Friday, April 30, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 12-9: D-Rox are DLed

After winning the series from the two top NL teams of recent ilk, the Giants face probably their biggest hurdle in the NL West, Colorado.  Though they are not currently the leader in the division, they did make the World Series recently and when Tulo is producing, they have been probably the Top NL West team over the past few years (unfortunately for them, he's not always healthy).

Game 1:  Aaron Cook vs. Barry Zito

Aaron Cook has a 5.01 ERA this season, and Barry Zito is not even close, and fortunately now on the good side of not even close.  However, Cook has been searching for that mystical something and found it in his last start, throwing a good game, earning a 4 PQS but with only 4 K's, not necessarily will repeat, particularly because he's been so wild thus far this season, in terms of walks and lack of strikeouts.  He has also done well in SF, 3.72 ERA career with a 3-3 record, but horrible walks and strikeout ratios, any way you want to slice it, plus gave up more hits than IP.

Plus, given how well Zito has pitched, earning a "Barry Barry Barry" chant at his last start in AT&T - who would have even thunk that would ever happen? - we should win this game.

Game 2:  Esmil Rogers vs. Matt Cain

Esmil Rogers is not even announced for this game.  Andy Baggarly speculated on it.  In any case, it is going to be a minor leaguer who will be facing the Giants.  Rogers is #9 on BA's Top 30 prospects list and #11 in Minor League Baseball Analyst Top 15 list in Colorado's farm system (remember, on average around 4 prospect from any season, or so it's been guesstimated by BP's Goldstein, ever amount to anything at the major league level), and the latter projects him to be a #4 starter.  Plus FB (89-94 MPH) and Plus Slurve
but no other even average pitch.  "Lacks a quality erd offering - not enough velocity difference on change - and has difficulty maintaining velocity deep into games, which may result in a move to relief."  They noted he's "diminutive".  He was beat to a pulp in AAA last season, but was good in AA.  He's been good so far in AAA this season but he's never been one to strike out many.

We better win the game with Cain going for us.

Game 3:  Jhoulys Chacin vs. Jonathan Sanchez

Chacin is one of their top prospects for years now.  Only 22 and he pitched well in AA and AAA last season plus thus far in AAA this season.  He's also pitched a little in the majors last season, doing OK, striking out a lot while not giving up many hits, but walking a lot.  He wasn't the strikeout guy in the minors, but appears to be catching up with hitters the past year, but also going very wild as well.  Even if their starters didn't go on the DL, he probably would have been pushing to be added to the rotation, he's been great so far in the minors.

He's going to be a very tough pitcher once he figures things out.  The Giants get to find out whether he has or not, in his first start this season in the majors.  Sanchez, however, seems to have figured things out, and I expect him to continue to be dominant the rest of the season.  We should win this game, barring Chacin's enlightenment..

Giants Thoughts

We are situated well in each game, but things can go off the rails in any of these games for any reason, so I won't be thinking sweep, particularly because they have always played us tough generally.  They are currently 11-11, so they are not that tough either.  Plus I read somewhere that they didn't win often in SF in recent years.  So I think a series win should happen, giving the Giants wins in all three series in this homestand.

The starting pitching is humming along, and maybe Bochy needs to bring in the bullpen more often so that they don't get rusty waiting.  The offense also did nicely in the Phillies series, beating up on Roy Halladay in particular, and hopefully can build on that in this series.  Hopefully Schierholtz will hit higher in the lineup and get the opportunity to drive in more runs.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: Pheel the Pain, Part 9 out of About 70 in a Continuing Series

Boo-hoo, Bochy suck, Sabean sucks, the Giants sucks, Velez sucks, Wilson sucks, and, what the heck, Bochy AND Sabean majorly sucks.  The sky, if you go to most any of the Giants boards, is falling and it is all their respective faults.

Giants Thoughts

Yeah, I get it.  It was a horrendous loss.  It was very similar to the 2002 World Series, we were sooo close to winning and had it pulled from our grasp in very quick and ugly fashion.

To paraphrase Tom Hanks from A League of Their Own:  "There should be no crying in baseball."  A Major League Baseball season is a war of attrition.  Any particular game is but a battle among the whole of the war.  This loss hurt, but it's a long season.

Too many people are still living in the past, whether the past few years when they were losing, or back in the 70's and 80's.  It is a new era, I've been saying this since Ann Killion asked a number of years ago, after the Giants parted with Bonds, what the Giants plans for the future is, what their identity will be, because she didn't see it, and what I wrote then I'm still writing now:  pitching is the Giants identity and plan, it has been for a long time for those who took the time and interest to study it in detail.  Don't live in the past nor miss what is under our noses now, our pitching is developing and maturing, and it should only get better, particularly once Bumgarner joins our conga-line of ace starters.

Do You See What I See?

The Giants are 12-9.  That's pretty good, last I heard.  And Sabean is the guy who put that together, the guy who is the butt of jokes among the Giants fan base.

Their pitching is great and look to continue humming along, though I doubt they will continue to be THAT good over a full season.  They just took on the two best NL teams and won the series from both of them.  They were 4-2 against them, beating good pitchers like Jaime Garcia (some are touting for rookie of year already), Adam Wainwright, and Roy Halladay.  They also beat Jamie Moyer and almost beat Cole Hamels.

So yeah, the loss to the Phillies stung and it stunk, but we got away with a win against Jaime Garcia that was handed to us when we probably could have lost that game.  And how often will Whiteside help us beat Roy Halladay with his offense?  A season will be filled with games like these, some going against us, some going for us.

So stop venting for a moment and think:  if you were told before the homestand that we would take 2 of 3 against the Cards and Phillies for a 4-2 homestand before facing D-Rox, would you have been happy or sad?    If you were told that our offense manhandled the Phillies pitching staff, both starters and relievers, and including especially Roy Hallday, would you have been giddy or morose?   If you were told that our pitching staff manhandled the two teams expected to battle for the NL League Championship, making them look like something the cat dragged in, would you have been jumping for joy or off the cliff?

We would have been very, very happy.

Playoff Implications

If the Giants are to do anything in the playoffs, assuming we get in (and I think we will, the offense looks like it can deliver it), we will have to take care of the Cards or the Phillies at some point in the playoffs, and likely both.  They are going to remember that our pitching sliced them up like they were a bottom dwelling team, one after the other.  We silenced their bats and took care of their pitchers enough to win 4 out of 6 and to win both series.  And we did that to their best pitchers for the most part (only missing Carpenter).

They will also remember Schierholtz manhandling them defensively, taking away extra-base hits, throwing them out on the basepaths (the Cards must have seen the highlight plays on SportsCenter).  You can't tell me that their 3B coach won't hold up runners on hits to RF if we play them again in the playoffs.  But where will that show up in the sabermetric fielding measures, particularly once Schierholtz won't catch the other team off guard anymore?

Offense Beating Good Pitching So Far

I have been pleasantly surprised that the offense has been scoring so well off so many good pitchers.  When I tried to look ahead to the month of April, it looked like we would have a tough month, but here we are 12-9, already assured of a winning month and with a win tomorrow, a great month, and while the pitching has been great, the offense has been good enough enough times.  And at 4.57 average runs scored per game, that is approximately what was projected for the Giants using the average of all the projections for the Giants (CHONE, Bill James, Shandler, Marcel, etc.) plugged into the lineup calculator, so it is not like the offense isn't doing what it isn't capable of doing, they have been doing almost exactly what they were projected to do.

Plus, they might have started the season against some lesser teams (Astros, Pirates) but still, they faced a number of good pitchers, even if the teams were bad (and they have faced good teams too, Braves, Cards, Phillies, as well as LAD and SDP), and were able to score runs on them pretty easily on the whole.  The list is getting impressive:  Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Tim Hudson, Kenshin Kawakami, Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, and now Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, and they should have gotten Cole Hamels too.  This is a great list of pitchers who have in recent years put up sub-4 ERAs, so they are good to great pitchers who the Giants offense beat on enough for their pitchers to win.

Mediot Squawking 

It doesn't help that the media helps fuel the fanatics' passions based on an untrue premise.  Recently a Giants reporter, who I won't name because I like him otherwise, wrote an article about bringing up Posey while noting that Molina and Huff "are not producing."  Not producing?

Both had been producing big time (high OPS) until a recent 3 game no-hit streak, and while not hot since, they at least are getting hits since.  Both are among the team leaders in RBI's (hard to do when the #1 and #2 hitters weren't getting on base when Velez and Renteria were in their oh-fer-multiple-games stint, during our losing streak), plus Huff has scored 14 runs to lead the team by a wide margin.  Not producing?

OK, Huff's only hitting .111/.138/.222/360 with 1 HR in 27 AB in his last 8 games, but nobody is hot all the time, give him some time, his OPS was .862 when he hit this bad stretch.

Hate to think what he would write about this other free agent who signed in the off-season:  he also has 14 runs scored and 8 RBI's, bat in the middle of the lineup for his team, but  in his last 8 games, he's hitting a paltry .167/.219/.167/.385 with no homers during that stretch.  That drops his batting line to a below average line and relatively poor batting line for his career.  So it would make sense then that the writer would throw this guy under the bus too?

The only difference is that he signed for a huge 7 year, $120M contract and Matt Holliday don't have one of the top prospects in baseball who maybe could play his position for a while sitting in the minors.   I'm sure Holliday would have been happy that a team reporter was looking to replace him already with a hot prospect on the basis of an 8 game cold streak.

2010 and Beyond

The more I see how the rotation is working out, the more convinced I am that having a strong rotation, top to bottom, is the sure way to playoff success.  And given the way the Giants have been playing thus far, I don't see how they don't make the playoffs this season.

While the 'Dres are ahead of us right now, they are winning because of their pitching, not their offense, which has a low .243/.321/.388/.709 OPS.   Do you really believe a rotation of Correia, Garland, Richards, Latos, and LeBlank plus bullpen will sustain a 3.29 ERA (3.45 ERA for starters) over a full season?  I don't.

Injuries have decimated the rotations for the D-gers (Padilla), D-backs (Webb, Benson) and D-Rox (de la Cruz, Francis), and both the D-gers and D-Rox are in such bad straits that they could not even announce who would be pitching for them 2-3 games ahead because their rotations are in such flux over the injuries and/or lack of performance.  You can't tell me that they have adequate - or more importantly, equal - replacements sitting in the minors ready to contribute long-term this season.  And the 'Dres lost Chris Young (again), earlier this season, so they are not immune either.  And D-Rox sent down Hammel plus their starting pitching staff, other than Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge de la Cruz, has been very hittable.

Meanwhile, the Giants pitching, while it won't be as good as it is now, should still be pretty good 1-4, for the season.  Cain, if you can believe, has been our worse pitcher, and he's only doing what he has done for his whole career, pitch good baseball.  And the offense has been about as good as expected, with both Huff and DeRosa not contributing as much as they possibly could over a full season yet, though Uribe really contributing greatly at the bottom of the order, as has Schierholtz.  And Velez and Torres contributed ugly Oh-fers much of this season as well, along with Bowker's invisible RF act.

The performance so far has convinced me that the offense can do it for us this season and get us into the playoffs in 2010.   And Posey's addition to the lineup for 2011 and beyond should just make the lineup that much better, with two consistent bats (as well as base runners) in the middle of the lineup, who are also athletic enough to be good base runners as well (Pablo just keeps on doing it scoring at home in highlight fashion).  That plus a rotation of Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner for at least 2011 to 2013 should make the team annual participants in the playoffs going forward and should get us into the World Series at some point within 2010-2013, if not multiple times.

Dominant Rotation Mojo

I think this season so far shows the power of the Dominant Rotation (tm).  When you have good pitching top to bottom, it is hard to go into a long losing streak (though it will happen occasionally), but generally, with an OK offense, it will win more than it will lose over time.  And that should result in a good winning record at the end of the season and get you into the playoffs.

Part of that is that even if we end up with Lincecum not starting out any particular series, we then could match up Zito, Cain, or Sanchez against the other team's ace and still feel we have some chance of winning that game.  That's because our rotation is capable of producing a DOM start over 50% of the time (Cain over his career, Sanchez when he's on, and Zito recently and in the deep past;  Lincecum is close to 80%, roughly).

Plus, even more importantly, we clean up when our guys face the other team's #3 starters (and #4 in some cases), because our guys are that much better, generally.

However, before I oversell it, that is just generally, over time and a lot of iterations.  In short series, anything and everything can and will happen.  I think I will include this analysis during the season to see how it works out over time.  But when your rotation is that much more Dominant than the other rotation, your rotation should win out over time.  It should have an edge in any short series, particularly if we can manipulate Lincecum to pitch the first and fourth starts (and seventh as needed).  Not only that, but we should be able to win the series early, which will give our starters extra rest, and perhaps allow us to start a series with Lincecum more often.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 10-8: Phooling the Phillies

Well, after the free fall many fans were going through with the Giants first encounter with any difficulties, it is not surprising that many fans were not that happy with the Giants taking two of three from the Cards behind two great pitching performances from Lincecum and Zito.  The Giants only scored 6 runs but won the series by only giving up 3 runs.  And, of course, 3 of those runs were given to the Giants, two were unearned and the third scored on a wild pitch.

Still, the Giants went mano-a-mano with the Cards, our three top pitchers against three of their best (they have a better rotation than us, their 5th starter, Jaime Garcia, had a 0.69 ERA when he faced us first, then Wainwright's 1.50 ERA, and finally Penny's 1.29 ERA), and we came up on top 2-1.  Sure, some runs were given to us, but that's just evening out the bad streak we had during the losing streak, where the balls were not falling in nor were calls coming our way (like Bowker's infield single that was ruled an out and neither he nor the 1B coach argued against the call).

Now the gauntlet continues the Giants face the Phillies.

Game 1:  Roy "Doc" Halladay vs. Jonathan Sanchez

How cool is it that we could be facing one of the best starters in the majors in Halladay with our #4 starter and still have a fair chance at winning the game?

However, the Giants most likely will lose this start, it is, after all, Halladay and as nice as Sanchez has done this season, Halladay has a 0.82 ERA and was among the top pitchers in the AL for years before moving to the NL this season.  Plus, stuck with a loser for years, this is his first taste being with a team expected to win their division and to go deep into the playoffs, so I expect him to be focused almost every game.  Still, Doc is 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA in two career starts against the Giants (though they were in 2002 and 2004, when we still had a Barry Lamar Bonds in our lineup), with one start in SF in 2004, so there is that.

Game 2:  Jamie Moyer vs. Todd Wellemeyer

That works out nicely for Wellemeyer, as he avoids facing Halladay or Hamels.  Plus Moyer has a 5.00 ERA and age appears to finally be rearing its ugly head with Moyer, who is 47 years old for this season.  With two of the past three seasons with an ERA around 5, that appears to be his talent level now.

However, the Phillies are the #1 team in runs so far this season, and I do not expect Wellemeyer to suddenly figure things out against the best offense in the NL.  Plus, Moyer's peripherals are actually OK (11 K/4 BB in 18 IP with 19 hits), it is just that he has given up too many homers (3 in 3 starts) so the odds favor that he regress in this regard and that combined with an antsy Giants lineup ready to swing aggressively, and yet not have much power, will probably result in a loss.

Game 3:  Cole Hamels vs. Tim Lincecum

Though Hamels has had a tough season so far (5.11 ERA), he was still the Series MVP in 2008 and been a great pitcher for much of his career.  Luckily we have our two-time Cy Young winner going against him.  The Giants should win.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants look like they will lose this series.  It would be a tough first two games, and while The Kid has been great so far and Hamels has not, both has regression kicking in at some point, which could make their start a tough game to win as well, though you have to favor Lincecum based on the season thus far plus career results.

The Giants offense has been struggling lately and there should be a big lineup shakeup soon, particularly with Velez's frozen deer in the headlights performance at leadoff (see how bad the offense is when the leadoff guy isn't getting on base at all?  The same thing happened in previous seasons when we had Dave Roberts up there and, apparently too injured to perform at all).

There was talk about moving Schierholtz to the lead-off spot, but with Torres recent heating up, punctuated by his 3 hit game, Bochy at best would lead off with Torres and bat Schierholtz second.  However, I expect Schierholtz to still be down in the lineup, as Bochy (and other fans) seems to believe in Torres but he's basically been cold all season until his 3 hit night last night (though that is at least a modest 5 game hit streak, but really not that awesome except for the 3 hits, as the other one hit games, to me, is not that grand a hit streak), whereas Schierholtz has been doing it mostly once he got to start some, much like he did last season when he got to start regularly.

With a righty tonight, hopefully that puts DeRosa at 2B and Bowker in LF, Torres in CF, and Schierholtz in RF and a lineup of roughly Torres, Renteria, Sandoval, Huff, DeRosa, Molina, Schierholtz, Bowker (though I would probably prefer Torres, DeRosa, Sandoval, Huff, Schierholtz, Molina, Bowker, Renteria; and there is the chance that Huff sits in favor of Ishikawa as Huff has not done well at all against Halladay during his career, which would change the lineup even more).

With two lefties after that, it is probably Torres, Renteria, Sandoval, Huff, DeRosa, Molina, Uribe/Schierholtz, Schierholtz/Downs, depending on whether Uribe is available or not (though I would probably prefer Torres, DeRosa, Sandoval, Huff, Schierholtz, Molina, Uribe/Downs, Renteria).  Oddly, Schierholtz's unusual success against LHP will get his the starts when lefties are starting, in an odd platoon with Bowker in RF until the Giants decide that Bowker has had enough rope that he earned with his spring training performance.

Until we get a hitter or two producing regularly in the #1/#2 positions of the lineup, we are not going to be scoring that many runs.  And unfortunately, Renteria has hit a very cold streak once his shoulder bursitis started acting up again and none of the replacements of Rowand has been able to do anything at leadoff, and Torres had his three hits batting 8th yesterday.  Add to that we are facing a good team again, it looks like we'll be only scoring 6-9 runs this series but this time giving up more runs to the #1 scoring team in the NL.

It will be a tough series, with some chance of being swept, but with our series win against the Cards, we should end up 3-3 at home after this series, and that would be great against the two leading clubs in the NL, both very likely to make the playoffs in 2011.  Then we face D-Rox at home, and they have not been doing well at all, and if we can eke out a series win there, could end the homestand 5-4, which is pretty good against three tough teams.

I think we just need someone up top to heat up some, and it might take until Rowand is back in the lineup for that to happen.  He is first available to rejoin the team on May 2nd, which is next Sunday, the last game against Colorado at home before starting a road trip.

There is still grumblings by many fans to bring up Buster Posey, but as I've noted, he's not exacting burning up the PCL (though doing well).  They key is that we are still winning and still only one game behind the leader, the surprising San Diegans, though given how well they ended last season, I was afraid of what they might do if some of their prospects started producing this season.  As long as we are relatively close, there is no need to bring up anybody.  We need to keep them down in the minors, first to ensure that we have another season of control over them (and that should happen soon), and secondly, though not as importantly, we avoid them going super-two on his and get another year of arbitration on us.

However, this is not a concern of Giants management, as Sabean has noted in a recent interview that the major league club's needs, as well as the prospect's readiness, will outweigh any monetary or control concerns regarding when a prospect is brought up.  People have been worried about the budget, particularly in future years when Cain's big contract extension kicks in, but I believe this is where Neukom's promise to get the money necessary to implement good baseball decisions will come in, not in signing the big free agents, but in keeping our big free agents from leaving the team.

In other news, Freddy Sanchez just got into his first practice game and could be up to join the team finally within two weeks.  While Uribe has done well playing 2B in Sanchez's stead, I don't expect him to continue to hit well indefinitely.  His career numbers are bad enough that he should cool off at some point.  And it has already, as after a nice hot 5 game start, in the last 12 games, his batting line is .268/.311/.463/.775, which is still OK for a 2B, but not as gaudy as his overall .310/.373/.483/.856 would make people think they are getting with him in the lineup.

However, that is better than what Renteria has been doing recently (due to bursitis in his shoulder; if it's not one thing, it's another thing), so I expect to see Renteria sit more once Sanchez is back with Uribe starting, plus Sanchez will probably still not be 100%, so I expect to see Uribe in the lineup 1-4 times each week, taking starts away from Renteria and Sanchez, depending on the pitching matchups and how either are doing at the moment, and how Uribe is doing.  Shoot, Uribe could usurp Renteria's starting SS role if Renteria don't get better by the time of Sanchez's return in two weeks.

And if Bowker can heat up soon (well, really, now), DeRosa might get starts at 2B as well with Bowker starting in LF, though with the way Bowker is hitting now, I don't see how he isn't the guy to be sent down when Sanchez returns.  Heck, he might even get send down first when Rowand returns, as Downs already has 2 hits and bats righty, which is a missing ingredient on the team right now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 8-7: Dodging Some Cards

A large proportion of the Giants fan base are in a tailspin over this road trip, and particularly the 3 game sweep by the lowly (but now leading) 'Dres.  However, at the start of the season, if a Giants fan were told the following, we would be "OK, that sounds about right":

  • The Giants are 8-7
  • The pitching has been great
  • The offense has failed the pitching on numerous occasions
  • Panda is our leading hitter; Lincecum is our leading pitcher
  • Bowker and Wellemeyer have been struggling to perform

I'm not saying that everything's great but I am also not saying that it's the end of the world, as one bad stretch caused a lot of the Sabean Naysayers to crawl out into the daylight and complain their familiar drone.

The problem seems pretty clear, as far as the recent drop in offense:  nobody was getting on base ahead of Pablo, killing potential rallies and opportunities to score first and put the other team on their heels.

As I discussed in a previous post, I like to look at what I call Offense Wins and Pitching Wins (more accurately, it is defense, but I think pitching is the key to our wins in that regard), where if the offense scores 4 runs or more are counted as offense wins and if the pitching can keep the runs allowed to 4 runs or less are counted as pitching wins.

Offense Wins:  9-6
Pitching Wins:  11-4

So, overall, both have done well, but with small samples, the mix ended up as 8-7 instead, with the 10-8 loss to the D-gers the most egregious blown opportunity.

Unfortunately, they cannot hope to get much better soon, even though they start a 9 game homestand, as they are facing the Cards, Phillies and Colorado.

Game 1:  Jaime Garcia vs. Tim Lincecum

Jaime has been on the verge of breaking out and appears to be doing it this season:  0.69 ERA so far this season.  However, his K/BB ratio is only 2.0 and his K/9 is only 6.9 K/9, and the key to his success is that his BABIP is .152, so he should eventually regress to the .300 mean.  However, he's been doing it with extreme amounts of ground balls (3.14 this season).  However, a look at his minor league stats suggest that he is not one to avoid the .300 regression to the mean (.308 BABIP career minors).

And, of course, he's going up against the one pitcher (probably) that has an even lower ERA in Lincecum.   Still, the offense has been sputtering and thus it should be a low scoring game all around and Bochy will need to do something to shake things up and get the offense going.  Yesterday, he moved DeRosa up to the #2 spot, and he got two hits there, but then the rest of the lineup was cold except when Pablo hit that huge (though solo) homer.

In addition, Garcia is a LHP, and the Giants have been struggling against them.  This probably means and OF of DeRosa, Torres, Schierholtz and IF of Sandoval, Renteria, Uribe, and Huff.  The good news is that Huff has been hitting very well at home as well as against LHP, and Schierholtz has been hitting LHP well too.  Unfortunately, the offense will probably be crippled by Torres and Renteria up top, as neither have been doing the job for most of this short season so far.

Bochy will probably leave Torres leading off because there is no prototypical  guy, but maybe he'll go with DeRosa #2 again because of his success yesterday and place Renteria 8th.  Or even Renteria leadoff and Torres 8th, that might be better right now, Torres has done nothing so far, even less than Renteria has since his hot streak, and that takes some doing.  We should win but the way things are going, I would put it even.

Game 2:  Adam Wainwright vs. Barry Zito

Wainwright had an incredible season in 2009 and yet has improved on that with a 1.50 ERA.  Zito had an amazing season (for himself) in 2009, and yet has improved on that in 2010 with a 1.86 ERA.  It's going to be a tough battle between two pitchers who are very on so far.  First one to blink is the loser, but given that they have Albert Pujols on their side, I would have to lean towards the Cards in this match-up.

Game 3:  Brad Penny vs. Matt Cain

Brad Penny continues the gauntlet:  1.29 ERA thus far.  Cain has been his normal good self, with a 3.86 ERA, which suggests that we could end up on the short end of the stick here.  Still, Penny is not THAT good, and Cain has actually improved on his walk rate over last year, so this should also be a good battle.

Giants Thoughts

Normally, going back home would cure what ails for a team, but the Cards are no ordinary opponent, with a pitching staff that is humming along even better than our rotation (see how their #5 Jaime Garcia is doing versus our's) and a lineup that includes Pujols and Holliday.  Things do not look good for this series and the Phillies follow them, then Colorado.  At least Colorado is muddling along like we are, so they will probably be our best beat to break out of our current offensive funk.  The Giants would be lucky to finish 3-3 against the Cards and Phillies, then hopefully can grab 2 of 3 from the D-Rox.

The Giants need somebody in the lineup to step forward and break the team out of its funk.  Ideally, it would be someone atop the lineup.  A hotter Huff would work too, but he's been about what we could hope for, so that is why I think someone up top needs to heat up, who would then be followed by Sandoval and Huff.  Schierholtz has been hot, but his contributions have been muted by a bottom of lineup position.  If he were moved up and he stayed hot, that could be the trigger we need.

Some, predictably, are clamoring for Posey to join the team.  The problem is that we need a CF.  In addition, he is not doing that well in the minors, at least not well enough to say he's a sure thing to hit well in the majors immediately.  His MLE is .291/.361/.400/.761, which is good if he were catching, adequate most anywhere else, and borderline at 1B (Huff is hitting slightly better at .268/.369/.411/.780).  He is no cure-all for our offense, and could hobble it further if he struggles in his initial games like Matt Wieters did last season.

The CF who are the closest are Ben Copeland, Mike McBryde, and Darren Ford.  None of them are hitting particularly well, though Ford looks like he's perking up.  Copeland is doing OK for AAA; those numbers would be more than acceptable if he were able to duplicate them in the majors, but most likely it will take a steep plunge.  McBryde is horrible for any league.  Ford can't even hit what Copeland is hitting and he's at a lower level hitting against easier pitching.  Apparently his great spring is not translating to AA.  Plus Copeland and McBryde are not on the 40-man roster either.

I don't know how Schierholtz or Bowker would work off defensively in CF, but Nate has some speed (he has stolen double digit bases regularly in the minors) and Bowker played CF in AA and was positive defensively there in around 20+ games played.  DeRosa, Bowker, Schierholtz might be better than starting Velez or Torres in CF and the leadoff spot right now.

In any case, I would rather see Bowker get regular ABs based on what he did in AAA last season than to give it to a journeyman like Torres or a player who hasn't done it at any level consistently for a season, like Velez, while Rowand is out (can be back May 2nd I believe).  I'm still not sure where all the love is coming from for Velez, some see him as a 5-tool guy but I've really only seen the one tool, speed and SB, and even there he is borderline bad, 73% success rate, so he's not even using his speed correctly.

However, we will probably see a lot more of Velez, Torres, and probably Bowker too, because when Sanchez is finally ready to start at 2B, the Giants will need to drop someone off the 25 man roster, and they are the prime candidates right now.  Velez (according to Baggarly) still has an option;  so does Bowker.  Torres would have to be exposed to waivers, but I doubt anyone would claim him right now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Madison's Missing MPH Mystery Solved

Praise be to Andy Baggarly!  Today he wrote about Madison Bumgarner's struggles and missing velocity, which has mystified Giants fans (and prospect hounds) since spring training started and it was ultimately simple and a series of things:  a busy off-season and poor mechanics that resulted as a consequence.  Read here.

Giants Thoughts

Basically, he spent the off-season more on personal stuff, like getting married (and being married), and thus was unprepared for spring training.  That snowballed into his inability to get his mechanics into shape, which is apparently a hard to achieve thing because of his cross body throwing.  And thus he has had a very poor spring for anyone, let alone one of the top pitching prospects in the minors.  Sabean feels that Bumgarner is essentially in spring training mode still, figuring out things.

It took Tidrow going down, after two horrible starts by Bumgarner in AAA, and straightening out the mechanics, and Bumgarner in his last start was consistently in the low 90's and topped out at 93 when all spring long he was only mustering up high 80's stuff.  That led to him not getting hit around, so he went 6 IP, gave up 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned.  Still only 3 strikeouts but only 1 walk, so that would have been a 4 PQS start, a DOM start.

Tidrow is a god!

I thought about why it took the Giants so long to take action and to fix things up.  It makes sense to let him do things on his own.  He's not a child, and you can't watch over everything he does and control his off-season.  He's now a married man, with responsibilities beyond baseball.

I see this as a learning lesson for him on how to better prepare himself in future off-seasons.  In addition, if he was building up any ego over the past two years, this experience should humble him a bit ( a lot) plus make him appreciate all that the Giants can do for him.  This is all part of the journey to where he could learn to be consistently good all the time, and how to prepare himself for that.  The struggling was necessary for that journey, to gain some insight into oneself, to grow up.

And not a moment too soon.  The shiny gloss that Wellemeyer had during spring training is now dulled by the poor results this season.  Admittedly, it is just two starts, and he actually did well for 6 innings against Houston before imploding in the 7th.  Still, that's part of the job, to go longer when the bullpen is cleared out the day before.  San Diego will not be a great test for him, plus the game is in Petco, a known and strong pitcher's park. 

His next start against the Phillies would be a better gauge of where he is.  It would be his fourth start, so the small sampling issue will fade.  The Phillies are a great hitting team.  Still, they are probably the other extreme, they are one of the best offensive teams, if not the best in the NL. 

I think we need to get deep into May before we have a good hand on where he is.   His following starts would be Florida on the road, New York on the road, Houston at home, Arizona on road, Washington at home, and Colorado at home.  Florida and New York would be good tests.  Houston (though Berkman could be back by now) and Arizona not as much, nor, probably Washington.  And Colorado at home would be good. 

So we should have a good view of his current talent set by mid-May after Florida and NY on the road, but a pretty good view by the end of May.  By then, Bumgarner should be out of spring training mode and performing closer to what we have been used to the prior two seasons.  The decision on Wellemeyer vs. Bumgarner can be tackled in mid-to-late May as to what is better for the team.

I am hoping that Wellemeyer does well, both because that is good for the team overall and because then he would be much more valuable in a mid-season trade, should Bumgarner be ready for his close-up. 

It is good also because I think Bumgarner needs the additional time in Fresno.  Clearly, he is not as mature as one needs to be in order to be a MLB starter.  The Giants making him the #5 starter early in the off-season was a head-scratcher when that first came out, but now it looks like the Giants were testing him, to see if he has what it got to focus on the goal, particularly since they probably knew that he was getting married too and would be pre-occupied.  They wanted to see if he could rise to the opportunity.  Obviously, he didn't pass that test but hopefully has learned some lessons.

People also forget (and I count myself among them) that Bumgarner is still only 20 years old.  He is still learning things and immature in many ways, like we all were when we were 20 years old.  And as last season showed, his stamina is not up to MLB standards yet, he was already starting to tire mid-season, when his dead arm (that Krukow said is normal for young guys in their second year in pro ball) cropped up.  He could have more development necessary to stretch out his arm more.

There will be some key factors on when Bumgarner should come up.  Obviously, first off, he has to be doing well, going forward.   Beyond that, the team should be monitoring his velocity and making sure that he is not losing velocity again. 

If Wellemeyer continues to struggle and a move needs to be made, as I think about that, the more I think the better move would be to bring up Kevin Pucetas so that we may have the opportunity to evaluate how he does as a major league starter.  That would effectively be his audition and if he does well enough, he could become a trading chip, and if he pitches really well, we could ride him to the end of the season, and wait for 2011 to give Bumgarner a chance to be the fifth starter.

It all depends on need, but if we can get by without Bumgarner as the fifth starter, I would rather we bring him up in late August into the bullpen.  Our bullpen should be starting to drag by then, and a fresh young arm would help energize it.  In addition, he's a heck of a pitcher when he is on, so he would help to secure more leads and convert them into wins.  He could be like our K-Rod that the Angels had in the 2002 playoffs, the wild card unknown who could dazzle the hitters into submission, as needed.

That is basically what I want to do with Buster Posey too, bring him up near the end so that he's a fresh young great hitter who we have coming off the bench.  I drool over the advantage that would give us over other clubs in the playoffs.  In addition, he would be perfect should we reach the World Series, as he could then be our DH for most games, and jump in and start at catcher, allowing Molina a rest to keep his bat rested and ready to hit by DHing.  (FYI, Sabean in a recent interview noted that money and service time will not be factors in when to bring up Posey, that it has never been a factor, his coming up will be a baseball decision). 

Both their times will come eventually, but if things work out right, we can have them both on our bench ready to contribute in significant roles during the pennant race and then the playoffs should we make it in.  Either way, they look like, with another season under their belt, they will be ready to take starting roles for us in 2011.

People say that Sabean sucks, but you need to see the big picture of where the team is evolving.  Creating a winning team is very rarely a revolutionary change to suddenly you are a winner when you were losing big time before (and FYI, Sabean was one of the few to do such a thing), it is usually an evolution as prospects, who mature at varying rates, join the team and start to produce.  Once you get a critical mass, like we did last season, then you can start looking forward to competing for the division title, and then the following year, you add other pieces to fill gaps and hopefully seal the deal that year or the following year after that. 

This requires patience, which is very lacking into today's 24x7 world of instant gratification and ADD epidemic.  Rebuilding takes time.  Time for the good prospects you now have access to because you are drafting in the first third of the first round (where the odds are 20-45% of finding a good player) instead of the last third of the first round (around 11%) to develop (typically need 2-4 years to develop into MLB players, then additional years sometime to develop into good players).   Time for your international free agents to mature and develop.  Time for the right free agents to pop up to fill your gaps (and sometimes they never show up, so you need to trade for them). 

And meanwhile, your current 25 man roster is aging too, so you can't be overly patient either.  You need to find that balance, as we all need to do in life, no matter what we do or who we are.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 8-4: Paddling the Padres

The Giants took one to the gut with losing yesterday's game against the D-gers, especially with Manny manning up and hitting a PH 2-run homer to steal the win away from us. But those things happen. And we had a better chance of winning too, Manny missed most of the series before making his presence felt yesterday, so that makes it hurt that much more, but the D-gers have a good team and they have always been tough at their home, so 1-2 isn't that bad either, just versus what could have been given how well Zito pitched again.

Now the Giants face the 'Dres on the road in SD, and they have actually been decent (6-6), which they looked to be from the way they ended the 2009 season, I liked a lot of their young guys, but A-Gon is expected to be gone via trade before the trade deadline, so that should put a tombstone on their season, sooner or later.

Game 1: Matt Cain (0-0, 4.26) vs. Clayton Richard (0-2, 4.38)

Normally, I would say that this is a win for the Giants, but Richard was very good at his SD home last season (2.00 ERA) so there is that. However, he was horrible in his first start at home this year, so that is there as well. The 'Dres lineup, despite A-Gon and other good players, has been struggling this season, averaging under 4 runs scored per game, good for 10th in the NL this season.

I have to think that the Giants should win this game, Cain is now pretty good on the road as well as home, and he's facing a sub-standard offense, and Richard, while great at home last season, didn't pitch all that many games there, and he did poorly in his first start, so the edge appears to be in the Giants favor.

Game 2: Jonathan Sanchez (1-0, 2.19) vs. Mat Latos (0-1, 5.91)

Mat Latos is their young pitching phenom, but he doesn't strike out that many and hasn't had great success in the majors so far, only doing OK, and he has been as OK at home as on the road. Sanchez and the Giants should beat him easily.

Game 3: Todd Wellemeyer (0-1, 9.58) vs. Jon Garland (0-2, 5.40)

Garland has actually not pitched that well in SD when you look at his peripherals, but he has a 3.41 ERA at home. That should not continue. However, Wellemeyer has not been that great himself. So it can go either way, depending on how well Wellemeyer pitches and how well Garland pitches.

Giants Thoughts

A big factor on which the results will depend on is how achy Mark DeRosa's hamstring is:  if he is out again, then the lineup will that much like the lineups we had last season - that is, not good - and we could end up losing the series instead.  The lineup yesterday will look much like yesterday's, as Richard is a LHP:  Velez, Renteria, Sandoval, Huff, Molina, Uribe, Torres, Schierholtz.  And it could not do anything, though Kershaw finally figured out what was wrong from his prior games and pitched a heck of a game, striking out 9 in 7 IP.

The good news is that Huff, Molina, Renteria, Sandoval, Torres, and Uribe has had some, though limited (basically one game's results), success against Richard.  And Sandoval has owned Garland (6-7 with homer), while Huff has done well (8-29 with 2 HR), which might make up for the other hitters not doing that well against him.  Maybe with a lefty lineup (lefties have historically done well against him), the Giants can score some runs on him.  Only DeRosa has faced Latos, but 0-2.  Latos has NOT done well against left-handed hitters, and the Giants have a lot of lefties, so they look like they should be able to score runs off of him.  The park severely hurts left-handed power, though.


So, whereas the D-gers I thought was a toss-up as to which team should win the series (so losing 1-2 is not that big a shock), the Giants look to be a clearly better team than the 'Dres, even at their pitcher's park home and should win the series. A sweep of the 'Dres does not look likely, but two wins certainly appear within reach for us, which would give us a 3-3 road trip, and .500 on road trips is the Giants goal for 2010, for that should, along with a good home record, get us to a division title (.500 in 2009 would have resulted in us tied with Colorado or taking the wild card).

Friday, April 16, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 7-2: Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA!

The Giants have won all three series they have played in so far.  They have been lucky to some degree so far, as Astros have been terrible and, well, the Pirates are the Pirates, plus they avoided Lance Berkman in Houston and Chipper Jones against Atlanta.

Still, they have faced a pretty good string of pitchers:  Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, plus Maholm and Charlie Morton.  They have all had sub-4 ERAs in recent years.  Only Burres was easy, but he was an emergency starter, so what would you expect (and the pitcher he replaced, Ross Ohlendorf, had a sub-4 ERA in 2009).  And taking out Burres start, the Giants have still averaged 5.6 runs scored in those 8 games against, again, pretty good starting pitching (at least they were in recent years).

And one thing I like to do to analyze how well an offense is doing is count the number of games where the offense scored 4 runs or more.  To me, when the offense has scored 4 runs or more, the team should win most of the time, so it did its job.  The Giants were 66-15 last season when they scored 4 runs or more (they were 12-7 when they scored exactly 4).  And that was with the lousy 4.0 average runs scored per game team of 2009.  The Giants have scored 4 runs or more 7 times in 2010 so far, which matches their 7-2 record.

Similarly for the defense - pitching and fielding - if they keep the runs allowed to 4 and under, I count that as doing their job, and that they should win most of the time.  The Giants were 81-30 when they keep their runs allowed to 4 runs or less (they were 12-12 when they scored exactly 4; as to be expected when they averaged 4 runs scored per game).  The Giants have allowed 4 runs or less 7 times in 2010 so far, which also matches their 7-2 record.

And now they face the hated D-gers.  The D-gers are 3.5 games behind us, and it has been their pitching, or lack thereof, that has dropped them to 3-5.  To show how desperate they are, they have Russ Ortiz, yes, that Russ Ortiz, in their bullpen (Colletti is one GM who loves ex-Giants, a small club including Billy Beane, the Pirates, Orioles, and I think Toronto might be one soon as well).

Game 1:  Todd Wellemeyer vs. Vicente Padilla

Wellemeyer had a nice first 6 innings, but unfortunately, possibly due to the use of the entire bullpen in the game before, Bochy brought him out for the 7th, whereupon he was beat upon.  His 6th was a bit shaky, as the announcers noted it, where he gave up a homer, flyout, then a deep flyout, and I was hoping he would go out.

However, another good reason NOT to bring him out, besides the bullpen, is that unless Bochy puts Wellemeyer into such situations where he's struggling a little, he won't ever know what Wellemeyer is capable of.  His opinion would become a self-fulfilling prophesy.  And that is something many fans don't seem to understand, particularly in the early parts of the season, or even mid-season:  sometimes you take the chance to stretch him out to see what he's capable of.  Then later, you can make a better decision on what the right decision should be.  Hence why Bochy sometimes makes decision that "anybody" can see is wrong;  sometimes, you need to take that risk/chance to learn about your player.

Padilla is not his late-2009 LA self:  2 starts, 11.42 ERA.  But that is mainly the 14 hits in 8.2 IP, as he struck out 8 and walked "only" 4, which is high but when a pitcher's K/BB ratio is 2.0 or better, he is doing well.  And he is pitching in LA, home of one of the most consistently extreme pitcher's park of the past 50 years.  That's why Jeff Weaver comes back here all the time, he looks good here, and then signs for big money elsewhere based on that, then ends up back here because he looks horrible there.

Still, this is Padilla, who, aside from pitching incredibly well for LA in late 2009, has been a mediocre to poor starter for the past 6 seasons, and it is that performance that I expected him to regress to this season, and his poor start to this season only confirms that expectation.  And he got beat up by Pittsburgh, who, as we saw this week, does not have as good an offense as the Giants do.

With a well rested pen and a pitcher's park, I think Wellemeyer can do OK to the 6th inning, whereupon our now well-rested pen can come in and shut down the D-gers the rest of the way.  And Padilla will make enough mistakes that we make him pay for it, and the Giants should sneak away with a win, despite our #5 starter facing their #1, but it's not a gimme.

Game 2:  Tim Lincecum vs. Charlie Haeger

Well, the way Lincecum has been pitching, while there is never an automatic win, we do expect days where Lincecum starts to be one in the win column.  However, this is not one of them.

Not that I think Haeger is all that good.  Looking at his historical performance, Lincecum should win this battle.  However, Haeger is a knuckleballer, and the only way to beat one is to have a lineup of patient hitters unwilling to swing at the slop unless it is a strike.

And as any Giants fan knows, our lineup is the antonym of patience, and Haeger in his first start of the season made the Marlins look silly with 12 strikeouts in 6 IP.  They are a bunch of free swingers, striking out 22% of their AB's in 2009.  The Giants, while better this year, is still a bit of a free swinging team, though as recent articles by Schulman showed, they are now in the middle, with some good at taking pitches (Renteria, Huff, DeRosa) and others not so much (and you know who they are).  Still, they are still last in the NL in pitches per PA with 3.61 (average of 3.84); Florida has a 3.98 pitch per PA.

Still, despite his good performance, he still gave up 4 runs (3 ER).  So it is not like the Marlins did no damage,.  However, they did that with only 3 hits (1 homer) and 4 walks.  Not every team can score 4 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks.  But the Giants have been pretty good at manufacturing runs this season by stringing together key walks and hits to get runs, so there is that.

I'm going to have to call this a push, it can go either way basically depending on which Haeger shows up, the one that did that to the Marlins or the one who has been showing up for the prior four seasons.

Game 3:  Barry Zito vs. Clayton Kershaw

Zito is probably off to his best start ever, certainly best as a Giants and the first time he won the first two starts in the season since 2003.  He didn't even do that in 2002, his Cy Young season, where he didn't win two games until his first start in May, and last year he didn't win his second until June 5th.  He has been known to be a slow starter and typically have a better ERA in the second half of the season, where his fanaticism with working out benefits him by him being stronger than others relatively as the season drags on.  He has also done well in D-ger Stadium, compiling a 3.86 ERA there over the years.

Still, Clayton "The Craw" Kershaw is not chopped liver himself.  He has a 2.51 ERA at home for his short MLB career (1.83 last season), and is their (so far) better version of Madison Bumgarner.  However he has had a tough 2010 season so far, only got to the 5.1 IP mark once in two starts, and had 6 walks and 5 walks, respectively in those two starts.

If he's the 2010 version, then we got this game easily, but if he the 2009 version, then we don't got a chance.  It can go either way, and I have no idea. But the good news is that he has no clue what the problem is.

Giants Thoughts

Any D-gers series is always tough.  Especially since we only have one of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez facing them, so they get off relatively easy.  Still, Zito has been on a roll and Wellemeyer shut down the Braves for 6 IP.  This series can go either way, but with the Giants pitchers generally doing very well and the D-gers pitchers have NOT been doing very well, particularly the bullpen, I would have to think that they can pull off a series win here as well but there are two many question marks about the D-gers starting pitching to say that definitively.

Go Giants!

FLew The Blue Jay

As has been reported by numerous channels (including his Facebook account and Twitter), Fred Lewis has been traded from the Giants to the Toronto Blue Jays for a PTBNL or cash.  (Schulman, Splash, Baggerly, ExtraBaggs, sfgiants.com).  He thanked his supporters and is happy to move on.

Giants Thoughts

Reading through all the accounts, it just sounds like it was time for Lewis to go, that he (and the Giants) would be better off if he were in another place.  Sometimes in life, you just need a change of scenery to change things for the positive.  Lewis has been asking for a trade since last year and it sounds like he would be a poison on the bench because he's unhappy with Bochy's handling of him.

I wanted the Giants to keep him, as he at least has had success at one time or another as a starter in LF, but if he's unwilling to bat lead-off when the manager wants to bat him there, what are you going to do?  I was hoping he could be adult about this and accept a backup role on our team, but the Chronicle account noted that Lewis "believed he would molder under a manager unwilling to let him play."  I still prefer him over Velez and Torres, though I'm OK with seeing Torres platoon with Bowker in RF, but I'm not shedding tears over it.

Still, there are many tear-jerkers out there complaining about this deal and they don't really get that his MLB stats is not the only evidence of his abilities, his minor league performance is too, and it was never pretty there nor particularly good when viewed by MLEs.  And his defense could be great one year and horrendous the next, he was very inconsistent.

Which shows the great conundrum of Fred Lewis, the ballplayer: his inconsistencies as a player all through his career.

Do you believe in his 2008 batting line of .282/.351/.440/.791 (BABIP .365) or do you believe in his 2009 batting line of .258/.348/.390/.738 (BABIP .344), which was boosted by 5 HBP whereas he had zero in 2008? His MiLB career BABIP of .339 suggests that 2009 is more of his future than the shiny .365.  And what good is that if he believes that he's a #3 hitter and not a leadoff hitter?

The thing is, you can't really tell what type of player you got after two seasons, particularly when he has basically a good first year and a bad second year. I think Jeff Francoeur hitting is a pretty good example of that. However, when you start to mix in what he did in the minors, then it becomes clearer which is the mirror and which is the mirage:  his 2009.

And people often forget to account for age when looking at what a player does in AAA. I'll bet many will look at his great stats right now in AAA and think how stupid the Giants are, but the fact is that at age 29, he's a man among boys in terms of experience, he better be beating up on them.

Bottom line, he's 29 years old and very inconsistent.  The story was that this was a result of him playing football, but he stated very clearly that he doesn't know how that story got put out there, but he's been playing baseball all his life and it is his first love.  Just chew on that thought while thinking about all the times he took the wrong route to the play or showed no instincts at all for playing the outfield.

Also, as a left-hander, he has to know about how badly AT&T Park affects his power, or what little of it he has displayed in his career.  The scary thing is that he has hit waaay better at home than on the road (a la Ishikawa), if he had been hitting what he hit on the road (career .245/.323/.378/.701 and that is a fluke of his 2007 season, the last two seasons, roughly .313 OBP and .670 OPS), nobody would be crying over losing him.

As a final note, this is what his new team GM, Alex Anthopoulos, thinks of him: "He's a pretty good athlete. He can run a little bit. He's really just a left fielder in our eyes, but he's someone who we think can be a good left-handed bat off the bench and a guy that, if he's ever thrust into more playing time, at least he's done it before and he's more familiar with that type of role." At least he's done it before, that is the best they can say about him. If he thinks that he's better off with them, great, but I think he's going to regret it by the end of the 2010 season.

Here's hoping we pick up another nice prospect pickup in the trade, I like the pitcher we got for Snyder, who we traded to the Rangers.  Much better than money.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 5-1: Please Continue Stealing Pirate's Booty

Wow, the Giants just keep it going and being lucky to some extent.  I was totally wrong about Houston.  Part of that was Berkman being out and me not accounting for it, but still, their pitchers were not push-overs either, particularly in Houston, so kudos to the Giants offense for taking care of them.  And the Giants lucked out with Chipper Jones hurting himself the day before our series, and ended up missing the whole series.  Given how we squeaked out the win on Friday, I have to think that him being around would have changed that story.

Still, the Braves have a good rotation, and we faced Hudson, Lowe, and Kawakami, who have been very good pitchers before.  And we scored 13 runs total, 5 runs in the first and 6 runs in the third game, so the offense did very nicely against good pitchers (though it wasn't Hudson we scored on, it was their bullpen).

In any case, the Giants can't help it if they are given some lucky breaks.  The key is that they are taking advantage of those breaks and winning, whereas before they might have lost the games anyway.  And Friday's come from behind win after the 8th matches all of 2009, where they only did it once all season.  Plus, until Sunday, they had been doing it without Sandoval being the big power hitter he is.  And now they are 5-1.

Got the matchups from Schulman.  As I noted before, I think the Giants should win the series.

Game 1:  Ohlendorf vs. Zito

Ross Ohlendorf had a great breakout year in 2009 with the Pirates.  He was stuck with the Yankees and the trade to the Pirates gave him the opportunity to start and he took it and ran with it, with a nice 3.92 ERA.  He did that with a 5.6 K/9, which only worked because he had a K/BB of 2.06.  Still, a BABIP of .269 suggests that he was very lucky with his balls in play, with a likely regression to .300, unless he is one of those crafty pitchers able to get away with that, which are very rare, and so the best assumption for now is that he will regress.  In addition, he was like Ishikawa last year, great numbers at home but terrible on the road (2.64 vs. 5.56 ERA).

Meanwhile, Zito has done better each year in AT&T, rising to a 3.92 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and K/BB of 2.81 in 2009, both very good for him, and heck good for any pitcher.  His velocity sounded like it was still there in spring and he was great in his appearance against the Astros, throwing a DOM start.  We should win this game.


Game 2:  Maholm vs. Cain

Paul Maholm has been like Ohlendorf but for his career with the Pirates, great at home, horrible on the road (3.58 vs. 5.24 ERA, poor K/BB either way).  He has been better in SF for 3 starts, 4.00 ERA, good strikeout rate, good K/BB, so he looks like he could be tough, though his results have been up and down, and it was worse in last year's game, against our poor offense.  

Matt Cain has been way better at home than on the road (3.24 vs. 3.88).  However, the prior two seasons while still better, his road numbers were very to his home.  But, in any case, this is a home game for him, so he looks like he should rock again, for, although he gave up a number of runs in his first start in Houston, he struck out 5 and walked none, which he hardly ever did prior in his career, walks was his nemesis.  The Giants should win this matchup.  

Game 3:  Morton vs. Sanchez

Charlie Morton got free of the Braves and got to start 18 games for the Pirates, doing relatively well with a 4.55 ERA but like the others, great at home, horrible on the road (3.10 vs. 6.04 ERA, horrible K/9, poor to bad K/BB).  However, he had a very nice start against us last season, which seems flukey, but then again, it was last year's offense.  

Sanchez, I think, was a bit overwhelmed by the pressure of pitching in our home opener, but overall his problem was that the balls were finding holes and becoming hits.  He had 6 K's vs. 2 BB's, very good, in 4.1 IP but gave up 7 hits, though no homers.  He seems to not do well with the first start of the season, the past couple of years.  He has been almost equally bad at home and the road during his career, but he did really nicely last season with a 4.04 ERA.  And as I noted before, he did well after reverting back to his mechanics and he had a nice spring, but until he's more consistent, I think we just have to take one start at a time with him.  I would put this as a tossup right now.

Giants Thoughts

The guys to worry about are Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones (another reject who has found a home with the Pirates and the opportunity to do well, and he has so far), along with old pro Ryan Doumit behind the plate.  Iwamura is good too.  But the lineup otherwise look like the land of failed top prospects:  Jeff Clement at 1B, Ronny Cedeno at SS, Andy LaRoche at 3B, Lastings Milledge in LF.  And they have Delwyn Young, Bobby Crosby, and Ryan Church on the bench.  

They have averaged 5.0 runs scored per game against good rotation that LA has and faced both Haren and Edwin Jackson in Arizona.  So they have produced so far.  But Zito, Cain, and Sanchez should be on par if not better than what they faced against LA and AZ.

With these matchups, it looks likely that the Giants should win the series, and end up at least 7-2.  The Pirates pitchers are still relatively young and inexperienced, so they could pull a rabbit out of the hat and surprise us, but the more likely outcome is that they come in and not do all that well, while our guys have been good, particularly at home.  But with three games, odds are an outlier will happen, still I think it looks good for a series win, with some possibility of a sweep.

Obviously, 5-1 is a great start, but there are many games to be played.  I still think that 90+ wins is doable for this team, and if the offense can continue to produce up and down the lineup, with no one player driving the scoring, but a clear team effort happening (even with Renteria's hot hitting, it did not result in a lot of runs, which is a negative) with balanced contributions, then I think we could get more.  But it is too early to say either way, right now we should just enjoy each win.  A nice block of winning early on like this would go a long way towards keeping the other teams out of reach, though.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 3-0: Braving the Braves

After sweeping the lowly Astros (though in Houston, where they were tough last season), the Giants face the Braves in their home opening series.  The good news is that we will miss their two young studs in the rotation, Jair Jurrgens and Tommy Hanson.  Unfortunately, they have a rotation that is arguably better than our rotation, overall, though only because we have Wellemeyer in the 5th spot (our rotation should be way better once Bumgarner becomes the 5th starter).

Game 1: Tim Hudson vs. Jonathan Sanchez

Hudson came back from TJS successfully last season, and looks to be one of those TJS who come back better than before, as his strikout rate went up significantly, to a good level for him and for pitchers generally.  He's still considered a front-line level pitcher.  He has pitched well in SF, 4 starts, 3.86 ERA.  But he has generally pitched worse on the road than at home, so there is that.

However, Sanchez pitches like a front-line level pitcher when he is on.  He had a sub-4, high-3 ERA in the first half of 2008 and 3.37 ERA in the second half of 2009.  He also had a great spring.  This will be a tough game, two tough pitchers facing each other, and the Braves have a nice lineup led by wunderkind Jason Heyward, long-time top dog, Chipper Jones, and top-line catcher Brian McCann, plus good players like Nate McLouth, Omar Infante, Martin Prado, Melky Cabrera, and Yunel Escobar.

Game 2: Kenshin Kawakami vs. Todd Wellemeyer

Kawakami had a great first season in the MLB, after a good career in Japan.  He also had an even better second half.  He did pitch worse on the road than at home, so there is that, but even then he was good on the road.  He should be a tough pitcher for the Giants to face, as he does not walk that many, and strike out a good amount, though not double, which is what you want to see in a pitcher (though close, 105 K:57 BB).

Wellemeyer, unfortunately, is not as good as Kawakami.  And has never been, as his 2008 season was flukey good, his FIP was much higher.  Have no idea how he will do in SF, but the hope is the news that his fastball this spring is back to 2008-goodness is hopeful.

It does not look good for us, though Kawakami did not do well against us in his one start last season.  Despite the 2009 Giants problems with taking a walk, he gave up 4 walks and only struck out 2 in that start last season, so maybe the new and improved offense may knock him out earlier (he only lasted 5.2 IP in that start).  But since he's normally been a good pitcher and Wellemeyer not so much, we probably are looking at a loss here.

The hope, ultimately, for me, is that Wellemeyer will pitch well enough to hold the position until Bumgarner is ready to come up, say around the All-Star break.  Maybe make Wellemeyer the long reliever, and we send down a reliever with options who isn't doing well.  Hopefully Bumgarner's velocity would have returned, but if not, at least maybe he has a great half season in AAA, duplicating what he has done in his pro career up to now, and he'll get the call then.  Plus, if Wellemeyer does do well, he could hold the spot and Bumgarner could be brought up in September and be a reliever for us then and in the playoffs.

Or better, if he is doing well, we trade him to another team, pick up a nice prospect for him, and insert Bumgarner into the #5 spot.  Then we don't need to send down a reliever.

Game 3: Derek Lowe vs. Tim Lincecum

After questions during the off-season over whether he would even be with the Braves, he ended up pitching in their season opener, and he had a 2 PQS game, giving up 5 hits and 3 walks in 6.0 IP with only 2 K's and giving up 2 HR.  He did not pitch well on the road last season, and at 37 YO for this season, and no longer pitching in LA, he is vulnerable and he's facing Lincecum.  They could be looking to sweep us by this point, but with Lincecum pitching for us, we should win this game, he is one of the most reliable starters in the majors in terms of delivering a dominant start (4 or 5 PQS).

Giants Thoughts

This series can go either way.  Lincecum should win, Wellemeyer should lose, and Sanchez's game is the coin toss.   Though, if we get the mature and improved Sanchez, we should win the series.  The spring gives hope that he will be that for us, but history shows that young players sometimes bounce back and forth erratically in their performance (see Oliver Perez) when they appear ready to emerge (see also Sanchez's 2008 and 2009).  Who know what the new obstacle could be (2008:  stamina; 2009:  new mechanics that don't work for him).

But with a opening series sweep against Houston, the Giants are in good shape.  Even if we go 1-2 against the Braves, we would still be in good shape, 4-2.  No worries, then we face the Pirates for 3 and should grab 2 of 3 there.  Amazing what a sweep can do!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

SWEEP!!! Your 2010 Giants are 3-0

What a game!  What a series!  What a SWEEP!

Renteria was 8 for 11 with 3 walks!  That is a great sign that he appears to be back to his pre-injury performance levels, as he did not have one series like this last season.  That would make a huge difference to our lineup.

Rowand had 4 hits this game.  Cain had a good game, and if not for that error, would have gotten the win.  He had another 5 PQS start, keeping the starter's streak alive.  More importantly, no walks, that has been his main negative during his career.

Sandoval has been hitting.  Huff had key roles in the first two games big scoring innings, and though a tough day today, 1-6, he had a 11 pitch AB in the first inning, which helped tire out Myers, who gave up 12 hits in 6 IP.

I was wrong about Uribe, he had hits every game, multiple hits, he had key knocks in each game, helping to keep the Astros that much further away, raising the difficulty of the Astros catching up exponentially.

DeRosa has been doing things, both little and big, in each game, in each scoring burst.

Even the young guys contributed.  Bowker had a 2-run homer today in his start today.  Ishikawa got a pinch-hit homer and Schierholtz had a pinch-single, then both came in as defensive replacements.

Even Whiteside got a single, in a day game after night game rest for Molina.

While the Astros were greatly hobbled by not having Lance Berkman, which I did not account for when analyzing this series, the bigger surprise is that the Giants offense scored well against three good starters.  Basically big rallies, with crooked numbers, won each game and led to the sweep.  We did not squeak out wins where Berkman would have made a key difference to the results.

Atlanta is next, and again, we are facing tough pitchers, though at home, where it is more of a hitter's park now (see Bill James' analysis in his book).  And while it is GREAT to get the sweep, there is still 159 games this season and a lot more games to play.  Still, 3-0 is way better than 1-2 or 0-3, and now a winning month in April looks possible now, despite the toughness of the opposing teams

Meanwhile, the D-Rox lost today and are 1-2, while the D-gers are 0-1 and got a game tonight.

Go Giants!

2010 Giants Minor League Rosters

DrB posted the rosters at his great new blog, When The Giants Come to Town.  If you want great info on the Giants farm system, I would recommend going to him.

My notes:

  • EME was promoted to AAA even though he didn't do that great in AA.  I guess it was just time, plus our top OF - Neal, Ford, Kieschnick - was promoted to AA, so he needed to go somewhere if he was to start.  I still think that if given enough time to get healthy, he can be a hitter again, but this season is probably do or die, if he don't do it, we should probably let him go.  He really should be a DH if he ever makes the majors, so an AL team would probably pick him up.
  • Henry Sosa:  I read on Baggs or Schulman that Sosa that he'll be relieving there, not starting.
  • Andy Sisco:  He was a Royal's prospect a few years back, fireballer (theme for Giants) who could not find his control, but when he is on, he was a monster for the Royals.  I hope the Giants can find the way for him to do his magic, he would be awesome to have in the bullpen.  He's in AA, but I would have sent him to be with Steve Kline, who helped Runzler figure out the key to rise through the minors quickly and make the majors.
  • Wow, I don't really recognize any of the starting pitchers for San Jose, I wonder if this is the year that they are not competing for the title.
  • Got some prospects there - Adrianza, Belt, Peguero, Fairley - though I was surprised about Fairley, he didn't do that well last season.  
  • Augusta look barren too, Wheeler plus Joseph and Sanchez battling for time at catcher, they must be planning on playing Joseph a lot at 1B already, he really needs to play everyday so that we can see what type of bat he got.  
  • For some reason RafRod was not assigned.  Sometimes a player rehabbing from something ends up in spring instructionals before getting assigned once he has recovered, but I was not aware of him being injured.  I was expecting him to play in Augusta this season.

As I noted before, the prospect I am keeping a sharp eye on is Nick Noonan.  He had a massive change in his strikeouts in his last two months of 2009 and if he can continue that into 2010, he is going to have a breakout year where he fulfills the prospect promise he had when we drafted him.  He could be among those pushing to make the majors by season end, among many possibles in AA, partly made possible by the much better park there than at Connecticut.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: April, Play Ball!

The goal, says Brian Sabean, is for the Giants to get off to a hot start. Or at least a hotter start than prior years, as each season started with a stumble, with a huge losing streak, losing roughly 6 games in the loss column. In prior years, Dave Roberts, as nice a guy as he is, killed the top of the lineup trying to play when he was clearly injured. Last season, no one to blame as specific as that, just a collective "ooops!". Sabean is looking for a winning record in April and May.

In April, there are 9 road games to start the season, out of the first 15, so there is the potential to stumble out the chute again. They are facing Houston, then later LA and SD on the road, while facing the Braves and Pirates at home. Yeah, they don't face NL West teams until their 10th game of the season. The Braves should be tough, and they bring along their wunderkind, Jason Heyward, but the Pirates, not so much.

But in the last week, roughly, the Giants play 7 games at home, giving them 13 home games and 9 road games out of 22 total games played in April. Thus to finish April with a winning record, they would need to go 12-10. However, those 7 home games (9 in total extending into May) will be tough games, facing the Cardinals, the Phillies, then the D-Rox.

It will be tough to even break even in April. To win 10 in April, the Giants would need to win one game in each series plus win at least two series plus the first one against Colorado, or win three series. Counting as series wins both Pittsburgh and San Diego, plus winning the first from Colorado, assuming that our rotation will face their counterpart in each series, that would mean:
  • @Houston 1-2: I don't like Houston, but they are probably tough at home, plus it's Lincecum vs. Oswalt, Zito vs. Wandy Rodriguez, and Cain vs. Brett Myers. It'll be tough to win 2 of 3, unless Myers' physical problems affect him, as they played well at home last season, despite ending up way below .500.
  • Braves 1-2: Tough team expected to do well in 2010 and maybe win the NL East. Sanchez vs. Hudson, Wellemeyer vs. Kenshin Kawakami, Lincecum vs. Derek Lowe (who got blasted today by Pirates). Hudson is tough, Kawakami was called "the best 5th starter" by one columnist (albeit Atlanta columnist), but Lincecum looks to beat Lowe. Had Hudson not been there, I think I would have given it to Sanchez, but he's going to have to do well to win this. The Braves overall rotation looks to be as good or better than the Giants, at least until Bumgarner joins the rotation.
  • Pirates 2-1: We got Zito vs. Ohlendorf, Cain vs. Maholm, and Sanchez vs. Morton, and it's the Pirates and we are home, so 2-1 seems very doable, and we could maybe sweep.
  • @LA 1-2: I think that they and Colorado will be our toughest competitors for the 2010 season. Wellemeyer, Lincecum, and Zito spells trouble for me.
  • @SD 2-1: They can have a tough lineup, depending on how the young guys do and whether they still have A-Gon around. Still, Cain vs. Correia, Sanchez vs. Richard, Wellemeyer vs. Latos, I have to like our chances to win the series.
  • Cards 1-2: Going to be tough, Lincecum vs. Carpenter, Zito vs. Wainwright, Cain vs. Penny, there is the significant possibility of getting swept.
  • Phillies 1-2: They are the World Champs and picked up Halladay, arguably one of the best pitchers of the 2000's. Sanchez vs. Happ, Wellemeyer vs. Moyer, Lincecum vs. Hallday, again there is the distinct possibility of being swept.
  • Colorado 1-0: Zito starting against Aaron Cook, so that is not necessarily good, but I'm giving this to the Giants, they are at home and the two of them are a push, talent-wise, I think. Given the negative tint to the last two series, I was going to switch this to a loss, but I think Zito should be able to take on Cook at home.
In total, that ends up being a 10-12 month, with a possibility of going worse. Not great start, but not something that would kill our chances. We could have been looking at a winning start if we didn't face both the Cards and Phillies at the end of the month, plus we are facing some tough clubs on the road, that perhaps we would win at home.

Of course, this is all very rough estimation, the Giants haven't played one inning yet, and at most one game for the other teams, so if the Giants can get off to a fast start, say if Myers problems flare up in the meantime or Cain takes him on and beats Myers, or better if Zito can man up and do well against Wandy - tall order though, Wandy was untouchable at home last season - then we could turn around the month early on. Plus, you never know when a tough team could suddenly be easy to take on if things don't work out for them early on.

But taking a view with a rough idea of how the pitchers we face might do, it looks to be another tough month for the Giants. However, it does not look like it should be a disastrous month, though we will have to watch at in the last week of the month. If Sanchez and Zito can continue what they did in the second half of 2009, the month will perk up, but I'm assuming something up and down like 2009 overall, which would mean a tough month for us. And if Wellemeyer can pitch like he did in 2008, that would swing things around for us in the back of the rotation, I used his 2009 to project how we might fare in April.

Your 2010 Giants: Opening Day 25-man Roster

The Giants have announced their 25 man roster (Baggarly had it here and the Chron here; additional positions in parenthesis):
    Starting Pitchers (5)

    Tim Lincecum RHP
    Barry Zito LHP
    Matt Cain RHP
    Jonathan Sanchez LHP
    Todd Wellemeyer RHP
    Relief Pitchers (7)
    Brian Wilson Closer
    Jeremy Affeldt LHP-Setup
    Brandon Medders RHP
    Guillermo Mota RHP
    Sergio Romo RHP-Setup
    Dan Runzler LHP
    Waldis Joaquin RHP

    Catchers (2)
    Bengie Molina C
    Eli Whiteside C

    Infielders (5)
    Aubrey Huff 1B (LF/3B)
    Travis Ishikawa UT (1B/LF)
    Edgar Renteria SS
    Pablo Sandoval 3B (1B/C)
    Juan Uribe 2B (3B/SS)

    Outfielders (6)
    Mark DeRosa LF (2B/3B/1B/SS/RF)
    Aaron Rowand CF
    John Bowker RF (LF/1B)
    Nate Schierholtz UT (RF/LF/CF)
    Andres Torres UT (CF/LF/RF)
    Eugenio Velez UT (LF/CF/RF/2B)
The Giants DLed Freddie Sanchez, Fred Lewis, and Emmanuel Burriss, plus assigned Denny Bautista to AAA, to get the roster down to 25 men.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants had mild surprises regarding the final 25 man and starting lineup, though it was no surprise considering how well they did.

Waldis Joaquin took the last spot in the bullpen, edging out if you will, Kevin Pucetas. The Giants announced that they wanted Pucetas ready in the minors in case the Giants needed a starter. I would add that given Pucetas' overall poor season in 2009, they probably wanted him to show that his spring would carry forward to the regular season in AAA. Plus Joaquin used to be a starter not too long ago, so he could probably take long relief duty if necessary.

In any case, Joaquin had a good spring. Surprisingly, he didn't strike out too many (only 3 in 13.2 IP) but still did well, walking only 1 batter. Walking batters had alway been a problem for him in the minors, and his brief time in the majors last season. The great thing was that he was getting a lot of ground balls, his GO/AO ratio was a stellar 3.75 (1.0 means you give up as many grounders as fly outs).

The way I viewed it, the Giants has been conscious about rewarding their young pitchers when possible. That is why they dropped Steve Kline a couple of years ago, to make space, I believe, for Merkin Valdez. And this year, with the way Denny Bautista pitched, if the Giants were really as vet focused as some claim, Denny would have won this spot and not Joaquin. I'm glad that they are giving Waldis a shot, he was a hot prospect previously, before his injury, so it is nice that he has recovered and made the majors. He's only 23.

John Bowker took the last starting spot that was open, RF, pushing out Nate Schierholtz. What can you say, Bowker, despite being written off for competition for RF before the competition even began, had a great spring and first forced himself into the competition, then probably won it long ago with Schierholtz's struggles, and continued to hit well to the end, hitting a homer.

My only caveat is that Ishikawa had a similar spring last season and came out cold for the first one and a half months. He, like Bowker, had a breakout year in the minors the year before, unlike any season he had before. In Bowker's plus column, his peripherals were great in that he took more walks than strikeouts, though he did still strike out too much, but was very close to what you want to see (64 vs 55 or 17.5% vs. 15%). The minus is that he came to the majors, after hitting that well in the minors, just like Ishikawa, but unlike Ishikawa, didn't do that well, reverting back to his bad habits of before.

Given how well he hit in spring and 2009, hopefully he solved whatever demons that causes him to choke in the majors and not hit that well. A Bowker hitting like he did in spring and 2009 would be a HUGE boost to our offense and our chances in 2010. If I could re-do my Big 6 Questions for 2010, I would add Bowker doing well as a starter as a wild-card that could make up for one of the questions going south.

Schierholtz actually had an OK spring overall, .262/.304/.507/.811, which is slightly above average for a RF. It is just that Bowker had an outstanding spring. Still, I hope there will be games against RHP where DeRosa would play 2B, Bowker LF, and Schierholtz RF (or even Uribe at 2B, though I would prefer DeRosa's bat instead). And hopefully Nate will still get to see a good amount of action anyhow, DeRosa is not the best against RHP, that is his weakness, so hopefully Nate will get some regular play via this route. There is also starting DeRosa at 1B in place of Huff to get Schierholtz in. Then there's Renteria getting a rest, Uribe playing SS, DeRosa 2B, and Schierholtz in LF. The Rubik's cube roster of the Giants can go crazy this season.

And, defensively, while Schierholtz was great last year, at least Bowker, albeit, in very little play, did well in the OF, and for his career is about half a win better than average. That surprised me, as I thought he was below average and looking at the available defensive stats, he wasn't that good in 2008.

But in according to the defense stats in Minor League Splits, he was actually very good defensively in RF in the minors in previous years, as it was his defense in LF that was not so good. So RF is actually where he played best in the minors, it was LF where he had troubles, though he did very well in limited time in LF in the majors in 2009. So we might not even take as big a hit on defense as feared, though still, Schierholtz was not just good, but basically as good as Winn in RF, which is a high standard, in terms of UZR/150. CHONE's projection, as shown in Fangraphs, has both of them getting about the same amount of ABs, and have their projected defensive values being very similar, but with Bowker doing much better offensively than Schierholtz, about half a win better.

Bochy would not divulge how the starting lineup would be with Bowker in there as the starting RF, other than he would not be batting 8th like Schierholtz would have. Ishikawa batted 6th last season, so here is how the lineup would look if Bowker got 6th, given what we have seen with the predicted lineup so far:
  1. Aaron Rowand CF
  2. Edgar Renteria SS
  3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
  4. Aubrey Huff 1B
  5. Mark DeRosa LF
  6. John Bowker RF
  7. Bengie Molina C
  8. Juan Uribe 2B
I was iffy, going either way regarding Molina and Bowker, but last year Ishikawa hit 6th with Rowand 7th, so I think that this is what the lineup will be today. Using CHONE's forecast, I have the addition of Bowker adding about 5 runs of offense, or half a win, to the Giants chances with this lineup. Of course, that does not account for defense, but given that CHONE's forecast is very similar for both, the gain in offense offsets the loss in defense by a lot. However, ZiPS had Schierholtz hitting better than Bowker, so there is a loss in offense using that projection. For Marcel too. However, Shandler has Bowker adding 2 full wins with Bowker's offense.

Looking at the lineup projections, I still would like to see a lineup of DeRosa 2B, Bowker LF, Schierholtz RF, because Uribe is not projected to be as good as Schierholtz as a hitter. For the Giants to maximize the lineup based on projections, they should think about going with this arrangement instead of going with Uribe at 2B, particularly against RHP but also against some LHP as well, as Nate has hit some well in the past. The plain fact is that Uribe has never been that good a hitter, he's a tweener, which is good if you are the first line of replacement, but not if you are mainly starting. Plus, we know what Uribe can do, so it would be nice to give Schierholtz a chance to show what he can do, knowing he's the starter, leaving it in his hands.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Your 2010 Giants Thoughts

Whether the Giants make the playoffs or not, you can't really tell whether that will happen to a great degree. You can never tell when the other teams just benefit from someone's outlier performance and aces your team out of the playoff picture. You also can never tell when something bad happens to your team. That's the sad truth that I'm finally getting.

But still, you can assess where they all stand relative to each other and here are the facts as I see them:
  • D-gers: Lost Wolf, who pitched great, did not get anyone who could be expected to reliably replace his production, though Vicente Padilla did do well with them at the end of 2009, so maybe (and they did that last year too, replacing Lowe's great production with Wolf; can they do that again? Padilla hasn't pitched that well since his rookie season and around that well since 2003). Manny has laid his gauntlet down and the last time he did that, the Red Sox found him unmotivated enough to feel forced to trade him away, and if I recall right, his stats were down until the trade to the D-gers. And the D-vorce should also affect the team as well, with the owner and the former president, his soon to be former wife, at odds. The divorce of the 'Dres owner caused the current downturn in their chances over the past few years, as they had to cut back on spending on players because of the settlement. The D-gers also benefited from both Hudson and Pierre playing above their career numbers for a while to help boost them up in the early part of the season. Hoping that players play above their heads at any point in the season is not the way to repeat what you did the year before. They won 95 games. I think these conditions should be enough to drop them to 90 wins or lower.
  • D-Rox: Lost Marquis, who had a great season with them, and they hope to reduplicate his production by re-adding Jeff Francis who missed all of last season. He pitched horribly for them during the spring. In addition, Huston Street appears to be out, perhaps for the whole season, and they are just praying with his replacement. At 92 wins last season, this should be enough to drop them to 88-90 wins, if not lower.
  • 'Dres: They actually looked like they might be on an upswing this season, with prospects like Kyle Blanks and Matt Latos ready to contribute, but the rumors of Adrian Gonzalez being traded just don't seem to go away, so that should make the team play tentatively until he is traded, at which point they have no chance of repeating. At 75 wins last season, they really needed some prospects to come through to reach 90 wins, but if A-Gon is a-gone by mid-season, their chances are gone. And a lot has to go good with their young prospects for them to add another 15 wins, and they don't really have any young pitcher that looks like he'll do that for them, to be that ace, and they traded away Jake Peavey last season, who could have been.
  • D-backs: They also have a lot of young bucks, but as nicely as they did in changing up their pitching rotation, they will still need Brandon Webb to come back and be like he was before. He is still recovering and might not pitch for the first month at least. At 70 wins last year, they needed a lot of things to go right, including him coming back and pitching like he used to, for them to do well in 2010, but even though they have a lot of nice young players who probably will develop and advance some this year, jumping from 70 games to 90 games without Webb at full strength looks like a poor bet.
Meanwhile, while people fault the Giants for not doing more for their lineup, they were just falling into the usual fan's Zone of Distortion where if there is any ordinariness in your team, your team sucks. What they don't realize is that when you have a team on the extremes, like the Giants are in terms of preventing runs from scoring, they only need to be ordinary with the lineup to win a lot of games. I have shown this mathematically in my business plan series.

Using various projections of the batting line for the main batting order for the Giants in 2010, the average expected runs scored per game across the six projections - Shandler, Graphical Player, Bill James, CHONE, ZiPS, and Marcel - is 4.49 runs scored per game. If the Giants matched their runs allowed of 2009, or 3.77 runs allowed, the would win 93 games with that runs scored average, which would have been very slightly above average in 2009, and to win 90 games with that offense, their runs allowed could rise to 3.94, which would mean giving up an additional 28 runs during the season. In other words, if the bullpen can be the same as it was last season - and it looks good with Runzler in there all season - one of our starters could be a whole run worse (roughly, over 32 starts) versus 2009 and we should win 90 games if this offense is as bad as most projections have them be.

There are valid reasons it might get worse. Cain had his best season but his FIP was more like how he normally did, implying that he lucked out greatly. However a big assumption for FIP is that Cain is like any other pitcher, doomed to regress to the mean of .300 BABIP that most pitchers who are not knuckleballers or crafty lefties regress to. His BABIP in 2009 was .267, hence why sabers might think he lucked out greatly. However, he already has slightly over 4 seasons under his belt and his career BABIP is .274, only slightly above that. A study found that it takes seven years for a starter to show statistically significantly that he is below, but 4/7ths of the way there, Cain's career numbers are way below the mean that most pitchers regress to.

Another is that Jonathan Sanchez has been inconsistent in his career, and most lefties like that tend to just continue to be like that. Oliver Perez is a great example of that. However, each of his inconsistencies can be explained for 2008 and 2009. In 2008, his first year starting, he gassed out midway through the season, after dominating the opponents to an ERA under 4.00. In 2009, after increasing his stamina during the off-season, he was able to pitch effectively into September, when he did experience some downturn. However, unfortunately the WBC was that year and he pitched with his idol, Johan Santana, and decided to copy a mechanic of Johan, which works for him because he's shorter than Sanchez. Sanchez wouldn't change back until he was taken out of the rotation, and he had his no-hitter in his first start afterward, and in the starts AFTER the no-hitter, he had an ERA in the mid-to-high 3's. He's ready to put in a full season and with a low ERA, but no projection would see that.

Sandoval is viewed by some to regress as well, based on his numbers in the minors. But clearly he is no longer the hitter he was in the minors. He developed homerun power plus has learned some discipline at the plate and has been getting more walks. He also got into better shape over the off-season working diligently at that like he did fielding grounders at 3B during the off-season prior. Plus, it was discovered that he needed glasses, and now he can see the pitches clearly whereas last season he could only see blurs.

Wilson could be viewed by some as having an outlier season as well, but at some point you have to admit that he developed and reached a new level of production. Plus, he decided to add back his curveball, which was considered plus when he was drafted, to his repertoire, so that should help in preventing him from doing that much worse.

I also think that we will get more production out of either Rowand or Renteria or Molina, at minimum, if not more.
  • Rowand realized that he needed to get into better physical shape, that he's no longer young enough to get away without doing that. He's actually started both of his two seasons with us hitting great, then was useless to us the rest of the season. If he is in better shape, he should be that much more of a productive hitter.
  • Renteria's best stretch hitting last season was that roughly one month in Aug/Sept when he said that he felt no pain, and he hit great then, over 800 OPS. That is the way he hit before when he was hitting well, and he lost that huge chunk that was in his elbow with the surgery, so he could return to the hitter he was before.
  • Molina, I think was affected by two factors. One was that he was a father for the first time. Taking care of a child and working takes a lot out of you, and being a catcher, that probably just accelerates that. Second, he had no worthy backup offensively so Bochy just played him until he was spent and couldn't hit. This year, the baby should not be tiring him out as much, plus by the time he is starting to tire, Posey will be brought up to catch 2 games a week, which will keep him more rested and better able to hit as well as he could.
In addition, DeRosa starting in LF will be a good upgrade over the guys we had last season both offensively and defensively. He's amazing, he can play almost any position at a high defensive value while hitting slightly above average overall. His prior UZR/150 at almost any position is good enough to contribute a win every season, on top of whatever he does offensively. He's weak against RHP, but with a lefty taking key starts from him, he can be a highly productive player offensively and defensively.

Huff will cost us a lot of defense at 1B, but is a much better hitter than Ishikawa. I expect to see a lot of defensively switches to bring Ishikawa in near the end, after Huff got his 3-4 ABs, and that combo should both boost our offense over what we got last season, particularly on the road, plus allows the Giants to put Molina lower in the batting order, where he belongs, plus gives us a legit power source batting cleanup. Still, the defensive difference between the two could account for the 28 additional runs given up.

Overall, I see a lot of possibilities of the Giants doing much better than expected by projections, but don't see a lot of huge downsides. Renteria could go bad, but then he would either bat 8th or if he is bad enough, Uribe would take over. Rowand couldn't really get much worse, I don't think. Molina similarly, plus we would have Posey ready to jump in if necessary. DeRosa could do a bit worse than he did in recent seasons and still be better than what we had at LF. Huff could fail, but then we put in Ishikawa and get about what we got last season, no big downside there.

Schierholtz is a possibility, but with Bowker hitting so well, I expect at least one of them hitting well enough to keep the position productive over the season. Maybe Sanchez can't put in a great season, but I think Cain will get close again, Lincecum will be Lincecum, and Zito should be around what he was last season, his velocity appears to be the same and so he should be able to continue to do as well as he did last season, overall.

All this makes me think that winning 90 games should be a strong possibility as long as players produced as projected plus some performing the way I speculated above that they could. And as I showed with the other teams, they should be either around 90 wins or less, giving us a good chance to win the division title and making the playoffs.

And if we make the playoffs, our rotation will be stacked with Lincecum et al, all very dominant pitchers, giving us a good chance to go deep into the playoffs if given the chance.

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