Posted on: November 7, 2011 6:56 pm
Late spring, two years ago, manager Bruce Bochy told me that Jonathan Sanchez was going to be one very important key to San Francisco's season. And as the Giants went on to win the 2010 World Series, he was.
But as the Giants regressed in 2011, so did the frustratingly enigmatic Sanchez. Straight to the point where the Giants finally threw up their hands and shipped him to Kansas City on Monday for outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Difference between the Giants 2010 World Series run and failing to make the playoffs in 2011?
Try 127 runs ... or .78 runs per game.
Only Seattle crossed the plate fewer times than the Giants in 2011.
They have to score more and, in dealing Sanchez, what they've decided is that the only way to boost that offense is to deal from their source of strength, pitching.
It is a key decision for this reason: They do not have much money to spend this winter.
Failing some financial miracle, such as trading Barry Zito, sources familiar with the Giants winter plans say that they do not have the resources to chase Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins on the free agent market. They very well may not have enough to re-sign free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.
As such, general manager Brian Sabean worked to strike quickly, adding to his lineup before some of the affordable bats were taken from the market.
In Cabrera, the Giants acquired a center fielder who likes the big stage, played well with the Yankees and hit .305 with 44 doubles, 18 homers and 87 RBI for the Royals last summer. Just 27, Cabrera also scored 102 runs for the Royals.
He is a smart, quick upgrade for the Giants.
Sanchez will turn 29 in two weeks, has a no-hitter on his resume and compiled a disappointing 4.26 ERA while going 4-7 with the Giants last summer. He missed the final month-and-a-half with a left ankle sprain.
Meantime, the Giants wasted Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and even Ryan Vogelsong, pitching that should have been good enough to take aim at a second consecutive World Series berth instead of winter tee times.
What they ultimately decided with Sanchez sidelined was that he was the most expendable -- or undependable, take your pick, they're probably one and the same -- of their starters.
If there is to be no Reyes or Rollins in the near future, acquiring Cabrera looks an awful lot like what Sabean did two years ago in building the '10 World Series winner: Supplement top-shelf pitching with the right mix of position players to squeeze enough runs across the plate to win more often than not.
It worked in 2010 because the Giants found that mix with players like Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, and then they got hot just at the right time.
They never did get hot in 2011. If they are to recapture that formula in 2012, Cabrera, a healthy Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and a bounce-back year from Huff will be among the key pieces.
Barring some found money, they have to be.
Posted on: May 13, 2011 1:03 pm
Well, that sure went pffft in a hurry at the Big A.
Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum on May 11: "Kendrys worked as hard as any athlete I've ever worked with in coming back from a devastating injury, and he hasn't been able to do it."
So, to review how this week has gone for the Angels: Morales to the surgeon's table (again), and Vernon Wells to the disabled list (groin). Groan, and grin. What are you going to do? Especially with a big weekend series coming up in Texas.
After Wells left in the fourth inning Monday, Kendrick started each of the next two games in left field.
Total major-league time in the outfield for Kendrick since 2006 until now: Two-thirds of an inning, in center field, last year. Mostly, Kendrick has played second base for the Angels, with some first base mixed in.
"There's no question he can move around," Scioscia says. "Howie's a terrific athlete. He has the speed to play center field. Outfield is a great option for a guy with his athleticism."
The overriding factor is that the Angels want to make sure Kendrick's bat stays in the lineup. He's hitting .320 through the first 38 games, with a .381 on-base percentage. Torii Hunter has been predicting for years that Kendrick one day will win a batting title. Until now, nobody ever figured it could be as an outfielder.
But while Morales is out for the season, the Angels do not expect Wells to be out much more than a couple of weeks. So don't get any ideas about Kendrick permanently moving to the outfield.
"We're doing this purely on a need basis," Scioscia says. "He shags balls, he's fine tracking the ball, he runs good routes ... I don't think it's too far removed to ask a player to do what he's doing."
-- Kendrick's move is a little like that of the Twins' Michael Cuddyer in reverse. When Orlando Hudson went down last year, manager Ron Gardenhire for a time moved Cuddyer, a former high school shortstop, from right field to second base.
-- Three key young players playing unexpected pivotal roles for the Angels each was drafted under Eddie Bane, who was fired as the Angels' director of scouting last fall: Pitcher Tyler Chatwood (second round, 2008), first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo (18th round, 2004) and catcher Hank Conger (first round, 2006). Also chosen under Bane: Mike Trout, currently at Double-A Arkansas and listed by Baseball America as the game's second-best prospect. Just sayin'.
-- Talk to me about that Giants' pitching: Look who's back in first place in the NL West following a picture-perfect homestand in which they swept division rivals Colorado (three games) and Arizona (three more). And as is always the case with San Francisco, the prime reasons for the surge are cats named Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, etc. In making their move this week, the Giants, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first team in major league history to sweep a homestand of six-or-more games without scoring more than four runs in any game.
-- Most stunning statistic of the year: Tampa Bay through midweek had the best bullpen in the American League based on its league-leading 2.71 ERA (fourth-best in the majors). For a team that was forced to replace seven of its top eighth relievers from 2010 over the winter (based on innings pitched), you sure couldn't tell.
-- The flip side of that preceding Rays' bullpen statistic, though, is this: As it so often is with good bullpens, no small part of the Rays' success can be attributed to a knockout rotation that works deep into games and does not overtax the relievers. While the Rays' bullpen ERA is the AL's best, their 93 innings pitched are the fewest of any big league bullpen.
-- A few more things on this crazy White Sox six-man rotation: Pitching coach Don Cooper and manager Ozzie Guillen have instructed the four starters not named Mark Buehrle or Jake Peavy -- that would be John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson and Phil Humber -- to be prepared to work out of the bullpen, if needed, on the second and third days after their starts. "We don't want to use them, and we'll try not to use them," Cooper says.
-- Another benefit, from the Sox's view, of the six-man rotation: "If one of them is at seven innings and 95 pitches, he can go back out there because he'll have an extra day [before his next start]," Cooper says. The pitching coach also has delivered a pre-emptive strike against any moaning by someone claiming to be thrown off rhythm after a loss: He's told each of his starters that "the only people who have a right to be thrown out of whack by this are the opposing hitters, not us."
-- One side benefit of Jake Peavy's last minor-league rehab start for Triple-A Charlotte, at Toledo, last week: He was able to share a beer and catch up with ex-teammate Phil Nevin following the game. Nevin is managing the Mud Hens.
-- Cool promotion of the year: Farmer John, which makes Dodger Dogs, is donating 30,000 pounds of food to local food banks on the heels of Andre Ethier's 30-game hitting streak. Farmer John already is donating 1,000 pounds of food for every Ethier homer this year.
-- News that Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew has entered hospice care and is in the final days of his treatment for cancer is a blow. Killebrew is one of the game's true gentlemen, just a prince of a man who means so much to the Twins family. Prayers for him and family on this incredibly sad weekend.
Likes: The Orioles continue to show grit under manager Buck Showalter. Thursday night's win over Seattle was a terrific game, scoreless into the 12th, and it was one the old Orioles would have lost when the Mariners scored in the top of the 12th. ... Who is this Carlos Beltran man who slugged three homers the other day? ... SiriusXM radio and the MLB package. So cool to be able to listen to every game and each team's broadcasting crew. ... Steve Earle on Treme last week. ... The Cars on tour beginning Thursday night in Los Angeles. What the heck, as long as Ric Ocasek is along for the ride. ...
Dislikes: Ernie Harwell, Sparky Anderson, and now Harmon Killebrew says he is in his final days. We've lost some really special people over the past year, some all-time nice guys.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"As time wore on you proved
-- The Decemberists, The Mariner's Revenge Song
Posted on: April 8, 2011 12:36 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 12:52 pm
The season following their 2005 World Series triumph, the pitching-strong White Sox were flat.
The season following his World Series MVP appearance, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels was flat.
There's no question that an extra month's pitching in October, with intense pressure riding on every pitch, sometimes grinds down even the best rotations.
And as the world champion Giants head toward their home opener Friday following a tough (2-3) opening trip, they're determined that their most precious asset -- their starting pitching -- will remain their strength.
Tim Lincecum, with a second consecutive impressive start in Wednesday's 8-4 pummeling of the Padres (13 strikeouts and no walks over seven innings), already is strong out of the gate. As for the overall rotation, while the Giants aren't taking any drastic measures, they've been subtly watching things all spring.
"We didn't push [the starters] once the games started in terms of pitch count," Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti said. "We kept it to a minimum."
Specifically, Righetti said, the Giants monitored their pitchers when runners were on base this spring and throwing from a stretch was required. They also kept Lincecum to 22 2/3 spring innings and Jonathan Sanchez to 20. Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito each worked 27 1/3, while Matt Cain, who was slowed by a sore elbow early in camp, worked just 13 1/3 Cactus League innings.
"We're all in the business. We've been in it our whole life," Righetti said. "We understand that pitching that extra month is a grind. The effects, when the effects are going to happen, we'll see. You can't avoid it."
One thing the Giants are doing now is to stay on a five-man rotation in the early part of the season even with five days off within the season's first 31 days. Instead of skipping the No. 5 starter -- Bumgarner in this case -- San Francisco is opting for an extra day's rest for Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and Zito.
Plus, there might be another benefit to that later, too.
"If there are any effects, you'll see it toward the end of the year, not now," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We'll keep a watchful eye.
"That's one reason we put Bumgarner in the fifth spot. We felt if we needed to give him a break, it would be easier to do from there.
"We'll monitor where we're at during the season, and who may need a break."
Though they are heading into the unknown this season in that they've never defended a World Series title since moving to San Francisco in 1958, the one thing the Giants hope they are certain of is how to handle pitching.
"Arms are precious," Righetti said. "You've got to watch every practice, every day. That doesn't change."
Likes: The Pirates donating leftover food from concession stands to local shelters and soup kitchens to feed the hungry. Best idea of the season, and I hope other teams follow. ... Day baseball in April. ... Home openers. ... If you're not checking out our Eye on Baseball blog several times a day, you're missing out. ... The Lincoln Lawyer. Very enjoyable flick.
Dislikes: Tough break for the Twins, losing second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioki to a fractured left fibula.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"You can't have any pudding
-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall
Posted on: October 25, 2010 10:33 pm
Moving away from Philadelphia's left-heavy lineup, Bochy is slotting the right-handed Cain in for the Game 2 start, with Sanchez starting Game 3 in Texas.
The Giants lined up with Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez against Atlanta in the Division Series. But in the NL Championship Series, they went Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain and rookie Madison Bumgarner. Bochy wanted the lefty Sanchez to pitch Game 2, partly to break up his righties and lefties in the rotation and partly so that Cain, a fly ball pitcher, would not be exposed to the home-run trap that can be Citizens Bank Park.
Like Philadelphia's park, the Ballpark in Arlington is notoriously friendly to hitters who launch fly balls, and that probably factored in to the Giants' thinking. One reason Bochy voiced: Cain last started before Sanchez, back on Oct. 19, and he wants to get the big right-hander back on the mound.
"We'll start it out with Timmy against Cliff, and then we'll go to the next game," the mellow righty said.
As for pushing Sanchez back, it's got nothing to do with the lefty's rough (two-innings-plus) start in Philadelphia in Game 6.
"The guy had a hiccup," Bochy said. "We're here because of what Jonathan Sanchez did down the stretch. He had an off night. It's going to happen."
"It doesn't matter," Sanchez said of when he pitches. "You're just going to pitch one game. I've just got to throw a bullpen when I have to."
The way things set up now, Sanchez could pitch Games 3 and 7, but he said he hasn't thought about that.
"We'll see what happens," Sanchez said.
As for Lincecum, as he made adjustments following his rough August, he mostly stopped throwing between-starts bullpen sessions. Of his three-batter relief outing in Game 6 of the NLCS, Lincecum said he did not -- and will not -- do any extra bullpen work.
So the relief appearance serves as his between-starts bullpen session?
"I suppose," he said.
Posted on: October 24, 2010 2:40 am
Truth is, Sanchez had no more idea of where his fastball was going than he did of what a gallon of gas will cost next Thursday. But there is no question that the San Francisco Giants were a different team following the benches-clearing incident in their 3-2 Game 6 NL Championship Series clincher here on Saturday night.
After Sanchez hit Utley, the second baseman reflexively picked up the baseball and tossed it in Sanchez's direction en route to first base. The lefty did not appreciate the gesture, and Sanchez hollered as much at Utley. Which is when the benches cleared. (The umpires, by the way, did an excellent job of keeping things under control without issuing any ejections).
As the champagne sprayed in the Giants' clubhouse after, Sanchez refused to say what he hollered at Utley.
"I'm not going to say nothing about that," Sanchez said.
As for Utley tossing the baseball toward him, Sanchez had plenty to say about that.
"You can't do that," Sanchez said. "Take your base. He tossed the ball back to me. If you're a professional, you don't do that."
It was the third time Utley was hit by a Sanchez pitch in 20 plate appearances during his career. The two have had one previous set-to. During a game in July, 2009, Sanchez threw a fastball near Utley's head, after which the second baseman took a step toward the mound and glared at the pitcher. Later in the same at-bat, Utley called for time late, stepping out of the batter's box just before Sanchez delivered a pitch. On the next pitch, Utley smashed a homer.
Still, Sanchez said, none of that has anything to do with what happened Saturday night.
"I was trying to throw strikes with my fastball and I couldn't get anything over the plate," he sdaid.
While pitching coach Dave Righetti said Sanchez had some of his best stuff of the year during pre-game warm-ups, it disappeared by the time the first inning started. Sanchez was removed two batters into the third, after a walk and then hitting Utley in the upper back with a pitch.
His line: Two innings plus, three hits and two earned runs. He had as many wild pitches and hit batters each as strikeouts (one). He walked two.
"I didn't have it," he said. "I didn't have my best stuff."
It's not as if he didn't contribute, though. Closer Brian Wilson agreed with third-base coach Tim Flannery's assessment that the benches-clearing incident sparked the Giants.
"I'll tell you what," Wilson said. "It certainly lit a fire. I'm glad it happened. You realize what was at stake.
"At that point we were losing [actually tied 2-2] and you're looking for any reason to wake up."
Posted on: October 2, 2010 9:42 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- As if Sunday's series finale here wasn't dramatic enough, the two starting pitchers are guys who have been involved in controversy during the Giants-Padres skirmishes this season.
The Giants wound up losing two of three in San Francisco this weekend. The losing pitcher in the Friday game? Sanchez.
Meanwhile, right-hander Mat Latos, San Diego's struggling ace, gets the ball in Sunday's regular season finale and surely will be a target of another sellout crowd. The San Francisco media seized upon one of Latos' comments to CBSSports.com following Tuesday's frustrating loss to the Cubs, and it's caused quite a stir in the area.
After losing to the Cubs as the Giants took first place in the NL West, Latos said that, "Baseball works in funny ways. The only way I could honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with 'San Francisco Giants' across their jerseys. We didn't. We added two guys [Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick]. We've been the same team all year. We haven't just gone and grabbed guys from other teams."
Since the season started, the Giants have added Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Mike Fontenot, Cody Ross and relievers Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez. Ross earlier this week called Latos' comments "asinine."
Latos, 22, is 14-9 with a 2.92 ERA, including a 2-1 mark and a 2.25 ERAS in five games started against the Giants this season.
But over his past four starts, Latos has a 10.13 ERA and has not made it out of the sixth inning.
"He has to be calm," Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "He has to be calm and relaxed, let his talent take over. He can't let his emotions get in the way of his talent.
"He lets his emotions get to him and then he starts throwing the ball instead of making his pitches. The biggest thing will be keeping his composure."
Sanchez, 27, is 12-9 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 starts this season, and his history with San Diego is an interesting one.
He no-hit the Padres in July, 2009. He also was on the losing end of a 1-0 decision in San Diego in April during which he held the Padres to just one hit over seven innings.
"Jonathan's done a great job for us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We need him to go out and give us a chance."
Posted on: May 18, 2010 7:00 pm
As two pitching phenoms, San Diego's Mat Latos and San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez, prepare to tee it up later tonight in the Padres' Petco Park, a few numbers regarding what might be the oddest season series so far in all of baseball:
-- The Padres, first in the NL West, are 7-0 against the second-place Giants. The Giants have not held one lead -- not one! -- in any game so far and have not scored more than two runs in any game against the Padres.
-- The Giants' 0-7 run ties for the second-longest losing streak against an opponent to begin a season in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1977 Giants started 0-8 against the Chicago Cubs. After that, four other Giants' teams have started 0-7 vs. an opponent: 1933 (when the Giants were in New York, against St. Louis), 1980 (against the Dodgers), 1995 (Braves) and 2003 (Expos).
-- The Giants have mustered only 10 total runs in the seven games.
-- The Padres have outscored the Giants 21-9.
-- San Francisco is hitting just .197 against Padres pitching this year and averaging 1.3 runs per game.
-- Giants pitchers have held San Diego batters to a .229 average yet are 0-7.
-- The Giants are 21-9 against everybody they've played NOT wearing a San Diego uniform this year.
-- Remove their games against the Giants, and the Padres are 16-15 against everybody else.
-- With runners in scoring position in the seven games against San Diego, the Giants are hitting .096 (5 for 52).
-- With runners in scoring position in the seven games against the Giants, Padres batters are hitting just .182 (10 for 55).
-- Talk about the epitome of frustration: Sanchez is 0-2 against the Padres this season despite holding them to just two earned runs and four hits in 15 innings.
-- Entering Tuesday's start, Sanchez ranks fourth in the NL in worst run support, with the Giants scoring an average of 2.45 runs when he's on the mound (Houston's Felipe Paulino and Roy Oswalt ranks 1-2, with St. Louis' Brad Penny third).
-- The Giants have lost 11 of their past 13 games in Petco Park.
Likes: Carlos Zambrano. Bless his little Cubbie heart for at least trying to help the team and do what has been asked of him. ... That the Dodgers have won seven in a row entering Tuesday night's game without injured shortstop Rafael Furcal and without Andre Ethier for the past three games should make NL West opponents really nervous. ... I'm officially changing my mind. I've eased up and now find that in the right frame of mind, White Sox television broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson can be enjoyable. I will not change my opinion of Yankees' radio voice John Sterling, however. If evil folks are forced to listen to a play-by-play man as they burn in eternal flames, I'm sure it will be Sterling to whom they're listening.
Dislikes: How are we going to get through Tuesday night with no Stephen Strasburg updates? Alas, his Triple-A start in Rochester was rained out. Hang with 'em for another day. ... By the way, do yourself a favor and don't even rent Pirate Radio. I was looking forward to that flick last summer, or whenever it was in the theaters, but was scared off by reviews. Turns out, the negative reviews were so dead on it's not even worth renting. Great idea for a movie, and very, very poorly executed. And what a waste of good actors like Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
-- Bob Marley, Redemption Song
Posted on: July 11, 2009 2:02 am
Edited on: July 11, 2009 3:13 am
San Francisco has two legitimate candidates to start Tuesday's All-Star Game in National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Giants have another starter with five Cy Youngs who has thrown one no-hitter and one perfect game in Randy Johnson. And they have a fourth starter with a Cy Young award in Barry Zito.
Yet it was a little known, unheralded underachiever who turned up the heat on the meat-less San Diego Padres on a cool Friday night by the Bay and fired the Giants' first no-hitter since John "The Count" Montefusco in 1976.
Jonathan Sanchez has no such stylish nickname, and he had been bumped from the rotation three weeks ago because he was so ineffective. He had never thrown a complete game in the majors. He had won only two games for the Giants this season, and none since May 25.
Yet for one incredible evening, in an 8-0 triumph, he was as dominant as any of his bigger-named rotation mates has been.
For one incredible evening, he threw the same magic as Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, each of whom also produced no-hitters as a Giant.
Now, maybe this is what propels Sanchez to the dizzying heights the Giants have long thought he could attain. And if it does, that should be one scary thought for opponents scheduled to face a team already rich in pitching.
Until now, Sanchez, 26, mostly was one of those names that kept popping up in trade rumors. It happened endlessly last winter.
But Giants general manager Brian Sabean was adamantly against the idea of dealing the rough-around-the-edges left-hander, even though it was clear that what the Giants needed to do was figure out a way to score more runs and maybe Sanchez could have been a chip to help them add those pieces.
But they can pitch with the best of them, and this is why the Giants have a real chance to become the surprise team of 2009.
One night after Lincecum carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Sanchez finished the job against the Padres.
He was 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA when he threw his first pitch to rookie Everth Cabrera, just another arm with a lot to learn. He had 68 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings, but he also had walked 46 and had major difficulty with opponents after the first two times through the order.
Just 109 pitches later, maybe Sanchez sees things now that he didn't before. Granted, the Padres aren't very good -- especially this lineup, with David Eckstein and Brian Giles on the disabled list -- but they still run All-Star Adrian Gonzalez out there.
Sanchez worked his fastball early, got ahead of hitters, and used his curve beautifully. On this night, he didn't struggle with his control. He hit his spots. And he gave the Giants a preview of what could be.
Going into this season, Sabean said he couldn't imagine trading Sanchez because the Puerto Rico native was bigger and stronger.
Four months later, Sanchez remains a work in progress.
But he's never looked bigger, or stronger.
The Giants look pretty good themselves right now, too.