Week [7] In Review (May 19-24) #SFGiants

What a week, what a weekend. First, the Giants swept the Dodgers again at home, this time never allowing them to score. Then they traveled to house-of-horrors Coors Field and split an annoying, rain delayed, 4 games in 3 days, sordid affair of a weekend. The Giants now sit 2 games behind the Dodgers (3 in the all important loss column), and are very much in the conversation as far as the division is concerned.

Second, there’s been a flurry of roster moves that deserves some consideration. On Friday the Giants called up the fiery Hunter Strickland. If you casually follow the team you may recall he gave up some home runs in the postseason last year, culminating in an emotional meltdown against the Royals in Game 2 of the World Series. He’s been downright dominant in AAA so far this season, and his 2 innings on Saturday continued that trend and helped save the bullpen during the brutal series in Colorado.

Strickland was so good in fact that the Giants chose to keep him around, and he continues on with the team as they head to Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the Giants finally made a call at third base. They cut Casey McGehee on Sunday (although if wants to he could accept a demotion to Sacramento and stay with the team…this may, in fact, be his best option). Our #FreeMattDuffy worked! The kid now has about 7+ weeks to show the team what he’s got before the trade deadline.

Finally, in an interesting move today, the Giants also released Travis Ishikawa, who may remember from that one home run hit against the Cardinals in the 2014 NLCS. Yeah, that was awesome. But, baseball is an unsentimental jerk sometimes. Ishikawa could also accept a demotion back to AAA and stay with the organization.

Something tells both guys will choose to stay and hope they can work their way back up. The most interesting move to me was Ishikawa. I thought that maybe the Giants would send one of their catchers down (probably Andrew Susac) and have Ishikawa around as a pinch hitter, especially since he’s shown he can handle the outfield, but the team made the right move for now. It seems they have the best combination of a players and roles lined up now that they’ve committed to Duffy. Stay tuned though, because more moves are likely to come in the near future.

One of those very well may be sending Chris Heston down and bringing Jake Peavy back into the rotation. Stay tuned.

Hitter of the Week:

Once again, the choices are plentiful. Brandon Crawford continues to make his All-Star case. Buster Posey actually had a better week than Crawford, hitting a home run, driving in 6, and hitting over .400. Joe Panik continues to impress and put to be any fears of a sophomore slump. He led everyday players with a .417 average, and 6 runs scored.

But, the HOW goes to Madison Bumgarner for his “big boy” home run off Clayton Kershaw. Awesome.

Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Vogelsong is also awesome. May we never question him again. Tim Lincecum shut out the Dodgers. All hail the freak. Madison Bumgarner beat reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Clayton Kershaw FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON. But, we’re going to go with a relief pitcher for the second week in a row. Hunter Strickland really did come up huge for the Giants this weekend. More importantly, if he can prove himself to consistently get major league hitters out, he is a major weapon in the bullpen. We saw a foretaste of that in the playoffs last year. We also saw the Strickland dark side. But, he has the pure stuff to be a dominant bullpen piece, and on this team, with its amazing, but aging bullpen core, another strikeout arm in the pen would be a significant addition. Plus, no more Jean Machi. Go get ’em Hunter.

Looking Ahead:

The Giants will play three in Milwaukee and then head home for a nice home stand, starting with 4 against the Atlanta Braves. Hoping to see their momentum continue to build through the end of the month and possibly close the gap on the Dodgers by another game.

Go Giants! Happy Memorial Day!


Week [6] In Review (May 11-May 18) #SFGiants

Well, last week I wrote about the Giants run differential issues and how that left a sense of doom in regards to the future. They must have read my post. The Giants went to work with the bats this week and turned that -23 on its head: they now are dead even in runs scored and allowed for a run differential of ZERO.

Aside from all the good vibes around the Giants bats right now (and a good part of that might have to do with the Reds being bad at pitching), when you look at the bigger picture of the season go back to that fateful early spring training day when Hunter Pence broke his arm. When you heard about that and how long he might be out, I think we all hoped the Giants could just survive and maybe be at .500 when he came back.

Well, lo and behold that’s exactly how this all worked out. A lot has not gone right in 2015, but the Giants managed to keep from drowning, got one of their best players back and now have an opportunity to dig into the Dodgers lead in the division. The news does not get much better than that.

Hitter of the Week:

Statistically, several guys had great weeks. Last Monday I predicted we might start to see some home runs from Brandon Belt and sure enough the power flood gates opened up. Posey had the 9th best average and he hit .321 with 2 home runs and 7 RBIs. Brandon Crawford had a huge week, knocking in 10. Matt Duffy hit .462 (couldn’t help myself), and even Gregor Blanco got in on the action. But I have to give the HOW to Hunter Pence for not just getting back in the lineup, but returning with mad style: 4 for 8 with a double, a home run, 2 RBI, and 5 runs scored!

Pitcher of the Week:

Madison Bumgarner had a great start in Cincinnati. Chris Heston had a great start in Houston and a bad start against the Reds. Ryan Vogelsong continues to make me feel back for ever questioning him. But the pitcher of the week goes to Santiago Casilla. First, Santi pulled off an incredible feat, striking out the side on the minimum 9 pitchers (aka the “immaculate inning”). But what is amazing to me is that those were the only 9 pitches he threw all week! Not a bad week.

Looking Ahead:

The Giants are off today and then it gets busy. Three huge games against the Dodgers start off the week. If the Giants could pull off another sweep they could close the gap in the division to 1.5 games. Crazy! Included in this series is yet another Bumgarner vs. Kershaw death match. Amazing to think this is the third time already this year they’ve faced each other. After all that the Giants head to Colorado for a regularly scheduled three game visit, with the added bonus of a make up game on Saturday. Four in Colorado isn’t usually fun, but the Rockies have been terrible lately and this could be a great opportunity to keep the bats cooking. I’m hoping for 2 of 3 against LA, and 3 of 4 in Colorado.

Go Giants!


Week [5] In Review (May 4-May 10) #SFGiants

I was hoping that the Giants could wrap up their excellent home stand and head out on the road with a 17-15 record, but 16-16 is still good, especially considering half their loses came during that one streak that we won’t mention anymore.

Despite a 7-3 home stand, and the general good vibes that accompany the team these days, there are two significant concerns that stand out to me. First, the Giants still have -23 run differential. Wins are wins, as they say, but the way the Giants are doing this, with so many walk offs and one-run affairs, is unsustainable and leads one to fear that another losing streak is right around the corner. The Giants have a lot of road games coming up, this is a precarious time.

As mentioned, the Giants are 7-3 in the last 10, but meanwhile the Dodgers have gone 8-2. So even though the overall record looks a lot better, the Giants have actually lost ground in the division and now sit 5.5 games out, which is as far back as they’ve been all year. We all know the Giants are fine with the Dodgers winning the division, and taking the Wild Card route to glory, but the Dodgers are at +53 right now, which is the best mark in baseball.

I know this is not how this stat works, but the Dodgers are 76 runs better than the Giants. And we’re only half way through May. This is not a good sign.

The Giants continue to win by getting out to an early lead and holding on for dear life. I think Sunday’s walk off was the first come from behind win of the year (at least that I can think of). The Giants need to score more runs. Bottom line.

Hitter of the Week:

The Casey McGehee grand slam was awesome. He then proceeded to ground into two more double plays, and his line for the week was still terrible: .167/.167/.417. That’s what you get with one home run and a lot of outs. Brandon Belt has been marvelous (.524/.600/.810), and hopefully some games in Houston and Cincinnati will translate into some home runs for him.

Pitcher of the Week:

I have a draft of a post that demonstrates how when (and if) the Giants ever get completely healthy it sure looks like Ryan Vogelsong is the odd man out. However, after this past week, that argument has gone out the window and that post remains stashed in the “draft” folder. Vogey had two starts this week and he threw 14 stellar innings: 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 hits, and 9 strikeouts. Hard to imagine anything better from him these days. He’s making the rotation conversation that much harder. Hat tip to Tim Lincecum who has now thrown 15 straight scoreless innings.

Looking Ahead:

The Giants are in Houston for a quick two games and then head to Cincinnati for four. They then come back to the Bay for a short three game home stand (all against the Dodgers), and then hit the road again. We’re looking for the G-men to stay around the .500 mark with a 3-3 effort this week and then make a dent against LA when they come back home.

Go Giants!


Week [4] In Review (April 27-May 3) #SFGiants

Well, friends, just like that our beloved Giants are out of the cellar and have won 6 straight games at home.

I have a post brewing about what to do with Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum, but that may have wait another day after Timmy’s nice outing this afternoon. Tim didn’t get the week off to a strong start with a poor outing in LA against the Dodgers. Madison Bumgarner made the bad feelings go away by outdeuling Clayton Kershaw for the second week in a row. Vogelsong brought all the sadness back with a homer fest on Wednesday night.

But, the Giants then returned home and all is well with the world again. They started to play down hill, jumping to three leads against the Angels and hanging on for dear life in the first two games, and then putting the Angeles away for good today. All in all, a 4-2 week is great at this point, and the Giants will look to keep it going against the Padres tomorrow.

Two big things stand out right now: first, the Giants are finally starting to hit some home runs, and it feels like more should be coming (looking at you Brandon Belt). That is a wonderful sign. Second, the Giants just enjoyed three straight games in which their starting pitcher lasted into the 7th inning or beyond. After a series in Colorado, and two short-start games in LA, this is great sign for the next week as there are no days off until the end of the home stand.

Finally, it was good to see Casey McGehee do something good! I still stand at the forefront of the #FreeDuffy campaign, but if he’s going to play, I’m going to root for Casey to be mighty with that bat.

Hitter of the Week:

So far I’ve given this award to Aoki, Panik, and Maxwell. Interestingly enough, Aoki and Panik were in the mix of the homer brigade this weekend. I’d love to give this again to Panik for his walk off ways as well, but we’re going with Buster Posey because it finally looks like Buster is heating up. Two home runs, including one off of Kershaw, and a .318/.400/.737 slash line for the week locks up the first HOW for Posey.

Pitcher of the Week:

In so many ways I want to give this to Bumgarner for another ace-like effort. The temptation with the 2015 team, though, is going to be to give this to him every time out. I also want to hand a second award out to Christ Heston who bounced back from his Coorsing with another impressive effort. Kudos to Tim Lincecum for his big rebound start today, after the poor showing against the “other” LA team. However, this week I hand out hardware to the old man, Tim Hudson, for nearly throwing his 27th career complete game.

It feels like Hudson is the easiest guy to over look in the rotation. Every Bumgarner start is a highlight, every Lincecum start produces some sort of conversation. Heston’s been the revelation and there’s plenty of ink spilled over Cain and Peavy and what to do while they are out.

But for today, let’s honor Hudson who’s been doing this for years now, quietly mowing down hitter after hitter. Well done, sir.

Looking Ahead:

3 against the Pads to start the week, and then 4 against the Miami Marlins as the Giants finally get a look at other teams in the NL.

Go Giants.


Week [3] In Review (April 20-26) #SFGiants

After a miserable 8 game losing streak and the squandering of a long early home stand, the Giants faced a daunting task this week: 3 games against the rival Dodgers (the hot Dodgers at that), and then a trip to Coors field, house of horrors.

It’s not over stating it to suggest that how this week unfolded could possibly determine the rest of the season.

Not every question has been answered, but the Giants certainly answered the bell, sweeping the Dodgers (with two walk off wins no-less), and then splitting the two games of their rain shortened trip to Colorado.

There are still some troubling signs: the lack of ability to drive runners in from scoring position is truly remarkable, especially for a team that must hit well in this position if it has any hopes of competing this season. Casey McGehee is an abomination. He nearly broke the record for double plays last year in what was one of his better seasons, and now he is on pace to shatter the record. By all accounts, he is not feeling well, so shutting him down and giving him another go when healthy might be a good idea. But, it is ugly right now. The #FreeMattDuffy campaign is fully underway here. The bullpen and rotation still leave something to be desired, although they all did their jobs for the most part this week.

Despite those concerns, there is a lot to be excited about. First, of all the Giants won some games. A 4-1 week was desperately needed. Just as important was the way they won: getting ahead, pitching well, and playing downhill. This is not a team that can catch up very often. They need a strong turn the first time through the order by their starter, early runs, and then they can hang on for victories. They followed that formula for the most part this week.

Second, the Giants are getting Justin Maxwell’s best Hunter Pence impression and it is making a huge difference in the lineup. JMax (as we like to call him around our home) has been a much-needed shot of power. Also, Andrew Susac is here and making his presence felt, already sparking Bochy to think about putting Brandon Belt in LF from time to time (THANK YOU).

Third, speaking of Belt, both Brandon’s seem to be coming around with the bat, and that is a beautiful sign.

Hitter of the Week

JMax wins this award running away with his big home runs and walk off ways. It remains to be seen if he can keep this up. As good as he’s been he still has a strong propensity to go out of the strike zone. In fact you can already see teams making that adjustment. This is where his success can actually be a detriment: he’s so eager to keep hitting that he’ll expand his zone, only to find that he stops hitting. If JMax can stay disciplined maybe he can turn his hot start into a breakout season.

Pitcher of the Week

Once again I have half a mind to give this to Tim Lincecum. I’m also tempted to name Ryan Vogelsong the POW. I was thinking of writing a post about the potentially gut wrenching decision to cut Vogelsong, but he certainly bought himself a lot of time with his strong start again the Dodgers.

But, despite all that, I give the nod to Madison Bumgarner. Even though his night did not end well, he outdueled Clayton Kershaw in what, I think, was the most important game of the year to date. Even though the Giants got back in the win column the day before, losing to Kershaw and potentially losing the series the next day, could have sent this team right back into the doldrums. But, Bumgarner’s start, plus the walk off excitement, leading into the sweep the next afternoon, has helped changed the atmosphere around this team dramatically.

Looking Ahead

Well, speaking of the Dodgers, here we go again! This time the Giants will visit Chavez Ravine, but with the rainout, we can expect the same pitching match ups as last week (check that, it looks like we will have to see Grienke this time around). One interesting thing to watch: Don Mattingly continues to affirm his position as one of the weaker managers in the game. I know body language isn’t everything, and I’m certainly not in that clubhouse ever, but he seems to exude an aura of weakness (or wieneeness as I told my dad this week). He’s kind of like a toddler. He’s the baseball manager version of Jed York. He contributed to at least one of the losses and behaved poorly in one of the others. I cannot imagine him lasting long in under the new regime, especially he continues to act like this. It will be interested to see what he does this time around. After the Dodgers, the Giants head home and face the other LA team next weekend.

Go Giants.


Thoughts on Trades Continued… #sfgiants #trades

Yesterday I wrote about a few potential Giants’ trade partners based on teams who are off to poor starts. There is one more third basemen worth mentioning.

Perhaps the most intriguing possibility at the hot corner for the Giants is Adrian Beltre (btw, Casey McGehee hit into another double play today, giving him a whopping 5 in less than 40 at bats. That’s terrible in case you were wondering. Analysis.).

The upside: Beltre provides the best of all worlds…still good with the glove and the bat he would not just be an upgrade but would become one of the Giants’ best players.

The downside: he is owed a quite a bit of money through 2016, and he probably has a no-trade clause, which may render this whole conversation moot. Also, he is old and not off to a great start (small sample size of course).

The most interesting question is: what would it take to get a Beltre type player? Since the Rangers will still likely be on the hook for about $24 million, the Giants could get away without giving up much in terms of players if they take on all the salary. I’d imagine they’d be amenable to that considering they were willing to pay more than this for the services of Pablo Sandoval.

If the Rangers want major league talent would Hector Sanchez and George Kontos be enough?

If the Rangers want more prospecty prospects who would the Giants have to offer?

I would think the Giants would do this if the price were cheap in terms of talent. They can absorb the salary.

If the price for Beltre (or any other 3B) is Susac or Duffy or Panik, I think the Giants will wash their hands and press on with what they have.

Should the Giants go after Beltre?


Quick Thoughts About Trades #SFGiants

It’s way to early to get into trade talks, but it seems many Giants’ fans want to go there already. Which is understandable. Eight game losing streaks will cause fans to go seeking for hope in any corner of any room, no matter how dusty and dim.

A quick look around major league baseball reveals that two teams have been bigger disappointments thus far than the Giants: come on down Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Plus, there’s another team we all anticipated being bad that is keeping up its end of the bargain: hello Minnesota Twins.

Even thought it is early it does seem likely these teams will be selling sooner than later. The Giants biggest need as of right now is probably at third base, so let’s see what these teams have to offer (for the record BaseballMonk remains firmly in the Pro Matt Duffy camp):

  1. The top 3B any of these teams has to offer is Aramis Ramirez. He’s been rumored to the Giants at least a dozen times since he’s been in the league. No doubt we will continue to hear rumblings as the summer unfolds. Ramirez is off to bad start, but tends to start cold. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so if he wants to play beyond 2015 he should be motivated to get it going. He would offer some power, a little glove, a lot of RBI gamer-toughness that Sabean loves, and he should come fairly cheap.
  2. The Miami Marlins are 3-11 and had hoped to be in some kind of contention this year. However, their best pitcher isn’t back until June and that’s the best case scenario. If things continue to go this way they will sell what they have and reload for 2016. Martin Prado is another guy who fits the Sabean profile to a T. High contact, line drive hitter, who can play multiple positions. He’s also past his prime. He has one more year on his contract, which could drive his price down if the Giants offer salary relief. Nothing would surprise me about his presence on the Giants.
  3. The Minnesota Twins have a fairly bright future with some of the game’s best prospects waiting in the wings. However, their lack of ability to develop anything remotely resembling an above average major league pitcher is alarming. They might be more than willing to take a middling Giants arm for Trevor Plouffe, a guy who has aged out of prospect status and is now a fringe every day player with some pop, who probably shouldn’t be anyone’s everyday third basemen. While he would bring the most home run potential and be the youngest and cheapest of these three gentlemen, he leaves a lot to be desired.

I hope to do this same exercise with pitchers soon. Meanwhile: BEAT LA!