It’s Not Over…Yet #sfgiants #weekinreview

Of course it’s not over yet, but what an interesting week in Giants-land. There was a little something for everyone: Bumgarner started the healing journey, the triumphant return of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, bad Brandon Belt and very good Brandon Belt, bullpen meltdowns, and some big home runs (and the arrival of Big Mac).

All of which boils back down to the damning-by-faint-praise tagline for the 2018 season: at least it won’t be boring!

In Praise

  • I named Johnny Cueto the most important player to the success of the 2018 Giants, and, so far, minus a short DL stint for a twisted ankle, he has not disappointed. One earned run in 26 innings! 23 strikeouts to four walks! He sure looks like vintage Cueto and that is VERY good news.
  • Jeff Samardzija returned and while he did not set the world on fire, he was good enough for the win, and it was certainly a start to build on. He’s got a tough assignment this week versus the Nationals and Max Scherzer, but it still feels good to have him back.
  • Chris Stratton has been awesome as well. In fact, the entire rotation had a nice showing this week. Stratton is demonstrating that the Giants were not foolish at all to trust his ability to easily replace Matt Moore’s “production” (by the way, it has been an ugly start to 2018 in Texas for poor Matt Moore).
  • Tony Watson continues to be the star of the bullpen, and while he did get touched for his first run this week, is there anyone else you trust as much coming out of the ‘pen right now? And, who was the last guy you trusted this much coming out of the pen? Affeldt in 2014? Romo in 2012? It’s an interesting thought experiment.
  • Evan Longoria is going to be just fine, thank you.
  • Brandon Belt is as streaky as they come, and yet there is something about this current streak that feels a bit more like a “finally” moment. I do believe that if he can stay on the field he will hit 30 home runs this year and put some of his doubters to rest.
  • The Giants won a series! I talked about this last week and I stand by it. This team needs to keep grinding 2 out of 3 and winning more series if they want to compete.
  • Finally, as much as we all love Hunter Pence, it’s going to be hard to deny Mac Williamson. I wrote, a while back, about his natural ascendance as the next system guy to make an impact, but injuries and lack of opportunity held him back. I love this comeback story and I am buying the new approach as being major league worthy.

In Critique

  • Is the Hunter Strickland show over? Folks will be pulling for Watson to take over the closer duties, but I do believe he is better suited coming into big situations like he did yesterday against the Angels. I think the best set up, for now, is to press on as is and hope Hunter can get back to the calmer innings we saw earlier. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be any answer yet to when Mark Melancon may return. This will be an interesting week given Strickland’s history with the Nationals.
  • The offense continues to be sporadic and inconsistent. The positive signs are certainly the increased power, and they do continue to face some outstanding pitching. It would be great, though, to see more consistent 4-5 run games.
  • In particular, the Giants inability to get hits with runners in scoring position is very weird. They have the lowest production in the majors in that stat category, and I have to believe it will normalize. It may simply be a function of facing some of the top pitching staffs in the game, again that’s a task that doesn’t get easier this week, but one trend that has to level off at some point.

Looking Ahead

  • The Giants have another tough week, although all at home! They start off with 3 against the Nationals who are off to a similarly up and down start. The Giants will have to face Scherzer on Wednesday, but get to avoid Stephen Strasburg in this series. Again, it will be interesting to see what happens should there be a show down between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. My prediction: Giants take 2 of 3, but lose the game in which Harper takes Strickland deep.
  • There’s a day off on Thursday, and then 4 games in 3 days against….wait for it…the Dodgers. It seems like that’s who the Giants play every other series this season. Here is a tremendous opportunity to do some damage in the division. The Dodgers have not been playing well, but have turned a bit of a corner recently, and are actually back to .500. This is a big week for them as they could build some serious momentum or continue to tread water. If the Giants can sweep or take 3 of 4 it could slow that train down significantly. My prediction: they split the series, which is a let down, but a 4-3 week would actually be quite welcome as the Giants wrap up a tough first month.
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Signs of Blah #sfgiants

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is there to look forward to?


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

A Winning Week! #sfgiants #weekinreview

So, the Giants are good now, right?!
Hahahahahaha…

Jokes aside it was a good week: 4-3, and they finally won a division series over a team not named the Dodgers.

This week does raise a couple of tensions for Giants fans as we close out the final third of the season.

No one wants to watch loss after loss, and ending the season on a high note is a good thing, but the better this team plays, the higher their draft spot becomes. In baseball this is not such a huge deal, but still a mild concern.

More to the point (at least in my view), the better certain guys play, the more likely the front office is to fall in love them.

For example: Jarrett Parker just had a great return to the lineup. A friend and I joked that the answer to the riddle of 2017 must have always been Parker.

I like the guy. I call him Captain Jack for his resemblance to Johnny Depp’s Pirate’s character. He’s played the last 4 games with more panache, energy, and effectiveness than just about anyone not named Buster this season.

But that said, he’s 28 and he strikes me as the classic AAAA player. Too good for the minors, not good enough for the Majors. Perhaps he can settle into a nice 4th or 5th outfielder role, but my fear is that he has a great two months, and the Giants become convinced he’s the guy, and here’s our new starting OF.

While I would love to regret writing that last paragraph, there are a few of these kinds of guys who concern me because their success in August and September could undercut shrewder moves.

I would include Pablo Sandoval in this list.

Giants fans should root hard for Samardzija and Moore and Bumgarner and Crawford and Melancon, and probably for Pence and Cueto to finish strong. Root for Ryder Jones to establish himself. For Ty Blach to keep the good times coming and for Kelby Tomlinson to prove he belongs.

I’m not so sure with Parker.


Another interesting case is Chris Stratton. Stratton took Matt Cain’s place in the rotation (although I expect Cain to get a final, highly publicized start, to end the season. Probably in the closing series against the Padres).

This means Stratton essentially has a 2 month tryout.

Here’s where my lack of confidence in the Giants front office is betrayed: I kind of like Stratton, and certainly enjoy watching him pitch more than Matt Cain (sorry Matty). But he’s about to turn 27 and still hasn’t figured it out yet.

I like his stuff. I like the idea of more options and greater depth (the Giants desperately need this, especially if Cueto opts out). But I get concerned that two good months might allow the team to make a lazy decision.

And that’s basically my issue with this front office. There’s a tendency to take the easy way out.


Contrast this with the Dodgers. Granted, any comparison of the Giants and Dodgers right now is tough. I do not think these teams are as far apart as the standings show. But, one team is having maybe the greatest regular season in the last 100 years, and the other is having one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Less than a year ago, both teams battled the eventual Champion Cubs (and lost, but it was a battle).

The biggest difference between the teams is youth and depth, with the Dodgers coming out ahead on both counts.

I would add to that ruthlessness with which the Dodgers have been making decisions. Andrew Friedman is finally showing us what a “moneyball” guy would do with a big budget and it’s more than a bit awe-inspiring.

That being said, the Dodgers, to this point, have been able to operate the last couple years with essentially zero sentimentality.

Even the extension offered to Clayton Kershaw was more a baseball decision than a fan base decision (although it was certainly both).

If the Dodgers win it all this year (and until proven otherwise, I’m sticking with my Nationals prediction), they will finally be faced with some sentimental decisions. Do they, for example, give a big contract to Yu Darvish just because he helped them finally win?

The Giants have erred to the side of keeping their own guys and sentimental favorites around, even if longer than needed, as a reward for winning, as a way to protect the culture, and as a way to keep the fans engaged. It’s not necessarily a bad idea.

But the Giants have rarely been ruthless. They tend to go just a bit too far with their guys. Aubrey Huff, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, for example (though it’s actually a long list).

I’m interested to see how the Dodgers handle this going forward, and I’m even more interested to see if the Giants can get a bit more ruthless, because I think they need it.