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!

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Deadline Thoughts

The trade deadline is 3 days away and the rumors continue to fly. By all accounts it seems like the Giants will be (a) Quiet, but also (b) Looking to make moves to improve the 2018 team. That’s wonderful, I do appreciate the desire to be competitive, but it is with a slightly heavy heart that I must disagree.

I’ve seen enough to conclude that the team as presently constructed will not be able to do much better than 84 wins. The entire season has been a major flirt with .500. They’ve be no more than 5 games over or under all season. And this is perfect:

Therefore, it seems prudent to do the follow things this year at the deadline:

  1. Trade Andrew McCutchen: It pains me to write this. Yes, McCutchen hasn’t had an incredible season. But it has been fun to watch him; I have really enjoyed him being on the team. I would love to live in the alternative universe where he had a one year, pre-free agency, bonanza and put up the kind of numbers that would have made us all scream for him to stay. It’s been much more of a steady plod. I’d love it if the Giants could ship him to Cleveland or Houston, get a nice prospect in return and let Andrew have a moment in the postseason. It feels silly to keep him around for this year, and I haven’t seen enough to make me excited about him signing on for the next 3-5 seasons (bring on Bryce!). Plus, moving on would give the Giants two months to see what they have with Austin Slater/Mac Williamson/etc.
  2. Trade one of Tony Watson and Will Smith: I’d prefer they keep Watson because he is very cheaply controlled for the next two seasons, and I think they could get more for Smith, but cash in on one of hese guys! The premium for good lefty relievers (especially ones who can get out right-handed hitters) is crazy. Take advantage!
  3. Trade Sam Dyson: This is a no-brainer. Dyson has been found money from the moment he showed up off the scrap heap. The Giants would get some salary relief and probably something interesting in return.

There are a variety of other possibilities. It doesn’t seem like the Giants are in any way shape or form ready to burn it to the ground and start over. But, there might be creative ways to move on from Evan Longoria, or even Joe Panik/Brandon Belt. There might be ways to sell off other spare parts (Pablo? Gorkys?). Who knows?

I don’t favor the rebuild at this point either, as I think the Giants do still have enough pieces to compete. The emergence of Derek Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, the young arms in the bullpen, and some studs waiting in the wings (Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, etc), give me hope for the (immediate) future.

Back to Bryce Harper, I know many fans are in a lather about bringing him over, and while it still feels like a longshot, I do think he is the missing piece.

Yes, the Giants went with the star strategy for 15 years and it got them no rings, but they won 3 World Series with an all-world catcher in the middle of their lineup and a bunch of guys orbiting around that sun. That sun has gone out, and what I am saying is the Giants might have a wave of pitching good enough to get the job done, but they do not have a middle of the order force anymore. The have a bunch of planets, but no sun.

So, trade off the few items of value now, let the young guys play, and then go all in this offseason (which is what the who year has been about, right?)

Four and Four

Let’s start with this!

Full disclosure: I was going to turn the game off. After Roberto Gomez (who really looks like the Giants just let some random guy be their 25th player) allowed the Dodgers 5th run, I was done. This was an all too familiar script: certainly this was a loss and a wasted Saturday afternoon/evening.

And then, baseball magic.

A couple global thoughts: do not change extra innings baseball. I appreciate some of the more innovative ideas being bandied about these days (the pitch clock for example), but don’t mess with extra innings. Extra innings are NOT the problem with pace of play and the time of games.

Second, 2017 really warped me (us). Again, the pattern of folding seemed all to obvious. This was a loss, there was no reason to hope. But, I think we all forgot how magical baseball is. It is magical.

Third, that was one of the best, maybe the best, at bat I have ever seen. Grant Brisbee gives a good run down here, but what I loved about the At Bat (other than the walk off home run part of it) was how it went from darkly ominous, to intriguing, to “we-all-know-what’s-coming” within the 12 pitch sequence. I can’t remember an at bat that changed directions so dramatically. After that dumb curveball for strike one, I thought for sure McCutchen’s great day was going to be a wash because of a strikeout in this big situation. By pitch 7 or 8, I thought we might get a sacrifice fly and tie the game. By pitch 10, I knew the game was over, it was just matter of when (pitch 11, 12, 15, 17, it was going to happen). It was amazing to watch the evolution and to physically see McCutchen gain the upper hand over the course of that sequence of pitches. Awesome.


Last weeks concern ranking:

  1. Starting Lineup
  2. Evan Longoria
  3. Andrew McCutchen
  4. Brandon Belt
  5. Bullpen
  6. Rotation
  7. New Coaches

This weeks concern rankings:

  1. Overall health of the team, and the 4 injured pitchers in particular
  2. Evan Longoria
  3. Starting Pitching
  4. Bullpen
  5. Center Field

For the record, I think Evan Longoria will be fine, and he should fade off these rankings in the next couple weeks. Some people are already clamoring for the Panda to take over: calm down. It’s been 8 games.

The offense had its moments, and is still a work in progress as different guys get going, but one VERY encouraging sign: Every position on the field has produced a home run. And the Giants are out homering their opponents 10-2, which is a supremely positive development.

It’s only 8 games, but I am starting to see some problems with the pitching staff. It’s been as good as one could hope for so far, and yet you can already feel the lack of depth creating a problem. The inability of any starter, other than Cueto, to pitch through a lineup 3 times is a problem. The extra strain that creates on a depleted bullpen is a problem. The four injured arms-men can’t get back soon enough!


The schedule has been weird so far, for everyone. Lots of repeat series in the early going for most team. Lots of days off. Rain outs, snow out, cold weather, it’s hard to get a read on the season given the lack of consistency thus far.

That being said, some teams are racing out ahead, and some are quickly racing to the bottom. That is no surprise because of the great disparity in 2018 between teams going for it and teams in rebuild/tank mode. I just didn’t expect it to show up so dramatically, so early.

Of course, the Giants are right in the middle with their 4-4 record. Is this a harbinger of things to come, or an aberration of a strange opening season schedule?

Who knows at this point, but one of those racing ahead teams now comes to AT&T for the next three days. Welcome your 7-2, first place, Arizona Diamondbacks. The pitching there is legit, so expect some low scoring affairs this week.

Thursday, the Giants head down to San Diego for a week four games, which means they will nearly double the number of games played by next Monday. We should have a slightly better read on this team by that point.


One last thing: Andrew McCutchen is so fun.

The Good and The Bad #weekinreview

If I were to power rank my concerns about the Giants heading into the season it would have looked something like this:

  1. Starting Pitching
  2. Bullpen
  3. Bench
  4. New Coaches
  5. Starting Lineup

This was before the roster was set and before the last minute rash of injuries. Even after both of those realities, I would have given the same rankings.

Then the Giants played the Dodgers four times in LA. Before the season started I outlined a possible way for the Giants to get off to a fast start, primarily by going 3-1 in this opening series. I would have easily settled for 2-2, which is what we got.

Anyone paying attention though, knows that this 2-2 feels entirely unsatisfying. Or maybe, the better word is unsettling.

Yes, the season got off to about as good a start as possible, and yet it feels less than good. It feels like disaster may be looming.

And now, after this opening series, for most Giants’ fans, the ranking or concerns look something like this:

  1. Starting Lineup
  2. Evan Longoria
  3. Andrew McCutchen
  4. Brandon Belt
  5. Bullpen
  6. Rotation
  7. New Coaches

In other words, the offense has been bad.

I would argue, though, it hasn’t been that bad. The Giants actually out hit the Dodgers 25-24. The Giants hit two home runs, the Dodgers only hit 1. None of this means a whole lot because the season has been so short, but the problem for the Giants was not hitting per se, it was getting the right kinds of hits at the right times.

And that is the one thing I thought, and still think, this lineup will be able to do. There are enough good hitters now that they should be able to survive with 3-4 going well at a time. Last year, especially, the Giants seemingly needed everyone to hit if they were going to score, there was no one to carry the load. This team is still built like that to an extent. Gone are the Barry Bonds days, where there is a legitimate threat every day, in every at bat. But this is a more than competent unit that should be able to score runs.

I do wonder how long it will take McCutchen and Longoria to settle in. Neither guy has ever been traded, never played for another franchise, so it might take some time to get right. Plus, the Giants slow played a lot of their vets in Spring Training. To go from easing in to the Dodgers rotation is a jump.

But they are better than this. I expect many more runs this week.

On the bright side, the pitching has impressed. I was satisfied with each starter’s turn. Blach and Cueto probably can’t do much better than what they showed, and Holland and Stratton can give a bit more, but this is what we should expect and it should be good enough for a month or two.

The bullpen had a few rough moments, but showed that there are some dangerous pieces, some potential to be a real strength. Tony Watson is legit. Hunter Strickland can take this closer role and own it. And the Giants have enough other pieces to be very competitive at the ends of games.

Now, time to hit.

Baseball is Coming!

We are just a few days away from Valentine’s, Ash Wednesday/Lent, and, oh yeah, pitchers and catchers reporting.

While I have no earth shattering insights today as we stand on the precipice of a new season, a couple of random thoughts to hopefully get us a bit more excited about what lies ahead:

  1. The PECOTA system, one of the better projection models for baseball, thinks that the Giants will win 84 games and be the second wild card team. They are high on Johnny Cueto having a bounce back season (and Bumgarner/Cueto/Samardzija being very good), which brings us back to what I said a few weeks ago. For the Giants to be good in 2018, Cueto needs to meet his PECOTA projections. Please.
  2. The Giants made another move, by signing Derek Holland to a minor league deal, and there are still many other options out there for pitching depth. Holland was pretty terrible last year, but has been good for the most part during his career when healthy. He also has sported one of the greatest mustaches of all time. holland_stache
  3. I’m not sure how the money and roster moves would work out, but I’d be more than willing to open 2018 with Holland as the 5th starter if he shows anything during camp. His best is a close approximation to Matt Moore’s best (sorry to open that wound), but he will be way cheaper than Moore was ever going to be this year.
  4. Speaking of the 2010 World Series, Tim Lincecum is making another comeback and the Giants are interested. I’m interested too, because IT’S FREAKING TIMMY, COME ON, but also because I still believe in a Lincecum renaissance as a multi-inning bullpen weapon. How even-year-magic would it be if Lincecum turned into a poor man’s Chris Devenski and helped the Giants make another run?
  5. Finally, Fan Fest was this past weekend and how good does Andrew McCutchen look in orange and black? (Answer: real good)920x920

Andrew McCutchen Trade and Roster Implications

Update: the Giants have traded Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds for Andrew McCutchen.

The good news: the Giants still have Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez, Heliot Ramos, Steven Duggar, and Chris Shaw in their system. For all the talk of the lack of quality in the Giants farm system four of those guys may be positive contributors as soon as this year. Ramos could be a stud, or a center piece in yet another trade (hello, Jackie Bradley Jr.).

The bad news: Kyle Crick had the potential to be a major weapon in this bullpen, and Bryan Reynolds was pretty good in San Jose last year:

That being said, unless McCutchen has a terrible injury this is a solid trade for the Giants. It’s actually kind of hard to believe they made these two moves and held on to those 5 guys.


Opening Day Lineup:

  • Panik 2B
  • McCutchen RF
  • Posey C
  • Belt 1B
  • Longoria 3B
  • Crawford SS
  • Pence LF
  • Duggar CF

Bench:

  • Hundley C
  • Hernandez OF
  • Parker OF
  • Panda INF
  • Tomlinson INF

Starters:

  • Bumgarner
  • Cueto
  • Samardzija
  • Stratton
  • Blach/Beede/Suarez

Bullpen:

  • Melancon CL
  • Dyson
  • Smith
  • Strickland
  • Gearrin
  • Blach??
  • Law/Okert/Someone

I don’t know how they do it, but there is still work to be done to add depth pretty much everywhere. Still, this is better than where we were in September.

Giants Aquire Another 2013 MVP Candidate

The headline is a bit sarcastic, but in making trades this offseason for Evan Longoria and now Andrew McCutchen the Giants have acquired two players who have served as their prior team’s “Buster Posey” for the better part of a decade (I wrote before the 2014 WC game that this was an ideal matchup for MLB because of McCutchen/Posey and Bumgarner/Cole…of course Clint Hurdle blew it and did not start Gerrit Cole and now both Pirates on different teams). While the Giants are at it, they should see if they can get David Wright and Joe Mauer.

A couple of thoughts on this trade:

  • First, we do not know yet who is going back to Pittsburg in this deal although it sounds like no Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, or Heliot Ramos. If that is true, this is going to be a steal. The lower price has to be due to McCutchen only have one season left before free agency. I also have no idea what the Pirates are doing, as it appears that they have been swindled twice in a week. (Sounds like Kyle Crick is in the deal…I would have liked to see Crick be part of the ‘pen in 2018, but if he’s the center piece of this deal, go on yah Bobby Evans).
  • Second, the Giants got a solid, if declining pro, whose value is going to be determined by how he used and if he can stay on the field. (More on this in a moment). He’s also a ton of fun and will make what has become a boring team much more interesting.
  • Third, the arrival of McCutchen addresses a long-standing concern for me. Since the “retirement” of Barry Bonds the Giants, a franchise boasting one of the most diverse sets of legends in the game, has grown increasingly white. There are many reasons for this, and I do not have time to explore them all here, but in the most diverse part of the country to trot out 8 dudes from Texas (or Georgia) seems a bit off. This is a great addition from that standpoint.
  • Fourth, this is another chapter to the “robbing the Pirates” narrative. It all started with Barry Lamar, but this also includes Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez, and Javy Lopez. (You can sort of add Ryan Vogelsong to this list as well). Those are some impactful Giants, to say the least.
  • Fifth, back to actual baseball things: this move is a VAST improvement if the Giants play McCutchen in either left or right field, and add a solid defensive CF. I don’t know how this affects my Jackie Bradley Jr dream, but let me just throw this out there:
    • Panik 2B
    • McCutchen RF
    • Posey C
    • Belt 1B
    • Longoria 3B
    • Crawford SS
    • Pence LF
    • Bradley Jr. CF
  • That’s actually a damn good lineup

Some people will deride this trade as “the Giants continue to get older”, “continue to seek past glory from decline stars”, etc. And to a certain extent those assessments are true.

However, something I’ve been thinking about lately is the idea that maybe reclaiming past glory is a sometimes undervalued attribute in baseball.

I remember when Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. It was chalked up to the “good luck” that the Giants enjoyed that season. There’s no doubt they were very fortunate that Pablo had one of his greatest games on the biggest stage. But, was that luck?

My contention is no. Pablo was a talented player, at the height of his powers, and he got to hit that game from the left side, his better side. He has the kind of talent to hit three home runs in a game.

Now, Gregor Blanco (who started in LF), if he hit three home runs (including two off of Justin Verlander), then yeah, that’s incredibly lucky. But those are two very different kinds of players.

My point here is this: it is entirely possible, and maybe even more likely that Longoria and McCutchen are done and have terrible seasons. But, it is not out of the realm of possibility, at all, that they could produce at their career averages in 2018.

Another great example of this: in 2010 no Giant’s fan thought “hey we just signed Aubrey Huff, we’re off to the World Series.” Some look at Huff’s performance that year and think “Giant’s got lucky.” Well, again, yes and no. Yes, they were fortunate to cash in on Huff’s last really good season, but he was always the kind of player capable of that season. It wasn’t out of the realm of question for him to perform at level.

What will be really interesting, long-term, is if McCutchen has a good-to-great year, if the Giants fall in love and sign him long term (which might not be a great move at all).

I’ll probably post more about all this once we know the full terms, but the bottom line is the 2018 just got better, more interesting, and much more fun to watch.