All-Star Break Review

50-48

That’s where we stand at the traditional All-Star break evaluation point.

So, there’s that.

It does feel like the Giants missed a significant opportunity over the past three weeks. They are over .500, they are “only” 4 games out of first place, and the second half does not present the same travel/scheduling challenges that the first half did.

Yet, it seems like they should have won a few more games along the way.


100 games in and it is still really difficult to evaluate the team as a whole. Their top three starting pitchers have all missed significant time (and it looks more and more like Jeff Samardzija may not give them anything this year). That alone is a recipe for disaster. And yet it has not been a disaster.

It’s been the year of the broken pinkie, and even beyond that, nearly everyone of significance has been on the DL. The only exceptions to this: Crawford, McCutchen, and Posey, and Posey’s been dealing with a bad hip (more on this later).

Given all of that, it could be so, so much worse.

And yet it still feels like the Giants have left something on the table.

Do I have any confidence that they could surge in the second half and actually win this division, or sneak into a wild card spot? I do have any. Some. But this season just feels like it is destined to be fits and starts, resulting in a nice but unsatisfying 84 wins.

Let’s take a deeper look, and grade out the roster for the season so far.


Catcher: Giants’s catchers are slashing .270/.341/.421 and have an sOPS of +124 (which means they are 24 “points” better than the league average at this position). That’s pretty good!

The problem here though is that these numbers are skewed by a surprisingly strong first half from Nick Hundley. Andrew Baggarly wrote extensively this morning (subscription likely needed to read this article) about Buster Posey, his diminished production and how hard it is for catchers to age well. It will be fascinating to see what happens, because that article reveals that Giants brass believe a move to a different position would bring back the power. But then to get Buster to a different position would mean moving on from Longoria or Belt, both of whom are under contract for a while. So, not impossible but tough.

Here are some of the pertinent quotes:

Posey remains a brilliant hitter — watch him battle with two strikes to extend a rally or find a way to turn around a closer’s upper-90s heat in the ninth inning or, as he is doing once again this season, draw walks at the same rate he strikes out. But there is no disputing that his overall offensive impact has faded with each passing year. His home run swing has leaked air in each of the last five seasons, from 22 to 19 to 14 to 12 to five as he enters the break. His .774 OPS this season would be the lowest of his career.

Bochy and Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean are both bullish on Posey’s post-catching career.

“If anybody could transition up the line to become more like his younger self from a run production standpoint, you’d bet on him because of his bat-to-ball skills,” Sabean said. “Especially against above-average velocity, his swing is very true. It stays on the same plane. There aren’t many guys who can swing like that.”

My grade for the position is a B+. For most other teams this position would grade out as an A, but for the Giants with Posey, the standards are pretty high.

First Base: Ah the conundrum that is Brandon Belt. Overall he’s had a solid first half, been one of the Giants best hitters, and is well positioned to finish with the best stat line of his career. But, a random, wierd injury (appendicitis) once again slowed him down and since he’s been back he hasn’t quite been the same force of nature.

Overall, Giants first basemen have slashed .280/.371/.462 with an tOPS+ of 134. Not bad either, but not quite the world beater level that many teams are able to get out of this position (which is sort of the ultimate summary of Brandon Belt’s career to this point).

My grade: B+

Second Base: Here is where things start to get ugly. Joe Panik started the year on fire, settled into a nice groove, steadily declined into a miserable slump, and then severely pulled his groin (I have yet to hear when he might return). The Giants have gotten a bump in production from Alen Hanson, but I still think he is most effective coming off the bench and in spot starts (especially against right handers, his right-handed hitting has been so-so).

The numbers: .239/.289/.347 with an tOPS+ of 79, which is really bad.

My Grade: C- (only passing because this is 2B and the defense has been ok)

Shortstop: There is no shortage of superlatives for Brandon Crawford and the season he’s been having. He is a deserving All Star game starter, and he’s been the Giants best overall player. No slight to Brandon, but this is part of the problem. Any team where Brandon Crawford is your best player is a team that is going to struggle to score runs.

The numbers: an outstanding .297/.367/.470, tOPS+ of 135!

My Grade: A+

Third Base: Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval have passed the eye-ball test for the most part. But this speaks to how bad this position was in 2017. It was terrible. That’s part of why Longoria was brought in. The strategy for the Giants this offseason was to try to upgrade the black hole positions from 2017, and they have certainly upgraded third base, but this position is still a problem.

One reason this is still a problem is that there are a lot of good third basemen in the game these days. But even with that the numbers don’t lie: .254/.296/.440. The slugging has been ok, but that on base percentage (.296) is terrible. Plus, the defense from 3B has not been as good as advertised.

My Grade: C+

Left Field: Welcome to the vortex of suck. A small subplot to the Giants last decade has been the utter inability to replace Barry Bonds. The Giants have masked over their deficiencies with a couple hot streaks from Pat Burrell, Melky Cabrera, Gregor Blanco, Mike Morse, and Travis Ishikawa (!). Part of the interesting symmetry and irony of the Giants championships is that they had the greatest LF of all time and never won a World Series with him, and then won three with the aforementioned cast of clowns. Baseball.

But outside of a couple nice streaks here and there, they have been routinely terrible in LF, and this year is no different. Part of the problem here was so many ABs given to Hunter Pence who has been sadly awful. The other part of the problem is that the one guy who seemed to be primed to take this spot over, Mac Williamson, eternal BaseballMonk tease, had a GREAT week and then bonked his head on a wall and hasn’t been the same since. Sad face emoji.

The search for an answer in LF continues, 11 seasons and counting.

The numbers: .237/.291/.357 with an tOPS+ of 82 (eep).

My Grade: F

Center Field: Here is the most interesting evaluation for the team so far. Austin Jackson got a lot of starts here and was not very good, and then Gorkys Hernandez wrestled control away from the other contenders and he has put up some surprisingly awesome numbers. Now, Hernandez has been shifted to LF and Steven Duggar has taken over for the last week and he too has put up some pretty good numbers (while also bringing the best defensive presence the Giants have had in CF in a long time).

The numbers: .272/.329/.410 with a surprisingly great tOPS+ of 108.

My Grade: A surprising B+

Right Field: This position has been nearly completely held down by Andrew McCutchen. I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, Andrew McCutchen is such a great dude, has been such an amazing player, and was someone all Giants fans always coveted. Seeing him in the orange and black is so cool.

And yet, he’s just not the player he once was. You want your RF to hit more than 10 home runs per 100 games. So while there have been some good moments and flashes of the old brilliance, you can’t help but wonder about Giancarlo Stanton, or dream about a future with Bryce Harper manning the expanses of triples alley.

The numbers: .262/.353/.410 with an tOPS+ of 115 (good, but not great).

What you have here is one positional stud (Brandon Crawford at SS), a few good but not greats (1B, C, RF, CF) and then a couple of really troublesome spots (3B, LF, 2B), which all comes out to be a pretty average lineup.

It’s also worth nothing (and I don’t have solid numbers to back this up) but the bench has been very, very good, while the pitchers (and I do have numbers to back this up) have been AWFUL. Like some of the worst hitting from any pitchers, ever.


Speaking of the pitchers, I will be quick here: at the risk of totally coping out, I am going to grade the pitching staff an incomplete. If I really had to give it a grade it would be a C+. It hasn’t been that bad, but the whole thing has gone so completely not according to plan who can even know which way is up at this point.

What I do know is this: We are still very much back where we started. If the Giants are going to erase a 4 game deficit and sneak in to the postseason Johnny Cueto is going to need to be very good.

Enjoy the All Star Break!

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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.

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!

Brandons and Other Things That Are Good #sfgiants #weekinreview

Thanks to exciting wins on Saturday and Sunday, the Giants turned a potentially disappointing week into something kind of awesome. They started off the week by taking the first 2 of a 3 game series from the lowly, lowly Reds. Then they botched up game 3 and subsequently fell flat in games 1 and 2 of a 4-gamer versus the Rockies.

But, again, those final victories gave the Giants a 4-3 home stand, kept their record at .500 and…wait for it…put them only two games behind Arizona for FIRST PLACE IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST.

What is happening?


First, the Giants strange schedule, along with baseball’s plethora of tanking teams, mixed together with some heavy favorites being banged up and struggling (looking at you Dodgers and Nationals), has meant that it is has been really hard to evaluate how good the Giants actually are.

At this point, though, it is fairly safe to say: the Giants have a good offense (a case made this week by Andrew Baggarly – subscription required), a decent bullpen, and they could use some help in the starting rotation.

Second, the Giants have been very inconsistent. It’s been a feast or famine season. Which means they’ll lose a few in a row, then win a few in a row. They’ll have stretches where they don’t score, and then stretches where they score in bunches. That makes the consistency we all crave hard to come by.

Third, the Giants are playing in a tight division race. Here’s where it gets really interesting. 6 games separate the first place Diamondbacks and the last place Padres. That is easily the closest division in baseball. The next closest has an 8.5 game separation (and note that this is the AL Central where the first place Indians aren’t even over .500 at the moment). Most divisions are 10+ games, and a few stretch into the teens already.

The Dodgers are starting to win more, but they are still massively hurt and, at the very least, it seems highly improbable that they run away from the pack. Meanwhile the Rockies and Diamondbacks are good, but flawed, teams just like the Giants.

Let’s face it: the 2018 Giants are going to be competitive.


Some reasons for hope: Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria have been good, but not great, and McCutchen in particular seems poised for some great to come soon (his “hard hit” #s are among the best in the game, he’s been pretty unlucky).

Joe Panik should return ahead of schedule. Mac Williamson is on his way back soon. (Also: what has gotten into Gorkys?!)

The Giants have a good lineup and a good bench, and it should all come together in early June.

The bullpen has been a nice surprise and should only get better as everyone settles into their roles. Will Smith and Tony Watson have been awesome. Hunter Strickland has taken a step forward. Moronta and Dyson seem well cast in their particular roles.

The rotation has been the weak link, but actually better than expected given the injuries to the “Big 3”. And speaking of that, Madison Bumgarner should be here before the month is out!

Things are looking up.


Which brings us to the Brandon’s. Brandon Belt was just named NL player of the week and Brandon Crawford is a candidate for player of the month.

I have long been a Belt apologist and Bruce Bochy has finally gotten in the game and is now hitting Belt 4th, which I believe maximizes the Giants lineup.

A lineup that gets fully maxed when Brandon Crawford hits. I’ll be honest, I was worried after April. Brandon Crawford feels like the Andre Iguodala of the Giants. He’s the guy you don’t think about when the team comes to town (you’re thinking about Steph and KD, etc), but then you watch him play and you’re like: “dang, they have that guy too.”

It’s kind of ridiculous what a luxury item both guys are. But, we forgot about Crawford during April. Forget no more. When Crawford is cooking with the bat, there are suddenly very few places for opposing pitchers to hide. It’s a beautiful thing.


Some reasons for concern: I have three big ones. First, the lack of quality from the starting rotation will have an impact on the bullpen at some point. I worry about guys getting worn out. It may not show up for months, but it will happen. Bumgarner will help, but the Giants need to get some length out of 1-2 more starters (looking at you Samardzija and Stratton).

Second, the weird schedule continues. The Giants finally have a day off today, but then go to Houston for two where they face the defending champions. And not only that they face their two best pitchers, the guys having maybe the two best years of any pitchers. (They get Justin Verlander in game 2, and if Bochy doesn’t start Pablo Sandoval I’ll lose my mind). After that gauntlet they play the Cubs three times in Wrigley and then end a brutal road trip in Colorado. The difficulty of the schedule has made it very hard to sink into any kind of rhythm.

Third, the injury bug looms. It is nice to see so many guys getting close to returning but I fear the next wave. Knocking on wood, that next wave never comes!

Fourth (I know I didn’t say four, but this is my blog), I am concerned about Buster Posey’s lack of power. It’s being well compensated for right now by Belt and several others, but I would really like to see Buster drive the ball again.


That’s it for now. Another interesting week in what has been a very interesting season!

The Weirdness Continues #sfgiants #weekinreview

Let’s get right to it.

The Good:

  • The Giants go 5-2 this week, they have now won 3 series in a row (I think I wrote something about this importance of this), and sit at .500 after, essentially, one month of baseball.
  • The Giants have already hit 30 home runs, just 4 behind league leading Colorado, a welcomed development.
  • Several surprising pitchers have shown signs of being significant contributors (Stratton, Blach, Moronta, Johnson, and Hunter Strickland)
  • Johnny Cueto has been great. Tony Watson has been great.
  • Brandon Belt is great (happy face emoji)
  • Evan Longoria is settling in quite nicely
  • Mac Williamson might be legit
  • And, we got treated to the magnificent sight of Pablo Sandoval on the mound!

The Weird:

  • Overall, the Giants offense is still in the bottom third in the league in most categories. We are still waiting for a few guys to show up.
  • The Giants did win 5 games this week, but both times they lost they gave up 15 runs! Those games were weird for a variety of reasons, but the blowouts really mess with the run differential numbers. The Giants are 14-14 but they sit at a -19 run differential. We are enough games in at this point for that to mean something (but not everything). The Rockies, who sit half a game ahead of them in the NL West standings are -24, and the A’s who also happen to be 14-14 are +3, so obviously it doesn’t mean that much. However, it would be much easier to be confident about the future if that number were positive.
  • The Giants also hit their first big rash of injuries this week. Hunter Pence went down with a sprained thumb, but that was good news as it allowed Mac Williamson to join the show. But then Mac hit his head and is in the concussion protocol. He should be back soon. Joe Panik, however, will not be back soon. He has a ligament tear in his hand, which means we may not see Joe again until July (sad face emoji).
  • All of this means, the Giants have had a parade of guys coming over from Sacramento. Things should settle down in a few days, and there is a looming decision about Hunter Pence and Mac Williamson, but chaos reigns for the time being.
  • Will Smith returns to getting jiggy with it, and so the Giants staff is at about as full strength as it will be until Bumgarner (and Melancon?) are back. Which leads to:

Confidence Power Rankings After One Month. Let’s start with the Starters:

  1. Johnny Cueto (no brainer here, Cueto’s been brilliant)
  2. Chris Stratton (we’ll give him a Mulligan for Saturday. I’m sympathetic to what we’ll call “new dad syndrome”)
  3. Ty Blach (he’s not going to dominate or go deep into games, but he competes and he beats the Dodgers all the time)
  4. Jeff Samardzija (the home run problems are still there, but something about him pitching every fifth day is mildly comforting)
  5. Derek Holland (has shown flashes, but he is quickly moving into long man territory as he can’t even get through a line up twice, let alone three times)

Relievers:

  1. Tony Watson (dude’s magical)
  2. Hunter Strickland (has had his moments but overall he’s been extremely effective)
  3. Reyes Moronta (had a bad outing on Sunday, but has been refreshing solid all season)
  4. Sam Dyson (seemed destined to get cut, but has turned it around. The sinker is sinking and he is getting big double plays)
  5. Pierce Johnson (very unremarkable and yet surprisingly effective. He’s the Ty Blach of the bullpen)
  6. Will Smith (not even active yet, but he beats out the rest of the list)
  7. Cody Gearren (feels like he should be so much better, but I have zero confidence in him in almost any situation right now)
  8. Other (Derek Law makes me sad. Roberto Gomez in intriguing. DJ Snelton is fun to watch. This is a revolving door, so not much to say, since these guys will all be gone by Wednesday).

Hitters:

  1. Brandon Belt (that’s right haters)
  2. Evan Longoria (he’s hot right now, sorry Buster)
  3. Buster Posey (hard to imagine him not being in the top 2 at any point this season, but the guys above him are hot)
  4. Andrew McCutchen (this is where it gets interesting…McCutchen probably doesn’t deserve to be in the top 5, but some of the other guys are not producing or are hurt, so I’d still rather watch Cutch bat than just about anyone else on the team right now)
  5. Alen Hanson/Austin Slater (again, this has nothing to do with how good they are, it’s just given the rest of the team they are the most interesting at bats to watch).

Looking Ahead. I’ve written quite a bit about the difficulty of the early schedule. Things do get a easier this month, however, the “easy teams” are also on the east coast, which makes them slightly less easy. May will also involve the Astros and the Cubs, and only 9 home games overall (18 road games), and a stretch of 17 games in 17 days.

So, the goal for May is to stay at .500 and hope that Arizona falls back, and then Bumgarner returns in June and the team gets rolling. The Giants will still need to get 5-8 starts out of Derek Holland and whoever else (and that assumes no gets hurt).

In the immediate future, root for another series win. The Padres have been annoying, so a minimum of 2 out of 3 would be a great way to start. They get a day off then head to Atlanta for three this weekend. Don’t sleep on the Braves, lots of talent there! I’m hoping for a 3-3 week and continued consistency throughout the roster.

It’s Not Over…Yet #sfgiants #weekinreview

Of course it’s not over yet, but what an interesting week in Giants-land. There was a little something for everyone: Bumgarner started the healing journey, the triumphant return of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, bad Brandon Belt and very good Brandon Belt, bullpen meltdowns, and some big home runs (and the arrival of Big Mac).

All of which boils back down to the damning-by-faint-praise tagline for the 2018 season: at least it won’t be boring!

In Praise

  • I named Johnny Cueto the most important player to the success of the 2018 Giants, and, so far, minus a short DL stint for a twisted ankle, he has not disappointed. One earned run in 26 innings! 23 strikeouts to four walks! He sure looks like vintage Cueto and that is VERY good news.
  • Jeff Samardzija returned and while he did not set the world on fire, he was good enough for the win, and it was certainly a start to build on. He’s got a tough assignment this week versus the Nationals and Max Scherzer, but it still feels good to have him back.
  • Chris Stratton has been awesome as well. In fact, the entire rotation had a nice showing this week. Stratton is demonstrating that the Giants were not foolish at all to trust his ability to easily replace Matt Moore’s “production” (by the way, it has been an ugly start to 2018 in Texas for poor Matt Moore).
  • Tony Watson continues to be the star of the bullpen, and while he did get touched for his first run this week, is there anyone else you trust as much coming out of the ‘pen right now? And, who was the last guy you trusted this much coming out of the pen? Affeldt in 2014? Romo in 2012? It’s an interesting thought experiment.
  • Evan Longoria is going to be just fine, thank you.
  • Brandon Belt is as streaky as they come, and yet there is something about this current streak that feels a bit more like a “finally” moment. I do believe that if he can stay on the field he will hit 30 home runs this year and put some of his doubters to rest.
  • The Giants won a series! I talked about this last week and I stand by it. This team needs to keep grinding 2 out of 3 and winning more series if they want to compete.
  • Finally, as much as we all love Hunter Pence, it’s going to be hard to deny Mac Williamson. I wrote, a while back, about his natural ascendance as the next system guy to make an impact, but injuries and lack of opportunity held him back. I love this comeback story and I am buying the new approach as being major league worthy.

In Critique

  • Is the Hunter Strickland show over? Folks will be pulling for Watson to take over the closer duties, but I do believe he is better suited coming into big situations like he did yesterday against the Angels. I think the best set up, for now, is to press on as is and hope Hunter can get back to the calmer innings we saw earlier. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be any answer yet to when Mark Melancon may return. This will be an interesting week given Strickland’s history with the Nationals.
  • The offense continues to be sporadic and inconsistent. The positive signs are certainly the increased power, and they do continue to face some outstanding pitching. It would be great, though, to see more consistent 4-5 run games.
  • In particular, the Giants inability to get hits with runners in scoring position is very weird. They have the lowest production in the majors in that stat category, and I have to believe it will normalize. It may simply be a function of facing some of the top pitching staffs in the game, again that’s a task that doesn’t get easier this week, but one trend that has to level off at some point.

Looking Ahead

  • The Giants have another tough week, although all at home! They start off with 3 against the Nationals who are off to a similarly up and down start. The Giants will have to face Scherzer on Wednesday, but get to avoid Stephen Strasburg in this series. Again, it will be interesting to see what happens should there be a show down between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. My prediction: Giants take 2 of 3, but lose the game in which Harper takes Strickland deep.
  • There’s a day off on Thursday, and then 4 games in 3 days against….wait for it…the Dodgers. It seems like that’s who the Giants play every other series this season. Here is a tremendous opportunity to do some damage in the division. The Dodgers have not been playing well, but have turned a bit of a corner recently, and are actually back to .500. This is a big week for them as they could build some serious momentum or continue to tread water. If the Giants can sweep or take 3 of 4 it could slow that train down significantly. My prediction: they split the series, which is a let down, but a 4-3 week would actually be quite welcome as the Giants wrap up a tough first month.