Saturday, October 11, 2014

Your 2014 Giants: NLCS Game 1: Stronger Together

I'm not going to write after every game, but just felt the muse.  I mostly watched the game, but caught the beginning by radio.  Obviously, they won 3-0 and lead the series 1-0.  Must win tomorrow with Peavy going for us against Lynn.  Will be interesting to see which pitcher implode as they both had did in previous years or can bring up a gem (Lynn did against LA, Peavy is still looking for his first post-season gem).

ogc thoughts

Wow, what a game.  The Giants won because they were stronger together and thus better than the Cards in today's game.  They played a virtually error-free game (debatable, the TV announcers thought that Bumgarner balked and a run would have scored then) with great pitching performances by Bumgarner and Casilla (with a nice out by Romo in the 8th).

Bumgarner!  What can anyone say?  DOM start (5 PQS), not even close to a 4 at any way.  Meanwhile, Wainwright had a DIS start, 0 PQS because he did not reach 5 IP, but even if he had reached that, he would only have a 1 PQS, still a DIS start.  In games with a DOM vs. DIS, the overwhelmingly majority of the games were won by the team that had the DOM start.

Wainwright claimed that all the concern over his elbow was overblown by the media, but the way he pitched belied that.  On the radio, Kruk and Kuip were repeatedly noting that Wainwright was avoiding the pitches that aggravate the elbow, in the early innings, so I was figuring it was a matter of time before the team would strike.

I love when players show that they recognize how important they are to their team's success and go above and beyond, but at some point, if you are hurting your team by trying to play through your ailments, you are doing your team a huge disservice in the playoffs, where each game is precious.  Maybe his elbow issues were overblown, but that's two straight first game stinkers (relatively speaking) from your ace.  That's hard to get over for most teams (except when the other team's ace stinks, as Kershaw did, or like Lincecum vs. Lee in the first game of the 2010 World Series;  and look at what happened when Verlander stunk in the 2012 World Series).   Just trying to pitch with your problems just invites giving crucial runs when the other team finally strikes.

When the Giants did, bunching a bunch of base advancing plays, including ruined double-play balls and especially that muffed play at 3B (really dude at, Carpenter is clearly an advantage over Sandoval; and that don't even count Panda's 3 hits vs. 1 hit for Carpenter; OK, that's one game, but still), and some well placed hits and timed walks, the Giants led 3-0 (by then I was watching at Red Robins; love my Royal Burger, yumm!).   They moved the line, working in sync together, stronger together, until they amassed three runs.  I felt pretty confident then.


How about Ishikawa?  Wasn't with the Giants to start the season, joined as a minor league free agent mid-season, promoted to the Giants to play 1B in Belt and Moore's absence, then became starting LF when Belt returned.  He's our starting LF in the playoffs!

I'm sure if the Giants do wonderful mystical magic again this fall, the Naysayers will again claim it was all luck because, really, how can you win with someone who had probably less than a dozen games played in LF in the majors starting for you in LF?  Heresy!  Absurd!

I was actually OK for a number of reasons, though of course I had some concerns.  Obviously, most guys end up at 1B because they can't really move that well.  And by not well, not even well enough to play LF, where a lot of statues (Adam Dunn) or speedy with no fielding instincts (Freddy Lewis), would play.   So I can understand if people scoff at him starting in LF.

However, I knew an amazing fact:  in 2009, Schierholtz and Ishikawa were among the team leaders in gaining extra bases when on the basepaths.  And they did that even though neither one were full-time players, in fact, both were in double figures, making the fact that they did that while not full-time all the more impressive to me.  And given I've never heard anyone raving about Ishikawa's great instincts on the base paths, to take the extra base, I figured that he had to be pretty mobile to keep up with Schierholtz.

And, wow, that diving catch he did in LF to prevent a hit, maybe a faster fielder would have made it easily, don't know, but he dove like it was nothing, like it was natural, what a play!

The Continuing Story of Umpire Cozzi

Also, anyone else think the same thing I did when the announcer said that the home umpire was Phil Cozzi?  He's the dork umpire in 2010 who called Ishikawa out at home plate in a Mets game in 2010, costing us a win, and forcing us to play the final series with the need for one more win to win the division (had we won that game, we would have clinched the division title before the Padres series, allowing us to relax in that series and adjust the rotation perhaps).  Cozzi admitted after the play that he didn't actually see the play, but that the way the catcher caught the ball and made the tag, Ishikawa "looked" out.

So when the announcer said that Cozzi saw the balk that they thought Bumgarner did (honestly, I saw him move, but don't know the technical details regarding what constitutes a balk) and yet didn't call it, I thought perhaps that was karmic retribution for his blown call all those years ago.

Bumgarner's Love Bump

Anybody loved how Madison tagged out Wong at 1B?  It was bang bang, but wow, I was fired up when he gave Wong the love bump while tagging him.  I was so glad he is a Giants, I was so glad that the Giants saw the beauty of his talent when they drafted him.

That's part of what I love about Bumgarner, I totally believe that if he was in a deathmatch  in a cage, he would be the guy with blood all over his teeth and face, but he would be the winner.  An article about him in recent days brought up his classic video of him blowing up in AAA when a call went against him, and guys had to hold him back, and before leaving the field, he hurled the ball high into left field, I think going out of the park (of course, this is dangerous and not an activity I condone, but wow, I'm glad he's on our side!).

That article noted what drew Tidrow to draft Bumgarner, this is why Tidrow is so awesome as a talent evaluator and scout, and so good at what he does:
“He’s up there. He’s probably just as intense as both of us, but we all do it in our different ways,” Vogelsong said. “Jake is pretty vocal and I kind of hold it in and try to generate it into concentration and focus. He’s that way, too, but you can see he lets it out every once in a while. He’s a gamer.” 
That quality was already shining through when the Giants picked Bumgarner 10th overall out of North Carolina’s South Caldwell High in 2007. Tidrow couldn’t take his eyes off the tall, well-built kid with an easy crossfire delivery. He was sold because of one trait. 
“He was one of the few high school pitchers I had ever seen pitch inside,” Tidrow said. “I thought at the time that he wasn’t afraid of much, and I don’t think that’s changed. He’s always been fearless. It’s how he was brought up. It’s in his DNA. It’s hard for a guy with his release point to pitch inside to right handed hitters, but he just repeated it and repeated it. I had never seen that before.” 
Bumgarner still does it that way, moving his fastball across planes and sections of the plate to set up hitters. The style is hell on opponents, because Bumgarner, his arm sweeping well behind his body and then back toward the plate, would be deceptive even if he weren’t a master at hitting his spots. 
“He’s one of the more unorthodox pitchers you’re ever going to face,” Cardinals star Matt Carpenter said. “There aren’t a whole lot of guys like him in terms of arm angles and where he’s coming after you.”
Wow, loved that quote:  "one of the few high school pitchers I had ever seen pitch inside."   This shows the value of human scouts, no saber is going to analyze data and find that one out.  They won't be able to find this out either:
Tidrow saw another trait on those afternoons in North Carolina that made Bumgarner an easy pick for the Giants. This one showed at the plate. 
“He always took big swings, and that showed me a guy that wasn’t afraid,” Tidrow said. “He was not afraid to look bad.”
So I'm glad the Giants were not beholden to drafting a hitter solely because we needed hitters, as I and other Giants fans at that time wanted them to do (some wanted to do harm to themselves if Bumgarner got drafted, even).  I said it was on the Giants to get this right, and they were, Sabean said immediately after drafting Bumgarner, in an interview, that the Giants expected Bumgarner to reach the majors in two years.  And he did it in that timeframe.

And Panik, in a post game interview on Channel 2's post-game show noted that Bumgarner's only two years older than he is, and yet he has accomplished so much already, from age 20.

Pitching Eras

Funny how things work out.  Lincecum was the ace and Wilson the closer in 2010, Cain and Romo in 2012, and now Bumgarner and Casilla in 2014.  That's a lot of change and turnover, so we were very fortunate that Sabean and gang were as good as they were in drafting.  But I have a feeling that Bumgarner will be holding onto that label a bit longer than those two for us in the postseason.

Of course, this is where Naysayers would chime in and blame Sabean for not building a team that could have had Lincecum and Cain as the aces when they were in their young prime.  This shows their lack of understanding of how teams are built and of how hard it is to draft for talent.

Drafting is very hard, as my draft study showed.  While that is intuitive to anyone who observes the draft, my draft showed how bad it is even in the first round, quantifying roughly how hard it is between the first picks of the draft and the picks where playoff caliber teams are drafting (21-30), which is roughly four times as hard.
So teams can only build a little at a time, and need to get lucky with the draft once the winning starts (or alternate years where injuries result in losing seasons with years where they win, as the Giants have done, enabling them to pick up Stratton and Beede), while picking up complementary players via both major league free agents and minor league free agents, to keep the team younger and more talented.  The Giants don't win without Uribe, Casilla, Huff, Blanco, Vogelsong, Petit, Srickland, guys who anyone could have gotten but the Giants ended up getting them.   They also need additional hits in the draft, as hard as it is, and kept things going with Belt, Crawford, Panik, Susac, and Duffy.

Life is not perfect and neither is rebuilding.  The early heroes of the good years are ultimately sacrificed to build up to the prime years when you have everything chugging along.  And Bumgarner looks like he's going to last a long time more, and in any case, we have him signed to like 2021 on a relatively team-friendly contract.  People complain about all the bad contracts, but then forget about the good ones like this one, or all the value we got from Lincecum and Cain in their pre-free agency years, or all the value found with the "free" players from Uribe to Vogelsong to Petit.


Anybody else noticed that Matheny used up all his LHP by the 8th inning?  He had Choate come in to face Crawford (and if he was afraid of Crawford the LHH, then why didn't he have Choate handle Belt, who was the hitter before?  Sure, bases loaded, but two outs, and really, Belt had a RISP and been the hitting star in the NLDS for us.  Maybe it was because that's all the rope he wanted to give Martinez.  And the logic that you get out of that situation and hope you tie is a valid one.

But he used Martinez for 1.1 IP earlier when he could have went to Wacha instead for a number of innings instead?  Or are they saving him in case they rather use him over Miller in Game 4?  I guess Wacha and even Rosenthal and Neshek could be counted on to get LHH out, but usually you save LHP to face LHH in key situations, particularly Sandoval, and instead they used him to face Crawford.  True, Brandon has been driving in runs, but really, if you are that scared of our regular 7/8 hitter, shouldn't you be more worried about our middle of lineup hitters more?

So will Bochy out-manage Matheny again?


  1. I should have noted, to Lynn's credit, he did have a DOM start against the Dodgers. So at least he has done it, unlike Peavy.

    But I should also note that he had two DIS starts against SF in 2012 playoffs. He will have to put those behind.

    1. Lynn pitches pretty poorly against LHH, so lefty bats again, probably same lineup since Ishi got couple of hits.

      He basically had us shut down until he did not in 2012, in fourth inning. Probably same scenario for both pitchers, quick hook if things are not going well, go to long men, like Petit or Wacha. Heck, once get lead probably very quick hook at first sign of trouble.

  2. Forgot to pass on this tidbit from post game show. Kruk states that Bumgarner prefers to have Posey catching him. Noted how good Posey is in framing pitches so that his pitchers get strike calls. Gives Posey some kudos for the pitchers sterling low runs allowed thus far in playoffs, 9 runs so far, he had to be some factor of that.

    1. Posey and Bum have been together for a long time now, even though they're young as hell. Posey deserves a lot of credit for the pitching run, for sure.

  3. Bumgarner sets another record:

    Bumgarner established a major-league record for consecutive road shutout innings in the postseaon at 26 2/3. Art Nehf’s mark of 24 had stood for 90 years.

    Also, the Game 1 winner has advanced in 17 of the past 22 NLCS. It generally beats being the Game 1 loser.

  4. This is a nice article about Ishikawa's journey in baseball this year:

    It is nice to see him do well, because I think he has shown the talent in the minors and majors before. His problem is much like many fringe players in baseball: they show enough talent to get to the majors, but is unable to consistently show that talent enough to keep a job.

    He got around 3 months worth of MLB pay at the min, so he made roughly $250K this season.

    1. Had to cut it short as I had to go to lunch.

      Thinking about him while doing the lawn this morning, I wondered if getting pushed to the edge of retirement finally got him to not overthink things. That was what held him back before, he noted his struggles trying to find consistency, and he was not able to succeed until he found religion and started putting things in hands of God (i.e. try not to think too much on what he's doing).

      It's like that great article Malcolm Gladwell wrote that I often link up to, regarding choking in pressure situations, there are two modes of physical movement, one is when you are in learning mode and not that good, and the other is when you do it so often that it becomes muscle memory.

      However, in pressure situations, people sometimes revert back to learning mode, where they are not very good, instead of playing with muscle memory, which incorporates everything that you learned and practiced.

      From these bits of information I've gathered over the years on Ishi, it sounds like he is like me, overthink the situation when you are in the moment, instead of letting muscle memory do the work for you. And really, that's what I think affects all the fringe major leaguers like Blanco, Nate the Great, Ishi, Kevin Frandsen, or failed good prospects like Burroughs, Andy Marte, Andy LaRoche, as they showed the skills in the minors but being up in the majors was just too much pressure for them to overcome.

      I think that is why the Giants focus some of their scouting on players who are more mature and not let pressure get to them, like Cain, Posey, Panik, and Arroyo.

      Sometimes you have to be pushed to the edge, as Ishi has been this past year, to get to where you just release yourself, as you have nothing else to lose, and just do it. Hopefully, he can put his talents (and I think he could have been a nice high 700 OPS hitters, not a star on any team, but coupled with his plus defense at 1B, can be very valuable to any team.) to better use for teams in the future, and hopefully the Giants can fit him on the bench next season.

      I think he can fit in with the plan I had in 2011 when Belt was still just a minor leaguer: Ishi would mostly start at 1B against RHP and sit against LHP. He would sit when Posey needs a rest and is playing 1B, I would just move Belt to LF - he was an OF in college - where he should be OK to good defensively. I like Morse, he fits in with the group, but he's injury prone and we already got one of those in Pagan and owe him more money, so that's the way I would go: Posey C, Ishi 1B, Panik 2B, Crawford SS, Sandoval 3B (hope to resign him), Belt LF, Pagan CF, and Pence RF.



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