Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Your 2013 Giants: Fanatics, Keep Your Dawber Up

After the nice run of wins, these two losses probably returns some to their prior glass is half empty mental state.  And I am starting to understand this phenomenon, why Giants fans get so down on the team even though the past four seasons have been the most successful period in San Francisco Giants franchise history, and among the best in Giants franchise history:  it is media driven.

It started long before it became a trend, with the bad road losses, when the Giants were 8-8 on the road previously and it was fully acknowledged that it was oddities to lose to Toronto and Colorado like that.  And it has spiraled downward, justifiably, ultimately, as the team succumbed to injuries that followed - which is the sole reason for the downturn, not that road trip.  Enough that one beat writer, who had not written for a long time on his blog, suddenly decided that the season was over, that it was time to give up.

And now, after a nice streak of wins, you get one loss to the D-backs, after a well-pitched game by Bumgarner, you get another beat writer talking about how the Giants don't have much of a chance of winning the division, because we would need to beat both the D-backs and D-gers to get the division title, and we are in even worse position to try to get either of the wild cards.
AZ Should be Catchable

As I noted in another post, Corbin is the only reason the D-backs are even leading.  They are 17-2 in his starts this season.  I am fairly confident that this will not continue for the rest of the season, in which case, hats off to them for doing something historically unique. 

Otherwise, they have been 34-45 with the rest of their starters.  So with 63 games left, Corbin has 13 starts left, and the team's been 4-2 in his last 6 starts, and if that continues, they end up 8-5 in his starts for the rest of the season.  But in the other games, at the same win rate, they would be 22-28, meaning that they end the season 30-33, and they will be 81-81.  

The Giants at 45-53, would need to finish 36-28, .563, to match that.  The Giants earlier in the season was 8 games over .500 in roughly 40 games, with lesser pitching.  The D-backs should not be that hard to catch, and I would note here that they are 8 games over .500 in one-run games, which for most managers normally regress to the mean of .500, and Gibson over 2011-12 was at exactly .500 for one-run games.

LA Could Ride This Hot Streak, But There Are Buts Involved

The D-gers are another obstacle.   Puig gave them a charge initially offensively, and LA went 16-11 during that early stretch, which obviously helped them get back into the race.  But in their last 14 games, he has hit .222/.259/.259/.518, striking out 19 times in 54 ABs, only 2 doubles and 3 BB, and so he's now an anchor on the offense.  However, now other guys are stepping up, so they still went 10-4 in those games, even better than when he was super-hot.

They started doing well, as a team, on June 22nd, they have been 21-5 in that period.  Unfortunately, I can't pull data from that exact period, but in LA's last 28 days, covering 22 of those games (17-5), they have been led offensively by a Buster Posey-ish explosion by Hanley, who has hit .417/.484/.738/1.222 in that period.  Kemp was similarly, but at a lower level, hot, but been MIA due to injuries again.  In their last 28 days, the team has hit .291/.348/.435/.783 whereas for the season they have only hit .264/.326/.393/.719 as a team, and if they can continue that, they could ride this hot streak into the division title. 

However, all the other hitters have been OK but not great, A-Gon .303/.351/.483/.834, A.J. .310/.351/.479/.830, Ethier .395/.374/.410/.784, plus some bench players hitting OK.  Offensively, they have averaged over 5 runs per game due to Hanley mostly, supported nicely by A-Gon, Ethier, A.J., much like the Giants in their run last season, led by Posey by supported by a lot of other people. However, much of the boost up to .783 OPS was delivered by Hanley and Kemp (and slightly to Nolasco and Greinke), the rest of the hitters overall hit .265/.310/.376/.685.

Of course, Posey did hit that hot for the rest of the second half.  Hanley's been at it even sooner, since June 22nd.  Hanley probably hasn't had a hot streak like that since 2009, the last full season he was a great hitter for much of the season.  He's either been injured or ordinary in all the other seasons, heck, he started this season injured as well.   But perhaps LA's trainers finally got him healthy for this season, plus he's rested, facing pitchers who are aching and tiring under the grind of a full baseball season.

Looking at his best season, 2009, he was able to sustain over 1.000 OPS in May and June, and near enough in July and August, so he was able to sustain a four month period of hot hitting (and he was over .800 in April and Sept as well).  But that was his last full season when he was relatively healthy, his fourth season of full-season play.  He has had only one since. 

He was actually better in 2008, he had 5 months of above 900 OPS hitting, he was only .719 in May.   He was similarly consistent, but at a slightly lower level, in 2007, but he reached his current heights that July, .424/.451/.812/1.262, which he didn't reach in 2008 or 2009.

Still, he is older now with a long history of injuries, including this season, when he came back briefly at the end of April, early May, for 3 games, before going back on the DL again for another month.  So you never know, he could injure himself somehow at some point and then their offense is sunk again, but it is also very possible that he could continue this hot streak for the rest of the season, as this is as hot as he has ever was, and a "drop" to "only" 1.000 OPS for the rest of the season could keep their offense bubbling nicely. 

Their pitching has been similarly good.  In their last 28 days, they have put up a 2.99 ERA whereas they had a much higher 3.57 ERA for the season.  They have been led by Kershaw's 1.85 ERA (11.3 K/9; 12.3 K/BB) and Greinke's 2.65 ERA (7.4 K/9; 2.0 K/BB), plus Nolasco has been good since joining them, with 3.12 ERA (5.7 K/9; 2.2 K/BB).  Ryu (4.88 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 1.5 K/BB) and Capuano (6.28 ERA, 9.4 K/9, 7.5 K/BB). 

Also, their bullpen has been extraordinarily good in that period as well, only Brandon League had an ERA above 2.35 among relievers with over 1 appearances.  Rodriguez and Belisario both had 0.00 ERAs during that 28 day period, Howell has a 0.93 and Jansen 1.74 ERA, plus Dominguez at 2.16 ERA.

So it is pitching where the D-gers are going to fall back to Earth some.   Greinke's peripherals, as well as Nolasco's, do not match their ERAs.  Those are relatively ordinary strikeout rates and K/BB ratios and their numbers should fall back towards their seasonal rates, Nolasco had a 3.85 ERA with Miami previously, Greinke has an overall 3.36 ERA for the season, 3.48 ERA in 2012, 3.83 ERA in 2011.  Nolasco might be able to sustain this rate, he's now pitching in a strong pitcher's park in LA, and he appears to have re-invented himself this season, compiling his best ERA in a long time, as his last full season of good pitching like this was his first full season as mostly a starter in 2008, when he was 25 YO. 

They even got two great starts out of Fife, 0.79 ERA despite 4.0 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB.  Though I would note that his ERA would be much higher if not for 3 unearned runs in his last start, where he gave up 7 hits in 4.1 IP plus walk and no strikeouts, add in those unearned runs would give him a 3.35 ERA for the season.  He should not be able to sustain either ERA with a strikeout rate so low, but in any case, the point is moot as it was his rotation slot that was taken when Nolasco was added.

Greinke looks like he's a likely point of expected lowered performance.  Greinke's K/9 is down significantly for the season, while his BB/9 is up, leading to an average 2.4 K/BB for the season, his overall ERA is probably a function of the shutdown bullpen LA has had in the last 28 days and not a function of his great pitching.  Previously for the season, he had a 4.22 ERA, which is more in line with his peripherals.  And that was split, he started two nice games then was on the DL for a month.  Since returning from the DL, he had compiled a 5.02 ERA until June 22nd, at which point he's been great, what you expect out of an ace.  But still, some regression looks probable.

However, that will be balanced off by Ryu and Capuano most probably returning to their seasonal ERAs of 3.25 and 4.63 respectively.  So the starting pitching does not look like it should regress that much, just slightly. 

Most of all, I don't expect the bullpen to sustain this period of extreme excellence.  As I noted, the bullpen has been performing above and beyond in the past month.  Their top six relievers had a collective 1.20 ERA in the past 28 days, 52.1 IP but only 7 ER given up.  However, for the season, they overall have a 3.88 ERA, which means that not that long ago, the bullpen was oil on the fire over 4 ERA prior to this winning streak (4.51 ERA if you take out those 52.1 IP).  Even if you assume that 3.88 is their performance level, they should have given up 22-23 ER instead of 7 ER in those 52.1 IP.  Adding 22 ER to their 28 day performance would have returned them to roughly their team seasonal rate, 3.65 ERA for that period, not 2.99.

On top of that, they were 17-5 during that period, but their RS and RA plugged into Pythagorean spits out a 15-7 month.  So they were lucky during that period in terms of games won, and one would expect some regression in the coming months.  Though regression knows no clock, so it could come next season as well.

And plugging in the extra runs that the bullpen should have given up had they continued performing as badly as before, LA would have had a 13-9 month.  So the Dodgers have been benifitting from a lot of good confluences.

The team is also benefiting from beating up on under .500 teams.  They are 37-28 in those games so far, that is 65 games.  Arizona had 62 games, but only 32-30 in those starts.  The Giants have not been good so far, 23-27, but that is 15 less games than LA has had.  Both teams have not had a easy time with better teams, but LA is 14-19 and SF 22-26, 15 more games.  Taking out 15 easier games from LA and adding to harder, at the current winning percentages would drop LA to a 49-49 record, 1.5 games behind AZ, and only 4 games ahead of the Giants. 

And this is reflected by the NL West's Strength of Schedule so far, both LA and COL has faced much worse teams (-0.3) than AZ (-0.2) or the Giants (-0.1, which is not that strong either, but probably reflects how badly the NL West has been this season relative to the other divisions). 

Interesting side note, Cards leading Central because they have faced much easier opponents than Pirates, heck, than the rest of the division, they have had it really easy relatively.  Meanwhile, the Braves have really been that much better than the rest of their division. 

Unfortunately, I doubt that this disparity between LA and the Giants in terms of opponents will ever even out, but I thought that at least shows that the two teams are not as far apart as the standings suggest.

So the Dodgers have benefited from stupendous bullpen relief that unless something miraculous continues, they should not get in the rest of the season, plus they have benefited from an easier schedule, which does not always even out, though.  So it is hard to say what they might do, but there are a number of areas of weakneses that could bring them back to the Giants in the standings. 

How LA Could Fall Back to SF

First off, while the starting pitching looks good overall, there are potential areas of weaknesses. 

Ryu is in his first season in the majors, so we don't know how good he really is.  Perhaps the 2.72 ERA he compiled up to June 7th represented his advantage over teams not knowing him, but the 4.22 ERA since then is closer to his true talent mean.  As he was pretty bad in the 7 starts since, 42.2 IP, but only 23 K's and 18 walks!  He has earned that 4.22 ERA, and then some because the bullpen has clearly saved him, he had 51 hits too. 

Greinke could regress.  Greinke had a 3.83 ERA in his last three prior seasons, with 8.7 K/9 and 3.8 K/BB, but he has his best ERA (3.36) in years with 7.0 K/9 and 2.4 K/BB, his lowest K/BB since his first full season in 2005.  As noted, he had a 4.22 ERA just before his recent good streak, which suggests that his ERA could swing up and down, and that this is just one of his low ERA period.  He can expect another 13 starts, 79 IP, and the ERA over that which would bring his current ERA back to 3.83 is 4.32, and that would put a big crimp on their plans to win the West.

Nolasco has been great this season, but his peripherals for this season is very close to his career.  For the season he has a 7.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 3.4 K/BB and his career numbers are better, 7.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 3.5 K/BB.   However, he has a 3.75 ERA this season vs. a 4.42 ERA for his career.  And he hasn't even benefited from Dodger Stadium yet, he has one start there, 5.40 ERA due to 3 runs in 5.0 IP.  It is his road numbers that have been great this season, 2.19 with LA, 3.20 with Miami (vs. 5.40 and 4.50 at Miami).  Again, he does not necessarily fall back, but the numbers all support some sort of regression.

Capuano, meanwhile, while he should be better going forward, isn't all that good either.  His last three seasons, 4.10 ERA with 7.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 3.0 K/BB, which includes a lot of good relieving in 2010.  And he is not far removed from his 2011 performance, 4.55 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 3.2 K/BB.  He currently has a 4.63 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 3.2 K/BB.  And his career BABIP explains that dichotomy between his good peripherals and his poor overall ERA:  .305 BABIP, .265/.325/.441/.767 career batting line, 1.2 HR/9, 9.1% HR/FB vs. 7.7% MLB average, plus a lot more FB than GB, 0.70 GB/FB vs. 0.80 MLB average.   He looks like he'll continue to be a back of rotation starter and unlikely to help out the starting pitching.

The bullpen especially should regress a lot.  Jansen probably will continue being great, so there should be no falloff there, but the rest should.  Bellisario is 30 YO and his great month reflects a regression to mean as he's been a good reliever previously, but nobody can sustain 0.00 ERA for two months.  JP Howell had a 0.93 ERA, but 2.36 ERA for the season (2.78 ERA before) and 4.23 ERA for his career, though 3.04 ERA in 2012 and 2.84 in 2009 and 2.22 in 2008 (2011 was a recovery year after probably TJS), so while he should be good still, he won't be 0.93 ERA good.  Paco Rodriguez is probably very good, but again, 0.00 ERA is not sustainable.   He had a 1.35 ERA in only 11 appearances last season, and prior to 0.00 ERA, he had a 2.93 ERA for the season.  Still, 10.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.6 K/BB are great peripherals, so he should be good, just not 0.00 good.  Withrow is a nice power arm, but he's been very wild in the minors, and not as dominating, so I expect his K/9 and BB/9 to get worse, as the league learns about him. 

However, the offense looks like it could be sustainable.  Most of their hitters are not hitting out of their minds, just the two who are capable of it, Kemp and Hanley.  But there lies their potential cracks.

Hanley is 29 YO and now has three seasons out of four which have been shortened by injuries, severely in 2011 and he's already missed 45 games this season, so severely in 2013 as well.  Players don't get healthier as they get older.   And while he has been capable of long streaks of great hitting before, he hasn't done it since 2009, so he's been ordinary for three seasons up to this season.  He may stay hot, but he could cool off as well, either just due to the laws of MLB pitching gravity or to another injury.

And Kemp has missed a number of games himself due to injuries this season and last, and he is 28 YO.  Still, Kemp could come back hitting strongly (though this season he's been having the worse season he has had since he reached the majors) and has so far with his nice game back on Sunday, and really, since coming back on June 25th.  When healthy, he's one of the best around, but that is also the caveat, when healthy.   He has missed 82 games out of the last 260, or nearly a third of the games played in 2012 and 2013.  As I noted above, players don't get healthier as they get older, and they both play premium defensive positions that beats up on players, particularly shortstops like Hanley. 

Without the heat of either of these two players, the offense would revert to be much closer to the below average offense the Dodgers sported in May and June, when they averaged 3.74 RS per game, and not the 5.2 RS they have averaged during their great winning stretch.  If they do, they will revert to their losing ways. 

At the moment, the only player much above league average for their position is Hanley.   A.J. Ellis looks to be above average, but not by much for C.  A-Gon is still good, but not great for 1B.  Crawford has actually been above average, but not for much in LF.   All of the rest of the starters have been below or much below average.  For gosh sakes, Uribe is still starting at 3B for them hitting .264/.336/.398/.734. 

Kemp should eventually be above, but their offense is actually very creaky and old. Puig is the youngest, but it he keeps hitting so poorly, he'll join Francoeur as one of those hot moments that cool off quickly.  If so, only Hanley at 29 and Kemp at 28 are the only starters under 30, and most of them are 31 to 33 YO.   Plus, Punto, Schumaker, and Hairston have got a lot of ABs and they are 35, 33, and 37 respectively. 

And A-Gon, though only 31, appears to have taken the Todd Helton career route, dropping quickly from amazing to mostly average almost overnight (remember Helton benefited from his home park, if you look at his road numbers, that's a better indication of his true talent level, though even then, A-Gon has fallen sooner and faster).

Giants Are Getting Healthy

The Giants were winning at the start of the season because of their offense, as their pitching was struggling to find their happy spot.  Over the past two weeks, three hitters have been supporting the team:  the much unfairly maligned Belt, who hit .370/.433/.593/1.026 and led the team, the All-Star Posey who hit .394/.400/.576/.976, and Sandoval, who by most reports have lost some weight and got fitter over the the break, and he hit .324/.410/.559/.969.    They have scored 13 runs and drove in 16 over the past 9 games. 

Belt, in particularly, is just doing what he's been doing since early April, since April 10th, Belt has hit .282/.356/.473/.829, with 10 HR in 277 AB (28 AB/HR, or roughly 20-25 HR seasonal rate), 191 ISOp, which is good power, the average NL 1B has 185 ISO (and .767 OPS plus 29.2 AB/HR).  And as I noted in another post, Sandoval just needed to get his batting mechanics into shape after DLing for so long, and has been hitting well and for power since it clicked in.

Unfortunately, nobody else is hitting as well.  Some are doing OK.  Francoeur has done nicely, but he should vs. LHP plus SSS.  Crawford, who looks like he is coming out of his injury induced slump is still not hitting for much power, but hitting nicely, .296/.345/.370/.715, which is good for 8th place hitters and SS, and he should be contributing even more once he gets his power stroke back.  Torres has been OK, hitting .294/.294/.412/.706.

However, others are struggling.  Tanaka is hitting .304/.360/.304/.664 in that period, but as pitchers learn that he don't hit for any power, his batting average will be empty, though good enough OBP for batting second.  Pence has been struggling for a while now, and still, .229/.289/.371/.661, but like last season, he's been hitting when RISP, so his 6 RBIs is second on the team during that period to Posey's 9 (Sandoval was third with 4 RBI).  Scutaro has really been struggling, hitting .207/.343/.207/.550, but he appears to be getting BABIPed (6 walks, only 2 K's in 35 PA; .222 BABIP) badly and that is probably due to his continuing issues with his back.  His cold spell has actually been running for a month now, though he showed strong signs of coming out in early July, but has been totally BABIPed (0 for 10 but no K's plus 5 walks) since returning from the break, so hopefully he's breaking out soon for us.  Blanco has only hit .207/.281/.241/.523, a slightly bad BABIP but no guarantee that he'll come out of it, he does come and go offensively.

But to show how close we are offensively, when Crawford started hitting again, the Giants averaged 5.7 runs just before the break.  But since the break, while he's getting a bit BABIPed (only 1 K in 11 AB), he only hit .182/.250/.182/.432 and the team averaged 3.75 RS over those 4 games.   And the Giants averaged over 5 runs per game when they were winning earlier in the season.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching is about where it was before.  Bumgarner is the ace now, and he might not give up that title going forward.  Cain has struggled but that appears to be his new level of performance, good but not great, with the occassional struggles.  Gaudin has actually risen to second best on the team in terms of DOM% but he'll have to prove that as he was not that good previously, hence why the Giants were able to pick him up cheaply and with no promises of a job.  Lincecum is the new Zito, alternating amazingly good starts with pull your hair out starts.  But with the no-hitter, he's here to stay, Naysayers, he's not going anywhere this season and he should be a starter.

And Zito is his normal self, good for stretches, bad for stretches, currently in a bad stretch and perhaps Giants management is tired of that given that his contract could end this season and they don't have as much contract to eat anymore.  That is the only explanation I can come up with all the rumors about the Giants searching for another starting pitcher, Zito is the weak link in the rotation right now, and presumably the one pushed out should the Giants land another starter. 

However, unless we are trading some second tier prospects, I don't want the Giants trading to get a replacement starter.  Zito has been frustrating but he's been fine as a back of rotation guy. 

And there you have it, all the starting pitchers have roughly been what they have been all season, only Gaudin has come in and replaced a really bad Vogelsong, which means that we have a better rotation now than we did earlier, plus if Vogelsong can return to his prior goodness in August, the rotation would be even better, perhaps on par with last season.

Our bullpen has been up and down, and I thought we were all back, but now Affeldt is out with groin issues, just as Casilla returned, but he still needs time to get back into baseball shape.  Dunning has done surprisingly well, as has Rosario, so that has helped.  And Mijares has been great, and will help a lot with the absence of Affeldt.

And frankly part of the downfall in recent weeks has been Affeldt, as he has apparently been battling this issue for a while now, pitching in discomfort (and ruining our chances to win games) before it put him on the DL.  I'm no doctor, but groin issues for a pitcher seems like a no-brainer, he should have DLed himself, especially when it was clear that he was not contributing anything to the team other than defeats.   So losing him should help the bullpen a lot, as now we'll have Mijares in there instead, and he has a 9.9 K/9 plus 3.5 K/BB, so he is really good in that.

So we are not that far away from contending.  The D-backs and D-gers should regress some from where they have been, both have been benefiting from performances that are unsustainable for the rest of the season, particularly D-back's 17-2 record in Corbin starts and the D-gers lucking out in numerous areas. 

Meanwhile, the Giants should start coming back some.  They have more home games than road for the rest of the season.  And the offense appears to be coming around as players get heathly and/or into playing form.  Two players who contributed to the burst of offense in early July appear to be getting BABIPed since returning from the break, Scutaro and Crawford, and if either or both turn on the heat again, along with Posey, Sandoval, and Belt, the offense should be going again, especially if Pence continues to drive in runs with RISP. 

The pitching, while the starting pitching is not as strong as it had been in prior seasons, it is as good or better than it was early in the season when the offense was scoring well, and the bullpen is, overall, in good shape, because of young guys who have come in and stepped up.

And could be potentially better soon if rumors of Wilson throwing well, and with Giants personnel (Rags) around, bodes well for his return to the team.  He's not going to get a closing role with anyone in the majors, but he would be a great set-up guy for us or many other teams.   It seems like he realizes that the Giants continued interest is good for his marketing, and really, I don't know if many teams want to put up with his antics so close to the end of the season, some teams will have to wonder if he's the spark to get them to the playoffs or the spark to blow it all up.  I think the Giants will be able to outbid most teams for him, I don't anticipate large demand for his services. 

Overall, while the Giants have a lot of hurdles to make in order to win the NL West division - a lot of ifs - I don't see that they should give up either.  Both LA and AZ would have to continue to be historically good to hold their positions right now, and are likely to fall back to the pack.  And the Giants are returning to their strengths that they showed at the start of the season when they went 23-15.  Of course, that is why they play the games and why teams do historic things all the time, like the Giants did in the playoffs last season coming back from elimination twice.  But we won't know what's what until deep into August, unless the Giants drop back into their losing ways of the past month or so, and fall into double digits out of the race.  Given that, I don't see why fans should give up, as certain media members have suggested in recent articles. 

Media Driven Fan Negativity

And I'm starting to see the pattern.  Media don't really like good news, nothing to really sink their teeth into other than "hey, they're good".  But when they get the first sniff of anything bad, they bring out both barrels and say things are bad, here comes the June Swoon (another media invention too).   And the fans just read that, soak it in, and run for the cliffs like lemmings supposedly do (I recently read that this is not true, that National Geographic drove the lemmings off the cliff to get their picture of lemmings doing what comes "naturally").

This explains the legion of grumbling upset Giants fans who have been complaining forever about the Giants, first on USENET, then on Fanhome, then MCC and MLB.com, where I used to hang out in hopes of intelligent discussions on the Giants chances.  And when I put up a great case for the Giants to do well in 2003, I get paternistically patted on the head and told that I'm off my rocker, the Giants are dooomed!  Or when I told fellow fans after we let go of Bonds that the Giants are situated nicely with pitching, pitching, and more pitching, and headed for the Decade of the Giants, they tell me I'm off my rocker, write articles about how lousy Sabean is, and continue to this day to not concede that Sabean is responsible for the most successful period in San Francisco Giants franchise history and that we should thank him for his great job.

I feel no lack of compunction:  Thank You Brian Sabean, thanks for all the wins, thanks for the two (and counting) World Championships, thanks for the bounty of good baseball that I think is coming our way during this Decade of the Giants.  Thank you for pursuing and signing Bruce Bochy, as I think he's is equally responsible for the past successes and the two (and counting) World Championships.  Thank you for not listening to all the fans asking for hitters (including me) and getting Madison Bumgarner, and congrats on nailing it that he would reach the majors in two seasons.   I look forward to your long career with the Giants continuing indefinitely, sticking it to the Naysayers, but wish you no luck as you clearly make your own luck.  Thank you for everything you have done for the Giants franchise.

10 comments:

  1. The lesson from the bittersweet 2011 season I learned - don't give up. St. Louis sneaked in at the last minute and won it all. The Gigantes were 1/2 game out from where the Cards were in mid-September. It was mainly fueled by Beltran getting hot versus scrub pitching, and Pablo getting hot as well.

    Gints are definitely down right now, 6 1/2 out of the West and 10 1/2 out of the Wild Card (tied with the lowly Mets!)

    I'd say this has to happen, and its a long-shot this year: have to win on the road. They've been abysmal. The pitching has to come together, and it seems like the big inning/big hit/too many home runs have really struck. And the third thing is the defense, its still pretty sloppy, which is not what we're used to. I'm pretty sick of the infield hits falling, the pitchers haven't been too slick. I would say that teams are much more inclined to challenge a fat panda at third with the bunts/squibblers...

    But one thing about this season is its been some hard luck. Balls haven't gone the Gigantes way a lot of the time. That can come raging back at any time. Baseball is very unpredictable. The hottest team at the moment? The Seattle Mariners. You never know when its your turn.

    But the main lesson from 2011 I thought was just don't give up. Don't trot out a surrender lineup. You're defending world series champions. No matter how hard its going, act like you've been there before and conduct yourself accordingly.

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  2. I wish I shared your optimism, ogc. I agree that the resurrection of the old grumblings about Sabes and Boch are coming from short-sighted, fair weather fans and are way off base, but I also think you have to be tinting your glasses with an awful lot of rose coloring to see the Giants coming back this year.

    I chalk it all up to a perfect storm of emotional letdown, an exhausted pitching staff and a multitude of injures. There is a glaring weakness in LF, but as Shankbone has pointed out, the available options this offseason would have been worse.

    I see this season as a great opportunity to regroup and reload for the future. Sabes has some tough decisions to make about Timmy and Pence. If he plays those cards right, he can either re-sign them for a favorable price or get a couple of extra picks to go with a top 10 in a strong draft.

    I'm still bullish on Sabes and the future of the Giants, but not so much this season.

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    Replies
    1. I don't view it as optimism. Both AZ and LA has been riding high on fumes, much like COL when that pitcher was pitching all those great games in the first half, then fell once reality hit him (like it should for Corbin), much like SD in 2010 was riding high on the ace performances that their non-aces were giving them, but when they reverted to reality in the second half, the Giants were able to catch them (and, FYI, I called both of those, not that it was that sharp to do that, just that I did).

      Of course, 2013 is a different season, and just because a team or player should revert to reality does not mean that they do.

      Odds are, however, that AZ should fall, they are a very bad team outside of Corbin starts, and once he starts faltering, their contention will too.

      Odds are not as favorable with LA, but as I showed with my analysis, their good stretch has been because of Hanley and Kemp's great hitting, out of their heads relieving, and some starting pitching overheadedness.

      Hanley should revert to past season norms unless he found the Fountain of Youth in LA, and returned to his general state of Awesomeness that he had when he was first making it big in the majors. But there is not that much season left, he could be a lit firework that lasts for a long while.

      The bullpen however, I doubt that they can continue to compile an ERA of under 1.00 for the rest of the season. They are good but not that good. So start to expect more blown saves.

      Also, the starting pitching has been showing the same peripherals as their careers, but their ERA is much better than their careers. Like Hanley, maybe they can continue the good pitching.

      But that is a lot of ifs that need to happen for them to continue to be this good. The smart bet is that something will regress, whether Hanley or the starting pitching, and the bullpen definitely will break, they are not going to continue to have the majority of the relievers post sub-1.00 ERAs for the rest of the season, that is an easy bet to take.

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    2. The Giants obviously would need to improve as well. The main reason they have been down that I see is because of injuries and recovery from injuries.

      The lineup looks like it is returning back to health, and start to be productive again. As bad as Blanco has been, Pagan was not that much better when we were scoring all those runs, we were scoring because we were hitting from Scutaro to Crawford (with a pause for the LF) and Posey wasn't even that hot then either.

      The starting pitching was not that great then either, Gaudin has been a great improvement over what Vogie was doing until the start he got hurt in, and the rest has been what they are today, this season.

      The bullpen has been their best feature this season, but Casilla's injury also put a crimp on things, and Affeldt injury could also do the same, but I'm hoping Mijares can step up and deliver, unlike Kontos when Casilla was down, but Dunning and Rosario has done well for us so far.

      So that to me is logic, not optimism.

      But I'm starting to see your (and Covechatter's) point that my stance is optimistic regarding the Giants. To me, I'm just expecting them to be what they were at the start of the season, and maybe that is a bit of optimism as well, but I feel that the poor recent play was the abnormality, due to the key injuries, and that they should revert to earlier standards of performance with regards to winning. And I explained why I thought things should revert to early season.

      But I agree that there has been an exhausted pitching staff. I would also add that almost every WBC participant spent some extended time on the DL this season. I don't know about an emotional letdown, if so, then how did they start off the season 23-15?

      There is a glaring weakness in LF now, but if Pagan was still playing, I don't think anyone would be noticing it right now.

      And 1) every team has a weakness somewhere in the lineup and 2) the Giants have been good about keeping a spot open for prospects who might be ready for the majors that season. I think the Giants felt that they were covered by having Kieschnick, Peguero and Brown percolating in Fresno, should anything bad happened to LF. Blanco/Torres is a great platoon in LF offensively (Torres has been disappointingly bad in LF defensively, not sure why, he was great everywhere for us before), though, only exposed when Pagan went down and both had to hit non-platoon pitchers.

      Plus, as Shankbone astutely noted, there were no good options available either.

      While they have a Top 10 pick now, if they play as well as I think they are capable of, they will be more middle of pack instead. But we will see, I agree.

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  3. I would add Zito as another tough decision for Sabes. This team needs a jolt of new energy. I'm starting to think that it might be better to pay Zito his $7 M to go away. Find another Vogie Guadin type out there on the cheap and put the $12 M toward and upgrade in LF.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the team is going to keep LF open for one of our AAA OF to break out and force his way into the starting lineup. I would be shocked if they sign a big money LF, that would speak very negatively about the Giants assessment of the outfielders potential development.

      Big money, if anywhere, would go into the starting pitching, I think. As I've noted on your blog, Zito has actually been pretty bad since his fourth start, so he's basically been bad all season long, and could be the odd man out when Vogie returns to the rotation. If so, he's probably DFAed because he's no reliever, and no worries over his option, it won't be picked up.

      But I don't know if anyone that good is available, plus Lincecum's $22M is coming off books too, looks like the Giants can shift some money into better scouting to help the draft and IFA processes. Plus maybe buy some draft picks from some teams.

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  4. Re-tool and re-group should be the theme of the season at this point. And I agree with DrB, there does need to be new energy. I just posted up what hitters are doing against Zito this year, it ain't pretty.

    You don't know how long it will be if help comes from all these pitching prospects the Giants have in the low-minors. I think its safe to say its not going to be next year. The struggles of Kickham/Surkamp demonstrate how hard it is to make that final jump, and that's something the Giants have been spoiled with, repeatedly. But as good as Cain/Timmy/Bumgarner have been, there are always those who impress initially like Williams or guys that get injured like Lowry. We may be back to some sort of Matt Morris type next year.

    Zack Wheeler has a 1.50 WHIP and has given up 1.5 HRs/9. Looks like a Giants pitcher for sure!

    I would lock Pence as long as it didn't climb above 4/60MM. If Sabean could get the Pagan (4/40) based on the inconsistent play, even better. That'd be the limit though, based on the warts. You need at least half of the 4 corner spots on a 3-4 year plan. Then you can deal with Mr. Sandoval. Pablo's 3 HR barrage that shocked the baseball world seem very far away right now. I'd be sending that every five minutes to the Yankees right now and demanding Rafael De Paula personally.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, I posted Zito's bad hitting numbers on DrB yesterday, he has just been killed this season, and basically the whole season, this is his worse season with us and that's saying much.

      Yeah, Wheeler has been what I thought he would be, high BB/9, low K/9, because of the struggles that he had in A-ball while with the Giants plus he's been good but not great in AA and AAA for the Mets, the concept of MLE teaches that whatever a guy does in AAA, you shave off some of the K/9, add to his BB/9, and this season he had a 8.5 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9, which if you shave and add, is basically the 7.2 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9 that he's doing now. He's clearly not ready for the majors right now, but the Mets are going nowhere and want to give the fans a charge, plus you never know, so you see how he does in the majors.

      I mean, as good as Cain was in the minors, he struggled mighty fiercely in his first full MLB season. And Wheeler is no Cain.

      Wheeler's numbers never rang out to me as Ace material, so I'm not shocked that he is struggling right now. Not that he won't ever be good, just that my opinion that he would not be ready for the majors until at least 2014 seems to be holding up. But who knows, maybe something clicks while he's up here in the majors, but the Giants needed help in 2011 and Wheeler was the price to pay to help try to hold on for the win in 2011, it was just too bad Beltran failed to help us when we needed it.

      Yeah, I think Giants fans have been spoiled a bit by Timmy and Bumgarner, but I had forgotten that Cain actually struggled for most of his first full season in the majors, even the best takes some time to adjust to major league life and competition.

      And as bad as Zito has been, he's been better than Matt Morris for us.

      I agree with the parameters on Pence. I know you are tired of Pablo but to the point that many of the Naysayers have been saying to me for years, you have to try to win now with the pitchers we got going, you don't know how much longer we got (they were wrong then because our guys were young then; now, they are middle-aged, as far as pitchers go). And Sandoval's hitting would help ensure we have the offense to support the now aging and declining pitching.

      Though if a team is willing to throw us a big package of good prospects, like the ones the A's somehow finagle out of people, I would be willing to listen, Pablo is not on my no-trade list anymore. One good prospect is not good enough for me, Pablo is so much better than that, it would just be selling low.

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    2. It is still July we are only 7 games back and one hot streak can make it a race. One ten game stretch where we go 8-2 and the bums go 3 and 7, we pick up 5 games. This stuff happens all the time. Look how the giants faded in 2011, right around the end of July. It is just way to early to count a 7 game deficit as non competitive. However, the giants starting pitching has to really step it up. We are at the moment next to last in era, and we play at AT&T. That is mostly due to the starters. Except for Gaudin, our replacement pitchers have been horrible. Relief is ok, except a few times in the clutch. The hitting needs a big bopper to clear the bases instead of this team leaving base runners on as if having them score were pure poison. One nice stretch of 17-3 or 17-4. without a team ahead of us getting hot at the same time could put us right in the race. One pulled hamstring to Kershaw would change the entire dodger dynamic.

      Delete
  5. This season is done with the sweep by the Cubs as the exclamation point. Re-tool & re-group.

    ReplyDelete

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