Week [3] In Review (4/18-4/24) #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants struggles at home, and in recent times against Arizona, continue to baffle me. Outside of the D-backs sweep, the Giants are 5-2 at home, and those two loses are could-have/should-have wins. But, overall they are under .500 at AT&T. Makes no sense!

Yes, it is early, and, yes, taking 2 of 3, or even sweeping the Padres to start this week would shiny up that record quick, but I am going to keep harping on this until it isn’t an issue any more.

The Giants haven’t truly struggled at home during their run of success, and this isn’t the NBA where you can win 90% of your games at home, if you are a good team.

But, I can’t help shake the sense that they should win more often in San Francisco. And, of all the teams the Giants have had in the last 6 years, this one seems ideally created to do well at home (i.e. 50+ wins). Perhaps in a month we’ll look back at the Diamondback series and laugh, but right now, the lack of home domination concerns me.

It does seem like the offense is picking up again, and there are some bright spots all around: Samardzija, Cueto keeps on trucking, Duffy and Panik seem to be warming up, and the young arms in the bullpen are impressing.

It was fun to see Bonds too.

Week in Review: Swept in 4 by the Diamondbacks, then took 2 of 3 from the Marlins. 9-11 overall, 4th place in the West, 3.5 games behind the Dodgers.

Hitter of the Week: Matt Duffy had 10 hits this week, and saw his average climbing back to normal. Hat tip to Gregor Blanco for continuing to be the best 4th outfielder in baseball. He went 6 for 12 this week with 3 triples.

But the hitter(s) of the week are two starting pitchers: Jeff Samardzija and Jake Peavy, who both came through with big RBI hits in their starts (the only 2 wins of the week). With the Giants continuing to employ alternative lineups, these kinds of at bats are extremely valuable.

Pitcher of the Week: I want so badly to write about Jeff Samardzija (as I did last week). I finally got to see him pitch in real-time this week and it was awesome. The results were great, obviously, but he pitched like a stud pitcher should pitch: in control of the game and his pitches, nasty stuff, and able to dominate all over the strike zone with 4 different kinds of pitches. He was very impressive.

I’m going to name Jake Peavy pitcher of the week, though, because who knows if he’ll ever get in this space again. Peavy is, admittedly, my least favorite of the five starters, and the one with the lowest upside, but even if he pitches well, there are too many other good pitchers on the roster. The chances of Peavy outshining them are small.

So, while we have the opportunity, let’s thank Jake Peavy for not sucking, and for beating one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Well done old man.

Looking Ahead: the Giants start the week by finishing the home stand with 3 games against San Diego. It would do them well to take full advantage of the inferior team here. They have their 3 best pitchers set to go, at home, so don’t mess around because after this it’s off to New York. The Met’s haven’t been lighting the world on fire, but that’s still a fine pitching staff to have to face after a long plane ride and the first big time zone change of the young season.

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Week [2] In Review (4/11-4/17) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Week 2 was not as fun as Week 1, but sometimes trips to Colorado tend to have that effect.

There were highlights. Jeff Samardzija got the trip off to a great start with a great start in Colorado. Johnny Cueto looked like a 130 million dollar man on Saturday night against the Dodgers. Brandon Belt continues to mash. Matt Cain was pitching great again, until he wasn’t. Trevor Brown was/is a great story.

There were plenty of lowlights. Two injuries (Romo and Adrianza) weaken any sense of depth the team has. Jake Peavy continues to struggle. Madison Bumgarner can’t get Kike Hernandez out. The bullpen was less than awesome. The defense had a few lapses. Most significantly, the vaunted offense is not looking so vaunted right now.

In particular, Matt Duffy, Denard Span, and Joe Panik are struggling. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford are fine, but not lighting the world on fire. There are some signs of life (Panik homered yesterday), but it would be encouraging to see a few of those guys (Span in particular) get it going soon.

Week in Review: 1 of 3 at Colorado, and 1 of 3 at the Dodgers. 7-6, 3rd place in NL West, 1 game behind LA.

Hitter of the Week: Brandon Belt had a very nice week, but let’s talk about Angel Pagan for a moment. He was the forgotten man, a guy many fans wanted to be replaced by a Mac Williamson this spring, a proud player “demoted” to hitting ninth and playing left field after a solid career in center and at the top of most lineup cards.

As long as he was somewhat serviceable at the plate and didn’t embarrass himself in left, it seemed fine that he would start the season there. Over time the Giants would inevitably make the move to Williamson, and Pagan would ride into the sunset, always to be remembered for his key role in the 2012 championship.

It’s early, but so far, Pagan looks fresh, healthy, and dynamic. If everyone else is doing their thing, he makes this lineup extremely dangerous. He’s been running so hot, you have to wonder if Bochy doesn’t hit him leadoff while Span tries to get it going from the nine spot.

Pitcher of the Week: I feel tempted to put Samardzija here because he pitched twice and one of those starts was a dominant effort in Colorado. I still think it will take him a little time to settle down in SF, but it may happen faster than I anticipated.

I have to name Johnny Cueto for the incredible effort he turned in on Saturday night. The Giants had lost 3 in a row, their 6 -2 sprint out of the gate, ground to a halt. They were Kershawed the night before. They’d had some tough games in Colorado.

They needed a pick-me-up and they got one in a huge way from Cueto.

It’s always interesting to me to see how a pitcher does when he has back to back starts against the same team. In Cueto’s week 1 start again the Dodger’s he got nailed for 5 first inning runs. Since then: 13.1 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 15 K. Awesome. He figured it out and then he backed it up, and it was exactly what the team needed.

Plus he’s so much fun to watch.

Looking Ahead: The Giants begin a 10 game home stand tonight, which brings us back to one of our keys for the season: dominating at home. During the week we’ll see Arizona 4 times, and then the Marlins this weekend for 3.

The Giants need to see a few guys get it going with the bats, and a quality start from Jake Peavey would be a welcomed development. Going 5-2 and taking back first place would be pretty great as well.

Week [1] In Review (4/1-4/7) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well…

Quite a lot has happened since I last posted, far too much to cover!

My goal is to keep this going for another year, so stay tuned.

Let’s start with a quick preview/keys to 2016. I’m not saying anything new here, but want it in writing before we get too deep into it. Here we go:

  1. Health: this goes without saying, and yet it must be said. The Giants have a nearly perfect roster right now. Most everything fits, it all makes sense. But, lose one or two or (gasp) more, for an extended period of time, and it quickly stops making sense. Guys are going to get hurt, of course, but let’s hope for nothing devastating.
  2. Matt Cain. This is both personal and logical. On the personal level, there’s an almost desperate longing for Matt Cain to be good again. And even if he’s not good, to be healthy and contributing in some way. To the logical: if Matt Cain is good again, the Giants go from pretty good to potentially great. Like one of the best Giants’ rosters of all time great.
  3. Brandon Belt. Belt is sort of the Cain of the lineup: a guy I root for on a personal level, but also a guy who could potentially transform this team. As it stands, the Giants’ lineup is very strong. There are no holes, and as I said, everything fits nicely right now. If Belt realizes his full potential (30 homers, 150 starts, .850+ OPS), then the team goes into elite status. The front office clearly has confidence in him too, given the extension he just signed this weekend.
  4. Winning at home.  The Giants have had a winning record at home every year since their recent run of success started in 2010. But they have not won 50+ games at home during that window (their highest total was 49 in 2010). That’s good consistency, but it’s not dominating in your home ballpark. Because the Giants’ pitching is so strong, they’ve traveled well and won a lot of road game, but this is a roster that could/should win 50-55 games at home.
  5. Integrating the new guys. Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span sure do look good in the Orange and Black. And it’s great to have such quality reinforcements. But will they really integrate into a tight clubhouse culture? One good sign already: Samardzija was right in the middle of the scrum after Crawford’s walk off home run the other night. It’s one thing to be a good pro and show up and do your job, it’s another to fit into the chemistry and character of the team. We’ll see how they do.

I believe this is a 95 win team, and a team that can compete in the post-season. The five NL teams who make it into the tournament this year will be very quality teams, meaning this may be the most challenging post-season for the Giants ever, assuming they can get there.

On to the week in review: 2 of 3 from Milwaukee, and 3 of 4 from LA, and the Giants are 5-2 with an early season 1 game NL West lead.

Hitter of the Week: Every single opening day/regular starter hit a home run this week and two of the bench guys and one the pitchers chipped in with dingers too. It may be that this is the first year where picking this award is harder than the pitcher of the week. Kind of a fun new challenge!

I’m going with Matt Duffy this week. Every year Sports Illustrated comes out with its predictions for the season, and the last two years they’ve added a “Scout’s Thoughts” section in the preview. The scout is from a rival divisional team, and it’s anonymous. Last year the “scout” said Brandon Crawford would never be a good major league hitter and then he went out and had an incredible year, winning the silver slugger and cementing his reputation as the best SS in the national league.

This year the “scout” deemed Matt Duffy a fluke, in particular harping on his bat speed and lack of power. He went out and hit two home runs this week and leads the team with 7 rbi’s. Maybe there’s some weird SI voodoo at work here. I’ll take it.

Pitcher of the Week: Cueto and Bumgarner went twice, each turning in a vintage performance and then a gutsy-stick-it-out-and-save-the-bullpen-and-still-get-a-win start. Samarzija and Peavy left a lot to be desired, and Matt Cain turned in a quality start.

Given what I’ve already written, I’ll go with Matt Cain this week if no other reason than there had to be a moment on Friday, around the fifth or the sixth inning, where he thought to himself: “I’m back, I have good feel for my pitches, I haven’t been perfect, but I like the results, and, of course, our juggernaut offense is getting no hit by a rookie in his first game. Perfect.”

The more things change…

Looking Ahead: Two important things to keep an eye on. First, it will be wise for Giants’ fans to have some patience with Jeff Samardzija. He’s on his fourth team in three years. This means four different pitching coaches, four different organizational philosophies, four different sets of catchers. My sense is it will take at least 8 starts for him to fully absorb Dave Righetti’s message, and to get used to working with Posey. I would predict/hope that sometime around mid-May it starts clicking.

Second, the most interesting bullpen development of 2016 will be watching how Bruce Bochy handles Hunter Strickland. He should be the closer (and I’ve thought this before Saturday’s Casilla meltdown). But, he’s also the biggest weapon in the ‘pen and so there’s something to be said for using him in the most high leverage situations whenever they come. Let’s see how this all plays out!

Off to Denver and LA. I think we’ll be sick of the Dodgers by next weekend for sure.

Go Giants.