Week [4] In Review (4/25-5/1) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Over the last seven days the Giants won 4 games, all of them started by pitchers named Madison, Johnny, and Jeff. They lost two, started by Jake and Matt.

Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, this is how things look: positivity with the first three pitchers in the rotation taking the hill and closed-eyes/wishful thinking with the last two.

Between Peavy and Cain, I still hold out far more hope for Matt Cain. There’s a lot to suggest, just from the visuals, that he can still be a very effective pitcher, if not the dominant front-line starter he once was. The velocity is good, the movement is there, we are simply watching a guy relearn how to pitch. He lacks the touch and finish and polish that a pitcher his age and experience would normally have. I think this is due to his “new” elbow. I can’t predict when, but I do sense he will figure it out.

Peavy, though, I have far less hope for. McCovey Chronicles point out that it wasn’t that long ago that Peavy was good and producing well for the Giants. It’s a fine point, but the writing seems to be on the wall that end of the line is not too far off for this proud veteran. I lived in Boston when Peavy was pitching there and when he was traded to the Giants Red Sox fans thought he was done then. His reunion-with-Bochy inspired renaissance has been nice, but if the Giants want to make a change in the rotation it needs to be here.

Now, there are two significant challenges: both Cain and Peavy are getting paid very well this season, whether they perform or not. The notion of sunk costs dictates giving them more time to figure it out. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that no one in the minors is really setting the world on fire right now. The veteran loving front office isn’t going to turn it’s back on an old warrior unless someone is knocking loudly on that door, and no one is doing that right now.

All of this has led to wild speculation about Tim Lincecum, and while that might sound nice, do we really want to go down that road again?

One final note here: the Giants are tied for first place, and another good week could see them alone atop the division. There’s no rush, no reason to panic.

My entirely boring conclusion then is that Giants fans need to hope Peavy and Cain figure it out. Even if you don’t look forward to the days they pitch, they are the best option for the foreseeable future. Get used to it.

Week in Review: swept three games from the Padres (which helped salvage a .500 h0mestand), and then took one of three in New York. 13-13 overall, tied for first in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Hunter Pence put up a monster slash line this week .421/.500/895 with a double, triple, two home runs, and 10 runs driven in. Seemed like he had been quiet early on, but he’s actually having an extremely good season. Projecting out: he’d finish with a .293 average, 30 home runs, and 120 rbi if he keeps up this pace. That’s a BIG year.

Pitcher of the Week: Madison Bumgarner has “struggled” early on, but he’s also pitched once with the flu, and faced off against Kershaw (twice), Grienke, and then young phenom Noah Syndergard on Sunday. All to the tune of a 3-2 record, a 3.03 ERA, and 45 strikeouts in just 35 innings. He is allowing too many baserunners, and he continues to say he hasn’t found his good mechanics, but he still had a great week wining both of his starts in commanding fashion.

Looking Ahead: The Giants don’t have a day off again until May 16th, which means a couple of full weeks. This week they have three in Cincinnati, then it’s back home for four with Colorado. Theoretically, there are a lot of winnable games this week with 2 Cueto and 2 Samardzija starts to look forward to.

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Week [3] In Review (4/18-4/24) #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants struggles at home, and in recent times against Arizona, continue to baffle me. Outside of the D-backs sweep, the Giants are 5-2 at home, and those two loses are could-have/should-have wins. But, overall they are under .500 at AT&T. Makes no sense!

Yes, it is early, and, yes, taking 2 of 3, or even sweeping the Padres to start this week would shiny up that record quick, but I am going to keep harping on this until it isn’t an issue any more.

The Giants haven’t truly struggled at home during their run of success, and this isn’t the NBA where you can win 90% of your games at home, if you are a good team.

But, I can’t help shake the sense that they should win more often in San Francisco. And, of all the teams the Giants have had in the last 6 years, this one seems ideally created to do well at home (i.e. 50+ wins). Perhaps in a month we’ll look back at the Diamondback series and laugh, but right now, the lack of home domination concerns me.

It does seem like the offense is picking up again, and there are some bright spots all around: Samardzija, Cueto keeps on trucking, Duffy and Panik seem to be warming up, and the young arms in the bullpen are impressing.

It was fun to see Bonds too.

Week in Review: Swept in 4 by the Diamondbacks, then took 2 of 3 from the Marlins. 9-11 overall, 4th place in the West, 3.5 games behind the Dodgers.

Hitter of the Week: Matt Duffy had 10 hits this week, and saw his average climbing back to normal. Hat tip to Gregor Blanco for continuing to be the best 4th outfielder in baseball. He went 6 for 12 this week with 3 triples.

But the hitter(s) of the week are two starting pitchers: Jeff Samardzija and Jake Peavy, who both came through with big RBI hits in their starts (the only 2 wins of the week). With the Giants continuing to employ alternative lineups, these kinds of at bats are extremely valuable.

Pitcher of the Week: I want so badly to write about Jeff Samardzija (as I did last week). I finally got to see him pitch in real-time this week and it was awesome. The results were great, obviously, but he pitched like a stud pitcher should pitch: in control of the game and his pitches, nasty stuff, and able to dominate all over the strike zone with 4 different kinds of pitches. He was very impressive.

I’m going to name Jake Peavy pitcher of the week, though, because who knows if he’ll ever get in this space again. Peavy is, admittedly, my least favorite of the five starters, and the one with the lowest upside, but even if he pitches well, there are too many other good pitchers on the roster. The chances of Peavy outshining them are small.

So, while we have the opportunity, let’s thank Jake Peavy for not sucking, and for beating one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Well done old man.

Looking Ahead: the Giants start the week by finishing the home stand with 3 games against San Diego. It would do them well to take full advantage of the inferior team here. They have their 3 best pitchers set to go, at home, so don’t mess around because after this it’s off to New York. The Met’s haven’t been lighting the world on fire, but that’s still a fine pitching staff to have to face after a long plane ride and the first big time zone change of the young season.

3 Thoughts on Game 6 Heading Into Game 7

It all comes down to tonight. Because…of course it does.

1. What Went Wrong?

Plenty of second guessing was taking place on twitter last night about the second inning. Should Bochy have brought Lopez in to face Aoki? Should he have gone to Petit earlier? Why did Posey swing at the first pitch? Why did he swing like that at the first pitch?

In my opinion there isn’t much to second guess. Peavy started this game and he did not pitch well. He got dinked and dunked and had some bad luck, but he also seemed tentative, shook off Posey a lot, and couldn’t stop the bleeding.

This game is not on Bochy, not on Petit, not on the offense, it’s on Peavy.

Which brings up 2 sub-thoughts:

  • This is why Game 4 was so huge. The Giants need to figure out how to beat the Royals with a non-Bumgarner starter and they did it in Game 4. We’d be tipping our caps to the World Champion Royals tonight if not for that big comeback.
  • Game 3 is the game that looms large in my mind (not tonight’s game). If the Giants don’t win this thing tomorrow (and of course I’m sure it depends on how it all goes down) I will look back on the 6th inning of Game 3. That dumb first inning double that Hudson game up and the 6th inning where Posey did not come through but Hosmer did. When the Giants lost that game they lost their chance to end the series early, in San Francisco, and never have to come to KC to play these games.

2. Any Bright Spots?

Yes. The great Jean Machi saved the day in many ways. His innings mean that Petit can pitch Game 7. It means Tim Lincecum is available. It means all the rest of the big guns are rested and ready to go. Plus the Giants have some guy named Bumgarner available as well.

Posey got a break for a couple of innings. This is a good thing.

There’s also something to be said for getting pounded in Game 6. Obviously this is not the result any Giants’ fan wanted, but the last time the Giants lost a Game 6 in the World Series it was a gut punch. There was no coming back from that.

This kind of game you wash off pretty quickly and go get ’em the next day.

3. Looking Ahead.

The Fox guys pointed out the undeniable fact that since 1982 when a team loses Game 6 on the road, they also lose Game 7. It’s happened 8 times. And of course both teams were involved in one of those. The Royals won one, the Giants lost one.

If there was a ever team designed to buck that trend it’s these Giants. (A) They’ve been in big games before. (B) They’ve won big games before. (C) They have the arms to shut down the Royals in Game 7. (D) They have won 7 straight elimination games

The Keys:

  • Get to Jeremy Guthrie early. Got to get to him early. Put the pressure right back on the Royals.
  • Tim Hudson comes up big, gets through the first inning unscathed, and takes the pressure off Bochy and the ‘pen.
  • The big decisions for the managers will be how long to stay with their starters. How quick of a hook with each manager have?
  • Buster Posey MUST deliver. The Giants had Yoradano Ventura on the ropes in the fourth inning. 3 straight walks (including an unreal at bat by Joe Panik) led to Poesy who promptly grounded into a double play. Hard to be too made about that when the game was pretty far out of hand already. But, that moment, when it comes in Game 7 must be taken of advantage of. There is no tomorrow, Posey must come through.

Final Thoughts:

I think the Giants have to start Juan Perez in left tomorrow. The Giants already have more offense with the DH and Michael Morse, so the drop off in batting is not a huge deal. Plus Perez is swinging it pretty good.

I think the Giants got through a blow out without using any significant arms. Ned Yost, however, went to Jason Frasor in the 8th. He’s probably available and ready to go for Game 7, but he’s the guy that Yost leans on to be the bridge to the Big 3 when the starter can’t get it done. He did the Giants a favor letting him go tonight.

Much like the Cardinals series the Giants have been scoring runs, but not with the home run. I think they need some power to win this game. Who will it be? Panda with one last flourish? Morse showing off the cobra power? A Brandon homer?

It’s gotta be Posey.

Go Huddy. Go Bats. Go Giants!

-SB

Giants vs Nationals #2014postseason #SFGiants #NLDS

So far my prediction’s for the ALDS look terrible. But it’s only been one game. I mention this because yesterday I picked the Giants to lose to the Nationals…as did everyone at Yahoo! Sports and Sports Illustrated. Literally, everyone. Wow.

This might actually be a good thing. Of the 7 playoff series the Giants have played in the last 5 years, I can’t think of one they were widely favored to win. And yet they won all of them. So, let’s let the “experts” keep picking against them, and they can just go right on winning.

I’ve read a couple of comparisons between this matchup and when the Giants faced the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS. A couple of similarities: Both the Phillies and Nationals had the air of invincibility going in. That sense that “this is the best team, by far, and this is their year.” And both teams were well-rounded: good starting pitching (remember the “big three” of Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt), good bullpen, and great lineup.

Some differences: This Nationals team has better overall starting pitching. They don’t have Halladay at his prime, but they do go 4 deep (there’s no Joe Blanton here). I also think the 2010 Phillies had a better lineup than this Nationals team, so maybe that balances out somehow.

The biggest difference, in my opinion, is that the 2010 Giants had Tim Lincecum at the height of his powers, a healthy and GREAT Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and then Madison Bumgarner was the 4th starter. Things are a bit different now. This Giants rotation could be up to the task. Certainly Bumgarner is as good right now as Timmy was back then. Jake Peavy has pitched like a healthy Matt Cain since he came over from the Red Sox. Tim Hudson could revert back to early season form (plus he has the nationals number apparently). And Ryan Vogelsong/Yusmero Petit/Tim Lincecum could combine for some magic. But, it sure seems like a bit of a stretch.

Nonetheless, here’s how the Giants could pull this off:

Game 1 is vital, in my opinion. Strasburg and the home crowd are going to be amped up at the start of this game. If the Giants can score early they could rattle Stephen and quiet the crowd. Plus I think Peavy is more comfortable front-running as well. The question of Game 1 is who will be Cody Ross. I think Brandon Belt is a huge key in this series. If he can hit a couple of home runs, life will be a million times better for the Giants. Again, early runs, get Peavy through 6, give the lead to the bullpen, lock it down, steal game 1. Giants win 4-3.

Game 2 is playing with house money at that point. I see the Nationals storming back behind Jordan Zimmerman who is their true ace in my opinion. Huddy battles but in the end his hip or whatever his issues are bite him in the butt. Giants lose 5-1.

Game 3 is vital no matter how all of this goes down. If the Giants are up 2-0, then here’s the opportunity to end it. If they are down 2-0, they can stay alive. If it is tied, like I think it will be, then they can take control here and make sure this thing never goes back to the east coast. Madison Bumgarner starts and in this current iteration, the Giants MUST win all of his starts. Doug Fister will go for the Nats and he is also really good, but can be had. This will be a close, tense game. Belt or Crawford, or maybe Morse in a surprise moment, will have a big hit that makes all the difference. Giants win 2-1.

Being up 2-1 allows Game 4 to become Bochy time. The Giants will start Vogelsong, and let him get all fired up and flare his nostrils, but they will play this like an elimination game, reminiscent of Game 6 in the 2010 NLCS against the Phillies. Petit and the rest of the bullpen will be called on in an instant. My guess is that Vogelsong’s adrenaline will get him through the lineup one time unscathed but he’ll run into trouble in the 4th. Then it will be mix and match from there. This could be the hardest game for the Giants to score runs, as Gio Gonzales is the only lefty starter for the Nats. This means the Giants lefty-heavy lineup will be at a disadvantage. The Giants will need to find a way to win 3-2. I’m thinking a  walk-off moment could be in the works.

If the Giants can’t get the win in Game 4 and the series goes back to Washington, they are in trouble. They will have used all their bullets at that point, and starting Peavy again (with Bumgarner waiting in the wings, probably) on the road does not bring me much confidence. They need to split the first 2 and then win both in San Francisco to get to the next round.

I will be out-of-town this weekend, so I hope to have some thoughts on where we are at up by Sunday night.

GO GIANTS!

-SB