Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 88-68: De-fanging the D-backs

The Giants took care of the D-Rox season by winning 2 of 3 - and coming within a hair of sweeping - and for all intents and purposes, barring a complete collapse of 2 of 3 teams plus them winning everything, they are out of the race for the playoffs.  They needed to at minimum win 2 of 3 and ideally sweep to stay in the race, but the Giants killed their chances, for the most part.

With that, the Giants have won the same number of games as last season, 88.  They also stayed ahead of the pesky Padres (by half game), who has continued to keep pace with the Giants (though they lost yesterday and Braves won, so they are behind both SF and Atlanta now), as they beat the Reds over the weekend, and it helped us either way, as now the Giants have a better record than the Reds, which is important because the Giants would get home advantage over the other teams, except for the Phillies, and more importantly, should the Braves win the Wildcard, it would force the Reds to play the Phillies and not the Giants.  But it will be tough to keep this lead, as the Reds face the Astros and Brewers at home for their final six games, and both have been bad on the road.

The Giants also finished off their road games for the season and ended with a excellent 43-38 record, after being sharply in the red most of the season.  Baggarly reported that this is their first winning road record since the 2004 season.  Only the 'Dres and the Phillies can end up with a better road record, Phillies need to win 3 of their last 6 to have the best record and the 'Dres need to win one game against the Giants this coming weekend.  So this is quite an accomplishment, particularly in light of where they were earlier in the season, as they were 15-20 when the Posey era began.

Now there are only 6 games left in the season, all at home where they are 45-30 and 20-13 since Posey took over C, and Arizona next.  SD gets to face the now cold Cubs, which got slowed down by the Giants series win and now they lost the series against the Cards.  Perhaps the loss of Tyler Colvin to the bat shard - Ban Maple Bats! - that punctured his chest and threatened his life, took some of the wind out of their sails and gave them a blow to the gut.  With 4 games played while the Giants rested on Monday, they will catch up with us in terms of games played, and they need to win one more game than the Giants to tie us in the standings.

The Giants also "lead" the wildcard leaders Atlanta Braves by one game, an important factor should the 'Dres somehow managed to retake the NL West lead again (lead has switched hands four times in the last five days).  The Braves also play 6 at home, 3 against Marlins, who has been .500 on the road, so they are not pushovers, then 3 final against the Phillies, so it won't be easy for them.

Arizona is playing out the string but have been feisty, going 6-4 in their last 10 games plus winning a series against the Giants at the end of August when the Giants desperately needed to win to get closer to the then strongly leading 'Dres.  The Giants need to keep it going, win another series and maybe sweep them.  But Kirk Gibson should be able to keep them motivated enough for that not to happen, plus they have two good pitchers going against us, though luckily we missed their new ace, Dan Hudson.

Game 1:  Rodrigo Lopez vs. Sanchez

MLB Notes:
D-backs:  Lopez allowed four first-inning runs against Colorado on Wednesday. To his credit, he threw four stellar frames before leaving with a stiff right hand, which was struck by a Ubaldo Jimenez breaking ball.
Giants:  Despite allowing one earned run against the Cubs, Sanchez took his first loss since Aug. 13. He allowed four hits and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings. On July 23 against Arizona, Sanchez lasted only five innings, striking out 10 in a no-decision.
Giants should win this game.  Lopez has a 5.04 ERA, 5.22 road ERA for his career, 9.00 ERA in SF (in 2 starts, both blowouts).  Plus, his hand has to have been damaged by that hit by pitch.  Meanwhile, Sanchez has shown his new-found maturity as he has walked the talk, for the most part, after his big mouth gave San Diego bulletin board (e-mail? IM?  Twitter?) something to put up last month when he guaranteed a Giants sweep and that they would leave SD in the dust.  He was right that the Giants would catch them, but the Giants came close to being swept that weekend (though showing their resilience in character and demeanor by continuing to play well afterward), it took a huge 10 game losing streak on the 'Dres part, plus after catching the 'Dres, the Giants have not left them in the dust, they have been battling back and forth for the lead, though the most important part is that the Giants ended each series with the lead.

Since his promise, he has compiled a 2.15 ERA in 8 starts, only one of which was a blowout, and 6 of them he held the other team to 2 or less runs (3 in the other start, which was the SD game).  Plus he leads the rotation in ERA in September with a 0.73 ERA, stepping up to his open challenge to himself, and amazingly his only 2 ER given up this month are the two homers he has given up.  His ERA at home is 3.46 this season and in two starts against them, one at home and one on road, he went 5 IP in both games, 1 run given up, for a 1.80 ERA, total of 10 IP, 6 hits, 9 walks, and 17 strikeouts.  This should be a win for the Giants.


Game 2:  Ian Kennedy vs. Bumgarner

D-backs:  It's simple: If, in his last start of 2010, Kennedy keeps his pitch count down, he could go seven or eight innings. If he doesn't, expect a repeat of his four-frame, one-run outing against the Rockies on Thursday.
Giants:  On a day when the wind was blowing out and the Giants' bats were hot, Bumgarner threw seven shutout innings against the Cubs, allowing only seven hits and striking out nine. In his last outing against the D-backs, he threw 7 1/3 scoreless innings.
Kennedy has had a great first season with the D-backs, with a 3.76 ERA overall and a better ERA at home than on the road, amazingly, in that hitter's homepark.  And he has pitched great against the Giants, 2.20 ERA in 4 starts, 3.00 ERA in one start in SF.  He will be tough to beat, but the Giants, despite all the talk about their poor offense, has been beating good pitchers all season long, you don't end up with such a good record if you aren't.

Luckily, Bumgarner should be up for the challenge.  His 3.06 ERA is second among Giants starters, and he is just a rookie.  Speaking of which, he isn't even the best rookie on the team, with Posey being that.  In 17 starts this season, he has held the other team to 3 runs or under 13 times.  And he currently has an ERA of 1.00 for the month of September.  He has a 1.26 ERA against the D-backs, and both of them were IN Arizona:  14.1 IP, 10 hits, 2 ER, 4 walks, 14 strikeouts.  That is a feat as awe-inspiring as him shutting out the Cubs in a wind-aided Wrigley Field.  Should be a close, well-fought game, but I would lean towards the Giants, despite how well Kennedy has pitched, as Bumgarner should be that much better.

Game 3:  Barry Enright vs. Lincecum

D-backs:  Enright is on track to finish well. After going 0-3 with a 12.08 ERA in three previous outings, the righty returned to form on Friday, limiting the Dodgers to two runs in eight innings. He is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts vs. San Francisco.
Giants:  Because of Monday's off-day, the Giants could flip Lincecum and Barry Zito in the rotation so Lincecum can face the Padres in the season's final weekend. As of Sunday, however, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had made no such decision.
Enright has been living right this season.  With a 4.4 K/9 and 1.70 K/BB ratio, he should not have a 3.73 ERA.  The .260 BABIP is a big part of that, and again, amazingly, his ERA is much better at home, 3.24, than on the road, 4.54.  Only a 90 MPH average fastball, so he's about average there. There is no apparent reason for him to continue having a good ERA, unless he is pitching like a crafty lefty (only he's a RHP) and getting weak/poor contact due to that.  The odd thing is that he is doing it while being a flyball pitcher, 49.7% are flyballs, though a good portion is infield flies, 12.7%, though not that great (about that of Zito today, but not near when Zito was very good as a pitcher), and even worse, his HR/FB is above 10%, so he has actually been unlucky in that regard.  Seems like a Zito-type pitcher, only RHP.

Speaking of Zito, as I've noted for a while, Baggarly suggested that perhaps the Giants might consider swapping Zito and Lincecum starts, so that Lincecum would end up facing the 'Dres.  With SD only half game back and probably no worse than 2 games back when we face next this coming weekend, basically the two teams will be playing for the NL West title when they meet in SF, as well as the wild-card slot (unless Atlanta somehow gets swept by the Marlins).  Both will be playing each other for the right to get into the playoffs.

Given the importance of the game, plus the day off on Monday, Zito can be moved up easily, and Lincecum slid back.  Zito would take another hit to his ego, but given how Bochy has handled him, Zito should already know this and, plus, Lincecum's two Cy Youngs the past two seasons should have been a pretty good clue too.  Zito, being the pitcher who broke the record 18 games streak where the pitching staff gave up 3 runs or less by giving up a boatload of runs, should be eager to step up again and be the man for the D-back start, and it should be a good battle between similar type pitchers.  The main downside is how Lincecum would handle such a big game, given that he was moved to face SD, but he handled his latest challenge great, shutting down Colorado IN Colorado, so I would not be worried much.  

But Bochy has indicated that the Giants, at least not right now, will not change the rotation (though leaving a crack in the door on that decision), and if Lincecum is starting, it should be a Giants win.  Lincecum has stepped up to Sabean's challenge and been the staff ace this month, 5 starts, 2.08 ERA, 34.2 IP, 25 hits, only 4 walks, 41 strikeouts, he has been dominating.  But I hope the Giants do the switch, they need to win every game against SD, whereas it would be nice (right now at least) to win the game against the D-backs.

And now Sabean on KNBR noted that the Giants are thinking of moving up Lincecum a day to pitch Wednesday, instead of Bumgarner, in order to line him up in case there is a tie-breaker necessary, since they and the Braves and the 'Dres could end up tied, in some combination, at season's end.   

I think the Giants will have to wait and see how the first two games go against the D-backs:  if they should desperately need to win the last game, they will probably let Lincecum start as scheduled and let the rotation stay the same.  But if the Giants are still leading or tied by that third game, they will pull the trigger to swap the pitchers, for the reasons above plus because Lincecum has historically pitched better against San Diego than Zito has.

Giants Thoughts

Yorvit Promises, Essentially, San Diego Sweep Against Giants

The 'Dres now have given the Giants some fodder for the SF bulletin board with former Giant Yorvit Torrealba being the one opening his big mouth:
"Three hundred percent," catcher Yorvit Torrealba said of the odds that San Diego makes the playoffs. "I'm a really positive guy. What can I say? 'Oh, my team is going to lose?' There's no way I'm going to say that. What are my chances? Really good chances."
As I noted above, the two teams WILL be playing for the NL West this coming weekend, barring the Giants sweeping Arizona AND Cubs sweeping San Diego, which would leave the Giants 4 games ahead of the 'Dres and NL West champs.  Anything less, and they are battling for the playoffs with SD and basically SD needs to win the series and ideally sweep to make the playoffs, at this point in time, with them being half game behind SF for NL West title and half game ahead of Atlanta for the wild-card slot.  

So basically, at "300 percent", Torrealba is guaranteeing that his team will easily sweep the Giants this weekend (only way to reach 300 percent making the playoffs because they don't know what the Braves will do so they need to smack the Giants around to ensure at 300 percent that they will get into playoffs).

Looking Ahead to SD Series

The 'Dres rotation for the weekend look to be Clayton Richards, whom the Reds smacked around in SD on Sunday, Tim Stauffer, who has been pitching great since moving into the rotation, and Mat Latos, who according to a recent article, is working on some mechanical issues that resulted in his poor starts recently.  The Giants currently has Zito, Cain, and Sanchez going.  It will be a tough series, but the Giants chances are OK as it stands, but if they move Lincecum into the series, they should win the series.  

Offense

The offense has been sputtering but been producing enough for the Giants to win during the pitcher's epic run: 18 games of 3 runs or less given up is the best since the 1917 ChiSox's 20 game streak during the dead ball era, showing how impressive this run was.  Also, Lincecum joined Giants greats Christy Mathewson and Juan Marichial as Giants pitchers who had three consecutive seasons of 200 IP and 200 strikeouts.  

While Andres Torres should be rejoining the Giants offense any day soon (probably starting Tuesday barring any new setback), Freddy Sanchez looks like he's out for the rest of the regular season and is a question mark for the post season, having problems with his shoulder (he was only able to lob balls to 1B).  He has been our best hitter in September, with a .907 OPS (Posey at .900, Burrell .856).  

The good news is, besides adding Torres back to the lineup, Cody Ross has heated up and been one of our better hitters this month.  He has a 9 games hit streak going, batting .344/.400/.656/1.056 with 3 HR in 32 AB.  It appears that he has finally acclimated to his new surroundings!

Plus, Mike Fontenot has heated up in recent games and would be adequate batting 2nd in place of Freddy Sanchez over the rest of the season, assuming Torres can come back and hit like he did before, and he hit a homer on Saturday, suggesting that he'll be fine power-wise.

Either that or Pablo Sandoval will have to step up.  Perhaps with a few days off he has been able to clear his mind of nearly losing his mother in the inferno (if he wasn't playing baseball, she wouldn't have been there) and of his divorce (if he wasn't playing baseball, he would not have been tempted to stray from his wife).  People forget that players are human too.

And he had returned to Panda mojo powers too.  He was hitting .291/.327/.496/.823 with 6 HR in 141 AB after signing the divorce papers and before the San Bruno pipeline explosion and inferno that threatened his mother's life.  The only interesting thing to come out of that explosion, Giants-wise, is all the people who come out complaining about his fatness and conditioning afterward, while he has struggled since.  He did hit that line drive hit pinch-hitting the other day on a pitch outside the zone, showing his Panda dexterity of last season.  If he can come back to Panda-ness by the playoffs, that would be quite a boon.

Go Giants!  

11 comments:

  1. They can't wait for 2 games to make the decision to move up Lincecum because, if they move him up, it will be to pitch the 2nd game.

    I think it makes sense to move him up for another reason. You want your ace to pitch in a game that could extend their lead going into the last series. The bigger the lead going into the SD series, the better. Combine that with having him available to pitch in the tiebreaker game, it's a win-win scenario. If you don't have the tiebreaker game, Timmy is in line to pitch game 1 of the playoff series, also a good result.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Boof, sorry, rushing to get it out before needing to leave.

    That was for the original Zito-Lincecum switch that I think was good.

    Thinking more about the new switch, yes, it does make sense for the reasons you state, except for the lead part. Winning with Lincecum vs. AZ then losing with Zito vs. SD is not better. Not that Lincecum is a sure win, but I would rather have my ace up against SD to start the series than Zito. And Zito vs. Enright or vs. Richard, I think, he has about equal chances either way.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Here is some good stuff from Schulman:

    Sabean also was asked about a potential change in the rotation. One suggestion has been flopping Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito on Thursday and Friday so Zito would face the Diamondbacks and Lincecum the Padres. Sabean suggested the Giants might go the other way.

    He said he and his staff have suggested advancing Lincecum to Wednesday night's game against Arizona. That way, Lincecum could pitch on normal rest that night and again Monday if the Giants need to win a one-game playoff. That also would give the Giants the option of using Lincecum on short rest Sunday if they desperately need a win.

    Madison Bumgarner would get an extra day of rest before facing Arizona on Thursday, with Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez facing the Padres.

    Sabean did not say this was in stone. He just said it was under discussion.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/giants/detail?entry_id=73280&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#ixzz10qJhDz4L

    I think that is also a good reason to move Lincecum up, since he could pitch Sunday if need be.

    So overall, moving Lincecum up vs. back makes more sense, for all the reasons Boof and Schulman enumerated.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Some bulletin board fodder for 2011?

    Early Saturday, Tulowitzki and Lincecum crossed paths in the weight room. According to Lincecum, Tulowitzki joked, "Good game. We couldn't even get you with our juiced balls."

    Tulowitzki confirmed the story but said it's "really amateurish to talk about it, to tell you the truth. Sometimes people don't want to give you credit. ... I've talked to everybody in the organization I needed to talk to, and there's nothing going on. People can check all they want."

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/09/26/SPI41FJB4V.DTL#ixzz10qKSoIgj

    So basically, the way I read it, Tulowitski called Lincecum "Amateurish".

    Because, one can tell the humidor ball from the regular balls. Jeremy Affeldt, a former Coor's pitcher, said recently that he can tell a humidor ball from a regular ball, the feel is different. I would bet that he taught his fellow pitchers on the Giants what they need to look for or feel for because there is that difference.

    ReplyDelete
  5. And I will call out the D-Rox for that 10-9 game against the Giants right after the humidor procedure was put in place.

    I find it odd that the first day that the procedure is in, it is as if the balls were not put in the humidor, like they were trying to make the point that just because the balls are in the humidor, it doesn't always work.

    Either it works or it don't. If there are episodes of the humidor not working, then they should just stop using the humidor because then one team or the other will benefit unevenly each game from the humidor. I don't care if it evens out in the end, just stop using it, then it will be fair every game, even if it means a 10-9 game very other game.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Another thought on the humidor working unevenly: the road team that is unlucky enough to get the balls not working on them won't get evened out later in the season, there are too few games played for randomness like that to even out. That can affect races in all the divisions that play against the D-Rox.

    So make it work all the time or don't bother.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tweeted by Baggerly and others: Official now, Giants moved Lincecum up to Weds start, move Bumgarner to Thurs, in order to line up better for tie-breaker game.

    Looks like Boof called it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Multiple tweets clarify that the move was to keep Lincecum on his regular rest day, while also giving Bumgarner 2 extra days.

    Bochy also emphasized that Bumgarner is fine. It appears they want to be cautious with their wunderkind.

    Other tweets note that Freddy Sanchez got a cortisone shot in the right shoulder and he hopefully returns Wednesday.

    Also that Renteria, who got a cortisone shot in the elbow three days ago is better and now available off the bench.

    However Fontenot is starting at 2B, Uribe at SS, and Sandoval at 3B in today's game

    ReplyDelete
  9. With the Giants win and the Padres loss tonight, moving Lincecum up is really the right move now. With your ace going, your chances to win improve, and you end up no worse than 2 games up with 4 to go. If things break right, you're 3 games up with 4 to go.....a much tougher road to hoe for the chasers.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Why couldn't the Rockies put the balls in the humidor and then just turn the darn thing off? I'm betting that's what they did for last Saturday's game. LOL! "You think that ball was juiced? We'll show you juiced balls!"

    BTW, the Giants aren't the only ones who think the Rockies were messing with the humidor. The Dodgers were reportedly asking the Giants what they knew about it their last trip to SF. Now Heath Bell has come out and said he thinks something was going on too.

    Of course, they could all be just playing mind games with each other.

    Not too likely, but the Giants could clinch before the SD series even starts!

    Go Giants!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Juan has to be the most clutch .250 hitter in MLB history. I wonder how many of his hits/hr's have tied games or given us leads? With last nights results I don't want to say we locked it up, but we have light in the end of the tunnel from 2003, LETS GOOOO.

    ReplyDelete

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