Sunday, October 31, 2010
One More Win
As brilliant as MadBum was, he was still helped out a bunch by some masterful defensive play, a lot of which came courtesy of Bruce Bochy's lineup machinations. Benching Pat Burrell and playing Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz seemed like moves that would have second-guess artists drooling, but they worked out beautifully. With Schierholtz in right, Cody Ross shifted to left field, giving the Giants a heavy duty vacuum of an outfield defense. Sure enough, the Rangers hit about four balls to left field tonight that I doubt Burrell would have gotten to. I think Burrell still plays tomorrow, but I think Bochy will tell him to suck it up and DH while Aaron Rowand or Schierholtz play the field.
Once upon a time, in 1998, Bochy mismanaged the World Series so badly that he basically handed a superior Yankees team two games on the way to being swept. My entire impression of his managing skills came from those four games, in which his bumbling killed any chance the Padres had at winning their first title. Now he looks like a freaking genius. Every move, or every really big move, that he's made this postseason has worked out, whether it be in terms of lineup construction, bullpen usage, or by telling Jose Guillen to fuck off.
So the Giants are one win from their first World Championship in the San Francisco era. We've been here before, and we all know about the crazy and unbelievable ways this team can break our hearts. I don't have that feeling though, this time. Back in 2002 I almost wasn't ready to accept that I was finally going to actually see the Giants win a World Series (and they didn't). Now I'm prepared to celebrate. One...more...win...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Quick Pre-Series Grumblings
When Brian Wilson struck Ryan Howard out with that slider on the outside, the whoosh of a sigh I let out could have cooled an entire desert nation for a month. Even as the nerves subsided, I was still too amped up to really understand the importance of what had just happened, that the team was going to the World Series for just the third time in my lifetime. Only the next morning could I finally just relax, not having to worry about another game for a few days. Now it was time to sit on the couch and watch MLB Network recaps until my eyeballs melted.
That time has passed, however, and it's time to start stressing again. Are you ready for more torture? When Game Six ended, I told myself that I couldn't take another series of this, but here we are, staring into the mouth of what promises to be another grind-it-out affair. The minute my alarm clock set off this morning, I started fretting about who would start Game Two, who would DH in the games in Texas, and just where in the hell Jose Guillen made off to. Once again, the Giants are the underdog, as the experts are almost universally picking Texas to roll through them without much trouble. Somehow, I don't think the Giants are wetting their pants.
The Giants just gutted out a six-game war of attrition with the defending NL champ, so one thing I'd possibly be worried about is simple exhaustion, whether it be from Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson for being stretched out against Philly, or the hitters from grinding out so many damned at-bats, time and again. I know I'm effing exhausted after watching that series, and all I did was yell profanity at the TV and throw Cheez-Its at Ryan Howard. I wasn't out there putting my nose to the grindstone like the players.
Oh, and one other thing to be sorta worried about. The Giants are facing an opponent that is making its first appearance in the World Series in franchise history, an opponent who just knocked off the Yankees and who comes from the AL West, to boot. Sound familiar? Yeah, I don't want to think about it, either.
--The number one source of debate for Giants fans seems to be who exactly will DH in the games in Texas? "That's easy!", you say. "Good ol' Pat Burrell! He sucks afield, so stick him in the DH slot and all will be well!"
Not so fast there, bub. Burrell's .209/.306/.348 career line as a DH is abysmal (in more than 600 plate appearances, enough of a sample size to mean something), and he has made it no secret that he hates the position. He seems to be one of those guys, like Jason Giambi, who just sucks if he isn't out in the field during games. Besides, if he goes out, who takes his place in the outfield? Nate Schierholtz hasn't been hitting and Aaron Rowand hasn't done anything all year. The apocalyptic Eugenio Velez and Jose Guillen options seem too far-fetched even for Bruce Bochy's "anything goes" managerial mindset this postseason. Move Aubrey Huff out there? More on that in a sec.
Ok, so the next best option is our favorite member of the Ursidae family, Pablo Sandoval. Should be a no-brainer, right? Once again, hold your horses, bub. Sandoval has been awful both on the road and against lefties this season. He's guaranteed to face at least two lefties in the games in Texas, maybe three if the Rangers choose to throw Derek Holland in Game Four. So, going by this year's stats, starting Pablo as the DH would essentially be like having another pitcher in the lineup.
Ok then, moving on. What about moving Huff to DH and starting Travis Ishikawa, as has been thrown around a lot today? Well, once again the lefty platoon thing comes into effect, and Ishikawa is just not a good enough hitter to be starting World Series games, period. The upgrade in defense isn't enough to justify this move, since Huff hasn't been bad at all this year (Game Five LCS flub notwithstanding).
So, who then? Mike Fontenot? Again with the lefties, and he has zero power. Rowand? You would think he'd be at an advantage facing a bunch of lefty hurlers, but even he was pretty useless against southpaws this year (though he does have an .826 lifetime OPS against them). Dig up Guillen from whatever ditch he's sleeping in and insert him back into the lineup? Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth.
Out of all the unappetizing options, I think it's best to just go with Sandoval. While he was a mess against lefties this season, last year he absolutely destroyed them (.379/.428/.600). I know last year is last year, but it shows that at least at some point he had a clue how to hit left-handed pitchers, and he's the guy with the most potential to get rip-roaring hot and become a weapon in the series. Plus, maybe the hitter-friendly environs of Arlington will invigorate him. Yeah, I'm grasping at straws with that last one, but what else to do with this bunch? Vote Panda for DH!
-Fans are clamoring for Jonathan Sanchez to get two starts at Mays Field at all costs after his near-self-destruction on the mound in Philadelphia. So of course Bruce Bochy announces that he'll be starting Game Three in Texas, and then Game Seven in SF should it come down to that. Can you picture a shaky Sanchez on the mound in a Game Seven scenario, trying to protect a tenuous lead while walking every other batter and screaming at opposing hitters for taking off their batting gloves? Get your oven doors prepped.
One thing before we completely give up on Sanchez: as awful as he was in Game Six in Philly (and he was awful), this is the same guy who dealt in the division-clinching game against San Diego and then completely dominated the Braves in a hostile environment in the first round of the playoffs. To say he suddenly can't handle pressure is to forget the last three weeks or so of Giants baseball, or, hell, the entire month of September. Sanchez didn't have it Saturday. He didn't have any rhythm, he got flustered, then he started yelling at people. Hell, it happens. It's a tad knee-jerk to just lose all confidence in him after one bad outing. I'm sure happy he's our Game Three starter instead of some lesser light.
-It's the age-old question: Will Barry Zito finally get his chance to be on the postseason roster? As much as I'd like to see Zito throw a playoff inning or two, I don't see it. With Bochy willing to use Madison Bumgarner for multiple innings in between postseason starts, Zito becomes totally redundant, which doubly hurts since he's just not very good. Even Guillermo Mota, who is by far the lowest on the bullpen food chain, still throws hard, which gives him value in a worst-comes-to-worst, need-a-strikeout scenario. Zito can impress with his ability to mimic Andy Summers, but not with his ability to miss bats, so he's likely stuck on the bench for one more round.
-Reason number 5,701 why the world needed the Giants to beat the Phillies this weekend.
-Finally, a quick list of NLCS unsung heroes, headed by Jeremy Affeldt for his Game Six bullpen heroics. Joe Posnanski, whom Affeldt says is the reason he has a career, sums it up better than I ever could.
One guy lost in the Cody Ross/Brian Wilson hubbub was Freddy Sanchez, who came alive to hit .360 in the series and seemed to be on the bases during every Giants threat. Andres Torres also thankfully remembered that he was actually good and started to play like the 2010 version we all know and love. His crucial play on Ryan Howard's fifth-inning double in Game Six, which literally saved a run and maybe the game, will probably be forgotten in the haze over the years, but it was a clutch defensive play by any definition.
Lastly, don't forget Madison Bumgarner, who was absolute nails in his Game Six relief stint. Fighting out of the bases loaded jam in the fifth was impressive enough, but striking out Ben Francisco in the sixth, when all that was needed was a fly ball to put the Phils ahead, was a major turning point in the game. When I was 21, I was only worried about drinking legally, getting laid, and not sleeping past my morning classes. This guy's out there throwing clutch playoff innings as 50,000 drunk fans scream horrible things at him. That takes some guts.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Giants Win the Pennant! Giants Win the Pennant!
That is all.
P.S. What the hell is "The Machine". Do I even want to know?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Giants Win Ulcer-tastic Game Four
Years like 2010, though, when the Giants are in the playoffs? Yeesh. I'm super-excited that my team is playing deep into October, obviously, and I'm ecstatic they're one win from the World Series, but when the actual games are being played, I'm not sure you can characterize what I go through as "enjoyment". When I'm pacing around my apartment during every tense moment in the game, sweating and mumbling, popping Pepto Bismols to ease my churning stomach (I wish I were kidding), I look more like a maniac on the verge of a complete breakdown than a fan having fun watching sports. I'm like Billy Beane as portrayed in Moneyball, only without the goofy white box and with no chairs to throw. Brian Wilson said after the game tonight that he had an ulcer forming after all of this. You and me both, buddy.
Game Four tonight was the most antacid-laced of the NLCS, a see-saw battle that ended with the Giants winning, only after it looked like they were poised to break our hearts yet again. After being handed an early 2-0 lead, Madison Bumgarner suddenly lost it in the fifth inning as the Phillies' bats finally woke up and hammered out four runs. You knew the Giants would come back and tie, as they did, against crappy Joe Blanton and a shaky Phillie bullpen. Holding the lead they got, however, was another matter entirely.
Sure enough, they blew it, thanks to a Sergio Romo hanging slider, something that is becoming frighteningly common in these playoffs. Luckily Romo settled down, Brian Wilson did his usual brilliant pitching while looking like a total scary bastard, and Juan Uribe came through...again...with the game-winner. As Aubrey Huff (no matter where this guy goes after the season or how the rest of his career goes, he is going to be freaking adored by Giants fans forever, with good reason) chugged home with the winning run, the butterflies in my stomach turned into goosebumps. As painful and crazy as it is, I wouldn't want it any other way.
If there was one major advantage the Giants had going into this series it was their edge in bullpen strength, and that certainly manifested itself tonight. It spoke volumes to how little faith Charlie Manuel had in his bullpen that he was willing to bring in Roy Oswalt on limited rest rather than leave it up to Brad Lidge or some other ne'er-do-well on that relief staff in crunch time. The Phils' relievers are so unreliable (except Ryan Madson, but he had already been used) that their manager had to grab at straws in order for his team to stay alive. Sure enough, the Giants got to the now-hittable Oswalt and won the game. Give Manuel credit though, for doing something unorthodox because, really, who else was he going to turn to going into extra innings with the series on the line.
So are the Phillies phucked? Hardly. They still throw arguably the best pitcher in the NL out there tomorrow and then two more ace-caliber pitchers after him. They're up against the wall and they're battling in a street fight with a plastic knife, but they're aren't finished by any stretch. There are too many postseason stories of the ace pitcher tossing a masterpiece game to get his team back in the series. The Phils can't be written off at all. There are plenty of ass jawbones laying around the streets of San Francisco, I'm sure. No one wants to see this series go back to Philadephia, where anything can happen in that bandbox full of moronic jackasses (or did you not see this?). Plus, wouldn't it just be nice to clinch it in front of the home fans?
Luckily, the Giants have their own (little) big gun in Tim Lincecum to combat Halladay. Two aces matched up with a chance for the Giants to win their fourth pennant in the San Francisco era. Who in their right mind wouldn't watch this? I know I'll be ready with my Tums.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Giants. Phils. In the Words of Mills Lane...
It's 24 hours before the most anticipated postseason pitching matchup of the 21st century, and I have a worry. Several of them, actually. I worry that the Giants and their often-slumbering offense will be powerless against the man who no-hit the team that scored the most runs in the National League. I'm worried that the powerful Phillie lineup far outclasses that of the Giants'. I'm worried that our soon-to-be robot overlords are already predicting a Phillie rout. I'm worried that even the Giants' awesome starting pitching can't match the Phils' "Aces Three". I'm worried that Olivia Munn won't return my creepy texts. Wait, forget that last one.
Screw it. Enough with the manic depressive diatribe. If there's one thing the Torture Giants of 2010 have taught us, it's to never count them out, and to expect the unexpected. Swept by the Dodgers at home in late-June? No problem. Lose a crucial series to the Padres in August after your third starter talks a bunch of crap in the newspapers? Pssh. Lose a devastating game on a ninth-inning, bizarro broken bat triple by Carlos Gonzalez? Feh, just win six of the next seven. A clueless Jose Guillen acquisition threatens to derail the season? Just cut him from the postseason roster and let his malcontented ways take care of themselves.
Even in the ALCS, after blowing Game Two, the surprises continued. When Eric Hinske homered in Game Three, we all got those Giant playoff flashbacks. I'm sure you're all-too familiar. Instead of caving to the ghost of Bobby Jones, they battled back, with the help of a Bobby Cox brainfart here and a Brooks Conrad there, and won the series. Even when it looked like Derek Lowe was going to Halladay them in Game Four, they fought back behind the strength of my new favorite Giant, Cody Ross, to win the series. By now we should know to never count them out of anything.
I'm sure you've heard writers in the past few days state that the Giants' playoff chances are zilch. Don't listen. It's the same mantra that's been repeated by doubters all year. If it isn't that they have no offense, it's because their GM is an idiot. If it isn't because Bengie Molina is their cleanup hitter it's because they're paying a fifth starter $18 million this year. When people said they couldn't beat the Padres, the Giants blew right by them When they said that the Giants couldn't hold back the Rockies, they went into Coors Field and took it to them. When people said that Jose Guillen was a worthless piece of doo-doo on a stick...well, they were right on that one.
I won't make a prediction for this series because, again, I don't want to jinx this team, but I will predict the obvious: this isn't going to be a Phillie steamroll session. Philadelphia's bats have traditionally struggled in Mays Field (.568 OPS in the three games this year -yeah, yeah small sample size), and the big power alleys might help squash the Phils' power advantage. If the Giants can win just one game in Philly, the Phils could come back to SF clawing at the wall in frustration as the fly balls that land ten rows deep at Citizens Bank are caught at Mays Field.
Regardless, it should be a fun series, and I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm prepared for the oncoming bouts of stomach butterflies and torrential profanity, followed by heavy drinking and the inevitable drunken lecture to the terrified waitress at the bar as to why she's the reason the Giants can't hit Roy Oswalt. Then crying may ensue. Ah playoff baseball, how I've missed thee.
The Giants have that feel this year. That vibe. A lot of things have gone right so far. Why would it stop now? Or have those "It's Magic Inside" ads lied to me?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Game Three: Giants 3, Braves 2 (or, The Rise and Fall of Brooks Conrad)
--Brooks Conrad probably doesn't deserve this. He slogged his way through nine seasons in the minors, and starting playoff games for a big club after so much time toiling away in AAA only comes about through lots of hard work and resilience. I'm sure he's also a pleasant person and a good teammate. So watching him fumble away Game Three was great as a Giants fan but painful as a human being. He's a talented guy who won the hearts of Braves fans with a couple of big grand slams, but he doesn't belong anywhere near second base, or anywhere that requires a glove be put on, for that matter. I'd be shocked to see him start any more games for the rest of the postseason. It's tough, but I'll feel more sorry for him once the Giants don't have to deal with the Braves anymore.
--One major, and perhaps unrecognized, hero of the game is Travis Ishikawa. A week after I bashed his presence on the postseason roster, he worked a huge walk (in a great at-bat) against the flamethrowing Craig Kimbrel in the ninth to start the Giants' game-winning rally. Credit also to Freddy Sanchez for his bounceback at-bat that extended the game when the Giants were on death's door (though I still can't believe Kimbrel threw him a slider after Sanchez looked so awful against his fastball).
--For all the energy spent complaining about Pablo Sandoval's bad play, it's probably worth it to mention that Juan Uribe has been pretty godawful this series, too. He had two miserable at bats today with runners all over the place and Tim Hudson laboring, and he's been a hacktastic mess all series. Just a little patience and a hit would have rendered the late-game craziness unnecessary. I guess the difference between Uribe and Panda is that Uribe's defense is still good, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Edgar Renteria in there soon if Uribe continues to look like he has no clue up there.
--Why does Sergio Romo suck all of a sudden? Why? That is all.
--The win gives the Giants the major tactical advantage of allowing Madison Bumgarner to start Game Four instead of worrying about throwing Tim Lincecum on short rest. The success rate of pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs is pretty crummy. Now Timmy doesn't have the stats against him and Bumgarner can throw on the road, where he's been so good this year. Yeah, you know that means we'll see this guy tomorrow...
Friday, October 08, 2010
NLDS Game One: Giants 1, Braves 0 (or, Timmah!)
Going purely by Game Score (go here, you purists, you), Sanford's shutout of a power-laden Yankee lineup rated an 84. Dravecky's performance rated an 85, while Schmidt's moment of glory against the Marlins rated 86. Lincecum's Game Score from last night? An insane 96, which is like the second-best in postseason history (it rated even better than Roy Halladay's no-hitter, which came in at 94). It was mostly due to the strikeouts, but also due to the fact that he surrendered just two hits and made Braves hitters look bad all night. I'm not one for hyperbole, but Lincecum's performance was a million times better than Don Larsen, Whitey Ford, and Curt Schilling combined. Freaktober is here.
On that high note, let me bring you all down with a cautionary tale from the past. Remember back in 2003, after Jason Schmidt waltzed through the Marlins' lineup, and every Giants fan assumed the team would coast past Florida and into the NLCS? Right. Complacency has a way of biting those who practice it. The Marlins came out swinging in a Game Two victory, then went on to win the next two contests in heartbreaking fashion. Yes, the Giants had to follow Schmidt up with fat, worthless Sidney Ponson that series, while Matt Cain follows Lincecum tonight, but still. Timmy's brilliance has us all revved up, and rightly so, but after years of playoff disappointment, Giants fans should know not to get cocky.
--The Giants caught some huge breaks last night in addition to Lincecum's brilliance. The most obvious was the horrible safe call that went in their favor on Buster Posey's stolen base. The play led directly to the only run in the game, and Braves fans are still up in arms. If I were on the other side, I'd be frothing at the mouth, too. However, no Giants fan is going to shed a tear for another team after a blown call literally cost them a game against the Mets this year, an error that very well could have cost them the division.
The other major break was Bobby Cox's decision to walk Pablo Sandoval and pitch to Cody Ross after Posey's hit in the fourth inning. Pablo looked awful in his first at bat, and Ross has been swinging a hot stick for two weeks. That early in the game, it seemed to make more sense to pitch to Sandoval, because he appeared to be ready to swing at anything. Instead, Cox inexplicably walked him, and Ross made the Braves pay (albeit on a hit that Omar Infante probably should have handled).
--Freddy Sanchez had an inauspicious playoff debut with some of the worst at bats you'll see in his first two times up. He quickly erased Andres Torres on the bases with a double play in the first inning, then swung at a pitch a foot off the plate in the third, leading to a rally-killing rundown. Hopefully he was just overanxious, but man, I'd expect better plate patience out of Eugenio.
--I'll be catching Game Two in about an hour at one of my favorite sports bars in Sac. I'll either be drinking to celebrate, or drinking to forget. Either way, I'll be drinking. Giants baseball. Beer. Just like Flame and Citron, has there ever been a sweeter combination? Go Giants!
Tuesday, October 05, 2010
Playoff Predictions and Added Ranting
Rays 3, Rangers 2
I kind of wish these teams weren't meeting in the first round, because I like them both and would normally like to see a deep playoff run for both of them. The Rangers haven't been to the postseason since 1999 and haven't won a playoff series in their entire history, while the Rays are the paragon of shrewd team building, utilizing very limited resources. Both teams are built similarly, with an emphasis on pitching and defense, but the Rays have a deceptively good offense and I think they'll squeak this out. Should be an exciting series, though.
Speaking of the Rays, the next time some beer-drunk simpleton tries to come at you with the "Moneyball is dead" argument and says that Billy Beane's saber-friendly methods of building team offense didn't work, just point to Tampa. The Rays ranked third in the AL in runs scored, despite finishing thirteenth in batting average. If you look up and down their starting lineup, you'll find a rogue's gallery of subpar batting averages, the most extreme being Carlos Pena at .196. How did they score runs with such an inability to rack up hits?
Well, good friend, they did it by ranking sixth in the league in OBP and first in walks. Even though the batting average was low, they were still getting a lot of runners on base. When they got on base, they were great at moving across the diamond, as the team led the league with 172 steals and only got caught 45 times. The love of OBP and the disregard for batting average are, of course, two of the major tenets of Moneyball that traditionalists still get up in arms about, all these years later.
The Rays are doing a nice job of proving that the philosophy* not only still works, but that you can utilize these skills without having to rely on slow players with zero defensive skills like the A's did in the early-Aughts. The Rays have compiled a bunch of burners who can play good defense while also getting on base at an above-average rate. They're almost a perfect example of a "Moneyball" team, even if no one realizes it or decides to write a book about them. Tell the drunk guy at the bar to put that in his Alaskan Amber and choke on it.
*I guess we'll call it that; focusing simply on OBP when discussing whether Moneyball has "worked" or not has always been a shining display of a clear misunderstanding of the book, but that's a rant long past its expiration date.
Yankees 3, Twins 1
In 2003, 2004, and in 2009, the Twins made the playoffs and faced the Yankees, only to get creamed each time. 2004 was the most devastating, as the Twins appeared ready to take a 2-0 lead back to the Metrodome, only to have an exhausted Joe Nathan blow it in extra innings in Game 2. Then Ruben Sierra inexplicably showed a pulse in Game 4 of that series, putting Minnesota in the unenviable position of having Kyle Lohse on the mound with the season on the line. Soon the Twins were no more.
Is this the year the Twins finally break through and beat their erstwhile tormentors? I hope so, because I'm sick of the fucking Yankees. They used to be a fun villain, awesome to hate in a Kurtwood-Smith-in-Robocop kind of way, but now they're just a bunch of boring geriatrics, and if they advance to the World Series instead of the three other teams that feature exciting young players, my head might explode.
With Justin Morneau healthy, I'd take the Twins, but he's gone and I don't trust Minnesota's pitching at all. Who's behind Francisco Liriano? Carl Pavano? I fear smoke and mirrors and a low strikeout rate. Scott Baker? Kevin Slowey? Both are likely to get tattooed by the Yankee sluggers, and the Twins' miserable corner outfield defense won't help matters. The Yankees have pitching issues themselves, but I think their bats should be more than enough to blow by the Twins. Gotta root for Joe Mauer, though, who my Minnesota-based uncle insists is my clone (looks-wise; certainly not talent-wise).
Phillies 3, Reds 0
I don't see this being close, but maybe I'm wrong. The Phils have essentially three aces going in Roy Halliday, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, and that seems like death to opponents in a best-of-five series. The Reds have a terrific set of hitters, but man, that's quite a gauntlet to run in a short series. Combine that with their high-octane offense, one which I doubt the Reds' shaky pitching staff can control, and I think this'll be a quick exit for Cincinnati. Which would be too bad. Any new blood that makes its way deep into the playoffs is good for baseball and more fun for me.
I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to make a prediction for this series because I'm not going to jinx this team. Any words in this space will involve me predicting the Giants to sweep behind three perfect games from the starting pitchers and a five-homer performance from Buster Posey in Game 3, so I refuse to be the one responsible for the jinx that brings the Giants down.
I could use the old reverse-jinx trick and predict that the Braves will win, but then I just look like an asshole rooting against his team for the sake of being right on some stupid blog predictions. Then I really look like an asshat if the Braves do win. So forget it.
--Here's a brief look at some players who I don't think should be on the playoff roster come Thursday. I'm sure you can guess one of them, if you've read through this blog in the past 24 hours and are familiar with my typical obsessive hating.
-Travis Ishikawa. I think Ishikawa might be the most one-dimensional player I've ever seen. He does one thing well, and that's play great defense at first base. Sadly, that's the only position he plays and he doesn't hit. His performance as a pinch hitter this year has drawn praise, but his .874 OPS in that role is a total fluke. Small sample size, people! Pinch hitting statistical noise and good glove aren't going to be enough. The Giants could use a good left-handed bench bat, but Mike Fontenot will have to do.
-Dan Runzler. On a team that now sports Javier Lopez along with Jeremy Affeldt, Mr. Erratic is about as redundant as you can possibly get. I can't stomach Runzler's walk-the-bases loaded act in regular season blowouts, so I think my eyes would melt if I had to watch him pitch in the postseason. His exclusion is pretty much a foregone conclusion.
-Chris Ray. If the Giants really are going with eleven pitchers, that means a three-man battle royale between Ray, Guillermo Mota, and Barry Zito for that final spot in the pen. Zito has been such a mainstay that I think the Giants are going to keep him active, regardless of whether he deserves it or not. Hooray for tokenism! Mota was a total non-entity in the second half of the year, but he still throws hard and his ability to get a strikeout could prove useful in a tight spot. Ray is essentially mop-up fodder whom I have little faith in, but he could still have some value if the Giants do decide to go with twelve pitchers.
-Jose Guillen. Yep, here it is. Guillen will never be left off the playoff roster, but he certainly should be. I just freaking hate this guy. He's a bad player and everyone realizes it except for the two guys who matter: Brain Sabean and Bruce Bochy. Aaron Rowand can't hit anymore, but he's still pretty good with the glove, so he gives you some value. Nate Schierholtz is a great glove who needs to be around as a late-game defensive sub. Guillen gives you nothing but the ghost of a hitting ability that was once there. Unfortunately that ghost haunts Bruce Bochy's dreams, playing him like a Power Glove.
--A quick link for your enjoyment. Keith Law, one of my favorite baseball columnists around, offered his postseason award ballot on ESPN the other day. The real fun, though, begins in the comments section, and it gets really good when Klaw starts to respond. It's pure comedy gold.
We're In It! Playoff Ponderings
I was part of the screaming masses on Friday (albeit not waving an orange towel; I completely whiffed on that when walking through the gate), a deafening cacophany of rabid voices desperate for postseason baseball. It was the loudest craziest crowd I've ever seen at a baseball game, and everybody was ready to whoop it up in celebration of a Giants clincher. I had my camera primed to capture the moment. Yet it wasn't to be. It was an exciting game, with an abortive comeback attempt, but it ended prematurely on an epic Freddy Sanchez brainfart. My plea to witness history went unanswered, and 40,000 people death marched out of the stadium, looking toward the weekend for solace.
Then came the Barry Zito Fail Start, and suddenly those doubts started creeping in. You know...The Doubts. Those feelings that have built up over the years and have been exacerbated by inexplicable Neifi Perez home runs and brutal Pudge Rodriguez collisions. As Jose Guillen grounded into yet another feeble double play to end the game, I got that sick feeling, preparing to be turned into a blubbering, weeping mess as the Giants inevitably blew it on Sunday. It's amazing how Giants fandom can turn you so schizophrenic. One moment I'm jumping around in the upper deck, squealing in joy like a crazed 12-year-old girl, the next I'm a profane, pessimistic bastard. Perhaps if I were properly medicated I wouldn't even like this team.
Thank goodness for Jonathan Sanchez though, and really, it was totally appropriate that he be the one to shut the door on the Padres after his unprovoked ranting in August. Hey, it came almost two months too late, but he was right. Um, sort of. Also, in a bit of tasty karma, Mat Latos got the Padres' season-killing loss in a start that was worse than his end pitching line will show (he was giving up rockets all game; he would have been nailed for at least five runs on most other days). Latos's buffoonish comments about the Giants' supposed mercenary squad (not to mention smashing Dave Flemming's sunroof with a baseball) probably sealed his fate.
So the Giants are in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, and I seriously can't believe it's been that long since I got to watch a Giants clinching celebration, with Bud Light and champagne flowing like geysers. It felt good. I laughed, I cried, and I broke out the Thumbscrew. Hey, what better way to celebrate this torturous team?
This is the first time since I've been maintaining the Stankeye blog (in its many starts and fits and bizarre incarnations) that I get to write about the Giants as they are in the playoffs. In fact, this blog was inspired by the Giants' failure to make the postseason in 2004, and my need to vent after watching that travesty unfold. So basically, I'm out of my element here. I don't know what to do with myself. This blog has been built on bad Giants teams, and from making fun of awful Brian Sabean moves and Barry Zito. What to do?
All I know is that I can't wait until Thursday, when Mays Field should be a rockin'. Expect playoff coverage from yours truly, along with the usual torrents of profanity and stupid You Tube videos. For now, here's a quick rundown of some things I'd like to see happen in this upcoming playoff series and (hopefully) beyond.
--Cody Ross needs to be the starting right fielder in the playoffs. I'm fairly adamant about this, because his bat has come around in the past few weeks, and even when exposed to right-handed pitchers (his weaker platoon split), he's every bit the hitter Jose Guillen is and three times the fielder. Unfortunately, the Giants have this weird blind spot when it comes to Guillen that prevents them from realizing that he sucks. If the Giants don't insert Ross as the right fielder and leave him there, come hell or high water, they're asking for trouble.
--Keep Nate Schierholtz on the playoff roster for his late-inning defense. Leave Guillen off. Yes, this Schierholtz-love/Guillen-hate thing has likely reached ridiculous proportions here at Stankeye, but I don't care. Guillen is worthless! He had one big game against Milwaukee and one or two big hits sprinkled around, but otherwise was one big pile of detriment with the Giants. Hell, I'd rather have Eugenio Velez on the roster instead of Guillen. At least he brings speed and pretend versatility to the table.
Sticking with Schierholtz as a late-inning defensive replacement for Pat Burrell seems like a no-brainer, but he fell completely out of favor late in the year and you just never know what Sabean and Bruce Bochy are thinking. He, Ross, and Andres Torres give the Giants one of the rangiest outfields you'll ever see for late-game purposes, a huge weapon with that bullpen and a late lead.
--Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito do something good in the playoffs. It's dubious whether these guys should be on the playoff roster, but they no doubt will be since they've been with the team for so long now. I would love to see the two most maligned Giants come up big in the playoffs, in any capacity. As much crap as I've given Zito on this site over the years, I actually really like the guy, and I was rooting very hard for him to do well in his start Saturday. I'm not sure how he'd do it (assuming Madison Bumgarner is the fourth playoff starter), but I'd love to see him get a big out or two, or pitch some strong innings in relief, or maybe get a tough lefty out in a key spot, and earn some cheers from Giants fans.
The same goes for Rowand. His contract was a terrible mistake from the second the inked dried, but he still plays hard as hell and he's taken his benching like a man (from all appearances, at least). I'd love to see him jack a homer or come up with a big hit in the playoffs, just for some sort of redemptive value. Funny how I suddenly do a 180 and proclaim my fondness for a bad player once the team starts making playoff appearances.
--Make MadBum the fourth starter. Yes, this should be a no-brainer, but once again, you just never know when Bochy might go wacky on us and decide he wants "veteran presence" over youth, and make an ill-fated decision to start Zito in a key game. I mean, why is this even an open question? Again, I'm rooting for Zito to do well, but he doesn't belong anywhere near the mound at the start of a playoff game. I don't care if Bumgarner has the playoff mentality of a twelve-year-old in stirrups. Start him!
--A World Championship. Yep, it's the only way for this post to end. Go Giants!
Friday, October 01, 2010
Clinch Day at the Yard?
Unfortunately, Giants obsession is infinitely stronger than copious amounts of booze. There I was, on the road, from Sacramento to Mammoth, and from the death-defying backroad passes of Death Valley to Las Vegas, stuck obsessively checking my phone for a box score, as my phone service waned in and out. Even in Vegas, that magical wonderland where people snort coke in the urinals next to you and friendly strippers declare their undying love for you, only to break your heart an hour and $300 later, I found myself checking box scores. Things were a hazy blur as we left Vegas and headed for Joshua Tree, where the sheer majesty of Keys View and the bizarre rock formations didn't prevent me from taking a totally nerdy fanboy photo.
From there it was back up through the grimy hellstorm of rush hour traffic in LA, then up 101 along the coast through Pismo and San Luis Obispo, to a stay in Morro Bay. When I got home the next morning, I found that the Giants had won two of three, the Rockies had ceased to be a threat, Mat Latos was a doofus and an asshole, and the Giants were in the driver's seat in the NL West. Not only that, but I had nabbed tickets at the last second for Wednesday's Giants game.
Expecting a festive atmosphere, I certainly got one. With hungry Giants fans everywhere yearning for something to go crazy about, Pat Burrell delivered by launching one into the section next to us, sending the bleachers into a high-fiving frenzy. It was one of the most exciting moments of my Giants fan lifetime. With that homer, the Dbacks looked totally demoralized, and the outcome seemed inevitable.
Now I roll back into Mays Field tonight and I'm greedy. None of this delaying the inevitable BS. I want a clincher. I'll be there with 40,000 other raving mad Giants fans, screaming my head off for the first playoff berth since 2003. It's going to be a rockin' one in China Basin tonight.