Week [19] In Review (8/8-8/14) #sfgiants #weekinreview

I have no idea what to say today. Part of me wants to write about the positive signs, because there were many this past week: better starts, better offense, better bullpen (until Sunday).

Part of my wants to burn AT&T to the ground, because this team should not be allowed to play baseball anymore.

The week highlights the fundamental issue with this team: each facet of the team is pretty good except when it isn’t.

At times the rotation has been outstanding, the backbone of success. But the Giants have given a lot of starts to Matt Cain, Jake Peavey, and Alberto Suarez. Jeff Samardzija has been brilliant AND horrible. Madison Bumgarner is having a career year but didn’t win a start for almost a month.

At times the lineup has been outstanding, even carrying the load during different swings. But it’s also been banged up, some guys have been mired in inexplicable slumps for extended periods, and certain guys (hey there Denard Span) can look great one day and then go 0-14 the next 3.

The defense has been, maybe, the most consistent force for good all year, but there have been some glorious meltdowns, and Angel Pagan still plays in the field on a regular basis (which is not a good thing).

And then the bullpen: oh sweet bullpen. Just when Bochy was starting to follow my advice (see last week’s post), just when roles and expectations were clarifying, just when it seemed like the ‘pen was taking the place of “most confidence inspiring,” yesterday happened.

And so, I just don’t know.

This is a good baseball team, except when it isn’t.

Week In Review: 2 of 3 in Miami, and 1 of 3 from Baltimore. 66-51, still, somehow 1 game up in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: No question this award goes to Brandon Crawford who accumulated a week’s worth of hits (7) in one incredible game. Crawford’s name has come up several times in “overall best player in baseball” conversations. No one is saying he is the best, but who ever imagined that he would even be in the conversation. Remarkable.

Pitcher of the Week: Madison Bumgarner had a great start the other night, and finally got credit for a win, but we’re going with Jeff Samardzija. Shark had been struggling with control and the home run ball, but to hear some of the guys who follow the team closely, there were predictions of a turn around. It appeared to start in his last turn where two things happened: better control (still walked 3, but seemed to leave less pitches out over the plate), and the return of the curve ball (too much hard stuff was making life too easy for opposing batters). Keep it up Jeff!

Looking Ahead: the long home stand continues with 3 against Pittsburg and 4 against the Mets. Keep putting the positives together!

Oh, any maybe it’s time for Derek Law to take over the 9th?

First Half Recap #sfgiants #2016

If you had of predicted, at the start of the season, significant DL time for Hunter Pence, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo, Matt Duffy, Angel Pagan, Joe Panik, and various other contributors from the bench and bullpen all by the All-Star Break, I would have thought that a recipe for mediocrity at best, and disaster at worst (especially if all those injuries were combined with poor performance.)

But, no, your 2016 SF Giants at the All-Star Break=Best Record in Baseball.
57-33.
.633 winning percentage.
Not near the best run differentially (+73, 66 runs behind the Cubs),
but better than almost anyone else in baseball.

Bottom line: this team has been really good (#analysis).

Let’s review some of our pre-season keys, and see how the Giants have fared:

  1. Health: hahahahahah…one thing I will say about this…with the exception of Pence, the Giants have not really lost time for any of what might be called the “core contributors.” This is not to take anything away from the Duffys and Cains and Pagans and Paniks, but the Giants haven’t lost any time from Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt, or Brandon Crawford. Four of those guys are on the All-Star team and the other (Crawford) should be. Not only have they not missed any time, they’ve all been pretty stinkin’ good, if not downright great this year. So, the health of the core has been steady, and this is very, very important.
  2. Matt Cain: I admitted my personal bias in this when the season opened, but Matt Cain hasn’t worked out so far. To be fair, he has pitched fairly well when he’s been out there, and his production, combined with Albert Suarez, has produced more than respectable 5th starter results. He also is back to start the second half, so this story is still far from finished.
  3. Brandon Belt: now we start to get into some “hits.” Belt has been awesome all year, far and away his best year, primarily because he’s been so consistent. Belt has been streaky, and injured, throughout his career, but so far neither of those have been true in 2016, and we are seeing the best we’ve ever seen from the Baby Giraffe. It will be great to watch what he can do too, once Pence gets back and there’s a little more lineup protection.
  4. Winning At Home: The Giants have been just as good at home (29-17) as on the road (28-16), a welcome development. That home record includes an inexplicable 4 game sweep at the hands of the helpless Diamondbacks, so it should/could be even better the deeper we get into the season.
  5. Integrating the New Guys: this could not be going any better. The pitchers in particular (Cueto and Samardzija) have not only been better than expected, but it seems like they’ve been around forever. Denard Span hasn’t lit the world on fire, but his chemistry with the rest of the guys seems great too. Chemistry is hard to quantify, for sure, but on a team as tight as the Giants it is important, and from this side of things it seems the integration process has been seemless.

Reasons to be Pessimistic:

  • Some of the advances stats show that the Giants have been playing above their heads. Even without those stats, it does seem remarkable that the Giants are the “best team in baseball” considering all the injuries and the bullpen struggles. Pessimists fear the regression to the mean in the second half.
  • The bullpen has been a mess…and there are concerns if it can get much better given the internal options (or lack thereof).
  • Too many innings for the starters. Funny how last year the concern was over the taxing of the bullpen and the lack of starters getting deep into games. Now we are wringing our hands over the number of innings and pitch counts. This is actually the one concern I do share with the pessimistic crowd.

Reasons to be Optimistic:

  • While there may be some regression to the mean, the Giants will also be fortified by most of their injured players returning no later than August 1. Undoubtedly it will take some time for all of them to find their rhythm, but the best team will become a far deeper team in the second half of the season.
  • The bullpen will get better. Sergio Romo’s return over the weekend was huge in and of itself, but his performance on the field was outstanding, and seems to have already begun righting the ship. Furthermore, if the Giants make a trade it will be for bullpen help. Pushing the Gearrins and others into lower leverage situations will go a long ways towards better overall pen work in the second half.
  • Matt Cain: I know, I know, get off the Matt Cain kick, Steve. Well, I just can’t. I think Cain’s strong second half will take some of the pressure off of Bum/Cueto/Shark, and allow Bochy to pace those guys a little bit more. Also, Cain in the rotation, means Suarez in the bullpen, which means a true long-man for the first time all season. Suarez could make a few spot starts if someone needs a breather, or he can provide some length to the bullpen, which has been sorely lacking. Think Yusmeiro Petit type work.

One Final Thought:

  • My first half MVP is Brandon Crawford. His offensive numbers are not quite as eye-popping as last year, but he’s gotten even better again, which is hard to believe. The defense continues to be outstanding, and one horrible game in Oakland aside, the defense is much a reason for the Giants’ success as anything else this year. He’s the quarterback out there, and it’s beautiful to watch. Meanwhile his clutch hitting has been fantastic, all those RBIs filling the gaps left by Pence and others.

Week [7] In Review (5/16-5/22) #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants are rolling now, although, in keeping with the oddness theme for the year, it’s been three weeks since they scored more than five runs! Nonetheless, they’ve won 10 of their last 11 and extended their NL West lead by 3.5 games.

The lack of offense continues to be head scratching, and the bullpen is worrisome (to put it mildly), but the starting pitching (excepting Jake Peavy) is a marvel to behold right now. That’s how you win 10 of 11 without scoring many runs.

Let’s talk about the troubling issues for a moment: the most significant issue with the offense is that injuries have caused the lineup to shuffle too much. There hasn’t been a consistency, and while no one has missed significant time, the constant in-and-out has worked against kind of rhythm.

If and when the Giants do get their main-8 back (get well Hunter Pence), I would also recommend hitting Duffy 7th (in front of the pitcher). My idea lineup would look like this:

  1. Span
  2. Panik
  3. Posey
  4. Belt
  5. Pence
  6. Crawford
  7. Duffy
  8. Pitcher
  9. Pagan

This lineup is more balanced (lefty/righty), and I like Duffy in the awkward spot in front of the pitcher. Crawford has a lot of experience there, but he’s one of the teams best power hitters and putting him in front of a pitcher robs him of a couple shots at a dinger a week.

Furthermore, Duffy is fast and the more athletic baserunner. It would help Duffy out to get on base more, and once there Bochy can steal, bunt with confidence, and do more creative things with Duffy on base versus Crawford.

I still have a lot of confidence that the bullpen will gel and not be an issue long term, but right now you can tell Bochy lacks faith in many of those guys. Two things to keep an eye: do all the innings for the “big 3” start to add up to fatigue? And, does Bochy throw Strickland into the closer gig?

Finally, the Jake Peavy horror show rolls on. Yes, he’s been better at times recently. Yes, he got beat up by the Cubs, the best offensive team in NL. Yes, we was starting against Jake Arrieta, so they might as well have forfeited and saved everyone time and money.

But, he sure looks terrible, and it also appears that the Giants are going to stick with him as long as they can, and even if they don’t there’s no one riding in on a white horse right now. That said, I’d be much more excited about a Clayton Blackburn start than any more Peavy starts.

To what’s good: there was some debate on talk radio this week about the big 3 (Bumgarner, Cueto, Samarzija) and if it’s the best 3 the Giants have had. The Giants have had many good pitchers (2010: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez; 2012: Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong, Bumgarner), but 2010 is probably the best comp, and even in that year I’d take the Samardzija we’ve seen so far over Jonathan Sanchez. Linecum and Cain at the top of their powers are a tough top 2 to dethrone, but this is a very talented and deep starting staff that we get to watch right now. Enjoy it!

Week in Review: Swept the Padres in San Diego, and took 2 of 3 from the Cubbies at home. 27-19 overall, 4.5 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: the best numbers of any hitters actually came from the pitchers this week, that should give you an idea about how the offense is going. So, I’m going with Brandon Crawford , because he hit two more home runs, and sits second on the team, behind Pence, with 6. His power continues to be a great surprise, supplementing his prowess on defense.

Pitcher of the Week: We’ve all been enthralled with Johnny Cueto and pleased with the continued development of Jeff Samardzija. I really thought Matt Cain was in trouble on Saturday, having to face the Cubs, but he impressed again.

But even with all that, Madison Bumgarner reminds us who the Ace is. He’s done so much already in his young career, it’s easy to forget that he’s still on the upward swing of a typical pitcher. Barring injury, most pitchers peak between the ages of 27-29, and MadBum’s only 26!

The question I have: is this the year he jumps from one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball to truly being in the conversation with Kershaw for BEST pitcher in baseball. So far, so good.

All he did this week: 2 wins, 16.2 innings!, 17 strikeouts, and only 10 baserunners. If you like ratios, that’s a 0.54 ERA, and 0.60 WHIP. Dang.

Looking Ahead: Hey look, the Padres again, starting tonight. (PS, the Padres played 17 innings yesterday). After 3 more with the Pads, the Giants get a day off and then head back on the road to face the annoying Rockies where they hope/need to exact some revenge.

Week [1] In Review (4/1-4/7) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well…

Quite a lot has happened since I last posted, far too much to cover!

My goal is to keep this going for another year, so stay tuned.

Let’s start with a quick preview/keys to 2016. I’m not saying anything new here, but want it in writing before we get too deep into it. Here we go:

  1. Health: this goes without saying, and yet it must be said. The Giants have a nearly perfect roster right now. Most everything fits, it all makes sense. But, lose one or two or (gasp) more, for an extended period of time, and it quickly stops making sense. Guys are going to get hurt, of course, but let’s hope for nothing devastating.
  2. Matt Cain. This is both personal and logical. On the personal level, there’s an almost desperate longing for Matt Cain to be good again. And even if he’s not good, to be healthy and contributing in some way. To the logical: if Matt Cain is good again, the Giants go from pretty good to potentially great. Like one of the best Giants’ rosters of all time great.
  3. Brandon Belt. Belt is sort of the Cain of the lineup: a guy I root for on a personal level, but also a guy who could potentially transform this team. As it stands, the Giants’ lineup is very strong. There are no holes, and as I said, everything fits nicely right now. If Belt realizes his full potential (30 homers, 150 starts, .850+ OPS), then the team goes into elite status. The front office clearly has confidence in him too, given the extension he just signed this weekend.
  4. Winning at home.  The Giants have had a winning record at home every year since their recent run of success started in 2010. But they have not won 50+ games at home during that window (their highest total was 49 in 2010). That’s good consistency, but it’s not dominating in your home ballpark. Because the Giants’ pitching is so strong, they’ve traveled well and won a lot of road game, but this is a roster that could/should win 50-55 games at home.
  5. Integrating the new guys. Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span sure do look good in the Orange and Black. And it’s great to have such quality reinforcements. But will they really integrate into a tight clubhouse culture? One good sign already: Samardzija was right in the middle of the scrum after Crawford’s walk off home run the other night. It’s one thing to be a good pro and show up and do your job, it’s another to fit into the chemistry and character of the team. We’ll see how they do.

I believe this is a 95 win team, and a team that can compete in the post-season. The five NL teams who make it into the tournament this year will be very quality teams, meaning this may be the most challenging post-season for the Giants ever, assuming they can get there.

On to the week in review: 2 of 3 from Milwaukee, and 3 of 4 from LA, and the Giants are 5-2 with an early season 1 game NL West lead.

Hitter of the Week: Every single opening day/regular starter hit a home run this week and two of the bench guys and one the pitchers chipped in with dingers too. It may be that this is the first year where picking this award is harder than the pitcher of the week. Kind of a fun new challenge!

I’m going with Matt Duffy this week. Every year Sports Illustrated comes out with its predictions for the season, and the last two years they’ve added a “Scout’s Thoughts” section in the preview. The scout is from a rival divisional team, and it’s anonymous. Last year the “scout” said Brandon Crawford would never be a good major league hitter and then he went out and had an incredible year, winning the silver slugger and cementing his reputation as the best SS in the national league.

This year the “scout” deemed Matt Duffy a fluke, in particular harping on his bat speed and lack of power. He went out and hit two home runs this week and leads the team with 7 rbi’s. Maybe there’s some weird SI voodoo at work here. I’ll take it.

Pitcher of the Week: Cueto and Bumgarner went twice, each turning in a vintage performance and then a gutsy-stick-it-out-and-save-the-bullpen-and-still-get-a-win start. Samarzija and Peavy left a lot to be desired, and Matt Cain turned in a quality start.

Given what I’ve already written, I’ll go with Matt Cain this week if no other reason than there had to be a moment on Friday, around the fifth or the sixth inning, where he thought to himself: “I’m back, I have good feel for my pitches, I haven’t been perfect, but I like the results, and, of course, our juggernaut offense is getting no hit by a rookie in his first game. Perfect.”

The more things change…

Looking Ahead: Two important things to keep an eye on. First, it will be wise for Giants’ fans to have some patience with Jeff Samardzija. He’s on his fourth team in three years. This means four different pitching coaches, four different organizational philosophies, four different sets of catchers. My sense is it will take at least 8 starts for him to fully absorb Dave Righetti’s message, and to get used to working with Posey. I would predict/hope that sometime around mid-May it starts clicking.

Second, the most interesting bullpen development of 2016 will be watching how Bruce Bochy handles Hunter Strickland. He should be the closer (and I’ve thought this before Saturday’s Casilla meltdown). But, he’s also the biggest weapon in the ‘pen and so there’s something to be said for using him in the most high leverage situations whenever they come. Let’s see how this all plays out!

Off to Denver and LA. I think we’ll be sick of the Dodgers by next weekend for sure.

Go Giants.

Reflections, Thoughts, Memories, Heroes. #SFGiants #THREERINGS #WorldChampions

Where to start?

Let’s begin with second guessing:

1. Ned Yost was destined to cost the Royals a game at some point in this postseason. It was going to happen in one of three ways: (1) bunting, (2) stealing, (3) a rigid approach to his bullpen.

He did so well for so long, but the bunt in the fifth inning against Bumgarner was a gift for the Giants. If you watch Bumgarner you know his biggest struggles tend to come early. How much more so given the short rest and entering the game in an unfamiliar situation. Bum still needed a good play (and great positioning) from Juan Perez to get out of the inning, but that bunt changed everything in my mind.

2. Maybe the biggest second guess of the night, came in the ninth inning. Alex Gordon hit a single that the Giants turned into a disaster. [Side Note: this play, in my opinion, is the single greatest difference between the #THREERINGS Giants and previous iterations. In another life, the Giants blow this game thanks to that misplay. But not this team. Not Bochy’s Giants.]

There are many Royals fans, and baseball fans in general, who wished Gordon was sent/ran through the stop sign. I have to be honest, as that play was unfolding in seemingly the slowest of slow motions, I could see it happening: Buster Posey having to block home plate to win the World Series. Of course this crazy postseason would end that way.

But, Gordon didn’t run. There are couple reasons he didn’t go home. One is that he was slow out of the box, assuming the ball would be caught or drop in for a single. He didn’t kick it into high gear until he rounded first.

Also, Brandon Crawford. This is the time to sing the praise of Brandon Crawford. I know he made more than an acceptable amount of errors this year, but how is he NOT a gold glove finalist? He made three fantastic plays in this game that saved the game.

  • First, in the second inning he made a ridiculously smooth play on an Aoki chopper right after Affeldt came in to get a force at second. That play is really, really  hard to make, and he made it look easy. That’s part of the problem with Crawford, he makes hard things look too easy and I think that means he gets taken for granted sometimes.
  • Second, Panik deserves all the credit in the world for his amazing play on the Hosmer double play in the third. The range, the instincts, the flip, all incredible. But the flip was a bit of a rainbow and it threw the timing of the play off, which meant that Crawford had to make the throw flat footed. And he gunned it to barely nail a diving Hosmer at first. You have to have an incredible arm to make that throw.
  • Third, on that fateful ball that Gordon hit, the Royals didn’t send him because Crawford (a) make an incredible pick up on a bad short hop throw…if he muffs that throw Gordon scores easily, and (b) has that incredible arm. Most of the breakdowns of that play I’ve read have Gordon being thrown out easily. The only way he scores there is if Crawford throws the ball in the stands or if Gordon blows up Posey and knocks the ball out, which we all know is illegal now.

One more thought on this play. I know Royals fans will replay it again and again and debate whether Gordon should have gone, but I actually think he should have stayed at second base. In a weird way Juan Perez may have saved the game by bobbling the ball and allowing Gordon to go to third. That meant Bumgarner was able to stay in the wind up. The way he was pitching it may not have mattered, but he had only been in the stretch for a few pitches all night, and hadn’t thrown from the stretch since the 5th. If Gordon’s on second Bum’s in the stretch and maybe that makes a difference. We’ll never know.

3. One final second guess: Hosmer is getting a lot of flack for sliding into first base on that double play. And he should. I never like that play. But, what about Lorenzo Cain sliding head first into second!!! That is one of the dumbest plays I have ever seen. Slide in feet first and maybe he throws off Crawford, or makes him jump which takes something off the throw, anything but head first.

Reflections on 2014:

I posted this last night/this morning, but it bears repeating: The Giants just won the World Series for the third time in five years without:

  • Angel Pagan, leadoff man and starting center fielder (really think about that for a minute. Not only did they lose Pagan, but it meant relying on Blanco, who is an admirable fill in, and Ishikawa/Perez/Morse. It worked out, but a lot of us thought the Giants were done when Pagan had to shut it down).
  • Matt Cain. Again, who would have thought the Giants could survive this. This team can survive a lot, but not losing a key starting pitcher. It’s an interesting thought exercise to wonder how this all would have gone done with Matt Cain. It is easy to think they would have had an easier time. Certainly, they would have fared better against the Royals with another dominant starter. But, you never know.
  • A Buster Posey home run. Or extra base hit for that matter. In terms of the guys who were there and played, this is the most remarkable part of the story. In order for the Giants to overcome the aforementioned loses one would think the only way to do it was with an otherworldly display by Posey. Now, let me say that in many ways he was otherworldly. Just not with the bat. The dude was so tired. He caught all but 2 innings, including all of the 18 inning game (that game might be the biggest factor in the Giants winning it all and in Posey wearing down). He played great behind the plate and he guided the pitchers through. He doesn’t get enough credit for the way he calls games and handles pitchers. Also, huge hat tip here to Panda and Pence who were awesome. So awesome.
  • Tim Lincecum. Most Giants fans could have envisioned the Giants doing well this season without Lincecum. He was a huge question mark coming into the year and no one really batted an eye when he went to the bullpen. But, think back over the years and is there anyway you could see the Giants winning a third ring without Lincecum contributing in some significant way? Hard to imagine.

The Royals beat an Angels team that was missing it’s ace. They beat an Orioles team missing three All-Star components of it’s starting lineup. But, they could not beat a Giants team missing some key pieces. What a resilient group of guys.

Madison Bumgarner:

The most amazing thing I had ever seen in baseball prior to this October was Barry Bonds. I know Bonds is a polarizing figure, but I will defend him as the greatest hitter of all time to my death.

And here’s the reason why: it wasn’t the number of home runs or the great distances they traveled (although that was amazing).

Barry Bonds was a marvel because he might only see 1 hittable pitch per game, sometimes per series. And he’d crush it. To do that requires an incredible discipline and an ability to repeat flawless mechanics at any given moment.

I know Bonds was all hopped up on a variety of things (who wasn’t at that point in the game’s history), but no amount of HGH can help you do what Bonds did, which is crush the ONLY good pitch he saw over a period of hours or even days. It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.

Until this October. Madison Bumgarner is good, I have no doubt about that, but I have never seen anything like that. No offense to Orel Hershiser, Dave Stewart, John Smoltz, Andy Petite, Roger Clemens, Josh Becket, Livan Hernandez, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Lester, and others.

The only thing I can compare it to is Curt Schilling and even he tweeted last night that Bum’s performance was the best ever. You shouldn’t be get people out that often. He did it. Unreal.

Not to be overly pessimistic, but the Giants relied heavily on Tim Lincecum in 2010 and he’s know a spot reliever. They relied heavily on Matt Cain and he had bone spurs removed from his elbow. They just relied more heavily on Madison Bumgarner than either of those guys, and so naturally I am worried about the long term effects.

If anyone is big enough and strong enough to bounce back it’s MadBum, but man that was a lot of innings/pitches.

On the Giants Good Fortune:

One of the redeeming qualities of Bumgarner’s dominance is that it seems to be taking away form the “Giants-are-lucky” narrative. It’s hard to call a team that wins #THREERINGS in five years lucky, but I’m still glad to not have to hear about it, at least not today.

Having said that it is worth reflecting on the Giants good fortune this postseason. Any team, no matter how talented, requires some good fortune to pull this off, so here we go:

  • I still think the biggest break the Giants caught came when Clint Hurdle chose to start Edinson Volquez in the Wild Card Game. He could have not started Gerrit Cole in game 162 and saved him for the WCG (his best/smartest decision). Or he could have gone with Francisco Liriano (a better matchup with all the lefties in the Giants line up). He went with option 3. It may not have mattered because MADISON BUMGARNER. But, still a big break for the Giants.
  • I think the second biggest break the Giants got was not having to face the Dodgers. They’d seen them so many times all year, and especially late in the season, and didn’t fare so well, especially against Zach Grienke. I think seeing a relatively unfamiliar foe in the Washington Nationals was important. Not having to face Clayton Kershaw (and Greinke) was a gift. The Nationals can pitch too, really well, but the psychology of facing the Dodgers in a short series would have been a huge challenge. So, thank you Nationals for having a better record than the Dodgers.
  • And thank you Cardinals for beating the Dodgers.
  • And thank you Matt Williams and Mike Matheny for the poor handling of your bullpens. (Although the pressure the Giants apply to teams had something to do with that).
  • Finally, the Giants caught a break by facing a very good Royals team that lacked the one thing they needed: an ace to match Madison Bumgarner. Now, the Royals may have one (Yordano Ventura or Danny Duffy could be that guy as early as next season), and certainly James Shields was thought to be that guy, but they had no one to answer Bumgarner. Of course, there may not ever have been an answer to Bumgarner, but imagine this Giants team facing the A’s or the Tigers. There may have been other ways to beat those teams, but certainly their starting pitching would have been an overall advantage. Instead they got a team with just as many question marks in the rotation as they had, which allowed the room for Bumgarner to rise far above all.

Favorite Memories:

  • Crawford’s slam
  • Bumgarner’s first shut out
  • Strickland striking out Ian Desmond with the bases loaded
  • Yusmeiro Petit, 18 innings, and a Brandon Belt home run (h/t to Panda)
  • The worst intentional ball of all time
  • Santiago Casilla
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Ishikawa’s bases load double
  • The Bunt
  • Jeremy Affeldt, so many times, so many zeros
  • The comeback
  • Hunter Pence in the field, and at the bat
  • Ishikawa’s error
  • Michael Morse’s home run
  • Romo being nasty again
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Jeremy Affeldt running to first base
  • The Ishikawa Walk-Off
  • Pence’s homer
  • Madison Bumgarner
  • The Strickland meltdown
  • Second guessing game 3 (Posey vs. Hosmer)
  • The game 4 uprising
  • Joe Panik
  • Madison Bumgarner’s second shutout
  • Juan Perez taking Wade Davis off the top of the wall
  • The game 6 meltdown
  • Sacrifice flies, “runs-thrown-in”, Michael Morse’s cobra power
  • Crawford’s glove
  • I love Joe Panik
  • Panda wink’s
  • Jeremy Affeldt again
  • MADISON BUMGARNER
  • Buster crying
  • Sabean crying
  • Affeldt crying

In Conclusion:

Back in 2010 the Giants erased all the bad postseason memories that had haunted fans for decades. When they did it again in 2012 it lead me to think about correlations between past shortfalls.

In my mind, 2010 erased 2002. They were the closest comps I had at the time, and it seemed to be a cosmic baseball even out: every time tragedy could have struck they avoided it. 2012 made up for 2003, good teams that got themselves in holes. 2003 couldn’t dig out, 2012 did.

But, then this year happened, and at first I thought this was about 1993. An 88 win/second wild card team taking it all seemed to make up for a 103 win/no postseason tragedy.

But, now I’ve changed my mind:

  • 2010 was about the whole history, not any specific year. It was about an unlikely band of misfits doing what all the star powered offensive machines of years past could not do. It was a tiny pitcher filling the large shoes of Bonds, Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Clark, Williams, and reaching heights they never could in San Francisco.
  • 2012 was about 2003, 2000, 2004, 1997, 1998, 2009, etc. Any team that fell just short, erased by a team that should have/could have been put down 6 times.
  • 2014 is the one that heals the wounds of 2002. The parallels between the teams and the series were eerie. Young upstart vs. veteran experience. 2 Wild Card teams. Giants win game 1, Royals/Angels win 2 and 3, Giants come back at home and win 2 big games, Giants give away/blow game 6, and then a final game 7. Once again, the Bochy Giants are so different from the Dusty Baker Giants. No folding, no giving up, no backing down. Road teams were 0-9 in the last 9 games 7’s dating back to 1982. If you lose game 6, you lose game 7, or so it goes.

And so, of course, as they have so many times in the past 5 years the Giants defied the odds, bucked the trends, and emerged, unbelievably, victorious. Kings of the Mountain.

World Champions.

-SB

3 Thoughts on Last Night’s Game #SFGiants #2014playoffs

Well, that was awesome! I love being wrong. Three thoughts coming your way:

  1. I will take Madison Bumgarner against anyone. Clayton Kershaw is awesome. The Tigers have the last three guys to win the AL CY Young in their rotation. The Nationals have several great pitchers. Adam Wainwright is really good. But, I will take Madison Bumgarner in a big game over any of them. It’s important to note that through the first three innings this was a close game and it looked like the Giants might struggle to find runs. The crowd was loud, and they famously spooked the Red’s Johnny Cueto last year in the same situation. Bumgarner, totally unaffected,  just kept mowing them down. Then, in the fourth inning, after the slam, in the classic “don’t-let-them-get-back-in-this-game” moment, he did exactly that, which is actually really hard to do. And there was no looking back from there. Sub-though: Bochy didn’t need to do a lot of magical maneuvering, but he once again proved his worth by out managing Clint Hurdle before the game even started. It is easy to second guess now, but why did the Pirates start Gerrit Cole on Sunday? (BTW: Gerrit Cole is married to Brandon Crawford’s sister).
  2. Brandon Crawford is the hero, but Brandon Belt looked so good in this game. And that is GREAT news moving forward. Belt went 2 for 3, walked twice (including a big walk right before the grand slam), and drove in 3 runs. Beautiful. The Nationals have some great pitchers, but they are right-handed heavy, which means the lineup you saw tonight is going to be vital to the Giants’ success in the next series. Belt’s presence as a dynamic left-handed threat will make the lineup so much more dangerous. Stay hot Brandon Belt.
  3. I love Joe Panik. It’s easy to overlook his contributions in this game, but another thing that bodes well for the Giants is this kid continuing to look like he belongs here. He was not overwhelmed by the moment at the plate (3 hits!), and he handled himself well on the play where Pence nearly took him out as they chased a pop-up that Panik was able to hold on to. The Giants, who supposedly have one the worst farm systems in baseball, started homegrown players in all of the infield spots and left field, plus the pitcher, of course. Blanco and Pence were the only guys to appear in this game for the Giants who started outside the organization. I know I’m cheating by including Ishikawa in this, but still, Joe Panik is the next in line of a series of homegrown players developed by the terrible system helping the Giants get closer to a third World Series in five years. I never thought I would write that!

Thoughts on the Nationals series forthcoming!

-SB

#SFGiants Week In Review (4/15-4/21)

What a weird week. Absolutely horrible in Milwaukee (a place the Giants seem to do well, and against a bad team), and then awesome at home against the Padres. The Giants are now 8-1 in the division…since losing to LA on opening day they have not lost a division game. That’s a fantastic start…let’s hope they keep it up against the Diamondbacks and the Padres again this week.

Results:

3-3 (12-7); 2nd place, 1.5 games back in NL West

10-8 L @ MIL; 4-3 L @ MIL; 7-2 L @ MIL; 3-2 W vs SD; 2-0 W vs. SD; 5-0 W vs. SD

Hitter of the Week:

Brandon Crawford is the hitter of the week and possibly even the year, given the expectations for him heading into the season. I think we all hoped for improvement, but .250 with 10+ home runs was a goal we would have all paid top dollar for. It’s early and there will be slumps and streaks but he sure passes the eye test right now. Power to the opposite field, not trying to do too much…he just looks dangerous at the plate. And that might be the best sign of all.

Pitcher of the Week:

Tim Lincecum was the enigma of the week last week and he pitched beautifully on Saturday night. Yes, he was at home (but we all know he’s been good and bad everywhere, park doesn’t really seem to matter to Timmy), and yes it was the Padres, but he looked like vintage Lincecum. Guys swung at nasty pitches out of the zone, and most importantly, he pitched with purpose and it sure seemed like he knew what he wanted to do and put the ball where he wanted it to go. The great question of Lincecum is not “will he get his velocity back” (probably not), but rather “will his crazy mechanics allow him to become a control pitcher” (a difficult task). The jury is still out, but saturday night was a huge step forward.

Enigma of the Week:

This is the enigma of the year: the Giants’ starters have all shown flashes of brilliance. I was floored by this article. But each of them seems to be too susceptible to (a) the Long Ball, and (b) the Big Inning. Cain and Zito got it big time in Milwaukee this week. Could be flukey early season stuff, but certainly it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Looking Ahead:

6 more division games: 3 against Arizona in SF, and then 3 in San Diego. Let’s hope the team keeps rolling against the NL West!

(-SB)