I’m stunned. Absolutely stunned.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced Sunday who will start Game 3 in Cincinnati: Ryan Vogelsong.
After Vogelsong pitched last week in Los Angeles — his third consecutive solid start after a very rough patch in August and early September — I felt Vogelsong was the best option for Game 3.
He has allowed one earned run in 17 innings over his last three starts. He’s back to the Vogelsong of old.
Tim Lincecum has just been to inconsistent this season, especially of late.
In his final two starts of the regular seasons, Lincecum got tagged for 11 earned runs in 10 innings.
And Barry Zito is, well, Barry Zito.
I felt best about Vogelsong in Game 3, regardless of the situation. I’m sure most Giants fans feel the same way.
I just wasn’t sure if Bruce Bochy would feel the same.
Bochy’s M.O. over the years have been to go with players who have success in the past — not necessarily in the present.
We saw it all last year when he sided with a struggling Aubrey Huff, instead of Brandon Belt. And there have been numerous others examples.
With Bochy, sometimes it seems more about loyalty than results.
I thought Bochy would go with Lincecum in Game 3, and Zito in Game 4, with Vogelsong coming out of the pen.
There is some logic to that strategy as Vogelsong is probably the best suited of the three to work out of the pen.
Bochy did not announce who would pitch Game 4, “but we have a pretty good idea of what we want to do,” he said.
Translation: Barry Zito pitches Game 4. But Bochy is leaving that option open, depending on what happens in Games 2 and 3.
The Giants have won the last 11 games in which Barry Zito has started, dating back to Aug. 7 in St. Louis. Zito was 5-0 in his last five starts, allowing eight earned runs in 30.2 innings (a 2.35 ERA). And the Reds have several key left-handed bats in their lineup.
Bochy said he talked to Lincecum and he’s ready to do anything he can to help the team, which Bochy said includes coming out of the pen.
Again, another sign that Zito is the Game 4 option.
But Lincecum out of the pen? I’m not so sure about that.
Lincecum posted a 7.64 ERA this season in the first inning of games. That doesn’t speak to a lot of confidence of him coming out of the pen. He’s struggled to find his rhythm early.
So is Lincecum only an option to pitch as an innings eater in the event the Giants fall behind big early in the game?
If so, it seems like a waste of a roster spot. But he is a two-time Cy Young winner. Although those trophies don’t get you any outs this October.
So it’s Ryan Vogelsong in Game 3, Barry Zito probably in Game 4, Matt Cain in Game 5. And Tim Lincecum in the pen.
I bet you Chris Lincecum, Timmy’s daddy, is going nuts right about now.
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy caused a stir Monday with his comments regarding Pablo Sandoval and his future at third base.
Bochy said the Giants have not been happy with The Panda’s conditioning since heading on the disabled list in early May.
Bochy went so far to say Sandoval’s playing time at third base could be limited if the Panda were not in good shape.
Bochy had a less-than-cordial discussion with Sandoval on Saturday.
“He’s been told we have enough first basemen,” Bochy said. “That said, hopefully we’re not forced to make a change. That’s in Pablo’s hands.”
The Giants have been very happy with the defense of Joaquin Arias since being moved to third base for the first time in his career during Sandoval’s DL stint. Arias made several nice plays over the weekend that helped the Giants beat the Cubs in close games.
“Being able to make the plays Joaquin has been making, that’s so vital. You look at how important the plays were in (Sunday’s) ball game. That’s part of when (Sandoval) comes back up here. It’s not just the hitting. It’s how he’s playing third base, which is what he’s doing today.”
Defense is vital in low-scoring, tight games. But you know else helps? Runs.
The Giant won three straight over the Cubs, but averaged fewer than three runs in each of those wins.
Since Sandoval went on the DL on May 2, the Giants have hit one home run at AT&T Park … ONE … and that was by Gregor Blanco.
Sandoval ranks second on the Giants in home runs with five, one behind Buster Posey … and Sandoval hasn’t played in almost five weeks.
The Giants have long tried to find ways to keep Sandoval focused and motivated.
They sent him to the bench when his weight became a problem in 2010. But in 2010, as his weight went up, his offensive production went down.
During that offseaosn they threatened Sandoval with a trip to the minors if he didn’t get himself in shape. Sandoval responded by working out in the offseason and improving his conditioning.
Then, he had a solid 2011 season.
When his weight crept up late in 2011 and stayed that way into 2012, the Giants said they weren’t concerned.
But now they’re concerned, and Bochy is trying to get Sandoval back on track. And having just given him a three-year contract for $17 million, the only chip the Giants have to play is playing time.
But it’s a completely empty threat.
There’s no way the Giants can hope to keep things going by winning games 2-1 or 2-0. There’s no way they can keep rolling out an infield filled with .230 hitters.
They need some offense, even if that means putting the Panda’s big butt in the lineup at third base.
Sandoval will play his third game with Class-A San Jose on Monday, getting his first start at third base. If all goes well, Sandoval would join Triple-A’s Fresno on Tuesday.
While early hopes has Sandoval being ready to return for Friday’s opener against the Rangers, being back for the July 12 series opener at home against the Astros seems more likely.
Sandoval is still sore batting from the right side. So keeping Sandoval in Fresno a couple more days makes sense.
Plus, there are fewer good places to eat in Fresno than San Francisco.
Here’s a list of players Bruce Bochy used in Friday’s win in New York.
No, wait. It’s probably easier to go with the players he DIDN’T use.
Ryan Theriot (he was too sick to fly with the team Thursday; he flew out Friday)
In other words, Bochy used everybody except his Aunt Jemima on Friday.
“I even played,” pitcher Matt Cain quipped.
Yes, he did. So let’s relive the carousel of players.
With the lefty Jonathan Niese on the mound for the Mets, the Giants went with a righty-heavy lineup.
- CF Angel Pagan
- RF Melky Cabrera
- 3B Pablo Sandoval
- 1B Buster Posey
- LF Brett Pill (his first career start in left)
- C Hector Sanchez
- 2B Emmanuel Burriss
- SS Brandon Crawford
- P Barry Zito
Pill was the first to go. After he grounded out in the top of the fifth to complete an 0-for-3 night, Bochy put Nate Schierholtz in RF and slid Cabrera over to LF for a better defensive lineup.
Then came Zito. He had another solid outing (5 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits), but umpire Kerwin Danley’s fickle strike zone led to three walks and a lot of deep counts. Zito hit the 100-pitch mark by the end of the fifth.
So when Zito’s spot in the batting order came up in the sixth — and with Bochy now down to three available hitters on his bench — the skipper sent up Cain to bat for Zito. Cain struck out.
Guillermo Mota entered the game and pitched a 1-2-3 sixth, including two strikeouts.
When the left-handed hitting Josh Thole was brought in to pinch-hit for catcher Mike Nickeas to lead off the seventh, Bochy brought lefty Jeremy Affeldt in for Mota. Affeldt set down all six batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings.
Brandon Belt pinch-hit for Affeldt in the ninth, striking out on three pitches.
Belt stayed in the game in the bottom of the ninth in Bochy’s first double-switch of the game, replacing Posey at first base. Santiago Casilla took the mound.
But Casilla threw only two pitches, giving up a leadoff infield single to Jason Bay. With a string of lefties due up, Bochy yanked Casilla and brought in Javier Lopez.
Lopez got Lucas Duda to fly out before walking Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Josh Thole’s single tied the game and put the winning run on third base.
Bochy then pulled his second double-switch, bringing in Sergio Romo to pitch and Gregor Blanco to play CF in place of Angel Pagan.
Romo got Mike Baxter to ground into a fielder’s choice on a great play by Belt at first and Sanchez at the plate. Belt fielded the chopper from Baxter, spun and threw a strike at home, where Sanchez put a sweep tag on Nieuwenhuis. Romo then struck out Ruben Tejada.
Sanchez was the hero in the top of the 10th, too, when he singled home Melky Cabrera with the go-ahead run.
In the bottom of the 10th, Romo gave up back-to-back singles to Daniel Murphy and David Wright to open the inning. Out came Bochy again for his third double switch.
“He got his cardio in,” Affeldt quipped about his manager.
This time, Bochy went to Clay Hensley, and brought in Aubrey Huff to play LF with Cabrera going to RF and Schierholtz coming out.
The idea here was if the Mets tied the game again and sent it into the 11th, the pitcher’s spot would be up third. So instead of bringing Hensley in, then having to have Huff pinch-hit for him in the 11th, which would force Bochy to bring in his last reliever (Dan Otero), the double-switch would allow Hensley to pitch the 11th, if needed, by having Huff hit in the pitcher’s spot.
Any defensive liabilities that Huff might bring to the outfield alignment were negated by an outstanding job by Hensley. He got Ike Davis to ground out, then struck out Jason Bay and finally got Duda to fly out to center to end the game.
Bochy told Casilla he would be getting the lion’s share of closing opportunities. But he added that he would also play matchups.
“Throw ’em out there and hope it works out,” Bochy explained.
It did Friday.
Ryan Vogelsong takes on Mike Pelfrey in Game 2 of this four-game series. First pitch is at 10:10 a.m.
In the course of writing this blog, MoreSplashHits often reads other Giants fan blogs, comment threads and Twitter feeds. And we’re often amazed at the rabid comments by some die-hard fans over even the most mundane decisions the team makes.
And that’s why MoreSplashHits likes to think of ourselves as the thinking fans’ blog, more prone to analysis than outrage, the voice of reason and calm. We like to find the logic in any decision the team makes even when we don’t agree with it.
But the news that came out of Giants camp Thursday even boggles our mind.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced the Giants will break camp with 12 pitchers, even though Ryan Vogelsong will open the season on the DL because the Giants won’t need a fifth starter until April 15.
It had been thought that the Giants would open with 11 pitchers, four starters and seven relievers. That would allow them to keep six players on the bench, offering a brief respite from some tough roster decisions.
But Bochy said with the Giants opening the season in the hitter-friendly parks in Arizona and Colorado, he would feel more comfortable to open the season with 12 pitchers so they would not run the risk of taxing the pitching staff so early in the season.
By that logic, if Vogelsong had been healthy to open the season, the Giants would have carried 13 pitchers, leaving only four bench players.
Idiotic, right? So how does the fact that the Giants only need four starters to open the season change how much the bullpen gets taxed in the opening week of the season?
But here are some facts that undermine Bochy’s logic (or lack thereof) concerning the worries of opening up in Arizona and Colorado.
In nine home games against the Giants last season, the Diamondbacks scored 44 runs or an average of 4.9 runs a game. A high number.
But take away one game — in late September — in which Arizona scored 15 runs against the Giants, then you’re looking at 29 runs in eight game, or a 3.6 average.
With the Giants opening with their three top pitchers in Arizona — Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain — there’s no reason to expect the bullpen to get taxed in Arizona.
Colorado is a different deal. We all know about Coors Field and its reputation as a hitter’s park.
But the park plays differently in April than it does in say July. It is much friendlier to pitchers in April.
Last season, the Rockies averaged 5.4 runs a game at home. In April, they averaged 4.6.
Bochy’s thinking might be more reasonable if any of the Giants’ starters had experienced some health issues this spring that might have stunted their preparation for the season.
But that hasn’t been the case. Cain threw seven innings Thursday against the Rangers. Bumgarner did the same in a minor league game on Wednesday. So there’s no reason not to expect Lincecum, Cain and MadBum to pitch six, seven or even eight innings in the opening week of the season.
Barry Zito is another story. The Giants would be happy to get five or six innings from Zito in any of his starts, whether they happen in April or August.
But Zito’s first start is scheduled for Monday, April 9 in Colorado. Even if the bullpen gets overworked in that game, April 10 is a scheduled off day, so the entire staff would get a day to rest.
So wouldn’t it make more sense of the Giants to use the roster flexibility created by Vogelsong opening the season on the DL to create more depth on its bench?
Bochy should be less concerned about possibly taxing his bullpen (a strength of the team) and more concerned with taxing Buster Posey in the first week of the season.
Opening with a six-player bench would allow the Giants to keep three catchers on the roster to open the season.
It would also allow the Giants time to see how Hector Sanchez’s outstanding spring translates into the regular season.
The same could be said for Brandon Belt, who has been rumored to be ticketed to start the season in Triple-A despite tearing up the Cactus League.
If that happens, that’s a blog post regarding Bochy’s lost marbles for another day.
There’s no denying it. The Giants are struggling.
Giants fans are celebrating the fact that Aubrey Huff is no longer hitting below .200. They can’t say the same for Cody Ross or Miguel Tejada. In fact, the 6-7-8 hitters in Thursday’s lineup were all hitting under .200 (Ross, Tejada and Eli Whiteside).
But not only are the Giants hitters in a slump, so is manager Bruce Bochy.
The skipper has not made solid contact when trying to put on plays to help a lineup struggling to put runs on the board.
On Tuesday, we saw Bochy more animated than we’re used to see him, when he angrily kicked a dugout step when the Giants failed to get a runner home from third with no one out in the ninth inning of a 6-6 ball game.
Or maybe he was upset with himself for not putting on a play.
Here’s how it went down.
Leading off the top of the ninth, the Giants had a rare combination of speed with Emmanuel Burriss and Darren Ford leading off.
The problem with these two speedsters is that they first must get on base. But Burriss and Ford both accomplished that feat — by hitting the ball a combined 75 feet.
First Burriss reached on a swinging bunt. Then he stole second base.
Ford tried to bunt him over to third, which he did. But his bunt was so good, it allowed Ford to reach first.
So now the Giants had runners on first and third and no outs. Bochy let Rowand swing away to get a run home. Not a bad strategy as Rowand was one of the hotter hitters in the Giants lineup during the road trip.
But Rowand popped out in foul territory to Mets first baseman Ike Davis.
Then came Miguel Tejada — he of the sub-.200 batting average. Instead of putting on a play like a suicide squeeze or safety squeeze, utilizing Burriss’ speed and Tejada’s ability to put a good bunt down (we’ve seen it a couple of times this season), Bochy let Tejada swing away.
He popped out. The only surprise there is that he didn’t strike out.
Then after Mike Fontenot (the most feared No. 3 hitter in the majors) walked, Buster Posey popped out to end the inning.
Then came Wednesday. The Giants had Nate Schierholtz on third and Tejada on first with one out and Cody Ross at the plate.
Ross had worked the count full when Giants announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow had this exchange:
Mike Krukow: “Well, do you start Tejada (from first base)?”
Duane Kuiper: “I do not.”
Krukow: “You’re bettting on contact. And Cody Ross already has swung through two fastballs. That’s what you’re looking at if you’re Bruce Bochy.”
Makes sense. Except Bochy must have been in the toilet during those first two whiffs by Ross because he sent Tejada.
Ross swung and missed for strike three, Tejada was hung out to try and Schierholtz tried to make something happen by breaking to the plate. But he was thrown out.
So Bochy has been aggressive when he should have been conservative, and conservative when he should have been aggressive.
Fortunately, those two previous situations came in Giant wins.
Let’s hope that a return home this week helps the Giants break out of their hitting slump. Because Bochy’s batting average is not so hot right now either.
It’s Sunday afternoon, it’s raining hard in San Francisco and the Giants-Braves game is officially in a rain delay.
Like anyone couldn’t see that coming. Anyone, except Bruce Bochy.
Bobby Cox saw it coming. That’s why he took his No. 1 pitcher, Derek Lowe, and moved him up to pitch on Saturday. Kenshin Kawakami was slated to pitch Saturday, but with Sunday’s rainy forecast, Cox thought it better to throw Lowe on Saturday and keep him on the every-five-day schedule. The theory is it’s better to keep your No. 1 starter on schedule and let your No. 5 guy deal with the headaches of rain delays or postponements.
Maybe that’s why Bobby Cox is going to the Hall of Fame as a manager one day. Maybe that’s why Bruce Bochy won’t.
Faced with the same situation, Bochy pitched Wellemeyer on Saturday night, and now Lincecum is the battling the rain. If today’s game is rained out, Lincecum will go Monday against the Pirates, on six days rest.
Would it not have been better to pitch Lincecum on Saturday, and let Wellemeyer deal with the rain? If Sunday’s game were rained out, then you skip Wellemeyer and have him available in the pen and keep the rest of your rotation on schedule.
Water on the brain, part II .. with a catch
There’s another twist with this Lincecum-Wellemeyer-rain weather issue. It involves catcher Bengie Molina.
Molina sat out Saturday’s game against the Braves. Bochy said he’s was fine health-wise, but wanted to rest his catcher after playing 10 innings on Friday. Also, he wanted Molina to catch Lincecum on Sunday and didn’t want Molina to catch Saturday night and then again Sunday afternoon.
All sound logic, if you were paying no mind to the weather forecast!!!!
Given Sunday’s forecast, it would have been better to pitch Lincecum Saturday and catch Molina Saturday. Then Bochy could have sit Molina Sunday and start Whiteside, if the game is played. If the game gets rained out, Molina still gets his day off and the Giants don’t miss his bat in the lineup.
Yes, Molina played 10 innings Friday, but he had Thursday off with the travel day and he didn’t play Wednesday. So we think he could have handled it.
As it was, the Giants definitely missed his bat on Saturday. Whiteside appears lost at the plate. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Saturday and stranded seven runners on base.
The Braves seemed to see this right away, and it looked as if Lowe was pitching around Juan Uribe to get to Whiteside. Need evidence? How about the three walks Uribe had on Saturday. Normally, it takes Uribe two months to amass three walks. The Braves gave him three in one night!
Oh, Buster Posey???
Whiteside’s struggles, not only at the plate but behind it (the Giants had four wild pitches Saturday with Whiteside catching), it might make Giant fans wonder what Buster Posey is up to down at Fresno.
Well, in his first three games at Fresno, Buster Posey is 7 for 13 and he’s reached safely 10 times. He had a single and triple on Saturday night.
The decision to send Posey to Triple-A was based on the principle that the Giants wanted him to catch every day, instead of getting three starts a week with the Giants.
But if the Giants plan on resting Molina more this season than last season, sending him out to start only two of every three games, can the Giants afford to create another hole in the lineup by starting Whiteside?
More news from Fresno
It may be time to starting worrying about Madison Bumgarner.
The Giants heralded pitching prospect got lit up in his Triple-A debut Friday against the Reno Aces.
Bumgarner gave up four runs on a career-high 11 hits and two walks in just three innings of work. Bumgarner topped out at 88 mph on the stadium radar gun.
Fred Lewis, on a rehab assignment with the Grizzlies, started in center field for Fresno on Saturday.
Fred Lewis? In center field?
More Splash Hits is trying to envision that.
Hmmmmm. Nope! Too scary! Can’t do it.