Week [12] In Review (6/20-6/26) #sfgiants #weekinreview

This was not a good week for our POWs from the last post. Matt Duffy got hurt and Jeff Samardzija reverted to bad Jeff. Meanwhile, the Giants lost both starts by Madison Bumgarner this week despite 14.1 great innings.

All that makes it sound like it was a terrible week, but, no, no it wasn’t! The Giants still won 5 of 7, increased their lead in the NL West, and now stand with the best record in the National League. That’s just how this season is going.

We hit the half-way point this week, so let’s look for a moment at the big picture, and then an interesting, smaller story line.

Big Picture: as mentioned here several times, the off-season/pre-season mantra for the 2016 SF Giants was “if they can stay healthy.” We heard it again and again. That was the key to everything.

The answer, we now know, is “no, they can’t.”

Now, granted, they haven’t lost Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner, and their “big 3” have made all their starts (in fact only one starting pitcher, Matt Cain, has struggled with injuries). But, the injury/hamstring bug has hit them at every level, especially the line up. And yet they have the best record in the NL (and are only half a game behind Texas for best record in all of baseball).

The Giants will need Duffy, and Hunter Pence, and Sergio Romo to make a deep run at a World Series, but so far the “need to stay healthy” maxim is proving incorrect.

Smaller Story: assuming everything went well for the Giants (health, again), it appeared heading into the season that the only glaring weak, potentially, was in Left Field. Yes, there were questions about the back-end of the rotation. Yes, there were questions about the bullpen. Yes, there were question (here we go again) about health. Yes, there were questions about the bench.

But, expecting reasonable outputs from each player, left field seemed to stick out. Angel Pagan got off to a great start, however, alleviating those concerns pretty quickly. But, as it always seems to go, Pagan got hurt, and then Pence got hurt, and suddenly the outfield was in disarray.

We are ever grateful for Gregor Blanco, but a question I had about the 2016 Giants was “could this be the year that a home-grown outfielder makes his way into the conversation.” That outfielder, in my mind, was Mac Williamson.

There are many reason to root for Mac. He’s young, cheap, a good enough defender in left, and has tremendous power. He’s also a right-handed bat who brings some balance to the left-handed heavy Giants. I like Pagan and he’s been a good Giant. But Williamson could be answer not just for 2016, but beyond.

Williamson was stashed in AAA to continue developing to start the year, but has been yo-yoed back and forth with all the injuries. This week he finally seemed to turned a corner, and had a couple really nice games, and beyond the numbers just looked more comfortable.

I get very excited about this lineup:

  1. Span CF
  2. Panik 2B
  3. Posey C
  4. Belt 1B
  5. Pence RF
  6. Crawford SS
  7. Williamson LF
  8. Duffy 3B
  9. Pitcher (or switch the Pitcher/Duffy)

However, Pagan has returned with a vengeance, such a vengeance that rumors are flying about bringing him back for 2017! 

Who knows how this will all turn out. Since Barry Bonds retired, the Giants have done just fine with a revolving door approach to LF. I’m still rooting for Mac to take over.

Week In Review: won 3 out of 4 in Pittsburg, and took 2 of 3 from the Phillies at home. 49-28, 8 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: back to the LF conversation! Mac Williamson went 4 for 7 with a home run, 2 RBI, and 3 walks. The walks are just as important as the home run, as patience has been a problem for big Mac. Angel Pagan answered the challenge from the young buck, hitting .440 this week with 4 extra base hits and 9 RBIs! Hat tip to the other “scrubs” (Parker, Pena, and Gillaspe) who along with the LFs round out the top 5 statistical heroes of the week.

Pitcher of the Week: The POW should be Madison Bungarner who had two great starts (Peavy was the only main comp from the rotation, but he only started once). However, Bumgarner went 0-2 through no real fault of his own, and that means we bump the award to the bullpen.

Cody Gearrin had an outstanding week, appearing 4 times and allowing no runs. I’ve been slow to come around on Gearrin, but Bochy is clearly a huge fan, and Cody made him look brilliant this week. I still feel that Hunter Strickland is going to prove to be the most important reliever for the Giants down the stretch, but Gearrin’s quality has brought stability and order to a unit that was sorely lacking both a month ago.

Looking Ahead: The Giants play 4 in the Bay to get the week started (2 at home, 2 in Oakland), and then head to Arizona (it seems like they are always going to Arizona) for a three game weekender. These are two teams with poor records, but the A’s always play the Giants tough, and they are playing for their season right now. If things don’t turn around quick, word on the street is the Billy Beane fire sale is just around the corner. Arizona has been playing much better, and Zack Grienke has quietly turned his season around. This is another sneaky tough week.

Week [11] In Review (6/13-6/19) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Um, ok.

I think we all knew the Giants were doing well, but dang!

No June swoon so far, in fact everything is looking pretty rosy right now: Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are having historic seasons, Jeff Samardzija is the best(?) third starter in baseball, Jake Peavy has figured out how to be competitive again, and the Suarez/Cain combo is holding its own (though Matt Cain is out again with yet another hamstring issue).

The offense is starting to come to life, especially in the home run department (more on this in a moment), Pagan is back, and the lineup feels somewhat normal again.

The biggest positive sign, however, is the resurgence of the bullpen. It seems things have start to get sorted out. I don’t love Cody Gearrin as the 8th inning guy, but, hey, I’m not Bruce Bochy and he has a fairly good track record with bullpens. Whatever the combination, it is finally working, and could get even better once the irrepressible Sergio Romo returns (he struck out Yasiel Puig in a rehab game this week, which is pretty cool).

The Giants face an interesting week. Four games with Pittsburg and then the long flight back to the west coast for a three game weekender with the Phillies. This is a sneaky tough week. The Pirates aren’t playing well, but are still a talented bunch, and four games in Pittsburg feels like a lot. The Phillies are not great, but they are young and have a few good pitchers and they could be a tough matchup coming off the road trip.

Back to the positive vibes: the Giants have nearly caught the Cubs for the best record in the NL, something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago!

Week In Review: Swept the Brewers in 3 at home; swept Tampa Bay in 3 in Tampa; 44-26 overall, 6.5 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: As surmised last week Buster Posey did in fact break out, hitting .522 while collecting 12 hits. Brandon Belt continues to affirm his new contract and make his case for the All-Star Team pounding two more home runs. But the hitters of the week are Matt Duffy and Joe Panik who came alive to the tune of  .409 and .346 averages, respectively. The Giants lineup is pretty devastating when these guys are hitting well. They also both homered, and Panik had a couple huge, clutch moments in the Tampa series.

Pitcher of the Week: You could throw a dart at a chart of the starting rotation and get a pretty good candidate this week. As mentioned above, Bumgarner and Cueto added to their legendary starts to this season. Cueto won his 10th! game of the season already, while striking out nine. Peavy pitched well, adding 8 punchouts of his own.

But, the POW goes to Jeff Samardzija for nearly throwing a shutout (a 2 out, ninth inning home run ruined it for him), and getting himself back on track after a few lesser quality starts.

Looking Ahead: I’ve already gone over the schedule for the week, and the challenge it presents, so now for the good news: this a 2 start week for both Bumgarner and Cueto. Get excited for that!

Week [10] In Review (6/6-6/12) #sfgiants #weekinreview

As mentioned in the last post, the Giants’ faced a weird challenge this week. They “only” had five games on the schedule, the five most challenging games of the month (judging by by records), while at the same time enjoying the odd 2-day off week.

Given a history of June swoons, this felt like an important week. With some key players hurt and slumping, it didn’t seem unreasonable for the familiar pattern to set in.

And there were moments, especially against the Dodgers this weekend, that felt swoonish. Somehow, though, they gutted out a 3-2 week, increased their lead on the Dodgers, and head into the end of the home stand (and start of an easier stretch) more healthy with the return of Matt Cain tonight (which also happens to be the 4-year anniversary of Cain’s perfect game).

All seems just a bit brighter in Giants’ land today. That being said these “easy stretches” are never actually that easy, and now is no time to relax.

Week in Review: 1 of 2 from the Red Sox, and 2 of 3 from the Dodgers (all at home); 5 game lead in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Buster Posey sat out the Red Sox series and then didn’t really light the world on fire when he came back (only hitting .167 in the 3 games against the Dodgers), but he certainly passed the eye-ball test. His walk off single against the Dodgers on Saturday received the appropriate praise attention, but I was more impressed with his at bat against the same foe (Kenley Jansen) the night before. He bombed a fastball into triples ally, a ball that harmlessly fell into the glove of Klay Thompson’s brother, but that was the quintessential Buster swing. When he’s driving the ball to right field with power that is a very good sign.

Pitcher of the Week: Tip of the cap to Alberto Suarez for doing an admirable job filling in for Matt Cain. Feels like the Giants found something good with Suarez (maybe a Yusmeiro Petit-type weapon). But, the pitcher of the week award goes to good ole’ Jake Peavy, who simply needs to do what he did Sunday night to be more than a positive asset to this team. Quality starts (by definition, 6 innings, 3 earned runs or less) are what he needs to provide. Keep the team in the game, keep the game competitive Jakey and everything will be alright.

Looking Ahead: the Giants get the Brewers at home for three to start the week. They run our Cain, Bumgarner, and Cueto in this series which is calling out for a sweep. Then an off day on Thursday and a three game weekender in Tampa Bay to start off a road trip. Here’s to hoping some of these positive trend lines continue moving upward.

Week [9] In Review (5/30-6/5) #sfgiants #weekinreview

All off-season, as the Giants were spending money on good players inside and outside the organization, we heard the refrain repeated time and time again: this should be a good, competitive team as long as they stay healthy.

Well, here we go. It’s June and in the last two weeks:

  • The Giants got bad news on Sergio Romo (i.e. he’s out a while longer)
  • Put perpetually hamstrung Angel Pagan on the DL (after already missing a week with the same injury)
  • Saw Matt Cain pull a hammy after getting his groove back
  • And then, lost Hunter Pence for two months to hamstring surgery

Dang hamstrings.

In addition, Johnny Cueto, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy are all dealing with various aches and pains.

Which leads us to a 5-5 road trip that felt a whole lot worse, probably because the Giants lost their first series in a month this weekend in St. Louis, thanks in large part to two blown leads.

There’s still plenty of bright spots: Bumgarner’s having a historic year, Belt is great, Crawford is proving himself the best shortstop in the game, the overall work from Cueto and Samardzija has been awesome, and this team still has Buster Posey holding it all together.

The next five games, at home, are against good teams (Red Sox and Dodgers), but after that the June schedule seems fairly forgiving.

But, this is test time. The “they must stay healthy” clause will not be fulfilled in 2016. Can they hold it together, keep pitching well, and get enough offense to hang in there until they are back at full strength?

Week in Review: took 2 of 4 from Atlanta, and 1 0f 3 in St. Louis. 35-24 with a 3.5 game lead in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Brandon Belt righted his mini-slump in a big way this week: 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and 1.128 OPS. Belt is going to have to carry a larger load than normal over the next two months with Pence out. He does not seem to thrive in these situations, but now has an opportunity to change the story by providing this kind of production (and protection for Posey).

Pitcher of the Week: George Kontos is not anywhere near my favorite arm in the Giants bullpen but he had a very good week (5 appearances, no runs), and, like Belt, represents a guy who has a chance to really make himself valuable. The bullpen continues to struggle to find consistency and continuity. Bochy likes and trusts Kontos (not totally sure why), and so he’ll have his chances to help bring some badly needed stability to the ‘pen.

Looking ahead: This is a weird, rare, 5 game week, featuring 2 games against the Red Sox and 3 with the Dodgers. As mentioned above, record-wise, this is one of the toughest stretches of the month, but a chance for the Giants to prove themselves against one of the AL’s best, and then a chance to get more distance from the rival Dodgers.