Signs of Life #sfgiants

The Giants went 3-3 against two 2016 and 2017 playoff teams (although writing this just might jinx the Cubs…haha). That 3-3 is pretty good, especially considering the odd nature of this weekend’s series in Washington DC. The team didn’t play for 2 straight days, then experienced another rain delay, and then played 3 baseball games and extra innings in just over 24 hours.

If you back the clock up to August 1, when the Giants hit an unofficial reset button, they are 7-5, and 5-4 against playoff teams (I’m including the Diamondbacks).

They are not setting the world on fire, and they are not going to dig themselves out of any holes (think: get back to .500), but this is encouraging nonetheless. If nothing else, they are playing baseball more typical of the good Giants teams we’ve seen in the past: better starting pitching, better defense, just enough offense.

Some thoughts:

  • Last week Jarrett Parker looked like the greatest Giants outfielder of all time not named Bonds or Mays. This week, he looked a lot more like Jarret Parker. This is who he is: he’ll bunch together some good at bats, and he’ll bunch together the strikeouts. I’m still interested in him as a power bat off the bench, but this week helps bring balance to the force and remind everyone that Jarret Parker is not the answer to the Giants OF problem.
  • Chris Stratton had a great start on Sunday. He’s sort of the Jarrett Parker of the Giants system when it comes to pitching. He’s a little too old to be super intriguing (Madison Bumgarner is almost exactly one year older). But late bloomers are a thing. And he could contribute if he can find consistency. More likely than not, he will have some good starts like yesterday that involve a lot of strikeouts, and he’ll have some rockier starts that involve a lot of walks. But this is where my pro-Righetti bias shows in full force: I have way more faith in the Giants developing Stratton into something useful than I with Parker.
  • Joe Panik having the best day/series of his season (6 for 12 with 2 walks, 3 RBIs, and a home run), and then getting thrown out/doinked on the head at home plate is very emblematic of the season. The Giants don’t get to enjoy much of anything for long in 2017.
  • The Giants have two key guys now, Panik and Brandon Belt, who have struggled with concussion issues. This is not something baseball teams normally have to worry about with non-catchers, which means this is not a good sign for the Giants already fragile core.
  • We need to talk about Pablo Sandoval. He has not taken the world by storm, but he doesn’t look bad either. And then, that home run he hit yesterday, off of a top Cy Young candidate, was something else. If I were good enough of a scout to know if he was still useful I wouldn’t be writing this blog, but it does look to me like there is something left in the tank. Now, there are limitations with Pablo (his inability to switch hit anymore), but I’m intrigued to see how this year plays out and if there might be a spot for him in 2018.
  • Finally, we need to talk about Matt Moore. I have always been high on Matt Moore, and he was a large part of my fantasy baseball strategy and when some doofus drafted him right before I was going to draft him I was upset. I was so confident he was going to have a great year. I’ve felt a lot better about that doofus stealing Moore from me as the year has gone on, but THE mystery of 2017 to me has been Matt Moore. I don’t know what to make of his start last night. Maybe it’s nothing, but those are the kinds of results I expected to see all year-long. Did you see how everything was down and sharp and nasty. Where has that been?! For now, it’s going to be start to start until he regains consistency, but yesterday was a positive step for sure.

Enjoy watching Giancarlo Stanton for the next couple days!

A Winning Week! #sfgiants #weekinreview

So, the Giants are good now, right?!
Hahahahahaha…

Jokes aside it was a good week: 4-3, and they finally won a division series over a team not named the Dodgers.

This week does raise a couple of tensions for Giants fans as we close out the final third of the season.

No one wants to watch loss after loss, and ending the season on a high note is a good thing, but the better this team plays, the higher their draft spot becomes. In baseball this is not such a huge deal, but still a mild concern.

More to the point (at least in my view), the better certain guys play, the more likely the front office is to fall in love them.

For example: Jarrett Parker just had a great return to the lineup. A friend and I joked that the answer to the riddle of 2017 must have always been Parker.

I like the guy. I call him Captain Jack for his resemblance to Johnny Depp’s Pirate’s character. He’s played the last 4 games with more panache, energy, and effectiveness than just about anyone not named Buster this season.

But that said, he’s 28 and he strikes me as the classic AAAA player. Too good for the minors, not good enough for the Majors. Perhaps he can settle into a nice 4th or 5th outfielder role, but my fear is that he has a great two months, and the Giants become convinced he’s the guy, and here’s our new starting OF.

While I would love to regret writing that last paragraph, there are a few of these kinds of guys who concern me because their success in August and September could undercut shrewder moves.

I would include Pablo Sandoval in this list.

Giants fans should root hard for Samardzija and Moore and Bumgarner and Crawford and Melancon, and probably for Pence and Cueto to finish strong. Root for Ryder Jones to establish himself. For Ty Blach to keep the good times coming and for Kelby Tomlinson to prove he belongs.

I’m not so sure with Parker.


Another interesting case is Chris Stratton. Stratton took Matt Cain’s place in the rotation (although I expect Cain to get a final, highly publicized start, to end the season. Probably in the closing series against the Padres).

This means Stratton essentially has a 2 month tryout.

Here’s where my lack of confidence in the Giants front office is betrayed: I kind of like Stratton, and certainly enjoy watching him pitch more than Matt Cain (sorry Matty). But he’s about to turn 27 and still hasn’t figured it out yet.

I like his stuff. I like the idea of more options and greater depth (the Giants desperately need this, especially if Cueto opts out). But I get concerned that two good months might allow the team to make a lazy decision.

And that’s basically my issue with this front office. There’s a tendency to take the easy way out.


Contrast this with the Dodgers. Granted, any comparison of the Giants and Dodgers right now is tough. I do not think these teams are as far apart as the standings show. But, one team is having maybe the greatest regular season in the last 100 years, and the other is having one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Less than a year ago, both teams battled the eventual Champion Cubs (and lost, but it was a battle).

The biggest difference between the teams is youth and depth, with the Dodgers coming out ahead on both counts.

I would add to that ruthlessness with which the Dodgers have been making decisions. Andrew Friedman is finally showing us what a “moneyball” guy would do with a big budget and it’s more than a bit awe-inspiring.

That being said, the Dodgers, to this point, have been able to operate the last couple years with essentially zero sentimentality.

Even the extension offered to Clayton Kershaw was more a baseball decision than a fan base decision (although it was certainly both).

If the Dodgers win it all this year (and until proven otherwise, I’m sticking with my Nationals prediction), they will finally be faced with some sentimental decisions. Do they, for example, give a big contract to Yu Darvish just because he helped them finally win?

The Giants have erred to the side of keeping their own guys and sentimental favorites around, even if longer than needed, as a reward for winning, as a way to protect the culture, and as a way to keep the fans engaged. It’s not necessarily a bad idea.

But the Giants have rarely been ruthless. They tend to go just a bit too far with their guys. Aubrey Huff, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, for example (though it’s actually a long list).

I’m interested to see how the Dodgers handle this going forward, and I’m even more interested to see if the Giants can get a bit more ruthless, because I think they need it.

Trade Deadline Quick Thoughts

The Dodgers are a demon-monster of a 25 man roster. They are coming for your soul and your children and they will show no mercy.


The Giants didn’t do a whole lot at the deadline, which is basically what everyone had come to accept about a week ago, and in its own way is a terrible indictment on the state of this franchise.

They are too good to be this bad. Not good enough to offload anyone. Stuck in neutral. Which, compared to the Dodgers, means moving backwards.


When the Giants blew game 4 to the Cubs last year I was not crushed. It was not 2002 or 1993 or 2003 or 1997 or 2000 or 1998 or 1987 or 2004.

Part of the reason I was not crushed was because of the entirely predictable nature of the choke. This was not the Warriors going scoreless during the final 4+ minutes of a Game 7. This was a good team with a bad bullpen letting its season slip away thanks to a bad bullpen.

At the time I wrote: Mark Melancon and we’re good. Or something like that.

And then that’s exactly what the Giants did.

Which is to say, part of the reason I wasn’t crushed is I expected the Giants to be right back there again, but with a weakness addressed and solidified.

But the further the wheels fall of this wagon, the more I wish for the chance to see a game 5.

Partly because I do wonder about a hangover from that type of defeat. It feels like all the wind that got sucked out of the sails has just continued to be sucked. (I really enjoy that sentence).

But also partly because it may be a long while before we see the postseason again.

There is a magnificent gap between the Giants and the Dodgers right now. It’s evident on the 25 man roster, the 40 man roster,in  the minor league systems, and in the ways these teams are going about constructing rosters.

You don’t erase that kind of gap with a few tweaks here and there. And that is a major concern.


That having been said, I get the impression from some parts of the internet that this season is validation for why the 2010, 2012, 2014 were “lucky”. Or some version of that. In essence: those teams weren’t very good, they got by with a great manager and a couple awesome performances.

This really bothers me. Without doing a deep dive, it is important to remember that the 2010 team had one of the best pitching staffs top to bottom of any team in the last 20+ years.

The 2012 team was balanced and took the “put the ball in play” philosophy to maximum heights (by the way, the 2014-2015 Royals did the same thing).

The 2014 team is the one championship that fits the general argument being made, but folks forget that that team was the best team in baseball through the first 80 or so games (not unlike the 2016 Giants).

Dynasties fade. The Phillies were incredible from 2008-2012 and now they are deep in a rebuild. The 2017 Cardinals are a slightly better version of the Giants, but are still struggling through a transition period. The Patriots and Warriors will one day go through this as well.

The crash doesn’t make what came before illegitimate, it just means an era is over.

The question for the Giants is how closed is this era, and who will be around for the next one?

Second Half Predictions

The Giants picked up the second half right where they left off: Johnny Cueto underwhelmed, they still can’t win a MadBum start, Samardzija is ever the enigma, and the offense kept sputtering right along.

There’s not much to review here, but it was great to see Madison Bumgarner back! That start was the best case scenario for all involved: several innings, quality performance, no high stress pitch counts…quite frankly it was a game a good team would have won.

Rather than dig any deeper into that, or into fantastical scenarios that will never happen, let’s make a few predictions about the second half:

  • Giants predictions: the only bold prediction that is mildly interesting to make here is that Brandon Belt will hit 30 home runs, the first to do it since some guy named Barry. Other than that: the Giants will make some trades and hope to get some bounce backs from the Crawford’s and Moore’s of the roster. On to the rest of baseball.
  • The Cubs will be fine. My big second half baseball prognostication is that the Cubs will win the Central. Then they went out and won 3 straight games by the combined score of 27-11. They’ll be fine. The NL postseason is going to be a blood bath.
  • The AL pennant race is going to be interesting with so many teams in play still, but it’s all a prelude to the Astros steamrolling their way to the World Series.
  • Aaron Judge is awesome, but he won’t hit 50 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s rookie HR record.
  • I should be picking the Dodgers to win it all, but I can’t do that and so I’m going to get all sentimental and pick the Dusty Baker National’s to win the whole thing.

A couple more thoughts on the World Series. MLB seems to obsess far too much over who gets into the WS and it’s impact on ratings. It’s stupid, but to close out this week’s post, here is what Rob’s crew has to be rooting for:

  1. Dodgers and Yankees (two iconic franchises and some serious star power).
  2. Cubs and Red Sox (the Epstein series)
  3. Dodgers and Red Sox (similar to 1)
  4. Dodgers and Astros (especially if they hold up their best records in each league)
  5. Cubs and Yankees
  6. Nationals and Yankees (especially as a potential preview to Bryce Harper’s future team)

What they are probably NOT rooting for:

  1. Milwaukee and Minnesota
  2. Colorado and Kansas City
  3. Arizona and Houston

Or some combination of those teams.

Baseball monk prediction: Nationals over Astros in 6

Under Performing/Over Performing, Pt. II #sfgiants

The Giants enjoyed a nice 6 game win streak and then resumed sucking, and we are right back where we started: the potential to be one of the worst teams in baseball this year and Giants’ history. Wheeeee!

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the offense and saw that nearly across the board the Giants are under performing. Now, we turn our attention to the pitching. (I will be using ERA+, a stat I enjoy, instead of WAR for the pitchers).


For the sake of reference here are the Giants’ team ERA+ records for recent #EvenYears:

  • 2010: 117
  • 2012: 96
  • 2014: 99
  • 2016: 108 (even with that horrid bullpen)

and 2017: 88!

Also for the sake of reference, here were the highest/lowest performers for the rotation and bullpen from each year:

  • 2010: Madison Bumgarner 131/Barry Zito 94; Brian Wilson 210/Guiellermo Mota 91
  • 2012: Matt Cain 126/Tim Lincecum 68 (PS. Lincecum’s struggles deflated the team’s over all #s in 2012); Sergio Romo 198/Clay Hensley 77
  • 2014: Madison Bumgarner 116/Tim Lincecum 73 (although Jake Peavy’s 159 in 12 starts is crazy!); Santiago Casilla 204 (whoa!)/JC Gutierrez (remember him! Me neither) 88
  • 2016: Madison Bumgarner 145 (also Cueto at 142)/Matt Cain 71; Derek Law (where have you gone!) 188/Josh Osich 85

and 2017: Johnny Cueto 91 (Samardzija 90)/Matt Moore 68; Hunter Strickland 207/Steven Okert 68 (ALSO: Madison Bumgarner in 4 starts…139)

And then, finally, just one simple stat, Runs Allowed:

  • 2010: 583 (+114)
  • 2012: 649 (+69)
  • 2014: 614 (+41)
  • 2016: 631 (+84)
  • 2017: 453 (-99)…they are “on pace” to allow over 800 runs!!!

A few initial observations about all that:

  • That 2010 team was really good and history is only proving this to be truer by the day
  • Madison Bumgarner is really good
  • The demise of Tim Lincecum hurt the overall performance of the 2012/2014 teams who had to do a lot of patch work to cover for him
  • 2010 Barry Zito would be the ace on this team
  • The 2016 Giants were also very good, and were a bullpen away from taking on/down the juggernaut Cubs
  • The 2017 Giants have a lot of the same players as the 2016 Giants

To take things a step further, the 2017 Giants are not good because their pitching has been really bad. There are million ways to slice this pie, but the raw stats of runs allowed should be more than enough. Let’s take one more look:

  • 2009 RA: 611
  • 2010: 583
  • 2011: 578 (!!!!!!!!!)
  • 2012: 649
  • 2013: 691
  • 2014: 614
  • 2015: 627
  • 2016: 631
  • 2017: 815

From 2009 to 2016, the golden age of Giant’s pitching, the team has sniffed 700 runs allowed only once, during the injury riddled down year of 2013. This year’s version is threatening to blow right past that and break 800 for the first time since 1999.

I know many people have been very frustrated by the offense, and it has not been great, no doubt about it. But, it is on pace to score 637 runs, which is not that far from the 665 scored in 2014 (Champions!).

The true problem here is with the pitching.

Now, none of this answers the why. Why has it been so bad? Explanations include the obvious (Bumgarner and Melancon have been hurt, some steady hands retired, etc).

But I have two issues I would like to point out:

  1. I haven’t done a deep dive into the #s but it seems like the Giants have had a really hard time striking guys out. In particular, Matt Moore has gotten killed with 2 strikes. But it’s not just Moore, it seems to happen all the time.
  2. The game has moved to strikeout/home run era. And the Giants, as a whole, don’t seem to be moving with the game.

Which leads to the conclusion: do the Giants have a philosophy that is letting them down? Their strikeout rate is not terrible, and I’ll have to do a deeper dive on some of the numbers, but the 2-strike issues are startling.

The bottom line: the Giants have some really tough/fascinating decisions to make for the 2018 club, and most of them have to do with the pitching staff. If there’s something to watch for in the second half, this would be it.

A Streak of Winning! #sfgiants

So, um, yeah, we all saw this coming, right? A nice little six game winning streak after the wheels completely fell off the wagon. Baseball.

I was going to spend this week’s post on evaluating the pitching, but the streak, plus holiday travel, will not make that possible, so just a couple quick observations, and we’ll get back to the pitchers during the All-Star break.

  1. Denard Span and Hunter Pence obviously read this blog, and took it personally when I said they were clearly the problem with the offense. Span slashed .417/.481/.667 this week, and just looked like a good major league baseball player. He lifted his WAR total from -0.6, to -0.1, which essentially puts him back at league average. If he keeps this up he will blast right back into positivity. Pence had a far less impressive line, but played good defense (finally) and was a significant part of the 13 run outburst on Friday night.
  2. Overall, the Giants scored 38 runs this week, and played much, much better defense.
  3. As important as that is, the Giants’ formula begins and ends with starting pitching. This week the Giants got two more excellent starts from Jeff Samardzija who quickly becoming untradeable, a quality start from Matt Cain, a very quality start from Ty Blach (considering how the first inning of that game went), and good enough starts from Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore. There are still too many question marks here for this streak to carry on much longer, but while the offense is humming like this, quality starts will keep the club competitive.
  4. One final note. No one should get overly giddy about Sam Dyson’s first two saves. Not in the sense of “new closer” or anything like that. But a good Sam Dyson will go a long way towards stabilizing the bullpen of the future. His positive performance is a good, good thing.

If the good times continue to roll, how do you evaluate the 2017 Giants? It seems the brass consider the core to be good enough to keep together, tweak a bit, and hope for better luck next year. Since that is the case, there’s nothing to root for here other than the team to keep playing like this. If these are the guys we are going to ride and die with, they may as well be good.

Speaking of good, Buster Posey: starting All-Star!

Under Performing/Over Performing #sfgiants

As the Giants continue to perform the inverse of the path back to competition I described a few weeks ago, the search for answers continues. The Giants suckiness is starting to catch the attention of the larger baseball world and Ken Rosenthal weighs in today (arguing that the Giants are boring and lack chemistry).

While I admit to being a sucker for the chemistry argument, winning is always the best chemical ingredient in any team sport. The 2010 Giants were a long losing streak from becoming a dumpster fire. Can you imagine Brian Wilson’s schtick on a 95 loss team?

No, the problem here is not that the Giants are boring or that they don’t stretch together and make corny jokes or have a team catch phrase. The problem is that, nearly across the board, the team has underperformed. Let’s take a look:

Opening Day Lineup:

  • Denard Span: Span started the season with a minor injury, missing 3 of the team’s first 4 games, and then spent April 23 to May 10 on the DL. Not that anyone expected Denard to be a dominant presence, but his absence and suckiness has led to far more at bats for Gorkys Hernandez than anyone would have liked. There’s also the fact that Hernandez made the club essentially as a Span caddy (a damning reality all by itself). Overall: -0.6 WAR (remember that a 0 score is essentially an average player).
  • Brandon Belt: why was Brandon Belt ever hitting second???? This continues to drive me crazy, but at least Bruce Bochy gets credit here for creativity. Anyway, the #BeltWars continue (this is the raging difference of opinion about Belt that takes place on-line on a nightly basis). The haters look at the average and the strikeouts and the gumby shoulders and lose their minds. The lovers look at the giraffe pics and the 1.7 WAR for 2017 and say “see, he’s actually good.” And the numbers don’t lie, Belt’s been a productive player all year. I lean towards the Belt love, but because of his streaky nature, Belt is never a guy you want to build an offense around. Also, he should be HITTING CLEANUP. I will not stop staying this.
  • Hunter Pence: Pence continues to get hurt. He hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2014 (also the last time the Giants won the World Series). Weird to think that at that time he had played every day for over two full seasons and had developed an iron man reputation. But the injuries have made it hard for him to produce consistently, and this year it really looks like he can’t handle right field anymore. The other day I told my wife I thought he was done and then he hit a game tying home run off Jim Johnson. Baseball. Still, he’s at -0.5 WAR for the season.
  • Buster Posey: Buster is great. The end. 2.7 WAR. Also, HE SHOULD HIT THIRD. (Before we move on, though, Buster’s WAR ranks him 34th in MLB…that means there is essentially at least one player on every other team with a higher WAR than Posey. Another way of saying it: the Giants never face a team in which they have the unquestioned best player on the field).
  • Brandon Crawford: The fact that Crawford opened the season as the 5th hitter, and Buster Posey’s main protection, is (a) a testament to how much Brandon has grown as a hitter, and (b) a sign that we should have seen more clearly the reality that this team might struggle to score runs. Despite missing time on the DL, he’s still a positive 0.2 WAR, although that’s mostly due to his defense.
  • Eduardo Nunez: Eddy’s another somewhat divisive internet figure. He’s at 0.1 WAR, a figure depressed by his bad LF defense. But he also started this season off in a terrible slump, and while the 17 steals are nice, his “power” has diminished compared to his career high totals from last year. This is a major problem for the Giants, and a reason Ryder Jones is a getting look right now. The Giants have too many lineup spots where a home run is a lucky bonus, not an expected result. Outside of Belt and Posey, there’s almost no one else hitting for regular power.
  • Jarrett Parker: 0 WAR. This score is obviously due to the small sample size (21 ABs) and a long DL stint, but again, here we have foreshadowing. At his best, Parker was a so-so defender, who would hopefully hit around .250 and blast a few home runs. Good for a slightly positive WAR if everything fell right. It did not fall right, and the Giants have had a vortex of negative WAR all season in left field.
  • Joe Panik: Another curiosity…why was Joe hitting 8th? Why is he not hitting second every day? Panik is at 1.1 WAR for the season, a number that is depressed by his depressing month of May. Panik hit .301 in April, and is hitting .361 in June, but struggled to a .192 average in May. I can’t wait to see where he is at by the end of the year. My sense is that WAR should increase significantly.
  • Assessment: Underperforming. Some of this is injury related. Some of this is bench related (more in a moment). But a good portion of this is due to some redundancies and bad roster construction. No team should employ both Denard Span and Joe Panik as their regular 1-2 punch. This has more to do with Span than with Panik (who I love). The Giants need a far more athletic, powerful option in CF to get this lineup back to contention. Speaking of athletic, the other glaring issue is the corner outfield spots. That’s where the upgrade needs to happen.

The Bench: the Giants bench has been a mess of injury and under performance, just like the lineup, but worse in many ways. Nick Hundly who was supposed to be a nice source of veteran power at the back up catcher spot: -0.3 WAR and only 2 home runs. Gorkys Hernandez is at -1.2 WAR which seems high. Aaron Hill was at -0.9 WAR before getting cut. It goes on and on. The Giants, for so long, have been so good at creating a bench out of nothing, but this year the thing has failed miserably. Part of this is due to the strain that injuries have put on the roster, but the other problem is just gross underperformance.

We’ll tackle the pitching next week.