Sunday, July 11, 2010

Giants at the Midway Mark

Midseason--at the All Star Break--is a traditional time to take stock of the progress of the home team, to estimate possible outcomes, and record surprises and confirmations. 
My last post about the Giants, on May 12, found them at 18-13 [.722]. Since then, they've gone 29-28, in effect losing five games off their pace, and dropping down two places in the standings of the NL West, behind the Pads, Rockies and Dodgers. In late June they went into a nose-dive, and had a disastrous streak in which they lost six games in a row. 
What's gone right and what's gone wrong? Well, for one thing, the pitching has come back down to earth. On May 12th, Lincecum, Zito and Cain were all cruising along with ERA's hovering around 2.00. Sanchez wasn't far behind, though somewhat uneven in his separate appearances. People were beginning to say that Zito had finally panned out, following three very mediocre seasons after coming over from the A's with a big multi-year contract. Cain was looking like the solid 2nd or 3rd man in the rotation, the kind of pitcher who eats up innings and is good for 15 wins, year in, year out. Lincecum, though occasionally a little off, was still striking out lots of batters. Wellemeyer was getting bombed, but fifth starters usually are. The bull-pen was treading water, but that starting pitching! seemed enough to carry us through, even if the offense was lagging. 
Batting-wise, the team looked a little lopsided, with Freddy Sanchez and Renteria on the disabled list, DeRosa about to go on it, Sandoval uncharacteristically not hitting, and Rowand and Molina in numb patches as well. Uribe and Torres were the only good things happening. Fans wanted Posey brought up and put in the line-up, and there was real competition at first base, where Sandoval, Huff, Ishikawa and Posey all needed to play. Something had to give--someone had to go.
And that someone was Bengie Molina. Despite Molina's experience and skills at handling pitchers, he'd become a liability in the line-up, hitting into double-plays and striking out with men on base, and letting through more passed-balls than he had a license to. Posey was ready, and management knew it. Bengie was traded to the Texas Rangers at the beginning of July for a reliever, Chris Ray, and a minor league player.         


Almost immediately, Posey stepped in and took charge, hitting well over .300, and looking like a star in nearly every at bat. Meanwhile, Aubrey Huff, a between-season free agent acquisition who promised some power numbers, began hitting; Freddy Sanchez came back from the DL and hit the ground running, and Pat Burrell (signed on May 29th) stepped right up and began to show some power too. 
During the flat streak the second half of June, both the pitching and the hitting went South, with Lincecum, Zito and Cain all taking some beatings, and Sanchez persistently unpredictable as well. The middle relief of Romo, Mota, Affeldt, Runzler, Casilla, and Bautista became suddenly wild and crazy too, and only Brian Wilson--our all star closer--seemed capable of sustained concentration and poise. 
After losing three of four to Colorado at the start of the just-completed 11-game road trip, things looked really bleak. But after sweeping the struggling Brewers four straight, and taking two of three from the Nationals, we're breathing a little easier once again, albeit with a number of big question-marks still hovering in the air. Lincecum and Wilson are off to Anaheim for the National League. DeRosa's season (and maybe his career) looks to be over. Runzler will be gone for 6 weeks (at least), but elsewise, the team appears healthy. 
Posey's been a revelation, hitting in the clutch, and for power, and it may not even be out of the question to propose him as a valid candidate for RoY honors. At the very least, he'll make people forget about Molina in a nano-second. 
Sandoval remains a mystery. His right-handed numbers are frighteningly low, and his overall approach--swinging at anything close, and often connecting--seems not to be working this year. Either opposing pitchers have figured him out, or maybe he's just a little too overweight, or perhaps (as has been rumored) has some kind of eye condition. At his current pace, he won't have anything like the season he had in 2009. 
Lincecum's late-mid-season decline is really worrisome. His velocity is off by about 5 mph, and his control is too. He's been uncharacteristically giving up a fair number of hits, often in early innings, and getting behind in his counts. Despite his 9-4 record, he doesn't look like the same machine he was in 2008 and 2009, when he won the two Cy Youngs. Bochy has tried using rookies to shore things up--Joe Martinez and young Madison Bumgarner (just 20)--but even if he were to get 10 wins out of these kids, it wouldn't help if the fancy four fall off the shelf. 
As many commentators have remarked, this team isn't as good as it looked early on, and it wasn't as bad as it seemed during its bad streak in June. However, inconsistency in the starting pitching is going to make the second half a crap-shoot.
Hardly anyone talks about this, but my feeling is the Giants coaching staff has not measured up over the last five years, allowing pitchers to lose concentration in games, with hitters showing little discipline. Throwing to the wrong base or overthrowing the cut-off man. Even the base-running has been lousy! Great coaching staffs usually get the best out of their players. Atlanta has a history of picking up players and getting incredible seasons (and careers) out of them. The Giants, on the other hand, have a record of mishandling rookies, and picking up journeymen who play at C+ level for a couple of seasons, then disappear into the tunnel. Renteria and Rowand are looking uncomfortably familiar in this regard. Players in their prime who hit .230 and 10 home runs, or who go 8-12 with ERA's of 5.00, aren't worth wasting much money on. What Huff, Uribe, Sanchez, Rowand, Torres and Burrell do from here on out will determine to a large degree what the 2nd half performance looks like.
But pitching has always been the name of the game. If Lincecum/Cain/Zito/Sanchez can pitch up to their potential, then this team could be competitive right up to the last week of the season. I have tickets for a Giants-Padres game towards the end of the season; I hope it's still exciting by then.       


J said...

Ring Lardner knew the score on pro baseball what 90 years ago: a mob numbers racket, rigged as like vegas casinos (v-casinos not appearing until 40s--but funded with mob cash, much from pro-schports) . Continues to this day, especially wit Torre-ball and Tommy LaSordid (or Steinburner). That said, Dodgerios are playing fairly well (tho' Angels waxed 'em pretty good) and will probably overtake Paddies for NL West

J said...

Speaking of Giants or at least wannabe-giants, I think you should start an anti-Silliman site, Sir Faville, with help from....any and all Lit-types (or aspiring) who perceive the S-man's essential Bogusness. His own writing (the Alphabet song!) can only be called bizarre, ugly, and futile--hardly the cutting edge chaos or entropy ala Pynchon or Burroughs or beatpoets or whatever hipsters he's emulated and plagiarized for years. Language, schmanguage--it's just...sludge, 100's of pages of it. I doubt S-man's ever read a page of french or spanish in his so-called life. (I could swear I saw that fat dude in the mission some time in 90s or somethin')

He's an arrogant freak as well, not to say a hyper-moderator: anything slightly critical or skeptical--VERBOTEN! Another J-Edgar of Blogland (among others). And pure sycophant as well--his little lists, just a sort of PC marketing hustle,'s The List! Who needs the f-ing list. And always PC, fawning over obvious do-gooders. Anything with some...spine--never appears.

Ed Baker said...

I will NEVER EVER forget that Giants/Dodgers game...

we had a tv and it was in the living-room in back of our grocery store..

my mother was born in Brooklyn in 1915

she rooted for the Dodgers. THEN POWWWW!

the "shot heard round the world"!

as I recall Harry Truman was president or maybe IKE... about 1951

so, my 10 year-old friends and some of our customers were around the tv watching!

Curtis Faville said...


I would have been four, and I don't recall hearing it.

I do recall, maybe sometime in the mid-1950's, my step dad playing the radio, listening to a game, hearing the name Pee Wee Reese by the announcer. It was such a cute name, I didn't forget it. Days my dad and I would be "men" at home when mom was away shopping in the city, he'd fix Campbell's tomato soup, with tuna fish sandwiches, and maybe chocolate milk--big treat!

The first major league game I attended was in the first year the Giants came to San Francisco, at the old Seals Stadium. Against the Chicago Cubs. Mays and Cepeda both homered, and Ernie Banks hit two. We won. I got Cepeda and Felipe Alou and Ramon Monzant and Marv Grissom to sign my program--which disappeared somewhere over the years. Mays wouldn't oblige--people don't remark it much now, but Willie was never very polite to the fans--kind of defensive and stand-off-ish. But boy could he play. Was pigeon-toed, when he rounded the bases it was like he was gliding--damnedest thing.

And he always held the bat as far down the end as possible--his little finger tucked under, to get the maximum leverage. He swung for the fences more often than he should have. Aaron was the best--beautiful smooth, easy, his wrists spinning as he swung. Effortless.

Steven Fama said...

Major League Baseball is crooked, a stacked deck, a rigged carnival, because of the VERY limited revenue sharing.

I often feel I'm a sucker similar to the dudes who get taken on the street by the three-card monte artists (does that happen any more?).

But I dig it...

Ed Baker said...

used to go to Griffith Stadium whenever the Yankees were playing...

just to see The Mick!

got my program signed by almost the entire Yankee team once... Mantle, Bera, etc etc..

had it in a foot-locker for many many years
(along with my writings about 1955- 1968)

in my parent's basement... when I got back from Greece (1970)

they had tossed all of my stuff and filled the trunk with their TAX FORMS!

first NIGHT GAME I ever saw was a Yankee/Senator game.. WOW! coming up out of the bowels of that stadium to DAYLIGHT AT NIGHT..!!!

The Redskins also played at Griffith Stadium... saw Sammy Baugh's last game... Bobby Mitchell's first...

my all time faves?

football... Eddie LaBaron
baseball... Mickey Vernon

my step-grandfather LOVED pro wrestling..whebn I was about 5-7 he used to take me to Uline Arena

once saw Joe Lewis (stupidly) wrestle).. very sad as ..we never missed "watching" a radio broadcast on our Arvin of a Lewis prize fight. I recall the Rocky Marciano/Lewis fight ...

liked when Carl von Hess wrestled the bare-footed Antonio Rocca! we went just tio see that NAZI get his arse whipped!

Ed Baker said...

what my grandmother liked to do was watch the tv with the radio on because the announcers on radio where better than the ones doing tv "play-by-play

and DIG IT! here is summary of THAT GAME!

the tv that we had was a metal-cased Philco table model WITH a big curved glass 'thing' with blue fluid in it to "blow-up the image asa i recall it was about a 10 " rounded-corners picture tube...

sure beat the hell out of our first tv a 5 " (or so) round cathode-tube set into a large cabinette

horizontally and to view the picture/image you lifted up the top and viewed via a mirror.

here is image of the radio


we used to sit for hours and just watch the test pattern that NBC (or was it CBS) broadcasted ...

J said...

--Indeed, Baseball, Inc. (and all..ball) stands for Nostalgia. Babe Ruth & Co replaces...Jefferson, Madison, et al (or ...Kant for that matter); the Mafia (multicultural at that...and you think ah jest read the fine print of the history of the Five Points gang) something called America, resulting in the backlash of the zombies: zionist-christians, Foxnews, mormonics, Mitt Mucklebees, Kirby Molochs, teabaggers, gangsters. Negative a nutshell

---really Sir Faville I can't believe you would comment on Kirby's little fraudnik's site, featuring Jacques Dela-Vichy chanting his love for...the Bourbon monarchy!, echoing like Pat Buchanan-ish chants for war with mez-cans--

--it's hard to imagine someone more nauseating than Ron Sludge-o-man, except Kirby O, praising that old, boring moralist piss-ant Luther, hardly different than Herman Goering .

Curtis Faville said...


Well, at least you didn't claim the games are fixed!

The big market teams have always had an economic advantage, but that's just made it even more entertaining when the small market teams win. It's still difficult to field an all-around team, strong in all areas--it's a management problem, then a task to get all these prima donnas to work together for a whole season. Raw talent will only take a team about 70% of the way. Luck plays a part too. Staying healthy, peaking at the right times.

Curtis Faville said...


Let's stay on point.

I post where I post. You post where you post. That's your own business. Mine's mine.

J said...

It's relevant in some sense, CF, especially at times you do ..sort of proclaim yourself a "liberal", even with the sports posts.

Kirby O's rants are getting weirder and more wing-nutty by the day. Were you (or some of S-man's "poet" gang) to post on say David Duke's site, some people might be interested. And....Olson's only a few baby steps away from Duke-like dixie-cracker-hysteria.

Steven Fama said...

Speaking of on point, the individual players -- what they do -- does matter here in the next 70 or so games, but more important, collectively: The Giants are 2-12 so far against Diego and El Lay, two of the teams ahead of them in the division.

They almost have to turn that around completely to win the division.

More directly, and literally, if they have anything close to the same record against those two teams (add in the Rockies for good measure) there's essentially no way, mathematically, for them to make it through to the playoffs.

This will be very clear, one way or the other, by August 15th, given the schedule.

Curtis Faville said...

If Lincecum matches his first half, he'd go 18-8.

Would that be Cy Young caliber, or not quite?

Tonight he goes for #10.

Steven Fama said...

Jiminez will have to fall off a cliff for anyone, Lincecum included, to not get the Cy Young, absent three no-hitters or something like that by Timmy or somebody else.