Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 AFL Rosters Released

The rosters for the AFL have been released.  The Giants team is the Scottsdale Scorpions and the prospects playing this season, at least at the start, are:
  • Brandon Belt, 1B
  • Charlie Culberson, 2B
  • Conor Gillaspie, 3B
Oddly enough, there are only three Giants on the team this season. Colorado has seven prospects, Baltimore eight, Washington six, Arizona seven. I think the Giants usually have five or six usually, but then again, I guess there were not a lot of prospects who did well enough to fit the slots the Giants are allowed, they are only allowed to include prospects who fit their slots.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 72-59: Must Clobber Colorado

Well, as I noted, the Giants had the bad luck to face the D-back's two best starters in their rotation right now, and it was not just the Giants who have not done well against the two of them, it has been every team so far, and now including the Giants.  At least that finally pulled out a win in the third game.

Now they face D-Rox, which has been working their way closer and closer to us, winning 6 of their last 7 games (including sweeping the Braves) and are now within 3 games of the Giants.  The 'Dres have been having their own problems, getting swept by the Phillies, so the Giants actually gained a game on them and are 5 games behind them now, but also 1.5 games behind the new wild card leader, the Phillies.

Game 1:  Jorge de la Rosa vs. Sanchez

MLB Notes:
D-Rox:  De La Rosa threw one of his best outings of the season, striking out seven and allowing just two runs against the Braves on Aug. 24. The southpaw appears to be regaining the dominant form of late last season.
Giants:  Sanchez has been almost incapable of thriving in back-to-back starts. But his inconsistency might bode well for him against Colorado, since he yielded five runs and six hits while walking three in 4 1/3 innings against Cincinnati.
De la Rosa is D-Rox's version of Sanchez, you never know when he's going to throw a gem or a stinker.  However, this season, he seems to be good for one start each month, then OK to poor ones the rest of the month.  They mention how good he was in his last start, but he was just as good in a start at the end of July, but then spent most of August not being that good, with walks being his big problem.   Historically, however, he has dominated the Giants in SF.

Sanchez is a bit of an enigma to fans, but really, he's been great for a 4th starter.  It is hard to look good in a rotation with Lincecum and Cain in it, and he looks bad in comparison, but for many clubs, his production would earn him the #2 spot in the rotation.  A pitcher who can keep his ERA around 4 every month in the 4th spot is gold.  However, he has not pitched well against the D-Rox in his career, not surprising for games in Colorado, but also in SF too, even worse ERA.  He will need to man up for the Giants to have a chance to win this game.  Have to call it even with a lean towards Colorado.

Game 2:  Esmil Rogers vs. Bumgarner

D-Rox:  Rogers was lit up in his worst start of the season when he gave up eight hits and seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Braves on Aug. 25. A nine-run comeback got him off the hook.
Giants:  There has been a pronounced difference between Bumgarner's performance at AT&T Park and away from it. The 21-year-old rookie is 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA in five home starts, compared to 5-2, 2.62 in seven road outings.
Esmil has been hot and cold this season.  Even against the Giants, he was battered early in the season, then shut them down in the long extra inning game we lost to them.  Bumgarner has been wildly inconsistent too, not pitching that well at home, though not as bad as intimated above, he has had good games and bad games.  

The good news for Giants fans is that Colorado does not hit has well against LHP as they do RHP.  And it was really just his last start at home that was so bad for Bumgarner, though it does bring up the concern that Bumgarner, having pitched more innings than ever before, might be tiring, but then again, it could just be that the Reds are a very good offensive team plus the weather in that series was abnormally hot, which made the park a launching pad similar to Coors in its heyday, according to the Giants announcers.

Given how well Bumgarner has pitched in general and how poorly Rogers has pitched, this should be a Giants win.  

Game 3:  Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Lincecum

D-Rox:  For the fourth straight start, Jimenez was denied what would be his big league-best 18th win of the year on Aug. 27, which would also break the franchise record for wins in a season. He's allowed 10 earned runs in his last 28 innings.
Giants:  Lincecum probably has never been so happy to see a month end. He lost all five of his August starts, posting a 7.82 ERA. He'll face Ubaldo Jimenez, to whom he lost, 4-0, on May 31. Lincecum's career record in August is 4-6 with a 3.70 ERA.
Ubaldo has returned to Earth, as expected, but Lincecum has pancaked on the ground, and until he shows otherwise, we'll have to assume bad Timmy is pitching.  It would have been a nice battle if Lincecum was up to his usual standards, but right now it looks like a D-Rox victory, particularly given that Ubaldo is pitching for them.

Giants Thoughts

Another tough series to win, it will be up to our starting pitching to man up and start performing up to the high standards they have set up for themselves.  We cannot afford a sweep at their hands, as that would allow them to tie our record.  So it is key that the Giants win one of the first two games in this series.

I don't know why so many Giants fans are running around like the sky is falling, though.  This is a good team with a good future, barring a series of catastrophic injuries to our pitching staff - not impossible, but with the number of good pitchers we have, that is insurance for any particular season.    I've enjoyed this season immensely.

But perhaps it's because I set up my expectations correctly, which I try to do every season.  Some seem to think "World Series or it is not worth it".  Well, good luck to them, but I would be in the loony bin if I were like that.  Others just hate Sabean and can see beyond their hatred to see how good a team the Giants have.  

This season is working out about what I was expecting overall, roughly on a low-90 win total, though I'll grant that the pitching has not done as well as I had hoped, but then again, the hitting has done better than expected, overall.  That's just part of the ups and downs of any MLB season.  I don't expect the playoffs, but with a low 90's win total, you usually make the playoffs.  

I see this season as another step in the maturation of the team.  I had hoped that they would have been more competitive and get it out of their system last season, but the thing is that many of these players are still young and get amped up when the situation gets amplified.  We have seen this, for example, all along in Lincecum's career, his first pro game, his first MLB start, his first season opener, etc., he gets amped up and pitches a terrible game.  It takes time and experience to get over that.

I also see that in how both Lincecum and Sandoval has done this season as well.  Both have been successful beyond hope and wish, and being young, felt that they could continue like that forever without taking care of their body, and conditioning it in preparation for the season.  And some never learn it, for example, Rowand finally got it this past off-season, but whereas others would do disciplined/organized gym work and the like, he rode his mountain bike for fitness, which would be great if he was riding a bike in the outfield.  

But I think Lincecum is finally seeing that he can't continue like he has been the past two seasons and still dominate hitters like he had previously, and he'll also won't have the distraction of the arbitration hearing either, so I expect him to return to normal next season.  I just hope that he doesn't do something to his arm/body this season that would hurt him for next season.  Sandoval hopefully will continue his workouts and diet control this off-season, without the distractions and temptations he was getting at home.  If he's in the San Diego area, maybe Zito and/or Wilson can clue him in on that personal chef service that helped them stay slim and fit.

So if the Giants don't make it, so be it, I felt that this would be a season with growing pains, as they adjust to success and the spotlight, as they get over their youth and immaturity.  I also saw it as a transition year as I was counting on Posey and Bumgarner to join the big club at some point, but not be the full-time contributors as we hope they would be in the future.  I'm glad that they were not brought up earlier, as many said that they should have been, I don't think either was ready, Bumgarner particularly, to start the season with us, plus this allows us to gain another full season control of them, in their prime, a key benefit that most of the "experts" who said the Giants were foolish, seem to forget about.  Seems like most people only care about today, right now, they don't look into the future and think strategically about that.  

However, I expect a lot more next season, they should be getting into the playoffs with no problem, and ideally winning the division.  I thought SD would be good, but not this good, and I think they were lucky in that Richard and LeBlanc have both been pitching much better than their performances in the minors would indicate.  I expect both to regress to the mean next season, which would hurt them greatly.  LA will be sliding further down with the divorce dragging them down.  It will the D-Rox who I expect to be competing, once again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 71-57: Time to Crush the Weak D-Backs

Before the series I would have been happy winning the series 2-1 against the Reds and Dusty, but that loss hurt so bad after that magnificent comeback.  However, I blame the umpire for helping cost us the game.  Observers said that he was not calling a strike on any of Zito's curves and was very inconsistent in his strike calls.  The MLB and the umpire's union should be ashamed.

The good news is that everything is all relative, and the Phillies got swept by the lowly Astros, so the Giants are back in the wild card lead by half a game.  And they now play three against the D-backs, while the Phillies play the 'Dres.  Hard to say who to root for, other than I hope that one team or the other sweeps, so that the Giants can gain a lot on the losing team.  Of course, ideally, if we sweep and Phillies sweep, we move to 3 games back of the 'Dres.

Game 1:  Barry Enright vs. Lincecum

MLB Notes:
D-backs:  Enright is alright. The rookie right-hander stood toe to toe with Ubaldo Jimenez on Saturday, yielding one Rockies run in 6 2/3 innings. He has begun his MLB career with 10 straight starts of three runs or less allowed in five or more innings.
Giants:  The losing streak continued for Lincecum in his last outing, when he gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings to the Cardinals. In his last outing against the D-backs, Lincecum held them to two runs on nine hits in eight innings.
The Giants just seem to be facing a bunch of good young starters lately.  Enright has done pretty well so far, but oddly enough, has a reverse split, RHH are killing him, while he handles LHH.  If Bochy goes with a strict platoon lineup, he could shut down the Giants.  Luckily, Posey should start, Sanchez too, probably Burrell too, at minimum.

Still, under normal circumstances, Lincecum would be strongly favored in this game, but after losing four games straight for the first time in his career, it is no slam dunk.  Still, looking at his peripherals, if he were really as wild as some are saying, he would not be able to:  1) strike out so many, 2) walk relatively few relative to strikeouts.  Thus I think it is a bit of bad luck and that he'll have a good start sooner than later.  But will it be this start?

I'll just have to call it a toss-up, unsure who either pitcher might do.

Game 2:  Dan Hudson vs. Zito

D-backs:  Hudson shut down the Rockies for seven innings on Sunday. He allowed just four hits and, throwing more sliders, struck out nine. In his first five D-backs starts, the rookie righty has gone seven or more innings and yielded three runs or less.
Giants:  None
Another good young starter for the D-backs.  Got him in the Edwin Jackson trade, so they got a pretty good pitcher in return, plus another prospect.  Flew up farm system from low-A to majors last season, had problem with walks earlier with White Sox, but he has been great so far with the D-backs.

Zito will need his A-game for the Giants to have a chance against Hudson.  He had a bad outing in his last start, but has generally been good  in the second half, and he will need it to beat Hudson.  I think it will be a good battle between the two, hard to call.

Game 3:  TBA vs. Cain

D-backs:  No notes at this time.
Giants:  No notes at this time.
Cain has pitched very well this season, again, and is doing well in the second half again.  The D-backs were scheduled to start Rodrigo Lopez, based on turn, but for some season he's not listed.  No matter who it is, I would have to lean towards Cain in this one.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants have dominated the series so far, going 7-2, and thus have 9 more games against them, starting with these three.  San Diego has played most of their games and have gone 10-5 so far with 3 more to go.  I think the Giants will need to repeat if they want to have any hope of catching San Diego, but at 6 games back,  they probably need to worry more about winning the Wild Card, which means winning every game that they can, anyhow.  

A sweep would be ideal, but the bad news is that the D-backs are a new team under interim manager Kirk Gibson.  They are 12-12 under him, while 50-78 overall and despite a poor 3-7 in their last 10 games.  The young pitchers are helping a lot, and thus the Giants are unlucky in that they are facing probably their two best starters at the moment, both Enright and Hudson have been very good, particularly Hudson.  Lopez, should we end up facing him, has not been very good.  

So despite their poor record and all, the Giants could very well lose this series, if Enright (4-2) and Hudson (3-1) continue their dominating ways.  The Giants will need to win one of those games if they hope to win the series, as Lopez we should beat with Cain going for us.  He has pitched once here, last season, and was bombed in that start, the Giants should give him a good beatdown if the offense is working.  

It will be interesting to see whether the Giants offense can keep up their scoring prowess during this series.  The extreme heat made the park more of a hitter's park, but as Jon Miller noted, it has been hot before and the Giants never scored so many runs in a series.  And even before that, Sandoval and Sanchez were heating up, Huff too, all the new guys have been hitting well, and Torres has been his relatively steady self, Burrell too, so far in August.  The Giants have averaged 4.61 runs scored this month, but unfortunately, the pitching has given up 4.78 runs allowed per game.  Hence why they are only 11-12 this month.

Thus as interesting as the hitting has been, the starting pitching will need to get themselves squared away, beginning with today's start for Lincecum, and continuing through the rest of the rotation.  The Giants will not be making the playoffs if they continue to give up 4.78 runs per game.  Don't need sabermetrics to see that one.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 69-56: Need to Get Red-Assed to Beat Reds

The Giants had a 2-4 trip and it could have ended even worse, though the result is not that surprising either, particularly once Garcia was moved up to face us (he probably took the lead for good in the NL Rookie of the Year voting with that performance, pushing Posey out of the way, unless he gets plastered in September, as this is his first full MLB season), plus the Phillies and Cards are two very good teams and we were playing them on the road.  That's why they call it the home team advantage, it is pretty tough to win on the road against good teams (hence why the Giants are 37-23 themselves at home).  

Now it's the Giants turn, they get to be home for 9 games, first against the Reds, then D-backs, and lastly against the fading D-Rox.  The Phillies are now our most immediate concern since they took the wild-card lead from us, and they get 4 at home against the suddenly competitive Astros, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, before heading on the road for 7 games, including a makeup game in Colorado on September 2nd.  They will go almost a month without a day off, last one on August 16th, next one on September 9th, though luckily for them, they can bring up a lot of players on September 1st, to give some rest.

It should also be the Cards' turn to have a tough stretch, they have 17 games on the road over the next 20 games, though the teams will not be all tough, in fact, some easy teams:  Pirates, Nationals, Astros, then home against Reds, before road for Brewers and Braves.  The Cards have only been 26-31 on the road, so the Giants will need to get some separation from them during this stretch.

And the Giants will have a bit of a home advantage vs. our two most immediate rivals for the wild card over the rest of the season (games remaining at home and road):

Team - H - R
Giants - 21 - 16
Phillies - 17 -22
Cards - 17 -24

If the teams play according to their current winning percentages at home and road, the Phils will end up with 91 wins, the Giants 90 wins, and the Cards 89 wins.  I would note that this does not account for strength of schedule, but is probably close enough with so few games left.  So the Giants will need to step it up if they hope to make the playoffs via the Wild Card.

Game 1:  Edinson Volquez vs. Cain

MLB Notes:
Reds:  Volquez was hit hard in his last start, allowing six hits and five runs to the D-backs. The outing came on the heels of three consecutive one-run starts, during which Volquez looked like the dominant pitcher he was prior to his injury.
Giants:  Cain allowed five runs in six innings last Wednesday at Philadelphia, but second baseman Mike Fontenot's fielding error made three of those runs unearned. Cain has upheld his reputation as a workhorse by averaging a staff-high 107.6 pitches per game.
Volquez has faced the Giants once in SF before and shut them down pretty well; that was in 2008 season.  But that was before we had Torres, Huff, Posey, and probably Sandoval too.  Generally, he has done well on the road (4.16 ERA) but Cain has done even better at home (3.15 ERA) and that is also his ERA against the Reds in SF as well.  On top of that, Volquez's only really good game was his first start after getting off the DL, he might have had a nice streak of one-run starts, but his peripherals were pretty bad with a lot of walks.  He has had 2 DOM starts, 3 DIS starts, out of 7 starts.

Cainer has been generally good in the second half and tends to do better in second half, the Phils are just a good offensive team.   I would lean towards Cain for this game:  Volquez has been on and off all season, so it could be a tough game or it could be a short outing for Volquez, but either way, Cain should have a nice start, given his good history against the Reds and that he pitches better at home than on the road.

Game 2:  Travis Wood vs. Sanchez

Reds:  Wood returned from a brief stint in the Minors to post a solid start, throwing 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a win over Arizona. His previous outing, made with Triple-A Louisville, lasted two shutout innings, during which he allowed three hits.
Giants:  In one of the best starts of his career, Sanchez allowed only two hits, both by Shane Victorino, while pitching into the ninth at Philadelphia. His victory ended a streak of 14 consecutive outings without a win by Giants starters.
Hard to call this game, as Wood is a rookie, but has been very good thus far this season, and has pitched well against some good teams, with a good number of DOM starts.  But he is a LHP, and the Giants have a pretty good lineup against LHP now, particularly with Cody Ross to platoon with Torres in CF now, he has a career batting line of .289/.348/.597/.945 against LHP.  That plus Posey, Huff, Burrell, Guillen, and Uribe, plus a resurgent Sandoval, who hit his first homer vs. LHP the other day, should give us a good chance to win the game, particularly if Sanchez can deliver another good start.  I would lean towards Sanchez for this start

Game 3:  Homer Bailey vs. Bumgarner

Reds:  So far, so good for Bailey in his return from injury. In two starts, he's thrown 13 innings, allowing seven hits and one run. His most recent outing, a 3-1 win over the Dodgers, lasted seven innings, during which he allowed one run and fanned six.
Giants:  To be announced.
Homer was the Reds equivalent to Bumgarner, except that he's been more like a Mike Remlinger, Mark Grant, or Kurt Ainsworth, than a Bumgarner, for the Reds.  However, he's been very good in stretches - I thought 2010 might be his breakout season after he ended 2009 very well; so did Reds, he started out season with them before DL - and is in the middle of a very good stretch now, after coming off the DL, with two 5 PQS DOM starts.  But still, his ERA for the season is 4.52, and he was pretty bad to start the season before throwing two good starts before a DIS start that led to him being DLed.

Bumgarner (not sure why he hasn't been announced, he pitched a great game in his last start), meanwhile, has been everything as advertised, except for his hitting, and I expect that to resolve itself soon after he blasts his first homerun.  He has handled good teams well in his starts, but I'll give nod to Bailey for his good pitching since coming off the DL, and call it even with a lean towards Bumgarner.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants are still in a good position to make the playoffs.  Certainly nothing slam dunk, but they have a fighting chance, I think, for the wild card slot.  With our main competitors for the wild card on the road extensively for the rest of the season, relative to the Giants, that helps us a lot, I think.  

The division title, however, looks to be out of reach soon, even if the Giants do well on this homestand.  The 'Dres have played much better than I thought they would, and though their pitching is still suspect down the stretch because of IP issues for their three young starters (and no real prospects for replacements in the minors, meaning they would have to trade for replacements), they could be so far ahead, it would not matter, as they play Arizona 6 times in the next 9 games and at home for16 of the next 19 games, ending with 4 games against SF.  The other games are against Colorado and LA, and neither have been playing well recently either, and those games are in SD, plus they get three against Phillies at home (good time for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley to start slugging upon their return from DL)..  

While the pitching has given cause to worry, I think they have just been having a stretch of bad luck, Lincecum, in particular.  While not up to his prior high standards, Timmy has not pitched that particularly bad either, from a peripheral standpoint.  He was two outs or one less hit away from a DOM start in his last outing.  And his main problem the past few games has been that batted balls have been falling for hits, otherwise, he has not walked that many (that is, high K/BB ratio) and he has struck out a lot of batters still.  He should be fine as soon as the hits stop falling in on him.

The Reds look vulnerable against the Giants in this series.  We have good matchups though it won't be easy  as their starters have been pitching well recently and they could just as easily win this series as lose it.  Still, I like the Giants chances to win this series, even though the Reds are tough on the road, they actually have as good a record on the road as at home right now (36-26).  I just think the matchups work well, I have a lean towards the Giants in each game.

Go Giants!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 68-54: Getting Carded

I have to admit that the Dres are showing more balls than the Giants right now.  Their pitchers have come up big in August while the Giants have struggled until Sanchez's masterpiece versus the Phillies yesterday.  The pitchers have let us down during this critical stretch.

But this was something that could have been foreseen beforehand, once I thought about it.  Each has had their moments when they got tight and overamped and performed poorly.  This is part of the learning process, which I frankly thought would not kick in until September.  Hopefully the Giants have had the spell, the tightness, broken by Jonathan Sanchez's great start yesterday, along with the offense taking down Cole Hamels, who had been incredibly good for over a month up to yesterday's start.  This continues a pattern during the season where the Giants offense have come up big against the opposing teams ace or very good starter.

Now they face the Cards for three in their pitcher's park, so the offense might be a bit stymied again.  Homeruns and runs are hard to come by there, HR's are depressed 20% below the average park, runs almost 10%.

Luckily, we avoid Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia, but still, Westbrook and Carpenter are bad enough, the Giants could lose another series, but the Cards are losers of four straight, and to losers like the Cubs and Brewers, so their tail should be between their legs right now.  Still, they had just swept the Reds in an emotional 3 game series in Cincinnati, so perhaps they used up their adrenaline in that series and has just been tired since.  Not sure why the starter of the third game is not announced, Kyle Lohse just came off the DL and should be the starter in that game, but if they decide to move up the starters, they did have a day off on Thursday and could start Garcia on 4 days rest.  I guess I'll have to update this post once things are clarified.

Game 1:  Jake Westbrook vs. Bumgarner

MLB Notes:
Giants:  The young lefty took a no-decision in his last outing, a duel with fellow youngster Mat Latos of San Diego. Bumgarner threw seven strong innings, allowing two runs on eight hits, for his first quality start in two outings.
Cards:  Westbrook has been everything the Cardinals hoped since they acquired him. He's pounded the zone, with 19 strikeouts against two walks. And he's been an absolute ground-ball machine to boot, with only four flyball outs in three games.
Does not look good for the Giants, Westbrook has been on a roll since the trade and Bumgarner has been up and down in recent starts, though he had a good one in his last start.  However, Bumgarner has shown a lot of guts so far in the majors, so I would expect a good tight game, but with a lean towards Westbrook and his veteran savviness.

Game 2:  Chris Carpenter vs. Lincecum

Giants:  In his last outing, Lincecum struck out the side in the first inning, seemingly warning everyone he was back. Instead, he allowed four runs in the second inning and exited in the fourth, giving up six runs (five earned) in 3 2/3 innings.
Cards:  N/A
If Lincecum is back, this should be a battle of the ages between two Cy Young caliber starters.  If Lincecum is still struggling, it could be a massacre for the Giants.

Game 3:  Kyle Lohse? vs. Zito

Giants:  N/A
Cards:  N/A

Zito had a pretty bad start last time, but he was basically doing OK until they finally got to him in his last two innings.  But zero strikeouts showed that he was just running on fumes and that he would inevitably be knocked out.  He probably should have been taken out after the 5th, then we would have still been close.  I would chalk that up to him being human and not having great stuff and luck every time he starts.  He had been aces in the starts before that since the All-Star break and he is normally a great second half starter, so one would think he should have another good start, particularly in a pitcher's park.

However, he has a horrible track record in St. Louis in this park, though he was unlucky in his last start here, he had nice peripherals, so maybe the balls were falling in for that game.  Still, bad history is not a good thing. Another potential positive is that he has handled the Cards in AT&T, so maybe it is just a matter of time.

If it is Lohse starting against the Giants, then I would have to think it should be a Giants win, but if it is Garcia, then he has actually pitched better with 4 days rest than 5 days, and in that case, it would be a tight battle, could go either way.

Giants Thoughts

As I noted, this would be a tough stretch of games.  Of course, we want our heroes to win every series, win every game, but that doesn't alway happen.  Still, given how things looked, coming out of Philly 1-2, particularly with the way that they have been playing in the last month, is about what one would expect.

Now we face the Cards, and they are coming off a four game losing streak against two bad teams in the Cubs and Brewers.  For that reason, I have to say that the Giants have a chance of winning the series.  But they will be facing two, maybe three, tough pitchers, and not that our pitchers are not tough, but coming off the bad stretch of starting pitching, one must be realistic and see that another 1-2 series is very possible.  

The good news is that Posey and Sandoval appear to be waking from their offensive slumber, plus Burrell and Guillen are hitting.  And Torres continues to hit.  If Huff or Franchez can join the hit parade, then our offense should start winning games for us again.  Hopefully the day off for Huff relaxed his mind a bit and allow him to start swinging the bat like he had been this season, and not tight like it has been lately.

We also need our starting pitchers to come out of their funk.  Sanchez's beauty last night could start another string of strong starts.  All it takes is one pitcher to throw the gauntlet down with a well-pitched game, and the others hopefully will respond with a good effort as well.  Should be a good series in St. Louis, don't know if we can win it, but I think we have a chance if Sandoval hits well this series.

Also, Colby Rasmus has been battling an injury and could miss at least one game, if not more in this series.  Then again, his replacement, John Jay, has been doing well.  And they recently lost their starting 3B and was forced to trade three pitching prospects to the Astros for Pedro Feliz.  Hopefully the Giants can handle him, he hasn't been very good this season.  They also have another ex-Giant in Randy Winn, plus Brad Penny sits on their DL.

And it has been their pitching that has cost them this month, their ERA has gone up a lot.  The starters have been OK, but Jaime Garcia has had a bad month, relatively, with a 4.41 ERA.  And their bullpen has been beat up, so the Giants should try to work the count and drive up the pitch count to get the starters out and get into the bullpen.

Then once we get by the Cards and Reds, then they can start racking up wins, hopefully, as they face next:

  • D-backs (3)
  • D-Rox (3)
Which brings us to the end of August.

Next Crucial Gauntlet in the Stretch

Then it starts again in Sept, with 3 against the D-gers, 3 against the D-backs, 4 against the 'Dres, and 3 against LA again.  The Giants playoff hopes will probably be determined in this key 10 game stretch.  

The D-gers have been struggling lately too but they too have been facing tough teams, and on the road, in Philly and Atlanta.  Who knows where they will be by then, they are currently 6 games behind the Giants, 7 behind the Phillies for the Wild Card, and 12 behind the 'Dres.  They are fighting for their wild card playoff hopes in the time between now and seeing the Giants again.

And the 4 against SD will be the end of a tough 10 game road trip for the Giants.  They need to at least break even, if not win the series, if they are to have any hope of winning the division.  The 'Dres actually have it kind of easy in-between now and meeting the Giants again:  @MIL (3), ARI (3), PHI (3), @ARI (3), COL (3), LAD (3).  Their next tough stretch is right after that:  @COL (3), always tough, @STL (4), @LAD (3), CIN (3).  If the Giants can keep close up to the 4 game series, they should be in good shape, but that is a tall order.  

For now, though, the key thing is to take it one series at a time.  The Cards will be a tough enough opponent as it is, hopefully they start Lohse against us, as that would give us a good chance of winning the series, but if Garcia is against us, and given that we are battling them for the Wild Card, I have to assume they are going to start him, I know I would start him.  We need all our parts working this series - hitting, pitching, defense - to win this series.  Hopefully we caught the Cards in a down period, as they lost to the Cubs and Brewers and the Giants are a much better team than either.

Still a Lot of Baseball Left

And it is too soon to give up on the Giants.  They are still very close to the wild card leaders and close enough to the 'Dres that they can still conceivably catch up with them, though it will be tough.  Ideally, if they can win the Cards series, that would push the Cards further behind them, and it will then be more about beating the Phillies.  But even if that didn't happen, the Giants have the players to snap off another hot streak like they did in July, they have a nice twelve game stretch in the middle of September, basically when SD has their tough stretch, playing Mil (3), @CHI (3), @COL (3), ARI (3), before the season finale against SD.  They can catch up a lot of games in that stretch by sweeping through some of them, or at least winning the series.  

Go Giants!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 67-52: On the Road in Philly

While there are some positives to take from the SD series, such as Posey, Sandoval, Bumgarner, the bullpen, particularly Casilla, and I guess Fontenot, we lost the series 1-2 at home against the 'Dres.  Makes me crazy because if you take away the games between the two teams, SD is 61-45 and SF is 65-43.  The Giants would have a 3 games lead instead of being 4 games behind.

But things like that happens, for while Lincecum did not do that well, as Bochy said, he seemed to be doing things right, because a lot of the hits were dunk hits that dropped in, which in most games would have been outs.  Even the best pitchers will have one of those days.  Unfortunately, it was when his team really needed him.  This win probably gave SD a lot of confidence going into the final two series we have against them, 4 in SD, 3 in SF on the last days of the season.

However, as El Lefty Malo noted, we still have many weeks left in the season, and if we can gain one game in the standings every two weeks, we would enter the last week with 3 against AZ and 3 against SD, both at home, and only 1 game back.  If the Giants can do that, got to like our odds, though I would note that while we are facing AZ at home, they are facing the Cubs at home.

Now the Giants start a tough road trip and stretch of games.  First three at Philly, then three at St. Louis, the three at home against Dusty's Reds, and you know he's doubly motivated, it's a battle for a playoff spot and you know he would love to show up the Giants, particularly in SF (though his son, the cute guy who almost got run over when JT Snow scored in the World Series, still wants the Giants to draft him when he graduates from high school and can be drafted, I heard in a recent interview).

Game 1:  Roy Oswalt vs. Zito

MLB Notes:
Giants:  After giving up two solo homers in a no-decision against the Cubs, Zito now has surrendered at least one home run in five consecutive games (eight total homers). The last time that happened was June 20-July 11, 2004, while he was with Oakland.
Phillies:  Oswalt had his best start for the Phillies on Wednesday against the Dodgers, allowing five hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings. He also struck out five in the 2-0 victory. Oswalt is now 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in three starts with the Phillies.
Boy, Oswalt can't catch a break, can he?  He loses three to Lincecum, when Timmy going good, but while Timmy struggling, he gets Zito instead, who has been on a great stretch of dominance.  Zito has had a 2.57 ERA in 6 starts since the ASB.  Zito has pitched there once and had a shutout in 2007, when he was pretty putrid otherwise and the Phillies the strong offensive team it has been over the past few years.  Have to call it even, and give the lean to Oswalt since he's pitching at home.  Should be a good battle, hopefully the Giants can pull off another win, Oswalt is 0-3, 3.15 ERA this season against the Giants.

Game 2:  Joe Blanton vs. Cain

Giants:  Cain battled through a 31-pitch first inning in his last outing, pitching six innings while taking a no-decision against the Cubs. Despite Cain's high pitch count, he was effective in pounding the zone, as 82 of his 121 pitches were strikes.
Phillies:  Blanton continued his trend of putting the Phillies in an early hole Thursday against Los Angeles. He allowed four singles and two walks in the first inning to hand the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Blanton has an 8.53 ERA in the first inning this season.
Blanton has been struggling all season while Cain has not.  Should be a Giants win.

Game 3:  Cole Hamels vs. Sanchez

Giants:  In his last outing, Sanchez came up short in his guarantee the Giants would sweep the Padres, as the lefty allowed three runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. Sanchez is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight games (four starts) against the Phillies.
Phillies:  Hamels is 1-2 with a 1.81 ERA in his last seven starts, and 5-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts since April. But the Phillies continue to give him no run support. He has lost his last two starts by 1-0. He hopes for a better showing Thursday.
For the rest of the season, Sanchez needs to put up or shut up.  Hamels is clearly going good, so Sanchez will need his A-game as this game could be the rubber match for the series win, unless Zito can pull off a win against Oswalt.  Still, Sanchez did very well in his one start against the Phillies in 2009, 1 run in 6 IP, 8 K, 3 BB, so while I would give Hamels the lean in a tight battle, don't be surprised if Sanchez handles the Phillies well, as they struggle relatively against LHP, and especially against starters.

vs RHP as RHB 117 .269 .325 .410 .735 .307
vs RHP as LHB 115 .254 .329 .423 .752 .273
vs LHP as RHB 85 .271 .343 .395 .737 .312
vs LHP as LHB 95 .236 .313 .422 .735 .271
vs RHP 232 .260 .328 .417 .745 .288
vs LHP 180 .259 .332 .404 .736 .299
as RHB 202 .270 .332 .404 .736 .309
as LHB 210 .250 .326 .423 .749 .273
vs LH Starter 428 .251 .325 .394 .720 .291
vs RH Starter 1158 .263 .330 .421 .751 .291
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/16/2010.

Giants Thoughts

I blame the Giants showing against the 'Dres on Sanchez's head.  The series would have been hard enough if he didn't put the target on the team's back.  And he couldn't even back up his own words, with his start.  He did what he was suppose to do, keep the team close, but he immediately gave up the 2 run lead that the team gave him in the first inning and took the sails out of the Giants offense.  Maybe if he didn't do that, Rowand would not have thought some play was on and got picked off at the bottom of the second.

Still, 4.0 games back of the division leader with 7 weeks to go and tied for the Wild Card lead is not a terrible position to be in.  I would have loved a series win (or even sweep), but this isn't the end of the world situation, just sub-optimal results, given the tough next nine games vs. Phils, Cards, and Reds while SD faces the Cubs, Brewers and D-backs.

And, despite missing their two top offensive weapons, the Phillies have gone 10-3 in the past two weeks or so, while they have been out, and we are playing them at home, so it will be tough to win the series unless guys step up.  This is the thrill of the playoff chase and the pressure is on.  This is good for our players to experience but some will falter as they try to do more when doing what they were doing before would have been enough.

Playoff Ready

That's a key thing we don't know about our team right now, we don't know if they are playoff ready.  We can take some clues, like Posey's steadiness in the face of everything, but for the most part, we don't really know what's under the hood for most players, for many of them never really competed at the highest levels before.  At least Posey has been in the College World Series plus playoffs in the minors, but they are just practice for the majors, not the majors.

There is a great article today by Andy Baggarly on Aubrey Huff and his evolution into Huff Daddy that happened while he was in college with his good buddy Pat Burrell. The team has to become more like Burrell:

"Pat's the guy who tells you what you need to hear, even when you don't want to hear it," Huff said. "He's mentally strong. He went through all the boos in Philly, and when he went back to get his ring, they gave him a standing ovation. It made him tear up, after going through all that."
Burrell's pennant race experience isn't just rubbing off on the Giants' young players. He's also a compass for veterans such as Huff and Freddy Sanchez, who have played for losing teams their whole career.
After a game at Dodger Stadium last month, Burrell and Huff stayed in the clubhouse and talked for almost two hours.
"He was briefing me on it, how it's going to be," Huff said. "He said, 'It's a different animal, bro. You may think you're ready, but you might be shocked. It's the same game, the same teams. You just have to slow it down.' "

That is an area that I was hoping DeRosa could contribute but his injury took him out of that equation.  Rowand was suppose to supply some of this, but he's clearly not the gamer he was made out to be.  Renteria appears to have some of this, but injuries took him out as well.  So Burrell falling into our lap like this has been a blessing, not only for the offense he has provided, but the veteran savviness and true gamer attitude that he possesses.  I'm beginning to think "what if we re-sign him?" even though that probably means that Schierholtz won't ever get a chance to start for us in RF.

Silver Lining

The good news is that we got two lefties against Phils, who have not done well when up against LHP, plus they are missing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, their two best hitters, though the reports that that Utley will rejoin the team today, albeit at less than 100% and Howard can come off any day now, but might wait until Thursday to do that - good, less offense they have the better. And the Giants get to face Blanton, he of 4.91 ERA at home this season.  And a major key for the series, and really, the rest of the season, is the re-emergence of the Kung Fu Panda, he will have to continue his resurgence if we are to keep pace with the leaders.  So the Giants at least have a fighting chance to win this series, and an outside chance of sweeping, particularly with Sandoval and Posey heating up, with both homering in recent games, but we are probably just as likely to lose the series as well.  It will be a tough battle:  I can't wait!

Go Giants!


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