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.

Giants spring training Day 16: Rollins IDs similarities between Kershaw, Bumgarner

Giants spring training Day 16: Rollins IDs similarities between Kershaw, Bumgarner

PEORIA, Ariz. — Two years ago, Jimmy Rollins spent a season playing shortstop behind Clayton Kershaw. On Tuesday, he lined up behind Madison Bumgarner. 

Rollins is one of the few big leaguers who has shared a clubhouse with the two left-handed aces, so during a recent interview, I asked him to compare Kershaw and Bumgarner. One trait stood out. 

“When it’s game day, (Kershaw) is all on,” Rollins said. “It’s intense, it’s his job, it’s his game, it’s his mound — almost a ‘Don’t get a reliever up’ type of mentality. Playing against MadBum, it was the same thing. When he took the mound he expected himself to go nine. ‘I’m not turning the ball over,’ and when he did, it’s like, ‘Alright, I get it.’ Not willingly, but more reluctantly.”

Rollins was the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers in 2015. Two years later, he’s trying to secure a much different role. Rollins, 38, is in the mix to win a utility infielder job, and he’s off to a decent start. He has had good at-bats over the first week and on Tuesday he showed the arm is still there on a relay throw from center. The Giants will move him around quite a bit this spring, with second base likely to be the biggest challenge for a player who has spent most his life standing at shortstop. Manager Bruce Bochy said Rollins will start at second on Thursday. 

Rollins hopes he has many more days behind Bumgarner. He certainly has had more than enough time against him. Rollins is 7-for-32 against Bumgarner, with no extra-base hits or walks, and 10 strikeouts. 

“I swung at a two-strike pitch that Madison threw in L.A. and I was like, you know what, I’m going to take a shot at a fastball,” Rollins said. “He threw a curveball and the ball bounced two feet in front of the plate and I’m just swinging like I’m trying to hit a home run. He stuck me out. ‘Alright, well. I gave it a shot and that didn’t work out. Don’t ever do that again.’ Sometimes you have those matchups that you can’t figure a guy and he was that for me. 

“He has a lot of deception with his move, stepping over, sideways-slinging, but he has good control. He can backdoor a curveball when he wants to. He can cross-fire and bag you up.”

Rollins talked much more about facing the Giants and Bumgarner during the interview, which aired on my podcast today. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

GAME RECAP: Bumgarner had a seven-pitch first inning but gave up two runs in the second. He got his work in, as they say … Mark Melancon made his second appearance of the spring. It’s six up, six down so far … Josh Osich had another wild outing, walking two and giving up an RBI single … Chris Marrero, who hit a walk-off in the opener, scorched a two-run single off the wall in dead center. He was held to just a single because he tripped rounding first. Still, another good display of his power.

PROSPECT WATCH: Ray Black, the 100 mph man, walked one and struck out one in his debut. He sat 95-96 mph with a good slider. "It's good to see him healthy," Bochy said. "He's made some good adjustments. He's feeling good. Knock on wood, he stays healthy. That's a big arm. You'd like to see him healthy all year and let him take the next step."

FAMILIAR FACE: Hector Sanchez pinch-hit for the Padres in the seventh and drew a walk. Sanchez remains El Iman, The Magnet. He has already missed time this spring because of two separate foul tips. For more on former Giants, here’s a look at all the familiar names in other camps as non-roster invitees. 

STOCK RISING: It can’t hurt Gordon Beckham’s cause that he did a decent job in a surprise start in left field. Beckham caught two liners but got turned around by a ball to the track in the second inning. He’s trying to make this team as a utility infielder/outstanding clubhouse guy, and Bochy said he'll mix him in as a left fielder.

“He’s a good guy to have on the team,” Bumgarner said, before joking: “A talented player, too … except for today when he couldn’t throw the ball home or catch the ball.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Will Smith played catch for the second straight day. It looked like a normal game of catch, which is good.

QUOTABLE: "He came in and said, 'Wow, I got a 1-2-3 inning in spring training. I think that's the first 1-2-3 inning I've had in five years here.'" -- Bochy on what Bumgarner said to him after a quick first.

 

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017.