3 Thoughts on NLDS Game 5

109 wins. 109 wins and a game that came down to the final out, the final at bat, there was no other for this season to go. The ending was certainly unfortunate (more on that in moment), but it doesn’t change the fact that this was a special season and a special team. And this was an all-time great, epic series. We’ll do some bigger picture thoughts later on, but for now, a couple things about game 5.

(1) The Brutal Ending

I do not think the Giants lost because of a bad call by the umpire on that check swing by Wilmer Flores. And yes, it was clearly a check swing. But, Flores was 0-17 against Scherzer in his career. There’s a tiny chance he hits a walk off home run if given another pitch. There a slightly better chance he might prolong the inning. But the Giants were down to their final strike and had a ways to go to even get the game to extra innings, so let’s not go crazy here.

I felt like the game was lost in the first two innings (more on this later). 

That being said, the umpiring was a significant subplot all series. (And the Giants were concerned heading into the series). I think it was bad, but it was bad for both teams. It’s just a huge shame that MLB would assign some of its worst umpires to such a massive series. For the players to so dramatically outshine the umpires was not a good look, and that’s putting it politely.

(2) The Bullpen

The real reason the Giants lost this series is due to the bullpen. I do not necessarily mean this in a critical sense. I don’t think Kapler mismanaged things, I don’t blame any of the players per se, the Dodgers bullpen is just way better than Giants, and a five game series is all about exposing any particular weaknesses a team has.

Turns out the Dodgers lineup is particularly susceptible to being shut down by pitchers who can keep the ball on the ground (Webb, obviously, but Gausman and Wood also threw 10+ quality innings, giving up just 2 runs). 

The Giants simply did not have enough high end talent in the bullpen.

Camillo Doval is a revelation and will be a good player for a while in this league, but for all his nasty stuff, he’s had control issues (this is why he went to and from Sacaramento 4 times over the course of the season). He couldn’t control his fastball last night, hit Justin Turner (a particularly egregious mistake since Turner did nothing with the bat the entire series), which forced him into throwing too many sliders and that approach got exposed.

This is what the Dodgers do to you, which leads to thought #3, but only after one more sub thought. One way to take pressure off the bullpen…score more runs. The Giants scored 4 runs and hit three home runs in game 1. The rest of the series they scored 6 runs and hit two home runs. If they could have broken out in any of these games it could have changed everything. 

Which is why I felt like the Giants really lost this game earlier in the early innings. Darin Ruf nearly homered in the first. Posey nearly homered in the first as well and settled for a double. But Brandon Crawford could not make the opener Knebel pay, and stranded Posey at second. That was a big moment. 

Right away in the second inning Bryant got a hit. Flores followed with another single soon after and Evan Longoria had a chance to be a hero with one out. He could not take advantage. That was a big moment.

In the fourth inning, Crawford led off with a hit. Kris Bryant was then thrown 5 balls, but two of them were called strikes. If there is an umpiring moment to be bitter about it’s probably this one. A walk there would put the Giants in a 1st and 2nd situation with NO outs, a situation I don’t know that they ever had, once, in the entire series! 

1st and 2nd, no out, situations produce 1-1.4 runs per inning (depending on which modeling system you use). In other words, those bad strike zone calls probably cost the Giants a run, if not more. (2 outs with 1 runner on only produced 0.19 runs, so you can see why this is more costly than the check swing call).

Umpiring aside, the Giants lack of runs was a huge bummer and put way too much pressure on an already outmatched bullpen.

(3) Mookie Betts is Great

This final thought is really an opportunity to complain about how lame the Red Sox and Nations are. Yes, the Dodgers are supremely talented. Yes, they draft and develop and scout talent as well as anyone. They also acquired Betts, Scherzer, and Trea Turner in trades that DID NOT HAVE TO HAPPEN. 

Now, the Red Sox are still alive and might play the Dodgers in the World Series. Some of the pieces they got in the trade have helped them, and the financial flexibility has helped too, but how do you trade Mookie Betts (Imagine the Giants trading Buster Posey after the 2012 MVP/Championship season). It is incredibly annoying that three guys that would go in the first round of most Fantasy Baseball drafts ended up on the 2021 Dodgers.

If I’m bitter about anything, it’s that haha! Partially because I love Mookie Betts and I hate that I can never root for him again because he’s on the dang Dodgers!

That’s it for now. My general perspective is that this was an amazing series and will go down as an all time great. We should have seen these teams in the NLCS not DS, but baseball has weird rules, so instead enjoy the 88 win Atlanta Braves America!

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on the season as a whole, and the offseason that lies ahead, which is infinitely interesting! 

3 Thoughts on NLDS Game 4

We all knew this is how it was going to go down: Game 5, winner take all. Was there any other way? Yes, actually, the Giants could have won Game 4 and got on with it, but, again, it probably had to be this way.

What I can’t get over is 109 vs. 109. Both teams have now won 109 games. But the 110th is the biggest one. It’s nuts. On to my 3 thoughts from last night’s debacle in LA.

(1) There Is a Talent Gap Between the Giants and the Dodgers

Giants’ fans have been notoriously sensitive about this all year. But, the fact remains that the Dodgers are the more talented team than the Giants. This doesn’t mean LA is destined to win the series. Many times the ”less” talented team has gone on to win a series. Talent isn’t everything, especially at this level of the game where all these teams are very good, especially these two particular teams.

One way of measuring the gap (and credit to the TBS team for hinting at this the other night) is in hall of fame candidates. The Dodgers have two no-doubt, first ballot, hall of famers in Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw (granted, Kershaw is hurt and not performing in this series). The Dodgers have another player who will assuredly get in unless he gets catastrophically hurt or retires in Mookie Betts. They have a few other guys who could be on their way as well: Trea Turner, Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, Cory Seager. There is a lot of story to be written for those players, but that’s seven potential HOF candidates. This doesn’t even account for Kenley Jansen/Justin Turner/etc.

The Giants have one HOF candidate in Buster Posey (I think he’s a lock), and a fringy candidate (Brandon Crawford). But there is a very good chance that my grandkids are scanning wikipedia, or whatever this sort of thing will look like in 40 years, and going ”Good Lord, there were a lot of REALLY good players on that 2021 Dodgers team.”

Having said all of that, the big gap in talent is in the pitching, and in particular in the bullpen. The Giants pitching has been a great story all year, and the organization has done some incredible work to transform the bullpen into something that is more of an asset than a liability, but it does not come close to what the Dodgers can roll out of their pen. This is probably how, say, Trailblazer fans felt about playing the Durant/Curry Warriors. “We’re good, but come on man, there’s no way we match up!”

It was a minor miracle that the Giants didn’t lose last night 15-2, and I can’t remember a team feeling so overmatched the way the Giants bullpen is currently overmatched by the Dodgers lineup. And then, to make matter worse, the Dodgers counter with 4 guys who could easily be closers on 25 other teams. The gap is real, friends.

(2) The Circle of Trust

Having said all of that, all hope is not lost. Not at all. One bit of silver lining, before we talk about game 5, was Zack Littell who may have pitched his way back into the circle of trust. He was throwing 96 mph and his slider looked nasty (4 strikeouts in 2 innings. He did give up two hits, but both were kind of fluky). He was much more in command than he was in game 2 and you could see the Dodgers hitters finally put back on their heels for the first time all night.

That was a revelation, and much needed because the list of unusable pitchers only grew longer last night.

(3) How to Win Game 5

Just don’t let the Dodgers score…hahahaha! This is a joke, but then again, the two wins in this series have both been shutouts.

First, let me give the bad news. (A) Logan Webb has been a godsend and so good all year, especially in the second half. But, the Dodgers are relentless and masters of exploiting any weakness, and I fear just a bit of Webb overexposure. He and Posey will need to make adjustments to the adjustments, that might be the whole series right there. (B) The starting pitcher I feared the most coming into this series was/is Julio Urias. I know Scherzer is an all-time great. I know Walker Buehler might win the CY Young award this year. The guy I don’t want to see Urias. And that’s who we get to see. So, there’s that.

Now, the good news. Logan Webb is good! The Giants are good (hello 109 wins), and they are back in San Francisco and Oracle will be loud.

It goes without saying, but for the Giants to win, Webb needs to be great again. He cannot get knocked out this game early. He DOESN’T, though, need to be as good as was last time! If he can even give the Giants 15 outs (five innings) that could be enough (although more is better). Kapler has Doval, Rogers, McGee, and also, now, Littell, Alex Wood, and Kevin Gausman to cover the rest.

The bigger deal, in my opinion, will be getting to Urias early, getting a lead, and not having to play behind against the Dodgers bullpen. The best way to neutralize that massive talent gap is to make it not matter. When the Giants have shut out the Dodgers, they’ve won. But also, when the Giants scored first (and hit a home run) they won. A minor story line is that the Giants have scored: 4, 2, 1, and 2 runs in the four games. The bats need to show up too!

My proposed line up to get to Urias early (and ideally, often):

  • Austin Slater RF
  • Buster Posey C
  • Kris Bryant CF
  • Darin Ruf LF
  • Brandon Crawford SS
  • Evan Longoria 3B
  • Wilmer Flores 1B
  • Donovan Solano 2B
  • Webb P

Then Kapler can go to Wade Jr, Yaz, etc for defense or lineup balance later in the game. No matter what, they can’t play this one from behind. Can’t wait to see what happens! GO GIANTS…

3 Thoughts on NLDS Game 1

Last night’s 4-0 domination of the Dodgers was a great start! Here are three thoughts from the game…

(1) The moment was not too big for Logan Webb and Camilo Doval

When I saw that Webb was the game 1 starter and Kevin Gausman would get game 2, it made total sense from a performance stand point. Gausman was outstanding in the first half of the season, Webb dominated the second (while Gausman faded a bit). But, I was mildly concerned about how Webb would respond to the spotlight and pressure of the NLDS. Yes, the Giants had to hold off the Dodgers until the very last day, but it never felt like a pressure cooker of a pennant race. That all changed last night.

Webb, though, pitched brilliantly, his stuff was nasty, but even more than that he acted as if he’d been there before. Many times. Completely undaunted and unfazed.

In a similar vein while many Giants fans were pushing for Camilo Doval to be the closer (his 101 mph fastballs are something to behold) over the Jake McGee experience, McGee is a veteran who has been here before (namely last year with these very Dodgers). It makes all the sense in the world to go with the old hand, but Kapler went straight to Doval for the 9th inning. Granted it was not a “save” opportunity, but 4 runs is striking distance for these Dodgers and if this got messy, even in a win, it would be a step back for the team. It also seemed like a good low-stakes opportunity to get McGee back into game action.

Dovall was so good, you might have actually missed his appearance. Like many of the Dodger’s at bats, it was over quickly and with low drama.

Both young pitchers were completely up for the challenge of Game 1 and it was beautiful to see.

(2) The Giants defense was outstanding

Another mild concern entering the series was the defense. Overall the Giants had a very good defensive year, but with matchups, injuries (primarily Brandon Belt), and, again, the pressure cooker of the playoffs, I had questions. Will second base be a liability? Will Wilmer Flores, et al, be able to handle fist base? Will Kris Bryant step up after a lackluster 2 months for the Giants? Will Kapler need to sacrifice offense for defense in the outfield (playing Steven Dugger more than, say, LaMonte Wade Jr)?

The Giants did make 2 “errors” both of which involved Logan Webb, and neither of which hurt them at all. Otherwise Flores made a couple nice plays, Bryant was totally fine, and La Stella made one of the plays of the year on an awesome double play. The defense passed the first test.

(3) Buster Posey was the story of the game

Yes, he hit a HUGE home run in the first inning that absolutely helped set the tone for the night (and proved to be the winning run). But I thought the story of the night was the way he handled and controlled the game from behind the plate. It was a master class in catching and calling a game.

This is not to take anything away from Logan Webb. The dude was awesome and he had to execute the game plan. But, Posey immediately noticed the Dodgers were aggressive early in the count, looking for fastballs, and wanting to avoid the slider, so they adjusted and Webb threw 38 change ups, a season high. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

(Extra) Don’t sleep on Kris Bryant going 3-3 with that home run that extended the lead to 3-0. He did all that damage against Walker Buehler and if he gets hot, this lineup gets REALLY dangerous.

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Not Quite Enough

Yesterday afternoon Joey Bart came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with one out. The Giants were down 5-4, desperately needing at least one run to prolong the game, 2 runs to win the game and head off for a postseason series in Los Angeles.

It was a poetic, potentially beautiful moment. After all, Giant‘s Franchise Icon Buster Posey, who plays the same position as Bart, skipped the season. Fans immediately clammored for Bart to take his place. The team was very hesitant but ultimately went for it. And when they went for it, they went all in. Bart was pretty much the main catcher once he arrived.

There were ups and downs. There was tremendous exit velocity, and opposite field power, and plenty of flashes of #2-overall-pick talent.

But there were also rookie mistakes, and the inability to get on the same page with Johnny Cueto, and most of all a general sense of being overmatched by big league pitching.

But all the ups and downs would have been long forgotten if Bart sent a majestic home run into the empty bleachers to tie the biggest game of the year.

But Joey Bart saw just three pitches, missed two of them, and very quickly went back to the dugout, striking out in the most definitive way possible: good morning, good afternoon, good night on three 99 mph fastballs.

In so many ways it was a moment that captured this bizarre little season perfectly. It was fun. There was a lot to be excited about. But this team still has a ways to go to be ready for big time competition and Joey Bart is the embodiment of this truth.

I will spend some time in future posts reviewing the season, the highs and lows, why we should be excited about the future, why we shouldn’t be too bummed at how this season went (preview: we’re in a pandemic, and did you really want to watch this bullpen try to protect a lead against the Dodgers with everything on the line? Ok, I did too, but it probably would have been horrible).

But for now, I leave you with one final thought/question. How would this have been different if Buster Posey was around this year?

Please be clear: in no way am I questioning Posey’s decision. I think he did the right thing, and I think his decision is quite admirable and should be honored.

But from a purely baseball perspective, how many games better would the Giants have been with Posey around? I am convinced that even with this middling pithing staff, Posey gets them to the “magical” 32 win mark.

How might his presence have calmed a chaotic staff? How would his mentorship have shaped Bart’s experience? Would Bart even have been there?

We’ll never know, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

I’m not bummed with how it all went down. In the pantheon of Giants’ disappointment, I don’t think this even makes the top 10.

But the mission is clear: get some pitchers and pray for Buster’s return!

One More Month

On to September! The Giants are more or less out of the Wild Card Race, and this final month will be about evaluating some guys for the future and saying goodbye to some all-time greats (I’m not crying, you’re crying).

Quick interlude: an amazing 3 paragraphs from that Pablo article:

But it might have gone unappreciated just how perfect the Kung Fu Panda was for the Giants in this particular time and, especially, for this particular place. For all the bitching, kvetching, whining and gnashing over the utter unfairness of the hitting dimensions of this 20-year-old ballpark, there are only two hitters who truly have mastered the art of hitting here.

One was Barry Bonds. The other is Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval is a .305/.355/.484 career hitter here at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Those are all far better marks than his .261/.314/.422 career slash line on the road. His batting average here is one point better than Jeff Kent’s. His 582 hits in this ballpark are second only to Buster Posey, with 643.

Now, let’s go back and review the trade deadline for a moment.

For the most part it is hard to argue with the approach. The Giants:

  1. Some how unloaded Mark Melancon’s contract. While they still have a good deal of money tied up in a handful of players, take a look at the Cot’s page and it no longer appears as daunting. It cannot be underestimated how important this move was!
  2. Acquired two players who could be important to future winning teams in Mauricio Dubon (who is with the big-league team now) and Jaylin Davis (who will likely be there soon).
  3. Did not trade Madison Bumgarner which feels really good and definitely keeps open the possibility he is around next year and beyond.
  4. Did part with Joe Panik, a move that has been hotly debated by Giants’ twitter for the past month.
  5. Did not trade Will Smith, arguably their most valuable asset.

What are my thoughts about this? Well, Farhan accomplished what we thought he would try to accomplish: creating more salary flexibility, acquiring players who would help future teams, but not trading everyone thereby throwing in the towel on the 2019 season.

Some fans are mad because the bullpen breakup has weakened the team, but this is a team that has over achieved all year long, they were likely to regress anyway.

If anything, I’m a little disappointed the Giants did not trade Will Smith. For a while the hot rumor was that it was going to take Smith to get Dubon from the Brewers. Instead, Farhan got him for Drew Pomeranz, which is like walking into a Tesla dealership and walking out only 10 grand lighter. Borderline robbery.

I’m not sure what else they could have gotten for Smith, maybe no one was willing to pay the price the Giants were asking, but it feels like a miss to me.

Nonetheless, this has turned out to be a very fun season, even if it is going to end up as a text book mediocre team.

Here are the top three positive developments (followed by a couple of concerns for the future):

  1. The Giants are interesting. They might not be good yet, but I’ll take interesting over the last 2 years any day.
  2. The Giants have promising young players: Logan Webb, Mauricio Dubon, Mike Yastrzemski, and many others are bringing a hope that we haven’t had for a few years.
  3. The Giants have a 20 home run hitter (congrats Kevin Pillar), and could have as many as 4! While that might not seem that impressive, the sign of a good team in 2019-2020 is a team that has several 20 home run players.

Concerns:

  1. The team still has a core of expensive players who have not been very good. In particular Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey, while all useful in their own ways (mainly defense) are no longer worth the money they are being paid. I’m not say these guys are washed up, need to be traded, etc, but it’s an issue. Belt might crack the 20 hr barrier and that’s nice, but he is simply not hitting like a $15 million first basemen. I love Buster Posey with a passion, but he will likely miss double digit home runs for the second straight season, an alarming trend. This is not to mention the money owed to Cueto and Samardzija and Longoria and a possible Bumgarner extension. None of this spells doom, but some of these guys will need to have a career renaissance or be moved on from before things really turn around.
  2. While I appreciate all the moves Farhan has made there is still no Cody Bellinger/Christian Yellich type player in sight. Obviously these guy don’t grow on trees, but for the Giants to truly compete in the present game, they are going to need an impressive middle of the order hitter. Maybe this is Heliot Ramos or Joey Bart, but until the Giants find that guy they are going to be a step behind everyone else.
  3. Which leads us to the final concern. I really hope Logan Webb will be good, but the Giants have yet to find the starting pitchers who will help lead the team into the future. The resurgence of Samardzija is great, the return of Cueto will help, and I’ll be the first in line for a Bumgarner extension. But the team needs to find some cheap, young guys who can help.

Weird

If we are all honest enough to look deep into our souls, we know that the 2019 Giants were never going to be competitive. I know this is rich coming from me, since I’ve written a bit about how the 2019 Giants could be competitive.

But, in many ways, this was always set up to be a year of transition…

  • From the previous regime (Evans/Sabean) to the new (Long live Farhan!)
  • From a hall-of-fame-manager to whoever comes next
  • From the championship core to the next championship core (knock on wood)

Which means that a careful watching of this season is less about wins and losses and how-many-games-back-are-we, and more about evaluating the current state of affairs and figuring out who will get to come along on the next ride.

In particular, there are a handful of assets you know Farhan is hoping to trade as soon as possible. This list includes:

  • Madison Bumgarner (sad face emoji)
  • Brandon Belt
  • Joe Panik
  • Any other pitcher
  • Brandon Crawford
  • Any other hitter not named Posey

[I truly believe the only guy not on the possible trade list is Buster Posey, although if he were come to the team and say: “Trade me to the Braves,” then I’m sure that could happen.]

All of which leads me to the weirdness. If Farhan is sitting up in his booth grinding his teeth into a fine sand, it’s not because the team is 15-20 and seemingly alternates between the inability to pitch and hit at all the wrong times, it’s because of the players mentioned on that list above.

  • Bumgarner: Madison has had a few good starts, and there’s been a lot of hand-wringing over his lowered velocity (not the first time that has happened in his career, btw). But, he’s also been quite good at other times. I don’t have any expectation that he is going to challenge for the NL Cy Young Award, but I do believe we’ll see him come around and his trade value go right back up.
  • Belt: Belt is continually and perpetually weird. This will go down as his defining characteristic as a player. I would love for him to be traded to a Colorado or an Arizona or a Milwaukee or a Philly, or anywhere that is not AT&T/Oracle, just to see what he would do there. If he does end up somewhere like that and he rakes, there are going to be so many pissed-off Giants fans, but I’ll be smiling because he is a good hitter and he deserves better results.
  • Finally, Joe Panik: He’s the greatest enigma on this team to me in many ways. I don’t know if it was the injuries earlier in his career. I don’t know if the analytics have chewed him up and spit him out. Maybe his game just isn’t suited for this era. But how is he hitting .208/.277/.307?? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

This is what makes Farhan Zaidi’s life complicated. When do you trade these guys? How do you get any semblance of value for them? How long do you give them to turn things around before simply cutting bait? It’s a maddening game of trade-value roulette, but it is the one thing that is making this season the least bit interesting.

Here We Go (More of the Same)

So, the Giants are 3-7, have scored a run in the first third of a game exactly one times, and have cracked the old five-run barrier once. They also ditched one of their opening day outfielders less than a week into the season and made a trade for Kevin Pillar (not against the trade, fyi).**

None of that is meant to be panicky or definitive proof that this team is going to suck just as much as the last two years, but all of that is meant to be some kind of proof that this team is going to suck just as much as the last two years.

The Giants are one bullpen meltdown away from being 4-6, and taking a series from the league-pummeling LA Dodgers (how annoyingly good is that team right now). But even, then, 4-6 doesn’t ring with confidence and good vibes.

The offense has been the ultimate perpetrator of the suckiness. A couple of thoughts about that…

  1. On the positive side, Brandon Belt looks great, Steven Duggar has been all we could hope so far, and it’s a miracle that Buster Posey is even playing right now given his offseason surgery. If he finds any kind of groove, that’s 3 pretty good hitters to build around.
  2. One the negative side, the outfield, overall, has been just as bad as everyone feared, Joe Panik looked so good in the spring, but is still struggling to get anything going, and the ultimate issue with this team is that everyone is horribly miscast. Posey is no longer a clean up hitter. Brandon Belt should never be the best hitter in any lineup. Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria can still contribute to winning teams, but as the 7th and 8th best hitters in those lineups.

There’s been a lot of frustration among some fans with Farhan Zaidi. The perception is that he has “done nothing” to make the team better. This is a profound misunderstanding of what he has been doing, which is making this team much deeper and more flexible. That will pay off over the course of the season.

Yes, Michael Reed and Conor Joe are not inspiring acquisitions (especially coming off the Bryce Harper letdown), but they are actually good moves within the larger context of the previous paragraph.

The Giants 40 man roster today is as good as it has been in a while.

The problem is that this team lacks elite talent in the lineup. The problem with the 2019 Giants isn’t Joe Panik, per se, it is Joe Panik in a lineup where the best hitter (by far) is Brandon Belt.


Which leads us to a brief thought exercise involving outfielders from contending teams. The Houston Astros were widely favored to win the World Series coming into the year. Imagine the Giants with George Springer and Michael Brantley in the lineup:

  • Steven Duggar RF
  • George Springer CF
  • Buster Posey C
  • Brandon Belt 1B
  • Michael Brantley LF
  • Brandon Crawford SS
  • Evan Longoria 3B
  • Joe Panik 2B

That lineup is not going to be better than the 2019 Astros lineup, but all of a sudden it gets a lot easier to see a way towards competitive baseball.

The Red Sox are the defending champions, so imagine this:

  • Mookie Betts RF
  • Steven Duggar CF
  • Buster Posey C
  • JD Martinez LF
  • Brandon Belt 1B
  • Evan Longoria 3B
  • Brandon Crawford SS
  • Joe Panik 2B

This lineup is the one that gets me the most excited. That team would score some runs and be a lot of fun to watch.

Finally, I know Giants’ fans are not going to like this, but we have to do it since the Dodgers have been in the World Series the last two years against the other teams we’ve highlighted here:

  • Steve Duggar CF
  • AJ Pollock LF
  • Buster Posey C
  • Cody Bellinger RF
  • Brandon Belt 1B
  • Evan Longoria 3B
  • Brandon Crawford SS
  • Joe Panik 2B

Now, the point of this is not to say the Giants should acquire any of these players. We’re not playing fantasy baseball here. Nor is the point to criticize the Reed/Joe/Pillar acquisitions.

I’m trying to illustrate two things:

  1. The Giants severely lack elite hitting talent, especially in the outfield. (Some of the better hitters on the three teams mentioned above are in the infield!).
  2. If this current squad had two elite talents in the outfield, the infield makes a whole lot more sense.

So what does any of this mean going forward? For one it illustrates just how big of a job Farhan Zaidi has. The Giants may have these kinds of talents coming in Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos, but they are 1-3 years away, and none of these core infield guys will probably be here when they arrive.

Second, it means that if the Giants are going to compete in 2019/2020 they need some miracles, namely Buster Posey’s return to an elite, middle of the order hitter. This would truly be a miracle. I love Buster so, so much, but to expect an over-30 catcher, coming off hip surgery, to turn back into his 2012 MVP self is asking way, way too much.

Third, Brandon Belt must continue to hit and stay healthy. Again, this feels like a pipe dream but it’s our only hope (help us obi wan).

That’s all I got for this week. The tribute to Bruce Bochy on Friday was great and it’s going to be all the feels this year saying goodbye. More on this in a future post!

The Giants are home all week, Bumgarner goes twice, and this is as good a chance as any to assert themselves!


**Right after composing this post the news came out that the Giants have acquired Tyler Austin. Tyler Austin is a very powerful, right handed hitter from the Twins organization who will probably strike out a ton and frustrate many fans, but who will also hit a few tape measure shots towards the Coke bottle. He is not a help to the defense, but this is partly why Duggar/Pillar makes sense. To the point of this article: Austin provides the Giants with some desperately needed power potential, but he is far from “an elite talent.” If you want to get crazy, here’s to hoping that Tyler Austin has a Khris Davis like transformation by switching leagues and playing more consistently.

 

2019, Here We Go!

For the past three months I’ve been waiting to write something about the Giants. But then life would happen, or a flurry of tiny little moves would happen and I’d have to spend several hours doing research just to figure out who was involved, and then there was the Bryce Harper waiting game.

It was a lot and it was nothing all at the same time.

So, let’s go back and look at what I wrote in November. After the hiring of Farhan Zaidi, I said there were three options: Punt, Retool, Rebuild. An interesting debate could be had as to which thing Farhan has actually done as we get ready for the 2019 season to kick off in a few days.

  1. Punt. By almost any definition, Farhan has not punted. He went hard after Bryce Harper. He shopped Madison Bumgarner. He’s made about 10,000,000,000 moves. He probably made another one while I was writing this post. But, from the perspective that Bumgarner, Posey, Belt, Crawford, Longoria, Melancon, and even Panik and Will Smith are still around, one could argue this is a punt. The Giants have too much money tied up into too many guys over the next few years. Farhan’s hands are tied, this year just needs to get over (and really 2020) so we can get on with it.
  2. Retool. This is actually what has happened for the most part. As mentioned above, the core of this team is still around. And as several of the players have noted this Spring, if that core is healthy it’s still not that old/far removed from being good. Yes, they are older, but compared to the early-to-mid 2000s Giants that trotted out many players between the ages of 37 and 45 (we see you Randy Johnson), this is not exactly an over the hill crew. The constant roster church from spots 15-40 has been about creating a depth the Giants have sorely needed.
  3. Rebuild. This is definitely not what happened, and you can’t blame Farhan and all of baseball for not blowing this team up (who, really, is taking Jeff Samardzija at this point), but at the same time, the Giants are being rebuilt in Farhan’s image. Which is to say the Dodgers image, which is to say the Rays image, which is to say the A’s image. That may not sit well with Giants fans, but that is what is happening.

So what? Does this mean anything for 2019? And the real question: can this team be good?

Here’s where I have something controversial to say. In a way, this team feels like 2010. The SIGNIFICANT difference is that this team does not have a young cadre of stud starting pitchers the way that that team did.

But, what made the 2010 Giants good was that they had a distinct competitive advantage in one area of the game (that starting pitching), and they figured out how to make the rest work. How did they do that? With a solid (if torturous) bullpen. A stud in the middle of the batting order. A relatively mistake free defense. And some hits on a bunch of random players.

It’s different this time around in many ways, but I do think the Giants 2019 bullpen gives them a distinct competitive advantage. MLB.com ranks the Giants as 10th, which is one nod of affirmation. I believe they will end up higher once the season shakes out. Bullpens are notoriously volatile and one year’s dominance can change quickly (see the Milwaukee Brewers). I am predicting a top 5 bullpen for the Giants.

Which, along with a starting rotation that now goes 7 or 8 deep, a defense that doesn’t make mistakes, and (this is the KEY) a collection of savvy veterans who STAY HEALTHY, I am predicting a surprise run at the division.

The most likely scenario is that the team competes for a few months, runs out of gas/health, and Farhan starts trading anything of value.

This is the blessing and curse of being a fan this year. The better these players perform the more likely they are to turn into tradable assets. If you really love Madison Bumgarner and want him to be around for a while, you might want him to suck this year. Blessing and curse.

If nothing else, the Giants are interesting again. Learning Farhan’s process is interesting. Seeing if this team can compete is interesting. Seeing what they will do if they can’t compete is interesting.

Oh, and don’t forget, this year is our last go around with Bruce Bochy.

Here we go 2019…Go Giants!

It’s Over…Now What?

It’s over. I’m not just talking about the season, I’m talking about this era of Giants baseball. You’ll need a subscription, but Tim Kawakami says as much in this article.

What do you think? Is there a version of the Posey/Bumgarner/Belt/Crawford Giants that is truly competitive again?

On the one hand the clear answer is: No. In 2016, the Giants reloaded, they brought in Cueto and Samardzija and they made some big moves at the trade deadline, and they did nearly take down the eventual World Champion Cubs. But, the reality is the Giants are 155-194 since the All-Star break in 2016.

On the other hand, the less clear answer is: Perhaps.

Why, perhaps? Well, for one, the Giants have not been able to stay healthy. And that’s not just an aging roster thing. Joe Panik gets hurt, a lot. Brandon Belt get hurt, a lot. Mac Williamson runs into a wall and loses another season. Everyone breaks their pinky. Madison Bumgarner falls off a dirt bike.

That stuff has to drive Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans absolutely nuts. How do you really evaluate this team and this organization. Here are a few conclusions:

  1. The Giants’ front office does not get enough credit for how well it has done developing players. They have not all panned out, but no one has all their guys pan out. That’s baseball. And it does seem like there is hope around the bend: Shuan Anderson, Heliot Ramos, Joey Bart, and several others provide a lot of excitement about the next wave. So, don’t let the failure of Panik/Belt/Williamson sucker you into thinking the Giants can’t develop players.
  2. The Giants have a knack for making great under the radar signings. There are so many to point out, but in just the last year I could point you to everyone from Todd Hundley to Pablo Sandoval to Alen Hanson to Reyes Moronta to Derek Rodriguez to Derek Holland. Expect more of that in the future.
  3. Now to the crux of things: the Giants need to plan for a team that is not built around Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. This is where it gets hard. Do you trade Madison Bumgarner? Do you try to sign him to a team friendly deal, and potentially tick him off? Do you let him go in free agency, pointing out that this is what the team should have done with Matt Cain, et al? Hard questions. And then the Buster Posey conundrum. He’s still a great catcher, but he probably needs to move to first base to preserve his body. So, do you trade Brandon Belt? Probably. And then, will he ever hit with power again? Right now, he’s basically Freddy Sanchez/Marco Scutaro, and while both of those guys are near and dear to our hearts, they are not middle of the order/franchise cornerstones. Is Buster Posey even worth it as a first baseman?
  4. The Giants need to find a cornerstone. Here’s where it gets tricky again. The formula for 2010/2012/2014 was (a) pitching, (b) bullpen, which is to say more pitching, (c) defense, which is to say pitching, and (d) an offense built around an interstellar force of a Catcher. Buster Posey was so valuable to the Giants because he provided first base/left field/middle of the order awesomeness but as a catcher. That meant that the Giants could get away with Aubrey Huff/Pat Burrell/Brandon Belt/Melky Cabrera/Brandon Belt/Travis Ishikawa at 1B and LF. I am extremely tempted by Bryce Harper, because I think the Giants need that kind of presence. But, the Giants themselves just retired Barry Bonds number recently and while that was a nice bit of nostalgia it was also a reminder that they never won a championship with that model of team building. Which leads to the final point…
  5. The real big problem, in my humble opinion, is that the Giants pitching has fallen way, way off from the glory days. I get that trying to recreate the golden has gotten them in trouble, but I continue to believe that pitching wins.

Whatever happens next, let’s not forget how incredible this era has been. What we witnessed from 2009-2016 was amazing and rare, and most of the other fan bases would kill for that era.

But, going back to the well again and again is tired. That well is empty. Time for something fresh. Will the Giants do it?

Dog Days… #sfgiants

I really thought this weekend’s series against the Diamondbacks was make or break for the Giants. They needed to take 3 of 4 at a minimum, gain some ground, or else they were screwed.

Somehow, they went 2-2 and are no worse off. The rest of the NL West was very on brand, no one did much this weekend and so the situation stands at this:

  • Arizona 62-51    —
  • Dodgers 62-51   —
  • Colorado 59-52  2
  • Giants     57-56   5

Don’t get me wrong a sweep would have been awesome. In that scenario, the Giants would be three out of first place and hot on the heels of both Colorado and Arizona. It was a missed opportunity, just not as devastating as it could have been.

My only significant thought of the day is this: if the Giants are going to make any move upwards, it must come on the backs of McCutchen, Posey, and Longoria. Somewhere, somehow, those dudes need to rediscover the glory days of 2012-2013 for just 2 months.

Well, in the last week here’s what those three have been up to:

  • McCutchen .440/.517/.720 (2 home runs)
  • Posey           .467/.529/.533
  • Longoria     .393/.414/.750 (2 home runs)

The only hope they really have left is for the offense to carry them back to a respectable +/- and hope they can get enough from the beleaguered staff to win a bunch of games.

They have a good test this week with two against the juggernaut Astros and then 4 at home with the Pirate who are really trying to win right now. (After that, they go to LA). Huge 9 games ahead!