#SFGiants Week In Review (4/9-4/14)

It is tough to argue with, or nit-pick, a 6-1 week, which the Giants just pulled off, but it doesn’t feel like they played all that well. I think this is due to the fact that the way they won was decidedly out of character.

Perhaps the hangover from 2012 is this: the Giants don’t fear playing behind. Typically, you think of this team as one that has to get ahead early and protect leads. It’s not a team that appears designed to be able to come back.

But comeback they did, and they continue to do. Of course, some of that is due to very poor play on the part of the Cubs. Nonetheless, they swept a division rival and took 3 of 4 from a team they should take 3 of 4 from, regardless of how it is done.

Bottom line: 6-1 is a good week.

Results:

6-1 (9-4); 0.5 game lead in NL West

4-2 W vs. Col; 9-6 W vs. Col; 10-0 W vs. Col; 7-6 W @ CHC; 4-3 L @ CHC; 3-2 W @ CHC; 10-7 W @ CHC

Pitcher of the Week:

Come on down Barry Zito. Yahoo! Sports insinuated after Zito’s start against the Rockies that this is simply a contract year phenomenon, but Giants’ fans know Zito has pitched well at times, especially early in 2010 and late in 2012. It seems that he has finally make peace with his stuff, he is learning how to be a control artist, and most of all, he is comfortable with who he is as a pitcher. He will have some bad starts, he just walks too fine a line not too, but who in this rotation inspires as much confidence right now as Zito?

Hitter of the Week:

Zito! Just kidding, but the dude’s gotten just as much press this last week for his hot “hitting” as he has for his pitching.

How about that Nick Noonan. Here’s a guy a lot of us had pegged for opening day 2013 a few years back. Then he stalled out at AA and was forgotten in the wake of Gary Brown’s and Brandon Crawford’s and Joe Panik’s. But, again, a few years ago he was as legit a position prospect in the Giants’ system as anyone. He’s blocked by Scutaro for now and would probably struggle after the league gets a book on him, but he has such a nice swing, and he beat good pitches against the Cubs…that wasn’t a cheap 5 for 8!

Enigma of the Week:

Tim Lincecum had 2 bad innings. Taken together it looks like this: 2 IP, 9 ERs, 4 BB (including the opposing pitcher), 5 H (including 1 double and 2 home runs), 1 wild pitch, and 2 Ks. For those who like ratios that’s an ERA of 40.50 and a WHIP of 4.50. Not good.

The rest of those outings, though, look like this: 9 IP, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 H (all singles), 0 WP, 9 Ks. That’s an ERA of 1.00 and a WHIP of 0.67.

So, what to make of all that? First, and this a duh observation, Lincecum needs to avoid the bad inning. Second, he is striking a lot of guys out, which means his stuff is still nasty. Third, and this is the most important, Lincecum needs to identify EARLY what is working and what is not. Yesterday both of the home runs came off poor change-ups. Lincecum can’t feel it out and ease in to what is on and what is off in a start anymore. He needs to know when the game starts what he has to work with.

To me, it seems to come down to concentration. When it’s there he is still a really good pitcher, when it is not, it is really ugly.

Looking Ahead:

The Giants head to Milwaukee for 3, and then get 12 straight against division rivals San Diego and Arizona. I’d love to seem them stay hot, but clean up the starting pitching a bit and work from ahead instead of behind.

(-SB)

Posey For Life

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty bored with spring training this year. What is there to get excited about?

Brandon Belt having a great spring? Yes. Tim Lincecum got a hair cut? No. Barry Zito might be good again for real? Yes. Chad Gaudin will be the 12th pitcher? Not really.

But, then these two things happened on the same day.

My thoughts: the Posey deal is a great deal. The Giants get their best player locked up for the next decade at a less expensive rate than Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, or Joey Votto. I’d take Posey over all of those guys because of the position he plays (and because he is awesome).

The Posey deal is also cheaper than the one the Twins gave Joe Mauer, another win for the Giants.

It’s also interesting to me that the deal was done the same day as Verlander’s. Remember: the Giants just beat the Tigers in the World Series. Now, Verlander is amazing. But, he plays every five days and he’s older than Posey. One could argue that Verlander is more important to the Tiger’s franchise than Posey, but that would be an all-out cage match of a debate.

Posey’s deal is less expensive than Verlander’s. Amazing.

Not only that, but Verlander’s deal makes the Matt Cain deal look like a bargain. Who would have thought that. The Giants are locking up their core, a core that has two rings already, at rates that are less expensive than the “market”.

All of which leads to a question/observation.

Is this the end of the Tim Lincecum era?

A lot depends on what he does this season, but either way I think he’s gone. If he has a great season he will be too expensive, and if he sucks the Giants will want to go in a different direction anyway. The Giant’s best move of the past two seasons might have been NOT signing Lincecum to a long term deal.

Baseball starts tomorrow, and the Giants are off and running in two days. I’m ready now.

Bring on the season!

(-SB)

Let’s Ask Some Questions

At the beginning of the off-season I asked 5 questions and tried to make predictive answers. Things have gone more or less as I thought.

The Giants got the band back together, probably paid too much to do so, but overall did well to keep the team very competitive without handicapping their future (i.e. Posey extension).

As we head into FanFest weekend, the reporting of pitchers and catchers, and Spring Training here’s a new set of questions to ponder, debate, and worry about.

1) If the key is pitching, what can we expect? Probably more of the same: really, really good pitching. But that’s a boring answer. There are a lot of questions here. Tim Lincecum: can he rebound? Will Matt Cain wear down? What’s up with Madison Bumgarner? Will Ryan Vogelsong keep it going or turn back into a pumpkin? Can Sergio Romo be the closer all season? Will the Giants bring back Brian Wilson in the end? Will Brett Bochy or Heath Hembree be the closer at the end of the season? Can Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, and others continue to be awesome? And Barry Zito needs 200 innings to get an $18 million pay check…will the Giants let him get there?

2) Can the team stay healthy? In particular, it would be great to see Posey and Panda together for a full season. Is this that season?

3) Can the team score runs? One would think that Scutaro and Pagan will not play a whole season the way they did in the postseason. There will be a regression, but how much? Can Posey and Panda exceed expectations? Can Belt and Crawford continue to establish themselves as major league hitters? And, what up Hunter Pence? 2012 suck or 2007-2011 All-Star?

4) Can the Giants stay hungry? Two championships in three years is awesome. A third in four would make this team legendary. Will they stay motivated and eager to reach baseball immortality or will they descend into an abyss of individual greediness and self-focus?

5) What will happen in Left Field? We’ll take another post soon to ponder the rest of the division, but for now the most pressing question outside of short-haired Tim Lincecum is this: can Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres really hold down left field? Will the Giants need to make a trade? At what cost?

Answers coming soon.

(-SB)