Category: Baseball

Catching Up With the Giants

I set out this year planning to post about every Giants game the same day it was played or at least before the next game was started.

That didn’t last long. Life has a way of messing with plans.

Since my last post, then, the Giants have notched two wins against the Dodgers, routing them 12-6 in the home opener Thursday. That one goes solidly into my “won with hitting” column. Last night in a drippy game that my friends Vicky, Mary Ann and Sue attended together, the orange-and-black pulled out  a 4-3 win over their SoCal nemesis. That one goes into the “decided by pitching” category. The G-Men managed just two hits in the game. Of course, both of them were homers, but still.

So the Giants went into today’s game 4-1 atop the NL West. My tally so far says three of their games have been decided by pitching, two by hitting, which still runs counter to my pre-season prognostication.

Like I keep saying, the season is young.

😀

 

Why is Bochy Hitting Pitchers in the Eight Hole?

Giants manager Bruce Bochy is trying a relatively new (for him and the Giants) tactic this season by having his pitchers hit in the eighth spot rather than the ninth as tradition dictates. Why is he doing that?

If you have a really keen memory, you’ll know this isn’t the first time Bochy has done this. But it is the first time he’s set it as an ongoing tactic. So far, he seems to like what’s happening.

The idea is that with a loaded lineup like the Giants have this season and with four-way competition for the leadoff spot, moving the pitcher up gives the ninth spot a chance to be at bat with runners on base a tiny bit more often. It’s a really minor change, but because of the really long history of pitchers batting ninth (even The Babe hit ninth because that’s where pitchers belong, dammit!), it’s an attention getter.

So has the tactic borne fruit over the years? According to this analysis, not really. At best, the changed lineup may produce an extra 1-3 runs over the course of a season. It is remotely possible that if it did make a three-run difference and you won all of those games by a run, it could loom larger than it seemed.

 

Dodgers Open on HIstoric Note, Bring it to ATT Park for Giants’ Home Opener

Tomorrow’s home season opener for the Giants against their arch-rival Dodgers has all the earmarks of a fascinating game with historic overtones.

LA comes into town having racked up three consecutive shutouts to open the season against the hapless San Diego Padres. That marks only the second time in MLB history that a team has accomplished that feat.

I predict that streak will come to an end on Thursday. Jake Peavy has a great record against the Dodgers over the course of his career, holding a 14-3 record against them while building up a sterling 2.38 ERA against them.

Meanwhile, several of the Giants’ hitters have great records against LA’s starter, Alex Wood. Posey, Pence and Crawford are a combined 7-for-12 against him and his only appearance against SF was as a reliever. Just to make things interesting, the projected starting lineup for the Dodgers is a combined 8-for-68 (.118) against the Giants’ starter. This includes oh-fers by Chase Utley (14) and Yasiel Puig (7), two of the mainstays of the LA offense.

I smell a Giants win in what will probably be a bit of a one-sided game. Say 7-2.

 

Pitching, Hitting Both Fail as Brewers Deny Sweep

Jeff Samardzija got off to a rocky start for the Giants today (Wednesday, April 6), yielding solo scores in each of the first three innings as the Giants dropped the final game of the season-opening three-game set to the Brewers, 4-3. Needless to say, the offense was pretty anemic as well, thanks in large part to the mystifying pitching of Taylor Jungmann.

Samardzija gave up eight hits, one of them a homer, over 5-1/3 innings and never seemed to settle into the game. He compiled a 5.06 ERA for his first appearance as a Giant after signing a $90 million free agent deal in the off-season.

Duffy crushed his second homer of the season, a 417-foot bomb in the third that temporarily put the Giants up 2-1.

Still, Samardzija only gave up three runs and didn’t get the decision, so I’m declaring this game lost due more to offense than to pitching. That makes my record so far this season 1-2 in games decided by hitting vs games decided by hitting.

The season is young.

Giants, Led by Cueto, Win a One-Run, Low-Scoring Gem

On Tuesday, April 5, the Giants took the second game of the season-opening three-game series at Milwaukee behind a sterling pitching performance by the newly acquired Johnny Cueto. Cueto pitched seven strong innings, giving up six hits and striking out four while not walking a batter. So this is the first game of the year that was won by pitching, as compared with the season opener which the Giants won at the plate.

So far on the season, my prediction that hitting would be more important than pitching to the G-Men’s season is on a dead split. Of course, we don’t have enough data points yet but I’m sticking with my early prognostication.

The Brewers allowed the Giants’ winning run in the fourth by not playing their infield in in a situation where the speedy Panik was able to race home from third while Pence was tossed out at second and Duffy reached on the FC. They probably figured they’d have a lot more chances but Cueto seemed to get stronger after that. Romo got a hold and Casilla a save.

 

See? I TOLD You it Would Be All About Offense!

The Giants won their season opener at Milwaukee today by a score of 12-3.  They banged out 15 hits including four home runs.  In the eighth, with two out, Span, Panik and Posey went yard back to back to back, the first time that had been accomplished on Opening Day since 1997!

Meanwhile, Bumgarner, who notched the win, had a bit of a rough outing, yielding 3 runs over the minimum 5 innings for a starting ERA of 5.40. More troubling, he walked 5 while striking out 6 and serving up two round-trippers

The Giants left seven runners in scoring position but still managed a RISP of 4-for-9, a respectable .444 average.

Span knocked in 5 of the runs and Duffy collected another 4.

All in all, a good offensive performance, albeit against the puny Brewers.

 


 

Here Are My Opening Day Thoughts About the Giants

go_giantsTomorrow is Opening Day!

Having returned to full strength just in time for the 2016 baseball season, I am donning anew my prognosticator’s hat, dusting off my sports writer’s jersey, and trying on a chest protector as I resume my long-time habit of offering my thoughts on the San Francisco Giants and the 2016 season. I hope all 10 of my loyal readers enjoy the ride. 😀


Injuries Be Gone!

The G-Men have just finished their best spring training in years from the perspective of injuries They begin this year with zero players on the DL. That’s not only amazing, it’s crucial to their chances.

It’s beyond doubt that one of the biggest single contributors to the team’s 2015 performance was injuries. Key players were injured at critical moments and on the DL for far too long for the team to have a realistic expectation of post-season success.

This year, not only are the Giants healthier coming out of Arizona, they’ve also made a significant staffing change, adding a full-time physical therapist to their staff. Tony Reale, who’s been with the club for 10 years but has heretofore held forth in Arizona dealing strictly with rehab chores, is now with the team full-time and will travel with them as well. PT is about more than rehabbing an injury; it’s also about preventive maintenance. Reale’s primary focus will be on the premium-priced pitching staff but he’ll be available to work with other players as well. I expect his presence and his expertise will have a salutary effect on the team’s injury picture in 2016.

Good move, Larry (Baer) and Brian (Sabean)!


Offensive Power and Speed Will be Featured

The Giants’ starting pitching rotation was beefed up during the off-season with the signing of two pricey free agents, Johnny Cueto and Mike Samardzija. Cueto signed a 6-year, $130 million deal, all of which is guaranteed. Samardzija inked a five-year, $90 million deal. For those of you who are math-challenged or stunned into unconsciousness by those numbers, that means the team has sunk almost a quarter billlion into two pitchers.

In early Spring Training, the entire rotation — including returning stars Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain — seemed pretty weak. Things improved in the final week and could bode well for the team.

The Giants had a huge 6.37 ERA, second worst in the MLB, gave up 222 runs (second worst), handed out 43 homers (fifth worst) and compiled a puny .394 winning percentage (sixth worst).

On the offensive side, things were much brighter. The team’s batting average (.287) was the fifth best in all of baseball, and the orange-and-black rang up 203 runs (second best) while compiling a .351 OBP (fourth best). While homer power was a bit lacking (39 for 11th place), it wasn’t terrible.

One of the biggest surprises of the spring for me was the measly 23 stolen bases in a surprisingly small number of attempts (27). That was good for 11th place in the final tally, but with three alleged speedsters in the lineup, I was disappointed in Manager Bruce Bochy’s failure to send more runners.

So it might be the Giants Secret Weapon this year is to distract opponents with their stellar pitching roster — on paper anyway — and sneak up on them offensively.


So What About the Season?

I think the team will be more offensive minded than it has been in recent years, that it will see a significant drop in the number, severity and impact of injuries, and that it will make the playoffs, though more likely as a wild card than as a division titlist.

That said, it is always pitching that determines a team’s fate in short series and for that reason, I’m doubtful the G-Men can rack up another World Series appearance, let alone win.

 

Giant Updates: They Fill Left Field Strongly; Lincecum to the Pen? Not So Fast!

Two posts on San Francisco Giants’ news today.

First, they picked up a terrific free agent prospect in the person of Nori Aoki from the KC Royals. He’s a solid .280-.290 hitter with great legs and an above-average highly accurate arm for AT&T Park’s left field expanse.

Second, I had to disagree with some current scuttlebutt around the blogosphere that already has Tim Lincecum exiled to the bullpen for all or part of 2015. I make the argument he’s not as bad as he’s seemed at times and that he’s capable of making the necessary adjustments to become at least a solid starter again.

Read both posts over on my all-sports blog.

My Top Three Giants Assumptions All Turned Out to Be Wrong

In my second Hot Stove League post of this post-season, I speculated about the Giants’ off-season plans. I started that post by saying, ” Assume for the moment that the Giants re-sign Panda, replace Romo with Strickland, and lose Peavy.”

None of those things happened.

Read the full post at my new all-sports site.