Monday, October 18, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 1-1 in NLCS: Beat Phillies in SF!

Thought I would post some thoughts about Giants in-between games.

Pucetas PTBNL in Guillen Trade

It has been announced that Kevin Pucetas was the Player To Be Named Later in the Jose Guillen trade.  As typical, many people were upset about it and went on tirades about Sabean, but Pucetas hasn't been a good prospect since the start of the 2008 season.  I like him, but he is a very long shot now to make the majors, let be a good starter.  I think he was worth the opportunity to see if Guillen could go on a hot streak for us.  Not every gamble is going to succeed and that should not mean that we don't take any risky moves.

Something Needs to be Done About Umpiring

First off, I want to say that I want umpires there, I don't think the game would be the same without human umpires.  That said, there has been unacceptable situations all through the playoffs, whether it be missed calls, inconsistent strike zones, or what have you.  The reason for this is that the umpire union protects those who either no longer has it, or never had it in the first place.

Second, I don't know how hard it is to have a consistent strikezone.  Even if you have a wide zone, as long as you are consistent, then pitchers can beef a little about that, but at least they know what the parameters are and can work within that defined zone.  When it is inconsistent, there is nothing the player can do but be frustrated.  There should be a standard that umpires have to meet, and if they cannot meet it over a 162 game season, then they are bumped to the minors and someone new comes up.  That will give umpires an incentive to do better at this and also leeway that if they all are good, none would lose their jobs.  But if you are fading, then you are out.

Third, there has to be some way for managers to challenge a blatantly bad call, particularly in the playoffs.  Really critical calls don't happen that often in games.  Perhaps managers are allowed "reviews" equal to the number of games in a series they are in (2, 3, or 4 during regular, 5 or 7 during playoffs) that they can use anytime in the series.  That then becomes something strategic that a manager can do.

They can't argue strikes/ball calls, but I would think any other call could be challenged and reviewed via video.  If the review is not clear, then the umpires could huddle together and decide, though I doubt they would reverse their fellow umpire's call, but that is the breaks sometime.  But most of the time, the replay, particularly in slo-mo, will show clearly what happened, depending on the angle.  I would also allow the teams to argue their points, to show the replay that supports their position.  Doesn't add that much more time to a game than a TV timeout, in my opinion, but it could change the balance of the game.

Co-Dy!

Cody Ross has been the MVP of both playoff series so far, IMO.   His performance made me think of Gene Tenace's performance for the A's in the early 70's.  Lots of people have been saying that the Giants got a player that they didn't want, but forget that teams logically shouldn't claim a player unless they want him, because the other team could just decide to dump the player on you, particularly when it is the cheapskate Marlins, who saved $1M by giving Ross to the Giants.

Andy Baggarly wrote on Ross here, interviewing Sabean, who noted that plus left the "clear impression that the club will tender him [Ross] a contract, noting, "His situation is not daunting.  His numbers isn't going to go off the map.  His platform year was last year, not this year, so it's a very affordable situation if we go that route.

On his end, Ross said that he would love to work out a multi-year deal:
“When I got an idea of how this team is and is going to be, and playing in front of that crowd every day, I can’t see a place I’d rather be,” he said. “This has been an amazing experience for me. I’d love to play here longer than these few months or even another year. I’d like to finish my career here.”
Also, from John Shea:

Ross might have assured himself a Giants contract in 2011 with his work in the NLDS. Considering the NLCS, it could be multiyear. "This team is built for years to come, and I'd love to play here longer than this run we're having," Ross said. "I'd like to stay for my career." He'll be eligible for arbitration after making $4.45 million this year, and general manager Brian Sabean said it'll be "nothing that will break the bank" and "an affordable situation."

I don't think the Giants are going to go that far out, but a two year deal plus option is probably definitive doable (though Schierholtz won't be happy about that).

Uggla to Join the Giants too?

Also, apparently Ross is friends with Dan Uggla and he is extolling the virtues of playing for SF, according to John Shea:
Ross has been filling Dan Uggla's head with stories about how dandy it is to play for the Giants, who have explored trades for the Marlins' power-hitting infielder. In fact, Ross has tried to persuade Uggla not to sign a long-term deal with Florida before his final year of arbitration so he can sign with the Giants after the 2011 season.
That can work in many ways.  Both Uggla and Sanchez has experience playing 3B, particularly Sanchez at the MLB level (plus defense there FYI, and that might give his offense a boost, as he hit much better when starting at 3B), which would move Pablo to 1B now and Huff to the corner OF.  Also, Sanchez's contract is over in 2010, so they could just replace Sanchez with Uggla, if they decide to go that route.  Uggla could probably play 1B too, moving Huff to corner OF again.

The main problem with that is the money factor, though DeRosa's and Sanchez's contract would be up that season, freeing up $12M for Uggla, but our pitchers, including Lincecum, Wilson, and Sanchez, will be due large raises by then via arbitration.  The only way we can sign Uggla to a contract he would want is if Neukom can back up his promise to consider all baseball decisions and allow him to work the money and see if he can get it done.

I still predict that the Giants want and will get $50M+ from the A's for permission to move to San Jose (only fair because they never paid much, if any, to enter the market in the first place and dilute the fan base).  The situation is very similar to the Washington Nationals moving into the Baltimore Orioles territory and the concessions that they made to get into DC.  That could fund the Giants top players at least to mid-2010's, by which point Zito's contract would be off the books, freeing up $20M, until the mortgage is up in 2019, then that'll be another $20M to spend on players.

Plus the money that MLBAM (their internet arm) will bring in as well, it has been a huge success.  More importantly, it probably will eventually suck money away from the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and D-gers, and into the collective fund that the MLBAM represents.  That will even up the teams over time, making the league more fairer, like the NFL and NBA, than the unfair unevenness that exists today where the Yankees can spend 4 times more than some of the poorest teams.

Renteria May Have Earned his $9.5M Salary With Tip

Renteria has had a horribly disappointing season, which he acknowledged in an interview with the Chronicle in September, if I recall right.  We obviously all knew that, but it is rare that an athlete would admit that in an interview.  It totally appears that we got virtually nothing for our money.

However, he may have earned much of that, if not all, with his tip that he gave Cody Ross.  As reported by Henry Schulman:

Cody Ross, the Giants' postseason MVP thus far, was hitless in nine consecutive at-bats after a second-inning double in Game 2 of the Division Series against Atlanta. The ninth was a strikeout against starter Derek Lowe in the third inning of Game 4 at Turner Field.
Renteria noticed a mechanical flaw. Ross lifts his front foot as the pitch is thrown for timing and was not getting it down quickly enough. That made it harder to see the pitch deep into the zone.
"I went and watched video after my at-bat and he was right. I wasn't," Ross said.
Next time up in the sixth inning, with the Giants trailing 1-0, Ross homered to end Lowe's bid for a no-hitter. In the seventh, Ross grounded a single through the hole to drive in what became the winning run in the series clincher.
He did not stop there. His next two at-bats came in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday, and he homered each time against Roy Halladay to ignite the Giants' 4-3 win, then added his fourth homer of the postseason Sunday against Roy Oswalt.
As a reserve, Renteria gets a lot of time to watch and said he provides hitting tips liberally.
"Even if you're not playing, you have to help," Renteria said. "It's a team. You see something wrong with somebody, you've got to tell him. You hope he watches the video and agrees with you."

If Ross can keep on hitting like this during this series and help get the Giants into the World Series, I would consider Renteria's salary earned with that one very valuable tip.  Apparently he has been approached to become a coach, as he has discussed retiring after this season because of his physical ills, but he is leaning towards business ventures (well, he did get $19M from us...) instead of coaching, if he decides to retire.

I Believe in Bochy

I wrote last season that I didn't think that Bochy would be the manager who could lead the Giants to the World Series, that they would get there in spite of him, if anything, because he wasn't willing to make moves that would piss off vets who deserved to be pushed aside, when needed, during the playoffs.  However, this season has changed my mind on him, I believe he is the guy to bring us that World Series championship.

Among other things, he benched Rowand and started Torres, dumped Wellemeyer once Bumgarner was ready, pushed out Romo then accepted him back in (Dusty would have just kept him in the doghouse), went with Posey over Molina once they thought he was ready, kept Renteria on the bench even though he was healthy while continuing to start Uribe, kept Sandoval going as long as he wasn't mucking things up so much (i.e. as long as they were winning) but benched him quickly in playoffs when he wasn't doing well, and most importantly of all, left Guillen and particularly Zito off the playoff rosters so far, while starting Cody Ross and Madison Bumgarner over the two of them.  I am sure there are others, these are the ones that came to mind quickly.

The playoffs are a different environment.  You have to risk pissing off somebody at one point or another in order to maximize your chances of winning, egos be damned.  That is one big reason why I was happy Dusty was gone after 2002, there was no way Kenny Lofton should have been starting in CF while Shinjo played DH, and given what we now know about Nen's arm, there is no way you take out a starter who has been doing very well, like Ortiz had been, and especially with a big lead, you ride that horse as long as you can before you go to the bullpen, saving those arms in case any of them have problems shutting down the opposition.  And if the reliever is doing well, you wait until the last batter to use Nen, at best.  Ideally your set-up guy saves the game - Nen's ego be damned - and you don't risk Nen's body failing him at an inopportune moment.

I believe that Bochy is capable of doing that, well, because he just did it, big time, leaving Barry Zito off the playoff roster.  Can't make a bigger move than that, well, other than leaving Rowand off the roster too, though he appears to be justified in that move, Rowand has delivered on a pinch-hit and is under consideration to be starting at least Game 3.

Giants in Good Position

I think the Giants are in good position.  Many media-heads (including one I've criticized here often before), talks about how the Phillies have been awoken by this one game.  Frankly, a lot of mistakes by the Giants helped the Phillies score all those runs.  Take away Fontenot's and Huff's mistakes, and the Phillies only had 1 run, and it would have been tied and going into extra innings, exposing their bullpen.

People seem to forget, the Giants played the Phillies even during the season, and could have been ahead if not for a bloop double in the 9th with runners on base.  They have beaten each of the Phillies top three starters this season, and Blanton, who they did not defeat, has had a horrible season up to now, I don't see him doing that to the Giants once again.  Because the Giants have been able to beat up enough on the other teams' good pitchers to win, they did it all through September, and now during the playoffs.

The media-heads also are not aware that starting pitchers can take over games when they are on, whether they be great pitchers or journeyman pitchers.  Hot hitters, such as the comments about how Rollins may be waking up and getting hot (and that is only one game that he got two hits, and the first was a dribbler), as I noted before, he can hit 2-3 homers, but if nobody is on, they can still easily lose, don't matter how hot a hitter is, it takes a team to score.

However, if the starting pitcher is on, he can dominate any game, don't matter what lineup is up against him, even a good offensive team like the Phillies.  And the Giants are throwing four very good starting pitchers against them, Lincecum 2-time Cy Young winner, Cain has been pitching great since he was 20 YO, and Sanchez and Bumgarner led or was among top in ERA for September/October games, with 1.01 and 1.13 ERA, respectively.  That is Bob Gibson low.

And these pitchers have been battle tested by doing what needed to be done in September/October.  Not each and every time, but on the basis of series, the Giants won 8 of their last 10 series, including one four game series, both on the road and at home.  Plus, of course, Atlanta, if you count the whole set as a series.

With the next three games in SF, if the Giants can continue to win series, they would win 2 of the 3 (right now the matchups are Cain vs. Hamels, Bumgarner vs. Blanton, Lincecum vs. Halladay), which would leave them leading 3 games to 2 and going back to Philly needing to win one of two while the Phillies would need to win both games.  That's good odds for the Giants.

Game 3 Lineup

The talk is about replacing Torres and Fontenot in the lineup.  I agree with both, and for Rowand and Sandoval.  Frankly, the way Torres is flailing, Rowand's hitting should make up the difference in defense, and if he catches on fire (he's been rested enough) he can carry a team, much like he did in early May.  Hopefully we can catch lightening in the bottle with him.

And I still strongly believe in Sandoval, and given the poor defense Fontenot showed at 3B on Sunday, don't believe that Sandoval could be that much worse playing 3B.  Meanwhile, a Sandoval who is over his jitters being in the playoffs could start delivering premium offense to our sputtering offense - he hit .343/.395/.486/.880 in his last 10 starts in the season.  His walk yesterday suggests that he might be over his jitters and yips earlier against Atlanta, because otherwise he would be have been swinging wildly and not even come close to a 2 ball-count, let alone a walk.

The problem is who to lead off if Torres is not in the lineup.  Frankly, if Rowand is in the lineup, it seems like Bochy would lead him off.  He would impress me even more, a la above, if he went with someone else in this scenario.  Andy Baggarly has been suggesting that Ross would be ideal for leadoff because of his success against Hamels, as well as his high OBP, and it would be hard to bet against him because he always seems to have some inside info that makes him prescient in his speculations.

But given his power, I would rather have someone else leadoff, like Franchez, and bat Cody 2nd, so that he can power home Franchez if he gets on base (or the 8th place hitter), and if not that, get on base for Huff, Posey, Burrell behind him.  Plus, as Jeff Oscodar tweeted and reminded me, Sanchez had two hits on Sunday, so perhaps his being a playoff virgin jitters are over now.

Potential lineup:

  1. Freddy Sanchez 2B
  2. Cody Ross RF
  3. Aubrey Huff 1B
  4. Buster Posey C
  5. Pat Burrell LF
  6. Edgar Renteria SS
  7. Aaron Rowand CF
  8. Pablo Sandoval 3B
  9. Matt Cain

I like this one for reasons above, plus Renteria has delivered in key RBI situations in his career, Rowand does better in lower pressure situations like 7th, and Sandoval, if he is on (plus he batted here often to end the season), he can frustrate pitchers trying to pitch around him to get to the pitcher by him squaring up pitches just outside and driving them for hits, forcing them to either give him the IBB or focus on pitching outside the strike zone, which I personally think screws with some pitcher's mechanics and thinking.

Then for game 4, if Rowand doesn't hit, you put in Schierholtz and give him a shot against the RHP playing in RF.  The Giants could also put Huff in RF and play Ishikawa at 1B, he has delivered big-time during this series as well.  I would probably lean towards Ishikawa because he has delivered more consistently than Schierholt has the past two seasons, but Schierholtz, when hot, can help carry the team, so I would be OK with starting him too.  Basically you play as many players as you can, within limits, and try to find that hot hand that can carry you for a week or two, like Bochy found in Ross.  The Giants need to find another hitter or three if they hope to win this series and advance to the World Series stage.

Go Giants!

5 comments:

  1. Great story on Rent helping Cody Ross. From that story alone, I would hire Rent to be my hitting coach over at least half the hitting coaches in baseball!

    ReplyDelete
  2. A good factoid I got from the SJ Mercury today: the Giants are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Phillies in AT&T. Looking over the games, I see three series and the Giants won every one: 2-1, 3-1, 2-1.

    Remember, if the Giants can win this "series" at home, they would be up 3-2, needing to win only 1 in Philly to go to the World Series.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I forgot I get daily matchups from Bill James, here are some key stats:

    The following hitters have done well against Hamels:

    Posey 2-3
    Ross 9-30, 4 HR
    Franchez 5-12
    Sandoval 3-9, 1 HR
    Schierholtz 2-2 plus BB
    Torres 1-3, BB

    Against Cain:

    Howard 2-10 but 2 HR, BB
    Rollins 6-10, HR, 2 BB
    Ruiz 2-4, BB
    Schneider 3-11, 2 BB
    Utley 7-15, 3 HR
    Victorino 2-8, BB
    Werth 1-3

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Giants were 9-6 (.600) at home down the stretch when their pitching coalesced and that was basically their home record for the season,49-32 (.605).

    They were a more amazing 11-5 on the road down the stretch, much better than their overall 43-38, they became greater than .500 on the road with that stretch there.

    They are currently 1-1 at home and 3-1 on the road, during the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I recall sabermetric discussions about how one run games are normally random, that any team winning a lot of them is due for regression.

    The Giants are only 28-24 in one run games, while the Phillies are 29-17, in 2010, not including the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete

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