Game Recap: Ryan Vogelsong ends his season on a strong note

Giants 3, Rockies 1.
Record: 85-75

  • It’s been quite a season for Ryan Vogelsong, and he ended on a strong note tonight: seven scoreless innings, with four strikeouts and zero walks. It’s actually the first walk-less start he’s had since April. A nice end to a great year for him.
  • The Giants set a new franchise single-season record for attendance.
  • A while back, I noted that Sergio Romo was on pace to do something incredibly rare: he could become the only pitcher ever (with a significant workload) to post a BB/9 of less than 1 and a K/9 greater than 10. After today’s inning (3 K, 0 BB), it’s looking like there’s a very good chance he accomplishes this.
  • Mike Fontenot‘s quietly had a very nice season, posting 1.0 fWAR over 243 PA. He’s arb-eligible for one last time in 2012, and it’s in the Giants’ best interest to tender him a contract. He’s a great complement to RHH Freddy Sanchez.
  • There’s talk of making AT&T Park more hitter-friendly. Gut reaction: that’s absolutely ridiculous. This is the most beautiful park in baseball, and there’s no need for alterations. To do so is to completely ignore the fact that the Giants hitters couldn’t hit this season, and that the park has little to do with that. Check out the park factors, via StatCorner. It basically plays neutral (wOBA) for LHBs and RHBs.

Game Recap: Diamondbacks get the sweep

Diamondbacks 5, Giants 2.

  • Tim Lincecum lost his 14th game of the season, making this one of the best losing seasons ever by a pitcher.
  • This is the 70th time the Giants have scored two runs or fewer in a game this season. That’s tied for the most in franchise history, and it’s looking like they’re going to surpass that record (set in 1985).
  • Andres Torres hit his first home run in months: the last time he hit a home run was June 24th. Since then, he’d gone 61 consecutive games (192 PA) without a home run, and just ten extra-base hits in total. His ISO has dropped 100 points this season, and he’s ultimately been one of the major disappointments of this season. Nice to see him finally hit one out.
  • One more series left before this season comes to an end: three games, at home, against the Colorado Rockies. We’ll get to see Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain each go out one more time. Bumgarner and Cain, while not particularly strong NL Cy Young candidates, should rightfully appear on their fair share of ballots. They currently rank fourth and fifth respectively in NL fWAR. Vogelsong, Bumgarner and Cain have been three of the best parts about this season, and here’s hoping they end on strong notes.

Game Recap: Eliminated

Diamondbacks 15, Giants 2.

The Giants’ chances of making the playoffs are officially zero, as they lost in ugly fashion tonight. It’s funny — they entered tonight with a positive run differential, albeit a small one: +2. Back to the negatives.

I’ve expressed doubts/concerns about Eric Surkamp in the past…

September 6th:

In his second start, Eric Surkamp didn’t look particularly impressive. In total, he induced just four whiffs (and two strikeouts), and his command wasn’t great either (46 strikes/76 pitches, or roughly a 60.5% strike percentage). Anyway, he managed to go 5 IP with 3 ER. I’m thinking he’ll ultimately be a nice back-of-the-rotation arm.

September 12th:

Eric Surkamp pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, but wasn’t very impressive at all. Zero strikeouts. He only induced one swinging strike the entire night. He’s just missing bats at all. In 16.2 innings, he now has a grand total of 6 strikeouts, and five walks. Keith Law had a couple interesting tweets on Surkamp tonight: he says he thinks Surkamp could maybe be a serviceable #5 starter in the NL, but not a #4. As he points out, Surkamp “has faced 66 non-pitcher Astros and Padres and fanned 5.” So in spite of a shiny ERA, Surkamp hasn’t really dazzled.

September 18th:

Though he only allowed three hits and one run in his 4.2 innings of work, Eric Surkamp was once again unexceptional. To his credit, this was a more impressive start than last time. The strikeouts (4) and swinging strikes (5) were there this time; the control, on the other hand, was not — six walks, five of them unintentional. Despite a shiny 2.95 ERA in four starts, Surkamp has as many unintentional walks (10) as strikeouts. And he’s had the benefit of facing some pretty weak lineups. When he inevitably regresses, it won’t be pretty.

Surkamp’s performance in the majors has been quite underwhelming thus far, and today the inevitable regression came; it was quite ugly: 0.2 IP, six runs, four walks, zero strikeouts.

One thing is becoming increasingly clear — if it wasn’t already. The Giants absolutely have to tender Jonathan Sanchez a contract. As of now, I have much more confidence in Sanchez as a fifth starter (entering 2012) than Surkamp or Barry Zito (Zito pitched an inning of relief today, allowing two runs with three walks and zero strikeouts).

Game Recap: DBacks Clinch NL West

Diamondbacks 3, Giants 1.

Well, there goes the NL West. Orlando Cabrera accounted for the Giants’ lone run with a solo shot in the fifth inning, and the Giants failed to add to that. Matt Cain took a one-run lead into the seventh, but a Chris Young RBI double, and a Paul Goldschmidt two-run triple in the eighth inning, gave Arizona all the runs they’d need.

Congratulations to the DBacks. They’ve earned it. Justin Upton has had a hell of a season, and up until recently, was the favorite for the NL MVP. The pitching duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson have combined for nearly 10 wins above replacement, even more if you account for their bats (it’s looking like Hudson will win a Silver Slugger). DBacks position players, meanwhile, have combined for 30+ wins in value, which is roughly twice that of the Giants (15.3).

This entire season has come as somewhat of a shock (and, of course, a massive disappointment). I figured Buster Posey would lead this team to another division title; I knew Aubrey Huff would drop off, but nobody could have seen this coming: his .675 OPS is the worst ever by a San Francisco Giants first-baseman, and it’s nearly 100 points worse than the previous worstTyler Kepner just named him the NL’s least-valuable player; I thought that, by now, Brandon Belt would be a mainstay in the lineup, and a strong candidate for the NL Rookie of the Year; and I expected the Giants to get something — anything above replacement level — out of the shortstop position.

You can’t predict baseball. You just can’t.

Game Recap: Matt Kemp should be the 2011 NL MVP

Dodgers 8, Giants 2.

Last year, Pablo Sandoval and Matt Kemp combined for 2.0 fWAR. The duo, the two of them, had the combined output of an average major-league player. Needless to say, they were disappointing last year.

This year, it’s been a different case. Both have had fantastic resurgences, highlighted by tonight’s performances: the two combined for seven hits, five of them going for extra bases.

Last night, I wrote that I’m pretty adamant about Matt Kemp for NL MVP. Tonight came confirmation: three doubles and a home run from the guy who’s leading the National League in fWAR. He becomes the tenth player of all time to collect 4+ extra-base hits in a game against the Giants.

And then there’s Pablo Sandoval. What a season he’s had. Excellent defense at third base, paired with excellent hitting. Tonight, he collected three hits, accounting for half of the Giants’ total in this game (one of ‘em was a solo shot). He’s been the best player on the team by far, and should win the 3B gold glove and silver slugger. He’s the youngest Giants hitter to rack up 5+ rWAR in a single season since Will Clark, more than 20 years ago. I still hear talk about how he needs to lose some more weight, swing at fewer pitches out of the strike zone, blah blah blah. Whatever. His approach works. He’s played all-star caliber baseball all season long, and he’s actually maintained an above-average BB/K (0.52). It’s time people appreciated his resurgence, for he’s had quite the magnificent season.

Game Recap: Dana Eveland does Dana Eveland things

Giants 8, Dodgers 5.

Game Recap: Clayton Kershaw does Clayton Kershaw things

Dodgers 2, Giants 1.

Same old story. This time, Kershaw kept the Giants to one run over 7.1 innings — his lone mistake a home run to Chris Stewart (you really can’t predict baseball). It was the first homer he’d allowed to a Giant this season (in five starts).

The Giants also got a taste of Kenley Jansenwho’s been doing pretty amazing things this season — in the top of the eighth; he struck out the two hitters he faced — Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Beltran — on seven pitches.

Javy Guerra is a right-handed pitcher. He threw the entire ninth inning for the Giants, and faced two right-handed hitters — Mark DeRosa and Brett Pill — followed by Aubrey Huff. Brandon Belt, who’s homered in three straight games, sat on the bench the whole time. I mean, I can understand not putting him in the lineup against Kershaw. That’s defensible. But to have Pill and DeRosa face a righty, over Belt, and then to have Huff pinch hit for Orlando Cabrera — over Belt……enough is enough.

Well, the season’s almost over. The Giants have eight games left. If they win every single one of those games, they’ll finish the season at 91 wins. The DBacks, currently at 89 wins, have seven games left. It’s simple math — barring some kind of miraculous come back, Arizona will win the NL West. With the wild card, it’s closer…yet pretty much the same story. The Braves are at 88 wins, with seven games left.

Game Recap: Eight Wins

This was a tweet from Andrew Baggarly about a month and a half ago…

The Giants look freaking unbeatable … when they hit.Wed Aug 03 22:45:06 via web

…it’s quite relevant now. The Giants are hitting, and they have been unbeatable.

Six home runs today — the first time the Giants have had that many since August 7, 2006. Matt Cain went deep, becoming the first Giants pitcher to homer in more than three years (Cain had the last one, too). The Giants had four in one inning for the first time in more than 50 years. Here’s a fun fact: of the 18 home runs that Esmil Rogers has allowed in his career, ten of them have now been Giants.

Pablo Sandoval had a couple homers and a triple — which, while not quite as special as the cycle, is still somewhat rare: he became just the 12th player to do that in franchise history (Willie Mays did it three times). Oh yeah, and Brandon Belt has now homered in three straight games (no other Giant has done that this season).

This team is red-hot right now, having won eight games in a row. During that span, they’ve outscored opponents by a margin of 57-23. They’re scoring runs, and they’re pitching well. And the best part is: they’re doing it while getting Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt in the lineup on a routine basis.

Their chances of making the playoffs are still rather slim – CoolStandings currently has their playoff odds at 5.1%. That said, four games out of the wild card with nine games left is not entirely insurmountable. And though the Giants’ are five games out of first in the NL West, they have the luxury of facing Arizona for three more games. A sweep would do absolute wonders for them.

Anyway, after back-to-back series sweeps, the Giants have tomorrow off. On Tuesday, they’ll begin a three-game set in LA, and game one won’t be too easy: they’ll face off against Clayton Kershaw, who’s consistently dominated them over his career, and has emerged as a serious Cy Young candidate this season.

A few final notes:

  • Joe West is a horrible umpire.
  • Pablo Sandoval should win a Gold Glove this year.
  • Thanks to a fantastic September, Carlos Beltran has now performed better at the plate in San Francisco than he did while he was in New York.
  • Giants pitchers can hit — and their contributions at the plate have played a modest role in the Giants’ eight-game winning streak. Over those eight games, they’ve combined to hit .318 with five singles, a double, and a homer (22 at-bats in total). They’ve been the hottest-hitting pitchers in baseball over the past week, and — not accounting for Matt Cain’s day at the plate, they’ve been worth roughly one win with their bats in 2011.
  • The Baseball-Reference Blog has a few interesting notes on today’s game: among them is this interesting stat — Five games of 8+ runs in the streak; they had 1 such game in their previous 61.

Game Recap: Seven Straight

Giants 6, Rockies 5.

After a seven-game winning streak (tied for the Giants’ longest this season), the Giants are now just five games back in the NL West. On September 10th, the Giants had a run differential of -23, but they’ve improved to +1 over this streak — and they’ve gained 4.5 games on Arizona. They’re finally scoring runs. This is actually the first time they’ve scored 6+ runs in three consecutive games since August of 2010. With their 82nd win today, the Giants clinched their third winning season in a row (the Rockies, meanwhile, clinched a losing season).

Player of the game honors go to Brett Pill, who knocked in three runs with a pair of triples. Not exactly as rare as the cycle, but a relatively unique occurrence nonetheless — this is the 27th time it’s happened in San Francisco Giants history, and just the fifth time since 1997.

Carlos Beltran collected three hits, including a game-tying double. I’m with @HangingSliders here — that was a remarkably beautiful swing. It’s funny…not too long ago, Beltran was becoming the symbol of a lost season. Now, with the incredible September he’s having, he’s one of the only reasons the Giants even have a glimmer of hope of making the playoffs.

Though he only allowed three hits and one run in his 4.2 innings of work, Eric Surkamp was once again unexceptional. To his credit, this was a more impressive start than last time. The strikeouts (4) and swinging strikes (5) were there this time; the control, on the other hand, was not — six walks, five of them unintentional. Despite a shiny 2.95 ERA in four starts, Surkamp has as many unintentional walks (10) as strikeouts. And he’s had the benefit of facing some pretty weak lineups. When he inevitably regresses, it won’t be pretty.

In any event, a great game: seven wins in a row, a clinched winning season, a gained game on the DBacks, and the run differential is now positive. Things are really rolling.

And now…for your stats of the night:

Sergio Romo has the best SIERA in baseball, and it’s not even close.

Eric Surkamp allowed six walks tonight, five unintentional. Sergio Romo has allowed five walks THIS SEASON, four unintentional.

Game Recap: Six in a row

Giants 9, Rockies 1.

Generally speaking, I don’t care about pitcher win-loss records. If you asked me off-hand what the record was for one of the Giants’ starters, chances are I wouldn’t be able to guess correctly. I’ve sort of developed a habit when perusing pitchers’ stats, and W-L is just something that — by habit — I don’t ever notice/look at. In any event, there’s a large contingent of baseball fans that do evaluate pitchers on this basis. Even if the stat says little about a pitcher’s performance, people formulate opinions on pitchers because of it. When Madison Bumgarner was 0-6 back in May, I saw multiple suggestions that he be sent down to Triple-A for “seasoning” and such — which was downright ridiculous.

So, while in reality the record has no bearing on his performance this year (and is actually still quite the inaccurate reflection as to just how fantastic he’s been in 2011), it’s almost a relief to see Bumgarner improve his record to 12-12. He’s no longer a “losing pitcher.”

What Bumgarner’s done this season is so impressive that it’s gotten to the point where I almost expect too much out of him. In 15 starts after the disaster game against the Twins, Bumgarner posted a K/9 of 9.85. He’s rapidly becoming an elite starter — one with the ability to induce strikeouts, limit walks, and suppress home runs, a potent combination (if he doesn’t already qualify as one, he’s surely closing in on the title). So is it crazy that in a well-pitched game in which he throws seven innings of one-run ball (zero earned), I’m a little disappointed that he only struck out three? (Probably.)

Anyway, the Giants are rolling right now. Six wins in a row, and they’re now five games out of the wild card, and six back in the NL West. Over this win streak, the Giants have outscored opponents 39-13, and have scored half as many runs as they did during the entire month of August. Brandon Belt‘s homered in back-to-back games; Cody Ross and Chris Stewart also homered in this one; Aubrey Huff collected three hits; and even Madison Bumgarner had a couple hits himself.

Unfortunately, there’s one more injury to add to 2011′s long list: Cody Ross strained his right hamstring, and is out for a week or so. Another disappointment, as he was really starting to get on a roll too — in the month of September, he’s now got 17 hits (55 at-bats), with nine of them going for extra bases.

Last but not least, Barry Zito had a relatively clean inning of relief to finish up the game (though it took him a good 20 pitches). His lone hit allowed: a first-pitch double to Eric Young, Jr.