…And We’re Back…#SFGiants #2015 #SpringTraining

Well, after relocating from Boston back to the Bay Area, having another kid, starting a new job, and finding a place to live, we’ve been quite busy. But, don’t worry baseballmonk has not gone away.

We’re just getting started.

Luckily this was a boring off-season. Ha ha.
No reason to go over the Lester spurn and the trades that weren’t.

Let’s break the team down into pitching and hitting, talk about the pessimistic and optimistic views of each, and make a couple radical suggestions. Here we go:

Hitting:

  1. The Pessimist: The Giants have no power, and will be the worst lineup the team has put on the field since the 2008-2009 wasteland years. Losing Pablo Sandoval, while good in the long run, will hurt this year and Casey McGehee isn’t going to make anyone miss the Panda any less. The high contact, average dependent lineup will be fun to watch on the rare occasions that it is working, but the lack of dingers will be painful. Finally, this team is not incredibly deep, and losing any combination of Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence will be deadly.
  2. The Optimist: The Giants lineup is not what it was last year when it had home run potential up and down the order, but don’t freak out just yet. The Giants still have three guys with 25+ HR potential (Posey, Belt, Pence), a healthy Pagan, a full year of Joe Panik, and the ever improving Brandon Crawford. They don’t need McGehee and Left Field to be awesome just average and the runs will come.
  3. A Radical Suggestion: We keep hearing about how there is no way Posey is moving positions (and that’s fine), and that Brandon Belt will only play first base, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the best possible lineup from a hitting perspective involves Andrew Susac catching, Posey at first, and Belt in Left. Or Posey in left =) It seems like a no brainer to give Belt 30 games in left, put Posey at first 25% of the time, and use the catching depth (Susac and Hector Sanchez) to the team’s advantage. If/when the Giants return to the playoffs, by all means use Posey behind the plate. I see this more as a way to pace Posey than a true position switch. Whatever they do, there is a lot of pressure on Brandon Belt to produce. Go get ’em baby giraffe.
  4. A Second Radical Suggestion: Ok, I have two for the offense. I know the organization has staunchly said there are no internal 3B solutions all off-season, but I think Giants fans have to root for the elevation of Matt Duffy to everyday third-basemen. Duffy gives the Giants a similar profile to McGehee (high average dependence and low power), but brings better range and arm to the position. Plus he’s a much better athlete, which pays off on the bases and in lineup flexibility. The good news about left field and 3B is that there is no one who is so deeply invested in that they can’t be moved for the hot hand or improved on in a trade, but if McGehee was truly the best option, then why not Duffman?

Pitching:

  1. The Pessimist: The Giants have 7 starters, but every single one of them comes with a significant question mark. How will Madison Bumgarner bounce back from a heavy post-season work load? What does Matt Cain have left after ankle and elbow surgery? Will the Giants get the Jake Peavy who sucked for the Red Sox and faded in the playoffs, or the stud they saw down the stretch? Tim Hudson is 40 and falling apart, can he even make 20 starts this year? Tim Lincecum has been average to bad for three years now, is he ever coming back? Yusmerio Petit is awesome, but can he start on a regular basis and don’t we need him in the bullpen anyway? And Ryan Vogelsong continues to be a great story, but isn’t he redundant on a team that already has several guys on the wrong side of 30? Oh and that bullpen. Yeah, it’s been great but they are another year older and the magic has to end at some point.
  2. The Optomist: Bumgarner’s a horse and history shows that if he is going to suffer ill-effects from the 2014 post-season epicness it won’t come until 2016 or 2017. He’s an ace. Matt Cain is finally healthy, good reports are flowing, and there’s another really good season or two left in that arm. He’ll be fine. Peavy doesn’t need to be as good as he was down the stretch, he’ll benefit from a full season in the NL and pitching in this ballpark, all he needs to do is make his starts and be the third guy. Tim Hudson will be a perfectly adequate 4th starter. The Giants can pace him with the depth (i.e. Vogelsong) that they have. Huddy will go out on top. Lincecum’s been working with his dad and has his mechanics down again. Plus he’s been one of the unluckiest pitchers of all time. It all evens out this year. Plus he’s the 5th starter and the pressures off. Petit will get to do his bullpen wizardry all year, and Vogelsong is here to caddy and fill in. The Giants will actually pitch better as a team in 2015 than they did last year. Oh, and the rest of the bullpen…they’ll be fine.
  3. A Radical Suggestion: For the record, I take the more optimistic view of the pitching staff. I feel especially confident about Bumgarner and Cain and think that excellent years from both of them will take the pressure off the back three and allow the Giants the freedom to figure it out. I also predict that Lincecum will have a good year. Not a great year, but a good one…good enough that he’ll make the decision to let him go a tough one on the front office. While I would love to suggest that Lincecum go to the bullpen (and for the record I still think this is a good idea), I think he’ll be a really good 5th starter. The real radical suggestion has to do with Vogelsong. In my opinion, the Giants never really figured out the closer role once Sergio Romo gave up the gig last summer. In some ways this worked to their advantage and created even more flexibility for Bruce Bochy. However, we all know that managers and players like consistency. I think Vogelsong should close. He’s got the mentality and he can still bring mid-90’s heat when he needs to. Plus, he’s already got the beard for it.

Well, there you have it. We now are doomed to a bunch of silly story lines until we get closer to final rosters and opening day. I do hope to post a few thoughts about this off-season and what it all means. But, let’s start the games huh!

-SB

Advertisements

What Went Wrong And What To Do With the Rest of 2013

How do you explain 2013? Is it the pitching? Is it the hitting? Did the Giants blow it by bringing everyone back? All of the above?

Here’s my take:

  1. The Pitching: so many factoids to share, how about this one:

    If the Giants allow 10 runs or more in another game, they’ll match the total of 10-run games allowed in 2010, 2011, and 2012 combined.

    Here comes the theme of this post: DEPTH…I have no problem with the Giants bringing back the five guys they used last year. But to expect those five guys to (a) repeat, or improve, their usual efforts after a long season, and (b) to stay completely healthy was foolish. It’s easy to point to Gaudin and say “look, depth” but honestly, this team needed him in the bullpen to succeed, and NO ONE in Spring Training would have been happy with a scenario where lots of starts went to Gaudin. Yes, the Giants didn’t get the same kind of quality from Cain, Zito, Lincecum, Vogelsong (and that is a huge problem), but they also left too many innings in the hands of the Kickhams, Mososcos, Rosarios, Machis, and Mijares’s of the world. Finally, total runs allowed: 2009, 611; 2010, 583; 2011, 578;  2012, 649; 2013, 577 (we still have a whole month to play).

  2.  The Hitting: I think these two posts, here and here, are two of the most helpful in understanding the problems of this team. I’ve said from day 1 the Giants were going to have a problem in left field. Again, DEPTH. But, to blame everything on LF would be to over-simplify. Losing Pagan hurt. Scutaro playing hurt most of the year hurt. Sandoval has been a disappointment this season. That hurts. And maybe, most of all, and this pains me to write, Buster Posey has not hit like an MVP and that hurts. He’s still having a good season, and I feel terrible criticizing the guy, but the lack of punch in the lineup this season has a lot to do with Buster’s slump. Finally, as bad as the pitching has been, this is a true fact:

    Andrew Baggarly ‏@CSNBaggs

    The Giants are 41-14 when they score 4 runs or more. And that 4-run 1st inning matches their biggest 1st inning of the season.

  3. The Front Office: I can’t blame the front office for bringing most of the 2012 team back for another go this season. In fact, I kind of liked the idea. I do, however, have a problem with the lack of DEPTH. Sure, some things they tried to do to address this issue didn’t work out: see Tony Abreu and Kensuke Tanaka. Those kinds of moves turned into gold in 2010 and 2012, they didn’t this year. Sometimes the bullpen moves make you look like a genius (like when the team brought Casilla in, or Ramon Ramirez in 2010). Other times, not so much. It’s not like they didn’t try, but there were a lot more airballs this year than last.

Conclusion: It’s all about starting pitching. The biggest difference between this team and teams of yore is that the starting guys from 2009-2012 covered a multitude of sins. I don’t know how to address this moving forward. Zito’s gone, maybe Lincecum too, but a big part of renewed success will be Cain and Vogelsong returning to dominance.

Thoughts on the Rest of 2013: There are a couple of things I’d like to see in September. First, I know the Giants want to get Pagan back in there so he can finish the year on a high note, and I doubt they will sit Hunter Pence much, but the team need to let Francisco Peguero and Gary Brown play in the big leagues. This is a MUST. Second, I’m not sure what the team feels about Eric Surkamp’s health, but if he’s healthy he also needs to pitch in September in the major’s. Those three guys are not the answers to big questions, but they could be important pieces, important DEPTH. Finally, September is also about hoping to see some good things from Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong, Pagan, and the Panda, anything to build on for 2014.

None of that is as much fun as a pennant race, but I still believe this is a roster that can compete next year, so keep rooting for the core, they aren’t going anywhere!

(-SB)