Game 1: R.A. Dickey vs. Lincecum
Mets: Dickey will be looking to get back to winning games. The knuckleballer has lost two of his past three starts, and the Mets lost all three times. Dickey had previously won six consecutive outings.
Giants: Lincecum finished the half on a high note, allowing one run on four hits in seven innings at Milwaukee in a 15-2 victory. The NL leader in strikeouts fanned 10 in the game, marking the fifth time this season he has reached double digits, and the 24th time in his career.Dickey has been great this season, but better at home (2.00 ERA) than on the road (3.32 ERA), though still pretty good. A knuckleballer you can't really tell how he's going to do any particular day. One would think that he would have his way with our free swingers, but you never know. Should be a tough game for Lincecum, but he got a lot of rest (didn't pitch in the All-Star game) so he should be good to go. I would call it even with an edge to Lincecum because of his past dominance.
Game 2: Jon Niese vs. Zito
Mets: Niese has arguably been the Mets' best pitcher since coming off the disabled list on June 5. He let up three runs in 7 2/3 innings against Cincinnati his last time out, but took his first loss since coming back from the hamstring injury.
Giants: This begins Zito's time of year. He's 75-40 with a 3.42 ERA in the second half during his career, vs. 65-70, 4.18 in the first. He's endured frustration in his past two outings, blowing a 7-1 lead on July 3, then being removed after 4 2/3 innings with a 6-2 lead on July 8.
I think the days off helped Zito cleanse his mental pallette, and he'll, as noted, start his "time of year." Still, Niese is pretty good himself, so I would call this game a push between the two teams with a lean towards the Mets since Niese has been doing well and Zito has been struggling.
Game 3: Mike Pelfrey vs. Cain
Mets: After a tremendous start to the season, Pelfrey has failed to complete five innings in each of his past three starts and failed to log a quality start in four of his last five. Pelfrey let up three runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Giants earlier this season.Again, two good pitchers, head to head. Have to call it even as well. Pelfrey and Cain have not been doing well in recent starts, been inconsistent. However, I would give Cain the lean because Pelfrey, during his career, has been horrible on the road, and even this season he is worse on the road, though still pretty good.
Giants: Cain, who takes pride in his durability, has maintained his workhorse status by pitching a club-high 121 1/3 innings. Assuming Cain makes 33 starts, as he did last season, he's on pace for 222 1/3 innings, exceeding his career high of 217 2/3 which he hit in 2008 and '09.
Game 4: Johan Santana vs. Sanchez
Mets: Santana will bring a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings into this game, and he has won each of his past two starts. Santana let up four runs over 7 2/3 innings against San Francisco on May 8.I have to give this game to the Mets and Santana. Not just because he's been one of the best pitchers of the last 10 years. Not just because of his 2.98 ERA. Not just because he brings a streak of 16 consecutive scoreless innings.
Giants: Sanchez is striving to reach double digits in victories for the first time in his career. Last season, he didn't win his seventh game until Sept. 23. Sanchez remains capable of dominance, allowing an average of 7.03 hits while striking out 9.03 batters per nine innings.
I have to give it to Mets because it is Sanchez starting. Not because his ERA is worse. Not because he's been inconsistent and hasn't pitched well in recent starts.
But because Santana is Sanchez's idol. Sanchez screwed up his mechanics last season because he had to imitate his idol's mechanics. However, because he's several inches taller than his idol, that just screwed him up so bad that he didn't fully fix his mechanics until his no-hitter.
He will want to do his best against Santana, his hero. However, Sanchez's history suggests that when the pressure is on, he wilts a lot. Like starting the home opener this season.
Have to give this game to the Mets, though since the Giants hit Santana hard last time, there is the chance that with Posey around now, maybe they will hit him harder and we score a lot of runs off him. But given his history of good pitching, I have to chalk up that bad outing to the luck of the draw, and now they get to face his normal goodness.
The Giants look like they will have a very tough series against the Mets, facing so many pitchers who have pitched well this season. But the Giants counter with four of their own. It looks like it will be a pretty even battle, probably ending in a draw, but there is also a chance that we might end up losing 1-3. I think the Giants need to take 3 out of 4 to make a statement on the second half. Hopefully they can carry the momentum that they had from the road trip into this series. Even better would be if Posey could continue hitting bullets.
Sabean on the Giants
Baggarly blogged on Sabean's midseason assessment. Many there were outraged by Sabean's comment about the pitching.
People need to improve their reading skills.
Sabean did not say that the pitching is not good, he said that the pitching has not been as “advertised” and that they have been “disappointing”.
He noted these deficiencies:
“Too many deep counts, we leave the defense on the field too long, too many pitches per inning.”He never said that the pitching was not good, just that it didn’t do what he thinks they are capable of. I think that is a fair assessment.
“We’ve got to throw more strikes. We’ve got to pitch more to contact. One of the things you can do for your defense is get them off the field, and we haven’t been able to do that.” [FYI: I fixed that to say "defense" not "offense"]
“And when you’re going through a spot when you aren’t swinging the bat, you’ve got to have some people putting up zeros or have one- or two-run games. And we haven’t had that. It’s been disappointing.”
Meanwhile the offense has done a lot better in improving than the pitching/fielding (defense):
Offense 2009: 4.06 runs scored per game (league average 4.43)
Offense 2010: 4.44 runs scored per game (league average 4.39)
Runs Allowed 2009: 3.77 runs allowed per game
Runs Allowed 2010: 3.75 runs allowed per game
A lot of that happened on the road trip, particularly against the Brew Crew, but still, I think it is indicative of the improvement in the team over last season.
Big Difference for Second Half: Bumgarner is now Fifth Starter
That said, I think the change to Bumgarner provides a huge boost to the rotation and pitching going forward. The Giants were 4-8 with other 5th starters, but the core group we have now were 43-33. At that winning percentage rate for the rest of the season, we end up at 89 wins, by going 42-32.
I think the change to Posey (and relatedly Ishikawa) will add at least one or two wins (versus what we were getting from Molina before), pushing us to 90-91 wins, if not more considering that our pitching staff has historically pitched better in the second half.
And that does not account for the possibility of Pablo returning to his former goodness, nor that Torres will get relatively more ABs than Rowand going forward.
If everyone else could just continue doing what they did, and only Huff was really performing above expectations (but still in line with what he has done before, so not that bad an outlier) and many were below, then the Giants should be able to finish the season with 90+ wins. Whether that will be enough to win the NL West is debatable. As I have tried to analyze, it appears that LA and SD should fall short of 90 wins if they don't add someone who performs.
I haven't tried looking at Colorado - and that will have to happen another day - but I noticed in another post that they have a very poor record when Ubaldo was not starting and he's starting to come back to human status in recent starts, which should counter the boost they get when Tulowitski returns to their lineup, but they should get an overall boost from Street returning as well. They are currently on pace for 90 wins.
What Is Needed to Get Into Playoffs: At Least 90 Wins
An analysis I did before found that the runner-up to the Wild Card team typically did not have 90+ wins. In the 14 full seasons with the current playoff format, since 1996, there has only been 4 seasons where the runner-up won 90 games or more. That seems to be a dividing line.
To win the WC or NL West, that is, to get into the playoffs, an NL West team had to win at least 90 games. 90 wins got you into the playoffs 7 of the 14 times, which is 50% of the time. 91 wins got you in 8 of 14, 92 got you in 11 of 14.
I think 90 wins seem like the probable ending for the Giants season right now. And it seems like the other teams will be right around there as well. They will need some boost to get them over the 90 win hump and into the playoffs.
How The Giants Can Get to 90-92 Wins
First off, if they can just continue doing what they have done, only being more consistent in scoring runs, they can do it. At 4.44 RS and 3.75 RA, that works out to a 92.5 win season in 162 games, or roughly 92-93 wins. Their win total now is short of that potential (though mainly, I'll bet, because of the 18 runs the scored on the Brewers; and that appears to be true, without that game, they have a 4.29 RS, which is only a 90 win rate with our current pitching/fielding), and thus regression could bring them back to the 90-92 win pace.
Other scenarios for the team to get a boost into the playoffs :
- The most likely boost is that our pitchers typically pitch better in the second half, particularly Zito and Cain. Lincecum, having a down year so far (all relative, of course, to his stellar prior years), could also perk up as well. Sanchez has been up and down, but has not had a stretch yet where he is totally dominating, which he has had in his past two seasons (in 2008, it was in May/June, if I remember right, in 2009, it was after his no-hitter). Though these are countered by the fact that Bumgarner could get shut down at some point, resulting in Wellemeyer starting, which would be OK if the spot start is in SF. Still, he'll be probably starting most of the second half, whereas Wellemeyer was starting most of the first half, so that is a boost in itself.
- Clearly, if Posey can continue to hit at an elite level for the whole second half, that would be a huge boost to the lineup, particularly if Huff continues to hit at an elite level (if Huff doesn't, then Posey would just be replacing Huff's production). That is not a given, his numbers in the minors do not suggest that he will continue to hit like this. Still, he has accomplished it so there is some ability to do that at least occasionally, regularly if he can figure out how to do that all the time. Amy Gutierrez of CSN Sports tweeted (@AmyGGiants) that "Posey has 25 RBI in 38 gms. Only 2 other SF Giants had at least 25 RBI in 1st 40 gms of their rookie yr..Cepeda & McCovey (Elias)". Pretty good company and odd that all three are players who played mostly 1B but also at other positions, though eventually Posey will mainly play C.
- Another possible boost is that the effect of the Molina trade is that we swapped out Molina's .644 OPS for whatever Ishikawa can deliver. Except for that bad start to the 2009 season going into May 10 (he hit .280/.350/.424/.774 after his early struggles), Ishikawa has been around the high .700 OPS level for his career. Even with that bad stretch, he still has 14 HR in 510 AB with an OPS of .758 during his career. If Ishikawa can continue that, that would be a good boost to the team offensively plus his defense at 1B can add a win by itself. Luckily he wasn't traded or released as some had been agitating for, for years for some.
- A hoped for boost is a return of Kung Fu Panda's bat. Recent rumors had a possible divorce distracting him, and in any case, his weight has become an issue again. Bay City Ball had a nice analysis in a recent post, where he found that Sandoval has been walking and striking out at the same rate, as well as swinging and making contact, but it is his ISO and BABIP that took a big hit this season, which has costed him. That makes a lot of sense. Whatever is bothering him is causing him to just miss on the pitches, resulting in less force and power. That means less balls driven to the outfield and dropping for hits, resulting in a lower BABIP (as these balls are caught instead), and less hits that become extra-base hits, particularly homers. But his underlying skill in judging the strike zone - in his own inimitable Panda way - remained. If he can figure out how to start swinging for power again, the Kung Fu Panda's mojo - and hitting - would return in full force. FYI, very insightful analysis there at Bay City Ball, good site to go for advanced sabermetric analysis of Giants issues. It is the site that I wish I could do, Chris has done a good job there.
- Not as significant a boost, but I think if Chris Ray can return to his former closer goodness, he would settle down the 8th inning set-up situation greatly, and make leads that we carry into the 8th be locked-down wins. That is something that we mostly had in 2009 with Affeldt doing his thing, but which he's been struggling with until recently. And if he can return to his prior goodness - and he has a nice string of good outings for a while now - he and Ray and Romo would be a really good bridge from the starter's 6-7 innings to closing for the win by Wilson.
- Not too much mention of Bowker, but he's been hitting up a storm down there in Fresno. He has suffered from the jitters of thinking too much when he's up in the majors, but if he can figure out how to calm himself down (and this has been Ishikawa's problem as well, which he solved via his faith), he could be a left-handed bat that could help the lineup against RHP that Sabean said we needed. Schierholtz is another option and he has been getting opportunities lately, but he has not been doing much with his chances. Still, if he gets hot after the second half starts, he could keep Bowker down in Fresno for the rest of the second half.