3 Thoughts on The Game 2 Debacle #SFGiants #Royals #WorldSeries

1. Don’t Panik. Or is it panic? I forget now.

There are two ways to look at last night:

  1. THE SKY IS FALLING. EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE.
  2. The Giants won the game they needed to win, got a split in KC, and now have home field advantage in a best of 5 series.

I can tell you right now that the actual players on the San Francisco Giants share the perspective of point 2. There are some clear issues (see below), but if you take out the emotions you were feeling in the 6th inning last night, this is far from the worst case scenario heading back to SF (in fact, we more or less predicted this here).

One of the big keys for me was seeing how the Giants looked against the “Big 3” of the Royals pen. They all came in throwing gas and looking nasty, but the Giants looked far from overwhelmed. They had some especially good at bats against Kelvim Herrera. Greg Holland will blow a save in this series I am convinced of it. Hitting these guys is no easy task, but to quote Krukow: “one to measure, one to rake.” The Giants don’t look completely overmatched here, they can hit these guys.

The Giants walk away from round one impressed but not intimidated.

2. Let’s Freak Out For a Minute. Bochy has done so many great things in managing games and the bullpen over the years that he’s more than earned the right to have a mulligan. But, like Game 2 against St. Louis, I thought he made a critical mistake in how he handled Peavy, and in relying on Machi and Strickland.

Despite Jake’s low pitch count he should have had guys warming up at the start of the inning, and he should have had a “get outs/stay in…give up a baserunner/come out” policy for Peavy for all innings after the 5th. The only issue he’s had since coming over to the Giants come up the 3rd time through the order (astutely pointed out on the broadcast by Tom Verducci…Harold Reyonlds should be muted but listen to Verducci!). I would have liked to see Peavy come out when Cain singled. (Actually, I would have loved to see them start the inning fresh with Petit). Then you bring Lopez in for Hosmer and go from there.

The second mistake was bringing in Jean Machi. He has failed, again and again, down the stretch and in the postseason. He threw 2 balls that weren’t even remotely close to the strike zone and did nothing to set up the batter, and then he threw a fastball right down the middle of the plate that he was fortunate to only give up a single on.

In a moment I’ll share my thoughts on Stickland and Lincecum and all that, but for now, the game was really lost for me in the first 3 batters of the inning.

The real issue, underneath all of this, is that the Giants starters after Bumgarner just don’t have what it takes at this point to get deep into the ballgame. This is where the Giants really, really miss Matt Cain. Bochy should have been thrilled that Peavy recovered and got through 5.

The three guys most responsible for the loss against the Cards were the culprits again (Peavy, Strickland, Machi). Bochy learned his lesson and you never saw those guys again the rest of the way in the NLCS. I think the same applies here.

3. Oh, hello Tim Lincecum. Yesterday I broke down how Bochy used Hunter Stickland in Game 1 and what it revealed about Tim Lincecum. Five batters into Lincecum’s first 2014 postseason appearance I was ready to throw that out. Then Timmy tweaked his back. The word is that it’s probably not serious. He’s dealt with this before.

But, it is serious because can you really trust a guy who is a pitch away from tweaking his back? He was so close to being back in the circle of trust, especially with the next three game in SF. He may be fine and he may pitch again, and pitch well, but whatever air of confidence was building up around Lincecum late in the game last night, seems to have been let out rather quickly by his balky back.

Looking Ahead: The Giants have some serious issues with their bullpen moving forward. I don’t see how Hunter Stickland can be used again in a high leverage moment in this series. He may well be the Giants closer in 2016 (the next time we do go through all of this), but he can’t go out there again with the game on the line.

Neither can Jean Machi.

Which means, and it seems entirely impossible that this can be true, but Yumseiro Petit just got even more valuable. Bochy has to hope he can get 5 to 6 innings from Tim Hudson, use Petit as a bridge, and then go with the trusted 4 (Lopez, Affeldt, Romo, and Casilla) in the late innings. Maybe Lincecum works his way in there too.

But Petit can no longer be a caddy for the starters, he needs to be a primary bullpen weapon.

To reiterate, as ugly as things got last night, pull the camera back and the end result (1-1 tie heading home) is a good result. The Giants are experienced, know how to shake it off, and will play Friday loose and confident. The Royals lose Billy Butler, and loss of a DH allows Ned Yost to meddle, which is a good thing.

No reason to freak out yet, Giants fans. The biggest things to look for now: The Posey/Panda/Pence dingers and can the Giants bridge the middle innings?

Go Giants!

-SB

All Tied Up (NLCS Thoughts)

Marco, please don’t be hurt bad. Please don’t be broken.

A few weeks ago, it sure seemed like Ryan Vogelsong was the best bet to play the part of 5th starter/long man duty in the postseason. Much like what Tim Lincecum has done so far, he’d come into games here and there, helping out if a starter stumbled.

Ryan Vogelsong is the ace of this staff right now.

—–

I wrote the other day that the key to the series is Madison Bumgarner. He needed to dominate. He did not dominate. In his four innings the Cardinals scored 6 runs. Against everyone else, over 14 innings, the Cardinals have scored once, and that run was driven in by a pitcher.

Bumgarner might not start again in this postseason. What this means is this: once again, Tim Lincecum is the key. Matt Cain needs to follow-up Vogey with a strong start, but Lincecum needs to be good. Really good. The Giants, at this point, can’t count on their lefties which means the bullpen is a little less strong, which means Tim Lincecum needs to be good.

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Speaking of the bullpen…well done sirs. My only bone to pick with Bochy is using Sergio Romo last night. I can buy the “he needed to get a good inning under his belt” argument, but I think Romo is more effective the less a team has seen him. The Giants will need him to finish off a close game this series and Romo is awesome, but he’s not Wilson or even Casilla in terms of versatility and being able to give different looks. It’s all about the slider. The less comfortable the Cardinals can be with that pitch the better.

—–

Marco Scutaro: stud. But here’s the other reality…the Giants need to get a big game from Pablo and big game from Pence. Pence needs to hit a home run or two for the Giants to win the series. Pablo needs to quit being late on fastballs. Posey hasn’t done much yet, but I’m not too worried (although you start to wonder about fatigue at this point in the season). Again, love what Pagan, Crawford, Blanco, and, of course, Scutaro have done, but the “big boys” need to give us something.

—–

The goal: 2 out of 3 in St. Louis and then clinch at home!

(-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)

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)

Week In Review (6/25-7/1)

Results:

5-2 (45-35, 1.0 game lead in NL West)

8-0 W vs. LAD; 2-0 W vs. LAD; 3-0 W vs. LAD; 5-0 W vs. Cin; 5-1 L vs. Cin; 2-1 L vs. Cin; 4-3 W vs. Cin

Well that was a pretty great week! Giants sweep the Dodgers, take over first place, and have 3 guys voted into the all-star starting lineup. Plus Matt Cain. Awesome. I think I will actually watch the all-star game this year.

The Giants still have a tough go before the break: 3 games in Washington and 3 in Pittsburg. Tough teams and hot weather. That said, the Dodgers are struggling and they are injured and it would behoove the Giants to put the boot to the neck (metaphorically) and put some distance between them and the Dodgers.

Hitter of the Week:

I got into it a bit yesterday on twitter with a Cardinals fan who is all bitter that Posey is starting the all-star game and not Yadier Molina. And he has a point…their batting stats are very similar, and Molina has the edge in WAR (due to his defense). But, watching the game yesterday, how good is Buster! His ability to hit with 2 strikes is amazing.

He hit .400 for the week, and you get the sense that with each passing day his confidence grows stronger and last year becomes a distant memory.

Pitcher of the Week:

After the first three innings of Saturdays game I gave this award to Barry Zito. Then he went and walked 6 batters, but he still managed to walk away with a pretty nice week. Keep it up.

Also, Madbum was nails against the Reds. Maybe his finest performance ever.

But, I am going to go ahead and give this to Tim Lincecum this week because we haven’t had much to highlight so far. Tim, thank you for shutting out the Dodgers…please keep it up and get it going!

Looking Ahead:

As I said, the road trip is tough: tough teams and tough weather. I’m looking for someone to spark the offense: Posey? Belt? Runs are going to be hard to come by, so someone needs to step up.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/28-6/3)

Results:

5-1 (30-24, 3 GB in NL West)

4-2 W vs. ARI; 3-1 W vs. ARI; 4-1 L vs. ARI; 4-3 W vs. CHC; 2-1 W vs. CHC; 2-0 W vs. CHC

Well, there we go. A nice week, coupled with a bad run (finally) from the Dodgers, and the Giants are suddenly just 3 games out. The Giants also never scored more than 4 runs in any game this week and went 5-1. The pitching has been so good, for so long now that this isn’t even a story any more.

I was thinking a little bit about All-Stars today and I think you could argue that Melky, Angel, and Buster (from a positional standpoint) are deserving of consideration, and from the pitchers Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Romo, Casilla, and…wait for it…ZITO are in the conversation as well. Now, obviously they won’t all make it, but a case can be made for each of them. Which is pretty incredible when you think about it…8 players! And Pablo would probably be in the convo too if he’d been healthy this whole time. Anytime a third of your roster is in consideration for the All-Star game you are doing well.

Hitter of the Week:

All Melky Cabrera did this week was hit .391, set the SF record for most hits in a month, and he doesn’t win HOW. But he is firmly in the convo week in and week out and that is awesome.

But, this week, let’s highlight Ryan Theriot. He just might be the answer at 2B. He hit .375, including a double, and scored 4 runs. In March I would not have been excited about this, but right now, I couldn’t be happier. Keep it up Ryan.

Pitcher of the Week:

Barry Zito: All Star? Really? Probably not, but if he has a good June, runs his record to, say, 8-3, and keeps his ratios down, how do you not really ask the question? Look at this week: 2 starts, 2 wins. 15.1 innings, 14 base runners, 2 earned runs, 8 strikeouts. That’s a 1.17 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He’s had some help from the defense and the ballpark, but the dude is pitching REALLY well. The question is, of course, how long can he keep this up. Right now it looks like a while.

One other thing…if you would have said when the season opened that by June between Zito and Lincecum one of them would have a 5.82 ERA and the other 2.98 (or that one would have a 1.25 WHIP and the other 1.57) how would have thought that worked out? Exactly. Baseball’s wierd.

Looking Ahead:

One more game with the Cubbies, the off to San Diego, and back home for a very interesting series with the Texas Rangers. Keep the pressure on the Dodgers!

(-SB)

5 Things (33% of the way there)

Yes, we are at the one-third mark, give or take a few games, and here’s what the Giants need to fix in order to bridge the gap, which is now down to 5.5 games, between them and the Dodgers:

  1. Fix Timmy…you can go all over the internet and find “what’s wrong with Tim Lincecum” articles. Here’s my two cents: it’s all mental and it comes back to controlling his pitches. Timmy has never been a control artist, and most of his game has been predicated on getting hitters to swing at pitches out of the zone. Two things seem to be happening this season: Tim’s been wild both in and out of the zone and there is a definite “book” on how to face him (and that book involves being patient and doing everything you can to lay off nasty stuff out of the zone). That has resulted in a lot of walks and a lot of solid contact. How does Tim fix this? He has to adjust to a new reality and do whatever it is he needs to do to command his stuff. It’s still good stuff, he just needs to know where it’s going.
  2. Play Better Defense…they actually seem to have turned the corner here, but the fact remains: the Giants will not win consistently if they give outs away. They don’t need gold glove/web gem defense, just play clean baseball, catch the ball, and make the routine plays.
  3. Get/Stay Healthy…Pablo is priority number one here, and he should be back soon. Romo has some kind of knee thing going on as well, but overall this team is not far from being back at full strength. I cannot wait to see the offense go once Pablo returns!
  4. Find some consistency from the Right Side of the Infield…perhaps Theriot is the answer at 2B, perhaps Freddy Sanchez will make it back, but someone needs to take over! And at this point I don’t care who it is at first base, Pill, Belt, Huff, someone else with a four letter last name, let’s, please, get some production from first base! Ok, I do care. I really want Brandon Belt to lock this down, but, like I said, it’s time to stop screwing around here!
  5. Keep Pitching…I know Timmy has been a bummer, but there have been so many good things about the rest of the staff. Vogelsong, Casilla, and Zito have been outstanding so far. Keep it up!

It’s pretty simple: the Giants are not that far out and seem on the verge of busting out a nice two-week run. The Dodgers have a tougher road in June and look like they may have lost Matt Kemp again. Take advantage Giants!

(-SB)