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Rox can bury the Giants with 4-game set at Coors

Some things have changed since the last time the Giants were in town. Some haven't.

After the Rockies took two of three for San Fran at Coors July 24-26, the Rockies were two games ahead of the Giants for the wild card. Right now, they are two games ahead of the Giants for the wild card. Tim Lincecum's arm is still firmly attached to his right shoulder, and Bengie Molina still sucks. But for all the holdovers, this will certainly be a different team. Of the four starters in line to face the Rockies, only one pitched in the last series. The lineup features a new second baseman, left fielder, and first baseman, transforming the top of the order. Of course, the Rockies counter with a strengthened bullpen.

The Rockies can put a substantial dent in the Giants playoff aspirations. Just think: winning the series by any means will push the Giants at least four games out of the race, a deficit that is (gasp!) bigger than the one the Rockies currently face in the division, and there are many who maintain that deficit is too steep already.

So how have those new shiny pieces helped the Giants' offense? Well, since the trade deadline, their team wOBA is .326, a step up from their .304 season mark, but it hasn't been Sanchez and Garko that have done it. They have a .306 and .282 mark since the trade respectively. Naturally, that's not the most important metric to measure by.

Since adding both players to their roster, the Giants are 10-8 . In 8 of those 18, the offense has failed to score more than 2 runs. Their August runs/game is up to 4.17 (their season mark is 3.98). So there's a slight improvement, and it will help when Sanchez returns tonight. He has missed 7 of the 20 games since he was acquired.

However, for reference, the Rockies offense has pumped out 6.06 runs/game in August, and 12 of 19 have been on the road. That has been inflated at Coors, but their 4.90 mark on the road far bests the Giants, and everyone here seems very worried about our offense...

Are the Giants improved enough? With 10 games left between the two teams, four this weekend, anything is possible. But I don't think (and never have) that their still anemic offense will be enough to knock off more complete teams. I'm not the only one. Rockies, make me right this weekend.

I encourage sparring with Gnat fans: McCovey Chronicles.

San Francisco Giants (66-55, L1, 3rd, 2 GB WC, 5 GB Div)

Friday-Monday: 4-game series at Coors Field

The Bats: D

I'm sorry, but an offense can't be any good with Bengie Molina STILL in the cleanup spot. His 82 OPS+ would place him as the 6th worst cleanup hitter since 1957. Even if the Giants win the Wild Card, Bruce Bochy should be DQed from Manager of the Year consideration on that fact alone, and I'm tempted to give them an F again. However, the rest of the lineup is indeed improved, as actually five hitters are above league average in wOBA.

But as I showed in the lead, they still aren't scoring runs (they scored one run in 3 of their last 4 games) and the two pieces they added to their 2nd-worst team-wOBA are not producing.

Eugenio Velez - LF .300 3 14 .336 .438 .338
Freddy Sanchez - 2B .297 7 39
.333 .433 .331
Pablo Sandoval - 3B .327 18 70 .377 .545 .389
Bengie Molina - C .259 15
63 .277 .431 .299
Ryan Garko - 1B .276 11 47 .353 .429 .344
Aaron Rowand - CF
.275 10 48
.329 .437 .335
Nate Schierholtz - RF .299 4 23 .326 .445 .327
Edgar Renteria - SS .261 2 40 .314 .321 .282

By wOBA metrics, the lineup features one All-Star caliber players (Sandoval), one above average hitter (Garko), two slightly above average hitters (Rowand and Velez), two about average hitters (Sanchez and Schierholtz), and two hitters who "suck," as RMN described yesterday (Molin anad Renteria).

Juan Uribe (.277, 6, 28) is the utility infielder and Travis Ishikawa (.263, 8, 31) is back on the roster to spell Garko. Fred Lewis (.274, 4, 16) and Randy Winn (.269, 2, 45) are backup outfielders and both figure to start at least once in the series. Rookie Eli Whiteside (.225, 1, 7) is Molina's backup catcher.

Hop after the jump for the scouting report on the arms, the D, the pitching matchups, injuries and the hot/cold players.

The Arms: A

Two of the Giants starters have not faced the Rockies this season. One has Cy Young hardware. The other (Saturday's starter) is just coming off of having his own hardware struck by a batted ball, forcing him to miss most of the season. Barry Zito is pitching a lot better and he had a dominating start vs the Rockies earlier this year. Jeo Martinez has been decent in his three starts. Sanchez has been solid in his six starts since the no-hitter. We do miss Matt Cain however. Also, the bullpen is exceptionally stable and strong.

Statistically speaking, the Giants lead MLB in shutouts and have the 3rd best pitching staff, according to Fangraphs, behind Boston and, ahem, Colorado. They lead MLB in K's (as if that were surprising), ERA, and complete games. Their ERA/FIP/tRA rotation split is 3.55/3.73/4.03, and only Barry Zito is "below average" per StatCorner. The bullpen is 3.30/3.67/3.98.

2009 - Brian Wilson 5-5 2.75 1.11 61 21

The bullpen composition hasn't changed since the last time the Giants were in town. The pen is anchored by closer Brian Wilson, followed by Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Bob Howry. Merkin Valdez, Justin Miller and Brandon Medders fill out the bullpen. Meddres and Valdez aren't very scary, but the other five have been good.

The D: B

The Giants have MLB 3rd best UZR/150, and only seven teams have made fewer errors. Fangraphs rates San Francisco's defense as #1 in MLB. However, a lot of that statistical benefit has come from Ishikawa and Winn, who aren't full-time starters anymore. Outside of them, every player in the lineup is either slightly above average or merely serviceable.

Probable Pitchers:

Tonight, 7:10 pm MDT

2009 - Jonathan Sanchez 5-10 4.49 1.41 120 64
2009 - Aaron Cook 10-5 4.31 1.46 75 44
Jonathan Sanchez can't pitch on the road. He's 1-8 with a 5.20 ERA on the road despite a .296 BABIP against. His worst start since his reinsertion to the rotation came at Coors Field July 25, but he's quietly turning his season around to the point where he's legitimately having a career year. Cook is coming off his worst start of the year and has allowed 5 HR in his past 3 starts. One important note: the Giants left Cincinnati yesterday afternoon, while the Rockies had to travel from Washington after a night game. That could affect the game. Cookie said he fixed his balance point problem, which apparently sabotaged his last start. If he has, this matchup favors the Rockies. Otherwise, I'm nervous about this one.

Saturday, August 22, 6:10 MDT
2009 - Joe Martinez 3-1 4.76 1.71 10 6
2009 - Jorge De La Rosa 11-8 4.58 1.39 140 57
Martinez was placed on the 60-day DL with a concussion after getting hit with a line drive off his head in Spring Training. The rookie hasn't allowed more than 3 runs in any appearance, but then again, he hasn't gotten more than 15 outs in a game this year. He doesn't get a lot of strikeouts but is serviceable at the back end of the rotation. De la Rosa has allowed just 1 run in his last 13.2 IP, winning 9 of his last 10 starts and allowing 2 or less runs in 7 of 9 starts. The game will be broadcast on MLB Network.

Sunday, August 23, 1:10 MDT

2009 - Tim Lincecum 12-3 2.37 1.04 207 46
2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez 11-9 3.41 1.23 145 64
This game should be on every sports channel except maybe YES. I thought Lincecum would fall apart this year or at least regress. He hasn't. There's not a whole lot to say. He's a stud. However, the Rockies have hit him harder than just about anyone in his career, and the Giants are just 2-3 in games he's started at Coors. So if you want a sliver of hope, there's that. Plus, he just got whipped up on by the only team with a worse wOBA than the Giants. The Rockies counter with their own OMGACE, who has thrown 8 straight quality starts. Ubaldo is quietly 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA in August.

Monday, August 24, 6:40 MDT
2009 - Barry Zito 8-11 4.26 1.32 114 56
2009 - Jason Marquis 14-8 3.58 1.28 79 52
In his last 7 starts, Zito is 3-2 with a 2.36 ERA. He dominated the Rockies May 3 at AT&T. His WHIP and and ERA are coming down towards strong numbers, and he could certainly confuse Rockies hitters if he's on. As FooMan has shown, Marquis has not broken down in the second half. He has 9 quality starts in his 11 post-ASB starts, and the Rockies are 7-4 in his home starts.

My take

It's amazing how real life can play out like theater. The probable pitchers line up perfectly for three very competitive matchups that could easily go either way, making home field advantage key, though Colorado ought to win Saturday's game. With the Dodgers facing the bumbling Cubs in the meantime, the goal should be at least three wins, though a split is not debilitating. I think the Rockies take 3 and put the Giants behind the 8-ball.

33_15_10---fire-flame-texture_web_mediumBengie Molina has four August HR, while Fred Lewis is 11-for-23 in August. Velez, Sanchez, Sandoval, Renteria and Schierholtz are all hitting over .300 this month, and Brian Wilson has allowed just one run since July 11.

IceTravis Ishikawa is only 4-for-22 this month and Freddy Sanchez has just 4 singles in his last 17 ABs.


Andres Torres (hamstring - 7/31) and Rich Aurilia (ankle - 8/12) are both on the 15-day DL. Noah Lowry (ribs) has been on the 60 day DL since at least Opening Week, and P Kelvin Pichardo (shoulder - 6/28), Randy Johnson (trapezius - 7/6) and Henry Sosa (shoulder - 8/5) are now keeping him company.