Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Let's Go Get Cained

If you'd told me beforehand that Madison Bumgarner would throw a complete game in Coors Field and only allow two solo homers, I would have been happy. That spells "victory" to me. But I neglected to account for the continuing wretched state of the Giants offense. At least they put the ball in play (8 hits) tonight. They had two on with no out in the 2nd, and two on with one out in the 4th, 8th, and 9th, so there were, in theory, chances to score. Hunter Pence tied the game briefly with a solo shot in the 5th, and he and Michael Morse got a rally of sorts going in the 8th, but that was it. It wasn't a Coors Field ugly-fest like last night, and in fact it felt much like a game the Giants ought to win. But win they did not do, and won't do if they don't start scoring some goddamn runs. But you know that already.

Watching in the Giants hit is like:
    (a) snorting corn starch
    (b) swallowing sandpaper
    (c) smoking sawdust
    (d) scarfing cat chow

I'll announce the winners later. Matt Cain at 12:10 tomorrow afternoon.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s. Seven homers by the Rockies in two games.



Monday, April 21, 2014

Vogelwrong

I switched to the season finale of Archer at seven o'clock. And my lovely bride insisted on Bones at eight. Ryan Vogelsong, total-recalling his very bad self, was done in the 2nd and the Giants never recovered. It was another feeble performance by the lineup as well--the only runs scored were on a double-play grounder by Posey in the 3rd and a wild pitch-passed ball-throwing error sequence in the 9th. I know anything can happen in 100 PAs, but this is getting tiresome. Giants: get some damn hits and score some some damn runs.

Let's hope things turn around tomorrow.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Quality-ish Tim

GAME SUMMARY: 

An early offensive outburst (4 runs, oh my!) was just barely enough as the Giants beat the puds, 4-3, and avoided the series sweep.  Tim Lincecum delivered his first quality start (barely) and a rested Buster Posey did the rest with a homer and a couple fine defensive plays. Sure, we only got three frigging hits, but WE WON and that's all that really matters.

TIM FACTS:
 Start #4  W  (1-1, 6.43)   6+ innings  7 hits  3 runs  3 earned  3 walks  7 strikeouts  1 hr

Timmeh saw the seventh inning - to throw one juicy home run pitch and get pulled - but, STILL, he SAW the seventh inning.  That is a very good thing, not the homer (#6 this year) but lasting a little longer into the game, getting that "quality" label.  If we can keep our bullpen (obviously the team strength at this point) a little fresher, then that will mean big things later this summer.  So, good job, Tim.  You stopped a three game losing streak with grit and  guile and just enough help from your friends.


HIGH and/or LOWLIGHTS: 

The big play of this game was the third successful instant replay challenge by Bochy this season.  This time the ump missed a beautiful sweep tag at home by Buster.  I can honestly say I have never seen a catcher better at that particular skill in all my days.  Buster immediately started to argue the call so I figured we had it even before any replay was shown.  The overturned call erased a run for the puds and ended the inning; it was HUGE.  Just shows you another way Buster wins games for us.

First Inning: 10-8

Tim Hudson took out a page from the Big Book of Cain yesterday as the Giants failed to support his fine effort. (That's four starts, 112 batters faced, 53 ground balls, and no walks.) The Padres are playing their game in their yard and the Giants are obliging nicely. Yesterday they managed only a feeble four hits. Brandon Belt and Michael Morse have wOBAs over .400 (they are 13th and 16th on the NL leaderboard) and Angel Pagan is just behind at .387 (23rd). Brandon Crawford is holding his own at .360, but Buster Posey (.313) is well below expectations, and Hunter Pence (.265) and Pablo Sandoval (.250) are off the map. The team has scored just 13 runs in the last seven games and two of those went into extras.

The baseball season is 162 games long and is composed of nine 18-game stretches that I like to call "seasonal innings" (18 x 9 = 162). The Giants have finished their first inning and stand at 10-8, one game behind the 11-7 Dodgers. You play nine 10-8 innings and you finish at 90-72, which might net you a playoff spot. You go 11-7 nine times and you finish 99-63 which will likely net you the best record in the league. The Giants were 10-5 after beating the Dodgers on Wednesday, but followed that with three straight losses. The Brewers (13), the Braves (12), and the Cardinals/Dodgers (11) are the league leaders in wins, with the Nationals (10), Giants (10) and Rockies (10) just behind.

The Giants are 8th in the NL in scoring at 74 runs or 4.11 per game, just a hair below the league average (4.14). They are 7th in run prevention having yielded 66 runs or 3.67 per game, just ahead of the league average (4.06). Since interleague play has not yet started for San Francisco (next weekend the Cleveland Indians come to town) I am sticking with NL-only stats. I'll do 30-team comparisons next time.

The Giants rate a 101 OPS+, good for fourth best, and a 108 ERA+, tied for seventh best (B-R). FanGraphs is not as kind, saying the Giants 97 wRC+ is only seventh best and their .308 wOBA is ninth in the league. By team FIP however, the Giants rate fourth best and their 3.28 xFIP is the best.

If you prefer more traditional metrics, the Giants are batting .237/.310/.387 with 19 HR (4th in the league) against an NL average line of .249/.313/.391. The Giants have the fifth best team ERA (3.15) with 143 strikeouts (7th best), 34 walks (fewest), 16 HR (7th fewest), and 158 hits (11th fewest, or fourth worst).

Today Tim Lincecum tries to prevent a sweep in San Diego. Tim's only thrown 15 innings in three starts and he's allowed 20 hits and 12 runs. But he has only walked one and struck out 17, so there are some good signs. The bullpen has been terrific (57-1/3 IP, 47 H, 48 K, 13 W, 14 R) but could use some more long outings by the starters so let's hope Timmy can churn up some innings and lead the way to a victory.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hanchez-ed

Because I wasn't going with 'Cained.' The young backstop had a rough night. Passed ball in the 1st that led to a run, whiff swinging in the 2nd, whiff looking in the 4th, two on and nobody out double play grounder in the 7th, flailing whiff with the tying run on second to end it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, am I right? Matt Cain looked very sharp in his best start so far here in the first month of the season. That's eight straight one-run games for the Giants, the longest such streak for the franchise since 1910. They are 4-4. The Giants got a leadoff double from Angel Pagan but couldn't score him and that turned out to be a big play. Brandon Belt's homer in the 9th was all they could muster after that. Berkeley's own Tyson Ross was overpowering and made the once-mighty Giants lineup look feeble, much like Hyun-jin Ryu did the day before. I like the old Giants offense better, you know, the one from two weeks ago. You figure the games will be low-scoring in San Francisco and San Diego, but I've had enough. C'mon Giants, get some goddamn hits and score some goddamn runs.

Matt Cain pitched very well, and that is never bad. The Giants lost a very well-pitched Matt Cain game. It's that old, familiar weltschmerz. There ought to be some comfort in familiarity, but I'm not finding it.

Tim Hudson tomorrow at 5:40 p.m.

--M.C.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Giants Grab Another Close One

Ryan Vogelsong came up with a big start (Game Score 60) to lead the Giants over the Dodgers tonight. I was surprised after the walk, triple, and long fly ball that ended the 6th that Bochy let him pitch the 7th, but Jean Machi was brilliant in relief and it all worked out. Vogie was most likely out of gas despite the low pitch count, and the hit-by-pitch and single to start the inning was all-too predictable. But Boch is a manager of men, and sometimes you have to show faith in a player even if the calculations say otherwise. I imagine a manager has to bank that confidence so he can draw on it later. Vogie strikes me as a particularly amenable athlete to that sort of handling, but that's all just blogger jive, so pay it no mind.

The highlight of the evening for me was definitely the 1-2-3 double play on the comebacker by Juan Uribe to end the 7th. If a game can have a tipping point then that was it right there. The Giants got the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning and held on thanks to the three-headed beast of Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, and Sergio Romo. Machi may prove to be a very valuable guy--he sure bailed out Vogie and the team with some stout relief in this game. My second favorite moment was Pablo Sandoval delivering the big hit after Hunter Pence was intentionally walked. Take that, Donnie Baseball! And my third favorite moment was Matt Kemp being picked off in the 2nd. Or maybe it was Donnie B's challenge being denied, I don't know. They were both beautiful.

Madison Bumgarner squares off with Hyun-Jin Ryu tomorrow at noon. Should be another nail-biter.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


Taxing Tim



GAME SUMMARY:  

For the third time in the last five games, the Giants went into extra innings; this time outlasting the doggers, 3-2 in 12 innings.  The game featured a boatload of walks, an incredible number of blown opportunities, some sloppy play and every known relief pitcher on both rosters.  In other words, it was exciting (since we won!).

TIM FACTS:
 Start #3  ND  (0-1)   5 innings  5 hits  1 run  1 earned  0 walks  5 strikeouts  1 hr

A good, solid outing for a #4 starter. You would like to see more innings, of course, but anything more than 5 looks like gravy when Lincecum takes the ball.  Timmeh only gave up one tape measure shot and it didn't really feel like he was dishing up batting practice; so that's quite a bit better than his last start. It was easy to remember the good times when Tim got a couple big K's in the fourth with the bases loaded. So, no nightmares tonight, which is not something I can always claim after a Lincecum start.

HIGH and/or LOWLIGHTS:
  

Jean Machi only needed seven pitches to give up a double, get a sacrifice out, then cough up a walk.  If you went potty or grabbed a snack, you could have missed his entire performance.  That would have been a good thing.

Three hits and a stolen base for Hunter is always fun. Brandon #1 got three hits too.  Brandon #2 got a couple hits and scored the game winner.  All good signs. However, Pablo went o for five and didn't get the ball out of the infield.  That is not a good sign.  Our offense has looked weak lately and frankly, we needed a lot of help scoring tonight.

Big win.  We really didn't do anything very well, yet we beat a good team. I'll take it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

1954

Sixty years ago the New York Giants won their fifth World Series in franchise history by beating the Cleveland Indians in a four-game sweep. It ended a run of five straight titles by the Yankees. The Brooklyn Dodgers would get their first championship the next season, and the Milwaukee Braves would grab their first in 1957. The one thing all those clubs had in common were African-American stars. Willie Mays was the MVP in 1954 and played alongside Monte Irvin and Hank Thompson. Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella (the 1955 MVP), Junior Gilliam, and Don Newcombe led the Dodgers. And the Braves, of course, had Hank Aaron (the 1957 MVP) and Eddie Mathews. The Indians, led by Larry Doby, also had Luke Easter, Dave Hoskins, Dave Pope and Al Smith on their roster, making the 1954 Series a notable one for the presence of so many black ballplayers. Robinson's breaking of the color line in 1947 also made it possible for dark-skinned Latino players like Sandy Amoros and Ruben Gomez to make it in the bigs as well. Ernie Banks, just to mention another great former Negro Leagues player, made his debut in 1954.

Bill Madden chronicles that season and its impact on the game in his latest book 1954: the year Willie Mays and the first generation of black superstars changed Major League Baseball forever. Mr. Madden covers a lot of ground, from Branch Rickey and Bill Veeck to Leo Durocher and Walter O'Malley. Along the way we follow the 1954 season from the perspective of the underdog Giants and the powerhouse Indians, a team that set a record with 111 wins. Legendary New York sportswriter Dick Young gets a lot of ink as well, for this was a time when newspapermen were the main link--other than radio broadcasts--between fans and their favorite teams. TV was just beginning to make inroads into the game, and the Giants were on the forefront as they featured a pre-game show with Laraine Day, the glamorous former MGM actress and wife of the mercurial Durocher.

I'm not sure Mr. Madden makes his case in 1954 that baseball was changed "forever," but you can certainly say a critical mass of African-American stars emerged during that time, and they paved the way for even more men of color to participate in the national pastime. The Yankees would be the last team to integrate, but they managed to stay at the top (Series winners in 1956, 1958, 1961, 1962 and runners-up in 1955, 1957, 1960, 1963, and 1964) despite their intransigence. Certainly integration was a pivotal time in both the game's and the nation's history, but I don't know if any particular year was more important than any other. The relocation of the Dodgers and Giants to California, followed by expansion and then division play had huge impacts as well. Perhaps nothing was more momentous than free agency and the two strikes it precipitated, and the flood of television dollars that has been unabated in the last few decades has certainly made the modern game very different.

Nonetheless 1954 is an interesting book and baseball buffs like yourselves will enjoy all the great stories of the old-timers. Giants fans, in particular, will enjoy anything about Willie "The Greatest of Them All" Mays and his place in team and baseball lore. I particularly liked learning more about Alvin Dark, who managed the talented but unlucky San Francisco teams in the 1960s. Giants fans will also appreciate some history on Al Rosen, a star for those same Indians, who later of course was the Giants GM from 1985-1992.

--M.C.


p.s. Thanks again to Kristina DiMichele and DaCapo Press for the review copy. I've got another book from them about the 1991 World Series that I'll get to later.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

. . . and it's wet!!

Brandon Crawford's splash hit in the 10th saved the day in San Francisco and the Giants get a much-needed series win. Some of the luster of Tim Hudson's excellent start came off after three late extra-base hits enabled the Rockies to tie the ballgame in the 8th, but he once again pitched with brisk, efficient command and gave the club a chance to win. The Giants wasted a fine effort yesterday and you hate to see them lose those low-scoring affairs at home. AT&T should be death on visiting clubs but the 2013 team only managed a 42-40 record in the supposedly-friendly confines. The 2014 team has so far split the six games and two series at home after a 5-2 road trip. The Dodgers come to town on Tuesday and it should be quite the donnybrook as the good guys took two of three in Los Angeles.

Gregor Blanco almost pulled off a dramatic two-out winner in the bottom of the 9th, roping a sure double to right-center that Michael Cuddyer fell down trying to field making it an easy stand-up triple. Tim Flannery, though, up to his usual knee-jerk windmilling, sent El Tiburón home when Cuddyer bobbled the pick-up. Unfortunately the throw hit cutoff man DJ LeMahieu right in the numbers and he fired a strong relay to Giants nemesis Wilin Rosario at the plate who made a good play to tag out the airborne speedster. Sergio Romo put up a zero in the top of the 10th and B-Craw made it all moot with his leadoff bomb in the bottom half. That's only his second walk-off hit and his first walk-off homer. There was lots of talk this spring about Crawford hitting lefties and so far he's silenced it with some excellent work in the early going.

Hudson has gone 23 innings without issuing a free pass and that's the most to open a season since Atlee Hammaker in 1983 (21 IP).

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rockies Give Giants a Good Caining

Here are Matt Cain's career splits, home (top) and away:
                                                          
W     L   ERA   G     IP          H   R      HR  BB   SO   BF   WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
51   46  3.16  138  909.1  733  336  73  306 746 3709  1.143  7.4  2.44
42   43  3.60  130  822.2  717  353  82  275 695 3427  1.206  7.6  2.53

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/12/2014.


Matt Cain is Matt Cain no matter where he pitches, it seems. Obviously the Park helps a bit, but overall he's the same cat out there every time. The last two starts were a bit ugly by Cainian standards, but today was more what we come to expect from the big righty. Of course, a Caining is also what we've come to expect over the years as well, and six Rockies pitchers made sure of that today in San Francisco. Matty had some command issues early, and racked up a lot of pitches, but he settled down and kept the Colorado hitters from any solid contact. I think they had two hard hit balls all afternoon. They scored the game's only run on a limp sacrifice fly to short right field, scoring leadoff man Charlie Blackmon who had walked, moved up on an infield hit, and stolen third base. It was a Giants and AT&T kind of ballgame but unfortunately it didn't work out in the Giants favor. Pagan was 0-for-4, Sandoval was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts, Morse was 0-for-4 with two whiffs and a double play, and Buster was 0-for-3 with a walk. Hector (0-4, 2K) Sanchez started behind the plate and batted sixth with Posey at first against the lefty Brett Anderson. Brandon Belt sat on the bench. The Rockies made the big pitches when they had to and snuffed out the few chances the Giants mustered.

Matt Cain gave the ballclub a heap o' quality innings. In the end, that's what matters. The starters have to have better starts and over the long haul that will pay off. It didn't today, and it is frustrating when the team loses a well-pitched game at home. But seeing Matt Cain be Matt Cain took some of the sting out.

Tim Hudson tomorrow afternoon.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s. The nice folks at Da Capo Press (in particular, Kristina DeMichele) sent me an advance copy of Bill Madden's new book, 1954: the year Willie Mays and the first generation black superstars changed Major League Baseball forever. I'll put up a review on Monday when, like me, the Giants have an off-day.