Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Game Wrap 10/1/2014 Wild Card Game: Giants 8 Pirates 0

Madison Bumgarner was his at his dominating best and Brandon Crawford effectively ended the game in the 4'th inning with a grand slam home run.  Giants win their 7'th postseason elimination game in a row.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik- 3 for 5.  Panik did his hit thing, but did not participate in the scoring.

Buster Posey- 2 for 5.  They were both singles, but Buster looked rested and in sync at the plate.

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 5, BB.  Pabs bore down, took pitches, got hits, and made a perfect cartwheel over the Bucs dugout railing while catching a foul pop, stuck his landing and even got in a little bounce at the very end.

Brandon Belt- 2 for 3, 2 BB.  Belt finished the season on a hot streak and kept it going here.  There is a jet stream out to RF in Nationals Park.  Just saying'.

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 3, HR.  Crawford moved up to 7'th in the order which turned out to be a genius move by Bochy.  The grand slam in the 4'th effectively ended the game.  The Giants knew it.  The Pirates knew it.  The crowd knew it.  The TV announcers knew it. Oh, and it was the first grand slam HR by a SS in the entire history of postseason competition!

Madison Bumgarner- 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K's.  You knew it was over after the GS in the 4'th inning, but really, you had to know it was over when he got through the first inning 3 up, 3 down.  He just painted the corners with hard, nasty stuff all night and with 2 strikes got the Pirates to chase out of the zone.

Edinson Volquez(Pirates)- 5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 3 K's.  Volquez' BABIP did not regress, but his newfound command deserted him.  It looked to me like he abandoned his FB early in the count and tried to pitch backward.  It didn't work.  And if ballgames are won with 3 run dingers, they most certainly are with grand slams!

Clint Hurdle(Pirates)- Bruce Bochy made a smart move to bat Crawford 7'th and put Ishikawa in the 8-hole, but beyond that, did not really have to manage this game.  Hurdle, on the other hand, may have almost singlehandedly cost his team the game with poor game management.  He carried an extra LHP on the 1 game roster, but chose to let Volquez pitch to the left-handed Brandon Crawford the highest leverage situation in the entire game.  Later, he let the RHP Jared Hughes face Brandon Belt with runners on base when he had not one, but two LHP's warmed up the bullpen.  I mean, this was an elimination game!  What on Earth did he think he was saving his bullpen for?  Why did he carry the extra lefty anyway?  Those two decisions may well have cost his team 6 of the 8 runs the Giants scored on the night.

The Crowd- The Pirates tried to have a "blackout" where the team wears black uniforms and crowd all wears black and they swing black towels.  The "blackout" was a massive fail.  The black uniforms looked ugly and you could not see either the crowd or the towels.  Once the crowd fell silent after the grand slam, it might as well have been a morgue!

So, let's recap my Keys to the Game and see how they turned out:

1.  Top of the Order:  They didn't get it done in the first inning like I envisioned and Blanco went just 0 for 4 with a walk, but Panik did his part with 3 hits.  Except none of Panik's hits contributed to the scoring.  I'll give myself a check on this one, because of Panik's hits.

2.  First Inning:  You had to have a great feeling about this one after Bummy went 3 and out in the first inning.  I know I did!  Check!

3.  Quiet the Crowd- It was noisy for the first 3 innings, but all the oxygen got sucked out of the stadium after Crawford's HR.  The crowd was not a factor after that.  Check!

4.  Stay out of the Double Play:  They did and it made a difference.  Check!

5.  Bottom of the Order:  I didn't get the batting position right, but I did get the player right, Crawford!  Check!

5 for 5 on my Keys to the Game.  How do you like that?

The Giants now get a day off for travel to Washington then start the NLDS series with Jake Peavy probably facing Stephen Strasburg.  The Nationals will rightly be heavily favored to win the series, but what else is new?   When was the last time the Giants were favored in a postseason series?  Yeah, pretty much never!

Thoughts on the 2014 NL Wild Card Game: Keys to the Game

First, heckuva game last night.  Anybody out there who thinks one game playoffs are not something you want to be in or are somehow bad for baseball really needed to watch that game.  We have seen, time and again, that players are able to summon extraordinary performances from somewhere in do-or-die, one-and-done situations.  Maybe MLG should consider expanding the number of teams in the postseason and make the entire tournament one game each!  Wouldn't necessarily tell you which team was the best, but the current playoff format doesn't do that anyway.  It sure would generate some hella good baseball and a hella lot of interest.

The Giants have their own do-or-die game tonight in Pittsburgh.  I promised to post about what I think are the keys to the game so here it is.  So how many commentators said yesterdays game was all about the starting pitchers?  How many said the key to the game for the Royals was sacrifice bunting more?  Baseball!

Keys to the Game:

1.  Gregor Blanco and Joe Panik-  Giants need to jump ahead, even if by just 1 run in the first inning.  Edinson Volquez will be throwing 2-seam FB's in the strike zone to get ahead in the count or force early contact.  That is right up Blanco and Paniks's alleys, particularly Panik's.  Those guys need to get on to set the table for the middle of the order.

2.  Shut Down First Inning for Madison Bumgarner- Bummy has been terrific all season, except in the first innings where he has an ERA of 5.73.  If he gets through the first inning unscathed or at least no worse than a tie ballgame, I have to like the Giants chances in this one.

3.  Quiet the Crowd-  Many of the Giants players  have experience playing in front of noisy crowds, especially Bumgarner.  I think they can handle it, but it would be nice to jump ahead early and quiet them down a bit.

4.  Stay Out of the Double Play- Volquez is a GB pitcher who gets a lot of 'em.  Buster Posey is the guy for the Giants who tends to hit into a few.  Pabs can get doubled up too.  If Buster comes up with a runner on first base, he might want to consider going the other way, which is something he does very well.  If it's Blanco, Bochy might consider sending him early, but that also risks an extra out.

5.  Bottom of the Lineup- Giants have a  huge advantage with Bummy and Brandon Crawford at the bottom of the lineup.  Best in the NL, maybe all of baseball, although the AL has the DH.  Could definitely be the difference in the game.

What are your Keys to the Game?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thoughts on Edinson Volquez and Ray Searage

Just a year ago at this time, Edinson Volquez' career appeared to be in serious jeopardy.  He had been DFA'd by the Padres in late August, picked up by the Dodgers, then left off their postseason roster.  His ERA on the season was 5.71.  This spring, he was signed to a 1 year/$5 M contract by the Pittsburgh Pirates whose pitching coach, Ray Searage, has a burgeoning reputation for being a pitcher fixer.  Volquez only added to that reputation by turning in one of his best seasons in years if not the best of his career.  This raises the question of what did Ray Searage do to resurrect Volquez' career?  Did he teach him a new pitch?  Did he notice something in his mechanics that he corrected?  I don't follow the Pirates closely enough to know the answer to those questions, but clues can be found in Volquez statistical lines that I think tell us the answer.

2010(Reds):  4-3, 4.31, 62.2 IP, 9.62 K/9, 5.03 BB/9, BABIP= .323.
2011(Reds):  5-7, 5.71, 108.2 IP, 8.61 K/9, 5.38 BB/9, BABIP= .298.
2012(Padres):  11-11, 4.14, 182.2 IP, 8.57 K/9, 5.17 BB/9, BABIP= .292
2013(2 Teams):  9-12, 5.71, 170.1 IP, 7.50 K/9, 4.07 BB/9, BABIP= .325.
2014(Pirates):  13-7, 3.04, 192.2 IP, 6.54 K/9, 3.32 BB/9, BABIP= .263.

So yes, Volquez cut his walk rate, but his K rate has taken precipitous drop at the same time.  The other outstanding feature of these lines is the BABIP which is a full .029 lower than in any of his previous 4 seasons.  I read somewhere that his BABIP over his last 12 starts is something like .225.  So, it looks like Volquez' success this season is the result of reducing his walk rate and a whole lotta BABIP luck!

But wait a minute!  Maybe Ray Searage has some secret formula for suppressing BABIP and this is all sustainable.  Let's take a deeper look to see if there is evidence that Volquez' stuff has changed  or if he might have learned a new pitch.  According to Fangraphs stat charts, Volquez is throwing the same 3 pitches he has always thrown(he ditched his slider prior to 2010), a FB that goes about 93.5 MPH which he increased in usage from about 50% to about 55%, a CB that he throws about 25% of the time,  and a changeup that he that he has reduced his reliance on from about 26% down to 19%.  His GB/FB remains at 1.5, pretty much his career average.  Nothing too earthshaking there, right?  So what else is going on here?

Fangraphs also had a nice article entitled Edinson Volquez:  Starting the Most Important Game of the Year.  The author looked at what point in the count Volquez was able to end AB's against him.  He found that in 2014, he got hitters out early in the count at a significantly higher rate than in 2013 and he got hitters out late in the count as a significantly lower rate than in 2013.  That may not seem like a hot news flash for a pitcher who lowered his BB/9 by almost a full walk, but the differences are most dramatic on 0-0, 0-1, 3-1, 3-2.

So, what did Ray Searage tell Edinson Volquez about pitching that dripped his ERA by over 2.00 if he did not show him a new pitch or tweak his mechanics?  Here's what I think Ray Searage said, "You've always had good stuff.  You need to trust it!  You don't have to nibble!  You can get soft contact if you stay out of 3 ball counts and you will cut down on your walks to boot.  Throw that 93.5 MPH fastball in the early counts and make sure it's for strikes.  Yes, they will hit the ball more, but the pitch is good enough that it won't be hard and you will get outs.  Trust me and most of all, trust your stuff!

So, is Ray Searage a pitcher fixer or did Volquez just get BABIP lucky?  The answer is, probably some of both.  Volquez dropped both his K rate and his BB rate, and that is by design.  He's getting more contact early in the count with his best pitch and it is inducing weaker contact because hitters are not sitting on a get-it-over FB on a 3-1 or 3-2 count.  Volquez and Searage also caught a perfect storm of BABIP luck that enhanced the results of what they designed.  A BABIP of .263 might be sustainable, but probably not, especially in light of Volquez' historic BABIP rates.  A BABIP of .225 which he has had over the last 12 starts, is clearly not sustainable!  I would also add that except for the BABIP part, the trends we've seen this year started last year under Bud Black in San Diego, but were ruined by an unlucky BABIP.

So, will Edinson Volquez regress in tomorrow's game?  He might.  Statistically, he is almost guaranteed to at some point in the not-to-distant future.  On the other hand, BABIP luck is no more or less likely tomorrow than any other game this season, so he may just flummox the Giants with hittable stuff that they fail to hit hard.  The Giants tend to not do so well against those kinds of pitchers.

Down on the Farm: Rookie Arizona League 2014 Giants Season Review

Rookie League is the lowest professional level in the U.S.  The Dominican Summer League would be a bit lower due to the younger ages of the players.  Historically, the Arizona League is a place for players drafted out of high school to get their first pro experience and for DSL graduates to get their first U.S. experience.  In recent years, the AZL has become a Grand Central Station of sorts where college draftees get evaluated for a few games before flying off to a more permanent assignment.  Quite a few players spend some time in the Arizona League while rehabbing injuries.   This review will be limited to players who spend all or most of the short season on the Arizona Giants roster.

2014 High School Draftees:

Byron Murray(OF)- .279/.347/.412, 68 AB.  Murray was drafted late.  I did not realize he had signed until I saw his name turn up in boxscores.  Very nice start.  I think this guy has a high ceiling with excellent power potential.

Kevin Rivera(2B)- .228/.281/.296, 162 AB.  14'th round draft pick out of Puerto Rico.  Hit .333 over his last 10 games.

Luis Lacen(OF)- .250/.321/.271.  48 AB.  Lacen started out hot, then cooled off considerably.  Played only sparingly in the second half.  Possible had a nagging injury of some sort.  Has nice size and athleticism.  As always, the question is whether he will hit.

Stetson Woods(RHP)- 5-1, 2.25, 16 IP, 4 BB, 20 K's.  9'th round draft pick out of Madera, CA.  Big kid at 6'8", 200 lbs.  Oodles of room to fill out.  Got rocked in the championship game, but Giants pitchers gave up a total of 15 run in that one.  Things like that can happen in Arizona.  I'm very high on this kid's future, but it will take time.

Logan Webb(RHP)- 0-0, 2.25, 4 IP, 3 BB, 5 K's.  Giants 4'th round pick out of Rocklin, CA.  dOnly made 3 appearances, none after 8/3/2014.  Not sure what was up with that.

2014  College Draftees:

Chase Compton(1B)- .282/.391/.342, 117 AB.  College guys who stay in the AZL usually do not have much of a future.

Richard Amion(OF)- .267/.379/.385, 135 AB, 22 BB, 36 K's.  Amion started out red hot then cooled off.  Again, college guy in rookie ball.

Matthew Gage(LHP)- 2-0, 1.89, 33.1 IP, 8 BB, 32 K's.  College pitchers should dominate Rookie ball, but it's better than not dominating.

Greg Brody(RHP)- 1-1, 0.63, 14.1 IP, 3 BB, 27 K's.  College Closer.  Pitched in relief in Arizona.

Mark Reyes(LHP)- 1-1, 3.00, 12 IP, 3 BB, 14 K's.  Don't know much about him.

DSL Graduates:

Michael Santos(RHP)- 4-3, 2.56, 59.2 IP, 13 BB, 50 K's.  Legitimate pitching prospect.  Logged the most innings of any AZL Giants pitcher this year.

Repeaters:

Hector Mercedes(SS)- .296/.330/.469.  98 AB.  Big kid for a SS, but I don't think he's a true SS.  This was his 3'rd rodeo in Arizona.

Jonah Arenado(3B)- .250/.340/.304.  184 AB.  Arenado led the AZL Giants in AB's.  Strong walk rate.  Modestly encouraging performance for a low round 2013 draft pick who barely appeared at all in 2013.  He's a project, but I like his ceiling.

Dylan Brooks(RHP)- 2-1, 3.18, 34 IP, 15 BB, 45 K's.  Late, late round draft pick in 2013.  Another tall drink of water at 6'9".  Struggled last year in a few appearances, but looked great in 2014.  Very encouraging season!

Rayan Hernandez(RHP)- 0-3, 1.53, 29.1 IP, 9 BB, 25 K's.  Another 2013 HS draftee.  Big body who likes to pitch to contact and keep the ball on the ground.  Did that and did it well this year.  Significant progress!

Reyes Maronta(RHP)- 0-1, 4.66, 19.1 IP, 11 BB, 30 K's.  Actually dropped back from a 2013 S-K gig.  Injury rehab?

Rehabber:

Brennan Metzger(OF)- .354/.460/.500, 16 BB, 8 K's, 82 AB.  Drafted out of Long Beach St. in 2012.  Missed all of 2013 due to an illness.  We'll see if this earned him another look at a higher level next year.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Down on the Farm: Short Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 2014 Season Review

The 2014 Salem-Keizer Volcanoes started off their short season with a team about as bereft of talent as any I can remember in the the Giants organization for years, and that is saying something.  Historically, S-K has been rostered with mostly same year college draftees  Later drafting dates, signing rules and a subtle shift in emphasis by the Giants to taking more HS players in later draft rounds have caused a shift in roster makeup to more AZL graduates and holdovers from past partial seasons.  This year was an extreme example as the opening day roster did not include a single 2014 draftee, if I am remembering correctly.

The lack of talent took its toll on the team's performance in the early going.  Things picked up a bit as some of the 2014 draftees started trickling in and a few rehabbers showed up.  Here are some of the key players:

2014 Draftees:

Austin Slater(OF)- .347/.417/.449, 2 HR, 7 SB, 118 AB, 10 BB, 17 K's.  Early returns have Slater as the steal of the 2014 draft in the 8'th round out of Stanford.  He signed a bit late, so it's a SSS, but those numbers project to 10 dingers and 35 SB's over a full 600 AB season with a healthy walk rate and a low K rate.  Again, the low K rates and strong K/BB seems to be something the Giants are targeting in recent drafts with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy already paying dividends.  The HR's may go up if Slater can shake the Stanforditis in his bat.

Skyler(Not Skip) Ewing(1B)- .291/.417/.473, 8 HR, 182 AB, 36 BB, 28 K's.  We again see the reversed K/BB we saw with Joe Panik but in Ewing's case, there is toonder in the bat.  That is 26 dingers in a  full 600 AB season!  Not sure how many of the BB's were intentional.  Extremely interesting bat to follow next year.

Seth Harrison(CF)- .266/.298/.354, 11 SB, 158 AB, 8 BB's, 42 K's.  Obviously, the Giants do not refuse to draft any hackers.  Those K and BB numbers are no bueno for a player who projects more as a leadoff/speed guy.  The SB's are interesting if he can improve on those ratios.

Dylan Davis(OF)- .200/.269/.341, 4 HR, 85 AB, 7 BB's, 23 K's.  Not much to like in a very SSS except for the dingers.  Has lots to work on in almost every other aspect.  He did show off a cannon for an arm in RF and his future may very well be on the mound.

Hunter Cole(OF)- .239/.311/.424, 4 HR, 92 AB.  Not much of a BA, but love the power.

Aramis Garcia(Catcher)- .229/.289/.357, 2 HR, 70 AB.   Somewhat disappointing numbers from the second round pick in a SSS.

Tyler Beede(RHP)- 0-0, 2.70, 6.2 IP, 3 BB, 7 K's.  Extreme SSS for the first rounder who signed late.  The Giants took it very slow with him, probably because he pitched to the end of the college WS.  We'll probably see him in San Jose to start next season which will be the first big test of his pro career.

Kids With Growing Pains:

Christian Arroyo(SS)- .333/.378/.469, 5 HR, 6 SB, 243 AB, 18 BB, 31 K's.  Arroyo stumbled out of the gate in Augusta in the spring then broke a bone in a finger on a HBP.  There was also the strange position shift to 2B in favor of Ryder Jones at SS.  Arroyo resurfaced at SS in S-K at the start of short season ball and looked a lot more like the guy the Giants drafted in the first round in 2013.  The BB's could be a bit higher, but he keeps the K's down and why try to take a walk when you can rake like that, anyway?  Personally, I would ignore the stumble in Augusta when evaluation Arroyo's season and call it a resounding success!

Ryder Jones(3B)- .243/.293/.393, 3 HR, 107 AB, 7 BB, 21 K's.  Jones was part of the odd position shifting that went on in Augusta.  He started strong there, but wore down under the grind of daily pro ball.  The move to SS might have contributed to the fatigue.  He resurfaced in S-K back at 3B where he got off to a slow start, but put on a surge at the end of the season.  Big time power potential here.  Count this season as a learning experience.

Johneshwy Fargas(OF)- .240/.373/.329, 3 HR, 15 SB, 167 AB, 24 BB, 27 K's.  I don't think he was hurt at all.  Just a toolsy guy who the Giants are bringing along slowly.  Again we see the great K/BB to go with intriguing speed.  I think his frame can support more power down the road.  Started strong and finished strong.  Slumped in the middle of the season.  Lost some PT to Seth Harrison, which I did not like, but maybe the rest helped him make that late season surge.  Bright future here with some patience.

Keury Mella(RHP)- 1-1, 1.83, 19.2 IP, 6 BB, 20 K's.  Not sure what Mella's injury with Augusta was, but came to S-K for a rehab assignment.  Pitched very well.  Can't wait to see what he does and where next year.  Maybe back in Augusta?

Repeaters:

Travious Relaford(IF/UT)- .283/.380/.372, 3 HR, 9 SB, 258 AB, 37 BB, 39 K's.  Relaford was drafted as a very raw toolsy SS in round 44 in 2011.  He has played all over the Giants farm system as high as AA in 2013.  His bat really seemed to break out this year with sustained regular AB's in S-K.  A very interesting guy to watch going forward.

Shilo McCall(OF)- .200/.287/.333, 3 HR, 165 AB, 19 BB, 53 K's.  I was hoping we'd see Shilo in full season ball.  Instead he repeated S-K and did a face plant.  K rate is downright scary!  Not sure what the future holds at this point.  He'll probably get at least one more chance next year, but he needs to have a good season.

Jason Forjet(RHP)- 7-1, 3.10, 87 IP, 16 BB, 87 K's.  Took a step back from San Jose in 2013, but put up very nice looking numbers for S-K in 2014.

Jose Reyes(RHP)- 6-4, 3.89, 83.1 IP, 16 BB, 64 K's.  Seems like just a pitcher in the organization at this point.

Ethan Miller(RHP)- 5-3, 4.60, 78.1 IP, 15 BB, 57 K's.  Starting July 17, had 5 consecutive starts with at least 6 IP and 2 ER or less.  Love his size at 6'5".

Nick Gonzalez(LHP)- 2-5, 4.06, 71 IP, 28 BB, 47 K's.  Not too exciting numbers there for the big lefty.

Andrew Leenhouts(LHP)- 3-4, 4.73, 72.1 IP, 11 BB, 71 K's.  Peripherals look better than the primary numbers.  I thought we might see him higher in the organization this year.

On Track:

Eury Sanchez(RHP)- 3-3, 3.48, 33.2 IP, 15 BB,   50 K's, 14 Saves.  Smallish pitcher with big time peripheral numbers.  On the closer track early which is usually the kiss of death for a pitching prospect.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game Wrap 9/28/2014: Giants 9 Padres 3

The Giants wrapped up the regular season with Win and a boxscore that looked more like it was from spring training.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, BB, SF.  BA= .260.  First 3 batters went 1 for 12 yesterday.  Blanco led the way with a better looking line today.

Joe Panik- 2 for 5.  BA= .305.  2-Hit Joe does his thing again.  He's the Giants 2B for at least the next 6 seasons.

Buster Posey- 1 for 2, HR(22).  BA= .311.  Buster will fall just a bit short of his second MVP, but close enough.  Very nice bounceback season for The Buster who turned it on in the second half instead of wearing down.

Andrew Susac- 1 for 3, 2B.  BA= .273.  I didn't see it, but the double was reportedly a mammoth shot off the bricks in right-center.  Baggs seems to think Bochy will carry Quiroz in the postseason roster so he can use Susac's bat off the bench.  Wait a minute!  How many postseason roster spots are there anyway?!

Gary Brown- 1 for 1.  BA= .429.  Brownie has certainly made the most of his meager opportunities.  Will he make the Wild Card roster with a couple of SP's likely being left off?

Joaquin Arias- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .254.  Arias hit .351 in the second half, .188 in the first half.  He hit .305 against LHP's and just .186 against RHP's.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 2, 2B, BB.  BA= .243.  Belt went 8 for 21 over his last 6 games of the season.  Belt one into the river, Brandon!  Oh, and there's a wind tunnel to RF in Washington!

Matt Duffy- 1 for 1.  BA= .267.  Duffy continues to have a magical bat off the bench, 6 for 15 in a PH role to be exact.  With Ishikawa likely starting in LF, Duffy becomes the best PH on the team, by far.

Adam Duvall- 1 for 1, HR(3).  BA= .192.  Duvall had his moments and his struggles.  What does the future hold for him?

Chris Heston- 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 5.06.  So-so start for Hesto-Presto.  Again, an uncertain future lies ahead for him.

Tim Lincecum- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA=  4.74.  Looks like Timmy was effectively pitching to contact.  Does he make the postseason roster?

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.50.  Do both he and Strickland make the Wild Card roster with a couple of SP's being left off?  Can the Giants bend the rules that much?

In a development that the Giants had no control over, they learned that they will be flying to Pittsburgh for the Wild Card do or die play-in game.  Madison Bumgarner will face Edinson Volquez who has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball over his last 12 starts.  Of course, Bumgarner is no slouch himself and would certainly get serious consideration for the Clayton Kershaw ineligible Cy Young Award voting.  Game time has been set at 8:07 PM EDT or 5:07 PM PDT which means I will get to see most of it after work.  We'll talk a bit more about Keys to the Game in another post, but if the score is still 0-0 or better for the Giants by the time I can tune in, I like their chances.

Matt Cain had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle.  It will not delay his recovery from elbow surgery.  Figured he might as well get it taken care of in this window so as to not miss more time down the road.

Around the League:  Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals pitched a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Game Wrap 9/27/2014: Giants 3 Padres 1

The game had no relevance to the Giants placement in postseason competition, but was important to some players who may have been auditioning for a postseason roster spot and for a roster spot next April.  Brandon Crawford broke open a 1-1 game with bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 8'th inning for the game winning hit.  Key Lines:

Gary Brown- 2 for 4.  BA= .333.  Brown finally got his chance to start, ridiculously late IMO, and responded with a bunt single and another hit off an IF chopper that contributed to the winning rally.  Now, a couple of IF hits does not a major leaguer make, but man, he can get down that line in a hurry!  Not sure why he has so much trouble stealing bases with that kind of speed!  He also made some nifty plays in CF.  

This is one place where I disagree with Bochy and/or Brian Sabean.  Maybe Brownie hasn't done anything to deserve an earlier look, but we all knew Juan Perez was not the answer a long time ago.  In the KNBR roundtable discussion amongst the game announcers on Postgame Live, the consensus seemed to be that Brown just might be a better option for the postseason roster than Perez.  Kuiper, in particular, brought up how many times Brown has been passed over, so I guess I'm not the only one who noticed

Matt Duffy- 2 for 4.  BA= .254.  Duffy hit the ball hard 4 times.  His outs were on a line drive to RF that was caught and another was on a sharp grounder up the middle that Amarista made a diving stop on, made a great play to get Brown on a force at 2'nd. Spangenburg made a wild throw to first allowing Duffy to end up at 2B from which he eventually scored the go-ahead run.

Duffy is 5 for 12(.417) in his last 10 games.  .333 in 15 games in Sept.  He is 7 for 19(.368) with RISP.  He has 5 Runs and 7 RBI's in 59 total AB's.  Forget that he's walked just once.  In the role he has been given, he is not up there looking to walk.  What's important is he has good AB's and gets good pitches to hit.  Matt Duffy!

I don't know if The Duffster has enough arm to make the throw to first from behind 3B, but if he does, he has to be under consideration for the position should Pablo end up leaving via FA.

Brandon Belt- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .241.  Belt is 7 for 22(.318) over his last 5 games and looks good heading into postseason play.  Good job getting up to speed in a hurry there, Big Guy!

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 4.  BA= .246.  The 2 Ribeyes gave Crawford 69 on the season.  Somebody in the broadcast booth, I think it was Kuip, pointed out that's as many as Yasiel Puig!  Crawford has also scored 53 runs on the season.  Now, I know Ribeyes and Runs are not the greatest measures of a player's value, but come on, guys!  Crawford has done this while hitting mostly 7'th and 8'th all season!(he was hitting 6'th in this game).

A reporter asked Bochy after the game if Crawford might be under consideration to bat higher in the order.  Bochy said it was a consideration, but he's done so well hitting 7 and 8, he didn't think he'd want to upset the chemistry there.  Here's how I see it.  Each place in the order has it's own characteristics in terms of what situations the batter comes up in and what types of pitches he sees.  Crawford has thrived in a spot that is extremely difficult for most hitters.  He seems to have figured out when to be aggressive and when to be patient.   Even if he doesn't get a hit or take a walk, he fouls off pitches and forces the pitcher to burn up valuable pitches on the bottom of the order.  There are likely other hitters who can bat at the top of the order, but I'm not sure there is anyone else who can do nearly as well as Crawford at the bottom.

Jake Peavey- 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 3.73.  This was basically a tune-up game for a hoped for postseason start that will come on Friday, October 3 in Washington if everything if the Giants win the Wild Card Game in either Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

Jeremy Affeldt- 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 2.28.   Affledt has been very shaky and at times downright bad in September.  His last 2 appearances, including this one, seem to have him back on track, which is a very good thing for the postseason.

Hunter Strickland- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Another lights out inning for Strickland.  I don't know how much leeway the rules allow for postseason rosters.  My understanding is the only way he can get on is to replace in injured player for whom there is no alternative replacement who was on the 25 man roster before Sept 1?  The roundtable did not seem to think it would be much of a problem, but who develops a mysteriously vague injury between now and 10/1?  I think it's pretty clear that Strickland is better than the 12'th pitcher on the pre-9/1 roster, whoever that is(actually, Timmy, I'm looking at you!).  First MLB W in this game for Strickland.

Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save(19).  ERA= 1.70.  Casilla seems pretty well entrenched as the closer for the postseason and has firmed up that grip in the last 2 weeks.

As mentioned above, this game had no bearing on the Giants postseason placement.  The Pirates and Cardinals both lost so the Cardinals lead the NL Central by 1 game going into the final game of the regular season.  Giants have to be hoping for a NL Central tie which would force those two teams to burn up their #1's in a one game playoff tomorrow.