What to Look For Over the Next 3 Weeks #sfgiants

June is not trending in the right direction (at all). My hope was that the Giants could get to .500 by July 1, and as of right now, they will need to go 15-2 to get there. Probably not happening.

Here’s the rundown of the next 3 weeks and what it would take to turn this around:

  • Sweep the Royals (28-39)
  • Take 3 of 4 in Colorado (31-40)
  • Sweep the Braves (35-40)
  • Take 2 of 3 from the Mets (37-41)
  • Sweep the Rockies (40-41)
  • Beat the Pirates (41-41)

No problem, right? =)


The Giants exploded for 13 runs yesterday (finally) behind an unusual lineup, but here is what I would like to see for the next 3 weeks (at least):

  • Nunez 3B (let the man lead off!)
  • Panik 2B (Joe is someone to watch closely the rest of the season…who is the real Joe Panik and what can the Giants expect from him moving forward?)
  • Posey C (should be hitting in the 3 hole from now until the skills really fade, years down the road)
  • Belt 1B (his all or nothing approach plays best in the cleanup spot)
  • Pence RF (looks like he might be getting it going which means this is right where you’d want him)
  • Crawford SS (I know he’s been one of the most reliable bats of the last 2+years, but any lineup where he’s hitting above the 6 spot is going to struggle over the long haul)
  • Slater LF (let the dude play…if not Mac, let it be Austin, and let it be for a while)
  • Span CF (my hope is that he gets shipped out in July)

MLBTradeRumors put out some interesting info on the Giants yesterday. Here are some thoughts:

There are essentially two kinds of trades the Giants can/should make. One is trading veteran guys away to open up spots for younger players to get time. A classic example of this would be trading Eduardo Nunez so that Christian Arroyo and/or Jae-gyun Hwang can play the last two months at the major league level to show what they got.

The other trade is cashing in whatever valuable assets the Giants may have to restock the shelves. There’s not a lot of options here, outside of a blockbuster involving players named Buster or Brandon (not going to happen).

The two that are most interesting to me: Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija. Now, both have 3 years to go on hefty contracts, and both have trade clauses (Melancon has a full no-trade clause), but these are the two options that could fetch something interesting in return.

Melancon, in particular, would have to give thought to waiving that clause to go back to Washington, right? That team is a closer away from being the most dominant team in the game (yes, even more than the Cubs and Astros), so you know they are going to be willing to pay.

Wouldn’t the Cubs prefer Samardzija to John Lackey? The Indians would take him over a few their own guys I’m sure.

We’re starting to get to the point where these things need to be considered.


A small silver lining: MadBum might return sooner than later!

Week [23] In Review (9/5-9/11) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Welcome back to the pennant race Giants.

The Giants got kicked in the gut big time twice in the last 7 days (Sunday, the 4th in Chicago, and then again on Wednesday night in Colorado), and after the second meltdown I thought it might be over.

It may yet be over, but it doesn’t feel like it today.

It feels like maybe, just maybe, they’ve unlocked something, and good baseball will start to flow once again.

What I want to do now is look at the remainder of the season and make a bit of a forecast (starting today where the Giants sit 77-65, 3 games behind the Dodgers):

  • 3 games at home against the Padres (It seems like perfect symmetry/baseball justice, for the Giants to sweep the Pads this week. After all it was the Padres series to start the second half and that launched the Giants into their funk. I hate predicting sweeps, but that’s kind of what needs to happen so…80-65. Meanwhile the Dodgers have to fly all the way to New York to face the Yankees, they’ll drop 2 of 3, 82-63.)
  • 4 games at home against the Cardinals (This is a huge series in terms of the Wild Card race. The Giants could potentially put the Cardinals out of the race by the time this series is over…that’s being extremely optimistic, and on the other hand, the Cardinals could very much assert themselves here to the Giants demise. These are two proud teams, and with the Giants missing Madison Bumgarner in this series, I see a split coming: 82-67. Meanwhile the Dodgers have to fly all the way back to the West Coast and play four in Arizona, where they too will split the series: 84-65.)
  • The Giants head back out on the road for the last time, starting with three games in LA. They should have Bumgarner, Cueto, and Moore lined up to go for these big three games. Again, I hate predicting sweeps, but I want to stay positive: 2 of 3, 84-68. the Dodgers, obviously would drop 2 of 3, being a little tired after the travel of the week: 85-67).
  • The final road series takes the Giants to San Diego. Remember: the Giants were 9-0 against the Pads until the post-all-star fiasco. If they can continue the dominance they could potentially sweep this series. Weird things happen in San Diego and this is the end of a road trip and the end of a stretch of over two weeks without a day off. I’ll go conservative here and predict a spilt: 86-70. Meanwhile, the Dodgers finish their home season with four against the Rockies. This is the one place in the schedule where it seems the Dodgers are set up to make up ground. I’ll say they take 3 of 4: 88-68.)
  • The Giants close the season with six home games, and isn’t interesting that I stated the importance of asserting themselves at home as a significant theme for the year. They will need to go 5-1 to capture the division back, and I believe they’ll get off to a good start with a sweep of the Rockies. Meanwhile, the Dodgers will get ambushed by the Padres, losing 2 of 3. Both teams will sit at 89-70 to start the series. A series the Giants will win by taking two of three to finish 91-71.)

Let’s summarize: 20 games left, a 14-6 close to the season (17-6 if you include the sweep of the D-Backs this weekend). Why is this possible?

  • First, he offense is finally starting to get going. This may be too much to ask, but everyone contributed this weekend in Arizona: Span and Pagan homered, Posey had some great at-bats, Belt came up with a couple huge hits, Panik and Crawford continued to produce as normal rates, Nunez looks like he’s in the middle of hot streak, and there are no ends to the superlatives one could heap on Hunter Pence for the series he had. It’s been amazing that the Giants have gone such a long time essentially rotating one hot hitter at a time. The law of averages seems to say they are due for a stretch where multiple guys hit at the same time. Now is the time!
  • Second, the starting pitching continues to deliver, and Matt Moore, in particular, seems to have figured something out. The rotation has four more turns to keep this going. Meanwhile, the bullpen, sans Santiago Casilla, has actually been pretty good. Derek Law should return this week, setting up a nice little debate: who do you want closing games down the stretch, the guy who has been great all year (Law), or the guy who seems to have the hot hand right now (Strickland). Honestly, Strickland scares me a bit because he can give up a home run with the best of them, but his last couple turns have been dynamic, so let it ride I guess.
  • It’s a simple formula, but the Giants have been so good at losing games (bad pitching when they hit, and no hitting when they pitch, some bullpen implosions for good measure) that I believe it will continue to turn around, and translate back into winning games.

Hitter of the Week: No brainer here…hello Hunter Pence! 12 hits, 4 walks, a home run, and 8 runs scored! It’s the walks that are the most encouraging sign…when Pence is right, as he was several years ago back at the beginning of the season (that’s an intentional sentence) his eye was exceptional. He is locked in and playing with passion, and that’s the kind of thing that can propel this team in a positive direction (as we’ve seen several times over the past 4 years).

Pitcher of the Week: Matt Moore had an incredible game on Sunday, but that has to be balanced with his tough start on Monday. It was a Coors start, and he was undermined by Brandon Crawford missing a ball he catches 99% of the time, but he also walked the 8th and 9th place hitters (one of them was trying to bunt too), and so painted himself into a corner. It seems the only thing holding him back, though, is this occasional spell of wildness. I’m going to give the POW to Jeff Samardzija who continues to pitch incredible well down the stretch, something that seems to be under the radar. His last 5 starts he gone 31 innings, striking out 30, with a 2.90 ERA, and only one home run allowed.

This is going to be a great final three weeks. Buckle up. Who needs football?!

Week [19] In Review (8/8-8/14) #sfgiants #weekinreview

I have no idea what to say today. Part of me wants to write about the positive signs, because there were many this past week: better starts, better offense, better bullpen (until Sunday).

Part of my wants to burn AT&T to the ground, because this team should not be allowed to play baseball anymore.

The week highlights the fundamental issue with this team: each facet of the team is pretty good except when it isn’t.

At times the rotation has been outstanding, the backbone of success. But the Giants have given a lot of starts to Matt Cain, Jake Peavey, and Alberto Suarez. Jeff Samardzija has been brilliant AND horrible. Madison Bumgarner is having a career year but didn’t win a start for almost a month.

At times the lineup has been outstanding, even carrying the load during different swings. But it’s also been banged up, some guys have been mired in inexplicable slumps for extended periods, and certain guys (hey there Denard Span) can look great one day and then go 0-14 the next 3.

The defense has been, maybe, the most consistent force for good all year, but there have been some glorious meltdowns, and Angel Pagan still plays in the field on a regular basis (which is not a good thing).

And then the bullpen: oh sweet bullpen. Just when Bochy was starting to follow my advice (see last week’s post), just when roles and expectations were clarifying, just when it seemed like the ‘pen was taking the place of “most confidence inspiring,” yesterday happened.

And so, I just don’t know.

This is a good baseball team, except when it isn’t.

Week In Review: 2 of 3 in Miami, and 1 of 3 from Baltimore. 66-51, still, somehow 1 game up in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: No question this award goes to Brandon Crawford who accumulated a week’s worth of hits (7) in one incredible game. Crawford’s name has come up several times in “overall best player in baseball” conversations. No one is saying he is the best, but who ever imagined that he would even be in the conversation. Remarkable.

Pitcher of the Week: Madison Bumgarner had a great start the other night, and finally got credit for a win, but we’re going with Jeff Samardzija. Shark had been struggling with control and the home run ball, but to hear some of the guys who follow the team closely, there were predictions of a turn around. It appeared to start in his last turn where two things happened: better control (still walked 3, but seemed to leave less pitches out over the plate), and the return of the curve ball (too much hard stuff was making life too easy for opposing batters). Keep it up Jeff!

Looking Ahead: the long home stand continues with 3 against Pittsburg and 4 against the Mets. Keep putting the positives together!

Oh, any maybe it’s time for Derek Law to take over the 9th?

Week [11] In Review (6/13-6/19) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Um, ok.

I think we all knew the Giants were doing well, but dang!

No June swoon so far, in fact everything is looking pretty rosy right now: Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are having historic seasons, Jeff Samardzija is the best(?) third starter in baseball, Jake Peavy has figured out how to be competitive again, and the Suarez/Cain combo is holding its own (though Matt Cain is out again with yet another hamstring issue).

The offense is starting to come to life, especially in the home run department (more on this in a moment), Pagan is back, and the lineup feels somewhat normal again.

The biggest positive sign, however, is the resurgence of the bullpen. It seems things have start to get sorted out. I don’t love Cody Gearrin as the 8th inning guy, but, hey, I’m not Bruce Bochy and he has a fairly good track record with bullpens. Whatever the combination, it is finally working, and could get even better once the irrepressible Sergio Romo returns (he struck out Yasiel Puig in a rehab game this week, which is pretty cool).

The Giants face an interesting week. Four games with Pittsburg and then the long flight back to the west coast for a three game weekender with the Phillies. This is a sneaky tough week. The Pirates aren’t playing well, but are still a talented bunch, and four games in Pittsburg feels like a lot. The Phillies are not great, but they are young and have a few good pitchers and they could be a tough matchup coming off the road trip.

Back to the positive vibes: the Giants have nearly caught the Cubs for the best record in the NL, something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago!

Week In Review: Swept the Brewers in 3 at home; swept Tampa Bay in 3 in Tampa; 44-26 overall, 6.5 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: As surmised last week Buster Posey did in fact break out, hitting .522 while collecting 12 hits. Brandon Belt continues to affirm his new contract and make his case for the All-Star Team pounding two more home runs. But the hitters of the week are Matt Duffy and Joe Panik who came alive to the tune of  .409 and .346 averages, respectively. The Giants lineup is pretty devastating when these guys are hitting well. They also both homered, and Panik had a couple huge, clutch moments in the Tampa series.

Pitcher of the Week: You could throw a dart at a chart of the starting rotation and get a pretty good candidate this week. As mentioned above, Bumgarner and Cueto added to their legendary starts to this season. Cueto won his 10th! game of the season already, while striking out nine. Peavy pitched well, adding 8 punchouts of his own.

But, the POW goes to Jeff Samardzija for nearly throwing a shutout (a 2 out, ninth inning home run ruined it for him), and getting himself back on track after a few lesser quality starts.

Looking Ahead: I’ve already gone over the schedule for the week, and the challenge it presents, so now for the good news: this a 2 start week for both Bumgarner and Cueto. Get excited for that!

Week [5] In Review (5/2-5/8) #sfgiants #weekinreview

We are now 20% of the way into the 2016 campaign, and so it’s time for hot takes. Are you ready?

This 2016 version of the Giants is weird. Odd. Funny.

There you go, some scintillating analysis.

There’s an easy narrative around this team that says the 4th and 5th starters suck, a few guys are hurt, and that’s why they are only 1 game over .500. There’s truth there, but it also misses some of the nuance.

In many ways, 2016 is off to a great start. The guys the Giants sunk big money into this offseason (Cueto, Samardzija, Belt, Crawford) are not just performing well, but extremely well (maybe not Crawford, but he’s at least doing what is expected of him so far).

In particular, Cueto and Samardzija are looking like great deals given what other big contract pitchers are doing (see, Grienke and Price).

A variety of other things have gone well too: Angel Pagan was looking great until he pulled his hamstring, Hunter Pence is back and maybe even better than before, Santiago Casilla is as good as ever, and some of the new bullpen guys have been solid. Bumgarner and Posey are still good (and can be even better than what they’ve shown so far).

But it just feels like something is off. Something is obviously off with Peavy and Cain. For my take on all that read last week’s review. And yes, Romo is out, Panik missed some games, Pagan’s hurt, etc.

The odd feeling I can’t shake is in the details. The 2 out rallies the staff is giving up. The 0-2 pitches that turn into hits. The defensive miscues at inopportune times. And the base running has been abysmal: especially all of the outs being made at second base and beyond.

Previous versions of successful Giants teams may not have been splashy or dominant (like the 2016 Cubs, my goodness), but they didn’t beat themselves, they didn’t make dumb mistakes, and they helped make their breaks happen.

That’s been missing so far this year.

We’re not seeing clean baseball, and even the increased talent level of this team hasn’t completely overcome that.

Week In Review: 2 of 3 in Cincinnati, and then a split of 4 games at home against Colorado (Note: Colorado is becoming quite annoying); 17-16 overall, tied for first in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Brandon Belt continues to rake, even earning a comparison on twitter to Joey Votto (which is high praise). Here’s a taste of his last 7 games

  • 11 for 24 (.458 ave), 5 extra base hits, 7 walks against 3 strikeouts, and a Bondsian 1.372 OPS. Dang.

Pitcher of the Week: Huge tip of the cap to Jeff Samardzija for 2 stellar, bullpen saving starts (unfortunately only 1 win for the Shark). He struck out 18 in 15.2 innings of work, to the tune of a 1.72 ERA. He just looks nasty right now.

Something tells me, we’ll have the opportunity to honor Jeff again, so let’s give it up for Derek Law who has been a stabilizing bullpen presence. No runs in 3 appearances this week, spanning 4.2 innings.

Finally, we can’t let this week go by without mentioning Vin Mazzaro who had the worst outing of any Giant’s pitcher I can remember. Poor Vin came in to mop up Matt Cain’s mess and somehow made a bigger mess. Check this out:

  • He actually picked up a win earlier in the week in Cincinnati, so technically he went 1-0 on the week
  • In one inning of work he gave up 7 hits and a walk. 9 runners scored, 7 of those were earned, all of which equals out to an ERA of 63.00

Sorry Vin, we hardly knew ya.

Looking Ahead: The Giants have another 7 game week, with three more at home starting tonight in a series with Toronto. I’d highly recommend watching the Warriors tonight. The thought of the Blue Jays home run machine lineup facing off against Peavy gives me the willies. If you are up for that, good on ya.

After the Jays, it’s off to Arizona for 4 in the desert. The Giants need to seek some revenge for the sweep they suffered at their hands at home earlier this season.

Somehow in this odd , even year, season, this is a first place team. Let’s add to the lead!

Week [3] In Review (4/18-4/24) #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants struggles at home, and in recent times against Arizona, continue to baffle me. Outside of the D-backs sweep, the Giants are 5-2 at home, and those two loses are could-have/should-have wins. But, overall they are under .500 at AT&T. Makes no sense!

Yes, it is early, and, yes, taking 2 of 3, or even sweeping the Padres to start this week would shiny up that record quick, but I am going to keep harping on this until it isn’t an issue any more.

The Giants haven’t truly struggled at home during their run of success, and this isn’t the NBA where you can win 90% of your games at home, if you are a good team.

But, I can’t help shake the sense that they should win more often in San Francisco. And, of all the teams the Giants have had in the last 6 years, this one seems ideally created to do well at home (i.e. 50+ wins). Perhaps in a month we’ll look back at the Diamondback series and laugh, but right now, the lack of home domination concerns me.

It does seem like the offense is picking up again, and there are some bright spots all around: Samardzija, Cueto keeps on trucking, Duffy and Panik seem to be warming up, and the young arms in the bullpen are impressing.

It was fun to see Bonds too.

Week in Review: Swept in 4 by the Diamondbacks, then took 2 of 3 from the Marlins. 9-11 overall, 4th place in the West, 3.5 games behind the Dodgers.

Hitter of the Week: Matt Duffy had 10 hits this week, and saw his average climbing back to normal. Hat tip to Gregor Blanco for continuing to be the best 4th outfielder in baseball. He went 6 for 12 this week with 3 triples.

But the hitter(s) of the week are two starting pitchers: Jeff Samardzija and Jake Peavy, who both came through with big RBI hits in their starts (the only 2 wins of the week). With the Giants continuing to employ alternative lineups, these kinds of at bats are extremely valuable.

Pitcher of the Week: I want so badly to write about Jeff Samardzija (as I did last week). I finally got to see him pitch in real-time this week and it was awesome. The results were great, obviously, but he pitched like a stud pitcher should pitch: in control of the game and his pitches, nasty stuff, and able to dominate all over the strike zone with 4 different kinds of pitches. He was very impressive.

I’m going to name Jake Peavy pitcher of the week, though, because who knows if he’ll ever get in this space again. Peavy is, admittedly, my least favorite of the five starters, and the one with the lowest upside, but even if he pitches well, there are too many other good pitchers on the roster. The chances of Peavy outshining them are small.

So, while we have the opportunity, let’s thank Jake Peavy for not sucking, and for beating one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Well done old man.

Looking Ahead: the Giants start the week by finishing the home stand with 3 games against San Diego. It would do them well to take full advantage of the inferior team here. They have their 3 best pitchers set to go, at home, so don’t mess around because after this it’s off to New York. The Met’s haven’t been lighting the world on fire, but that’s still a fine pitching staff to have to face after a long plane ride and the first big time zone change of the young season.