Something About a Trade?

So, yeah, this.

A fascinating trade for a million reasons, but of primary importance is this: this trade is way more about the next five years than it is about this season. Nothing about this move dooms the Giants’ chances, they don’t need to do anything drastic, and when all the dust settles the most important development for THIS season that took place last night is that the Giants starters have now won five games in a row. Each starter won his turn through the rotation for the first time since 2007. That’s huge.

Now, thoughts on this blockbuster move:

  • Short Term: Replacing James Loney with Adrian Gonzalez is a huge upgrade for LA. I felt like Adrian not got his fair shake from the Boston fans/media, but he’s good and he’s back to torment the Giants. (That said, Cody Ross has hit 19 home runs this year to Adrian’s 15…just saying). The rest of the trade is pretty much a non-factor over the next 36 games. Becket will either take the place of Joe Blanton or fill in for Billingsley (if his elbow keeps him out). In either case, his addition is fairly negligible. He might show a few flashes of brilliance, but the other big move the Dodgers had pondered involved Cliff Lee, and that would have scared me. Beckett does not. Nick Punto fills in for Hairston and Carl Crawford is a long-term gamble who won’t play this year. The Giants are 7-5 against LA so far and even going 3-3 over the final 6 games will secure a winning record against their rivals.
  • Long Term: AGon is clearly the big catch. The Mexican-born, SoCal native will help mobilize the franchise and be a face as they move forward. Beckett has a Huff-like odd/even season thing going. He does well in the odd years, if healthy he could be a plus for LA in 2013…I also think he will do well in the NL West, but doing well and being an Ace, circa 2003/2007 is not going to happen. Nice guy to have next year, but would you take Beckett over MadBum or Vogelsong as your 3rd/4th starter. No. Crawford is interesting. He will likely take over for Victorino, but he is also going to miss 2 seasons worth of baseball, in his prime, when this is all said and done. And he still will be owed a ton of money. The Dodgers are essentially saying this: “we are willing to pay, for Adrian Gonzalez, the price (~250 mil) that the Angles are paying Pujols and the Reds, Votto, and if we get lucky we also get an All-Star left fielder out of the deal.” Interesting.
  • Big Picture: while the move does help, somewhat, the 2012 Dodgers, this trade is all about making a statement. The New Dodgers are here to play and to spend. Deal with it MLB.

The NL West really is shaping into Red Sox/Yankees. What is interesting, is that the Giants, through very different from the Red Sox, have a philosophy, a way. In the end, the trade the Giants may most regret in light of all this is the Wheeler for Beltran move last year.

In this new day and age, and with an extra wild card, the Giants don’t need to do anything different. Strong starting pitching, development of young players, and reasonable extensions for our own talent is the way to go. The Giants, if they stick with this plan, actually have the edge in my opinion. I will take the Giants strong pitching and Buster Posey over an All-Star lineup and a Cy Young award winner any day. Obviously, there’s more to the Giants line up than Posey and more to the Dodgers rotation than Kershaw, but that is essentially the story that is developing here. Moreover, the Giants must hope that the Gary Browns, and Joe Paniks, and Francisco Peguero’s of their system develop into good players.

If nothing else, the NL West is no joke anymore.

One final thought, the player who now matters more than anyone else to the remaining 36 games of 2012 is none other than Tim Lincecum. We’ve been saying this to one extent or another all season, but it is now more true than ever. He must pitch like vintage Timmy in his final 7+ starts to help the Giants nail this division down.

(-SB)

Week In Review (8/6-8/13)

Results:

4-4 (63-53, tied for First in NL West)

We’re just going to pretend that last night never happened and instead bask in the glory that was Sunday afternoon…the come-from-behind victory…the amazing Buster Posey at bat…the long-awaited ‘moment” delivered by Hunter Pence. That was a good day. Yesterday not so much. The Nationals are good. This is a tough series. Don’t forget Sunday!

Hitter of the Week:

Buster Posey is amazing. He continues to rake…home runs, walks, great at-bats. But an interesting thing has happened this last week. The Brandon’s live! Belt is hitting .435 with four walks and only 1 strikeout. Huge. Crawford is 9 for his last 19 (.474). Both are encouraging, especially Belt. A strong finish from him, coupled with Panda’s return, will mean a very respectable lineup 1 through 7. And that might make all the difference.

Pitcher of the Week:

It was a good, not great, week for Giants starting pitching. Lincecum was good, not great. Zito got bailed out by some strong defense. Bumgarner was solid, but got stung by the longball again. Vogelsong had a great start against the Cardinals and his worst in the last 2 seasons last night. Matt Cain gets the nod for looking like a man ready for a strong end of season run. There were some rumbles and worries about Cain, but those seem to be receding given his last outing.

Looking Ahead:

Two more with the Nationals, who the Giants have not beat this year. Then back on the road for division games: 3 with San Diego (who is playing well right now) and 3 with the Dodgers.

Giants need some strong starts and consistent at-bats to begin building distance in the division.

(-SB)

Return! (A Modified Week-In-Review)

I know there hasn’t been much posting going on around here, but there has been some preparation for life altering events that have taken precedent. We’re back, though, so let’s talk some Giants.

Record Since the Break:

The Giants shot out of the gate in the second half, winning 5 in a row and 9 of their first 12. Then it got ugly with 5 straight loses. And then they went to Colorado, breathed in the thin Rocky Mountain Air, and learned how to score runs again. Thank you Rocky Mountain high.

The Dodgers improved their squad significantly at the deadline, so we are in for a dogfight. SI recently called the NL West this decade’s version of the AL East. They compared the Dodgers and their new-found wealthy owners to the Yankees, and the Giants to the Red Sox. Seeing as how that seemed to work out well for the Sox, we’ll take it. But, the point is this is a new era and the Dodgers are not messing around anymore.

The Moves:

The biggest, of course, was the trade for Hunter Pence. I like Hunter Pence. He’s weird. He looks  like a Simpson’s character. He doesn’t move around, or do really anything, like other baseball players. I love that. His rookie season he provided a huge boost to my fantasy baseball team. I am still grateful for that.

How good will he actually be? Some people fear this is Rowand, Part Deux. A situation where a player comes to AT&T and turns into a pumpkin. Others love the deal, especially since he will be around for another year.

Personally, I would rather the Giants have resigned Beltran, but that’s a whole other conversation. I think Pence will do just fine. He’s an offensive upgrade and he helps put other parts back into proper roles. I don’t mind what we gave up either.

I really like Marco Scutaro. I felt the Giants should have tried to get him this past offseason. He’s here now and he will help. A little less Crawford, a little less Theriot. Helpful.

The Giants also acquired Xavier Nady. This is an enjoyable fact because we grew up in the same town. He hit a home run off of me a long time ago when we were 13 years old that is still traveling through galaxy. He used to be a nice little platoon player. His 2008 season was actually really good. But he was cut this year by a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs. That’s not a good sign. Will he help? Unlikely. But I love the sentimental nature of X perhaps finishing his career with Giants.

The Rest of the Team:

My unofficial pitcher of the post-break so far is Timmy. He’s hasn’t been great, but he’s been better. This article shows that he’s been in-line with his career norms so far, which is HUGE. He must keep this up for the Giants to have a chance, and if he continues to improve, well all the better.

Last post I said Buster Posey needed to be the guy in the second half. So far all he’s done is this:

  • .456 AVG, 1.278 OPS, 6 HR, 26 RBI, and Melky has scored 22 times. These things are connected

Thank you Buster!

Looking Ahead:

The series in Colorado was nice, but it’s a bit of a mirage. That team is truly terrible. This week is much more of a test. 4 against the tough Cardinals, then home to face the Rockies again before some more tough games against the Nationals.

Go get ’em!

(-SB)

Second Half, Here We Go

To begin: a tip of the cap to the Giants’ All-Stars, all of whom did extremely well on Tuesday night. I know Buster didn’t get a hit, but he nearly hit one out and I thought his at-bat against Verlander was the straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back. Pablo would have swung at all of those pitches. Verlander was missing, but not by that much, and you can’t blame a guy in his first all-star at-bat for being aggressive. I was impressed. Obviously, Matt, Panda, and Melky had bigger moments, but each Giants was excellent.

Now then, the Giants jump back into action tomorrow coming off a horrible road trip, but only half a game out of first. Here are some thoughts on the second half…

Playoffs?

  • What I think will happen: I think the Giants will outlast the Dodgers and win the division.
  • What will actually happen: The Giants will make the playoffs one way or another, and I really do anticipate them winning the division.

Tim Lincecum

  • What I think should happen: Tim Lincecum closer? I don’t think they move him in to that role right away, but there are a few rumblings about him being sent to the bullpen. There are many starters who have made this transition and with his strikeout rates still impressive, Timmy could be the answer to the 9th inning.
  • What I think will actually happen: I think they are going to keep trotting him out there every 5th day for the rest of the season. He’s been the ace and he has a long leash based on his credentials. For better or worse, we have Lincecum in the rotation for another year and a half.

Trades

  • What I think should happen: The most interesting rumor to me so far has been Shane Victorino. Giants’ fans hate him, and for good reason, but he would be the perfect fit. Blanco could go back to being a role player extraordinaire and Shane would lead off and the Giants would lose nothing in terms of defense. He’s not a middle of the order guy, but I still think the Giants can get plenty of production there from Melky, a healthy Pablo, Posey, and a rejuvenated Belt.
  • What I think will happen: The Giants will trade for Brandon League or Jonathan Broxton. They don’t have the prospects to have a realistic shot at Victorino or a bigger name closer like Huston Street. Whoever they get might not even take over the 9th inning. But bullpen depth wouldn’t hurt.

Second Half Hero:

  • Who I want it to be: Brandon Belt. I’d love to see him go off…hit .300, mash 10 bombs, and establish himself as a threat in the middle of the order. A productive Belt answers a lot of questions for the Giants.
  • Who it will actually be: It’s going to have to be Buster Posey and the starting rotation. Much as he did in 2010, Buster’s huge second half provides the offense spark and a month of dominant starting pitching creates some distance between the Giants the Bums.

(-SB)

Week In Review (6/25-7/1)

Results:

5-2 (45-35, 1.0 game lead in NL West)

8-0 W vs. LAD; 2-0 W vs. LAD; 3-0 W vs. LAD; 5-0 W vs. Cin; 5-1 L vs. Cin; 2-1 L vs. Cin; 4-3 W vs. Cin

Well that was a pretty great week! Giants sweep the Dodgers, take over first place, and have 3 guys voted into the all-star starting lineup. Plus Matt Cain. Awesome. I think I will actually watch the all-star game this year.

The Giants still have a tough go before the break: 3 games in Washington and 3 in Pittsburg. Tough teams and hot weather. That said, the Dodgers are struggling and they are injured and it would behoove the Giants to put the boot to the neck (metaphorically) and put some distance between them and the Dodgers.

Hitter of the Week:

I got into it a bit yesterday on twitter with a Cardinals fan who is all bitter that Posey is starting the all-star game and not Yadier Molina. And he has a point…their batting stats are very similar, and Molina has the edge in WAR (due to his defense). But, watching the game yesterday, how good is Buster! His ability to hit with 2 strikes is amazing.

He hit .400 for the week, and you get the sense that with each passing day his confidence grows stronger and last year becomes a distant memory.

Pitcher of the Week:

After the first three innings of Saturdays game I gave this award to Barry Zito. Then he went and walked 6 batters, but he still managed to walk away with a pretty nice week. Keep it up.

Also, Madbum was nails against the Reds. Maybe his finest performance ever.

But, I am going to go ahead and give this to Tim Lincecum this week because we haven’t had much to highlight so far. Tim, thank you for shutting out the Dodgers…please keep it up and get it going!

Looking Ahead:

As I said, the road trip is tough: tough teams and tough weather. I’m looking for someone to spark the offense: Posey? Belt? Runs are going to be hard to come by, so someone needs to step up.

(-SB)

Melky! (Thoughts on Pivotal Giants’ Trades)

Last night I got home at 10 pm (est) to find my pregnant wife fast asleep in bed, so I opened up the computer and got to watch the final 3 innings of the Giants beat down (finally) of the dreaded Marlins. I turned the game on in time to watch Melky Cabrera rifle a 2-RBI double down the left field line.

The Marlins commentators then launched into talking about how good Melky has been, and what a surprise he is given how bad he was in New York. It hit me: this trade is eerily reminiscent of when Sabean brought Jeff Kent over, way back in 1997. Then this morning I see this. Scooped! Dang.

I’m going to talk about it anyway. Cabrera for Sanchez did not produce the public outcry of Williams for Kent. But, I would say most Giants fans weren’t in favor of the trade. No one saw the Williams trade coming, and it looked this Giants were going backwards. The big difference with Cabrera is that Giants fans had been expecting a Sanchez trade for a long time. So long in fact, our imaginations got out of control: Sanchez for Votto…Sanchez for Wright…Sanchez for______(insert up and coming hitting star here).

When that blank ended up being filled in with Melky Cabrera there was a collective “really, that’s it” groan from the Bay Area.

Kent had a couple of decent years (his “struggle” years are so far beyond the production the Giants are getting from 2B right now it’s really not funny), but had been widely panned as  a disappointment for the Mets. A similar situation unfolded for Melky with that other NY team, followed by a very disappointing season in Atlanta (take note Brandon Belt apologists, Melky’s horrible season for the Braves came at age 25, a year ahead of Belt and with four full seasons of big league ball under his “belt”…stay patient).

The real point I want to get at here is that GM Brian Sabean takes his lumps for sure. I think he is terrible at signing free agents, and I think the organization as a whole (not sure how much blame to put on Sabes for this) is shoddy at position player development. But I think Sabean is one of the best trading GMs in baseball. He has made one spectacularly horrible trade (don’t even need to mention who was involved), but on the whole he’s done well.

Giants’ fans need to get over the fantasy trade scenarios with Jonathan Sanchez…maybe there was a time when he could have fetched something really remarkable. But maybe that never existed. And, let’s be honest, Melky’s been pretty remarkable. So has Pagan. And those extensions to Cain and MadBum and Vogelsong look pretty good. And that non-extension to Lincecum…maybe the best move of the offseason. Brian Sabean, you’ve taken plenty of heat, but here’s a tip of the cap. This offseason, which seemed so boring, was pretty awesome.

(-SB)

Steve’s Pick (2012 Predictions)

AL East

Both easts are tough calls, with four legit teams in each division. It seems easy to go with status quo (which I will do in NL, but not here):

  1. Rays
  2. Blue Jays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

The Rays have it all: pitching, defense, and more than enough offense to win this division. They finally stay healthy and put it all together for a deep run into the playoffs. The Blue Jays are a bit of a reach, but I think they have plenty of talent, and they are able to stay healthier than the Red Sox and Yankees. Age and injuries take down the two beasts of the east this year and for the first time since 1993(?) there is a postseason with no Boston or New York teams.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Royals
  3. Twins
  4. White Sox
  5. Indians
This is the easiest division to call. Tigers coast for 2012, and then it gets more interesting next year because the Royals will finish strong, end up at .500, and be ready to go for real in 2013. Enjoy it Tigers because the division is gaining on you! Twins and White Sox continue to retool and struggle, and the Indians are in full-out rebuild mode.
AL West
  1. Angels
  2. Rangers*
  3. Mariners
  4. A’s

The Angels pitching carries the day. They have the deepest and nastiest staff in the AL. The Rangers take the second wild card, but I worry about the toll that the last two post-seasons have taken on the team…look for some injuries to slow them down. The Mariners are not as bad as it might appear, but the A’s are in for a dismal season.

NL East

The east has seen a lot of shifts, but it won’t make a difference in the end this season…the times are a changin’ but not quite yet…

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves*
  3. Nationals
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

As I said earlier there are four legit teams in this division. The Phillies though will prevail one last time before they succumb to age and breakdown. The Braves have too much pitching to not compete and they take the second Wild Card. The Nationals will be good, but they are a year away from the Harper/Strasberg combo taking over the division. The Marlins have made some moves and they will hang around, but I don’t think they have enough of anything to hang with the Phillies. The Mets will be good…in 2015.

NL Central

  1. Cardinals
  2. Reds
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

This is the one totally wide open division where anything could happen. The Cards lost Pujols, but we’ve seen teams lose stars again and again and keep on going, if not get better. They made some nice additions (Betlran) and have some rising stars (Freese), but most importantly got one of the best pitchers in the world back (Wainwright). They should be able to make it out of the central. The Reds will make it close, the Brewers are still dangerous even without Prince, and even the Pirates could make some noise if their young pitchers make the jump this year. Cubs and Astros have no shot. Sorry guys.

NL West

  1. Giants
  2. Diamondbacks*
  3. Dodgers
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

I believe that every team in this division improved this offseason, even if only a little bit. Which means it will be competitive. At the end of the day, though, the Giants and the D-Backs have great pitching staffs from top to bottom and that is what wins the day. Given health for both teams, I can’t not pick the Giants staff, so they take the division and D-Backs have to deal with the one and done wild card system. The Dodgers will be better and the Rockies are always a little scary, but they go 3 and 4. The Padres will be tough too, but there’s just not enough there to move them out of the cellar.

Playoffs:

WC: Braves beat the D-Backs; Blue Jays beat the Rangers

DS: Giants beat the Cardinals, Braves beat the Phillies; Rays beat the Tigers, Angels beat the Blue Jays

LCS: Giants beat the Braves; Rays beat the Angels

WS: Giants beat the Rays

(-SB)

 

Nick’s Picks

Just because I was wrong about Mike Fontenot being a lock for the Giants roster doesn’t mean I’m wrong here! Let’s start with my second favorite MLB League, the American league.

AL East

  1. Yankees
  2. Rays
  3. Blue Jays
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

I think the Yankees win but not by much over the Rays. Tampa has better pitching and it’ll be interesting to see if the older Yankees can put enough hitting together to get the division. Ultimately I think the Rays win one of Wild Cards and the Yankees are bounced in the first round again. The Red Sox seem to have some trouble, and I really like what the Blue Jays are doing with some great young pitching. Honestly the Sox will probably finished 3rd and could very well win the WC as well, but I like my home country team so they go 3! O’s suck.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Indians
  3. White Sox
  4. Twins
  5. Royals

I think the Tigers run away with the division, but the rest is tough to predict. The Indians will keep improving, the White Sox will be about the same as last year I think, and the Twins can’t possibly be as bad as they were last season. Any of those 3 teams could switch positions, and all will miss the playoffs. The Royals are slowly getting better, but still a year or two away from contending in this division.

AL West

  1. Rangers
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. Athletics

The Angels got Pujols and CJ Wilson, but I think the Rangers will win their 3rd straight division title with the Angels winning the 2nd WC. It honestly could go either way, and Albert and Kendry Morales being a huge addition to the Angels team in terms of offense. But this team still has Tori Hunter, Vernon Wells and other not as powerful offensive options. The Rangers have Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz , Ian Kinsler etc.

NL East

  1. Marlins
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

It’s not that I think the Marlins are really good, although the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle certainly help, it’s that I don’t see Atlanta or Philly that good. Philly has their big 3 pitchers but not much else other than an aging lineup, the Braves can be so inconsistent and have little pitching or hitting depth.

NL Central

  1. Brewers
  2. Reds
  3. Cardinals
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

I’m going against the trend and picking the Brewers to win the division with either St. Louis or Cincy to win a WC. The Brew Crew lost Prince, but added Aramis Ramirez (still a good power hitter), and better hitting shortstop and a potential big bat prospect at first in Mat Gamel. Other than that this is the same team as last year, I don’t see them losing the division. St. Louis is going to feel the lack of Big Albert in their lineup, and I don’t see how Berkman puts up the numbers he did last season again, plus no Chris Carpenter and who knows how their closer situation will be?

NL West

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Giants
  3. Rockies
  4. Padres
  5. Dodgers

Dodgers are always last in my book. I’m worried about the Giants offense competing enough to win the title. The D-Backs looked really good last season to me and I don’t see them dropping off. The Giants will be good and win the other WC and make a good, solid run into the post season. I actually think this will be a competitive division that will be a lot of fun to watch.

World Series

  • Brewers vs. Rays…Brewers win.

(-NW)

Making the Cut

It’s baseball time boys and girls! Along with that joyous occasion comes a variety of exciting things to keep our attention! Fantasy baseball, the trade rumor mill, funny bloggers and roster speculation!

The standard MLB roster is 25 players, both pitchers and catchers, below is the list of Giants who’ll be a lock for the roster:

  • Pitchers: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito, Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Santiago Castilla, Javy Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Guilleramo Mota.
  • Infield/Catcher: Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez (possibly starts the year on the DL, which would free up a roster spot),Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey.
  • Outfield: Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera, Nate Schierholtz, Gregor Blanco.

That’s 20 players, 19 if you put Freddy Sanchez on the DL, which is what I will be doing for the sake of this post. So what other 6 players make the cut?

First of all, one of those spots will go to a backup catcher, either Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart. Honestly it doesn’t matter which one as they are fairly equal and up to the task, so that takes us down to 5 players. My guess is that they add 1 reliever and use the other 4 for IF/OF spots, mostly because Sanchez is hurt and Crawford is not exactly the best hitter in the world, I think Bochy will keep the middle of the IF rotating and getting other batters in play, especially in later innings and having that flexibility will be key. So with that said I don’t see how Mike Fontenot doesn’t make the Opening Day lineup. He can play SS, 2B and 3B and is an average hitter who has experience filling in last season, which leaves us with 4 spots. Doing the rest of the hitter spots, I can see Manny Burris starting the year in the big leagues as the starting 2B while Sanchez is out. He’s hitting great in Spring Training, .417 actually, which doesn’t mean anything in the regular season, but he’s out of Minor League options (meaning if he gets sent down to AAA he is put on waivers first and any team can claim him) and the Giants have said, and have shown in the past, that options are considered big time, plus the Giants have always have had lots of love for Burris. Down to 3!

I think Ryan Theriot is another close lock. He can play multiple infield positions, is cheap and has a good glove. Plus baseball fans love nicknames, and Ryan “The Riot” Theriot is one of the best! In all honesty though, the Theriot signing is one of my more favorite moves of the Giants this past offseason. He’s not an amazing player, and has never hit for power (17 total HR’s in 7 MLB seasons) put he’s an above average hitter (.282 lifetime BA with a .344 lifetime OBP) and a good glove, could go a long way to solidifying the middle. 2 left! I’m going to skip over to the bullpen, since the last position will be the big Belt debate that I want to give some focus to. The last bullpen spot will either got to Clay Hensley or Steve Edlefsen. Clay is a free agent signing with a 7 season career 3.96 ERA with 329 K’s, and a 1.35 WHIP, not lights out numbers by any stretch, and last season he had a 5.19 ERA with 46 K’s, although that is one year removed from a 2.16 ERA and 77 K’s. Edlefsen debuted with the Giants last year and had a 0.96 ERA with 8K’s in 11 games, not exactly a large sample size. I could see Hensley making the roster out the gate, only to get released and replaced with Edlefsen, although Edlefsen has a 2.50 ERA in Spring, while Hensley is 4.50. Could go either way.

Finally the last roster spot. Who should this go to? Brandon Belt. The boy needs to play, is having a good Spring and has done everything he can do in the minors. I would put him at first and use Huff in the OF with the occasional spell at 1B and pinch-hitting. Who will probably end up getting this spot? Brett Pill. He can play 1B, 2B, probably fill in at 3B if needed and can play either corner OF spot. Versatility. Plus Bochy isn’t going to bench Huff, not unless he really really struggles this season, in which case Belt will probably get his chance, unless Bochy decides to move Posey over to 1B and call up Hector Sanchez to catch. Honestly though Pill isn’t the worst choice, he had a very nice end of last season and is having a solid spring. My biggest frustration isn’t with him, it’s with the lack of Belt playing.

The Giants have had awful luck recently with hitting prospects, pitching not so much, hitting? Yes. Travis Ishakawa, Todd Linden, Dan Ortmeier, Lance Niekro, John Bowker, none of them panned out. Posey did, but Bengie Molina had to be traded to make room for him. Belt looks like another one, yes he strikes out a lot, but he needs repetition to get that right. I’d much rather have Belt at AAA getting playing time than grabbing pine in San Francisco, but at some point he needs a consistent chance.

(-NW)

10 Things to Watch (out) For

Pitchers and Catchers have reported, spring is right around the corner, the rest of the team is on the way, baseball is back people! Time to start firing up the baseballmonk again.

To celebrate this grand occasion here are the 10 things I am watching as camp gets started:

  1. The Ankle: No body part is going to get as much attention during the baseball season as Buster Posey’s repaired ankle. Part of me wants to believe the dude is going to go on a rampage this year and prove that he is an upper level superstar. The other part of me (tempered by my physical therapist wife) knows that it’s going to be a process with some ups and downs. Either way, Buster will be sick of hearing about it by yesterday.
  2. The Contracts: Still nothing on the Matt Cain front. Still a possibility Lincecum and the team tear up the 2-year deal and go longer. My guess: nothing happens and we hold our breath next winter. But the question remains: will this be a distraction?
  3. The Lineups: It is obviously foolish to read too much into the lineups early in the Spring, but there is a lot to look out for from day 1. How will Bochy handle shortstop? A platoon? Crawford with some backups? What about right field? Is that Nate the Great’s spot? Or is Melky the favorite? Will Brandon Belt be in left? Or at First Base? Or in Fresno? Is Angel Pagan really the leadoff hitter? Can Melky Cabrera really be a middle of the order guy? How long before the team pulls the plug on Huff? Or will he bounce back?
  4. The Belt situation: The way I see it Brandon Belt has to have a huge spring, again, if he wants to start the season in San Fran. Even just a good spring means a ticket back to Fresno until someone gets hurt. It’s a shame, but I don’t see it playing out any other way.
  5. Brian Wilson: So far, positive reports abound. 2012 is going to be a fascinating year for B-Dub. He either cements his position as one of the best in the game, or quite possibly, he looses his job to Heath Hembree. Seems harsh but that’s how it is in baseball.
  6. Health: Goes without saying that this was an issue last year and it started in spring with Wilson and Ross. Every team needs to be healthy, but the Giants, especially, cannot afford a repeat of 2011. Ominous beginnings with Ryan Vogelsong straining his back.
  7. The Non-Roster Invitee Battle: The Giants have spun magic over the past few years with these invitations: Juan Uribe, Ryan Vogelsong, Guillermo Mota, etc. This year, in my opinion, there is really one guy to watch: Brian Burres. Will the Giants magic rub off on him?
  8. Barry Zito’s magic beans: Seemingly every year Zito shows up with a new trick, delivery, potion, mustache, you name it, that is going to be the secret to a resurgence. Every year he teases us with signs that the talisman has paid off, and then crushes our hopes with a strong dose of suck. This year he’s done something to his motion to get extra, late movement. Great! Now throw the ball in the strike zone please.
  9. But seriously, short stop: I’ve been writing about this all winter. I am concerned about Posey and Sanchez. I’m not confident in Huff bouncing back. I’m not blown away by our offseason acquisitions. But, to be honest, the one thing I am genuinely concerned about is shortstop. It may turn out fine, but it could be a disaster. Crawford, Theriot, Fontenot. Wow. Pray that someone has a career year.
  10. The Prospetcs: There really isn’t anyone on this list that is in danger of making the club out of the gate, but who doesn’t want to see how Gary Brown, Erik Surkamp, Heath Hembree, and others do this spring against big league competition. I hope they all do great.

Lots to watch for, tons to talk about and analyze, but no matter what baseball is back and that is what really counts!

(-SB)