Saturday, August 22, 2009

The PG Beat: Miller and Valdez mercilessly fail, Giants score 11 runs and lose


Seriously, I do not know what to say.

When I leave to watch the game, it's is 6-1 Giants. Martinez is cruising, and the Giants offense looks like I wished it looked like since the Trade Deadline. Ryan Garko is absolutely killing the ball, and the Giants hitters look absolutely dialed in against a very talented pitcher such as Jorge De La Rosa, who has a history of mowing down Giants hitters (he was 4-0 going into this game).

Then, one two-pound sirloin steak at Cattleman's later, it's an 11-6 game once my family and I get back in the car and turn on the radio. My dad says "I'm not listening to this shit" and turns off the radio. When I get home it's 14-6 Rockies after the seventh, the game, all but lost for the Giants at this point.

Six-run lead? That can be made up. But eight-run lead with two innings to play? Well...that one's a little bit trickier.

Granted, you can pretty much blame this 14-11 loss on one thing: the pitching. Yeah, I know, that's something you don't always say with this Giants team, but this Giants pitching staff, bullpen especially, laid a tremendous duck egg out there tonight.

Martinez went 5 innings, gave up nine hits and six runs. Justin Miller went 0.2 innings and gave up four hits, four runs and two walks. Merkin "I'm a young 28 even though in the D/R everyone is three years older" Valdez went 0.2 innings and gave up two hits, four runs and three walks.

Sorry boys. It doesn't matter if Ryan Garko hits two home runs with those kinds of pitching statistics. When you pitch that poorly against a Rockies team that is pretty good in a ballpark where the ball're pretty much seceding as easily as Czechoslovakia did to the Germans in World War II.

However, I'm not as pissed as many Giants would expect. This offense is turning it around. Garko is starting to show he belongs in the everyday lineup (no thanks to a reverse jinx by me. Am I right? Am I right? Just say yes...fine!) and all those hits that went unrewarded are starting to finally drive in some runs. Furthermore, Panda is starting to look like Panda again and sans one bad inning, Martinez didn't actually look all that bad.

And lastly, Bob Howry. Good stuff from him tonight. For all the crap you get, you sure know how to come in stop the bleeding. Seriously, all those jerkasses who are continuing to dump their ever-amounting frustration on Howry need to ease up. Sure, the guy gives up the walk-off jacks, but he's not our closer, and he can't be expected to be one either. And as far as I'm concerned, Howry is doing us all a favor in those walk-off jacks. He is ending the game earlier for us Giants fans, and he saves us from watching the Giants whiff with RISP for another inning.

At this point, I'm still hopeful for the split, which would be good enough for me. However, the Giants really, really need Freddy Sanchez back in the lineup. We just need his presence in this series, and unfortunately, Juan Uribe and Eugenio Velez simply isn't cutting at the two-bagger.

Please God, if you could, can Freddy get back in the lineup. I would be forever grateful my man.

Postgame box notes:

Winning pitcher: Jorge De La Rosa (12-8) 6 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO.
Losing pitcher: Justin Miller (2-2) 0.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO (That's one crappy outing now, isn't it?)

Giants standouts: Pablo Sandoval, 3-for-5, 2 2B (37), HR (19). Nate Schierholtz, HR (5). Ryan Garko, 2-for-5, 2 HR (2). Aaron Rowand, 2-for-4, HR (12). Bengie Molina, 2B (24). Joe Martinez, 2-for-2, 2B (1).
Rockies standouts: Dexter Fowler, 2-for-3, 2 3B (9). Todd Helton, HR (12). Troy Tulowitzki, 2-for-3. Brad Hawpe, 2-for-5, 2B (35). Ian Stewart, 2-for-4, HR (19). Sean Smith, 3B (3).

Probable starters for next game: Lincecum (12-3) vs. Jimenez (11-9).

The Fred Lewis Conundrum: Where does he fit on this Giants team?

Fred Lewis has had a down season in 2009. I don't think anyone (be it Giants fans, Giants management, Giants players or even Fred himself) can deny that.

However, despite my own skepticism at times in the past, Lewis is actually a very valuable commodity on this Giants team. Does he deserve to be back in the lineup as an everyday player in the Giants outfield? Probably not. That being said though, any of those naysayers that are saying the Giants should designate him for assignment this year might be a tad out of line.

For starters, if you look at Lewis' standard stat line, he isn't having all that bad of a season. In 96 games, he has a .273 batting average, a .356 OBP (the only other hitter with an OBP over .350 is Pablo Sandoval at .379), 19 doubles (he had only 25 last year in over 200 more at-bats) and has scored 43 runs (only one less than Edgar Renteria, who has 130 more plate appearances this year).

And then, when you look deeper into the stat line, the case for Lewis is actually more surprising than Giants fans would like to think. Lewis has the fourth-best OPS on the team at .769, ahead of outfielders Randy Winn and even Nate Schierholtz (who have OPS numbers of .691 and .767 respectively) and has the second highest walk percentage on the team at 10.2 percent (behind Andres Torres, who is at 11 percent).

The only real knocks on Lewis this season have been two things: his strikeout numbers, and his dramatic drop in stolen bases.

This season, Lewis has the second highest strikeout percentage out of all the Giants position players at 28.4 percent (behind Torres, who is at 30.3 percent). However, his BB/K ratio isn't that bad at 0.41. It is actually eighth-best on the team, which eases the pain of his alarming strikeout percentage and numbers. It doesn't completely erase the pain, but it at least makes the sting of the unwanted strikeout less agonizing.

As far as stolen bases is concerned, Lewis has declined in that area as well. Last year, he had 21 stolen bases and was caught only seven times. This year, he has only eight, and he has been caught four times.

However, it must be noted that the Giants overall as a team have stolen bases a lot less frequently in comparison to last season. Manager Bruce Bochy, who ran the gamut with his baserunners last year, has settled more often for the hit-and-run call rather than the stolen base move.

The evidence of Bochy's change in policy? This year, Emmanuel Burris (who was optioned to Fresno back in June) still leads the team in stolen bases with 11, and Lewis, despite his drop, still has the third-most stolen bases on the team, behind only Randy Winn, who has 10.

Another knock on Lewis this season has been his defensive performance, and while as a Giants fan you can note that he routinely misplays balls off the wall, statistically he isn't exactly Jose Canseco out there shagging fly balls in Left Field.

His fielding value at 3.7 is actually better than outfielders Eugenio Velez (who has a value of 3.3) and Aaron Rowand (who has a value of 1.6). So while Lewis isn't up to par defensively in comparison to other outfielders such as Winn (who leads the team in fielding value at 15.1) and Schierholtz (who has a value of 4.8), he certainly isn't the worst value defensively out there in Left Field for the Giants.

Overall, Lewis may not be a mainstay on this Giants roster like we originally thought at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. However, Lewis brings something to the table that Giants are lacking on this roster: walks (which is evidenced by his OBP and BB percentage) and plate patience (which is evidenced by the lack of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone).

This year, Lewis has only swung at 19 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. The next best outfielder is Winn, who swings at 27.9 percent of pitches outside the strike zone.

As we have seen during this road trip, the Giants have done a great job assimilating hits. However, until this recent two-game stretch against Colorado, the Giants have done a poor job cashing in with runners in scoring position.

The reason? Poor plate discipline, especially with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.

One of the main culprits? Velez, who is mired in an 0-for-16 slump and has repeatedly been unable to come through with ducks in the pond during this road trip.

The main reason for his poor output probably has something to do with him swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. He currently swings a 31.7 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, which is the worst percentage of the Giants outfielders.

With a Wild Card berth still in the cards for the Giants, the need for run generation is even more evident as the Giants start to end in their swing in August and begin their first crucial September in years. Lewis is not a player who should be buried on the bench, or worse yet, released. Why? Because, if you look at him statistically, he is a player that may be able to help the Giants run-producing woes.

Like I said before, I'm not lobbying for him to start over Schierholtz or anybody else in the Giants outfield. I'm not saying he should be a regular starter for the remainder of the season. However, Lewis needs to get at least some at-bats during this final month-and-a half of play. He needs to be in the lineup somewhat, because he can impact this offense in ways other outfielders, such as Velez, can't.

He is not going to change the Giants' playoff chances overnight. That being said though, he is certainly not going to hurt them either.

Potent Preview: San Francisco Giants (67-55) at Colorado Rockies (68-54)

Probable starters:
SFO: Joe Martinez (3-1) 4.76 ERA. COL: Jorge De La Rosa (11-8) 4.58 ERA.

The Giants got a big win last night against the Rockies. Granted, there were some odd events that swayed in the Giants' favor. Troy Tulowitzki was sick from an illness and missed yesterday's game and could possibly miss today game as well (killer for my fantasy team though). Aaron Cook was taken out of the game after three innings due to some problems with his arm. And lastly, Aaron Rowand, of all people, hit a three-run home run to make the game 6-1 and out of reach for the Rockies.

That being said, the game felt close the whole game mainly due to two factors: the Giants couldn't come through time and time again with RISP, and the Giants bullpen had problems with walks. We all know the problems with the former, but the latter in my mind is a more disturbing trend. This Giants bullpen doesn't seem to get overmatched very often. However, they seem to get into trouble very offten when they lose their command and aren't able to locate the strike zone. Affeldt, Wilson, Romo and Medders have all had innings where they have shut down the opposition. But they also have had outings where they walk the house and give up a big, run-producing hit which could have been avoided had they kept their pitches under control. Granted, I can't complain too much. Compared to last year when the Giants were going with Jack Taschner, Tyler Walker and Keiichi Yabu in the big moments, this Giants bullpen actually looks phenomenal.

De La Rosa has been a very solid pitcher this second half and pitched incredibly well against San Francisco, especially in the last outing against former No. 5 starter Ryan Sadowski. That being said, the Giants have a much better starter this go-around in Joe Martinez, a guy who does all the right things to succeed in a park like Colorado. He's a sinker ball pitcher, he's going to induce groundouts, and those are two things you need to do in Colorado. When you throw straight, and allow a lot of fly balls, things are going to get rough for you as a pitcher. Thankfully, Martinez really doesn't embody those qualities too much.

On one last note, I hope to god Freddy Sanchez is in the lineup. I know he's beat up, but the one thing we can't have is him sitting the bench. This is one of the biggest series of the years and if he misses more than one game, then the Giants' chances aren't going to look so good. Furthermore, him sitting the bench starts to get me skeptical about the Sanchez-for-Alderson trade, which at the deadline I accepted as a good long as he was healthy.

If this issues continues to be a trend (With Sanchez taking three to four games off every couple of weeks), then I'm afraid that GM Neal Huntington and the Bucs may have swindled us.

For game updates check out the SJ Mercury's Andrew Baggarly's Giants blog at Extra Baggs. For live game thread and chat, check out the McCovey Chronicles.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The PG Beat: Giants take first one from Rockies, Sanchez deals again, RISP still a problem

For a 6-3 Giants win, this game was pretty darn nerve-wrecking. Usually, when you have that kind of lead, you never really feel any kind of panic, especially when it's 6-1 by the seventh. Yet when you factor in Coors Field, and that you're playing the Rockies, well...even a 10 run lead wouldn't feel comfortable for Giants fans. This Rockies team, and the field they play at, makes every game feel like a close one, even if the score suggests otherwise.

The Giants did get a lot of breaks in this one, and I'm not just talking about those big inning-ending double plays either. Troy Tulowitzki wasn't in the lineup. Aaron Cook left the game due to injury after 47 pitches. When you factor in those two events, chances are the game is going to tip in your favor. That being said, as we saw from the Reds series, even if you get all the breaks logically, your team still has to take care of business on the field. Thankfully, the Giants did tonight and gained a game on the Rockies in the Wild Card race.

Again, another solid start from Jonathan Sanchez, even if it was a bit sporadic. He went five innings of two-hit, scoreless baseball with eight strikeouts, but his command still is a problem from time to time. He threw four walks and allowed an unearned run, a classic sign that while he is still improving since being inserted back into the rotation, he still is not quite there in terms of being a really good pitcher. He is good certainly, but he is not even close to that caliber of Lincecum, Cain and even Zito just yet. However, I still remain confident in the kid. He is having the right kind of starts: he isn't making too many mistakes, and he is still befuddling hitters with his stuff. He is having the kind of problems many young pitchers can overcome. All it takes is confidence and more innings.

Even though the offense scored six runs this game, the Giants should have gotten 10 in my mind. RISP still remains a massive problem for this team. Even when they get ideal hitters in the right situations, they still can't produce. First we had Schierholtz with runners on second and third and one out, and he hits a fly ball in the infield. Next, we have the basese loaded with Sandoval, our main man at the plate, and he has a piss poor approach (swings at the first two pitchers even though Eaton walked the two hitters before him) and pops out meagerly to end the inning. I'm absolutely positive now that our RISP woes have more to do with the crappy approach our hitters have rather than any kind of ability. When you're 3-11 with RISP, then something needs to change. I don't care what it takes. If Bochy has to tell his hitters to take a strike with RISP, then do that. All I know is that I'm sick of seeing the Giants waste opportunity after opportunity, especially during this road trip.

Despite those sentiments above, overall, I'm happy with this win. We got the job done and took care of business and with this Giants team, that hasn't been an easy thing to do as of late. The fact that we got a very good start from Sanchez I think bodes good things for this series, especially considering Sanchez is always the guy I'm most nervous about when he takes the hill. While Martinez is no slam dunk, I believe he can have a solid outing as well. If he can muster the control he had in the 10-1 win in New York, than I think the Giants could be very well on the way in terms of taking this series in Colorado, which would be a big back-breaker for this Rockies team that is currently leading the Wild Card race.

Postgame box notes:

Winning pitcher: Jonathan Sanchez (6-10) 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 8 SO.
Losing pitcher: Aaron Cook (10-6), 3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO.

Giants standouts: Edgar Renteria, 2-for-4. Bengie Molina, 2-for-5, 2B (23). Aaron Rowand, 3-for-4, HR (11).
Rockies standouts: Dexter Fowler, 2-for-2. Todd Helton, 3-for-5. Sean Smith, HR (10). Chris Iannetta, 2B (12).

Probable starters for next game: Martinez (3-1) vs. De La Rosa (11-8).

Off the Topic: Movie Review of "Inglourious Basterds"

If you get a chance, try to catch "Inglourious Basterds" in theaters this week. Believe me, this is one of Quentin Tarantino's best films.

I know this is a baseball blog, but like I warned before, there will be certain times when my mind wanders onto different areas within and outside sports. This is one of those moments as I will review "Inglourious Basterds", Quentin Tarantino's latest film which I just watched this afternoon.

One of the most popular genres in the movie industry is the "War Movie." Name any great director, and chances are, they have made a war epic of some kind. Stanley Kubrick had "Paths of Glory." Francis Ford Coppola had "Apocalypse Now." Steven Spielberg directed "Saving Private Ryan." The "War Movie", and the take on war and its themes is always a certain in the careers of the most established and successful directors.

And like most directors, Quentin Tarantino continues this trend and gives us his take on World War II in his latest film, "Inglorious Basterds," a movie about eight Jewish soldiers led by Lt. Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt) who drop into Nazi-occupied France to wreck havoc on the German army.

The only thing though about "Basterds" is that it is only "kind-of" a war movie. And when I say "kind-of" I mean that it is closer to the comic book Capitan America than "The Moon is Down" by John Steinbeck.

Most "War Movies" are filled with all kinds of messages: the cruelty of war, the bond of brotherhood, the heroism of patriotism, the strength of the human spirit etc.

"Basterds" exhibits none of those traits, and you know what...the movie is better for it.

After all, what else should we expect from Tarantino? I mean, did we seriously expect he would create a tribute film when all his movies from his past were made for entertainment purposes only?

But that is not a bad thing. When it comes to entertainment, Tarantino succeeds, and his effort with "Basterds" is no different. It is a gory, darkly-comical affair that may run long ( two-and-a-half hours to be exact) but never is boring. Sure, some scenes draw out longer than they probably should, but Tarantino's dry wit in his script keeps the audience engaged, even in the most trivial of scenes.

We know how talented a script writer Tarantino is. He won best screenplay at the 1992 Academy Awards for a reason with "Pulp Fiction." However, as a director and movie enthusiast, we are finally seeing Tarantino's becoming better and better at what he has been trying to do since "Jackie Brown": make movies that satisfy the old movie geek, and the current movie fan simultaneously.

In "Jackie Brown" he tried to explore Blaxploitation films, only he was constrained by a script that was rigid because it was based on a novel. In "Kill Bill Vol 1 & 2" he was trying to combine his love of Samurai, Spaghetti Westerns and other nostalgic films in a two-movie extravaganza. However, it was all TOO much, and ended up alienating more viewers in my opinion than uniting them. In "Death Proof," his film in "Grindhouse," he simply didn't have enough time to do anything, for I believe he was more enamored with the whole concept and idea of the movie rather than actually directing the movie itself.

In "Basterds" though, Tarantino makes perhaps his most balanced film yet. It's incredibly mainstream, but incredibly geeky as well. It will satisfy those who grew up on dime store pulp novels written by Mickey Spillane, but it will also satisfy those kids who play Call of Duty on their X-Box.

"Basterds" satisfies in so many ways, and that is why I think this movie is his greatest accomplishment since "Pulp Fiction." Don't get me wrong. I loved "Kill Bill," but more people will love "Basterds." That is how balanced this film is. "Kill Bill" was meant only for the Tarantino buffs. But "Basterds"? It goes beyond just the Tarantino loyalists. People who sat cold-faced during "Kill Bill" will get a chuckle or two in "Basterds". Granted, this movie won't reach that much further out to mainstream moviegoers, but it will be much further than any of his last two film efforts.

A good director can't do it alone of course, and even though Tarantino went the other road and went relatively unknown in his casting except for Brad Pitt, the stars in this movie still shine. Other than Pitt's Raine, the main character that will entertain movie fans is Nazi officer, Hans Landa, also known as the "Jew Hunter" (if that doesn't indicate the mood of this movie, than nothing will). Landa, played by relative unknown Christopher Waltz, is a delightful, yet incredibly gruesome character that is incredibly hard to decipher...but in a good way. He is endless entertainment, and you almost can't wait for his appearance on screen in a way that resembles how you wait for your favorite baseball hitter to come to the plate (sorry...I had to do one baseball reference).

"Basterds" is bloody. "Basterds" is shameless. "Basterds" is unapologetic. "Basterds" is funny. "Basterds" is irreverent. "Basterds" is witty. "Basterds" will probably piss you off if you consider yourself to be a World War II history buff. "Basterds" isn't a movie that will allow you to make out with your girflriend. "Basterds" will give you feel mixed feelings about certain characters despite their one-dimension-ness.

But in the end, "Basterds" is pure entertainment. It is also the most entertaining movie to come around in a long time, a sign that there is still some hope in the movie industry despite the unintentionally funny crap that is drudged out in the mold of "G.I. Joe" and "Fast and Furious."

Since he finished "Jackie Brown," Tarantino often talked about his "War Movie" coming to fruition. The movie world waited and waited and still...he put it off for other projects.

Now, 12 years since he promised that his "War Movie" would be next, we finally have "Inglorious Basterds," that long anticipate promise.

Boy, was it worth the wait.

Potent Preview: San Francisco Giants (66-55) at Colorado Rockies (68-53)

Probable starters:
SFO: Jonathan Sanchez (5-10) 4.49 ERA. COL: Aaron Cook (10-5) 4.31 ERA.

Huge, huge, huge series. I know I have said that before, but when it's late August and you're playing the Wild Card leader in a four game set on the road, well...the kind of momentum that will be taken from that series will either carry the Giants into the playoffs or end their hopes completely. That's how important this series is I believe. Yeah, I know, the real games are played in September, but the Giants don't have many games left in September against the Rockies. This is one of the last few chances where the Giants will be able to make serious ground on the Rockies, and this team needs to take advantage of it, especially considering the Rockies are seeming to win all the games they are supposed to win.

Tonight, Jonathan Sanchez goes against Aaron Cook, and the last time those two face each other the results didn't go so hot in the Giants favor. But there is some silver lining of hope: Cook is coming off an atrocious start where he gave up seven runs in 2.1 innings and Sanchez is coming off a start where he went seven strong innings and only gave up two runs courtesy of a two-run home run (then again, that homer was hit by Luis "I don't hit homers ever" Castillo). My hope? Both pitchers continue their trend and Sanchez has another solid outing, only this time he has a lead. My fear? Sanchez continues his trend of good-start, bad start outings and Cook bounces back at home.

The good news for this game is Freddy Sanchez is back in the lineup, who was sorely missed in the Reds series. Sorry, Uribe and Velez aren't getting it done at second. I like Uribe, but he's a strictly two to three times a week kind of guy, and Velez should only be playing in left field, period. Thankfully, with Sanchez back in the lineup, we won't worry about those guys holding down second in a series where one or two plays could sway the momentum of the four-game set. Furthermore, Sanchez has raked at Colorado in the past. For all those Colorado fans who are confident that this series is a slam dunk because of the results against the Giants about a month ago, just remember...the Giants didn't have Freddy Sanchez. I know one guy doesn't make a difference, but having Sanchez at second and second in the lineup is a lot better than having Uribe starting. So don't get too cocky Colorado. This could be a different Giants team this time around.

Then again, I say could, because you can never predict anything with this freaking Giants offense.

For game updates check out the SJ Mercury's Andrew Baggarly's Giants blog at Extra Baggs. For live game thread and chat, check out the McCovey Chronicles.

With Bochy's Contract Ending Soon, Does He Fit Into the Giants' Plans?

From Bleacher Report

With Giants general manager Brian Sabean, and skipper Bruce Bochy in their last years of their contract, many Giants fans have wondered if new owner Bill Neukom will keep both guys in the San Francisco organization next year.

Sabean, who has been with the Giants as GM since 1997, can be credited for turning around the Giants after inheriting a miserable team that was coming off a last place finish in the NL West in 1996.

However, Sabean had been widely criticized for overpaying for veteran players (i.e. Barry Zito, Dave Roberts etc.), and making questionable trades (i.e. the Pierzynski deal) that set back the Giants' farm system for years.

Despite those setbacks and the amount of Sabean-naysayers and "Fire Sabean" Web sites, it is a good bet that Sabean is going to be back as general manager of the Giants next year.

With the team surpassing expectations this year, and the sudden influx of young talent in the minor leagues and on the major league roster, Sabean seems to have the Giants back on track like he promised. In 2008, he made the commitment that the team would rely on young talent rather than aging veterans (as evidenced by letting their organizational figurehead, Barry Bonds, become a free agent).

That being said, while Sabean looks to be running the Giants front office for at least a couple of more years after 2009, the ground that manager Bochy is currently standing on doesn't seem so firm.

Sure, Bochy was Sabean's hire to replace Felipe Alou back in 2006, but that was a different time and a different Giants organization.

That was former owner Peter Magowan's Giants organization, and that was a team that was consistently one of the oldest major league teams year after year.

Bochy made sense for the Giants when he was hired back in 2006.

He was a manager known for being the kind of skipper that players liked playing for. He was a guy who knew how to run a clubhouse, and was known for not butting heads in the locker room, even with the most fickle of stars.

Now, though, it just doesn't seem like Bochy fits anymore in this organization. For the most part, this Giants fanbase wants the same young influx in the lineup that they see in the rotation.

Giants fans want to see guys like Nate Schierholtz be an everyday player. They want to see Buster Posey called up and be the starting catcher in 2010. They want Angel Villalona to be the guy in a year or two at first base.

And yet, Bochy doesn't seem to satisfy those wants.

Despite Schierholtz raking in the past few weeks, Bochy has insisted on starting Randy Winn and Aaron Rowand, even though statistically they cannot measure up to what Schierholtz has been doing at the plate.

Bochy has stuck with Edgar Renteria at shortstop, even though he is having one of his worst seasons at the plate.

To make matters worse, other than Sandoval, and to some extent Schierholtz and Ishikawa, Bochy has buried his young guys in the organization in their callups.

Infielder Kevin Frandsen, first baseman/outfielder John Bowker and first baseman Jesus Guzman have all gotten called-up multiple times this year, and yet, at the first sign of trouble, they have been sent to the bench and eventually back to Fresno, simply because they need more "at-bats."

You could blame Sabean for those transactions. However, if Frandsen, Bowker and Guzman were playing at least a decent amount, do you think they would have been sent down so quickly?

I don't believe so.

And as those guys continue to get at-bats against Pacific Coast League pitching, Rich Aurilia continues to be on the roster even though he holds no value on this team whatsoever.

Molina continues to be in the cleanup hole, even though it would probably be in the Giants' best interest if they had somebody else in that big spot (how about Schierholtz and Sandoval three and four? You think that would be any worse than the current Sandoval-Molina combo?).

Bochy is a good manager overall. I honestly believe he has been good for this current team. Chances are though, the team we see today probably won't be around next year.

Molina and Winn, in the last years of their contract, could (and probably should) be gone.

After his miserable performance at the plate this year, it isn't preposterous to think Sabean will try to deal Renteria next year to any bidder that is desperate for a shortstop.

So with this team probably being radically different, and radically younger, Bochy simply isn't the kind of fit that would best utilize this team.

The Giants may need somebody who is more in the mold of being able to work with young players, and able to have patience with them.

They cannot have a manager who is apt to go with Aurilia at the first sign of trouble. They do not need a manager who two years ago went with Dave Roberts over better options at the time such as Fred Lewis.

I know I have supported Bochy for what he has done this season. He is a manager that should be in contention for the National League Manager of the Year award.

But he is a veteran players' manager. That is why they hired him in the first place.

With a young team, he will be out of his element, simply because he is more apt to trust those guys who have history rather than those guys without any, even if those guys with history are unlikely to repeat what they did in the past.

Granted, Bochy isn't somebody the Giants should replace regardless. If the Giants cannot find a good candidate to succeed him, then the Giants should stand pat and resign for a couple of more years.

After all, we've seen in the past what happens when a team replaces a manager without doing the right kind of research. Seattle, Washington and Oakland fans can certainly attest to that.

That being said, all this hoopla with Bochy depends on the Giants' plans in the offseason. If Sabean is intent on going after some big free agents in the Jason Bay and Matt Holliday mold, maybe Bochy still would have a place on this team.

Like I said before, when it comes to handling veterans and managing a clubhouse, Bochy is one of the best in baseball.

However, if Sabean continues to do what he promised, and continues to move up more and more guys up from the minors to the Major League roster next year, then I don't believe Bochy's job is safe, despite what the team may accomplish this season.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The PG Beat: Giants on the other side of Lady Luck, Cain unable to get win 13 (again)

I probably should have posted this earlier, but I didn't for two reasons:

1.) I was busy the whole day running errands before I head down to Los Angeles.
2.) I finally was able to get the loss out of my system after almost ten hours after the game was finished.

This definitely was a tough way to lose. The Giants not only lost, but lost by two solo homers from Laynce "Yep, I'm still here even though I was run out of Texas" Nix, and Drew "Boy, do I know when to hit my first home run" Stubbs. I mean, the Reds mustered nine hits and the Giants mustered 11 and still...the Giants found a way to lose.

How do you lose a game 2-1 to a Cincinnati team that really is falling apart by the day? Well...leaving 10 runners on base and going 2-12 with RISP is a start. Also, when your leadoff hitter and second hitter go 0-9 at the dish as well, you're not going to win that many ball games either.

Let's face it. The Giants really got lucky in this series. Any other team that isn't as incompetent as the Reds, and this could have been a series which the Giants got swept. Thankfully, by the grace of God, the Giants won two out of three and head to Colorado for a pretty crucial series at Coors Field.

This game really was amazing because the Giants got some really key performances from some of their players. Sandoval had three hits, Winn had three hits, Schierholtz had two...when your three-four-five hitters produce like that, you think you would be in good shape, right? Yet unfortunately, as has been the case for the Giants all year, guys in the top of the inning didn't get on, and the big Giants hitters were only able to get punchless hits that ended up having no value at all.

Look, I know Eugenio Velez has been playing well, but the kid needs a day off. His day was as atrocious as it could get. 0-5 at the dish. Couldn't come through twice with runners on (including one piss-poor at-bat where he swung at a crappy first pitch inside and popped out in the infield with a runner on third) and he made a grotesque error where he looked more like Manny Ramirez catching a fly ball rather than a decent second baseman. Sure, Velez has speed, but he doesn't get on base, doesn't steal bases (even though on his attempts Giants hitters are idiots and swing at the pitch, even if it is less than two strikes) and he doesn't really produce runs that great in comparison to anybody else on the team. Velez, in all reality, is better suited as an eight hitter rather than a leadoff. The only problem is the Giants have no options at leadoff this point and they're forced to hit Velez there because every other possibility has been a dud (Lewis, Rowand, Winn, Burriss, etc).

All and all, this game was almost practically like last night's game, only it was the Reds getting the breaks rather than the Giants. Hey, I can live with that. It happens,as much as that pains me as a Giants fan to say that. That being said, it sucks for Matt Cain that in the second half the Giants have gone retro-Matt Cain mode and don't even show up in the big spots at the plate. Seriously, Cain must be having that Michael Corleone moment from "Godfather III" right now. I can see Cain in the dugout after the Giants couldn't come through in the top of the ninth and saying to himself "Just when I thought I was out! They pull me back in!" I seriously hope Cain get win no. 13 this year. As frightening as this sounds, I have this bad, lingering feeling that he might not get it. Forget all the Cy Young talk. I just want the kid to win 13 freaking games this year!

So far, the road trip hasn't been too bad. 4-3 so far isn't a terrible number, especially considering how bad the Giants run generation has been this year. All I can hope is that the run production can turn it around in time for tomorrow against a Colorado team that most likely will have no trouble producing runs.

I have been optimistic before...however, I'm not quite so cheery in this series. It either could be a split, or a Colorado bloodbath. I'm praying for the former, but unfortunately, I'm expecting the latter, as down as the sounds.

Postgame box notes:

Winning pitcher: Francisco Cordero (2-3) 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.
Losing pitcher: Bob Howry (1-6) 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO.

Giants standouts: Pablo Sandoval, 3-for-5, 2B (35). Nate Schierholtz, 2-for-5. Randy Winn, 3-for-5. Eli Whiteside, 2B (3).
Reds standouts: Chris Dickerson, 2-for-4. Laynce Nix, 3-for-4, HR (10). Drew Stubbs, HR (1).

Probable starters for Giants next game against Colorado: Sanchez (5-10) vs. Aaron Cook (10-5).
Probable starters for Reds next game against Atlanta: Owings (6-11) vs. Morton (2-6).

Potent Preview: San Francisco Giants (66-54) at Cincinnati Reds (50-69)

Probable starters:
SFO: Matt Cain (12-4) 2.49 ERA. CIN: Aaron Harang (6-14) 4.35 ERA.

Definitely has been a weird series. First Giants come back from four runs down in the second inning to win. Last night, the Giants win despite getting 10 hits and no runs. You wonder what the Giants will have in store for today's game. You think after those tough performances, they can put one altogether today on both the offensive and defensive end and blow the Reds out of the water.

Whatever happens, this is for sure: Cain needs a win. The guy had a great performance against the Mets, only to have Affeldt, Wilson and the Bullpen blow it. Yeah, I know they won, but still, this sucks for Cain. In the second half, it's been more typical of Cain of old rather than the first half Cain which seemed to be getting the run support he had deserved in his young pitching career.

Either way, I think Cain is due for a win, but that will all depend on the lineup. Hopefully, the Giants come out and hit right away and Cain is able to keep the Reds in check, which shouldn't be too hard considering how bad the Reds offense is looking right now. That being said, Cain needs to keep the ball out of the air to win this game. Balls fly in this ballpark, and with this being a day game, they will be extra lively. He can't allow batters to hit balls would be deep fly outs in San Francisco. They'll be home runs here at the Great American Ballpark (which I think should be around the 13,000 fan mark. I'll set the over/under fan attendance at 13,500).

For game updates check out the SJ Mercury's Andrew Baggarly's Giants blog at Extra Baggs. For live game thread and chat, check out the McCovey Chronicles.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The PG Beat: Zito and the Giants bullpen deal in win, but offense still impotent

Man, it's times like this you wonder if Barry Zito ever regrets signing with San Francisco. His first two years, he was the poster child of overpaid pitchers in the Major Leagues. He was widely criticized for the massive contract he signed in 2007 and not living up to the hype, even though at his age and at that point in his career, it was really a lose-lose situation (And in my opinion, Aaron Harang has been a far worse overpaid pitcher than Zito in the last two years). If he wins the Cy Young, then well, he should be doing that because he's getting paid $126 million dollars. Anything less, and he's not earning his money and he's a bust.

Seriously, the guy has gotten so much grief (from me included, even though I'm not proud of it) that you just feel the guy has had enough. He isn't the one that offered that crazy contract, so all those baseball fans should be criticizing Sabean for that ludicrous amount and not Zito. Still though...people, some Giants fans included, have failed to get that memo and continue to bash Zito even though it is a ridiculously dumb argument.

And if things couldn't get any worse for Barry Zito, even when he pitches perhaps one of his best games of the year, not only does he get pulled out at the end of the sixth, but his team gives him zero run support. And literally, ZERO run support. They didn't score a freaking run off Bronson Arroyo until the eighth, freaking inning, two innings after Zito was forced to take off his batting helmet for Fred Lewis.

What do the Giants need to do to get some run support for Zito? Do they need to kill a live chicken before the game? Does Zito need to treat his lineup out on to dinner like Steve Young would for his offensive line after a big win? Does he need to pay for a prostitute for every player in the lineup that night whenever they are on a road trip?

This really is getting depressing for the guy. Zito has, in my mind, been our most consistent pitcher this second half. Yep, I said it. Not Lincecum, not Cain, certainly not Sanchez, but Zito. And yet, you would never know it because the guy can't get a decisison to save his life from his lineup.

Granted, it could have been worse. If anything, the Giants were in position to lose this game more than anything. No Panda in the lineup. No Sanchez either. Bengie and Eugenio go 0-for-8 combined (though Velez hit some pretty good balls), and Renteria is in the two spot (never a good sign ever). Yet the Giants caught a break when Reds first baseman Joey Votto had to leave the game due to blurred vision, so all we had to worry about was Brandon Phillips and Wladimir Balentein in the lineup.

The funny thing though about this 1-0 win over the Reds was that the Giants hitting wasn't all that bad, but they couldn't drive in any runs...again. I mean, this Giants offense is as potent as Hank Hill is with his narrow urethra. They get a lot of hits, but they just shoot blanks time and time again.

Look at the stat line for chrissake! 10 hits, five guys with multi-hit performances (Renteria, Schierholtz, Garko, Rowand and Uribe all had two hits) and run. And not until the eighth inning either. Man, I don't know what the Giants have to do. I don't know if it's bad baserunning, or lack of execution with ducks on the pond or what, but should have more runs than one when you get 10 hits in a ball game. It just doesn't statistically make sense.

Nevertheless, despite my never-ending frustration with this Giants offense, I am happy that at the very least, we took the series from the Reds in Cincy. The Giants needed this one. Colorado is on kill-pace against the Nationals and the G-men simply couldn't afford to drop another series to the Reds out of all teams. On another note, the bullpen really is looking great. They have absolutely dialed in on the mound in their past three performances. Wilson is looking really confident on the hill, and Romo is starting to look like his first-half self, rather than a second-half, Tyler Walker look-alike. Even though we have one game to go, and I want the Giants to go for the kill and get the sweep (and get win no. 13 for Cain. Jeez, has he waited long enough for it?), I am feeling really confident for Colorado. The Giants have a different kind of mojo going into Colorado now that they didn't have when they went into Colorado the first time or against Los Angeles last week (due to the fact they were coming off losing the previous series before each of those three-game sets against the Rockies and Dodgers).

I'm telling you, even though the offense has been inconsistent, and you really can't judge the Giants too concretely by this recent series alone (The Reds are simply awful), Colorado better be ready. I know they're riding high after beating us the last time around, but this will be a different Giants team that I think will be confident and rejuvenated the second time around.

Postgame box notes:

Winning pitcher: Sergio Romo (4-2) 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 SO.
Losing pitcher: Bronson Arroyo (11-12) 8 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO.

Giants standouts: Edgar Renteria, 2-for-4. Nate Schierholtz, 2-for-4, 2 2B (15). Ryan Garko, 2-for-4. Aaron Rowand, 2-for-4. Juan Uribe, 2-for-3, 2B (19).
Reds standouts: Daniel Stubbs, 2B (1). Great American Ballpark's empty seats.

Probable starters for next game: Cain (12-4) vs. Harang (6-14).

Potent Preview: San Francisco Giants (65-54) at Cincinnati Reds (50-68)

Probable starters:
SFO: Barry Zito (8-11) 4.44 ERA, CIN: Bronson Arroyo (11-11) 4.74 ERA

The Giants are coming off a pretty darn good win last night. Everything was in the books for the Giants to get killed: Lincecum's control was off, the Reds were up 4-0 in the second inning, Homer freaking Bailey was absolutely dealing for five innings, Sandoval had struck out three times in his first four at-bats. Believe me, I was almost giving up on this one by the fourth inning. That's how bleak last night's game was.

But...we...frickin...WON! What a game. Garko breaks out, and for the second straight game, the bullpen absolutely deals. I don't know about you, but after the crappy bullpen performance in the last homestand, I was very skeptical about how this bullpen would perform. However, they stepped it up and proved that they are indeed the tough relief staff they have been all year. I was actually open to getting John Smoltz as a reliever to shore up our late-innings relief. Yet after the last two games, I'm encouraged the bullpen has started to get it back together to where they were in June.

As for today, Barry Zito is going on the hill and got the better of Bronson Arroyo the last time around. Zito has really been killing on the mound. Even in the loss against the Mets, he pitched pretty well. It's just that the offense forgot they had a game after their walk-off win against the Dodgers. That being said, I'm a little worried that Zito is due for a bad start, much like Lincecum was last night. This really isn't a great ballpark for Zito. Small park, ball carries and if he can't locate his curve down, this game has the possibility of getting very ugly for the Giants. The offense though is starting to turn it around, so I guess you feel encouraged that Zito will get some run support, unlike his last start.

Big guy to watch this game is Ryan Garko, who is coming off a great 4-RBI game. It'll be interesting to see if he can build on this clutch performance, especially with Sandoval, who is on a bit of a slide after last night's three-K performance at the dish. If Garko tears it up again, I will feel very encouraged that my article was nothing but a fan's account of a classic overreaction.

Then again, it's only one game. And still... Garko has no home runs. Let's hope he can change that tonight against Arroyo, who is prone to give up the big fly.

For game updates check out the SJ Mercury's Andrew Baggarly's Giants blog at Extra Baggs. For live game thread and chat, check out the McCovey Chronicles.

An Inexplicable Giants Season: Succeeding Despite the Questionable Stats

From Bleacher Report

With a 65-54 record going into Wednesday's game against the Reds, the Giants certainly have surpassed expectations this year.

This was a team that was coming off a 72-90 season in 2008 and—sans the signings of Edgar Renteria, Jeremy Affeldt and Juan Uribe—didn't really make a splash in the offseason.

Giants GM Brian Sabean and the ownership group led by Bill Neukom passed on Manny Ramirez, even though there were relatively no suitors other than the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And still, despite the little change in terms of the roster, the Giants have succeeded and raised the hopes of Giants fans in the Bay Area.

However, when you look at this 2009 season from a statistical perspective, little makes sense in terms of the Giants success.

Granted, I am no sabermetrician by any means. In fact, this summer, I have slowly gotten more acquainted with the intense-but-effective language of baseball statistical analysis.

This summer, I have finally read the highly lauded book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I have become a frequent reader of sabermetrics Web sites such as Beyond the Box Score and Fangraphs. And, as a college graduate with a degree in economics, I have become fascinated with the connection between economics and baseball and correlating the value of baseball players.

That being said, I am also a baseball fan, who played baseball in high school, so I can appreciate the little things that go beyond stats and numbers.

So basically, the Giants, have piqued my interest as a baseball fan who tries to balance both ends of the baseball analytical system: the objective, statistical side, and the subjective, "believe it with your eyes" side.

On paper, other than the wins-loss record, the Giants have not had that great of a season.

In team batting this year, the Giants hover around the basement of the National League in almost every statistical category of note.

In the NL this year, the Giants rank 14th in runs scored, total bases and slugging percentage. They also rank second to last in the NL in homer runs, OBP and OPS.

And in terms of an individual basis, the Giants don't have a player on the team that's reached the 20-homer mark yet, have only three regular players that have cracked the .300-average mark (Pablo Sandoval, Eugenio Velez, and Freddy Sanchez) and have only two players that crack the .350 mark in OBP (Sandoval and Fred Lewis).

The batting has been very statistically poor, more telling of a team that is hovering around the basement of the NL West like the San Diego Padres rather than one that is competing for a wild card spot.

Granted, you can credit the pitching for the Giants' resurgence this year.

The Giants pitching staff leads the National League in ERA (3.50), complete games (10), shutouts (15), strikeouts (934), and is second in batting average allowed (.237, five points behind the current NL-leading Dodgers).

Furthermore, the Giants have two stud, All-Star starting pitchers this year in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain who both have 12 wins and ERAs of 2.37 and 2.49, respectively.

The bullpen has also been performing admirably, spearheaded by left-hander Jeremy Affeldt, who has 24 holds and a 1.81 ERA, right-handed middle relief pitcher Justin Miller, who has a 1.83 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, and right-handed closer Brian Wilson, who has 29 saves and a 1.13 WHIP.

Yet despite those incredible pitching statistics, it doesn't automatically mean success.

In the Power Rankings put together by the sabermetrics blog Beyond the Box Score, which ranks teams according to batting, pitching, and fielding statistics, the Giants are around the bottom of the league.

The Giants ranked 22nd in the latest Aug. 12 rankings, behind losing teams such as Arizona, Baltimore, Cleveland, and even the Giants' Bay Area rivals—the Oakland A's.

So what gives? How do the Giants succeed despite most pieces of objective data suggesting they are simply a mediocre team with, as one obnoxious New York Mets fan put it on Twitter, "A Triple-A lineup other than Sandoval?"

Sometimes, baseball is just funny.

The Giants have just been a team of incredible ups and downs this year.

The Giants have an enormous amount of incredible successes, like their hot June, the emergence of the "Panda," the one-two punch of Lincecum and Cain, Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter, and so on.

They have also had their incredible share of downs, though. The awful start to the year, the 3-7 road trip to start the second half, the Dodgers series Aug. 10-12 at AT&T Park, losing two out of three at home to the Cincinnati Reds.

Despite those depressing moments, though, the Giants seems to have had more positives than negatives. They have been a team that has been able to put things together on the field, even if they might not come in the prettiest or most statistically favorable way.

The Giants are proof that baseball sometimes goes beyond paper, and that teams can be successful, even if you can't prove it through numbers and figures.

And that is what makes this team so fun for a Giants fan. Every time you think you have figured out this team and know where they're heading, they come out and surprise you once again.

Like last night, for instance. Down four runs in a game to the Reds where Lincecum is having one of his worst starts of the year and Sandoval gets the hat trick in strikeouts, the Giants somehow come back thanks to Ryan Garko's four-RBI performance.

The same Ryan Garko that had been a bust in my mind until yesterday.

The win was also the first time the Giants had come back and won when down by four runs in a game.

Believe me, that certainly wasn't in my mind when I saw Joey Votto park one off Lincecum to make it a 5-1 game.

It really has been an amazing season to behold for Giants fans, baseball fans, and sabermertics enthusiasts alike. It simply has been baffling, but in a good way that shows not all baseball games can be absolutely predicted with numbers.

Who knows what the stats will ultimately mean for the Giants during this last month-and-a-half of the season?

Is it a sign of things to come? Or are the 2009 Giants an exception to the rules that have governed baseball and its fans and experts so firmly since Michael Lewis' book was published?

Whatever happens, I am happy about what the Giants have done this year, warts and all. As much as I like going by the numbers to help understand trends and predict results, I also am guilty of liking the Giants' free-swinging play, led by the affable and ever-interesting "Kung-Fu Panda."

As Giants coach and former Giants infielder Shawon Dunston said in the article about Sandoval in the Aug. 10 issue of Sports Illustrated, "You want to see a walk? Then go watch the mailman."

From a fan that appreciates baseball in all forms, statistical and live, I can certainly sympathize with what Dunston is saying.