Are the San Francisco Giants a Dynasty in the Making?

The San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions once again.

Think about that. The Giants franchise had not won a World Series since coming to the Bay Area from New York City in 1958 and not since 1954 when they swept the 111-win Cleveland Indians (Does a catch by a certain Say-Hey Kid ring a bell?)

Now they’ve won two in the past three seasons, the first in 2010 in Arlington, Texas which broke a 56 year drought, and now in 2012 after sweeping the Detroit Tigers.

They did much like how they dismantled the Rangers two years, outstanding starting pitching, clutch hitting, solid defense, and of course, and an outstanding, shutdown bullpen.

However, this time they did in different fashion, with different heroes, particularly NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, and World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval.

Other players who came up big were Matt Cain, who continued to make up a stellar postseason resume, probable NL MVP Buster Posey, and Tim Lincecum, who played a big role in relief in the postseason after having a horrible regular season in his usual starting role.

The Giants overcame a 2-0 deficit in the Division Series by winning all three games in Cincinnati to knock of the Reds. They overcame a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS against the defending champion Cardinals and outscored them 20-1 to advanced to the World Series to crush Detroit.

Do not think that they are done after this one. They are certainly built for the now and the future, with stars such as probably Posey, Sandoval, ace Matt Cain, and many other young potential stars like Brandon Belt.

The Giants are the first team to win at least two titles in about a three or more year span since the 1996-2000 New York Yankees, the last great dynasty of Major League Baseball.

Is it too early to use the D word at this point? Maybe, but the Giants have been the only team since the Yanks to have the potential to win as many championships. They’ve already won two in the last three, much like how the Yankees did in 1996 and 1998. The Giants will look to try to repeat next year, something not done since the Yankees from 98 to 2000.

Of course, as we have seen the MLB Postseason is quite the crapshoot, and the NL is loaded with talented teams, the Cardinals, Nationals, Braves, Dodgers, Reds, and some other potential foes. But it seems that the Giants are the best of all of them, and they may prove it yet again in the next few years.

Repeating will surely be difficult, but as long as they can pitch the way they have the last several years and get clutch hits in the biggest moments as they have, they certainly have a shot.

Also importantly, manager Bruce Bochy now has a chance to work on a Hall of Fame resume, with two World Series championships in San Francisco after previously guiding his San Diego Padres to the NL Pennant in 1998.

The Giants have plenty to look forward to next year. Closer Brian Wilson will return sometime next year to make the bullpen even stronger. Lincecum, who came up big as a reliever, could either make a successful transition back to the rotation or continue to find a new home as a reliever. Cain is locked up for several years, and Posey, Sandoval, and Belt look to carry this offense for years to come.

Advertisements

The New York Yankees Would Be Foolish to Trade Third Baseman Alex Rodriguez

Every time the New York Yankees are eliminated from the postseason, there are always cries from fans and the media for change, particularly of the radical kind. This year is no different, with several of them wishing for their scapegoats to be shown the door from the Big Apple.

Many of the scapegoats include Curtis Granderson, whose options New York has picked up, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin, but none of them compare to the biggest one of all.

Alex Rodriguez, the hero of the 2009 postseason which ended with the Yankees’ 27th World Championship, is indisputably the biggest scapegoat for the Yankees’ stunning defeat at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. Rodriguez was three for 25 in this year’s playoffs with no extra base hits or RBIs and 12 strikeouts.

He was pinch hit for by Raul Ibanez in the ninth inning of Game Three of the Division Series (we know how that turned out) and was benched in both elimination games for the Yankees this season.

He was frequently replaced against RHP as he was completely overpowered by the likes of Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson, Miguel Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, not a group you should be shut down by.

Now it seems that his relationship with manager Joe Girardi and the ownership and front office has been irreparably damaged. Many wish for them to part ways this offseason.

However, this would be a foolish decision to make, and for quite a few reasons. Rodriguez has five years left on his deal with the Yankees and is owed at least $114 million. Why should the Yankees pay him to play for another team? That’s just a bad business and baseball move. They should not deal him at all costs like they did to AJ Burnett.

There’s also the fact that A-Rod is still an above average player, especially at his position. Although he put up career worst numbers, he still put up a 112 OPS+, a .353 OBP, and led the Yankees in stolen bases until Ichiro arrived. He ranked 9th among all 3B in OPS at .783 and 8th in wRC+ at 114.

However, there’s also a concern other than the fact he struggled in the postseason. His numbers have seriously declined every year, and injuries have only catalyzed his decline. After surviving a hip injury in 2009 and carrying the Bombers to the title, he has suffered injuries to his knee, which held him to just 99 games last season, and a wrist fracture caused by a hit by pitch from Felix Hernandez.

Overall, Rodriguez has batted under .280 in each of the past three seasons. His isoP(isolated power, slugging percentage minus average) has been under .200 in the last two season. According to some metrics, his bat speed has also declined, as seen when guys like Jim Johnson were able to blow their vicious sinkers past him in the postseason.

Also, there is the problem with replacing him. Eric Chavez would not be able to hold together for a full 162 game season. Eduardo Nunez cannot hit RHP either and his fielding at any position is probably worse than Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Sax combined.

The Yankees could pursue Chase Headley, who broke out in 2012, hitting 31 HRs, driving in 115 RBIs and put up a 144 OPS+ at PETCO. Unfortunately, the value he supposedly had at the deadline has only skyrocketed which could drive up the price on him.

So even if Alex is traded, the Yankees will have to spend or give away even more to find an adequate replacement.

Unless you can find a way to get a team interested in his services that is willing to take at least part of his contract, Alex Rodriguez is not leaving New York anytime soon. And he shouldn’t.

Joe Girardi pushes all the right buttons to send the Yankees to the ALCS

Ever since he replaced the great Joe Torre, Joe Girardi has received much criticism as manager of the New York Yankees.

In 2008, despite winning 89 games, the NYY missed the playoffs due to several injuries and poor performances.

He guided them to the 27th World Championship in 2009, but was often criticized for going to a three-man playoff rotation and over management of his bullpen. Last two seasons he made some questionable moves that contributed to early playoff exits.

But now, here in 2012, he has led them to their third appearance in the ALCS in four years after ace CC Sabathia went the distance in a 3-1 do-or-die Game 5 victory over Baltimore and will now take on the Tigers in a rematch of last year’s ALDS—with once again neither Sabathia or Justin Verlander able to start and finish Game 1, which will be tomorrow.

However, if not for some gutsy calls by Girardi, the Yankees might be playing golf by now instead of continuing their run for the 28th title. Joe made some big time calls that changed the series.

In Game 1, he decides to leave in Sabathia in a tie game in the eigth after a leadoff double by JJ Hardy, and he responds by retiring the size, with a pitch count over 100. He ends up coming within an out of a complete game and the Yanks won in a ninth inning-rally started by a Russell Martin HR.

In Game 3, he famously pinch hit Raul Ibanez for a lost Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning. Ibanez responded by tying the game on a HR off Orioles closer Jim Johnson. He leaves him in after lefty Brian Matusz and wins the game on the first pitch in the 12th.

Ever since he replaced the great Joe Torre, Joe Girardi has received much criticism as manager of the New York Yankees.

In 2008, despite winning 89 games, the NYY missed the playoffs due to several injuries and poor performances.

He guided them to the 27th World Championship in 2009, but was often criticized for going to a three-man playoff rotation and over management of his bullpen. Last two seasons he made some questionable moves that contributed to early playoff exits.

But now, here in 2012, he has led them to their third appearance in the ALCS in four years after ace CC Sabathia went the distance in a 3-1 do-or-die Game 5 victory over Baltimore and will now take on the Tigers in a rematch of last year’s ALDS—with once again neither Sabathia or Justin Verlander able to start and finish Game 1, which will be tomorrow.

However, if not for some gutsy calls by Girardi, the Yankees might be playing golf by now instead of continuing their run for the 28th title. Joe made some big time calls that changed the series.

In Game 1, he decides to leave in Sabathia in a tie game in the eigth after a leadoff double by JJ Hardy, and he responds by retiring the size, with a pitch count over 100. He ends up coming within an out of a complete game and the Yanks won in a ninth inning-rally started by a Russell Martin HR.

In Game 3, he famously pinch hit Raul Ibanez for a lost Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning. Ibanez responded by tying the game on a HR off Orioles closer Jim Johnson. He leaves him in after lefty Brian Matusz and wins the game on the first pitch in the 12th.

In Game 5, Gerardi benches A-Rod for Eric Chavez and finally starts Ibanez.

In the fifth inning, Mark Teixeira on a bad calf stole second off MattWieters and scored on a single by Ibanez.

In the eighth inning, the Orioles got a run back off Sabathia and loaded the bases with one out, but he left Sabathia in.

CC responded by fanning the red hot Nate McLouth, who nearly took him deep in the sixth, and got Hardy to ground to Jeter. He left him in to finish off the game and he went the distance.

Overall, the Yankees pitching has thrown The Yankees threw 51 innings this series. Sabathia, Pettitte, Kuroda, and Hughes threw 39.2 of them, and this is with 7 innings of extra inning baseball. That’s a 2.04 ERA. Wow.

Now, the Yankees will take on the Tigers with some questions in the rotation. There is no off day before the ALCS, so they will have played for five straight days at home until Sunday.

Playing a Game 5 will force Girardi to use Andy Pettitte, who was the hard luck loser in Game 2 in Baltimore. Andy will likely face Doug Fister. Game 2, however, will likely force the Yanks to use Hiroki Kuroda on three days rest after pitching 8.1 innings on Wednesday in the Ibanez game.

When the series shifts to Detroit, the Yanks will have to use Sabathia on three days rest against Verlander at Comerica. Both struggled in Game 3 of last year’s ALDS. Hughes will get the ball in Game 4, and he looked very good against the Orioles.

If the Yankees are going to advance and perhaps win the World Series this year, JoeGirardi may be the guy responsible for it. He certainly won’t win AL Manager of the Year, but he is probably the biggest reason why the Yankees’ season will continue

In Game 5, Gerardi benches A-Rod for Eric Chavez and finally starts Ibanez.

In the fifth inning, Mark Teixeira on a bad calf stole second off MattWieters and scored on a single by Ibanez.

In the eighth inning, the Orioles got a run back off Sabathia and loaded the bases with one out, but he left Sabathia in.

CC responded by fanning the red hot Nate McLouth, who nearly took him deep in the sixth, and got Hardy to ground to Jeter. He left him in to finish off the game and he went the distance.

Overall, the Yankees pitching has thrown The Yankees threw 51 innings this series. Sabathia, Pettitte, Kuroda, and Hughes threw 39.2 of them, and this is with 7 innings of extra inning baseball. That’s a 2.04 ERA. Wow.

Now, the Yankees will take on the Tigers with some questions in the rotation. There is no off day before the ALCS, so they will have played for five straight days at home until Sunday.

Playing a Game 5 will force Girardi to use Andy Pettitte, who was the hard luck loser in Game 2 in Baltimore. Andy will likely face Doug Fister. Game 2, however, will likely force the Yanks to use Hiroki Kuroda on three days rest after pitching 8.1 innings on Wednesday in the Ibanez game.

When the series shifts to Detroit, the Yanks will have to use Sabathia on three days rest against Verlander at Comerica. Both struggled in Game 3 of last year’s ALDS. Hughes will get the ball in Game 4, and he looked very good against the Orioles.

If the Yankees are going to advance and perhaps win the World Series this year, JoeGirardi may be the guy responsible for it. He certainly won’t win AL Manager of the Year, but he is probably the biggest reason why the Yankees’ season will continue

New York Yankees Still Have Advantage vs. Orioles but Offense Needs to Wake Up

Aside

If you told me the New York Yankees‘ rotation combined for 15 and 2/3 innings and allowed just five runs in the first two games in this ALDS against the Baltimore Orioles, I would guess the Bombers would be up 2-0 going home to Yankee Stadium.

This isn’t the case, however, as the Orioles managed to win yet another one-run ballgame and the series is tied, knocking off Andy Pettitte and the Yanks 3-2 in Game 2 on Monday night.

The Yankees dropped a very winnable game, leaving ten men on base and going 2-8 with runners in scoring position, which has been a problem all season long. Their biggest chances came in the 1st, 4th, and 7th innings, yet they came away with just two runs.

The Orioles staged a decisive two out rally in the 3rd, with five men reaching base via hit or walk after Pettitte got the first two men out, and scored two to take the lead on a two run single by Chris Davis.

Overall, Pettitte was solid in his return to the postseason, going 7+ IP, allowing three runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out five. He was the hard luck loser in his attempt to extend his postseason wins record.

Him and CC Sabathia, who nearly finished a masterful performance on Sunday night, have combined for 15.2 of the 17 innings thrown by Yankee pitching so far this series. Set-up man David Robertson has thrown the other 1.1.

Compare that to the pitching of the Orioles in this postseason, including the one game playoff against Texas. Between Joe Saunders, Jason Hammel, and last night’s starter Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles have only gotten 17.2 innings out of their rotation. The bullpen has pitched the other 9.1 of the 27 innings the O’s have played, closer Jim Johnson 2.1 of those.

This could be an advantage to the Yankees. The Yankees have yet to use their important relievers (besides Robertson) in Joba Chamberlain, who hasn’t given an earned run in a month, lefties Boone Logan and Clay Rapada, and Rafael Soriano, who has been huge filling in for an injured Mariano Rivera. The Yankees could also call on rookie David Phelps to come in in case the starters get into trouble for these next few games.

Also, most fortunate to the Yankees, they’re going home to the Bronx for the rest of this series. The Bombers had the best home record in baseball, as they have for most years and almost every year since they opened the new stadium in 2009 with their 27th world championship.

The Orioles, however, have been very successful at Yankee Stadium this season, going 6-3 and taking every series they’ve played the Yankees there. However, three of those games were pitched by two guys who aren’t even on the Yankees’ postseason roster, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia.

The Yankees were 2-3 in the games started by their Games 3 and 4 starters, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes. Kuroda is coming off a full week of rest, having pitched the division clincher against Boston on the final day of the year. He may have been fatigued in September, having set a career high in starts and innings pitched. Hughes gives up a ton of HRs, but actually pitches a full run better at home than on the road despite giving up more bombs there.

The Orioles counter with righty Miguel Gonzalez in Game 3, who won both of his starts against the Yankees this year, both at Yankee Stadium. He allowed just four runs in 13.2 IP and struck out seventeen. Gonzalez had a 3.25 ERA in 105.1 IP this season for Baltimore, but a low K rate (6.58 per 9) and high fly ball rate (42.6%, which would be sixth in the AL if he qualified) calculates to a mediocre 4.38 FIP and 4.63 xFIP.

Baltimore has yet to announce a Game 4 starter, but it’s likely they either go with Wild Card game winner Joe Saunders, who the Yankees beat in the AL pennant clinching game in 2009 when he was the Angels, or Chris Tillman, who has pitched very well in short duty time.

However, none of this matters if the Yankees cannot hit. The Bombers have left 18 total men on base in this series. Derek Jeter, Ichiro, and Mark Teixeira are currently the only players with good numbers in the first two games. The number one target for blame is Alex Rodriguez, who is 1-9 with 5 strikeouts and has left several opportunities go by himself. The Yankees cannot win if he is not performing batting third or fourth.

Still, even though losing Game 2 really stings, being home for three straight games is a big advantage to the Yankees, but like they were in the last couple of weeks of the regular season to hold off the O’s for the division, the Yankees are in must win mode right now, and this opportunity is big

Yankees Look Poised for a Deep October Run After Surviving Late Season Scare

More than any other league or sport, the regular season in Major League Baseball truly is a marathon. Every team has it’s ups and downs throughout the summer. The teams that have the most highs and least lows end up contending in the crapshoot known as October baseball.

This year’s version of the New York Yankees surely emphasizes this.They started the season 0-3 in St. Petersburg, Florida and were in last place as late as May 21st. The Bombers would soon surge, using a ten game winning streak to catapult them to a 20-7 month of June and first place in the AL East. Despite injuries to Mariano Rivera, Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and Andy Pettitte, the lead peaked at ten games on July 18th, when they were 57-34, easily the best mark in baseball and appeared to be favorites to win it all.

Afterward,  the Yankees would begin to slide on a 19-25 run, and were caught by the surprising Baltimore Orioles on September 4th. The Bombers’ season looked as if it were on the verge of disaster. Mark Teixeira, Gardner, and Pettitte were still out, and Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez, fresh off injuries of their own, looked absolutely lost. Nobody on the pitching staff could keep it in the ballpark. The offense couldn’t hit it out of the park.

Still, the resilient and battle tested Bombers would not fade, and treated nearly every remaining game as do or die. Pettitte returned and delivered, Sabathia got back to his usual dominant, and the offense was carried by seasoned vets like Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez. They would rebound and go 19-8 the rest of the way.

Even with the Yankees best efforts, the division was still tied with four games, and they were down 5-1 in a huge game in Toronto, on a day in which the Orioles already won. The Bombers stormed back, won the ball game.

They would finish off the season against the last place Boston Red Sox. They took Game 1 with rather ease with Sabathia on the mound. It took late innings heroics from Ibanez to take the middle game, and the Yankees won comfortably in the season finale

Thanks to some help from theTampa Bay Rays, who took two of three from the O’s in their final series, the Yankees are American League East champs once again, after a long, brutal season, possibly the toughest road to the postseason in recent memory for the franchise.

Now, the Yankees are in the best position possible. They have avoided playing a tiebreaker game in Baltimore to decide the division and risk having to venture to Arlington, Texas to play in that wild card playoff. Instead, they the #1 overall seed in the AL, and get to play the winner of the wild card playoff between the O’s and the Rangers, starting Sunday. Not winning the East would have seriously taxed the club, especially the pitching staff

As everyone (Teixeira, Pettitte, Rodriguez, Gardner, and Sabathia) is healthy and back to form, the Yankees are a force to be reckoned with in the postseason, and could be a favorite to bring the franchise’s 28th World Series Championship back home.

They have the bats who can hit HRs and deliver clutch hits one thru nine. They have plenty of speed in Jeter, Ichiro and with Gardner and Eduardo Nunez coming off the bench. They have the hottest hitter on the planet in Robinson Cano. And if A-Rod and Teixeira can get hot, they’re even more dangerous.

Their veteran rotation, anchored by CC and Andy, and also featuring Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes, is as good as anyone’s in the playoffs. After having to give starts to the likes of Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia all year, the Yankees now have a deep staff one thru four.

And even without Mariano Rivera, the bullpen is still among the elite in baseball, thanks to Rafael Soriano stepping in the shoes of the greatest reliever of all time. They also have a dominant set-up in All-Star David Robertson, who strikes out twelve batters per nine innings. They have former phenom Joba Chamberlain back as well, and he could play a big role building the bridge to the 8th inning. Clay Rapada and Boone Logan are as reliable against left-handed batters as any LOOGY.

Momentum is only as good as tomorrow’s starter, but the way the Yankees ended the season, they are already in playoff mode and know what is at stake. Now that everyone is healthy, they are a very dangerous team for anyone to beat.

My MLB Playoff Predictions

AL:

Wild Card: Baltimore Orioles defeat Texas Rangers

Division Series:

New York Yankees defeat Baltimore Orioles in four

Oakland Athletics defeat Detroit Tigers in five

ALCS: New York Yankees feat Oakland Athletics in six

MVP: Robinson Cano

NL:

Wild Card: Atlanta Braves defeat St. Louis Cardinals

Division Series:

Atlanta Braves defeat Washington Nationals in five

Cincinnati Reds defeat San Francisco Giants in four

NLCS: Atlanta Braves defeat Cincinnati Reds in seven

MVP: Tim Hudson

World Series: New York Yankees defeat Atlanta Braves in five

MVP: CC Sabathia

The Yankees Are Now in Complete Control of Their Playoff Destiny Thanks to Some Help From the Rays and A’s

It has to be October, because the New York Yankees sure looked like a team that could win it all Monday night at Yankee Stadium.

The Bronx Bombers rode the power a nine run second inning against Clay Buchholz, hitting four home runs, one Mark Teixeira, freshly returned. CC Sabathia did his job, going eight innings against the PawSox, allowing just two runs on four hits and struck out seven.

All of this coupled with a Baltimore Orioles loss to the Tampa Bay Rays put the Yankees back in sole possession of first place in the AL East with two games to go. With a Texas Rangers loss to the Oakland A’s, the Yanks are now on pace to not only win the division, but also clinch home field advantage throughout the American League playoffs.

Oakland also clinched a playoff berth and are trying to win out to steal the Western division title against the Rangers, so they still have plenty of play for. However, them winning has officially eliminated the Rays and LA Angels, which may take some incentive out for the Rays to beat Baltimore in the final two games with James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson on the hill.

Still, thanks to the Rays and A’s, all the Yankees need to do is win out against a Red Soxteam that looks like it doesn’t care much for playing spoilers in order to win the highest seed possible. David Phelps replaced the struggling Ivan Nova (5.02 ERA, 83 ERA+) for Tuesday night’s game against the also-ran lefty Jon Lester (4.94, 88 ERA+). For the season finale, the Yankees will send the veteran Hiroki Kuroda, who has struggled lately but has proved to be a great and reliable signing for the Bombers (3.34 ERA, 125 ERA+) against his fellow countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka (7.68 ERA, 57 ERA+ in 10 starts).

Winning the division AND the #1 seed is very important for the Yankees in order the put themselves in the best position to win. Now that they are one game ahead of the O’s, winning out guarantees the title. Finishing ahead or tied with Texas would allow them to start the ALDS on Sunday instead of Saturday in Detroit, who looks to be a much tougher foe with Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and the crew despite having the worst record among all playoff teams.

Not winning out the next two games could yield the possibility having to play a tiebreaker on Thursday in Baltimore to decide the AL East, which would require them to useAndy Pettitte. Losing this game would likely mean playing the Wild Card game in Oakland or Arlington, TX on Friday, forcing them to use Sabathia on three days rest.

If the Yankees do indeed get the division and number one seed, they can comfortably set their rotation to:

LHP CC Sabathia, 15-6, 3.38 ERA, 124 ERA+

RHP Hiroki Kuroda, 15-11, 3.34 ERA, 125 ERA+

LHP Andy Pettitte, 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 147 ERA+ (in 12 starts)

RHP Phil Hughes, 16-13, 4.23 ERA, 99 ERA+

That’s a rotation that can certainly beat just about anyone in the postseason. Even as inconsistent as Hughes is, he’s as good as any #4 and could benefit pitching at home for Game 4 in this 2-3 Division Series setup.

The Yankees are in complete control of their destiny, it’s up to them if they want to make their road through the postseason easier or more difficult for themselves.