Week in Review (8/22-8/28)

Results:

3-3 (71-63; 4 GB in NL West)

7-5 L vs. SD; 2-1 W vs. SD; 3-1 L vs. HOU; 2-1 W vs. HOU; 2-1 4-3 L vs. HOU

Every Giants’ season that I can remember ended with the Giants screwing something up. Sometimes they screwed up before the season began (see 1995, 1996, 2008) and so the finale was somewhat anti-climactic. Sometimes they blew it at the end in heart breaking fashion (see 2002, 2003). No matter how it happened, I learned to always expect the worst. At some point, you just realized: this is not going to happen for us this year.

Then 2010 happened. All along, it seemed like the same script would hold. But it never did. Someone always came through, some lucky bounce went our way, disaster was always averted. World Championship. A paradigm shifting moment.

This year, the Giants have kept us firmly ensconced in this new way of looking at the world. One run victories, great pitching, and walk off wins have reinforced that “hey it will all work out” perspective. Overcoming early season injuries, the Vogelsong story, and the fact that the Giants actually “got better” after Posey went down all helped to convince us that in the end the Giants will prevail.

There is still a lot of baseball left, and plenty of opportunity for the Giants to overcome Arizona, but I think yesterday was the first day that I really began to accept the fact that 2011 might be a lot more like 2004 than last year. I’m not throwing in the towel, I’m not losing hope, but I do think the perfect world I’ve been living in has now had a fair shake of reality added to it. Not every season ends like 2010 and it’s foolish to think otherwise.

The Giants are good, and the future is bright, but no one can win them all.

Hitter of the Week:

Statistically this honor should go to Carlos Beltran (.429, 1 HR, 2 RBI, even a SB). I want to give the honor, though, to Mark Derosa. Mark Derosa is a good baseball player and most Giants fans never got a chance to see it. Blame the Giants for signing a broken player to two-year, 12 million dollar deal, but don’t take it out on the dude. He finally got a couple of big moments here recently and that’s good to see. It’s a shame we never got to experience him at his full powers in a San Francisco uniform.

Pitcher of the Week:

I posted about Tim Lincecum earlier this week. I’m happy that Romo is back. Cain and Bumgarner had good turns at the end of the week. Santiago Casilla held it down in the 9th a couple of times to earn this honor. He was the man in the 8th last year in October, if anyone remembers. A lot of that had to do with Bochy playing the hot hand, but this guy had a really important role on a championship team and has been lost in the mix a bit this year. Well done Santiago.

Looking Ahead:

Hopefully the Giants don’t look past the Cubs! Things do line up well for them in this series. Kip Wells and Rodrigo Lopez are completely beatable, even with our anemic offense. Matt Garza has gotten the Matt Cain treatment, going 6-10 but pitching much better than that. Hopefully the trend continues. They NEED 2 of 3 against the Cubs, and then 2 of 3 against Arizona and they could be 2 games back by the end of the week. Of course better is better (nice turn of phrase), but I think this is completely reasonable. A bad week, though, and we might start seeing a lot more of the Grizzlies, if you know what I mean.

BIG Week!

(-SB)

Happy Tim Lincecum Day

Hat tip to Baggs and Alex Pavlovic for noting this, but what Lincecum has done over his last 9 starts is incredible. Each time he’s pitched since July 4th, he’s lowered his ERA. Check it out:

  • 3.14 after 7/4 vs. Padres (loss dropped his record to 6-7)
  • 3.06 3-1 W vs. Mets (7-7)
  • 2.99 6-1 W @ SD (8-7)
  • 2.90 1-0 L vs. LA (8-8)
  • 2.78 4-1 W @ PHI (9-8)
  • 2.77 6-1 L vs. ARI (9-9)
  • 2.69 3-1 W vs. PHI (10-9)
  • 2.58 3-0 W vs. FL (11-9)
  • 2.53 1-0 L vs ATL (11-10)
  • 2.46 2-1 W vs SD (12-10)
Dude should be 14-8 (and probably better than that).
(-SB)

Never Give Up!

I’m writing this post as a pep talk to myself. Every time I watch the Giants, check a score, or sneeze, the Giants are finding a way to suck. Here are three reasons not to be discouraged:

  1. We are still only a game out. Last year at this point, we were 6 games out. Also, be grateful we don’t play in any other division. Here are some fun facts. We would be 8 games behind Milwaukee, 14.5 behind Philly, 5 behind Texas, 1 behind Detroit (ok that is fine), and 11.5 behind the Yanks or Red Sox. Be thankful that we play in this division. Arizona is a nice story, but let’s be honest, they don’t scare anyone. We don’t have to play amazing (or even good) baseball in order to make the playoffs.  We just need to get hot at the right time and we are fine.
  2. Our schedule is awesome. We don’t play any great teams anymore. Thank goodness we don’t have to play any of the teams mentioned above. In fact, out of our last 34 games, 21 are at home, and all are in our division except for the Cubs and Astros. The only team we play is with a winning record is the D backs. Heck, we should be celebrating this and gearing up for another post season. (This is the way I pump myself up because I’m not sure I’m sold)
  3. We should be getting a lot of our guys healthy for a strong late season push. Let’s list some names that should be back in the next couple of weeks: Beltran, Sanchez, Cabrera (Nick won’t care), Romo, Whiteside, Zito (ok does anyone care), and Wilson. Wow, we have a lot of hurt Giants and we should get all those guys back strong. In addition, when Wilson comes back we also get the beard back. Insta-mojo!

All of this is to say don’t panic. We will be fine. Yes, we are terrible right now. We were terrible at this point last year and we don’t have near the hole to dig out of. Oh, and one more thing. We are still the champs. Eat that Arizona!

(-JS)

Week in Review (8/15-8/21)

Results:

2-5, 68-60 (1.5 GB in NL West)

5-4 L @ ATL; 2-1 L @ ATL; 7-5 W @ ATL; 1-0 L @ ATL; 6-0 L @ HOU; 7-5 L @ HOU; 5-4 W @ HOU

Well, what to make of this week, this season, this team? The Giants suffer through a miserable, 2-5 week, their worst week literally and emotionally (sans losing Posey), and yet they gain a half game on the Diamondbacks. What in the world? By all accounts this team should be buried in the standings and yet, here they are, very much alive and very much in this.

I don’t have much to add to the dichotomous existence of the 2011 Giants, but it is worth checking these two articles out: Baggs runs down the names who have unavailable in the last week due to injury, and McCovey points out that despite all that the Giants could not have a better schedule to finish out the year. Can a team be utterly decimated by injuries and still good enough to make the playoffs? We shall see…

Hitter of the Week:

The Giants have two good hitters right now (they could have three if Beltran gets better). Those two hitters are Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt. Everyone else, at this point, is in the “hope for the best” category (Cody, Aubrey, and Nate can all get hot, so please let’s do that at the same time…that same time being this week). Pablo for the week: .304, a huge home run and 6 RBI (also only 1 run scored, when he drove himself in). Brandon, since returning, is “only” 6 for 22 (.273), but he has 3 home runs 5 RBI and 4 runs scored during that week. Let the dude play.

Pitcher of the Week:

Cain was nasty in Atlanta. Timmy was great as well. Props to Mota for creating some order on Sunday. But the Pitcher of the Week is Jeremy Affeldt because he is now the defacto closer and he’s really done a great job all year, mostly under the radar. The Giants bullpen is loaded and it will now be seriously tested with Wilson and Romo out. This team plays close games which means the closer is more valuable than on most clubs. So, Jeremy, this is your time to shine. Make it happen!

Unbelievably, the Giants are in this thing, and as said earlier, they couldn’t ask for a better path to the playoffs than what lies before them. I will admit, I quit on Tuesday…I thought it was over and done for after two crushing loses and all the injuries. But there is still a chance, and quite frankly it’s a good chance. Which is mind bending, but it’s there, so go for it Giants. Seize the day!

(-SB)

 

What Really Happened at the Game Monday Night

My lovely wife and I were able to attend the Braves/Giants game on the 16th, and I decided to record the events of the evening and post them here in a live journal format. Enjoy!

5:15 PM: My wife and I arrive at Turner Field. If you’ve never been it’s a lovely stadium and some really cool things in it. Like a gluten-free food stand for my celiac affected wife. Big points Turner Field. Big points.

6:15: After watching the Giants batting practice and being unable to get any autographs, photographs or promises of a first-born child named after me, Kristen and I head up to get some grub and enjoy our seats.

6:45: While we watched the grounds crew water the infield I couldn’t help but think that they would be touching more infield territory than the Giants hitters would be.

6:50: The Tomahawk Girls shoot t-shirts into the stands. I wonder how many grown men will fall over themselves to get one. I put the over/under at 12 and I’m picking over.

6:57: Ceremonial first pitch. How do I get to do one of these?

7:04: My wife claps for the Braves players as they take the field. I remind her she’s decked out in Giants gear. I move 3 seats away.

7:07: The Braves PA guy keeps referring to this as the epic rematch from last year’s NLDS. Frankly I’ll be ok losing the rematch since, you know, we won the World Series. I mean seriously dude, are these 2 series even comparable?

7:11: First pitch. Aaron Rowand already struck out twice.

7:12: Cody Ross grounds out. This bodes well. Or not.

7:14: Jeff Keppinger breaks up Tim Hudsons no-hitter. Go Giants!

7:22: Bases are loaded with Brandon Belt coming up. My hopes are beyond high.

7:23: Belt flys out. Hopes crushed.

7:25: Pablo goes down after fouling a ball off of his foot. He’s replaced by Mike Fotenot. I can smell the runs!!!!

7:28: Madison Bumgarner loses his no hitter. To a Home Run. To Brian McCann on his first at bat back from injury. Goodie.

7:46: Orlando Cabrera is way too short. There should be 2 outs right now if this dude even was just wearing heels.

7:52: Saw a “Your beard is weird” sign. These people are so uneducated. How can they not appreciate its awesomeness? Side note: My wife is wearing a Fear the Beard shirt. She looks more beautiful than the day I married her.

8:10: Looks like another Giants inning of futility until Michael Bourn channels his inner Jose Canseco and bounces a ball off of his head.

8:34: Jeff Keppinger decides he’s had enough guff and makes Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman pay for standing in front of First Base as he legs out a base hit. Gamer.

8:36: Note: Mike Fontenot does not bat like Pablo.

8:51: Big Nate shows us what scoring looks like! GO GIANTS!

8:59: My good friend Devin texts me to go streaking on the field. I consider it.

9:03: Orlando Cabrera decides he prefers the ball to not stay in his glove, and would rather see Braves on the bases as opposed to getting out of the inning. Interesting strategy.

9:09: Dan Uggla makes one of the best plays I’ve ever seen a Second Baseman make. He was practically parallel to the ground throwing a ball to first. Even I have to applaud that play.

9:12: Cody Ross is out. Again. But the bigger news this time is Michael Bourn remembered this was baseball, not soccer, and he used his hands instead of his head to catch the ball.

9:22: Correction! Mike Fontenot DOES hit like Pablo! HR baby!

9:37: Top of the 9th, Giants up by 2, so why am I having panic attacks rather than trust the defending World Champions to hold a lead?

9:45: The Legendary Brian Wilson takes the mound. Children around the world rejoice, yet not the fans in Atlanta curiously enough. This is confusing to me, are there actually people who dislike Brian Wilson? How do you dislike the guy? He reeks of awesomeness. Then I realize this is not hate-booing. That is, not booing because you despise a player, like what I do when Shane Victorino comes to bat. He’s not ARod, or Barry Bonds or any other player that fans genuinely HATE. He’s probably the most charismatic and awesome character baseball has seen in decades. So he isn’t booed out of hate, but because it’s fun for the opposing team to boo him because of who he is. This makes me feel better, but still hoping he shuts down the Braves, just for giggles.

9:46: Why does Cabrera suck so much? Did he have his fielding ability genetically removed before this game? Holy cow.

10:02 PM: Giants lose on a full count, 2 out, bases loaded base hit. You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Even when we have an offense, it doesn’t matter. Honestly the blame rests with Cabrera, if he realizes the ball is in his glove with that first batter, then you have the pitchers spot coming up with 1 out, and that changes the ball game. Either that or it was a fake Brian Wilson on the mound tonight. Imposter! Still a highly enjoyable experience, and we’re still the World Champions, so I’ll take that.

(-NW)

The Curious Case of Brandon Belt

This offseason I figured the Giants would formulate a Buster Posey-type plan for Brandon Belt: spend two months mashing in AAA, build some confidence after a rocket ascent through the organization in 2010, then come up to the club in early summer, provide a jolt to the offense, and get himself in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

Belt, I thought, would provide another great contrast with a young Braves star (first baseman Freddie Freeman). Just as Posey and Jason Heyward chased the hardware together last year, Belt and Freeman seemed destined to be intertwined in 2011 . While Freeman has had a great season (after a slow start), no such luck for Belt.

Grant Bisbee wrote an excellent article contrasting the players and the organizational philosophies that have driven the fates of their 2011 seasons. I don’t want to replicate that so I’ll offer another counterpoint to the Giants approach with Belt.

In 2007 the Boston Red Sox made an all-out organizational commitment to Dustin Pedroia, the likes of which I have never seen the Giants make with a position player. Pedroia got his first call up in late August 2006 and finished his six-week stint with 2 home runs, a .191 average, .258 on base percentage, while slugging .303. Not great at all.

Good enough, though, for Theo Epstein and the Sox to name him their starting 2B for 2007. They elected not to resign Mark Loretta, and really only had Alex Cora as a back up. He rewarded them with an April line of .182/.308/.236 with 0 HR and only 2 RBI. Red Sox nation was up in arms. “Get rid of the kid, he’s not ready, he’s too small, etc!” After going 0 for 3 on May 1st, his average dipped to .172. After that there was no looking back. By the end of May he was up to .308/.394/.433. He finished the year .317/.380/.442 wining the ROY and then helped the Red Sox win the World Series. The next year he was voted the AL MVP. NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE, in Boston has any question about Dustin Pedroia at this point. He is the most loved player on the team and it’s not really close.

Now, the Belt situation is a little different. Pedroia was a high draft pick. He was one of Theo’s pets from one of his first drafts. The 2006 Red Sox missed the playoffs. There was no pressure to bring back a veteran that had just helped them win (ala Aubrey Huff). The team had a lot invested in “the laser show” and they had the patience and commitment to ride out his early struggles.

The problem, for me, is that the Giants have never done this with anyone, not even with Posey. Not everyone should get the long leash the Red Sox gave Pedroia or that the Braves have given Freeman. But I’d love to see the Giants do it with someone at least once. For now, we can only hope Belt stays hot, not just for the sake of the team, but also for his personal development. The dude needs to play!

(-SB)

Week in Review (8/8-8/14)

Results:

3-3 (66-55, 2 games back in NL West)

5-0 L vs. PIT; 6-0 W vs. PIT; 9-2 L vs. PIT; 2-1 L @ FL; 3-0 W @ FL; 5-2 W @ FL

Giants go .500 for the week, which is not so bad considering how it started, but unfortunately the Diamondbacks didn’t lose . 2 games out is not the worst thing in the world. I think this team does better went it is hunting than when it is the hunted.

Hitter of the Week:

Brandon Belt. I’ll have more on Belt later in the day, but the kid comes back from Fresno, on two hours of sleep, and goes 0-2 in his first to ABs. Baggarly tweeted (after his strikeout) something to the effect of get used to the pine in Atlanta kid. Then he hit broke out of his sleepless funk and hit two bombs. The second was really impressive to me because it looked like he didn’t even have his best swing on that pitch. A little out in front, he used his tremendous hands to launch the ball into right field and keep it fair. Not east to do. He should play more =)

Also, Cody Ross get/stay hot!

Pitcher of the Week:

Take your pick: Tim Lincecum (7 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 0 ER, 10 K) or Madison Bumgarner (7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 10 K). Both pitched after loses, and Lincecum’s start in particular came at a time when things were looking particularly bleak. Whatever else there is to say about the Giants this year (and there is plenty) you have to step back and appreciate what a joy it is to watch these guys pitch.

Looking Ahead:

After the Giants finish this 4 game series with the Braves the only team they play the rest of the season that has a winning record is the Diamondbacks (6 games). That’s kind of crazy, and a major indictment on the NL West. If the Giants can split with the Braves and win the Houston series they will have accomplished a 6-4 road trip, which would be amazing. The potential for better than that is there though, so go ahead guys, pay the Braves back for that sweep in SF earlier this year!

(-SB)