D-gers Road Series
Game 1: Kershaw vs. Bumgarner
Clayton Kershaw: Kershaw is on a four-start win streak after beating the Pirates, even though he did let a lead slip away and has allowed home runs in his last two starts. He shut out the Giants the last time he faced them and is 7-3 with a 1.32 ERA lifetime vs. SF.
Madison Bumgarner: Bumgarner dominated the Nationals in his last outing, holding them to one run on five hits in his second career complete game. He lowered his NL-best home ERA to 1.87, but he still holds a 4.06 ERA away from AT&T Park this season.The teams' two wunderkind LHP face off in a battle for the ages for fans of both teams, most likely the first of many confrontations they will have over the years. Kershaw is a great pitcher and Bumgarner fast proving to be one as well. Should be a great game, but tough to win.
Clayton has pitched extremely well against the Giants in his career, amazingly, better in SF than LA but still great in LA: 2.09 ERA, 7 starts, 47.1 IP (nearly 7 IP per), only 31 hits and 12 walks (0.91 WHIP), 56 K (10.6 K/9 and 4.7 K/BB). Wow, no Giants hitter hits him well: Posey .491 OPS, Sandoval .599 (best among most PA), Theriot .445, Belt .528, Pence .111 (yes, that's OPS, with 5 K's in 18 AB), Pagan .500, Blanco .286/.375/.286/.661 (best but in 8 PA; probably all earlier this season when he was white-hot). Would also note Scutaro's 2 for 4, .500/.500/.500/1.000 and Bumgarner's 1 for 2, .500/.500/.500/1.000 also.
Madison has pitched very well in LA too overall: 2.79 ERA, 4 games, 3 starts, 19.1 IP, with 21 hits and 4 BB, vs. 9 K's for only 4.2 K/9 but 2.25 K/BB. His one bad start, however, was his last one there, last season, 4 IP, 9 hits for 4 R/ER, only 1 K (but no walks), late in the season, on Sept 22nd. His other two starts were OK. Kemp kills him (.300/.438/.385/.822) with walks, while Rivera just kills him (.429/.429/.857/1.286). Unfortunately, they added Victorino who has hit .333/.400/.444/.844 (10 PA/9 AB), but otherwise, he has pretty much controlled the D-ger's hitters pretty well, including Ethier (.200 OPS in 10 AB) and Hanley (.347 OPS in 9/8) and Loney (.573 OPS in 11/10). He has also done well against Ellis (the MI) but in 6 AB.
As my research on PQS and top pitchers like these two, the game will depend on which one wants it more today, because when you got two great pitchers going at it, odds are that you will have two very well pitched games, and the game will probably swing on whichever pitcher faltered when men are on base and/or giving up the long-ball. It is pretty much a coin flip. Still, Kershaw has shut down the Giants before, whereas Bumgarner do have hitters who have done well against him before, so you have to lean towards Kershaw and thus LA, both for prior performance, recent performance, and home field advantage.
But I would note also that Kershaw has never faced a white-hot Buster before and probably not an increasingly hot Hunter either. That could even things up for the Giants and Bumgarner. Again, should be a great game either way.
Game 2: Blanton vs. Lincecum
Joe Blanton: Blanton allowed three homers and was lifted in the fifth inning of his most recent start in Pittsburgh, then for good measure was ejected for arguing. He's still winless with the Dodgers since his acquisition from the Phillies at the Trade Deadline.
Tim Lincecum: Linecum snapped a streak of three-straight quality starts by allowing four earned runs in four innings against the Nationals on Aug. 15. He allowed a two-run single in the first inning, and has allowed 23 runs in the opening frame in his 25 starts.Wow, talk about a bad first impression: 3 starts, 15.1 IP, 8.22 ERA pretty much says it all, though that is probably BABIP bad luck with 18 hits but still, 7 walks is very high too. His K/9 of 7.0 is in line with his recent stats, though. Obviously, he has never faced the Giants in LA. He has not done well against the Giants in his career, 4.75 ERA in 9 starts, with 66 hits and 11 walks in 53.0 IP, only 32 K's. However, I should note that he has done well in LA in his career, 3.24 ERA but obviously all except against LA lineups before. In his one start for LA at home this season, he gave up only 2 runs in 6.0 IP against Cubs (3.00 ERA).
Hitters who have done well include: Pagan 1.444 OPS (18 PA/AB), Posey 1.083 (12 PA/AB), Pence 1.208 (9/8). Not as good: Theriot .408; Sandoval .429; Blanco .167/.167/.500/.677 (due to one triple). Scutaro was OK: .260/.333/.375/.708 in 9/8.
I'll repeat again: I was very happy that LA picked up Blanton and not, say, Dempster. Thank goodness he avoided them like the plague, turning down the request for a trade, and he ended up elsewhere (with Texas I believe). Blanton, to put it plainly, is not that great a pitcher. And there's nothing wrong with that, he's a very useful and valuable pitcher because he can eat up a lot of innings and still keep his team in contention most games. But in a playoff environment where the team almost got a top-line starter in Dempster, I'm very happy LA got Blanton instead. He's actually been pretty good in August, but so far he has pretty much stunk for them, and hopefully will continue to do so.
Lincecum has been up and down all season and he ended his nice streak since the All-Star break with his poor start last week. Hard to use his career numbers, given how poorly he has done this season, but I note for completeness. For his career, he has done worse in LAD: 3.81 ERA in 9 games, 8 starts, 49.2 IP with 48 hits and 27 walks, and "only" 47 K for a 8.5 K/9 and 1.74 K/BB. I note only because his K/9 at most parks are easily over 9.0, so this sticks out. For parks with at least 4 starts, only Cards and Nats parks have lower K/9. He appears to have come up "small" previously in LA, so his implosion this season is not without precedence, as I've noted before, there have been circumstances where Timmy did not excel, showing that nerves could affect him and lower his performance, only this season, it has been pervasive until the All-Star break.
Hitters who have done well include: Ethier (.948 OPS in 43 PA), Rivera (.915 OPS in 18 PA), Kennedy (.788 in 22 PA). He has done pretty well against all the rest of the hitters, though Hanley is .222/.222/.556/.778 due to his HR in 9 AB. But given Tim's poor 2012 season overall, hard to say exactly what we will get out of him, though he has had one start in LA in 2012: 5.0 IP with 8 K's and 2 BB, which are good, but 8 hits and 4 R/ER for 7.20 ERA, which is bad.
That is pretty much in line with his 2012, where there are flashes of goodness,. Which shows that he still has the stuff to shut down teams, but where before he performed unconsciously to his peak performance, he now starts thinking once runners are on and his performance suffers accordingly. He appears to have corrected the boat greatly over the All-Star break, but his last start, of course, put the question marks out there again. I would note that even when he was going great, he would have games where he just loses it, so that last game could just be one of those to remind us that he is human.
Still, he will need to prove this in this start. I believe that Tim is past his early difficulties, but given that facing LA has caused him to have poorer starts there than at other parks previously, one has to wonder about this start. If he can give us a good start, that would be a pretty good sign that he is over his earlier problems this season, but if he has another hiccup, one has to wonder whether he will be able to turn things around again. Still, with Blanton against him, I would have to lean towards the Giants in this matchup.
Game 3: Capuano vs. Cain
Chris Capuano: Capuano pitched a winning game in Atlanta that the bullpen let get away. He's traditionally tailed off in the second half but has posted three straight quality starts and is seeking win No. 12 for the first time since 2005.
Matt Cain: The Giants are 13-2 when they score three or more runs behind Cain. He's personally 11-0 in those games. Cain's 3.63 road ERA exceeds his 2.24 figure at home, partly because he has allowed 11 road homers compared with seven at AT&T Park.Capuano was not even listed as the probable pitcher yesterday. Not sure why, he's been doing well this season for LA, with a 3.14 ERA, though perhaps that hesitancy is related to his 4.41 ERA over the past 28 days (5 starts, but nice peripherals with 8.5 K/9 and 3.44 K/BB, and only 33 hits in 32.2 IP, so it appears that this is related more to bad bullpen support than anything). But that is related more to his bad streak mid-season, with 3.62 ERA in June and 5.14 ERA in July. He has a 2.01 ERA in 3 starts in August. And this season, a 2.17 ERA at home vs. 4.10 ERA on the road, which is more typical of his career numbers. D-ger Stadium is an extreme pitcher's park, what can we say?
He has not faced the Giants this season yet. He has a career 5.00 ERA in 10 games, 6 starts, 45.0 IP and only 5.8 K/9 and 1.81 K/BB. Amazingly, he has a worse ERA in SF than against SF at his homes during his career (5.32 ERA in SF, 4.64 ERA at home), despite pitching in a hitter's park for most of his career. Only Pence has a lot of PA (and only 12) , then Theriot (8) and both have not hit well against him. Most have had one start against Capuano, with Posey (1.250 OPS; 1 HR) and Sandoval (1.750 OPS; 3 fo 4 with double) and Scutaro (2 for 5 plus walk; .900 OPS) having good numbers. And Theriot appears to have had some bad luck, as he only struck out once in those 8 AB, yet only had one hit (double). So whoever on the Giants hit him well before are not around anymore.
I had been meaning to post this earlier about Cain but his last two starts are very significant in that they were the first time since the Perfecto where he was able to put two DOM starts (PQS score of 4 or 5) in a row. And he didn't just squeak by, he earned 5 PQS in his last two starts. Prior to that, he had 2 DOM starts in 9 starts since the perfect game. And prior to the perfect game, he was racking up DOM starts like he had not before in his career, with 11 DOM out of 12 starts (92% DOM, where over 70% is elite). The good thing is that despite his poorer outings since, he still does not have a single DIS start, which are the ones that really kick up your ERA. Still, 4 DOM in 11 starts is only a 36% DOM, so he has not been particularly good for a long while, until hopefully with his last two starts.
Cain has done well in D-ger Stadium in his career: 3.23 ERA in 9 starts, 53.0 IP, with 54 hits and 22 walks, striking out 42 (7.1 K/9 and 1.91 K/BB). Well, but it has been up and down during this career, they thumped him good in 2006, but he shut them down in 2008, he was OK in 2009, but they hit him in 2010, before he did well again in 2011.
Ethier and Loney kills Cainer (1.060 OPS and .951 respectively, in 56 and 49 PA). However, he has kept Kemp to a .244/.262/.439/.701 batting line in 42 PA and Hanley to a .250/.344/.429/.772 in 32 PA. Also, Victorino .470 OPS; Kennedy .205 OPS; Ellis .516 OPS in 14 PA, A.J. Ellis .667 in 3 PA.
Hard to call this one since Capuano has done very well in LA this season, but Cainer appears to be back into fine form and when he is on and wants a game, he is hard to beat. On top of that, after years of futility in trying to beat the D-gers, he is 3-1, 2.78 ERA against them in 7 starts since 2010, which is when his numbers started to ascend even higher to elite status in PQS. Have to lean towards Cain here, despite Capuano's great season in LA so far and they having home advantage.
We all know it was going to be a tough series and then we lost Melky in a horrible, implosive type of manner (really, faking a website to "prove" your mistake was not your mistake?). The team seemed to recover in SD, after understandably not showing much life in the last Nats game due to receiving the gut-punch news one hour before game time, winning two of three, though showing no life against Clayton Richards in the series finale, which, looking at his career stats, he just got their number in SD (under 2 ERA for his career), it seems, so perhaps it could have been expected.
And given the information above on the series, the Giants look like they have a chance of winning this series, but it is on a fine edge that could just as easily end up a D-gers series win. But the Giants need a win to not only get ahead of LA again, but not to end up 1.5 or 3.5 games behind in the standings, as there is a 2 game swing in the standings with each game played. A series loss is really not acceptable right now, the Giants players need to man up this series and win at least 2 games, or better, return the favor to the D-gers by sweeping them on the road, just as they did to us almost a month ago.
Did Mattingly Blink Again?
Bochy has shown up Mattingly before in managerial acumen, has Don screwed up again? The Giants had been killing LHP previously, but obviously Melky was a key part of that. Still, we picked up Pence, who loves to hit lefties too, so it would be my guess that maybe the D-gers held off on naming Capuano as the starter and might have been thinking of swapping a RHP into the rotation before settling on Capuano, who has a poor history against the Giants but great current history in LA., as the Giants are just .500 against RHP this season. Else, why would there even be a question who is starting on the Sunday just before the series?
I think they made a tactical mistake if they were able to swap in a RHP in place of Capuano. In fact, RHP Harang would have been next in the rotation, so they could have swapped their position in the starting rotation with minimal effect other than short rest for Harang. Because Harang has done very well for his prior teams in their home parks against the Giants: he's actually been pretty good against the Giants overall (like a 3.22 ERA), but average at AT&T (4.11 ERA), meaning great at his home parks (somewhere in the low-to-mid 2's). And his ERA has been virtually the same, whether 4 days rest or 5, so hopefully their starting Capuano becomes a tactical mistake here costing them two games in the standings (again, each loss in this series costs that team 2 games in the standings).
Not that Bochy actually did anything to show up Mattingly, in this case, right now, since Bochy didn't adjust the rotation (though perhaps could have looked ahead to this series?). But this could prove to be a crucial goof on Mattingly's part given prior performances for Capuano and Harang previously. Hopefully the Giants can cash in on this difference. In any case, we still have five good hitters vs. LHP this season in the lineup presumably, based on how Bochy has been setting up the lineups: Posey, Arias, Belt, Sandoval, Pagan. Plus, while we are missing Cabrera, we have Pence in his place, and he has done great vs. LHP his whole career. And I guess that is where Bochy kicks in his tactics, he's been platooning Crawford and Arias at SS, instead of just starting one or the other, plus starting Belt at 1B against LHP as well as RHP.
Melky Not Critical to Offense Nor Not Replaced
Looking at our last 28 days, Melky was not even a huge part of our offense. Posey, Belt, Pagan, Arias, Scuataro were providing good batting lines, Posey in particular with a .380/.485/.696/1.181 batting line with 6 HR in 79 AB (99 PA as he has 18 BB vs. 15 K), a very Barry Bonds-like performance. Also, suddenly Arias has been totally hot, after being totally cold since, like, May. Plus, Crawford is hitting .406/.457/.563/1.020 in the last two weeks (and Arias even better, .458/.481/.708/1.190).
And the outfield has been replacing his hitting, so far. For starters, Banco had two 2-hit games in his first two starts A.M. (after Melky), though Christian isn't taking advantage of his opportunity again and not hitting again, in fact, the radio announcers noted how he was flailing wildly at pitches. On top of that, Pence is starting to find his bat (which he noted in a recent interview), with a great .471/.500/.647/1.147 in the past 7 days (5 starts), and perhaps it ignited once the Melky hit the fan.
Meanwhile, Melky in the last 28 days hit .286/.333/.429/.762. And that's exactly what Sandoval has been hitting since he returned to the lineup, as basically we had Melky but no Sandoval, then Sandoval but no Melky, offensively, except for that one game where both played. So our offense, which has been relatively high powered since the All-Star break, didn't lose an important cog with the loss of Melky, he was simply replaced by Sandoval, just as Sandoval's presence was replaced by Pence when Pablo went on the DL.
Sabean's move to get Pence when he did now proves to be a brilliant move in the light of the Melky-gate, even prescient, whether he knew about the potential suspension. Aand even if Melky's agent's didn't inform the Giants, the rumor was already out there and I still don't see how it could not have been the final straw that pushed the Giants to make the trade. In any case, the trade enabled the Giants offense to continue unhindered despite first the loss of Pablo, then Melky. Scenario Planning certainly would have helped in this case in making the decision to trade, the move just made too much sense, no matter the circumstances.
Pence Pouncing UPon Poor Pitches Presently
Hunter Pence I wanted to cover a little here, as I noted some stats on his RISP hitting on another comment site (can't recall, probably DrB's though). His overall numbers have been horrible with the Giants, just .222/.263/.361/.624, but I'm actually OK with that as I discovered that his poor hitting is only while the bases are empty or just a runner on first.
With RISP, he has hit .333/.321/.667/.988, which has resulted in 15 RBI for the Giants in 18 games so far. His addition has made up for missing personnel (Sandoval then Melky) as well as poorer performances by the pitchers in August. And, his bat is starting to heat up, starting with the second game of the Colorado series, since then he has hit in 6 of 8 games, 10 for 29 for .345/.400/.586/.986 batting line, still striking out a ton, but starting to pile up the hits instead of the outs.
Also, his poor 2012 season so far appears to be mostly because of very poor hitting against LHP (only .174/.192/.217/.410 vs. .287/.344/.501/.845 career) though he is down vs. RHP so far too (only .245/.296/.429/.725 vs. .289/.339/.471/.811 career). And mostly because of his horrendous slump starting July 1st and lasting to only recently for the Giants. Prior to that, he was above his career numbers, with an overall .286/.351/.498/.850 batting line as of June 30th (his career numbers are .288/.340/.478/.818). If he can get hot for the rest of the season, like he did for the Phillies in 2011, the Giants will not miss Melky's contributions at all.
Mr Brown Can Play LF, Can You?
Recent reports is that Gary Brown, our future starting CF, suddenly was playing LF in recent games. Sabean has already been public with his opinion that Brown will not be brought up now to start in LF, but did not reverse prior Giants management talk about perhaps bringing up Brown with the September call-ups. I have to think that this is a sign that the Giants will bring up Brown once AA season is over (and Richmond is not in line for playoffs, I don't believe), at minimum, and if Christian continues to struggle with the bat, Brown will get those LHP starting opportunities in September. And if Blanco should falter as well, maybe become the starter. Once we are in the pennant race, Bochy has an all hands on deck attitude.
Also, I don't know if the loop hole still exists, but the rules allowed teams previously to substitute in a player who was not brought up before September 1st onto their playoff roster if the team had a player on the 60-day DL (not sure of exact circumstances, but it involves this). That is how K-Rod was able to come in and save the 2002 World Series for the Angels even though he wasn't called up before September 1st. If that hole still exists, with Franchez out for the season (seemingly), he could get put on the 60-day DL finally which should theoretically allow the Giants to put Brown on the playoff roster. Or the Giants could simply bring up Brown before September 1st, but I don't really see that happening, I still expect the team to pick up a veteran bat for the bench before August ends, via a waiver wire trade.
After a nice start to his Giants career, he went ice cold, hitting .198/.245/.257/.503 from May 8th to June 7th. I thought he actually has been cold since then, but I have to correct my statements here and elsewhere. After that cold stretch, he, while not great, was adequate as a utility MI, getting hot and cold, up and down, hitting .323/.371/.419/.791 from June 8th to July 4th, before cooling off again hitting .224/.255/.286/.541 from July 5th to August 3rd. But since then, he has been super hot, for the past two weeks or so, .467/.485/.667/1.152, which has made it hard for Bochy to sit him for Crawford against LHP.
Bochy is often good riding the hot hand when they are going good, so expect to see Arias starting for a while before Crawford gets the full-time gig again. The good thing is that if Arias bat is hot, Bochy can sub in Arias for Sandoval at 3B, which ups the defense but normally drops the offense greatly. If Arias can continue hitting good enough, the drop in offense, while severe, would at least not be a black hole, as I had been thinking before, while upping the defense plus taking out Pablo to rest his hammy, which still isn't 100%, it appears to have reached stasis at 90% since returning to the team.
In Appreciation of Bruce Bochy
Dave Flemming noted in his post game wrap over the weekend about how he likes that Bochy adjusts his managerial style as the season progresses. For most of the season, it is all about getting through the long season, but then something switches and he's managing to get the win. He noted that he saw the change in 2010 and contrasted it with Ron Washington's simple "We won playing this way, so we're playing this way all the way."
I also came away with a greater appreciation of Bochy's managerial style in 2010 as well. I always felt that he lacked the killer's instinct, but I guess that was because we were never in a dog fight until 2010, really. In 2010, he started managing without caring about what the player (including vets) might feel about the situation. He would take out starting pitchers sooner, relief pitchers sooner, take out players from the starting lineup, all to win that particular game, culminating with his startling (but correct) move to to not place Zito on the playoff rosters. And, of course, once I discovered his statistically valid skill in winning 1-run games (I think at the 95 percentile), I was even more impressed.
Flemming's comment, the way he described it, got me thinking of an analogy that I thought I would throw out. I compare Bochy's handling of the Giants to a jockey in a race track (and I'm chuckling at the mental image of Bochy in a jockey's clothes with his big head riding a poor horse). For most of the race, the jockey lets the horse run as well as he can. He will prod to pick up the pace, but basically most of the race involves keeping pace with the pack, while not falling too far behind the leader either. Then, at the home stretch, you change tactics and start prodding your horse to get to the finish line first.
Bochy manages much like that. He makes sure that everyone is used regularly and in important situations, from the start. He prods as necessary, but mostly if the team is close, he doesn't tighten the reins much. The goal is to keep everyone fresh for the dog days of August and September, when the pressure goes up a lot. But then once those days come, at key points of games, he will change tactics, like he did this weekend, pulling Zito and Vogelsong out early, even though they weren't doing badly (just not good either), to get that extra PH, to use the bullpen more, instead of stretching out the IP of the starter.
His managerial expertise gives me great hope that we will pull this out and get into the playoffs this season. Well, that and our great pitching and now with our pretty good hitting as well, led by Buster.