Archive for August, 2010

…. Collapse

That was a disgrace.

Cody Ross, 0 for 3 with a DP, misplays a simple flyball into a game-winning triple. Sanchez, another worthless game at the top of the lineup, throws the ball into the stands, allowing the go-ahead run.

Bochy should be fired –FIRED– for having Ross in right, given that he had about as much experience in PacBell’s right field as I do. Cody Ross has played in just over 600 games in his entire 7 year career, including just over 200 games as a right fielder. His last two seasons in Florida encompass about 90% of his career output. So, listening to these Giants post-game announcers tell me what a great outfielder he is makes me want to vomit.



A chance to pick up a game on everyone.


…. Failure

Wow. What a stretch of awful baseball.

The Giants have scored 109 runs in 25 games in this month. They have pounded out 26 home runs, and 51 doubles. Of course, it’s been a little feast or famine, because 38 of those runs came in three games. Take those three games out, and it’s a very different story. Then we’re talking about 71 runs in 22 games, which is what a team scores when it is falling out of the race. That’s 3.27 runs per game, and when your pitchers are going through their worst stretch in two seasons, well, you know what’s gonna happen.

The pitching, the starters in particular, has been awful. Overall, they’ve allowed the fourth most run in the league, (127), so scoring 3.27 and allowing 5.08….

This is starting to look like a collapse, the kind that can cost people jobs. Sure, the players should be accountable. But the coaches and managers need to be held accountable, too.

The pitching coach has failed to correct major breakdowns in not one, not two, but three of the team’s young starters for going on five weeks now. The hitting coach has watched as the teams best young hitter endured a ten week homer-less drought, as he essentially swung at every pitch thrown to him for about 225 at-bats. And the manager, well, his failings are worthy of their own article. Allowing Aaron Rowand to stay at the top of the lineup for months wasn’t bad enough. No sooner did he finally get Rowand out of the lineup, he had to put Sanchez in the number two slot and watch as he killed two months worth of rallies. Not benching Sandoval for swinging at every pitch, or for being so fat and out of shape he can’t even bend down on a ground ball. He played the young catcher virtually every day during a staggeringly tough stretch of consecutive games (I think it was 28), until finally, he has broken down, as catchers do when you put them in the lineup for 30 straight days.

The GM? I’ll just point out one thing for now. The amount of money sitting on the bench or on the DL is staggering. Staggering.

Are you listening, Mr. Neukom? Do you really care?

Collapse? Or Playoffs? The matter is out of our hands now.

…. Stretch run?

So, the Giants didn’t do so well during their run of top competition. This isn’t as unusual as you might think. Often, the good teams beat you up in their house, and you beat them up in yours. The only team that is beating up the Giants everywhere is the Padres, who are making a run at best record in baseball right now, so, you gotta take their dominance with a grain of salt.

The Giants are gonna face off against the D’backs, then the Rockies, the Dodgers, and then take another crack at the D’backs. In fact, the Giants have as easy a finishing schedule as any team in the league. Seven games against the Padres, and the rest of their games are against teams with mediocrity written all over them, the Dodgers, Cubs, Rockies, Brewers and D’backs.

The Padres have a slightly more challenging schedule, with one series each against Cincinnati and the Cardinals added into the seven games against the Giants.

So, if you’re rooting for the Giants to win, they should. If you are hoping that a collapse will get us a new regime, well, if they do collapse with this easy a finishing sked, it probably will.

UPDATE: Well, that was just horrific. For those of you hoping for a regime change, if it happens, you can thank Lincecum, because, if the Giants fail to make the postseason this year, you can pretty much point to Lincecum’s last eight starts, in which he’s allowed an astounding 32 runs, not to mention having given up at least three runs before the end of the third inning in each of his last five games; all the while insisting that he doesn’t want to ask his Dad to help him figure out why he’s lost five miles and twelve inches off his fastball.

Fine, He’s been outrageous for most of the last three seasons. He deserves a little slack. I get it.

But, if you’re the Giants, and you just ponyed up $21 million, and your team is in the running for its first postseason game in five years, (or is it six?), I think you have the right to insist that your employee consider the needs of the team over his desire for independence. Lincecum has no command of his fastball whatsoever. He’s throwing it 89-91, instead of 94-96, and nowhere near the plate.

Listening to Bochy’s postgame interview, you can tell that he has no idea why Lincecum can’t find the plate. None. An organization that allows this kind of flailing to continue is just one more indication of how poorly the Giants are run. Between Sandoval weighing 270 pounds, and Lincecum’s unwillingness to seek out the help that he needs, the two players the Giants were most counting on this year have been essentially about 60% of themselves. Other than Posey, who the announcers are now telling us is hurt, the Giants best young players are apparently out of shape, unwilling to accept coaching, and absolutely killing this team.

And, by the way, if Posey is hurt, then I really do look like Nostradamus, because I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Buster Posey is too good a hitter to be behind the plate.

For the month of August, he’s running out a .283/.333/.435 .768 OPS line, with 2 home runs in 92 at-bats. Gee, I wonder if he’s a little banged up?

A couple of other notes:

For the month of August, Uribe is batting .233, with 2 home runs in 73 at-bats. Aubrey Huff has 2 home runs in 82 at-bats.

…. Beat down

Lincecum got beat up again, allowing four runs in the first two innings for the second game in the row. Baggardly got an interview after the game:

…. “That first inning (when he struck out three) was probably the biggest positive I can take from today. It was probably the best inning I’ve thrown in the last few outings actually. I’ve just gotta get back to that and replicate it.”

On going back to his previous windup:

“That wasn’t really a factor other than wrapping your head around doing too many things to fix things. That’s what I’ve been doing the last few outings. It’s getting back to simplifying things and trying to be as optimistic as possible.”

“I’ve become a big thinker. That’s just the way I am. Brain never stops working. You start focusing on the wrong things, or the negatives and they start to manifest and build up on each other.

“I can’t keep searching. I’ve just gotta go out and pitch.”

On whether his rough linescore was a result of bad luck or bad pitches:

“I missed my spots here and there. There were a few bloops, but hits are hits and a loss is a loss. So at the end of the day that’s the way I have to look at it, and get better from here.”

On whether his confidence is shaken:

“Yeah, it can be. You get frustrated when things don’t go your way. You just gotta come to the field every day working with a purpose until it comes back and that’s what I’m trying to get to.”

On what he’ll work on before his next start:

“I want to throw strikes, quality strikes, where I want to throw them. The fastball is kind of all over the place right now. But just hitting that down and away fastball. That’s what I’ve got to get back. I just gotta simplify and do what I’ve got to do.”

On the expectations heaped upon him as the staff ace:

“I just talked to Rags about that. I guess any pitcher in his career, they’ve gone through struggles. This is going to be a learning experience for me, put things in perspective and just build from it. That’s what I’ve got to do.”

On Saturday, the NY Times had a piece on the Padres series, and featured a little Lincecum talk:

…. He has had a weird season, making the All-Star team by vote of the players, who ignored a four-start slump in which he issued 20 walks. Lincecum has been better lately, but he lasts only four innings this time in an 8-6 defeat. His earned run average swells to 3.41, about a run higher than it was last season, and he will not win a third consecutive Cy Young Award.

“Timmy will bounce back,” Bruce Bochy says. “We have a lot of faith in this kid.”

But Lincecum is at a loss. There are many moving parts in his funky delivery, and when flaws crop up, he says, he wants to fix them on his own. His father taught him his mechanics, and Lincecum says maybe he can spot something.

“I’ve been doing this motion long enough where I want it to become second nature,” Lincecum says. “I don’t want to think about how I throw it; I just throw it. I want to get back to that.”

It’s all well and good to figure things out for yourself, but there’s a reason why teams employ coaches. It’s to help players work through the inevitable slumps, league adjustments and recovering from injuries and setbacks. Since Righetti obviously cannot help him, he has to get help from his Dad. The time for working it out on his own is over. His last two starts were, quite frankly, disastrous. In fact, since his outrageous first eight games, his seaosn has been awful. Inconsistent, mediocre, awful.

That the Giants are contending as two of their best young players look completely lost is remarkable. But this cannot continue. Sandoval is watching batting practice fastballs and swinging at curveballs in the dirt. And now Lincecum can’t get out the fourth inning.

The time for self-correction has passed. The season is at risk. Call your Dad, Tim. Call his Dad, Brian.

…. Maybe I’m amazed

At the way I love baseball all the time….

Seriously, our friend Ernie thinks I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. Maybe I am:

…. Aubrey Huff was cut loose by Detroit (his 7th team in 9 years) after posting a 43 OPS+. To say his mind wasn’t in the game at the time is an understatement. Andres Torres had been released/free-agented 6 times in his 6 year career before being picked up for the league minimum by the Giants before the 2009 season. He spent most of it enjoying bus rides and economy class flights across the country touring the Pacific Coast League. Pat Burrell and his $9 Million were sent packing unconditionally by Tampa just 7 weeks into the 2010 season. He and his paycheck bopped out an embarrassing .629 / 69 OPS+ during that time, so Tampa decided it had seen enough.

So desperate were the Giants that all three were picked up for nothing, and all three had moved right into starting positions by this June. The heart of the batting order. So much for “Central Planning”. Huff replaced the injured DeRosa. Burrell has replaced the departed 28 year old career minor leaguer John Bowker and Posey has replaced Molina in the lineup but they are still not enough to offset the continuing presence of Aaron Rowand, Freddy Sanchez, and Edgar Renteria. Sandoval is under-performing about as well as Uribe is over-performing and each is still more valuable than the trio of Travis Ishikawa, Eli Whitesides, and Nate Scheirholtz who play merry-go-round in and out of the the line-up. There is just not a lot to work with.

…. Good teams cut their losses. I don’t eat 5 month old room temperature fillet mignon, just because it was $11.99 a pound. If I want fine dining, I’m going to throw out the mold-infested mess, break out the bank, go back to the meat market, and chalk it up as a cost of eating well. The problem with the Giants over the last few seasons is that they have not been replacing the old spoiled food with quality choice product. They merely add garnishment with players like Ryan Klesko, Mark Sweeney, Todd Greene, Steve Finley, Omar Vizquel, Randy Winn, and lots of other older guys.

This time, they got lucky with Huff, Burrell and Torres, who except for Torres, are eligible for free-agency after this season. There is no long-term solution in play. Posey is the first position player to come out of the system with a bang since Matt Williams. That was over twenty seasons ago, and if there were anything in the system that was even marginally better than some of the fellas on the Giants roster now, they would have already have been here.

So, OK, the Giants are less than established. They are less than solid. They are, in fact, a bunch of re-treads, has-beens and never-was’s. That’s true. But I still want to see them win. And therein lies the rub.

If they were to win, even one playoff series, Sabean would be here for another five years. If they make the playoffs, he’s gonna get another two years at least. If they contend right to the wire, he’ll get a chance to try again next season. And, Ernie’s right. Sabean caught lightning in a bottle, not once, or even twice, but three times. The players the Giants are paying top dollar for are either on the bench, or should be. Renteria, Sanchez, Rowand, DeRosa. That’s like $36 million dollars right there. $36 million dollars!

Where would this team be without Huff, Torres and Burrell right now? Ten games back? Fifteen?

There is nothing in the system. No more hitters, no more position players. No young, fast, healthy players. There is no plan to go out and get young, fast, healthy players. We never go after premiere free agents. We hear bullshit stories about how they don’t want to come here, but that all a lie. Sabean doesn’t want them. He’d rather pay $18 million dollars for a 36-year old centerfielder who made one single play in his entire career.

The reason the team has been wasting money on old, expensive players for the last decade had nothing to do with surrounding Bonds with talent, or keeping him happy. It has absolutely nothing to do with maintaining the team’s chances to make the postseason. It never did. The team has wasted millions upon millions of dollars the last ten seasons on old, constantly injured, replacement level production because of Sabean. He signed these players to these contracts because he thinks it is the right thing to do. He believes in this approach. This is his strategy.

So, baseball fans, San Francisco Giants fans; we are stuck. If we win, this inept front office will be rewarded with new contract extensions, and we will almost certainly see more of the same. We’ll see Sabean give soon to be 34-years old Pat Burrell a four-year, $25 million dollar contract for three months of hot baseball. Career journeyman Andres Torres will celebrate his 33rd birthday with a three year deal worth something like $15 million. And Aubrey Huff will get a Christmas/34th birthday combo deal of something like 4 years, $30 million.

Jose Guillen might hit ten home runs before the season ends. If he does, you can bet the Giants will sign him to a deal that makes the $55 million wasted on Aaron Rowand look like chicken feed.

Of course, the team could collapse. They could go on a ten game losing streak at any time. Burrell could pull a hamstring. He is, you know, old. So is pretty much every player on the field, save Posey and Sandoval.

Which would you rather see? Giants winning, and staying with Sabean for another three or four years? Or the kind of total collapse that gets heads rolling?

…. Letdown

Once again, the Giants come up one run short of the Padres. Let’s see, who were the goats in this disgrace of a game…..

Jonathan Sanchez, who gift-wrapped two runs for the Padres in the top of the second, about ten seconds after the Giants ignited the crowd and took a two-run lead in the bottom of the first. Oh, and then failing to get down a bunt with runners at first and second and no out. Oh, and then allowing the Padres to score the go-ahead run with a double and a single on two pipeline, batting practice pitches to start the top of the sixth.

Pablo Sandoval, continuing his season-long exodus into flail-town. Here’s an idea…. Swing at strikes.

Bochy, allowing Freddie Sanchez to continue his season-long effort to kill the team. Here’s an idea…. Bench the worst regular in the lineup.

Aaron Rowand, for inexplicably running off second base right after Sanchez fucked up his bunt attempt, getting picked off and essentially ending a first and second, no out situation in three fucking seconds.

That is a buzz kill of a game. Fuck the Padres.

If I were the Giants, I’d be hitting somebody tomorrow.

UPDATE: What has to happen for Bochy to bench Sanchez? Sanchez is 22 for 106 since the All Star break, running out a .216/.277/.265 .542 OPS line, with just three extra base hits. During that time, he has scored 6 runs from the #2 slot while the Giants have posted their best offensive numbers in five years. By comparison, even with Sanchez doing everything he can to kill the team, Andres Torres has scored 20 runs, running out an outstanding .316/.370/.547 .917 OPS line, with 18 extra base hits. Put another way, Torres has almost as many extra base hits as Sanchez has hits.

Either he needs to be benched, or he needs to be dropped down in the lineup. Ideally, he needs to be sent down, but that’ll never happen. Sit him down.

UPDATE, Part II: Fontenot replaces Sanchez and goes 2 for 5, with a double, essentially making me look like Nostradamus.

…. Upgrade

The Giants picked up Jose Guillen, a couple of days after landing Mike Fontenot. Both moves strengthen the team as they head into the stretch run. Guillen adds some pop, and Fontenot will allow Bochy to rest/sit/bury Freddie Sanchez. Kudos to Sabean, who makes a couple of smart-looking moves.

Back to Freddie Sanchez, who has been everything I expected, a solid defensive player with almost no offense whatsoever. As close to a pure singles hitter there is in baseball –outside of Ichiro– if Sanchez isn’t getting a couple of hits per game, he’s worthless. Having him demolish the top of the order every game is testament to Bochy’s inability to get with the times, as well as his preference to play veterans at all costs. At this point, Fontenot’s (.730 OPS in limited duty) represents an upgrade over Sanchez, who’s posting an anemic .651 OPS.

I’d love to see a lineup that looks something like this;

Torres CF .375 OBP
Sandoval 3B .328 OBP (.393 over his last seven games)
Posey C .383 OBP
Huff 1B .394 OBP
Uribe SS .321 OBP
Guillen RF .330 OBP
Burrell LF .388 OBP
Sanchez 2B .324

You could swap Sandoval and Uribe if you’d like, but I think a switch to the top of the order might be just the kind of thing that re-aligns Sandoval’s approach.

You’d be starting the game out right-handed, switch, right-handed, left-handed, right-handed, which is nice. There’s a decent amount of power all the way into the seventh slot, and Sanchez’s famous bat-control would be put to the test batting in front of the pitcher, which is exactly where he should be. Using David Pinto’s Lineup Analysis tool, that lineup should produce 5.1 runs per game. That ought to be enough to push the team to the postseason.

It’s gonna be playoff intensity tonight. First-place showdown. I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a while.

…. No doubt

I’m watching the Giants game right now, and there is no doubt whatsoever that there is something wrong with Lincecum. I don’t know what, but he is off. Way off.

I remember watching Dwight Gooden in 1986 and 1987, as he slowly fell apart due to drug use and who knows what else. Watching Lincecum this season has been eerily similar. Between his getting to be ridiculously long hair, his seemingly completely disinterested attitude during his starts, his lack of velocity, and his inability to get swings and misses, there is no doubt that he is not the same pitcher. None.

It’s 2-0 with one out in the first, and I am wondering when someone who is covering this team is gonna ask exactly what the hell is going on here.

It’s 4-0 after Fukodome takes Lincecum into McCovey Cove.

…. Sweep

Matt Cain earned his first career win against the Dodgers, and the Giants swept their bitter rivals to move one and a half games behind the Padres. Now the Giants must root for the Dodgers to beat up on the Padres so they can overtake them and surge into first place in the NL West:

…. The Giants, who welcomed Javier Lopez to the bullpen while welcoming back Brian Wilson, beat the Dodgers 2-0 on Sunday night in front of a vigorous, sold-out crowd and a national television audience, sweeping their rivals at home for the first time since 2004.

The team continues to play extremely well, just good old-fashioned, hard-nosed baseball, and is impressing the hell out of me. The packed house, playoff-intensity atmosphere yesterday was a sight for sore eyes. It’s been a while, that’s for sure, and I’m glad to see it.

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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