Sunday, August 08, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 63-49: Clubbing the Cubs

[Edit:  Forgot 4th game, Don't know how I missed that!  Doh!  Now below...]

After a tough series, particularly one that you lose, you just have to be happy that you now come home, and get to face a much easier opponent in the Cubs, whose record is almost the exact opposite or your record at 47-64.  Nothing like a series win (or sweep?) to take the nasty taste of the loss of a 4-game series out of your mouth.  And we haven't faced them all season, so we face a weakened team that has sold off some prime assets like Lilly and using young unproven players in their places for all 6 games for this season.

Game 1:   Carlos Zambrano vs. Bumgarner
MLB Notes:
Cubs:  This will be Zambrano's first start since that fateful June 25 game when he threw a tantrum, was sent home, and eventually underwent treatment for anger issues. He will be limited to 75-80 pitches. His velocity has been better.
Giants:  Bumgarner had the shortest outing of his big league career in Coors Field Wednesday, lasting four innings and two batters against an explosive Rockies lineup. He yielded four runs on nine hits and a walk and was hampered by an elevated pitch count.
Hard to say how this will go given that Zambrano is now pitching his first start since he was DLed for anger management.  He's had a lot of rest, having only pitched 3.2 IP since being reinstated but with a 4.91 ERA and he was even worse during the season with a 5.61 ERA overall.

Still, he's only 29 YO and the last time he pitched this poorly was in 2001, his rookie year, when he was only 20 YO.   And his peripherals look good, good K, OK K/BB (particularly compared to previous seasons) and his main problem is a highly elevated BABIP, which suggests that he'll eventually settle down once luck returns to his side regarding balls in play.

That could happen this game, and yet, it hasn't all season (BABIP elevated each and every season), so perhaps three seasons of over 3,500 pitches from 2005 to 2007 took its toll on his body, as his ERA has gotten worse and worse each year since then, and this is the third season in a row where injuries took away starts from him, he has not pitched a full season since.

Then again, he has pitched well in 3 of 4 starts career against us in SF, including a gem last year.  So there are many reasons why he'll be tough, but a variety of reasons why the Giants might beat up on him this season finally.

Bumgarner had a tough start in Colorado:  what's new, most pitchers have a tough time pitching in Colorado.  Overall, he has pitched very well for the Giants, with a 3.20 ERA overall, even with that rough start in Colorado and a 2.63 ERA on the road.  He has a horrible ERA at home but it is only two starts (vs. six on the road so far) and includes his first start of the season when he was probably nervous and, in any case, resulted in the only 2 HR game he has had this season (he has had only 0 or 1 HR given up in each start since).

Should be a good game from our end, as Madison has been very good this season, even his Colorado start was OK peripherals-wise, he just had a very much elevated BABIP.  It should either be a very close game or a Giants blow-out, unfortunately hard to say since this is Zambrano's first start in a long while in a poor season so far for him, he couldn't even relieve well.

Game 2:   Ryan Dempster vs. Lincecum
Cubs:  Dempster picked up the win in his last start against the Brewers, giving up three unearned runs over six innings. It was his 10th start in which all of the runs were unearned, and first since Sept. 3, 2009, vs. the White Sox.
Giants:  In his last start against the Braves, Lincecum yielded two home runs for the first time in more than two years, taking his first loss since July 2. He allowed three runs on six hits, striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings.
Dempster has been having another fine season for the Cubs.   In Zambrano's absense/decline, he's been their ace of the staff alongside the departed Ted Lilly.  He has a 3.43 ERA pitching in SBC Park (not sure why not AT&T since I've seen that in other players), and particularly well since his early days when a struggling young pitcher.

Lincecum has been on way more often than not.  He may have lost against the Braves, but they got lucky with the two homers; otherwise, he was pretty good against them.  He should be pretty good against the Cubs.  Should be an even game with a strong lean to Timmy because he's been pretty good lately.

Game 3:   Tom Gorzelanny vs. Zito
Cubs:  In his last outing, Gorzelanny gave up three runs over seven innings for his ninth quality start. The Cubs, however, were shut out. The lefty has received two or fewer runs in 10 starts, including no runs four times.
Giants:  Zito pitched brilliantly in his last start, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out 10, but once again didn't get enough run support to earn a decision in a Giants' 10-inning win. Zito has a 2.02 ERA since the All-Star break.
Pirates just never learn from trading with the Cubs.  Gave away a good pitcher in Gorzelanny for a trio of so-so prospects PLUS they threw in Grabow for good measure, though he's been horrible this season, but he was good the two previous seasons, whereas the prospects haven't really shown all that much in the majors, and were not highly rated prospects before.  Gorzelanny is no prize, mind you, but a middle rotation capable starter like him is worth more than that, though perhaps the losing affected him and he wasn't that good for Pittsburgh the past two seasons, but he has been pretty good for Chicago this season with a 3.51 ERA.  And he has pitched well in SF with a 0.64 ERA, though in 2007 and 2009, when the offense was worse, still, pretty good ownage there.

However, Zito has been great in the second half of this season so far, as noted above.  As I showed in research long ago, the mediocre Zito had not struck out 10 batters in a game since 2005 at the time I did that study.  He has already struck out 10 batters in a game three times this season.  When he is striking out as many or more batters than IP in a three game stretch, he is at the top of his game, as that is something he only did very early in his career:  he has 40 strikeouts in 40.1 IP in his last 6 starts.  He is only 1-2 during that stretch, but more importantly the team is 4-2 during that stretch.

Should be a tough game but Zito has been at the top of his game so far in the second half of the season, so to acknowledge how good Gorzelanny has been, I have to say even, but with a strong lean towards Zito.

Game 4:   Randy Wells vs. Cain
Cubs:  Wells gave up three runs over seven-plus innings against the Reds in his last start, and took the loss. He's now given up three or fewer runs in seven of his past nine games. The loss was his third straight.
Giants:  A three-run fourth inning in his last start against the Braves gave Cain his first loss since the All-Star break, as the right-hander allowed six runs in five innings. Cain is 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA in eight career starts against the Cubs.
Wells has been OK this year, but a 4.37 ERA is basically a middle of rotation guy.  But he was their starter with the worse ERA until Zambrano rejoined the rotation, so the Cubs clearly had a strong rotation, at least until Lilly was traded.  Shows how poorly their offense has been.  As mentioned in the notes, he has done very well recently, 3.52 ERA since ASB, in fact, which harkens back to his 2009 season when he pitched very well.  But he only pitched once in AT&T so far, last year, and he got bombed.

Cain has been doing well again this year, and brought his game to another level so far in the second half, 2.08 ERA.  And as noted above, he has handled Chicago pretty well in his career, when they were a better offensive team.  Giants should win this game.

Giants Thoughts

Sure, it sucks to lose 3 of 4 to the Braves and end up 2-4 on the road trip and now losers of 4 of the last 5.  But the Braves are a tough team, particularly at home, as I noted in my post about this series, and gave the young Giants a great first taste of playoff intensity, particularly Sanchez who faltered in this try.  And what are you going to do facing tough pitchers like Ubaldo, Jurrgens, Hanson, Hudson, and Lowe on the road?

The positives I would take away are that the Giants were not that far away from doing much better during the Braves series.  The Braves got lucky against Lincecum, hitting two homers against him, ending two years streak of no start with more than one homer given up.  Without that, we could have split the series instead.  And each game was a tough close game, where the game could have turned at almost any point for the Giants, they had a lot of chances that they did not cash in on.

Plus, it is not like they are going to face the Braves four straight at their home in the playoffs, should it come to that.  The playoffs are very much a crapshoot when played by two relatively equal teams, and the Giants have been very resilient this season, a trait exhibited by team leaders like Huff and Posey.  I think it will be an even battle should we face them in the playoffs, and it will probably come to who has the homefield edge as to who wins the series.

Should Be Series Win

The Giants should win this series.  The Cubs are terrible overall and even worse on the road, 20-32.  We have the edge in each game though if Zambrano of old returns, it will be a battle in that game.  And if he returns, then it will be tough to win the series, though not impossible or even improbable.

But I think the Giants still have a good chance of winning the series and perhaps sweeping.  The Giants have faced good pitchers before and beaten them.  That they failed to do so against Atlanta isn't a sign of failure, but rather a sign of how good their pitchers are:  sometimes you have to tip your hat to them.  But prior to this, they had handled the teams they needed to handle, and swept many of them, as well as handled good pitchers.  I think this team is capable of doing it, but even the worse teams win at least one of three overall, so you never know.

Sell Players Short Because You're Shortsighted:  Yeah, Right

People say that the Giants need another bat to get into the playoffs, and to be trite, sure, I'll agree, in the same way that almost any team battling for the playoffs could use another bat.  Let's get Pujols!  Let's get Dunn!  Damn the future, I don't care, I want to win now, win now, win now!  We must win now because I've waited a long time, and I don't know how that affects our chances in the future, but who cares, I want to try to win now because I have no confidence in the team even though our rotation is one of the best in the majors and look to be the best for the foreseeable future.

Let's just sell off the future because people don't believe in the core talent in this team, a core that has been building up over the past couple of seasons and which many fans have been missing, but, you know what, just because they have misjudged this team's talent and don't understand the consequences (or worse, don't care), we should just trade away Sanchez (or worse Bumgarner) for a rental who will leave the team after the season (and don't even tell me that two draft picks make up for 3 seasons given up on Sanchez or 6 seasons for Bumgarner, they are not even close, my draft study has shown that).

I think the Giants can make it in without another bat, but obviously another bat would help.  Despite the losing, we have kept the wild card lead as well as stayed one game behind the 'Dres, as teams start regressing to the mean, including the Giants.  Still, our pitching has kept on doing what it can and that is what is most important to our success, as it has been for a number of years now.

Most importantly, this is the core of the team that we control for another 3 years minimum, and 5-6 years for most of them.  And the vast majority are very young:  Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Posey, Sandoval, Wilson, Romo, even Ishikawa and Schierholtz, plus I would add Belt now and I think Wheeler and Brown will eventually add their names as well.  This team is capable of making the playoffs consistently for an extended period, and that is the key to finally winning a World Series championship, because it is a numbers game, not selling off valuable players to get a rental player in a probably vain attempt at trying to win it all this season.

Just because the team is close does not mean that you sell your soul to try to win that season.  That is what the Brewers did a couple of seasons ago by getting CC and have not been competitive since then, wasting two good to great seasons from Fielder and Braun.  The Giants have been progressing towards competitiveness, but urging your teenage son to try to beat grown men is futile, at best.  Developmentally, they have been making steps but just because you are frustrated with the process won't make the process go faster, if anything, selling off your youth now would just short-circuit the development process and lessen our chances of actually winning it in the coming years.

Hopefully, they can take the next step up, but like any developing teenaged boy, there will be some steps backwards to go with the steps forward.  Growth will be incremental and not exponentially, though July was pretty much that.  I think this team has it within themselves to make the playoffs and even get deep:  with this rotation, that's always possible in any season.

In particular, we need Pablo to man up.  He has taken some steps forward, with his hitting since the ASB.  At that rate he would have 50-60 doubles in a season.  If he can start converting some of them into homers, that would bring him back to the Pablo that was so productive for us in 2009.  At minimum, though, he hasn't been the suckhole that he had been prior to the ASB.  He has almost as many doubles in less than a third of the games he had before and his BABIP has gone up to more reasonable levels.

1 comment:

  1. You summed it up beautifully. Thank you. I'm sure anyone would want another big hitter on their team, but, no one thinks of the consequences as well as the other factors.



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