Game 7

First: this and this. Two articles, one about Barry Zito, written a year too soon, and the other about Matt Cain. Fun for me to re-read, hopefully it is for you too.

It all makes sense now. Of course the Giants would sign Matt Cain to a big contract (the biggest to a right-handed pitcher ever. Chew on that for a minute. Then chew on this: how many dominant left-handers are still in the postseason? Not many. Interesting).

Of course Matt Cain would throw the first perfect game in Giants’ history.

Now maybe he can win the first Game 7.

Probably the craziest thing I’ve learned this post-season, and there have been many crazy things to learn, is this: the Giants have never won a Game 7. Not in New York, not in San Francisco. Not in 128 years of baseball. 0 and 5.

Two of those game sevens have come in my lifetime. The first baseball season I really remember was 1987, although I don’t have much memory of the post-season. I definitely remember the ’88 post-season. The A’s, the Dodgers. That stupid Gibson home run that I’ve had to watch highlights of all my life. But I don’t remember Game 7, 1987, against the Cardinals, at all. Probably for the best because it was tragic.

I do remember, more vividly than I would like, Game 7 against the Angels. The gut-punch of Game 6 was still fresh and you just knew, as much you hoped it wasn’t true, that there was no way they were going to win Game 7. And they never really came close.

2002 was a rough year, and that loss didn’t help. Not one bit. Total depression.

It’s 2012 and I live in a different baseball world. If the Giants lose tonight I will be bummed. This team has been so much fun to watch and I would love to see them take on the Tigers. But, I won’t be crushed if they lose.

So, here’s to Matt Cain. Back in 2006, when things had taken a turn for the worst, Matt Cain was a Giants’ fan great hope. One day, we dreamed, maybe we’d get to see Cain take the mound in a big playoff game. Our big ace. In our beautiful ballpark. It seemed too good to be true.

But now it is happening.

Game 7. The greatest show in sports.

Go Giants.

(-SB)

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Oh Glory! (or the Immortality of Buster Posey)

I’ll be honest: after the Giants were bamboozled by Bronson Arroyo in Game 2 I figured it was over. Nice season Giants, thanks for the ride, loved it, but not every year is like 2010.

Not that many would have predicted the Giants could come back on the Reds, BUT this team has been overcoming adversity all year:

  • Their best player was coming off a career threatening injury. No one knew what exactly to expect from Buster this season.
  • They get swept in the first series of the season by the team everyone picked to win the division.
  • They lose their closer two weeks into the season, leaving huge bullpen questions to be answered.
  • Their ace has an awful first half and the worst season of his career.
  • They lose their All-Star left fielder (and first half MVP) to a season ending drug suspension.
  • They had offensive black holes at second base, shortstop, and first base for most of the season.
  • There were questions about Bumgarner and Vogelsong and the closer-by-committee approach and shouldn’t Hunter Pence be better and can they really win with a Blanco/Nady platoon in left field and on and on I could go.
  • The were the Dodgers making huge moves that were supposed to bury the Giants.
  • And then those first two games of this series…

Of course, they come back and win this thing. I agree with Joe Lemire…through it all Posey and Bochy stood tall and calmly led this team. I know the Hunter Pence pre-game speeches are getting a lot of press, but it is the calm hand of those two dudes that define the character of this team.

So, we move on…and they move on with confidence.

Some other thoughts:

  • It isn’t often that a player of Posey’s caliber gets a moment to do the kind of damage he did in game five. There are too many ways to mitigate a stars influence in baseball (see Bonds, Barry) and even if the moment presents itself this is still a game where a 30% success rate is awesome. But Buster came through. Someone, a while back, said the guy Buster is most like is Joe Montana. I only believe that more.
  • Remember when I wrote that the demise of this team would be the shortstop position. Well, Arias and Crawford are huge reasons the Giants live on. Crawford’s game 5 was particularly impressive given the pressure on Bochy to play Arias. Huge defensive plays, an RBI triple, and that at-bat against Chapman. That’s big-boy stuff.
  • Angel Pagan, I’m a believer.
  • Who would have thought the Giants could win a five game series in which Lincecum made no starts and no starter last through six innings. Both of those things need to change in the next round.
  • The key to the NLCS, in my opinion, is Madison Bumgarner. He needs to step up and dominate.

(-SB)

Postseason! (An Ode to Buster Posey)

In all honesty I am not tingling with anticipation about the postseason the way I was in 2010. Maybe it’s because I’m three weeks into being a dad and nothing quite compares with that. Maybe I’m jaded now that the Giants won the World Series. Maybe it’s something else.

Who knows, but I do know this: I will be pumped and ready for the game come Saturday night.

Here are some thoughts to close out the regular season as we prepare for the stress of post-season baseball:

  • Buster Posey is the MVP. You can read several articles on the web right now parsing the stats (like this one), but as much as I love stats it comes down to this for me: 2010 we had Posey, we won the division. 2011: no Posey, 86 wins, no playoffs. 2012: Posey, division champions. Simple. More to the point, when Posey got hot, post-all star game, the Giants took over the race and never looked back.
  • Adrian Gonzalez: sweet swing, solid player, but that three years in a row, three different teams, three times coming up short.
  • If you had of told me in 2010 the Giants will win it all, Torres and Huff and Burrell and Ross will be heroes, but Pablo Sandoval will disappear and be a non-factor, I would have believed it all except the Pablo part. NO WAY the Giants win without that guy in top form. Maybe this year that story line is repeated with Tim Lincecum.
  • You have to go Cain and MadBum 1-2 to start this series, but I really don’t like the options when the page turns to Cincinnati. Lincecum and Zito especially seemed destined to fail in that small ballpark.
  • Major props to the A’s. What a season, what a story!
  • Josh Hamilton will get a large contract this offseason but I just don’t see him being worth the money.
  • My predictions for tonight’s games: Braves over Cards 3-2 and Orioles over Rangers 4-3.

(-SB)

Something About a Trade?

So, yeah, this.

A fascinating trade for a million reasons, but of primary importance is this: this trade is way more about the next five years than it is about this season. Nothing about this move dooms the Giants’ chances, they don’t need to do anything drastic, and when all the dust settles the most important development for THIS season that took place last night is that the Giants starters have now won five games in a row. Each starter won his turn through the rotation for the first time since 2007. That’s huge.

Now, thoughts on this blockbuster move:

  • Short Term: Replacing James Loney with Adrian Gonzalez is a huge upgrade for LA. I felt like Adrian not got his fair shake from the Boston fans/media, but he’s good and he’s back to torment the Giants. (That said, Cody Ross has hit 19 home runs this year to Adrian’s 15…just saying). The rest of the trade is pretty much a non-factor over the next 36 games. Becket will either take the place of Joe Blanton or fill in for Billingsley (if his elbow keeps him out). In either case, his addition is fairly negligible. He might show a few flashes of brilliance, but the other big move the Dodgers had pondered involved Cliff Lee, and that would have scared me. Beckett does not. Nick Punto fills in for Hairston and Carl Crawford is a long-term gamble who won’t play this year. The Giants are 7-5 against LA so far and even going 3-3 over the final 6 games will secure a winning record against their rivals.
  • Long Term: AGon is clearly the big catch. The Mexican-born, SoCal native will help mobilize the franchise and be a face as they move forward. Beckett has a Huff-like odd/even season thing going. He does well in the odd years, if healthy he could be a plus for LA in 2013…I also think he will do well in the NL West, but doing well and being an Ace, circa 2003/2007 is not going to happen. Nice guy to have next year, but would you take Beckett over MadBum or Vogelsong as your 3rd/4th starter. No. Crawford is interesting. He will likely take over for Victorino, but he is also going to miss 2 seasons worth of baseball, in his prime, when this is all said and done. And he still will be owed a ton of money. The Dodgers are essentially saying this: “we are willing to pay, for Adrian Gonzalez, the price (~250 mil) that the Angles are paying Pujols and the Reds, Votto, and if we get lucky we also get an All-Star left fielder out of the deal.” Interesting.
  • Big Picture: while the move does help, somewhat, the 2012 Dodgers, this trade is all about making a statement. The New Dodgers are here to play and to spend. Deal with it MLB.

The NL West really is shaping into Red Sox/Yankees. What is interesting, is that the Giants, through very different from the Red Sox, have a philosophy, a way. In the end, the trade the Giants may most regret in light of all this is the Wheeler for Beltran move last year.

In this new day and age, and with an extra wild card, the Giants don’t need to do anything different. Strong starting pitching, development of young players, and reasonable extensions for our own talent is the way to go. The Giants, if they stick with this plan, actually have the edge in my opinion. I will take the Giants strong pitching and Buster Posey over an All-Star lineup and a Cy Young award winner any day. Obviously, there’s more to the Giants line up than Posey and more to the Dodgers rotation than Kershaw, but that is essentially the story that is developing here. Moreover, the Giants must hope that the Gary Browns, and Joe Paniks, and Francisco Peguero’s of their system develop into good players.

If nothing else, the NL West is no joke anymore.

One final thought, the player who now matters more than anyone else to the remaining 36 games of 2012 is none other than Tim Lincecum. We’ve been saying this to one extent or another all season, but it is now more true than ever. He must pitch like vintage Timmy in his final 7+ starts to help the Giants nail this division down.

(-SB)

Week In Review (8/6-8/13)

Results:

4-4 (63-53, tied for First in NL West)

We’re just going to pretend that last night never happened and instead bask in the glory that was Sunday afternoon…the come-from-behind victory…the amazing Buster Posey at bat…the long-awaited ‘moment” delivered by Hunter Pence. That was a good day. Yesterday not so much. The Nationals are good. This is a tough series. Don’t forget Sunday!

Hitter of the Week:

Buster Posey is amazing. He continues to rake…home runs, walks, great at-bats. But an interesting thing has happened this last week. The Brandon’s live! Belt is hitting .435 with four walks and only 1 strikeout. Huge. Crawford is 9 for his last 19 (.474). Both are encouraging, especially Belt. A strong finish from him, coupled with Panda’s return, will mean a very respectable lineup 1 through 7. And that might make all the difference.

Pitcher of the Week:

It was a good, not great, week for Giants starting pitching. Lincecum was good, not great. Zito got bailed out by some strong defense. Bumgarner was solid, but got stung by the longball again. Vogelsong had a great start against the Cardinals and his worst in the last 2 seasons last night. Matt Cain gets the nod for looking like a man ready for a strong end of season run. There were some rumbles and worries about Cain, but those seem to be receding given his last outing.

Looking Ahead:

Two more with the Nationals, who the Giants have not beat this year. Then back on the road for division games: 3 with San Diego (who is playing well right now) and 3 with the Dodgers.

Giants need some strong starts and consistent at-bats to begin building distance in the division.

(-SB)

Return! (A Modified Week-In-Review)

I know there hasn’t been much posting going on around here, but there has been some preparation for life altering events that have taken precedent. We’re back, though, so let’s talk some Giants.

Record Since the Break:

The Giants shot out of the gate in the second half, winning 5 in a row and 9 of their first 12. Then it got ugly with 5 straight loses. And then they went to Colorado, breathed in the thin Rocky Mountain Air, and learned how to score runs again. Thank you Rocky Mountain high.

The Dodgers improved their squad significantly at the deadline, so we are in for a dogfight. SI recently called the NL West this decade’s version of the AL East. They compared the Dodgers and their new-found wealthy owners to the Yankees, and the Giants to the Red Sox. Seeing as how that seemed to work out well for the Sox, we’ll take it. But, the point is this is a new era and the Dodgers are not messing around anymore.

The Moves:

The biggest, of course, was the trade for Hunter Pence. I like Hunter Pence. He’s weird. He looks  like a Simpson’s character. He doesn’t move around, or do really anything, like other baseball players. I love that. His rookie season he provided a huge boost to my fantasy baseball team. I am still grateful for that.

How good will he actually be? Some people fear this is Rowand, Part Deux. A situation where a player comes to AT&T and turns into a pumpkin. Others love the deal, especially since he will be around for another year.

Personally, I would rather the Giants have resigned Beltran, but that’s a whole other conversation. I think Pence will do just fine. He’s an offensive upgrade and he helps put other parts back into proper roles. I don’t mind what we gave up either.

I really like Marco Scutaro. I felt the Giants should have tried to get him this past offseason. He’s here now and he will help. A little less Crawford, a little less Theriot. Helpful.

The Giants also acquired Xavier Nady. This is an enjoyable fact because we grew up in the same town. He hit a home run off of me a long time ago when we were 13 years old that is still traveling through galaxy. He used to be a nice little platoon player. His 2008 season was actually really good. But he was cut this year by a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs. That’s not a good sign. Will he help? Unlikely. But I love the sentimental nature of X perhaps finishing his career with Giants.

The Rest of the Team:

My unofficial pitcher of the post-break so far is Timmy. He’s hasn’t been great, but he’s been better. This article shows that he’s been in-line with his career norms so far, which is HUGE. He must keep this up for the Giants to have a chance, and if he continues to improve, well all the better.

Last post I said Buster Posey needed to be the guy in the second half. So far all he’s done is this:

  • .456 AVG, 1.278 OPS, 6 HR, 26 RBI, and Melky has scored 22 times. These things are connected

Thank you Buster!

Looking Ahead:

The series in Colorado was nice, but it’s a bit of a mirage. That team is truly terrible. This week is much more of a test. 4 against the tough Cardinals, then home to face the Rockies again before some more tough games against the Nationals.

Go get ’em!

(-SB)

Second Half, Here We Go

To begin: a tip of the cap to the Giants’ All-Stars, all of whom did extremely well on Tuesday night. I know Buster didn’t get a hit, but he nearly hit one out and I thought his at-bat against Verlander was the straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back. Pablo would have swung at all of those pitches. Verlander was missing, but not by that much, and you can’t blame a guy in his first all-star at-bat for being aggressive. I was impressed. Obviously, Matt, Panda, and Melky had bigger moments, but each Giants was excellent.

Now then, the Giants jump back into action tomorrow coming off a horrible road trip, but only half a game out of first. Here are some thoughts on the second half…

Playoffs?

  • What I think will happen: I think the Giants will outlast the Dodgers and win the division.
  • What will actually happen: The Giants will make the playoffs one way or another, and I really do anticipate them winning the division.

Tim Lincecum

  • What I think should happen: Tim Lincecum closer? I don’t think they move him in to that role right away, but there are a few rumblings about him being sent to the bullpen. There are many starters who have made this transition and with his strikeout rates still impressive, Timmy could be the answer to the 9th inning.
  • What I think will actually happen: I think they are going to keep trotting him out there every 5th day for the rest of the season. He’s been the ace and he has a long leash based on his credentials. For better or worse, we have Lincecum in the rotation for another year and a half.

Trades

  • What I think should happen: The most interesting rumor to me so far has been Shane Victorino. Giants’ fans hate him, and for good reason, but he would be the perfect fit. Blanco could go back to being a role player extraordinaire and Shane would lead off and the Giants would lose nothing in terms of defense. He’s not a middle of the order guy, but I still think the Giants can get plenty of production there from Melky, a healthy Pablo, Posey, and a rejuvenated Belt.
  • What I think will happen: The Giants will trade for Brandon League or Jonathan Broxton. They don’t have the prospects to have a realistic shot at Victorino or a bigger name closer like Huston Street. Whoever they get might not even take over the 9th inning. But bullpen depth wouldn’t hurt.

Second Half Hero:

  • Who I want it to be: Brandon Belt. I’d love to see him go off…hit .300, mash 10 bombs, and establish himself as a threat in the middle of the order. A productive Belt answers a lot of questions for the Giants.
  • Who it will actually be: It’s going to have to be Buster Posey and the starting rotation. Much as he did in 2010, Buster’s huge second half provides the offense spark and a month of dominant starting pitching creates some distance between the Giants the Bums.

(-SB)