World Champions Again. #SFGiants

Just a couple of thoughts, more thoughtful writings to come later.

First, go read Grant.

Second, the Giants just won a World Series without a number 2 starter (man did they miss Matt Cain in this World Series), without their best hitter hitting (no home runs for Buster Posey who I think played hurt, but still played like a boss), without their leadoff man and center fielder Angel Pagan (and as good as Blanco was, Pagan was missed at times, especially with the LF situation), and with several other roster question marks (Hunter Strickland, Tim Lincecum, Michael Morse, just to name a few).

Third, when all is said and done, Jeremy Affeldt is one of the great Giants of all time. I will fight you to the death on this one.

Fourth, remember when the Giants tried Dan Uggla at second base for two games. I LOVE JOE PANIK has been my mantra all postseason. So good. Can’t wait to watch him for several more years.

Fifth, my worst case scenario basically played itself out, and Bruce Bochy went in a different direction than I would have thought, bringing in Affeldt early. It was the right move. Then he went to Bumgarner for what he/we thought might be 2 or 3 innings. He never had to make another move. Sometimes the best move is the move you don’t make. Bruce Bochy for life, man. He’s the best.

Sixth, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval had GREAT series’ with their bats and gloves. They covered for Posey big time.

Seventh, the Royals are good. Hat tip to those guys. I’ve been hyping them to my KC friends (who are a cynical bunch) for two years and it nearly came back to bite me. But, they are good.

Eight, Brian Sabean cries every time. Without fail. He’s the best.

Ninth, Michael Morse will make you want to eat your hat. He also drove in the winning run. He was huge in his limited action this postseason. CobraPower.

Tenth, odes will be written to Madison Bumgarner. Boy names in the Bay Area are pretty much taken care of for the next year. There’s not much left to say. All I know is that what he did this postseason, from Pittsburg on, is the most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen in 25+ years of watching baseball.

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How the Giants Can Win Game 7 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

Score more runs than the Royals. The end.

Ha ha.

Take 2: Score a bunch of runs early off of Jeremy Guthrie. The end.

Ok, ok, seriously though. Here the best and worst case scenarios:

Ultimate Worst Case:

This would essentially be a repeat of last night where Hudson goes down in flames early and the game gets away from the Giants before anything can really be done about it. Chances of this happening 1%.

Worst Case Scenario:

Let’s face it. No matter what this is the LAST game of a WEIRD season. This game is going to be close and it’s going to be weird. It’s going to make you feel things. Bad things like your worst break up, and good things like the birth of a child (or the last time the Giants won the World Series).

Tim Kawakami posited his theory on how the bullpen will shake down today. Check it out.

Along those lines, the worst case scenario is that Bochy has to start thinking about replacing Hudson early. The chances are good that this will happen. A sinkerballer usually needs to throw about 20 pitches to really get it going. It might take even more for Hudson to get that “good tired” thing going given that this is FREAKING GAME 7 OF THE WORLD SERIES and the adrenaline will be pumping. If he can get through the first 20 pitches without damages, he could go 5 or 6 innings. But the first part of the game will make you barf so many times.

The question of this game is when will Madison Bumgarner make an appearance. Best case scenario is that he never has to come in, but Bochy’s got a dilemma here. Put him in too early, and you might be left with a MadBum shaped vacuum when he comes out. Wait too long and the game might have already gotten away from you. Have I ever mentioned that I am glad I’m not the manager.

Ok, back to the worst case scenario:

  • Hudson for 2+ innings.
  • Bumgarner to clean up a mess and get through the 4th (I think this is too early for this night to end well)
  • Petit/Lincecum to get through the 6th (If Lincecum is in this game something went really wrong)
  • Affeldt for the 7th
  • Romo/Lopez for the 8th
  • Casilla for the 9th

The problem with this scenario is two-fold: Bumgarner is in the game too early, and too much rides on Petit and Lincecum to get big outs in the 5th and 6th.

Chances of this happening: 49%

Best Case Scenario:

Again, the ultimate best case scenario is the Giants jump all over Guthrie, Hudson cruises through 7 and we all breathe easy and go to bed early (chances of this happening 1%).

The more likely best case would look like this:

  • Hudson for 5
  • Bumgarner for 2
  • Affeldt/Romo/Lopez/Casilla to get the final 6 outs

Chances of this happening: 49%.

Final Thoughts:

The Giants need 2 home runs. That’s what I’m calling right now. Hit 2 home runs and they win.

The Giants need Posey’s moment of greatness.

You are going to hear, ad naseum, about how road teams can’t win game 7’s. Here are Grant’s thoughts. One interesting insight from that article: the road team usually got out to lead and still lost. Don’t read too much into that. The Giants need to get a lead.

The Giants really don’t want to be down once the game turns over to the final third. BUT, they’ve more than held their own against Kelvin Herrera. They’ve made him throw a lot of pitches. He’ll come in throwing gas and just try to throw it harder and harder if he gets in any trouble. Patience will pay off here. Let him get frustrated. A 102 mph fastball outside of the zone is just a really fast ball (ha).

Furthermore, the Giants finally got to Wade Davis in Game 5, and he’s the one guy of the big 3 I really fear. That’ll boost their confidence. Finally, Greg Holland is one of the 5 best closers in baseball, but he’s been wild and he hasn’t pitched much recently. Again, patience is the key. They can get to him. I’d feel so much better if those guys were pitching to keep the game close and not to protect a lead, but they aren’t invincible.

I’ll say it again: they can do this. They’ve done this. Not in the World Series, but they’ve done this.

They can do it again.

Score more runs than the Royals.

-SB

3 Thoughts Before a HUGE Game 6 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

1. Madison Bumgarner.

What else is there to say? The last time I attended a game at AT&T, it was 2011. It was my birthday. Madison Bumgarner started. His how the first inning went:

  • Single
  • Double
  • Infield Single
  • Double
  • Single
  • Double
  • Single
  • Double
  • Strike Out (Pitcher)
  • Single

0.1 innings, 9 hits, 8 ER, 1 K.

Needless to say it was not a great game to watch.

But, I guess I’ll always be able to say I saw the worst game of Bumgarner’s career. This postseason performance is MadBum’s apology to me for having to watch that meltdown in person.

What’s really interesting to me about all of this is that after that game a popular MadBum theory was solidified. The idea was that Bumgarner was good but not great, and the problem was that his stuff lacked something. He didn’t throw hard enough, didn’t have a great out pitch, didn’t have that “thing” that separates the great from the merely good.

In particular, the idea was that Bumgarner walked a fine line: when everything clicked, his mechanics, his control, his stuff, he could put together an awesome game. But, he didn’t have the pure stuff to get around the games where he didn’t have it all working at the same time.

I heard the same thinking expressed on sports radio here in Boston before the Series started. He’s a good pitcher, but he’s not an ace, not great.

If you’ve been watching Madison closely since that day in 2011, you know he’s an ace. You know he has great control. You know he can strike guys out. You know he can make batters look foolish. You know he has great stuff. You know he can beat any other team’s ace on any given day.

You know he’s great.

He may not light up the radar gun (although the 94 he’s been sitting at this postseason isn’t anything to take lightly), but he’s as bona fide an ace as there is in baseball.

Remember when Matt Cain was the chosen one?

Remember when Tim Lincecum was the chosen one?

Both those of guys are great, and have had some INCREDIBLE moments during their Giants careers. But maybe it was really Madison the whole time.

2. Managers.

There are still no circumstances under which I would pitch Jean Machi if I were the manager of the Giants, but Bochy went to him in Game 4 in a very logical situation (he needed a pitcher to get 1 out before being pinch hit for).

Bochy did in that moment what great managers do: put their players in a position to succeed. He didn’t need Machi to go through the heart of the lineup in the middle of a tight game. He basically needed him to strike out an AL pitcher. Machi got it done.

I also would have started Michael Morse in Game 4, but having him off the bench was huge psychologically (plus Morse had a great at-bat to draw a walk as a pinch hitter). Juan Perez started instead and made a couple of great plays in LF that Morse would have NEVER made.

This is why Bochy is the manager. And he’s good at it.

Ned Yost hasn’t had an egregious error that clearly cost the team a game. In fact, my opinion of him has gone from liability to neutral.

But, Yost hasn’t figured out the final step of managerial greatness, which is putting his players in the best position to succeed. The Royals success has to do with the fact that they are very talented, and have some great options in certain roles.

Yost’s use of the bullpen in Games 4 and 5 demonstrated a lack of skill in some ways, but also reveal that the Royals have a significant talent drop off from the big 3 to everyone else.

That’s not Yost’s fault.

But, he also doesn’t do some of the smaller things Bochy does (like how Bochy used Machi in just the right spot) to take his team from an 9 to a 10.

3. The Great Players.

Pablo and Pence have been huge in the past two games. Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Juan Perez have had their moments.

I would argue that Yusmerio Petit and Jeremy Affeldt have been just as valuable this postseason as anyone, non-Bumgarner category.

But, I still think the Giants need/will get something great from Buster Posey before this all over. They need it. Remember he saved his World Series home run for Game 4 against the Tigers.

I also think, amazingly, that Tim Lincecum will have a moment, most likely tonight in Game 6, where the Giants need him to get a couple of outs. Can Timmy deliver?

  

No idea how this all ends. It really does feel like 2002 in so many ways, but these are not the 2002 Giants. These are not Dusty Baker’s Giants. If any team can figure out how to shut this thing down tonight, it’s these Giants.

Get it done tonight boys! Go Giants!

-SB

Pre-Gaming Game 3 #SFGiants #Royals #WorldSeries

Some intrigue before Game 3:

  • First, the lineups…the Giants go back to the NLCS lineup…this means 5 left-handed hitters. Left-handed hitters have Buster Posey type numbers against Jeremy Guthrie, so as nice as it would be to have Morse take a couple of at bats (plus his bat doesn’t play as well against the righty-heavy bullpen off the bench), you can’t deny the history there. The Royals are mixing it up quite a bit. No Aoki. Gordon in the 2 hole (he’s a great player, but not having a great postseason), Moustakas in the 5 hole (this is the big shocker, the dude hit 9TH most of the year), Jarrod Dyson in the 8th spot, and of course no Billy Butler. This decision gives the Royals more speed and defense, and ensures that if guys get on base they will running and bunting like crazy. It also means the temptation for Yost to meddle and get over involved in this game will be immense.
  • Second, the national media continues to harp on the Giants totally bullpen meltdown. The issue with the bullpen in Game 2 was not that the Royals beat the Giants bullpen aces. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The got to the Giants 6th and 7th options. The issue was with who Bochy chose, not with the bullpen (especially the core 4). If the Royals beat Affeldt, Casilla, etc then we’d really have a problem. Until then Game 2 was a bummer, but clarity providing bummer.
  • Third, it sounds like Tim Lincecum is available. This is either great news or ulcer inducing information. It also sounds like there is a slim chance that Bumgarner goes tomorrow in Game 4 on short rest. The only way I see that happening is if (a) the Giants lose, and (b) this game goes extra innings and the Giants burn Petit and Lincecum.

I’m heading out of town this weekend for a series of important meetings, so I’m not sure how much blogging will happen moving forward.

Until the next time. GO GIANTS!!!

-SB

3 Thoughts on Game 1 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

1. I’ll Take Bumgarner. I live in Boston and as I drove around yesterday, listening to sports talk radio, desperately hoping they would mention the WORLD SERIES, I finally got my wish during the last 5 minutes of an afternoon show. The guys discussed the “goodness” of the Royals’ story, shared their amazement at the Giants 3rd trip to the Series in 5 years, and wondered aloud about the lack of star power between these two teams.

Which is all fine. There are no Derek Jeter’s, Mike Trout’s, or Bryce Harper’s in this series. There are no Clayton Kershaw’s, or Felix Hernandez’s, or Justin Verlander’s.

One of the guys suggested that Posey is a “rising” star, and that this Madison Bomgardner (how they pronounced his name) was an ok pitcher, not really an Ace, but probably/maybe the best starter between the two teams.

I know that baseball is a regional sport at this point in time, and that guys in Boston may not know much about the Giants, but it is embarrassing that one could talk about sports as a profession and not know a THING about Madison Bumgarner, who is one of the five best pitchers in baseball right now. It’s unthinkable. I hope he gets to start again just so more people can see him pitch.

Of all the things that are amazing about Bumgarner (the scoreless streaks, the postseason wins, etc) this one takes the cake for me: He is STILL younger than Tim Lincecum was when the Giants won it all in 2010. Unreal.

Bumgarner did what he needed to do and more in this game. For the Giants to win this series they need(ed) to win Bumgarner’s starts, get out in front, and take the wind out of the Royals sails. This series could not have started any better for them.

2. Pence and the Law of Averages. One of the reasons I favored the Giants coming into this series is because the Royals have gotten above average play from almost everyone in their lineup. With the exception of Salvador Perez (who promptly homered last night) and Billy Butler, most of the Royals are hitting better than normal (especially in terms of power).

Now, the postseason is short and guys can get on weird power surges (hello Cody Ross), but one could reasonably expect the Royals to come back to earth a bit in this series.

On the other side, the Giants went 8-2 through the first three rounds with exactly zero home runs from the middle of their order. Posey, Panda, and Pence have all had nice enough postseasons, but no extra base hits for Posey and no home runs for any of them. Even though none of those guys is a true power hitter, it is difficult to imagine the Giants playing 14-17 postseason games and not getting a home run from any of those three.

Cue Hunter Pence. While I still fully expect to see some power from both Panda and Posey, Hunter Pence is the kind of player who when he gets hot, he gets ridiculously hot. Pence could carry the offense in a series like this. We’ve yet to see that in two postseasons with Pence, but it is entirely possible.

I’m not saying that is going to happen, but it easily could. And even if it doesn’t I do expect to continue to see these three guys get some big hits in this World Series.

3. Wherefore art Thou, Timmy Lincecum. I texted my dad after Bumgarner came out that we would see Timmy in this game.

We did not.

Which means that we now know, without a shadow of a doubt, why he is on the postseason roster. Lincecum is here because the Giants staff does not trust the 2-4 starters. He’s not here to be a 6th inning bridge. He’s not here to be a late inning strikeout weapon. He is simply an insurance policy.

Some people have criticized the Giants for using him in this way. Why waste a roster spot on a luxury insurance item when it could be used more practically? Why handcuff yourself to a 24-man roster, when you don’t need to?

Here’s a scenario for you, though. Let’s say, win or lose, Peavy pitches well enough to get through 6 innings, and Bochy doesn’t have to use Petit in Game 2. And let’s say that in the second inning of Hudson’s Game 3 start something goes terribly wrong: his hip flares up and he has to come out, or he doesn’t have it and he’s getting hit around the yard. Petit comes in and does his hero act, saving the day (and the bullpen) by pitching 4 strong innings.

That’s all wonderful, but he’s not going to be available the next day when Game 4 rolls around and Ryan Vogelsong’s got nothing left in the tank. Now where do you go? Jean Machi? Hunter Strickland in the 4th? Javy Lopez for a couple of innings? Nope. It’s Tim Lincecum time.

Again, the Giants don’t have enough confidence in their starting pitchers to keep Lincecum off the roster. They obviously hope they never have to use him, but they need him around just in case.

We know this because last night was the perfect time to give a guy a chance (in low pressure World Series situation) to show the team that he can be trusted in a bigger spot later on down the line.

Bochy gave that chance to Hunter Strickland (who handled it extremely well and demonstrated that against this lineup he is a great 6th or 7th inning option).

If you were wondering why Tim Lincecum is still here, now you know.

Looking Ahead: As good as we all feel coming out of Game 1, and we should feel good because that was the best possible outcome, the series changes dramatically today. From here until Game 5, the starting pitching matchups are very even and, especially for the Giants, very difficult to predict.

Will Peavy pitch like he did in Game 1 against the Nationals, or Game 2 against Cardinals? Can these old dogs make it more than two times through the Royals lineup?

The Giants starters are more likely to pitch like Bunmgarner did in Game 1 than any of the Royals’ guys, but they also are more likely to implode. We are dealing with volatile stocks here!

Hoping for good Peavy tonight, and more dingers!

Go Giants!

-SB

Trying to Predict the World Series #SFGiants #Royals

Here is the final chapter in this amazing postseason drama. I went 0-4 in DS round, but came back with two correct predictions in the LCS. I also continue to predict longer series than they turn out to be.

Which leads to the challenge in predicting the World Series. These two teams are so evenly matched it seems destined for the Series to go 6 or even 7 games (haven’t had 7 games since 2011, and before that since 2001 and 2002). However, both teams tend to grab a lead and never let go, so it is entirely possible that one team runs away with it in 4 or 5 games (though they would be close games).

I think the Giants should win the World Series. They have some decided advantages: the better manager, the true Ace in Madison Bumgarner, the once-in-a-generation player in Buster Posey (perhaps Eric Hosmer will be this for the Royals but even with his strong postseason he has a way to go to earn that kind of label, despite being drafted ahead of Posey).

They also have some subtle advantages. A lefty heavy lineup, a flexibility to their roster and bullpen that either the Royals don’t have or don’t utilize, and a wealth of postseason experience to pull from.

If the Giants are going to win the World Series I think they need to win it the way they beat the Cardinals: in 5, by staying a step ahead and constantly putting the pressure on the Royals to deviate from their game plan.

Game 1: Shields vs. Bumgarner. I wrote way back when this all started that the Giants must win every Bumgarner start, and then changed my tune for the Cardinals series. I’m back on this tune. James Shields is a very good pitcher, but this is the one match up where the Giants have a clear advantage. They must win when Bumgarner takes the mound.

This is a critical game for the Giants. The Royals haven’t lost. They win Game 1 and they continue to think they will never lose. Immediately put them in the hole, though, and the whole mindset of the Royals, and the complexion of the series, changes.

My guess is the Giants will be able to score some runs, maybe 3, and Bumgarner shuts down the Royals offense. Giants 3-1.

Game 2: Ventura vs. Peavy. Yordano Ventura throws hard and has good stuff, but he’s not as dominant as one might think. He will be at some point in his career, especially if he keeps his velocity, but right now he can be had. Peavy will be coming off a lot of rest and so should be good to go and feeling strong. Much like the Cardinals series, this game will go to the bullpens early and be there for the taking by either team. The Royals will pull it out, and pull even. Royals 4-3.

Game 3: Hudson vs. TBD. This will likely be Tim Hudson going against another wiley vet in Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie is the kind of guy who would be a good starter in the NL West. He doesn’t strike out very many guys, has twice led the league in loses (on bad Orioles teams), has allowed the most hits in the AL once, and is the very definition of slighty above average pitcher (think Zito in his best years with the Giants). In other words, he’s exactly the kind of guy who would give the Giants fits if he played for San Diego.

A couple of other factors to consider in this game. First, the Royals will be without Bully Butler. There is no room in the field for their portly DH so he goes to the bench. Even thought Hudson is not a great hitter, the Giants gain an advantage with the Royals subtracting a DH and adding the pitcher to the lineup. Second, this will be Hudson’s first World Series start. He’s going to treat it like it might be the last time he ever pitches. I think he will pitch well enough and the Giants will have one of their better offensive games of the series: Giants 5-3.

Game 4: Vogelsong vs. TBD. Once again we don’t know who will start, but in all likelihood the Giants are looking at facing off against Jason Vargas. And, just like the Cardinals series, I see this being a boon for the offense and early exits for the starters. Game 4 is Yumeiro Petit time. Once again, the advantage goes to the Giants here, with Petit bailing the team out for the third time. This could also be a walkoff game, so we’ll say Giants 4-3 walking off in the bottom of the 9th.

Game 5: Repeat Game 1 starters. The story of Game 5 will be Madison Bumgarner putting the finishing touches on a remarkable postseason run. He will put his home field issues behind him and drive the nail into the Royals coffin. In the end, the story will be that Bumgarner was too good, and the Giants never allowed the Royals to settle into their preferred rhythym of playing ahead and relying on the bullpen. Giants 3-0.

Having said all that, there is very little that could happen in this series that would be shocking. The Royals could sweep. The Giants could sweep. It could go the full 7. I don’t know! About the only thing that would surprise me is one team completely falling apart: bad starting pitching, no help from the pen, no hitting. I expect every game to be competitive, to be close and tense, and to add some more gray hairs to my head.

About the only constant this postseason has been the completely unexpected, so buckle up and get ready for a wild ride! I’m going with the Giants in 5 but look forward to all the twists and turns this series will undoubtedly take.

One Final Thought: Who is the key player in this series for the Giants? In many ways it is Madison Bumgarner because he’s the ace, and the one significant advantage either team has at its disposable. In many other ways it is Buster Posey because he’s the Giants leader, he plays such an important position and, again, is the one, true once-in-a-generation talent in this series.

But in a very practical sense I think the most important player for the Giants is Brandon Belt. The Royals are extremely dependent on their right-handed power pitching out of the bullpen. If Belt (or any of the lefty swinging Giants) can get hot and establish themselves as a dangerous presence, it will force Ned Yost to think about mixing and matching, rather than sticking to the script. And once you see Yost mixing and matching, then you know the Giants are in his head. Watch for that.

Go Giants!!!

-SB

WORLD SERIES #SFGiants #NLCS

It is going to take something really, really special to replace the Barry Zito redemption story on my list of favorite Giants’ stories of all time.

But, Travis Ishikawa.

Before he came up I tweeted this:

It is written…

Because, of course. It’s the perfect story: guy almost quits…guy gets picked up by old team…guy plays well…guy finally makes mistake…everyone remembers he shouldn’t be here…guy comes up with a chance to redeem himself and send his team to the World Series…and then guy hits home run.

I mean all he needed was a base hit. He also could have walked. We’ve appreciated the Ishi walk before.

Nope. Home run. Let’s go home.

It was written.

———-

Think about all your favorite Giants: Bonds, Kent, Aurillia, Snow, Thompson, Davis, Leonard, Clark, Williams, Burks, Alou. Go way back: Mays, Cepeda, McCovey.

None of those guys hit a walk off home run to send the Giants to the World Series.

———-

The Fox team went on and on (and on and on) about how awesome Wainwright was. And he was good. He had the curveball going and he used some trickery to keep guys off-balance.

But Bumgarner was good too. He retired the last 13 batters he faced. He bent but never broke. 15 1/3 innings, 3 runs.

And he’s the MVP.

———

You just knew Michael Morse was going to do something awesome, and he did.

My dad’s friend nearly caught the ball too.

Love that weird dude so much.

(Also, love that it was the left fielders, after so many years with THE left fielder, hitting home runs to win this game.)

———

Happy for Tim Hudson. 16 years, first World Series.

———-

Loved seeing Sabean in tears immediately after the game.

Loved Bochy quoting Harbaugh: “Nobody’s got it better than us.”

Loved the fact that these guys are celebrating like this has never happened before.

Act like you’ve been there before during the games, celebrate like it may never happen again afterwards.

———-

Bochy with the Giants: 8 postseason series wins, 0 loses.

———-

Joe Panik broke the home run drought. Of course he did. Another Giants’ second baseman doing something amazing in the postseason.

You just knew they needed homers.

———-

Brandon Crawford and Jeremy Affeldt saved the season. Talk about Morse, talk about Ishikawa, give the MVP to Bumgarner. They all deserve it.

But, that ball that deflected off Panda’s glove right to Crawford could have been a disaster. But, Mr. Smooth, Brandon Crawford, calmly caught it and winged a perfect throw to Joe Panik. HUGE out, huge play.

And then, Casilla had no idea where the ball was going, and it got really bad against Cruz. Bochy pulled him. Affeldt came in and immediately restored order.

One of the greatest Giants of all time: Jeremy Affeldt.

The door was slammed, and the stage was set.

———

Grant wrote earlier this week (after Game 2) that the Giants have lacked walk-off awesomeness in their postseason history. They proceeded to then do it twice.

I like walk off wins.

I like baseball.

That was awesome.

-SB

3 Question for Game 5 #sfgiants #cardinals #NLCS

Questions/Keys to the Game:

1. Can Madison Bumgarner get through the first inning unscathed? MadBum has not brought his first inning woes with him into the postseason, his only blemish being that weird 7th inning against Washington. But, during the regular season he was most vulnerable coming out of the gate, sporting a 5.73 ERA in the first, but under 3 the rest of the game.

If Bumgarner can keep a clean sheet through 1 then Giants’ fans can sit back, take a deep breath, and watch with just a bit less stress.

2. Can the Giants wear out Adam Wainwright? We will probably never know how badly “injured” Adam Wainwright is right now, but having to throw 50 pitches in the first two innings of Game 1 certainly didn’t help anything. If Wainwright can get through the early innings with minimal pitches and establish a rhythm he will give a great gift to his team. And to himself, because quick innings will keep the elbow from barking.

On the other hand, if the Giants can make Wainwright work hard from the get go, foul off tough pitches, get some baserunners, and prolong counts, it will be a short night for the Cardinals ace and the Giants can then get into the tired bullpen (and into Matheny’s head).

3. Who will hit a home run? Several sites reported today that the Giants could be the first time to win a LCS without hitting a home run since the 1990 A’s (weird). The only time it happened before that? 1919. This is a rare occurence. Part of me hopes they do it, because they are the Giants. Deal with it world.

On the other hand, a home run would be so, so nice. My guess is it will come from Buster Posey, who is locked in, but has no extra base hits. That seems destined to change. On the other hand, Hunter Pence has only hit one postseason home run in his career. Seems like that number needs to go up.

It would be great if the Giants won tonight. Go Giants!

-SB

How The Giants Can Win the LCS in 6 #sfgiants #nlcs

Before I break it down, a couple of thoughts:

  • Based on the results it sure looks like the Cardinals are a superior team to the Dodgers. Also, the Giants and Dodgers played each other straight up all year (10-9 in favor of the Dodgers to be fair), so, sure the Giants could have beat them in a seven game series. But man, if it doesn’t feel like the Giants caught a huge break in getting the Cardinals instead. The Giants have always struggled against Clayton Kershaw (apparently the Cardinals have no such issues), and Zach Grienke really had their number this year. Having to face those guys four times in a week was going to be a tall order. Plus there’s the whole rivalry distraction, the Puig/Bumgarner silliness, and the specter of Brian Wilson that no one has to think about now. Somehow, this series feels much more open and winnable.
  • Heading into the 2012 postseason the Giants were platooning X Nady and Gregor Blanco in left field. And then the Giants never faced a left-handed starter in any of their 16 playoff games, which means that Blanco’s glove (and bat) got a lot of time (really all of the time) during the championship run. Imagine if they had to play the Phillies (with Lee and Hammels) or any team with a left-handed starter. Either we’d mention Nady in the pantheon of heroes, or we might not be talking about the potential for a 3rd World Championship right now. I mention that because the Cardinals have nothing but right-handed starters. The Giants have a lefty heavy lineup. Relatively subtle things like this seem to end up playing a large role in the Giants’ success. Blanco (as well as Joe Panik and Brandon Belt) will need to come up big in this series.
  • Along those same lines, it appears that Mike Morse will be available and play in this series. Which raises the question: start him or save him on the bench? Bochy loves to go with what-is-working-right-now in the postseason. Travis Ishikawa hasn’t been setting the world on fire, but it’s worked so far. Morse is unknown at the moment, and having to get your timing back against Adam Wainwright is kind of cruel. BUT, the Giants will need to hit some home runs to win this series. So, do you keep starting Travis because it’s working, he is left-handed, he plays better defense than Morse, and because when Matheny brings in a lefty to mow down the bottom part of the Giants order it would be nice to have Morse around to pinch hit? Or, do you gamble that Morse won’t kill you in the field and can get a hold of one at a key spot? Three run home runs are going to be extremely valuable in this series. Watch carefully how this plays itself out.
  • The only player on the Giants’ roster to not make an appearance in the NLDS was Tim Lincecum. He didn’t even get the call in the 18 inning game. Something tells me, though, that he could play a role in this series. Look for Lincecum to have a Barry Zito moment before this one is done. (UPDATE: Grant thinks it’s a bad idea to have Tim on the roster).
  • Finally, as if you didn’t have enough reason to root wholeheartedly for the Giants, the Cardinals will feature two of Giants’ fans least favorite players: John Lackey and A.J. Pierzynski. Also, Matt Holiday. Good grief.

How the Giants can win in six (by the way, SI and McCovey Chronicles also pick the Giants in six…not sure what that means):

  • Game 1: Wainwright vs. Bumgarner. If I were a fan of some other team, say the Mets, I’d still love to watch this game. There’s been a lot written about “not-the-Cardinals-not-the-Giants-again,” but this kind of pitching matchup is what makes baseball awesome. Watch and enjoy world. As I see it playing out, unless Wainwright really is broken, game 1 and game 5 are coin-flips. It really could go either way, and it will probably be something weird that changes the game. I think the Giants will win game 1 because Bumgarner seems to do better on the road, but lose the rematch at home (see below). I’ll say Giants 3-2.
  • Game 2: Lynn vs. Peavy. My guess is that the Cardinals really wanted Peavy at the trade deadline, but the Giants beat them to it and the Cards had to settle for Lackey. That makes me smile. The Giants have destroyed Lance Lynn in each of the five times he’s pitched against them (including 2 starts in the 2012 NLCS). However, this year’s version of Lance Lynn is better than previous versions. Again, I see this being a coin-flip. This time the Cardinals will prevail to even the series as it heads to the Bay. Cardinals 5-3.
  • Game 3: In the NLDS preview I wrote that the Giants MUST win every Bumgarner start. In this series I actually believe that does not apply. The reason for that comes down to the crucial games 3 and 4 matchups. First, the Giants haven’t announced who is starting yet (well-played Boch). So some of this is a shot in the dark. Second, both teams had surprisingly successful starts in the first round from the likely starters in these games. My tendency is to trust the Giants’ results more than the Cardinals. I think Tim Hudson is more likely to repeat his performance than John Lackey, and Ryan Vogelsong than Shelby Miller. Third, I think Bochy will not start Petit (or Lincecum, ha ha) in these games and have a very short leash with the starters and bring one (or both) of them in if needed. I do think Lincecum could have a moment here, at home, saving the day in a big game. I see Game 3 being Lackey vs. Hudson, with Huddy out pitching the other old dog and the Giants getting a modicum of revenge for the 2002 World Series. Giants 6-3.
  • Game 4: Miller vs. Vogelsong. With the Giants up 2-1 I see Bochy turning to Vogey who certainly earned the right to get another shot with his Game 4 performance in the LDS. Again, though, with a short leash and a call to the ‘pen as soon as trouble starts. I think both starters will be solid the first time through the order, and so who can manage round 2 will be critical. I think Vogelsong will adjust, but Miller will struggle. The bullpens will be called earlier than usual, and the Giants will fight and hang on in a close, tense game. Giants 4-3.
  • Game 5: As I said before, Bumgarner vs. Wainwright, assuming Wainwright is healthy, is a coin-flip. For some reason Bumgarner struggles more at home. Plus, I just don’t see the Cardinals going down in 5. In a very close, low scoring game, the Cardinals prevail and send it back to St. Loius. Cardinals 1-0.
  • Game 6: Lynn vs. Peavy, round 2. Much like the 2010 NLCS, the Giants will miss a chance to clinch at home and have to go on the road to finish it off. Much like 2010, they won’t mess around with a game 7 and they will get it done here. I see Peavy pitching the game of his life, spitting and yelling, and the Giants good mojo against Lance Lynn will once gain prevail. Giants 4-2 (for the 4-2 series win).

One final thought: despite what I just wrote, I see this series being much more fluid than the last round. There will be a million twists and turns. Unlike last time I don’t see any “must-win” matchups for the Giants. I think they have a fairly good chance in every game (no Jordan Zimmerman’s here). Undoubtedly this will be a wild ride, I hope we are happy with the result on the other end!

-SB

3 Thoughts on 18 Innings, Sweeps, and Young Players #SFGiants #NLDS

1. There’s nothing that I could say about Game 2 that hasn’t already been said. Also, I think I mentioned before that Brandon Belt hitting home runs would be important:

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.

And it is a million times better. However, as I was watching the final innings unfold, I thought to myself: the Nationals need this more than the Giants. It’s not that I didn’t want the Giants to win or that losing would have been ok, but in terms of crushing loses this hurts the Nationals more than the Giants. Winning Game 1 and hanging around for so long in Game 2 (even without the win) means that the Giants are way in the brains of the Nats.

Plus, I think I also mentioned something about Matt Williams:

Matt Williams is a rookie manager, and only 4 times has a rookie manager won a World Series. The last one to do it, of course, was another ex-Giant, Bob Brenly, whose team won in spite of him, not because of him. Loved Matt Williams as a third baseball in the black and orange, but he might be a liability.

This is the other part of the mind game: Matt Williams has to overcome his mistake, and may try too hard to do that, thus making another mistake.

2. I stand by what I wrote earlier: all Madison Bumgarner starts are MUST wins for the Giants. I know they have three chances to pull this off, but a win today means series over, for one, and the opportunity to rest and line things up for the next series. It also means no Ryan Vogelsong, no more bullpen stress, no more innings for Posey to catch, and no more chances for something dumb and weird to happen. This is a must win game.

3. I’ve been wanting to write the article Alex Pavlovic wrote yesterday for some time. It bothers me that the Giants are always so low in the prospect rankings. The reality is, they are low because their prospects are making an impact in the major leagues. If the Giants continue on in these playoffs it will be because of Peavy, Pence, Hudson, Affeldt, Petit, Casilla, etc. But, it will primarily be because of the contributions of Panik, Posey, Sandoval, Crawford, Belt, Romo, Strickland, Susac, and Bumgarner, among others, who are home-grown players making an impact now (not at some point in the future). There is this perception that continues to linger from the Bonds’ era that the Giants suck at drafting and always go with old guys. They have some of those old guys (more on this later), but 14 of their 25 players currently are from their farm system. Which is beautiful, and bodes well for the future.

-SB