I think we’ve been trying to prepare you for the inevitable for a while now here at Bay City Ball: The Giants are not defending their title in 2011. It’s awful tough to do so when you don’t qualify for the postseason. (Not to mention, we’d been showing you the warning signs about their inability to score many (presently any) more runs than their opponents throughout the season: Jun 17, Jun 29, Jul 18 and Aug 1.)
After last night’s depressing (but fitting) loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants fell 8.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. That’s an enormous deficit in April (and June… and July… and at the All-Star break), so ya, it’s insurmountable at this juncture. As an example, if the Giants, who have 18 games remaining, were to go 15-3 the rest of the way, Arizona, which has 17 games remaining, could go 7-10 and still claim the division title. It’s time to stop scoreboard watching, folks.
And if that still doesn’t seem too daunting to you, you should have your head examined. Also, consider for a second that the Giants’ run differential is minus-23 and tied for the worst mark in the division with the Padres. Meanwhile, the D’backs’ differential is by far the best in the West at plus-47. Again, hang ‘em up, fellas.
The season was sort of going along fine until that fateful night when our Buster Posey was harmed. A lot of really awful stuff that we don’t need to get into (I’m looking at you, Orlando Cabrera) happened in between, including injury after injury. And finally, last night, a Giants player left the game early with an apparent injury (Chris Stewart)… Tim Lincecum gave up a swinging bunt to 2011 National League MVP Matt Kemp (I’ll explain later), that led to 1) the tying run and 2) the assurance that Lincecum would remain 12 and 12… and Eugenio Velez scored the game-winning run to finish them off.
If we were reading a book to our children, this marks the spot where you see THE END in big, bold, capitalized letters.
Anyway, we’ll have plenty of time to go over what went wrong later. For example, when I write about it for the upcoming Hardball Times Annual 2012.
For now, though, let’s change gears. Let’s talk briefly about Cy Young awards, Most Valuable Player awards and a bit about Tim Lincecum.
While you can certainly make a top-flight argument for Kershaw, it’s hard to make a top-flight one against Halladay – which I think is significant since because seems like it has been Halladay’s award to lose for a while now.
As for Kemp, he deserves it for a lot of reasons including, as Jon points out…
It’s pretty remarkable that with just over two weeks remaining in the season, two players on the same team (and a mediocre one at that), one a pitcher and one a hitter, are within striking distance of each notching Triple Crown awards. Pretty. Remarkable. And that’s not even considering the enormous cloud that’s hovering over their troubled franchise.
And speaking just about Matt Kemp, I cannot help but be thoroughly impressed by his 180-degree turnaround from his poor 2010 season. He, by all rights, deserves the NL MVP award–I’ve never been a fan of taking the award away from a non-contending player. (I’m also advocating Jose Bautista, of course.) What’s more, he’s a home run barrage (eight) and two stolen bases away from having the first 40/40 (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases) season since Alfonso Soriano completed the feat in 2006. Only Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996), Alex Rodriguez (1998), and Soriano have accomplished this rare, statistical treat in baseball history.
But one of the more interesting things I found about Jon’s article was the difference between Justin Upton‘s and Kemp’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) according to FanGraphs (zero, as they both were at 6.9) and according to Baseball-Reference (4.1, as Kemp has 8.7 and Upton just 4.6). I don’t have much to comment on this, except to say that fielding metrics within the different publicly available valuation systems remain an enormous work in progress.
And in closing, you’ll notice that Tim Lincecum is not in Jon’s top five for NL Cy Young. Looking over the starters in the Senior Circuit, he’s probably right.
Lincecum remains a very, very good pitcher in baseball. Heck, he remains one of the best. At times, he’s even elite. That said, and though it pains me to say it, he appears to be making a slow exit out of the group of top-tier starters in baseball. I had high hopes for Lincecum coming into 2011, and I even wrote a sweet love letter-ish post about him (at least that’s what Grant of McCovey Chronicles called it) and his slider early on.
If you don’t agree, that’s perfectly fine. You may be in denial, however. Here’s his trends over the past three seasons (2009-2011):
Strikeouts per nine innings: 10.8…9.8…9.4 ↓
Walks per nine innings: 2.7…3.2…3.6 ↑
Strikeout to walk ratio: 3.84…3.04…2.61 ↓
One of his saving graces is that he remains very good at keeping the ball in the ballpark, as his 0.6 mark in 2011 would agree. But will that last? I hope so. Actually, I hope he improves in all areas. It’s probably not the most likely of outcomes though. No, the two Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009, followed by his brilliant performance in the 2010 playoffs that culminated in a series-clinching masterpiece versus Cliff Lee, will likely be the pinnacle.
Maybe that’s too much truth right now, after last night, and amid a dreadful World Series-following season. Maybe. But luckily, the Giants have another emerging ace in Madison Bumgarner. Someday soon, I predict it’ll be each and every one of his starts that’ll be can’t-miss for Giants fans.
I say this because it’s time to look ahead. It’s time to put 2011 in the rear view mirror. It’s even time to put the dreamy 2010 World Series season in the past. Instead, start thinking of Posey’s return to catcher, Bumgarner’s progression as a potential top-tier starter, and Gary Brown‘s development as a potentially fantastic weapon for the Giants at the top of the order and in center field.