Monday, August 13, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Key Series Vs. Nats

This is a key series, not just because the Nats are the best team in the majors right now, not just because they swept us in DC, not just because we might end up facing them in the playoffs and thus need to show we can take them on, but also because the Dodgers are facing a tough stretch, playing the Pirates and Braves on the road for seven games, both good teams and tough series to win, and thus we want to put more distance between us and them, and that starts with us winning the series against the Nats plus then needing to beat the Padres in SD, which is harder since they have been hot lately.

Especially since after these two series, the Giants face the Dodgers for 3 in LA right after that, and they will be wanting to beat us and retake the NL West division lead.  Put enough games between us, and they will have a harder time doing that, but with a slim 1 game lead, that disappears with a Dodger's series win, 2-1.  Luckily, the Giants will be the rested team in LA, a short trip from SD the day before, while LA will be flying the red-eye from Atlanta to LA after their series, so that hopefully will help us out with beating LA in LA, as the Giants will be more like the home team than road team, in terms of rest.

This is also key because the Giants new offense will be on display with Pablo Sandoval's return to the lineup, and up against the Nats three best starters, Gonzalez, Zimmerman, and Strasburg, while the Giants throw out Vogelsong, Bumgarner, Lincecum.  Seems like Bochy has scheduled the rotation just right for this series, Vogie has been our best and most consistent starter this season, Bumgarner has been arguably one of our best starters, and Lincecum has returned, thus far, to his prior goodness, and been the best pitcher among himself, Cain, and Zito since the All-Star break.

ogc Lineup Thoughts With Pablo Returning

I had written the other day that I would reduce my respect for Bochy if he batted Pence 6th, but I'm coming to the realization that batting Pence 6th is more a result of our luxury of having so many good hitters to put in the lineup, than any deficiency in Bochy's thinking.  So I was wrong there, I believe now.

With the way Scutaro has been hitting for us in the 2-hole, particularly given his skills in making contact and avoiding strikeouts, and being able to extend the AB, it would be a shame to take him out of that spot.  On top of that, Cabrera has been great batting third for us, and Bochy don't like to move hitters having success in a certain spot in the lineup.  Yet, at the same time, Cabrera has batted in the 2-hole a lot in the past two years and been successful there as well.

So, Pagan/Scutaro/Cabrera/Posey/Pence/Sandoval or Pagan/Cabrera/Sandoval/Posey/Pence/Scutaro or Belt, that's a great problem to have.

Back to the Future Offense?

On top of this, Belt has been hitting very well in terms of both contact (that is, avoiding strikeouts) and putting up a nice batting line, so with Pablo returning to the lineup, it is possible that we are adding two middle of lineup bats in Belt and Pablo, to the trio of Cabrera, Posey, and Pence, which has the potential to set off the fireworks for our offense for the rest of the season, once Pablo gets his bat back to normal. 

And that should greatly appeal to the offense-minded fans that still make up a large percentage of Giants fans.   If all the hitters are doing what we think they are capable of, we could have an offense as good as or better than the great Giants offenses led by Bonds and Kent in the early 2000's, especially the ones with Burks.  I know that sounds like hyperbole, but think about how well the offense has been on the road, especially after we added Pence to the lineup (and he really hasn't started hitting yet, like he could), then adding a Kung Fu Panda bat plus a Belt finally arriving bat, and that would make our offense very high octane, I believe.

Of course, if Pablo needs a while to get his bat back or Belt loses his mojo again or Cabrera and/or Posey finally cools off too much or Pence never takes off, then the offense will be more reminiscent of recent poor offenses than of Bonds/Kent era offense, but if the bats are all producing like their potential, we at least can dream about it, which is something we probably haven't been able to do since 2002 ended on a down note. 

Naysayers Losing Grasp of Their Last Strands of Their Stance

I find this to be a very exciting time to be a Giants fan. It is also a time where the Sabean Naysayers last vestiage of semi-rational Sabean hatred should be falling away.

First they said that Sabean couldn't build a team, that he was lucky that Bonds made up for all his errors along the way. They held onto that for a long time, almost from when he became GM to 2009 when Lincecum and Cain started wowing everyone, and particularly after Bumgarner showed his mettle in 2010, and put the final nail into that idea with Vogelsong's emergence, as Sabean found cheap parts in Casilla, Lopez, Ramirez, Vogelsong, to fill in the pitching staff.  And this took them a while to see, even though it was clear that back in 2007, when the Giants said good-bye to Bonds, that the Giants future was all about pitching, pitching, and more pitching (which was my reply to a media reporter's question of what is next for the Giants after Bonds, as it was not so clear to that reporter). 

So thus they finally admit that Sabean can indeed build up a good pitching staff, and particularly a good pitching rotation, but still they think that he doesn't know how to build an offense.


And actually, even that has not really been that true for us observers who could see into the future based on the players the Giants had in their farm system.   It was already promising once Pablo was producing in the majors and Posey clearly was a major leaguer hitter, even in the minors, in 2009.  Then particularly in 2010, as Posey showed that he belonged among the elite hitters.  Also, the drafting of Brown gave us a nice potential leadoff guy and Belt's charge up the minor leagues to shock and awe the prospect hounds, gave us four guys now to envision as the core of our lineup going forward, as early as late in the 2010 season, with Posey and Belt hitting well, and the signing of Brown.  But I understand why the doubts continued, just wanted to point out that the future was already seeable early on to those without blinders on.

Today, the Giants control Posey, Sandoval, Pence, Belt into at least 2013, and Pence is amenable to a long term deal while the Giants said that both he and Cabrera can be fit into the budget in 2013 and beyond.   Brown is handling AA just fine now, after a long period of adjustment, and still look on target to join the Giants in the 2013-14 time period as our long awaited - since Brett Butler - lead-off CF who can hit, get on base, steal a lot of bases, and play great defense.  He also has the potential to hit for good power as well, which I find to be a great potential bonus. 

That's a very good number of hitters who are potentially under control for the long-term, even more so if the Giants are able to sign Cabrera to a long-term deal this off-season. 

Posey, Sandoval, Pence makes a great middle lineup by themselves.  If we can add Cabrera, he would be a great #2 hitter for us and #3 on the days Posey is out of the lineup, as everyone moves down.  If Belt finally figures out how to be consistently good in 2013 - and he might have just done that, albeit small samples for now - he would also be a middle lineup capable hitter who can hit 2nd or 6th equally well, and if he can do that, we could afford to make Cabrera our leadoff guy in 2013, until Brown is ready do take over the leadoff spot. 

On top of that, we have a number of prospects who potentially could add to this bounty of offense.  Panik is another hitter who looks good for top of the lineup, particularly #2, and he could play 2B or SS, as necessary.  In addition, Noonan is having a breakout year as his skills developed the way some of us hoped, recognizing that his age relative to the league has put him in a big disadvantage all these years.  He is also a middle infielder, and could slot nicely in the #2 spot as well, so that gives us a lot of risk mitigation regarding 2B long-term, plus SS too.

And we could move a lot of pieces around as well.  Posey could move to 1B, but I think that he could be doable in LF should the need comes, should Hector prove capable as a starting catcher.  Plus, there is Andrew Susac as well, as a potential starting C.   Pablo could also play 1B, but right now the only 3B who might come up is Duvall, who has a lot of power, but not a lot of other qualities, so he's a long-shot right now.  So Sandoval looks like our 3B for the foreseeable future.  That's the infield, pretty much set.

The outfield has moving pieces as well, but not as many, hence all the trades Sabean made.  Belt is known for his great defense at 1B but all the defensive metrics rated him just as good in LF in 2011, despite that being his first time in the pros playing there, so I think he would be fine in LF should the need ever arises.  Kieschnick had a nice season in AAA this year until his season-ending injury, and unfortunately, that has been his bugaboo in his career, the injury bug, much like Nate.  But with Pence potentially around long-term, we can wait and see how he turns out.  And, of course, Brown looks like he could provide at least average production in CF just from his defense there, with his offense being a potential plus, much like Crawford.  And if Pence and/or Cabrera can be signed long-term, our OF looks set as well. 

All in all, the Giants offense really is looking good, and hopefully soon, will take away the Naysayers last complaint about team building, though they will always have free agency signings as their flaw to point out.

But when he can build a team like this, I think that would just be picky. 

And the future still looks good.  Beyond all the lineup long-term, we have Cain and Bumgarner signed long-term, and I have to believe that Lincecum wouldn't want to leave what he got here.   Vogelsong looks like he can last a good number of years, and in any case, being a back of rotation guy, don't really have to produce so much to be valuable for us in the back.  And at some point when one of them is injured or non-productive, someone among Heston, Kickham, Crick, Blackburn, Stratton, Agosta should be ready to ascend to the major league rotation, if not someone out of the blue, as has happened before for the pitching.  And there is still Surkamp, assuming he recovers from his injury (though he has been injury prone for good parts of his career, that has slowed down his development). 

This is good times for the Giants and their fans.

10 comments:

  1. Ouch! 12-2 drubbing at the hands of the Nats, Vogelsong finally had an off-game, though have to blame the defensive errors for some of that.

    Still, good times, just not tonight...

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  2. Great time to be a Giants fan.

    When I look at some of the complaining fans of today and think back to teams from the 70's and what it was like to be a Giants fan then, well, I feel like that older kid in the AT&T U-Verse ad, "you don't know how good you have it!"

    Yes, the Giants have the horses in the minors to keep this going for a long time.

    Just have to keep an eye out for what the Dodgers are doing and hope they don't spend all that money smartly.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes, I have to agree, great time! For me, who came after the great 60's teams (started with 1971 team), I have to say that this is the best time ever for me as Giants fan.

      Even during the Will Clark and Barry Bonds eras, I never had the feeling that we could win it all any particular season. Sure, they were good teams for the most part, but even the 2003 team that lead from start to finish, I never had the feeling of dominance, I always felt that there was a big hole somewhere that would sink our ship. The main holes today are injury and non-performance.

      HA! Yeah, that commercial does capture it pretty well for us old-timers! And they really don't, there is nothing like the feeling that your team is mediocre and there is no hope of that changing in the future at that moment of time. That captured 1972-1986 pretty well, which is the period I grew up following Giants baseball.

      Yeah, there is the possibility that the Dodgers might spend their money wisely. But given that they over bid wildly to acquire the team, basically saving McCourt's financial be-hind, plus gave him part interest still in the real estate portion of the team, they seem to be more like King George, who thought that money can buy anything and that throwing money at things will win him titles.

      As the saying goes, even the squirrel sometimes finds the nut, but for now I'm not too worried about them. If they get the pitching to go with their hitting, then I'll worry, but that would require teams to allow good pitchers to go into free agency.

      Of course, Greinke might end up in free agency, Dempster too, so we will see how LA plays the free agency market this off-season. If we are lucky, they continue their land grab of former Giants and sign Dirty to a 5 year $100M contract. :^D

      I just don't see how the Angels are going to get outbid for Greinke though, even with LAD involved. LAD would have to pay stupid money to beat out the Angels, I think.

      Delete
  3. I hope the doyers spend big on FA starters...that's a tried and true method to wasting money (hello Jason Schmidt and Kevin Brown). Overlooked in all this is the year Capuano is having; it's not sustainable for him but let's hope that the doyers decide to extend him (he's under contract for $6MM next year) and waste a good chunk of that largesse.

    OGC: the saying goes "even a BLIND squirrel finds a nut once in a while."

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ah, I knew there was something missing but no time to search, thanks!

      So for our purposes, even a Ned Colletti finds a nut once in a while. :^)

      Yeah, hope they spend big on the WRONG free agent starters, but there are sometimes good ones out there, so I worry about that.

      Good one about Capuano. Though there is an option for 2014 as well. Harang too. As long as they are throwing their money around unwisely, that's the hope, eh?

      Delete
  4. Long term moves have been great. Cain, Maddy locked; Pablo and Timmy hedged; Cabrera, Pagan and now Pence trades. Hard to fill the MI, and they had to try to get Freddy Sanchez back first, but Crawford has been playing well, and MR. Belt as well. The vet scrappers of The Riot and now Scoots are nice pickups as well. Although flawed and maybe not front line players, Arias and Blanco have been nice part time cheap pickups. The pen needs a bit of work - I think the one thing people forget with Wilson is he was the undisputed king of everything - the antics, taking the ball in the ninth, in short, he was the man. Now saber types don't have much truck for the closer roll and the overpay on it, but I think there is a special trait to be able to do it, and natural hierarchy in the pen is a good thing. Players like defined rolls. It may come down to the 5MM man hisself, Affeldt.

    Best news has been post-all-star break Timmy showing up and owning it a bit. Hope that continues.

    46 games to go, dead tie right now, its gonna get real!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment. I totally agree.

      Especially about closers. Sabers are just too numbers dependent - and I say that as a saber capable person - to take into account the human factor. The best closers have always owned the 9th.

      That said, I like the idea I threw out there about moving the roles of the Affeldt/Romo/Lopez trioka from their 7/8th inning usual usage, to the 8/9th situation. As Romo has said before, what he does is closer-like, just not in the 9th. People with closer mentalities understand that and don't let the pressure of the 9th get to them. Because blowing the save in the 8th is still blowing the lead, most teams don't come back from that in the 9th, so it is basically as bad as blowing the lead in the 9th. But for some, that illusion helps them handle the 8th, while they can't handle the 9th.

      It's like what I like to point out from the Malcolm Gladwell article on the Art of Choking, there is a switch that flips for people, where they go from the "muscle memory" mode of movement to the "think out each step" mode of movement. Each person has their threshold of comfortableness that, once passed, pushes them away from muscle memory. Being the closer does that to people.

      Now some people just have the personality to own that, and guys like BWeez, Hrbrosky (can's spell his name, I know him better as the Mad Hungarian), Spaceman, Moonman, and Eck take to that role relatively easily. Others will struggle and some eventually come to a stasis where they are capable of handling it, which is the way I view Brad Lidge.

      So I'm OK that there is no "closer" singular, because this situation allows Bochy to mix and match as necessary to get the job done, which is all I care about. Sure, Romo and Affeldt probably could close out the game, but why not bring in the Loogy or Roogy to get that extra edge in closing out the game?

      Yes, best news is Timmy righting his ship, though Posey being white-hot has been pretty awesome too.

      But yeah, its gonna get real, this will be a battle to the end of the season, hopefully the Giants can pull it out. I think they have the guns, but they have to execute, and so far has been sputtering on and off.

      Delete
  5. My buddy ran some computer simulations on the giants lineup, and putting higher OBP guys early in the lineup would mean more runs, especially if Belt keeps a high OBP and low power numbers. Melky with a 390 plus obp should bat first and give the RBI guys a chance to have a guy to drive in. Belt should bat second unless he cools off. Posey needs a guaranteed AB in the first inning, and with a significantly higher OBP in front of him should bat third, Pablo 4th, Pence 5th, Scutaro 6th, Crawford 7th, and the speedy low obp Pagan 8th. Pagan if he gets on in the 8 hole, can steal second, and move to third on a sac bunt. He also does not walk a lot which could be good for a guy in the 8 hole and not in the leadoff spot. Anyway this lineup according to my stats buddy says that the giants would score .20 to .31 more runs per game.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks.

      I mostly agree, but obviously we don't know if Belt will continue this or not. Plus, his power numbers are not that low, just his HR numbers.

      Some view batting 3rd differently than the standard "Guaranteed AB in first" strategy. Statistics show that the 3rd hitter faces a lot of 2-out situations than the other key lineup spots. The Book recommends that the 5th best hitter should be the one batting third in the lineup.

      I've never seen the stats on that, but given that roughly 40-50% of the third hitters face a two-out, noone-on situation in the first inning, I am more persuaded by that theory than the "guaranteed AB" theory.

      Also, I like the idea that Cabrera getting on base is followed immediately by Posey, Panda, Pence. And now Belt.

      But I'm cool with moving Pagan down, but I would note that Pagan is actually above average for leadoff guys, average NL leadoff is .318 OBP, he's at .332. He's not ideal there, but adequate, and I like Scutaro batting 2nd, though I would be OK with Cabrera batting 2nd, because I've seen some theories that you want your better hitters to bat 2nd.

      I really like Posey batting clean-up, that and lead-off are, to me, the closest to the closer position, where there are expectations placed upon the player above that for other players. You need someone able to handle that, with a good mind, and Posey is the one I would trust there.

      And it's not that I'm not OK with Belt batting 2nd, I'm just conscious that he's been so up and down with his bat that I know such a move could be temporary.

      Delete
    2. But clearly, moving OBP higher in the lineup creates more runs. I don't know about 0.2 to 0.3 runs, but as I've noted before, just because you can shuffle people in a computer and spit out a number, does not mean that they will perform when they moved around like that.

      And the numbers they currently have aren't necessarily what they produce going forward. I mentioned Belt above, but Sandoval I would point out, should hit closer to his numbers in 2009 and 2011, whereas Posey right now is riding the high of his hot streak, a month ago, he was below what Sandoval has done in 2009 and 2011.

      And given Pence's speed (relative to Posey and Panda), I think he might be a better #3 hitter than either, I think I would want some speed ahead of Posey and Panda, to help reduce double plays. And that brings us back to having Cabrera batting third ahead of Posey.

      Computer simulations, while good for cranking out numbers, still falls short for situations like these I mention here.

      For my curiosity and edification, what computer simulation did your friend use (I love simulations) and what stats did he use to do his analysis?

      Delete

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