Sunday, October 31, 2010

2010 World Series Game 4: SF 4, TEX 0


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010 NLCS Game 1: SF 4, PHI 3

So much has been made of the fact that most of these Giants have no postseason experience. We've all heard about how this is Aubrey Huff's first postseason in his professional career. Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are rookies who made great contributions during the regular season and have delivered so far in the postseason. Jonathan Sanchez clinched a playoff spot for the Giants and pitched a gem in his first ever postseason start. Tim Lincecum pitched one of the best games in playoff history. But nobody has talked about Cody Ross, who has also never been to the playoffs. It makes sense; he wasn't particularly impressive during the regular season, but he is quickly becoming the offensive hero for the Giants this postseason. In game 1 of the NLDS, he drove in the only run of the game. In game 4, he hit a home run to break up Derek Lowe's no-hitter and drove in the eventual game-winning run. And tonight, he hit 2 home runs off of the best pitcher in all of baseball, a pitcher who had just thrown a no-hitter in his last start. Even Mat Latos thinks that was a pretty great waiver claim.

Obviously, the big story coming into this game was the starting pitching. Both Lincecum and Halladay had pitched historic games the week before, and this was the most anticipated playoff pitching matchup in a long time. Neither pitcher was as dominant as last week, but they were both pretty good. The box score probably doesn't even show how good they were because the strike zone was ridiculous for both pitchers all night. Really, it was horrendous, but it's been talked about enough, so I won't elaborate. Still, besides a couple of mistakes to Cody Ross, a Pat Burrell RBI double (that Raul Ibanez probably should've caught) and a Juan Uribe single up the middle, Halladay was pretty good. Besides a couple of home runs from Carlos Ruiz and Jayson Werth that probably wouldn't have been homers at AT&T Park, Lincecum was great. His final line looked like this: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, and 8 Ks.

Bruce Bochy made some decisions that were again criticized, and I'll quickly defend him one more time. His decision to use Nate Schierholtz as a pinch runner for Pat Burrell in the top of the 6th was not received well. It would've normally been pretty early to take out Burrell, but on Uribe's single up the middle, Schierholtz scored and Pat Burrell would not have. It was the decisive run in the game. Bochy also brought in Brian Wilson for a 4-out save, and I don't know why people would have a problem with it, but some did. Brian Wilson was the best reliever in the National League during the regular season. That should be the end of that argument.

Lastly, I hate pointing out the negatives in a win, but with the bases loaded in the 9th inning and 1 out, Andres Torres had an abysmal at bat. He swung at 3 straight sliders, two of which were very much out of the zone. Torres had a great season, but that can't happen again. That could've ended very badly for the Giants.

I lied, that wasn't the last thing I'm going to say. That win was huge. I mean, you should never expect to win a game against the Phillies in Philadelphia when Roy Halladay is pitching. And the Giants have what could be a very favorable matchup tomorrow with Jonathan Sanchez pitching against Philly's lefty-heavy lineup. So today's game was huge. It may not have been a 0-0 pitcher's duel, but it certainly lived up to the hype.

Friday, October 15, 2010

NLCS Preview: Giants, Phillies, and the Significance of Matchups

In less than 24 hours, the Giants and Phillies will begin Game 1 of the 2010 NLCS at Citizen's Bank Park. We've waited long enough; the Giants won Game 4 of the NLDS against Atlanta all the way back on Monday. But before Andres Torres doubles off Roy Halladay on the 2nd pitch of the game tomorrow, let's take a look at some important players in the series. I'll give the pitching matchups for each of the first 4 games, then expand within that context to key position players:

Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum - I'd like to think that the Giants could repeat what they did to Halladay in April this season, getting 10 hits off him and handing him his 1st loss. This is unlikely, though. There's no reason to think that a Hall of Fame pitcher like that can't shut down the Giants. Then again, there's no better reason to think he'll throw another no hitter. If the Giants do hit him, it will be thanks to an aggressive approach. Halladay is always in the strike zone. His season high for walks was 3, and he only did it twice. On the other hand, he gave up 10+ hits in 7 starts (but not a ton of runs in those games, strangely).

In the 7th month of Tim Lincecum's "worst" year as a pitcher, he is in fact as good as he has ever been. His playoff debut showed that. There are 4 Phillies with 15+ PAs against Tim: Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Victorino. The latter 3 all have done very little against him, hitting below .200. Howard, on the other hand, has 3 HRs off him, with a .409 OBP in 22 PAs. If you remember Lincecum's 1st start in the big leagues, it was at AT&T Park against the Phillies. He went 4+ innings, giving up 5 hits, 5 runs, 5 walks, and striking out 5 (these were the days when he was throwing 99 with little command). 2 of those 5 runs came on a shot Howard hit over the center field wall. Howard's high OBP in that very small sample size wouldn't be so concerning if he wasn't also slugging nearly .900. Even with only 22 PAs, it's a match up to be wary of. It would be fair to say that Halladay and Lincecum are pretty much evenly matched for this game.

Roy Oswalt and Jonathan Sanchez - Oswalt struggled in his start against Cincinnati, and this, combined with his 1-3 record against the Giants this season, makes him appear to be a better matchup for SF than he actually is. Sure, he has a 1-3 record, but he pitched well against them in each of those starts, not great, but well. These two games in Philly will not be easy to win with the pitchers they have on the mound.

Jonathan Sanchez pitched masterfully against Philadelphia at CBP in August, and that is part of the reason for him getting the Game 2 start rather than Matt Cain. There isn't much to be said for Sanchez's numbers against the Phillies' batters, because of the small sample size (yes, that is a theme today), but the fact that he is a lefty power pitcher against a lineup with 3 good hitter left handed hitters is something. On second thought, we can eliminate one of those lefties from the situation: Chase Utley hits better off left handed pitchers than right handers. Slightly less power, but better on base, resulting in a rare 8 point same sided wOBA platoon advantage. Howard is the opposite. Despite okay platoon numbers in a short season this year, he is notoriously poor against left handers. Raul Ibanez's platoon difference isn't as drastic, but this could be for the simple fact that Ibanez isn't nearly the hitter Howard is overall; Howard still rakes righties. Because two of their important hitters having this weakness, Sanchez could have good success on Sunday.

Cole Hamels and Matt Cain - Hamels' numbers against the Giants are not good, especially at AT&T. But the decision to pitch him in Game 3 rather than 2 is right in my estimation. Hamels gives up more HRs than most other good pitchers, including Oswalt. There's little reason to think that Hamels simply can't pitch at AT&T, a better park for limiting HRs than CBP. His poor numbers are simply not indicative of much. Hamels could very well pitch another shutout on Tuesday afternoon. He's that good. One player on the Giants that does have significant appearances against Hamels is Cody Ross, from his time in Florida. And he has hit Hamels well, which is no surprise given Ross' great propensity to hit left handers. Perhaps he will be a hero once again.

Ryan Howard has great numbers against Lincecum, but Chase Utley has arguably more of an edge on Matt Cain, hitting .467 with 3 HRs in 15 PAs. Once again, 15 is very small, but it's hard not to remember the time Cain nearly hit Utley in the head with a fastball (unintentionally) and Utley got back in the box and homered into McCovey Cove. Cain is pitching Game 3 because he is more of a flyball pitcher than Sanchez, although Sanchez gives up more HRs per flyball and walks more batters. I would have picked Cain to start in Philly simply because I believe he is better prepared mentally for such a start. If I can venture into pseudo sports psychology for a moment, I'll borrow the good idea that a fellow Giants fan on Twitter had, that Cain could use his "demotion" to the 3rd spot as motivation to be extra sharp. I normally don't bother with theories of extra motivation like that, because athletes have enough motivation in Game 3 of a postseason series. But for Cain I'll make the exception. I think he goes out and shows everyone just how strong he is.

Joe Blanton and Madison Bumgarner - If there is one game that the Giants are the favorites in, it is Game 4. While many would say that Philly's top 3 edge out each of the top 3 in the Giants rotation, there is no question that Bumgarner, only 21, is a better pitcher than Blanton. Blanton, with a 4.83 ERA this season, and 4.30 lifetime, is potentially more dangerous as a starter to the Phillies than Zito would be to the Giants. None of his postseason starts the last couple years have been disastrous, but he'll probably have a short leash. If somehow the Giants held a 2-1 lead going into Game 4, I wouldn't be surprised to see Roy Halladay pitch. Yes, they wouldn't be facing elimination in that game, but if they lose, they have to face Lincecum the next day.

With the blister on his finger, it might be hard for the Giants to pitch Lincecum on short rest in Game 4 should they face the same situation. No matter the series situation, Bumgarner will almost surely be the starter. He hasn't pitched well at home, but that is once again just a product of randomness. Logic just doesn't support the idea that a pitcher would naturally be incapable of pitching well in a neutral park like AT&T. Bumgarner is only 21, and he very well could struggle against the Phillies, but I think he is one of the wild cards for the Giants. He is a rare example of something the Giants have that the other team doesn't: a more than decent 4th starter.

A few thoughts on some players not yet mentioned - Ryan Howard has declined as a player, and hitter, this year, and Jayson Werth has become the Phillies 2nd most dangerous hitter behind Utley. He strikes out a lot, which is good because the Giants pitchers are all strikeout pitchers to a certain degree. But if he gets hot, he hits the ball FAR. And team that hit ball far, go far.

Earlier in the season, the Giants were known as a team that you could steal on, mainly because their pitchers didn't have great pickoff moves or fast deliveries to the plate. Then teams suddenly started getting caught a bit more. Gerald Demp just wasn't havin it. The Phillies are one of the best base stealing teams by percentage, and Shane Victorino is the most prolific. Remember the Lincecum debut I detailed above? Well, in that game, Victorino was picked off, and managed to avoid being tagged by running straight towards the pitcher's mound, then back toward 2nd base. He wasn't called for running out of the baseline. On Sunday Night Baseball, Joe Morgan called this "ESTABLISHING the baseline here, then ESTABLISHING it here". Ever since then, I've hated Victorino. Blame Joe Morgan and that awful explanation.

We're gonna have to watch out for Carlos Ruiz; he's apparently become something of a cult hero in Philadelphia. And for good reason: he's had a great season as their catcher, hitting .302/.400/.447. Yes, a .400 OBP for a catcher many of you may not have heard of.

I'm gonna finish with a look at both bullpens, with a few more thoughts on lefty matchups. Earlier today, Andrew Baggarly wrote about the importance of the Giants bullpen lefties in this series. With Howard, Ibanez, and Utley (Bochy will likely still go with that matchup for Utley even though it is wrong), the Giants will be needing more than Javier Lopez. Jeremy Affeldt will be on the roster, and possibly Dan Runzler.

The bullpen is the one area where the Giants are undoubtedly stronger. Brad Lidge has not had a great season, but has pitched well lately, and was able to brush his playoff demons aside the last two postseasons with the Phillies. Brian Wilson, however, is a better closer right now, period. Other than Lidge, the only legitimately good reliever they have is Ryan Madsen. The Giants bullpen isn't perfect at all, but they have at least a few Ryan Madsens: Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo. Yes, Sergio Romo. Now is not the time to give one of our best relievers the "Joe Nathan Felipe Alou" treatment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Should the Giants Make Any Roster Changes for the NLCS?

Actually, the Giants have already made one change.

Today we learned that after Tim Lincecum pitches game 1 of the series, Jonathan Sanchez will be pitching Game 2 and Matt Cain will go for Game 3. Cain is still a better pitcher than Sanchez, but I see the reasoning behind the move. In his only start of the year in Philadelphia, Sanchez was rather brilliant. In 8 innings he allowed just 2 hits and 1 ER with 2 BB and 7 Ks. The Phillies' ballpark is also very small, and Sanchez does give up fewer flyballs than Cain, even though the difference isn't huge. The Phillies lineup has a lot of left-handed hitters too. Ryan Howard, one of Philly's best hitters, is significantly worse facing left-handed pitching and has always had trouble against Sanchez (3-for-14, 7 Ks). However, Sanchez does allow more baserunners and is generally more erratic. I don't really have a problem with the move, but I guess after all of these great starts, I'm waiting for bad Sanchez to come back. Cain is more consistent and I generally have much more confidence in him than Sanchez.

As for the rest of the pitching staff, it doesn't look like anything will change. I will not back down on my stance that Zito should be on the roster, but I realize the fight is over. In a 7 game series a long reliever is even more important and Guillermo Mota wasn't even used in the NLDS. I don't see the harm in having Zito, just in case. But the Giants, like many fans, don't seem to think Zito can effectively pitch out of the bullpen. It's okay, I'm over it.

It is also unlikely that any changes will made for position players even though the offense was atrocious against Atlanta. I guess there's not much they can do besides playing better. When Jose Guillen was originally left off the roster, it seemed like it was because he wasn't healthy, but the situation still seemed a little unclear to me. Would Guillen have made the roster if he was healthy or was it because the Giants wanted someone more versatile on defense? I think a healthy Guillen would have made it. We haven't heard anything about Guillen's health, so I assume he's still hurting. If healthy, I still think he's a better option than Rowand, particularly since Rowand was just used as a pinch-hitter, not a defensive replacement in the NLDS.

So.....I guess this post just told you that Cain and Sanchez switched spots in the rotation, which you probably already knew. Oh well. Keep an eye out for NLCS Pitching and Offense Previews in the next couple of days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 NLDS Game 4: SF 3, ATL 2

The San Francisco Giants have beaten the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 NLDS, and will move on to face the Philadelphia Phillies for the NL pennant. It will be a tough task for the Giants: Philly has won the the last 2 pennants, and they are probably better than they have ever been in the past 3 years. We will have previews for the NLCS throughout the week, leading up to Game 1 on Saturday at Citizen's Bank Park. Right now, though, we need to look back at this game, another game where the Giants somehow got past the Braves.

Bruce Bochy went with Madison Bumgarner instead of Tim Lincecum today, and Bumgarner did what he was supposed to do. He wasn't perfect, but he kept the Giants close in a game where the hitters looked completely puzzled by Derek Lowe. Bumgarner had a normal game for him, giving up some hits, but only walking 1 (An up and coming Cliff Lee perhaps? Probably not, but I can dream). Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly for the Braves first run in the 3rd inning. The game stayed 1-0 until Cody Ross homered in the 6th inning. A big moment for Ross, the last "mercenary" added to the Giants this season. Bochy decided to keep Bumgarner in the game, and in the bottom of the 6th inning, Brian McCann once again did the damage, hitting the first pitch he saw into the bleachers. Yet Bochy still stuck with Bumgarner, and he was able to finish the inning. He pitched 6 good innings for the Giants on the road in the playoffs. That's a lot for a 21 year old rookie.

In the top of the 7th inning, the Giants finally got to Derek Lowe, or as the TBS broadcasters affectionately called him, "Derrek Lee". Lowe simply lost his command, walking Aubrey Huff, giving up an infield single to Buster Posey, and then walking Pat Burrell. Juan Uribe then hit a ball into the hole at shortstop. It was a tough play, and a double play was going to be impossible, so the Giants definitely had tied the game. But Alex Gonzalez's throw to 2nd base pulled Omar Infante off the bag, and everyone was safe. Aaron Rowand pinch hit for Mike Fontenot, and struck out. But then Cody Ross came up again, and was the hero as he singled into right field. Posey scored, and it took a great throw to cut down Pat Burrell at the plate. The Giants had taken the lead. Santiago Casilla worked a good 7th inning, then came out for the 8th. With 1 out, Bochy somewhat strangely kept Casilla in to face the best hitter on Atlanta, the left handed hitting McCann. McCann singled. It would have been better to go to Javier Lopez at that time. But Casilla got Alex Gonzalez to ground out (Gonzalez has been a huge disappointment for Atlanta), and then Bochy went to Lopez to get Heyward. And Lopez struck him out. The Giants hit into 2 double plays in the 8th and 9th innings, so 1 run was going to have to be enough for Brian Wilson. Wilson didn't have a clean 9th inning, thanks to a once again inconsistent strike zone. He walked 2 batters with 1 out, but then struck out Infante, and got Melky Cabrera to ground into the series winning force out.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 NLDS Game 3: SF 3, ATL 2

The San Francisco Giants showed tonight that they can rally back just as well as the Atlanta Braves, with a little help and a few errahs. Through 7, the star of the game was Jonathan Sanchez, who exceeded all possible expectations for his playoff debut. I was worried last night that Sanchez just might not be able to handle the pressure of a playoff game on the road. As good as he has been, he isn't Cain or Lincecum. But Sanchez was more than able to handle it. He was superb, striking out 11 Braves in 7.1 innings of work, allowing only 2 hits (and none till Tim Hudson's 6th inning single) and most importantly, only 1 walk. With Barry Zito being dropped from the rotation and NLDS roster, the Giants asked for Sanchez to be something of a third ace, and he delivered. The Giants held a 1-0 lead after 7 1/2 innings. They had made Tim Hudson work, but only had the one run to show for it, hitting dismally with runners in scoring position.

It looked like maybe 1 was gonna have to be enough, as happened in Game 1. But as we said before, Sanchez, at his best, still isn't Lincecum, so Bruce Bochy couldn't keep him on the mound forever. With 1 out and a runner on in the 8th inning, it appeared Bobby Cox was going to have Troy Glaus pinch hit. Bochy brought in Sergio Romo, and Cox promptly pulled back Glaus in favor of left handed hitting Eric Hinske. Hinske, after falling behind in the count, got a hanging changeup and homered just left of the foul pole in right field, to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. This was a crushing blow. The question is, did Bruce Bochy make a mistake?

Well, maybe. Although I think it would have been ridiculous for Bochy to not let Romo pitch simply because of a bad outing on Friday, facing Hinske wasn't a great matchup at all. But would Jonathan Sanchez against Troy Glaus have been safer? I don't know. And when Romo was brought in, and Hinske was announced, there was no way to fix it. Romo had to face him. It was hard to watch Bochy get out managed there by Bobby Cox, but I can't honestly say how I'd have done it differently. And you'll see soon, that Cox using Glaus AND Hinske in that 8th inning did not help him later.

Because the Giants would not be put away. Travis Ishikawa worked a walk with 1 out in the 9th. Andres Torres struck out on a very questionable pitch. Then Freddy Sanchez singled up the middle. The Giants had hope. And Aubrey Huff, the best hitter all year, but slumping badly so far in the series, reached out and pulled a ball into right field that Jason Heyward just couldn't quite get to. Ishikawa scored and the game was tied. Then Buster Posey came up, and he too reached for a pitch, hitting it somewhat hard towards 2nd baseman Brooks Conrad. And Conrad, the poor guy, did what he had been doing all game. He fucked it up. He let the ball go under his glove. The Giants took the lead with 2 outs in the top of the 9th, a completely improbable happening.

Bochy went to his closer, Brian Wilson, to get the final 3 outs against the heart of the Braves order. Wilson struck out Jason Heyward on a very low outside fastball. Heyward had reason to complain, but then again so did Andres Torres in the top of the inning. Derrek Lee, who just is not a scary hitter anymore, popped up. Brian McCann, the one big threat in the Braves lineup, singled on a groundball that Freddy Sanchez ranged to get to, but couldn't handle. The Braves would have had Matt Diaz coming up, but he was replaced for defense in the top of the inning by Nate McClouth. Perhaps if Bobby Cox hadn't used two of his powerful pinch hitters in the 8th inning, the weak hitting McClouth could have been replaced. But he had to bat, and grounded out to end the game. It looked like the Giants couldn't lose Friday's game, but they managed to. After Hinske's Turner shaking HR in the 8th, there seemed to be no way for the Giants, who had been quiet with the bats all day, to win this game. But they managed to.

This means Madison Bumgarner will pitch tomorrow instead of Tim Lincecum. It's the right move. Considering it is not an elimination game, there is no reason to pitch Lincecum on short rest. In the case that he is tired and the Giants lose, they have to win Game 5 without him. Instead, they go with a very competent pitcher, Bumgarner, and try to win. And if they don't, they have Lincecum fully rested on Tuesday at AT&T for Game 5.

Friday, October 8, 2010

2010 NLDS Game 2: ATL 5, SF 4

That really hurt.

I honestly don't want to re-live this game by writing about it, but I'll do it for all two of you who can't live without our recaps (Just kidding, I know we have thousands of readers. You all just aren't the commenting types). Anyway, if there was one thing that you could complain about from last night's game, it would be the lack of offense. Well tonight, the offense got started early. In the 1st inning, with 2 runners on, Pat Burrell hit another huge home run to give the Giants a 3-0 lead right away. They added another run in the next inning, making the score 4-0. With another good pitching performance, 4 runs should've been enough.

And Matt Cain did pitch well. He wasn't nearly as good as Lincecum, but no one was expecting that. Cain's final line looked like this: 6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 Ks. Not a bad outing at all and Cain gave the Giants a great chance to win.

The only thing is, the normally dominant bullpen did not come through at all tonight. In the 8th inning with the score at 4-1, set up man Sergio Romo came in and quickly allowed 2 singles and was taken out. Bruce Bochy decided to bring in Brian Wilson for a 6-out save. Not too many people seemed to disagree with the move at the time. And you know what? It was the right move. After having 5 days off, Wilson had plenty of energy to go for 2 innings and in a pressure situation, you want your best pitcher in the game. Unfortunately, a throwing error from Pablo Sandoval allowed a run to score. 4-2. Then after a sac bunt, leaving runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out, Wilson allowed a 2-run double off the bat of Alex Gonzalez. Score tied 4-4. All of a sudden, people were going crazy angry, criticizing Bochy for bringing in Wilson for a 6-out save when he's never done it before. Pretty convenient, huh? Listen, I don't care if closers are supposed to get the save in the 9th inning. That 8th inning situation was the real save situation. Putting in your best pitcher there is the right move. And remember, Pablo Sandoval's throwing error was HUGE. That wasn't Wilson's fault. If they get out of that situation with the lead, more than likely they win that game. Unfortunately, he didn't get it done tonight, but I still trust him more than anyone in the 'pen to get it done on most nights. And we need to mention that this is why it was the right move to let Lincecum finish the game last night. Lincecum is a great pitcher, and while this bullpen is pretty good, bullpens are never a sure thing. Great pitchers usually are.

You know, I've always been a person who criticizes a lot of Bochy's moves. But after seeing the way some people criticize his moves without any merit, I feel sorry for the guy. Tonight, he was also criticized for taking out Pat Burrell to start the 7th. We all know Burrell isn't great defensively and when you're facing a very bad offense and you have a great pitching staff and a 3-run lead, defense needs to become a bigger priority. It was absolutely the right move to bring in Schierholtz at that point. He was criticized for bringing in Sergio Romo to start the 8th. Damn you Bochy for not using that big ol' head of yours to predict the future! How could you not know that Sergio would allow 2 singles with no outs?? I mean, seriously? Romo has been the 8th inning set up man for the last few months of the season. Bochy managed this game exactly the same way he has all year. Why are the things that have worked all year being criticized today? Because they didn't work? Because a bad defensive player makes a costly error? How is that Bochy's fault? Sometimes the PLAYERS mess up. Sometimes the things that have always gone right, go wrong. It happens. You can't just choose to blame the manager any time you want. Bochy has definitely made a lot of questionable moves and maybe sometimes he gets a little lucky, but he did manage this team to 92 wins and the playoffs this year. This loss was entirely NOT his fault.

Of course, even a bad offense will score if you give them enough chances, and that's what the Braves did. Rick Ankiel hit a ball off Ramon Ramirez into the cove, giving the Braves the 5-4 lead. Even more frustrating, the inning before, with the bases loaded and 1 out, our God, our savior, Buster Posey, grounded into the inning ending double play. Didn't see that coming. Very, very painful. Fuckin' Bochy.

I'm bitter. Rick Ankiel is going on the Hate List, even though I'm not sure he's worthy. But bitterness makes you irrational and I'm okay with that.

FJM Friday: This Isn't Really Fair...

...but we're gonna do it anyway. Before Tim Lincecum had one of the best playoff pitching performances ever, Cam Inman wrote a piece where he tried to argue that Tim Lincecum can't be expected to pitch well in his postseason debut. A very fair thing to say, but the reasons he listed were awful, and warranted this short FJM Friday post. Note that had Lincecum not pitched well yesterday, Inman would have still been wrong.

Giants ace Tim Lincecum gets his turn tonight. To pitch a no hitter as Roy Halladay did in his postseason debut? Whoa, hold on there.

Yeah, about that...

Now is a great time to temper those enormous expectations of Lincecum...Lincecum did not pitch great in his first big-league debut. Or in his first Giants season opener. Or in his first All-Star Game. He made lackluster first impressions on those big stages. Tonight's platform looms larger.

It's quite fair to temper expectations for Lincecum, as with any pitcher. But the examples he cites as predictive are ludicrous (really any examples that supposedly would contain a predictive quality would be foolish). Lincecum is a completely different pitcher than the one that debuted against the Phillies in 2007. So he had a bad 2009 season opener. So what? And the All Star Game means nothing. It's not even a real game. You could point to as many games where Lincecum has performed well in pressure situations (and that would be wrong also). He pitched very well in the 2010 season opener. He was amazing this September in a pennant stretch. Anything could have happened yesterday; he happened to pitch like Bob Gibson. There was no way of seeing it coming. But there was certainly no reason to think he wouldn't pitch like that because of a poor performance in April of 2009.

It may go great, like Halladay's. Or perhaps he will follow in the Giants franchise lore of Christy Mathewson, whose playoff debut came in the 1905 World Series and featured 3 shutout victories in 6 days.

That's more like it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

2010 NLDS Game 1: SF 1, ATL 0

The San Francisco Giants have won Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. There will be talk tonight of the blown call at 2nd base on Buster Posey's attempted steal, and how he came around to score the only run of the game. But not here. As important as these issues of instant replay are, I can't bring myself to even worry one bit about it, in the face of what we just saw. We just saw something incredible, folks.

Tim Lincecum: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 14 K, 119 pitches, Game Score of 96

It was gonna be hard to top Roy Halladay's postseason debut from yesterday. But Tim Lincecum may have just done it. Lincecum, with a game score of 96 today, achieved the 3rd highest ever in playoff history. The word dominant does not do it justice. It is the kind of game that becomes legendary in a team's history. In the 150+ year history of baseball, performances like this have happened only a handful of times. Only the very best can do this. Tim Lincecum won 2 Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009. Then, this season, he went through almost a 4 month slump. People wondered if he would ever be the same. Since September, he is as good as he has ever been. And doing it in games that mean more than they have ever meant. I can't say much more about it. I'm speechless.

Of course, part of the reason Lincecum's line looks so impressive is because he finished the game. There was quite a debate on twitter about whether or not this was wise, with a lot of good points both ways. Here's how I see it: Yes, Brian Wilson is a very good closer, and yes, the Braves are not good offensively. But I think that anytime your best pitcher can pitch, in a close playoff game, you let him. You take no chances. It's very possible that Lincecum's extended outing tonight (119 pitches) could keep him from pitching on short rest this series, should the Giants need that. But 119 pitches isn't a TERRIBLY long outing, and he very rarely threw stressful pitches. And maybe I just don't feel the same way as everyone else about Brian Wilson. He's a great pitcher, but I think the only closer you can call "automatic" is Rivera. Lincecum, in my estimation, is far more of a sure thing than Wilson, even over 100 pitches. My main point is that a playoff game is not the time to save your pitchers. Postseason might last a month, but it goes by FAST, and if you don't do everything in every game to win, you'll regret it.


NLDS Roster Update

The roster has been set and announced. You can see the roster and Andrew Baggarly's analysis here.

No Jose Guillen, which is a bit of a surprise. Apparently his neck may be bothering him more than we thought. And no Barry Zito. I think you know our position on that decision by now. Mota, Rowand, Ishikawa, and Renteria are all in.

Discuss in the comments section if you'd like.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 MLB Awards

The playoffs have already started, and Roy Halladay has already thrown only the 2nd no hitter in postseason history. Before anything else historic happens, 8th Inning Weirdness is here to give you their picks for the 2010 regular season awards. In honor of today's extraordinary achievement, we will start in the NL, with the Cy Young award. You'll notice, by the way, how much more interested I am in the Cy Young debates than anything else.

Note: I decided to skip the AL Rookie of the Year award, because I just don't watch the AL enough, and anyway, there weren't a ton of great candidates like there were in the NL. Just give it to a rookie closer. Neftali Feliz? That'll do.

NL Cy Young Winner: Roy Halladay
2nd: Adam Wainwright
3rd: Ubaldo Jimenez
4th: Josh Johnson
5th: Roy Oswalt

If you've done your reading, you know that this future Hall of Famer is pretty much the unanimous choice for what would be his 2nd Cy Young award. And the voters will get it right. Halladay is having the best season of his career. He's striking out more hitters than he ever has, and walking as few as ever. He once again led the league in innings pitched, complete games, and shutouts. Halladay, 33 now, is clearly in the middle of his prime. Right now, there's no better pitcher in baseball. And I would have said that before tonight. Yet the NL Cy Young award decision is not as obvious as it seems. Adam Wainwright looks to be the Juan Marichal of this generation. A fantastic pitcher, but never quite the best in any particular year. Wainwright's 2010 season is great, even better than his Cy Young caliber season last year. But simply not better than Halladay. Ubaldo Jimenez had one of the best 1st halfs ever, but didn't sustain it. And Josh Johnson could have possibly beaten Halladay if he had stayed healthy. I went with Roy Oswalt in the 5th spot. Amazingly, I could have just as easily gone with Tim Lincecum. Don't ask why I chose Oswalt. I just did.

AL Cy Young Winner: Felix Hernandez
2nd: Cliff Lee
3rd: Jered Weaver
4th: Justin Verlander
5th: Jon Lester

It's strange; King Felix is only 24 years old. He's the youngest "great" pitcher in baseball. Yet he already has that Al Pacino feel about him, that he's missed out on too many Cy Young's, and that it's time to give it to him already. Of course, this is just a feeling, because the only season he's ever been a legit contender was 2009. He had a great season last year, but Zack Greinke's was substantially better. Not the case this season. Felix should, and I think will win the award for 2010. His main competitors, CC Sabathia and David Price, are great pitchers, but objectively speaking, they don't even belong in the top 5. The only true competition he has is Cliff Lee, and it is serious competition. Lee had a magnificent season, posting the 2nd highest K/BB ratio EVER. When I made this list, I set out knowing I'd pick Felix, then realized just how great Lee had been, and tried in my mind to find a way to justify Lee not winning it. It all comes down to this: Felix made 6 more starts than Lee; who would you win more games with: Felix in 34 starts, or Lee in 28? I gotta go with King Felix. Jered Weaver comes in 3rd; he just keeps getting better, and I don't think Anaheim Stadium has much to do with it. I was surprised by what a fine season Justin Verlander has had. I haven't thought much at all about him since the 2006 World Series. Someone recently called him the "worst great pitcher in baseball". I finish the list out with Jon Lester. He had a better season than Sabathia and Price, period.

NL MVP Winner: Joey Votto
2nd: Albert Pujols
3rd: Ryan Zimmerman
4th: Troy Tulowitzki
5th: Andres Torres

This is one is close, but pretty easy. Votto was slightly better than Pujols, quite an achievement for any player. Pujols is still the best player in baseball. Ryan Zimmerman is emerging as probably the best 3rd baseman in the majors, Evan Longoria being the only competition. He is a very good hitter, and a flawless fielder. If Tulowitzki keeps up what he has been doing, he could replace Hanley Ramirez as the best shortstop in baseball. And finally, you must notice that name in the 5th spot. Andres Torres. No, this is not a homer pick. Torres' numbers make him a legit name on an MVP ballot. He was more important than anyone this year for the Giants success. We look forward to seeing him and Giants play tomorrow against the Braves.

AL MVP Winner: Josh Hamilton
2nd: Robinson Cano
3rd: Miguel Cabrera
4th: Evan Longoria
5th: Jose Bautista

Hamilton's case for MVP is very similar to Joe Mauer's in 2009. They both missed an entire month of the season, yet still were the most productive players in the league. The other names on the list could have easily won an MVP in other years. While I believe Bautista's season is something of a fluke, there's no denying the actual production. It speaks for itself. Evan Longoria is the Ryan Zimmerman of the AL. Terrific defense at 3rd, very good offense. Miguel Cabrera could be the best hitter of this generation to never quite be the best hitter. You know what I mean? I know what I mean.

NL Rookie of the Year Winner: Buster Posey
2nd: Jason Heyward
3rd: Jaime Garcia
4th: Mike Stanton
5th Gaby Sanchez

Yes. Posey over Heyward. It had to happen. I'm a Giants fan. I can't help but forgive Posey the 2 month difference. Heyward has a full 1 win advantage over Posey in WAR. I don't care. After all, Cliff Lee has a .7 advantage over Hernandez in pitcher WAR, and no one has a problem voting for Hernandez. As Joe Posnanski said recently, WAR is a conversation starter, not closer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The NLDS Roster

Update: Rowand will be on the roster. It's looking like Zito will not. I think that's a mistake.

Every other Giants blog has done or will do a postseason roster post, but it's pretty much an obligation and we seem to have some different opinions than everybody else anyway. As you probably know, postseason rosters are set at 25 players, so the Giants have a few tough decisions to make regarding who they want to keep and who they want to leave off the postseason roster. I'm going to break down how I think the roster should be formed, starting with the pitchers.


Bochy has stated that he's likely to carry an 11 man staff, and there are a few guys who are locks to be on the roster. Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner are all guarantees. The first three are pretty obvious choices and Bumgarner has pitched too well to be left off the roster. Bochy said today that if a 4th starter is used, it will be Bumgarner.

That leaves 7 guys for the bullpen. The combination of Casilla, Lopez, Ramirez, Romo, and Wilson in the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th innings worked extremely well late in the year, so they are all locks. That means there are 2 spots available for 5 guys: Barry Zito, Jeremy Affeldt, Dan Runzler, Chris Ray and Guillermo Mota. I would say Ray and Runzler do not make the cut, as Ray is pretty mediocre and Runzler can struggle with control. Jeremy Affeldt probably makes it because the Giants could use another lefty.

The last roster spot is where we seem to disagree with most people. Between Guillermo Mota and Barry Zito, I'm going with Zito. Ever since his terrible start in the final series against the Padres, the Leave Barry Zito Off the Postseason Roster Movement has gained a ton of momentum and I don't get it. I've heard he takes too long to warm up or he doesn't have bullpen experience or the Giants don't need another lefty or he just isn't good enough. Let me start by saying that pitchers are pitchers. Guys are usually put in the bullpen because they don't have enough pitches or control to be in the starting rotation. You don't often hear that a starting pitcher doesn't have what it takes to be a reliever. If he really needs a ton of time to warm up, so what? If he needs to long toss before games, let him long toss. Zito is not supposed to be a lefty specialist out of the pen. His value comes from being able to give the team innings when they need them. The rotation has been spectacular, but disaster starts happen. Having Zito come in to pitch a few innings at a time when needed would keep the bullpen fresh and be extremely valuable. I know Giants fans have a short-term memory and when they needed a good Barry Zito start at a crucial time, he failed. And when it was needed the most, Guillermo Mota gave the Giants 2-3 great innings out of the bullpen. But I can't be convinced that Zito isn't one of the best 11 pitchers on the roster and that the Giants don't need a long man. His numbers this year(4.15 ERA, 1.344 WHIP) aren't even terrible. Barry Zito should be on the NLDS roster.


With 11 pitchers, the Giants will carry 14 position players. Certain guys like Torres, Sanchez, Huff, Posey, Burrell, Ross, Uribe, and Sandoval will absolutely be on the roster. I figure Schierholtz, Fontenot, and Whiteside are pretty sure bets for the bench because of their defensive value.

That means Guillen, Rowand, Renteria, and Ishikawa will fight for the last 3 spots. Just yesterday, Andrew Baggarly proposed leaving Jose Guillen off the roster entirely, which seemed ridiculous to me at the time, but isn't all that crazy. Guillen has been struggling immensely for a couple of weeks now and it's time for Cody Ross to be in the starting lineup. What it comes down to for me is Guillen vs. Rowand. Rowand does provide some defensive value, but very little offensive value. Guillen provides negative defensive value and while he hasn't been providing any offensive value lately, when he's right, he's a much more dangerous threat on offense than Rowand. Despite his recent struggles, I have to go with Guillen. Rowand's defensive value is a big deal but in a pinch-hit situation, I'll take Guillen. However, I might have a hard time arguing with you if you pick Rowand.

Renteria will probably make the cut just because he's the only true shortstop on the team. That means the final spot goes to Rowand or Ishikawa. To me, this is basically a draw. Like I said, Rowand does provide some defensive value in the outfield and Ishikawa would even out the bench with 3 RH and 3 LH, while also providing defensive value at 1st base. My gut tells me Ishikawa, but I'm not really sure why. A good case could be made for either player.

Final Roster:

Starting Lineup




Starting Rotation




Sunday, October 3, 2010

SF 3, SD 0: NL West Champs

It is done. The Giants, in the 162nd game of the year, have won the National League West division and are on their way to the playoffs. Seven years of misery and torture are finally over!

In many ways, I feel like this is a hard recap to write because I'm so uncontrollably excited, I don't really know what to say. We all figured that going into this weekend, needing just 1 game to go the playoffs, there was no way it wouldn't happen. But on Friday in game 1 of the series, we saw our best pitcher this year struggle while our offense could only score when it was too late. On Saturday, the much maligned Barry Zito was terrible, not even lasting 4 innings in his most important start of the year. But on Sunday, Jonathan Sanchez got it done and he was magnificent. Yes, this game was a classic Giants game: great pitching and just enough offense. It's fitting that the Giants would make us go through the torture til the very end.

Jonathan Sanchez's great start was huge and he more than likely pitched himself into the playoff rotation today. We don't know if the Giants are going to go with a 3 or 4 man rotation in the first round, but I don't think it matters. Up until yesterday's game, I thought the 3-man rotation would be Lincecum-Cain-Zito and the 4th starter would be a toss up between Sanchez and Bumgarner. But after seeing Sanchez come in and completely shut down the Padres' momentum today, he is the Giants' 3rd starter. Today he pitched 5 innings, allowing 3 H, 5 BB and striking out 5. Most importantly, he didn't allow a run. And we can't talk about the pitching without talking about the bullpen. That combination of Casilla, Ramirez, Lopez, Romo, and Wilson is pretty damn solid. It's going to be a huge weapon in the postseason.

Sanchez helped his own cause in the 3rd with a stand-up triple off of Mat Latos. Two batters later, Freddy Sanchez hit a groundball up the middle, scoring Sanchez. Immediately afterwards, Aubrey Huff drove a ball into the left-center gap, scoring the other Sanchez. It was a pretty big deal that the Giants finally scored first because it relieved some of the pressure. Figures that it took our pitcher to finally get something going. Buster Posey added an insurance run on a solo homer in the 8th, and everything else was taken care of.

Like I said, I don't feel like I can completely capture the greatness of the game. So I suggest that you go watch the game again, look at the celebration pictures, and watch Brian Wilson strike out Will Venable to end the game. Watching the swing and miss and seeing the whole team hop out of the dugout while Buster Posey runs to the mound to congratulate Brian Wilson should give you chills. It's amazing and hopefully it only gets better.

There are still plenty of questions that remain. Who is the 4th starter? What is the 25-man playoff roster going to look like? I'm sure we'll have a couple posts in the next few days addressing those issues. Just enjoy this feeling for the next 3 days. Game 1 is on TBS at 6:37 PM on Thursday. I already can't wait.

Oh, and Mat Latos is now on the Hate List. Haha.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

SD 4, SF 2: So It Goes...To Sunday

The Giants had their 2nd chance to clinch the NL West today, and they failed to do so. They must win tomorrow to avoid a 1 game playoff against the Padres in San Diego on Monday. I would have loved for the Giants to win today, but now that they have lost, it's just as well that they wait till tomorrow, when Kruk and Kuip will be calling the game. Because as bad as this game was, (and we will certainly get into how bad it was) the real loser today was FOX's MLB coverage. Just a few words on it, if you please.

FOX was already getting killed last night and this morning for forcing a majority of their national viewers to watch the meaningless Red Sox/Yankees game. I'm sure a vast majority of baseball fans would rather see either game today that had playoff implications. But that's only the beginning of how clueless they are over at FOX. I mean, the announcers are bad enough, but then again, most announcers for any company are terrible, so that can't really be avoided. Still, the David Eckstein love that was being thrust upon us today sounded so foolish and out of place, you'd have thought it was parody. So while we had to deal with a very subpar boradcasting team during this pivotal game, at least there were laughs to be had. What was not a laughing matter was what started happening in the middle innings. It's what made today's game possibly the worst viewing experience I've ever had watching a baseball game on tv. 3 times, between, say, the 5th and 8th inning, FOX inexplicably cut away from the Giants game to a split screen situation, where the Atlanta/Philadelphia game was prominently featured, along with Dick Stockton's voice, while the Giants/Padres were shoved into a little corner and told to be quiet for 5 minutes. I've never seen anything like it. One minute I'm watching my team play, and the next I'm getting up to stand right in front of the tv so I might be able to see what's going on. The worst was when the Giants were coming up to bat in the bottom of the 8th, trailing by 3, and FOX decided it was the perfect time to show the top of the 7th inning in Atlanta. Now, I understand that game in Atlanta is important, but the one between the Giants and Padres is arguably MORE important, and if FOX is going to force us local viewers of a team to watch their awful broadcast of our game, at least LET US FUCKING WATCH IT! Okay, that's all. Now to the awful game itself.

It was a terrible game for Barry Zito from the start. He walked in 2 runners in the 1st, and barely got out of the inning without more damage being done. He allowed 1 more run in the 3rd inning, and had given up 5 hits to that point. When he walked the pitcher to start the 4th inning, Bochy wasted no time taking him out. And it was the right choice. The runner he walked scored, but the bullpen shut the Padres down for the rest of the game. One of Zito's runs went unearned because of a terrible play by Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval, someone who clearly loves playing the game and is a great force for positivity and energy in the clubhouse, seems to always try to do too much in pressure situations, and in this case he turned a great play into a terrible one, stopping a line drive from going into left field, but then rushing his throw to 2nd base. It was way off the bag, and a run scored.

Barry Zito did not help his situation with the San Francisco fans today. Of course, it isn't his fault that he is being paid so much money. But that DOES always factor into the feeling that surrounds him. And while he has been vastly overpaid these 4 years, he at least has been able to pitch, and pitch at an average to slightly below average level. But games like this hurt. When he has to leave in the 4th inning because he walked the pitcher, criticism becomes more than justified. Matt Cain pitched a bad game last night, but he also nearly no hit the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field last Sunday. Zito has yet to do something like that in his Giants career. Today, he faced a terrible offensive team, at home, and he failed completely. It could have cost him his place in the postseason rotation, if that is something that even exists next week. Zito, pitching only 3 innings today, will finish the season with 199 IP, falling short of 200 once again. He has yet to pitch 200 innings for the Giants, and it has nothing to do with injuries. Zito has been completely healthy. He just hasn't pitched well enough to stay in games long enough to get to that mark.

While Zito pitched badly, the bullpen was able to hold the Padres afterward, but it didn't matter, because the Giants offense was terrible until the very end of the game. Before Juan Uribe's solo HR in the 7th inning, their sole hit was an infield grounder that Mike Fontenot beat out. Tim Stauffer had their number. If we wanna be positive, there is the issue that San Diego could be facing a very tired bullpen. Both of these games could have been blowouts, and instead Bud Black had to use all his favorite relievers. Mike Adams the set up man has been used in 5 straight games now, Bell the closer in 4. And Bell looked tired in the 9th inning, when he managed to get Jose Guillen to ground into a double play (!!!!!) to end the game with the tying run on 1st base.

Obviously Black will use Bell and the others like Dusty used Robb Nen in 2002, working them to the end. And it would be the right decision. But it's very possible that this could hurt San Diego tomorrow or on Monday, god forbid there is a game on Monday. Anyway, I look forward to tomorrow's game wholeheartedly. I just don't see how this team gets swept at home on the final weekend of the season. It can't happen, right? And if it does, there's always Lincecum on Monday. And don't forget, if Atlanta loses tomorrow, the Giants and Padres are in no matter what. But we want the division. So fuck that. Let's win tomorrow!