Week in Review (5/23-5/29)

Results:

1-5 (28-24, 0.5 GB)

5-1 L vs. Fla; 7-6 L vs. Fla; 1-0 L vs. Fla; 5-4 W @ Mil; 3-2 L @ Mil; 6-0 L @ Mil

Once again, amazing how much a season can change in one week. Easily the worst week of the season, and that is the understatement of understatements.

I’ll talk more about Posey and the state of the offense below, but for now a comment on the Arizona Diamondbacks. I picked them to finish third in the division this year and got laughed at and called a homer (partly because the pick also involved the Dodgers finishing last). They now lead the National League West a day before June (in other words a third of the way through the season). They are a good team! Good young hitters, a much improved bullpen, and a few Andres Torres type stories (see Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Roberts). I do not believe that they have the starting pitching to keep this up, and they’ve feasted on the schedule a bit during this run (sweeps of the two worst teams in baseball the Astros and Twins have helped). But do not dismiss them out of hand, they can play.

Now that the Giants and Rockies have lost major pieces (the Rox lost their pitcher Jorge De La Rosa for the season this week too) this division is pretty wide open.

Hitter of the Week:

Part of me wants to give this to no one since the offense has been stinking it up so badly. Tip of the cap to Freddy Sanchez for his 1,000 career hit. And a standing ovation to Brandon Crawford for his grand-slam-in-his-first-big-league-game (and also for drawing a walk). But this week’s hitter of honor is Buster Posey who leaves a major hole in the offense and in our lives. Grant wrote a great piece on why the Giants (and fans) will miss him aside from the obvious statistical reasoning that Eli Whiteside is no Buster.

So what happens from here? The Giants can still win with the players that they have. A couple of hopes: Aubrey Huff is historically a great second half hitter…Cody Ross is unbelievably streaky and he’ll get hot again at some point…Brandon Belt will help…Pablo Sandoval will return soon (which is great all by itself, but it may also mean the end of the Tejada experiment which makes it doubly great)…Torres can be better…the Giants might make a trade.

Baggarly put it best though, the Giants have no identity on offense right now. Maybe they get that back a bit when the Panda returns, but it’s a great question: what is their identity? Last year the pretense was small ball, but really it was about home runs. Sandoval and Burrell lead the team with 5 home runs each, but neither have played much (or at all) recently. It’s an interesting issue.

The other issue is what to do with Posey in the future. Personally, I would continue to groom Belt for the outfield, move Pablo to first and put Posey at third. There is no doubt Posey wants to catch, and that he is most valuable as a catcher. But the Giants probably need to start thinking creatively about the future and where else they might use Posey (he would still be a plus bat at third base).

Pitcher of the Week:

Timmy got the lone win of the week, but it’s worth mentioning Ryan Vogelsong again. His 1.77 ERA is the best among the starters, and his 1.06 WHIP is virtually the same as Lincecum’s (1.05). He’s also one of three Giants pitchers with an ERA+ of over 200 (joining Ramon Ramirez and Sergio Romo). Obviously he still has fewer innings than the rest of the starters, but one of the monks will weigh in on the looming Ryan vs. Barry debate. What a story this guy has been!

The Giants continue to be road warriors: four in St. Louis than home, finally, for three with the Rockies (10 total home games coming up!). Hopefully they can figure something out soon and start scoring a few runs.

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Gut Shot

It’s still a bit early and the official official news on Buster Posey is not completely out yet. But the bottom line is that he was severely hurt and the Giants must go on, probably for a long time, without him.

Here’s what has happened:

  • Giants call up Brandon Belt. This is actually something they should have done a few weeks ago when they decided that Pat Burrell would be more of a role player. At that point the choice is really between Belt and Nate, not Belt and Pat. I would much rather have Brandon Belt playing 4-5 times a week and using Nate as a super-sub/4th OF for the sake of our anemic offense. This is a no brainer.
  • Giants call up Chris Stewart. Also a no brainer. Stewart is basically Eli Whiteside 2.0 so we now have two guys who should only be in the major leagues to play once a week to do all of our catching. Awesome. Not a lot of catching available elsewhere and it is probably too early to start speculating on trades, but let’s make one thing clear: No Benjie Molina please! Molina will be a huge temptation because not only does he know the pitching staff, once upon a time he was also a CLEAN UP hitter for a major league team. And the big problem with losing Posey (among a host of other problems) is losing his bat.
  • Which leads to the third thing that happened today: the Giants call up Brandon Crawford. I have a soft spot in my heart for Brandon Crawford (despite his college choices). In today’s new baseball world, there is once again a spot for great defense/bad offense middle infielders. There is some hope that Crawford can develop into an average, if never great, offensive player but he hasn’t shown it (outside of the small tear he was on at San Jose…which, btw, is Single-A ball). I was kind of hoping he’d get the call in September and be given a legit shot at being the starter in 2012, but now it looks like he’ll get at least two weeks to show what he can do in the big leagues. However, the Giants have two huge holes in their lineup.
I’m not going to weigh in on the issue of home plate collisions…maybe my playing days speak to much in to these situations but collisions like throwing at batters and like hard slides in to second have been part of the game for a LONG time. There are risks. The Giants knew this, Posey knew it…it happened last year in Cleveland. Someone else can answer that question. For now, though, the Giants have to dig deep and figure out life without Buster.
Hopefully this quells the Jose Reyes rumors for a while…
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Week in Review (5/16-5/22)

Results:

5-2 (27-19, 3.5 game lead in NL West)

7-4 L @Col; 5-3 L @Col; 8-5 W @ LAD; 3-1 W @ LAD; 2-1 W vs. Oak; 3-0 W vs. Oak; 5-4 W vs. Oak

Just for fun here are the scores the Giants’ victories in May: 7-6, 2-0, 4-3, 3-2, 3-0, 1-0, 4-3, 3-2, 3-0, 8-5, 3-1, 2-1, 3-0, 5-4. There are only three wins in there with more than 5 runs, and no margin of victory larger than 3. This is getting crazy! Dad says “clean” baseball is for sissys. For those keeping track: 7 walk off wins, 11 1-run wins at home. Also, 9 in a row at AT&T. Unbelievable.

It’s also amazing how much can change in the course of a week. Tuesday night after losing both in Colorado, the Giants were in second place and I was getting smack talk posted on my facebook wall by Rockies fans. Today, the Giants have a 3.5 game lead over those same Rockies. How do you like them apples Colorado friends!

Hitter of the Week:

Freddy Sanchez had a nice week (.417 avg), but it is time to talk about Nate Schierholtz. Nate of course had the big home run in Sundays epic comeback/walk-off/one-run victory. Some folks are clamoring for his being included in the starting lineup everyday. I once had a dream, pre-Andres Torres, that the Giants turn Nate in to the everyday center fielder. I still think that was a legitimate idea, but I also think the Giants are using him perfectly right now. Use him in spot starts, for late inning defense, and keep starting Ross and Burrell as the everyday corner outfielders. Im happy for Nate…he’s finally healthy and contributing for a good stretch, but I don’t think he’s an everyday guy. He’s the perfect fourth outfielder and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nonetheless, he is the hitter of the week for his two bombs, huge catch, and perfect 5 O’clock shadow beard.

Pitcher of the Week:

Two good efforts from Jonathan Sanchez, a Timmy shutout, a near complete game shutout from Madison Bumgarner, another solid effort from Matt Cain, and more surprising dominance from Ryan Vogelsong. Any of these guys could get the nod. However, lets honor Sergio Romo not only for his performance yesterday but for his ridiculous strikeout ability all season. He is averaging 14.3 Ks per 9 innings! He will occasionally hang that wicked slider and give up a home run, but the dude is a strikeout machine and that is a very, very nice thing to have. Well done Serg!

The Giants have won 5 in a row (9 in a row at home) and enter an interesting stretch. Day off today then 3 at home against the quality Marlins, before hitting the road for a midwest tour against the Brewers and Cardinals. This will be the most consecutive games against teams with .500 or better records. Should be a good test!

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An Ode to James Shields

There is plenty to be frustrated with as a fantasy owner. There are always decisions to second guess, players to curse, and outrageous fortune to question. This year I have spent a lot of time questioning my sanity regarding two players: Hanley Ramirez and Yovani Gallardo.

I took Hanley with the third pick in my winners league. Albert Pujols and Troy Tulowitzki were off the board. I had banked on Tulo being there at three, so I was thrown off by that, and my gut instinct was to go for Adrian Gonzalez. That would have been early for Adrian (a sure-fire first rounder, but more in the 8-12 range), but my gut said do it…my head said “Hanley”, so I picked Hanley. Hanley may still have  a great year, but Adrian! Regret.

I took Yovani around round five or six on both of my teams. Drafted him to be the ace. Drafted him with full confidence that this was the year. Look out Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, 2011 belongs to Yovani. Again, there is a lot of year left and plenty of time for him to turn in a solid effort (he has already begun the turn around in many respects). But there have been some ugly, ugly moments thus far. Regret.

With those regrets in mind I would like to point out how right I was about James Shields. He had a rough year in 2010 but he was incredibly unlucky and still struck out 187 guys. He was going very, very late in drafts…going at the same time as fringe closers and second catchers. After yesterdays masterpiece Shields is 5-2 with an ERA of  2.00, a WHIP of 0.93, 73 Ks in 76.2 IP. He’s striking out 5 times as many guys as he is walking. He’s keeping the ball in the park. Nasty. No regrets and definitely a sanity restorer!

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Win Ugly!

A fact that gets lost in all the worthy reveling over the Giants World Series Championship is that this present team has not actually spent a lot of time together. Consider each position:

  • 1B Huff: February 2010
  • 2B Sanchez: July 2009
  • SS Tejada/Fontenot: January 2011/August 2010 (respectively)
  • 3B Sandoval: June 2008
  • LF Burrell: May/June 2010
  • CF Torres: January 2009 (didn’t become a regular until May 2010)
  • RF Ross: August/September 2010
  • C Posey: June 2010 (when he came up for good)
A couple of other factors to consider: Ross didn’t really become a regular until the end of the season/post-season last year. Fontenot was a bit player last year, much more integral this year. Sandoval, he of the great 2009, has had little time to be a part of this team due to injuries/ineffectiveness. Sanchez was hurt at the beginning of 2010 and it wasn’t really until mid 2010 that he established himself in the lineup.
     Several pitchers have been around for a while, but Bumgarner is “new” and any bullpen is always changing, but Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez are also newer additions.
     All of this to say: even though this team is the defending World Champions, it is not a team that has been together for a long time, and therefore in a strange way, the book is still open on just what kind of team it is.
     I still feel like there is a lot of room to grow, especially for the offense (Sandoval’s return will be super important to that). A roster/team is always a moving target and in some kind of flux, but I think it is safe to make a couple of conclusions:
  1. This roster, as currently constructed, can win. It won the World Series last year and is hanging on to first place right now after SWEEPING THE DODGERS.
  2. This roster wins ugly. In popular parlance, torture! But, I think we have seen enough to assume that the way it is going to go with this team, is ugly wins. Two of my favorite Giants teams of yore are 1993 and 2003. Those teams won cleanly and efficiently. The mid-2010 to 2011 Giants are NOT those teams.
So, Giants fans, strap in and hang on, it’s not going to be pretty but it will produce victories.
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Week in Review (5/9-5/15)

Results:

4-1 (22-17, 1.5 game lead)

1-0 W vs. Ari; 4-3 W vs. Ariz; 3-2 W vs. Ari; 11-4 L @Chi; 3-0 W @Chi; PPD @Chi

The close wins just keep on rolling. Another big series against the Rockies to start off the new week…it’s only two games but if the Giants take both Colorado is a .500 team and the Giants have a 3.5 game lead. Not dominant or conclusive in any way, but it would make the Giants 7-1 against the Rockies this season. That would be great. On to the awards…

Hitter of the Week:

Welcome back Andres Torres! His arrival didn’t turn the Giants in to an offensive juggernaut overnight, but he sure does bring energy and hope that things will turn around. 7 for 15, 3 runs, 2 rbi, 1 sb, and the feeling the Giants have a real leadoff hitter. One of the subplots of the 2011 season is: will Torres be able to repeat his performance from last year? It seems entirely possible from what we’ve seen so far, he just needs to stay healthy and in the lineup!

Pitcher of the Week:

Tim Lincecum. He will throw a no-hitter one of these days. How about tonight! He sure did make the Diamondbacks look foolish last Tuesday. This might be the shortest write-up ever but what else is there to say about Timmy? (Kudos to Ryan Vogelsong for gutting it out on Saturday night in nasty conditions).

We would love to see the Giant take both of these games in Colorado, but a split is great too. Two in Coors, two in Dodgerland, then finally home for the A’s. Go Giants!

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