2010 SF Giants – It’s Not Supposed To Be Easy

2010 SF Giants

If you asked Giants fans how they would’ve liked this series to go, a four game sweep would’ve been the answer. But up three games to two going back to Philadelphia would’ve been a favorable outcome based on the fact that the Giants were the definitive underdog coming into the series.

After they won the first two games in San Francisco to go up three games to one with their best pitcher on the mound, you can’t fault Giants fans for being slightly disappointed with the way game five ended. Greedy? A bit. But that’s what you want out of your sports teams. You want them to go for the kill whenever necessary.

Game five wasn’t the classic that it was billed to be. Roy Halladay didn’t have great stuff. Tim Lincecum’s defense failed him. But when it came down to it, the Phillies made less mistakes in crunch time.

It eventually came out that Halladay pulled his groin in the second inning and had to ride an exercise bike in the dugout to stay loose. The major media will say that Halladay is a gamer and that he out-dueled Tim Lincecum, but they’d only be half right.

Halladay is a gamer for sure. You could tell that he didn’t have great stuff. In the sixth inning, no pitch reached 90 MPH on the gun. His sinker sat at 88 MPH and his change was in the high 70s. But out-duel Lincecum? That didn’t really happen.

Linecum threw one more inning than Halladay, gave up two less hits, the same amount of earned runs (though earned runs is a flawed statistic in itself), walked one less person, and struck out two more batters. Out-duel? Not really. But that’s why baseball is a team game. No matter how well Lincecum pitched, the Phillies played a better baseball game and that’s why they won.

For Giants fans who dislike that the Phillies and Halladay get so much more of the media attention already, get ready for more. Before it’s said and done, Halladay’s pitching with a groin injury is going to be his bloody jock, I mean, sock moment. Ok, maybe it won’t be that. But they’re going to make more out of it than they should.

In the third inning, the Giants showed what their biggest team flaw is. While I’ve mentioned before that hitting with runners in scoring position is one of their major flaws, to me, it’s not their biggest team flaw. Their biggest team flaw is overall team defense, specifically in the infield.

The stat that FOX (and TBS for the NLDS) keeps spewing out is their strong fielding percentage. But really, it’s only half the story. If you look at the third inning, it’s pretty clear that while their fielding percentage is strong, their overall infield defense isn’t.

Lincecum gave up a hit to Raul Ibanez to start the third inning. Lincecum then hit the statue, Carlos Ruiz to put runners on first and second. That brought up Roy Halladay, who was up to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Pablo Sandoval’s job as the third baseman is to crash the play, but if the ball isn’t bunted hard, he has to get back to his base. If the ball is bunted hard, he fields it and makes the play to first.

Halladay bunted the ball barely out in front of the plate and Buster Posey pounced on it. Some folks mentioned that maybe Buster should’ve let it go foul as there was backspin on it (and I’m not sure that it wasn’t foul). But Buster made the right play because if you get to the ball early, you can make the force play at third, foiling Halladay’s sacrifice attempt. Sandoval must’ve crashed way harder than necessary because he couldn’t get back to third quick enough to take advantage of Buster’s heady play.

Sandoval eventually threw Halladay out at first as Halladay assumed the ball was foul and didn’t run. As bad a play as that was, there’s no error scored on the play, and thus, it doesn’t hurt the team’s “fielding percentage.”

On the very next play, Shane Victorino hit a hard ground ball to Aubrey Huff, who played it terribly for an error. A normal error where Huff just muffs it, or even misplays it but still can get the runner out at first would only let in one run. But Huff misplayed the ball so badly that it ricocheted off his leg and into centerfield and two runs came in. It also allowed Victorino to reach second on the play and he scored on the next hit.

In two successive plays, the Giants gave away two runs, yet only one error was scored. That’s exactly why fielding percentage isn’t the best way to find out what kind of defense a team plays. There are many more things involved in a game that doesn’t factor into the percentage.

Two of the biggest chances by the Giants to score were foiled by Aubrey Huff’s failure to get a key hit. He’s had an up and mainly down series and tonight, he was down again. In his first at-bat with runners on first and third, Huff hit the ball hard, but lined out on a great play by Ryan Howard.

In the third inning, right after he made his crucial error (which turned out to be the difference in the game), he was up with two outs and Andres Torres on first, and grounded out to Chase Utley to end the inning. In the fifth inning, the Giants had Halladay on the ropes. With two out, Torres got on because of a Howard error and Freddy Sanchez singled. Halladay forced Huff to barely get a piece of the ball and he ended up grounding out to the catcher to end the inning.

By the 7th, Halladay was out of the game. Torres was on first again and with two outs, Huff was up to try to prolong the inning with the Giants down by just one run. The Phillies brought in JC Romero specifically to pitch to Huff and only Huff. He got Huff to line (or bloop) out to Utley to end the inning.

In three out of Huff’s four at-bats, he ended the inning, which meant that the Giants’ best RBI guy Buster Posey led off the next inning three times. Manager Bruce Bochy may want to think about flip flopping the two hitters, but I’d bet he sticks with Huff in the third spot.

If you’ve been following the Giants over the entire year, you understand the story arc for this team. They don’t do things the easy way. They’re a stubborn team who swings for the fences when a single will do. And if they are to beat the Phillies and go onto the World Series, it sure wasn’t meant to end like this. It was meant to go back to Philadelphia.

Jonathan Sanchez was the starting pitcher when the Giants clinched the division title on the last day of the season. He was also the first Giants’ pitcher in 23 years to throw a no-hitter. He starts Saturday against Roy Oswalt. If it’s meant to be, maybe it’s meant to be with him on the mound.

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