Week in Review (8/1-8/7)

Results:

2-5 (63-52, 0.5 game lead in NL West)

5-2 L vs Ari.; 6-1 L vs. Ari.; 8-1 W vs. Ari.; 3-0 L vs. Phi; 9-2 L vs. Phi; 3-1 L vs. Phi; 3-1 W vs. Phi

All season I feel like I’ve been complaining about the Giants winning the first 2 or 3 games of a series and then losing the last game to “avoid” the sweep. Well, this week the Giants turned that trend around and had to win the last game of both series in order to avoid being swept. It has not been a good two weeks, but then again, we all knew they were heading in to one of the toughest stretches of the season. Hopefully they can finish the home stand out strong (a sweep of the Pirates would mean a 5-5 stand, which is not the end of the world).

Hitter of the Week:

Pablo’s line goes like this: 11 for 26 (.423 average), with 4 runs, 1 home run, and 4 RBIs. Keep it up Pablo! A hat tip also goes to Jeff Keppinger whose 4 hit day gave him a 10 for 17 (.370) week to go with 3 runs scored. He must keep hitting and getting on base for this offense to succeed.

Pitcher of the Week:

When a team is struggling in nearly every aspect of the game, as the Giants did this last week, the one thing that can turn the funk around is the Ace. The old baseball saying is that “a team’s momentum is only as strong as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.” Tim Lincecum gave the Giants two strong efforts and stopped the bleeding against the Phillies. He made one mistake to Paul Goldschmidt on Tuesday, but overall performed exactly the way an Ace should perform when the rest of his mates are struggling. 14 and 2/3 IP, 13 K, a 1.84 ERA, and an 0.95 WHIP in two big games makes him a no-brainer pitcher of the week.

Looking Ahead:

After an emotional and draining 7 games against big time competition the Giants get a bit of break with 3 home games against the reeling (10 straight loses) Pirates. Of course, this is no time to let up, the Giants need to win these games, but at least they aren’t looking at the Phillies any more. They get rewarded after that with a day off, followed by the brutal 10 game road trip to the muggy south. 3 in Florida, 4 in Atlanta, 3 in Houston. This will be another tough and challenging stretch, meaning the Giants really need to take 2, if not all 3, from the Pirates.

When a team is losing it is easy to look at the all the things that are going on wrong and try to pick one and blame all the struggles on that one thing. Losing and winning are much more complex than that. That said, I do think the number one priority right now is figuring out the leadoff spot. I do not worry about the pitching…and while there are plenty of holes in the lineup to get fired up about, it really seems like settling down the leadoff position will give the Giants a decent 1-5 and hopefully create some much-needed runs!

As Brian Wilson says: Pirates are cool, but no one beats a ninja. Go Giants!

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Week in Review (7/25-7/31)

Results:

2-4 (61-47; 2 game lead in NL West)

7-2 L @ Phi; 2-1 W @ Phi; 4-1 W @ Phi; 4-3 L @ Cin; 7-2 L @ Cin; 9-0 L @ Cin

This week started off so great. A series win against the best team in the NL. A trade for the best hitter available. A four game lead in the division and the chance to pad it before facing off against Arizona with the opportunity to really bury them in early August. And then it all went to crap. Now the Giants are heading in to this series against the D-Backs fighting to stay in first, having acquired yet another over-the-hill middle infielder, and having been swept by a team who they should have handled and forced to trade us their catcher. Nothing is easy with this team. Welcome to the Giants, Carlos and Orlando. More on trades later this week (hopefully tomorrow), but now on to the awards.

Hitter of the Week:

Pablo Sandoval: 2 home runs, a .320 average, and at times the only guy who seemed to have any life in the lineup. As great as getting Beltran is, I really hope Pablo gets hot and has a huge final two months. That would be so, so nice!

Pitcher of the Week:

Duel winners this week: Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. First, they both won their starts. Second, they both won against the Phillies. Tim won his coming off an illness which garners bonus points. Third, they continue to annoy the heck out of Charlie Manuel and that is fun to watch. I love that there is some kind of mojo they seem to have against the Phillies, even though they are such a lefty heavy lineup. They also both go in the Arizona series starting today, so hopefully they keep up their good (not great,  wink wink) work.

So, here we go. Three with Arizona for the division, four with Philadelphia for NL bragging rights, and then three with the upstart Pirates. All are in SF but these are some big games. The schedule gets a little lighter after that, but that’s a long ways off in baseball time. Go Giants!

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Beltran Links

I’ve been dropping these in the comments of the last post, but thought I’d compile all the links here. Several different takes on the Beltran trade…overall most agree it was a good, had-to-be-done move but the price was high.

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Week in Review (7/18-7/24)

Results:

4-2 (59-43, 4 game lead in NL West)

5-0 W vs. LAD; 5-3 W vs. LAD; 1-0 L vs. LAD; 4-2 L vs. Mil; 4-2 W vs. Mil; 2-1 W vs. Mil

Overall a very good week for the Giants. From my perspective I feel like the Giants have won the first two games of a lot of 3 game series and then failed to sweep in the last game. Anecdotal, for sure, and also a trend that you feel bad complaining about. I mean, they still won the series right, it feels kind of greedy to want a sweep all the time. But, excellent work (as always) by Baggs confirming that the Giants are now 18-4 in 3 game series (meaning they’ve won at least 2 of 3 in 18 of the 22 3 games series they’ve played). That is impressive and exactly what you want from a club, so I’m going to stop complaining about not being able to finish off sweeps (hopefully).

One more story then on the players of the week. My wife and I attended the Red Sox game yesterday and my parents were at AT&T yesterday as well. The results perfectly captured the essence of each team’s seasons. Tim Wakefield started for the Sox (because of injuries to their rotation) gave up 7 runs in 6 innings and still got the win and a standing ovation as he left the mound. The Red Sox pounded the Mariners in a 12-8 victory. The Giants came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to great pitching. Perfect games for describing how the season has gone for both of these teams.

Hitter of the Week:

This is my shameless plug for Brandon Belt. 4 for 12 (.333) with a home run and 3 RBI in his return. Also two games on the bench. This guy has to play! I don’t care who they trade for, how much they are paying Aubrey Huff, etc, the offense will get better by having him in the lineup! Somebody make that happen!!!

Pitcher of the Week:

Last week I gave this honor to Madison Bumgarner and I’m doing it again. I said last Monday the Giants need Bumgarner to step up and solidify himself at the #3 starter…well, he may actually be making a case to be #2 or even 1A at this rate. Here’s his line for the week: 2 starts, 2 wins, 15 and 2/3 IP, 15 K, 2.30 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and 0 BB. In fact, you have to go back to July 6th to find his last walk issued. Baggs has some good stuff on the unprecedented nature of a 21-year-old with such great control and so does McCovey Chronicles, so I won’t elaborate much more but to say that this kid is impressive. Very impressive.

On to the White House, then the Phillies…can’t wait for this series to start…going to be an interesting week to say the least!

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Week in Review (7/11-7/17)

Results:

6-2 W @ SD; 6-1 W @ SD; 11-3 L @ SD; 4-3 W @ SD

Short week due to the All-Star Break…four games against the Padres turned out to not be so bad (even with Zito laying an egg on Saturday). Couple of games that could have ended in typical Padre disaster turned out ok, thanks to Aubrey Huff and a suicide squeeze. This team comes out of the gate, post-break proving that walking the razor’s edge is just how it’s going to be in 2011.

Hitter of the Week:

Once again, props to Panda and Nate the Great for being lights in the midst of so much darkness. Hitter of the short week honors, though, go to Andres Torres who is showing signs of coming around. Over the last two weeks he is hitting .333 with 7 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. I’ve said this before, but the Giants can make any number of huge trades but an offensive resurgence has to begin with some players they already have getting it together and none of those players is more important as Torres. If he keeps this up the Giants have a pretty decent outfield (defensively as well as offensively) with Cody Ross, Nate, and Andres. It would also mean focusing on the middle infield in the trade market. Stay hot Andres!

Pitcher of the Week:

Madison Bumgarner. His line on Thursday wasn’t dominant (6 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 4 K), but it was really good and a big second half from MadBum will go a long way to not only helping the Giants win this division but solidify the rotation for the postseason as well. It’s pretty clear that now is the time for Madison to establish himself as the no-doubt #3 in the Giants rotation.

Looking Ahead:

The Giants enter an interesting stretch. 3 with the Dodgers (where they catch Billingsly and Kershaw, never an easy task), then lots of contenders: Brewers, Phillies, Reds, D-Backs, Phillies again, and the Pirates. All but six of those games are at home, which is extremely helpful. Nonetheless, this is an important time of the season. The Giants have the potential to put some distance between them and the rest of the division and it would be great to see them do it, although it would be entirely out of character with how they do everything else. For the time being, though, BEAT LA!

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Forecasting the Future (or something like that)

The All-Star game helped to highlight the one truth that we know from 2011. The National League has some good pitchers. Sure, the AL had 4-5 great arms unavailable for various reasons, but so did the NL. Pitching has been the story of the season all around, but I am still amazed at how deep the NL is with pitchers. Soon I’ll have a post up regarding how my pitching ideas factor in the pennant races, but for now here is my gut level feel about the rest of the season:

AL EAST

I’ve been touting the Rays all year and by all appearances they are done but shouldn’t have what it takes to finish in the top 2 in a strong division. Disagree. Still think the Rays have a better shot than the Yankees over the full schedule. Red Sox and Rays as division winner and wild carder, respectively.

AL CENTRAL

So, I picked the Twins at the beginning of the season, then the White Sox, and it makes a ton of sense to choose the Tigers at this point (all the while the Indians remain very much in the hunt and they are the team I’d love to see win it, but I still don’t believe). I might be back in on the Twins, though. 6.5 out. The next two weeks are super important for them. If they tank, they’ll trade some guys and regroup for next year. If they get close to .500 look out, it may be another Minnesota Miracle. I’m going to go out on a very precarious limb and say I’m on the Twins bandwagon. They just might get healthy and hot and take this thing after all.

AL WEST

A minor subplot here is a bet I’ve had since opening day with my friend Kevin. If the Angels win more games than the A’s he gets to write a guest post telling the world what an idiot I am. Right now he’s got to be feeling pretty comfortable. He might even be on his third or fourth draft. The Angels aren’t terrible and I need to look at the pitching numbers to confirm some suspicions I have that they may end up winning this division. Today, though, I’m predicting a slide by Weaver and Haren and the Rangers hold on to win the west again.

NL EAST

Told you the Braves were pretty good right! A lot has gone wrong with the offense and a ton has gone right with the pitching. (This might be blasphemy on a Giants blog, but pitcher for pitcher is there a better staff top to bottom than the Braves? The Phillies have a slight advantage in a couple of statistical areas but that’s a top-heavy staff…I think it’s a good debate: Giants vs. Braves for deepest/strongest staff in all of baseball). Nice work by the Mets and Nationals to be at .500 and the Marlins are coming back a bit after being punished for the sins of Scott Cousins. Best division in baseball? Yes. Phillies win, Braves take the Wild Card easily and have the second best record in the NL.

NL CENTRAL

Here’s a good one. The fourth place Reds are only 4 games out. Anything can happen here and this is the division that might be the most affected by a trade. (Nice job by the Brewers getting K-Rod. He’s a nut job but I think he’ll behave himself, prove he can be a good citizen, and pitch great as a set up man in order to get a big contract this offseason). I don’t think the Brew Crew can pull off much more in the trade market, so we’ll have to see what the other teams do in response. None of these teams have three starters like Grienke, Marcum, and Gallardo and so I still believe Milwaukee is the team to beat in this four horse race. 

NL WEST

Giants win the west, simple as that. More importantly, despite all the rumoring and posturing over the last few days, I don’t think the Giants get Beltran and if they do make a move it will be a minor move (or moves). Even if I’m wrong and they do get Beltran, the fact remains: the Giants need improved production up and down the lineup, especially out of the leadoff spot and at SS, 2B, and C. Carlos Beltran solves none of those problems, so ultimately, big trade or not, the G-men must look internally to get some kind of sustainable offense going.

More to come in the near future as I examine which teams fit the pitching model for a run at the World Series.

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Week in Review (7/4-7/10)

Results:

4-3 (52-40, 3 game lead in NL West)

5-3 L vs. SD; 5-3 L vs. SD; 6-5 W vs. SD; 2-1 W vs. SD; 5-2 L vs. NYM; 3-1 W vs. NYM; 4-2 W vs. NYM

Hey, it’s the All-Star break and the Giants are in first place. No big deal, right? I mean it’s been a pretty smooth, rather uneventful first half of the season. FALSE. The monks will spend a few days this week recapping the first half and looking ahead the stretch run. If nothing else, this has been one compelling team to follow this year.

Hitter of the Week:

Tip of the cap to Pablo for keeping the streak alive (21 games now) and for sneaking on to the All-Star roster. I hope he hits a walk off home run against Jose Valverde. But, the hitter of the week has to be Nate Schierholtz who is resembling a real life, everyday major league player more and more. He has now raised his season slash line to: .293/.343/.464 which is pretty darn good. I really, really, really hope he can keep this up!

Pitcher of the Week:

The Barry Zito comeback tour is gaining some serious momentum. His outing against San Diego was easily the best performance by a starter this past week (8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K) and maybe the best start of his Giants’ career. However (and this is more of a midseason award than a weekly thing), while Brian Wilson does his bit for the All Star team Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Jeremy Affeldt might be the best core of set up men in all of baseball right now. Romo had an amazing week, Lopez is just a joy to watch, and Affeldt is looking more and more like his 2009 self. If Casilla can get back to where he was at the end of last year and Mota and Ramirez keep on holding down their end, I think this is the best bullpen I have ever seen. Period.

Stay tuned, a lot more to come this week!

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