Monday, August 17, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: The August Gauntlet Hits Its Peak

I was commenting on Raising Matt Cain (great blog to go to for Giants news and a heavy dose of Matt Cain, which is always good) and I realized that I should post something regarding this important and tough road trip:  facing Cards for three then the Pirates for four.  I took some stuff about the pitchers and expanded it into the below.
ogc thoughts

The team has seen a lot of ups and downs this season, but I think it was driven mostly by the loss of Pence.   Since he has returned to the lineup, the Giants have been 22-11.  In total, the Giants have been 34-15 in his starts (meaning that they were 12-4 in his first stint back) and 30-37 without him in the lineup.   Now part of that was because the team was struggling early on, particularly with McGehee gamely trying to play on one leg, and had a 9-13 April, but that still meant that they were 21-24 without Pence after April.  And part of the winning with him returned is due to Cain and Peavy returning to the rotation, taking over for Hudson and Lincecum (and mostly Peavy's good pitching since returning).  All in all, though, I think that he has been a linchpin for the team and his positive attitude and great bat helps tip the balance for the team.

And I believe this to be true, more so than the old Pagan theory that the beat writers kept on writing about.  When Pagan went down in the past two seasons, soon afterward, other injuries would hit the team and the team sunk under the weight of those losses.  When he returned later in the season, since his injuries kept him out for a long time, by the time he came back, the Giants had either gotten back the other injured or replaced with good players, like Panik.   The team's good record with him in the lineup represented more the fact that the Giants would win when they had their full lineup in the batting order, particularly their key top 5 hitters, rather than any linchpin to success that Pagan was written to have.   The lineup had been pretty much intact and hitting since April until Pence returned, and still his return came with a leap of around one extra run per game, rising from the 4's to the 5's with him in the lineup.

The sweep and poor road trip, I see it more as a trip effect, as the poor road trip was driven by high heat in the cities they were visiting, accentuated by no days off. Other than that, since Pence returned, as noted above, the Giants have been dominating, and really on an upswing until that road trip.  Now that looks like a pause, with this 5-1 homestand.

The Gauntlet's Peak

This road trip against two teams who dominate at home is the big test, with the heat of the games as well as the heat in the weather, and the travel leaving them little rest for today.  Both the Cards and Pirates are among the leaders in the NL in home record, they are first and third, respectively (LAD second; Giants are now fifth with their great homestand, this had been a weak area for them until now).   The Giants are fourth in record on the road, but that's only 29-29 after the last poor road trip and the Cubs sweep (they had been 29-25 before the sweep).

In addition, both teams beat up RHP.  The Cards are 58-27 and the Pirates are 56-37.   And, of course, we have mostly RHP, except for Bumgarner who will pitch in the Pirates series.  The Pirates are 13-9 vs. LHP, but I doubt that Bumgarner compares with very many of them.  And there's still the WC game from last season to remind them of what he can do to them.  Plus, he's coming off two CG dominating victories.

Furthermore, both the Cards and Pirates are among the leaders in playing teams at or above .500, the Cards are first with 31-19 and the Pirates are third with 26-18.  The Giants are fourth with 18-17, but if the Nats get to .500 again, they go to 22-20.

However, the Cubs, Pirates, Cards and Braves have especially benefited from one-run games, which suggests that their current overall record is a bit of an illusion since most managers regress to .500 in one-run games (as I've documented, Bochy has been significantly above .500 in one-run games in his career).   So while the two teams have been hard to beat at home, plus they beat up on RHP, part of that is an illusion because of this, so that's something to keep in mind as well.

In addition, the Cards are missing a lot of their lineup (see my Pagan note above).  They are missing Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, John Jay, and just put Randal Grichuk on the DL.   However, as I've noted before, pitching is a strong factor and the Giants are facing Wacha (2.93 ERA) today (vs. Heston, 3.38 ERA), Leake (3.52 ERA) vs. Lance (2.95 ERA) tomorrow and TBA (but this is Cain's spot, 6.05 ERA) vs. Garcia (1.57 ERA) in the rubber match.   So we are going to be facing some great pitching.

Pirates are missing some hitters too, but nobody key to their offense.  But they are missing A.J. Burnett, but not a lot, they are 14-6 in last 20 games.  Both teams will be a challenge to stay even with during this 7-game road trip.

The Giants Pitching Rotation

The Giants pitching looks well matched up against the competition though.   So even though the above shows that these are two tough series, the Giants will have some hope of coming out of it relatively unscathed.

Heston gets two starts on the road, where he has struggled before, but mostly at hitter's parks. Pirates is actually neutral, where Heston has done OK, and St. Louis is a pitcher's park, where he has done well at, even excluding SF.  So hopefully he can do well in these two parks, as it has been pitcher's performances that dictates what happens in the games (of course, it helps that our hitters have been hitting the other pitchers and helping with that).

Leake also returns to face two teams he has faced often. And he has done very well so far in his career, 3.19 ERA in St. Louis, 2.54 ERA in Pittsburgh.  So this is probably why the Giants DLed him, so that he can come back against these two key teams in a key road trip.  The two of them covers four of the seven games.

Peavy and Bumgarner each get one start.   And both have been pitching well recently, tops in our rotation, so I think it is reasonable to think that they will continue to do well.  Peavy had done well in Pittsburgh, but they were all long ago, before any of these players were even on the team, probably (last start 2008).   But he's been pitching well since returning to the rotation healthy.  Bumgarner is on a roll, plus he has had two great starts there, once in 2011 and last year in the playoffs, so he should be ready to dominate again.

However, Cain gets to pitch in St. Louis, where he has been beat like a drum, both in the past and recently. Don't look we have a chance with him starting unless there is an injury and Vogie takes over the start.  The Giants right now is listing Cain's spot in the rotation as TBA, so the Giants realize that he's been struggling and might make some sort of move, though Cain is healthy and not injured.

Thus, Cain's the biggest question mark in the rotation right now. Peavy and Bumgarner had been pitching well, best in the rotation.  Leake had been pitching well, did well for us in first start, and he's historically good in the two parks and the health reports have been positive.  Heston has mainly been hit on in hitter's parks, and neither park ranks as one right now.

And as my recent PQS stats showed, a lot of the good and bad, up and down, for the Giants were directly related to the Giants pitching outpitching the opposition.  I think heat and travel really wore out the starters on the last road trip, and thus it could affect the team again, but at least they flew out of SF after a day game, and they got a night game in St. Louis, which should help some with the travel.  And the pitchers mostly have a good history of pitching in these two cities, so I feel pretty good about this road trip, as bad as it appears from their great home records and vs. RHP records, our pitchers have mostly done well in these venues, so we should have a good chance of staying around .500 on the road, which is basically the goal I'm shooting for on this trip, 3-4 or hopefully 4-3 or better.

Who Goes?

One of the big questions facing the Giants when they bring Leake off the DL on Tuesday is who then gets removed off the 25-man roster.  Osich was brought up when Leake when down, but his dominant appearances and 0.84 ERA, and the long stretch with no days off suggests that the Giants will need to get creative in how they handle this, as they should want to keep Osich around, particularly with two key playoff teams and both teams have some key LHH in their lineups.

But then who goes?  Only Strickland, Heston, and Osich have options on the pitching staff.  Given Heston's problems on the road, they could let him pitch in St. Louis, a pitcher's park, then option him to AAA on Tuesday in order to bring back Leake, allowing Vogie to pitch in Pittsburgh on the road.  In addition, he's on pace for over 196 IP, which is 18 IP more than his high of 178.1 IP last season, and so they could decide to rest his arm while he's in AAA, maybe get a 1 IP start to keep sharp.

I'm not sure if that allows him to miss only one start or two (appears to be one though), but after that, he could return back to the rotation with him missing only the one or two starts.   And with his first official return date as 8/28 then, they could just leave him down there until September 1st and bring him back then.  If he returns on 8/28, it looks like he would miss only one start and get to start at home against St. Louis.  If they bring him back 9/1, then he gets to face LAD on the road, so that alternative don't look good, 8/28 would be better.

But the only problem with bringing him back 8/28 is that someone will need to be removed from the 25-man roster at that point.  Now, the bench is pretty sparse as it is with 3 position players and the one backup catcher (Susac should be returning soon), but right now one of Lollis and Perez will go down to AAA when Aoki returns, so with Maxwell being the 4th OF now, the other could also be sent back down to AAA for the mandatory 10 days, to open the spot for Heston to return.  The bench would be short for four games, but then on September 1st, everyone except for that last OF sent back on 8/28 could be brought up to fill the bench fully.   So this is one alternative.

Some have talked about Cain being the guy going down, but all the reports right now says that Cain is healthy.  And not only that, the Giants say that he is very close to figuring things out.   And he's used to the pressures of playoff competition baseball, which is relatively new to Heston, and Chris has never experienced it at the MLB level.

Another alternative I've seen is Petit.  There has not been any report of him dealing with injuries, nor any statements that he is healthy.  He has had a very poor season so far, particularly compared to how good he was before.  He has been crushed on the road so far, and by LHH.  And his poor single start makes his overall ERA look worse, but he hasn't been great either as a reliever, with a 3.88 ERA.  However, since the ASB, he has been great once again as a reliever with a 2.84 ERA and his strikeout rate has returned to prior levels after a poor start (5.5 K/9 and 2.73 K/BB in first half, 8.5 K/9 and 12.00 K/BB in the second half), so I don't think he's the one to go.

So it will be interesting to see who goes when Leake is returned back to the team.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, as the saying goes, don't count your chickens before they hatch...

    Giants just announced near the end of the game that Vogelsong is pitching tomorrow, in his regular slot, while Cain is pitching Wednesday, also his regular spot. No word on Leake but the implication is that he suffered some sort of set back in his rehab at the last second, and he will miss another start.

    Vogie has a 2.45 ERA in 3 starts here, so he's is up to Leake's standards here, though not as many starts as Leake. However, Vogelsong had two very good starts in 2011 and 2012, and a middling start last season, so we'll see which Vogie shows up tomorrow. And technically, he got BABIPed in his last start, and if you go by PQS, he was 2, 3, 3 meaning his last start was just as good as the others, but he got BABIPed.

    Funny, but I was just talking about Crawford's defense somewhere (Raising Matt Cain?), it was noted that he does now show up too well on advanced fielding metrics, and I noted that it has been better in recent years, but I think his problem has been that while he would make the harder, more spectacular plays, easy plays sometimes handcuff him, and those count more negatively than him making a few hard plays.

    And lo and behold, he made a flub that costed the Giants a double play, and which led to the winning run today. He didn't get an error, because you can't assume a double play, but he did cost the team the double play, it was a normal DP grounder, normally two outs, but instead of getting out of the inning, a run scored which proved to be the winning run. I love Crawford, but he needs to make these plays for his advanced metrics to be superlative.

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    1. Ah, should have checked Twitter before writing. Leake apparently did not have a setback, per se, just that the Giants decided that it would be better to get him closer to 100% before bringing him back, he's still running only 60-65%, could pitch, but would have tough time fielding his position.

      Potato, potatoe, if he's not pitching, that's a set back to me, but to the Giants point, he could have pitched but would have risked a a longer setback if he had to run, and as we've seen lately, the Giants have been more conservative in bringing back people, generally (except for concussions, so far they let them back and then they regress...). But if he's able to run normally, that's a setback to me, presumably they would not have announced that he was starting this game unless he was ready.

      The good news is that their 25-man decision now gets kicked to the next start, the third game of the Pirates series, at which point, they could, as I noted above, send down a rookie OF and have a short bench for four days, then could fill up the bench on Sept 1st with everyone else eligible from the 40-man.

      This also gives the Giants the chance to see where Cain is with his mechanics. Apparently they worked extensively with him in side sessions to get his mechanics more consistent, and now he gets a chance to show where he's at right now. Hard to remember given it is crunch time, but he's still going through spring training, though by now, he should be in early April at min.

      Then the Giants could decide to keep Vogelsong on his regular rotation and give Leake an extra day rest by having him take over Cain's rotation spot. They could even extend Leake an extra day by utilizing a 6-man rotation in the next turn of the rotation, and have him pitch after Cain. That would give all the pitchers an extra day of rest in the next rotation turn after that. Then once we enter September, the Giants can keep most of their 40-man roster up in the majors, and sit down whomever they want (like Cain perhaps) without any short-handed bench situation clouding the situation.

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    2. Pavlovic on Leake: http://www.csnbayarea.com/giants/leake-not-quite-ready-wont-return-tuesday-planned

      Leake noted that he could be used sooner than what would have been his next scheduled start, which I assume depends on what happens in the next two starts, one by Vogelsong, one by Cain.

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  2. Wow, 3 DIS starts out of 4 for Heston. It appears that he's running out of gas. Before this string, he had a 50% DOM/15% DIS, which is very good for a starting pitcher. But now he's at 45% DOM/25% DIS, which is good for DOM, but not so good for DIS, you want the pitcher to be in the teens (only the very best can get it under 10%).

    So part of me wonders if maybe the Giants decide, as I suggested above, to option out Heston to AAA and let him rest some, and now that Leake had his return delayed, he could jump into Heston's rotation spot instead, allowing Vogelsong and Cain to keep their rotation spots, at least for now.

    Of course, given that Cain's start was a question mark not that long ago (earlier today), he's only penciled in for the rest of the season. If his next start is not good again, you have to wonder if he's next to get bumped from the rotation. His next start after this start will be in SF, against the Cubs, but it's not September yet, so then that would mean Petit gets a spot start probably if they do decide to move Cain out of the rotation.

    Too bad the Giants couldn't win today with Heston able to keep the scoring from happening, mostly, but Wacha is one of the Cards aces this season and he was able to shut the Giants down even better. Ultimately, it was Crawford's error which cost us the game. That's something that usually happens to the other team.

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    1. Giants optioned Heston out today, in order to bring in Byrd, who they just traded for.

      Heston will be in minors for the 10 days minimum then brought back via September expanded roster. He's suppose to rest and work on his mechanics (that's what the Giants said). No plans on what happens later, he won't necessarily even pitch in AAA.

      With questions/worries about Cain, Peavy, Vogelsong, as well as Leake, Heston could be taking over someone's spot by the time he can return. Bochy noted in pre-game that Hudson could come up if necessary during these 10 days. The rotation will probably continue to stay in flux for the rest of the season.

      I'm still hoping the Giants go with a 6-man rotation to save everyone's arms, and it would only cost Madison one start, or perhaps if timed right, only cost the others one start but not Bumgarner.

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  3. Great BP article about the 'Giant's Way' with rookies.

    Surpassing Not-So-Giant Expectations
    by Sahadev Sharma

    http://tiny.cc/4p161x

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    1. Thanks so much for the link. The free part looks really interesting, can't wait for the year to be up and I can finish the article (not asking for anything, just stating my circumstances).

      As long time readers know, I'm still mad at BP for their 2010 Annual's chapter on the Giants, asking for Brian Sabean to be fired for incompetence, basically. Talk about bad timing! I've been waiting, futilely, for a public apology on their part, but they continue on like they nailed it and are the master of their domain.

      I normally don't care to see analysts apologize for being wrong, but given the severity of their recommendation (the firing of someone), I think they need to man up and apologize in a big way, maybe devote a whole chapter about how wrong they were and why in the front of their annuals. Instead, they continue to wuss out.

      And I would love to subscribe now, I really love Russell Carlton's work, but my fear for the past 10 years have been that Giants fans' antipathy towards Brian Sabean would make enough of the Giants owners to yield to public opinion and force him out, particularly before 2010, not so much after. And then a potential nightmare pops up with BP publicly asking for Sabean to be fired in their 2010 Annual. Haven't bought one since, haven't really missed them either, they are not anything like Bill James' annuals, where each team got some interesting analysis, nor are they useful for fantasy baseball, I really love Baseball Forecaster for that type of information. And BF taught me how to be a better analyst of baseball, whereas years of BP just left me with a little knowledge, I learned more about baseball analysis with my first BF annual than I did with many years of BP annuals.

      I think all of them need to read this article, and maybe they will be a bit more humble about their work: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/science-isnt-broken/

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  4. Wow, great start by Vogelsong, I don't see the Giants taking him out of the rotation as long as he's pitching like this. I think the rest he got while out of the rotation helped his catch a second wind.

    Leake's missed start (for some reason the Giants are playing the spin game and not calling it a setback; I see some of that logic, it was not like Leake had a physical setback, it is just that his body wasn't healing as fast as they thought it would, but that is still a setback relative to his recovery time no matter how you want to spin it) gave Cain another chance, apparently, as his start had been TBA all the way up to the announcement that Leake's not coming off the DL. So this is a big start for Cainer.

    All the reports are that he is healthy, his arm is great, but he's still very inconsistent with his arm slot and mechanics. The Giants are reporting that he's been having better bullpens, but each start has been a disappointment recently, after a good number of starts (he had a stretch of 4 good starts after his poor first start, then apparently lost it in the heat of that road trip through hellish heat). Though he got a 0 PQS in his last start, he was one out away from a 2 PQS when he gave up that 3-run homer. That's an improvement over his prior two starts.

    And really, he hasn't been bad for that long, our starters all have had bad 2-3 game stretches before figuring it out over the past six seasons. So I'm still hopeful, given how good he was not that long ago. As Krukow noted sagely one morning, Cainer gots a new arm and he's still learning how to use it right.

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  5. Here are some comments I made on Raising Cain that I thought I should put here:

    Pence on the DL is a huge shock, but I'm still hopeful. But we need some players (mainly pitchers) to step up now.

    Pence in the lineup was the tipping point for supercharging the offense, hence our great record with him in the lineup, but even before his most recent return, we were averaging 4.2 runs per game in between his returns, which is good enough to win with if we get good pitching and fielding.

    Bumgarner and Peavy has been mostly on for a long while now. Vogelsong has been pretty good in Leake's absence, so I would be loathe to remove him from the rotation if I were in charge. Add in a healthy and still dominating Leake (big if), and we can get off a nice run of winning, even with Cain still struggling (we can win with an up and down 5th starter if the others are doing well). And if Cain is as close to being good as the Giants have been intimating to the beat writers, all the better.

    I know I left out Heston. He's been the Cinderella story all season long, but it might have struck midnight a few starts ago for him. After starting the season with only 3 disaster starts in 20 starts, he has 3 in his last 4 starts. He's pitched this many innings before but he also hit a rough patch during this same period last season in AAA. So he might need a breather.

    I am hoping that the Giants are thinking about Cain vs. Heston. Of course, if Cain continues to struggle, they might just pull the plug on him instead, as the beat writers have been intimating (and the Giants actually listed his start as TBA until Leake was declared out for his start).

    But optioning Heston to AAA would allow the Giants to bring back Leake without sending Osich back to AAA, as well as giving Heston some rest that he might be needing. Once September roster expansion happens, he can come back and either re-join the rotation if anyone is faltering, or maybe the Giants finally go with a 6-man rotation, or just be a great arm from the bullpen, long relief, heck, I would be OK with him taking set-up role too.

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    1. Plus, it is not just us getting hit with problems. If you look at the headlines on the Dodgers' team news feed, their star OF, Puig, is dealing with an injury too, could be out like Pence, plus they are taking Latos out of the rotation, to work with him, while stating that they are maximizing Kershaw and Greinke starts.

      If I understand right, that drops them from 4 days of rest to 3 days of rest. Generally, pitchers do worse with less rest. Of course, these are not general pitchers.

      Kershaw has actually pitched better with 4 days than 5 days of rest. But he's never had to start with 3 days of rest (he had one appearance with 3 days, no ER but WHIP of 3.000 shows that he was lucky there too).

      Greinke has the more classic profile: 2.58 ERA with 6+ days rest, 3.16 ERA with 5 days rest, 3.66 ERA with normal, 5-man rotation 4 days rest. He has had two starts with 3 days (2.00 ERA) and even one with 0 day (3 IP, 9.00 ERA). If that continues, 3 days rest should be around 4.16 ERA. Of course, he's not his career, and he's been amazing this season, 1.00 ERA in starts with 4 days rest, so 3 days rest extrapolation would yield 1.50 ERA, which is way better than any 5th starter LA can trot out.

      However, neither pitcher have had to deal with 3 days rest regularly before. In addition, games have been much hotter than usual, suggesting that they should need more rest than normal. And we are humans, we don't know when things go bad really quick, so they are playing with some fire here.

      Still, they might still be OK. They have a couple of days off this week. Latos could return in a week and the big two won't be affected much, if at all.

      But after that, they got 16 straight days of games, if he's out for that stretch too, to September 10th, that's 4 starts for the Big 2 vs. 3 starts, might not seem like much, but again, we do know that most pitchers do worse with less rest (few have done 3 days rest in 2015 NL, but 5 days to 4 days added 0.54 to ERA, from 4 to 3 - only 11 starts though - added 0.42 to ERA). So the Dodgers are playing with fire.

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    2. I think Bochy will go with Belt in LF and Susac at C when the opposing team don't have good pitching. Cards have great pitching, so defense is more of a premium, I think, so I don't think Bochy will go with this lineup here. Pirates too, though they lost Burnett themselves, so they are hurting.

      But the whole reason of bringing Susac back is that this allows Bochy to start him at C more often, so we might see Belt sit against some LHP, as Susac has killed, KILLED, LHP (.951 OPS) so the offense could actually be improved with a switch like this.

      And Maxwell as a starter has actually been Blanco like previously in his career (2012-2013), mid-700 OPS, which with good defense is pretty good as a replacement starter. That's probably part of the reason why the Giants picked him up, so if he can pick it up, he could keep the offense going some still. Earlier this season, when he got to start regularly, he hit .247/.295/.420/.715 in a 21 start period in April/May.

      Bumgarner PH was more about our short bench - only Susac, Adrianza, Perez - with Pence out. But still, gotta give the Big Man his due as well, he has a .770 OPS (roughly, eyeballing) over 2014-15, which is better than a lot of starting position players in the NL, let alone Giants starters. He has really been like a DH for us the past two seasons. And that is a huge advantage when he's facing the other team's ace, as then it'll be a low scoring game, but then he's in the lineup.

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    3. Yeah, forgot about their deuce in the hole, Mattingly, great point! He'll figure out a way to blow it! As you noted, who would start Rollins at leadoff today? I was surprised he survived the new GM last year, and I would be even more surprised this off-season if he makes it to 2016.

      I'm not saying Heston should lose his spot, I'm saying a rest could do him some good, while getting us out of the 25-man roster crunch. I would prefer him just returning to the rotation afterward, but if all five guys are going well, unfortunately the Giants have not been all that interested in going with a 6-man rotation, even though the evidence is that the extra day of rest results in up to half a run reduction in ERA. So sure, you lose a start from Bumgarner, but maybe you make all the other starters in Bumgarner-like starters because they got that extra day of rest.

      So I'm with you there, but he had similar problems pitching last season past July, so I don't know if it's the heat or just the number of games or coincidence, but a skipped start that allows us to hold onto Osich in the bullpen and Vogelsong in the rotation, while giving him some rest in a season that will be the most innings he's ever pitched before. And he's skinnier than Vogelsong, who has, at least to my memory, hit bad patches late in the season with us, but the rest he got this season seemed to have rejuvenated him lately. So it can't hurt, and he'll miss maybe one start if you time it right, two if not.

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    4. I will always remember Timmy. As much as I love Cainer, for me Timmy is the face and touchstone for the Giants revival from 2009 to 2015. He, amazingly and shockingly, has not been a good pitcher for most of that time now, but he led the way for us in 2010 and saved the day for us often in 2012.

      And people forget that he was actually one of our best pitchers on the staff, if not the best, up to around Mid-May. Then he lost it.

      As impacted our bullpen is and as many great relievers we have pushing to join the Giants in the majors, part of me still hopes that the Giants can sign him to a $3M deal to pitch out of our bullpen, spot starter, long reliever, but mostly super-utility reliever, but he's able to keep things going for a while, great, but then appears to just tire out. If he's a reliever, he'll get a lot more rest, and hopefully can do well all season again, who knows, maybe become a closer at some point, like Eckersley did late in his career. I'm hoping he could take the spot that Vogelsong held this season, or they could trade Petit to an AL team (don't want to have to face him regularly or have him hurt our chances of getting to WS) to open up that spot. I believe in him that much still, but I know I'm a dying breed.

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  6. "like Eckersley"

    Eck never walked anybody

    btw...whole new crew at BP, and 1/2 the content is fantasy (not my thing - but still like other types of fantasizing).

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    1. Sorry I was not more specific: I'm hoping that he can be like Eckersley in that he stopped being an effective starter but then became a very effective reliever, and where Eckersley became a closer, I'm hoping for Lincecum to become a super-reliever, pitching long, set-up, closer, as well as spot-start, with a rubber arm as he appears to have, he should be able to go multiple days without a problem, as long as the Giants rest him up afterward. I mean, look at how good he was earlier this season, he was not just best on the Giants, but had he been able to continue it all season, he would be in the Cy Young conversation again with a low 2 ERA.

      And I'm not saying that he still got Cy Young in him, that boat has sailed, but he clearly can keep it up as a starter over extended periods of time, 6 weeks this season, roughly 8 to 11 starts, so I don't see why he can't do that over a full season as a reliever, making sure he gets enough rest. And with so many other good relievers on the staff, Core Four, Kontos, Strickland, Osich (Petit?), Bochy can use him as needed for key situations, like he did in 2012 playoffs, then back off him when the team is going good.

      Thanks for the FYI on BP. May be new crew, but I'm still not shelling out another buck to them without a mea culpa on their part, it really pissed me off that they would publicly demand his firing, and extreme positions like that demands extreme contrition and apology on their part when they are so so so wrong, I mean, as right as I've been in saying the Giants are the Team of the 2010's, they are that wrong. They won't miss my money, but I've been flailing at windmills for a long while, so that appears to be my thing. :^)

      Thanks again!

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    2. Ooops, forgot to add in that they should eat crow for taking that stand in the 2010 Annual, if they are going to go around beating their chest about how MLB teams use them, they need to man up and admit when they were very very very wrong. Otherwise, that is really wimpy behavior, and if that is how they act when they are wrong, by sticking their head in the sand and acting like nothing happened, no wonder the Giants and other teams slammed the door in the faces and don't give them consulting gigs, because baseball teams will want any consultants to take responsibility when they give horrible advice and not act like they were right all the time.

      Which is the Bill James-wannabe act that they have been trying to pull off over all these years, and failing at. Nobody can be Bill James, he's one of a kind, part of another era, if they would just be themselves, and act like they are human beings like the rest of us, then maybe they will get more consulting gigs from teams.

      Or really, the word I've been searching for is they need to act like they are professionals. Bill James is great for reading, but not so good an attitude for consultants to have, particularly in a closed in, secretive, environment that baseball operates in. They need to decide if they want to be snarky bloggers or if they want grow up and be professional consultants to baseball teams.

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  7. I posted this on Raising Cain:

    We played the best team in baseball, the best home team in the NL, to a 6-6 run differential, so it was really a coin flip as to who won the 3-game series, and given that the Cards are 46-19 at home and 28-19 in one-run games, most probably they were going to win. On top of that, we faced Wacha (2.85 ERA), Lynn (2.94 ERA), and Garcia (1.94 ERA), so if you didn't expect a battle on the road, if you thought we would surely win the series, I don't know what you were thinking.

    Sure it would have been better to win, but the Giants came in here, facing the best NL team with the best home record, and played them to a standstill. Add to it the context that the Giants have beaten them twice in the playoffs in the past three seasons for the right to play in the World Series, the Giants have to feel good about their performance, and the Cards have to worry some about the Giants when the playoffs come. Both teams came very close to being swept, easily swept, so it was a close, tight series, as @CandlestickWill tweeted, best series in the season. These were great baseball battles that any baseball fan should and can enjoy.

    What's sad about using "Babe" Bumgarner, hitting .770 over the past two seasons at the time of his AB (.763 after the AB), as a PH? That's not a low percentage crapshoot, unless you are saying Hunter Pence batting is a low percentage crapshoot. How many starting position players in the NL hit that well, let alone bench players? In the NL, only the average 1B and RF have hit better than Bumgarner.

    And honestly, given Madison's "red-ass" rep, which pitcher would dare buzz him close and risk setting off the bull in the china shop? Have we really gotten to this point where we treat all pitchers like they are china dolls who will break? Instead of lifelong baseball players who live for this type of competition?

    I've shown how having a replacement level hitting pitcher could shift one loss into the win column, so I would estimate that having a pitcher hit like Bumgarner probably shifts another over. So a pitcher who should have a 16-16 (.500) team record over the course of a season would be 18-14 (.563 or 91 win record) instead. And Bumgarner is more like a 19-13 pitcher, so his hitting would move him to 21-11.

    There is nothing wrong with having a pitcher who knows how to hit well. If you are going to be afraid of the danger, then why play baseball? Put them in the china cabinet so that they stay pristine. This reminds me of all that PAP crap that BP has been shoving down our throats for decades now, every team hews to the 100 pitch limit as if every player was PeeWee Herman or Don Knotts or Wally Cox.

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    1. I'm plenty excited about Matt Cain! People have such short term memory, he only had the last three really bad peripheral games, he also had two really good starts early on as well, his second and fourth starts of this season. Per PQS, after a horrible first start, which I chalked up to nerves (hits the best of us), he had four OK to good starts (3-5 PQS) then three disaster starts before this gem of a 5-PQS start.

      I'm not sure why anyone would be worried about a flexor strain now. I'm no doctor, maybe I'm missing something, and I never took physio, but to me, if the strain is something to worry about now, why didn't pitching roughly 800 pitches over the last nine starts do something to that tendon? If recurrence is a worry, I don't think the Giants would be starting him right now, but maybe someone can correct me? Seems more like worry for worry's sake, at least without some medical prognosis that a flexor strain is that worrisome.

      Cain, as Krukow's been saying, has a new arm. So he's learning to use it again, repeatedly. I'll admit that I've underestimated the difficulties of him re-adjusting to life with a healthy arm. I forgot that his muscle memory of dealing with the chips for at least 5 years, if not 10, probably left his arm used to being limited in his ability to throw. Which makes his improvement as his career progressed so much more impressive. This is probably why he has struggled to find the right arm slot, and why he goes from game to game a bit lost as to finding that slot. But it was really encouraging to see him go from struggle to command/control in his final innings.

      I don't know if this is a return to Cainer or another up in a series of ups and downs. I think it's like a 12-step program, one game at a time, and we have to celebrate the battles won, like this start for him. The great thing was that it was a high quality start overall for him, 5-PQS, but unfortunately, it was another high BABIP start for him, he has had only two starts with less hits than IP, so that's a negative. But at least he's minimizing WHIP by being stingy with the walks, 7 of 9 starts with 2 or less walks.

      And he had 65% strikes thrown and 22% strikes looking, he had 19 strikes looking, tied for most in his starts this season, and he did that in two of his last three starts. He also had 11 swinging strikes, tied for second most this season (12 is high). Looking at strikes looking and swinging, that's 30 of them, high for the season, high of 28 before, had 27 two games ago, so that was good too, he is on uptrend. In 2012, a season split by his Perfecto, before 30 was good but not great, but after, 30 would be a top 5 performance. So he's getting closer, but still has some way to go before I would say he is back.

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  8. Next series is in Pittsburgh. The Pirates have been pretty hot for a while now. They also lost to the Cards in STL, outscored them 15-13 but lost 2 of 3. Other than that, they swept the Mets on the road, beat D-backs 2 of 3 at home, and swept the Dodgers before that, at home, so they are 10-3 in last 13 games (including win in last game of Cubs series). They are virtually tied for the second best home record with the Dodgers.

    Per expectations (unless the Giants have another setback with Leake, he is apparently slotted for Sunday), here are the matchups (http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/news/probable_pitchers/index.jsp?c_id=sf):

    Peavy vs. Morton (4.36 ERA but 2.84 ERA in 11 starts against Giants)
    Bumgarner vs. Locke (4.31 ERA but has 3.16 ERA at home 2015)
    Heston vs. Cole (2.61 ERA and 2.11 ERA against Giants, but unsteady lately)
    Leake vs. Liriano (3.35 ERA and has 3.75 ERA in 4 career starts, but 1.29 ERA in two starts last two seasons)

    So the Giants got another tough series again. We probably have a chance to win in three of the games, but probably will lose the Cole-Heston matchup, as Cole is great at home, 3.36 ERA career, 2.99 ERA in 2015.

    But his slight flaw is that so far in his career, Cole has not been at his best in August, and has a 4.70 ERA in 4 starts this month. If we catch that Cole, then I see us as having a good chance to split to series, because Bumgarner should win his start, which would mean that the Giants only need to win one of the other three to split. Peavy and Bumgarner have been pitching well, and Leake was pitching well before his injury, while Heston has had three bad starts in his last four starts, plus has been bad on the road in hitter's parks like Pittsburgh, so it does not look good on paper right now for his start. A bad Cole would give us a good chance of winning in every game of the series.

    But their pitching and hitting has been on fire in August, overall, and so, achieving a split of this series would be a victory in my eyes, just because it's the Pirates and in their home, and would make this a good road trip as then we would end up 3-4 going through two tough home teams who have both been hot as well, and played them roughly to a standstill.

    Go Giants!

    ReplyDelete
  9. SABR released some defensive data index that they compile for a post-season award input, and three Giants are among the top 25 in the NL: Crawford is #1 by a good margin, Posey is 3rd, and Belt is 10th. Oddly enough, while both Crawford and Posey are rated as contributing a lot of defensive value by Baseball-Reference.com, Belt is actually rated as a negative value defensively so far. And, looking at his career, he's always been negative, despite the positive perception I have of his defense based on what I hear from the radio announcers. However, DRS has a pretty positive view on his defense, so I guess perhaps he's good but just not as good as other 1B generally? And he's rated pretty negatively for his LF defense, so that could account for some of that negative (but not all, he don't play there that much). Both Total Zone and DRS rates his defense over his career as roughly half a win (4 runs per TZ, 6 runs per DRS, both seasonal), which is pretty good, I would think.

    http://sabr.org/latest/sabr-defensive-index-rankings-released-through-august-16-2015

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