Archive for April, 2010

…. Why Bochy was right…. this time

That’s the title of Grant’s latest post, over at McCovey’s Chronicles. First, let me say that I am a huge fan of Grant’s work. His site is simply terrific, and his writing is first rate. That said, he’s wrong here. It’s a reasonable position, but it is clearly wrong:

…. When Shane Victorino walked in the ninth inning, the Giants still had a 96.8% chance of winning the game. That’s assuming average players across the board of course – there’s no way to tweak the formula to account for Tim Lincecum or the ridiculous heart of the Phillies order. But even factoring those things in wouldn’t make a big difference. When a team has a three-run lead with one out in the ninth inning, that team wins about 95 times out of 100, whether it’s a tired starting pitcher, an All-Star closer, or a tub of slurry trying to close out the game.

…. when Lincecum got under four straight fastballs and walked a weenie he’d effortlessly dispatched all day, I wasn’t really worried about the game yet. I wanted him out of the game because he’s still a young pitcher. There’s no need to push him in that situation if you think he’s fatigued in any way. You don’t want a tired Tim Lincecum struggling through a 12-pitch at bat to Chase Utley in a game that’s almost impossible to lose.

That’s Grant’s argument. Bochy made the right move, because there wasn’t a wrong move. Protect the lead, protect the pitcher. The chances of losing are so slim, it doesn’t matter what you do.

That’s not correct. In fact, that’s not even relevant.

What matters here is the indecisive, unclear, thoughtless, “everybody does it this way,” stupidity involved in how our manager handled the closing innings of yesterday’s horrible loss.

Up to the bottom of the eighth inning, the Giants had completely outplayed the Phillies in every way. We’d banged their ace around, won with our worst starting pitcher, out-hit them, out-pitched them, out-hustled them…. in every way possible, the Giants had opened up a can of whoop-ass on the two-time, defending National League Champions. How badly had we outplayed them? Glad you asked. At the end of the eighth inning on Wednesday, the Giants and the Phillies had played 26 innings. Here’s what the important stats looked like at that point:

Giants hitters 15 Runs Scored 35 hits 21 SO
Phillies hitters 4 Runs Scored 13 hits 29 SO

Are you looking at that? Three times as many hits, more than three times as any runs scored…. I mean, we were kicking their ass.

So, at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning, if you are the manager of the Giants, you have to ask yourself, how do I handle the end of the game? How do I handle the last three outs for each team? Lincecum is gonna be up second. If somebody gets on, you either pinch hit, or have Lincecum bunt. If you pinch hit, you have already made the choice. If you let him sacrifice, you leave your options open. Seems like an easy choice, once the leadoff man gets on, right? Leave your options open. Right?

Wrong. Let’s take it a step further. The whole reason you’re facing a tough decision is because you want to protect your ace as well as protect the lead. So, what happens after Lincecum sacrifices? What happens if the Giants put together a couple of decent at-bats, and end up adding a run or two? Pitching changes, hits, walks, runs scoring…. these things take time. It is this element of the analysis that is being conveniently forgotten in the rush to defend Bochy for this supposed once in a season type of loss.

If Lincecum and the Giants are successful during that eighth inning, then using Lincecum is a mistake, NO MATTER HOW TIRED HE MAY OR MAY NOT BE. If the question is whether to use a possibly tired young pitcher, then you absolutely have to ask yourself what happens if you are successful, and what happens if you are not. If you use a possibly tired Lincecum and nobody gets on, and the Giants don’t score, you’ve wasted an out in a critical late inning. If you use him, and the Giants do score, it’s gonna take some time, and you’re not gonna be able to send him out for the ninth anyway.

Why bring Lincecum out for the ninth if you’re not gonna let him go for at least a run allowed? Four pitch walk? Whatever. Who cares. These are questions you ask after you lose. Why have Wilson start the inning from the stretch? WHO CARES!?!

This series was shaping up to be a season starter, an inspirational, team-rallying, “WE JUST BEAT THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THE TWO-TIME DEFENDING NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPS!!!” kind of series. And our manager sleepwalked through “the book,” and did what he was supposed to do, *yawn* just like all baseball lifers are supposed to do.

That was his mistake. That’s why he was wrong to handle it the way he did. He acted like it was just any old win, “Sure, Lincecum could move into the front-runner’s spot for the Cy Young Award again,” “Sure we could sweep the best team in the NL two years running, but remember, it’s a long season,” blah blah blah.


After four seasons of worthless, third and fourth place, worst offense in the league, almost no reason to care at all baseball, this team –and it’s fans, by the way– have been waiting for a season-defining moment, dreaming for a chance to show the league that they don’t just have enough pitching, that they’re coming at you game after game, with everything they have, all season long. You know, like the fucking gamers we’re endlessly told the Giants are.

Instead, their manager handled this game like he handles every game. Like he was in a coma. No urgency, no imagination, no cutting edge approach, no nothing. Because he’s asleep at the wheel, just like the GM, just like the owners. The Giants win in spite of the leadership, or lack, thereof, demonstrated by these men. And fans are subjected to more excuses, lies, and bullshit.

…. Bring on the Savior

Tim Lincecum takes his final turn in April, trying to both sustain the Giants recent run of success, and cement his status as the best pitcher in the NL. Multiple pitchers are looking super so far this season, including Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, Livan Hernandez(!), Mike Pelfrey, and of course, Lincecum.

Jimenez won his fifth last night, and combined with his earlier no-hitter, hasn’t allowed a run in 22.3 innings. Pelfrey hasn’t allowed a run in 24 straight innings. Due to his loss to the Giants, Halladay is out of the running, and so is Livan, mostly due to his low strikeout totals. No, the battle for pitcher of the month is between these two and Timmy, so a strong showing tonight could/should be the difference. As of (Thursday) morning, here’s a quick comp:

Jimenez 34 IP 22 H 3 ER 31 SO 14 BB 0.79 ERA 1.05 WHIP
Pelfrey 26 IP 18 H 2 ER 19 SO 13 BB 0.69 ERA 1.19 WHIP
Timmy 35 IP 22 H 5 ER 43 SO 7 BB 1.27 ERA 0.82 WHIP

I think 7 innings, 8 strikeouts, and no earned runs will lock it up for the Savior.

As for the Giants, lots of hitting the last two games makes everyone happy, but there’s no getting around the fact that this level of inconsistency is here to stay. We still need power and walks. Still.

UPDATE: 8.3 innings, 2 earned runs, 11 strikeouts, no decision. I updated the above comparison. We’ll see.

UPDATE, Part II: I think Bochy should’ve started the ninth with Wilson, should’ve pinch-hit for Lincecum in the 8th, and avoided, not only the loss, but all of this bullshit.

“We felt like (Lincecum) was close (to being tired), and, once he walked (Shane) Victorino on four pitches, I went to one of the best closers in the game,” Bochy said.

Yeah, well, if you thought he was tired, then you should’ve told him to stay in the dugout for the ninth. Either that, or let him finish the game. Why bother having him go out there at all, if you’re not gonna let him finish the game. Oh, he walked a guy? Please. That kind of indecisive bullshit is infuriating. And it’s just one more example of how poorly this team is run.

I’d like to point out that the Giants have the best runs scored differential in the NL (+33 runs), and the second best in baseball. Accordingly, they should be more like 15-6, instead of 12-9. Not a huge difference, but something to keep an eye on. The reason for the difference is pretty obvious. The 1-0 loss when Sanchez gave up the one hit, last night’s blown 3-run lead, and Manny’s home run game. It’s also worth mentioning that that makes three excruciating losses in the first month of the season.

…. You get what you pay for

10 runs in their last six games ain’t gonna cut it, even when your pitchers allow only 12. That’s where the Giants live, a land in which every run is twice as valuable as it should be, a land where a three run lead is as rare as a white rhino.

In the NL, over the last seven days, there are 5 teams that posted an ERA under 3.00 ERA. Every one of those teams had a winning record except for the Giants, who went 1-5 while posting a staggering 2.08 ERA. That’s hard to do, but, then again, so is losing a game in which you allow only one hit.

Sabean should be fired today. Now. He went out and spent money, again, he went out and built this team of bench players, has-beens and never was players. Millions upon millions of dollars.

As I said six months ago, the Giants could have re-signed Uribe, brought up Posey, and landed Matt Holliday for the same money –without trading a top prospect, I might add– they threw on the ground to bring Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa, and Freddie Sanchez to the Bay Area. Anyone think this lineup is better than that one might have been?

Our entire pitching staff has been a Cy Young candidate so far this season, and we’re two games over .500. You know who has allowed the fewest runs in all of baseball? The Giants. They’ve allowed 53 runs. They have the fourth best record in the NL, and the eighth best record in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays have allowed the fewest runs in the AL, 63. And they are 14-5, best in the land.

Gee, I wonder why?

…. Savior

Maybe that can be a new nickname for Lincecum. He wasn’t at his best, he struggled with his control, but damn, he is some fine pitcher.

…. Piling on

That was some three game series down there at Petco. A losing streak at four games, and an offense gasping for breath. First place sure seems far away already.

The Chronicle writers noted that the last time the Giants gave up a single hit and lost was 1917. They also noted how bad our hitters have been lately:

….The Giants are 1-for-30 with runners in scoring position during their four-game skid.

…. and again

Three games, 27 innings, 6 runs allowed, 3 runs scored, three losses.

Wow. Tough for a team to lose a game when they only allow a single hit, but, hey, we are talking about an offensive juggernaut. Amazingly, the Giants actually made some history last night; since making the move west in 1958, the team had never lost a game in which they’d only allowed one hit:

…. The Giants have scored three runs in their last 30 innings, resulting in a three-game losing streak that falls into the “duh” category. Whether they score zero runs or 10 against Jon Garland today, they will finish a losing trip.

Jonathan Sanchez pitched seven brilliant innings. He allowed the hit and struck out 10 to take the team lead from Tim Lincecum, 27-24.

And he lost.

…. Edgar Renteria, now 5-for-38 since his 11-for-16 start, hit into double plays in his first two at-bats against starter Mat Latos, whose seven shutout innings constituted a career breakout game.

That last sentence sums it all up perfectly. On the one hand, it illustrates how a good week or so means nothing in baseball. On the other hand, it shows how just about anybody can look like Cy Young against the Giants.

Schierholz’s eighth inning leadoff triple said it all. Three straight hitters couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.

And Bochy didn’t do himself any favors yesterday, either. Allowing Torres to get at-bats while the team is going through tough times makes no sense. The kid is fast, for sure, but at the plate he looks completely over-matched. But if you’re gonna use him as a pinch-runner, like Bochy did in the ninth, you absolutely have to send him on Uribe’s flyball. Ridiculous decision to hold him there. Who is supposed to get a two-out, ninth-inning RBI hit at that point?

…. Again

Two games, 18 innings, five runs allowed, 3 runs scored, two losses.

This is what I thought we’d see lots of this season, not the offensive juggernaut of the first ten games. Lots of second and third with one out situations where we can’t even hit the ball out of the infield, lots of hittable pitches being swung through, lots of great pitching performances being wasted, lots of zero-margin-for-error innings by our pitchers.

After yesterday’s loss, the Giants are facing the reality that they will need to get their groove back if they are really gonna compete for the NL West crown this season. Sure, Sandoval just missed a home run in the sixth. Sure, Velez isn’t supposed to the everyday left-fielder. Sure, the last two lefty’s they faced were dealing.

At the same time, the number of clear mistake pitches that the Giants hitters simply missed yesterday was staggering. Again and again, Richard missed his target high, and again and again a Giants hitter fouled it off, or often, simply couldn’t get wood on it at all. DeRosa’s pinch-hit strikeout was especially disappointing, given that he never saw a strike at all.

Torres and Velez misplayed a potential throw out at the plate, after Velez misplayed a double into a triple….. These things don’t matter when you score four or five runs per game. When you are in a nail-biter, one run situation that lasts 18 consecutive innings, the pressure starts to mount.

And, the pressure is starting to mount for the Giants. It’s nice to start hot, and it stinks to start flat; but it’s worse to start hot and then fall flat on your face.

…. Tough loss

Tough, tough, loss. Inexplicably poor pitch on the 1-2 offering to Ramirez, who was sitting on a three-peat of that slider. Even if the slider is a good choice, Romo caught way too much of the plate, and, obviously Manny didn’t miss it.

…. Bang it out

The Giants are sitting pretty at 7-2. They have been patient (30-plus walks), pitching great, and newcomers Huff and DeRosa have been exactly what the doctor ordered.

As of right now, I can’t find anything to complain about.

Go Giants.

…. All Star hitter

As in, a hitter with a .300 batting average is usually going to be considered for the All Star team. Barry Zito won his 30th game as a Giant last night…. in his 100th start. A .300 batting average for a pitcher is nowhere near an All Star. Consider Lincecum, who is an All Star. He’s won 42 games in his 92 starts, which would translate to a .456 batting average using this obscenely simple metric.

Chris Carpenter would be a better comp for Zito. Carpenter has started 262 games in his career, and won 118 of them. That translates into a .450 batting average, again, a powerful winning percentage. Or, you could look at what Zito did as an Athletic. 222 starts, 102 wins, a .450 batting average. Which means, obvioulsy, that Zito, as a Giant, has been unremarkable at best, and a tremendous disappointment at his worst.

That said, he’s now 2-0 for the first time in his Giants career, and he has pitched well this season out the gate; the two wins aren’t especially fluky. The Giants continue their torrid offense, now Sandoval and Molina are raking, although Renteria has come crashing back to earth (0 for his last 10). Huff reached base all five time last night, (that’s eight straight plate appearances reaching base), and the relief pitching last night was stellar. Romo was especially sharp, his two strikeouts last night were simply filthy.

Speaking of Lincecum, Sunday night was the 20th time he’s struck out at least 10. Henry Schulman looked up who’s struck out that many batters in their first 100 starts, and found a pretty damn impressive list:

1. Dwight Gooden (31)
2. Herb Score (25)
3. Kerry Wood (23)
T4. Mark Prior (21)
T4. Hideo Nomo (21)
T6. Tim Lincecum (20) — (in 92 games, not 100)
T6. Bob Feller (20)
T8. Roger Clemens (19)
T11. Randy Johnson (16)
T14. Nolan Ryan (14)

He has a realistic shot to get into the top three, but no chance to catch Dwight Gooden.

I was living in Manhattan when Gooden exploded onto the baseball scene as a 19-year old fireballer. His 1985 season ranks as one of the top five pitching performances in the modern era, and he was 20 years old. It ranks as one of the greatest season a 20 year old has ever put together, if not the greatest. As great as Lincecum has been, (and he has ben spectacular) I can safely say Gooden was better, (before he became a coke fiend, obviously).

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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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