Wednesday, November 28, 2012

MANIC ATT

That's an anagram of MATT CAIN. And that kicks off our contest! Take the name or names of anyone who ever wore a San Francisco Giants uniform (players and coaches) and make an anagram. The coolest ones will be selected as winners. SIR--the anagram queen--will be the judge. You can keep it simple, like Matt's eight letters, or go all William VanLandingham and John Joseph Montefusco and make a complete sentence. Remember, it's all about making the coolest one. You can enter three times. Just post a reply to this message. Winners will get the aforementioned DVD.

The standard DVD goes for $29.99 and the Bluray for $34.99 so it is a very nice prize. I can attest to the HD screen quality--you can count the hairs in Sergio Romo's beard. Here's a description:
The OFFICIAL 2012 WORLD SERIES FILM, the annual, crowning program from Major League Baseball Productions, delivering the Giants’ series run in its entirety -- from first pitch to last -- in a pulse-pounding documentary format, complete with comprehensive highlights, exclusive access and interviews, and breathtaking footage that captures the Giants’ triumphant season.  An exclusive bonus disc contains the complete Pennant-clinching NLCS Game 7, plus a stadium’s worth of additional bonus programming, including exclusive celebratory footage, Pablo Sandoval’s World Series Game One three homeruns and much more!
It was a lot of fun to watch the documentary and re-live the excitement. It's a well-made show that perfectly captures the season. Benjamin Bratt (of Law & Order) narrates--he's an SF native. The bonus features are also great and include lots of parade stuff. The LCS Game Seven comes complete without commercials and you can select the Giants audio feed instead of Buck and McCarver. The whole thing is produced by A+E Networks Home Entertainment/MLB Productions. They have promised three prizes so that's three happy RMC readers! Like I said earlier, it makes a great stocking stuffer. So, quit reading this and sharpen your pencils and submit your entries. CONTEST ENDS IN ONE WEEK. Deadline is midnight on Wednesday, December 5th.

Have fun!

--M.C.



p.s. When we were in Scotland in 2005 we stayed at a spectacular B&B called "The House of Mark." The owner asked her guests that week to make an anagram of the name and SIR (without using pencil or paper) came up with "UK Hearts of Home" which was by far the best. Thus she has earned judging rights.

p.p.s. Winners will send me their postal address which I will forward to A&E and they will send out the prizes (I have only my review copy). US addresses only, unfortunately.
 
p.p.p.s. Links:
* 2012 WORLD SERIES FILM BD SET: 
* 2012 WORLD SERIES FILM 2-DISC DVD SET: 
 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Championship DVD

The nice folks at A&E sent me a review copy of the 2012 World Series Film (in Bluray, no less), and we checked it out last night. It was fabulous, and I highly recommend it to all my discerning readers. It seems the club hosted a big event for the premiere and everyone, no surprise, had a great time. I'm going to run a little promotional contest here on the blog very shortly and winners will receive a copy, so stay tuned. Perfect Xmas stocking-stuffer for those of you still panicking over the impending holiday.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Monday, November 19, 2012

We've a lot to be thankful for

It's a great time to be a Giants fan.

Happy Thanksgiving!

--M.C.

Friday, November 16, 2012

25 for 16: The Scrubs

Every team's got 'em. Even World Champs have guys on the bench you'd rather not see out there. This post-season the Giants filled out their 25-man roster with three players who were really only placeholders. We'll start with Xavier Nady, former Cal star and late-season pickup. The X-Man has had a long career (11 years) and been reasonably productive over his 3199 plate appearances. B-R rates his career line (.270/.324/.432) at a 100 OPS+. The Salinas native has been mostly a platoon player these last few years and is likely, at 34, near the end. Nady played in four of the LDS games and went 0-6 with a walk and three strikeouts. He was on the field (in left) at the end of Games One, Two, Three, and Five. He had four putouts in his short stints, including two in the critical final innings of Game Three. I'm still amazed that the Giants won that game, and they closed it out with X in left instead of Gregor Blanco and Joaquin Arias at short instead of Brandon Crawford. They used five pitchers in that game and 12 position players (everyone except Hector Sanchez). The Reds used Xavier Paul as a pinch-hitter, and that might be the only time in MLB history with two Xaviers in one game! Like I said, I'm still amazed the Giants won that game. One has to wonder why Dusty Baker yanked Homer Bailey after seven innings (88 pitches, 1 hit, 10 K). Seems like that sort of thing happens with ol' Johnnie B in command. Makes you appreciate Bruce Bochy, who has a knack for pulling the right strings.

Next up is Aubrey Huff, 2010 hero. The Giants brought him back after his huge contributions to their first championship but he never regained his form. Like Nady, Huff is at that point in his career where it may not be worth continuing. Two rings in three years is not a bad way to go out, eh? Aubrey was strictly a pinch-hitter in the 2012 playoffs, making ten plate appearances and getting one hit, one walk, and striking out twice. His hit in Game Two of the LCS was a pop fly behind third base that Blanco would have caught but Matt Holliday could not get to. He scored on a hit by Ryan Theriot. I thought Bochy might use him at DH in Detroit, but Sanchez got the call in Game Three of the Series (0-3, 3K) and, of course, The Riot was the man in Game Four.

The last man is one of my favorites, Guillermo Mota, he of the Easter Island face. I love watching him pitch! WillyMo got in big trouble for PEDs after being a valuable mop-up man for the Giants since they acquired him in 2010. He turns 40 in July and has pitched in the big leagues (743 games, always in relief) since he was 25. He made three appearances in 2012, Games One and Two in the LDS and Game Four of the LCS. He was ineffective, yielding five runs and four hits in his 1-2/3 IP. It was a far cry from his 2-1/3 innings of shutout ball in the 2010 Series against Texas. I suppose it is the end of the line for the big Dominican, but he can go out, like the rest of the scrubs, with a shiny ring on his finger.

That's it! I've covered all 25 guys. Hope you enjoyed the look back at our team. Great news about Buster Posey getting the MVP. And I think signing Jeremy Affeldt for three years was a smart move. He's a valuable guy and the Giants know it. I will be sporting my brand new 2012 World Series Champions cap and T-shirt today at work. I get to look forward to a week off (after today) for Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday. Lots of much-needed relaxing and basking in the glow of our favorite team's great season.

Cheers, mates!

--M.C.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

M-V-P!!!!!

It's finally official ... Buster Posey is the NL MVP & most deservingly so!!!!!  While there were several players in the NL who had remarkable seasons, Buster combined superior offensive stats, solid defensive work, & incomparable handling of the Giants' young-ish Pitching staff.  Accomplishing all of this, while bouncing back from a horrific injury, made his feats even more impressive.

Catcher is the most difficult position on the field, & the NL was blessed with 2 of the finest all-around Catchers in the game - not just for 2012, but for many, many seasons.  In my book, Yadier Molina was the only other real contender for this award.  But, it's hard to overlook a multi-tooled Catcher who also leads the league in hitting.

Thanks, Buster, for your fantastic 2012 season!!!!!  We all hope that you are an SF Giant for a long, long time - perhaps throughout your playing days, until you're ready to take over the reins as Manager from the legendary Ron Wotus in 2027 (or thereabouts)!!!!!

SF Giants pride!!!!!

25 for 16: Super-Subs

Joaquin Arias made a name for himself all season long by filling in for Pablo Sandoval at third base and spelling rookie Brandon Crawford at shortstop. Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference rate his contributions as worth 1.0 WAR. The former Rangers utility man made one of the biggest plays of the year when he completed Matt Cain's perfect game with a long throw from "deep third" (as Kuip called it) to get the ball to first and nail down the final out. B-R lists his closet comp ('similar batters through age 27') as Freddy Sanchez! In the playoffs he had his biggest day in Game Four at Cincinnati, roping two doubles and scoring two runs after a 4th inning double-switch with B-Craw (and Tim Lincecum). He saw action as a pinch-hitter in Game One (9th inning single and run scored), at short at the end of Game Three, and again at short in Game Four of the LCS. Otherwise he was Pablo's final inning defensive replacement at third base (eight games including the final seven). He handled all his chances (four putouts, one assist) flawlessly. The versatile right-hander from Santo Domingo is arb-eligible for the first time. I expect he'll be back in the same role in 2013.

Ryan Theriot carved out a spot for himself in all-time Giants lore by starting what proved to be the winning rally in Game Four of the World Series and scoring the go-ahead and ultimately winning run. His wild, car-wreck slide and ecstatic celebratory howl will forever be etched in our collective memories. The former Cubs shortstop was a 3rd-round pick from LSU but escaped from Chicago in a trade with the Dodgers in 2010 and then struck baseball gold via another trade with the 2011 world champion Cardinals. He signed with the Giants as a free agent this spring and I called him "Freddy Sanchez insurance." Sure enough, he was the everyday second baseman until the arrival of Marco Scutaro. Theriot was 0-2 as a pinch-hitter in the LDS, but worked a walk in Game One of the LCS in the same role. His other big moment was as a replacement in Game Two for Scutaro after the infamous Matt Holliday rolling tackle finally forced Marco to the bench. Ryan drove in two in the 8th with a line-drive single to make it a 7-1 lead and seal the deal for Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants. He had another pinch-hit RBI single in the 8th inning in Game Six as well. His final pinch-hitting opportunity came in Game Two of the Series but Drew Smyly struck him out. In Game Four he was the DH for the only time in his career, and delivered his biggest hit ever in his final at-bat. Phil Coke had struck out the previous seven batters he had faced before that single. The class clown of the Giants clubhouse was now the hero. (Good story by Baggs here.)

--M.C.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

25 for 16: The Rooks

The Giants took a big risk early in the season when they traded away veteran backstop Chris Stewart for a rookie relief pitcher named George Kontos. That left them only Eli Whiteside as the backup to Buster Posey. Unless you were counting 22-year old rookie catcher Hector Sanchez, of course. Sure enough, the youngster from Venezuela managed to do a credible job in his 48 starts behind the dish, and he also found himself on the 25-man playoff roster. It wasn't the best post-season debut (1-11, 2 BB, 7 SO), but it was a bit of necessary seasoning for the kid who had only seen 87 games of big-league action. Hector looks like he has a good arm but is otherwise raw and unpolished back there. You figure that will improve with time and experience. He's a free-swinger (5 walks and 52 strikeouts in 227 PA this season), but did manage 61 hits (15 2B, 3 HR) so he's not useless with the bat. The Giants like guys who can put balls in play and Sanchez' .349 BABIP fits right in with that. Like his fielding, you have to think his hitting will improve. He made the jump from A-ball straight to Fresno where he only played 50 games before getting the call. He made three starts in the post-season, two behind the plate (Game Four win vs. Cincy and Game Four loss vs. St. Louis) and one as a DH (Game Three) in the Series. It will be fun to see how he develops in 2013. Kontos, meanwhile, emerged down the stretch as a strike-throwing stud and eventually replaced Clay Hensely as the first guy out of the 'pen. He also earned his spot on the 25-man roster, striking out 44 in his 43-2/3 IP while allowing 34 hits and 12 walks. His finest moment in the playoffs came in the 6th inning of LDS Game Five in relief of Matt Cain when he got Jay Bruce to ground out weakly on two pitches. He also pitched in Game Four and got a couple of big outs. Otherwise it was mostly mop-up duty (all three losses in the LCS) and the 9th inning of Game One of the Series. That was not pretty--he gave up a two-run HR to Jhonny Peralta--but it was the World Series. Nothing wrong with a little seasoning. Despite being 27, Kontos has only made 51 appearances in the majors. He spent six years in the Yankee farm system before Brian Sabean plucked him from obscurity. Raise your hand if Kontos was on your reliever radar. Yeah, me neither. Like I said about the other rook, it will be fun to watch him next season.

--M.C.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

M. C. O'Connor Turns 53 Today

Yer feckin' awesome, dude.

25 for 16: The LOOGYS

Jose Mijares had his two big LOOGY moments in two big 8-3 wins. The first was Game Four of the LDS in Cincinnati. The Giants were clinging to a 3-2 lead in the 4th with George Kontos pitching in relief of an ineffective Barry Zito. There were two on with one out and Joey Votto coming to the plate. It was the perfect situation for the burly southpaw and he struck out the number three hitter on five pitches. Tim Lincecum came in after that, the Giants broke the game open, and the rest is history. Mijares got another chance to shine in Game One of the World Series when he was summoned to face Prince Fielder leading off the 9th. The Giants were thumping the Tigers 8-1 at that point, so it lacked the urgency of the previous appearance, but it was still the goddamn World Series and, as we've learned, every out counts. Mijares got the big slugger to hit two foul balls and then ground out weakly to third. Mijares also pitched in all three losses in the LCS.

Javier Lopez got his chance in the crucial Game Three of the LDS. The Giants were locked in a 1-1 elimination game duel in the bottom of the 8th after five strong innings from Ryan Vogelsong and two from Jeremy Affeldt. Santiago Casilla put a man on but got two outs. Jay Bruce strode to the plate and in came the slender sidearm-slinger who coaxed a pop fly on one pitch. He got Bruce again, this time in the clincher, Game Five. The Giants used five guys in relief of Matt Cain and kept the Reds at bay for the final 3-1/3 to advance. It took four pitches the second time and the result was a comebacker. Lopez had three appearances in the LCS but did not pitch at all in the Series. He was on the mound in the 9th inning of Game Seven against the Cardinals but could not quite finish the inning and thus missed his chance to be at the bottom of the dog pile. Sergio Romo got the call and induced the memorable last-out pop fly from Matt Holliday that landed, appropriately, in Marco Scutaro's glove.

The Giants believe in bullpen depth. They had three nasty lefties to get big outs and used them all effectively. They are willing to spend money on them, too--Jeremy Affeldt reportedly just signed a three-year deal worth $18M. Lopez is signed for 2013 as well ($4.25M). Mid-season pickup Mijares is arb-eligible for the first time. I expect he'll be back.

--M.C.

Monday, November 12, 2012

25 for 16: MadBum

Madison Bumgarner gave up TEN earned runs in two disastrous playoff starts: an LDS Game Two loss (4-1/3, 7 H, 4 R) to the Reds and an LCS Game One loss (3-2/3, 8 H, 6 R) to the Cardinals. Guys in red hats were tough on the young southpaw, in fact, they were tough on every starter not named Ryan Vogelsong. The Giants only lost five post-season games, two with Matt Cain starting, one with Tim Lincecum starting, and two with the Bumbino on the bump. But the bright lights of the World Series seem to fire up our slow-talking Southern boy--he's yet to yield a run in his two appearances. In 2010, he mesmerized the Texas Rangers for eight innings, and in 2012 he shut down the Detroit Tigers over seven, allowing only two hits and striking out eight. That's 15 frames on The Big Stage, all zeroes, and two big wins. His Game Two start in San Francisco was 0-0 until the Giants "broke it open" against starter Doug Fister and rookie reliever Drew Smyly. Rookie shortstop Brandon Crawford hit a double play grounder with the bases loaded to score Hunter Pence and that was enough. The Giants got the bases loaded again in the 8th and squeaked out another run, and with Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo doing a six-up six down thing on a mere 21 pitches, the Tigers went home in 2-0 hole. You have to figure Detroit manager Jim Leyland relied too much on his young southpaw in those critical situations, especially when he had the very tough and more experienced Phil Coke available. But this post is about Bumgarner and the Giants, who are, deservedly, the 2012 World Series champions. Much was made at the time about Mark Gardner and Dave Righetti "fixing" Maddy's mechanical problems in his side sessions. Those guys are getting quite a reputation as "hurler whisperers" these days, and who can argue with the results? Did I mention that Bumgarner, like Cain, is signed through 2017? No? Well, he is. That is, they both are, and that's pretty fucking awesome.

--M.C.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

25 for 16: The Brandons

The Giants took a chance on two youngsters this season, and to their credit, showed patience and restraint with both of them. The result was a world championship and a couple of emerging stars.

Brandon Belt was not technically a rookie as he racked up over 200 plate appearances in 2011. Despite a decent .718 OPS the gangly lefty nicknamed "Baby Giraffe" failed to inspire the fans' confidence. Moreover, he still had "lost" stretches were he looked like a hopeless rookie. Fortunately the Brian Trust and Ol' Boch had faith in the kid and not only handed him the first base job for 2012 but stuck with him, mostly, for the entire season. He made 106 starts (102 at first base) in his 145 games played. It was a rocky road, with a solid April (.755), iffy May (.650), breakout June (.963 and his first four HR), scary July (.480, 30 K), impressive August (.887, 30 H), and clutch September (.881, 16 RBI). One of the most interesting things about Belt was his home/road split: a .906 OPS (232 PA) at AT&T and .662 (240 PA) everywhere else. In the playoffs, Belt was 1-13 in the LDS with 7 K, and 1-13 in the Series with 7 K. His one hit, though, was a booming triple that drove in Hunter Pence with the first run in Game Four. He sandwiched in a .304/.360/.565 line in the LCS (7-23, 2B, 3B, HR, 6 R, 2 RBI, 1 SB) though, proving he could deliver in the big moments. Four of those hits came in Games Six and Seven when the Giants put the final nails in the Cardinals coffin. The Giants like their first basemen to have range and good hands, and the big-wingspan Giraffe made several impressive grabs throughout the post-season to steal outs, stop hits, and finish infield plays. Belt turns 25 in April and looks, now, to be a mainstay of the Giants infield for many years. I guess the club can develop young hitters after all!

Brandon Crawford wasn't a rookie, either, as he also racked up over 200 plate appearances in 2011. He, alas, could not crack the .600 OPS line. The Giants had certainly seen his spectacular glove work, though, and were willing to risk his nearly non-existent bat (.204/.288/.296) in the lineup every day in order to keep that flashy leather flashing. Like their forbearance with Belt, it also bore fruit. Crawford committed what seemed like an error a week before the All-Star Game, but settled down in the second half and played arguably the best defense in baseball after that. His effortless acrobatics, soft hands, great range, and cannon arm at shortstop were more valuable to this pitching-dominated club than any 30-HR man. His left-handed bat was still a little weak for the bigs, but like his namesake above he saved the best for last with a .288/.351/.409 final month. He had holes in his swing (95 K in 476 PA), no doubt, but also flashed some power (33 XBH) and the ability to spray the ball to all fields. B-Craw dazzled the national audience with his fielding prowess in the playoffs, making a couple of good young NL SS (Zack Cozart and Pete Kozma) look like wannabes, and a solid veteran ALer (Jhonny Peralta) look like an old man. Yeah, he's that good. The future star also had 10 hits in the post-season, along with 7 walks and 7 RBI. His .603 OPS was higher than both Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence!

Here's what I said in April:
The most exciting story--other than the return of Buster Posey--is the emergence of Brandon Crawford. I really hope the Giants are patient with him. If they are really willing to put him in the 8-hole and let him ride out the rough spots I think they will find he will hit better than they expect. We all know his glove will save piles of runs--can't wait to see it everyday!
Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy, and the rest of the staff deserve one hell of a lot of credit for their baseball smarts. They made the right decisions in the off-season and throughout the long 162-game haul. They got the right guys and put them in the right spots. They kept their heads during the crises and showed faith in themselves, their supporting cast, and their team. And they were justly rewarded for it with a second title in three years. Now they have a homegrown infield core the envy of all of baseball to go along with their marvelous pitching staff. I can't wait for next year!

--M.C.

Friday, November 9, 2012

25 for 16: Buster Posey

Buster Posey became the Giants full-time catcher in 2010 and the team went on to claim the world championship. Buster was hurt in 2011, missed most of the season, and the Giants finished in second place. Buster was back on the field and in the lineup full-time in 2012 and the Giants won the World Series. Not much more than that needs to be said about Mr. Posey. That's what you call right there "empirical evidence." The guy is a winner. Oh, and he will likely be the NL MVP, too. I've written before about his remarkable sangfroid, particularly his relaxed ease in front of the microphone. The only other player I can remember being such a natural both between the lines and on camera is Derek Jeter. The Yankee captain always manages to look good in his uniform and to say the right things when the tapes are rolling. Posey has that same quality--he expects to be among the elites of the game and he accepts with good grace his role as leader and spokesman of the club. It's a special combination of talent, hard work, and character. When you look up "intangibles" in the Big Book of Baseball, you'll see a picture of those two lads. By the way, here are the four guys drafted ahead of Gerald Dempsey III: Tim Beckham, Pedro Alvarez, Eric Hosmer, and Brian Matusz. Way to go, Giants!

Buster only had nine hits in his 68 plate appearances, but three of them were homers. The first one was in the 6th inning of Game One of the LDS and it was the first run scored by the Giants in the post-season. The second was an epic, series-clinching blast, a massive grand slam off Mat Latos that crushed the Reds dreams in Game Five. It was one of the signature moments of the entire playoffs. The last one was in the final contest, Game Four in Detroit. The Tigers, down three games to none, finally showed some life when their Triple Crown slugger Miguel Cabrera poked a wind-aided ball over the RF fence to take a 2-1 lead in the 3rd inning. But with one out in the top of the 6th and Marco Scutaro (who else?) on first, Buster smacked an errant changeup from Max Scherzer down the LF line just inside the pole to regain the lead and the momentum. It was as clutch a hit as you will find in the history of the organization, and so typically, totally Posey. Oh, and Matt Cain was the starting pitcher in each one of those games. If Tim Lincecum is The Franchise, then that dynamic duo must be The Pillars of Creation.

It's a great time to be a Giants fan.

--M.C.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

25 for 16: The MVPs

The Giants scored 69 runs in the post-season, an average of 4.31 per game, just a tick below (4.43) their regular-season rate. The team slash line (.236/.298/.375) was pretty unimpressive by comparison (.269/.327/.397), but there are only good teams in the playoffs, and a lot of good pitchers, so it is no surprise that hits and walks and whatnot are suppressed. Two guys, however, seemed to thrive on the higher level of competition and delivered a string of big hits on their way to MVP awards.

Marco Scutaro had 21 of the team's 127 hits and also scored 11 runs. He had a memorable week in the LCS against St. Louis, racking up 14 hits in the seven games on his way to the MVP. (You could have made a case for Ryan Vogelsong, but that's quibbling.) Naturally he came through with the game-winner and World Series-clincher in the 10th inning of Game Four in Detroit. You just knew he was going to get the RBI hit in that situation. Sometimes a player gets on a roll and you can throw all the probabilities out the window and just enjoy the moment. He hit safely in 12 of the 16 games and had, at one point, an 11-game hit streak.

Pablo Sandoval had 24 hits, scored nine runs, and racked up 47 total bases (team: 202) with his five doubles and six homers. He put on a display of fearless power-hitting against the best pitcher in baseball in Game One of the Series that stunned not only the Tigers but the national audience. We have watched The Panda do amazing things and we know what a force he can be at the plate, so I think I can safely say we were not surprised by his history-making game. Thrilled, of course. Overjoyed, naturally. But if you had to pick one guy who had been under-performing in the regular season (most likely a result of the injuries) and was due for a breakout it would have been Sandoval. He had at least one hit in 14 of the 16 games and hit safely in the final ten.

The Giants won the World Series with pitching and fielding. But you still have to have hits and runs to seal the deal, and they got an amazing team-wide contribution from a lot of different players. Two guys stood head and shoulders above the rest, though, and they were the number two and number three hitters in the lineup. If you are going to get offense, get it from the top. Both guys had 70 PA, tied for second place behind Angel Pagan (74) and just ahead of Buster Posey (68) and Hunter Pence (65).

--M.C.

Monday, November 5, 2012

25 for 16: Angel and the Outfield

Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence are the only two Giants to play all 144 innings of the post-season. They started and finished every game, Pagan in center and Pence in right. Gregor Blanco totaled 135-2/3, missing time in the LDS. His spot in the lineup became the pitchers spot in Game Two, Xavier Nady pinch-hit (and struck out twice) for him in Game Three, and a Sergio Romo double switch with Nady took him out at the end of Game Five. But it was all Blanco after that--every inning of the LCS and World Series in left field. The Giants outfield handled a lot of balls. Pagan had 35 chances, Pence 37, and Blanco 36. Those chances were all putouts for Pagan and Pence. Blanco had one memorable assist (the Prince Fielder play at the plate in Game Two of the Series), and one error (a pop fly by Pete Kozma in Game Six of the LCS). The assist was one of those highlights that will never get old, and the error was a bad call by the scorer, who should have ruled it a hit. Nevertheless, the Giants found their post-Melky OF formula in August and it worked all the way through September and October. All three guys made major contributions with the glove and made most of the rest of the outfielders they faced look positively ponderous. None of the three hit particularly well, but all made key contributions with the bat. Pagan saw the most pitches (287) of anyone in the post-season, and scored 10 runs, had 13 hits (3 2B, 3B, HR), and a clutch steal. Pence had 13 hits (2 2B, HR) as well and scored 7 runs, including the first one in each of the last three World Series games. He also had the most scrutinized broken-bat hit ever, and led the team in steals with two. Blanco chipped in 10 runs with 12 hits (2 2B, 2 3B, HR), 7 walks, and one seriously cool bunt. He also scored on Barry Zito's bunt in Game Five of the LCS. Oddly he never stole a base despite being the fastest guy on the team. The Giants were only 5 for 7 in that department, but led all teams with 14 HR, well above their season average. You see, it's all about pitching and defense!

--M.C.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

25 for 16: The Three-headed Late-inning Monster

Most teams are lucky to have a few good pitchers. The 2012 World Series Champions San Francisco Giants had a whole staff full of them. Here are some numbers: 28 IP, 17 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 27 SO. That's closer stuff from three different guys. We all know that sometimes the most important outs in a ballgame are not the three in the 9th inning reserved for "the closer." Sometimes there are big situations in the 7th or 8th inning that are just as important and are often more important than those final three outs. The Giants had three guys who could close on most teams, and those three delivered a string of big outs in the post-season.

Santiago Casilla faced 32 batters in his 11 appearances and struck out eight of them. He gave up only eight hits, the rest were ground outs (8) and fly outs (6). He hit one batter and walked another. He pitched in all five LDS games, giving up the only runs he allowed in the post-season (2) in the 9th inning of the Game One loss. He finished Game Four, getting the final three outs in the 9th after taking over for Tim Lincecum. He also came in to get the last out of the 8th (whiffing Matt Holliday) after Barry Zito's brilliant 7-2/3 in Game Five of the LCS. In Game Two of the World Series, Casilla got the ball after Madison Bumgarner put up seven zeroes and got a quick 1-2-3 with 10 pitches. It was only a 1-0 lead for the Giants at that point, so you have to figure that was a "high leverage" situation. The power-pitching righty got the "W" in the final game by getting the last out in the bottom of the 9th.

Jeremy Affeldt faced 40 batters in his 10 appearances and struck out ten of them. He gave up a mere five hits and did not allow a single run. He pitched the 6th and the 7th in relief of Ryan Vogelsong in the pivotal marathon Game Three of the LDS, pitched in back-to-back games twice in the LCS (Games One/Two and Six/Seven), and struck out four in his crucial 1-2/3 in Game Four of the Series. It was a dominating performance by the big lefty. Remember all the whining about how much the Giants "wasted" on relief pitching that could have been spent signing Carlos Beltran? A guy like Affeldt, who can hammer 94 mph fastballs in on the hands to all hitters and them freeze them with unhittable curveballs is not a "fungible" commodity. The Giants recognized his skill set, paid him handsomely for it, and used it to great effect to win another title.

Sergio Romo faced 37 batters in his 10 appearances and struck out nine of them. Four hits, one walk, and one run were the only damage. He got the final out in Games Two, Three, and Five of the LDS, Games Two, Five, Six, and Seven of the LCS, and Games Two, Three, and Four of the World Series. That's a win and four saves if you are keeping track. The skinny right-hander with the magic pitch and the flashy style put himself squarely on the national radar after an exceptional post-season run. How do you top Brian Wilson? Be Sergio Romo, that's how. His finest performance was of course the three strikeouts to close out Game Four. Those 15 pitches were all about movement and location and the hapless Tigers hitters had no chance. Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera could only watch helplessly as the final strike scooted past him right down the middle in his "hit me" zone. That was as masterful a display of guile as you will see in a big game. Buster Posey noted afterwards that Romo "shook to the fastball," intending to fool the big slugger who was expecting the slider low and away, just like everyone else in America. His final Series line was nine up, nine down, the final nine outs of the final three games. You can't do much better than that!

The 2012 Giants are the World Series Champions. That makes the 2010 championship a hell of a lot less "flukey," wouldn't you say? I'm not sure the national media will ever appreciate what the Giants have done, but I think 8-1 in the Series and 22-9 overall in the playoffs is pretty damn impressive, as well as the list of victims: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Texas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Detroit.

Enjoy this off-season, my friends!

--M.C.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

25 for 16: Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum took the ball six times in the 2010 post-season. Five of them were starts. He took the ball six times in 2012. Five of them were relief appearances. It was a topsy-turvy world for the man they call The Franchise. He had a regular-season to forget, but he remembered he was still The Freak when it mattered most. The Game Two loss at home in the LDS was the low point for everyone. It looked like Cincinnati had taken control and the Giants would soon see their season end. Tim came out of the bullpen to start the top of the 6th with the team down 4-0 and the crowd went nuts. He struck out two and gave up a hit and no runs, facing seven batters to get six outs. It was a good night for Bronson Arroyo who limited the Giant to one hit (they would get one other off reliever Jose Arredondo), so it didn't much impact the game. But it was exciting to see him out there flashing his freakiness. It paid off big time in Game Four when the Giants survived a shaky Barry Zito start and were clinging to a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 4th inning. Tim came in with two out and two on and struck out Ryan Ludwick (who was 6-18 with 3 HR and 5 BB in the five games) to keep the lid on things. He pitched four more innings allowing two hits and a run while fanning six and the Giants broke it open and won 8-3. The Giants not only forced a Game Five they also flashed a new weapon they would employ to great effect the rest of the way. Tim took a turn in the rotation against St. Louis in the LCS in Game Four that got ugly fast (Game Score 38), but righted the ship in the World Series. He worked 2-1/3 in both Game One and Game Three, slamming the door on any possible Tiger comebacks. He faced 16 batters and struck out eight! It was vintage Freak Time.

The Giants are the 2012 World Series Champions. I can't stop saying it over and over again.

--M.C.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Discussion Starter

We all know who was the MVP for the LCS, and who was the MVP for the World Series, but who do you think the MVP for the entire late part of the season including the playoffs was?  Support your argument with memories of just how awesome your pick or picks were.

Meanwhile, I found this whilst browsing the innertubes:

bluedodgerwhiner.com

I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but I was totally annoyed by the San Francisco Giants who won the World Series of Major League baseball recently.I mean, they are a really good team and all, but did they really have to beat our darling Dodgers in the regular season, which ended back at the beginning of October,and then continue to win after that against some other really good teams, including the American League team, the Detroit Tigers? I mean, during the season, we had some good players, Matt Kemp, Clayton and some other guys.Wait, is that Manny guy with the long, fuzzy hair still one our team? He was so, so right. Anyway, the team became owned by new owners including Magic Johnson. He was a professional athlete himself so is really good at sports, which is part of what I don’t understand about not winning the World Series by the Dodgers. Anyway, Mr. Johnson and some other rich guys not only bought the team and the oldest stadium except for some of the really old ones it cost them a couple of billion dollars and they had to clean Frank McCourt’s piss off of the walls, but rich guys can hire people that appear to be illegal to do that. Anyway, they then went out and paid a lot of money, about another billion dollars, I think, for a bunch of base-ball players who are famous, so that is why they cost so much. But then, they were supposed totally win the baseball games against teams like the San Francisco Giants but for some reason they didn’t. Instead they folded like a cheap suit, and I don’t mean the kind that Mr. Johnson would wear. So I just don’t understand because I saw on television all about Mr. Johnson and the Dodgers and it kind of totally meant that we were supposed to win.  We have totally photogenic baseball players because they have to be on TV a lot, so that is another thing.  We don’t have players with hair that is too long or have tattoos or something, at least that you can see.  Well, I guess Manny has long hair.  Anyway, I am pretty sure that the Dodgers should actually win rather than just have another team win.  If we ever win, we have wider streets.  I don’t know about sidewalks. 

25 for 16: Barry Zito

There were a lot of signature moments in the Giants post-season, but if you had to pick one you would not go wrong choosing the bunt single by Barry Zito in Game Five of the NLCS. Not only did Barry-Z pitch a brilliant game, his bunt brought home the final run of the four-run, 4th inning rally that put the Cardinals in a hole they never recovered from. It was a terrific display of athleticism by the much-maligned pitcher and underscored the complete one-through-nine effort that was the hallmark of the 2012 champs. The Giants struck out 12 times in that game yet won convincingly! Zeets also delivered a great start in Game One of the World Series where he was matched up with ├╝ber-ace Justin Verlander. When he stroked his RBI single off the flame-throwing 2011 MVP to make it a 5-0 lead you knew his redemption was complete.

I'm sure Barry Zito would be the first to tell you he did not need redeeming. Fan are fickle--they love you one day and hate you the next. His performance as a Giant has been well below expectations, but I doubt it was from lack of effort. By all accounts Zito has worked hard and tried his best every season to deliver the goods. Baseball is a difficult game that humbles even the most talented performers. I imagine that Barry has reached a place in his life where the process--the preparation and practice--is paramount, and the results secondary. If you do stuff right, things work out. Usually. But sometimes they don't. You can't get too hung up on outcomes in this crazy world because so many things are random and out of your control. He strikes me as someone who knows that and embraces it. You'd have to be that way to deal with the scrutiny and criticism that comes with being a famous, high-dollar ballplayer. I was happy to see him get the results this season and make such a great contribution to the team. The Giants won the last 14 times Zito pitched, and that includes games where he got bombed. Was that mere coincidence? Or does he bring something to the table as a teammate and competitor that we don't get to see? No matter the answers, it worked out great for us. The 2012 Giants are World Series Champions in a large part because no. 75 made some shit happen!

--M.C.