#SFGiants Week In Review (5/27-6/2)

Well, things just got interesting! Chad Gaudin is the ace of the staff…Tim Lincecum wouldn’t mind moving to the bullpen…Buster Posey is good…Brett Pill and Brandon Belt are in a platoon but is that a good idea?…it’s June and we’re past the 50 game mark and the Giants are winning but their run differential is terrible (-14) and it sure seems like they could/should be better, or worse! What to make of all this?

Let’s begin with this: Buster Posey is good.

Alright, on to the rest of it. Chad Gaudin is not the guy you want to be known as the ace of your pitching staff. Especially when that staff includes Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. But, darn it, he looked so good yesterday mowing down the fearsome Cards. Tell me if this sounds familiar: veteran journeyman with good stuff but lack of control comes to the Giants on minor-league deal and finds himself and his command.

Yes: the Ryan Vogelsong story is what should be playing in your mind right now. Is Chad Gaudin the next Ryan Vogelsong? Too early to tell, but if he keeps hitting spots this might actually become a thing.

Tim Lincecum should move to the bullpen, but can’t because there is no one else. But, it’s interesting to read that the team would do this in a heart beat if it had Zach Wheeler someone else who could start games.

I can’t believe we’re doing the Pill vs. Belt thing again. I don’t care what kind of numbers Pill puts up in AAA, let Brandon play!

Finally, the old adage is you are what your record says you are. But, I look at the Giants’ record and see a classic world view issue: if you are a pessimistic, glass-half-empty type, then a team that loses this badly on the road and is at -14 in run differential is not a good team. However, if you are a positive, glass-half-full type, then this team is in a good position to make a big move when all the pieces start to come together (re: the starting pitchers pitch up to their capabilities). Do with that what you will.

Last Week:

2-5; 30-27 (2.5 games behind in NL West)

Hitter of the Week:

Brandon Crawford’s average is headed back towards .300, Hunter Pence continues to have a very nice season, and Buster Posey is awesome, but I loved what Marco Scutaro did this weekend against the Cardinals. I know a few Cardinals’ fans these days and they HATE Scutaro, the way Phillies fans hate Cody Ross, because they feel like the Giants got lucky with not-very-good-player getting “hot at the right time.” Except Marco Scutaro is a pretty good player and it was nice read many tweets about how he gets a hit every time he bats against the Cardinals from my angry friends.

Pitcher of the Week:

No brainer: Chad Gaudin. If someone had of told Bochy on Sunday morning that Gaudin would give him 6 innings of 4 hit, no walk, 2 run, 5 strikeout ball he would have kissed you. Well done Chad, more of that please!

Looking Ahead:

Strange week: day off, followed by 2 at home against Toronto, followed by a day off, followed by 3 big games against the first place DiamondBacks. Looking forward to that weekend showdown!

(-SB)

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#SFGiants Week in Review (5/6-5/12)

Since our last past, which took the temperature of the starting rotation, each of the Giants’ 5 starters got to take a turn. It went like this: Zito=Great, Vogelsong=Terrible, Cain=Very Encouraging, Bumgarner=Great, Lincecum=Very Encouraging.

So, mostly what we’ve come to expect/encouragement. All of which translated to 4 wins and 1 loss. Very Nice! The deep concern is still very much Vogelsong. How long do you wait this out? Like they did with Lincecum a year ago my gut tells me they wait this one out a long time. (A) There is no one knocking on that door (2) The Giants are in first place and have the luxury of waiting.

Results:

4-3 (23-15); 2 game lead in NL West

6-2 L vs. PHIL; 6-2 L vs. PHIL; 4-3 W vs. PHIL; 6-3 L vs. ATL; 8-2 W vs. ATL; 10-1 W vs. ATL; 5-1 W vs. ATL

Hitter of the Week:

How about Marco Scutaro! His line of .467/.467/.767 is pretty tasty. And take note of this, his average is now over .300. I know batting average isn’t as revered as a stat as it once was, but for a guy like Scutaro is pretty important…his value to the team is average and on-base-percentage, as opposed to power. He is the perfect #2 hitter for this team and every runs a little more smoothly when he is going well.

Also, don’t miss this fact, while we are talking about batting average: Scutaro is at .305, Sandoval at .320, Posey at .294, and Pence at .281. That is a very good sign for the 2-5 spots.

Here’s my prediction: this team has the capability of putting together at 10+ game winning streak. Their ability to put long streaks together in the past (based on excellent starting pitching) has always been stunted by the offense. Hard to maintain a streak when you are prone to the 1-0 caining loss.

Pitcher of the Week:

Tempting to give this to Lincecum but I’m going with Matt Cain. He still got burned by the longball, but a very, very encouraging sight to see him go 8 after getting hit by a ball and dominating.

Looking Ahead:

Very interesting road trip: 2 in Toronto and then 4 in Colorado. Neither team is playing well right now, but  it is weird to go to Canada and play with the DH and then go to Colorado where weird stuff happens. I’d be pleased with 3-3 but am hoping the success against the NL West leads to a 4-2 week.

(-SB)

Getting the Band Back Together

So the Giants brought them all back: Affeldt, Pagan, and Scutaro. There are concerns of overpaying and allowing the World Series glow to affect objectivity.

Other than the years I think these are great deals for the Giants. Obviously, we would all prefer 2 years for Scutaro and Affeldt, and three for Pagan. There’s a good chance the 2015 Giants will either have three old guys who can’t do much or they will have to eat some contracts.

But that eating shouldn’t taste too bad. The Giants spent $78 million for three players (the Braves, on the other hand, spent that on one). Scutaro isn’t making any more than Freddy Sanchez did last year for the Giants (to rehab all year). Pagan is cheaper than Shane Victorino (and better). And Affeldt is cheaper (and better) than what the Reds gave Jonathan Broxton and what the Dodgers gave Brandon League.

That’s about as good as you can ask for.

Bring back Cody Ross!

(-SB)

Big Answers

Yesterday we posted 5 Big Questions the Giants face this offseason. Today we try to answer them.

1) What can we expect from Tim Lincecum:

  • a) He continues to suck, the Giants figure out something to do with him (bullpen?), and let him walk at the end of the year.
  • b) He bounces back fully and the Giants have a big decision to make next offseason about what to do with him.
  • c) The Giants try to sign him this offseason at a discount
  • d) The Giants trade him this offseason. His lowered value doesn’t get the same return as a few years ago, but it could a be a good return and it would resolve (a) and (b).

My opinion is that Tim Lincecum is going to bounce back in a major way next year. I think he will be in better shape, I think he will work out the kinks in his motion, and I think he will prove to be a better pitcher than ever (if not quite as dominant) in 2013.

Tim can’t just throw a 95 mph fastball at the top of the zone and come right back with an 84 mph change that drop off the table anymore. But he can be extremely effective by relearning his fastball and by getting his mechanics to a place where he has better control (if less velocity). He is too good, too competitive, and too young to be washed up as a starter.

  • What should happen: I think the Giants should try to sign Timmy this offseason and enjoy the bounce back at a discounted rate.
  • What will happen: I think the Giants will stand pat, let the season play out, and make a Lincecum decision next offseason.

2) Can the rotation back up their performance:

A huge part of the answer to this question has to do with Lincecum finding himself. The Giants had their worst ERA+ as a staff this year (95) since 2006. And this was the first year with a below average ERA+ during this run of success. A lot of that was due to Lincecum posting the worst ERA+ of any starter in the big leagues. Like I said, a Timmy bounce-back is the biggest way the whole team improves in 2013.

I also think Madison Bumgarner will have a huge year next year. I’m a huge MadBum fan, and I think the kid just ran out of gas this year. But he’s a big strong kid who will learn how to build strength as the year goes on. I think he takes another step forward which only makes the rotation that much more solid.

I’m mildly concerned about Matt Cain. He threw 250 innings this year, and while the dude is a horse I think some fatigue showed up in the post-season: too many home runs. However, there’s no reason to suggest he doesn’t do what Matt Cain always does: pitch well.

Ryan Vogelsong is also a concern. Late bloomers tend to fall and fall quickly. I expect Vogelsong to be very effective next year, but I think we will see more ups and downs.

Barry Zito is Barry Zito. He’ll have some starts that make you wish you had never turned the TV on and he’ll have some starts that make you think he could win the CY Young again. In the end he will have an ERA just north of 4.00 and win double-digit games. (One caveat here: If Zito hits 200 innings his 2014 team option vests…I would guess they manage that pretty carefully next year).

  • What should happen: the Giants staff should continue to be the strength of this team and Madison Bumgarner will be in the conversation for the CY Award at season’s end.
  • What will happen: I think the Giants will take a flier on a Vogelsong-like pitcher this offseason who will prove to be valuable because Vogelsong will miss time due to injury.

3) Can the lineup stay healthy: The real heart of this question, as I mentioned yesterday, is this…will this be the year we finally get to see Panda and Posey together, at full strength, in the middle of the lineup.

It is obviously impossible to predict health with any reasonable accuracy, but Panda and Posey will be in the 26-27 year old window the next two years, typically two of the most productive years for baseball players. If healthy I think we see a potent 1-2 combo in the middle of the lineup.

  • What should happen: Posey and Panda come to camp next year in shape and highly motivated for personal and team success.
  • What will happen: I think this is exactly what will happen with the addendum that the Giants sign Posey to a long-term deal this offseason.  

4) Will the Giants make the same mistakes from 2010: After the 2010 Championship the Giants just had to bring back Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez. Oops. Aubrey felt necessary because no one knew what to expect from Pablo and there were no other legitimate middle of the order hitters in the Giants lineup. But that was a frustrating signing as it seemed to block Brandon Belt. Freddy Sanchez was blocking no one and even though we all knew of his propensity for injury it seemed like a good idea.

The Giants are in a similar situation with Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, and Jeremy Affeldt. It is hard to imagine a Giants team in 2013 without those guys on the roster. However, they are all going to be in demand this offseason, and they are not going to be cheap. And they are not exactly young (Pagan being the youngest at 31). I’ve already heard about a Rowand (5 ys/$60 mil) type deal for Pagan, and Affeldt’s market just shot through the roof (no thanks to the Dodgers) now that Brandon League signed a 3 year/$22 mil deal.

TradeRumors has the Giants bringing back all three. I would love to see the three return, but I do wonder if the Giants will end up signing contracts that they later regret. I can’t imagine Scutaro getting more than three years (it really should be 2, with an option at most), which I think is ok, but Pagan for 5? Yikes! Affeldt at $8-10 million a year? Whoa!

Complicating matters is that the Giants have top prospects at CF and 2B. Gary Brown and Joe Panik seemed locks to make at least an appearance in 2013 (if not the opening day roster) after 2011, but they both had years that raised some questions. They cannot be expected to make an impact in 2013. But by 2014? Sure. I’d hate to see them blocked.

Affeldt is a huge weapon, but the Giants have two other lefties coming back next year (Lopez and Mijares). They also have Dan Runzler who actually could fulfill the role Affeldt plays (lefty who can get righties out too) if he can stay healthy.

All of this shapes up to be quite fascinating.

  • What should happen: The Giants should bring them all back, but at reasonable deals. I’d be ok with Scutaro on a 2-year, $18 million deal (with an option for a third), Pagan for 3 years at $36 million, and Affeldt for 2 years at $15 million.
  • What will happen: The Giants will bring them all back, but overpay severely, especially for Pagan.

5) Will the Giants make a splash in Free Agency: Assuming the above happens, the Giants will only have one significant hole and that involves Left Field. (Amazing trivia note from Baggs: did you know the Giants biggest FA signing last year was Ryan Theriot at $1.75 million. They spent a ton of money on existing guys, but that still caught me off guard).

The Giants have come up in a few Josh Hamilton rumors and there is always the possibility that another Championship could lead to (over)confident spending.

The answer to this question really lies in what happen with Scutaro, Pagan, and Affeldt, especially Pagan. If Pagan goes elsewhere the Giants might jump in on someone like Michael Bourn or BJ Upton.

The bigger question here is this: do the Giants take a flier on Melky Cabrera? Do they utilize a Blanco/Nady platoon (or some other right-handed, power hitting outfielder)? Do they have another trick up their sleeve?

  • What should happen: Assuming the “big 3” return, I think the Giants should bring back Cody Ross and use him in a platoon with Gregor Blanco in left field.
  • What will happen: This is the hardest one for me to predict and so much of it has to do with the other impending free agents. I don’t think the Giants will spend big, especially on a left fielder, so I do see them considering some kind of a platoon here, but I honestly have no idea how this one shakes out. I also wouldn’t count out a Cabrera return.

There you have it. I’m sure this will all get revised and mixed up as things progress, but that’s my very early assessment of this offseason. Good luck Sabes!

(SB)

Thoughts on Game 7, the Post-Season, and 2010 vs. 2012

Wow. Just wow.

First, a couple of thoughts about this series.

A lot of people will talk/write about the breaks the Giants got, and they got a lot. (Note that the Cardinals got their fair share in the first half of the series). But, it is ALWAYS about pitching, and if you only allow 1 run over the course of three games you have a great chance of winning.

Marco Scutaro gets a well deserved MVP award. One of the amazing things about what he did (14 hits) is that he beat Will Clarks record of 13 in 1989. Clark did it in 5 games. Will Clark was pretty good.

Marco overshadows the work of Pablo Sandoval. The Panda had an RBI in each of the last 5 games of the series. That’s huge.

There was some argument between Scutaro and Vogelsong for MVP, but the guy who quietly has impressed me the most this post-season is Jeremy Affeldt. 8 straight scoreless appearances (more on this below).

—–

All post-season long I’ve been mulling over the differences between 2010 and 2012. 2010 will always be special because pre-2010 everything related to the Giants ended in pain and suffering. And in 2010 we stood on the brink of pain and suffering so many times. I spent three weeks simply waiting for the shoe to drop and everything to fall apart. Never happened. It’s been a new baseball reality for me ever since.

So, a couple of thoughts on the two teams/experiences

1) I was way more stressed in 2010 than this time around. Seems weird to say: the 2010 team never faced elimination once. 6 times we’ve gone into a game this year thinking: “this could be it.” And yet, it hasn’t been that stressful. Game 5 against the Reds was the closest thing to “torture” so far.

2) 2010 will always be special because it was the first time I’ve experienced a Giants World Series win. But, this team is special too, mostly for all the things they’ve overcome. So proud of their spirit.

3) Which team is better? It’s too early to say, you can’t really argue until there’s a trophy. But let’s do it anyway. The 2010 had the dominant starting pitching and a strong bullpen. Wilson and Lopez in particular were amazing. 2010 also had home run hitters in the 3-8 spots. It was home runs, close games, starting pitching, and Wilson at the end.

2012 has been opportunistic offense, and just enough good pitching to win the right amount of games in each series. The big difference to me has been the bullpens. No one would argue that the 2010 ‘pen wasn’t good. But the 2012 version is more impressive to me. Having Tim Lincecum in the ‘pen is a huge weapon. And I would argue that the addition of Jose Mijares has allowed Bochy to really use Affeldt to his full potential. In 2010 the Giants faced lineups with really great lefties (Utley, Howard, Hamilton) and Bochy used his two lefties very effectively to neutralize those guys. But Affeldt is an incredible weapon: a left-handed reliever who get right-handers out and pitch multiple innings.

So, in many ways Bochy has had even more options and weapons in the ‘pen this time around which has helped cover for the less dominant starting pitching.

Again, which team is better? Hard to say…I’ll always put my money with strong starting pitching, so 2010 still has an edge, but I’ll get back to you on this after this WS is done.

—–

The Giants outscored the Cardinals 20-1 over the last three games. Send that back to June when Pablo was out, second, short, and first were black holes, and Melky Cabrera was the best hitter on this team.

—–

Should have more to say about the Series tomorrow. I  don’t think Tigers present any more of a challenge than the Reds or Cards, BUT neither of those teams have a Justin Verlander type ace. But then again, we’ve seen the Giants take down some unbeatable pitchers before.

Final thought: Buster Posey looked exhausted at the end of game 5 against the Reds and he has continued to look tired during the NLCS. But, the finish line is now firmly in sight and I have a feeling we will see an energized Buster in the World Series. Look for him to have some big moments on the grandest stage.

—–

Some Links:

Tom Verducci with some interesting thoughts especially about Bochy (see point #5)

What a Game 1 WS start would mean to Barry Zito

The Giants Win the Pennant by Grant Bisbee

Jeff Passan on the Cardinals collapse

A bunch of great tidbits from the Merc’s Alex Pavlovic

(-SB)

All Tied Up (NLCS Thoughts)

Marco, please don’t be hurt bad. Please don’t be broken.

A few weeks ago, it sure seemed like Ryan Vogelsong was the best bet to play the part of 5th starter/long man duty in the postseason. Much like what Tim Lincecum has done so far, he’d come into games here and there, helping out if a starter stumbled.

Ryan Vogelsong is the ace of this staff right now.

—–

I wrote the other day that the key to the series is Madison Bumgarner. He needed to dominate. He did not dominate. In his four innings the Cardinals scored 6 runs. Against everyone else, over 14 innings, the Cardinals have scored once, and that run was driven in by a pitcher.

Bumgarner might not start again in this postseason. What this means is this: once again, Tim Lincecum is the key. Matt Cain needs to follow-up Vogey with a strong start, but Lincecum needs to be good. Really good. The Giants, at this point, can’t count on their lefties which means the bullpen is a little less strong, which means Tim Lincecum needs to be good.

—–

Speaking of the bullpen…well done sirs. My only bone to pick with Bochy is using Sergio Romo last night. I can buy the “he needed to get a good inning under his belt” argument, but I think Romo is more effective the less a team has seen him. The Giants will need him to finish off a close game this series and Romo is awesome, but he’s not Wilson or even Casilla in terms of versatility and being able to give different looks. It’s all about the slider. The less comfortable the Cardinals can be with that pitch the better.

—–

Marco Scutaro: stud. But here’s the other reality…the Giants need to get a big game from Pablo and big game from Pence. Pence needs to hit a home run or two for the Giants to win the series. Pablo needs to quit being late on fastballs. Posey hasn’t done much yet, but I’m not too worried (although you start to wonder about fatigue at this point in the season). Again, love what Pagan, Crawford, Blanco, and, of course, Scutaro have done, but the “big boys” need to give us something.

—–

The goal: 2 out of 3 in St. Louis and then clinch at home!

(-SB)

Sweet Sweepness

Nothing like a sweet sweep to wash away the taste of sour Melk (see what I did there). Seriously, though, that was huge, and here are the reasons why:

  1. The Giants, for the first time this year against the Dodgers, had the “big 3” lined up to pitch. Yes, Lincecum has had a terrible year. Yes, Vogelsong has beaten Kershaw twice. Yes, Zito has not killed us against the ‘Bums. But, there is something psychologically fortifying about sending out Madbum, The Freak, and Cainer and getting it done. 3 wins, a 0.87 ERA, 20.2 IP, and this is my favorite: 19 strikeouts and only 1 walk. The Dodgers are spending money and they have definitely improved their lineup over the course of the season, but the Giants have a better rotation and they showed it this week.
  2. The Giants swept the Dodgers in LA when by all accounts, at least nationally, they should have been folding in the wake of the Cabrara suspension. Losing Melky hurts, don’t get me wrong, but the Giants also won a World Series in 2010 without Pablo Sandoval. Yeah, he had a big hit against the Phillies, but he was not a significant part of that run at all. The key to that run was unbelievable starting pitching and having 2-3 guys in the lineup hot at any given time. Sometimes it was Burrell, sometimes it was Cody, sometimes it was Torres, and so it goes. The Giants still have enough firepower to get this done, IF they pitch up to their capabilities.

A couple of other thoughts:

  • Pagan is hitting great right now, Pence will be fine, Belt/Pill/etc will be adequate at first base, the real key to the Giants lineup right now is Marco Scutaro. He’s got second base and the second spot in the lineup on lock down and that makes so many other things fall into place. I think it’s helped Pagan in the lead off spot and it allows Bochy to use Arias/Crawfor/Theriot in spots where they can succeed.
  • Really, I think Hunter Pence is going to be fine.
  • I’ve never been so concerned about hamstrings in my entire life. Please hold up!
  • There is a part of me that desperately longs for Jeremy Affeldt to step and be the guy who can lock down the 9th inning. I don’t think it’s going to happen, which means let’s hope this Santiago Casilla resurgence is for real.
  • I also think it’s time to give the X-Man a shot at left field. He’s a poor man’s Pat Burrell. Let’s make this happen!

(-SB)