Sunday, October 31, 2010

MadBum buries 'em!

Spooky-good Madison Bumgarner scared up a whole pile of outs and ruined a Hallowe'en party in Texas. The rookie southpaw's great performance was one for the ages: 3 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts, only one runner in scoring position, 21 first-pitch strikes to 27 batters, and a Game Score of 80. All this by a 21-year old who has yet to pitch 200 major-league innings! MadBum got some help from his rookie battery-mate Buster Posey, who threw out Josh Hamilton trying to steal in the 4th and then blasted a ball over the centerfield fence in the 8th for the final nail in the Rangers coffin. DH Aubrey Huff--the best free-agent signing of 2010--got the scoring started with a 2-run bomb down the rightfield line in the 3rd inning, scoring Andres Torres who had doubled. The Giants worked over-matched Tommy Hunter for long counts with lots of foul balls and turned the lineup over twice in the first four frames. Alexi Ogando sliced through the Giants in the 5th but hurt himself after two were out in the 6th. Darren Oliver gave up a run in the 7th on another Torres double (scoring the rejuvenated Edgar Renteria), and Darren O'Day gave up Posey's homer in the 8th. The four runs were more than enough for the brilliant Bumgarner, who showed nerves of steel and the ability to paint the corners in any situation. Brian Wilson got an easy three-out save. The Giants rapped out 8 hits, and despite the error, flashed some damn fine leather once again. A team effort, led by two exceptional rookies, has the Giants one win from glory.

The Rangers aren't done, but they are damn close. They send Cliff Lee out against Tim Lincecum tomorrow. It should be epic.

GO GIANTS!

WIN ONE MORE!

--M.C.

MADISON BUMGARNER - WIN!!! THEN, WIN!!!!

New rule: I don't post line-ups for away games (had to try something different after last night). Just a couple of tidbits: Ishikawa & Schierholtz are both in there; Burrell & Sandoval both out.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rangers ride Lewis' arm, Moreland's bat

Colby Lewis gave up two home runs, just like Jonathan Sanchez. The San Francisco southpaw, however, put two men on in the 2nd inning before giving up his first home run, and that was the difference in the game. The unpredictable lefty got himself in trouble by walking Bengie Molina with two outs. Ninth-place hitter Mitch Moreland, who last year was a Frisco RoughRider (AA, Texas League), then launched a three-run homer to give the Rangers enough for a win. Colby Lewis kept the Giants from stringing together hits, but the Giants have a knack for that regardless of the pitcher. The freakish scoring of the first two games disappeared quickly, and solo shots from the indomitable Cody Ross and the inconsistent Andres Torres were all the Giants could manage off a tough and effective Lewis. Pablo Sandoval struck out and grounded into a double play, and Pat Burrell had four whiffs in four shots. Jonathan Sanchez was certainly a disappointment and was clearly out-pitched by his Texas counterpart. He'll have to do better than that if his turn comes round again. The Giants have played well on the road so far this post-season, and they ought to be confident that they can continue that run tomorrow and Monday. The Giants got beat with their own formula tonight, and they, of anyone, ought to know how effective that formula is!

GO GIANTS!! TWO MORE WINS!!

--M.C.

SANCHEZ, BE FILTHY - WIN!!! WIN!!!!

Line-Ups

Your 2010 National League Champion San Francisco Giants
Torres, CF
F. Sanchez, 2B
Huff, 1B
Posey, C
Burrell, LF
C. Ross, RF
Uribe, 3B
Sandoval, DH
Renteria, SS

+ J. Sanchez, P


Them
Andrus, SS
M. Young, 3B
J. Hamilton, CF
V. Guerrero, DH
N. Cruz, LF
Kinsler, 2B
Francouer, RF
B. Molina, C
M. Moreland, 1B

+ C. Lewis, P

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cain and Giants zero in

Ian Kinsler smoked an 0-2 mistake leading off the 5th into deep center field. Andres Torres turned and hustled back to the warning track in front of the 399-foot sign and watched the ball come down. It hit the top of the fence and caromed right back to him. Torres fired it back to the infield, holding the stunned Kinsler at second base. He clearly was wondering which of the baseball gods he had pissed off. By all rights, that blast should have broken the tie--it was a nail-biting 0-0 pitcher's duel at that point between Cain and Texas lefty C.J. Wilson. It was as close as the Rangers would come to scoring. Cain stranded Kinsler, and in the bottom of the same inning, Edgar Renteria showed the visitors how it was done by hitting a 388-foot bomb down the line in left field to take a 1-0 lead. The Rangers would put two on in the 6th, and Cain would wild pitch the runners to second and third with one out, but blow away the next two guys to keep it one-zip. After a dominating one-two-three 7th, Cody Ross and Juan Uribe would team up for a second Giants run and suddenly Texas, with six outs remaining, was staring into an 0-2 hole. Cain came out for the 8th to face the 9-spot and the leadoff hitters, with Josh Hamilton looming. With Javier Lopez warming up in the bullpen, you knew he'd be called on if the lefty slugger got a chance to hit. Cain walked Elvis Andrus with one out, and Buster Posey just missed throwing him out on a steal, the ball bouncing off Renteria's glove. After Michael Young flied out, Ol' Boch came out to get his big righty. I'll admit the testosterone side of me wanted Matt to go after Hamilton and finish the inning. But the safe, conservative move was the right one, and Lopez made short work of the threat. It was a 2-0 Giants game, a page right out of the "pitch like hell and hope for the best" playbook, exactly the kind of thing everyone was expecting from the squad in orange and black.

Then all the weird shit happened. The Giants scored SEVEN runs after two were out in the 8th. The Texas bullpen had an epic meltdown, walking in two runs and then giving up a single, a triple, and a double to make it a 9-0 game. It's hardly comprehensible, even as I sit here and re-imagine it. I'm not capable of describing it accurately. It was both the weirdest and the most wonderful inning in Giants history. A taut, tight, dramatic game ended as a laugher after an excruciating display of poor pitching and probably worse managing. It was so bad that the Giants were able to use last man Guillermo Mota to finish the game, and he did so with relaxed ease.

The Giants find themselves up 2-0 in the World Series after once again demonstrating remarkable poise and patience at the plate, flashing some absolutely stellar leather, and pounding the strike zone with nasty shit batter after batter, inning after inning. Matt Cain stepped up and delivered another string of zeroes, continuing his remarkable post-season run. For all the craziness tonight, and all the contributions from the lineup and the bench guys, it all started with Cain retiring the first seven guys he saw and 12 of his first 13. It was a huge performance and a well-deserved win for the man who rarely gets the run support he should. The Texas Rangers had only been shut out five times in the regular season, and were 14-4 in inter-league play. I hope they enjoyed their trip to San Francisco.

GO GIANTS! WIN!! WIN!!

--M.C.



UPDATE (0707 Friday): Take a look at Baseball Musings. David Pinto does a nice graphic look at Matt's pitch locations. He says the pitch to Kinsler was a good one, it was just a case of a good hitter getting a good rip in. OK, I'll buy it. It looked like it caught too much of the plate when I saw it live, but that happened in the blink of an eye (and I'm not known for my eyesight!). I also think that when my boy Matty gives up a bomb it's because he missed his spot and not because the other guy is good. Great visuals and a fun way to bask in Cain's awesomeness.

UPDATE (1128 Saturday): Speaking of basking in Matt Cain's awesomeness, Peter Gammons has this to say about our guy:
But in many ways the face of this series is Matt Cain. He has no pretense of having an "it" factor. In the last two years, he's 27-19 with a 3.02 ERA and the lowest run support on his staff. He's thrown 441 innings in those two seasons, hasn't missed a start, has failed to finish the fifth inning three times and finished the eighth and/or the ninth 26 times.
He has thrown 21 1/3 innings in three starts in this postseason against the Braves, Phillies and Rangers and has not allowed an earned run. He has allowed one hit in 15 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

BIG GAME MATT CAIN - WIN!!, THEN WIN!!! THEN, WIN!!!!


LINE-UPS

Them
Andrus, SS
M. Young, 3B
J. Hamilton, CF
N. Cruz, RF
Kinsler, 2B
D. Murphy, LF
Treanor, C
M. Moreland, 1B
C. Wilson, P

Your 2010 National League Champion San Francisco Giants
Torres, CF
F. Sanchez, 2B
Posey, C
Burrell, LF
C. Ross, RF
Huff, 1B
Uribe, 3B
Renteria, SS
Cain, P

SPORTING THE ORANGE & BLACK

My Sister is making the claim that her relatively new dog, Rozie, is truly 'in uniform' & worthy of special status in Giant-fandom. She apparently has been known to use an SF Giants leash (obtained at the Dog Days of Summer). What do you all think?


She even creates the illusion of a beard, although I'll have to tell her that the colors are reversed. Wait a minute ... maybe, next season Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, & the others will go with the orange beard.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Good Enough Tim


OK, I finally get it...and I'm probably the last one. The 2010 Giants team is not just about Tim Lincecum. This is a complete team; an entity that is clearly greater than any of its parts. Even my favorite part, The Freak. Never has that been clearer than in tonight's stunning dismantling of Cliff Lee and the Rangers, 11-7 in Game #1 of the frigging World Series.


Don't get me wrong, Tim played a big part in the victory. After all, he got the win! But the best thing Tim did was not implode like Lee did. It sure looked like he was going to in the first couple innings (what was he thinking on that rundown?) but each time he limited the damage. Tim seemed to gather himself when we got the lead and got two impressive outs to start the sixth. That was it. Seventeen outs. Ninety-three pitches. An ugly game score (38), a mediocre line score:

5.2 innings 8 hits 4 runs 2 walks 3 strikeouts

But a beautiful win!


Tim is not what will be remembered about our first victory of the 2010 World Series. This game was littered with action. Every Giant that entered the game seemed to make a noteworthy contribution. It wasn't always a gorgeous game - plenty of blunders, some shaky relief at the end - but it reminded me of an all-you-can-eat-buffet. Pleasure after pleasure; almost a sensory overload. When it is really good you can't always recall what you had on your first plate. Did Torres and Sanchez actually club those consectutive doubles? Did Rental really make a spinning spectacular putout? Did Huff actually save that error with his dive and jump up to tag the silly runner? The list goes on and on. Did I really eat all that?


Help me remember...what was your favorite detail of that miraculous event that we all just witnessed?

IT'S ON! WIN! WIN!! WIN!!! WIN!!!!

LINE-UPS

Them
Andrus, SS
M. Young, 3B
J. Hamilton, CF
V. Guerrero, RF
N. Cruz, LF
Kinsler, 2B
B. Molina, C
M. Moreland, 1B
Cl. Lee, P

Your 2010 National League Champion San Francisco Giants
Torres, CF
F. Sanchez, 2B
Posey, C
Burrell, LF
C. Ross, RF
Huff, 1B
Uribe, 3B
Renteria, SS
Lincecum, P

Go Giants!

Go Giants: Win! Win! Win! Win!

Four more wins for glory, me buckos, four more wins. Can the lads pull it off? Why, of course they can. They've won 7 of their last 10 games against two tough playoff clubs. They've played great baseball and I see no reason why they can't continue to do so. It's a crazy world where a grueling, six month war of attrition is settled in a week of frenetic, knockout play. We all know anything can happen. We all know that the baseball gods are petty, peevish, and cruel. Too much of what happens is up to them, frankly, and that's awfully hard to take. But I'm confident about the Giants. This team has been loose and relaxed, playing without nerves or fear. I like that. I think we all agree that the San Francisco championship drought has gone on long enough. It's time to strap it on and win four more games and bring home the Commissioner's Trophy.


GO GIANTS!

WIN! WIN! WIN! WIN!

--M.C.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The F.O.

My 2003 Media Guide includes several prominent members of the Front Office that were there then and remain part of the organization today. Brian Sabean (GM since 1996) now reports to Bill Neukom instead of Peter Magowan, but is still at the reins. Magowan is still a Principal Partner. Team President Larry Baer is a San Franciscan (and a Cal grad)--he started with club in 1980 as Marketing Director! He returned in 1992 as part of the new ownership group. San Francisco native Dick Tidrow (1994) is still the Vice President in charge of Player Personnel. Bobby Evans--now head of Baseball Operations--also came on board in 1994 as a minor-league assistant. Modesto product and San Francisco State grad Matt Nerland has been with the club since 1991 and was Director of Scouting from 1996-2008. He's now a Special Assistant. Jim Davenport and Felipe Alou are not only original 1958 Giants, they are both ex-managers. Davenport played his entire 13-year career in San Francisco. Both are Special Assistants. Davenport's old teammate Jack Hiatt is a Senior Consultant and former Director of Player Development. Joe Lefebvre, with the club since 1996, swapped his uniform for a Senior Advisor job. His high school teammate was Brian Sabean.

Fred Stanley (Director of Player Development) is in his 9th year with the team. Scouting guru John Barr is one of the newest members of the team (only his 2nd year). Since he is credited with the Posey draft, he gets a nod, eh? The Giants won the pennant because they assembled all the right pieces via drafts and trades. This crew deserves some credit for that. Thanks, guys. You did a hell of a job.

--M.C.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Drafting a championship

Californians are partial to homegrown, and the San Francisco Giants are no exception. Local boy (San Jose) Dave Righetti is the first link in our chain as he took over duties as pitching coach just prior to the 2000 season. In 2002, the Giants drafted 17-year old Matt Cain in the 1st round and sent him to Arizona. Fresno product and former Giants pitcher Mark Gardner made his coaching debut--working the same bullpen job he has now--in 2003. That same year, Brian Wilson was picked in the 24th round. Jonathan Sanchez was taken in the 27th round in 2004. In 2005 Sergio Romo was taken in the 28th round. In 2006 Tim Lincecum was the 10th overall pick. Ditto for Madison Bumgarner in 2007. The über-battery was completed in 2008 with the 5th overall pick, catcher Buster Posey. Travis Ishikawa (21st round, 2002) and Nate Schierholtz (2nd round, 2003) were also Giants draft picks.

Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jonathan Sanchez, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Nate Schierholtz, and Travis Ishikawa. That's quite a haul. Throw in the 2003 amateur free agent signing of a 17-year old from Venezuela (Pablo Sandoval), and there's the homegrown nucleus of a championship club. John Bowker, drafted in the 3rd round in 2004, was traded with 2005 12th round pick Joe Martinez for the invaluable Javier Lopez. Freddy Sanchez was acquired by trading 2007 1st rounder (no. 22 overall) Tim Alderson. Righty Daniel Turpen was drafted in the 8th round that same year, he was traded for Ramon Ramirez. The 9th round of the 2009 draft brought OF Evan Crawford, he was traded for Mike Fontenot. It should also be noted that Buster Posey's coach in Fresno--Steve Decker--was drafted by the Giants in the 21st round in 1988.

Andres Torres, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Aubrey Huff, Eli Whiteside, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Guillermo Mota were all signed as free agents. NLCS MVP Cody Ross was claimed off waivers. That's the 25 guys on the post-season roster.

I want to work something up on the Front Office and the behind-the-scenes types, perhaps tomorrow. Today the baseball gods command you to bask in the glory of the National League Pennant. By the way, that line-out double-play in the 8th (Wilson to Ruiz to Huff to Renteria) ought to convince you that such gods exist. Gracious me, but the Giants are the Champions of the National League.

Fuck Yeah!!!

--M.C.

One Out Tim

Both my lovely wife and scrawny co-blogger had the same thing to say to me after last night's glory : "Tim pitched, so that means you have to post!" Strange, but true. So here goes...

In a move that I disagreed with, Mastermind Bruce Bochy used Tim Lincecum as the set-up man in the eighth inning of NLCS Game #6. I have a pet peeve with managers doing weird things in the post-season. These types of moves smack of desperation and knock players out of the routines that the sport demands. It makes great news and allows them to feel involved, but, the bottom line is they don't often work. In this case, Tim got the twenty second out of this huge game by striking out the amazing Jayson Werth on a change up way out of the zone. Unfortunately, Shane Victorino fought off not one, but two beautiful pitches, before singling. That seemed to deflate Tim as his last pitch was very fat and resulted in an Ibanez single. End of set-up man experiment. Results?
0.1 innings 2 hits 0 runs 0 walks 1 strikeout HIS FIRST EVER HOLD!!!
Timmeh threw all sixteen pitches from the stretch; maybe it made him feel like a reliever. But he clearly isn't and he shouldn't have been used that way until absolutely needed (i.e. Game #7). His velocity was low and his command was not inspiring. We had a chance to re-establish Romo (or Castilla!) in a non-elimination situation and that is what I would have done. Maybe Wilson for both innings, but not Tim. Oh well, I guess it worked...kind of...
Time for pre World Series analysis (what a beautiful phrase!). Let's get right to the question at the heart of this post.

So, what do we do next time?? Who is the setup man?
P.S. Remember Tim's only other relief appearance? If you don't, shame on you! Check it out.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!

This team has no history--it's homegrown youngsters, cast-offs, and bits & pieces from all over baseball. They did not feel the weight of Giants post-season failures, because they have no connection to them. Matt Cain was drafted in 2002, and he's the longest-tenured of the orange & black. The Giants defied history and beat the defending champs in Philadelphia to book their place in the World Series.

--M.C.

Southpaw's early night

Jonathan Sanchez, from the start, couldn't find the strike zone and fell behind 2-0 in the 1st inning. The lads clawed their way back to a 2-2 tie in the top of the 3rd (which included a hit and a run scored from JSanchez), but the young lefty couldn't keep the Phillies down. Ultimately he lost his cool in the 3rd inning after the HBP-tossback tête-à-tête with Chase Utley. Bruce Bochy really had no choice after the "dugout-emptying incident" and went to Jeremy Affeldt. Ryan Howard promptly struck out. Jayson Werth followed with a routine fly out to Cody Ross in right, and Shane Victorino grounded out to Aubrey Huff at first, preserving the tie.

The Giants need zeroes from the bullpen. And they will need some clutch hits.

--M.C.

UPDATE: Giants waste a great opportunity in the 5th--Oswalt gets both Huff and Posey with two on to keep it 2-2. MadBum takes the hill and gives up a hit to Rollins.

UPDATE: The intentional walk to Werth to load the bases works as Victorino grounds out to end the inning. Bullet dodged.

UPDATE: Giants blow another great scoring chance. Oswalt gets the double play.

UPDATE: MadBum survives the leadoff double, combining with Affeldt for four scoreless. Oswalt is out of the game. Time for the Giants to get it going and get a goddamn clutch hit.

UPDATE: Madson is again the Giants nemesis. Still 2-2 in the middle of the 7th.

UPDATE: Lopez is unhittable again. Giants need to score.

UPDATE: Finally finally finally finally finally the Giants get THE BIG HIT they've been desperately needing!!! Juan Uribe goes deep off Madson to make it 3-2 San Francisco.

UPDATE: In a bold move, Bochy goes to Tim Lincecum in the 8th. He gets a strikeout but puts two on. Bochy goes to Wilson. I can't argue with the Lincecum move--I'd have done the same thing. It didn't quite work, but I'd rather have Tim than Romo, Ramirez, or Casilla in that spot.

UPDATE: Holy shit! Wilson gives up a line drive to Carlos Ruiz but it's RIGHT AT Aubrey Huff and they turn two. Giants are three outs from the World Series.

UPDATE: Bottom of the 9th. Start the TortureClock™.

THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!
THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT!

Sanchez can end it today

Here's Boch on the matchup:
But I like the way my team has handled everything thrown at them and they'll go out there and give it their all. And that's all you can ask.
I like the Giants chances. Two games to win one? I'll take it. Sure, it would have been nice if Big Time Timmy Jim could have ended it at home on Thursday, but it didn't happen. The Phils are a good club and they won the game. But "I'm a believer in Giants Fever" so I say the boys in black & orange are going to get it done this weekend and open the World Series in San Francisco on Wednesday.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Friday, October 22, 2010

1987- HacMan


The '87 NLCS between the Giants and the Cardinals became the Jeffrey Leonard show.
From Wikipedia:
During the seven game-long series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Leonard had five runs, ten hits, four home runs, five runs batted in, a batting average of .417, and a slugging percentage of .917. For his performance, Leonard was awarded the 1987 NLCS Most Valuable Player Award.
This spectacular offensive performance was all the more exciting due to his cool arrogant "One Flap Down" home run trot, as he circled the bases with an arm hanging straight down at his side.

1987- The Thrill


In April of '86 one of the greatest Giants ever made his debut and famously homered off Nolan Ryan in his first AB.
William Nuschler Clark, from Mississippi State University, was the best first basemen in the NL for many years, and was largely responsible for the team's success in '87 and again in '89.
Clark hit a career-best 35 homers in '87 to go with 91 RBI and a .307 average.
In most fans minds Clark will forever be paired with second baseman Robby Thompson, who made his ML debut at the same time as Clark, and was an outstanding contributor to some good Giants teams.

1987-Humm Baby


Between 1971 and 1987 the Giants were a mostly bad team, with records over .500 only 4 times and of course never qualifying for post-season play.
The era was notable for Bob Lurie's purchase of the team in '76, saving it from being moved to Toronto, and the hiring of Frank Robinson in '81 to be the first black NL manager. Fans could only settle for random feel-good moments, such as Joe Morgan's last game homer against LA in '82, and no-hitters by Halicki in '75 and Montefusco in '76.
This was the era in which all the primary contributors to this blog became hardcore Candlestick bleacher bums.
The team bottomed out in the mid 80s, going 66-96 in '84 then 62-100 in '85.
Then Al Rosen was hired as general manager, followed by Roger Craig being named as manager.
From Wikipedia:

From 1986 to 1992, Craig was the manager of the San Francisco Giants. In Craig's first five full seasons with the Giants 1986–1990, they never finished with a losing record. Prior to coming to San Francisco, Craig served as a pitching coach for the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers and as manager of the San Diego Padres (the Tigers' opponent in the 1984 World Series) from 19781979. From 19691984, he had become one of the better-known pitching coaches in Major League Baseball, working for the Padres (19691972; 19761978), Houston Astros (19741975) and Tigers (19801984), with a knack for teaching the split-finger fastball to his charges.

Under Craig (who along the way, instilled the unique motto and rallying cry "Humm Baby", the Giants won the National League Western Division title in 1987. The original term of "Humm Baby" was given to the roster's third catcher for the 1986 season, Brad Gulden, who was on his way out of baseball but he managed to squeeze onto the roster for the 1986 season. Craig felt that Gulden didn't really have the talent but he had the heart so he called him the "Humm Baby"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Befouled Tim

Tim Lincecum pitched well enough to win tonight, if....wait for it....everything else went perfectly. Yeah well, that sure didn't happen. Shit happened; Tim and the Giants lost 4-2 and the NLCS is going back to Philly.

First Tim; then the shit. Tim threw 6 freakishly good innings and one nightmare frame. His overall numbers are quite solid and out pace Halladay (game scores: Freak 65 Doc 55)...umm, except for the "W."
7 innings 4 hits (all singles) 2 earned runs 1 walk 7 strike outs
His changeup (which everybody will be calling a split finger next year) seemed especially wicked and Tim used it well. Ask Ryan Howard; he struck out three times and saw almost all "change/splits." Tim really only threw a couple bad pitches: a worthless slider? that hit Ruiz and a very hittable fastball to Polanco that he drilled for an RBI single (the game winner as it turned out). Needless to say, both were in the Inning From Hell, the third. Which bring us to the shit...

After a bloop hit by Ibanez and the Ruiz HBP, things started to get ugly. In the box score summary it says, " R Halladay sacrificed to catcher, R Ibanez to third, C Ruiz to second. " Doesn't really do it justice does it? Hard to believe the ump blew such a easy call, but the painful part was watching the graceless Sandoval flail helplessly for the bag. Damn, that should have been a double play...good hustle by Ibanez, but the Panda's lack of mobility really cost us there. I'm pretty sure it was my screaming at the television from 400 hundred miles away that got him off his butt to throw out the befuddled Halladay. Just a good old fashioned 2-5-3 sacrifice bunt. A three run rally sparked by a foul ball. Shit. Then, the Big Shit: Aubrey Huff's horrendous error that brought both runners in and moved the hitter to second (which was huge as it turned out). It seems quite possible that Huff had a play at the plate if he handled the hot smash cleanly. Sigh, that is a play that I wish I had seen. Oh well, maybe we will never have to think of that third inning again. Like when we lock it up this weekend. Oh please, don't let me ever think of that third inning again.

I suppose you think I'm going to mention all the failed scoring opportunities (they started in the first!) as part of my "shit list." Hell no. That ain't shit, that's how we roll. If you aren't used to it by now, I doubt you will be in the couple weeks we have left.

What Do We Call It - The NeuCain 'Do or the BillMatt 'Fro?













Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Greatest Giants Game Ever



OK, maybe not ever, but damn close. I'm exhausted and exhilarated by this extraordinary game, an epic 6-5 slugfest that featured seven doubles but no home runs. Where 11 pitchers gave up 11 runs. Where the Giants scored in five different innings. Where Pablo Sandoval had the biggest hit of his life and then hit into a double play on his very next at-bat. Where Juan Uribe bested Roy Oswalt with a gutty, gritty, gigantic walk-off winner.

And where Buster Posey had a game for the ages, seizing his own page out of the Big Book of Giants Lore with a 4-hit, 2-RBI night and a highlight-reel play at the plate to save a run.

Charlie Manuel said after the game: "They found a way." Yes they did. The Giants found a way to win. MadBum looked good early, striking out 6 of the first 12 batters he faced, but ran into a Phillies buzz saw in the 5th. Santiago Casilla made it worse, and the Giants found themselves down by two runs, a seemingly impossible task. They clawed back with a run from Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres in the bottom of the inning, and got another shot in the 6th with a leadoff walk from Pat the Bat. Cody Ross plunked a ball over third base that he turned into a double with some heads-up baserunning, and that set the stage for the Panda's heroics. He stroked a ball down the right-field line that was probably fair, but called foul, and looked for all the world like he'd whiff in short order. Instead he blasted a high fastball from Chad Durbin into left-center and the Giants had the lead back. Naturally, the home squad failed to score another run. Sandoval on 2nd, no outs, zip. Next inning? Bases loaded, one out, zip. I was beside myself with anguish--I knew, I just knew that the Giants would pay for those lapses, and they did. Jayson Werth drove in Ryan Howard (a big run off Lopez-Romo) to tie it up in the 8th and crank the TortureKnob™ to 11. Fortunately the local lads didn't panic. They knew they could win a Battle of the Bullpens. With Bochy wisely going to his big stud Brian Wilson in the 9th, the Phils countered with Game Two star Roy Oswalt. It's not that it was a bad move--the Phils have some issues with their relief corps and needed a stud. But Aubrey Huff spoiled things with a single to right with one out. Up came Posey, the young superstar who turned the season around for the Giants, and he delivered a memorable at-bat and a huge hit to put the winning run at third base. Juan Uribe, oozing veteran savvy clutchness, somehow roped a low, outside, off-speed pitch deep into left field for the game-winning sacrifice fly, and the magic that's been inside all season long spilled all over Mays Field. Huff crossed the plate to a wild celebration, and the Giants had a victory, a remarkable, improbable victory that puts them one win from the World Series.

Tomorrow the Giants send out their best with a chance to win the pennant at home. The Freak. The Franchise. Big Time Timmy Jim. This is it. The lads have shown the champs that they can hang with them.

Now they have to show the champs they can beat them.

Get it done! GO GIANTS!!

--M.C.


Chart from FanGraphs.

GAME 4 - SO MANY THINGS TO CELEBRATE!!!!

Wow - this is getting serious. And, how many hopeful signs? Buster with 4 hits. Huff with a few, too. Key walks. Panda explodes back on the scene with 2 tough AB's (yes, even the DP at-bat included some gritty foul-offs). Uribe fighting off pain, an apparent HBP, & Roy Oswalt. Wilson not even giving them a whiff in the top of the 9th. We need one more win to move on - who would have predicted this a few months ago??? Yes!!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cain leads the way

Matt Cain was outstanding this afternoon in San Francisco, keeping the defending champs off the board for seven innings. He only allowed two hits, seeming to prefer to walk (3) or plunk (2) guys rather than make a mistake over the plate. Matt consistently got the big outs--Chase Utley in the 3rd with two on and two out, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez in the 4th with two on, Utley again in the 5th with Shane Victorino at 2nd and two outs, and Victorino himself with two on and two out in the 7th. The last encounter was particularly dramatic as Bruce Bochy had jogged out for a visit after the walk to pinch-hitter Gload. Cain said Ol' Boch asked how he was doing and he replied "I'm good." Ol' Boch jogged back and Victorino grounded harmlessly to Freddy Sanchez. It was a dominating performance, particularly against that lineup. Cain worked hard as it took 119 pitches to get those 21 outs. I was really impressed by his confidence and concentration. He seemed to be able to make the pitches he wanted to all day long, regardless of the count and situation, and the Phillie hitters never got anything going. Rollins was caught on the Fox broadcast's 'Sounds of the Game' talking to the 1st base coach about the deceptive movement in Cain's fastball, saying that even though it was "right over the plate" he couldn't pick it up. Bobby Valentine (on ESPN) was raving about Cain's change-up, saying he thinks it's a new pitch he developed late in the season. Whatever it was, it was part of a devastating repertoire that kept the hitters off balance. Matt got the first batter of every inning he pitched: Victorino, Howard, Ibanez, Polanco, Ruiz, Polanco, Rollins.

Cole Hamels was perfect through three innings, but Edgar Renteria, leading off in a juggled lineup, singled to open the 4th and came home on a two-out single by none other than Mr. Mid-October Cody Ross. Aubrey Huff followed that with a single to right that beat the shift and Utley's reach. Utley allowed another run on a ball hit by Freddy Sanchez in the 5th that came up short on him. It drove in Aaron Rowand, subbing in center for the struggling Andres Torres, who'd led off with a double. The bench guys came through big time against the very tough Hamels. You have to hand it to Ol' Boch, he pulled the right strings today.

Javier Lopez pitched an overpowering 8th, obliterating Utley, Polanco, and Howard on only nine pitches. Brian Wilson got a double-play grounder to seal the deal in the 9th and put the Giants up two games to one. A tremendous start by Matt Cain, a gritty effort by the batsmen, and a clean slate for the fielders added up to a huge, huge win.

Let's keep it rolling! GO GIANTS!!

--M.C.

(Must click)

GAME 3 - YES! YES! YES!!!!!

My all-day meeting, scheduled for today, was postponed yesterday. So, I took the afternoon off, met Susana for lunch, & watched the glorious victory at home, from beginning to end!!! Lot's more to say, but I'll wait to respond to Mark's recap. Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oswalt overwhelms Giants

Roy Oswalt didn't really need the sloppy play and the bullpen meltdown by the Giants. He did just fine all by himself, limiting the Giants to their daily Cody Ross homer and not much else. He even got a hit and scored an "insurance" run in the 7th, starting the rally that ultimately blew the game open. Jonathan Sanchez walked in a run in the 1st and ran up an ugly pitch count, but limited the damage and kept the score close through six, getting seven strikeouts in the process. I was surprised he came out for the 7th even though it was the pitcher's spot--he'd done his job and probably should have turned the ball over to Ramon Ramirez or Santiago Casilla at that point. Shane Victorino was on deck, and he'd roped a double last time up, so I expected Sanchez would be pulled anyway. It all went to shit as both Ramirez and Casilla gave up run-scoring hits, with Jimmy Rollins delivering the two-out coup de grâce that put the game out of reach. You hope your bullpen can keep a one-run game a one-run game, thus giving you at least chance that a lucky break, a bad play, or a solo jack can tie it up, but the normally stalwart relief corps didn't get it done. I'm not sure it would have mattered the way Oswalt was pitching. According to the win probability chart, the Giants has their best chance in the 5th when Mike Fontenot drew a walk after Ross' one-out homer had tied the game. Edgar Renteria lined out to short for the second out and Oswalt whiffed Sanchez to end it. Sanchez then gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning, and the Phils never looked back.

If you had asked me on Friday if I would have been happy with a split over the weekend I would have given you a resounding "yes." Tonight's loss was deflating, though, as the team looked over-matched. It started out "no fun" and finished "no fun." And I don't like seeing stone-cold guys like Rollins getting their stroke back. Fortunately everyone gets a day off tomorrow and things resume in San Francisco on Tuesday. Work will likely cause me to miss most of Matt Cain's start as it is a day game. Let's hope he brings his good stuff and the bats wake up enough to help him out.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Intensely Tim

"It was intense"
That was Tim Lincecum's post game description of Brian Wilson's four out save (all by strikeout!) but I think it pretty well covers the entire experience; a 4-3 victory over the Phillies in Game #1 of the 2010 NLCS. Obviously without his best stuff, Timmeh out "aced" Roy Halladay in what distinctly fell short of a classic pitcher's duel. The numbers (game score 58)pale in comparison to last week's but the victory is just as sweet and even bigger. Fuckin' huge. Pardon my French.
7 innings 6 hits 3 runs 3 walks 8 strikeouts
Not to say there wasn't some hardcore Freak action on display. Ryan Howard, coming in with great numbers against Tim, was humbled several times. Shane Victorino, a royal pain in the Giants collective ass, was forced into a couple swings that would have made his T-ball coach cringe. Somehow Lincecum overcame a pesky umpire and the complete lack of a curveball to get the key out. His performance oozed intensity every at bat...probably because he started most batters with 2 balls and no strikes. It was scary at times, thrilling at others, and a boatload of fun the WHOLE TIME! (That's the thing about intensity...it's easy to forget to have fun. I don't think Tim has any problem in that regard.)

Somebody else who was obviously having fun was Cody Ross. What a great way to get an entire fan base to adore you. I'm pretty sure that I'm changing my dog's name to Cody. Not sure how the wife is going to like that. Oh well, it's all OK because

WE BEAT THE PHILS !!! THREE MORE WINS TO GO !!!

Zo Bounces Back!

Long surgery successful - Zo shows VSC & grit!

Friday, October 15, 2010

1971- The First Playoff


The Giants met the Pirates in 1971 in their first ever NLCS. It was just best 3 out of 5 then. The Giants took the first game 5-4 but the Pirates won the next three 9-4, 2-1 and 9-5, then went on to beat the Orioles in the World Series. The Pirates' stars were Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell. The Giants had a roster full of future hall of famers; Mays, McCovey, Marichal and Perry, as well as many other fine players such as Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman, Chris Speier and Tito Fuentes.
I was there at Candlestick for game two, Sunday, October 3rd, and got to see fucking Bob Robertson hit three homers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yes We Can

No one expects the Giants to beat the Phillies. Take a look at ESPN's NLCS page and scroll down to "Expert Picks." Nary a one of those scribes inked the Giants to win. The bookmakers like Philadelphia, too. If you want to make money betting on the Phillies, you'll have to wager $260 to get a $100 payout. And if you put $100 on the Giants, you'd get $200 if they win. Here's what most of the analysis sounds like (from Pat Lackey at MLB Fanhouse ):
I think that their excellent pitching and a unique home field get the Giants one more win than the Dodgers got in either of the last two seasons, but I'm not going to believe an NL team can take the Phillies out until I see it. PHILLIES IN SIX.
The Phils are the champs and they remain the champs until someone delivers the KO. Philadelphia's core from their 2008 World Series win is mostly intact, a mix of stars and solid players: 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, SS Jimmy Rollins, CF Shane Victorino, RF Jayson Werth, C Carlos Ruiz, lefty Cole Hamels, righty Joe Blanton, and closer Brad Lidge. The 2009 NL champs replaced LF Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez and the 2010 team replaced 3B Pedro Feliz with Placido Polanco. The 2009 club featured the indomitable Cliff Lee but it wasn't enough to overcome the Yankees in the Series as Hamels and the aging Pedro Martinez were ineffective. This year the Phils swapped out Roy Halladay for Lee and grabbed Roy Oswalt to bolster the rotation. There seems to be a consensus that this is the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball.

Hey, sure, it's a good one. No argument. But the best? Giants pitchers gave up 50 runs in September. That's 26 games, my friends. FIFTY runs. That's ridiculous. At what point do you say one team has a better rotation than another team? The Phils were 21-6 in September, scoring a whopping 142 runs and giving up 94. Now 94 is damn good. Most teams would love to give up only 3.48 rpg. But 94 ain't as good as 50. It just ain't. So forgive me if I call "bullshit" and say the San Francisco Giants have the best starting pitching in baseball. I'll take the Giants 1-2-3 as at the very least even against them and our 1-2-3-4 is superior. Throw in the better bullpen and you are talking about the best staff in the majors.

The problem with the Giants, as we all know, is their lack of offensive firepower. They hit a lot of homers, especially late in the year, but they just don't put enough guys on base and don't sustain rallies, hitting into an average of one double play per game. The Phils are known for offense and they thrive in their bandbox park. So, how does a one-armed fighter win a match against a guy throwing combinations? For starters, you never let him land a punch. If the Giants want to win, they have to avoid mistakes. They have to make their pitches and field their positions. They absolutely cannot give away runs. The longer the games go without scoring, the longer the series goes toward seven games, the more the odds will swing in the Giants favor. The Giants win this series by a long, slow, attritional grind. They can't slug it out, especially on the road. They have to wait for their opportunities and they have to seize them with the grace and sangfroid of a cat burglar.

The Giants have no expectations. The Phillies are thinking "dynasty." The pressure is all on them. If we get to Game Four and it's 2-2, all the pundits will be talking about will be Philadelphia's failures and Philadelphia's problems. No one will notice the Giants. Hey--this is a 92 win club. A division champion, not some AAA team. The rest of baseball seems to think it doesn't matter who plays the NLCS, the Phils will win. And that's exactly how to beat the mighty Phillies--play baseball. Encapsulate the game--one pitch, one at-bat, one out, one inning at a time. Be relaxed and don't play tight, nervous, "oh-my-god-they're-so-good" baseball. They have the weight of being the favorites. The Giants can relish the underdog role. The tortoise beat the hare after all, and David beat Goliath. Remember that. And if anyone asks you if the Giants can beat the Phils you say:

"YES WE CAN."

--M.C.

Monday, October 11, 2010

All aboard the Torture Train!

Next stop: Philadelphia!

The Giants punched their tickets to the City of Brotherly Love with a 3-2 win over the Braves in Atlanta. Madison Bumgarner is the first story--six impressive pressure-packed innings by the rookie southpaw, giving up only two runs, both off the bat of the outstanding Brian McCann. The next is mid-season acquisition Cody Ross, a 29-year old journeyman outfielder with his fifth club in seven seasons, who roped not only the game-tying homer off Derek Lowe (to break up the no-hit shutout in the 6th), but also the go-ahead single in the very next inning. The final story is the bullpen trio of Santiago Casilla (1-2/3, 1 hit, 2 K, no runs), Javier Lopez (4-pitch whiff of Jason Heyward), and Brian Wilson (9th inning save--an agonizing, tortuous save, but still a save). They got the outs they had to get. Casilla was particularly impressive, working in two innings and throwing 23 nasty-looking pitches (17 strikes) to six batters.

Derek Lowe made the Giants look really feeble for five innings (he faced the minimum) by working fast and throwing that ridiculous slider-sinker thing. Finally, Ross got his breakthrough hit and the dormant Giants had life. McCann's blast in the bottom half was a deflating, but Lowe finally ran out of steam in the 7th, walking Aubrey Huff with one out. Buster Posey hit a 30-footer into no-man's land that third baseman Troy Glaus couldn't make a play on and suddenly the Giants had a rally. Bobby Cox came out to talk to his pitcher, one cagey old vet to another, and the squinty-eyed pitcher told his squintier-eyed manager "this here mound ain't big enough for the two of us." The Ancient One waddled back to the dugout and watched his gunslinger shoot blanks, walking Pat Burrell. Waddling Cox waddled back out and that was Lowe's night. He was not happy, dropping an obvious f-bomb for the nation's lip readers. I was happy, however. Getting Lowe out was our chance, I figured. Juan Uribe hit a double-play grounder off Peter Moylan that was NOT a double-play. In fact, it was nothing at all. Huff scored on the play to tie the game once again. Aaron Rowand struck out against Jonny Venters, but Cody Ross hit a ground ball in the "five-and-a-half-hole" and the Giants were a run up. Pat Burrell was thrown out at the plate on the play. He should have been substituted for once he reached base, or certainly after Huff scored the tying run. Nate Schierholtz was coming in for defense anyway, and would have scampered home easily on Ross' hit. It's not like we needed extra runs or anything.

Like the win against San Diego to clinch on the last day of the regular season, the Giants did just enough to get through. It was a terrifying 9th inning, with Wilson walking two guys with one out, but the gang hung on for the win. The Braves were a banged-up, short-handed outfit, but they had some fight left and made the Giants work like hell. The Giants came from behind in back-to-back games on the road to win a playoff series. That bears repeating. The Giants came from behind in back-to-back games on the road to win a playoff series.That's one hell of an accomplishment! It's even more amazing when you consider they scored only 11 runs. Thanks to some extraordinary pitching (only 9 runs allowed) and some help from the porous Braves defense, the Giants prevailed.

Philadelphia, here we come!

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Brooks Conrad 3, Braves 2

The unfortunate Brooks Conrad, substituting for the injured Martin Prado, has had a series to forget: four errors in three games with three of them coming in today's game. His first error--dropping a Cody Ross pop fly--let in the Giants first run in the 2nd inning. His third error--failing to stop Buster Posey's smash up the middle--let in the go-ahead and ultimately winning run in the 9th inning. A dazzling start (Game Score 80) by Jonathan Sanchez, who had a no-hitter through the first five innings, looked to be for naught when pinch-hitter Eric Hinske burned Sergio Romo with a two-run homer with one out in the 8th. The Giants spent the afternoon wasting scoring chances after scoring chances, clinging to a 1-0 lead behind the brilliant work of their southpaw starter, who only allowed two hits and one walk along with eleven strikeouts. Despite Romo's ineffectiveness on Friday, Ol' Boch gave him the ball again in a big situation and the young righty gave up a huge hit that looked to be the game-decider. With the Braves up 2-1 in the 9th, Travis Ishikawa (pinch-hitting for Romo), worked a one-out walk. The Braves were also without closer Billy Wagner, and used four pitchers in his stead. Freddy Sanchez was overmatched by Craig Kimbrel's fastballs, but he stroked a single on a slider that stayed over the middle of the plate. It was as clutch a hit as the Giants have had all year. Aubrey Huff then hit a liner to right off lefty Mike Dunn that tied the game. Posey's hard hit grounder off Peter Moylan "split the wickets" at second base and FSanchez motored home with the winner. Brian Wilson got the save despite an infield hit by Brian McCann.

Agony and ecstasy in Atlanta today. Fortunately for the Giants the Braves have some key injuries and those were the weak links. The offense was terrible from the get-go, consistently making outs when hits were needed, but managed to pull it off (with a little help) when the game was on the line. I was confident JSanchez would pitch well, and he was outstanding, I was also sure that Mike Fontenot would get a big hit, and his triple off Heyward's glove was huge.

Madison Bumgarner gets his chance tomorrow. Giants starters have been terrific--only two runs (one earned) in 23 innings. Let's get some runs for the youngster and save Tim for the Phillies, whaddya say?

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s. Amazing, improbable, ridiculous. Tortuous. Infuriating. Dramatic. Your 2010 San Francisco Giants!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cained again

On most Friday night Giants playoff games you'd find me at home with my HDTV and the dish tuned to channel 419. Last night, however, Pyrate Technics ("Straight Outta Weed, CA") performed the Green Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and it couldn't be missed. Hustling down the hill afterward to The Black Sheep, we found the game in progress with Matty & the Bhoyos up 4-0 in the 4th. It looked good. Get through the 7th, get the door-slammers in the game, head to Atlanta up two-zip. That's The Formula™, you know: pitch well, hit just enough. Unfortunately, the Giants failed to hold the lead and wound up not scoring again. The game ended in the 11th, which means the Giants put up nine shutout innings after scoring in the 1st and 2nd. That's a whole game's worth, for those of you counting. That, my friends, ain't gonna fly.

Matt Cain gave the Giants a steady 6-2/3 with one unearned run on 7 hits, 2 walks, and 6 strikeouts (Game Score 62). He even supplied an RBI single! It wasn't Freak-azoid dominance, but it was classic Matt, solid and dependable, a return to what we are used to after that forgettable start a week ago against the Padres. After a 102 pitches and two-out single in the 7th by Omar Infante, Ol' Boch pulled him for sizzling southpaw Javier Lopez, who promptly struck out lefty phenom Jason Heyward. Surging Sergio Romo started the 8th, and immediately surrendered two ropes to Derek Lee and Brian McCann. That's the first chink to appear in the bullpen armor in a long time! Ol' Boch, surprisingly, went straight to Brian Wilson. After an error by Pablo Sandoval that led to a run, Alex Gonzalez crushed a long double and just like that the game was tied. Much has been made of Bonehead's decision to use Wilson for six outs (see Only Baseball Matters and El Lefty Malo for opposing views), but that wasn't the game-decider for me. Wilson was well-rested and had an off-day coming, he should have been able to get out of the inning. The error hurt, but Alex Gonzalez is only a short step up from Edgar Renteria. Getting beat by him in that situation really stung.

The Giants had a man on 2nd with 2 outs in the 6th and failed to score. They had men on 1st and 3rd in the 7th with only one out and failed to score. They had the bases loaded in the 10th, again with only one out, and failed to score. Giving away easy 1-2-3 innings and not converting scoring chances will come back to haunt you. The pitching can't always be perfect (sorry, Tim, but there's a reason people call you The Freak). The bullpen breakdown was a shocker, no doubt, but it's not like it was outside the realm of possibility. Atlanta is a good club. They fought back and got some big hits. Last night's sucker-punch loss isn't just about relief pitching. It's also about our criminally inadequate offense. I suppose it is foolish to expect anything else but nail-biting, tortuous, one-run affairs, but goddamn they get old! The Yankees have scored 11 runs in two games. The Rangers have scored 11 runs in two games. The Phillies have scored 11 runs in two games. The Giants have scored 5 runs in two games, and only 14 runs in their last FIVE games! Do we want to play with the Big Boys or not?

The Braves have seized the home-field advantage, but the Giants will throw a very tough young left-hander tomorrow. Jonathan Sanchez has already flashed some big-game credentials, and when he's got his good stuff going he's a very hard man to beat. There's no reason why the Giants can't nut-up and get cracking. The hitters have had their drought, the 'pen has had its hiccup, the time is now to put it all together and get a big win. We'll worry about Game Four later.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Legendary Tim

Tim Lincecum has just finished putting the final touches on one of the greatest pitching performances in the history of the Giants organization. Lincecum's masterful 2 hit shutout featured an historic FOURTEEN STRIKEOUTS and, most importantly, gave the Giants the opening game of the Divisional Series. A great moment for the 2010 Giants to be sure, but more than that; a great moment in all of our baseball lives.

The Freak had it all tonight, as the ridiculous 96 game score (a new personal high!) indicates. Two doubles ruin the comparisons with Halladay's gem, but not by fucking much!
9 innings 2 hits 0 runs 1 walk 14 strikeouts
He seemed to be up in the zone all night, which isn't his usual style, but it sure as shit worked. With every pitch dancing to his commands, Tim marched into the record books as the strikeouts piled up. Early on Tim got 5 k's in a row...all swinging. In the seventh, Tim whiffed Derek Lee on high inside heat and tied Carl Hubbell ( and others I think) with 10 strikeouts in a post season Giants game. On his one hundredth pitch, he got the record with 11. Then, the pesky Hinske for #12. Pitch number 115 give Tim his 13th strikeout. And then, finally, as the last out of his first post season start, Tim Lincecum used the exact same pitch on Lee as before for the same result...the fourteenth strikeout...and a place in Giants history.

The Braves and their fans probably don't know what hit them. One blown call by an ump (congrats on your first ever stolen base, Buster) and a grounder that squeaks through (way to go Cody Ross) and, BOOM, you lose! Welcome to my world, all you Braves fans. Hope you are prepared for it to happen two more times.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Run, runs, runs

The Atlanta Braves scored 738 runs this season, good for 5th in the NL. The San Francisco Giants scored 697 runs, finishing 9th. That 41 run difference works out to an extra run or so every four games for the Braves. The Braves gave up 629 runs (3rd in NL), while the Giants gave up 583 (2nd). That's a difference of 46 runs. Thus the Giants save about a run or so every four games. The Giants give up about 14 or 15 runs, on average, in  a four game span (3.60 rpg x 4 = 14.4). The Braves give up about 15 or 16 runs (3.88 x 4 = 15.52). On the scoring side, it flips. Atlanta (4.56 x 4 = 18.24) scores about 18 runs in a four game stretch, the Giants (4.30 rpg x 4 = 17.20) about 17. In seven games this year, the Giants scored 21 runs against the Braves and gave up 28. They lost four of the seven, taking two of three in April at home and losing three of four on the road in August.

On paper, this is an even series. Both teams needed 162 games to beat the Padres and the rest of the NL to qualify for the playoffs. The Giants were hot (18-8) in September, the Braves not (13-14), though they did have to play the Phillies six times, winning only once. The Braves were a 1st-half club, going 52-36 before the ASB, while the Giants were a 2nd-half team, going 45-29.

Six months of baseball will get settled in a five game series. As we well know, anything can happen. But I like the Giants chances for two reasons--one is the home field advantage. The Braves are great in Atlanta (56-25), but only average on the road (35-46). The Giants play .605 ball at home (49-32), so you have to like the fact that we could play three in San Francisco. The second is injuries--the Braves will be without Martin Prado and Chipper Jones. That's got to hurt them. I also think we have great bullpen depth, and we can do a Padres-style shorten-the-game-to-six-innings-thing, which as we know is hard to beat. If Tim and Matt can "hold serve" in SF, the Braves will have a tough time coming back. My fears? Ground balls to the left side and line drives to left field will give our slow, fat guys fits. And our penchant for double-play balls brings joy to the hearts of sinker-ball pitchers like Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson.

It should be a great series, and the 1-0 crowd might get their wish and see a few of them. I think the Giants are peaking at the right time, though, so I think we'll take 'em. I'm looking forward to seeing our young arms get their first shot at post-season glory. Show' em what you got, lads!

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Twenty-ten

The season started in Houston, the Giants beating the Astros (and Roy Oswalt!) behind Tim Lincecum. This was The Formula™, of course, pitch like crazy and cross-your-fingers for run support. It was a tough time for yours truly--I kept looking at that lineup and saying "no way, no way, no-effing-way this team wins a championship." Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were batting first and second. Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff were the big-gun free agent acquisitions. Freddy Sanchez was too hurt to play and Juan Uribe was the second baseman. Bengie Molina was "in the squat and puttin' down the signs" (as is said in Krukovian). John Bowker was in right field, Brandon Medders and Waldis Joaquin in the bullpen. The team chugged along at .500 or so through the end of June (40-39 on Friday 2 July). It wasn't so much that I knew The Emperor Had No Clothes. I was convinced, in my despair, that the Giants thought they had the best haberdasher in town, that management actually believed this club was first-place material. An entire off-season of whining was coming true!

Two things happened, ironic for team that's enjoyed a run of remarkable good health: Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand got hurt. L'Affaire DeRosa was entirely predictable. A 35-year old guy coming off wrist surgery was expected to make a large contribution, but cruel reality set in and he wound up having to miss the entire season. Aaron Rowand, on the other hand, was destined to give us 500-600 PAs of below-average production, and there seemed no way to overcome that $60 million dollar handicap. Fate intervened--he was beaned by Vicente Padilla on the 16th of April. That is not something I would wish on any ballplayer, but it happened, and the Giants discovered something they didn't know they had, a 6 WAR player. Everyone liked Andres Torres, he was a speedy glove man with good skills who could spot start and come off the bench and really help the club, but I'll venture 1 in 100 Giants fans thought he had the ability to play All-Star caliber baseball for an entire season. Nonetheless, the injuries to Rowand and DeRosa enabled Torres to play regularly and he showed all of baseball what he could do. Rowand, to his credit, actually had a good stretch in the first half of May after returning to the lineup, but Torres took his leadoff job and centerfield position by the end of the month and never looked back.

Thankfully, the Sabean & Co. were smarter than I gave them credit for. Signing Aubrey Huff looked like another re-tread desperation move in the off-season, but he responded by being the best free agent acquisition of the year. After a slow start, he started raking NL pitching and became a fixture on the leaderboards. His versatility, personality, and performance won over the fans and he emerged as something of a team spokesman as more and more microphones were shoved in his face. Despite the surprising emergence of the Torres-Huff duo, it was pretty clear the Giants still needed offensive help, and the bosses could see that, too. Fishing for cast-offs once more, Sabes & Co. nabbed Pat Burrell after he was released by Tampa Bay. Pat the Bat, despite my skepticism, still had something left and still had something to prove, and suddenly the Giants had another real threat in the lineup. With John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, and Nate Schierholtz unable to hit consistently, and the Giants relying on Bengie Molina for leadership and production, the offense still demanded an upgrade. That came at the end of May in the person of Buster Posey. The front office then did the biggest and boldest move of the year at the end of June--they traded Molina away and installed Posey at catcher. He's been as good as advertised, in fact, he's been one of the best players in baseball. Suddenly The Missing Bat we'd been screaming for all last year, all off-season, and all this spring was in the lineup every day. Not only that, his glove work and pitching smarts were off the charts, and he emerged at the team's clear MVP. (You think not? Would a 52-33 team record since July 1st change your mind?) Not bad for a rookie. August pick-ups Jose Guillen and Cody Ross weren't game-changers, but they were reasonably competent major-leaguers who could contribute. Suddenly we had a damn-close-to-average offense! What a thing to get excited about! Freddy Sanchez got healthy in the middle of May and started flashing primo leather immediately. His late-season surge with the bat, after a horrid July, turned him into a very valuable player. He's the poster boy for everything that infuriates me about Sabean (old, injured, expensive), so it was fitting he'd get the biggest hit of the year in Game 162! Take that, O'Connor! Juan Uribe, just like last year, was another unsung hero of the lineup, playing multiple positions and hitting career-highs in both homers and bases on balls. Pablo Sandoval, counted on to be a star, had a discouraging drop in performance, but has recently shown signs of rediscovering his stroke. The Giants "quantity over quality" haul of players was able to paper over the Panda void until he began to contribute again.

"It's all about the pitching" was my mate JC's constant admonition to me whenever I bemoaned our team's fortunes. We all knew the pitching was special. When your ace is 9th in the league in FIP, 1st in strikeouts, and worth 5+ WAR on an "off" year, you know you've got a great player. Tim Lincecum is, indeed, The Franchise. He's a genuine superstar, admirably filling the massive void left by the departure of Barry Bonds. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, who could be aces on some ML teams and certainly match up favorably with any second and third starters anywhere, round out a young, powerful trio that forms the nucleus of the club. Madison Bumgarner, much like Buster Posey, got a mid-season shot at being a star and responded brilliantly. In 18 starts he threw only a couple of stinkers, and showed that he belonged in the bigs with the rest of the studs. Credit the Brian Trust for finding and developing another outstanding arm. Billion Dollar Boy Barry Zito delivered some quality starts, and threw almost 200 innings, but continued to deliver only league-average (at best) performance. What will the Giants do with him going forward? The Giants still had work to do, though, as the bullpen--other than the awesome Brian Wilson--was terribly inconsistent in the early going. The front office responded to the crisis by picking up Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, and Santiago Casilla, who've been absolutely lights-out. Sergio Romo, after some early struggles, really came on in the stretch run to emerge as a reliable set-up man. The team put together an historic run of pitching excellence in September, and goes into the playoffs with the best staff in the majors.

The Giants overcame an opponent, who, like them, lacked the offense to adequately complement their great pitching. The Padres finally ran out of steam at the end of the season as their young arms couldn't carry the whole load. It reminded me of what happened last year to the Giants. The offense the Giants assembled throughout the season was obviously capable of winning the West, thus changing my description of them from inadequate to barely adequate to adequate. Wow, high praise! Entering the post-season, it is clear the team will be challenged to score. Lacking firepower, they can't fall behind against good teams. The pitching will have to lead the way, and any drop-off by key guys could be catastrophic to their chances. Then again, anything can happen in a short series, as we know, and if they get hot they could make a run and win the 11 games they need for The Big Prize. Having strikeout pitchers and power hitters are the big keys to playoff success. The Giants, believe it or not, led the NL in homers in September.

The Giants are the NL West champions for 2010. What a thing to say! What a thing to savor! Man, it has been a crazy, crazy season. The madness of the post-season doesn't start until Thursday, so we can all rest up and relax before the shit hits the fan. Fortunately, the Giants have the home-field in the first round, and that has to help as the Braves are not as tough on the road (.432 win percentage). The Freak--Big Time Timmer Jim--will get the ball for Game One and that alone gives the team a huge edge.

ENJOY! GO GIANTS!! WIN!!!

--M.C.

F--- Yeah!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Triumph! Torture! Triumph!

The Giants take the Long & Agonizing Road to the West title, but that matters not after today's tortuous 3-0 triumph over the team's nemesis, the San Diego Padres. The 2010 Giants do what I did not believe they were capable of--going to the playoffs. It's a fantastic feeling to be wrong! Nothing but zeros by the pitching staff, just enough offense by Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, and Rookie of the Year Buster Posey. The San Diego Padres go home after battling and battling and battling and ultimately NOT prevailing in San Francisco.


Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants, the 2010 NL West Champions!


WHAT A GREAT DAY!

--M.C.



UPDATE: Geoff Young at The Hardball Times has a blow-by-blow account of the game.
Check it out! 

THREE MORE OUTS!!!

BUSTER! BUSTER! BUSTER!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

162

Tomorrow the Giants play game 162, hoping to get done what they've failed to do in games 160 and 161. Barry Zito followed up Matt Cain's wretched start with one equally ugly, but of a different character. He walked in two runs in the 1st, and got worse from there. Ol' Boch decided to leave him in to start the 4th, letting him hit for himself when down 2-0 in the 3rd, and he gave up a hit to pitcher Tim Stauffer, who later scored. It was hideous. Bonehead compounded the result by getting tossed later in a meaningless display, arguing a called third strike. It was embarrassing. The Padres have owned the Giants all year--inexplicably--and they showed it again today. The Giants got the winning run to the plate with 1 out in the 9th, but true to form, grounded into a double play to end it.

The Giants can't seem to find the right combination against the Padres this season, just like last season. We pitch well against good-hitting clubs, just like them, but pitch poorly against them. We hit on the same spectrum, from lousy to adequate, but we don't hit against them. They are younger, faster, and more athletic in the field and on the bases, but that doesn't account for the pitching dominance and our inability to match up. If you can tell me what the magic ingredient is--the SD X-Factor--I'd appreciate it.

Tomorrow's game is huge. I can't think about Tim having to pitch Monday for all the marbles. I can't allow thoughts of losing four in a row. I just have to let go of today and think the best for tomorrow.

C'mon Giants, get it together! Win this fucking thing!

--M.C.

Ups and downs



Average (mean) Game Score: 58.42
Standard Deviation: 18.22
Range: 12-94

--M.C.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not tonight, tomorrow

I imagined a variety of nightmare scenarios--just mental preparation learned in 40 years as a Giants fan. I saw bloop hits, broken bat triples, productive infield pop-ups, and RBIs on foul balls. I saw six Padre relievers throwing 5-2/3 with 11 K and no walks. I saw a lot of terrible outcomes for the Giants in my mental peregrinations today. Like I said, I'm a Giants fan, I'm battle-scarred. But I must say I did not imagine Matt Cain having his worst start since this stinker in June. I did not imagine three home runs. I did not imagine a meltdown. That pitch to Adrian Gonzalez was terrible. A-Gon can hit great pitches, you can't give him fat ones. Cain knew it was the killer blow, you could see the frustration and disappointment on his face and in his gestures, this from a guy who barely shows emotion between starts in the dugout. It was not a good night for the birthday boy--the baseball gods taunt us once again. Storybook? You wanted storybook? Wellllll, you forgot that nightmares are in storybooks, too!

But storybooks have twists and turns, and unexpected outcomes, don't they? Improbabilities abound in tales of adversity overcome and triumph achieved. And the Giants, down 6-0 in the 5th, looked all but done. The win expectancy chart said the home team had a 2.3% chance after David Eckstein scored on a wild pitch. But then Freddy Sanchez got an RBI hit, Aaron Rowand hit an unlikely 2-run bomb, and Andres Torres pushed a run across with a 20-foot dribbler. Suddenly it was 6-4 and the Giants had life. Clayton Richard--who the Giants should have lit up in the first two innings--was out of the game and the Padre bullpen looked like it might finally crack. Alas, Luke Gregerson was summoned and he silenced the meat of the order in the 7th. In the 8th, a screamer by Mike Fontenot off Mike Adams bounced out of Gonzalez' mitt and we had the tying run come to the plate. All of Giants fandom willed Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval to hit game-tying homers, but the best we could do was a two-out hit by Cody Ross. Willie Mac-Man Andres Torres then had to hit against Heath Bell, and his hard grounder was turned into the final out. The Giants went to the 9th still down by two. Freddy Sanchez, though, opened the inning superbly, refusing to swing at Bell's breaking ball and working a walk. Aubrey Huff smoked a liner into the right field corner, raising everyone's hopes, but Will Venable was in the right spot and ran it down easily. FSanchez, catastrophically, was doubled up on the play (what was he thinking?). Buster's grounder ended it.

Matt Cain kept his hand firmly on the tiller in August when the rest of the staff was floundering, and kept it up in September, joining his mates on a historic run of excellence. Alas, the calendar flipped to October and no. 18's magic wore off. Give the Padres credit, they played like a team facing elimination, not like one rolling over for the mercy blow. I thought the Giants would come out hitting, and it sure looked like we'd get some early runs against Richard. That could have been enough to survive the bad start and keep us in the game, especially considering the late scoring chances. The Padres improve to 11-5 against the Giants and move to within one game.

We knew it wasn't going to be easy. We knew--the odds were--that it would be torture. Sure, I thought we'd come out smoking and control the game, but we didn't. What the Giants have to do now is they have to "man up" and play again tomorrow. No loss is so horrible that you can't move past it and get it done the next day. It was a disappointing game, mostly because Cain's performance was such a let down, but also because we had real chances ourselves to rack up 6 or 7 runs. The Giants have relied on the long ball more and more as the season has gone on, but it was the opponents who got the big blasts tonight. Cain finishes the season with 223-1/3 IP, 181 H, 84 R, 22 HR, 61 BB, 177 SO, 1.08 WHIP, 3.14 ERA, 13 W and 11 L. Tonight it was 6 runs, 9 hits and 1 walk in 4-plus, 21 batters, 88 pitches,with a Game Score of 23. Ain't no way around it, it was ugly.

The 2010 season has been miraculous. And it is still going on. If it takes 163 goddamn games, then that's what it takes. I don't believe it will. I believe the Giants got a bruising in the first round, but that's all. The Giants can take it a few licks and they can counter punch. I expect they'll come out tomorrow ready to take the fight to the Padres. Let's hope Barry Zito can keep us in it and the bats can deliver the big hits.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.



p.s. (a.m. update) I meant to say the Pads were "two" back not one, and that the Giants can "take a few licks" not "take it a few licks." Late night typos, sorry!

Andres Torres wins Willie Mac Award

So well deserved.

GO GIANTS!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MATT CAIN!

The Tennessee Stud turns 26 today. Matt is my favorite Giant. He's been a Giant for his entire career, signing as a 17-year old right out of high school. He was the team's first pick in the June draft of 2002, the 25th overall. Other notables from the 1st round of that draft: B.J. Upton (#2), Zack Greinke (#6), Prince Fielder (#7), Cole Hamels (#17), and James Loney (#19). Matt made his debut on August 29, 2005. Tonight will be his 170th start for the Orange and Black.

If the Giants beat the Padres tonight on Orange Friday, they win the West. I want that storybook ending--Cain wins on his birthday, capping his finest season with his biggest win. As JC said to me yesterday: "if that happens, you know the baseball gods are smiling on us." Too true. I'm a Giants fan, so I know the wrath of the baseball gods far better than I know their largess. And I've learned to expect nothing from them, those cruel and petty beings who mock me season after season. Nonetheless, I feel good about tonight. The team is smoking, our opponents are reeling, and Matt is pitching at the top of his game. The prize is there, me bucko, go out and get it!

I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Cain for raising their lovely little boy and giving him to the world. I want to thank Brian Sabean & Co. for finding this thick-bodied country boy with the mighty fastball and making him a Giant.

And I want to thank you, my friends, for sticking with me and me mates as we've blogged the tortuous landscape of the 2010 season.

GO GIANTS!! KICK SOME FUCKING PADRE ASS TONIGHT!!!

--M.C.