San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres

I had the most magical dream. It involved Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence and there was a no-hitter and Buster and Timmy actually weren’t fighting anymore, and the Giants scored 24 runs in a four-game series and that is how I know it never actually happened.

The Week That Was

Oakland Athletics – 4-2  (Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds as of July 16: 84%)

Much like the 2013 Athletics, this shouldn’t be possible, and yet it is.

Oakland went 4-2 last week, taking series from both the Pirates the Red Sox exactly as I predicted in these very pages. I must be some kind of genius, no? No? OK, fair enough.

At the All-Star break (which is totally arbitrary, by the way, and much later this year than in years past, so don’t put any stock in articles that point to it as some kind of demarcation, including this one), the A’s are two games up on the second-place Rangers, who are still playing well. The Angels have dropped 11 games back, however, and are looking not unlike toast at this point.

Grant Green was called up last week to try and add some offensive kick to Oakland’s middle infield and is 0-for-9 in his three starts and has also committed two errors. Adam Rosales isn’t looking so terrible now, is he? (No, he actually still is.)

Meanwhile in All-Star Game news, Grant Balfour was finally added to the roster, as we all knew he would be, and Yoenis Cespedes accepted Robinson Cano’s invitation to play in the Home Run Derby. I have no idea how he did, though, because I’m a grown man and have absolutely zero interest in watching the HRD or hear Chris Berman strain his pancreas yelling “BACKBACKBACKBACK” and making terrible puns. (JK, Yoenis totally won it and stuff!)

San Francisco Giants – 3-3  (Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds as of 7/16: 6.1%)

Tim Lincecum did what now???

Had Tim Lincecum thrown a no-no in 2008 or 2009, we all would’ve gone “Oh yeah, of course,” because hh had some of the best stuff in the game. But Lincecum has been a below-average pitcher last season and this season (his current ERA+ is 79; last year it was 68), and his total domination of the Padres came as something of a surprise (except that it was against the Padres). He did allow six baserunners — four by way of the walk and two hit batsmen — but thanks to some snazzy defense by Hunter Pence (among others) Lincecum didn’t allow a hit.  The Giants managed to take three of four from the punchless and Pads and keep San Diego in the cellar.

Of course the Giants were coming off a series in which they were swept by the Mets. The Mets, the long-standing laughing stock of the NL (a title they share with the Cubs). I mean come on.

The Leader In The Clubhouse

The Giants! Does Oakland have a Jeff Francoeur? No, I didn’t think so. Therefore the Giants win handily.

Never mind that the Giants are six-and-a-half games out and the A’s are leading their division. The Giants won a huge moral victory when they picked up Frenchy. Plus the no-hitter and the ballpark and the two recent World Series titles and boom, Giants. Sorry, everyone. It’s science.

Line Score Of The Week

OAK

  • Josh Donaldson, July 14 vs. the Red Sox: Tied the game in the 7th with a 2-run bomb off of Brandon Workman, then won it in the 11th with a walk-off RBI single. His Win Probability Added for the game: .728. Seven-twenty-eight!!
  • Runner-up: A.J. Griffin, July 13 vs. the Red Sox: 8IP, 6H, 0R, 1BB, 3K. Game Score: 72. A.J. Griffin and his magnificent hair baffled Red Sox hitters for eight innings, scattering six hits and allowing just one extra-base hit. But A.J. and his hair were overshadowed by another pretty good pitching performance taking place a few hours south in San Diego.

SF

  • Tim Lincecum, July 13 vs. the Padres: 9IP, 0H, 0R, 4BB, 13K. Game Score: 96. Lincecum threw 148 pitches in his no-hitter; I wonder if that would have happened in ‘08 or ‘09 as opposed to his contract walk year. What does Bruce Bochy care if Timmy’s arm falls off next year?
  • Runner-up: Barry Zito, July 14 vs. the Padres: 2IP, 4H, 4R, 2BB, 0K. Game score: 30. On the heels of Timmy’s no-no comes this Zito turd. His ERA+ this season in 69, which would be the second-worst mark of his career after 2011. Meanwhile Chad Gaudin, the journeyman reliever who has been forced into the rotation due to injuries and attrition, has put up an ERA+ of 141 and is making $750,000 compared to Zito’s $20 million.

AL & NL West Standings Update

SFG: 43-51. Still in 4th place. Playoff odds incrementally worse, but no substantive change. Again, only 6.5 back, but would have to pass up three teams to win the West. What about the Wild Card, you ask? The Giants are in 7th place there, and they trail the Reds by 9.5 games. You can make up 10 games over nearly half a season, sure, but can you pass up five or six other teams?  And if they’re out of it, does San Francisco become sellers at the trade deadline? Do you move Lincecum to a contender? Will his trade value ever be higher than it is right now?

OAK: 52-42. At this point I’ll be kind of shocked if the A’s don’t win the AL West. It seems like it’s written in the stars. (That 2011 playoffs song is now lodged in your head; you’re welcome.)

Headline Of The Week

Lincecum’s no-hitter gives Giants new hope, by Paul Gackle

Tim Lincecum says he doesn’t want to be traded and he bought himself an insurance package by pitching a no-hitter in San Diego on Saturday.

Is an insurance package similar to an insurance policy? Asking for a friend.

With the 148-pitch, 13-strikeout performance, Lincecum is now posting a 3.16 ERA and averaging a hair less than 10 Ks per nine innings over his past eight starts, re-raising the question: is Timmy back?

Arbitrary endpoints, tortured sentence construction, and weird rhetorical questions: is they the perfect pair?

The no-no worked in Lincecum’s favor in two ways: it showed that he can still be a dominant starting pitcher while giving the Giants enough of a heartbeat to keep the team in the race heading into the second half.

Sure, whatever.

Baseball is a humbling sport and writing about it can be equally humbling. But judging by your emails, tweets and calls into talk radio last week, I wasn’t alone when I declared the Giants’ season to be dead after a 7-2 shellacking at the hands of the woeful New York Mets on Wednesday.

Wait, what? Oh, perhaps the writer is referring to this column he wrote last week, wherein he deemed the Giants season over and called on them to sell off what assets they have, including Lincecum. The thing is, while it may look a little silly in light of Lincecum’s no-hitter, he was right. Stick to your guns, man! Also, don’t interject oblique comments about yourself into the middle of a story. It’s jarring, and also no one cares.

At 40-50, a second-half surge up the NL West standings seemed highly unlikely and Lincecum looked like fodder for a deadline deal, unlikely to re-sign with the club when he becomes a free agent in the offseason. In baseball, a lot can change in four days, though.

Sure, except nothing’s really changed. They took three of four from San Diego and their playoff odds went down.

The Giants picked up three straight wins against the Padres and the image of Buster Posey lifting up Lincecum with a bear hug after the final out on Saturday brought back memories of the triumph in Detroit in the World Series eight months earlier. The euphoric celebration, the joyful smiles, the buzz in the dugout slayed the despair that seemed to infect the club and its fan base over the course of a horrid 17-35 stretch.

“Does anyone know if I can expense this thesaurus?”

Despite Sunday’s hangover loss to the Padres, the Giants (43-51) have a pulse, only 6½ games back with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks coming to AT&T Park for three games starting on Friday. Unless the team loses another string of games right out of the gates, the Freak is sure to be wearing orange and black for the remainder of the season.

They’re six and a half back, but have three teams in front of ‘em. Not gonna happen. Also, while I agree that it’s likely that Lincecum will remain a Giant for the rest of the season, I don’t know how you say he’s sure to stay in orange in black. I mean, none of us knows that.

A month ago, Timmy seemed destined to return to the bullpen once Ryan Vogelsong rejoins the rotation, stamping his plane ticket out of The City. Lincecum wants to be a starter and at least a few teams would be willing to bet that he could regain his stuff with a change of scenery in free agency.

You also can’t really say that. Or at least you shouldn’t. Lincecum has the third-best ERA among Giants starting pitchers and has the best xFIP. Sure he was effective in relief in a handful of appearances in the 2012 postseason, but again, it’s irresponsible to assume he’s automatically going to go back to the bullpen when Vogelsong returns. That’s wild-ass speculation.

But skipper Bruce Bochy can’t send him out to the ‘pen if he continues to be the Giants’ most reliable starter next to Madison Bumgarner. And what if Lincecum throws well down the stretch? Wouldn’t it create a headache for the front office?

Sure, OK, whatever.

Lincecum’s no-hitter triggered warm memories: the Cy Young awards, the 2010 World Series run, the resurgence of the franchise post-Barry Bonds. Unlike Bonds, Lincecum is the kind of player that fans can snuggle up to; he’s lovable, kind and he plays the game with a boyish passion. Realistically, it will be easier to cut ties with him if his struggles return in the second half.

Someone might be worrying about the PR problem that Lincecum poses, but I seriously doubt that will play a part in whether or not they tender him a contract for 2014 or beyond.

The 15th no-hitter in Giants history ensures that Lincecum will be playing in The City for at least another 68 games. If he makes a comeback in the second half, he might just find a way to save the Giants’ season, too.

At this point I’m actively rooting for Lincecum to be traded just so this guy can be wrong. That’s not petty of me, is it?

Examiner readers, you deserve better. But then again, you’re reading the Examiner, so maybe you don’t.

Quotes Of The Week

SFG

Tim Lincecum, when asked if he made an exception to his no-ice policy after throwing 148 pitches en route to a no-hitter: “Nope, no ice. Not even in the drinks I didn’t have last night.”

OAK

Yoenis Cespedes, after putting one in the upper tank during Monday’s Home Run Derby:

He says more with that bat flip than mere words can convey.

DERP Of The Week

Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics

During the offseason, Jarrod Parker earns extra money by working as a ventriloquist’s dummy.

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres

“Hey Padres, you want this ball? Come out and get it. It’s right here. Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

Fake Facts about the Bay Area Baseball Managers

This week’s Fake Facts™!

Everyone knows that Bruce Bochy’s hats have to be custom-made, but did you know his shoes do too? It’s true! The widest shoe typically available is a EEE, but Charles Brannock never imagined a foot like Bochy’s when he designed his eponymous device. If converted to that scale, Bruce’s foot would be a GGG. One shudders to think what this might mean for other aspects of his anatomy.

Some managers worry that participating in the Home Run Derby can mess up their players’ swings, but not Bob Melvin. First, it’s not like Cespedes doesn’t swing out of his ass every time up anyway. But secondly, Melvin is a devout Calvinist and believes that everything that happens is pre-ordained, including Cespedes’ disappointing second half.

Who Controls The Future

Well, this is silly. Do I really have to write this part this week? OK fine.

I still think the most compelling storyline at this stage is what the Giants do at the trade deadline. There are still two full weeks until the deadline and, as we learned from Paul Gackle above, a lot can happen in baseball in just four days, so imagine what can happen in fourteen days! Like, 10 times more. The Giants haven’t been sellers in a long time, but they might need to rethink that stance in ‘13.

Meanwhile, the A’s don’t have any obvious holes to fill, but might they make a move anyway? Now that Rosales is gone, Chris Young is the only regular player who is below replacement level, but the A’s have a bunch of other outfield options. I suspect they’ll stand pat, but you never know with that Billy Beane guy. He’s crafty!

Mostly I’m just looking forward to home-field advantage for the World Series being determined by a stupid exhibition game tonight. Thanks, Mr. Selig!

Comments (3)

  1. Ugh, that ’11 playoffs song totally IS in my head now.

  2. It’s become a truism – a modern narrative if you will – that if a team is ‘only’ a few games back of the division lead, but has a lot of teams ahead of it, that they’re still very unlikely to pass the teams in front of them and win the division, simply because it has to pass to many other teams. By this argument, the ‘teams to pass’ statistic is somehow more important than ‘games’ back.

    Is there any evidence to back this up? Isn’t it the case that a team that wins, say, 92 games in a season, always has the same likelihood of making the playoffs, regardless of how many teams are in front of it at some arbitrary point?

    Alan Ashby made a good point a year or so ago, when someone was talking about the myth of the importance of winning games in your own division, because you get a two game jump. He pointed out that it’s really just a trick of the light, so to speak. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you beat – you still need to get to 90+ games to be a contender. Of course you’ll have to win frequently against your own division to make 90 wins, but a win against a division rival provides no extra impetus compared to any other team over the course of a season.

    Another way to think of it is that a team that wins 93 games will, ipso-facto, pass most if not all of its division rivals, because it will have beaten the rivals multiple times to win 93 games. A team 10 games back and 2nd in the division surely has exactly the same likelihood and ability to end up winning 93 games as a team 10 games back and last.

    • I feel like adding teams adds variables. If you are behind one team, you win more games than they do, you win the division!

      But if you’re behind by both games and teams, you need to win more games than ALL the competitors. While one team might collapse and fall off the map, the other three might keep winning games at the same clip, leaving your final push for the playoffs short.

      As for the advantage of winning divisional games, it makes it a zero sum game. If I win games against non-division teams, I’m not furthering my cause by adding losses to the teams I’m chasing. That’s how I think about it, anyway.

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