Never Read Me Again #sfgiants #weekinreview

Welp. Pretty much everything I wrote about last Monday turned to mush this week in what has to go down as the most disappointing stretches of the season:

  1. The Giants were terrible in Miami, needing 16 innings on getaway day just to salvage a game. Not surprisingly, the bats were very quiet in LA until Sunday when they manage to avoid getting swept again on the final day of a series.
  2. The Giants bench is still good, but it gets stretched a bit now that Evan Longoria will miss extended time with a fractured hand.
  3. Which means that the offense may never be at full strength this season. By the time Longoria returns, who knows who will be out then.
  4. Brandon Belt is back, and so is Cory Gearrin. Not only is he not out of the organization he’s still on the major league team! Groans abound.
  5. Madison Bumgarner is back but he’s not in dominant form yet. I was excited for the quick return, but I guess we should not be surprised that he’s still shaking the rust off. I do expect much better from him soon.
  6. Brandon Crawford is still amazing and great, but he has cooled off a bit, and now will be gone for three days to attend the birth of his fourth child.
  7. Finally, the road issues continue as the Giants now fall to 16-26 away from AT&T.

There are reasons for hope. Somehow the Giants are still in it. They are only 4.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Finally, I’ve written in nearly every post about the weird schedule this year. Well, for the first time that weirdness tilts in the Giants favor. The Giants have 10 straight games at home (including a chance at redemption against the Marlins!). Then they go on the road for 6 games. Three of those are against the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. Then they go to Colorado, who, amazingly, has a terrible home record. That’s 6 in-division road games (i.e. no east coast swing, and games that directly impact the NL West standings). That is followed by a nine game home stand.

To summarize: 19 of the next 25 games are at home!

Now is the time!


In other news:

 

Advertisements

Road Woes #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well, as I said last post, this was always going to be a weird week. It was. It was not good or fun, at least in terms of baseball.

The Giants went 1-4, saw their run differential drop to -44 (oof), and showed that despite their improvements from last year, there is still a significant gap between themselves and MLB’s elite.

And yet, they are still only 3 games out of first place, and they have a 3 game series against the first place Rockies starting today. A sweep would leave them tied with Colorado, potentially in first place, and .500 heading back home for a 6 game stand.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking the about the Giants’ injuries, the weird schedule to start the year, and the lack of consistency roster-wide. They are still searching for cohesiveness, making another couple moves today to bolster the bullpen for Colorado’s thin air.

They remain without Joe Panik, Hunter Pence, Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, and Madison Bumgarner.

But, most of all, they are proving to be a very bad road team (11-18).

The good news is that they’ve been pretty good at home (14-10). But this is maybe the most obvious indictment of their starting rotation. For a team to be good on the road, in general, it must get good starting pitching. “Starting pitching travels,” is the old adage/cliché.

The stats are somewhat neutral. The Giants have a 4.32 home ERA vs. a 4.76 ERA on the road. Roughly half a run a game. Not great, but not that dramatic.

The one stat that does stand out, though: 19 home runs allowed at home, 33 on the road. And this will be significant in Colorado. Keep the ball in the yard to have a chance guys!


Today the Giants will trot out this lineup:

That’s not bad. And when Joe Panik returns it looks even better.

Andrew Baggarly has been talking up Gorkys Hernandez as the next Andres Torres, and that’s a fun comp. Let’s hope he can keep this up!


Finally, a reminder that all is not lost:

 

A Giant Mess? #sfgiants #weekinreview

Last Monday I bragged about how the Giants merely needed to go 2-5 to secure a .500 record on a tough/no-day-off east coast road swing. I wrote about how they were playing with house money, and a split in Philly and a series win in Pittsburg could actually produce a 7-3 trip.

Well, the Giants took one look at that, laughed, and had an absolute turd of a week, losing 6 of 7, and watching their run differential plummet to -28.

We are now at the quarter pole in the 2018 season, and so let’s examine a few trends:

  1. Feast or Famine…the top trend of the Giants season is that it seems like everything goes well or nothing goes well. They hit when they pitch, and when they don’t pitch, they don’t hit. There have not been many 2-1 losses, or even 8-7 losses. They have won their share of close games, but have also gotten blown out a ton. The offense either is clicking and hitting home runs, or nothing is happening. A turn through the rotation is pretty good, or everyone is terrible. This makes it very hard to analyze where this team is truly at.
  2. .500…Bill Parcells is famous for saying you are whatever your record says you are. Well, the Giants are a .500 team. There’s been some moments well below even and a few days with a bit of a cushion, but for the most part this a win-half, lose-half team so far. No getting around that. Now, what is interesting is that, given the spring training injury situation, this would have been very acceptable a few weeks before Madison Bumgarner’s return. However, it definitely feels like it could be/should be better.
  3. Injuries…some national commentators look at the Giants injury woes and go “oh, of course, it’s an old team.” However, the Giants have sustained injuries to their young guys at the same rate as old. (Panik, Hansen, Williamson, Bumgarner, etc. vs Cueto, Samardzija, Melancon, Pence). The “old” guys you would think of getting hurt does include Melancon, but Longoria, McCutchen, Posey, and others have all been very healthy so far. This trend started last year and continues into this year. Is there something go on here? Some of it is freaky (Williamson/Panik/Bumgarner), but some of it raises questions about the medical staff (Melancon and Cueto in particular).

All of which leads to this dramatic hot take: I still have no idea what to make of this team.

How’s that for a take? But seriously, the Giants are 3.5 games out of the wild card, 4.5 games out of the division. The Dodgers are broken and might not get fixed this year. Things are much more wide open in the NL than expected (and much more wide open than the AL for sure).

It feels like the Giants can, and will, get better. Bumgarner is not that far from a return. The bullpen has been pretty good and will probably get better as the season goes along. The offense has been horrible at times, but shown signs of life. It seems reasonable to assume that several hitters will produce at a higher level over the next 6-8 weeks.

But, do you feel confident? Is this doable for this version of the Giants? All I know, so far, is that I have no idea.

Next up: a 7 game home stand, 3 against the Reds and 4 against the Rockies. The Rockies sit ahead of the Giants in the standing and have not been good away from home. This is an important week to get back on track.

2018 SF Giants Preview

Welp. I had a preview post outlined and ready to go for the 2018 Giants. It was about the improved lineup and defense, the potential for the bullpen to be decent, and it was especially focused on the massive year Madison Bumgarner was poised to have.

That was the formula in my head. A career best year from Mad Bum, Johnny Cueto back to his wiley ways, and then some league average performances from the rest of the rotation should have been enough to get the Giants to the Wild Card.

Then yesterday happened:

Well, shoot.

This, coupled with a Jeff Samardzija pectoral strain, has cast a dark shadow on the start of the season.

The good news is that there are still 162 games left to be played.
The bad news is they will lose 15-25 starts from 2 of their 3 best/most reliable pitchers.

So, what now? 5 Keys to Stay Competitive into June:

  1. Johnny Cueto, whom this site named the Most Important Giant for 2018, only becomes all that more important. He needs to pitch like a badass right out of the gate, and have a GREAT first half. We’re talking prime 2016 Cueto.
  2. Somebody else in the rotation needs to come out of nowhere and have a great 8-start run to begin the season. Derek Holland? Ty Blach? Chris Stratton? Don’t care who it is, but one of them needs a magic run to get the team off to a good start.
  3. The bullpen needs to go from serviceable to an absolute strength of the team. The Giants may be able to get through the lineup a couple of times with Holland and Blach and maybe the Tyler Beede’s of the world, but they are going to have several days where they need 10-15 outs from the bullpen. That’s asking a lot from a unit that has some question marks.
  4. Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Buster Posey need to earn their paychecks. No slow starts here. No “I’m just getting used to my surroundings” from the new guys. They need to mash, and they need to mash early and often.
  5. Finally, someone, and I’m looking at you Brandon Belt, needs to have a career year at the plate. If the 2018 Giants are going to be competitive, then this needs to be the long-awaited Belt breakout.

One interesting side effect to all this: the Giants will likely go with a 13 man pitching staff, and cut a position player (probably an OF), which makes the roster predictions a little different. So a final proposal:

  1. Posey C
  2. Hundley C
  3. Belt 1B
  4. Panik 2B
  5. Crawford SS
  6. Longoria 3B
  7. Sandoval INF
  8. Tomlinson INF (probably makes it since he could play OF in a pinch)
  9. Pence LF
  10. Jackson CF
  11. McCutchen RF
  12. Blanco OF (makes it as the ultimate backup guy…without the injuries I’m 100% Duggar makes the team to open the season)
  13. Cueto SP
  14. Stratton SP
  15. Blach SP
  16. Holland SP
  17. Beede SP (my guess is the Giants will stay in-house and see if they can get some starts out of Beede until Samardzija returns…it looks like there is not much room left with the addition of Blanco for another SP, and to be honest there is not a lot available anyway…my apologies to the Bartolo Colon lovers out there)
  18. Melancon CL
  19. Dyson R
  20. Strickland R
  21. Watson L
  22. Gearin R
  23. Osich L
  24. Fernandez R
  25. Law R (Now, here is where it gets interesting. The Giants could keep Gorkys Hernandez as a 5th OF, or they could go any number of ways with a pitcher: A guy they know well like Law, a guy the like such as Reyes Montoya, or a guy who could give them innings, like Andrew Suarez. My guess is they go with the guy they know well, hence Derek Law. Also, remember that at some point in late April/Early May Will Smith will return.)

One final note. I’ve heard some rumblings about a big trade for Chris Archer or someone like him. I’d be shocked by this for a few reasons. First, that kind of trade would officially rid the farm system of anything it has left. Second, I don’t see Tampa making that trade to start the season.

Finally, the Giants do have an opportunity here to stay somewhat competitive while finding out what they have in a lot of guys early: Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Tyler Beede, Josh Osich, and Julian Fernandez can all make the case that they are significant big leaguers. Gregor Blanco, Derek Holland, and Austin Jackson can prove they are indispensible pieces ready to help a good team.

We’ll see!

To add salt to our wounds: a tweet I completely agree with…

 

Signs of Blah #sfgiants

We’ve officially hit the doldrums. Maybe they hit you on opening day, maybe you are still, pathetically, excited about the 2017 SF Giants (I don’t know, there might be one of you). Chances are you are not even reading this because you moved on long ago.

One of the questions driving the season, since at least mid-May, has been: “who are you excited to get to see play?”

Many were excited about Christian Arroyo.
Austin Slater was a nice story.
Mac Williamson made an appearance for a minute.
A few of us got excited about Pablo Sandoval’s return.
I was looking forward to a couple of Tyler Beede starts.

But here we are, with 36 games yet to play, and what is there to look forward to?

Anyone remotely interesting is already here or not coming up (I would have loved to see Andrew Suarez, but it seems like the Giants don’t want to expose him at this point and I get that). Ryder Jones is here. Jarrett Parker is getting his shot (again). Kyle Crick is trying to make a case for future bullpener. Chris Stratton is in the conversation for future rotations.

But, there will be no Christian Arroyo show, part II.
No Tyler Beede debut.
No Austin Slater return.

What is there to look forward to?


This is not to say there is nothing worth watching or paying attention to. Madison Bumgarner is worth watching, period, but even more so because his ability to be great still is so important to the future of the franchise. So far so good.

Matt Moore has had two quality starts in a row and if he can keep it up it we will have the whole offseason to debate what it means. In the meantime, keep rooting for a Matt Moore resurgence. It’s only thing that makes sense.

Ty Blach and Matt Moore may have switched bodies, which would explain their last two starts, but what if Blach has turned into a pumpkin. He’s been one of the best stories of the season (the best?!), and a strong finish would secure him a spot in the 2018 rotation and make all of us feel just a little bit better about how this year has gone. A Ty Blach debacle to end the year would be a poetic ending to a terrible, terrible season.

We’re very likely to see a couple of Johnny Cueto starts before the end of the season and there might not be anything more important to the future of the Giants. At this point, I think we have to root for him to be really good when he comes back, good enough to tempt him to opt out. If he doesn’t I know I can make the case for why that is not the end of the world, but the fastest way to the Giants remaking their roster is through a Cueto opt out.

Beyond that I’d like to see Joe Panik and Brandon Belt come back clear of concussions and be good for a couple weeks before shutting it down. I’d like to see Brandon Crawford have one hot streak before this miserable campaign ends. I’d like to see Buster end the year with a .900 OPS.

There’s also Mark Melancon proving he’s healthy, a couple of guys in the bullpen making a case to be important to the 2018 team, and fringe players like Kelby Tomlinson establishing themselves as good role players.


We have a long dark winter to stare down, but may as well get started. I’m rooting for Cueto to go, and Justin Upton to arrive.

Second Half Predictions

The Giants picked up the second half right where they left off: Johnny Cueto underwhelmed, they still can’t win a MadBum start, Samardzija is ever the enigma, and the offense kept sputtering right along.

There’s not much to review here, but it was great to see Madison Bumgarner back! That start was the best case scenario for all involved: several innings, quality performance, no high stress pitch counts…quite frankly it was a game a good team would have won.

Rather than dig any deeper into that, or into fantastical scenarios that will never happen, let’s make a few predictions about the second half:

  • Giants predictions: the only bold prediction that is mildly interesting to make here is that Brandon Belt will hit 30 home runs, the first to do it since some guy named Barry. Other than that: the Giants will make some trades and hope to get some bounce backs from the Crawford’s and Moore’s of the roster. On to the rest of baseball.
  • The Cubs will be fine. My big second half baseball prognostication is that the Cubs will win the Central. Then they went out and won 3 straight games by the combined score of 27-11. They’ll be fine. The NL postseason is going to be a blood bath.
  • The AL pennant race is going to be interesting with so many teams in play still, but it’s all a prelude to the Astros steamrolling their way to the World Series.
  • Aaron Judge is awesome, but he won’t hit 50 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s rookie HR record.
  • I should be picking the Dodgers to win it all, but I can’t do that and so I’m going to get all sentimental and pick the Dusty Baker National’s to win the whole thing.

A couple more thoughts on the World Series. MLB seems to obsess far too much over who gets into the WS and it’s impact on ratings. It’s stupid, but to close out this week’s post, here is what Rob’s crew has to be rooting for:

  1. Dodgers and Yankees (two iconic franchises and some serious star power).
  2. Cubs and Red Sox (the Epstein series)
  3. Dodgers and Red Sox (similar to 1)
  4. Dodgers and Astros (especially if they hold up their best records in each league)
  5. Cubs and Yankees
  6. Nationals and Yankees (especially as a potential preview to Bryce Harper’s future team)

What they are probably NOT rooting for:

  1. Milwaukee and Minnesota
  2. Colorado and Kansas City
  3. Arizona and Houston

Or some combination of those teams.

Baseball monk prediction: Nationals over Astros in 6

Under Performing/Over Performing, Pt. II #sfgiants

The Giants enjoyed a nice 6 game win streak and then resumed sucking, and we are right back where we started: the potential to be one of the worst teams in baseball this year and Giants’ history. Wheeeee!

A couple of weeks ago we looked at the offense and saw that nearly across the board the Giants are under performing. Now, we turn our attention to the pitching. (I will be using ERA+, a stat I enjoy, instead of WAR for the pitchers).


For the sake of reference here are the Giants’ team ERA+ records for recent #EvenYears:

  • 2010: 117
  • 2012: 96
  • 2014: 99
  • 2016: 108 (even with that horrid bullpen)

and 2017: 88!

Also for the sake of reference, here were the highest/lowest performers for the rotation and bullpen from each year:

  • 2010: Madison Bumgarner 131/Barry Zito 94; Brian Wilson 210/Guiellermo Mota 91
  • 2012: Matt Cain 126/Tim Lincecum 68 (PS. Lincecum’s struggles deflated the team’s over all #s in 2012); Sergio Romo 198/Clay Hensley 77
  • 2014: Madison Bumgarner 116/Tim Lincecum 73 (although Jake Peavy’s 159 in 12 starts is crazy!); Santiago Casilla 204 (whoa!)/JC Gutierrez (remember him! Me neither) 88
  • 2016: Madison Bumgarner 145 (also Cueto at 142)/Matt Cain 71; Derek Law (where have you gone!) 188/Josh Osich 85

and 2017: Johnny Cueto 91 (Samardzija 90)/Matt Moore 68; Hunter Strickland 207/Steven Okert 68 (ALSO: Madison Bumgarner in 4 starts…139)

And then, finally, just one simple stat, Runs Allowed:

  • 2010: 583 (+114)
  • 2012: 649 (+69)
  • 2014: 614 (+41)
  • 2016: 631 (+84)
  • 2017: 453 (-99)…they are “on pace” to allow over 800 runs!!!

A few initial observations about all that:

  • That 2010 team was really good and history is only proving this to be truer by the day
  • Madison Bumgarner is really good
  • The demise of Tim Lincecum hurt the overall performance of the 2012/2014 teams who had to do a lot of patch work to cover for him
  • 2010 Barry Zito would be the ace on this team
  • The 2016 Giants were also very good, and were a bullpen away from taking on/down the juggernaut Cubs
  • The 2017 Giants have a lot of the same players as the 2016 Giants

To take things a step further, the 2017 Giants are not good because their pitching has been really bad. There are million ways to slice this pie, but the raw stats of runs allowed should be more than enough. Let’s take one more look:

  • 2009 RA: 611
  • 2010: 583
  • 2011: 578 (!!!!!!!!!)
  • 2012: 649
  • 2013: 691
  • 2014: 614
  • 2015: 627
  • 2016: 631
  • 2017: 815

From 2009 to 2016, the golden age of Giant’s pitching, the team has sniffed 700 runs allowed only once, during the injury riddled down year of 2013. This year’s version is threatening to blow right past that and break 800 for the first time since 1999.

I know many people have been very frustrated by the offense, and it has not been great, no doubt about it. But, it is on pace to score 637 runs, which is not that far from the 665 scored in 2014 (Champions!).

The true problem here is with the pitching.

Now, none of this answers the why. Why has it been so bad? Explanations include the obvious (Bumgarner and Melancon have been hurt, some steady hands retired, etc).

But I have two issues I would like to point out:

  1. I haven’t done a deep dive into the #s but it seems like the Giants have had a really hard time striking guys out. In particular, Matt Moore has gotten killed with 2 strikes. But it’s not just Moore, it seems to happen all the time.
  2. The game has moved to strikeout/home run era. And the Giants, as a whole, don’t seem to be moving with the game.

Which leads to the conclusion: do the Giants have a philosophy that is letting them down? Their strikeout rate is not terrible, and I’ll have to do a deeper dive on some of the numbers, but the 2-strike issues are startling.

The bottom line: the Giants have some really tough/fascinating decisions to make for the 2018 club, and most of them have to do with the pitching staff. If there’s something to watch for in the second half, this would be it.