Week in Review (4/23-4/29)

Results:

5-3 (12-10, 4.0 GB in NL West)

6-1 W @ NYM; 7-2 W @ NYM; 9-2 L @ Cin; 4-2 L @ Cin; 6-5 W @ Cin; 5-3 L vs SD; 2-1 W vs. SD; 4-1 W vs. SD

Again, the Giants are nothing if not fascinating. Aubrey Huff goes on the DL with anxiety issues (not a joking matter, btw)…Tim Lincecum wins two games and we are all still worried about him…the bullpen looks shaky, and yet the team wins 5 games this week. Pablo saw his 20 game hit streak come to an end, and then he jump-started another one with a home run! Posey is playing more first base, Joaquin Arias and Ryan Theriot are providing nice platoons at second and short, and Santiago Casilla is dominating the 9th inning. Everything is obviously going according to the plan!

Hitter of the Week:

Guess the three highest averages this last week…no really, guess. If I had a guess I’d go with Pablo, Posey, and Pagan in some order. I would be wrong. Top three were Brett Pill, Arias, and Theriot. And they all had at least 10 at bats; we are not talking about a 2 for 3 kind of sample size.

So, that is kind of interesting. On a different note, last week I underscored the necessity of hitting home runs. The team responded well, hitting 10 home runs. Buster Posey (who I specifically called out) hit three.

There’s a part of me that wants to give the award this week to Brandon Belt (who I want so badly to nail down the first base job). His 2-run double in Saturday’s game against San Diego was a thing of beauty.

But, this week we have to tip our cap to Angel Pagan who is starting to show that he can be a force at the top of the line up. He hit three home runs, one of them a huge game winner to salvage the trip to Cincinnati, laid down a beautiful bunt, and stole a base. He’s not perfect (no walks and 7 strikeouts on the week), but hopefully this week is a sign of good things to come.

Pitcher of the Week:

Bay City Ball is already on top of this, but one thing to keep an eye on in the wake of the Brian Wilson injury is how long Bochy is going with his starters. He kept Cain and Zito in too long (in my opinion) in loses, and he probably kept Lincecum and Bumgarner in too long in victories. The Giants are very unconventional when it comes to pitch counts and leaving starters in, and it has worked, but I wonder if Bochy’s lack of confidence in the starters will lead to overuse and issues (fatigue, injury) later in the season…

I love Madison Bumgarner and he was nasty this week: almost 15 innings, only 2 earned runs and 12 base runners…he struck out ten and never seems to be working that hard. And the Giants pretty easily won both games he pitched. He’s 22. Love him.

I’m also tempted to give the award this week to Timmy. 2 wins, and his game against San Diego was gutty and impressive if not vintage. Still walking way too many, still not the velocity we are accustomed to, but he did strike out a guy an inning and hold two teams to a .163 average. What is amazing is how high he has set the bar.

That being said, props to Santiago Casilla. He went a long way towards solidifying the closer role this week (3 dominant saves), and that may have a tremendous impact on the team, especially in light of my observation on Bochy’s confidence in the bullpen. Keep it up Santi, we need you!

Looking Ahead:

A much deserved day off today and then three games at home with the Marlins and three more at AT&T with the Brewers. Neither team is playing great right now, but both have a great deal of talent, so don’t fall asleep on them Giants. Next week you go on the road for some tough division games!

(-SB)

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Week in Review (4/16-4/22)

Results:

3-2 (7-7, 4.0 GB in NL West)

5-2 L vs. Phi; 4-2 W vs. Phi; 1-0 W vs. Phi; 4-3 W @ NYM; 5-4 L @ NYM

Another fascinating week in Giants land. Madbum and Cain were awesome. Late game dramatics. Late game fall aparts. Questions about the bullpen and a near miss disaster at home plate involving Buster Posey. Aubrey played second base.

My early season opinion continues: this is a team that lacks an identity (especially on offense) and the story of the season will be determined by who steps up and helps create that identity.

In the meantime, there is a double-header today…which means we could be thinking a lot more highly of this team by the end of the day (or not). On to the awards:

Hitter of the Week:

Welcome to the season Buster Posey. He went 11 for 20 (.550) and even stole a base. However, only one of those hits was for extra bases. The Giants hit one home run last week (by Angel Pagan who also hit .320 for the week), and if they are going to sustain the offense they need to hit home runs. It starts with you Buster!

Pitcher of the Week:

Ummmmmmmm: Matt Cain. Done. Great baseball game, but Matt Cain has to wonder about his luck. I know wins don’t really matter statistically, but come on Giants!

Looking Ahead:

Lots to look forward to: two today. Then on to Cincinnati. Then home for the Padres. That’s an 8 game week. Could be a huge swing in the teams fortunes if they end April on a strong note (like a 6-2 run). Timmy will pitch twice this week, so we will see if he can make some adjustments. This week should also tell us a lot more about the bullpen situation. Plenty to look for over the next 7 days!

(-SB)

Pros and Cons (From the First Week of Baseball)

I know it’s early and all lot of this is small sample size, but let’s take a look at the early happy things and early sad face things about the Giants this young baseball season.

PROS

Melkey Cabrera: I admit, I hated the trade when it happened, not because of trading Jonathan Sanchez, but because I thought the Giants could have gotten a lot more for him than a guy who I saw in Atlanta as mediocre at best, however I like what I see so far this season. He could easily slide back into mediocrity, but for now he’s one of the Giants most consistent hitters, and I approve of that.

Brandon Crawford: Huh? I know he’s not exactly setting the world on fire with his bat, but I’m really enjoying watching him play. He looks more relaxed than last season, I love his glove and I like what I see with him at the plate. Won’t be a great hitter, but I look forward to seeing his development more this year.

Homegrown talent: For too long the Giants homegrown talent has been all pitching, but a few times this year we’ve seen an infield of Pablo Sandoval, Manny Burris, Crawford and Brandon Belt, with Hector Sanchez in the game as well, all Giant draft picks. They all aren’t the hitting equivalent of Lincecum or Cain, but it’s nice to see that between these guys, and players like Gary Brown and Joe Panik in the minors, the hitting part of the Giants future is looking nice.

Pablo! Yes, he put on a little more weight, but he’s still hitting well and fielding well and is there a more fun Giant to watch? I don’t think so, and in addition to all of that, he’s our most consistent hitter! Yay!

Starting Pitching: Bad first starts, amazing second starts from Cain and Bumgarner, good two starts for Zito and a good start from Vogelsong. Now get your head in the game Timmy!

CONS

Angel Pagan: At least he’s healthy while Torres is on the DL, but the guy looks lost at the plate. Sure he’s fast and can play CF, but so can Gregor Blanco and that guy had an amazing spring.

Second Base: Freddy Sanchez on the DL, and is probably on his last legs, Manny Burris and Ryan Theriot are the other options and both don’t provide much to this club. Thankfully Joe Panik looks like our future second baseman, but he’s probably 2, more likely 3 years away, what do you do in the meantime?

Brian Wilson: Out for the season it looks like, and who knows if he’ll ever pitch for the Giants again. I love, LOVE Wilson, but his velocity is down, his strikeouts are down, he looks like he’s really struggling out there and now another arm injury. I hate to say it but his time might be coming to an end in the Black and Orange.

Tim Lincecum: I don’t think anything is wrong with him and I’m confident he’ll put it together, but he’s getting lots of money and is due for lots more in a few years. I really, REALLY hope this isn’t the beginning of a downward spiral into middle rotation status, but he needs to start showing some more velocity and control out there.

(-NW)

Week in Review (4/9-4/15)

Results:

4-2 (4-5, 4.5 GB in NL West)

7-0 W @ Col; 17-8 L @ Col; 4-2 W @ Col; 5-0 W vs. Pit; 4-3 W vs. Pit; 4-1 L vs. Pit

Well, what a week huh? Two series victories. Two Zito gems. Matt cain was nearly perfect. MadBum bounced back. Timmy sucked again. Nate took over the right field job. Melky kept hitting. The Giants were the only team to score at least 4 runs in each of their first 8 games. Oh, and something about Brian Wilson. Dang. This guy is probably going to be our closer.

Here are my thoughts on the closer situation. Several people are already talking about what to do with Wilson next year. It’s an interesting convo, but not one I want to have right now.

Here’s what I would do: go closer by committee until someone establishes themself (I agree with Baggs, I think, ultimately, Affeldt is best suited to do this if he can get himself together). I would not make a trade! The Giants also have a potential wild-card/secret weapon in the minors right now in Heath Hembree. I don’t think he should come up and close but he could be a K-Rod type addition to the bullpen late in the season.

Here’s what I think the Giants will do. Go with a closer by committee until someone establishes themself (probably Casilla) and then make a trade at the deadline for an “experienced” closer. Top targets will be Joel Hanrahan, Carlos Marmol, and Brandon League. The way closers are going down this year those guys are going to be in high demand. Which means they will be costly. Which means the Giants will burn somebody worthwhile (Belt? Panik?) for them. A classic Panik move. Ha ha. On to the honors!

Hitter of the Week:

4 Giants hit over .300 this last week. Those hitters are: Melky Cabrera, Emmanuel Burris, Brandon Crawford, and Nate Schierholtz. How about that. Having pointed that out I’m going with my new favorite Giant: Hector Sanchez. I can see why the Giants dumped Whiteside and sent Stewart down. In a year when they are not sure what kind of offense they might get out of second base and short stop, they could not afford to have another black hole in the line up when Posey sits (which he needs to do). The kid can hit and he can play D too. Love it!

Pitcher of the Week:

How do you not go with Matt Cain. Dude goes the distance, only giving up 1 hit (to the pitcher), strikes out 11, and yet he’s not the POW. Barry Zito, well done sir! This might be the only time he gets in here, so let’s point out that he Giants are 2-0 when Zito starts. That’s 50% of their wins. He shut out the Rockies in Denver to stop the bleeding, and then he backed it up with a very quality start at home. Who knows how long this lasts, but its worth honoring this week.

Looking Ahead:

3 at home against the Phillies. This will be an interesting series. The Phillies are a diminished team right now, but the Giants will have to beat Halladay and Lee. Let’s hope Timmy bounces back and we get 3 pitching duels. After that, it’s off to the East Coast for 3 against the Mets.

Stay tuned for some thoughts from Nick later today.

(-SB)

Week in Review (4/6-4/8)

Results:

0-3 (0-3; 3.0 GB in NL West)

5-4 L @ Ari; 5-4 L @ Ari; 7-6 L @ Ari

So, that was pretty much the worst way to start the season. A couple of stats…the Giants were 55-9 when they scored at least 4 runs in 2011 (they are 0-3 when scoring 4+ runs in 2012)…they went 20-0 when scoring at least 6 runs in 2011 (they are 0-1 when scoring 6+ runs in 2012). NOT GOOD.

Some thoughts (in bullets)

  • We are going to have to be patient with Buster Posey. He hit an incredible opposite field home run in game 3 and seemed pretty comfortable at the plate. He looked fine receiving the ball too. He did not look in “action” plays that a catcher has to make around home plate (his error in game 1 and his two miscues in game 3 were telling). It’s sad that it essentially cost the Giants two games, but this is going to be a process for Buster and we have to give him some grace.
  • Brandon Crawford looked nervous. Maybe his thumb sprain is still bothering him, maybe he got a bit overwhelmed with the start of the season, but the dude has one vital role: play excellent defense. He showed it a few times, but he also blew some plays that a big league shortstop HAS to make. Come on man.
  • Melky looks great (good riddance Jonathan Sanchez), Pagan does not.
  • Belt needs to get it going in Colorado or I’m afraid they will send him down again.
  • Honestly, I’m not worried about the starters. Those guys will figure it out.
  • The Diamondbacks are not this good, but they are pretty good.

Hitter of the Week

Pablo Sandoval is a treasure. I wanted to give this to Melky for his strong debut, but Pablo is first out of the gate here in 2012. Big hits in big situations, a huge home run, using all fields, getting on base. Love it.

Pitcher of the Week

Uhhhhhhh…Sergio Romo still has the magic and it was fun to watch him work out of the 8th. He is poised to have one of the greatest 3 year runs of any reliever in baseball.

Looking Ahead

3 games in Colorado, then home for the home opener (and series) against the Pirates. Colorado is not usually where you want to go to get your pitching on track and Barry Zito is not the guy you want to see on the mound to stop the bleeding, but that’s where we are at. I hope they can take 2 of 3 from the Rockies and then go home and get right against the Pirates. Get a win guys.

(-SB)

Steve’s Pick (2012 Predictions)

AL East

Both easts are tough calls, with four legit teams in each division. It seems easy to go with status quo (which I will do in NL, but not here):

  1. Rays
  2. Blue Jays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

The Rays have it all: pitching, defense, and more than enough offense to win this division. They finally stay healthy and put it all together for a deep run into the playoffs. The Blue Jays are a bit of a reach, but I think they have plenty of talent, and they are able to stay healthier than the Red Sox and Yankees. Age and injuries take down the two beasts of the east this year and for the first time since 1993(?) there is a postseason with no Boston or New York teams.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Royals
  3. Twins
  4. White Sox
  5. Indians
This is the easiest division to call. Tigers coast for 2012, and then it gets more interesting next year because the Royals will finish strong, end up at .500, and be ready to go for real in 2013. Enjoy it Tigers because the division is gaining on you! Twins and White Sox continue to retool and struggle, and the Indians are in full-out rebuild mode.
AL West
  1. Angels
  2. Rangers*
  3. Mariners
  4. A’s

The Angels pitching carries the day. They have the deepest and nastiest staff in the AL. The Rangers take the second wild card, but I worry about the toll that the last two post-seasons have taken on the team…look for some injuries to slow them down. The Mariners are not as bad as it might appear, but the A’s are in for a dismal season.

NL East

The east has seen a lot of shifts, but it won’t make a difference in the end this season…the times are a changin’ but not quite yet…

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves*
  3. Nationals
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

As I said earlier there are four legit teams in this division. The Phillies though will prevail one last time before they succumb to age and breakdown. The Braves have too much pitching to not compete and they take the second Wild Card. The Nationals will be good, but they are a year away from the Harper/Strasberg combo taking over the division. The Marlins have made some moves and they will hang around, but I don’t think they have enough of anything to hang with the Phillies. The Mets will be good…in 2015.

NL Central

  1. Cardinals
  2. Reds
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

This is the one totally wide open division where anything could happen. The Cards lost Pujols, but we’ve seen teams lose stars again and again and keep on going, if not get better. They made some nice additions (Betlran) and have some rising stars (Freese), but most importantly got one of the best pitchers in the world back (Wainwright). They should be able to make it out of the central. The Reds will make it close, the Brewers are still dangerous even without Prince, and even the Pirates could make some noise if their young pitchers make the jump this year. Cubs and Astros have no shot. Sorry guys.

NL West

  1. Giants
  2. Diamondbacks*
  3. Dodgers
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

I believe that every team in this division improved this offseason, even if only a little bit. Which means it will be competitive. At the end of the day, though, the Giants and the D-Backs have great pitching staffs from top to bottom and that is what wins the day. Given health for both teams, I can’t not pick the Giants staff, so they take the division and D-Backs have to deal with the one and done wild card system. The Dodgers will be better and the Rockies are always a little scary, but they go 3 and 4. The Padres will be tough too, but there’s just not enough there to move them out of the cellar.

Playoffs:

WC: Braves beat the D-Backs; Blue Jays beat the Rangers

DS: Giants beat the Cardinals, Braves beat the Phillies; Rays beat the Tigers, Angels beat the Blue Jays

LCS: Giants beat the Braves; Rays beat the Angels

WS: Giants beat the Rays

(-SB)

 

Nick’s Picks

Just because I was wrong about Mike Fontenot being a lock for the Giants roster doesn’t mean I’m wrong here! Let’s start with my second favorite MLB League, the American league.

AL East

  1. Yankees
  2. Rays
  3. Blue Jays
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

I think the Yankees win but not by much over the Rays. Tampa has better pitching and it’ll be interesting to see if the older Yankees can put enough hitting together to get the division. Ultimately I think the Rays win one of Wild Cards and the Yankees are bounced in the first round again. The Red Sox seem to have some trouble, and I really like what the Blue Jays are doing with some great young pitching. Honestly the Sox will probably finished 3rd and could very well win the WC as well, but I like my home country team so they go 3! O’s suck.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Indians
  3. White Sox
  4. Twins
  5. Royals

I think the Tigers run away with the division, but the rest is tough to predict. The Indians will keep improving, the White Sox will be about the same as last year I think, and the Twins can’t possibly be as bad as they were last season. Any of those 3 teams could switch positions, and all will miss the playoffs. The Royals are slowly getting better, but still a year or two away from contending in this division.

AL West

  1. Rangers
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. Athletics

The Angels got Pujols and CJ Wilson, but I think the Rangers will win their 3rd straight division title with the Angels winning the 2nd WC. It honestly could go either way, and Albert and Kendry Morales being a huge addition to the Angels team in terms of offense. But this team still has Tori Hunter, Vernon Wells and other not as powerful offensive options. The Rangers have Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz , Ian Kinsler etc.

NL East

  1. Marlins
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

It’s not that I think the Marlins are really good, although the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle certainly help, it’s that I don’t see Atlanta or Philly that good. Philly has their big 3 pitchers but not much else other than an aging lineup, the Braves can be so inconsistent and have little pitching or hitting depth.

NL Central

  1. Brewers
  2. Reds
  3. Cardinals
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

I’m going against the trend and picking the Brewers to win the division with either St. Louis or Cincy to win a WC. The Brew Crew lost Prince, but added Aramis Ramirez (still a good power hitter), and better hitting shortstop and a potential big bat prospect at first in Mat Gamel. Other than that this is the same team as last year, I don’t see them losing the division. St. Louis is going to feel the lack of Big Albert in their lineup, and I don’t see how Berkman puts up the numbers he did last season again, plus no Chris Carpenter and who knows how their closer situation will be?

NL West

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Giants
  3. Rockies
  4. Padres
  5. Dodgers

Dodgers are always last in my book. I’m worried about the Giants offense competing enough to win the title. The D-Backs looked really good last season to me and I don’t see them dropping off. The Giants will be good and win the other WC and make a good, solid run into the post season. I actually think this will be a competitive division that will be a lot of fun to watch.

World Series

  • Brewers vs. Rays…Brewers win.

(-NW)