3 Thoughts on Last Night’s Game #SFGiants #2014playoffs

Well, that was awesome! I love being wrong. Three thoughts coming your way:

  1. I will take Madison Bumgarner against anyone. Clayton Kershaw is awesome. The Tigers have the last three guys to win the AL CY Young in their rotation. The Nationals have several great pitchers. Adam Wainwright is really good. But, I will take Madison Bumgarner in a big game over any of them. It’s important to note that through the first three innings this was a close game and it looked like the Giants might struggle to find runs. The crowd was loud, and they famously spooked the Red’s Johnny Cueto last year in the same situation. Bumgarner, totally unaffected,  just kept mowing them down. Then, in the fourth inning, after the slam, in the classic “don’t-let-them-get-back-in-this-game” moment, he did exactly that, which is actually really hard to do. And there was no looking back from there. Sub-though: Bochy didn’t need to do a lot of magical maneuvering, but he once again proved his worth by out managing Clint Hurdle before the game even started. It is easy to second guess now, but why did the Pirates start Gerrit Cole on Sunday? (BTW: Gerrit Cole is married to Brandon Crawford’s sister).
  2. Brandon Crawford is the hero, but Brandon Belt looked so good in this game. And that is GREAT news moving forward. Belt went 2 for 3, walked twice (including a big walk right before the grand slam), and drove in 3 runs. Beautiful. The Nationals have some great pitchers, but they are right-handed heavy, which means the lineup you saw tonight is going to be vital to the Giants’ success in the next series. Belt’s presence as a dynamic left-handed threat will make the lineup so much more dangerous. Stay hot Brandon Belt.
  3. I love Joe Panik. It’s easy to overlook his contributions in this game, but another thing that bodes well for the Giants is this kid continuing to look like he belongs here. He was not overwhelmed by the moment at the plate (3 hits!), and he handled himself well on the play where Pence nearly took him out as they chased a pop-up that Panik was able to hold on to. The Giants, who supposedly have one the worst farm systems in baseball, started homegrown players in all of the infield spots and left field, plus the pitcher, of course. Blanco and Pence were the only guys to appear in this game for the Giants who started outside the organization. I know I’m cheating by including Ishikawa in this, but still, Joe Panik is the next in line of a series of homegrown players developed by the terrible system helping the Giants get closer to a third World Series in five years. I never thought I would write that!

Thoughts on the Nationals series forthcoming!

-SB

#SFGiants Week In Review (4/15-4/21)

What a weird week. Absolutely horrible in Milwaukee (a place the Giants seem to do well, and against a bad team), and then awesome at home against the Padres. The Giants are now 8-1 in the division…since losing to LA on opening day they have not lost a division game. That’s a fantastic start…let’s hope they keep it up against the Diamondbacks and the Padres again this week.

Results:

3-3 (12-7); 2nd place, 1.5 games back in NL West

10-8 L @ MIL; 4-3 L @ MIL; 7-2 L @ MIL; 3-2 W vs SD; 2-0 W vs. SD; 5-0 W vs. SD

Hitter of the Week:

Brandon Crawford is the hitter of the week and possibly even the year, given the expectations for him heading into the season. I think we all hoped for improvement, but .250 with 10+ home runs was a goal we would have all paid top dollar for. It’s early and there will be slumps and streaks but he sure passes the eye test right now. Power to the opposite field, not trying to do too much…he just looks dangerous at the plate. And that might be the best sign of all.

Pitcher of the Week:

Tim Lincecum was the enigma of the week last week and he pitched beautifully on Saturday night. Yes, he was at home (but we all know he’s been good and bad everywhere, park doesn’t really seem to matter to Timmy), and yes it was the Padres, but he looked like vintage Lincecum. Guys swung at nasty pitches out of the zone, and most importantly, he pitched with purpose and it sure seemed like he knew what he wanted to do and put the ball where he wanted it to go. The great question of Lincecum is not “will he get his velocity back” (probably not), but rather “will his crazy mechanics allow him to become a control pitcher” (a difficult task). The jury is still out, but saturday night was a huge step forward.

Enigma of the Week:

This is the enigma of the year: the Giants’ starters have all shown flashes of brilliance. I was floored by this article. But each of them seems to be too susceptible to (a) the Long Ball, and (b) the Big Inning. Cain and Zito got it big time in Milwaukee this week. Could be flukey early season stuff, but certainly it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Looking Ahead:

6 more division games: 3 against Arizona in SF, and then 3 in San Diego. Let’s hope the team keeps rolling against the NL West!

(-SB)

Oh Glory! (or the Immortality of Buster Posey)

I’ll be honest: after the Giants were bamboozled by Bronson Arroyo in Game 2 I figured it was over. Nice season Giants, thanks for the ride, loved it, but not every year is like 2010.

Not that many would have predicted the Giants could come back on the Reds, BUT this team has been overcoming adversity all year:

  • Their best player was coming off a career threatening injury. No one knew what exactly to expect from Buster this season.
  • They get swept in the first series of the season by the team everyone picked to win the division.
  • They lose their closer two weeks into the season, leaving huge bullpen questions to be answered.
  • Their ace has an awful first half and the worst season of his career.
  • They lose their All-Star left fielder (and first half MVP) to a season ending drug suspension.
  • They had offensive black holes at second base, shortstop, and first base for most of the season.
  • There were questions about Bumgarner and Vogelsong and the closer-by-committee approach and shouldn’t Hunter Pence be better and can they really win with a Blanco/Nady platoon in left field and on and on I could go.
  • The were the Dodgers making huge moves that were supposed to bury the Giants.
  • And then those first two games of this series…

Of course, they come back and win this thing. I agree with Joe Lemire…through it all Posey and Bochy stood tall and calmly led this team. I know the Hunter Pence pre-game speeches are getting a lot of press, but it is the calm hand of those two dudes that define the character of this team.

So, we move on…and they move on with confidence.

Some other thoughts:

  • It isn’t often that a player of Posey’s caliber gets a moment to do the kind of damage he did in game five. There are too many ways to mitigate a stars influence in baseball (see Bonds, Barry) and even if the moment presents itself this is still a game where a 30% success rate is awesome. But Buster came through. Someone, a while back, said the guy Buster is most like is Joe Montana. I only believe that more.
  • Remember when I wrote that the demise of this team would be the shortstop position. Well, Arias and Crawford are huge reasons the Giants live on. Crawford’s game 5 was particularly impressive given the pressure on Bochy to play Arias. Huge defensive plays, an RBI triple, and that at-bat against Chapman. That’s big-boy stuff.
  • Angel Pagan, I’m a believer.
  • Who would have thought the Giants could win a five game series in which Lincecum made no starts and no starter last through six innings. Both of those things need to change in the next round.
  • The key to the NLCS, in my opinion, is Madison Bumgarner. He needs to step up and dominate.

(-SB)

Week In Review (8/6-8/13)

Results:

4-4 (63-53, tied for First in NL West)

We’re just going to pretend that last night never happened and instead bask in the glory that was Sunday afternoon…the come-from-behind victory…the amazing Buster Posey at bat…the long-awaited ‘moment” delivered by Hunter Pence. That was a good day. Yesterday not so much. The Nationals are good. This is a tough series. Don’t forget Sunday!

Hitter of the Week:

Buster Posey is amazing. He continues to rake…home runs, walks, great at-bats. But an interesting thing has happened this last week. The Brandon’s live! Belt is hitting .435 with four walks and only 1 strikeout. Huge. Crawford is 9 for his last 19 (.474). Both are encouraging, especially Belt. A strong finish from him, coupled with Panda’s return, will mean a very respectable lineup 1 through 7. And that might make all the difference.

Pitcher of the Week:

It was a good, not great, week for Giants starting pitching. Lincecum was good, not great. Zito got bailed out by some strong defense. Bumgarner was solid, but got stung by the longball again. Vogelsong had a great start against the Cardinals and his worst in the last 2 seasons last night. Matt Cain gets the nod for looking like a man ready for a strong end of season run. There were some rumbles and worries about Cain, but those seem to be receding given his last outing.

Looking Ahead:

Two more with the Nationals, who the Giants have not beat this year. Then back on the road for division games: 3 with San Diego (who is playing well right now) and 3 with the Dodgers.

Giants need some strong starts and consistent at-bats to begin building distance in the division.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/7-5/13)

Results:

9-1 L @ LAD; 2-1 W @ LAD; 6-2 L @ LAD; 5-1 L @ Ari; 5-2 W @ Ari; 7-3 W @ Ari

3-3 (17-17, 6.0 GB in NL West)

Kind of roller coaster week. After game one against the Dodgers it looked like the Giants might done for 2012…then a great recovery in game two…then collapse again, the defense and offense in shambles. Then Matt Cain restores order. Finally, the bats break out and, in the end, the Giants come home for seven games, fresh off a .500 road trip.

A couple of thoughts on the Brandon Crawford situation. The kid’s taken a lot of heat this week, and rightfully so. He is supposed to be amazing with the glove, and we’ll take what we can get with the bat. But when the defense is really bad, and he looks lost at the plate, it is impossible to watch.

Here’s the reality though. Yes, the defensive lapses have to stop, but everyone knew what we were signing up for having him play everyday. In essence, the Giants punted the shortstop/8th hitter spot in the lineup. We all knew this. What is completely unacceptable is to then also have a position, in this case second base, that is actually worse! Through 34 games the second base position has produced exactly one extra base hit. That is beyond awful. It’s almost impossible to do.

I think it is an inspired move to bring up Charlie Culberson. Is he the answer? Probably not. But there is no way the Giants can continue to roll out Crawford AND Emmanuel Burris. These guys should NOT be in the same major league lineup. With Culberson and Crawford you are a long way from Kent and Aurillia, but at least they can run into one every now and then (see Crawford’s double today). Who knows if, or when, Freddy Sanchez can play again. Until then I’m all for CC getting plenty of looks.

Hitter of the Week:

Melky Cabrera went 13 for 26 this week. That’s .500. 9 hits in the Arizona series. He now has 17 multi hit game this season. That’s half the Giants’ games. Jonathan Sanchez is on the DL where he continues to walk hitters. Melky is earning himself some money right now. Stay hot.

Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Vogelsong didn’t have a pretty start against the Dodgers, but he gutted it out and helped the Giants salvage a game in LA. I have seen enough to be hopeful that he will be able to approximate what he did last year, and that is really good news. Once Timmy gets it all back together I can see this rotation putting together a nice streak (like an 8-2 or 9-1 run).

Looking Ahead:

7 home games this week: 2 vs. Colorado, 2 vs. St. Louis, and 3 with  Oakland. Take advantage Giants!

(-SB)

Pros and Cons (From the First Week of Baseball)

I know it’s early and all lot of this is small sample size, but let’s take a look at the early happy things and early sad face things about the Giants this young baseball season.

PROS

Melkey Cabrera: I admit, I hated the trade when it happened, not because of trading Jonathan Sanchez, but because I thought the Giants could have gotten a lot more for him than a guy who I saw in Atlanta as mediocre at best, however I like what I see so far this season. He could easily slide back into mediocrity, but for now he’s one of the Giants most consistent hitters, and I approve of that.

Brandon Crawford: Huh? I know he’s not exactly setting the world on fire with his bat, but I’m really enjoying watching him play. He looks more relaxed than last season, I love his glove and I like what I see with him at the plate. Won’t be a great hitter, but I look forward to seeing his development more this year.

Homegrown talent: For too long the Giants homegrown talent has been all pitching, but a few times this year we’ve seen an infield of Pablo Sandoval, Manny Burris, Crawford and Brandon Belt, with Hector Sanchez in the game as well, all Giant draft picks. They all aren’t the hitting equivalent of Lincecum or Cain, but it’s nice to see that between these guys, and players like Gary Brown and Joe Panik in the minors, the hitting part of the Giants future is looking nice.

Pablo! Yes, he put on a little more weight, but he’s still hitting well and fielding well and is there a more fun Giant to watch? I don’t think so, and in addition to all of that, he’s our most consistent hitter! Yay!

Starting Pitching: Bad first starts, amazing second starts from Cain and Bumgarner, good two starts for Zito and a good start from Vogelsong. Now get your head in the game Timmy!

CONS

Angel Pagan: At least he’s healthy while Torres is on the DL, but the guy looks lost at the plate. Sure he’s fast and can play CF, but so can Gregor Blanco and that guy had an amazing spring.

Second Base: Freddy Sanchez on the DL, and is probably on his last legs, Manny Burris and Ryan Theriot are the other options and both don’t provide much to this club. Thankfully Joe Panik looks like our future second baseman, but he’s probably 2, more likely 3 years away, what do you do in the meantime?

Brian Wilson: Out for the season it looks like, and who knows if he’ll ever pitch for the Giants again. I love, LOVE Wilson, but his velocity is down, his strikeouts are down, he looks like he’s really struggling out there and now another arm injury. I hate to say it but his time might be coming to an end in the Black and Orange.

Tim Lincecum: I don’t think anything is wrong with him and I’m confident he’ll put it together, but he’s getting lots of money and is due for lots more in a few years. I really, REALLY hope this isn’t the beginning of a downward spiral into middle rotation status, but he needs to start showing some more velocity and control out there.

(-NW)

What the Burriss!

I might be in the minority, but I actually don’t mind the moves the Giants have made this offseason. Especially if they lock up Timmy and Matty then they accomplished some key things:

  1. Locked up their best players for the next x-years.
  2. Improved the offense without breaking the bank/trading away their best players/taking on another stupid contract.
  3. Left themselves with some flexibility to make in-season moves (a strategy that has actually helped the team the last three years: see Penny, Sanchez, Burrell, Ross, Lopez, Beltran).

That said, I do have a bone to pick and it looks like this:

which is as good as Manny Burriss has ever looked with the bat. I wrote last week that the thing the Giants needed to do was fortify themselves at shortstop. I love Brandon Crawford and I want him to do well so badly, but that desire does not erase the fact that he’s not ready to be an everyday major league shortstop. I’m going to root for me to be so wrong, but I also would love to see some help at this position.

The Giants seem to think Burriss is this help. Which is like the Patriots thinking they’ll be fine with Jed Hoyer if Tom Brady goes down. Nope. That’s foolish.

It’s foolish to think Manny Burriss is going to be helpful to the Giants.

This is a disaster waiting to happen and it is going to lead to a bad trade for Edgar Renteria or someone like him come July.

Maybe the Giants are lying. They are one of the stealthier teams in MLB. Maybe all this “we’re done/we don’t have any money” talk is a front and we’ll have a real option come March.

But it sure doesn’t look that way. God help us.

(-SB)

Bon Iver

So, the Grammy nominations came out last night and it was hilarious to drive around this morning and listen to the top 40 station DJ’s here in Boston trying to figure out Bon Iver. Is that like Bon Jovi. How do you pronounce it? Good stuff.

Bon Iver is a band and the name of the band is play on the French for Good Winter. Which leads us to the question: what will it look like for the Giants to have a good winter?

I keep waffling between two extremes:

Extreme 1

Go all in and sign Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Beltran. Sure there are some risks involved…both guys are older and on the down side of their careers. The Giants will probably have to overpay in some way (dollars or years) to get them to come here. They have injury baggage. We will probably hate their contracts during the last year or two.

But, here’s the deal: The Giants have Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and the pumpkin carriage Ryan Vogelson rode in on, for one more year. Now, they may have those guys for several more years if they do indeed get their contracts extended. But they might not. Cain could be pitching for the Red Sox in 2013. But for 2012 at least, spend the money to put a top-notch lineup out there. Rollins and Beltran will be good (enough) next year. Any maybe even a year or two after that. But all you know is 2012 if you are living on this extreme. So go for it.

Extreme 2

DO NOTHING. By as early as 2013 the Giants could have a completely home-grown, cost controlled everyday starting lineup with the “gold standard” pitching staff locked up for several years. Do not block or impede this vision with foolish contracts. By the end of 2012 all the veteran/bad contracts are gone (save Zito), so don’t mess this up.

What Giants-phile doesn’t want to see what could happen with a lineup like this:

  • Gary Brown CF
  • Joe Panick 2B (or Charlie Culberson)
  • Brandon Belt 1B/LF
  • Buster Posey C/1B
  • Pablo Sandoval 3B
  • Francisco Peguero RF (or Melky Cabrera if he sticks)
  • Tommy Joseph C/1B
  • Brandon Crawford SS (or Ehire Adrianza)
  • Don’t forget about the great mystery that is Angel Villalona

It could work/happen and the Giants could always supplement this with a shrewd FA signing next offseason. But don’t jack with this now by committing to some old guys for too long and for too much money.

What Should/Will Happen

What I think will probably happen (and, for that matter what should happen) is that the Giants will extend Cain, come to some short-term agreement with Lincecum (and we’ll have to do this all over again next year), and fortify themselves at shortstop (which is the ONE must, in my opinion, for the rest of the off-season). No idea who the SS stop-gap will be, but I am pretty sure whoever it is will have some warts (age, injuries, decline, etc). Can’t be as bad as last year, though.

I just don’t think the Giants can go in to 2012 with Brandon Crawford (as much as I love the kid) as the everyday shortstop.

So, what you think: what does a good winter look like for the Giants?

(-SB)

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.
(-SB)

Ramblings…

Some random baseball thoughts before this monk heads out on vacation (which will involve seeing a live Giants game at AT&T…yes!)

– Still super impressed with Brandon Crawford. The rumor mill is churning and it looks like Tejada is out when Pablo comes back. Good riddance.

– Fantasy tidbits: my boy Yovani Gallardo pitches tonight and I hope the turn around continues. My other favorite draft day gold mind right now is David Ortiz: AMAZING production for an 11th round pick!

– I think I may have to give up on my A’s prediction. They’ve gone in the tank and lost 9 in a row and might be losing their best pitcher for the rest of the season.

– The Red Sox have passed the Yankees now for first place in the East. I am still amazed at how “good” the Yanks pitching has been so far this season. Statistically they are among the top 3 in the AL. Sorry, but no way that continues.

– What about Jake Fox as a catching option? He had a ridiculous spring training (which doesn’t mean much) and was released by the Orioles yesterday (probably because of some guy named Matt Weiters). Anyway, he has some pop, but I have no idea what kind of catching skills he has (it appears not much). Could be a cheap way to upgrade the offensive production from that position.

– Still think it’s going to be the Rockies and Giants for the West. Colorado’s pitching has been well above league average (which surprised me) while their offense is as bad as the Giants (also surprising). You know they will score runs at some point, and I just can’t see Arizona hanging in there all season.

That’s all. Hope to keep the weekly rundowns coming even while I am away.

(-SB)