 66-15 when they scored at least 4 runs last season, 54-8 when they score 5 or more runs.  Their pitching and fielding don't need that many runs to win at a great rate, even at 3 runs they were 10-10 last season.

So far this season, the offense is 24-16 in terms of scoring at least 4 runs in the game.  The pitching and fielding are 27-13.  If we removed Wellemeyer's starts:  24-8.

Well, A-Maybe We'll Go Mit Hacker

Hank Schulman had a scoop that the Giants are close to removing Wellemeyer from the rotation (not sure if he would even stay as long-reliever) and are considering Eric Hacker, a free agent pickup who has been doing great in AAA.  At only 27 YO, he's not old enough to think that age and experience is why he's dominating down there - 7-1, 2.20 ERA, 45 IP, 38 K, 12 BB - and his MLE translates to an ERA of around 3.00, so he's doing very well so far.  

He once was a Yankee's farmhand and was with both the Yankees and Pirates last season (acquired by trade).  He a quick call up with the Pirates last season, doing nothing much, and I guess he became a 6 year minor league free agent and signed with the Giants over the off-season.  Appears to be a ground-ball type pitcher from his minor league stats.  Was never one to strike out a lot, did his job by avoiding walks and flyballs.

Bumgarner has not been ruled out, but I have to think that the Giants would rather keep him in the minors to get his mechanics straight.  While good since figuring out his mechanical problem, and great since adding a cutter two starts ago, I would rather he stay in the minors and get his mechanics going good before we call him up.  

Meanwhile, that allows us to try out Hacker, and if he fails, Pucetas, but if either does well, that gives us another trading chip or at least a qualified backup in the minors should one of our starters should go down for whatever reason.  

The main problem with Hacker is that he's not on our 40 man roster and we have no space on it anymore after Denny Bautista was called up (I believe he took Lewis' spot).  One alternative, I believe, which I think would be most likely, is moving Burriss to the 60-day DL, which would allow us to add a player to the 40 man.  DeRosa getting wrist surgery would also put him him on the 60-day DL.  Of course, depending on how they feel about Wellemeyer, they could possibly DFA him if they decided that this was all they wanted from him.  Alex Hinshaw is another possibility, he hasn't done well in AAA this season, and I read somewhere that he was on the bubble regarding the 40-man in previous discussions about who to drop.  I view this as unlikely since they could move Burriss, but you never know when they have decided they had enough, like when they let go of Billy Sadler.

Pucetas is already on the 40 man so promoting him would not require a move.  But since the scuttlebutt is regarding Hacker, they must have thought through what they might have to do to get him on the roster before considering him so seriously.

Six-Man Rotation

Plus, as I've been advocating in my comments recently at other sites (and maybe here), I think the Giants should seriously consider a 6-man rotation in August, particularly if we are leading the division by a good margin, but even if they are not.  There are 28 games in the 31 days of August, only 3 days of rest.  And there are 17 games in 17 days after the All-Star break, so perhaps they should consider doing that after the All-Star break, that's only 3 days of rest in those roughly 6-7 weeks (plus they play on Sept. 1st as well).  A 6 man rotation would simulate giving the starters an extra day of rest that they were getting in April when there is a day off and you are going with a 5 man rotation.   

I wouldn't consider this except that the Giants have a Madison Bumgarner in the minors, who should do well once he gets up to the majors.  If we were adding two mediocre starters to the rotation, then that would just hurt our chances of making the playoffs.  But adding Bumgarner and if he works out as well as Cain did when he first came up (and as well as Bumgarner did briefly last September), if anything, that would improve the rotation overall because the 6th starter, whether Hacker, Pucetas, Wellemeyer, or even Sosa or whoever (sign Pedro or Smoltz?), would get less starts overall than a 5th starter for another team would get.  Plus, this would shift our rotation against other teams so that our top pitchers will regularly face the other team's poorer starters in the back of their rotation, whereas most of our starters can hold their own against the other team's ace or #2.

That would reduce the load on our top starters (Lincecum, Zito, Cain) by 3 starts.  With 78 games after the All-Star Break, they would get 16 starts, while Sanchez and #5 would get 15 starts.  With 6 starters, they all get 13 starts, saving 20-25 innings off their arms, while also giving Bumgarner a chance to start in the majors and the #6 starter a chance to show something, whether new prospect or old vet free agent.  That would reduce the load on Lincecum's and Cain's arms from 220+ IP to around 200 IP.

This will keep our young starters' arms fresher for the playoffs plus would reduce the stress on their arms overall for the season so that it would not affect their performance as much in 2011.  Getting into the playoffs can add a lot of innings to the pitcher's seasonal total.  Sabathia had 5 extra starts and 36.1 IP added.  Krukow has noted before that it puts a strain on a pitcher's arm to jump more than 25 IP from one season to the next, that such a jump could cause performance problems the following season.  

Using a 6-man rotation would reduce the projected IP load on both Lincecum and Cain to within 25 IP of last season's totals, I believe.  In addition, it would give valuable experience to Bumgarner.  Plus, give opportunities to start to other prospects or to a vet looking for another ring and another payday in 2011.  This works on a lot of different dimensions, and if Bochy went with the pitching batting 8th lineup yesterday, going with a 6-man rotation would be right up that alley.

AL Advantage:  DH

Our lineup against Oakland should be adequate this season, unlike season's past.  AL teams have an advantage over NL teams in that they have a full-time DH who is a good hitter (last season, third best hitting line in AL), whereas most NL teams have bench players who are not as good.  With Bowker, Downs, and Ishikawa on the bench, players who are capable of doing OK in the DH spot, I think we should be OK, though Bowker is probably starting since Schierholtz is day-to-day with a bad shoulder.

Training Staff Again

Maybe it is just a fan's mis-perception, but the Giants seem to suffer from so many physical maladies that linger until they finally sit down and maybe even DL.  The latest is Nate Schierholtz, who suffered a shoulder injury on that day against the Phillies when he gunned down two runners at 2B.  He has been in a horrible slump since then, but apparently it has been that shoulder, which has gotten worse since then, and now he's finally sitting and is day-to-day.  The DL was not mentioned, but I have to assume it's a possibility if it has gotten worse after two weeks and in any case, he needs a least a couple of more days off.

Presumably, with Torres already starting and Bowker hitting that homer last night, while Nate is out, Torres will play RF and Bowker probably will platoon with Downs in LF (guessing, once Franchez returned, Bochy said that Downs would not be forgotten, that he would see time at 3B and LF).   Cahill and Sheets are RHP while Gio is a LHP.   I guess that means Ishikawa could get the call to DH the whole series, or maybe get to start while Huff is the DH, to give him some rest, plus he's the pro at DH-ing.  


  1. Also, Medders on the DL, Santiago Casilla up to replace him. As I suspected for the next non-roster player, Burriss was placed on the 60-day DL list.

    Ugly loss, but Zito actually pitched OK from a sabermetric viewpoint, the problem was that the weak popups he induced, instead of landing in mitts, fell for doubles, and he gave them all up at the same time, leading to scoring.

    Still, a loss is a loss, the A's just seem to have the Giants' number over the years.

    Go Cain, Go Giants!

  2. Forgot to mention that Renteria will be coming off the DL today - lucky because Uribe has been having health problems himself and Renteria can take over SS for a while.

    Probably Rohlinger going down, though it is possible that Ishikawa gets DFA, as many Giants fans have been calling for. I still think they are keeping him, he wasn't that bad last season.

    I don't get fans sometimes, they complain when the Giants don't keep young players - "you need to develop them" - yet willingly drop a player like Ishikawa who showed last year that he could be close to figuring things out, if only he had playing time to develop.

    I don't think Ishikawa will be a great 1B if given the time, but he would be a cheap alternative, provide great defense, plus walks and power from 1B, and he is a savvy baserunner, according to stats from Bill James (I'm hoping to write on that soon). He stolen close to 10 bases when in the minors, so his big body doesn't prevent him from being a smart baserunner.



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