The Great Greg White Debate (That Isn’t So Great, Actually)

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If you missed the big Giants Twitter controversy this afternoon…well, it probably means you had way better things to do than scan social media sites for the latest beat writer battle with Internet trolls. If that’s the case, then I envy you, good sir.

Tomorrow marks the non-tender deadline for MLB teams, meaning that clubs have until tomorrow to dump their arbitration-eligible players if they don’t feel like handing them the rather sizable pay raise that the process inevitably results in. Teams can either non-tender eligible players (which is basically releasing them), or they can offer them salary arbitration, which of course means the two sides propose salary figures for the oncoming season and an arbitrator decides which side wins. These days, when arbitration is offered, the player and the club almost always come to an agreement beforehand simply to avoid the often-acrimonious process. The last time the Giants actually went to arbitration with a player was way back in 2004, when they lost to A.J. Pierzynski.

The Giants have seven such players to make a decision on by tomorrow. They are: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Yusmeiro Petit, Gregor Blanco, Travis Ishikawa, Ryan Vogelsong, and Hector Sanchez. Belt, Crawford, and Petit are unquestionably going to be offered arbitration, and MLB.com’s Chris Haft appears convinced that the Giants won’t let Sanchez go. Vogelsong is highly doubtful and Ishikawa is on the bubble; the Giants could probably non-tender both and try to bring one or both of them back on cheaper deals if they really wanted to.

As for Blanco, who has been a valuable bench player/spot starter for three seasons, you’d think retaining him for a few million dollars would be a no-brainer. Well…here’s what SF Chronicle beat writer Henry Schulman had to say about the situation earlier today:

 

 

This seemingly harmless, speculative comment ignited a mini-shitstorm on Twitter, or at least as much of a shitstorm as talk of a fourth outfielder can possibly evoke. A bunch of fans piled on Schulman for daring to question whether Blanco may not be worth $3.5 million, and it touched off a mildly contentious back-and-forth that provided some decent mid-afternoon entertainment to break up a busy post-Thanksgiving Monday at work.

It got me kind of wondering, though: is there any chance in hell the Giants wouldn’t want to give Blanco the (estimated) $3.5 mil he’d probably command in arbitration? The crux of Schulman’s argument (it was really more of a throwaway exercise in rosterbating than an argument, but whatever) is that the Giants have been good at turning dirt-cheap scrap heap finds into solid role players in recent years, so why not go to that well again? Why pay Blanco a few million bucks when Gregor Blanco v.2 is out there somewhere for the price of a spring training invite? It’s a reasonable enough question to ponder, at least.

I guess the most immediate question is: is Gregor Blanco v.2 actually out there, for free? I’m not so sure. Yes, the Giants got Blanco for basically nothing, but Blanco isn’t “just” a solid bench guy. He’s one of the best fourth outfielders in the major leagues. The fact that the Giants could plug him in as a starter for the stretch run after losing key players in two different years, and still roll to a World Championship not once, but twice, is a testament to that.

There is a segment of the Twitter population (again with the Twitter) that just hates Blanco. I know because the anti-Blanco sentiment floods my Twitter feed during each and every Giants game. That derision probably stems from the fact that he’s basically a .250 hitter (which is generally unsexy to many in the Twitterverse), he doesn’t hit home runs, and he strikes out a little too often for a singles-hitting speed guy.

Of course, Blanco is a good baserunner, he’s a very good fielder at all three outfield positions, and he draws walks. That more than makes up for his inability to hit for a gaudy batting average, especially the part where he can play center field and play it well. The average National League center fielder hit .268/.326/.400 in 2014. Blanco hit .260/.333/.374 in 2014, logging most of his innings in center field while covering for the injured Angel Pagan. He’s not going to blow you away as a starter, but he won’t kill you, and the Giants obviously did just fine with him manning center in the postseason.

Blanco is a practically perfect fourth outfielder, and the Giants likely view him as their practically perfect fourth outfielder in 2015. The fact that he’s been stretched a little bit beyond his ideal role the past three seasons has, I think, underrated him a bit in fans’ eyes. You probably don’t want him logging 500 plate appearances, but every team would kill to have a sub like Blanco who could fill in as a leadoff hitter and defensive replacement and do it as deftly as he can. Since Angel Pagan has become a perennial injury risk and left field right now is an unsolved mystery, Blanco’s versatility becomes that much more important.

Some fans were pointing out to Schulman today that Fangraphs has had Blanco worth as much as $13 million per season over the past three years (here are the figures). I love Blanco as much as anybody, but that simply doesn’t pass the stink test, and Schulman rightfully shot those fans down for it.

What does pass the stink test, however, is the idea that the Giants correctly realize that (roughly) $3.5 million is a small price to pay for a fourth outfielder with Blanco’s ability. A player like Blanco, even if he is a bench player, doesn’t grow on trees. Yes, the Giants are good at turning dog doo doo into diamonds, and have been for a number of years. However, is $3.5 million really such an onerous amount that makes it worth the trouble for the Giants to go gambling on the waiver wire that they can find another player of Blanco’s caliber on the cheap? I really doubt it.

This, uh…this just seems wrong, somehow.

 

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Black Friday Fallout: The Josh Donaldson Trade

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You’ll have to forgive A’s fans for having to be talked off the ledge this morning. The Oakland A’s have a long and (for their fans) frustrating history of trading their young stars just before they hit arbitration. Even if it drives fans crazy, it’s a perfectly sensible strategy for a team on a tight budget like the A’s. When a player still has a few years left under team control while still being paid below market value, his own value as a trade chip will never be higher. Thus, the expected return will be higher. At least, in theory.

As A’s fans can all too readily recount, this happened with Dan Haren and Gio Gonzalez, who enjoyed star seasons before being traded away for prospects (Haren netted the team Carlos Gonzalez, whom the A’s traded a year later for Matt Holliday…oops). Now, it’s happened with Josh Donaldson.

The A’s pulled off a jaw-dropper of a trade yesterday- one nobody saw coming- trading their star third baseman to the Toronto Blue Jays for tatted-up third baseman Brett Lawrie, pitchers Kendall Graveman and Sean Nolin, and 18-year-old shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto. Judging by the reaction on Twitter, A’s fans are now ready to storm Billy Beane’s house with torches and pitchforks.

Donaldson was likely a casualty of the A’s decision to basically go all-in at the trade deadline last summer. The team had to surrender its star shortstop prospect, Addison Russell, in order to acquire Jeff Samardzija. Since the A’s can’t afford to have a huge payroll, they’re in perpetual rebuild mode, and since their efforts to win it all last season ultimately failed, they had no choice but to make sacrifices to rebuild some of their farm system. For Donaldson, the A’s got a shortstop prospect, plus a cheaper third baseman with high upside and some more pitching depth.

Before all of you A’s fans start drinking cocktails made from the stuff under the sink, note that this trade really might not be as bad as you think. First off, we can’t really judge a trade’s merits until at least two (probably three) years down the road. This trade looks nonsensical now, but stuff happens, so two years down the road everybody might be singing its praises. In fact, the trade that brought Donaldson over in the first place (in which the A’s gave up Rich Harden back in 2008) was roundly ripped by A’s fans when it was first reported. Obviously, that one turned out pretty well.

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays

 

 

 

 

Let’s take a look at Brett Lawrie, who is the main chip coming the Oakland’s way in this deal. Lawrie was once regarded as a top-50 prospect two years in a row by Baseball America. He burst upon the major league scene in 2011 when he hit .293/.373/.580 in 43 games, and of course that raised expectations. Ever since then, he has struggled both with inconsistency and injury. Since his outstanding debut, he has slashed .261/.316/.406, disappointing numbers by any measure. He has also missed time due to injury in every season, and he only played in 70 games last year due to an oblique injury.

However, he’s still only 25 years old, and he’s still got a lot of untapped potential. Former NBA writer/analyst John Hollinger used to discuss what he would call the “second draft” for prospects who were failing to live up to their potential. In the NBA (and in baseball, for that matter), every so often you’d get a high draft pick who would struggle initially with the team that had drafted him. Many times, that team would give up on said player after a year or three and trade him.

Sometimes that player would then blossom with the new team, whether due to better coaching or a general change of scenery, making the “second draft” concept a reasonable way to acquire unrealized yet high-upside talent. The Sacramento Kings tried this very thing with Derrick Williams last season, although as of yet it hasn’t really panned out.

I think Lawrie is a great “second draft” candidate because, again, he’ll just be turning 25 and still has loads of talent that just a couple of years ago made him a darling of scouts everywhere. The injuries he’s battled have likely played a big role in some of that unrealized potential. Sometimes it just takes time for a guy to really find his comfort zone. Remember, A’s fans…Josh Donaldson didn’t do a damn thing in the majors until age 26, and didn’t turn into a star until 27. The A’s are gambling that the same will happen with Lawrie, and that’s not a bad gamble.

Also, despite only playing in 70 games in 2014, Lawrie set a career-high with twelve home runs. Extrapolate his 282 plate appearances out to 500 and he’s a 20-homer third baseman. He’s also a solid fielder (his metrics probably overrate him, but still…) and he could potentially slide over to second base if the A’s make a move to acquire another third baseman (there was a rumor floating around that they were considering Chase Headley). If the A’s decide that he can handle second base and he contributes 15-20 homers there, that’s a huge upgrade over Eric Sogard.

I think this trade will work out a lot better than A’s fans currently expect. I’ve always liked Lawrie and, even though the average and power haven’t come yet, he’s traditionally been good at making contact, a commodity that is becoming more and more sought after these days. He’s also a fiery competitor (sometimes too fiery) and I think A’s fans will take to him quickly.

On top of that, the A’s got two pitchers who project to be solid contributors to a major league staff. As the A’s found out last season with all of the injuries, you can never have too much pitching. This trade adds that much more rotation depth and the A’s have a good history of turning randoms into valuable bullpen arms.

From an emotional standpoint, though, this trade definitely sucks. Donaldson was, for good reason, one of the team’s most popular players, and power-hitting, Gold Glove-caliber third basemen don’t exactly grow on trees. It has to be frustrating for a fan base to see their favorite players traded away year after year, however justifiable it may be from a financial standpoint.

When all is said and done, I think this trade will turn out okay for the A’s. However, I don’t blame the A’s fans who are currently venting their frustration after the face of the team became yet another casualty of the franchise’s ongoing cheapness.

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Well, Game Six Sucked…

bacci

A lot of Giants fans were preparing to pop champagne corks last night. I was prepared for some manner of craziness, like a Jarrod Dyson fountain shot to tie the game in the late innings, or Mike Morse legging out an inside-the-park home run. As I wrote yesterday, Game Six of the World Series tends to lend itself to the absurd.

What I wasn’t expecting was one of the most epic beatdowns in World Series history. Being on the receiving end of it is a sobering experience, even for someone who was pounding beer after beer to act as a numbing agent for the effects the carnage on the TV. The game was over by the end of the second inning. Giants fans wanted glory; they got, as Mike Krukow likes to put it, what the bird left on the rock. On the bright side, better to get blasted out of the game early than lose in heartbreaking fashion a la The World Series That Shall Not Be Named.

Throw pre-game analysis out the window for Game Seven. This is all-hands-on-deck, everything-but-the-kitchen sink baseball. If the Giants can find a legal way to chopper in Robb Nen and have him throw a slider to Salvador Perez, you’d damn well believe they’re going to do it. Hell, trot Mo’ne Davis out there. I doubt she could do any worse than Jake Peavy last night.

One thing I will say: I’d rather have Tim Hudson going in a Game Seven than Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie shut down a flat Giants offense in Game Three, but he wasn’t particularly impressive doing it. He didn’t strike anybody out and he gave up a lot of line drives that found gloves. The three-headed Herrera/Davis/Holland monster will be on red alert the second the Giants string a couple of hits together off of Guthrie and the Royals should really only realistically be expecting four good innings out of him.

Likewise, Hudson will be on a short leash tonight. Hudson has a more impressive resume than Guthrie but he hasn’t been very good since the middle of August and the Royals looked like they were seeing his pitches well in Game Three. His pitch-to-contact approach makes me nervous, to say the least, but Guthrie’s general career-long mediocrity would make me nervous if I were a Royals fan, too.

Of course, the X-factor could be Madison Bumgarner, who, unless Twitter is lying to me, is invading the nightmares of every Kansas City Royals hitter on the roster. It’s unclear exactly how long or in exactly what context Bumgarner can go tonight, but if you believe the swarms of froth-mouthed voices on the Internet, he’s guaranteed to enter the game at some point if it’s close. Whether it’s a good idea or not is up in the air. Bumgarner threw 117 pitches just three days ago, so fatigue could be a factor, and there’s always the ever-present injury risk if he’s being stretched too far. I guess flags fly forever in the end, and Bochy would be hard-pressed to give a good explanation for why he didn’t use his best pitcher if the Giants lose the game.

It’s the last game of the season, and the last Giants game of the season. That’ll be good for my nerves, at least. This 2014 Giants team has caused me maybe more dry heaves than any team in recent memory. At least in 2013, they sucked, but they were stress-free. If I’m at work tomorrow online shopping for a new TV with a cast over my hand, you’ll know how Game Seven went.

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Giants on the Brink of Another World Championship

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As the sun rises on October 28th, 2014, the San Francisco Giants find themselves one win away from their third World Championship in five years. From 1958 to 2009, there were no rings by the Bay. Zero. Zip. Nada. Only a line drive dying in Bobby Richardson’s glove, Dusty Baker’s premature surrender of a game ball to Russ Ortiz, and a whole lot of heartbreak.

Those days are long gone. With the chance for a third title, Giants fans have forgotten those decades of postseason ineptitude and are now just plain greedy. Giants fans are quickly usurping the legions of drunk Yankees followers and Red Sox Nation in the quest to become the fan base with the largest and most obnoxious sense of entitlement. And that’s perfectly fine by me.

Coming off of an utterly dominating Game Five start by Madison Bumgarner, the Giants are poised to close out the World Series in Kansas City in Game Six. They’ve got two shots to do it, starting with veteran Jake Peavy going up against rookie Yordano Ventura in a game that the Royals will be playing with all hands on deck.

Before all of you Giants fans start coming down with fake food poisoning symptoms right in time to miss work for the parade in San Francisco, just remember that Game Six is, historically, the game where shit goes down. Many of the most famous World Series games ever were Game Sixes, and many of those games were punctuated by utterly tragic turns of the screw that devastated entire fan bases. Giants fans themselves know all about the psychological damage that a Game Six can bring about.

Coming off of Bumgarner’s instantly-legendary performance in Game Five, the Giants have all of the momentum. However, if you think they’re going to just waltz their way to a celebration on the Kauffman Stadium field, think again. Here is a list of memorable (and crazy) Game Sixes, just from the past 30 years (beginning with the last time the Royals were in the Series, of course).

1985: The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning of Game Six, and three outs would mean a World Championship, their second in four seasons. However, a blown call on a ground ball (thank you, Don Denkinger), a dropped pop up, a single, a wild pitch, and another single gave the Royals a shocking win. They then drubbed the Cardinals 11-0 in Game Seven.

1986: The Red Sox had a two-run lead in the bottom of the tenth inning with two out and nobody on. They were one measly out and, at several points, one measly strike away from their first championship since 1918. Then the baseball gods decided to stick it to the Sawx for yet again. The Mets lined three straight singles to plate a run, then a wild pitch by Bob Stanley tied it, then Mookie Wilson chopped his fateful ground ball toward Bill Buckner and…well, the rest is history.

1987: The Cardinals, yet again, went into Game Six with a 3-2 series lead, this time against the Twins. Once again, they blew it. St. Louis got out to an early 5-2 lead, but with the Metrodome rafters quaking with ear-shattering crowd noise, the Twins came storming back with the help of home runs from Don Baylor and Kent Hrbek. Minnesota then won Game Seven behind the pitching of Frank “Sweet Music” Viola.

1991: This World Series between the Twins and Braves ranks as one of the greatest of all-time, and Game Six ranks as one of the classic games of all-time. With the Twins down in the series and on the brink of elimination at home, Kirby Puckett’s tenth inning home run (highlighted by Jack Buck’s all-time great home run call) capped a see-saw battle and evened the series. It set the stage for the now-legendary Game Seven, in which the Twins prevailed 1-0 behind an iconic ten-inning shutout from Jack Morris.

1993: Mitch Williams, meet Joe Carter. The Phillies looked like they were going to force a winner-take-all game, but Carter sent a fastball into orbit in the bottom of the ninth with two on to end the Series. The home run propelled Williams into a fine career screaming obscenities at Little Leaguers.

2002: The Game We Shall Not Speak Of. Team X held a 5-0 lead over Team Y in the seventh inning of this Game Six. Nine more outs would give Team X their first championship since 1954. Instead, Team Y came storming back to win 6-5, and then went on to win Game Seven, saddling Team X with one of the most embarrassing in-game collapses in World Series history. The following season, the Game Seven losing pitcher for Team X went upside some old man’s head with a golf club, further cementing his eternal exile from the good graces of Gia…I mean, Team X fans forever. Now excuse me, I’m going to go cry into my pillow for two hours.

2011: The Rangers came within one strike of a Game Six victory that would have given them the World Series, but David Freese smacked a double just over Nelson Cruz’s outstretched glove to tie the game for the Cardinals in the bottom of the tenth inning. Freese later homered to win one of the most insane Game Sixes in postseason history. The Cardinals won Game Seven and the series; the Rangers are still waiting for their first championship.

That list doesn’t even include 1975, when Carlton Fisk famously sent one deep into the night to force a Game Seven against the Reds. The point is, weird stuff happens in Game Six. Weird, wild, eerie stuff. If the Giants are going to add trophy number three to the display, they’re going to have to earn it. The Kansas City crowd will be rocking, the game will be crazy, and history tells us that if something odd and potentially devastating happens, it’s going to be in Game Six.

–The Giants will roll tonight with Jake Peavy, who has a bit of a checkered postseason history. Peavy started Game Two and was spotty but mostly effective, eventually taking the loss when Jean Machi and Hunter Strickland allowed his inherited runners to score in an ugly sixth inning. Peavy was lights out after coming over to the Giants at the July trade deadline, but he’s been shaky this October. He hasn’t lasted past the sixth inning in any of his three postseason starts. With a rested Yusmeiro Petit and, potentially, Ryan Vogelsong, that might not be the end of the world. Bruce Bochy will have a quick hook with Peavy tonight if it’s clear early on that he’s not on his game.

The Royals will counter with Yordano Ventura. Ventura allowed a leadoff home run to Gregor Blanco in Game Two but settled down after that, for the most part. He’s got grade-A stuff and has the potential to dominate, but rookies are rookies. He could just as easily flame out and lose control, and you can be sure Ned Yost will have his bullpen on red alert at the slightest sign of distress. The last time the Giants faced a rookie starter in a World Series game was 2002, when John Lackey shut them down in Game Seven. Shudder.

The Giants will get a big boost by being able to put Mike Morse back in the lineup at designated hitter. Kansas City will likewise get added thump to their lineup with Billy Butler slotting back into their DH spot. Butler had one at-bat in the three games in San Francisco (a fact that Yost is getting raked over the coals for), and it was a meek strikeout against Madison Bumgarner. The Royals will also put Nori Aoki back in the lineup, giving them an offensive upgrade at the expense of outfield defense, but right field in Kauffman Stadium isn’t nearly as tricky as at AT&T Park, so it may not make a whole lot of difference.

The Giants have two chances to win this, but they should (and will) be playing this like it’s Game Seven. If the Royals win tonight, they would have all the momentum going into Game Seven at home, and the history of teams playing in Game Seven after losing Game Six on the road is a dark one.

When the Giants beat the Phillies in the 2010 NLCS in six games, Bochy managed the sixth game like he was going to be facing a firing squad if he had lost. After the game, he told the press that he had absolutely no interest in playing in a Game Seven. That probably goes for tonight, too. The prospect of playing a Game Seven with the momentum back on the Royals’ side is a nightmarish one. Expect the unexpected tonight, and expect both teams to play this game like there is no tomorrow.

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Giants-Pirates Wild Card Rundown

crawcraw

If the 2010 Giants were “Torture”, then the 2014 Giants are “Vomiting In My Mouth a Little”. The Giants just finished a thoroughly frustrating roller coaster ride of a season where they combined stretches of utter dominance with weeks where they barely resembled a major league team. One week they’d look like a 100-win behemoth, the next they’d look like the local beer league softball team who had somehow stumbled drunk onto a real baseball field. On June 8, the Giants sat at 43-21, ten games up on the Dodgers, and looked primed to cruise to the NL West division title and maybe even their first 100-win season since 2003.

Then things fell apart. The Giants went 22-30 in June and July and coughed up their lead to the Dodgers faster than you could say “Yasiel Puig bat flip”. Hitters stopped hitting, closer Sergio Romo shat the mound in epic fashion (particularly in one nightmare weekend against Colorado), Angel Pagan and Matt Cain got hurt, and Tim Lincecum continued to disintegrate. By August, it looked like the Giants were ready to fall out of contention altogether, sinking to 63-57 at the summer’s lowest point.

Luckily, the team rebounded, as Buster Posey regained his MVP bat, midseason acquisition Jake Peavy dominated upon his arrival, and rookie Joe Panik gave the Giants some much-needed .300 hitting after the team had gotten zilch from second base all year. The Giants chugged into the playoffs a mess, with an up-and-down offense and only two truly reliable starting pitchers, but they made it, and they’re hoping that the small sample size magic of postseason baseball can bring them their third World Series title in five seasons.

It’d be tempting to blame the Giants’ struggles this year on injuries again. Angel Pagan missed a huge chunk of the season again with a back injury, Matt Cain went down at midseason with bone chips in his arm, and Brandon Belt played in only 61 games after having his thumb broken with a pitch and then suffering from a concussion. Mike Morse also missed most of September with an oblique injury. So, yeah, the Giants dealt with their fare share of injuries for the second year in a row, and that certainly didn’t help them.

Except that I just don’t think that the injuries merit all that much blame for the Giants’ crappy mid-summer play when all is said and done. The Angels, Orioles, Nationals, and Cardinals all suffered a number of injuries yet sailed into the playoffs. Hell, the Dodgers went without Clayton Kershaw for three weeks and they turned out just fine. Let’s make a quick list of little facts that probably had a lot more to do with the Giants stumbling to the finish line after their hot start.

-Tim Lincecum was, frankly, terrible…again. His 74 ERA+ would have been dead worst in the NL if he had enough innings to qualify. That’s a 73 ERA+ over the past three years, folks.

-Mike Morse, brought in for his power, hit 13 home runs through June 5. He hit just three more after that.

-Sergio Romo started blowing leads like it was a fad in May, and was booted from the closer role. He regained his effectiveness when used as a ROOGY, but I’m not sure anybody really trusts him in a more expanded role anymore.

-Tim Hudson was brilliant to begin the season, but his ERA in the second half was 4.73, and 8.72 in September. It appears as if the BABIP monster bit him in the butt hard, and he’s a shaky option as a postseason starter right now.

-The bench, for the most part, contributed next to nothing all season. Gregor Blanco was a solid fourth outfielder, but he was pressed into regular service with Pagan out and he’ll be the team’s regular center fielder in the playoffs. Other than Blanco, there was a whole lot of nothing, as bench players hit .234/.295/.313 on the year. Joaquin Arias, Tyler Colvin, and Juan Perez, in particular, provided little at the plate.

The Giants will have Gregor Blanco and Travis Ishikawa as starting outfielders, and either Ryan Vogelsong or Yusmeiro Petit as their fourth starter should they advance in the playoffs. Gulp. Basically, if the Giants want to win it all, they’re going to have to do a lot of odds-defying, and they’ll have to conjure up some serious magic juju. Hey, it happened before, first in 2010 when Cody Ross hit like Joe Dimaggio for three weeks and then again in 2012 when the Cardinals forgot how to field baseballs and Barry Zito became a world-beater for two starts. Anything is possible.

The Giants do have to be confident going into tomorrow, with their unqualified ace, Madison Bumgarner, going up against the Pirates in Pittsburgh in the NL Wild Card game. Not only is Bum the team’s best pitcher, he was extra-tough on the road this year, going 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA. He also has a history of big game success, having made dominant starts in both the 2010 and 2012 World Series. One of Bumgarner’s worst starts came at home against the Pirates in July, but that was back at the point when the Giants were giving games away like kittens.

On the flip side, the Pirates will be going with Edinson Volquez, and the Giants have to be somewhat encouraged by this. Volquez had a solid year, but he’s just a season removed from being one of the worst pitchers in baseball, and his control problems are well-documented.

He posted a shiny 3.05 ERA this season, but his 4.15 FIP suggest that something was rotten in Denmark, namely that Volquez was getting very lucky on balls in play and in the air. He did post the best walk rate of his career, but I’d much rather face him in a do-or-die than, say, Gerrit Cole. Also, for what it’s worth, Volquez got lit up in his only postseason appearance back in 2010.

The Pirate offense is worrisome. They finished fourth in the NL in runs, they boast one of the most dynamic hitters in baseball in Andrew McCutchen, they had five hitters post an OPS+ over 120, and they’ve been red hot for the past month. However, they were worse against left-handed starters this year, and of course Bumgarner is one of the best around.

The Giants have an imposing middle of the order with Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Belt, and can trade body blows with the Pirates should this turn into a slugfest. The Giants finished right behind the Pirates in total runs scored despite playing in a park even less friendly on hitters. Let’s put it this way: I’d rather be going against the Pirates’ lineup with Bumgarner than against the Giants’ bats with Volquez.

Well, I’ve got my Costco-size tub of antacids ready for guzzling tomorrow. This is the part where being a baseball fan ceases to be enjoyable and instead becomes an exercise in psychosis. If the Giants have anything at stake in October, I’m pretty sure I’m a frightening person to be around. If Juan Perez makes an at-bat with the game on the line tomorrow night, I shouldn’t be allowed around sharp objects. It’s a catch-22: if the Giants keep winning, they get closer and closer to another championship, but that merely prolongs the deterioration of my mental well-being.

The Pirates are tough cookies but Bumgarner has been a road warrior his whole career and the Giants have had their bats going for the past few weeks. I think the Giants will get a bunch of runs off of Volquez early and then, because they can never do things the easy way, barely hold on for a 5-4 victory and a date with the Nationals.

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