Week in Review (5/21-5/27)

Results:

4-3 (25-23, 7.5 GB in NL West)

4-3 W @ MIL; 6-4 W @ MIL; 8-5 L @ MIL; 14-7 W @ MIA; 7-6 L @ MIA; 5-3 L @ MIA; 3-2 W @ MIA

Giants go on a seven game road trip, and a weird one at that (Milwaukee to Miami), right at the end of playing 20 games in 20 days and win a three game series and split a four gamer. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? And yet, there is something unsatisfying about this week. Maybe it was Lincecum giving the game away on Friday or the offense, which was potent most of the week, getting shut down by Mark Buerhle, but is sure felt like this should have/could have been a 5-2, or even a 6-1 trip. Which is kind of how the whole season feels: we’re doing ok, but it really seems like we should be doing better. More on that later this week…

Hitter of the Week:

There are actually a number of great performances to highlight: Posey hit two home runs and had 8 RBI, Pagan hit .348 and drove in 7, Arias hit .345 and smashed his first home run, and, of course, Melky did it all this week batting .452, hitting 2 home runs (plus 3 doubles and 2 triples), driving in 8 runs, stealing 3 bases, and scoring 12 times (with a nice little 1.371 OPS).

But, I am giving hitter of the week to Gregor Blanco for two reasons: one, I’ve talked about Melky enough, and two Gregor’s pretty darn good! It’s like Andres Torres all over again. He gets hits, walks a ton, steals bases, and sees a lot of pitches. That’s what you ask for from your leadoff hitter. He’s made the lineup deeper and stronger by allowing Pagan to hit down in the order. Can’t wait for Pablo to get back because this team might actually have a good offense when all the pieces are together!

Pitcher of the Week:

Matt Cain went 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA this week, and is generally pretty awesome, but check out the bullpen numbers for the week. Affeldt, Casilla, Romo, Edlefson, Loux, and Hensley combined to pitch 20 innings this week. They allowed 21 baserunners (a 1.05 WHIP) and had a collective 0.00 ERA! They struck out 22 batters and walked 9. The only blemish on the bullpen all week were the 4 runs Javier Lopez gave up in the blowout win against Miami (no harm, no foul). He came back strong yesterday, striking out Logan Morrison in a big spot. Hats off to the bullpen for their dominance!

Looking Ahead:

The Giants have three at home against Arizona (Arizona again!) and then, mercifully, have a day off before starting a four game home series against the Cubs. Hopefully they can hang in there against the snakes, and beat on the Cubs…still waiting for that 5-2/6-1 week of dominance.

(-SB)

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Melky! (Thoughts on Pivotal Giants’ Trades)

Last night I got home at 10 pm (est) to find my pregnant wife fast asleep in bed, so I opened up the computer and got to watch the final 3 innings of the Giants beat down (finally) of the dreaded Marlins. I turned the game on in time to watch Melky Cabrera rifle a 2-RBI double down the left field line.

The Marlins commentators then launched into talking about how good Melky has been, and what a surprise he is given how bad he was in New York. It hit me: this trade is eerily reminiscent of when Sabean brought Jeff Kent over, way back in 1997. Then this morning I see this. Scooped! Dang.

I’m going to talk about it anyway. Cabrera for Sanchez did not produce the public outcry of Williams for Kent. But, I would say most Giants fans weren’t in favor of the trade. No one saw the Williams trade coming, and it looked this Giants were going backwards. The big difference with Cabrera is that Giants fans had been expecting a Sanchez trade for a long time. So long in fact, our imaginations got out of control: Sanchez for Votto…Sanchez for Wright…Sanchez for______(insert up and coming hitting star here).

When that blank ended up being filled in with Melky Cabrera there was a collective “really, that’s it” groan from the Bay Area.

Kent had a couple of decent years (his “struggle” years are so far beyond the production the Giants are getting from 2B right now it’s really not funny), but had been widely panned as  a disappointment for the Mets. A similar situation unfolded for Melky with that other NY team, followed by a very disappointing season in Atlanta (take note Brandon Belt apologists, Melky’s horrible season for the Braves came at age 25, a year ahead of Belt and with four full seasons of big league ball under his “belt”…stay patient).

The real point I want to get at here is that GM Brian Sabean takes his lumps for sure. I think he is terrible at signing free agents, and I think the organization as a whole (not sure how much blame to put on Sabes for this) is shoddy at position player development. But I think Sabean is one of the best trading GMs in baseball. He has made one spectacularly horrible trade (don’t even need to mention who was involved), but on the whole he’s done well.

Giants’ fans need to get over the fantasy trade scenarios with Jonathan Sanchez…maybe there was a time when he could have fetched something really remarkable. But maybe that never existed. And, let’s be honest, Melky’s been pretty remarkable. So has Pagan. And those extensions to Cain and MadBum and Vogelsong look pretty good. And that non-extension to Lincecum…maybe the best move of the offseason. Brian Sabean, you’ve taken plenty of heat, but here’s a tip of the cap. This offseason, which seemed so boring, was pretty awesome.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/15-5/20)

Results:

4-3 (21-20, 7.0 GB in NL West)

3-2 W vs. Col; 5-4 L vs. Col; 4-1 L vs. STL; 7-5 W vs. STL; 8-6 W vs. OAK; 4-0 W vs. OAK; 6-2 L vs. OAK

On Sunday, after the third inning, I was mentally writing a post about how the Giants had turned a corner. They were not going to be an offensive juggernaut, but their situational hitting has improved tremendously. Timmy was cruising. A four game winning streak and 5-2 home stand was in the works. And then it all fell apart.

The most alarming thing to me about Lincecum’s struggles this season is the big innings. I don’t worry too much about his velocity or an injury. I think it’s mostly mental. I’m not sure why, but, for whatever reason, he has really struggled to shut the door when things are on the brink of getting out of hand. It’s been a huge disaster of an inning or a relatively easy 3 or 4 batter affair. Not much in between.

Here’s to hoping he figures it out soon.

Hitter of the Week:

Overall, the Giants had a pretty good week with the bats. It’s especially encouraging to see them walk more and to know the top three performances of the week belonged to Angel Pagan (.440/.548/.560), Melky Cabrera (.385/.393/.462), and Buster Posey (.381/.462/.476). They need those guys to do this with Pablo out.

The nod goes to Pagan because of all the walks. He’s really set the tone in that area and has helped lengthen the lineup by serviceably filling the 5 spot. Well done Angel.

Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Vogelsong gets the nod for the second week in a row. He was fantastic in both turns…14 innings, 10 baserunners, 1 earned run. Nasty. Seems to have it all working and seems to know where it is going at all times. Lincecum should take note.

A tip of the cap as well to Jeremy Affeldt. He’s back and looks really good. A nasty Affeldt does a lot to restore order and dominance to the bullpen.

Looking Ahead:

A 7 game road trip against non-division teams we already saw this month. Giants need to get some revenge against Miami for the sweep they suffered at the beginning of May (3 1-run losses) and hopefully take another 2 of 3 from Milwaukee.

(-SB)

Week in Review (5/7-5/13)

Results:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitter of the Week:

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

Pitcher of the Week:

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

Looking Ahead:

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

(-SB)

Week in Review (4/16-4/22)

Results:

3-2 (7-7, 4.0 GB in NL West)

5-2 L vs. Phi; 4-2 W vs. Phi; 1-0 W vs. Phi; 4-3 W @ NYM; 5-4 L @ NYM

Another fascinating week in Giants land. Madbum and Cain were awesome. Late game dramatics. Late game fall aparts. Questions about the bullpen and a near miss disaster at home plate involving Buster Posey. Aubrey played second base.

My early season opinion continues: this is a team that lacks an identity (especially on offense) and the story of the season will be determined by who steps up and helps create that identity.

In the meantime, there is a double-header today…which means we could be thinking a lot more highly of this team by the end of the day (or not). On to the awards:

Hitter of the Week:

Welcome to the season Buster Posey. He went 11 for 20 (.550) and even stole a base. However, only one of those hits was for extra bases. The Giants hit one home run last week (by Angel Pagan who also hit .320 for the week), and if they are going to sustain the offense they need to hit home runs. It starts with you Buster!

Pitcher of the Week:

Ummmmmmmm: Matt Cain. Done. Great baseball game, but Matt Cain has to wonder about his luck. I know wins don’t really matter statistically, but come on Giants!

Looking Ahead:

Lots to look forward to: two today. Then on to Cincinnati. Then home for the Padres. That’s an 8 game week. Could be a huge swing in the teams fortunes if they end April on a strong note (like a 6-2 run). Timmy will pitch twice this week, so we will see if he can make some adjustments. This week should also tell us a lot more about the bullpen situation. Plenty to look for over the next 7 days!

(-SB)

Pros and Cons (From the First Week of Baseball)

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

PROS

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

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

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

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

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

CONS

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

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

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

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

(-NW)

Week in Review (4/6-4/8)

Results:

0-3 (0-3; 3.0 GB in NL West)

5-4 L @ Ari; 5-4 L @ Ari; 7-6 L @ Ari

So, that was pretty much the worst way to start the season. A couple of stats…the Giants were 55-9 when they scored at least 4 runs in 2011 (they are 0-3 when scoring 4+ runs in 2012)…they went 20-0 when scoring at least 6 runs in 2011 (they are 0-1 when scoring 6+ runs in 2012). NOT GOOD.

Some thoughts (in bullets)

  • We are going to have to be patient with Buster Posey. He hit an incredible opposite field home run in game 3 and seemed pretty comfortable at the plate. He looked fine receiving the ball too. He did not look in “action” plays that a catcher has to make around home plate (his error in game 1 and his two miscues in game 3 were telling). It’s sad that it essentially cost the Giants two games, but this is going to be a process for Buster and we have to give him some grace.
  • Brandon Crawford looked nervous. Maybe his thumb sprain is still bothering him, maybe he got a bit overwhelmed with the start of the season, but the dude has one vital role: play excellent defense. He showed it a few times, but he also blew some plays that a big league shortstop HAS to make. Come on man.
  • Melky looks great (good riddance Jonathan Sanchez), Pagan does not.
  • Belt needs to get it going in Colorado or I’m afraid they will send him down again.
  • Honestly, I’m not worried about the starters. Those guys will figure it out.
  • The Diamondbacks are not this good, but they are pretty good.

Hitter of the Week

Pablo Sandoval is a treasure. I wanted to give this to Melky for his strong debut, but Pablo is first out of the gate here in 2012. Big hits in big situations, a huge home run, using all fields, getting on base. Love it.

Pitcher of the Week

Uhhhhhhh…Sergio Romo still has the magic and it was fun to watch him work out of the 8th. He is poised to have one of the greatest 3 year runs of any reliever in baseball.

Looking Ahead

3 games in Colorado, then home for the home opener (and series) against the Pirates. Colorado is not usually where you want to go to get your pitching on track and Barry Zito is not the guy you want to see on the mound to stop the bleeding, but that’s where we are at. I hope they can take 2 of 3 from the Rockies and then go home and get right against the Pirates. Get a win guys.

(-SB)