BayAreaBall Musings – It’s About That Time
BayAreaBall Musings is our light-hearted weekly take on a topic based on the back and forth conversations of our writers.
Frank: In this weeks BayAreaBall Musings, I figured we couldn’t go another week without talking about the possibility that both the A’s and Giants will be in the playoffs this year. So Aaron, are you just as excited as me about the possibility of both teams being in the postseason and dare I say a repeat of 1989? If so, which fan base do you think should be more excited the A’s or Giants?
Aaron: Tough call. On the one hand I think the Giants have a much better chance of advancing just based on the fact that they should be able to avoid the single game Wild Card round. On the other hand, this season has been totally unexpected for the A’s. When we did our season predictions for the A’s and Giants your prediction for the A’s was by far the most optimistic and I think you had them finishing around .500. If the A’s can get through the randomness of the 1 game “series” they actually have a pretty decent shot because of how they pitch. Take a look at their records vs the other contending teams: 3-3 vs Baltimore, 3-3 vs Chicago, 2-2 vs Detroit, 10-8 vs Los Angeles, 4-3 vs New York, 5-4 vs Tampa Bay, 6-6 vs Texas. In other words, there’s no one they should be afraid of seeing.
The picture is a little clearer for the Giants, and barring a dramatic collapse they’ll be facing either the Cincinnati Reds, against whom they are 3-4 this year, or the Washington Nationals, against whom they are 1-5 this year. Although the Giants are playing much better now than they were when they faced the Nationals I’d still prefer a matchup with the Reds.
There is another important difference between where the A’s stand and where the Giants stand. With their position much more secure (though surely not a lock), the Giants can afford to start thinking about lining up their rotation and resting some starters in advance of a playoff series. The A’s position is a bit more perilous so that’s a luxury they don’t have, and if they have to go out and win the last couple games of the year it might hurt them when the playoffs open.
FG: Aaron your need to constantly remind me of reality is bumming me out. Nonetheless, I do see what your saying in that the A’s probably won’t have the luxury to line anyone up in terms of their rotation. Especially after the loss of Brandon McCarthy, (aka Two Face) the bulk of the pitching load will fall to a pretty young and green (no pun intended) pitching staff. Young guys like Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, Dan Straily, and the new and improved Brett Anderson will have their work cut out for them to keep being consistent through the final leg of the season.
What really worries me the most is the A’s ability to stay away from the prolonged hitting slump that their line-up is prone to. Since their line up is based more on the sum of its parts as opposed to being built around 1 or 2 guys, there is no one guy that can possibly carry the line up when everyone else hits the skids. You can maybe say Yoenis Cespedes but if guys aren’t getting on in front of him his bat will be wasted. As opposed to the Giants who can lean on Buster Posey to carry the team for stretches. Or even Pablo Sandoval if his portliness wasn’t affecting his play so much lately.
Would you be opposed to Pablo getting on an in-season Jenny Craig program if it meant he would start hitting again and do commercials with Jennifer Hudson? If you had to worry about one thing for the Giants during this push for the division, what would it be? Offense, defense, bullpen, new animal character hat development?
AR: The last time Pablo was in an extended funk and had no power was 2010, and that worked out pretty well. I’d certainly like to see him hitting the ball with more authority but the team is winning right now without getting more than singles from the big man, which is a combination of weird and awesome. I would, however, like to see Brandon Belt and Pablo trade places in the batting order if for no other reason than to put a better baserunner in front of Posey and Pence.
I’m not worried about much during this push for the division because a 7.5 game lead with 19 to play and the Dodgers looking like burnt toast is pretty safe. Not a totally done deal and not totally insurmountable, but pretty safe. Looking ahead to the playoffs the area that concerns me most is the bullpen. I know they’ve been great lately but the list of teams in recent memory that didn’t have a guy to handle the 9th inning by himself is pretty short. There’s still a lot of depth in the Giants’ bullpen and Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez have done a great job with the 9th inning, but the tradeoff with that is using those guys in the 9th hurts Bochy’s ability to shorten the game. If Brian Wilson was healthy then Romo and Lopez handle the 7th and 8th, while Jose Mijares, Jeremy Affeldt, and Santiago Casilla handle the 6th and 7th, which means the starters only have to get into the 6th. As it stands everyone is now pushed back an inning, including the starters because I don’t think the bottom of the bullpen (Guillermo Mota, George Kontos, etc) will be able to throw up zeroes against the Nats and Reds like they have against the Rockies and Diamondbacks.
Although it’s been said, many times many ways, the Giants are built on starting pitching. The Giants are built on starting pitching. The Giants are built on starting pitching, right now. The aforementioned 7.5 game lead means the Giants should start thinking about giving the starters some extra rest down the stretch either with a couple spot starts or a full blown 6 man rotation the rest of the way. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong have looked awfully tired the last couple of weeks, and while he’s been better in the second half you can’t tell me Tim Lincecum wouldn’t benefit from some extra rest too. If the Giants are going anywhere this year those 4 guys are going to have to carry them, and it’s time to start thinking about the best way to get them rested and in the right order for game 1 of the NLDS, which will most likely open in San Francisco against either the Reds or Nationals. Another added bonus to extra rest for the starters is that if the Giants get to those last 3 games in Chavez Ravine and they have to win they would at least have the fresher starting pitchers.
In 2010 it was Lincecum leading the way and setting the tone at home against the Braves but in 2012 I think it’s got to be Matt Cain. Historically he’s been a better pitcher at home and if he starts game 1 he’d be available in either game 4 on short rest or in game 5 on regular rest. I’d follow him with Vogelsong, then Bumgarner because game 3 is another crucial momentum swing and that kid has proven he can be a beast under the brightest lights and against the best teams. Then I’d throw Lincecum in game 4, if needed, with Barry Zito being the long man in the bullpen. The luxury of the position the Giants are in now is they can start to set things up the way they want them in the playoffs, and give Belt a few games in the 3 hole to see if he can thrive there the way he has in the 7 spot for the last 6-8 weeks. My guess is he can but there’s no way Bruce Bochy is making that change during the playoffs.
You mentioned that the A’s offense suddenly going into a collective slump is what has you worried, but let’s assume they stay hot and the A’s make the playoffs. Who do you want pitching that 1 game Wild Card and how would you set up the rotation for the ALDS if either the A’s catch the Rangers or win the Wild Card game?
FG: Well let’s go Wild Card play in game first, I think I would have to start Brett Anderson based on 2 reasons. First he is the freshest of all the pitchers right now so he doesn’t have the normal wear and tear of the season. Second he probably has the best stuff on the team and should be round into mid-season form by the playoffs. On a side note, wouldn’t it be ironic if the A’s made the playoffs and then had to play the dumb play-in game considering Lew Wolff was one of the first owners to muse about how the playoffs should be a 1 game all or nothing free for all instead of even a short series. Once again, thanks for nothing Lew.
Here is a picture of the playoff bracket if things were to end today.
Either way, the A’s would have to play the Rangers if they won the division or got in as the Wild Card which still doesn’t make any sense to me. Back to the rotation set up, obviously it would be great if the A’s could catch the Rangers since they’re only 3 games back of 1st in the AL West. Let’s just assume they host game 1 of the ALDS, I go with Brett Anderson because of the reasons I stated above. Then I go with Jarrod Parker to start game 2 at home because I think it would be better for the rookie to get the start at home and just be more comfortable here as opposed to on the road. Then for game 3 I would start A.J. Griffin. First, Griffin is 4-0 on the road with a measely ERA of 1.15, WHIP of .99, BAA of .216, and a GO/AO (Ground Out/Air Out) ratio of .70 on the road. Also against Texas this year he has only allowed 2 hits over 20 AB’s with Texas hitting a combined .100 off of him. Plus I think Griffin has the right sort of mentality to start a game 3 and I don’t think the pressure of the postseason will get to him.
Now if they end up opening the ALDS on the road I still go with the same rotation set up because Parker has pitched extremely well against the Rangers this year and actually has a better record on the road then at home. Then I think you have Tommy Milone as your 4th starter/long reliever and move Dan Straily to the bullpen as middle relief/set up guy. One caveat: it’s not that I don’t think Milone deserves to start in the ALDS but he has just been so much better at home then on the road this year that starting him in Arlington could lead to bad things. And the Rangers have killed Milone this year when they have faced them.
Ok Aaron let’s wrap this thing up, who is the team that you don’t want to see in the playoffs? For me it’s the Chicago White Sox. First, I hate A.J. Pierzynski so I never want to see him succeed at anything. Second, I know they have split the season series with the White Sox this year but if they catch the White Sox at the wrong time while they are hot, it could be a quick series. Are you sure that you want to see Dusty Baker in the playoffs with his Cincinatti Reds?
AR: Ah hating A.J. Pierzynski. Something I think we can all agree on.
For me it’s the Nats, no question. The NL is wide open and I think any team that makes it into the dance can win it but for whatever reason the Nats are the one playoff contender that has given the Giants problems. Obviously they aren’t going to have Stephen Strasburg and that hurts. However they still have Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann and Zimmermann in particular is the kind of pitcher that always seems to hurt the Giants more than a flamethrower like Strasburg. Plus, the Giants went 1-5 against Washington without ever facing Strasburg. Though Cincinnati’s team ERA is only a tick or two higher than Washington’s I still don’t trust that staff at all and I trust Dusty Baker to know what to do with it even less. The Reds offense is scarier, especially when you consider what they did without Joey Votto, but the Nats are more balanced and have a better pitching staff.
Until next week my friend.
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