Thursday, September 27, 2012

Your 2012 Giants NLDS Starting Pitching

Bochy has already announced that all five starters will be on the playoff roster.  I thought I would write about my thoughts on the starting pitchers.

Fourth Starter?

I think Zito would have been too disgruntled in 2013 if he didn't make the 2012 playoff roster, so I see Bochy taking that into consideration when adding him, plus, in any case, he had done very well for us early this season when Lincecum was struggling, coming up with great starts like his complete game win against the Rockies when the season started poorly and other good ones, plus his recent stretch of good pitching which allowed the Giants boosted offense to win all his starts for the past two months.  Of course, getting on the roster does not mean he is going to start.

Vogelsong was also a question mark because he had that bad stretch of pitching where he looked like he would never get out of it, but that last DOM (5 PQS) start, I think sealed his roster spot.  However, given how well he has pitched over the past two seasons for us, I would have been very surprised if he weren't on the roster, particularly after running down the list of relievers that Bochy has relied on strongly (Romo, Lopez, Casilla, Affeldt, Mijares, Kontos, Mota).

Thus it came down to whether we want Hensley in the roster over any other reliever or the remaining starters after Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner.  I know I would prefer Vogelsong over Hensley, and Zito has done more for the team than Hensley has, this season.  Plus, particularly with the Reds appearing to be our eventual dance partner, Zito has a great history of good starts in Cincy. 

I can see the plan being that Vogelsong will be the piggy-back follow-up pitcher to Zito in game 4 (assuming game 4 is not a clinching game for the Reds, in which case the #1 starter would get the short rest call to pitch), with Bochy having a really quick hook for Zito for the first sign of serious stinkage.  Bochy will not leave him in long enough to put the game out of reach.

Top Three

Now, who do we go with 1, 2, 3.  Before this season, it was pretty clear who is numero uno, ichiban:  Lincecum.  Now, not so much.  However, that is not really should be viewed here, what should be examined is each pitcher's record in AT&T and GAP in Cincy.

Given that, I have to go with Cain as our #1 starter.  In GAP, he has 5 starts with a 3.44 ERA and 2.0 K/BB there.  Plus, Cain has been steady Eddy among our pitchers for the past number of years, with minimal struggles.  He has earned Top Dog status for us this season.  Plus, Cain as #1 means that he either pitches game 4 or 5, as needed.

Furthermore, both Lincecum and Bumgarner have had only one start there, both disaster starts.  Meanwhile, Lincecum has not done well against the Reds at home (7.36 ERA in 2 starts but one good in 2009 and one bad in 2011) or on the road (7.50 ERA), but Bumgarner has a 3.86 ERA in 3 starts at home against the Reds.  On top of that, right-handed hitters has an advantage in hitting homers in Cincy (per Bill James Handbook), meaning that we should want Bumgarner to avoid pitching in Cincy and prefer Lincecum in Cincy.  That would make it Cain and Bumgarner in the first two games at home, then Lincecum.  I can also see the Giants going to Cain for the clinch in game 4 if there is enough rest days between starts, given Bochy's penchant this season to go for the jugular and not allow the other team to come back.  Clinching early would give additional days of rest for Lincecum and Bumgarner for the NLCS, as well as Cain.

Lincecum's Future as a Giant

{I wrote this in a comment on DrB's, thought it would fit in here as well.  I have modified it, as I am wont to do}

I used to think that Timmy was supremely confident before.  He has been about the money too, confidently holding out for $1M when the Indians offered him $400K-ish, holding out for that extra $200K when negotiating the draft bonus (slot was $200K less), asking for that large salary in his first arbitration.

But his comments this season (plus his issues with not handling adrenaline well in first games) I interpret to mean that he has hit his mental threshold where his mental affects his physical and he can't control it right now.  He has made progress in the second half, but he's not been elite, as he had been previously.

I think his tough first half had more to do with having signed the largest per season contract for a RHP and his trying to pitch to that lofty achievement.  I think it is telling that he has openly talked about the pressures of a huge contract, preferring shorter deals.  I think that Shankbone is right that the Giants will offer him that 2-year dealio, but I think they will do it even if he don't have a great playoff performance.  And I think he will sign it.

Ultimately, I think he will prefer comfort level over money.  Once you got $10-20M in the bank account, plus the status of the highest paid RHP in history, that lends a financial base that frees some from that push to get more, more, more.  Based on his comments, I don't think he will push to get every dollar that he can get now, I think he will seek comfort.  Everyone has that point where you have enough money and the impetus for more money becomes lesser in intensity.

His comments show that he is self-aware enough to realize that the big contract could be a big anchor (and perhaps it is Zito, either by example or perhaps they have even discussed it, who got him to realize that).  Then he should be aware enough that if he stayed in SF, the fans will not put an additional level of burden on him to be the savior, unlike if he signed with another team for 10 years, $250M.  And he's aware enough that if he performs poorly, the fans will turn on him (much as so many Giants fans have turned on him this season), even in SF, and thus if he went anywhere else, it would be that much worse.  On top of that, I think he should be aware that while SF fans have smiled and had fun with his MJ drug bust, I am not sure other cities will be so tolerant.  So I think 2 years, probably in the $25M per season range, a nice bumpup from before, and I think that is the highest salary, period, would keep him around.

I used to think that he wanted that big honking mega-contract.  Now I think free agency is the last thing on his mind.  I think he's self-aware enough of the pressures and the downsides of that contract.  I think he's aware of the downside from the fan perspective, where if he's already been dropped by Giants fans after so many great seasons for them, record breaking seasons, really, then what would happen if he moved on as a free agent and not perform well, much like Zito.  At least here, there will always be a large base group of fans that will always appreciate all that he has done for us in the past and still root for him in the future.  He won't have that strong base anywhere else.  A two year extension would afford him less pressure yet giving him further monetary rewards.


  1. A bit off topic, but since the Giants are most likely going to face the Reds in round 1, there's an article over on Yardbarker, linked on Fangraphs proclaiming that Dusty and the Reds are on the verge of forfeiting their postseason by going with a rotation of Cueto, Arroyo, Latos and Bailey. Cueto and Arroyo are no pieces of cake, but I would be happy if the Giants only have to face Latos once in the series.

    1. .....speaking of which, Homer Bailey just pitched a no-no against the Pirates in Pittsburgh!

    2. Sounds good to me if they want to forfeit their postseason, if they are going to do it against the Giants.

      But I'm not sure what is wrong with that rotation. Cueto has the second best ERA on the road this season. Arroyo is good and a veteran, Latos and Bailey are not as used to the playoffs. Plus, Latos has the second best ERA at home (Cueto has the best, and as #1 would pitch game 5 if necessary, could pitch game 4 if necessary) and has pitched worse on the road. Bailey has been horrible at home this season, but has the best ERA on the road, so perhaps that is what people are talking about, having Bailey #2 instead. However, should the Reds feel the need to pitch Cueto in game 4, then the #2 would logically pitch game 5, and as I noted, Bailey has the worse ERA by far, at home, whereas Arroyo has been good on the road and OK at home.

      So I don't see what the problem is, that is basically what I would do, looking at each player's home and road numbers for the season.

      Yeah, I heard that happened, made me think of Tom Seaver finally getting his no-hitter but with the Reds, not the Mets, who finally got their first no-no this season, but most people see it tainted by a bad call, so even there the Mets are lovable losers in that way.

    3. I agree that the Reds rotation looks formidable no matter how you cut it. I was kind of mentally comparing this Red's fan freakout with the MCC freakout over Sanchez vs Belt.

    4. Sorry, I did get that you were comparing their freakout with Giants fans freakouts, I was just commenting that I didn't see why. Thanks for clarifying.

  2. I thought that Posey would catch Lincecum during the playoffs, but Bochy just announced that Hanchez, who will catch Lincecum this Sunday, will catch him in the playoffs. I was wrong about that.

    Sounds like the Giants will keep the pitchers in the order they are in for the rest of the season, which aligns with Cain pitching the first game of the season, then probably Bumgarner second since he would be the most rested at that point (Schulman). Then matchups and situation will determine the rest of the starts.

    1. I don't see anything wrong with sticking with what's working.

    2. There's nothing wrong with it - I was neutral either way on this, I just figured Bochy will do what he think is best.

      I just thought that Posey was going to start all the games, that's all, going for the better defense alignment. I'm OK shifting Posey to 1B and moving Belt to LF, it is not like Nady or Blanco is a clear upgrade offensively and defensively over Hanchez at this point, I like the way the young guy hits when RISP. He was among the leaders in April and May in RBI despite hardly playing.

      It is mainly the #FreeBelt people who are upset about Hanchez potentially pushing Belt out of the lineup. I figure that is a playoff time call by Bochy anyway, the Giants seem to have their finger on the pulse of how well he is hitting at any moment, if Belt is on, Bochy will play him in LF, and if he is off, Bochy will keep him in there, but have no qualms of sitting him when Posey is playing 1B.

    3. Yes, I know you are not a #FreeBelter nor a MCC freakout person. I guess I'm just reacting to that school of thought right now whenever the subject of postseason pitching and catching comes up.

    4. Morning OGC and DrB;

      I have spent a great deal of my time this season trying to figure Timmy out. My degree in Psychology has done little to help me in my ruminations. I take great joy in following both your blogs. They are on my list of daily priority reading. Keep it up; it really is great stuff you two put out for all we Giants lovers. Thanks
      Richard in Winnipeg

    5. Thanks Richard. Eh, not like I got an exact pulse on Timmy either, but I'm willing to take what's publicly available and making some logical (or so I think) deductions.

      Not like I'm always right either, I certainly read Bumgarner wrong based on the tea leaves, what little I knew about his background, it seemed like he came from money and his family was very stable and Bumtown was HOME to him, not just home, so I thought he would not be willing to sign long-term with us beyond free agency, plus there was his dispute with the Giants over what he should be paid in 2011, as he wanted Posey money. Then there was that great article covering his background and Bumtown, and he really lead a hardscramble type of life with a broken home, and clearly I did not know enough.

      But I guess it depends on what one is looking for. Nobody will know everything, but one could diligently read everything that is available, share that info, and make best guesses based on that info, then adjust as new information comes in. I prefer that route, as the hope is that you get pointed in the right direction given the information, and you get closer and closer to the "truth" over time.

      So thank you Richard, I am glad you appreciate my approach. As I try to make clear in my purpose statement, I realize these are just my opinions (though on that point, perhaps I don't always act that way, and like any human, I'm trying to be perfect) but am happy to share whatever nuggets I find along the way and hopefully make the scary journey that we all take as a fan of the Giants more informed, a little less scary, and hopefully more fun and enjoyment.

      I know I get cranky about MCC, but it just made me sad that I couldn't get through to them and get them to understand that 1) the Giants were entering a golden period, and I think that is necessary to fully enjoy this period of time, and 2) Sabean and Bochy, contrary to popular Giants fans' opinion, are pretty good at what they do, and if you don't realize that, then you are at odds with what I want, which is Giants dominance and eventually, a dynasty. I feel like I failed them.

      And that bugs me a lot because they are suffering angst that isn't necessary, given the information that is publicly available to everyone. They are just reading the information incorrectly, at least in my opinion.

      But I think I've made my peace with that and have moved on.

      I realized that they just prefer to be that way. And this "genetic DNA" stretches back into pre-MCC days, back to the USENET group of Giants fans that was mostly populated by what I can best describe as annoyed (one of their leader's word for it) Giants fans. Best as I can tell it, these fans grew up with the 60's Giants and was permanently emotionally scarred by the fallow period from 1972 to 1987. They lost all hope that the Giants would ever win a championship and used their sarcastic humor in viewing the Giants future. And maybe that is a natural human reaction to such long-term lack of success, as that reminds me of the "lovable losers" mentality that I see with Cubs fans.

      I prefer to leave nobody behind, but the Giants are so enjoyable the past few years that their doubts was just harshing on my enjoyment. I've greatly enjoyed watching the Giants develop, one by one, their core pieces, Cain, Lincecum, Sandoval, Posey, Bumgarner, this is a special time for any franchise, as the space dust gathers and ignites into a Sun, then the planets forming the solar system comes into being. If they can't enjoy it fully, so be it.

  3. I'll believe it when I see it re Sanchez getting in the playoff games. Posey will most likely be catching every inning in my opinion. If they shuffle Belt to LF and Posey to 1B, so be it. Dance with the girl you brought to the dance baby.

    Sanchez is a much more dangerous pinch hitter than Whiteside or Stewart. Even with his poor splits this year, the threat of a switch hitter makes for pressured pitching decisions. And hey, he drew a walk yesterday to boot. Look at that.

    Belt is going to be playing, either in 1B where he gives superior defense or in LF. I expect Crawford and Belt's defense to shine, their bats to be green against playoff pitching and the heavy lifting will be done by Posey, Pence and Panda. However, there is always some random player who gets hot, the Scott Brosius Theorem. Bochy has demonstrated he is willing to play hot hands and go with his best defensive team he can field. I expect that to overrule other factors.

    1. Hector's split is not that bad, he is very similar, L vs. R, home vs. road, and more importantly, he's done better second half vs. first half, and he's on a pretty good roll right now this month, so I think he's in a good spot right now.

      But yeah, I think you point out a very important point I have not seen noted about Sanchez, that he's a very dangerous bat to have off the the bench (at least relative to other team's bats off the bench), both because he hits well enough plus that he's a switch-hitter, making the other team's decisions that much harder. Starting him would take away that difficulty.

      For me, the only reason Posey starts at 1B is if he needs a blow, that positional shuffle just weakens the defense and defense is very important during the playoffs.

      I agree with your assessment of Bochy's managerial style, though for me, it is the Gene Tenace Theorem.

      People expecting a lot out of Belt in the playoffs did not see him struggle with expectations all through the past two seasons. He's not going to solve that in these playoffs unless he's made some great strides in how he handles the mental side of baseball. I'm more comfortable about Crawford, though, he has seemed to be more advanced than Belt in handling this, based on what I read from the media. They are good hitters whose mental side affects their performance.

      In contrast to Sandoval, Pence, and Sanchez, free swingers who probably can hit the same in almost any situation, no matter how pressure packed.

      And lastly in contrast to Posey, who appears to just kick it up a notch when it comes time for a leader to lead. I heard someone note that Posey did not do well in the playoffs last time, but I view that more as he was worn down by his first full professional season. Just look at how he kicked things up a notch in July both in 2010 and 2012. Plus, looking at the playoff series, he did great in the Atlanta series, poorly in the Phillies, and well in the World Series: if that is poor, I'll take that. Nobody will hit in every playoff series, his overall numbers was not that good, but he did well in two of the series.

      I would add Scutaro to the heavy lifters, solely because he seems to be inspired by the Giants playoff atmosphere. He seems to be living in the moment and he has not let down one iota, it seems, since joining the team.

      Regarding random hot players, that is partly why I think Nady, Huff, and Theriot are around, to hopefully be that X-factor that Renteria was for us in the World Series, or Uribe was for us generally when he was with us, or as you noted, Cody Ross. Bochy is a pro, I agree, at finding and catching that hot streak and riding it out.



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