Monthly Archives: April 2014

Kuiper Bobbleheads and Double Rainbows

I only see one...

I only see one…

I was in the press box for game 1 against Cleveland. I live in Gilroy. It was raining very hard in the early afternoon. I wasn’t sure if I should go. Well, I put my stock into weather.com and made the drive up north through pouring rain. It let up near the park, and as of the 2nd inning, it hasn’t rained since 4pm. Maybe I do have to buy stock in weather.com.

Due to the rain, there was no batting practice, and my credentials don’t allow clubhouse access, so no questions fired at Bochy before the game. Apparently I’m scum when it comes to the 2 levels of press access. But, I ain’t hatin’.

Act 1

The Giants came into today not having a single non-homerun-driven-in-run in 6 days. That was quickly alleviated when Hunter Pence drove in Angel Pagan with his first triple of the year before an out was recorded in the bottom of the first. Pagan had led off the game with a single. Morse followed two batters later by knocking in Pence with a sacrifice fly to deep right to make it 2-0.

Another first was a walk by Tim Hudson. After 30 2/3 inning to start the season without a walk, he gave up his first free pass of the year to Carlos Santana with 2 outs in the first.

The Indians finally got on the board in the third when Michael Bourn sent one high off the bricks in right. Pence appeared to mishandle the carom, which allowed Bourn to take third, but it was officially scored a triple. Nick Swisher followed with a clean line drive single to right center to halve the lead at 2-1.

Pagan and Pence kept their night perfect when Pagan, with extreme bat control, poked a single to left and promptly swiped second. Pence raised his average to .256 with a single to right to drive in the Giants’ centerfielder to make it a 3-1 game.

Act 2

Michael “BEAST” Morse (he wore a BEAST orange t-shirt before the game to continue his moniker from Washington) tattooed a ball to right center field, well up into the seats to lead off the fourth and extend San Francisco’s lead to 4-1. This is Bonds’ territory, and he’s a RIGHT hander. He may just be the first right hander to get a Splash Hit.

Tim Hudson really settled into a groove, and at one point, had retired 9 batters in a row until Kipnis singled with one out in the sixth. After his second walk of the game and of the season, Hudson struck out Brantley, which was followed by a line drive smash by Cabrera which was snagged by Belt lunging to his right to end the inning, preserving the lead.

Carrasco settled down after the Morse homerun, though, retiring 9 consecutive Giants to close out the 6th. Brandon Belt struck out for the third time in as many at bats, but his defense at that point, had made up for the lack of contact.

Act 3

After Affeldt was not needed in the 6th after warming up, Tim Hudson pitched into the seventh, easily retiring the side in order on 8 pitches.

Pablo Sandoval led off the seventh and switched around to the right side with “I think it’s 1982 and I’ll wear my high white socks and stirrups” Josh Outman facing him. Pablo, who’s 0-41 this season with 2 strikes, took the first pitch off of arcade #2 in right field for a rare Panda triple. Crawford smoked a single to right field to drive him in. Crawford is not 10-22 off of left handers, and that be a sign of plate maturity for the young shortstop. Hudson was lifted for a pinch hitter (Blanco) in the bottom of the seventh, concluding Huddy’s night at 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, and 2 walks

Jeremy Affeldt had a rocky start to the top of the 8th, though, allowing a leadoff walk, and after a bizarre delay of game for a repair job that he requested to the pitcher’s landing spot, Kipnis laced a single to center. Affeldt summoned the powers of his not-yet-cut-while-making-hamburgers left hand to retire the next 3 hitters, the last 2 on strikeouts.

The ninth inning wasn’t a clean one for the Giants, as it included an error by Hunter Pence and a botched double play on a combacker to Javier Lopez, but alas, the 4-run cushion was more than ample to prevent any serious torture as he closed out a 5-1 win, pushing Hudson’s record to 3-1.

Chad

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Episode #60: Wilson Delgado

He’s actually younger than me.

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You can also find it on iTunes and Stitcher.

Given the fact that the Giants scored only 3 runs in the first two games of the series in Colorado, I’d want to check the teams’ prostates. Apparently, they’re all in good health, at least, that’s what they want to publish on the internet. Because, cancer afflicting multimillionaire owners is bad pub. Right? #60 is a hard number to fulfill. Yet, the internet reveals such Giants as Wilson Delgado. I love reminiscing. However, the Giants finished their road trip at 2-4. Pathetic. But, if it weren’t for the Giants’ 6 homeruns on Wednesday, they might be sitting under .500. Alas, the Wilson Delgado fan club still exists within the confines of 1998. Internet broadband isn’t strong enough to deny access to the fountain.

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Don’t. Press. It.

…don’t press it…don’t press it…don’t press it….

 

Still above .500. Only 1 1/2 games back. No need to worry, right?

Big picture, who knows?

But, if recent history becomes a long summer of a trend, we’re in for a repeat of the 2013 season of mediocrity.

It’s only been a week since the precipitous fall from grace the Giants’ bats have taken, in fact, I think I saw several players actually chucking their bats off the Rocky Mountains after these last two miserable games.

SF has lost 5 of 6, and aside from Vogelsong’s start in Colorado, the pitching has been excellent and not to blame. You can put that squarely on the shoulders of the lineup, and aside from Belt and Pagan (but even Pagan has been quiet lately), everyone has shut down. Once the Giants were second in the NL in batting average and runs scored. Oh, so as the memories of when you got to second base with that blonde you were after in high school, so are the days of the Giants EVEN GETTING TO THE REAL ACTUAL SECOND BASE!

Let’s take a look at the big picture, stat-wise. The Giants have now fallen to second to last in the NL in batting average to almost my weight: .228. Only the Mets are worse at .224. We thought the Giants had scoring problems last year, but they still hit a relatively robust .260! Usually the runs are plentiful on both sides in Colorado, a veritable buffet where only the mightiest of the champion food eaters will come out on top, while the other, although defeated, still gets his full of extra base hits. True to the park, the giants have had 19 at bats with runners in scoring position in the first 2 games. That’s a crap-metric-ton of at bats! They’ve put runners on base! How many hits in those 19 ABs? Exactly 1: by Hunter Pence: AND IT DIDN’T EVEN SCORE A RUN! I might be able to get more than 1 hit in 19 at bats by just poking out the bat every pitch.

The runs have dried up, the hitting has dried up, my drink has dried up while I write this. Alas, the pitching is still in tact, despite some bumps in the road, and those bumps tend to be Giants fans running over Vogelsong with their metaphorical buses filled with toxic angst, rage, and maybe an occasional enchilada. There have been many questions about Vogey coming in. Some have predicted that he may not make it to June as a starter. I’m pulling for the guy, he’s a great story, and an inspirational one at that. A blue-collar type you want to see succeed, but his location has been off so far this year, the same affliction he suffered last year. With Petit shaking off the rust and pitching well, we may see a change in a month if Ryan continues to go south. Cain and Hudson have been great, and Bumgarner won an entire game himself with 5 RBI, but he has been hit HARD. Today he pitched a complete game (8 IP) and only allowed 2 solo jacks for runs, but still got tagged with the loss. The league is now hitting .314 off Madison, who happens to be tied with Lincecum for the 5th worst batting average against in the NL. This, this is not a good sign, despite his 3.14 ERA. He’s playing with fire by allowing all of those baserunners (Bum owns a 1.64 WHIP, 55th out of 58 qualifying pitchers).

Seriously, 3 runs for the Giants in 2 games in Denver. They’re passing runs out in the stands. Last night was “free runs” night. I think I even saw an elderly man score with that young blonde I was after in high school. What kind of offense is this team going to bring back to the thick air by the Bay on Friday versus Cleveland?!

By the way, Willie and Chad will be in the press box on Friday versus Cleveland to keep both an eye out for that blonde, Kuiper bobbleheads, and for any runs that may or may not score in the home half.

Chad

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Vogelstrong

The boys had their first 2014 trip to the press box. It was Candlestick night, and although the boys didn’t realize the celebration they were about to walk into, I (Chad) stumbled onto the field for BP and after an hour, I was able to talk to Roger Craig (the Giant), Dave Dravecky, Brent Jones, and Matt Cain demanded his Aquarium photos.

Serendipitously, or actually because we are in San Francisco, the night was shrouded in fog, much like my childhood memories at Candlestick. No, I didn’t drink as a child.

After the pomp and circumstance, the game started with a swift 1-2-3 inning for Vogelsong, but that cadence would quickly change to a laborious outing for the veteran right-hander. He quickly fell into trouble in the second; after a lead-off ground out, he promptly grazed Montero’s jersey, walked Prado, and allowed a single to Parra to load the bases. Cliff Pennington, the number 8 hitter, delivered his first 2 RBI of the season with a solid single to left. The inning could have been worse if Parra wasn’t caught off of third on an attempted sac bunt by the pitcher Delgado.

The Giants quickly struck back when Brandon Hicks delivered yet another 2-out RBI hit to halve the lead, but that was short-lived. The D’bags pounced on Vogelsong with a 1-out double by Goldschmidt (pause here: this man is STRONG and should play in a level for Marvel characters), a single by Prado, and Montero promptly plated both of his teammates with a double into triples alley. No, he didn’t get a triple.

The third looked promising for the Giants after Pagan fouled off all of the balls until he drove a single into right and Belt followed with a walk. However, the cold, cold Panda hit into a 4-6-3 double play to extinguish any assemblance of a rally. Then, Buster Posey pulled out a card no one in Candlestick AT&T Park was expecting….a bunt down the third base line. And…it was kind of a good one. And the Giants kinda scored a run on that bunt single; by the catcher; who has one leg.

CUE MAJOR LEAGUE THE MOVIE

I don’t have YouTube rights to this.

After the Giants cut the lead to 4-2, Vogelsong settled down in the fourth with a 1-2-3 and 2 strikeouts.

Michael Morse’s beard implored him to make it to second after he hit one into the gap, and Brandon Crawford’s lucious locks wanted to mate with Morse’s beard by duplicating the aforementioned double to close the gap to 4-3. After a Hick’s walk, the Giants looked like they were looking for blood, but the pitcher Delgado pounced on a bunt by Vogelsong to narrowly force Crawford out at third. Give an assist to Kirk Gibson, as his decision to replace Delgado with Perez paid off when the turned-around Pagan grounded into an inning-ending double play from the right side. But, the Giants apparently only like to score with 2 outs, so….

Vogey continued to settle down into the fifth by striking out Goldshit, and inducing a 4-6-3 double play after hitting Prado.

The sticks kept digging Vogelsong out of his own hole, when Michael Morse doubled again off the bricks in deep right center, with 2 outs, to drive in Sandoval and Posey to take the lead at 5-4. The Giants have just been fantastic with 2 out hits this year, and we like to give a shot out to our friend Eric @2outhits.

No matter how much Vogelsong wanted to continue, Bochy had to pull him after he allowed a leadoff double to Trumbo to lead off the 6th inning, giving way to David Huff with the tying run on second.

Machi entered in the 7th and was greeted rudely by consecutive hits by Campana and Hill to put both runners in scoring position with Goldshmidt up. After he fell behind the lumberjack, the Giants opted to finish the intentional walk to load the bases with no outs. Martin Prado followed with a much-needed ground ball back to the mound to start a 1-2-3 double play to quickly bring the threat level down from red to a mild yellow-green. Bochy went to Javy Lopez to neutralize Montero with the strikeout. We all love the homerun, but I love getting out of a bases-loaded, no out jam even more so.

Casilla tried to set it up in the 8th, but after he got pinch-hitter Eric Chavez to fly out to Perez in left, Campana hit a soft grounder to Panda at third. Without a chance to throw out the speedy lefty, he launched an off-balanced throw over Belt’s head and into the AT&T Park stands to allow the tying run to score. This is when we would love access to the clubhouse to ask him, “WHY DID YOU THROW THE ROCK?!?” I just like saying that phrase, actually, it makes me feel like a man as I sip my coffee in the protected press box.

Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the 8th with a shot into the centerfield night that apparently got lost in the Flock of Seagulls, as Campana erroneously ran straight back towards the fence, only to turn around to watch the ball fall harmlessly 10 feet in front of him for a “Ghost of Candlestick” double. Hicks walked , Perez sacrificed the runners over, and the pitcher Thatcher intentionally walked Pagan to bring up Belt with the bases loaded and one out. Belt couldn’t muster more than a shallow fly ball to left, and Panda, with 2 strikes, struck a decent poke to right, but Parra tracked it down on the warning track to end the threat.

Sergio Romo, who hadn’t pitched in 8 days, came into the game in the 9th to retire the side, but what’s concerning is that he departed in pain. We’ll be sure to talk more about that.

Unfortunately, Petit couldn’t hold the game in the 10th, but it took a great AB by Campana, who fouled off a series of 2 strike pitches before he floated a single just over the outstretched glove of Hicks.

Reed, the Arizona closer, made quick work of the Giants to drop San Francisco to 6-4.

 

 

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Paper Trails: San Francisco at Los Angeles

What an end to the road trip!  It took me an extra day just to watch the last game of this series and yet another day to get this written up — I think no one (by which I mean everyone) remembered to warn me that having to take up to three hours out of the day to watch and score a baseball game kind of eats up what little free time is left in your day.  But watch I did, and I was rewarded with more than a few interesting things – let’s dig into a few!

  • Go For The Throat: Starting with a painful one, in Sunday’s contest the Dodgers left only one man on base the entire game, and that was Zack Greinke, stranded by a Carl Crawford groundout after a booming ground rule double.  Now, if they had barely hit, that would be one concern; however, they scored six on seven hits, and left only one man on base.  All game.
 
  • Late Night Web Gems: Does anybody get to watch these? Is there any way that Angel Pagan isn’t on there regularly?  When he’s healthy — and hopefully, staying that way — he is the combination of spark plug and leather-flasher that we desperately need at the top of the lineup and the center of the outfield.  Other than Shulman and Kruk — more on that later — saying it was good to have a ‘real center fielder’ again (I’m sorry, have you not SEEN Gregor Blanco play? Oh, right, you haven’t!) it’s easy to see that Pagan not only upholds stringent standards of center field defense for the Giants, but has been incredibly valuable in that leadoff spot as well, going 5-for-12 this series with two walks.  Besides that, Pence is no slouch, showing off a massive outfield assist on Saturday, and Pablo Sandoval has reminded a few people why we don’t usually worry too much about him out there at third base with some diving stops and leaps to knock down grounders.
 
  • In The Air Like You Just Don’t Care: Three games at Dodger Stadium.  Of seventeen runs scored by the Giants, seven came on home runs.  Of twelve runs scored by the Bums, seven came on home runs.  Was the ball jumping? A bit — it has been this whole trip — but this is a kind of Giants baseball we’ve only just started to get familiar with after years of low-power baseball and elite pitching, we find ourselves with inconsistently brilliant pitching but power developing to complement it.
 
  • Nattering Nabobs: I’ll say this about John Kruk: He’s honest.  I don’t think he tells it like it is; I think he tells it like he sees it from the mysterious Kruk-land that his brain lives in.  He has some solid stories, as any good national-level color analyst should, but he is not a good national-level color analyst.  When the best methods of dialogue you have are to shut down your partner (“Nope, I don’t think so”) and to provide commentary that just feels completely out of sync with what you see on the broadcast…but, hey, when you’ve got a color analyst like Mike Krukow around, I guess you get a little spoiled.
 
  • Gold Glove Offense: We frequently talk about the joke that you have to “hit well enough for a Gold Glove”, a joking reference to the idea that without offense, the coaches and others that vote on the Gold Glove awards won’t notice you for your defense.  Things like Web Gems, the Top 10, and increased access and attention to clips online have increased teams’ ability to be aware of these things, and some change is happening — but it doesn’t change the fact that this year, Crawford and Belt are starting to do it. Crawford, especially, is a wizard at shortstop and will likely be trading with Andrelton Simmons for the Gold Glove at the position, but in this series Crawford posted an 0-for-6 with two walks, all four outs on Sunday being strikeouts.  Belt, on the other hand, went 4-for-13 with three singles and a home run.  If the defense is there, and Belt is at least an above-average defender, some strong play, athletic ability, and difficult picks at first could well put Belt into the discussion.
 
  • The Only Good Bum is a Mad Bum: Madison Bumgarner cemented his role as the team’s ace with a sterling performance on Saturday against a strong, if inconsistent, Dodgers lineup.  In 6.1 innings, Bumgarner put together ten strikeouts, five of them coming against the heart of the order (Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Kemp) and only allowed two earned runs.  It seems like a safe bet that we still haven’t quite seen everything Madison Bumgarner has in the tank, and that he’s still getting warmed up; other than a clean fifth inning, Bumgarner allowed at least one hit every other inning.  He only issued one walk, and the limited number of runners and nature of spreading out the hits helped keep Bumgarner in control of the game — but the pitch count ran up, and once again, Bumgarner was gone by the middle of the 7th inning.  I’d like to see that dominant attitude translate into a complete game sometime soon, but you know what?  It’s damned fun to watch in the meantime.
 
  • Close to the Chest: Matt Kemp got in on a pitch on Sunday (one of many, it seemed like) that was in on his hands, and watching the slow-mo replay really can teach you a lot about how his swing can tighten in and shorten up without losing any momentum or power.  Hitters have wheelhouses, sure, but the kind of inside coverage that swing will get you is what keeps the “strictly a power hitter” label away for a long time.  Kemp’s a Dodger, but I respect what he can do (and, let’s face it, I like him better than Puig.)

Plenty of fantastic baseball this weekend, and if you’re going to end a road trip with a pretty crushing loss to your most bitter rivals…it doesn’t hurt to do it with a 5-2 record, plenty of home runs, and your first baseman right in the middle of a hot streak, does it?

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Episode 59: Guillermo Mota

Yep, this ex-Dodger held this trophy. We’re running out of numbers.

[audio http://torturecast.podomatic.com/enclosure/2014-04-07T23_13_26-07_00.mp3]

Click the arrow above to stream the podcast, or download it here. You can also find it on iTunes and Stitcher.

Wille, Ben and Chad record the first 2014 regular season episode of TortureCast, reviewing the Giants’ fantastic 5-2 start, Belt’s 4 HRs, the Giants lead MLB in HR, taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers, MadBum, Cain, Hudson’s first start, and who we hate this week (insert Puig).

And, did anyone notice that this new Buster Posey commercial shows an infielder, who receives the throw from Posey, THAT IS WEARING BILL TERRY’S RETIRED NUMBER 3?! C’mon man! Under Armour, do your research! Oh, and Buster is totally throwing out a Barry Larkin look-alike.

All three of us will be at AT&T on Thursday when the Giants host the D’backs. Tweet us, come by, and say hi! We’ll also be recording our traditional “Bonusode” after the game at Zeke’s if you want to hang out.

 

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Paper Trails: San Francisco at Arizona

20140404-034216.jpg

I’ve mentioned it on the podcast before, but I’m pretty sure I’m certifiably nuts.  While I’ve mentioned it in general, in this case I’m specifically talking about my goal to try and score every single game the Giants play this year.  Am I going to succeed? Who knows — I may give up and decide I prefer sleeping at some point (I closed at work today, and it’s nearly 3 AM now that I’m finishing this), but in the meantime, I’m learning a lot about the sweet art that is scoring and how being engaged in a game changes the way that I consume and follow it.  And along the way, you always come up with a few interesting tidbits, so at the conclusion of the series, in parallel to our new series reviews, here’s a few things that I couldn’t help noticing over the course of our opening series at Chase Field!

Disclaimer: All observations are based on my own scorecards and note-taking. There will be errors. Feel free to point them out in the comments and I’ll swing back around to correct stats and things in the future if I can.

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Series Review: SF @ Arizona

I command the power of the giraffe!!

Here at TortureCast, we’re going to try something new that will probably abjectly fail during the season: a review at the conclusion of every series.

Expect mistakes.

Expect missed series.

Expect that we will quit this if the Giants suck.

Expect that we will review every series if Timmy keeps that mustache.

Ok, onto our first review.

Giants at Arizona

Record: 3-1 (3-1, 0.5 GB of LA)

Batting Average: .246

HR: 6

Runs: 23

Runs allowed: 18

Batting Average Against: .279

ERA: 3.34

MVP: Brandon Belt, who hit .333 with 3 homeruns and 5 RBI

Notables: Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner combined for 11.2 IP, 0 runs and only 2 walks with 10 strikeouts. Romo had 2 saves and could have had 3, but Bochy wanted to save him for LA. Pagan was 8-19 with 6 RBI and had the game winning hit in game 4. Posey was 5-12 and had the game-winning HR in game 1. Not a single ball was hit to Michael Morse until the moment he left the game.

Worries: The bees at Chase Field, Hunter Pence’s 1-16 (0.063) start, and Timmy gave up 2 longballs to strong men, umpires can get away with 2 wrong calls in the same inning even WITH the new replay system

Special Moments: The Giants came back late in 2 games, including a 5 run eighth in the series finale when down 5-3, capped off by a Pagan 3-run bomb. Brandon Hicks first HR with the Giants.

Up Next: 3 game series in LA

Synopsis: Hey, I don’t care that Arizona basically out-hit the Giants. The Giants won 3 out of 4 thanks to bees, timely hitting, Pat Burrell hitting a HR in khakis, and, ok, some late-game heroics. This could have easily been 3 losses. The Giants only outscored the D’bags 23-18. Let’s hope for a strong season opener from Vogelsong in LA tomorrow. He needs to throw a few more cereal bowls against the backsplash tomorrow morning before the rotation resets with Bumgarner and Cain. Speaking of Bumgarner, he wasn’t spectacular in the opener, but the Giants defense miscues led to a high pitch count and an early exit for him. He’s mad and a bum and wants to paint his face with Dodger blue blood.

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