Second Half Predictions

The Giants picked up the second half right where they left off: Johnny Cueto underwhelmed, they still can’t win a MadBum start, Samardzija is ever the enigma, and the offense kept sputtering right along.

There’s not much to review here, but it was great to see Madison Bumgarner back! That start was the best case scenario for all involved: several innings, quality performance, no high stress pitch counts…quite frankly it was a game a good team would have won.

Rather than dig any deeper into that, or into fantastical scenarios that will never happen, let’s make a few predictions about the second half:

  • Giants predictions: the only bold prediction that is mildly interesting to make here is that Brandon Belt will hit 30 home runs, the first to do it since some guy named Barry. Other than that: the Giants will make some trades and hope to get some bounce backs from the Crawford’s and Moore’s of the roster. On to the rest of baseball.
  • The Cubs will be fine. My big second half baseball prognostication is that the Cubs will win the Central. Then they went out and won 3 straight games by the combined score of 27-11. They’ll be fine. The NL postseason is going to be a blood bath.
  • The AL pennant race is going to be interesting with so many teams in play still, but it’s all a prelude to the Astros steamrolling their way to the World Series.
  • Aaron Judge is awesome, but he won’t hit 50 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s rookie HR record.
  • I should be picking the Dodgers to win it all, but I can’t do that and so I’m going to get all sentimental and pick the Dusty Baker National’s to win the whole thing.

A couple more thoughts on the World Series. MLB seems to obsess far too much over who gets into the WS and it’s impact on ratings. It’s stupid, but to close out this week’s post, here is what Rob’s crew has to be rooting for:

  1. Dodgers and Yankees (two iconic franchises and some serious star power).
  2. Cubs and Red Sox (the Epstein series)
  3. Dodgers and Red Sox (similar to 1)
  4. Dodgers and Astros (especially if they hold up their best records in each league)
  5. Cubs and Yankees
  6. Nationals and Yankees (especially as a potential preview to Bryce Harper’s future team)

What they are probably NOT rooting for:

  1. Milwaukee and Minnesota
  2. Colorado and Kansas City
  3. Arizona and Houston

Or some combination of those teams.

Baseball monk prediction: Nationals over Astros in 6

Under Performing/Over Performing, Pt. II #sfgiants

The Giants enjoyed a nice 6 game win streak and then resumed sucking, and we are right back where we started: the potential to be one of the worst teams in baseball this year and Giants’ history. Wheeeee!

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the offense and saw that nearly across the board the Giants are under performing. Now, we turn our attention to the pitching. (I will be using ERA+, a stat I enjoy, instead of WAR for the pitchers).


For the sake of reference here are the Giants’ team ERA+ records for recent #EvenYears:

  • 2010: 117
  • 2012: 96
  • 2014: 99
  • 2016: 108 (even with that horrid bullpen)

and 2017: 88!

Also for the sake of reference, here were the highest/lowest performers for the rotation and bullpen from each year:

  • 2010: Madison Bumgarner 131/Barry Zito 94; Brian Wilson 210/Guiellermo Mota 91
  • 2012: Matt Cain 126/Tim Lincecum 68 (PS. Lincecum’s struggles deflated the team’s over all #s in 2012); Sergio Romo 198/Clay Hensley 77
  • 2014: Madison Bumgarner 116/Tim Lincecum 73 (although Jake Peavy’s 159 in 12 starts is crazy!); Santiago Casilla 204 (whoa!)/JC Gutierrez (remember him! Me neither) 88
  • 2016: Madison Bumgarner 145 (also Cueto at 142)/Matt Cain 71; Derek Law (where have you gone!) 188/Josh Osich 85

and 2017: Johnny Cueto 91 (Samardzija 90)/Matt Moore 68; Hunter Strickland 207/Steven Okert 68 (ALSO: Madison Bumgarner in 4 starts…139)

And then, finally, just one simple stat, Runs Allowed:

  • 2010: 583 (+114)
  • 2012: 649 (+69)
  • 2014: 614 (+41)
  • 2016: 631 (+84)
  • 2017: 453 (-99)…they are “on pace” to allow over 800 runs!!!

A few initial observations about all that:

  • That 2010 team was really good and history is only proving this to be truer by the day
  • Madison Bumgarner is really good
  • The demise of Tim Lincecum hurt the overall performance of the 2012/2014 teams who had to do a lot of patch work to cover for him
  • 2010 Barry Zito would be the ace on this team
  • The 2016 Giants were also very good, and were a bullpen away from taking on/down the juggernaut Cubs
  • The 2017 Giants have a lot of the same players as the 2016 Giants

To take things a step further, the 2017 Giants are not good because their pitching has been really bad. There are million ways to slice this pie, but the raw stats of runs allowed should be more than enough. Let’s take one more look:

  • 2009 RA: 611
  • 2010: 583
  • 2011: 578 (!!!!!!!!!)
  • 2012: 649
  • 2013: 691
  • 2014: 614
  • 2015: 627
  • 2016: 631
  • 2017: 815

From 2009 to 2016, the golden age of Giant’s pitching, the team has sniffed 700 runs allowed only once, during the injury riddled down year of 2013. This year’s version is threatening to blow right past that and break 800 for the first time since 1999.

I know many people have been very frustrated by the offense, and it has not been great, no doubt about it. But, it is on pace to score 637 runs, which is not that far from the 665 scored in 2014 (Champions!).

The true problem here is with the pitching.

Now, none of this answers the why. Why has it been so bad? Explanations include the obvious (Bumgarner and Melancon have been hurt, some steady hands retired, etc).

But I have two issues I would like to point out:

  1. I haven’t done a deep dive into the #s but it seems like the Giants have had a really hard time striking guys out. In particular, Matt Moore has gotten killed with 2 strikes. But it’s not just Moore, it seems to happen all the time.
  2. The game has moved to strikeout/home run era. And the Giants, as a whole, don’t seem to be moving with the game.

Which leads to the conclusion: do the Giants have a philosophy that is letting them down? Their strikeout rate is not terrible, and I’ll have to do a deeper dive on some of the numbers, but the 2-strike issues are startling.

The bottom line: the Giants have some really tough/fascinating decisions to make for the 2018 club, and most of them have to do with the pitching staff. If there’s something to watch for in the second half, this would be it.

A Streak of Winning! #sfgiants

So, um, yeah, we all saw this coming, right? A nice little six game winning streak after the wheels completely fell off the wagon. Baseball.

I was going to spend this week’s post on evaluating the pitching, but the streak, plus holiday travel, will not make that possible, so just a couple quick observations, and we’ll get back to the pitchers during the All-Star break.

  1. Denard Span and Hunter Pence obviously read this blog, and took it personally when I said they were clearly the problem with the offense. Span slashed .417/.481/.667 this week, and just looked like a good major league baseball player. He lifted his WAR total from -0.6, to -0.1, which essentially puts him back at league average. If he keeps this up he will blast right back into positivity. Pence had a far less impressive line, but played good defense (finally) and was a significant part of the 13 run outburst on Friday night.
  2. Overall, the Giants scored 38 runs this week, and played much, much better defense.
  3. As important as that is, the Giants’ formula begins and ends with starting pitching. This week the Giants got two more excellent starts from Jeff Samardzija who quickly becoming untradeable, a quality start from Matt Cain, a very quality start from Ty Blach (considering how the first inning of that game went), and good enough starts from Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. There are still too many question marks here for this streak to carry on much longer, but while the offense is humming like this, quality starts will keep the club competitive.
  4. One final note. No one should get overly giddy about Sam Dyson’s first two saves. Not in the sense of “new closer” or anything like that. But a good Sam Dyson will go a long way towards stabilizing the bullpen of the future. His positive performance is a good, good thing.

If the good times continue to roll, how do you evaluate the 2017 Giants? It seems the brass consider the core to be good enough to keep together, tweak a bit, and hope for better luck next year. Since that is the case, there’s nothing to root for here other than the team to keep playing like this. If these are the guys we are going to ride and die with, they may as well be good.

Speaking of good, Buster Posey: starting All-Star!

Under Performing/Over Performing #sfgiants

As the Giants continue to perform the inverse of the path back to competition I described a few weeks ago, the search for answers continues. The Giants suckiness is starting to catch the attention of the larger baseball world and Ken Rosenthal weighs in today (arguing that the Giants are boring and lack chemistry).

While I admit to being a sucker for the chemistry argument, winning is always the best chemical ingredient in any team sport. The 2010 Giants were a long losing streak from becoming a dumpster fire. Can you imagine Brian Wilson’s schtick on a 95 loss team?

No, the problem here is not that the Giants are boring or that they don’t stretch together and make corny jokes or have a team catch phrase. The problem is that, nearly across the board, the team has underperformed. Let’s take a look:

Opening Day Lineup:

  • Denard Span: Span started the season with a minor injury, missing 3 of the team’s first 4 games, and then spent April 23 to May 10 on the DL. Not that anyone expected Denard to be a dominant presence, but his absence and suckiness has led to far more at bats for Gorkys Hernandez than anyone would have liked. There’s also the fact that Hernandez made the club essentially as a Span caddy (a damning reality all by itself). Overall: -0.6 WAR (remember that a 0 score is essentially an average player).
  • Brandon Belt: why was Brandon Belt ever hitting second???? This continues to drive me crazy, but at least Bruce Bochy gets credit here for creativity. Anyway, the #BeltWars continue (this is the raging difference of opinion about Belt that takes place on-line on a nightly basis). The haters look at the average and the strikeouts and the gumby shoulders and lose their minds. The lovers look at the giraffe pics and the 1.7 WAR for 2017 and say “see, he’s actually good.” And the numbers don’t lie, Belt’s been a productive player all year. I lean towards the Belt love, but because of his streaky nature, Belt is never a guy you want to build an offense around. Also, he should be HITTING CLEANUP. I will not stop staying this.
  • Hunter Pence: Pence continues to get hurt. He hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2014 (also the last time the Giants won the World Series). Weird to think that at that time he had played every day for over two full seasons and had developed an iron man reputation. But the injuries have made it hard for him to produce consistently, and this year it really looks like he can’t handle right field anymore. The other day I told my wife I thought he was done and then he hit a game tying home run off Jim Johnson. Baseball. Still, he’s at -0.5 WAR for the season.
  • Buster Posey: Buster is great. The end. 2.7 WAR. Also, HE SHOULD HIT THIRD. (Before we move on, though, Buster’s WAR ranks him 34th in MLB…that means there is essentially at least one player on every other team with a higher WAR than Posey. Another way of saying it: the Giants never face a team in which they have the unquestioned best player on the field).
  • Brandon Crawford: The fact that Crawford opened the season as the 5th hitter, and Buster Posey’s main protection, is (a) a testament to how much Brandon has grown as a hitter, and (b) a sign that we should have seen more clearly the reality that this team might struggle to score runs. Despite missing time on the DL, he’s still a positive 0.2 WAR, although that’s mostly due to his defense.
  • Eduardo Nunez: Eddy’s another somewhat divisive internet figure. He’s at 0.1 WAR, a figure depressed by his bad LF defense. But he also started this season off in a terrible slump, and while the 17 steals are nice, his “power” has diminished compared to his career high totals from last year. This is a major problem for the Giants, and a reason Ryder Jones is a getting look right now. The Giants have too many lineup spots where a home run is a lucky bonus, not an expected result. Outside of Belt and Posey, there’s almost no one else hitting for regular power.
  • Jarrett Parker: 0 WAR. This score is obviously due to the small sample size (21 ABs) and a long DL stint, but again, here we have foreshadowing. At his best, Parker was a so-so defender, who would hopefully hit around .250 and blast a few home runs. Good for a slightly positive WAR if everything fell right. It did not fall right, and the Giants have had a vortex of negative WAR all season in left field.
  • Joe Panik: Another curiosity…why was Joe hitting 8th? Why is he not hitting second every day? Panik is at 1.1 WAR for the season, a number that is depressed by his depressing month of May. Panik hit .301 in April, and is hitting .361 in June, but struggled to a .192 average in May. I can’t wait to see where he is at by the end of the year. My sense is that WAR should increase significantly.
  • Assessment: Underperforming. Some of this is injury related. Some of this is bench related (more in a moment). But a good portion of this is due to some redundancies and bad roster construction. No team should employ both Denard Span and Joe Panik as their regular 1-2 punch. This has more to do with Span than with Panik (who I love). The Giants need a far more athletic, powerful option in CF to get this lineup back to contention. Speaking of athletic, the other glaring issue is the corner outfield spots. That’s where the upgrade needs to happen.

The Bench: the Giants bench has been a mess of injury and under performance, just like the lineup, but worse in many ways. Nick Hundly who was supposed to be a nice source of veteran power at the back up catcher spot: -0.3 WAR and only 2 home runs. Gorkys Hernandez is at -1.2 WAR which seems high. Aaron Hill was at -0.9 WAR before getting cut. It goes on and on. The Giants, for so long, have been so good at creating a bench out of nothing, but this year the thing has failed miserably. Part of this is due to the strain that injuries have put on the roster, but the other problem is just gross underperformance.

We’ll tackle the pitching next week.

Blow It Up #sfgiants

Last week, as I laid out the pathway back to contention, I argued the Giants needed to go on a 9-1 run, starting against Kansas City. Well, they proceeded to go 0-7 instead.

We are now officially in the Dark Days.

Many have pointed out that the Giants are on pace to lose 100 games and have one of the top 2 or 3 picks in next years draft.

Tim Kawakami went a step further:

Who saw this coming? Where do we go from here?


Let’s pull the scope back just a bit and take into consideration that as awesome as the Giants have been they’ve chosen to operate with a smaller margin for error than a typical “dynasty.”

What I mean by that is they went all-in on an organizational philosophy built around run prevention. Some of this was due to budget constraints, a lot of this was due to the ballpark. Either way, it has proven to be a sound strategy. Great pitching, strong defense, and just enough offense brought the team 3 world championships.

But, it also brought with it the great phrase: Giants baseball, torture.

Which is to say: The Giants don’t win a lot of 8-3 joy rides. That hasn’t been the blueprint since Barry Bonds left.

They’ve also hesitated from bringing in high-priced free agents to bolster the lineup. Maybe this is the Aaron Rowand effect, but the Giants have built their lineups from the draft and spare parts. A few good trades were mixed in here and there, but there’s been no big bat riding in on a white horse, not in a long, long time.

All of this to say, that while it has been a golden run of roster building, there is a smaller margin of error involved, and that margin has gotten taxed to the max this season.


Let’s also not forget that at this time last year the Giants had the best record in baseball. How did the fall come so fast and so hard?

A simplistic reading of the 2017 season points to the Madison Bumgarner injury and says, like 2011 when the Giants lost Posey, this is not a team designed to overcome the loss of a superstar. While there’s no doubt that was a devastating moment, the failure this year has been far more systemic.

Bullpen Woes

  • Many, myself included, thought the Giants would be able to move on from the “Core 4” since there seemed to be a plethora of arms making their way through the farm system. This has proven to be a drastic mis-read.
  • I also thought the addition of Mark Melancon would create the stability needed to help everyone else fall into their roles.
  • Again, this is a systemic failure. Because the offense and starting pitching and defense have been bad there hasn’t been opportunity for the bullpen to get sorted. The Giants have been great, historically, at playing downhill: getting an early lead and making it stand up. They’ve been behind consistently all season and that is taxing on even the best bullpens.
  • The Giants have a lot to figure out here. How healthy is Melancon? What young guys are going to be able to stick? (The Giants called up Kyle Crick today). Can Derek Law get his mojo back? Can Will Smith make it back healthy?
  • I still think the Giants have a strength here with this cast of characters, but there are some other things that need to be in place first in order to find out.

Starting Pitching Problems

  • What to make of this mess? Again, any evaluation of the starters does have to begin with the loss of Bumgarner. His presence takes so much pressure off everyone else. That being said, the Giants once had a rotation full of arms they produced (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez), and those were power arms. Since then they’ve produced Ty Blach, who is fun and a nice story, but the opposite of a power arm. The Giants are moving in the opposite direction of the rest of baseball on this one.
  • Perhaps I am being foolish, but I still like the Giants rotation moving forward. I think Bumgarner comes back and still has it. Johnny Cueto has had blister issues, but don’t forget the situation with his ailing dad, plus I think Cueto is a guy who plays better on better teams. I like Samarzija moving forward, and I still have high hopes for Matt Moore.
  • There are questions though: does Cueto opt out? What if Bumgarner is good but not great? Which means that the Giants need someone to make the jump. We’re looking at you Tyler Beede. It is time for the system to produce major league quality starting pitchers again.

An offensive Defense

A Punchless Lineup

  • We have plenty of time to continue the dissection, but the lack of power, especially in an era of homers-a-plenty is disturbing.

Final thought: I had a friend of mine who is a Dodgers fan (I know, we are still friends) ask me how long of a leash Bochy has. I have to think that it continues to be super long. How do you fire this guy?

The deeper issue to me is the roster building, not the roster management.

That being said, this is what happens to aging dynasties (it will happen to the Warriors in a few years). The Giants kept filling holes and plugging along, but when you win consistently in MLB you tend to reload with average prospects. Amazingly a lot of those have worked out for the Giants, but now the cupboard is bare, and it’s time to start charting a new course.

What to Look For Over the Next 3 Weeks #sfgiants

June is not trending in the right direction (at all). My hope was that the Giants could get to .500 by July 1, and as of right now, they will need to go 15-2 to get there. Probably not happening.

Here’s the rundown of the next 3 weeks and what it would take to turn this around:

  • Sweep the Royals (28-39)
  • Take 3 of 4 in Colorado (31-40)
  • Sweep the Braves (35-40)
  • Take 2 of 3 from the Mets (37-41)
  • Sweep the Rockies (40-41)
  • Beat the Pirates (41-41)

No problem, right? =)


The Giants exploded for 13 runs yesterday (finally) behind an unusual lineup, but here is what I would like to see for the next 3 weeks (at least):

  • Nunez 3B (let the man lead off!)
  • Panik 2B (Joe is someone to watch closely the rest of the season…who is the real Joe Panik and what can the Giants expect from him moving forward?)
  • Posey C (should be hitting in the 3 hole from now until the skills really fade, years down the road)
  • Belt 1B (his all or nothing approach plays best in the cleanup spot)
  • Pence RF (looks like he might be getting it going which means this is right where you’d want him)
  • Crawford SS (I know he’s been one of the most reliable bats of the last 2+years, but any lineup where he’s hitting above the 6 spot is going to struggle over the long haul)
  • Slater LF (let the dude play…if not Mac, let it be Austin, and let it be for a while)
  • Span CF (my hope is that he gets shipped out in July)

MLBTradeRumors put out some interesting info on the Giants yesterday. Here are some thoughts:

There are essentially two kinds of trades the Giants can/should make. One is trading veteran guys away to open up spots for younger players to get time. A classic example of this would be trading Eduardo Nunez so that Christian Arroyo and/or Jae-gyun Hwang can play the last two months at the major league level to show what they got.

The other trade is cashing in whatever valuable assets the Giants may have to restock the shelves. There’s not a lot of options here, outside of a blockbuster involving players named Buster or Brandon (not going to happen).

The two that are most interesting to me: Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija. Now, both have 3 years to go on hefty contracts, and both have trade clauses (Melancon has a full no-trade clause), but these are the two options that could fetch something interesting in return.

Melancon, in particular, would have to give thought to waiving that clause to go back to Washington, right? That team is a closer away from being the most dominant team in the game (yes, even more than the Cubs and Astros), so you know they are going to be willing to pay.

Wouldn’t the Cubs prefer Samardzija to John Lackey? The Indians would take him over a few their own guys I’m sure.

We’re starting to get to the point where these things need to be considered.


A small silver lining: MadBum might return sooner than later!

Swoon #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well, not much to update from my last, midweek, post. Suffice to say, June is not off to a great start.

It seemed like it might be, though. Ty Blach was outstanding in Philly on Friday night, and the offense, somehow, scored 10 runs. But, then it was right back in the tank with a poor offensive showing on Saturday, followed by all kinds of ugly Sunday.

We said the Giants needed a 5-2 start to the month on the quest for .500. That would mean a sweep in Milwaukee. At this point, splitting the series and getting back home would seem to be a big huge step in the right direction.

I am going to continue focusing on how the Giants can get themselves back in position (i.e. .500) for a stretch run, and try as much as possible to avoid thinking about the future, but if things continue to go south there are some other subplots to root for. I won’t get into all of those, but a couple should be highlighted now because of their win-win nature.

  • The resurgence of Denard Span: root for this because (a) a good Denard Span helps the Giants win, and (b) he might become a trade piece if he keeps this up and stays healthy.
  • The Ty Blach story: he’s not getting traded anywhere, and it’s been a while since the Giants have produced a home-grown starting pitcher. The Giants could/should have some holes in the rotation to fill this offseason and Blach could make the future a bit more palatable.
  • Left Field: at this point I almost don’t care who it is, but Austin Slater seems like a nice guy, so root for him, really anyone, to take ownership of this position.

That’s about it for now.

Giants have 4 against the Brewers and then 3 at home against the Twins. We said they needed to go 3-1 in Mil and 2-1 against Min, so we’ll keep hope alive for the first series, and up it to a sweep against the Twins.