Sunday, April 30, 2006


...was nice on a few different levels.

Four wins vs. two losses for the Giants against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although two of the wins came in dramatic fashion after the Giants ended up having to get over and past D-Back rallies, they do count.

Some notes:
  • The Giants are 1-3 without Bonds, and they are 1-2 in games where Bonds homers. The latter is semi-uselss information, but the former will be something to keep an eye on later in the year.
  • A bit odd, but despite the offensive struggles, the Giants are 6th in the NL in both batting average and on-base percentage. However, they are 3rd to last in team SLG percentage, so it's pretty easy to see where the problem lies. Moises Alou is just about the only guy homering much, although Barry Bonds is heating up -- but that's pretty much it (they're also 3rd to last in home runs hits as a team, and dead last in doubles hit as a team). Less singles, more extra-base hits, Giants. Chop chop!
  • By the way, two teams less powerful at the plate than the Giants? The San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers. This division isn't very good, I think, although both those teams play in a pitcher's park.
  • The, lead the double plays hit into. This, in large part, is because the Giants are 3rd in the league as far as ground ball/fly ball ration at 1.42. They just hit a lot of ground balls as a team, and thus are much more susceptible to the double play.
  • The Giants are dead last in the league in p/pa (pitches per plate appearance) at 3.56, so it's easy to surmise that they are the most impatient team in the league. Possibly associated with that number is that the Giants strike out the least in the NL -- a lot of it may have to do with the fact that they just don't see enough pitches to strike out.

The umps have blown yet another important call against the Giants, as a big-time run-scoring opportunity went by the boards after a check-swing by Bonds was appealed and called a swing, thus making it strike three against Bonds, and also wiping out Kevin Frandsen at 3rd base -- he was trotting into 3rd base thinking Bonds had been issued a walk.

We'll just have to see if this call ends up being as important as the other two missed calls were.

Update: Is it just me, or is Jeff Fassero looking very much done? The Giants have had another rally fail, once again because of their tendency to hit ground balls. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Mark Sweeney hits a ground ball that Bonds couldn't score on, and got caught in a rundown. Then with runners on 1st and 2nd after that play, Mike Matheny hits into an inning-ending double play.

And to just round this game out, Pedro Feliz has twice grounded out after only seeing one pitch.

If you neeed me, I'll be vomiting over in the corner.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Oops, and the Fate of Feliz

During my Brian Wilson rant yesterday, I failed to notice that he apparently went on the DL right after being brought up, which was why Jeremy Accardo was there to pitch in the 1st place. This was pointed out to me by someone going by the name of Nonny Muss.

Mr. A. Nonny Muss. Thanks.

My Royals-related euphoria (caused by them winning three of four games) met with a serious downer in the form of their 15th loss of the season.

Whenever I find myself getting too angry at the Giants, I can always compare them to the Royals and bask in the relief that both my favorite teams aren't as bad as Kansas City is.

Mad at Pedro Feliz, and wish he'd display some plate discipline? Heh. Check out Angel Berroa. He's hitting .296 and his on-base percentage is .306, thanks to the single walk he's drawn so far for 2006 in 72 plate appearances. He's seeing the fewest amount of pitches per plate appeance of his career at 3.24, not to mention he's pounding the ball into the ground at an almost 2 to 1 clip over fly balls (1.94 g/f ratio). In other words, even his seemingly-decent .296 batting average will eventually drop, because you need to be extremely lucky to high for that high of an average while hitting twice as many ground balls as fly balls.

But is Feliz even any better than this guy? Let's look at Feliz' same peripherals and see what they say:
  • ISO Discipline (.032) - Well, did you expect this number to be good? This number is simply the difference between a player's batting average and his on-base percentage, and it basically tells us how well the players is drawing walks. Barry Bonds' ISO discipline is .297, so even when he's hitting for low batting average, he can help by getting on base. If Feliz ain't hitting for average, then he's just taking up space in the lineup.
  • P/PA (3.18) - Can you believe that Feliz is actually seeing less pitches per plate appearance than Berroa? If it seems to you that Feliz is making a lot of one-pitch outs, you're likely right. What's worse is, Feliz is even being impatient for...himself. For his career, Feliz' p/pa is 3.36, so that gives you an idea of what's happening -- the guy is regressing. Each of the three previous years, that number had risen (3.28 to 3.36 to a career high last year of 3.43), and now it's dropped to an all-time low. Not good.
  • G/F Ratio (1.27) - This isn't a bad number, per se, but for whatever it's worth it is at an all-time high for Feliz. He's best when he can hit line drives, but he hasn't been doing much of that this year -- it's either pounded into the ground or popped into the air, because pitchers almost always have him off-balance.

So, let's review. Feliz isn't hitting for average, he doesn't get on base, and he's not hitting for much power when he does get a hit, either, with an ISO power of just .122 (career ISO power is .182).

Why does this man lead the team in at-bats? It is a rhetorical question, truth be told -- he was given the 3rd base job totally and unconditionally, and there is no plan B behind him. Brian Sabean won't go to the minors for a replacement (not long term, at least), so that necissitates that some sort of trade be made. And, I dunno, I'm thinking there wouldn't be too many suitors for a 31 year-old 3rd baseman who has limited offensive abilities. Not at about $4 mil per year, at least.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Almost makes no sense

Almost is a frustrating word.

Think about it. It's made up of "all" and "most", which, last I checked, aren't the same thing.

With winning it's even worse. You either have all of the win, or you have nothing. Sure, we say things like, "they almost won" all the time, but it's a bit goofy. They almost won, but they lost instead.Think about it -- winning and losing are two extremes, very far away from each other. You can eat most of an orange, but you can't have most of a win.

But geez, the Giants almost swept the Mets, if it weren't for the fact that they lost two of three in the series.

The Giants, as usual, specialize in the excruciating loss. Tuesday it was the blown call at 1st base followed by the Cliff Floyd home run, and Wednesday it was the ecstasy of watching Barry Bonds come through in the clutch with a game-tying, 9th inning home run off of molten-lava-thrower Billy Wagner, then watch that effort go to waste in extra innings.

People are going to start looking at me funny on B.A.R.T., walking around with as many daggers in my heart as I have.

Good Samaritan: "Sir, I don't mean to bother you while you're rocking out to Tool, but I can't help but notice that you seem to have several knives in the region of your ventricles."

Pierced Individual: "...actually, I'm listening to A Perfect Circle -- you do know that lead singer Maynard fronts for two bands, right? And they're daggers, not knives."

Good Samaritan (slightly confused): "...well, yes, I stand corrected about the...daggers,, which progressive rock band you're listening to. But, the...daggers...isn't that a bit...uncomfortable?"

Pierced Individual (nonplussed): "It's fine. I took some Visine earlier this morning, and I've got an Ace bandage around my ankle."

Good Samaritan (moderately confused): "...are you certain that's sufficient? I think I should notify the train operator."

Pierced Individual (me, in case you didn't recognize my subtle pseudonym): "It's really not a big deal. Why don't you mind your own affairs? I don't appreciate all this hullabaloo, you bastard!"

Good Samaritan (confused as all heck, but now quite irritated): "'re bleeding on my newspaper."

Pierced Indiv...Me: "...perhaps you should read your newspaper elsewhere."

Good Samaritan: "You're sitting on my lap."

Me: "Whaddya know? It's my stop."

I have the feeling the NL West is going to be a big clusterf--k all season long. All five teams, in a race to achieve the very best of mediocrity possible (I've determined that to be a .524 winning percentage, which is exactly the Giants winning percentage right now).

One thing truly bothered me about this game, though -- the selection of relievers by Father Alou. He doesn't seem to mind throwing the same guys into the fire night after night whether they're slumping or not -- in a game that saw Alou use five relievers, where was Brian Wilson, he of the impressive outing in the first game of the series? It would not only have been riding the hot hand, but it would also have been not riding the cold hand(s) of the rest of the bullpen.

Jeff Fassero's been struggling, as has Tim Worrell and Armando Benitez. Scott Munter has avoided being horrible, but has inspired confidence in very few of his outings thus far. Steve Kline's been decent, but...five relievers, four of whom have ben struggling to some degree. Both Jeremy Accardo and Wilson had great outings in their last appearances, yet they didn't get into the game.

It isn't a huge deal in any individual game, but it's a pattern of not trusting the young guys in favor of the veterans, regardless of how the veterans have been performing. In this case, it was kind of dumb, and it ended up in a line for the bullpen that reads like this: 5.1 innings pitched, 9 hits, 5 runs allowed, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts.

The two guys with the best arms in the bullpen also happen to be the youngest. While experience plays a large role in determining how well a pitcher does, sometimes talent just kicks experience's ass. I hope it doesn't take too long before Felipe tests that little theory out.


Watching Barry Bonds go yard, and opposite field at that, still instills a certain amount of awe in me. Number 710 was impressive as all heck, with one of those no-doubt cracks of the bat along with the inherent beauty of watching someone identify exactly where a pitch was going early in its flight, and using his power to go with the location of the pitch -- which was outside.

It was also interesting to see Jamey Wright just...pitch...his way through the Mets lineup. Still early to give him the keys to the city, but he seems to know how to use what he has, and doesn't deviate from how he wants to pitch a particular hitter. When he makes a location mistake he can get pounded, but that's no different from most pitchers out there. I'm no longer cringing when I see him on the mound.

However, it's still sad to see how ineffective Pedro Feliz and Mike Matheny are right now, and while Ray Durham was stinking up the joint, too, seeing someone with as little offensive ability as Jose Vizcaino take his place doesn't put soothing balm on the wounds (although I'm much more comfortable with him defensively at 2nd base than Durham).

The shiny lustre has even come off of Randy Winn, who's been 0-fer his last 16. I love Kruk and Kuip, but they made a comment about how unusual it is for Winn to go 0-fer a few games in a row...guys, he's been on the team for about three months. For all we know, this could be the real player they traded for. In any case, his slump is still a bit of a surprise to me, too.

So while the umps once again made a questionable call that went against the Giants in their 4-1 loss to the Mets last night (which was, like the last game in the Colorado series, followed almost directly by the opposing team taking advantage to a game-winning effect), this team still has those gaping holes in their lineup. How do they fix them?

Todd Greene's had a nice offensive beginning to his season, so perhaps sitting Matheny for a day or two could help matters, and Steve Finley is waiting in the wings for whomever falters in the outfield, whether it be through injury or ineffectiveness.

But what about Feliz? This is truly a bad spot, because there is no plan "B" for Pedro Happy Swing. There isn't a backup for him, per se. Vizcaino can play 3rd, sure, but Feliz's defense at 3rd so far this year has been rock solid, so there's no need to replace a poor hitter with some power with another poor hitter with no power.

Brian Sabean's got to be worried, and he's got to be thinking in the short term. Feliz wasn't exactly lighting it up last season, especially after the All Star Break, so Sabean can't really assume Feliz will break out of this. I'm thinking Feliz will get to about mid-May before Sabes trader-finger gets itchy -- but, of course, trading Feliz at his current salary could prove a bit difficult.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oh yeah. Uh-huh.

While I still hold with the thought process that the Giants were lucky to some degree in their first 18 games or so, it can't be overlooked that they were a bit unlucky, too, in the form of the couple of last at-bat losses to the Colorado Rockies.

And, as the season progresses, certain things that seem like happenstance at first start to gain a bit of credibility:
  • The Giants haven't lost a series
  • In games against Atlanta, the New York Mets, and the Astros, they are 5-3
  • They've managed an 11-8 record despite having a lot of players perform below statistical expectations

So. Lucky? Perhaps they're a bit unlucky to have so many players start slowly, thus robbing them of a win or three that they would have had otherwise. In any case, if they are able to take 2 of 3 or sweep the Mets (who early on look like a top 2 or 3 team in the NL), then perhaps we'll be able to give the Giants credit for at least being a decent team, with the possibility of being better.

Other things:

  • I thought I remembered Omar Vizquel starting hot last season as well as this one, and I wasn't wrong, but he wasn't this hot. Last year: .315/.390/.452 with six steals. This year: .387/.494/.500 with five steals. Not to mention turning what could easily be the Double Play of the Decade with that force at 2nd base and throw to 3rd base earlier this year. You just don't see that done, and by the way, he's doing it as a 39-year old.
  • Seeing Matt Cain pitch so much better is a huge relief. We can still hope to see more strikeouts all we want, but the fact is that he pitched very well without them and got the job done. Baby steps, etc.
  • Lance Niekro still hasn't fully got it, but I can't help but think he's significantly further along than Pedro Feliz, who just happens to be several years older and have a couple/few thousand more big league plate appearances. Add in about 65 points to his SLG, and Lance would be right about where I think his potential lies (currently .269/.345/.385). Oh, and as horrible as Feliz has been this year (except for two back-to-back games vs. the D-Backs and Rockies), he still leads the team in at-bats, which makes so little sense that I want to cry.
  • Steve Finley looks like he could start, if needed. Wondering how important this pickup may be later in the season, as Barry Bonds and Moises Alou rack up playing time and potential for injury. Alou looks like he's running through maple syrup in the outfield, but he's getting to enough balls and making enough plays to hold his own. But, I still cringe when balls are hit out to right field.

Well, that's enough for now -- I've got the day off, so I've got some important things to do like breathing, blinking, along with an occasional scratch of my testicles. I'd go somewhere, but as Jim Gaffigan likes to say, I'd probably have to put on pants.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Here's a question for everyone...

Is the problem Barry Bonds, or is the problem steroids?

Forgive me, I get confused. Whenever someone brings up Bonds in a steroid-related conversation, I tend to shrug it off -- see, I believe that there are folks working on this (heck, some are even making a career off of this) and that the truth will come to some degree of light sooner or later. There are a couple other reason I shrug it off, too, and neither of them are because Bonds plays for the San Francisco Giants.

But I digress.

After shrugging it off, I usually attempt to open up a can of worms that has been staying determinedly closed for a while now -- what have we been missing in this whole scandal? Or, put another way, who have we been missing in this whole scandal?

Some of you may bring up a Rafael Palmeiro, counter with a Jason Giambi or a Mark McGwire, but honestly I give a rat's posterior about any of them. Two reasons for that: 1) apparently, the rest of the nation doesn't give a damn about any of them, either, and 2) because they've all managed to find the eye of the hurricane.

Think about those players' role in this -- honestly, just as big of a role as Bonds', expect that they had the good fortune or common sense to not threaten Babe Ruth's or Hank Aaron's home run marks. That's the only difference between them -- Bonds has more talent, it manifested itself in the form of more home runs, and thus he's the focus.

The focus has wavered from Bonds for only short periods of time: McGwire's evasion in the Congressional hearings, Palmeiro's failed drug test, Giambi's admission -- those things brought us a week or three of Bonds' playing 1st and half fiddle (as opposed to 2nd fiddle). That's it, really. After that...SNAP! back to Bonds in a hurry, and another month or two of focus solely on him.

But to reiterate, I give a rat's ass about those other players, because my musings tend to go off on this tangent -- who else has ever taken steroids, or any other performance-enhancing drug, and gotten away with it?

Furthermore, what did they do during their playing days?

To be sure, not much -- at least, not much anymore. We don't know exactly who they are, or what they did, which tends to make most of us disregard the problem. If it can't be investigated, if the truth can't be found, why look?

Or, why bother, when we can just find Bonds guilty and be satisfied?

That's what this is coming to. People aren't really interested in broad, sweeping justice -- if they were, they wouldn't focus on Bonds. Bonds is a huge, huge fish in the pond, to be certain, but thinking he's the only catch is ignoring the real problem -- steroids.

Right? Steroids, remember? Other people have taken them in their careers, used them to enhance their performance, and done...what?

Did they use the drugs to help them have a career year (Brady Anderson, anyone)? Did they use them in Spring Training to help them win a job on some team's 40-man roster? Or...

Did they use them to help them hit a game-winning homer in April of 1990-something to beat such-and-such team? Perhaps a couple of those performance-enhanced players got hot in August and September, and used their man-made physique's to help propel their squad into a pennant race, or a wild-card spot, or...

...maybe even a few of those guys hit important, playoff series home runs, or...gulp...important World Series home runs.

Do you see the point? How can we know? We can't, really, but not being able to know isn't an excuse to ignore, which is what the vast majority of America is doing. They're ignoring all other possibilities in favor of getting Bonds, because that will satisfy them that all is right with baseball. If Bonds can't break the record, or, if he breaks the record but gets his accomplishments erased from history, then everything else will just fall into place.

Wrong. Everything else won't fall into place, it'll just fall into some dark corner of history that will never see any light.

Kirk Gibson is a hero, because he took some cortisone which allowed him to ignore the pain in his legs long enough to hit a World Series-altering home run. What would Gibson had done if he hadn't taken any cortisone? He wouldn't have hit at all...heck, he wouldn't even have come out of the trainer's room. What is cortisone? A drug, right? A drug that allowed Gibson to do something he couldn't have done otherwise... see where this is going. If you aren't interested in where it leads, then you aren't interested in true justice -- you just want to get Bonds. That's fine, of course, but just be adult enough to admit it. You think the problem is Bonds, not steroids.

And that means you and I disagree.

Who's THIS guy?

Hi, Brian Wilson.

A sure-fire way to impress me in your first big league action is to come into a game throwing in the 89-95 mph range, staying almost completely in or around the strike zone and getting a bunch of swingthroughs and strikeouts in two innings of work.

Consider me impressed.

I'm also impressed that Rockies manager Clint Hurdle is pitching to Barry Bonds in the 9th inning of a tie game with a man on base. 'Course, this could feed into the bit of the buzz around the league that Bonds is no longer Bonds -- dangerous hitter, sure, but not superhuman.

Bonds struck out, inning over. Could be something to that buzz.

The game is currently resting on the arm of Jeff Fassero, who thankfully is going clean-shaven today (his three-day unshaven look has that ol' alcoholism look, to me).

UPDATE: Losing two of four games in a series on the road isn't a bad thing, but losing those two games in the 9th inning and extra innings, respectively, really bites sweaty jockstrap. The fact that this game was lost on the pitch directly after the third strike and last out of the inning was not called by the home plate umpire, and it stings just a wee bit more.

The umps' handprints were all over this game, though, and it was one of those rare games where it was almost as much about their judgement than the game between the lines. The umps threw out two pitchers who likely didn't deserve it in Matt Morris and Ray King (although it's difficult to fault them too much after Jose Mesa set the tone yesterday with the beaning of Omar Vizquel), then the questionable no-call at the end of the game.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Offensive Goodness


Pedro Feliz is having himself a game -- three hits, three at-bats, two home runs, four RBI. The first one was very nice, as he simply took a get-it-in-there fastball over the plate in a 2-1 count over the fence in left-center field. Working the count in your favor cannot help but put you in positions for these things, I think.

The second was Feliz turning on a pitch on the inside, ending up in a line-hugger that had some good distance on it. Both homers were of the two-run variety. Neat.

Jason Schmidt, however, is looking like just another dude out there on the mound...his fastballs have to be well located nowadays, what with his velocity usually settling into the 91-93 range and them looking as hittable as they do. The breaking ball is working well tonight, but he isn't really throwing it much. He's thrown his changeup even less.

UPDATE: Didn't I tell you all Father Alou ain't never scurred? Bases loaded, on out in the 9th inning up by two runs, and Felipe calls on just-activated Armando Benitez.

The skipper's got those big brave balls, I tell ya.

UPDATE, VERSION 2.0: Benitez gets a guy to fly out, scoring one run on a tag-up, then promptly allowed an oppo base hit in an 0-2 count to allow the tying run to score. Very next hitter, 0-2 count again, and 'Mando again allows a base hit, this time to let the winning run to score.

Armando, what the fuck are you doing around the plate in an 0-2 count?


Felipe, put those big brave balls away for a game or two, and next time don't bring in your fresh-off-the-DL guy right into a high-pressure situation. Really, it's stupid.

A certain, je ne sais quoi


Some have it, some don't. Bad teams don't have it, and neither do very good teams, strange as that might sound.

The teams that have it, or "it", if you prefer, are a special breed of team. They are the team that "finds a way" to win, that just "gets the job done". Joe Morgan is good at spotting teams like that, but then, he's also good at confusing me four or fives times during a broadcast (thank God for Jon Miller).

What all that cliche crap usually translates to is, nobody can figure out how they're winning, but acknowledge the fact that yes, somehow, the team is doing just that.

Personally, I hate "it". There isn't a stat for it, and there isn't any way to figure out when it'll show up. There are a lot of teams that sometimes look like they'll have "it" for a while, only to be exposed later on after truth rears its ugly head. The Giants are 9-6 in 1st place in the NL West, and I'm trying to figure out how.

They're still being outscored by their opponents by a significant margin -- for those that may not like my belaboring of this point, take a look at the standings and find me another team that has a winning record while being outscored. I can save you the trouble...there isn't one. In fact, even of all the teams with .500 records, there's only one, the Angels, that has been outscored -- though only by four runs. The Giants have been outscored by 14.

Houston and Cincinatti both have been pretty lucky with a +2 over their expected win/loss record, partly due to their knack for one-run wins (Houston is 5-0 and Cincinnatti is 4-1 in one run contests). The Giants are 3-0 in one run games, and are +3 over their Pythagorean standings at this point (given the Giants runs scored/runs allowed, one would normally expect them to be about 6-9 instead of 9-6).

In essence, nobody has been as lucky as the Giants so far, but we can't expect it to continue. When 1/3 of the teams' wins have come off the pitching performance of their #5 starter, well, my hats off to Jamey Wright (is this just Mike Matheny, 2005, or what? Talk bad about the guy for all of the normally correct reasons, then he comes out and does better than everybody expected. Sheesh.), but forgive me if I don't exactly buy into a back-of-the-rotation guy as the team's best starter.

The Giants line offensively is .252/.340/.381, and the opposing teams are hitting .276/.367/.453. Being outhit is one thing, but the Giants have been outpowered -- that difference in SLG is almost totally due to being outhomered 19-10. The most obvious culprit, of course, is Barry Bonds. Steroids shmeroids, none of us expected him to be homerless after about 10% of the games had been played.

We'll see what a trip to Coors Field can do -- we can certainly hope that Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz turned a bit of a corner after last night's game, with Durham having a 2-5 night at the plate, and Feliz hitting a very important double late in the game. It'd be nice to see their OPS climb above .500.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Felipe ain't never scurred

Watching the Diamondbacks pound on the Giants like a sledgehammer in the 6th inning, I'm starting to wonder when enough is enough.

Jack Tashner has pitched more like Jack Black. His ERA entering tonight's action was 40.50.

Is that even an ERA anymore by the time it gets to that number?

Yet Father Alou keeps throwin' 'em in the fire, heedless of the consequences. Tashner, sure enough, burned the team yet again. And guess who comes in the very next inning? Tyler Walker, he of the 24.30 ERA coming into tonight.

Never let it be said that Felipe lacks cahones.


My powers of prediction and projection are puissant.

Of course, on Sunday when I mused that the Giants would likely see an improvement in their offensive fortunes in Arizona and/or Colorado, I didn't necessarily think that musing would manifest itself in the form of a ten run outburst in their first game against the Diamondbacks, but it is not for nothing that in certain portions of the world I am known as Danieldamus.

Well, in truth the longer version of the name is used just a bit more: the Loud, Obnoxious, Shaved-Headed American Who Likes His Vodka Too Much and Often Makes Predictions About Things We Care Nothing About. But the shortened version is starting to catch on, I think.

It wouldn't be me without worry, though, and that worry manifests itself thusly:

  • Dunno 'bout you, but for reasons of superior ability, youth, and the lack of Scary Facial Hair, I'd much rather see Kevin Correia start than Jeff Fassero.
  • In that same vein, I'd rather see this guy pitch than Tyler Walker or Jack Taschner right now:

As Lefty and Grant have theorized, the Giants have indeed been lucky thus far, but now they are at a point where we can surmise they can win a few on their own merits. Today they face Russ Ortiz, and I'd be lying if I said I don't chuckle every time I see this guy toe the rubber for another team. He wasn't too bad of a Giant, but his control issues are scary (although Kruk interpreted that as meaning Ortiz was a "grinder").

Perhaps you guys can chime in with an opinion on this -- while it is still early, do any of you see any evidence this division is any better than last season? Or, do you see it as being just as poor as 2005, and maybe even a bit worse? Excluding the Giants, the rest of the NL West is currently 11-15 outside their division, and while the Rockies do sport a winning record as of today, they are doing on the strength of a 6-4 record against divisional opponents -- so it's possible they haven't played anyone that's any good yet.

Sidenote: It is an interesting feeling to be able to give up on a team in mid-April, but that's just the feeling my other team, the Kansas City Royals, have engendered in me. It seems a safe bet to assume they are the worst at everything, having managed to already accomplisht the 1-2 punch of scoring the least amount of runs in the majors while allowing the most. Their opponents are running a .946 OPS against their pitching, while their offense is at .667. They don't even have anyone enjoying a hot start -- the highest individual OPS on the team is Shane Costa (whom I've met, by the way, and found to be cool) at .806.

Sad doesn't even begin to describe it. Betcha Reggie Sanders is pissed at his decision to sign there right about now.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Should we be worried about the offense?

The Giants are winning again as I'm watching, to my everlasting delight. But I can't but think -- two runs through eight innings isn't exactly lighting it up. Heck, nevermind lighting it up, because that's hardly even plugging it in the electrical socket.

In their first 10 games, the Giants have been limited to three runs or less half the time, with two of those times being held to a single run and once being shut out. Tonight, assuming they don't score again, will make it six of 11 games scoring three or less.

Is it time to worry yet?

Looking at this objectively, they've faced a few capable pitchers in and amongst these games. These have been the starters in those games: Jake Peavy, Shawn Estes, Roy Oswalt, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, and tonight it was Jae Seo.

Three very good pitchers, one decent pitcher, and two mediocre pitchers. All in all, it's understandable to struggle from time to time, but you'd hope to be able to get to a very good pitcher sometimes if you want to be a very good team.

Well, they've beat up on Tim Hudson, and was able to touch up John Smoltz early in his start against them, so I'm thinking that qualifies to some degree.

What I'm saying is (again), is that it's still a bit early to panic. I want the offense to break out as much as anyone, but with Barry Bonds still missing a few games, Moises Alou being in and out of the lineup, and with what looks to be some early-season slumps from a couple of players we all know can hit better, I think we should exercise a bit more patience with the offense.

The next two series will be played in Arizone and Colorado, so not only will they get to play in two ballparks which usually help offense, but they'll be hitting against two pitching staffs which cannot be considered elite by any means. There will be the opportunity to show what the offense is capable of over the next seven games, and they'll do it in first place with a 7-4 record after shutting down the Dodgers 2-0 tonight.

It's nice to have a host of team deficiences to address, yet win at a 63.6% clip while you do so.

Oh, and welcome back Brad Hennessey. Not really dominant, but he kept the Dodgers off balance long enough for his team to score behind him, and the bullpen finished up nicely (Scott Munter's pitching style has just been weird so far this year, but I'll take it).

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Lemme guess...

This'll be another weird season. I can feeeel it in my bones, I can.

...wait, nevermind. That's my osteo kicking in. Drat these inflexible joints of mine!

As far as weirdness in this young season thus far, I'll give the briefest nod to what's becoming a plain and simple fiasco around Barry Bonds, but quickly move past it -- yes, it's weird, too. Let's consider the path to their current record of 6-3, though:
  • Rainouts. Here in the Bay Area, yes, but let's remember that one cancelled game and yesterday's rain-delayed game were in Southern California, not Northern.
  • The Giants have been outscored 48-41 despite sporting the winning record.
  • The only three Giants who have hit any are Moises Alou, Randy Winn, and Omar Vizquel. Well, Todd Greene, too, but he's only had nine at-bats. Almost everyone else has been atrocious, and while Bonds has drawn some walks and hit a few balls hard, he hasn't produced anything tangible.
  • Continuing in the same vein as the previous comment, the Giants offense has been horrible.
  • Noah Lowry went on the DL after not even lasting two innings in his first start of the season.
  • For the most part, the bullpen has been awful.
  • Jamey Wright has pitched much better than either Matt Cain or Jason Schmidt through two starts.

While I'm sure a few people might think I'm trying to see the dark lining around the silver cloud, I assure you I'm not -- I'm just seeing this little run as a house of cards, and there's some guy staring at it and looking an awful lot like he wants to sneeze.

Everything wrong about the team right now is fixable, though, so I'm hoping some of those issues work themselves out before the Giants luck does.

Still, 6-3 beats a kick in the ass anyday, and twice on Sundays. But it's a weird 6-3.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Things to look for: 4/12 vs. ....the weather

I make valiant attempts to not be a moron, yet seem to do it with alarming regularity.

Writing any previews about Giants home games right now are just plain silly, as the constant rain in the Bay Area that simply will not cease for any appreciable length of time is rendering it all moot.

So far this year, we've had more rain here than the Pacific Northwest, and we've smashed the 100 year year-to-date record for rainfall from 1904. I can see why the Northwest has a higher suicide rate than than the rest of the country. Makes you want to scream at the sky.

As the rain is slated to continue towards the end of the week, my speculation on what the Giants might or might not do are even more useless than they normally are.

If you're thinking the rain is depressing me, you're wrong. If you think the rain stopping baseball from being played is depressing me, you're right.

Ah well.

Things to look for: 4/11 vs. the Astros

Call me crazy, but I think the Giants stand a great chance of sweeping the Astros if they manage to score more runs than Houston in each of the three games in this series. If they can't do that, it might be difficult.

Stuff I'd like to see:
  1. A little separation in Matt Morris' k/bb ratio. While his last start was pretty good, striking out and walking hitters at a rate of about four per nine innings won't cut it for too long. Also, I'm hoping he's a little more efficient -- he left his last start at the 104 pitch mark while only getting through six and 1/3 of an inning.
  2. A bit of offensive consistency. Guess the significance of the following numbers: 513, 590, 255, 284, and 455. If you guessed those were the OPS's of Pedro Feliz, Randy Winn, Ray Durham, Mike Matheny, and Mark Sweeney, then you deserve a prize. You won't get one, of course, at least not from me, but you deserve one nevertheless. I'll keep my fingers crossed...for the Giants offense, not your prize. Go find someone else's fingers to cross for that. Or cross your own. Lazy bum.
  3. The bullpen, if they are used, to be mediocre. Because mediocre would be an improvement. Once we get to mediocre, then we can worry about them being decent, or serviceable.
  4. $500 in my wallet. Hm. Didn't work this time, either.

The offense will have to come against Taylor Buchholz, whose name sounds an awful lot like this one pitcher for the Astros I've never heard of named Taylor Buchholz. Must be a coincidence.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Play like Roy Rogers and sllllooooww down...

While many whose blood pressure is high and patience low might want to read something into the Giants 4-2 start, I am not one of those (my blood pressure is high and my patience very low, but the last part of that statement is like, totally not me).

By way of explanation:
  • The Giants are 4-2 having been outscored by their opposition 34-36
  • The Yankees are 2-4 while outscoring their opposition 35-23.
  • Milwaukee's 5-1 while barely outscoring their opposition 23-21.
  • The Marlins are 1-4 despite being even in runs scored and allowed, 21-21.

While the Pythagorean standings tend to mean something with a large enough sample size (this formula measures a team's expected record given their runs scored and runs allowed in comparison to their actual record), in any given five to ten game stretch, it's meaningless. There are those who want to be optimistic because of the 4-2 start vs. two teams who are generally viewed as contenders in Atlanta and San Diego, while there are those who want to shoot that optimism down because the Giants haven't been dominant.

Hey! It's only been six games, people. Simmer down thar!

In the same vein, all of the whispers about Barry Bonds' apparent lack of prowess are just premature...ejaculation. Sorry, had to say it -- we all know most folks out there want to see Bonds fail in some way, shape, or form, be it failing a drug test, failing health, or failing at the plate.

Not that it isn't possible he could be in the process of limping Over the Hill on that gimpy knee (everyone, supporters and haters alike, seem to only occasionally remember that at 41 years of age he's just old for baseball) , but let's all wait for a few more than 17 plate appearances, alright?

Other things I've prematurely noticed:

  • Lance Niekro has more walks (3) than strikeouts (2). Don't give him anymore at bats! I want to bask in the glow of fleeting plate discipline...
  • Jim Thome certainly is trying to dispel any doubts about his remaining prowess, eh? Four homers already, at a clip of a homer every 7.5 plate appearances. No, he won't hold that pace, of course, but playing at the NASA launch pad disguised as U.S. Cellular One Field won't exactly hurt, either.
  • The Braves have allowed the most runs in the majors, with their opponents scoring 7.5 runs per game on their pitching staff. It's just great fun to say that, even if I know it won't last.

Oh, and I just wanted to admit my error in assuming the Giants wouldn't bring up Kevin Correia in response to possibly putting Noah Lowry on the DL. I was right in figuring that if Lowry was going to miss more than a start or two that it would be a callup, but just assumed the Giants wouldn't give Correia a chance despite his strong Spring.

Don't mind being wrong in this case, and at least the team showed some consistency in their approach -- Jamey Wright won the 5th starter's spot because of his Spring showing, and Correia has gotten the callup for the same reason. It looks like Correia's first start will be against the Dodgers on Tax Day in Los Angeles.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Beauty, thy name is Baseball...

Some observations from early in the Giants/Braves game, now in the 2nd inning:
  • Lance Niekro's at-bat vs. John Smoltz was marvelous. In a two strike count against a nasty right-handed pitcher, Niekro lined a single to right-center field to plate Barry Bonds, who can still run just a tad...but being watched very closely. Couldn't help but notice a little gimp-hop at the very end of Bonds run from 2nd base, which gives me the freaking willies. It's going to be like that all year until he gets hurt, I imagine.
  • After another old guy in Moises Alou showed that he can still run a bit after scoring on a wild pitch, Pedro Feliz did something we'd all wish he'd do more -- go with the outside located pitch to the opposite field instead of trying to pull. It ended up an out, but it was well-hit, and it scored Niekro for a sac fly.
  • Two outs, Jason Schmidt up, end of inning, right? Nah. Schmidt flashed the one offensive talent that he has: a skoche of power. Double to deep left-center, and after Randy Winn battles nicely, Schmidt scores on the ensuing double from Winn.

This is the first game I will see in its entirety this year -- caught the end of the win vs. the Padres, but that's been it so far (and thus the reason I haven't yet picked up the amount of posts on O&B as of yet).

Seeing Schmidt hit the mid-90's on the gun is nice as well, although to my eye it still doesn't seem like it's the old Schmidt velocity -- a couple of years ago he had one of the very few mid-90's fastballs that looked like a high-90's fastball. Overall, though, it looks like that he's settling in from the 92-94 range as opposed to the 94-97 range he had before last season.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Early worries...

Injuries at this point in the season tend to put a damper on my hopes that the Giants will crush all opposition standing in the way of their rightful 2006 World Series Title.

Of course, most of us know the Giants aren't built to do too much crushing, anyway. But Noah Lowry's back strain certainly doesn't help matters.

It will be of some interest, however, should this cause Lowry to miss a start or three, as to what the Giants do to fill his spot in the rotation. Should they go the spot-starter route, then Jeff Fassero is the likely pick there since he's done it before and presumably is part of the reason why he's on the team in the first place. Perhaps derailing that train of thought is Fassero's line in his outing in relief of Lowry: 3.2 innings pitched, 3 runs allowed, 2 home runs allowed.

One poor outing shouldn't change the team's philosophy on things, though, so even if I rolled my eyes at bringing Fassero back for 2006, I admit that letting him have a start or two wouldn't be a horrible idea at this point. Calling up someone from Fresno just to make a start or two this early in the season would be a bit irresponsible, I think.

Some of it may depend on the nature of Lowry's injury as well -- if the Giants want to be careful with Lowry (and I have absolutely no doubt that they will), then letting him miss a couple of starts is the way I expect them to handle it. Anything more serious will bring call-ups back into the equation, at which point I'll begin to wonder whether Brad Hennessey or Kevin Corriea would be the pitcher of choice.

All conjecture, of course, since Lowry's going to be re-evaluated today, and I suppose it is possible that they clear him for his next start. But back injuries being as sensitive as they are, I tend to think we won't see Lowry for at least one start, and that makes me worry.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Almost there...

Looking at the Giants April schedule, specifically the first 13 games, I believe we'll be finding out something about this team pretty early on.

In those first 13 games, they'll face both the Padres and the Dodgers on the road, while facing tough competition at home in the forms of the Braves and Astros.

Now, this ain't to put no more importance on the first 13 games then the last 13 games, or even any particular 13-game stretch in any other portion of the season. The Giants got as close as within two games of the Padres late last season, but faded before completing the comeback. It's very easy to say that they just couldn't get the job done, but I'm sure we could all point to several silly losses someplace in May, June, or August that would've made the well-nigh impossible comeback just a little more possible.

That being said, I think a healthy jump out of the gate against those types of teams would do wonders for this team.

I'm not going to insult your intelligence by going into great detail as to why this is, because you already know:
  1. Last season's poor showing largely without Barry Bonds.
  2. Expectations this year assuming Bonds plays a majority of the season.
  3. Oh yeah...steroids.
  4. Steroids.
  5. Steroids.
  6. Peanut Butter...just seeing if you were still with me.
  7. Yes. Steroids.

The media crush will be intense enough for Bonds with Bud Selig's probe, and thus will be intense for the other members of the team, as well. But let's imagine that crush, and throw a little extra scrutiny onto the performance of Bonds and the team, especially in the early going. I've heard many people talk about the whole East Coast bias before, with the Yankees and Red Sox getting so much more coverage than most teams. Well, it'll be a San Francisco Bias for a while now.

Personally, I think it's close to imperative that the Giants get off to a good start to alleviate some of this pressure. Throwing in a poor team start or a poor Bonds start will set things up for avalanche-type conditions, and the season could become a disaster in a hurry.

But you know what? Damn it all to hell, I'll just be happy to see some baseball.

Sidenote: Nice to see the good ol' preemptive strike in effect. The Giants lock up Noah Lowry for four years. Neat.

I'm just trying to get to the end of the week -- I went ahead and gave myself a four day weekend, Friday through Monday off.

Baseball and a four day weekend. If there's anything better, you just let me know. Well, besides winning 100 million plus, or sex with an attractive, talented woman. But just you try to think of anything else! I dare ya!