The NLDS Roster

The Giants’ NLDS roster has been announced, and it’s devoid of any surprises. In fact, it’s identical to the playoff roster predictions I posted a week and a half ago. The Giants will go with 12 pitchers, which is a good thing: two of Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and Barry Zito — presumably the former two, but we still don’t know for sure — will be starting games in this series. Given the uncertainty in the back of the Giants’ rotation right now, and Bruce Bochy’s tendency to deploy relievers for short appearances, the Giants are wise to go with some extra bullpen depth. The downside is that they are now without a good designated pinch-running option for Aubrey Huff, but that shouldn’t be a big deal. As Alex Pavlovic notes, Ryan Theriot could assume that role.

Anyway, here’s the list:

Pitchers (12)
41 Jeremy Affeldt LHP
40 Madison Bumgarner LHP
18 Matt Cain RHP
46 Santiago Casilla RHP
70 George Kontos RHP
55 Tim Lincecum RHP
49 Javier Lopez LHP
50 Jose Mijares LHP
59 Guillermo Mota RHP
54 Sergio Romo RHP
32 Ryan Vogelsong RHP
75 Barry Zito LHP

Catchers (2)
28 Buster Posey C
29 Hector Sanchez C

Infielders (7)
13 Joaquin Arias IF
9 Brandon Belt IF
35 Brandon Crawford IF
17 Aubrey Huff IF
48 Pablo Sandoval IF
19 Marco Scutaro IF
5 Ryan Theriot IF

Outfielders (4)
7 Gregor Blanco OF
12 Xavier Nady OF
16 Angel Pagan OF
8 Hunter Pence OF

Splash Hits: The Regular Season Is Over

Should Barry Zito start in the postseason? « Bay City Ball – A Giants Blog
Nope, he shouldn’t. One can only hope Ryan Vogelsong sealed the deal in nabbing that playoff rotation spot with yesterday’s strong performance.

These Saber-Savvy San Francisco Giants | FanGraphs Baseball
Talk to Bobby Evans, Vice President of Baseball Operations, and you get a sense of a team with a strong process that includes inputs from both the old and the new school of baseball. And this isn’t some sort of new phenomenon in San Francisco.”

50th anniversary: Game No. 165 | The Hardball Times
Fifty years ago today, one of the greatest pennant races came to an end—with a game that was both great and greatly appropriate.”

Scouting Report: Giants Prospect Clayton Blackburn | Bullpen Banter
A scouting report on Giants pitching prospect Clayton Blackburn.

Let’s Talk About the Bullpen Instead – McCovey Chronicles
Do the Giants have a good playoff bullpen?

For NLDS, Reds’ lineup could be familiar | reds.com: News
The Reds featured Wednesday vs. the Cardinals what could very well be the lineup they show the Giants in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday.”

Buster Posey’s Case for NL MVP

Others have begun to discuss Buster Posey and his case for the 2012 National League MVP award, and as should surprise nobody (especially since I’ve mentioned this before), I’m also on the “Posey for MVP” bandwagon. The competition for NL MVP is rather tight, with several players standing out as strong candidates. The contenders can reasonably be cut down to the following seven players: Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Yadier Molina, David Wright, Jason Heyward and Chase Headley. You could actually make a serious case for a few others (Aaron Hill, even?), but those are probably the big seven.

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93 Wins, Tim Lincecum, and the Postseason Roster

Greetings from the Petco Park press box, where hahahahahahaha I can’t believe the Giants actually won that game. Okay, sorry, I’ll pull myself together — I just watched the Giants wrap up their 159th game of the season. They pulled off a pretty spectacular comeback win, but Tim Lincecum pitched poorly (more on that later); and this was my last chance to see the 2012 Giants in action, as I won’t be able to make it to any postseason games. So, ultimately, it was a bittersweet day.

This game was, in a word, eventful. Let’s start with Lincecum, the latest concern as the Giants look ahead to the playoffs. He’s sort of pitched better in the second half, with 3.93 runs allowed per nine innings since the all-star break — compared to a first-half RA/9 figure of 6.70. Except, he sort of hasn’t. (And, really, how hard was it to improve upon those dreadful first-half numbers anyway?)

Lincecum got off to a promising start today, with a 1-2-3 first inning. He followed that up with a scoreless second inning. Okay, so now we’re rolling. In the third, he walked Everth Cabrera, who proceeded to steal second and third. And then the Padres started to do their damage: Logan Forsythe homered on the eighth pitch of his at-bat to put two runs on the board. It wasn’t a good pitch, but it wasn’t exactly a meatball. It was on the innermost part of the top of the strike zone, and really, it was pretty impressive that Forsythe was able to get around on it.

But Lincecum wasn’t done there. In the fourth, he served up a leadoff homer to Yasmani Grandal, on a pitch placed squarely over the middle of the plate. In the fifth, he walked Everth Cabrera, who again proceeded to steal second and third, only this time he came around to score on an overthrow to third from Hector Sanchez. And in the sixth, once again, Lincecum served up a leadoff homer on a pitch right down the middle.

Lincecum finished his day with the following line: six innings, four hits, four strikeouts, two walks, and a whopping three homers allowed (at Petco Park, no less!). I guess those two walks were somewhat of a silver lining, and hey, he drew a couple walks himself. But it’s pretty hard to feel confident about Lincecum starting a postseason game at this point. According to Andrew Baggarly, it would have taken a “truly bad” showing from Lincecum for him to forfeit his spot in the playoff rotation. I’m guessing that today’s outing, bad as it was, didn’t do the job. And, like it or not, the Giants have no better options. The Reds have mashed against left-handed pitching to the tune of a 106 wRC+, the third-best mark in the majors. Suffice it to say, a Barry Zito start against that lineup would probably not end well. (And while we’re on the topic, I’m not sure what value Zito is going to have as a reliever.)

Given the uncertainty surrounding the Giants’ starters, and Bruce Bochy’s own managerial tendencies, it’s odd to see that the Giants are leaning toward putting 11 pitchers (instead of 12) on the postseason roster. Bochy loves to mix and match with his bullpen, and unsurprisingly, Giants relievers have the lowest average innings pitched per appearance of any ‘pen in the majors. In fact, no team is particularly close. Coming into today, that mark stood at 0.86, with the next lowest being the Mets bullpen’s mark of 0.91. Given his style, I’m guessing he’d have more use for an extra arm than a designated pinch runner. Plus, as @SFBleacherGirl points out on Twitter, the Giants could play as many as three games in Cincinnati’s homer-happy home park; in other words, pitching will come at a premium.

Anyway, back to today’s game. The Giants got thrown out at home twice in the same inning. Hector Sanchez, as noted earlier, threw the ball over Joaquin Arias’ head in an attempt to gun down Everth Cabrera, which allowed him to score. Gregor Blanco struck out with the bases loaded. Ryan Theriot was caught stealing second to end the third inning. There was just a lot of sloppy baseball played by the Giants in general.

Yet they entered the ninth inning with just a one-run deficit, and against one of the toughest closers in the majors, they miraculously mounted a comeback. The sequence: Xavier Nady solo homer, Francisco Peguero single, Hunter Pence two-run homer. Sergio Romo came in, closed the door, and that was that — a 7-5 Giants win, salvaged rather miraculously. The Giants have now won 93 games, their most since 2003.

Playoff Roster Predictions

The Giants have clinched the NL West, and now some important decisions lie ahead with the playoffs looming. Specifically: who is going to be on the postseason roster? A lot of it is fairly obvious, and we can get those names out of the way immediately, with a little help from MLB Depth Charts:

Those are the position player names that strike me as very safe bets to make the postseason roster.

Now, let’s move on to the pitching. We know at this point that the Giants are going to put all five starters on the postseason roster:

…and the really obvious choices from the bullpen are:

The Giants will carry either 11 or 12 pitchers, so I’d have to guess George Kontos and Jose Mijares will nab two of the remaining spots. In fact, I’ll go as far as to guess that the Giants will carry 12 pitchers, because Bochy sure loves him some bullpen flexibility. Guillermo Mota or Clay Hensley would presumably be vying for that final spot, and I’d imagine Mota is the preferred choice. Hensley was worthless in August before being placed on the DL with a groin injury, and hasn’t done anything impressive in a few appearances since returning. Plus, for what it’s worth, Mota has been used in more than his fair share of important situations over the past month. So let’s tack those names on in bullet-point form…

  • George Kontos
  • Jose Mijares
  • Guillermo Mota

For those of you keeping score at home, we’re at 24 spots so far. That leaves — carry the four, multiply by the square root of π …one remaining spot, which will be handed to a position player. That will go to… Eli Whiteside? I can’t see the Giants going with three catchers. Emmanuel Burriss? If he could do anything other than run, I’d buy it, but…he can’t. I just don’t see why they’d find a place for a guy who’s slugging .222. Brett Pill? Maybe. But I’m going to guess Ryan Theriot, even though he has been used sparingly of late. Just a hunch, but I’m guessing he has the upper edge over Pill, if only because he can play second base. So, here, have a bullet point, Mr. Theriot:

  • Ryan Theriot

You might notice Melky Cabrera is absent from this list. Even if the Giants do decide to use him in the playoffs, it would be on the NLCS roster, rather than the NLDS roster (because the suspension, of course, continues through the first five games of the postseason). Perhaps they’ll go that route. That’s what I’d like to see, personally. I’d rather the Giants have Melky on the roster than…say, Ryan Theriot. But that’s probably not going to happen:

The club is not commenting on Cabrera’s situation, but all indications are that upper management has zero interest in the All-Star Game MVP playing another game in orange and black.

And then there’s this:

Based on our conversation with Bruce Bochy…without a decision being made…it definitely sounds like Cabrera will not be on playoff roster

So there you have it, my official NLDS roster prediction. And, assuming the Giants make it to the NLCS, I’m guessing they’ll leave off Melky and continue to stick with this group of guys. After all, they have played quite well in the post-Melky era.

National League West Champions

Between following the Giants, writing about the Giants, and otherwise thinking about the Giants day after day, I’ve devoted a large portion of time to all of this. It’s an emotional investment, and last season, it took its toll on me. There was the Buster Posey injury, and the fruitless departure of Zack Wheeler, and everything else that happened to go wrong. And it sucked.

After the disappointment that was 2011, and an unexciting offseason, I tempered my expectations. The Giants far exceeded them.

This team has come a long, long way. The struggles of Tim Lincecum, the ups and downs of Brandon Belt, the multiple injuries sustained by Pablo Sandoval, the times when Emmanuel Burriss and Conor Gillaspie and Charlie Culberson were in the starting lineup. I could go on and on. There was a time when it kind of made sense for the Giants to pick up Orlando Hudson. Orlando freakin’ Hudson. Doesn’t that sound hilarious in retrospect?

At one point in late May, the Giants were seven and a half games out of first place in the National League West. It didn’t seem at all like they had what it would take to close that gap and eventually win the division.

But here we are today: the Giants, 89-63, are champions of the NL West. They’re headed to the postseason once again. Here’s where the emotional investment pays dividends. It’s thrilling, and I’m just going to bask in it for a while.

Three Is A Magic Number

Led by a resurgent Pablo Sandoval (who homered twice), the Giants’ lineup tagged Colorado pitching for nine runs today. Despite allowing double-digit hits, Barry Zito and company were able to limit the Rockies to two runs on the afternoon. Thus, the Giants completed a four-game sweep. The Dodgers lost 4-1 to the Nationals tonight, meaning the Giants’ magic number currently sits at three.

Three. Any combination of three Dodgers losses and Giants wins from this point until the end of the season — that’s all it will take for the Giants to seize the NL West title. Needless to say, they’ve got this one in the bag. The sooner they clinch, the sooner they can relax — and that’s a real luxury; clinching, of course, would afford the Giants the opportunity to rest important contributors without having to worry about the win-loss column, and that would constitute a real, if small, advantage. (On the blogging side, too — I’d get to focus my attention on slightly less important matters, like Buster Posey‘s MVP case).

Notes:

– It still sort of boggles my mind how easily the Giants have run away with the West. Not to be taken for granted: they’re 23-10 in the post-Melky era.

– Pablo Sandoval, in a matter of four days, has increased his OPS by 40 points. From May 2nd to September 18th, a three-and-a-half month span over which he started 70 games, Sandoval homered exactly three times; he’s homered three times in the past two days. Well, that’s an encouraging sign…

– As you may recall if you’re one of the two people that frequent this blog, I boldly predicted that Aubrey Huff would have a decent September. In retrospect, I’m not sure that was all that bold a prediction. Nevertheless, here’s an update on Huff’s September numbers: 4 for 7, 1 BB, 1 2B. I’d have to think he’s going to be on the Giants’ NLDS roster, which really isn’t such a bad thing. There’s plenty of reason to believe he gives the Giants a good left-handed bat off the bench, and he’s certainly proven that this month (albeit in a minuscule sample size).

– This is a lengthy matter, and I won’t delve into it now, but assuming the Giants go far enough in the playoffs, I would love to see Melky Cabrera return. (Though if I had to guess, I’d say the Giants aren’t going that route.)