Saturday, April 30, 2011

When the going gets tough...

Sometimes, it just gets a lot tougher.

So, after just wondering earlier today about some underperforming players on an underperforming offense, in comes the news that one of the very few (read: two) bright spots for the Giants offense this season, Pablo Sandoval, is going to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken bone in his wrist*.

The Giants recalled Ryan Rohlinger to replace him on the roster, but there just isn't replacing Panda at the plate. This makes the Mark DeRosa injury more prevalent, too -- not much good going on nowadays with the Giants, their third basemen, and their wrists.

For that matter, the injury situation for the Giants so far this entire season has been pretty bad, hasn't it? Although there's no one on the DL for "gettin' old", this is one of the perils of carrying an older roster -- there's bound to be an extra injury or two here and there.

*varying reports on whether it's technically his hand or wrist, as first reported by that infallible source of sports news, ESPN.com. Duane Kuiper says hand, so I'm going with hand.

Any day now, Huff

It always sucks to have a black hole in your lineup.

Get it? Suck? Black hole? Ah, never mind.

In any case, for NL teams, there's pretty much always at least one of those in the #9 hole, as the pitcher must come to the plate and lay down a sacrifice bunt or flail away at 90mph fastballs.

What sucks is when you have more black holes than the one you'll already have, doing what it does best -- suck.

To this point in the season, the Giants have the obligatory one, and two more on top of that in Miguel Tejada and Aubrey Huff. For obvious reasons, we're going to be more patient with Huff than we are with Tejada -- reasons like: 1) Huff was very good last year, whereas Tejada was not, 2) Huff, while not a spring chicken, is a younger feller than Tejada, 3) we like Huff-Daddy, while we tolerate Miggy, 4) trusting Huff over Miggy can save us 15% or more on car insurance.

But the simple fact is, they're both hurting the team badly right now, and they've done it by being anemic at the plate and, at times, shaky defensively. There isn't much to be done about it -- Huff is an everyday player, and was the Giants best hitter and very useful defensively with his ability to play both 1B and corner OF spots. With Tejada, there just isn't anything behind him that would be appreciably better.

But as we're about to finish the first month of the season, these two are currently a large part of why the Giants aren't doing well right now. The offense ranks near the bottom of the NL, and that's not only much too reminiscent of the first part of last season, but it also stands to cripple the Giants chances of making the postseason this year.

While it is still early, 1/6th of the season is still a good barometer of how good teams might be. And if teams like Colorado, Philadelphia, and Florida are anywhere close to as good as their records currently are, the Giants can't afford to lose games in April if they want to sniff the division title or wildcard.

(actually, if those teams are as good as their records, the Giants can forget about 2011, because they aren't winning 67% of their games this year)

On top of this, the Giants are right in the midst of an opportunity -- while playing on the road, they are playing against beatable competition, and have to take advantage of this.

They're not out of it, or even on the brink just yet, but there definitely should be a sense of urgency about the Giants hitters, because right now they're the main reason that any run they could make at contending for a division title or wildcard will be much, much harder to pull off.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Huh, go figure

Today's game has to be a bit surreal for Ryan Vogelsong.

He's making his first start since coming back to the big leagues for the team that traded him away, against the team that traded for him.

Also, I am not a fan of afternoon baseball in the East that starts while it's still morning out West.

So far it looks like Vogelsong isn't doing too badly, although only throwing 18 strikes of 37 pitches through two innings isn't good. Luckily, the Giants are finally scoring some runs -- including one on what seems to have been a double steal.

Hey, whatever works at this point, right?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

It is fun to watch Darren Ford run

And that's really all there is to it. Whether it's on the basepaths or in the outfield -- heck, it's almost fun to watch him get picked off -- it's pure excitement to be able to see him go flat-out and hit 5th gear.

I'm not going to delve into how it's possible to get him more playing time, because that would involve things like an injury to Aaron Rowand and make things scary for the Giants outfield depth. It would also mean he'd get to hit in normal situations, and we'd likely see a guy giving the old 110%, but someone who is overmatched by big league pitching.

But whenever possible, whenever there's a chance to score a tying run or take a lead late in a game, Bruce Bochy should throw Darren Ford into the game. You could just see how his presence unnerved the Pittsburgh Pirates, and that can be a valuable commodity.

I'm also not going to speculate on what moves the Giants could make later to keep Ford around, because I tend to think a couple of games of him wreaking havoc on the basepaths and making what normally would be a double look like a can of corn shouldn't change what the Giants will do when Andres Torres returns...which would be to send Ford back to Fresno.

But my goodness, it is certainly a ton of fun to watch him run...son*.

*channeling RUN-DMC*

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hello, Pirates, it's SO nice to see you

Especially after getting swept.

I'm of the mind that the Atlanta Braves are a pretty good team, and as such their 8-12 record prior to the series with the Giants showed they were a little unlucky (they were 3-6 in games decided by 2 runs or less before playing the Giants, a mark that still stands).

While it wasn't good luck that led the Braves to the sweep, I think the thought that the Giants were swept by an inferior team is definitely erroneous. The Braves are pretty good, and the Giants didn't play well.

The next 10 games will be telling for the Giants -- they're all on the road, but they are against teams that aren't good in the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, and the New York Mets. I think the Giants will want at least a 6-4 record coming out of it; anything worse will start a lot more "What's wrong with the Giants?" talk, and given that the Colorado Rockies also play against weaker teams, going 5-5 or worse will probably see them drop another game or two behind the division lead.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pace

Not the picante sauce, although of course I appreciate that it's made in San Antonio and not New York City.

Are the Giants about where they should be at this point? Well, I'm really not sure, so let's ask the Magic 8 Ball.


Well, there you have it. And any who would like to argue about the veracity of this can contact me directly. I won't reply, and in fact won't even acknowledge that you've dared to question this most scientific means of gleaning answers from the universe, but still....give it a shot.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Walk-off home runs

...and, sometimes, walk-off with t-shirts. Or, at least try...

CS: M Leake (1, t-shirts by Macy's/Cincinnati PD).

I don't think anyone will mistake Cincinnati Reds pitcher Mike Leake with Winona Ryder or Lindsay Lohan, but here's another case of someone arrested for theft while making a salary that most of us would run naked through a swarm of bees while covered in honey to make...

...or, is that just me? Never mind.

In any case, Leake pitched well enough as a rookie in 2010 that one would think, "Okay, this guy could carve out a number of years in the majors and make a good amount of money...as long as he doesn't run around like a klepto stealing cheap t-shirts before games."

The real question in this is; why didn't Dusty Baker send in Francisco Cordero after Leake got arrested? I mean, this was a save opportunity, right? Typical bullpen mismanagement by Dusty.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Very, very cool

The whole win vs. the Rockies was very cool, of course, in all facets. But I'm going to focus on a quote from Pat Burrell after the game in reference to the no-hit bid by Tim Lincecum, because it was very, very cool:
Burrell said he went to manager Bruce Bochy and begged to be taken out, figuring he was a defensive liability in left field late in the game.

"I went in and talked to Bochy and said, 'Listen, I'd hate to be the guy that doesn't get to a ball that somebody else might catch,' " said Burrell, who was replaced by Darren Ford in the middle of the seventh.
Usually I don't take much stock in things said post-game, since they're usually players giving clich├ęd answers to tired questions. But I thought that was good stuff. So hats off to Burrell...and his cartoon-ish .333 IsoP.

Besides that:
  • Freddy Sanchez's pop is an interesting byline to his very good early season start. He's not going to SLG .500+ all season, but at the moment he's more of a threat at the plate than at any point I can remember in a Giants uniform.
  • Aaron Rowand has been almost literally feast or famine at the plate. His 13 games played so far are made up of: six multi-hit games, four 0-fers, two pinch-hit appearances where he went 1-for-1, and one inexplicable game where he didn't go bonkers or suck -- he went 1-for-4 that day.
  • The Rockies gave Pablo Sandoval about 9 games worth of walks in one game with the 3 walks issued on Monday (well, 9 games worth for Panda, at least).
  • Welcome back, Ryan Vogelsong...it's like you never left. And never mind that's because you didn't actually leave -- you were traded, out of MLB for a few years, came back, and it wasn't like you were all that well-known when you were traded anyway. Still though, it's like you never left.
  • Retraction: whole win vs. the Rockies wasn't very cool -- Miguel Tejada is starting to get on my nerves. Badly. It isn't that I don't think he can perform better, but I'm just seeing too many histrionics from him after his outs. I know to a degree he's an emotional guy, but there's only so many times you can be demonstratively angry with yourself, an umpire, or your batting helmet after making an out. We get it, Miggy, that's not what you wanted to happen. Let's move on, okay?
And another note on Miggy -- it's still early, but he's currently seeing under 3 p/pa at 2.97. He's never been a particularly patient hitter, but that's running almost half a pitch worse than 2010, which was his lowest recorded p/pa of his career.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bigger fish...er, snakes...to fry

Hm...actually, make that rocks. You can fry rocks, right?

The Giants loss today to the Arizona Diamondbacks is one of those losses where you realize, despite what you so fervently may want, it's hard to sweep just about any major-league baseball club. The Diamondbacks won't be good this year, but they've got some good players.

Flying to Denver to face the Colorado Rockies, it's definitely time to throw out a ton of fluff and rhetoric about how either this is a very important series to "make a statement", or how it's still a bit too early to worry about anything short of a Rockies sweep.

You never want to predict any pitching duels for games played in Coors Field, but the pitching matchups are all extremely interesting, especially now with Ubaldo Jimenez slated to start in the second game of the three-game series.

Here's some things I'm going to say, preceded by a small dot:
  • I think the collective fanbase of the Giants let out a bit of a sigh of relief after the Aubrey Huff home run. Yes, he still remembers how to hit them.
  • If Aaron Rowand keeps hitting something like he is currently, there'll be an interesting dynamic to things once the Giants get everyone back healthy. Cody Ross and Andres Torres will return to a complex situation if Rowand's hitting well, and Pat Burrell and Brandon Belt are still struggling. I don't think it should really change whatever plan Bruce Bochy had in place already, assuming he had one, but it probably will.
  • Here's to hoping Panda stays somewhere in the middle of the order. A lot of his hits in the first bunch of games were dinks/dunks, but he's squaring up the ball more often now. He's a natural fit to hit 5th. Hey, that's kind of catchy...
  • Guillermo Mota has been stupidly valuable so far this season.
And, lest anyone have forgotten, I'll repeat myself -- Rockies = scary.

But, you know, screw 'em anyway. Go Giants!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Anyone else tired of the Rockies?

I am. They're starting to sca...

Okay, they always scare me, but their road record (7-1) is what I don't like most. They're also pitching very well to this point even without Ubaldo Jimenez contributing much besides a poor start...where it was revealed he had an injury that probably was the cause of that poor start.

The only person on their staff that's pitching anything close to poorly is Jason Hammel -- which actually makes me a little less scared. I have severe doubts that their entire staff is going to have a good/great year, so they do have a rough pitching patch in their future. But they are maximizing their return on this stretch of good pitching, and there's no reason to believe they won't continue to score about as well as they are now (5.6 runs/game), so I'm not exactly predicting a losing streak...just saying they'll likely come to a point soon where the wins will be harder to come by.

All that being said, though, I don't think they're ready to win the division 13 games into it, as Christina Kahrl is hinting at with the title of, "Rockies poised to win first division title". To be poised to do something that takes 6 months to do after 8% of it is finished seems a bit premature, to me.

They're playing well, and they're scary. But I don't think we should anoint them NL West champs just yet.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Watching train wrecks

Great win by the Royals today, but that's not the thing for me at the moment.

Rather, this is: http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/steigstory/04-10-2011-Steigerwald

The author of the putrid piece of trash is John Steigerwald, and his opinion, apparently, is that the beating of Giants fan Brian Stow was the fault of Mr. Stow himself for daring to wear a Giants jersey to a game at Dodgers stadium.

You can read the article, but can't comment any longer, because of "due to overwhelming response, comments for this article have been closed". So, what you can do instead is go here and let the publication know what you think of Mr. Steigerwald and the article -- even up to and including e-mailing or calling the editor:

http://www.observer-reporter.com/OR/ContactUs/

UPDATE: I've created an online petition for the firing of Mr. Steigerwald. It is here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/firejohnsteigerwald/

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This was it!

This was the inspiring win we've been waiting for! Here's why:

  • The Giants had 4 wins, now they have FIVE (5)!
  • The Giants creeped back to within one game of .500! Just like they were before Monday's game!
  • They stormed into 4th place in the division!

I mean, what more are you asking for!?!?


What, you want real reasons this win was inspiring? Oh, alright, fine:

  • Brian Wilson looking like Brian Wilson, unlike the Brian Wilson that pitched those other two games that sure looked like Brian Wilson, but couldn't have been...you know...Brian Wilson.
  • Brandon Belt...doin' stuff.
  • Buster Posey...doin' stuff.
  • Timely, two-out RBI's...as opposed to poorly timed two-out RBI's, I suppose, whatever those are.
  • Come-from-behind victories against the Los Angeles Dodgers are always inspiring, period.

Feels good, doesn't it? (I'm not talking to you, Melsh)

Sidenote: I made the mistake of listening to Bip Roberts for a second post-game, and was rewarded with a chortle-inducing comment about Aaron Rowand, where Bip confessed that he's been amazed by Rowand "every game".

He had a great game, Bip, and I'm so, so happy for him...but...his 0-4 vs. the Dodgers the game before didn't amaze me in the slightest. You're at a here [.......................], Bip, and we're gonna need to you bring it down to a here [...].

Monday, April 11, 2011

Roger Dodgers

Despite what we all think (yes, including me), this series against the Dodgers really only has relevancy if one or the other team sweeps. The standings don't mean much yet, and both teams are chasing the Colorado Rockies at this point, anyway...if you can even call it chasing at this point of the season.

But I was interested in what the Dodgers have been doing on the way to their 5-4 record (minus the bit about taking 3 of 4 from the Giants to open the season, of course). Melsh hasn't told me, and besides, he's a Dodgers fan, so I can only reasonably expect him to tell me lies, damned lies and statistics, anyway -- and what would that prove?

Well, the lies and damned lies, at any rate. The statistics...those might mean something, even from a Dodgers fan. So here's what I've noticed, starting offensively:
  • Matt Kemp: Oof. There isn't anything he isn't doing right now. Scary. Maybe if we ignore him, he'll go away? Let's try that. Vulcan mind-meld in 3...2....1...
  • Andre Ethier: Not hitting for power, yet, and he's striking out quite a bit...but other than that, Oof Light. Anybody up for a re-enactment of the Tonya Harding scandal, with Ethier playing Nancy Kerrigan?
  • Tony Gwynn (Jr.): I've just realized that despite him asking to have the Jr. dropped, I don't think I can ever do it. 'Cept if he keeps hitting like this: .350/.381/.450. He won't, of course, but he's had an impact.
  • James Loney & Juan Uribe: Scufflin', and really overall, despite the efforts of the gentleman above, so is the Dodgers' offense.
So if the Dodgers' offense is struggling (and they are at about 3 runs/game), how have they won 5 of 9? Well, they're 4-1 in close games (decided by 2 runs or less), for one, but really it must be about the pitching, right?
  • Clayton Kershaw & Hiroki Kuroda have been very good out to this point...Kershaw took a tough loss in Colorado that was really about his offense not scoring rather than how well he pitched.
  • The Dodgers' bullpen has been pretty good...I'd love to see a radar gun battle between Mike MacDougal (former Royal...ugh, 2003) & Jonathan Broxton. Broxton hasn't been striking people out thus far, but has accumulated 5 saves.
  • Chad Billingsly has struggled some, as has Ted Lilly and John Ely in their starts.
What I'm seeing at this point is that the Dodgers are walking a bit of a thin line -- they're riding great early season performances by about 6 players and translated it into .556 winning percentage.

It won't hold up, not like this, but while those 6 players are going to cool off some, they have a bunch of other players that won't continue to struggle. Here's to hoping for team-wide Dodgers struggle for the next 3 games, then they can go about losing in different ways.

Go Giants! =)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

There's your courtesy game, St. Louis

Thanks for flying out -- I'm sure the Giants wouldn't have wanted to be ungracious hosts and let you leave without a victory, so there you are.

I mean, sure, it looked more like Kyle Lohse just shut the Giants down and the Cardinals took what was rightfully theirs, but meh...semantics.

As this was not, by any means, the Giants' best offensive lineup and Barry Zito had one of those games he's bound to have every few starts, I'd file the results under "not surprising". The important thing is that San Francisco won the series, and the fact that I could have very well skipped watching this game and done some housework instead is irrelevant.

But really...I should've at least done some laundry or something. I wouldn't have missed much.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Miguel Tejada, master of HBISWTIMBO

I was pretty down on Miguel Tejada Friday night.

Although the Giants won that game, I couldn't understand why he would bunt in the bottom frame of an extra-inning game when a home run would win it, he does still have home run power, and...he had hit a home run earlier in the game.

It seemed tantamount to the kind of idiocy I wouldn't expect from a veteran player on a veteran team. However, given tonight's game, he was obviously setting us up to unleash his skill in the area of: HBISWTIMBO.

Hit
Balls
Into
Strong
Winds
That
Induce
Miscommunication
Between
Outfielders

Not exactly sure what happened between Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus of the Cardinals while the ball was in flight (probably heavily influenced by the strong winds), but towards the end of the play it looked like Jay was going to go for it and Rasmus was going to let him -- then Jay saw Rasmus had the better shot at it, pulled up, and Rasmus was a beat late in noticing. Rasmus then got a bit anxious and botched the play.

To me, the ruling that it was a double is kind -- I'm sure Rasmus himself, along with everybody else in the park would generally think it's a play that would usually be made, tough or not.

But that would miss the point of things -- it was a really, really nice at-bat from Miggy. It was obvious Ryan Franklin and Jadier Molina were determined get Tejada out on the outer half of the plate, but Miggy spoiled enough of those pitches where they were forced to mix it up on the inner half a couple of times as well. Miggy was ready for what ended up being the payoff pitch (10th of the plate appearance, I believe), and jumped on it, but either just didn't get enough of it or the winds knocked down what could have been a home run on another day.

Still, he did what he could, and that was enough...he hit it well enough in the gap that both Cardinal outfielders had to hustle over, and then all the other factors contributed to a botched play and a Giants win.

I'm not sure what Tejada will end up doing this year as far as productivity goes, but that effort definitely deserves to be applauded.

Other stuff:
  • Aaron Rowand suuuuure is swinging a hot bat! Oh, wait, that was before this game, where he ended up looking just like he looked last season. He played a good CF after Torres went out, though.
  • Pat the Bat is finding ways to contribute, but he's currently striking out at almost a 1-in-3 clip. Sort of hard to raise that .160 average when about once or twice a game you just aren't putting the ball in play.
  • Matt Cain was terrific, but I tell you this much -- I'm very, very glad the Giants seem to be catching Albert Pujols at a dull roar (annnnnd here comes a two HR Sunday for the Machine...).
I'll hope that Andres Torres's Achilles injury isn't too bad...his defense is huge on this club. I'm having stressful visions of a Rowand, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell starting outfield, although perhaps Bruce Bochy will mix things up a bit with days off in order to get a few starts for Nate Schierholtz.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Can we do anything except laugh?

About Manny?

It's not a rhetorical question -- I just really think there can't be any discussion on the man that doesn't involve making as much fun of him as possible. Let me know if you think this is untrue. =)

Bloomquist at Leadoff? Good call, Gibby!

A week ago, I poked fun at Kirk Gibson for putting the poor man's David Eckstein, none other than Willie Bloomquist, leadoff in the opening day batting order. Not only has Gibby looked like a pure genius, he has validated my complete lack of prognostication skills.

What has Bloomquist done in the mere five games he's led off?
  • Batting .348, OBP of .400.
  • Hit safely in every game
  • Stolen a base in all but one game
  • He has 5 stolen bases. The other four teams in the NL West have stolen 8 bases.
  • Hit his first ever home run to lead off a game
  • Knocked at least one runner home in three of five games
  • Struck out only twice
  • Put up an OPS of .922
This was the year that I decided I'd win my NCAA March Madness pool by sticking with favorites and picking #1 and #2 seeds to make the Final Four, so Willie should thank me for writing my last piece about him. These results were bound to follow.

Enjoy today!

I've always wondered what it's like for the visiting team when they play a game in the World Series champs' home park the day their rings are being handed out.

There's jealousy, obviously, along with, perhaps, an extra helping of resolute determination (to be repeatedly redundant). The St. Louis Cardinals will probably have a few thoughts today like...

"That's going to be **US** this year!"

"If they did it, why can't we?"

"...did I lock my keys in my car? And boy, those rings sure are shiny."

I've never been a fan of the notion any particular team just "knows what it takes to win" -- I think every team starts off every game trying to win, and some kind of mix of execution, talent, and luck will determine a winner. All the labels we like to heap on teams usually come after the fact, while folks try to figure out exactly why this team won and the other didn't.

Personally, I don't think it's ever quite as complex as we make it out to be -- one team was better on this day, so they won. I can believe that David Eckstein is as scrappy a ballplayer as they come, sure, but if the situation is he's got to get a hit vs. Jonathan Papelbon in the 9th inning to win a game, I'm going to place my bet on the skill of Papelbon over the pluck of Eckstein every day and twice on Sundays, and I'd be smart to do so.

But, of course, Eckstein would always have a chance, however slim, and he's going to try his hardest -- and he just might do it, too. That's the beauty of the game, to me, and that's why numbers and stats appeal to me (although not to the Sabermetric level).

Each time a guy steps to the plate, the odds are against him getting a hit.

Each time a pitcher gets into some kind of jam, like runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, the odds are against him getting out of the inning unscathed.

Yet, they try, and sometimes they succeed.

Last season, the Giants tried and they succeeded, and today they'll receive a physical manifestation of that effort in the form of a really shiny, expensive ring. After the rings are handed out, they'll play a baseball game vs. the Cardinals where both teams will be determined to win, and one of them will.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Plate appearance by plate appearance, inning by inning, game by game, until at the end of the season we look around and perhaps, just maybe, many will point to the Giants again and say something like...

"Boy, they just know what it takes to win!"

Enjoy today!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paul Splittorff would approve...

I decided to make like a banana and...

...peel?

Well, yeah, but we're not here to talk about my dermatology problems, are we?

Split. Yes, that works better.

I'm going to shift any and all Royals-related stuff over here: Royal In Exile. The main reasons for this are: 1) I wanna, 2) I'm gonna. Besides, I figure it'll work better to not muddy my own waters and separate the material.

Nobody's gonna stop me from running two mediocre blogs at once...no sirree, Bob.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Panic button?

Nah, of course not...

...although, I must admit it'd only take a small motion of my pinky to reach it.


















In any case, the point of this; look at the standings.

There's not much to see yet, with everyone only playing 4-5 games, but in case you don't know what to look for, I'll list it for you:

Boston Red Sox: 0-4
Detroit Tigers: 1-3
Oakland A's: 1-3
Tampa Bay Rays: 0-4
Milwaukee Brewers: 0-4

And of course, we have the Giants at 1-4.

What do these teams have in common? Well, all of them were picked in some capacity to either win their respective divisions or grab a wild card by a ton of "experts". Now, far be it from me to laud the blind-ish guesses these folks make, but for all of the things they miss (*cough* Giants 2010 World Series champs *cough*), most of the time they're close enough to right to warrant a mention.

Do we really think all of those teams will follow the trends of their current records and not make any noise whatsoever in 2011? Lemme just answer "no" for you. In that same vein, of the teams on that list that right their ship and contend (and it's possible they all could), why couldn't one of them be the Giants?

I'm not even going to bother with much analysis of anything until: 1) there's a large enough sample size to indicate a trend, or 2) I truly believe what I'm seeing is indicative of the Giants' potential. At this point, I don't think either #1 or #2 have occurred.

But boy, sure would be nice if these guys scored some runs, huh?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mota, Casilla, or Ramirez?

The Giants will have a decision to make when Brian Wilson returns from injury. The decision will be, who to keep? Or, if your glass is half full of emptiness, who goes?

There's some debate going on at my favorite Giants spot, McCovey Chronicles, over this very thing. Of the three, perhaps four candidates to go when Wilson's beard appears in the bullpen again, I'm a little puzzled by the comparisons for three of them.


What we have are different folks fixated on a particular one of them, with the thought that the particular one they're fixated on should go. Thoughts (and stats) have been thrown around to support the arguments, but I find myself a bit confused as to what evidence supports one choice over another (at least strongly).

While it's tempting to do a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately-in-a-Giants-uniform sort of angle to this, I think it's important to look at a body of work...or, in other words, an entire career. Casilla's 2010 for the Giants was very, very good, Ramirez's was acceptable, and Mota's was tolerable (barely). But with relievers' seasons tending to be chaotic in terms of results from year-to-year, how else can we project what they might do other than looking at what they've done over their careers?

Onward, I say. Let's compare career numbers for them in a few telling reliever categories:
  • K/9 - Mota (7.1), Casilla (8.1), Ramirez (7.4)
  • BB/9 - Mota (3.5), Casilla (4.4), Ramirez (3.7)
  • K/BB Ratio - Mota (2.03), Casilla (1.82), Ramirez (1.98)
  • WHIP - Mota (1.27), Casilla (1.48), Ramirez (1.26)
  • H/9 - Mota (8.0), Casilla (8.9), Ramirez (7.6)
  • HR/9 - Mota (0.9), Casilla (0.9), Ramirez (0.7)
  • OPS Against - Mota (.697), Casilla (.747), Ramirez (.667)
If I had to look at those numbers and pick the best pitcher of the three, I'd be inclined to go with Ramon Ramirez.

Mota's numbers are slightly better in a couple of categories, but he's 37 years old and going to get worse, not better.

Casilla, again, had a wonderful year for the Giants last year, but it was his only wonderful year, ever. He's 30, so his control issues and the fact that opponents have found a way to hit pretty well off of him for the majority of his career is something I would expect to happen to him again...perhaps this very season.

Ramirez is 29...he was acceptable last year, although his K/9 and OPS against suggest he had a decent dose of luck to go along with his skill. Still, his numbers the previous years support a much better K/9 and a strong tendency to not get hit much and/or hard, so while his fastball may not get into the mid-90's and he doesn't exactly have an arsenal of out pitches, he's gotten results for a long enough period of time that I wouldn't mind having him on my ballclub.

So, all things being equal, if I had to pick someone to go, it'd be Casilla. However, since he did indeed have spectacular results for the Giants just last season, it comes back to this -- the three of them are equal enough that if we're just talking the 2011 season, none of them are significantly better than the others.

Subtle nuances of misdirection

I just felt like making a post title that really made no sense, but sounded cool. Won't stop me from trying to make it make sense, however.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that most are blaming the Giants' 1-3 start on poor defense. While I don't necessarily disagree, what I'm seeing is that of the three losses, two were one-run losses, and the third was a winnable game.

Also, other things crop up:
  • This was a road series against a team that stands a good chance of being a tough opponent. Were this 1-3 vs. say, the Astros, I might be a tad bit more worried.
  • Defensive problems with things such as misplaying an almost-catchable ball and throwing errors I view as correctable.
  • We panic extra because it's the Dodgers. If this were 1-3 vs. say, the Brewers, we would not be this worked up.
This isn't to suggest Giants fans should feel good about the opening series of the season, but it is to remember that these games represented about 2.5% of the season -- the bad things we're seeing are warning signs, sure, but proof of nothing.

I'm thinking by the end of the 16th game (or 10% of the season), we'll know something definitive about the 2011 Giants. At that point, there will have been two series against the Dodgers, along with games vs. the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Padres, plus a series vs. the Cardinals.

I'll be ready and willing to panic at that time should things not improve. Well, at least about the Giants. I've got a rather full plate panicking about other things, like how so many Taco Bell employees seem to think I'm saying "hot sauce" when I say "fire sauce".



I mean, CLEARLY the fire sauce is more...redderer than the others, right? Plus "FI-YER" sounds nothing like "HAWT". Get it right, yo.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Silver Sombreros and stupidly optimistic predictions

As the Giants mounted a singles hit parade yesterday, with a couple of Giants garnering their first hits of 2011 and Freddy Sanchez making me think he'll make a run at a batting title again this season, I developed a sense of urgency for Cody Ross's return.

Pat Burrell looks a bit feeble to this point.

Nothing wrong with looking bad in a few games -- it's going to happen to anyone who plays long enough -- but today is where I'm hoping the Giants' versatility kicks in, and we can see either Nate Schierholtz or Mark DeRosa in the outfield in place of Pat the Bat.

I also wish that Bruce Bochy didn't have to manage egos, because I would've rather have seen Madison Bumgarner start today, not Barry Zito. I would think that him outperforming Zito last season and being very good in the postseason might've gotten him that nod, but Zito's albatross of a contract likely has more to do with his slotting as the #4 starter than anything seen in Spring training.

Also, an extra couple of days could help with the neck stiffness Zito says he still has from his car accident last week.

Still, Zito was solid overall last year, so I'll cross my fingers for him to solidify more solidity today.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Royals have a winning record!

I had to strike while the iron was hot.

It's went about how I've figured -- the Royals have scuffled for offense to this point, but haven't allowed many runs, either, although it's followed a formula that doesn't inspire confidence: mediocre/poor starts by Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies (a trend likely to continue), a great start by Jeff Francis (not going to continue), and a well-nigh perfect bullpen (0.00 ERA won't continue).

And, they're facing what has a good chance to be a mediocre-to-poor offense this season.

It's not easy to project the Angels offense -- they've got hitters you've got to question (Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Alberto Callaspo), but you know have had productive seasons -- it's just that Wells, Abreu, and Hunter are all into their 30's and it becomes hard to assume continued production, and Callaspo's only had one good season with the bat (with the Royals, as a matter of fact, in 2009). So, if everything clicked, sure, they'll score some, but it's more likely there's a bit more decline in order and not much room for bounceback...so they'll be the same poor offense they were last year. I think Wells will need to hit like his 2003/2006 seasons to have significant impact, and that still won't help them enough.

Still, I've got to bask in the moment, right? One can never, ever get enough basking.

Alright, I've basked enough.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Bloomquist at Leadoff?

Maybe not of much interest to the Giants fans, but since this blog also touches on Mariners, Royals and clandestine purposes, I offer the following:

While watching the Phillies and Astros, I couldn't help but notice the crawl on ESPN, which showed the D'Backs starting line-up. Batting leadoff will be the proverbially scrappy Willie Bloomquist, with his robust .299 OBP from 2010. Even worse, his OBP is .275 against righties, which is the situation he faces today.

Doing a little research, I found an article listing the ten worst leadoff hitters since 1957. At least Willie has about 20 more points on his OBP than Ivan DeJesus (1981, Cubs), Brian Hunter (1991, Mariners) or Ducky Schofield (1965, Giants), but it's hard to believe that there's not somebody, anybody that's a little better suited than Bloomquist.

Even today's starting pitcher, Ian Kennedy, had an OBP of .290 last year. Why not give him a shot?

I think the legend of Kirk Gibson just got a little weaker in his managerial debut. Like so many others, he's let "scrappy" get in the way of logic.

In game note:
As of the 11th inning, Willie Bloomquist is 3-for-6 with a double, a run scored and a stolen base. Maybe we shouldn't question ol' #23. I'm going to personally take credit for Willie's success today since it's obvious that my prognostication skills from March Madness are carrying over to opening weekend.

Hm, that didn't go well...

However, it didn't really go that badly, either.

The Giants' 2-1 loss wasn't what we wanted, sure. But let's keep in mind -- in the first game of the season, sometimes things don't look so sharp. I'll go over the positives and negatives I saw, with the caveat that what I saw might not be what was seen if it's different that what I'll see later.

Catch my drift? Here's the good:
  • Tim Lincecum didn't allow any earned runs.
  • Pablo Sandoval speared a liner that he maybe doesn't get to with an extra 30 lbs. of Panda-age on him.
  • Brandon Belt had some good-looking, professional plate appearances in his first regular season game, collecting his first major-league hit and his first walk. In his four pa's he saw 27 pitches, including being a tough last out of the game against Jonathan Broxton.
Alright, here's the not-so-good:
  • Both Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada looked old and slow on a couple of different plays -- although Burrell did hit a 385ft. home run for the Giants' only score of the game. I'm nowhere close to panicking, however -- a throwing error (by Miggy) and a bobble (by Burrell) are very correctable.
  • Andres Torres looked overmatched...but then again, he often seems to look that way vs. top-flight pitchers with nasty stuff. At least he coaxed 24 pitches out of his pa's. (sidenote: when facing these types of pitchers, I think he ought to think of trying to bunt his way on occasionally)
  • Aubrey Huff and Tejada, on the other hand, only saw 17 pitches on their combined eight pa's. Huff is usually more patient and Tejada was just being his normal hacky self, but still, they were doing Clayton Kershaw a huge favor in making him not work hard for his outs.
  • Lincecum didn't allow any earned runs, but he wasn't exactly sharp -- allowing three walks and only throwing strikes on about 56% of his pitches.
  • Sloppy defense in general.
So, in conclusion, my pinpoint analysis of these occurrences can only mean one thing...

Meh. Just win today and all is forgiven.