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.
Have you seen this great video of Cody Ross Livin' the Dream out at the Big Series?
Fortunately, you were completely wrong about that.