Archive for September, 2004

…. Pressure cooker

Yesterday’s loss dropped the Giants into what is essentially a three-way tie for the wild card. The Giants, Astros and Cubs all have 70 losses, so once again it’s whoever loses least. The Astros are home against the Rockies (boy is that nice for them), the Cubs are home against the Braves, who have the ability to bite a big chunk out of them over the last three days. Since we may not get to do a Giants playoffs preview, we might as well do one for the last four games.

Giants (88-70) at Padres (86-72)
Jerome Williams 9-7 4.41 ERA (hasn’t pitched since July)
Adam Eaton 11-13 4.73 ERA 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA over his last three starts

This game is a toss-up, and I wonder if Alou is considering altering his rotation so that he can put someone out there that is certain of performing at a high level, as opposed to the possibility that Williams is ready. For the Padres, the wild-card is still a longshot, they’ve got to win out and watch just about everyone else lose out, but they’re not eliminated. Still, if Williams is healthy and has that low-90′s fastball…..

Eaton is an inning eater, no more, no less. His ERA has been at or near 5.00 for the last three months, in fact it was 5.52 in July, 4.66 in August, and it’s 4.79 so far in September. In the last three months, he’s allowed 18, 19 and 19 runs in right around 30 innings of work each time. He doesn’t walk too many guys, and he doesn’t strike out too many guys. In fact, his numbers show him to be a lot like Kirk Rueter. Here, you tell me which is which:

736 AB 196 H 38 2B 27 HR 52 BB 148 SO .266/.316/.436 .752 OPS

736 AB 222 H 51 2B 19 HR 65 BB 55 SO .302/.353/.465 .818 OPS

I guess the 55 strikeouts gives it away, huh? OK, so he’s better than Rueter. Who isn’t? Damn, that’s a horrible pitching record.

Giants at Dodgers

LA leads the season series 9-7

Kirk Rueter 8-12 4.81 ERA 1-1 2.45 over his last three starts
Jeff Weaver 13-12 4.01 ERA 1-2 6.75 ERA over his last three starts

Of course, the one win was against the Giants, when he managed to control his “effectively wild,” right arm and hold the Giants to three runs. Weaver is up and down, here’s hoping tomorrow is time for him to lose it in the third inning. One of the reasons he’s a Dodger and not still a Yankee is his propensity for crumbling under pressure.

Rueter has had a horrible season; in fact, he’s had two horrible seasons in a row. However, he’s actually on a bit of a run, with the last month or so being his most efffective stretch of pitching since 2002. He has shown the ability to respond to pressure before, he’ll need it in LA with a rabid crowd looking to clinch against the Giants. He’ll also need the outside corner call he hasn’t gotten all year, so pay attention to the first inning or so. If he’s getting it, he can pound it all day long. If he’s getting squeezed; it’s gonna be a long day for the Giants pen, and in game one of the penultimate series; the Giants can’t afford that.

Brett Tomko 11-7 4.19 ERA 2-1 with a 2.42 ERA over his last three starts
Edwin Jackson 2-1 6.75 ERA 0-0 with a 11.00 ERA over his last three starts

Tomko has been the Giants best pitcher since Schmidt hurt his groin. He’s turned in two 80-plus game scores, and two others above 70 since he fell to a season-low 5-6. He should be able to beat Jackson, who is young and has his whole life ahead of him. Jackson so far this season, has pitched 22.2 innings, allowed 25 hits and 11 walks. That should bode well for the Giants, leaving us with the series and season finale between……

Jason Schmidt 17-7 3.29 ERA 1-1 with a 4.71 ERA over his last three starts
Kazuhisa Ishii 13-7 4.69 ERA 0-0 with a 5.79 ERA over his last three starts

This is a matchup of aces, although the two pitchers go about their work in such different ways. Schmidt is the prototypical power pitcher (242 strikeouts), Ishii is the nibbler, (88 strikeouts). If Ishii cannot maintain command, the Giants should have a lot of baserunners. Here’s the ESPN scouting report,

“Except perhaps for Randy Johnson, Ishii’s stuff is as good as any lefthanded starter in baseball. His fastball registers in the low 90s and has a good deal of movement. His curveball has a lot of break to it, and his changeup is solid as well. Ishii runs into difficulty because his command is flighty. Not only does he walk a lot of batters, but he also gets behind in the count with most hitters. Occasionally, he will switch from the windup to the stretch with no one on base, or even pitch an entire game from the stretch position, just to try to find a rhythm.”

Schmidt is still trying to regain his own rhythym, the kind that had him poised to win this seasons’ Cy Young award. If he’s on, he can flat-out dominate, if he’s not, he can get lit up. In the six starts since the groin injury, he’s allowed several back-breaking home runs, most of which came with men on.

That’s it, boys and girls. Do the Giants have what it takes to finish the job?

…. Stumbling

You have to know, YOU HAVE TO KNOW that you have to let that ball land foul for a 1-2 count against Lorretta. Robinson is one of the fastest guys in the league, you have no chance to throw him out. NO CHANCE!!! Let the ball land foul and get him on the next pitch. Instead, we lose a game, and a player on a play that should never have happened.

What a terrible game. The Giants pitchers must have thrown 200 pitches, the Padres had like 40 6-pitch or more at-bats, the Giants blew a 2-0 and a 3-1 lead; we couldn’t have had two guys take more than three pitches the whole game.


Update: Lot’s of backtalk, some agree with me, some don’t. Let me clarify my thoughts, as I was screaming at the TV for the whole game up to the point when I sat down to write last night. Players (and the manager and coaches) plan for what they are going to do in certain situations, all the time. If it’s hit to short, come home, if it’s bunted, we’ll run the wheel play, etc..

In that situation, I can’t believe that no one has ever thought about all of the possible contingencies for a tough play on a shallow fly that may or may not drop in fair territory in a tie-game, on the road, etc.. He didn’t have to make a decision in a split second, just like Dallimore didn’t have to on the grounder that he threw home for the first out. (by the way, a good throw there and it’s an easy double play and Mohr’s catch is one of the Top Ten plays of the year).

I’m not saying Mohr is an idiot. I’m saying the Giants should have been coached to consider the possibility that that type of play might happen, and in that situation, you let it drop. Yes, there’s still only one out, BUT THE GAME WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN OVER!!!!!!!! Anything can happen, as long as the game isn’t over.

…. AL Cy Young

…. Moment of truth

On August 17th, the Giants’ Jason Schmidt took a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning. During that surprisingly important inning, he injured his groin, and left the game after the end of the inning. The Giants bullpen eventually lost the lead for him, (costing him what would have been his NL-leading 16th win), but the team was able to win in the bottom of the ninth (leaving the team’s record in games started by Schmidt at 16-7, a .659 winning percentage). At the time, I wrote that the Giants would be unable to survive any significant loss of time or effectiveness for the two-years running NL ERA leader, and (as of today) it appears that I may have been correct.

Since that game, the Giants have gone 21-14. As the Giants have lost 6 of the 7 Schmidt turns in the rotation (a .125 winning percentage), the rest of the Giants pitching staff have gone a remarkable 20-8 in games Schmidt hasn’t started. It’s been just enough to keep the team afloat as Schmidt has struggled to regain his command. Had Schmidt been anywhere near his pre-injury form (say, 4 wins in 7 starts, for a modest .571 winning percentage), the Giants would be, at worst, tied with the Dodgers. They would absolutely be leading the wild card race. The unfortunate timing of Schmidt’s injury could hardly have been prepared for, other than to say, it would have been nice had we had an adequate replacement available for the best pitcher in the game.

Instead, we had a team ERA of 6.57 while going 1-6 in games scheduled for our ace, perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball at the time (whose ERA rose from 2.53 to 3.21 during his worst stretch of pitching in two seasons), during the most critical time of the year. For Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan (as well as all Giants fans), Schmidt’s injury has to seem like a cruel joke, for a team that has over-acheived all season.

…. Out of time?

My only complaint with this weekend’s games with the Dodgers (other than the fact that I wanted the Gianst to win ‘em all) is that I thought the umpiring work was terrible, and until that one call in the eighth inning yesterday, almost all of it went against the home team.

Starting with Friday’s game, in which Reuter took the mound in the fourth inning with a two-run lead, and was inexplicably squeezed to the tune of six consecutive ball calls (four in a row to Beltre, of which only one was a sure thing). After going to 2-0 against Green, I turned to my wife and started to say, “tie game,” but before I could get the words out, it was. In my opinion, the same thing was happening to Tomko yesterday. In that pivotal fifth inning, he hit the black numerous times, only to see the home plate ump say no. The Eddings call at third was the icing, but, unlike Reuter, who lives on the outside corner call, Tomko was dealing, and he was getting no calls at all.

Meanwhile, Weaver, Perez, essentially the entire Dodgers pitching staff seemed like they were going 0-1 against the Giants hitters the whole weekend. Other than that, if you’re gonna let Alex Cora beat you up, you deserve to lose.

…. MVP

OK, so everyone knows that I think Barry’s the MVP. Just for the hell of it, I thought I’d try and add some goodies to the argument. As of this morning, Barry Bonds is completing one of the greatest seasons of all time.

The walks, on-base percentage, and OPS would all represent new single-season records, of which Barry now owns the following; home runs, walks, intentional walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and about a half-dozen other OPS-related marks.

OK, on to the MVP debate. Barry’s two main competitors for the award seem to be Albert Pujols, and Adrian Beltre. A side by side would be helpful:

Bonds 356 AB 123 R 132 H 27 2B 44 HR 100 RBI 221 BB 38 SO .371/.615/.834 1.449 OPS
Beltre 570 AB 101 R 195 H 32 2B 47 HR 117 RBI 49 BB 84 SO .342/.394/.646 1.039 OPS
Pujols 565 AB 127 R 184 H 43 2B 45 HR 116 RBI 81 BB 49 SO .326/.411/.648 1.059 OPS

Obviously, all three ballplayers have had superstar seasons. All would be deserving of the award in most seasons, but head to head, there is no doubt whose season has been the most impressive. Barry’s giving 200 at-bats to the two sluggers, and they have essentially no statistical advantages other than total hits. In other words, with each player well above .300, the 200 extra at-bats Pujols and Beltre have over Bonds turn out to be something like 60 singles. Bonds has 74 extra base hits, Pujols has 90, and Beltre has 79. But if Barry had only, say, 121 walks instead of 221, the comparison would look something like this:

Bonds 456 AB 160 R 169 H 37 2B 56 HR 128 RBI
Beltre 570 AB 101 R 195 H 32 2B 47 HR 117 RBI
Pujols 565 AB 127 R 184 H 43 2B 45 HR 116 RBI

And if Bonds had roughly the same number of at-bats as the two sluggers…..

Bonds 556 AB 196 R 206 H 48 2B 68 HR 156 RBI
Beltre 570 AB 101 R 195 H 32 2B 47 HR 117 RBI
Pujols 565 AB 127 R 184 H 43 2B 45 HR 116 RBI

If Pujols and Beltre had roughly the same number of at-bats as Bonds…..

Bonds 356 AB 123 R 132 H 27 2B 44 HR 100 RBI
Beltre 356 AB 90 R 121 H 20 2B 29 HR 72 RBI
Pujols 356 AB 90 R 116 H 27 2B 29 HR 72 RBI

I’m sure Pujols and Beltre would score 100 runs if they were walked 200 times, but the rest of the rate stats would be directly affected by the reduced opportunities, perhaps even more. The difficulty of hitting 40 home runs while being routinely walked two, three times a game, ten, fifteen times a week, can hardly be overstated. Bonds’ ability to continue to dominate while being avoided so often is testament to his greatness.

Another way to look at it is to consider how many outs each player has made on their way to forty-something home runs, etc.. Bonds has made approximately 230 outs while reaching base over 360 times (he could break the Ruth’s record of 379 with a monster finish). Beltre has made something like 370 outs while reaching base 240 times, and Pujols has made something like 380 outs while reaching base some 280 times.

I could go on and on. Barry Bonds is the MVP.

…. Knowledge is power

…. Bounce back

Ever watch your favorite horror movie and just laugh at how unstoppable, how completely un-killable your typical monster can be? That is the 2004, Barry Bonds-led SF Giants.

This team comes back. And comes back. Again and again and again. Jim Tracy says Beltre is the MVP?!? Please.

When Tracy pitches to Bonds, in any situation that matters, as consistently as everyone pitches to Beltre, then Adrian can win the MVP award. Meanwhile, when the Dodgers walk Bonds five times in the game that may or may not decide the entire season; and Adrian Beltre gets four at-bats, it’s fairly obvious who is the most dangerous and valuable player on the diamond.

The Giants, in spite of Bonds’ five walks today, beat the Dodgers 9-5. Combined with the Mets improbable, two-outs in the ninth inning, game-tying, three-run home run…. with a follow-up, two-outs, game-winning, solo home run in the 11th inning win over the Cubs, the Giants are off the iron lung machine once again. Damn.

…. Setback

So the Giants lost for the sixth time in the last seven Jason Schmidt rotation turns, and it may finally have begun to hurt. This one was a real stinker, after Jason and the relievers couldn’t hold a three-run lead after six innings. Being so close to a sweep is fine, but the Giants really should have closed that game out earlier.

Que sera sera. Dodgers. Dodgers. Dodgers.

…. Scintillating

That’s what last night was. Early on, I caught the last four innings of the Cubs vs. Pirates 1-0 thriller, (the Cubs won). Then I went back and forth between the Giants 5-1 win over the Astros, (Lowry was flat-out awesome) and the Padres 4-0 win over the Dodgers. Wow.

Durham has been a juggernaut against Houston, he’s reached base 9 of 10 times so far this series, (6 for 7 with 3 walks). He’s stealing bases, taking a ton of pitches, doing it all. And his defense has come alive. In fact, the Giants as a team are really flashing the leather over the last month.

The Giants look unbeatable, as they continue to pound whoever they face. Combined with their suddenly unhittable pitching staff, this team is rounding into playoff form right in front of our eyes.

Dodgers 86-65
Giants 86-66
Cubs 85-66
Astros 83-69

Only two of those four will make it. You’re telling me this isn’t a pennant race?

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, or any other organization mentioned herein.

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