Saturday, July 27, 2013

It Was Just One Night

Christian Peterson/Getty Images


Last night's Giants game was about as heartbreaking as you can get for a team that is in 4th place and more than a week out of 1st place. 

It felt like a whole new way to lose a baseball game, but it really wasn't. Just like any other game there are many factors that lead up to the one crucial play that gets remembered forever.

Take the bottom of the 2nd. After Pablo Sandoval led off the inning with a double the Giants failed to score. Hunter Pence grounded out to 3rd and Pablo stayed at 2nd. Brandon Belt then grounded out to 1st, it moved Pablo over, but now there were two outs. Had Pence been able to move Sandoval to 3rd then Belt or Francouer would have had an easier chance to knock him in. 

Let's go to the top of the 6th. With 1 out Nate Schierholtz hit one deep to the left center field gap. Both Francouer and Blanco too bad routes to the ball and did not communicate. They both pulled up a little and the ball fell in. The play looked like it could have been made. The very next batter, Starlin Castro, hit one towards the middle that Tony Abreu dove for, and over shot the landing. The ball went to the outfield and the run scored. Abreu needs to knock that down even if there is no play to be made. 

How about that 9th inning? A leadoff single to Borbon, followed by a 4 pitch walk to Dioner Navarro. Romo got the next 2 guys on a strike out and a force out. Anthony Rizzo came to the plate with 2 out and runners on 1st and 3rd. The only two left handed hitters Romo had faced in the inning had reached safely. Romo's the closer, and in the world of baseball that often means going with the guy that got you there.

But in the world of instant social media, it all comes down to Belt. 

In the world of knee jerk reactions, and what have you done for me lately, it all comes down to Belt. 

In our world of hype, and wanting the next best thing, it all comes down to Belt.

I don't live in the Bay area. So when Brandon Belt was hyped to be the next great thing, I knew nothing about it. When everyone had high hopes, and big expectations, I was just curious to see how the new first baseman was going to play.

It's the expectation and promise that has colored the view of Belt. Brandon can be engaged through Twitter, share his fondness for Olive Garden, and write a decent blog post now and then. But if he dare strike out just once in a fly ball situation, a collective roar about potential not being reached emerges. Suddenly the guy that makes us chuckle is scorned.


I'm not buying it. The cornerstones of this Giants team should be Posey, Crawford, and Belt. From a pitching standpoint, it's Bumgarner and Cain. 

It's one error by Belt. He has saved countless more with his glove in the past. The Giants as a team lead the NL in errors. One ball through the legs shouldn't condemn a man's time in a Giants uniform. 

I don't look for the next great thing, a solid Major League player will be enough for me. The San Francisco Giants have that in Brandon Belt.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Where Have You Gone Angel Pagan?

CSN Bay Area


It's almost the end of July, which means, it's trading season. The San Francisco Giants are 46-55, which has them in 4th place right now. The Dodgers are currently on top of the West and the Giants sit 7.5 games behind them. 

The question on everyone's mind is, are the Giants buyers, or sellers? Every NL West team not named the Padres has led the division for a bit this season. No one is running away with it. Yes the Dodgers have been hot lately, and Arizona still has a solid club, but time has not run out, yet.

Do the Giants need to make a splashy trade to turn it around? Well, let's see what the needs of the club are first.

On May 25 Angel Pagan raced around the bases with his infamous inside the park walkoff HR. It's been 2 months now and that is where the season turned. Pagan was stable at the top of the lineup, and it gave the big boys a chance to drive in runs.

How has Pagan being out impacted the team? Here are some team numbers with, and without, Angel Pagan.

With Pagan: 27-22 (W-L) | 4.5 Runs/Gm | .329 OBP | .271 BA

Without Pagan: 19-33 | 3.4 R/Gm | .309 OBP | .256 BA

That's a full run per game difference. And it shows in the hitting numbers. Guys just aren't getting on base enough from the top of the lineup. Gregor Blanco has done an admirable job filling in, but he gets caught in a platoon some days and isn't always out there. 

I can't speculate on who the Giants may go get to fix this, or even if they will. But it sure seems like the offense could use a leadoff hitter again. We'll see if there is any movement over the next week.

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I'm just not sold on the idea that the Giants need another starter. It's the bullpen that needs the help. When Chad Gaudin slid into the starter role they lost their long man. After watching Petit the other day, they may have finally found the guy.

With a healthy Ryan Vogelsong back in the rotation, Barry Zito may be the odd man out. Chad Gaudin has pitched well enough to stay in the rotation, and Tim Lincecum has looked a lot better lately. Even in his last start he was getting bad swings on balls that weren't right over the plate. As evidenced a couple weeks ago, Lincecum can still be brilliant.

A trade similar to the ones that brought Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez in 2010 might be worth exploring. Yes the starting pitching has been shaky, but its the bullpen that could use a boost. 

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The next month the Giants play all their games outside of the NL West. So far this season that has not been a good thing. Against the West the Giants are 29-21, against everybody else they are 17-34. If the Giants are to be contenders in September, that has to change.

It's also about a month until I make my way to San Francisco for the first time, and personally, I cannot give up on this year's team before I go out there. Still looking to set up a meetup, details here

The Cubs are coming up next, can't wait to bring these memories back up during that series. Until next time folks, thanks for reading.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter




Thursday, July 18, 2013

While We Wait For Baseball...



Today is day two without baseball. I'm pretty sure when I was a kid the game started back up on Thursday and not Friday. What's up with this extra day off? It sucks. We want baseball.

It seems others feel that way. Yesterday, Bay Area Sports Guy posted a great blog that is worth a read. Check it out here. They are running a contest for both a pizza party and a trip to New York to see the Giants play the Mets and Yankees. If I lived in the area I'd be all over it, so go enter, that's a cool prize.

The question on the post is what Giants game would you go back in time to attend in person? I love it, just love the concept. I said any game Willie Mays played in because I never got to see him play. But it got me thinking. Since I can't go back in time to watch a game, what control do I have?

Well MLB.tv has all the games back through at least 2010, maybe even 2009. I don't know. What I do know is that I can go fire up any game I want, at anytime. So I can go back in time, I just have to do it through the magic of moving pictures.

Since 2010 was the first championship in San Francisco, I'm going to go back to the beginning of that season. There's no baseball on until Friday. So what do I watch in the meantime? Well my top 5 favorite regular season games since the start of 2010.

This is obviously skewed to the games that I most enjoyed and thought had an impact on the team. It's totally subjective. I have 5 games, and I don't think giving them an order or ranking does each individual game justice. They all stand out for different reasons.

So here's my top 5 favorite San Francisco Giants games since the start of 2010. In chronological order.

Friday April 9, 2010 - AT&T Park
Giants (5) Braves (4) 13 innings - Home Opener

This was the home opener for the 2010 season. The Giants came in rolling after sweeping Houston to start the season. The pitching looked dominant and fans were anxious to see their team. This game felt like the beginning of a long journey. 

Jonathan Sanchez started and was not effective. Tim Hudson started for the Braves and pitched a really good game. The Giants only managed 3 hits and 2 runs in his 7 innings. Even those runs came on ground outs. The Giants headed to the 9th down 4-2. 

Eugenio Velez led off the bottom of the 9th with a double off Billy Wagner. Aaron Rowand struck out swinging and Edgar Renteria stepped in. On a 1-2 pitch he hammered one deep in to the people to tie it at 4. The extra innings were not without great escapes. Brian Wilson loaded the bases in the 11th and Sergio Romo came in to bail him out. 

Finally, in the bottom of the 13th the fans got to go home happy. With one out Kris Medlen walked Juan Uribe. With Aaron Rowand at the plate next Uribe stole 2nd and scampered to 3rd after Brian McCann threw the ball in to CF. On the very next pitch Rowand hit a weak hopper that scooted far enough through the infield to score Uribe. Quite a home opener.

Sunday October 3, 2010 - AT&T Park
Giants (3) Padres (0) - Giants Clinch NL West

Again, Jonathan Sanchez started an important game on this list. Again, he wasn't brilliant. But no one remembers that. We all remember the triple that Sanchez hit off Mat Latos in the bottom of the third inning. The crowd was electric after that.

Torres struck out and with 2 outs it was up to Freddy Sanchez. If you're reading this than you know I love two out hits. Well, F. Sanchez hit a ball up the middle on a 0-1 pitch to score J. Sanchez. Aubrey Huff followed that up with a double and the Giants were ahead 2-0. This was the year of torture, and this game was no different.

The Padres had chances. They had runners in scoring position in each the 6th and 7th inning. Javy Lopez and Romo closed out the 8th with relative ease. Buster Posey hit a solo HR in the bottom of the 8th to give the Giants one more insurance run with Brian Wilson coming in for the 9th.

After a 10 pitch at bat that ended in a groundout with Luis Durango (whoever that is), Wilson got the next 2 outs on just 7 pitches. The Giants were champions of the NL West after being down 6.5 games on August 25th. It was a great moment for the team, and we all know the rest of the story.

Wednesday June 13, 2012 - AT&T Park
Giants (10) Astros (0) - Matt Cain Perfect Game

I've written extensively about this game. You can find that here. But if you've been reading this long, then you don't want to go read another long post, you just want to finish this one. So I'll still recap quickly.

This game is an all time classic. It had all those things that we all love in magical games. Jordan Schafer hit a foul ball in the 4th that may have been fair. Gregor Blanco made the catch in the 7th that is burned in all our minds. The final out of Joaquin Arias to Brandon Belt is a moment that makes us all smile.

I won't insult you any further by recapping this one more. This is a memory that Giants fans will carry for a lifetime.

Monday August 20, 2012 - Dodger Stadium
Giants (2) Dodgers (1) - Giants Take Over 1st Place, Never Look Back

The Giants entered this game 1/2 game back of the Dodgers for the division lead. This was game 1 of a 3 game series in LA. Clayton Kershaw started against Madison Bumgarner. The Giants were a week removed from the Melky Cabrera suspension and we weren't sure which direction the team was going to go. This was the classic late season showdown.

The Giants have always had trouble with Kershaw. Runs have never been easy to score against him. Bumgarner though, was coming off a complete game victory over the Nats and was locked in. This one fit the bill. Bumgarner went 8 innings, gave up 4 hits, walked nobody, and struck out 10 batters on 123 pitches. Kershaw did his part as well throwing 8 innigs but giving up 2 runs on 6 hits. He also struck out 10 and didn't walk anyone.

You have to get to the great ones early, and the Giants did just that against Kershaw. Angel Pagan led off the game with a double to the gap in LF. Marco Scutaro followed with a bunt to push him to 3rd with less than 2 outs. Bruce Bochy was not going to waste an early scoring chance against the Dodger left hander. The move paid off when Pablo Sandoval hit one deep enough to score Pagan on a sac fly. The Giants led 1-0 and Bumgarner took over.

The top of the 6th was a great example of why the Giants went on to win it all last year. After both Blanco and Bumgarner went down swinging, the top of the order took over. With 2 outs Pagan, Scutaro, and Sandoval all had singles. That's a huge win with 2 outs against a pitcher as good as Kershaw. It was also the run they would need to win the game.

The 2 run lead in the 9th inning was handed to Romo. This was a time when the closer role was still undefined on this club. Bumgarner couldn't finish, he had thrown 123 pitches already. The first 2 outs were recorded with relative ease on a strikeout and a groundout. But Hanley Ramirez drove a 1-2 slider over the LF wall. Bochy brought in Javy Lopez to face Andre Ethier. On a 1-2 pitch he grounded out to Brandon Belt at first. The Giants had a hold on first place for good.

Saturday July 13, 2013 - Petco Park
Giants (9) Padres (0) - Tim Lincecum No Hitter

This just happened. It is fresh in all of our minds. We all know the numbers by now. 9 innings, 148 pitches, 13 K's, and 27 swinging strikes. That's an amazing number. Tim Lincecum on that night pitched the most beautiful game of his life. It meant so much to Giants fans. I'm not going to apologize for my love of Tim Lincecum, and no one else should either. That love came out in full force that night and Giants fans should enjoy it. 

We're all going to remember this one. Timmy is "our guy". I wrote about it earlier this season here. There was so much to his no hitter. Pablo's play at 3rd and Hunter Pence's catch in RF were the star defensive plays. There was the element of a high pitch count that had all of us wondering if Lincecum would even get to finish the game. 

Then in the 9th inning it all came together so simply that it was elegant. The 13th and final strikeout was Chase Headly to lead off the 9th. The following two batters both flew out on lazy fly balls to Blanco in LF, and the celebration was on. It's these moments that we will remember so vividly as well. Buster's hug from behind, the team mobbing Timmy and all you can see is his head sticking out, and the hugs he got from Bochy and Dave Righetti. The celebration is just as much a memory as the game itself.

So those are my 5 to watch since 2010 began. What are yours? Feel free to share them below.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter