Friday, September 21, 2012

Your 2012 Giants are 87-63: Clinching the Padres?

With the magic number down to 3, the Giants look pretty good to clinch the NL West Division Title during this series.  Lots of combos will lead to the Giants clinch, only a few lead to no clinch, as I commented on the Colorado series.  However, it won't be easy as the 'Dres have been as tough a team to beat over the past three months.

They have compiled a 16 games over .500 record since June 20th and 29th, their two low points in terms of games under .500, though I suppose I should go with their 24-46 record on June 20th as their low point in terms of winning percentage:  .343 or a 56 win rate over  a 162 game season (56-106).   Since that date, they have gone 48-32 (roughly half a season) for a .595 winning percentage, or a 97 win rate (97-65).  So they have been playing very well for a long time and if the Giants did not make their big push, they probably would still be in contention for the division title.  With that great play, they are only 2.5 games behind the D-backs for third place in the NL West and 5 games behind LA (though with 12 games left, it would be hard for them to catch up with LA).

Not sure how useful examining the Dres pitchers, as the Giants have not really faced them before.  Neither Kelly nor Werner has ever faced the Giants.  And they still havn't named their third starter.  But since they have been playing better, I thought I would cover them anyway

Game 1:  Kelly vs. Vogelsong
Casey Kelly: Kelly, the 22-year-old rookie, bounced back from two rough starts with a gem against the Rockies the last time out, allowing three unearned runs (none earned) in seven innings. He struck out six and showed a much firmer curveball than before. 
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong's slide from mid-August continued in his last outing, allowing six earned runs on five hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings against the D-backs. He led the National League with a 2.27 ERA as of Aug. 13, but has a 10.31 ERA since then.
As I noted in the other post, I wonder if Vogie is buckling under the pressure, as the Giants are the first time he's been in this situation in his career, first last August and now this season. He needs to settle down and get it going, but the more I think about it, I think that Vogelsong could be the guy who is left off the playoff roster this time because Zito has a lot of experience pitching in the playoffs, he has done very well in his career, he's been money there, which is probably another reason why the Giants thought he would handle the big contract well enough.  Given his bad stretch, I don't see any purpose in covering how he has done vs. SD before.

Kelly is a well known prospect, formerly of the Red Sox (I had drafted him in my keeper league).   He has not done well in four starts, 5.85 ERA, but that's more bad luck with hits and homers, as he has a 7.7 K/9 and a K/BB ratio of 4.25, which is great.  But 5 HRs in 20.0 IP with 26 hits is a lot, and just because the average MLB pitcher would regress to the .300 BABIP mean, as well as HR/FB to 10%, it does not mean that the prospect's talent level is enough to eventually regress to the mean.  Still, 4.25 K/BB is darn good.

RHBs has hit him hard, .379 BABIP, while his stat line for LHB is also bad, but driven more by the XBH, the homers, as the BABIP is .313.  His road ERA is 7.94, but that just one start and in Colorado.

And most of the damage were done in the Colorado game and the following game vs. Arizona.  His other two starts are DOM starts, 5 PQS in his first start against the Braves in SD, 4 PQS in his last start against Colorado in SD.   So I would bet that he will probably have a pretty good game, his overall numbers are inflated by his starts in the middle, I'll bet Coors probably got into his head a little in the second DIS start.

Given how poorly Vogie has done and well Kelly has done, I would have to lean towards the Dres for this game, even though it is in SF.   Vogie's issues, as I noted in my other post, appears related to his inability (I'll admit, my guess on this) to handle the pressure of the pennant chase.  Still, it is not like he didn't have any DOM starts in his bad streak, he has had some, so he could blast through and give us a good start here.  But after so many games, he needs to show it, especially after three straight poor starts.

Game 2:  Werner vs. Bumgarner
Andrew Werner: Werner got a no-decision his last time out against the Rockies, allowing five earned runs in five innings. He allowed two home runs. This was the first time in his first five Major League starts that he allowed more than two earned runs.
Madison Bumgarner: Bumgarner handed out a career-high five walks in his last outing and said his mechanics were the worst he's had this season, but still held the Rockies to one run in six innings. He picked up his 15th win, the most for a Giants lefty since 2000.
Bumgarner is tied for the most wins on the Giants staff.  He has a 3.27 ERA against SD in SF, 5 total starts. However, while he may have done well against the Dres both at home and on the road, there are a good number of hitters with his number.  Denorfia has a .370/.393/.556/.948 batting line in 28 PA.  Headley has a .333/.400/.571/.971 in 25 PA.  Guzman has a .421/.421/.684/1.105 in 19 PA.  Maybin .235/.278/.529/.807 in 18 PA (HR and triple).  Plus Quentin 2 for 5 and Grandal 1 for 3, both with doubles.  So beware of a tough game for our wunderkind, while expecting that he continues to keep his ERA down against SD.

Werner has a .3.68 ERA in 5 starts, 8.6 K/9, 3.11 K/BB, looking good.  He's a LHP who dominates LHB, .152/.282/.242/.524, while also controlling RHB to an extent, .253/.291/.480/.771.  His BABIP is really low (.253) so there is the large probability of a regression to the mean, which happened in his last start.  He has a 3.86 ERA in 4 starts at home, 3.00 ERA in one start on the road (LA).  He had 3 straight 5 PQS DOM starts in starts 2, 3, 4.  Given how good his control and strikeouts have been since, I view his first start to be a hiccup due to the adrenaline of his first major league start leading to over throwing and wildness, as he walked 4 while striking out only 2.  Since then he has basically struck out at a 9 K/9 rate with few walks.

This should be a great well-pitched game.  Even his bad start in his last start was still not that far from a good start, it was a 2 PQS, but one more inning and it would be a 3, two more with no hits, a 4.  The 2 homers costed him a lot, clearly.  Give the lean to Bumgarner due to home and his experience factor, but it should be a close, well-pitched game on both sides, hard to call.

Game 3: ? vs. Lincecum
?: ?.
Tim Lincecum: Lincecum blanked the Rockies for 6 1/3 innings in his last outing, allowing five hits while striking out six. He lowered his overall ERA to 4.91, the first time it has been below 5.00 this season, and he improved his second-half ERA to 3.06.
Big Time Jimmy Tim has been doing it for the second half of 2012, the leader in ERA in the second half.  He has a 2.41 ERA against SD in SF (11 starts), and also dominated them in SD as well.  But some hitters have hit him well.  Headley has a .281/.351/.563/.914 in 37 PA with 2 HR.  Guzman .455/.538/.818/1.357 with 1 HR in 14 PA.  Quentin 3 for 7 with double and HR.   So it looks good for Lincecum to have a good start against SD, but there is a potential for problems in the middle of the lineup.   But, of course, these numbers are probably boosted by a SD start in the first half of this season, when Lincecum was not effective, I would bet that he's going to have a good game here.

Hard to say when I don't know who is starting for the 'Dres, but since Timmy seems to be pretty much back, I would expect a well pitched game on his part and thus given the home advantage, lean to the Giants in this start, no matter who starts for the Friars.

It appears that the expected starter should be Stults, so perhaps I'm jumping the gun.  I won't go into him deeply since I could be wrong, but he got a 2.69 ERA and has a 2.21 K/BB so he has been good, but with a 4.7 K/9, not really that dominating.  He's been lucky with the BABIP at .264, though his career is at .286, so he does appear to have some ability to control BABIP, at least so far.  He has a 4.70 ERA in 3 starts and 2 relief against the Giants in SF, but most of that was years ago, most of the Giants lineup was not with the team back then.  In his relief appearance this season, he had 2.0 shutout IP with 3 hits, no walks, no K's against the Giants.

ogc Thoughts

The team is rounding into playoff shape, least of which is winning all these games since Melky was suspended (they are 23-10 since he was suspended).  The Giants have 10 of 13 games with runs allowed 3 runs or under, so the starting pitchers are rounding into shape for the playoffs.  The bullpen has been used extensively to help bring in the victories.  And the offense is going great, now that Panda is contributing, with Pagan, Scutaro, Posey all hitting well, Pence hitting well with RISP, plus Belt and Crawford contributing well for their spots in the lineup.  Blanco and Arias has also been contributing, though inconsistently.

I was originally wondering if the Giants might clinch in front of Arizona, but not sure they could do it before going on the road.  Now it looks nigh impossible that they WON'T clinch before the D-backs series.  Funny how things can change in one amazing series.  With that sweep, they pushed their home record winning percentage above their road, as they had been losing at home while winning on the road for much of the second half.  They are ending with a flourish, 8 games above .500 for the month so far, best of the season if they can maintain that (they were 17-11 in June, 18-11 in August, 13-5 so far in September).  They appear to be coming together and peaking just in time for the playoffs.

Their 87-63 record, 24 games above .500 have been built on beating the teams they are suppose to beat, but really clobbering them.  They end the season 14-4 against D-Rox (+10), 8-1 against Astros (+7), and are currently 8-4 against the 'Dres (+4).  That represents 21 of the 24 games.  Against the rest of the majors, the Giants have been 57-54.  So it is going to be tough in the playoffs, especially since the Nats and Reds have clinched playoff spots and the Giants are 1-5 and 3-4, respectively, against them.  And 4-3 against the Braves and 3-3 against the Cards, the two current wild card qualifiers.  The Brewers (4-2) are 2.5 games back, LA (9-6) are 3.0 games back, and Phillies (4-2) are 4.0 games back. Of course, some of that was probably related to Lincecum not being as good as he's been in the second half, so there's that as well.

Given those records, it seems like the Giants would prefer to face the Reds instead of the Nats in the first round of the playoffs, but most commentators have been touting the Nats because the Giants have flyball pitchers and those types of pitchers typically don't do well in Cincinnati's home park, particularly Cain and Zito, the probable starters in games 4 and 5 in Cincinnati.

One thing these commenters don't note is that both Cain and Zito's flyball rates are elevated because they induce a large percentage of infield pop flies that are usually easy outs.  So it is a misnomer to label them flyball pitchers, particularly in Cain's case since he does not give up many homers.

And both have had success in Cincy.  Cain has a 3.44 ERA in Great American Park, 2.0 K/BB, 6.4 K/9.  In five starts there, he has PQS of 3, 2, 4, 4, 4 (last 3 were in 2009, 2010, 2012).  Zito has not had as good a history, with a 6.10 ERA career there, but he had a 5 PQS start there this season.  PQS in his 6 starts:  3, 0, 5, 2, 3, 5.  So it is not automatic that he will do poorly there, but he's not been good there overall either.  But if you take out the years he was searching for himself (his first two Giants seasons), he has a 4.37 ERA in his last 4 starts, and a 50% DOM.  Given that, I think the Giants would have a good chance with Zito starting in Cincy, assuming we get in and end up facing the Reds (which is the current playoff configuration).

Still, if the fourth game finds the Giants down 1-2 in the series, I would expect Zito to be skipped (or rather, Bochy would only name the first 3 starters and wait until we get to the 4th game to name that starter) and that whoever got the ball in the first game (best guess is Cain) will get the call again in game 4.


  1. Giants win 5-1 behind Vogelsong's nice 6.0 IP, 5 PQS DOM start, and the bullpen kept the 'Dres run-less the rest of the way, striking out 4 in 3.0 IP.

    The offense was good again, as Panda homers AGAIN - 4th in 3 games - driving in 2 runs, plus 3 for 3 and a walk. Pagan got 2 hits again (double and triple, 15th extending his record), Scutaro a hit and 2 walks (plus 2 runs and 1 RBI), Posey singles in a run, Crawford had 2 hits and an RBI. Pence was the only guy in the lineup to not get a hit, looking wild striking out 3 times in 4 AB.

    Crawford interviewed about what changes has enabled him to do better in the second half. He said that he's swinging the same, only he's learning what the situation is and how he should react to it.

    Vogelsong only gave up 1 run/ER, dropping his ERA to a still very good 3.58.

    Kelly wasn't as good, reverting to his form in his second and third games, and not his first or fourth games, which were good. He walked 4 and gave up 7 hits in just 4.1 IP.

    Magic number is 2 as LA beat the Reds. Plus Arizona won, and the Nats lost to Milwaukee, keeping alive the Giants chances of grabbing the first playoff slot, though that is unlikely as they are 3 games behind the Nata and 2.5 games behind the Reds, with only 11 games left to play.

    In fact, this is a double-edged sword, for if they pass up the Reds but the Nats hold onto the top spot, they would get to be the home team, but in this season's first playoff series, the first two games at played at the road team's home park first, then three at the home team, which was the bad format that costed the Giants in the 1997 playoffs.

    In any case, once the Giants clinch, I expect Bochy to take it easy with the lineup and pitchers, taking out the starters in the 5th or 6th, letting the non-core relievers take most of the bullpen IP, but play the core relievers every couple of games. The regular lineup would play same as usual, but there will be more substitutions mid-game letting the other players get some playing time.

    1. Also, who says the Giants don't have any power hitters? Panda, Posey, Pence are a pretty good trio of power hitters. And if Belt can get going, that would be a fourth.

  2. Pence since coming to SF:

    227/373/672; 4 HR in 185 ABs. I'm glad he's a Giant, but calling him a "power hitter" at this point is a bit of a stretch.

    1. If you are going to hold his poor stats in small sampling against him, yeah, I would agree. That would be like saying Randy Winn was Bonds incarnate in his brief hot first couple of months with us. Pence is a power hitter, Winn, not so much.

      Plus, Pence has been a power hitter when it counted, in RISP: .288/.333/.591/.924, 303 ISO, 3 HR in 66 AB. Also small samples, but much closer to his career numbers than his overall SF stat line.

  3. Agreed re: SSS. But consider that Pence's power numbers were largely manufactured in two band boxes (Citizens Bank and Minute Maid). I'd be interested in seeing his home/away splits when with the Philth and AAAstros. Nonetheless, I'm glad he's a Giant and he does seem to be pretty clutch. I wonder how much of a legit "power hitter" he is though. I think Belt projects to more power than Pence and will be the #5 guy next year with Pence moving down to the six hole.

    1. Not really:

      Home: .288/.345/.477/.822, 189 ISO, 27.3 AB/HR, 35.2% XBH

      Road: .284/.334/.472/.806, 188 ISO, 24.0 AB/HR, 35.4% XBH

      His power is about the same, home or road, that is one thing that I liked about him. He is also good, left or right, as well, though a little further apart, he's better against LHP. And those power numbers are legit, home or road.

      However, I agree that Belt projects to more power than Pence eventually, but I don't see that happening at the start of 2013, and I can't see putting such a good hitter 6th, but if the lineup works out that well, swell.

    2. What I was against Pence when he was being brought up in trade talks last year was that I didn't think he was a core hitter on a team and trading Wheeler, I would want a core type of bat.

      But Pence is a good hitter overall, and a valuable addition to our lineup in particular, because we just need good hitters, in general. For him, I think the package we sent was fair for both sides. Though if we sign him long-term, I think we come up ahead.



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