Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bochy Ball

Through eons of columns from beat writers, sports analysts, and general managers alike, a team with chemistry, great pitching, power, and a little bit of luck will usually be playing baseball in October...

When it comes to the San Francisco Giants, statistics, odds, and assumptions officially do not apply. Based on team numbers displayed in box scores and spread sheets, no one would have picked or expected San Francisco to represent the National League in the Major League Baseball World Series; even avid fans were suspect all 162 games! Based on a team that had the least amount of runs scored in MLB, the least number of home runs belted out of ballparks, mediocre number of multi-base hits, league leading numbers in stranding runners in scoring position, league leading number of errors commited on the field, and a mediocre at best starting 5 ERA amongst the MLB, no way San Francisco in the Black and Orange make it to the Fall Classic with those lackluster stats.

Ahhh.... Luckily what creates a "Winning" franchise requires more ingredients than a triple crown winner, a Cy Young recipient, and MVP team savior... Just ask Hunter Pence, or should I say "Preacher Pence", whom addressed the team during their initial elimination series against the Cincinnati Reds, "We accept each other for who we are, and go out there and play for each other!" Since that eloquent pep talk (and he now gives one before each game), Giants have gone 6-0 in elimination games this postseason, Sweeping the Cincinatti Reds in Cincinatti, and bringing a NLCS on the brink of postseason tee times back to San Francisco from St. Louis after losing the first two games in the BBQ capital of the USA. What exactly is it that makes San Francisco persevere and seem virtually as immortal as a cock roach roaming around alive in a nuclear winter? That my friends, is a complex contest, which I am happy to break down. Its what San Franciscans (and Bay Area diehard baseball fans) like to call “Bochy Ball”.  

Through out Spring Training, and the marathon of months leading up to October, Bruce Bochy and the managing staff of the San Francisco Giants have creatively compiled a “Band of Ballers” that somehow worked through plugging holes in Season ending injuries to an All-Star closer (Brian Wilson out with Shoulder injury, the Bull Pen creatively becomes closer by committee), an All-Star Second baseman who went down with Season ending Shoulder Surgery (Freddy Sanchez aggravated an injury thought to be healed, out at beginning of year, and a hand full of plug-ins ranging from Pill, Theriot, to finally acquiring the perfect fit in NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro picked up at the trade deadline from Colorado Rockies), a set up relief pitcher suspended for 100 days testing positive for the 2nd time of illegal PEDs (Mota left a huge hole in options of the closing bull pen by committee, Sabian and Bochy played reliever roulette with remainder of the staff along with acquiring Kontos and Mejias), an anemic and sluggish offense committing errors left an right along the infield, shocking performances (or lack there of) from a back-to-back Cy Young Ace pitcher (Tim Lincecum's ERA blew up and seemed could not get out of the 3rd inning of a game without being handled by opposing offenses across MLB Ball Parks) along with yo-yo performances from the remainder of the starting pitching staff (Vogelsong and Bumgarner seemed to be cruising to potential 20 win seasons, when August came along and reminded both of the definition of ‘dead arm’). 

Last but not least, the Giants’ received a final blow when its major offense contributor (and MVP of the All Star Game giving home field to NLCS winner in the World Series, as well as leading BA in NL)  Melkey Cabrera was suspended for testing positive for an illegal PED (performance enhancing drug). Not only did it devastate an already anemic offensive line up, the franchise was literally blind-sided by the news seemingly coming out of left field.

With the San Francisco Giants NL West nemesis, Los Angeles Dodgers acquiuring money men (a blockbuster of a trade bringing the likes of Adrien Gonzales, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford over from Boston) combined with the team losing their clean up hitter, I am not proud to admit doom hit the airwaves and fans’ guts in and around the Bay. 
Everyone assumed Larry Baer, Brian Sabian, and Brucy Bochy were backed in to a corner to make a move. The most shocking and bold move was made by the franchise, they did nothing… The San Francisco Giants franchise had a positive outlook and faith in their GM, their Manager, and the coaching staff to make it work with the mixture of players they’ve groomed and acquired, to give them the best shot at making the postseason. When the San Francisco Giants decided to stand pat, it reminded me of a quote I recently ran across, “It's not about what happens, it's about perspective. I may not be able to change what takes place, but I can always choose to change my thinking.” ~Michelle Sedas

 It worked! Actually it was a gem! In hindsight, I realized the GM and Bochy knew not to screw with the chemistry brewing in the dugout. The combination of a little bit of luck, line up tinkering, a tightened up Defense, a pitching staff seeing career numbers from their 4th  (Vogelsong) and 5th (Barry Zito ended up with 15 wins!) starters as well as bull pen, they had all ingredients to make another run for a World Series appearance. There is a philosophy Bochy brings to his line up most other managers heed from- he’s not afraid to bench a player, or move one to a different hole in the batting order, to achieve best results.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it matters what you’re doing. Some of the greatest moves recently have been moving former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to the bull pen (and he has been lights out in mid-inning relief), moving the likes of Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence up and down the batting line up to improve hitting success, and keeping left handed and right handed hitters on the 40 man roster that can be explosive in pinch hitting situations. Bruce Bochy must have a PHD in pitcher vs hitter match ups, usually (and obvious) resulting in a winning outcome. Bochy has been nothing short of a world renowned conductor guiding all the instruments through a melodic masterpiece concerto with a crescendo final movement booming as strong as the 1812 Overture.

Once again, the pesky underdogs from San Francisco are giving their opponents headaches, and unnerving frustrations. Somehow with a BA hovering closer to .200 than .300 is beating the touted best pitching in MLB. Somehow the pitching staff has figured out the most feared power hitters amongst MLB. How do they do that? A little bit of luck, a whole lot of faith, and a masterful manager. All the San Francisco Giants needed was an in… A ticket to the Fall Show… From there, the players, the coaches, and everyone involved from the owners down to us fans believe they not only belong there, but can win it again! Bring the trophy home boys! 

What? You haven’t heard the 1812 Overture?
Take a listen:

You need to close your eyes and enjoy the 16 minutes of masterful music! This is the piece played that usually opens up 4th of July fireworks across USA!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stealing First!

The Texas Rangers held 1st place in the AL West Major League Baseball standings for 176 days, and 161 games... Yet, on the day 1st place counted (after the 162nd game), They found themselves traveling home to save their hopes as a "Wild Card" contender to keep alive a return trip (for a third straight year) to the Fall Classic, World Series of Baseball, as the AL representative. Billy Bean, of "Money Ball" fame and long time GM magician for the Oakland Athletics compiled (unbeknownst to baseball analysts and fans alike) a perfect chemistry of rookies and unknowns with "The Right Stuff" to burst the bubble and assumptions across the landscape of Baseball lore. A team with an astonishing vintage $55 million dollar budget rose from the depths of the only dual sport decrepit (creaking and archaic concrete) stadium left standing in the US located in the East Bay of Northern California, to slash the assumptions and expectations of all competition near and far in the American League. 

What's more stunning, is the statistics. Since June 1, Oakland A's have gone 72-39, a .648 winning percentage! That winning angle comes close to insanity... The Texas Rangers went  62-49 with significant drops in July (going 9-14) and September (going 15-13) for practically 50% baseball at .558! Oakland was on a mission. No team in history of MLB with 9 games to go, and 5 games behind, made a statement on where they felt they should be going, the playoffs. 

Before the trading deadline, July 31, it appeared Oakland Athletics were unloading, trading away Gio Gonzales (starting pitcher), and Kirk Suzuki (catcher), evaluated as two of their premier players to the Washington Nationals. Well, those two did contribute to the Nationals first playoff appearance since relocation from Montreal, Canada in 2004 (formerly the Expos). I don't think there are many sports analysts outside of Oakland, CA whom could even name more than two players on the 25 man roster in Oakland! ( I know I would struggle, being a San Francisco Giants Fan). 

More interesting than that, Oakland Athletics go in to the playoffs undoubtedly with the best starting pitching, bullpen, and hitting (the triple threat), yet NO ONE seems threatened by them or feels they're the most dangerous team to face in the playoffs to make the "Fall Classic". Overlooking Oakland may be the mistake every other team and analyst makes in 2012.  The only persons whom seem dialed in to their threat, are the beat reporters, and sports analysts, who've quietly watched their rise out of the "Stepchild" City of Oakland CA. 

Only the delirious folks surrounding the NorCal corridor are excited about a desired and long overdue "Battle of the Bay" World Series. 1989 literally shook the earth, bringing a Championship to Oakland. Will the Earth shake again in 2012? These 'wild and crazy' fans that seem to know "nothing" about baseball have been enjoying the rise of talent no one seems to notice anywhere else in Anytown USA. Hmmmm..... Maybe West Coast Sports Lovers should have a "Gripe" versus the trends and headlines around our Nation. 

I am absolutely enjoying the view of a little known team in Cali stealing a title from the Big Blue Boys in Texas! 

Enjoy the Gallery!