Thursday, October 18, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Game 4 of the NLCS

Wow, Cain pitched a DOM game and Lohse had a DIS game, and we still lost.  Based on PQS, we should be ahead 2-1, not behind 1-2:  that's baseball.  My study of PQS found that generally the team with better starting pitching generally won the game, generally won the series, but as we all know, BABIP can really help some teams and hurt other teams.  And we got hurt, both ways, in yesterday's game.

Looking at the ER, one might have thought the opposition about the two starters.  When Lohse needed to quell an uprising, he did, while Cain made the wrong pitch to the wrong batter, but was otherwise superb.  Take that pitch and result out, and it's still tied 1-1, bottom of the ninth.  Add a key hit in almost any inning, and the Giants win.

Coincidentally, this is reminiscent of the first game with the Reds, when Cueto went down:  when Beltran went down with his knee injury, I thought, alright, that improves our chances, then when I found out it was Carpenter taking over, I got all worried before he was 4 for 4 against Cain during his career, and worried that might be the key to the game.  And like Cueto going down, Beltran going down helped our opponent, rather than helped us.  But if he's out for the series - no news yet, but it sounds like it is not that serious, day to day, but it has been something bothering him all season, so who knows - Carpenter's very, very, very, very poor defense in RF should hurt them at some point.  He could be the Brooks Conrad of this series.

I happened to be able to see the last part of the game on TV and when I saw Carpenter, I couldn't believe how puny looking he looks (wow, TV sure does shrink people, he's 6' 3" and 200 lb according to baseball-reference.com; he looked like this slim guy on TV), and yet he took Cain yard.  As much as I want to blame the offense for not doing more with all the hits and walks they produced, Cain should also take blame for letting this slight of build non-homerun hitter - he only had 6 HR in 296 AB during the season - beat us.  He wasn't even that good a prospect in the minors, old for the league, didn't hit for that much power, struck out a little too much, but did walk a ton, he's a Moneyball type hitter in that way.

Game 3:  Lincecum vs. Wainwright
Tim Lincecum: In 8 1/3 innings of relief this postseason, the two-time Cy Young Award winner has allowed just one run. Lincecum returns to his familiar role as a starter for Game 4, looking to put his regular-season struggles (5.18 ERA) behind him.
Adam Wainwright:  Wainwright is thrilled to get a chance for redemption after making the shortest start of his career in one of the biggest games he's pitched. Wainwright was chased from his second NLDS start in Game 5 after giving up six runs in 2 1/3 innings.
Lincecum.has pretty good career numbers in St. Louis, 5 starts, 3.21 ERA, 33.2 IP, giving up 30 hits and 8 walks, striking out 31 for a 8.3 K/9 and 3.88 K/BB, both very good.  And he has done well against them generally, career 2.89 ERA in 7 starts, so he's even better against them in AT&T.

However, that was then and this is now.  He has not faced a lot of the current Cards, but the ones he has faced has hit him well or well enough.  Holliday, of course, has the most exposure due to his years in Colorado, he has a .294/.368/.353/.721 batting line in 38 PA.  Schumaker, who has not played much, has a .304/.333/.478/.812 batting line.  Beltran, who hurt his knee yesterday (karmic payback for last season?), has really killed Timmy, .500/.650/.929/1.579 in 20 PA, 7 for 14 with 6 walks!  He has a homer and 3 doubles in those 7 hits.  Molina has also done well, .389/.421/.389/.810 in 19 PA.

Others with more limited play:  Jay .667 OPS (2 for 6 but 3 K's), Descalso 1.500 OPS (2 for 4 with triple), Freese .000 OPS (0 for 4); Craig 2.667 OPS (1 for 2 with homer and walk); Kozma 0 for 1.

Wainwright has done very well against the Giants in St. Louis, 1.08 ERA in 3 appearances, including 2 starts, 16.2 IP, 19 K's vs. only 7 BB's.  But in AT&T, he only had a 4.11 ERA, with 30.2 IP and only 15 K's vs. 7 BB's.  So the Giants have done well against him before, just not really in St. Louis.  Like his fellow starters, he's much worse against LHB, which has hit him for .258/.323/.388/.710, vs. RHB, only .238/.285/.350/.635, but still, that's pretty good against LHB still, so it should be a tough game.

He has pretty much kept the hitters who have extensive exposure against him at bay.  Nady has the highest OPS (.831) in 25 PA among the hitters with at least 3 games against him.  Pagan has hit him nicely, .333/.467/.333/.800 in 15 PA.  Pence is .289/.289/.447/.737 in 38 PA, he's the only one among the Giants with a homer against him.  Theriot is only .265/.286/.324/.609 in 36 PA.  Pablo is .300/.364/.300/.664 in 11 PA.  So overall, the Giants hitters hit Wainwright pretty well - overall, .297/.339/.361/.700 - but he's able to limit the damage by only giving up mostly singles and the occasional walk.

Others who have hit well in limited play:  Belt 1.000 OPS (double and 2 walks in 6 PA), Crawford 1.167 OPS (double, 2 singles), Posey .900 OPS (2 for 5 with a walk).

ogc thoughts

Bochy said that you need to throw all the regular season numbers out for the playoffs.  I don't quite agree, but he makes the good point, because human emotions and frailties and foibles show up more in the playoffs because of the intensified environment of the playoffs.  And I think this is very so in this game.

I think it is still useful to know how hitters have done before against the pitchers (like Matt Carpenter yesterday against Cain), but in this game, we don't know what we have in both pitchers.  This has been the worse season for both pitchers, by far, compared to their last three seasons, obviously, especially so for Tim.

Wainwright, though, still had a very good season, per PQS, with 69% DOM and only 13% DIS, versus Timmy's 55% and 24%.  He also ended the season well, racking up most of his 5 PQS starts in the second half.  Tim did better too but ended on an off-note, resulting in his bullpen assignment.  However, Wainwright has had two bad starts in the playoffs, compare to his season, whereas Timmy has been superb in relief in the playoffs.  Wainwright is getting totally BABIPed, giving up a lot of hits and homers.

But that might be where Wainwright is right now.  He missed the entire 2011 season with Tommy John surgery.  His stamina might not be where he would like it.  His K/9 has dropped each month from June:  9.5 K/9, 8.8, 8.2, 7.5 and while he did well PQS in the last month of the season, his K/BB ratio was down to 2.27, good but basically around average.

The odd thing is that he has been striking out a storm in the playoffs, 10 in 5.2 IP then 5 in 2.1 IP, and only 3 walks total in the 8.0 IP.  It's like he's good until he's bad, at which point the hitters just attack away for a lot of hits.  And that sounds a lot like what we got from Timmy during the season.

Fangraphs had an analysis wondering if Wainwright had hit the wall.  He settled down and did well after that, so not at that point of the season, but maybe he did finally hit the wall now.  Looking at the sinker velocity chart in Fangraphs that the author looked at, as one can see, his sinker has been clearly not as fast as it was when he was last healthy in 2010 (in fact, looking at his last game in 2010, that huge drop suggests that maybe something broke in that game).  His sinker in 2012 was almost always lower than what he regularly did in 2010, falling from roughly 92 MPH to around 90 MPH in 2012.  And he was on a definite downturn right after the All-Star break, a trend line which he got above in a couple of his last starts of the season, perhaps on adrenaline because the Cards needed the games to make the playoffs.  But if you're tired, you're tired.

So I'll make the same prediction I made the other day, this game will probably be a tightly pitched game until one or both of the pitchers loses it and the batting parade begins.  I feel good about our chances, we should have won last night's game but we got BABIPed.  Wainright will be tough like Lohse, but I think ripe for the picking if someone could deliver a key hit, and he's been struggling in the playoffs, whereas Lohse has at least been doing well, so hopefully our hitters can take advantage.

Bat Pence 3rd

And that is where we need some help in, again, the key hits.  Pence's slump has been taken advantage of by the other teams by walking Posey.  I think it is time to swap him and Sandoval so that Pence bats 3rd and Pablo 5th.  Saber theory about the lineup is that you should put your 5th best hitter batting third because of this anomaly that happens because the game starts with the leadoff hitter:  the third place hitter faces a lot more bases empty, two outs situations, than other spots in the lineup.  This is verified in the regression analysis of run production by lineup position based on OBP and SLG.  As an RBI producing position, it is actually up there with batting leadoff (.931 for leadoff, .933 for 3rd, 1.504 for cleanup, and 1.146 for 5th).

I understand Pence is not hitting, so why up and not down.  The thing is that he is a good hitter but in a funk right now.  Putting him third accomplishes four key things.  First is putting Pablo, who is productive, in the more productive spot, 5th.  Second is that by batting ahead of Posey, he hopefully will see more fastballs and that will help him out of his funk.  Third is that his ego doesn't take a hit moving up to 3rd, only if he moves down.  Bochy can use the "see more fastball" rationale to justify that.  Fourth, and probably the most important, is that having Pablo batting behind Posey will force the other team to pitch to Posey more often instead of walking him to avoid him.  Number one thing we need is Posey getting to swing the bat and do damage, and Pence hitting behind him right now isn't doing it.

We could also move Belt higher in the lineup, either to 3rd or 5th, but I think that could be counter productive.  Belt has shown over the past two seasons that he puts too much pressure on himself to hit.  That  makes him strike out a lot while not getting many hits.  Much like early in his season and in his hitting in the Reds series, and evidenced by a lot of strikeouts.

To his credit, he worked on it all this season and was in a good spot as a hitter in the second half of the season:  in the last two months he hit .329/.390/.494/.884 with an 84% contact rate, and 0.54 BB/K ratio.  While he only had 3 HR in 170 AB (57 AB/HR is very low), his ISO was a good 165, as he got a lot of doubles and triples.  And he appears to be OK now in the Cards series, only 2 K's in 11 AB, 82% contact rate, 0.50 BB/K ratio.

Moving him to a higher pressure lineup position like 3rd or 5th would only risk taking him out of his comfort zone, which he has worked so hard to get to.  And which the Giants thought was important enough to state that he's only playing 1B this season.  That they tried him in LF late in the season is a good sign that they felt that he was finally feeling good about everything at that point.  But in the playoffs, that is whole different story, and if the Giants are to win this series - much like they won the last series with the Reds - they will need contributions from across the lineup, up and down, and Blanco, Belt, and Crawford appear to be in a good groove at the bottom.  Now we need to perk up the middle of the lineup.

And the best move there is to swap Pablo and Pence.

Go Giants!

7 comments:

  1. That sounds like a good lineup move to me. I value consistency a ton, I don't like Bochy's mix and match lineups (although they are often dictated by necessity, I'll admit). Players like to know where they are hitting, just like the pen likes assigned roles. Putting Pence in the 3 and Pablo to the 5 seems like the best quick fix, because things do need to be shook at this point in time.

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    1. I like consistency a lot too.

      And really Bochy likes consistency too, but it is, as you wrote, usually dictated by necessity. Any manager would love to have such good players that you never have to change anything, just write the names into the lineup every day and every fifth day.

      A lot of the Naysayers don't really care for his changes, but I've rarely had any problems with when he decides to sit down guys and when he decides to give them free rein.

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  2. And they go with...
    Pagan cf, Scutaro 2b, Posey 1b, Sandoval 3b, Sanchez c, Pence rf, Blanco lf, Crawford ss, Lincecum p

    Interesting. I'm neutral in the Sanchez/Belt wars. I don't really like downgrading our defense which I think that move does, but offensively I don't think it matters much.

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    1. You beat me to it, wow, by a lot, but I just saw it posted, and I thought I was following the links closely...

      http://blogs.mercurynews.com/giants/2012/10/18/game-4-lineups-posey-hits-third-pence-dropped-beltran-wont-start/

      Apparently, Hanchez is Lincecum's personal catcher, at least for this season.

      Well, he liked my idea of Sandoval batting behind Posey, but this works out too, except that our best hitter is batting third now...

      But I like bunching up the players most likely to get on base, and Pagan, Scutaro, Posey, Sandoval are those players. And I like Hanchez's bat when there are RISP. And hopefully this will get Pence going as well.

      Yeah, big downgrade on our defense, as Posey is not as good as Belt, and I would think that Posey is better than Sanchez catching.

      One plus, however, for us, and perhaps that was what was needed yesterday, was a LH bat like Belt on the bench to bring up in key situations where there are RISP. Or another bat, that is, as we had Huff yesterday.

      Also, no Beltran! Craig, however, is playing RF and Carpenter 1B. That is probably best, and is a great example of David Ricardo's comparative advantage. While Carpenter is worse than Craig at 1B - minus 0.9 win vs. minus 0.5 wins on seasonal basis - Craig is even better (all relative) in RF, as he is "only" minus 2.2 wins while Carpenter is minus 5.0 wins.

      Meanwhile, Beltran is plus 0.9 wins on defense in RF, bad knee and all. In total, the downgrade from Beltran to Craig, then Craig to Carpenter, would cost the Cards 3.1 wins in RF, 0.4 wins at 1B, for a total of 3.5 wins in a full season. Remember, that would change their 88-74 record to 84.5-77.5, dropping their number of games over .500 by half. And changes a .543 team to a .522 team. Or a wild card team to an also-ran.

      I would also add that in a low run environment, as that produced by the Giants and Cards good pitching, that boosts up the number of wins lost, perhaps to as much as 4 wins lost via their defense. So while this is not as good as the loss of 6 wins between Beltran and Carpenter defensively in RF (and that doesn't even count the loss of offense), 4 wins lost is nothing to sneeze at either.

      But, I must also note that the Cards now also has a great bat to come off the bench in key situations. While he owns a lot of our starters - Cain 1.165 OPS, Lincecum 1.579 OPS, Vogelsong 1.563 OPS, Bumgarner 1.667 (Zito only .579) - Affeldt owns him .417 OPS in 12 ABs, Mota even better .167 OPS, 0 for 5 with a walk. Casilla (0 for 1, walk), Lopez (0 for 1 with walk), Mijares (0 for 2), and Romo (0 for 2) have also done well in limited matchups.

      Looks like we will be getting Affeldt or Lopez as our Beltran killer late in the game, if necessary. Maybe Scutaro can return the favor to the Cards by falling on Beltran's knee should Carlos slide into 2B for any reason.

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    2. About Sanchez/Belt, I've pretty much been OK with taking Belt out of the lineup because most of the season, he hadn't been doing all that well.

      Until the end of the season, at which point Bochy started using Belt in LF, which I was OK with since Blanco wasn't hitting and Nady was still out.

      Here, I'm iffy for the defense downgrade, as you noted. And offensively, they are probably around breakeven right now, Sanchez ended the season on a hot streak, and he has done OK in the playoffs. And I think that we need to keep Blanco in the lineup still, as he's been hitting.


      But I hope that sitting out Belt doesn't get into his head in any way. He started out the series fine, 3 for 8 with a double, and just had a down day yesterday, it happens. 2 K's in 11 AB's is very good for him, if he can keep that up, the hits will fall in at some point.

      Still, I like this configuration because Sanchez and Belt have bats I like, but as long as Sanchez is on the bench, I assume Bochy avoids using him since he's Posey's replacement. In this game, if there is a key RBI situation, he can go to Belt without worry.

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  3. Well that simplifies everything. Win or go home. Win AND go home. Barry Zito. Stopper?

    I have a quick rant. Let me preface it by saying I am not a Bochy hater. I think he is in the upper one-third of managers in the majors. He has strengths and weaknesses, but in general has done a very steady job, cranking it up in crucial situations and the postseason.

    Where was he? Where was his strength, the quick pull of pitchers who didn't have it? Both MadBum starts this year (one of which I was present for, hearing the loud contact in person), he stuck with his guy way too long, and the bill came due big time. Tonight, when it was obvious Timmy was getting hit hard, he stuck through it, hoping to will Timmy through. Well, that didn't work out either. Personally I would have yanked him the moment that Beltran-sub Carpenter wacked the ball off the wall. There is only so much help Angel Pagan's hustle can bring to the table.

    Rant basically over. Bochy will have no choice now. He has an all hands on deck game coming, with Barry Zito to boot! This should be exciting. Let me say this, coming from the optimist camp: The series is over when its over. If the Giants are allowed to force a game 6, its practically a new series. This team has demonstrated the ability to overcome adversity all season long, but this is the biggest hole they've dug for themselves.

    And on the pessimist front: it sucks to lose on the road big time, to get the home crowd and team loosened up and shooting the ball all over the joint. This game exposed all our weaknesses: our starters who just don't have it, our pen that can't hold in, and our offense that can't scratch it out.

    Now, back to brass tacks: who cares. The season is either over tomorrow, or it isn't. All hands on deck, time to dig deep. Does this team go out fighting or coast through sleepwalking? I think they'll go down fighting, and I'll take a heartbreaking loss with runners on and fires blazing over another beat down that can be easily rationalized.

    Barry Zito. Stopper?

    Kind of ironic the season comes down to this - you and me have had lots of discussions about Zito and I was very acidic in my criticism of him early on. He has been good, and he has been bad. Will the Giants ride this crazy win streak back to California, or will good ol Zito crash like usual. Definitely the biggest start of his career as a Gint.

    I don't do much monday morning I told you so's on the playoffs, but I really thought it was a mistake to send Timmy out to the bump. He was thriving as a fireman, and I think it was greedy of Bochy to go. To be fair, his choices are very slim right now. But I liked Timmy in the pen this year, something about his mental makeup, a point you get into at times.

    Anyways, season will be over when its over. We have a good team. I hope they fight good tomorrow. Go Giants!

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    1. Good points, Shankbone!

      Yeah, I thought he was too slow to yank both Bumgarner and Lincecum too.

      Yeah, I agree that if the Giants can somehow pull off a Game 5 victory, it's a whole new ballgame with Vogelsong and Cain starting. And probably Lincecum and Bumgarner in the bullpen.

      It is exciting and there is some hope, but yeah, this is a HUMONGOUS hole they have dug, and no sermonizing will get them out, they need to find religion in pitching, fielding, and hitting.

      And yeah, this series, heck, both series, showed off our weaknesses pretty well. But I think it showed off some of the Cards, having to start Lynn twice, losing Beltran, plus their starting pitching hasn't been that great until the last two games, they had been struggling throughout the playoffs until the last two games.

      Yeah, I think that they will go down fighting, and that Zito can put up some semblance of a stopper, enough for us to win. But will all the parts of the machine work to get that victory?

      Yes, you were acidic and downright dismissive of what he could do. He ended up being even better than the Zito of 2009-10, he was never really that good, nor really that bad, but mostly good enough, and that was good enough most of the time for us. We need that once again.

      He HAS come up big for us before, just that, really, it all seems like a flip of Two-Faces Janus coin most of the time. Definitely the biggest start of his career, and if he can deliver, I can forgive a large chunk of the money he got over what he provided to us, much like when Renteria hit his homer. If he can will us this victory, much like that Colarado start to prevent us from going 0-4, moreover, he threw a complete game shutout, first in ages, I think I could almost wipe the slate clean (almost...).

      I was conflicted on Timmy, but yeah, I guess ultimately, I wasn't sure but wanted to milk the golden goose for more, getting greedy.

      On the other hand, the Cards have beat LHP like a rug during the season and RHP have shut them down enough that they are .500 against them. So that logic made sense as well.

      Speaking of thinking differently, here's an idea that popped up while I was reading your comment. I love him coming out of the bullpen too. Good body for it, good mental makeup for it as well, liking to gun down people FTW. What if he were a multi-inning closer?

      Top closers make maybe 65-75 appearances altogether, only about 1 IP per outing. Tim has a rubber arm plus he's been a starter and could keep his body toned that way too, only that he is capable of pitching, 1-3 innings, as necessary, to close out games. That would give him 150 IP, roughly. Less pitches seasonally and less stress on his arm, but we still get a lot of work out of him, and in high leverage situations earlier in the game, depending on when we need that, like against another division leader or one of our NL West contenders, else we go to Romo or Lopez or whoever we have as setup guys.

      Speaking of which, we only got Romo for two more years before free agency, and he grew up a D-ger fan, and I don't want to see him moving to them doing the same thing. I hope the Giants sign him to a 3 year plus option deal, give him his money now, maybe: $2.5, $3.0, $3.5M plus $4.5M or $1.0M buyout. That guarantees him $10.0M to buy out one year of free agency, while protecting the Giants too.

      Delete

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