Monday, July 28, 2014

Yuck

If you saw the first half-inning,  you saw the game.  To say that Madison Bumgarner, coming into a desperate win-needing situation against Pittsburgh, was not sharp would be kind.  He was crappy.  4 runs before the Giants could get to bat aided by 2 walks among the first 3 hitters, a crappy strike zone and a crappy defense.   It took more than 40 pitches to get through the first as the Pirates batted around.  Madison gave up a home run in the 2nd, but then settled down and pitched pretty well, as did the bullpen.  Too little, too late.

The Giants, meanwhile, were their all-too-familiar feeble selves.  Vern Worley faced 29 batters for a complete game, and it would have been 28 if not for Hunter Pence's 2-out triple in the 9th.  That was the only Giants base runner to get past first.  I don't know about anyone else, but I am getting awfully tired of the unable-to-score-at-home theme.  It doesn't make any sense.  The Giants are a bad, bad team right now.  With this loss, we are under .500 at home.  A desperation trade for "someone with pop" is not going to help.  It sure feels like we are in another one of those slides where we cough up 9 games or so, doesn't it?

Dodgers Spoil the Weekend

I thought Jake Peavy pitched well. A little bad luck and some fielding lapses is all it takes to undo a decent start when it's against a good team. LA did everything right in the series and made an emphatic point in San Francisco. The Giants couldn't do anything this weekend. I was impressed by Dee Gordon going home on the missed third strike--that was opportunistic and a real "kick 'em when they're down" moment. The Giants had a nice little post-ASB thing going at 5-1 but losing four in a row takes the shine off. They did have to face Cole Hamels as well as Kershaw and Greinke, so it is understandable as those guys are as tough as it gets. And the rash of injuries and the rag-tag lineup certainly crippled the team ahead of the biggest series of the season, but it still stings. The team looked overmatched by their chief rivals.

I'm not sure what the Giants can do at this point other than get their collective shit together and start winning some goddamn games. No one wants Dan Uggla starting at second base, but three second baseman on the roster out with injury and the other (Joaquin Arias) having his worst season with the bat EVER doesn't leave the team a lot of options. Sure, it would be nice to sit Mike Morse down for some needed rest, but who plays in his place? He's one of the few guys who CAN play every day! I'd love to have Jake Peavy alongside Matt Cain not instead of him. Not much the team can do in that department. Maybe Cain will go under the knife sooner rather than later and be 100% for 2015. That's assuming that's what he needs, of course. Even if it is just arthroscopic surgery you can understand any athlete's reluctance to have doctors poking around inside. I had my knee 'scoped a few years back (torn meniscus) and despite it all working out just fine I must admit to trepidation about the whole concept. I like doctors better when they aren't probing and cutting--I'll bet most folks feel the same way.

Are the Giants done dealing? Supposedly they are still interested in Ben Zobrist who would be a terrific addition, but it seems what they really need is David Price, who would probably be unaffordable. When you look at the cost of Jake Peavy, Price would probably require twice that much, and the Giants would likely have to give up a major-leaguer as well. Who do we dangle? Brandon Belt? I don't see it happening. I think the team is what the team is and we have to hope they get healthy and get back to playing good baseball.

The Pirates are in town for three this week, games 106, 107 and 108 to finish the month of July and the sixth seasonal inning. I'll post something on Thursday--I hope it is joy after a sweep, or at least tempered excitement after seeing two wins out of three. August has 28 games scheduled and September 25, but the Giants have a suspended game to make up as well and that's your final 54. Six of those are against the Dodgers so it's not like they won't have their chances. And a 1-1/2 game deficit is nothing. If you had told me in March that the team would be neck-and-neck with the $230M boys in blue at the end of July I'd have been happy. So why ain't I happy? Maybe it's this:




77 divided by 23 is 3.35 and 79 divided by 23 is 3.43. I may be a retired schoolteacher but I can still tell you that 3.35 < 3.43 and that usually correlates to W < L.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fourth Time's a Charm

When we are older and grayer we can say we saw Clayton Kershaw at his best. Of his nine career shutouts four are against the Giants with three of those in San Francisco. It seems the big southpaw from Texas likes pitching against our favorite team. The Giants never had a chance as the Dodgers got it done on both sides of the ball much like last night. They scored in four straight innings to back Kershaw and make the only drama whether or not he'd finish what he started. That's quite a one-two punch with Greinke, but it's not like we didn't know that already. What we do know is that despite the abundance of talent on the LA roster the Giants are still in a pennant race. They look bad right now, vulnerable, and the blue-clads can smell it. But there is still lots of baseball left to play, including a game tomorrow with Jake Peavy taking the hill. If you like "fresh start" stories, his is perfect. Perhaps "reunited with his old manager" or "familiar NL West settings ought to help" or "friendly confines of AT&T" are more your style. Take a look at this one:


That's Peavy's lifetime mark vs. LA. Pretty cool, eh? Maybe he's got some anti-Dodgers mojo that works like Kershaw's anti-Giants mojo. I just want the Giants to win and if it takes mojo manipulation, I'm all for it.

C'mon Giants, win a goddamn game.

--M.C.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Trashed Tim

Game Summary:
The smog-sucking scum took control of this one from the start and never let go. Final score: Scum 8    Us 1.  If you want the details... something about 19 triples in one game ...well, you may have to go somewhere else for that. Life is too short for me to write about that kind of toxic crap.

Tim Facts:
Start #21  Loss  (9-7,  3.96)  4.1 innings  9 hits  6 runs   6 earned runs  0 walks  6 strikeouts  0 hr

Timmy hung in there for a while then got trashed.  Not doubt some people will blame the relief appearance earlier this week, but that seems like an excuse you will never hear from Tim.  None of it mattered anyway. Greinke was unbeatable... for example, at one point he got 4 strikeouts in one inning.  That shit hardly ever happens. I'm so glad I saw it.

High and/or Lowlights:
As if the game itself wasn't putrid enough, the worst part was probably losing Hector Sanchez to an obvious concussion. I bet he will have to do that week off like Belt.
Dan Uggla made his debut and did nothing. I think we better get used to a lot more of that.

Gee, tomorrow we face their good pitcher. Fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

WAR Power

Giants go up in the West by two games after a stirring win in Philadelphia. Madison Bumgarner was dazzling and Hunter Pence delivered the big hit in the 9th to plate the go-ahead runs. Phillies ├╝ber-closer Jonathan Papelbon has to be wondering who the hell these guys in orange and black are after yielding soul-crushing 9th-inning extra-base hits on consecutive nights. Oh, they are just Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, nobody special.

Hunter Pence, according to FanGraphs, has piled up 4.1 WAR and leads the team by a wide margin. He's listed as 9th in the majors but the two fellows at #8 (Paul Goldschmidt) and #7 (Adam Jones) are in a tie with him. The only other NLers in the top tier are Troy Tulowitzki (5.1) and Andrew McCutcheon (4.5). Pence is a serious NL MVP candidate. There's no doubt he's the team MVP, and we don't need no steenkeen saber-stats to tell us that. Pence was the best player on the team last season as well. Currently he leads the league in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits and runs scored. Funny, none of the defensive metrics seem to like his glove work. As much as I enjoy learning more about baseball by diving into the new statistics, I've yet to find a reliable fielding scheme. Pence is a great fielder and is right up there in PhoneCo prowess with Nate Schierholtz and Jose Cruz, Jr. Remember when he signed his contract and all the buzz was about "overpaying" him? Sheesh, the guy is worth every nickel!

Madison Bumgarner is of course the leader in pitching WAR with 2.4 and also rates 0.8 WAR as a hitter! A .500 slugging percentage will do that. He sits at #22 in that category for MLB but 6th in the NL behind Zimmerman, Cueto, Strasburg, Wainwright and Kershaw. Lofty company, eh?

Tim Hudson takes the ball this morning as the Giants look for a sweep. LA is traveling to San Francisco for the big showdown this weekend.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fourteener

Hunter Pence had EIGHT trips to the plate last night. Now that's entertainment! What a slog, man, but what a great win, too. Fantastic effort from the 'pen. And having rubber-armed Tim Lincecum sitting around doing nothing is quite a luxury. First career save--cool, eh? Just another wonderful tidbit on his remarkable resume. I'm really happy to see George Kontos making a contribution. With things the way they are, every arm counts. And Hector Sanchez caught all fourteen fookin' innings! That's huge. You think the Giants want Buster squatting for almost six hours? No way. You'd think he'd rake four hits if he did? Maybe, but his bat is much too valuable for him to take the daily beating behind the plate. No, Hanchez is the sacrificial lamb. Yes, his hitting has been woeful, but he's chewing up innings so Buster can be fresher when it's his turn. And he did get two hits and a walk last night, so maybe things are trending upward*.

Speaking of sacrificing your body for the team, it's time for the Giants and Matt Cain to come clean. He's apparently been pitching with "loose bodies" in his elbow for four years. He pulled off a perfect game, an All-Star win, and a World Series title with those floaters, but you can only dance naked in the cactus garden for so long before you get needles in your pecker. Lots of athletes play through pain and injuries--I get it. I'm sure Cain and the team think that with a little R & R he can grit his way through another dozen starts and deliver something like the latter half of last season. At some point he's going to need surgery. It's not ligament damage. We aren't talking Tommy John, most likely just arthroscopy meaning a faster recovery. As I said before I'm surprised he didn't get that done this past off-season. But we don't really know the whole story and Matty channels Gary Cooper when it comes to self-analysis so it's up to the Giants to deliver some straight talk. The bottom line is that we could be looking at a Cain-less stretch run, or a stretch run with a guy with no. 18 on his back who looks like Cain but can't get the big outs. Baggs runs down some of the starting pitchers that the Giants might take a look at. Bartolo Colon's name has come up as well. Imagine if he did this in orange-and-black.

Madison Bumgarner today, 4:05 Pacific.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.



*"That's one thing the kid can do is hit, but we've got to get that back," Bochy said. "He's just coming off the ball." (via Baggs)

Monday, July 21, 2014

First team with an XBH wins the game

The Giants won a game in which Ryan Vogelsong gave up eleven hits. That ought to be auspicious. It ought to be a sign that the team has found its mojo once again. But it's just more baseball random-onia, like Adam Duvall launching the game-winner off Cliff Lee. Just more crazy WTF shit, man. Wins come in all sizes and shapes, just like losses, and trying to figure it out just puts dents in the brain pan. The 'pen was mightier than the, uh, scored tonight, eh? I mean, they stopped the Phils from scoring any more runs after Ryan Howard's cricket-bat RBI hit that chased Vogie. So, way to go 'pen-ians! And The Pence-ian One was most Pence-ian: three hits, a run scored, two driven in. But Man of the Match goes to the rook for his big blast--that's what he did in the minors and by gum he oughta do it up here, too. Things in GiantsLand ain't exactly pretty right now, but they ain't Uggla, neither. At least not yet.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bad Pitch Tim

Game Summary:
The Giants lost a tense and rather poorly played game today, 3-2 to the Marlins.  Tim Lincecum's nifty little win streak died, yet he basically kept it close.  Although Buster Posey tried to win it alone, he got absolutely no help from the bottom two thirds of the batting order.  Costly wild pitches, terrible base running, silly balks, and some of the worst pitches you will ever see....this game had it all!  Yuck.

Tim Facts:
Start #20  Loss  (9-6,  3.68)  7 innings  5 hits  3 runs   3 earned runs  2 walks  7 strikeouts  1 hr

It is possible that the 0-2 pitch that McGehee crushed was one of the worst pitches Tim has ever thrown. I will let someone other poor soul research that one.  Lincecum actually threw MANY horrible pitches today and got away with almost all of them. I recall their 1B hitting 2 foul homers on hangers in the same AB.  Of course we lost it on a wild pitch, but that wasn't even a horrible pitch...exactly.  A tough loss, yet he hung in there, lasted seven and didn't crumble.  I'm still very optimistic that Tim will do well against the doggers next Friday.

High and/or Lowlights:
ONE for TWENTY ONE from the four spot down. Barely a hard hit ball! Our bench killed us tonight. In fact, it could be argued they have been a key reason for our collapse.  I've been trying to get a better attitude about Hector but right now I'm thinking TRADE BAIT.  He is young, so someone might be tempted.  Arias may be able to play many spots but none of them at replacement level. Obviously changing our bench around now is probably not sexy but if this comes down to one or two games, it could be the difference maker.

Brandon Belt out with a concussion for a week. More pressure on a weak bench! Great!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Giants Kick Ass

That was fun to write. The Giants got their post-ASB season rolling in Miami with a big win behind Madison Bumgarner. A quick check of the standings after the Dodgers lost in St. Louis shows the good guys in first place by .001! MadBum gave up a monster shot to Giancarlo Stanton after it was already 9-0, but was otherwise back to his usual ace-like self with six strong innings. That will be increasingly important heading into August and September as the news from Camp Cain is not so good. According to Baggs Matty has a "cranky elbow" from bone chips and/or other loose bodies. He is supposed to make his pushed-back start on Tuesday. I'm a bit surprised the Giants didn't push him to get surgery in the off-season, especially after his struggles last season. Apparently they knew about his situation after an MRI in 2010! I'm also surprised Cain himself didn't consider arthroscopy, but the big fella is not much of a talker and we'll all just have to keep guessing.

Regardless, the lineup came to life with big flies from B-Craw and the Panda, and three hits apiece from Buster and Mike Morse. The team was 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Man, keep that going! Hunter Pence got on twice and scored twice and made another one of his spectacular running catches. That guy is incredibly valuable--I can't imagine where the club would be without him.

Did you see the Braves released Dan Uggla? Think the Giants will take a run at him? He's not the hitter he once was, and his glove is suspect, but if Scutaro is iffy and Panik can't carry the whole load, he might be a useful piece, and could be a big stick coming off the bench as well. I'm not arguing for Mr. Biceps, just curious what you think. And thinking that the Giants are going to make some moves in the next two weeks, so I'm keeping my eye on MLBTR.

Hudson tonight. GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

By the Numbers

Runs Allowed

The Giants have allowed 350 runs in 95 games. The 350 is tied for fifth-best in the NL and the RA/G (3.65) is tied for fourth. Seattle and Oakland lead the majors with the fewest runs allowed, so bump everyone in the NL down two spots.

If you like saber-stats, the Giants rate fourth in the ML with a 3.47 FIP (tied with San Diego), and fourth in xFIP (3.57). Some of that is good pitching. Some of that is due to the run-suppressing environments the Giants play in (AT&T, PetCo, etc.). The Giants don't look good when the stats are adjusted: their FIP- is 100, good for the 17th spot, and their ERA+ of 102 is 14th overall. In those schemes 100 is league-average.

If WHIP is more your style, the Giants rate third (1.172) behind Seattle and Oakland. Teams bat .237 against the Giants, the fifth-lowest mark, and their BABIP of .284 is tied for fourth-best. The Mariners and Athletics are the best in both categories. Despite what seems like a lot of homers allowed, the Giants fare well (0.74/9, 4th-lowest). Their line-drive rate (20.7%) is middle-of-the-pack stuff, but they get a lot of ground balls (47.5%, 4th-highest) and few fly balls (31.8% 5th-lowest). Ground balls turn into hits more frequently than fly balls, but fly balls do the most damage when they are hits. So, make of that what you will.

I think the Giants have the pitching they need if Matt Cain and Sergio Romo return to the form we expected. The Giants 2012 pitching actually rates worse than this current squad--but that team could score runs (particularly after the ASB).


Runs Scored

I expected more offense from this club. They started hot but have since faded. They've totaled 373 so far which puts them 10th of the 15 NL teams and 23rd of the 30 teams in the majors. A little more production from the middle of the order (Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval in particular) might be all it takes to improve the scoring. Angel Pagan's absence has hurt, not so much because he was so valuable, more so because his replacement Gregor Blanco has been terrible with the bat. The Giants actually rate near league-average with an OPS+ and wRC+ of 97, so they aren't that far away. A little more luck with sequencing, some improvement at the top of the lineup, and perhaps a bench-bolstering bat and they can stay in the thick of it.


Wins, of course, are the only currency that counts. They Giants won a lot early on, and couldn't buy a win over the last month and a half. The real Giants have to be somewhere in that mix--not a .667 team (42-21) but certainly not a .313 team (10-22) either. If the season ended now, the Giants and the Braves would be the wild-card teams with the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates just missing out. There are eight teams in the hunt for the five spots: two in the West (LA and SF), four in the Central (MIL, STL, CIN, PIT), and two in the East (WSN and ATL). Those eight clubs have the only winning records in the senior circuit. Certainly the Giants have their fate in their hands--if they play good baseball the rest of the way they have a great chance of making the post-season.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.