Friday, October 29, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 2-0 in the World Series: Walking to Texas, Rangers

Wow, that was a nail-biter up until the fateful bottom of the 8th with two outs, then came the most improbable offensive sequence I've ever experienced (and I've experienced comebacks from the 70's to today).  To all those who complained about Sabean getting experienced veterans and Bochy playing experienced veterans:  this is why you get them, so that you don't have to go to your young inexperienced players with the game on the line like the Rangers did (had to?) with Derek Holland and Mark Lowe, and then watch the game get out of hand like that, so quickly (really, it took 12 balls mixed with one strike for Washington to figure out that Holland didn't have it?).

Matt Cain, wow, what a great gutsy game, what a great performance during the playoffs.  I have received or seen many statements/questions regarding Matt Cain over the years:
  • Trade Matt Cain, he's a loser
  • Trade Matt Cain for Alex Rios
  • Trade Matt Cain for Prince Fielder
  • We have Lincecum, why not trade Matt Cain
  • Martin, when do we have enough pitchers to start trading them for hitters
I think most can now see why we kept Matt Cain.  With this performance he has joined a small group (now 5) of pitchers in MLB history who have pitched 20 or more innings during the playoffs and not given up an earned run (ExtraBaggs).  Among them are other Giants:  Christy Mathewson (Big 6) in 1905 World Series and Carl Hubbell (King Carl) in 1933 World Series.  It was also tweeted by Jeff Fletcher (and reported by Baggerly) that Cain is just one of four pitchers in the majors today with 200+ innings and a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past four seasons.  The others are Dan Haren, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay.

Incredibly, he's only 26 YO and yet is the longest tenured Giants player, loves being a Giant (he never had a childhood team), his wife is from here, they have a home here, and we have him signed to 2012.  Hopefully we can get him signed for 2013-15 too, this off season, but probably not until we get to one year left.  But not that I'm worried that he would leave us, just more worried that he might price himself out of our budget.

And I made a mistake in wanting to start Matt Cain in game 1 and Lincecum in game 2, in order to give Lincecum another day of rest.  I see that now, clearly.  Just think of the scenarios, considering that Lincecum has a history of being too amped up in new pressure situations.  If he does well enough and the Giants defeat Lee, then great, but if Lincecum should lose to Lee - and there was a strong possibility of that given how good Lee had been previously - we would have steady, ice in veins Matt Cain starting in game 2 to tie up the series.   If it had been reversed as I had wanted, should Lee outduel Cain in game 1 and the Giants lose, then we have Lincecum up in game 2, and we would be unsure whether he'll be ready or if he'll be amped up (looking at his game 1 results, he was amped up).  Bochy did the right thing starting Lincecum first, then going with Cain.  Another in a long line of good decisions by Bochy that I've been trying to illuminate here.

Edgar Renteria sure came through tonight.  His homer gave Cain the lead the Giants would never relinquish.  His hit in the 8th made the game out of reach, a laugher.  His offense won the game for the Giants today, and his defense again was good.  He has found his fountain of youth here in the World Series, the playoffs really, and if this is it for him, he is going out with a big bang.  Should the Giants be fortunate enough to win the World Series, I would say that Edgar earned his $18M contract with what he has done in the playoffs.

And, as it apparently is in these playoffs, Co-Dy! again delivers, this time scoring two runs while getting on base three times.  And in this World Series, Uribe again delivers, a key single to put the Giants up 2-0, then a key walk (of all things) to drive in another run.  He's done enough to be the MVP so far, but Renteria probably is closest to that right now.  Really, as it has been all year, all playoffs, it is the team that is the MVP, each game had another player chip in something critical to win the game, whether a hit, walk, or great catch/play, or a great pitch.

Game 3:  Colby Lewis vs. Sanchez

Obviously, great position for the Giants, and that sets up Sanchez to have a great game.  Sanchez, in his first two starts early in the series, pitched two 5 PQS games, great DOM starts.  He obviously faltered in his third start, but that was a must win game for the Giants really (which again Bochy nailed it, and managed like it; must win because didn't want to get to elimination game in game 7 in Philly) and when he was amped (innings 1 and 3) he was horrible, but when he had calmed down (inning 2), he was fine, shut them down 1-2-3.  This game, being early and the Giants up 2-0, is not a must win, but probably needs to be managed like it is because if they lose, its 2-1 and Rangers back in it, but if they win, it's 3-0 and Giants can smell the champagne.

Still, as far as Sanchez is concerned, there will be minimal pressure, relatively, other than it is his first World Series and it will be in hostile environs.   He will probably be jittery in the first inning, but Posey will settle him down for the rest of his start.  He should be OK, as long as he don't feel like he HAS to win the game.

Meanwhile, Lewis is in the must win, of all must wins (see below on teams up 2-0 for why).  The thing is that he did well in a similar situation, at home, in game 6 vs. the Yankees.  Not must win, true, but like the Giants, if you lose, then you are back to 3-3 and need to fight for it in game 7.  So not a true must win, but pretty close.  He also pitched very well down the stretch, he had a great September after a so-so August.  He did not, however, pitch that well in his first two playoff starts; he was OK though, both were 3 PQS starts.  He was not as dominating at home as on the road, but he was still good, better than Sanchez.

But that's over a season, and now we have a Sanchez who has been dominating since late August vs. a Lewis who has been dominating since late August too.  Should be a great game, tough game (though game 1 should have been that, and game 2 was until bottom of 8th, and the Giants supposedly had no offense).  Have to give slight edge to Texas for being home team and for Lewis being better over the whole season, but basically I would say it is a coin-flip.

PQS Shows Giants Fading

However, a bad trend is that the Giants' starters have been fading in terms of performance since game 4 of the NLCS.  The first 7 playoff starts by the Giants were DOM starts (either 4 or 5 PQS), but since then, three have been DIS starts (0 or 1 PQS) and only one (Lincecum in game 5) was a DOM (Cain last night did not earn a DOM start, he did not strike out enough guys; though he would have earned one more point if he had given up one less walk).

And now in two games against Texas, we have had two non-DOM starts in SF, and now we have three games in hitter-happy Texas, one of the worse hitter-skewed parks in the majors, up there with Colorado.  Sanchez will have to step up big time to win there, but he has the stuff to do it, that is why he is starting there, he strikes out a lot, and the less balls in play, the better the results.

Giants Thoughts

The series is not over yet, not by a long shot.  Most teams up 2-0 do end up winning, but a good portion of them go on to lose too (The Hardball Times had a great article researching teams up 2-0 and what happened afterward).  In fact, most 2-0 teams that end up losing game 3, basically it is a whole new start to the series, for the most part, for the down team (down team 11-16 in series after winning third game, so it is still good for up team, just not like winning game 3).  For the up team to ensure winning the World Series, they pretty much need to win game 3 (hence why I said what I said above for Colby Lewis).

Though if the rumor I've seen is correct that the Rangers are not going to pitch Lee on short rest (that is, reportedly, he has refused to pitch on short rest), that means Hunter is pitching game 4, which should give us the advantage there and thus not as imperative to win game 3.

As long as Sanchez approaches this as a gimme start since we are up 2-0, I think he'll be OK.  If someone is quoting him these stats on 2-0 teams, he's probably going to be very amped up, and he might still be anyway, it is the World Series.  But given his prior playoff starts and his clincher over SD on last day, I would bet that he'll be OK eventually and the damage will be minimal, at worse.  He probably wouldn't have lasted only 2 IP in that last start if he didn't get on base and get his adrenaline going.  It will be fascinating to see how he handles things, remember, when he is on, he has no-hit double-digit K ability.

The good thing is that the Giants offense has put it in the heads of the Texas pitchers that they should ignore what they might have been told about their offense.  If you give up runners, the Giants will scratch and claw their way to score a run.  This is really nothing new, they were like that during the season too, either scoring a little or a lot, depending on how many of the guys were hot hitters.  The offense is clearly something to be worried about.

Plus, Texas' homepark favors RH batters, and Sanchez, Posey, Burrell, Ross, and Uribe are RHB.  Plus Aubrey Huff has hit well in their park before:

TEX-AmeriquestFd 150 132 37 4 6 23 3 0 15 11 .280 .353 .447 .800 .265
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2010.

And if you'll notice, his BABIP there is low, lower than his career .293 BABIP, suggesting he might be due for better hitting there.  True, the ballpark hurts LH batter's batting average but not to such a large degree, only slightly.

Still, Lewis could deliver a gem and make it a very tough game to win.  But the Giants have seemed to specialize in winning these types of tough games during the season and now during the playoffs.  And particularly if they can get into the bullpen early by taking pitches against Lewis, it won't matter if Lewis pitches a great game if the bullpen blows it for them after he is taken out.

And the bullpen has to be shaken that the Giants have beaten them up like that, and so easily and so much.  That is probably where the Giants are able to pull out their wins the most during this year, when it becomes a battle of the bullpens.  And Washington did not catch on that it was critical in the 8th to bring in Perez before the Giants scored any more runs, something that Bochy would have done, knowing that the closer would have Friday to rest his arm, at minimum, so bullpen management is not a forte of his or his coaching staff (and clearly not sabers, who would know this saber-theory on closer usage when leverage is highest).

Lineup In Texas:  What and Who DH's?

The lineup will probably will be the same order for the most part but Huff will take his spot batting 3rd back and push everyone down one spot.  Sandoval might be a DH, Ishikawa too, with two RHP coming up next.  I would think they would go with Sandoval in game 3 to see how he does, and if he hits well, he'll get game 4, else Ishikawa would get game 4.  In any case, whoever is DH is probably batting 8th or 9th, unless the Giants instead start Sandoval at 1B and DH Huff instead.

I hope the Giants do that.  Huff has DH before and handled it well, he hit basically his career batting line.  Some people can't handle DH-ing, as Burrell showed.  The World Series is not a place to experiment and find out if Sandoval or Ishikawa can DH.  Use the guy who has shown that he can handle it well, use Huff as DH.

Breaking news is that Pablo is the DH.  Thinking more about it, probably no difference defense-wise between the two, but could be big difference offensively if Sandoval struggles with the role, as Burrell did.  Not all players take to DH-ing, some struggle with sitting around in-between innings and staying ready.

But with Lewis pitching, it might have been better to go with the defensive upgrade with Ishikawa at 1B and Huff at DH, now that I'm thinking more about it.  People don't think much of Ishikawa, but he's an OK hitter overall (just not good compared to other 1B; but his defense makes huge difference, I think) and think he would be OK starting.  We will see how this works out, but I think the better move, if you are using Sandoval, is to start him at 1B and Huff at DH.

For game 5, if there is one, I would still DH Huff and use Sandoval at 1B, even though it is a LHP Cliff Lee.  Ideally, probably would play Burrell at 1B and use Rowand in the OF, but Burrell has not played at 1B in a long time and undoubtedly is not that great defensively there either, while Sandoval was OK defensively playing there last season.  In any case, Huff should be DH the whole series, and see who sticks at 1B, just because he's familiar with and comfortable with DHing.  .

Other Thoughts

With the two wins, the Giants ensure that Texas cannot clinch in Texas, if they come back, then the series would return to SF.  The Giants could win in Texas, but if they return back here, they will be in MUST WIN situations for every game in SF.   Hopefully the Giants close it down in Texas and we don't have to return home for games.

That is the ideal situation, and would require them to win 2 of 3 in Texas.  Remember, the Giants have not lost any series, home or road, in the playoffs so far, and I think only twice in the past two months, since the end of August (Milwaukee and San Diego), out of 15 home and road series.  They have been tested every which way for two months now, taking on good pitchers and average, and are 29-14 since then (29-13 in the Red Thong era;  will Huff continue wearing this next season or will it have lost its mojo?).  That is basically a win two out of three streak, which is what they need to do in Texas.  Last road series they lost was on August 22nd, over two months ago.

1 comment:

  1. According to the Mercury's reporting, while Sandoval will DH in today's game, it is likely that Huff will Dh in game 4 while Ishikawa plays 1B.

    My guess on that is Colby Lewis is the much better pitcher, so Bochy is going with the better offensive weapon in Sandoval in the lineup, to maximize the Giants chances to score on him. Meanwhile, against Hunter, who is not that good a pitcher, the Giants gets a huge defenseive upgrade with Ishikawa at 1B, and he's not so bad with the bat either, just not as good as Pablo. They can afford not going for as much offense against Hunter.

    Go Giants! Do it in Texas!



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