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!

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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.

Blow It Up #sfgiants

Last week, as I laid out the pathway back to contention, I argued the Giants needed to go on a 9-1 run, starting against Kansas City. Well, they proceeded to go 0-7 instead.

We are now officially in the Dark Days.

Many have pointed out that the Giants are on pace to lose 100 games and have one of the top 2 or 3 picks in next years draft.

Tim Kawakami went a step further:

Who saw this coming? Where do we go from here?


Let’s pull the scope back just a bit and take into consideration that as awesome as the Giants have been they’ve chosen to operate with a smaller margin for error than a typical “dynasty.”

What I mean by that is they went all-in on an organizational philosophy built around run prevention. Some of this was due to budget constraints, a lot of this was due to the ballpark. Either way, it has proven to be a sound strategy. Great pitching, strong defense, and just enough offense brought the team 3 world championships.

But, it also brought with it the great phrase: Giants baseball, torture.

Which is to say: The Giants don’t win a lot of 8-3 joy rides. That hasn’t been the blueprint since Barry Bonds left.

They’ve also hesitated from bringing in high-priced free agents to bolster the lineup. Maybe this is the Aaron Rowand effect, but the Giants have built their lineups from the draft and spare parts. A few good trades were mixed in here and there, but there’s been no big bat riding in on a white horse, not in a long, long time.

All of this to say, that while it has been a golden run of roster building, there is a smaller margin of error involved, and that margin has gotten taxed to the max this season.


Let’s also not forget that at this time last year the Giants had the best record in baseball. How did the fall come so fast and so hard?

A simplistic reading of the 2017 season points to the Madison Bumgarner injury and says, like 2011 when the Giants lost Posey, this is not a team designed to overcome the loss of a superstar. While there’s no doubt that was a devastating moment, the failure this year has been far more systemic.

Bullpen Woes

  • Many, myself included, thought the Giants would be able to move on from the “Core 4” since there seemed to be a plethora of arms making their way through the farm system. This has proven to be a drastic mis-read.
  • I also thought the addition of Mark Melancon would create the stability needed to help everyone else fall into their roles.
  • Again, this is a systemic failure. Because the offense and starting pitching and defense have been bad there hasn’t been opportunity for the bullpen to get sorted. The Giants have been great, historically, at playing downhill: getting an early lead and making it stand up. They’ve been behind consistently all season and that is taxing on even the best bullpens.
  • The Giants have a lot to figure out here. How healthy is Melancon? What young guys are going to be able to stick? (The Giants called up Kyle Crick today). Can Derek Law get his mojo back? Can Will Smith make it back healthy?
  • I still think the Giants have a strength here with this cast of characters, but there are some other things that need to be in place first in order to find out.

Starting Pitching Problems

  • What to make of this mess? Again, any evaluation of the starters does have to begin with the loss of Bumgarner. His presence takes so much pressure off everyone else. That being said, the Giants once had a rotation full of arms they produced (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez), and those were power arms. Since then they’ve produced Ty Blach, who is fun and a nice story, but the opposite of a power arm. The Giants are moving in the opposite direction of the rest of baseball on this one.
  • Perhaps I am being foolish, but I still like the Giants rotation moving forward. I think Bumgarner comes back and still has it. Johnny Cueto has had blister issues, but don’t forget the situation with his ailing dad, plus I think Cueto is a guy who plays better on better teams. I like Samarzija moving forward, and I still have high hopes for Matt Moore.
  • There are questions though: does Cueto opt out? What if Bumgarner is good but not great? Which means that the Giants need someone to make the jump. We’re looking at you Tyler Beede. It is time for the system to produce major league quality starting pitchers again.

An offensive Defense

A Punchless Lineup

  • We have plenty of time to continue the dissection, but the lack of power, especially in an era of homers-a-plenty is disturbing.

Final thought: I had a friend of mine who is a Dodgers fan (I know, we are still friends) ask me how long of a leash Bochy has. I have to think that it continues to be super long. How do you fire this guy?

The deeper issue to me is the roster building, not the roster management.

That being said, this is what happens to aging dynasties (it will happen to the Warriors in a few years). The Giants kept filling holes and plugging along, but when you win consistently in MLB you tend to reload with average prospects. Amazingly a lot of those have worked out for the Giants, but now the cupboard is bare, and it’s time to start charting a new course.

What to Look For Over the Next 3 Weeks #sfgiants

June is not trending in the right direction (at all). My hope was that the Giants could get to .500 by July 1, and as of right now, they will need to go 15-2 to get there. Probably not happening.

Here’s the rundown of the next 3 weeks and what it would take to turn this around:

  • Sweep the Royals (28-39)
  • Take 3 of 4 in Colorado (31-40)
  • Sweep the Braves (35-40)
  • Take 2 of 3 from the Mets (37-41)
  • Sweep the Rockies (40-41)
  • Beat the Pirates (41-41)

No problem, right? =)


The Giants exploded for 13 runs yesterday (finally) behind an unusual lineup, but here is what I would like to see for the next 3 weeks (at least):

  • Nunez 3B (let the man lead off!)
  • Panik 2B (Joe is someone to watch closely the rest of the season…who is the real Joe Panik and what can the Giants expect from him moving forward?)
  • Posey C (should be hitting in the 3 hole from now until the skills really fade, years down the road)
  • Belt 1B (his all or nothing approach plays best in the cleanup spot)
  • Pence RF (looks like he might be getting it going which means this is right where you’d want him)
  • Crawford SS (I know he’s been one of the most reliable bats of the last 2+years, but any lineup where he’s hitting above the 6 spot is going to struggle over the long haul)
  • Slater LF (let the dude play…if not Mac, let it be Austin, and let it be for a while)
  • Span CF (my hope is that he gets shipped out in July)

MLBTradeRumors put out some interesting info on the Giants yesterday. Here are some thoughts:

There are essentially two kinds of trades the Giants can/should make. One is trading veteran guys away to open up spots for younger players to get time. A classic example of this would be trading Eduardo Nunez so that Christian Arroyo and/or Jae-gyun Hwang can play the last two months at the major league level to show what they got.

The other trade is cashing in whatever valuable assets the Giants may have to restock the shelves. There’s not a lot of options here, outside of a blockbuster involving players named Buster or Brandon (not going to happen).

The two that are most interesting to me: Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija. Now, both have 3 years to go on hefty contracts, and both have trade clauses (Melancon has a full no-trade clause), but these are the two options that could fetch something interesting in return.

Melancon, in particular, would have to give thought to waiving that clause to go back to Washington, right? That team is a closer away from being the most dominant team in the game (yes, even more than the Cubs and Astros), so you know they are going to be willing to pay.

Wouldn’t the Cubs prefer Samardzija to John Lackey? The Indians would take him over a few their own guys I’m sure.

We’re starting to get to the point where these things need to be considered.


A small silver lining: MadBum might return sooner than later!

Swoon #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well, not much to update from my last, midweek, post. Suffice to say, June is not off to a great start.

It seemed like it might be, though. Ty Blach was outstanding in Philly on Friday night, and the offense, somehow, scored 10 runs. But, then it was right back in the tank with a poor offensive showing on Saturday, followed by all kinds of ugly Sunday.

We said the Giants needed a 5-2 start to the month on the quest for .500. That would mean a sweep in Milwaukee. At this point, splitting the series and getting back home would seem to be a big huge step in the right direction.

I am going to continue focusing on how the Giants can get themselves back in position (i.e. .500) for a stretch run, and try as much as possible to avoid thinking about the future, but if things continue to go south there are some other subplots to root for. I won’t get into all of those, but a couple should be highlighted now because of their win-win nature.

  • The resurgence of Denard Span: root for this because (a) a good Denard Span helps the Giants win, and (b) he might become a trade piece if he keeps this up and stays healthy.
  • The Ty Blach story: he’s not getting traded anywhere, and it’s been a while since the Giants have produced a home-grown starting pitcher. The Giants could/should have some holes in the rotation to fill this offseason and Blach could make the future a bit more palatable.
  • Left Field: at this point I almost don’t care who it is, but Austin Slater seems like a nice guy, so root for him, really anyone, to take ownership of this position.

That’s about it for now.

Giants have 4 against the Brewers and then 3 at home against the Twins. We said they needed to go 3-1 in Mil and 2-1 against Min, so we’ll keep hope alive for the first series, and up it to a sweep against the Twins.

A Mess #sfgiants #midweekreview

I missed my deadline on Monday for the weekly review, and then a silly fight broke out, and then the Giants lost a couple more games. So here are some midweek thoughts on this dumpster fire of a season.

1) The Giants have been bad in general, but they’ve been especially bad against good teams. 

  • 3-4 vs Arizona
  • 1-6 vs Colorado
  • 1-3 vs Chicago
  • 0-2 vs Washington
  • 6-7 vs the Mets/Cardinals/Reds (teams hanging around .500 right now)

They have bucked this trend against the Dodgers, somehow, getting the best of that series to the tune of 6-4. But, the overall poor play against good teams does not bode well.

2) There are times when a good fight can catalyze a team. In a strange twist of events I was at the 2002 game in San Diego where Bonds and Kent got into it the dugout. Many people point to that moment as a catalyst for a team that went on to be a few out away from winning a championship.

This fight on Monday, though, had none of that kind of energy. If anything it highlighted how far this team has come from the band of misfits days of 2010. If the Giants do get hot and get back on the same page it will not be because of what happened on Monday.

3) As I’ve said, the goal for the Giants is to be at .500 by July 1. If they win tonight, they will need to go 18-9 in June to pull that off. If they lose (a likely scenario given the Scherzer vs Cain match up), they will need to go 19-8.

A cursory glance at the schedule would seem to give one hope (there are no Cubs or Nationals or Dodgers to be found in June). However, one of the stories of 2017 is the weirdness of the schedule. I highlighted how the Giants only played a handful of teams over the first month, and that circle has widened, but allow me to point out a few more quirks:

  • The Giants have 4 road series in June and three of those are 4 gamers. That’s odd, and while that cuts down a bit on travel, spending 4 days in a city can be a grind. Plus, one of those series is in Colorado. A four game series in Coors can be an eternity, especially for the pitching staff.
  • June will feature 16 road games (yikes), and only 11 home games. It also features a 5 game home series against AL Central teams. That’s four days in Milwaukee, 5 in SF, 4 in Colorado, 4 in Atlanta. Weird.
  • The month, and the season, will really come down to how the Giants do in the 7 games against Colorado. The bunching of NL West series continues, and they will need to go 5-2ish against the Rockies to turn this season around.

Let’s assume the worst, and say the Giants need to go 19-8 to get to 41-41 (that’s pretty much the middle of the season). How can they do it?

  • 7 game trip to Philly and Milwaukee: 2-1 against Phillies and 3-1 against the Brewers (who happen to lead the NL Central somehow, someway, right now). A 5-2 road trip would pull them to 27-34
  • 5 game home stand against the Twins and Royals: 2-1 against Minnesota and 2-0 against KC gets them to 31-35
  • Then comes the brutal 8 game trip to Colorado and Atlanta. Hope for a split in Colorado (2-2) and a split against the Braves (2-2). Treading water would put the Giants at 35-39.
  • The Giants then come home for three with the Mets and 3 with the Rockies. 2-1 against the mets and a sweep of Colorado would put the Giants at 40-41. They then head back on the road to Pittsburgh, and if they open that series with a win: 41-41.

The Giants could make this a whole lot easier on themselves with a great road trip to Colorado and Atlanta, but I just don’t see that happening. They also could accomplish this with a long winning streak (or a stretch where they win 12 of 15).

Once they get to July they get some more games against bad teams, plus the All-Star break to regroup. Then the end of the month to acquire help.

The silver lining is that there are only 5 teams in the NL currently with winning records. It seems very likely that the Cubs and Milwaukee will flip spots soon, and I don’t see anyone in the NL East challenging for the wild card. That means, the Giants are chasing 3 teams: St. Louis, Arizona, and Colorado. Two of those teams they still have many, many games against.

As bad as it has seemed, they still have a very good chance to get into this. The question is who is going to get them there?

Monday we’ll take a look at the lineup again, and which players are the keys to a resurgence.

Is It Turning Around? #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants survived week one of this tough section of their schedule, going 4-2 against the Dodgers and Cardinals. It feels like it could have been better since they won the first 2 games in each series. Nonetheless, this is exactly what they need to do: win each series on their quest to get back to .500 by July 1.

They need to go 22-15 over these next 37 games to get there.

How have they been succeeding?

  1. Quality Starts. The starting pitching hasn’t been brilliant, but the Giants got 4 quality starts this week: one from Cain, one from Blach, one from Moore, and one from Samardzija. They lost when they failed to get QSs in Cueto and Cain starts (although to Johnny Cueto’s credit, it would have taken far more than a quality start to beat Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday).
  2. Resilience. The offense has been much, much better. It hasn’t quite been 2000 level SF Giants (or pick your favorite juggernaut), but the Giants averaged 5 runs per win. That’s pretty much the formula: 4+ runs and a quality start, Giants baseball. The bigger issue, though, has been the toughness, especially on the road, to gut out big wins this week with timely at bats and strong situational hitting. Once again, Christian Arroyo’s stat line is not jumping off the page at anyone, but that 11 pitch at bat with the bases loaded in the 13th inning of a 0-0 game certainly grew his legend. He still has a lot of developing to do, but the foundation is there.
  3. Bullpen/Defense. The Giants have not been shooting themselves in the proverbial feet with bullpen meltdowns and dumb plays in the field. To the previous point, Christian Arroyo is proving he belongs with smart plays and versatility.

A couple of other things worth mentioning:

  • Jeff Samardzija just might be establishing himself as the ace of this staff. On the surface that sounds like an indictment of the state of the Giants rotation, and to a certain degree it is, but he has been outstanding of late. Over his last 6 starts: 42 innings (7 per start!), 47 strikeouts and only 4 walks (!), an ERA of 3.86, and a WHIP of 1.00. Those are strong numbers.
  • Eduardo Nunez has come back to life, Brandon Belt keeps hitting home runs (and getting in tiffs with Posey), and Brandon Crawford seems to be getting back into the groove. I also feel Joe Panik is due for a big week or two in the very near future.
  • Mac Williamson had a great start on Monday night and then has tapered off significantly. I still would love to see the Giants give him a long leash even if it means cutting into Nunez’s playing time.

Which leads us to: some tough decisions looming. Aaron Hill, Connor Gillaspie, and Hunter Pence should be returning soon. The easiest guys to demote would be Arroyo and Williamson, but it will be fascinating to see how the Giants make these decisions. In addition, there probably won’t be room for both Justin Ruggiano and Michael Moorse. What should the Giants do?

My vote would be to stay with the young guys, but I also understand the need for depth and the best way to preserve that is to keep the old guys on the roster and let the young guys go to Sacramento.

Stay tuned. Big week with four games agains the Cubbies, starting today. Go Giants.