Swoon #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well, not much to update from my last, midweek, post. Suffice to say, June is not off to a great start.

It seemed like it might be, though. Ty Blach was outstanding in Philly on Friday night, and the offense, somehow, scored 10 runs. But, then it was right back in the tank with a poor offensive showing on Saturday, followed by all kinds of ugly Sunday.

We said the Giants needed a 5-2 start to the month on the quest for .500. That would mean a sweep in Milwaukee. At this point, splitting the series and getting back home would seem to be a big huge step in the right direction.

I am going to continue focusing on how the Giants can get themselves back in position (i.e. .500) for a stretch run, and try as much as possible to avoid thinking about the future, but if things continue to go south there are some other subplots to root for. I won’t get into all of those, but a couple should be highlighted now because of their win-win nature.

  • The resurgence of Denard Span: root for this because (a) a good Denard Span helps the Giants win, and (b) he might become a trade piece if he keeps this up and stays healthy.
  • The Ty Blach story: he’s not getting traded anywhere, and it’s been a while since the Giants have produced a home-grown starting pitcher. The Giants could/should have some holes in the rotation to fill this offseason and Blach could make the future a bit more palatable.
  • Left Field: at this point I almost don’t care who it is, but Austin Slater seems like a nice guy, so root for him, really anyone, to take ownership of this position.

That’s about it for now.

Giants have 4 against the Brewers and then 3 at home against the Twins. We said they needed to go 3-1 in Mil and 2-1 against Min, so we’ll keep hope alive for the first series, and up it to a sweep against the Twins.

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Quick Thoughts About Trades #SFGiants

It’s way to early to get into trade talks, but it seems many Giants’ fans want to go there already. Which is understandable. Eight game losing streaks will cause fans to go seeking for hope in any corner of any room, no matter how dusty and dim.

A quick look around major league baseball reveals that two teams have been bigger disappointments thus far than the Giants: come on down Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. Plus, there’s another team we all anticipated being bad that is keeping up its end of the bargain: hello Minnesota Twins.

Even thought it is early it does seem likely these teams will be selling sooner than later. The Giants biggest need as of right now is probably at third base, so let’s see what these teams have to offer (for the record BaseballMonk remains firmly in the Pro Matt Duffy camp):

  1. The top 3B any of these teams has to offer is Aramis Ramirez. He’s been rumored to the Giants at least a dozen times since he’s been in the league. No doubt we will continue to hear rumblings as the summer unfolds. Ramirez is off to bad start, but tends to start cold. He’s a free agent at the end of the year so if he wants to play beyond 2015 he should be motivated to get it going. He would offer some power, a little glove, a lot of RBI gamer-toughness that Sabean loves, and he should come fairly cheap.
  2. The Miami Marlins are 3-11 and had hoped to be in some kind of contention this year. However, their best pitcher isn’t back until June and that’s the best case scenario. If things continue to go this way they will sell what they have and reload for 2016. Martin Prado is another guy who fits the Sabean profile to a T. High contact, line drive hitter, who can play multiple positions. He’s also past his prime. He has one more year on his contract, which could drive his price down if the Giants offer salary relief. Nothing would surprise me about his presence on the Giants.
  3. The Minnesota Twins have a fairly bright future with some of the game’s best prospects waiting in the wings. However, their lack of ability to develop anything remotely resembling an above average major league pitcher is alarming. They might be more than willing to take a middling Giants arm for Trevor Plouffe, a guy who has aged out of prospect status and is now a fringe every day player with some pop, who probably shouldn’t be anyone’s everyday third basemen. While he would bring the most home run potential and be the youngest and cheapest of these three gentlemen, he leaves a lot to be desired.

I hope to do this same exercise with pitchers soon. Meanwhile: BEAT LA!

-SB

A Couple of Classics

Friday night brought the drama, and it also brought the pitching. I complained yesterday about the lack of dominance by pitchers in the post-season in what was supposed to have been the year of the pitcher. (Side note: someone is probably going to write an idiotic article about how Roy Halladay is great, but not super great, because he can’t win in the post-season…it will be ludicrous but it’s going to happen). Last night however provided everything we love about baseball: suspense, great pitching, unlikely heroes, and surprising results.

Saturday Morning Thoughts:

  • Great job Cardinals. You continue to mess with my pitching model of success (although they really turned it on in the 2nd half…their season stats are not super impressive, but their second half stats are Giant-esque: 7.8 k/9, sub 3.30 ERA. Should have paid more attention to that), and you constantly annoy me with the terrible way you build your team, and yet you just keep on winning. I don’t get it and it frustrates me, but credit where credit is due. You just pulled off one of the greatest upsets in MLB history. Well done!
  • I’m all in with the Brewers now. Might even go buy a hat. Probably not, but if 2011 turns out to be a repeat of 2006, I’ll be upset. Just saying.
  • Sticking with the Rangers in the AL and I’m going to say Brewers in 7 in the NLCS.
(-SB)

 

Playoff Thoughts…

So, that squirrel thing was kind of funny. Other than that, despite the three game 5’s, I am not finding these playoffs to be super enjoyable thus far. Last October was so awesome, such an experience, and this year just can’t match that.

Some thoughts:

  • While there is a lot of evidence that pitching was better overall in 2011 than 2010 the post-season is not supporting that. Verducci writes about it here, but that would have been my top observation anyway. Again, it highlights the tragedy of Posey: I really think the Giants could have run this table if they had made it back.
  • Not surprised to see the Yankees go down to Detroit in a short series. I don’t think Detroit has enough to get past the Rangers, but in 5 games with Verlander and Cabrera and company, Detroit had plenty of weapons to deal with a Yankees team that had a nice regular season, but was always way too thin to inspire tons of confidence.
  • For a second there I believed that Tampa might be on the verge of something magical, but that was quickly erased by three nice, efficient games from the Rangers. There’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind seeing them win it all. Feels vindicating in some way for Giants’ fans. My ALCS prediction: Rangers over the Tigers in 6.
  • Tonight’s games: Still think the Phillies pull this out. They’ve been exposed by the Cardinals a lot more than I expected, but they should get out of this and on to the next round (and the World Series for that matter). Phillies over Cards 4-2. The other series continues to be a total coin flip in my opinion. I guess I’ll go with the Brewers since they are at home and that seems to really matter in this matchup. Brewers over D-Backs 5-4.
(-SB)

Playoffs and Pitching

We’ve established the importance of pitching to winning championships on this site this year. So, with that in mind let’s look at the pitching performances of the 8 playoff teams and see if that lends any insight into what might happen in October.

American League:

1) New York Yankees: 2010 7.2, 4.06, 1.31, 106 2011: 7.5, 3.71, 1.32, 120 Somehow the Yankees have the best pitching staff in the AL (based on ERA+). I still don’t really buy it. I do not think they have the depth of starting pitching to make it all the way through (which may just mean they lose to the Phillies in the World Series), but the numbers wouldn’t make it a surprise. Sorry Detroit, the Yankees make it out of round 1.

2) Texas Rangers: 2010 7.3, 3.93, 1.31, 114 2011: 7.4, 3.81, 1.24, 118 The Rangers improved nicely this year even without Cliff Lee and I had them going head to head with the Yankees in an all out 7 game brawl in the ALCS until the Rays pulled off their miracle last night. Now, I’m not so sure.

3) Detroit Tigers: 2010 6.6, 4.30, 1.37, 97 2011: 7.0, 4.04, 1.32, 102 Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now (my apologies to my boy Timmy). But, in this day and age a team needs more than one stud to make it through the three rounds of the playoffs. I think they could pull off an upset in the short first round, but I still think the Yankees prevail.

4) Tampa Bay Rays: 2010 7.4, 3.78, 1.26, 103 2011: 7.1, 3.58, 1.22, 105 The Rays have created a love/hate situation for me. Love that they proved me right in making the playoffs, hate that they knocked the Sox out and that they have now really messed up the playoff picture. They have the kind of staff that can make a deep playoff run. My main argument against them though is that they have not had the ability to line up their rotation for the short opening series. I’m going to reluctantly pick the Rangers, but I’m rooting for the Rays and will not be surprised at all if they move on.

National League

1) Philadelphia Phillies: 2010 7.3, 3.67, 1.25, 111 2011 7.9, 3.03, 1.17, 128 No team in recent memory has so perfectly followed the model I’ve been touting this year as the 2011 Phillies. The addition (Lee) and emergence (Worley and Madson) of excellent arms has the Phillies poised for a deep run. As long as Halladay doesn’t pull a groin throwing a first round no-hitter this team is going to the World Series and anything less would be one of the great baseball upsets of all time.

2) Milwaukee Brewers: 2010 7.9, 4.58, 1.44, 88 2011 7.9, 3.65, 1.24, 107 The Brewers also masterfully followed the pattern by adding pitching and have seized the moment presented to them this year (likely the last with Prince Fielder). Timing, however, is everything and I am not sure they will even make it out of the first round, let alone take down the mighty Phillies. Before St. Louis overtook the collapsing Braves, it was a no brainer the Brewers would take out Atlanta. Now, they are in the most intriguing first round match up with…

3) Arizona Diamondbacks: 2010 6.7, 4.81, 1.43, 89 2011 6.6, 3.78, 1.29, 105 Arizona’s improved bullpen has gotten a lot of press, but the emergence of Ian Kennedy and Josh Collmenter, and a full season of Daniel Hudson have been just as, if not more, important. In fact, they are so improved I can actually see them beating Milwaukee and giving Philadelphia a huge test. So, for now I am saying D-Backs in 5.

4) St. Louis Cardinals: 2010 6.8, 3.57, 1.30, 109 2011 6.7, 3.81, 1.31, 96 So, the Cardinals have defied the pattern before (see 2006), but that team didn’t have to face the 2011 Phillies in the first round. Sorry, Cards, fun story, but time to get on with re-signing Pujols.

By the numbers I see the Phillies taking the title by beating the Yankees in 6. However, the romantic side of me will say this: don’t be shocked if the Rays and Phils meet in a replay of 2008, only this time the little team from Tampa takes it all.

(-SB)

Guide to Post-season Cheering: NL Edition

So the Giants are on the doorstep of shattering all of our hopes and dreams for a repeat. Die hard baseball fans will still watch baseball, but it’s always better when you have a team or a couple of teams to root for. There are some important protocols and criteria for choosing your “adopted” baseball squad.  Choose carefully.  If you pull for a wrong team, you could be guilty of baseball blasphemy.

First lets discuss the rules.  They are very simple rules.

  1. They can’t be the Dodgers.  (That is easy.  LA sucks and won’t make the playoffs ever again).
  2. They can’t be the Braves.  I’ll explain a little more later, but seriously, does anyone question this rule?
  3. The team must possess minimal former Dodgers. (Former Giants are a bonus but not essential).
  4. The team must not have beat us (Giants) in any critical postseason events.

Arizona:

We will start here because this one is easy. On the surface, the novice fan may want to root for the D-backs because if they win it all, we automatically get second. That is a faulty amateur theory. Let’s dive in. Look at the manager of the team. Kirk Gibson is the skipper and that immediately eliminates the team from our rooting choices. Nobody wants a postseason filled with highlights of a gimpy, former Dodger Kirk rounding the bases, rockin’ a pathetic mustache and Jack Buck complaining how he can’t believe what he just saw. Get some glasses Jack. It’s a home run. I believed it, I just hated it granted I was 8). Rule 4 is safe and in addition, Arizona isn’t a great rival of ours even though if they play in our division. They only have 2 former Dodgers, but they are eliminated by their manager. They could be in the running if they would fire Gibby and hire third base coach Matt Williams. Oh yes, I said Matt Williams. Breathe in the nostalgia.

Arizona Out!!!

Atlanta Braves:

Another easy decision. Ok seriously, in the National League, the Braves fall a very close second to the Dodgers in the hate category. Do you really want to watch a postseason with that stupid tomahawk chant? Nope. But let’s talk about the rules.Obviously, they violate rule 2. Amazingly enough, the Braves have never knocked the Giants out of the post-season. That is, in part, because the Giants didn’t make the postseason a whole lot in the 90’s. In addition, in 2002 and 2010, the Giants had to go through the Braves to get to the World Series and the Braves rolled over like well-trained poodles (and we are grateful). So why the hate? Did I mention the chant?  Or the fans. Second worst fans in all of baseball. (Seriously who would willingly DO that chant?) I guess the rest of us got sick of them in the 90’s and the rest is just a bad hangover.  The only thing the Braves have going for them is that they aren’t the Dodgers. The Braves have a decent Dodger ratio with 3 players being former Dodgers. Not bad, but rule 2 is in effect. It’s the rules… it’s science.

Atlanta Out!!!

Milwaukee Brewers:

Ok this is another tricky one. The Brewers are always terrible and who doesn’t love a good underdog story. Next year, they will probably break apart the team so this is pretty much their shot. Let’s break it down by the rules. Rule 1 and 2 are off to a tremendous start. They aren’t the Dodgers and they aren’t the Braves. Fab! They have 3 former Dodgers on the team which isn’t bad. But they have K-Rod. Ok, so this is a tricky part to rule 4. Technically the Brewers never beat the Giants….But K-Rod did….In the freakin World Series. Ask yourself this: if he were to play in a game you were watching, how would you deal with the emotional trauma you are bound to encounter. Are you ready to deal with that? I’m not. Especially with the way this season is ending, I need happy thoughts. K-Rod brings back angry thoughts… sad thoughts.  It wouldn’t be baseball blasphemy to pick the Brewers, but I just can’t do it.

Brewers Out!!!

Philadelphia Phillies:

Philly is my pick for the National League. They satisfy all of the rules. I am not usually a Philly fan. In fact, I have never pulled for them in a post-season. However, they satisfy rule 1 and 2. They have 2 players that are former Dodgers which is better than all the other teams that are in. Yes, Charlie Manuel played for the Dodgers but he wasn’t that great. He definitely never made it to the infamous status of Kirk Gibson. Therefore, they are a much better pick than Arizona when it comes down to rule 3. Rule 4 should be a tie because no team has really kicked us out of too many playoff games. However, I prefer the Phillies for this rule because last year we beat them to win the NL. This year, we will be sitting in our libraries that smell of rich mahogany, drinking our finest scotch, smoking our best pipes, and we can confidently say “They aren’t that good, we owned those guys last year.”

Go Philly!

(-JS)

Evaluations and Ruminations Part I

The July 31st, non-waiver, trade deadline has come and gone. Tons of rumors were milled and many speculations made, and now that the dust has settled what do we have? Most trade winners and losers columns looks like this, but I want to frame this discussion in the pitching model we’ve been working on this year. In that light, let’s start by looking at who added pitching:

  1. The Indians: They obviously nabbed the big fish in this small sea by acquiring Ubaldo Jimenez. In my opinion this is a brilliant move by the Indians and quite possibly the stupidest trade of all time by the Rockies. Maybe Ubaldo has a torn rotator cuff that no one else can see, and maybe he hates Coors (the beer) or did something to offend everyone in Denver. But I have NO IDEA how a franchise that has been desperate for power arms (or any kind of quality pitching) trades Jimenez (a good and sometimes great arm) at all, let alone when they control him cheaply for 3 MORE SEASONS. Good for the Indians. They need more than an ace to really contend in the AL right now, but this is the kind of move that perfectly fits our model. A
  2. The Rangers: While not as flashy as landing an ace, the Rangers nonetheless made two exquisite additions at the deadline adding great arms to their bullpen in Koji Uehara and Mike Adams. This is a team that can now shut a game down after six innings. They reinforced their one glaring area of weakness. They still don’t have a prototypical #1/Ace type pitcher, but they have depth and may only need guys to get through five innings to win games. I’m this close to making them the team to beat in the AL. A-
  3. The Brewers: In my opinion, Bob Melvin has done everything right this year for his team. Given his constraints with money, he has gone all in for a small market team that has a short window. This is how you do it, folks, when you have limited resources. He made two big trades this offseason to get pitching and made another good July move to help the pen (adding K-Rod to lock down the 8th inning). I think they have more than enough to get this done, it’s up to the players now to make it happen. 
  4. The Diamondbacks: Ok, it’s good to add pitching, but Jason Marquis and BradZeigler don’t exactly get the blood moving. As it turns out, though, Marquis is great against the Giants (ugh) and Zeigler is a good arm in any pen. Hard to imagine that these moves put the D-Backs over the top, but they don’t hurt. B-
  5. The Cardinals: Sure they added an arm, but they did it in the weirdest way imaginable. I don’t care what Tony LaRussa says: I don’t know how you give away a young, talented, and contract-controlled player like Colby Rasmus for a free-agent to be like Edwin Jackson. But they did add pitching, and Jackson seems like a guy who will do well in STL with Dave Duncan. C+
  6. The Red Sox: all trades, of course, are much easier to evaluate in hindsight, but the move the Sox made yesterday is really a coin toss. It looks like Clay Bucholz is done for the season and Dice-K has turned in to a ghost, so the team needed pitching. Eric Bedard is really good when he is healthy, but he is rarely healthy. He may be fine and have a dominant two months and magical, ode inspiring run through the playoffs, or he might blow out a knee or an elbow or a shoulder getting out of bed tomorrow and be done for the year. NO ONE, not even the Red Sox, knows which one it’s going to be. Incomplete
We’ll look at the teams that added offense tomorrow. Right now, it is safe to say that the Rangers and Indians did the right thing and they did the right thing well by grabbing some good arms at the deadline.
(-SB)