Sunday, October 31, 2010

Game Wrap: World Series Game 4- Giants 4 Rangers 0

If Madison Bumgarner plays major league baseball as long as Nolan Ryan, 27 seasons, he may never pitch a bigger or better game than he did tonight. Bumgarner, coming in on 10 days rest, channeled all that energy into throwing 94 MPH darts at the corners of the strike zone giving the Texas Rangers nothing, nothing good to hit all night in one of the most astonishing performances I've ever seen as a Giants fan, not that I didn't think he was capable of doing it, but.......just astonishing! Key lines:

Andres Torres- 3 for 5, 2 2B, SB. Torres looks like he did back in the middle of the season when he was hitting line drive after line drive....a long way!

Aubrey Huff- 1 for 4, HR. Huff Daddy was the DH tonight and really got ahold of one. Absolutely crushed it down the RF line way, way past the foul pole into the highest rows of the bleachers for the Giants first 2 runs. Turned out those were the only runs Bumgarner needed before turning it over to Brian Wilson in the 9'th inning.

Buster Posey- 1 for 4, HR. Nice insurance run from Buster's bat. Didn't look like much of a swing, but the ball kept carrying and carrying and carrying. I think it's still carrying! I felt pretty good about the game at that point.

Edgar Renteria- 3 for 4. Rent continues to have a fine series. Again, if the Giants end up winning this thing, that $18 Million will be well worth it.

Madison Bumgarner!- 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K's. Did I say what a great game Bum pitched tonight? I really liked the way he was throwing from the first inning. I really started to think something special might be brewing when he got through the middle of the Rangers' order for the second time. That's when I knew he was going to take it deep into the game.

Brian Wilson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. Good call by Bochy to bring Wilson in for the 9'th. Bum was over 100 pitches and was starting to labor just a bit in the 8'th. Also, saves Bum for a possible couple of innings in a Game 7 that we all hope will not be necessary. That might have been the quickest 9'th inning by Wilson all season. Man, I went to the door for a couple of trick-or-treaters and it was over by the time I got back!

With the Win, the Giants take a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in the Best of 7 World Series.

Tim LIncecum faces off against Cliff Lee in a rematch of Game 1. Had the Giants lost today, Lee would be looming as a mighty imposing force, but after tonight, I'm thinking Timmy and the Giants might just finish it off tomorrow.

Go Timmy! Go Giants!!

Oh, and one more shout out to Madison Bumgarner for possibly the most thrilling pitching performance I've ever seen as a Giants fan!!

Down on the Farm: AFL Highlights


Charlie Culberson- 2 for 4, 2B, 3B, BB. BA= .472.
Brandon Belt- 3 for 5, 2B, 3B. BA= .319.
Jason Stoffel- 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. ERA= 8.22


Brandon Belt- 2 for 5.
Charlie Culberson- 2 for 5, 2B.
Ryan Verdugo- 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K's. ERA= 2.25.


Conor Gillaspie- 4 for 4, 2 HR. BA= .231.


Charlie Culberson- 2 for 4, 3B.


Ryan Verdugo- 3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 5 K's.

Charlie Culberson is having a tremendous AFL hitting for both average and power. His overall line is .472/.500/.811 with 12 XBH's out of 25 hits.

Brandon Belt is having a good AFL campaign.

Gillaspie has struggled, but had one really good game with the 2 dingers.

It looks like Ryan Verdugo is being converted to starter and he has had two dominant outings in a row with 10 K's in 7 IP. Overall, he's 2-1, 2.25, 12 IP, 7 BB, 15 K's. I've seen Verdugo a couple of times with SJ. He has a nice 3 pitch repertoire with a FB that gets up to 92 MPH, a sharp breaking ball and a nice changeup that keeps hitters off balance. Control/command will be the challenge for him. I think he could move fast as his secondary stuff is quite advanced.

Stoffel is still very inconsistent. Paterson has had some OK relief outings, mostly 1 IP at a time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Game Wrap: World Series Game 3- Rangers 4 Giants 2

The Giants were pretty ripe for a letdown game. They were coming off two very emotional, almost cathartic, wins in SF. They had crossed a line from being underdogs to suddenly being the favorites. Scoring all those runs and having the Rangers look so inept in the process created an impression among casual fans that this was going to be a cakewalk for the Giants. What casual fans don't realize is that in baseball, a 9-0 win is as likely to be followed up with a 1-0 loss as anything. So, the loss tonight is not too surprising and certainly not devastating. The irony is that the damage against Jonathan Sanchez, from a Rangers lineup that is very scary for LHP's came from the two LH batters in their lineup. To their credit, the Giants gave it a fight right up to the end of the game. Key lines:

Andres Torres- 1 for 4, HR. Good to see Torres hit the long ball tonight. He seeems to be getting harder hits as he gets farther away from his Appy surgery.

Cody Ross- 1 for 3, HR, BB. Cody Ross stayed hot with yet another dinger and mostly great AB's. This time it proved to be too little, too late.

Pat Burrell- 0 for 4, 4 K's. Pat The Bat has become a giant black hole in the middle of the Giants lineup. 11 PA's with 2 BB's and 8, that's right 8, K's. He at least fouled a couple straight back against Cliff Lee. I don't think he even made contact tonight! I know he's lightning in a bottle, but just for tomorrow night, I'd like to see Cody Ross batting 5'th and Juan Uribe hitting 6'th.

Pablo Sandoval- 0 for 3, K. I thought Sandoval was the right choice to DH against the RHP, although Colby Lewis is the type of pitcher who gives him fits even in the best of circumstances. It's not just that he made outs tonight. His AB's were terrible. I'll take the Aubrey Huff with Travis playing 1B tomorrow if that's OK, Boch.

Jonathan Sanchez- 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 K's, 2 HR's. The game ultimately came down to one terrible pitch. With 2 runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the second inning, Sanchez was left with Mitch Moreland, a LH hitting rookie who should have been a fairly easy out. Sanchez got to 2-2 on him, but then he kept fouling pitches off, some just barely. Sanchez was throwing mostly sliders on the outside corner. I don't know who called the last pitch, but Posey set up on the inside part of the plate. I said to myself, "oh no!". Now, I find Tim McCarver as annoying to listen to as anybody, but they guy does have a few insights. One thing he preaches, to the point of beating it into the ground, is that in a situation like Sanchez and Posey found themselves in with Moreland, if you decide to try to sneak on by on the inside, you better be darn sure that if you miss, you miss inside and not over the plate. He said the same thing before Scott Speizio's HR in 2002 and he's said it again several times in reference to Cody Ross. Needless to say, I've decided that McCarver knows what he's talking about on this particular subject. That pitch was the ballgame, right there.

Colby Lewis- 7.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K's, 2 HR. Another difference in the game, the two HR"s that Lewis allowed came with the bases empty vs Moreland's 3 run job. The Giants had a great opportunity in the first inning with two runners on and Burrell at the plate. Unfortunately, Burrell isn't hitting anything but air molecules right now. Lewis was helped quite a bit by a very generous strike zone from the home plate ump, but in fairness, the zone was pretty much the same for both starting pitchers. Lewis just made better use of it than Sanchez.

Neftali Feliz- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. Let's all hope this series doesn't come down to the Giants needing a run or two against Ogando and Feliz in the last few innings of Game 7. I know the MPH isn't any faster than Brian Wilson's, but Feliz' fastball seems to have more life on it, or something. Man, that was pure, unaldulterated cheese! Credit to Cody Ross for almost taking him deep to RF on the 2'nd out.

With the loss, the Giants fall back to a 2-1 lead in the best of 7 games series.

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound against Tommy Hunter in tomorrow's game. Bumgarner has proven to be a resilient rookie this postseason, although as a LHP, he will be up against a formidable RH leaning Rangers lineup DH and all in their home ballpark. Hunter pitched pretty well for the Rangers in the regular season, but has been hit hard in the postseason. Game 4 will be a pivotal game for both teams. I don't think the Giants can count on Cliff Lee having two bad games in a row, and they don't want to come back to SF needing to win both games 6 and 7, so tomorrow's game would seem like a pretty important one to win.

Go MadBum! Go Giants!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Game Wrap: World Series Game 2- Giants 9 Rangers 0

A tight, tense pitcher's duel between Matt Cain and CJ Wilson with a HR by Edgar Renteria in the bottom of the 5'th inning being the difference, degenerated into an embarrassing meltdown by the Rangers bullpen as the Giants scored 7 runs in the bottom of the 8'th inning to blow out the Texas Rangers 9-0 and take a 2-0 lead in the best of 7 games World Series. Key lines:

Edgar Renteria- 2 for 4, HR. OK, if the Giants go on to win this series, I think Rent just earned the $18 Million he's been paid over the last 2 years. You could see by the look on CJ Wilson's face when he hit the HR that Wilson knew he had just lost the game.

Juan Uribe- 1 for 3, BB. Another key, key hit and several sparkling defensive plays at 3B. I'd say OooReeeBaayyyy is the current frontrunner for series MVP.

Nate Schierholtz- Pretty much every move Bochy makes right now is coming up roses. Nate comes in a defensive replacement in the top of the 7'th for Burrell with Ross moving to LF and Nate in RF. First batter hits a flair down the LF line that Burrell might not have gotten to and Ross puts it away with ease. Next batter crushes one up triples alley that looked totally uncatchable, split Torres and Nate down the middle. Now, I know there is no way to outrun a batted ball like that, but I could swear Nate did it. Just as the ball seemed to fly on past Nate, he threw it into an extra gear and simply outran the ball! Outran the ball, I tell you! He ended up barely even stretching for it. The ball hit the glove in an awkard place and almost came out, but Nate locked it down with what appeared to be some impressive hand strength. I'm tellin' ya. I hope Willie Mays was able to watch this game, because that catch would make him proud! The most amazing thing about it, just like 'Ol Willie, Nate made it look easy! Oh yeah, the score was still 1-0 when Bochy made the defensive sub!

Matt Cain- 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 2 K's. Matt Cain is The MAN! Matt Cain is a horse! Matt Cain is a freaking stud! Matt Cain......well, words fail me! Timmy may be the ace, but Matt Cain is The MAN! Dude was so awesome tonight. In the 6'th inning, with the score 1-0, things were looking mighty bleak. Cainer had given up a pair of 1 out singles to Michael Young and Josh Hamilton who then advanced to 3'rd and 2'nd on a wild pitch. So what does Cainer do? Gets Nelson Cruz on a little foul pop to Aubrey Huff and then Kinsler, who had nearly hit one out a couple of innings before, to pop up to the RF Cody Ross to end the inning and the threat. Yes, Cainer was doing a bit of riding with Lady Luck. Kinslers shot to dead CF hit flush on the upper edge of the wall and bounced up and back onto the field for a standup double leading off the 5'th. Of course Cain stranded him at 2B. Rent homered in the bottom of the inning.

Guillermo Mota- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 0 K. Hey, a Guilermo Mota sighting! Mop up time, but made quick work of the Rangers to mercifully end it. Hey Mota! With a 9 run lead, you don't need to be that careful! Make them hit the dang ball! Hopefully this was a nice warmup for Mota and if the situation arises, we'll see him instead of Ramon Ramirez in future games.

With the win, the Giants move out to a 2-0 lead. A 2-0 series lead, especially if it's gained in your home park is not a slam dunk, but 40 out of 1 teams to do it have gone on to win the World Series. You can count on the Rangers being a different team in Arlington, Texas, and the Giants need to win at least 1 of the 3. While it's been done before, they don't want to come back to SF needing to win both games.

After a travel day tomorrow, Jonathan Sanchez takes the mound against Colby Lewis. Lewis has had a terrific postseason so far, but can be scored on. Sanchez has the stuff to shut the Rangers down, if he just stays within himself and doesn't get rattled by the circumstances.

Go Giants!!

Oh yeah, Matt Cain!!!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Game Wrap: World Series Game 1: Giants 11 Rangers 7

As often happens, an anticipated pitching duel turned into a slugfest. More surprisingly, at least to the so-called experts who seemed to think Cliff Lee was the greatest pitcher in postseason history(seems like we get a new one every series, huh?), the Giants were the ones doing most of the slugging. They got a lot of help from some very bad defense by the Rangers and some very good defense by the left side of the Giants infield. Had to feel just a bit for poor Vlad Guerrero out there, THAT was downright embarrassing! The statue named Michael Young playing 3B for the Rangers probably actually cost them more runs than Vlad, though. Key lines:

Andres Torres- 1 for 4, HBP. I wasn't sure Torres should be in there against the LHP, but he scored two key runs. Looked better at the plate from the right side than the left.

Freddy "The Mole" Sanchez- 4 for 5, 3 2B. 3 consecutive doubles set a World Series record. I think we can officially declare the Tim Alderson for Freddy Sanchez trade a success and put it to rest.

Aubrey Huff- 3 for 4, 2B. Man, Huff Daddy sure does hit lefthanders well, doesn't he?

Juan Uribe- 1 for 4, HR. Uribe and Burrell looked like they had a bead on Cliff Lee all night and they kept just missing, fouling pitches straight back before striking out on a little cutter he kept throwing to get out of trouble. O'Day wasn't so lucky as OooReeeBayyy got all of it. What was even better, the 2 inherited runners that scored ahead of him raised Cliff Lee's postseason ERA even more.

Tim Lincecum- 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K's. Timmy was maddeningly inconsistent, looking great at times and terrible at others. probably just as well he came out when he did. At 93 pitches, maybe he'll be stronger in his next start, if it's necessary! I'll just say that the Rangers don't swing at pitches outside the strike zone(except Vlad), which is something Timmy gets teams to do for most of his K's. Watch for that to be a factor as the series progresses.

Santiago Casilla- 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. I'm not at all sure the Giants would have won this game without the 4 huge outs that Casilla got tonight. Dude was nails!

Javier Lopez- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K's. Not sure it was necessary for Lopez to come in to face Mitch Moreland, but the game ended up being a lot closer than I would have liked and he got an important out that took the game to the next inning. Romo just isn't very good against LH hitters right now, so it was probably the right move.

Ramon Ramirez- 0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K's. Can we have Mota the next time, please? Personally I would have left Ramirez off the roster in favor of Chris Ray, but Bochy seems to be on love with Ramirez right now.

Brian Wilson- 0.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K's. Hated to see Wilson used in a non-save situation, but even I was getting a bit jumpy there at the end. This was a must-win game for the Giants, especially after blowing out Cliff Lee the way they did. A blown lead at that point might have doomed the series right there. We'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

With the win, the Giants take a 1-0 lead in the best of 7 series. Plenty of teams have come back from a 1-0 deficit to win the World Series, but losing game one at home is never a good thing. Some random observations on covered above:

The Rangers are a good hitting team. Except for Vlad, they don't swing at pitches outside the strike zone, even with 2 strikes. I guess I already covered that one, but it's worth mentioning again. They will be a much bigger challenge for Giants pitchers than either the Braves or Phillies.

The Rangers are a very bad defensive team. I seriously doubt we will see Vlad in the field again, so that will help them, but Michael Young is very bad too. The Giants superiority on defense will be and already has been a major factor in the outcome. Oh, and Aubrey Huff is really starting to worry me over at first base. That's the second ball he's kicked badly this postseason.

Even though the Giants bullpen wasn't great, it was better than the Rangers by a lot, except for Ogando who had no business being out there with a 4 run deficit.

Bruce Bochy outmanaged Ron Washington which doesn't seem very hard to do. Washington left Cliff Lee in there at least 3 batters too long. It seemed like Washington was leaving him in there just so he wouldn't have to bring in a bullpen lefty to face Huff. First of all, Huff hits lefty's darn well, and by the time Huff came up it was way too late anyway. Obviously the decision to play Vlad in RF was disastrous. He burned Ogando for 2 innings in a game the Rangers had a 99.8% chance of losing at that point. That's actually the true percentage, you can look it up! Of course Washington looked terrible in Game 1 of the ALCS and it ended up not affecting the ultimate outcome of the series, so I guess we shouldn't be too smug about it just yet.

Matt Cain now takes the mound tomorrow night, weather permitting, to face CJ Wilson in Game 2. Cain is probably the Giants pitcher most comfortable working in the strike zone, so the Rangers' impressive plate discipline shouldn't be a huge problem for him. Wilson has had a good season, but he's also hittable. I'm cautiously optimistic for another Giants win here. In the event of a rainout, the game will be played Friday night with no travel day before Saturday's Game 3 in Texas.

Scouting the World Series: A Path to Victory?

Once again, the Giants find themselves in a postseason series as the clear underdogs. The arguments are well known: Rangers have a clearly superior lineup, Cliff Lee is unbeatable, the AL is a stronger league, an on and on. So far, the Giants have managed to confound the "experts" who, IMO, have grossly underestimated the overall strength of their pitching staff as well as underestimating the importance of pitching relative to hitting. I'm not going to go through a position-by-position rundown of the lineups/rosters. If you look at it that way, the Rangers are going to win and win easily. What the Giants have to do to win is follow the same formula that has gotten them this far: Use their pitching quality and depth to neutralize the other team's lineup advantage thus keeping the games low scoring and close. Wait for a timely hit or two or the other team to make a costly error, then close it out with Brian Wilson using him for more than 1 inning, if necessary. The question becomes then, can the Giants keep on doing it?

There are a couple of reasons why the Giants may not be able to keep their amazing run going, fatigue and inexperience. I have seen many a pitcher or team hit a stamina wall as the postseason extends into the World Series. I still believe it played a key role in the Giants losing the 2002 World Series to the Angels. For whatever reason, the Angels simply had fresher arms and legs and outlasted the Giants.

The specific players who I have stamina concerns about are Timmy, MadBum and Buster Posey, maybe Huff Daddy. The critical one is Timmy above all, with MadBum close behind. Bruce Bochy has done a fantastic job of managing this team so far, but here's where I have a bit of a question. Timmy has had stamina issues this season already. He has already started 3 postseason games plus appeared in one in relief. He is going tonight on 5 days rest, normally an extra day, but he did have that relief appearance where he looked none too strong. Matt Cain, on the other hand, has made just 2 postseason starts while not allowing an earned run. He currently is sitting on 7 days rest. I would start Cainer today while giving Timmy an extra day to gather his strength. Timmy has appeared to benefit from an extra day of rest here and there, and I have confidence in Matt Cain holding his own against Cliff Lee in game 1.

MadBum doen't start until Game 4, and with the Rangers being a RH leaning lineup, it is unlikely he would be used in relief before then. I don't have a major concern about 'Bum being adequately rested for Game 4.

The other key to the series is the Giants younger starters, Sanchez and MadBum will have to keep their composure. MadBum seems to have icewater running in his veins and showed absolutely no fear in a critical 2 inning relief appearance in Game 6 against the Phillies. I think he's gonna be OK. He just needs to maintain his velocity through about 5 innings and Bochy needs to have him on short, short leash. Sanchez is the bigger worry. He has a long history of letting his emotions control him, which he seemed to have largely overcome as the year went along. His meltdown, and make no mistake it was a meltdown, in Game 6 of the NLCS is worrisome. He'll be facing a tough, RH heavy lineup in a bandbox ballpark with an unfriendly crowd. There is no respite in the lineup in the AL park as the DH is in effect. Sanchez is going to have to man-up or else his start could be a blowout. Again, Bochy will have to have him on a very short leash, but then you have two consecutive starters on a short leash! What becomes of the bullpen then?

Lastly, Bruce Bochy has no choice but to regain trust in the RHP's in his bullpen. He used his LHP relievers brilliantly and to great advantage against the Phillies. Against Texas, they will likely only be needed against Josh Hamilton. Romo, Casilla, Ramirez and even Guillermo Mota will need to step it back up big time.

So that's it. My Path to Victory for the Giants. Pitching, pitching, more pitching, good defense and timely hitting. Do they have one more round in them?

I am excited!

Go Giants!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blast From the Past: Why the Giants Beat the Phillies

A lot of people who claim to know a lot about baseball are still scratching their heads trying to figure out why the Giants beat the Phillies in the just completed NLCS. Interestingly, almost none of them attribute it to the Giants being good, or the better team. The Phillies didn't hit in the clutch is one I just got through reading. The most common explanation on sabermetric oriented sites is sample size, anything can happen in a short series and the Giants just got lucky. One post on a site that usually has pretty good analysis went so far as to say if the series was replayed many times, the Phillies would almost certainly win most of the time.

I submit a thesis that the Giants won because they were the better team. How were they the better team, you ask? Pitching, pitching and more pitching! It's an old axiom in baseball that pitching is 70% of the game and that good pitching will beat good hitting. But, but, but......I can hear the sputtering now, didn't the Phillies have one of the very best playoff rotations in the history of the game? Ah, by some measures, yes they did, but as always, statistics may be objective, but their selection and interpretation is not. Prior to Game 1 of the NLCS, the same site I alluded to above posted a column comparing xFIP's for the Phillies and Giants starting rotations clearly showing the superiority of the Phillies big 3 of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. No argument here on the excellence of the Phillies' Big 3. They were good all year and still good at the end of the season. They were great in the NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds. What was a bit more misleading was the Giants season long numbers. Tim Lincecum's ERA and xFIP were inflated by a rough May and an even rougher August. His numbers down the stretch, though, were excellent and actually much closer to his career averages. He had regressed POSITIVELY to his true mean! As for Matt Cain, his ERA has outperformed his xFIP his entire career, but that's a whole other post. Jonathan Sanchez steadily improved all season and down the stretch was one of the best pitchers in baseball. In summary, the Giants top 3 starters actually matched up much better than some statistics would make it appear.

Here's where the so-called experts went really wrong. They apparently forgot that a pitching staff, even a playoff pitching staff, consists of at least 11 pitchers, not 3. Here, the Giants had a clear edge. Madison Bumgarner, their #4 playoff starter put up much better numbers than anyone the Phillies could muster for Game 4. Brian Wilson has grown into one of the elite closers in baseball while Brad Lidge continues to be inconsistent at best. As for the remainder of the bullpen, there really was no comparison. The Giants secondary bullpen pitchers outperformed the Phillies all season by a wide margin, particularly late in the season after the acquisitions of Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez.

Another well known axiom for the postseason is, it's not who was best all season that counts as much as who was the best at the end of the season. A team has to win games throughout the season to make the playoffs, but once you're in, the hottest team is usually the one that comes out on top. Well, as a whole, the Giants pitching staff, over the last month or so of the season was one of the best in the entire history of baseball! They held opponents to 3 runs or less, what, 21 games in a row? 26 out of 27? I mean, that hadn't been done since something like 1921 or something!

So, the formula for the Giants to win the NLCS over the Phillies was actually easy to see. The Giants top 3 starters would battle the Phillies top 3 starters to a standstill, while Bumgarner would have the advantage in Game 4. The close, low scoring games would then become a chess match between the respective managers and the bullpens, a battle of attrition, if you will. The Giants had a clear advantage in a series decided by the bullpens. First of all, the Giants bullpen was significantly better and deeper than the Phillies. Secondly, nobody in baseball is better at managing a bullpen than Bruce Bochy. It's no accident that he had great bullpens in San Diego and the Giants bullpen has gone from being a sick joke to one of the best in baseball since Bochy's arrival.

The formula worked, just barely, but it worked! The Giants starters neutralized the Phillies starters. The Giants got some timely hits. Bruce Bochy outmanaged Charlie Manuel and the Giants bullpen was able to outlast the Phillies' bullpen. That is why the Giants are going to the World Series while the Phillies, their fans and most sportswriters scratch their heads trying to figure out what just happened.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Game Wrap NLCS Game 6: Giants 3 Phillies 2- The Giants Win the Pennant!

The Giants overcame a complete meltdown by Jonathan Sanchez, a very biased strike zone from the ump and a ton of stranded baserunners to win one of the most nail-biting, suspenseful games I have ever seen, and advance to the 2010 World Series as the National League Champions. Juan Uribe hit the game winnng HR. Oh, and the bullpen was nails for 7 full innings. More on that later. Key lines:

Andres Torres- 3 for 5. Andres Torres was his old self tonight. He hurt himself sliding head first into first base beating out a perfect drag bunt in the top of the 9'th though. Hope he's not hurt bad enough for it to affect his play in the WS.

Freddy Sanchez- 3 for 4, S. If Freddy and Torres are setting the table like this, the Giants will be fine in the WS. Freddy also mad a nice Sac Bunt to get J Sanchez and Torres from first and second to second and third in the third inning.

Aubrey Huff- 1 for 4, BB. Huff drove in the first run with a single. The trailing runner, Torres, was thrown out at home plate trying to score from 2'nd. Huff took second on the play. Huff and Posey also left 10 runners on base between them though.

Buster Posey- 0 for 4, BB. Buster hit a little tapper down the 3B line with 1 out and Huff on 2B. Polanco had to scramble to field it and his throw hit Buster in the back with the ball getting away which allowed Huff to score from 2B with the tying run. It was originally scored as a hit and an RBI, but later changed to an error. Tough play for Polanco to make.

Juan Uribe- 2 for 3, HR, HBP. Almost every one of Juan Uribe's HR's have contributed directly to a Giants victory. This was no exception. He hit it to RF which is very unusual for him. Loved the site of his teammates pouring bottle after bottle of champagne over his head as he stood their reveling in it. I am sure the HBP was a purpose pitch from Oswalt. First base was open and Oswalt would much rather face Renteria than Uribe. It was a free shot. Warnings had been issued to both benches after the 3'rd innning meltdown, but the ump obviously didn't have the guts to enforce it in that situation. Props to Uribe for coming back later with the 'tater to shove it down the Phillie's throats.

Jonathan Sanchez- 2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K. Sanchez had a characteristically rough first inning digging himself a hole with a 4 pitch walk to Polanco followed by a double to Utley and a Sac Fly by Jason Werth. He managed to pitch out of it without further damage, and looked like he had righted the ship with a brisk 2'nd inning. Then, all hell broke loose. Placido Polanco walked again. Then, a curveball didn't curve and hit Chase Utley in the back. The ball bounced toward first base and Utley picked it up and tossed it underhanded out to the mound while Sanchez was holding his glove out for the ump to throw him a new ball. Sanchez took exception and started barking at Utley who, as he always does, maintained a smirky grin on his face, but then threw up his hands and started advancing toward the mound. First, the Phillies bench and then the Giants bench emptied. After a lot of standing around, as with most bench clearing incidents, order was restored, and Bochy took Sanchez out of the game. In Sanchez' defense, the ump was clearly squeezing him while giving Oswalt a mile-wide strike zone. Still, that's no excuse for a complete meltdown like that. Ultimately, the meltdown may have been a blessing in disguise because it precipitated a move to the bullpen that proved to be absolute nails the rest of the night. Props to Bochy for recognizing the urgency of the situation and not pulling a Dusty, trying to nurse a pitcher along who was clearly unglued.

Jeremy Affeldt- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. Affeldt was the forgotten man in the Giants bullpen, along with Guillermo Mota. He certainly came up clutch when the call finally came. He entered the game with runners on first and second with no outs and Ryan Howard coming up. All he did was strike out Howard, get Jayson Werth on a shallow flyball to Cody Ross and Shane Victorino on a ground out to Aubrey Huff. He set down the Phillies in order in the 4'th inning, setting the tone for the rest of the game.

Madison Bumgarner- 2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Bumgarner dug himself a hole each of the innings he worked. I couldn't believe Bochy stuck with him, but Bochy apparently was convinced that he had to stick with LHP's as long as he could against the Phillies big lefthanded guns. Ironically, Bumgarner seemed to have better luck against the Phil's RH batters. At any rate, the kid proved to have icewater running in his veins and didn't flinch when faced with having to make the pitches of his life so far.

Javy Lopez- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, W. Bochy stuck with the lefthanded pitching plan and went to the well with Lopez one more time. No problem! Lopez breezed through the 7'th inning including an inning-ending K of the mighty Ryan Howard. IMO, Lopez should have been the co-MVP of the series.

Tim Lincecum- 0.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Here's where some people are grousing about Bochy's management. With no more lefthanders available and Bochy clearly not trusting his RH relievers against the Phillies' left-leaning lineup, Bochy called on Timmy on 1 day of rest. Timmy didn't look too strong out there, but managed to strike out Werth to start the inning. Victorino and Ibanez followed with singles to RF and Bochy had seen enough. In came Brian Wilson to attempt yet another 5 out Save. I'm not sure what's a lower risk, a 5 out Save started with 2 runners on base, or a 6 out Save starting with a clean slate. I think I would have gone with the 6 out Save attempt, but I understand the reasoning here. I also applaud Bochy for understanding that today was the must-win game and managing like there was no tomorrow. If he had more confidence in Timmy on 1 day of rest than the RH bullpen options, then he absolutely made the right move.

Brian Wilson- 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K, Save. Here's one of several times Bochy and the Giants got a bit lucky. The first batter Wilson faced, Ruiz, hit a rocket right at Aubrey Huff who easily double up the lead runner, Victorino with a throw to 2B. End of threat, end of inning! Of course, Wilson had to walk a couple of batters in the 9'th then go to a 3-2 count on the most dangerous hitter in the lineup before throwing a perfect slider that caught the outside corner and the ump, for once, made the right call. The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant! Bruce Bochy and Brian Wilson are redefining the role of the Closer right before our eyes. How great is that?

Bruce Bochy- Bochy managed the game of his life tonight. Yeah, he got lucky in a few places, but as I've said before, luck is the residue of design. Chance favors the prepared mind. He had a well thought out disaster plan and stuck with it. He made the right calls at critical points in the game. Props to Boch on managing a great game and on a well managed post-season so far.

The Giants now advance to the World Series! Yes!!!! The World Series! They will face a very deserving and talented Texas Rangers team. This will be the 4'th time the team has played in the 'Series since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. They have failed to win it in the previous 3 tries. I don't know if they will win this one either, but hey, you can't win the World Series without getting there, right?

Go Giants!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Down on the Farm: BA Draft Report Card

BA has posted it's 2010 Draft Report Cards for all teams. They don't rank the overall drafts except for the top 5, what they do is break it down into categories for each team:

Quick Take: The Giants intended to get more athletic i.e. Brown, Parker, Jurica. Usual stash of power arms. Possible sleeper in Chuckie Jones.

Best Pure Hitter: Gary Brown

Best Power Hitter: Chuckie Jones

Fastest Runner: Brown

Best Defensive Player: Brown

Best Fastball: Heath Hembree- 94-97 peak at 99. Clean arm, ideal pitcher's body.

Best Secondary Pitch: Mike Kickham- Power breaker with depth, more of a curve than slider. FB up to 94.

Best Pro Debut: Austin Fleet and Chuckie Jones

Best Athlete: Brown, but Chris Lofton merits mention.

Most Intriguing Background: Lofton had planned to transfer to Alabama-Birmingham to play football cornerback. Brett Bochy is Giants Manager Bruce Bochy's son. College Closer, low-mid 90's FB, solid slider. Had TJ surgery during the college season. Should be ready for Spring Training.

Closest to Majors: Brown

Best Late Round Pick: Stephen Harrold- FB 90-92, average-plus slider.

One Who Got Away: Austin Southall, round 19.

The Giants didn't make the top 5 on Best Draft, but placed several players in top 5 in several categories:

Best Draft: Indians, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rockies, Nationals

Fastest Runner: Gary Brown #3.

Best Defensive Player: Brown #2.

Best Athlete: Brown #5

Best Pro Debut(High School): Chuckie Jones

Only 1 Giants question in the chat: Jarrett Parker has tremendous raw power. Had a lot of swings and misses in college. (We already knew that). Are the Giants getting better at developing hitters?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League Update

Charlie Culberson went 4 for 4 with 2 doubles for the Scottsdale Scorpions to put his BA at a sizzling .538.

Brandon Belt went 1 for 4 and is now hitting .333.

Conor Gillaspie DNP and still has just one hit in AFL action.

Game Wrap NLCS Game 5: Phillies 4 Giants 2

If it should come to pass that the Giants fail to win either of the next two games and thereby fail to extend their season to the World Series, the 3'rd inning of tonight's game will haunt the dreams of Giants fans for years to come, much like numerous other nightmarish events in the history of the San Francisco era of the franchise. To set the stage, the Giants had scratched out a run in the first inning and forced Roy Halladay to throw a ton of pitches in the second inning by fouling off a bunch of pitches. Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum sailed through the first two innings with ease.

The top of the third inning started off innocently enough with a soft Texas Leaguer single over second base by Raul Ibanez. Then, things started to get weird. As rain clouds started to gather eventually turning AT&T Park into an erie something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, Lincecum threw a splitter/change that did exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to do and sailed up and in to Carlos Ruiz, who nearly fell forward onto the plate trying to get hit by it. With runners on first and 2'nd, no outs, Halladay bunted a ball onto home plate. Buster Posey jumped forward and grabbed it just as it rolled off the plate and fired the ball to 3B. Only problem was Pablo was standing about 3 feet in front of the bag and could only stretch his back leg 2 feet. Everybody as safe! But wait! Roy Halladay thought the ball was foul as it clearly rolled off the back, outside corner of the plate, so he just kind of stood there at home plate. The throw then went to first base and Halladay was out. It was simply a successful sacrifice bunt, but it clearly distracted the Giants. The next batter, Shane Victorino hit a routine 3 hopper right at Aubrey Huff. Bochy had the infield playing back, but Huff must have been watching the runner at third with ideas of either holding him or throwing him out. The ball kicked off his glove and right arm and caromed all the way into shallow CF where Juan Uribe had to run it down. Two runners scored and Victorino ended up on second. A, by now, thoroughly distracted Tim Lincecum then gave up singles to Polanco and Utley before Timmy settled down and pitched his way out of the inning without further runs scoring.

The damage was done. The Giants would keep pecking away at Halladay all night, but never quite break through. It was just another chapter in a long litany of inexplicable events that have frustrated Giants fans throughout their history. No key lines tonight. That is the story of the game.

With the loss, the Giants now must fly to Philadelphia and try to win 1 of the 2 remaining games of the series. Jonathan Sanchez takes the mound Saturday facing Roy Oswalt. I am sure Sanchez will give it a battle. I am less sure of which Roy Oswalt will show up, the one who dominated the Giants in game 2, or the one who was throwing meatballs down the middle of the strike zone in relief in game 4.

Go Jonathan Sanchez! Go Giants!!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Game Wrap NLCS Game 4: Giants 6 Phillies 5

This game was a microcosm of the entire Giants 2010 season, a roller-coaster ride that swung between ecstasy and despair and back again several times. They did not get a great pitching performance from Madison Bumgarner nor from their bullpen, but this time the hitters picked up the pitchers and along with a great play at the plate by Aaron Rowand and Buster Posey took a 3-1 lead in the best of 7 series. Key lines:

Aubrey Huff- 3 for 5. Huff Daddy had a nice game including scoring the winning run on Juan Uribe's Sac Fly.

Buster Posey!- 4 for 5, 2 2B. Buster looked like his old self at the plate tonight, peppering the whole field, especially RF with base hit after base hit. He also made a great play at the plate coming up with a short hop throw from Aaron Rowand that arrived at exactly the same time the Carlos Ruiz was crashing into him. He just snagged the ball and tagged Ruiz in one motion and hung onto the ball depite taking quite a jar. I like the way he made the quick tag first and then gave ground to dissipate the energy of the blow. We don't need Buster getting a concussion or tearing up his knee doing the macho man thing and trying to be all Mike Scioscia at the plate.

Cody Ross- 1 for 3, 2B. Cody also hit a rocket that was caught by Polanco at 3B. Dude is seriously in a zone and the Phillies seem to want to try to prove they don't have to avoid the inside fastball with him. Result: More hits for Cody!!

Pablo Sandoval- 1 for 4, 2B. Can't be too mad at Panda for the GIDP with the bases loaded in the 8'th inning. He had already driven in the Giants last two runs with a nice left-center gap double that put them into position to win. It would have taken some of the suspense out of it if he could have cashed in some of those runs, but.....oh well!

Andres Torres- 1 for 2, BB, CS. Torres came into the game on one of Bochy's seemingly innumerable double switches(managers love to manage, LOL!) He looked much better tonight drawing a walk and then hitting a sharp single to RF. He seemed to take forever to get to 2B on the CS, so I'm guessing he still isn't 100% from his Appy.

Madison Bumgarner- 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 6 K's. Bum started out great with a fastball velocity up to 94 MPH. His location seemed very shaky and he was helped a lot by a generous strike zone on his glove side of the plate(outside corner to LH hitters, inside to RH hitters). Bumgarner also got a big break in the 2'nd inning when Rollins took off from first base after Bum had clearly started his delivery home. Bum stopped mid-delivery, threw to first and Rollins was called out at 2B on the relay throw from Huff even though I thought he clearly got his foot on the bag ahead of the tag. Two blown calls by the ump on one play! He then steadily lost velocity over the next 4 innings until the 5'th when he was down to 90 and the Phillies were teeing off on him.

Santiago Casilla- 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K's. Casilla came in and poured gasoline on the fire in relief of MadBum, but then settled down to get the Giants to the 7'th inning without further damage.

Javier Lopez- 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K's. Lopez breezed through the 7'th facing Chase Utley and 2 RH batters, but ran out of lefthanded kryptonite against Ryan Howard leading off the 8'th who he was kept in specifically to face.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. Romo hung a slider to Jayson Werth who doubled up the left-center alley to drive in Howard. With another runner at 2B and no outs, things were looking mighty bleak, but Romo recovered and looked the the old Romo baffling the next 3 batters to leave Howard stranded at 2B.

Brian Wilson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Wilson kept the Phillies at bay to preserve the tie in the top of the 9'th setting the stage for the Giants winning rally off non other than Roy Oswalt, who obviously didn't bring his best stuff into this relief role.

With the win, the Giants move out to a 3 games to 1 lead in the best of 7 series.

Tim Lincecum faces off against Roy Halladay in a reprise of Game 1. With some of the hype having died down about this matchup, look for a truly epic pitching duel tomorrow. Not a must win for the Giants, but going back to Philly is a dangerous proposition, so it would be very nice to close it out tomorrow.

Go Timmy! Go Giants!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Game Wrap NLCS Game 3: Giants 3 Phillies 0

Matt Cain has been the Rodney Dangerfield of pitchers. Just over 8 years ago, he was widely considered an overdraft by the Giants when they made him their first round draft choice. As prospect, he was often overshadowed in prospect oriented magazines and websites in favor of Felix Hernandez, Chad Billingsley and others even though his minor league stats were comparable, and in some cases better. First he was thought to be injury prone(John Sickels posted an infamous "Chrystal Ball" that had Cain with a relatively short career due to arm injuries). Then, he was, oh my gosh, a whole year older than Felix Hernandez at the same level! (nevermind that he was still young for his level and Hernandez actually had been playing pro ball longer). As a major leaguer, Cain has confounded the Sabermetrics crowd year after year by inexplicably, at least to them, posting ERA's substantially better than something called an xFIP. Well, take your xFIP and put it......! I have followed Matt Cain's career since he was drafted in 2002. Spectacular numbers for low A Hagerstown before getting shut down with a stress reaction in the elbow, the only injury he has had in his career so far. My family and I went to the first minor league game we had ever attended in Rancho Cucamonga just to see him pitch, and came away with his autograph. I watched his major league debut, his early struggles and successes. I've watched him grow as a pitcher from a kid with a wicked humming fastball and not much else to a complete pitcher who almost never gets rattled on the mound and competes with a dogged determination like I don't think I've ever seen.

Maybe, maybe Cainer will finally start to get some respect after what he's accomplished in his two playoff starts on national TV. Today, he just shut down one of the more potent offenses in the National League and led the Giants to an important, if not essential win in the NLCS. Key lines:

Edgar Renteria- 1 for 4. Leading off, Rent got the first hit and was the first baserunner off Cole Hamels in the top of the 4'th inning triggering a 2 run rally that proved to be all the runs Matt Cain and the pitching staff needed.

Freddy Sanchez- 1 for 3, S. Freddy sacrificed Rent to 2'nd and and inning later singled in Aaron Rowand for an insurance run.

Buster Posey- 0 for 4. Buster's bat is starting to look tired.

Pat Burrell- 0 for 2, BB. After Buster failed to cash in Rent from 2B, Burrell drew a 2 out walk to keep the inning alive.

Cody Ross- 1 for 3. Once again, Cody Ross drew first blood by singling in Rent from 2B and in the process keeping the inning alive.

Aubrey Huff- 1 for 3. Huff kept the line moving with another RBI single scoring Burrell and the game was won!

Aaron Rowand- Got a start against the LHP for the struggling Andres Torres and made good on it with a double to lead off the 5'th inning. He eventually scored Chase Utley muffed a ground ball by Freddy Sanchez that was eventually scored as a hit.

Matt Cain- 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K's. I was at work, so had to follow the game on Gameday. It's amazing how much of a feel you can get for a game just by following Gameday. When I saw the low pitch count for the first inning and Cain's velocity in the 93-95 MPH range with his fastball, I immediately felt like the Giants were going to win. Once I saw them put up the 2 spot, I was confident. I knew Cainer would likely take the shutout deep into the game and felt the bullpen could hold it if it was needed for 2 innings or less. A moment of mild concern in the 7'th when Cain hit Ruiz and then walked the pinch hitter Gload. He was missing badly with his breaking pitches and the FB velocity was down to 90-91. I really felt like it was important to get the game to the bullpen in the 8'th inning with a 3 run lead. Fortunately, Cain got Victorino t ground out to Freddy Sanchez and the inning was over with the shutout intact.

Javier Lopez- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Lopez came in to face Utley, Polanco and Howard. Much had been made of Charlie Manuel separating Utley and Howard in the lineup to partially neutralize Lopez. What Manuel and the Pundits didn't count on was 1. While Lopez is kryptonite for LH hitters, he's pretty darn good against RH hitters too, so Bochy can leave him in for a whole inning if he wants to. 2. Polanco doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of opposing managers or pitchers of any kind. Lopez cut through the 2, 3 and 4 hitters like a hot knife through butter, just like he did to Utley and Howard in Game 1. I'm pretty sure Charlie Manuel is going to lose some sleep tonight thinking about Javier Lopez. What a great pickup by Brian Sabean! What a great way to use him by Bruce Bochy!

Brian Wilson- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. On Wilson's first three pitches to Werth looked like he was afraid to challenge him. I was quietly yelling at the computer screen at work, "You have a 3 run lead, dangit! Go ahead and challenge him. You don't want to walk him!" Wilson came back, as he so often does and blew Werth away. When Rollins followed with a drive off the RF wall that Nate played perfectly to hold him to a single, I was not worried. The first pitch to Ibanez was a fastball at the knees on the outside corner for a strike. I said to myself, "he's going for the double play!" Next pitch was a slider in the same location and the message came up "In play, out(s)." I pumped my fist. "It's a double play!", and I was right. Game over!

With the win, the Giants take a strategically important 2-1 lead in the best of 7 series.

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound against, presumably, Joe Blanton tomorrow night. Manuel has announced Blanton as the starter, but there is still some speculation that he may change his mind overnight and go with Roy Halladay on 3 days rest. I think it will be Blanton. Although a loss would put the Phillies in a deep hole, teams have come back from 3-1 deficits. Going to Halladay would be a panic move with no guarantee of success. Blanton has pitched some good games against the Giants. I have a lot of confidence in Bumgarner and if he pitches like he is capable of, the Giants should win. I wouldn't even write the game off if it was Bumgarner vs Halladay on 4 days rest!(furiously knocks on wood). LOL!

Great, great game by Matt Cain and the Giants! Go MadBum! Go Giants!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League 10-18-2010

Surprise Rafters beat the Scottsdale Scorpions 6-4:

Brandon Belt- 0 for 2, 2BB, SB, CS. BA= .368.

Conor Gillaspie- 0 for 3, SF. BA= .063.

Charlie Culberson- 3 for 4, HR(2), 3 E. BA= .474.

Ryan Verdugo- 2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K's. ERA= 5.40.

Culberson is raking, but Yikes! 3 errors in 1 game. Having seen Culberson play several times, I think he can probably play an adequate defense at 2B, but if he makes it, it's going to be with his bat.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Game Wrap NLCS Game 2: Philllies 6 Giants 1

The Giants came out flat tonight and the Phillies showed why they will be a very tough team to beat in this NLCS Championship series. Key lines:

Cody Ross- 1 for 3, HR, BB. Ross' hit yet another solo HR to account for pretty much all of the offense the Giants could muster against Roy Oswalt who pitched one of the best games he's ever had against the Giants.

Andres Torres- 0 for 4, 4 K's. Torres looks completely lost at the plate. He didn't come close to making contact in his first two AB's. He at least managed a couple of foul balls in his next two but they ended up as swings and misses for strike 3 too. Look for Torres to sit against Cole Hamels in Game 3, but he's just as lost batting LH as he is RH right now.

Aubrey Huff- 0 for 4. Huff hit the ball hard to CF in his last AB, but popped up 3 times before that.

Mike Fontenot- 0 for 2, BB. Fontenot had a very tough night on defense. He cost the Giants an unearned run in the first inning by pulling Huff off first base on what should have been an easy ground out. Later, he let a pop up drop about 3 feet in front of him down in front of the mound. There was apparently some lack of communication between him, Posey and Sanchez, but the ball was clearly Fontenot's to call for and grab. Later he dove too late for a ball that was smoked past him for a double that a good third baseman should have had. Look for Uribe at 3B in Game 3 if he's healthy enough to play, then look for Panda back at the hot corner in Game 4.

Jonathan Sanchez- 6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K's. Sanchez battled his demons in the first inning. The error by Fontenot hurt, but so did the 3 BB's, although the last BB that drove in the run should have been a K on a 3-2 pitch. Ump blew the call. Give Sanchez credit though. He hung in there tough for 6 innings and got progressively stronger as the game went on. He allowed a leadoff single to Roy Oswalt in the bottom of the 7'th and was relieved right at 100 pitches. The wheels came off after the bullpen came in and poured gas on the fire. Probably best to pull him at 100 pitches and hope for a better start in Game 6 if necessary. The 100 pitches were mostly high stress pitches.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Romo was relegated to mop up work tonight and pitched well. Maybe this was a chance to get him back on track for a more prominent role later in the series?

The loss left the Giants still in decent shape for the series having split the first two games in Philly. This game was much more must-win for the Phils than the Giants. Tomorrow is a travel day, then Matt Cain takes on Cole Hamels on Tuesday afternoon in SF. The Giants have tended to struggle more against LHP's than against RHP's and Hamels is on a role. Aside from Cody Ross, the Giants bats are cold as ice right now and they can't expect Ross to keep homering every game. The Giants need to find some offense or it won't matter how well their pitchers pitch. Sitting Torres in Game 3 would be a good start. They might even want to consider giving Huff a rest and moving Posey to first against Hamels, but I seriously doubt that will happen.

Juan Uribe was a last minute scratch due to a sore wrist he suffered sliding into 2B last night. He's scheduled for an MRI tomorrow, but the presumption seems to be that he'll be ready to play on Tuesday. This is the point in the post-season where fatigue and accumulated injuries can really make a team hit the wall. The Giants have fought back all year, and aren't quite on the mat yet, but the Philllies are going to be tough to beat, even in SF.

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League 10-16-2010

Scottsdale Scorpions topped the Peoria Javalinas 6-4:

Brandon Belt- 1 for 4, BB. BA= .412.

Conor Gillaspie- 1 for 4, 2B. BA= .077

Joe Paterson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. ERA= 0.00.

Gobrocks posted his Giants Top 20 prospects as a fanpost on John Sickels' site Can't say it looks a lot like my list is going to. IMO, he has Gary Brown way too low. Tommy Joseph is way too low. Chuckie Jones is too low. RafRod should be on the list.

Perfect Game has a Top 100 Draft Prospect list up. The Giants are drafting at #29, so I like to take a look at what prospects are listed from about #25-50 or so.

Some of the names in this range that I think are interesting include:

25. Jason Esposito- SS/3B out of Vanderbilt. Infielder who hits for average and power and stole 30 bases last year.

28. Brett Mooneyham- Big LHP out of Stanford. Great stuff, poor control. I have a feeling his stock will either go way up or way down so doubt he'll be in this range come draft time.

30. Ryan Carpenter- Big LHP out of Gonzaga. Don't know what kind of stuff he throws.

32. Danny Hultzen- LHP out of Virginia. Polished college LHP with some stuff. Would be ready for the majors very soon.

34. Mikie Mahtook- OF out of LSU. A lot of early mock drafts have him higher. Scouting types like John Klima of don't seem to be all that enamored with him.

36. Philip Evans- HS SS SoCal. My interpretation of Klima's scouting report is that he's very polished for a HS player but may have limited upside.

37. Alex Dickerson- Big slugging OF from Indiana. Moneyball types love this kind of player, but the Giants have not shown a propensity to draft guys like him.

41. Trevor Bauer- Smallish RHP out of UCLA who put up great looking numbers last year. Kind of a poor man's version of Tim Lincecum.

42. Anthony Meo- Typical college RHP out of Coastal Carolina. I see him as more of a supplemental round or second round talent.

48. Henry Owens- 6'5" HS LHP out of Edison High in Huntington Beach, CA. This is the guy I want if he's on the board at #29. Not sure why Perfect Game lists him this low. Very projectable body and arm with some polish already.

49. Ricky Oropesa- Would love to see the Giants draft my man Ricky. Big, slugging corner IF type. A lot of scouts aren't sold on his ability to make consistent contact, and he's just not the type of guy the Giants tend to take high though.

51. Christian Lopes- HS SS/3B, also from Edison High. Has been at #29 in some early mock drafts. I like him a lot better than Evans. Wouldn't mind if the Giants took him, but I still think they need to go with pitching unless a hitter is the clear BPA.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Game Wrap NLCS Game 1: Giants 4 Philllies 3!

Hey team! Just got back from the ER after yet another attack of chest pain(just kidding, of course!).

As is so often the case, this pitcher's duel didn't quite live up to the hype, but the game sure did! I think the ump contributed to throwing both starting pitcher's out of sync with an extremely tight, almost to the point of ridiculousness, strike zone. He wasn't calling strikes at the corners. He wasn't calling strikes at the knees. He was calling some high strikes which may have helped Timmy and Brian Wilson and hurt Halladay because Halladay really depends on keeping the ball down in the 'zone. In any event, Timmy battled the nerves, battled an apparent blister and battled the ump and came away with a hard, hard earned W, a huge victory for the underdog Giants in this series. Oh yeah, some guy named Cody Ross who just kind of washed up on shore took Doc Halladay deep in his first two AB's. I thought Halladay had kind of desperate look on his face after Cody's first dinger and was never really the same after that. Key lines:

Buster Posey- 1 for 4. Buster looked bad in his first two AB's against Halladay, but as he has done so many times this year, he started the 2 run rally that gave Timmy and the Giants the insurance runs they needed to win this game. I thought he also called an extraordinary game, keeping Timmy in the game and managing Wilson beautifully in the face of a very unforgiving strike zone but the ump.

Pat Burrell- 2 for 3. Pat showed he can be The Bat without hitting HR's. His double to drive in Buster which also led to Nate scoring was the final stake through Doc Halladay's heart.

Juan Uribe- 1 for 4. Another guy who looked bad early in the game. He calmly shot a single up the middle to score Nate from 2B. BTW, great move by Bochy to pinch run for Burrell there. Pat probably doesn't score on that play.

Cody Ross- 2 for 3, 2 HR, BB. Oh man! What can I say? Even when he is not hitting HR's, this guy is putting together great AB after great AB! Giants control his contract for one more season. They've got to find a way to keep him!

Tim Lincecum- 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 8 K's. I have to say, I am almost more impressed by this effort than the 14K job against the Braves. Timmy was battling everything out there. He started off with shaky command, leaving pitches up. The Phillies were hitting rockets but fortunately they were right at fielders. Then the ump started squeezing the strike zone big time. Timmy almost lost it. Good thing the ump can't read lips. Bochy raced out of the dugout to calm his pitcher down and put his big bod between Timmy and the ump. Timmy settled down and went back to work. From then on, he just dealt with the bad strike zone. When Halladay came unglued at the ump later in the game, nobody came from his dugout to help him out. His loss of composure almost certainly cost him and the Phils 2 runs, the difference in the game. Score one for Bruce Bochy! Timmy also took a long look at his middle finger in about the 3'rd inning. Rags told the TV guys is was a habit Tim has gotten into and that the blister was "absolutely not an issue". Tim never looked at his finger again and he did not throw one slider the entire game. I think that tells you something right there. He had a blister or was about to get one and he battled through it on a limited repertoire of pitches. Just a great gutsy game from Timmy. That's all!

Javier Lopez- 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Lopez came in to face Utley and Howard to start the 8'th inning. He was acquired for exactly this type of situation and he owned them! I had a really good feeling about the game at that point even though I knew Wilson would give me chest pains again.

Brian Wilson- 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K's, Save. I was a little worried that Wilson wasn't going to fare well with this ump, but Posey called great pitches and gave him great targets. I thought the ump gave Willy just a slightly wider zone than he gave Timmy or Halladay. Just a dominating performance by Wilson. Again, props to Bochy for going for the throat and bringing Wilson in for the 4 out Save.

With the win, the Giants take a 1-0 lead in the best of 7 series and wrest home field advantage from the Phillies right off the bat. They also quieted all the hype about the Phillies supposedly unbeatable starting rotation. Judging from Roy Halladay's facial expression and body language, I'd say the Giants have gotten into his head. If they are in his head, then they just might be in the Phillies' heads too.

Jonathan Sanchez takes the mound against Roy Oswalt tomorrow. Sanchez owned the Phillies in Philadelphia earlier this season. The Giants haven't exactly shelled Oswalt, but they usually score a few runs off him. Again, this series is still very fluid, but I am cautiously optimistic about the Giants chances tomorrow.

Go Sanchez! Go Giants!!

Blast From the Past: 1968 World Series Case Study

The 1968 World Series was only the 4'th World Series to enter my consciousness, but it is still one of my favorite ones to this day. The series featured the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals against the Detroit Tigers, a team that hadn't been in the World Series, let alone win it, for a long time. It was the Year of the Pitcher. Bob Gibson had his 1.12 ERA. Don Drysdale had his scoreless inning streak. Juan Marichal had what might have been the best season of his Hall of Fame career. On the AL side, Denny McLain of the Tigers became the first pitcher since Dizzy Dean, and maybe the last pitcher in baseball history, to win 30 games in one season.

I can still remember that Cardinals lineup like it was yesterday, exactly the same every day for 2 straight seasons:

LF Lou Brock
CF Curt Flood
RF Roger Maris
1B Orlando Cepeda
C Tim McCarver
3B Mike Shannon
2B Julian Javier
SS Dal Maxvill

My memories of the Tigers lineup are less clear. As a Giants fan, pretty much all of the games I listened to on the radio during the season were NL games, so I don't know much about the AL players. The Tigers offense was led by a couple of aging vets, Al Kaline and Norm Cash plus Willie Horton(no, not THAT Willie Horton!)

Game 1 was much anticipated as it featured Gibson, coming off one of the most dominant seasons a pitcher has ever had and winning 3 WS games against the Red Sox the year before. Of course, the Tigers had Denny McLain the 30 game winner. The game was no contest. McLain wasn't a bad pitcher, but his 30 wins were due as much to great run support as pitching brilliance. Gibson, on the other hand, had been truly dominant all year and Gibby always seemed to be at his best in the World Series. The WS games were all played in the daytime back then. I remember our teacher turning on the TV in the classroom for the 9'th inning as Bob Gibson finished off a World Series record 17 strikeouts for a complete game 4-0 shutout. Wow! Knowing that Gibson would be pitching 2 more games in the series, and knowing what he had done to the Red Sox the year before, things certainly looked bleak for the Tigers.

The Tigers, though, had an ace-in-the-hole, another pretty good starting pitcher named Mickey Lolich, a lefthander, who had won 17 games in the regular season. Lolich was a fat tub of lard, especially around the middle part of his body, and was fond of making jokes of it, trying to appeal to Joe Sixpack who was watching the games on TV. I didn't think too much of his 8-1 victory in game 2 featuring his only HR of his career.

I don't remember the pitchers for game 3, but Lou Brock continued to run wild on the bases stealing 3 and the Cards won 7-3. The series seemed to be all but over when the Cards embarrassed Denny McLain in Game 4 while Gibson continued his dominance while winning 10-1. It was Gibson's 7'th consecutive World Series win dating back to 1964.

When the Cards opened game 5 with a 3 run first inning off Mickey Lolich, any reasonable person would have thought that was it. Lolich hung in there, though. He pitched 8 more innings of shutout ball. Lou Brock got a bit careless and was thrown out by LF Willie Horton at home plate trying to score standing up from 2B on a single to LF. The Tigers fought their way back and ended up winning 5-3. The Tigers still trailed the series 3 games to 2 with 2 left to play in St Louis and Bob Gibson slated to pitch the final game. In desperation, the Tigers sent Denny McLain out on 2 days rest, I think more to get him away from having to face Gibson than anything, but it seemed like a reasonable move since McLain had come out in the 3'rd inning of game 4. Jim Northrup hit a grand slam HR and McLain had this strongest start of the series as the Tigers cruised to a 13-1 win.

Now Game 7 loomed as the deciding game. The mighty Gibson was on his normal 3 days of rest while the Fat Tub of Lard, Lolich, was coming off just 2 days of rest after pitching two complete game victories already. It didn't seem possible that this obviously out of shape pitcher nobody had heard of before could do anything to stop the inevitable Gibson domination. Lolich, though, matched Gibby pitch for pitch, out for out, for 6 innings of a scoreless game. I was in school and the game had started at 11:00 PDT. The teacher turned on the TV at lunch time, I think it was around the 5'th inning or so, and then let us stay in from recess to watch the game. In the top of the 7'th, Gibson, amazingly, was the first to crack. With 2 outs, Norm Cash and Willie Horton both singled. Jim Northrup then hit a towering drive to dead center field that the Gold Glover Flood misjudged and allowed to sail over his head for a two run triple. Catcher Bill Freehan then doubled to drive in Northrup and the score was suddenly 3-0 Tigers. It was, and still is, one of the darndest things I've ever witnessed as a baseball fan. Lolich hung on for a complete game, 5 hit, 4-1 win and the Tigers were the World Champions!

So, what lessons can we learn from this tale? I have several thoughts that might become applicable as the Giants head into a 7 game series in which they are the clear underdogs:

1. Don't panic if you lose the first game. 7 games is actually a long series and there is opportunity for comeback.

2. Don't panic if your ace gets blown out by their ace. Again, it's a 7 game series with opportunity for redemption.

3. Keep competing for every inning of every game. You never know what the turning point of the series will be or when it might happen.

4. There is time to make adjustments. If something isn't working in the first 3- 4 games, try something different!

5. Most important, in a low scoring pitcher's duel, ANYTHING can happen in the late innings. It was true in game 7 of the 1968 series and we saw it repeatedly in the NLDS.

Go Timmy!! Go Giants!!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League 10-15-2010

Scottsdale Scorpions downed the Phoenix Desert Dogs 11-4:

Charlie Culberson- 1 for 5, BB. BA= .400.

Brandon Belt- 3 for 5, 2 2B. BA= .462.

This represents a higher level of competition for Culberson, who is handling it well so far. Belt just continues his awesomeness.

In other news, Kevin Pucetas was sent to the KC Royals organization as the PTBNL in the Jose Guillen trade. While Guillen didn't do all that much with the Giants and appears to have already punched his ticket out of the organization, he did have some big hits in a couple of games the Giants won. Let's see, two wins in a season that ended up being decided by 1 game? Yeah, I'll happily trade Kevin Pucetas for that. He's a guy who might have a ceiling as a #5 starter for a bad team, so maybe he gets a chance with the Royals? He's never going to be the kind of pitcher the Giants require at the MLB level.

The Giants also signed Jacob Blackwood, a 25 yo infielder who had a breakout season with the KC T-Bones and was named the independent Northern League's MVP. He hit .331 with 31 HR's. He was originally drafted in 2005 by the Mets, but didn't sign. He was redrafted in 2006 by the Florida Marlins and spent 4 seasons in their organization without a lot of success. He played mostly 2B and the Giants are pretty well stocked with second basemen, so it's not clear where he's going to fit into the organization.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League 10-14-2010

Phoenix Desert Dogs beat the Scottsdale Scorpions 5-1:

Brandon Belt- 2 for 4, 2B. BA= .375.
Conor Gillaspie- 0 for 3, BB. BA= .000.

The only two Giants prospects to appear. Belt had a nice game. Gillaspie remained hitless in the AFL.

Blast From the Past: Great Pitching Matchups

A huge byproduct of Madison Bumgarner and the Giants clinching the NLDS in game 4 is that Tim LIncecum was freed from the responsibility of pitching a penultimate game 5 and allowed to pitch the first game of the NLCS this coming Saturday against Roy Halladay. This pitching matchup is certainly one of the greatest in the history of the sport, and possibly the greatest, at least in postseason play.

The first great pitching matchup I can remember, at least in the anticipation, was Game 1 of the 1967 World Series. The pitchers? Bob Gibson, he of the 1.12 ERA and the NL Cy Young Award winner vs Denny McLain, the last, probably forever, pitcher to win 30 games in 1 season. That titanic matchup ended up as a bit of a mismatch as Gibson struck out 17 Tigers while McLain got knocked around a bit as the Cardinals won the game 4-0. Gibby and McLain hooked up again in game 4 which was even more of a blowout with the Cards winning 10-1. The Tigers eventually came back to win that series in 7 games, but that is a story for another day.

The next great postseason matchup came the following year, when once again the two Cy Young Award winners, Tom Seaver of the Amazing Mets and Mike Cuellar of the Baltimore Orioles matched up in Game 1. Seaver gave up a HR in the second inning and the O's went on to win 4-1. Cuellar and Tom Terrific hooked up again in Game 4. Seaver took a 1-0 lead into the 9'th inning before the Orioles tied it at 1 with 3 consecutive singles by Boog Powell, Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. The Mets eventually won 2-1 in 10 innings and went on the win the series 4 games to 1.

In 1970, the reigning Cy Young award winner, MIke Cuellar faced off against the pitcher who would go on to win it that year, Jim Perry of the Twins. This matchup was a complete bust as both starters were gone by the end of the 5'th inning and the O's won a slugfest 10-6, that included a grand slam HR by Mike Cuellar, obviously before the DH came to the AL.

A similar scenario occurred the the NL when Dwight Gooden and the Mets took on Mike Scott and the Astros in 1986. This one lived up to it's billing as Scott went 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 14 K's to make a Glen Davis HR in the 2'nd inning stand up for a 1-0 victory. Man, doesn't that line by Scott remind you an awful lot of Timmy's last gem?

Then in 1991, Tom Glavine went against Doug Drabek of the Pirates, a team that featured Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke in the middle of their lineup. The Pirates took that game 5-1.

Perhaps the greatest post season matchup in terms of lifetime achievement in the game occured in 2001 when RJ of the D'Backs went against Greg Maddux of the Braves. At the time, the two pitchers had 7 Cy Young awards to their credit! Both pitchers, however were nearing the end of their careers although Johnson was still amazingly dominant. Maddux pitched well, but RJ dominated with a line of 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K's. RJ would go on to duplicate that in the WS against the Yankees the same year.

So, how does the upcoming duel between Roy Halladay, the possible 2010 Cy Young Award winner and owner of a perfect game and postseason no-hitter all in this one season, and Tim Lincecum, the reigning 2 time Cy Young award winner and 3 time NL strikeout leader compare to the historic events outlined above? Well, unlike the RJ/Maddux matchup, both pitchers are in the prime of their careers. Halladay, perhaps at the pinnacle and Timmy, who knows? It's been a great ride so far, though! Unlike the Gibson/McLain matchup which was really very lopsided in terms of true measures of pitching dominance(no, Wins are not part of that equation), Doc and Timmy have both truly dominated opposing hitters for a sustained period of time. They are both coming off what may be the best performances of their respective careers. Of course, Halladay pitched the no-no, but by some measures, Timmy's 2 hit, 14 K performance against the Braves was even more dominant. Probably the closest matchups in terms of two dominant pitchers at the peaks of their careers would be the Cuellar-Seaver matchup of 1969 and the Doc Gooden- Mike Scott matchup of 1991. Neither of those are games that immediately came to my mind and I'm guessing they didn't come to yours either.

It is surprising to me how few truly great postseason pitching matchups have occured in the last 45 years. Maybe it has something to do with expansion and the diluting of pitching talent. Maybe it has to do with the relative dominance of hitting over the last 20 years or so. Whatever the reason, these kinds of matchups are really quite rare. The upcoming NLCS series opener featuring starting pitchers Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum is certainly one of the great postseason pitching matchups in baseball history, and possibly the greatest.

What do you think?

PS: I would like to acknowledge a link from last night's discussion in Extra Baggs to a NY Times blog post,

for most of the historical information for this post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League 10-13-2010

Scottsdale Scorpions pounded the Peoria Saguaros 9-1:

Charlie Culberson- 2 for 6, 2B, HR. BA= .500.
Conor Gillaspie- 0 for 2. BA= .000.
Joe Paterson- 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K's.
Jason Stoffel- 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K's.

Charlie Culberson is off to a great start to the AFL. Gillaspie is cold. Paterson turned in a dominant 2 innings.

Blast From the Past: Great Starting Rotations

I remember as a kid being envious of the Dodgers' pitching rotation. Of course the Dodgers had Sandy Koufax, who was generally acknowledged to be the best pitcher in baseball, and Don Drysdale, also very good, but a guy the Giants always seemed to do pretty well against. The Giants countered with Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, two guys I thought matched up pretty well against Koufax and Drysdale. So why was I envious of the Dodgers' rotation? Claude Osteen! The Giants had no answer for Claude Osteen! I've never heard anyone mention Claude Osteen in the same context as Koufax, Drysdale, Marichal and Perry, but Osteen was the hammer who the Giants had no counter for. In the 1965 World Series between the Dodgers and Minnesota Twins, the Twins shockingly beat both Drysdale and Koufax in the first two games in Minnesota. Guess who stopped the bleeding and started a 3 game winning streak for the Dodgers once the series got back to LA. That's right Claude Osteen. I think he pitched a 4-0 shutout, or something like that. He was also often the difference in the Dodgers winning 2 out of 3 in Giants-Dodgers series during the regular season.

As I was watching the postgame show on TBS after the Giants won game 4 and the NLDS series, there was a segment on the Phillies' top 3 starters and comparing them to other great top 3's. They didn't mention Koufax, Drysdale and Claude Osteen, but they did mention the Orioles of the late 60's and early 70's, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer. Of course, they also brought up Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz of the Braves. Perhaps the greatest 4 man rotation in history belonged to the Baltimore Orioles for a couple of seasons when Pat Dobson won 20 games along with Cuellar, McNally and Palmer. One of my earliest baseball memories is of a precursor to the Orioles great rotation, McNally, Steve Barber and a very young Jim Palmer allowing just 2 runs to the Dodgers while sweeping them in 4 games in the 1966 World Series. One 3 man rotatation that I haven't seen mentioned but deserves to be in the discussion was the Oakland A's of the early 70's: Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue and Ken Holtzman. They had John "Blue Moon" Odom to make it a 4 man in 1972. The 1989 Oakland A's had a pretty darn good 4 man in Dave Stewart, Mike Moore, Bob Welch and Storm Davis, but that team was much better known for their hitting.

There have been several great 1-2 pitching combinations over the years: Spahn/Sain, Marichal/Perry, Seaver/Koosman, RJ/Curt Schilling and more but there haven't been a lot of great 3 man combos and even fewer 4 man rotations, which brings us to the 2010 Phillies. The Phillies have assembled a top 3 triad, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels that is, indeed quite impressive. In fact, I would say it stacks up quite favorably with the very few great 3 man combos assembled in the history of baseball. It features a perennial Cy Young candidate who, at age 33 has won 169 MLB games and appears to be still on the upward trajectory of his career. With the longevity of MLB pitchers that has become almost routine these days, 300 wins and a HOF induction loom as a real possibility for Roy Halladay. The fact that he is coming off a regular season perfect game and only the second no-hitter in post-season history only adds to the awe with which he is being regarded. Roy Oswalt is a perennial top pitcher and Cole Hamels is a young LHP pitching phenom who appears to be finally coming into his own as a star. All of these pitchers have post-season experience except Roy Halladay and he apparently doesn't need any!

So, how do the Giants stand a chance in the face of an obviously superior lineup and this incredible triad of pitching talent? The answer is that the Giants have assembled a few pretty good pitchers of their own. I mean, while everybody is oohing and ahhing over Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum brings some pretty incredible credentials to the table himself like 2 Cy Young awards in his first two full seasons. THAT has never been done before! 3 time league strikeout leader in 3 consecutive seaons, only accomplished twice before since WWII by Warren Spahn and Randy Johnson. You think Roy Halladay's no-no was impressive? By some measurements, Timmy's complete game 2-hit shutout of the Braves with 14 K's was even more dominant! Then there's Matt Cain who is not as brilliant as Timmy, but matches up with a Roy Oswalt very favorably. Cainer turned in the terrific second half of this season marred only by a late season shelling by the Padres in game 160. Jonathan Sanchez, much like Cole Hamels is just coming into his own. His K/9 has always been in elite territory, but now he is starting to harness that awesome talent by keeping his emotions in check and trusting his stuff enough to go after hitters rather than nibble his way to an early exit due to walks and pitch counts.

What the Giants have, that the Phillies don't, is a 4'th starter that deserves to be in the discussion here. As Jim Palmer proved in 1966, you don't have to be a veteran pitcher to take on the best. More often than not, pitching aces got to that lofty designation with dominating performances at a young age. Madison Bumgarner, a young pitching phenom, whose apparent lack of conditioning in the spring drew questions from none other than the GM who drafted him, Brian Sabean. Like a true champion, Bumgarner rose to the challenge and has become somthing of a workout fiend, observed yesterday by Andy Baggerly to be running the stands with Matt Cain. The result is MadBum getting progressively stronger as the season has gone along. In Game 4, in which he won the NLDS clinching game against the Braves, his fastball was clocked at 95 MPH in the first inning and sat at 93-94 the whole game. That's a far cry from the 88 with which he arrived in the major league amid widespread disappointment late last season. What he now has, that he didn't have when he was putting up record setting numbers in the minor leagues, is an arsenal of secondary pitches to go with the heat.

I believe that the Giants, over the next 2-3 seasons are entering a period where they will have one of the greatest, if not THE greatest top 4 in their starting rotation of all time. What I'm hoping for, is that we have already entered that era and just don't know it yet, much like the 1966 Baltimore Orioles with a young pitcher named Jim Palmer.

How do you think the Giants pitchers compare to the 2010 Phillies and in baseball history?

Down on the Farm: Arizona Fall League 10-12-2010

The Arizona Fall League go underway today. The Giants finally named the 3 pitchers they are sending, all relievers: Joe Paterson, Jason Stoffel and Ryan Verdugo. Position players already named were Brandon Belt, Conor Gillaspie and Charlie Culberson. 3 of those players, Culberson, Verdugo and Stoffel have not played above A ball. In the past, teams could only send 1 player from below AA, maybe the rules have changed or the Giants got a waiver due to lack of appropriate players at the higher levels? The Giants contingent plays for the Scottsdale Scorpions who had their first game last night. Key lines:

Brandon Belt- 1 for 4.

Conor Gillaspie- 0 for 4.

Charlie Culberson- 3 for 4, 2B. Strong start for Charlie.

Ryan Verdugo- 3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K's. Verdugo started the game. Is this an indication the Giants are thinking of switching him to starter next season?

In other notes, Brandon Belt was the only Richmond Flying Squirrel to make BA's EL Top 20 Prospects list. Looking through the list, I really think Thomas Neal should have been on it too.

Posey and Bumgarner are on the PCL list. Don't really need scouting reports on them any more, do we?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blast From the Past: Memories from the NLDS

Got a few days break before the NLCS kicks in. Plenty of time for analysis/debate. Gonna take a break here and put up a fluff piece on memorable moments in the NLDS. Things I think I might remember 10 years from now, 20 if I live that long:

Right off the bat, Tim Lincecum! Oh my! As dominant a performance as I've seen from any Giants pitcher, ever, and I go all the way back to Juan Marichal! At no time did I have any serious doubt that he would pitch a complete game shutout. He was that dominant! You know, Roy Halladay is a heckuva pitcher, but if the same Timmy shows up on Saturday, I'll happily put my money on Timmy. BTW, is is just me, or is Timmy not looking quite so gaunt in the face lately? Maybe his uni is not hanging off him quite so much? Maybe eating better and working out better? Maybe not living on booze and ganja? Not that I'm saying he ever did that, but gotta wonder.... Man, the new Timmy on, what, 9 days rest? Look out Phillies and Roy Halladay! Let's just hope he's not too amped!

Buster's non-stolen base. I mean, he was out by a full 4 inches, but the ump called him safe. I just chalk it up to evening the score for Phil Cuzzi.

Greg Kimbrel coming in and throwing bullets. Man, I'm filing that one away for my fantasy draft next spring!

I have no memories of Game 2. Deleted from my memory bank.

Jonathan Sanchez calmly dominating in Game 3.

The empty feeling of deja vu all over again when Hinske homered in Game 3. I as convinced at that point the Giants were destined to lose not only the game, but the series as well.

Freddy Sanchez swinging wildly at the first two fastballs from Kimbrel that were nowhere near the strike zone. I really, really figured the next swing would be even worse that that would be it. I knew the game was lost at that point.

Freddy Sanchez pulling himself together and singling up the middle to keep the game alive.

Bobby Cox panicking and pulling Kimbrel after Sanchez' hit. I knew the Giants had a chance then.

Aubrey Huff's single to right, just deep enough that Travis Ishikawa came around from 2B to score the tying run as memories of JT Snow running the same route with legs churning, but his body not moving ran through my head.

The vacant look of devastation on Sergio Romo's face as he sat in the dugout. All I can say is it's a good thing his teammates picked him up, and big time!

Poor Brooks Conrad!

Madison Bumgarner throwing darts and calmly working his way through the Braves batting order even after giving up a go-ahead HR to Brian McCann in the bottom of the 6'th inning.

Santiago Casilla throwing bullets.

Timmy jumping, no levitating, about 3 feet off the ground in the dugout as the Giants scored the go ahead run in game 3.

Is there a dummer, more tired cliche in all of sports as the obligatory champagne showers in the post-game locker room? Oh man! Maybe that's why I'm not a ballplayer, but I would absolutely hate that! It would take all the joy out of it for me, I can tell you that!

I was not moved to tears by Bobby's tears. I really don't like Bobby Cox, but I'm glad the Giants showed their class by applauding him at the end of the series.

What are your memories of the 2010 NLDS?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Game Wrap NLDS Game 4: Giants 3 Braves 2 Giants Win the Series!

Derek Lowe took no-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the 6'th inning before it was broken up by a Cody Ross HR. The Braves quickly retook the lead on Brian McCann's HR to lead off the bottom of the 6'th, but then the Giants scratched out 2 runs in the 7'th and the bullpen made it stand up this time. Giants win the series! Giants win the series! On to Philly! Key lines:

Aubrey Huff- 1 for 3, BB. Huff Daddy's walk to lead off the 7'th got the winning rally going.

Buster Posey- 1 for 4. BA= .375. The hit was an infield dribbler, but it kept the winning rally going. Buster didn't exactly tear the cover off the ball this series, but hey, sometimes you can be both good and lucky!

Cody Ross- 2 for 3, HR. BA- .286. Where would this team be without Cody Ross? Thank God Brian Sabean had the foresight to keep him away from the Padres! Thank God Bruce Bochy put him on the NLDS roster over Jose Guillen! I would think Guillen doesn't have a prayer of making the NLCS roster now.

Madison Bumgarner- 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K's, W. It might not have been pretty, but what a gutsy performance from the rook! Kept it close long enough to get the W. What a great experience for the kid. You can't get much bigger than a postseason series clinching win! I have a feeling this kid is going to be making us Giants fans happy for a long time!

Santiago Casilla- 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's. The perfect antidote for Romoitis and the parade of flame throwers coming out of the Braves bullpen. Not sure what his contract status is next year, but the Giants need to find a way to keep him around. Could be a closer option if something happened to Brian Wilson. He brings the heat!

Javier Lopez- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Came in to get the LH hitting Jason Heyward and did his job. How valuable will he be against the Phillies who have Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in their lineup?

Brian Wilson- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 1 K, Save. Bob Brenly says Willy has more guts than stuff. Well, his stuff isn't too shabby, so what does that say about his guts? Walked a couple but got the outs he needed.

Derek Lowe- 6.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K's. Tip of the cap to Derek Lowe who was a warrior in this series. He may not have the stuff of a Tim Lincecum or Tommy Hanson or Jonathan Sanchez or Matt Cain or even Madison Bumgarner, but dude pitched with heart and deserved a better fate. He is not the reason his team lost the series!

Bobby Cox- contrary to popular belief, I think Bochy outmanaged him this series. Cox is living proof you don't have to be good at game management to be a great manager. The thing that Cox brings, better than anyone else, is the loyalty of his players. Everything the dude does, from the whining, arm waving, getting thrown out.....everything is designed to take the heat off his players. If you have to blame the ump or the weather or the groundskeepers or heck if you have to blame Bobby, you aren't blaming his players. I see Bochy as cut from a similar cloth in a bit less volatile of a package.

BTW, I'm not sure what Bobby Cox had against poor Brooks Conrad. Kind of hung him out to dry if you ask me. A bit of a counterexample of Bobby protecting his players there.

With the Win, the Giants win the NLDS series 3 games to 1. One huge byproduct of tonight's win is that now Tim Lincecum will be the Game 1 starter for the NLCS against none other than Roy Halladay. We'll talk more about this as the week goes on, but whatever happens down the road, just the anticipation of this titanic matchup alone will be worth the ride.

Go Timmy! Go Giants! Pox on Charlie Manuel for not picking Pablo for the All-Star game last year!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Game Wrap NLDS Game 3: Giants 3 Braves 2

Jonathan Sanchez pitched the game of his life(he's had several of those in the last year and a half, huh?), only to have Eric Hinske deliver a knockout punch in the form of a pinch-hit 2 run HR in bottom of the 8'th inning off of Sergio Romo to put the Giants down for the count once more. With 2 outs, a runner on first and Freddy Sanchez swinging wildly at pitches nowhere near the strike zone, it appeared the count was about to reach 10. Once again, the Giants picked themselves up off the canvas and kept on fighting. Freddy somehow gathered himself and hit a sharp single up the middle. Bobby Cox brought in a LHP to face Aubrey Huff who drilled a single to RF scoring Travis Ishikawa from 2B. Buster followed with a sharp one hopper that ate up Brooks Conrad, hopped into right-center field, Freddy scampered around third to score the go-ahead run. Brian Wilson nailed down the Save in the bottom of the 9'th and now the Giants have 2 games to get one win and move on to the NLCS. Key lines:

Andres Torres- 1 for 4, BB, SB, CS. Torres led off the game with a single to CF. He went to 2B on Freddy's walk then got thrown out trying to steal 3B. I thought he as safe, but I guess I'll happily trade that call for the one on Buster Posey Thursday night. Did I hear Bob Brenly right when he said Andres swings a 37.5 oz bat? Holy moly! THAT is a big piece of lumber!

Freddy Sanchez- 1 for 4, BB. Freddy is not having a good series at the plate, but as mentioned above, he pulled himself together just in time to keep the 9'th inning alive and eventually score the winning run.

Aubrey Huff- 2 for 5. Huff has also had a tough series. I don't think anyone wants this more than Huff Daddy. Don't think that red thong is going to be able to hold cojones that big after THE clutch hit of his career so far.

Buster Posey- 2 for 4, BB. No credit for the batted ball that resulted in the game winning run scoring, but Buster atoned for the GIDP by hitting a sharp one hopper that ate up a hapless Brooks Conrad who committed 3 errors in this game alone. 2 of them were very tough plays though.

Mike Fontenot- 1 for 4, 3B. Fontenot payed immediate dividends after being put in Pablo's spot in the lineup as well as 3B. His triple off the top of the RF wall in the 2'nd inning resulted in a the Giants first run of the game, one that Jonathan Sanchez almost made stand up. Fontenot scored on a popup down the RF line off the bat of Cody Ross dropped by poor Brooks Conrad on a play that should have gone to Jason Heyward who arrived too late probably because he was shaken up on Fontenot's triple.

Jonathan Sanchez- 7.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 11 K's. Sanchez took yet another giants step forward in his development as a pitcher. With a big time start in a must-win playoff game under his belt, he now takes his elite stuff and becomes an elite pitcher. My Gosh! Do the Giants have enough jack to pay him, Timmy and Matt Cain? Good thing they have Bum on the cheap for another 3 years! It is 3 years, isn't it?

Sergio Romo- 0.2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K's, BS, W! Experiences like this can literally end careers, if not lives. I felt so bad for Sergio looking at him sitting in the dugout after the 8'th inning. All I could think of was how heartbroken he must feel and was going to feel for a long, long time. I'm sure it's still going to be tough for him, but man, did his teammates pick him up, or what? Still, if the Giants need an 8'th inning guy tomorrow in a close game, it better be Casilla!

Brian Wilson- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save. Willy closed this one out uneventfully except for a harmless single on a tough pitch to hit by Brian McCann. Good to see Wilson back on track. I have a feeling the Giants will need him a lot more before this postseason is done.

Game 3 of a tied series is always a crucial game. The Giants, in the course of two crazy innings went from facing an enormous uphill task, to being in a commanding position for the 5 game series. It looks like MadBum gets the call tomorrow against Derek Lowe on 3 days rest. Lowe may be able to pull it off as a sinkerball pitcher, but Lowe looked pretty gassed in game 1 already. I have a lot of faith in Bumgarner right now, so I'm saying I slightly favor the Giants to close it out tomorrow. If not, then it's Timmy for Game 5 in SF on 5 days rest and you've really got to like the Giants chances in this series.

Then again, as we have already seen, anything can, and probably will happen. Keep your seat belts buckled!

Go Giants!!

Hot Tip: Updated Buster Posey Scouting Report

John Klima, who seems to really, really like Buster Posey, has an updated scouting report up on his site, Baseball Beginnings. You can find the link in the column to the left. Klima sees Posey as a cornerstone player with a .300 BA plus 25-30 HR's per year for the next 10 years or so. He said, among other things, that Buster's defense is much improved from when he scouted him in the Cal League. I submitted two questions: 1. Why did so many scouting reports apparently underestimate Busters power potential? 2. Were the Giants justified in keeping him down in AAA at the beginning of the season to work on defense?

I found a nice video clip of a local TV report on Chuckie Jones from before the draft. Definitely worth checking out. Here's another kid who is trying to copy Albert Pujols' swing. Check it out:

That's a zero after the vs and the last character is a capital I.

"gobrocks" has a new mock draft up on Andy Seiler's nearly defunct website Again, you can link it over on the left. The Giants will be drafting #29 this year. Several early mock drafts have them linked to HS SS Christian Lopes out of Edison HS in Huntington Beach, CA. If Lopes is what he seems to be, a good hitter with power potential who can stick at SS, I'm not sure he falls to #29, but he seems like he would be a solid pick, although I feel strongly that the Giants need to emphasize pitching in the next draft. Gotta take the BPA in the first round, though. There are quite a few videos of Christian over on

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Game Wrap NLDS Game 2: Braves 5 Giants 4 in 11 innings

This was a game that brought back a lot of very unpleasant memories from the past: Willie Mac's line drive out in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, Benny Agbayani's HR in 2000 playoffs vs the Mets, Scott Speizio's HR in 2002 WS Game 6, Jose Cruz, Jr dropping a can of corn in 2003, JT Snow's legs churning but his body not moving also in 2003, Steve Finley's grand slam HR in 2004 when a simple Sac Fly would have accomplished the same thing.... This game might have been worse than all of those, because there were at least 3 such "memorable" moments, all every bit as painful to burn in our memories for years to come. Key lines:

Pat Burrell- 2 for 3, 2B, HR. The Bat giveth and Pat taketh away. 3 run dinger in the first gave the Giants what should have been an insurmountable lead right off the bat, so to speak. An error later in the game cost the Giants a run, and may have contributed to Cain's slightly early exit in the 7'th.

Buster Posey- 1 for 4, BB. Not a bad line, except for the GIDP in the bottom of the 10'th to snuff out the Giants final and best chance to win the game. Buster is a sharp kid who will adjust and probably hit a Grand Slam the next time he finds himself in that situation, but last night it was tough to swallow. If it was any other hitter in the lineup, I'm sure a lot of fans would be hoping to never see him in the lineup again. With Buster, you just have to believe it wasn't meant to be.

Pablo Sandoval- 1 for 4. A perfectly horrible game from Sandoval whose throwing error allowed at least 1 extra run to score. Sandoval hasn't had a great defensive season, but he generally makes that play.

Matt Cain- 6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K's. Not nearly as dominant as Timmy in Game 1, Cain appeared to be struggling most of the game, but hanging in there. He appeared to be struggling a bit more in the 6'th and 7'th even though the run in the 6'th was unearned. No way was Cain coming back for the 8'th anyway, so it made sense to bring in the lefty specialist to face Heyward.

Sergio Romo- 0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K's. Here's my one quibble with the game management. After Romo gave up the single to Lee, McCann, a LH batter and the Braves most dangerous hitter, but far was coming up. My thought was to bring in Affeldt there to face the one batter, then go to either Wilson or Casilla. Romo gave up the single and the rest is history. Romo has been very good against both RH and LH batters, and McCann can hit anybody, but maybe Affeldt gives you a slight edge there? It's very debateable.

Brian Wilson- 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K's. I have no problem with bringing Wilson in with 0 outs in the 8'th. Maybe he didn't have a 6 out Save, but there is no reason to believe he couldn't easily do it. Willy has come in during the 8'th inning 14 times already this year, so it's not like it was a foreign concept to him. He was coming off 3 days rest with a travel day to follow. No reason not to give him the ball in THE high leverage situation of the ballgame. He might have pulled it off were it not for Pablo's throwing error.

Ramon Ramirez- 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K. Ramirez has been getting the job done since the Giants acquired him. 2 innings may have been stretching it though and there was no reason not to use the whole bullpen with the travel day to follow. Still, if he struck out Miggy Tejada in a key situation, you've got to think he can get Rick Freaking Ankiel out. Bochy probably was thinking this game might go on awhile and he was trying to get 2 innings out of each reliever, if possible. That thought was on my mind too, so I'm not going to castigate Boch for this one, except that I might have used Casilla before I used Ramirez. On the other hand, Ramirez got 6 other batters out without much of a struggle, so Ankiel's HR was just one of those things. It's not like we can say he wouldn't have hit it off Casilla or Mota, and I wouldn't have burned Affeldt in the situation.

For me, the 4 key Fails of the game were: 1. Romo failing to retire a batter in the 8'th. 2. Pablo Sandoval's throwing error. 3. Brian Wilson giving up the double with runners on 2'nd and 3'rd. 4. Buster's GIDP. Those are all failures of execution as opposed to game management errors.

With the devastating, disheartening loss, the Giants once again find themselves down for the count. They've been there at least twice before this year and managed to pick themselves up off the floor and keep fighting. 2 games in Atlanta will be an enormous challenge. Jonathan Sanchez gets the call against Tim Hudson tomorrow. It's not so much that I don't trust Sanchez, but more that Tim Hudson seems to have absolute ownage on the Giants. This could well be another game where Sanchez gives up 1 hit and loses, but you never know. That's why they play the game and I'll be watching!

Go Giants!!