Monday, December 27, 2010

Random Winter Thoughts: Schilling and Brown, Sabathia and Cain

Last week, I tweeted that if voters plan to cast a Hall of Fame ballot for Curt Schilling when he is eligible, they should do the same for Kevin Brown this year. Thanks to a retweet by the great Keith Law, I got a lot of responses to this. Most of them cited the fact that Schilling had many impressive postseasons, memorably beating the Yankees with both the Diamondbacks and the Red Sox (it seemed to be that not only was his playoff performance stellar, but the fact that it came against the Yankees made it even more so, a sentiment that really makes me cringe). I don't think that postseason performance should factor much into Hall of Fame worthiness. I especially don't think a great pitcher should be penalized because of poor postseason starts. But I can appreciate the position of giving credit to a pitcher for outstanding pitching in the games that matter most. However, this only applies to the Schilling/Brown situation if you believe that Curt Schilling is not already a Hall of Famer, independent of his playoff heroics. I think Schilling is a Hall of Famer just based on his regular season performance, and to my surprise, a lot of the people on Twitter did not. So I forgot about Brown almost immediately, and started thinking about Schilling.

I could understand keeping Curt Schilling out of the Hall of Fame if you believed in the idea of a "Small Hall", where only the most excellent players of all time would be. This concept is attractive, but unrealistic, because the Hall of Fame is what it already is. You can think that certain players don't belong there, but once they are in, the standards have somewhat changed. I don't think because Andre Dawson is in that every player who compares favorably to Andre Dawson should be in as well. But to some extent, the "if ___ is in, then ____ should be" is a valid argument. And there are a number of worse pitchers than Curt Schilling in the Hall of Fame. He had a long career, and a good peak, not as dominant a peak as some peers, but extended enough to make up for that. He was never the best pitcher in baseball, but that was because 4 of the greatest pitchers ever (Clemens, RJ, Maddux, Pedro) were pitching at the same time. Strikeout-to-walk-ratio isn't a perfect statistic at all, but it is still useful, and Schilling has the 2nd best K/BB ratio of all time, 4.38. In the "Big Hall", he's a clear Hall of Famer to me.

I think baseball fans who are continually learning about sabermetrics and advanced statistics forget just how large a large portion of the baseball community still judges a pitcher by his W-L record. And this must be the explanation for fans thinking Schilling may not be a Hall of Famer, because he has "only" 216 career wins. There's no need for me to explain why wins and losses are irrelevent; it's been talked about forever, and you either get it or you're just stubborn and don't care about the objective analysis of baseball. Just looking at one season, wins are quite useless. A career is different: wins and losses won't tell us anything that important, but the length of time in a career pretty much guarantees that a "bad" pitcher won't end up with 300 wins. But does that mean a pitcher with 300 wins is definitively better than one with 216? Absolutely not. But the road to 300 wins is a strange one.

People wonder if we will ever see a 300 win pitcher again. It shouldn't matter, but it would be kinda cool. I think we will, and I think the pitcher currently who has the best shot at it is CC Sabathia. Consider this: Sabathia will be 30 next year, and he already has 157 wins. He will likely be pitching the majority of his remaining career with the Yankees, a team we expect to provide good offense every season. He appears to have a durable body. And he's a great pitcher right now, in his prime. All of those factors demonstrate how CC can get to 300 wins. Most of all, it's that high win total, 157, at 30 years old, very rare for pitchers these days.

From 2001-2005, the start of his career, Sabathia went 69-45, a .605 winning percentage. Yet, he was only an above average to good pitcher. His ERA+ was 107 over that period. By logging many innings, his overall value was good (14.4 rWAR, 17.9 fWAR). But not good enough to post a .605 winning percentage over a 5 year period, at least, not without some very good fortune. Sabathia has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since 2006, but it was his ability to start a career earlier and stock up on many wins at a young age that puts him in position to win 300 games. And it could have been very different. He could have been Matt Cain.

Whether Matt Cain will ever reach the level Sabathia is at right now remains to be seen. But I think comparing Sabathia and Cain in their first 5 seasons is fascinating (I leave out Cain's 2005 season, because he only pitched 46 innings). Sabathia's first full season was at age 20, Cain at age 21. Here are the stats they put up:

Sabathia: 972.2 IP, 4.10 ERA, 107 ERA+, 14.4 rWAR, 17.9 fWAR, 69-45 (.605%) W-L Record

Cain: 1049.1 IP, 3.50 ERA, 124 ERA+, 15.4 rWAR, 18.7 fWAR, 55-61 (.474%) W-L Record

The WAR numbers are pretty close, but Cain is slightly ahead in both. He also threw more innings. And the adjusted ERA isn't that close, relatively speaking. Yet look at those W-L records.

There's no reason really to compare Cain and Sabathia; all pitchers are different, and whether Sabathia "deserves" all that great fortune early in his career is nullified by his now long held status as one of the best in baseball (he currently has 4 straight seasons of 230 or more IP, and his ERA+ over that period is 142) . Cain has yet to reach those heights, and he might never. I said I wouldn't even go into how pitcher wins are useless, but this side by side comparison says it all. They are very close in performance, and Cain is better. Looking at the W-L records, you'd think think the exact opposite. And you'd be so completely, utterly wrong.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rowand for Fukudome? Yes, Please.

First of all, I'm gonna apologize for not posting anything over the last couple of weeks. With finals going on for both of us, we decided to take a break. But we're back and ready to go with the news this morning that the Giants and Cubs have discussed an Aaron Rowand-Kosuke Fukudome trade, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.

It's no surprise that Rowand is being shopped - he has a huge contract, isn't good, and as the roster currently stands, it doesn't seem like there is room for him. And this particular rumor is especially appealing because almost everything about Fukudome is better than Rowand. His 2010, which wasn't too far off his career numbers (.259/.368/.410/.778), looked like this: .263/.371/.439/.810 in 429 PAs. Fukudome strikes out quite a bit (20.8% career) but his career walk rate (14.7%) is very good. Rowand had an OBP under .300 last year and has a career walk rate of 5.6%. It's pretty clear who the better offensive player is.

I've always assumed that when getting rid of Rowand, the Giants would have to pay most of the salary and get nothing back in return besides a crappy reliever. As I mentioned above, Rowand pretty much has to go because the Giants have too many outfielders - Burrell, Torres, Ross, Schierholtz, Rowand, DeRosa, Huff/Belt. Getting rid of Rowand for nothing would solve the outfield overcrowding problem. But adding another OF like Fukudome means another outfielder would have to go, most likely Schierholtz. Luckily, Fukudome isn't terrible on defense and defense is really the only reason Nate is still around. As a right fielder, he's fared pretty well according to UZR, with scores of 6.0 in 2008, 7.8 in 2009, and dropping off a bit in 2010 at -4.4. He is 33 and isn't likely to improve much on defense, but he won't clog up the outfield either.

I thought maybe the only other player the Giants could get in return for Rowand would be one with a bad contract. While Fukudome does make $13.5 million (way too much), it's only for one more year and his contract is actually better than Rowand's, which has 2 years and $24 million left. For this reason, I can't understand why the Cubs would do the deal. Crasnick does say the trade is a long shot. Maybe the Cubs want to save money this year? The Giants would probably throw some money into the deal, but it still seems weird. In the end, all the evaluations of Fukudome as a player don't matter because we know these two things: he's a better player with a better contract. And Rowand would finally be gone. Please make it happen, Sabez.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Giants Sign Miguel Tejada

Although it isn't official until his physical, we can safely say that former MVP Miguel Tejada will be the Giants starting shortstop for 2011. Tejada's deal is for 1 year, $6 million. In essence, he'll be replacing Juan Uribe, and when you look at the 2 players and the contracts they each got, the Giants situation appears quite favorable. Before Uribe joined the Giants in 2009, he had just had 4 seasons with an average OPS+ of 77. He may not be that bad ever again, but giving him a 3 year contract is pretty foolish. Meanwhile, Tejada will only be with the Giants for 1 year, and isn't costing a lot. Looking at it purely from that perspective, the move isn't bad at all. Also, there are a lot of positive things to say about Miguel Tejada.

He was one of the better shortstops in baseball most of this decade, thanks to his ability to make hard contact and hit for power from the weakest (or 2nd weakest) offensive position on the diamond. His career defensive numbers aren't pretty, but they aren't atrocious either. He is considered a great clubhouse leader and continually competitive, motivated player, who even at 36 is in better shape than many major leaguers. All those qualities are impressive and admirable. So, having established that Tejada for 1 year is "okay" (because it's more favorable than keeping the current SS, Uribe), and going over what his reputation is as a player and teammate, you might wonder why I dislike this signing as much as I do.

It isn't nearly as popular to criticize Brian Sabean these days as it was a mere, oh, 5 months ago. A World Series trophy, somewhat rightly, buys a lot of credibility. But I think the Tejada signing represents just another uncreative move by Sabean to fill a position with an aging veteran. And just because we all hated the Aubrey Huff signing last year, and he succeeded beyond anyone's expectations, doesn't mean the Giants should AIM to spend the offseason picking up the players no one else really wants. You can only get lucky like that so many times. And there's really no reason to refrain from fair criticism of Sabean simply because the team just won the World Series. This offseason is now about winning it in 2011. 2010, as magical a year as it was, has nothing to do with that.

So why do I think the Tejada signing is uncreative and disappointing? Simply because it appears that better shortstop options are in fact out there to be had. JJ Hardy (#JJHardyorGTFO) could be available, either in a trade or simply as a free agent if the Twins non-tender him (this might be less likely than I hope; the Twins seem to have ideas of other options at SS, but all analysis points to Hardy being their best option). Marco Scutaro and Jason Bartlett are both trade options, and the Red Sox and Rays want middle relief in return, something the Giants have. If you were to go just by last year's performance, Tejada is very close to all 3 of these guys, or better. I think you could reasonably expect that all of them might end up giving the same production in 2011 (1.5-2.5 WAR). But the other 3 possible SS all have something that I believe Tejada lacks: the potential to have a big year. Hardy had 4.3 and 4.9 WAR seasons in 2007 and 2008 (and positive UZR numbers in every season of his career; how the hell could the Twins not want to keep this guy? I think maybe they will keep him). Bartlett had a huge offensive season in 2009, then a total dropoff in 2010. The same for Scutaro, on a smaller scale. Now, of course, Tejada has had a much more productive career than any of these guys. But Miguel Tejada is going to be 37 next season. His skills have been diminishing every season. His power is mostly gone. His defense is not good. And he'll be playing one of the most demanding defensive positions, everyday. He doesn't strike out a lot; he never has. Going hand in hand with that, he doesn't walk much either (never has). Although Tejada doesn't make as much contact as he used to, he will still hit his share of singles and doubles, and most of his offense comes from that. But his age and free swinging tendencies also means lots of double plays. Tejada has led the league in double plays 5 times. Yeah. I've come to the conclusion that Tejada isn't actually a disaster. But it remains to be seen if the Giants could have done a lot better.

Speaking of double plays, I want to end the post with a word on Pablo Sandoval. When we first heard about the Tejada signing, there was talk that perhaps he was being signed to play 3rd base, or to at least pressure Pablo into performing well, because Tejada would be waiting to take over. This I hate. It's truly amazing how our expectations shape our perceptions and observations. We can all agree that Sandoval had a bad 2010 season. But it was still better and more productive than Tejada's in nearly every way (I tweeted the numbers that support this, you can find them by simply comparing their 2010 slashlines, wOBA, and WAR on fangraphs). I fully expect Sandoval to rebound in 2011, but even if he barely did so, he would be better than Tejada. Perhaps we'll need to write a full post on Sandoval this offseason. I am truly mystified how so many fans have given up on a young player so quickly, especially when you consider what he did so recently in 2009 at the age of 22.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Juan Uribe Signs With the....Dodgers?!

Today, Juan Uribe has signed with the Dodgers, yes THEM, for 3 years and $21 million. Uribe is no Giants legend, who after spending his entire career in San Francisco is ending his career by playing for the enemy. But after his home run sent the Giants to the World Series, he'll be a Giants postseason hero forever and that is why it's a little painful to think of him in Dodger blue. Nonetheless, it's a good thing the Giants didn't match the offer.

Three years and $21 million is too much for Juan Uribe. That amount of money isn't as much today as it used to be, but giving a low OBP player, who is coming off a season that was WORSE than the year before, that much money and that many years just doesn't seem like a good investment (Not that I care if the Dodgers are handing out bad deals). Uribe is a hacker. He swings at tons of pitches outside the zone, so he strikes out a lot, but it also means he doesn't walk much, and will always have a low OBP. His career on-base percentage is .300 and his best OBP for a single season was .329 in 2009 with the Giants. He actually had the highest walk rate of his career in 2010 (7.8%), and his OBP was still just .310. And he'll be 32 on Opening Day 2011. He does have the ability to hit some huge home runs, but that's not a player I want to commit to for 3 years.

Uribe does provide value defensively because he can play three infield positions (2B, SS, 3B) and plays them all at least decently. According to UZR he's been a plus defender for the most part. But he's no defensive wizard, and at age 32 and looking at his body type, it's likely he'll lose some range. On a good team, he should provide above-average defense and be hitting towards the bottom of the lineup. So again, I'm not sure that warrants $21 million over 3 years.

I was never a huge Juan Uribe fan, but after the World Series, I appreciate the hell out of what he gave the Giants. In that sense, it's too bad the enemy gave him the best deal. On the other hand, losing Uribe shouldn't be a huge loss for the Giants, and they would have been idiots to give him a better deal than he got from the Dodgers. It'll be interesting to see how he's greeted when he comes back to San Francisco. I've heard things like he's a traitor or he's not loyal. This isn't about loyalty. He played for with the Giants for 2 years. He deserved to go out and find the best deal he could, as it was likely his last opportunity to really cash in. I have to hate him now, but I will never forget how important he was to this team. When he gets his World Series ring, maybe I'll give a little cheer for just him, but after that, I'll be booing. It's just business, gotta keep the rivalry alive. Here's to hoping that Uribe works out about as well for the Dodgers as Jason Schmidt did.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giants Re-Sign Aubrey Huff

As first reported by Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, the Giants have re-signed Aubrey Huff to a 2-year, $22 million deal with a 3rd year club option. My first reaction was probably similar to yours: Wow, $11 million a year is a lot of money for Huff, probably too much. But I'm okay with this deal for a couple of reasons.

The key part of the deal is the years. The Giants only signed him for 2 years, which is huge. Huff wanted 3 years and there were likely teams that would've given it to him, but the Giants got him for just two, likely because they gave him more money per year.

Most reasonable Giants fans know it would be a miracle for Huff to repeat his 2010 numbers. This year he was a .290/.385/.506/.891 hitter with a 5.7 WAR. But in 2009 he was just a .241/.310/.384/.694 hitter with a -1.4 WAR. It's what makes him such a weird player. He had such a terrible year in 2009 and then when most people thought his career was pretty much over, he comes back with a great 2010. It's hard to know or even guess what he'll give you in 2011. In addition to the possibility that Huff's 2010 was mostly a fluke, he's not getting younger, his 2010 defensively was very likely a fluke, and he did post more mediocre numbers on offense after August 1st (.255/.360/.426/.786). I don't know how he'll do next year, but considering his age and slight regression towards the end of 2010, it's likely that the Giants overpaid for him. But the worst case scenario is that he's a player really not worth his salary at all, who the team hasn't made a long-term commitment to. The more likely scenario is that he provides average production at the position. But if that worst case scenario presents itself, his contract won't be a pain in the ass for a long time.

If we just want to focus on the Giants competing next season, it's quite possible that the Giants had no better option than to bring back Huff. With top prospect Brandon Belt hopefully being ready to start on Opening Day or at least come up midseason, the Giants are basically paying Huff to be their left fielder. According to Keith Law's Top 50 Free Agents list (Insider), Huff would be the 3rd best option for a team looking for an outfielder, behind just Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth. The Giants were not going to get Crawford or Werth; they don't have enough money and would have had to commit to long-term deals with them. I imagine Law ranked Huff as the 15th best free agent assuming he would be a first baseman, and maybe Huff's below average defense makes him less valuable in the outfield, but still, the next best free agent outfield options include guys like Manny Ramirez, Magglio Ordonez, and Johnny Damon. I'd rather have Huff. Maybe the Giants could have replaced Huff through the trade market? Maybe, but I find it unlikely that they'd be able to acquire a player better than Huff, without giving up some pretty good prospects. They also don't have many internal options that could replace Huff's production. Nate Schierholtz? Not enough offense. Darren Ford? Hellll no. Thomas Neal? Maybe later, but he's not quite ready. Of all the realistic possibilities, Aubrey Huff is probably the best option for the Giants in left field.

Today, Aubrey Huff probably got more money than he should have. He was a great player last year and an important leader in the clubhouse, but it's unlikely he'll have such a great year again. However, the deal given to Huff is not terrible. Really, it's not hard to imagine another team offering him 2 years and $20 million. Normally, I might say if that's what Huff was looking for, the Giants should move on and look elsewhere. But it's doubtful that the Giants could find another player in their price range more likely to produce than Huff. At worst, the Giants have a mediocre player or worse who they only have to pay for 2 years. At best, they have a player who is definitely worth the money. Huff's value will likely fall somewhere in between. A 2 year, $22 million contract is not going to drastically limit the team financially; the Rowand and Zito contracts have already done that. I don't love the deal, but I definitely don't hate it either.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Giants Free Agent Profile: Aubrey Huff


When I think of the 2010 World Champion Giants, I think of Aubrey Huff. In his first season with the team, Huff always felt like the leader, the man in the center. After all, he hit 3rd most of the season. He led the team in most offensive categories. On a team that had mostly hackers, Huff and Torres (and later Burrell) added an element of patience at the plate that hasn't existed in the SF lineup since, well, maybe since Barry Bonds left. He was on fire most of the first half, dropped off slightly in the 2nd, but was still good, and had some big hits in the postseason, notably his HR in Game 4 of the World Series. Now the Giants have to decide whether Huff is worth bringing back, because he is likely to get some attractive offers from other teams.

Huff had by far his best season as a major leaguer in 2010. Huff came up to the majors in 2000, and from 2002-2004, he was consistently good offensively for Tampa Bay, but his value was hurt by poor defense. He then had a down year in 2005, was traded midseason in 2006 to Houston, and had a mediocre season for Baltimore in 2007. Huff then had a great season for the Orioles in 2008, with a .387 wOBA. After a terrific 2008, and going into a walk year in 2009, Huff was suddenly horrible. A lifetime .287 hitter at the time, his average dropped to .241. His walk and strikeout numbers stayed about the same, but for the first time since 2001 he slugged below .400 (his career slugging at that point was .483, a hundred points higher than his 2009 slugging). It was a disaster for Huff, and it looked like 2008 had been a fluke. After all, he had been going downhill since 2004, and maybe he finally reached the bottom. Then he ended up with the Giants, had a remarkable 2010 season, and now we are left to wonder if 2009 was the fluke year.

Looking at his 2010 stats, one thing clearly stands out: Huff was more patient than he's ever been. His career high 12.4% walk rate led to a career high .385 OBP, and that mixed with a few other things gave him his career highs in wOBA (.385) and WAR (5.7). In his seasons in Tampa, Huff got on base at an above average rate, but it wasn't anything spectacular (.360-.370). Huff's slugging in 2010 slightly exceeded his career average, but it wasn't as high as some of the power numbers he put up earlier in the decade.

Is it really possible that a 33 year old veteran was able to suddenly become a more patient, better hitter out of nowhere? It certainly isn't normal, especially on the heels of such a massive the previous year. But another part of Huff's 2010 season is even less normal, and that was his very competent defense. Huff was bad defensively pretty much his whole career. This year, he was asked to play 1st base, left field, and right field, and played them all without hurting the team. Interestingly, Huff's buddy Pat Burrell also had a fine defensive year, while holding a reputation as a poor fielder. I don't know whether we can expect either to have as a good a season next year in that department. Should Huff return to the Giants, there is a question of where he would play. His best position is 1st base, but the Giants do have to keep Brandon Belt in mind for 2011, even if he starts in AAA. Huff showed in 2010 that he can move around, but it's not ideal at all to have him in right field if the Giants can help it. Either way, if the Giants want Belt to possibly play first base, the outfield corner spots would have to be flexible for Huff to move there.

I think it's clear the Giants would like to bring Huff back, and that he would like to come back. But Huff would also like to cash in on his career year, and there's a certain limit that the Giants will have to set on what they'll give him. I think more important than the actual money is the length of the contract. It simply can't be more than 2 years. You don't want to make that kind of commitment to an older player who has had years of failure in the past, especially when you have a young player who looks about ready to take over his primary position. But it would make no sense for Huff to agree to just a 1 year deal. We can only hope that Huff's desire to stay with the club that brought him so much joy this year will be able to sway him just enough towards taking a little less. But if a noticeably better offer is on the table, the player, quite fairly, almost always takes it. I worry that tempting contract will be on the table. But if it is, the Giants would do very well to say no, and not match it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Giants Free Agent Profile: Juan Uribe

Juan Uribe is so easy to love. The huge home runs. The jazz hands. The voice that can barely be understood. But now he's a free agent and it's entirely possible that we won't see the postseason hero in a Giants uniform again.

When thinking about Uribe as a free agent, my first thought was that I'd love to have him back...as a utility infielder. For the last 2 years, the Giants have signed him to be a utility guy, but he's mostly been a starter because of injuries to guys like Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez and ineffectiveness from Pablo Sandoval. He's a good option off the bench because he can play 3B, SS, and 2B and plays them well defensively. But mostly I didn't feel like he should be a starter because his offensive numbers seemed a little underwhelming. Uribe will always be a guy who can hit a ball really, really far but he's kind of an all or nothing guy. He doesn't hit for high average and doesn't walk very much, so his on-base percentage (OBP) is always pretty low. In fact, his OBP of .329 (which isn't very good) in 2009 was the highest of his career. His plate discipline is terrible (he had a pretty bad O-Swing % of 36% this year) and he strikes out a lot.

It should also be noted that Uribe's 2009 was, in many respects, better than his 2010. Sure his HRs and RBIs went way up, but the things that matter like OBP, SLG, OPS, and wOBA all went down in 2010. He had 150 fewer plate appearances in 2009, but still his numbers were better across the board. Coming off of that 2009 year, all he got was a 1 year/$3.25 million dollar deal. Now after a worse year, he's likely to get, at the minimum, a 2 year/$12 million deal. Because of a weak free agent shortstop class and improved home run numbers, the Giants or any other team may be overpaying a player who may already be declining.

But a quick look at 2010 major league shortstops makes me wonder if Uribe is the Giants' best option. Basically, there aren't very many good ones and Juan Uribe was probably one of the top 6 or 7 shortstops in all of baseball in 2010. He was certainly better than any other shortstop available now. The only guy who I'd rather have that might be available is Stephen Drew, and that probably won't happen. Also, there is no one in the minors who is close to being able to contribute except maybe Brandon Crawford, who has a long way to go offensively. Uribe is probably the best option the Giants have unless they can swing a deal for Drew.

The Giants are, like many teams, the victims of a weak shortstop market. Good shortstops are hard to come by and as a guy who has a lot of power and is good defensively, Uribe is an okay option at the bottom of the order. He's just not great, and the Giants should be looking to upgrade offensively at any position they can. But if there are no upgrades, I think I've made myself okay with giving him a 2 year/$12 million deal, but I'd be hesitant to go any higher than that. So there are still many questions. Can he get more than $6 million per year from another team? It wouldn't surprise me. Could he get more than 2 years from another team? Again, it wouldn't surprise me. But as time goes by it's looking the Giants may NEED Juan Uribe. Or else...Stephen Drew? Oh baby. Or more likely, Orlando Cabrera? Alex Gonzalez? Mike Fontenot? Edgar Renteria? Brandon Crawford? Yikes.

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome and appreciated.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Giants Free Agent Profile: Pat Burrell

This week, we'll look at 3 current free agents that all played a large part in bringing a World Series trophy to San Francisco. Today's player is Pat Burrell.

Burrell had a miserable World Series, failing to make contact with the ball most of the time. This shouldn't take away from the productive season he had at the plate for the Giants when he was acquired in June. Burrell carried the team at times, being one of the most patient batters in the lineup, and hit some of the more memorable HRs of the 2010 season. Burrell's resurgence in San Francisco came after nearly 1.5 horrid years in Tampa Bay as a DH. So the question becomes: which is the real Burrell? As usual, it's probably somewhere in the middle.

Burrell was the first overall pick by Philadelphia in 1998 and made his debut in 2000. From 2000-2004 he was off and on, ranging from average to great to below average. In 2002, he was good enough for a 146 OPS+, only to come back the next season and post a 90. Burrell then posted 4 straight consistently good seasons from 2005 to 2008, with an average 126 OPS+. It's possible that this offensive production had something to do with the emergence of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the Phillies lineup (having good hitters around you CAN make you a better hitter, because all hitters are better when other men are on base), but that effect is likely minimal. He was a very dangerous hitter in Philly, and part of their World Series team in 2008.

Burrell has always been a classic 3 true outcomes guy. He has good power, a good eye, and strikes out a lot (players with good plate discipline strike out more often because they get into deep counts, but they make up for it usually with the walks). He also played pretty poor defense in left field for Philly. This is why he seemed like an obvious DH option for an AL team as a free agent after 2008. And that's exactly what happened, when Burrell signed with the team he had just beaten in the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays. And nothing went right in Tampa. His walks and strikeouts went slightly in the wrong directions, but it was mostly his sudden inability to hit the ball well that was a problem. His power was cut in half, and his average dipped about 40 points, bringing his OBP along with it. And when his struggles continued in 2010, Tampa Bay had no choice but to get rid of him. So the Giants picked him up, brought him to the National League, and suddenly Pat Burrell was once again Pat Burrell. The idea is Burrell "can't" DH, that he has to play in the field to hit. A similar player who is a free agent this winter, Adam Dunn, is a perfect candidate to DH for an AL team, but supposedly is hesitant, perhaps because he just has to be a butcher in the field to be able to mash in the box. It pains me to think this is true, but it's something many fans and commentators have accepted. When Burrell regained his stroke with the Giants, it likely had a lot more to do with facing a somewhat weaker league (same could be said of Aubrey Huff). Either way, there was a difference between his performance in the NL and AL.

But can we expect him to continue that next year? Not as a starter, I believe. Burrell had positive UZR numbers in 2010, but his whole career points to him being a bad left fielder. A full season in 2011 would likely see that. And while Burrell hit very well for the Giants in the regular season, his numbers do show a decline from his prime years in Philly. His strikeout numbers are about the same, but his walk numbers are down, although still good. One of the numbers that surprised me was his O-swing percentage (swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone). Most of his time in Philly, he was around 13-16%. Last year in Tampa, it was 23%, and this season with the 2 teams he rose to 24.5%. I'm not educated enough to interpret what this means exactly, but it certainly isn't positive, and could hint at a decline that is occurring.

Still, we know Burrell is patient at the plate, and that's why I think he is a fine candidate for a bench role with the Giants, which is mostly what has been reported so far. Going against the notion that he has to play everyday in the field to be effective, I think a limited role could help keep Burrell fresh as he gets older. The Giants might end up with an outfield next year that focuses on matchups and platoons, and Burrell is a guy who could start when it is advantageous, and be a dangerous threat on the bench late in games. Going back to his patience, I think that quality is one of the most important for a pinch hitter (it's important for everyone, really). Since the pinch hitter will often be hitting in the 9th spot of the lineup, the chances of him coming up with the bases empty are greater, since the hitters in front are less likely to get on base. Therefore, the pinch hitter often needs to be the one to start a rally, rather than drive in the runs. It is somewhat strange to have an outfielder on the bench who can only play left field, and not very well, but the Giants have a few more options than most teams, because Mark DeRosa is an infielder and corner outfielder.

Because of the concerns that still linger from his days in Tampa, and the horrendous showing he had in the World Series, Burrell is not likely to be offered multiple years the way Aubrey Huff is. He is from the Bay Area, grew up a Giants fan, and just won the World Series. And he has said he'd accept a smaller role. If the Giants want Burrell, I think they have him, for not too much of a commitment. The larger question is whether his University of Miami teammate Huff will stay. As insignificant as it might be, the 2 of them brought a lot of chemistry to the team, and would be a lot happier if they were together (I know this is starting to sound "weird"). But Huff is a player for another day, so check back this week for posts about him and Giants postseason hero Juan Uribe.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Case Against Dan Uggla

As of now, Dan Uggla's name is not really being connected to the Giants. But the Giants have had rumored interest for a couple of years now and all of a sudden Uggla is in the news. It's being reported that Uggla turned down a 4 year/$48 million extension from the Marlins mostly because he wants a five year deal worth something around $58 million. Just a couple of months ago, when I was thinking of potential Giants' lineups in 2011, or rosterbating, as we baseball types like to call it, Uggla was one player I wanted. Now, the Giants have Cody Ross, who is best friends with Uggla, and a report from a couple of months ago said Ross was telling him how much he loved playing for the Giants and how Uggla should join him in San Francisco. That combined with the Giants' need for offense and a middle infielder has Giants fans wanting Uggla. But I've settled on the idea that trading for or signing him in free agency next year would NOT be a good idea for many reasons.

Uggla would be a lot more valuable if he was good defensively, but he's not. In his career he's only had two UZR scores above average: 5.5 in his rookie year, 2006, and 0.7, which is barely above average, in 2008. Otherwise he's always been a very bad defender, finishing with UZR scores of -9.9 and -7.6 in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The stats suggest he will not be able to stay at second base as he gets older, which is a problem. Uggla's value comes from being a great hitting 2nd baseman. In 2010, he had a career high .877 OPS and his OPS has never dipped below .800. Those are very good numbers for a second baseman. But if he's forced to move to first base or left field, he's a good hitter but not a GREAT hitter. So, if the Giants were to acquire Uggla, they'd have a terrible defensive 2nd baseman for the first couple of years and then just an okay-hitting 1B or LF for the next few years. And that's assuming his offensive production doesn't drop off drastically as he ages, which is a real possibility.

Uggla's contract demands coupled with his age would also have to be considered concerning. He is already 30 years old and will be 31 on Opening Day 2011. And he wants a 5 year deal worth about $12 million per year? I'm not necessarily saying Uggla doesn't deserve it. He's been one of the best offensive second basemen in the game for a few years now. But that just would not be a good long-term investment for the Giants. Not to mention the fact that the Giants probably don't even have the money to pay Uggla because they are already financially burdened by the terrible long-term investments in Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand.

If the Giants were to trade for Uggla now, they'd probably have to give up a good starting pitcher (Sanchez?) and a pretty good prospect. Then they'd have to give him the huge contract extension that he wants. Do not want. If they wait to sign him in free agency next year, they have a 32 year old second baseman who is still bad defensively, whose best offensive years are probably behind him, and he still wants that big contract. Do not want.

Dan Uggla is tempting. In the first couple of years of a deal, he'd be a huge help for the offense. And hey, if Cody Ross can convince him to sign next year for 4 years and $20 million, I'm all for it. But that won't happen. Ultimately, it would be a bad idea. Whether it's this year or next year, just say no to Dan Uggla.

As always your comments, opinions, and disagreements are always welcome in the comments section.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Giants Decline Renteria's $10.5 Million Option

It has been announced that the Giants have declined Edgar Renteria's $10.5 million club option. The decision is not surprising. Despite being named the World Series MVP just a couple of days ago, Renteria's career has been on the decline for a while and he is not even close to being a $10.5 million player. The real question is whether or not Edgar Renteria comes back at all next year.

First of all, Renteria did state during the season that he was mulling retirement and has continued to say that, although he hasn't made a final decision. Secondly, all Giants fans love and appreciate what Renteria did for the team during the World Series. But the fact is, he was a player most fans loved to hate during the regular season because he's just not very good anymore. Offensively, he has very little power and doesn't get on base particularly well and defensively, he's lost range. It's clear that he is no longer an everyday player.

The only reason bringing back Renteria is even an option is because the free agent shortstop class is incredibly weak. Juan Uribe is probably the best shortstop available, and even he's not an ideal starter. Additionally, Uribe will probably be able to get a starting job somewhere and will be looking for a good amount of money. Beyond him, there's Orlando Cabrera? Mike Fontenot? Some pretty unflattering options. Renteria has shown that he can be effective at times and he'd be cheap. But as I stated before, he is not an everyday player, so the Giants would need to have someone else for the position.

It's hard for me to see him coming back. The Giants need to improve the offense and shortstop is one of the areas they should look to find it. To do this they'd have to go through the trade market but it's clear that they could use an upgrade at shortstop. As Renteria is mulling retirement, I see the Giants looking to improve the position. If they're unsuccessful, maybe they offer Renteria a 1 year/$1 million dollar deal or something like that at the last minute. But Giants fans should hope the team will have a better option come 2011.

I'd be curious to see what you guys think. Should Edgar stay or go?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What It All Means

Not sure you heard, but the Giants won the World Series yesterday. No, actually, they dominated the World Series. It almost doesn't seem right. When Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz on a 3-2 pitch and when Buster Posey jumped out of the squat and the mid-diamond brawl began, all I could do was smile. And yell. I ran up and down my dorm room hallway just yelling, wanting everyone to hear me, to feel the same way I did. But that would only last a couple of minutes; most of all, I just smiled.

And I'm not sure it'll ever hit me more than that. I'm not some fan who has waited 56 long years for this to happen; I've been a loyal fan since 2002. It's not all that uncommon for a fan to go 8 years without seeing his/her favorite team win a championship. So, there was no 56 year long wait being lifted off my back. I'm not trying to say that this doesn't mean a ton to me. This feeling, this moment is the only reason you become and stay a sports fan. There's no reason to put yourself through all the torture, disappointment, and stress that comes with being loyal towards a team unless it eventually pays off in the form of a championship. No more is "The San Francisco Giants suck because they've never even won a World Series" taunting from fans of other teams. No more do I have to feel depressed about what happened in 2002. And ultimately, because I can't claim the long, painful wait for this feeling, this World Series victory that so many others have waited an eternity for, what I take away the most is how much I love and will always love this friggin' team.

So many Giants fans were upset that the media deemed this team "misfits". But to me, that's not an insult, and it's kind of the perfect way to describe the 2010 Giants. In some sense, you could say "misfits" is completely wrong because the reason we love this team so much is because their personalities fit together so well. On the other hand, the Giants are made up of so many different parts from different places, they are misfits. And that made this team more fun to root for. This team was not supposed to do this. A team with Cody Ross batting cleanup in Game 5 of the World Series should not dominate the World Series. But they did, and all of us Giants fans knew they could do it. That's where the media got it wrong. No one thought this team had a chance. They overlooked the pitching and mostly judged the Giants on their lack of hitting. But that's okay. It doesn't matter. The Giants are a bunch of misfits. The Giants are World Champions.

I will remember this postseason primarily for the pitching. I will remember Tim Lincecum pitching one of the best games in postseason history in the NLDS, a game that, according to Game Score and according to us, was even better than Roy Halladay's no-hitter. I will remember Matt Cain not allowing one single earned run in these playoffs, all the while proving to the national media that he's way better than just an average innings eater. I will remember Madison Bumgarner for being the 21-year old rookie that absolutely shut down the American League's best offense in a must win game. And I will remember Jonathan Sanchez for being Jonathan Sanchez. A pitcher who frustrated the hell out of Giants fans, but also a pitcher who was capable of dominance, as he showed in Game 3 of the NLDS.

I will never forget knowing that in the late innings, Josh Hamilton, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jason Heyward had no chance to do anything against us because of Javier Lopez. I will never forget Brian Wilson, his fantastic beard, and his pal, The Machine. I will never forget Jeremy Affeldt coming in with runners on base and 0 outs after a disastrous start for Jonathan Sanchez and shutting down the Phillies lineup on the way to an NLCS clinching victory. I will never forget that while Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, and Ramon Ramirez struggled at times, at least they kept the torture alive. I will never forget how incredibly happy Guillermo Mota looked while celebrating a World Series win, even though he barely played.

How can you not love Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell? Pat Burrell struggled mightily in the World Series, but he and Huff brought a great clubhouse energy to this team all year that can't be overstated. Aubrey Huff wore the now infamous red rally thong that coincided with the Giants' success. And their punching of each other after their teammates did great things? Purely awesome. I will never forget that.

I can't forget Buster Posey and I won't have to. I'll remember his fantastic rookie year, carrying the Giants' offense from the moment he was called up. That guy is gonna be around for long time and will hopefully experience many Giants World Series victories.

I won't forget the top 2 hitters in the order, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez, coming up huge for the Giants in the World Series. For never failing to get to a flyball in the outfield and for having a completely unexpected, great season, I will always love Torres. I will always remember Freddy Sanchez's 3 doubles off Cliff Lee in Game 1 and his great defense all year.

Nobody will ever forget what Cody Ross did for the Giants. No Giants hitter was hitting well against the Phillies in the NLCS besides Ross, who carried the offense on his back. He became the face of the misfits. The waiver wire pickup earned himself a probable starting job next year, all because of one helluva postseason.

Juan Uribe. How many crazy, game-winning home runs did he have? It seems like a lot. The one that stood out was the go ahead 3-run homer off Jonathan Broxton in Dodger Stadium. Or how about his 3-run bomb in Game 1 that pretty much sealed the victory? But the one that he'll be remembered forever in Giants history for is his opposite field solo shot that sent the Gaints to the World Series.

The man who was so easy to hate. He made too much money, he just wasn't very good, and I couldn't wait for his contract to end. All of that is completely gone. If I ever remember Edgar Renteria for one thing, it won't be any of that stuff. It'll be his 3-run homer off Cliff Lee in Game 5. Of all people, Renteria did that. Clinched the World Series. World Series MVP. A Giants World Series hero forever.

I will remember all of the guys who didn't do much, but were important nonetheless. Pablo Sandoval barely played and lost his starting job. But I will remember his opposite field double to give the Giants a lead in Game 4 of the NLCS and how pumped up he was when he got into 2nd base. Nate Schierholtz didn't look like he did much, but just having him in the outfield was huge, late in games. Eli Whiteside and Mike Fontenot didn't play in the World Series and Travis Ishikawa didn't do anything too significant, but I will always remember them for being a part of this team.

I have a whole new appreciation for guys like Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito, veterans who had to deal with extremely reduced roles. Rowand has been dealing with it all season, and we've never heard the slightest complaint from him. Zito was left off the postseason roster in favor of guys much younger and less experienced than him. Never heard any negativity from him. Both were always cheering their teammates on and excitedly participating in the many celebratory champagne showers.

And it's amazing how much my opinion of Bruce Bochy has changed. Bochy had an incredible postseason. And I realize that he's not a great manager, but considering the offense he had to work with, I appreciate the job he did. And seeing what some of the other postseason managers did, I came to the conclusion that Bochy is not all that bad. It's easy to criticize a manager and I'm sure I'll do it many times, but Bruce Bochy made great decisions at the most important time in his managerial career. I feel for good for a guy who's been in baseball for 35 years and finally has a World Series ring.

This feels sweet because it was so unexpected. I hated the signing of Huff. I didn't care for bringing up Pat Burrell so early after he was signed. We re-signed Bengie Molina at the beginning of the year. Todd Wellemeyer. I came into this year feeling the same way I've felt for the last couple of years. We were going to have a great pitching staff and a terrible offense. I'll be honest: I did not see the Giants getting to the playoffs unless they acquired a big bat. But they acquired Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Javier Lopez and called up Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. They got great seasons from Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres. And this is the end result. World Series Champions. This specific team will never be the same. Let's savor it. Let's enjoy it. We deserve it. The Giants deserve it. It's been a great season and an even better postseason. And while I enjoy this feeling, I'm already counting down the days until Spring Training. Let's do it again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010 World Series Game 5: SF 3, TEX 1


This will be a short game recap. You can be assured that Mack and I will have a lot to write about this coming week, but now is not quite the time for analysis or remembrance. Now is simply the time to savor and celebrate.

The 2010 Giants have brought home the first World Series championship to San Francisco. Game 5 turned out to be the classic pitching duel we expected in Game 1, with both Lincecum and Lee putting up zeroes through 6 innings. Lincecum was at his best, the kind of Lincecum we saw so many times in 2008 and 2009, the kind we saw in April and September of 2010, and the kind we saw in the playoff opener against the Braves. He could not be beaten tonight. Every pitch was working for him, and his velocity was strong. The Rangers simply had no chance. The only damage was a late solo HR from Nelson Cruz. Even then, the game felt over. Because the Giants did what they had to do with Lincecum throwing a gem. They got to Cliff Lee. Again.

Cliff Lee is a great pitcher. But he isn't everything he was made out to be, and that's no knock on him at all. He just isn't Sandy Koufax. He pitched quite well tonight, but the Giants once again weren't baffled by him the way other teams have been in the playoffs. They had hit the ball somewhat hard, but had nothing to show for it until the 7th inning. That was when 2 of the biggest playoff contributors, Ross and Uribe, hit back to back singles up the middle. Aubrey Huff sacrificed them over, getting his first sacrifice bunt of his career. An odd play, but I can't say I disagreed with it. Even though he is one of their most important hitters, the run environment tonight was low, and the smart play was to trade outs for runs. Huff also nearly reached, so it was a good call by Bochy, again. After Pat Burrell struck out, Edgar Renteria came up, and the Rangers had the opportunity to walk Renteria and pitch to the potentially much easier out, Aaron Rowand. But Cliff Lee, the proud, somewhat arrogant pitcher that he is, didn't want to walk Renteria. And I commend him for that. But I'm sure he wishes he had pitched around Edgar. On 2-0, Lee threw a fastball down the heart of the plate, and Renteria swung.

On the swing, the ball went straight into the air towards left center. It didn't really look like Edgar had driven the ball. But as it kept carrying and carrying, it became evident that this ball was not going to be caught. The outfielders were just too far. I thought it would land near the warning track, scoring 2 runs. But then it kept going, until it slipped over the left field wall for a 3 run HR. It looked very much like the NLCS winning HR by Uribe. The ball just found a way to get over that wall. Notice that it didn't hit the top and bounce back.

And that was all they would need to win the only thing that matters in baseball, the World Series. Lincecum pitched 2 more innings. He finished with 10 Ks in 8 innings, only giving up 3 hits and walking 2. Wilson finished off the 9th easily against the heart of the Rangers order. That's all I can really say now. Wasn't that short of a recap after all. Look for more posts this week about Game 5, the series, and the season as a whole.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

2010 World Series Game 4: SF 4, TEX 0

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF

When your team is up 2-1 in the World Series, Game 4 isn't normally a MUST WIN. But tonight's game was pretty much a must win. After last night's game, the Giants really don't want to go to a Game 7, and tonight's win makes that less likely. Cliff Lee is pitching tomorrow, and despite getting knocked around by the Giants' offense in Game 1, he is a dominant pitcher. The odds aren't great that the Giants can beat him a second time in a row, this time in Texas. Tonight they were also facing the most mediocre starting pitcher they will see in the World Series, Tommy Hunter, and needed to capitalize. And capitalize is what the offense did, although the hero of the night was very obviously Madison Bumgarner.

Holy hell, Bumgarner is the most popular guy in San Francisco right now and he deserves it. 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BBs, 6 Ks. For a 21 year old rookie. Did you see that stat line? Zero runs. Three hits allowed. All this against a fairly potent Texas Rangers lineup. Although, that fairly potent lineup has been shutout twice in this World Series and scored more than 4 runs just once. It just goes to show that a team with great pitching like the Giants should never be counted out. Great pitching usually tops great hitting. It's the reason all Giants fans knew the Giants had a very good shot at winning this thing. It's the reason Giants fans were baffled that the vast majority of experts picked the Rangers to win and a couple even said the Rangers were a much better team. It's the reason the Giants are 1 win away from winning the World Series. Wow, yes I did just type that sentence. Alright, now back to Bumgarner. I don't really even know what to say. The Rangers got one runner past 1st base tonight and it was only because of an error. The three hits given up were 2 groundball singles and a soft flyball to RF. The sexy stat going around tonight is that Bumgarner is the 2nd youngest pitcher to ever throw 8 shutout innings in a World Series game. He was just on. There was a certain point, maybe the 6th inning, when I just felt like he wasn't going to give anything up. He was great. Beautiful. Fascinating. Dominant. Delicious. Use any adjective you want. I'll use one last one. Tonight, Madison Bumgarner was amazing.

The offense got started with Aubrey Huff's 2-run homer in the third inning, which was a great sight to see. Huff hasn't exactly been slumping, but that was his first home run since September 25th. Andres Torres added an unnecessary insurance run with his RBI double in the 7th and Buster Posey scored the 4th run by hitting a home run straight away to center field. It was a pretty bizarre homer too. When he hit it, I looked down at my computer because I thought it was a simple flyout, but it kept carrying all the way out. Seemed like his first homer in a while too. I'm probably very wrong, though.

As you might expect, the Giants are in a great position, up 3-1. My gut tells me the Rangers won't lose for a second time with Cliff Lee on the mound tomorrow, especially in Texas, but the Giants are countering with Tim Lincecum. That game is very winnable. And if they can't win tomorrow, Matt Cain starts in Game 6. Cain hasn't allowed an earned run this postseason, so I'd be pretty freakin' confident with him on the mound. The Giants are 1 win away. One win away from winning the World Series. I don't even know how I'd celebrate if it were to happen. This all so surreal. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like the Giants are in the World Series. Sometimes it just seems like the Giants are playing normal baseball and playing really, really well. It hasn't quite hit me, but I hope it does soon because this is awesome. One. More. Game.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 World Series Game 3: TEX 4, SF 2

The Giants lost tonight, but that is not the main concern to take away from Game 3. They have Bumgarner going tomorrow against a weak pitcher, Tommy Hunter, and Lincecum in Game 5 (against Lee of course). All they really need is to win 1 game in Texas. They have a good chance of getting that done. Matt Cain on the mound in Game 6 would give the Giants a great chance to finish out the series. The real concern is if this series does go to a 7th game.

Jonathan Sanchez is scheduled for that start, and Sanchez just doesn't look good right now. He pitched fine in the final game of the season, dominated the Braves in Game 3 of the NLDS, and pitched well in Game 2 against the Phillies. Then there was Game 6 of the NLCS against Philadelphia, where he looked lost, and couldn't finish the 3rd inning. Tonight, he gave up more runs, but didn't look as bad as he did in Philly. Still, it was clear something wasn't right. It'd be wrong to write a good pitcher like him off just because of 2 poor starts, but after he left the game, a few issues came up that hadn't before.

Sanchez has apparently lost some measurable velocity on his fastball, and it is affecting the way he pitches. He seemed to recognize it during this start, and after some damage was done, he adjusted well, until Hamilton homered off him in the 5th. He was throwing more breaking balls, because the fastball just wasn't working, and he ended up hanging one to Hamilton. The speculation was that this loss of velocity is due to Sanchez's long season, and Dave Righetti all but confirmed the reality of this situation after the game. He's never pitched near 200 innings until 2010, and then you add in the playoff starts, and you could see how a young arm can get tired. And one thing is probably for sure: that arm isn't going to get much less tired for Game 7. So the question becomes: should Sanchez start Game 7? If the issue were simply about a couple bad starts, but nothing to do with fatigue or injury, I'd say absolutely yes. But we are dealing now with a fatigue problem, and a tired arm is a dangerous thing to rely on, especially in Game 7 of the World Series. But then the question becomes: who would start? The Giants don't have any relievers that are "starters" (Barry Zito could have been one), so we are left with the 2 other starters, Bumgarner and Lincecum. Cain is out of the question because he started the previous night. The most he might be able to provide in that game would be an inning or so of relieve.

The difficult part of this is that when trying to avoid making Sanchez throw, the other pitchers that are options could be facing the same problem, in a different way. Do we know that Lincecum can throw effectively with 2 days rest? 3 days isn't ideal for Bumgarner, but it is more realistic, but then you think of Bumgarner. He's far more inexperienced than Sanchez, and younger. What if he is getting tired too?

Hopefully, this simply won't be an issue. Hopefully, the Giants can win the series before it gets to Game 7. And if it does, hopefully Bochy and Righetti will have observed Sanchez to see that he is okay for a start. And in the case that he isn't, the Giants have options, although none are very attractive. Without time to think it over much, I'd say give Bumgarner the ball to start the game, but make anyone available, including Lincecum and Cain.

Pat Burrell looks horrible at the plate, but he should start tomorrow. The Giants simply don't have anyone that's going to do much better. Hopefully he can figure it out right away. I have little doubt he'll be moved down in the lineup, and Ross will move up to hit behind Posey. I also think that Ishikawa will get the start at 1st, and with Huff at DH.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

2010 World Series Game 2: SF 9, TEX 0

Big wins are the toughest to write about, and the surreal experience of them coming in the World Series makes it even tougher. But here we go:

The Giants ended up winning by a larger margin tonight than they did in Game 1's slugfest, but until the 8th inning, this was the kind of game San Francisco fans have gotten used to. Edgar Renteria hit a solo HR in the 5th inning to break the 0-0 tie, and Juan Uribe added a run with a bloop single in the 7th inning. The Giants had 2 outs and the bases empty in the Weird Inning, and proceeded to score 7 more runs. A single by Posey. A fistful of walks. A triple by Aaron Rowand. Double by Torres. The Giants batted around for the 2nd straight day against the Rangers. Ron Washington's bullpen managing was atrocious in a close game, and now you have to question the state of the bullpen itself going back to Texas. The Giants did well to let the Rangers pitchers dig themselves into deeper holes, and it allowed for a stress free 9th inning. The Giants defense has also been stellar in the 1st two games, most notably the old men on the left side, Renteria and Uribe.

Oh, and then there was Matt Cain.


Cain went 7.2 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 2 walks to a strong Texas lineup. He now has pitched 21.1 innings in his first postseason without giving up a single earned run. Tonight, he was what all Giants already knew he was: A great pitcher. A pitcher who makes hitters slam the bat down in frustration when they popup a high fastball. There's been a lot of talk this whole postseason among the sabermetric community anytime Cain was pitching, wondering how he does it, because his peripheral numbers just don't match the end results. Yes, Cain has pitched all of his postseason games at AT&T, and there have been flyballs that might have been home runs in other ballparks. But you can forget all that, because the dominance is evident. It's shown by the past 4 years of quality pitching, and his performances in the last 2 months are just a microcosm of that. We saw it tonight, and last week against Philadelphia, and in Game 2 of the NLDS. And we saw it at Coors Field in September, when Cain single-handedly tossed the Rockies out of playoff contention. He has baffled great lineups. He has gone long in games. He has worked with slim leads. He does it all, and he only just turned 26, but has the composure of a 10 year veteran. After Cain's complete game in Denver, I said that he may not be the best pitcher on the Giants. In fact, he certainly isn't. But he's the one I love the most. Because while composure, toughness, and heart can't possibly be measured, they can be recognized, and they are things we can admire and love a player for. Matt Cain has great stuff, and he had the Texas Rangers off balance tonight because of a good fastball and changeup. That's why he pitched so well. But even I like to think that a certain factor in this admirable World Series performance was Cain's own unrelenting, undaunted drive to win.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

2010 World Series Game 1: SF 11, TEX 7

I make it go POW!

Cody Ross was the NLCS MVP and the Giants probably wouldn't have won the series without him, but let's acknowledge that Cody Ross isn't THAT good. He isn't a bad player, but it was mostly a fluke. I'm not trying to diminish his series. It was great, every successful playoff team needs a guy like that, and if the Giants can go all the way, he'll be remembered by Giants fans forever. Well, maybe it's Freddy Sanchez's turn to be the unpredictable guy that has a great, kinda fluky series. He was not fooled by Cliff Lee at all, going 3-for-3 with 3 doubles in his first 3 at-bats and 4-for-5 overall with 3 RBI. There were other contributors, but Sanchez sparked the Giants' huge 11-7 Game 1 win against Cliff Lee and the Rangers.

You know how many runs were scored in this game? In case you don't read the title and can't do simple addition, the answer is 18. That is a lot for a game in which Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum are the starting pitchers. Both were obviously not themselves, but Lincecum was less bad. Lee went just 4 2/3 innings and gave up 8 H, 6 ER, and 1 BB with 7 Ks. Lincecum's line looked like this: 5 2/3 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 Ks. Yeah, just 3 strikeouts.

The game started off in a pretty bizarre way. Lincecum gave up a base hit to the first batter and walked Michael Young. Josh Hamilton hit a weak grounder that advanced both runners. Then Vladimir Guerrero hit a ball that deflected off of Lincecum, allowing a run to score and no outs were made. The next play was, as Lincecum put it, a "brainfart". With runners on 1st and 3rd, Nelson Cruz hit a grounder right to Lincecum and they had Michael Young in a rundown between 3rd and home. But all Timmy did was run Young back to 3rd. It wasn't really even a rundown because Lincecum didn't even try to throw the ball to the 3rd baseman to get Young out. No idea what happened there. He was lucky to get a double play in the next at-bat, limiting the damage to just 1 run. In the bottom half of the inning, with Freddy Sanchez on base after his first double, Buster Posey hit a bloop in the air towards right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who does not move well at all. Sanchez must've figured there was no way Guerrero would get to the ball, but he seemed to not realize that Ian Kinsler was going for the ball as well. Sanchez badly misjudged it, headed almost all the way to third, and was easily doubled off 2nd base when Kinsler caught the ball. It was a terrible, terrible baserunning mistake. The Rangers would score again in the next inning after a Cliff Lee (the pitcher) double and a sacrifice fly, Texas took a 2-0 lead, and a Giants fan freakout ensued.

Maybe the freakout wasn't all that irrational; Lincecum looked kind of average and the Giants were playing some terrible baseball. But like I said, Lee was not all that sharp either, generally not having his trademark great command and location, and the Giants started doing damage in the 3rd. Renteria reached base on a fielding error by Michael Young. Torres was hit by a pitch. Freddy Sanchez hit his 2nd double, scoring Renteria. Buster Posey singled up the middle to bring in Torres. Bam. Right back in it. And more importantly, Cliff Lee was hittable, which doesn't happen a lot.

Onto the 6th, and what an inning it was. It started with a pair of doubles from Torres and Sanchez (his 3rd). 3-2 Giants. Pat Burrell walked and Cody Ross singled. 4-2 Giants. Aubrey Huff singled. 5-2 Giants and Lee was out of the game already. But the dagger came off the bat of NLCS Game 6 hero, Juan Uribe. His homer in Philly probably would've been a flyout at AT&T. Tonight, he hit hit a legitimate 3-run bomb to right field, giving the Giants an 8-2 lead. The Rangers scored twice in the 6th and that's when Lincecum exited.

The Giants scored a few more funs in the 8th that would actually end up mattering a little bit because the Rangers scored 3 in the 9th, but the game was ultimately too out of reach for the Rangers. It may be a concern that Texas ended up scoring 7 runs off Giants pitching because the Giants normally won't be able to win slugfests. But I'm not too worried. The late innings weren't managed like a tight game with the exception of Brian Wilson coming in; Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez were pitching, not exactly our top relievers.

The Giants played some of their worst baseball in the first 2 innings and still won. The Giants scored 11 runs in a game that Cliff Lee started. Tim Lincecum was not Tim Lincecum and the Giants won. This was a great, huge win. I've always thought that because in all the other pitching matchups the Giants seem to have the advantage, if they won a game against Cliff Lee, they'd be in pretty great shape. Tomorrow's starter for the Rangers, C.J. Wilson, is a very good pitcher. It'll be interesting to see how the Giants do against him. Of course, we always have confidence in Matt Cain, who is very, very good and not average. The Giants should know to never take a World Series lead for granted. A Game 2 win and a 2-0 series lead would be delightful.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 World Series Preview: Giants vs. Rangers

This will be a basic preview, evaluating both teams offensively and defensively and how they match up. Today we learned that Tim Lincecum will pitch in Game 1, Cain in Game 2, and Sanchez and Bumgarner will pitch in Texas for games 3 and 4, respectively. Okay, let's begin with the pitching.

Pitching

The headlines will all be about Lincecum vs. Lee in Game 1, but both teams have other quality starters. The Rangers' CJ Wilson will face Cain, Colby Lewis will face Sanchez, and Bumgarner will go against Tommy Hunter.

For Game 1, you probably have to give a slight edge to Lee, but both pitchers are so good, it really doesn't matter. In 3 starts so far this postseason, Lee has gone 24 innings, struck out 34 batters, and walked just 1. That's the thing about Lee: his command and location are impeccable and he almost never walks guys (his 1.003 WHIP, 10.28 K/BB and 0.8 BB/9 led the AL this year). It's hard to find any way to beat Cliff Lee, but the Giants will probably have to take a similar approach to what they did vs Roy Halladay. Since Lee will be in the strike zone, they need to be aggressive. Easier said than done of course, but patience will not work. Tim Lincecum is obviously a much different pitcher, as he'll count on the Texas hitters swinging at his nasty changeup to get strikeouts. This is going to be another great postseason pitching matchup.

After Game 1, it becomes pretty clear that while Texas has good starting pitching, it doesn't compare to the Giants staff. In Game 2, you have to like Matt Cain the edge over C.J. Wilson. When the playoffs started and Cain started to get a little more exposure, a bunch of "Matt Cain is actually lucky and pretty average" started popping up. It may be easy for national writers writers for other teams to make that observation because his FIP and xFIP* aren't too impressive (career 3.84 & 4.43), but it's simply not true. Cain does depend on his defense - he's a flyball pitcher who doesn't get a ton of strikeouts - but that doesn't have to mean he's an average pitcher, it just means he's a pitcher who relies on his defense. Consider that since 2007, Cain's highest ERA has been 3.76. That's 4 seasons of an ERA at or below 3.76. And his ERA+* in that same period has never dipped below 123. An ERA+ of 100 is average. That can't just be 4 years of coincidence. Matt Cain is a very good pitcher who relies on his defense and he's at his best when he locates that fastball. That is all. Glad I got that out of the way. His counterpart in this game, C.J. Wilson, seems to be the Rangers version of Jonathan Sanchez. Wilson led the AL in walks during the season, just like Sanchez, but he's able to get out of it because he strikes out a fair amount of guys and batters hit only .217 against him. Sounds a lot like Sanchez, huh? Because of all those walks, the Giants will need to be patient. Wilson is a very good pitcher who will be hard to hit.

So, C.J. Wilson = Jonathan Sanchez. And C.J. Wilson > Colby Lewis. I'm no good at math, but I think through the transitive property or something, that proves that Sanchez > Lewis. Sanchez can be inconsistent, yes. And I'm sure many have soured on him after that not-so-good outing in Game 6. But when he's on, like he has been for the better part of the last 2 months, he is GOOD. His strikeout rate this year, 9.5 K/9, was very good and he held batters to just a .204 average, best in the NL. Colby Lewis ain't no slouch, though. Lewis, as you may know, had a terrible major league career, went to Japan for a couple of years, then came back and had a great year for the Rangers. I can't pretend like I've seen a ton of Lewis, but his K/9 of 8.8 and 1.189 WHIP are quite good. This matchup is actually pretty good, and it will all depend on which Sanchez we see.

In Game 4, a big edge has to go to Bumgarner over Tommy Hunter. Hunter had a good year for the Rangers: 3.73 ERA, 1.242 WHIP, but his year was just a little better than average. His stuff isn't great (just 4.8 K/9), so he doesn't have the natural ability to overpower hitters. In 2 starts so far in this postseason, he's pitched 7.1 innings and has a 6.14 ERA. Bumgarner is more of a flyball pitcher who also relies on location but can get a strikeout when he needs to (7 K/9). So far, Bumgarner has shown great poise and ability to get out of stressful situations for a guy who's only 21 years old. He's gone 12.2 innings with 12 strikeouts and a 3.55 ERA in 2 starts and a relief appearance during this postseason.

One more note: The Giants probably have an edge in the bullpen too. Brian Wilson is the best closer in the league, and the Giants have several other guys like Sergio Romo, Ramon Ramirez, and Santiago Casilla, who, even though they haven't performed well so far in the postseason, had very, very good years. And I assume Javier Lopez's assignment for this series will be to come in and shutdown Josh Hamilton. The Rangers also have a very good closer, Neftali Feliz, and a few good arms in Darren O'Day, Darren Oliver, and Derek Holland, but the edge has to go the Giants.

Offense

The Rangers offense is their strength and it's very good. In the AL, they ranked 5th in runs scored, 6th in team slugging, 5th in HRs, and 5th in team OPS. Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, and David Murphy are all good hitters. Hamilton, the probable AL MVP, and Cruz are particularly scary. Guerrero can also be very dangerous.

We all know about the Giants offense: not very good, but definitely able to put enough runs to win games. Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez started to get hot towards the end of the NLCS and Buster Posey had a pretty good series. Cody Ross was a god, but we'll have to see if he can keep that up. It'd be nice if the power guys, Huff and Burrell, got going because with them working, the Giants offense isn't so bad.

It's clear that the Rangers have a huge advantage here.

The DH

There's been quite a bit of debate over who should be the DH for the Giants when they play in Texas. Some like the idea of having Burrell do it so a better defensive outfielder can play. Some don't want to do that, because Burrell doesn't like to DH and says it affects his hitting. I don't buy into that way of thinking. Others want Sandoval as the DH because he seemed to be hitting well in his limited at-bats during the NLCS, but his defense kept him out of the lineup. I don't really know what I would do. In terms of having the best hitters in the lineup, having Sandoval DH and Burrell stay in LF is probably the best option. On the other hand, Burrell always gets taken out early for defense anyway, so if he is the designated hitter, that doesn't have to happen anymore. The other thing that comes into play is that I think Pablo Sandoval hasn't necessarily played his last game at 3B. His defense has been bad, but there aren't many great options over there, as Renteria is certainly not perfect and probably shouldn't be starting every game. In all likelihood, the DH duties will probably be split between Sandoval and Burrell.

Defense

I feel obligated to say something about the defense. The Giants don't make many errors, but they aren't a good defense. Really, Torres and Sanchez are probably the only above average defenders. Maybe Cody Ross, too. Buster Posey is solid of course. But the Rangers have a better defense. Elvis Andrus is great defensively and the entire infield defense isn't bad at all. However, for at least one of the games in SF, Vladimir Guerrero will be playing the outfield. That's gonna be interesting and if I were the Giants I'd hit it as much as I could to him. He doesn't move too well anymore.

Conclusion

On paper, the Rangers are the favorites. The Giants have better pitching, but it's not like the Rangers have a terrible staff. And the Rangers have a huge advantage on offense. So, it's a lot like the series against the Phillies. But as Giants fans, we know this team well and we know that the Giants can beat anyone. Their pitching is so good, that they can shut down the best offenses. And while the Giants' offense is usually pretty mediocre, they don't need to score a lot and they aren't incapable of scoring. The Phillies also had a good offense and a much better pitching staff than the Rangers, but the Giants outplayed them. This is going to be a very good series. Don't count on it going any less than 6 games.


*If you are unfamiliar with FIP, xFIP, or ERA+, you can click on those links for explanations.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2010 NLCS Game 6: SF 3, PHI 2


The Giants are going to the World Series! The Giants have won the Pennant! The San Francisco Giants are representing the National League in the World Series! I could say it over and over again in thousands of different ways and I wouldn't be able to stop smiling. Really, I don't think it has sunk in completely and as with every great, important game, it's really hard to type out everything I'm feeling. The Giants. In the World Series. Wow.

I'll probably talk about the season as a whole and how the Giants got here, but first I should go through this great game. Obviously, coming into today, the Giants were leading the series 3-2. The Phillies had to win if they wanted to keep going, and the Giants could clinch a World Series spot with a win. But Jonathan Sanchez got off to a very rough start. After getting the leadoff hitter out, Sanchez walked Placido Polanco and gave up an RBI double to Chase Utley. The Phillies led 1-0 already. Ryan Howard then singled, moving Utley to 3rd, and Jayson Werth's sacrifice fly put the Phillies up 2-0. Two runs doesn't seem terrible, but Sanchez didn't seem too comfortable and you felt like his stuff just wasn't Dirty tonight. The Giants countered with a fairly weird 3rd inning. After a Jonathan Sanchez single, Torres hit a deep flyball to center field. Shane Victorino attempted a basket style catch, but couldn't hold on and the Giants had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Freddy Sanchez put down a bunt that I actually LIKED, so runners were then on 2nd and 3rd. Aubrey Huff singled up the middle, scoring Sanchez, but Torres was out at the plate. The next play was very weird and great. Buster Posey hit a very weak ball to third base so Polanco had to rush the throw and Ryan Howard couldn't hold on. Huff was able to score and the Giants tied the game, 2-2. However, the bottom of the 3rd deserves it's own paragraph.

Sanchez started off the inning by walking Polanco but it got interesting when he hit Chase Utley. You'll remember that Utley and Sanchez have history. Last year, Sanchez buzzed a pitch by Utley's head and Utley didn't like it. He took a step towards the mound and was visibly upset. All he could do to retaliate was hit a home run later in the at bat. This time, Utley wasn't angry but as he jogged to first base, he flipped the baseball to Sanchez. Sanchez didn't really like it and started yelling towards Utley, and Utley did the same. Both benches ended up clearing, which seemed pretty silly because Sanchez didn't intentionally hit him. It was unacceptable that Sanchez lost his composure, but Utley deserves some blame too. Who flips the ball to the mound like that? He did it in a really annoying, cocky kind of way and it was passive aggressive. I can actually understand why Sanchez would take that personally. Anyway, Sanchez was just too worked up and his stuff was pretty wild, so he was taken out after just 2 innings.

The rest of the game was locked at 2-2, until the 8th, when Juan Uribe hit an opposite field home run to give the Giants a 3-2 lead. Oh boy. 8th Inning Weirdness at it's finest.

What a great game. Let's talk about the bullpen. Jeremy Affeldt? He did not have a good season, but that doesn't matter because he relieved Sanchez early and pitched 2 great innings. Madison Bumgarner? He came put of the 'pen and also delivered 2 great, scoreless innings. Javier Lopez? He's more handsome than you. And he's a helluva lefty. He pitched in every single game of this series, solely to shut down Utley and Howard, which he did. What a guy. Tim Lincecum? He wasn't too sharp, but I appreciate the effort, coming out of the bullpen after having pitched 2 days ago! And Brian Wilson? Well, he made sure that we were tortured until the very end, striking out Ryan Howard on an absolutely PERFECT pitch to win the pennant.

And Juan Uribe gets his own paragraph. This guy gets so much criticism, and a lot of it is justified, because he strikes out a lot and doesn't get on base a lot, but wow, he has some huge hits. Remember his homer off Broxton in LA? If you thought that was big, it was nothing compared to his shot tonight. With one swing, he will be remembered in Giants history forever. Beautiful.

It's been a great season and a great ride. Let's make it a historic season by winning 4 more games. I am so ready. The Giants are going to the 2010 World Series.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 NLCS Game 5: PHI 4, SF 2

The 2010 Giants are in a great place. They are going back to Philadelphia, up 3 games to 2, with 2 quality starters going for them. The Phillies are a very good team, and will be hard to beat, but the Giants chances are more than fair. They have put themselves in a position to make it to the World Series. It could have happened tonight, but it didn't; they still have 2 more chances. It's more than any of us expected. We have a lot of exciting baseball to look forward to this weekend. But with all that positivity and good feeling, one fact remains: tonight's game was for the taking. It could have been won. It could have been over.

The Giants had some misfortune, some misplays, and some mismanagement in this game, all leading to a difficult loss. Before the 3rd inning, everything was looking good. Roy Halladay had only given up a run, but he just didn't seem strong. He wasn't getting the outside corner from the umpire, and he just didn't seem comfortable (we now know he had a groin injury as early as the 1st inning). And the Giants were hitting the ball hard off him. Unlike previous games in the playoffs, where the Giants weren't hitting with baserunners on, this time they were "hitting". The ball just kept getting caught. Whether it was Chase Utley's great leaping catch to prevent a potential Aubrey Huff double, or Jimmy Rollins getting to everything and throwing out everyone with his cannon of an arm, the Giants just weren't getting any breaks. There were certainly some bad at bats in this game (the 8th inning stands out), but in all, the SF batters were working the count and getting good wood on pitches in the zone. It just wasn't their night.

And yet the 2 runs they managed to score could have been enough. Lincecum was looking very good through 2 innings. And then the 3rd inning happened. The 7 and 8 hitters reached base. Halladay laid down a foul bunt that was called fair. Buster Posey threw to 3rd base to get the out, but Sandoval, who had been coming in to field the bunt, couldn't get his foot on the bag. The Giants were able to get the out at first, but that was it. Had the Giants gotten the out at 3rd, the Phillies would have complained very rightly that the bunt was foul. Instead, the play worked out just the way they wanted it to. And then Aubrey Huff added his name to the list of players this postseason who have made critical errors. Victorino hit a grounder to Huff, and it bounced up on him and away, allowing both runners to score. Victorino would then score on a single by Polanco. Lincecum got out of the nightmare inning, and was almost flawless for the following 4. It is technically true what the headlines are saying: Halladay did "outduel" Lincecum. But Lincecum could have easily held the Phillies to 1 or 2 runs without the weirdness that happened in the 3rd. He did look better than Halladay on the mound at least (partly because of Halladay's injury). And it would have been a different game, a game the Giants could have won.

One more thing to discuss before I end for the night: the decision to pitch Ramon Ramirez in the 9th, down by 1 run. Ramirez gave up an opposite field HR to Jayson Werth to lead off the inning, then got the next 3 outs. It is inconsequential now; the Giants failed to get a baserunner against Brad Lidge. But it is still worth talking about, because I believe it was a major blunder by manager Bruce Bochy. Brian Wilson should have been in the game. No question about it. He is the Giants best reliever. The Giants were at home, down by 1. It was the time to protect that 1 run deficit at all costs. And Ramon Ramirez has been good, but he isn't Brian Wilson, and Wilson NEEDS to pitch in those important situations. I can't think of reason against it. He had pitched in the last 2 games, but there is an off day tomorrow, so if the Giants lose, Wilson gets that rest (and if they win, he gets more than a week of rest). They were at home, so there is no situation where you'd want to save him for a save opportunity in extra innings. Once you get to the 9th at home, in a close game, you use your closer if his arm isn't falling off. Otherwise you'll use a lesser pitcher, and end up regretting it.

Something encouraging to take from this game: the top 2 spots in the lineup, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez, both looked very good swinging the bat. Torres worked a walk in the 1st inning, the first walk Halladay had issued to lead off a game. Hopefully both these guys will hit in Game 6. Well of course, hopefully EVERYONE will hit in Game 6.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

2010 NLCS Game 4: SF 6, PHI 5


Meowwwwwww!

Coming into this series, there was talk that Buster Posey was slumping and the Giants needed him to step up. I scoffed at that notion. I guess maybe it was technically true, but he was 1-for-11 in this series. Pretty much the definition of a small sample size. But if you were one of those people worried about Buster's "slump", he officially busted out of it, going 4-for-5, and getting the biggest hit in a game full of big hits. Sure, Juan Uribe hit the game winning sac fly, but Posey put Uribe in a great spot to give the Giants a 6-5 win. With Aubrey Huff on first base and 1 out, Posey had fallen behind Roy Oswalt (I'll explain why Oswalt was pitching a little later) 1-2. What came next was vintage Posey: he took a pitch on the outside of the plate and went the opposite way with it. He's only been around for less than a year, so it seems weird to call it vintage Posey, but I don't care, it was vintage Posey. Huff was now on 3rd with 1 out, and Uribe took care of it from there.

There's so much to talk about from this game. So many lead changes, so many big hits, quite a few torturous moments as well. I can start with the starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner's stat line doesn't look very good: 4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 Ks but he wasn't that bad. It's just, all of a sudden in the 5th inning, Bumgarner couldn't get anyone out. To leadoff the inning, he gave up two line drive singles. Then the pitcher was out on a sacrifice fly. Shane Victorino then hit another line drive single, scoring 1 run, but Carlos Ruiz was also tagged out at the plate. Two outs with a runner on 1st. Bumgarner then allowed what would be his final line drive single to Chase Utley. It was bizarre, and Bochy brought in Santiago Casilla. Unfortunately, it was more of the same as Casilla allowed a Polanco double to score both runners, giving the Phillies a 4-2 lead.

There were so many heroes from this game. We've already talked about Posey, who got the scoring started with an RBI single in the 1st, doubled home the Giants' second run in the 3rd, tagged out a runner at the plate, and had that crucial hit in the 9th. And Aubrey Huff went 3-for-5, constantly setting Posey up for those RBI hits, and bringing the Giants back within 1 run with an RBI single after Philly's big 4-run inning. Pablo Sandoval had what was the biggest hit of the game at the time, driving an opposite field double, giving the Giants a 5-4 lead. Sergio Romo gave up the game tying hit to Jayson Werth in the 8th, but he kept his composure and didn't give the Phillies the lead. Javier Lopez and Brian Wilson were mostly great, no surprise there. And in addition to winning the game, Juan Uribe made a great play to erase a hit at the start of the top of the 9th. It was truly a team effort.

This turned out to be one of the greatest Giants games I've ever seen. The lead changed so many times, and the Giants missed so many opportunities, but the 9th inning was extremely intense. If the Giants had lost this game, all of a sudden they'd have to win 2 out of 3 vs Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels. Not an easy thing to do. And the Phillies knew the importance of the game too. Hell, they even brought in Oswalt, the scheduled game 6 starter, out of the bullpen. Everything was on the line. So when Aubrey Huff singled, Buster Posey did what he does, and Juan Uribe hit one deep enough to score Huff, the energy was unreal. It doesn't get much better than a walk-off win in Game 4 of the NLCS to bring your team within 1 game of the World Series. Hopefully, it does get even better tomorrow night. The Giants now need to win just 1 of the next 3, and while they're facing the best team in baseball tomorrow, it's a pitching matchup they've already won. Beating Roy Halladay twice in one week is almost unheard of, but Lincecum's no slouch and the Giants are playing at home this time. It's tough not to get excited. Win it tomorrow at home. One more time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 NLCS Game 3: SF 3, PHI 0

Bruce Bochy did something rather strange for the game today: He completely shuffled the lineup. Suddenly Edgar Renteria was hitting 1st, Posey was up to 3rd, Burrell up to 4th, Ross up to the 5th spot, Huff (against a lefty) got moved down to 6th, and Aaron Rowand replaced Andres Torres in center field. I wasn't sure what to make of this. It felt like a panic move, a very odd thing to suddenly do in the playoffs. And even though the Giants only managed 5 hits and 3 runs off Cole Hamels, the order of the lineup had an effect. By putting the hottest hitter, Cody Ross, in the 5th spot, the Giants ended up in a situation in the 4th inning with 2 runners on and Ross at the plate. And Ross hit a line shot into left field to give the Giants their first run, moving over Pat Burrell, who would score on Aubrey Huff's single in the next at bat. The Giants would score another run in the 5th thanks to Aaron Rowand's double and Chase Utley's misplay on a Freddy Sanchez grounder. But the Ross RBI was all the Giants ever needed, because Matt Cain was on the mound.

Cain was brilliant especially when you consider the lineup he was facing. Utley has always hit him well, and Ryan Howard, contrary to the way he looked in Game 1, is hitting the ball well. Cain ended up walking 3 Phillies, which led to some tense innings with runners on. But he's used to that. He strands runners all the time. Cain was able (hehehe) to get out of those jams because the Phillies simply weren't hitting the ball hard against him. There were a couple line drives to infielders, a few long fly balls, and the long single that Rollins got off the right field wall. The other hit was a bloop single by Ryan Howard. And that was it. Everything else was quiet and easy. He finished 7 shutout innings, with only the 2 hits. Not the greatest performance by Cain at all; he's had better stuff and command on some days. But in another way, the best performance considering that. In a 7 game series tied 1-1, against a good offense and facing a very good pitcher, Cain was money. He showed up, and he got through 7 innings completely unscathed. All you could have asked of him and more.

Charlie Manuel can keep hitting Polanco third; Javier Lopez will just keep getting him, Utley, and Howard out. If the Giants win the World Series, could a huge part of the redemption of Brian Sabean really involve the acquistion a left handed specialist?

I would expect to see Andres Torres back in the lineup tomorrow against Joe Blanton. It will also be interesting to see if Bochy goes to Sandoval in favor of Uribe. I have a feeling he will. The Giants SHOULD have a major edge tomorrow in the matchup between Blanton and Bumgarner, but we'll see what happens.

Oh, and Raul Ibanez looks TERRIBLE at the plate. Just awful.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

2010 NLCS Game 2: PHI 6, SF 1

Jonathan Sanchez pitched very well in Game 2, especially considering what he faced. The strike zone was terribly inconsistent and the defense by the Giants was painful to watch. The results were good, and could have been a lot better if those factors hadn't been in play. Sanchez a year ago would have fallen apart in the face of that; tonight, he limited damage in a potentially explosive 1st inning, and got stronger throughout the game. But none of it mattered, because the Giants (sans Cody Ross) simply could not hit Roy Oswalt. Looking at the game now, you had to figure it would be hard for the Giants offense to score against both Oswalt and Halladay. It's simply not likely for two great pitchers to give up many runs to a weak offense in back to back days.

Andres Torres struck out 4 times tonight. This is an issue. But what is to be done? He hasn't been the same since his appendix operation, and he was probably already going cold before that. In the playoffs, he has been pretty terrible at the plate; a few balls have been hit hard and caught for outs, but for the most part he just can't make contact at all. The thought of Aaron Rowand taking his spot scares me, but I wouldn't hate it if it was just for one game, to see what happens. But we have to remember something: Torres might look awful at the plate right now, but he is still a Gold glove caliber centerfielder, playing with an immobile left fielder. He still has value, and more than just a little. The best thing that could happen would be a change of approach, where he tries to go for contact more and use his speed. But who knows if a 32 year old career minor leaguer is capable of making an adjustment like that.

Cody Ross was the only true offensive force tonight, hitting his 3rd HR of the series. He just missed a 4th later in the game as well. It'll be fun to see what he can do against Hamels, a lefty who he has crushed, on Tuesday.

Even though Jeremy Affeldt struck out Ryan Howard in the 7th inning with runners on, I thought it was a strange move. Here was Ryan Howard, the powerful hitter who just can't hit lefties much, and Bochy leaves Lopez in the bullpen. What was he waiting for? Anyway, after Howard struck out, they intentionally walked Jayson Werth to get to Jimmy Rollins. And Rollins did something he's barely done all year: hit. The game was over after his bases clearing double. The Giants would get some baserunners on, but they really had no shot. They can be very happy with the 1 win they got in Philly: they now have 3 in SF, and 3 very winnable games. I will say, I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I can watch baseball without the nerves. Cliff Lee and his undefinable K/BB ratio, at Yankee Stadium? Sounds good to me.

Oh, and Raul Ibanez looks terrible at the plate. Just miserable.