Sunday, October 31, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 2-1 in the World Series: MadBum Must Hunt Down Rangers

Well, couldn't expect to sweep them, though Ralph was going on and on about that happening on KNBR on Friday.  Got to tip the cap to Lewis for delivering, while Sanchez apparently is tiring due to the number of innings he has thrown.  Game 7's starter is now uncertain.

This is why I wanted the Giants to put Zito on the playoff roster, in case he might be needed.  I thought Bumgarner would be the one who would be fatigued, though.  Still, with Sanchez in question for Game 7, it could either become a bullpen game or the Giants might decide to go to Lincecum for as long as he can go, since he would have pitched Game 5 and would have had two days rest and thus on the day of Game 7, that would be his normal throwing day anyway.  It could be much like Game 6 in the NLCS, with pitchers pitching in.

Also uncertain is the lineup for Game 4.  Burrell is in a deep slump now and has not delivered in any of the World Series games he has started in.  And Sandoval did not deliver in Game 3, he looked like he was pressing again, unfortunately.  He is also a question mark as well.  With a RHP up in game 4 in Hunter, the Giants might go with Schierholtz in the outfield, Ishikawa at 1B, and Huff at DH, or at least one of those changes.  Given how lousy Hunter has been, I would be OK with making all these changes and see how it works, but Bochy don't like to make a lot of changes, so we'll see.

Don't know why the media is so down.  It just dawned on me that perhaps it is the media's fault that the general fan has been so down on the Giants.  One game lost and "the Giants stumble" is the headline on the Mercury.  No wonder some fans are suicidal about the Giants, like lemmings they follow the mood of the headline.

The Giants are still up 2-1.  They are one of the better teams in the majors on the road, and they have been especially good once Posey was named the starting catcher, they were actually among the poorer teams mid-season, but they not only rose and got better, they ended up one of the top teams on the road.

Having a great rotation does not mean that you run roughshod over every team and sweep them, though that will happen on occasion.  It means that you will outlast most teams in the long run.  It means that you will win 2 out of every 3, or so, in most series.  It means that you have faith in what the team has demonstrated it can do for half a season now:  play winning baseball.

Of course, it would help if we have more hitters other than maybe Cody Ross and Andres Torres hitting regularly.   It would be nice if Burrell stepped up, but sometimes the best hitters are slumping now (Barry Bonds was considered a poor playoff performer until 2002).  However, the two I've been hoping could step up are Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval.  Sandoval froze in the spotlight again last night, but I don't totally blame him, he hasn't been starting regularly lately.  And it would have been nice if Posey had hit that foul ball last night for a homer.

I would also be OK with moving Huff to LF to replace Burrell, give him a day to get his mind off playoffs, start Ishikawa at 1B, and give Sandoval another chance at DH.  We need to get Sandoval or Burrell heated up to improve our chances of scoring runs.  Sitting down Burrell while giving Sandoval another chance could help with getting them started.  And, unfortunately, we don't have any better alternatives, I think.

Plus, I think Ishikawa is ready for his chance at spotlight, he has hit well enough since May of 2009, both starting and mostly sitting and waiting for his chances.  Lucky for the Giants but bad for Ishikawa, both Huff and Burrell came through and hit as well as they could be expected to during the season.  Hopefully he can rise to the occasion, or rather that he can be calm for the occasion, he has said previously that when he thought too much about the situation, it would mess up his swing mechanics, but when he can leave it all up to God, that's when he's swinging freely.

Game 4:  Hunter vs. Bumgarner

I still like the Giants chances against Hunter.  Lewis is a very good pitcher, he will have good well-pitched games most of the time.  Had the Giants continued to rack up the pitches (he had over 30 after two innings pitched), they could have got him out earlier and got into the middle relievers and do more damage perhaps, as they did in Games 1 and 2.  But can't expect every game to be like Games 1 and 2.

I think Bumgarner will be able to deliver a better game than Sanchez, but for how much longer?  He was tiring in his prior start too, and he had 9 days of rest for that one too.  It might be another bullpen game with Bumgarner going 5, then get one inning from four relievers.

In any case, Hunter has had horrible starts all through the playoffs so far.  Don't really see him improving and suddenly performing well on the big World Series stage, when he could not do it on the smaller stages in less critical situations.  Meanwhile, Bumgarner appears to be an assassin with ice cold water going through his veins.  He's going to be a monster for us in the playoffs in future years, teamed up with Lincecum and Cain.  I would have to say that the Giants chances are good for winning the game and getting to 3-1.  But, as the saying goes, that's why they play the games, you just never know.

Go Giants!

Friday, October 29, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game 3:  Colby Lewis vs. Sanchez

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

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

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

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

PQS Shows Giants Fading

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

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

Giants Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

I Split PA AB H 2B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
TEX-AmeriquestFd 150 132 37 4 6 23 3 0 15 11 .280 .353 .447 .800 .265
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/29/2010.

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

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

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

Lineup In Texas:  What and Who DH's?

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

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

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

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

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

Other Thoughts

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 1-0 in the World Series

Wow, what a game!

Started out bad, in that Lincecum seemed all over the place, but he did what the great pitchers do, limit the damage so I wasn't stressing too badly.  Meanwhile, while Lee was giving up no runs, I did not feel like he was the overpowering pitcher everyone was raving about, I thought it was a matter of time before the Giants started stringing hits together.  But I never thought that they would do that the extent that they did!

Then the way they came back, reminded me of Game 3 in 2002's World Series when the Giants roared back after the Angel's battered our pitchers and the Giants took the lead - only to lose in the end...  So while I don't like using the closer so early generally, this gets back to what I've been saying about Bochy understanding the do or die element that exists in these series but that other managers (koff! Dusty) did not seem to get.  Just get the win, worry about tomorrow when it becomes today.

And really, with all the days off between cities plus the rest before the series after the NLCS, Wilson should be OK just from a regular usage basis.  In addition, Wilson says that he is capable of pitching everyday - and remember, he has regularly pitched 1+ inning saves - so if he puts in 0.2 inning on Wednesday, he can put in 1.0 inning on Thursday and not really pitch more than usual.  Then he rests his arm on Friday before we go to Texas.

And the offense!?! How exciting that Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff had the great games they had!  Both their bats were starting to wake up at the end of the NLCS and now they are fully awake. Also Torres got on twice and scored two runs, having our top two guys getting on base really got the offense going.  Cody Ross, of course, had to get a clutch hit and contribute a run.  And Juan Uribe appears to be waking up as well, hitting a 3-run homer that proved to the margin that made the game a real laugher still, and homering in his second game in a row.  Appears Phillies woke up Juan by hitting him in Game 6.  That reminds me of Rich Aurilia in the 2002 playoffs, his bat woke when he was buzzed or hit by pitch.

Luckily, given how well Ogando pitched, the Rangers didn't go to him instead of O'Day, else Uribe might not have gotten his 3-run homer.  Hopefully the Giants can score enough to keep Ogando on the bench, as well as Neftali Feliz.

Hopefully, Lincecum was only tight, but he has pitched more innings than he ever did before, plus technically was pitching on short rest because of his relief stint in Game 6 of the NLCS.  We will probably need him at his best in the next start if we hope to win, can't expect to beat up on Lee again.  Though, if Cain is able to win today, Lee might be pitching in Game 4 instead.

With this win, the Giants continue an amazing feat (blogged on by the peerless Andy Baggarly in his ExtraBaggs blog):  "the Giants haven't trailed in a postseason series yet.  They won their third consecutive Game 1.  For all their torture, they still haven't played a true elimination game in 2010."  And that's because their 162nd game wasn't an elimination game, they were going to play more games, for if they had lost, then all those damn tie-breaker games would have been put in motion.  That was a huge win for the Giants, huge game by Jonathan Sanchez.

Baggarly also noted:  "But tonight's victory was important in a few other respects, too.  It was their 100th win of the season, which is something few teams get to claim.  It also was Bruce Bochy's first World Series victory as a manager.  If you've forgotten, Bochy's San Diego Padres were swept by the Yankees in 1998."

Last Baggarly note:  Tim Lincecum was allowed to wear his lucky, sweat-stained hat that he has worn since he joined the Giants, almost every game if I recall right.  He had to allow a World Series patch to be stitched on the side, though, hope that doesn't destroy the hat when he tries to remove it for future use, or maybe if the Giants win the World Series, he'll finally retire that cap and start with a new cap?

Lastly, I will note that Aubrey Huff's Red Thong has made the cover of today's Wall Street Journal, for those of you who subscribe.  He and his thong are the subjects of the WSJ's famous "Middle Column" series of off-beat human interest stories.  I'll bet he's proud of that!

Game 2:  CJ Wilson vs. Cain

Wow, wonder if Ranger's manager Washington now regrets doing this?  Put his third best pitcher up in a must win situation on the road.  He appears to have been guided by how each pitcher has done during this season by ERA, but as I noted with my PQS analysis, it actually has been the reverse.  It was just some random luck involving DIS starts that bloated their ERA, which really involves luck regarding when the manager takes out the starter and whether his reliever is able to prevent his runners from scoring, and whether his fielders are good or not (like how Vlad didn't get to a lot of balls, or handle them well, but didn't get an error awarded).

But as shut down as Cain has been for us so far, obviously the cautionary tale is yesterday's game by Cliff Lee:  no pitcher is untouched forever if he gets enough starts.  The good news is that Cain has not pitched in a long time.  Unlike Lincecum, he has not had to pitch in more than one game in any series yet and has gotten a lot of rest in-between starts.  Of course, all of our pitchers are pitching waaay beyond the innings that they ever did before, so I'm glad that Bochy has gone with the quick hook on them, which keeps the work load on their bodies minimized.

And if Torres, Sanchez and Huff's bats are waking up, that is good news for the offense, as there will be a steady supply of runners on base for Posey, Burrell, Ross, and Uribe.  Luckily, as I noted, Wilson is good but not really great.  And he might be tiring, he had two well pitched games to start the playoffs, but had a disaster start in his last game.

I would also note that this is his first season starting in a long time, he had been their closer for years, so not only is he beyond his innings like the other starters, but he was way over already during the regular season.  However, I would note that among the Ranger's starters, Wilson was probably the best in delivering DOM starts the last two months of the season, so he obviously conditioned his body well during the off-season in order to start this season.

Still, Cain has been very consistent all season long, and was even better than Wilson the last two months, though I would note that Cain faltered in the first game in the San Diego series with a DIS start.  Still, before that he had a string of 9 consecutive DOM starts, 13 of 14 DOM starts, almost half the season, that is extremely dominating, to say the least.  At least Cain had his hiccup during the regular season and has continued to do well in the playoffs, with a lot of rest.  It really looks good for the Giants in this game, though if Wilson is on his game, it will be another tight nail-biter, but still, Cain, like the Giants have been doing all season and all playoffs, probably will give up just a little less runs.  Hopefully the bullpen can hold it this time.

Go Giants!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are IN THE WORLD SERIES!

The Giants have made it to World Series for the fourth time in San Francisco franchise history:  the opposing teams have fallen to the Giants Gauntlet of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner.  They have been the underdog in every series.  So it is appropriate that they are the underdog again.

The Rangers have a powerful offense that will bring the Giants Gauntlet to its knees, or so they say.  Cliff Lee will shut down the Giants anemic offense, the pundits say.  Josh Hamilton will conquer the Giants pitchers, as will Nelson Cruz.  The Giants have no chance if you believe the hype (and Vegas betting line).

Let's touch on those beliefs.

Ranger's Awesome Offense

Do you believe a lineup of 9 Bengie Molina's is a great offense?  Does a .719 OPS scare you?  That's Molina's OPS since he joined the Giants.  Didn't think so.

Here is the Rangers' road numbers:  .265/.324/.391/.716.  Yeah, not so world beating afterall, huh?  And that was against all their opponents, against the AL average pitchers overall, not the MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL LEADING rotation that the Giants sport right now.  So it would be logical that they should not even hit that.

And remember, the Giants overall pitching numbers are diminished by Wellemeyer's stats while he was keeping Bumgarner's spot warm and, well, Barry Zito's good but not great stats. Here are some of the Ranger's key road numbers:

Hamilton: .327/.382/.512/.894
Moreland: .244/.330/.500/.830
Cruz: .267/.324/480/.805
Guerrero: .284/.336/.461/.796
Murphy: .294/.367/.413/.780
Francoeur: .270/.328/.405/.733 (includes time with Mets)
Cantu: .271/.313/.417/.729 (includes time with Marlins)
Ramirez: .192/.371/.346/.718
Kinsler: .257/.322/.388/.710 (most overrated player since Hank Blalock)
Molina: .267/.313/.395/.708 (only time with Rangers)
Young: .260/.299/.380/.679
Andrus: .268/.354/.292/.646
Borbon: .269/.302/.340/.641

That is the thing people don't realize, the Rangers aren't as good as their overall numbers look because their homepark is one of the most hitter's oriented parks in the majors, except for Colorado.  Their record on the road is 39-42 and they averaged 4.41 runs scored on the road.  With the DH too: assuming roughly equal contributions, that drops their offense to around 4 runs scored on average when they are playing in SF, which they will be doing for 2 to 4 games.  And it goes down even more if they don't have Vlad in their lineup, which Washington, the Ranger's manager, said will be in 1 of the 2 games in SF to start.

And remember, good scoring teams and bad, the Giants have kept opposing teams to 3 runs or less in 29 out of their last 36 games.  However, I will note the cloud in the coffee:  the Phillies did score 4 runs or more in 3 out of the 6 games we played, so the Giants were only 3-3 in keeping the Phillies from scoring more than 3 runs.

Cliff Lee is, wait for it:  Legendary

And he has been in the playoffs.  Still, the Giants have not been daunted or wowed by every great pitcher this season.  Many pitchers yielded to the Giants offense.

Halladay had a great start to his Phillies career and the Giants were the first team to score more than 2 runs on him as a Philly when they scored 5 runs.  And the Giants were the only team to do that in his first 9 starts, one of two teams in his first 13 starts.  In all, only 5 teams scored 5 runs or more off Halladay in the 2010 season, out of 33 starts, and the Giants were one of them.

And, of course, Halladay again after he no-hit the high octane offense that the Reds had in the playoffs, nobody gave the Giants a chance (negative hits?) and still gave up 4 runs to the Giants, and the Giants won again.  Heck, as @JeffFletcherAOL tweeted, "The #Phillies had averaged 6.0 runs per game over their 9 games before the #NLCS, 5.4 over 19G; 5.5 over 34 G."  From what I calculated, the Phillies only averaged 3.3 runs per game against the Giants.

In addition, Ubaldo Jimenez had his great run with the Rockies earlier this season, but then the Giants scored 7 runs off of him, when he was 14-1 at that time.  Then there was Lincecum outdueling Roy Oswalt three straight times when he was at Houston.  Still, the offense had to score enough off Oswalt to enable Lincecum to win.

The Giants have been challenged by great pitchers all season long, and while they didn't always get the upper hand on all of them and win, it wasn't like they lost every time either, and in fact, beat a fair number of great pitchers along the way, even when it looked like he would shut down the Giants offense.  They have risen to the challenge enough times to get us to the World Series.  They were the little engine who could.

And while Lee has been dominating in the playoffs, and very good during the season, he was not great every time he pitched during the season, so it is not likely that he will continue this forever.  His DOM%, in fact, is roughly that of Lincecum or Cain this season.  They were equals during the season (Lee had 64% DOM during the season, 60% on the road; both Lincecum and Cain were in the 60's too).  He was not perfect and, in fact, in his last 7 starts of the 2010 season, he only had 2 DOM starts.  At some point, his adrenaline will run out and he'll return to his normal goodness, not this greatness.

Josh Hamilton is Da Man

And he has been in the playoffs.  But before we anoint him the next Barry Bonds of 2002, I would note that the Barry Bonds of 2002 was not enough, that Giants team did not win the World Series on the back of his amazing playoff performance.  The rest of the lineup was his kryptonite and they could not score enough, the Angel's pitching shut down the Giants TEAM offense the rest of the way.

And as I have been saying for years now, the best hitters can be neutralized by the best pitchers.  And the Giants have four pitchers who are capable of being the best pitchers around.  And they were and have been since September began.  And as I've been noting, Hamilton could hit 3 homers in a game and they would still lose 4-3 if the Giants pitchers shut down the rest of the Ranger's offense.  Because it takes a team to score a lot of runs, and the best pitchers can shut down a team.  And, as noted, the Giants have four of the best around.

Four of the Best Starting Pitchers Around

And that is the key to the Giants winning the World Series, and has been their key to winning the NLDS and NLCS to get to the World Series:  having more depth in the rotation than any other team.  Sure, the other team might have, say, Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels, but we have three equals in Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and then you get to the fourth starter and Bumgarner beats anybody's fourth starter.

The Rangers are no different, and in fact, their rotation is a little easier to tackle.  While Lee had a 64% DOM in 2010 and Lewis 66%, Wilson only had a 45% and Hunter a lousy 18%.  Cain had 67%, Lincecum 61%, Sanchez 48% and Bumgarner 50%.  And it has been even higher for the Giants since September began.  The Ranger's starters were all mediocre in September except for Lewis, and during the playoffs, only Lee has been consistently dominating, both Wilson and Lewis had average performances mostly, and Hunter has been horrible, not sure why they don't start Holland or someone else.

Starter's Matchups For Each Game

Since the teams have not faced each other much in their history, and not at all in 2010, there are no data on how pitchers have done on the road except maybe very old data, involving players no longer here.  Like the Giants having a 15-7 historic edge and have won the last 7 overall and the last 11 in SF, or that the Giants are lifetime 12-2 in SF against TX (3-0 in 2009), 3-5 in Texas.

When it all came down to it, had to have Lincecum face off with Lee in the first game, despite his relief appearance in Game 6.  He didn't really pitch that much, facing only 3 batters, and it was his day to throw anyway.  If no changes are made, they will also meet in Game 5 as well.  Should be a battle of the titans and I think they will split the two.

That then leaves Cain to start game 2.  Bochy has chosen to position Cain to pitch at home against the Phillies and Rangers and that makes a lot of sense because both parks are hitters parks, which a flyball pitcher like Cain probably shouldn't be started at, as many have said (including Jerry Oscodar has been tweeting to me :^), though I would note that a lot of those flyballs are weak popflies.  I think the more important decision was  not positioning Cain to pitch at home (which he does for games 2 and 6), but rather Sanchez on the road for game 3.

Sanchez, even when trying to figure things out in prior seasons, struck out batters at a near league-leading rate  and he has continued to do so this season.  If the hitters are striking out, they definitely aren't hitting the ball out of the park or doing damage otherwise.  Plus, Sanchez led the staff in ERA in September and delivered in the last game of the season when the Giants needed it.  Hopefully he is over his playoff jitters and isn't so amped up, and his performance will be more like his 2nd inning in game 6 and less like 1st and 3rd.

And this is where the Rangers made a tactical error as well, I believe, by starting Wilson in game 2 and Lewis in game 3.  Lewis was much better during the season than Wilson.  And while this makes sense because Wilson's road ERA is much better (2.91 vs. home 3.70) and Lewis' home ERA is much better (3.08 vs. road 4.82), this is not reflected in their PQS DOM analysis.  Wilson was about equal but still worse on the road with 43% DOM (47% DOM at home) and Lewis was much worse at home (57% DOM vs. road 72% DOM).  It was random luck that their ERAs turned out the way it did.  And that is the pattern earlier in the playoffs, all of Lewis' starts have been at home, while Lee and Wilson has gotten almost all the road starts (Hunter got the other).

So while it is possible that Cain and Wilson will split, I think that there is a strong possibility that Cain will outpitch Wilson in both games 2 and 6, and the Giants win both.  As dominating Lee has been, and he has been very extremely dominating, Cain has done his normal under the radar good work:  13.2 IP, 9 hits and 5 walks, 11 strikeouts, 0 ER.

Then there is Dirty vs. Colby Lewis in games 3 and 7.  Lewis has pitched great in the playoffs, but his BABIP has been low and he has walked a ton of batters.  And as I noted, he has been good but not great at home in terms of PQS, he has been more average than he was on the road, as his road number was inflated greatly by one bad disaster start.  Sanchez has been his usual wild self in the playoffs, but generally has pitched well and more importantly, been managed well by Bochy, taking him out when he was losing it big time, and handing over to the bullpen.  Given that factor, I would put the two of the equal, but Lewis clearly would have the edge normally.

Lastly, in game 4 we have Bumgarner vs. Hunter.  Should not be close.  Bumgarner has been aces for the most part and the moment he falters, Bochy would bring in the bullpen.  Hunter has been pretty bad all season and even worse during the playoffs.  He has been slightly better at home in terms of DOM (27% vs. 9% on road and most DIS starts on road), but that is a pretty bad DOM no matter how you slice it.  The only good point is that he at least doesn't have that many DIS starts in Arlington.  Should be a Giants win here.

And that is how the Giants have been winning series since September started, if one of our starters don't get you, the next one will.  There will be THE crack in the other team's rotation, whether it be Blanton or now Hunter.  Because the Giants Gauntlet has been pretty much non-stop since Sabean got Lincecum cracking in late August.

And if the Giants are in such good position that the Rangers feel the need to pitch Lee in Game 4 against Bumgarner, then we got Lincecum vs. Wilson (at home), Cain vs. Lewis (on the road), and Sanchez vs. Lee (on the road), but all hands will be on deck again for Game 7.  That could be tight, but if the Giants are in good position, I would think they would be in better position after Lincecum takes on Wilson (Cain vs. Lewis is a toss-up).  I don't see the Giants moving Lincecum up to Game 4 unless we are down 0-3.

Giants Thoughts

I like the Giants chances to win the World Series.  Unfortunately, in baseball, unlike football or basketball, there is a lot of randomness that is part of the game:  each pitch being called ball or strike, each swing whiffing or connecting, each batted ball being converted to an out or a hit, and the string of all these leading to no-hits or batting practice.  But with our rotation, the Giants have a great chance of winning, particularly if they are facing Hunter in game 4.

Our offense, too, has been just enough all season.  And that is not torturous, torture is LOSING by a thin margin all season long, like we used to in the 70's and 80's, beating good teams but then playing down to the level of the bad teams and losing to them.  The team has been just fine as they have been winning

I think the hitters were starting to heat up near the end of the NLCS, if we can get Torres, Sanchez, Huff, Posey, and Sandoval hitting like that plus Ross continuing to hit like he has, Burrell too, though it would be nice if he heated up too.  I think they will look better in Texas, playing in an extreme hitter's park, maybe that will perk up their confidence.

Most of all, I think the Giants bullpen, which has been outstanding for a long time, will be the difference maker - again - in this series, along with the #4 starter matchup (assuming MadBum vs. Hunter).

And the reason they will be is because Bochy has been a master the past two months in knowing when to take out the starter before it gets too ugly, bringing in the bullpen, and then the bullpen shuts down the other team.  And with most starters going 6-7 innings normally, the bullpen is usually well rested and able to do such things.  Plus he has an "all hands on deck" strategy for the end games, where starters are expected to pitch in an inning or two.  Bochy understands how important each game is and plays to win each game, then worry about the next game.  And the team has been playing like this since September started, so it is pretty much old hat to most of them now.

DH Thoughts

I had been going all over with my thoughts on this.  I thought maybe Ishikawa could play 1B against RHP while Huff DH's, or even Schierholtz could start and Burrell could DH.  I also thought about having Sandoval DH as well, because I want his bat in there, I think he's going to hit well in the World Series.

But Burrell was released by Rays for being unable to DH.  And I found out that Huff has been around his career norms as a DH, batting .278/.335/.482/.816 as DH, which is around his career numbers.  Then it came to me:  Sandoval has played good defense at 1B previously, why not start him at 1B while Huff DH's, something he has successfully done in the past.

By the time we get to game 5 where Lee is a LHP, we could have Rowand DH.  Though if Sandoval is hitting well at that point, I would be OK with him starting 1B all three games and Huff DH.  I think a big key to winning the World Series (I know, duh!) is Sandoval and/or Posey heating up and hitting like they are capable of.  Both showed signs of coming out of it in the NLCS, Posey with his 4-hit game, Sandoval with his 7-pitch walk, then hits in games after that.

Lineup

Bochy is a creature of habit, or really of "if it is working, don't mess with it", so it will probably be similar to the last game in Philly:

  1. Torres CF
  2. Sanchez 2B
  3. Huff 1B
  4. Posey C
  5. Burrell LF
  6. Ross RF
  7. Uribe 3B
  8. Renteria SS

Given that we are up against Lee, Bochy will probably favor defensive prowess and thus Renteria over Sandoval, plus Sandoval has been sitting vs. LHP for the most part late in the season.  Pablo might get the start in Game 2 if Renteria don't hit so well in Game 1.  Rowand would start in CF if Torres is still suffering effects of his injury, but so far, so good.

Go Giants!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brandon Belt Discussion by Keith Law and Jason Gray

There was a nice video discussion about Brandon Belt by ESPN's Keith Law and Jason Gray (I follow @KeithLaw's twitter account and learned of this by this re-tweet) on ESPN today.  It is really good so check it out (also discusses Bryce Harper and Eric Hosmer too, if you are prospect hound and looking for fantasy advice for 2011), but I am providing a rough transcript as I want to make some points regarding Belt and the Giants:
... Other great offensive prospects are in the AFL besides Harper.  One of the most impressive is Brandon Belt.

(Gray) Some say he came out of nowhere, and he sort of did, as he's relatively new to hitting, being drafted twice as a pitcher.  Kudos to SF staff for his development.

They changed his stance, hand position, in order to get the most out of his raw talent.

There are openings in SF in 1B and LF, he could make impact in 2011.

I (Law) love the way they changed his stance, he's more upright now, picked his hands up, more leverage in swing, can get bat to any spot in zone, good plate discipline, pretty good defensive 1B
Giants Thoughts

I wanted to point this out for a few reasons.  First, obviously, always good to hear good things about our prospects.  Belt is arguably the Giants #1 prospect now, depending on how you view Wheeler's potential.  He's definitely the closest to making the team as a starter.  Nice to have him recognized by experts such as Keith Law.  And they called him a great offensive prospect.

Second, I like the detail they gave in what he is doing right as a hitter.  Don't always get to hear such information when prospects are described, period, and they gave a lot of detail that we normally don't get to hear about our prospects.

Third, wanted to point out that while technically it is true that the Giants have openings at 1B and LF for 2011, I seriously doubt that will happen.  Huff loves the team too much to leave it over money and the Giants do not skimp in signing players they are interested in keeping, which Sabean alluded to previously, when a reporter asked or suggested that Huff might be traded to get prospects since he'll be a free agent.  He got $8M each for 2 seasons when younger, he'll probably get something like DeRosa's 2 year, $12M ($6M per season) deal, maybe with team option year added. 

Burrell already said that he'll accept a bench role in 2011, and that suggests that he'll sign for minimum money ($1-3M);  he grew up Giants fan and clearly wants to stay on the team at all costs.  Burrell staying would be another reason why Huff will re-sign.  Together, 1B and LF are covered, plus Cody Ross, according to Sabean-speak, probably will be retained as well, giving us Torres, Ross, Burrell, Rowand, and Schierholtz in the OF already for 2011.  No space for Belt in 2011, unless injury, sudden (and complete) change in heart, poor performance, or Belt just Babe Ruth's his way to MLB lineup (Huff can play 3B, LF, and RF too).

Misconception that Giants Don't Develop Position Players

Lastly, the Giants have been painted as a poor organization for developing position prospects because, well, they haven't really developed a position prospect for a long time (or at least a good one) until Pablo Sandoval came along, and I think that this discussion highlights that perhaps it is more a matter of not devoting their high draft picks to hitters, than of lack of ability to develop hitters.

Look at all the things Law and Gray describes that that Giants did with Belt.  That does not happen randomly, it is a recognition of how to hit and adjusting the hitter to improve what he could do, within the constraints of his talents.  There are so many adjustments noted that the Giants did to Belt, you can't do all that and hope to randomly succeed, you do all that because you have a methodology of how a major league hitter succeeds and mold the player to it.

And that is where most people complaining about the Giants ability to draft position players are missing something, something I've been trying to explain for the past 6-7 years about the draft:  there is not a lot of obvious talent in the draft, except when you draft in the top 5 or so.  And odds are not great there either, around 40-45% chance of finding a good player there, based on my study, not even flipping a coin odds.

And the Giants for the most part have used their first round pick on pitchers - with odds of around 10% for Cain's pick, around 20-25% for Bumgarner and Lincecum's pick range.  And the odds get exponentially worse for the second round and on down the draft.  They simply have not devoted many higher draft picks to position players until recent drafts, and still drafted pitchers early in Bumgarner and Wheeler. 

So the real reason most position prospects don't work in the Giants farm system is because they are lacking a lot of qualities that make up a good hitter due to the fact that they are drafted many rounds later, and not because they are incapable of developing hitters.  If you are fishing in an empty barrel, the reason you don't catch fish isn't necessarily because you are a bad fisherman.

And though one could say that the Giants lucked into Belt since he was a 5th rounder, but again to the points that Law and Gray made, an organization that is incompetant in developing a hitter would not have been able to make all those adjustments with Belt and get him hitting the way he is, one of the best offensive prospects in baseball.  I would credit the Giants for identifying that Belt, in his unformed state as a hitter, since he was just recently converted from pitcher (funny since the Giants are semi-famous for converting position players into pitchers), had the raw talent to become a better hitter given additional instruction.

Given the Giants move to drafting more position players earlier in the draft - Fairley, Noonan, Culberson, Gillaspie, Kieschnick, Crawford, Joseph, Dominguez, Belt, Brown, Parker, Jurica - the Giants will probably be seeing more "success" in developing position players going forward, when, really, it is more an emphasis of their rare resources (early draft picks) on position players in recent seasons rather than the historic emphasis on pitching that they have basically hewed to since Tidrow took control of player personnel and development.  And this new emphasis was marked by when John Barr took over scouting for the Giants.

World Series News

Bochy earlier announced the rotation (Home/Road) will be Lincecum H, Cain H, Sanchez R, Bumgarner R, Lincecum R, Cain H, Sanchez H. Probably best this way, get Lincecum and Cain pitch critical games 5 & 6.  Also puts Lincecum mano-a-mano with Lee, giving us best chance to win game 1.  Interesting stat I saw tweeted by Ranger's fan is that in Wild Card era, almost every team that won game 1 ended up winning the World Series. 

In addition, Andres Torres sound like he's healthy and ready to play game 1.  If he can hit like he was at the end of the NLCS, that would be a huge boost to our chances of scoring first and winning the World Series. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are The CHAMPIONS OF THE NATIONAL LEAGUE

THE GIANTS ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!

WOW, what a game!  I was in suspense the whole way, down to the last out, the last strike.  But I never felt like we were going to lose, unlike, say, game 7 when Livan gave up all those hits.  I was buoyed by Bochy pulling Sanchez so quickly, I was very impressed, and thought that we were going to have a good chance to win, but whether we win or not, who knew, and I felt pretty good once we tied them.

Bochy's Da Man

This gets back to my post a couple of days ago about how Bochy is the right manager to lead us to the World Series Championship that all of us Giants fans have been waiting for.  Contrast Bochy taking Sanchez out in the third with Dusty leaving Livan in there in Game 7 when you just knew that he was going to give up the big hit and put us deep in the hole.

By taking out Sanchez, it also showed that an advantage Bochy had over Manuel, he had a full deep bullpen he could go to for a bullpen game, whereas Oswalt was struggling all night but Manuel had to stick by him.  It worked out with Oswalt, but after the Giants extended Madsen in the 7th, Manuel had to stick with Madsen in the 8th, and Uribe got his homer!

Co-Dy!

Cody Ross, of course, was named the NLCS MVP, after his great performance, hitting all those key homers, as well as hits later, that helped the Giants score key runs that led to wins.   Well done Cody, thanks for all the great hitting so far, hopefully it will continue in the World Series.

2010 World Series


This is the 18th time the Giants will go to the World Series as a franchise, which they have won five times, but as we know, they have not won yet in San Francisco.  They will face the Rangers, who are there for the first time.  The Giants get home advantage, so the series will start on Wednesday in San Francisco.  

I think the Giants are in good shape to win the World Series.  Very importantly, the Giants get home advantage.  That will give them an extra edge in a series that will probably be tight and close, as the Rangers have a good rotation themselves.

The Giants pitchers have been amazing for the most part, and I expect Lincecum and Cain to continue to do well.  I hope Sanchez can get over his emotions, but after this game, I think they can be fine with our bullpen, led by the amazing Brian Wilson.  

In addition, the hitting is starting to get over their jitters.  Torres and Sanchez are heating up, and the Giants had numerous opportunities today, and I think they will convert more against the Rangers, who does not have as good a middle bullpen as the Giants did.  For all the complaints people made about getting those relievers, particularly since we lost Bowker and Martinez, we probably would not have won the NL West, NLDS, or NLCS without Lopez or Ramirez.  

A big wildcard is how much advantage the Rangers have with Bengie Molina on their team.  He obviously knows our pitchers and probably knows the weaknesses of some of the hitters.  However, the pitchers is not just their pitches, but also how they mix it up.  And clearly Posey has a better formula than Molina did, with how the pitchers have been pitching since early September and continuing into the playoffs, the Giants have continued to keep the opposition from scoring more than 3 runs.   And that has been leading to wins, a lot of wins.  And is it one thing to prepare your hitters on what to expect, but they have to stand in the batter's box and execute, and that will be hard to execute, I think.

Another Vet Paying Off

Like Renteria giving Cody Ross a big tip, Mark DeRosa passed to Jonathan Sanchez a tip that he picked up from Glavine - about holding his hands before throwing - that allowed Sanchez to go on his great stretch of great pitching in September and to now.  I believe I read that in the SJ Mercury.  Given how well Sanchez did, I would say that DeRosa earned his $6M salary with that tip.  Now up to Rowand to give a tip to someone!  :^)

Go Giants!  Let's do it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 3-2 in the NLCS: Need to Split

We knew that it wouldn't be easy.  These are the two-straight NLCS champion Phillies looking to make history by winning a third straight.  Although Halladay strained his groin in the second inning and did not have his sinker (KNBR this morning), he's a great pitcher so it is not like it would be easy in any case.  And, as I noted in my post, how often can the Giants score 4-5 runs off Halladay?  He's a great pitcher, he'll eventually figure it out against an offensively challenged team.

Some headlines state that Halladay "outdueled" Lincecum, but really, Lincecum outdueled Halladay, it is just that Lincecum's defense let him down and cost him the game.  If Sandoval's foot had found 3B (a ballplayer said that was a tough play, to be fair) or Huff didn't muff that grounder, the Phillies don't score 3 runs that inning, probably either 0 or 1 at most.  Or even Lincecum hitting Ruiz with 1-2 count?  That leaves the game either tied 2-2 or Giants win 2-1.  And what was with that call anyway, Ruiz didn't even try to get out of the pitch's path, according to the radio reports.

Bochy has already announced that this is not necessarily the last we have seen of Lincecum in this series.  All hands are on deck (another reason I like Bochy now for leading these Giants), something he mentioned yesterday when saying that all the relievers would be available for yesterday's game.  I assume Bumgarner might see some LOOGY action at some point himself.

FYI, the game time will depend on the results of the Yankees-Rangers game tonight.  If the Yankees win, it would be 1PM, as the Yankees would still be alive and get the night game slot.  If the Rangers win and advance to the World Series, it would be 5PM because, well, they have no other game to play in the timeslot.

Game 6:  Oswalt vs. Sanchez

Same matchup as Game 2.  Nothing much more to note, other than Oswalt had to pitch on Wednesday and was raked, and while they say that this will not affect him in this start, you have to think that this affected him in some way.  And, as I noted, the hitters are starting to wake up, Torres and Franchez had 2 hits yesterday, Co-Dy! had another hit, Sandoval had a hit.  I think it should be another good battle, but would note that Sanchez stepped up when the Giants needed him to and delivered a great start in the last start against San Diego, so my fingers are crossed for that to happen.

The Giants are still in great shape, they are up 3-2, and they only need to win one of the next two on the road.  But as one reporter noted, the Giants faced such a situation twice before - St. Lou and Anaheim - and it did not end well for them those two times.  Besides the fact that it was a totally different set of players each time and thus has no connection other than the team name on the front, a sample of two is not exactly a statistically significant sample.  Else Willie Mays would never had his HoF career after going 0 for like 20 to start his career.

This is not much different from what they have been doing for the past almost four months, and particularly since September started.  Just like how Halladay reversed things for the Phillies and winning his matchup this time, Sanchez could do the same for the Giants this time against Oswalt.  And as noted, Oswalt was very hittable in his relief appearance, after the Giants bats had awoken, so this game will be very interesting to see if that was an aberration or a view of things to come.

Go Giants!

2010 Giants: September PQS and Final Stats

Sorry this is late but the playoffs has been more interesting!  :^)  This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of September 2010 (plus a few games in October) and final stats for the 2010 season, PQS as defined in Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster annual book and they published the details here. I wrote on this first in 2006 and have compiled their stats on a regular basis, so I'm continuing it this season for continuity and historical comparison (there is the "PQS" label that you can click to see the old posts on this). Regular readers can skip to the next section.

This is the Quality Start with a sabermetric DIPS twist, and it gets really easy to calculate once you get used to it. I don't think it's the end all or be all, but then nothing really is that. It is, as I like to say, another piece of the puzzle. A dominating start is scored a 4 or 5 and a disaster start is scored a 0 or 1. DOM% is the percentage of starts that are dominating, DIS% is the percentage of starts that are disasters (any start under 5.0 IP is automatically a 0, or disaster).

What's Good and What's Not

From my observations, a DOM at or above the 40% mark is indicative of good pitching; above 50% is great; above 70% is elite. A low DIS is also indicative of good pitching, just look at the table in the link above showing DOM% and DIS% on the axes.


Basically, you want to see a pitcher's DOM% to be over 40% and ideally over 50%, and you want their DIS to be under 20% and ideally under 10%. For example, Johan Santana has a 76% DOM and 3% DIS in 2006 (2.77 ERA), whereas Orlando Hernandez had a 52% DOM and 28% DIS (4.66 ERA), and Adam Eaton had a 31% DOM and 31% DIS (5.12 ERA). Read the link, as I noted, there's a nice chart there showing the combination of high DOM% and low DIS%, and there you can see particularly how s low DIS% is so important to a low ERA.

If you had to chose a high DOM% or a low DIS%, pitchers tend to have a lower ERA when you have a low DIS% vs. a high DOM% (obviously if you combine both, you have a much better chance of having an elite pitcher).  But I think when the DOM% is high enough, you win more by choosing a high DOM% over a low DIS%, as there are more high quality games pitched overall.

I wholeheartedly recommend buying Baseball Forecaster and learning more about their methods of analyzing baseball. It has been greatly illuminating for me, and if you want to get a taste for it without paying full price, they used to sell their old editions of their annuals on their website for half price or less (plus shipping); but that was before he sold the company off, and I haven't checked recently.


Final Giants Starters' PQS for 2010 Season

Madison Bumgarner- (50% DOM, 22% DIS; 9:4/18): 4, 4, 3, 4, 1, 5, 5, 0, 1, 2, 4, 0, 3, 5, 4, 3, 5, 3

Matt Cain- (67% DOM, 6% DIS; 22:2/33): 5, 3, 4, 3, 5, 5, 3, 4, 4, 5, 3, 4, 3, 3, 0, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4, 5, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 5, 4, 5, 0

Tim "The Kid" Lincecum - (61% DOM, 18% DIS; 20:6/33): 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 4, 3, 3, 0, 1, 5, 5, 4, 5, 0, 3, 5, 4, 0, 3, 5, 4, 0, 0, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 2, 5, 5

Joe Martinez- (0% DOM, 0% DIS; 0:0/1): 3

Jonathan Sanchez - (48% DOM, 18% DIS; 16:6/33): 0, 5, 5, 3, 0, 3, 4, 4, 3, 3, 5, 3, 3, 0, 3, 2, 4, 0, 5, 4, 3, 5, 0, 4, 5, 0, 5, 5, 3, 5, 4, 4, 3

Todd Wellemeyer - (30% DOM, 40% DIS; 3:4/10): 2, 0, 0, 3, 0, 4, 2, 4, 5, 0, X

Barry Zito - (42% DOM, 33% DIS; 14:11/33): 5, 3, 4, 5, 3, 4, 1, 4, 3, 1, 5, 2, 4, 4, 0, 5, 1, 0, 5, 3, 3, 5, 4, 2, 1, 0, 0, 0, 5, 3, 4, 0, 0

X = start Wellemeyer was injured in and had to leave the game. I don't include these in my analysis.

Giants season overall - 52% DOM, 20% DIS out of 161 games counted (84:33/161)
Giants Month of April - 55% DOM, 14% DIS out of 22 games counted (12:3/22)
Giants Month of May - 50% DOM, 21% DIS out of 28 games counted (14:6/28)
Giants Month of June - 42% DOM, 19% DIS out of 26 games counted (11:5/26)
Giants Month of July - 54% DOM, 18% DIS out of 28 games counted (15:5/28)
Giants Month of August - 46% DOM, 36% DIS out of 28 games counted (13:10/28)
Giants Month of Sept/Oct - 66% DOM, 14% DIS out of 29 games counted (19:4/29)

September found the Giants starting pitchers - mostly, except for Zito - all took it to the max.  We already know that they had a great month, what with the 18 consecutive games with 3 runs or less given up, but the PQS reflects how good it was.  Almost 5 times the DOM starts than DIS starts.  66% DOM starts AS A STAFF.  Remember, an elite PITCHER has a DOM% > 70%, and the staff together did that.  This is what I've been talking about for years now, how having a great overall staff is a competitive advantage over other teams, whether over a whole season or in playoff series.

Cain and Sanchez kept on chugging while Lincecum and Bumgarner got themselves squared away in Sept/Oct.  Lincecum and Cain both had 5 DOM starts in 6 starts; Cain also had a DIS start in his last start.  Sanchez had 4 DOM starts in his 6 starts, with no DIS starts.  Even Bumgarner had 3 DOM starts in his 5 starts;  his two non-DOM starts were in his last three starts, indicating that perhaps he was tiring.

Zito earned his non-rostering in the playoffs with his performance .  Mr. Second Half had 3 DIS starts in 6 starts (though also 2 DOM starts), the worse performance by far on the staff.  It would have been a DIS under 10% (that's when you can expect to be in almost every game) for the staff had he been able to man up and deliver in either of his last two starts.  However, when the team needed a well pitched game, he delivered two 0 PQS games, two DIS starts.  He almost cost the team their playoff berth and dismantle all the great work that his fellow starters did in September (collectively 17 DOM starts, 1 DIS start, in 23 starts for 74% DOM and 4% DIS).

Still, what a performance by the rotation for a month!  And for the season!

52% DOM is great for any particular pitcher but superlative for a whole rotation over a whole season.  And they were able to keep the DIS at 20% for the season, and under that for four of the six months.  Another superlative performance.  Remember, most teams would be happy to have an ace with 52% DOM and 20% DIS, and ecstatic to have a #2 who could do that too, then it would probably go off the charts after that: the Giants five starters did that.

And each individual pitcher has done well.  Cain has been Mr. Steady all season long, leading to his breakout season in PQS, attaining a 67% DOM for the season paired with an ultra-low 6% DIS.  Cain has moved from his steady greatness to elite status this season, leading the staff in DOM% for the first time.

Of course, that is partly the result of Lincecum's struggles this season, a roller coaster of a season that ended on a high.  When The Kid is on, nobody beats him.  But he wasn't on for significant segments of the season and so it was a down season for him.  Still, with a 61% DOM that virtually any starter would give their first and second born to attain, he still had a great season, paired with an acceptable 18% DIS.

Jonathan Sanchez also had a breakout season.  He's always been capable of delivering consecutive DOM starts over a long stretch - he first did that in 2008 in his first season as a starter - but for one reason or another (fatigue, bad mechanics, between the ears) the season ended up a disappointment in some way.  No longer.  His 2010 season had him raise his game significantly, with a 48% DOM and OK 18% DIS (just one DOM start away from a great DOM of over 50%) and showing guts and bravado with his promise in mid-August to beat the 'Dres, in prelude to a sweep, and not look back, which only came true in the last game of the season, as he not only lost that August game but the Giants lost that series.

But what a last game, he pitched the game of his life, the Giants needed to win that game or be thrown into playoff hell, with all sorts of bad options including games to determine who plays whom in the actual playoffs plus the loss of Lincecum and perhaps Cain to start off the playoffs.  Instead, by pitching a great game and winning that game, the Giants got a lot of well deserved rest before the Atlanta series, and the Giants could start with Lincecum and Cain.

Sanchez has matured a lot this season and has risen to another level, and like Cain, I would not be surprised if he takes another leap to elite status next season.  Despite the great last month of this season, 2011 is when everyone will see the beauty of what I've been preaching about for the past few seasons, of how having a good to great rotation, top to bottom, will allow the Giants to cruise into the playoffs and through the playoffs.

Bumgarner had a great rookie season.  It had its ups and downs but in the final analysis, he had a 50% DOM and 22% DIS, which the vast majority of pitchers would love to have, those are great numbers to have.  Plus he ended on a great note, with 3 DOM and 0 DIS starts in 5 starts at the end of the season.  If he does that all season in 2011, we could have four starters who could legitimately be the ace for almost any rotation in the majors, only we have four of them on our staff.  And he just turned 21 YO and we control him for another 6 seasons.

Zito, well, he actually did not pitch that bad by his standards or by regular standards.  A 42% DOM is good, most pitchers in the majors would love to do that.  His 33% DOM was not great, actually pretty bad, but it is what it is.  The good news is that he minimized that badness (or really, Bochy did by taking him out before he gave up a lot of runs) and still had a very good ERA overall, 4.15 for the season.

And life is ruled by a lot of "what have you done for me lately" so I want to take a moment here and note that he was the staff co-ace early in the season, with Cain.  He was a relatively steady force when others were struggling to find their way and that kept the Giants head above water (and .500) in the early going as the team struggled to find its identity and its consistency.

Had he floundered too, heck, if he did not charge out of the box with a string of great pitching performances, the Giants would have been floundering too, in a sea of losses that would have been a total downer on the team, much like how in 2008 and 2009, when the Giants had that bad road series against the D-gers and 'Dres, losing almost every game, leaving the Giants under water (and .500) for a long time.  He helped pick up the team then and when he floundered near the end of the season, his teammates picked him up.

September/October 2010 Comments:  A Team is Cobbled Together

And that is really the key term for the 2010 Giants, not just the starting pitchers:  team.  There has really been no superstar performance this season, even Timmy had his bad moments.  But when some players were playing bad, other players would get hot and carry the team.  Two pariahs now, Zito and Rowand, carried the team early in the season, helping them to stay over .500, which I think helps the team not get into thinking about being losers.  And the team built on that as the year went on.

Of course, our pitching is our bread and butter, where we get our wins, both starting pitching and the bullpen, which had a stupendous Sept/Oct itself, BTW.  Everything begins and ends with the pitching staff.  But in between, the offense has been contributing enough, as a team, so that the Giants won a LOT of games, particularly after Posey became the starting catcher.

The team concept is a particularly apt term for the offense.  No real star this season, though Posey, Burrell, and Huff certainly had very good seasons, just not superstar seasons offensively (Posey had superstar stats for a catcher, but for an offensive player, he was "only" very good).  Each month, heck, each game, had another guy contributing.  When certain players were scuffling, other players picked it up and carried the team on their backs, before another teammate put the team on his back.

Every game almost literally had a new hero, and former bench players would rise and take over.  Almost everybody who has been on the roster, at one time or another, has helped the team get one win closer to their goal:  the playoffs.  Until they finally did it, they made the playoffs.

The vast majority of the players on the team has never been in the playoffs before, so it has been a test of their mettle, but fortunately, there are players on the team who have been in the playoffs before, and they will certainly try to help their teammates get over the hump.

That is why you want to sign vets to fill gaps on the team, they may not be the best anymore, they might be more injury prone, but they have experience that they can share and guidance they can provide.  It could be as simple as Burrell sharing his experiences with his teammates to as impactful as Renteria observing Ross's bad batting mechanics.  Obviously, they have been doing a great job of it so far, and hopefully it leads to a World Series championship (I think we are close enough to dream now).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 3-1 in NLCS: Just One More!

What can I say?  What a great season so far, and it looks like it'll be continuing on for a while longer, if the fates allow.

Here are some great Twitter tidbits from Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherAOL) that I wanted to share before they disappear into the Twit-ether:
  • In MLB postseason history, teams leading 3-1 have .514 win pct in Game 5 (37-35). They have won the series 84.7 pct (61-11).
  • Actually, that previous stat doesn't include the Yankees winning 5 yesterday, so the leading teams only 37-36 in Game 5.
  • Teams up 3-1 at home in Game 5 are 17-17, on the road 20-19. (To win series, 29-5 and 32-6).
So the Giants are in pretty good shape for getting into the World Series, they just need to win one of the next three games, but remember, the Giants faced the exact same situation against the 'Dres and lost two before sealing the deal in the third game.  So there can be a lot to go through before we reach the next round.

Game 5:  Doc Halladay vs. Lincecum

Don't have much to add to what I wrote about before.

Will be interesting how Halladay reacts to this start, which arguably is the most important ever in his career/life.   Being the vet he is, his no-hitter start is not a surprise other than it was a no-hitter, which are never predictable.  There was really no pressure, if you lose it is not great, but it's not the end of the world either, so you can be more relaxed about the game.  Similarly, there was not as much pressure in his second start, against the Giants, it being the first game of the series too.

However, obviously, this being the second round and with the victor heading to the World Series, there was definitely more pressure than he experienced in his first playoff start.  And he did not have a good game, though those 4 ER he gave up was the least he has ever given up in a start against the Giants (5 ER in his prior 3 starts).  And overall, if not for the homers he gave up to Ross, he pretty much dominated the Giants, he was not that far off (3 PQS but remove one HR and it would be a 5 PQS start).

So how will he react in this, his first do-or-die start in the playoffs?  Will he rise to the occasion?  Or do the Giants just hit in a way that gives Halladay fits?

I think he will have trouble.  Ross is in a zone where he can hit any pitch for a hit.  He says that he is going to be able to combat him with some new tricks up his sleeve.  But now there is Posey, Huff, Sandoval, and maybe Torres to contend with too.

The four of them contributed big runs that helped the Giants win last night.  Will Halladay be able to handle all of them?  Particularly Sandoval, who was hitting line drives last night, and we know that he's capable of launching normally good "pitcher's pitches" into the stands.  Then there are the players who have hit Halladay before, like Burrell.

Lincecum sounds like he's ready to rumble.  Nice article in SJ Mercury on that.  With no real pressure other than wanting the sweet satisfaction of putting the Giants into the World Series and the greater satisfaction of getting to celebrate with the Giants fans in the stands, Lincecum should be loose and ready to pitch the game of his life.

Giants vs. Halladay

Bill James Daily Match-Up Stats for today:

Burrell:  10-24, BB, 8 K
Fontenot:  1-9, K
Huff:  19-72, 5 BB, 13 K (wow, no HR!)
Posey:  2-6, 4 K
Renteria:  4-11, 2 K
Ross:  7-22, 4 HR, 2 K (Ownage!)
Rowand:  1-3
Franchez:  1-11, 3 K (reverse ownage)
Sandoval:  2-4
Schierholtz:  0-3
Torres:  3-15, 3 K (could be due!)
Uribe:  6-24, 6 K

Giants Thoughts

The Giants, obviously, is in great shape to get into the World Series.  They just need to win one game in the next three, albeit three against the mighty Phillies, twice-in-row NLCS champs, and facing Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels, three of the best pitchers in the majors.  Luckily, we have Lincecum, Sanchez, and Cain, likewise three of the best pitchers in the majors, going against them, and our offense is waking up, which would be just in time too, the pitching can't carry the team forever, it is time for the offense to contribute too.  And they did yesterday.

The hitters have to show up again today.  Luckily, the Giants have hit Halladay well this season, in two games; that's also unlucky, because he's a great pitcher and you have to doubt that a team, particularly an offensively challenged team like the Giants, could score 4-5 runs off him and beat him a third time in the season.  Still, at almost any point this season, you would have to doubt that the Giants would reach 3-1 in the NLCS, so sometimes dreams do come true.

Go Giants!  Finish off the Phillies at home and celebrate with the great Giants fans!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 2-1 in the NLCS: MadBum Rush the Phillies

It was tweeted by Jeff Fletcher of AOL that teams with a 2-1 lead in a 7 game series have won 30 of the 40 playoff series.  So the Giants are in a very good position from this history.  However, I would also note that this means that 25% of the time, this team has lost the series.  So it is not a gimmee, there is still a significant chance that the Phillies could roar back.

However, as I noted in my original series blog post, Madison Bumgarner, he of 1.13 ERA in last month of season and the steely nerves of a veteran player twice his age, is going for us against Joe Blanton, who had horrible stats for the season, which looked like a gimmee.  But it is not as easy as I once thought.

Game 4:  Joe Blanton vs. Bumgarner

Shame on me for looking at just his surface seasonal stats:  Joe Blanton has been on a huge roll since the All-Star break.  3.48 ERA overall, 3.33 ERA in his 15 starts (hat tip to KNBR for noting his great performance at the end).  10 DOM starts and only 2 DIS starts in those 15 starts, excellent numbers if kept up over a full season.  He won't be as much of a gimme as I thought in my original post.

If there is any consolation, most of his 5 non-DOM starts (4), happened in his last 10 starts, and both DIS starts happened then.  He did man up, however, and delivered four 5 PQS starts in his last six starts.  Basically he hit his bad patch in August but was great in September.  That is the exact opposite of what he has done in his career, he's usually good in August and horrible in September.

However, his last start was on September 29th and October 3rd is the last time he pitched in an actual game, 16 days of rest since his relief appearance, and he did not do well in that game, 1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, BB, and one of the hits were a homer.  And he has not done well with extra rest, interestingly enough:

4 days rest:  3.83 ERA (104 starts)
5 days rest:  4.80 ERA (64 starts)
6+ days rest: 4.97 ERA (22 starts)

Basically, when he don't get exactly 4 days rest, he gets rusty a lot, one day alone has made a huge difference, almost a run more, and he has pitched in a significant number of games in 5+ days rest situations to suggest that this is not a fluke.

And, also interestingly enough, he has built his career on keeping LHH down, he is not even that great against RHH.  The batting line for LHH is worse than for RHH:

LHH:  .267/.320/.406/.726
RHH:  .278/.325/.440/.764

So the Giants will be facing a very tough opponent, who should be thoroughly rested, though possibly rusty.  The Giants might need to capitalize on that rustiness early in the game, to knock him out before he finds his strike, and get into a good groove.  For some reason, RHH can hit Blanton for extra power, could be our key to winning today, as we will have Burrell, Ross, and Posey in there, plus Franchez and probably Uribe. If he had that batting line for RHH and the usual platoon advantage that LHH would have on him, he would not be a major league pitcher today, he's probably a AAAA pitcher bouncing up and down to fill in a rotation spot.

Giants Hitters Vs. Blanton

Bill James matchup report shows that the Giants hitters don't have a great history against Blanton.  Some key names and numbers:

Burrell:  3-12, 3 HR, BB, 5 K
Fontenot:  2-9
Huff:  4-20, BB, 2 K (due for hits, low BABIP)
Ishikawa:  3-4, K
Posey:  1-3, K
Renteria:  0-3
Ross:  3-11, 1 HR, 6 K though
Rowand:  2-4
Franchez:  2-7, K
Sandoval:  0-6, K
Torres:  1-3, HR, K
Uribe:  1-11, 3 K

Sandoval Need to Step:  Could be Ready to Step Up

The speculation among the Giants beat writers is that Sandoval will get a shot at Blanton.  Obviously, his numbers are not good, but that was probably half in August when Pablo was not doing well.  Of course, he hasn't been doing well recently either, but drew a walk in his last PH assignment, so I think he might be ready to contribute.  I think for the Giants to win this series and hopefully win the World Series, Sandoval is among the key players who needs to heat up NOW.  We cannot rely on Cody Ross to carry us all the way through (though if he's capable of that, all the better :^)  (Just saw a tweeted factoid:  apparently Ross was also claimed by the Phillies but the Giants got him because they had a worse record;  funny how fate works!).  Sandoval is in today's lineup.

Other key guys are the usual suspects that we all can name, pretty much our whole lineup, really:  Torres, Posey, Huff, Burrell, Uribe.  For our long-term benefits, I really want Posey or Sandoval to take the lead, we've seen Posey do it during the season, so we know we have it in him (maybe next year he can be like Will Clark and take over a series), but Sandoval we are still learning, his ups and downs this season has put a lot of doubt in people's minds (not in mind, though), so it would be nice if he started blasting balls out like he does when he's zoned in.

Given that Sandoval was patient enough to battle for 7 pitches, 3 of which were strikes, to take a walk in a situation where we needed every base runner we could get (down 6-1), where someone might be tempted to hit a 6-run homer with the bases empty, he was able to hold back, take the balls given him, foul off the third strike, I have to think that he is now not swinging at everything hoping to connect, like he was the first two games, his first two playoff games, he might be ready to Kung Fu the ball.

If we had a functioning Kung Fu Panda, that would put pressure on the opposing pitchers and give our other hitters better pitches as well, particularly if he confounds the pitchers by hitting good pitches for line-drive hits (much like how Ross has been doing that so far).  A Pandoval would also, as Bochy likes to say, keep the line moving, much like they did yesterday to score two runs.  And the occasional homer would help as well.

Torres Could be Key But Not Today

There has been a lot of stats noting how important it is for a team to score first, and the key for the Giants to score first in 2010 has been Andres Torres.  Bochy said specifically that he was resting Torres yesterday so that he can regain his focus, but still kept him out of today's lineup.  Torres also mentioned some problems with his ADD medicine but that he's got that fixed now, though maybe not enough for Bochy's tastes.

If he can return to his 2009-10 goodness, that would obviously be a huge plus for our offense, particularly if he contributes a homer here and there.  I think he's going to be ready as well, assuming that ADD med problem was a big part of his struggles.  But obviously we won't find out today.

Getting Bumgarner the lead early would allow him to be aggressive in going after hitters.  Our pitchers seem to gain an advantage when they get the lead, they have been very successful when given the lead.  Hence the need for our offense to wake up, but with no Torres, have to hope Renteria and Sanchez up top can do something for Huff, Posey, Burrell, Ross to drive in.  Sandoval is batting 7th and Rowand 8th.   Rowand says that he's really strong right now, it would be great if he catches on fire, but he struck out twice yesterday.  Have to assume the line drive double makes Bochy thinks he is in his groove, Bochy unfortunately has seen Rowand at his best and worse the past few seasons, hopefully he can tell when Rowand is on or not.

Monday, October 18, 2010

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

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

Pucetas PTBNL in Guillen Trade

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

Something Needs to be Done About Umpiring

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

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

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

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

Co-Dy!

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

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

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

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

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

Uggla to Join the Giants too?

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

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

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

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

Renteria May Have Earned his $9.5M Salary With Tip

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

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

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

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

I Believe in Bochy

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

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

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

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

Giants in Good Position

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game 3 Lineup

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

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

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

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

Potential lineup:

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

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

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

Go Giants!

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