Friday, October 31, 2014

Thoughts on the State of the Giants

The Giants are coming off one of the more successful runs in baseball history with 3 World Series Championships in the last 5 seasons.  While us fans and the Giants are still appropriately celebrating this remarkable accomplishment, it is never too early to take stock of where the team is and where it is going in the future.  MLB "Dynasties" typically have a shelf life of about 5 seasons, give or take a season or two.  Players peak years in the game are remarkably few.  Historically, teams that try to hang onto their core players for too long end up with an expensive, aging core that can't keep up the pace.  The current Yankees and Phillies would be examples.  On the other hand, you don't want to blow up a team too soon depriving fans of a chance at sustained success.  Over the years, the Marlins would be an example of a team that built a winning team for 1 year then blew it up, twice!  The D'Backs of the 2000's might be another.

In all the euphoria over the Giants 3'rd championship in 5 years, serious Giants fans can detect a whiff of decline in the "dynasty."  The Homegrown Core is getting expensive to maintain and is starting to show some age.  Tim Lincecum has been losing velocity steadily and may not have much left in the tank.  Matt Cain is coming back from elbow surgery.  Brian Wilson has been effectively gone for 3 seasons now.  Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo are free agents.  Pablo will be extremely expensive to re-sign and Romo may command a bigger price than the Giants should meet.

On the brighter side of the big picture, while Buster Posey and Hunter Pence are expensive, they are both coming off productive seasons and appear poised to maintain their excellence for some time.  The Brandons, Belt and Crawford, still have controlled contracts and are still on the upswing of their careers.  Madison Bumgarner has one of the more team-friendly contracts in place and is only getting better after a remarkable season.  Joe Panik, while probably not a future superstar or even All-Star, looks ready to hold down the 2B job for at least the next 6 seasons.  Young reserves like Matt Duffy, Andrew Susac and Ehire Adrianza are probably good enough to start for some teams, but are blocked at their best positions in San Francisco.

So, what is Brian Sabean's roadmap to the future?  He has some very big and tough decisions to make starting almost immediately after the Parade is over, maybe before.  Does he commit another big, longterm contract to Pablo Sandoval, who has been a great Giant, but who clearly continues to struggle with his weight, or maybe he doesn't struggle with it enough!  If Sandoval leaves, who plays 3B going forward?  Does he let Sergio Romo walk and place his faith in Hunter Strickland's bigger fastball, but tendency to give up the longball?  What is he going to do about Left Field?  The starting pitching after Madison Bumgarner was in a shambles by the end of the World Series.  What does he do to shore that up?

As for financial resources, the Giants continue to be in a solid position.  Their ownership group is headed by a multibillionaire.  Their ballpark is the best in baseball and a destination for people from around the world.  They have a solid, though maybe unspectacular TV revenue situation.   Winning the World Series will bring in another windfall of revenue.  On the other hand, the Giants seem determined to remain "good citizens" within the MLB community and not flirt with the luxury tax which puts a self imposed cap on how much they will spend to bring in free agent reinforcements.  I am OK with this as the track record of teams that bust through the salary cap and the track record of large, multi-year contracts around MLB is quite dismal.

The main route through which the Giants keep their talent replenished will likely continue to run through the farm system.  While there is plenty of talent on the farm, the bulk of it is still in the lower minors and impact talent may still be at least a year or two away.  On the other hand, impact talent is in the eye of the beholder.  Nobody was calling Joe Panik an impact talent at this time last year.  He may still not fit the definition for some analysts, but he sure impacted the outcome of the 2014 season!

We will get into the State of the Giants in more detail as we move into the offseason with analysis of position depth charts, the free agent market, the trade market and the farm system.  For now, I would say the Giants continue to be as well positioned for the future as any team in baseball, but we may be in for a year or two of transition for the roster as the Homegrown Core continues to age and get more expensive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 7: Giants 3 Royals 2. Giants are World Series Champions!

Well, Madison Bumgarner did not pitch the first 5 inning of this game or even the first 3, but he did pitch the last 5 shutting down the Royals offense once again to lead the Giants to their 3'rd World Series Championship in 5 seasons.  Key Lines:

Blanco, Panik, Posey- 0 for 12.  If you had told me the first 3 batters in the lineup would go a combined 0 for 12, I would probably have told you the Giants would surely lose.  Panik made the defensive play of the game, though, to take away a basehit up the middle from Eric Hosmer and make a glove flip to Crawford to start a DP in the 3'rd inning.  Blanco came very close to being the goat when he misplayed what should have been a single for Alex Gordon into a 2 base error that left Gordon at 3B with 2 outs in the 9'th inning.  For a second there, I actually thought Gordon would take it all the way around and score the tying run right there.  A heartstopping moment and Blanco has been so good on defense all series.  Brought back nightmares of Jose Cruz Jr!

Pablo Sandoval- 3 for 4, HBP.  BA= .429.  Sandoval just kept pounding out the hits.  Clearly Pabs was intentionally swinging for basehits rather than power all series and it paid off big time in this game with a couple of runs scored.

Hunter Pence-  2 for 4.  BA= .444.  Pence also seemed to suppress his power urges this series and broke out of his slump by peppering the field with singles.

Brandon Belt- 2 for 4.  BA= .308.  No dingers and no Runs or RBI's but Belt had productive outs and kept the line moving for others to score and drive in runs.  Nice game for The Belter.

Michael Morse- 1 for 3.  BA= .250.  Giants secret weapon was Morse at DH.  Perfect fit!

Brandon Crawford- 0 for 3, SF.  BA= .308.  Crawford hitting 8'th is like magic.  Maybe the best #8 hitter in baseball!

Juan Perez- 0 for 3.  BA= .250.  Perez did not get any hits, but made a nice catch on a slicing liner down the LF line that I am not sure if Ishikawa would have had.  I know the other members of my family who were watching did not think Ishikawa would have had it.

Tim Hudson- 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 6.14.  Huddy did not have it.  Very poor command, pitches up the zone.  Bochy might have waited too long to get him, but the 2 run lead gave him some rope.  Personally, if Bummy was able to go multiple innings, I would have started him, but it sure worked out in the end.

Jeremy Affeldt- 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Every contract Affledt has signed, people have complained about him being overpaid, but I'll say it right now.  Without Affledt, the Giants do not win 1 World Series in the last 5 years let alone 3!  Another clutch, shutdown performance by the accident prone dude.

Madison Bumgarner- 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 0.43.  Man!  The big guy just put the team on his back and carried it across the finish line.  Once he got rolling, you knew he was going to finish it!  What a series by a truly special talent.  And look who is the toast of Major League Baseball now!  Clayton who?  And how many Best Pitchers in Baseball have the Giants left drowning in their wake over these 3 postseason runs?  Let's see, Doc Halliday, Cliff Lee, Justin Verlander, Kershaw…. am I missing anybody?  Anyway, once again, it was an historic Series and postseason for Madison Bumgarner.

Chevy Salesman- Man, when that Chevy salesman  went into his sales pitch while trying to present Bummy with the MVP car, I though Bud Selig was going to walk over and grab him by the throat!  Oh man!  Stankeye, body language, eye rolling, head rolling, face palming, Selig did it all within about a 90 second time frame!  LOL!

KC Royals-  Royals were a very worthy and classy opponent.  Another organization that has taken a lot of guff from baseball oriented internet based media, they played with class, heart, skill and enthusiasm.  They may not have come in with the reputations of the Texas Rangers in 2010 or Detroit Tigers in 2012, but they played a whole lot better.  They have a ton of young talent on that team. They will be good in the coming years even if James Shields moves on to greener pastures.

The Win give the Giants 4 wins in the best of 7 series.  They are the World Series Champions for the 3 third time in 5 season.  I went back through the full list of WS champions in history and was only able to find 7 teams that have won as many in such a short time frame:

Philly A's- 3 times in 4 seasons 1910-13.

Red Sox- 3 times in 4 seasons 1915-18.

Yankees- 4 straight 1936-39 and 5 of 6 1936-41.

Cardinals- 3 of 5 1942-46.

Yankees- 5 straight 1949-53 and 6 of 7 1947-53.

Oakland A's- 3 straight 1972-74

Yankees- 3 straight 1998-2000 and 4 of 5 1996-2000.

The only National League Team to match the Giants is the 1942-46 Cardinals.  The Dodgers were next closest with 3 out of 7 1959-1965.

No Big Red Machine. No Toronto Blue Jays.  No Baltimore Orioles of the 60's and 70's.  No Braves of the 90's.

I've seen pushback in some corners against calling this Giants team a dynasty, and I admit it is a subjective term, but if you look at the history of the World Series, the Giants deserve to be counted among the great multiple championship teams in baseball history.

Blast From the Past: The Highest Leverage At Bat In Baseball History

In 1962, the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees played one of the tightest, most competitive World Series in baseball history.  The 1962 Series ended appropriately, but sadly for the Giants, with The Highest Leverage At Bat In Baseball History!  The Giants reached the World Series for the first time since moving to San Francisco by beating the Dodgers in a 3 game playoff.  The Yankees were playing in their umpteenth consecutive World Series and playing for their 20'th WS win.

Game 1 was in San Francisco with Billy O'Dell facing the legendary Whitey Ford.  Ford's WS consecutive scoreless innings streak ended at 33.2 IP in the second inning when Willie Mays scored.  The game was tied 2-2 after 6, but the Yankees pulled away at the end for a 6-2 win with Ford getting the W.  Yankees up 1 game to 0.

The Giants came back to win Game 2 behind their ace, Jack Sanford facing Ralph Terry.  The Giants scored a run in the bottom of the first and Willie McCovey hit a HR for an insurance run in the 7'th inning.  Sanford pitched a CG, 3-hit shutout for the 2-0 win.  Series tied 1 game each.

The Series moved to New York for the next 3 games.  A 3 run rally by the Yankees in the 7'th inning of Game 3 broke a scoreless pitching duel between Bill Stafford of the Yankees and the Giants Billy Pierce.  Ed Bailey's 2 run HR in the 9'th inning was too little, too late.  Yankees up 2 games to 1.

A young Juan Marichal started Game 4 for the Giants and took a 2-0 lead into the 6'th on a 2-run HR by catcher Tom Haller.  The Yankees fought back to tie it in the 6'th, but Chuck Hiller hit a grand slam HR in the 7'th, the first GS by a National League player in WS history, and the Giants won the game 7-4 with Don Larsen, yes THAT Don Larsen, getting the W in relief.  Series Tied 2-2.

Game 5 was delayed for a day by rain with Jack Sanford and Ralph Terry facing off again.  Tom Tresh hit a 3 run home run in the bottom of the 8'th and the Yankees won this one 5-3.  Yankees up 3 games to 2.

The Series headed back to San Francisco, but was delayed for 4 days by a torrential rainstorm in Northern California.  When it resumed, Billy Pierce got the start against Whitey Ford and pitched a CG 3 hitter with the Giants winning 5-2.  Roger Maris homered in the game.  Series tied 3 games apiece!

Game 7 came down to Sanford vs Terry for the 3'rd time in the series, although neither pitcher was on short rest due to the rain delay.  The Yankees scratched out a run in the 5'th inning on a DP groundout by Tony Kubek.  The score remained 1-0 going to the bottom of the 9'th inning and the home team Giants batting.  Matty Alou, pinch-hitting for reliever Billy O'Dell, reached first base on a bunt single.  Terry struck out Felipe Alou and Chuck Hiller.  Willie Mays then went opposite field for a double down in the RF corner.  Maris played the ball perfectly and got the ball quickly to Bobby Richardson, the relay man.  Matty Alou held at 3B.  That brought Willie McCovey to the plate with 2 outs, runners at 2'nd and 3'rd and the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead.  It's been called the single highest leverage At Bat in the history of baseball!  With Mays on 2B and the runners going on contact, any hit would likely score 2 runs for a Giants win, while an out would end the game in the Yankees favor.  McCovey had tripled of the CF fence in his previous AB but was stranded at 3B.

Willie hit a long foul down the RF line on the first pitch.  Terry jammed Willie Mac with the second pitch, but Willie pulled his arms in and hit a line drive that appeared to be going over the head and just to the left of second baseman, Bobby Richardson.  Willie Mac has said it was the hardest he ever hit a ball, but that is questionable.  What is not questionable is that the ball had enough topspin on it that it sank in the air and all Richardson had to do was take a step and glove the ball.

Game over.  Yankees win 1-0 and take the 1962 World Series 4 games to 3.

The Highest Leverage At Bat In Baseball History!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 6: Royals 10 Giants 0

When I was trying to think of an opening line for this post, the phrase "a royal whipping" came to mind.  I also thought of "the BABIP gods struck back with a vengeance" or "the Giants got a royal BABIP'ing."   Jake Peavy and the Giants got into one of those innings in the bottom of the second frame where no matter what pitch you throw or where the ball is hit, you just can't get an out to save your life.  When the BABIP'ing ended, the Royals had themselves a 7-0 lead and you knew the game was over.  Key Lines:

Jake Peavy- 1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 12.79.  Peavy actually looked really good for the first two batters, much better than his Game 2 start.  Then he walked Lorenzo Cain and gave up a hard single to Eric Hosmer.  He managed to get out of the first on a groundout by major nemesis, Billy "Country Breakfast" Butler.  The bottom of the second inning started with a soft single to CF by Alex Gordon followed by a line-drive single by Salvador Perez and then a seeing-eye groundball double down the first base line.  Rags came out to check with Peavy and Infante struck out, but then all hell broke loose.  Nori Aoki hit a weak bouncer to Belt who was off the bag.  Belt checked Perez at 3B who was headed back to third and then started to take it to the first base bag himself for what should have been the 2'nd out of the inning.  Peavy who had his back to Perez at 3B started yelling at Belt to throw home and Belt froze for a split second, just enough to let Aoki beat him to the bag at first.  Now the bases were loaded with 1 out instead of 2'nd and 3'rd with 2 outs and you just knew it was going to get worse, way worse!  I'll spare you the unpleasant details, but Yusmeiro Petit could not stop the bleeding either.

That was pretty much the ballgame right there.  It's a little mystifying why Buster Posey, who appears to be exhausted, did not come out until the 7'th inning.  Bochy somehow managed to avoid using Affeldt, Romo or Casilla, or Tim Lincecum.

The Loss tied the best of 7 series at 3 games each.  It is now a one game do or die, mutual elimination match for Game 7.

Bochy has a couple of big decisions to make here:

1.  IMO, Juan Perez absolutely has to start in LF tomorrow.  His D is way better than Travis Ishikawa's and his bat is actually hotter right now too!

2.  Does he start Tim Hudson on normal rest and hope he competes his way to a win, or does he bring back his ace, Madison Bumgarner on short rest?  If it was any other game, I'd say no way to Bummy coming back, but this is the end of the season, win or lose.  Bummy has all winter to get rested up.  Heck, let him come to spring training 2 weeks late!  I don't think you have to get another CG from Bummy or even 6 innings.  I would be down with Bummy for as little as 3 innings with Affeldt, Romo and Casilla throwing 2 each.  The two Tim's would be saved for a possible extra inning game.  Probably more ideal would be 5 innings from Bummy with 2 from Affeldt and 1 each from Romo and Casilla.  I'm not going to call Bochy an idiot if he goes with Huddy, but if it's me, I ask Bummy to give me 3-5 more innings in the final game of the season.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on Madison Bumgarner's Place in Postseason and World Series History

Given a choice between seeing a great individual performance by a Giants player in the postseason and the team winning the World Series, of course, I would take winning the World Series.  On the other hand, what makes me remember World Series past is not generally the team that won, but the performances of individual players.  I mean which do you think is remembered by more people, who won the 1954 World Series or the picture of Willie Mays making The Catch?  Who won the 1956 World Series or Don Larsen's Perfect Game?

I can remember as a kid, listening to and reading about Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson pitching WS shutouts and wishing like crazy that it was Juan Marichal.  I remember Lou Brock dominating at the plate and on the basepaths or Roberto Clement's great series and wishing like hell it was Willie Mays.

When the Giants finally won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, they won as a team.  Sure, there were top notch individual performances by Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum and others, but nobody was carving out a World Series resume for the ages.  The 2014 World Series, win or lose, has finally produced an individual performance that just might be the best of all time of it's kind, Madison Bumgarner's dominance through 3 postseasons and World Series.

When I think of great postseason performers, I think of players who dominated in multiple postseason series over multiple years.  Names that come immediately to mind when I think of great postseason pitchers include Whitey Ford, Koufax, Gibson.  Looking back into the more distant past, Christy Mathewson certainly deserves mention.  Madison Bumgarner has now pitched in 3 postseasons including 3 World Series and has put together a resume that rivals those great names I mention.  I thought it might be interesting to look up the stat lines of some of these stars of the past and compare them with what we are witnessing from Bumgarner now.

Whitey Ford:  10-8, 2.71, 146 IP, 34 BB, 94 K's.  Ford appeared in 11 World Series and pitched in 22 WS games, a record that will likely never be broken.  His ERA was probably hurt by the sheer sample size.  What I can't figure out, though is howtheheck he lost 8 World Series games with a career WS ERA of 2.71.  Talk about getting Cained!

Sandy Koufax:  4-3, 0.95, 57 IP, 11 BB, 61 K.  Koufax pitched in a total of 4 World Series.  He was the MVP of the 1963 and 1965 Series.  Amazingly, he lost 3 WS games despite a career WS ERA of 0.95.  While I have always considered Koufax to be the best pitcher of my lifetime(Clayton Kershaw is currently challenging that notion and Bummy may before his career is over), his losses in Game 2 of both the 1965  and 1966 WS kept me from ever ranking him as a great WS pitcher, despite the dominance in the 4 games he won and the minuscule WS ERA.  Of course, as a Giants fan who wanted nothing more than to see Juan Marichal pitch a World Series game, I took no end of delight in Koufax's WS losses!

Bob Gibson:  7-2, 1.89, 81 IP, 17 BB, 92 K's.  Gibson played in 3 WS and started 9 WS games, 3 in each series.  All 9 of those WS starts were Complete Games!  9 Starts, 81 IP.  Think about that for a minute!  He was the MVP of the 1964 and 1967 WS going 2-1 in '64 and 3-0 in '67.  He went 2-1 in '68 including a 17 strikeout performance in Game 1, but the Detroit Tigers eventually beat him in Game 7 to win the series and keep him from his 3'rd Series MVP.  To me, Bob Gibson has alway been the Gold Standard of postseason pitchers, but even he was not perfect.

Jack Billingham:  Postseason- 2-1, 1.93, 42 IP, 15 BB, 32 K's.
                            World Series- 2-0, 0.36, 25.1 IP, 9 BB, 19 K's.  The reason I post Billingham's numbers here is that he was the previous WS ERA record holder for pitchers with at least 20 IP.  Billingham pitched in 3 WS for the Big Red Machine and pitched in 7 WS games, but only started 3.  The Big Red Machine is remembered for Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez rather than their pitchers.  Their pitching was vastly underrated, but in my mind, the fact that Billingham was actually more of a reliever than starter for those teams diminishes his accomplishment in my mind.

Curt Schilling:  Postseason- 11-2, 2.23, 133.1 IP, 25 BB, 120 K's.
                         World Series- 4-1, 2.06, 48 IP, 10 BB, 43 K's.  I have to admit that I did not realize the degree of Schilling's dominance in postseason play.  He does deserve to be in the discussion of top postseason pitchers of all time, much as I hate to admit it.

What about Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens?  Nobody can compete with those two guys for sheer volume of postseason competition.  Pettitte went 19-11 in his postseason career and holds the record for most postseason wins.  Both Pettitte and Clemens had ERA's well north of 3.00 in both postseason and WS play.  Again, the sheer sample size may have hurt them.  They pitched in an extreme hitter's era.  It's hard to think of them in the same terms as Gibson, Koufax and Schilling.  I also did not include relievers here even though Mariano Rivera had a great postseason career and Francisco Rodriguez, much as I would like to forget it, won 5 postseason games as a reliever in 2002.

Madison Bumgarner:   Postseason- 7-3, 2.77, 83.1 IP, 15 BB, 73 K's.
                                     World Series- 4-0, 0.29, 31 IP, 5 BB, 27 K's.

As you can see, Bumgarner's numbers are very competitive with the greatest postseason heroes of all time, and maybe even better than that.  The ERA in 4 WS starts over 3 seasons is extremely impressive and very worthy of being listed as a record.  Of course, his postseason career may be far from over and could suffer in future competition, or he could just add to his already most impressive resume.

Where do you think Madison Bumgarner's postseason and World Series career performance ranks in the history of baseball?

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 5: Giants 5 Royals 0

Madison Bumgarner pitched an historically great game and the Giants scored some runs, but mostly Madison Bumgarner pitched an historically great game!  Key Lines:

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 4.  BA= .364.  Before the game, in response to a question, Pablo Sandoval stated, "we don't care about home runs!"  As long as you are getting hits and keeping the line moving, Pablo, that's OK.  The hot trend in MLB that Sabers are just starting to wake up to is contact.  Don't let yourself get too deep into a count.  Avoid two strike counts(well, except for Hunter Pence).  Get more hits!

Hunter Pence- 2 for 4.  BA= .474.  Pence hit a 3'rd ball about as hard as you can hit it.  It was caught in deep right-centerfield by Lorenzo Cain, whose leg did not appear to be bothering him.

Juan Perez- 1 for 1, 2B.  BA= .250.   Juan Perez knew Oscar Taveras and was in tears in the dugout during the game.  He came up in the 8'th inning with 2 runners on base and provided the backbreaker with a drive off the fearsome Wade Davis that hit a few millimeters below the Ian Kinsler mark on the CF wall.  Little Juan scored on Crawford's hit and a tense ballgame was suddenly an easy win for the Giants.  He also made a catch of a drive off the bat of Salvador Perez look easy when it wasn't.

BTW, Travis Ishikawa did not figure in the scoring, but went 2 for 3.  Who do you start in LF for Game 6?

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4.  BA= .333.  I've talked about the unique skills Crawford has developed for hitting 8'th.  In this game, he and the Giants may have benefitted from the Royals having a little too much respect for Bummy's hitting and not enough respect for Crawford, although Crawford made productive contact with pitches that were out of the zone.  Sometimes you have to do that when you are hitting 8'th with runners on base.

Madison Bumgarner- 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K's.  ERA= 0.56.  OK team!  Listen up here!  We are witnessing one of the great postseason pitchers of all time, and he pitches for the team we root for!  Where do I start?  This was the first time in WS history that a pitcher allowed no walks with at least 8 K's in a complete game shutout, not Koufax, Gibson, Whitey Ford, not even Don Larsen's Perfect Game!  Bummy's career WS ERA now stands at 0.29 in 4 starts, best in history for at least 3 starts and 30 IP, topping Jack Billingham of the Big Red Machine.  His career postseason record stands at 7-3, 2.27, 83.1 IP, 15 BB, 73 K's.  When I think of great postseason starting pitchers, I think of Whitey Ford, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson.  I'm adding Madison Bumgarner to tha list!

The Win put the Giants up 3 games to 2 in the best of 7 series.  The Series now moves back to Kansas City for Game 6 and Game 7 if needed.  Jake Peavy and Yordano Ventura face off in a rematch of Game 2 in Game 6.

Around the league:  Devastating news for the St Louis Cardinals and baseball fans everywhere who love to see great talent.  Oscar Taveras, the ultra-talented rookie OF for the Cardinals was killed in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic along with his girlfriend.  You may remember Taveras hitting a HR against the Giants in his first MLB AB this season as well as a pinch hit HR in the NLCS.  He had his struggles as a rook, but you could see the enormous talent was there.  Just very sad news and a huge loss for baseball and the world.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 4: Giants 11 Royals 4

Wow!  OK, team.  I'm not gonna lie.  When the Giants went down 4-1 in the 3'rd inning I did not see this coming!  With their backs to the wall after a BABIP fueled Royals rally put the visiting team up 4-1 in the top of the 3'rd inning, Yusmeiro Petit did his usual shutdown thing and the Giants offense came to life with sustained rallies in multiple innings to bury the Royals and even the Series at 2 games each. Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 5, BB, SB(1).  BA= .267.  Blanco led off the game with a walk.  Advanced to 2B on groundout by Panik then stole 3B to set up a score when Hunter Pence beat the relay throw in a potential DP grounder.  Blanco walked a tightrope as the grounder went Moustakas at 3B.  He initially held his ground and only headed for home once the relay throw at 2B was released to 1B.  Blanco had 2 more hits in the game, I have to admit I lost track of when, but yeah, he's having a strong series and strong postseason with terrific D in CF.

Joe Panik- 2 for 4, 2 2B, Sac.  BA= .235.  Panik was BABIP'd terribly in games 1 and 2, but finally came through big time tonight.  Even the sacrifice bunt was huge as it moved up 2 runners and led to 2 big runs.  His leadoff double in the 5'th started the game tying rally.  The second double drove in 2 runs in the 7'th inning rally that broke the game wide open.  Just a great game for the Rook.

Hunter Pence- 3 for 5, 2B.  BA= .467.  Well, Pence's bat is alive and came through with several key hits.

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 5.  BA= .333.  I was thinking of writing a comment that Arias might be a better option against LHP's before Pabs came through with 2 big singles batting from the right side.  I will say this though, Pabs is not thin!

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= 1.000.  If the Giants should go on to win this Series, in my mind, Matt Duffy will be the guy who started the turnaround.  After they fell behind 4-1, he led off the bottom of the 3'rd inning with a PH single, then scored from 2B on a single to LF where the fearsome Alex Gordon was patrolling.  Matt Duffy!

Ryan Vogelsong- 2.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 13.50.  Vogey started out looking strong through the first 2 innings.  It looked like he should get out of the 3'rd inning easily enough, but a series of infield dribblers and his own misplay on an admittedly very difficult cover play at 1B opened the floodgate and he was not able to get out of the inning.  The game really had the feel of being over after the Giants 1-0 lead flipped to a 4-1 deficit.

Yusmeiro Petit- 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Yusmeiro to the rescue again!  Is this guy magical or what?  I have to confess to wondering if Bochy might be wasting Petit on a lost cause and might be better off saving him to fight another day, maybe even start a Game 6 if Bummy won game 5. But what to I know?  Petit slammed the door on the Royals while the Giants offense went to work and he ends up with another Win in relief.

The Giants have their own bullpen troika in Affeldt, Romo and Casilla.  They shut it down over the final 3 except Strickland subbed for Casilla in the 9'th due to the non-save blowout situation.

The Win evens the best of 7 Series at 2 games apiece.

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound facing his fellow Game 1 starter James Shields in Game 5 tomorrow evening.

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 3: Royals 3 Giants 2

After trading blowouts in KC, the World Series contestants moved to AT&T Park and settled down to the type of game both teams have gotten here by playing.  Alcides Escobar hammered the first pitch of the game for a double to LF.  He came around to score on a couple of groundouts.  That run ultimately was the difference in the game.  The teams traded 2-run rallies in the 6'th inning and the Royals bullpen predictably shut it down the rest of the way.  Key Lines:

Michael Morse- 1 for 1, 2B.  BA= .333.  Seems like Morse would be a perfect DH for some AL team next year.  He might be the best bat on the Giants team right now, but is limited by his fielding woes.

Tim Hudson- 5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 4.76.   Hudson would probably like to have the first WS pitch in his career back.  I still don't know what he threw to open the game to Escobar.  Whatever it was had no life and a terrible location.  Escobar drove it off the LF wall for a leadoff double and came around to score in a couple of groundouts.  He settled right down after that and pitched a heckuva game into the 6'th when Escobar got to him again for a single and Alex Gordon double him home to end Huddy's night.

Javier Lopez- 0.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  You could also look at the hit Eric Hosmer got off Lopez to drive in the 3'rd Royals run as the difference in the game.  Lopez has been just a bit off, even against LH hitters of late.  Credit to Hosmer for hanging around and capitalizing on an 11 pitch AB.

Jeremy Guthrie(Royals)- 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 3.60.  As you can see from the line, Guthrie had BABIP luck on his side.  When you add in the little factoid that the Giants had 4 lineouts against him, well, that pretty much tells you the story right there.  One bad pitch by Huddy, a great AB by Hosmer and death by BABIP for the Giants tells the game story in one sentence.

The Win gives the Royals a 2-1 lead in the best of 7 series which historically means they now have a 66.7% chance of being the eventual winner.

Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound tonight facing lefty Jason Vargas in Game 4.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 2: Royals 7 Giants 2

OK, team!  I'm not gonna lie.  This one is pretty simple.  The Royals bullpen beat the Giants bullpen.  Both starting pitchers got into trouble in the 6'th inning of a tie game.  The Royals bullpen shut it down.  The Giants bullpen melted down.  That's really all you need to know about this game.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 4, HR(1), BB.  BA= .286.  Blanco led off the game with a tremendous 8 pitch AB which ended with him turning around a 98 MPH FB off Yordano Ventura for a quick 1-0 lead.  That was pretty much the high water mark for the Giants in this game.

Rest of Lineup:  Every member of the starting lineup got 1, just 1, hit.  Sandoval and Belt were able to hit doubles in one inning to plate another run, but otherwise, it was the definition of scattered hits.

Jake Peavy- 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 7.20.  Pretty much what we've seen from Peavy so far in the postseason.  Started shaky, settled down but then got shaky again in the 6'th inning.  Unlike his opposing starter, when he got shaky in the 6'th, his bullpen brought their gas cans with them instead of their firehoses.

Jean Machi- 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= -.--.  Right now, Machi can't get the ball down.  He has terrible command of his fastball and is hanging the forkball.  He probably needs an inning or two in a low-leverage situation to get back on track. Bochy may not have that luxury.

Hunter Strickland- 0.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 18.00.  Any thoughts that Hunter Strickland had gotten back on track last night went out the window in a hurry.  In fact, they went clear out of the ballpark!  I would think the Giants have to be re-thinking any plans they had for Hunter for next year too.  Wow!  Now THAT is disappointing!

Tim Lincecum- 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Timmy looked terrific.  With the preceding meltdown in mind, it was looking like Timmy might be grabbing a suddenly expanded role for the rest of the Series.  Then, on the likely last Royals batter of the game, he slipped or tripped on his follow-through and apparently wrenched his back.  He threw another pitch, called for the trainer and was escorted off the field.  Santiago Casilla came in and retired the batter on one pitch.

The Series now takes a day off to travel to San Francisco where it will resume with Game 3 on Friday night with Tim Hudson facing lefty Jason Vargas.  The Giants come back with a split on the road, but with serious questions about half their bullpen and a bunch of starters who can't seem to get much past the 5'th inning.  Bochy and Rags have their work cut out for them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 1: Giants 7 Royals 1

The Giants jumped on Not Big Game James Shields for 3 runs in the first inning and cruised to an easy win behind Madison Bumgarner.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, 2 BB.  BA= .333.  Blanco led off the game with a single, tagged up and went to 2B on a long flyball out by Joe Panik and scored the first run on a single by Buster Posey.  He also showed that the Royals OF's are not the only ones who can cover a lot of ground when he tracked down a drive that Eric Hosmer crushed into the right-CF alley in the bottom of the first.  I was listening on ESPN radio at the time and the PBP announcer clearly thought the ball was gone or at least going for extra bases off the bat.  Great catch by Blanco and he made it look easy!

Joe Panik- 1 for 5, 3B.  BA= .200.  Panik hit the ball hard at least 3 times coming away with just 1 hit to show for it, but it was a good one, a drive up the R-CF alley that Aoki waved at and missed.  Rolled to the wall for an RBI triple.  Panik later scored.

Buster Posey- 1 for 5.  BA= .200.  Buster Posey may have won this game with superior pitch framing for Bummy compared to his counterpart Salvador Perez, but is anyone else getting tired of watching Buster get thrown out at home plate?  Thank God Hunter Pence picked him up with the dinger,  but I think this one was on Tim Flannery.  Note to Flan:  Buster Posey is a lot of really good things, but he's not fast!

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 5, 2B.  BA= .400.  Pabs continues his waltz through the postseason.  Having him and Pence hot in the middle of the lineup is huge.  Just gotta keep it that way for 3 more games!

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, HR(1), 2 BB.  BA= .667.  Pence seems to have fully emerged from his end-of-season slump and it couldn't come at a better time.  Again, he and Pabs were huge in this game and can carry the team through the series if they both stay hot.

Madison Bumgarner- 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 1.29.  Another dominant performance by Bummy.  He gave up the drive to Hosmer that Blanco caught and he had to pitch his way out of a runners at 2'nd and 3'rd with no outs situation in the 3'rd inning, but after that it was lights out until he gave up a meaningless solo dinger to Perez in the 7'th.  That run was the first allowed by Bummy in 21 innings of World Series pitching which I think puts him in 2'nd place all time for consecutive WS scoreless innings pitched.  Isn't Babe Ruth still #1?

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Strickland needed a shutdown inning and he needed to retire a good left-handed batter as a confidence booster.  Bochy had the right situation to let him do that and he came through with flying colors.  Javier Lopez also needed some work on his mojo and made good on a chance in the 8'th inning a chance in the 8'th inning.  Not that they were genius moves or anything, but just another example of Bochy planning way ahead.

Tim Lincecum- Timmy was AWOL for the pre game introductions.  He said he lost track of time in the trainers room and didn't want to run out there after the intros had already started.  The TV later showed a shot of him sitting under a hoodie down in the bullpen looking like that was the last place in the world he wanted to be.  Gotta start wondering if this is going to carry over into next season.

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer(Royals)- Hosmer was miked for the game.  Remember the study that showed the Royals hitters have trouble with breaking balls?  Fox played a great exchange between Hos and Moose Tacos where they were scratching their heads about how slow Bummy's cutter was and how it might actually be a slider.  They were clearly frustrated.  Great job by Fox to catch that one and play it!

The Win puts the Giants up 1-0 in the best of 7 series.  More importantly, the Giants grab a win on the road leading up to the 3 home games in the middle of the series.  Can they close this one out in AT&T Park?

Jake Peavy takes the ball for Game 2 facing the fireballing young RHP Yordano Ventura who has been  somewhat inconsistent so far in the postseason.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 World Series: Keys to a Giants Victory

The keys to the Giants winning the 2014 World Series are not a lot different than for the Wild Card game, the NLDS and NLCS.   After all, winning baseball games has had about the same formula for over 100 years with a few adjustments along the way.  This World Series finds the Giants in a bit of a role reversal from 2010 and 2012.  They are the grizzled veterans who have been here before and know how to get it done.  The Royals are the team of young kids playing for an organization that has been mostly in last place for almost 30 seasons.  With the Giants, it's become, "oh, the Giants!  Yeah, we don't know how they are doing it, but they've done it enough by now that they must know something we don't."  The Royals are the team nobody expected to be here.

So, what are the keys to winning the 2014 World Series for the Giants?

1.  Starting Pitching.  While everybody is focused on the bullpens right now, they may not be the deciding factor.  Both teams have crazy good records in games where they have the lead, any lead, by the 7'th inning.  Most of these games will likely be decided by the time the bullpens swing into action.  Despite James Shields' "Big Game" nickname, Bumgarner looks better on paper, and actually deserves the Big Game label  more than Shields.   Can "Big Country"keep it rolling for another game or two?  He does and he cements a place in the history books as one of the great postseason pitchers in baseball history.  I'm also going to say that Peavy finds a sway to out-savvy the fireballing Yordano Ventura who was a bit shaky and seemed on the verge of an injury in his last start.  I'll call Huddy vs Vargas and Vogey vs Guthrie even-steven.

One more thought about the starting pitching:  Someone mentioned a nice Fangraphs article comparing and contrasting pitching and hitting styles for the two teams.  The Royals pitchers like to throw fastballs and the Giants hitters like hitting fastballs.  The Giants pitchers like to throw breaking balls and offspeed stuff and the Royals hitters don't like breaking stuff.  Of course that does not tell you much about the relative likes and dislikes of both teams against THESE fastballs and breaking balls, but it's an interesting statistical tidbit, the kind that was not available to us in past Fall Classics.

2.  Be Aggressive at the Plate.  This may be one situation where it might make sense to ditch conventional wisdom and not try to grind out AB's or run up pitch counts.  So you get the starter out of there after 5 innings instead of 7.  All you've accomplished is giving yourself 2 more innings against better pitching!  Take advantage of the Royals fastball tendency.  Go up there looking for a fastball to hit early in the count and jump on it!

3.  Control the Running Game.  This could be the Giants Achilles heel as the Royals like to run wild on the bases(they even have a guy on the roster who does nothing but pinch run!), and the Giants have had their struggles throwing out baserunners.  Most of that falls on the pitchers who tend to be slow to the plate.  I will say the 7 SB's against the Giants in the 3 game August series is a bit misleading in that 5 of them were against Tim Lincecum and he might not pitch even one inning this series.  I would also point out the Giants are right at league average in CS%.  The best way to shut down a running game is to not let the rabbits get on base.  You can't steal first base!

4.  Top of the Order.  As always, the top of the order has to get on base.  Get those KC pitchers into the stretch early and set the table for the middle of the order.  Panik, in particular, should thrive on the fastballs he should see from the Royals.  Blanco might want to think about putting some defensive pressure on the corner IF's with a bunt here and there.

5.  Hit a Few Dingers!  OF defense doesn't do much good against balls that leave the park.  Can't be up there just swinging for the fences, but Posey, Pablo, Pence, Belt and Morse need to come through with a dinger here and there to keep em honest.

6. Playing for History.  The Giants seem to want to win for each other and the simple joy of competing and winning.  I think bigger things might be on the minds of some of the players.  Peavy has already brought up talk of Bruce Bochy being a HOF manager.  3 WS championships in 5 seasons is an impressive and historic run.  Only one other franchise in baseball history has done it, the Cardinals of the early 1940's during WWII.  The Giants have a chance to be a team baseball historians study and refer to for a long time.  3 championships in 5 seasons should make Bruce Bochy a slam dunk for the HOF and should get Brian Sabean there too.

What are your Keys to Winning the 2014 World Series for the Giants?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 World Series: Pitching Matchups

Here's how the pitchers match up for the Royals and Giants in the 2014 World Series:

Starting Pitchers:

James Shields(RHP)-           14-8, 3.21, 223 IP, 7.14 K/9, 1.74 BB/9, 45.2 GB%.
Madison Bumgarner(LHP)- 18-10, 2.98, 217.1, 9.07 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, 44.4 GB%

Strong matchup.  Bummy was better in the regular season and has been stronger in the postseason.  Shields is more rested.  I'll go with the Big Guy to keep it going.  Gotta get past that first inning, though.

Yordano Ventura(RHP)- 14-10, 3.20, 183 IP, 7.82 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 47.6 GB%.
Jake Peavy(RHP)-             6-4, 2.17, 78.2 IP, 6.64 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 37.6 GB%

Young fireballer vs Veteran Savvy.  Peavy has been a bit shaky in both of his postseason starts.  Flyball tendency should not be a problem in either ballpark.  In fact, the Royals have several hitters in their lineup who you probably want to hit the ball in the air!  Call it even.

Jason Vargas(LHP)- 11-10, 3.71, 187 IP, 6.16 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 38.3 GB%.
Tim Hudson(RHP)- 9-13, 3.57, 185.1 IP, 5.70 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, 53.1 GB%.

A couple of wily vets here.  We all know what a competitor Huddy is.  He's waited an entire career to pitch in the World Series.  Giants can struggle against LHP's.  Probably even-steven here, but gotta be rooting for Huddy big time!

Jeremy Guthrie(RHP)-   13-11, 4.13, 202.2 IP, 5.51 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 43.6 GB%.
Ryan Vogelsong(RHP)- 8-13, 4.00, 184.2 IP, 7.36 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 38.4 GB%.

Two guys who will try to hold it together through 5 then turn it over to the bullpen.  Even.


Greg Holland(RHP)-     1-3, 1.44, 62.1 IP, 12.99 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 48.1 GB%.
Santiago Casilla(RHP)-  3-3, 1.70, 58.1 IP, 6.94 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 56.3 GB%.

Holland is lights out.  Casilla had been lights out until the 9'th inning of NLCS Game 5.  Edge to Holland.


Wade Davis(RHP)- 9-2, 1.00, 72.0 IP, 13.63 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 47.6 GB%.
Sergio Romo(RHP)- 6-4, 3.72, 58.0 IP, 9.16 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 36.8 GB%.

Kelvin Herrera(RHP)- 4-3, 1.41, 70.0 IP, 7.59 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 49.2 GB%
Jeremy Affeldt(LHP)- 4-2, 2.28, 55.1 IP, 6.67 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 66.7 GB%

Jason Frasor(RHP)- 3-0, 1.53, 17.2 IP, 8.15 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 45.7 GB%.
Jean Machi(RHP)- 7-1, 2.58, 66.1 IP, 6.92 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 52.0 GB%

Tim Collins(LHP)- 0-3, 3.86, 21.0 IP, 6.43 K/9, 4.71 BB/9, 41.4 GB%
Javier Lopez(LHP)- 1-1, 3.11, 37.2 IP, 5.26 K/9, 4.54 BB/9, 65.8 GB%.

Brandon Finnegan(LHP)- 0-1, 1.29, 7 IP, 12.86 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, 58.5 GB%.
Hunter Strickland(RHP)- 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 11.57 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 56.3 GB%.

Danny Duffy(LHP)- 9-12, 2.53, 149.1 IP, 6.81 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 35.8 GB%.
Yusmeiro Petit(RHP)- 5-5, 3.69, 117 IP, 10.23 K/9, 1.69 BB.9, 35.5 GB%.

Tim Lincecum(RHP)- 12-9, 4.74, 155.2 IP, 7.75 K/9, 3.64 BB/9, 47.3 GB%.

This series could come down to Bumgarner vs Shields.  The starters seem evenly matched beyond that.  I do think that whichever team has the lead after 6 innings of each game has a strong probability of winning the game.  The Giants bullpen is very good, but KC's is fantastic.  I've tried to match them up as best I could but they are two differently constructed 'pens.  I don't think KC has anybody to quite match up with Petit.  I don't expect Tim Lincecum to be a factor, but he could appear if a game goes deep into extra innings or to mop up after an early blowout.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 World Series: Position Matchups

The NLCS featured two very similar and closely matched teams and it played out that way.  Even though the outcome was not close in games won, each individual game was a dogfight down to the last out.  This year's World Series has more contrast.  Although the teams have many similarities, there are important differences make this matchup interesting in a different way.

The Giants are now a team of postseason veterans.  Guys who have done this before and know how to get it done.  The Royals are more like the Giants of 2010, the team that had not won in seemingly forever and who nobody expected to get very far in the postseason because, well, because they never had before!

With that in mind, lets break down the individual matchups by position:


Salvador Perez(Royals)- .260/.289/.403, 17 HR, -1.3 BsR, -6.5 Off, 16.6 Def, 3.3 fWAR, 606 PA.
Buster Posey(Giants)-     .311/.364/.490, 22 HR, -3.0 BsR, 26.8 Off, 7.0 Def, 5.7 fWAR, 605 PA.

Clear advantage for Buster and the Giants here, although Buster could have some problems with the KC running game.  That might fall more on the pitchers, though.

First Base:

Eric Hosmer(Royals)- .270/.318/.398, 9 HR, -5.6 BsR, -5.9 Off, -10.1 Def, 0.2 fWAR, 547 PA.
Brandon Belt(Giants)- .243/.306/.449, 12 HR, -2.4 BsR, 1.8 Off, -1.9 Def, 0.7 fWAR, 235 PA.

Hosmer has had a great postseason so far with some very timely hits and dingers, but Belt has had his moments too.  Project these lines to an equal number of PA's, the difference being mainly due to Belt's injuries, and it is not close.  Definite advantage Brandon Belt.  BTW, I think I did a smackdown comparing these two before the season started!  I think it was in a Fantasy Focus.

Second Base:

Omar Infante(Royals)- .252/.295/.337, 6 HR, 9 SB, 1.9 BsR, -13.7 Off, -0.4 Def, 0.5 fWAR, 575 PA.
Joe Panik(Giants)-        .305/.343/.368, 1 HR, 2.2 BsR, 4.6 Off, 1.9 Def, 1.6 fWAR, 287 PA.

So Panik's new nickname is Joe Chill?  Infante has the veteran savvy and occasional pop.  Panik has a clear advantage in BA and PA.  Again, normalize to equal PA's and the difference is more dramatic.  Advantage Joe Panik!

Third Base:

Mike Moustakas(Royals)- .212/.271/.361, 15 HR, 0.2 BsR, -12.8 Off, 4.6 Def, -0.9 fWAR, 500 PA.
Pablo Sandoval(Giants)-   .279/.324/.389, 16 HR, -4.7 BsR, 3.3 Off, 5.2 Def, 3.0 WAR, 638 PA.

Moose Tacos has hit a couple of big postseason HR's, but Pablo has been hot too.  Gotta give the clear advantage to The Panda here.


Alcides Escobar(Royals)- .285/.317/.377, 3 HR, 31 SB, 6.2 BsR, 2.4 Off, 9.0 Def, 3.5 fWAR, 620 PA
Brandon Crawford(Giants)- .246/.324/.389, 10 3B, 10 HR, -0.8 BsR, 0.4 Off, 7.5 Def, 2.7 fWAR, 564 PA

Not sure how a higher OBP and SLG% gets Crawford such a lower Off, but I'm just showing the numbers.  Escobar's big advantage is in speed/SB's.  Crawford has a little more pop in his bat.  We'll call this one even.

Left Field:

Alex Gordon(Royals)- .266/.351/.432, 19 HR, 12 SB, 5.9 BsR, 21.3 Off, 17.9 Def, 6.6 fWAR, 643 PA.
Travis Ishikawa(Giants)- .224/.333/.397, 2 HR, 0.4 BsR, 1.3 Off, 0.6 Def, 0.5 fWAR, 81 PA.

This may be closer than it looks.  Gordon is a good player, but his fWAR is inflated by a crazy Def in LF.  Travis is on the Road to Redemption this postseason and had really good numbers even before the walk-off HR.  Still, realistically, you've got to give the big advantage to Gordon here.

Center Field:

Lorenzo Cain(Royals)- .301/.339/.412, 5 HR, 28 SB, 5.3 BsR, 11.4 Off, 16.8 Def, 4.9 fWAR, 502 PA
Gregor Blanco(Giants)- .260/.333/.374, 5 HR, 16 SB, 0.1 BsR, 3.6 Off, 1.7 Def, 2.0 fWAR, 444 PA.

Cain has had a great postseason including come crazy good catches in CF, but Blanco has stepped up his defensive game in CF too.  Slight advantage Cain, although SB's could become a big issue for the Giants this series.

Right Field:

Norichika Aoki(Royals)- .285/.349/.360, 1 HR, 17 SB, -10 BsR, -7.7 Off, 0.2 Def, 1.1 fWAR, 549 PA
Hunter Pence(Giants)- .277/.332/.445, 20 HR, 13 SB, 7.0 BsR, 25.4 Off, -3.4 Def, 4.7 fWAR, 707 PA

Clear advantage Pence here.


Billy Butler(Royals)- .271/.323/.379, 9 HR, -5.7 BsR, -7.5 Off, -14.5 Def, -0.3 fWAR, 603 PA.
Michael Morse(Giants)- .279/.336/.475, 16 HR, -5.2 BsR, 12.8 Off, -18 Def, 1.0 fWAR, 482 PA.

Never thought I'd see the day when the Giants had the advantage at DH, but by golly, I think they've done it here with the perfect postseason role for Morse.  Of course, Brian Sabean had exactly this in mind when he signed Morse back in the spring!  LOL!

4'th OF:

Jarrod Dyson(Royals)- .269/.324/.327, 1 HR, 36 SB, 4.5 BsR, -0.1 Off, 18.9 Def, 3.1 fWAR, 290 PA

The Giants don't really have a counter for Dyson as the 4'th OF.  All 4 of their OF's can't play at once though.

The Royals have tremendous OF defense and a huge advantage in SB potential which could become a big problem for the Giants in this series.  Beyond that, the Giants seem to have a clear positional advantage at 6 of 9 positions here.  Interesting matchup!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thoughts on the Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals might be the single most fascinating team story to come along since, well, since the 2010 San Francisco Giants!  The story in Kansas City is much more than a simple worst-to-first story.  Much like the 2010 Giants, the Royals worst-to-first story was accomplished with a GM at the helm who was long despised and derided by a vocal group of blogging KC Royals fans and by self-described sabermetrically oriented baseball analysts.  It was also accomplished largely because of a trade this GM, Dayton Moore, made prior to the 2013 season which was widely labeled as a disaster trade by the same analysts.

Dave Cameron, perhaps the most vocal of Dayton Moore's critics, especially of the trade of prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odirizzi to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis, posted a mea culpa today on his website, Fangraphs.  The crux of his argument against the trade was that Shields would likely be only available to the Royals for 2 seasons and they just weren't going to improve enough in other areas to accomplish the goal he was traded for, which was to win right away, which meant at least getting deep into the postseason.  So, losing a prized prospect like Myers would be wasted on a futile chase and cost the team more in the longterm than it would gain the the short term.  Cameron now admits he was wrong about the trade now, but I don't think he completely understands why he was wrong.

Cameron believes the main reason why he was wrong is that he underestimated the value of mediocrity in the age of two Wild Card teams and the somewhat random probabilities of success of teams once they get into the postseason.  It is also an age where one team has randomly made it all the way to the World Series 3 times in 3 postseason berths, but we'll save Keys to Postseason Success for another post.  What I think Cameron missed in his mea culpa was that he also underestimated the impact of rising career trajectories by young players.

The 2012 Royals' top 8 position players by WAR were all 28 years old or younger.  They, together with Jeff Francoeur, posted a cumulative WAR of 16.2.  Players under the age of 28 are generally on the upward trajectory of their careers, so you would expect most of them to have higher WAR's in 2 seasons.  In fact, all those top 8 players remained with the Royals through this season with Frenchy and his -1.5 WAR replaced by Aoki and his +1.1 WAR.   Those 9 players posted a combined WAR of 23.3, a 7 win upgrade from the 2012 team with virtually nothing added except experience!

On the pitching side of the ledger, the top pitcher on the 2012 team was reliever Greg Holland at 2.2.  The top 8 pitchers on the staff combined for a cumulative WAR of 12.1.  The top 2 pitchers on the 2014 team, Shields and Wade Davis who were acquired in the trade at 3.7 and 3.1 for an upgrade of 2.7 WAR on the top 2 from the 2012 team, but that is not the whole story of an upgraded pitching staff.  Yordano Ventura, at 2.8 WAR was still in the minors in 2012.  Danny Duffy, at 2.2 WAR put up just 0.5 in 2012.  Altogether, the #3-8 pitchers by WAR on the 2014 team put up a combined 12.8 WAR which is almost a full Win more than #1-8 of the 2012 team!  All told, the top 8 pitchers from the 2014 Royals team put up 19.6 WAR or a 7.5 win upgrade on the 2012 team.

So, it turns out that Dayton Moore knew his own team better than Dave Cameron.  He accurately estimated that their rising cumulative career trajectory would be fast enough to form a harmonic convergence with Shields tenure with the team, leading to an opportunity to go deep into the postseason, thus accelerating the the Royals rise into becoming a competitive MLB franchise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 5: Giants 6 Cardinals 3 The Giants Win the Pennant!

The Giants are a team that gives players a chance at redemption.  The list of those who have made the most of the opportunity is long, and it got longer tonight and in many ways.  The result was a come-from-behind win on a walk-off, pennant winning home run by a guy whose redemption story just got about as epic as any in Giants history, and that is saying something.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 4.  BA= .227.  Blanco seems to have gotten his mojo back at the plate.  He never lost it in the field and he made another running, diving catch on a short pop-up by Matt Holliday in the 5'th inning when Bumgarner needed a shutdown inning to keep the Cardinals' momentum in check.

Joe Panik- 1 for 4, HR(1).  BA= .182.  The BA for this series is anemic, but the kid hit the ball hard at least 3 times in Game 4, so you had to figure he was due.  He's a guy who uses all 90 degrees of the ball field.  He pulled this one down the line reminiscent of JT's dinger in 2000 except with a much better end result to the game and the series. Terrific matchup between him and Kolton Wong at 2B.  Wong had a much better series statistically, but Panik came through when the Giants needed it most.

Travis Ishikawa- 1 for 3, HR(1), BB,  BA= .385.  The latest in a long line of Giants redemption stories.  Travis was originally drafted by the Giants out of HS and worked his way up through the organization. He played on the 2010 championship team and drew a huge walk in the NLDS that year.  After that, he kind of kicked around with the Brewers and then with the Pirates.  He was released by the Pirates in April of this season.  He signed a minor league deal with the Giants and played the whole summer in AAA Fresno without much hope in site of ever making it back to the majors.  Realizing his probably did not have a path to the majors as a first baseman, he asked the coaches in Fresno to let him play in the OF, where he had played just a handful of innings previously in his career.  He saw his family for just 14 days from the start of spring training to the end of the minor league season at the end of August. He made up his mind to spend the offseason evaluating his options and his future.  He was pretty sure he would retire and get on with his life.  Tonight, he became the first player to hit a walk off HR to win the NLCS!  Or something like that.  How great is that?  And it is doubly sweet for those of us who watched him work his way through the minor leagues in the 2000's.  Bacci, did you see it?  Did. You.
See. It?  Oh! And he redeemed himself for the misjudged liner in the first inning that cost the first Cardinals run too!

Michael Morse- 1 for 1, HR(1), .500.  Speaking of redemption….This guy started off the season hot and led the Giants to the best record in MLB by the end of May, then it all came crashing down like a stock bubble.  He got nicked up by some nagging injuries, stopped hitting, blew some games with horrible plays in the OF and was on his way out of a starting job by the time he pulled an oblique in August.  He finally got healthy in time for the NLCS and Bochy put him on the roster as a bench bat with Travis Ishikawa starting in LF.  Travis Ishikawa!  Morse had gotten a look at Pat Neshek earlier in the series and Bochy gave him another shot tonight with the game slipping away.  The TV talking heads thought it strange the Bochy would send Morse up there to lead off an inning, but Morse is a pretty good on-base guy too.  On the other hand….lightning in a bottle!  Morse looked very comfortable up there against a guy who is very hard to time and when he got a hanger, he jumped all over it.  New ballgame with one swing of the bat!

Brandon Crawford- 0 for 3.  BA= .125.  Not much at the plate, but Crawford made a remarkable play on a ball that caromed off Pablo Sandoval in the critical top of the 9'th.  Crawford rushed over, fielded it and threw to 2B in one motion getting the lead runner making it first and third with 2 outs instead of bases loaded and 1 out.  You really have to see it to believe it.  I truly think only Crawford makes that play!  It probably saved the game!

Madison Bumgarner- 8 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K's.  When Bummy gave up a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on HR's by Matt Adams and Tony Cruz(Yes, Tony Cruz), it was looking like maybe it just wasn't Bummy's night.  He bore down, though, and shut the Cardinals down for the next 4 innings to keep the Giants in the ballgame.  The Giants got their big break when Mike Matheny took Adam Wainwright out of the ballgame after he struck out the side in the 6'th and retired the side in order in the 7'th on a K, a soft flyball and a soft groundout.  The rest is history!

Mike Matheny(Cardinals)-  We might never know the true condition of Adam Wainwright's arm and whether he could have gone another 10 or 20 pitches.  All I know is it was sure good to see him out of the game!  We also will never know just how tired the Cardinals bullpen was and why Matheny felt compelled to stick with Michael Wacha, a pitcher who had not been used since September 27, one batter too long.  Just gotta think Randy Choate was the guy who had to face Travis in that spot.  Just gotta!

Bruce Bochy- I don't agree with every move Bochy makes in every game, but my goodness, he was the maestro again tonight!  That was just about the most perfect managing job you will ever see!:  Sticking with Travis in LF for the game and through the game.  Bringing Morse up to leadoff the 8'th, and did Bochy really know Neshek was the guy Morse had faced before and would probably be more comfortable facing again?  Bringing in Affeldt to face Tavares with the bases loaded in the top of the 9'th replacing the closer?  A lot of managers would not dare to take their closer out, no matter how dire the situation.  "Hey!  He's the guy who got us here, we'll live and die with him!"  Leaving Bummy in there for the 8'th inning.  Just a terrific job of managing!

Brian Sabean- Helluva GM, but the guy will never be accused of being a smooth talker.  Cockroaches?  His players are like Cockroaches because you "have to kill them all"?  The worst part is the TV talking head picked it up and were already running with it.  Fortunately the Giants players weren't biting in the TV interviews.  Hope we don't have to hear THAT one all World Series long!

The Win gives the Giants their 3'rd NL Pennant in the last 5 years with a chance to win their 3'rd World Series in the same time span.  And to think just a few years ago, I was starting to wonder if I would live to see them win 1 World Series!  Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.  These ARE the Glory Days!

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 4: Giants 6 Cardinals 4

Relief pitching and defense continued to be the storyline of this postseason.  The Giants got 6 shutdown innings from their bullpen and took advantage of 3 fielding miscues by Matt Adams in 1 inning to overcome a 4-1 deficit and take a 3-1 lead in the best of 7 NLCS.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 4, 2B, BB.  BA= .167.  Amazing how big a role Blanco has played in this series with such an anemic BA.  A little burst of a hot streak at the end here would go a long ways toward a successful WS run by the Giants.

Buster Posey- 2 for 3, BB, SF.  BA= .250.  Posey seemed to be pressing a bit, but settled down in this one and just kept the line moving.  The result was 3 big RBI's!

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, BB, SB(1).  BA= .286.  Pence seems to be coming out of his funk just in the nick of time.  Again, the Giants don't need dingers out of the middle of the lineup as much as they just need something!

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .154.  Crawford seemed to go into a funk after the grand slam in the Wild Card game.  He came out of it tonight with some key hits and smart baserunning.

Ryan Vogelsong- 3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 12.00.  Matt Carpenter's leadoff hit might have been an out if it hadn't taken a bad hop over a diving Joe Panik's glove.  After that, it was just plain old fashioned bad pitching by Vogey.

Yusmeiro Petit- 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Gotta think Petit is in line for a starting gig next season.  He's certainly earned it, although if the Giants can find an inexpensive alternative for the rotation, Petit gives them incredible depth.  Petit just might be the MVP of the postseason so far!

Rest of Bullpen- 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K's, Save.  Romo got the fearsome Kolton Wong, a LH batter, on a groundout.  He gave up a harmless single to Tavares, but the RH batters Peralta and Grichuk, like all RH batters, had no chance.  I did not see any hanging sliders out of Romo in this appearance.  Casilla had to face 3 consecutive good LH batters to start the 9'th.  He got Descalso and Carpenter easily before giving up a harmless single to Jay, who is suddenly impossible to get out.  Holliday was overmatched for the final out.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 4.  BA= .273.  Belt is rated as a slightly negative fielder by UZR, but 1B D was the difference in this one.  Belt made a perfect throw to get a lead runner on a sac bunt attempt while Adams made 2 poor throws and a poor decision in the decisive 6'th inning even though no errors were charged.  He had to re-grip on the glove-hand transfer on a throw to the plate, allowing Juan Perez to score from third and a tapper which should have hung him out to dry.  The very next play, with runners at first and third, Adams fielded a hard grounder at the bag.  He again had to re-grip on the exchange which may have caused him to panic a bit.  He made an awkward step on the bag with the wrong foot, then made a wide throw to second, while forgetting to check Crawford coming down the line from 3B allowing Crawford to coast home with the go-ahead run.

BTW, a constant of Brian Sabean's tenure as GM has been a good fielding first baseman, often seemingly at the expense of offense.  First Base Defense, an undervalued commodity!

Again, the Win put the Giants up in the best of 7 series 3 games to 1.  Historically, 90% of teams in his situation have gone on to win the series.

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound for the second time in the series tonight facing Adam Wainwright, who continues to be evasive about the health of his arm.

Around the League:  The KC Royals completed a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles to advance to the World Series.  That popping sound you hear is heads exploding over at Fangraphs.  That sound will get louder and more frequent if the Giants end up as the Royals' opponent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 3: Giants 5 Cardinals 4

The Giants built a 4-run first inning lead largely on a misjudged flyball to right-center that went for a bases loaded and clearing double.  The Cardinals then pecked away to tie it in the 7'th inning on another HR, this time by the guy who misjudged the first inning flyball, Randall Grichuk.  They then scratched out a walk off run in the bottom of the 10'th inning on a throwing error by reliever Randy Choate.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik- 0 for 4.  BA= .154.  Looks like a bad line, but Panik hit the ball hard at least 3 times, one in his first AB of the game in the first inning that John Jay went a long ways for and made a sensational diving catch on.

Travis Ishikawa- 1 for 3, 2B.  BA= .500.  Travis is leading a charmed life this offseason always seeming to be in the right place at the right time.  His windblown drive to right-center kept tailing away from Grichuk until it was almost in CF.  Grichuk either lost sight of the ball or gave up on it and it hit off the fence about 2 feet off the ground, appearing to be a catchable ball.  John Lackey was not happy and he's a guy who does not hide his feelings well.  In Grichuk's defense, that ball had some serious wind blowing it away from him.  At the angle the ball finally came down, I'm not sure it was as catchable as it looked.  In Travis's defense, had it not been for the wind, that ball probably would have hit high off the wall with the same result.

Pablo Sandoval- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .417.  Pablo kept his on base postseason streak alive and contributed to the first inning rally.  He also made a sensational play late in the game, making a diving stop way behind 3B, then getting up to make the loooong throw across the diamond to easily beat the runner.  I'm not sure how many third basemen make that throw.  I have a feeling that if Pabs leaves via free agency, the Giants are going to miss his defense as much or more as his offense.

Tim Hudson- 6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 5.68.  Huddy looked great early, but the Cardinals just kept pecking away at him.  Bochy probably should not have let him come out to start the 7'th inning which is when he gave up the dinger to Grichuk.  Still, a gutty effort by a fierce competitor.

Jeremy Affeldt- 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Another multi-inning postseason gem from Affeldt.  Casilla, Lopez and Romo followed with shutdown 9'th and 10'th innings enabling the walk-off in the 10'th.

The Win puts the Giants up 2 games to 1 in the best of 7 series.  Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound tomorrow night in Game 4 facing Shelby Miller.

The Giants have now failed to hit a HR in something like 180 PA's since Belt hit the walk off in Game 2 of the NLDS.  That is going to positively regress one of these games, right?

Around the League:

The KC Royals took a 3-0 lead in the ALCS with a 2-1 win over the Orioles.  They do look like the Team of Destiny this year.

The Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays to be President of Baseball Operations(I thought that was Stan Kasten's job).  Agent Ned Colletti stays on in an advisory role.  LOL!  I'm not convinced that "Moneyball" tactics work so well in a big money environment like LA.  Just because you are great at finding undervalued players when you have budget limitations does not mean you are going to find them when you have almost unlimited money to spend and ownership bosses who want results yesterday.  I would also point out that Tampa Bay's vaunted reputation for producing homegrown players has taken quite a beating in the last few years with an extended series of draft day busts.  So no, I am not shaking in my shoes over the Dodgers hiring of Andrew Friedman.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 2: Cardinals 5 Giants 4

The Giants continued their hunt and peck offensive strategy, but Jake Peavy did not have his best stuff and the bullpen got a case of gopheritis, eventually losing on a walk off gopher ball by Kolton Wong.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 5.  BA= .200.   Good to see Blanco get the bat going.  He hit also hit a line drive during the 9'th inning rally that found Peralta's glove.  That ball is hit anywhere else and we might still be watching or the Giants might have won!

Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .500.  I still think Belt is going to hit a big dinger or two before this is over.

Travis Ishikawa- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .600.  Travis facilitated the first Giants run with a double to move Belt to 3B from where he scored on an Arias groundout.

Michael Morse- 1 for 1.  BA= 1.000.  Gotta admit, it was exciting to see Morse come to the plate with a chance to do some damage.  He did, but not a great as we would hope.  He did look like he was ready to hit though.  Those games in Instructional League must have gotten him up to speed.

Andrew Susac- 1 for 1.  BA= 1.000.  That was a solid big league hit Susac put on that ball as a which started the game-tying rally in the 9'th inning.  With the way the pitchers are talking up Posey's ability to call games and frame pitches, I seriously doubt we are going to see Susac as the primary catcher anytime soon.  It would therefore behoove him to come to spring training ready to make a run at another position.  May I suggest 3B?  Gotta find a way to get his bat in the lineup more often, or everyday!

Matt Duffy- 0 for 0.  BA= .000.  Duffy pinch ran for Susac and did quite the professional job of it.   He avoided getting doubled up on Blanco's line drive at Peralta then scored all the way from 2B on a wild pitch by Trevor Rosenthal.  Duffy is another guy who is going to be pushing for a bigger role next year.

Jake Peavy- 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 4.50.  Peavy did not have his best stuff or command, but the home plate ump had a very narrow K zone(for both starters).  He managed to play rope-a-dope for 4 innings, but came out for a PH after 4.  We'll have to hope for a better start next time, if it is needed.

Jeremy Affeldt- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Affeldt is magical in the postseason.  His 2 innings kept the Giants in the game and gave them a chance to win.

Hunter Strickland- 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 6.75.  We are rapidly finding out an inconvenient truth about Hunter Strickland.  Dude can't keep it in the park against LH batters!

Sergio Romo- 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 27.00.  …and we've always known Romo has trouble with lefty hitters.

The Loss evened the 7 game series up at 1 game apiece.  The series now moves to San Francisco where it will resume on Tuesday, October 14 with an afternoon game starting at 1:00 PM PDT.  Tim Hudson will get the start facing Big Bad John Lackey.

The Cardinals suffered a significant loss which will most likely affect the rest of the series when Yadier Molina pulled up with what looked like a pretty bad oblique  strain on a routine swing of the bat that resulted in a sharp one-hopper to 2B Joe Panik.  Molina appeared to be in a significant amount of pain and left the game.  Based on appearances, it would be surprising if he returns for this series or even the World Series if the Cardinals advance that far.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 1: Giants 3 Cardinals 0

The Giants continued to follow the script to a T with shutdown pitching from Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla while taking advantage of several fielding miscues by the Cardinals to scratch out 3 runs.  Key Lines:

Pablo Sandoval- 3 for 4, 2B, BB.   Pablo started the rally in the second inning by driving the ball to the wall in RF.  Grichuk was unable to hang on as he crashed first into the fence then onto the ground and the ball rolled free for a double.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 1, 2 BB, SF.   No dingers, but Belt was in the middle of both rallies.  His single kept the line moving in the 2-run 2'nd inning  and his SF cashed in a runner at 3B with 1 out in the 3'rd.

Travis Ishikawa- 2 for 3.  Ishikawa's bloop single down the 3B line just out of the reach of a diving Carpenter drove in a run.  He also made a nifty diving catch in LF.  I don't think he covered much ground on the catch, but it looked difficult and he came up with the ball, which looked at first like it would be a hit.

Madison Bumgarner- 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K's.  Once he got past the first inning, Bumgarner was overpowering.  Probably the closest the Cardinals came to scoring all night was when Holliday hit a drive to the warning track in right-center with a runner on, which probably would have been a dinger in a day game or even a night game during the summer.  Blanco caught up to it and almost made it look like a can of corn.  Fortunately, it was to the deepest part of the yard and it was a cold night.

Bumgarner has really established himself as a big game pitcher.  I don't know if Bochy was trolling Clayton Kershaw and Don Mattingly by leaving Bummy in for 112 pitches.  Personally, I would have taken him out 1 batter sooner after he faced the left-handed hitting Carpenter to lead off the 8'th inning. No sense in fatiguing him in case he is needed to win Game 5.  On the other hand, my concerns about giving him an extra day of rest and start him in Game 2 were completely unfounded.  If Matt Cain is a horse, this guy is as strong as an ox!

Sergio Romo- 0.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  Romo came in for 1 batter and got Matt Holliday to reach for a 2-strike slider for a weak flyball out.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K, Save.  Here's what I like about Casilla.  He doesn't waste pitches.  When he gets 2 strikes on a batter, he makes sure the pitch close enough to the zone that the batter has to swing, but it's not in the fat part of the strike zone, so the contact, if it is made, is weak.  Sure, he's going to get BABIP'd once in a blue moon, but most of the time, he gets through the inning quickly, which leaves him fresh to go out there again the next game if needed.  The ninth inning in this one was dominant, even though there were no K's.  He just jumped out 0-2 then got the weak contact.  Ballgame!

Adam Wainwright(Cards)- 4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 2 K's.  Waino is clearly not himself.  As against the Dodgers, he did not throw a lot of FB's although he did get it up to 91 MPH.  Not only was his velocity pedestrian, his command was off as he gave the Giants a lot of easy takes.  The Giants also did a good job of recognizing the curveball and laying off as Waino depends on getting batters to swing outside the zone at the deuce.  Cards gotta be wondering if they can use him again this postseason.

Marco Gonzalez- 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  This kid could be trouble down the road if he continues to be this tough on the lefty batters in the Giants lineup.

The Win puts the Giants up 1-0, which doesn't guarantee anything in a 7 game series, but if you have the choice, you do want to win Game 1.  What is the postseason success rate of teams that win Game 1 of 7 game series'?

Jake Peavy starts Game 2 for the Giants facing Lance Lynn, a guy the Giants have had some success against in the past.

Around the League:  The KC Royals shocked the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards by winning the first two games of the ALCS on the road.  The Royals are looking more and more like this year's Team of Destiny.  I can hear heads starting to explode over at Fangraphs as I write this.

Thoughts on the 2014 NLCS: Keys to the Series

As I have said several times already, this year's NLCS, at least on paper, is one of the most competitive in recent memory.  These two teams have dominated postseason baseball now for 4 seasons with a guarantee that one of them will represent the NL in the World Series for the 5'th season in a row.  On top of that, both teams are remarkably similar in construction and talent.  The outcome will depend heavily on intangibles like mistakes, decisionmaking and momentum.  I can easily imagine the series ending in 4 games with either team winning or going down to the final out of Game 7.  The competition should be fierce and emotions could run high.

Here are my Keys to the Series for the Giants:

1.  Starting pitchers stay hot.  Despite all the noise about relief pitching on a lot of baseball oriented sites, starting pitching is still the biggest key to winning.  Yes, the bullpen plays a bigger role than in decades past, and can certainly lose a series for you, but you have to get to the bullpen first.  You also cannot ask a bullpen to go 4 or 5 innings every game, so you can't be pulling your starter in the middle of the 4'th inning every game either.  Giants SP's have always turned it on in the postseason and have done so this year.  That needs to continue if they have any chance of advancing.

2.  Get a lead early.  Giants starters have had a tendency to give up a run or two in the first inning all season.  You can't do that and expect to win in the postseason.  The opposition pitching is just too good.  By the same token, it helps to get on top early, even if it is by just 1 run.  Get on that scoreboard first and you have a great chance to win!

3.  Top of the order.  Scoring runs, especially for the Giants who aren't going to overpower you with HR's, is for the top of the order to get on base.  Blanco and Panik came alive a bit in Game 4 of the NLDS and it was the difference in the ballgame.  They need to keep that going into the NLCS.

4.  Pence and Pablo.  The Giants need their hackers to be a bit more under control with their hacking.  Look, both of these guys are going to take their hacks, that's a given.   This is no time to try to turn them into Joey Votto, and I'm not sure you ever want that anyway.  On the other hand, they don't need to hit 3 dingers in the game to win.  They just need to not pop up or strike out with runners at the corners.  Both these guys are more effective when they hack with the pitch instead of trying to pull everything out of the park.  Go the other way.  Hit it up the middle.  Keep the line moving!

5.  Brandon Belt.  He's been a force so far.  I expect a key dinger or two from The Belter.

6.  Defense.  It was not coincidence that the 1 loss in the NLDS came when the defense broke down.  Giants have an advantage on D at several positions.  Defensive miscues almost always become a factor in postseason series'.

7.  Manager decisionmaking.  I have to tell you.  While I am happy that Bruce Bochy is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves, all this talk about him being one of the best of all time is making me nervous.  Talk like that can make a guy become self conscious and self consciousness is almost always a bad thing and almost always gets in the way of good decisionmaking.  Let if flow, Boch!  Managing was a big factor with the same two managers in 2012.  Mike Matheny has had two years of a learning curve.  He'll be better this time around.

Can't wait for this series to begin!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 NLCS: Pitching Matchups

If the Giants and Cardinals are pretty much even-steven on the position side of the roster ledger, they are just as much so on the pitching side with one possibly important exception.  Again, both teams feature depth rather than superstar firepower, although Adam Wainwright and Madison Bumgarner would be considered aces on most pitching staffs.  Here's how they match up:

Starting Pitchers:

Adam Wainwright(Cards)- 20-9, 2.38, 227 IP, 50 BB, 179 K, 7.10 K/9, 1.98 BB/9, 46.3% GB.
Madison Bumgarner(Giants)- 18-10, 2.98, 217.1 IP, 43 BB, 219 K, 9.07 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, 44.4% GB.

Personally, I would start the more well rested Peavy in Game 1 and give Bumgarner the extra day off for Game 2.  They could both still start 2 games in the series if necessary.  I just believe the extra day of rest is critical at this time of year.  Wainwright did not fare well in Game 1 of the NLDS in LA and there are rumors of some elbow trouble.  I did not see most of that game, but the little I did showed his FB velocity at 89 which seems slow for Waino, so there might be something to it.  On the other hand, his poor performance there might have just been due to the weather.  The Giants have gotten to Waino from time to time in the past, so this one is very winnable.  Again, a key for Bummy is to get out of the first inning unscathed.

Lance Lynn(Cards)- 15-10, 2.74, 203.2 IP, 72 BB, 181 K, 8.00 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 44.3 GB%.
Jake Peavy(Giants)- 6-4, 2.17, 78.2 IP, 17 BB, 58 K, 6.64 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 37.6 GB%

Obviously, Peavy's numbers are just for his time with the Giants.  Lynn is a big workhorse, but as you can see from his walk rates, he can get a bit wild.  Has had a tendency to give up big innings in the past.  Peavy has been nails since coming over to the Giants and wants to win another ring with Bruce Bochy and help get the skipper into the HOF.  I'm going to say I like this matchup for the Giants.

John Lackey(Cards)- 3-3, 4.30, 60.2 IP, 15 BB, 48 K, 7.12 K/9, 2.23 BB/9, 38.9 GB%.
Tim Hudson(Giants)- 9-13, 3.57, 189.1 IP, 34 BB, 120 K, 5.70 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, 53.1 GB%.

Don't let the numbers on Lackey fool you.  This guy has been turning it on in the postseason like forever.  Anybody still remember the 2002 WS?  He's big, ugly, mean and nasty.  That's just who he is, and you don't want to face him in the postseason.  Huddy is a pretty fierce competitor himself, and has benefitted from the extended rest from breaks between series.  Should be a fierce battle.  I'll call it even.

Shelby Miller(Cards)- 10-9, 3.74, 183 IP, 73 BB, 127 K, 6.25 K/9, 3.59 BB/9, 39.9 GB%.
Ryan Vogelsong(Giants)- 8-13, 4.00, 184.2 IP, 58 BB, 151 K, 7.36 K/9. 2.83 BB/9, 38.4 GB%

Miller has a 2.92 ERA in the second half.  Vogey should benefit from the extended rest and has a track record of being a strong postseason competitor.  Another good matchup possibly slightly favoring Miller although Vogey should never be counted out of any competition.

Long Relief/Reserve Starter:

Michael Wacha(Cards)- 5-6, 3.20, 107 IP, 33 BB, 94 K, 7.91 K/9, 2.78 BB/9, 41.6 GB%.
Yusmeiro Petit(Giants)- 5-5, 3.69, 117 IP, 22 BB, 133 K, 10.23 K/9, 1.69 BB/9, 35.5 GB%.

Wacha did not pitch in the NLDS.  We all know what Petit did!  Petit's numbers are dominant, but if his command is not perfect, he gets burned by the long ball.


Trevor Rosenthal(Cards)- 2-6, 3.20, 70.1 IP, 42 BB, 87 K, 11.13 K/9, 5.37 BB/9, 38.0 GB%.
Santiago Casilla(Giants)- 3-3, 1.70, 58.1 IP, 15 BB, 45 K, 6.94 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 56.3 GB%.

Rosenthal has the classic huge fastball that closers are expected to have, but can be wild as a hare.  Casilla gets the job done, and maybe better, with a variety of pitches.  He can rare back and throw it past you when he needs to also.  The key for Casilla is getting his first strike early in the appearance.  Once he gets that, he settles right down and gets it done.  I have no concerns about Casilla as closer.  I think Rosenthal is susceptible to a meltdown inning.  We'll see if it happens.


Pat Neshek(Cards)- 7-2, 1.87, 67.1 IP, 9 BB, 68 K, 9.09 K/9, 1.20 BB/9, 34.7 GB%.
Sergio Romo(Giants)- 6-4, 3.72, 58.0 IP, 12 BB, 59 K, 9.16 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 36.8 GB%.

Neshek has a very funky delivery that the Giants did not see well during the regular season.  He'll be a tough customer.  Romo seems to have gotten most of his mojo back, but still struggles a bit against LH batters.

Carlos Martinez(Cards)- 2-4, 4.03, 89.1 IP, 36 BB, 84 K, 8.46 K/9, 3.63 BB/9, 51.2 GB%.
Hunter Strickland(Giants)- 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 0 BB, 9 K, 11.57 K/9, 0 BB/9, 56.3 GB%.

These are regular season stats only.  Martinez seems to be better suited for relief and has elite velocity with a GB tendency.  He can get wild.  Bochy seems to have handed over 7'th inning duties to Strickland who also has elite velocity, but may be experience challenged.  Please, Boch!  Don't let him throw a FB strike to Matt Carpenter or Matt Adams!

Seth Maness(Cards)- 6-4, 2.91, 80.1 IP, 11 BB, 55 K, 6.16 K/9, 1.23 BB/9, 56 GB%.
Jean Machi(Giants)- 7-1, 2.58, 66.1 IP, 18 BB, 51 K, 6.92 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 52 GB%.

Maness is a classic GB machine.  Machi pitched great all season, but seemed to wear down a bit at the end of the season.  Has Bochy lost faith in him, or does he just have a mancrush on Strickland?

Marco Gonzalez(Cards)- 4-2, 4.15, 34.2 IP, 21 BB, 31 K, 8.05 K/9, 5.45 BB/9, 36.3 GB%.
Jeremy Affeldt(Giants)- 4-2, 2.28, 55.1 IP, 14 BB, 41 K, 6.67 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 66.7 GB%.

Gonzalez was a different pitcher when he came back in late August posting a 2.18 ERA.  He's a lefty who can go multiple innings which could be quite valuable against the Giants.  Wow!  I did not realize that Affeldt had that extreme a GB rate!  Affeldt has come up big in 2 WS runs and I see no reason why he won't this time except that the Cardinals' lineup leans RH.  Advantage Giants except their lineup is more vulnerable to a lefty reliever.

Randy Choate(Cards)- 2-2, 4.50, 36.0 IP, 13 BB, 32 K, 8.00 K/9, 3.25 BB/9, 61.1 GB%.
Javier Lopez(Giants)- 1-1, 3.11, 37.2 IP, 19 BB, 22 K, 5.26 K/9, 4.54 BB/9, 65.8% GB%.

Both Choate and Lopez pitched to far less than 3 batters per appearance, so they are both strictly lefty specialists.  Lopez has had his troubles finding home plate but still has the elite GB%.  Probably even except again, the Giants have more LH batters in the lineup.

Wild Card:

Tim Lincecum- 12-9, 4.74, 155.2 IP,  63 BB, 134 K, 7.75 K/9, 3.64 BB/9, 47.3 GB%.

Frankly, I'm not sure why Timmy is on the NLCS roster.  He did not appear at all in the NLDS, including the 19 inning marathon.  I think that tells you all you need to know about how much faith Bochy has in him.  Juan Gutierrez wore down at the end of the season, but should be rested now.  Erik Cordier has elite-plus velocity.  I would rather have one of them or Kontos on the roster.  We'll see if Timmy can ride to the rescue like he did in 2012 one more time, but I have my doubts.

The Cardinals left LHP Sam Freeman off the postseason roster so they could roster, get this, AJ Pierzynski!  Now if this isn't Mike Matheny trolling the Giants, I don't know what is.  Word is he just wants another usable LH bat off the bench, so is carry 3 catchers.  LOL!

This series could come down to how both managers deploy their pitchers, particularly the relievers in the middle-late innings.  Gotta give Bochy a big advantage in that department.

Thoughts on the 2014 NLCS: Position Matchups

The Giants and Cardinals have been circling each other for the past 4 seasons, if not longer.  If you go way back into the history of baseball, these two organizations are near the top of the list in terms of postseason appearances and World Series wins.  In the first half of this decade, they have emerged as the two dominant organizations in all of MLB, lack of recognition from the national media, notwithstanding.  They each have represented the the NL in the World Series twice in the last 4 seasons and have 3 of the 4 WS Championships.  This year will mark the 5'th consecutive season in which one of them will win the NL Pennant.  The big question is which team will break the tie and go 3 out of 5 seasons?

As we have seen, the best team on paper does not always win in the postseason, but these two teams are remarkably evenly matched on paper.  I usually do not like doing the position-by-position matchup thing as it generally does not mean much when the teams hit the field, but in this case, I think it helps illustrate just how similar these two teams are.  Neither of these teams can match the firepower a team like the Dodgers or Tigers brings at the top of their roster, but there is also a reason why these two teams keep showing up deep in the postseason preferring to win with depth and savvy.

So, let's take a look at a position-by-position breakdown of the position players for the Giants and Cardinals(Baserunning, offensive and defensive metrics are taken from Fangraphs rankings):


Yadier Molina(Cards)- .282/.333/.386, 7 HR, -0.9 BsR, 0.1 OFF, 14.4, Def, 3.1 WAR, 445 PA.
Buster Posey(Giants)-   .311/.364/.490, 22 HR, -3.0 BsR, 26.8 OFF, 7.0 Def, 5.7 WAR, 605 PA.

Molina has a slight edge on D, but Buster blows him out of the water at the plate.

First Base:

Matt Adams(Cards)- .288/.321/.457, 15 HR, -1.3 BsR, 8.6 OFF, -7.5 Def, 1.9 WAR, 563 PA.
Brandon Belt(Giants)- .243/.306/.449, 12 HR, -2.4 BsR, 1.8 OFF, -1.9 Def, 0.7 WAR, 235 PA.

At first glance, Adams has a slight advantage until you realize that most of these numbers are counting stats and Belt has less than half Adams' PA's.  Belt projects to about 30 dingers in the same number of PA's.  I also have to believe Belt is a better defender than he's given credit for here.  Both players have dangerous left-handed power that could be difference makers in the series.  Adams certainly drove a stake through the heart of the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw, while Belt did the same to the Nationals in the 18 inning game.

Second Base:

Kolton Wong(Cards)- .249/.292/.388, 12 HR, 20 SB, 5.7 BsR, 0.9 OFF, 4.3 Def, 2.0 WAR, 433 PA.
Joe Panik(Giants)- .305/.343/.368, 1 HR, 2.2 BsR, 4.6 OFF, 1.9 Def, 1.6 WAR, 257 PA.

Wong brings some power and speed but Panik has a clearcut advantage in BA and OBP.  Very interesting matchup between two promising young 2B who are likely to be playing these positions for these two team for at least another 5 seasons.

Third Base:

Matt Carpenter(Cards)- .272/.375/.375, 8 HR, 5 SB, -1.4 BsR, 12.1 OFF, 3.8 Def, 3.8 WAR, 709 PA.
Pablo Sandoval(Giants)- .279/.324/.415, 16 HR, -4.7 BsR, 3.3 OFF, 5.3 Def, 3.0 WAR, 638 PA.

On paper it looks about even with Pabs supplying more power and Carpenter with the great OBP, but Carpenter is red hot, coming off almost singlehandedly destroying the Dodgers while Pabs is scuffling. It helps that all the Cardinals' starters are RHP's.  Gotta think the momentum is with Carpenter in this matchup, though.


Jhonny Peralta(Cards)- .263/.336/.443, 21 HR, -2.2 BsR, 12.2 OFF, 18.8 Def, 5.4 WAR, 628 PA.
Brandon Crawford(Giants)- .246/.324/.389, 10 HR, 10 3B, -0.8 BsR, 0.4 OFF, 7.5 Def, 2.7 WAR, 667 PA.

On paper, this one is a clear advantage to the Cardinals, but Crawford has been hot in September and October so far, and I can't believe he isn't a better defender despite the UZR love that Peralta gets.  Is it just me, or does Peralta not pass the eye test on D?

Left Field:

Matt Holliday(Cards)- .272/.370/.441, 20 HR, -0.2 BsR, 23.7 OFF, -9.1 Def, 3.8 WAR, 667 PA.
Michael Morse?(Giants)- .279/.336/.475, 16 HR, -5.2 Bsr, 12.8 OFF, -18.0 Def, 1.0 WAR, 482 PA.

Is Morse going to start in LF for the Giants?  If so, this is not as close as it looks because Morse will be coming off an extended DL stint and may not have his timing.  On the other hand, lightning in a bottle! The thought of Morse defending LF, even in the early innings, makes me cringe.  I'd almost rather concede the offensive edge at the position and try to with the position battle on D with Perez, but Perez is such an automatic out.  Ishikawa is a compromise on both O and D, but I'm not sure he's good enough on D to sacrifice the chance that Morse's bat may have lightning in that bottle.  Tough decision for Bochy that could swing the series either way.

Center Field:

John Jay(Cards)- .303/.372/.378, 3 HR, -2.2 BsR, 5.9 OFF, 3.2 Def, 2.5, WAR, 468 PA.
Gregor Blanco(Giants)- .260/.333/.374, 5 HR, 16 SB, 0.1 BsR, 3.6 OFF, 1.7 Def, 2.0 WAR, 444 PA.

Maybe a slight edge to Jay here, but if Blanco can get on base a little, this could be advantage Giants.  Blanco is better on D than the metrics give him credit for and he's more of a threat to steal a base than Jay.  We'll call it even.

Right Field:

Randall Grichuk(Cards)- .245/.278/.400, 3 HR, -0.8 BsR, -2.1 OFF, 4.5 Def, 0.6 WAR, 116 PA.
Hunter Pence(Giants)- .277/.332/.445, 20 HR, 13 SB, 7.0 BsR, 25.4 OFF, -3.4 Def, 4.7 WAR, 708 PA.

Huge advantage for the Giants here if Pence can get himself under control at the plate.  Pence is one of the few guys who can win a game for you on the basepaths too as he does way more there than steal a few bases.

Bench(Cards)- Peter Bourjos, Oscar Taveras, Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Cruz, AJ Pierzynski?

Bench(Giants)- Juan Perez, Travis Ishikawa, Joaquin Arias, Matt Duffy, Andrew Susac.

I just feel like someone off the Giants bench is going to get a big hit this series.

I don't know about you, but those look like two evenly matched teams.  Given their recent history, it promises to be a hard fought, maybe even bitterly fought series that could swing all the way from a 4 game sweep for either team or a 7 game nail biter depending on how the breaks fall.