Monday, September 03, 2012

Your 2012 Giants Are Leading: Dumping the D-backs

The Giants have done a good job showing the majors that it was not Melky responsible for their good showing up to now, that it was their team.  Now they are facing their two closest rivals for the NL West Division Title this week, starting with the D-backs.

The Giants lead is so much that the only realistic way the D-backs can win the division now is to win (i.e. sweep), the remaining nine games they have left with the Giants, starting with these three in SF.  Gibson's luck last year (12 games over .500 in one-run games) regressed to the mean this season (10 games below .500 in 2012), so they have been swimming upstream for the most part and not succeeding.  Each Giants win means another nail in the coffin that is their division title hopes, and the Giants could really bury them by winning the series.
Game 1:  Corbin vs. Zito
Patrick Corbin: Corbin was cruising along in his last start as he held the Reds to two hits through 6 1/3 innings. Things unraveled for him in the seventh and the Reds scored three runs on a pair of homers en route to a 6-2 win. 
Barry Zito: Zito's 2 1/3-inning effort last Wednesday at Houston was his shortest start since a 1 2/3-inning outing at Arizona on April 16, 2011, when he sprained his right foot. Zito's 5-5 with a 4.14 ERA at AT&T Park this year.
Corbin has faced the Giants once before, throwing a 4 PQS start against them in AZ.  So nobody has done that well against him before.  He has done way better at home than on the road, but he's a rookie, so that's all small sampling, but still interesting to note his 3.38 ERA at home vs. 4.46 ERA on the road.  Lefties have killed him but he's a lefty so that's probably a fluke, since he's doing pretty well against RHP (.668 OPS).

The Giants have a pretty good record against LHP, but that was partly because of Melky's dominance.  Pence percolating bat could replace that production, plus maybe Bochy starts Arias (who has killed LHP) in place of Pablo (who has not, plus is in a huge slump; there has been talk that he's not in the shape he should be and in 2010, when that happened, it affected his hitting against LHP, for some reason).

Zito has done OK against AZ in AT&T, 4.33 ERA in 7 starts.  Guys with a lot of experience against him have done well, Young .741 OPS, Upton .887 OPS, Montero .795 OPS.  Also, Goldschmidt .733 and Kubel 1.833 in a couple of starts.  Hill and McDonald have not done much, Johnson and Nieves too.

This will be a tough game to win.  Zito has been lit for the month of August, and his recent interview implied that he blamed Posey's pitch selection (by blaming himself for not shaking off Posey more often....).  So if Posey is catching, not sure what's going to happen, Zito has come up small in situations like this before.  Might have a chance if Hector is catching.  But even if that, Corbin did do well against the Giants before and in AZ, shutting them down.  We will need our offense operating up and down the lineup to take this game.

Game 2:  Kennedy vs. Vogelsong
Ian Kennedy: Kennedy was masterful in his last start against the Dodgers as he tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings to outduel Clayton Kershaw. In two starts against the Giants this year, Kennedy is 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA. 
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong has pitched six innings or more in 23 of his 25 outings. The Giants are 17-8 when he starts. Only once has he allowed more than one home run in a game. With his next victory, he'll match the personal best he reached last year.
Ian Kennedy has been a Giants killer.  He and Kershaw together last season personally killed the Giants chances for the playoffs, beating Lincecum numerous times.  Whereas Kershaw stopped this season, Ian has continued, going 2-0 in his two starts against us this season.  However, the reason Kershaw stopped was because Vogelsong stopped him this season, multiple times, and he's facing Kennedy in this start.

1.94 ERA in 6 starts in AT&T means it will be a tough night for the Giants bats.  Posey, Theriot and Pagan have had some success against him before.  Pablo has been basically shut down.  Blanco and Pence have had a nice game against him before, Scutaro over two games.  He actually has done better against RH than LH in his career, even though he's a RHP.

Vogelsong has a 2.70 ERA against AZ at home, with a 7.8 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9.  So he's been a little lucky against them, walking that many batters while not striking out a whole lot.  Young has hit him well in a bunch of ABs, .933 OPS, but others have not:  Upton .633, Montero .650, Hill .571, McDonald .333, Goldschmidt .347, Kubel .500.  Parra has hit well in one start.

Looks like a tough game to win, but Vogelsong has mostly given us good results in the past two seasons against tough pitchers, he seems to rise to the occasion.

Game 3:  Cahill vs. Bumgarner
Trevor Cahill: Cahill has not won since July 30 when he beat the Dodgers. Since then, he is 0-2 with a 5.08 ERA. This year in two starts against the Giants, Cahill is 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA. He allowed four runs over six innings at AT&T Park earlier this year. X 
Madison Bumgarner:  The Cubs scored five runs off Bumgarner last Friday, his second straight start in which he has allowed at least four earned runs. He has a 2.15 ERA at AT&T Park compared to a 3.93 ERA on the road and has posted a 2.71 ERA in 10 second-half starts.
Cahill has a 3.75 ERA in AT&T in two starts.  Suffered a lot of bad luck as he struck out 11 in 12 IP and only walked 4 while giving up only 9 hits.  He shut down the Giants as an A's last season, but the  Giants beat on him this season as a D-back.  Boy, could be a slugfest, Scutaro, Blanco, Pagan, Sandoval, Posey, Pence, plus Belt whacked a triple.  Left-handers have hit him pretty well over his career, so Blanco, Sandoval, Belt, Crawford could have good games.

Madison had a bad last start, but his prior bad start was his first start of the season.  And given his demeanor, he's probably ready for bear and dying to take down the D-backs.  But Young, Upton, Bloomquist, Hill, Goldschmidt have hit him well in their careers, so it could be a slugfest this game on both sides.  But in one start in AT&T against them, 1 ER in 5 IP,  So hopefully he shuts them down, and logically, he should have a good game, he's been very good most of the season and just came off a bad start, giving him incentive to do well.

ogc Thoughts

Don't have much time, so I will just note that hopefully the Giants are not looking past the D-backs towards the D-gers in the next series, or they could get schooled this series.  The D-backs are still a dangerous team. But Bochy has been very good about keeping his team focused on the task at hand, usually.  It will be tough to win the series, but that is doable if Zito can have a good start.  Unfortunately, he has been lost again, his second half reputation has taken a beating in recent seasons, so it looks like it will be on Vogelsong's and Bumgarner's shoulders to win this series, which is tough because Kennedy and Cahill are good pitchers.

Go Giants!  Put the D-backs division title hopes further into the ground and pat the dirt!


  1. Wow, was not able to catch the early part of the game, so when I got the score in the 8th, I thought for sure that Zito blew it big, but Bochy pulled him when the bomb had not exploded yet, and Mota and Kontos both lit the fire.

    People talk about the offense and all that, but the bigger issue has been the pitching, as they have not been doing the job of keeping the other team from scoring. 4.3 runs scored per game in August, the pitching really let us down, and as I will soon show, that was on the starting pitching's head a lot in August (much like 2010).

    We need them to buckle down, and the bullpen too.

    Wow, the offense has been buzzing nicely. The media STILL does not get it, the Chronicle's headline blazes about how the Giants are winning without homers, as if that is the only way to win. You get a good bunch of hitters together and they are going to make nice music together, and when they are humming along, they pick each other up, and keep the pressure on the other team. Homers, schmo-mers.

    As BP's study showed, homers don't really matter in the playoffs in terms of whether a team goes deep in the playoffs. It just seems that way because the media always trumpet the series where a player takes over a series with a bunch of homers, like when Ross was our Boss. Or Gene Tenace for the A's long ago. It is pitching, like I have shown in my studies on PQS, like BP shown in their regression study, like THT in their study of the playoffs.

    1. Oh, so the Giants win, pushing D-backs to 11.5 games back. Unfortunately, SD could not hold onto their 2-run lead from Headley's 2-run homer, and lost in extra innings. Which, as a consolation prize, is not bad, if LA don't lose, at least they eat up their bullpen a little, they lasted into the 11th (though we got pushed to the 10th). So the Giants still lead by 4.5 games.

      Hard to name just one hero in this game, so many guys on offense and defense (fielding and bullpen) contributed (despite that 8 runs that AZ scored), it was truly a team win.

  2. Oh, I was quoting from my memory, but AZ was 11 games under .500 in one-run games so far this season and with this loss in the first game of the series, fell to 12 games under.

    Of course, regression does not mean that there is an exact mirror effect the following seasons, so with his +12 in wins last season, the regression rule only means that the team should be negative in future seasons so that the overall record is roughly at even wins and losses, not that the following season should have -12 in wins exactly.

    But hey, what do you know, Gibson is now exactly back to even in his career as manager.

    Meanwhile, Bochy, after compiling a +11 last season, has a +9 this season so far. And +80 for his managerial career, or .547 record (89 win rate over 162 games).

    1. Some guy, I think it was over on Fangraphs or maybe Hardball Times, got on me for talking about Bochy's great record in 1 run games. He said it's because Bochy was lucky to have shut down closers, Hoffman and Wilson most of his managing career and if you have a shut down closer, you are more likely to win 1 run games.

      I countered that most sabermetrically oriented people believe closers are overrated and you can't have it both ways. If they give you that big of an advantage in 1 run games, they must be, in fact, much more valuable than their WAR score would indicate. This dude just went blithely on having it both ways.

      I said I do not know the history of how Hoffman became the closer in San Diego, but I knew that Bochy was personally responsible for choosing Wilson as his closer at a time when Wilson had not done anything at all at the MLB level. Dude just said that doesn't change the fact that Bochy's success in 1 run games is due to having top of the line closers.

      Not sure why I posted all that except to just get it off my chest.

    2. Yeah, same guy probably who got on me when I quoted that stat.

      It probably stunk not to have a good answer back, that's probably why you posted here, since I was the one who brought this up to you. Apparently someone stole my idea and wrote an article on BP about it (not the first one that they stole as "their" idea, as I wrote my draft analysis study before they did and they never acknowledged it).

      Oh darn, the one where the guy (think it is the same Ian?) commented to you about it (and me) is closed for comments already. And I had worked out an answer. I'll reply in a comment on this next.


      The argument is that Bochy benefited from having elite closers, Hoffman and Wilson.

      First off, he's doing it this season without any elite closer. But that's one season, so there is that.

      Second of all, nobody in the NL has been able to do it consistently over the past 20 years, is he saying that only Hoffman and Wilson has been elite during that time in the NL?

      To his point, though, I thought I could point out Joe Torres, but he was great with Mariano, not so much before or after, so perhaps there is something to Ian's argument.

      Still, Bochy is responsible for over 40% of the managerial seasons in NL during his career where the team is at least 8 games above .500 (i.e. among the leaders), so there is still something to Bochy that other managers are not doing, elite closer or not.

      Then again, Torres had +7 or more in 8 of his 12 seasons managing the Yankees.

      But looking at Bobby Valentine's good years with Mets 1997-2002, he had a good Franco in 1997 but -6, but worse in 1998 but +9. Then he had Benitez from 1999-2002, and even though Benitez was not elite every year, there was no correlation between the number of games above .500 vs. Benitez's ERA, K/9, or K/BB. In fact, his ERA, K/9, and K/BB got worse each year, but the record went from +8 to +9 to +10 his first 3 seasons. And Franco was very ordinary as a pitcher in 1998 when Valentime's Mets was +9.

      Possibly the most elite closer was Eckersley, and his time coincides with LaRussa perfectly on A's. LaRussa did have two great records in 1-run games in 1988 and 1989 when Eck was great, but Eck had the best season ever for a reliever, probably, in 1990, so one would think the team would have been stellar and yet they were only +5 that season. And he was as good if not better in 1991-2 than he was in 1988, but the records do not compare.

      So, while there probably is some linkage, I would have to think that there is also a significant portion attributable to Bochy because he has done it over his whole career, and at a statistically significant rate, and that is not something any other manager can say, I don't believe.

      OK, so that is the best I could do, not the greatest but not bad arguments for Bochy, particularly the fact that closer performances did not exactly match up strongly between 1-run performance and closer performance for Valentine and LaRussa, which is a big hole in Ian's argument, for if elite closers is all that is necessary, then LaRussa's A's should have been stellar for the six full seasons Eck was elite, yet it was great only 2 seasons, though good for 2 more. Plus Valentine's record did not match up either, Franco was very good in 1997 but -6 record, pretty ordinary in 1998 but +9 for Mets, and Benitez had his second best ERA and K/BB in 2002 but only +1, whereas he was ordinary in 2001 but the Mets were +10.

  3. OGC - I would say the Pitchers need to step up big. Our much maligned offense has been very good this year, especially on the road. The 0-2 lapses have been pretty bad this year, I can think of a dozen off the top of my head. Need to tighten up their game the way the defense has tightened up.

    1. After the past two implosions, yeah, I would have to agree. I thought Vogelsong was over his little bout with instability but apparently it continues. The good news is that it appears that he was BABIPed around, since he struck out so many in the few innings and not walked many, heck 7 of his 10 outs were on K's. But what if this is where he is now, unlike last year when he had a strong finish after his hiccup in August? And apparently that's when he has his hiccups.

      Yeah, the offense has been very good. Yesterday's broadcast had Jon Miller harping about how the relief had almost 7 innings of shutout ball, as if it was the offense's fault that the starting pitching gave up 6 runs. The offense did it's job scoring the 6 runs to tie up the game, and almost finished the job if not for AT&T taking away Pablo's long drive that probably would have been a homer in any other park. Or if Arias had been able to drive in a run with no outs and men on first and third. Or if Hanchez had been able to not hit into double play.

    2. Yup, tough loss. I want the pitchers to make better pitches in pitcher counts. The good news is the bums lost, and that squeezes the magic #, you cannot make up a loss in the column. This weekend series is gonna be epic. As usual, they re-jiggered their rotation so we face Kershaw.

      Pablo taking the count full added to the drama before the ground out to end it. Gints had their chances in the 8th and in extras. I can't be too frustrated about this, they have been playing great ball, with comebacks to boot.

  4. The SPs over the last dozen games have been collectively just awful. I'm not worried about Cain, Bum, or even Tron at this point. Cain is sturdy even when not in top form, Bum's only had one bad game really, and Tron has been extremely unlucky with balls in play (his K rate and BB rate are actually improving even through the slump). Timmy has be an enigma, and Zeets might be doing a power fade. One of them needs to solidify and settle down for the next month. Fortunately, we're only at the mercy of 5 more Zito starts this year. If we can get 3 decent ones, we should be fine.



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