Giants' starting staff pitching at historic level

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Giants' starting staff pitching at historic level

DETROIT -- There is no compelling reason to break this World Series down to tiny components. You have the answer before you already. The 2012 San Francisco Giants are the 1966 Baltimore Orioles.

And nobody connected with the team wants to talk about it. Well get to their reluctance in a moment.

If you need historical edification, those Orioles swept the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-2, 6-0, 1-0 and 1-0.

Yeah, you read that right. 5-2, 6-0, 1-0 and 1-0. It was one of the greatest orgies of pitching brilliance in the post-dead ball era, and if youre too young to remember it, blame your parents.

And these Giants have a piano-wire around this World Series after Saturdays 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers. They have won their games 8-3, 2-0 and 2-0, and have Matt Cain, putatively their best pitcher, starting in Game 4 Sunday night.

BAGGS' INSTANT REPLAY: Giants one win away from World Series title

In other words, the Giants are on the cusp of being the best starting staff to breeze through a series in nearly half a century. Plus Tim Lincecum. And if this reeks of counting ones hens before they have achieved full velocity escape, well, its all we have to go on.

And its there is to go on, because the Giants know that 3-0 needs to be made into 1-2. This is part of the series where the best players lie to themselves about how well off they are, and where history is ignored as it suits them.

1966? No, pitching coach Dave Righetti lied with a wide smile. I remember 1965, because it was the only time I ever got to stay home from school to watch Sandy Koufax. But 1966? Dont do that to me.

I remember 1966. I was 10, general manager Brian Sabean said. I remember Pat Dobson, who was one of my very best friends.

Well, okay, except that Dobson wasnt part of that Baltimore team.

But baseball people remember that staff, especially its historic World Series in which three starting pitchers and one reliever swept the Dodgers, the last three games with complete game shutouts. And these were their pitching lines:

Player IP H R ER BB K
Dave McNally 2.1 2 2 2 5 1
(Moe Drabowsky) 6.2 1 0 0 2 11

Jim Palmer 9 4 0 0 3 6
Wally Bunker 9 6 0 0 1 6
Dave McNally 9 4 0 0 2 4

STARTERS TOTAL 29.1 16 2 2 11 17
TEAM TOTAL 36 17 2 2 13 28

The starters had an ERA of 0.89. When you include Drabowskys relief work in Game 1, it lowers to 0.50.

Now compare it to the first three games of this series, against a Detroit team that hasnt really manufactured any runs in the postseason to make for their power struggles.

Player IP H R ER BB K
Barry Zito 5.2 6 1 1 1 3
Madison Bumgarner 7 2 0 0 2 8
Ryan Vogelsong 5.2 5 0 0 4 3

STARTERS TOTAL 18.1 13 1 1 7 14

Now add the bullpen totals from those three games 8.2IP, 2H, 2R, 2ER, BB, 5K and you get a starters ERA of 0.49, and an overall ERA of 1.00.

Then, just for fun, add the last three starts of the NLCS:

20.1IP, 15H, R, ER, 3 BB, 19 K, 0.44 ERA

And you get this total:

38.2IP, 28H, 2R, 2ER, 10BB, 33 K, 0.47 ERA

A ball era has to be very dead indeed to produce numbers like that, even with a relatively small sample size like six games.

So yes, we are talking history, writ large. The Orioles pitched in a heavily pitcher-dominated era, where the mounds were 15 inches high as opposed to the current 10, and their two games in Dodger Stadium were on a mound that was probably closer to 20.

But these Giants? The mound is more normalized, but the results are suffocating.

Maybe were entering another heavy pitcher-dominated era, Sabean said. I dont know. I know pitching like this is like hitting. One feeds into the next one, and pretty soon it starts to seem like one long game.

But we have tomorrow, and it can all change like that. We dont make any pronouncements about anything, because this thing isnt done.

But it is close, and it is breathtaking. Tim Lincecums postseason relief work is an ongoing absurdity, and we didnt even take that romantic vision of a Cy Young winner revivified into account. We have Comrade Hayes for that.

The Giants are the front edge of a World Series sweep, one that will avenge Detroits last sweep over the 1984 San Diego team that included Bruce Bochy and Tim Flannery.

And no, they didnt want to talk about that yet, either. Not because of a jinx, but because of the effrontery of totaling the contents of the coop prematurely.

But they are also on the front edge of one of the great collective pitching performances ever. It will make the 2010 Series look like a titanic struggle if it ends the way it has begun.

For the moment, though, the Giants themselves are emphasizing the if.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.