Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hot Stove Fun


     By not making a lot of moves this off season the Giants are making the right moves. Game 1 of the 2013 season is going to look much like Game 1 of the World Series this year. As it stands the exact same outfield and infield will be starters come Opening Day. The only difference will be Cain instead of Zito.

     Now as a Giant fan the tendency is to fret because it seemed as if the club tried to do exactly the same thing from 2010 to 2011. The difference is that the 2012 Giants didn't need career years from a bunch of players. Pagan may just be hitting his potential, Pence is a solid major league right fielder, the whole infield is young, Scutaro excluded. But he's a vet. Posey won an MVP in his third year. It's not unreasonable to think he will only get better.

     There's no Aubrey Huff in the bunch. No Pat Burrell, or Edgar Renteria. Cody Ross is not always going to be Babe Ruth. No Juan Uribe to fly those hands through the zone then show us his palms. No more guys that hit a bunch of HR's in career years or redemption years. The 2012 squad is the opposite of that. And that's why it seems Sabes wants to follow the same blueprint from this year's model.

      Angel Pagan for 4 years and $40 mil looks like a steal after Victorino got 3/$39. Scutaro got the third year he wanted from the Giants. But tell me, would you not want a veteran Marco Scutaro coming off your bench in 2015? Even Pagan as a 4th outfielder makes sense towards the end of his deal. The Giants are not paying frauds that proved their worth in other parks. They are paying the guys that can get it done in the ballpark that is built for them.

     Starting Pitching is set. We all know that. We need a bounce back year from Timmy. In the bullpen I am totally ok with letting Brian Wilson go. At $6.8 mil he was just too much of an unknown. He has had 2 Tommy John surgeries and the Giants do not have the best luck rehabbing closers. So let it be a fight for the job, which I expect Sergio will win.

      Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy have this team in place the way they want. If starting pitching stays healthy there is no reason the Giants won't contend for a title again next year. Sabean does make moves mid season and I am curious to see what they can do next year. If the Giants have a hole, he will try to fill it. 

69 days until Pitchers & Catchers report.

Eric Nathanson

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"My Man"

   
     Buster Posey won the National League MVP award the other day. It was his first one. He could have more. This was his first full season in the Majors. He came up in late May back in 2010, and we all know what happened last year. Of course two years ago he also won the ROY. It seems that whoever Buster gets judged against, he stands above. We may be seeing a legend in the making here. He is a big part of the reason there is hope for a sustained run of success. Who knows, we may be entering a time of dominance for the Giants not seen since the Yankees of old. It seems possible, and Buster Posey would be right in the center of it.

     When you look back on those dominant Yankee teams of the 50's under Casey Stengel, the player that comes to mind is not Mickey Mantle, it's Yogi Berra. The real anchor of that team. Now I know I wasn't alive back then to watch Yogi play, but I have been reading about it my whole life. The most influential baseball era in my life before the current Giants, was the late 40's thru the late 50's. That's what shaped my baseball fandom because it's what my Dad grew up on. And seeing as how Mom was a teacher and had me reading at an early age, what else would I read about? I have read so much about that time in Baseball that I feel like I have lived it. I digress, the point is Yogi and Buster.

     Casey Stengel used to say that when Yogi was in the lineup that he was never worried because he had who he liked to call "My Man". Essentially Stengel felt like he turned the keys over to Yogi to lead on the field. Bruce Bochy has done the same with Buster. He said as much during the various press conferences during the playoffs. Buster is in the driver's seat for the team. Not many players can be singled out as leaders so easily, but this is what makes them great.

     Neither Buster nor Yogi were full time catchers growing up. Berra had to basically learn the craft at the Major League level his first few years. Buster was a SS and pitcher, catching came to him in college. It's as if they were identified as the type of guy you just want to build around. Now I know Yogi is a character, but that's not on the field. When he stepped out to play a game, all that mattered was winning. Posey is from that same mold.

     Buster is on track to have a Hall of Fame resume. If you add in the fact that his team may also win multiple championships, he'd be in an elite class. Yogi seems to be this class. Their beginnings are very similar, and barring injures Buster could win a few more MVP's and WS trophies. Yogi had 3 MVP's and won 10 championships. In this day and age it's tough to think Buster can get to 10, but putting up 4 or 5 might be very likely.

     I thought the best way to compare the early years of Yogi and what Buster has done so far was to break it down in to an avg of 162 games. So what the production is over a season. I used Yogi's first 4 years to match up with Posey's first 3 because Berra wasn't really full time until his 3rd year. He also had a different manager for his first 2 years before Stengel took over in 1949.

Buster (162 game avg.): .318 BA/188 H/590 AB/666 PA/25 HR/36 2B/82 R/63 BB/97 SO

Berra  (162 game avg): .300 BA/182 H/606 AB/649 PA/25 HR/30 2B/98 R/39 BB/25 SO

     As you can see they are very comparable in production. Buster hits a little better for average and walks more, Yogi strikes out less. Otherwise it's basically a toss up.

     As the years went by Yogi played catcher less and less. It can only be assumed the same will probably be done with Buster. He already plays 1st at times, but he could be headed for left field someday. Yogi finished up his years primarily as an outfielder. If Buster Posey continues to be Bochy's "Man", he may one day be as decorated as the great Yogi Berra.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits

By the way I get all my baseball stats from  http://www.baseball-reference.com/


Sunday, October 28, 2012

It could be today.

     
     Well here we are. One game away from the San Francisco Giants winning another World Series. I had to sit here for a minute after I wrote that first line to let it sink in. There's no underdog story to be written. I know there are lots of great stories, the Giants just don't seem like an underdog to me. The players are talented, and play as a team.

     The way Game 3 played out was very similar to many games this year. It wasn't quite a scary close game. You just knew the Giants were in control. The way they pitched last night it reminded you of a mid afternoon game that you listen to more than watch. You keep the tv on in the background and tune in at the important parts. But you continue on about housework, cooking, etc. It was a game that once the Giants had a lead, it was over. We've seen it a million times.

     Now, they stand on the doorstep of a championship. These past 10 days have been, without question, the best 10 days in the history of the franchise. Every story you've read has the dominating numbers. Timmy's crazy domination as a relief ninja. Or how the Starters are on a roll so great, that Barry Zito has 2 of the victories. 

     This team isn't storybook. Well Vogey is, but otherwise the Giants really aren't. They really are the combination of all the right things. They pitch, play defense, and hit like it's contagious. I love the fact that Bochy's favorite phrase is "Keep the line moving.", it is what I have always wanted in a Manager. They didn't get here by luck, it was by design.

     Consider that this Giants postseason run actually goes down as one of the most dominant of all time. They had a 3 game winning streak, on the road. And after taking a few games to figure out the Cardinals, they overwhelmed them in another 3 straight. Combine that with the 3 so far in the World Series, and you have one helluva team. You don't rip off 6 straight by accident. After Angel Pagan was installed at the leadoff spot, the Giants never lost more than 2 in a row. They have done the same thing in these playoffs. Bochy found his lineup and he likes it. He has done a great job. I am more impressed by him every day. 

     Hopefully tonight we all get to raise a glass in celebration. Toast the team and organization that has brought winning baseball to San Francisco. I'm thrilled that they did, and I love the ride. If it's not tonight, it's still going to happen. I don't think Detroit can play more than one flawless game to beat the Giants. Because that is what it will take at this point. So I pick the Giants to wrap it up and bring that trophy home. Something like, 5-2.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Break In The Action


     Never.

     That's when I always figured the Giants would be relevant. Not in my lifetime. I know, I know, we've had our chances. In 1987 i was an 8 year old boy running from one room to another to update my father on the game. They had people over and I was his link to the Giants. I was hooked. The 1984 World Series was the first postseason series I remember. The 1987 NLCS was where I learned to understand. I knew what a hit and run was, could cheer for a double play, and knew the good player's strengths. And that's where I learned heartbreak. I have hated the Cardinals my whole life. Seven game series are rare, and I hung on every pitch. 


     I grew up outside Chicago. My Dad was originally from New York. His childhood was Willie, Mickey, and the Duke. Even though the Giants left he stayed with them. Mays was his guy, and stayed that way. Willie's my guy too, and I'll fight anyone one in the world that disputes he's the greatest of all time. But I digress. I grew up a Giants fan, and all my friends were Cubs fans. They hate the Cards too. But they don't understand. To them it's bred, like hating the Packers. To me, hating St Louis was so much more. They broke my heart. They haven't really done that to the Cubs. 1989 helped, 1998 kinda wiped it away. 


     But that's the kind of Giants teams I had growing up. Every few years they would get good for a year or two. And then push you off a cliff and make you wonder why you love them so much. Usually you get a few years to lick your wounds. But they come back. In 1989 I never really thought we would beat the big bad A's. It was the Bash Brothers, it was their time. We had 1993. Excitement. Dusty Baker, the new kid on the block gave us hope. Barry Bonds was playing up to his contract and all was right in the world. A new era has begun. 103 wins? Shit, we'll win the World Series. But, no. Fuckin Bobby Cox, and his stable of Pitchers. What does Dusty do on the last day of the season, do or die? He puts in Salomon Torres. A kid. And not a Timmy, or Strasburg kid. Just a kid. And he got shelled by Piazza and the Dodgers and it was over.
     The 2000 NLDS was exciting. New ballpark and all, but that was just a taste. But it was 2002 and the bookend of Dusty Baker's daggers. He did it again. This time he made the playoffs. And beat the damn Cardinals. It was gonna be historic. Barry Bonds in his "2nd" prime. Kenny Lofton's magical bunt. Darren Baker. JT Snow. THIS! This was going to be our champions to remember forever. And then Dusty handed the ball to Russ Ortiz. He assumed too much. And it didn't cost just him. It shredded all of us. To pieces. 


     2003 was a great year. In my humble opinion I believe before this year, that the 2003 team was our most talented. But we had Felipe and his 8 million pitching changes, and Jose Cruz Jr. To this day whenever I see or hear his name all I think is loser. He didn't just blow a play, he then quit on his team. We had Bonds to help lick the wounds for a few years, but the act was tired. It was fun to watch but it had to end. Bruce Bochy to his credit accommodated Bonds in that last year. He knew there was something else in store for our Giants. He and Sabean knew it better than all of us. Our heartache may soon end.


     It came in the form of a tiny, skinny, contortionist of a pitcher. He came on and was brilliant. Suddenly you notice, why Matt Cain's already been here like 10 years. The team has a plan. The beautiful ballpark that Giants fans love can be used as an advantage. No need to try to yank balls down the right field line. Let's get pitching. And bless their hearts they tried. I remember being happy about that Zito deal. Usually pitchers coming over from the AL, do better in the NL. They gain a couple of free outs facing the pitcher every time out. There's a DH (ptooey ptooey) in the AL. 


     It was then that Timmy began to show us the way. He won Cy Young awards in his first two full seasons. He basically laid out how to be a strikeout/flyball pitcher at AT&T. Cain had it figured out too, he just never got run support. As the Giants gathered pitching, they decided to draft one Gerald Dempsey Posey. They knew that if this kid could learn to be a big league catcher, then they had their leader. Before the 2010 season I told my good friend Karen that the Giants were going to the series that year. This was a declaration I had never uttered before a season. I'm not a "this is our year" every year guy. You have to evaluate your team and know their capabilities. This was the first time I could think of that I thought my favorite team might win it all. I was excited, and deservedly so.


     I'm not going to recap the stomach wrenching games of the regular season. Torture was torture, we all lived through it. You could see it take shape in the NLDS. The way the Giants win baseball games is by out pitching you, while continuing to keep the line moving. I call it a carousel. It's why the Panda was loved so early, contact. The more our guys put the ball in play, and the less we let their guys put it in play, the better. So by having high contact guys, the formula should work. And it does. Moves like the trade for pitching help mid season 2010, or the Cody Ross pickup. 


     The night of November 1, 2010 will be remembered forever. I was in a hotel room in Florida. My dad was back home. We talked after every game. He was always one of those fans that would worry. Do we have enough pitching? Defense? What if the ghost of Edgar Renteria decides to leave? I stayed pretty calm. But that was my role. I believed we finally had a team that year. And the Giants went out and showed everyone how really good baseball gets played. My dad was 6 when the Giants won in 1954. They then left him. He waited until he was 62 to see them win again. All that heartbreak. All that torture. Gone. They won it for his guys. All his guys needed it. For Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Davenport, the Alous, Robby, Will the Thrill, Dravecky, all of them. All the close but not quite for so long. Erased in one stroke.


     That 2010 team was more like a culmination. A buildup of all Giants history coming out. I'm glad my father got to see it. He deserved it. But sadly, this year it was my dad's turn to leave the Giants. He passed 18 days before this season started. He knew nothing of "Melk Men", our new closer, or Marco Scutaro. He had no idea about freaky Reverend Hunter Pence, a Panda that's lovable again, and the reclamation of Barry Zito. Who I might add my dad also loved the signing 6 years ago. But it's ok. This is a different team. 2010 was to reward our lifelong love affairs with the Giants. To say thank you for being a fan. The best thing my father ever did to me was introduce me to this love. I will forever be in his debt, and watch every game with him in my heart. (and on my back, i wear one of his shirts for luck)


     We could be in the midst of history. The Giants are 2 wins away from a title. I have been very calm these first couple of games. I just think we've got the better team. Sabean brings in the right type of player for the organization, both on and off the field, and Bochy moves the pieces around. This goes right on through. We have Buster Posey in his 2nd full season, having an MVP year and leading a staff after breaking his leg such a short time ago. The two Brandons aren't going anywhere. Belt can pick em with the best, and Crawford makes it look easy, the true mark of a good glove man. Pablo has his streaks, but when he finds his swing, he is on. That's good enough at 3rd, as long as he is healthy. Continue to mix and match outfielders that can cover ground, and a couple of hitters that consistently make contact. Now drop in Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez. If Wilson comes back, thats just stone cold sobering. 


     We have the tools to compete for the next few years. This is it. The time in my life that the Giants are relevant. They should close this World Series out in 5 or 6 now. I know I sound like an excited Giant fan. But trust me folks, I do have an eye for baseball. I played and umpired a long time. That's for another time. I'm not overly excited. These first 2 games have gone as I suspected they would. And there will be many more to come. It's our turn to have the best in the game. This is our time to have the Baseball world look upon us. Our heartache and sorrow is a distant memory. This team has a future. And I think it has multiple titles in it.

Eric Nathanson
follow me on twitter : @2outhits

Thursday, October 25, 2012

World Series Game 2 - Torture Revisited

     We've seen this happen before. These games, the close well pitched game. The one that turns on a fielding play or even a double play groundout. The San Francisco Giants have played this game many times. It could have been an April night against the Padres. An August game against a good pitcher. This used to be the norm. The Giants have been spoiling their fans with blowouts and home run parties. Tonight, was the return to Torture.

     Madison Bumgarner never seemed to let the moment get to him. He pitched like a man that has been there before. He had "it", whatever "it" is. It reminds me of a young Tom Glavine or Andy Pettitte start. Seven shutout innings to go with only 2 hits and 8 K's. He obviously figured out what was wrong. Couldn't have come at a better time. Was wonderful to watch and bodes well for the future.

     Manufacturing runs and scoring without a hit has been a staple of this team. They did it in Game 3 against the Reds. The difference this time is they also swung the bats. The amount of pitches the lineup continues to make the Tiger starters throw has been impressive. Fister threw 114 pitches. The Giants made contact with 50 pitches by my count. They make you work.

     The first run was started off with a great AB by Pence. Throughout the 7th the Giant hitters forced the Tigers to make pitches. Blanco's bunt was perfect. Kenny Lofton was probably smiling somewhere. Crawford's double play grounder was huge. The Tigers played double play depth to prevent the big inning, and they did. But their bats just couldn't get it going.

     Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo. Can't script a bullpen's work better. They both came in, did their job, with no frills. It was just a matter of beating each batter with each pitch. Bochy continues to use his relievers better than his counterparts, and is a huge reason the Giants are up 2 games. I applaud him for going to LHP to start both games at AT&T.

      Scutaro's play on the relay was Jeteresque. Defense has continued to give the Giants the upper hand. It should continue in Detroit's yard. It will be chilly and play big, just like home. Blanco, Belt, and Crawford have shown that they have gloves that are truly rally-killers.

      Tonight we were reminded that the Giants know how to win every way possible. Torture got to visit the bay one last time. It was spectacular. The way this team performs, the best may be yet to come.

follow me: @2outhits on twitter

World Series Game 1 - It's Bochy's World

     The 108th World Series started off with something never seen before. Pablo Sandoval connected for 3 home runs in his first 3 at bats tonight. He will, and deservedly so, get all the press tonight. He had the big swings , and will now stand with Ruth (twice), Reggie, and Pujols, as the only players to ever have 3 HR’s in one World Series game. He tacked on a single in the 7th for good measure as well. His 13 total bases ranks 2nd all time for one game, behind only Albert’s 14 TB in his 3 homer game last year. Pablo had one less PA.
     The top four hitters in the Giants lineup went 10 for 16. None of the hits were cheap. Even Pagan’s double off the third base bag was solid contact. If it misses the bag, he’s on first. Cabrera did not charge that and would not have made the play. Both Angel and Marco had quality at bats in front of the Panda tonight. They did their job as table setters by getting on base, but the overwhelming amount of pitches they saw helped the rest of the lineup.
     Angel Pagan saw 22 pitches in his first 3 trips to the plate. He fouled 14 of them off. Verlander was forced to work, and show his stuff for Giants watching from the 3rd base dugout. Scutaro continued to stay locked in and take what pitchers are giving him. He saw 8 pitches after  Pagan’s double to set up Panda for his 2nd home run.
     What can you say about Buster too? He seemed to have his protection hitting in front of him instead of behind him (Pence 0-4 3K’s). When he dumped an inside fastball in to RF in the 7th, it was the eye and stroke of a batting champ. His heady play in the 4th to tag Young out and fire to 2nd was what you expect from a leader.
     Gregor Blanco was a force in LF tonight. He dove all over the place to snare liners.
     The most impressive pitching of the night belonged to Timmy. The disappearing sliders and change ups have returned.  He has somehow channeled his starts from his Cy Young seasons into relief appearances in the postseason. Unreal numbers too. 2.1 innings 32 pitches 20 Strikes 5K’s, all swinging. Only 1 hard hit ball. No hits, no runners. Nothing.
     Did we see Verlander struggling like this? No. Do the Giants capitailize whenever given a chance? Always. Even Barry Zito chipped in again with a run scoring hit off the seemingly lost Detroit starter.
     Whatever the boys by the bay are doing it is working. I don’t know if it’s because of clubhouse speeches, salutes, bows & arrows, or Arabian Horses. Once again they showed us what ballplayers can do when they keep the line moving and put the ball in play. Especially when they do it with 2 outs. 1 down, 3 to go. If Bumgarner is fixed, what great joy is Game 2 going to bring from that madhouse at AT&T.
     Strap in, we just started this series.

World Series Preview from 10/24/2012

Wrote this before series started. Put it on another blog. I like it better over here.


     I have been going back and forth over what key stat to look at in this Giants – Tigers matchup. And it seems to me when I look at any category the Giants hold an edge. I’d like to think I am so pro Giants just because I am a fan. But I believe that not only stats, but the eye test tells me this as well. Talent matters, for a whole lot. It’s why the Giants will probably lose at least one if not both of Verlander’s starts. But team matters as well.


     I’m not just talking about the heart and emotion stuff. I’m talking about a baseball team that plays like a machine. That’s what they have done the last 3 days. It’s what they did for another 3 days in Cincinnati as well.  They don’t seem to play as individuals. It’s like different pieces of a puzzle that come together. They just fit. And they know how to get it done. The lineup that the Tigers are putting out there is not much different than the 2010 Rangers.  Except they strike out more. They have a big left handed bat in the lineup Prince Fielder (Josh Hamilton) , and 2 threatening right handed batters in Cabrera and Garcia (Vlad, Cruz).


      The Giants rotation is doin work again. Vogey has it going best right now. Zito has confidence, but be honest. We have no idea which Barry Zito will show up. Will he walk 3 in the first inning and fall behind 2-0. Or will he be able to throw strikes and have the Tigers off balance. We really don’t know. Hopeful is the word to describe MadBum’s Game 2 start. He says he has fixed whatever mechanical flaw he had. Did he hit the wall? Or can he feed off the other starters and throw a good game. I haven’t even gotten to Timmy. He’s a weapon the Giants didn’t have in 2010. He can step in and seems to thrive in this middle relief role. He seems to have embraced it, and that can’t be discounted. Cain seems like he’s been a little amped up during his starts. It’s not a huge concern, I mean come on, he’s Matt Cain.
                The way the Giants approach hitting these last few days has been remarkable. When given an inch, they take a mile. It’s an attack mentality. When they see blood in the water they feast. By putting crooked numbers on the board it seems like the other team’s heart gets broken. The Cards seemed to know the monumental task in coming back on the Giants. This is a bullpen that Bruce Bochy manages so well. Every matchup is covered with Fielder in this Series because of 3 lefties.
                I admit Cabrera is going to probably hit a couple of doubles at AT&T. He drives the ball to the gaps so well, and that’s how the park plays. Prince is going to swing from his heels at the short right field line. He may yank one in the Cove. It won’t be the end of the world. It sounds stupid but simple. The Giants pitchers need to get the guys out that they are supposed to get out. You can’t let Alex Avila or Jhonny Peralta beat you.
                Up and down the lineup I feel like the Giants are a better team than they were 2 years ago. They just seem smarter. They do more of the little things that win games instead of getting that one 3 run homer and holding on with pitching. They put the ball in play consistently. Imagine if Buster gets his stroke back. Verlander’s fastball could speed up Hunter Pence’s bat and send him on a streak. Marco will do what Marco does. Belt seems to swing the bat well at home and homered on a 97 mph pitch on Monday night. Pagan has days where he is on base 3 times in 5 AB’s. He has others I which he K’s 4 times. Blanco has been a pleasant surprise with some clutch hits, but he’s there for his glove. And it’s been great to watch him play left.
                The Giants have all the ingredients of a championship team. Good pitching, timely hitting, and talent. The Tigers have plenty of great players as well, but they seem more like the team that outlasted some other crappy teams. I predict the Giants in 6 with one of the wins being a Timmy saves the day win. 2010 might have been magical, but what if the Giants were just getting started?