Thursday, October 23, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 2: Royals 7 Giants 2

OK, team!  I'm not gonna lie.  This one is pretty simple.  The Royals bullpen beat the Giants bullpen.  Both starting pitchers got into trouble in the 6'th inning of a tie game.  The Royals bullpen shut it down.  The Giants bullpen melted down.  That's really all you need to know about this game.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 4, HR(1), BB.  BA= .286.  Blanco led off the game with a tremendous 8 pitch AB which ended with him turning around a 98 MPH FB off Yordano Ventura for a quick 1-0 lead.  That was pretty much the high water mark for the Giants in this game.

Rest of Lineup:  Every member of the starting lineup got 1, just 1, hit.  Sandoval and Belt were able to hit doubles in one inning to plate another run, but otherwise, it was the definition of scattered hits.

Jake Peavy- 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 7.20.  Pretty much what we've seen from Peavy so far in the postseason.  Started shaky, settled down but then got shaky again in the 6'th inning.  Unlike his opposing starter, when he got shaky in the 6'th, his bullpen brought their gas cans with them instead of their firehoses.

Jean Machi- 0.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= -.--.  Right now, Machi can't get the ball down.  He has terrible command of his fastball and is hanging the forkball.  He probably needs an inning or two in a low-leverage situation to get back on track. Bochy may not have that luxury.

Hunter Strickland- 0.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 18.00.  Any thoughts that Hunter Strickland had gotten back on track last night went out the window in a hurry.  In fact, they went clear out of the ballpark!  I would think the Giants have to be re-thinking any plans they had for Hunter for next year too.  Wow!  Now THAT is disappointing!

Tim Lincecum- 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Timmy looked terrific.  With the preceding meltdown in mind, it was looking like Timmy might be grabbing a suddenly expanded role for the rest of the Series.  Then, on the likely last Royals batter of the game, he slipped or tripped on his follow-through and apparently wrenched his back.  He threw another pitch, called for the trainer and was escorted off the field.  Santiago Casilla came in and retired the batter on one pitch.

The Series now takes a day off to travel to San Francisco where it will resume with Game 3 on Friday night with Tim Hudson facing lefty Jason Vargas.  The Giants come back with a split on the road, but with serious questions about half their bullpen and a bunch of starters who can't seem to get much past the 5'th inning.  Bochy and Rags have their work cut out for them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Game Wrap 2014 World Series Game 1: Giants 7 Royals 1

The Giants jumped on Not Big Game James Shields for 3 runs in the first inning and cruised to an easy win behind Madison Bumgarner.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, 2 BB.  BA= .333.  Blanco led off the game with a single, tagged up and went to 2B on a long flyball out by Joe Panik and scored the first run on a single by Buster Posey.  He also showed that the Royals OF's are not the only ones who can cover a lot of ground when he tracked down a drive that Eric Hosmer crushed into the right-CF alley in the bottom of the first.  I was listening on ESPN radio at the time and the PBP announcer clearly thought the ball was gone or at least going for extra bases off the bat.  Great catch by Blanco and he made it look easy!

Joe Panik- 1 for 5, 3B.  BA= .200.  Panik hit the ball hard at least 3 times coming away with just 1 hit to show for it, but it was a good one, a drive up the R-CF alley that Aoki waved at and missed.  Rolled to the wall for an RBI triple.  Panik later scored.

Buster Posey- 1 for 5.  BA= .200.  Buster Posey may have won this game with superior pitch framing for Bummy compared to his counterpart Salvador Perez, but is anyone else getting tired of watching Buster get thrown out at home plate?  Thank God Hunter Pence picked him up with the dinger,  but I think this one was on Tim Flannery.  Note to Flan:  Buster Posey is a lot of really good things, but he's not fast!

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 5, 2B.  BA= .400.  Pabs continues his waltz through the postseason.  Having him and Pence hot in the middle of the lineup is huge.  Just gotta keep it that way for 3 more games!

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, HR(1), 2 BB.  BA= .667.  Pence seems to have fully emerged from his end-of-season slump and it couldn't come at a better time.  Again, he and Pabs were huge in this game and can carry the team through the series if they both stay hot.

Madison Bumgarner- 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K's.  ERA= 1.29.  Another dominant performance by Bummy.  He gave up the drive to Hosmer that Blanco caught and he had to pitch his way out of a runners at 2'nd and 3'rd with no outs situation in the 3'rd inning, but after that it was lights out until he gave up a meaningless solo dinger to Perez in the 7'th.  That run was the first allowed by Bummy in 21 innings of World Series pitching which I think puts him in 2'nd place all time for consecutive WS scoreless innings pitched.  Isn't Babe Ruth still #1?

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Strickland needed a shutdown inning and he needed to retire a good left-handed batter as a confidence booster.  Bochy had the right situation to let him do that and he came through with flying colors.  Javier Lopez also needed some work on his mojo and made good on a chance in the 8'th inning a chance in the 8'th inning.  Not that they were genius moves or anything, but just another example of Bochy planning way ahead.

Tim Lincecum- Timmy was AWOL for the pre game introductions.  He said he lost track of time in the trainers room and didn't want to run out there after the intros had already started.  The TV later showed a shot of him sitting under a hoodie down in the bullpen looking like that was the last place in the world he wanted to be.  Gotta start wondering if this is going to carry over into next season.

Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer(Royals)- Hosmer was miked for the game.  Remember the study that showed the Royals hitters have trouble with breaking balls?  Fox played a great exchange between Hos and Moose Tacos where they were scratching their heads about how slow Bummy's cutter was and how it might actually be a slider.  They were clearly frustrated.  Great job by Fox to catch that one and play it!

The Win puts the Giants up 1-0 in the best of 7 series.  More importantly, the Giants grab a win on the road leading up to the 3 home games in the middle of the series.  Can they close this one out in AT&T Park?

Jake Peavy takes the ball for Game 2 facing the fireballing young RHP Yordano Ventura who has been  somewhat inconsistent so far in the postseason.

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!