Looking Ahead (Pt. 1)

What, you think just because the defending World Champion (and they still are!) Giants are done for the season we have nothing more to say? WRONG! Let’s look at how next year’s team is shaping up.

Catcher: Buster Posey will be back from his self-imposed exile next season so this is a set position. As far as backups go, keep Hector Sanchez in AAA for another year and use Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart. Both work fine in that role.

First Base: Here’s an interesting situation. Brandon Belt has apparently been moved to Left Field full time-ish while Brett Pill is going bonkers and Aubrey Huff has one more year on his contract. So what do you do? I would go with Pill as your starter and see if he can handle a full season, and use Huff off the bench to give Pill a break or to take over if Pill falls apart.

Second Base: Freddy Sanchez is supposed to be ready by Spring Training so there you go. However I really like how Jeff Keppinger played since he acquired him and hope he can stay around as a utility guy, or even the starting SS.

Third Base: Pablo.

Shortstop: With the hole of suck known as Orlando Cabrera and Miguel Tejada gone this is one of the Giants biggest positional holes. As far as minor leaguers go we don’t have much, which is why I think you’ll either see some combo of Brandon Crawford and Jeff Keppinger, or the Giants go after a free agent. Although I expect them to check in on Jose Reyes, he’s really not a realistic option. Jimmy Rollins seems like a much better, and cheaper option for San Fran, but he’s asking for 5 years and I would hesitate to offer anything more than 3. Crawford showed a very good glove and Keppinger is a better offensive player, so unless the Giants do something surprising, this could be our situation next season.

Right Field: I honestly hope the Giants make a run at Carlos Beltran, but I’m seriously doubting he’ll be asking anything reasonable, especially since he’s a Boras client. In that case I think the Giants use Nate Schierholtz again as their starting RF and maybe/hopefully bring back Cody Ross at an affordable rate, especially since they don’t have anyone that close to ready in minors for next year. Nate did pretty well this season though, and his arm is killer, so it wouldn’t be a bad option.

Center Field: Torres is your option here, if only to see whether it was this season that was an aberration or if it was last season. Other than him who do you have? Justin Christian?

Left Field: Brandon Belt. At least it gives him consistent playing time.

Starting Pitching: Ah this is where it gets interesting. Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner are sure bets, as probably is Vogelsong (is he a free agent? I don’t know), but what to do with Zito and Sanchez? I honestly have no clue what to do with Zito, I would release him, but that’s a LOT of money being left on the table. If he was ok with it I would throw him in the bullpen (he can’t be worse than Runzler this season) and maybe use him as a 6th/spot starter. Jonathan Sanchez I would trade and the reason behind this is that the Giants still have next to nothing in terms of batting. Posey, Sandoval and hopefully Belt and Pill, which would be great if they worked out, if not, we’re going to have another season where the playoffs are out of reach. Maybe they can score a shortstop (The Marlins seem really really down on Hanley Ramirez, and yes I know that is super unlikely.) or another outfielder or SOMEBODY who can be a consistent hitter. Replace him in the lineup with Eric Surkamp and go from there. If he falls off a cliff then just call up Zach Wheeler. Wait a minute…

Bullpen: Wilson, Romo, Castilla and Ramirez need to stay along with Lopez. KEEP LOPEZ! Throw in Edelfson and maybe Zito or someone else and we’re fine. It’s a very solid bullpen the way it is.

Bench: Keppinger, Darren Ford for your 5th OF/Pinch running expert, maybe Manny Burris or Connor Gillespie for the infield.

Free Agents: Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes will not happen. Sorry. Jimmy Rollins? Maybe. C.C. Sabathia? I really hope so, but no way. You know who I would like to see? Michael Cuddyer of the Twins. Plays 1B, 2B, 3B and OF and is a 20-25 HR a year hitter, around 70-80ish RBI’s and is a career .272 hitter, but that includes two bad years in 2003 and 2008. Not a bad option and he would look good in Orange and Black.

(-NW)

Playoffs and Pitching

We’ve established the importance of pitching to winning championships on this site this year. So, with that in mind let’s look at the pitching performances of the 8 playoff teams and see if that lends any insight into what might happen in October.

American League:

1) New York Yankees: 2010 7.2, 4.06, 1.31, 106 2011: 7.5, 3.71, 1.32, 120 Somehow the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the AL (based on ERA+). I still don’t really buy it. I do not think they have the depth of starting pitching to make it all the way through (which may just mean they lose to the Phillies in the World Series), but the numbers wouldn’t make it a surprise. Sorry Detroit, the Yankees make it out of round 1.

2) Texas Rangers: 2010 7.3, 3.93, 1.31, 114 2011: 7.4, 3.81, 1.24, 118 The Rangers improved nicely this year even without Cliff Lee and I had them going head to head with the Yankees in an all out 7 game brawl in the ALCS until the Rays pulled off their miracle last night. Now, I’m not so sure.

3) Detroit Tigers: 2010 6.6, 4.30, 1.37, 97 2011: 7.0, 4.04, 1.32, 102 Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now (my apologies to my boy Timmy). But, in this day and age a team needs more than one stud to make it through the three rounds of the playoffs. I think they could pull off an upset in the short first round, but I still think the Yankees prevail.

4) Tampa Bay Rays: 2010 7.4, 3.78, 1.26, 103 2011: 7.1, 3.58, 1.22, 105 The Rays have created a love/hate situation for me. Love that they proved me right in making the playoffs, hate that they knocked the Sox out and that they have now really messed up the playoff picture. They have the kind of staff that can make a deep playoff run. My main argument against them though is that they have not had the ability to line up their rotation for the short opening series. I’m going to reluctantly pick the Rangers, but I’m rooting for the Rays and will not be surprised at all if they move on.

National League

1) Philadelphia Phillies: 2010 7.3, 3.67, 1.25, 111 2011 7.9, 3.03, 1.17, 128 No team in recent memory has so perfectly followed the model I’ve been touting this year as the 2011 Phillies. The addition (Lee) and emergence (Worley and Madson) of excellent arms has the Phillies poised for a deep run. As long as Halladay doesn’t pull a groin throwing a first round no-hitter this team is going to the World Series and anything less would be one of the great baseball upsets of all time.

2) Milwaukee Brewers: 2010 7.9, 4.58, 1.44, 88 2011 7.9, 3.65, 1.24, 107 The Brewers also masterfully followed the pattern by adding pitching and have seized the moment presented to them this year (likely the last with Prince Fielder). Timing, however, is everything and I am not sure they will even make it out of the first round, let alone take down the mighty Phillies. Before St. Louis overtook the collapsing Braves, it was a no brainer the Brewers would take out Atlanta. Now, they are in the most intriguing first round match up with…

3) Arizona Diamondbacks: 2010 6.7, 4.81, 1.43, 89 2011 6.6, 3.78, 1.29, 105 Arizona’s improved bullpen has gotten a lot of press, but the emergence of Ian Kennedy and Josh Collmenter, and a full season of Daniel Hudson have been just as, if not more, important. In fact, they are so improved I can actually see them beating Milwaukee and giving Philadelphia a huge test. So, for now I am saying D-Backs in 5.

4) St. Louis Cardinals: 2010 6.8, 3.57, 1.30, 109 2011 6.7, 3.81, 1.31, 96 So, the Cardinals have defied the pattern before (see 2006), but that team didn’t have to face the 2011 Phillies in the first round. Sorry, Cards, fun story, but time to get on with re-signing Pujols.

By the numbers I see the Phillies taking the title by beating the Yankees in 6. However, the romantic side of me will say this: don’t be shocked if the Rays and Phils meet in a replay of 2008, only this time the little team from Tampa takes it all.

(-SB)

Week In Review (9/19-9/25)

Results:

1-5 (84-75, 9 GB in NL West)

2-1 L @ LAD; 8-5 W @ LAD; 8-2 L @ LAD; 3-1 L @ Ari; 15-2 L @ Ari; 5-2 L @ Ari

Another season, another failed attempt at a repeat champion in Major League Baseball. I will have a lot more to say about the Giants season in future posts, but for now thank you boys for a great 2010, and for hanging in for most of 2011 even after you lost your best player for nearly 75% of the season. In a strange way this has been one of the more memorable seasons in a long time, mostly because I have never such a deeply flawed team make a legitimate run at a division title. There’s something commendable about that.

Hitter of the Week:

Despite the 1-5 belly flop of a last full week of baseball, the Giants actually had some decent offensive performances. Torres gave us a “where has that been all season” .400 average and a home run, Sandoval hit when he was in the lineup (despite his shoulder), and even Mark DeRosa contributed a 4 for 12 week. However, let’s tip our cap to Carlos Beltran who I’d love to have back, but let’s face it he’ll be in the AL next year making some fantasy owners very happy. All he did in a Giants uniform was hit .335/.379/.576 with 7 home runs and 18 RBI in 41 games. A lot of people have criticized the trade and, yeah, it would have been great to have had in the lineup about 15 more times, but, hey, everyone got hurt this year! They brought him over to hit and he hit. The end.

Pitcher of the Week:

Hard to find anyone to get too excited about this week (Vogelsong got the only win but did it with an ERA of 7.20). I’ll give it to Sergio Romo for being so awesome all season and pitching in 3 games this week without allowing a run. Tim Lincecum’s season, though, pretty much tells the whole story. 13-14 with 217 IP, 220 K, a 1.21 WHIP, and a 2.74 ERA. A losing record. Unbelievable.

Looking Ahead:

Start the roster prediction engines, it’s time to speculate about what the 2012 Giants will look like. Early predictions have Jimmy Rollins coming home to the Bay to play short stop. In the near future we will wrap up 2011, look ahead to the winter, predict some playoff series, and enjoy October baseball.

Thanks again Giants!

(-SB)

Week in Review (9/12-9/18)

Results:

7-0 (83-70, 5.0 GB in NL West)

8-3 W vs. SD; 3-2 W vs. SD; 3-1 W vs. SD; 8-5 W @ COL; 9-1 W @ COL; 6-5 W @ COL; 12-5 W @ COL

Wow. What a week. 7 wins, cutting the lead in half, losing Bill Neukom, more injuries (Ross and Stewart), and Brian Wilson returns. No big deal. Just another week in Crazy Giants’ Land. Hard to say what is the most surprising/important development, but I think what’s been great is the way the team has been (forced) to go with some younger guys and they’ve responded. No matter what happens with this race, you have to root for Belt/Crawford/Pill/Surkamp to do well. It is only good for the organization if  these guys can be successful. On to the awards…

Hitter of the Week:

Carlos Beltran had a GREAT week, Cody Ross was awesome, and even Aubrey Huff got in on the action. But I have to highlight Pablo Sandoval again because (a) he had a great week (.440/.481/1.120 with 4 home runs and 10 RBI), and (b) he plays the game like he realizes there are only a few weeks left and he just doesn’t want the season to end. I LOVE that. Play on Panda!

Pitcher of the Week:

Tim Lincecum had a great start this week (7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 0 ER, W) but this award is about tomorrow as much as anything. See below for why this is the game of the year, but Tim needs to repeat this performance this week. It is simplistic to pin everything on Timmy, but as your best player goes (oftentimes) so goes the rest of the team. Get it done Timmy!

Looking Ahead:

It’s an understatement to say that tomorrow night’s game is the biggest of the year. Every game since September 1 has been the biggest game of the year. The Giants still need to go 8-1 or 9-0 to have a realistic shot at pulling the playoffs out of a hat (no less than 91 wins gets them in). But it would do the Giants a world of good, both in the short-term and especially the long-term to beat Clayton Kershaw (and to have Timmy beat him head to head). Even if the Giants fall short of the playoffs, winning this game against their arch nemesis will be huge going in to 2012. If they lose tomorrow they still have a shot, but they will also head in to next year with a big old Kershaw hex hanging over their heads (so far this year in 5 starts Kershaw is 4-0 with 34.2 IP, 43 K, a 1.04 ERA, a 0.84 WHIP, and .183 BAA).

Beat LA!

(-SB)

Week in Review (9/5-9/11)

Results:

3-3 (76-70, 8.5 GB in NL West)

7-2 W @ SD; 6-4 W @ SD; 2-1 L vs. LAD; 3-0 L vs. LAD; 8-1 vs. LAD

Hitter of the Week:

Let’s all pause for a minute and applaud the season that Pablo Sandoval has had for the Giants. Huge offseason workout plan. Great start. Missed 6 weeks with a broken hand. Picked right back up where he left off. He has been our best hitter all year and it’s not even close (for comparison sake, and for a good-long-sad laugh, consider that Pablo’s OPS+ is what you get when add together Aaron Rowand’s and Miguel Tejada‘s). It’s beyond imagination that the Giants won a World Series without his significant involvement in the proceedings, and it’s also hard to believe he was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, question mark heading in to the season. Looking forward to watching this guy for several more years.

Pitcher of the Week:

How about Madison Bumgarner: 13.1 IP, 21 Ks!, 2 wins, 2.02 ERA, 1.05 WHIP. Nasty. On a different note, how interesting would it be if Cain, Lincecum, and MadBum all finished 12-12. That would tell you just about everything you would need to know about the 2011 Giants. Probably won’t happen but they will all be close to that. Too bad they aren’t “winners” who can figure out how “win games.” Again, I think the chance that such a thing is even possible speaks to their consistency and the utter horribleness of the offense.

Looking Ahead:

16 days left in the season. I am still looking forward to more playing time for Belt, Crawford, a couple of starts for Surkamp, and, well, that’s about it. And Pablo hitting. Most of all, I am really, really interested to see the approach this offseason. To me, this season is a fail because of the injuries, not the design. That said, there is substantial evidence that the design needs to be tweaked, and there is ample possibility for that due to all the free agents the Giants will have this winter.

Maybe the most interesting thing of all is the nearly complete benching of Torres. This leaves a huge question about the top of the order and center field (could we see jose reyes or jimmy rollins next year?). Enjoy the last days, enjoy the playoffs, but watch closely this November and December. Something interesting is on the horizon.

(-SB)

Guide to Post-season Cheering: NL Edition

So the Giants are on the doorstep of shattering all of our hopes and dreams for a repeat. Die hard baseball fans will still watch baseball, but it’s always better when you have a team or a couple of teams to root for. There are some important protocols and criteria for choosing your “adopted” baseball squad.  Choose carefully.  If you pull for a wrong team, you could be guilty of baseball blasphemy.

First lets discuss the rules.  They are very simple rules.

  1. They can’t be the Dodgers.  (That is easy.  LA sucks and won’t make the playoffs ever again).
  2. They can’t be the Braves.  I’ll explain a little more later, but seriously, does anyone question this rule?
  3. The team must possess minimal former Dodgers. (Former Giants are a bonus but not essential).
  4. The team must not have beat us (Giants) in any critical postseason events.

Arizona:

We will start here because this one is easy. On the surface, the novice fan may want to root for the D-backs because if they win it all, we automatically get second. That is a faulty amateur theory. Let’s dive in. Look at the manager of the team. Kirk Gibson is the skipper and that immediately eliminates the team from our rooting choices. Nobody wants a postseason filled with highlights of a gimpy, former Dodger Kirk rounding the bases, rockin’ a pathetic mustache and Jack Buck complaining how he can’t believe what he just saw. Get some glasses Jack. It’s a home run. I believed it, I just hated it granted I was 8). Rule 4 is safe and in addition, Arizona isn’t a great rival of ours even though if they play in our division. They only have 2 former Dodgers, but they are eliminated by their manager. They could be in the running if they would fire Gibby and hire third base coach Matt Williams. Oh yes, I said Matt Williams. Breathe in the nostalgia.

Arizona Out!!!

Atlanta Braves:

Another easy decision. Ok seriously, in the National League, the Braves fall a very close second to the Dodgers in the hate category. Do you really want to watch a postseason with that stupid tomahawk chant? Nope. But let’s talk about the rules.Obviously, they violate rule 2. Amazingly enough, the Braves have never knocked the Giants out of the post-season. That is, in part, because the Giants didn’t make the postseason a whole lot in the 90’s. In addition, in 2002 and 2010, the Giants had to go through the Braves to get to the World Series and the Braves rolled over like well-trained poodles (and we are grateful). So why the hate? Did I mention the chant?  Or the fans. Second worst fans in all of baseball. (Seriously who would willingly DO that chant?) I guess the rest of us got sick of them in the 90’s and the rest is just a bad hangover.  The only thing the Braves have going for them is that they aren’t the Dodgers. The Braves have a decent Dodger ratio with 3 players being former Dodgers. Not bad, but rule 2 is in effect. It’s the rules… it’s science.

Atlanta Out!!!

Milwaukee Brewers:

Ok this is another tricky one. The Brewers are always terrible and who doesn’t love a good underdog story. Next year, they will probably break apart the team so this is pretty much their shot. Let’s break it down by the rules. Rule 1 and 2 are off to a tremendous start. They aren’t the Dodgers and they aren’t the Braves. Fab! They have 3 former Dodgers on the team which isn’t bad. But they have K-Rod. Ok, so this is a tricky part to rule 4. Technically the Brewers never beat the Giants….But K-Rod did….In the freakin World Series. Ask yourself this: if he were to play in a game you were watching, how would you deal with the emotional trauma you are bound to encounter. Are you ready to deal with that? I’m not. Especially with the way this season is ending, I need happy thoughts. K-Rod brings back angry thoughts… sad thoughts.  It wouldn’t be baseball blasphemy to pick the Brewers, but I just can’t do it.

Brewers Out!!!

Philadelphia Phillies:

Philly is my pick for the National League. They satisfy all of the rules. I am not usually a Philly fan. In fact, I have never pulled for them in a post-season. However, they satisfy rule 1 and 2. They have 2 players that are former Dodgers which is better than all the other teams that are in. Yes, Charlie Manuel played for the Dodgers but he wasn’t that great. He definitely never made it to the infamous status of Kirk Gibson. Therefore, they are a much better pick than Arizona when it comes down to rule 3. Rule 4 should be a tie because no team has really kicked us out of too many playoff games. However, I prefer the Phillies for this rule because last year we beat them to win the NL. This year, we will be sitting in our libraries that smell of rich mahogany, drinking our finest scotch, smoking our best pipes, and we can confidently say “They aren’t that good, we owned those guys last year.”

Go Philly!

(-JS)

Hindsight

This spring we wrote two articles about the veterans who were recently cut. Here was my take on Aaron Rowand (can’t believe I forgot about this article until today). But I was right: it didn’t end well and the Giants ate a ton of money.

Here’s Josh’s take on Tejada, which is an opinion I think a lot of fans held secretly. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out so well. (Also, I love how Josh says “who else is out there, Orlando Cabrera?” Hilarious).

While we are at it: here are a couple of pieces I wrote about Zito during the spring (didn’t see Vogelsong coming, did I?). What to do with Zito will undoubtedly be a major off-season theme.

(-SB)