Friday, June 03, 2011

Your 2011 Giants are 31-25: Home at Last, Now Beat D-Rox

Wow, that trip was looking like it was going to be the worse.  Losing Posey was obviously a huge downer and I was worried that the team would sleepwalk through the road trip because of that.  And they did look a bit like that in Milwaukee losing 2 of 3, but then it appears now that Brandon Crawford's slam woke the team up a bit, and they came into St. Louis and won 3 of 4, ending their road trip with a 4-3 record, which is great for the road, as the vast majority of teams end up under .500 on the road for the season.  Any winning road trip is a good accomplishment.

Now they get to play at home for a nice 10 game homestand and 16 of 22 at home, plus 3 of those road games are in Oakland, so you can make the case that they are home for 19 of the next 22 games.  Playing on the road has been what has been keeping the Giants record down significantly relative to the other teams in the NL West:  they have had only 21 at home vs. 35 on the road.  They will get 10 of those games back now, bringing them close to 50-50, but still under by 4.  Given how hurting their offense has been, yesterday's game notwithstanding, a 6-4 homestand would be nice to get.

And up first are the D-Rox.

Game 1:  Nicasio vs. Cain
Juan Nicasio:  Nicasio, displaying a mid-90s fastball and a fearlessness that impressed the Rockies' brass throughout his Minor League career, held the Cardinals to one unearned run in seven innings in his Major League debut -- a win last Saturday.
Matt Cain:  After a solid early April, Cain is just 1-4 with a 4.80 ERA in his past eight starts. He acknowledges he is giving up too many two-out runs, including three in six innings in his last outing at Milwaukee.
Somehow, Nicasio was only the D-Rox's 8th best prospect according to Baseball America's pre-season rankings, but his numbers in the minors have been amazing.  Still, he was doing all that while just about at the average age for the league, so it's not like when Bumgarner was doing even better at a younger age, but still impressive, I think.  Since he just had his first start and it was great, not really much to say other than he's a RHP and thus we will see our LHB lineup:  Torres, Tejada, Sanchez, Huff, Schierholtz, Ross, Crawford, Whiteside.

Don't worry about Matt Cain.  Again with the win-loss, but his ERA is totally inflated:  his last 5 starts were DOM starts (where his PQS was 4 or 5), so he has been fine for the most part, just suffering from some bad baseball luck.  And even when he is going good, he's going to pick apart what he is doing wrong.  The Cainer is doing fine, thank you.

Still, fastball and fearlessness suggests that our offense might not do too much against him.  Hopefully Huff is over his big contract and starting to be himself:  four homers in two games is a pretty good start towards that.  

However, Cain has been super this season so far, 78% DOM/9% DIS, that is what elite pitchers put up, and for elite pitchers, when they start, you expect to win.  Give slight edge to Giants for Cain and playing at home, but I don't know how many times unknown pitcher comes in and shuts down the Giants (though they finally did nicely against the Cards' unknown pitcher yesterday).

Game 2:  Chacin vs. Bumgarner
Jhoulys Chacin:  Chacin was plagued by a rocky start in his last outing, giving up three runs on four hits in the first inning against the Cardinals. The right-hander has pitched well in his career against the Dodgers, posting a 4-3 record with a 2.40 ERA.
Madison Bumgarner:  Bumgarner has recorded seven consecutive quality starts, posting an ERA of 2.12 in that stretch. Yet he believes he hasn't established full consistency. Bumgarner has struggled at home, where he's 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA.
Don't know why the guy is talking about the D-gers, Chacin is playing the Giants, dammit!  :^)  Chacin is arguably the D-Rox's best starter right now, he has continued doing what he did last season, which is spin great starts.  He has had 5 straight DOM starts and has had only DIS start all season, out of 11 starts.  

But he's facing Bumgarner, who has had a nice string of DOM starts since flailing early in the season.  He has only pitched once in SF, spinning a great one-hit shutout for 7 IP.  And he has held the Giants to a 3.21 ERA in Colorado as well.  With so few outings, the best I can say is that Huff has 2 HR in 9 AB against him (also 3 K's).  

This is going to be a battle between two great young pitchers with something to prove about taking on the other team's good pitchers.  Should be a great battle, could go either way, a push.

Game 3:  Hammel vs. Vogelsong
Jason Hammel:  Hammel's hard-luck season took a worse turn in his last start, a loss to the Dodgers on Monday night. Hammel gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings, but most of the hits were of the soft variety.
Ryan Vogelsong:  Vogelsong will be pleased to return to AT&T Park, where he has allowed one earned run in 23 2/3 innings spanning four appearances (three starts). That's a remarkable 0.38 ERA. Yet Vogelsong is only 1-1 at home due to insufficient run support.
Hammel has not really pitched that well on the road (or frankly, at home either) during this career.  His nice season so far appears to be an improvement both home and road vs. career, but he's not really doing that well from a K/BB basis, so I have to think that he's been lucky so far on the road.  He has pitched well in SF before, though, 4 starts, 2.66 ERA, 3.3 K/BB.  And he pitched well here last season, 6.2 IP, 5 K's, 1 R/ER.

Vogelsong has been a miracle, plain and simple.  He amazingly has kept up with the staff in terms of DOM/DIS and nothing in his current numbers suggest that this is an illusion, but his career numbers totally suggest that he is pitching way over this head right now.  How can a pitcher who struggled so much in the minors last season that he got dropped by two teams suddenly become an elite starter (over 7 starts) at the major league level?

Well, I don't look gift horses in the mouth (Giants already have stated that Zito is not guaranteed a starting job when he returns, that he is pitching now to win that job back) and will assume he will continue to do well until he doesn't.  I was going to call this game for the Giants because of how well Vogelsong has been pitching and my low opinion of Hammel, but it goes both ways, somehow Hammel has had the Giants number the past two seasons, so I'll have to call this a push also, with lean towards Giants for home advantage.


Giants Thoughts

We are now 4-4 in the post-Posey period (though much of that was on road so strong bias to .500), and luckily enough, Pablo Sandoval was impressive in his batting practice yesterday, so he'll be headed to San Jose today for a few games to get his timing back, then to Fresno for a couple there, before rejoining us.  He could be back sometime next week then, depending on how it goes.

That could spell the end of the Miguel Tejada era, if you can even call it that, as he has not hit at all for any stretch of time, really.  Crawford has shown a good enough offense (in fact, good so far) plus his sooo good of a defense (he was considered MLB ready defensively when he was drafted) that he's probably going to hold the starting job for at least until Panda returns and a while longer, probably, though he has cooled off considerably (I know SSS) since hitting a grand-slam homer in his first major league game (one of six in MLB history, second Giants after Bobby Bonds).

Still, Tejada most probably will be kept at least until the end of June, if I had to bet.  As nicely as Burriss has done, he still hasn't hit one extra-base hit or a walk, so despite a nice .286 batting average, he has a horrible .572 OPS, which is not much more than what Tejada has been providing.  So I think that Burriss is the one going down when Sandoval returns.  However, if Crawford can continue hitting OK until Fontenot returns and Tejada continues to hit this poorly, Miguel could get DFAed at that point.

The Giants are leading the NL West by half a game but not over who anyone would have thought before the season:  D-backs.  Colorado is actually 4.5 games behind us and if we win this series, would push them further back.  A sweep would put them back 7.5 games and put a real crimp on their contention plans, but unless Huff keeps on hitting so many homers, that's probably not going to happen.

D-backs Are Dyno-mite!

I was worried about the D-backs because they actually ended the 2010 season well (relatively) with Gibson managing them, and had a number of young starters doing well for them, though above their heads a bit.  I considered them to dark horse to challenge the Giants because of that and because I thought the D-gers did not do enough to replace Manny's production (they haven't) plus Uribe, their big acquisition in the off-season, has mainly stunk for them and the 'Dres killed their chances to compete by trading A-Gon.

And really, their starting pitching has mostly stunk, so it was not even that pushing them upward right now.  It is equal parts of nice starts from a trio unexpected to start for them - Joshua Collmenter, Zach Duke, and Micah Owings - and hitters doing better than expected - Juan Miranda, Ryan Roberts - plus a lights out bullpen.  In fact, they already DFAed near-perfect-gamer Armando Galarraga and dropped Barry Enright from their rotation.  And I have to think that Joe Saunders spot in the rotation is slipping away as well.  That's three of their opening day starters.

It also helped that they swept the falling Astros on the road and swept the equally bad Twins at home.  But I have to give them props for doing that to teams you hope to do that plus they also took two of two from the Braves, won series against the D-Rox (3 of 4!) and Marlins as well, in recent series.  So it has not totally been flukes.

They have had a slight home advantage (3 more at home plus 3 more to make 6 above) that won't equalize until the All-Star break, so that has helped, as well as the Giants strong road schedule, so if things play out as it has been playing, the Giants should pull away from them a bit by the ASB.  But they are playing a number of under .500 teams to then as well, so we will see how that plays out.  Though luckily for us they are playing the Marlins, Indians, White Sox, and Cards as well, plus Giants.  I think the Giants should be able to slowly move ahead as the home/road imbalance equals for the Giants.

Nicknames Are Cool With Me

I've seen some people say that they are sick of the nicknames, but then lump Panda into the mix.  In the history of baseball, nicknames have made the game:  it isn't quite the same if I'm talking about George Herman Ruth instead of Babe Ruth.  And my youth wouldn't have been quite the same without John "the Count" Montefusco.  And Panda came organically, as well as making a lot of sense, if you ever saw the Kung Fu Panda movie and heard a Sandoval interview.  

The outrage, which I understand and agree with generally, is how some sportscasters have to force a nickname on almost every player.  That I can live without.  But don't diss the good ones, like Panda.  And it creates great marketing too, I think, and remember:  every panda hat sold means the Giants can do more with their baseball team.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of Sandoval (Panda to you), have you or anyone else notice his weight gain? He's no longer the "husky" size he was when they broke camp. I'm guessing he's gained 10-15 lbs while on the DL.
    Discipline has been a challenge for him, at both plates.

    ReplyDelete

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