It's Cleveland's year

That is one solid team beating up on the Cubbies.

I feel some redemption for the Giants' 2002 loss in the World Series to the Angels. Cleveland beat up on John Lackey (who won Game 7 in 2002); Andrew Miller topped K-Rod's record for most strikeouts in a postseason. 

The Cubs can still win by getting 3 in a row but I'm not impressed. I'm also slightly annoyed that the Giants giftwrapped game 4 of the NLDS this year to them.

Thanks, Joe Blanton!

Dodgers manager Dave Robert is sure looking like a dumbass these days, according to ESPN's Doug Padilla.

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Cubs are on the brink of a trip to the World Series, cutting a path into the Los Angeles Dodgers' central nervous system through the bullpen of all places.
The second-best bullpen ERA in baseball this season belonged to the Dodgers, yet the permanent high-wire act it has inherited in the National League Championship Series has proved too delicate of a balancing act. Joe Blanton's ineffective slider has been the biggest issue, getting hammered for Miguel Montero's grand slam in a Game 1 defeat and for Addison Russell's go-ahead home run in the sixth inning of Game 5 on Thursday. The Russell shot started an avalanche that ended in an 8-4 Cubs victory.
Relief has been anything but in the Dodgers' consecutive defeats at home, when the bullpen was teed up for six runs (five earned) in Game 4 and then seven runs (three earned) in Game 5. It left the Cubs with a 3-2 lead in a series that is headed back to Chicago for Game 6 on Saturday, and a Game 7 at Wrigley Field, if necessary.
"It has been a battle," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said about the bullpen's body of work this postseason, especially in the NLCS. "Those guys over there, they compete and don't give away many at-bats. They spoil pitches, they run counts. When you do make mistakes, these guys can slug. These are the guys we have, these are the guys that got us here. I'm not going to shy away from any of these guys."
The bullpen is the reason the Dodgers got this far, so Roberts will continue to trust the group. The Dodgers led baseball in relief innings with 590⅔ and appearances with 607, both numbers eclipsing previous franchise records.
Roberts was not going to alter the plan now. Thursday was the fifth time in 10 playoff games that a Dodgers starting pitcher has not recorded more than 12 outs. Kenta Maeda had his third such occurrence in three postseason starts, recording only 11 outs before Roberts went the bullpen route again. It has not been an effective strategy, as the Dodgers are 1-4 in those games, winning only the deciding Game 5 of the NL Division Series at Washington last week. The Dodgers have lost all three games Maeda has started.
"I think Kenta is fine physically," Roberts said. "For me, I felt that at 3⅔ [innings], he was around 75 pitches and I felt that he was starting to lose that fastball command. I thought the breaking ball wasn't as sharp."
Even though none of that could be argued, Roberts still went to his bullpen with Cubs pitcher Jon Lester coming to the plate. If his previous decisions to remove Maeda did not signal an apparent lack of trust in Maeda, this one seemed to suggest it.

Your 2016 Giants: Post-Season Presser

The Giants post-season press conference was held last Thursday after the last playoff game on Tuesday.  Reports from the beat writers:
Unfortunately, Tim Kawakami did not provide a transcript of the press conference, as he has done in prior years - sorry, memory going, not sure when is the last time he did it, I'm pretty sure he didn't do it last year.  It saved me the trouble of transcribing them myself, as, often, each would interpret what was said, and we get a Realm of the Senses reenactment of a baseball he said, no he said, situation.

ogc thoughts

Honestly, this used to be my first thing I would do after Giants seasons end, be prepared to hear the press conference and transcribe as much of it that I could.  Some years they would post the audio or video, and I would start and stop it a million times to catch every word and syllable.  I frankly forgot about it this year.

I haven't been that uptight about the Giants since the 2014 season.  I didn't worry all through the battle to get into the playoffs, didn't worry through any of the playoff series.  I just enjoyed each as baseball games played by my favorite team.  And this season, after my sister passed away, even less angst over how bad the Giants were playing, and they were playing pretty bad in the second half.

I guess part of the reason for not feeling the urge to blog has also to do with my original reasons for starting up my blog.  I felt that I had a different voice than what I was seeing.  I soon was one of the few who had a positive view of the Giants future, whereas most were dystopian views of 100 game loss seasons, I was talking about the Giants having the core players who we could build a Team of the 2010 Decade.  And they did.

Now, not that many arguments about how good Sabean is as a GM.  Whereas I was booed mercilessly when I celebrated his signing a two year contract, every two years, most people understand that he's actually pretty good at what he's been doing, which is evaluating baseball talents.  Free agents he has no control over what's available, sometimes you just need to sign the best of the bunch, and pick your poison.   But when he has had the prospects in his hands, or picked up prospects tossed away by other teams, he has been very good about keeping the good ones and trading away the ones who at least had trade value.  And his mantra for most of his tenure has been pitching, pitching, and more pitching.

And that is going to be important now, because the changing of the guard that started with Sandoval leaving, then Lincecum leaving, will now be accelerated by the number of free agents who has rings who most probably will not be with the Giants in 2017, and it will be important for Sabean and gang to be able to figure out who to keep and who to trade.

Changes, they are a-coming

The Giants have six free agents and, most likely, none of them are coming back:  Peavy, Casilla, Romo, Lopez, Pagan, Blanco.  Blanco has the greatest chance of returning, since he's stated that he's willing to take less in order to "stay home".  However, his defense has slipped a lot in the past two seasons, into below average territory, and Gorkys is like a younger version of him, and delivering above average defense, at least for the Giants.  Romo has the next best, as he still has skills, but is not very likely to return, due to his salary level, the iffiness of his right elbow, and Roogy tendencies.  I only fear that he'll join the Dodgers.  Peavy has no spot in the rotation, Casilla appears to have lost all of Bochy's confidence, hardly being used late in the season, and not at all in the fateful 9th in the last game, and Pagan was slated to be gone at least a season or two ago because of his injury proneness, and while he had a nice season, missing the two most important games of the season because of his back was probably the last straw for the Giants.  That's 14 rings going away, but the argument can be easily made that it's for the best.  More importantly, thanks to all for their contributions to this golden era!

Among the arbitration eligible players, most of them are expected to be kept, but the only sure ones are Nunez and Smith:  Adrianza, Nunez, Gillaspie, Smith, Kontos, and Gearrin.  Adrianza is in the mix again for utility infield, along with Gillaspie and Tomlinson.

Lots of Infield Bench Options

Honestly, I was surprised by the Giants first signing Gillaspie, then bringing him up, then keeping him up all season, until he started hitting a storm at the end of the season.  I would be surprised if he's not kept, for while Nunez appears likely to be the starting 3B, Gillaspie I expect will back up both 1B and 3B, and could start at 3B, with Nunez playing super utility and giving everyone regular rest.

Adrianza, like previous seasons, is out of options, so if Tomlinson plays well and Gillaspie wins a bench spot (and given his bat, he probably will), Kelby could end up winning a bench spot - which, remember, is limited to one backup catcher and four fielders, and usually two infielders and two outfielders - and Adrianza would be DFAed, as many seem to want, unless the Giants go with only one backup outfielder.

I still like Ehire, he shows potential when given the chance to play regularly, plus he's the only true defensive SS on the bench, but I'm losing my patience as he has gotten injured every time he starts to play well, losing many opportunities to win a spot, whether 2B (won by Panik) or 3B (won by Duffy).   He actually bats well when starting regularly - enough to be a complementary bat - but then gets some sort of injury.  This is probably his last year to show something more before I give up on him.

But good SS fielding plus good contact bat with some power, hard for me to give up on that.  Still, Tomlinson would provide speed and OBP off the bench, hard to give that up as well.  Going to be tough choices again, will be interesting who the Giants chose to keep.

I put Gillaspie in a similar spot as Ishikawa a couple of years back, except that whereas Ishi was behind both Belt and Posey at 1B, Gillaspie could battle for the starting position at 3B.   But with the Giants carrying at least 12 pitchers on the roster, the bench is limited to four position players beyond the backup catcher, who you must have.  So generally the two infield utility players are middle infielders who can play the corners as well, which generally means a poorer bat is involved.  Hence why I was surprised to see Gillaspie last all season on the bench.  So he'll definitely get a contract, especially since he's only a arbitration player, and probably will make the roster, but if, say, Adrianza and Tomlinson's bat suddenly show up in spring training, he could be odd man out, as well.  The bench choices could go a lot of ways.

And there could even be another way things could work out.  Gordon Beckham was with the team for basically a week, and he'll be a free agent as well.  The Giants could give him a minor league deal, similar to what Gillaspie got last season, and give him more of an extended look next season.  Unlike Gillaspie, he can play 2B as well as 3B, and probably a passable SS, as he was a SS in college.   And he has better power potential than any of these players.

Bullpen Probably Won't Change Much; And Don't Need To

In the bullpen, some have called for an overhaul, but Evans said that would be a "tremendous overstatement."  He believes the bullpen would be fine with a big add that clarifies the roles for everyone in the bullpen, saying:
“We’ve got to do everything we can to be clear on who is finishing our games,” Evans said. “The bullpen performs at a much higher level when you know who the ninth-inning guy is. It puts everybody at ease. It helps Boch as he defines roles. Ambiguity creates tension and unknowns that can ... detract to performance and ultimately lead to struggles.”
And that makes sense, we have a lot of good pieces that we should keep, perhaps too many, and so somebody will be taking the Sacramento express in 2017.

Among the arbitration guys, Smith is clearly going to be kept, and Kontos and Guerrin look like they are pretty close to being locks as well.  We traded some big assets to the Brewers to get Smith, so I don't see how they could let him go for nothing (though they did do that to AJP).   And even though Smith was clearly an Affeldt replacement, able to handle RHP as well as LHP, Bochy used him mostly as a Loogy.  Hopefully this will be changed in 2017 and beyond, but not so much in his usage so far.  Hopefully Bochy just wanted to see how the young right-handed relievers could handle things.

Part of me wonders if Bickford and Susac, along with another prospect, could have been enough to secure one of the available closers in the trade market, Melanson in particular.  Sabean noted, however, that in some of the deals, the Giants were already told that they didn't have enough, and the conversation ended.  And Evans openly brought up whether he should have offered more, in hindsight.  I think we had to trust that our guys could come through, they had before, and for many years, and usually the wheel don't fall off the reliever in the middle of the season, like it did with Casilla, but it did, for whatever reasons.  Maybe the pressure of having no contract, and seeing the Giants bullpen full of the young guys unnerved him and got him thinking too much in the 9th.  He was great in the 9th before, but just lost it.

Kontos should be kept, at least into spring training.  Even with the loss of the remaining Core Four, our bullpen could be full (and hence why it is likely none of them are returning):  Smith, Law, Okert, Strickland, Osich, Guerrin, and Kontos.  That's seven relievers and only six spots (assuming one spot is giving to a long reliever, either Suarez, Cain, or Blach), and hence why it does not look likely that any of our free agent relievers are returning.

Osich looks most likely to be the one ending up in AAA (though it was just revealed, on CSNBA, that Osich had suffered a torn tendon early in the season, which just got operated on; that probably was a good reason his 2016 was nothing like his 2015), as both Smith and Okert appear to be ahead of him on the depth chart, but I think he could still beat out Okert with a good spring, since Okert has options.  Then again, so does Osich (and Law).

Then, assuming the Giants either sign or trade for a closer, that would mean another RP need to be let go (or traded, perhaps thrown into the deal to get the closer).  As noted, Smith and Okert appear to be the lefties in the bullpen.  Guerrin by most accounts is taking Romo's spot.  Law is considered the best of the bunch as possible future closer.  Strickland has been a good reliever, still relatively young, and throws triple digit heat, which is what most teams want today.   That leaves Kontos as the odd man out, as he is the relative old guy of the bunch, doesn't strike out a lot, and probably cost the most as well (though really pocket change in the grand scheme of things), so he seems to be the odd man out if the Giants do sign a closer.

Given our experience with Benitez, the high price tag that comes with signing one of the elite closers, and this bullpen squeeze with so many viable relievers, part of me wonders if the Giants talk of getting a closer is just that, talk, to placate the fan base, so that later they can say, after not signing anyone, that there just wasn't any matches, no rose to be given.  Just speculation on my part.

Coaches Gone: Giants Old-Timers Moving Up?

In addition, the Giants fired two long time coaches, our 3B coach, Roberto Kelly, and our 1B coach, Bill Hayes.  Both could be exploring new roles within the team or could be gone, it was not clarified.  Flannery, from all reports, is enjoying his gig with CSNBA, so he's already told the media that he's not coming back.   Steve Decker, currently assistant hitting coach, and AAA manager Jose Alguacil, who has been highly praised for his work in the minors, are potential replacements, but they will explore outside as well.

Here are some notes from Baggarly:
Triple-A Sacramento manager Jose Alguacil has earned raves for his upbeat attitude and baseball acumen. He is a strong candidate to join the major league staff, which lost its only fluent Spanish speaker with Kelly’s firing. 
Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker, who replaced Kelly for a few games this season, is hyper-aware and has experience as a base coach, should the organization decide to shift his duties.
I can see both moving into the two jobs.  Alguacil both because they probably want a fluent Spanish speaker, but more importantly, a leader who probably managed most of the younger guys at one point or another, in the minors, to be a reference for the other coaches.  Decker they have liked for a while now, and clearly wanted a better look, so they made up a new position as "assistant hitting coach" so that he could spend time up here.

I view these two to be getting an audition for taking over for Bochy when he's ready to go.   He's signed to 2019, and has had a couple of heart related issues in the past couple of years.  I would have to think his wife would like him to start enjoying the fruits of his success, as well as spending more time with her in semi-retirement (he'll probably still have some advisory role with the Giants, though more honorary than official).   I don't think that they will go with Ron Wotus, who has interviewed for years for a variety of open manager's jobs and not gotten any, as I think that the head brass will want someone young to take the team and lead it for 10-20 years, as long term stability has been a hallmark of the organization.

Better Than Last Year

Despite the changes coming, Larry Baer expressed his opinion that the Giants are in better shape now than they were in when they held the 2015 presser.  Despite the additional age of the core and other players returning, I would agree just from the fact that our rotation right now is Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, Samardzija, and Cain/Blach/Suarez with Beede as a dark horse candidate.

Plus, we still have a good core of position players in Posey, Pence, Belt, Crawford, Panik.  They are older but other than Pence who will be 34 next season, the rest are 30 YO or younger, still in their prime of their career.  And one could argue that we are better off, because Crawford did it again, and it was his best season for BA, Belt had ups and downs, but still, his best season ever, and elite .868 OPS, and Pence and Posey had good though not great seasons.  

Only Panik had a poor season, but given his good contact rate and high walk/strikeout ratio, it's pretty clear that 2016's batting line was a huge fluke that was probably related to his concussion screwing up his timing.  Plus, he ended the season on an uptick, hitting .241/.329/.407/.736, which is not too bad at 2B when combined with good defense.

At the other positions, I see Span as an improvement over Pagan, just from health issues, though his drop down to platoon status was not encouraging.  And Nunez, while not as good as Duffy, is at least comparable, and given his speed, could be the new leadoff hitter, which would be an upgrade as well, given his good speed.  Plus, he's not so good that when Arroyo is ready to play in the majors in 2017-2018, he won't be blocking Christian's promotion.

At the moment, the Giants feel that Arroyo, while still on the rise, still needs to improve some, based on his batting line in AA last season, which wasn't the greatest (though it should be noted that Arroyo was young for the league, so that is part of the reason), and is expected to start the season off in AAA.  He's probably the top position prospect, and will battle Beede for top prospect in the system, now that Bickford is out of the picture.

In LF, I expect the Giants to keep the spot open for Parker and Williamson to battle over, the Giants do like to keep a spot in the starting lineup for prospects.  The Giants mentioned in the conference that they expect more power from the two as they become more experienced, and had projected both to have more power than Adam Duvall, who hit 33 for the Reds this season.

Plus, Gorkys Hernandez looks like he's good enough offensively as well as defensively (Blanco was a disaster this season, and already on the decline previously) that he could battle for the starting LF spot, while getting spot starts in CF to rest Span.  While not as good as Pagan when he is healthy, he's never really been healthy in a full season except in his first season with us.  

Then there is the possibility that the Giants could sign a good hitter who falls through the cracks and take a one season deal in Jan/Feb.  Another option would be to just carry Parker and Mac, and use Nunez as a LF when necessary (shifting Parker or Mac to RF or CF as necessary; Bochy has played them in CF before and Nunez has played LF, and that's been his best defensive position as a utility player), which would free a spot for Gillaspie and allow the team to keep both Adrianza and Tomlinson on the 25-man roster.

On the bench, probably a push, perhaps an improvement.  After 2015, it was:  Adrianza, Tomlinson, Blanco, Parker, and Susac.  After 2016, it is currently:  Adrianza, Tomlinson and/or Gillaspie for two spots, Hernandez, Parker, and/or Williamson for two spots, and Brown.  One could argue that 2016 is better because Gillaspie seems to be a proven enough hitter, and Hernandez appears to be a better player than what Blanco was after 2015, for those assuming a regression to the mean in 2016 from Blanco due to his very good season in 2015.  Plus, Tomlinson showed that his 2015 was a fluke, but improved in his 2016 by not striking out as much, while keeping his BA up high, and a low 700 OPS for a bench player is pretty good, especially for a MI.

The bullpen one could argue is worse now, as we still had the good version of Casilla, Romo, and Lopez in our minds after 2015.  It was definitely better based on experience.  But it wasn't like the new guys in Law, Okert, Smith, and Guerrin weren't pretty good in their own way, though.  Only Osich and Guerrin of the group had ERA over 4, and Guerrin was just very unlucky (or unsupported) as his FIP was a great 3.28, compared to his 4.28 ERA.  If we combine the stats for Smith, Kontos, Law, Strickland, Okert, Osich, and Guerrin, the ERA would be a great 3.21 among this group.  I would take that any year.

Can Still Spend To Get Better

Baer stated that they will up the budget if the Giants see the need to spend on a free agent or two, in order to get better.   Here is what he said:
“We have every commitment to 2017 to return to a championship-caliber club. Resources will be expended as necessary to get us there.”
And this is the right stance to take, our core players are not getting younger, as the cliche goes, and our window to win with them is probably 2-4 years, so the window could be closing soon.

According to my math, they are roughly a little more than $150M right now, but for the purposes of the cap, they are basically right at the prior penalty threshold of $189M (due to nearly $30M in benefits added), meaning that any substantial free agent (and a closer would be) would push them into the penalty.   However, the CBA is being renegotiated again this off-season, and the threshold is expected to be bumped up, and whatever that boost is - I would guess an additional 10-15% or $38-57M, though hopefully it will be an escalating one rather than a static one, as in the last CBA - that will be a ceiling on how much the Giants are willing to spend in this off-season.

Given my calculation that we are already near the threshold, with the new CBA allowing the only cushion, that would explain their plans to mostly do nothing on the free agent market and to not sign any of their free agents back, as they don't have much leeway right now in the budget and threshold.  At minimum, the threshold will probably rise enough for them to sign a closer ($10-15M range), which is the only area that they said that they will try to address potentially with a free agent (they also noted trades as a possibility).  If the threshold is higher than that, then they'll have more to pursue other free agents.

But given the current salary situation, it does not look like the Giants have that much money to spend on free agents, no matter what you have read from other sources, as the penalty threshold includes additional spending on benefits (almost $30M), and most do not calculate the ACP, as I'm doing here.  And that is the budget limitation we need to pay attention to, now that we are approaching that penalty threshold.  The CBA will allow some spending, but nobody knows how much right now.  It seems likely that they'll have enough space to get a closer, but anything beyond that would have been speculative, which is probably why they did not mention any other possible free agents.  Perhaps they might pivot by getting an Affeldt type:  a closer-like performer who would help firm up the back end of the bullpen, even if he's not that anointed closer.

Bum Extension

Short and Sweet:  Giants have told Bumgarner's agents that they are ready to talk when Madison is ready to talk.  Giants still have sweet and cheap team options on Bumgarner, covering 2017-2019, but are probably looking to incorporate them into a big long term contract.  To my thinking, that is so that he can claim a big contract, but since the Giants have him already signed, technically, for the team, it is just an extension of 3 less years than whatever he eventually signs for (Kershaw got a 10 year deal, and that would cover Bumgarner to 37 YO).

Team of the 2010 Decade

The Giants are still in pretty good shape to get called the Team of the 2010 Decade.  With 3 championships out of 7, they are ahead of every other contender in wins, obviously, but also appearances:  Rangers have two, Cards have two, Royals have two.   And with LA, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and Toronto Blue Jays, the remaining teams, someone with a long drought will win the championship (I'm rooting for Indians and Cubs, in that order - I would never root for the Dodgers).

Furthermore, we had a pretty good team this season and basically have all the best pieces returning in 2017.  Hard to blame any one particular group in baseball, as there is generally a mix of reasons why, but it was our bullpen that let us down, over and over again, during the season and ending things appropriately with a massive bullpen let down in that fateful 9th inning, with a 3 run lead where the team with the lead had won, like, 829 times and lost only 3 times.  Now there are 4.

While a tremendous overstatement that the bullpen needs an overhaul, it still flamed up pretty massively at inopportune times.  I think the Giants need not only a new closer, but another guy to shut down the 8th inning, the way it was when we had Affeldt and Romo to shut down things in that inning.

Is Will Smith that guy?  I thought so, given what they gave up and what he has accomplished so far in his career, but Bochy did not use him like that in the regular season or even in that 9th inning - had he trusted Will, he would have kept him in to face at least another hitter if not get out of the inning with the lead.  I'm still hopeful he will get that role in the 2017 regular season, by earning it in spring training.

But teams always have things to fix up, even the latest champion, and needing to fix that is actually not that bad, and another sign that we are in better shape after 2016 than 2015.   Our rotation is pretty set, and if Cain somehow disappoints again because of injury, I feel pretty good that we have Blach, Heston (people seem to have forgotten him already; maybe we can trade him for another reliever at the trading deadline next year, if we aren't using him in the majors, he should have some trade value), Suarez, and Beede, waiting in line.  And who knows, maybe Cain could be that closer we need, he pitched well in stretches, maybe he just can't stay healthy pitching so many innings, but can be effective in short stints.

Our lineup looks pretty good too:  Nunez, Panik, Posey, Belt, Pence, Crawford, LF, Span, with Span sometimes batting 9th, like Pagan did in 2016.   Span is the weak link after last season (even if Mac or Parker is in LF), but he hit better in prior years, so we'll see what happens in 2017.

Unfortunately, while it is pretty good when looking at the baseball card back, injuries seem to trip up our lineup pretty badly, as well as steep ups and downs, such as that we had with Belt again (but you live with that when you get .868 OPS.

I have seen dreams of getting Cespedes in LF, but as I tried to show above, we don't have a lot of spending window, unless the threshold is set up about $35M higher than it is now, so the lineup is probably what it is, unless we get a $5-8M contract fall to us in Jan/Feb with a "prove it" season that gets him a better contract after the 2017 season.

Bochy's Decline

One stat that I've been following on Bochy has been his career long ability to be at least 4 wins above .500 in one-run games, and, in fact, be among the leaders in the NL, with at least 8 wins above .500.  He first did it in his second season as manager.  But the last time he was able to do that was in 2012, when he was 10 games over .500 for the Giants.

And in his career, he never had two consecutive years of negatives (i.e. more losses than wins) until 2014-2015, the last two seasons.  And in his career, the longest stretch he had where he didn't win at least 8 more over .500 was two seasons, 1999-2000, 2002-2003, and 2009-2010:  2016 is his four straight season with out winning at least 8 more one-run games.  Prior to 2013, in 18 seasons, he had 9 seasons with 8 or more, or 50% of his seasons, and as just noted, this is four straight seasons without one.  He was actually up around +8 sometime mid-season, obviously before the All-Star game, when the Giants had one of the best records in the majors.  A lesser manager might have been fired for a collapse as great as the Giants had this season.  And this has been the pattern in 2011, 2013, 2015, the Giants were actually battling for the playoffs, but injuries would kill our chances, but could this be part of the overall reasons for the decline?

In addition, this is the first time Bochy has had consecutive seasons with a record that is negative relative to what the team should have done per Pythagorean.  In fact, he only had two of these with San Diego, he beat Pythagorean most years as a manager of the Padres.  He now has four in ten years with the Giants.  These have generally occurred when he was new to the team, and perhaps when there is a transition going on in the bullpen (like 2010 and 2015-16).  It would seem to be significant if he has another poor season in this regard in 2017.

I have studied managers, good and bad, on how Pythagorean relates to them, and generally, the acknowledged better managers were generally good at beating Pythagogean, while lesser ones don't.   Interestingly, managers like Lasorda and LaRussa did not beat Pythagorean.  But talent is part of the equation too, Joe Torre wasn't all that good, horrible really, in his prior managerial stints, but was a genius with the Yankees, per Pythagorean.

Bobby Cox had a similar career pattern, during Bochy's early career:  Cox was winning a lot more games in one-run games than he was losing, but then at some point, he stopped being good at doing this.  So one has to wonder if Bochy might have reached the point where he stopped being good at it too.  Something to monitor for Bochy.

Another thing I should check when I have time:  Bochy's career in one-run games when Flannery was his 3rd base coach and when Flan was not.  SD forced him to fire Flan during parts of his SD tenure:  I think he actually did well, but since the last two has not been good, I should check, just to see.


Dodgers "manager" Dave Roberts outsmarted himself by leaving the terrible Joe Blanton in to give up a grand slam tonight after walking the bases full intentionally.

My guess is that Roberts believed all the sportwriter BS written about what a genius he is.

All I know is that having Joe Blanton pitch with the game on the line is a gas-can move. Not sure what he's saving the other pitchers for....

Here's what happened in the bottom of the 8th per --


Sure enough, the Cubs answered in their half. Ben Zobrist doubled off Joe Blanton, and one out later, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked. Blanton got Javier Baez to fly out, and Chris Coghlan was intentionally walked to load the bases. Montero then drove an 0-2 slider into the right-field bleachers for a 7-3 lead, and his first career postseason home run. Fowler followed with his blast.
"This is what I'm playing for right now," Montero said. "I try to take full advantage of whatever at-bats I get, and that's what I said at the end of the year to [manager] Joe [Maddon] -- I never got used to pinch-hitting, but I'm trying to get better because even though I'm not playing, I'm working hard to become a better pinch-hitter. And if you give me opportunities to pinch-hit, I feel like I can help the team from the bench in the playoffs. And sure enough, today I helped the team."

Go, Nats

They are up 1-0 in the 4th. I can't enjoy the postseason at all until the dodgers are done

Let's go, Giants (get a closer)

I'd sure love it if the front office could find a decent closer for  2017.

I believe that the Good Guys lost an MLB-leading nine games this year in which they had led going into the ninth. That's how they ended the season Tuesday night.

I don't know how to explain what happened other than Jeremy Affeldt's retirement

Let's go, Giants! Get a closer

Your 2016 Giants NLDS: Game 4: Lackey is Perhaps Lacking

My thoughts on Game 4 of NLDS after that miraculous Game 3.  Wow, both Gillaspie and Panik (and Crawford), Law and Blach.  Bochy's gambit of carrying Blach pays off!

ogc thoughts

Funny thing so far is that the Cubs vaunted offense has actually been pretty silent, it was a trio of flukey hits by pitchers (albeit, big blasts off Arrieta and Wood's bats, and Wood is actually a decent hitter in his career, maybe as good as Bumgarner; Hendricks was really lucky) who contributed most of the Cubs offense so far.

Lackey Has Been Good But Not Ace, Especially On the Road

We have some chance against Lackey, despite 2002, as he's not a young guy anymore.  Since he's a righty, as usual, LHH hit him better than RHH, so we have some advantage in that way.  He's also been worse on the road in his career, and by a lot (4.37 ERA this season, 4.18 for his career, 4.58 last 7 seasons).  And he has given up 8 ER in 9.0 IP in his last two road playoff starts.

However, he's been good in SF, but that was in 2006 and 2009, when he was a younger and a bit better pitcher, plus the last time he pitched in SF, the Giants scored 4 runs off him in 6.0 IP in playoffs two years ago.  Plus, most Giants have not hit well against him, and only Nunez has a lot of AB as well as great OPS (1.044) but he's probably not playing.  Everyone else has done poorly, but in one or two games.

And while he has a mixed bag in terms of playoff pitching, overall, 3.11 ERA is pretty darn good.  Still, 4.00 ERA on the road in the playoffs, and, as noted already, Giants scored 4 runs in 6.0 IP against him in SF for the Cards in game 3 of 2014 NLCS.  And that repeats his career pattern of home vs. road, he just does not do as well on the road.

Moore Has Some Good Points

Moore's 2016 Giants ERA is not comparable, but he has a 3.16 ERA in AT&T this season, with 3.0 K/BB and 8.8 K/9, which is comparable.  LHH do hit him better, but I think more of the Cubs lineup is RHH.  And per PQS, he had 4 DOM starts out of 6, for great 67% DOM.

ESPN noted that he wasn't as good since his near no-hitter vs. LA, but that was skewed totally by 1) his bad start in Colorado, which skews a lot of pitchers, and 2) his poor start vs. LA in LA, when he might have been nervous, probably one of the biggest starts in his career.  Take out only COL, and he had a nice 3.44 ERA since that near no-hitter, so he most probably wasn't all that affected by his 133 pitches in the near no-hitter.  And in any case, still had 66% Strike thrown percentage since, which is very good.

On top of that, he had a lot of up and down pitching at home at the start of his Giants career, but in his last two starts of the season:  1.15 ERA, 15.2 IP, 17 K vs. 2 BB, only 9 hits, 71% STR%, .400 OPS, against Rockies and Dodgers, and both at home.  He's hopefully peaking at the right time.  A similar game should put us in the win column.

Today's Game:  Lackey is Perhaps Lacking

So my take:  Lackey is going to be tough, but so will Moore, most likely.  Both have had mixed results in the playoffs, but Moore's was possibly because his arm was already hurting as he got his TJS at the very start of the next season.  But Moore has limited experience either way, but still, at least he has gotten over his first time jitters, hopefully.

While Lackey is a good pitcher, he has been bad on the road, particularly in the playoffs, and we have good LHH in Panik, Belt and Crawford (also Gillaspie), plus Pence and Posey hit RHP pretty well too.  Still, we do better against LHP, not RHP.  However, we have many of the 2014 lineup back, except Pablo and Ishikawa, and possibly Blanco, depends on Pagan's back today.  Gillaspie has been making a good impression of Ishikawa's 2014, but Span is no Pablo.   And while he's been good against our hitters, he has generally been average to bad on the road, and that should kick in some today.

On top of that, aside from the pitcher's driving in runs, the Giants pitching has been handling the Cubs offense with pretty good ease.  Their offense has scored only 5 runs in the 3 games against us, if you take away the pitcher's 6 RBI's.   Sure, pitchers do get runs sometimes, but even during the regular season, their pitchers had 26 RBI's, good for third in the NL (Giants were first).  Bumgarner and Samardzija each had 9 RBI's, and Cueto and Cain each had 5 RBI's (Cubs leader were Arrieta and Hammel with 7 RBI, Lester with 6 RBI, so Hendricks and Wood were flukes, and that HR was a fluke, as well).

Not a sure win - and, of course, none of them ever are - but I think we have as good a chance of winning as the Cubs do, given Lackey's lacking on the road, plus we have home advantage.   And if we win, that's a rematch of Lester vs. Cueto in Chicago.

Good Fortune:  Baloney!

The beauty of the ways the Giants win is that while pitching and defense can dominate a game, it results in beautiful randomness where one hitter or another, not the stars, delivers.  That gives the illusion that the Giants are lucky, with guys like Ross, Ishikawa, and Gillaspie delivers, that it is good fortune.  (if you haven't guessed, I got into it with someone on this, on Twitter)

And sure, there is a lot of randomness in baseball.  But given that the Giants had good fortune THREE times in five years, per their argument, it strains incredulity that they got lucky so many times.   Unless, of course, you want to take the lame way out as Billy Beane does and say that it's all random luck in the playoffs.

And what wasn't random is how the Giants have been run in the Sabean era.  They have planned for the structure of their roster and trading M.O.  They have focused the vast majority of their drafting bullets on pitching.  Both in terms of first round picks, and in terms of total number of pitchers drafted in each draft.  They have also used that pitching to make judicious trades over the years, netting us players like Nen, Livan, Schmidt, Snow, Winn, Pence, Lopez, Pagan, Peavy, among others.

More importantly, the Sabean Brain Trust has been excellent in deciding who to trade and who not to trade.  Wheeler is probably the best SP to get away, Foulke the best reliever (Nathan is an asterisk because he was actually a good reliever for us when he was traded, and we did get a good left-handed defensive and offensive catcher in return), and now Duvall might be the best hitter to get away.  Look at the list of players we got in trade for pitching prospects, top of all is Schmidt, but also players like Pence, Nen, Livan, Peavy, who have done well for us.

There has been articles over the years discussing how you don't want to trade with Sabean.  Making great calls over the years, until the drafts started paying off, once they started losing and getting good to great draft position, netting us Lincecum, Bumgarner, and Posey in consecutive years (and Wheeler in the following year; he netted us a rental of Beltran).   Then building a variety of core strengths mostly through player development during this golden championship period.

We have basically had three cores supporting recent good times, overlapping, of course.  First core was our starting pitching - Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez - covering 2009 to 2012.  The second core was our bullpen:  Affeldt, Romo, Casilla, and Lopez; which covered 2010 to 2014.  Third core was our hitters:  Posey, Pence, Belt, Crawford, and Sandoval, 2012 to 2014.   The common denominator among most of them:  they were prospects the Giants developed, with 9 of 13 being home-grown, two free agents, two trades.

And change has been afoot.  The starting pitching has gone through a transition, and we are set for at least 2016-17 with Bumgarner, Cueto, Moore, and Samardzija, perhaps longer if Cueto stays with us.  The bullpen core started breaking up with Affeldt leaving after last season, and all three are with no contract after this season.  I can see Casilla being resigned, not as much Lopez (age and effectiveness) or Romo (probably too expensive contract, he got $9M this year, he would have to take a big cut to stay).  Unsure who the new core is, but right now it is Strickland, Law, Osich, Okert, Guerrin, and Blach probably pitched his way into at least long relief, and perhaps into the #5 pitching slot, though if Cain is anywhere healthy and relatively effective, he'll get that final slot given his $20M contract.  Some Giants fans like to complain about Cain's contract, but we got all that value from him before he was a free agent, plus also had signed him to a lower long-term extension pre-free agency, so we saved there too.  Panik is now part of the hitting core, starting in 2014.  It is hoped and assumed by many that Arroyo will join the team sometime in 2017 as starting 3B.

Good fortune that was the result of planning and execution of the plan over the years, building up a strong pitching and fielding team almost every year, supplementing via trade and free agency.  Around the main core of Posey and Bumgarner.

And I think people suffer from cognitive bias too.  Nobody notices that the team won due to an error or bench player's hit when the pitching is bad enough that instead of winning 3-2 or 2-1, you lose 6-3 or 5-2.   That's the flaw in analysis people get stuck on when they push off the Giants feat as "good fortune".   Plus they focus on the "luck" of Gillaspie hitting a triple off of Chapman, but how about Arrieta hitting a 3-run homer off Bumgarner?  How about that luck?  Take away the two plays and the Giants won in a 9 inning game, no crying about luck and good fortune.

So remind me not to engage people on social media.  That's what got me into the dark pit with the tweeter.  Social media is the opposite for me, I just run into all this bad thinking or just bad (I was just looking at tweets that a lame-boy in Chicago tweeted that were sexually offensive to my of the tweeters I follow, and then he blamed his 15 year old cousin for them;  apparently he's on an anti-bullying committee, and realized that those bad tweets might get him let go, but he forgot about all the other tweets ("jokes") that exhibited the same type of sexual offensiveness that dot his twitter timeline for years) and I find myself wanting to be less social.  I guess that's why Twitter is sinking while Facebook is growing.

The 10th straight victory in elimination games

That's what should happen tonight. The SF Giants web site says so. 

 - The Giants will rely on their resilience and Madison Bumgarner's excellence as they strive to subdue the Chicago Cubs and extend their season in Monday's Game 3 of the National League Division Series (6:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. CT on FS1 and FOX Deportes).
But San Francisco's unspoken fear is that the Cubs are immune to the lapses that befell the Giants' recent postseason opponents.

Consider the Giants' nine consecutive postseason victories in elimination games. This streak is impossible to disparage, though some have tried by calling the club lucky. The simple fact is that nine postseason games is more than just a representative sampling. San Francisco's success in these games is legitimate.

 However, the Giants must conjure the magic of that streak. They won't make a dent in the 2-0 series deficit they face entering this game unless they begin to hit.
For instance, in NLDS Game 4 at Cincinnati in 2012, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco each homered. Such a lift in this series is hard to envision.
Then, as every Giants fan remembers, Buster Posey belted a grand slam off Mat Latos in the Game 5 clincher. San Francisco might need a similar lightning bolt to stimulate its offense.
Taking a commanding early lead has become a rarity for San Francisco. But in the 2012 NL Championship Series against St. Louis, the Giants quickly established themselves in each elimination game. They led, 4-0, after four innings of Game 5, went in front, 5-0, in Game 6 and built a 7-0 edge after three innings in Game 7.

Your 2016 Giants: Playoffs

I don't have a lot of time to write before the start of the playoffs with the Cubs, so I took a comment I left on baseball monk a few days ago, and repurposed here, of course, with new edits, as I was also writing in reply to the original article.

ogc thoughts

I agreed with baseball monk about the starting rotation, that it is the best in baseball.  This is the reason why I loved the Giants signing Smardzija and Cueto, and then trading for Moore.   As baseball monk noted, it is arguably up there with the rotation of 2010, which he felt was better because they got it done.  baseball monk compared the two staffs:

  • #1:  Lincecum vs. Bumgarner
  • #2:  Cain vs. Cueto
  • #3:  Sanchez vs. Moore
  • #4:  Bumgarner vs. Samardzija

#1:  Lincecum vs. Bumgarner

I think for #1, knowledge of the future, as well as SSS, were clouding some of the analysis. Lincecum was coming off two straight years of Cy Young-ness, and had another magnificent year. At that point, he had always had a month of meh-ness sprinkled in, and his in-season implementation and execution of the changeup in August 2010 suggested that he had years more of dominance.

And who had a 3.79 ERA, pitching so bad that he had his start skipped in the middle of the playoffs? Bumgarner pre-2014. So was 2014 a fluke or his 6.00 ERA in 2012?

Still, comparing each point in time, I agree you have to go with Bumgarner in 2016, solely because he has had success in the playoffs, and Lincecum up to then, had a history of tightness in his first time experiences, which could haunt him in the playoffs (didn’t, probably because September was like one long month of playoffs) and World Series (did).

#2:  Cain vs. Cueto

I think for #2, in addition, you are also mixing in known performance vs. possible. Cueto has had a history of clear dominance in the regular season over the past few years. Cain in 2010 was considered a good but not great starter. I think baseball monk was counting his great playoff run to 2012 into the equation.

Based on regular season work, Cueto is head and shoulders above what Cain had done up to 2010, and Cain had no playoff experience at that point, whereas Cueto right now has a playoff history, though, frankly, it’s been spotty to poor, even last season. Though Cain was inexperienced entering 2010 and Cueto is experienced, it is because Cueto has been such a mixed bag that I would rate Cain above Cueto for #2, because he was so steady all those years leading up to 2010 playoffs (of course, Bumgarner was a mixed bag after two playoff seasons, and we all saw how great he was in his third one, in 2014).  So again I agree, Cain 2010 was better.

#3:  Sanchez vs. Moore

For #3, first, I would have compared Bumgarner with Moore, not Sanchez, because he was arguably better already, but maybe baseball monk was going with Bochy’s rotation, which had it Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner in the Braves and World Series, and Sanchez got the call for #2 in the Phillies series, and based on that, I can see the point. That’s a quibble on my part, I admit.

I think it’s clearly Moore over Sanchez, mainly because Moore has had a much better pedigree and acknowledgement in the league than Sanchez ever had. He might have similar wildness, but 2010 was Sanchez’s one and only good year, and while Moore has a similar spotty record, he has had a much better projection profile than Sanchez ever had. Plus I got a Jason Schmidt type of feel coming from Moore.

And as baseball monk aptly noted, Moore already has playoff experience (relatively good), and is a more mentally stable player than Sanchez ever was.  Moore is definitely better here, and I would say better than Bumgarner had he been the comparison point, because 2010 was Madison's first year, he was a very unknown quality at that point (though us Giants fans loved him to pieces, that didn't mean that he would necessarily turn out to be as great as he turned out to be), whereas Moore has a lot more history.

#4:  Bumgarner vs. Samardzija

For #4, Bumgarner vs. Samardzija, I mostly agree with what baseball monk wrote. Mostly because of the Shark’s up and down season, along with his up and mostly down career as a starter. So I see why he had the comparison as a toss-up.

One thing that tips it to Samardzija’s side, for me at least, is that mid-season, while in his down period, it was revealed that for some inexplicable reason, he dropped his curve when he converted from the bullpen to the starting rotation, which is the complete opposite of any other reliever-starter conversion, as generally you want more pitches as a starter than when a reliever, and that last incredible up you noted was the result of him adding his curve back into his repertoire (plus I think Fangraph analyzed his pitches, and found that he also dropped a pitch that wasn’t working for him). For that reason, I rate him above 2010 Bumgarner.

2016 NL Playoffs

I would also add in the fact that Samardzija has a history of being a great closer, and Bumgarner’s great relief game vs. KC, and those, plus the above rotation comparisons tips the rotation in 2016 as being better than the 2010 rotation, at least in my eyes.  And I just realized, looking through the four comparisons, that the individual comparisons for baseball monk and myself add up to 2016 being a better rotation, as well as being the best rotation in the NL playoffs.

As good as the Cubs are in 2016, the Nats were considered similarly good in 2014, and the Giants arguably played better in the regular season than they did, and it was the bullpen blown saves that cost us there.   As I've tried to show over the years with PQS, it is great pitching that overpowers great hitting, no matter how great they are, in a general sense.  Our rotation might not have been great in 2014, but they were good enough for DOM starts when we needed them, outside of Bumgarner.  And Madison carried us on his back in the World Series, his relief appearance would have qualified for a DOM start had he started.

On top of that, the Giants took on the Cubs, Nats, and Dodgers OK this season.  Basically broke even.   And each of these other team has problems with LH starters, and we got two of them, plus a number of lefties in the bullpen.   On top of that, I think the offense was returning to normal in the last week of the season.

The offense won't look great in the playoffs, but generally, better pitching will dictate that.  They just need to be relatively better against the opposition, then the opposition is against our pitchers.   And all of our starters are capable of whipping out a double digit strikeout start and go deep into the game while giving up only a handful of hits.  I like our chances of flying through the playoffs and not having to face elimination at any point.

I think we'll have the most problems with Chicago, both because they are good, as well as because it is a five game series and they got home advantage.   While I like our chances, it will not be easy, so Go Giants!

Note:  Giants Roster for Cubs Series:

The position players for the NLDS: Posey, Brown, Belt, Crawford, Gillaspie, Nunez, Panik, Tomlinson, Blanco, Hernandez, Pagan, Pence, Span.  Nunez replaced Adrianza.

The Giants went with 12 pitchers: Blach, Bumgarner, Casilla, Cueto (Game 1 starter), Kontos, Law, Lopez, Moore, Romo, Samardzija, Smith, Strickland.   Blach replaced Okert.  Moore took Parker's spot, as the Giants go for more speed off the bench (and in the lineup, apparently, both Hernandez and Tomlinson are starting game 1, while Span and Panik sits).

The starting pitching matchups:

  1. Cueto vs. Lester
  2. Samardzija vs. Hendricks
  3. Bumgarner vs. Arrieta
  4. Moore vs. Lackey
We are pretty evenly matched in each game.   As uneven Cueto has been in playoffs, so has Lester.   Meanwhile, Hendricks was not that good last year, though to be fair, he's been a much better pitcher this season over last.  Samardzija has nothing much of a playoff record (played for Cubs, A's and White Sox) but has been pitching really great since rediscovering his curve.  And while Arrieta had DOM starts, he didn't pitch well enough in 2 of 3 starts last season, when he had his great season, whereas he regressed this season.  While facing Bumgarner, who he publicly said is "beatable".  And Lackey has been up and down over the past few seasons as well, while Moore has been up and down in previous playoff stints.  So other than Bumgarner's game, we look pretty evenly matched, so it should be a good series, with Bumgarner being the edge for us, potentially, once again.

Your 2016 Playoffs: Rooting Against Order

When I remember, I rank the playoff teams in order of who to root most to win it all.  Of course, the Giants are the one up top, but how do the other teams rank, should the horrible happen and the Giants not win it all this season?  I decided to include the teams that lost the Wild Card games too.

ogc thoughts

Here is my order, while many teams we don't really have anything against, there are some who Giants fans have some ire with:
  1. Nationals - The Giants don't have much against the Nats.  They gave us a nice reliever in exchange for Livan Hernandez.  And Dusty is their manager, so why not give him a bone, 2002 is no longer bothering me now that we got 2010, 2012, 2014.   We also got Felipe Alou from them, where he established himself as a manager, returning him to his Giants heritage.   We did trade Speier for Foli when they were the Expos, and that hurt some.  But they have never won, and missed their best chance because of the strike in 1994.  
  2. Cubs - Well, if we can't win it all, part of me would wish them well, especially since they haven't won since 1908, which I can sympathize with, especially all the close calls and long time in between good times.  Plus we crushed them in 1989.  But they crippled us last season with the sweep, killing our chances in an odd year, and nearly cost us this season with some comebacks.  And they are getting all the love from the media this year, getting the SI cover shot and prediction (which usually is a jinx anyway).
  3. Rangers - We beat them in 2010 for our first title in SF.  They also have a long history of never winning in their franchise as well.
  4. Indians - We beat them long ago in humiliating fashion in 1954, but that's not as recent as the Rangers.  And they haven't won in a long time as well.  But they do have a bad mascot that they should probably change or work with Native Americans to make it more acceptable.  
  5. Orioles - We stole Jon Miller from them, so there's that.  Plus, we're the true Orange & Black.  And I never cared for their owner.  
  6. Blue Jays - They gave Melky Cabrera a two year contract even after he cheated so badly, rewarding him.
  7. Mets - That hideous playoff series we lost to them in 2000 will also stick in this Giants fan's craw.   So this Wild Card was a nice payback, which the Giants have been doing in each playoff cycle this decade.  They did buy King Kong Kingman off us, instead of giving us prospects, but did give Willie Mays another chance to make the World Series (unfortunately, he was a shadow of his former self).  
  8. Red Sox - They are a contender for Team of the 2010 Decade, which the Giants hold pretty securely right now with 3 titles, but if they win, they will have 2, just one behind.  Part of me feel sorry for them for signing Pablo, but that's on them 
  9. Dodgers - Of course, they are last, they're the Bridegrooms.  Part of me want the Giants to face them in the NLCS, just so we can beat them, but they have not been able to get past the first round in recent memory, for while they have been able to come up big during the season, they haven't been able to in the playoffs.  And that's OK by me, any time they get kicked out of the playoffs is great, whether by the Giants or any other team.  
Go Giants!  
Go Team of the 2010 Decade!!!

One down, 11 to go

Conor Gillaspie. Here's what David Pinto said at Baseball Musings after mis-spelling Conor in the headline with King Kong Connor -- 

Conor Gillaspie homers in the top of the ninth off Mets closer Jeurys Familia. Gillaspie is not much of a home run hitter, averaging a home run every 33 at bats this season. Familia started the inning, giving up a double and a walk. The Mets crowd is stunned into silence.
Note that bringing closers into tie games doesn’t always work out, either.

Grant Bisbee at McCovey Chronicles had some fun with his post tonight --

For the next 50 years, you'll see video of Travis Ishikawa Conor Gillaspie hitting a home run to send the Giants to the  World Series Division Series. Every time it comes on, you'll smile. Every time you think about it, you'll remember why you follow sports, why you care so much about something that's supposed to mean nothing. On a bad June day, when the Giants have lost their eighth straight, you'll click on a video of Ishikawa's Gillaspie's home run to cheer up and remind yourself that baseball weaves haphazardly toward a target that's three miles off the paved road.
Literally  Travis Ishikawa Conor Gillaspie.
There are different ways to root and cheer for a team. I used to be an angry fan. Everything was Scott Spiezio. Everything was Benny Agbayani. This bled into every move, every roster decision. When the Giants signed a defense-first catcher who couldn't hit back in 2005, it made me so danged mad. When the Giants traded for this guy or that guy, giving up Can't Touch Prospect or Absolutely Can't Touch Prospect, it ate holes in my stomach for weeks.
If the Giants made the playoffs in those years, and they were forced to start an ex-prospect who was sleeping on the couch because he had nowhere else to go -- playing for an injured player, no less -- it would have sent me over the edge. This is your solution? You went through an entire offseason and trading deadline, and this is the depth you're calling on in the postseason?
That fan is long gone. Maybe he's grown soft and fat. Maybe he's wiser. Maybe he's progressively dumber, or maybe the sense of entitlement just shifted over by a few degrees and morphed into something the old me wouldn't recognize. But I was into the Ishikawa Gillaspie experiment. It was ridiculous. It was comical. Ishikawa's Gillaspie's contract was printed in comic sans for a team whose story will be written in wingdings. It didn't make any sense, but neither did anything else. I was in. If the Giants are going to troll the world, let's pick a funny player to do it.
Not even joking: That player was  Travis Ishikawa Conor Gillaspie, replacing an injured player.
Ishikawa played Gillaspie almost played with Barry Bonds. He was a semi-prospect on a team that needed real prospects, and he became an odd backup for the Giants -- a third baseman replacing a fan favorite. After 2010, I thought he would be the last song on side four of the 2010 double album. "Remember That Prospect." It would be 2:09 and catchy as all hell, but it wouldn't get any radio play. Aficionados and enthusiasts only.
Except it wasn't so funny when he took an awful route in left to give the Cardinals an early run in Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS was starting in a Wild Card Game. You suddenly remembered: That guy shouldn't be here. Wait a sec, he ... that's not a good defensive infielder. He doesn't hit enough to pretend to be a good defensive infielder. Isn't he almost in his 30s now? Why is ... how did ... what happened?
Ishikawa Gillaspie is a part of the lore now. Mays going back on a ball, his hat falling off, spinning around and throwing the ball in. Will Clark up the middle off Mitch Williams. David Bell sliding home. Edgar Renteria off Cliff Lee. Marco Scutaro, arms wide, taking in the rain. Miguel Cabrera looking for a slider that never came. And Travis Ishikawa Conor Gillaspie sitting on a 2-0 fastball 1-1 sinker, and hitting it as hard as he could.
The Giants won the pennant Wild Card Game. The Giants ... this team of confusing, amazing bozos ... won the pennant Wild Card Game.
We've seen a lot of ridiculous things over the last few years. This is probably the most ridiculous, which, by the laws of baseball-god physics, makes it one of the best. Travis Ishikawa Conor Gillaspie hit the home run. Literally Travis Ishikawa Conor Gillaspie.

Your 2016 Giants: Wild Card Playoff Game vs. Mets

On Wednesday, the Giants will face the Mets on the road in NY:  Bumgarner vs. Thor.

ogc thoughts

Mano-a-mano, obviously, anything can happen.  Starting pitchers can make magic happen at any time.  It should be a good battle between Syndergaard and Bumgarner.

Thor's Achilles' Heel

However,  Noah "Thor" Syndergaard, while a great pitcher, has some flaws that the Giants can take advantage of.  First off, LHH hit him a lot better than RHH:
  • LHH:   .250/.305/.398/.703, 3.46 K/BB
  • RHH:   .222/.255/.334/.589, 8.04 K/BB
Lefties in our lineup should be Span, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Gillaspie, and Pagan, with righties Posey and Pence, both of whom are OK vs. RHP.   In addition, while Noah has the fastest stuff in the majors, the Giants lineup is full of hitters who can hit 95+ MPH pitches for homers.  However, the Giants are only 57-53 against RHP (while 30-22 against LHP) so that negates that to some extent.

Plus, he's much better at home (2.68 ERA) than on the road (3.13 ERA).  However, the Giants against him in NY, in two games, 6.17 ERA:  4 runs in 6 IP in 2015, 4 runs in 5.2 IP in 2016.  He shut them out in SF though, in his last start against them.  Also, he has been not as good in the second half:  2.77 ERA first half, 3.01 ERA second half, while compiling a 3.32 ERA in the playoffs last year (3.50 ERA as a starter), but all three starts were DOM starts.

Bumgarner's A Man

Meanwhile, Bumgarner looks pretty good against the Mets.  First off, they are only 19-18 vs. LHP, 68-57 vs. RHP (hence why Bumgarner and not Cueto starting, just for this reason).  However, he's better at home than on the road, 2.74 ERA vs. 3.22 ERA on the road.

And one thing some have mentioned is that Bumgarner has not had a good ERA to end the season, as he had a 4.66 ERA over his last 9 starts (most only noted his poor September, but it goes back further than that).  However, if you look at the overall numbers, he looks like he's just been having bad luck with the long ball:  9 starts, 56.0 IP, .293 BABIP, great .683 OPS, only 11 walks vs. 62 strikeouts, but what killed him during that period was the number of HR he gave up, 8, which works out to 1.3 HR/9, very high for him.  So the long ball would be a sign that this Bumgarner is pitching and not the lumberjack who runs roughshod over the competition.

But the best factor of all is Bumgarner in 4 starts against the Mets in NY:  0.62 ERA, 29 IP (avg 7+ IP per start), 9.6 K/9 and great 3.44 K/BB.   And there is also his 0.91 ERA over his last 8 playoff appearances, 59.2 IP (over 7 IP even counting the 5 IP in relief), only 8 walks, 53 strikeouts, only 3 HR given up.

Giants Chances Look Good

I think the Giants look good for winning this game.  Bumgarner has pitched great against the Mets in NY all his career so far, as LHP does a number on the Mets strengths.   Thor's weakness is that LHH hit him a lot better than RHH do, and Posey and Pence are the only RHH, and both hit RHP pretty well still.  But when you get great pitchers going against each other, especially experienced guys - Thor had his hiccup in his first playoff start last season - you just about have to flip a coin as to who wins.  Still, Bumgarner has had the Mets number, as do many LHP, and LHH has Noah's number (relatively to RHH), which seems to tilt things in favor of the Orange & Black, though, unfortunately, our LHH has not done that well against Thor, both Posey and Pence have the best OPS against him.

Go Giants!

The 25 men on the postseason roster -- Wild Card

Here's what Grant Bisbee at McCovery Chronicles posted --

Before you get too worked up about the Giants’ 25-man roster for the Wild Card Game, remember that Gary Brown was on the 25-man roster for the game in 2014, and you didn’t notice.
Juan Perez got an at-bat.
Joaquin Arias made an error as a defensive replacement.
You don’t remember any of this.
Which is all to say that it’s easy to make too much about the exact roster, especially considering it’s easy to load up on the bench players because you know you’re not going to need all of your starting pitchers. If you want speed, there should be room for speed. If you want defense, there should be room for defense. If you want power, you should follow the Orioles.
Let’s take a look at what the 25-man roster should look like.

Pitchers (11)

Madison Bumgarner
Sergio Romo
Will Smith
Derek Law
Hunter Strickland
Javier Lopez
Cory Gearrin
George Kontos
Santiago Casilla
Ty Blach
Jeff Samardzija
They took 10 pitchers in 2014, and this would follow the same format, just with an extra pitcher. Ty Blach would be there in case the game gets out of hand early. Jeff Samardzija would be there in case the game goes long — think Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS. And Casilla would be there to remind you of your own mortality and sense of general hopelessness.
Also, it’s my opinion that Madison Bumgarner should make the roster.

Casilla would seem to be superfluous here, but I’d also guess that Bochy would remove either Blach or Cueto before ditching him. I’m not sure if Casilla makes the NLDS roster, if needed. But they’re not going to poke him in the nose here.

Position players (14)

Buster Posey
Brandon Belt
Joe Panik
Brandon Crawford
Conor Gillaspie
Angel Pagan
Denard Span
Hunter Pence
Trevor Brown
Gorkys Hernandez
Kelby Tomlinson
Jarrett Parker
Ehire Adrianza
Eduardo Nuñez

If he (Nunez) is not there, go for Gregor Blanco or Tony Sanchez. There’s no way a third catcher is going to make it onto an NLDS roster, but it’s a nice comfort zone in the Wild Card Game for a team that’s carrying so few pitchers.
Omissions with this roster? Steven Okert, who pitched well. Josh Osich, who didn’t. Matt Moore and Johnny Cueto, who would start the next series. Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, who probably won’t make any of the rosters, though it’s possible that Peavy takes the long-relief slot that I’m assuming will go to Blach. Blanco, who’s been limited by injuries and given ground to Gorkys Hernandez. Albert Suarez, who can’t compete with the Blach party.
And Joe Nathan, who didn’t allow a run in seven outings with the Giants. I could see him on the roster over Blach, to be honest, at least for this round. Next round would be a stickier question. I could imagine Bochy sticking with Casilla over loyalty, but I also remember Barry Zito missing the roster entirely in 2010, so there are never any loyalty guarantees.
There shouldn’t be a lot of surprises, though. The Giants used just 45 players on the roster all year, and a lot of them are hurt or gone. There aren’t a lot of close calls or hard decisions, which is a benefit of carrying 10 or 11 pitchers instead of 13.
If the Giants win, though? That’s when the roster crunch will get extraordinarily messy. Start sharpening your pointy sticks for that battle. Should be fun.

My Current Baseball and Giants Blog Links

Intro:  this post has some of the links I used to have on the side of my blog content.

Ugh, Blogger just did something to lose all my links.  But it didn't remove the widgets that shows posts, so I'm going to post the links in this post, and widget this post.  While this is slower to get to, I don't really think that many of you are using my links anyway to get to places, I assume most of you are savvy enough to have them bookmarked somewhere so that you can get to what you want when you want.  In addition, I can't remember every link I had, so I'm going with the ones I can remember, for the most part.  But let me know if you prefer links on the side and I'll think about complying.

This was last updated October 3, 2016.

Giants Links

These are the ones that I go to nowadays when I want a Giants blog fix, and I don't want to get into an argument:

baseball monk:  like me, a focus on strategy of the Giants; does weekly recap
Cove Chatter:  good for prospect talk, starting to cover Bill James GameScore analysis
El Lefty Malo:  old-timer like me, talks (infrequently now; life!) about all things Giants
Raising Matt Cain:  good for day-to-day commiseration
When the Giants Come to Town:  DrBGiantsfan's good site for team and great prospect talk
Wrenzie Blogs Giants:  good for prospect talk
You Gotta Like These Kids:  Shankbone's good site for prospect and Giants talk

For the Giants own content, here are the links to their leagues:
Sacramento River Cats (PCL)
Richmond Flying Squirrels (EAS)
San Jose Giants (CAL)
Augusta GreenJackets (SAL)
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (NWL)
AZL Giants (AZL)
DSL Giants (DSL)

Giants Player Blogs:

Brandon and Brandon (Belt and Crawford)
White Shark (Gregor Blanco)

Giants Beat Writers:

CSN Bay Area (Pavlov)
Haft Baked Ideas (blog) (Haft et al)
San Francisco Chronicle (Schulman et al)
San Jose Mercury (Baggerly et al)

Baseball Links

For baseball data content:

Baseball Prospectus (have to subscribe for top-line data, like PECOTA, their projects)
Baseball-Reference (best for minor league info)
Clay Davenport (produces projection data before every season)
Cot's Baseball Contracts
FanGraphs (best for advanced saber stats along with regular stats)
Homerun Tracker (esoteric home run stats)
Probable Pitchers
Stat Corner (good for advanced saber stats for majors and minors)
The Baseball Cube (only one that includes college stats with pro stats)

For baseball prospect content:

Baseball America (lots of good draft mocks prior to the draft, and good prospect lists after the season)
Forbe's MLB Valuations (updated annually; Giants #4 in 2016)
Jim Callis (, prospect and draft info, mock draft too)
Jonathan Mayo: Big, Bald, and Beautiful (, prospect and draft info, mock draft too)
Minor League Ball - Sickels (lots of good prospect and draft info, plus annual mock draft project)
MiLB (Official Minor League's website) Pipeline Prospects (Mayo and Callis; links to Top Prospect lists) Pipeline Giants Prospects (Mayo and Callis)
Perfect Game USA (sometimes makes mock draft available)

For baseball data analysis writing:

Baseball Prospectus (subscribe for latest content; free content one year or older, plus some free weekly)
Eno Sarris (enjoyed his analysis for long time at Fangraphs; seems to follow the Giants too, to boot!)
Matt Swartz (consulting for Nats now; wrote lately for Fangraphs and, before that, BP previously)
Russell Carlton (currently writing for BP; also know as Pizza Cutter)

Sweeping the Dodgers

Yes, that happened

The Giants won the series by outscoring the dodgers 19-4

Postseason again

After a truly crappy late July and August, the Giants ended the season 4-0, clobbering the dodgers 7-1.

They've been playing well, beating the dodgers in the series by total score of 19 -4. Here's Chris Haft's top of the story for --

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants set forth upon a familiar path Sunday, claiming the National League's second Wild Card postseason berth by completing a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 7-1 victory at AT&T Park.
San Francisco advanced to Wednesday's Wild Card Game against the Mets at New York's Citi Field. The Giants won the Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh in 2014 en route to capturing their third consecutive World Series title in an even-numbered year -- a streak the Giants put themselves in position to sustain as they fended off St. Louis, the only remaining Wild Card contender which began Sunday a game behind San Francisco.
Buster Posey drove in three runs and Denard Span lashed a two-run triple and two singles while scoring three runs to help support left-hander Matt Moore, who improved to 6-2 in his last eight starts by allowing one run on three hits and two walks while striking out six in eight innings.