The Winter Meetings are holding up to the excitement as ESPN has started a consecutive days-long chat, MLB Network is upping coverage, and contracts are being signed. The news today:
- Mike Napoli has signed a 3 year-$39MM deal with the Red Sox. Probably the biggest FA catcher on the block is now off, and ESPN’s Jayson Stark suggests this takes them out of the Adam LaRoche sweepstakes.
- Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to undergo left hip surgery and will need 4-6 months to recover.
- The Meetings have let the Justin Upton rumors start to circle again, making us wonder if a trade for the young Diamondback will actually happen. The team has said to be aggressive on the trade front.
- The San Diego Padres have signed Jason Marquis to a one year-$3MM deal.
- Per Dylan Hernandez, Shohei Otani wants to decide this week whether to stay in Japan, or come to the Dodgers
- The Detroit Tigers offered Anibal Sanchez 4 years-$48MM but apparently that wasn’t seen favorably by Sanchez’s camp, who is rumored to be seeking a 6/$90MM deal.
- The Toronto Blue Jays have claimed Eli Whiteside, per Ken Rosenthal. Ken notes that Eli is now their fourth catcher because you can never have too many game callers.
- Angel Pagan and the San Francisco Giants have an agreement for 4 years and $40MM, a trade-off between below-market money and more years made between the clubs.
- Joakim Soria and the Texas Rangers appear to have a deal in place for two years. I really like Soria and hope he can be of some use to the Rangers, but only enough that he doesn’t help the Rangers beat the Giants in a World Series matchup.
- Scott Hairston was reportedly offered a two-year deal to the Tigers, first I saw was from Jon Morosi. However, Adam Rubin from ESPN NY says he’s been told the Giant killer will not sign on with Detroit. Jon Morosi has since said he was mistaken in his report about Hairston, but Rubin does say there are five teams pursuing Hairston.
- In other New York news, the Metropolitans asked the Red Sox for top prospects Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. for in exchange for R.A. Dickey, but the team that calls Fenway home is not likely to give away either prospect.
- There is an offer on the table for Ryan Ludwick from the Cincinnati Reds.
- Out of South Beach, there are whispers that Yunel Escobar is being shopped to Tampa and Oakland, and Ricky Nolasco has had enough of Miami and wants out.
This will be updated throughout the day, but who knows if I’ll be able to keep up. There’s a lot going on, and it’s very exciting.
The sun and the sky may tell you it’s just another day, but we’re in the playoffs now, baby. What’s beautiful about the postseason is you don’t have to have the best team on paper, nor have had to be the best team in the regular season to win the three sets of series. Familiar face Dusty Baker and his pretty powerful pitchers and position players will come marching in to AT&T for Game 1 on Saturday. All we know about the Giants rotation is that Cain and Bumgarner are going with the other three starters available in the pen in case one of the Game 1 and/or 2 starters have a bad outing. We could potentially see some pretty interesting managing in these Games 1 and 2 from Bochy if he decides to use his starters for more than a side session’s worth of pitches. Over the course of the season, the Reds took 4 of 7 from the Giants, and they’ll try to continue having that little bit of the edge as they work to get through the 2010 Champs for their own chance at a trophy.
Game 1: Saturday, October 6th, 6:30PM PST, TBS — RHP Johnny Cueto vs. RHP Matt Cain
One sentence summary: Cueto’s one of the year’s best, but his last two starts on that came on 5 days rest saw only 8.1 IP, 18 H, 10 ER, 8 K’s combined, while Matt Cain was just fine in his last start where he got 4 days of rest, thank you very much — this Game 1 should be a good one.
Game 2: Sunday, October 7th, 6:30PM PST, TBS — RHP Bronson Arroyo vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner
One sentence summary: In the last four Arroyo starts the story is not Arroyo’s pitching, but the average of one run of run support provided by his team, and for Bumgarner the last two opponents he has shut out were the Dodgers, and the Reds when he CG SHO’d them, but that was in late June.
Game 3: Tuesday, October 9th, 2:30PM PST, TBS — I’m guessing RHP Tim Lincecum vs. RHP Mat Latos
One sentence summary: Latos in his last 3 starts (20 IP, 13 H, 14 K’s, 2 BB, 2 ER) has been pretty sharp, and that could be a problem as he goes for revenge against old division rival… who could be any one of Lincecum/Zito/Vogelsong.
Game 4 (if necessary): Wednesday, October 10th, Time TBD, TBS — I’m guessing LHP Barry Zito vs. RHP Homer Bailey
One sentence summary: If the name “Homer Bailey” sounds familiar, it should, because he just threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh and hasn’t seen an earned run cross in one of his starts since they played LA.
Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, October 11th, Time TBD, TBS — RHP Matt Cain vs. RHP Johnny Cueto
The Playoff Bats Are Loaded
The Reds and Giants both clinched their division on September 22nd, so their pitchers and bats have had plenty of time to rest and turn it down a notch, so I beefed up my small sample size from the normal “past seven games” to “past fourteen games” to give an idea of the work that’s been put in since around the time the clinch happened.
You may have heard Joey Votto had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus on July 17th, and while he did return on September 5th, he has not homered since June 24th. But don’t be fooled by his lack of four-baggers as he’s still proving productive (.410 wOBA L14, .436 wOBA overall) in the Reds lineup, and finished 1st overall in the NL in OBP. Had he stayed healthy, I imagine he would’ve been in the MVP discussion. Xavier Paul has also proved useful of late for the Reds (.386 wOBA L14, .364 wOBA overall), but he’s typically an extra OF so you might not see him regularly tending the grass out in AT&T and GABP. Drew Stubbs (.128, .278), Ryan Hanigan (.168, .304), and ROY candidate Todd Frazier (.174, .352) have all been underperforming of late. The Reds have seven guys with double digit homer counts and they are: Jay Bruce (34), Ryan Ludwick (26), Todd Frazier (19), Brandon Phillips (18), Zack Cozart (15), Drew Stubbs (14), and Joey Votto (14). Drew Stubbs (30) and Brandon Phillips (15) are the only guys the Reds have with double digit SB.
You’ve come to know the Giants pretty well after 162 games with them, so you know where the power and the speed can come from. Of late, the most productive guy over the past two weeks has been by wOBA…. Hector Sanchez (.448) in 25 PA. I know. He probably gets a start behind the plate for Game 3 or Game 4 with Posey at 1B. Other Giants of over .400 wOBA in the last 14 are Marco Scuatro (.439, .328 wOBA overall), Buster Posey (.425, .404), Pablo Sandoval (.413, .336), and Brandon Belt (.403, .342). Nobody’s been as cold as the coldest Reds players have been for the Giants, but guys that could get a start that have been underproductive are Gregor Blanco (.239, .309), Brandon Crawford (.254, .279), and Hunter Pence (.257, .322). While the Reds are beefy with power, the Giants are not defined by the long ball. Buster Posey (24), Hunter Pence (24), and Pablo Sandoval (12) are the only guys on the active roster with double digit dingers. The Giants can run a little bit, as evidenced by four guys having double digit steals like Angel Pagan (29), Gregor Blanco (26), Ryan Theriot (13), and Brandon Belt (12).
I expect this to be a series that will really test the Giants confidence in their own abilities as this set of games with shift back and forth, ultimately with the Giants coming out on top.
Game 1: Giants win (Cain bests Cueto in pitcher’s duel that gets the nation’s attention)
Game 2: Giants win (Arroyo sees little run support still, MadBum rolls)
Game 3: Reds win (Lincecum hangs too many, gets overpowered by Reds)
Game 4: Reds win (Zito and Vogelsong can’t hold down Reds in high scoring affair)
Game 5: Giants win (Giants solve Cueto while Cain keeps the Reds in the park)
Two division leaders square off at AT&T Park this weekend, and while this may be surprising to hear, the Reds as a team overall (41-33) are good, but not great. They are however, led by some great players. While the pitching matchups outside of the Thursday may not be anything to get all that up about, even in the first half of the season it wouldn’t be out of hand to say this could be a potential playoff preview where both teams will be paying very close attention to each other.
Thursday, June 28th: RHP Johnny Cueto vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner
One sentence summary: Well that wasn’t nice of these teams to make the best game of the series on paper the first one.
Friday, June 29th: RHP Mike Leake vs. RHP Matt Cain
One sentence summary: Leake has the highest LD% (28.6) on the staff, which explains his high tERA, and would explain why the Giants might score more than their usual output by a little bit against him.
Saturday, June 30th: RHP Mat Latos vs. LHP Barry Zito
One sentence summary: I’ll be at this game, and of the 3 games I’ve gone to, the home team has won every time.
Sunday, July 1st: RHP Bronson Arroyo vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong
One question summary: How the heck did Bronson Arroyo almost get a no hitter in his last start?
Small Sample Sizes (Last 7 Games) and Overall Numbers
Joey Votto with his 14 HR, 1.121 OPS, and .463 wOBA is something to be scared of, but his teammates around him are helping out, which is important when your starting pitchers are used to spinning around after a pitch and watching the ball land in the bleachers. Ryan Ludwick (.483 wOBA, 2 HR, .183 BABIP in L7; .339 wOBA overall) is that player that always seems to be around ready to pounce, as he got those 2 dingers in their last game. Scott Rolen (.432 wOBA, 35.3% K% L7; .260 wOBA overall) is doing his best to contribute, as are guys with double digit homers on the season like Jay Bruce (.354 wOBA overall), Brandon Phillips (.340), in addition to Ludwick, and Votto.
Meanwhile, the only double digit HR guy on the Giants is Buster Posey, who is All Star hot at the moment (40% LD%, 2 HR, .579 wOBA, 0% K% L7; .367 wOBA overall). Brandon Belt still is one of the wOBA leaders in the last 7 at .404, but the Dodgers cooled him off a bit, getting on base only one time in nine chances in the series. Remember how Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco were really dragging the team down going into the rivalry series? Well, they’re t-3rd in L7 wOBA at .325 which is right around what they’ve been doing this season (Pagan .336 overall, Blanco .334).
Lucky for us (I think), the games won’t be measured in home runs hit, because the Reds are bound to take a couple deep at least in their four games at AT&T, and even though the Reds starters between them have given up 19 on the road, you don’t go into these games expecting big orange bombs as a team with only 4 more big flies than they have wins (47-43).
Thursday: Reds win (Cueto’s pretty good; MadBum gets Cain’d)
Friday: Giants win (Matt Cain is better than you)
Saturday: Giants win (Mat Latos hates San Francisco)
Sunday: Giants win (Bronson ArroyLOL and his kitchen sink repertoire)
At the end of the weekend, if the Giants even split the series, it’s hard to imagine them not having sole possession of first in the NL West. We shall see though, and your friendly reminder that we’re not even halfway through the season.
Other teams did stuff today, but no one cares about them. The Giants are the only thing that matters. Word.