#SFGiants Begin Series with #Rockies with Vogelsong on the Mound

Ryan Vogelsong is pitching tonight, which still makes me a little nervous despite his most successful start coming against the now first-place Dodgers. He’s faced them twice, and once against the lowly Diamondbacks, his pitching contributing to one of Arizona’s few wins on the season. He has increased his IP by one in each successive outing (4.0 @ LA, 5.0 vs. AZ, 6.0 vs. LA), and you won’t see me complaining about Vogey giving the team seven strong. He did see a huge drop in strikes looking — 24, 21, to 9 in the last game, but a rise in his swinging strikes from 4, 4, to 8. We’ll see if the Rockies are aggressive against Vogelsong like the Dodgers appeared to be in their last meeting. The lineups:

Already there is outrage about Brandon Belt‘s positioning in the lineup, even in terms of 5 and 6 with the question of should he be in front of Pablo Sandoval? Their splits, even from 2013-2014 suggest that Belt is the better option than Sandoval. If Sandoval continues to slump, that will work itself out and the Brandons will be broken up. Having Hunter Pence and Buster Posey that high in the lineup? No problem by me, and I don’t mind Michael Morse in the 4 spot. For the third-place Rockies: 

Since their series against the Giants, the Rockies have won series against the Padres and the Phillies, so they are back on the winning side of things and have worked their way up to .500. Only a sweep of the Giants would put them in second place in the NL West. Jorge De La Rosa made it past the fifth inning for the first time in 2014 in his last outing against the Padres, going six innings, allowing eight baserunners and striking out four. He has allowed nine extra base hits to RHH in sixty-nine plate appearances (~13%), with four of those being big flies. This will be his second start at home. De La Rosa has a bunch of pitches he can throw at you, and for the details, check it out here. You’ll see he uses “only” five of his pitches against LHH while adding the sinker and curveball at times to RHH in an attempt to get them off-balance and keep them guessing.

My guess is that this turns into one heck of a bullpen game, which on paper favors the Giants whose bullpen has a 1.79 ERA in 19 G with a .223 BAA while the Rockies have a 3.73 ERA in 20 with a .251 BAA. As I believe it will come down to about five innings of bullpen work from each side, I’ll give the edge to the Giants in game one, even though I’m not that high on Vogelsong.

Play The Game Right Police Show Up in Pittsburgh with Carlos Gomez Again the Target

When will Carlos Gomez learn How To Play The Game The Right Way? Unfortunately Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Chris Johnson were not on hand for this one, but luckily Gerrit Cole was to voice his displeasure at Gomez admiring what would end up being a triple after Andrew McCutchen could not track down the base hit to center field. Here’s the play again for you:

There will be fines and suspensions for some of what went down in Pittsburgh on Sunday morning, and good thing Gerrit Cole showed up at third base to light a bigger fire under Carlos Gomez. I have no problem with Gomez’s bat flip, although if that admiration kept him from an inside-the-park home run, which I’m not sure whether it did or not, I would definitely find fault with it. That grown adults are getting their feelings hurt by another adult being excited by their hit is laughable, and thank goodness these guys don’t play in other leagues around the world where bat flips and/or homer admiration is part of the culture. Have a problem with someone celebrating? Perhaps you should concern yourself with your execution of getting the hitter out and adjusting.

In case you want to remember what happened in Atlanta last September, this is the one where McCann was blocking home plate on Gomez’s trot around the bases:

I think my only problem with Carlos Gomez is that he lets other people’s anger towards him really get to him. Otherwise, I’ve got no problem with the bat flips. The haters that are crying need to grow up and stop pretending like they are some sort of Protectors of the Game. I’m still waiting on people to get really mad at Wil Myers for his bat flips, but so far, nothing. In time, though. In time.

Some #SFGiants Numbers from April 12th Onwards (Warning: Arbitrary Endpoints)

In seven games, from April 12th through April 19th, the Giants have scored thirteen runs. There were five different teams in the league that put up at least eleven runs in a game on Friday, so it’s understandable that Giants fans might have a case of the crossed-arms-foot-tapping-syndrome that tends to come other every other week for some fans, everyday for the most passionate, and probably for the least logical. Since I was out of the country for the past week, I probably missed some quality quotes and updates on the details of the mindset of the team, but I see a lot of anger aimed at Pablo Sandoval over social media. I wanted to take a look at others in the lineup and see how they’re doing within the past week. These numbers are not meant to predict future performance, just point out the Fat Chat Lightning Rod is probably not alone in the Giants struggles at the plate. A look at who’s been contributing with the bat alone:

Screen Shot 2014-04-19 at 10.01.08 PM

I say the bat alone because there are guys here that have some stolen bases and have been helping in that regard like Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt, believe it or not. Really, up until today, Buster Posey and Michael Morse had been the worst offenders of the week with the bat, but with Morse’s homer today, it only becomes a little less worse. Hopefully the home run is a sign of bigger bombs to come.

So you can understand that I like when the beat writers mention it’s not only Pablo, but there are many players not contributing right now. The team is 10-8 right now, losers of three in a row. Losing is not fun, but the slump they’re in right now won’t last forever. Even if Tim Lincecum gets blown out tomorrow to end the string of wonderful starting pitching in the past few days, I have faith in this team to win more games than lose, and the ship will get more or less righted again.

Where Shinjuku’s @mlbcafetokyo Impressed, and Where They Struck Out

I was lucky enough to spend the past week in Japan with my  wife and parents, this being her first time, and one of the places I wanted to check out was one of the MLB Cafe locations in Tokyo. Since we were in the Shinjuku area already on Friday evening Japan time, I was excited to see what this place was all about. When you’ve grown up with a sport you love, a chance to reconnect with it is always welcome. Here are some shots from the cafe, along with what their menu looks like.

A panorama of the lower level of the Shinjuku cafe. You’ll notice the staff also is wearing some sort of team paraphernalia on top. The chefs actually have multiple team logos sewn on to their chef’s uniform top, which is cool if you’re a big baseball fan.

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You’ll also notice the wall of baseballs, and you may have seen the bases that were used in the World Series in the right side of the panorama. Also having some reading material while you’re waiting was kind of cool. Here are the plates for sharing food and what their wet napkins come in:

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Finally, the menu — I liked that it was in English and Japanese with plenty of pictures:

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For price reference, I’d just tell you that 100 yen equals a dollar. I liked that the “Woman meeting plan” was noted as being for “Girls Only.” Maybe the place sees this as some way to get women to like baseball, even though I know there are plenty of women that are big fans of their respective sports teams. As you’ll hear, this place does have a little bit of a ways to go.

What Impressed Me

  • First, that there’s an MLB Cafe, that was impressive by itself.
  • Sufficient reading material to check out, including multiple copies of the Giants 2012 season in review book, which I was very pleased with
  • Variety of food wasn’t bad
  • Decoration of baseballs, information on chalkboards near the televisions, having the staff where MLB stuff, all good calls, in my opinion

What Disappointed Me

  • People could smoke in the restaurant. Plenty of places in Japan still allow this, even having “non-smoking” and “smoking” sections within a restaurant without walling everything off, effectively making the whole restaurant a smoking section. Slowly, the country is making advances though.
  • Staff didn’t give impression they were knowledgable about baseball — when my family pointed out to our waiter that my wife was a Dodger fan and he was wearing a Dodger shirt, he seemed to be really confused. This could have come about for multiple reasons, including weak English abilities, which would not be his fault.
  • They let us know that the Salmon Roll order we placed could not be done, and was so cancelled. Go to a Japanese restaurant that serves sushi and they tell you they don’t have any? Extremely odd. I have been to a place that ran out of rice before in Tokyo, and that was also pretty disturbing. Think that reflects poorly on the management.
  • One of our orders that was originally placed at the same time we ordered the salmon roll never showed up until the rest of us had finished our appetizers. No update on the order was given, which was odd in a customer-service-oriented culture. Only the waitress in the pink Astros uniform that did not take our order but had to feel the disappointment of my father. Not the waiter that took the order, or perhaps the chef that could have forgot the order, nor the manager. She shouldn’t have had to take that heat.

What I’d Like to Suggest

  • Because of the time difference, during the nighttime in Japan, you’re not going to see live baseball going on, and I feel like this would be a good opportunity to show coverage of past World Series, or some of those Classic Games. Heck, if showing MLB Network is a possibility, I think they should go for that, too, but I’m not sure about that one.
  • Management needs to consider the message they’re sending with their Girls Only stuff. Perhaps there’s a Kids Menu somewhere that I missed, but I think this is shaky territory they’re skating on. There are plenty of women in Japan that I’m sure could out-talk some of the staff that helped us.
  • I’d like to see more ballpark food featured in the menu, give the customers some connection to the MLB

The food overall was mediocre, and unless I hear about some changes being made to the spot, I don’t think I’d make an effort to go back. I really wanted to like this place and the experience at the end turned out to be pretty embarrassing since I talked about how I wanted to come here. Not a bad spot to check off the list if you’re a baseball fan in Japan, but I wouldn’t designate this a “must-see.”

Videos and GIFs — #BELTED: Belt’s Four Dingers in Seven Games

There are those that say Brandon Belt will not keep up the pace of hitting four home runs in every set of seven games. They are probably right. After all, when was the last time you saw somebody in real life hit 92-93 home runs in a 162 game season? Despite the pace Belt is not having for 100 home runs, his hot start is still pretty cool to celebrate, as you’ve no doubt heard Belt was a top prospect in the Giants system and he has changed his position in the batter’s box, stance, and the way he grips his bat! If you weren’t aware of this, you probably missed the Sunday Night Baseball feed on ESPN. Off we go, to the four home runs Belt has launched in the past seven:

Home run #1 vs. Brandon McCarthy

The homer came on an 92 mph fastball

Home run #2 vs. Wade Miley

The homer came on an 82 mph slider

Home run #3 vs. Bronson Arroyo

The homer came on a 77 mph slider.

Home run #4 vs. Zack Greinke

The homer came on an 83 mph changeup.

So far, Belt has two home runs in the first inning, and two home runs in the sixth inning. I think I was most impressed by the third homer Belt hit because he looks the least balanced and gets to show off his pull power there. I think the bat drop in the first shot is my favorite of the four. From the catcher’s perspective, here’s where Belt has lifted off from:

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Both low, and inside. So far, no home runs on outside pitches. However, he is not without hits on the outer third, but so far this season, he is without hits in the upper third. You usually don’t want to live in the upper third against MLB hitters, or any professional hitters. By the end of the season, I wonder if we will see more home runs from the inner third or the upper third of the zone from Belt. Whatever it ends up being, if Belt gets his dinger count into the upper-twenties or beyond, I’m pretty sure most Giants fans will be pretty happy campers. Hopefully I can do more of these posts with more of the Giants players. Would probably mean the 2014 season is going overwhelmingly well.

After Saturday Goes the Way We Expected, Cain and #SFGiants Go For Sweep Against Greinke and #Dodgers

Saturday’s showcasing of Madison Bumgarner throwing double-digit K’s against Paul Maholm and the Dodgers, I was relieved that the Giants took care of a game they should have had. Maholm is a back-end guy that hitters can take advantage of, while your chances are normally fewer against a starter like Bumgarner. While the Giants bullpen isn’t perfect, they’re not an awful bunch, especially when you get into the higher leverage situations. Still, having a 7-1 lead when Bumgarner left and winning 7-2 is right along the lines of what I expect to see when the Giants throw out one of their top four guys and the opposition sends out someone that is not of the front-line variety. Tonight’s game will not fit that description, as Matt Cain and Zack Greinke are both solid #2 guys in a top-heavy rotation, and while I hope the Giants sweep and win 18-0, seeing a low-scoring one-run game should be the expectations of near everybody.

The Starters — A recap of their first games

Zack Greinke and Matt Cain both went five innings in their first starts, not really reaching the distance fans know they are capable of. Both saw their pitch counts get into the nineties at the close of the fifth inning and each walked two batters. Cain saw seven hits get allowed, but no home runs, while Greinke fell victim to only two hits, one of which suffered the wrath of the hot start by Seth Smith. Both are pitching on four days of rest.

The Bullpen — Who’s Probably Out

Santiago Casilla threw thirty-seven pitches for the Giants in five outs of relief, so I’d say he’s to be used in emergency situations only. For the Dodgers, Jose Dominguez has been used in two straight games, so I’d expect him to be in the same boat as Casilla. Jamey Wright has also pitched in two straight, but only needed two pitches to do his work on Saturday, though I’d imagine Don Mattingly would like to avoid using Wright tonight. Paco Rodriguez leads the league in appearances at five, and it’s not difficult to remember that Paco got tired at the end of 2013, possibly due to overuse. The Dodgers have played seven games so far, and I’d hope Paco is getting a day off.

The Lineups

For the sweep-minded Giants:

Thoughts on the lineup: A good lineup, I just might like Buster up in the 3-spot a little better. No Giants player has more than ten plate appearances against Greinke, so the players are still getting used to him, relatively speaking. That, as opposed to some of the Dodgers and Matt Cain, who’s been pitching in the NL West since 2005.  For the close-to-.500 Dodgers:

Thoughts on the lineup: Andre Ethier has a .441/.467/.574 career line against Matt Cain and Adrian Gonzalez has four career HR off of Cainer, so it’s no surprise that they are in the so-called “heart” of the lineup, but I don’t think I agree with him being this far down. I think you can take Dee Gordon and put him behind Juan Uribe and get better results.

The Prediction

The Giants have won five straight at Dodger Stadium dating back to September 13th of last season, and have won seven of their last eight meetings with LA. I think they continue to deliver the pain, winning tonight against Greinke with most of the damage coming against and often-used bullpen in a 4-2 victory on national television.

Buster Posey Ranked 3rd-Most Indispensable Player in MLB by ZiPS

ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski posted an article Sunday morning about the ten most indispensable players in Major League Baseball. He used the projections from the 2014 ZiPS, their playoff odds when the player was odd and whatever back-up that team would likely use in the case the player would be absent due to whatever awful scenario. Giants fans remember life without Buster Posey in 2011 and remember how it went with Eli Whiteside hopping and Chris Stewart first-pumping. Life just wasn’t that great. Szymborski’s list would probably put Posey higher up on the list three years ago since the supporting cast wasn’t as strong, but in 2014, Posey is still pretty high up the list: third. Here’s what the Szymborski noted on Posey:

With a healthy Posey, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. With an injured Posey in 2011, they missed the playoffs. While that’s oversimplifying matters, the drop-off from Posey to Hector Sanchez is massive. With the pitching not what it was a few years ago and the Dodgers’ being the favorite, losing Posey drops the Giants clearly below the most likely wild-card candidates (Braves, Pirates, Reds, Diamondbacks).

Not sure Giants fans would disagree with that. Here’s the list, and you can read the full article here if you have insider access:

1. Justin Verlander (chances of making the Postseason down 24.8%)

2. Clayton Kershaw (-21.2%)

3. Buster Posey (-20.6%)

4. Yu Darvish (-19.7%)

5. Miguel Cabrera (-19.6%)

6. Max Scherzer (-19.6%)

7. Joey Votto (-18.9%)

8. Mike Trout (-17.5%)

9. Anibal Sanchez (-17.2%)

10. Yadier Molina (-17.1%)

That’s four Detroit Tigers in the top ten! That can mean a number of things, the ones I’ll choose would be: they have some pretty good players, and ZiPS does not look highly on the back-up options for those guys. I thought Trout would be higher, but he may be that low because the Angels’ postseason odds aren’t that great to begin with. Interesting that half this list are also players that only make their rounds every fifth day.

The Giants and Dodgers play the last game of their series tonight at 5:00 PM PST on ESPN2.

One Time Through the #SFGiants Rotation: Velo, WalKs, and the 7th Inning

Five games in and the Giants are 4-1. In most of the recent years before 2014, you would imagine that the .800 winning percentage is due to the lights out pitching featuring Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner. Ryan Vogelsong was a late bloomer, sure, but my pessimism on him these days sees the 4.0 IP, 2 HRA, 7 H, 4 ER as closer to what we’ll see from him than in his VogelStrong years. I hope I’m wrong, I really do. I hope he gives Edwin Escobar more time to develop and doesn’t even let Yusmeiro Petit or David Huff even think about sniffing a spot start. The other current starters have given the fans this, all in their starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks:

ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WP BF WHIP H/9
Tim Hudson 0.00 1 7.2 3 0 0 0 0 7 1 27 0.391 3.5
Tim Lincecum 6.00 1 6.0 8 4 4 2 0 7 0 25 1.333 12.0
Matt Cain 3.60 1 5.0 7 3 2 0 2 2 0 23 1.800 12.6
Madison Bumgarner* 0.00 1 4.0 6 4 0 0 2 3 0 21 2.000 13.5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

Got to be careful how much you’re reacting to everything. Tim Hudson‘s performance is what we know each of those four listed are capable of, and yet we enter Saturday’s game with the Dodgers with a bullpen that has definitely gotten its exercise, having to eat up 17.1 innings in the five games of play. An average of a little over 3.1 IP a game of work. Something to watch for the next time through the rotation:

Velocity: Across the board, the velocity is down for the four starters in the box score. An incredibly small sample size to be sure, though if this continues, we’ll want to see how the command is — these pitchers still have enough pitches to be effective against the opposition, be they Dodgers or Twins.

Timmy walKing the walK: Lincecum isn’t going to face Paul Goldschmidt in every start (he will in his next one, though!), so he may not allow a homer every time he goes out, but throwing up a “0″ in the walk column is always a welcome sight. The other Tim also put up zero walks, and I imagine we’ll be seeing a low walk total out of him. The strikeout count was a little higher than usual, though. Of course, I would say that’s likely that won’t continue at that rate.

Completing six innings or pitching into the 7th inning: The level of competition is such that I believe getting through six innings gives your bullpen a chance at work and at rest across the days, especially with a twelve-man pitching staff. Naturally, you want your starters to throw complete game shutouts in less than 100 pitches, but let’s be realistic. Here’s how many times the starters didn’t complete six innings of work in their starts in 2013:

Bumgarner — 6/31 (19.4% of starts)

Cain — 6/30 (20%)

Lincecum — 12/32 (37.5%)

Hudson — 6/21 (28.6%)

Vogelsong — 10/19 (52.6%)

Keep in mind some of this may not have been under the starter’s control and may have been up to the manager to lift the starter for a pinch hitter, so the percentages aren’t truly representative of how long the starter’s could go in a game. How close can Bumgarner and Cain get to copying those numbers and can Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong improve on theirs?

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So now the starters will get their chance at round two against both the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks (again) and we shall see what kind of learning they will apply to their second time around. Easy to be optimistic about Hudson, and easiest to be pessimistic about Vogelsong because of his age, but just like Michael Morse in Left Field, we need to give all their fair shake before we bail on them or declare them King.

Breaking Down the 2014 #SFGiants Schedule

The 2014 season is upon us (again), with the undefeated LA Dodgers at 2-0 going up against the also undefeated 0-0 San Diego Padres at PetCo Park tonight on ESPN. The San Francisco Giants don’t get going until Monday night at Chase Field. Spring Training broadcasts have given Giants fans some warning as to what they should expect when the tougher times roll around. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have three series with the Astros, and none of the NL West teams look so awful that you can ask your Minor Leaguers to just take them out for you. I’ll divide the schedule into parts to give you an idea of what’s happening when.

March 31st-April 30th: Hello, 2014 NL West, Nice to Meet You

4 @ Arizona

3 @ LA Dodgers

Day Off

3 vs. Arizona

3 vs. Colorado

Day Off

3 vs. LA Dodgers

3 @ San Diego

3 @ Colorado

Day Off

3 vs. Cleveland

3 vs. San Diego

The first month of baseball features two series against every NL West team, and one against the play-in team from Cleveland. The Giants play the Dodgers nineteen times in 2014, and will get ten of those games done with by May 12th. My wife and I may be enrolled in marriage counseling by then.

May 1st-May 19th: The 2013 Playoff Team Gauntlet… and the Marlins

Day Off

3 @ Atlanta

3 @ Pittsburgh

4 @ LA Dodgers

3 vs. Atlanta

4 vs. Miami

Day Off

The Braves twice, Pirates, then Dodgers, and all but three of those games on a ten game road trip. This will be a seventeen day stretch in between days off, and this promises to be a trying time of baseball. I think if the Giants went a game above .500 against the three 2013 playoff teams, I’d be happy with that. Miami will probably sweep the Giants because baseball.

May 20th-June 19th: Stock up on Wins

3 @ Colorado

3 vs. Minnesota

3 vs. Cubs

4 @ St. Louis

Day Off

3 @ Cincinnati

3 vs. NY Mets

4 vs. Washington

3 vs. Colorado

Day Off

2 @ White Sox

Day Off

Rockies twice, Cubbies, Mets, White Sox make up for seventeen games here, and this is where you’ve got to get those wins because when you’re going up against St. Louis, Cincy, and Washington, losing each of those series wouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. They are good teams.

June 20th-July 13th: West Coast Best Coast

3 @ Arizona

3 vs. San Diego

4 vs. Cincinnati

3 vs. St. Louis

3 @ San Diego

2 @ Oakland

2 vs. Oakland

3 vs. Arizona

During this stretch of time, the Giants never go further East than Phoenix, which is a nice pace for any team that resides in the Pacific Time Zone. Hopefully the nice weather and familiar confines will provide a nice stretch of quality baseball for the Giants before most of them rest during the All Star Break.

All Star Break

July 18th-September 4th: All over the place and a sixteen-game stretch

3 @ Miami

4 @ Philadelphia

3 vs. LA Dodgers

3 vs. Pittsburgh

Day Off

4 @ NY Mets

3 @ Milwaukee

3 @ Kansas City

Day Off

2 vs. White Sox

Day Off

3 vs. Philadelphia

Day Off

3 @ Cubs

3 @ Washington

4 vs. Colorado

3 vs. Milwaukee

3 @ Colorado

Day Off

I didn’t know how to break this one up (I’m sure you could tell), but this is another part of the schedule where the Giants will have a chance to play over-.500 ball against teams like the Marlins, Brewers, ChiSox, Rockies, Mets, Phillies, and the Cubs. Teams like the Dodgers, Royals, Nationals, and Pirates could make things tense and for make for possible Sunday Night Baseball material.

September 5th-September 28th: The Tigers and the NL West

3 @ Detroit

Day Off

3 vs. Arizona

3 vs. LA Dodgers

3 @ Arizona

Day Off

3 @ San Diego

3 @ LA Dodgers

4 vs. San Diego

All I’m looking forward to is the weekend of 2012 World Series highlights during the Tigers series and then the last ten games when the Giants are fighting for a wild card spot should be just spectacular. Unless everybody gets injured during the season then whatever, go for that unprotected draft pick! I wrote on Saturday that I expected the Giants to be an 86-win team. I don’t feel that’s pessimistic, but a little optimistic, and very achievable for this group. Hopefully, this post gave you a better idea of what the 2014 season looks like, and are now 100% ready for the season to begin on Monday night if you weren’t ready already.

Probably the Final Pre-Season #SFGiants Roster Moves

After the Saturday Oakland-San Francisco game was cancelled, the cuts, options, and assignments had come out. From the beat writers, here’s the news:

First, coming out of “what the heck” land:

I’m sure that will go over well. Next, it’s safe travels for Roger Kieschnick:

No surprises in the news of Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro. Derek Law, the reliever of intrigue, does not go to AAA-Fresno, but AA-Richmond:

The Opening Day Lineup:

I’m sure Joaquin Arias is excited he gets to start an Opening Day. Minor news with Nick Noonan:

Another note from Baggs:

And, if you hadn’t heard, the first round pick from the 2013 Draft is off to Augusta:

I think that’s a reliable source.

The Giants have no more Spring Training games and open their season on Monday in Arizona against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 6:40 p.m.

 

 

 

 

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