Ballparks a factor for Giants' rotation in NLDS

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Ballparks a factor for Giants' rotation in NLDS

The As situation is so day-to-day-to-hour that analyzing their chances almost seems a pointless exercise. Tell us how they get through the fourth inning today, and well have a different answer for you thats how uncertain it is.But well give it a try. They need not to get their hats blocked on this road trip, or theyre in deep and abiding puppy leavings.For the Giants, on the other hand, the choices are down to a precious couple: Washington, or Cincinnati. And frankly, they should prefer Washington.
This, despite the fact that the Nationals have beaten them five of six times (as opposed to the Reds far more pedestrian four of six). And this, despite the fact that Washington has slightly better pitching and hitting than Cincinnati.No, we suspect that the real difference between the two teams is in the geography of the ballparks. Nationals Park is a slightly better than average hitters park this year, while The Great American Ball Park is the bandboxiest bandbox in the history of modern American bandboxes.It is in keeping with the proud tradition of Cincinnati ballparks. Crosley Field was a tiny little slip of a thing, and when it was replaced by Riverfront Stadium, one of those immense circular carbuncles, it still played as a hitters park.But the new Cincy digs are exceedingly friendly to fly-ball hitters, and cruel to fly-ball pitchers.Now guess what the Giants have in abundance.Of the 49 National League starting pitchers by innings, no Giant gives up more ground ball outs than fly ball outs; the closest to neutral is Madison Bumgarner, at a pretty damned neutralesque 0.99 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio.It drops significantly after that. Tim Lincecum ranks 23rd at 0.92, the slumping Ryan Vogelsong 34th at 0.82, Barry Zito 40th at 0.77, and Matt Cain is 47th at 0.66.In other words, if all the games of the first-round series were in Cincinnati, the Giants might well be screwed.But they arent, and Cain will almost certainly pitch in the opener at home whether it is against Washington or Cincinnati, which means he wont be affected by the cruelties of the dimensions, the hitting background, or the Ohio Rivers meteorological quirks until a fifth game. He pitches in the San Francisco International Airport, so hell be fine, at least to start.But now comes the harder part for Bruce Bochy whether to pitch Zito second so he can avoid Cincinnati entirely, and leave the heavier lifting to Lincecum and Bumgarner, who are better than average on the GBFB ratio board, or to go in order of second-half effectiveness, pitching Lincecum second and let Bumgarner go third and Zito for a potentially decisive fourth game in the miniaturized ballpark.These all end up being decisions based on logic and matchups and rational thought, which leaves out most of us, but if the ballpark preys heavily on Bruce Bochys mind, Zito should spend his time in Cincinnati as a loyal cheerleader, available only if a game goes, say, 20 innings or so.Which is why Washington may turn out to be the more clement match. The Nationals and Reds have almost equivalent numbers, and there is no way of effectively quantifying the icing of Stephen Strasburg on the rest of the rotation, let alone the team. The sample size is simply too small to draw conclusions.So maybe your rooting interest hinges on something as simply as fly balls in the Ohio sky. Maybe youll have to defer that dream series with Dusty Baker and the ghosts of Ought-Two for an extra series. Either that, or you are so confident in your teams pitching that you think location doesnt matter.Well, in that case, youre probably wrong. Location is everything, and in so many ways.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Giants respond to Melancon report: 'It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds'

Giants respond to Melancon report: 'It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds'

SAN FRANCISCO — As reporters approached Mark Melancon’s locker Monday afternoon, the closer looked up at a clubhouse clock and smiled.

“I guess it’s 3:30,” he said softly. 

A year ago at this time, Giants relievers would have been out in left field jogging and playing catch. The routine was changed a week into the season, and players, coaches and management expressed confusion and frustration Monday about how that became the centerpiece of a FOX Sports article portraying the clubhouse as “boring” and a problem.

The piece, written by Ken Rosenthal and posted Monday morning, said Melancon “rubbed some teammates the wrong way early in the season by putting an end to the bullpen’s 3:30 p.m. stretching session before night games, a practice that the relievers began in 2012.”

Several players mocked the concept as they stretched Monday. Manager Bruce Bochy called it a non-story.

“It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds,” he said. 

Melancon defended the move, saying it was made collectively by the revamped bullpen and staff. He said the Giants decided to be better about time management, noting that it did not make sense for the relievers to run and throw an hour before going back on the field with the rest of the team. The decision was made to instead focus on lifting, eating and doing other clubhouse work in the hours leading up to the 4:30 team stretch. 

“Really it’s nothing — it’s kind of funny it’s been raised,” Melancon said. “I was brought in to be a leader here and take ownership of the bullpen. In conversations with guys and the coaching staff, we decided to change the stretch time. It was the first series of the year, and from a time management standpoint, it’s been good. I’m shocked, but if this is the reason we’re pointing out (for the team’s record), please bring it on.

“We’re talking about stretching. Stretching,” Melancon added, joking he felt like Allen Iverson. 

The story also mentioned Melancon’s routine of spending the first six or seven innings in the clubhouse preparing to pitch. Melancon said he is usually in the bullpen by the fifth or sixth, and noted that that’s been the way of all closers he has worked under, from Mariano Rivera to Jonathan Papelbon. 

“I don’t know anyone who has had a problem with (my routine),” he said. 

His manager certainly doesn’t. Bochy said every closer he has managed did the same thing because they almost never pitch until the ninth. Of course, that’s where the real problem comes. Melancon has a 4.58 ERA and has blown four saves. He said that should have been the focus of any story about the Giants’ struggles. 

“I understand if you lose this many games there’s got to be something to blame, and I’ll take this blame on,” he said. “I haven’t pitched well … There are a lot of things I can be better at with my performance on the field, and that’s first and foremost.”

The Giants expected a bit more on the mound, and Melancon knows it. He owns that part of this. But they have no complaints, sources said, about anything he has done off the field. Several teammates noted Monday that Melancon has also been pitching hurt for a team that’s hopelessly buried in the standings. Melancon also had team employees remodel a small room behind the dugout — adding new seats, a flat screen TV, and inspirational quotes — so relievers were more comfortable while waiting to pitch.

Those are small changes, with nothing to do with how the team has played. And given the way the bullpen pitched last year, any change probably should have been welcomed. 

Giants lineup: Hernandez in, Slater out

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AP

Giants lineup: Hernandez in, Slater out

Bud Black and Bruce Bochy issued their lineups for today's series opener at AT&T Park:

Rockies (47-31) 
1. Charlie Blackmon (L) CF
2. DJ LeMahieu (R) 2B
3. Nolan Arenado (R) 3B
4. Mark Reynolds (R) 1B
5. Raimel Tapia (L) RF
6. Ian Desmond (R) LF
7. Trevor Story (R) SS
8. Tony Wolters (L) C
9. German Marquez (R) P (5-3, 3.92 ERA)

Giants (27-51)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Hunter Pence (R) RF
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Ryder Jones (L) 3B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (2-9, 4.74 ERA)