Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Your 2011 Giants: Do or Die

Wow, much more exciting rush this last, roughly, week's worth of games (9 in total) left in the season than we could have imagined just a week ago.  That's what an 8 game win streak will do for you.

Still, 3.5 games back of wildcard (and another team in-between) and 5.5 games back of division title with only 9 games left in the season means that while the week should be exciting, the sands of time is pretty much gone and it is extremely unlikely that the Giants will even make the playoffs, let alone repeat.  Still, as the saying goes, you never know.

Let's take a look at the tough road to the division title since, although further back, the Giants have some control in their hands, due to the three games in Arizona in the middle, and they don't have another team to climb over.

The D-backs only have 8 games left, having played and, more importantly, won, yesterday.  Even if the Giants sweep the D-gers, in LA, and the D-backs, say, win 2 of 3 against the Pirate, at home (and they play at home the rest of the season), the Giants will still be 4 games behind when they go to Arizona.  Then, even if the Giants sweep the D-backs (and we will face Kennedy in the series), they would still be 1 game behind, with 3 to play, with the Giants facing the D-Rox at home and the D-backs facing the D-gers, again, at home, where the GIants need to win one more game than the D-backs just to tie for the division lead.

So, even if the Giants extend their winning streak to 14 games, they would still be 1 game behind and the D-backs get to play the woeful D-gers at home for the last three.  Though, to their credit, LA has been playing well as of late, despite losing Ethier for the season.  And the Giants will have to beat both Kershaw and Kennedy in that nine game stretch.  It appears oh so unlikely and oh so hard.

And we are playing the D-gers three games in LA now.  The first game is the marque game with Tim Lincecum facing Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw's dominance over the Giants this season has been almost total this season, and amazingly, somehow, with only 18 team meetings, this will be his 6th start, so somehow Mattingly has manipulated the rotation to get Kershaw a start in each and every series the Giants have had with LA.  He is also going for his 20th win of the season and is 4-0 against the Giants this season in 5 starts, 1.04 ERA.  Yikes!  And the Giants don't have one of their major weapons against LHP, Cody Ross, as he's out with an injury (though as noted in my comments previously, Ross's poor 2011 season is directly related to his poor hitting against LHP this season).

Still, the Giants are amazingly 25-15 against LHP, and that includes their 0-4 against Kershaw.  And it is not like he has dominated them in all the games, though still 4 of 5, but in that other game, he only went 5.0 IP, giving up 4 runs, and that was in LA.   Teams normally do not face the ace of the other team so often, and if, say, two were switched over to one of LA's other sad sack starters, the Giants would be two games closer in both races and have a real chance of catching up, instead of an unlikely chance.  Taking out his games (which LA won 4 of 5), the Giants are 7-3 against the rest of the D-gers' starters, and 24-11 against all other LHP.

Let's see, LHP lineup is probably Torres, Keppinger, Beltran, Sandoval, Pill/1B, DeRosa/LF, Whiteside, Cabrera.

Game 2 has Ryan Vogelsong vs. Dana Eveland, a former A's prospect, and LA is his 6th team in the last 6 seasons.  At only 27, maybe LHP Eveland finally has figured it out, 2.25 ERA in 3 starts, but only 10 K's in 20.0 IP, and his BABIP has been very favorable, .262, whereas previously in his career, it was .347 in extensive opportunities, 95 games.  He's facing our version of that journeyman journey in Vogelsong, who in the last month has a 3.21 ERA in 7 starts, not as great as earlier, but still very good.  Should be a good battle, but as noted, Giants beat up on most LHP and Eveland has been extremely lucky with BIP so far in his starts and he's not striking out hardly anybody, on par with Kirk Rueter.

Game 3 has Madison Bumgarner vs. Hiroki Kuroda, the D-gers only other very good starter, Mattingly even managed to include him in this series.  However, he has only had two starts against the Giants and he was not that great, good in first start of year, 3 runs in 7.0 IP, but in the other start, 9 days ago, 3 runs in 4.2 IP with 8 hits and 1 walk.  And he has a 3.79 ERA against the Giants in 7 career starts (see how weird it is that Kershaw has 6 starts this season against the D-gers, Kuroda has pitched 4 full seasons now and will only have his 8th start in two days) so the Giants do hit him relatively well.

Meanwhile, Bumgarner completes our 3 headed dragon atop the rotation, showing way more maturity and gravitas than Dirty ever showed, even though Sanchez is older and has had way better stuff than Bumgarner.  Since Madison started his run of starts where he was striking out a lot more batters, on July 24th, he has had a 2.40 ERA in 11 starts, 75.0 IP, 67 hits, 78 K's and only 19 walks.  I heard on KNBR a debate on who would you rather have, Lincecum or Kershaw, right now, but really, we have our own Kershaw already in Bumgarner.  He should be able to keep LA down while the offense handles Kuroda enough to win.

Signing Young Giants Core

Shankbone noted in the comments that one of the key things the Giants need to do is sign their young pitchers - Lincecum and Cain - to long-term contracts this off-season, and I totally agree.   But writing this, I realize that the Giants should also try hard to sign Bumgarner to a long-term deal as well (and maybe Shankbone meant him too, I just know I didn't think of it until now).  Unfortunately, they had that disagreement about how much Madison would make this season, and so the Giants just enforced their figure, so Bumgarner's side will probably want extra to make up for that.  So I suspect that his agents will play hardball on a long-term deal, much like how Lincecum's agents did that, and thus no long-term contract yet with Tim-meh.  Still, the Giants should at least kick the tires on that with Madison.

And I expect them to at least broach that.  This is the similar timing when the Giants signed Lowry and then Cain to their long-term deals, and I'm sure they approached Lincecum's agents and was rebuffed.  Hopefully they can get him signed.

And while they are at it, may as well try to get Posey and Pablo signed as well.  Buster Posey's leadership and presence in the lineup and the field spoke volumes between what happened last season and what happened this season.  Normal players don't do that, but potential Hall of Famer's do.  Teams need leaders and Posey is a natural-born leader, just give him a Longoria type contract.

And Pablo Sandoval is a great hitter, let him worry more about getting hits than worry about his future with the Giants.

And the price for either will never be this low again, not that we should short-change them, but that if we wait any longer, I think their awesomeness will be that much more apparent and thus will cost more to get.  Get them signed long-term as well as the pitchers.

Unless a miracle happens and we somehow make history and get into the playoffs, the Giants fan base will want some sort of feel-good news to get them through the winter.  Signing all these players to long-term contracts will leave a sunny glow that will last all the way through to spring training I think.

You Never Know But, You Know, It's Pretty Much Over

And history still might happen.  The more I think about it, the more I think Kirk Gibson is a Billy Martin type of manager that can get lowly talent to play above their heads for a season.  No way their team should be so high up the standings, but to their credit, they are.  They went 18-3 over that incredible stretch where they took their huge lead.  And they are now 11 games above .500 in 1-run games, which normally does not happen.  And they are 6 games above their Pythagorean W/L.

But when the cracks start to appear, players could start to press, causing a downward cycle.  They recently lost 3 in a row, but have now won 2.  Will they steady their ship, or would cracks continue?  Still, with so few games left, they would have to have an epic type of collapse to enable the Giants to get back into the race substantively.  Very unlikely.

So enjoy the rest of the Giants season, but don't get your hopes up too high.  I've already mourned for this season and will just enjoy the rest of the games that we have left, and hope for the best.  I curse Cousins and what might have been, but that's life sometimes.  I won't get my hopes up too much unless we can get to within one game of the playoffs.

Go Giants!


  1. I say wait until we see how Posey recovers and if he can continue to play catcher. His value @ 1B is probably not that great, his value is at catcher.
    Same with Sandoval. Gaining over 20 lbs over the season (thank goodness he has the benefit of youth) makes me think he ends up being a first baseman too before it is all said and done.
    SF has a lot of drama re first base next year and the one after. Play Huff? Play Belt? Sandoval? Posey to save his surgically repaired legs?

  2. If they can lock up a few of Bum's years I'd be all for it. They did have a little dust up over his 2011 pay.

    You're right about getting a LF to backup Belt. Either Belt pans out (likely) and Huff sucks so you'll need to shift Belt to first or Belt crashes and you need some backup. And they need multiple plans at shortstop, hopefully not involving any more washed up vets. Somebody under 30 would be nice.

    Big time offseason, should be fun.

    Anon - its easy to post with a user name, you should hook that up. Agreed about the risks on Posey and Sando, but I think they're worth making.

  3. I'd agree with anonymous anonymous - see how Panda shows up at spring training, see how Posey recovers. Though I disagree that he doesn't have a lot of value at first - the Giants 12 1Bs aside.

    MadBum has gone over and above, even with the high expectations that were there in the first place. Really good mental makeup.

    Timmy, I dunno. I'm not confident that the starting pitching is really as deep as we think, but, I also wonder how well he'll transition into mid-career. Then again, when he's 40 people (like me) might finally stop questioning his durability. Certainly no fade down the stretch this year.

    Too bad about this year. I think there's a funny lesson to be learned though - the team in its way proved themselves. Lose Posey, Sanchez, Zito, have the other Sanchez hurt or bad, have Tejada not work out, lose Nate for the stretch, have Torres & Huff drop way off - say all that before the start of the season, and it ends up they've done well.

  4. Anon, I see your point on Posey, but I considered that as well, and the way I see it, he's a future 2B anyway, I've had him slotted here once he reaches free agency age, about 28-29-30. If we move him there in 2012, we just trade Franchez, and who knows, maybe he's not ready either.

    Heck, I think Posey could play 3B as well, and there is worry about Pablo and his shoulder. And he could play 1B in 2012, then 2B in 2013 after Franchez is out. And if Pablo do end up at 1B, then Posey would be a good at 3B with his arm and bat too, should Panik end up at 2B. Lots of good options in they years going forward, depending on who develops and who don't.

    Of course, Pablo's weight is a concern, but I'm not talking a huge 7-10 year contract with him, he's already in arbitration, a nice 3 year contract to cover his arbitration years plus two one-year options.

    1B, I would put Pill in the mix, he's earned that much, though behind all the names you list.

    I think Huff is in Rowand's position in 2010, if he's not hitting, the Giants will look at either Belt or Pill at 1B, and really, it will be who is better, Pill at 1B with Belt in LF, or whoever in LF with Belt at 1B.

    I think he will hit, not like 2010, but better than 2011, as long as he has Sandoval and Posey in the lineup to keep his mind relaxed.

  5. Marc, I agree that Posey has a lot of value at 1B, but I think the bigger point is that he would have greater value at almost any other position, while we have viable 1B options in Belt and Sandoval.

    Yes, that is a very good point about the Giants proving themselves, haven't seen that mentioned anywhere yet, but they have proven themselves. At 84 wins, they will probably end up at around 87-88 wins. Add on 4-5 wins if we had Posey and that would put us at the 92-93 wins that some were projecting for the Giants this season (like me :^).

    I think also that Bochy proved himself in 2011. Many of the Naysayers will point to the Pythagorean and say that he and the team was lucky, but as I showed in my research, Bochy was not lucky: he's been doing this since he started managing the Padres, and he's been doing it, roughly every other year, since, by being one of the NL leaders in games above .500 in 1-run games, he's the only one in his career to have done it so many times and for at least 8 games about .500.

    I never thought I would say this, but the Giants are lucky to have Bochy as their manager. I never really took a shining to him until last season when he made tough choices that could have sent players and then the team in a tailspin (like Torres over Rowand) and he made the tough choices in the playoffs too (like sitting Sandoval). That put me on his side.

    But this discovery of his unique ability as a manager has made him lovable to me.

    I feel very good about the Giants future with Sabean as GM, Bochy as manager, and having the core players we have now (Lincecum et al) and hope to have later.

    As long as that rainy day fund that the owners were so huffy about helps to keep all our top players with us into their free agency years.

    I feel like cackling like a mad scientist on the verge of conquering the world right now, like in those classic B-movies, just before they flip that huge switch that all mad scientists have in their labs for some reason. :^)

  6. ADDENDUM: I mean really, Pablo is a .900 OPS hitter, lock him up, keep him happy and hitting.

  7. Hey OGC,

    Very interesting article in yesterday's SFGate about a dude named Charles Johnson, a long time investor, who bought up some of the Burns' sisters stock in the Giants and is apparently set to buy up Neuks shares.

    He is now the largest stakeholder and the effective Chairman of the Board. He's worth about $4 Billion, but likes to stay way behind the scenes.

    Turns out he's the guy who was most upset by Neuks demands for big compensation $$$$$.

    Oh, Johnson is head of Franklin Investments, I think.

  8. Thanks DrB!

    Yes, very interesting, especially the $4B part. :^)

    He seems to be taking over Neukom's role over the past 15+ years of soaking up shares others want to get rid of. I would love it if he takes on the role of putting more money into the team when it needs to sign up the young guys long-term.

    For those not aware, Matier and Ross, of SF Chronicle, good at ferreting out local rumors, usually regarding politicians, but some good stuff on the Neukom-gate, like that Neukom's ouster is more related to his not having a contract signed when he took over and according to the sources they found, he, after last year's grand events, wanted upwards of $10M as salary.

    If true, then Neukom got what he deserved. $10M? I still can't believe he asked for that, but if so, then I'm sorry Neukom, this was the right move.

    Yes, DrB, I believe he's head of Franklin Investments, they own or are related to the Franklin-Templeton funds group, of the famous John Templeton, who famously invested ($10K?) at the bottom of the Depression and built his billion dollar fortune from there, through investing.

    Actually, I believe his sister might be head of the whole organization, he might "just" be head of one of the major divisions. Would have to research that if you are interested.

  9. I would expect a guy like this to be fairly conservative in his management of the investment. I do not see a guy like this being willing to put his own $$$$ into the team so it can operate at a loss.

    Fortunately, the Giants can operate on a break even basis and still be quite competitive due to their great stadium, a devoted fan base that buys lots of gear, and a great TV deal.

    Just don't expect this guy to be anything like Steinbrenner or Arte Moreno. On the plus side, don't expect him to be anything like Frank McCourt either. I would not see him as approving of the owners treating the team like a cash cow.

    He's in it as a long term investment.



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