Melky Cabrera Receives 50-Game Suspension for PEDs

Melky Cabrera has been suspended for 50 games without pay, effective immediately, for testing positive for Testosterone. Here’s the Giants’ statement on the suspension.

I’m shocked. I’ve just been sitting here, staring at a blank computer screen for the last five minutes. Just as the Giants’ offense was starting to look really good, there’s no more Melky for the rest of the regular season. Wow.

Not even a week ago, I wrote about Melky Cabrera’s historic hit pace. Not only did he look like a lock for 200 hits, but he also appeared to have a solid shot at breaking the San Francisco Giants’ single-season hit record.

All of that is gone. Melky is gone, at least for the remainder of the regular season. Instead, we’re talking about PEDs. I hate talking about PEDs. Instead of appreciating Melky’s contributions, we’re now speculating on how much they were impacted by his use of testosterone. I don’t want to speculate on that.

The Giants are tied for first place in the NL West. With fewer than 50 games remaining, they have just lost a major piece of the puzzle, and will now have even less room for error in what will likely prove to be a tight race.

It’s all too easy to react as though the Giants are doomed; that’s not the case. For one, the Giants likely lost 2011 Melky, not 2012 Melky — which is to say, he probably wouldn’t have kept playing at this level down the stretch. Secondly, the Giants aren’t exactly replacing him with garbage. I guess the assumption is that Gregor Blanco will take over most of Melky’s playing time; that’s certainly discouraging — it’s hard to feel confident in any corner outfielder that can’t muster a .350 slugging percentage, but realistically, the difference between Blanco and Melky over what amounts to roughly 40 games is, what, half a win?

The Giants took a major hit, no doubt. But they’re still in this.

On another note, I can’t help but wonder what the future now holds for Melky. I’d have to imagine he just saw tens of millions of dollars flushed down the drain. What a mess all of this is.

Buster Posey and the Plate Appearance of the Season

Fast-forward to the eighth inning. Buster Posey is up. The bases are loaded, with one out. The Giants are down by one run. The game is essentially in Posey’s hands. The leverage index (LI) of the situation is 7.59, the second-highest it’s been for any Giants batter at any point this season. And Rafael Betancourt, who has held right-handed hitters to a .196 wOBA this season, is on the mound.

This was, as I noted, the second-highest LI of a Giants plate appearance this season. The highest was an at-bat by Gregor Blanco. That at-bat lasted one pitch. Posey’s lasted ten pitches. This was tense, folks.

The sequence: ball, taken strike, ball, ball, foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, and then…a sacrifice fly to tie the game. And you can bet Posey had at least something to do with how the rest of the inning went. Following that ten-pitch adventure, Betancourt served up a three-run homer to Hunter Pence — which ended up being the difference in the game — and to top it all off, a double to Brandon Belt.

How about that Posey? He’s sure something, eh? This was his most important contribution at the plate today, and arguably the plate appearance of the season, but he actually reached base the other four times he came to bat. An update on his numbers: .332/.406/.547, .404 wOBA, 158 wRC+. Wowza.

There were lots of stories today. Among them: Hunter Pence’s first homer in a Giants uniform, which couldn’t have come at a better time. Angel Pagan, who has continued to put together a strong August, after looking lost at the plate for a couple months. And Pablo Sandoval, who I believe is set to return tomorrow.

But you know who I’m actually going to talk about. I’m going to talk about Brandon Belt.

Brandon Belt came to the plate five times today. He reached base every time. Twice via the double, twice via the single, and once via the walk. When he was struggling in July, I’d have to dig deep for positives. I’ve remained cautiously optimistic about Belt all season long, but when he was struggling, I’d have to cling to the little stuff. “He made hard contact on this pitch.” “He looked patient in this at-bat.” I haven’t had to do that this month. Belt is swinging a hot bat, and the results are there.

And here’s where I digress. Today was my sixth time in the press box. Either my fifth or sixth, actually — I can’t remember for sure, and I’m too lazy to confirm. I’m going to be there on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. Anyway, the whole “bloggers getting access” thing seems to be a hot topic these days, so I feel obligated to chime in — especially since I’m one of the lucky ones. As I understand it, very few teams do this. I’ve given all of this a lot of thought, and…well…I don’t really have anything substantial to contribute to the discussion; but I will say, having media credentials has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

A recap of my day: This morning, right down the hall from the Giants’ broadcast booth, I sat down to a brunch buffet with Steve Berman (Bay Area Sports Guy) and Alex Pavlovic. We discussed — you guessed it — the San Francisco Giants, and the food (eggs, sausage, oatmeal) was delicious.

After that, I went back down to the press box where I sat — for the majority of the game — next to Steve, a guy I really admire. I struggle to produce insightful commentary on the Giants. He manages to do it while staying on top of 19 other sports as well. I owe a debt of gratitude to him, too — not only has he constantly helped me with things, but he’s also put up with hours upon hours of my boring, pointless observations as he’s sitting there next to me. If you think this blog is boring, keep in mind that you don’t get the stuff that I filter out.

(With all these positive comments about BASG, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression; he’s not perfect. He went 0-for-4 on Brandon Belt home run predictions today).

Anyhow, I enjoyed my Sunday. It’s been cool hanging out with Steve, and getting to know Pavlovic.

At some point in the game, I began to wonder what the return of Pablo Sandoval would mean for others’ playing time. And so at the post-game press conference, I asked Bruce Bochy that very question (to which he responded that he’d be mixing it up a lot). It occurred to me that this is the real luxury of having this kind of access, at least for me: I’m curious about something, and I have the opportunity to simply ask Bochy myself.

After I left the press conference room, I headed back up to the press box. As I walked down the hall, Brian Sabean and his little kid walked by. I waved hello. They waved back. This has all been quite surreal.

Giants Defeat Rockies, 9-3

The Giants, at least for now, have regained sole possession of first place, thanks to — well, everybody…

Matt Cain, in the nine-game stretch between his perfect game and today’s start: 57.1 innings, 46 K, 16 BB, 10 HR, 4.40 ERA. He hadn’t been awful. He hadn’t even been bad, really, by normal standards. By Cain standards, of course, he’d been a disappointment. The glaring problem: those ten home runs; he allowed nine in all of 2011.

But anyway, in six of those nine starts, he allowed three earned runs or fewer. In each of those nine starts, he lasted 5+ innings. His average game score over that span: 51, where a 50 is generally considered average. You could say he’d been really good in a couple of those outings, even — the Oakland and Houston starts, specifically.

But never was he outstanding. He had ventured past the seventh inning just once, and even in that start, he surrendered five runs.

For five innings today, Cain finally looked outstanding. No walks. Just a few hits. Three swinging strikeouts in the third. Lots of flyballs scattered around the outfield — most of them routine flyouts, a few hit well; none was hit well enough, though. Through five, Cain had faced 16 batters and recorded 15 outs.

And that was the story…until Cain found himself in a no-outs bases-loaded jam. With the heart of the Rockies’ order set to bat, no less. But he pitched through it. After a fielder’s choice at third and a lineout that was fortunately hit right at Brett Pill (and frankly, should have been ruled an inning-ending double play, as Pill beat Carlos Gonzalez to the bag), Cain struck out Ramon Hernandez to end the threat.

Cain went out for the seventh, and had a pretty quick 1-2-3 inning. Then the eighth came, and he sort of lost his rhythm, despite a relatively low pitch count. D.J. LeMahieu hit his first career homer, and the Rockies’ 1-2 hitters each collected singles. That was it for Cain.

The final line: 7.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 7 H, 1 HR. Perhaps not his best start since the perfect game, but a very good outing nonetheless. Oh, and he just so happened to drive in the second run of the game.

Alas, the Giants didn’t even end up needing that much out of Cain, as the offense exploded for nine runs. Every player who batted for the Giants in this game collected a hit…except for Brandon Belt — who walked in his lone at-bat.

Notes:

  • Buster Posey’s day: 2 for 5 with a single, an intentional walk, and a two-run homer (following a bunt single by Melky Cabrera); and to top it all off, he gunned down a runner at second.
  • On a similar note, is there a better 1-2 punch against left-handed pitching  than Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera? Before today, they stood at a 228 wRC+ and 207 wRC+ against southpaws, respectively.
  • As much as I complain about Joaquin Arias, he’s done a bang up job as Brandon Crawford’s platoon partner. Would you believe that he came into today with a .313/.349/.384 line against left-handers?

Melky Cabrera and 200 Hits

A couple days ago, Jon Heyman published an article noting that Melky Cabrera and the Giants will put aside contract talks until after the season is over; the article inevitably started up another wave of speculation and discussion on what kind of money Cabrera should and/or will receive this offseason. But oddly enough, I’m not concerned with that — at least for the time being. The Giants don’t seem to be, either. Once the season has come to an end, we’ll all have an even clearer picture of what Melky is. For now, I’m inclined to just sit back and enjoy what Melky is doing.

We’re four months into this thing. He’s come to the plate nearly 500 times this season. And he’s currently rocking a .352/.395/.527 slash line. What’s more, he’s got a pretty comfortable major-league lead in the hit column, at 154. Andrew McCutchen, who stands second in the majors in hits, trails by six.

Melky is just 46 hits away from 200. The 200-hit mark is a frivolous milestone, for what should be fairly obvious reasons: it’s a counting stat, so it’s largely dependent upon opportunity — sheer quantity of at-bats; and secondly, it doesn’t account for important factors in a player’s production, namely walks and power. As such, “200 hits” doesn’t automatically mean “good season.” Juan Pierre compiled 204 hits in 2006, a year in which he posted an 82 OPS+.

But the frivolities in baseball are fun. That’s part of what makes the sport enjoyable. I mean, hitting for the cycle is a frivolous feat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch a player accomplish it.

Assuming Melky remains healthy, he’s all but guaranteed to reach 200 hits. There are 50 games left in the season, so he’ll likely get another 200 or so plate appearances. ZiPS projects 182 at-bats for him over the rest of the season. If that’s the case, Melky would need to hit .253 from this point forward. He’s hit .352 so far. He’s hit .285 over his career. ZiPS projects him to hit .308 the rest of the way. Even in his notoriously terrible 2010 campaign, he hit .255. Melky essentially has this locked up.

A complete list of every San Francisco Giants player to eclipse 200 hits in a single season:

Rk Player Year H Age Tm Lg G PA AB BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Rich Aurilia 2001 206 29 SFG NL 156 689 636 .324 .369 .572 .941
2 Bobby Bonds 1970 200 24 SFG NL 157 745 663 .302 .375 .504 .879
3 Willie Mays 1958 208 27 SFG NL 152 685 600 .347 .419 .583 1.002
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/10/2012.

 

Not only is Melky set to join an exclusive group of Giants hitters, but at this rate, he looks like he could best each of them in terms of hit totals. Willie Mays holds the San Francisco Giants’ single-season record for hits, at 208. He’s held that record since the Giants’ very first season in San Francisco. Cabrera needs just 55 hits over the final 50 games of the season in order to overtake Mays. Pretty cool, eh?

Splash Hits: The Giants Are 61-50

Scouting Report Giants Prospect Kyle Crick | Bullpen Banter
A comprehensive scouting report on Giants prospect and Augusta GreenJackets pitcher Kyle Crick.

Bonds is right: No-doubt Hall of Famer – SweetSpot Blog – ESPN
It almost goes without saying, but Barry Bonds is deserving of Hall of Fame induction, and there’s no doubt about it.

2012: Year of the Catcher? – Beyond the Box Score
A brief piece I wrote on the strong showing that 2012 catchers have put together. Buster Posey, along with Carlos Ruiz, leads the way.

In (Almost) Support of Lyle Overbay – McCovey Chronicles
Should the Giants sign Lyle Overbay? At first glance, no. At second glance, maybe. At third glance, no.

New Theory: Ryan Vogelsong is a wizard « Bay City Ball – A Giants Blog
Go for the Ryan Vogelsong analysis. Stay for the Brandon Crawford GIF.

Emerging star Melky and Giants agree to pick up contract talks after the year – CBSSports.com
Melky Cabrera and the Giants will put aside contract discussions for now, reports Jon Heyman.

Giants Pythag the Cardinals, 15-0

Tonight’s game was what you’d call a good old-fashioned “Pythagging.” The Giants already had a seven-run lead on the Cardinals by the end of the sixth inning, but they went and tacked on another eight runs in the latter two innings of the blowout. The final score: 15-0. That was just ridiculous, jaw-dropping material right there. I’m almost at a loss for words, to be honest.

A few thoughts:

  • Not to be lost in all of this “Giants scoring boatloads of runs” nonsense is the fact that Ryan Vogelsong, once again, pitched masterfully. Three hits scattered over seven scoreless innings. He’s now made 21 starts this season; he’s now pitched 6+ innings 21 times this season. Dating back to his final start of 2011, he’s now tossed 6+ innings in 22 consecutive outings, which ties Atlee Hammaker for the third-longest such streak in franchise history. I assuredly sound like a broken record at this point, but Vogelsong never ceases to amaze me.
  • This is just the second time in the San Francisco era that the Giants have scored 15+ runs in a shutout. 50+ years of baseball, and they’ve only done it once before. Every position player in the starting lineup had a hit. Five had multiple hits. Crazy, crazy stuff.
  • Have I mentioned how much I love the Marco Scutaro acquisition? I have. I don’t care — I’ll blab about it again. He’s really wasted no time in getting comfortable here — he brought a .326/.375/.395 line with San Francisco into today, and that was before this three-hit seven-RBI affair. He’s now hit safely in 10 of 12 games since joining the team.
  • Maybe the most positive thing in all of this was Brandon Belt‘s performance: he a) went two for five with a double; b) didn’t strike out once; c) made contact with every pitch he swung at, in fact; and d) even had loud outs. He sure appears to be finding a groove once again.
  • The Giants are now two games ahead of the Dodgers (who are still playing their game as of now), and they’ve also really started to distance themselves from Arizona — they’re now five games ahead.

Buster Posey, Barry Zito Help Giants Even Series

Well, that went better than I’d expected. With Barry Zito going up against a tremendous offense, I wasn’t exactly confident about the Giants’ odds in this game. Zito got off to a good start earlier in the season, but he’s quietly lost a lot of steam, and entering today’s start, he had a career-worst 81 ERA+ (that is, if you don’t count last year’s 54 innings).

But as Zito is wont to do, just as I had lost almost every ounce of faith in his ability to give the Giants something better than replacement level pitching, he came out and pitched well — and he did so against the National League’s best offense. Nothing fancy, but 6.1 innings of two-run ball — the only damage having come off the bat of the absurdly powerful Allen Craig on a pair of solo shots. Perhaps the best part? Zero walks, something that you don’t often see out of Zito.

And on another promising note, a bullpen that has been disappointing of late managed to shut the Cards down. (Actually, to say they’ve disappointed recently is probably an understatement — this is a team that’s supposed to get top-notch pitching from their ‘pen, and instead they’ve been mostly run-of-the-mill).

Anyway, Buster Posey provided the Giants with all the run support they’d need, knocking a three-run blast in the first inning off of Lance Lynn. His scorching hot second half continues…

Notes:

  •  In order to clear room for the newest bullpen addition, Jose Mijares, the Giants placed Shane Loux on the DL with a neck strain. Not sure if it’s a phantom injury or not, and I’m not sure if it really matters anyway. The bullpen just got better.
  • According to Hank Schulman, the Giants have looked into signing Lyle Overbay. In terms of what we should expect over the rest of the season, there’s not much of a difference between Overbay and Aubrey Huff.
  • I neglected to mention this, but the Giants signed Xavier Nady to a minor-league contract a few days ago. I doubt Nady will play much of any role with the Giants this season, nor should he — he’s been all sorts of horrible this season: .157/.211/.275, 31 OPS+.
  • Angel Pagan continues to heat up. He reached base a couple more times today, and if it weren’t for a nice play by Jon Jay, Pagan could’ve added an extra-base hit. Even so, he’s raised his OPS a good 40 points in the past five days.