Friday, July 30, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 58-45: Need to Do It Again, Win Series Vs. LA!

As I noted, it would have been tough to take the series from the Marlins, 4-games series is a different beast because of the extra game.  We broke even, at least, and we could easily have lost the series as well.  I give the Giants plus points that they were able to win the game against Josh Johnson and  score 3 runs on him when no team was able to do that for almost three months, since the early parts of the season.

Their offense is rightfully questioned, but one key characteristic is that they are not afraid of the good pitchers.  They started the season beating Roy Oswalt - who the Phillies happened to just picked up, and thus make our hold on the Wild Card playoff spot more tenuous - and have steadily beaten or scored more upon top pitchers along the way, including now Halladay, Ubaldo (scored 7 runs in an inning off him when his ERA was almost Gibson-like), and Johnson (his ERA was Gibson-like still, and unlike Ubaldo, who was scuffed up the start before the Giants, was still on a great streak; though the Giants didn't exactly kill him with 3 ER, but still, good enough for the win).

Now we head into August with a 3 game set against LA.  It is just the first of consecutive series against playoff contenders and, as I noted before, the Giants won't get much rest:  they get the Monday after this series off, but then play for two weeks without a break, then play another two weeks before their next break. It will be a tough month.

After LA, the Giants get 2 in COL, always a tough proposition, even with them scuffling right now and about ready to call it a season after their closer got hit in the groin area by a line drive - he went in and out of consciousness three or four times - then a four game series against the tough Braves in Atlanta, which will be hard to break even, let alone win.  Then we are home for 4 against the Cubbies, so that'll be a break, but then play 3 against the 'Dres at home, then road for 3 at Philly and 3 at St. Louie, before coming home for 3 against the Reds.  That will be a tough 12 games wherever they are played.  Then we end the month with 3 against the D-backs and 3 against D-Rox, all at home.

Stupid LA, they lose 2 of 3 against the 'Dres, didn't do us (or themselves) any favor.  Put us back at 3.5 games back.  Not sure why, but 2.5 games back seem really close while 3.5 games puts the fear in me.  I wonder how the psychology of that works.

In any case, I'm sure both teams will be pumped up for this series after all the hit-batsmen drama in the series this season.   Plus, of course, this will be the Giants chance to put down the D-ger Dogs and the D-ger's chance to climb back into relevance in the playoff chase.

Playing at home, the Giants need to win this series.  Since splitting a 4-game series in Colorado at the start of July, the Giants had won 5 consecutive series, in spite of the fact that there was three 4-game series in that stretch too, before splitting with the Marlins.  If they can put together one or two more 4-game series wins in August, we should be OK in the playoff chase come September.  We just need to battle the playoff chasers to .500, though particularly need to win the series with the teams just behind us, Phillies, Reds, D-gers, while taking care of the bottom dwelling D-backs, D-Rox, and Cubbies.  Still, going to be a tough month with the rare day off.

Game 1:  Carlos Monasterios vs. Lincecum

MLB Notes:
D-gers:  Monasterios is looking to build upon a strong outing last time out in which he shut out the Mets for five innings. The righty will be making his eighth start and 22nd appearance of the season.
Giants:  Lincecum is coming off an outing in which he held the D-backs to two runs in eight innings. The start before that, however, was a rough one against the Dodgers. Lincecum lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits and three walks.
Monasterios has a great ERA overall, but all of that was as a reliever.  Good offensive teams, like LAA and BOS have took him apart, and COL and STL did OK against him, whereas he took care of the poor offensive teams, like PIT, NYM, ARI.  With the surge this month, the Giants are now an above average scoring team.  They should take him apart.

Too bad we couldn't flipflop our starters so that Lincecum faces Billingsley and Zito handles Monasterios, that would give us a good chance of winning both games (or if we had faced Ely in game 2 as their rotation had worked out).  This should be a win day.

Game 2:  Chad Billingsley vs. Zito

D-gers:  Billingsley will be pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career. He is coming off six scoreless innings against the Padres after a shutout of the Mets.
Giants:  Despite saying he knew he didn't have his best stuff, Zito tossed his 16th quality start of the season in his last outing, equaling his 2009 total. On July 21 against the Dodgers, Zito took the loss while giving up two runs in 7 2/3 innings.
From what I recall, we were suppose to get John Ely in this series, which would have given us a great shot at winning the series and outside chance of sweeping.  From my counting and per the note above, they moved Billingsley one day up, giving him short rest, in order to place Kershaw into this game of the series, he having just served his 5-day suspension, conveniently enough, allowing him to pitch in this game.  Looks like the D-gers planned ahead.

Billingsley is young but this is the dog days of August.  If the short start don't affect him in our game - and despite his good outing last time and his youth, it should - it should affect him in future games.  But the D-gers had to make this move, because had they had Ely going instead today, odds would have been strongly on the Giants winning the series.  Now they have a fighting chance.

Then again, maybe not:  Billingsley has pitched on 3 days rest before and he got bombed.  That was two years ago, and it was at the start of the season, when he really should have been fresh, relatively, because he relieved in a couple of games to start the season, then started and then got bombed in Arizona.  He was still not fully in the starting rotation yet, though, so perhaps it was youthful inexperience?  Then again, he had a great season in 2008, but relatively average the last season and a half, with roughly a 4 ERA.

However, Chad has done well against the Giants in the past, both at home and in SF.  And he has been so good here in SF, 3.12 ERA in 9 games, 6 starts.  And he had a good start against us earlier this season.  Of course, though, it should be noted that the offenses he faced before were significantly weaker than the one he will be facing in this game.

Zito had a rough start in his last start, but has generally been much better in the second halves of seasons.  And he was just a bit unlucky too in that start, giving up so many hits and homers.  Also, he has not done well against the D-gers at home, with a 4.91 ERA in 8 starts in SF.  But that is mostly bad history working against him, he has a 2.18 ERA vs. LA this season in three starts, and he has handled them well in each start, giving up 1, 2, 2 runs.  This is the new improved Zito of this season, knocking down our hated enemy.

This should be a tight game and I would lean towards Zito because of the negatives regarding Billingsley and the positives for Zito, but because the stuff usually hits the fan in games versus LA, so you never know, plus Billingsley has done well against us previously, I would have to call this pretty even, could go either way, even if Zito has a well-pitched game again.  The offense will need to stretch their muscles this game and take him down like they had other good pitchers this season, as I noted above.  If they can take that step forward against him, that would be another good sign for us should we get into the playoffs.

I wish there was a way to see how the Giants do against different levels of pitching talent.  Much like how DrB noted on his site about college games, where you can better evaluate college hitters by how they do on Fridays when they face the other team's ace, rather than Sunday when they face lesser talents, I would like to see a way of doing that for the majors.  It could be as easy as taking the pitcher's ERA for his career or for the season, and categorizing all the games based on that, I would think, though recompiling the lists would be harder to do if you base it on the pitcher's ERA for that season.

Game 3:  Clayton Kershaw vs. Cain

D-gers:  Staff ace Kershaw returns after serving a five-game suspension, facing the same team that got him in trouble when he hit Aaron Rowand with a pitch. Kershaw is 9-3 since May 9.
Giants:  Cain allowed four hits -- two homers -- in his last start, a no-decision against Florida. Cain has never beaten the Dodgers, going 0-8 with a 4.32 ERA in 14 starts. On June 29 against L.A., Cain gave up four runs on seven hits in five innings.
Meanwhile, Kershaw is getting 6 days rest.  Not sure why they did that, they could have took the suspension right after his last start and then he could have started yesterday against Zito with Billingsley vs. Cain.  Admittedly, this works out better for them, as they match their ace up against Cain, who is arguably better than Zito, and perhaps they are looking down the line at a future series in terms of lining up who starts against certain teams (it does put him right at the start of their next series against LA, but then we avoid Billingsley.  

But overall, he is their Tim Lincecum, with his career following much like Tim's, average first season, then two great seasons after that.  However, unlike Tim, he's been worse on the road than at home, 4.00 ERA away, 2.62 ERA home.  However, he has never started in SF and in three starts in LA, has handled the Giants pretty easily

Meanwhile, Cain has a 3.18 ERA at home, so it mostly look good for the Giants.  However, Cain has a 4.32 ERA in 14 starts against LA, ending up with an 0-8 record against LA, and it has been his fault at least part of the time.  And he has been horrible against them in SF, with a career 4.99 ERA in 8 career starts plus a 5.0 IP, 4 ER loss against them earlier this season.

So I will have to call this even, unfortunately, for while Kershaw has a lot of negatives involved with him, Cain just has a bad history against them.  Cain, as strong of mind and mature, as well as precocious, as he has been  in his career, he has not been able to get it together against the D-gers at home (he kills them in LA, ERA-wise though, not wins-wise), for whatever reason.  It would be a huge step forward for him if he could get that dog off his back and beat the D-gers in this start.  And would make the chances of us winning the series that much better.

Giants Thoughts

D-ger series are always tough, no matter how good or bad either team is.  It reminds me a little of the Cal-Stanfurd football rivalry in that way.  Both teams need to win the series, or better, sweep, and obviously one team will.  The Giants, whether by luck of scheduling or whatever, have their three best starters going up against them.  We luck out and get to face one of their lesser and/or unproven starters in Monasterios.

Though luck out is why I like the Giants rotation as is and want to keep it that way, unlike all the calls to trade one away and accept Wellemeyer or Martinez as the 5th starter, as while we "luck" out, the other team never lucks out.  We usually get to face a bad pitcher at least once in every series now, plus maybe one or two middle of rotation starters as well.  However, we put up starters who could be the ace or #2 of almost any other staff in baseball with the guys we have right now.  Sanchez and Zito are probably our worse pitchers in the rotation and yet they would be considered one of another team's top starters on almost any other rotation in baseball.

However, we might not be as strong for a while since Wellemeyer is almost ready to come back.  If the Giants give Bumgarner the next start on the road, then switch to Wellemeyer, who should be ready by the next start at home against. the Cubs, he would start 4 of 5 starts at home:  Cubs at home, San Diego at home, Cards on road, Reds at home, and Colorado at home, to close out August.  Meanwhile, that would put Bumgarner in our bullpen where he would get less innings and be our lefty setup guy.

Anyway, the Giants rotation look to be rock solid for years to come, and with our offense gelling in July, this is a glimpse of how the Giants could look like in the coming years.  As I've been advocating for the past few years, the team is pretty much following the path it has followed since the Bonds era passed:  focus on a great rotation, great bullpen, good to great fielding, plus a renewed focus on drafting hitters and finding gold nuggets (Torres and Uribe last season, Huff this season) along the way.

Particularly Torres and Huff, they have been godsends, exceeding all expectations.  And Torres we should control for a number of years, and then we could trade him once/if Gary Brown is ready to come up, while Huff might be willing to sign on with a discount because he has enjoyed this season so much, certainly not as low as the $3M this season, but maybe we can get him for $6-7M for one to two years and option.  

They with Posey and Pablo would make a great top to middle of the order, then we can fill in the rest of the lineup with Ishikawa, Sanchez, Bowker/Schierholtz, DeRosa (assuming he comes back in 2011), and hopefully Uribe at SS, though he'll be in demand to start at SS.  Our lineup can look pretty good in 2011 if things fall our way and we can sign guys.

1 comment:

  1. SWEEP! Are you ready for July Part 2?



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