Friday, June 25, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 39-32: Bogarting the BoSox

The Giants lost a tough series against the Astros.  As much as fans like to blame the offense, it was our starting pitcher, Matt Cain, who let us down yesterday.  If he had even an average outing - for all pitchers, not just for him - we would have probably won the game and the series.  It was his worse outing of the season and could cost him a shot at the All-Star game, though that is the least of our worries.  He was so bad yesterday that you have to wonder if something is up or if it was just one of those days.  His next start will give us a better indication of what might lie ahead.

Now Los Gigantes get to face the mighty Red Sox.  They have been hot recently winning 7 of 9 and 9 of 12.  However, they lost 2 of 3 against D-Rox the past three days, so maybe their bats, going from the lovely Coors Field to AT&T Park, will be out of sync.  Afterall, most reports from players new to AT&T Park notes a learning curve to how to hit here, and a number of their key hitters are left-handed:  David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. Also, Victor Martinez does not hit LHP well this season either, and while the Giants are slated still to start Martinez on Saturday, I wonder if starting Bumgarner is something the Giants management is considering, after his nice last start in AAA.

Game 1:  Tim Wakefield vs. Sanchez

MLB Notes:
Red Sox: Wakefield turned in a solid performance in his last start, giving up five hits and three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Dodgers. He left with the lead, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. The Red Sox went on to win the game on a walkoff hit by Dustin Pedroia. Wakefield has made four starts in June, going 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA. Wakefield has made just one career start at AT&T Park and it came in 2004, when he gave up four hits and seven runs (six earned) over four innings. Wakefield took a no-decision in that one. He is 2-3 with a 6.03 ERA lifetime against the Giants.
Giants: Sanchez is coming off his shortest outing of the season, a 2 2/3-inning, three-run effort at Toronto last Sunday. Sanchez walked five in that game, which the Giants still won, 9-6. San Francisco is 8-6 in Sanchez's starts. Though he has thrown only six quality starts, opponents have hit just .205 off him. Sanchez has excelled at AT&T Park, where he's 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA, with an opponents' average of .190.
The history has to favor the Giants, but given that Sanchez was bombed in his last start and that the Giants have tended to be free swingers, who are usually exploited by a knuckleballer like Wakefield, I have to call this one even, though if Sanchez can return to form, we should win.

Game 2:  Clay Buchholz vs. Martinez(?)

MLB Notes:
Red Sox: With his win on Sunday against the Dodgers, Buchholz joined four other pitchers as the only 10-game winners in the Majors this season and continues to make his case for why he should be selected to this year's All-Star Game in Anaheim. While nothing was easy for the righty in the first two innings of Sunday's contest -- the first inning required 30 pitches -- he settled down to pitch 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up only three hits and striking out four. He also did not give up a hit from the third through sixth innings. In his past eight starts, Buchholz is 7-1 with a 1.62 ERA. The righty has an overall record of 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in Interleague Play and has never faced the Giants.
Giants: While working a career-high 6 1/3 innings in his only Giants start this season, against Baltimore on June 15, Martinez allowed four runs and eight hits in a 4-1 loss. The sinkerball specialist had his best pitch working, but several grounders found holes or went for infield singles. Scheduled off-days prompted the Giants to skip Martinez's next turn, but he tuned up for his outing against the Red Sox by throwing a scoreless inning of relief, though he left the bases loaded by allowing two hits and a walk.
I would have to notch this as a win for BoSox, unless the Giants bring up Bumgarner, then I would call it a coin toss depending on how well Bumgarner does:  his 2009 MLB version or his 2010 unsteady version.  Don't see how Martinez can out-pitch Buchholz.

But all signs point to Bumgarner staying in the minors and Martinez starting.  He was pretty bad just one start ago.  Even after figuring out his mechanics and a new pitch (the cutter), he has not been shutting down AAA hitters, which means that he'll be vulnerable in the majors to being battered around.  If they brought him up, he'll be on national TV and pitching against one of the best offensive teams in the majors in Boston.  Plus, he'll be going up against a very good pitcher in Buchholz, which would make it a very hard game to win.

I don't see how they bring him up but we are not privvy to all the inside info.  Maybe Bumgarner hasn't been using all his repertoire this season, maybe he's been using his time to learn that new pitch and only recently started mastering it.  Maybe he's cold as ace and can handle the national spotlight (though his recent blowup with the umpire would suggest that he's a bit of a hot-head at least some of the time) and pitching against a top pitcher.  Maybe the Giants say screw it, so what if he's good, it's Bumgarner Time!

Game 3:  Jon Lester vs. Lincecum

MLB Notes:
Red Sox: The power lefty continues to turn in one solid outing after another. His last start was no different as Lester gave up six hits and one run over six innings against the Rockies. He walked one and struck out six, throwing just 90 pitches. Lester could have gone longer in that start, but manager Terry Francona sent up David Ortiz as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded. Lester has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. In seven road starts this season, Lester is 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA. This will be his first career start against the Giants. In his four starts in June, Lester is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA.
Giants: Lincecum has successfully put his May slump behind him by winning his past three starts. He has a 1.64 ERA in that span, a start contrast to the 4.95 ERA he logged in six starts last month. Lincecum, who has never faced the Red Sox, is 5-2 with a 3.13 ERA at AT&T Park. Of his 15 starts this year, 12 have been quality outings. He has recorded 10 strikeouts or more in four outings this year and has pitched 23 such games in his career. Facing tough opponents is nothing new for Lincecum, who has confronted teams with winning records in 10 starts. 
Should be a great battle between two great pitchers.  Toss-up, but I would note that our lineup does worse against LHP generally, so it will be an upward battle.

Giants Thoughts

Of course, it was disappointing to lose the series to the Astros, but we had two of our starers blow up on us.  That rarely happens, but one must remember that this is Minute Maid Park, which helps homerun hitting right-handed hitters but penalizes left-handed hitters and hitters who get their power from doubles and triples.   That is basically our team's main offense, at least until Sandoval gets untracked against LHP.

The Giants look to have a tough series against the Red Sox, facing three pretty good pitchers.  And it can go either way right now, though the second game looks to be pretty much in their pocket right now, and overall I would lean towards the Red Sox since they pretty much got the second game.  It will be tough to win the series against the Red Sox, but not out of the question.

Giants Gauntlet

And now the Giants are entering into a tough stretch.  First we face Boston and LAD at home, which will be tough even though they are playing at home where they have generally ruled.  Then they go on the road for an 11 game stretch against Colorado, Milwaukee, and Washington.  Coors Field always messes with our team, Miller Park has always been tough on us and the Brewers have played better in June (though the Brewers have actually played better on the road than at home this season), and the Nationals have played well at home this season and played us tough last season at home, even though their team wasn't that great.  All without a rest until the All-Star Break.

Then they start another stretch of games with no rest until August 2nd.  That is 18 games in 18 days.  Then another 13 straight days of games before the next rest on August 16th.  The 9 straight days of games before their last rest for August, August 26th.

6-man Rotation

That is why I have been advocating for a 6-man rotation.  That is roughly two months without much rest in there for the players, except for the All Star Break, which will give them too much rest then.  A 6-man rotation would result in less pressure on our young starters' arms.  Look at Cain's start last night and I don't see how you cannot help but wonder if his string of starts with over 110 pitches per game had an effect on his arm strength.  After Lincecum's skipped start the other season and his decreased velocity on his fast ball, I think it is clear that we need handle him with a little more kid's gloves.  And Sanchez has not been proven yet to go a full season.

Going with a 6 man rotation would reduce the load on the top starters by 2 starts, 3 for Sanchez and Martinez, or roughly 12-14 IP for 2 starts, 18-20 IP for 3 starts.  This would also give Bumgarner 12 starts to get his feet wet, like how the Giants did it with Cain at the end of his AAA season, bringing him up in early August.  This would also give each pitcher 6 days of rest between starts, which is basically what they were getting in early April this season when they had 5 starters plus regular days off.  April was when the pitchers all were pitching well (well, except Wellemeyer) and May was when some struggled.

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