Monday, September 27, 2010

Resilient Giants Raze the Purple Triceratops

Sure, a sweep would have been nice. But how can you complain about (merely) taking a pivotal series at Coors? The correct answer is that you cannot. Coors has quite simply been a mile-high, house of horrors. And who knows, maybe it will be less of one now that Major League Baseball – being reactionary instead of proactive as usual – has finally taken a step to make sure the humidor is used properly.

There’s absolutely no evidence that the Rockies have not been doing this all along. But, to say that the Rockies’ integrity alone would preclude them from tampering with the process is idiotic. If baseball’s history has taught us anything, it’s that the general rule in the game is that cheating isn’t cheating unless you’re caught. This is the same sport where sign stealing is practically encouraged, and rampant steroid use was wholly ignored for nearly two decades. MLB’s apathy to intervene with steroids is close enough to encouragement, especially considering the motivation for inaction they had given the role steroids played in reviving the game in 1998. So if the Rockies weren’t slipping in some non-humidor balls while nobody was watching, they weren’t trying. The more I ponder, the more convinced I am they were cheating and succeeding. For this reason, I’ll move on to avoid being too presumptuous.

All the credit has to go to Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The way these two absolutely sawed through the entire Purple lineup – which includes the torrid Tulo and the Goliath that Gonzalez is at home – was incredible. Lincecum gave up two hits, zero walks and one run (on a dunk) through eight, with nine K’s. Cain had a no hitter going with one out in the eighth before Uribe double clutched a more or less routine grounder to end his bid. If you understand that the game sandwiched in between these two, the 10-9 shattering loss in ten, is the more typical Coors game; you start to realize how impressive the Giants’ young aces efforts were.

The resilient Giants rebounded from that crushing loss just like they’ve done time and time again this season. They got up the next day and played as if they had no memory of it. I think this must be the strength of Bochy’s management of this team. He talked Freddy Sanchez into taking the field with a bum right arm, and he promptly responded by crushing an 0-2 fastball just inside the left field (fair) pole. Bravo, Boch.

I do have one gripe about the series, though. Hindsight is 20/20, but I felt there were some questionable bullpen decisions in the Saturday night loss. For one, I think replacing Zito with Chris Ray in the 5th was indefensible. Not that Zito was replaced, but that it was by Ray. Ray’s not a good reliever and despite it still being early, that was a big spot in the game. Ray rather expeditiously gave up a two run job to Tulowitzki and a triple to Melvin Mora. This season Ray is striking out 5.19 per nine and walking 4.33 per nine. That’s atrocious. While his ERA is a palatable 3.98, his .251 BABIP and 4.63 FIP and 5.43 xFIP proves it’s all smoke and mirrors. Bochy’s use of Ray, as well as the extension given to Affeldt prior to this season, proves their evaluation of relievers (especially) leaves much to be desired. I think the scouting they do must be top notch because they’ve hit the mark so often. On the other hand, I think they’re pretty clearly missing the mark when it comes to the numbers (i.e. statistics) game. Affeldt’s 2009 numbers were very much a facade, but that didn’t stop the Giants from extending him for two more seasons.

There’s much to talk about with six games remaining. There’s the prospect of altering the rotation or not. There’s certainly merit to the arguments for both. I’ll leave this discussion for the comments section. Also, there is the possibility that both Torres and now Sanchez are inactive indefinitely. This is bad news all around. Ross is turning it on which makes it non-disaster not getting Torres back. On the other hand, his fantastic catch – which unfortunately re-aggravated his injury – as well as his HR make the potential loss of him an enormous bummer. The presence of Fontenot makes the potential loss of Sanchez (also) non-disaster. But when you consider to defense he has played and his 5 HR and .900 + OPS in September, well that sucks too.

This team has been very troubling to watch but also incredibly exciting and overwhelmingly fun to watch. Regardless of what happens, it’s been a season to remember and the Giants are in the driver’s seat and Posey’s NL RoY chances are still very much alive. It feels pretty swell.

All stats provided by Fangraphs

With the Giants in playoff contention and getting a lot (or more than usual) media attention, here are some links:

Neyer asks: Did Giants Blow it with Buster Posey?
Neyer revisits Buster Posey's Triple-A stay
Fangraphs: Cain Buries Colorado
Fangraphs: Giants on the Mound

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