Second Half Predictions

The Giants picked up the second half right where they left off: Johnny Cueto underwhelmed, they still can’t win a MadBum start, Samardzija is ever the enigma, and the offense kept sputtering right along.

There’s not much to review here, but it was great to see Madison Bumgarner back! That start was the best case scenario for all involved: several innings, quality performance, no high stress pitch counts…quite frankly it was a game a good team would have won.

Rather than dig any deeper into that, or into fantastical scenarios that will never happen, let’s make a few predictions about the second half:

  • Giants predictions: the only bold prediction that is mildly interesting to make here is that Brandon Belt will hit 30 home runs, the first to do it since some guy named Barry. Other than that: the Giants will make some trades and hope to get some bounce backs from the Crawford’s and Moore’s of the roster. On to the rest of baseball.
  • The Cubs will be fine. My big second half baseball prognostication is that the Cubs will win the Central. Then they went out and won 3 straight games by the combined score of 27-11. They’ll be fine. The NL postseason is going to be a blood bath.
  • The AL pennant race is going to be interesting with so many teams in play still, but it’s all a prelude to the Astros steamrolling their way to the World Series.
  • Aaron Judge is awesome, but he won’t hit 50 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s rookie HR record.
  • I should be picking the Dodgers to win it all, but I can’t do that and so I’m going to get all sentimental and pick the Dusty Baker National’s to win the whole thing.

A couple more thoughts on the World Series. MLB seems to obsess far too much over who gets into the WS and it’s impact on ratings. It’s stupid, but to close out this week’s post, here is what Rob’s crew has to be rooting for:

  1. Dodgers and Yankees (two iconic franchises and some serious star power).
  2. Cubs and Red Sox (the Epstein series)
  3. Dodgers and Red Sox (similar to 1)
  4. Dodgers and Astros (especially if they hold up their best records in each league)
  5. Cubs and Yankees
  6. Nationals and Yankees (especially as a potential preview to Bryce Harper’s future team)

What they are probably NOT rooting for:

  1. Milwaukee and Minnesota
  2. Colorado and Kansas City
  3. Arizona and Houston

Or some combination of those teams.

Baseball monk prediction: Nationals over Astros in 6

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3 Thoughts on Winning the NLDS #sfgiants #nlds #2014playoffs

1. Ryan Vogelsong is magic. I tweeted before the game that I thought Vogelsong had at least one more moment of greatness in him, and then he came through with a really good start. I thought if he could get through the lineup one time it would be huge and he gave even more than that. He has to start again. Petit is too good of a weapon in the bullpen.

Bochy is magic too. I know manager’s don’t have as much influence on the game as fans tend to think, but a large factor in this series was Bochy’s experience (now 8-0 in playoff series with the Giants) versus the inexperience of Matt Williams. You’ve got to wonder how the Nats might have fared under Davey Johnson in this series. Asked after the game why he went with Thornton and Barrett in the 7th instead of Clippard/Strasburg/Stammen, Williams said “all year long they’ve been our 7th inning guys.” The key phrase there was “all year long.” You cannot play the postseason the way you play “all year long”. Bochy adjusted, Williams did not. That’s one way to neutralize a more talented roster.

2. I incorrectly predicted every LDS. And I’m totally fine with that. No Tigers, no LA teams, and the Giants are still in it. Yes, please. Not to make excuses, but coming into the playoffs I honestly had no idea what to do: the Angel’s ace was out, Detroit’s bullpen sucked, the Dodgers seemed vulnerable after their two aces, and the Nationals had to play the Giants. This is one of the most wide open postseasons in an era of wide-openness. Anything can happen.

Subthought: the Giants will need more offense to beat the Cardinals. Some good news: the Cardinals don’t have a rotation like the Nationals. One of the reason the Giants struggled to score runs in this series is because the Nationals starters are really good. Runs should come a little more easily this time around. Also, Michael Morse could return, which could mean dingers or a lot of bad swings at sliders in the dirt.

3. For the fifth year in a row either the Giants or the Cardinals will represent the NL in the World Series. In fact, can you guess the last team represent the NL who was not the Giants/Cardinals/Phillies? It was…wait for it…the Rockies. Whoa.

In the last five years the Cardinals have won 30 playoff games, and the Giants 26. That’s the top 2 teams.

A complete list of NL entrants to the World Series since the new collective bargaining agreement era began in 2002: Giants, Marlins, Cardinals, Astros, Cardinals, Rockies, Phillies, Phillies, GiantsCardinals, Giants, Cardinals, Cardinals/Giants.

The Cardinals have been doing this for 20 year now. Many people think of the Braves and Yankees when they think of long runs of greatness by a baseball team. The Cardinals are in that discussion and, I would argue, at the top of the list for impressiveness. What they have done/are doing is unreal.

No matter how it goes down it is old blood versus new blood in the World Series.

More thoughts on the next round coming soon.

-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

Thoughts and Predictions for the DS #MLBplayoffs

1. Tigers vs. Orioles. These teams are mirrors of each other. Baltimore hits home runs, plays great defense, and has a stellar bullpen. Detroit has the THE STAR and the starters. This is going to be the ultimate test of postseason theories: do you need strong starting, defense, bullpen, or home runs to win?

  • Prediction: Tigers in 4. The Tigers will not win the world series with that bullpen (we’ve heard this story before), but they have more than enough to get past an Orioles team that lacks dominant starting pitchers.

2. Angels vs. Royals. The Angels have the best record and offense in baseball. The Royals bunt and steal all the time and have the best bullpen in the postseason. Will this be bedlam in KC or Mike Trout’s national coming-out-party?

  • Prediction: I want to pick the Royals so badly. I really, really do. Oh, I want to pick them. In fact, a couple of months ago when I was sketching things out, I thought they might have the best path to the World Series in the American League. That, though, was based on them winning the division, which they did not do. Furthermore, that game against the A’s revealed just how clueless Ned Yost can be. Sometimes, and it is rare, a manager can help win a series, usually they are fairly neutral, and there are some times where they are an all-out liability, and I fear that is where Yost is. Yikes. Angels in 4.

3. Dodgers vs. Cardinals. Of course they are playing each other, which means, if the Giants get through they will have to play their long-standing mortal enemies (the Dodgers, just in case you didn’t know), or the team Giants’ fans have learned to hate in recent years (the Cardinals, mostly for being the Cardinals). And even if the Giants don’t make it through it means one of these teams will play the Nationals (who we will then hate) in an absolutely awful NLCS. This is the most detestable of all possible matchups.

  • Prediction: Mattingly is horrible, the bullpen is shaky, and the non-Kershaw/Greinke starters are a major liability. Plus Puig will do something stupid at some point. Otherwise the Dodgers are basically unbeatable. The Cardinals had a surprisingly bad offensive season, some shakiness in the rotation (that seems to have been shored up), and are here mainly because the Brewers faded so badly. And yet, they are the Cardinals, the team, other than the Giants, most likely to play flawlessly in October. I won’t be the least bit surprised if the Cardinals win this series, but I’m going with the Dodgers in 5.

4. Giants vs. Nationals. The Nationals are the best team, in my opinion, top to bottom in this tournament. So, of course, the Giants get them in a short series. Awesome. That being said, the only result here that would be shocking to me is a sweep by either team. Mostly, though I just don’t see the Giants laying down. It’s going to go 5 either way. I’ll have a bigger preview tomorrow morning, but for now a couple of silver linings for the Giants: the Nationals have a lot of right-handed starting pitching. They are really good, so that part stinks, but the right-handedness plays into the hands of a lineup that is heavy lefty right now. Second silver lining: 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.

  • Prediction: The Nationals are too deep to go down to a Giants team lacking Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, and Matt Cain. Nationals in 5.

-SB

State of the Nation(als)

This has been a year of ups and downs for the good ole Nationals.  Yesterday obviously changed the course of their season and really stirred up this town.  If you haven’t heard yet, Jim Riggleman resigned abruptly after the team beat Seattle.  What makes this more interesting, is the team just got above 500 and they are on a tear (winning 11 of 12).  Let me argue the both sides of this decision.

First, let’s look at this from Rigg’s side.  During the course of his career, he has been a part of a lot of smaller contracts.  He has never signed the “big one” and probably wanted the opportunity.  He had just gotten his team above 500, and I’m guessing, thought now was a time to make a stand.    He has stated that he only wanted a conversation about his contract and Mike Rizzo (VP of something) wouldn’t give him a chat.  Super freaking duper.  Suck it up and coach, Riggs.  I don’t get this move at all. You signed the contract in the first place, now you need to coach under it.  If he would have performed all year-long, I’m sure he would have been signed to a longer deal.

Let’s now look at this from the National’s perspective.  Mike Rizzo doesn’t owe Riggleman a conversation about his contract mid-season.  Yes, Riggs was performing decently, but the Nationals are building something great… if not scary for the rest of the division.  Lets add some more color to that thought.  We all know about the massive contract for Jason Werth and the electric stuff of Stephen Strasburg.  The latter comes back at some point this year and Bryce Harper looms as a scary threat.  That brings us to this year’s draft where the Nationals had the #6, #23, and #34 picks in a very deep and strong draft.  All of this is to say that the Nationals are legitimately poised for something good.  They need and deserve the right manager.  Riggleman could have been that manager, but they needed to be sure.  I don’t fault them for not re-signing him mid-season, I actually applaud them.  Riggs blew it.

Some genius baseball monk stated before the season that the Nationals should be about 500 by midseason and then fall back.  They look like they should make his prediction true.  Let’s see how they perform under interim manager John Mclaren.

(-JS)

*editor’s note: the Nationals hired Davey Johnson to replace Riggleman today.

The National

Yesterday I had the joy and privilege of watching our fabulous Giants live in DC. This gave me my first opportunity to see this team live since 2008. That is a large drought!

I wanted to point out a couple of things as I watched our team that don’t appear in the normal stat line. The first thing about that game was it was weird. There was 9 walks and 3 HBP allowed by the Giants. That’s 12 free baserunners and they only scored 1 run. Amazing. Apparently that is the first time in the live ball era where a team has been issued 12 free bags and scored less than 2. Odd ball stat, but I like it.

There are a couple of fun quirks that I enjoyed about this team. Watching Tejada play third was interesting. HE MOVES A LOT! He is either stretching, practice swinging, or doing sprints. It was fascinating. Another interesting thing happened on every bunt attempt. He would sprint in to play the ball and when they pulled back or missed (they never actually bunted it to him) he would raise his finger and shake it. It was reminiscent of Mutumbo when he would block someone and shake his finger. It was genius and quite funny. You could tell he still has fun playing the game even if he is at third.

Another interesting thing to see was the fan’s reaction to Brian Wilson. Since he always comes into stadiums during commercial breaks, you never get to see how the crowd reacts.  The biggest reaction the fans had to anything was when he came out of the left field bullpen.  The place went nuts. All the Giants fans went crazy and the boos were ridiculous. I loved it. I guarantee that Wilson loves it too. Fun to watch.

The demographics in the stands were a little surprising to me. There were so many Giants fans. Holy cow! I didn’t feel like a minority at all. I have been to plenty of games in other stadiums and felt like a tool for wearing a Giants hat. Not here. I’d say that 25% of the stands were Giants fans. That isn’t an exact stat, but just try to prove me wrong. It was bizarre. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the number of fans. I’m not sure if they are all band wagon fans that jumped on after the World Series, but I like fans that have been through the hard times. Now, no Giant’s fan is a bad fan, it was just a weird feeling. It’s probably what it feels like being a Yankee or Red Sox fan, but it was a unique experience for me.

If you’re ever in the DC area, you should try to get out to the park. It’s a really fun place to watch a game. The fans are great, the stadium is very nice and the ticket prices are really good. We sat in the club level which may have been a mistake because I think I spoiled my wife. She loved the padded seats, the separate bathrooms and indoor “classy” food court.  Overall, it’s a great experience and I’d highly recommend it.

I also recommend that the Giants win every day.

(-JS)