Monday, August 27, 2012

Your 2012 Giants are 71-57: Houston and Chicago Got Problems

I'm not going to go in-depth on the next two series because both teams have got a lot of problems winning games (Houston is 6-24 in their last 30 games - and 4-16 at home - Chicago 9-21 in last 30 games- though 11-9 at home in their last 20 games there).  Basically, the Giants ideally need to go 4-2 in the six games, because they will be headed into tough series against NL West teams for the rest of the season.

NL West Gauntlet

That Giants NL West gaunlet starts with a home stretch against Arizona and LA, then Colorado and Arizona on the road.  Then there is a relative pause with series against Colorado and SD at home, followed by Arizona at home, SD on the road (remember, they have been tougher lately) and ending with LA on the road.  I expect the lead to change hands multiple times, leading to a series for all the NL West Divisional marbles between LA and SF, barring any amazing comeback by the D-backs.  So the more distance the Giants can get in the next week, the less likely there will be frequent lead changes.

LA, meanwhile, after some 2-3 weeks of NL West action, head into a stretch of playing a bunch of non-NL West opponents:  St. Louis at home, then Nationals and Reds on the road.  These are three teams fighting for their playoff lives too, so that will be a tough 10 game stretch there in less than 3 weeks.   They will be very lucky to get out of that stretch 5-5, needing to break even with St. Louis at home then winning one of the road series against Nats or Reds.  None of that is easy and it should be a dog fight that could tire out their bullpen and team spirit.

The Giants need to hold onto their lead at least to then, at which point LA will have to run a gaunlet of tough teams while the Giants get to face Colorado and SD.  And it is not like LA has it easy during the next few weeks either, as they face Arizona 5 times, Colorado 3 times in Colorado, and SF 3 times in SF. 

For the most part, LA really has it tough to the end of the season, as after those tough non-NL West opponents, they get 3 in SD (remember, SD has been playing well the past two months and thus should be tough at home), before closing with 3 against Colorado and 3 against SF at home.  Only Colorado in LA looks to be an easy series for the D-gers.

Arizona is pretty far away right now, at 7.0 games back, but could still make a run at it because they have 9 games left with the Giants.  However, 6 of those games are in SF, so they will have to win series twice on enemy territory just to make up 2 of those games.  They ideally need to sweep at least one of those series, if not two, to bring them even with the Giants.  So their road to the division title is also fraught with difficulties and challenges, and basically they really need to win series against the Giants to have any real hope of winning the division title.

With 34 games left for the Giants, all they have to do is go .500 and Arizona then needs to go 24-10 in order to beat them out.  They have not done that in any month yet (best was 16-10 in June; the rest were at or below .500), so basically they need to gel over the next 34 games and sprint to the finish, playing above what they had done previously.  And if the Giants hold serve in their home series, Arizona needs to win even more games.  The odds do not favor Arizona at the moment, particulary if the Giants can pick up some wins against the Astros and Cubs (AZ gets to face the Reds at home and LA in LA). 

Not as onerous for LA, but they need to be 19-15 themselves if the Giants simply splits the games left.  They did that in April and May, plus is doing it so far in August (13-10), so that is certainly within their capabilities, particularly with the addition of A-Gon despite the loss of Billingsley.  In addition, they are above .500 with all three tough non-NL West teams:  Cincinnati 2-1, St.. Louis 4-3, Washington 3-0. 

So right now things are too close to call, though clearly LA has the tougher road to travel than the Giants.  Still, how many times have we seen in MLB history that a team squanders their lead and schedule advantage as players fail to perform to expectations?  Too many to count.  And long-term Giants fans have seen collapses that lend each of us a butterfly-ish stomach.

Giants Are In Good Position for Stretch Run

Still, I feel pretty good about our chances.  Most importantly, we lead and our starting pitchers are mostly on target.  Lincecum is the only one that has not been performing to our established standards, but Bochy has been pulling him early before the damage gets too bad.  Hopefully that can keep him being effective enough for us to win his starts.  Meanwhile, both Cain and Bumgarner are their usual gamer selves, and Vogelsong hopefully is over his two-game hiccup and returning to gamer shape.  Zito is Zito, but that's plenty good out of the back of the rotation.

The bullpen has been pretty good as a group since the ASB, compiling a sterling 3.39 ERA over that period and only Hensley has a K/BB ratio that isn't good, basically.  Maybe Sabean can pull off a deal to get another RH reliever, but I'm satisfied with what we got.  Some are unhappy about not having a closer, but the way Bochy has used them fits perfectly with what he did before, except shifted to 8/9, so I'm OK with that, though I wouldn't mind picking up a closer type in the next few days.

The lineup looks pretty good too.  Since the Melk gone sour, the Giants have played half their games at home and road games in SD and LA, yet they still averaged 4.7 runs per game during that period.  Of course, it helped greatly that Pagan was white hot and supported by good hitting by Scutaro and sufficient hitting by Sandoval and Posey.  Still, much of the lineup was contributing - while not white hot, they were all producing, even Blanco, Belt, and Crawford, except for Pence.

Pence and Pablo:  Please Produce

Pence still isn't hitting great but the seeds are there:  over the past 12 games, Pence has hit .302/.373/.372/.745, which while not great for a middle order bat, at least he's now moving along the line, as Bochy likes to say, and the guys behind him - Arias, Blanco, Belt - has been doing some nice hitting themselves.  And that roughly has been since Melky was suspended, so at least he's stepping up some.

Most of the lineup are not performing out of their head during that period, except for Arias and Pagan, but most has been performing to expectations, roughly, so as long as they all can continue performing to their abilities, with a couple of them being hot, the offense can be consistently good enough to win a lot of games with this pitching.  Posey and Pagan has kept the team aloft on their shoulders post-ASG, and we need Pence to start delivering more often.  He appears ready and if he can deliver, it would be a perfect time to starting contributing.  Hopefully being in Houston will help get him going as well.

Likewise, Pablo needs to step up as well.  He's probably still suffering a bit from his hamstring, but he really needs to step up in terms of offensive production, maybe even more so than Pence because Pablo is batting behind the leadoff guys and ahead of Posey.  He has actually hit OK since, just suffering a two game lull initially, then 0-for-8 in his last two games, but in between he hit .303/.342/.394/.736, which was good enough to keep the offensive machine greased and running.  He needs to keep up his OBP and kick his ISO up to his usual production, and that would help greatly towards winning while Lincecum struggles to find consistency.  Maybe if Pence starts hitting, Pablo will start getting more hittable pitches hitting in front of Posey and Pence.

Go Giants!

22 comments:

  1. Nice post, OGC. I'd take issue with a few things, though:
    1. I wouldn't see a 4-2 road trip as "ideal." Ideally, we'd go 6-0. 4-2 would be "acceptable," but far from "ideal."
    2. I don't "expect the lead to change hands multiple times." I'd expect the Giants to lead most or all of the way. If the lead does change hands and we are overtaken by the doyers, I wouldn't expect that we'd take the division back. It might change once or twice, but not "multiple times." Then again, you might be right.
    3. Arizona is done; we can forget about them. This is evidenced by the fact that they didn't block any of the players the doyers just acquired. Simply put, they've thrown in the towel or AGon would still be in Boston.
    4. Interesting factoid on the doyer's record vs. the Nats, Reds, and Cards. I'd point out that their record vs. the Nats and Reds is a home record, and they'll be back east for the next meetings.
    5. Expecting all of the hitters to perform to expectations with a few getting hot is pretty unrealistic. Any team that does that over a season is likely to win 100+ games. More realistically, we can expect a couple of guys to get hot, a couple to go cold, and the rest to perform to expectations. I do agree that Pence is due to get hot. I also think Pagan is due to go cold, so we'll see.

    Bottom line: this team will go as far as the pitching staff takes it. We essentially need Cain, Bum, and Vogs to be nails almost every time out, and for Timmy and Zeets to step up every other game, giving us 4 QS out of 5 for the rest of the year. And, the bullpen (with Mota and without Hensley) to not implode. This is doable. With the doyers schedule toughening up and ours getting easier, we should remain in first for the rest of the year unless the pitching craps the bed.

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    1. Thanks for the clarifications Jewy!

      1. OK, 6-0 is ideal, but is it realistic to hope for that? How about this compromise? Ideally we win at least 4 of the 6, if not more, on this trip. We cannot come out of the trip .500, as much as that is nice normally, that's not acceptable now.

      2. I see your point. I'm referencing the back and forth our teams have danced this summer. Two game lead is easy to catch up with. Though to your point, what I was envisioning in the back and forth is not just lead change but that one team would tie the other would count as a lead change.

      3. Potato, Po-ta-to. I'm just conscious of the fact that teams have come back from that far back to win the division (like the Giants in 2010). It is hubris to think otherwise. But to your point, 9 out of 10 times, AZ is done.

      4. I believe I did note that they are road games for both teams, but to your point, yes, their good record against them was compiled at home and that is indeed good to point out.

      5. I was imprecise in what I said, so thanks for providing the details. There were some cold hitters (I thought I mentioned that) but not extremely cold. I guess my point is that the hot counters any cold, and yes, if any team did do that over a full season, they would win 100+ games, but I'm talking in the context of the 34 games remaining, which is possible and doable.

      I guess my point is that the hitters need to continue to do well because the pitching has not been as rock solid as it had been previously.

      Yes, I agree with that bottom line, thanks. But as we saw in 2010, the pitching did crap in the bed in August before going stellar in September. And while not as bad in 2012, there has been some slippage this August as well, with Vogie, Zito, and Lincecum. We need them to step up and be what they normally are as a group. And I think the hitters have to step up a bit, just in case of any slippage into September.

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  2. Wow, who would have thunk? The D-gers are now 1-3 A.G. and except for his homer in his first game, A-Gon has hit pretty poorly for them so far, despite two games in Colorado. That with the Giants pulling it out of a magic act (did you see the play by Pablo and Crawford in the first inning? Now you see it, now you catch it) in the 9th inning, preventing Cain from losing the decision and winning the game, the Giants now lead by 3.5 games over LA (their highest lead so far) and 8.5 games over AZ, who lost their game against the Reds, who now owns the best record in the NL and majors.

    Amazing that LA is scuffling like this, if you look at their hitting over the past 7 days, Victorino is heating up, A-Gon was OK, and they had 3-4-5 guys with 1.000+ OPS. Just shows how, no matter how many hitters you add to a lineup, if you don't have the pitching, you will have a tough time winning games.

    And now, after losing Billingsley to a season ending injury the other day, Kemp runs into a wall and injures himself, he's now day-to-day but probably out at least the last game of the Colorado series and the first game of the important series against AZ (4 game series in LA). Plus, Beckett had a horrible first start for LA, which should hurt his ego some, though his next start will be in pitcher's park Dodger Stadium (but still against tough AZ).

    I see that people are worried about the bullpen, particularly in regards to the playoffs, because there is no closer. To that, I feel compelled to point out a couple of things.

    First off, we have been operating like this for over a month now, and the wheels have not fallen off. Affedlt, Lopez and Romo has done a fine job for us as co-closers since basically the ASG. I would say that they are doing as fine a job handling the 8/9 as they were when they were crushing the 7/8.

    Second off, Casilla has been slowly healing mind and blister and has returned to his prior goodness in performance, and according to Bochy, has graduated to co-closer status, though he hasn't gotten the call yet.

    Don't know if you recall, but the last two times Bochy said that we had a closer-by-committee situation (when Wilson went down late 2011 and early 2012), Casilla pretty much got all the calls until he was the closer by default. I think that shows how much the Giants think of him and his ability to close.

    Should they go with the committee in the playoffs, I have no problem with it. Just because a team hasn't done it before doesn't mean that Bochy can't do it. As we have been privileged to see the past few years, he's a master at bullpen management and usage.

    But given prior precedence, I have to think that the Giants will at some point christen Casilla the closer once more. Given his blister issues, plus the current smooth performance by the closer-by-committee, as long as there are no major bumps (or loss of divisional lead), I think the Giants will continue this as long as it is working, both cause it is working and cause then Casilla won't blister up again. But once the playoffs begin, or maybe with a week to go in the season, Bochy will name Casilla back to his closer role again, saying that Santiago is fully healed and ready to take the job back for the playoffs, with everyone returning to their prior roles.

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  3. Been behind on reporting on EPIC occurrences, here is another: http://www.csnbayarea.com/baseball-san-francisco-giants/giants-talk/Baggs-Instant-Replay-Giants-15-Cardinals?blockID=753919&feedID=2796

    That was mere prelude to some serious stat padding in the final four innings. Marco Scutaro hit a two-run double in the eighth and a grand slam in the ninth to complete a seven-RBI game – the most by a Giant since Jeff Kent knocked in seven runs May 1, 2001, at Pittsburgh.

    According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Giants achieved their largest margin of victory in a shutout at St. Louis. It bested an 11-0 victory on June 27, 1894. That’s when the Cardinals were called the St. Louis Browns, and Adolphus Busch’s fledgling brewery was just getting started.

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  4. AFL rosters announced: http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/8/29/3277637/afl-rosters-announced

    Full roster: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/afl/club.jsp?team_id=544

    Joe Panik is there again, and Gary Brown too.

    Rickey Oropesa is there as well, did not expect that, as he did not do that great in San Jose, .748 OPS where average OPS is .770 OPS (offensive league). He was young for the league, 22 YO season, where average age of hitters is 22.6 and pitchers is 23.2, so that explains part of that. Perhaps the Giants want to see how he does here before deciding on where he will end in in 2013, AA or back in Advanced A in San Jose.

    Nothing on who we will be sending to pitch there. Maybe we'll see Hembree there because he missed parts of the season and might need the work (or maybe they want to rest him). Josh Osich might also fall under this category too, missing parts of this season as well.

    Chris Heston and Mike Kickham are probably better bets to get a spot here. Maybe Jose Valez or one of the above for the third spot (usually get to send 3 and 3). I think Brett Bochy probably would have gotten a spot had he not been shut down.

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  5. Bochy really not messing these days, Zito gone after 53 pitches. I like it.

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  6. Oh, and OGC, it looks like your theory on Kirk Gibson holds some water, the D-bags are almost completely finished. I have to think he is part of the bash Justin Upton along with Kevin Towers. Good call on the rah rah only going so far.

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  7. I still find it interesting that the 'Bags didn't block any of the doyer-red $ox claims. Very strange.

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    1. I was thinking about that too. I think the D-backs are more mad about Melky helping the Giants than their hate for the D-gers.

      More surprising is that neither the Yankees or Rays made a claim on A-Gon, or even Baltimore.

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    2. The D'Backs were probably afraid the BoSox would just let the players go in which case, the D'Backs would be on the hook for the remainder of their contracts which the D'Backs absolutely cannot afford.

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    3. ....but I don't think the 'Sox would have just let AGone go, so the D'Backs could have blocked him.

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    4. That's exactly the point. I just don't get why they wouldn't block him.

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    5. My motto is if you don't understand why something happened, follow the money. Arizona operates on a tight budget. They most likely did not want to risk even a small chance the Boston might just let AGone go, because AZ simply can't afford him.

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    6. That's the beauty of it, DrB, they probably can trade off A-Gon at some point over the next season, because playing in AZ would boost his batting line, and they would get a lot of prospects for him, all just for paying his partial salary in 2012 and, say, half of 2013.

      Still, I would think that the AL teams would have blocked it first, starting with Baltimore.

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    7. Eh, I just don't think Arizona was interested in playing those kinds of games. People thought they could keep flipping houses forever in 2008 too. What if AGone comes over and immediately tears up his knee or breaks a wrist? Then they are stuck with him for awhile. Too much of a gamble with too much money that the D'Backs don't have.

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    8. That's right, didn't think of that risk. Relatively small risk, but still, a risk nonetheless. And particularly since AZ is probably on a short leash in terms of payroll and the like after nearly going bankrupt almost 10 years ago with their profligate spending.

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  8. Wow, how sweep it is! Not only that, but coming back from a 4-run deficit after 3 innings. The lineup has stayed hot, collectively, and been the reason we have a 18-10 August, which is the best month of the season, no matter what happens today in Chicago (though with them coming into Chicago after 3AM, they will be dead physically today probably). They picked up the starting pitching, which is having its worse month since August 2010 (which I'll discuss in my August PQS post soon).

    OK Jewy, how's that for ideal? :^D They are now 4.5 games ahead of LA (who is still in the hunt for a wild card slot) and 9.5 games ahead of AZ (also still in hunt, but chances starting to get bleak for them; hopefully they can bring LA down with them, they beat them yesterday in LA and got three more this weekend).

    Barring total disaster in Chicago, the Giants should get out of Chicago with a winning road trip. And the Cubs are so woeful, but they actually have an above .500 record at home, 33-32, so they should not be that big a pushover.

    As I learned with the Houston series, these posts can be illuminating: for example, the first two starters actually had been very good pitchers at home this season, and thus we should have expected tough games to score runs in.

    Volstad has been horrible, whether home or road, but he finally won a start in his last game, so maybe he's figuring things out finally. But it was not a DOM start, so that is random that he did well. However, he has had 6 DOM starts in 14 starts, 43% DOM and only 14% DIS, so he's actually been a good (not very good) starter this season, just suffering from a lot of bad luck overall.

    Germano has been better at home, 4.23 vs. 6.92 on the road. So he could be a tougher battle than Volstad. Six starts, 2 DOM, 2 DIS, 33% DOM, 33% DIS. So he could be easier to hit than Volstad.

    Wood has been worse at home 5.02 ERA, but has been plagued by bad luck. He has a 47% DOM and 16% DIS, which should have translated to better ERA than his overall numbers. So hard to say which way this game could go for the offense, they could get dominated but end up scoring a lot of runs.

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  9. News on call-ups (heard on KNBR, reported by Baggs):

    Huff, Loux, Penny activated from DL to join team tomorrow.

    Also, contracts for Jean Machi and Xavier Nady purchased from Fresno. And Brett Pill recalled from Fresno as well.

    We need two spots on 40 man to bring up the two. If Franchez is moved to 60-day DL list, that would free up one spot. They will probably have to DFA someone to free up the other spot. My guess would be Hector Correa, who has done nothing this season, and is just returning from an injury, so he could be it.

    It was also noted that Nady probably starts tomorrow.

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  10. After today's game, I think we're far from "ideal" OGC. Just awful awfulness from Bum, and a hacktastic approach. Panda is in a HUGE slump and Herky is still struggling. As we discussed on another thread, you have to figure for every Buster and Oxy, you're going to get a Panda and a Shark. Disappointing game from the Giraffe as well after his four hit game last night. But mostly, what the HECK is up with the pitching???

    Cumulative stats for the SP over the last six games:
    Avg IP = 5
    WHIP = 1.62
    ERA = 5.81
    K/BB = 2.08
    HR/IP = .161
    team record 3-3

    But for Cain's effort in the first Houston game, it was a pile of suck. Not good heading into September. I'm shocked we split those six games with that crap effort from the starters.

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    Replies
    1. Well, you clearly changed the subject here. We were talking about the idealness of how many games the Giants needed to win on this trip. 5-1 was pretty damn good.

      To your point, our team is not ideal. However, no team is ever "ideal", that's just never going to happen, ever.

      About the pitching, it appears to be going through a dead arm type of period again in August, much like they did in 2010. The key, obviously, is for them to come out of that and return to normal.

      As my PQS post will show, the starters are starting to come together. Cain has returned to his normal goodness, Vogie too. Bumgarner just had that one hiccup (sabermetrically; the first one was due to bad luck), his first since his first start of the season, and as we can all agree, nobody's perfect. Even Lincecum is having good starts. And Zito appears to be running out of gas, but putting up a good fight every other start or so.

      6 games, as most people can tell you is small samples.

      And to discuss what a hitter does in the game right after a good one? About as small a sample you can get unless you want to go to his next AB.

      Panda is in a huge slump, yes, for a long while but Pence and Posey have been holding the fort in the middle. It is rare to get all your top hitters doing well. Not sure who Henky is. As I also will discuss in the PQS blog, the Giants averaged 5.5 runs scored in August, the offense is fine right now, maybe the best it has been in a long time.

      Of course, that was dependent on a number of hitters hitting out of their heads, but when there is only a month left, some hitters are able to continue that for another month, and some hitters get hot. I'll worry about the offense when things start to peter down, you just need to ride the wave.

      Delete
  11. Well, It wasn't pretty, but I'll take 5-1 for the road trip. Looks like the G's have found their LF solution too!

    Biggest homestand I can remember in a long time coming up.

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    Replies
    1. Yep, tis true, probably not since 2010. And while not pretty, as much of the media has pointed out, the Giants came back in a number of games and that is something good to see them do, since they weren't doing it much for most of the season. And Yesterday's game was probably the topper, as you noted on your blog, this could be the game people point to as to when the fans could start to believe that we can go all the way.

      Delete

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