Week in Review (5/28-6/3)

Results:

5-1 (30-24, 3 GB in NL West)

4-2 W vs. ARI; 3-1 W vs. ARI; 4-1 L vs. ARI; 4-3 W vs. CHC; 2-1 W vs. CHC; 2-0 W vs. CHC

Well, there we go. A nice week, coupled with a bad run (finally) from the Dodgers, and the Giants are suddenly just 3 games out. The Giants also never scored more than 4 runs in any game this week and went 5-1. The pitching has been so good, for so long now that this isn’t even a story any more.

I was thinking a little bit about All-Stars today and I think you could argue that Melky, Angel, and Buster (from a positional standpoint) are deserving of consideration, and from the pitchers Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Romo, Casilla, and…wait for it…ZITO are in the conversation as well. Now, obviously they won’t all make it, but a case can be made for each of them. Which is pretty incredible when you think about it…8 players! And Pablo would probably be in the convo too if he’d been healthy this whole time. Anytime a third of your roster is in consideration for the All-Star game you are doing well.

Hitter of the Week:

All Melky Cabrera did this week was hit .391, set the SF record for most hits in a month, and he doesn’t win HOW. But he is firmly in the convo week in and week out and that is awesome.

But, this week, let’s highlight Ryan Theriot. He just might be the answer at 2B. He hit .375, including a double, and scored 4 runs. In March I would not have been excited about this, but right now, I couldn’t be happier. Keep it up Ryan.

Pitcher of the Week:

Barry Zito: All Star? Really? Probably not, but if he has a good June, runs his record to, say, 8-3, and keeps his ratios down, how do you not really ask the question? Look at this week: 2 starts, 2 wins. 15.1 innings, 14 base runners, 2 earned runs, 8 strikeouts. That’s a 1.17 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He’s had some help from the defense and the ballpark, but the dude is pitching REALLY well. The question is, of course, how long can he keep this up. Right now it looks like a while.

One other thing…if you would have said when the season opened that by June between Zito and Lincecum one of them would have a 5.82 ERA and the other 2.98 (or that one would have a 1.25 WHIP and the other 1.57) how would have thought that worked out? Exactly. Baseball’s wierd.

Looking Ahead:

One more game with the Cubbies, the off to San Diego, and back home for a very interesting series with the Texas Rangers. Keep the pressure on the Dodgers!

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5 Things (33% of the way there)

Yes, we are at the one-third mark, give or take a few games, and here’s what the Giants need to fix in order to bridge the gap, which is now down to 5.5 games, between them and the Dodgers:

  1. Fix Timmy…you can go all over the internet and find “what’s wrong with Tim Lincecum” articles. Here’s my two cents: it’s all mental and it comes back to controlling his pitches. Timmy has never been a control artist, and most of his game has been predicated on getting hitters to swing at pitches out of the zone. Two things seem to be happening this season: Tim’s been wild both in and out of the zone and there is a definite “book” on how to face him (and that book involves being patient and doing everything you can to lay off nasty stuff out of the zone). That has resulted in a lot of walks and a lot of solid contact. How does Tim fix this? He has to adjust to a new reality and do whatever it is he needs to do to command his stuff. It’s still good stuff, he just needs to know where it’s going.
  2. Play Better Defense…they actually seem to have turned the corner here, but the fact remains: the Giants will not win consistently if they give outs away. They don’t need gold glove/web gem defense, just play clean baseball, catch the ball, and make the routine plays.
  3. Get/Stay Healthy…Pablo is priority number one here, and he should be back soon. Romo has some kind of knee thing going on as well, but overall this team is not far from being back at full strength. I cannot wait to see the offense go once Pablo returns!
  4. Find some consistency from the Right Side of the Infield…perhaps Theriot is the answer at 2B, perhaps Freddy Sanchez will make it back, but someone needs to take over! And at this point I don’t care who it is at first base, Pill, Belt, Huff, someone else with a four letter last name, let’s, please, get some production from first base! Ok, I do care. I really want Brandon Belt to lock this down, but, like I said, it’s time to stop screwing around here!
  5. Keep Pitching…I know Timmy has been a bummer, but there have been so many good things about the rest of the staff. Vogelsong, Casilla, and Zito have been outstanding so far. Keep it up!

It’s pretty simple: the Giants are not that far out and seem on the verge of busting out a nice two-week run. The Dodgers have a tougher road in June and look like they may have lost Matt Kemp again. Take advantage Giants!

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Week in Review (4/9-4/15)

Results:

4-2 (4-5, 4.5 GB in NL West)

7-0 W @ Col; 17-8 L @ Col; 4-2 W @ Col; 5-0 W vs. Pit; 4-3 W vs. Pit; 4-1 L vs. Pit

Well, what a week huh? Two series victories. Two Zito gems. Matt cain was nearly perfect. MadBum bounced back. Timmy sucked again. Nate took over the right field job. Melky kept hitting. The Giants were the only team to score at least 4 runs in each of their first 8 games. Oh, and something about Brian Wilson. Dang. This guy is probably going to be our closer.

Here are my thoughts on the closer situation. Several people are already talking about what to do with Wilson next year. It’s an interesting convo, but not one I want to have right now.

Here’s what I would do: go closer by committee until someone establishes themself (I agree with Baggs, I think, ultimately, Affeldt is best suited to do this if he can get himself together). I would not make a trade! The Giants also have a potential wild-card/secret weapon in the minors right now in Heath Hembree. I don’t think he should come up and close but he could be a K-Rod type addition to the bullpen late in the season.

Here’s what I think the Giants will do. Go with a closer by committee until someone establishes themself (probably Casilla) and then make a trade at the deadline for an “experienced” closer. Top targets will be Joel Hanrahan, Carlos Marmol, and Brandon League. The way closers are going down this year those guys are going to be in high demand. Which means they will be costly. Which means the Giants will burn somebody worthwhile (Belt? Panik?) for them. A classic Panik move. Ha ha. On to the honors!

Hitter of the Week:

4 Giants hit over .300 this last week. Those hitters are: Melky Cabrera, Emmanuel Burris, Brandon Crawford, and Nate Schierholtz. How about that. Having pointed that out I’m going with my new favorite Giant: Hector Sanchez. I can see why the Giants dumped Whiteside and sent Stewart down. In a year when they are not sure what kind of offense they might get out of second base and short stop, they could not afford to have another black hole in the line up when Posey sits (which he needs to do). The kid can hit and he can play D too. Love it!

Pitcher of the Week:

How do you not go with Matt Cain. Dude goes the distance, only giving up 1 hit (to the pitcher), strikes out 11, and yet he’s not the POW. Barry Zito, well done sir! This might be the only time he gets in here, so let’s point out that he Giants are 2-0 when Zito starts. That’s 50% of their wins. He shut out the Rockies in Denver to stop the bleeding, and then he backed it up with a very quality start at home. Who knows how long this lasts, but its worth honoring this week.

Looking Ahead:

3 at home against the Phillies. This will be an interesting series. The Phillies are a diminished team right now, but the Giants will have to beat Halladay and Lee. Let’s hope Timmy bounces back and we get 3 pitching duels. After that, it’s off to the East Coast for 3 against the Mets.

Stay tuned for some thoughts from Nick later today.

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Hindsight

This spring we wrote two articles about the veterans who were recently cut. Here was my take on Aaron Rowand (can’t believe I forgot about this article until today). But I was right: it didn’t end well and the Giants ate a ton of money.

Here’s Josh’s take on Tejada, which is an opinion I think a lot of fans held secretly. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out so well. (Also, I love how Josh says “who else is out there, Orlando Cabrera?” Hilarious).

While we are at it: here are a couple of pieces I wrote about Zito during the spring (didn’t see Vogelsong coming, did I?). What to do with Zito will undoubtedly be a major off-season theme.

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Week in Review (7/4-7/10)

Results:

4-3 (52-40, 3 game lead in NL West)

5-3 L vs. SD; 5-3 L vs. SD; 6-5 W vs. SD; 2-1 W vs. SD; 5-2 L vs. NYM; 3-1 W vs. NYM; 4-2 W vs. NYM

Hey, it’s the All-Star break and the Giants are in first place. No big deal, right? I mean it’s been a pretty smooth, rather uneventful first half of the season. FALSE. The monks will spend a few days this week recapping the first half and looking ahead the stretch run. If nothing else, this has been one compelling team to follow this year.

Hitter of the Week:

Tip of the cap to Pablo for keeping the streak alive (21 games now) and for sneaking on to the All-Star roster. I hope he hits a walk off home run against Jose Valverde. But, the hitter of the week has to be Nate Schierholtz who is resembling a real life, everyday major league player more and more. He has now raised his season slash line to: .293/.343/.464 which is pretty darn good. I really, really, really hope he can keep this up!

Pitcher of the Week:

The Barry Zito comeback tour is gaining some serious momentum. His outing against San Diego was easily the best performance by a starter this past week (8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K) and maybe the best start of his Giants’ career. However (and this is more of a midseason award than a weekly thing), while Brian Wilson does his bit for the All Star team Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Jeremy Affeldt might be the best core of set up men in all of baseball right now. Romo had an amazing week, Lopez is just a joy to watch, and Affeldt is looking more and more like his 2009 self. If Casilla can get back to where he was at the end of last year and Mota and Ramirez keep on holding down their end, I think this is the best bullpen I have ever seen. Period.

Stay tuned, a lot more to come this week!

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Week in Review (6/27-7/3)

Results:

4-3 (48-38, 2 game lead in NL West)

13-7 W @ CHC; 6-3 W @ CHC; 2-1 L @ CHC; 5-2 L @ CHC; 4-3 W @ Det; 15-3 W @ Det; 6-3 L @ Det

What a strange week. Do we rejoice in the offense breaking out a couple of times for laughers? Do we agonize over what might have been in some of those loses? It’s hard to argue against a 4-3 road trip being successful, but these Giants always manage to do something to make you feel like they could have done more. What a strange week.

Hitter of the Week:

Impossible not to name the Panda who seems to be back to where he was at the beginning of the season. We need someone to hit with authority and he’s the one right now. Brandon Crawford might never be an All-Star with the bat but his line this week was nice: .333, a home run, 7 RBI, a double, and 5 walks! Well done kid: hitter of the week.

Pitcher of the Week:

Barry Zito gets the nod but before I get to him consider this:

  • Lincecum vs. Chicago: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 7 K…No Decision (Giants lose 2-1)
  • Cain vs Chicago: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 6 K…No decision (Giants lose 5-2 in 13)
  • Bumgarner vs Detroit: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 9 K…No Decision (Giants win 4-3 despite bullpen implosion)
  • The Giants cannot afford to have the big 3 pitch that well and barely come away with one victory. That’s all I’m saying.
Zito though gets the nod for being a gamer and a winner. He obviously knows something about winning games that those other three guys don’t get. That’s why he went 2-0. All kidding aside, Zito is the pitcher of the week for the intangible benefit provided by: (a) pitching on 3 days rest, (b) continuing to pitch after a two and a half hour rain delay, and (c) pitching well while doing a and b. That was the most determined effort I’ve ever seen him make…a good Zito is good for everyone so let’s hope he keeps it up.
Giants got off to a rough start this week against the Pads…three more, then the Mets, then the break. I love Matt Cain.
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Really? Followed By a Shoulder Shrug


Would the Giants really eat the next three years of Barry Zito’s contract and let Jeff Suppan et al fill in the gaps? Bruce Jenkins says it’s a possibility. Personally, I think this is a management ploy to light a fire under Zito’s butt. There’s still a lot of spring training left. None of our starters looked good the first time through, and Todd Wellemeyer looked like a world beater last year. A lot can change in the next couple of days/weeks. But, it looks like I might have targeted the wrong bad contract as the potential drama starter in Giants’ camp this spring!

Thoughts? Response? Is there a 5th starter controversy?

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Remember This Guy?

ObsessiveGiantsCompulsive wrote a great article a week ago about the “Big 6” issues/questions facing the returning champs this spring. I would recommend that post if you are looking for a run down of what to watch for during the next month.

I think the Giants have all the right kinds of questions this spring: can so and so bounce back? how will the pitchers hold up this year? who will lock down left field? who will be last man in the bullpen? Interesting questions and important in their own right (especially in regards to the pitchers), but nothing earth shattering or riveting.

Look at some of the other playoff teams from last year and you will some major story lines: The Yankees and Jeter. The Yankees and The Rotation. The Rays and Rebuilding (and Manny). The Rangers and the Michael Young Fiasco. The Phillies and Cliff Lee. The Braves and the First Year After Bobby Cox.

The Giants? Well, Brian Wilson did some weird stuff, and there are too many guys for the outfield, and Tim Lincecum had a mustache for a day or two, and Pablo Sandoval lost of bunch of weight, and Mat Latos wrote some dumb stuff on a baseball, and Bochy made a speech, and how boring is this? Hey, wait, there are too many guys in the outfield?

I wrote a few weeks ago about Barry Zito and how now might be the best time to trade him (hello Yankees), but, ironically, this might be the year the Giants need Zito more than ever. Aaron Rowand is the other atrocious contract the Giants carry at this point, and while the length of Zito’s will always be the trump card, I think there is a compelling case to be made that Rowand has the worst contract in SF Giants’ history.

Which is why, in the big picture, Aaron Rowand is the biggest/most interesting story of the spring…mostly because he’s been such a non-story. Since when does a guy earning 10% of the payroll (the best paid position player on the team) become so invisible?

A quick examination of the outfield candidates reveals that he is the most unnecessary player on the roster. You want a leadoff hitter: Andres Torres. You want an excellent defensive center fielder: Andres Torres. You want some right-handed power: Pat Burrell (or Cody Ross). You want versatility and a nice late-inning replacement for defense: hello, Nate Schierholtz. You want a guy who can play multiple positions: hey there Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz, Mark DeRosa, and even Aubrey Huff! Right handed Pinch Hitter: again, Pat the Bat. There is no category I can think of where I would place Rowand at the top of the list.

Nothing I’m saying here is new, but I think the Rowand situation highlights how low-key things are around the Giants right now. Really, this should be a bigger story. I actually think Rowand could help a major league team out in an everyday role, but it’s just not the Giants. Has there ever been a more expensive 5th or 6th outfielder in ML history?

The Giants are paying Zito way too much money to be a 5th starter, but that’s still a legitimate role and he helps the team in a significant way. But the Giants are going to be paying Rowand a ludicrous sum to sit on the bench.

Bochy made a mildly controversial statement about there being no guaruntee that Torres starts the season as the CF, but come on, who’s kidding who here?

This spring everyone will say all the right things and it will be nice and politically correct and Rowand seems to be handling it well, But come May when he has 16 At-Bats and he’s buried on the end of the bench behind Burrell, Ross, DeRosa, Huff, et al. how nice will he be then?

I don’t have any good solutions (I could propose a few fantastical trade ideas), but I do think this will become a serious issue at some point. Last season it was easy to swallow in the name of “doing what’s best for the team,” but in the first half of 2011, before the pennant picture clears up, something will go down and it will probably be ugly. Even if Rowand is cool about it, how do you justify 20 million dollars rotting away in the corner of the dugout.

No idea how this ends up: could be a trade, could be the Giants’ swallowing a huge chunk of change, but my gut tells me it won’t end well.

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Barry Zito…needed?

If, statistically speaking, Matt Cain is the most interesting man in the Giants’ world, then Barry Zito is the most boring. He isn’t even the most stylish pitcher on the team anymore!

I feel like most Giants fans have gone through the five stages of grief with Zito. Denial (we didn’t really give him a 7 year/$126,000,000 deal…he isn’t really this bad, is he?). Anger (he’s this bad and we are paying him how much?). Bargaining (surely some sucker will take this contract off our hands…please, please baseball gods, real God, someone, anyone, make him go away/get better/turn in to Tom Glavine, anything but this!). Depression (want to go to the game today? sure…wait, who’s pitching today? zito? never mind…good luck finding someone else). Acceptance (Yeah, we’re paying him way too much money, but we have four other amazing pitchers so who cares…plus every now and then he has a game like this…we can wish the contract away, but, hey, world championship!).

Something like that.

Every year Zito does just enough to tease us, make us think he might put it all back together at some point and maybe approximate his 2002 self, but then you walk away from every season and realize the Giants are paying ace money for a league average pitcher sending you back to the depression stage.

It is somewhat amazing to believe that Zito has now pitched four seasons for the Giants, meaning he only has three to go (and one of those is an option). As an aside here’s a blast into the past…remember when Zito signed and we drooled over the idea of a big three of Zito/Lowry/Cain…and maybe that Lincecum kid could develop into a nice fourth option. Wow.

Now that we are on the downside of the contract the possibility of trading Zito may actually becoming a reality. I suggested the Giants try to ship him to New York when the Yankees lost the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, and Jonah Keri suggested the same thing recently at fangraphs. If the Giants could actually pull this off there would be much rejoicing back in the Bay Area.

However, the reality and irony is that trading Zito may be a bad idea (it may also be an impossible dream due to Zito holding a full no-trade clause, which, at the end of the day, might be the worst thing about his contract).

Now, if the Giants could swing a deal and get Barry’s consent, I’d be all for it. Especially if someone like the Yankees took on all the remaining money. The Giants are heading in to a phase where some of the young guns are going to be seeking/deserving some decent coinage: Lincecum/Wilson/Cain/Posey and probably Sandoval (not to mention Sanchez and a few others) will be needing/wanting big contracts in the next couple of years and it would be a shame to say no to Cain, for example, because we have to pay Zito.

That being said, thinking only about 2011, I would argue the Giants need Zito. Enter into this hypothetical for a moment. Let’s say you have a team that has four studly young pitchers who all just exceeded their career highs in innings pitched. Let’s also say that there isn’t anyone ready in the minor league system to step in and help out in any significant way. What kind of a pitcher would you want in that fifth spot? Probably someone who is reliable, doesn’t get hurt or miss starts, veteran, and who gives your team a chance to win 60% of the time he pitches.

Which is exactly what Zito is. As Giants fans have entered the acceptance stage of the grieving process this is often the only silver lining: at least he hasn’t been injured (although at times that would have been a welcomed development).

Is the contract horrible? Yes. We get it. Been over that a million times. But in 2011 I think the Giants need exactly someone like Barry Zito at the back end of their rotation.

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Rumors and Thoughts

Going in to the way back machine (which for this blog is only two months) I suggested the Giants try to ship Barry Zito to the Yankees in the fallout from Cliff Lee going to the Phillies. You can read about it in this post (but you have to read carefully to find it =).

Today Jonah over at Fangraphs makes the argument that this is actually what the Yankees should do! I apologize for the self congratulations.

Speaking of crazy ideas/rumors. Grant at McCovey Chronicles suggests now is the time to trade Brian Wilson. The BW hype machine is in full effect with his recent appearance on George Lopez, his video game, and his return to twitter. Would you trade B.Wheezy if you could get a good young shortstop back?

Definitely some conversation starters out there on the web today!

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