Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Your 2011 Giants: Need Some Warrior Spirit

Originally, I was going to go with a title of "The Week that Wasn't" and then review how the Giants chances went from good to basically zero in such a short span of time, roughly 10 days (but that title worked better, I thought).  But Bochy's speech to certain key players captures more of what I'm thinking of for the weeks ahead, instead of me reflecting on the week that wasn't.

That's the way I've always played baseball and followed baseball when my playing days ended:  you play to the bitter end to win.  I remember the game still, from the early 70's, the Giants were losing something like 7-1 to the Pirates and then they came back with 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th to win the game.  I think that they did most of that with 2 outs too.  I remember my first date with my wife, I took her to a Giants-D-gers game, the Giants were losing 7-3, but came back to score 5 runs, and I think that they did not even make one out.  I never understood the people streaming out of the park just before the Giants got their final ups in the 9th, I felt sorry for them.

My point with these examples is that baseball is much like one of those Russian dolls where if you open up one, you find another similar one inside of it.  A baseball season is much like a baseball game, writ large.  One inning, you look like crap, the next you are Babe Ruth and Cy Young all wrapped up into one.  So I understand the gloom and doom.   Most likely, this is not going to end well for our heroes, Los Gigantes de San Francisco, but much like a baseball game, you never know when your team pulls it out in the bottom of the ninth.

Put another baseball way, I would rather the Giants run out the grounder by playing to win until there is no more games to be gained such that they can win.  Most grounders do not end well, but I would rather see the Giants hustle to get to first base than trot to first base and accept their probable fate.

I want them to show the Warrior Spirit that Bochy spoke to some of them about, as noted in the newspapers,  Mercury and Chronicle:

"It's very important for us to keep going hard," Bochy said before the game. "It's what you should do. It's the right thing to do. It's an obligation and a responsibility. We're not going to tolerate anything else. It's on the veterans and the leaders to keep them going hard.
"This is when you find out about players, too. If there's any time you come out with a fighting spirit, a warrior spirit, it's now."
So yeah, the going is tough, but as the saying goes, this is when the tough gets going.  I like that Bochy said that people are not just playing for 2011 right now, they are playing for 2012 because the Giants management will be evaluating who they want to be on the team in 2012, who deserves to be on the team, both young and old.  Even Barry Zito, with his mega-contract that one would think would be a huge hurdle, Sabean said, when asked about Zito in 2012, that he didn't know.


That's why I loved Madison Bumgarner's start and Pablo Sandoval's game, neither of them gave in, and they had great games.  And a lot of the players played well too, and like Sandoval had been doing for a long while, played with injuries, like Huff, who apparently has been struggling with his bad back, which was reported earlier this season, and recurred again in last night's game.

It is a fine line whether it is better for your team to continue  playing injured or to take the DL and get well, but I would prefer that they tried to play first, then quickly DL when it is clear you are just hurting the team.  Beltran, for example, didn't even try and took the full 15-days when he probably could have at least started playing when he was still not on the DL around day 10.  I think that will hurt his contract negotiations this off-season.  Huff, at least, had been hitting well and tried to play, but it is arguable whether he stayed too long in the lineup and started hurting the team by not DLing or at least resting.

And that still gets to my theme of the recent past few posts:  we need a hero.  Someone with that Warrior Spirit who will lead the team, then who might continue the job in 2012, as Bochy and Sabean are looking for a few good men, apparently, for 2012.  It is not going to be easy, but I want the team to go down running for first base, hoping to beat the throw, maybe starting a rally that wins it all for us.

Go Giants!

17 comments:

  1. With the expectations bubble burst, the Giants have looked loose and happy in San Diego. The pressure to live up to a championship can be suffocating. I don't think it's any accident that now that nobody expects them to win, they are.....winning!

    They are now the longest of longshots, but hey, keep loose, keep having fun and play like nobody's watching. You never know what might happen.

    I think Pablo's conversation with his bat really captured the mood yesterday. I will remember that one for a long, long time.

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  2. Yeah, hit the nail on the head with that one DrB! I agree, Pablo's bat talking is a memorable one, could be up there with the thong if the Giants should do anything in the race this season.

    The Giants have 14 games to catch up 3 games (or better) to be within reach of the D-backs when they start the three game series in Arizona on September 23rd. 4 against SD, 4 against the suddenly hot LA, and 4 against COL.

    However, AZ got 7 of 14 against SD, who has been totally cold for a while now. Hopefully their trip to Colorado puts their pitchers out of whack for the following games.

    They also have 3 against LA and 3 against Pittsburgh. Going to be hard for the Giants to catch up 3 games in 14 without nearly winning all 14, the way AZ is going. Hopefully Colorado can win tonight while Cainer wins, and put some doubt into AZ's young players heads.

    However, I truly respect Gibson, he has the Warrior Spirit that Bochy is searching for among his players, and I would bet his players have it now too (or else!). So it will be a very tough gauntlet going forward.

    Only good news is that AZ ends with 3 against Giants and 3 against LA. But even there we have it tough, we end with 3 against COL.

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  3. Oh, wow, no pressure, but if somehow the last game is meaningful, Surkamp is slated to pitch that game right now.

    And it would be Surkamp, Cain, Lincecum right now vs AZ.

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  4. Oops, screwed up, they have 6 games against the D-gers, not 4, plus 4 SD and 4 COL, for a total of 14 games before the AZ series.

    FYI, the only off days are 8th and 19th, and both times it is Lincecum due to pitch next and, of course, there is no way they are going to skip his start.

    Now, if the Giants felt the starters were physically able to handle it, they could skip Surkamp's start on Sep 23, and have the starters start with 3 days rest instead of 4, meaning it would be Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong vs. AZ, then Bumgarner, Surkamp, Cain to close out against Colorado. Of course, this all assumes that the Giants are still in the hunt for the division title at that point, which at the moment, does not look possible.

    So, I know, shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. Still, should they pull this out and get close enough, this would be important.

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  5. Wow, looking at the calendar makes the Giants task look even harder. The D-backs end with 9 games at home plus a rest day before facing us for 3 at their home, while the Giants fly in from LA. And 13 games at home vs only 7 more on the road.

    Meanwhile, the Giants have 11 games on the road, only 9 more at home. And while get to face the always dangerous D-Rox team 7 times, the D-backs get to face the 'Dres 7 times plus Pittsburgh 3 times, while only facing Colorado one more time.

    The good news for the Giants is that they are 7-4 against Colorado this season, 9-6 against Arizona, 7-5 against LA, and 9-5 against SD, the teams they face in the last 20 games.

    Arizona is 6-9 vs. SF, 7-5 vs. LA, 12-5 vs. COL, 7-4 vs. SD, and 1-2 vs. PIT (that was in early June on the road; they get PIT at home for this series).

    Basically, we can blame Colorado for the big hole that we are in now. Had they played closer to their abilities, our deficit right now would be 4 or 5 right now, instead of 6. Houston's poor play also cost us a game in the standings, KC and Min too.

    Then again, we would not be as close if the Giants do not lead 9-6 over AZ in season's series now.

    Oh, right now they are slated to start Collmenter, Saunders, and Kennedy against us. And they could always substitute another pitcher for Saunders if they want, or skip him since there is the off day, and start Collmenter, Kennedy, and Hudson against the Giants (yeah, that looks probable).

    It is tough no matter what angle you look at the situation.

    And looking at the matchups, I don't see any series where the Giants look OK for picking up a game in the standings other than when they are playing SD 12-14 at home, while D-backs face LA on the road.

    And we basically need the 'Dres to suddenly figure it out right after our series, because D-backs are coming into town from Colorado, but with Kennedy, Hudson, Miley, Collmenter, their four best starters right now.

    We need some heroes with Warrior Spirit to lead the way. Beltran has been great, DeRosa and Sandoval have been good, Keppinger has been OK, now we need others to pick it up.

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  6. That's another nail in the coffin of the 2011 season. Still can end well, if team can pick it up.

    Good news for us, facing D-gers, as Ethier will be out for rest of season with elbow problems. Of course, that means D-backs should handle better too...

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  7. Not sure how much SF Giants stuff you read, but this was emailed to me this morning by a friend. I think it puts a lot of the fans frustration with Sabean in a good perspective. What those who watch the team play day in and day out see.
    http://wherehaveyougonejoe.com/public_html/article.php?story=20110831074854757

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  8. Thank you Anon for the link. I greatly appreciated it.

    I read a lot of Giants stuff but mostly the real news nowadays, but I also scroll some select blogs via RSS as well.

    Honestly, I avoid a lot of Giants FAN's related writing because of aggravating materials like the one that you linked me too.

    I understand the frustration but I've also explained all of that here on my blog.

    My short version, and people know me, there is really no short version when I get my dander up, but here goes, is that re-building is not a process that you can do in parallel evenly between offense and defense if you want to be one of the top teams around.

    Actually, my short version would be to send you to read my business plan. It encapsulates much of what I've learned about Sabean's methods as GM plus gives additional recommendations per saber research I've seen before and applied to building a team with a competitive advantage.

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  9. Here is my longer version, but as my business plan shows, I can really go long if I wanted.

    Research has affirmed that pitching and fielding is what wins in the playoffs. It is not quite like having a great QB in football or dominating center in basketball, but it is the best that a team can hope to attain in the MLB.

    In addition, research has shown that when you have the best defensive team, pitching and fielding, your offense is much more efficient in winning, thus allowing a sub-standard offense to win. See last September for a great example of that.

    So the most logical thing I would do as GM is to build a super rotation of starters. Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez, done.

    You also need a super closer. Wilson, done.

    Once they are identified, that is when you can start pushing the position player agenda, like picking up Posey, plus pick up the occasional international free agent like Sandoval, now the other guys, like Belt, Brown, Panik, Crawford, Peguero.

    The reason why you cannot build both at the same time is explained by my draft research that I wrote about long ago and that I link to. It is VERY hard to find a good baseball player in the draft. PERIOD.

    That has been my whole point from my research, a point that escapes all the other draft researchers.

    I know they understand that it is hard, that obviously is evident with all the draft miscues.

    But it is kind of like how people explain how hard it is in baseball, where if you fail 70% of the time, you are good.

    Well, according to my research, when you are winning and stuck with a back of first round pick, you are good if you fail 85% of the time, very. The success rate was abysmally low from picks 21-30, the ones that winning teams get.

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  10. This fact leaves you with two methods of rebuilding. You either design your team to lose for the most part, and badly, while rebuilding, for a long time, in order to pick up high probability draft picks (top 5 ideally, but top 10 would suffice, as the Giants have shown). When you have a top 5 pick, the average was around 40% in finding a good player, roughly 4 times better odds. Do that long enough, you can rebuild both offense and defense via the draft. That is what the Rays have accomplished.

    The other route is the way the Giants have done it.

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  11. Now, have there been mistakes? Yes, Sabean has made a number of mistakes with free agents, but overall, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that if you need an tool and the best tool on the sales stand is old and bruised, you either don't buy it and acknowledge defeat or you buy it and hope for the best.

    Also, now that it has been made crystal clear that Sabean was not the one who did the Zito and Rowand signings, the point has not been brought up that for the past four seasons, he has been hampered by $30M of salary that he did not do, reducing his actual payroll control to $60-70M during that period, about that of a mid-range franchise.

    And people complain that he has not built up an offense while putting together the best pitching staff around. You don't create the best pitching staff around from homegrown parts for the most part (and discoveries like Casilla and Vogelsong) without neglecting other parts of your team, in this case, offense.

    My challenge to these people, that I've said for years now, is to find me a team that has rebuilt itself top to bottom from homegrown players. If it is such a big failure on the part of Sabean to not build the two together, then there should be a lot of examples of teams that have done that.

    There is none: I know because I've gone through the histories of teams, unlike most people, and I see how teams get re-built, particularly recent teams.

    People don't stop to think, they build their fantasy teams and think they can do better. They don't realize how hard it actually is to find talent in the draft and the international free agent market, so in their ignorance, they attack Sabean like he don't know talent.

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  12. I understand all the complaints about Sabean and see their points, but nobody has ever reconciled for me the fact that Sabean has never traded away a bonafide star player.

    He has kept the prospects worth keeping over his tenure. Even Liriano, the poster child for the complainers, he has been a nightmare for the Twins to manage, how can you win consistently when your best ace pitcher is either injured or non-productive every other season?

    However, he kept and held onto all the players that Giants fans wanted traded for hitting, Cain, Lincecum, Sanchez, Bumgarner. He held onto Sandoval, Posey, and Schierholtz. He gave Nate multiple chances and continues to hold onto him, while jettisoning players like Bowker and Linden. Maybe he knows something about what talent is and what isn't.

    Put that way, whose opinion should you trust, the people who would have traded any one of them away or the guy who knew what he had and kept them?

    Hey, even the ideal replacement GM for a lot of anti-Sabeans, Billy Beane, can't say that, you think he wouldn't have loved to have had Ethier and A-Gon the past few years? What did he get for Hudson, how did that trade go? And he let go of a lot of players who went on to have great seasons, but kept Eric Chavez long-term, think that contract didn't hamstring him? That was probably as bad as the Zito contract in terms of taking up so much payroll.

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  13. The problem with rebuilding in baseball is that you cannot plan for that. It is not like farming where you plan these seeds and you know you will get corn or wheat or an apple tree. It is more like drilling for oil, where most of the holes drilled are dry caps.

    In football, you can find players who can be starters for you next season in almost every round of the draft, if you draft well and with some luck.

    In baseball, you are lucky if your first round draft pick becomes a starter for you within 2-3 seasons. Nobody has a high batting average in picking in the draft. It is more like having a variety seed pack that you throw out into your backyard: you get a lot of weeds but the occasional great flower will come up.

    I think the way the Giants have done it is the best way. Pitching is the most flexible resource among players. If you get an ace pitcher and you already have one, great, you now have two ace pitchers in your rotation. If your great pitching prospect fails, sometimes they become great relievers. There are 12 positions on the team that any pitcher could potentially fill, particularly if he is good.

    But if you find two great 1B, wow, now you have to trade one of them, hope you kept the better one plus hope that you got something good in return from the other team. If you ask for a young unproven player, you risk that maybe he hasn't figured it out yet. If you ask for more of a sure thing vet, you have less years of control over him, less years of goodness on your team. If you ask for a proven young player, well, because you have two 1B, probably the one you are hoping to trade is unproven, so you accept a lesser proven young player in return, resulting in lowering your team's talent level.

    And that goes for any other position player.

    Pitching is a surer way of rebuilding your team quickly, they can fill more spots on the roster and mistakes can become a very valuable reliever, while position mistakes usually don't even make a good bench player, and even there, how valuable is that?

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  14. Another thing that many Giants fans don't understand is that once you start winning, you end up with horrible draft position. As I noted, the odds drop to roughly 25% of the odds of finding a good player with a top pick, when you are stuck with a 21-30 pick overall. Once you are there, it becomes very hard to find a player, teams historically found a good player roughly 10% of the time with their picks there. It is probably higher in recent years because better talent is falling, but not drastically in my opinion.

    The ideal methodology to rebuild is exemplified by what the Braves did under GM Cox in the 80's: he trashed the team. Gut-retchingly bad for 6 seasons, he finally found the player he could build around in Chipper and soon crafted a winning team together. If you look at their picks once they started winning, they aren't that impressive, for the most part, though remember, a winner on average will come across a winner even with a pick that far back, and with picks even further back, those should happen because it is much like a numbers racket, eventually your number will come up, just based on chance.

    But SF fans don't condone losing for very long, so the Giants had to reload quickly, which they did.

    Another thing Giants fans don't realize: rebuilds normally take years, so complaining about the team during the rebuilding years, as this article does, is like berating your child for not knowing how to run and do multiplication, even though he is only 1 year old and can barely walk, if at all.

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  15. Now, we can ignore all the above, and I still wonder why people are complaining.

    Just look at the big picture.

    We have one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, should continue to do so for the foreseeable future and have ownership in Neukom who has the money to finance keeping them at least until they are 30 YO. We have a great middle of lineup in Belt, Posey, Sandoval (probably my preferred order right now), plus potential in Brown and Panik up top. We still have a number of good position prospects in Joseph, Peguero, Susac, Hector Sanchez, plus other interesting prospects like Dominguez, RafRod, Chuckie Jones, Parker, Kieschnick.

    How is that a bad picture?

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  16. And now we come back again to the offense.

    I agree it is bad. But people aren't thinking. Did they really think that an offense that was average last season would not stink after losing our best hitter Posey, our clean-up hitter, for goodness sakes!

    On top of that, we lost Burrell and Torres as well. Huff, I call even with Sandoval returning to his prior goodness. Still, you take an average offense, remove Posey, Burrell, and Torres from it, did you really expect 1) that the team's offense would recover from that and 2) that the Giants would trade away the future just to replace them? Especially, as I painted above, the future looks bright.

    How unrealistic is either of those?

    I think the Giants did the best that they could under the circumstances. Heck, they went for the brass ring by trading away Wheeler, a great prospect, for Beltran, who probably won't be here longer than the couple of months we got him for. I like that the Giants went for the jugular by trading for Beltran, it is just unfortunate that it didn't work.

    And as bad as the offense has been, a major reason we fell so far behind is that the pitching didn't deliver their prior goodness in games, they have been giving up a lot more runs relatively the past month plus. Of course, Beltran being out for that long didn't help either.

    So if you want to complain about the offense, great, but it wasn't Sabean's fault that the loss of Posey dominoed across the lineup, nor that Torres suddenly was not properly medicated for ADHD again, nor that Burrell's foot suddenly went bad.

    Or are people really suggesting that it would be better to get a starting CF last off-season? What would have happened if Torres was OK? Burrell was OK?

    Or are people really saying we should have had a starting C in our back pocket, just in case?

    People really need to start thinking beyond what makes sense at the basic level, which I understand: the offense stinks. And move beyond that to all the decisions that would need to be made once you made your decision.

    That's when their arguments fall apart, moving beyond all the huffing and puffing and demonizing about the bad offense, and seeing what would have happened in the scenario if things went the way they say it should have went instead. What different thing could Sabean have really done?

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  17. That's when we get to the bottom of things, they don't care for anything that Sabean has done, they just want to get rid of him because he annoys them and they will find reasons to complain.

    Again, big picture: very bright future for Giants, all because of what Sabean put together, and now we know in spite of Magowan deciding to spend all that money on Zito and Rowand.

    People need to reconcile their image of Sabean with the reality. Just like I did, I was on the Nayer side once.

    If he didn't know what a good offense is, then why is our lineup looking so good as well as young, very soon? (just not soon enough for them, but they don't know history of rebuilding).

    If he didn't know talent, he should have been robbed blind over the years in trades, and multiple times.

    People complain about the players we got, but at a lot of those points, we needed some help, he got it at minimal cost, and though a lot of them didn't work, the plain fact is that he kept the prospects worth keeping, he was never robbed blind, though he has gotten a lot of useful major leaguers over the years for prospects who never amounted to much or who were not as good.

    This, to me, really seems like a disfunctional relationship, and normally they would just break up, but that would mean not following the Giants, and I wouldn't want that to happen, but I don't want Sabean to leave either, he's got the team in a good place.

    Not a perfect place, but a very good place.

    That is why I fight for him, he has done well for the Giants, and the moment I think he's not doing well for the Giants, then I'll turn my pitchfork on him too, I did before, I'll do it again.

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