Monday, November 3, 2014

Bochy Ball 3.0

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. There's a growing love affair between San Francisco and October. "Orange October" Particles align surrounding San Francisco and baseball when the Giants make it to postseason play. Based on team numbers displayed in box scores and spread smts, 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 the latter half of 162 games! Based on a team that had challenges scoring runs , 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, and a mediocre at best starting 5 ERA amongst the Major League Baseball's best pitching, 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 coined trending tag of "Champion Blood", "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 'saddled up' and continued to pursue greatness this postseason,  going on the road as underdogs to beat Pittsburgh in a one game playoff, upset heavily favored Washington Nationals sending Strassburg and Bryce Harper to book tee times, and finally strangling hopes and aspirations among St. Louis and Kansas City players and fans. What exactly makes San Francisco persevere and seem virtually as immortal as cock roaches 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”.  Billy Bean may have perfected "Money Ball" with mastering Saber metrics, there's no comparison with the execution implemented by Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy with "Bochy Ball" to out swindle and confuse opponents in a post season 'no script' mastery of moves establishing a mini-dynasty of World Series Championships in 2010, 2012, 2014, and possibly more.

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 Ace  (Matt Cain, season ending elbow surgery assigning starting by committee between Yusmeiro Petit, and flailing starter Tim Lincecum), an All-Star Second baseman who never recovered from shoulder and back issues (Marco Scutero showed up for one game, and Bochy pulled an all risk move calling up a kid from AA ball, Joe Panik, that has turned out to be our future full time 2nd baseman), and worst of all, the assumed 'straw that stirs the drink' went down for majority of 2nd half of Season, as well as playoffs ( Angel Pagan and his perfect flowing hair, as well as Center Field and lead off position play seemed daunting to plug, until our 'White Shark' Gregor Blanco stepped up Defense in the outfield, and sprouted leading off at the plate to keep Giants in the conversation).  Those were just a few of injuries, not to mention Mike Morse injured, Brandon Belt injured, and our clutch back up catcher, Hector Sanchez, who suffered back to back concussions, 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 Hudson became inconsistent from start to start; going from blowing up within 4 innings, to holding strong through 7, there was no assurances what pitcher was going to show up from start to start). One bright spot, and stopper the San Francisco Giants had in their back pocket was a 25 year old country strong mass of man leftie, Madison Bumgarner. Quietly, Madison amassed a 2014 winning record, only one shy of assumed Cy Young and MVP pitcher from Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw. 

With the San Francisco Giants NL West nemesis, Los Angeles Dodgers' money men all healthy and performing (the blockbuster trade made a year ago between Boston and Lalala land sending Beckett, Gonzalez, and Crawford to the Dodgers, seemed to be paying off with all members healthy and contributing to the impending security of the NL West title), and a pitching staff that seemed to be mystifying opposing batting orders, it was assumed Brian Sabean had been backed in to a corner to do something, to pull some blockbuster trade at the deadline.

Despite hair pulling and "Its Over!" cries made by national sports analysts, as well as local franchise supporters, Sabean pulled mystifying moves boggling minds tuned in… Acquiring a struggling Jake Peavy from defending World Champions, Boston Red Sox, and re-signing Travis Ishikawa to minor league deal. That's it! Once again, the fans and all involved took a collective deep breath, and said, "Okay, well, Let's go!".  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. The faith San Francisco organization has in its process, reminds me of a quote I've 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! It was a gem! In hindsight, After 3 World Series Championships, we should all trust GM and Bochy know not to screw with the chemistry brewing in the dugout. The combination of grit, a contagious never give up mantra, prime line up tinkering throwing out the script, a tightened up Defense, a pitching staff willing to adjust roles to get wins, were the perfect ingredients to make another 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 put a player in, 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 (his instict should be studied) recently have been calling up and starting Travis Ishikawa in Right Field (he's a natural 1st baseman, and has worked a whole 5 times in OF before this decistion, yeah.. He hit the walk off HR catapulting SF Giants in to the World Series), standing firm with Joe Panik as 2nd base, and having him hit 2nd in the Line up. 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 Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

Once again, the pesky underdogs from San Francisco (I'd like to affectionately label 'Bochy's Roaches') are giving their opponents headaches, and unnerving frustrations. Somehow with a batting average hovering closer to .200 than .300 is beating the touted best pitching in Major Leagues. Somehow the pitching staff has figured out feared power hitters amongst MLB. How do they do that? A little bit of luck? A whole lot of faith? Well, maybe a sprinkle of those ingredients, 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! The Comissioner's trophy's back home boys! Thank you!!!

Major League decided to honor the San Francisco's run, and I believe the captured quite a bit of our essence:

I've been asked by a very close journalist friend, which World Series championship means the most, closest to my heart. Of course, we'd all like to sit on a fence with that question, and reply 'They're all great, they all carry the same weight'... We all know that is false; there is always one that stands out above the rest! I never thought 2012 would be trumped in my heart. The 2012 World Series brought out national love for a couple of my favorite baseball players I always rooted for, Barry Zito, and Sergio Romo. I never thought the clutch performances would ever equal those stellar game on the line heroics made by those two incredible underdogs on the San Francisco pitching staff. I now can say, watching Madison Bumgarner, Travis Ishikawa, Joe Panik, and the Brandons just man up on take it to whomever they were opposing, brought me to greater appreciation of baseball, and its pure diligence pursuing excellence. I teased my Dodgers friends earlier in the playoffs (jokingly) with the following phrase, "Kershaw may get you to the playoffs... Bumgarner will win you rings!" In hindsight (like Sabean, and Bochy), my words were valid!

If its an even year, and you see 'San Franscisco' as one of the teams in the playoffs... Do yourself a favor, don't ever think we have 'no chance'... You're only fueling the fire!