Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 World Series: Keys to a Giants Victory

The keys to the Giants winning the 2014 World Series are not a lot different than for the Wild Card game, the NLDS and NLCS.   After all, winning baseball games has had about the same formula for over 100 years with a few adjustments along the way.  This World Series finds the Giants in a bit of a role reversal from 2010 and 2012.  They are the grizzled veterans who have been here before and know how to get it done.  The Royals are the team of young kids playing for an organization that has been mostly in last place for almost 30 seasons.  With the Giants, it's become, "oh, the Giants!  Yeah, we don't know how they are doing it, but they've done it enough by now that they must know something we don't."  The Royals are the team nobody expected to be here.

So, what are the keys to winning the 2014 World Series for the Giants?

1.  Starting Pitching.  While everybody is focused on the bullpens right now, they may not be the deciding factor.  Both teams have crazy good records in games where they have the lead, any lead, by the 7'th inning.  Most of these games will likely be decided by the time the bullpens swing into action.  Despite James Shields' "Big Game" nickname, Bumgarner looks better on paper, and actually deserves the Big Game label  more than Shields.   Can "Big Country"keep it rolling for another game or two?  He does and he cements a place in the history books as one of the great postseason pitchers in baseball history.  I'm also going to say that Peavy finds a sway to out-savvy the fireballing Yordano Ventura who was a bit shaky and seemed on the verge of an injury in his last start.  I'll call Huddy vs Vargas and Vogey vs Guthrie even-steven.

One more thought about the starting pitching:  Someone mentioned a nice Fangraphs article comparing and contrasting pitching and hitting styles for the two teams.  The Royals pitchers like to throw fastballs and the Giants hitters like hitting fastballs.  The Giants pitchers like to throw breaking balls and offspeed stuff and the Royals hitters don't like breaking stuff.  Of course that does not tell you much about the relative likes and dislikes of both teams against THESE fastballs and breaking balls, but it's an interesting statistical tidbit, the kind that was not available to us in past Fall Classics.

2.  Be Aggressive at the Plate.  This may be one situation where it might make sense to ditch conventional wisdom and not try to grind out AB's or run up pitch counts.  So you get the starter out of there after 5 innings instead of 7.  All you've accomplished is giving yourself 2 more innings against better pitching!  Take advantage of the Royals fastball tendency.  Go up there looking for a fastball to hit early in the count and jump on it!

3.  Control the Running Game.  This could be the Giants Achilles heel as the Royals like to run wild on the bases(they even have a guy on the roster who does nothing but pinch run!), and the Giants have had their struggles throwing out baserunners.  Most of that falls on the pitchers who tend to be slow to the plate.  I will say the 7 SB's against the Giants in the 3 game August series is a bit misleading in that 5 of them were against Tim Lincecum and he might not pitch even one inning this series.  I would also point out the Giants are right at league average in CS%.  The best way to shut down a running game is to not let the rabbits get on base.  You can't steal first base!

4.  Top of the Order.  As always, the top of the order has to get on base.  Get those KC pitchers into the stretch early and set the table for the middle of the order.  Panik, in particular, should thrive on the fastballs he should see from the Royals.  Blanco might want to think about putting some defensive pressure on the corner IF's with a bunt here and there.

5.  Hit a Few Dingers!  OF defense doesn't do much good against balls that leave the park.  Can't be up there just swinging for the fences, but Posey, Pablo, Pence, Belt and Morse need to come through with a dinger here and there to keep em honest.

6. Playing for History.  The Giants seem to want to win for each other and the simple joy of competing and winning.  I think bigger things might be on the minds of some of the players.  Peavy has already brought up talk of Bruce Bochy being a HOF manager.  3 WS championships in 5 seasons is an impressive and historic run.  Only one other franchise in baseball history has done it, the Cardinals of the early 1940's during WWII.  The Giants have a chance to be a team baseball historians study and refer to for a long time.  3 championships in 5 seasons should make Bruce Bochy a slam dunk for the HOF and should get Brian Sabean there too.

What are your Keys to Winning the 2014 World Series for the Giants?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 World Series: Pitching Matchups

Here's how the pitchers match up for the Royals and Giants in the 2014 World Series:

Starting Pitchers:

James Shields(RHP)-           14-8, 3.21, 223 IP, 7.14 K/9, 1.74 BB/9, 45.2 GB%.
Madison Bumgarner(LHP)- 18-10, 2.98, 217.1, 9.07 K/9, 1.78 BB/9, 44.4 GB%

Strong matchup.  Bummy was better in the regular season and has been stronger in the postseason.  Shields is more rested.  I'll go with the Big Guy to keep it going.  Gotta get past that first inning, though.

Yordano Ventura(RHP)- 14-10, 3.20, 183 IP, 7.82 K/9, 3.39 BB/9, 47.6 GB%.
Jake Peavy(RHP)-             6-4, 2.17, 78.2 IP, 6.64 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 37.6 GB%

Young fireballer vs Veteran Savvy.  Peavy has been a bit shaky in both of his postseason starts.  Flyball tendency should not be a problem in either ballpark.  In fact, the Royals have several hitters in their lineup who you probably want to hit the ball in the air!  Call it even.

Jason Vargas(LHP)- 11-10, 3.71, 187 IP, 6.16 K/9, 1.97 BB/9, 38.3 GB%.
Tim Hudson(RHP)- 9-13, 3.57, 185.1 IP, 5.70 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, 53.1 GB%.

A couple of wily vets here.  We all know what a competitor Huddy is.  He's waited an entire career to pitch in the World Series.  Giants can struggle against LHP's.  Probably even-steven here, but gotta be rooting for Huddy big time!

Jeremy Guthrie(RHP)-   13-11, 4.13, 202.2 IP, 5.51 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, 43.6 GB%.
Ryan Vogelsong(RHP)- 8-13, 4.00, 184.2 IP, 7.36 K/9, 2.83 BB/9, 38.4 GB%.

Two guys who will try to hold it together through 5 then turn it over to the bullpen.  Even.

Closers:

Greg Holland(RHP)-     1-3, 1.44, 62.1 IP, 12.99 K/9, 2.89 BB/9, 48.1 GB%.
Santiago Casilla(RHP)-  3-3, 1.70, 58.1 IP, 6.94 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 56.3 GB%.

Holland is lights out.  Casilla had been lights out until the 9'th inning of NLCS Game 5.  Edge to Holland.

Bullpen:

Wade Davis(RHP)- 9-2, 1.00, 72.0 IP, 13.63 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 47.6 GB%.
Sergio Romo(RHP)- 6-4, 3.72, 58.0 IP, 9.16 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 36.8 GB%.

Kelvin Herrera(RHP)- 4-3, 1.41, 70.0 IP, 7.59 K/9, 3.34 BB/9, 49.2 GB%
Jeremy Affeldt(LHP)- 4-2, 2.28, 55.1 IP, 6.67 K/9, 2.28 BB/9, 66.7 GB%

Jason Frasor(RHP)- 3-0, 1.53, 17.2 IP, 8.15 K/9, 2.04 BB/9, 45.7 GB%.
Jean Machi(RHP)- 7-1, 2.58, 66.1 IP, 6.92 K/9, 2.44 BB/9, 52.0 GB%

Tim Collins(LHP)- 0-3, 3.86, 21.0 IP, 6.43 K/9, 4.71 BB/9, 41.4 GB%
Javier Lopez(LHP)- 1-1, 3.11, 37.2 IP, 5.26 K/9, 4.54 BB/9, 65.8 GB%.

Brandon Finnegan(LHP)- 0-1, 1.29, 7 IP, 12.86 K/9, 1.29 BB/9, 58.5 GB%.
Hunter Strickland(RHP)- 1-0, 0.00, 7 IP, 11.57 K/9, 0.00 BB/9, 56.3 GB%.

Danny Duffy(LHP)- 9-12, 2.53, 149.1 IP, 6.81 K/9, 3.19 BB/9, 35.8 GB%.
Yusmeiro Petit(RHP)- 5-5, 3.69, 117 IP, 10.23 K/9, 1.69 BB.9, 35.5 GB%.

Tim Lincecum(RHP)- 12-9, 4.74, 155.2 IP, 7.75 K/9, 3.64 BB/9, 47.3 GB%.

This series could come down to Bumgarner vs Shields.  The starters seem evenly matched beyond that.  I do think that whichever team has the lead after 6 innings of each game has a strong probability of winning the game.  The Giants bullpen is very good, but KC's is fantastic.  I've tried to match them up as best I could but they are two differently constructed 'pens.  I don't think KC has anybody to quite match up with Petit.  I don't expect Tim Lincecum to be a factor, but he could appear if a game goes deep into extra innings or to mop up after an early blowout.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thoughts on the 2014 World Series: Position Matchups

The NLCS featured two very similar and closely matched teams and it played out that way.  Even though the outcome was not close in games won, each individual game was a dogfight down to the last out.  This year's World Series has more contrast.  Although the teams have many similarities, there are important differences make this matchup interesting in a different way.

The Giants are now a team of postseason veterans.  Guys who have done this before and know how to get it done.  The Royals are more like the Giants of 2010, the team that had not won in seemingly forever and who nobody expected to get very far in the postseason because, well, because they never had before!

With that in mind, lets break down the individual matchups by position:

Catcher:

Salvador Perez(Royals)- .260/.289/.403, 17 HR, -1.3 BsR, -6.5 Off, 16.6 Def, 3.3 fWAR, 606 PA.
Buster Posey(Giants)-     .311/.364/.490, 22 HR, -3.0 BsR, 26.8 Off, 7.0 Def, 5.7 fWAR, 605 PA.

Clear advantage for Buster and the Giants here, although Buster could have some problems with the KC running game.  That might fall more on the pitchers, though.

First Base:

Eric Hosmer(Royals)- .270/.318/.398, 9 HR, -5.6 BsR, -5.9 Off, -10.1 Def, 0.2 fWAR, 547 PA.
Brandon Belt(Giants)- .243/.306/.449, 12 HR, -2.4 BsR, 1.8 Off, -1.9 Def, 0.7 fWAR, 235 PA.

Hosmer has had a great postseason so far with some very timely hits and dingers, but Belt has had his moments too.  Project these lines to an equal number of PA's, the difference being mainly due to Belt's injuries, and it is not close.  Definite advantage Brandon Belt.  BTW, I think I did a smackdown comparing these two before the season started!  I think it was in a Fantasy Focus.

Second Base:

Omar Infante(Royals)- .252/.295/.337, 6 HR, 9 SB, 1.9 BsR, -13.7 Off, -0.4 Def, 0.5 fWAR, 575 PA.
Joe Panik(Giants)-        .305/.343/.368, 1 HR, 2.2 BsR, 4.6 Off, 1.9 Def, 1.6 fWAR, 287 PA.

So Panik's new nickname is Joe Chill?  Infante has the veteran savvy and occasional pop.  Panik has a clear advantage in BA and PA.  Again, normalize to equal PA's and the difference is more dramatic.  Advantage Joe Panik!

Third Base:

Mike Moustakas(Royals)- .212/.271/.361, 15 HR, 0.2 BsR, -12.8 Off, 4.6 Def, -0.9 fWAR, 500 PA.
Pablo Sandoval(Giants)-   .279/.324/.389, 16 HR, -4.7 BsR, 3.3 Off, 5.2 Def, 3.0 WAR, 638 PA.

Moose Tacos has hit a couple of big postseason HR's, but Pablo has been hot too.  Gotta give the clear advantage to The Panda here.

Shortstop:

Alcides Escobar(Royals)- .285/.317/.377, 3 HR, 31 SB, 6.2 BsR, 2.4 Off, 9.0 Def, 3.5 fWAR, 620 PA
Brandon Crawford(Giants)- .246/.324/.389, 10 3B, 10 HR, -0.8 BsR, 0.4 Off, 7.5 Def, 2.7 fWAR, 564 PA

Not sure how a higher OBP and SLG% gets Crawford such a lower Off, but I'm just showing the numbers.  Escobar's big advantage is in speed/SB's.  Crawford has a little more pop in his bat.  We'll call this one even.

Left Field:

Alex Gordon(Royals)- .266/.351/.432, 19 HR, 12 SB, 5.9 BsR, 21.3 Off, 17.9 Def, 6.6 fWAR, 643 PA.
Travis Ishikawa(Giants)- .224/.333/.397, 2 HR, 0.4 BsR, 1.3 Off, 0.6 Def, 0.5 fWAR, 81 PA.

This may be closer than it looks.  Gordon is a good player, but his fWAR is inflated by a crazy Def in LF.  Travis is on the Road to Redemption this postseason and had really good numbers even before the walk-off HR.  Still, realistically, you've got to give the big advantage to Gordon here.

Center Field:

Lorenzo Cain(Royals)- .301/.339/.412, 5 HR, 28 SB, 5.3 BsR, 11.4 Off, 16.8 Def, 4.9 fWAR, 502 PA
Gregor Blanco(Giants)- .260/.333/.374, 5 HR, 16 SB, 0.1 BsR, 3.6 Off, 1.7 Def, 2.0 fWAR, 444 PA.

Cain has had a great postseason including come crazy good catches in CF, but Blanco has stepped up his defensive game in CF too.  Slight advantage Cain, although SB's could become a big issue for the Giants this series.

Right Field:

Norichika Aoki(Royals)- .285/.349/.360, 1 HR, 17 SB, -10 BsR, -7.7 Off, 0.2 Def, 1.1 fWAR, 549 PA
Hunter Pence(Giants)- .277/.332/.445, 20 HR, 13 SB, 7.0 BsR, 25.4 Off, -3.4 Def, 4.7 fWAR, 707 PA

Clear advantage Pence here.

DH:

Billy Butler(Royals)- .271/.323/.379, 9 HR, -5.7 BsR, -7.5 Off, -14.5 Def, -0.3 fWAR, 603 PA.
Michael Morse(Giants)- .279/.336/.475, 16 HR, -5.2 BsR, 12.8 Off, -18 Def, 1.0 fWAR, 482 PA.

Never thought I'd see the day when the Giants had the advantage at DH, but by golly, I think they've done it here with the perfect postseason role for Morse.  Of course, Brian Sabean had exactly this in mind when he signed Morse back in the spring!  LOL!

4'th OF:

Jarrod Dyson(Royals)- .269/.324/.327, 1 HR, 36 SB, 4.5 BsR, -0.1 Off, 18.9 Def, 3.1 fWAR, 290 PA

The Giants don't really have a counter for Dyson as the 4'th OF.  All 4 of their OF's can't play at once though.

The Royals have tremendous OF defense and a huge advantage in SB potential which could become a big problem for the Giants in this series.  Beyond that, the Giants seem to have a clear positional advantage at 6 of 9 positions here.  Interesting matchup!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thoughts on the Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals might be the single most fascinating team story to come along since, well, since the 2010 San Francisco Giants!  The story in Kansas City is much more than a simple worst-to-first story.  Much like the 2010 Giants, the Royals worst-to-first story was accomplished with a GM at the helm who was long despised and derided by a vocal group of blogging KC Royals fans and by self-described sabermetrically oriented baseball analysts.  It was also accomplished largely because of a trade this GM, Dayton Moore, made prior to the 2013 season which was widely labeled as a disaster trade by the same analysts.

Dave Cameron, perhaps the most vocal of Dayton Moore's critics, especially of the trade of prospects Wil Myers and Jake Odirizzi to the Rays for James Shields and Wade Davis, posted a mea culpa today on his website, Fangraphs.  The crux of his argument against the trade was that Shields would likely be only available to the Royals for 2 seasons and they just weren't going to improve enough in other areas to accomplish the goal he was traded for, which was to win right away, which meant at least getting deep into the postseason.  So, losing a prized prospect like Myers would be wasted on a futile chase and cost the team more in the longterm than it would gain the the short term.  Cameron now admits he was wrong about the trade now, but I don't think he completely understands why he was wrong.

Cameron believes the main reason why he was wrong is that he underestimated the value of mediocrity in the age of two Wild Card teams and the somewhat random probabilities of success of teams once they get into the postseason.  It is also an age where one team has randomly made it all the way to the World Series 3 times in 3 postseason berths, but we'll save Keys to Postseason Success for another post.  What I think Cameron missed in his mea culpa was that he also underestimated the impact of rising career trajectories by young players.

The 2012 Royals' top 8 position players by WAR were all 28 years old or younger.  They, together with Jeff Francoeur, posted a cumulative WAR of 16.2.  Players under the age of 28 are generally on the upward trajectory of their careers, so you would expect most of them to have higher WAR's in 2 seasons.  In fact, all those top 8 players remained with the Royals through this season with Frenchy and his -1.5 WAR replaced by Aoki and his +1.1 WAR.   Those 9 players posted a combined WAR of 23.3, a 7 win upgrade from the 2012 team with virtually nothing added except experience!

On the pitching side of the ledger, the top pitcher on the 2012 team was reliever Greg Holland at 2.2.  The top 8 pitchers on the staff combined for a cumulative WAR of 12.1.  The top 2 pitchers on the 2014 team, Shields and Wade Davis who were acquired in the trade at 3.7 and 3.1 for an upgrade of 2.7 WAR on the top 2 from the 2012 team, but that is not the whole story of an upgraded pitching staff.  Yordano Ventura, at 2.8 WAR was still in the minors in 2012.  Danny Duffy, at 2.2 WAR put up just 0.5 in 2012.  Altogether, the #3-8 pitchers by WAR on the 2014 team put up a combined 12.8 WAR which is almost a full Win more than #1-8 of the 2012 team!  All told, the top 8 pitchers from the 2014 Royals team put up 19.6 WAR or a 7.5 win upgrade on the 2012 team.

So, it turns out that Dayton Moore knew his own team better than Dave Cameron.  He accurately estimated that their rising cumulative career trajectory would be fast enough to form a harmonic convergence with Shields tenure with the team, leading to an opportunity to go deep into the postseason, thus accelerating the the Royals rise into becoming a competitive MLB franchise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 5: Giants 6 Cardinals 3 The Giants Win the Pennant!

The Giants are a team that gives players a chance at redemption.  The list of those who have made the most of the opportunity is long, and it got longer tonight and in many ways.  The result was a come-from-behind win on a walk-off, pennant winning home run by a guy whose redemption story just got about as epic as any in Giants history, and that is saying something.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 4.  BA= .227.  Blanco seems to have gotten his mojo back at the plate.  He never lost it in the field and he made another running, diving catch on a short pop-up by Matt Holliday in the 5'th inning when Bumgarner needed a shutdown inning to keep the Cardinals' momentum in check.

Joe Panik- 1 for 4, HR(1).  BA= .182.  The BA for this series is anemic, but the kid hit the ball hard at least 3 times in Game 4, so you had to figure he was due.  He's a guy who uses all 90 degrees of the ball field.  He pulled this one down the line reminiscent of JT's dinger in 2000 except with a much better end result to the game and the series. Terrific matchup between him and Kolton Wong at 2B.  Wong had a much better series statistically, but Panik came through when the Giants needed it most.

Travis Ishikawa- 1 for 3, HR(1), BB,  BA= .385.  The latest in a long line of Giants redemption stories.  Travis was originally drafted by the Giants out of HS and worked his way up through the organization. He played on the 2010 championship team and drew a huge walk in the NLDS that year.  After that, he kind of kicked around with the Brewers and then with the Pirates.  He was released by the Pirates in April of this season.  He signed a minor league deal with the Giants and played the whole summer in AAA Fresno without much hope in site of ever making it back to the majors.  Realizing his probably did not have a path to the majors as a first baseman, he asked the coaches in Fresno to let him play in the OF, where he had played just a handful of innings previously in his career.  He saw his family for just 14 days from the start of spring training to the end of the minor league season at the end of August. He made up his mind to spend the offseason evaluating his options and his future.  He was pretty sure he would retire and get on with his life.  Tonight, he became the first player to hit a walk off HR to win the NLCS!  Or something like that.  How great is that?  And it is doubly sweet for those of us who watched him work his way through the minor leagues in the 2000's.  Bacci, did you see it?  Did. You.
See. It?  Oh! And he redeemed himself for the misjudged liner in the first inning that cost the first Cardinals run too!

Michael Morse- 1 for 1, HR(1), .500.  Speaking of redemption….This guy started off the season hot and led the Giants to the best record in MLB by the end of May, then it all came crashing down like a stock bubble.  He got nicked up by some nagging injuries, stopped hitting, blew some games with horrible plays in the OF and was on his way out of a starting job by the time he pulled an oblique in August.  He finally got healthy in time for the NLCS and Bochy put him on the roster as a bench bat with Travis Ishikawa starting in LF.  Travis Ishikawa!  Morse had gotten a look at Pat Neshek earlier in the series and Bochy gave him another shot tonight with the game slipping away.  The TV talking heads thought it strange the Bochy would send Morse up there to lead off an inning, but Morse is a pretty good on-base guy too.  On the other hand….lightning in a bottle!  Morse looked very comfortable up there against a guy who is very hard to time and when he got a hanger, he jumped all over it.  New ballgame with one swing of the bat!

Brandon Crawford- 0 for 3.  BA= .125.  Not much at the plate, but Crawford made a remarkable play on a ball that caromed off Pablo Sandoval in the critical top of the 9'th.  Crawford rushed over, fielded it and threw to 2B in one motion getting the lead runner making it first and third with 2 outs instead of bases loaded and 1 out.  You really have to see it to believe it.  I truly think only Crawford makes that play!  It probably saved the game!

Madison Bumgarner- 8 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K's.  When Bummy gave up a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on HR's by Matt Adams and Tony Cruz(Yes, Tony Cruz), it was looking like maybe it just wasn't Bummy's night.  He bore down, though, and shut the Cardinals down for the next 4 innings to keep the Giants in the ballgame.  The Giants got their big break when Mike Matheny took Adam Wainwright out of the ballgame after he struck out the side in the 6'th and retired the side in order in the 7'th on a K, a soft flyball and a soft groundout.  The rest is history!

Mike Matheny(Cardinals)-  We might never know the true condition of Adam Wainwright's arm and whether he could have gone another 10 or 20 pitches.  All I know is it was sure good to see him out of the game!  We also will never know just how tired the Cardinals bullpen was and why Matheny felt compelled to stick with Michael Wacha, a pitcher who had not been used since September 27, one batter too long.  Just gotta think Randy Choate was the guy who had to face Travis in that spot.  Just gotta!

Bruce Bochy- I don't agree with every move Bochy makes in every game, but my goodness, he was the maestro again tonight!  That was just about the most perfect managing job you will ever see!:  Sticking with Travis in LF for the game and through the game.  Bringing Morse up to leadoff the 8'th, and did Bochy really know Neshek was the guy Morse had faced before and would probably be more comfortable facing again?  Bringing in Affeldt to face Tavares with the bases loaded in the top of the 9'th replacing the closer?  A lot of managers would not dare to take their closer out, no matter how dire the situation.  "Hey!  He's the guy who got us here, we'll live and die with him!"  Leaving Bummy in there for the 8'th inning.  Just a terrific job of managing!

Brian Sabean- Helluva GM, but the guy will never be accused of being a smooth talker.  Cockroaches?  His players are like Cockroaches because you "have to kill them all"?  The worst part is the TV talking head picked it up and were already running with it.  Fortunately the Giants players weren't biting in the TV interviews.  Hope we don't have to hear THAT one all World Series long!

The Win gives the Giants their 3'rd NL Pennant in the last 5 years with a chance to win their 3'rd World Series in the same time span.  And to think just a few years ago, I was starting to wonder if I would live to see them win 1 World Series!  Enjoy it while it lasts, folks.  These ARE the Glory Days!

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 4: Giants 6 Cardinals 4

Relief pitching and defense continued to be the storyline of this postseason.  The Giants got 6 shutdown innings from their bullpen and took advantage of 3 fielding miscues by Matt Adams in 1 inning to overcome a 4-1 deficit and take a 3-1 lead in the best of 7 NLCS.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 4, 2B, BB.  BA= .167.  Amazing how big a role Blanco has played in this series with such an anemic BA.  A little burst of a hot streak at the end here would go a long ways toward a successful WS run by the Giants.

Buster Posey- 2 for 3, BB, SF.  BA= .250.  Posey seemed to be pressing a bit, but settled down in this one and just kept the line moving.  The result was 3 big RBI's!

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, BB, SB(1).  BA= .286.  Pence seems to be coming out of his funk just in the nick of time.  Again, the Giants don't need dingers out of the middle of the lineup as much as they just need something!

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .154.  Crawford seemed to go into a funk after the grand slam in the Wild Card game.  He came out of it tonight with some key hits and smart baserunning.

Ryan Vogelsong- 3 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 12.00.  Matt Carpenter's leadoff hit might have been an out if it hadn't taken a bad hop over a diving Joe Panik's glove.  After that, it was just plain old fashioned bad pitching by Vogey.

Yusmeiro Petit- 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Gotta think Petit is in line for a starting gig next season.  He's certainly earned it, although if the Giants can find an inexpensive alternative for the rotation, Petit gives them incredible depth.  Petit just might be the MVP of the postseason so far!

Rest of Bullpen- 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K's, Save.  Romo got the fearsome Kolton Wong, a LH batter, on a groundout.  He gave up a harmless single to Tavares, but the RH batters Peralta and Grichuk, like all RH batters, had no chance.  I did not see any hanging sliders out of Romo in this appearance.  Casilla had to face 3 consecutive good LH batters to start the 9'th.  He got Descalso and Carpenter easily before giving up a harmless single to Jay, who is suddenly impossible to get out.  Holliday was overmatched for the final out.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 4.  BA= .273.  Belt is rated as a slightly negative fielder by UZR, but 1B D was the difference in this one.  Belt made a perfect throw to get a lead runner on a sac bunt attempt while Adams made 2 poor throws and a poor decision in the decisive 6'th inning even though no errors were charged.  He had to re-grip on the glove-hand transfer on a throw to the plate, allowing Juan Perez to score from third and a tapper which should have hung him out to dry.  The very next play, with runners at first and third, Adams fielded a hard grounder at the bag.  He again had to re-grip on the exchange which may have caused him to panic a bit.  He made an awkward step on the bag with the wrong foot, then made a wide throw to second, while forgetting to check Crawford coming down the line from 3B allowing Crawford to coast home with the go-ahead run.

BTW, a constant of Brian Sabean's tenure as GM has been a good fielding first baseman, often seemingly at the expense of offense.  First Base Defense, an undervalued commodity!

Again, the Win put the Giants up in the best of 7 series 3 games to 1.  Historically, 90% of teams in his situation have gone on to win the series.

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound for the second time in the series tonight facing Adam Wainwright, who continues to be evasive about the health of his arm.

Around the League:  The KC Royals completed a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles to advance to the World Series.  That popping sound you hear is heads exploding over at Fangraphs.  That sound will get louder and more frequent if the Giants end up as the Royals' opponent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 NLCS Game 3: Giants 5 Cardinals 4

The Giants built a 4-run first inning lead largely on a misjudged flyball to right-center that went for a bases loaded and clearing double.  The Cardinals then pecked away to tie it in the 7'th inning on another HR, this time by the guy who misjudged the first inning flyball, Randall Grichuk.  They then scratched out a walk off run in the bottom of the 10'th inning on a throwing error by reliever Randy Choate.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik- 0 for 4.  BA= .154.  Looks like a bad line, but Panik hit the ball hard at least 3 times, one in his first AB of the game in the first inning that John Jay went a long ways for and made a sensational diving catch on.

Travis Ishikawa- 1 for 3, 2B.  BA= .500.  Travis is leading a charmed life this offseason always seeming to be in the right place at the right time.  His windblown drive to right-center kept tailing away from Grichuk until it was almost in CF.  Grichuk either lost sight of the ball or gave up on it and it hit off the fence about 2 feet off the ground, appearing to be a catchable ball.  John Lackey was not happy and he's a guy who does not hide his feelings well.  In Grichuk's defense, that ball had some serious wind blowing it away from him.  At the angle the ball finally came down, I'm not sure it was as catchable as it looked.  In Travis's defense, had it not been for the wind, that ball probably would have hit high off the wall with the same result.

Pablo Sandoval- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .417.  Pablo kept his on base postseason streak alive and contributed to the first inning rally.  He also made a sensational play late in the game, making a diving stop way behind 3B, then getting up to make the loooong throw across the diamond to easily beat the runner.  I'm not sure how many third basemen make that throw.  I have a feeling that if Pabs leaves via free agency, the Giants are going to miss his defense as much or more as his offense.

Tim Hudson- 6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 5.68.  Huddy looked great early, but the Cardinals just kept pecking away at him.  Bochy probably should not have let him come out to start the 7'th inning which is when he gave up the dinger to Grichuk.  Still, a gutty effort by a fierce competitor.

Jeremy Affeldt- 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Another multi-inning postseason gem from Affeldt.  Casilla, Lopez and Romo followed with shutdown 9'th and 10'th innings enabling the walk-off in the 10'th.

The Win puts the Giants up 2 games to 1 in the best of 7 series.  Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound tomorrow night in Game 4 facing Shelby Miller.

The Giants have now failed to hit a HR in something like 180 PA's since Belt hit the walk off in Game 2 of the NLDS.  That is going to positively regress one of these games, right?

Around the League:

The KC Royals took a 3-0 lead in the ALCS with a 2-1 win over the Orioles.  They do look like the Team of Destiny this year.

The Dodgers hired Andrew Friedman away from the Tampa Bay Rays to be President of Baseball Operations(I thought that was Stan Kasten's job).  Agent Ned Colletti stays on in an advisory role.  LOL!  I'm not convinced that "Moneyball" tactics work so well in a big money environment like LA.  Just because you are great at finding undervalued players when you have budget limitations does not mean you are going to find them when you have almost unlimited money to spend and ownership bosses who want results yesterday.  I would also point out that Tampa Bay's vaunted reputation for producing homegrown players has taken quite a beating in the last few years with an extended series of draft day busts.  So no, I am not shaking in my shoes over the Dodgers hiring of Andrew Friedman.