Wednesday, August 31, 2011

El Lefty Malo is AWESOME: Rowand and Tejada DFAed

El Lefty Malo is AWESOME!  Read his post on what he thought the Giants need to do.

And the Giants appeared to listen to him, though not to the letter (sub Tejada for Cabrera) by DFAing Rowand and Tejada.  Arguably, this is a bigger message sent since Tejada is paid a lot more than Cabrera.  But I think his open pouting and discussion of such regarding the bunt helped Giants management push the button easier on that one.

Rowand's lack of production made his release an easy one, $14M or not, as Baggarly reported that he was openly campaigning for getting out of SF, a circumstance that probably made the decision for Giants management that much more obvious as well.  He has reached the true point of "sunk costs":  at least last season he was a viable talent off the bench, producing some value as a player, and for the first half of this season, but for a number of months now he has been even worse than replacement value.

They were clearly "addition by subtraction" type of moves.  That's nearly $20M wrote off, so Zito could be gone sometime next season as well if he's not producing or even if he's not in the starting rotation, since the Giants could go with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez, Vogelsong in the rotation.

Sabean says that he will try to trade both of them today so that they can hook on with a playoff contending team; Rowand is hoping to rejoin the Phillies, but I don't see the Giants doing that one, I don't think that they want to see him haunting them in any way.  I also don't see any team wanting to even give up a low level prospect for either of them, much cleaner to wait for the end of the 10-day period and sign them then.  Nobody will be crying that they didn't pick these players up in time to make the playoff roster, as defiant as Tejada's statement was the other day about contributing to somebody's playoff efforts.  But if Renteria can get a job somewhere, I'm sure Tejada will as well.

Meanwhile, the Giants activated Pat Burrell and purchased the contract of Brett Pill, rewarding his great season so far in AAA, plus his willingness to play a number of different positions.  As much as I would hope that Pill mashes, the history of players his age who hit well but not that great in AAA is not encouraging, they normally don't come up here and do much of anything.  But I wish him all the success he can get, and who knows, he could be the exception to prove the rule.  I certainly would not have thought that Crawford could keep his strikeout rate so low in the majors, or his walk rate so high, so there's always that.

I assume part of this move was to enable Burrell to be available for the playoffs should we be able to fight our way in.  And at this point, you roll the dice and see what you got with Pill, there is really no one else high in the system worth that shot.

Baggarly also noted that there is still an open 40-man spot with this move.  That opens up the possibility of bringing up another player, such as Bill Hall or Marc Kroon.  Sentimentally, I would go with Kroon, but objectively, Hall is probably the more logical move because he can play multiple positions and has been hitting OK in the minors, though not great, at least if he were still a major league caliber hitter.  If he were, he should have been killing the ball.  Still, he's been a major leaguer, and it wasn't that long ago that he was hitting OK (last season), so you might want to take a chance on that.  But at this point, I would go with Kroon, would make great story, might juice the clubhouse by his inspirational story, which Hall would not provide.

Nice offense today, just what this team needs, 4 runs, that is all we ask for, daily, and our pitching can win with that.  Appears that the shock of the move got some of the hitters moving, though really, Jeff Keppinger and Mark DeRosa has been hitting lately, and of course, Pablo Sandoval has usually been hitting.  Fontenot had a nice game too, as did Chris Stewartwhom I've liked since he came up to the majors for us.

However, neither Carlos Beltran or Cody Ross did much of anything to help, though perhaps Ross is now afraid that Burrell will take his ABs away.  Sigh: he should realize that it is his poor hitting that is taking away his ABs, not the OF situation, Bochy would start him a lot if he were hitting as well as he was for most of this season, and not the sad numbers he has put up since Beltran was traded for.   Beltran has been hot for the most part lately, but have been coming up small when we needed him, like in yesterday's game, he could have tied the game with a base-hit and got us back in the game with a timely hit.

And, of course, Madison Bumgarner gave us a great game.  Hopefully it is a start for the rotation, seems like a statement game by him:  try and top this, ladies.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Your 2011 Giants: Apocalypse Now or Not

It's August 30, and your Giants team is down by 5 games in the standings.  Not that long ago, the Giants were right there, battling for the division title, but it was all slipping away now.  Your top pitchers, Lincecum and Cain, were up and down, with bad starts that you wouldn't believe, plus Bumgarner had his ups and downs, and Zito was giving you nothing.  And your lousy offense, your sad-sack, god-awful offense, wasn't doing anything, scoring 3 runs or less more than 50% of the games that month.  The Giants fan base were up in arms, ready to write them off for the season.

Then Lincecum figured out his slider, the Giants pitching staff goes on a tear that only had happened once in the history of baseball, Ross is Boss, Renteria makes Fleming's voice cracks, and we end with a parade downtown S.F. showing off the Rally Thong and the 2010 World Championship trophy.  What a great season 2010 was!

Click on title for rest of post

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Optimism: In the Eye of the Beholder

Many commenters have called me optimistic over the years.  When I was a frequent contributor at McCovey Chronicles (until I was driven away by the Naysayers), there was a regular (who I think is a mod, bad memory but I think his handle was Goofus), who would ask "I need to hear something good about the Giants:  ogc?"  (and he meant it in the nicest way possible)  I've been called Pollyanna for my efforts as well.

I can see why people see me that way, but I've been blessed/cursed with the ability/need to see all the sides of the story, no matter the situation.  And that helped me survive my dad passing away when I was young and has served me well all my life.  But the curse is that some view me as wishy-washy because of that.

However, I can live with the messiness that is life, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly, this is not something others with OCD tendencies can do.  For those with long memories, I view myself much like Marvel Comic's character, the Watcher, in observing the Giants (except that I'm rooting for the Giants, while the Watcher is stoic).

What this reminds me of is a common conundrum in business investing.  Sometimes, the key difference between whether one person/company invests while another avoids is because where one sees risk, the other sees opportunity.  It is not necessarily a matter of risk tolerance either, though that is a huge factor in a lot of situations, but there are cases where success and failure swings clearly on the point of view of the observer, their perspective of the situation.

Lets take the Giants, for example, since this is a Giants blog :^).  I have been seeing a lot of negative talk in the media.  And I understand that, the Giants are in a bad stretch of losing right now, and to teams they should to beating.  I could point out names but really, most of the Giants media are beating the negative drum.  Same for Giants fans, but that seems to go without saying, unfortunately.

Again, I understand that.  It's never good to be losing 17 out of 24 games.  To lose games that you should be winning.  To watch good pitchers suddenly lose it and cost us the game.  To watch hitters not produce.  I get that.

But I've also been following baseball for 40 years now (whew, just realized that!).  Plus, I love history, so I've read about (and perused through a lot of baseball pennant chases and epic successes and fails on the playoff front, like the Boston Braves in 1914 or the 1964 Phillies, or more recently, the Rockies with their late season drives or the Padres last season.  So I've both seen a lot plus know a lot.

Two games behind is nothing.  A lead like that can disappear in two days.  We know it and we've seen it (like last season for the Giants or really any season, any team).

We've also seen teams go from good to bad to good again.   We know it and we've seen it (like last season for the Giants or really any season, any team).

Lots of Giants fans see "losing, losing, and more losing" and they lose their heads and say the sky is falling.  I've seen it many times over the years, I've seen it last year and this year.  They have a terrible angst about losing, from June Swoons to worries about the offense, "the bad son", while the pitching, "the good son", is totally ignored.

Great Pitching Makes Winning Easier

We have a lot of great pitching.  Maybe they are tired from the long extended run in 2010.  Probably not, at least overall, as my data showed about how the pitching is doing in August.  They certainly have been more inconsistent than they have been this season, but then again, they were very insistent last season as well, until they righted the ship and dominated in September and October.  Doesn't mean it will happen now, but they are great pitchers and have accomplished a lot, including their streak of 18 straight games with 3 runs or less given up, 23 straight games with 4 runs or less given up, that they did in September of last season.

That's not optimism.  That's a fact:  we have great pitching.  Great pitching keeps us in a lot of games.  Sure, they will cough up games like they did yesterday, or when BWeez blew his save.  But more often than not, they have done the job for us.  Plus, the better the pitchers, the less the offense has to do in order to win.

Doesn't mean that they will do it for us this month or this season, I totally agree.  But it won't stop me from enjoying these games in September.  Baseball is meant to be enjoyed.  Else why get so passionate about it?

Media:  Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

I think the media is at fault for at least part of that.  That seems to be how the media operates, I've learned.  Whether the stock market (with the quarter to quarter obsession that investors generally have) or baseball, where all they can write about is the here and now negativeness.

Honestly, I find that to be very knee-jerk reactionary.  I hate the swings from the highs to the lows - unless it is warranted.  But I saw that a lot in investing, a stock with no news at all could lose or gain 10 percent in a short period of time, just because people were nervous or not.

It could be bad news about the economy.

Followed by good news.

Followed by bad news.

Followed by good news.

One could get whiplash following all that.  I see the similarities in baseball.

It is all about "what are you doing now".  Bad quarterly earnings report?  Totally negative investor vibe and stock losses.  Bad losing streak?  Total negative fan vibe, lots of bitching and moaning.

Even Keel

If you are like that, my blog is not for you.  I try to steer an even keel, but will be positive when warranted, negative when warranted.

An optimist, to me, is someone who thinks positively about the situation without considering the negatives.  That is the heart of the definition of optimist: a person disposed to take a favorable view of things."  I don't view myself that way.

If I were a doctor, I would be a horrible doctor in that I would tell people when there is no hope.  I see no gain from sugar-coating the reality.  My bluntness has been softened by years of socializing, but that's where my brain goes to first.

I present the positives mainly because the negatives are all out there and part of my assumption is that my readers know all about the negatives there, that they are savvy enough fans who do not need me to hold their hand, that they are looking for that extra edge in understanding the Giants chances for making the playoffs.

If there were relentless optimism out there, I would point out the negatives, like, we only have 4 healthy starters right now, Wilson might not get healthy anytime this season, Beltran too, someone has noticed Pablo getting fatter, we have no reliable lead-off hitter, and our offense is still sputtering.

Pitching Staff Rules!

Still, overall, there is our lovely starting pitching and great bullpen. As it showed to great effect last season and this season, we can win a lot of games despite poor offense. They averaged 3.66 RS per game the last month, yet the team still went 19-10 because they only allowed 2.07 runs per game that last month. The Pythagorean on that is 21-8, so they actually underperformed.

So about yesterday's loss by the Giants. People forget that Cain is human. People forget, but he lost a key game for us in the final series against the 'Dres last season, he did not come through for us. Of course, he really came through for us in the playoffs, spinning 21.1 IP of pure shutout gold for us in 3 starts.

That's the key to the Giants pulling the division title out of the hat this season, yeah, sometimes our pitching sucks, but more often than not, they come through big time, like the 9.1 IP of shut-out relief by the bullpen the other day or Lincecum giving up only one run in his loss.

Still, if you want to focus on the negative, the pitching has not been doing its job lately, and for a long while. Since July 3rd, the pitching had kept the opposition from scoring more than 3 runs only 23 out of 45 games, per my metric on the side. They have only been 23-22 in keeping the opposition from scoring 4 runs or more. That is why they have been 20-25 since then.

Enjoy the Ride, Enjoy the Season

Will our heroes come through? That is the drama that I enjoy, whether we make the playoffs or not. Of course, I'll be bummed, but I will have the shiny and great pitching staff plus blossoming middle lineup (Sandoval, Posey, Belt) to keep me warm for the next few seasons. As well as a shiny 2010 World Championship trophy!

So enjoy the pennant chase, Giants fans.  That is something Pirates and Royals fans have not enjoyed for nearly a generation now.

Enjoy our great pitching.  This is something that does not come around often, but when it does, you have to enjoy it.  You can bitch all you want about the offense, but remember this:  baseball is a zero sum game, any improvements in offense would have come at a cost to our pitching (and perhaps fielding too; see Keppinger).    

Think about all the fans who wanted to trade away Cain.  Think about all the fans who wanted to trade away Lincecum.  Think about all the fans who wanted to break up the pitching in order to get the offense.  Think about what won us our championship:   it was our pitching, period.

Mistakes are a Given: It is What You Do to Make up For Them

When pitching is this good, you don't need good offense, you don't even need average offense, though, obviously, that is preferable.  I would love to have great offense, but accept that this is the cost of having a great pitching staff.  The people who all point to the mistakes on offense that have occurred over the years are more OCD than I am:  mistakes will happen.

The key in any business is:  how does your strategic plan still function when mistakes are made?  Is it flexible enough to handle tactical issues, like a lot of injuries, or unexpected poor performances?

People write off unexpected good performances as luck, but the fact of the matter is that in life, there will always be unexpected good and bad performances, and they tend to balance out over time.  It has nothing to do with luck, it has to do with there being a balance in life.  Many view the unexpected good as luck, but that is how the baseball bounces sometimes, one player's good luck is another player's bad luck.  I see people noting the good luck of Burrell hitting well for us last season, but they then ignore the bad luck of Panda being Pablo instead.

And as much as injuries have hurt the Giants this season, I think that last year was very injury marred as well.  DeRosa was basically done before the season began, too bad he was too stubborn to see that and ended up starting a bunch of games before DLing.  Renteria was never really that healthy until his tendon snapped off.  Molina suffered from injuries from foul balls in May that he never recovered from, he was hitting .880 on May 12th then faded from there.  Schierholtz was injured early and he reported afterward that he came back too soon and never really fully recovered.  Franchez was injured early too and missed a number of games.  Rowand was hit in the face with a HBP, and while he hit well once he came back, he has not been the same since, he at least in his first two seasons hit well for 3-4 months before disappointing, but he hasn't been good for any extended period.  Torres missed a lot of the pennant race with his appendicitis.  Guillen was hitting .800 OPS for us for 6-7 weeks until his neck problem made him horrible for the last 1-2 weeks of the season.

There were pitcher injuries too.  Wellemeyer was injured.  Affeldt missed a while on the DL.  Runzler suffered a bad injury as well.  If I recall right, Ray also had some sort of injury.  Mota made the DL once, as well.

So it is not like we were "lucky" about injuries last season, we had a fair number of significant injuries, losing our starting LF, RF, CF, SS, 2B, plus our 3B and C were affected but not DLed, as well as a key set-up reliever, for parts of the season (most for DeRosa and Renteria, I would throw Schierholtz and Sandoval in there too).

The key is having such a good pitching staff that you can ride out a lot of problems.  When your pitching is that good, you don't need to pay that much to other teams for offense, as even average offense would actually be valuable to you.  You can make a lot of mistakes there and still win a lot of games.  Injuries in your pitching staff is covered when a good pitching is missing.  You just have to kiss a few frogs along the way.  Despite not having Wilson or Romo, the relievers have been pretty good in their stead, it hasn't been catastrophic, though they certainly could have used Wilson in yesterday's game.

Giants Appear to be Set for Future

The plan is generally working, which the Naysayers refuse to acknowledge.  Of course, that is barring catastrophic injury, but even then, we have so many that we might even be able to ride out the loss of one good pitcher.

The Giants have been averaging roughly 90 wins the past three seasons (including this one).  At some point, they must realize that luck is not the reason for all this success.  I think they are just being pig-headed, but only the truly dense can believe that they can explain away three seasons of 90 wins average as luck.  But I'm patient, I expect this to continue, then they will have no more excuses.

Not only is it working, but with a lot of young hitters coming up, the lineup looks to be cheap and good, not just average, within a couple of years, especially once Gary Brown or Francisco Peguero come up and become our lead-off hitter, while the middle is filled with Sandoval, Posey, and Belt.  That plus our pitching, assuming Neukom ponies up the money to keep everyone (which will be tough with Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Wilson, Sandoval, Posey getting big dough soon), should make the 2010's the Decade of the Giants, the Team of the 2010's.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Your 2011 Giants are 68-60: Longest Home Series

As Giants (and Giants fans) lick their wounds as they limped home, the Giants actually did OK on this tough road trip where, seemingly, the team lost someone to the DL or to a day-to-day injury every other game.  They went 4-6 against tough teams, Florida, Atlanta, and a not as tough team, Houston.

Houston was greatly disappointing, but, first, we faced a true ace in Wandy in game 1, so that would have been tough to win in the first place, even with Ryan Vogelsong going.  That made a series win that much harder since it required needing to win the last two games.  Second, the pitching did very poorly, not even holding Houston to 3 runs or less in any of the games, though I must give a shout out to the bullpen for their 9.1 shutout IP which enabled the team to win that important swing game.  And you know what?  The BABIP gods decree that lousy teams like Houston will win games at least a third of the time, you just never know when that is going to happen.  Sometimes that roulette wheel stops spinning and the ball drops in 00.

Had Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, and Dan Runzler been able to put together a good start, the Giants might have won the series.  Particularly Bumgarner, where even a 4 run start would have delivered a win.  As much as many Giants fans beat up on the offense for the Houston series loss, it was the pitching that cost us that series, the second game was very winnable.

Long and Winding Home Stretch

The Giants are coming up on a long stretch of home games, the longest of the season, as reported by Chris Haft.  They have 18 home games out of the next 21 games, while Arizona has 10 of their next 20 at home (i.e. they only have half at home).  If the two teams win at their current home and road performance so far this season (including the Giants winning 2 of 3 in SD, who they have had problems with before, but are 6-4 against them this season), the Giants should go 13-8 and D-backs go 11-9, and the Giants would be tied against them at the end of the stretch.

Unfortunately, that won't be enough to win the division because after that Arizona has 9 at home and 6 on the road while the Giants only has 3 at home and 10 on the road.  And winning the division is the Giants only road to the playoffs as Uggla's hot hitting streak led the Braves to an 8 game lead in the wild-card race, rendering that race moot unless they suddenly lost 10 games in a road like the Padres did last season.  The Giants must win the NL West to get into the playoffs.

And the journey, while not easy, could be easier or extremely daunting, depending on what happens in the final six games between the Giants and the D-backs, 3 at each home, including a series in Arizona just before the season ends.  If the Giants can come out ahead 4-2 in those games, that would tie them up with Arizona, then the team winning the division would be determined by how they do against the rest of the schedule, where the Giants have a slight advantage in non-NL West teams, facing Houston for 4 games and Chicago for 3 games, both at home, while the D-backs got 4 on the road against Washington and 3 at home against the Pirates.  Luckily, the Giants miss Wandy this time, he starts before and after the series.

And the Giants could come out ahead, they are 8-4 so far this season against Arizona.  That is what they need to do in the remaining 6 games.  But winning at home will be hard as Collmenter, Saunders, and Kennedy are the pitchers slated for them in that series.  We have Sanchez/Runzler, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum currently as our opposing pitchers.  Since the day before is a day off, I think the Giants will skip that spot in the rotation and go with Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, which would give us a much better chance of winning that series.

In any case, as we all should know by now, the Giants will win or lose depending on their pitching rotation.  The reason we went 2-5 in the last seven games is because the pitching let us down a lot (the offense wasn't great either but we expected that we would need to win by pitching).   The pitching lost 2 games it would normally win because the Giants scored 4 and 5 runs in those losses, which the pitching usually wins with.  Winning just one of those games would have gave us a successful 5-5 road trip and only half a game behind in the standings.

As it is, the Giants are only 1.5 games back.  That is not insurmountable.  They could easily pass them up with a good stretch of pitching, much like they did SD last season with a great stretch of pitching, which they needed because they were so much further behind last season.

The Offense:  Getting Better But Needs to Get Even Better

The offense has been perking up lately and that will help.  Brandon Belt has been awkwardly hitting well for power while also striking out a storm.  The striking out is fine if he is hitting for power, but not so much when he's not, because that is what we need from him, power with a capital "HR".  He has done well in that regard in his latest call-up, hitting .256/.333/.581/.915 so far.  But before any of the Giants fans get sucked into the glory of all that, before yesterday's nice 4 hit game, he was batting only .184/.279/.474/.753 with 12 strikeouts in 38 AB.  He's not "all dat" yet.

The real hero of the second half, after the All Star break, is Pablo Sandoval, who is hitting his Panda-like .320/.364/.547/.911 with 7 HR (leading the team) in 128 AB with only 19 K's and an OK 11 walks.  And that is in spite of injuries he has sustained, which he has fought hard against losing any starts because of the injuries.  That contrasts greatly with Carlos Beltran doing on the 15-day DL for a hand/wrist strain.

But one hitter cannot do it alone (as Barry Lamar discovered), and Sandoval has been supported by Aubrey Huff who has been hitting .284/.344/.457/.800 since the break, with 4 HR in 116 AB.  In particular, since July 22nd, he has hit .311/.375/.500/.875 with 3 HR in 90 AB, only 14 K's but with 11 walks.

But the Giants will need more.   Jeff Keppinger, after a hiccup initially, has hit .289/.316/.378/.694 for the Giants in 90 AB.  He only has 3 walks but he only has 6 strikeouts too.  If he can hit closer to his career .281/.335/.393/.728, then that would be great out of the 2-spot, where he has been hitting.  Nate Schierholtz has been doing his lava hot and arctic cold routine again, but he has been hot lately, hitting .333/.417/.524/.940 in 42 AB with 2 HR, 4 BB, and 11 K's.  That is a lot of strikeouts, suggesting this won't continue, but he has shown the talent to hit well before, so hopefully he is starting to put things together.

Lastly, Carlos Beltran should be coming off the DL on Tuesday, the first day of the home stand.  If he can hit like he is capable, then the Giants offense could be taking off having Sandoval, Beltran, Huff, Schierholtz swinging well in the middle of the lineup.  And he has incentive to do well now.  If he continues to linger on the DL, that is what potential team bidders will have foremost on their minds, not his great 2011 season up until he joined the Giants.  If he can turn it on, though, people will forget about his 15 game DL hiccup and remember his great hitting.  It will be interesting.

And they are the Giants best hopes of offense in the final weeks.  Aaron Rowand has regressed greatly, once again, in the second half of the season.  No matter what he does for physical fitness in the winter - mountain bike riding mostly - he has suffered a sharp downturn in offense in the second half at some point.  This time it happened as early as the All-Star break.  Andres Torres has turned into a pumpkin overnight.  Mike Fontenot has never been that good in any case, he's just a utility guy.  Orlando Cabrera has been useless so far for the the Giants, hitting even worse than Brandon Crawford, who probably will take over the starting SS role once September 1st rolls up and the call-ups are allowed.  Unless, that is, Miguel Tejada can recover the stroke he had before he went on the DL, when he was hitting .299/.348/.449/.796 since June 1st and was a major catalyst for the offense jumping up to 3.9 RS/game in July before he went on the DL.

Cody Ross is the only real wildcard on the offense for the rest of the season, barring some unforeseen breakout by a 40-man roster call-up surprise.  He was hitting very well for the season, in the high 700 OPS range, until the All-Star break, and then he has been horrible, hitting .155/.232/.291/.523 since then.  His 4 HR has helped but we need more out of him.  If he can turn it on soon, that would help the offense even more.

The Pitching:  Keep On Doing Well

Of course, none of this happens unless the pitching comes through.  Unfortunately, a lot of key pitchers on the DL or still recovering:  Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito.  Still, the pitching has performed great in the second half, 3.05 ERA overall, but there has been a lot of errors behind them, leading to a 3.67 runs allowed per game overall.

They, obviously, will need to continue doing well with the occasional hiccup.  Lincecum has been leading the staff with a 1.13 ERA over 7 starts, though despite that he has only had a 4-3 record.  Matt Cain has a 2.31 ERA but is only 2-4.  Vogelsong has a 3.12 ERA but 4-2 record.  Madison Bumgarner has a 3.31 ERA but 3-3 record.  Those plus Zito's 0-3 and Dirty's 0-2, has led to the Giants 16-20 record since the All-Star break.

The relievers have been similarly good, with only Javier Lopez doing poorly, relatively, with a 3.75 ERA over 15 appearances.  At lot of that was just bad BABIP luck, with 17 hits in 12.0 IP.  Brian Wilson has a 3.38 ERA but been lucky with that, in 10.2 IP, only 10 hits, but 9 walks to go with 9 K's.  We will need him to return healthy when he's off the DL.  Same with Romo.  But hopefully Steve Edlefsen can step in and do a decent enough imitation until they return.  He was great in spring training and while his minor numbers look bad, he also had arm problems he played with until he went on the DL and got it healed up.

Stretch Run:  Should be Fun

I find fighting for the playoffs fun, and as the old joke goes about aging, just consider the alternative.  I've named my blog aptly because I still have OCD tendencies, but one that I mostly outgrew long ago was the need for everything to come out perfectly.  That's never going to happen, you need to look at the overall picture and enjoy the view, should there be one.

And the Giants have a good view, both short term and long term.  Barring injuries, the Giants pitching staff should be dominant for a long time, longer if Neukom ponies up the money to keep Lincecum and Cain (and Bumgarner) with us deep into this decade and give us a super-rotation.  And Bochy seems to have a knack of knowing how to put together a killer bullpen that can shut down the opposition until the offense can eke out a run and win the game.  As I've shown in my research, Bochy has been an outlier manager, statistically significantly good at winning 1-run games.

As far as this season goes, the offense, as maligned as it has been, had been good enough to win a lot of games with until around the time when the Giants picked up Beltran.  Not that he is to blame, but that is roughly when the offense went off the rails.  It did not help that Cody and Nate both went cold offensively at the same time, nor that Torres continued to struggle, or that Miggie, who was one of our hottest bats, went on the DL right around then.  In addition, the catching, which had been hitting well in holding Buster's starting spot warm, both went cold after the All-Star break.  I would guess that the toll of catching so many games finally caught up with them, since neither were used to or conditioned for playing so many games.  Too many of the cylinders of the offense went dead at the same time.

But the offense appears to be perking up together lately and could get a big pickup when/if Beltran gets off the DL and start playing.  There was a lot of talk in the media when he was first picked up, about how he was mentoring and leading some of the players he already knew on the team, Pablo and Torres, but I think the bigger story is if Panda's recent demand - no other way to put that - to play despite various injuries might inspire Beltran to come off the DL and play anyway.  Beltran has been able to hit right-handed for a while but refused to play until he can bat left-handed as well.  Kung Fu Panda insists on playing even though he can't bat right-handed, insisting to bat left-handed against LHP.

The pitching, despite hiccups at the start of August and in the past week, has been pitching great.  The fielding has not been great, leading to many unearned runs - 11 in August already, 13 in July, only 10 or less in prior months - but that is the beauty of great pitching, it can overcome a lot of baseball sins:  bad offense, bad defense.

And with the next 9 games against bad teams like San Diego, Houston, and Chicago, they could even come much closer to .500 for the month (currently at 7-13), if they can go 7-2 (leaving them at 14-15) for the rest of the month.  Of course, the problem is that the 'Dres have been hot lately, winning 12 of 18, the Giants lost 2 of 3 in Houston and was close to getting swept, and the Cubs are 14-6 out of their last 20 games.  The key thing is that most of these teams are bad on the road, only SD has done well on the road.  So 6-3 looks possible and if the offense can pick up, then 7-2, but if not or the pitching continues to falter, they could end with an ugly 5-4 or worse record.

Then again, the D-backs are facing the hot Nats for 4 games on the road.  The Nats are 36-25 at home and are 12-8 in their last 20 games.  And they beat the Braves at home, winning that series, plus won a series at home against the Phillies as well in that streak, plus splitting with them on the road.  They also won a series against the Reds at home.  So the D-backs will have their hands full in upcoming games as well.

It should be a good pennant race.  The Giants, despite all the injuries, look talented enough to stay close if not take the pennant for the rest of the season.  Arizona is still doing it with some good luck, like Goldschmidt hitting well after their 1B good luck ended, but his BABIP is horribly high, for anyone, and he's not even speedy plus is striking out at a record pace (24 in last 49 AB, only 3 walks), making it all the more likely his BABIP will be crushed sooner or later.  But the funny thing about baseball luck is that it can last him to the end of the season and regress to the mean next season.

In any case, the D-backs have regressed a lot in August, they are only 11-10 so far this month.  The only reason they have taken the division lead is because the Giants lost a lot more games this month.  Their pitching has regressed greatly, particularly with the addition of Marquis to the rotation.  He was suppose to be the NL West killer, as he has been in his career, but he has a horrible 9.53 ERA so far in 3 starts for the D-backs.  Plus Saunders and Collmenter have both regressed this month, as I had noted that they should earlier, 6.75 and 4.30, respectively.  Plus Hudson has regressed some as well.

The schedule looks good for the Giants.  They have 27 out of their remaining 34 games against NL West rivals and they have been 28-17 against these teams so far and are above .500 against the four teams, though only 6-4 against SD with 8 games to go and history noting that the Giants have lost the prior two season series against the 'Dres.  They have 21 home games left and only 13 road games, with 18 of the next 21 games at home.  All the teams are below .500, except for Arizona.

However, the Giants are only 43-40 against below .500 teams, 25-20 against .500 and above teams.  They are one of three teams with records above .500 against winning teams, suggesting that they have struggled to get up against the poorer teams, while taking on the winning teams when presented with that challenge.

Given that there are not a lot of games left, hopefully the Giants can raise their performance against these losing teams in the rest of the season.   They should be realizing that they need to step it up now, whether good team or mostly bad, and go for the throat, like the starting pitching did last season in September, going so many games without giving up more than 3 runs.  Bruce Bochy, as I have noted before in a post, has that killer, go for the win instinct, so they should be getting the message soon if not already.  And Kung Fu Panda should be inspiring them with his desire to play and to win, at all costs and pains.

We might not be leading now, but leading is over rated, just ask the 2003 Giants about that.  We need the pitching and fielding to be going well, and frankly the fielding has been lacking, costing us runs we cannot afford to give up.   The defense has costed us at least one win (which is a two win swing) in August, and we would either be ahead or behind half a game right now if the defense was up to normal standards.  Also, we have been having hiccups in relief, particularly Wilson, due to his arm problems.   Things should be better in September, when we can bring up the young players who are good on defense, and swap them in late in the game.

The media does not help with the fans overall sentiment. They go for the easy story: Giants offense stink. They can't accept that a very good pitcher was on and had a really good game or that even a bad team like the Astros do win some series. They encourage these extreme ups and downs in fan sentiment, I get that from reading the news accounts of this game, I get that from listening to any show about the Giants, but all this down in the mouth stuff is just useless worry.

We get that the offense stinks. Hello, whenever you take all your top hitters out of the lineup, you are going to really stink. Take Pujols and Holliday off the Cards, Ethier and Kemp off the Dodgers, Utley and Howard off the Phillies, they will stink too. We are missing Posey and Huff had been MIA until recently. Plus, we lost Freddy Sanchez, who was an important cog, and Torres has totally not performed at all. Expecting the Giants to replace all that is not realistic. I think the Giants have done as well as they can given the circumstances, without trading away all our best prospects.  You roll the dice and see what happens.

It is not perfect, but life never is.  What I focus on is that the Giants are in position to win the division, this season and for foreseeable seasons.  That is really all you can ask for unless you are the Yankees and maybe the Red Sox.  There are too many injuries and poor performances that can happen and derail your playoff chances.  I think it has been a great season and looks to continue to be great for the rest of the season, barring any catastrophic injury to someone new.  I have enjoyed this season a lot and hope that everyone can enjoy it as well, because it has been good and look to get better.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Your 2011 Giants Draft Pick Signings

Andy Baggerly reported in the newspaper today that "the Giants came to terms with their top 13 selections and 27 of their first 31.  Among them was Oregon State catcher Andrew Susac, who was considered a steal as a second-rounder.  Baseball America reported that Susac received first -round money - a $1.1 million bonus."

Perfect Games has the Giants entire draft plus bonus information on-line (have to select Giants when you get there).   Here are the signed picks they reported on, up to 12th round:

129GiantsJoseph PanikSSSt. John’sNYSigned$1,160,000
1 Comp49GiantsKyle CrickRHPShermanTXSigned$900,000
286GiantsAndrew SusacCOregon StateCASigned$1,100,000
3116GiantsRicky Oropesa3BSouthern CaliforniaCASigned$550,000
4147GiantsBryce BandillaLHPArizonaAZSigned$185,000
5177GiantsChris MarloweRHPOklahoma StateOKSigned$145,000
6207GiantsJosh OsichLHPOregon StateIDSigned$450,000
7237GiantsRaymond BlackRHPPittsburghPASigned$225,000
8267GiantsJean K. DelgadoMIFIsabel FloresPRSigned$125,000
9297GiantsDerek LawRHPMiami-DadePASigned$125,000
10327GiantsKentrell HillOFArkansas BaptistSigned$100,000
11357GiantsChristian DiazOFPR Baseball AcademyPRSigned
12387GiantsKelby TomlinsonSSTexas TechTXSigned

The Giants also signed 14th round pick, 3B Garrett Buechele, who is related to former major leaguer, Steve Buechele.  In fact, his full name is Steven Garrett Buechele.  His numbers went way down in 2011, else he probably would have been drafted higher, he was drafted in the 18th round by the Rangers in the 2010 MLB draft, as he was a redshirted sophomore last season.

Giants Thoughts

The general consensus that I saw was that the Giants had a pretty good haul of players from this draft, assuming they signed everyone.  As noted above, they "Got Heem!", signing their top 13 picks, and in particular, Andrew Susac, Ricky Oropesa, and Josh Osich, who were all potential first round picks who fell for a variety of reasons.

Susac signed for approximately what he would have gotten had he been drafted in Panik's slot instead (Joe Panik got $1.16M, which is slightly higher than what the 29th pick got in 2010's draft; rumors were that the slots were raised 5-10% this season, but Panik got about 4% more), which many mock drafts had him picked around there.  The 86th pick got $411,000 last season; slot was $411,300 (Wow, KC was so cheap that they would not even give that pick the extra $300 that the slot allowed?  Explains why they have been so bad for so long...).

Oropesa signed for mid-second round money, which is about double the slot money. The 116th pick was slotted for $258,300 in 2010, and 5-10% would put it about half what he signed for.  Some of the rankings I saw thought that he could go in the end of the first round, but most had him going in the mid-to-late second round.

Osich signed for late second round money.  His slot was around the low $100K range, so he got about 3-4 times what his overall pick region would normally get.  He was actually selected in the Giants #29 draft pick in a few mock drafts, but his injury scared off a lot of teams, and he basically agreed to the mid-way point between a first round and where he ended up.

Also, I don't think I reported on my blog, but Kyle Crick signed for $900K relatively early.  According to BA, his overall pick was slotted for $717,300.  A lot of the draft pundits said that had Crick and Panik been selected in each other's slot, that would have made more sense, as Panik was not rated that highly by a lot of the draft evaluators.  However, there were a couple (well known too, Sickels and Perfect Games) who thought Panik, while a slight overdraft at worse, was not horribly so, and, in any case, if the Giants wanted him, he most probably would not have fell to them by their #49 pick.  Sickels was OK with that pick, and Perfect Games thought that Panik had risen late to be equal to the other middle infielders thought to be drafted in the 20-29 draft range,  Kolten Wong and Levi Michael (drafted #22 and #30, respectively).

The Giants got a great haul, with many players who were potential late first round draft picks in Panik, Crick, Susac, Oropesa, and Osich.  That is something the Giants have emphasized since Barr took over the draft, selecting players who were potential first round draftees who fell for whatever reason.  Gillaspie, Crawford, and Parker are among those who the Giants picked up in later rounds when they either had a poor season or fell for salary demands.  There were good words also about the other guys selected relatively early, Bryce Bandilla, Chris Marlowe, and Raymond Black.

The Giants picked up 6 pitchers with their first 10 picks overall.  They have traditionally emphasized getting pitchers in their drafts, even after Barr took over the draft from Tidrow, picking more pitchers than position players, even though on all rosters there are more position players than pitchers.  They also picked up middle infielders  Joseph Panik, Jean Delgado, and Kelby Tomlinson in their first 13 picks.  And two 3B among their first 15 picks in Oropesa and Buechele.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Your 2011 Giants are 66-55: Beating the Braves

The Giants winning formula is pitching, pitching, and more pitching.  It is kind of like the example people use about the power of time:  at first it was no big deal, but drop after drop of water, you can have the Grand Canyon.

Our pitching wears down other teams, pitch by pitch, start by start, series by series.  But that is not a perfect formula, so there will be hiccups, they are human beings.  Also, as in life, sometimes the other team is just better than you are.  Still, I love our chances in any series.  And in baseball, that is really all you can realistically hope for (unless you are the Yankees, generating 2-4 times the revenues of anyone else, giving them a huge advantage in making the playoffs).

So I am relatively chillaxed compared to other Giants fans even though we are two games back and coming into Atlanta to face the mighty Braves and their super-hot hitter, Uggla, plus superb rotation.  The Giants have been a pretty good team this season, particularly in 1-run games, and the offense is showing signs that it might be coming out of their collective funk that they have been in since the big trade for Beltran slowed it down greatly.  Like a boiling pot, first one batter heats up, then another, then back to the first, then another and another.  And the pitching, after a big hiccup in early August appears to have corrected themselves.  And hopefully they can continue, because, as Elvis once sung, "It's now or never", as there is not that much season left.

Please Click on the Title for Full Post

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Offense is Hygiene, Defense is Core Competencies

I posted the below in response to a complaint about the Giants SS solutions since the Aurilia era.

Click on title of post to see the full post
(why does Blogger provide a jump break function but then does not let the reader know that they need to click something to see the full post, I wonder how many people thought I forgot to write my post. I'm almost at the point of stopping using this "feature")

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Your 2011 Giants are 62-49: Pheeling it, Beat the Phillies

The Giants came out of a tough series with the D-backs with one win out of three, with the distinct possibility of getting swept out of first place, before they scored 4 runs in the game and put that thought out of mind, and obliterated it with another 4 run inning to take 8-0 lead.  Vogelsong not only stopped a losing streak again (7-1 after Giants losses), but had his first DOM start in a while, which is good too. 

So any momentum and boosted confidence they might have gotten from beating the Giants two aces dissipated into the SF Bay mist, as it sinks into their head that they were shut down totally by the Giants #5 starter.  So now they have to view themselves as lucky that they beat the two aces, instead of feeling, as some said, like they had done their job.  Winning two of three on the road is good, but each loss to the Giants is a two game difference in the standings.  They really needed to win that last game and achieved the sweep, though it will help that they are headed home now for a nice home stand against losing teams.

Bring on the Phillies!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sabean Naysayers Are Up in Arms: Calm Down...

I had been meaning to write about the Sabean Naysayers - and actually have it written somewhere - then ended up composing the below on Extra Baggs, as they are really getting on my nerves again.  Sorry, but I was responding to some of the comment I saw there, so some of the context is missing, but I think it is mostly understandable even without that context.  And I will tweak, as I am wont to do.

Click on title to get full post

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

2011 Giants: July PQS

This post has the Giants Pure Quality Start scores for the month of July 2011, 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, which I've provided a link to). Regular readers can skip to the next orange titled 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).

Click on title to get full post

Monday, August 01, 2011

Your 2011 Giants are 61-47: D-Fanging the D-backs

The Giants had a tough road trip and came out of it 2-4, which is not bad but not great, and still just one win (one run, really, in that extra-inning first game against the Reds, which seemed to sap the Giants will, but had they won, it would have ensured a .500 record on the road, which is any team's goal for the road) away from a good .500 trip, particularly against the Phillies and Reds.

Of course, it ended with a sweep, so it probably feels worse than it really is right now for a lot of Giants fans, particularly since the newest savior, Carlos Beltran,  did not do much of anything yet.  I think fans just need to be patient with everything, which has basically been the mantra over the past few seasons, as the Giants rebuilt, then started winning.

Now they come home for a 10 game homestand, where they can put some distance between themselves and the remaining contender in the NL West division, the Arizona D-backs by winning the series, if not sweeping.  It should be a good one, setting the stage for a rematch with the Phillies right afterward for 4 games, then facing the surprising Pirates.  This is probably THE key homestand of this season, they need to make a good showing against the D-backs and the Phillies.

Click to see the matchups:


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