Tuesday, May 31, 2005

So It Is Written, So It Shall Be...

Wild thought here. Feel free to shoot me down.

I got two fave teams: San Francisco Giants, Kansas City Royals. Giants in trouble this year, Royals going nowhere. Giants needing help, Royals having a player that could actually help.

I propose a trade. Again, it's a bit off the wall, but hear me out...

Mike Sweeney to the Giants for...heck, I dunno. How 'bout Todd Linden and Lance Niekro?

There's a bevy of problems inherent in this, but I'm going to try and see if I can solve them, or ignore them:
  • Sweeney's salary - the Royals know they're headed for well over 100 losses whether or not Sweeney's there. He makes 11 million now, with a clause that gives him a 1.5 million raise if he's traded. I'm certain the Royals would pay at least half of that, if not more, and I'm also certain Sweeney would waive the raise clause, because he'd be so happy to be able to play in California (he's got SoCal family).
  • Sweeney's injury history - 'kay, here's where I ignore stuff. He does have the 2nd most at-bats on the Royals this season, though, so he really hasn't missed much time. The time he did miss, however, was back-related. This really is the biggest hurdle, but with a host of late-30's players on his roster, Sabean's got to be intimate with injury risks by now.
  • Sweeney's absolute lack of defensive skills - hm, again, ignore stuff. This is why I'd trade Niekro and not J.T. Snow, because Niekro could add to the Royals young nucleus, and Snow could spell Sweeney against right-handed pitching and come in as a defensive replacement, both of which could help lower Sweeney's injury risk. But make no mistake, we'd all groan seeing Sweeney in the field. The bat makes up for it, though...
  • What to do with Sweeney in 2006? I haven't a clue, but Sabean always has been a don't-worry-bout-the-horses-just-load-the-wagon kind of guy, so I'll shrug this one off.

Now, usually I'm the very last person to do trade proposals, because 99.9% of the time people do them, they're wrong. I'm very likely to be wrong, here, but I do think this is something that could really help both teams out, provided Sweeney stays healthy. But think of that .308/.350/.533, 9 home run, 35 RBI bat in the Giants lineup, and think that he's playing in a pitcher's park already in Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City -- so those numbers do translate (unlike Moises Alou's Wrigley-inflated numbers from 2004). Sweeney also hits right-handed pitching decently, running an OPS over .800 against them this season, and a stellar .928 OPS against righties over the last three seasons -- a right-handed batter hitting that well against right-handed pitching is almost unheard of. Sweeney also runs very good numbers with RISP over the course of his entire career, to where it could very well could be a skill with him

In any case, this is a fun rant, nothing more, but I do have some belief that Sweeney could help the Giants. Just think, if/when Bonds get back, of Sweeney hitting behind Bonds, and seeing all of the fat pitches Jeff Kent made an MVP season off of, and know that Sweeney is a better hitter than Kent. Imagine the possibilities....

Okay, stop imagining now.

What do you guys think? Am I shooting in the dark? Spot-on?

Monday, May 30, 2005

I am still pissed, and no more optimism

Gee, what do you know? I rant and rave yesterday about why acquiring LaTroy Hawkins was such a dumb move, and my reasoning is shown in vivid detail right away in the game following my comments.

Tie game at 6-6, in comes Hawkins. Great! He retires the side. In comes Tyler Walker. Game no longer tied, Giants lose 9-6.

Do you see my point? Hawkins did his job and still couldn't help. Why? Because the rest of the Giants bullpen sucks (save, apparently, Jeff Fassero and Scott Eyre).

Brian Sabean, you don't need one LaTroy Hawkins, you need FOUR LaTroy Hawkins.

Anyone want to make Hawkins the closer instead of Walker? Okay, so now the lead is blown in the 8th instead of the 9th, by either Walker (kills me he'll just never be what I want him to be, but the heck with defending him), Matt Herges, Jim Brower, or Jason Christiansen.

Keep Hawkins as a setup guy? Okay, the lead can be blown in the 7th or 9th, too, by any one of those gentleman I mentioned above.

Hawkins' struggle as a closer are well documented, but Sabean has two choices before him now to be the closer, since the organization apparently will feel the need to have one guy bear that title. Make it Hawkins, or make it Eyre. Eyre is the only pitcher left in that bullpen with the stuff to do it, and who hasn't given up mass loads of ass to opposing offenses. Fassero's been clotted cream and a great pickup thus far by Sabean (yes, I can give credit where it's due), but relying on him too heavily could be the undoing of his very effective run with the team this year.

But just so that everyone can see the truth, the Giants are not a contender. They stand a chance of hanging around until Bonds gets back, but that's the ceiling of their ability as a team. Jason Schmidt, bless his heart, can't be the savior while only pitching once every 5 days -- besides, he's obviously not truly back to form, and even while at his best Schmidt can have a bad day just like the rest of us.

No, the only hope is Bonds, and that a faint, far-off hope at that. Bonds must come back sooner rather than later for that hope to blossom, and he'd have to hit the ground running a 1.300 OPS to stand a chance of giving as much help as the Giants will need by that time.

Let's all just do ourselves a favor and expect the Giants not to contend. If they happen to stay in it, well, it's a bonus and pleasant surprise that'll make us feel much better than expecting contention, then getting upset when the team struggles just to stay at .500. Make no mistake, this is a mediocre team, and a .500 record is the best they can hope for if we look at things realistically.

Well, now that I'm all done with that, I can move onto the happy prospect of doing the Royals Recap (insert wordless cry of anguish here)...somebody tell me why I love baseball?

It only breaks my heart.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I am pissed

Brian Sabean is an idiot.

The future of this franchise is in serious jeopardy, because there is a man at the helm who doesn't care if the boat falls apart after the voyage is finished.

Sabean yesterday traded both Jerome Williams and Dave Aardsma in exchange for LaTroy Hawkins, a move that could help the Giants...to stay in contention for another game or two.

How stupid is this?

Don't get me wrong -- everything about Hawkins currently points to a decent reliever, but let's figure out Sabean's timing in acquiring Hawkins.

First of all, I'm going to make an assumption that Sabean, like most of us, is uncomfortable with the idea of Tyler Walker as the team's closer. I'm assuming that in addition to wanting Hawkins to stabilize the 'pen, he has visions of converting Hawkins to the closer should Walker have more struggles.

Well, Hawkins has already failed in that role for the Cubs, and was pulled as the closer. He blew 9 saves in 34 chances last season, and was running a 50% conversion rate (4 of 8) before the Cubs decided Hawkins wasn't going to cut it. Strike one.

In addition, it's fairly easy to see that Hawkins could be on that final downward slide to the end of his career. Let's look at a few alarming stats:

ERA (Earned Run Average) - 2003 (1.86), 2004 (2.63), 2005 (3.32)
HR/9 (home runs per 9 innings) - 2003 (0.47), 2004 (1.10), 2005 (1.90)
K/9 (strikeouts per 9 innings) - 2003 (8.73), 2004 (7.57), 2005 (6.16)
K/BB (strikeout to walk ratio) - 2003 (5.00), 2004 (4.93), 2005 (1.86)
OPS (opponents OPS against) - 2003 (.596), 2004 (.659), 2005 (.757)

So, pretty much every single stat that matters has been getting worse for the 32 year old Hawkins for three years running. Strike two.

Yet Sabean not only trades for this guy during his downward spiral, but he trades two promising young pitchers to do it. If this was a starting pitcher, I maybe could see an angle, but a reliever? Is he going to pitch every freaking day or something? No, he's going to pitch an inning or so around every other day, coming into the game when it may or may not help, when it may or may not matter. Strike three.

How stupid can Sabean be?

Luckily, Sabean did get the Cubs to pick up most of Hawkins' fat-ass contract for this season, and he has an option for '06 that I pray Sabean won't pick up. But this wasn't a great move for the here and now, not to mention it's an insipid move if the Giants GM has ever bothered to think of the state of this franchise in '07 and beyond.

With the trade of Williams and Aardsma for a struggling reliever, how much of a stretch would it be to think of who Sabean would trade Matt Cain or Merkin Valdez for? A journeyman outfielder? A mediocre starting pitcher?

Aneel, you asked how I felt about the trade, so there's a complete answer for you. I'll be looking for your reaction, as well as Lefty, Marty, Doug, Bud, and David.

Joe, Grant, and John have already chimed in with their takes on it. And now I've chimed in with mine.

Just to reiterate, in case you missed it: short-sighted and stupid. I can be reached throught the comments section or via e-mail if anyone needs me to restate my opinion on this trade.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Re-arranging furniture

I've made a few cosmetics changes. As you are totally enslaved to my every move, I have no doubt as to your curiousity as to what these changes are. Follow me, then...

I've added another quality Giants link, and it's called Trapped In L.A., written by Aneel Trivedi. Aneel and I have already swapped paint on an issue or two, but unlike all you other jerks that disagree with me (kidding), it's obvious Aneel brings some IQ to the table. I will say that my blog is superior in that it is less fattening than Aneel's, and has less carbs.

I've separated Royals links into their own category, and added a few new ones. The Royals OP-ED Page is written by Clark Fosler. Like me, he's fairly new, but he's hit the ground running, providing some nice information and insight. Royal's Review is a new Sportsblogs site, and I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that if Blez from the ridiculously popular Athletic's Nation someone is talented enough to run a Sportsblogs site, then chances are he's right. The Pipeline is a newbie as well, but I like what I've seen thus far.

Go check 'em out and lend your support. As always, the Royals won't hurt you. In a sense, isn't the worst team in baseball almost as interesting as the best team in baseball? (excuse me, extreme depression moment...okay, I'm fine. My other fave teams sucks really, really badly)

On another note, this blog just limped past the 8,000 hit mark yesterday. I started the counter on December 30th, it's May 29th today, so...that's roughly 1600 hits/month, or 50+ hits per day. About 40 of those 50 hits are different people with the other 10 hits being people that are bouncing around the site in an effort to gauge exactly how stupid I can be (hope you guys got calculators). I've noticed an upswing in the last couple of weeks, as I've been busting my butt...alright, busting my fingers in an effort to put out something everyday to draw in a few extra visitors on the weekends. Also running around voicing my opinions on blogs bigger and better than mine seems to help a bit as well. Interesting stuff.

And finally, we come to the baseball game yesterday. In the immortal words of Damon Wayans and David Allen Grier from the In Living Color skit "Men On Films"...

Hated It!

Tyler Walker is trying to single-handedly make me look a bigger fool than I normally do, because after I've defended him as a decent relief pitcher on various different sites, he goes and blows two consecutive games in non-save situations. Feast or famine.

It doesn't have to be famine, Tyler. We'll be happy with some bread and water if you can't provide us with filet mignon. Heck, we'll even take government cheese if we have to...


Let's just forget that last night's game ever happened, alright? Outpitched, outhit, outmatched.

Interesting factoid: since coming off the DL, Khalil Greene has played in 15 games. He's failed to get a hit in 8 of them, but he's had a multi-hit game in 5 of them. Feast or famine, it looks like. It was definitely feast last night.

Isn't it easy to tell how different of a team the Padres are since the Giants last played them near the end of April? What? It isn't? Oh yeah, it's the same guys, they're just playing better, that's all.

Are the Diamondbacks for real? Final Part

I've looked at the Arizona Diamondbacks offense and starting rotation here and here, respectively. Now comes a look at the bullpen to see if there are chinks in the armor there, specifically if there are players who will likely regress in performance as the season wears on.

It's actually very simple, as there are only two D-Back pitchers out of the bullpen that are doing well: Brandon Lyon and Lance Cormier.
  • Lance Cormier, 24.0 innings pitched, 1.42 WHIP, 1.9:1 k/bb ratio, 6.38 k/9, opponents batting line: .284/.357/.352, 1.88 ERA - Cormier's having a great season for Arizona thus far in his 1st full year in the bigs at 24 years of age. He appeared in 17 games in 2004, starting in five of them, and this year is better in just about every statistical category you care to name: higher strikeout rate, lower walk rate, suppressing power, using less pitches per inning, and -- here's the clincher -- a g/f ratio (ground ball to fly ball) of 2.24 this year as opposed to a 1.29 last season. Those groundballs are the key to his success, not only in getting outs, but in keeping that opponents SLG low as well. He's had enough success in the minor leagues to think that he may be able to keep these types of numbers rolling, but that is a huge jump in g/f ratio for one year. While it's possible Cormier has turned the corner in his first full season, I am loath to believe he could maintain that low ERA with his WHIP at that high-ish level. Again, we'll have to see if he can maintain that g/f ratio, because if he starts getting the ball up in the zone for whatever reason, the ratio will go down, and his opponents batting line and ERA will go up as the line drives pile up.
  • Brandon Lyon, 18.1 innings pitched, 1.31 WHIP, 4.00 k/bb ratio, 5.89 k/9, opponents batting line: .284/.316/.405, 1.96 ERA - Lyon is currently on the 15-day DL with elbow problems, and as the closer for Arizona, this one will bear close scrutiny. As far as his numbers, it's very simple. Lyon isn't walking anyone, with only three free passes issued in those 18+ innings. He's also got the lowest OPS against of anytime in his short career, currently standing at .705, whereas the lowest before this was 2004 where it was .806. While I don't really believe that it's smoke and mirrors that Lyon could be better, I don't think he's this good. He has a very pedestrian g/f ratio at 1.20, and when you couple that with his low-for-a-closer k/9 rate, it would certainly seem that Lyon could be a bit lucky to only allow a .705 OPS. Lyon, at 25 years old, does hold the same possibility as Cormier that he's simply turned a corner in his pitching ability, but whereas Cormier has a host of numbers to point out an improvement, Lyon only has two -- and that walk rate is a bit too low to be believed at this point. After he comes off the DL, we'll see how he looks, but with the elbow injury in addition to not really having any numbers that jump out and grab me, I'm going to predict a moderate regression for Lyon. I don't think he'll be bad, but he just won't be as good as a sub-2 ERA might lead one to think.

That's basically it. Every other Arizona reliever has had his problems this year, especially Mike Koplove, Javier Vasquez, and Jose Valverde. Vasquez was acquired from the Rockies earlier this year, and while he did have one good year with Colorado in 2003, things look a bit grim for him. I can easily say Koplove and Valverde aren't as bad as their ERA's say, Valverde in particular. They won't stay this bad.

While I see a possible regression in Cormier and a more probable regression in Lyon, the bullpen is a bit like the starting rotation in that these things will be balanced by Koplove and Valverde simply being the pitchers that they are -- decent-to-good relievers. One very important thing to watch out for; the bullpen, for the most part, has not been thoroughly tested this season except in Russ Ortiz' starts. It would be interesting to see how they do should the strength of the Diamondbacks, the starting rotation, falter a bit and put more pressure on them.

Thanks to Jim over at AZ Snakepit for the commentary and insight.

Did I just make it through an entire piece without making a single wisecrack?

Friday, May 27, 2005

I am a Liar, and should be treated as such

Hm. Late night last night involving vodka-cranberries and beer, and the Arizona bullpen analysis didn't get wrote...written...wrotten...whatever. I said it'd be up today, and I lied. My bad.

It'll be up tomorrow, unless I'm lying to you again. Or, is anyone up for a quickie analysis?

  • me looK at dBAck bulpn and thInk it GOOOOOOOOD.

No dice, huh? Alright, real one tomorrow. I promise.

Last night's game went exactly as I expected it would. Brad Penny, good pitcher, dominates Giants offense. Encouraging things, along with discouraging things:

  • Arizona and San Diego did another flip-flop last night, meaning the Giants only lose half a game. I don't like flip-flops as footwear, but I like them when they mean that the Padres and D-Backs beat each other up and let the Giants creep up on them a little.
  • I was able to watch the first few innings (with my usual luck, catching all of the lowlights of every game I partially watch), and was pleasantly surprised that Kirk Rueter was able to hold those Dodgers down. Still issuing more walks than strikeouts, though, and that will continue to be a scary thing to watch.
  • Well, looks like Tyler Walker isn't the savior after all. I hate him...alright, kidding. But when Walker is bad, he's Bad with a capital Crap-Can't-You-Get-Anybody-Out? sort of Bad. He's like a walking time-pitching-bomb that's set to give up massive run-hemorrhaging every 6th appearance or something.
  • We all know what'll happen if Deivi Cruz were to play everyday, right? Same thing that happened to Jason Ellison when he played everyday -- that beautiful OPS will come a-crashin' back down to Earth. Regardless, Cruz is really hitting well, but the Giants really don't have anywhere to stick him to try and take advantage of his hot hitting -- except when the Giants are on the road during interleague. You hear that, Father Alou? There's your freaking DH right there!

Now come the San Diego Religious People. The pitching matchups slightly favor the Giants if Jason Schmidt is indeed back to form. By virtue of his solid start, Brad Hennessey holds the advantage over somewhat disappointing Padres starter Brian Lawrence in today's game. Tomorrow, the matchup looks to be about even, as Tim Stauffer goes for San Diego and the Giants counter with Noah Lowry. Stauffer has pitched well so far in his rookie season, but with only three starts thus far this year hasn't been proven. Lowry has been poor for the most part, but is coming off a very good start in his last appearance vs. Oakland. Sunday's game will be the marquee game, as Schmidt goes against Adam Eaton, who looks as if he's in the middle of his breakout season at 27 years old.

Tonight's game is at 7:15pm, tomorrow's and Sunday's games are at 1:05pm.

Chance to really insert themselves back into the race for the Giants, and a chance to push back on of the teams breathing down their neck for the Padres.

Who will take it? Who's cuisine reigns supreme? Oh, wait, sorry -- Iron Chef flashback.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

This is the Natural Order of Things

10-2, Giants over Dodgers.

This was a feel-good game from all kinds of angles: 1) the Giants tied the Dodgers for 3rd place in the division, 2) the Diamondbacks and Padres did another division-leader flip-flop, meaning the Giants gained another half-game in the standings, 3) multiple multiple-homer games from Pedro Feliz and Moises Alou, 4) Brett Tomko dealing...if I kept on going, I'd run out of stuff for the bullet points.

This win was necessary, though, as Wilson Alvarez is way past his prime and doesn't have the stuff to start anymore. Brad Penny is going tomorrow for the Dodgers, and it'll be much harder to pull out a win there. So, beat up on Alvarez today, win the series, and hope to Snuffalufagus that Woody turns in a decent start tomorrow. Rueter's OPS against (.708) is at its lowest point since 2002, which, along with 1997, was Rueter's best years in the bigs. That fairly low OPS against is the only thing keeping Woody afloat this year, because his walk rate (1 every 2.8 innings) and k rate (1.5 k's every 9 innings) are at the worst levels of his career.

While nobody with at least half of their mental faculties expects Rueter to strike many people out, striking out two less batters per 9 innings than his career average doesn't bode well. Bad pitchers run a k/bb ratio of 1:1, but right now Woody is running a k/bb ratio of about 1:2, which makes me throw up in my mouth just a little. He can't survive doing that, can he? Hm? Well? Can he? 'Course not.

Anyhoo, onto the vibes of Pos-i-ti-vi-ty:
  • Jason Ellison, nice slump-breaking game, going 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Hey, why is it that when a guy has a game like Elly just did everyone says that he broke out of his slump? What if he goes 0 for his next 30? Is that a new slump, or were we just too quick to say that he broke out of his slump in the first place? Why does Doritos and sour cream taste so good? Are you still reading these questions? Why aren't you answering them, then?
  • "Broke and Busted. New Hotness. Broke and Busted. New Hotness." Aside from the Will Smith quotes from Men In Black, our streaky 3rd baseman Edgardo Alfonzo might just be going from broke and busted back onto some new hotness. He was 2 for 4 last night with a double and two runs scored, and is now 9 for his last 16.
  • Not to break up the pos-i-ti-vi-ty, but Ray Durham needs to find some Raid for that injury bug. He sat out last night with an ingrown toenail. Next time it'll be a strained nostril or something. Geez.

Sidenote: Kevin Agee and I had a little discussion on Royals relief pitcher Mike Wood over at his new digs, Kaufmann Confidential. Kevin, as usual, found a little water to douse me with after another Royals Related Rant and Rave (tm). Again, the Royals won't hurt you, and Kevin's excellent writing and analysis are treats to read even if you had no interest at all in the Royals, which I know to be untrue. Also, Bill Heeter writes for the site as well, and he has some intelligent, thoughtful things to say about the Royals and MLB as well.

Sidenote that's on the side of my last sidenote: While I'm pointing out other well-written things, those of you who've enjoyed my Texas Hold 'Em stories of anguish ought to take a peek at Bud Hudgins at The View From 302. His elegant phrasings will be a nice change from my excruciating stories of bad luck.

Okay, last sidenote: the analysis of the Arizona Diamondback bullpen will have to wait 'til Friday, because I got off work late last night and will be working early today.

Take care, everybody!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Indy .500

Ah, back at the epitome of mediocrity.

To climb over the backs of the slumping Dodgers to do it? A bonus, to be sure.

With their 5-3 win over Los Angeles, The Giants not only have won as many games as they've lost, but they keep gaining half-games on the leader of the NL West, which has changed from San Diego to Arizona and back to San Diego in the past few days while the Giants have pieced together three consecutive wins. Now 4.5 games back of the Padres, the Giants also find themselves only a game from 3rd place, right behind those Bums from SoCal.

This is a case of the Giants doing what they did not do last week -- take advantage of struggling teams. While the Giants could not win series against the Pirates, Rockies, and Astros, they did win their series against the A's, and stand poised to do the same to L.A. if they can get one more win.

Remember the mantra: stay within striking distance, fellas, and Something just might happen.

Last night:

  • Jason Schmidt is back, and he looks like he's supposed to look. No, it wasn't the best performance as Schmidt gave up three runs through five innings, but he did his job and kept the Dodgers at bay without his usual command. What's encouraging, though, is the seven strikeouts he collected through those five innings, and the velocity seems to be at more Schmidt-like levels. Command of his changeup eluded him a bit, and he issued three walks, but only gave up five hits with only one of those being an extra-base hit -- a double by Antonio Perez. All in all, a nice performance.
  • Longest hitting streak by a Giant so far this year? That'd be Ray Durham, who collected a couple of doubles last night to run his streak to 13 straight. I hate to say it, but with Jason Ellison rocketing back to Earth in a hurry, Father Alou has got to consider re-inserting Durham at the top of the order. I think Elly is more suited to do his damage sneaky-like in the 7th or 8th slot where there is a bit less pressure.
  • It's that man again; Mike Matheny keeps those important hits coming. He's still holding respectable offensive numbers, defying his career stats and making Brian Sabean look like he actually knew what he was doing when he signed Matheny. If this guy ends up with 33 doubles and 19 homers (which is about what his current totals project to over the course of a full season), I'll praise Sabean's name (in a very deserted area where nothing can hear me, of course, but I'll still do it).
  • Edgardo Alfonzo had a nice game last night, going 3 for 3.
  • Another guy attempting to make me look really stupid is Jeff Fassero, who also continues to be very useful. He's running about a 2:1 k/bb ratio, a 1.15 WHIP, and a 3.41 ERA. If these numbers hold, I'll praise Sabean's name (but this time in an area where some wild animals stand a chance of hearing my cries). He came in for Schmidt and threw two innings yesterday, allowing only one hit.
  • The bullpen as a whole was very efficient, with Jason Christiansen playing the only role to which he is suited (LOOGY), with Jim Brower and Scott Eyre getting in on the action. My good man! I will have dancing girls and Holds for all my men! See that the Holds flow like wine from the cup of Dionysus!
  • Which brings us to Tyler Walker, a.k.a. the Bull according to Giants color broadcaster Mike Krukow. His numbers just keep falling. While I don't think that he's the Answer to the Giants bullpen woes, unlike a person or two, I think he should be ridden until the wheels fall off. Remember, people, Walker doesn't have loads of ML history to point out whether he's bad or good, so what we're seeing now could very well be what Tyler Walker is -- a good relief pitcher. To say he's undependable based on all of one year in the bigs is a bit of a stretch. He's got the stuff, he's got the desire, and luckily for the Giants, he's the closer at this moment -- not Matt Herges or Jim Brower.

If he wasn't the GM of the Dodgers, I'd be a bit sad for Paul Depodesta. The Dodgers are stuggling badly, but it really isn't DePo's fault. Two moves he made that aren't working out thus far are J.D. Drew and Jose Valentin, but he'll probably get blamed for all of the team's problems in one way, shape, or form, with no credit being given for the things that are going well. Milton Bradley, Derek Lowe, and Hee Seop Choi are all moves that are working out brilliantly for DePo, but many will point out Drew and Valentin as some sort of damning evidence that the Dodgers GM made horrible decisions this offseason. Looks to me like his moves are holding serve at this point, but after the Dodgers scorching start as a team the expectations rose too high.

Today it'll be Brett Tomko vs. Wilson Alvarez. Go Giants!

Are the Diamondbacks here to stay? Part 2

After a look at the hitters yesterday, let's take a peek at the starting rotation and see if we can find any potential future potholes in Arizona's road to success (I love metaphors):
  • Javier Vasquez, 67.0 innings pitched, 1.12 WHIP, 7.9:1 k/bb ratio, 8.46 k/9, opponents batting line: .258/.288/.396, 3.49 ERA - throwing out Vasquez' season with the New York Yankees last year is tantamount to looking at his season objectively. Just about every stat of his is in line with his years with the Expos, with the exception of two: that absolutely insane k/bb ratio of almost 8 to 1 (3.23 for his career), and his pitches per inning (currently at 14.4, career at 15.9). That k/bb ratio will fall back to the mean at some point, but Vasquez always runs a good k/bb ratio anyway, so it won't mean much when he proves he's human sometime later this year. The pitches per inning could indicate a more efficient pitcher, and isn't more than an interesting stat. Vasquez could keep these numbers dancing all season long.
  • Brandon Webb, 62.1 innings pitched, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8:1 k/bb ratio, 6.93 k/9, opponents batting line: .264/.314/.393, 3.32 ERA - like Vasquez, Webb is running the lowest walk rate of his career, but it isn't a glaring breakout, same as his k/bb ratio. He did have a problem with walks last season, but seems to have that corrected. All his other stats are in line with what he did in 2003 and 2004. Move along, nothing to see here!
  • Shawn Estes, 55.1 innings pitched, 1.29 WHIP, 2:1 k/bb ratio, 5.98 k/9, opponents batting line: .256/.316/.436 - now this is an interesting one. Knee-jerk reaction? Of course there's going to be a regression, this is Shawn Estes we're talking about! However, four words: Coors and Wrigley Fields. We all should've expected Estes' numbers to recede some, but how much? To find out if Estes' stats are in line with what he's capable of, going back a few years isn't quite going to do it -- we have to look at some his Giants years as well to get a perspective. And what did I find? Estes' walk rate is that cause of his good fortune. His career bb/9 is 4.68, his bb/9 this year is 2.94, so Estes is walking about one less batter per start. If one also sees that Estes is being a more efficient pitcher this year at 15.6 pitches per inning as opposed to his career average of 16.7, it's obvious Estes is exercising more control than in years past. It doesn't seem like much, but trust me -- Estes' continued good fortune is dependant on his ability to retain control of the strike zone. If his walk rate and pitches per inning rise, so will his ERA. I expect a small numbers decline as the season wears on.
  • Brad Halsey, 53.1 innings pitched, 1.29 WHIP, 2.73:1 k/bb ratio, 5.06 k/9, opponents batting line: .280/.320/.454 - are you noticing a trend with the k/bb ratios and how good they are? Halsey only has one small stint in the bigs to compare with, so it's a bit difficult to get a read on him at this point. I will say that similar to Estes, Halsey would be wise to keep that walk rate down, because that opponents SLG is getting a bit high. If he's not giving away free baserunners, he may be fine. I can't predict any regression, but I will say that at 24 years of age, Halsey may be a candidate to succumb to some growing pains (yep, I'm reaching a bit).

Notice anybody missing? You should be wondering about the fortunes of former Giant Russ Ortiz. Heh. As much control as the other Diamondback starters are displaying, Ortiz is making up for that with sloppy, sloppy pitching. He's always walked a tightrope with his walks, but whereas someone like Estes has paid for his control problems, Ortiz has seemed to regularly find a way around allowing runs to cross the plate. Not so this year.

Is Ortiz this bad? Well, no, not quite. His k rate is way down, and his opponents batting line is way up. Ortiz survived control problems in the past by simply not allowing a whole lot of hits, and doing a pretty good job at dampening power. That's the difference this year, is that he's getting hit hard in addition to his normal base on ball issues. So unfortunately for the Giants, it looks more like Russ is due a little good luck and see his numbers drop some. But D-Backs brass still won't recoup their investment on Ortiz, because he just isn't as good enough to make about the same salary as Jason Schmidt.

So like the hitters, it's hard to see any sort of overall anomalies in performance with the Arizona rotation. I would think Estes is due to fall back to Earth a bit, but that'll likely be cancelled out by Ortiz not being so terrible. The only thing that could slow the D-Backs rotation down is probably injury.

Next up: Diamondback bullpen.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Are the Diamondbacks here to stay? Part 1

I'm looking at the D-Backs team stat page, trying to figure out how any possible Arizona collapse could happen, as do many who look at the difference in the team's runs scored and runs allowed (-13) and figure they see a team getting "lucky".

Personally, I say balderdash.

Balderdash. See? I said it. Twice.

To have a collapse, there has to be a reason behind the collapse besides a perceived change in fortune. Will the collapse come because of the starting rotation? The offense? The bullpen? All three? Let's look at some of the Diamondback players and see if we can spot anyone who is ripe to regress, starting with the hitters:

  • Luis Gonzalez, .309/.407/.475 - Hm. No, not here. As injury-riddled as last season was for Gonzo, as poor as he is defensively, he still produced offensively. Many seemed to be fooled by his 2004 .259 batting average as some sign, along with the career-low 105 games played, that he was all but done. Guess what? (BUZZ!) Incorrect. He's played in all but one of Arizona's games, he's still drawing walks, and he's still hitting for some power -- although I admit, this is likely the area where his age is showing. I seriously doubt if he'll ever SLG .500 the rest of his career, but .475 for this season is plenty maintainable (if that's a word) for Gonzo.
  • Troy Glaus, .261/.358/.584 - No, not here, either. The only thing to potentially slow Glaus down was the injury-bug, which hasn't hit as of now. These are exactly the kinds of numbers Glaus should be doing, as they are indicative of the kind of player he is. He still has the potential for injury, but those numbers will likely stay steady.
  • Craig Counsell, .310/.424/.428 - Ah, here we are, ripe and ready for collapse. Compare his current line to his career line of .264/.350/.349, and it's easy to see that the funny-batting-stanced-one is due for a big time regression. The only thing about it is that Counsell really isn't far ahead in the categories that would seem to benefit from increased OBP and SLG. He's scored 22 runs, which projects to about 78 over the course of a full season, and his career average over a 162 game season is 72. He's driven in 12, which projects to 43 over the full season, and that's exactly what he's averaged over his career over a 162 game stretch. So unfortunately, while Counsell's numbers will fall back to Earth at some point, it just won't have much impact on the D-Backs offense as a whole.
  • Remember way back when I was laughing at the Mets for signing Doug Mientkiewicz, saying that Omar Minaya likely would've been better served to sign Tony Clark? Heh, well...okay, I'm not really right, and that comment was only about 60% serious. But still, Clark: .284/.351/.522, and the Long, Complicated Last Name is at: .197/.300/.350, and Clark makes about 3 million less than the LCLN. Will Clark regress (no, not the Thrill Will Clark, you doofuseseses)...ahem. Will Tony Clark regress? His OBP is 10 points above his career average, his SLG is 40 points above career average, and he's 32 years old. In other words, I dunno. But if the D-Backs keep Clark in mainly against righties (where he runs a 1.122 OPS), than the chances are much better. Only has 67 at-bats to this point.
  • Jose Cruz, Jr., .259/.420/.519 - Cruz only has 54 at-bats, so his season (already marred by a trip to the DL) has a ways to go as well. His m.o. is basically the same as Clark's -- keep him in against righties as much as possible, and that line won't see a lot of regression. Cruz has great on-base skills, but not that good, and his SLG would be a lot more believeable around the .450 mark. We'll see how he's used.
  • Chad Tracy, .278/.294/.486 - a bit of an odd case, as he's way above his SLG from last season (.407), but way below his walk rate (0.26 walks per plate appearance this year, compared with 0.85 last year). In addition, he's a young player, still, so breakouts in one area or another are possible...ah, heck. I'm just too lazy to look up his minor league stats, that's all. Perhaps Jim could chime in on this, but for me Tracy is an unknown factor. He'll maintain those numbers unless he does better, or worse. That walk rate is mighty low, though.

That's really it. Counsell will come down, but not stall the offense significantly, Clark and Cruz are in over their heads, but only if Arizona keeps putting them in vs. left-handed pitching. They both can rake vs. righties.

There is a flipside, however, and that's the possibility a few players are performing below expectations. Shawn Green is the posterboy here, as he's walking and collecting extra-base hits at a lower level than we're accustomed to seeing. Alex Cintron is a tough case, too, as he's a fairly inconsistent player. Has the potential to hit much better, but probably will stay around his current output.

So, in essence, if an Arizona collapse is to come, it won't be from the offense. They aren't performing at any level I wouldn't expect them to be able to continue, and could possibly get a skoche better if Green figures out where his power and on-base ability has gone.

Uh oh...

Danny Graves of the Cincinnati Reds was designated for assignment today, and it seems he's destined to be given his unconditional release very soon. I really hope this does not happen, but this seems like it might be a very tempting player for Brian Sabean. Currently Graves has a 7.36 ERA, which sounds horrible, but if one looks at his season game by game, it's pretty easy to see that he hasn't been that bad of a pitcher this year. Most of his ERA is tied up in two bad outings in the last week (take those two out and Graves has a 3.17 ERA in 18 appearances). Does this mean that he's a guy that can help the Giants? He is a closer, right?

Nyet. Non. Nah. Nope.

A couple of statistics lead me to believe Graves' fortunes would not be any better in San Francisco than they were in Cincinnati: k/9, and OPS against.

If one looks at the quick headline stats for Graves, one might conclude that this year is flukish for him, as he had an entire season of sub-4.00 ERA, plus a nice little 3:1 k/bb ratio. He had a poor year in 2004 (mostly as a starter), but a very nice one in 2003. A few GM's may conclude that there is some good pitcher still in there if he's used exclusively as a reliever.

However, looking at the OPS opposing hitters ran against him, and it reads like this over those last three seasons: .801, .869, .674. So really, 2002 is the last season Graves really put it together. The line against him last season was .282/.317/.484 -- that's getting hit very hard for a relief pitcher, and is not the kind of line you want against your closer. The only thing that probably saved him from having a higher ERA was his low walk totals. This year his opponents' line is .357/.433/.607, so he's allowing walks at a significantly higher rate than last season along with giving up extra-base hits at a higher rate, too.

So opponents have been hitting Graves very well since 2003...if you add that fact onto his anemic k/9 innings, which have read like this since 2003: 3.20, 5.27, and this year 3.93...the Giants don't need a reliever like that -- they already have Matt Herges for those kinds of things.

Let's hope Sabean doesn't look at his still-not-stable bullpen, look at Graves' better ERA's from two of the last three years, think that the one bad year was because of the failed conversion to starting rather than relieving, then think that Graves could help the Giants out (let's also hope Sabes doesn't use run-on sentences like the monster I just made). There's also the tempting factor of SBC/Mays being a more pitcher-friendly park than the Great American Ballpark. I don't know why I think Sabean might be interested, but his track record with relievers over the years is less than stellar. We'll find out in about 10 days.

Monday, May 23, 2005

I'll take a shot of Victory with a Series chaser

From comedian Jim Gaffigan (probably not an exact quote):

"It's really hard to get a girl drunk when you don't drink. You know, you're both sittin' at a bar, and the bartender asks what you want to drink, and you're like, 'Yeah, I'll just have a glass of water, and you...you want a shot of Jager? You want eight of 'em?'"

Ah, so this is what it's like to win a series. I've heard stories about it and all -- I've even seen a National Geographic special on the healing powers of winning 3-game series, but this is the first time I've...alright, lemme snap out of it. It's not like I'm doing the Royals Recap just yet.

However, it's been a minute and a half since the Giants have won a series, and thus I am disproportionately giddy. I've been a bit negative lately, whereas I normally try to stay on the positive side of things...wait, are any of you really buying that? Allow me to get on with the dousing of your heads with cold, honest water:

  • The win Saturday came after still-unlikely-but-grinding-it-out Jeff Fassero pitched six strong innings against a struggling offensive team, and meanwhile the Giants offense struggled to put runs on the board despite 13 baserunners in a bit over six innings.
  • Yesterday's win was similar, as Noah Lowry unexpectedly pulled it together (again, against a poor offense), but the Giants offense was nearly as ineffective against A's starter Barry Zito, who also has had his problems this year.

I'll not say anymore negative. The Giants did find a way to take two of three from a struggling team while they themselves aren't hitting on all cylinders, and that deserves some praise. So, here's the praise:

  • Todd Walker again. Another save, another small reduction in my heart rate when the game is in the final innings and the Giants use their bullpen in a close and tight contest. Twelve pitches, ten strikes, game over. Looks like a Dennis Eckersley type of inning to me.
  • Regardless that he was facing arguably the worst offense in baseball (that's the numbers talking), I still must give credit to Noah Lowry. I was down on him and thought he could have been sent down after his last poor start, but he came through with a very nice game. His next start should come against the Padres, and if he does something similar in that game then I'll start to believe he's snapped out of his miasma.
  • Moises Alou's numbers are starting to look a bit more like Son Alou's numbers are supposed to look -- or, at least what we were all hoping for. Still buoyed by his ridiculous walk rate (ridiculously good, that is), his OPS is at .858, but his ISO SLG percentage is almost at 200 points, which is about what I would think Moises is capable of while playing half his games in a much less hitter-friendly park than last year. Twenty-two walks vs. only 6 strikeouts. Neat-o. With that walk rate and that bb/k ratio, he's doing sort of a Barry Bonds Lite. Now, if he could just add about 300 points to that SLG...

With the Padres loss coupled with the Diamondbacks win, there's a new leader in the NL West, so the Giants technically only gain half a game on the division leader, since that has switched from San Diego to Arizona. Now it's on to the all-of-a-sudden mediocre Los Angeles Dodgers, who just avoided a sweep at the hands of the Angels yesterday, and then onto the Padres, who after having their winning streak snapped at eight have started on a little, tiny losing streak.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Triscuits, Cheddar Cheese, and Lipton Raspberry Iced Tea.

Royals Recap

Well, what do we have here?

Is that a shining Ray of Hope slicing through the sullen, moody gray overhead? Do I detect the faint spark of passion from the smoldering ashes that is the Kansas City Royals?

Well, no, not really. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

In truth, there is a bit of hope that the Royals won't be the worst team in baseball this year. The team has responded after the tossing-in-of-the-terrycloth by Tony Pena, going 5-6 under the interim/debuting manager, Bob Schaefer. Some of you might be thinking, "Daniel. You silly dandelion, going 5-6 isn't exactly responding. That's still not a very good record, you goofy little hummingbird."

Aside from wondering why some of you would call me by such nicknames, I'd generally agree with you. But when your team is running a winning percentage of about .250, going 5-6 is responding. Although they lost the series over the weekend against the Cardinals, as Kevin Agee points out, both losses were by one measly little run. Which, by the way, runs the Royals record in one-run contests to 5-12.

The greater contributors as follows:

  • The Royals continue to debut fabulous young arms, and Leo Nunez is the latest. So far in 8.1 innings of work spanning five games, Nunez has yet to issue a walk. He's struck out six and allowed three hits (one of which was a home run). He's averaging just 11 pitches an inning, and opposing hitters are running this line: .111/.111/.259. If that ain't an impressive debut, I don't know what is. It won't last, but once again Allard Baird has shown off his ability to get something for nothing. The something being Nunez, and the nothing being Benito Santiago, who isn't even with the Pirates anymore.
  • Angel Berroa is hot like an ice cube after it falls into mol-ten mag-ma (nevermind the fact that it ceases to be an ice cube after...). Since hitting .230/.271/.336 on May 9th, Berroa has since gone 17 for 48 (.354) and run his line to .265/.306/.394, with five multi-hit games to his credit in the past couple of weeks. Also, his fielding percentage is at a career-high for him (.972), which has gone a bit unnoticed, I think.
  • After missing five games with the strained oblique, Mike Sweeney is back (no pun intended) and has gone 6 for 19 (.316) since his return.
  • Emil Brown is starting to warm up at the dish. He needs to, as his field work has been forgettable. Currently running .234/.336/.441 and rising. It's amusing how consistent some of his 2005 stats (i.e. g/f ratio, #p/pa) are with his stats from 2000 and 2001, which were the last two years he played in the bigs before the Royals gave him a try. You can look at those numbers here, if you want.
  • Don't look now, but Mike MacDougal hasn't walked a hitter in his last five appearances.
  • Ruben Gotay has raised his OPS 97 points in the last five games he's played.
  • Meanwhile, John Buck has raised his from .465 to .599. Whew! Barely clearing Neifi range, there. Let's hope it's just like last season and he's a slow starter. I do give credit to the Royals Brass for letting Buck try to work his way through his problems. That's what the youth movement is all about.

That seems like plenty of bulletpoints, but I do have to give some kudos to Mike Wood, who is dealing like nobody's business, and arguably has been the best pitcher for the Royals in the first month and a half. It continues to boggle me that a guy who started 17 games for this team just a year ago, and who is running numbers like a .194 BAA, 2:1 k/bb ratio, 6.84 k/9 (which for Wood is high), and a 1.06 WHIP isn't being considered to start ahead of guys like D.J. Carrasco and Ryan Jensen, although each of those guys has turned in a decent start.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Winds of Change...or, just being upwind of the Waste Management Facility instead of downwind

Alright! A win!

And, my clever use of the Reverse Curse(tm) saw to it that Jeff Fassero turned in a decent start. Expect the worst, loudly and negatively, and the best is much more likely to happen. However, don't go overusing the Reverse Curse(tm), because it loses its potency when used too often.

Other positive vibes:

  • Man, Ray Durham is just h-h-hot at the plate. And I won't even mention his low SLG this time, either -- I'm just happy he's hitting, even if it's just singles and doubles. He's still got more walks than strikeouts on the season.
  • Of the Giants 10 hits yesterday, three of them were courtesy of J.T. Snow, who had been slumping when he's not been hurt. He's had a bit of a power outage as well so far this season, but again, if it's got to be singles and doubles mixed in with some walks at this point, I'll take it.
  • Bullpen did its job, topped off by Tyler Walker, who seems to be settling into the closer role rather nicely. He's got a 3.68 ERA in the month of May.

Nice to get a win, but again, the Giants have got to win this series to carry a bit of momentum into the division games vs. the Dodgers and Padres, both of whom lost yesterday along with the Diamondbacks. The Giants did pick the best day to win one -- they got a game back on all three of the teams in front of them and remain within shouting distance at 5 1/2 games back of San Diego.

More Loose Changes

I've mucked around with the sidebar some more. Here's a rundown of the muck-a-muck...

I've added the date at the top of the sidebar. You know, in case you're wondering what today is, and don't feel like expending the calorie's worth of energy it takes to roll your mouse to your clock in the right-hand corner of the screen to let the date pop up on its own. You might need that calorie somewhere in the day, and you'll have me to thank.

I've added a button that links to a calendar on which I will post the Giants schedule. It's one of those things 95% of you won't really need, but it might come in handy for a few of you every now and then, so it's there if a need arises. I've only got the rest of May's schedule on there right now, but I'll add the rest of the season within the next week or so. Until I get off my lazy arse, the times for the games will be in Eastern Standard, so count three hours back for the month of May. The rest of the schedule will be in good ol' Pacific Standard...or Daylight, or whatever. Just turn on the freaking t.v. at the freaking time I put on there starting with June, 'kay?

Oh, and the button for the calendar is right after my music/author listings on the sidebar.

I've also added some Bravenet buttons, which, if anyone wakes up one morning with a pain in your neck and a strange craving to start a weblog or diary with Bravenet, can take someone to Bravenet to start up a free account with them -- which means I'll be making a buck or two.

Lastly, I'll be removing the link to the Baseball News Blog, as the owner of the site isn't going to continue updating it anymore. I never knew who was running the site and I don't know why he (or she) quit, but I wish that person the best of luck. It was a good concept.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Yo Ho Ho and a bottle of rum -- make that two bottles, please

The Giants' ship is sinking in mid-May.

A split with the Astros, a team with a poor record, then losing two of three to the Rockies, a team with a poor record...

And now they've lost the opener in a three game set against the Athletics, a team with a poor record.

Now remember, the Giants m.o. from early on was to beat up on the poor teams (Rockies, Pirates), but then get beat up on by the better teams.

That all changed with their second series against the Pirates, where Pittsburgh took two of three on the road vs. los Gigantes, and honestly the team has been struggling since that point.

If we combine the Giants opponents record over the last 11 games, it's a scintillating 62-98 (Pirates, Astros, Rockies, Athletics), for a .389 winning percentage. The Giants record over the last 11 games? It's 5-7, for a .417 winning percentage.

If you want to contend, you don't go 5-7 against teams with a combined .389 winning percentage. It's that simple.

To be even more grim, the Giants won't be coming out of this funk anytime soon, because the leaks are everywhere; starting pitching, offense, bullpen, you name it. A team can slump if only one of those things has a bad stretch, but for the Giants, all of those areas are having problems recently. Unless they have an epiphany, all three areas aren't going to get fixed at once.

Jason Schmidt will be coming back soon, but that's the only help the Giants are going to get. Playing .500 ball when Schmidt comes back would be reason for optimism, but playing .400 ball when he comes back makes it less of an impact -- Schmidt can't turn the team around only playing once every 5 days.

Today, Jeff Fassero goes back out there. Call me evil, but a tiny little part of me wants him to get bombed so that Sabean would be more inclined to call up one of those minor-league arms I mentioned a few days ago...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Okay, NOW I'm saying, "I told you so"

Dustin Hermanson. Look at them thar stats.

I'm not going to try and sell the idea that the Giants should've actually wandered down the road of my January musings that Hermanson could've served as the Giants closer this year (though I did think Hermanson showed he had the ability late last year, and I wrote about it here), but I will hold up a banner that says it was stupid not to re-sign him.

Oh, well. I'm crying, and there's milk on the floor.

Found Money...Lost Money

Well, whaddya do when you have a promising young starter that doesn't perform up to the hype?

You bring in another young starter to come in and do what you had hoped the first young starter would do.

Brad Hennessey is taking full advantage of his time with the club, being exactly the type of pitcher I thought Lowry could be. He is, also, the only real reason the Giants ship isn't sinking right now -- I mean, who of us thought that Hennessey would open up his first three starts with a 2-0 record with a 3.66 ERA?

Unfortunately, the Giants can't take advantage of the Rockies. There were some factors against them, such as...uh, gimme a minute.


Stuff happens, but if the Giants want to stay in touch, they've got to win series against teams like the Astros and Rockies, and they've got to score more than one run in Coors Field.
  • Ray Durham is...hitting some, but still without pop. He's got plenty of doubles, but no triples and no longballs. With his problems with his groin earlier, I wonder if some small compensation to keep from re-injuring something could be robbing Durham of his full swing. I also wonder how many licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.
  • Jason Ellison is...coming back down to Earth. Had to happen, but I'm looking at the timing of his recent mini-slump coinciding with my keeping track of his and Marquis Grissom's at-bats and OPS. Elly, couldn't you have waited for another week or two?
  • Deivi Cruz is...clutch. Can't really find a better word for it. He seems to find ways to get important hits -- at least, when I get the chance to see a game. Cruz has been nothing but a good find off the scrap heap for Brian Sabean.
  • Moises Alou is...drawing walks, but not much else. He's getting on base at a .400 clip, but needs to hit like a middle-of-the-order hitter, not a leadoff guy.
  • Scott Eyre is...becoming nails. The only number he needs to cut down on is walks, but when you look at his 1.15 WHIP, it's really not a big deal at all -- he's only allowed 8 hits in his 17+ innings pitched for a .143 BAA (batting average against).
  • Tyler Walker is...doing fine, thanks for asking. If we ignore his nasty implosion against the Pirates about a week ago, we can see that Tyler is doin' some thangs. In 15.1 of his 17.2 innings pitched, he's allowed no runs, and only 11 hits. All of his ERA is wrapped up in two horrible outings: his first appearance of the season against the Dodgers, where he gave up four runs without recording an out, and the aforementioned Pirates game where he allowed 3 runs in only one inning of work. Those two outings account for seven of the eight runs Walker's given up this year, or, to put it another way, he's only allowed runs in three of his 17 outings thus far. He, too, has a problem with base on balls that hopefully will be addressed, and I'd like to see him record strikeouts at a higher rate, but other than that he's been pretty good. He's a bit like Tomko -- after seeing some of his pitches you'd expect him to strike out a ton of hitters, but he doesn't. Oh, well.

Finally, I'll say a bit about the news of Barry Bonds' recent setback with his recovery from his knee injury: so what? I've said it before, but perhaps Michael Tucker said it better -- when any news of Bonds comes out, everyone forgets the team and focuses on the news. The oddest thing to me is that the news isn't news, and there hasn't been any news for a while.

What has changed? We've known for a while that Bonds would be out for months, with a return by the All-Star Break possible, but not necessarily likely. So, how does this news of I.V.'s and infections change that?

It doesn't change anything, and it certainly doesn't affect the reality for the Giants putting on the uniform and playing everyday. They have their own job to do, and as professionals getting paid six and seven figure salaries, it behooves them to act and play as if Bonds isn't a factor either in their on or off the field activities.

As Giants fans, I think we ought to do the same. Forget Barry. He's not here, and won't be for a while (if ever). Your 2005 San Fransisco Giants are on the field in front of you, and they're struggling. We should focus our time and attention on them, because they need support more than Bonds does.

The Giants task now will be the struggling Oakland Athletics. Not to beat a dead horse, but although I don't think the A's are as bad as their recent record would indicate, the Giants need to beat up on these guys. Unfortunately, they're going to be coming off a series win against a good Boston Red Sox ballclub, so they'll be looking to build off of that at the Giants expense. Still, a series win is a must, because then it'll be six games vs. the Dodgers and Padres, six games that can either get the Giants back in the race, or put them out of contention.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Wait for it...wait...steady...hold...

There are a few things I want to say about the Giants right now, but I'm going to hold off saying them until I can at least see the results of today's game vs. the Colorado Rockies. If the Giants lose again tonight...well, let's not think about that, shall we?

I'm expecting Noah Lowry to be sent down after last night's performance. Anything else, really, is just stupid. It was nice to hope after last year's stint, but he is not a major league pitcher right now. Quite frankly, it's time to roll the dice, Brian Sabean. If the Giants GM has any clue as to why he's holding a few good arms in his minor league system, now is the time to find out. Is he holding them as big pieces in a potential trade? Are they his aces in the hole? Are they the axe in the "In Case of Emergency, Break Open Glass" case?

Trading any of their young pitching prospects would be tantamount to applying for a job teaching Stupidity 101, of course. Given how uncertain the Giants immediate future looks, trading away pieces that could potentially see the Giants maintain a competitive team post-Barry (possibly as early as next season, folks) would be asinine.

We'll see what Sabes does, but if he doesn't see that the time is past for hoping that a simple tune-up will help the Giants engine run smoothly, then I'll start to believe that Sabean is a mediocre GM whose reputation is entirely based on the fortunes of Barry Bonds, and has no merits of his own to stand upon.

Major League Stuff

I haven't done a lot of talking about other happenings in the M-L-B, so I'm going to rectify that RIGHT NOW:

  • What, did the New York Yankees just look around, see that they were in unfamiliar territory next to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and decide to win ten straight? They are still only in 4th place, but now are only five games back of the Baltimore Orioles. Old dudes are contributing everywhere, as Bernie Williams just won't quite die off (a grand slam against the Seattle Mariners), and Tino Martinez...MUST BE ON STEROIDS (12 homers). In case you missed it, any somewhat unlikely player that either hits 2 or more home runs in a game or is well ahead of his career home run pace has to be on the juice. What else could it be, really? :)
  • It's still pretty early, but a one thing jumps out at me when looking at Carlos Beltran's statistics thus far this season: OBP. Beltran's OBP is only 50 points higher than his batting average, which isn't what I'm used to seeing these last few years with him. When coupled with his okay-but-not-what-the-Mets-paid-for SLG, Carlos isn't giving New York (NL) what they had hoped for as of yet. It's a bit early, still, but not for much longer.
  • Speaking of early, almost 25% of the season has been played. So the excuses of "it's early" should start going by the boards, and phrases like "early season slump" should begin their slow transformation into phrases like "off-year", or just plain "bad year".
  • Never count out a Billy Beane team, but after their 8-game losing streak (and only winning one of their last 10), the Oakland Athletics aren't looking good. I generally expected them to have some offensive woes, but expected their pitching to carry them. Well, thus far the offense has woes on top of its woes, and their pitching was carrying them for a bit, but then promptly dropped them. The A's staff is currently 1th in the AL in team ERA, 10th in team WHIP, and 10th in k/bb ratio. Not exactly what they're used to in Oakland, but the A's have had poor starts before -- again, don't count them out.

My surprise team to this point is the Milwaukee Brewers. Being at .500 for a team at this point in the season shouldn't be that big of a deal, but like my other fave team, the Brewers have the "Perennial Loser!" tag sewn into the sleeves of their jerseys. Sure, the Washington Nationals are a bit of a surprise, too, especially given their division, but I'm giving them the whole new-lease-on-life thing, and besides -- a part of me wants the Brewers to succeed for at least one year.

However, dark clouds are overhead. On the hitting side of things, they can't reasonably expect Lyle Overbay (1.019 OPS) and Brady Clark (.919 OPS) to continue to hit that well, although both players do have more walks than strikeouts (something I consider to usually be the sign of a good hitter). As a team, the Brewers are drawing walks at a higher rate than any other team in the NL -- something they must continue to do, as both their team batting average and team SLG are in the bottom half of the league.

On the pitching side of things, just about every reliever the Brewers care to throw out there is doing their jobs, and a few, such as Derrick Turnbow, Matt Wise, and Mike Adams, are doing very, very well indeed. To hurt my pride, even a couple of former Royals (Ricky Bottalico and Wes Obermueller) are doing well. And I know all Giants fans have an idea how much Brewers fans hope that Ben Sheets will be back sooner than later.

Can the Brewers contend in the NL Central? No, probably not, but they won't lose nearly as many as the 94 games they lost in 2004. I think they will have a shot at going .500, though, something that Royals fans know can be a pretty big deal when the team's been down so long.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Royals Recap

It's been quite a bit since my last Royals recap, and a lot has happened to Kansas City in the meantime. For instance...

...uh, well, for starters...you see, what's important to remember is...um, er...

Stop looking at me like that, will ya?

I was thinking of starting this recap with some your-mother-is-so-fat jokes, some New York/L.A. jokes, some political/religious jokes...and if those don't work, I'm going to go straight for the bullet points.

Alright, first bullet point:
  • With things going as poorly for the team as it has been, it's always nice to look at the bright spots -- like Mike Sweeney, for instance, who's been running an OPS near 1.000 for about...well, he's still running that high OPS, but in the surprise story of the early baseball season, Sweeney had to sit out a few games with a strained oblique. Basically, Mike had another back injury. In terms of offensive production relative to his teammates, Sweeney is pretty much Barry Bonds to the Royals anemic offense. If memory serves, they were expecting Sweeney back in the lineup today. We'll see how all that goes.
  • Another bright spot is Zack Grienke, who's proving last year was no fluke with numbers like these: 1.14 WHIP, an over 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, opposing hitters are running a Mike Matheny-like .653 OPS against Zack thus far, a 3.09 ERA, and...zero wins to show for all those shiny, candy-like numbers. Reason? Grienke has the dubious distinction of having the worst run support in the majors.
  • Dark spots: After a couple of flashy outings, Ambiorix Burgos has crashed back to reality with (surprise, surprise) control issues. Every pitcher on the roster with the exceptions of Grienke and Andy Sisco has had control problems this season. Burgos has shown enough flash to let the baseball world know that he could be a very good pitcher in a year or two, but not right now.
  • Speaking of not-quite-ready-yet, another great arm with control issues, Denny Bautista, has hit the DL because of shoulder problems (cue foreboding music), along with (surprise, surprise part deux) Kyle Snyder, who was the first to jump into the shoulder-problem swimming pool.
  • I'm on the verge of admitting the Royals are simply snakebitten when it comes to hopeful young pitchers.
  • Also slightly hopeful on the hitting side of things, Emil Brown seems to be snapping out of his SlumpFunk. His batting average is still very low, but his OBP is still very good and his ISO SLG is still good, too. It's just too bad he's one of only three Royals hitters with an OPS of over .700. Yeah, folks, it's that bad. None of the young guys are hitting their weight.
  • That comment made, some credit must be given to Mark Teahen, the Royals' hopeful at 3rd base to take the steady-3rd-baseman torch from Joe Randa. Teahen looks more confident at the plate, but is really showing his stuff at the hot corner lately with several nice plays to his credit since coming off the DL.
  • Other mentionables in the perhaps-he-isn't-a-horrible-player category this week are: Mike Wood, who's picked up a couple of saves and pitched nicely from the 'pen, and Leo Nunez, who's another good, young arm the Royals threw into the bullpen cauldron and didn't fry his first couple of times out. We'll see if he eventually goes the way of Andy Sisco or Ambiorix Burgos afterwards, however.

BUY STUFF! My Amazon search box works, so if anyone just happens to be sitting around, scratching their unmentionables while watching unknown species of fungi grow on them while reading my entries, they can, if the inclination takes them, search for any Amazon product in that search box and make a purchase.

Also, I've links to Giants apparel-paraphenalia (say that 10 times fast...wait, no, don't) and Royals apparel, too, as well as links to buy the music of my fave musical artists or the books of my fave authors. Which is something I know you all are just burning to do. I know it. (anybody see my meds?)

Monday, May 16, 2005

No, that's NOT kicking 'em while they're down (or, the Giants Doom and Gloom Entry)

That hump the Giants are trying to get over is starting to look more and more like a large hill with aspirations on becoming a mountain.

Every dog has his day, even 100-loss teams win 60+ games...hey, that's stuff I've said as recently as last week. And the Astros? Well, they did have Roger Clemens pitching in one of the games in this 4-game set, so their chances to win at least one game did bode well.

But in the end, so what? The Giants had to take three of four from this team in order to keep up with the San Diego Joneses, the Arizona Joneses, and the Los Angeles Joneses of Los Angeles, and they had to take three of four from this team because the Astros were 12-21 coming into the series -- in other words, they're either a poor team or they're playing poorly, take your pick.

However you slice it, last night's game wasn't a must-win game from a standings standpoint, but it's the type of game the Giants need to win; a game against a team struggling on offense (2nd to last in the NL in runs scored)with an unheralded starting pitcher (6.05 ERA coming into yesterday's game). Instead, that struggling offensive team exploded on offense with four home runs (three by the must-be-on-steroids Morgan Ensberg), and the unheralded starting pitcher shut out the Giants on four hits.

(insert Valley Girl voice here) Hey, like, that wasn't supposed to happen, was it? Like, totally bunk!

Other things that are good, bad, and ugly:
  • If you look at the sidebar, you'll notice that the Get Jason Ellison More At-Bats Than Marquis Grissom! campaign will continue to march on with updates on where each player stands in number of at-bats and OPS. Right now, there is a 26 ab's differential between the two players in Grissom's favor (104 vs. 78), while there is a 432 point differential in OPS between the two players in Ellison's favor (.994 vs. .532). And most annoyingly, Grissom continues to start over Elly in centerfield when the two play in the same game (with Elly playing in RF), which is so stupid it's sad. Ellison has more speed and a better arm than Grissom, and while some might tout Grissom's experience in centerfield as some sort of factor to even things up, I say...bullshit. Grissom's had a nice run with the Giants and all, but he's never displayed any particular prowess for taking great routes to the ball in center, and now he's getting old fast. Make the change in your heart as well as your brain, Father Alou. Your team needs Ellison to help cover both alleys in the outfield, not just one.
  • Props to a Giants bullpen pitcher who has Failed to Be Horrible: Scott Eyre. He's had a few bad outings, but he's been decent more often than not.
  • On another bullpen note, somebody tell Jason Christiansen and Matt Herges that it's probably a good idea to miss more bats; they have a k/9 rate of 2.70 and 2.93, respectively. I know they aren't strikeout pitchers, but those are ridiculously low numbers...unless, of course, your name is Kirk Rueter (1.74 k/9). But there can only be one Woody, right?
  • Remember when the Giants had all those purdy team offensive numbers, and looked to be a decent offense despite my frothing-at-the-mouth entries telling you that they weren't good at all? Ah, the crows have come home to roost, as the Giants are now 12th in the NL in team OPS and 9th in runs scored.

Just to let you know, I'm started to put up some...ADS! Yep indeedy, there's gonna be some colorful Amazon.com banners on that thar sidebar -- if I can somehow figure out how to get them to work properly. One of them is up already, but I'm not sure if it works how it's supposed to work (namely, if the darn thing will credit me correctly in case one of y'all actually decided to follow the link and buy something on Amazon).

If one of you lovely, adventurous people would like to click on the link and tell me: a) if the thing works, and more importantly, b) if it brings you to a page that says "Hello, Daniel Smith" on it. Thanks in advance for your support.

This is a bit eerie...

Marquis Grissom, CF, San Francisco Giants: .202/.243/.288, 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 6 walks, 13 RBI, .532 OPS in 104 at-bats.

Ruben Gotay, 2B, Kansas City Royals: .204/.241/.291, 3 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 walks, 11 RBI, .532 OPS in 103 at-bats.

So, right now Grip, making 2 million dollars this year, is hitting almost exactly like a 22 year-old rookie making league minimum for the Kansas City Royals. Yep, sounds about right.

Not to beat a dead horse, but does anybody have a crowbar?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Movin' On Up...

Just a quick note to let you know fellow blogger and friend Kevin Agee (who earlier wrote a piece for this blog here), is stepping his game vertically, and moving on to new, more visible digs.

Instead of checking him and his excellent writing out at Kevin's Royals Blog, go to this site:

Kaufmann Confidential, which is part of All-Baseball.com.

If you for some reason decide to wait before going to take a peek, it'll be on that thar sidebar to utilize at your leisure.

(Psst. Hey, you. Don't wait. Just go there instead. It's a Royals site, but it won't hurt you. Really. The Royals are your friends.)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Kick 'em while they're down

If the modus operandi of the Giants really is beat-up-on-the-weaker-teams and struggle-with-the-better-teams, then they need to use these stretch of games to keep up with...well, just about everyone else in the NL West with the exception of the Colorado Rockies.

The remaining three games vs. the Astros plus the next three game set vs. the Rockies are the only games the Giants have for a while against what looks to be poor teams -- the A's, Dodgers, Padres, and Phillies will wrap up the month of May.

The Giants are only three games back of the Dodgers, but the problem isn't three games back, it's being behind three teams in the division. While staying close to these teams ensures that the Giants could make up ground quickly by simply beating those teams when they play, the Giants haven't exactly fared well against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Padres to this point. Thus the need for the Giants to mop up the floor with the weaker competition whenever the opportunity presents itself -- like right now, with the Astros, for instance.

Notes from last night's game:
  • As poorly as he looked in the Spring, Brad Hennessey has looked equally as gutty in his two starts this year. Great thing: Hennessey's k/9 is at an even 9.00. Bad thing: Hennessey's already given up five home runs in 13 innings of work. Keep doing the former, stop doing the latter, Brad.
  • Despite simply being not a very good hitter, Mike Matheny continues to be, for lack of a better word, clutch. His two hits last night were both important, and both drove in a run.
  • Ray Durham is still clawing his way back to respectability with a pinch-hit double that he eventually scored on. Batting average up to .247, OPS up to .664. You can do it, Ray-Ray! Me and Pooky and errbody else is behind you. Word.
  • By the way, stop, stop, stop playing Grissom in centerfield when Jason Ellison is playing. Father Alou, can you hear me? We both know it's dumb defensively, not to mention that besides some early-season heroics, Grip has been a big-time liability offensively. At least Michael Tucker draws some walks when he's not hitting. The official Get Jason Ellison More At-Bats Than Marquis Grissom campaign has begun. Right now, it stands 98-69 in favor of Grissom -- I want to see Ellison have more at-bats than Grissom by the end of May.
  • Speaking of Ellison, doesn't it suck when you go 1 for 3 at the plate and see your batting average drop? Ellison, if he had enough ab's to qualify, would be 2nd in the league in hitting behind another where-the-heck-did-he-come-from outfielder, Clint Barmes. Only thing is, Barmes plays for the Rockies, so he doesn't get full credit. Near as I can tell, Elly is about 20 some-odd ab's away from qualifying for the leaderboard at this point. He'll probably have to play everyday for about 3 more weeks to get enough at-bats.
  • More kudos: Deivi Cruz continues to be a very nice pickup. While you'd rather not have the guy starting in your middle infield, having him as a utility infielder works out well enough.
  • Jim Brower was able to pitch last night without anything horrible happening. Amen.

The semi-resurgent Woody goes tonight vs. the 'Stros, who run out right-hander Ezequiel Astacio. Astacio has been mowin' 'em down with 12 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched vs. only one walk, but he has given up 16 hits in those 11 innings, with four of those hits being round-trippers. Don't let his 9.82 ERA fool you into thinking the Giants will whoop up on him -- any pitcher who can go 11 innings while only walking one and striking out 12 is a little dangerous.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Can't Win for Losin'

Yay! Noah Lowry turned in a decent start!

But the Giants only scored two runs.

This is pretty easy, actually. The Giants allowed the worst offense in the NL to hit three home runs off of them, and they lost. Every dog has his day, and the Pirates had a day to whoop up on the Giants to the tune of 7-2.

These things happen, so it is up to us, the fans, to not overreact to every loss simply because they may have seemed unlikely in the beginning. Even a 100-loss team wins about 60 games, and the Pirates...heck, they have almost as mediocre a record as the Giants do. So, in essence, don't get your panties up in a bunch.

I'll do that for you. (Crap, stupid Pirates, hitting freaking three freaking home runs and taking two of three in the freaking series, putting the Giants under freaking .500 again)

Yeah. Let's move on, shall we?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Absolute Lack of a Witty or Interesting Title

News on both of my fave teams, starting with the Giants:

  • Jason Schmidt goes on the DL. My reaction? I'm perfectly fine with it, because: 1) it just wouldn't be a complete season without all of the Giants most important players hitting the DL (Moises, Schmidt, Bonds, Benitez), 2) if a DL stint will help his arm get right so he can regain his velocity and control, great, and 3) he hadn't pitched all that well this year, so as an immediate impact this can't be viewed as that horrible. Will all of that reasoning stop my natural animal reaction to this (consisting of climbing a tree, screaming while jumping up and down, and throwing fruit and excrement around)? No, it won't.
  • Jeff Fassero must've heard my chant yesterday, because he did exactly what I had hoped; he pitched five strong innings. Of course, Dave Williams of the Pirates pitched six strong, so it hardly mattered. The Giants lost 5-2 and now sit at Indy .500 again.
  • As the weather is warming up, Edgardo Alfonzo is cooling down. Heck, he's cooler than a polar bear's toenails, going only 4 for his last 26 ab's. Mike Matheny is doing his best to regress to his mean as well, going 2 for his last 18, dropping his batting average to .231. Well, at least I know I'm going to see Yorvit Torreabla play on weekends -- Torry has only played in one weekday game this season.
  • Lance Niekro continues to display power and a complete disregard for the base on balls. He's hit five home runs, but has only one walk. For a part-timer, though, he's mustard.

Now, for the Royal pain in the...

  • Tony Pena has RESIGNED! I...don't know what to think of this, other than to be generally positive and generally optimistic that Allard Baird will not hire a nincompoop when they open up the job to candidates. Kevin Agee brings up Carlos Tosca as a shot-in-the-dark possibility, while I personally wish that Lou Piniella would give up on the Devil Rays and come to Kansas City, where...well, things aren't better there, but I'd like it better here if he were over there. And my feelings are all that matters. Meanwhile, the intern/sacrifical lamb/human shield that will pilot the Royals' sinking ship in the meantime will be Bob Schaefer.
  • Mike Sweeney seems to have become interested in physics, as he is attempting to tear the cover off of the ball right now. He's run his OPS to about 1.000, and has popped up on the AL leaderboard for home runs and RBI -- he's two behind the league leader in home runs (Alex Rodriguez), and in 3rd place on the RBI board (three behind A-Rod, for perspective). As the abolute only bright spot in the Royals lineup right now, I appreciate what he's been able to accomplish this year even more than normal. (crossing fingers) Stay healthy, Mikey.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Rockies Pirate Picture Show

As El Lefty pointed out last night on his site, the Giants have been beating up on the Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies (8-1 vs.), while getting beat up on by all the other teams they've played (7-14).

Other interesting (or boring) tidbits:
  • The Giants are 11-5 in games decided by two runs or less, going 7-4 in games decided by only one run. Meanwhile, they've gone 5-6 in blowout games (decided by four runs or more).
  • The Giants have been held to two runs or less nine times, while doing the same to the opposition six times.
  • The Giants have had four explosions of double digit runs (three coming against the Rockies), while allowing their opponents to score 10 runs or more twice.
  • The Giants are 3rd in the NL in runs scored per game, while they are 3rd to last in runs allowed per game. Ah, symmetry.
  • The Giants are +1 in their Pythagorean record (given the Giants runs scored and runs allowed, their expected record is 15-16).
  • The Giants have gone 16-0 in games where they've scored more runs than their opponent. Sorry, just making sure you were paying attention.

Not the most scintillating entry, I know, but I'm still a bit off-kilter from the move. The only Giants games I've been able to watch was the last, oh, 15 seconds of Brett Tomko's complete game last night (which was the shortest game in Mays Field/SBC Park history), and the Nationals scoring the final four runs in the game Saturday...proving that, once again, I have the worst timing in the known universe. Miss all the good stuff, catch all of the bad stuff.

By the way, Jeff Fassero gets the start for the Giants today. On one hand, if you feel like praying, it couldn't hurt. On the other hand, this is the Pirates we're talking about...nevermind, go ahead and pray. Mantra: five strong innings, five strong innings...

Poker Night: Lucky Luis

I haven't written about my legendary bad luck in Hold 'Em for a bit, so here's the latest from my files...

- I played in a larger game last Friday in Vacaville. The buy-in was $25, and there were 18 players at two tables. It was run better than our loose games are, with the hosts running two decks on each table and running the blinds on a strict timer-basis. And now comes the pain...

After catching nothing (no, not even a pair) for the first 30 minutes or so and seeing my pile of chips dwindle (I was strong several times starting out and did some raising, only to have the flop destroy my hopes and dreams), I caught the best starting hand: pocket bullets. What did I do with 'em?

(sigh) This time I chose not to raise, figuring I'd let the flop come out and let somebody catch high board pair or something. Of course, out comes 4, 5, 7 on the flop, and now I have to worry about one of the limpers catching a straight. The turn? A freaking 6, so now's there's four to the straight on the board, and I'm forced to bail out after a strong bet and a call.

The next hand I caught was k/2 suited clubs, and I flopped a flush with the ace on the board. Great, right? Being last to bet, I again figured I would sit on it, as my chips were getting pretty low and I wanted some cheap bets and a few calls to bump up the pot before it got to me. This was destroyed by a bunch of checks after the flop, which I went along with. 4th street was the queen of clubs, which wasn't that great of a card for me (it meant nobody else had it), but did mean that there were four to the flush on the board, so hopefully somebody with a jack or 9 of clubs would get bold after the river. Again, everyone checked, so I did the same figuring I'd put out a small bet after the river if everyone checked again.

The river? Queen of hearts....okay, whatever. I wait to see what everyone else does, and get check, check, all-in, fold, fold, fold...yep, I got an all-in, which was exactly what I wanted, right? I've got an ace-high flush with a ing kicker, so I've got to call...and the guy turns over a freaking full house with queens full of 10's. He caught a queen on the turn and river to give him his hand and screw me over royally. Sure, I should've bet a bit earlier, but who figures to have somebody catch up to them when they've got a freaking ace-high flush with the nut king?

- Our own Poker Night was on Saturday, and featured a brilliant display of luck by my friend and nemesis, Luis.

Without going into too much detail, I'll just tell you that twice on all-ins where I would've taken him out he caught a turn and river card to beat me. Twice. In one night. Remember when I told you guys how I got beat twice in one night by running 4's on the turn and river? Yeah, Luis had one of those, and he did it twice himself on Saturday.

I came in 2nd place twice, both times to Luis. Other than my trials and tribulations with him, I was generally beating up on everyone else (actually catching a river card to beat Dave once). How'd Luis beat me in the second game? I went all-in with k/j suited spades, and Luis called with...2/7 suited spades...and ended up with two pair. Luis himself doesn't know why he called, except for the knowledge that whenever we go heads-up on an all-in, he starts out behind and gets whatever cards he needs to catch up and beat me. I've never seen anyone catch as many cards as he does, but it's balanced out by me hardly being able to catch a card to save my life.

Yin, meet Yang.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

I'd be finished moving, if it wasn't for the fact that I'm not done

Just throwing a pebble in the pond to let you all know I'm back online, but not quite done with the move.

So, if you'll excuse me, I have to go lift and carry stuff.

I'm hoping for a Monday entry, but don't hold me to it, especially as the Giants recent winning trends (specifically the lack of a winning trend) doesn't exactly have me running to the computer to hand out merit and praise.

The way different things are breaking down on different days, we ought to be worried...this team is looking more and more like a .500 team the further we get into the season. They seem to like streaking -- unfortunately, losing streaks as well as winning streaks.

Oh, well...have a good remainder-of-the-weekend, everyone.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Over the Hump? Can't we just go around it?

Note: Due to the constraints of time due to my change of residence (and, of course, having nothing to do with innate laziness), I'm going to skip my Royals Recap for this week. I'm sure many of you were waiting with baited breath to read what I was going to say after they managed to win two games in a row, but you'll just have to wait until they put another two wins in a row...probably sometime in June.

As far as the Giants are concerned, the six game winning streak was nice, but this three game losing streak ought to bring any optimists back down to Earth. Sobering news starting with:

  • Barry Bonds. I don't know if anyone noticed or not, but I tend to avoid talking about Bonds. I try to write about the here and now for the most part, and Bonds...is not here right now, and won't be for a while longer after reports of his 3rd knee surgery. Trust me, it'll be a lot easier for all of us if we just assume he won't be back in time to make too much of an impact on any pennant race the Giants try to stay in. If he does, obviously it's gravy.
  • Ray Durham. Now this is bad news. I've said a few times that I believed Durham had to play in at least 145 games this season for the Giants to get max production out of the 2nd base position, but unfortunately Ray is the Master of the Nagging Injury. It's never anything too serious, but it happens with alarming regularity and it's always with his legs (he seems to have lots of trouble with groin-related injuries). Deivi Cruz will step in and do his thing -- hit a little, field a little -- but I think the Giants might lose a tad defensively on range with Cruz on defense, and they'll definitely miss Durham's superior power and on-base ability over Deivi on offense. Deivi's a nice enough sub for the here and now, but the Giants are starting to spring leaks in more places than Brian Sabean will be able to attempt to fix.
  • This has nothing to do with anything, but Dustin Hermanson has yet to allow an earned run in 13 innings of work for the Chicago White Sox, allowing only two walks while picking up four saves. I mean, sure, I want to say I told you so, but it's too early for that -- and I don't know any good recipes for crow in case I have to eat any.

As far as the Giants last two losses, I only saw a portion of each game, so I only have limited knowledge as to what were the main causes for the losses -- besides allowing the Arizona Diamondbacks to score more runs than the Giants themselves scored, of course. But I still noticed a thing or four:

  • The loss on Tuesday was due to a lack of baserunners -- specifically, those by way of the walk. Sure, the Giants hit two home runs and a double, but had no one on base to drive in when they were hit. Result: only two runs and a loss.
  • The loss yesterday was the opposite, in a sense. The Giants drew six walks, however, only hit two extra-base hits; both doubles, one of which scored half of the Giants two run output.
  • Mike Matheny seems to be cooling off at the plate, which I hope means he'll heat up behind the dish. While the "extra" (read: unexpected) offense he was supplying in April was nice, he seems a bit off defensively. No way that a Jason Ellison situation could occur here, though, as I'm sure Matheny would have to be uber-horrible at the plate and mediocre behind the plate before the Giants would see fit to play Yorvit Torrealba more often.
  • Jeremy Accardo made his debut, and I did get to see that. It was only one appearance, but color me impressed. He regularly hit in the mid-90's with the fastball, and seemed to be able to locate it. I only saw one breaking ball, so I'm loath to judge that pitch yet. He has a funky delivery -- no, don't go thinking Dontrelle or anything, but it's a bit different, and I can see how it could easily throw hitters off that are seeing Accardo for the first time. He may be hard to hit until the league gets a book on him and sees him a few times.

Alright, I'm going to call it quits. I'll try for a weekend entry, as I'm hoping me and my slaves ( I'm told they're known in rural areas of this country as friends) will be able to move the majority of stuff tonight, and I can wrap it Friday and Saturday.

I'd also like to thank Aaron Gleeman for the plug he gave this site and OB buddy Warning Track Power on his site today. For those visiting Orange & Black Baseball for the first time, welcome, and I hope you like what you see and decide to come back (or, even if you don't like what you see, you can still come back).

Go Giants! And, although likely futile, Go Royals!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Does anybody have any fingernails I can borrow?

Because I've bitten mine all off.

When I got my first glimpse of the Giants 9-8 win last night vs. Arizona, I was little peeved.

You see, it was already the bottom of the 8th inning, and the Giants were up 8-7. Not only had I missed most of the game, but the Dark Side of the Force (a.k.a. my natural cynicism and sarcasm) told me that I was probably just in time to see the Diamondbacks tie the game.

Heh. I was right about that, but the Giants and D-Backs fit a lot of fantastic baseball around that tie (in addition to the aforementioned nail-biting). Points of late-game interest, starting with the bottom of the 9th:
  • Luis Gonzales. Boy, I knew Jim Brower was in trouble against Gonzo in the 9th when the count ran full, but I was hoping he wouldn't catch too much plate with his payoff pitch. Walking Gonzo was out of the question as there were no outs, and lumberjacks Troy Glaus and Shawn Green were due up. While it's easy to think of the home run ball when dealing with the heart of the lineup, it's more realistic to think double -- and a double with a man on first is asking for a tie game. So, Brower comes plateward, and...catches too much plate. SMACK! Game tied. The funniest thing was that the tying home run didn't discomfit me too much. I knew if Brower made a mistake to Gonzo in that situation it would spell trouble, and my expectations were met. Kudos to Gonzales; he really laid into that one.
  • I'm a stat-ish kind of guy. While I wouldn't consider myself a stat-head, I do have a tendency to look at the numbers first. That being said, numbers fly right out of the freaking window in tight games like these -- the mental and physical parts of the game takes over, and the why and how of a player's statline for the night takes place. All of this babbling is leading up to...
  • Moises Alou went 2 for 5 with a double and a walk. The double...well, it was a thing of beauty. Brian Bruney had just pounded the outside part of the plate to right-handed batter Edgardo Alfonzo, but after getting a couple of calls on outside pitches to get to a two strike count, he went a little too wide on the next couple and ended up issuing a walk to Fonzie. What did M.Alou, right-handed batter, do after seeing this? Well, after seeing a couple of hard pitches on the outside in his at-bat, Moises promptly smoked one into the gap just out of the reach of the diving Shawn Green. Fonzie scored, and the Giants took a 1-run lead into the bottom of the 10th.
  • Tyler Walker has the stuff to close games. That being said, Tyler Walker should not close games. I don't know what it is, but he can never seem to put it all together. That being said, with the bases loaded in the 10th after issuing a leadoff double, a walk, and then an intentional walk after a sacrifice bunt, he put it all together. Facing Glaus with the bases juiced and one out, Walker threw naught but mid-90's fastballs to Glaus, and got him swinging on three pitches. Then, he pounded Green inside with more mid 90's heat, mixing it up with one knee-buckling breaking ball (to Green's credit, he simply spit on the pitch like it was nothing). He ended up getting Green to fly out to shallow right-center to end the game. Some of you may have seen what scares me and entices me about Walker. He's got a closer's arsenal, but doesn't have tight control over it. Who knows? Perhaps Father Alou will see fit to have Ty close another game soon -- and take another year or two off of my life with anxiety.

As far as the rest of the game that I did not see, it's time to look at J.T. Snow. While last year's .958 OPS was great, I didn't reserve much hope that he could duplicate it given that J.T's 37 years old. Sure, he looked as good at the plate last year as he did in '97, his career year and first with the Giants, but again? Not likely.

Heh. Alright. This guy can still hit. Now running a svelte .354/.425/.462 line (with his power catching up -- his first 13 hits were all singles), Snow is productive, and will end up being an absolute steal for 2 million if he can keep this up. I, for one, am no longer doubting that he can.

Isn't it interesting the the Giants have put together this 6-game winning streaks while having two of those games starting with poor outings by Jason Schmidt? Of course, it's not good to see Schmitty struggle, but it's good to see the Giants finding a way to win without him having to throw 130 pitches and shut the opposition down.

Perhaps the rumours (uh, started by me) of the Giants offensive demise were premature. While five of their 25 games being played against the Rockies do skew things a bit, they no longer should be a point of contention. It could be that with a few new faces in the lineup and some dude named Bonds not being there, that it took the hitters some time to get into a groove, but they now look to be a competent group.

Mike Matheny is still looking like a hitter. I still think he's a bit over his head numbers-wise, but I will no longer cringe when he's at the plate. Grand slams are always good ways to contribute to this.

Okay, that's enough for now. It looks like I may be able to squeeze a Wednesday entry in here before shutting down for about three or four days while I'm doing this move. I'm hoping that by Wednesday I'll be able to do a little baseball-related movie review for y'all -- if not, it'll be up after I'm settled into my new digs.

One more tiny note: while the entry before this said "Monday" on it, it was really a Sunday entry that I dated incorrectly. I also said the Giants were on a four-game winning streak when they were really on a five-game winning streak. If this caused anyone any confusion, then that's too bad for y'all-selves.