Dog Days… #sfgiants

I really thought this weekend’s series against the Diamondbacks was make or break for the Giants. They needed to take 3 of 4 at a minimum, gain some ground, or else they were screwed.

Somehow, they went 2-2 and are no worse off. The rest of the NL West was very on brand, no one did much this weekend and so the situation stands at this:

  • Arizona 62-51    —
  • Dodgers 62-51   —
  • Colorado 59-52  2
  • Giants     57-56   5

Don’t get me wrong a sweep would have been awesome. In that scenario, the Giants would be three out of first place and hot on the heels of both Colorado and Arizona. It was a missed opportunity, just not as devastating as it could have been.

My only significant thought of the day is this: if the Giants are going to make any move upwards, it must come on the backs of McCutchen, Posey, and Longoria. Somewhere, somehow, those dudes need to rediscover the glory days of 2012-2013 for just 2 months.

Well, in the last week here’s what those three have been up to:

  • McCutchen .440/.517/.720 (2 home runs)
  • Posey           .467/.529/.533
  • Longoria     .393/.414/.750 (2 home runs)

The only hope they really have left is for the offense to carry them back to a respectable +/- and hope they can get enough from the beleaguered staff to win a bunch of games.

They have a good test this week with two against the juggernaut Astros and then 4 at home with the Pirate who are really trying to win right now. (After that, they go to LA). Huge 9 games ahead!

Advertisements

Game On! #sfgiants #weekinreview

Holy smokes a lot happened this week with our beloved baseball club. Let’s recap:

  • After a heart warming sweep of the first place Diamondbacks, the Giants road-woes came right up and slapped them across the face. They dropped 3 games in Colorado, managing to score a grand total of 3 runs in those 3 games. That’s basically getting shut out for 3 straight games in any other park. Then, they had a somewhat frustrating split against the Cardinals, frustrating because the series marked the return of two pitchers who were supposed to help (more on this later).
  • Joe Panik got hurt and is on the DL, probably for a while. This makes us all sad, but it also forces us to face the harsh reality that Joe Panik is not having a good season, and it may be in the Giants best interest to let Alen Hanson play everyday. Hanson has been far superior with the bat, and I think he makes them a better, more dangerous team for now. Nonetheless, get well Joe!
  • The Giants welcomed back Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. My pre-season naming of Cueto as the MOST IMPORTANT player this season, still stands in many ways. If he can be good from here on out, the Giants have a puncher’s chance. He was not very good in his start on Thursday, however, and there will be a dance the rest of the season around when to pull the plug. If he continues to stink (and the Giants fall out of contention), he’ll go back on the DL and the Giants will hope he can heal up for 2019. If they stay in the race and Cueto can give them anything positive, he’ll hang in the rotation as long as they need him. Meanwhile, Samardzija showed signs of life in his return, but he still hasn’t looked better than some of the other options available to the team.
  • Speaking of that, the Giants went ahead and kept both Andrew Suarez and Derek Rodriguez in the rotation and that sure looks like a good idea. Chris Stratton was sent back to Sacramento to keep pitching every 5th day and try to get some consistency back in his curveball and location. I hate to say it, but he has not been the same since becoming a dad.
  • The Giants sent Derek Holland to the bullpen, even though he had been one of the most consistent starters recently, and they continue to carry 13 pitchers on the roster. Some of this is due to having a high number of pitchers who require baby gloves at this point. The Giants don’t want Cueto or Samardzija throwing 100+ pitches right now, so that means it is wise to have Holland and Blach in the bullpen. But also, Will Smith and Mark Melancon (and now Ray Black) need to be managed in how often they are used, since they are still building up strength coming off injuries. I can’t remember a staff that had so many issues like this.
  • Speaking of Will Smith he is finally the closer and he’s been nasty so far and DANG IT BOCHY WHY WASN’T HE THE CLOSER IN 2016.
  • And then (I told you it was quite the week) the Giants made a trade yesterday. They FINALLY got rid of Cody Gearrin (hallelujah), and shipped out the suddenly redundant and underused OF Austin Jackson. In order to do this, the Giants sweetened the pot by including pitcher Jason Bahr. Bahr is a guy who created some buzz this season, and seems like a nice prospect, but the Giants have traded away a lot of buzzy prospects who were never heard from again. This move is a win, in my mind, because it creates “cap” space, gets rid of two guys who were no longer useful and created space for the Giants to see what they have with Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, Ray Black, and maybe another bullpen arm or two before this is all said and done.
  • You read that right: Steven Duggar is here! Sounds like the Giants will use him and Hernandez interchangeably in CF, but then Gorkys just pulled a muscle, so we may get a good stretch from Duggar, which is excellent news.
  • That was a lot! Somehow, in the midst of all this roster churn and losing (2-5 on the week), the Giants are still only 3.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Which brings us to the question: what does this all mean? The Giants are still very much in this thing in 2018. They are finally at “full strength” in their starting rotation, the bullpen is pretty good, and they should (in theory) be able to score enough to be competitive.

One could look at the trade as a step towards more moves to strengthen the squad for the stretch run.

Or, are the Giants coming to grips with the reality that they are a bit lucky to be 47-45 (with that ugly -27 =/-), and it’s time to get ready for next year?

It feels more like the latter. Here’s my take:

  1. The Giants brass realize this is a down year in the NL West and so are willing to give the Cueto’s of the world an opportunity to make a run. Who knows maybe they get hot and sneak into the playoffs this season. So, they are not going to blow the whole thing up, but they are going to want to see and invest time in the guys who might be around next year.
  2. They’ve made one trade to make sure they stay beneath the tax threshold (the “cap”) so that they can be sure to reset and go into the offseason with a clean slate. This will allow them to extend Bumgarner, pursue Bryce Harper, or do whatever it is they want to do with their “extra” money to get younger and better.
  3. Now, to the big rumor: there are more moves probably coming. Word is the only Giants’ who are off-limits this July are Posey and Crawford. That means Bumgarner, Belt, your favorite prospect, whoever, is on the table!
  4. I don’t think the Giants are going to trade Belt/Bum/etc, unless someone fills AT&T park with gold and prospects. What this means, though, is that Giants will listen. They want to get a good sense of what a different future could look like, and shopping will allow them to do this.

So, hang on tight Giants fans, the next 3+ weeks are going to be very interesting.

A Couple Quick Thoughts… #weekinreview #sfgiants

The Giants are on a roll right now and for the first time this season it feels real. They are two bullpen meltdowns away from being tied for first place.

So, a couple of quick accolades:

  1. Austin Slater: starting left fielder…may be it so for as long as it needs to be.
  2. Hunter Pence: master cheerleader/pinch hitter…never thought this day would come while he was a Giant, but I kind of love it.
  3. The Brandon’s continue to mash: Amen and Amen.
  4. Madison Bumgarner is a stud: duh.
  5. Rookies in the rotation: 100!
  6. Will Smith closer: getting jiggy with that.

That last one kind of hurts to be honest. I still think the Giants force a Game 5 against the Cubs if Bochy had of stuck with Smith in that infamous 9th inning. Maybe he was already hurt. Who knows. But now, it looks like he may take the 9th and run with it. So be it.

The Giants have three games in Colorado, and then a 10 game home stand before the All Star Break. Also, we may see Samardzija and Cueto soon. Also, the trade deadline looms. There is going to be a lot to talk about this July.

After 2017, I’m all for it.

Half-Way There #sfgiants #weekinreview

After 79 games (nearly the half-way mark of the season) the Giants have sent out 9 different men to start games. Here is a list:

  1. Chris Stratton, 16 starts
  2. Derek Holland, 15 starts
  3. Ty Blach, 12 starts
  4. Andrew Suarez, 12 starts
  5. Jeff Samardzija, 8 starts
  6. Johnny Cueto, 5 starts
  7. Derek Rodriguez, 5 starts
  8. Madison Bumgarner, 4 starts
  9. Tyler Beede, 2 starts

If this is the only information I provided you on March 15, a couple of weeks before the season started, there are several conclusions you could have reasonably drawn, such as:

  1. Oh, crap, this season must be terrible.
  2. WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SWEET, SWEET MADISON BUMGARNER!
  3. Who is Derek Rodriguez?
  4. Johnny Cueto needed Tommy John didn’t he.
  5. 12 starts for Andrew Suarez, really?
  6. We must be about 40 games behind the Dodgers.

And yet, the reality is:

  1. Depends on how you define terrible (but mostly not).
  2. He’s fine. Just a broken pinky, which really sucked, but he’s fine.
  3. He’s Pudge Rodriguez’s son, NBD. And yeah, I had no idea he was in the Giants’ system either, but he’s really cool!
  4. Nope, not yet anyway. It’s complicated.
  5. Yeah, really! And he’s been pretty ok!
  6. Nope. Only 2.5. And they are not even in first place (Arizona is!).

A couple of other thoughts from this list. (A) Has Jeff Samardzija really started 8 games? It definitely doesn’t feel like it. I can remember, maybe, 2 of his starts. (B) Derek Holland has been a godsend (did not think I would ever type those words). (C) I’m not sure that the ceilings are super high for Suarez/Stratton/Rodriguez, but what a breath of fresh air to have so many guys from the farm system contributing. Remember when that was a fairly normal occurrence? (D) It would be really cool if one of those guys could have a Brandon Crawford type career where they just smash through the “low ceiling” label and become a stud. I’d put my money on Rodriguez being that guy. (E) If and when Cueto and Samardzija return, I’d like to see Rodriguez go the bullpen and replace Cory Gearrin, and send Andrew Suarez down so he can keep pitching every 5th day as a starter.


The Giants continue to be beasts at home, improving to 24-13. I’ve been writing for a couple of years now about how I’d love to see AT&T become more of a home field advantage. They’ve been a pretty even home/road team for most of the “dynasty” run but it hasn’t really mattered when they’ve been good because great pitching travels so well.

It’s interesting that it’s this team that has taken advantage of the home cooking so much. It’s got to be the combination of veteran bats and young arms.

If the Giants are going to stay in this race over the final 83 games, they need to continue the solid home play, and to finally start to win some games on the road.

That formula should help bring the +/- back into line as well (they are still -24 for the season).


Final thought this week: let Mark Melancon close. With Hunter Strickland on the shelf for a while, the Giants best bet is to let Bochy use Will Smith/Tony Watson/Sam Dyson/Reyes Moronta (and maybe Derek Rodriguez) as high leverage/match up guys from the starter on. Let Melancon pitch the 9th. He’s got the experience, you’re paying him A LOT to be a closer, and I guess what I am really saying is that I just don’t trust Sam Dyson enough. If I’m going down, I’m going down with Mark.


Important, and interesting, week ahead. A nice, within-home-stand, day off today, and then 3 against Colorado at AT&T. Here’s a chance to put some distance between themselves and the 4th place Rockies.

Then, off to Arizona. The Giants can start boosting their road record AND gain direct ground against the first place Diamondbacks.

Tentative Colorado pitching matchups:

  • Bettis vs. Holland
  • Freeland vs. Bumgarner
  • Gray vs. Stratton

Those are actually even matchups. Of course, if Bumgarner pitches like he did in his last start, advantage Giants. I like the G-men to take 2 out of 3.

Tentative Arizona pitching matchups:

  • Suarez vs. Bucholtz
  • Rodriguez vs. Miller
  • Bumgarner vs. Godley

Very interesting. This is not how these teams would line this up if it were a September series and they were both still fighting for the division. My initial reaction here is that this significantly favors the Giants since they miss both Zach Grienke and Patrick Corbin (who has dominated them recently). There’s also the chance that the Giants bring back Jeff Samardzija this week, but I would hope they wait until they get to Colorado (where Samardzija has done weirdly well as a Giant).

Anything less than 4-2 this week would be a disappointment. Go Giants!

Really…really?!?!

Hate to pile on a guy when he is down, but it appears that Hunter Strickland is still an idiot:

The frustrating part, beyond all the innings/saves/holds/strikeouts being missed over these 6-8 weeks, is that even when he is healthy enough to return it is hard to imagine the Giants actually bringing him back. Strickland has done some really dumb things over the years and this one may be a bridge too far. Which means that just when the Giants bullpen appeared to be rounding into a strength it is weakened.**

**I know some Giants fans can’t stand the guy and think he is and was and forever will be terrible, but before last night Strickland was having a good year. He had a good 2017, and he stabilized an area that was the definition of instability for this franchise for several seasons running. Even if he was “demoted” to a lesser role he was still going to be an asset.

But he may simply go down as an ass.

Never Read Me Again #sfgiants #weekinreview

Welp. Pretty much everything I wrote about last Monday turned to mush this week in what has to go down as the most disappointing stretches of the season:

  1. The Giants were terrible in Miami, needing 16 innings on getaway day just to salvage a game. Not surprisingly, the bats were very quiet in LA until Sunday when they manage to avoid getting swept again on the final day of a series.
  2. The Giants bench is still good, but it gets stretched a bit now that Evan Longoria will miss extended time with a fractured hand.
  3. Which means that the offense may never be at full strength this season. By the time Longoria returns, who knows who will be out then.
  4. Brandon Belt is back, and so is Cory Gearrin. Not only is he not out of the organization he’s still on the major league team! Groans abound.
  5. Madison Bumgarner is back but he’s not in dominant form yet. I was excited for the quick return, but I guess we should not be surprised that he’s still shaking the rust off. I do expect much better from him soon.
  6. Brandon Crawford is still amazing and great, but he has cooled off a bit, and now will be gone for three days to attend the birth of his fourth child.
  7. Finally, the road issues continue as the Giants now fall to 16-26 away from AT&T.

There are reasons for hope. Somehow the Giants are still in it. They are only 4.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Finally, I’ve written in nearly every post about the weird schedule this year. Well, for the first time that weirdness tilts in the Giants favor. The Giants have 10 straight games at home (including a chance at redemption against the Marlins!). Then they go on the road for 6 games. Three of those are against the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. Then they go to Colorado, who, amazingly, has a terrible home record. That’s 6 in-division road games (i.e. no east coast swing, and games that directly impact the NL West standings). That is followed by a nine game home stand.

To summarize: 19 of the next 25 games are at home!

Now is the time!


In other news:

 

A Quick Update #sfgiants #weekinreview

I’ve been in the midst of a move, staring a new job, and then also the Warriors have grabbed what little sports attention I’ve had recently (they are a good basketball team, but that’s not what we are here for).

Anyway, just a quick couple thoughts today and then I’ll try to be back in a normal rhythm soon.


First Thought: I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the Giants “road woes” and the big split between record, home and away. It still exists (Home: 19-11, Road 14-21). However, the Giants are off to a good start on the current, and long, road trip, and they have the potential to make a dent in that record. They are 2-1 already, with 4 against the terrible Marlins, and then three in LA against the Dodgers whom they have played well so far.

I cannot stress enough how important these four games are in Miami. Anything less than 3-1 would be a let down, in my opinion. The Giants will throw out Madison Bumgarner and Chris Stratton (their two “aces”) to start the series, then the rookies get the second half. They should win the first two games and (AT LEAST) split the last two. Then, if they can get 2 of 3 in LA that would be an awesome road trip and push the road record to 19-23 (.500 is the magic # for a competitive team).

Second Thought: I liked the Giants bench to start the season, but it has really become a tremendous strength for this team. Pablo and Hundly have been great, Alen Hanson a revelation, and the Gorkys and Mac Williamson resurgences have pushed Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson into more appropriate super-sub roles. I like it a lot. (And I’d imagine they drop a pitcher when Brandon Belt returns this week).

Third Thought: Speaking of Brandon Belt, when he returns the offense will be at full strength for the first time in a while, and the team will be as healthy as it’s been in a long, long time (lacking only Cueto and Samardzija). If they can keep guys healthy up to the all-star break the Giants have a real chance to make this interesting.

Fourth Thought: It’s probably going to be interesting no matter what. The last two weeks have done nothing to “unbunch” the division. Arizona is hanging on to first place, the Dodgers have crawled back to contention but still aren’t their juggernaut selves, and Colorado and San Diego are very much hanging in/around. The in-division games this month are going to be very consequential.

Fifth Thought: the Giants released Cory Gearrin this week (and there was much rejoicing). No one picked him up and he may end up in Sacramento. That may not be all that interesting to you, but it should. The Giants really needed someone to take him on, as it would have opened up an opportunity to make a trade deadline move.

All of which is going to make for an interesting July. The Giants did some very creative (and actually pretty awesome) maneuvering this offseason to both improve the 2018 team and create space to go for it again in the offseason (by not going into the luxury tax the Giants give themselves the room to make big moves next year).

As of right now, if the Giants want to make a move at the deadline it’s going to require more creativity if they want to continue with their stated goal of staying under the tax. The obvious move would be getting someone to take on Hunter Pence (maybe an old NBA style bad contract swap?). Some other candidates might include Austin Jackson or Sam Dyson. Or, the Giants may just say “who care about the tax,” throw caution to the wind and go for it. The deadline will say a lot about the team they think they have and their plans for the future.

Sixth Thought: Speaking of Sam Dyson, the Giants bullpen has become everything I hoped for and more. They suddenly have a “big three” of Strickland/Watson/Dyson, while at the same time still having three excellent arms (Melancon/Smith/Moronta) to back those guys up with. Plus, Ty Blach makes so much more sense as a long reliever.

It’ll be interesting to see how the pecking order shakes out over the course of the year, but I cannot remember when the Giants had so many guys I had so much confidence in. They’ve had better “core” bullpens, but I don’t know about a 1-7 that matches this one.

Final Thought: An ode to Brandon Crawford. Get out there on the internet somewhere and check out his game logs (like this one). His season reminds me very much of Dustin Pedroia’s rookie of the year campaign. Crawford was hitting .189 with a .560 OPS on April 30th. I was definitely worried. Crawford does not need to hit a ton to be valuable to the Giants. His defense alone is an asset, and then any sort of league average hitting makes him a ++ player. But when he hits, this team can be deadly.

Since May 1 his average has steadily increased, up to .338 after yesterday’s 4-4 (most of that damage against Max Scherzer, the easy CYA front-runner in the NL). His OPS is .921, far and away the best mark of his career.

Dave Flemming mentioned several times on the broadcast yesterday that Crawford has to be considered among the leaders for MVP at this point.

We love Brandon Crawford and have thoroughly enjoyed his contributions to many great Giants moments over the years. But, to become an MVP candidate is truly amazing and ridiculous. He was an all-glove, no-hit sort of prospect who was simply seen as a stop-gap starter when he came up and who would hopefully turn into a nice utility player.

Now we’re looking at multi-gold gloves and a potential MVP finalist. Unreal. And it’s legit too, watching him yesterday, he does not look like a guy who is just hot, he’s hitting everything on rope all over the ball park. Beautiful to behold!