Futurecasting #sfgiants #2017 #2018

The Giants are terrible and nothing is good. We get it, this story has been writing itself all year.

One quick look at some numbers…The Giants nearly pulled off a .500 month for the first time all year. They sputtered again in the final week of August and finished 13-16 which is also what they did in May. That record, and the .448 winning percentage associated with it, represent the high points of the season.

So yeah, pretty terrible.


All that remains is trying to figure out how to get out of this mess and what next year might look like.

The big news of recent days is that it seems 99% certain that Johnny Cueto will opt into the remaining four-year on his contract.

The problem is I started writing this post before that news broke, so hang with me.

There are two options to move forward that involve Cueto opting out. In my opinion, this is the best case scenario for the Giants as it creates way more flexibility for the team to address various concerns.


Option 1 (Cueto Opting Out)

Option 1 involves using the money that Cueto would have taken to address the lack of right-handed power and pitching depth.

  • CF Span
  • 2B Panik
  • C Posey
  • 1B Belt
  • LF Justin Upton/JD Martinez
  • SS Crawford
  • RF Pence
  • 3B Panda/Arroyo

Obviously there are variations to play on here…Does Sandoval come back? Do they eat the contract on Pence or Span to create more space for better player?

However those details shake out the fundamental move here is adding right-handed power to the lineup via the LF position.

  • Bumgarner
  • Samardzija
  • Moore
  • Stratton/Blach
  • Veteran (there are a whole bunch of cheap veterans the Giants could add here for depth)

In addition they may have money to apply to the bench or bullpen, depending on how they shape the roster.

But, essentially, this would be a Cueto for Upton swap. Anyone else down for that?


Option 2 (Cueto Opt Out)

Option 2 involves going young and getting more long-term flexibility.

  • CF Duggar/Hernandez/Parker
  • 2B Panik
  • C Posey
  • 1B Belt
  • RF Pence
  • SS Crawford
  • LF Slater
  • 3B Arroyo

This option also involves finding a way to get rid of Denard Span. I believe there are some teams (maybe a Twins reunion) that would take Span if the Giants ate a lot of the contract. Not having to pay Cueto could help make that more palatable.

  • Bumgarner
  • Samardzija
  • Moore
  • Stratton
  • Blach

The Giants could still use some dollars to get a cheap veteran, but again the theme here is youth.

This may not be super inspiring, but part of the reason for the approach is (a) turn the roster over and let some young guys play to see what you have, (b) clear some money so that the Giants could go big game hunting in 2018 when Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, and, most importantly, Bryce Harper will be free agents.


Option 3 (Cueto Opts In)

  • CF Span
  • 2B Panik
  • C Posey
  • 1B Belt
  • RF Pence
  • SS Crawford
  • LF Slater/Parker/Cheap Free Agent/JD Martinez
  • 3B Arroyo/Sandoval

It seems to me that if Cueto opts in the Giants are stuck with internal options, cheap veteran flyers, or making a significant trade. Perhaps Panik to Pittsburg for Andrew McCutchen. Perhaps they go crazy and indulge the Giancarlo Stanton rumors. Maybe there is something else up their sleeve that none of us are expecting.

  • Bumgarner
  • Cueto
  • Samardzija
  • Moore
  • Blach/Stratton/Veteran

This is, undoubtedly, the best option for the Giants 2018 rotation. However, there are a lot of question marks here and the roster gets incredibly inflexible for a couple of YEARS.


Final Thoughts:

  • This post is intended to paint in broad strokes, none of these options should be construed as a deep dive into the various moves the Giants can make.
  • I like Brandon Belt and have been a proponent of his for a long time, but his contract is really looking like an albatross. For all the contracts handed out, it is hard to argue with many of them. Posey, Crawford, and certainly Bumgarner, all look like steals. Matt Cain backfired but never in a way that hampered roster building. Cueto’s deal is weird and hence this post, but if he is even 80% of what he was last year the rest of the way that ends up being a deal. All that to say, the one that really hurts is Brandon Belt. He is going to have to be very healthy and perform well above career averages for the Giants to not deeply regret that deal moving forward.
  • The reality is the Giants are going to do everything they can to compete in 2018, which means option 2 is the least likely outcome here, and I get it, to a certain extent. No matter what direction they take, I just hope they take it with conviction. The Giants went all in on a pitching and defense approach in the wake of the Bonds-era and they did it with conviction. I don’t know that they have the same level of conviction now (it seems to be more driven by general competitiveness and keeping people buying tickets). Hopefully they can get that back soon!
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Signs of Blah #sfgiants

We’ve officially hit the doldrums. Maybe they hit you on opening day, maybe you are still, pathetically, excited about the 2017 SF Giants (I don’t know, there might be one of you). Chances are you are not even reading this because you moved on long ago.

One of the questions driving the season, since at least mid-May, has been: “who are you excited to get to see play?”

Many were excited about Christian Arroyo.
Austin Slater was a nice story.
Mac Williamson made an appearance for a minute.
A few of us got excited about Pablo Sandoval’s return.
I was looking forward to a couple of Tyler Beede starts.

But here we are, with 36 games yet to play, and what is there to look forward to?

Anyone remotely interesting is already here or not coming up (I would have loved to see Andrew Suarez, but it seems like the Giants don’t want to expose him at this point and I get that). Ryder Jones is here. Jarrett Parker is getting his shot (again). Kyle Crick is trying to make a case for future bullpener. Chris Stratton is in the conversation for future rotations.

But, there will be no Christian Arroyo show, part II.
No Tyler Beede debut.
No Austin Slater return.

What is there to look forward to?


This is not to say there is nothing worth watching or paying attention to. Madison Bumgarner is worth watching, period, but even more so because his ability to be great still is so important to the future of the franchise. So far so good.

Matt Moore has had two quality starts in a row and if he can keep it up it we will have the whole offseason to debate what it means. In the meantime, keep rooting for a Matt Moore resurgence. It’s only thing that makes sense.

Ty Blach and Matt Moore may have switched bodies, which would explain their last two starts, but what if Blach has turned into a pumpkin. He’s been one of the best stories of the season (the best?!), and a strong finish would secure him a spot in the 2018 rotation and make all of us feel just a little bit better about how this year has gone. A Ty Blach debacle to end the year would be a poetic ending to a terrible, terrible season.

We’re very likely to see a couple of Johnny Cueto starts before the end of the season and there might not be anything more important to the future of the Giants. At this point, I think we have to root for him to be really good when he comes back, good enough to tempt him to opt out. If he doesn’t I know I can make the case for why that is not the end of the world, but the fastest way to the Giants remaking their roster is through a Cueto opt out.

Beyond that I’d like to see Joe Panik and Brandon Belt come back clear of concussions and be good for a couple weeks before shutting it down. I’d like to see Brandon Crawford have one hot streak before this miserable campaign ends. I’d like to see Buster end the year with a .900 OPS.

There’s also Mark Melancon proving he’s healthy, a couple of guys in the bullpen making a case to be important to the 2018 team, and fringe players like Kelby Tomlinson establishing themselves as good role players.


We have a long dark winter to stare down, but may as well get started. I’m rooting for Cueto to go, and Justin Upton to arrive.

Signs of Life #sfgiants

The Giants went 3-3 against two 2016 and 2017 playoff teams (although writing this just might jinx the Cubs…haha). That 3-3 is pretty good, especially considering the odd nature of this weekend’s series in Washington DC. The team didn’t play for 2 straight days, then experienced another rain delay, and then played 3 baseball games and extra innings in just over 24 hours.

If you back the clock up to August 1, when the Giants hit an unofficial reset button, they are 7-5, and 5-4 against playoff teams (I’m including the Diamondbacks).

They are not setting the world on fire, and they are not going to dig themselves out of any holes (think: get back to .500), but this is encouraging nonetheless. If nothing else, they are playing baseball more typical of the good Giants teams we’ve seen in the past: better starting pitching, better defense, just enough offense.

Some thoughts:

  • Last week Jarrett Parker looked like the greatest Giants outfielder of all time not named Bonds or Mays. This week, he looked a lot more like Jarret Parker. This is who he is: he’ll bunch together some good at bats, and he’ll bunch together the strikeouts. I’m still interested in him as a power bat off the bench, but this week helps bring balance to the force and remind everyone that Jarret Parker is not the answer to the Giants OF problem.
  • Chris Stratton had a great start on Sunday. He’s sort of the Jarrett Parker of the Giants system when it comes to pitching. He’s a little too old to be super intriguing (Madison Bumgarner is almost exactly one year older). But late bloomers are a thing. And he could contribute if he can find consistency. More likely than not, he will have some good starts like yesterday that involve a lot of strikeouts, and he’ll have some rockier starts that involve a lot of walks. But this is where my pro-Righetti bias shows in full force: I have way more faith in the Giants developing Stratton into something useful than I with Parker.
  • Joe Panik having the best day/series of his season (6 for 12 with 2 walks, 3 RBIs, and a home run), and then getting thrown out/doinked on the head at home plate is very emblematic of the season. The Giants don’t get to enjoy much of anything for long in 2017.
  • The Giants have two key guys now, Panik and Brandon Belt, who have struggled with concussion issues. This is not something baseball teams normally have to worry about with non-catchers, which means this is not a good sign for the Giants already fragile core.
  • We need to talk about Pablo Sandoval. He has not taken the world by storm, but he doesn’t look bad either. And then, that home run he hit yesterday, off of a top Cy Young candidate, was something else. If I were good enough of a scout to know if he was still useful I wouldn’t be writing this blog, but it does look to me like there is something left in the tank. Now, there are limitations with Pablo (his inability to switch hit anymore), but I’m intrigued to see how this year plays out and if there might be a spot for him in 2018.
  • Finally, we need to talk about Matt Moore. I have always been high on Matt Moore, and he was a large part of my fantasy baseball strategy and when some doofus drafted him right before I was going to draft him I was upset. I was so confident he was going to have a great year. I’ve felt a lot better about that doofus stealing Moore from me as the year has gone on, but THE mystery of 2017 to me has been Matt Moore. I don’t know what to make of his start last night. Maybe it’s nothing, but those are the kinds of results I expected to see all year-long. Did you see how everything was down and sharp and nasty. Where has that been?! For now, it’s going to be start to start until he regains consistency, but yesterday was a positive step for sure.

Enjoy watching Giancarlo Stanton for the next couple days!

Second Half Predictions

The Giants picked up the second half right where they left off: Johnny Cueto underwhelmed, they still can’t win a MadBum start, Samardzija is ever the enigma, and the offense kept sputtering right along.

There’s not much to review here, but it was great to see Madison Bumgarner back! That start was the best case scenario for all involved: several innings, quality performance, no high stress pitch counts…quite frankly it was a game a good team would have won.

Rather than dig any deeper into that, or into fantastical scenarios that will never happen, let’s make a few predictions about the second half:

  • Giants predictions: the only bold prediction that is mildly interesting to make here is that Brandon Belt will hit 30 home runs, the first to do it since some guy named Barry. Other than that: the Giants will make some trades and hope to get some bounce backs from the Crawford’s and Moore’s of the roster. On to the rest of baseball.
  • The Cubs will be fine. My big second half baseball prognostication is that the Cubs will win the Central. Then they went out and won 3 straight games by the combined score of 27-11. They’ll be fine. The NL postseason is going to be a blood bath.
  • The AL pennant race is going to be interesting with so many teams in play still, but it’s all a prelude to the Astros steamrolling their way to the World Series.
  • Aaron Judge is awesome, but he won’t hit 50 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s rookie HR record.
  • I should be picking the Dodgers to win it all, but I can’t do that and so I’m going to get all sentimental and pick the Dusty Baker National’s to win the whole thing.

A couple more thoughts on the World Series. MLB seems to obsess far too much over who gets into the WS and it’s impact on ratings. It’s stupid, but to close out this week’s post, here is what Rob’s crew has to be rooting for:

  1. Dodgers and Yankees (two iconic franchises and some serious star power).
  2. Cubs and Red Sox (the Epstein series)
  3. Dodgers and Red Sox (similar to 1)
  4. Dodgers and Astros (especially if they hold up their best records in each league)
  5. Cubs and Yankees
  6. Nationals and Yankees (especially as a potential preview to Bryce Harper’s future team)

What they are probably NOT rooting for:

  1. Milwaukee and Minnesota
  2. Colorado and Kansas City
  3. Arizona and Houston

Or some combination of those teams.

Baseball monk prediction: Nationals over Astros in 6

Under Performing/Over Performing #sfgiants

As the Giants continue to perform the inverse of the path back to competition I described a few weeks ago, the search for answers continues. The Giants suckiness is starting to catch the attention of the larger baseball world and Ken Rosenthal weighs in today (arguing that the Giants are boring and lack chemistry).

While I admit to being a sucker for the chemistry argument, winning is always the best chemical ingredient in any team sport. The 2010 Giants were a long losing streak from becoming a dumpster fire. Can you imagine Brian Wilson’s schtick on a 95 loss team?

No, the problem here is not that the Giants are boring or that they don’t stretch together and make corny jokes or have a team catch phrase. The problem is that, nearly across the board, the team has underperformed. Let’s take a look:

Opening Day Lineup:

  • Denard Span: Span started the season with a minor injury, missing 3 of the team’s first 4 games, and then spent April 23 to May 10 on the DL. Not that anyone expected Denard to be a dominant presence, but his absence and suckiness has led to far more at bats for Gorkys Hernandez than anyone would have liked. There’s also the fact that Hernandez made the club essentially as a Span caddy (a damning reality all by itself). Overall: -0.6 WAR (remember that a 0 score is essentially an average player).
  • Brandon Belt: why was Brandon Belt ever hitting second???? This continues to drive me crazy, but at least Bruce Bochy gets credit here for creativity. Anyway, the #BeltWars continue (this is the raging difference of opinion about Belt that takes place on-line on a nightly basis). The haters look at the average and the strikeouts and the gumby shoulders and lose their minds. The lovers look at the giraffe pics and the 1.7 WAR for 2017 and say “see, he’s actually good.” And the numbers don’t lie, Belt’s been a productive player all year. I lean towards the Belt love, but because of his streaky nature, Belt is never a guy you want to build an offense around. Also, he should be HITTING CLEANUP. I will not stop staying this.
  • Hunter Pence: Pence continues to get hurt. He hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2014 (also the last time the Giants won the World Series). Weird to think that at that time he had played every day for over two full seasons and had developed an iron man reputation. But the injuries have made it hard for him to produce consistently, and this year it really looks like he can’t handle right field anymore. The other day I told my wife I thought he was done and then he hit a game tying home run off Jim Johnson. Baseball. Still, he’s at -0.5 WAR for the season.
  • Buster Posey: Buster is great. The end. 2.7 WAR. Also, HE SHOULD HIT THIRD. (Before we move on, though, Buster’s WAR ranks him 34th in MLB…that means there is essentially at least one player on every other team with a higher WAR than Posey. Another way of saying it: the Giants never face a team in which they have the unquestioned best player on the field).
  • Brandon Crawford: The fact that Crawford opened the season as the 5th hitter, and Buster Posey’s main protection, is (a) a testament to how much Brandon has grown as a hitter, and (b) a sign that we should have seen more clearly the reality that this team might struggle to score runs. Despite missing time on the DL, he’s still a positive 0.2 WAR, although that’s mostly due to his defense.
  • Eduardo Nunez: Eddy’s another somewhat divisive internet figure. He’s at 0.1 WAR, a figure depressed by his bad LF defense. But he also started this season off in a terrible slump, and while the 17 steals are nice, his “power” has diminished compared to his career high totals from last year. This is a major problem for the Giants, and a reason Ryder Jones is a getting look right now. The Giants have too many lineup spots where a home run is a lucky bonus, not an expected result. Outside of Belt and Posey, there’s almost no one else hitting for regular power.
  • Jarrett Parker: 0 WAR. This score is obviously due to the small sample size (21 ABs) and a long DL stint, but again, here we have foreshadowing. At his best, Parker was a so-so defender, who would hopefully hit around .250 and blast a few home runs. Good for a slightly positive WAR if everything fell right. It did not fall right, and the Giants have had a vortex of negative WAR all season in left field.
  • Joe Panik: Another curiosity…why was Joe hitting 8th? Why is he not hitting second every day? Panik is at 1.1 WAR for the season, a number that is depressed by his depressing month of May. Panik hit .301 in April, and is hitting .361 in June, but struggled to a .192 average in May. I can’t wait to see where he is at by the end of the year. My sense is that WAR should increase significantly.
  • Assessment: Underperforming. Some of this is injury related. Some of this is bench related (more in a moment). But a good portion of this is due to some redundancies and bad roster construction. No team should employ both Denard Span and Joe Panik as their regular 1-2 punch. This has more to do with Span than with Panik (who I love). The Giants need a far more athletic, powerful option in CF to get this lineup back to contention. Speaking of athletic, the other glaring issue is the corner outfield spots. That’s where the upgrade needs to happen.

The Bench: the Giants bench has been a mess of injury and under performance, just like the lineup, but worse in many ways. Nick Hundly who was supposed to be a nice source of veteran power at the back up catcher spot: -0.3 WAR and only 2 home runs. Gorkys Hernandez is at -1.2 WAR which seems high. Aaron Hill was at -0.9 WAR before getting cut. It goes on and on. The Giants, for so long, have been so good at creating a bench out of nothing, but this year the thing has failed miserably. Part of this is due to the strain that injuries have put on the roster, but the other problem is just gross underperformance.

We’ll tackle the pitching next week.

Consistently Inconsistent #sfgiants #week2

There are a variety of oddities making the evaluation of the Giants start to the season difficult.

For one, while they’ve played 14 games, they’ve only seen 3 different teams. This week, they only play 5 games and they only add one new team to that list. And it’s a team from the American League Central. That’s odd.

Opening day saw the continuation of 2016’s bullpen woes, but the bullpen hasn’t really been the issue. The Giants are one of the top teams in terms of runs scored in the NL, but they’ve had some BAD games with the bats.

They’ve had some encouraging starts from all five guys in the rotation, and yet are only consistent winners when Johnny Cueto takes the hill.

They are 0-3 when Madison Bumgarner starts, and he’s off to one of his better starts. That’s really odd.

The school of cold hard facts would say: 5-9 and last place is a bad start. No bones about it, this is not how anyone would have wanted to come out of the gate.

However, they’ve already weathered a week without Buster Posey, are not going to go winless in Bumgarner starts, and the big problem with this team (the bullpen) seems to have found a sense of stability.

Back to the dark side: the Giants are on a weird road trip, which includes Colorado, and 6-13 would really be a bad start to the season.

Where do we go from here?

The big issue has been consistency. Certainly, a parade of quality starts from the rotation would go a long way to righting the ship.

But, the lack of quality from the lineup is the most troubling development so far. Consider this weekend: Saturday, the Giants were nearly no-hit, then followed that up with a 3 run out burst to start the game Sunday, and then proceeded to mail it in for the remainder of the game.

That’s 17 innings of nothing, and one 3-run outburst.

I know Posey’s been out and that changes things, but he seems set to come back this week, and so here’s the suggestion for the lineup:

  • Nunez 3B
  • Panik 2B
  • Posey C
  • Belt 1B
  • Pence RF
  • Crawford SS
  • Marrero/Whoever LF
  • Span CF

This is the way forward for a variety of reasons. First, this brings balance to the L/R issues the Giants face at times. This lineup goes R/L/R/L/R/L/R/L/Pitcher.

Second, as much as I like the Belt at the 2-hole experiment, the Giants desperately need him in the middle of the lineup, there’s no getting around it. He’s paid to be a run producing first basemen, let him do it.

Third, Panik is the platonic ideal of a 2-hole hitter, and he seems to have put his post-concussion issues way behind him: release the Panik!

Fourth, Posey should hit third. I know Bochy likes him as the anchor and run producer/clean up hitter, but he’s a 3 hitter, and let’s all get on with it.

Fifth, Nunez is not the greatest leadoff hitter from an on-base standpoint, but he is the most athletic/dangerous guy they can put in this spot and when he does get on base it changes the game. Span get’s dropped.

Finally, not only does this balance left/right, I think this arrangement also gives the lineup more depth, especially 1-6.

Also, it would be awesome if we could get 4-5 quality starts in a row.

Go Giants.

So Far, So Meh #sfgiants #2017

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and I expect to be blogging less this year, so our weekly recaps will probably look a bit different. But here we are, and away we go!

The Giants are, as of today, 3-5, and they have given us glimpses of hope and more than a few things to worry about.

Let’s start with the worry:

  • The bullpen. Hmmm, I seem to remember there was some sort of issue with the bullpen last year, let me check, um…OH SWEET JESUS…yeah, it was pretty bad. So far, it hasn’t been horrible, but it also hasn’t been great. The good news is that Mark Melancon is settling down into his new digs here and, my expert opinion is that with the 9th inning locked down, the other pieces should fall into place and this will prove to be a servicable ‘pen.
  • That being said, it was an odd thing to go with one lefty, and that lefty being Ty Blach. Why isn’t Ty Blach in AAA, starting every day, keeping himself sharp to take over for Matt Cain? Why no Josh Osich, no Stephen Okert? These are two guys who need to pitch in the big leagues and get the experience and build trust with Bochy. I know the Will Smith injury is all part of this, but still. This is odd!
  • Sometimes Matt Moore/Jeff Samardzija can suck and sometimes they can be great. Sometimes in the same game (looking at you Jeff). I’m still very bullish on both of them (more in a few)
  • Matt Cain sucks. I need to go vomit. I actually typed that. But it’s true. I’ve been as hyped about a Matt Cain resurgence as anyone in Giantsland, but I’m over it now. I just don’t see it happening. I would love to be wrong, but 2012 is now 5 years ago, and that was the last time we really saw good Matt Cain.
  • LF. Left field has produced 2 hits in the last 2 games, which is 2 more than the first 6. I still have to believe that Mac Williamson is the every day left fielder before this over, but what do I know. The Giants are taking a “throw the pasta against the wall and see what sticks” with Parker and Marrero, and now signing Melvin Upton and Drew Stubbs. LF will be weird for a while.
  • The lineup, overall, is nice, but there are not a lot of dingers. This worries me. Also, Posey took one in the head today.

Reasons to not worry/Reasons for Hope:

  • The bullpen (see the good news I shared above).
  • The starting pitching. Bumgarner and Cueto look as good as ever, and I am convinced Matt Moore is going to have a huge year. Samardzija is still a bit of a wild card in my mind, but I tend to be mostly positive that year 2 could be even better than year 1.
  • Brandon Belt is off to a great start.
  • Brandon Crawford is a stud.
  • Joe Panik is back.
  • Eduardo Nunez is off to a great start.
  • Seems like Posey should be fine.

Overall, a 3-5 is not how anyone wanted the year to start. I’m convinced, though, that this is a good team that will ride 4 above average starting pitchers to the postseason.

Let’s enjoy the ride together. See you next week!