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)

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Week in Review (4/9-4/15)

Results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitter of the Week:

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

Pitcher of the Week:

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Stay tuned for some thoughts from Nick later today.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/2-5/8)

Results:

5-2 (18-16 overall; 1.o GB)

2-0 L @ Washington; 7-6 W @ NYM; 2-0 W @ NYM; 5-2 L @ NYM; 4-3 W vs. Col; 3-2 W vs. Col; 3-0 W vs. Col

Here’s the thing about the Giants the past two years: the don’t dominate people in the traditional sense. The Yankees won on Sunday 12-5. They hit 5 home runs. They had an inning where they scored 6 runs. It is easy to look at box scores like that and think the Yankees are a dominant team. The Giants walk a thinner line; sometimes there isn’t much difference between a 3-2 victory over Colorado on Saturday and 2-0 loss to Washington on Monday (both games featured horrible situational hitting by the Giants and a major defensive error).

And yet the pitching…the pitching is so good. 19 runs in 7 games. And some of those runs were definitely not earned. The Giants can be (are?) a dominant team. Good week.

(ps. some great insights from Carl Seward here on Baggarly’s blog)

Hitter of the Week:

Great week for Mike Fontenot. One thing that I feel has been lost in the mix so far is the way the Giants continue to thrust unlikely heroes into the spotlight and then see them succeed. I hoped the Giants would trade Aaron Rowand in the offseason. I thought bringing back Guillermo Mota was unnecessary. And I thought, more than anything, that signing Mike Fontenot on the first day of the offseason was jumping the gun in a huge way. But where are the 2011 Giants without those guys? They may not do anything for the rest of the season, but whatever happens this year, they get some huge props for helping the team hang in during the first six weeks.

Also Cody Ross.

Pitcher of the Week:

Madison Bumgarner… 13 IP, 12 K, 0.69 ERA, 0.92 WHIP. 0 Wins. MadBum is back and though his record (0-5) is ugly, it feels really, really good to have confidence in the back-end of the rotation.

Also, Brian Wilson.

I know there has been a lot of downplaying the imbalance in the schedule so far, yet it has to be said: the Giants have three at home against the D-Backs and then go back on the road…again. By this time next week they will have played 15 home games versus 25 on the road. That’s amazing. Hopefully, when the Giants see the Rockies again (May 16th) they will be doing so as division leaders!

(-SB)

The National

Yesterday I had the joy and privilege of watching our fabulous Giants live in DC. This gave me my first opportunity to see this team live since 2008. That is a large drought!

I wanted to point out a couple of things as I watched our team that don’t appear in the normal stat line. The first thing about that game was it was weird. There was 9 walks and 3 HBP allowed by the Giants. That’s 12 free baserunners and they only scored 1 run. Amazing. Apparently that is the first time in the live ball era where a team has been issued 12 free bags and scored less than 2. Odd ball stat, but I like it.

There are a couple of fun quirks that I enjoyed about this team. Watching Tejada play third was interesting. HE MOVES A LOT! He is either stretching, practice swinging, or doing sprints. It was fascinating. Another interesting thing happened on every bunt attempt. He would sprint in to play the ball and when they pulled back or missed (they never actually bunted it to him) he would raise his finger and shake it. It was reminiscent of Mutumbo when he would block someone and shake his finger. It was genius and quite funny. You could tell he still has fun playing the game even if he is at third.

Another interesting thing to see was the fan’s reaction to Brian Wilson. Since he always comes into stadiums during commercial breaks, you never get to see how the crowd reacts.  The biggest reaction the fans had to anything was when he came out of the left field bullpen.  The place went nuts. All the Giants fans went crazy and the boos were ridiculous. I loved it. I guarantee that Wilson loves it too. Fun to watch.

The demographics in the stands were a little surprising to me. There were so many Giants fans. Holy cow! I didn’t feel like a minority at all. I have been to plenty of games in other stadiums and felt like a tool for wearing a Giants hat. Not here. I’d say that 25% of the stands were Giants fans. That isn’t an exact stat, but just try to prove me wrong. It was bizarre. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the number of fans. I’m not sure if they are all band wagon fans that jumped on after the World Series, but I like fans that have been through the hard times. Now, no Giant’s fan is a bad fan, it was just a weird feeling. It’s probably what it feels like being a Yankee or Red Sox fan, but it was a unique experience for me.

If you’re ever in the DC area, you should try to get out to the park. It’s a really fun place to watch a game. The fans are great, the stadium is very nice and the ticket prices are really good. We sat in the club level which may have been a mistake because I think I spoiled my wife. She loved the padded seats, the separate bathrooms and indoor “classy” food court.  Overall, it’s a great experience and I’d highly recommend it.

I also recommend that the Giants win every day.

(-JS)

Winter Inventory

February is upon us and pitchers and catchers are on their way south. Tim Lincecum told me on facebook that he is already en route to Arizona via SF. At this point, it seems fitting to put analysis to the side for a minute and just be fans.

This community post focuses on what we enjoyed last season, our impressions of the off-season, and what we are looking forward to once the 2011 season gets underway. Read it up and feel free to chime in:

Favorite Player of 2010:

  • Josh: Brian Wilson. Now I know that most of you would answer this way and let me be the first to say, you are correct. There is a right and wrong answer to this question and Brian Wilson is the correct response. Reason #1 for his brilliance is his interview skills. Do I need to elaborate? No. But I will. I’ve always wanted a player to interview the way he does. He is in this game for the good times and you can see that in the way he talks and acts. I respect that. I embrace that. I love him. Not in that way. Reason #2 is because he isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong. He is darn good. I hate it when people say “More guts than stuff.” He has stuff, it just isn’t Mo Rivera stuff. I compare him to Maddox stuff. With Maddox, you know he won’t blow you away, he just hits his pitches and somehow got you out. (I still never understood how he was so successful with an 85 MPH fastball). Brian Wilson throws harder, but has the same attitude.  At the end of games, I’d have no idea how we won, but we did. He embodies the Giants season for me.
  • Tim: I know this seems obvious, but I just can’t help giving Gerald Dempsey Posey III this honor. (He’s just Buster to the rest of us). Seeing a 23-year-old kid come in and just take charge of a staff full of huge names was something to behold. He’s got the face of a 12-year-old, and the wisdom of a vet.
  • Jon: Andres Torres. The dude has all the entertaining attributes of a young kid that blew through the minors (speed, glove, leadoff skills, etc)…but he didn’t. Instead, he has an incredible underdog story now culminating in his early 30’s. He was given a chance, he took it, and he was one of the major pieces of the G-men’s World Series puzzle.
  • Steve: So many good choices…love Huff for the value, Posey for the potential, Torres for coming out of nowhere, the pitching staff for doing its thing, Uribe for his jazz hands. I could go on and on. My favorite player of 2010 though was Javier Lopez. Thank you Javier for making me look like a dummy (I hated the trade at the time) and for winning me over with your left-handed awesomeness. I never thought a LOOGY could inspire such confidence! Like Josh, I think Javy’s unexpected greatness represents what kind of year it was for the Giants.

Player You Are Excited for in 2011

  • Josh: Brandon Belt. Oh yes boys and girls, I’m talking minor leagues. I want to see this minx in the majors this year. Are you ready for some sexy numbers? Yes, they are minor league numbers so don’t put him in the Hall yet, but: batting average .352, OPS 1.075 (how the guacamole?), 23 HR and 112 RBI in 136 games last year.  He may need to marinate for one more year in the minors but I’m excited to see what he can do in September…Possibly sooner.
  • Tim: As far as explosive players go, no one beat Cody Ross down the stretch. He was knocking round trippers like his toothy smile depended on it last season, and the team really fed off of his energy. This guy seems to be the real deal, and it makes it even sweeter that no one wanted him, which made him perfect for our squad. I love his attitude, and his knack for clutch hitting, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the batters box and on the field this year.
  • Jon: Pablo Sandoval. To say the least, last year the Panda left his faithful fan base wanting. After an electric rookie campaign (well, not TECHNICALLY his rookie year which is why he didn’t win the ROY) we still have the sweet taste of a Pablo feast on our tongues. We just want a few more courses on the table this year. Let’s just hope the feast Pablo takes part in isn’t literal.
  • Steve: I’m looking forward to watching Matt Cain. The debate about Cain (is he lucky or good) rages on, and I hope Cain keeps sticking it to those who say it’s all luck. I was on the fence until the post-season…He gets people out, who cares how he does it. In a NL stacked with great arms, is this the year Matty moves in to the elite or does it all catch up to him and get a little ugly? I am looking for eliteness: a big 2011 for Matt Cain.

Best Move of the Off-Season

  • Josh: Miguel Tejada. Read my earlier post. The more I think about it, the more excited I get. I’m really looking forward to him at SS. I hope he gels well with the team.
  • Tim: Brian Sabean is doing his best to keep the world champs intact, signing Burrell and Ross to extensions. And yesterday, it was announced that Lou Piniella will be joining the organization. His passion for the game is unparalleled, and I think his fire-spitting personality will be a great addition to the team. I’m excited to see how he settles into whatever role he takes.
  • Steve: Obviously not a ton of moves to choose from, but the thing I liked was settling quickly and painlessly with all the arbitration eligible players. Also, Burrell for a million is a sweet deal.

Best Non-Move of the Offseason

  • Josh: Best off-season non-move was the avoidance of Pedro Feliz. It is well documented that I can’t stand Pedro. He has crushed my heart and soul with so many dang double plays. I saw that he was free, and something told me that Brian was going to pick him up. I would have been devastated. You can have him Royals. Good riddance.
  • Tim: Keeping the front office intact. Alternate Universe: Imagine if Bochy had been in his last year, and we had somehow not been able to re-sign him to be our skip. Who out there would be a capable leader? It would be great to have Dusty back in the dugout, but I’m gonna go with Terry Francona. Talk about an even keel! This guy is Teflon, and that’s what we would need to repeat this year. He’s proven he can win in a big baseball market, and handle the big names in the clubhouse. Lucky for us, we do have Bochy back this year, but if we didn’t, I would hope we could land someone like Francona. Kudos for keeping the leadership together.
  • Jon: I’ll give you a two-for and get myself kicked outta the Bay. Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. Juan was worth some serious cash after his last two years, but the Giants would have been crazy to pay him more than the Dogs are giving him. 3 years @ $21 million, really? Edgar, you are forever at the precipice of Giants lore after your 3 run shot in the WS, but you’re old. Great dude I’m sure, but way too old to demand the kind of cash money you were looking for.
  • Steve: There’s a small part of me that would love to see Carl Crawford in the orange and black. Sometimes I fantasize about Cliff Lee. Also, what if the 49ers had drafted Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith. Anyway, there is a part of me that says, open the wallet and go for it, but the best non-move of the offseason was not going crazy and keeping the band together. The formula over the past two years has been pitching, home-grown talent, and wiser/shorter contracts for useful vets. Keep it going!

Rumors and Thoughts

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

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

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

Definitely some conversation starters out there on the web today!

(-SB)