Thursday, November 15, 2012

Was There Any Question?

Buster Posey is the National League MVP in 2012. Did you have any doubts?

I'm pretty sure the Giants won something important at the end of the season. Oh, of course, the World Series!

But that's not supposed to be a factor. It must be his .336/.408/.549 slash line. That looks very good, but Baseball Reference says he's got a league leading OPS+ of 172. I guess the National League baseball writers aren't afraid of fancy numbers.

But we're here for GIFs. Maybe I'm late to the party, but I just discovered this. It includes classics like:

And while I could look at that grand slam off of Mat Latos for hours, we shouldn't forget this gem:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Giants Take Two, Two To Go

Admit it. There's a masochistic side to you that wanted to see the Giants win a handful of elimination games in the World Series.* Sure, that was by turns anguishing and exhilarating, but I'll take the Giants exactly where they are now, heading to Detroit with a two game lead. I promise that if things work out, I won't even lament that they might have just played their last game of the season at home. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, I know two words that should give you pause: Anibal Sanchez. He's been known to mow down the Giants and induce high amounts of spectator stress for doing so, especially at AT&T Park. Fortunately, the Giants have two things going for them: first, Ryan Vogelsong, and second, Sanchez is not invincible outside of AT&T: in Miami on May 24th, he pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs on seven hits and two walks. If we could cherry-pick a few things from the boxscore, you'll note that Ryan Vogelsong was the starting pitcher, and that Emmanuel Burriss was playing second. I think the Giants found an upgrade at second somewhere along the line, but I just can't recall. Was it Ryan Theriot? And don't look at the part about Javier Lopez. Don't do it!

What I'll need to remember when I look back at this years from now:

GAME 1: 8-3 Giants

First, Barry Zito has become The Junkball Superstar. Bronson Arroyo would write a nice tuneful tribute, but he's still a bit upset at the whole NLDS thing. Sure, we can stare at Zito's Baseball Reference page for hours and try to puzzle it through, considering the 4.15 that in 2010 got him left off the post-season roster, and that in 2012 made him the go-to guy for Game 1 of the World Series. We could even talk about how his ERA+ was 94 in 2010, and 84 in 2012. Is he actually a lesser pitcher this year? Or does it say more about the (temporary?) fall of Tim Lincecum? Or, that Bruce Bochy was prepared to use all the tools of psychological warfare against Justin Verlander? Or, with a more proficient offense this year, Zito's flaws aren't nearly as glaring?

Was the crowd chanting Bar-ry and then Zi-to? Did I really get an email from a friend who actually wrote:
Forget about Panda's feats last night. It was Zito's night. It wasn't necessarily pretty,  but he had a plan that he stuck to. I suspect this will be a long series, but my prediction is Zito will be WS MVP.
For such a bold prediction, I will let you remain anonymous, Mark. Oh, whoops! That's set in stone like the rest of the Internet, so I can't change it now! Never forget, however, that this is Verlander (the first two times) and that's Pablo Sandoval:

I've never heard of those other guys who've hit three home runs in a World Series game, but I'm sure they're good people.**

By the end of this game, I was convinced that Lincecum's post-season calling is to be a super-reliever. He faced seven batters and struck out five. What, would you rather see Guillermo Mota in the middle innings?

GAME 2: 2-0 Giants

Fact: Doug Fister struck the fuck outta the Kansas City Royals and set some kind of record. Fact: Fister struck out only three Giants. For allowing a rare hit to the struggling Hunter Pence, he's the losing pitcher of record, although if baseball recorded assists, I'd say Drew Smyly cemented that one.

Otherwise, we got the Madison Bumgarner that we all remember from earlier in the season: 7IP, 2H, 2W, 8K, 0ER. One of the biggest fears of this post-season was the diminished capacity of the starting rotation, but over the past five games, Giants starters have allowed two earned runs in, hmmm, add the numbers, carry that one to the other one, 33 innings pitched. (Tack on Lincecum in Game 1 and it's 35 1/3). In case you're wondering, that went Zito, Vogelsong, Cain, Zito,  Bumgarner. Looks like everybody's in: next up, Vogelsong and Cain.

No time to look back now, just two more wins to go... 

* Make no mistake, they'll obviously have to win a game that includes eliminating Detroit, but how about not making it a handful?
**That would be Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and some guy who just cashed in with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rooting Against the Tigers Begins Today

What exactly just happened over the month of October? Had you told me in March that the Giants would win the National League pennant after fighting back in six elimination games, and that Barry Zito would be a crucial component of the playoff rotation, I would have thought you were high as hell. And you might have been. But here we are. Barry Zito's starting Game 1 of the World Series against Justin Verlander. 

Though I haven't written anything about the playoffs. I'm sure it has something to do with going back to work at the university, and working on a book and an editing project that have nothing to do with baseball. But it also had to do with how exhausting watching the Giants win six elimination games. Including that time I was attending a conference talk, sweating Sergio Romo's twelve pitches to Jay Bruce. To tell the truth, it wasn't that nerve wracking to watch Ryan Vogelsong. In fact, I could watch those games with some obstinate idea that Vogelsong wouldn't accept not going to the World Series after his now-storied return to the Major Leagues. But, wow, the rest of the rotation has been a far cry from their shut down performances of 2010.

Yet the offense has been able to pick them up, at least until the Cardinals got shut down offensively in games five, six, and seven, when the offense picked up the pitching just on general principle--not to mention that the possibility of the the Cards coming back from a six run deficit would leave a very bitter taste.

Instead, the Giants are going to the World Series, and I've got to start mustering my baseball fury against the Detroit Tigers (even if I chose them for the World Series last year). May they under perform in the next four to seven games. 

Before the fall classic begins, never forget:

For that grand slam, Buster Posey is the official NLDS Exceptional Comrade of The Left Field Line.

The NLCS Excellent Comrades (a shared prize!) are Marco Scutaro and Ryan Vogelsong. In 30 plate appearances, Scutaro hit .500/.533/.607, with fourteen hits, most of those coming after being run over by Matt Holliday. 

Vogelsong destroyed the Cardinals with that fiery death stare. Oh, and he pitched 14 innings and gave up only eight hits, three walks, and two earned runs. If you throw in the hit batter, that's 12 baserunners, compared to 13 strikeouts. 

If he wants to go Satchel Paige and pitch night after night while decimating the opposition, I'd say let him.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Giants Clinch the NL West...

...and somewhere else, Mat Latos grinds his teeth. Sure, it was Saturday, but he's probably still at it.

But we're not Mat Latos, and lol Dodgers. 

Yup, I just wrote that.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Anything But a Spoiler of Padres

The smile of a man whose rivals are a fluke of Diamondbacks.

Earlier today, thanks to @grumpyowl, I learned that the collective noun for magpies is "tidings," as in: "I saw a tidings of magpies." I responded that a few, lesser-known collective nouns include:
A bar-full of writers.
A murder of philosophers.*
No, seriously, look it up. You'll find support for this somewhere--probably, uh, right here. In any case, somewhere a Padres fan is trying to get "a spoiler of Padres" in The Oxford English Dictionary of Sport.** Yes, the magic number is three, and while the Padres can't prevent the Dodgers from stinking it up against the Reds this weekend, they can turn the next three games--and possibly three more in San Diego--into a mess of bloops, stolen bases and importune line drives. Maybe even a home run or two. Giants losses rather than wins. Sure, they don't have the greatest record, and you probably won't forget that part in April when they dropped six of seven against the Dodgers, but the Padres have an ax to grind. This probably has something to do with 2010, though I'm sure that this spoiler of Padres would also love to clinch a NL West rivalry with a team other than the Diamondbacks or the Rockies.

It's the Giants' job to let that lucky team be the Dodgers***--I mean, the Dodgers have Adrian Gonzalez! He's rightfully the Padres'. Right? No? Whatever? 

But beating the Padres cannot be taken for granted. Since the start of August, they've gone 28-17. Since those first two series against the Dodgers, they've gone 5-2 against LA. The Giants are 8-4 against San Diego, and if you're reading this, you probably share my interest in watching at least three more wins. Chalked up as soon as possible.

Nevertheless, here's a lineup of potentially irritating Padres:
Cabrera SS, Forsythe 2B, Headley 3B, Grandal C, Alonso 1B, Guzman LF, Venable RF, Maybin CF and Kelly RHP
Especially Headley. And probably Alonso. And Carlos Quentin at some point, though each Padre has a touch of potential spoiler within him. I say let him spoil sometime between September 25th and 27th.

As far as pitching goes, while they no longer have Mat Latos--he'll face the Dodgers on Saturday--they have a starting rotation, but not with any of the guys you remember, since they've all been injured. In the bullpen they have Luke Gregerson, and they just activated Huston Street from the DL. Bud Black has commanded them to spoil, because the Padres have six more games against San Francisco, and he knows that Bruce Bochy is three games away from peppering his  lineups with Pennies, Burrii, Pegueros and Pills. That's no way to play a rivalry.


* Hegel said that somewhere. I promise.
**This doesn't exist, but if it did, it would be a prescriptivist's nightmare, with adverbial/adjectival jive such as "hitting the ball good" and "thank you very nice."
***It's like adding another wild card. The Giants are the Dodgers' first rivalry (always and forever), and the Padres would be the second.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Home Stand Preview Wish List: Rockies Will Not Rock, Dodgers Will Not Dodge, Giants Will Not Implode

The Giants begin their final home stand of the season with a four game series against the Colorado Rockies. It's September, so it feels like the Giants just played the Rockies, and they  just did. But the big difference now is that they aren't at a Coors Field that was playing like the Coors Field of lore.

And the magic number is nine. That's definitely what you're thinking about, and it's what I'm thinking about. I am somewhat interested in the pitching match-ups (the Giants will see Jhoulys Chacin, Jeff Francis, Tyler Chatwood, and somebody else to be announced), but, but, but, the magic number. I've rolled the scenarios around, and would like to see the Giants clinch the NL West at home. Who, not draped in Dodger blue, wouldn't? And while the Giants see the Rockies, Padres, and Diamondbacks, the Dodgers face the Nationals, Reds, and Padres on the road. 

Nine. Any number of Giants wins and Dodger losses. In order for the final series of the season to be meaningful for the NL West division title, the Giants have to do no better than 5-8, and in that case, the Dodgers have to win all 12 of their games. But we already know, anything less than 6-4 (or, for some, 7-3) over the next ten games will feel like defeat.

OK, back to the Rockies. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, making jokes about how the Dodgers will have piled up a $198 million dollar payroll to face the Fresno Grizzlies at the end of the season. Those will come later.

First, what we need to know: baseball can be amazing, fun, weird, and hubristic. I'm not rooting for hubristic baseball. We've seen weird, lately, and a few amazing (which I'd define as those plays which produce yelling at the screen while they happen, including expressions of incredulity that such a play would turn out as it did, etc.) and fun things lately. However, do keep in mind that Carlos Gonzalez, Jordan Pacheco, and Wilin Rosario could be seriously aggravating hitters in crucial situations. Dexter Fowler and Josh Rutledge can get on base and be very annoying when one desires to retire the Rockies without weirdness.

And the Giants could hack, go and hack away at undertalented and/or beleaguered pitching staffs, although last time through Colorado, there was a decent display of plate discipline. It seems obvious that if a starting pitcher has a 75 pitch limit, that it helps the cause to let some pitches go by, and the odds are that Marco Scutaro and Buster Posey will see at least 20-25 of those. Pablo Sandoval, who I'd prefer to see not scuffle, will see at least two or three.

In the best-case scenario, the Rockies will not discover their offense. The Giants will not hack. The starting rotation will return to form, Buster Posey will do that MVP stuff, and Sandoval will be a little less of the sad panda with no plate discipline (.216/.273/.250... .250 slugging?!) that he's been for at least the past 28 days.

And more Buster Posey.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bonus Round Against the Astros

This series is the last of three between the Giants and the Houston Astros. And, in a sense, it's been a gift, with the Giants taking five out of the first six. And at this moment, believe it or not, the Astros are probably worse--or at least in deeper disarray--than when the Giants last saw them. You've probably already heard, at the All Star Break they were a respectably bad 33-53, and since then, they've gone 7-35, with a twelve-game losing streak. Keep this in mind, because when they migrate to the American League, the National League is going to get just a little bit more difficult.

So I ask the Giants to take another three from the Astros. And I ask Houston's pitching staff to groove a few, so that Hunter Pence can get his swing back, and Buster Posey can ring up a few more dingers (look, I know that Posey is having a great season already--in the 37 games games since the break he's hit .404/.485/.691--but I foolishly told a friend of mine that he could hit 30 home runs this season, and he needs to close that gap).

And the Astros' offense should get together and consider letting Matt Cain throw another no-hitter. It would be something for the fans, right guys? If it's going to be miserable, how about making it historic?

In return, I offer the Houston Astros one of the first techno tracks ever recorded, Model 500's (or, as we know him today, Juan Atkins') "No UFOs." A song of hope, with lyrics such as
They say, “There is no hope”
They say, “No UFOs”
Why is no head held high?
Maybe you’ll see them fly…
That's an anthem right there for a future season of the expense of the American League West. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

My First Game Since Candlestick Tim Hudsoned

Before today, I had only attended one major league baseball game. Over twenty years ago, we watched the Dodgers defeat the Giants at Candlestick Park. I recall a distinct lack of Giants' offense, people chanting "Jose Uribe," and perhaps some misplaced late-innings hope.

Aside from the Uribe thing, that pretty much summarizes this afternoon's game. Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not complaining. With two decades between games, I was just glad to be at the ballpark (and what a nice park it is--but you knew that). And it was probably easier to accept defeat because Tim Lincecum was pitching. It still feels bizarre to type that, but that is how this year has been. My brother noted that he's now seen three straight Lincecum duds, dating back to last year (adding that if it's Lincecum next time he'll just sell his ticket before the game). For my part, I would have been much angrier if Vogelsong, Cain, or Bumgarner were starting and lost, with the feeling that Atlanta was depriving me of something that was rightfully mine. And rightfully the Giants'. Something like that.

A few thoughts:
  • We had great seats, not too far behind the visitors' dugout. However, we were also sitting in that part of the park that was the most saturated with Braves fans. Fortunately there were not enough of them to get the casually racist tomahawk chop thing going. Also, while I'm at it, 'Indian-caricature' mascots are not acceptable.
  • From Rael Enteen: "Dating back to August 29, 2006, Tim Hudson owns a six-game winning streak against the Giants, spanning nine starts."
  • Is it me, or do sinkerballers repeatedly baffle the Giants? Last year, I remember thinking that the Giants really ought to get them one of those, and then Steve Edlefsen cured me of that. But still...
  • Chipper Jones got a standing ovation on the premise that his pinch-hitting appearance would be his last regular season appearance at AT&T Park. I can guarantee that at least one Giants fan considered it possible that Jones won't be coming back during the playoffs either--and not because the Giants didn't make it.
  • Jason Heyward bunted. I said something like: "that was a gift. I would have charged the ball so it would have stayed fair. He's been knocking the ball all over...oh, yeah, just like that." And then it was almost impossible that Freddie Freeman wasn't going to get into the act. When Clay Hensley pitches like that it reminds you that Brad Penny. You know exactly what I mean. This piece on prospect Clayton Blackburn might make you feel better.
  • Monday I'll be 'scouting' the Modesto Nuts. I would have preferred them to remain the Modesto A's, but I guess I can A) root against Bakersfield and/or B) check out the future victims of Jim Tracy's four man rotation piggyback relief circus. If I really go bonkers, the Ports will be in town Tuesday, and I might even try to catch a Mariners game while I'm up in Seattle for this.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Another Rockies Preview

Didn't I just write one of these? Since the Giants last saw the Rockies, they've taken two out of three against the Dodgers. Remember that hot mess of a pitching staff? Turns out they only allowed seven runs during that series.

How does this bode for the Giants, who are currently 6-2 against Colorado? This might have more to do with whether Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito can quiet the few noisy bats that remain on the Rockies roster, because I'd like to think that the Giants' offense can handle Tyler Chatwood (6.61 ERA, although San Francisco didn't exactly contribute to that number last time), Drew Pomeranz (4.76 ERA--so he's the ace?), and Alex White (5.75 ERA).

Hell with it. We've got to keep up my spoiler theory of 2012 to justify the existence of the Colorado Rockies, so they need to continue to get swept by San Francisco while they manage to post a .500 or better record against the Dodgers. Like I just mentioned, the Giants are 6-2, while the Dodgers are 6-6 against Colorado. I see no reason to change course.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cardinals Preview, Plus Good Reasons to Cheer for the Pirates and the Rockies This Week

Since a four-game series in St. Louis sounds pretty serious, I thought I'd scout the Cardinals in advance. So before dinner last night, I turned on their game against the Brewers. Here's what I came up with:
  • They're not the Rockies.
  • They have a record that is currently identical with the Giants: 59-49.
  • Lance Lynn occupied what could have been Ryan Vogelsong's spot on the all-stars.
  • These guys can hit.
I also wrote a preview for the two games in May that the Giants and Cardinals split. I mentioned two things of note:

First, I figured that Krukow and Kuiper wouldn't be able to resist talking about Carlos Beltran or possibly comparing him to Melky Cabrera. At the time, Beltran's slash line was .295/.407/.648 with 13 home runs (1.055 OPS), while Cabrera's was .333/.380/.487 with two homers (.867 OPS). And then Beltran didn't play much (one pinch hit appearance) and the point was moot. At this point in the season, the judgment that Melky would add more to the team bears out (and note the slugging percentages): Beltran is currently batting .286/.357/.537, while Cabrera is hitting .352/.397/.530. Melky's OPS is .927, Beltran's .894.

Second, I noted that Charlie Culberson's call-up probably indicated that the Giants wanted to know their infield depth with Freddy Sanchez out for the season. It turns out, with another injury to Pablo Sandoval, that they'd rather have Marco Scutaro, and I think that is a good decision. If you haven't noticed, he's put up some solid numbers as a Giant: .353/.410/.441. I don't expect him to continue such lofty production through the rest of the season, but he's been miscast as late-season bench-depth.

All this being said, I'm not sure what to expect from this series. While the Giants play the Cardinals, Jim Tracy is taking his extended spring training show on the road, and, of course, the Rockies are playing the Dodgers. We must ask of Colorado to do us a solid, and play the spoiler against the Dodgers, and then come to San Francisco to be swept over the weekend. That's not too much, right? Somebody's got to do it. 

Before Coors field, the Giants had scored 414 runs, and allowed 417, earning them a Pythagorean W-L ratio of 52-53. Going into St. Louis, they've scored 449 and allowed 430, tipping that ratio over to a winning record of 56-52. Now that I've typed it out, I've forgotten why I thought that was important.

Hey, look at that, the Diamondbacks play the Pirates. Go Pirates!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Rockies Series Preview

(Stop here if you do not want to see the Giants' RHB/LHB splits in Coors Field).

On July 15th, during the top of the third inning, Marwin Gonzales hit a double to right field, making him the first Astro to reach base against Matt Cain in 2012. The play itself isn't that notable; it's more notable for the audible groan emitted from the denizens of AT&T Park, who believed, albeit fleetingly, that the heavy sediment of baseball history and statistics could have been washed away by the sheer force of Matt Cain's pitching.

Hell, I groaned, too. And you never know. It's still possible--although probably not against the Astros (only because they're moving to the American League).

Now, I say this because expectations can wreak havoc on the baseball experience. Take a glance at the Colorado Rockies' numbers. 38-65. A team ERA of 5.36, with the starting pitchers putting up a 6.35 ERA. In Coors Field, opponents are posting a .307/.367/.512 slash line--although to put that in perspective, the Rockies are batting .290/.358/.490.

I see numbers like this, and I know what I want to believe, especially after that last homestand. Hmmm. Let's try to find some perspective. How did the Giants do during their last series in Colorado? .270/.344/.450. Hmmm. Not quite .307/.367/.512, but they haven't faced the Rockies since the pitching meltdown. What about platoon splits? Bruce Bochy loves him some platoon splits, and the Giants are facing a lefty tonight, so it's going to be Joaquin Arias at short and the Fresno Bomber at first.

as RHB@COL-Coors Fld 3 42 9 1 0 0 1 .225 .262 .250 .512 .273
as LHB@COL-Coors Fld 3 83 21 7 0 4 11 .296 .386 .563 .949 .288
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/3/2012.

Whoa. That's got to be a small sample size thing. The drastic difference in walks says that there is something about who bats left and who bats right at play. But the Rockies show a similar type of split, albeit with a larger differential in BABIP.

as RHB@COL-Coors Fld55133433473113798.276.333.447.779.307
as LHB@COL-Coors Fld5583122342173498.314.399.564.963.367
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/3/2012.

But, if I'm going to peruse these numbers, I will at least end by pointing out that Brandon Crawford's career numbers are .400/.464/.760 with three doubles and two home runs. Just saying. I want the Giants to clean up in Colorado, but it could be difficult.

Not to mention that they will be facing Jonathan Sanchez. I've waxed nostalgic about his contributions to the Giants before, so I won't be repeating that here. The way that the Giants play against Sanchez might just be an indicator of what to expect in August. To say that he's had a rough season is an understatement. His overall numbers for 2012 include an 8.32 ERA, 0.88 K/BB (50 BB/44 K), and a 2.092 WHIP. 

I'd like to think that the Giants have him scouted and have coached their hitters, but I fear that, despite all the information they have, they're going to get impatient and hack, hack, hack. Those are the kind of fears that a 3-7 homestand can instill in a person. 

Hack, hack, hack. 

Please, don't. 

Fine, hack a little, but win. Ryan Vogelsong's on the mound.

Win two and pound some Budweiser.


Stay in first place.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bullpen Depth: George Kontos

The Giants snapped a five game losing streak, beating the Mets 4-1 behind a strong seven inning performance by Tim Lincecum. Which means that the odds were very low that George Kontos would take the mound in relief. Here's why.

George Kontos was acquired at the start of the season from the Yankees for Chris Stewart, and he was called up on June 9th. Since then, he has posted some good numbers, which he has earned--when he's right--with a sharp slider.

2012 0 0 2.21 18 20.1 162 1.082 8.9 9.3 10.50
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 8/1/2012.

Despite those numbers, especially the 9.3 SO/9 and 10.5 SO/BB rates, it doesn't seem like Kontos has been used in many high leverage situations. He has, for instance, neither decisions nor saves (nor save opportunities). Then, a comment by Grant Brisbee (I can't find it at the moment, but it was something like: "what the hell is Brad Penny doing out there when Kontos would be better for this high leverage situation?") motivated me to check out his game logs to see when he's brought out to pitch, and I discovered an odd pattern.

On the one hand, it might be just what you expect from Bruce Bochy: in the eighteen games that Kontos has appeared in, the Giants are 6-12. Bochy doesn't yet trust the rookie.

But then it gets slightly weirder. Verging on a variation of Jim-Tracy-Colorado-Rockies-four-man-rotation weird. When Kontos debuted for the Giants, on June 10th against the Rangers, it began an idiosyncratic pattern: he's pitched in every game that Lincecum has started and not made it into the seventh inning since June 10th (6 games), and only once when he has (July 20th).

Lincecum's other starts during that period: June 27th against the Dodgers (7IP with the win), July 14th versus the Astros (8IP and what should have been his win) and last night vs. the Mets (7IP and the win).

Otherwise, Kontos is typically relieving Barry Zito, for a total of six appearances, with four of those being blowouts (in either direction).

The only real exception to this rule was the last Dodgers debacle, when Kontos appeared in all three games. If we subtract these, then eighty percent of his appearances follow Lincecum or Zito (12 of 15), and even if we don't, then it's 72 percent of the time.

The conclusion: the numbers suggest that Kontos ought to be used in situations with higher leverage. However, the Giants did not acquire additional bullpen help, and Bochy seems set on using Casilla, Affeldt, Romo and Lopez (CARL) in these spots. But there are plenty of times where it also appears that Bochy calls for Kontos in situations that would be more appropriate for Brad Penny (and vice versa), whose numbers are a little more situationally appropriate for eating up innings  rather than holding tied games (5.02 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.5 SO/BB rate). Using Kontos in the seventh or eight innings might also provide more flexibility with CARL in save-by-committee situations, especially if Romo (I doubt it) or Casilla (...) continue to struggle.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It Had to be Hunter Pence

Remember when it was only photoshopped?
Today, I'm a changed fan. Hunter Pence is now part of the San Francisco Giants, and I don't have a problem with that. I haven't mentioned him on this blog yet, and I'd only said a few things about him on twitter during the season. But if you would have asked me about him while the Giants were playing the Phillies, I'd grumble about how damn annoying he was, but otherwise with the unconventional swings, the awkward gait, and his enthusiasm for swinging at pitches outside of the zone, he was often pretty entertaining to watch against other teams. 

Wait. Unconventional swing? Awkward gait? Enthusiasm for swinging at pitches outside of the zone? I should have known--he was destined for the Giants. Except that he was part of the hated Phillies, and he had been batting .329/.366/.566 with 3 doubles and 5 home runs at AT&T Park. Of course, logic dictates that he accumulated part of those numbers as an Astro, but it felt like all of those extra base hits happened during high leverage situations while he was a Philly. I could look it up, but, well, now the point is moot.

In what will surely become the Hunter Pence controversy, the Phillies received Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz, and Seth Rosin. If the Giants win the World Series in 2012 or 2013 (while Pence is under contract), this controversy will not emerge. Odds are it won't if they get to the playoffs.

However, this is baseball, so things don't always go smoothly, and there will be fans who always remember Tommy Joseph, who will probably turn up in the majors in the next few years. He might even rake at first base, and if you were against trading for Carlos Beltran (due to the price of Zack Wheeler), and then you fixated on Joseph because you felt that Brett Pill never got his chance thanks to that other awkward guy (hell, maybe you were on Twitter demanding that the move Nate the Great to first!), this trade will be the perfect storm of bitterness. You're going to flame Hank Schulman for a few weeks, and troll over at McCovey Chronicles, and then you'll probably slump off and start rooting for the Oakland Athletics because they're a prospect bonanza. They collect and horde. Have fun.

And you probably won't read this blog ever again, since I think it was bound to happen. Maybe not Pence for Joseph (and those other guys), but with Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez on the roster, and Joseph and Andrew Susac, one of the prospects was going to get traded. I will take Pence any day over the likes of Shane Victorino (who goes from the once hated Phillies to the F%&#ing Dodgers), or Scott Hairston. Pence is a better player, he'll be around longer, and...the potential for GIFs is probably endless.

While I'm at it, one more thing. If things turn around and the Giants get hot, we're all going to have a good laugh at Panda/Pence batting back-to-back. Opposing pitchers are going to have to throw three feet off the plate if they want to get a pitch past those two. But these two would then be bright lights on a team of guys who can't stop hacking. It's nice to see Marco Scutaro join Posey and Melky Cabrera (and Brandon Belt when he's not slumping) on the small group of Giants with plate discipline.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Preview: Hanley Ramirez

Whoever scheduled a Giants-Dodgers series right before the trade deadline has a real sense of humor. Sure, it was probably a computer, but whenever some mere mortal combed over the printout, he chuckled to himself when he saw that the Dodgers would be in San Francisco, the Phillies in Atlanta, the Red Sox in New York, and the Houston Astros. Definitely laughed at the Astros.

The key to the next three days is to maintain composure, no matter what happens. Recall that the last time the Dodgers came to town, the Giants were three games back and it seemed impossible that they could catch up to first place. Many of us would have been happy taking the series. Instead, the result: 27 scoreless innings. That's probably not going to happen again, but I'd take it if it did. Conversely, the Dodgers probably aren't going to sweep San Francisco, not with Matt Cain and Ryan "Won't Wear Dodger Blue" Vogelsong taking the mound.

In any case, keep your composure, as losing perspective and demanding an invincible right handed power hitter no matter the cost we've got to keep first place and flaming Hank Schulman on Twitter can only lead you to a dark place. 

Especially if you're Brian Sabean, because if you follow that black tunnel you're going to wake up on July 31st and Scott Hairston's going to be standing in right field and Gary Brown is going to be teammates with Zack Wheeler. You don't want that. I don't want that. Gary Brown doesn't want that.

See the calming hand of Hanley Ramirez up there? He's saying to you: "No matter what happens, this series is not about me, and its not about the trade deadline."* Make it so at your own peril.

* In fact, it's probably going to be about Barry Zito, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. Warning: do not combine with fastballs middle in.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Giants Snap Losing Streak, and A Brief Argument Against Home Plate Collisions

(Updated below)

There's nothing like winning the first game back from the all-star break, especially after that awful 1-5 road trip through Washington and Pittsburgh. Sure, the All Star Game was a hoot and all, with the Giants lighting up the scoreboard, but there are plenty of skeptics who will consider the game meaningless. And if your team isn't contenting--then, sure, it is meaningless (zing!).

But I'm sure that the Washington Nationals will appreciate home field advantage when they defeat the Texas Rangers in six this year. Wait a moment! Who typed that? There are so many things wrong with that sentence. Do we really have to watch another World Series with the Rangers? And, of course, the Giants are on their way to the playoffs, so don't even consider it...

Now, where was I? Ah yes, so the Giants snap their two game losing streak, and they did it with style. Madison Bumgarner continued to be Madison Bumgarner, at one point retiring thirteen straight Astros. I know, the Astros are even worse than before--that is, sans Carlos Lee. But if you recall last year--of course you do: after he embarrassed the Giants on August 25th, you were outraged that the Giants gave up Henry Sosa for Jeff Keppinger, see how alternative-universe-y things got?--you can't just expect to automatically defeat wretched teams. You're definitely afraid of what's going to happen tonight when Tim Lincecum takes the mound, but if we could cherry-pick numbers for a moment, Lincecum has 3.99 ERA at home with opposing hitters hitting .227/.322/.330, while opposing pitcher Lucas Harrell's away numbers are 2-5, 6.59 ERA,  with opponents batting .293/.348/.467.

And Buster Posey's home run in the bottom of the first. I missed most of the Barry Bonds era, which overlapped with some of my non-baseball watching peregrinations, so that was the first time I've ever seen a ball land 448 feet out in dead center.

The only blemish was Pablo Sandoval's collision at home plate. It was the first test for Giants fans, who haven't seen, from what I can recall, a Giants runner collide with a catcher since Posey returned. I couldn't think of anything but Posey's collision. I've gone on record that it's time to change, but read Grant Brisbee's more extensive arguments.

I don't really care whether Chris Snyder is cool with it or not, there's no place for collisions in baseball. Ryan Theriot can't tackle José Altuve to avoid a double play, and Alex Rodriguez can't slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove on his way down the first base line. The rules can change, catchers can be protected, and run-covetous teams (including ours) will still figure out ways to score runs. You'll see. I can already tell that you're making excuses, but think of whether you'd want to use them in other situations. To wit, your arguments boil down to:
  1. Anything that the Giants do is good, even if we're pissed when anything happens to Posey (this is the universality-be-damned approach).
  2. The status quo is good (i.e., baseball should never change, which is false).
  3. Victim blaming (catcher in the way, he was asking for it, etc.--If you're a decent person, I shouldn't have to explain to you why this argument is fucked up).
See, you don't exactly like where that's going, and you wouldn't use these arguments in the rest of your life. So scoff if you like, and pretend that what happens on the diamond stays on the diamond, but you know that I'm right.

Update (8:30pm):
Alex Pavlovic on Bruce Bochy's response to the home plate collision:
Bochy talked to Posey about the way Chris Snyder blocked the plate last night. It was kind of a refresher course for everything Posey was taught in the spring. [...]
Bochy said he has never had the “no collisions at home” conversation with his position players, even after he was so vocal last year about Posey’s season-ending injury. But he added that he would pull a guy aside if he thought a runner went at the plate the wrong way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Giving Vent to a Groan

This first game against the Nationals is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had written up something about Ryan Vogelsong's last start.  The part about those two pitches up and in while he was trying to bunt, and his enraged, bat-spiking response. Not many people talked about it, but it sure snapped home-plate umpire Dan Iassogna out of whatever pain he may have felt after being scorched by a foul ball. Or the part about all-star Jay Bruce's leap at the fence...uh...missed jumper, whatever it was that won the game for the Giants. Seriously, he must have been napping in right, and when Pagan hit that fly ball and he turned around and saw people at ground level, outside the fence, he must of thought he was in the parking lot of the Great American Ball Park.

I had even planned to link to this, as a palliative in case the Giants had lost. You can have it now.

So, tonight's game. It was lost, and I watched it all anyway. I'm not sure why. During the rain delay I did some reading--but then I kept watching. Maybe searching for positive signs, such as indications of Gregor Blanco (3-for-5, 2 RBI) breaking out of his slump, or Brandon Crawford (3-for-4, 1 R) getting it together at the plate. 

Oh, and Bryce Harper, with whom (along with Mike Trout) we'd all probably like to eventually compare Gary Brown. All three played, incidentally, for the Scottsdale Scorpions in last year's Arizona Fall League. Brown got off to a slow start this year in Richmond (AA Eastern League), but in his last ten games has put up a .390/.468/.610 slash line to bring his season numbers up to .268/.342/.352.

Ah yes, of course, tonight's game. It all really started to fall apart when Lincecum lobbed that hanging curveball to Jordan Zimmerman, who sent it down the right field line for a double. Danny Espinosa scores.

That curveball. The curve that mantles the vista far and wide while Zimmerman waits until the glowing orb of the moon shine forth--

--O! Mr Dedalus cried, giving vent to a hopeless groan. Shite and onions! That'll do, Ned. Life is too short. 

Fine. Back to reading.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Billingsley v. Lincecum's a sweep!

Right now, if you're the Giants, you've got Dusty Baker on the phone, asking him if the Reds wouldn't mind hosting the Mets down in Los Angeles, because you want another four games against Dodgers.

Over the last three games, the Giants scored thirteen runs, while the Dodgers scored none. None. Kruk and Kuip mentioned that the Giants have never previously completed a three game shutout sweep against the Dodgers. There it is. You'll always have that. Hold on to it until the next series. Let it guide you.

Tim Lincecum was Tim Lincecum in that pre-2012, non-August 2010 kind of way: 7IP (115 pitches/70 for strikes), 0ER, 4H, 2BB, and 8K.

And now the Giants are tied for first place. What more could you want at the moment?

Soak it up, Giants fan. Tomorrow San Francisco faces Johnny Cueto (9-3, 2.21 ERA), who is 2-0 against the Giants, with a 1.64 ERA in 22 IP (3 games).

The Rematch: Kershaw v. Vogelsong

"Nobody tells you that you have to not like the Dodgers, but it kind of rubs off on you." ~Ryan Vogelsong

Clayton Kershaw has put up some ridiculous numbers against the Giants in the past two years. Melky Cabrera's home run in the 4th snapped his streak of 35 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run at AT&T park. I told you. Ridiculous.

This is all you need to know this year: in 18 innings at AT&T Park, the Dodgers have yet to score a run. Credit that to Zito, Vogelsong, and the bullpen. It's getting to the point where I'm starting to think that even Tim Lincecum is going to give them hell tomorrow. (It's so strange to type that, but that's how the season has panned out thus far).

After facing Jered Weaver, Ryan Vogelsong said (updated with full quote):
For me to get people to start to believe that I’m for real, I’ve got to beat the Kershaws, the Weavers. I wasn’t able to do that tonight and that’s disappointing. I still feel I’ve got something to prove every time I step on the field.
For people to stop thinking last year was a fluke…those are the games I’ve got to win.
He should have been the comeback player of the year in 2011, and the baseball establishment, who couldn't see past the playoffs, handed it to Lance Berkman. Now it's the second year around, and Vogelsong's no fluke. In fourteen starts, he's 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA. And he's beat Kershaw twice already. Could he be a two-time all star?


In other news, Doc Ellis is the new pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds...

It's better with sound, but MLB is getting stingy with the embed function. The announcer calls it like this happens every night--"The forward roll! Two of them!"--and then he starts wondering what the hell just happened.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Zito v. Eovaldi

After hyping the rivalry in the last post, I may as well talk about the games themselves. Admittedly, this is much easier to do when the Giants win. Let's face it. We didn't know what Barry Zito was going to bring to this game. Down in Los Angeles, on May 7th, in six innings he gave up 3 runs on 8 hits and four walks, striking out 3. 

Maybe you'll want to stop here and look at the box score for a moment. It will all come back to you--the game with late inning errors by Conor Gillaspie,  Steve Edlefsen, and Buster Posey. By the end of it all, the Dodgers had blown it open (with a handful of bunts!), winning 9-1. You might  also recall that Travis Blackley and Brett Pill also made appearances in this game, and Blanco was still a bench player back then. Things can change quickly, can't they?

Tonight, the Giants turned the deficit around and won 8-0. That's more like the answer to the trivia question than it is a proposition concerning the iron law of baseball necessity, since I wouldn't want the Dodgers to turn around Ryan Vogelsong's 2-1 victory over Clayton Kershaw in their rematch tomorrow. Not at all. Zito struggled a bit with command, but in seven innings, he gave up only three hits (with two coming in the seventh), three walks, and struck out four.

What's more important after a disappointing road trip is that the Giants jumped out front early on offense. Gregor Blanco, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Pablo Sandoval all had multi-hit games, snapping out of their more-or-less slumps at the same time. Joining them in the parade was Hector Sanchez, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Despite the odd fact that Sanchez has a higher batting average than on base percentage, we should recognize that he continues to be one hell of an overachieving backup catcher. 

Revel in those eight runs and thirteen hits while you can. Tomorrow is Kershaw.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Dodgers Preview

Rivalries mean more when teams are competing. That's why, over the past few years, some of us, who might never regularly do so, end up watching a Yankees v. Red Sox series. Or two. Or three. For some time, Giants haven't had that kind of series against the Dodgers. Sure, playing the Dodgers was never going to be easy--but while they managed to fit Clayton Kershaw into each series (or it least it seemed that way), they weren't going to make a run for the National League West. They were just going to make it difficult for some other team--such as the Giants.

This year, it's different. The Dodgers are three games up on the Giants coming into San Francisco for a three game series. You know what that means. 

Of course, it's June, so counting up games-back in the division standings doesn't quite mean what it does in August or September and all those other caveats...I'd keep typing, but I know what you're thinking. Sweep. Nothing like crushing the Dodgers and marching to the top (albeit with a tie) of the division. As we all know, the A's just swept the Dodgers, and the Giants almost swept the A's, so there's got to be some kind of syllogism that guarantees success. 

Except that there isn't. A quick look at the Dodgers' lineup shows that Matt Kemp isn't back yet. That's a good sign for the Giants. So don't look at the probable pitchers, lest--
6/25: Eovaldi (0-3, 2.35 ERA) v. Zito (5-5, 4.35 ERA)
6/26: Kershaw (0-1 against Vogelsong) v. Vogelsong (6-3, 2.41 ERA)
6/27: Billingsley (4-6, 4.15) v. Lincecum (nothing to see here)
So you had to look. The Dodgers rolled the dice and miss Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain. Well, think sweep all you want, but if the Giants gain a game out of this series, that's a victory, too.

By the way, you shouldn't miss this GIF (via McCovey Chronicles):

You just have enough time to start collecting your thoughts and then it cuts to the part where the swings are in sync, and...what was I saying?

Oh, of course, during the month of June, Brandon Belt has posted a .340/.463/.642 slash line. This is the kind of GIF that makes you think that there will be more of that, and less of the uneven part of his season.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Giants Pick Up Lincecum

Aside from their 3-1 record against the Athletics, interleague play has been mostly disappointing for the Giants, and especially Giants fans. Fortunately, the only interleague games that remain are against the A's. Tonight, Madison Bumgarner takes on Tyler Ross, and tomorrow, Matt Cain faces Brandon McCarthy.

But last night, at least at first, was about Tim Lincecum. His season remains baffling. He gives up three straight hits, walks Cespedes, there's that odd fielder's choice, and with a walk to Inge, it's 3-0 Oakland. No outs.

The A's had won eight of their last nine games. Hell, they swept the Dodgers. Tim Lincecum's on the mound, and that hasn't been a comforting thought this season. And then he strikes out the next three batters. And that was pretty much all the A's accomplished until Josh Reddick hit a home run to center in the bottom of the ninth.

And the only reason the game reached the bottom of the ninth is because the Giants unexpectedly scored four runs in the top half of the inning. They haven't exactly been putting together ninth inning come from behind victories very frequently this season. How about once: Angel Pagan's game winning home run in Cincinnati on April 26th.

If you watched the whole game, you felt like you deserved it. Yet there's not much to take from this game, except that the Dodgers lost in Anaheim. Giants are three back.

Has Lincecum turned his season around? Who knows. 

Something, Giants offense, something, something? Yeah, me neither.

Whatever it is, keep beating the A's.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Matt Cain's Perfect Game

Three innings in, the Giants were up on the Astros, eight to nothing. By the fifth, it was ten to zip. After a long home run drought at home for the Giants offense, Cabrera, Belt, and Blanco put up three to follow Bumgarner's and Belt's last night.

And then, by the top of the sixth inning, it was clear that something bigger could be happening. By the seventh, they needed everything to keep it alive...

...and Gregor Blanco was there just in time. (Can somebody make a GIF of that?)  Update:

By the end of the ninth, the only numbers that mattered were: Matt Cain, nine innings pitched, no hits, no runs, no walks, and a career high fourteen strike outs, in 125 pitches.

The twenty-second perfect game in Major League history, and the very first in the one hundred and twenty nine year history of the New York/San Francisco Giants team.

All star games, Cy Young awards, people get those every year. Matt Cain's got a perfect game.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Mariners Throw No Hitter Against the Dodgers

Tonight was the first time that the Giants were shutout this season. You knew it was going to happen, I knew it was going to happen, maybe even the Giants knew, after the first few innings, that it was bound to happen. The lineup, as you know, lacked Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, (Brandon Belt,) and Pablo Sandoval. Not that the rest of the guys are too shabby...but--

Oh, look at that, the Mariners just threw a combined no hitter against the Dodgers. See, things could be worse. The Mariners could have done that to the Giants. Instead, tonight they offer consolation for our ennui. Be sure to send thank you cards to Kevin Millwood (who pitched the first six innings, but was pulled due to an injury), Charles Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, and Tom Wilhemsen. Or, perhaps, save those cards until after June 17th, to avoid some kind of cognitive dissonance if they happen to embarrass the Giants.

Now, where was I? The Giants, of course. Well, before tonight's game, the talk was that we wouldn't see Pablo Sandoval until Tuesday. After nine innings of the Giants providing live infield drills, management has decided to end his rehab stint. To make room for the Panda, Brett Pill has been optioned back to Fresno. You'd think that this would open some space for Brandon Belt, even against lefties, but the Giants don't want to clear up too much confusion just yet:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Texas Rangers Preview

At some point over the last week I got caught up in the Giants' 6-1 run against the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres. A majority of these games were so fun to watch that I hadn't really been thinking of stats and standings or even snark. Who knew, for instance, that the Giants would head down to Petco Park and there would be, relatively speaking, a home run derby? (Of course, that's easier to say when the Giants took the series--and since Steve Edlefsen was nice enough to give up a walk off home run after only two pitches in the bottom of the ninth I didn't even have time to get angry).

Next thing I know, the Giants are 33-25, which is the third best record in the National League. It's also the same record as the Texas Rangers. All things considered, the Giants could be catching a break this weekend. The Rangers are 3-7 over their last ten games. With Pablo Sandoval out, the lack of a designated hitter takes one bat out of the hands of the Rangers. And, while he's been a bit of a wild card, the Giants will dodge Yu Darvish (and the injured Derek Holland). Instead, they face Matt Harrison (4.37 ERA), Scott Feldman (7.01 ERA), and Alexi Ogando (2.27 ERA). I've followed San Francisco closely enough to know that listing these ERAs won't do much in the way of predicting how the Giants' offense will fare. Especially this lineup:
Blanco LF, Theriot 2B, Pagan CF, Sanchez C, Pill 1B, Arias 3B, Schierholtz RF, Crawford SS, Zito SP
But I'd like to think, after the last seven games, that they've got a good chance of winning this series.

As always, whether the Giants take this series of not rests, as it often does, on the pitching. Lately, I should probably stipulate, the starting pitching. I don't usually say negative things about members of the Giants, but with the recently hobbled bullpen, I don't exactly look forward to seeing Steve Edlefsen or Shane Loux warming up, let alone taking the mound. I suppose this is a very roundabout way to say that I look at George Kontos's Fresno numbers--1.71 ERA in 31.2 IP with a 7.4 SO/9--and I think, "now there's an alternative to sink that doesn't sink, and sliders that don't slide. And he's on the 40-man roster!"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Giants Edge Past the Cubs

Until tonight's game started, I didn't really know what to say about the Chicago Cubs. They had a twelve game losing streak until the Padres visited Chicago, and then they swept the Padres. Now they're in San Francisco for four games. Were the Giants going to face a team that's getting hot? Were the Padres a fluke? Did I just kick two different teams while they're down?

Theo Epstein is their President. Starlin Castro is the shortstop, Darwin Barney is at second, and I'd remember a few more of their players if they had more names like Darwin or Castro. Maybe a Galileo Malone. A Mike Leibniz. An Ernie Banks.

In any case, like many of the other posts, I have a strong urge to talk offense. Blame 2011, but I've spent most of my time commending the likes of Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, and Gregor Blanco, while taking the pitching for granted. The quick cure for this is to sit through any number of hobbled rotations and bullpens touring around the AL East or even, as we will next week, watch the Padres.

But after letting Ryan Vogelsong's last quality start slip by (7IP, 6H, 1ER, 3BB, 8K, with lots of gutsy pitch selections to get those Ks), I vowed to talk pitching. Through eight innings, it looked like a great night to do so. Madison Bumgarner had eleven strikeouts, no earned runs, no walks, but six hits (two of which were erased by the two double plays that Steve Clevenger grounded into). It looked like he might pitch his first shutout. After two hits in the ninth, and an Alfonso Soriano home run given up by Santiago Casilla, we could question whether or not Bochy should have pulled Bumgarner (whose final line is 8IP, 8H, 2ER, 11K). Fortunately, Javier Lopez made it a moot point.

For a moment there, I thought I'd have to rewrite this whole entry--as you can't really make bad jokes about a team when they come back from a four run deficit. Instead, I get to mention that after five straight losses by the Dodgers, the Giants are only four games back.

So, back to the offense. Although things quieted down after the first three innings, Melky Cabrera had another multi-hit game. Angel Pagan now has a twenty-five game hitting streak at home, which is the longest streak in the Giants' organization since at least 1918 (apparently the data wasn't so Baseball Reference and #SFGStats ready back then). 

Cabrera and Pagan have been hot at the plate, so how about some less likely news? Ryan Theriot reached base on every plate appearance, with three hits and a walk. Looks like he might want to keep his sorta-starting second base job when Pablo Sandoval returns. If the Cubs keep things up--they're 18-33 at the moment--do you think they'd be willing to give up Darwin Barney? The Giants already have a Christopher Marlowe in their organization.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vogelsong v. Sanchez

Who knew, at the start of last night's game, that the Giants would win 14-7? In San Francisco, the Marlins outscored the Giants 8-5 over three games. Through the first five innings, it looked like another one of those games.

Bottom of the Second, no outs. Marlins 1-0.
Giancarlo Stanton homers. Damn. Anibal Sanchez is pitching. He's got a 0.87 ERA over his past four starts against the Giants. This could be embarrassing.

Top of the Fourth, one out. Tied 1-1.
Cabrera scores on Pagan single. If we could get one more of these elusive runs, we could win this.


Top of the Sixth, one out. Giants 5-1.
Pagan scores on Belt single. Get down! Get down! Get down! Belt finally catches a break. With the Giants' bullpen, this is like scoring 14 runs.

Top of the Ninth, no outs. Giants 14-7.
Pill grounds into double play. Joaquin Arias scores. Whoa, they really did score 14 runs. Lincecum could probably use some of this run support tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Marlins Preview

Not so long ago, I wrote:
With any luck, [the Giants will] also face Miami (7-11) and Milwaukee (9-10) before either of those two teams get hot.
As it turns out, the Giants finished their two series with the Brewers with four wins and two loses. If the Brewers put together a winning streak later in the season, the Giants won't have to face them.

The Marlins have been a different story. By the time they got to San Francisco, they were 8-14.  I'm sure you remember what happened after that. Today, when the two teams will square off in Miami for a four game series, Miami's record is 24-20. In a way, the Giants and their meager offense helped ignite this 16-6 run, and perhaps they can shut it down. I really want to point out that last year, after being swept by the Marlins at home, the Giants took the series in Florida 2-1, but many variables have changed. This year, the Marlins have upped the kitsch and pushed out the fences in the new stadium. Part of the Giants success, I'd imagine, will rest on how they play these spacious outfields--tracking down fly balls on defense and using the gaps on offense. I'd also like to think that a healthy Buster Posey will make a difference.

I would also think that we'll see more of Brandon Crawford batting second. Hey, small sample size and all, but in the seven games that Crawford's batted second, he's put up (in 35 plate appearances) a .281/.343/.344 slash line, aided and abetted by a .450 batting average on balls in play. That's clearly an unsustainable BABIP, and thinking that he'll sustain those numbers is unrealistic. However, it's worth noting that if we expand the scope, and look at the month of May, he's batted a more consistent (compared to a terrible April) .261/.338/.319 (in 77 PA).

Did I mention that the Giants have five active batters with their respective OBPs around .350 (Sandoval, of course, being on the DL still)?

Melky Cabrera .356 .404 .506 159
Pablo Sandoval .316 .375 .537 158
Gregor Blanco .244 .371 .326 102
Buster Posey .300 .365 .486 141
Brandon Belt .226 .350 .333 97
Angel Pagan .294 .339 .447 123
Generated 5/24/2012.

Since the last time I looked, Arias and Pill have fallen off the list, but it appears that Angel Pagan as gotten very serious about not making outs by seeing more pitches and taking more walks. It's notable that three guys on that list are in the outfield. Though they don't have Pat Burrell's three-run-home-run power that Bochy appreciates, I'd say that Cabrera, Pagan, and Blanco are a significant improvement over last year's bunch.