Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Waiting for the Cardinals

The Giants played a game tonight in San Francisco that made no sense and yet they won, amazingly, and punched their ticket to the LCS. It was like absurdist theater, not baseball, but once again the result favored the orange-and-black. The Giants don't need any more data to back up the "October magic" claim but they went ahead and added to the pile with another impossible victory. The Giants scored all their runs in bases loaded situations: a walk, a ground out, and a wild pitch. No dramatic stroke to clear the bases, no, that's too normal. Had to do it the hard way. This game featured a booming home run from Bryce Harper off Hunter Strickland yet finished 3-2 Giants. Didn't that happen already? This game featured a very close play at the plate to get Buster Posey and a replay ensued affirming the call. Didn't that happen, too? This game featured a pitcher making an error that led to runs. Wait--didn't that already happen? This game featured a Giants starter throwing no-hit ball for the first four innings and getting pulled after an excellent 5-2/3 overall. Jake Peavy in Game One and Ryan Vogelsong in Game Four, Game Scores of 65 and 63 respectively.

So, I've got the formula: good start plus good defense plus lots of guys on base plus voodoo weird-ass nonsensical stuff plus the x-factor and the y and z, too, and that equals a win. Man the Giants generated a lot of chances but could not get the killer blow. But, it didn't matter in the end! Oustanding play by Hunter Pence, obviously, to rob Werth, but both Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez (good move, Boch) made all their plays and that was huge as the Nats hit a lot of fly balls.

There's a lot to talk about. What a crazy win. Bring on St. Louis!

Oh, I'll leave you with this:




And this:




--M.C.

34 comments:

Ron said...

As they say here: 'How aboot those Giants, eh?' Yes!!!!!

Porgy said...

Oh, experts know plenty of nuthin'
And nuthin' is plenty for them.
Got no smarts, got no sense,
Got no crystal ball
At all. At all.

M.C. O'Connor said...

What a ridiculous game? How do the Giants win these things?

Matt Williams did not help his team--he did not use his best relievers.

What did you think of Boch letting Strickland pitch to Harper? At 3-1 I was thinking "go ahead and walk him rather than groove one."

It all worked out, funny how that seems to be the Bochy way.

Nats got FOUR hits.

Zo said...

Giants scored a total of 9 runs. In 45 innings, that is. That is an average of 1 run each 5 innings, less than 2 per 9. The Curlydubs also scored 9 runs. Amazing that the Giants won 3 games. Some darn good pitching.

The so called experts are paid to have an opinion, not demonstrate that they know something. In that way, they are kind of like the people who predict the stock market.

nomisnala said...

I thought Bochy pulled a Dusty move by letting Strickland pitch to Harper. Everyone saw that coming. But the giants did not win, Washington gave us the game, in return for the same thing we did in the last game. I thought just recently that the giants can barely beat the Padres, how are they going to move on in the playoffs? Well, forget about that. Baltimore, or Kansas City?

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

What a game! What a series!

Yes, ridiculous! And yet we won, both the game and the series!

And I think that's "Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Wow, only 9 runs each! I knew it was low, but wow!

Not hard to see that though, both sides have great rotations and bullpens. Both sides have ridiculous # of pure quality starts, Nats were even higher than ours too! I thought the series would be close and could go either way.

And yet again we dominated the series, 3-1, could have swept. I guess our pitching staff was that much more playoff hardened. Even with Strickland. Without Strickland, they might have only gotten only 6 runs!

Not that I think he was a mistake to add onto the roster, I was OK with his uses before, but with only a 2-1 lead, potential series ender, same guys that hit him before, I would not have gone to him there.

Even with that, he actually did OK except for that one pitch. I agree with MC, should have just kept pitching to the corners - he did just have a ridiculous K to walk ratio, so he has incredible control - because so what if he walks, he's followed by a bunch of weak hitters, and could have brought in Romo or Affeldt at that point.

So I thought Bochy made a mistake with using Strickland there. I know that Machi was used, but was Lincecum that unusable? Or even Petit? Or even use them for Harper then bring in Strickland.

Personally, I would have used Romo for as long as he could last, then Affeldt, to bridge to Casilla.

But all's well that ends well, ay?

I agree that Matty was not using his best relievers. Especially Barrett, and particularly when it was clear that he was just not feeling it. You can't leave the guy flailing away like that, but they had to because they had nobody warming up.

As El Lefty Malo noted in his excellent post mortem, the Giants won by playing much cleaner games than the Nats. As he put it: "Pitch awesomely, let the other guys make the brutal mistakes in the field and in the dugout, and try to hit the ball hard somewhere."

Anonymous said...

was Lincecum that unusable?

Yes.

He's a mascot at this point, and I won't be surprised if Quiroz gets his roster spot so Susac can get some ABs - which also gives Buster's squatted-out legs a break.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Giants hit .222/.275/.278

35 H, 9 R, 44 TB, 11 BB, 24 K

Nats hit .164/.222/.258

26 H, 9 R, 41 TB, 12 BB, 39 K

Giants didn't do much, but they put the ball in play more (15 fewer strikeouts and 9 more hits). That created chances, and they took advantage of breakdowns by the Nats. The only game the Nats won was due to a defensive lapse by the Giants. Bochy did a better job with matchups than Williams. And pixie dust--don't forget the pixie dust.


Shankbone said...

Sandoval had the one clutch hit... and left 13 on.

It was a great series win. Fewest mistakes often takes it down. Bochy doesn't make many bad calls with his pen, and the Giants have good defense. Say what you want about auto-outs Blanco and Perez, they go get the ball. Ishikawa played a nice LF though, he'll most likely go against the righties again.

Posey never gets any guff, nor should he get much, but his framing for Strickland's pitches leaves some to be desired.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Strickland is a work-in-progress. Love that he's on the roster, though.

Nats had the best pitching staff and the best group of starters and yet they couldn't get past the first round of the tournament. No easy answers--but they have a great, young core.

Brother Bob said...

My sister Barbara was furious with Bochy for letting Strickland pitch to Harper, then when he launched that ICBM she just about lost it. She actually called for Bochy to be fired. (I disagreed) Maybe she was in a bad mood after spending the day in the ER with pulmonary emboli. (She'll be fine) She talked her way out of being admitted so she could watch the game.

Zo said...

Going back to the Grantland article about postseason myths to ignore, "The only factor that seems to correlate strongly with postseason success is, unsurprisingly, regular-season success...". All these guys did was pick the team with the better record. Detroit over KC, Angels, LA, Washington. Well, that didn't work, which just proves the old theorem about monkeys with darts having more brains than ESPN talking heads.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah, it's a different thing entirely. There's the 30-team 162-game season, and then there's the post-season 10-team tournament.

The best teams win the 162-game part. After all, the Giants and Nats were only separated by 8 games after six months of baseball. So the difference between the best of the final 10 and the worst of the final 10 is not a lot--one or maybe two games per month or so. Talent makes a big difference over several months. Luck and timing tend to "even out" and all the teams get a share if you will.

The tournament, on the other hand, favors luck and timing as the talent levels are pretty close. So, the outcomes are far less predictable.

I'm not sure the Giants were built any better for the post-season than the Nats. After all, they had a lot of quality players and the games were absurdly close. And their best players (Rendon and Harper) were their youngest and least experienced. What tipped the balance? Bochy? Maybe. Or maybe the Giants just got the breaks.

I think the "winner" of the 162 game season ought to get an award, sort of a "Best Team" thing. The winner of the tournament gets to call themselves "World Series champs." They really are two different things. The Giants were the "best team" in 2000 even though the Yanks were "world series champs."

JC Parsons said...

EIGHT WINS TO GO!

I think that there is a way the Giants are built better for the postseason than the Nats. And I think it is the biggest reason we won. Our bullpen. Our guys, except for Strickland and the much discussed Harper matchups (Bochy's only mistake BTW) were basically lights out. No Giant came close to the meltdown the Nats had with the wild pitch madness. Don't get me wrong, their bullpen is good, ours is better. We matched up feeble offenses and studly starters (did any of theirs give up an earned run?) but we got the slight advantage from our pen.

Pitching is our heart and soul. Thank Willie we find a way to score just enough runs. It gets really hard to watch us when we are at bat sometimes. I sure hope we find a few more runs soon.

I suppose we need Lincecum for any 19 or 20 inning games we may play. Right? I mean, they couldn't find a way for him to pitch so far...what situation are they waiting for? sigh... I guess he is a mascot...

Zo said...

I disagree about Lincecum. He is long relief. We have had exceptional starts from Hudson and Vogelsong and a long relief appearance from Petit. Lincecum is there if we need him, and it would not surprise me to see him be a hero at some point. There is no extra room for sentimentality on a playoff roster.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I'll buy the 'pen hypothesis.

Lincecum is Guillermo Mota. Garbage time only. Or, if Petit is called on to spell Vogie or Huddy or somesuch then Lincecum becomes Petit. Don't forget, WillyMo got to pitch and finish a game vs. Texas.

nomisnala said...

Strickland pitching to Harper is one of the known causes of Pulmonary emboli. The experts had their compasses on backwards, they had the giants favored to lose every game except the Bumgarner start. It went exactly the opposite. So goes it for the genius experts, all getting paid top dollar to be on TV and the radio. If you have a place to make your playoff bets, see what the experts have to say, and go the other way.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I think that the major factor in our winning this series is our great manager, Bochy. Over his career, he has averaged over 4 games over .500 each and every season he has been a manager. Also, a study on reliever usage on BTBS found that Bochy has been among the best manager in generating wins through bullpen manipulation. I'll bet both stats are interlinked.

Another part is our rotation. In the playoffs, my study of PQS and DOM starts found that you need to have DOM (i.e. quality start) starts to maximize winning. Yeah, I know, pretty obvious, but when your guy has a DOM and the other not (which happened around 60% of the time during the playoffs), your team wins like 80% of the time. Of course, if both are DOM, you are only .500, but if your team don't get a DOM, odds are that you lose.

So far, we have had 4 DOM starts (really 5, but only got the one win for the two DOM) and won 3 of them. Peavy had the only non-DOM (but at least not a DIS start, or Disaster start, where teams lose 80% of the time or so) start and we won that one, of course. Those generally were around .500 during the playoffs.

It's not the surefire answer (Phillies had all DOM starts and lost in 2011, for example), but obviously, if your guys can deliver quality start after quality start, you sure maximize your chances.

Add to that Bochy's bullpen magic and one-run magic, and you have a pretty good magic formula for success in the playoffs.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I don't believe that Lincecum is useless. But I do believe that Bochy is saving him for something.

I mean, Lincecum was very good up to his extra inning relief stint. Something from that appearance broke him mechanically or something. And frankly, he's never had that much stamina, even in his best years, there would be a month late in the season where he's totally lost and getting hit.

So I think Bochy is saving him for a long relief stint, 2-4 innings at some point. I think he's also saving him in case our other relievers just didn't have it, including our closer. He's the red button Bochy pushes when there is an emergency.

I still believe in him.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I also believe in the BP Secret Sauce for going deep into the playoffs.

That's having a strikeout oriented pitching staff (roughly 8 K/9 and few walks too, 39 K/12 BB), a shut down closer, and good defense (less mistakes per Lefty and Shankbone and others).

Meanwhile, the Nats had good pitching in terms of ERA, but only 24 strikeouts in 44 IP vs. 11 walks, for an OK 2.0 K/BB ratio vs. the Giants 3.25, plus all those errors, and their closer bent, and once was enough.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Oh, and I should have recounted the PQS:

Game 1: Peavy 3 PQS but Strasburg 2
Game 2: Hudson 5 PQS, Zimmerman 4
Game 3: Bumgarner 5 PQS, Fister 3
Game 4: Vogie 4 PQS, Gio 0 PQS (would have had a 2 if Williams didn't replace him)

Based on saber qualities, the Giants staff had better games in each start, by a wide margin, even if the runs scored were the same. The Giants averaged 4.25 PQS while the Nats 2.25 PQS. We should have won, based on starting pitching performances (the baseball gods make that not an absolute, but pretty good odds, our guys earned this series).

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

So, ultimately, it is about cojones, as Huddy had so indelicately put it before the series.

The Nats came in with a staff of 70% DOM starters, that's elite, they earned their record. But in the series, they only achieved 25% DOM. They folded under pressure. And so did their bullpen, their defense, and manager.

Meanwhile the Giants were in the high 50's, very good but not elite, but had 75% DOM in this series (80% if you count Petit's effort). I would posit that the rest allowed our pitchers to pitch well, Huddy and Vogie in particular.

Some will say the Giants got lucky. I say they made their luck. The baseball gods were not letting their batted balls fall in, as they avoided strikeouts a lot, but they got a lot of walks and then got the key hit or batted ball or good AB at the right time. , to take advantage of their good pitching.

And they rarely made the error (cojones) that gave the Nats the run that they needed.

Remember, the Nats were good against losing teams (3 in particular) but were roughly the same winning percentage as the Giants the rest of the time. They were .500 against winning teams, so they had trouble beating good teams.

They didn't have the mental fortitude and maturity that the Giants draft for often.

But the Nats are young as well as good, and I was impressed by Harper's comments afterward, I kind of thought he was a punk, but he rose to the occasion in manners afterward, so I'm viewing him more like a Will Clark now, full of unbridled enthusiasm, in a mostly good way. They are going to be tough to beat going forward, hopefully for them, Williams will learn from this the way Bochy learned from his missed opportunity with the Padres.

Anonymous said...

BP Secret Sauce

I always liked that too.
Weirdly, BP themselves have discredited it.


Here's some fun stuff* from the ALCS:

O’s starters allow a lot of home runs - but the Royals don't hit them.
They walk a lot of batters - but the Royals don't draw them.
They allow a lot of balls in play – That’s the Royals' game, but;
Also the O’s game - 3rd best ratio of converting BIP into outs.

The O's SB team leader this year stole 8.
The Royals nearly matched that in the WC game.

Caleb Joseph(!) led the AL in CS %
Hundley was terrible - 5 of 36 CS ...... but,
He catches Tillman who's impossible to run on - 2 of 13 this & last year combined.


* None of these things will actually happen, or matter.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Putting balls in play is definitely a Giants thing. That really worked as it put pressure on the defense and created opportunities. The more you create, the better chance to score, and the more wear and tear on the opposition's pitchers.

And having a strikeout staff is, of course, huge. Don't let the other guy put balls in play, and when you do have glove men like BCraw and Pence and Blanco to make the plays.

I don't know if the Nats lacked cojones, but they certainly made key mistakes and did not create enough chances. Such a short series, it's hard to say, especially since they killed the Giants during the season. But Boch is definitely a guy who gives your team an edge. He finds a way to maximize the talent on his roster and knows that post-season tournament ball is different and that you have to run the game differently than the regular season.

The Giants seem to have a positive culture. They don't criticize or blame or make excuses. And it seems that players are appreciated for what they have and what they can do and not what they lack. Mike Morse is a perfect example--the Giants see the plus in his game and find a way to use it. They aren't stupid, they know he has holes, but they are about what a player has to contribute and not about what his weaknesses are. I think this is a rare thing in pro sports. It speaks a lot about Baer, Sabes, and the whole FO.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Yeah, BP discredited it because of a mistake the original author made in presenting the idea.

The study ranked all teams against each other in terms of K/9 for pitching staff, closer WRXL, and FRA. He started a Secret Sauce column using those stats and ranking the teams against each other. That was his mistake.

It should be ranked against all-time. Maybe all the playoffs teams are meh in all-time rankings, maybe one is high up the list, maybe one is low. Can't tell from what they did.

What they should have done was rank all-time and give us the percentage of times a team in that region of ranking won WS, made WS, made NLCS, made NLDS. Then you can see where every team fits in.

Maybe they are all meh, but somebody has to win. Then it's all random.

But this would point out the outliers. Like the Giants in 2010, I took their numbers and compared to the Top 10 they had in the book (had to dig up their stats too). They would have ranked up there. 2012, not so much, neither 2014, because our staff is not much of a strikeout staff anymore. And our defense has not been as good.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

MC, I know I'm not a cojones expert, so I could be wrong.

But here is what I saw. A pitching staff that was elite all season long. I mean ELITE!

I went through each of their starts to calc PQS, and they were better than the Giants staff ever was in my 6-8 years of covering their sabermetric quality starts. Even Gonzalez, who I viewed as a weak link in their rotation had a higher DOM% than Bumgarner.

My stats is ancient but that works out to 7.56% odds of that happening when you have a staff of 70% DOM starters (and that's conservative because they were all above). And 92% of the time, they should have had at least two DOM starts. Yeah, that's 8% chance of it happening, so randomly it could happen, but not every likely. Yet it did.

Correlation is not causation, but then there were Matty's mental errors as manager, even after his gaffe in game 2, he went back to that well in game 4, stating that this is what he does, it's the 7th inning, he's bringing in the 7th inning guy, even though the game (and thus series) is on the line and you probably should throw out your best, Strasburg, Storen your closer, even your set-up men. But, no, it's the 7th inning so therefore I'm a robot and bring in the 7th inning guy.

If that is all he is good for, then you could just post a list up on the wall regarding when to do things, and stop paying for a manager.

How about Storen blowing up a game? Barrett? I understand Strasberg's excuse, it was his first playoff game, just like how Lincecum blew up in his first pro game, first spring training game, first MLB start, first opening day start, first opening day start at home, heck, the only first I can recall him not blowing up was the first playoff game of 2010, but by then, he had already had a month's worth of playoff caliber starts because the Giants needed to catch up to the Padres.

Barrett had his first appearance in game 2 already to get over his jitters, so game 4 was his second appearance. But he was wild all season (6 WP in 50 appearances).

For for Storen, that three straight bad appearances for the Nats in the playoffs.

And it is not like a bad thing, per se, I don't think, it is just what is. I didn't have the cojones either, and I was just facing 7th grade players. Playing for fun on the side, my manager loved me so much, I started at 3B, but once the real games came, even Lew Alcinder couldn't have caught the throws I threw to 1B.

And people can change. I got better later for my college intramural game, we leftover (all single with no team) Batmen went 8-1 with me leading off, we lost the pennant to that first team we lost to. They were scary, they had matching unis, guy with clipboard coaching 1B, and they were good.

And then all those errors. Mistakes just shows that we are human, but the Nats just made so many, from the manager, to the pitchers, to the hitters (except for Harper, Awesome! Rendon too...).

And the Giants didn't, that was what won the series for them, again. And it's not the first time (Atlanta 2010), and probably not the last.

Anonymous said...

Thx for the Secret Sauce recipe.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah, the Giants seem to have a knack for "tightening things up" in the post-season. We saw a lot of crisp defense and good execution by the pitchers. And the hitters, despite the paucity of runs, put the ball in play, esp. against Strasburg. Maybe the Giants really are this good and this narrative of underdog trumping favorites is BS. The Giants are genuinely better at tournament baseball. It's just weird remembering how bad they looked at times this year. All teams go bad for stretches, but the Giants were truly, truly bad. Now they look like they can beat anyone!

It's great. I love it. And the mystery of how and why is wonderful to contemplate.

Anonymous said...

From an SI.com article about why these teams play so well in October:

CATEGORY StL SF
Stolen Bases 15 14
Home Runs 15 7
K’s by batter (fewest) 1 5
Late & Close Batting AVG 5 1
Opposite Field BA (righties) 5 2
Opposite Field BA (lefties) 7 3
Defensive Efficiency 3 2
BA Allowed on BIP 4 1
Bullpen Losses (fewest) 4 1

In an era of record strikeouts, depleted power and sophisticated defensive shifts, both teams use hitters who put the ball in play and use the whole field. On defense, they combine rangy, athletic defenders who bring out the best in their pitching staff. And their managers are former catchers who are among the very best at bullpen deployment — the biggest separator of in-game managing skills in baseball.

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the formatting screw-up.

Zo said...

Strasburg did not pitch poorly. The Giants, after fly ball outs in the first inning, went with what Strasburg gave them. They hit his fast balls up the middle, no one trying to do too much. They had 10 hits in that game, if memory serves. Given that, Strasburg limited the damage to 3 runs.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I think Strasburg did pitch poorly.

You expect your ace to pitch well. He only lasted 5 IP, gave up 8 hits and only struck out 2, but did walk only 1. That's a 2 PQS, not a dominating quality start. I know they are humans, but he had the highest DOM% on their staff plus was going first. High is the mantle the ace is upon. And he was suppose to be an advantage over Peavy, who pitched OK but not good (3 PQS for him).

Yeah, Strasburg limited the damage ... or was he just lucky? Given that he only struck out two, when he normally strikes out a lot more, it showed that the Giants, as you noted, adjusted to him, and was making contact with the ball, only the BABIP gods limited the damage, as his career BABIP is right in line with the mean regression of .300, he is at .301 for his career. The way he limits damage is by strikeouts and he didn't do many, so lucky was he.

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

You're welcome about the secret sauce.

As I noted, I still think it works, so I try to promote it when I get the chance. I even left a comment on 538 to see if I could goad them to update the information and follow what I think is the proper methodology for the secret sauce, but I've seen nothing, and the timing was right, the playoffs were coming up. I guess he's moved on.

If BP would give me the database and updates, I would be happy to publish on it, they could post it anonymously on their site, for free, but fat chance of that happening (they've might have noticed that I've been dissing them on-line since 2010 when their 2010 Annual openly called for Sabean to be fired - yes, great timing - and I've said that they don't have the cojones to publish a mea culpa given that, and I doubled down after 2012, especially after one of their writers wrote a hit piece on the Giants, in the guise of praise, it was a backhanded compliment, and to boot, they got Grant as the "expert" to talk bad about the Giants right after they won for the second time in three years, something no other NL team has done since the Big Red Machine, even that was not enough to quiet them. Hopefully a third will bring the apology, or gasp, admission that they were TOTALLY WRONG. But I'm fearing they will be like the Pope and wait 500 years before their apology).

ogc obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

MC, they were really bad during the season because they had so many holes in the top of the lineup through injuries/DL (Pagan, Belt) or poor performances (Blanco, 2B, 1B aside from Belt, Morse after great start).

Now, they still got Blanco, but having Panik and Belt contributing, plus Crawford too, helped supplement Posey, Pence, Pablo. Might not seem like a lot but we went from three hitters out of eight contributing to six of eight. I like comparing it to a V8 engine, it's going to sputter a lot with only a few cylinders sparking, but you get enough going, it will have a lot of HP.

I think they will do better against the Cards. Their starters are not as impressive as the Nats, they are built about the same as we are, hopefully our advantage is having Vogie against Miller in game 4.