Archive for the 'Bruce Bochy' Category
As tough as it is watching Lincecum struggle, it is easily the most surprising and astounding turnaround to watch Barry –the Hit Man– Zito turn around his career. Kudos to Zito for handling his difficult time with class and dignity, never sniping, complaining, or really doing anything to convey his dissatisfaction with anything that was happening to him during his first five seasons with the team.
Really, that is perhaps the most inspiring part of his story. Between the horrible pitching, the constant pressure on him because of his huge contract, the booing, the demotion for the 2010 playoff run…. Zito has been a model player in the clubhouse, in the press, and apparently, everywhere else. The result is a player whose return to success is easy to root for, and is really one of the best redemption story imaginable. A player who is celebrated for his ability to turn around what had once seemed to be the end of his career and not only play well, but to even contribute to a championship of his own.
…. “It gets back to competing,” (Bruce) Bochy said. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing in this game: pitching, swinging the bat, playing defense – it’s all about competing. He’s as tough a competitor as I’ve been around.”
His success so far this season has been a breath of fresh air, and reminds us that comebacks can happen, that people can overcome adversity, and they can do it with grace and class.
Good for him, and good for the Giants.
UPDATE: Jonah Keri goes deeper on Lincecum in Grantland today:
…. Baseball Prospectus writer and pitching mechanics expert Doug Thorburn addressed this in a pair of articles last year: Lincecum’s delivery depends on perfect mechanics, and that trademark gigantic stride. As he wrote in an e-mail:
…. He was able to generate ridiculous momentum early in his career (a huge advantage), and he found a timing pattern with it that he could repeat, which was critical for commanding the fastball and keeping that split-change buried under the zone. That stride and momentum required excellent lower body strength, and when his delivery fell out of whack back in 2010, the solution was rooted in conditioning — he had lost his timing because he could not consistently generate his usual stride pattern. Last season, his momentum was noticeably down when compared to his peak, and he struggled to find his timing for most of the season — I thought it was telling that he did so well out of the ’pen, where he could go all out rather than conserve stamina.
Thorburn expressed some mild optimism that Lincecum could bounce back a bit if he can fix his mechanics, which could in turn allow him to better control where his pitches are going. But the beast of four years ago, the guy with the fastball that hit the high-90s and the split-change that was one of the most unhittable pitches in the game? That guy’s almost certainly not coming back. Research on pitcher aging curves by Mike Fast and Jeremy Greenhouse suggests that a pitcher this young shouldn’t be suffering from this steep of a performance decline, and that it can be very tough to improve once that decline starts.
The worst thing is that I agree with him. If the loss in velocity, now around 5+ MPH since his rookie season, is unfixable, he’s either heading to a closer role, or he’s done. Either way, I think it’s safe to say Sabean looks like Nostradamus by holding the line on Lincecum’s salary demands over these last couple of years. At any time over these last three years or so, Lincecum could have been signed to a five or six-year deal that right now would be terrifying to the team. Instead, they failed/succeeded in ensuring that whatever deal they were discussing, it didn’t work for someone, and the Giants are actually looking at being able to walk away from Lincecum should this season be another train wreck.
UPDATE, Part II: Well, today did nothing to dispel my concerns. Lincecum looked completely lost, missing his spots by a foot or more. The hitters bailed him out again, but, holy Christ, he looks awful.
Sorry for the lack of posts.
As the SF Giants head into their defense of last year’s World Championship, I’ve been paying attention on the periphery, as work and family have kept me on my toes. I’m happy to see Brandon Belt looking like he’s ready for a breakout season. He could help alleviate some of the drop off that’s expected from players like Scutaro, who can’t possibly repeat last seasons scorching .360 batting average as a Giant.
But reading today’s little piece about Pablo Sandoval “accepting” his body weight for the next couple of seasons makes me more than a little worried:
…. Pablo Sandoval came to San Francisco Giants camp fat this year, like he does pretty much every year, because there are two truths about Pablo Sandoval, and one of them is he does not do skinny.
The other is that he’s a remarkable hitter, preternaturally gifted like only a handful of players, maybe less. At 5-foot-11 (give or take – no, take – two inches) and 262 pounds (give or take – no, give – 20 pounds), Sandoval hits everything everywhere anytime anywhere. If anyone in baseball today is going to stroke a single off a pitch that bounces before it reaches home plate, it’s him.
…. “I’ve got this year and next year to change all the things,” Sandoval said. “It’s going to take me a while, but I can do it. I know I can do it. You need to learn. You need to grow up. You need to step up and know the difference between what you can do and what you can’t.”
Yeah, well, I’m a bit skeptical. As the article points out, Pablo’s missed at least 45 games each of the last two seasons, and whether you think the weight is the reason or not, allowing yourself to just walk around 40 pounds overweight all the time…. as a professional athlete, that’s just something Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy must be concerned about.
You’re talking about defending a championship, every team in the league is coming after you. After what happened in 2011, everyone associated with the Giants has to be thinking about heading into the season with a different attitude. Roll with it might work when you’re trying to win a title, it doesn’t work when you’re defending it.
Hat Tip to Baseball Musings
I was at last night’s game. Jesus, did Cain let the team down.
What a drag. By the time the crowd settled in, the game was over. Bummer.
I don’t know how this team can turn it around. From where we were sitting, (front row, right behind Bochy) it was painful watching Fontenot, Rowand, Ross and Huff, who all look completely lost at the plate nine swings out of ten.
Got to shake hands with Larry Baer and Bill Neukom, they were super cool and nice.
Seats were great, game was awful except for the rally, which wasn’t enough.
So much for the Giants being in the Phillies heads. The Phillies are delivering their own statement, as the Giants slump at the worst possible time. Continued offensive stagnation, Carlos Beltran watching strike three instead of swinging at a clearly borderline pitch, Jonathan Sanchez continuing the latest run of pretty shitty pitching by pretty much everyone on the staff…..
All in all, the deadline deals appear to have done more harm than good. It seems that the deals have caused everyone to press even harder, and with guys like Ross, Torres and Huff, hitting with men on base has become a legitimate nightmare.
They need to turn things around right now, because the season could spiral out of control any minute now. Somebody has to start hitting the baseball out of the park. Simple as that.
Oh, and that umpire was squeezing Sanchez tonight, just as much as the umpire last night gave Lee about ten different calls against us.
…. Fresh off a series of deadline deals meant to bolster the offense, the Giants pitching staff has completely spit the bit, en route to s season-high 5 game losing streak that has the Diamondbacks tied for first in the NL West. What a truly pathetic response to the efforts of Brian Sabean; who put his time, effort, and the future prospects of the team on the line. And, you bet the pitching has struggled, but Beltran has been a joke so far, with more strikeouts than hits. Cabrera seriously looks as old as Tejada, and Keppinger has been wasting his time hitting double after double only to sit on second base watching the endless flail-fest.
The league is ready for the Giants pitchers approach. Adjust, Rags.
Oh, and by the way, when does Meulens get some heat? Every hitter on the team is failing right now. Every. One.
All. Season. Long.
I’ve read several articles now about the Posey collision, and they all say the same thing, it’s part of the game. A lot of them also assert that it’s always been part of the game, the catcher blocking the plate and the runner blasting into him to try and dislodge the baseball and steal a run. That’s simply not true. Catchers didn’t always have to risk their livelihood protecting the plate. Look at the images of Jackie Robinson stealing home against Yogi Berra in the World Series, to use just one example.
And, really, what kind of argument is that? A second basemen can’t block the base. And the baserunner isn’t allowed to knock the ball out of the first baseman’s glove. Why should a catcher have to sit there and get run into by a 200 pound baserunner with a 90 foot head start? That’s a penalty in football, for crying out loud. Just saying that it’s been done that way is not, and never has been, a reasonable argument for doing anything.
Sure, I’m upset about the Giants losing Posey, and for the fact that his career might be in jeopardy (although recent reports seem to indicate he will be fine). But that doesn’t take away from the fact that that play shouldn’t be part of the game. Catchers already go through enough. There is no reason they should be exposed to that kind of risk. The rules don’t even have to be changed. It’s already against the rules for the catcher to block the plate without the ball, and it’s already against the rules for a runner to try and knock the ball out of a fielder’s hand.
The rules just need to be enforced, and the players need to think about their health a little more.
Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper was quietly seething in the dugout, calling for change.
“I don’t know how,” he said. “They can figure that out in the Major League Baseball offices. But you can’t just have a guy out there defenseless like that. I stood out there defenseless at second base for 10 years (as a player) until they changed the rules about guys sliding with the sole intent of taking somebody out. So they can change it at home plate, too.”
UPDATE: I’ve now had a chance to read some more pieces, and see that several writers have echoed my call for a rule change or enforcement. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Corey Dawkins and Ben Lindbergh cite the NCAA rule as a possible precedent for MLB to do something to protect catchers:
…. if the catcher/ fielder has possession of the ball and blocks the path of the base runner to the base (plate), the runner may make contact, slide into, or collide with a fielder as long as the runner is making a legitimate attempt to reach the base or plate. The runner must make a legal slide into or around the glove. Under NFHS rules, a runner cannot dive, hurdle, jump or go over the top of the catcher unless the catcher is prone. He cannot lower his shoulder and barrel over the catcher. As a result of his illegal action if the runner interferes, you have a dead ball and the runner is out.
Under NCAA rules, “When there is a collision between a runner and a fielder who clearly is in possession of the ball, the umpire shall judge whether the collision by the runner was avoidable (could the runner have reached the base without colliding) or unavoidable (the runner’s path to the base was blocked.)
“If the runner can avoid a collision when the catcher clearly has possession of the ball, the runner is called for interference if he attempts to dislodge the ball without making a bona fide effort to reach the plate”
What’s so hard about that? Again, just because something has been allowed to happen until now doesn’t mean it should be allowed to continue.
I don’t want to throw a wet blanket on all the fun and games, but whenever I read stuff like this, I worry about our RoY:
…. Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, according to a club source, has been injected with Supartz, a solution that helps lubricate and create cushion in knee joints.
General Manager Bill Smith confirmed that Mauer received a shot after Tuesday’s workout.
Mauer had his left knee scoped in December, and there was some hope he would be ready for the start of spring training. But Mauer has reported for camp needing some more time before he can take part in all phases of practice. And there’s no telling when the Twins will start Mauer behind the plate in a spring training game.
I’ve already written about the impact full-time catching has on elite hitters. You can always find a guy who can catch, throw out 30% of the hitters, and run out .240/.320/.410 line. It’s much harder to find guys who have the potential to run out a .300/.400/.500 line. Here’s hoping either Posey bucks all the trends, or the Giants find somewhere else to play him. Mauer, by the way, just signed a $180 million dollar contract with the Twins, so basically, they’re stuck with him.
Here’s Mauer’s games played since he came up in ’04. 35, 131, 140, 109, 146, 138, 137. His OPS has gone up and down like a yo-yo: .939, .783, .936, .808, .864, .1.031, .871.
This is standard production for a catcher. It is virtually impossible to stay healthy and catch full-time. So catchers have great years, their managers play them too much, because they’re going so great, and the following year, they struggle to stay healthy. The down time spent not catching allows them to somewhat get healthy, and then they bounce back. But they never fully get healthy, and the cycle trends downward at a much faster rate than a normal ballplayers.
Bill James has had to revise many of his different statistical programs to make allowances for how few career games great catchers play versus great outfielders or first baseman, because of just this point.
Joe Mauer is 27 years old, about to enter his peak, being paid like a perennial MVP-candidate, and he’s already dealing with knee issues. This does not bode well for him, or for Buster. There’s no doubt that the handling of Posey’s playing time is delicate and extremely important part of his career expectations. Last year Posey played all but 7 of the 114 games the team played after he was called up. During the run to the title, he was behind the plate for the last 35 consecutive games, and 45 of the last 46.
In fact, after he was called up, Bochy penciled his name in the lineup for 17 consecutive games, 17 games in 18 days, to be precise. Of course, he started out red-hot, but what no one seemed to notice was his plummeting production as the kid went from being coddled to ridden like the only horse in the corral. After 13 games, his OPS was a scorching 1.074. Exhausted and obviously worn down, Posey then went 7 for his next 45, all singles, as his OPS dropped all the way down to .693.
That kind of heedless management cannot continue if the team is going to protect his –and their– future with the budding superstar. His playing time must be monitored carefully, not haphazardly. Sabean and Bochy should already have looked at the schedule and decided when he was going to be give days off. Anytime a day off can give him multiple days off, he should be rested on that day.
For instance, the Giants play a night game with the Dodgers on April 13th, then have a travel day, and play the D’backs, again at night, on the 15th. Give Posey the 15th off, and he gets two days in a row right there. Or how about the first week in May. The Giants play in Washington at 1:05 on Sunday the 1st, and then again at 7:05 the next night, before flying to NY to play the Mets on the 3rd at 7:05. Have Posey skip the Monday night game, and he gets two full nights off in a row.
This kind of planning would represent a long-term commitment to his health, something that would go along way towards earning the kind of loyalty that teams crave from their superstars. I’d like to see the Giants think outside the box with this kid, because he has a chance to be really special.
Hat tip, again, to Baseball Musings.
It appears that the Kung Fu Panda has finally seen the light:
…. Sandoval showed up at Triple Threat in Tempe, Ariz., properly motivated. It was up to owner/director Ethan Banning and his team, including O’Brien, to provide the structure he needed.
Just more than three months later, Banning reported that Sandoval weighed 240 pounds when he took his physical Friday morning. His body fat measurement went from 30 percent to 19 percent. Combined with an estimated gain of seven pounds of muscle, Banning said Sandoval has shed 45 pounds of goo.
…. Sandoval couldn’t do three pull-ups in early November. Now he does sets of 10. His legs shook when he tried to squat 135 pounds. Now he is squatting 400. The first day, Sandoval struggled to complete two reps of an exercise called the inverted row. He maxed out at 26 last week.
His flexibility and range of motion vastly increased, too. Sandoval, a switch-hitter, complained of constant hip pain last season, and now acknowledges that the problems wrecked his right-handed swing. (He hit .379 from the right side in ’09 but just .227 last season.)
“It was bad, my hips,” Sandoval said. “I (couldn’t) even get through to the ball. Now I can swing hard. Now I get loose and nothing is sore.”
Sandoval received chiropractic alignments and deep-tissue rubs — what Banning called “hurt-you” massages — to correct the dysfunction in his hips. Three months ago, he couldn’t touch his fingertips to his toes. Now he palms the floor.
That’s terrific news. If Sandoval can regain his breakout ’09 form, it’ll be like the champs picked up a premiere free agent.
UPDATE: Lincecum appears to be primed for a big season too. Man, what a difference a year –and a title– makes. Between the fantastic young pitching staff, the team has two terrific young hitters in Sandoval and Posey, and waiting in the wings is Brandon Belt, trying to force his way onto the club. These great young players are surrounded by, dare I say it, a solid, if unspectacular group of relatively modestly paid veterans, leaving the Giants, and Giants fans, with perhaps as bright a future as any team in baseball. I was dead wrong last year, and I’m happy that I was:
…. And a long time gone….
…. San Francisco Giants (1954)
Years since last championship: 56
Reason for gap: Though the Giants’ long drought is no secret, it’s still somehow shocking to see the team so far down this list given its status as one of the National League’a great franchises. This is a franchise that has 17 modern pennants and five championships, the team of John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, and Willie Mays. And yet, since they relocated to the West Coast, they haven’t been able to raise another flag. This is especially odd because the Giants have often had the talent to compete, have often had the financial support necessary, and have had the opportunity to win. Some aspects of the long slump are just a matter of bad luck, of not being able to win a key game in a postseason series. As Charles Schulz’s outraged response, a slightly different swing by Willie McCovey and we might not even be talking about more than a half-century without a Giants championship.
Notwithstanding the post-Bonds years, when Brian Sabean’s efforts to rebuild the team have been hamstrung by what must be an organizational edict not to sign any bats….
I figured I’d stop it right there. This is a BP piece, talking about the franchises that have gone the longest without a title. The Giants have the third worst streak in all of baseball, behind only Cleveland (62 years) and the Cubs (102 years). That is simply awful.
It reminds me that this team has no excuse not to make a run at a title, or should I say, had no excuse this past off-season not to make a serious commitment to building the championship caliber offense needed to compliment their championship caliber pitching staff. Fifty-six years. Longer than my whole life.
Wow. Nostradamus, my ass. You’d be hard pressed to find a faster turnaround of the fortunes of a team. I’ll say it again, kudos to Sabean and his staff, to Dick Tidrow, to the entire organization. There’s never been a better time to be a Giants fan, and that’s saying something.
Hat Tip to Baseball Musings
Tom Verducci chose the 2010 San Francisco Giants as his Sportsmen of the Year:
…. In three homes over 52 seasons did San Francisco follow this serial in wait for a championship. The Giants lacked the historical and literary embellishments of Brooklyn, Boston and Chicago, and so their suffering went underplayed, though much suffering did they know. Five times in those years they played a Game 6 or Game 7 with a chance to win the series, and lost every one of those games, getting shut out in three of those five potential clinchers.
The agony began with a 1-0 loss to the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series, which ended when Willie McCovey lined out to second base with the tying and winning runs in scoring position. In the 1987 NLCS, up three games to two, they were shut out in back-to-back losses to St. Louis. And in the 2002 World Series, up 5-0 on the Angels with one out and nobody on in the seventh, they managed the biggest collapse in a potential clincher in series history, followed by a 4-1 whimper of an elimination in Game 7.
This is all you need to know about the cruelty of Giants culture: Charlie Brown is a Giants fan. Two months after McCovey’s lineout, Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, from Santa Rosa, drew a strip in which Charlie and Linus sit brooding silently for three panels, only to have Charlie wail in the fourth, “Why couldn’t McCovey have hit the ball just three feet higher?”
…. Not only did the Giants give their fans a winner, they also gave them an unforgettable one, one with a Playbill’s worth of characters who exuded joy and thankfulness about what was happening. They are now characters, and not unlike the misfits and urchins Dickens himself gave us, who are established eternally.
Wilson and that frightfully awful beard. Aubrey Huff and the red thong. Lincecum and the hair. Cody Ross, the greatest in-season claim in the history of waivers. The prenaturally cool Buster Posey. The unflappable Matt Cain. The very roundness of Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe. The redemption of prodigal Bay Area son Pat Burrell. Watching these Giants, you half expected Jean Valjean to pop up in the on-deck circle at any moment.
Well done, Tom.
Giants win the pennant!!!
Is there a more improbable World Series team in recent memory?
What a performance by the pen. 6-plus innings of no run ball, after Sanchez spit the bit. Really, just a simply unbelievable performance by the pitching staff since the beginning of September.
As for the team management, and in-game coaching, I am eating every bit of crow there is in my house. While accepting the NL trophy, Sabean looked and sounded humble and classy, as did Baer, Bochy, Neukom, and NLCS MVP Ross. (Sidebar: The NLCS MVP was probably Wilson, 3 saves and a win in as close a series as you are ever gonna see).
What is there left to say tonight? Did I doubt this team? You bet. Did I doubt Bochy? Absolutely. Did I question the signings, the trades and the free agent pick ups by Sabean. As often as I had the time to do so.
What am I supposed to say here?
On many counts, I have been proven wrong.
The Cody Ross pickup, which was clearly __and understood at the time to be– a blocking claim, worked out pretty well, wouldn’t you say? The Aubrey Huff signing? Anyone who predicted this kind of season from Huff –especially his defense– send me the link –the dated link– and I’ll make you a star. Freddie Sanchez? He sure came on late. I was wrong on him, no doubt. Bochy made enough mistakes in these playoffs to last a lifetime. In the post-season, it always comes down to pitching. In the end, at least so far in the NL, the Giants had more of it then everybody.
Ask Joe Girardi, the manager of the defending champion NY Yankees:
…. Girardi did not throw a pitch or swing a bat. His job was to put players in the best position to succeed. One of his greatest strengths is his preparation, and his choice to flip Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes in the rotation, based on several relevant factors, seemed to make sense. Hughes went 0-2 with an 11.42 E.R.A. at Rangers Ballpark, and Pettitte, though he pitched well, worked only once, held back Friday in advance of a potential Game 7 start.
Once he makes a decision, Girardi says, he never second-guesses himself. He trusts his instincts — or the numbers — and accepts the outcome, for better or worse. By not bringing in Rivera to pitch the ninth inning of Game 3, with the Yankees trailing by two runs, Girardi left himself open to criticism when Texas hammered three other relievers for six runs. It put the Yankees at a 2-1 series deficit with Burnett scheduled to pitch a crucial Game 4.
Bochy swapped his pitchers, and it didn’t work, actually. Sanchez came in on a rush, cruising in his previous 80 or so innings. He failed to record a win against Philadelphia. He went 8 innings in the series, allowing 8 hits, 5 walks, 5 runs (4 earned), and failed to get out of the third inning in tonight’s penultimate game. He posted a 4.50 ERA in the series, and if it weren’t for the outrageous performance by every pitcher Bochy called upon, would have likely been the goat of the NLCS.
Instead, he was saved by his teammates. OK. Johnny like that.
Bochy used Wilson in an unusual fashion, and it worked some of the time, and it didn’t other times. He pinch hit, pinch ran, made double switches, moved his outfielders around….
Some of his moves worked, and some didn’t.
The Giants are in the World Series because of their otherwordly pitching staff. Simple as that.
Ask Joe Girardi what he would’ve given to have Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner as his two worst starters.