.... Guest appearance
Good friend and Giants observer Doug Purdie offers his latest take on the Giants running game:
In the days between the season’s start and the Giants’ announcement that Felipe Alou would replace Dusty Baker, one of the major topics of discussion was Alou’s professed fondness for an aggressive running game, a topic fueled by the speedy puzzle pieces Brian Sabean was adding to the team. Sports writers and bloggers debated the merits. Many theorized and many made predictions, myself included. Well, I’ll go ahead and use the cliché: the proof is in the pudding.
And it doesn’t taste very good. It must not have set properly yet. I predicted that Alou would use good judgment about when to run aggressively, and his players would learn good judgment from him. Recent evidence shows I was wrong. So far, that is. I’ll conclude, conclusively, at the season’s end, because maybe the team is just on the shallow slope of the learning curve. Maybe it gets steeper in the later two-thirds of the year. Maybe they’ll get better as the season progresses.
But there are just so many rich examples of Giants base running to analyze and make conclusions about - most of them bad examples. John Miller pronounced Ruben Rivera’s escapades from Tuesday night’s game, “The worst base running in the history of the game.” And as the Razor – Ralph Barbieri of KNBR radio pointed out today, “Jon Miller isn’t usually prone to hyperbole.”
ESPN’s Baseball Tonight has already crowned Neifi Perez’s scoring play on an Infield Fly Rule, it’s Web Gem of the year – a single play that aptly symbolizes both the frequent blunder and occasional brilliance of the Giants running game.
In a recent game against the Mets, Giants runners were thrown out at home twice, and once at 3rd base. The runners must have felt comfortable challenging Tsuyosi Shinjo’s arm, repeatedly (something virtually anyone in the ballpark would have been able to tell them was a bad idea). I thought it was bad judgment. They eventually won 7-5 but lost between 3-5 runs. In a game in which they got 16 hits, they should have scored something like 9 or 10 runs. They ran themselves out of scoring opportunities, which is exactly what the skeptics (John, here at OBM, among them) had feared. Given the many injuries they have already overcome, it will be important that they get their track shoes in order soon.
Meanwhile, the Giants swept the D'backs out of PacBell with last night's dominating 10-2 win, behind the surging Benito Santiago's two, two-run home runs. With another Dodger loss, their early lead is back to two games, and Bonds, Cruz, Durham, and even Marvin Benard also had nice performances in the game, so, at least for a little while, all is well in the land of the Giants.
Comment on this  » May 29, 2003
Comment on this  » May 27, 2003
The Giants crashed and burned yesterday, losing 12-7 to the Rockies after leading 6-1 in the fifth inning. Losses like these happen at Coors, but this team is staggering, and there are many good reasons why they have only won 5 of their last 16 games.
Bonds is back tonight, but even when he's played, he's been producing far below the level he has been enjoying these last three seasons. The team has been beset by niggling and frustrating injuries, (Durham, Benard, and even Jason Christiansen, who was expected to contribute this season); and of course, Robb Nen is gone for the year, a devastating blow to the team's excellent relief corps.
Add in the normal struggles of three young pitchers, more than a handful of family emergencies and sad occurences, the fact that the team is 30-20, the same record they posted after 50 games last season, is frankly amazing. Let's not let the stunning 18-4 start blind us to the fact that this team is built on solid offense, solid defense, and solid pitching, nothing spectacular other than Superman, ( who appears to have been hit with some Kryptonite so far this season). They were never going to run away with the NL West, regardless.
On to other things of note... Good friend and terrific writer Alex Belth has been banging away on one interview after another while I've been gone; so go and see him, now.
.... Memorial Day
Fitting that I would sign on and find an email from one of our many selfless servicemen. My family and I extend our thoughts and prayers to all of those who serve to protect our country, and in many cases, the world. Here's a note from one of them:
Hey John, really enjoy your site. I'm a San Jose native trying to stay cool out here at scenic (not really) Fort Hood, Texas (Why is it that the Army always picks places out in the middle of no-where??). I haven't been a bay area resident since '96 but am still a DIE HARD Giants fan.THanks for the email Dan. I agree with a lot of what you have to say. I have been off-line for most of the last month, so I've been unable to see many games or write about the team, but even when they were red-hot, I felt that they were suspect. As Santiago, Snow and even Aurilia have slid back down to their real levels, the team has really stumbled, and you can see that the pitchers are struggling to keep the team in games, especially the middle relief. I don't know, it's tough to keep in mind that a team is never as good as it looks when it's surging, nor as bad as it looks when it is faltering.
This years' team makes me very nervous despite our fast start. My wife (converted Giants fan from Rochester, NY) says it's because I'm still not over the game six debacle (probably true).... but there just doesn't seem to be a ton of magic in this team. I'm hoping everything will turn around when Durham and Bonds return to the lineup (I hope Marquis keeps hitting). What the heck happened to Aurilia? In my very humble opinion, he's blessed with just enough power to be dangerous (to himself). With Cruz Jr looking very mortal, sure would be nice to have another big bat in there to protect our fearless leader (Bonds) in the lineup. I love Snow's glove but it seems like a no brainer to go with the Big Cat when he has a hot bat and is inching closer to the .400 plateau. But that's probably why I'm in the Army and not coaching in the majors. I'd agree with your Foppert assesment...we might limp by with him as the fifth man in the rotation...but if the Dodger pitching stays hot and their offense starts to hit better than my son's little league team...we could be in a dogfight.
Anyway...thanks for your great insight on the team! If you're ever in Texas and you want to see a ball game, let me know.
CPT Dan Bishop
S2, Intelligence Officer
1st Battalion, 8th U.S. Cavalry
1st Cavalry Division
Let's see where these two teams are in about one more month. Bonds will be back, Durham, even Jason Christiansen and Marvin Benard, and then let's see how they play. As for Snow and Gallaraga, first base is Snow's unless his average drops into the low .220's. Galarraga is old old old, and he simply cannot be counted on to produce with any real consistency if he's asked to play more than once or twice a week. I believe the way Alou is using him is exactly why he has been so effective. I'd like to see Torrealba get more playing time over Santiago, (NL Championship MVP notwithstanding), who seems to be trying to hit a home run every time up. Aurilia is a complete mystery to me. He's been a shell of his 2002 All Star self ever since the beginning of last year. He looks lost at the plate, swinging at balls in the dirt, watching called strike three's.
All of these issues aren't a big deal in the short term, but this team was winning ugly early, now they're losing ugly. That's baseball, and we love it.
Comment on this  » May 26, 2003
.... Giant struggles
Comment on this  » May 25, 2003
I'm sitting here watching the Giants against the Rockies, Jesse Foppert on the hill for the road team. I mean, where's the 95 MPH heat this kid is supposed to have? Where is the command? He seems to go 3-2 on every batter, and this is the fourth time I've been able to watch him pitch. I keep wondering when the hell he's gonna put it together for even one game. I knwo he got beat by Schilling and Millwood's no-hitter, but every batter seems like a struggle.
Meanwhile, Pedro (I-can-hit-too) Feliz just struck out on ball four, with runners on second and third and one out in the third, the Giants are already down 3-2. Here's Aurilia, who has yet to deliver even a single big hit that I can remember this season. Amazingly, he draws a four pitch walk as the Rockies would prefer to go after Benito (I-am-too-a-cleanup-hitter) Santiago with the bases loaded and two down. One pitch, groundout, inning over.
Here's a tasty little article on Roger Clemens' efforts to become the 21st player in major league history to win 300 games. (Little, actually it's longer than the baseball season)
This was not baseball, and Roger Clemens was not going to stand for it. He had just won the College World Series for the University of Texas, playing in front of raucous crowds, traveling by air. Now he was in Winter Haven, Fla., near the bottom of the minor league ladder. Seven-hour bus rides. Chirping fans at rickety, near-empty ballparks. Smug teammates satisfied with the spoils of professional life.Yeah, so twenty years later we are watching perhaps the greatest pitcher of our generation, winner of a record six Cy Young Awards, a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Love him or hate him, his excellence, drive, determination and professionalism are unrivaled.
Two years, Clemens told himself. It was the personal expiration date on his major league dream.
Meanwhile, the Giants got back into the win column, beating the Rockies 5-1 behing the pitching of rookie Kurt Aisnworth and the suddenly unstoppable Pedro Feliz, who hit his second home run in as many days after replacing the injured Bonds in left. Bonds will rest until at least Tuesday, as the team awaits further evaluation from Trainer Stan Conte and his staff.
"Basically, Barry had a little bit of tendinitis going in and aggravated it on the attempted catch," Giants trainer Stan Conte said. "He had a fair amount of pain last night. He has less pain today. So basically we are listing him as day-to-day. The MRI was very, very good result for us."Yeah, that's very good news for all Giants fans. Superman was hust getting back on track when the injury happened, but maybe the rest will help him get back to that locked in groove of the last two seasons he seems to be struggling to find.
Comment on this  » May 24, 2003
.... Reality check
Comment on this  » May 21, 2003
The Giants are 28 and 17, and according to their runs scored and allowed, they should be more like 25 and 20. They are on a fast pace to rectify that discrepancy, so hopefully the return of Durham, Benard (?!), and Jason Christiansen will help them get back to the winning formula they showed earlier this season.
OBM has been and will continue to be sporadic until I get my high speed internet connection up, which is scheduled for Friday. Wish me luck.
.... PJ's rules
Comment on this  » May 17, 2003
First of all, the Giants won their second in a row tonight, beating the hapless (and I mean hapless) Mets 7-5, behind the big hits of ex-Met Edgardo Alfonzo, who had a two-run homer a two-run double against his former team. But forget all that.....
During the game, I had the pleasure of dining at one of the premier San Francisco restaurants, PJ's Oyster Bed, over on Irving and 9th Ave.. Let me say that I have been a PJ's regular for well over 10 years. But tonight, I had to drive 4 hours to get to SF in time to meet my friend Pete, so I could go to tomorrow's matinee. That meant that I might get down to the Sunset District before Pete got home, and sure enough, I did. Nonetheless, I rolled over to PJ's, figuring I'd get some great seafood while I waited for my friend.
After a short wait, I was treated to some of the best food, service, and general hospitality I have ever experienced in a restraurant, (and I have been a big restaurant guy, believe me). Between Malcom, the host and General Manager, (who treated me like I was his brother), Alex, my bartender, who was beyond attentive and simply a ridiculously great drink-a-saurus, and Manuel, the Head Chef who was so generous with his fantastic cooking, offering me samples and fancy drinks. Oh, and let's not forget Wes and Dave, who sat next to me and followed my (very insistent) culinary advice.
The waitresses, busboy's and pretty much everybody was fantastic, leading to one of the great dining experiences of my life. On the eve of a Saturday day game at Pacbell, not to mention picking up my wife on Sunday, well, happy happy, joy joy.
Thanks to all, and Go Giants!
The Giants lost their fourth straight tonight, 6-4 to the Expos, who sort of own them in PacBell. I have already heard from many of my readers blaming me for all the losses, since they've all come as I've been on hiatus. Sorry.
Anyway, I got an email tonight that makes it pretty clear what's important and what's not, and I wanted to take the time to share it with you.
To whom it may concern:Daniel, good luck to your cousin, and my prayers are with him and your family.
Comment on this  » May 13, 2003
On February 22nd, 2003, Carl Riccio, my cousin, a 17 year old junior at Watchung Hills High School in NJ, broke his neck during a high school wrestling match. Carl was an undefeated wrestler and a star baseball player. This tragedy made headline news across the country. These accidents occur only twice a year in the sporting world. Carl is currently listed a a quadraplegic and the doctor's have given him a 1% chance of recovering. Luckily, he is at one of the best spinal care facilities in the country now, The Kessler Institute in West Orange, NJ.
It would mean a great deal to him if you could post a get well message to him on his website ( http://www.carlricciotrust.com ), a fellow member of the baseball community.
This is the website address where you can read all about Carl and his story: http://www.carlricciotrust.com It should have all his contact information there. But if it doesn't here is is contact info: Carl Riccio, c/o Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, 1199 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange, NJ 07052 (973)731-3600.
Even if all you can do is post a message on his website's message's board, it would mean a heck of a lot to him. Each night, his parents read all the website's, messages from around the country to him and his face lights up. Thanks again in advance,
Daniel J. McCarey
.... One more thing
Comment on this  » May 8, 2003
I've gotten quite a few emails reminding me that the Giants probably have insurance for Robb Nen's contract, after his season-ending surgery. Well, all I have to say about it is this, yes, they probably do. But they might not. One of the key issues baseball executives are dealing with in today's game is an increasingly stringent insurance industry. Nen's contract may, in fact, be insured in a way that we are all familiar with, and it may not. Whether it is or isn;t still doesn't address the fact that the defending NL champs are without their closer, one of the best in the game, for the season, and maybe for his career. If they are able to recieve some sort of financial redress to help them through this difficulty, good for them. Without any inside info, I'd say anything is possible.
In the meantime, I'll drop a line to my good friend Will Carrol over at Baseball Prospectus and see if he knows what's up.
.... Short and sweep
Comment on this  » May 8, 2003
The Giants swept the Marlins, after today's 3-2 victory. Joe Nathan ran his record to 4-0, Rich Aurilia got a pinch-hit, two-out single to drive home the winning run in the ninth inning, as San Francisco surged to a 24-9 record, their best 33 game start in, well, 33 years.
Meanwhile, the NY Yankees continue to stay just ahead of the Giants in the race for best record in baseball, after pounding the Mariners 16-5 tonight. The Yankees, (25-9), have scored 234 runs to the Giants 162; and they've allowed just 127 to the Giants 132, which is just another way of saying that the Yankees record seems to be just a bit more weighty and solid and, say, real. Which is another way of saying there's a reason why the Yanks are getting all the national attention, even though they have just a half game edge over the defending NL champs.
.... Bad moon rising
I kept forgetting to post something about Robb Nen's season-ending, career-threatening torn rotator cuff surgery. (Yeah, I know, that's busy) Make no mistake, this is an enormous setback for the Giants, enormous. Always remember that the season is a marathon, and regardless of any 20 or 30 game stretch of terrific luck and good play, this team is now paying 10% of its' entire payroll to their closer, one of the best on all of baseball, who is now a player whose career may be over. Here's what Stan Conte had to say about it:
"Make no mistake about it, this is a serious surgery. There are no guarantees in any of this, and Robb knows that. Is it career-threatening? Absolutely. We'll know more after surgery,." Depending on what they have to do -- we're anticipating them having to repair the rotator cuff -- then that's a six-month deal. That's the reason there isn't a chance for him to come back this season.''This is a devastating blow to Nen, and to the Giants. At $8.6 million this season, with a player option for some $9 million more next season, Nen now looms as a huge impediment to GM Brian Sabean's annual trading deadline surprises. Ouch.
Comment on this  » May 7, 2003
.... Things that make you go hmmm....
Comment on this  » May 7, 2003
David Pinto has this post on a Rob Neyer post about players who combine stealing bases with home runs. Umm, David, I think you forgot somebody. He plays for the SF Giants, and he has 623 home runs and 496 stolen bases (at a 78% success rate). His name is Barry Bonds ;-)
Comment on this  » May 7, 2003
Derek Jeter is slated to return to the Yankees, and start at shortstop next Tuesday in NY, as the Yankees actually get more good news, if you can believe it. Well, I can.....
.... 32 flavors
Comment on this  » May 7, 2003
The Giants pushed the Marlins aside 3-2, for their 23rd win today (against 9 losses), with Damian Moss running his record to an improbable 5-0. The pitcher has turned convention on its' head, once again walking as many batters as he struck out, while improving upon his sparkling 2.11 ERA.
Of course, the Yankees continue to hold the Giants at bay for best record in baseball (24-9), as Mike Mussina ran his record to an amazing 7-0. Between the two juggernauts, a Bronx boy living in the Bay Area can barely contain himself. :-)
.... One more thing
Doug has more to say:
I often hear Felipe Alou complain that his bullpen is over worked, yet he has an awful quick hook on his starters. His 1, 2 and 3 guys, Reuter, Schmidt and Moss have been sparkling lately. None of them have surrendered more than two runs, yet none pitched more than six innings or thrown more than 86 pitches in their last outing.
Comment on this  » May 7, 2003
I don't accept the excuse that he needs to pull them for a pinch hitter. Why yank your pitcher, who is throwing well for a 1 in 4 chance that some bench player is going to come through with a clutch hit. Let the pitcher hit. So what if your chances of getting the clutch hit dwindles to 1 in 6. It's better to know that the opposition isn't likely to score in subsequent innings.
And if the bullpen is overworked, it may also be because they have to appear in so many games. If you've got a middle reliever who's in a groove, let him hit in his spot in the order and let him stay in the game to pitch another inning. Give them more days off. They throw the ball fewer times over the course of the season that way and still get the same number of innings pitched.
Here's a hypothetical to illustrate. Suppose Felix Rodriguez appears in 4 out of every 8 games, pitches one inning in every game in which he appears and throws an average of 20 pitches every inning. That a totals 4 innings and 80 pitches every 8 games. Let's also count his warm-up throws. Suppose that every appearance he has to throw 30 times to get loose. That's 120 throws plus 80 pitches, or a total of 200 throws every 8 games and 4 innings pitched.
Now suppose that he only appears in 2 out of every 8 games, but pitches two innings every outing. That means that he has only 60 warm-up throws but still has made 80 game pitches in 4 innings. It adds up to only 140 throws. 35% fewer throws. 35% less wear on the arm.
.... Be my guest
Reader and sometimes writer Doug Purdie sent in the following guest column:
Even when the team is winning the manager needs to make adjustments when certain parts aren't working, as John likes to point out about the batting order. It's true for the bullpen also. Tim Worrell sometimes gets over worked. It's not that he doesn't work in the closer role, but he could work there even better with more rest. And since Joe Nathan is looking like a true major league pitcher, it may be time to promote him to a setup role and occasional closer.
Comment on this  » May 7, 2003
If you had asked me about Nathan prior to the season opening, I would have told you that he shouldn't even make the team. His strong spring showing made me nervous that management was giving him more roster consideration than he deserved. I thought it would be a mistake. I would have preferred to see Ainsworth get the fifth spot, with Ryan Jensen getting the swing role - spot starter and long relief (This was before the Levon Hernandez trade, when I assumed that Levon would be in the rotation.). I didn't think Nathan had the mental make-up for the Major Leagues, but I'm starting to change my view. When you look at his WHIP (0.81) this season it's hard not to re-think things. He has allowed 10 hits and 8 walks in 22.1 innings pitched (2 and 0 for the last 7.2 innings). The really astounding thing is, in case you hadn't noticed, he hasn't allowed any runs, unearned or otherwise, at least not any that can be charged to him. He has only allowed 3 inherited runners to score, and those came against Fred McGriff in a single plate appearance. It was in the unfortunate 16-4 loss to the Dodgers, when McGriff tagged him for a three run double.
After two long years of rehabilitation, his mid to upper nineties fastball is back. Not only that, but he's locating it consistently, mixing in well placed curve balls as well.
I am not an advocate of closer by committee, but a manager has to make do with the talent that he has. Since the success of Dennis Ekersely in the late 80's / early 90's, it seems to have become the law that you must have one closer and he must only pitch in the final inning when there's a Save situation. Filling certain roles is fine, as long as you have the players that fit in those roles. Like the proverbial round peg and square hole, you can't force them in.
I suggest using Felix Rodriguez and Joe Nathan as alternating setup men, even as closer once in a while to give Worrell an occasional rest. I think they are equally qualified. Alternating them also assures that one of them is well enough rested in any critical situation that comes along.
Comment on this  » May 6, 2003
Has the league finally figured out how to pitch to Superman? His numbers, while still among the league leaders in so many categories, have a decidedly mortal look to them, .293/.491/.707, with a 1.199 OPS. We're talking a twenty percent drop from the lofty heights of the last two seasons. He's also had 15 strikeouts in less than 90 at bats, last season, he finished with 47. Am I bitching about stuff needlessly?
I don't know, the Giants have the largest lead of any team in baseball, 6.5 games, and at 22-9 they trail only the Yankees (23-9), for the best record in baseball. Bonds has ten home runs, almost every new player has made an integral contribution; feel-good story of the year, Joe Nathan, has yet to allow a run all season.... Greedy greedy greedy....
Oh, by the way, I am currently getting online via a 24 kbps connection, which is just slightly faster than a stone tablet and a chisel. Sorry to all my blogger friends in need of plugs, and, ahem, email replies. In a couple of weeks, the move and installation of my new high speed internet connection will be complete, and fun will reign. 'til then, pop in on all my Everyday Links, and tell 'em where you came from.
.... Bounce back
Comment on this  » May 3, 2003
Felipe Alou made some key changes to the lineup, and presto! The Giants pounded out a 9-6 win today, their 20th of the season. Starting Gallaraga over Snow, and Torrealba over Santiago proved to be the key steps needed to jump-start the teams' dormant offense. Alou was quoted as saying he judged a teams offense by how many doubles they hit, and the team produced several against the Reds, as well as a triple and two homers, surging out to a 9-1 lead after four innings, more than enough offense for Jesse Foppert's first major league win.
.... You don't tug on Superman's cape
Barry's a bit perturbed, according to this SF Chronicle article, and with good reason, after being hit by three different curveballs in the just completed series with Dusty Baker's Cubs. New skipper Felipe Alou had this to say about it after the series:
"I'm going to keep an eye on that, if we have to retaliate, it will be with a heavy hand."Good. I always thought that teams got away with hitting Bonds under Baker, and I think the Giants should be more willing to drop an opposing hitter or two if he (or any of the Giants hitters) are starting to look like a bull's eye.
It would probably do the Giants some good, since almost the whole team has stopped hitting, (or as in Alfonzo's case, never started). JT Snow is down to .321, the only Giant in the top twenty in the NL, and while Bonds, Cruz, Snow and Durham all post on-base percentages above .400, for the most part they are the only hitters in the lineup producing (and really, Snow has dropped off a bunch). Take a look at some of the Giants regulars over the last ten games:
Bonds has gone 8 for 28, 3 HR's, 6 RBI, 6 runs, 9 BB's
Cruz has 11 hits in his last 33 AB's, 2 HR's, 4 runs, 6 RBI, 10 BB's
Durham 12 hits in his last 25 AB's, 4 runs, 7 BB's
Grissom 8 hits in his last 31 AB's, 3 runs, 4 RBI, 3 2B's 1 HR
Santiago has 4 singles in his last 22 AB's, 1 RBI 0 runs
Alfonzo has 7 hits in his last 38 AB's, (six of those were singles), 1 RBI 0 runs
Aurilia has 5 singles in his last 27 at bats, 0 RBI 1 run
Snow has gone 6 for his last 29, 1 RBI 3 runs
This is not the kind of production the team enjoyed during the first 15 games, and to be honest, even the guys I listed as hot aren't very. Somebody needs to pick it up, as teams are pretty much walking both Bonds and Cruz at will, and they aren't paying for it at all. I was worried about the pitching, but man, this team needs to start hitting, especially Aurilia and Alfonzo, who have done almost nothing so far this season. The two of them have been in the middle of some decent to warm hitting, and they have absolutely murdered a number of rallies. I hope they both have a ton of hits left in their bats, because they haven't had a big, blow open an inning hit yet.
Comment on this  » May 2, 2003
.... Bitter pill
Comment on this  » May 1, 2003
So the Giants lost two out of three to Dusty Baker's Cubs, after losing 5-1 in 10 innings today. The Cubs pitchers hit Barry Bonds again, prompting a bench-clearing nothing, and setting the stage for a fairly decent-looking rivalry, especially if the two division leaders should meet in the playoffs.
As well as Moss pitched today, and he was terrific, allowing eight hits and just one walk over six innings; the Giants offense continued to stumble. Yesterday they were able to win despite just six hits, today, Bonds was kept dry and they could only muster eight hits. Dusty walked Barry extensively, and he was hit again, so he only had one official at-bat, even though the top two hitters in the lineup, Durham and Perez went a combined 5 for 9, with two doubles and a triple. But Baker countered by taking the bat out of Barry's hands and Cruz and Snow et al were unable to make him pay.
At 18-9, the Giants are starting to look mortal, as they are coming back to the pack in a hurry just as I wondered about a week ago, (although I thought the pitching was the concern then). Many of the hitters in the Giants lineup are batting below .270, and more than a couple are below .200.