5 Things (33% of the way there)

Yes, we are at the one-third mark, give or take a few games, and here’s what the Giants need to fix in order to bridge the gap, which is now down to 5.5 games, between them and the Dodgers:

  1. Fix Timmy…you can go all over the internet and find “what’s wrong with Tim Lincecum” articles. Here’s my two cents: it’s all mental and it comes back to controlling his pitches. Timmy has never been a control artist, and most of his game has been predicated on getting hitters to swing at pitches out of the zone. Two things seem to be happening this season: Tim’s been wild both in and out of the zone and there is a definite “book” on how to face him (and that book involves being patient and doing everything you can to lay off nasty stuff out of the zone). That has resulted in a lot of walks and a lot of solid contact. How does Tim fix this? He has to adjust to a new reality and do whatever it is he needs to do to command his stuff. It’s still good stuff, he just needs to know where it’s going.
  2. Play Better Defense…they actually seem to have turned the corner here, but the fact remains: the Giants will not win consistently if they give outs away. They don’t need gold glove/web gem defense, just play clean baseball, catch the ball, and make the routine plays.
  3. Get/Stay Healthy…Pablo is priority number one here, and he should be back soon. Romo has some kind of knee thing going on as well, but overall this team is not far from being back at full strength. I cannot wait to see the offense go once Pablo returns!
  4. Find some consistency from the Right Side of the Infield…perhaps Theriot is the answer at 2B, perhaps Freddy Sanchez will make it back, but someone needs to take over! And at this point I don’t care who it is at first base, Pill, Belt, Huff, someone else with a four letter last name, let’s, please, get some production from first base! Ok, I do care. I really want Brandon Belt to lock this down, but, like I said, it’s time to stop screwing around here!
  5. Keep Pitching…I know Timmy has been a bummer, but there have been so many good things about the rest of the staff. Vogelsong, Casilla, and Zito have been outstanding so far. Keep it up!

It’s pretty simple: the Giants are not that far out and seem on the verge of busting out a nice two-week run. The Dodgers have a tougher road in June and look like they may have lost Matt Kemp again. Take advantage Giants!

(-SB)

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Week in Review (5/21-5/27)

Results:

4-3 (25-23, 7.5 GB in NL West)

4-3 W @ MIL; 6-4 W @ MIL; 8-5 L @ MIL; 14-7 W @ MIA; 7-6 L @ MIA; 5-3 L @ MIA; 3-2 W @ MIA

Giants go on a seven game road trip, and a weird one at that (Milwaukee to Miami), right at the end of playing 20 games in 20 days and win a three game series and split a four gamer. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? And yet, there is something unsatisfying about this week. Maybe it was Lincecum giving the game away on Friday or the offense, which was potent most of the week, getting shut down by Mark Buerhle, but is sure felt like this should have/could have been a 5-2, or even a 6-1 trip. Which is kind of how the whole season feels: we’re doing ok, but it really seems like we should be doing better. More on that later this week…

Hitter of the Week:

There are actually a number of great performances to highlight: Posey hit two home runs and had 8 RBI, Pagan hit .348 and drove in 7, Arias hit .345 and smashed his first home run, and, of course, Melky did it all this week batting .452, hitting 2 home runs (plus 3 doubles and 2 triples), driving in 8 runs, stealing 3 bases, and scoring 12 times (with a nice little 1.371 OPS).

But, I am giving hitter of the week to Gregor Blanco for two reasons: one, I’ve talked about Melky enough, and two Gregor’s pretty darn good! It’s like Andres Torres all over again. He gets hits, walks a ton, steals bases, and sees a lot of pitches. That’s what you ask for from your leadoff hitter. He’s made the lineup deeper and stronger by allowing Pagan to hit down in the order. Can’t wait for Pablo to get back because this team might actually have a good offense when all the pieces are together!

Pitcher of the Week:

Matt Cain went 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA this week, and is generally pretty awesome, but check out the bullpen numbers for the week. Affeldt, Casilla, Romo, Edlefson, Loux, and Hensley combined to pitch 20 innings this week. They allowed 21 baserunners (a 1.05 WHIP) and had a collective 0.00 ERA! They struck out 22 batters and walked 9. The only blemish on the bullpen all week were the 4 runs Javier Lopez gave up in the blowout win against Miami (no harm, no foul). He came back strong yesterday, striking out Logan Morrison in a big spot. Hats off to the bullpen for their dominance!

Looking Ahead:

The Giants have three at home against Arizona (Arizona again!) and then, mercifully, have a day off before starting a four game home series against the Cubs. Hopefully they can hang in there against the snakes, and beat on the Cubs…still waiting for that 5-2/6-1 week of dominance.

(-SB)

Melky! (Thoughts on Pivotal Giants’ Trades)

Last night I got home at 10 pm (est) to find my pregnant wife fast asleep in bed, so I opened up the computer and got to watch the final 3 innings of the Giants beat down (finally) of the dreaded Marlins. I turned the game on in time to watch Melky Cabrera rifle a 2-RBI double down the left field line.

The Marlins commentators then launched into talking about how good Melky has been, and what a surprise he is given how bad he was in New York. It hit me: this trade is eerily reminiscent of when Sabean brought Jeff Kent over, way back in 1997. Then this morning I see this. Scooped! Dang.

I’m going to talk about it anyway. Cabrera for Sanchez did not produce the public outcry of Williams for Kent. But, I would say most Giants fans weren’t in favor of the trade. No one saw the Williams trade coming, and it looked this Giants were going backwards. The big difference with Cabrera is that Giants fans had been expecting a Sanchez trade for a long time. So long in fact, our imaginations got out of control: Sanchez for Votto…Sanchez for Wright…Sanchez for______(insert up and coming hitting star here).

When that blank ended up being filled in with Melky Cabrera there was a collective “really, that’s it” groan from the Bay Area.

Kent had a couple of decent years (his “struggle” years are so far beyond the production the Giants are getting from 2B right now it’s really not funny), but had been widely panned as  a disappointment for the Mets. A similar situation unfolded for Melky with that other NY team, followed by a very disappointing season in Atlanta (take note Brandon Belt apologists, Melky’s horrible season for the Braves came at age 25, a year ahead of Belt and with four full seasons of big league ball under his “belt”…stay patient).

The real point I want to get at here is that GM Brian Sabean takes his lumps for sure. I think he is terrible at signing free agents, and I think the organization as a whole (not sure how much blame to put on Sabes for this) is shoddy at position player development. But I think Sabean is one of the best trading GMs in baseball. He has made one spectacularly horrible trade (don’t even need to mention who was involved), but on the whole he’s done well.

Giants’ fans need to get over the fantasy trade scenarios with Jonathan Sanchez…maybe there was a time when he could have fetched something really remarkable. But maybe that never existed. And, let’s be honest, Melky’s been pretty remarkable. So has Pagan. And those extensions to Cain and MadBum and Vogelsong look pretty good. And that non-extension to Lincecum…maybe the best move of the offseason. Brian Sabean, you’ve taken plenty of heat, but here’s a tip of the cap. This offseason, which seemed so boring, was pretty awesome.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/15-5/20)

Results:

4-3 (21-20, 7.0 GB in NL West)

3-2 W vs. Col; 5-4 L vs. Col; 4-1 L vs. STL; 7-5 W vs. STL; 8-6 W vs. OAK; 4-0 W vs. OAK; 6-2 L vs. OAK

On Sunday, after the third inning, I was mentally writing a post about how the Giants had turned a corner. They were not going to be an offensive juggernaut, but their situational hitting has improved tremendously. Timmy was cruising. A four game winning streak and 5-2 home stand was in the works. And then it all fell apart.

The most alarming thing to me about Lincecum’s struggles this season is the big innings. I don’t worry too much about his velocity or an injury. I think it’s mostly mental. I’m not sure why, but, for whatever reason, he has really struggled to shut the door when things are on the brink of getting out of hand. It’s been a huge disaster of an inning or a relatively easy 3 or 4 batter affair. Not much in between.

Here’s to hoping he figures it out soon.

Hitter of the Week:

Overall, the Giants had a pretty good week with the bats. It’s especially encouraging to see them walk more and to know the top three performances of the week belonged to Angel Pagan (.440/.548/.560), Melky Cabrera (.385/.393/.462), and Buster Posey (.381/.462/.476). They need those guys to do this with Pablo out.

The nod goes to Pagan because of all the walks. He’s really set the tone in that area and has helped lengthen the lineup by serviceably filling the 5 spot. Well done Angel.

Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Vogelsong gets the nod for the second week in a row. He was fantastic in both turns…14 innings, 10 baserunners, 1 earned run. Nasty. Seems to have it all working and seems to know where it is going at all times. Lincecum should take note.

A tip of the cap as well to Jeremy Affeldt. He’s back and looks really good. A nasty Affeldt does a lot to restore order and dominance to the bullpen.

Looking Ahead:

A 7 game road trip against non-division teams we already saw this month. Giants need to get some revenge against Miami for the sweep they suffered at the beginning of May (3 1-run losses) and hopefully take another 2 of 3 from Milwaukee.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/7-5/13)

Results:

9-1 L @ LAD; 2-1 W @ LAD; 6-2 L @ LAD; 5-1 L @ Ari; 5-2 W @ Ari; 7-3 W @ Ari

3-3 (17-17, 6.0 GB in NL West)

Kind of roller coaster week. After game one against the Dodgers it looked like the Giants might done for 2012…then a great recovery in game two…then collapse again, the defense and offense in shambles. Then Matt Cain restores order. Finally, the bats break out and, in the end, the Giants come home for seven games, fresh off a .500 road trip.

A couple of thoughts on the Brandon Crawford situation. The kid’s taken a lot of heat this week, and rightfully so. He is supposed to be amazing with the glove, and we’ll take what we can get with the bat. But when the defense is really bad, and he looks lost at the plate, it is impossible to watch.

Here’s the reality though. Yes, the defensive lapses have to stop, but everyone knew what we were signing up for having him play everyday. In essence, the Giants punted the shortstop/8th hitter spot in the lineup. We all knew this. What is completely unacceptable is to then also have a position, in this case second base, that is actually worse! Through 34 games the second base position has produced exactly one extra base hit. That is beyond awful. It’s almost impossible to do.

I think it is an inspired move to bring up Charlie Culberson. Is he the answer? Probably not. But there is no way the Giants can continue to roll out Crawford AND Emmanuel Burris. These guys should NOT be in the same major league lineup. With Culberson and Crawford you are a long way from Kent and Aurillia, but at least they can run into one every now and then (see Crawford’s double today). Who knows if, or when, Freddy Sanchez can play again. Until then I’m all for CC getting plenty of looks.

Hitter of the Week:

Melky Cabrera went 13 for 26 this week. That’s .500. 9 hits in the Arizona series. He now has 17 multi hit game this season. That’s half the Giants’ games. Jonathan Sanchez is on the DL where he continues to walk hitters. Melky is earning himself some money right now. Stay hot.

Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Vogelsong didn’t have a pretty start against the Dodgers, but he gutted it out and helped the Giants salvage a game in LA. I have seen enough to be hopeful that he will be able to approximate what he did last year, and that is really good news. Once Timmy gets it all back together I can see this rotation putting together a nice streak (like an 8-2 or 9-1 run).

Looking Ahead:

7 home games this week: 2 vs. Colorado, 2 vs. St. Louis, and 3 with  Oakland. Take advantage Giants!

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/30-5/6)

Results:

2-1 L vs. Mia; 3-2 L vs. Mia; 3-2 L vs. Mia; 6-4 L vs. Mil; 5-2 W vs. Mil; 4-3 W vs. Mil

2-4 (14-14, 4.0 GB in NL West)

By all accounts it was a horrible week for the Giants: Pablo Sandoval to the DL, a sweep at the hands of Marlins, 4 loses in a row, another bad Lincecum start, a bad Zito start, more injuries, slumps…I could go on. Somehow, in the middle of all that, the Giants are .500, 4 games out of first, in second place, and facing a 3 game series against the Dodgers with a chance to cut that lead down. It’s not all roses and puppies, but it could be worse.

That said, losing 3, 1-run, games in a row to the Marlins hurts. Really not good. Painfully reminiscent of last season. Let’s not do that again.

Hitter of the Week:

As if to mock us, Pablo Sandoval had the best average (.400) and only home run of the last week. So glad I just looked that up. Outside of that Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera had great weeks (collectively hitting .345). They both leave something to be desired (Pagan never walks), but so far the two big off-season moves (trades) are paying off. Melky, in particular, has impressed. (As I write this Jonathan Sanchez just gave up another run, 7 now, to the Red Sox).

Pitcher of the Week:

All Matt Cain did this week was pitch 15 innings, strike out 14 batters, give up 14 baserunners (0.93 WHIP), and 4 earned runs (2.40 ERA). What does he have to show for it? An 0-1 record. I am not an apologist for the statistic of wins. But it really ticks me off when east coasters scratch their heads and laugh at the Giants for giving Cain the largest contract in baseball history for a right-handed pitcher. The dude’s good. Don’t look at his record. His win/loss record might be the greatest example of sports injustice known to man.

Looking Ahead:

Huge series with the Dodgers, obviously. Despite my positive spin earlier, the Giants are not set up well in this series with their two best pitchers (Cain, MadBum) being the only two guys who won’t start in LA. Instead we get Zito, Vogelsong, Lincecum. And the Dodgers have their three best guys going (Lilly, Kershaw, Billingsley). Not excited about that. Here’s to hoping they can find a way to pull 2 out of 3 out of a hat. After that, back to Arizona for three more (didn’t we already go there?).

Get it together quick boys!

(-SB)