# ♫ U P R I G H T B A S E B A L L ◱

### Happy September!

Today’s mid-day post is brought to you by the Magic Number 25. The baseball calculation of the month is the Magic Number—the amount of wins plus the amount of second place team losses that will propel the first place team to the postseason—and I’ll give you, dear reader, the easiest formula to generate it.

M=163-(W1+L2)

Where M is the Magic Number, W1 is the amount of wins from the first place team and L2 is the amount of losses from the second place team.  In this case, the Giants have won 75 games and the Dodgers have lost 63.

Therefore:

M=163-(75+63)

M=163-138

M=25

Thus, the Magic Number is 25.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

There’s your math lesson for the day.  I covered history with the Giant of the Week earlier today so let’s get to religious studies and examine the whims of the baseball gods over the past month.

The Giants have been playing like a studlier version of the 2010 squad as of late whilst the Dodgers have been playing like group of car sick tee-ballers.  It seems like no amount of greenbacks—regardless of how obscene that sum may be—will placate the baseball gods in the City of Angels.  The Giants have made moves but they’ve been cheap and smart, quite the opposite of the Dodgers strategy which has seemingly been an internalized conversation along the lines of “the more expensive it is, the better it is. Right? Right.”  Wrong.  While Gyros fans bemoaned the loss of the Melkman and maniacal Dodgers fans cheered for the new blockbuster trade that each week brought, I have been content to watch a team of miSFits somehow piece together some of the best offensive baseball that the city of San Francisco has seen in years and doing it in such a stealthy and unheralded fashion that me thinks some of Brian Wilson’s mental ninja-ry rubbed off on the impressionable Brandon Belt.

Note to the reader: The following paragraph is a transcript of the mid-afternoon conversation between Wally and an empty chair alla mystery Republican National Convention speaker, Clint Eastwood.

What’s that, dear reader? You would like some proof of the aforementioned offensive stealth? Fair enough, but please tell me which player had the best batting average in all of MLB in the month of August? You’re stumped? Joaquin Arias. Absurd, right? Right.

The Giants found a way to top the National League in runs throughout August and all of their offensive splits have been near the top of the Majors with the exception of slugging percentage.  I don’t mind that, I don’t mind that one bit.  It means the Giants are playing smart and hitting well.  They don’t depend on the deep ball the way they did in 2010.

Trying to figure out what lineup Bruch Bochy is going to hand in is like trying to answer a question about Prince’s discography without use of Wikipedia—it used to be somewhat difficult but now it’s just impossible.  At the present moment, the hot handed Arias is platooned with teenage heart throb, Brandon Crawford, at shortstop. However, there have been hints that Bochy is encouraging Arias to play in left field so he can get to the plate more as the left handed Crawford gets most of the starts. By hints I mean Bochy has told the media that he has asked Arias to play in left.  That said, Bay Area native and boyhood Giants fan, Xavier Nady, got his first start in black and orange at left field today and made Brian Sabean look like a deranged, mad scientist, genius yet again.  In his first at bat, Nady cleared a loaded pond with a steaming double right inside the bag at third.  Somehow the Baby Panda—Hector Sanchez—huffed and puffed his way from third to home, a feat in itself.  If Nady can keep things going and prove he’s still capable of Major League at bats and Arias agrees to play in left, correctly picking the Giants lineup will be on par with hitting the power ball.

Nady’s three ribbies proved to be enough as Tim Lincecum threw a solid game to pick up the win.  Lincecum’s only tough moment came in the third inning when he gave up a walk to start things off and then watched David of Jesus (DeJesus) blast a 1-1 fastball offering out of the park with the wind at its back.  As always, Timmy was still able to confuse the heck out of the opposing lineup and registered seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings pitched.  The bullpen shut down the Cubbies for the final 11 outs of the game, allowing just one base runner, and Sergio Romo executed the save.

Pitching has been solid, it could be better but it could be worse. In this sport—as in life—you learn to praise the things you have and not get too greedy.  Sure, I could regale you with statistics and point out that the bullpen has been throwing better yet could/should be lights out but let’s keep the eye on the ball and remember where the team sits right now, five games up on the Dodgers.  You’ll never hear me complain about that.  Heck, they could be 14 games behind the Rockies but there would still be a silver lining to that cloud if the boys in blue trailed the Giants by five.

Here’s to hoping the Dodgers will help lower that magic number this evening and here’s to a great August and here’s to closing down the NL West in September! Slainte!

### Does Timmy Want to Play Baseball?

An interesting thought occurred to me as I was watching last night’s disappointing loss to the Rockies, maybe Tim Lincecum doesn’t want to be playing baseball right now.  Throughout his career, Lincecum bounces between seeming either calm and relaxed or somewhat worried, indifferent, or hurried on the mound.  There’s a look that he has been getting in his eyes more and more this season akin to a deer in the headlights which I’m sure many Giants fans have also noticed.  Although he got his third quality start in a row and pitched a fairly solid game while receiving literally no offensive support, it just didn’t seem like he wanted to be in front of 42,000+ people.

I’m not saying this in a vindictive or judgmental way and I’m not saying this in a “he should smoke some weed, bro” way either but I think Lincecum is at a point in his career where he really needs to take note of the reasons why he’s playing baseball and determine if it’s something he really wants to continue to do.  Of course that would mean tossing aside millions of dollars but if Tim is going to succeed again, he needs to do it on his own terms.

This is all speculatory and based solely on my somewhat refined observational skills but I get the impression that Lincecum dreads his starts.  That may sound like a no brainer—even the greatest actors get varying degrees of stage fright before a show and fellow Giants starter, Ryan Voglesong, still refuses to talk to anyone before he pitches—but in his heyday, Lincecum was known for being a goofy and carefree guy before his starts.  He had fun with baseball and everything it brought, cracking jokes with his teammates and infamously eating Choco-Tacos before a few starts early on in his career.

There’s a much more frantic nature to the way Lincecum plays baseball now, his timing is erratic and his velocity dips and spikes across the game—last night I remember seeing him throw an 88 mile per hour fastball in the 3rd before throwing a 92 mile per hour fastball in the 6th.  As I’ve mentioned before, so much of Tim Lincecum’s performance is clearly mental.  Aspects of his game have suffered over the last two or three seasons, particularly his fastball velocity, but he still has the ability to strike guys out and he has taught himself new pitches to even himself out.

I think Lincecum needs to really take a deep breath, pursue psychoanalysis and work on pinpointing his true emotions to the game of baseball and how he can reintroduce fun in the game.

### Cards Series Wrap and Friday Preview

The Giants came up with a very respectable series split in St. Louis to finish their road trip 5-2.  Madison Bumgarner got penned for the loss today despite a very solid outing, allowing three runs on three hits and a walk with seven strikeouts over the course of six innings.  The third run came after a blown call when Jon Jay was called safe when stealing third.  The replays showed that Joaquin Arias got the tag down on Jay a good four inches before he reached the base but the umpire’s view was obscured by Arias and Allen Craig followed up with a sacrifice fly to score Jay. The final score was 3-1 as the Giants failed to cash in on a several opportunities throughout the game.  They didn’t look quite as fierce at the plate as they have been as of late but I find no reason to be concerned.  Adam Wainwright did a good job of mixing in his off speed pitches as he went through the Giants lineup for the second and third times before going to the fastball late in the count and it didn’t appear like any of the Gyros hitters were able to get a good reading of him.  Since the Dodgers have the day off, they picked up a half game on the Giants and now only reside a game out of the lead with each team slated to play 50 more games.

Jon Jay was almost a sure thing with a single for the Cardinals this series, going 10 for 15 and raising his BA from .284 to .308 in the process.  However, only one of Jay’s hits was for extra bases—a double off of Bumgarner which set up the opportunity for the controversial call at third today—and the Gyros were able to limit him to two runs during the series.

Games like this always make me wish I was somehow given the power to spread a few runs around throughout a series.  The Giants won with 14 to spare last night, laying the bat heavy on the Cardinals while Ryan Vogelsong gave a lights out performance.  Hunter Pence produced two big RBIs in his first two at bats when the game was still in question and Marco Scutaro came up with his third career grand salami in the top of the 9th to shore up the win and help the Giants beat the spread by 16.5 runs.

Bruce Bochy’s new left handed toy, Jose Mijares, came into the game in the bottom of the 9th and although he allowed two base runners, he got out of the inning clean and finished off the shutout. The Giants picked up the Venezuelan born Mijares off of the waivers from Kansas City and put right handed reliever, Shane Loux, on the DL to free up a space on the 25 man roster.  This gives the Giants bull pen three solid lefties along with Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez.  Lopez is more of a leftie specialist while Affeldt and right hander Brad Penny are probably the closet things the bull pen has to a long reliever although I wouldn’t want to see either of those guy pitch more than two innings.  From what I can put together about Mijares, he sort of falls between Lopez’s left hander dominance and Affeldt’s ability to take over for several innings if need be.  This leads me to imagine that Mijares will be the third leftie off of the bench but it still adds depth to the bullpen and gives Bochy the ability to play his favorite, three card monte-esque game of matching up pitchers against batters in the later innings.

One thing that I noticed and was particularly impressed by during this road trip was the Giants ability to get their lead off man safely on base to start each inning.  In Colorado, the lead off man reached safely 15 times out of 27 innings—.556—and in St. Louis, he reached 13 our of 36 innings—.361—for a grand total of 28 for 63—.444. The Giants also were impressive in the 1st and 9th innings of the games, scoring at least one run in the 1st inning of the first six games they played and scoring in the 9th in four games.  First inning runs are important on the road because it allows the starting pitcher to take the mound with the lead which helps to settle some of the pregame jitters.

The Giants are set to face the Rockies again, this time at AT&T Park.  Since the All Star break, the Gyros are 4-6 at home—they swept the Triple-A Astros before being swept by the Dodgers and dropping three of four to the Mets after a strong road trip.  During the same period, the Giants are 9-4 on the road against some fairly contentious teams.

Tim Lincecum will get things started for the Giants against fellow right hander, Tyler Chatwood.  The 22 year old starter had a decent outing by Rockies standards against the Giants on August 5, giving up one earned run on two hits and four walks in 3.1 innings pitched.  His ERA sits at 6.61 and his WHIP is at 1.96 so the Giants would do well to continue their offensive trend of getting the lead off man on base and scoring early, especially since the Rockies have an awkward four man starting rotation and they cap their starters at or around 75 pitches.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to wish you a Happy Lincecum Day tomorrow and the troubled right hander will be able to pick up his third straight win and quality start.  One thing that has gotten overlooked during his rough season is that Lincecum has still been able to register strikeouts, racking up 139 Ks which puts him in the top ten in the National League.  Lincecum’s post All Star break ERA is currently at 2.48 so I strongly feel like I’ll be writing a post in the coming weeks entitled “How Timmy Got His Groove Back.”  With a guy like Lincecum, the mental game plays so much into how he pitches and it’s been clear that he’s over thought his delivery and pitch selection.  I think it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with his velocity and his battery mate and he’ll find himself in the League’s elite pitching corps again.

A lovely thing to note is that the Dodgers lost their series against the Rockies, winning only one of three.  The Dodgers were completely blanked on Tuesday night which has to be embarrassing when the Giants put up 35 runs against the same team.  In the last week and a half, the Dodgers have done away with a lot of the older guys that had kept them competitive while Matt Kemp was out on two extended trips to the disabled list—Tony Gywnn Jr. and Bobby Abreu were designated for assignment and Juan Uribe was dropped down to the Minor Leagues-.  The hired guns that they’ve brought in have been fairly productive but they just weren’t able to get it done against the Rockies at home for whatever reason.

This weekend the Dodgers will face off against the Marlins on the road for Hanley Rameriz’s home coming and the floundering Diamondbacks will head home to face the Nationals after today’s series finale in Pittsburgh—they currently lead 6-3 in the top of the 8th and if they hold on, they will sit four games behind the Giants.

### You gotta do what you gotta do in this economy

Earlier today the Giants finished off their fourth sweep of the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field which opened in 1995—the Rockies played at Mile High Stadium in 1993 and 1994.  Each of the three wins was fairly resounding and the Giants hitters came into the game with a chip on their collective shoulder with several of them having a rough go of it over the course of the last few weeks.  They scored 35 runs off 45 hits 17 walks.  Every player reached base safely in each game they received a plate appearance with the exception of Tim Lincecum today who still managed to get a crucial RBI early on in the game.

Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum threw 18.1 innings with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP—and just a 1.00 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP if you exclude Vogelsong’s rough 7th inning on Friday night.  Together, the three starters stuck out 17 and walked eight.  Today, Lincecum was able to battle back after a tough 1st inning in which he threw 35 pitches.  However he still had trouble with his location throughout the game, walking five Rockies.

Lincecum has been steadily improving since the All Star break with a couple of spotty performances thrown in here and there.  In his five starts since the All Star Game, Lincecum has won three games, a 2.48 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, and lasted an average of 6.53 innings per start—the three wins double his 2012 total to six, he lowered his ERA from 6.42 to 5.43, his WHIP has dropped from 1.53 to 1.49, and raised his innings per start from 5.37 to 5.62.  I know that’s a bit number heavy so if that’s not your style, read the above as “he’s pitching much better than he was before.”

As rosy a picture as I just painted for you, dear reader, not everything was perfect.  Collectively, the usually lights out bullpen had a 7.56 ERA during the series—allowing 7 runs in the 8.2 innings they pitched.  I won’t bother you with the other numbers/I don’t want to calculate them and ruin my mood but I can tell you that they aren’t great just by looking through the box scores and recalling the three games.

The Giants offense got the bullpen off the hook by scoring 22 of their 35 runs in the last three frames of each game.  As I mentioned earlier, Bruce Bochy’s pregame motivational speech on Friday supposedly touched on closing out games and that’s just what the Gyros hitters did.

Now everyone knows that the Rockies are struggling at his point in the season and aren’t exactly what one would consider an elite team but at the same time the Giants did exactly what they needed to do, you beat crap teams and you beat them badly to send a message to the rest of the League.

Tomorrow night the Gyros will start a four game series in St. Louis.  The Cardinals are looking to sweep the Brewers and are currently battling out a close game in Sunday’s night slot—they have a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th.  I’ll put together an in depth series preview tomorrow for your perusal, dear reader.

Side note: I generated all of the numbers in this post regarding Tim Lincecum and the series wide numbers.  Everything was triple checked but if it looks wrong, let me know and we’ll discuss.  I’d hate to throw incorrect numbers into the blogosphere.

### A Libation for the Baseball Gods

Yes, dear reader, let us pour a libation to the baseball gods and thank them for our sweet fortunes.  I could write another post like yesterday’s, describing in minute detail the individual accomplishments and statistics of last night’s trouncing but I’ll keep the revelry as brief as possible and do my best to avoid another statistically driven post.

That said, I do have to mention a few numbers, just to get them off of my chest.  Buster Posey is hitting .453 since the All Star break—34 for 75—and last night he hit his six home run since the break, number 16 on the season.  The Giants scored ten or more runs in their second consecutive game for the first time since a late August series in 2010 against Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds.  For the second straight night, all starting position players got a hit and the two players off of the bench—Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco—went 1-2 with a sacrifice fly and a run scored.

Madison Bumgarner threw a fantastic game to get his 12th win of the season, striking out seven Rockies in six innings and only allowing six base runners.  The bullpen was a bit on the shaky side of things though, giving up five runs in the final three frames of the game—one might say that our bullpen looked “Rockie” last night or perhaps they got “Rockied”… I don’t know which makes for the better pun, dear reader.  But, like last night, the Giants refused to take their foot off the gas pedal late in the game and went for the jugular, scoring four of their own runs in the 8th and Angel Pagan hit a solo shot in the 9th to keep the game out of reach.

Pagan has been red hot in the lead off spot in the last two games, going 7-10 with six runs and four RBIs.  He seems much more comfortable hitting lead off than he does out of the six spot or anywhere else where Bruce Bochy puts him and I would venture to say that he has momentarily regained his spot at the head of the lineup.

Okay, now that last night is out of the way, allow me to briefly preview today’s game which starts in a touch over two hours.

Buster Posey is going to get the start at first base so Hector Sanchez will be catching Tim Lincecum today.  The Rockies starter, Christian Friedrich, has been pulled with what sounds to be a season ending back injury so the Giants will likely face Tyler Chatwood who was called up from Double-A Tulsa yesterday.  Chatwood is 1-1 with a 7.62 ERA in seven relief appearances for the Rockies this season.  In the minors, he’s gone 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in nine Triple-A starts and 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four Double-A starts this season.  Hopefully the Giants can get to the 22 year old right hander early and force the Rockies to go to their battered bullpen  by the 4th or 5th inning—keep in mind that the Rockies have a silly four man rotation and starters are removed from the game after they have thrown 75 pitches so this isn’t an unattainable goal, especially against a 22 year old who hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since July 5.  Chatwood was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2008 MLB Draft with the 74th overall pick.  The Angels brought him up last season and he had 25 starts with two relief appearances, posting a 6-11 record with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.76 WHIP.  The Angels traded him to the Rockies last November for catcher, Chris Iannetta.

I have faith in Timmy today.  Although his worst start of his career came in April at Coors Field, I sense that he’s regaining his confidence and having sat and watched his fellow starters Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner receive 27 runs in support will hopefully allow him to loosen up and bring out the jovial, smiling Timmy that we all know so well.

### Sprint from the Gate

The Giants started off the second half of the new season with a bang, sweeping the Triple A Astros in their last trip to China Basin as an NL team.  Now don’t get me wrong, the Astros bring a whole new definition to the term suck but the Giants did what they had to do and battled out three solid wins.  Of course there was plenty of room for improvement, Santiago Casilla blew the save but picked up the win in the second game which was too bad since Timmy Lincecum had thrown a vintage gem and a W sure would look nice tacked onto his record right now.  Casilla also added elements of torture to the third game before closing it down.  Apparently he has a bad blister on his middle finger which has effected his ability to hit his spots but that’s an old stand by for “he’s not pitching with everything he has right now.”  If you’ll remember, Lincecum started off the season with a bad blister which I assume healed months ago and he’s been up and down over his last few starts, showing some pieces of his former self while getting absolutely bombed in Washington and Pittsburgh before the break.  In both games he was pulled before the 4th inning.

I like the direction things are going, the Dodgers dropped two of three at home to the Padres to give the Giants sole leadership of the NL West and they currently trail the bottom dwelling Phils at home, 3-0 heading into the bottom half of the 6th inning.  If the reinfusion of Ethier and Kemp into their lineup hasn’t effected much, I’ll happily continue to say that the D-Backs are the Gyros’ greatest threat for division supremacy as we head into the dog days of summer.

Speak of the dog days, before Friday’s game I took the time to rewrite the chorus to the Francis and The Machine song “The Dog Days are Over” which follow:

The All-Star Break is over

The All-Star Break is done

Here come the Giants

So you better run

I’m glad to see that The Machine has been able to occupy his time with Brian Wilson out for the season.  Next up are the Braves in Atlanta followed by the Phils in the land of cheese steaks, water ice, and douche bags.  It’s a big road trip and it’ll really give us an idea of what this team has the ability to accomplish if things go right.  I’ll be down in Philly for the series so expect to find some videos circling the web this time next week… I’ll be the guy in the Cain jersey pulling the trigger on some unsuspecting eight year old.