Friday, August 13, 2010

Facing the Friars on Friday (the 13th)

It’s finally here. Perhaps many immediately think I’m referring to the game in which we all will learn if Jonathan Sanchez can make good on his guarantee. I am not. I’m referring to the Giants and Friars locking horns again finally, for the first time since May 18th. A lot has changed since the Giants finally did get that first W against the Pad’s – which took no less than 12 innings.

In that two-game series the Giants ran out the following two lineups –

May 17th: 1. Rowand 2. Torres 3. Sandoval 4. Huff 5. Uribe 6. Schierholtz 7. Whiteside 8. Downs
May 18th: 1. Rowand 2. Torres 3. Sandoval 4. Molina 5. Huff 6. Uribe 7. Downs 8. Schierholtz

Since that time, the Giants have replaced Aaron Rowand as the everyday leadoff hitter and centerfielder with Andres Torres, who has become the very best centerfielder in the NL in 2010. They replaced their catcher, Bengie Molina, with a kid whose initials are BP. Let’s hope he makes Padres pitching look just like that, BP. The kid catcher of the future they call Buster arrived with an exclamation point. He had multi-hit game after multi-hit game, struggled a bit until Molina was traded, and then banged off a 21 game hit streak to come within one of the SF Giants rookie record set by Stretch, i.e. Willie McCovey. He passed Orlando Cepeda on the way and he currently sits at .331 AVG, .383 OBP, .502 SLG, .885 OPS. They acquired Bay Area boy Pat Burrell – whom the Rays felt had nothing left – to play left field. He’s responded by posting a .299 AVG, .388 OBP, .558 SLG for an OPS of .946 with 10 HR in just 154 AB’s. They activated Freddy Sanchez from the DL and plopped him into the two hole, and while his bat has struggled of late, his defense has been solid if not spectacular. They’ve activated and returned Edgar Renteria from the DL a couple of times – where he once again currently resides. They added Mike Fontenot this week to bolster their infield bench. They also added important pieces to the bullpen in Ramirez and Lopez, who’ve at the very least, helped to soften the blow of losing Affeldt and Runzler to the disabled list. Perhaps most importantly, after the face off on Friday evening, the Giants will send rookie Madison Bumgarner to the hill as the 5th starter where Todd Wellemeyer once sat. We also must not forget that the Padres will not escape Lincecum this time – he’ll make his first start against the Friars in 2010 with the orange caps on Sunday.

Allow me to set the stage for what I believe is one of the keys to this series, and I didn’t give it away to this point. In an April game against the Padres earlier this season, the Giants lost with Jonathan Sanchez on the bump. Here’s how: 4th inning – Chase Headley singles on a line drive to center fielder Eugenio Velez. Chase Headley steals 2nd base. Kyle Blanks pops out to first baseman Aubrey Huff in foul territory. Chase Headley to 3rd. Scott Hairston out on a sacrifice fly to right fielder Nate Schierholtz. Chase Headley scores. 1-0 SD – Sanchez pitched brilliantly that game by giving up 1 hit and striking out 10. He also walked 3 batters, none of which scored. The Padres stole 4 bases, one of which resulted in their only run. The Giants never scored and the Padres won that game 1-0.

Eli Whiteside allowed all 4 stolen bases that game. Whiteside has thrown out 11 attempted base stealers in 2010. Molina threw out 14 while employed by the Giants, equaling the number that Posey has gunned down thus far in 2010. But here’s the catch, Posey has thrown out 14 in just 33 attempts (42%) versus Whiteside 11/37 (30%) and Molina 14/61 (23% !). Posey has an extremely quick unload time to second base, he is accurate, and he has a rocket launcher for a right arm. If the Giants throwers give Buster Posey a chance, he’ll gun them down more often than not. And while Bruce Bochy might make some boneheaded moves with the bullpen and game management at times, I assure you he will have the pitching staff mentally prepared to hold runners and give their prized catcher a chance – after all, that’s all he needs. That’s my key to this series because I don’t expect the scores to be run up. There’s a good chance that this series will be determined by bases.

I think it’s also important to mention that the Padres have made changes to their roster as well. Most notably, they’ve added Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick. I personally don’t follow the Padres in great detail – I do frown at their constant W’s in the standings – but I have a couple of thoughts. On Ryan Ludwick: I think he was an excellent pickup for the Friars and a solid middle of the order bat. Bravo Jed Hoyer. On Miguel Tejada: He’s not really a difference maker as either a hitter or on defense any longer. I think he was simply a massive upgrade over Everth Cabrera’s bat – and likely a downgrade with the glove. What the cumulative gain or loss was, it’s hard to say. But they remain where they’ve been all year because they have a solid starting 5, a lights out –game over with a lead after seven – bullpen, and an offense on the cusp of league average with one of the best run producers in the game anchoring it in Adrian Gonzalez. To top it off, they play good defense and run the bases well. They are a Padres team through and through, built for Petco.

Final thoughts: I’ve read this morning that the Giants have reportedly acquired Jose Guillen. I don’t get this move at all. He’s not an impact player with his bat and certainly not with his frying pan glove. He doesn’t get on base but can hit the occasional long ball. With Rowand swinging the bat better of late infinitely more valuable on defense, I think he’s a completely unnecessary addition. In fact, he may well be subtraction by addition given the Giants’ apparent excellent chemistry in the clubhouse all season long. I certainly hope this move doesn’t gum up the momentum they have. There’s a reason no other team seemed the least bit interested. Just when Sabean was starting to earn some respect from me, he goes and does something dumber than dumb like this. Ugh.

Neyer sounded off already, with precisely the same conclusion:

On a brighter note, Jason Grey of – Insider subscription required – unleashed his updated Top 10 Prospects for the remainder of 2010. None other than Brandon Belt made the list at #7 – fresh off his game winning HR in the 14th inning on Wednesday. He continues to impress and is currently on schedule to arrive in SF on September 1st when rosters expand. Anything sooner than that would likely only occur as a result of injury.

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