Thursday, October 07, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are in the Playoffs: Round 1: Beating the Braves

Wow, some would describe the season as torture, but for many Giants fans, almost any season is torture because they are like that character in Lil' Abner which has the cloud following him everywhere or that character in the animated series of Gulliver's Travels in the 70's who always exclaimed, "It'll never work!"

Any season where the Giants are competitive for the division title (and thus the playoffs) is never torture for me.  It is bliss.  Torture to me is more when you know your team is one of the worse around and there is no prospect who looks like he would provide a future for us.  That was like the 70's and 80's where among our "top" prospects were journeyman players like Larry Hearndon, Dan Gladden, Rich Murray, Joe Strain, Bill Laskey, to name but a few, who actually would have been OK pieces on a competitive team, probably, but with only Jack Clark making it up the system as a good player, and I guess I would add Scott Garrelts, they were woefully inadequate.  This season was anything but torture for me.

The 2010 Giants were an exciting team to watch, as they took their tentative steps early in the season, then developed as the season went deep into the playoff chase.  It was like watching your newborn son, who took his first tentative steps last season, suddenly wanted to start running.  You see him stubble a bit early, but as he got his legs and sense of balance, finally you see the results of his hard work as he finally ran across the room and made it to the door and opened it.

They opened it and now are in the playoffs against the Braves, which will be a tough opponent - any playoff contender will be tough - but among the Phillies, Reds, and Braves, you want the Braves because they have been reeling for a long while now and got into the playoffs on fumes.  They finally eked out a final win on the final day to help their cause, but had to wait until the Giants beat the 'Dres to see if they got into the playoffs or not.

The MLB.com has a nice rundown of the two teams here (they like the Giants), but I'll give some commentary below as well.  The key point they make is that the Braves lineup now is nothing like it was earlier in the season, i.e. not as good, and likewise the Giants, only it is much better now,  a point I make below.

Game 1:  Derek Lowe vs. Lincecum

I was going to write about my thoughts about Lincecum's history in pitching in "first times", but Cam Inman in the San Jose Mercury captured that pretty well in his article on that same topic here.  Basically, Lincecum has usually been over-amped for each of his "first time" and tend to be very wild.  The key will be whether Posey can calm the wild bronco and ride him in.  Seeing how he's been handling Sanchez the past month plus, I think that while Lincecum will be wild, Posey will be helping to minimize the damage.  Still, big damage can be done when there is a lot of walks and runners on base.

Lowe on the other hand is a savvy vet who has pitched in playoff situations many times in his career.  And he has done very well for the most part.  But that's also comforting too, that he has had his problems in the playoffs too.  And even when pitching well, he does give up runs, it is not like he shuts down the other team that often.  And I think the reason he got the call to pitch first against the Giants is his 1.80 ERA here in AT&T Park,   He has pitched very well here, but he was pretty lucky in his last start here, this season, when he walked 7 batters.  He does something like that again, we now have Posey, Burrell, Torres, Sanchez, in the lineup, as he did that to us in basically the first weeks of the season.  And Huff was feeling his way around back then too.  Mainly it was Molina and Sandoval who were hitting back then, oh, and Uribe too.

The key to winning is Lincecum (and Posey) overcoming his initial wildness and over-amping as Lincecum can take on Lowe when he is at his best.  If they can dodge the bullets early on, Lincecum should be able to recover and shut down the Braves.  Then it would be up to the Giants offense to score enough runs while the bullpen holds off the Braves, in order to win the game.

And each game is very important to win.  But the Giants has actually been doing this for the past month, so it is not completely new to them, as they have been playing in a playoff series atmosphere for a long while now.  It should not be old hat for them yet, but it should help with the early jitters, hopefully.

Game 2:  Tommy Hanson vs. Cain

I think the reverse of Game 1 happens here.  Not that Cain is as vet as Lowe, but he's been incredibly steady this whole season and is the longest tenure Giant now, while this is Hanson's first season in the majors.  Hanson has never pitched in AT&T Park, but has handled the Giants well in two starts in Atlanta, though he was a bit lucky this season because he only got 3 strikeouts.  And he's been a very good pitcher in the short season and a half that he's been around, but despite a good ERA this season, his win/loss is about .500, as the Braves failed to score for him enough to win a lot of games.   That is reminiscent of how the Giants wasn't scoring for Cain.

So the key here is which team will score enough for their hard-luck pitcher?

Game 3:  Tim Hudson vs. Sanchez

Hudson was actually their best pitcher this season, but because they needed him to pitch on the last day of the season to get into the playoffs, they had to pitch him later in the series.  Plus, he wasn't all that good the last month of the season, with a 5.32 ERA, which is probably a bigger reason why he's third, as both Lowe and Hanson been very good in September, 1.17 and 1.81 ERA respectively.  And he's been up and down against the Giants throughout his career.

Sanchez was actually our best starter in the last month, with a 1.01 ERA, followed closely by Bumgarner's 1.13 ERA.  Lincecum had a 1.94 ERA and Cain was actually 4th with a 3.29 ERA, probably because of his last start.  Sanchez has been beat up by Atlanta in Atlanta, but he totally dominated them K/9 and K/BB overall, so that was a big flukey result plus he really matured the last month of the season, he's not the pitcher he was earlier in the season.  Plus, he basically pitched a playoff game on Sunday, as it was do or die to move on that day, and he came through in spades.

If the pitchers of September show up, the Giants have this game easy, but if it is the pitchers of their careers, then it will be another battle.

Giants Thoughts

And each game will be a battle.  The playoffs are much different beasts, so there is so many possibilities that it is near impossible to say which team will win.  The pluses for the Giants are that their pitchers have been on a monthlong roll, pitching in pressure packed situations and they have come through.  And their hitting, led by ROY candidate Buster Posey, have come through enough to lead to a 20-10 Red Thong record.

With the Giants pitching, they should have the advantage over most teams in the playoffs, but this being their first one, who knows how amped up they are going to be, and how wild they are going to be.   And once the Giants are behind, will the offense be able to pick up the pitchers?

Should a fourth game be necessary, I don't see how the Giants don't go with Lincecum.  If they are ahead 2-1, they would want to go for the win with Lincecum, not Bumgarner.  If they are behind 1-2 and on the brink, then they definitely want to go with Lincecum for the win.  It is possible that the Giants might go with Bumgarner in a 2-1 situation, to give him the opportunity to experience that situation, since they would then have Lincecum to pitch in game 5, but I think the Giants would go for the kill at that point, should they get there.

I think the offense will be led by Posey, Torres, Burrell.  Huff and Sanchez will hopefully be contributing, as well as Sandoval, if he's not over-trying.  The offense has been enough for over a month now, but will it be enough for the playoffs where the pitching should be better?  I think it will be enough, they have faced tough rotations as the season winded down, and been able to beat one guy while our pitching would beat another guy, giving the Giants a 2-1 series win.  The key here, obviously, is that you need 3 wins in the playoffs, meaning the Giants would need to win one of the remaining two.  You have to like their chances but it is no slam dunk either.

Go Giants!

6 comments:

  1. That Lil' Abner character is Joe Btfsplk.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Guillen & Zito are out. Mota, Rowand & Renteria are in.


    Pitchers (11)

    41 Jeremy Affeldt LHP
    40 Madison Bumgarner LHP
    18 Matt Cain RHP
    46 Santiago Casilla RHP
    55 Tim Lincecum RHP
    49 Javier Lopez LHP
    59 Guillermo Mota RHP
    52 Ramon Ramirez RHP
    54 Sergio Romo RHP
    57 Jonathan Sanchez LHP
    38 Brian Wilson RHP

    Catchers (2)

    28 Buster Posey C
    22 Eli Whiteside C

    Infielders (7)

    14 Mike Fontenot IF
    17 Aubrey Huff IF
    10 Travis Ishikawa IF
    16 Edgar Renteria IF
    21 Freddy Sanchez IF
    48 Pablo Sandoval IF
    5 Juan Uribe IF

    Outfielders (5)

    9 Pat Burrell OF
    13 Cody Ross OF
    33 Aaron Rowand OF
    12 Nate Schierholtz OF
    56 Andres Torres OF

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! Timmy was amped alright! I do think Buster played a huge role in helping him harness all that energy into one of the dominating performances in post-season history. Great call there, OGC!

    Gotta win tonight. As much confidence as I have in Sanchez, Hudson just dominates the Giants so it's real hard to project a win in Game 3. I don't like game 4 if they are down 2-1, Timmy on 3 days or MadBum.

    I have a lot of confidence in MadBum. Would go with him in game 4 if the Giants are up 2-1.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Boof!

    DrB, yeah, thought we had last night's game, but the media's downcast tone really bugs me, the Mercury is all down, but the Giants should have had last night's game, the Braves lucked out, to me.

    Yeah, going to be tough against Hudson but he's been bad all month in September, I wonder if age and/or recovery from his prior arm surgery is getting to him. Plus, after Sanchez was guided by Posey last Sunday to win it for the Giants, I believe in Sanchez a lot more now. Going to be another tough game, in any case, but the Giants have been through that in almost every series for the past month.

    At this point, I think I agree with you DrB, go with MadBum if we are up 2-1, Lincecum if down 1-2. After Timmy's complete game, i would rather give him more rest if possible, and let Bumgarner get his first playoff game out of the way in order that he won't be as influenced by that in his next playoff start, whenever that may be.

    But I still like the Giants chances in any case. People are down, but the Giants have been battling these odds for 3 months now. And I don't see how splitting at home is all that bad, the Braves may be best at home but they still lost a fair number of games, and they haven't been that great at winning for a long while now. Split in Atlanta and then Giants come home to win it all. Not the best odds but good odds still. And it would not shock me if the Giants win both games in Atlanta, Sanchez and Bumgarner were our best pitchers in September by ERA.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Back in the day, 3 days rest was standard. Guys like Koufax, Drysdale and Bob Gibson used to pitch 3 games in a 7 game World Series all the time. Nowadays, it's so unusual that I think pitching anybody on 3 days rest is very risky. Unfortunately, much as I hate the idea, if the Giants are staring in the face of elimination on Monday, I think they have no choice but to put their faith in Timmy. Of all the Giants pitchers, he's the most likely to handle it, including Matt Cain, who I think is close to being gassed for the season.

    ReplyDelete
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