Monday, May 31, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 27-22: Rock D-Rox

The Giants swept the inept D-backs, who are now thoroughly mired in the cellar of the NL West.  However, we were just as close to that as well before sweeping them.  Now we face D-Rox.

Game 1:  Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Lincecum

I still believe in Lincecum, unlike those people who booed him in our own home park (as I noted before, shame on you all!).  Still, Ubaldo has a 0.88 ERA, very Gibson-esque.  Lincecum said he had a good outing and so this should be an even battle that will go to the best pitcher of the night.

Game 2:  Jason Hammel vs. Zito

Zito has had some tough outings as well lately, but Hammel has a 6.93 ERA overall and 8.80 ERA on the road.  Should be a Giants win.

Game 3:  Jeff Francis vs. Matt Cain

Francis came off the DL and has been great, the pitcher they hoped he would be at the start of the season but then went on the DL, after missing all of last season.  Cain not only has a similar ERA to Francis (2.50 vs. Francis' 2.89) but comes off two superb outings, including the complete game one-hitter in his last start, which was masterful.  I would have to call it even but leaning towards the Giants because Cain seems to be on.

Giants Thoughts

Buster Posey has been great so far.  The Giants brought him up to face a pitcher he dominated in the minors early this season, then he handled a pretty good pitcher in Kennedy.  Now here is his biggest challenge of the season so far, and Bochy said that he is not catching a case of the Ubal-flu, that he will be in the lineup.  After two games like that, I think it would have been counter-productive to keep him out, plus could have affected his confidence, mainly in that Bochy didn't show confidence in him so he would have viewed Bochy as lacking confidence (he seems supremely confident in himself).  Instead, he can view Bochy as a believer.

Part of me wanted him to fail, because then all the people who were clamoring for him wouldn't think that they were geniuses.  Life does not work that way, none of them knew what Posey would do, nobody knows.  Yes, he did well in AAA, but the MLE for that puts him around 800 OPS, which is OK, really average in the majors, and way below average for a 1B.  But on our team, 800 OPS is good.

But I'm a Giants fan through and through, so that thought passed quickly and I wanted to see him kick ass.  I almost got to see the game on TV at the restaurant, had a huge screen TV next to our tables and the game had just started, but with about a dozen of those TV's in the restaurant, they had lost track of all the remotes, and so people are stuck watching whatever it was on.  Made me wish I had brought a remote with me.

The three game sweep sets us up nicely for the Colorado series.  We were battling the D-backs to stay out of the cellar and did that pretty convincingly.  Now we are battling Colorado to stay out of 4th place and we have the opportunity, playing at home, to do that to them as well, though probably not a sweep with Ubaldo first.

The offense has come through once it got home.  It has basically tracked Pablo Sandoval's progression this month, going from horrible and working its way back to OK again.  Part of it was getting away from pitcher's parks like Oakland.  Posey also helped.

Andres Torres has been amazing.  I admit I was wrong about him being useful, but I remain doubtful that he can keep this up the whole season.  Still, most competitive teams have these players who you normally don't rely on who suddenly produce for that one magical year and it all just works out for him that season.  Hopefully Torres is that guy for us this season.  We would not be in contention without him.

And that just keeps with the theme that I noted for the Giants before:  risk mitigation.  Sabean has gotten all these different parts, none of them sure to deliver something all the time, the big boppers or whatever, but he has enough guys who can play multiple positions that when one is scuffling, another one could start and pick up the team.  Bowker led to Schierholtz led to Torres.

Winning this series is key, as always, because not only is it an NL West fellow contender, but we are neck and neck with them right now in the standings.  Winning the series would put some distance between us and them.  Sweeping them would be great, as Lincecum outdueling their uber-ace in Ubaldo would probably be a pretty good shot in the gut to them and send them reeling a bit.   But I would be satisfied with a series win.

Go Giants!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Busting a Move to the Majors: Posey's Here

Had to post about his arrival.  After some hinting with Sabean scouting Fresno games to take a look and seeing that Posey is much improved, the Giants made the stealth move to bring up Buster Posey, only Andy Baggarly beat them to the news (Thanks Andy!).   Waldis Joaquin was optioned out to make room for Posey.

Baggarly also has a great blog post about what having Buster Posey means and don't mean for the Giants.  It was as even-handed and clear as anything out there about Posey, written by a Giants expert (unlike all those columnists who write about Posey and the Giants as if they have followed everything).  Totally recommend anyone to go there and read, it was beautiful.

He also noted in another blog that Posey is not necessarily going to be up there for good.  The injuries to DeRosa and Renteria made their availability limited in the near term and thus opened up a window for the Giants to examine another position prospect.  Posey is here to take that window and when it is time to bring back those two players, then the Giants will see how things are going and make the move appropriate to the situation.  Meaning that if he's scuffling, he's probably going down, but if he's raking, well, as the old baseball cliche goes, he just thankfully made the decision harder for Giants management.

Also have to note his first start.  Facing a pitcher he battered in the minors earlier this season, Billy Buckner, he had three base-hits for three RBIs, helping the Giants to a 12-1 victory.  Posey got the headlines, of course, but he was just a cog in the Giants scoring machine, we already led 2-0 when he drove in the third run and Jonathan Sanchez had the D-backs in control for the most part in the win.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 24-22: Right Back at D-Backs

Ah, nothing like winning a series to cleanse the palate!  And in a nice, come from behind despite our starter having a disaster start, mode.

Still, WEAK people, WEAK:  the announcers said that the crowd was booing Lincecum.  That is the weakest thing I've ever heard.  Whoever did that should be ashamed and forced to wear a Benitez jersey to a Giants game, Lincecum is our 2 Cy Young winner, first to ever do it in his first two full seasons, and he did not deserve that!  May a D-gers fan barf on anyone who did that!

Now the Giants get the chance to pay back to the D-backs the drubbing they got in Arizona at their hands.  The D-backs are on a 4 game losing streak plus don't play well on the road (9-15 on the road), and the Giants like home cooking.

Game 1:  Edwin Jackson vs. Cain

Jackson was suppose to come in the trade and be one of the top starters with Haren and Webb.  Unfortunately for the D-backs, but good for the NL West, Webb is still rehabbing and they probably wished Jackson was rehabbing.  He has a 6.28 ERA and 7.94 ERA on the road.  Meanwhile, Cain has been masterful whether at home or on the road.  Should be a Giants win.

Game 2:  Billy Buckner vs. Sanchez

Buckner (not related to Bill Buckner it appears) was their next try at filling the 5th starter spot after Kris Benson (predictably) failed at even doing that.  Don't take a lot to hold a 5th starting spot.  Still, Buckner is even underperforming Benson, with a 9.00 ERA in two starts.  He hasn't walked much but he has been battered around, 17 hits in 9 IP.  He has pitched well, albeit in a couple of relief roles against the Giants in SF, but has been battered normally.  But he has a 4.16 ERA on the road for his career, so it could just be that he can't handle Arizona's hitter's park.

The Giants pitchers have not done as well in May as April, including Sanchez, but Jon-no-hitter Sanchez seems to have his mojo when he's pitching at home.   Should be a Giants win.

Game 3:  Ian Kennedy vs. Wellemeyer

Ian Kennedy has been the D-backs best pitcher this season, hands down, with a 3.41 ERA overall.  And he wasn't even the marquee player in the trade that netted him, Edwin Jackson was.  Amazingly, though, he has been better at home (2.57 ERA) than on the road (4.08 ERA), and in any case his BABIP is unsustainably low in both cases unless he's one of those non-DIPS pitchers like Zito and, thus far, Cain, with a .205 BABIP at home and .278 on the road.  Unlikely since he's not a lefty nor a knuckleballer, though not impossible.  Should be a lot of regression eventually and the 20-27 D-backs would be left without even their one good starter.  Still, that does not mean that he regresses in this game, there is still a lot of season to go.

Wellemeyer is bee a Jeckyll and Hyde:  3.03 ERA at home, horrible ERA on the road.   He pitched into the 7th in his last start and was reasonable good in that start.  Which gives me hope that he'll be OK in this start too.  I would call this matchup pretty even, with a lean towards Wellemeyer for home team advantage.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants look like they should win this series, perhaps could even sweep under the right circumstances.  That would be a good start to regaining the ground lost in the games played against the NL West thus far this season.  And winning series is always good.

The offense, which was frozen on the road, thawed a little against the Nats, who threw some good pitchers against us and has a pretty good bullpen.  Players are unslumping, though our main man, Pandoval, appears to be still searching for his mojo back.

Luckily, Torres has been continuing his hot streak atop our lineup, plus Sanchez appears to have figured out MLB pitching again, and had a great day yesterday.  The announcers kept on saying that yesterday was the first day that he appeared to be patient at the plate - marked by his first two walks of the season - which allowed him to watch for his pitches and he got two hits too, making it a four times on the basepath day for him out of four AB's.  Baggarly remarked on that in his blog.

It was another nice coming from behind victory yesterday.  The Giants last year had none late in the game but the team this year has a couple of them, if I got that right.  In any case, it is good that the offense can pick up the pitching sometimes.

Go Giants!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Schulman Q&A with Sabean

Hank Schulman interviewed Brian Sabean the other day for the Chronicle.  It follow below with my comments:

Q: What has surprised you during the first part of the season, positively and negatively?

A: The most positive thing is we're only (3 1/2) games out in the division. It's obviously a muddled division. All the teams in it are flawed to a certain extent. It's only May and we really haven't had our 'A' lineup out there.

"The flip side is, if you look by categories there's room for improvement everywhere. The starters need to throw some more strikes. When we attack the strike zone, we're fine. But we've been prone to some free passes. The relievers are still getting used to their roles and we've needed to make some adjustments on the fly. They have a losing record at this point. Defensively, we're ranked first but we've had a hard time turning double plays. That has to improve. And our baserunning in some games has been shoddy and cost us an inning or cost us a run or even a game.

"Each area is still evolving. I didn't make too much of a 7-2 start as much as I take notice that right now we're playing like a .500 team, and that certainly is not going to be good enough. We have to get our act together. We got Edgar Renteria back today, and hopefully we'll get Mark DeRosa back next week and get the lineup we thought we were going to have in the offseason most days or five days a week, and there'll be more of a semblance of order to everything.

ogc:  Nothing to pick at here, stated the obvious for the most part, a Sabean staple of interviews, not giving out a lot of information.

Q: How concerned are you that Pablo Sandoval's struggles are not a slump, and more that pitchers have figured him out and he is not adjusting?

A: It could be a slump. Who's to say you're not susceptible to that at any given point of the season, including early in the year? But we've seen how good he is. I do agree that adjustments have been made in how they're attacking him. But he's got a lot on his plate. He's a young kid. He has high expectations on his own and from people inside and outside the organization. He's a guy at a young age (who) is in the middle of our order for a reason, which is what we saw of him in the past. It's a game of adjustments and he's in the process and he's trying to do that. The one thing I'll say, his defense couldn't be better. If anything, he's one of the better defensive third basemen we've seen. He's made virtually every play.

ogc:  The key bit of info here is Pablo's defense.  Both UZR and Dewan's Plus/Minus has him providing positive defense, very good prorated out to a seasonal basis, roughly around a win per season.  Those numbers were not good last season, not by a long shot.  So despite his slump, which he appears to be slowly getting out of, he has been contributing greatly on defense.

Q: There's a perception in a tight division that the guy who wins it might be the general manager who makes the best move by the July trade deadline. Do you agree?

A: I don't necessarily buy that. There are not enough players to go around. It's more what you can do today to keep your team moving forward, knowing the cavalry might not come and you might not be in a position to secure a player in a trade. Teams are less apt to trade for free agents-to-be, especially with premium talent. It's really a matter of how you tweak your roster and try to solve your problems internally. That doesn't preclude us being involved in trade possibilities looking forward to the deadline.

ogc:  Sabean is basically saying that the Giants will not be saved by a trade mid-season.  This is basically true because as long as Posey and Bumgarner are around, the other team will be demanding them in return for any significant hitter and that is not going to happen for a rental.  This is why Sabean built the team with a lot of moving parts who can shift around when someone is not pulling their weight in the lineup.  We have seen this at work all season long, and again should they do the Uribe shift and domino that into Huff in LF.

Q: What do you make of the team's start against San Diego, which is at the heart of a 4-12 record against the West?

A: They've pitched extremely well against us. They've gone right after us and we haven't responded. Some of that goes back to last year. Their confidence level against us is high, and we're going to have to find every way possible to change that. The fortunate thing is that it is May and we're (3 1/2 games out) being 1-7 against them. There's plenty of time to turn that around, and we know we're going to play them later in the year when hopefully it really will count.

ogc:  Slip of the tongue there.  Games count now as well as later in the season.  The key thing is whether we can stay close enough so that when we play them again, winning would put us on the top of them.  I think that they can, this was just a bad stretch of hitting, precipitated, I believe, by teams adjusting how they approach the Giants given how poorly Sandoval was hitting.  We need Panda to get hot, like June 2009 hot.

Q: You were an 88-74 team last year. Do you still feel with the personnel you have you can be better than 88-74 this year?

A: I really don't know that. If the division plays true to this, we have four or five teams with a chance to win and there's a good chance to beat each other up a lot, and maybe 88 wins is the best you can do. The goal is to win the division. That's what it takes. San Diego won the division with, what, 82 wins (in 2005)? St. Louis won a World Series after winning 83 games? We know that we're challenged in certain areas and we're going to have to improve.

"I know we're probably not going to have the, quote, best team in the division per se. That doesn't matter all that much if you find a way to play the best. That's all we're trying to do; play to our potential, play the best baseball we can and see where that takes us. The effort's been there. The attitude has been there. Again, we've been challenged because we have not had all our pieces in order. We need to do that because we have a bear of a stretch before the All-Star break that may define exactly what's going to happen to our season. We play 18 of 24 on the road. Before that part of the schedule hits, we're going to have to have a lot of things in better shape.


ogc:  I'm surprised he would say that.  Despite how tough the NL West might be, I think beating 88 wins should be possible.  

Giants Thoughts

As usual, nothing really informative is gleaned from a Sabean interview.  Here are the questions I would have asked, if given the opportunity, though taking into account whether I think Sabean would truthfully answer or spin away:
  • What are the plans for Schierholtz and Bowker?  Do the Giants really think Torres is the answer or are they riding the hot hand?
  • Given that power is one area the Giants are lacking, why don't we put Ishikawa at 1B and Huff in LF, at least against select RHP?
  • Rowand has been in a horrendous slump for the past 2 weeks, why aren't the Giants resting him more often in light of his past problems with hot and cold streaks?  He could sit and give a starting opp to either Bowker or Schierholtz.  He's running out of excuses for why he slumps.
  • Why was Casilla brought up over someone on the 40-man roster?  Now there is no easy 40-man spot to bring up Hacker should Wellemeyer needs replacing. 
  • Pablo Sandoval's bat is wasted batting 3rd, he should really be our cleanup hitter, why isn't he hitting there, particularly when Huff was moved out and Molina put there?  Bochy said that he would hit there previously, but then put Huff there.  Huff might be better off 3rd or 5th, though I would go with Schierholtz batting 3rd when he is in the lineup.  
  • Why doesn't Schierholtz steal more often?  He has shown the ability in the minors plus has some speed.
  • Who among the Giants caught the cold that Jonathan Sanchez had in late April?
  • What are your thoughts about Brandon Belt?  Juan Perez?  Zach Wheeler?  Luke Anders?  Where is Rafael Rodriguez?  
  • What are the Giants long-term plan regarding signing Latin American prospects?  Is there a budget or is it an ad-hoc, case by case situation?
  • Why has there been no movement regarding Japanese talent?  Are we still trying to be active in that region?  How about South Korea?  What is the situation regarding China, is that basically like Cuba?
  • Why wasn't Dave Roberts retained to train our minor leaguers on the fine art of stealing, Maury Wills style?  When will Barry Bonds be put to work training our hitters in the minors?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bad Idea I Heard: DFA Rowand and Start Torres

I heard this idea on the radio the other day and I won't embarrass this host but wanted to address this idea that I've seen fans put out there before, which is to eat Aaron Rowand's contract and start Torres instead.  It is a pretty dumb idea.

The usual supporting arguments typically involve pointing out Arizona's eatting of Eric Byrnes' contract and before that, of Russ Ortiz's contract.  They ate around $10M or so in each case.  So they point to Rowand's $12M contract for this season and say that the Giants should DFA him and play Torres instead.

First, they are forgetting that the Giants have another 2 years on the contract after this season.  So they are not dropping a $12M contract, they are basically dropping $30M+.   That's not going to happen.  Maybe in Rowand's 5th season, if he's doing really poorly and there's someone better, but that's not going to happen this season.

Second, that is the other thing missed by these people, that there has to be somebody better.  Torres is better right now, but over the past 8 seasons, Rowand has been much better overall.  Maybe Torres is figuring things out at a late age, that is always possible, for the reasons the newspapers give, that he was a runner learning baseball for the first time in college.  But at age 32, that's still 14 years already and he's finally figuring out how to hit?

Color me skeptical.  I need more than a little over a month's worth (basically April 18th to current) of good play this season to feel comfortable saying that, as his nice batting line last season was accompanied by a horrid strikeout rate that most hitters cannot support.  This season is much better, much improved in both walks and strikeouts this season, but he's still striking out a little too much, and that's really one month of performance, hitters can do that in short streaks.  Plus, his BABIP was very high last season, higher than what most hitters can support, though there are some hitters that can do that, typically fast guys like Torres.

Nothing in his past suggests that he can do this over a full season.  Basically people are taking a leap of faith that he can do this regularly as a starter.  That is no way to run a team.  At least not a good way.

There is nothing wrong with starting him while he's hot, though.  I believe in playing the hot hitter.  But that does not mean that you DFA a player who can still play MLB level baseball while keeping this currently hot journeyman.  That is no way to manage either.

That brings me to my third reason:  DFAing Rowand, even if you think that Torres is demonstrably better makes no sense at all from an asset management viewpoint.   What if Torres gets injured?  What if his hot hitting ends (like it did for Rowand) and he's sudden the cold hitter?  Then who would you play in CF?  There is no one in the minors hitting well and playing CF right now.  It would be Bocock Part II.

In addition, Rowand, while not currently hitting as well as the average CF in the NL, isn't exactly a replacement level player either.  He would be a good player on any bench, he plays good defense in the OF, can hit a homer now and again, can go on nice hitting sprees when his body is up for it, particularly if he's sitting on the bench.  Yes, his contract is a sunk cost, but if he's still better than who you can put on the bench, you may as well carry him on the bench in case you need him.

And it is not just CF, there is still LF and RF, and DeRosa is no guarantee to return AND be good, plus neither Bowker or Schierholtz have hit consistently enough to keep a starting OF job yet, though good enough to get frequent chances at it.  Rowand could be a better alternative than one of those OFs, and move around like Randy Winn did, though since the defense stats show him to be good in CF this season, I would move Torres around since he's been doing that anyway.

So no, DFAing Rowand and starting Torres is not a smart thing to do.  I'm surprised the host said that, he seems smarter than that generally.  I will chalk it up to having a mic in your hand:  sometimes you just say something in the spur of the moment that looks bad later on.  No excuse for the posters who proffer up this idea on-line though, they have plenty of time to put some thought into it.

This is just like the love Uribe has been seeing both last season and this season, but nobody realizes that since May 1st he has only been hitting .224/.325/.358/.683.  He and Torres are good coming in and providing some pep to the offense when somebody is out, but there is a reason why neither one was a starter when the Giants signed them.  They will cool off and then you need to have other bodies on the bench who can step in.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 22-21: Picking on the Nats

Losing always hurt.  That's why they play the games.  Every team will face a tough part of the schedule for them and we see whether they sink or swim.  The Giants are facing their bad stretch and we will see if they can battle back or if they fall further back.  Given how they have beaten up on other team's top starters plus have shown the ability to come back in games we have no business getting back into, I think that they will eventually get out of this slide and start winning again.  But until they do, people will be hurting and agitating for change.

Game 1:  Livan Hernandez vs. Todd Wellemeyer

Apparently, from Schulman's reportage, Lincecum's bad start and Wellemeyer's (so far) good home starts saved Wellemeyer from being skipped (or worse) for this start.  In addition, bringing up Santiago Casilla took up the last spot easily available for Eric Hacker, the pitcher who was seriously considered for the call up, who is not on the 40 man at the moment and, thus, bringing up Hacker would require opening up a 40-man spot, that is, resulting in releasing somebody.

Plus, not to be cold, but why not sacrifice Wellemeyer against the Nat's best starter, Livan, instead of throwing our recently struggling ace against the rejuvenated Livan, who, no matter where he has been since leaving the Giants, seem to come up big against us with a well-pitched game?

Despite Wellemeyer doing well at home, I have to give the Nats the edge in this start, as Livan has done well both on the road and at his pitcher's park of a home, as well as at AT&T vs. his career numbers.   Plus, in the past, he has done well when he felt like it, and I think he likes to show up the Giants ever since they basically gave him away to the Expos for basically nothing, just to get rid of him.  Which was a pretty big insult to his ego, I bet.

Game 2:  Luis Atilano vs. Tim Lincecum

Atilano has not pitched well in his brief stay in the majors so far, though he has three wins (showing how untied wins and losses are to ERA).  However, unlike Wellemeyer, he has pitched poorly at home while pitching very well on the road, so he has been tough so far on the road.  However, he's never been that good a prospect (#20 this season on BA's Top 30), so he should regress to the mean on the road at some point.  Against Lincecum, even a struggling one, should give us the edge in winning this game.

Game 3:  Scott Olsen vs. Barry Zito

Which leaves the rubber match of the series.  Both Olsen and Zito have pitched well this season.  Olsen's ERA is much better on the road, but his home peripherals look better (all small samples).  He's only had one bad start in SF.  Meanwhile, Zito had his worse start of the season in his last start, though that appears to mainly be a function of bad luck with balls falling in, else his peripherals didn't look all that bad compared to games earlier in the season.  They seem to be evenly matched, though I would lean towards Zito in this matchup because he usually pitches better at home than on the road.  So, overall, it looks like it can go either way but would have to lean towards the Nats because Olsen has been good before and Zito has just been good this season and had a rough last start and month of May relative to April.

Giants Thoughts

Obviously the biggest thing is the Giants sputtering offense.  For that I blame it on Sandoval's poor month of May.  He has been hitting better lately but not powerfully, and I think the other teams' plan of attack on our offense has been able to take advantage of that lack of power hitting for the month of May.  I also think it may have been related to his health, though as far as I know, he has not been reported to have been sick.

The Cold That Shut Down an Offense?

Ultimately speculation, but I recently tied together some bits of information together.  First, Jonathan Sanchez had a cold that was bad enough to affect his pitching but not enough to have him skip a start.  That was the April 26th and May 2nd starts.  This was according to what I heard on the radio, I believe it was the Bochy pre-game show.  Second, it was revealed during this season that Sandoval and Sanchez are roommates on the road and thus pretty good buddies who hang around with each other (I do not recall exactly where I got that piece of information, however).

Third, Pablo has slumped from April 30 to present, hitting .195/.245/.253/.498 since then.  He has hit .314/.400/.371/.771 from May 14 to today, so basically his slump was from April 30 to May 13th, hitting .115/.130/.173/.303 in that time period.  That was some weak hitting and basically around the time when Sanchez could have passed the old to him and then a slow recovery to health.

Stages from 4/30:
7 games:  .094/.094/.125/.219 in 32 AB/32 PA
5 games:  .150/.182/.250/.432 in 20 AB/22 PA
4 games:  .313/.421/.313/.734 in 16 AB/19 PA
5 games:  .316/.381/.421/.802 in 19 AB/21 PA

I would have to think that the opposing team would have adjusted how they attacked Giants hitters given fear of Pando driving them in.  In April, 4.55 RS avg to April 28th, from April 30th to today, 3.59 RS avg, basically one run less per game.  For the first nine games of his poor hitting since April 29th, the Giants averaged 4.89 RS, showing that the offense was still functioning OK, but since May 11th, the Giants have averaged 2.7 RS as Panda's hitting malaise has affected the team as well.

That seems to reflect their average BB trend.  To April 28th, 3.0 walks per game.  To May 9th, 3.9 walks per game.  From May 11th to today:  2.6 walks per game.

Small sampling but something to consider.

Home is Where the Offense Lives?

Marty Lurie recently tweeted that shaky offenses struggles on the road (I love his addition to the Giants weekend pre and post game shows, though it must be tough on him because in between his shows are Urban's pre-game show, Giants pre-game shows, the game (3-4 hours), Giants post-game show, Urban's post-game show, before finally Lurie's post-game show).  I took a look at the numbers:

Road
Series  RS
  1       6.0 (but extreme hitter's park)
  2       3.7 (but LA and SD are two extreme pitcher's parks)
  3       5.3 (more representative/neutral, if not pitcher's parks for FLA and NYM)
  4       2.4 (two pitcher's parks in OAK and SD, one hitter's park in AZ)

There is not enough to say either way, I would say.  And they have been skewed by many pitcher's parks.

In any case, they are returning home, where they have averaged 4.10 RS per game (vs. 4.05 RS on the road) so there has not been a huge difference so far.

Lineup:  Posey Promotion?

Fans have been agitating for Posey to be promoted, but as the Schulman blog post noted, he's not coming up any time soon.  They want him ready to come up and stay up here on merit plus playing significant time, but Molina, while slumping, is still OK overall and handling the pitching staff well, and Huff appears to have solidified at 1B offensively and defensively.

The big idea for improving the offense right now is to move Franchez from 2B to 3B, Sandoval from 3B to 1B, Huff from 1B to LF, and finally Torres to RF, leaving Bowker and Schierholtz out in the cold and on the bench, at least until Torres cools off, plus Schierholtz will probably see starts against RHP to give Uribe a rest sometimes, as he hasn't really hit for much since taking over SS.

And fans see the inflated numbers Posey is putting up in AAA, but the MLE for that is much lower.  He is currently batting .327/.422/.506/.928 overall, but the level of pitching is nowhere nears that of the majors, which was Sabean's main point in his poorly expressed explanation regarding why Posey was staying down in AAA.  His MLE is only .276/.353/.417/.770, which is good, and slightly better than Molina's current batting line, but which is either an offensive starter nor that much better than what Molina has been hitting for this season.  And it is built on the hot streak he had in early May, as his April numbers MLE was only .286/.351/.381/.732, which is basically what Molina got now, and he has cooled off since then.

Adding him to the lineup might improve the offense, but will not necessarily make the offense good.  And that, to me is the crux of the matter, whether bringing him up is a smart move or a desperate move.  To me, it only seems to be a desperate move, and there is no reason to be desperate now.  There are still a lot of games to be played and we are not that far behind the division leaders right now.  And he has cooled off great recently:  in his last 10 games he has hit .229/.341/.257/.598, with only one double in 35 AB and 10 K's, which is not the batting line of someone who is ready to take on MLB pitching.  And that is his actual line, not his MLE; fans miss details like this when they just eye a hitter's top line in the minors and drool.

Affeldt Hamstring Appraisal

According to Schulman's blog post, Affeldt's hamstring injury which took him out of yesterday's game, plus probably was affecting him during the game, leading to his poor performance, does not look serious and thus should not put him on the DL.  Tests will be done to see if that is true or not.

Our bullpen has been taking a number of hits and losing Affeldt would greatly affect the structure since he's the go-to guy before Wilson.  Runzler would presumably take over the lefty duties, and I would guess that Mota, who is currently doing better, would get the call before Romo, who drew first relief duty in the blow-out the other day.  And obviously it would greatly weaken the bullpen to replace him, unlike losing Medders, where it may have been an improvement with the addition of Bautista.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giants 2010 International Scene

Great article regarding the top twelve international free agents in Latin America on MLB Fanhouse.  It was written by a former MLB scout.

The top rated Dominican is Eskarlin Vasquez, OF and the Giants are pursuing him:  "As it sits right now, Vasquez appears to be the top all-around position player in the class. A right fielder with a strong arm, Vasquez has shown some good power at the dish and could get a bonus north of $2 million. The San Francisco Giants are considered among the favorites at this stage to land him, but several clubs will be involved." 


Sounds pretty good and is a good sign that the Giants will continue pursuing top talent in the region.  While the failure rate for the top picks have been high (for every one that made it on Baseball America's Top signing bonus list, it seems like two or three fails big time), basically you have to play the game if you hope to find someone in this market who can make a difference.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 22-18: Licking Wounds Again, But in O-Town; Gamer-tude?

You hate to lose games like that, but when the home umpire appears to be drunk or high - there is no other explanation for what the announcers reported, a moving, ever-changing strike zone - sometimes you end with up with the sharp end of the stick in the eye.  It happens, move on, act like you've lived a little, as Gary Radnich likes to say.

But the stats are ugly, the Giants are 18-6 outside of the NL West, 4-12 playing our NL West rivals.  We are singlehandedly keeping them in the race for the pennant, even playing even with them would put them squarely behind us instead of third.  Still, we are only 1.5 games behind so it's not like it's the end of the world, unlike all the pitchforks and lynch mobs that permeates most Giants boards.

Now the Giants get to return home, but play on the road:  yes, it is time for interleague play against the A's.  The A's are also reeling from a 2-game sweep too, so one team is going to get well at the expense of the other today.  The A's have been having their problems, after a nice start, and are now 4 games back, hardly anything to worry about this early in the season, but still it will take a while to get back to the top.  I wonder if Giants fans will outnumber the A's at their park, like they did in San Diego the other day, the A's attendance has been poor and so there will be a lot of seats available for Giants fans to buy and attend.

Game 1:  Trevor Cahill vs. Zito

Part of the A's young core of pitchers, Cahill is only 22 YO, and doing pretty well, though not a league leader yet.  He has progressed this season, but his K/9 is absolutely horrible, there have rarely been any pitchers who can survive in the majors with a sub-5 K/9 (4.5 last season, 4.0 this season).   He has typically pitched better at home, but only has one start at home so far, albeit a shutout, because it appears he missed the early part of the season as he only has 4 starts so far and most have around 9.

Zito has done poorly against the A's since moving to the Giants, so the outcome of this game will hinge greatly on whether the new, improved Zito 2010 shows up or his prior self.  Pressure situations like this often cause pitchers to amp up and lose their command of pitches, though the pressure is usually all internal, because it's his old team.  He says he's fine, that it is old now, as the players he knew are gone and the treatment he got from A's fans when he did return, plus it's been so many years now.  I think the new Zito shows up, but Cahill's pretty good at home usually so it will be a tight battle, though I lean towards Cahill since he's done well at home, he's a pitcher (not a fireballer) and the Giants seem to flail against the non-fastballs.

Game 2:  Gio Gonzalez vs. Cainer

I guess the Giants lucked out with the A's, missing the starters with the best ERAs, as Gio Gonzalez has the best ERA of the three facing the Giants and he has the fourth best ERA out of the starters who has at least 4 starts so far.  Injury has taken away two, and the Giants miss facing Mr. Perfect Game, Dallas Braden.  

The oft-travelled Gonzalez, who has had two different stints with White Sox, sandwiched by a year with the Phillies, is still only 24 YO for this season.  He has improved each season, in terms of ERA, but appears to be lucking out with his BABIP this season plus he has suffered a sharp drop in his K/9, which while still good at 7.9, is not in the 9.0+ range it was before.  Now some players ratchet back that to get better command, but his walk rate, while down, isn't good yet (still over 4 BB/9) and his K/BB ratio is worse than last season.

He is slightly better at home this season, but he was worse before, which is odd because their park is a pitcher's park.  Cain, on the other hand, has improved his road numbers the past couple of seasons to be almost even with his home numbers, so this should be a good game, a tight battle as well.  What could be the tipping point is that he's a lefty and the Giants have been vulnerable to them, though they handled Cole Hamels fine, and that he has made adjustments and is pitching a bit better in May in terms of peripherals, despite his poorer ERA.

Game 3:  Ben Sheets vs. Sanchez

The A's ten million dollar man has not been earning his pay:  5.66 ERA, striking out less, walking more, giving up more homers and hits.  The good news on him, from the A's perspective, is that his BABIP is high, .331.  And, he's been pitching very well at home, he's mainly been hammered on the road.  However, he was beat upon by the lowly Mariners in his last home start, though he started looking like the Sheets of old in his prior two starts where he got 8 K's each.   He did miss all of last season, so a transition period, even with spring training, is probably to be expected.  Was his last start just a bump on the road to returning to his dominant old self?  Possibly.

Dirty has had a better month in terms of peripherals but a regression to the mean on homers has costed him in terms of ERA, doubling his April results, basically.  He has pitched well in the Coliseum before, and after two horrible starts when he was suffering from a cold, he has pitched well in sabermetric terms.  This should be another battle.

Giants Thoughts

This series seem like a toss-up.  Each are pretty evenly matched, so the edge probably belongs to the home team, the A's.  This should be another test of the Giants resolve, of their gamer-tude.  Yesterday was a horrible game.  Will that linger into this first game and result in a bad loss, which would set up a series loss?  Or will they pick themselves off the ground and battle again?

Gamer-Tude

Given that the Giants have been doing well this season and the A's have not, I'm leaning towards a series win for the Giants.  I think we are seeing a new Zito, he's been showing gamer-tude all season.   Cain started showing Gamer-Tude last season.  And Sanchez, I think, is getting there.

The offense too has been showing signs of this too this season.  Beating good pitchers like Oswalt, Halladay, Myers.  Scoring a lot of runs too.  The Giants have scored at least 4 runs 24 times this season, 5 or more runs 20 times.  And the Giants were 66-15 when they scored at least 4 runs last season, 54-8 when they score 5 or more runs.  Their pitching and fielding don't need that many runs to win at a great rate, even at 3 runs they were 10-10 last season.

So far this season, the offense is 24-16 in terms of scoring at least 4 runs in the game.  The pitching and fielding are 27-13.  If we removed Wellemeyer's starts:  24-8.

Well, A-Maybe We'll Go Mit Hacker

Hank Schulman had a scoop that the Giants are close to removing Wellemeyer from the rotation (not sure if he would even stay as long-reliever) and are considering Eric Hacker, a free agent pickup who has been doing great in AAA.  At only 27 YO, he's not old enough to think that age and experience is why he's dominating down there - 7-1, 2.20 ERA, 45 IP, 38 K, 12 BB - and his MLE translates to an ERA of around 3.00, so he's doing very well so far.  

He once was a Yankee's farmhand and was with both the Yankees and Pirates last season (acquired by trade).  He a quick call up with the Pirates last season, doing nothing much, and I guess he became a 6 year minor league free agent and signed with the Giants over the off-season.  Appears to be a ground-ball type pitcher from his minor league stats.  Was never one to strike out a lot, did his job by avoiding walks and flyballs.

Bumgarner has not been ruled out, but I have to think that the Giants would rather keep him in the minors to get his mechanics straight.  While good since figuring out his mechanical problem, and great since adding a cutter two starts ago, I would rather he stay in the minors and get his mechanics going good before we call him up.  

Meanwhile, that allows us to try out Hacker, and if he fails, Pucetas, but if either does well, that gives us another trading chip or at least a qualified backup in the minors should one of our starters should go down for whatever reason.  

The main problem with Hacker is that he's not on our 40 man roster and we have no space on it anymore after Denny Bautista was called up (I believe he took Lewis' spot).  One alternative, I believe, which I think would be most likely, is moving Burriss to the 60-day DL, which would allow us to add a player to the 40 man.  DeRosa getting wrist surgery would also put him him on the 60-day DL.  Of course, depending on how they feel about Wellemeyer, they could possibly DFA him if they decided that this was all they wanted from him.  Alex Hinshaw is another possibility, he hasn't done well in AAA this season, and I read somewhere that he was on the bubble regarding the 40-man in previous discussions about who to drop.  I view this as unlikely since they could move Burriss, but you never know when they have decided they had enough, like when they let go of Billy Sadler.

Pucetas is already on the 40 man so promoting him would not require a move.  But since the scuttlebutt is regarding Hacker, they must have thought through what they might have to do to get him on the roster before considering him so seriously.

Six-Man Rotation

Plus, as I've been advocating in my comments recently at other sites (and maybe here), I think the Giants should seriously consider a 6-man rotation in August, particularly if we are leading the division by a good margin, but even if they are not.  There are 28 games in the 31 days of August, only 3 days of rest.  And there are 17 games in 17 days after the All-Star break, so perhaps they should consider doing that after the All-Star break, that's only 3 days of rest in those roughly 6-7 weeks (plus they play on Sept. 1st as well).  A 6 man rotation would simulate giving the starters an extra day of rest that they were getting in April when there is a day off and you are going with a 5 man rotation.   

I wouldn't consider this except that the Giants have a Madison Bumgarner in the minors, who should do well once he gets up to the majors.  If we were adding two mediocre starters to the rotation, then that would just hurt our chances of making the playoffs.  But adding Bumgarner and if he works out as well as Cain did when he first came up (and as well as Bumgarner did briefly last September), if anything, that would improve the rotation overall because the 6th starter, whether Hacker, Pucetas, Wellemeyer, or even Sosa or whoever (sign Pedro or Smoltz?), would get less starts overall than a 5th starter for another team would get.  Plus, this would shift our rotation against other teams so that our top pitchers will regularly face the other team's poorer starters in the back of their rotation, whereas most of our starters can hold their own against the other team's ace or #2.

That would reduce the load on our top starters (Lincecum, Zito, Cain) by 3 starts.  With 78 games after the All-Star Break, they would get 16 starts, while Sanchez and #5 would get 15 starts.  With 6 starters, they all get 13 starts, saving 20-25 innings off their arms, while also giving Bumgarner a chance to start in the majors and the #6 starter a chance to show something, whether new prospect or old vet free agent.  That would reduce the load on Lincecum's and Cain's arms from 220+ IP to around 200 IP.

This will keep our young starters' arms fresher for the playoffs plus would reduce the stress on their arms overall for the season so that it would not affect their performance as much in 2011.  Getting into the playoffs can add a lot of innings to the pitcher's seasonal total.  Sabathia had 5 extra starts and 36.1 IP added.  Krukow has noted before that it puts a strain on a pitcher's arm to jump more than 25 IP from one season to the next, that such a jump could cause performance problems the following season.  

Using a 6-man rotation would reduce the projected IP load on both Lincecum and Cain to within 25 IP of last season's totals, I believe.  In addition, it would give valuable experience to Bumgarner.  Plus, give opportunities to start to other prospects or to a vet looking for another ring and another payday in 2011.  This works on a lot of different dimensions, and if Bochy went with the pitching batting 8th lineup yesterday, going with a 6-man rotation would be right up that alley.

AL Advantage:  DH

Our lineup against Oakland should be adequate this season, unlike season's past.  AL teams have an advantage over NL teams in that they have a full-time DH who is a good hitter (last season, third best hitting line in AL), whereas most NL teams have bench players who are not as good.  With Bowker, Downs, and Ishikawa on the bench, players who are capable of doing OK in the DH spot, I think we should be OK, though Bowker is probably starting since Schierholtz is day-to-day with a bad shoulder.

Training Staff Again

Maybe it is just a fan's mis-perception, but the Giants seem to suffer from so many physical maladies that linger until they finally sit down and maybe even DL.  The latest is Nate Schierholtz, who suffered a shoulder injury on that day against the Phillies when he gunned down two runners at 2B.  He has been in a horrible slump since then, but apparently it has been that shoulder, which has gotten worse since then, and now he's finally sitting and is day-to-day.  The DL was not mentioned, but I have to assume it's a possibility if it has gotten worse after two weeks and in any case, he needs a least a couple of more days off.

Presumably, with Torres already starting and Bowker hitting that homer last night, while Nate is out, Torres will play RF and Bowker probably will platoon with Downs in LF (guessing, once Franchez returned, Bochy said that Downs would not be forgotten, that he would see time at 3B and LF).   Cahill and Sheets are RHP while Gio is a LHP.   I guess that means Ishikawa could get the call to DH the whole series, or maybe get to start while Huff is the DH, to give him some rest, plus he's the pro at DH-ing.  

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 22-16: Back to D-Backs

The Giants get out of San D with a much needed victory, done in stunning fashion, a 2-run BOMB by Andres Torres, a key 2-run hit by Matt Downs, then what proved to be even more key RBI by Velez.  I had a double take on the game last night because suddenly I heard the distinct rally call for the Giants BUT THEY WERE IN PETCO, but according to Baggarly's account, San Diego was so excited by their division leading 'Dres that they could only muster less than 13,000 fans in attendance, and most of the 'Dres fans left once the game reached extra innings and it was mostly Giants fans left.  It was quite the inspiring, come from behind wins that sometimes ignites teams, or at the least give them the confidence that they can do this in the future.

Now the Giants get to face the D-backs at a key point, while the D-backs is reeling a little.  The D-backs came off a 7 game losing streak by winning 2 of 4 afterward, losing yesterday (hopefully in practice for the Giants :^).  They are last in the NL West and they are worse at home than on the road, having lost six in a row at home and coming back home from a road trip.  Seems like a time for the Giants to make hay, particularly after the exciting ending to the COME FROM BEHIND WIN OVER THE PADRES, but we get two tough pitchers facing us for the D-backs.

Game 1:  Ian Kennedy vs. Wellemeyer

Kennedy was one of the two key pitchers they picked up in their big trades in the off-season (Edwin Jackson is the other one).  While Jackson has been horrible, Kennedy has been everything they were hoping for, 3.58 ERA, 7.2 K/9, 3.08 K/BB.  Excellent, he is fulfilling what the prospect hounds projected for him.

Amazingly, he has been better at home than on the road, incredibly good:  incredible because Chase Park is a known hitter's paradise (hence why Adam LaRoche turned down more money from the Giants to play here instead *loser*).  Last season, Bill James had the park factor for runs at 119, for the past three seasons, 115.  Both slightly behind Colorado's park factors (that tells you right there how good that park is for hitters).

So unless he's got the perfect pitch for the park (in which case we are in deep trouble going forward), he should be due for a regression to the mean when a team tattoos him mercilessly.  To his credit, he held the high scoring Phillies and Brewers down, though oddly he had the most trouble with the 'Dres in his other home game.  Yes, three games is extreme small samples, but still that is what he has accomplished so far.

He has had two bad starts so far out of eight, one against the D-gers in LA and the other against Cubs in Chicago.  One odd (LA, pitcher's park), the other expected (Chicago's park is third behind Arizona in park factor for runs).

The key thing to note, I suppose, is that despite pitching well in general, he has a lot of no-decisions as his team was either unable to score enough to win games for him (at least in time for him to get the win) or the bullpen blew the game for him (or both).

That appears to be our best hope of beating him because Wellemeyer has been horrible on the road and now he's pitching in a hitter's Mecca.  I have to think that barring any miracles, the D-backs should win this game.

Game 2:  Rodirigo Lopez vs. Lincecum

Lopez, however, has been a rambling journeyman, after a great first season with the Orioles in 2002, he has been trying to recapture that magic ever since, plus hasn't had a full-time regular starting job since 2006 season ended, but unable to do it until now, at 34 YO, in an extreme hitter's park, carrying a 3.81 ERA.  And he has done worse at home, 4.50 ERA vs. 3.12 on the road (4 starts each), so at least that makes some sense.

Looks like it should be a Wincecum Day, though the clouds on that is that Lincecum was not sharp in his last start, so the question is whether that will carry over to this start or was just an aberration.  With a DOM of 80%+ the past two seasons, that start should just be an aberration, plus while that start was not a DOM start, his PQS was still 3, he was only one strikeout away from a 4 PQS start.

Giants Thoughts

While one would not see Kennedy and Lopez and think "Arizona's two best starters", they are currently the two leaders in ERA on the team.  Haren has been bashed around, Jackson, as I noted, has not transitioned well, and their 5th starter is Kris Benson ('nuff said!).  Here would have been a better spot (if an off day afforded it) to swap the starts, the Giants could possibly sweep had it been Lincecum followed by Wellemeyer facing Kennedy and Lopez.  Still, Kennedy is due any day to implode at home, why not us?  We have beat up on good pitchers for most of this season.

The big news is that Freddie Sanchez has been activated for today and the logical presumption is that he will be starting at 2B.  Bochy was uncommitted, but come on, if you are bringing him up, you got to start him, right?  He was also not sure where to bat him, 2nd or 3rd.  With Torres doing well batting 2nd, Bochy is thinking of maybe batting Sanchez third and moving Panda to clean-up (where I think he belongs anyhow).

Part of that, at least for today, is that Bochy is resting Huff and giving a start to Ishikawa.  Nice gift, hitting in an extreme hitter's park.  But he has been good in the press, has said all the right things and been patient, at least publicly, with his lack of playing.  And given how well Huff has hit and fielded, he's hopefully smart enough to see that Huff deserves to play most of the time.  So he deserves a gift like this (next one in Colorado?).

We have been wasting Sandoval batting third.  Sanchez batting third is not ideal to me, but I'll take it if that means that Sandoval is batting cleanup.  Besides, Rowand and Torres have been doing well in the top two spots, though I wouldn't mind a flip-flop of that too and have Torres leading off and Rowand batting 2nd.

Torres, Rowand, Sanchez, Pandoval, Uribe, Molina, Ishikawa, and Schierholtz.  Nate has cooled off a lot since his 3 hit game a couple of weeks ago, so put him back to where he has hit better.  The good thing to note is that despite not hitting well right now, even when he's not hitting, he's striking out at a low rate (10%) so I would just keep playing him since his defense is so good that it helps make up for the lack of hitting, and when the balls start falling in again (BABIP .206).

Likewise, Sandoval has not been striking out a lot either during his May funk, at least until his 2 strikeout game in the extra-inning win over the 'Dres.  I've been wondering if the fiddling around with his hitting affected him this month, causing him to not know how to get out of his funk, whereas previously he would just swing and hit and all would be good.  Sometimes you don't want to fiddle with your golden goose.

Or it could just be a really unlucky streak (.190 BABIP versus his career .342) that he will just have battle out of it.  This is his first big slump, though I would note that he had a similar bad streak at the start of the 2009 season that most fans forgot about (though not as deep).  It might take something as simple as moving him to clean-up to break him out of his funk, hopefully.

Meanwhile, on the farm, Bumgarner continues to amaze, in a similar fashion to his 2008 start, where he was horrible initially, but then put it together to have an spectacularly season after all.  There was a nice article on him on MiLB.com, where he explained that two changes helped to change his season around.  The first was a mechanical change that worked and boosted his confidence as it added back velocity, pushing his fastball back to the low-90's.  The second was adding a cutter to his repertoire, which he said was his best pitch in the two games he used it in game situations.  He also mentioned that his curveball was working well.

On the other hand, Posey has cooled off from his hot streak during the first 12 days of May.  In his last 6 games, he is hitting .238/.333/.286/.619 in 21 AB.  Still, he's hitting .339/.446/.645/1.091 for the month of May which is pretty good.  Hopefully, the Giants keep him down there to hone his defensive skills, plus with Molina and Huff doing OK, they don't need Posey up here.  I expect they will ride the Torres horse until his bat cools off, and hopefully they start giving Bowker starts to try to get his bat started, if he can just translate what he did for AAA up here, that would make our offense much better.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Your 2010 Giants: Deja Vu All Over Again: Who's Their Dre-ddy?

Nothing like a sweep to get the nasty taste of getting swept by the 'Dres out of your mouth. Them getting swept by the D-gers is nice too, though that keeps the D-gers only 1.5 games behind us and 2.0 games out of the lead. I don't like the D-gers winning, but when you sweep, you gain on somebody and that's good.

Now they get to face the 'Dres again, but on their home turf, get another chance to slay the monster in the closet. Every year there always seem to be a team that, for whatever reason, just beats up on the Giants. The 'Dres has been that team this year. Solving beating them would do wonders for not only our record but for getting into the playoffs. The Giants are 21-9 outside of playing them, though to be fair, outside of Houston too, they are 15-9. With only a two game series, it would take a sweep to gain anything, and it will be a tough series again.

Game 1: Clayton Richard vs. Matt Cain

Hard to tell what's going to happen with Richard. He was not a heralded prospect in the minors, only getting prospect status late in his minor league career, jumping to #5 in 2009 ChiSox Top 30 by Baseball America. As BA noted, he "rarely was considered more than a fringe prospect before 2008." But with a sinker that can get a lot of groundballs, he was able to take leaps and bounds and has been a good pitcher over the 2009-10 seasons in the majors with his stuff. But Minor League Baseball Analyst only rated him a #5 starter and BA wondered if he'll be better off as a reliever.

Still, he has been doing well, and if anything, has been very unlucky against left-handed batters this season. His low K/9 and K/BB (plus high BB/9) is countered by his strong 1.78 GB/FB ratio. The key plus for him is his low HR/FB he's had so far this season, only 2.7% vs. 10.9% his past two seasons (11.3% with San D last season), so unless Bud Black has figured out a way for Richard to be unlike any other pitcher in the majors, that imbalance in homers hit per flyball should correct itself this season. However, that does not mean the Giants will be the one to correct that.

He's a better pitcher at home but Cain has been a good pitcher on the road the past two seasons, so like last week, this should be a good matchup, may the better man win (of course, that means Cain :^). I think I would lean towards Cain though, he has dominated in San Diego previously, and as I noted, he's improved on the road, and Richard should be expecting regression in homers sooner or later.

Game 2: Mat Latos vs. Jonathan Sanchez

Latos, on the other hand, has been a highly touted prospect, BA had him #2 last season on the Dres' Top 30 and Minor League Baseball Analyst rated him a future #2 starter. However, BA noted that his "questionable maturity" caused him to fall in the draft but that his "raw stuff is ridiculously good." (which manifested itself in last week's thrown ball breaking Dave Flemming's car's sunroof, which could have severely hurt or killed someone; about as smart as people who fire their guns into the air when celebrating) They also noted that "he ends to reject structure, lacks a commitment to improve and rubs teammates the wrong way with his flippant attitude." (if I didn't mention it, the reason he throw the ball out of the ball park was because fans in the stands were yelling at him to throw them a souvenir ball and he thought it was funny to throw it to them like he's doing them a favor but throw it over their heads instead, out of reach).

But immature adolescents can do well in the majors and he has, which probably justifies his behavior in his mind. And his minor league stats seem to support his performance in the majors thus far. He gets a ton of ground balls, as well as also getting a lot of infield flies as well, so his low BABIP will not necessarily regress over time. He has also been unlucky with the long-ball this season, so that regression will help him greatly, as it's at 15.2% HR/FB when the mean is 10%.

However, while his ERA is better at home, he's shown much better peripherals on the road. His minors suggest that he's not as good as he has been on the road nor as bad as he's been at home. But he's been on a good streak, with consecutive shutouts (2 hitter and 1 hitter), so he's probably going to be tough again.

But so will Sanchez, who has pitched very well against the 'Dres - he seems to have their number - and so it should be another great battle, hard to say who would win, but given Latos two great games, have to lean towards him.

Giants Thoughts

So there will likely be a split this series, but given our bad streak so far against them, we could get swept again. That's baseball sometimes, just goes back and forth for a team, and some team for some reason got your number.

But the Giants has been good overall against the other teams, winning series against teams we might face in the playoffs if we make it (Braves, Colarado, Marlins, Phillies, Cards), and luckily has beaten up on the Astros, which makes up for for their futility so far with San Diego.

Plus, outside of the Giants, San Diego is only 16-15. So, as the season progresses, I expect us to pull away from the 'Dres, as their pitching staff gets off their hot streak, reverting closer to their career numbers, and their poor offense costs their good but not great pitching to lose games.  I like Kevin Correia, but if he's the ace of your staff, you are going to fall back down to reality at some point.

Their dominance of the Giants is the only thing keeping them in the race so far, just one win in each series by the Giants would have resulted in the Giants leading SD by 3.5 games and simply one win period would mean a 1.5 game lead.  The change due to one game is huge.

Though if their hitting prospects like Blanks and Venable starts to hit, their offense would perk up a lot, and they probably miss Everth Cabrera a lot, though he had not done much this season so far before going on the DL.  A-Gon has also been a bit cold too, him heating up would boost things as well.  Nobody has really been hitting well, it is all their wild base stealing that has propped up their lousy offense enough to win games with their good pitching.  Their numbers look amazingly like the 2009 Giants, except that they don't have anybody in their rotation to compare with Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez, Garland has been lucky this season with them, only Latos look like he would be comparable in terms of talent and abilities.

Meanwhile, the hot D-gers, on a 7 game win streak, should get a kick in the gut if/when Andre Ethier goes on the DL for a broken pinkie. I don't see how he can hit with it, in an ESPN article, he noted that he uses the pinkie as a leverage point in his swing, plus, as Torre mentioned, in any case, he will have to have the finger in a splint. I don't see how any hitter can hit with his finger immobilized in a splint, and further, I would think that would invite a lot of inside fastballs up on his hands.

So, again, the Giants get another chance to make a statement by taking two games from the 'Dres. The Panda, in particular, will have to come out of hibernation and start kung fu-ing the ball again.  He appears to be warming up a little the past week, but needs to bring back the power to his swing.  The key thing is that during his cold streak, at least he hasn't been striking out a lot, he's been very good in terms of not striking out a lot, the problem has been that his batted balls have not been falling in like it used to.  His .173 BABIP will not persist.  And in the past week, his strikeout rate went down and he got his first walk in a while.

It also appears that Freddie Sanchez, who has been hitting well in the minors, will get called up today while DeRosa gets DLed.  That would push Downs out of the lineup but hopefully will solidify our #2 spot in the lineup, which has been in flux since Renteria went on the DL (he should be coming off soon himself).  Downs had done well initially but his batting line has been falling in recent games, so the switch would be a good time to do.  Downs saved us when we lost Renteria, so he did well for us.  

While I'm not still sold on Torres, he has been great taking over the starting spot in LF in DeRosa's absence - appears that the Giants are not sold that Bowker is ready yet - and his numbers this year is basically the same as last year.  He has been killing LHP pitching again, but amazingly has been holding his own against RHP.  If he starts regularly against RHP, though, his overall batting line will fall as he's still facing more LHP than RHP and a starter typically faces RHP 3 times as much as LHP.  Still, ride him while he's hot and see how far he can go.

In any case, Schierholtz has cooled off since his 3 hit game, and he will need to heat up again in the next week or two, or he'll go back to sharing the RF job with Bowker.  Hitting in an extreme pitcher's park like SD will not help, nor against two hot pitchers.  But then two games in Arizona should help.  I've been rooting for Nate for a long while now, but he'll need to start hitting to keep the job, he can't get hot for two weeks then go cold for two weeks, like he did last season, if he hopes to hold the starting job.  But as long as Bowker hasn't figured it out either, neither will have a tight hold on the job.  Ideally, though, at least for the long run, both starts hitting, having too many good hitters is always a good problem to have.

I still don't care for Molina batting 4th but with Sanchez back, the lineup probably will be:  Rowand, Sanchez, Sandoval, Molina, Huff, Uribe, Schierholtz, and Torres.  Sandoval should really be our cleanup hitter, a better lineup for right now would probably be this, putting speed up top:  Torres, Sanchez, Schierholtz, Sandoval, Huff, Rowand,  Molina, Uribe.  Uribe has been cold since taking over SS, and I think Schierholtz would see more fastballs hitting ahead of Sandoval and Huff.  Plus, the #3 hitter, unlike conventional baseball theory, is not a key hitting spot, OBP is wasted there, according to The Book, by TangoTiger, MGL and Patroit, the 5th best hitter should go there.  So you could swap Uribe and Schierholtz then, depending on who you think is better, or even put Molina there is you think he is better.  What they found is that the #3 hitter often comes up in situations where there are already two outs, so getting on base is not as valuable there, in terms of scoring runs overall.

What was not discussed was how valuable it is to score first in a game.  I'm not sure how to research this, but I recall a stat somewhere that said that Giants did well when they scored first.  Looking at their record when leading, once they get the lead, the Giants have held it for the most part.  Bochy likes to bat Sandoval 3rd because then he would be sure to bat in the first inning and maybe get something started.  But I just think he'll be more valuable driving in the runs from the 4-spot.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 18-15: Licking Our Wounds, Facing the 'Stros

Well, that couldn't have gone any worse.  And we get to face them again in SD at the start of the next road trip, after this series with the Houston Astros.  And this time we were not reeling from the loss of Rowand from the top of the lineup, replaced by an wholly ineffective Eugenio Velez.  Luckily, the Giants have been so damn good against other teams - 18-9 record against everyone else - that we are still 3 games over .500, though now only 1.5 games ahead of the surging D-gers.

But that's the NL West every year in recent years.  One teams charges to the top, other's charge up and down, usually there are changes in the leader.  It is up and down all year, very disorienting sometimes.  But do you want to be the pilot spiraling downward with no sense of the ground or the one who is oriented relative to the ground?

We still have one of the best pitching staffs around.  The offense, while clueless so far against San Diego, particularly Matt Latos, felony vandalist (idiotically flung a ball into a public parking area in SF, where people walk to and from the park, particularly people like the family of ballplayers, and luckily - well, not for the owner of the car - all it did was destroy the sun roof of the new car of one of the Giants announcers, Dave Flemming), has been pretty good otherwise against the rest of the NL, at least the NL we have faced so far.  So now we face the Astros at home.

Game 1:  Felipe Paulino vs. Wellemeyer

My recent discussion with Boof reminded me that I'm no staunch supporter of Bochy - I like most things but am afraid that he won't have what it takes to get us that World Series Championship - and this bothered me.  The talk early this week was the possibility of skipping Wellemeyer in the rotation and starting Lincecum on Friday.  Which is fine, then we have our three best starters going against Houston.  But then I find out that even if they start Lincecum on Friday, they would still start Wellemeyer on Saturday, to keep the other starters on schedule for rest.

Then why even think about doing this?  The whole thing would only give Lincecum one less day of rest and Wellemeyer one more day.  That goes totally against what Bochy said earlier about giving Lincecum and the other young starters plenty of rest to keep them fresh later in the season.  And, frankly, as far as I'm concerned, Wellemeyer is dead man walking, holding the spot warm for Bumgarner later in the season (and which I was hoping for since we signed Wellemeyer).

Plus, which would you rather do, have Lincecum face Paulino and Wellemeyer face Oswalt?  That would assure one win and one loss.  Whereas with this configuration, we have a good chance of winning both.

Paulino is 0-5, 4.67 ERA, walking way too many batters.  Wellemeyer has even worse looking ERA but the key thing is he's pitching at home, where he has a 3.31 ERA so far.  And the one time Paulino pitched here, he was bombed for 9 runs in 2 innings, by our poor offensive team from last season.  Have to lean in the Giants favor here for this game.

Game 2:  Roy Oswalt vs. Lincecum

Oswalt righted himself after losing to the Giants, he's got a 2.63 ERA now, but he's facing Tim Lincecum, with a 1.86 ERA overall, 2.01 ERA at home this season (and wow, he's been basically the same home or road his whole career).  And it is not like Oswalt did that poorly in his game against us, it was not like we owned him, it was just that Lincecum owned Houston.  Plus, Oswalt has not done well in AT&T, 4.39 ERA, good K/BB, but poor K/9 and thus a lot of hits.  He's good, but Lincecum is better, but still, he's good, so I would lean towards the Giants as this is certainly no gimme, even if it is a Lincecum day.

Game 3:  Brett Myers vs. Zito

Myers has also righted himself after losing to the Giants, he's got a 3.52 ERA now.  Zito has been nothing short of amazing this season, but he was back to his old ways in his last start.  Has the wheel gone off that bandwagon?  I don't think so, I think Zito should have a good start.

However, he'll need to because Myers has pitched pretty well against the Giants in SF.  Only two games, but if you look at his K/BB and K/9, he has been dominating.  He pretty much shut them down in his last time here and the one where he was bombed the prior start, it just looks like one of those days where the balls just fell in (or perhaps Pat Burrell was playing LF), as he still struck out 6 in those 4 IP.

I think the rubber game is a toss-up, both pitchers should be going good, plus Myers is a LHP, and the Giants have been scuffling against lefties lately.

Giants Thoughts

After the tough sweep at the hands of the 'Dres, the Giants get another tough series against the Astros.  Still, they have a good enough chance of winning the series, though also a good chance they might lose.  It looks like it could go either way, but I lean towards the Giants because we have a good chance of winning the Paulino start and strong possibilities of winning the Oswalt start.  And we will need a series win because we face the 'Dres for a two game road trip after the Houston series, and Sanchez gets to face Latos again (three's a charm, hopefully, for us).

DeRosa is expected to sit out this series.  He has gotten a cortisone shot to help the nerve problem calm down and the timetable right now is to see where it is at on Sunday.  If it's not getting better, he'll probably go on the DL.  Baggarly reports on it here and Schulman here, and it sounds like the Giants are not even sure if surgery is needed to fix things up, at least not immediately (it does sound like there is a "good chance" that it will happen eventually).  Sounds like the Giants are going to try all options up to re-doing the surgery to get DeRosa contributing this season.

I really like Schulman's take on it, I think he nailed it.  Every signing involves risks and obviously the Giants have lost their bet so far.  But the game isn't over yet, in their view, whereas most people act like the two years are up already and we are ready to judge.

With DeRosa out, Bowker and Torres look to be getting starts based on a platoon basis, though I assume that if Bowker is hitting well, Bochy will keep starting him.  I do like how Bochy handles his hitters in general, unlike fans who bury a player forever or fall in love with another, I have not seen Bochy do this much, though many fans think he does.  He gives his players chances to play, even if he hasn't delivered this season, based on prior good performances.  But if the players cold, he will give others the opportunity to start and see what they can do.  He can't help it sometimes if everyone is slumping, he goes with the vet.  I would too, that is proven prior performance.  For the young guys, you give them rope but at some point you have to look elsewhere if they are not performing, and particularly if suddenly someone else is performing.

If he really had anything against using Bowker, as some have commented at sites I go to, he would not have been getting occasional chances to do something, he would not have gotten the chances to deliver in key pinch-hitting spots, and would not have gotten the start yesterday.   I'm still hopeful for Bowker to deliver, but with Schierholtz hitting, I would give him the job too.  Whoever is delivering, whoever wants it more, whoever, it seems for our young Giants, isn't pressing more.

ogc'ed:  Defending Sabean

As I noted in my comments, can't be more succinct than DrB in his comment on his site here.  Also, I liked what some guy wrote on MLBTR, he said he was "ogc'ed" when I replied to a comment of his:  so I recently ogc'ed someone on Extra Baggs:


Defending Sabean is easy:  Best rotation in the majors once Bumgarner is ready, by far, 1 to 5, possibly one of the best rotations in a generation or two (I can only think of the Orioles rotation in late 60's and early 70's), great bullpen with possible improvements lurking in the minors, we have potentially one of the best hitters of his generation in Sandoval and Posey looks to be just as good and at catcher, they should make our middle of lineup look great from 2011-2015 at least, and there are a lot of good prospects in the minors who could become solid cogs on the team of the '10s, Belt, Noonan, Kieschnick, Crawford, Neal, Sosa, Gillaspie, Joseph, Adrianza, Peguero, RafRod, Stoffel, Dominguez, Perez, Pill, Tanner, Bond.

You don't throw out the baby just because the diaper is dirty.  And if your GM isn't making mistakes, he's not trying hard enough to win, there are going to be mistakes made because the process is imperfect, humans are imperfect.  You have to look at the big picture and know which mistakes are forgivable and which are not.

The rotation could be the equal to the Giants lineup of the 60's and the Bonds prime lineups, and studies by Baseball Prospectus and The Hardball Times show that it is pitching and fielding that gives a team a competitive advantage in the playoffs, that offensive might provides no advantage in the playoffs.

Offense is not a core competency, for those of you into business strategy, it is just hygiene, for those of you into Geoffrey Moore, of Crossing the Chasm fame:  something your business needs to function but not critical to the long term success of your company.  And for that Moore recommends that you outsource that function, which, in baseball, means you go to hire free agents.

But unfortunately, this is not like a grocery store, when you need a great hitting OF, all there is is a great hitting 1B and maybe he doesn't want to play in SF.  So rebuilding an offense is never a quickie, it takes time to do that so that the offense is good enough to win with the great pitching you have put together.   Fans need to be patient with the process.


I can only imagine that Bobby Cox probably got all these comments while he was rebuilding the Braves.  6 years of wretched losing, the Giants only had about two years plus two more years of bad enough losing.  But it takes time to rebuild correctly.

And look at how he rebuilt them.  The hitters come and go for the most part but was anchored by Chipper Jones all those years.  Sandoval is hopefully that hitter for us, but it could be Posey too.

But it was their pitching that carried those teams, that was their identity.   And what a rotation that was, especially once they signed Maddux:  Maddux, the premier pitcher of his time, Glavine, and Smoltz.

We have our Maddux in Lincecum, then have Cain, Sanchez, and Zito as well, if he can continue pitching like this, well, that is a huge bonus.  Plus we have Bumgarner who should be joining soon enough.  And Wheeler looks to be good as well.

The Giants are set to be one of the dominant teams of the 2010's and all you Sabean Naysayers can do is sturm und drang about past mistakes.  They happened:  get over it.  Open up your eyes and see the team as if you were looking for a team to follow for the first time and you didn't know what a GM is.  Then maybe you will focus on the most important point:  the Giants have a great team and a great future.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Unbelievable! DeRosa's Wrist Surgery "Total Failure" But Risk Mitigation Key

According to reports from sfgiant.com and Extra Baggs, Mark DeRosa reinjured his wrist again, possibly a few weeks ago when Adam Wainwright hit him with pitches, possibly reaggravating it with "countless extra rounds of batting practice" as DeRosa worked to get his batting stroke back  In any case, an MRI showed that his ligaments were "flapping all over the place again".  He is not sure if surgery is best now or after the season is over.

Giants Thoughts

This is a recurring theme that I've been writing about for a while:  somehow the training staff is missing stuff like DeRosa's, Freddie Sanchez's injuries, Pablo Sandoval's poor vision, Edgar Renteria's elbow, Dave Roberts numerous injuries, Barry Bonds' knee, Noah Lowry's problems (which his agent said they might sue the Giants over, but so far no legal action), Edgardo Alfonzo's back problems, etc.

I understand calculated risks concerning players recovering from injuries, and perhaps the Giants have had a bad streak lately, but still, there have been a lot of problems the Giants have been having with injured players. And so I think it is OK to question what the training staff is doing.  It gets a lot of praise in the press and from the team, but the Giants have been missing a lot of problems with free agents as well as players on the team.  That is a huge dichotomy that needs to be explained to the fans.

Risk Mitigation At Work

Luckily, planning mitigates this problem.  The theme this season is taking risks on veteran players with question marks while having prospects who could be close to figuring things out.  DeRosa is definitely resting this series against the 'Dres and is pondering whether to operate now in order to be sure he will be ready for the 2011 season or play with the injury, which he was able to do, but not satisfactorily, in my opinion, last season for the Cards.

I think they should operate and get past all the possible obstacles to get him ready for the 2011 season, particularly since continuing to play would only yield a subpar DeRosa at best.  I prefer trying to get a fully functional DeRosa for the 2011 season than to struggle with a subpar DeRosa in 2010, then try to operate again and maybe have a subpar DeRosa in 2011 as well.  If they do it now, they hopefully can catch any other problems along the way and make sure that he's ready and healthy to play at 100% for the 2011 season.

Meanwhile, should he be out for the season, we have Bowker who actually has been hitting well lately.  And it appears that he would platoon with Torres in LF, should DeRosa be out for the season.   The two together should be effective in LF, as Bowker hits RHP better and Torres rakes against LHP.  And both have been good defensively in the OF.

And that theme of risk mitigation has recurred over and over again this season, unfortunately.  First Sanchez out until who knows when, but Uribe has been great in his stead.  Then there was Rowand out, and that was the one position we did not have a ready replacement for (at least in my opinion, I've never been a Velez fan, and he unfortunately did what I thought he would), so we struggled while he was out.  Renteria was next and that moved Uribe to SS and allowed Downs to start regularly.  And now DeRosa looks to be out and Bowker is there to try to pick it up in his stead.

Risk Mitigation Has Worked So Far

And that has worked for the most part this season.  The offense has been regularly churning out runs, except for that first week trying to figure out who would take over for Rowand.  They have averaged 4.67 runs scored per game for the season.  And if you take out that bad 7 game stretch while they struggled without him, the team has averaged 5.61 runs scored when the offense was working.

People may not like signing all these players because of the risks, but by getting all these vets, the Giants have a lot of players who they can mix and match in order to keep the offense running.  And that has worked despite all the various players going on the DL and the injuries that don't DL but certainly hampers things.  If they did not sign these players, Bowker's failure to start the season well could have killed the offense, as well as Sanchez and Renteria being on the DL, and now we will see how it works with DeRosa's injury.  And Molina sustaining his injury, should he need the DL, would have had Posey come up.

Young players will not produce for sure.  Even the best ones can end up struggling to figure out major league pitching.  Vets are a better bet overall, but you risk age-related injuries and performance declines.  By having the vets as the starters but young players as backup, as well as other backups (like Uribe), you reduce the risk that any one particular injury would hamper your team's offense.

But Depth Only Goes So Far

But you can only have so much depth.  No team can provide multiple levels of coverage, other than the Yankees and maybe Boston and the Mets.  So the Giants have been stretched thin with all the players on the DL, and it will be tested severely if DeRosa is declared out and Bowker is the starter for sure in LF, though platooning with Torres.

Unfortunately, a lot of the young prospects who might be considered for the jump to the majors from AA have not been hitting well.  In AAA, two of the three (Downs and Rohlinger) are up now and Posey has been declared not ready for the majors by Sabean recently.

There is also Joe Borchard, as a commenter noted, but he is 31 years old, plays corner OF so far, so perhaps he can be given the call-up, except he's not on our 40 man and we have no open slots so we would lose someone, and he is not hitting so well that he will be sure to do well in the majors.  31 year olds are suppose to hit that well, he is a classic AAAA player.  And the last time he was considered a good prospect was in 2003.

The only other hitter of note in the farm system close enough to maybe consider is Brandon Belt, but he's only in Advanced A San Jose and he only plays 1B where Huff has been doing well for us.  He should be promoted to AA Richmond soon, within the next month, since he has been absolutely hot for the Little Giants.  If he can continue to hit, he could be up with the Giants by late 2011 or be the starter in 2012 at 1B. He is left-handed and skilled defensively at 1B too.  And he did not strike out that much in San Jose and walked a lot, so that bodes well for him doing well in AA when he gets the promotion.

So the Giants are stretched thin now, particularly if DeRosa goes on the DL before Sanchez rejoins the team. They have pushed it to the limits so far.  And now we will need Bowker to start hitting, but the silver lining is that even if he doesn't hit, neither has DeRosa, and the team has been scoring runs pretty easily despite that, so perhaps with no pressure to produce, unlike the pressure he probably felt when he was starting in RF to start the season, he might relax and show us the hitter he was in AAA last season.

I would really like to see Bowker get most of the starts in LF while DeRosa is out, whether resting or DLed.  I wanted to see Bowker get to start in 2010 anyway, but did like the DeRosa signing if he was the hitter he is when he is healthy.  That is a sure upgrade if he's healthy and he can play multiple positions well.  But you have to take some risks, and now we at least have Bowker in reserve.  Now we need him to deliver some extra unexpected offense.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 18-12: Playing for First Place Versus the 'Dres

As disappointing as losing the series against the Mets was, I think people need to remember some things:

  • No bullpen is perfect, but the Giants bullpen is pretty good, if not great.  Sure, Romo lost a couple of games, but look at what he has done in his roughly 1.5 seasons worth of play:  dominance, as in 9.8 K/9, as in only 2.4 BB/9, as in 0.97 WHIP.  Get over it, relievers aren't perfect, sometimes the batter is going to win, otherwise the reliever would have a 0.00 ERA for his career.  
  • Sure, it hurt to lose games we could have won but these people are forgetting that we banked a few of those in our pockets during the road trip too, or perhaps they forgot that you normally cannot rely on Aaron Rowand to blast 3 home runs in a short 6 game road trip.  
  • The Giants were 6-4 on the road trip.  A winning road trip is always a good thing.
  • The matchups did not favor us, in any case.  It could have gone either way, and in this case, didn't go our way, whereas in prior series, it did.  
  • 18-12 is still a great record.  In a full season, that is 97 wins.
  • And it is not like the Giants are lucky to be this.  With luck, they could be 20-10, which is their Pythagorean record.  They have been this good so far.  
  • And all season long, when one guy in the lineup is scuffling, another hitter is hot enough to keep the team afloat.  Sandoval, Uribe, and Schierholtz were the very hot hitters in April, but now it is Rowand hot while those three are scuffling in May.  Molina and Huff have been pretty good for the most part (though it saddened me to see the media pick on the two of them when they were briefly scuffling, I think THAT was very insulting to both), and so was Rowand except when he was on the DL.  
  • DeRosa has been scuffling period, though he was adequate for the first half of the games so far (roughly .350 OBP), but horrible since.  I think it is getting time to let Bowker get some starts in LF - DeRosa has never been a full-time starter anyway, he's only been a mostly full-time starter, like Pedro Feliz was for us as our super-utility guy.  And DeRosa, while an OK hitter against RHP, probably would be better off sitting against certain RHP starters.  And Bowker appears to be showing some life in his bat that would be a welcome addition to the lineup, particularly since DeRosa has not delivered any power so far.  
  • Also, Sanchez has been recovering from a bad cold, much like Lincecum at the start of the 2009 season.  If he was full-strength for his last three starts (16.2 IP, 13 H, 11 BB, 13 SO, 3 HR, 4.32 ERA), like he was for his first three starts (19.1 IP, 11 H, 8 BB, 27 SO, 0 HR, 1.86 ERA), just imagine what our record would be now.
Game 1:  Wade LeBlanc vs. Zito

If there has been any pitcher who has as good or better than Zito for the past few starts, it is LeBlanc.  And, if anything, he had very bad luck with his BABIP so far!  He was a top prospect for the 'Dres when he was a rookie, and appears to be putting it together this season.  

Was not a highly ranked prospect, however, overall, so it is not like it is expected that he will continue at this low ERA, though if he can keep up his peripherals, he can.  So, did he discover a new pitch that propelled him above others (or finally developed that out pitch, like Brandon Webb did when he was so highly rated as a prospect his breakout year that he wasn't even mentioned on his team's prospect to watch article on their website that spring) or is he just very lucky?  Can't argue with his peripherals so far, you can't luck into that.

And what more superlatives can be thrown towards Zito's way that hasn't been thrown by the media over the past week or two.  Toss-up depending on who is better this particular day.

Game 2:  Clayton Richard vs. Cain

Unlike LeBlanc, not a highly ranked prospect, so he is doing better than the experts thought he would.  His stats and being a lefty, it reminds me of Kirk Rueter, low K's, high BB's, but somehow he crafts a low ERA for the season while barely getting his team into the 6th or 7th inning.  Plus, he handled the Giants in SD when they swept us.

Cain has been his usually good self, though he has kicked it into a higher gear his last two starts.  But so did Richard in his last start too.  Cain also has done better at home than on the road, so that helps too.  However, this is probably a toss-up as well.

Game 3:  Matt Latos vs. Sanchez

Latos was the highest ranked prospect among this trio of young starters, not high enough to gain top 100 status, but he was San Diego's #2 prospect a couple of years ago, so he's pretty good.  Like the other two, if we based things on prospect status, none of the three would have a chance against our pitchers, but so far this season, the three of them have been pitching great.   Yet, he has the worse ERA of the three.  I think that he is closest to his theoretic skill level, based on their prospect status, and he handled the Giants easily when the 'Dres took all three games, as well as pitched his best game of the season in his last start, a superlative game in all ways.

Sanchez has been scuffling due to health problems (very bad cold), but, while his last start did not start out well at all, he was able to regroup and pitch 7 relatively effective innings overall against the Mets.  He should be healthy for this start, should be a good game, another toss-up.  In any case, I think the experience of gutting out the games at less than full strength, particularly the Mets when it was so bad initially that he often tanked afterwards previously, were good character building exercises for him.  

Giants Thoughts

The pitching matchups look like each team has roughly the same chance to win, so this series look like a toss-up, it can go either way.  Thus, I think the key will be our hitters.

The 'Dres have been winning solely because of their pitching.  As great as our pitching has been, their staff has put up comparable if not better numbers (mainly because we have Wellemeyer as our #5 starter) and their hitters have not been doing much of anything.  Only A-Gon and Headley has done much of anything offensively, in terms of OPS.  The rest have been pretty bad and their lineup reminds me of how the Giants lineup looked like last season.  I think that is why their team has gone overboard with their stealing, to compensate for their lack of hitting.  They already have 37 steals, which is probably what we might get in total for the whole of 2010.

So the key for us to win is our hitting, as I think our pitching should be able to keep up their side of the bargain.  San Diego was lucky their first time around because our top of the lineup was messed up by losing Rowand and starting Velez, and Bowker was still not hitting for us.  Now they get to face Rowand while he's hot.  And there are two LHP and Torres has been hot, finally, so that would set up scoring opportunities for the middle of our lineup.  However, Sandoval has been in a slump for the month of May, basically.  

Still, we have been scoring runs relatively easily lately.  Both Molina and Huff has been hitting well, and Schierholtz (and others) have been delivering from the #8 spot enough that Rowand drove in 4 runs in the 6 game road trip besides the 3 runs he drove in via homers.  They averaged 4.7 runs scored off the Mets at their pitchers park home and while they have been hot at home (Giants win snapped a nine-game winning streak at home for the Mets).  If these hitters can keep up what they have been doing, I think they can score enough runs off the 'Dres pitchers to win the series.  

And the winner of the series is who will be in first place afterward.

Go Giants!

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