Posey For Life

I have to admit, I’ve been pretty bored with spring training this year. What is there to get excited about?

Brandon Belt having a great spring? Yes. Tim Lincecum got a hair cut? No. Barry Zito might be good again for real? Yes. Chad Gaudin will be the 12th pitcher? Not really.

But, then these two things happened on the same day.

My thoughts: the Posey deal is a great deal. The Giants get their best player locked up for the next decade at a less expensive rate than Prince Fielder, Troy Tulowitzki, or Joey Votto. I’d take Posey over all of those guys because of the position he plays (and because he is awesome).

The Posey deal is also cheaper than the one the Twins gave Joe Mauer, another win for the Giants.

It’s also interesting to me that the deal was done the same day as Verlander’s. Remember: the Giants just beat the Tigers in the World Series. Now, Verlander is amazing. But, he plays every five days and he’s older than Posey. One could argue that Verlander is more important to the Tiger’s franchise than Posey, but that would be an all-out cage match of a debate.

Posey’s deal is less expensive than Verlander’s. Amazing.

Not only that, but Verlander’s deal makes the Matt Cain deal look like a bargain. Who would have thought that. The Giants are locking up their core, a core that has two rings already, at rates that are less expensive than the “market”.

All of which leads to a question/observation.

Is this the end of the Tim Lincecum era?

A lot depends on what he does this season, but either way I think he’s gone. If he has a great season he will be too expensive, and if he sucks the Giants will want to go in a different direction anyway. The Giant’s best move of the past two seasons might have been NOT signing Lincecum to a long term deal.

Baseball starts tomorrow, and the Giants are off and running in two days. I’m ready now.

Bring on the season!

(-SB)

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Game 1: And Ode to the Zito and the Panda

I’m a huge Barry Zito fan. Loved him on the A’s (even bought a t-shirt). Loved the surfing and the guitar playing and the yoga weirdness and the stoner/zen proclamations. Mostly, I loved the curveball and the way he got swings and misses and that he was different. Randy Johnson was the premier left-hander of the day and the way he and Zito got batters out was very, very different.

In 2006, before hitting free-agency Zito made two playoff starts. In his first start he was masterful against the Minnesota Twins and beat another dominant lefty: Johan Santana. He fell apart against the Tigers (yep, those Tigers again), but the picture in my mind was of his triumphant defeat of the Twins.

I was excited when the Giants signed Zito (and bought another t-shirt), even if I hated the contract. Zito, Cain, Lowry. The Big Three. A new chapter of Giants’ baseball built around pitching.

And then it all went to hell. As it got worse and worse, the thing I kept hoping for, longing for, was a chance for Zito to do something important in the playoffs. If he could just contribute to a deep playoff run all would be forgiven.

Then 2010 happened and lo, it was awesome, but Zito’s big contribution was his non-contribution. So, yes, the Giants had won the long sought after Championship during the Zito era, but it was in spite of his presence.

Which makes 2012 all the more sweet. Zito, as has been noted, is not that much different of a pitcher this year than in any other year. He’s been healthy all year, he’s made all his starts, and he’s received better run support, but this could be 2008, or even 2010.

And yet, there is something different about him. A confidence that comes from long-suffering.

I was always a bit of a head case in my short baseball career and so I think that in some way I “get” Zito. I know that helpless feeling of doing everything right but still not having any idea where the ball is going. Pitching is so much between the ears, and thoughtful men don’t often make great pitchers.

And so, I honestly have never been more proud of a professional athlete in my life. Zito will never live up to, or live down, the contract but that’s pretty much irrelevant at this point. This is a man who made it to the top, who fell hard, who has suffered, and who has been resurrected.

Sounds dramatic, for sure, but it’s just true.

And here’s the crazy thing. Zito will be back next year (barring trade) to play out the last year of his ludicrous contract. There is an option for 2014, but here’s what I think will happen: if he proves to be serviceable again I can see the team working out a 3 yr/27 mil type deal to keep him around as the 4th/5th starter. At that point Lincecum and Vogelsong could be gone. There’s not much in the system to fill out the rotation. The team will need a reliable, cost-effective veteran type guy to fill out the Five.

A decade of Zito. Incredible.

—–

A lot has been/will be made about Pablo Sandoval hitting 12 home runs all year and then 6 (hopefully more) in the post-season, as if it were some kind of fluke. This is not unprecedented (see BJ Upton in 2008).

Sandoval is a really good hitter. He’s been hampered by weight issues, by hamate bones, and by hamstrings, but in 2009 if you had told me the Giants would be enjoying this kind of success, the only way it would make sense was if Pablo was at the center of it.

Before Posey, he was the great hope of the offense.

Now, I, nor anyone else, expects him to hit three home runs in Game 1, but this is not like Gregor Blanco hitting 3 home runs, or Brandon Crawford going off, this is a very, very good hitter who’s been going well since game 3 of the Reds series getting hot at the right time.

Melky gets a lot of love for “winning” the All-Star game for the NL, but it was Pablo who hit a triple off Justin Verlander to blow open the lead in the first inning. He was 10 feet from hitting a home run. In his three at-bats against Verlander in 2012 he hit a near home run triple, a home run to deep center, and an oppostite field home run. Incredible.

Which leads to this beautiful image:

—–

Game 2 thoughts: I think Madison Bumgarner will pitch well. Game 1 was great, and it sure helps the Giants keep the momentum and confidence going, but the other Tiger pitchers are also pretty good. I have a feeling this will be a more typical Giants affair, a 3-2 sort of ballgame.

Also, Posey will hit a home run tonight.

Go Giants!

(-SB)

Mid Season Evaluation

Well this has certainly been an interesting first half hasn’t it? Between Pittsburg, Arizona, Cleveland and Seattle I don’t know anything about baseball anymore.

AL East: Yes, the Rays are still in this thing, but I think as the season goes along you’ll see that this is going to become a two-horse race between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Boston’s pitching scares me, but not in the good way. Lester is good, Beckett is great, and you got nothing else. But New York doesn’t exactly have the Big 5 either, honestly they are hoping and praying that Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon don’t fall apart and that CC Sabathia can pitch with 1 days rest, because that is what they’ll need to win the Division or the World Series this year. As far as offense goes, New York looks good with Texiera, Granderson and Cano while Boston has a VERY good Adrian Gonzalez. Boston is my pick still to win the division, but I think I’m putting the Yanks as my new Wild Card winners.

AL Central: This division makes less than no sense. Seriously. The only thing I know about this division is that the Royals won’t win it. But the Twins? The White Sox? Both are possible now! What the world. My pick remains Detroit though, but I have a feeling this division will cause me to change my picks about 15 times in the last two weeks of the season. Why Detroit? As much as I love the resurgence of the Indians, they don’t have Justin Verlander. Verlander has been RIDICULOUS this season, and that reason is why Detroit can hold off anyone else to win.

AL West: I don’t even want to write about this terrible division. The Rangers are my pick still. That is all.

NL East: Until yesterday I was 100% confident that the Phillies would win this decision, and while they are still my pick, my doubt is starting to rise. This has nothing to do with the Phillies, and everything to do with the Atlanta Braves, who are still my NL Wild Card pick. The Braves are being led by amazing pitching and some really good hitting, especially from Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. With how good Atlanta is playing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this division get very competitive by the end of the season, especially if the Phillies keep playing hurt.

NL Central: This is also a wacky division this season. The Cardinals are good, despite having gone over a month without either Matt Holliday or Albert Pujols on their roster, Lance Berkman suddenly decided to hit home runs this year, and they have no closer (literally no closer. It’s rotated between like, 3 guys), yet are in first place as of this writing. The Brewers are somehow being completely ignored, even though they have amazing hitting and some really good starting pitching. To add to the wackiness, the Reds are still hanging around and the Pirates are playing above .500 baseball for the first time since the 1890’s. (Not a real fact). Brewers still win this because of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks , Prince Fielder and Shaun Marcum.

NL West: Someone explain to me how the Giants are in first place still? The hitting is atrocious, but thankfully we have one of, if not the best, rotation in the Majors and probably the best bullpen in baseball also. Giants still win this division, but the D-Backs and Rockies will give me heart attacks all the way until October.

First Half AL MVP: Wow. My pick of Adam Dunn was a little off wasn’t it? First half MVP has to be Adrian Gonzalez. Sure you can make a case for Paul Konerko and Jose Bautista, but Gonzalez is putting up some crazy wild offensive numbers and is probably the biggest reason the Red Sox are so good right now.

First Half AL Cy Young: You can make a great case for CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester and David Price, among others. I’m voting Verlander. He has a 2.86 ERA, .88 WHIP, 138 K’s, 31 walks (!!!!) and an opponent batting average of .187. ONE EIGHTY SEVEN. Craziness! Weaver is putting up numbers that are just as good, but Verlander also has a no-hitter this season, either way there has been some GREAT pitching in the AL in 2011.

First Half NL MVP: Prince Fielder, no question. You can make a good case for Matt Kemp, and an excellent case for Jose Reyes, but I’m in the unique position of having in-laws who are Brewers fans and have the MLB Extra innings package, so I’ve gotten to see Prince play, and there really is nobody as valuable to his team as him. The Mets aren’t going anywhere this season and neither are the Dodgers (yay!) but the Brewers hitting is anchored by Fielder. Yes, Ryan Braun is a huge asset and Rickie Weeks is going nuts, but without Prince and his NL leading 72 RBI, they aren’t tied for first in the Central.

First Half NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Jair Jurrjens are your top NL pitchers, but I think Halladay takes this award. This only reason I’m holding out on Jurrjens is his total K’s are lower (due to injury) and a higher ERA than Roy. Roy is nutty. Just plain nutty on the mound. Crazy good stats, crazy good strikeout rate and is just crazy good. Like have you actually seen him pitch a game? Ridiculous.

(-NW)