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What’s good with the Giants?

We here at TortureCast often talk about breaking down the Giants season into smaller segments. At the start of play today, the San Francisco Nine have played 16 games, 1/10th of their season total. So I decided now is a good time to check in and see how things are going.

The Giants are 6-10 after splitting two games during their Kansas City memories tour. All alone in last place, one measly half game behind the San Diego Padres. This weekend, the Giants will try to get out of the cellar in the house of horrors known as Coors Field with three games against the Rockies.

Every couple of weeks or so I’ll be back to check in after each tenth of the season. I figure that’s long enough to space them out so I can make sure I’ll stay on it. If I could write every day, believe me, I would. So, riffing off my old “3 up, 3 down” format, here’s some observations about the 2017 San Francisco Giants. Continue reading

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End of an Era

moore

Should Moore have started the 9th inning in game 4?

It’s been just a little over 48 hours since the Giants’ season came to an end in one of the most gut-punching, low-blow, torturous ways possible. Pouring salt on the fresh and open wound was the fact that the Dodgers somehow, although in the exact same position as the Giants, being down 2-1 at home, won games 4 and 5 by one stinking run, and are now facing the Cubs in the NLCS.

The even-year magic is officially dead.

DEAD

As a lifelong 42-year old fan of the Giants, this one hurt. It hurt a lot. Ok, not quite as much as 2002, but I’d rank this at #2 on my personal pain index of postseason failures. Sure, they lost in 2000 to the Mets (I was there, by the way), after J.T. Snow hit a game-tying HR off of Armando Benitez in the 9th, but lost it and the series in the 10th. (Why did we ever sign Benitez, anyway). Then there was J.T. Snow getting thrown out at the plate in Florida to end the 2003 NLDS. The 1989 World Series sweep by the A’s, the 1987 collapse against the Cardinals in the NLCS (CANDY MALDONADO!). The 103 wins in 1993.

I’ve been a conscious, breathing, sentient being for all of these failures. However, the magical even years of 2010, 2012 and 2014 essentially erased all of that pain and sorrow, and then some. How many fans have this much surplus in championship gold in baseball? Certainly the turn-of-the century Yankees, and maybe the Red Sox are somewhat close with three in 10 years. Three in five is amazing. Four in seven would have even been more amazing. But, it wasn’t meant to be.

The 9th inning collapse on Tuesday hurt so much, that I literally didn’t sleep. And I tried. I went to bed immediately. Was under the covers by 9:45 pm. I was still awake at 7 am, never having left the bed. Is that okay? Does that mean I have a problem? I broke out in cold sweats imagining how Bochy could’ve altered the outcome, or how perhaps, I could conjure a time machine and literally alter time by planting suggestions in Bochy’s ear or taking a bat to Zobrist’s ankles. I imagined an alternate universe where the Giants won games 4 and 5 (yes, they would have won game 5) and beat the Dodgers in the NLCS and somehow beat the Indians for retribution for the Warriors and their 4th ring.

I love this team too much.

Here’s a question that will never be answered, really: Why not let Moore start the 9th?

Now, many are on board with this idea, and many are not and are fine with the conventional wisdom plan of baseball.

Personally, I was begging for Moore to start the 9th. Implored the baseball gods. But, when I saw that Derek Law was on the bump, I was partly horrified, but also vexed. Bochy said he was going to close with Romo/Smith. Ok, Romo pitched two innings the night prior, but so did Law, so that can’t be the reason why Romo didn’t start the 9th.

Before I get too deep in the “conga line of doom” that Bochy rolled out, let me get back to the Moore hypothesis:

  1. Moore was CRUISING! He allowed 2 hits through 8 IP, and had struck out 10, while only walking 2. More importantly, he retired the last 8 batters in order! The Giants were out-hitting the Cubs 11-2 after 8 innings!
  2. The bullpen sucks. Ok, we all know that, and yes, at some point, Bochy would have to have relied on his bullpen in the NLCS and/or World Series. But did he HAVE to in this elimination game? NO!
  3. If pitch count was a concern, Moore threw 133 pitches in a no-hitter attempt in LA. Of course this game is more important than a no-hitter, it’s an elimination game! Moore could have faced at least one batter, as he was at 120 pitches. He gets on, they go to the pen. He gets him out, he faces another guy. Butterfly effect and shit.
  4. Moore had not pitched in 9 days since the regular-season closing win against the Dodgers, where Moore had a masterful 8 IP. Of course Romo closed it out, but it was a 6 run lead.
  5. Moore would probably not have pitched until game 4 of the NLCS on 10/18, meaning he would have had 7 days of rest. Basically, the few extra pitches wouldn’t have mattered much.
  6. Moore’s OPS against after pitching 101 or more pitches is better than when he pitches less. Basically, in 18 of his 34 starts in 2016 when he went over 101 pitches, he was money.
  7. DID I MENTION THE BULLPEN SUCKS AND ALSO BLEW THE SAVE THE NIGHT BEFORE?!

Look, it was an elimination game. The type of game where Bochy has brought in Bumgarner to pitch 5 innings (yes, that was game 7 of the World Series). But, you can’t get there if you don’t trust your bullpen, which presents the paradox for Bochy. If he continues to push starters to the brink (Bochy led the league in pitches thrown by starters), it may have a counter-effect on the confidence of the pen. Reality is, the pen failed over and over and over in the second half, and it almost cost them the postseason, and surely cost them the division (and of course, the NLDS), so I don’t think there would have been any psychological effect. I mean, the Giants lost the west by 4 games, but lost 9 games after leading going into the 9th and blew 30 saves overall, far more than the Dodgers.

So, I was surprised to see Law in. Then Kris Bryant hits, what normally would have been an easy ground out to Crawford, but it went in between the shift that the Giants were employing. Then, the quick hook to Lopez. He’s been a saint, a savior, a deft specialist to get that key left hander out. Alas, his age showed as he walked Rizzo, something YOU CAN NEVER DO! Bochy immediately goes to Romo, and he turns Zobrist to the left side, and he hit the only really solid contact of the inning, a double down the right field line that made the score 5-3 and put the tying run at second. This is when my sphincter was in full clinch mode.

Bochy, again!, went to another reliever, Will Smith. Maddon countered with Contreras, who hit a 25 hopper up the middle to score both runs and tie the game. Smith stayed in the game and Heyward had a horrible bunt right back to Smith, who promptly fired to Crawford for the out, but Crawford sailed his throw to Belt for an error, which allowed Heyward to take second, a crucial play. Crawford also had an error earlier in the game which cost the Giants a run, something not to be forgotten.

At this point, the new Giant-killer Baez was coming up, so Bochy went to his fifth and final reliever of the inning, Hunter Strickland. Once again, a not-so-hard-hit-grounder found its way up the middle, delivering Heyward to the plate in what would eventually be the deciding run as Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

We saw it happen so many times this year, including two losses when having three run leads in the ninth. With all the magic that Bochy pulls, he appeared to be the frantic kindergartener in the 9th, playing matchups, something that he stopped doing in mid-September, which seemed to stabilize the bullpen.

No one could be trusted. No one could find a rhythm, no one knew their role.

The ninth inning is special territory, reserved for those who have the mental fortitude or possession of a crazy gene to inherit and thrive under that pressure.

Giants’ brass made it clear that they will pursue a closer this offseason in today’s end of year press conference. How can they not?

There’s a reason we call this site and podcast “TortureCast.”

Go Cubs?

Chad

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The Next Three Games are Elimination Games

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Travis Wood became just the second relief pitcher ever to hit a postseason home run. (Photo: Dennis Wierzbicki, USA TODAY Sports)

Ok, the title of this article is a little prophetic, I admit.

After the Giants fell to the Cubs 5-2 tonight, they find themselves in a 0-2 hole in the best of five NLDS, a situation in which they need to win three straight games, which they did twice in 2012 against the Reds and then the Cardinals (being down 3-1 in a best of seven). So, they’ve done it before, but against this Cubs club? They are clearly the better team, but that doesn’t always guarantee a ring, obviously.

If a comeback is to materialize, it begins on Monday with Bumgarner, Mr. October 2, toeing the rubber against Jake Arrieta. Bumgarner has 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and the Giants have won nine consecutive elimination games. Sounds good, but even if they extend that streak to 10, they’ll need Moore to pitch well in game 4 and of course, Cueto back in Chicago for game 5. Possible, but not likely.

It was crucial for the Giants to split in Chicago, and the key was definitely game 1. That is a game that could have gone the other way, but the Giants made crucial base-running mistakes, and never got a hit with a runner in scoring position. Tonight, Cubs pitchers knocked in three runs, one more than the Giants have in two games.

Samardzija “earned” this start, according to Bruce Bochy, but his poor stats at Wrigley, and against teams he used to play for (9+ ERA), confirmed the foreshadow. He struggled with pitch count and location, and allowed a crucial two-run single to starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks, which extended the inning for the next ensuing RBI hit, putting the Cubs up 4-0. George Kontos had an excellent third inning, but after Travis Wood relieved Kyle Hendricks after he exited the game after being hit on the arm by a Pagan line drive, Kontos promptly gave up only the second homerun hit by a relief pitcher in postseason history, in the fourth, to finalize the score at 5-2. That energized the crowd at Wrigley shortly after Giants fans and the media were wondering if the Billy Goat curse manifested itself in the injury to Hendricks.

Apparently not.

We’ll never know if Moore would have performed better, but many Giants fans preferred the latter option, given his last two starts that helped the Giants seal the second wild card. Besides, it’s hard to win a game at Wrigley with just two runs. We may get a chance to see Moore on Tuesday, should the Giants take game 3.

On the positive side, the Giants bullpen threw six innings, only giving up one run (that rogue relief pitcher HR by Wood), and Ty Blach looked good, setting down the 3-6 hitters in order. He looks to be a valuable asset and possible starter in 2017.

After their horrid second half, the Giants are fortunate to be in the NLDS, erasing that memory, but their performance in these first two games is a reminder of the offensive struggles that permeated the summer months. Of course, facing the #1, 2, and 3 leaders in ERA in the NL in their first three games didn’t help that. Jake Arrieta struggled at times this year, but has a swagger that almost matches Bumgarner, and is a Cy Young winner, so I don’t think Monday will be a cakewalk, especially if the Giants don’t score more than a few runs.

We’ll have to wait and see, one game at a time, if the even-year magic has run its course or not.

Chad

 

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162

162b

Marty Lurie always cites that the baseball season is a “mosaic of 162 games.” Welp, we’re down to game number 162, and things still need to be settled with the Cardinals trailing the Giants by a game, anything could happen tomorrow.

Here are the two possible scenarios:

1. Giants win or Cardinals lose: the Giants clinch the second wild card berth and will head to New York to play the Mets on Wednesday.

2. Giants lose AND Cardinals win: Giants will have to travel to St. Louis for game #163 (still considered part of the regular season) to earn the right to play the Mets in New York on Wednesday. The Cards hold the tiebreaker on the Giants (4 games to 3 in their regular season series).

What I can’t help imagine is all of the blown saves this year, including the 9 games lost when heading into the 9th with the lead. Additionally, the Giants never won a single game this year when trailing heading into the 9th. It’s some weird voodoo baseball god magic that has turned the balance on the law of averages for the sole purpose of blessing Giants fans with that dreadful feeling of “torture.”

Of course, the biggest blown save right now is the won they blew a few weeks ago to the Cards (I’M LOOKING AT YOU BOCHY FOR PUTTING CASILLA BACK IN AFTER YOU SAID YOU WOULDN’T). That represents a two-game swing, meaning the Giants would’ve clinched the wild card after Friday night’s win, and these last two games would have been torture-free.

It’s quite something, however, to see all three teams, the Mets, Cards, and Giants, who had been playing mediocre ball, at best, over the last few weeks, suddenly respond and turn it on. All three teams have won three in a row.

On our last podcast, both Eric and I agreed that over their last six games, the Giants would have to win at least four to get the playoff spot. Well, they’ve already won four with one to go. Apparently all that four wins guaranteed is an extra game in St. Louis.

Let’s just thank those same odds-busting baseball gods that a rookie earned his first major league win by shutting out the Dodgers over eight incredible innings and beat, you know, CLAYTON F’N KERSHAW! I honestly chalked this one up as a loss before the game.

Both the Cards and Giants start their games at the exact same time tomorrow, so it’s going to be simultaneous torture.

Baseball is weird. Let’s not get too weird tomorrow.

Oh wait, yes it can. Ryan Vogelsong is pitching for Pittsburgh against the Cardinals.

EAT YOUR #RALLYENCHILADAS!

 

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Casilla Blows Another Save. Everything is OK.

casilla-face

The Giants blew another 9th inning lead tonight. In fact, it was their 8th loss after leading in the ninth. Never mind the 28 blown saves that lead the NL. At least they won some of those games. But, 8 losses after leading after 9 (2 of them came after leading by 3 in the 9th, btw) is SOUL-CRUSHING. Let’s look at the what ifs:

  1. If they won tonight (blowing only 7 9th inning leads), they’d trail the NL West by 4 and lead the Mets by 1 and Cardinals by 4 in the wild card.
  2. If they had only blown 6 ninth inning leads, they would trail LA by 3 and lead the Mets by 2 and Cards by 5.
  3. If they had only blown 5 ninth inning leads, they would trail LA by 2 and lead the Mets by 3 and Cards by 6.
  4. If they had only blown 4 ninth inning leads, they would trail LA by 1 and lead the Mets by 4 and Cards by 7.
  5. If they had only blown 3 ninth inning leads, they would be TIED WITH LA and lead the Mets by 5 and Cards by 8.
  6. If they had only blown 2 ninth inning leads, they would LEAD LA by 1 and lead the Mets by 6 and Cards by 9.
  7. Ok, so most teams don’t blow more than a few leads in the ninth, so I’ll stop here. Most teams blow a lead or two or three, but not EIGHT!!

Point being, the Giants are still in this race, but the NL West is most likely out, unless they go 6-0 against the Dodgers.

Let’s hope they win tomorrow, because if they don’t, the Giants may miss out on the playoffs by 1 or 2 games, and it will all come down to the bullpen in the 9th.

Did anyone think that Casilla would be called upon again? I’m shocked that he’s still in the “rotation,” but I don’t think we see him again in the regular season in a save situation after the boos that rained down on him and Bochy tonight.

Chad

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Is It Time To Panic?

Belt

 

That road trip sucked. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The San Francisco Giants went 1-7 and generally looked flat, and out of sync. They come home only three games ahead of the Dodgers for the NL West lead.

THREE

That number can be made up during one series of baseball. The cushion that once was, is gone.

So is it time to panic? I guess that depends on how you look at it. There’s a precedent for this kind of thing. On June 8th of 2014, the Giants were a season high 22 games over .500 and had a 10 game lead in the NL West. When it was over they finished 6 games behind the Dodgers and had to play the Wild Card game. Then the Giants won the title.

Sure. That’s a different team. I agree. This 2016 squad is probably the most talented bunch Bruce Bochy has managed in a Giants uniform and a free fall like 2014 shouldn’t be in the cards. I mean, it can’t be? Can it?

On June 24 this season, the Giants held their largest lead over LA at 8 games. On July 10th, they reached a season high 24 games over .500 with a record of 57-33. That was the record the Giants held going in to the all star break. It was a 6.5 game lead over the Dodgers.

It’s not really fair to compare this year’s team against 2014, but we can’t help it because it literally just happened. It’s easy to draw comparisons.

That doesn’t mean the same thing has to happen, and I’m betting it won’t. Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy should all be returning to the lineup over the next month. The whole of the offense won’t have to rest on the shoulders of Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Brandon Crawford.

The lineup isn’t as deep as it once was. But, fingers crossed, it should be there again. On this 1-7 road trip the Giants held the opponent to 5 runs or less in 6 of the 8 games. The problem is they scored 23 runs total in the 8 games, less than 3 a game. Take out the 7 runs in the Wednesday loss to Boston ad it’s barely over 2 runs per game.

The Giants aren’t hitting. That makes the errors and subpar pitching performances stand out. Jeff Samardzija got rocked in the 6th inning at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, but in a live yard all the Giants could manage was 2 runs on a defensive swing base-hit. It’s hard to win when the middle of the order combines for 4 total runs in 8 games.

A lot of the chatter after the final game in New York from the Giants clubhouse was about getting back in a routine. This weird road trip with multiple days off was not normal. Playing the next 7 games at home will surely be a welcome thing for a club that really hasn’t been home since July 10th.

The Cincinnati Reds are coming to town for 3 games and overall they have not played well this season. At 38-60 they are tied for the 3rd worst record in baseball with the Tampa Bay rays. The Reds just wrapped a 9-game homestand to start the second half. They wen 6-3 against Milwaukee, Atlanta, and Arizona. Back in May the Giants took 2 of 3 from the Reds in Ohio and averaged just over 5 runs a game.

There’s that 5-run mark again. It jumps out because the Giants are 36-9 when they score 5 or more runs in a game. The offense is what really makes this team hum and it just wasn’t there for this trip.

Like I asked earlier, is it time to panic? I don’t think it is. Clayton Kershaw may miss the season and require surgery. The Dodgers are winning games now, but their own injuries will catch them. Much like what has happened to the Giants recently.

There’s also the idea that Bobby Evans is looking for bullpen help. Aroldis Chapman is out as closer option. He got traded to the Cubs, and I’ll be honest, I’m glad we don’t have to tiptoe around his recent domestic violence incident. I would have a hard time rooting for him.

Other than a reliever, the Giants could shore up any part of the team. With the emergence of Mac Williamson lately, the Giants probably feel better about the OF depth. The rotation may need some help, and the next week will clear that up. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain each start twice this week and we’ll all know if there’s a need.

Don’t panic. The Giants are still one of the best team in baseball and have reinforcements coming. After this week at home they take their last trip to the east to start August. The farthest they fly after they return home then is Chicago. The Giants thrive in their comfort zone and we shouldn’t expect any less down the stretch. It’s just another extension of Bochy’s “keep the line moving” mentality.

Or, I could be totally wrong and this season is about to fall off a cliff.

-Eric

@2outhits

 

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The Friday Five: Let’s play ball! Again.

 

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Johnny Cueto and Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants / Getty Images

The second half of the baseball season gets underway tonight for the San Francisco Giants. The break is over and it’s time for nothing but baseball over the next three and a half months. This could be another year of putting football on hold until November. That may be a good thing, if  you’re a Niners fan.

I’m sorry, where were we? Oh yeah, the Giants get the advantage of having the best in record in baseball at 57-33, and hold a 6.5 game lead in the NL West over the Dodgers. At Baseball Prospectus their odds to make the playoffs is 95.3% and to win the division it’s 70.6%. The Giants are projected to win about 94 games.

So, how did they get here? Will the Giants keep the run going in an even year? No matter what happens I am sure we’re in for some great baseball and memories this summer. Let’s take an in-depth look at how they achieved the best record in baseball and also explore what the Giants need to do in the second half to win the division and get a shot at another even year crown. The Friday Five is back for every week the rest of the way, let’s enjoy this wild ride that is Giants baseball. Continue reading

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The Friday Five: Road Warriors Return Home

Panik

AP Photo

The San Francisco Giants are heading home after a 6-1 road trip. They are 47-27, and 6 games up on the Dodgers. The Giants’ 47 wins are tied for the most in baseball with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. It’s the third best 74 game start for the Giants in the San Francisco era behind 1993 (50-24! grrr) and 1971 (48-26). That 1971 team had 4 Hall of Famers, including an aging, but effective, Willie Mays.

I can’t stop looking at all these winning numbers. On April 21st, the D-Backs beat the Giants to complete a 4-game sweep and send the Giants 4.5 games behind first place LA. The Giants were 7-10, the low water mark of the season. Since then they have gone 39-17 (.629), the best record in MLB, and gained 10.5 games on the Dodgers. That’s a span of 9 weeks, an average of more than one game gained per week.

The Giants have won 11 of 12 heading in to the weekend. After the great road trip, the Giants are now 25-14 (.641) away from home, the 2nd best win percentage and most wins in baseball. They’re not too shabby at AT&T Park either, sporting a 22-13 (.628) record, which is second in the NL behind the Cubs.

Between today, and the All-Star Break, the Giants only travel once, to Arizona for 3 games next weekend. They don’t play a club that currently has a winning record until July 19th in Boston. There’s a chance for the Giants to keep streaking and try to distance themselves from the rest of the NL West. So let’s look ahead to the weekend and enjoy that 6-1 road trip one more time in this week’s Friday Five. Continue reading

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The Friday Five: Giants keep winning games

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Photo/Eric Nathanson

We’re half way through the month of June and the San Francisco Giants have a 6.5 game lead over the rival Dodgers. So far this month the Giants are 8-5 and have won their last 5 games. Friday night’s game in St Pete against the Rays starts a stretch of 20 straight days of baseball for the Giants.

I want to mention the horrible tragedy that took place in Orlando last weekend. As some of you may know I live in Kissimmee, which is right next to Orlando. Our communtiy has been rocked but has responded with nothing but love and kindness. My heart goes out to the victim’s families, and to all of the survivors. Continue reading

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The Friday Five: Life after Hunter

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Getty Images

It’s been a rough week despite the San Francisco Giants going 4-3 over their first 7 games of this 10-game road trip. During Wednesday night’s game in Atlanta, Hunter Pence left the game with what is being called a “severly strained” hamstring. In typical Pence fashion, he smelled an infied hit as he sent a slow roller towards 3rd base and burst out of the box, but it didn’t end with a hit. Hunter pulled up, grabbed his right hamstring, and stopped.

He’s on the 15-day DL, and will probably be out for a while. Update: Pence is having surgery and will miss 2 months. Jarrett Parker got the start yesterday  and will probably split time with Mac Williamson, who was recalled from Sacramento. With Angel Pagan still on the shelf that makes the Giants play with a regular outfield of Gregor Blanco, Denard Span, and the Parker/Williamson combo. Just like we all were dreaming of back in March.

Anyway, losing Pence sucks, but gaining ground on the Dodgers doesn’t. The Giants are now 5.5 games ahead of their rival in LA. Yesterday was the first time in 12 days the Giants were able to expand their lead. During the previous 11 days the Giants and Dodgers had the exact same result, every day. So let’s poke around with this week’s, Friday Five.  Continue reading

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