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Giants' Baseball

Three games to go...

Houston is 89-70 and has three games against Colorado at home. The Giants are 89-70 but they've got to play the Dodgers on the road. The Dodgers have yet to clinch the division, so they won't let up, which makes it that much more difficult for the Giants to sweep them. And of course the Cubs are 88-71 and have a series against the Braves. Houston is the favorite to come out of this, but if the Marlins can win the World Series, then anyone can win a three-game series. If the Giants and the Astros are tied, the playoff game will be held in San Francisco on Monday. And if there's a three-way tie, well, then it gets complicated. Because they have the best head-to-head record, the Giants get to choose either a game here against the Astros on Monday, and then another game here against the Cubs on Tuesday if they win. Or they can choose to play a single away game on Tuesday against the winner of the Houston-Cubs game. How bizarre.

Glenn Dickey...gone...
The San Francisco Chronicle, for reasons that are beyond me, put an end to Glenn Dickey's column last week. In its place are the kind of celebrity worship articles that would make People Magazine proud and, as usual, a lot of kissing-up to the Giants and a lot of ragging on the A's. I urge you to email the Chronicle's editor, Phil Bronstein, and the Sports Editor, Glenn Schwarz, and voice your concern.

Montreal Expos...gone...
This week marked the end of an era for Major League Baseball. Think of MLB as a jerk boss, riding an employee he doesn't like for years. Eventually the employee gets discouraged and doesn't try to please the boss anymore. Then the boss says, "See, he's a crappy employee! Let's fire his ass!" Make no mistake -- in any other business, what Bud Selig did to the Expos would be illegal, but baseball's got its exemption from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. All of a sudden, there's talk of moving the A's again. You might not care about the Expos, but this could take away a team near you.

A new record
Adam Dunn broke Bobby Bonds' decades-old strikeout record, and might finish the season with 195 strikeouts. In past, high-strikeout hitters like Rob Deer and Jose Hernandez have been benched with a few games to go to keep them from suffering the "embarrassment" of breaking the record. Not Dunn. After Bonds and Manny Ramirez, he's the third-best leftfielder in the game. How is that possible? Well, he's got 45 home runs, 107 walks and 102 runs scored. Bobby Bonds, for all of his strikeouts in 1970, scored 134 runs.

Alfonzo or Feliz?
Because of his preference for "aggressive" hitters -- Marquis Grissom and Pedro Feliz, among others -- Felipe Alou is costing his team wins. This is not to say that he's going to make the Giants finish last, not with Bonds and Schmidt and an $85 million payroll. But when we look back on the 2004 season, we might find that the Giants were just one win away from making the playoffs, and what might have been was never realized. Who knows? In two days, they might make the playoffs and my point will be moot.

In May 2003, Felipe Alou lamented that he couldn't play Pedro Feliz in place of Edgardo Alfonzo at third base. In 2004, Alou started Feliz 36 times at third, before switching into the Alfonzo camp in recent weeks. On the surface, Feliz might look like a good idea -- he's got 21 home runs, after all. But Alfonzo gets on base so much more often that compared to Feliz, he has a significant offensive advantage no matter how you look at it.

Feliz looks even worse at first base, where he got most of his starts. Guys with his level of production, like Rafael Palmiero and Tino Martinez, are contemplating retirement. The Giants cost themselves 10-15 runs this season by playing Feliz instead of an average first baseman. Another 10-15 runs would have meant another two wins in the standings, and with two more wins, the Giants wouldn't be worrying about catching Houston for the Wild Card.

Speaking of advantages...
How much were the Giants hurt by playing Neifi Perez? 100,000 of my wonderful computer simulations tell me that with Neifi batting #8, the Giants likely scored 4% fewer runs than they would have had he not played. With Neifi in the #2 spot over the last two years, it would have cost the Giants almost 5%. Thankfully, Felipe batted him second very rarely.

The Little Things
So when you're wondering how it is that the Giants could have the best player in baseball for so many years yet never build a World Series-caliber team around him, remember that it's the little things that matter. Little things like not giving hundreds of at-bats to below-average hitters.