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.
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:
- Angel Pagan
- Marco Scutaro
- Pablo Sandoval
- Buster Posey
- Hunter Pence
- Brandon Belt
- Gregor Blanco
- Brandon Crawford
- Hector Sanchez
- Joaquin Arias
- Aubrey Huff
- Xavier Nady
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.
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.
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.