Category: Baseball

Giants in World Series Again But So Are the Once-Hapless Royals

An incredibly busy week has kept me from posting anything this week. That’s the first time that’s happened in a long time. Did you miss me? Didn’t think so.

I’ve been spending most of what little unscheduled time I was able to muster this week watching my San Francisco Giants crush the St. Louis Cardinals, thus earning their third trip to the World Series in five years. Well, okay, “crush” is a bit strong. Over the course of the five games, the Giants outscored the Redbirds 24-16, which is an average of 4.8 to 3.2 for an average winning margin of less than 2 runs per game. So “crush”? Maybe not. But out-played? For sure. And, I think, out-toughed is another appropriate description. Last night’s Game 5 was a perfect microcapsule. When the Giants had tied the game, the Cards came to bat in the top of the ninth and had runners on 1st and 2nd with one out, and runners at 2nd and 3rd with two out and failed to score. In the bottom of the inning, the Giants got to runners at 1st and 2nd with one out before Travis Ishikawa hit his magical homer. Just guts.

nlcs_celebrationCardinal third-baseman Matt Carpenter said after the game, “It wasn’t meant to be. Look at the way this game unfolded. We were inches away from taking the lead (again). That’s the way the series has been going. It wasn’t meant to be for us.” And that resignation to fate — the Giants were also inches away from taking the lead again…and they did…– may be as good an explanation as we need of why the Giants are headed to Kansas City and the Cards are headed elsewhere in Missouri.

The Giants out-hit the Cards .253 to .233 and reached base more often (.330 to .298) although the Cards led in Slugging Percentage (.423 to .355) and the highly touted On-Base Plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) by .721 to .685.

On the mound, San Francisco’s team ERA was a respectable 3.20 vs the Cards’ fairly dismal 4.57. Strikeout-to-walk ratios were pretty close (SF 32/13 and StL 27/19) and not very impressive. (Stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com.)

But at the end of the day, the Giants won 80% of the games played. Nuff said.

Interesting Tidbits

In my post-game reading, I stumbled across a couple of interesting items I haven’t seen mentioned in many places.

  • Michael Morse

    Michael Morse

    Barry Bonds was on hand for the playoffs and is still finding ways to help the Giants. Michael Morse gave Bonds partial credit for his game-tying homer in the bottom of the eight. Morse told SF Gate, “Barry came up to me and told me, ‘Get your foot down. You can’t hit if your foot’s in the air. I really thought about it. I went to the cage trying to get my foot down early.” When his pinch-hit opportunity arrived, he was ready. Foot down. Ball over left field wall. Tie game.

  • As far as I can tell, MLB.com was the first news outlet to use the word dynasty to describe the G-Men, who are appearing in their third world series in five years. (Every even-numbered year as if to help take our minds off the numbing run of election news). The article by Anthony DiComo attributed the Giant’s run of success to the ability of the team to keep a core of solid players together when other teams are juggling players and roster spots like an out-of-control clown. At least that was reliefer Jeremy Affeldt’s opinion, which DiComo cited with approval in his piece. Dynasty. I sort of like the ring of that.
  • Cardinals fans and media are second-guessing Manager Mike Matheny’s decision to give the ball to Michael Wacha for that fateful final inning. Wacha hadn’t thrown a pitch in more than a month after an injury but had been asking and asking and asking to get into the post-
    Travis Ishakawa

    Travis Ishakawa

    season. When he did, he looked pretty terrible. He gave up a leadoff single to Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, got Hunter Pence on a routine fly, then walked Brandon Belt. After Belt gave way to pinch-runner Joaquin Arias, Wacha missed the first two pitches to Ishakawa before serving up the inevitable 2-0 fastball. Ishakawa parked it on the arcade high over the right field wall and it was over. Well, it was almost over. Giants pitcher Jake Peavy thought the ball had stayed in the yard, meaning Ishakawa had a walk-off double to score the winning run. So he went out and met the Giants’ outfielder between second and third and almost tackled him. “Move!” Ishakawa said to his stunned teammate, “I hit it out!” LOL

  •  No sooner was the champagne dry in the SF clubhouse than the national “Hate the Royals” bandwagon began to pick up steam. Beats me why. They’re making their first appearance in the World Series in 29 years and only their second in franchise history. It’s not like they’re the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Dodgers — teams everyone loves to hate because they’re “national” and obnoxious. They’ve not been a very good team historically. My money is on the Giants to make them look like the relatively weak team they were most of the season. But, hate? Seems a bit strong. This piece on Medium.com sort of summarized the roiling national feeling; I expect to see a lot more of this. I prefer to be pro-something than anti-anything so I’m just going to settle for a quiet, mild-mannered..

go_giants

SF Giants Boast Biggest Lead in Baseball. What Are They Doing Right?

sfgiants_logo_3_SFMy San Francisco Giants have an eight-game lead in the NL West tonight. That’s the largest lead of any division leader. Their .650 winning percentage is also the highest of any team in Major League Baseball. (Interestingly, second place goes to their cross-the-Bay rivals, the Oakland A’s, who are a .623 and six games in front in the AL West.) Both teams are on pace to win 100+ games this year. But of course the season is only just over a third in the bank, so it’s way too early to prognosticate.

So what are the Giants doing right? They’ve had a number of key injuries, which should have slowed them down or hurt them, but none of that seems to have mattered. As i’m wont to do, I took a traipse through the MLB stats this evening to get a clearer handle on the reasons the G-men are doing so well.

baseball_statsPitching is and has been their strong suit. They rank #3 in all of baseball with a team ERA of 2.98. Perhaps more tellingly, they are second in WHIP (baserunners allowed per inning) at just 1.15.

Timely hitting has been a watchword of the season to date. With runners in scoring position (RISP), the Giants place a somewhat mediocre 19th at .246. But with two men out and runners in scoring position, the G-Men are a phenomenal .281, good for second place in the MLB. So their rep for a never-say-die attitude toward every game situation is well deserved.

They rank 4th in homers (68; Colorado is #2 at 78); tied for 7th in runs with 263; 9th in slugging percentage (.407); but only 19th in batting average (.245; only San Diego is ranked lower in the NL West and they’re dead last in baseball), and a pretty dismal 25th in on-base percentage at .308.

Those stats profile a team that doesn’t score many runs but doesn’t need to because their pitching staff is stingy as hell; a team that gets hits when it counts; a team that can go long but sometimes has trouble getting guys on base. In short, a somewhat spotty, streaky team. Whether this will stand them in good stead over the remaining 100 or so games remains to be seen.

But for now, they’re keeping a good combination recipe going as they have won 7 of their last 10 games and have avoided long losing streaks all season.

(I’ll take a look at some individual stats in the next day or two.)

Despite Dropsies, Giants Win a Doozy of an Opener

The San Francisco Giants played keep=away with the baseball Monday night in winning their season opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-8.

The game featured 28 hits, 17 runs, 10 pitchers and way more than the three errors the homer official scorekeeper saw fit to hand out. On at least three occasions, the scorer gave D-backs hits when the Giants should clearly have been charged with an error. And that doesn’t take into account the mental mistakes the Orange-and-Black committed time after time. A nicely slimmed-down Pablo “Panda” Sandoval booted two plays at third that were just awful. On one, he overthrew first-baseman Belt’s head by about 10 feet. On the other, he booted a chopper that he had in his glove, allowing the runner to end up safely at first. On the latter, the locals scorekeeper blew it and gave the hitter a hit rather than charging Panda with a clear miscue.

Perhaps I don’t need to say more than that the Giants had Arizona superstar Paul Goldschmidt in a clear rundown between first and second and let him off the hook when first baseman Brandon Belt made the dumbest in-your-face (literally) toss to shortstop Brandon Crawford as Goldschmidt slid unbelievingly — and safely — into second. One of the dumbest plays I’ve ever seen in major league baseball play and I was around to watch the 1962 Mets!

Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner

Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner

Giants Reliever Jean Machi

Giants Reliever Jean Machi

The SF bullpen was weak, particularly third-year man Yusmeiro Petit, who yielded six hits and three earned runs in two innings of work and looked…well…pathetic. I thought manager Bruce Bochy left starter Madison Bumgarner in too long by at least an inning. (MadBum used up more than 50 pitches through the first three innings as he just didn’t have it.) Winner Jean Machi looked fairly sharp but closer Sergio Romo was not up to snuff as he nearly blew the two-run lead the Giants took into the 9th.

As is so often the case when the Giants win, Buster Posey was the difference as he crushed a two-run homer in the ninth that gave the Giants a 9-7 lead. Belt was the only Giant with more than two hits (3).

Strangely, although Monday was officially Opening Day in Major League Baseball, the Diamondbacks came into the game 0-2, having dropped two weirdly scheduled opening games to the Dodgers in Australia more than a week ago. That was one of the dumbest scheduling decisions I’d ever seen and I’d frankly forgotten about it. I kept wondering why the D-backs hitters’ stats were showing “this season” tags when this was Opening Day. I need to get out more.

The G-Men are in Chase Field for the next three days before skipping through LA on their way to their home opener next week. Last year when the Giants opened with four in Arizona, they got swept. At least that won’t happen. But if their D doesn’t get a lot sharper, this could be a long, long season.

 

Happy New Year! (Otherwise known as “Opening Day”)

Happy New Year, everybody! Yippee! Wahoo! Awwwwwwwwright!

That is to say, “Happy Opening Day of Baseball Season!”

I am really stoked about the 2014 Major League Baseball season because:

  1. San Francisco Giants LogoMy San Francisco Giants will almost certainly contend for and could well win the National League West despite a very strong balance in the division and a powerful LA Dodgers’ presence.
  2. Since I’ve now all but retired from business, I’ll have time to watch nearly as many of the 162 games this season as I can get on my cable service (or at a local sports bar, comes to that).
  3. I have a new baseball buddy to watch with, which makes it like four times as much fun.
  4. The pace of baseball suits my new semi-retired lifestyle.
  5. Did I mention my Giants will be hot?