Monday, May 17, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: Deja Vu All Over Again: Who's Their Dre-ddy?

Nothing like a sweep to get the nasty taste of getting swept by the 'Dres out of your mouth. Them getting swept by the D-gers is nice too, though that keeps the D-gers only 1.5 games behind us and 2.0 games out of the lead. I don't like the D-gers winning, but when you sweep, you gain on somebody and that's good.

Now they get to face the 'Dres again, but on their home turf, get another chance to slay the monster in the closet. Every year there always seem to be a team that, for whatever reason, just beats up on the Giants. The 'Dres has been that team this year. Solving beating them would do wonders for not only our record but for getting into the playoffs. The Giants are 21-9 outside of playing them, though to be fair, outside of Houston too, they are 15-9. With only a two game series, it would take a sweep to gain anything, and it will be a tough series again.

Game 1: Clayton Richard vs. Matt Cain

Hard to tell what's going to happen with Richard. He was not a heralded prospect in the minors, only getting prospect status late in his minor league career, jumping to #5 in 2009 ChiSox Top 30 by Baseball America. As BA noted, he "rarely was considered more than a fringe prospect before 2008." But with a sinker that can get a lot of groundballs, he was able to take leaps and bounds and has been a good pitcher over the 2009-10 seasons in the majors with his stuff. But Minor League Baseball Analyst only rated him a #5 starter and BA wondered if he'll be better off as a reliever.

Still, he has been doing well, and if anything, has been very unlucky against left-handed batters this season. His low K/9 and K/BB (plus high BB/9) is countered by his strong 1.78 GB/FB ratio. The key plus for him is his low HR/FB he's had so far this season, only 2.7% vs. 10.9% his past two seasons (11.3% with San D last season), so unless Bud Black has figured out a way for Richard to be unlike any other pitcher in the majors, that imbalance in homers hit per flyball should correct itself this season. However, that does not mean the Giants will be the one to correct that.

He's a better pitcher at home but Cain has been a good pitcher on the road the past two seasons, so like last week, this should be a good matchup, may the better man win (of course, that means Cain :^). I think I would lean towards Cain though, he has dominated in San Diego previously, and as I noted, he's improved on the road, and Richard should be expecting regression in homers sooner or later.

Game 2: Mat Latos vs. Jonathan Sanchez

Latos, on the other hand, has been a highly touted prospect, BA had him #2 last season on the Dres' Top 30 and Minor League Baseball Analyst rated him a future #2 starter. However, BA noted that his "questionable maturity" caused him to fall in the draft but that his "raw stuff is ridiculously good." (which manifested itself in last week's thrown ball breaking Dave Flemming's car's sunroof, which could have severely hurt or killed someone; about as smart as people who fire their guns into the air when celebrating) They also noted that "he ends to reject structure, lacks a commitment to improve and rubs teammates the wrong way with his flippant attitude." (if I didn't mention it, the reason he throw the ball out of the ball park was because fans in the stands were yelling at him to throw them a souvenir ball and he thought it was funny to throw it to them like he's doing them a favor but throw it over their heads instead, out of reach).

But immature adolescents can do well in the majors and he has, which probably justifies his behavior in his mind. And his minor league stats seem to support his performance in the majors thus far. He gets a ton of ground balls, as well as also getting a lot of infield flies as well, so his low BABIP will not necessarily regress over time. He has also been unlucky with the long-ball this season, so that regression will help him greatly, as it's at 15.2% HR/FB when the mean is 10%.

However, while his ERA is better at home, he's shown much better peripherals on the road. His minors suggest that he's not as good as he has been on the road nor as bad as he's been at home. But he's been on a good streak, with consecutive shutouts (2 hitter and 1 hitter), so he's probably going to be tough again.

But so will Sanchez, who has pitched very well against the 'Dres - he seems to have their number - and so it should be another great battle, hard to say who would win, but given Latos two great games, have to lean towards him.

Giants Thoughts

So there will likely be a split this series, but given our bad streak so far against them, we could get swept again. That's baseball sometimes, just goes back and forth for a team, and some team for some reason got your number.

But the Giants has been good overall against the other teams, winning series against teams we might face in the playoffs if we make it (Braves, Colarado, Marlins, Phillies, Cards), and luckily has beaten up on the Astros, which makes up for for their futility so far with San Diego.

Plus, outside of the Giants, San Diego is only 16-15. So, as the season progresses, I expect us to pull away from the 'Dres, as their pitching staff gets off their hot streak, reverting closer to their career numbers, and their poor offense costs their good but not great pitching to lose games.  I like Kevin Correia, but if he's the ace of your staff, you are going to fall back down to reality at some point.

Their dominance of the Giants is the only thing keeping them in the race so far, just one win in each series by the Giants would have resulted in the Giants leading SD by 3.5 games and simply one win period would mean a 1.5 game lead.  The change due to one game is huge.

Though if their hitting prospects like Blanks and Venable starts to hit, their offense would perk up a lot, and they probably miss Everth Cabrera a lot, though he had not done much this season so far before going on the DL.  A-Gon has also been a bit cold too, him heating up would boost things as well.  Nobody has really been hitting well, it is all their wild base stealing that has propped up their lousy offense enough to win games with their good pitching.  Their numbers look amazingly like the 2009 Giants, except that they don't have anybody in their rotation to compare with Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, Garland has been lucky this season with them, only Latos look like he would be comparable in terms of talent and abilities.

Meanwhile, the hot D-gers, on a 7 game win streak, should get a kick in the gut if/when Andre Ethier goes on the DL for a broken pinkie. I don't see how he can hit with it, in an ESPN article, he noted that he uses the pinkie as a leverage point in his swing, plus, as Torre mentioned, in any case, he will have to have the finger in a splint. I don't see how any hitter can hit with his finger immobilized in a splint, and further, I would think that would invite a lot of inside fastballs up on his hands.

So, again, the Giants get another chance to make a statement by taking two games from the 'Dres. The Panda, in particular, will have to come out of hibernation and start kung fu-ing the ball again.  He appears to be warming up a little the past week, but needs to bring back the power to his swing.  The key thing is that during his cold streak, at least he hasn't been striking out a lot, he's been very good in terms of not striking out a lot, the problem has been that his batted balls have not been falling in like it used to.  His .173 BABIP will not persist.  And in the past week, his strikeout rate went down and he got his first walk in a while.

It also appears that Freddie Sanchez, who has been hitting well in the minors, will get called up today while DeRosa gets DLed.  That would push Downs out of the lineup but hopefully will solidify our #2 spot in the lineup, which has been in flux since Renteria went on the DL (he should be coming off soon himself).  Downs had done well initially but his batting line has been falling in recent games, so the switch would be a good time to do.  Downs saved us when we lost Renteria, so he did well for us.  

While I'm not still sold on Torres, he has been great taking over the starting spot in LF in DeRosa's absence - appears that the Giants are not sold that Bowker is ready yet - and his numbers this year is basically the same as last year.  He has been killing LHP pitching again, but amazingly has been holding his own against RHP.  If he starts regularly against RHP, though, his overall batting line will fall as he's still facing more LHP than RHP and a starter typically faces RHP 3 times as much as LHP.  Still, ride him while he's hot and see how far he can go.

In any case, Schierholtz has cooled off since his 3 hit game, and he will need to heat up again in the next week or two, or he'll go back to sharing the RF job with Bowker.  Hitting in an extreme pitcher's park like SD will not help, nor against two hot pitchers.  But then two games in Arizona should help.  I've been rooting for Nate for a long while now, but he'll need to start hitting to keep the job, he can't get hot for two weeks then go cold for two weeks, like he did last season, if he hopes to hold the starting job.  But as long as Bowker hasn't figured it out either, neither will have a tight hold on the job.  Ideally, though, at least for the long run, both starts hitting, having too many good hitters is always a good problem to have.

I still don't care for Molina batting 4th but with Sanchez back, the lineup probably will be:  Rowand, Sanchez, Sandoval, Molina, Huff, Uribe, Schierholtz, and Torres.  Sandoval should really be our cleanup hitter, a better lineup for right now would probably be this, putting speed up top:  Torres, Sanchez, Schierholtz, Sandoval, Huff, Rowand,  Molina, Uribe.  Uribe has been cold since taking over SS, and I think Schierholtz would see more fastballs hitting ahead of Sandoval and Huff.  Plus, the #3 hitter, unlike conventional baseball theory, is not a key hitting spot, OBP is wasted there, according to The Book, by TangoTiger, MGL and Patroit, the 5th best hitter should go there.  So you could swap Uribe and Schierholtz then, depending on who you think is better, or even put Molina there is you think he is better.  What they found is that the #3 hitter often comes up in situations where there are already two outs, so getting on base is not as valuable there, in terms of scoring runs overall.

What was not discussed was how valuable it is to score first in a game.  I'm not sure how to research this, but I recall a stat somewhere that said that Giants did well when they scored first.  Looking at their record when leading, once they get the lead, the Giants have held it for the most part.  Bochy likes to bat Sandoval 3rd because then he would be sure to bat in the first inning and maybe get something started.  But I just think he'll be more valuable driving in the runs from the 4-spot.

10 comments:

  1. Without looking at the numbers, it sure seems like the Giants have struggled on the road in San Diego ever since Petco opened. It seemed like even Barry Bonds couldn't hit worth a darn there! What's different so far this year is the sweep up in SF. Now THAT hurt!!!

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  2. You are mostly right DrB, you hit the nail on the head, these are the Giants W/L in Petco since it opened:

    2004: 4-6
    2005: 2-7
    2006: 7-3
    2007: 1-8
    2008: 7-2
    2009: 2-7
    2010: 0-3

    The Giants are 23-36 there since it opened, they lost more in their first 4 seasons there (24) than they have won in total (23).

    The Giants had been in the pattern of alternately good/OK and then bad until this season so far. They would have to win 4 of 7 (assuming 7 games left) to equal the 4-6 that they had their first year there and sweep the rest of the games to match what they did the last two alternating years when they won 7 games those seasons.

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  3. I guess Sanchez is not ready. The Giants tweeted that DeRosa has been placed on the 15 day DL and Velez has been called up.

    Did not see that one coming, maybe another pitcher because we have so many guys who can play 2B as well as OF but then could give some innings to a minor leaguer to see what he got if we should get into a blowout sometime.

    I guess they are more worried about having another bat on the bench ready to deliver offensively than pitching, probably because Petco park is such an extreme pitcher's park.

    As poorly as I think of Velez's batting skills, he is the most experienced player on the 40-man roster who is not on the 25-man roster at the time of his call-up. The next guy with the most experience would probably be either Posey or Gillaspie, due to their September call-ups previously, with Gillaspie probably having more days in the majors credited to him, but it would be pretty close in terms of days or PAs.

    If the Giants were extremely bold, they could have brought up Bumgarner as PH, because he can hit very well, plus give him a start in place of Wellemeyer, then send him back down. However, that would have caused the fanbase to go into conniption because then they would want the Giants to keep him up, so I understand why, from a PR standpoint, they wouldn't do it.

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  4. Oh good God......I really can't stand that f%#&*@^*)ng Velez. Why won't he just go away?

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  5. A win at last, a win at last, glory be, a win at last!

    And ironically, given Boof's comment, it was Velez who drove in what was eventually the winning run.

    Not that I'm that big a Velez fan. I would have dropped him and kept Fred Lewis around instead of trading him. He's doing for the Blue Jays what he would have done for us, could have done for us now that DeRosa is DLed and perhaps out long-term this season.

    Man, Torres is starting to win me over. He strikes out way too much for most hitters to keep a good batting average, but his speed appears to help him get on base enough to keep that BA up. Meanwhile, he walks enough to get his OBP to OK levels and has enough power to do damage regularly. And he has PLUS defense to boot in all three OF positions.

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  6. I meant to also mention Lewis and what he is producing for the Jays. I will never understand why the Giants opted for Velez over Lewis. It just makes no sense.

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  7. Well, unfortunately, we don't know the psyches of any of these players.

    What I read is that Lewis had reached the point where he didn't believe he would get a fair chance with Bochy, and basically even if we kept him he wouldn't have done much for us. Sometimes people just need to move on to reach their potential.

    But he deserved to sit, Giants fans were blinded by his hot first three weeks, but from April 19 to June 11, basically 2 months and 43 games played later, he was hitting .214/.292/.345/.637 with 40 K's in 145 AB, only 14 walks (3 IBB!), only 3 HR. Bochy gave him 2 months of playing time before he shut him down for a long period, how much more playing time was he suppose to give him to figure things out while we are battling for first place?

    While I prefer him over Velez, I have no doubts that he'll hit another frustrating cold streak, he actually was hitting pretty poorly for the Blue Jays his first couple of weeks, .200/.250/.311/.561 but then got hot in May, literally to the day.

    Still striking out a lot, hardly walking at all now, 2 HR in 76 AB (remember, he balked at batting leadoff because he considered himself a middle lineup hitter), huge BABIP (.463) right now and once that corrects, his batting line will be ugly and the honeymoon would be over for Blue Jays fans.

    For example, in the euphoria of his hot start to May, roughly week and a half, since then he is hitting .259/.286/.370/.656 (8 K's in 27 AB) in a week's worth of playing. Which is the real talent level? I think both, he's always been hot and cold, you just hope he's hot when you are starting him.

    And, in any case, the offense isn't going to come close to making up for his defensive shortcomings. The stats in baseball-reference.com (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lewisfr02-field.shtml) show that his defense is costing his team anywhere from 1-2 wins per year, and his offense is nowhere nears that good. His UZR/150 on fangraphs (http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=4693&position=OF) has him losing nearly 4 games per year in LF for them.

    So team hoping to be a championship quality team shouldn't have him as their starting LF. But as the 4th OF, I think he's invaluable because he can bring near-starter offensive stats when the starter is out or just needs a rest. And with our strikeout staff, there's less balls making it out to LF for him to make errors on.

    I only hope that what we get for PTBNL is tied to how he's doing and not for cash (but I expect the latter).

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  8. Lewis is not without his flaws, and he is not the ultimate answer.....there is no debate aout that. However, when you compare Lewis' skill set with Velez's, it should've been a no-brainer as to who should've gotten that last slot.

    I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what the Giants' fascination is with Velez. He really can't play defense at any position. He has speed, but is not a good base stealer. We've all seen what he can do at the plate and there are hundreds of players that can do what he can. He's not even good at executing the fundamentals. Last night was a perfect example of that. Downs gets on base as the leadoff hitter in the 9th inning. Before Velez even gets in the batters box, Krukow is talking about how this is a bunt situation, but says that Velez is not a good bunter. He attempts one and the camera cuts to Bochy saying to another coach that he didn't give him that sign. The mere fact that the manager has no confidence in him executing the basic fundament of bunting exactly when you need it the most speaks volumes about him. He eventually popped out to 2B making an unproductive out in a tie ballgame. That is Velez in a nutshell.

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  9. According to reports last season plus some advanced defense stats, Velez has actually been an asset in the outfield, particularly LF and CF. Hard to remember, but he's basically been an MI during this career until recently, and never really played full-time in the OF until recently.

    Lewis, as I noted, was defensive-challenged the past two seasons.

    So it becomes pick your poison. Lewis helps offense, but you lose on defense, while Velez is good on defense while sometimes offense challenged, but sometimes good on offense.

    I still like Lewis more than Velez, but I think people make too much of, worry too much over, the 25th man on the roster, which Velez is, basically. He is the bottom of the OF depth chart. I would have preferred Lewis but in this regard, I'll defer to the Giants on this one. They see something they like about him.

    Improved defense is good. It took Pedro Feliz a while to finally figure out how to hit, maybe Velez just needs time, he's now 28 but was slowed by Toronto's handling of him. The Giants have been positive on him since they took him from Toronto (ironic, now that I think of it :^), so there must be something they like.

    There is nothing wrong with his not being a good base stealer. With work that can be improved. Meanwhile, according to Bill James baserunning stats, he was very good overall, one of the best on the Giants team in adding bases via his speed. He and Torres, plus Lewis, despite him missing big chunks of the season in AAA.

    Also, the way Torres is hitting and playing, even if we kept Lewis, I would continue to start Torres, he seems to be better right now, plus he knows how to steal and play defense, his main problem prior in his career was his inability to hit. As improbable his batting line looks, now he has done it over two seasons now, and his BABIP, now that I looked at it, isn't that out of line with his minor league numbers.

    I'm not going to quibble over the 5th OF, which Velez is right now, but would have preferred Lewis as that backup due to his offense. But at 29, Lewis' defense should not be getting worse, it should be getting better, these are his peak physical years.

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  10. Wow, that was quite a beating, clearly the worse of the season. There are going to be those type of days for every team, but I'm sure the chicken lunatic fringe are out running around, stating that the sky is falling. Again. It gets so old.

    It was also a We'll-lose-a-meyer type of day. Baggarly notes that he could be skipped on his next start because of an off-day. The Bumgarner watch begins, as he lowered his ERA again with a fine effort (DrB notes his great last start here: http://whenthegiantscometotown.blogspot.com/2010/05/down-on-farm-05-17-2010.html)

    Here's wild thought: maybe we'll just start him at home, stick him in the rotation at home, take him out on the road.

    Put that with my idea of a 6-man rotation when there is few off-days in August, and that will save a start or two off the arms of our young starters.

    Because every skipped start right now means another start on another of our top 4 starter's arm. While Zito probably can take it, I would like to lessen the usage on the young hurlers' arms.

    And, particularly if we do make the playoffs this season, our starters will have an extra load on their arms that they will have to handle, which could affect their performance next season if they are overstressed.

    Thinking off the top of my head, could this be what caused Sheets health to finally go off the rails, the Brewers making the playoffs?

    Still, other pitchers pitch regularly into the playoffs, like the Yankees and Red Sox pitchers, and they seem to survive for the most part (Chien-Ming Wang, however, didn't and he was one of their young guys).

    News I forgot to mention was the consequence of Freddie Sanchez being added to the 25-man: who gets optioned off the island? Unsurprisingly, it was Eugenio Velez.

    People had problems playing him while he was up here, but he's up here, we don't have that many bats on the bench, particularly right-handed ones with both Uribe and Torres starting regularly now, heck, even Downs too. And Rohlinger will be around because the plan is for him to be our future Uribe, the handy utility MI who can play SS, 2B, and 3B, so he'll get his chances to contribute later, whereas Velez's time up was fated, tied to Sanchez's rise.

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