Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The New Tim?

Start #22   WIN !!!   ( 5-11 )   7 innings  6 hits (only 2 doubles)  1 run   1 walk   7 strikeouts

Tim Lincecum, with a studly assist from Jeremy Affeldt, pitched the Giants out of their five game funk and BACK INTO FIRST PLACE, with a lovely 4-1 pasting of the Mets.  Any 2012 Lincecum quality outing is worth singing about from the mountaintops and I would love to give it a big yodel... but an exhausting day has taken it's toll on me.  Admit it, waiting for a Tim start can be a little nerve-racking lately.

Without a vibrant fastball, Lincecum kept the Mets ( a weak lineup if you don't count Super-Hairston ) off balance with his usual slider-change-curve shit (game score 67).  This version of Tim needs good defense ( did I mention how good-looking Brandon Crawford is ?  Umm, I mean as a ballplayer. ) and a fair modicum of luck.  He got both tonight.  Plus, there was just enough of the Freak ... like when he schooled the super talented David Wright for his last out.  I love when he does that.

The good:  Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence in the lineup everyday will be quite an improvement.  I really like what I have seen from Scutaro so far.  I would not be surprised if they end up with better numbers than their evil dogger counterparts (Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino) from here on out.  In fact, that could end up being a key factor in the race; how the FNG's do.

The bad:  Brandon Belt is really starting to make me sad.  Literally depressed.  Not for long because...

Tim Didn't Suck and

We are Back in First Place !!!!!!!

No Relief

Hope you all were watching those plucky Olympic athletes, because the Giants game sucked big time.  Another blown save, Romo this occasion.   Another loss, the L went to Casilla.  Our relief pitching is just making shambles of our season.  To paraphrase Nomisnala from yesterday: Romo: strike, strike, hang, bang; strike, strike, hang, bang.  It seems like the phrase "he got away with one there" doesn't apply much to Giants pitchers.   Here is the post-All Star poop (and I mean it in the stinkiest way): Casilla, blown save on the 14th, again on the 18th.  Penny, loss on the 22nd in the 12th.  Romo, loss on the 27th.  Last night, the Giants actually came back, but then Casilla went on to cough up a 2 run shot in the 10th.  Hairston!

Madison Bumgarner pitched pretty well, well enough for a win.  He threw 108 pitches in 6 innings, giving up 2 earned runs and striking out 9 amidst 6 hits (and getting a hit himself).  He fanned the side in the second and sixth, although he also gave up a hit in the sixth.  The Giants have not been able to pick up a 12th win for Maddy since July 13.  But our relief pitchers (perhaps it is time for a new term here, they aren't providing much relief) our secondary pitchers,  gave up a 4-2 lead and then, after the Giants managed to tie the game in the ninth, lost in the tenth.  Romo now has 2 Ls and one BS against 5 saves, Casilla has 5 Ls and 6 BS against 24 saves.  You want your secondary pitchers NOT to have losses and blown saves.  The Ws are less important, as long as someone gets them on your team (preferably starters, as I have argued before).  But a bunch of BS and Ls among the bullpen are killers.

A happy note to end this missive:  We are playing less than .500 ball in the month of July, 11-22.

This just in:  the Giants may have acquired Hunter Pence now that Schierholtz is contributing, although Baggarly says it is not yet a deal.  Don't see how that will stop our secondary pitching from sucking.  The Phillies are having a fire sale, apparently Victor Ino or Vic Torino or whatever his name is, is now a smog-sucker.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Feckless Giants Flop in Finale

Not to disrespect Ryan Vogelsong, who gave it a hell of a go, but he does that every time. He doesn't have to prove he can hang with the best, we know he can. The Giants drew the short straw after the debacle on Saturday, having to face their Arch Nemesis in the last chance to salvage the series. Clayton Kershaw, predictably, dominated from start to finish. And finish he did, throwing his second shutout of the season. All the home team had to do was avoid a sweep. That's it. Two wins would have been nice, but one would have meant LA leaves town still two down. Instead, the Dodgers get to share the top spot and are looking to push our boys out.

The Giants amassed 21 hits in the three games, 18 of them singles. The Dodgers had 15 extra-base hits. If I were more poetic I'd wax on about these perilous days being a true test of character for the lads. After a good shellacking it's best to pick ones self back up and dust ones self off, chin up there, bucko, put up those dukes and let's see those combinations again, eh? Because today sucked. So suck it up and stop sucking, goddamnit.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Classic Contest Ruined By Dodgers Winning

Matt Cain had two outs in the 5th inning and a 1-0 lead when the Dodgers rookie pitcher Stephen Fife roped a two-strike double for his first major league hit. Two hits later it was 2-1 LA, one of those "what the hell happened?" moments. Cain was throwing strikes, good pitches with movement on the corners, but the hitters were making good swings and getting good results. The same thing happened in the 6th, three hits from the first four batters making it a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead. Matty could be seen dropping the f-bomb, a rare display from our stoic, well-mannered Southern boy. He had good reason. He was doing what he always does, sticking to his game plan and hitting his spots but getting burned nonetheless. In retrospect, it is easy to see that perhaps he didn't have his A-1 stuff, only two strikeouts tells me the "swing-through" pitches weren't there, and his velocity never got over 91 mph when we normally see him top out at a bit more than that. Matty went seven and yielded nine hits and three runs, a start most guys would be happy with, not dominating but effective, giving the team a chance to win. But Cain's bar is a little higher than most these days, and it is a real-live pennant race as well. This is a different Dodger team than the one the Giants whitewashed last time through.

The Giants put six guys on base in the first two innings and clearly had the rookie reeling, but they could not get the knockout blow. Fortunately Don Mattingly went to the bullpen a few too many times later in the contest and the guys were able to string together a rally and take Cain off the hook. Brandon Belt had three hits including the big one in the 8th to drive in two and tie it up. Ron, be sure to keep up the pressure on Belt. We all know what happens when we publicly rip a guy--he delivers the goods and makes us look bad! Readers, let me know who you'd like to see lambasted next and I'll pass out the writing assignments. It was nice to see Angel Pagan get a big hit as well. Like I've said before, this lineup needs everyone to contribute to be effective. The teams had identical lines through eight: 3 runs, 9 hits, 0 errors. Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined to terrify us in the 9th before tallying another zero, and it looked for all the world like another extra inning affair. Sure enough, the Giants obliged with a quick 1-2-3 and it was on to the 10th.

I was thinking the Giants really really really need some guys who can jack one late in a close game, but I've been thinking that for some time and thinking doesn't make it real. LA sent up Kemp, Ethier, and the newly-acquired Hanley Ramirez in their half of the inning and sure enough "HanRam" got the big hit to win it. Both Sergio Romo and I thought--as did most of the park--that the 3-2 pitch to Ethier was strike three/inning over, but alas it was ball four and a harbinger of doom. Romo, you may remember, was the one who gave up the long fly ball that Pagan turned into that great double play, so it's not like he's fooling everyone these days. Still, that's a formidable stretch of power hitters in the 3-4-5 spots, with 41 homers between them so far, that's with Kemp missing half a season. It's on, my friends. Stock up on the Maalox, it's going to be two more months of nail-biting agony. Great game, really, other than the result.


p.s. Giants pick up Marco Scutaro (for Charlie Culberson) from Colorado. I wanted him in Spring Training. He's a good, versatile ballplayer. That's it for MannyB, I assume. Still could use a fresh arm in the 'pen and it would be great to have some power off the bench but I don't see that fix coming any time soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What to Do About Brandon Belt?

I have given indications over the last couple of years that I remain unconvinced that Brandon Belt is a sure-fire, can't-miss, 100% legit future force.  Nothing this season has convinced me otherwise.  He is a big guy with a big looping swing who can't seem to find a breaking pitch to save his life.  Therefore, any lefty who can get ahead of him with whatever pitch finds a way to get him out with changeups, sliders, & curveballs outside of the strike zone.  Going down the stretch with Brandon Belt does not seem like a great plan.  Huff, of course, isn't the answer, either.

That said, given that the rest of our lineup seems to have settled into some form of quasi-consistent production (we're even getting decent contributions from Theriot & Crawford), 1B is a problem.  While I still maintain that our #1 pre-Trade Deadline need is some bullpen help, perhaps we should be in the market for a 1B or even a lead-off type OF (with an OF, we could play Melky some at 1B, plus Posey at times).  In the lead-off OF category, Victorino is available, plus Denard Span.

Of course, if Panda is out for an extended period, we've got other problems.

I read that the Giants were interested in Indians' Closer Chris Perez, but then nothing more on that.  Anyone heard anything on that topic?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wilted Tim

Start #21   Loss   (4-11)    4.2 innings    7 hits    5 runs    3 walks   8 strikeouts

Once again the Giants fail to nail down the sweep, this time losing to the stink-wad puds 6-3.  Once again the fallen ace, Tim Lincecum, went well past mediocre and gave his team little or no chance of winning.  Once again I find myself at a loss for words at the magnitude of Tim's decline.

I am definitely keeping this short. I feel like Tim looked at the end of his ineffective, ( even with great "stuff" ) 102 pitch battle ( game score 35 ).  A weak hitting team, like the puds, made him work and pushed his pitch count up ... until he coughed blood.  Look for every team here out to take the same approach. Maybe we do have a conditioning problem.  I don't know!  It is somewhere to start.

Angel in the Outfield, and Shortstop

D'y'all see this?  If you thought Gregor Blanco's catch in Matt's perfect game was good, check it out.  San Diego's one legit slugger, Carlos Quentin, at the plate.  Game tied, eighth inning, one out, runner on first.  Romo leaves what may have been an attempt at a slider over the fat part of the plate and Quentin hammers it towards the wall in right center.  Angel Pagan, running, stretching, falling to his right, grabs the ball, rolls part way to his feet and heaves the ball.  What you can't see very well on the replay is that Brandon Crawford, well into the outfield, catches the ball, turns and throws a rope to Brandon Belt at first.  Chase Hedley, who had already rounded second and was probably going to score if that ball had fallen, was out by a fraction of an inch.  Was Belt's added height at first enough to make the difference?  A double play to end the inning.

But the Pagan/Crawford magic didn't stop there.  Ninth inning, game still tied 2 all.  Giants had one hit (off Luke Gregerson) since their 2-run first inning.  Margaret Thatcher, tough old bird that she is, on the mound for San Diego.  Belt, showing patience and fouling off a couple of pitches, walked.  Angel, getting a much needed hit, singled.  Both runners moved up on a high and tight passed ball that whizzed over Yasmani Grandal's shoulder.  Crawford, who had shown bunt, then singled up the middle for the game winner.  He reportedly was not injured in the pile-up.

Madison Bumgarner looked fantastic to start the game, blanking the side with two strikeouts in the first.  Edison Volquez, meanwhile, made it look like another Giants romp in the bottom of the first.  Double, single, ground-out rbi, passed ball, ground out, double.  Giants up 2-0, but things changed quickly.  Madison gave up two doubles in the second, among three for the night.  By the bottom of the second, Madison had thrown 45 pitches and the game was tied.  Volquez, on the other hand, looked fantastic.  He pretty much made the Giants look meek for seven innings with an awe-inspiring curve-ball.  Madison, it seemed, did not have sharp command, and when he missed, he missed over the plate and didn't get away with it.  He had thrown 90 pitches by the end of the 5.  But, at the end of seven, Madison had given up only two runs, and you can't find much fault with that.  Both starters were gone after seven.

No, Madison did not get #12, but the Giants got a W while LA was puking their guts out in St. Louis.  As I pointed out earlier, this is the start of a run against the NL West.  We have again secured a series win in the first two games and again, are hunting for a sweep.  In any case, there is some great ball being played out there.

PS.  Anyone notice how good looking Angel Pagan is?  His teeth are so white!  Seriously, the guy looks like a movie star.  I don't know how Amy G. can keep her hands off him in the post-game interview.

PPS.  Nathan Eovaldi is now a Marl, Hanley Ramirez is a dogger.  Pablo seems to have hurt his hammie stretching for a ball at first.  Not on the DL yet, so it may warrant only a couple of days.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Ryan Vogelsong was not quite as sharp as we are used to seeing, but even then he's better than most guys. And he got a little help from his friends as the lineup put up a quick four in the 1st and three more in the 5th for that nice relaxing feeling. They seem to have caught up with Clayton Richard, who had the Giants number before this season. Buster Posey is the perfect ballplayer, by the way. I loved the falling-in-the-stands catch by Melky Cabrera to start the 6th. Not only did he make a great play, he got some help from the fans who hoisted him up and back on to the field. His Melkiness had a shit-eating grin on his face afterwards, I imagine we'll see that replay in the TV ads for the rest of the season. He's a flashy guy who likes to strut, and I'm enjoying it all. Some folks don't like all that stylin', but I like to see them having fun, and part of the fun is showing off for the fans. Guys like Buster and Vogie are so stoic and "old school" that you need to balance it out with a few hot dogs. Makes for a better show, don't you think?

Did I mention that Buster is the perfect ballplayer?



Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Brandons

I got to see Brandon Belt strike out with a runner on second and no outs, and I got to see Brad Penny cough up the winning run. That was about it. Yesterday's extra-inning game was much better than today's, so I'm glad I was out of doors and missed devoting TV time to this one. I'm happy to see that Barry Zito pitched well again. It's a nice problem to have, this inability to sweep opponents. At least they are in a position to sweep, that's got to be a good thing.

Oh, and what to do about Belt? The poor guy is looking worse by the day. He's swinging and missing stuff, not even getting weak contact. I hope he can turn it around, the Giants really need him to produce. This lineup is a lot of little parts adding up to something good, and everyone has to pull their weight. When Brandon Crawford makes you look bad, that's bad.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

Homer happy happenings

The Phillies finally got their lineup back together and it paid off in the 6th inning when Ryan Howard went deep off Matt Cain with both Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino aboard. Too many mistakes by Matty today, the 1-2 pitch to Howard was a big, fat "hit me." Cain gave up a solo shot to Chase Utley, the other piece of the Philadelphia puzzle, to start the scoring in the 1st. With Cole Hamels on the mound it looked like one of those "he blinked first" moments in what everyone thought would be a tight pitchers duel. In the 3rd, however, Matt blasted a solo shot for career homer number six to even the score, and Buster Posey followed a little later with a two-run shot on an 0-2 mistake from Hamels. Not to be outdone, the Phils pitcher hit his own solo shot off Cain to make it 3-2 Giants. The Fox guys said it was the first time since 2002 that both starting pitchers hit homers in the same game, and the first time since 1990 that it was in the same inning. The home run by Hamels was his first ever (in his 420th AB). Buster drove in another run to make it 4-2 and it seemed like Matt and the Giants would kick it into cruise mode and wrap things up. But a hot, humid day in Citizens Bank BandBox means "no mistakes" and Cain got burned for the big bomb when he left one out for Howard to rake. Things were just getting started, however.

Hamels got three easy ones in the 7th, but then it was his turn to blow the lead and he gave up a leadoff blast to Melky Cabrera in the next inning. It seems that Charlie Manuel does not trust his bullpen, at least anyone not named Jonathan Papelbon. He finally had to pull his guy (128 pitches!) with two outs when Joaquin Arias blooped a hit, the tenth for San Francisco. Antonio Bastardo blew away poor Brandon Belt, who was hitless on the day. Matty was more economical than his opponent, and he entered the 8th having thrown only 88 pitches and he made quick work of the top of the order, the ones that had vexed him in the 6th, ending with a flourish by whiffing Utley. Both starters are among the very best in the game, and both allowed five runs and three homers apiece, Cain in eight full (Brandon Crawford pinch-hit in the top of the 9th) and Hamels one out short of that. You had the figure the Giants had the edge when it went to the 10th, as the team has done well this season in both one-run games and extra-inning games. Papelbon gave up the go-ahead run after a walk to Melky (his second base on balls), the fourth hit of the day by Posey, and a bit of speed and small ball. Big effort in the 9th from a shaky-scary Santiago Casilla to nail down a tough, hard-fought win.

It was unrelated, but in the top of the 6th Angel Pagan was frozen for a called strike three. He unfortunately decided to argue the point with home plate umpire Mike Everitt. He was ejected within about ten seconds, obviously dropping one of the fatal words, and looked like a complete fool doing it. It was a perfect pitch, and even if it were not, it was certainly close enough that a called strike was defensible. Not only that, the ump decides ball and strikes, not the batter, and Pagan knows that. C'mon Angel, that was tacky. Take your strikeouts like a man. No goddamn whining! Gregor Blanco, his replacement, blew a squeeze play in the 8th to help out Hamels and ruin an excellent chance to score the go-ahead run. Ol' Boch doesn't use that play much, and I was surprised he tried it again. Thankfully Blanco made the most of his second chance.



p.s Giants are 20-9 vs. lefties.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Survivor Tim

Start #20    WIN !!!  (4-10)    7 innings   5 hits   2 runs   2 walks    6 strikeouts

For the sixth time this season, Tim Lincecum delivered a quality start ( game score 63 ) and the Giants took the opener in Philadelphia by the score of 7-2.  He wasn't exactly dominating; his fastball command wasn't there AGAIN, but today he found a way to hold it together.  Timmeh adjusted, he survived...something he has not done a lot of this year.  And, of course, we hit the snot out of the ball, so that really helped too.

The best part of Tim's performance came right after quite an embarrassing moment.  In the dreaded fourth inning, Tim got in trouble after a couple of scorched singles.  I admit that I feared the worst...face it, Tim has sucked on the road.  Then he balked in a run.  Not just any ol' balk, a freaky one.  He pretty much just fell off the rubber as he started his windup.  It was not pretty.  But then, Tim shook it off and got out of the inning.  Not only that, he proceeded to rip through the next three innings and only gave up an infield hit ( it was amazing how close Crawford came to throwing him out!) and a meaningless homer to Ryan Howard. The last man he faced, he struck out.  A stupid detail, but it hearkens back to the glory days.  Can we Tim-aholics start to dream yet?

The good: The obvious player of the game is Brandon Crawford with his second career grand slam, 5 RBI's and spectacular defense.  However, I feel I must mention what a stud Eli Whiteside was tonight.  I have always been tough on Whiteside, hell I was frigging rude last year when he tried to catch Tim a couple times.  But today he was great.  Eli blocked everything Tim chucked up there, which is no small feat.  He also delivered the Giants first run against an ( at that time ) untouchable Vance Worley.  Great game Eli, you were just what Tim needed.  I promise not to say anything mean about you for a week.  Well, maybe a weekend.


Giants might well see Jonathan Sanchez again this year.  He is now a Rockie.  And for you nostalgia buffs, here is something worth reading.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

First Post-All Star Game Loss

I'm posting about Madison Bumgarner, and I have to admit to a serious man-crush on the young Mr. Bumgarner.  I developed this during the 2010 World Series.  I was fortunate enough to watch every pitch (albeit from a hospital bed) and one of the endearing memories was watching that long, smooth delivery and his cool composure.  I love seeing the man pitch, I love seeing him hit home runs, and I love hearing that gooey-thick southern accent on the radio.

Maddy did a dandy of a job today in Atlanta but it was not enough to get a Giant victory.  Maddy gave up only three hits and walked no one, but those three hits were hit hard.  He gave up a solo home run to Freddie Freeman in the bottom of the second after Pablo scored on an Emmanuel Burriss single, he gave up a triple to Michael Bourn after a Panda throwing error (another error!) put Paul Janish on base in the third, and he gave up another solo home run to Atlanta catcher David Ross in the fourth.  That gave Atlanta a 3-2 victory after Buster hit a sacrifice fly to score Melky after his lead-off triple in the eighth.  Madison struck out eight in his seven inning stint.

The Giants had other chances: they out-hit the Braves 9-3, and put two men on base via the walk, but they couldn't push them across the plate.  Tim Hudson picked up the W, his eighth of the year, and that weird-looking guy Kimbrel got a save.  At the top of the order, Gregor Blanco walked once, but neither he nor Brandon Crawford got a hit.  Notably, Angel Pagan went 0-4 with three K's.  He twice whiffed with a runner at second.  Not to make too much out of that - but Angel hasn't been real productive since the break, he seems to waver between a game with a couple hits and a game with no hits.

I blame the loss on Austin Chang.  He is a writer for Yahoo Sports who speculated, too soon, that the Giants might sweep the Braves at Turner Field, and, by so doing, jinxed it.  He is also incorrect.  He states what might have been would have been the first sweep at Turner Field since 1988.  This is like stating that it would have been the first sweep at Turner Field since the Great London Fire of 1666.  Turner Field did not exist in 1666, nor did it exist in 1988.  It opened in 1996, and the Giants have not fared well since then.  They have a 22-45 record in Turner Field, having gone 55-71 against the Braves in that stretch.  I am predicting a reversion to the predominant trend, however, as the Giants have an overall winning record against the Braves in the Braves home park since 1901.  Unfortunately, not recently.  Before the Braves occupied Turner Field, they played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where the Giants had a 121-130 record, although they had a 262-243 record against the Braves overall during that period.  That was from the time the Braves moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966 through 1995.  Prior to that, the Giants also had a losing record in Milwaukee County Stadium from 1953 through 1965.  They were 52-83 in Milwaukee, 113-157 overall, perhaps due in large part to gentlemen named Aaron, Mathews and Spahn.  Going back to 1901, the Giants were pretty dominant against the Braves, running up a 479-339 record against the Boston franchise, known as the Beaneaters, Doves (this might be appropriate for the current Boston team), Braves, Bees and Braves again.  The Giants (New York Giants, that is) were 216-184 in Braves Field, also known as "The Bee Hive" from 1915 to 1952, when they moved to Milwaukee.  From 1901 to 1914, the Giants were 94-57 against the Braves at SouthEnd Grounds.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Number Nine

Giants go crazy in Atlanta and score NINE RUNS for the second night in a row--who can explain this? And three home runs, to boot, two of them three-run homers! What the hell happened? Weird, weird shit going down in Turner Field. Ryan Vogelsong lost his eight game streak of pitching at least seven innings, but his streak of at least six includes all seventeen starts this season and hits a high of eighteen when you include his last start of last season. The man is a machine. The Giants emptied the dugout and got big hits from unlikely places like Brandon Crawford, whose bomb in the 11th was the difference-maker. The guys on the pre-game show talked about the need for a bat off the bench that could get the team a homer, and sure enough Gregor Blanco piled on with his own in the 11th as well. Crazy! A tense, nail-biting pitching duel goes to extras and morphs into a blowout. Bludgeon the bastards, I say. The guys on the pre-game also talked about the need for some bullpen help. Santiago Casilla needs some help, that's for sure. I really thought the Giants were done in the bottom of the 9th when they made all those poor plays in the field. That's got to improve. And I thought they were done again after the bottom of the 10th. I guess I shouldn't underestimate them.

Giants get their first series win on the road against the Braves since 1997. The Giants won the West in 1997 with 90 wins, and the Braves won the East with 101. The Arizona Diamondbacks did not exist.

Keep it rollin', boys, keep it rollin'.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh, Atlanta!

We saw great pitching tonight by Barry Zito. He had the usual assortment of Zitovian lefty-slurvy whatevers, but he put them on the spots he wanted to, and he changed speeds and kept the lineup from getting good swings. And he kept the ball down. The Braves looked over-matched. That was hell of a start against a hot club! The burst of runs was like a surprise dessert after a sumptuous meal. I've no doubt Zito would have won 2-0 if there had been no big rally, but it sure is fun to see them rack up the runs. I'm with Billy Martin: you never have enough runs. Sure, you know you can win when you are up 2-0, but you know you will win when you are up 9-0. I want to bludgeon all opponents into submission. I know that will not happen with this team, but I'm OK with that. The Giants are going to win 3-2 a hell of a lot more than 9-0, so that makes these rare blowouts even better. You know now they can win 9-0, even if they probably wont.

Barry-Z only fanned three, but it shows that good pitching is not always about overpowering the hitters. Zito walked only one and faced three over the minimum in his seven innings. You can pitch in this league--get guys out and be effective--with nothing over 86 mph in your arsenal. It's hard, though. You have to have command and you have to be able to fool guys. Even Tim Lincecum is finding those two things hard to do, and think about the amazing shit he has. Sure, Zeets has a great curve, but the rest is average at best. It shows you that at this level, it's between the ears that counts the most. Let's hope both our lads are masters of their mental games the rest of the way.

No. 75 delivered the VSC, in a place where the Giants usually go to die. Turner Field opened in 1997 and the Giants have already lost more games there than in all other Braves franchise cities combined. You could check B-R, but I'm pretty sure.

Huge road trip, lovely win, fine work on the hill and in the box, keep it rollin', boys.


p.s. 50-40, 5th inning completed; 9-9, 9-9, 12-6, 10-8, 10-8

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hey! A Sweep!

If you saw the last time Matt Cain pitched against the Astros, you might think that he struggled this time out.  Matt threw 108 pitches to get through 6 1/3 innings.  He gave up 5 hits and 2 runs, only one of which was earned.   Matt’s own throwing error in the third allowed Houston’s first run.  It seems like that was sort of earned, because it was the pitcher’s fault, but, whatever.  It was a good thing that the Giants got to Bud Norris early because he looked like he was on a roll after that.  Giants got a couple walks in the fourth, but failed to score.  Then, Pablo doubled to start the fifth in Melky’s spot in the line-up (he has a couple of days off, for good reason), and Buster Posey singled him in.  As it turned out, the Giants would have to make that 3-2 score stand up, although they had 3 base runners after that.  The Giants only got 7 hits on the day, and 3 of them were Posey’s.  Fortunately, they were bunched around the top of the line-up.  We used five relievers to get 8 outs, Affeldt got 4 of them in relief of Cain, and Casilla got the final two outs for a relatively uneventful save.

 The Giants failed to win the last three times Matt pitched, in Oakland June 24, against Cincinnati June 29 and in D.C. on July 5.  Matt only picked up an L in the Cincinnati game.  So Matt is now in double digits in the W column!  I want him to be a 20 game winner in 2012.  If you want to see Matt's game score, you'll have to look it up here.  I think the game score is rather silly, really.  I remember, back in the 1990's, seeing Greg Maddux throw complete games with pitch counts in the 80's and 90's.  As I understand it, game score gives extra credit for strike-outs.  Is it really better to take three pitches (or more) to strike a guy out than it is to throw one pitch and get an out on a weak dribbler?  Discuss.  Or not.  A day off, then a game Tuesday in Atlanta, where the Braves have been good of late.

And LA lost again!  Hey!

Mojo Tim

Start #19    ND  (3-10)    8 innings    5 hits    ZERO runs   1 walk    11 strikeouts

It isn't often that something else matters more than getting the win.  Of course, maybe I'm just saying that because we did end up winning, 3-2 in 12 innings over the Astros.  Be that as it may, the big news of tonight was the dominating performance of Tim Lincecum ( game score 82 ).  Displaying the kind of fastball command that brought him those big ol' trophies a few years ago, Timmeh sliced through the over-matched Houston lineup.  His knee high heat, in on the hands on both sides of the plate, set up his other devasting stuff.  Just like the good ol' days.  His final out of the night was way cool; a strikeout that he got the assist on as he grabbed a pitch that got away from Hector Sanchez ( a recurring theme in this weird game ).  Sure it was a pity that Tim didn't get the win, but it is not like he's going to have a good record this year.

The good:  There is a boatload, obviously since we are BACK IN FIRST PLACE!  Melky Cabrera ( 40 multiple hit games! ), Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Buster Posey all got on multiple times.  But the real offensive star was Hector.  Four frigging hits; including the game winner.  What a night he had...trying to catch Timmy's shit, getting the tough error that tied the game, and then winning it in extras.  Sanchez is truly one of the bright spots of the season...he also makes our catching position the most potent in the league.  Special praise to Brad Penny with 5 big outs in extra innings.  Isn't it cool that he is contributing again?

The bad:  I suppose it must be mentioned that Santiago Casilla has blown a wad of games lately.  Tonight's was tough - the tying run scored from second after a strikeout! - but it is an alarming trend for sure.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Undefeated in the second half!

Buster Posey hits most of his homers on the road, mostly because he's not a pull hitter. He hits his bombs to the gaps, and AT&T is not the place to try to jack 'em out that way. So it is sure nice to know he can just skip all that and blast the ball over the centerfield wall. Way to go Buster, that's the signature hit of The Second Half So Far. And Madison Bumgarner is really good, so I'm voting him The Second Half Starter Award because he's the only Giants pitcher to win so far in the second half. And I wish Pablo Sandoval wouldn't play fullback at home plate. Yeah, it was nice to have an extra run, but that was a bit of luck, going home on that dinky little fly ball was silly. And football smash-mouth is fine in football, but this is baseball, and I'd really rather see a nice slide and sweep tag play. It isn't always the catcher who gets hurt in those collisions. But I digress. The Giants are undefeated in the second half!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's all about the pitching

Baseball-Reference measures pitching using ERA+, which compares the league average ERA to a team or individual ERA. Thus, an ERA+ of 120 roughly means that the league is 20% worse (gives up 20% more earned runs per nine innings) than the pitcher or staff. FanGraphs uses ERA-, which flips the fraction over and compares an individual or team ERA to the league average. Thus, an ERA- of 80 would indicate a pitcher or staff that is 20% better (allows 20% fewer earned runs per nine) than the league. In both cases, a score of 100 would indicate unity, or league average. Both stats claim to have a park factor in the final result that adjusts for, say, playing in Fenway vs. Petco. Both are handy thumbnails for evaluating pitchers and pitching staffs.

I made a graph of the Giants team ERA+ and ERA- for the seasons 2009-2012. I treated the interim numbers for 2012 the same as the full-season numbers, just to get a quick snapshot of how the current guys compare. Madison Bumgarner actually made his debut in 2009, throwing ten innings over four games (one start). Tim Lincecum was the star of that squad, and both Matt Cain and Barry Zito had 33 starts apiece. Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, and Brad Penny were also on that staff. In 2010, The Bumbino had 18 starts and supplanted Barry-Z on the post-season roster. Santiago Casilla, Guillermo Mota, and Javier Lopez joined the fun. Last year Ryan Vogelsong emerged and Jonathan Sanchez pitched his last game as a Giant. Take a look:

As a team, the Giants ERA+ for 2009-20012 goes 120, 117, 110, and 97. That's 1st, 1st, 3rd, and 10th in the NL. Their ERA- goes 86, 85, 86, and 93, good for 2nd, 1st, 2nd, and 5th. I don't know why B-R rates the Giants so poorly compared to FanGraphs, but I suspect it has to do with the mysterious "park factors." Regardless, it is clear the staff is not as elite as it once was. We all know the culprit, of course, but Tim Lincecum gets some help from his bullpen, too. The loss of both Willie and WillyMo certainly hurt. The Giants are blessed with excellent starters and a talented relief corps. But team-wide they are much more prone to giving up runs than in the previous three seasons. Another way to look at this is to just take raw "runs allowed" numbers and compare them to the league average "runs allowed." The RA/lgRA ratio should be 1.00 for a "league average" team, eh?

2009: 611 RA, NL average 727; RA/lgRA 0.84
2010: 583 RA, NL average 705; RA/lgRA 0.83
2011: 578 RA, NL average 673; RA/lgRA 0.86
2012: 346 RA, NL average 368; RA/lgRA 0.94

No surprises, really. We know the staff is giving up more runs this year. The question is, will this trend toward average-ness continue? And will that hurt the team's chances? If the answer to the second question is "yes" (and I think it is) then we have to hope the answer to the first question is "no" (and I think it is). The Giants will find a fresh arm or two for the 'pen, and the laggards and slackers will pick it up. This I believe. Random events (injuries, for example) can derail the best-laid plans, so we'll just ignore them, OK?

The Second Half is upon us! I feared the Baseball Gods would punish Giants fans for stuffing the ASG ballot box, instead they blessed us for it. Let us hope they continue to bless the rest of the season. Perform your ablutions and make your sacrifices, my friends, the dark forces must be propitiated!



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Cain runneth over

That was some serious Cainousness in the All-Star Game. Major Cainosity. Full-on Cainitude. That was as Matt Cain as a Matt Cain game can be. A lucky hit, a pop fly, a deep fly out (that the announcers thought was a homer), and a stirring, swinging whiff of the HR king, a hard-working 23-pitch zero, only to be followed up by a six-pitch mow down of some more big guns for another zero. Does that sound like a Cain game to you? Just beautiful, Matty. Just beautiful. And you have love two hits, a walk, three runs and three RBI for three Giants in the 1st. Like I said, beautiful. Whatever else happens, I don't care. Our boys represented!


UPDATE: Melky Cabrera goes deep! The NL hits for the cycle! Giants 5, AL 0.

UPDATE (8th inning): Clearly it is an "M.C. Squared" night, Matt Cain for the WIN and Melky Cabrera for the MVP. Am I right?

UPDATE (post-game): It's official, Melky is the MVP. So well deserved.

At the Break

In 2009, the Giants were 49-39 (.557) at the All-Star Break, but slumped a bit in the second half (39-35, .527) to finish in 3rd place, seven out, with an 88-74 record (.543). In 2010, they were two games worse at 47-41 (.534), but turned on the jets after that (45-29, .608) on the way to an NL West title (92-70, .568). They went 11-4 (.714) in the post-season to grab the crown. Last year there were 92 games before the Break, and the Giants racked up 52 wins against only 40 losses (.565). Unfortunately they stumbled badly the rest of the way (34-36, .486) and finished in second place, eight games out (86-76, .531). At 46-40 so far this season, they are tied with the Mets and the Cardinals for the sixth-best record in the NL. The Nationals, Pirates, Reds, Braves, and Dodgers are better, and the latter two by a mere half game. In the AL, only the Yankees, Rangers, Angels, and White Sox are playing above the Giants .535 pace. You have to think that a cumulative regular-season record of 312-260 (.545) since that breakout year in 2009 is pretty damn good, and ought to be the envy of many franchises. The club has not had a run like this since those 1997-2004 teams that averaged 92 wins per year and made four playoff appearances and won a pennant. Overall, including a 12-16 post-season record, they played .567 ball, which edges out the current club's .550 overall percentage.

Historical perspective is good in baseball. You have to take the long view in this game, because daily and weekly results can drive you mad. The Giants rode a streak of 36 scoreless innings to the top of the division only to blow it all with a wretched 2-7 stretch immediately after that. A 17-11 June with only 96 runs allowed loses a little luster when the team gives up 48 in the the first week of July. So let's get back to the long view. If they are indeed a .550 team, then we should expect 42 more wins which would only net them 88 overall. It might be enough to win the West, but it is not exactly promising. If they can play .600 ball the rest of the way, that would mean 46 more wins and 92 overall. I like that. 92-70 worked out well for San Francisco in 2010, and it would likely be enough to grab a playoff spot in 2012. Either way it doesn't look like the current .535 is going to cut it. Even if you think the Dodgers are pretenders and the Diamondbacks won't right the ship in time, the Giants will still have to separate themselves from the pack, and the only way to do that is to win lots more games. Ninety wins is usually a good target, that's 44 more, or a .579 pace the rest of the way. There are 17 games left in July, 29 in August, 27 in September, and three in October. Of the remaining 76 games, 39 are at home. The Giants are 26-16 (.619) at AT&T Park and 20-24 (.455) on the road. Those 37 away games loom large, especially since they finish the season with three in San Diego and three in LA. Let's shoot for 20-17 (.541) and 24-15 (.615) at the very least, shall we?

No matter how you slice it, it is going to be a close call, unless of course Tim Lincecum suddenly reverts back to The Franchise and runs out a dozen killer starts. I think he will find himself, but it won't be like flipping a switch. When you are in a deep hole you don't get out in one leap. It takes a lot of scrabbling first. So the rest of the team will have to do as well as they are already doing, and some other guys are going to have to improve. I pick Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, the highly-paid lefty specialists who are pitching like generic relievers so far. Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan could stand to get their collective mojo back, and a bench guy like Nate Schierholtz could step it up, too. The Giants are last in the NL in pinch-hits with 15, for example. They need someone who can come in late and contribute with the stick. And the recurring power shortage (51 HR, tied with LA for last in the league, and 215 XBH, next-to-last with LA at 207) needs to be addressed. Perhaps the All-Star third baseman can get his big bat going again. With Freddy Sanchez out for the year, Ryan Theriot becomes hugely important. I really wish Bochy would not bat him second as his .632 OPS will not cut it there. That's too many PAs for a weak bat, I don't care how good he is at the hit-and-run or "moving the runner over" or any other dink-ball bullshit. Melky Cabrera can do everything The Riot can do and do it a hell of a lot better, so I say move M.C. to that spot and everyone else up one more notch. How about Buster Posey or Pablo Sandoval guaranteed an at-bat in the first inning of every game? Doesn't that sound good? Get the best hitters up sooner and more often and the team will score more. But I think that's a vain hope. Ol' Boch does a hell of a job with the pitching staff and with player attitude and morale, the two things a manager has to do properly. We are lucky to have him. But lineup construction is a weak point (how about Brandon Belt, .358 OBP, hitting second?), and even though the improvement may be marginal, this team needs every run they can squeeze out.

The 2012 Giants are in a good spot. They can legitimately call themselves contenders. They've managed to survive a historic collapse by their most valuable player. As long as the starters remain healthy and productive they will stay in the thick of it. Some shoring up of the bullpen may be inevitable, but I think we should be confident that The Brian Trust can find another arm, as that's their forte. A little lineup help would be good, too, but that's tricky. Mostly, they'll have to rely on the guys they have. Perhaps youngsters like The Brandons and Hector Sanchez will chip in a little more down the stretch. Mostly, though, the team needs Timmy. Even with a wide-open division, with no clearly dominant team, the Giants can't afford to throw away starts. The two other teams in the race have been hurt with key injuries (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Daniel Hudson, Stephen Drew, Joe Saunders) and have some guys under-performing (Justin Upton, James Loney), and that's been a boon to the Giants. We all know how hard it is to win when your guys are on the DL.

Ever since Atlee Hammaker gave up a grand slam to Fred Lynn in the 1983 All-Star Game, I get the heebee-jeebees when a Giants pitcher gets the ball. I shouldn't, I know, but I do. That was another one of those deeply scarring events. I'm obviously happy for Matt Cain, and he is certainly deserving of the starting honor. Not only that, he's NOT Atlee, and will do just fine against the AL. Need proof? Check this out. And there have been successful Giants All-Star pitchers since then (Jason Schmidt and Brian Wilson come to mind, and Timmy survived his start, if I remember). Mets fans have a beef about R.A. Dickey, to be sure, but they owe Tony LaRussa their wrath, not the Giants. I'm convinced he picked Cain because everyone expected him to pick Dickey, and we know how Tony loves to be contrary. Let's hope the NL wins eh?



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Piece of Sh*t Tim

Start #18    Loss  (3-10)    3.1 innings   7 hits  6 runs   1 walk  3 strikeouts

Did I already use this title before?  Have I already written this post before?  Is this nightmare going to end?

Answers: Not quite, No it just seems that way, and the 2012 Tim Lincecum nightmare does not seem to be anywhere close to being done.  PLUS this time we get a few extra days off to ruminate over it!  The lastest version was today's rubber game loss to the resurgent Pittsburgh Pirates, 13 -2.   I guess I was fortunate to completely miss it (traveling to Sactown for the week) but I feel like I've seen it before. We have all seen it far too many times this year.  Another low quality start ( game score 24 ) that featured some big blasts by quality hitters (Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker) as well as the embarassing hit to A.J. Burnett ( his first RBI since 2005! ).  Tim is clearly no closer to getting his freak back on.

Well, let the All-Star Break conjecture begin.  Is he out of shape?  Does he need his Daddy?  Is he smoking too much ganja?   Maybe he's not eating enough In 'N Out burgers.  The sad thing is that we will see articles about each one of these in the next couple days (if you haven't already).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Getaway game gets away

Giants blew a lot of scoring chances tonight and that kept the Nationals in striking distance. Fifteen hits, two walks, and a meaningful stolen base should net you more than five runs. I knew the Giants would rue those blown opportunities. With some better at-bats it could have easily been an 8-1 game in the top of the 7th inning. Matt Cain delivered a stopper start until he gave up back-to-back bombs in the bottom half to make it 5-3, and Ol' Boch had to yank him. Suddenly, the team was just hanging on instead of cruising. Jeremy Affeldt made a mess of things, and Sergio Romo managed to clean it up, but Santiago Casilla made an even bigger mess, and that was that. Cain wasn't on top of his game, but he certainly pitched well enough to get the team a win in a must-win game. Washington showed a lot of explosiveness in this series, banging out extra-base hits in bunches. You had to figure they were going to keep coming, and it was going to take all hands to nail down the win.

When you don't hit home runs you have to rely on station-to-station baseball, and that means it takes four guys to score a run instead of one. And when you play for one run then one run is all you'll get. I like crooked numbers, but the team is just not built that way, they are built to hit three singles and not score. But that's, by comparison, a minor issue in the big scheme of things. Hell, at least they get hits. They couldn't do that last season. The big issue is the lack of consistent performance from key relievers. Another series on the road ends with bullpen disasters. This team needs to get outs in those "close-and-late" situations, and can't afford to let games like this get away from them. Tonight the Giants let one get away and now head for Pittsburgh to face the first-place Pirates for the final series before the Break.



Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nats serve notice

The Washington Nationals torched Madison Bumgarner today, tossing him aside like he was Tim Lincecum, dominating in all facets of the game and pounding the Giants once again. If the Dodgers win tonight they'll be back in first place, just to rub salt in it, which can't be much worse than what we've had to watch so far. I am happy to see Pablo Sandoval put on a show in advance of his All-Star appearance. I don't care who makes the All-Star Team, and the sooner it becomes a truly meaningless exhibition again the happier I will be, but if our guys are there I want them to flash All-Star stuff. Don't you? Plus a hot Panda will really help the Giants score more runs down the stretch. But the problem in D.C. has not been run-scoring. The team has in fact looked thoroughly Giants-y at the plate, and just as thoroughly un-Giants-y with the ball. The Freak and The Bumbino looked like rookies against the Nats, who hit good pitchers' pitches as well as mistakes, and from both sides of the plate and to all parts of the yard. It will be up to Matt Cain tomorrow to cool them off, and that's a tall order. I said before the series it would be a good test for the team--they could bring their "F" up to a "C" with a win.



p.s. Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fried Tim

Start #17   LOSS !!  (3-9)    3.1 innings 9 hits 8 runs (new career high) 7 earned runs 2 walks  2 strikeouts

It would seem that the sweltering heat of Washington (94 degrees at game time) gobbled up the fallen Ace of the Giants, Tim Lincecum, and spit him out.  In arguably one of his WORST STARTS EVER (game score 12! seriously, I didn't know they went that low!), the Nationals destroyed the Giants, 9-3.  That is a brutal way to start a key span of games in which 12 of 15 are on the road.  The hot, stinky road.

We can only hope this game is the result of freak frying weather, otherwise we are right back to worrying about Tim's every move.  This is the team with the league's best record after all.  Their impressive offensive stars, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, looked good today.  And their #3 starter, Jordan Zimmermann, sure whooped our sorry butts.  They look very tough to beat.  Yeah, it might be a "hiccup" as Bruce Bochy called it.

Or we might be back to square one with Tim.   Heavy sigh.

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's on like Donkey Kong

The Giants have played 80 games and find themselves one game up in the NL West with a 45-35 record. Their "Pythagorean" or "expected" W-L record is only 42-38 (317 RS, 301 RA) and I've no doubt we can attribute that to the presence of so many All-Stars. Either that or Bruce Bochy is a genius, pick which one you like. The Reds are the second of three first-place teams the Giants play consecutively. The Washington Nationals are next and they have the best record in the NL. I'm not sure it matters with the Giants, but they do miss Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, both who have been sensational in 2012. They follow that hot, humid East coast swing with three against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are in second place in the NL Central with a 42-36 record, a game behind Cincinnati. That's four good teams right before the Break. If you were looking for a yardstick to judge the club, this is as good a stretch as you'll get.

It looked bad on Sunday after another excellent start by Ryan Vogelsong. Somehow Santiago Casilla managed to stop the bleeding in the 9th, and a freaky misplay by Jay Bruce in the bottom of the inning salvaged the win, but it was close. Giants really needed a big hit to pad the lead earlier in the game, but when you are 25th in baseball in SLG that's a reach. It's hard to believe there are teams who are worse, but there are: Tampa Bay, Oakland, the Dodgers, Seattle, and San Diego. I think both Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt are going to have to supply some pop in the second half. Otherwise it is pitching, pitching, pitching. The four teams I mentioned in the first paragraph are the four teams ahead of San Francisco in runs allowed: Nationals (268), Pirates (291), Dodgers (294), and Reds (298). None of the five have a particularly potent offense, only the Reds (4.24 rpg) score above the league average (4.20). Stabilize the defense, get Tim Lincecum back, and shore up the 'pen are obvious improvements, and the first two seem to be trending in the right direction. Javier Lopez has not been Mr. Automatic in 2012 (20 hits and 9 walks in 16-1/3 IP), the closer has had a shaky stretch, and some of the names at the bottom end (Shane Loux and George Kontos) are not inspiring. I imagine the Brian Trust will make another move in that department. Oh, and let's get Gregor Blanco going again!