Archive for June, 2009
Tim Lincecum simply destroyed the Cardinals last night, pitching a 2-hit shutout, with 8 strikeouts and no walks. Now 8-2, leading the world in strikeouts, and running out an utterly dominating June, (4-1, with 48 strikeouts in 48 innings pitched), Lincecum would seem to be moving into position to start the All Star Game. As the reigning Cy Young, the choice would seem obvious.
A quick look at his stats shows some awe-inspiring trends. Now halfway through '09, he has gotten better each year, and is approaching Pedro Martinez country:
2007 2.31 K/BB .308 OBP .364 SLG .669 OPS allowed WHIP 1.278 BB/9IP 4.0
2008 3.16 K/BB .297 OBP .316 SLG .609 OPS allowed WHIP 1.172 BB/9IP 3.3
2009 4.71 K/BB .275 OBP .305 SLG .576 OPS allowed WHIP 1.070 BB
His pitches per inning and per batter have gone down this season, as evidenced by yesterday's 96 pitch gem, and whatever early season issues he was having seem long gone. In his last 4 starts, he's had 37 strikeouts and 3 walks in 35 innings, with three complete games and one 8 inning stint. Read that sentence twice.
In 73 starts, he's now 33-12 for his career. Dwight Gooden, to whom he's occasionally compared, started 66 games his first two seasons, and at the end of his second, (when he was 20 years old!), Gooden was 41-13. Timmy's got a shot to have a similar record at the end of this season, and certainly appears to have a good shot at back to back Cy Young Awards.
The Giants have no excuse not to open up the checkbook, right fucking now, and get him signed to a long-term contract. Under no circumstance can he be allowed to see the light of day.
This one is on the manager. The Giants had their chance, heading into the sixth inning with a 4-0 lead. Barry Zito lied to himself and lied to his manager, and he should be held accountable for his irresponsible action; but Bochy has to know better.
…. The Giants had to swallow many bitter pills, starting with a 4-0 lead that vanished in two swings. Fielder hit a three-run homer in the sixth against Barry Zito, who started the inning with a two-hit shutout but admitted he was “a little gassed” after running from first to third in the top half.
Bochy has to be able to see, with his own eyes, that Zito was done after the two walks in the fifth inning that ended up causing no pain. But, no. Bochy and Righetti foolishly allowed Zito to go out and fact the top of the order to the third time. And then, after two more walks, two walks in which it was obvious that Zito could not control where the ball was going, that he was gassed, he walked out to the mound and asked him if he wanted to continue; which begs the question, why bother managing at all? Why bother having someone who can see the big picture, someone who can help the players get the most out of their abilities, someone who can plan for the many points in a game where decisions can make or break a team; if, when the time comes, you have no idea what you are doing?
…. “You can't explain that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “This is one of those games you can't explain, what happened here. No question, that was as tough a game as you can have.”
What? You can't explain it? Let me try. You allowed a pitcher who has been struggling for three years to stop himself from sliding into obscurity to face th
e top young power hitter in the game –with the game on the line– even though it was obvious to EVERYONE that you should have taken him out. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? Look here, even the idiots at the SF Chron knew:
Barry Zito's recent trend has been to pitch well early, then suddenly blow up. His last four starts:
June 27 vs. Brewers: Allowed no runs and 2 hits through five innings; allowed 2 walks and a three-run homer in the 6th.
June 21 vs. Rangers: Had a no-hitter through six; gave up 2 hits and 2 runs in the 7th.
June 15 vs. Angels: Allowed 2 hits and 1 run through three; gave up 6 hits and 6 runs in the 4th.
June 10 vs. D'backs: Allowed 2 hits and 1 run through four; gave up 5 hits and 3 runs in 5th.
In a game the Giants had in hand, Bruce Bochy decided to allow Barry Zito to pitch to the heart of the Brewers order even though Zito has shown no ability whatsoever to be able to handle the task; and now they get to talk about a tough loss, instead of Zito's great start, or Pablo Sandoval's first multi-homer game, or the team's 40th win of the season.
This one's on him.
PS…. Pablo Sandoval is becoming, as we speak, a monster. His June line is simply the best we've seen since Barry Lamar:
8 doubles, 8 home runs, 18 RBI, .405/.469/.786 1.255 OPS
UPDATE: Nice bounce back win, the Big Sadowski and Nate combine to salvage the series. 40-34 heading into St. Louis. Still last in the NL in runs scored, first in runs allowed. Still need a bat.
Maybe I'll just bounce back and forth all season on this team. Sure they've feasted on some weak teams. Sure their home record is obscene. Sure, Lincecum and Cain and pray for rain sounds catchy. And, sure, Pablo Sandoval looks more and more like the real deal.
But as of this morning, the 25th of June, your San Francisco Giants have the third best record in the National League, the sixth best in all of baseball, and are seven games over .500 with a paltry +11 runs scored differential. How have they done this seemingly impossible task?
Put simply, they've pitched their asses off. Lincecum and Cain, in particular, have absolutely carried the team. In the month of June, Matt Cain is 3-0, having thrown 28 innings and allowed only 18 hits and 7 earned runs, good for a 2.22 ERA. Lincecum has thrown 39 inning, allowed 33 hits and just 8 ru
ns, good for a 1.82 ERA.
All told, this team just may be coming together. On May 25th, the Giants were 21-23, and had scored 172 runs and allowed 182. (3.9 runs scored, 4 runs allowed) Since then, in 27 games, they've scored 109 runs and allowed 88, an average game score of 4.03 to 3.25. An average game score like that translates into a .605 winning percentage, which means they have outperformed their expected wins by less than two, because over that span of 27 games, they've gone 18-9. Since May 25th, only the Colorado Rockies, beneficiaries of an 11-game winning streak, have a better record, in the entire National League. In fact, since May 25th, the Giants have the second best record in all of baseball.
SINCE MAY 25TH, THE SF GIANTS HAVE THE SECOND BEST RECORD IN ALL OF BASEBALL
I thought I'd put it out there loud and proud.
I don't want to jinx him, but it's clear by now that Pablo Sandoval is having a hell of a season. He's running out a very handsome .329/.371/.531 .902 OPS line, with 28 extra base hits. That .329 batting average is second only to league leader David Wright for third basemen, and is the fifth best batting average in the NL. His .902 OPS ranks as the fifteenth best in the league, right between Chipper Jones and Hanley Ramirez –two of the best players in baseball– which is pretty good company.
Marc Normandin, at BP, has some nice things to say about Sandoval as well:
…. Sandoval is just 60 games into the year, but his line is very similar to PECOTA's most optimistic forecast. He is currently hitting .329/.371/.531, with walks in 5.5 percent of his plate appearances and a .205 ISO. He's become more patient, which is the kind of thing that turns someone with Sandoval's contact skills into a dangerous hitter.
…. Pitchers have also begun challenging him later in at-bats now: he saw first pitch strikes in over 70 percent of his plate appearances last year, and is down to a more league-average 58.9 percent this season. This may be partially due to his hitting .345 with a .621 slugging percentage on first pitches last year. That success has carried over, as he's hitting .350 with a .600 slugging percentage on first pitches in 2009. Starting him
out with a ball on the first pitch hasn't helped either, as he's hit .398/.459/.682 following a 1-0 count. The only times that it seems like Sandoval struggles at all is when he is behind in the count with two strikes, but good luck making him sit still long enough to get there.
His only real weakness as a hitter right now is his lack of walks, something that perhaps isn't easy to learn, but then again, hitting as well as Sandoval isn't easy either.
All in all, for a 22-year old, he's having a terrific season. Over the next year or two, it's up to the Giants to figure out where to play him, and make sure he learns how to play there. My guess is this year is the last one he spends bouncing around, and he settles in behind the plate. My hope is that the team –are you listening, Sabean?– realizes that a player with this much offense in him needs to learn to play first or third base, so that he can focus on hitting, and not get beat up so much.
UPDATE: As of Sunday night, Pabo Sandoval is batting .338, good for second in the entire National League, and third in all of baseball. It should go without saying that the Giants haven't had a player rank in the top of any offensive category since Superman was around, so, it's an accomplishment worth noting.
His overall numbers, .338/.386/.543 with a .929 OPS are simply outstanding for a 22 year old, and without question, bode well for his future.
OK, so maybe I was wrong about being wrong.
Both Gwen Knapp and John Shea point out the same problems I mentioned in yesterday's update, mainly that the Giants seem to have trouble with the better teams, even though their records may be similar:
….Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain promised to camouflage a lot of flaws elsewhere on the roster, offering hope that they could take the Giants to the playoffs and then to an upset, past a team that seemed vastly superior in every other way.
…. They can do a lot by themselves. They can overcom
e a wan offense. They can overcome a mediocre defense. But they can't overcome both against a talented, predatory opponent, at least not enough to turn a five- or seven-game playoff series in the Giants' favor.
The Giants' weaknesses at the plate have drawn a lot of attention, but sloppiness in certain parts of the field and the staggering failure to hold baserunners (see the Mets) probably have been more disappointing. The Angels' three-run eighth benefited from a passed ball, a line drive that bounced off the end of diving second baseman Matt Downs' glove, and Pablo Sandoval's misguided decision to throw to first when he had a shot at preventing the go-ahead run at home.
Sounds like +MIA.
As in, I might be wrong. I might be wrong about our Giants. I might be wrong to assume that this team cannot buck the trends. I might be wrong to believe that we simply do not have the offense needed to think about contending.
The Giants, as of 3:41 pm, Sunday the 14th of June, are sitting at 34-28, with the , which is fucking amazing. They also are sitting with the sixth best record in all of baseball, which is, well, I don't have a superlative for that.
Honestly, I cannot believe I'm even writing that sentence. Their recent surge even has them at +14 in runs differential, and with Cain and Lincecum trading complete game destructions, Randy Johnson continuing his 300 win success, I must begin the process of accepting the very real possibility that I have been wrong all along.
We still need offense, but maybe our pitching is so dominating that one hitter might be enough, like say, a first baseman?
UPDATE: Well, a real team shows up, and next thing you know,
f=”http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/gameflash/2009/06/17/27905_recap.html”>the good vibes are gone
f=”http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/gameflash/2009/06/17/27905_recap.html”>the good vibes are gonein a hurry. In the eighth inning today, Lincecum watched the Angels score three runs without getting good contact on but one pitch. The winning run scored from third on a soft ground ball to Pablo Sandoval, playing third base after being a first baseman for a while. Sandoval double-clutched the ball before getting the out at first, prompting Lincecum to have this to say after the game:
''In that situation it's clear where the play is, but he didn't get a good grip on the ball. It was a mental mistake. … I threw good pitches, and they were hit in the right spots at the right time. In hindsight, maybe I'll see that a quarter-inch could have made the difference. That's the way the game is.''
I'll mention that Lincecum shouldn't have thrown his teammates under the bus, but he was massively frustrated by the seeing eye inning, so I'll give him a pass.
Meanwhile, after that half inning was over, the Giants sent eight men to the plate, none of whom were able to even come close to getting a base hit, which, of course, wasn't the least bit unexpected.
As in, “he doth protesteth too much.”
…. “I'll come after people who defame or slander me,” he said Tuesday night before the Phillies played the New York Mets, according to the report. “It's pathetic and disgusting. There should be some accountability for people who put that out there. You can have my urine, my hair, my blood, my stool — anything you can test. I'll give you back every dime I've ever made” if the test is positive, he added.
“I'll put that up against the jobs of anyone who writes this stuff,” he said, according to the Inquirer. “Make them accountable. There should be more credibility than some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother's basement. It demeans everything you've done with one stroke of the pen. Nobody is above the testing policy. We've seen that.”
First of all, the Players Association agreed to the
testing program, opening up this Pandora's Box of moving targets and speculation. Second, Ibanez has to see that he is having exactly the kind of season that makes it easy to speculate about a player, and third, get a grip. The in question hardly merits Ibanez throwing down the gauntlet, but, if Ibanez really wants to push the envelope, he should answer David Pinto:
…. since you’re so willing to help, release the results of all your drug tests since the program began. I’d like to see your Testosterone:Epitestosterone Ratio over time. There’s no way it would have gone from 1:1 to 3:1 recently, is there? Enough to help, but not enough to get caught, maybe? Let’s see the time series, if you’re so sure you’re clean.
Otherwise, shut the fuck up.
It's tough to be the best. It takes a lot of work, dedication, and commitment. Your San Francisco Giants are the best at something, and it should be noted.
As of this morning, the Giants have allowed the fewest runs in the National League, 214. That is an accomplishment the team should be proud of. Of course, with the good, sometimes comes the bad. The Giants have scored only 214 runs. That's right, the Giants have scored and allowed the exact same number of runs so far this season. And what makes this so notable is that that is the worst total in the National League. The Giants are first in runs allowed, and last in runs scored.
UPDATE: As one might expect from a team with
so little offense, the Giants came within a hair's breath of being no-hit today. Not for nothing, but this team is pretty much a no-hitter waiting to happen.
As for the last word on the runs differential discussion, talking about a team that outscores its opponents 12-6 is pointless, no team scores 12 runs per game. But a team that posts an average score of 5.1 to 3.8 (like the Dodgers) is, in fact, better than a team that posts an average score of 4.1 to 3.8. (and the Giants aren't even that good). A team that scores over a run per game more than they allow is a juggernaut, and I can't understand how anyone could fail to see that.
Just after suggesting that the Giants trade some of their older players for up and coming young hitters, the Braves and Pirates announce a trade that, really, the Giants could have, and probably should have been involved in.
The Braves sent a pile of minor league players to the Pirates for Nate McLouth, a former Gold Glove centerfielder. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan and Christina Kahrl look at the trade, and both suggest that the Pirates did as well as they could given McLouth's real value. Here's Sheehan:
…. Bringing it back to the trade, I see the Pirates as having done all right in it. They traded a player at or near the peak of his value, whose useful career would not extend into their next run of success, for quantity.
…. The most interesting thing to me about this trade is what it says about the industry’s evaluation of defense. The trade works because Nate McLouth was correctly valued, and that value takes into account that he’s not a good defensive center fielder. The Pirates, who would have as good a read on McLouth’s actual value as any team given that not only do they see him every day, but they employ Dan Fox as an analyst, took back a package that clearly did not value McLouth as a “Gold Glove” center fielder. If that deal were out there, if there were a team thinking of McLouth as a defensive stalwart, surely the return on him would have been better.
Aaron Rowand is quite a bit better than McLouth, albeit older, so the return for him certainly would have been better. He's had the one big home run season, just like McClouth. He's won a Gold Glove, just like McClouth. And he certainly won't be around the next time the Giants are contending fo
r a title, just like McLouth won't be around for the Pirate by the time they get their act together. This season, Rowand is better than McLouth in every category but home runs.
So the question remains; why weren't the Giants involved in this trade? The Braves have top quality talent in their minor league system, and are desperate for an outfielder, a center fielder in particular. Gorkys Hernandez or Jair Jurrjens might be out of the question, but how do you know that? How do you know they wouldn't make a move like that for Rowand and a couple of the Giants prospects? Schierholz is turning into dust playing behind Rowand, for what? Rowand absolutely, positively has no business playing everyday on a team that is at least two years away. Schierholz, obviously does.
Oh, and might I mention that he will never again be as valuable as he is right now. He's having a great start to the season, after being pretty fucking mediocre since he got here, and here we see the first move made for a player who is a poor man's version of our guy.
Rowand, Molina, Winn, and yes, even Renteria are all nothing more than trade bait at this point of the season. Watching Molina fall apart –gee what a surprise, our old and slow catcher is suddenly not playing well– reminds me of the end of how Sabean handled Brett Tomko, Jason Schmidt, or any number of on the downside of their career players…. poorly.
When you over value veteran savvy and experience, you will never know when the time has come to move a player, you cannot understand that the last peak of a players career is THE time to strike. Brian Sabean has never known this. He has never been able to understand that simple fact. And don't go bringing up the Williams trade, that was as much luck as anything. If Kent doesn't turn into a Hall of Famer, that trade is as bad as anything he's ever done.
In an ugly, error-filled game, Tim Lincecum failed to beat the worst team in baseball, as the Giants lost to the Nationals to fall back to .500. After 50 games, the team has scored and allowed almost the exact same number of runs, and without a major trade, will be lucky to maintain their current pace for much longer. No pitcher can carry the load of having to be perfect every game, just ask Johan Santana, who has been given the worst run support imaginable the last season and a half. The Giants pitching staff has been dealing with this kind of pressure for a couple of seasons now, and there's not much real hope for the rest of '09.
By the way, for everyone who keeps insisting that the Dodgers can be had, they've allowed almost the exact same number of runs the Giants have. Of course, they've also scored 100 more runs. Not to belabor the obvious, but that means they are outscoring the Giants by 2 full runs per game. Just in case you haven't had your coffee yet, let me elaborate…. if the Giants traded Travis Ishikawa straight up for Albert Pujols, they wouldn't make up that difference. If they traded Ishikawa for the 2003-05 version of Bonds they wouldn't score two more runs per game, although they'd probably come close.
My point is that the real contenders are the teams that are outscoring their opponents. Forget about won loss records, just look at ESPN's upgraded standings page, and check out the runs differential column. That'll tell you everything you need to know. 50 games in, we know who we are. 50 games is a large enough sample. I just read explaining that the number of teams who've made the playoff after being five games below .500 at the start of June is three:
…. Here are the facts. There have been 104 teams to make the playoffs in the 13 full seasons of the wild-card era. Exactly three of them, or 2.9 percent, were worse than five games below .500 when June began. Here are the three outliers:
1. 2005 Astros (19-32 start; 89-73 final record).
2. 2007 Cubs (22-29; 85-77).
3. 2007 Yankees (22-29; 94-68).
That's just another way of saying the same thing. Over the course of a season, the teams that outscore their opponents by the largest margins will be the ones that –with the occasional exception–make the playoffs. So here's a different way of looking at those three teams, looking at where they were on the morning of June 1st of those seasons:
2005 Astros 18-32 -48 runs differential Expected Won-Loss 18-32
2007 Cubs 22-29 +11 runs differential Expected Won-Loss 27-24
2007 Yankees 22-29 +24 runs differential Expected Won-Loss 29-22
You wanna know how Houston made up that deficit? They outscored their opponents by 132 runs over the last 112 games of the season, which is normally a full seasons' worth of extra runs for a contending team. In fact, only one team in the NL outscored their opponents by more than 132 runs that year, the St. Louis Cardinals, who didn't make the Series in what was widely considered an upset. But, from June 1st on, the Astros were the better team. Over those last 112 games, the Cardinals runs differential was only 116. The Astros won 5 more games than the Cards over that stretch, and then won the NL pennant before falling to the White Sox in the Serious.
As of today, no team is significantly outperforming their expected winning percentage, a couple should have a few more wins, notably, the Nationals, who should have about four more, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who are also about four or five wins worse than they should be. Most teams are right where they should be, which is another way of saying this:
The Giants have no chance of competing for a championship this season.
The minor league system has been restocked, and there should be help, in the form of real hitters, coming up next season, and hopefully we will see the Giants become a team that has a steady supply of good, young talent in the future. It's important that Brain Sabean remembers that championships are built, not bought. He knows that the Yankees recent dynasty –contrary to
popular belief– was built upon the nucleus of home grown talent, by the maturation of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie WIlliams, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, who all came up through the Yankees system. That Yankee team was built upon that core group of All Stars, who were then surrounded by key free agents and savvy veterans; think along the lines of David Wells, David Cone, Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neil, Scott Brosius…. those kinds of guys. In fact, it was only when the Yankees began to swing for the fences, signing the best free agents out there, when they began to look like an All Star team, that the dynasty started to falter.
The Giants should be sellers, not buyers. They should be looking to unload the collection of overpaid mediocrities masquerading as middle of the order talent. They should be looking to trade Winn, and Rowand and Molina, and Renteria, and collect even more minor league talent, young talent. They should wash their hands of these money sucking role players, and start looking to 2010, because none of these players will be around when Giants players are pouring champagne on each other.
The Giants have two studs right now, two. Cain and Lincecum. Pablo Sandoval looks pretty good, albeit a little rough around the edges. Perhaps Burriss grows into an everyday second baseman. Fred Lewis will be 29 years old at the start of 2010, and he's done exactly, what? Maybe Jonathan Sanchez will be part of a contending Giants team. Maybe. Who else in yesterday's lineup will be?
The Giants need three or four elite players to come up through the system in the next two seasons. A first baseman, Posey, and an outfielder or two would be perfect. Then the players that Sabean is so fond of would actually have real worth. Signing the Aaron Rowands and the Randy Winns of the baseball world would be a fine strategy if the Giants got 90 home runs and 250 runs batted in from their first baseman, left fielder and their catcher.
Trading anybody younger than 28 years old in an effort to make the playoffs this season would be a huge mistake, because you'd be betting half your stack knowing that you're a 10-1 underdog. Trading a player as valuable as Matt Cain would be catastrophic.
UPDATE: I just have to….
Many major media outlets continue to insist that the Yankees surge to the best record in baseball is somehow tied to A-Rod's return, or to the terrific defense they've been getting from Melky Cabrera and Mark Texeira, or from their pitching staff finally coming together. Here's none other than OBM supporter Peter Gammons:
…. Recently, the Yankees have gone on a big-time roll and taken first place in the AL East, all after the return of Alex Rodriguez. However, the key difference hasn't been offense, although the tandem of A-Rod and Mark Teixeira is similar to what David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez once were with Boston. With A-Rod and Teixeira in the order, the Yankees' runs per game have only risen slightly. The Yankees' ERA, though, has dropped by more than two runs, as CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and Co. have come together as a power rotation.
The Yankees' rotation is made up of hard throwers who get minimal hard contact, and put little pressure on the defense. Teixeira, the owner of two Gold Gloves, has made the infield much better, and Melky Cabrera's defensive matrix is the best of any major league center fielder.
None of that is true. Well, it's not that that's not true, it just overstates the case. The Yankees were 14-15 on May 8th, the day A-Rod hit the first pitch he saw for a three-run homer. In those 29 games, they had a run differential of -16, having allowed a staggering 178 runs in those 29 games, over 6 per game. But they'd allowed 44 of those runs in just three games, the three games Chien-Ming Wang started before they put him on the DL. Take those games out, and the Yankees gave up 134 runs in 26 games, or just over 5 runs per game. Over their last 23 games, they've allowed 91 runs, around 4 runs per game. This improvement, in fact, can and should be attributed to better defense, and the pitchers starting to reach mid-season form.
This is why Brian Cashman signed Burnett, Sabathia and Texiera. Those players are delivering.