Friday, October 31, 2014

Your 2015 Giants: The Hot Stove Is Heating Up

Basking in the afterglow of the Giants third championship in five seasons, it would be easy to forget the reality that a number of our players on this wonderful, wonderful, team are free agents who could chose to move on.

These are the free agents:

  • Pablo Sandoval
  • Jake Peavy
  • Michael Morse
  • Sergio Romo
  • Ryan Vogelsong


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your 2014 Giants Are World Champions: Team of the 2010 Decade

For the third time in five years, the Giants won the World Series and are World Champions again.  Bumgarner was going to win the MVP anyway, but he comes in and pitches 5.0 inning to close out the game and protect the lead, even though he was pitching 3 days later instead of his normal 5 days rest.  He would have earned a 4 PQS with what he did in relief, had he started.  

Of course, when the score is 3-2, it is a team effort, Pablo 3 for 3, 2 runs scored, Pence and Belt 2 hits, Morse 2 RBI, Crawford 1 RBI, Panik great double play mitt flip.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants:  Team of the 2010 Decade!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series Game 7: For All The Marbles

Jake Peavy...  nuff said...

ogc thoughts

Ugh, exactly what I was afraid of, Peavy implosion. Any interest I had in re-signing Peavy is pretty much gone.  Once I found out that Peavy had his hand injury, I was hoping that Bochy would be shelved and that Petit would start instead.

I know Petit didn't do well, but I think he does better coming into an inning clean, he does not really have a lot of experience coming in with runners on and the need to stifle a rally.  He could have been ampped up and that could have accounted for this result (not that he's world beating all the time, but he didn't sound like his normal self today).  I would have preferred Lopez coming in at that point, he was warming up anyway and used to such pressures.

I think we could have won this game had Peavy been a good teammate and took one for the team and gave up his start so that Petit could start.  Even better, I wish Bochy would have done what he had done previously and just sat Peavy down for the good of the team, and started Petit instead.   I don't think we lose 10-0 with Petit starting, thought probably still lose, but you don't know how the offense was affected being down 7-0 like that so early.

And there was not really anything positive in this massacre shutout.  All the relievers gave up at least a run, this was almost as bad as the Royals Game 4, except for Vogelsong, who actually contributed a shutout inning, Petit was finally hit against and Strickland gave up another homer.  Hopefully Strickland's confidence didn't take too big a hit with this post-season, I still think he can do amazing things for us in the future, but this was a pretty big bump in the road for him.

The offense was shutdown, but, again, Ventura survived his wildness and the BABIP gods looked down on him nicely.  He walked 5 and only struck out 4 in his 7 innings, so the Giants made a lot of contact, but once again they weren't falling in.

Game 7

This is why I advocate having multiple aces as an optimal way to advance in the playoffs.  I thought Peavy could be that guy, but while he's that in the regular season, he's never been in the playoffs and still hasn't. Had Cain been his normal self, we would have him in Game 2 and 6, and instead of two losses, at least one would have been a win and we would be champions right now.  Or had Lincecum decided that a $35M contract was reason enough for him to reconcile with his father and get his mechanics back to where it was when he was winning Cy Youngs, I could not believe the news when this was reported.   We needed another pitcher to step up with Bumgarner and so far, in the World Series, nobody has.

So it's up to Hudson to step up where nobody else had.  He has actually pitched well this post-season, the second best to Bumgarner.  He had DOM starts in the NLDS and NLCS, and probably could have had one in the first World Series game except that he was ampped up in the early innings but then settled down for an OK 3 PQS start, but unfortunately, that was not enough to beat the Royals.   If I had to bet, I would bet that he would deliver.

But as the Philliers learned in 2011, just because you have a DOM start does not mean that you will win.

Luckily (and Eric Byrnes said on the radio that he felt good about game 7, but not game 6), Guthrie is the opposing pitcher, and while he's been good at delivering DOM starts in the regular season, he has had two straight 2 PQS starts, and in both cases, he hardly struck out anyone.  So I don't think he's likely to deliver a DOM start, though perhaps nerves got to him in his first World Series start and he'll deliver.  In any case, he's also been able to limit the damage so far in the playoffs, so even if he don't deliver a DOM, if he can pitch like he has and just get to HDH, that could be good enough for them to win.

This is for all the marbles, and things are too much in the air to make a good guess at the results.  Both starting pitchers could do well, or maybe not.  Both bullpens have plenty of rest.  Both lineups are dangerous.  We just need the men in orange and black to perform and deliver.

Who will step forward for the Giants?  Perhaps Posey can step up?  Perhaps another Giants hitter can take over?

Ideally, Hudson will deliver a great DOM start, much like he did early in the season and early in the playoffs, and then I'll take my chances.

But if we are to win, we'll need someone to deliver a special moment of some sort, whether it be like Renteria's homerun or Sandoval's three homer game, or Ishikawa's three-run walk-off homer, some sort of lifting of his teammates to the finish line, to the World Championship.  Or perhaps a Hudson special delivery.

That's what I'm hoping for.

Go Giants!   Get us our third trophy in five years!  #ThreeIsAGoodNumber

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series Game 5: MadBum > Shields

Vogelsong couldn't get it going, but neither could any of the Royals relievers.  Then Petit shut them down, and that was the game.  Nobody lost their cool (on the Giants, I'm sure all the fans did), and basically almost every hitter contributed something at some point in the game, or seemingly so.  Apparently Sandoval was sick with something and still delivered.  Jon Miller noted that the Giants scored more runs with two outs than any other team in the majors, and they delivered again in the playoffs.

I was wondering why Yost didn't go to Herrera in the 6th, but forgot that he had already pitched almost 60 pitches the past two games (though off day in between), so perhaps that was the reason.  Whatever the reason, Yost had to go to a bunch of middle relievers, and if Giants fans don't trust Machi or Strickland much (though Hunter had a nice 9th inning), I don't think KC fans trust Frasor, Duffy, Finnegan, Collins much either.  Shankbone made the great point on Twitter about Yost leaving in his lefties (Duffy, Finnegan, Collins) to get knocked around like that, couldn't have helped their confidence going forward, something to watch for going forward.

With such a huge lead, Bochy brought in Affeldt in the 7th and Romo in the 8th, and some twitters asked why he would do that.  My best guess is that being down 1-2, he really needed to make sure that the Royals don't feel like they could come back in this game, especially with Affeldt with the lead at 7-4, a couple of baserunners and the tying run comes to bat.  Romo is the bigger question mark, but there's still 6 more outs, and if they should get 3 runs, then they are only down 4 runs in the 9th.

Bochy went for the kill and I'm OK with that.  It's the World Series, got to win the game, especially down 1-2.  Then he went to Stickland in the 9th and he got the final 3 outs, and by then, even if they get 3 runs off him, it would still be a 4 run lead and you bring in your closer (but ideally not).

This is fine with me (I would note that I would have taken out Vogelsong sooner) because we got Bumgarner pitching and he's been lasting into the 7th or 8th inning in each start, and so we maybe only need Casilla to close out the game.  In addition, there is an off day before game 6, giving our bullpen some rest.  At worse, Lincecum can also be used to bridge from the starter to relievers, so he could fill in whatever innings between Bumgarner and Casilla, assuming we are leading.

A-List Affeldt 

What a pitcher!  Many questioned the signing of him (and the other key relievers) to $5M contracts, hopefully they understand now.  He's now at 21 straight appearances without a run given up, only two runs away from Mariano Rivera, who holds the record at 23.

Game 5

Bumgarner has been an ace so far this season, 7+ IP in each start this post-season, lots of great starts, he's been stepping up.

Shields in contrast has not been an ace so far this season, struggling the whole time, with no DOM starts at all, he hasn't been even good at all in the post-season.

We better win this game, as we got Peavy and Hudson going for us in KC.  If the Giants can win Game 5, I think we can get one win from Peavy or Hudson, but I don't believe that we can win two with the two in KC.  It would be a gut punch if we lose.  This is must win, back to the wall again, and I wouldn't want anyone else but Bumgarner starting for us.

And in KC, all hands on deck, particularly Petit, Lincecum, and Bumgarner.  I expect to see quick hooks to stop any potential KC scoring opportunities.  I expect Petit and Lincecum to come in early before too much damage could be done, could see Lopez really early to take down a lefty or two, Romo for taking down a righty or three.

Go Giants!  Go Bumgarner!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series Game 4: Must Win!

Oy! Giants lose 3-2, and is now down 1-2 in the World Series.  Worse, the bullpen gave up the winning run, with our LOOGY facing their top lefty, and allowing the inherited runner to score what proved to be the winning run.  Moreover, our hitters was unable to hit a hitter who couldn't throw a strike three past anyone.  He relied on his fielders and they did not let him down, catching all the batted balls the Giants hitters smashed.

ogc thoughts

Hudson was unable to get his nerves ready for the start of the game, and was immediately scored upon.  But he calmed down by the second inning and was OK until the 6th inning.  He pitched well enough but not dominantly.  He ended with a 3 DOM.  OK, but not good enough.

Guthrie wasn't better, he had a 2 DOM, so technically he pitched worse.  But that's the way the baseball bounces sometimes.  Then the new KC drug, HDH, shut down the Giants the rest of the way, though Herrera had a hiccup and like Lopez, gave up a run too, so they are not invulnerable.

Game 4 is a must win.  Vogelsong is scheduled and probable.  I wrote about him and Vargas in the first post for the World Series but I'm too depressed to go find it and paste it here.  Basically, Vogelsong has been good but not great in the playoffs, DOM-wise, but as noted in the media, he tied some sort of record by allowing 1 or less runs in his first five playoff starts, until his last start.  We need him to return to his prior goodness.

Especially since Vargas has been pitching like an ace, and throwing DOM at the opposing teams.

So Game 4 does not look good.  Of course, maybe I'm more nervous because this is the first since since 2002 where the Giants were behind in the World Series, first time ever with Bochy.  Hopefully Pence will have an inspiring speech to rally the troops again.

There is some talk about pitching Bumgarner on short rest but it's not happening unless the game is rained out and pushed to Sunday, I think.  We are in a tight spot, but no tighter than we were in 2012.  But we need some guys to step up.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Great Giants Dictionary

Pavlovic has a great post on Giants terms, explaining many terms and covering the origins.

That's it!  Read and enjoy!  Nice rundown of memes of this season and season's past that still works.  I'm glad that #FreeBelt was retired.

Go Giants!  #ChampionsBlood #ThreeIsAGoodNumber

Your 2014 Giants: World Series Game 3: Nobody More Ready

That's reassuring words to hear from our starting pitcher, Tim Hudson (tweet from Pavlovic):
What I've hoped and dreamed for my whole career is finally here. There's not going to be anybody on field more ready than I am."
Also, had to share this great picture of Buster, beautiful:


ogc thoughts

Not a lot of positives from the game.  Peavy had a DIS start, just could not throw strikes to save him life, but was able to limit the damage until that fateful inning.  Of course, he got help from Machi and Strickland to burn the rest of the structure.  The hitters was able to get a lot of hits, but never the one to open the game up for us.  Bochy again was sub-optimal in using the pen, taking a close game and blowing it apart with Machi and Strickland.  Even the one positive, Lincecum's outing, turned into a negative when he felt tightness in his back (reports today I see on twitter notes that he's OK and probable for tomorrow, pending MRI results).

But, as I noted in the Cards series, I'm sad we lost game 2, but I didn't think that they would go the whole series without a loss.  Lick our wounds, come back fighting in Game 3.

Pondering Peavy

And I was worried about that because Peavy has not been very dominating in the playoffs.  He can limit the damage for the most part, but then the manager saves him by taking him out early.  Frankly, I would have took out Peavy sooner, after he gave us 5 OK innings.  At that point, he had only given up 2 runs, but had walked two while only striking out one.  That's a 2 PQS, not good, not bad, though close to bad, and much like he had done previously.  Leaving him in dropped his PQS into disaster territory.

So first, I'm wondering, should the series go to 6 games, do we start Peavy?  I think if Petit hasn't pitched much up to that point, we might see him start game 6 over Peavy.  Bochy has skipped a pitcher before during the playoffs, like they did with Bumgarner in 2012, so it is not unprecedented.   And really, I would even go with Lincecum paired with Petit even if Petit had pitched and could only give a couple of innings relief.  Peavy has shown nothing in his playoff career, and now I'm seriously considering changing my mind about re-signing him for 2015, though we still need a starter for 2015 (though that could be Petit instead, with Bumgarner, Cain, Hudson, and Lincecum, who hopefully will be better after an off-season getting back his old mechanics by working with his dad).

Sticking With Strickland

It's not called learning pains for nothing.  Some people just have it immediately, like K-Rod did, but for whatever reasons, Strickland is struggling.  I wouldn't mind if Bochy uses him again, but obviously got to chose the spots.

I still believe in his talent.  He has only 12.1 IP in his MLB career, 5.1 IP of which were in the playoffs.  His baptism in fire.  But 9 K's in 7 IP with only 5 hits and zero walks in the regular season, 32.5 IP in AA, with only 25 hits and 4 (!) walks vs. 48 K's for a 12.00 K/BB ratio (remember 2 is good and you want at least 2.4 from your best pitchers;  so yeah, that's elite, that's like Bumgarner's ratio in high school, Madison's best as pro was in Augusta with a 7.81 K/BB).  That's a 12.1 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9 for Hunter in AA.

And his blow-up reminds me of another Giant:  Bumgarner.  I'll never forget about him flinging the ball out of the stadium in AAA early in the 2010 season when he got really angry, I think at an umpire's bad call.  Need that type of passion during the game, as well as "move on" attitude afterward, to be an effective closer, and he apparently has this quality.

No Mas Machi

I usually applaud Bochy for his moves, but I felt that he was late in his changes again.  As noted above, I would have took out Peavy after he got 5 good innings out of him, plus then this would have let Machi pitch with no runners on, especially since he has not really had a clean appearance so far this season except for his first one out relief appearance.  Since then it has been a hit parade, as well as run parade.

Instead, he faced two runners on with no outs and gave up another hit.  I think Bochy is better off using Machi in low pressure situations, he's obviously battling some sort of nerves, it happens to the best of us, same as Strickland.  But after this amount of time, I think you use him in garbage time and big leads, if he gets in trouble, stop him quick and bring in the Big Boys, Affeldt, Romo, Lopez, and Casilla.

Liking Lincecum

I'm not sure what the issue was with not using Lincecum, unless he was suffering from some sort of extreme fatigue or something, or working on mechanics (but then why carry him when Kontos could have contributed).  But I still believe in Timmy and he delivered almost two innings of dominance when his back stiffened, and he had to leave the game.

Report from Baggarly is that he has suffered issues like this since high school, when he had his growth spurts and they would come and go, but never linger.  His MRI, just for precaution, came out clean as well.  He threw a normal session today and said that he felt normal and declared himself ready for Game 3 use.  Remember his rubber arm, as I agree with Baggarly that he has moved ahead of Machi and Strickland on the bullpen totem pole, you might see Lincecum bridge the middle innings as necessary in the rest of the games, he says that he can go every day.  Good time to test this out given Machi, Strickland, and Peavy's problems getting hitters out.

In Bochy I Trust

I've been a bit concerned about Bochy's bullpen usage during these playoffs, and I don't think the leopard has changed his spots, so I have been thinking that Bochy needed to see how much he can depend on Machi and Strickland during the playoffs, and the only way to do that is to use them.  Same with Peavy.  They all let him down, and, thinking back, most players have delivered for the most part, and when not, apparently there was something to fix, and they bring him back fine, like Bumgarner in 2012.  Meanwhile, he didn't need to use Lincecum, so why tire him out when you can run other guys out there, but when he needed him to eat innings yesterday, he did.

So, if this theory is correct, we should see a drastic change in bullpen usage going forward.  Lincecum would be used like he was in 2012, every game if necessary.  Machi and Strickland will get to face 1-3 batters, see how it goes, start them in a clean inning.  Bochy has been the master of the bullpen for ages now, and still, most of the time this off-season, so my best guess is that he's testing to see who he can rely on.

Happy with Huddy

He has come through for us this post-season.  Two DOM starts, and I am encouraged by this because it was exactly what he did early in the season when he was healthy and well rested.  It's been what he's been doing for the last 13 seasons, methodically, professionally, La Machine.  3.57 ERA this season, 3.45 ERA for his career, 3.38 ERA since his TJS.  This is why I wanted the Giants to sign him, and he has delivered in spades.

Here is what I wrote in my other post:
Game 3 is also a bit of a toss-up, based on DOM, but I give the edge to the Giants.  Both pitchers have similar DOM% for the season, but while Hudson has two DOM starts so far in the post-season, Guthrie has none, not even getting a start in the ALDS, and throwing a 2 PQS in the ALCS, where he only had 2 K's in 5 IP but 2 BB's.   
But it is the World Series, the first for Hudson.  Of course, he beat the pressure in the NLCS and had a 4 PQS start there, winning his start.  And he was masterful, with 5 K's and 0 walks in 6.1 IP.  Again, could be a turning point for the Giants here, again, as Bochy understands must wins.
I still think we have the edge on paper, but as the saying goes, that's why we play these games.  Another positives are these (tweets from Baggarly):
Basically, Hudson was on a downward trend with his PQS after he skipped a start earlier this season, finally getting worse and worse until his last start of the season.  By that point, it was reported that he had been battling some sort of hip issue.  Without a skipped start, but with the medicine,  he has had three straight DOM starts.  And with 10 days of rest, he should be well rested again.

So it should be a good game on our side.  Not as sure a thing for Guthrie, but he's been good in the regular season, and perhaps his first playoff start was just a fluke and he delivers.  But I like our chances, it was Hudson who led us in the early going, not Bumgarner, who was struggling a bit with the heavy mental load of being the ace (he had been aces for a long time until then, a machine; he's been a machine since the beginning of May).

Plus, our hitters are pretty good at avoiding strikeouts and getting walks, and Guthrie is particularly susceptible to left-handed hitters, of which we have a lineup full of them, plus Posey and Pence who hit RHP and LHP almost equally well, and he already have trouble striking out hitters in general, so the Giants should be putting a lot of balls into play against him, much like KC against Peavy.

I feel pretty good about this game, Go Giants!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series: Game 2

Giants win game 1 behind Bumgarner's DOMinating start, 5 PQS.  But the offense, with Pence's 2-run homer, gave him all the support he would need:  a factoid on Twitter noted that team has been 60-3 behind Bumgarner when he's been given a 3 run lead.  There was a nice article on him in the NY Times.  And I guess this simulation has been proven wrong, KC will not win the first game (SF wins game 3 on a BCraw homer though, so that can still come true).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: World Series: Royals

Wow, the Giants are in the World Series!  How many of us were thinking, sure, no problem, during the depths of the June Swoon?  Probably just 25 plus the coaches.

I still thought that they had the talent (before the season, I thought a 95-100 win season was not out of the question, and that looked pretty good until June), but sometimes when you go into a deep dive, you don't have enough time to get back up.  So it was obvious to me, their talent, whether they made it to the playoffs or not.  Though, as I noted on Shankbone's, I've been eerily calm about the team, I just felt really good about this team.  I still do.

ogc thoughts

The Giants are going with the same 25 man roster they had in the NLCS.  So Lincecum, despite not being used so far, is still considered a valuable option to have in emergency, but not good enough when things are tight and we need a shut down reliever, like we did in 2012.

The Royals have swapped out Colon for Nix, a swap of utility MI.  They are only carrying 11 pitchers, enabling them to hold onto their pinch-runners.  They are carrying only their best pitchers, with only Guthrie with an ERA above 4 and three lefties in the bullpen with Duffy, Collins, and Finnegan.  Collins probably made the roster because he's a lefty (3.86 ERA 4.80 FIP), since the Giants lineup is very left-oriented.

I've been looking at the teams and below are my thoughts.  Mostly, I think we have a good chance at a third trophy, but the BABIP gods could decide otherwise.

The starting pitching is about the same, I believe, though perhaps Guthrie and Vargas gets swapped.  Game:
  1. Bumgarner 67% DOM vs. Shields 65% DOM
  2. Peavy 67% DOM with Giants vs. Ventura 60% DOM
  3. Hudson 47% DOM vs. Guthrie 53% DOM (KC TBA, making guess from ALCS)
  4. Vogelsong 52% DOM vs. Vargas 53% DOM (KC TBA, making guess from ALCS)  
First off, I would note that in the ALCS, only Vargas actually pitched a DOM start.  None of the other three did, and the only reason they won was because the O's pitchers were worse.  They averaged 2.75 PQS while the O's averaged 1.5 PQS, as they had two DIS starts from their top two starters.

Not that the Giants were all that much better (2.4 PQS vs. 2.2).   I think Vogie finally just had a bad start, that is going to happen to any good starter, he was BABIPed, but he's had so many successes that I think he's OK in pressure situations like the World Series.  We were lucky to win that game given how well Wainwright pitched, but then we got to the weak link:  Matheny insisted on using Wacha, do or die, in the bottom of the 9th.  Not the closer, not any other trusted bullpen reliever, the one guy he hadn't used at all during the playoffs, kind of like he felt he owed it to Wacha to give him an appearance.   And even after putting two men on base, he didn't bring in anyone else to shut down the rally.  And Peavy has never had a DOM start in the playoffs, so there is that too.

The Scheduled Starting Pitchers

Game 1 will be a toss up, because both pitchers will probably be shutdown.  However, I would note that Shields was not that great in his O's start, lots of hits given up, presumably BABIP though, but only struck out 3 in 5 IP.  But in the playoffs, you have to wonder if they are not performing up to snuff because of the pressure.  Because of this I give Bumgarner the edge over Shields in any matchup they may have.

Game 2 will be a toss up, mainly because I'm not sure either pitcher can stand up to the pressure.  Peavy has never had a DOM start ever in the playoffs.  Thus Venture is up on him, throwing a DOM start against the Angels.   Still, Ventura had a 2 PQS in this ALCS start, as he was very wild, didn't give up that many hits but walked 3 and only struck out 3 in 5.2 IP.  Our patient hitters could eat him up while our hackers could drive him crazy as he throw a bad pitch to Pablo and watches it fly away, far away.  I think this is a game where you wait for the first pitcher to blow up, then the other team will preserve the lead by taking out their starter the moment there is trouble and have their bullpen save the game.  This game can go either way, but I would note that Bochy is comfortable bringing in his relievers at any time in the game, even if the starting pitcher hasn't reached 5 IP yet, whereas Yost has mostly defined roles for his relievers, with Herrera his 7th inning guy (sometimes 6th), Davis his 8th, and Holland his 9th, and probably roles for everyone else too, that is the thing often said about relievers, they like to know what their role is and when they might be used.

Both pens are strong, KC has 3.27 ERA while SF has 3.01 ERA.  KC is better with 8.7 K/9 but SF better with 2.95 K/BB.  And both teams are bringing only their best pitchers, for the most part (I still think Kontos deserves a spot, but who gets dropped, Lincecum? Another bench player?  So I understand, but feel bad for him).   Their bullpen might be our equals in terms of talent, if not better.  But our bullpen is working on a string of scoreless appearances going back to the 2010 playoffs, so the Royals will need to better that.

Plus, while their bullpen has a lot of live arms, the Giants have hitters who love fastballs.  There recently was a list of hitters with homers on pitches over 95 MPH and Pence, Sandoval, Posey, Belt, and Crawford showed up on that list.  So while their relievers can bring it, our hitters have been able to hit it, as well.  We'll see who wins there.

The difference might be the offense.  KC's offense was at 4.02 RS/game, below average in the AL.  SF's offense was at 4.10 RS/game, above average in the NL, and they were handicapped by not having an offensive 2B most of the season and not having Belt in the lineup most of the season, as well as having no DH to boost up their RS totals, unlike the Royals.  Meanwhile, we will have a functioning DH in Morse, to help make our offense even better.

Game 3 and 4 starters for KC has not been announced.  Both Guthrie and Vargas had similar DOM/DIS in the season, but Vargas has been much more successful during these playoffs, with two DOM starts so they could be flopped from the order they were in the ALCS, but I'm sticking with that order below.  In addition, I suspect that should the Royals find themselves in a must-win game in Game 4, that Yost would push Shields up a day to Game 4, to face Vogelsong.

Game 3 is also a bit of a toss-up, based on DOM, but I give the edge to the Giants.  Both pitchers have similar DOM% for the season, but while Hudson has two DOM starts so far in the post-season, Guthrie has none, not even getting a start in the ALDS, and throwing a 2 PQS in the ALCS, where he only had 2 K's in 5 IP but 2 BB's.  But it is the World Series, the first for Hudson.  Of course, he beat the pressure in the NLCS and had a 4 PQS start there, winning his start.  And he was masterful, with 5 K's and 0 walks in 6.1 IP.  Again, could be a turning point for the Giants here, again, as Bochy understands must wins.

Here is a quote from him (Baggerly) and a big part of why I love him as our manager (besides the winning):
''You're always learning from your past experiences, whether it's during the season or postseason. The one thing I think I've learned is it's different, the postseason. It's not the regular season,'' Bochy said. ''You don't have that margin of error to make up for these games. You lose a game in May, and you still have 100-plus games to make that up.''
In other words, as I've been trying to illustrate this off-season, almost every game of the playoffs is a must win game, but obviously, someone has to lose.  Bochy has just done a better job of not being the one to lose, he has understood that each game is an entity to itself and thus you throw out all the stops to win that game, then worry about the next game tomorrow.

Game 4 is again a match-up of equals, both DOMs are close to each other again, but again, I think we got the slight edge.  Vogelsong had a DIS start, but he had a five game streak of post-season starts with 1 run or less, including a great game against the Nats in the NLDS.  Vargas was a bit lucky with the BABIP, giving up only 2 hits in 5.1 IP and striking out 6, but he also walked 3 batters, a high walk rate, but did have a DOM start, 4 PQS.  But it seems to me that again, the Giants can exploit his wildness, as indicated by his 3 walks.  But he has two DOM starts in the playoffs so far, so you got to respect that.  And if the Royals do swap, and put him in Game 3 instead, that would make it tough for Hudson to win, it would be a coin flip.

Again, our hitters are very patient hitters, willing to work the walk if they have to, to put pressure on the pitcher, to put pressure on the fielders (because our team has not been striking out that much in the playoffs), to allow their compatriot batting next to be the hero of that particular game.  That has a trait across all our World Series teams, there has not really been one hero, even if there are MVPs, there has usually been one guy after another stepping up to save the day for our team.

Because our hitters are patient and don't strike out too much, starting pitchers' pitch count goes up faster, thus pushing their opponents to have to go to their middle inning pitchers first, before having to face KC's three-headed monster of Herera, Davis, Holland 7, 8, 9.  They also have Frasor, Duffy and Finnegan, who have all been great.  So they have a pretty good bullpen too, middle to end, perhaps better than our bullpen, they remind me of the 2012 Giants in that overall their bullpen numbers are pedestrian, but they aren't carrying those bad relievers, they just got the ones who are very good.  Looks like we will need to get to their starters for big runs first and then need to outlast their strong bullpen.

Their hitters are also tough like the Giants, not striking out much, putting balls into play a lot.  However, unlike the Giants, they do not walk much.  I think that this plays into the Giants pitchers' happy zone.  Our pitchers frequently throw strikes and get them, particularly Bumgarner and Petit.  The other pitchers don't strike out a lot, but operate with a lot of BABIP, which our fielders are used to doing anyway, and like the Royals, rarely make mistakes that the other team capitalizes on.

One stat I've had a laugh at is the one about how the Royals weren't homerun hitters during the regular season, but they have been during the playoffs, and therefore that is an advantage for them.  The Giants pitchers are not strikeout guys for the most part, but what they are is good homerun preventers.  That was documented in a Fangraphs study a while back, how no matter what personnel or year, the Giants have been pretty good at avoiding giving up homeruns.  Of course, this playoff month has seen a lot of homers, but they have mostly been because Strickland apparently had been tipping his pitches.

Fangraph analysis found that the Giants hitters have a general advantage as well:
By the pitch type values, at least, it looks like the Giants’ hitters are equipped to handle the fastballs of the Royals’ staff. And the Royals’ hitters may have trouble with the Giants’ breaking balls. These are general statements, hopefully made more believable by focusing on a larger sample. 
Thus, I think the series will hinge on how well each starter does for their team.  According to this MLB.com article, their starting pitchers have struggled so far in the playoffs:
Solid starting pitching has been a strength for the Royals this season, but staff ace James Shields (5.63 ERA) has struggled in the postseason, No. 2 manYordano Ventura showed diminished velocity and left his ALCS start with shoulder tightness, and the Royals have had to be careful enough with Danny Duffy's innings that he has been kept out of the rotation altogether this October.
Thus they are relying a lot on Vargas and Guthrie to come through.  Vargas has done well in these playoffs with two DOM starts, but Guthrie only got the one start and only a 2 PQS, because he didn't strike out too many batters (just 2).

Where our staff, at least during the regular season, has done much better than the Royals is in the percentage of Disaster starts.  Even mediocre pitchers can sustain a lower ERA (like Hennessey) by avoiding the disaster starts.  A DIS start really skews things and jumps the ERA up.  While Shields and Bumgarner were basically the same, Peavy/Hudson/Vogelsong averaged roughly 12-13% DIS starts, while the Royal's Ventura/Guthrie/Vargas averaged roughly 20%.  And 80-90% of the time you have a disaster start and the other team don't, you lose.

So far this post-season, KC in their 8 games has a 63% DOM and 0% DIS, while SF has in their 10 games, 60% DOM and 20% DIS.  SSS rules as usual, but KC's staff was not that good at avoiding the DIS start in the regular season.  But they are looking due for at least one DIS start.  A thin margin for the Giants, but if they can get that advantage, that is often enough for a series win, tipping it in their favor.  Because, as I've been saying often this post-season:  every game is a must win.

I would caveat, on the Giants side, that Peavy, had he been allowed to go another inning, and did that OK, he probably would have gotten a 2 PQS, it was just that it was a run-scoring opportunity, which Bochy cashed in but it was for naught because the Giants ended up losing 5-4.  So he was not that bad, but wasn't that good either, which is the theme of his playoff career.

Vogelsong, however, was plain bad, but mostly hurt by BABIP.  Still, Peavy has no DOM playoff games to his credit, whereas this was the first blip on Vogelsong's post-season career, in 7 starts, 3 DOM, only 1 DIS, for 42% DOM and 14% DIS, and 1 or less runs given up until this last start (DIS starts will do that to you).  However, that is not as good as Vogelsong has done in the regular season for us, so he could be feeling the pressure during crunch time as well.

I think our success in this World Series will revolve around how well our starters do relative to the Royal's starters, much like the Orioles losing to the Royals, rather than the Royals beating the Orioles.  The ones who can laid down a DOM start on the throat of the other team will help lead his team to the trophy.  Bumgarner looks likely, but he faltered against Wainwright the second tie.  Peavy just has never had one DOM start.  Perfect time for one.  Hudson has been seemingly rejuvenated this post-season, with two DOM starts, much like he was laying down early this season.  He's getting a lot of rest again leading into the Game 3 start, so

With similar enough starters, lineup, bullpen, defense, the big advantage the Royals have over the Giants are their speed and willingness to use it to try to disrupt the Giants defense, as well as gain an extra base.   Posey is a good catcher, able to throw out runners with his strong arm, but our pitchers have not always been the best at holding runners.  Hopefully our pitchers can keep their cool, and just focus on pitching while trying to keep the runner close enough to 1B so that Posey can have a chance to throw the runner out.

This might set the stage and foundation for what we will see in this World Series, if they keep the Giants off-balance, the Royals could force the issue and take over the series.  This is the only way I can see the Royals for sure making the Giants look bad, is via a cartoon samba across the basepath to score runs, as they haven't really faced such an offense before except for the Royals, and, er, we got beat Royally.

And that might be our saving grace there, losing all three to them already.  They can't help but feel subconsciously over confident from doing that.  It is just human nature, even though I see some of them saying the right things.

Meanwhile, never bet against our Giants when their backs are against the wall or when they have been embarrassed like that.  Like Panik studying how to hit the best cutter in baseball, to Posey prepping the pitchers on the opposing teams hitters, to the Giants advanced analytics team positioning our fielders at just the right spot most of the time, the Giants overall seem like a team that likes to prepare extra well for the other team.  And while not every team without experience screws up, KC didn't exactly do all that well either in the ALCS, their pitching let them down, and if it wasn't for the Oriole's pitching doing worse, the story might be about the orange and black facing the black and orange.  I also see the Giants pinch-hitting options being denigrated, but Susac and Duffy did well after their first month of adjustments, plus Perez has been good in stretches as well, and Arias was on fire at the end of the season.

An article I was reading about how good the Royals are noted how they are proof that you don't need two aces to get through the playoffs and reach the World Series.  What it is proof of is that when you got two teams who don't have multiple aces, somebody has to win the series, two aces or not.  That's obvious, on the face of it, but nobody seems to notice that is the reality.  The point about having multiple aces is to maximize your team's chances of making it through the playoffs, go deep, and get into the World Series.

While the Giants do not have aces this season, in prior runs, they did have them, in terms of performances, in Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner in 2010, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong in 2012.   I think Bumgarner and Hudson look ready to give us that DOM start, and hopefully Vogelsong can do it too.  Hudson got plenty of rest between starts which has got to help him, and I'm hoping it helps Vogelsong as well.  Peavy has not had one DOM start in the playoffs ever, so this would be a great time for at least one, if not two.   As my study has shown, the starting pitcher's performance in the game makes a huge difference in whether a team wins or not.

Baseball Prospectus published a preview of the World Series.  It notes that the Giants don't give away many outs, being first or near the top in a number of categories like fewest outs on the bases.  Yost's lack of usage of pinch-hitters, but frequent use of pinch-runners.  Bumgarner's four-seam fastball being one of the few "80" pitches in the league, and arguably getting better with each start.  Opponents this October are hitting .132 against the four-seamer with a .132 SLG, meaning zero ISO.  Shields leaning heavily on the cutter, which is the pitch Panik hit a homer off of Wainwright because of the work he put in studying Bill Mueller hitting a homer of Mariano Rivera.  The author also noted that his cutter has been elevating it more than usual, with three homers, as he's been hit fairly hard, so that's something to watch out for too.

Scenario Thinking

I was reading Kawakami's column analyzing the World Series - he picked the Giants in 6 games - and I realized that such an exercise would not have any value if I take a scenario approach to it.

And the theme, much as it has been this post-season, pivots on what happens in Game 1.  I think Bumgarner is going to have the game of his life.  He has risen to the occasion so very often, and has two shut-outs already in the previous World Series.  I expect him to win Game 1 and Game 5 - which is what Kawakami thinks too - which reduces it to winning two games in five for Peavy (2 games), Hudson (2 games), Vogelsong (1 game).  I also think that the Royals, so used to running over the other teams in the playoffs that a loss would put that seed in their mind, and the Giants would win in 4 or 5 games, mainly because they have Petit in reserve in the likelihood that a starter has a rough and/or short start, then Lincecum, who should be very rested by now.  I'm about 80% sure he'll win, both because he'll pitch well, as well as Shields will give it up at some point.

In the scenario that the Giants lose Game 1, I still think that the Giants will win in 6 or 7 games.  Overall, the Royals staff did not rise to the occasion in the ALCS, they just did well enough to beat the Orioles, but the Royals did not beat the Orioles, the Orioles lost to the Royals, as their starting pitching let them down.  And if they struggled to rise to their seasonal potential in the ALCS, I suspect they will struggle some, as a group, in the World Series.  They also had issues with DIS starts in the regular season as well, the World Series could amplify that tendency.

For, as I've documented here before, prior research found that offense demonstrated during the season don't correlate with playoff success (BP and THT).  It is good pitching and fielding that correlates.  Thus, it is up to each team's starters and relievers to dictate the action.

I had forgotten to check, but Shields has been mostly a mess starting in the playoffs (Fangraphs has a blog on this too, found it after writing this).  He does have some DOM starts to his credit:  in 9 starts, 4 DOM and 2 DIS or 44% DOM/22% DIS.  However, he has held opponents to three runs allowed or less only four of those starts, meaning he has given up four or more runs in five of those starts.

All the other Royals are playoff newbies.  Vargas has risen to the occasion with two DOM starts.  Ventura had a DOM in the ALDS but a 2 PQS in the ALCS.  Guthrie didn't even get a start in the ALDS and had a 2 PQS in the ALCS as well.  As much as it's said that experience is not key in the World Series, it is if the pitcher's can not handle the adrenaline rush in the early part of the game, and they make all sorts of location mistakes.  And given what happened in the ALCS, I have to think that at least one if not two of the Royal's starters will falter in their first World Series start.  That should be enough to win it again for the Giants.

However, if their starters step up and pitch to how well they did in the regular season, it will be a battle between the two teams that will be epic, particularly if Shields step up against Bumgarner, and the Championship will pivot on one key play/mistake being made at some point during the series, creating another Series hero.

Go Giants!  Win us another championship!  #ChampionBlood #ThreeIsANiceNumber

Monday, October 20, 2014

Thank You Brian Sabean!

I posted this on MCC, but wanted to share it here, just in case it got censored in some way.  I also realized that I had left in some grammar errors, so this fixes some of them

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bochy Getting Some Love in the Media

As I've been commenting in my blog, there has been a number of articles extolling the greatness that is Bruce Bochy.  Of course, I approve.

There was a great article by Jonah Keri about how Bochy is one of the best managers in baseball history on Grantland and I wanted to share it.  But if you know me by now, I'm never too happy about baseball generalists writing about the Giants because they always get something wrong that I don't agree with.  However, for the most part, Keri wrote a pretty clean article and very complimentary about Bochy, which I have been since late in the 2010 season when he started changing his tactics and strategies, sitting down low performing veteran starters in place of other players, culminating with the shocking move to leave Zito off the playoff roster, including the World Series roster.

ogc thoughts

Closer Leverage

Keri makes the great point about the bullpen.  This section was very good overall.  I think he's a saber, so I'm surprised he does not note that one of the things sabers want managers to do is use your best pitchers when it counts, not just as a monkey assigned to get the last three outs, whether it's a tight one-run lead or a safe four-run lead.   But he did say it:  "It’s about using your best players in the biggest spots. "

I'll end by quoting Keri:
Bochy is intellectually flexible enough to recognize important moments as they come and adjust his moves accordingly. In the playoffs especially, that’s a really big deal.
Bochy and the Vets

This section has the information I've been looking for, for a while now, as I had read it somewhere, started quoting it, but then couldn't find it when someone asked.  Chris Jaffe took raw team analysis data and grouped it into managerial and examined various aspects of a manager, for his book.  What he found was that under Bochy, veteran hitters out-hit expectations, based on prior and next season stats, adding 270 runs over a 12 year period (basically his years managing the Padres).   That's roughly 2-3 wins per year, just from that, and doesn't include what Huff and Burrell did in 2010, Pagan after he joined us, Scutaro in 2012, or even Morse this season.

So that means Bochy takes average teams and just from working with veteran hitters, make them 83-84 win teams.  And I think this applies to the next section as well.

#FreeBelt Was A Concept That Got Bochy Wrong

I am so tired of this meme that mean Bruce Bochy don't understand young players.  And I'm surprised that Keri didn't make the connection that he did not trust the young players in San Diego but trusted the young players in San Francisco (maybe it's the quality of talent coming to the majors?).

Bochy wasn't loyal to Huff, costing Belt playing time.  Any Giants fan of that time should remember that the Giants CHOSE to place Belt on the roster, to see how he handles things, pushing Huff to Left Field (which ultimately drove him crazy, but that's another story).  If that is considered being loyal, then I don't see it.  If the vet is favored, wouldn't Belt have been moved to LF, like how the A's moved Mark McGwire to 3B because they liked that other guy better at 1B?

In fact, the Giants liked Belt so much that they kept him on the MLB roster even though he had a lot to learn, culminating in his famous learning of how to properly hold the bat in order to release his power, TWO years later, because Belt was hesitant to follow all of Meulen's recommendations.  Only once he embraced ALL of the changes did he start hitting like the player everyone thought he was.  But Bochy and the Giants get blamed for that delay in development when it was Belt who was fighting all the changes, like a wild stallion (giraffe?).

And think of this another way:  if Bochy understands veteran hitters enough that they improve greatly under his guidance, perhaps he is a pretty good judge of what a good hitter is, and how to fix him, and that applies whether the player is old or young.  So if a lot of the Padres top prospects fizzled under him, perhaps that was more a function of the GM not delivering a lot of talent to him.  Remember, those were the brainiacs who drafted Matt Bush with the #1 pick overall, apparently because the Twins picking Mauer worked out so well, plus I think he agreed to a lower bonus (if I recall correctly).  Because that's not my experience with Bochy at the helm of the Giants.

There are many instances of this, beyond just Belt.  When Freddy Lewis was doing well, Bochy chose to keep Roberts on the bench and keep Lewis starting, even though Roberts was now healthy.  He often kept Schierholtz in the lineup even though he was super cold, until he could wait no longer (it was go time, last two months).  And of course, a lot of young guys have come up and almost immediately took starting/important jobs:  Cain, Lowry, Lincecum, Sandoval, Romo, Posey, Bumgarner, Belt (if not for his DL injuries, he probably would not have seen much more time in the minors after he was brought up).

For more recent examples, how about Panik, Susac, Duffy, and Strickland?  In particular, Bochy has put both Susac and Duffy into extreme pressure situations during the playoffs, when he could have gone to Arias instead.  Instead, he has hardly been used, Duffy has been used a lot more than he has.  And Strickland has been used in key situations as well, and he has had his ups and See You Laters! (four homers)  A guy unfriendly with young players would not have done that.

He has run the Giants mostly as a meritocracy, and if you falter, he don't make it about the player being stupid, old, or lousy, he keeps their confidence up (just see any interview where he talks about a struggling player) by saying that he believes in the guy but that the player is just out of it, for whatever reason, and he needs to get production by using other guys, with the promise to return to the player once he and the coaches fix his problems.

Beating Pythagorean

The next section covered his numbers as manager, covering how his teams did or didn't beat Pythagorean expectations.  So given the veteran hitters adding value which would show up in Pythagorean (83-84 wins), there is something extra that managers adds on top of that which Pythogorean does not measure.

Now the rubric here is that the average manager would just regress to the mean of 0 for his career.  But this table shows that over the 20 years of managing Bochy has done, he is currently at 26 extra wins for his career.   That works out to 1.3 extra wins average for his managing career.  That puts us now up to 85 wins, assuming he starts with an average team, just from his managerial influence, an 81-81 team is on average an 85-77 team.

Coincidentally enough, my study on one-run wins found that he adds 4 wins per season on average in terms of beating the rule of manager regress to mean of .500 in one-run games, which is the same number of extra wins.  Of course, if the team is a near playoff caliber team (mid-80's), adding 4 wins would put the team into the playoffs, either as wild card or divisional winner.  And Natch, a good playoff team becomes a great one, at least during the season.

Gathering all the datapoints, just from eyeballing the data, one can see that there is some correlation involved between his bullpen value add, his Pythagorean out performance, and his one-run record out performance, but there are clearly years where they are polar opposites, so clearly not the best correlation.

Overall

Obviously a very complimentary article about Bochy, and makes a pretty good case for Bochy being one of the best managers around and ever.

Ghosts of Giants Past Visiting Game 5 of the NLCS

Heard some cool factoids in the media after the thrilling victory that propelled the Giants into the World Series for the third time in five seasons.  And they involve some old-time Giants helping the Giants of the Present in each home run.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Your 2014 Giants ARE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!!

The Giants win the Pennant!  The Giants win the Pennant!  The Giants win the Pennant!

ogc thoughts

Wow, what a series, what an ending!

Travis Ishikawa, gaining redemption for misplaying the flyball earlier, giving the Cards their first run, hit a three-run homer for a walk-off win in the bottom of the 9th, just like billions of kids have dreamed of doing.

Meanwhile, NLCS MVP Madison Bumgarner pitched well enough, while coughing up a couple of homers, and despite all the strike thrown, not that many strikeouts, to keep the team close, after giving up the 3 runs after 4 innings pitched, shutting down the Cards for another 4 innings, getting us to the point where Michael Morse could hit a homer in the 8th to tie the game, then Ishi came through in the bottom of the 9th.

And oh, how fortunes can change in just one year, Wacha, after winning the NLCS MVP award last season, he's used in the whole series until now, pitches third of an inning, ending with a 81.00 ERA for this series.

Can't forget Joe Panik hitting the team's first homer of the NLCS, two run homer to put the team ahead after the Cards scored the first run on the ball that Ishi misplayed.  After all these runs scored without hits, the Giants score six runs in this game with the long ball, a solo, a two-run, and the walk-off three-run.

Congrats to the Giants!  Good luck in the World Series!

Go Giants!

Your 2014 Giants: NLCS Game 4: What a Relief

My thoughts following Game 4 of the NLCS.

ogc thoughts

Bullpen combines with Posey and Adams' two bad moves (which led to the two runs that was our lead) was crucial for the win, 6-4.  Petit for President!  He is like found money in a jacket, our Lincecum for this playoff season, totally shut down.  Posey hasn't yet had an extra-base hit, but he did what he needed to, driving in three runs.  He now has 19 RBIs and is only two away from Bonds' franchise record.  Meanwhile, Sandoval gets on base and that's 22 consecutive playoff games with him getting on base, breaking Bonds' franchise record.

If Adams don't try to throw out Perez and just got Blanco out, they would have been out of the inning probably (if Panik still grounds out), and we would go into extra innings and see if Bochy would use Lincecum at all.

So there is no pressure on the Giants tomorrow, plus they got Bumgarner on the mound, 0.76 ERA in the playoffs, 23 K in 23.2 IP, only 3 walks, 7.67 K/BB.  .367 OPS by opposing batters.  69% strikes.

You Gotta Like These Kids!!!

Juan Perez comes in and work a walk, Duffy come in and sacrifices the runners to 2nd and 3rd (remember, Felipe Alou's inability to bunt and advance the runners in 1962 cost the Giants), Panik grounds out but drives in what proves to be the winning run.  Panik also singled in the first, more importantly, advanced Blanco to 3rd, where Posey could drive him in.

There is a new tech on MLB.com called StatCast, and this video and article digs into the details of Perez's dash home to score around the tag by AJP to get him out.  This is pretty good stuff, and it showed Crawford and Blanco running as well.  It also felt nice to beat AJP there.

Petit Performs Prominently

Petit does it again:  shuts down the other team.  This time, 3.0 IP, 1 hit and 1 walk, 4 K's, earns the win (who says the stat ain't got no value?).   Vogie just didn't have it, but Petit saves the game for the Giants.

I felt that he had earned himself a start, but I can understand why Bochy might not do it.  While Petit is comfortable coming in for a failing starter, the starters he might replace are not.  So if Petit is started, and he fails, then who do we go to, a starter who is not used to relieving?

Still, should we make it to the next round, if it were me, I would start Petit, and not only start him, but make him the Game 2 or 3 starter.  Go for the jugular early.

Sabers Missing the Point:  This Bullpen is Worth It

Every time the Giants signed up Affeldt, Romo, Casilla, Lopez to a big contract, the catcalls and naysaying begin.  Fungible asset.  They don't produce enough WAR to justify the money.  Just pick up somebody cheap, the Giants do it all the time, just replace them on the cheap.

This is why the Giants pay these guys the big money.  Affeldt hasn't given up a run in the post-season in 17 consecutive appearances.  Casilla hasn't in 16 appearances, Lopez is at 15 appearances.   Heck, Casilla had not given up a hit since September 11th, over a month ago.  Romo has only given up runs in two appearances in his last 20, one in his last 13 appearances.  

How invaluable have they been for us this post-season?  How invaluable is it knowing that you got guys who understand their roles, who do it so well, and above all that, are consistently good?   How many of these one-run games would we have lost had these guys been even yielding one run as a group, regularly?  Is it worth the collective $22-24M or so for them to advance from the NLDS to the NLCS to leading 3-1 in trying to make the World Series?  Would you rather be efficient, potentially (see, they forget that if you bet wrong in selecting your replacement relievers, there's no easy way to replace that production, no matter how much money you throw at it), or would you rather advance to the next round?  

I would think the A's would have loved to have had a shut down relief corps at their disposal.  They led 7-3 and 8-7, and could not hold either lead.  Not to pick on Otero, because I was disappointed the Giants let him go, but he was a cheap effective reliever for them in the regular season, great numbers, but he gave up 2 runs that ended the game.  Think they wouldn't have loved to have someone better available then.  Or how about Doolittle?  He has a cheap contract, became the closer this season, so relatively inexperienced, and he gave up the tying run in the 9th.

Think they wouldn't have loved to have Casilla?  In fact, he was an A's property until they released him after the 2009 season.  The Giants picked him up for nothing, shaped him up, and he was immediately a very important component of the Giants bullpen, rising to closer role twice, though even today, he says that he don't consider himself the closer, he just goes in when the boss says so.   The Giants are paying him around $5M per season to do his role on the team.  16 straight appearances without a run given up.  Collectively among the four, one run in a total of 60 or so appearances.  

How much is that worth when you expect to make the playoffs every season?

Too Much Rope for Starters

Again, I didn't understand Bochy's insistence on keeping the starter in there.  Vogelsong did not have anything at all in this game.  He was clearly grinding it, and you would have thought after giving up the third run, and now facing a LHH in Wong, who was also white hot as a hitter, and down 3-1, you don't leave him in to face Wong.

I guess it is as some have said, Bochy has lost faith in the middle relievers.  Plus, in this case, didn't want to bring in the LHP yet either, so early in the game.   But Petit was already up at that point, may as well put him in and not risk another run being driven in.

I know some will say that this is just hindsight, but that was my first thought when I heard that Vogie was staying in to face Wong.

If Vogie is this bad, should he get another start this post-season, I hope Bochy will hook him earlier.  There was no sign that he had anything, I would have put Petit in earlier, starting with the third, to be frank, because from the radio report, I saw no purpose in keeping him in there other than wishing and hoping that he don't give up more runs while eating more innings.  I had none faith he had it tonight, and there's no shame in that, it happens, and when it does, especially when you have the luxury of a Petit and Lincecum, you go to your GOTO guy in Petit.

With Petit, keeping Lincecum around is a big question mark, other than his stature and salary.  Especially given his revelation that he has not had his father's help with his mechanics since the 2009 season.  Also, apparently both Machi and Strickland have been downgraded in terms of reliance, at least in this series.

Perhaps we'll see Kontos in the World Series, should we make it to the next round.  He would have been useful in the 7th or earlier in many of these games.  And he's been a good reliever this season.  I actually thought that he was a slamdunk to make the playoff rosters, so I was shocked that he was left off.

However, who would then sit out the World Series.  I could have seen maybe Lincecum before, but not for the World Series, they have carried him so far, I don't see why they won't do it again.  That would leave either Strickland or Machi.  Will be interesting.

Game 5

Seems inevitable - we got our ace going for us at home, plus momentum - but as we saw in 2012, that can go fast, just like that.  That's why I love the way Bochy has taught all the players and got them to buy into the fact that until you are in, you are out.  Every game is important, every game is a must win.

Just like Game 4, we led 2-1 in the series, 70% odds of winning the series, and had we lost the game, that would come crashing down, as then we would be tied 2-2, and basically down to roughly 50% again (one home game, two road).  Instead now we are 3-1, commanding position, and yet, still some odds we lose, probably around 15% or so, small but not insignificant either.

Still, Bumgarner is on a roll.  3 DOM starts (all 5 PQS) so far in the playoffs.  If not for an ill-timed error on a bunt, he might still be continuing his scoreless streak in the playoffs (as it is, he's still continuing the road portion of that).  Plus he's at home, though this year, he has a 4.03 ERA at home, and only 2.22 ERA on the road.  However, over his career, basically same home or road, low 3's, roughly 3.1 ERA.

But the problem was that he started the season with four bad starts at home.  Rest of season, 3.41 ERA at home.   This is why you start with the seasonal data and then peel away some of the data if things change, to get a better view of things, because while seasonal data is good for an overall view, outliers of a game or two or four can skew the view, and once he fixed his problems, he has been great since.  That's why you don't look at the 4.03 ERA, but rather his 3.41 ERA for the rest of the season, as well as his career 3.1 ERA at home.

According to this article on MLB.com, Wainright identified the problems with his mechanics that was affecting his performance.   He thinks that he has solved his problems after working with AJP (ironic, no?) to figure out what was wrong.  They apparently figured it out during that game, after he was taken out of the game.  So it could be a battle between two aces looking to win the game.

However, reading the article, I see that Wainwright talks about his arm feeling better but not feeling healthy.  And he said he was ready to go before Game 1, so his reliability in telling the full truth of his health is not so good.   So I'll believe it when I see it.  The game could be over pretty quick if Wainright is not right, and Bumgarner can then coast to a win.  But if he is right, it will be a battle, which probably leads to a battle between bullpens and offenses again.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: NLCS Game 3: Ishikawa and The Universe Returning the Favor

My thoughts after game 3 of the NLCS.

ogc thoughts

Wow, what a game of ups and downs, much like Game 2, only, of course, way better as we won.

It was like the Ghost of Candlestick came over to AT&T for a visit, to show these people how the good old days were.  Both Ishikawa's and Wong's hits were batted down from the heavens, back into the reality of the field, where they got a double and triple, respectively.  Else Ishi would have had a grand slam, and maybe THAT would have got the Cards down enough to give up.

Instead, Lackey was somehow able to regroup, find the right mechanics, and basically shut down the Giants for the rest of his start, with only a HBP with Sandoval and a single, by all people, by Hudson.  That allowed the Cards to claw their way back to a tie, with that homer Hudson gave up (I would have took him out after 6, he was tiring already; as it was Affeldt pitched a couple of innings anyway with only 16 pitches).

But the bullpen held on and eventually the offense put up enough (walk and hit) to finally find that weak link in the Cards, and get that winning run, a walk off bunt, another new entry in the annals of odd ways the Giants score runs, and there have been many, including one just the other day when Duffy scored from second on a wild pitch walk.

Ishi-Pow-wa

I see all the articles about Ishikawa and the wonder involved with him doing well, but I'm not surprised.  He is an MLB hitter against RHP.  It is LHP which makes him a platoon player.  But he plays great defense at 1B and, so far, passable defense in LF, so he would make a good bench player for some team.

Against RHP:   .262/.328/.408/.735, 21 Homers in 780 AB (37 AB/HR or 15-20 HR season).  So it was not surprising to me that he hit that 3-run double, he has a lot of power that will show up now and again.

And he adds a win solely on defense at 1B.  And in his prime, two wins.

But the problem is that:  1) he's not a great enough hitter vs. RHP to make up for his poor LHP batting line and 2) he's not a great enough hitter for a firstbaseman that people understand his value to a team.

He would be a fine platoon player where you got a RHH to take his LHP starts, which is what I was hoping for in 2011 when Belt instead made his debut and won the job.   He is perfect for teams where they get 1B-quality bat production from another spot (like the Giants with Posey at C) or teams where they get OK to good production up and down the lineup (like the Giants do), his bat is fine in the 7th or 8th spot, in fact, against RHP, he is probably much above average for the 8th spot, a clear advantage.

People need to get over looking at how a hitter hits relative to players at his position, they need to focus on the overall lineup, and where he hits.  As long as a team got capable hitters batting 3/4/5, Ishi is great batting in the bottom of any team's lineup, he can work the walk a lot of times, while giving the ball a charge now and again, like yesterday.

I've been saying that Belt should just move to LF and let Ishikawa semi-platoon with Posey/Hanchez/Susac at 1B (extra catcher would start at 1B vs. LHP, plus when Posey needs a blow at 1B, he starts there no matter who is throwing).   But with his fine work in LF (and further practice in spring training), I'm thinking that he could be a fine platoon partner starting in LF with, say, Perez) or a fine bench player who can play 1B or LF should there be injuries, but meanwhile, he can provide power and patience off the bench against RHP.

Unfortunately, he probably don't work for us on the bench in 2015.  Blanco is one OF.  Presumably the Giants will sign someone (Morse?) to start in LF.  Do we match up Ishi with Blanco as backup OF, or a RHH like Perez?  Probably the latter.  MI bench would be Arias and Adrianza (I would rather Duffy get full time play in AAA to see if he can further develop into a starting player;  part of me is hoping the Giants give him a shot at 3B should Pablo, most likely, chose to leave).  Backup catcher would be battle between Hanchez and Susac, though the Giants probably prefer Susac start full-time in AAA and prep to take over starting role.  And if they platoon in LF, Blanco would be the better choice to go with Perez than Ishikawa, though I suppose that means there is still a spot in the outfield for Ishikawa to play LF, since Blanco and Perez would be able to handle all three OF positions.

Hudson Waning

I would have took Hudson out after six innings.  It seemed like he was tiring and he was giving up runs.  Normally in such a situation, Bochy usually has the quick trigger finger and go to a reliever, but perhaps it is telling that he chose to risk continuing in spite of the signals, in order to avoid Machi and Strickland, the main 7th inning guys, then skipped them and used Affeldt for 1.2 IP instead.  Two years ago, it would have been Lincecum going 2 innings and then Bochy would hand the ball to the closer.  Why is Lincecum not pitching?

And this is after getting a lot of rest before this start, like 9 days or so.  Which led to his great start of the game.  But he wore down quickly as the game progressed.  I don't know how he'll last more than 4-5 innings should we need him in game 7, should we need to play that game.   I'm not sure I would want him starting in the World Series as our #3 unless we can avoid game 7 and win in 5-6 games, so that he would have a ton of rest again before his next start, and be able to last at least to mid-game before tiring.

And luckily the bullpen came in and shut down the Cards until we could score.

Universe Pay Back

Of course, many people are agog over the bunt-error walk-off that won the game for us.  And rightly so, it is a pretty odd way to win.  Still, the way I see it, it was just the Universe paying us back for the Bumgarner error in Game 3 of the NLDS.   We lost that game because of the error, which cost the Giants a sweep and another day of rest.

That's What I'm Talking About

Tracy Rigolsby, award winning baseball columnist (formerly following Rockies, now national columnist), wrote this article, which captures a lot of what I've been writing about the Giants in the past and recently:
And the bottom line is that it all comes about because San Francisco is playing winning baseball. 
They are able to take advantage of another team's mistakes because they are in position for that mistake to make a difference. 
"We're down three, four runs, none of this matters," said Bochy. "When you are in a game like this, the idea is to put pressure on as much as you can. Force that other team to have to execute. The game is different this time of year. Everything is magnified." 
Even the pressure. 
There's so little margin for error in October. This is no longer that 162-game marathon. There's no second chance by grabbing a Wild Card spot to force your way into the postseason. The Giants have done that, but now the margin for error has been narrowed.
And:
"This time of year, there's not much room for error," said Bochy. 
And San Francisco isn't a team that is going to blast away, at least not so far this October. The Giants have hit only two home runs in this year's eight postseason games. 
"Believe me," said Bochy, "I love home runs. But it is all about execution. If you don't hit home runs, you better do the little things, which we do. You've got to keep the pressure on those other guys." 
Most of all, though, Bochy loves winning. 
The Giants keep finding a way to claim wins this postseason. 
It's not always pretty. 
"But," said Bochy, "there aren't any ugly wins."
And not just this postseason, but in 2010 and 2012 too.  The Giants keep the game close most of the time, with great pitching from their starters and, lately, in particular their relievers, plus stellar defense (or even so), keeping the other side from getting that extra run that they need to win, while holding the fort so that our offense can finally scratch out that extra run that we need.

As Crawford notes in the video accompanying this article (bunch of interview sound bites from many players, nice listen if you got time), the Giants play these games as if it was the regular season, and so they try to have fun.  If your guys are executing and performing, then it becomes a game of chicken between the teams where you wait for the weak link in the chain to break, whether Conrad in 2010 or Carpenter in 2012 or Choate 2014.  Much like that 18 inning game against the Nats, our relievers held the line until the Nats had to use a reliever who made a mistake pitch to Belt.

Miller's Crossing

There is an interesting article on Shelby Miller on Fangraphs.  It discusses how he seems to be throwing more high fastballs.  It also notes that whatever changes he has made, he has not really been that effective with it most of the year, until lately.

He pitched nicely against the Bridegrooms, though not great, giving up 3 walks in 5.2 IP, and only striking out 4, but giving up two runs.  So he continued to do OK, continuing his year end jump in performance noted in the article.  In fact, he was not that great until September, when his K/9 went up to 7.7 and K/BB jumped to 5.2 (from the poor under 2's he was putting up all year).

It appears that he got lucky in September.   His playoff start is more in line with the work he was doing earlier in the season:  less K, more BB, lousy K/BB.   He was also extremely lucky with the BABIP in September as well, low 200's.  Prior to September, he was pitching like a #4 starter, 4.19 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 1.49 K/BB.  And his FIP showed that, 4.54 vs. his 3.74 ERA, he's been lucky with the BABIP this season for the most part.

And his penchant for high fastballs intersects with two Giants players who will hit the high fastball, every now and again, into the seats:  Panda and Pence.  So those matchups will be interesting during today's game.

And beyond them, he's a guy a bit on the wild side generally, while not striking out a lot of guys, so our other hitters, like Blanco, Panik, Posey, Belt, Crawford, Ishikawa, they are guys who know how to take a walk, and a couple are good at avoiding the strikeouts too.   On top of that, LHH has the advantage over him, they get more hits, and hit for more power, while walking more and striking out less.   And Posey hits RHP as well as he does LHP.

VogelStrong

Meanwhile Vogie just set a record in playoff history by pitching five games and giving up only 1 run or less in each outing.  Hopefully the rest did him good still, unlike Hudson yesterday, who appeared to tire at the end there (in an interview, he said he was still strong; but everything is relative).   Looks to me that if Vogie can keep the Cards offense corralled again, Miller looks like a pinata waiting to explode into a bunch of runs at some point during the game, the Giants bats just need to keep the pressure on.

Hitters Weak

Don't know if the hitters are tired or the other teams been pitching well against them, but nobody on the team is hitting for much power.  Top ISO:  Crawford 138, Belt 120, nobody else is even over 100, Sandoval is next at 93 ISO.  And OPS, Oh Poy Sonny, only Belt has a good one, .949 OPS, Panda next at .728, Posey .684, Ishikawa .683, Panik .648.  Pretty anemic.  And the bench has not done too much so far (in particular Arias, he has actually played very little so far).

Somebody needs to pick the power up.  Posey is battling like he is tired, which he probably got after catching 18 innings in the second game against the Nats.  Both Panda and Pence look like they are just not getting lucky, both have good enough strikeout rate, while walking a fair amount too, which leads to a lot of BIP.

In fact, that is what this team has been doing, putting the ball in play.  Panik leads the bunch with only 1 K in 33 AB.  But most of the hitters are right in that optimal minimum range of 15-20% strikeouts, Belt (5 K's in 32 PA), Posey (only got 2 himself), Panda (6 K's in 35 PA), Pence (5/32), Blanco (2/36), Ishi (3/20).   Only Crawford is striking out a lot, 8 in 32 AB.

And everybody got at least 2-3 walks (a lot since most are in the 30-35 PA range), with Belt having 6 walks.   Given how good he is hitting and getting on base, maybe Bochy should move him up to batting second and make Panik the leadoff guy, because Blanco is not doing it, .125/.200/.125/.325.  That's largely bad BABIP (.133) but sometimes hitters make themselves like that.

But that's sometimes what the other teams pitchers make the hitters look like.  Miller appears to be a weak link in their rotation compared to the Giants.  Hopefully guys will knock the ball around against Miller and knock him out of the game early.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: NLCS Game 2: You Gotta Like These Kids, But Just Remember the Growing Pains

My thoughts about game 2 of the NLCS.

ogc thoughts

To quote myself, I twittered:  "Sad we lost, but don't expect to win them all. Booing of closer could bear dividends later for us. Love the kids, also later factors too!"

You Gotta Like These Kids

The Kids executed the rally and make it all happen in the 9th.  Andrew Susac shows a veteran steeliness in coming into his first NLCS AB and knocking a single up the middle, getting a single with one out by a veteran, Crawford.  Matt Duffy pinch runs for him and advances to second when Juan Perez also singles.  Blanco lines out to SS, almost into a double play, but Duffy had the presence of mind to stay his motion, see the catch, and get back to second, safe, avoiding the double-play.  He noted in an interview that he had noted the SS's height earlier, and that thought came to him as he accelerated upon contact, which then stopped him in his tracks.  The TV announcers loved that!  Then Panik shows a veteran steeliness in working out a walk, after falling behind 0-2, and taking a very close pitch for a ball, before earning his walk.

That's when things got crazy fast.  Ball Four was about as wild a pitch as you'll ever see, especially from a closer like Rosenthal (though, wow, his stats were a lot worse as a closer in 2014 than as a set-up guy in 2013, though still very good;  but, for example, K/BB went from 5.40 to 2.07, where normally you want at least 2.4 from your closers and set-up men.  Duffy had a great jump off of second, and accelerated past third when he got the signal from the third base coach, Flannery.  He scored easily.  There is a great video of his running at this MLB website called Statcast:  Duffy Scoring on Wild Pitch (and watch the other videos, this is just amazing to see the data visually represented, and to learn how fast the players are running at).

Then Posey walked (the only vet to add anything to the rally) before Sandoval ended the rally by grounding out.

Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Closer's Crown:   MLB "Best" Fans Boo CLoser

I've heard a number of times how the Cards fans are among, if not the best, baseball fans around, but that don't jibe with them booing their closer in the middle of a tense, taunt game.  Rosenthal obviously didn't do well.  He was acting like a rookie, walking a guy he was up 0-2 on and wild pitching in the tying run.

But I just found out that he IS a rookie.  A rookie closer that is.  This is only his second full season of playing, and first as a closer, having been a reliever the previous season, pitching mostly 7th and 8th inning, except at the end when he got to save a bunch of games, it appears that they made him the closer near the end of the season.  Then they kept him as the closer in the 2013 playoffs, where he very well, not giving up one run at all.  He has given up 2 runs in 3.2 IP, for a 4.91 ERA, and it could be even worse as he has given up 7 hits and 3 walks, though striking out 5.  Last year:   11.2 IP, but only 4 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 18.

I wonder if that will pay dividends for the Giants later in the series.  He looked a bit unnerved yesterday.  It can't help that he was booed by the Card fans.  Last year, he went in with little expectations and was able to shut down everyone almost.  This season, his FIP went from a dominant 1.99 to an ordinary 2.99 (ERA from 2.63 to 3.24), while his K/BB fell from a superb 5.40 to an OK 2.07.

Sure, relievers suffer a lot from SSS because of the few innings they pitch, but pitching peripherals don't usually gyrate so much, especially from one extra to another.  He got wilder as a closer (5.4 BB/9) than as a key set-up man (2.4 BB/9), though he was able to keep his K/9  high still:  only fell from 12.9 K/9 to 11.1 K/9.  However, to his credit, the number of wild pitches fell from 6 to 4 in roughly the same number of IP.

Though, wow, his career BABIP is .320 and .334 during this two full seasons.  That would explain some of the hits he has given up so far, he appears to be more hittable than average pitchers, only his high velocity instead results in a lot of strikeouts and walks.  Again, I take this as a sign that he's not really as good as feared looking at his career numbers.

Oddly enough, he's much better against LHH than RHH in his short career so far.  Relieving makes it even more subject to SSS, so his RHH is much more believable, and given the above stats, leads me to believe that he'll regress to the mean at some point against LHH.

Peavy Fails Again To Get a DOM Playoff Start

As I've been saying, he has not ever had a DOM start in the playoffs.  In fact, he has had a number of disaster starts, and yesterday's was another one, though had he pitched one more IP, he would have had a 2 PQS and not a DIS start.  But I was not feeling too good about Bochy keeping him in there against the LHH Carpenter, who has shown a lot of power in the playoffs so far, especially with the bases loaded.  The game would have been out of reach if he hit anything for power.

I loved Peavy's performances for us in the season, but if this is how he performs in the playoffs, one, he should really be our 3rd or 4th starter (or even reliever, and start Petit instead).  And his performances so far is changing my mind about resigning him, especially for the big money contract that he probably wants.  I would rather have Vogie instead, any day, Vogie has been great in the playoffs.

In addition, Peavy was talking nicely about the Cards in an interview leading up to his start, about almost signing with them, and how good they are, and how he could end up with them as a free agent.  Really?  Just before we take them on?  I'm OK with fraternization but he could have demurred and say that he's concentrating on beating them right now.  So if they want him, as apparently they did previously, great, maybe we can give him a QO and get a draft pick out of him, as well as cost the Cards a first round pick.

Bullpen Usage

I am not sure why Affeldt was used so early in the game.  Does that mean Lincecum can't be trusted with pitching then?  And why not use Petit?  Are they saving him for one of the older pitchers?  Not sure why that was done.  Something to monitor going forward, as an oddity.

I still love Strickland.  This is hopefully just learning pains.  I really love everything he did in the minors.  Such high K/9 and K/BB are good indicators of a good major league pitcher.  But for now, I would lay off running him up against LHH with power.

I Was Off About a Seven Game Series Must Wins

I saw on twitter a good point:  this is now a five game series and the Giants play three at home.  Win two at home and one on the road, and we are in the World Series again.  So I guess I'll have to alter the conditions for a seven game series to not a must win for a team that wins Game 1 on the road, they don't have to win Game 2, they are still nicely set up for the rest of the series.

Games 3, 4, 5

So it's Hudson vs. Lackey in game 3, Vogelsong vs. Miller in game 4, and then a rematch in game 5, Bumgarner vs. Wainwright.

I view game 3 as the toughest of the three.  Hudson looks like he's OK now with rest and recuperation from whatever was ailing his body at the end of the season, as he was great against the Nats.  However, he is going up against Lackey, who has been good in the playoffs during his career.  A plus for Hudson is that this is his first NLCS game, so maybe he'll get an extra shot of adrenaline (but not too much) and have another great start.   It could go either way.

Game 4 is hopefully the easiest of the three.  Vogie was great after benefiting from rest, after ending the season on the downside.  As I noted in the other post, he has a lot of rest again for this start as well.  On top of that Miller has not been very good in the playoffs thus far, though doable in his last start (3 PQS).   He is vulnerable to LHH, and has pitched much worse on the road during his career, though OK in his only start in AT&T.

Wainwright says that he is OK for Game 5, which, if he's as good as he was in Game 1, Bumgarner might have an easy night, as well as the Giants.  But never bet against aces, maybe he really is feeling better.  But with two potentially tough games, we should win one of those games, and one that is hopefully easier to win, that would give us two of three at home, only needing to win one in St. Louis.

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