Yeah, so we did the Five Questions thing with the rival SBNation blog. This time, we welcome Grant from the one and only McCovey Chronicles. You can find my answers to his questions here. Below, good stuff. Thanks, Grant, and best of luck! And by that I mean I hope the Giants lose.
1. Thank you for dispatching the Braves, the most vile franchise in MLB. What were the Giants' NLDS keys to victory?
Bunting. They bunted well. They hit behind the runner well. The #2 hitter took a pitch to allow the leadoff hitter a chance to steal, and even though the leadoff hitter never did steal, that's why the Giants won.
Also, the Giants' starting pitching allowed three earned runs in 29 innings over four games. Also, also, a journeyman utility player was forced to play a position he wasn't adept at, and he made bushels of errors. Also, also, also, Cody Ross was not Jose Guillen.
2. With all of the to-do about the Phillies frontline rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, the Giants' daunting top three of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez stacks up pretty well. How do you think the team's rotations can exploit the opposing lineups?
If the Phillies pitchers are able to throw either pitches in the strike zone or pitches out of the strike zone,they'll have a pretty good chance at getting the Giants to flail. If the Phillies pitchers throw pitches that are neither in nor out of the strike zone, instead existing in a limbo-like state called antarabhāva, the Giants will have a shot, probably because that sort of nonsense is against the rules.
The Giants have problems with quality sliders and changeups. They're not exactly unique in that regard, but it sure seems that they have more of a problem with offspeed stuff than other teams.
It's hard to know how the Giants' three will exploit the Phillies because it's totally dependent on what is working for them that night. If Lincecum is commanding his slider, he'll throw it often in strikeout counts. If he doesn't have the command of his slider, he'll stick to his changeup. It all depends, which is kind of how it is for every pitcher, I guess. They'll have specific game plans for attacking Phillies hitters in mind, but I couldn't guess at what those would be. Maybe Lincecum's dossier on Ryan Howard is just a sheet of paper with "Be left-handed" written in 29-point comic sans.
3. Tim Lincecum had something of a "Lost Weekend" in August 2010. Just from glancing at the numbers it looks like his walks and home runs allowed were up, a recipe for failure. What was wrong, and how did he (evidently) right himself?
His mechanics were off, which lead to poor velocity and command. It was a bad combination. I have absolutely no idea how he rediscovered his stuff, but his velocity is back up to 90-94, his changeup is one of the best pitches in baseball again, and he picked up a new, awesome slider just because he could.
4. A lot has been made about how Buster Posey's arrival changed the whole look of the Giants' lineup. While this is obviously true (of course a new hitter is going to make the lineup "look different"), I'm wondering if you have any thoughts as to if/how his presence affects the rest of the team's hitters.
Before: A cleanup hitter who didn't work counts, didn't hit for power, and couldn't score from second on a single.
After: A cleanup hitter who worked counts, hit for power, and had below-average speed instead of tar-pit speed.
It was a philosophical shift, in a way. The Giants really thought Bengie Molina was an adequate hitter last year because of a dozen home runs and some RBI. So it was refreshing to watch a player who was actually good in the cleanup spot.
5. Pat Burrell: Legend? (Consider this an open essay question, worth 50% of your final grade)
Pat Burrell slept with my wife and put a cigarette out on my cat. I didn't get a chance to thank him, but I did get a chance the next day to clean up his empty bottles and drink whatever was left. It was awesome.