Friday, August 6, 2010

The Race Out West

What recently had me most concerned about the rest of the season for the Giants was not the (now) slim lead San Diego Padres currently have, not the acquisitions of Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, nor the dominance the Friars displayed against the Giants earlier this season. Instead, I’d looked across each of their remaining schedules and determined that somehow, the Padres seemed to be playing the Diamondbacks, Pirates or Astros every day for the rest of the season! How could this be? I set out to either confirm or disprove this belief, and much to my delight, it’s nowhere near as bad as I thought. In the words of Will Ferrel (as Harry Carey), I guess I’m just a worrier.

In reality, their schedules are extremely equitable. They will play precisely the same teams in almost precisely the same number of contests with only a couple of exceptions. For one, the Giants will have to play the Braves three more times while the Padres will get the Pirates for three more, and that’s the one and only departure in terms of teams played. That makes the series this weekend versus the Braves critical. Other than that, the Padres have thus far played 2 fewer games and thus will get the Brewers for an additional game and St. Louis for an additional game. Sans those exceptions, they’ll play the same schedule. The attached proves it.

So when you calculate each of the Giants and Padres opponents’ average run differentials (as of this morning, Aug 6), you get ~ +7 for the Giants and ~ -9 for the Padres, or roughly the difference between playing the Pirates or Braves. When you factor in the fact that the Giants will play 3 more home games than road games here on out while the Padres will play 3 fewer home games, this only helps to lessen whatever gap in strength of schedule that exists. This is good news Giants fans. With San Diego holding just a two game lead with a lot of baseball to go and 10 games remaining head to head, the Giants hold their own destiny. One has to believe that the final series of the year, Padres @ San Francisco on 1 October to 3 October, will be one to remember. And the consolation prize of this battle may well be the Wild Card.

Belt Update:
After going 3 for 5 with another HR last night, Brandon Belt is continuing his assault on minor league pitching. He’s certainly come back to earth after terrorizing the Eastern League initially, but he’s still producing fantastically. Belt has now amassed 34 doubles, 10 triples, 16 HR, and 20 stole bases while hitting .372 AVG, .471 OBP, .639 SLG, and 1.109 OPS through two levels thus far this season. He’s simply igniting the minor leagues and making a strong case for Minor League Player of the Year. He’s also said to be very slick around the bag at first and the Giants have even toyed around by putting him in the outfield a few games in AA. In fact, forget “toyed.” The Giants have been playing Belt in both left and right the past week giving creed to the notion that perhaps the Giants’ front office believes their plan B to David DeJesus this year is already in their system. It would seem he has the athleticism and arm – he pitched some at Texas – to play a corner OF spot. His rare combination of athleticism (10 triples, 20 stolen bags), power (16 blasts, .639 slugging) and patience (70 walks to 74 strikeouts) are rare for a first baseman. For this reason, without any setbacks, he seems destined to follow the Pablo Sandoval path to the majors. A dominant stretch in A-Advanced and AA, followed by a promotion straight to San Francisco come September. With every day he continues to rake he strengthens his case that he’s ready to contribute this year, and beyond. Come to think of it, the recent DFA’ing of Denny Bautista opened up a spot on the 40-man roster, and the Giants have yet to fill it.

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