More Suck #sfgiants #weekinreview

I’ve completely lost any ability to creatively title these posts. What else is there to say about the 2017 SF Giants? All evidence seems to indicate that this is one of the worst teams, not just in baseball this season, but in Giants’ history.

Who saw that coming?!

I have a few thoughts on this, but first about this week:

We ended the last week with a challenge to Posey and Pence to start hitting for power. And lo and behold Pence and Posey hit home runs in the same game last Monday, off Clayton Kershaw nonetheless, and the Giants won!

Matt Moore followed that happy day up with one of the worst starts by a Giants pitcher in years, and then the Giants pulled out a series victory behind a stunningly great turn from Jeff Samardzija.

Despite the Tuesday shellacking, going 2-1 against the Dodgers on the road, including a Kershaw game win, seemed like a massively positive turn of events.

And then Cincinnati happened. The Giants got beat this weekend 31-5, and Matt Cain and Ty Blach, two of the bright spots in an all together dim season, had their lunch handed to them.

The weekend wrapped up with a sliver of hope that Johnny Cueto would make a triumphant return to the city where he started his career and salvage a .500 record (which, all things considered, wouldn’t have been that bad of a week). It was not to be as the offense once again went AWOL, and Cueto continued to be good but not great.

Now, mercifully, the Giants move on to New York to wrap this trip up. (Of course they will have to face Cincinnati again this coming weekend, because this is the weirdest schedule of any season I can remember.)

There you have it: a bunch of suck. To rub salt in my wounds, I tried to make the case last week that the Giants had hope because there was no way the starting pitching could be as bad as it had been. I was sooooooo wrong. It was quite worse.

So where does this leave us? Why is this so bad? How did we go from expecting competitive baseball and a possible postseason run to being the worst team in baseball?

The immediate answers include the following: A Madison Bumgarner injury, slow starts by several bats, inconsistent starting pitching, ongoing instability in the bullpen, a surprisingly unsteady defense, and a black hole in Left Field.

A slightly deeper analysis involves asking the question: has the game passed the Giants by?

The 2010 Giants were, in some ways, the prototype for what we are seeing all across baseball today. That team played solid, if not spectacular defense, had home run hitters all across the lineup (sans Freddy Sanchez…more on him later), and a cadre of power/strike out arms through the starting rotation and bullpen.

The 2012 Giants were, in many ways, the most successful of the Giants championship teams, but a bit of an inverse of the 2010 version (which again serves as a sort of proto-type for the rest of baseball now). The 2012 Giants had a super star in the middle of the order (Posey) and they surrounded him with a lot of high contact, low strike out hitters (Freddy Sanchez is the poser boy for this type of player, and his career ending injury led to the acquisition of the other boy on that poster: Marco Scutaro). Sure, the 2012 Giants could hit a home run when needed, but for the most part they killed teams with balls in play. Meanwhile their pitching was still excellent and could get strikeouts when needed, but had started to rely more on a bend-but-not-break approach. Led by Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Sergio Romo, this staff would nibble on the corners, even conceding walks when necessary, but never giving up the big hit by making location mistakes.

The 2014 Giants continued this trend to an extreme, only this team it had a not-so-secret weapon in Madison Bumgarner.

All of that to say: the Giants took the bend-don’t-break model of pitching, and the just-put-the-ball-in-play philosophy of hitting to their logical ends. Meanwhile the rest of baseball, maybe even in response to the Giants, went in a different direction: power, power, and more power.

In some ways this is a return to the steroid era of baseball, although it is fueled more by metrics like spin rates of pitches and exit-velocity/exit-angle of balls off of bats than by drugs. The essence is: your hitters need to be able to hit home runs, and your pitchers need to suppress home runs via the strikeout. It’s not pretty, but it is where the game (and all the data) has led us.

Unfortunately for the Giants, it appears the game has passed them by. They are no longer doggedly outliers, and they are running the risk of being left in the dust.

One example: Buster Posey, former 2012 NL MVP, is “on pace” to hit 10 home runs and drive in 25 runs. Yikes.

Do the Giants have any hope? A couple of possibilities:

  1. Madison Bumgarner returns healthy and can pitch as he always has. This is a dangerous hope. I know the perilss of shoulder injuries intimately. It seems unlikely, but a healthy Bumgarner is uniquely suited to succeed in this modern age.
  2. The Giants still have 3 pitchers, behind Bumgarner, who can succeed in the strikeout age (Moore, Samadzija, and Cueto), especially if they fully subscribe to the Righetti school of “bend-don’t-break.” Moore, in particular, seems primed to benefit from this, but has failed to translate it into reality.
  3. The Giants need to develop more power bullpen arms. This is the one area where they cannot afford to go in a different direction than the rest of the game. The lack of power arms coming through the system into the ‘pen is alarming.
  4. Teams can win in this era by not hitting tons of home runs (see: 2012 and 2014 SF Giants, and 2015-2015 KC Royals), and the Giants are committed to an infield full of nice hitters and ball players (Arroyo, Crawdford, Panik, Belt, Posey), but they must address the lack of power in the OF. I don’t know what the answer is here. Maybe it means going nuts in free agency, maybe it means a trade, maybe it means committing to a few guys in the system, even if it involves growing pains. But the power and athleticism that is flooding the game of baseball needs to be adopted by the Giants, particularly in the outfield.

Back to 2017, let’s hope this week produces a slightly more encouraging title!

Worst April Ever #sfgiants #weekinreview

There was a moment on Saturday afternoon/evening, where the Giants took a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning.

Matt Cain was offering more evidence of a kind of resurgence.
The offense had come alive to score 3 (!) runs.
It wasn’t difficult to look into the future and see a sweep to end the home stand.

A sweep would have meant an 11-15 record, not a great start by any measure, but it would have been easy to write off the month as a bad first week, followed by some .500 ball, all setting up for a nice run in May.

But then, the bullpen, which had been a mild source of strength on this deeply flawed squad, began an epic weekend collapse (14 runs in 9 innings, including 4 home runs).

Suddenly, a 3-1 lead and visions of sweep,
turned into a blowout nightmare,
a 12-4 loss,
and an offensive hangover that lasted into Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday’s game. Some of the bad vibes from Saturday were erased by another impressive effort from Ty Blach. The offense was not outstanding, scrapping together 2 runs, but it felts like a solid lead, especially with Blach getting through the 7th. Law and Melancon were sell set up to close it out and for the Giants go home 10-16, and, hey at least they pulled out a series win.

Law did has part, shakily getting through the 8th.
But then Melancon blew it in the ninth.

Now, before we throw Melancon completely under the bus, do not forget that Eduardo Nunez made a costly error, allowing Hector Sanchez (yes, that Hector Sanchez) to represent the tying run. And remember that Nunez was playing short stop because the Giants golden gloved regular at that position is on the DL with a tweaked groin.

And therein lies what is, to me, the fatal flaw of this team: there is NO margin for error.

This is a team that cannot win games if it is missing certain key pieces,
chief among them: Brandon Crawford and Madison Bumgarner.

This is a team that cannot win games if it makes errors
(and not just that, the defense has to make plays).

This is a team that cannot win slugfests because it does not hit home runs.

Which means it must win low scoring, well-pitched games in which it’s defense makes zero mistakes and a few great plays.

Any mistakes this team makes will be punished,
and they cannot be overcome,
and that is the sign of a bad team.

I also mentioned last week the lack of energy. The call up of Christian Arroyo and the return of Michael Morse did bring some life back into the dugout, and it is going to be fun, especially, to watch Arroyo grow up this year.

But I am afraid that it is these glimpses of the past and the future that may be the most compelling part of what is rapidly becoming a lost season.

One final thought: the numbers don’t completely bear this out, but the pitching is not really the problem. And to be honest, it never really was. I’m becoming more and more convinced that the Giants bullpen issues last year had to do with a mental breakdown and a lack of trust more than anything else (have you seen Santiago Casilla’s numbers so far with the A’s?).

And while there have been consistency issues throughout the rotation and the ‘pen, I see more than enough promise in what the Giants put on the mound most of the time.

But this offense truly stinks. There were no good answers this offseason, but it is abundantly clear that there will need to be some significant changes coming.

Too many empty at bats, and the lack of power is appalling.

My new suggestion for the lineup:

  • Nunez LF (he’s been in a terrible slump, and he’s probably a little rattled by Arroyo’s early promotion, but he is still the best option in this spot)
  • Panik 2B (has looked good leading off, but Panik is way more valuable as a 2 hitter)
  • Posey C (no more clean up)
  • Belt 1B (the 2 hole experiment has been cute, but Belt needs to be here for balance and to put the little power this team has in the center of the lineup)
  • Pence RF (hit home runs fool)
  • Crawford SS (when he returns, likely later this week)
  • Arroyo 3B (probably deserves to hit higher and will while Crawford is out, but this is a good spot for him. Lot’s of possibilities for RBI’s, and this will take the pressure off the kid and buffer his ups and downs as he makes the big league adjustment)
  • CF (a cesspool of suckiness. The Giants will probably need to address all three OF positions heading into 2018, starting here)

Wish I could be more positive today, but I can’t! Brisbee points out that the Giants will need to go 81-55 the rest of the way just to be a 90 win team, which would mean they will need to be the best team in baseball the rest of the season. Good luck!

Suck #sfgiants #week3

 

It’s hard to imagine things going any worse than they did this past week for our Giants. Last Monday we said that it was hard to evaluate this team for a variety of reasons: it was only 2 weeks in, they’d played the same teams over and over, and they had not won a Madison Bumgarner start.

Well, a week later: they still haven’t won a Madison Bumgarner start and they won’t for a while.

The supposed strength of the team, the starting pitching, has been terrible, worst in the majors (and that’s with 4 very good starts from MadBum).

They can’t hit, and the recent trend of no homers continues.

They can’t field.

The bullpen has been fine, but shaky.

Bruce Bochy’s been getting heart procedures done, various guys are hurt, and did I mention Madison Bumgarner?

It’s bleak, and it’s already spawning articles like this and this.

The pertinent numbers from Andrew Baggarly:

“the early returns aren’t good. They are 6-13, which matches their worst start through 19 games in modern franchise history. Taken together with their miserable second half last year, they are 36-55 since the All-Star break. And that projects to a 64-98 season.”

Which brings me to the point I want to make: this is a tired team.

That was the word that kept coming up again and again last year, and it continues to hold true this year.

It’s hard to look energetic when you are losing (even young teams look tired when they are losing). And it’s hard to look energetic when you are constantly behind (as the Giants have consistently been).

A couple good starts, a couple leads, a couple wins in a row and maybe the temperature changes, but this is a team that looks tired.

So, do they tank? Would you give away 2017 for more energy to be infused to the organization. Baggs thinks it would be a good idea. Brisbee is more pragmatic and suggests it won’t happen based on similar seasons of the past.

I’m of the opinion that it’s still too early to make that call. This is a proud team and proud players and they will rebound a bit.

But, it is time to start really paying attention to some key guys at the lower levels.

Much has been made about Christian Arroyo’s hot start at Sacramento. Barring a disaster he will be your 2018 opening day third baseman.

Tyler Beede seems primed to make a dozen or so starts at the major league level this year, especially if they shut down Bumgarner for the season.

Those are no-doubters in terms of guys we’ll see this year, and who are critical to the future. However, if things continue to go poorly, I’m all for shutting down Denard Span, any LF place holders, and Matt Cain in order to get a look at:

  • 1B/OF Travis Shaw (some who actually hits for power!)
  • Austin Slater (CF)
  • Mac Williamson (I know, I know, most Giants’ fans have moved on, but I still want to see him get 2-3 months of playing everyday in the big leagues)
  • Beede/Ty Blach
  • And, of course, Christian Arroyo

Grab bag of random thoughts:

  • I’m really surprised at how bad Gorkys Hernandez has looked so far. He’s been bad in every phase of the game, but especially defense, which was supposed to be his calling card. He looked so good last year when he came up late in the season, I can’t figure out what happened there, but he’s got to go.
  • I cannot believe that Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore are actually this bad. They’ve run into a little bit of bad luck in terms of where they’ve had to pitch so far, but these are guys who should be good no matter what park they are in. I expect both of them to turn it around.
  • Bochy got close to the lineup I was hoping/expecting, but didn’t go all the way. I wonder if we might see it this week?
  • The Giants at least are home for a week, but they get another full slate of divisional games. This feels like make or break, even though it is still early.

**NOTE: Christian Arroyo was called up about an hour after this post was first published.

Consistently Inconsistent #sfgiants #week2

There are a variety of oddities making the evaluation of the Giants start to the season difficult.

For one, while they’ve played 14 games, they’ve only seen 3 different teams. This week, they only play 5 games and they only add one new team to that list. And it’s a team from the American League Central. That’s odd.

Opening day saw the continuation of 2016’s bullpen woes, but the bullpen hasn’t really been the issue. The Giants are one of the top teams in terms of runs scored in the NL, but they’ve had some BAD games with the bats.

They’ve had some encouraging starts from all five guys in the rotation, and yet are only consistent winners when Johnny Cueto takes the hill.

They are 0-3 when Madison Bumgarner starts, and he’s off to one of his better starts. That’s really odd.

The school of cold hard facts would say: 5-9 and last place is a bad start. No bones about it, this is not how anyone would have wanted to come out of the gate.

However, they’ve already weathered a week without Buster Posey, are not going to go winless in Bumgarner starts, and the big problem with this team (the bullpen) seems to have found a sense of stability.

Back to the dark side: the Giants are on a weird road trip, which includes Colorado, and 6-13 would really be a bad start to the season.

Where do we go from here?

The big issue has been consistency. Certainly, a parade of quality starts from the rotation would go a long way to righting the ship.

But, the lack of quality from the lineup is the most troubling development so far. Consider this weekend: Saturday, the Giants were nearly no-hit, then followed that up with a 3 run out burst to start the game Sunday, and then proceeded to mail it in for the remainder of the game.

That’s 17 innings of nothing, and one 3-run outburst.

I know Posey’s been out and that changes things, but he seems set to come back this week, and so here’s the suggestion for the lineup:

  • Nunez 3B
  • Panik 2B
  • Posey C
  • Belt 1B
  • Pence RF
  • Crawford SS
  • Marrero/Whoever LF
  • Span CF

This is the way forward for a variety of reasons. First, this brings balance to the L/R issues the Giants face at times. This lineup goes R/L/R/L/R/L/R/L/Pitcher.

Second, as much as I like the Belt at the 2-hole experiment, the Giants desperately need him in the middle of the lineup, there’s no getting around it. He’s paid to be a run producing first basemen, let him do it.

Third, Panik is the platonic ideal of a 2-hole hitter, and he seems to have put his post-concussion issues way behind him: release the Panik!

Fourth, Posey should hit third. I know Bochy likes him as the anchor and run producer/clean up hitter, but he’s a 3 hitter, and let’s all get on with it.

Fifth, Nunez is not the greatest leadoff hitter from an on-base standpoint, but he is the most athletic/dangerous guy they can put in this spot and when he does get on base it changes the game. Span get’s dropped.

Finally, not only does this balance left/right, I think this arrangement also gives the lineup more depth, especially 1-6.

Also, it would be awesome if we could get 4-5 quality starts in a row.

Go Giants.

So Far, So Meh #sfgiants #2017

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and I expect to be blogging less this year, so our weekly recaps will probably look a bit different. But here we are, and away we go!

The Giants are, as of today, 3-5, and they have given us glimpses of hope and more than a few things to worry about.

Let’s start with the worry:

  • The bullpen. Hmmm, I seem to remember there was some sort of issue with the bullpen last year, let me check, um…OH SWEET JESUS…yeah, it was pretty bad. So far, it hasn’t been horrible, but it also hasn’t been great. The good news is that Mark Melancon is settling down into his new digs here and, my expert opinion is that with the 9th inning locked down, the other pieces should fall into place and this will prove to be a servicable ‘pen.
  • That being said, it was an odd thing to go with one lefty, and that lefty being Ty Blach. Why isn’t Ty Blach in AAA, starting every day, keeping himself sharp to take over for Matt Cain? Why no Josh Osich, no Stephen Okert? These are two guys who need to pitch in the big leagues and get the experience and build trust with Bochy. I know the Will Smith injury is all part of this, but still. This is odd!
  • Sometimes Matt Moore/Jeff Samardzija can suck and sometimes they can be great. Sometimes in the same game (looking at you Jeff). I’m still very bullish on both of them (more in a few)
  • Matt Cain sucks. I need to go vomit. I actually typed that. But it’s true. I’ve been as hyped about a Matt Cain resurgence as anyone in Giantsland, but I’m over it now. I just don’t see it happening. I would love to be wrong, but 2012 is now 5 years ago, and that was the last time we really saw good Matt Cain.
  • LF. Left field has produced 2 hits in the last 2 games, which is 2 more than the first 6. I still have to believe that Mac Williamson is the every day left fielder before this over, but what do I know. The Giants are taking a “throw the pasta against the wall and see what sticks” with Parker and Marrero, and now signing Melvin Upton and Drew Stubbs. LF will be weird for a while.
  • The lineup, overall, is nice, but there are not a lot of dingers. This worries me. Also, Posey took one in the head today.

Reasons to not worry/Reasons for Hope:

  • The bullpen (see the good news I shared above).
  • The starting pitching. Bumgarner and Cueto look as good as ever, and I am convinced Matt Moore is going to have a huge year. Samardzija is still a bit of a wild card in my mind, but I tend to be mostly positive that year 2 could be even better than year 1.
  • Brandon Belt is off to a great start.
  • Brandon Crawford is a stud.
  • Joe Panik is back.
  • Eduardo Nunez is off to a great start.
  • Seems like Posey should be fine.

Overall, a 3-5 is not how anyone wanted the year to start. I’m convinced, though, that this is a good team that will ride 4 above average starting pitchers to the postseason.

Let’s enjoy the ride together. See you next week!

Welcome Mark Melancon!

The Giants got their guy today!

You can read about why he’s a great fit for the Giants here.

You can read about the ridiculous contracts the other big time closers will get here (and take a deep breath of relief).

Let’s talk about why this was a shrewd move for the Giants:

  1. He’s good. Melancon doesn’t fit into the otherworldly echelon of Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. And that’s just fine, because he’s still very good. For example, his WHIPs the last four seasons: 0.96, 0.87, 0.96, 0.9…that’s less than 1 runner an inning (just to be clear), and those are elite numbers. Brian Wilson, in 2010, had a WHIP of 1.18 which is not bad but it was also EASILY the best # he posted in his career, and it’s well above Melancon’s four-year average. Santiago Casilla’s average WHIP with the Giants was higher than Wilson’s best year, so you get the idea. Much, much fewer baserunners. Melancon’s “low” strikeout rates (for a closer) get some people worried, but it hasn’t been an issue for him to date, and he’s playing in a good ballpark with a good defense for a guy who “struggles” to strikeout guys. (The use of quotes here is to emphasize the fact that he is actually pretty good at striking players out, just not as “good” as Aroldis Chapman, and very few humans in history have been as good as he is).
  2. They did it relatively quickly. A few days ago MLB and the Players Association agreed to a new CBA, and shortly thereafter the Giants made their move. This is classic Giants: strike quick and get on with it. In a market with three elite closers and more than three teams in need of closer the Giants can now patiently work on improving other parts of the team, negotiating contracts with their current players, and designing Mark Melancon bobble-head dolls.
  3. They potentially screwed their competition. There are now 2 elite closers left and 3 NL competitors in need of a 9th inning man: the Dodgers, the Nationals, and the Cubs. The Cubs are working from a position of strength. They probably don’t NEED either Jansen or Chapman, certainly not the way the Giants did, but they might like one of them, especially if that means the Dodgers and/or the Nationals whiff on one of those guys. There is a beautiful scenario where the Yankees and (we’ll go with the Blue Jays) get crazy and go for Chapman and Jansen, and suddenly 3 major NL teams will be looking internally, or on the scrap heap, for a closer. The Giants are now officially out of that mess.
  4. Monetarily, the Giants probably don’t have much flexibility to improve left field, but they do have moves. They can stand pat, go really cheap, or make a trade. They could potentially even dip into the bullpen to make this trade. Remember, the Giants issue in the bullpen is not that they lack options. Their issue last year was that there were too many options, Bochy could never settle on a pecking order, and right when someone started to emerge (i.e. Gearrin/Law) they got hurt. Trading from the bullpen depth could make things simpler for the coaching staff and improve the team over all. The question is who is expendable? My hope is that someone covets Hunter Strickland and is willing to give up a left fielder to see what they can do with him.

I’m all for this move. The money is funny, but that was always going to be the case this offseason and all things being equal, it’s not that bad of a deal in my opinion. Melancon brings order and stability and while he might not be an Andrew Miller super-reliever, he doesn’t need to be. He just needs to get three outs in the ninth inning (IT CAN’T BE THAT HARD RIGHT?!).

The 2016 Season Is Over (Grab Bag of Thoughts)

On the Cubs

  • Congrats, first of all! What a game last night, one of the best baseball games I’ve ever seen.
  • Many Cubs fans are looking forward to the start of a dynasty, and there’s good reason to think that: this team is loaded with young talent, and the lineup in particular is full of guys who haven’t nearly peaked yet. They are going to be a beast in the NL for several more years.
  • I want to temper the idea of a dynasty just a bit with a couple of thoughts. First, the Cubs were extraordinarily healthy this year. The one significant injury they suffered (Kyle Shwarber) ended up being a blessing in disguise. Outside of that injury they were the most healthy team in the postseason, and once Schwarber returned in the World Series there was no better Cubs roster available. The Indians, on the other hand, made their postseason run without Carlos Carrasco (imagine the Giants without Cueto), Michael Brantley (the Giants without Hunter Pence), and with a limited Danny Salazar (Matt Moore only available out of the bullpen…hey, maybe that would have worked). All that to say, it may not be difficult for the Cubs to repeat as champions, but highly unlikely they stay as healthy next year.
  • Second, the sky is the limit for the Cubs lineup. But, keep an eye on the pitching, especially the rotation. I was not a believer in Kyle Hendricks coming into the postseason, and while he won me over, he still seems primed for a regression in 2017. Jon Lester and John Lackey will be a year older. Jason Hammel had a nice season, but is another regression candidate (and a free agent). And then there’s the curious case of Jake Arrieta. Arrieta had as good a season in 2015 as any pitcher, maybe ever, but some of the luster is wearing off. Are teams figuring him out? Did he get tired? Hurt? He’s still very good, but maybe not the Ace we all thought, especially long term. All of this to say, the Cubs may soon find themselves in a position to have to slug it out more often than not, as soon as next year.
  • Third, what about the bullpen? If you are a Cubs fan, do you want Chapman back for many, many millions of dollars? Do you want Carl Edwards Jr to take over as closer? And what about Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon? Those guys were Maddon’s 8th and 9th inning guys for a while but he barely used them.
  • All of which to say: the Cubs are going to be very, very good but they have questions just like anyone else.

On the New Golden Age of Baseball

  • MLB has enjoyed a decade of great parity. Different teams have it made it to and won the World Series. There hasn’t been a dominant franchise (sorry Cardinals), and many champions have failed to even make the postseason the year after their big wins (Giants’ fans know all about this). No one has repeated since the Yankees won three in a row in 2000. As exciting as the last 10+ years has been for hardcore baseball fans (and as beneficial as it was for the Giants), I think we are entering a new era of baseball excellence. And that is extremely good for baseball. I hated the old Yankees dynasty (and the Braves for that matter, from 1993 on), and I hated the argument that an evil empire was good for the game, but there is a lot of truth to that point. And I think we are going to see that again: the Cubs are going to make everyone better. It’s going to be harder and harder to win with flawed teams. The 2016 Giants are a great example of this. Maybe another year they get through with that bullpen, but not against a deep, talented team like the Cubs. But again, this is good for baseball.
  • In addition to the Cubs burgeoning dynasty, you have the NL West rivalry between the Giants and Dodgers. It felt like this genuinely got nasty this year, and it will get worse I think, moving froward. Good for baseball.
  • The Cardinals are still pretty dang good themselves, don’t forget about them!
  • The NL East is a growing beast. Washington is already good and should continue to be for a while. The Mets are smartly run, have the starting rotation equivalent to the Cubs lineup, and will have more and more financial resources at their disposal. The Phillies and Braves are sleeping powers, probably still a few years away, but the next five years of ball in the NL east is going to be bloody. Good for baseball.
  • Meanwhile, in the AL, the Astros are the Cubs: young, deep, and extremely talented. And several teams: the Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, Tigers, Indians, Rangers, and Mariners are a few moves, and better health, away from being pennant winners. The best player in baseball is still on the Angels, too.
  • All of this, good for baseball.

Back to the NLDS

  • Now that the Cubs are officially champions, let’s revisit the NLDS one more time. One storyline that didn’t come up much was Jon Lester’s fateful decision to sign with the Cubs over the Giants. The Giants were all in on Lester, and came in second (after winning the 2014 World Series). He wanted to be closer to family, and relished the idea of winning with the Cubs (call this the anti-Durant decision). How would things have been different? We’ll never know, but I would still take the rotation the Giants have now over Lester and spare parts.
  • IF the Giants get out of Game 4 alive, the popular sentiment seems to be that they would have taken Game 5 as well. Again, we’ll never know, but this Cubs team could have folded many times during the postseason and  never did.
  • I would have loved to have seen it though.

On Bullpens

  • 2016 is being called the year of the bullpen, both for the ways the winning managers used their pens, but also for meltdowns and poor decisions (the Orioles not using Zach Britton, the Giants disaster, the Joe Blanton dumpster fire, Francona as genius and then not-genius, and Joe Maddon’s usage of Aroldis Chapman).
  • This new role of “fireman” or using a top reliever in high leverage situations is not actually new, but the proliferation of these guys and managers eager willingness to use them in such ways is newish. It does make me think back to game 6 of 2002 (will we ever really get over this?). Dusty Baker took Russ Ortiz out in the 7th inning, needing only 8 outs from his bullpen to win the World Series. To this day any Giants fan will say: “Dusty should have left Russ in.” Russ was good, but he was not prime Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner good. Plus the Giants pen that year was very good…a strenght of that team. (In other words, at the time it made a lot of sense). It’s interesting to contrast that sentiment with what we watched this postseason. In games 5, 6, and 7 of this World Series, no starter went more than Lester’s 6 in game 5. I thought Maddon would live to regret taking Hendricks out in the 5th (up by 4 in Game 7), but in the end it worked out. It’s interesting how much things have changed in the last 15 years.