Sunday, October 19, 2014

Five keys to another SF Giants World Series victory

It's down to a race to four wins as the San Francisco Giants face the Kansas City Royals in this year's World Series. It's the Giants 3rd trip in the last 5 years while the Royals haven't been since 1985. I remember that Royals team only because the first ever issue of Sports Illustrated I got in the mail was after they won it all.

The Royals have won 8 straight games this postseason to win the AL flag while the Giants have gone 8-2, only losing once in each round on their way to the NL flag. Both teams were in the Wild Card game this season. Kansas City came back at home against the A's and the Giants shutout the Pirates on the road. This is the second all Wild Card World Series. The Giants lost the first back in 2002 to the Angels but that's ancient history now.

Thanks to the stupid rule about the All-Star game winner getting home-field the Giants will start this series on the road in Kansas City Tuesday night. To be fair though, the Royals had one more win than the Giants so in my perfect world they would have home-field advantage anyway. Speaking of win totals.

I discovered that little nugget while researching for the NLCS. It's because of this, that many are calling this a "boring" World Series matchup and the "worst World Series ever". If you're truly a baseball fan, and I'm guessing you are since you're reading this, this is a great matchup for a Fall Classic.

Here's my 5 keys to the Giants bringing another trophy back home to San Francisco.

Madison Bumgarner

He's started 4 of the Giants first 10 playoff games and will start Game 1 of this series in Kansas City. It's another opportunity for the Giants to bring their "horse" out to try to steal home-field advantage. Bumgarner has thrown 16.2-straight scoreless innings on the road in this year's playoffs. It was his dominating stuff in Game 1 of the NLCS that shifted the favor towards the Giants.

If he can keep the speedsters off the bases, Bumgarner should have a shot at grabbing the first game in Kansas City. Who knows? If he wins that game the NLCS MVP may give himself another chance to close out a series in the 5th game.

Buster Posey

Not for the reasons you're thinking. It's the aforementioned KC running game that he needs to neutralize. We saw what the Royals can do against the A's when given the freedom to run. Posey has to be a shut down force in that area. He can do that too with his arm and his ability to guide Giants pitchers.

Also who am I kidding? Posey's bat needs to come through as well. Although if he hits another 7 singles and the Giants win the series in 5 games, I'd be good with that too.

Middle of the Order

I know I said I'd be OK with Posey hitting singles and the Giants winning, but that's not what they need to have happen. The middle of the lineup has to start cranking it up. As a team the Giants have 17 extra base hits in 10 games. That's not a high powered offense.

Hunter Pence (3 doubles), Brandon Belt (1 HR), and Pablo Sandoval (4 doubles) have gotten some key hits, but also left plenty of runners stranded. If any one of those 3 guys gets it going it should be a big boost to the middle of the lineup. Travis Ishikawa (2 doubles, ONE REALLY BIG HR) is not going to always do the heavy lifting.

Infield Defense

It's not an area that I think the Giants need to improve, just an area that could use some attention this series. Fielders need to Make the plays that are given to them. We saw in the last series how important it is just to make the routine play during a high stress situation. The Royals like to run and bunt. There's no need for any infielder to try to make the extra play if an out is there. Take the out and work on the next guy.

According to ESPN Stats & Info the Giants have had the best infield defense in this year's playoffs. Continuing that trend will keep rallys at a minimum and allow pitchers to get out of jams.

Bruce Bochy

He's a key to any playoff series the Giants are playing. Once again it will be up to his magic touch to guide this team home. It doesn't even seem fair to Ned Yost that he has to face Bochy in his first World Series. But those are the breaks and the Giants have one of the best managers of all time.

It's hard to think that Bochy won't continue to press the right buttons. He will have a huge impact on this series with both his in-game moves and lineup choices. I mean it's worked until now, so why question it?

It's "Destiny" vs "Dynasty" or as I like to call it "Young & Dumb" vs "Been there, done that". The Giants are looking like a modern dynasty and it's up to the newcomer Royals to spoil the party. As usual I will be hanging on every pitch but hope that I can stop and smell the roses along the way. After all, what good would a 3rd title be if it's not fun along the way?

Giants will win in 5 games and finally get to celebbrate at home.

@2outhits on Twitter

Seeing SF Giants go to World Series will never get old

David J. Phillip, AP

Here are my thoughts about the National League champion Giants. It's a couple days late because I haven't been feeling too well. I don't get sick often so the timing was not ideal. I jotted down some things in my notebook as I lay curled on the couch and here's what rattled around my head.

What a sight it was to see Travis Ishikawa deliver the San Francisco Giants another National League pennant. To read what he's been through and now he'll be remembered forever. I had no idea he was thinking of retiring during the middle of the season. If it was reported, I totally missed it.

As long as they play Major League Baseball the name Travis Ishikawa will be remembered for sending his team to a World Series with a game-ending home run. Travis Ishikawa. Still blows my mind.

They screwed up the MVP choice. That's not to say that Madison Bumgarner wasn't deserving, he was a worthy choice, but Ishikawa had a line on it too even before the home run. That's on whoever runs the vote for MLB. Henry Schulman tweeted that votes were cast even before the game was over.

It's time to change that. They take 15 minutes to set the stage up. How hard would it be to give the writers some sort of window after the game ends to get their vote in? Is 5 minutes too short? 10 minutes maybe? It's an electronic day and age so there has to be a way to tabulate votes in a quick fashion. Something, anything.

That being said, Bumgarner was an absolute beast the other night. After allowing the second of two solo home runs in the top of the 4th inning he retired the next 13 straight Cardinals hitters. Amazingly only 3 of those were K's and 2 of those were pitcher Adam Wainwright. It just shows how much smarter of a pitcher Bumgarner has become.

Giving his team a chance to win has become what Bumagarner does. It's great to see him getting the national recognition now. He's in line to start Game 1 of the World Series in Kansas City. I'm glad he gets the reward of another Game 1. It will be Bumgarner's 5th start in the Giants 11th postseason game. Also in his favor is a streak of 26.2 straight scoreless innings on the road in the postseason. That includes 16.2 during this year's run.

Something I noticed while watching all the fun after the Giants clinched.

It's exactly what you want to hear from your players no matter which team you're rooting for. It's why I'm proud to be a Giants fan, and of this team in particular.

I did not have Joe Panik in the home run pool. Neither did you. If you missed it, Dave Tobener had a great story on West Coast Bias about that home run. Also, here's the CliffsNotes version.

That's a professional approach from a rookie. I think Joe Panik is going to be around for a while.

I have a ton to say about Bruce Bochy but I'm going to save it for a future piece. My favorite move from Game 5 was when he went out to get Santiago Casilla in the 9th inning. The man is not afraid.

I'll never take for granted a trip to the World Series. It's just stunning the way this team, this organization, conducts itself. I tip my cap to Brian Sabean for yet another National League flag.

I'll have a World Seires preview up Monday so I hope you'll be back to check that out. Thanks again for reading!

@2outhits on Twitter

Monday, October 13, 2014

Can Giants rebound from tough loss? Yes!

 Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants lost Game 2 of the NLCS 5-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night. It was an epic, heart-stopping, roller coaster of a ride that ended with a thud for Giants fans.

All of the decisions made by Bruce Bochy have been covered locally and nationally by the writers. We've all heard about the Cards and their amazing home runs after ranking last in the NL. The narrative of a "gritty" Giants team owning October baseball has been written, and rewritten again.

So what happens now? Where does the 2014 NLCS turn as it heads to San Francisco for 3 games at AT&T Park?

For starters, the strained left oblique of Yadier Molina is a huge blow to the Cardinals. Before the NLCS started John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote about how Molina and Buster Posey are the backbones of their respective teams. These quotes from Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter jumped out at me.
You can’t say enough about what he means to this team, from a defensive standpoint, leadership standpoint and obviously what he does at the plate. He’s the backbone of this clubhouse. He’s hard to replace
I’m sure everybody in the room would feel their role is irreplaceable, but he might be the one guy that truly hits home with. You lose him, the whole dynamic of this team changes. His importance is huge. He’s our leader.
It appears that Molina is not being shut down for the remainder of the series. During today's workout Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he thinks Molina can still contribute. I get what he's trying to say, but if Molina can't swing a bat then what help can he really be?

It's not just the bat. Molina guides the Cardinals pitching staff as an extension of Matheny. I don't think Tony Cruz or (gasp!) A.J, Pierzynski is going to be able to fill that role. Managing the bullpen is tough as it is, not having Molina to guide them is going to make it tougher on the Cards. It's unfortunate for the game that Yadier Molina got hurt, but the Giants need to take advantage while they can.

Now Molina being hurt may not swing an entire series. There's still plenty that needs to be done by the Giants to advance.

There are too many wasted opportunities being left on the bases by the Giants. Through 2 games the Giants are 5-for-20 (.250) with runners in scoring position. It looks a lot better than it is because the Giants are not getting any extra base hits to drive in runs. They have stranded 19 runners on the bases through the first 2 games.

Generally the Giants are a station to station baseball team. If no one is driving the ball, they are limited to singles. Because of this, the bases get clogged up and the Giants end up stranding the runners. A home run, or even a double, would go a long way towards igniting the Giants offense.

Compare that to the Cards who are only 1-for-8 with RISP with 11 runners left on base so far in the NLCS. Four of the 5 runs scored by the Cards have been via the solo home run. The bullpen has limited the damage, but there's work to be done. That leads me right in to the last adjustment that really needs to be made by the Giants.


Bruce Bochy needs to make some adjustments with the bullpen. Losing Sunday night's game in the manner they did will cause the Giants staff to reevaluate how certain relievers are used. The point about Strickland is driven home. Big league hitters can hit fastballs and he's not fooling anybody. The best bet is to use Strickland for 1 batter when a strikeout is absolutely needed. Against a righty of course.

I had no problem with Bochy's use of Jeremy Affeldt for 2 innings, I thought that was one of his best moves this weekend as Affeldt shut down the Cards. It was his use of Javier Lopez and Jean Machi that was concerning. Lopez warmed up multiple times, only to be brought in after a lefty had homered off Machi. I think Bochy got caught trying to squeeze a little too much out of his guys.

It's as if all of the bullpen took their lumps in one game and now can move past it. That was the first time since Game 2 of the 2010 NLDS that the Giants bullpen blew a postseason game. That's astonishing, and a testament to 2 world championships. Now it's time for Bochy to move the pieces around for maximum strength.

I will note here quickly that I was also on board with Sergio Romo pitching the 9th. He has been better than expected over the last month or so. Romo finished the season giving up just 2 runs over his last 19.1 innings pitched. Entering Sunday night's fatal 9th inning Romo had gone his last 11 postseason outings without allowing a run.

So will the Giants make the proper adjustments they need and win the series? I say yes. I'm standing by my prediction of the Giants winning in 6 games from my NLCS preview. For once the Giants have managed to handle a streak of bad games at the plate and still come out with some victories. If we suddenly see the offense that appears during hot streaks, the Giants are going to be a tough team to stop.

I joined the guys over at TortureCast again to talk about the frst 2 games of the NLCS. It was a full house and I found out I'm not the only one that's confident in this team. Click the link and have a listen.

TortureCast Episode 74: NLCS Tied 1-1

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter