Series Preview

The San Andreas Giants

Bruce Bochy calls the last two weeks for the Giants a “bump in the road.”

After yesterday’s historic, no-hit win over San Diego, the Giants still sport the second-best record (46-32) in the NL and cling to a 3-game lead in the West over the fast-charging Dodgers.

But lately, Bochy’s team has been, um, shaky. The Giants have lost four of their last five series and 11-of-15 games. After starting 22-9 at AT&T Park, they have lost 8-of-10. Injuries, inconsistent pitching and the Golden Dragon of luck (h/t Richard Fitch) have taken a toll.

So when the manager says it’s just a bump in the road, keep in mind his team plays in this city.


Three weeks ago, the Reds lost 2-of-3 to San Francisco in Cincinnati. Bryan Price’s boys punched Goliath in the mouth 8-3 in the first game. They lost the second 3-2 when Tony Cingrani gave up three runs in the blink of Cyclops’ eye. Worth noting: Joey Votto was on the DL and missed that series. Almost completely unrelated fact: The Giants have the seventh highest payroll ($154 million) in MLB. The Reds are twelfth ($112 million).

Run Production

When healthy and lucky, the Giants produced a top five offense in the NL. They still rank fourth in wRC+ (Reds 10th), fifth in runs scored (Reds 9th), third in ISO power (Reds seventh) and 9th in on base percentage (Reds 10th). But June has been a different story. For the Reds, with Jay Bruce’s health returning, Joey Votto coming off the DL, and Devin and Todd mashing (go vote for them, right now), the Reds’ offense has surged. Meanwhile, injuries have devastated the Giants lineup.

Projected Lineup

Regular first baseman Brandon Belt continues to recover from thumb surgery that has sidelined him since mid-May. His target return date is July 4. Michael Morse has shifted from LF to play 1B. Morse himself has been fighting a sore back as a result of a hard swing against Arizona.

The Giants are yet to find a satisfactory replacement for second baseman Marco Scutaro, who remains on the 60-day DL with back problems. Last week, they called up top prospect Joe Panik. Panik has gotten off to a slow start at the plate (other than taking a couple walks) and committed two errors Tuesday night.

Centerfielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan has been out since June 15 with back stiffness. The Giants finally placed him on the disabled list yesterday — ten days later. So he’s out for this series. That leaves this likely lineup:

1. Gregor Blanco (L) CF
2. Hunter Pence (R) RF
3. Buster Posey (R) C
4. Pablo Sandoval (S) 3B
5. Michael Morse (R) 1B
6. Tyler Colvin (L) LF
7. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
8. Joe Panik (L) 2B

Michael Morse hit two mammoth home runs against the Reds in early June. And he’s been doing that to plenty of other teams this year (.287/.342/.522) with 13 total homers. Morse came up through the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners’ system but spent most of his major league career playing for the Washington Nationals. He hit 31 home runs for the Nats in 2011. But since then, he’s been traded from Washington back to Seattle and then to Baltimore. He became a free agent at the end of 2013 and was signed to a one-year, $6 million contract by the Giants. He’s having his best year since 2011.

Run Prevention

The Giants starters have an ERA well north of five over the past two weeks, and that includes their two top pitchers and yesterday’s shutout. The statistic ERA is kind of awful at forecasting the future of giving up runs, but it does a perfect job describing the misadventures of the Giants rotation lately.

The Reds do have a large advantage in defense. The Giants are 9th in team defense (FanGraphs) in the NL (Reds are 3rd).

Mind-bending Pitching Fact The average strikeout percent for National League starters is 19.6. Aroldis Chapman’s rate is 55.1 percent. More than 10 percent higher than the second best. Before you say, “Sure, but that’s in comparison to starters…” consider this. The MLB average for relief pitchers is 22.1 percent. Yet, Chapman has only pitched 21.1 innings this season. More innings for him, please.

Probable Pitching Match-ups

It’s a four-game series, so that means almost the entire rotation pitches. The Reds miss Padres-slayer Tim Lincecum, who they blazed in early June, and face Matt Cain and Tim Hudson for the first time this year. The Giants miss nemesis Mat Latos but do stand in against Johnny Cueto this series. (Aroldis Chapman pitched one inning against the Giants in early June, it was the ninth in the game the Giants were ahead 6-1.)

The charts below offer a few statistics for the probable starters:

  • ERA (average number of earned runs given up over nine innings)
  • FIP (fielding independent pitching, normalize BABIP, scaled to ERA)
  • SIERA (skill-interactive ERA; normalize BABIP and HR/FB, accounts for ground-ball %, weights Ks)
  • FB Vel (fastball velocity)
  • SwStr% (percentage of total pitches the batter swings and misses)
  • K% and BB% (percentage of strikeouts and walks per plate appearance)

Thursday, 10:15 p.m. ET

Giants Pitchers copy

Ryan Vogelsong faced Tony Cingrani in the only close game of the first series. Vogelsong allowed two runs (one on a Todd Frazier home run) over 6.1 innings. He struck out nine and walked one. Vogelsong is in the midst of a decent bounce-back year after struggling in 2013. His swinging strike and strikeout rates have returned to their pre-2013 levels. Like the rest of his teammates, Vogelsong hasn’t performed that well in his last three starts.

After four mediocre starts, Mike Leake is coming off one of his strongest, 8 innings and 1 run against the powerful Blue Jays. Following the bullpen-obliterating 14-9 loss to Toronto the night before, Leake’s outing sure felt like the most important start of the season for any Reds pitcher. Overall, the 26-year-old continues to have his best season for the Reds. Leake has improved his fastball velocity and control. His ground ball and strikeout rates continue to climb, while his walk-rate, which has always been outstanding, is at a career low. Leake did give up five runs in five innings against the Giants a few weeks ago.

Friday, 10:15 p.m. ET

Giants Pitchers copy

This is the can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it pitching match-up.

Madison Bumgarner has become the young ace of the Giants staff. In fact, the 24-year-old lefty has pitched just about as well as Johnny Cueto. In his previous start against the Reds, he gave up one run (first-inning homer by, who else, Super Todd) in eight innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out five. Bumgarner has pitched at least seven innings in his last six starts. And he’s just getting better. His K% and BB% are career bests, as are his swinging-strike rate and fastball velocity.

Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto has made it to seven innings only twice in his last seven starts. Cueto has kept his strikeout and walk numbers in line, but the luck dragon is finally – albeit with a long way to go – getting paid. His BABIP and LOB% for June have been around his career averages, so his ERA for the month has been 2.52. That’s still really good. Cueto didn’t face the Giants in the previous series.

Saturday, 10:05 p.m. ET

Giants Pitchers copy 2

Based off their 2014 ERAs, this pairing would seem to be a decided edge for the Reds. And it’s true that Matt Cain hasn’t really been himself since 2012. This season has continued the decline of he K% and rise in his BB% for the second consecutive year. Yet, looking at the underlying metrics, the best predictor (SIERA) shows this to be a close match. Cain has been tremendously unlucky with home runs (his HR/FB is double his career rate) and stranded runners. He’s also pitched better at home throughout his career.

Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET

Pitcher Match-ups2 copy

The Reds didn’t face Tim Hudson earlier this month. Hudson, at 38, is having a wonderful season for the Giants. Prior to his last two bad starts, he was challenging Johnny Cueto for the NL lead in ERA. Hudson has always been a ground ball pitcher, but now he’s taken it to the extreme (99th percentile). Hudson throws a variety of pitches although his bread-and-butter is a cutter. He’s gradually moved from a splitter to a straight change-up since his Tommy John surgery in 2008.

Homer Bailey pitched a no-hitter against the Giants last July 3.


The Giants closer, Sergio Romo, has gone through a rough stretch the past few weeks. He blew back-to-back saves against the Rockies. But overall, he’s still pretty much league average in save conversions, like most closers not named Rivera. In Romo’s one appearance against the Reds in early June, he retired the side in order.


If you’re worried about the momentum effects of Lincecum’s no-hitter yesterday, consider these two data points. Last year, the Reds dropped the two series immediately following Homer Bailey’s no-hitter. And after Homer’s 2012 no-no, they lost the one remaining regular season series and, of course, the NLDS.

As was amply demonstrated when the Reds recovered from The Horror of 14-9 to win the Toronto series, momentum schmomentum.

That’s not to say this will be an easy trip to San Francisco. But the Reds are catching the Giants at an opportune time. [Insert cliché about not who you play but when you play.]

Health status and consistent quality pitching trump momentum every time.

18 thoughts on “The San Andreas Giants

  1. I am a big fan of high sock in baseball, but seriously, does anyone else see that Hunter Pence is basically wearing shorts out there?

  2. “Panik has gotten off to a slow start at the plate (other than taking a couple walks) and committed two errors Tuesday night.”

    ‘Lord, I don’t ask much when it comes to baseball. I feel my time with You should be spent in far more important ways…..but….if at all possible, please allow another error to be comitted by the Giant second baseman during this series, so I, Your humble servant, may have the pleasure of typing “PANIK!!!” when it happens. Amen.’

  3. The Streets of San Francisco. There’s Karl Malden and Michael Douglas running down the sidewalk. It looks like they’re chasing somebody with a huge head. It’s Barry Bonds. I just knew he was a criminal.

    • Nice reference, sir. It appears you are in proper game thread shape. Just take it one comment at a time. Don’t give any of them away. Commenting is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about individual comment count, it’s about our totals at the recap. If we take care of the simple things, the big things will take care of themselves. I can tell you are just happy to be here, and hope you can help the team.

  4. Pitching thoughts;
    If Tony Cingrani starts on Saturday for the Bats that would put him on schedule to start one of the double header games on July 8 against the Cubs. He will have 2 starts in AAA before July the 8th if Ted Power can work some magic and Tony C. can find the plate, the Reds position will have gotten stronger for the August trade deadline. Great time to give Homer B. a chance in the American League for a certified LF. Of course the Reds could throw in Chris H. in the deal and Baileys slot would be filled by Tony C.

    Michael Brantley – Cleveland Indians
    Birthdate: 5/15/1987 (27 y, 1 m, 11 d) Bats/Throws: L/L Height/Weight: 6-2/200 Position: OF
    • $25m / 4 Years (2014 – 2017) + 1 Option Years (Edit)
    o signed by Cleveland Indians on 2/10/2014 (Avoided Arbitration)
    o 2014: $1.5M, 2015: $5M, 2016: $6.5M, 2017: $7.5M
    Results MLB
    2012 MLB PA 609, Rbi 60, Avg. .288, wRC+ 106, WAR 2.7
    2013 MLB PA 611, Rbi 73, Avg. .284, wRC+ 104, WAR 1.7
    2014 MLB PA 320, Rbi 53, Avg. .325, wRC+ 162, WAR 2.9

    2008 AA wRC+ 127, Avg. .319, BABIP .332
    2010 AAA wRC+ 127, Avg. .319, BABIP .312
    2014 MLB wRC+ 162, Avg. .325, BABIP .331

    • Two problems with this.

      1) Cingrani has looked terrible this year, and may not be capable of being an above average major league starter.

      2) No team is going to take on Homer Bailey’s contract right now, in the first year of what looks like a big overpay, while he’s struggling get back to average. To get a player like Brantley for Bailey would require the Reds eating potentially as much as 60 or 60% of the money they just agreed to pay Bailey.

    • If anything, if you can get Cingrani back into form, he would be the much more attractive trade chip, as he has many years of team control left and is signed for league minimum.

    • no way I trade Homer Bailey for Brantley.

      Nuh Uh

      did you notice how these starters cannot go every year at top of league stuff. Many people (cept me) wanted to trade Johnny last year or replace him.

  5. Chapman only has 21 innings and we’re halfway thru the season?!?!

    It would appear Aroldis has the same hold upon Dusty and Price the way the One Ring had a hold on Frodo. They simply can’t part with their Precious.

    • Remember, he didn’t pitch until May 10. I did some multiplication and division this morning and Chapman is on pace where he would have pitched about 80 innings if he’d pitched an entire season. So, instead of 65 innings, 80. Who-hoo. New boss basically the same as the old boss.

    • So just maybe since at least two major league professionals are keeping this guys Innings down that there is a reason for that. Did you ever think of that? Baker and Price might be the two worst managers to ever grace the face of a baseball field but seriously you guys act like you are privileged as to what a player can do based upon batting them in this order or pitching a pitcher X amount of innings. There is a ton of baseball that I don’t know anything at all about. The reason why I don’t know is because I am not in the position of a major league baseball player. Even if I had been a major league baseball player I wouldn’t know half the information that a manager does. So for you guys to criticize Price and compare him to Chapman is pretty much telling me you simply have biased opinions and not willing to even attempt to comprehend that you guys are not privy to the same facts that Price and Baker are.
      Case in point. You specifically criticized Price for having Latos pitch an extra start at AAA. Yes, you did don’t go back on it know and say “no I didn’t.” People wanted blood because he didn’t get his extra game at the majors. Not saying this is the case but just maybe the Reds organization as a whole were concerned that Latos speed was down. Maybe they wanted to see and be certain that there wasn’t another issue involving his elbow. So of course it is much easier to pull a pitcher after 2 innings at AAA than at the major league level right? Imagine if Latos’ low velocity was an issue for just a moment. And the Reds arm-chaired GM’d Latos into starting his warm-up game #2 in the bigs. Let’s say he last 2 innings before the Reds had to pull him due to concern over lower velocity. Now the Reds are impacted for at the very least an entire series because the Reds had to wear out their bullpen.

      You guys love to sound like you know what is best for the Reds when in fact you simply don’t like certain people because they don’t think the same as you and they have more facts about a certain scenario than what we have. It is one thing to criticize a coach for not sending a base runner home from third on a flyball to right. It is yet another to assume that you just exactly how many innings a pitcher can throw. There are physical and mental limitations to each and every player that that coaches and the organization know that we don’t and never will have the knowledge of until after the facts are exposed.

      Price is a first year manager. Yeah he is going to make on the field mistakes left and right. We have seen those and it has been frustrating. I”m at least willing to say that is part of the learning curve. Price not willing to pitch Chapman as a starter. have him pitch 2 innings every other night, or have him pitch middle relief for the team goes way beyond what we know is going on. Maybe there is a health issue that we are not aware of. Maybe the Reds have observed over time that Chapman drops his arm after one inning of use and they fear injury to his elbow or shoulder. Maybe Chapman has Irritant Bowel Syndrome and has to take a long bathroom break after each inning. Just maybe. Just maybe there is a reason why an organization uses a player the same way time and time again. Just maybe it isn’t Price’s call alone to make.

  6. There is an article at for today at Bleacher Report titled “Breaking Down the Most Likely Trade Partners for the Cincinnati Reds”. Somewhat interesting.

    • If the Rangers would take on a bit of Rios’s salary in exchange for a better prospect, that would be a nice deal for the Reds.

      I assume there will be a lot of middle relievers available, and I expect Jocketty to get at least one. The guys they mention would be fine, but so would others.

    • Maybe Russell. Don’t forget Marshall came to us from the Cubs. Rios too old,. Parra (Ariz.) only one year left before he is gone. My belief is that a Brantley type LF’er is what we need. If it costs us Bailey it would be a good deal and solve LF for 4 years.

      • I like Brantley, Michael and Cowboy. Michael Brantley is playing himself into an “Elite” level player. The Indians would be utter fools to trade him and his very team friendly contract away. However, if they are willing, then Walt Jocketty ought to be having personal meetings with the Indians GM to make that happen. I’d give up a ton of prospects for Brantley. And it may cost two tons.

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