A New Chapter

The majority of our posts over the past two months have focused on trades the Giants might make today. Most of those scenarios were predicated on the Giants being in contention and going for it in an attempt to repeat as champions.

Welp.

By the end of the day the great Javier Lopez should be gone, and there’s a good chance Hunter Pence is too. If something crazy happens, Timmy might be in a new uniform as well.

Who knows how it all goes down, Brian Sabean doesn’t always go by the book, but the Giants are now looking ahead to 2014. This season, unfortunately, is over.

Of course it isn’t, which means that the next two months are about answering one, huge, important, complex question:

  • Was the strategy to keep the team together for 2013 a faulty plan needing a major overhaul, or did the Giants simply get caught in a perfect storm of suck?

My opinion is nuanced here. I think there were parts of the plan that were faulty:

  • The lack of depth at starting pitcher was always going to be a problem. With only 5 major league ready starters available (I’m not counting Gaudin here because no one really saw that coming), the Giants needed health and solid performances from all 5 guys to make a run. That did not happen and the lack of depth has been sorely exposed.
  • I have no way to quantify this, but it does seem like there was a bit of a hang over for the starting staff from last year. Was it the extra innings? The extra strain? The early Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic? I don’t know, but they’ve looked tired all year.
  • It’s also not like the starting pitching problems dropped out of the sky either. Vogelsong really struggled down the stretch last year before finding new life in the post-season. We all know about Lincecum’s 2012. Matt Cain was good, but not dominant in the post-season (and many have pointed to his decreased effectiveness post-perfect game). Madison Bumgarner was essentially benched in the NLCS and we all head our breath when he started against the Tigers because he was struggling so badly. And Barry Zito is Barry Zito. Enough said. It’s alarming really that the team didn’t do more to back up the staff during the offseason.
  • I’ve said all offseason that Left Field was going to be a problem. Losing Pagan really exposed the Giants in the outfield. Somehow we now have Jeff Franceour on our roster. That’s how bad it is.

But the plan wasn’t all bad:

  • The offense has actually been better than 2012.
  • There are still plenty of good players on the squad, players who will be around for a while too.

So, here are a couple of conclusions and a couple of questions for the rest of the offseason:

  • Conclusion 1: Barry Zito is gone. He’s the odd man out here. Prediction 1: Unless something crazy happens today, I think Lincecum is back next year, probably on a one year deal. The other three pitchers are back too, and I think the Giants will make some kind of move to find an improvement over Zito. I also think they’ll look for a few Gaudin-types to create depth.
  • Conclusion 2: The Giants are not in rebuilding mode, they are going to continue to go for it. This team has too many good player (and good young players) to blow it up. Prediction 2: That said, I expect the Giants to make a big trade in the offseason. This is what Sabean loves to do, and the market these days favors trades over free agent signings. Sabean has worked some magical trades (see Kent, Jeff) and some foolish trades (see Pierzynski, AJ). Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Belt on the move this offseason.

This is an interesting moment for the Giants. Theoretically, they still have enough to be competitive (any team with Posey, Cain, Bumgarner, etc under control for several years is well set up to be competitive over the long haul). They also have some intriguing help at the lower levels of the minor leagues.

But how the Giants choose to bridge the gap between the present and future is going to be fascinating.

In many ways, it begins today.

(-SB)

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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)

Week in Review (7/4-7/10)

Results:

4-3 (52-40, 3 game lead in NL West)

5-3 L vs. SD; 5-3 L vs. SD; 6-5 W vs. SD; 2-1 W vs. SD; 5-2 L vs. NYM; 3-1 W vs. NYM; 4-2 W vs. NYM

Hey, it’s the All-Star break and the Giants are in first place. No big deal, right? I mean it’s been a pretty smooth, rather uneventful first half of the season. FALSE. The monks will spend a few days this week recapping the first half and looking ahead the stretch run. If nothing else, this has been one compelling team to follow this year.

Hitter of the Week:

Tip of the cap to Pablo for keeping the streak alive (21 games now) and for sneaking on to the All-Star roster. I hope he hits a walk off home run against Jose Valverde. But, the hitter of the week has to be Nate Schierholtz who is resembling a real life, everyday major league player more and more. He has now raised his season slash line to: .293/.343/.464 which is pretty darn good. I really, really, really hope he can keep this up!

Pitcher of the Week:

The Barry Zito comeback tour is gaining some serious momentum. His outing against San Diego was easily the best performance by a starter this past week (8 IP, 4 H, 0 BB, 7 K) and maybe the best start of his Giants’ career. However (and this is more of a midseason award than a weekly thing), while Brian Wilson does his bit for the All Star team Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Jeremy Affeldt might be the best core of set up men in all of baseball right now. Romo had an amazing week, Lopez is just a joy to watch, and Affeldt is looking more and more like his 2009 self. If Casilla can get back to where he was at the end of last year and Mota and Ramirez keep on holding down their end, I think this is the best bullpen I have ever seen. Period.

Stay tuned, a lot more to come this week!

(-SB)

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!