Friday, August 13, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 66-50: Dirty Promises Sweep of 'Dres

What an idiotic boast Jonathan Sanchez made, about sweeping San Diego.  First, take care of your own games, he was horrible in his last start.  Maybe boast that you'll be great pitching in his next start, but really, a sweep?  Second, focus on the task on hand first, which was taking care of the Cubbies.  Third, don't make promises for your teammates.  Sure, say that you really believe in this offense and pitching staff, but to say that the Giants will win in the other two games in the series?  I hope the kangaroo court fined him big time for that asinine promise.

Game 1:  Clayton Richard vs. Sanchez

MLB Notes:
'Dres:  Richard struggled in his last start, allowing five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, his shortest start of the year. He's had a rough go in the second half, posting a 5.93 ERA in five starts. This after a 3.33 ERA in the first half of the season.
Giants:  Sanchez will be attempting to recover from a stumble in his last start, when he allowed four runs in four innings to the Braves in one of his shortest starts of the season. His control has been the primary reason for his struggles.
As I've been noting since ASB, San Diego's young starters should stop pitching well soon, particularly Richard and LeBlanc, because they aren't really as good as they appeared in April/May.  As you can see, Richard has not pitched well since and he's going to be hitting the wall in terms of IP usage soon as well.

I would say that the Giants should win this one, except that Sanchez made his stupid boast.  In the past, when there was pressure on him, he would wilt - not a bad thing per se, but a sign of youth - like pitching in home opener this season.  However, he had a great start with the pressure on and in a park that is horrible for pitchers, and he shut out Colorado just the start before.  I think that showed signs of maturity that was dashed by his stupid boast.

So I will have to call this even with a lean towards Sanchez for having much better talent overall in his career, plus this is the team he no-hit, so he seems to have their number.  Before, when under pressure, he got amped up and was wild.  But if he can calm himself down like against the Rockies, then we have a great battle at hand, and probably a win.  And even if amped up, Richard has struggled for a long while now, so it should be an even battle at worse.

Game 2:  Mat Latos vs. Bumgarner

'Dres:  Latos continues to impress in his first full season. He won his 12th game of the year in his last start in Arizona, tossing six shutout frames with six strikeouts. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past 10 starts.
Giants:  Bumgarner hasn't won since July 24 but has allowed more than three runs only once in his past nine starts. Last time out, the young left-hander allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings to the Cubs in a no-decision.
Top prospect starting pitcher vs. top prospect pitcher, mano-a-mano.  Unfortunately, Latos has been on a great streak over the past two months, while Bumgarner struggled mightily in his last start against a poor struggling offense and really, his last two starts.  He will have to bring his A game to win against Latos.  Have to say that I would lean heavily towards Latos in this one.

Game 3:  Wade LeBlanc vs. Lincecum

'Dres:  LeBlanc wasn't exactly efficient on Tuesday against the Pirates, tossing 106 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, but he was effective. He tied his career high with eight strikeouts and allowed one run on five hits to pick up just his second win since June 18.
Giants:  Lincecum's strange season continued against the Cubs, as the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner experienced the worst first inning of his career, giving up four runs. Lincecum exited after four innings, allowing six runs on eight hits.
LeBlanc has also been doing worse lately.  4.31 ERA since late June, and generally around 4.50 for the past month or so, which is about what his talent level really is, mid-to-back rotation starter.  

Luckily he's up against Lincecum as Timmy had a horrible start in his last game.  Luckily, his peripherals looked good in that start, it appears to be just one of those bad luck games where balls just fall in for hits and you are screwed.  This is not like earlier in the season when Lincecum was struggling, as he was walking people left and right back then but only walked one in his last game, and still struck out 4.  

If Timmy was going against a stronger pitcher, I would be more worried.  Still, because he did struggle in his last game, I would have to call this game even with a strong lean towards Lincecum.

Giants Thoughts

A win is a win is a win. It don't matter if ugly wins, in history books, the Giants are now 66-50 and facing Padres this weekend. Teams battling successfully for playoffs need to win ugly games like this plus take down bad teams like Cubs, by hook or crook. Giants offense won this series, the pitching let the team down.

Now the Giants take on the 'Dres, and really, they need to sweep to make a statement, Sanchez statement or not.  If they simply win the series 2-1, which I think is very likely, they are still behind the division leader, with a tough stretch of good teams facing us (though the 'Dres will have it tough going on the road for a long 10 game stretch themselves) coming up in Phillies, Cards, Reds, then after D-backs, face on the road D-gers, D-backs, 'Dres, before home for 3 against D-gers again.  That is a very tough stretch and could decide whether the Giants are battling for a playoff spot down the stretch or not.  A sweep would be great for getting a good start to this tough stretch.

Kung Fu Panda Mojo Back?

The good news is that Burrell and Sandoval are both starting to heat up (and Rowand and Ishikawa have been hitting well for over a month, for that matter), as Torres, Huff and Posey start to cool down.  We will need  the four of them, contributing on varying levels to get into the playoffs.  Particularly with the Cards and Phillies breathing down our backs just one game back in the wild card race.

Sandoval especially, he's key for the Giants not only this season but for the future, whereas Burrell being good is good for us now, but who knows about next season?  So far, so good for Sandoval (as I covered in my previous post).  Nothing conclusive over one week's worth of games, but significant because he hasn't done this since his great month of April.  And if he's hitting well, then we have a great block of hitters up top:  Torres, Huff, Posey, Sandoval, Burrell, plus Uribe and sometimes Ishikawa (people don't like Ishi, but not very many teams have a near 800 OPS hitting batting 8th).

Teams Different Now from Mid-May SD Sweep

Big differences for the Giants and 'Dres between Mid-May Sweep and now, and back then they squeaked by us, 3-2, 5-2, 1-0:

  • No Posey
  • No Torres leading off
  • No Burrell
  • Pandoval in deep slump of early May
  • Rowand slumping
  • Schierholtz slumping
  • Downs slumping
  • No Freddy Sanchez
  • Richard and LeBlanc were pitching like aces
  • Ludwick and Tejada
The Giants have a much better offense now with Torres leading off, providing both OBP and ability to drive in guys who get on base ahead of him, then Huff, Posey, Burrell/Uribe in the heart of the lineup.  In addition, we got Rowand pitching in with a nice and quiet .276/.360/.423/.782 for the last two months, Ishikawa doing it on and off the bench, .312/.350/.440/.791 since the end of May, almost three months of good hitting and defense.

Plus, San Diego is not as good.  Their pitching is falling back down to earth.  Both Richard and LeBlanc are regressing to their talent level as shown by previous seasons:  mid-to-back rotation starters.  That's decent to have on a team, so nothing against them, but on a poor offensive team like the 'Dres, they aren't going to win a lot of games being average or worse. Plus, in any case, should hit IP limits soon if not already, then who are they going to start?  And Tejada hasn't been hitting, and while Ludwick has been hitting homers, he hasn't been doing much of anything else, and their offense is not built for long ball, it has been a small ball offense.  Other than A-Gon, nobody gets on base much, so they have to manufacture when someone does get on.  


Other Roster Changes

Then there are the recent trades to add Mike Fontenot and Jose Guillen to the bench.  Fontenot only gives us an average MI player, but on a bench, an average player is very valuable to have.  There is not as much of a drop off when giving Sanchez or Uribe a rest at 2B or SS.  He is basically average at 2B defensively but horrible, though in very few starts, at SS.  He was OK defensively at SS in the minors though.  Plus, since he's a lefty, we might see him in a semi-platoon with Sanchez if Freddy slumps again (he's been hitting OK since August 3rd, .250/.351/.406/.758.

There has been a lot of tweets over the Guillen trade.  Looks like we got him for PTBNL and the Royals are sending cash to us (Hank Schulman tweeted that Guillen will only cost the Giants $250K and a low-to-mid level prospect), though don't know how much yet.  Looks like he will join the team tomorrow, at which point the team would have to make a corresponding move, which right now looks like Burriss going down.  Jeff Fletcher of AOL tweeted that Bochy says that Guillen is new starting RF and Huff starts at 1B.  Which means, of course, that Ishikawa is going back to bench.

I don't think that is best because Ishikawa has been hitting better than Guillen, plus plays great D at 1B.  Also, he's hitting better than Guillen on an OPS basis for the past 4-5 seasons combined for Guillen.  The good thing is that Guillen  adds another HR power bat to our lineup, which is good because obviously our lineup is not built for speed and small-ball, it is built to win on the long ball.  

Hopefully this works, but I am smelling another Garko redux, though at least Guillen has a long history of doing some offensive damage in the majors while Garko didn't have much and still was on the decline.  I wonder who we gave up, though we do know the player is from the Giants non-keeper list.  The Giants in their press release noted Guillen's accomplishments for the A's when they got him, particularly in the playoffs.  And he did hit very well in April and June, just not so good in May and particularly July and now August.  

Clearing his mind by being on a playoff contender might just be what he needs, but I remain skeptical, though I would note that almost anyone would be depressed being on that dreary KC team.  People complain about Sabean but KC has had a number of even better draft picks than Sabean and built up a team of mainly hitting prospects, and still is not going anywhere, they are apparently aimless.

People are understandably in love with offensive players - the players I loved and followed growing up and beyond were mostly hitters, Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman, Jack Clark, Chili Davis, Chris Brown, Will Clark, Matt Williams, though I loved John the Count Montefusco too - but I've been trying to explain how significant starting pitchers can be for many years now.

Starting Pitchers More Influence Than Most Think

People (particularly sabers) point out that position players play every game and contribute almost every game, but I think that they are missing one important point:  affect on the outcome (i.e. win/loss).  Unless the hitter is hitting a home run, he can go 5 for 5, but if everyone else don't get a hit, there is no offense.  A hitter, in isolation, is relatively useless.

A pitcher can command how a game go.  Even the lousiest of pitchers can have a well pitched game sometimes.  Not that he was lousy, but Bobby Jones of the Mets shut down the Giants in the playoffs when he was not that particularly good as a starting pitcher.  But that day, he was the ace they needed.  And the best of pitchers - Lincecum, Cain, among others - can deliver a well pitched game anywhere from 50-80% of the time.  

Unless the hitters are getting on base before the big bopper, he can't really influence a game all by himself, he needs men on base to have a great affect on the game's result, win or lose.  So while a hitter can contribute something almost every game he plays, the opportunities he has to truly influence a game's results are limited and depends on the other hitters to deliver before and after him.  A good example of this is San Diego's offense with A-Gon and the 7 offensive dwarfs and the Giants previously with Barry Bonds in his last few seasons.

Some will say that this is not Bonds or A-Gon's fault, that they were not surrounded by hitters who could make them pay off offensively.  But that still ignores the reality that pitchers don't really need others in that way, though they do need the position players to play adequate defense.  But pitchers like Lincecum and Sanchez who strike out a lot of batters, sometimes up to half of the hitters they face, have a lot of control over the action that don't involve their fielders.  That is the DIPS supposition - measuring those things that pitchers have control over.

Pitchers have a lot of control over what they do in the game, and the best can do it a large majority of the time, on a game by game basis, which puts the team in great position to win when they are able to do that.  So it might seem like a position player contributes more because he plays 150+ games plus fields his position, but the pitcher has a greater contribution to the outcome of any particular game he starts, anywhere from 10 to 25 starts out of 32.  

As I've been documenting and following in my side column, when the opposing team is held to 3 runs or less, your team wins the great majority of the time, even with as poor an offense as the Giants had in 2009.  When you have a rotation full of pitchers who can do that, it is easier to win games, it is easier to win series.  And they have a direct effect on the outcome of the game, whereas even the best hitters in history can only influence the outcome.  We got a great example of that in yesterday's game, Burrell had a grand slam and we should have won, but he wasn't the game winner hit.

Of course, without hitters, even great pitchers can't win, but given the choice of a great hitter or a great pitcher, I would go for the great pitcher every time because if he is on top of his game, we win the game, even with a near bottom of league offense, but the hitter can hit 4 homers every game and we could still lose 5-4 each time because we have no pitching.  

3 comments:

  1. the thing I'm seeing in the boxes are the walks (by Giants hitters). Including Freddy, as his .100 difference between BA and OBP attests. Fontenot is a very good thing, as you say, infield depth is no longer a potential black hole.

    I don't think it's fatal hardly, but the Guillen trade seems pointless. I've long been a believer in Ishi, and is Guillen really going to be better than an 800 OPS? And of course Ishi's defense. Then again, as I think you allude to but don't say right out, peripherals equal wins, and I'm really pleased with the peripherals. I assume they're somewhat pitching around him, but seeing Posey drawing a couple walks makes me feel good about this team. Quite heartening in a potentially over-excited rookie batting fourth.

    Who knows? If I were Guillen, I'd be thrilled to death to get out of KC. If he's his usual or worse, a lame move, but I'll take small sample size HOF numbers for the next month and a half with no complaints.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I see the Guillen move as pretty close to no-lose. There have been times in his career when he was an offensive force. Ishikawa has been good, but in a barely good way. I'm not sure how much faith I have in him down the stretch. Obviously, the Giants don't have much. Maybe they catch lightning in a bottle with Guillen. Worst case, he turns into Garko and goes to the bench or gets released.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree DrB, and I've been encouraged by the articles that have come out in the media discussing Guillen. He can be a pain, but mainly he's a pain when he feels he is on a team of losers, as he views himself as a winner. That can be a good influence and he views the Giants as winners and is excited to be here.

    Still, if things should get dicey, he could upset the apple cart by going public, so we'll see how that goes. I don't expect things to get dicey, but you never know.

    And yes, if Guillen can raise things a notch, like he did when he joined the A's, he is a huge improvement over Ishikawa. So it is worth a try to see if we can catch lightening in the bottle again, as Baggarly put it, and if not, then he probably gets released because I don't think he'll be much help on the bench, he'll be a poison if anything.

    ReplyDelete

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