A Winning Week! #sfgiants #weekinreview

So, the Giants are good now, right?!
Hahahahahaha…

Jokes aside it was a good week: 4-3, and they finally won a division series over a team not named the Dodgers.

This week does raise a couple of tensions for Giants fans as we close out the final third of the season.

No one wants to watch loss after loss, and ending the season on a high note is a good thing, but the better this team plays, the higher their draft spot becomes. In baseball this is not such a huge deal, but still a mild concern.

More to the point (at least in my view), the better certain guys play, the more likely the front office is to fall in love them.

For example: Jarrett Parker just had a great return to the lineup. A friend and I joked that the answer to the riddle of 2017 must have always been Parker.

I like the guy. I call him Captain Jack for his resemblance to Johnny Depp’s Pirate’s character. He’s played the last 4 games with more panache, energy, and effectiveness than just about anyone not named Buster this season.

But that said, he’s 28 and he strikes me as the classic AAAA player. Too good for the minors, not good enough for the Majors. Perhaps he can settle into a nice 4th or 5th outfielder role, but my fear is that he has a great two months, and the Giants become convinced he’s the guy, and here’s our new starting OF.

While I would love to regret writing that last paragraph, there are a few of these kinds of guys who concern me because their success in August and September could undercut shrewder moves.

I would include Pablo Sandoval in this list.

Giants fans should root hard for Samardzija and Moore and Bumgarner and Crawford and Melancon, and probably for Pence and Cueto to finish strong. Root for Ryder Jones to establish himself. For Ty Blach to keep the good times coming and for Kelby Tomlinson to prove he belongs.

I’m not so sure with Parker.


Another interesting case is Chris Stratton. Stratton took Matt Cain’s place in the rotation (although I expect Cain to get a final, highly publicized start, to end the season. Probably in the closing series against the Padres).

This means Stratton essentially has a 2 month tryout.

Here’s where my lack of confidence in the Giants front office is betrayed: I kind of like Stratton, and certainly enjoy watching him pitch more than Matt Cain (sorry Matty). But he’s about to turn 27 and still hasn’t figured it out yet.

I like his stuff. I like the idea of more options and greater depth (the Giants desperately need this, especially if Cueto opts out). But I get concerned that two good months might allow the team to make a lazy decision.

And that’s basically my issue with this front office. There’s a tendency to take the easy way out.


Contrast this with the Dodgers. Granted, any comparison of the Giants and Dodgers right now is tough. I do not think these teams are as far apart as the standings show. But, one team is having maybe the greatest regular season in the last 100 years, and the other is having one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Less than a year ago, both teams battled the eventual Champion Cubs (and lost, but it was a battle).

The biggest difference between the teams is youth and depth, with the Dodgers coming out ahead on both counts.

I would add to that ruthlessness with which the Dodgers have been making decisions. Andrew Friedman is finally showing us what a “moneyball” guy would do with a big budget and it’s more than a bit awe-inspiring.

That being said, the Dodgers, to this point, have been able to operate the last couple years with essentially zero sentimentality.

Even the extension offered to Clayton Kershaw was more a baseball decision than a fan base decision (although it was certainly both).

If the Dodgers win it all this year (and until proven otherwise, I’m sticking with my Nationals prediction), they will finally be faced with some sentimental decisions. Do they, for example, give a big contract to Yu Darvish just because he helped them finally win?

The Giants have erred to the side of keeping their own guys and sentimental favorites around, even if longer than needed, as a reward for winning, as a way to protect the culture, and as a way to keep the fans engaged. It’s not necessarily a bad idea.

But the Giants have rarely been ruthless. They tend to go just a bit too far with their guys. Aubrey Huff, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, for example (though it’s actually a long list).

I’m interested to see how the Dodgers handle this going forward, and I’m even more interested to see if the Giants can get a bit more ruthless, because I think they need it.

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Early Thoughts on the Off-Season

Here’s a simple preview of your 2017 SF Giants (other previews here):
C (2)
Posey
Brown

INF (6)
Belt
Panik
Crawford
Nunez
Gillapsie
Tomlinson

OF (5)
Williamson
Span
Pence
Hernandez
Parker

SP (5)
Bumgarner
Cueto
Moore
Samardzija
Cain

RP (7)
NEW CLOSER
Law
Strickland
Smith
Okert
Kontos
Suarez


Now, let’s analyze that a bit:

  • The Giants are getting rid of $50 million in payroll, but will see current players take $30 million in raises, so the general operating principle is that they will have approximately $20 million to spend. One way to think about next year is as simple as described above: Add a pricey, shiny new closer and call it good.
  • The top 3 closing targets are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon. Who do you want? It seems like Chapman will not be the target, as the Giants don’t like guys with major character issues. That leaves two elite options. The Dodgers will want to keep Jansen, so are you willing to get into a bidding war with LA? At what point do you walk away from that war? That leaves Melancon, who the Giants seemed to have really wanted at the trade deadline. He would be the cheapest (maybe? likely?). I like this option a lot, but I also lived in Boston when he had the worst year of career, so there’s that. But, after those 3 there’s not much else.
  • If the Giants sign Melancon at say, 4 yrs/$64 million (yeeps), what else do you do? I am most interested in seeing the Giants add veterans (ala Conor Gillaspie) to the bench. I could see them improving the backup catcher and infield position. In other words, a couple of the weak links are: Kelby Tomlinson, Ehrie Adrianza, and Trevor Brown. One example (not saying this is the right guy), would be signing Aaron Hill to take the Tomlinson roster spot. Hill doesn’t need to start, doesn’t need ABs, can passably play a few positions, and has some pop from the right side. These are not sexy moves, but they create organizational depth, which is desperately needed.

Well, that was pretty boring, now for some craziness:

  • Listening to John Smoltz this postseason has made me think: is there a potential starting pitcher out there who could transform into an elite closer? The Giants were rumored to be in the trade market for Andrew Cashner at the deadline, and he certainly has the pure stuff to be interesting? Two other names: James Shields, should he opt out, and Clay Bucholz. In no way, should this be a plan A, but if the Giants can’t get a deal done with one of the “Big 3” then they will have to get creative. All three of those guys would seemingly want to remain a starter, and Shields may not even opt out given he sucked so badly this year, and this is a thin starter market, so they may stand to make good cash as starters, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • It sure sounded in the postseason press conference like the front office is very intrigued by a Mac Williamson/Jarrett Parker platoon, or one of those guys winning the job outright. I am too, especially if it allows the Giants to spend the money to get one of those good closers. But I would also be open to the team bringing in a veteran to at least push them in spring training. Are you ok with this being plan A? If not, a plan B option: Matt Holiday!
  • I would love to see the Giants bring in Jared Saltalamaccia as Posey’s backup.

2017 Starting Lineup:

  1. Nunez 3B
  2. Panik 2B
  3. Posey C
  4. Belt 1B
  5. Pence RF
  6. Crawford SS
  7. Williamson LF
  8. Span CF (or do the flip here with the pitcher)

What I like about this lineup is the balance: Left, right, left, all the way through, and more power potential as well.


Finally, some thoughts on Matt Cain:

  • No matter what, the Giants are paying the man $20 million next year. As with 2016, you have to think they are going to give him every opportunity to take that 5th starter role. I know people are really excited about Ty Blach, and I am too, but I think the Giants will give each 8-10 starts (in the majors for Cain, in AAA for Blach) before deciding what to do. I think the Giants need to set, before the season starts, what the expectations are, what success means for Cain, and then stick to that: don’t jerk these guys around.
  • During Joe Blanton’s meltdown in Game 1 of the NLCS, I tweeted this:
  •  I got a little bit of heat in return. Here’s what I mean: I don’t have any problem with Matt Cain turning into a serviceable big league reliever. Nothing would make me happier than Matt Cain having a long, successful, final chapter to his career as a starter or reliever. Either way: don’t care. But, I don’t think it’s quite as simple for Cain as: become a reliever/become dominant again. Joe Blanton transformed his career by turning his slider into a devastating pitch. He doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t have another nasty pitch. It’s all about the slider. Matt Cain’s success has been primarily related to his ability to command his fastball at the top of the strike zone. The weak contact he induced from that pitch was his secret sauce, a deep source of angst for many in the SABR community. Other than that fastball he’s never had a pitch that translates to obvious bullpen success. This is not saying he couldn’t figure it out. But Joe Blanton strikes me as a one trick pony. That trick is pretty good, but when it doesn’t work, there’s no where else to go, and it can get ugly as it did in the 8th inning on Saturday night. Maybe if Cain goes to the bullpen and he can get his velocity in the 93-95 mph range, and that fastball life comes back, then I will look pretty silly. However, Cain doesn’t profile to me as the kind of guy who automatically transitions well to the bullpen.

First Half Recap #sfgiants #2016

If you had of predicted, at the start of the season, significant DL time for Hunter Pence, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo, Matt Duffy, Angel Pagan, Joe Panik, and various other contributors from the bench and bullpen all by the All-Star Break, I would have thought that a recipe for mediocrity at best, and disaster at worst (especially if all those injuries were combined with poor performance.)

But, no, your 2016 SF Giants at the All-Star Break=Best Record in Baseball.
57-33.
.633 winning percentage.
Not near the best run differentially (+73, 66 runs behind the Cubs),
but better than almost anyone else in baseball.

Bottom line: this team has been really good (#analysis).

Let’s review some of our pre-season keys, and see how the Giants have fared:

  1. Health: hahahahahah…one thing I will say about this…with the exception of Pence, the Giants have not really lost time for any of what might be called the “core contributors.” This is not to take anything away from the Duffys and Cains and Pagans and Paniks, but the Giants haven’t lost any time from Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt, or Brandon Crawford. Four of those guys are on the All-Star team and the other (Crawford) should be. Not only have they not missed any time, they’ve all been pretty stinkin’ good, if not downright great this year. So, the health of the core has been steady, and this is very, very important.
  2. Matt Cain: I admitted my personal bias in this when the season opened, but Matt Cain hasn’t worked out so far. To be fair, he has pitched fairly well when he’s been out there, and his production, combined with Albert Suarez, has produced more than respectable 5th starter results. He also is back to start the second half, so this story is still far from finished.
  3. Brandon Belt: now we start to get into some “hits.” Belt has been awesome all year, far and away his best year, primarily because he’s been so consistent. Belt has been streaky, and injured, throughout his career, but so far neither of those have been true in 2016, and we are seeing the best we’ve ever seen from the Baby Giraffe. It will be great to watch what he can do too, once Pence gets back and there’s a little more lineup protection.
  4. Winning At Home: The Giants have been just as good at home (29-17) as on the road (28-16), a welcome development. That home record includes an inexplicable 4 game sweep at the hands of the helpless Diamondbacks, so it should/could be even better the deeper we get into the season.
  5. Integrating the New Guys: this could not be going any better. The pitchers in particular (Cueto and Samardzija) have not only been better than expected, but it seems like they’ve been around forever. Denard Span hasn’t lit the world on fire, but his chemistry with the rest of the guys seems great too. Chemistry is hard to quantify, for sure, but on a team as tight as the Giants it is important, and from this side of things it seems the integration process has been seemless.

Reasons to be Pessimistic:

  • Some of the advances stats show that the Giants have been playing above their heads. Even without those stats, it does seem remarkable that the Giants are the “best team in baseball” considering all the injuries and the bullpen struggles. Pessimists fear the regression to the mean in the second half.
  • The bullpen has been a mess…and there are concerns if it can get much better given the internal options (or lack thereof).
  • Too many innings for the starters. Funny how last year the concern was over the taxing of the bullpen and the lack of starters getting deep into games. Now we are wringing our hands over the number of innings and pitch counts. This is actually the one concern I do share with the pessimistic crowd.

Reasons to be Optimistic:

  • While there may be some regression to the mean, the Giants will also be fortified by most of their injured players returning no later than August 1. Undoubtedly it will take some time for all of them to find their rhythm, but the best team will become a far deeper team in the second half of the season.
  • The bullpen will get better. Sergio Romo’s return over the weekend was huge in and of itself, but his performance on the field was outstanding, and seems to have already begun righting the ship. Furthermore, if the Giants make a trade it will be for bullpen help. Pushing the Gearrins and others into lower leverage situations will go a long ways towards better overall pen work in the second half.
  • Matt Cain: I know, I know, get off the Matt Cain kick, Steve. Well, I just can’t. I think Cain’s strong second half will take some of the pressure off of Bum/Cueto/Shark, and allow Bochy to pace those guys a little bit more. Also, Cain in the rotation, means Suarez in the bullpen, which means a true long-man for the first time all season. Suarez could make a few spot starts if someone needs a breather, or he can provide some length to the bullpen, which has been sorely lacking. Think Yusmeiro Petit type work.

One Final Thought:

  • My first half MVP is Brandon Crawford. His offensive numbers are not quite as eye-popping as last year, but he’s gotten even better again, which is hard to believe. The defense continues to be outstanding, and one horrible game in Oakland aside, the defense is much a reason for the Giants’ success as anything else this year. He’s the quarterback out there, and it’s beautiful to watch. Meanwhile his clutch hitting has been fantastic, all those RBIs filling the gaps left by Pence and others.

Week [6] In Review (5/9-5/15) #sfgiants #weekinreview

There was more awe than odd this week (see last week’s week-in-review), as the Giants exacted some revenge against the Arizona Diamondbacks, sweeping them in Phoenix (in 4 games) having been swept in SF by the same D-Backs earlier in the season.

Many positives abound, most notably the marked improvement of Jake Peavy and Matt Cain. Cain, in particular, looks like he’s figured something out. He may never be vintage Matt Cain again, but we’ll take this version, especially as the fifth starter.

That said, the odd factor has not gone away. The defense continues to lapse at times, Posey went ice-cold for a while, and the bullpen perplexities persist. And the oddest story of the year, in some ways, came from the bullpen this week when Santiago Casilla and Bruce Bochy had a very public disagreement.

It hasn’t exactly been pretty, but the Giants are riding a five game win streak and now have a 1 game lead in the division. It still feels like they have much better baseball ahead of them, and if they continue to get good starts they could really put together a nice streak once some of these other issues get ironed out.

Time for a quick ode to Tim Lincecum. All signs are pointing to him signing on with the oh-so-detestable Los Angles Angels of Anaheim, which makes a lot of sense, but now that we are actually at the moment, it feels weird. And I am a little sad.

Timmy was always our Timmy, good or bad, and more than anyone else was at the forefront of the great Giants turnaround.

Over my years as a Giants fan I can remember Scott Garrelts taking a no-hitter to the 9th inning. I remember Big Daddy Reuschel and Dave Dravecky. I loved the emergence of Shawn Estes. I saw Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz spin some magic. I took Jason Schmidt in the first round of a fantasy draft, and I won that season. I watched him strike out 16 guys. We finally had an ace.

I lived and died with Barry Zito.

I remember well the debut of Matt Cain. The epic battle against Todd Helton. I watched Cain’s perfect game and Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter and all of the greatness of Madison Bumgarner.

But, for me, the best game I ever watched by a Giants pitcher was Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS when Lincecum dominated the Atlanta Braves. He gave up a leadoff double and at that point, right out of the gate, all the horrible playoff memories came flooding back: the Giants would turn into pumpkins…again. But then he got out of it, and at that point it was pretty much over. I will never forget that game because it was awesome, in and of itself, but it was also a foreshadowing of what was to come: this was not 1989 or 93 or 97 or 2000 or 02 or 03 or 04. This was something different.

And it was.

Thank you Timmy!

Week in Review: 1 of 3 against Toronto at home, and then the road sweep of Arizona in 4. 22-18 overall, 1 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: The Giants had a pretty poor week with the bats, which makes the 5-2 result a bit surprising, but there were some highlights. Denard Span got it going, and had, easily, the best average of any of the regulars. Buster Posey started to come out of his slump and actually had 2 significant moments this: walking in the game winning run on Wednesday, and then his big game winning double on Saturday.

But, the hitter of the week will go to Joe Panik. He only hit .222, but he is showing signs of heating up, and he his two home run week puts him at 5 for the season, a very interesting development. What if Joe Panik can hit for power?

Brandon Crawford grew into some power, and while we would still prefer to see Panik hitting .300 and getting on base a ton, the added pop is kind of nice.

Pitcher of the Week: I’ve been very forthright with my unabashed desire for Matt Cain to be good again, so I will stop apologizing for that, but ole’ Matt earned it this week:

  • 15 IP, only 15 baserunners allowed, to the tune of a 1.80 ERA, and, in true Matt Cain style, went 0-1 (the team went 1-1).

This is significant development, and it looks like Cain is starting to break through the 5 inning barrier as well. The big questions for Cain moving forward: is this the ceiling, and if so can he do this consistently, or can he continue to get better?

Looking Ahead: A much needed day off today, and then this becomes a week to curse the scheduling gods a bit: 3 games in San Diego (one of the worst offenses in baseball) where the Giants will send their 3 best pitchers to the mound, and then 3 games at home against the Cubs (the best offense in baseball) where the Giants will send Peavy, Cain, and Bumgarner to the bump. Imperative that the Giants keep the wins coming in SD.

See you next Monday.

 

Week [4] In Review (4/25-5/1) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Over the last seven days the Giants won 4 games, all of them started by pitchers named Madison, Johnny, and Jeff. They lost two, started by Jake and Matt.

Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, this is how things look: positivity with the first three pitchers in the rotation taking the hill and closed-eyes/wishful thinking with the last two.

Between Peavy and Cain, I still hold out far more hope for Matt Cain. There’s a lot to suggest, just from the visuals, that he can still be a very effective pitcher, if not the dominant front-line starter he once was. The velocity is good, the movement is there, we are simply watching a guy relearn how to pitch. He lacks the touch and finish and polish that a pitcher his age and experience would normally have. I think this is due to his “new” elbow. I can’t predict when, but I do sense he will figure it out.

Peavy, though, I have far less hope for. McCovey Chronicles point out that it wasn’t that long ago that Peavy was good and producing well for the Giants. It’s a fine point, but the writing seems to be on the wall that end of the line is not too far off for this proud veteran. I lived in Boston when Peavy was pitching there and when he was traded to the Giants Red Sox fans thought he was done then. His reunion-with-Bochy inspired renaissance has been nice, but if the Giants want to make a change in the rotation it needs to be here.

Now, there are two significant challenges: both Cain and Peavy are getting paid very well this season, whether they perform or not. The notion of sunk costs dictates giving them more time to figure it out. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that no one in the minors is really setting the world on fire right now. The veteran loving front office isn’t going to turn it’s back on an old warrior unless someone is knocking loudly on that door, and no one is doing that right now.

All of this has led to wild speculation about Tim Lincecum, and while that might sound nice, do we really want to go down that road again?

One final note here: the Giants are tied for first place, and another good week could see them alone atop the division. There’s no rush, no reason to panic.

My entirely boring conclusion then is that Giants fans need to hope Peavy and Cain figure it out. Even if you don’t look forward to the days they pitch, they are the best option for the foreseeable future. Get used to it.

Week in Review: swept three games from the Padres (which helped salvage a .500 h0mestand), and then took one of three in New York. 13-13 overall, tied for first in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Hunter Pence put up a monster slash line this week .421/.500/895 with a double, triple, two home runs, and 10 runs driven in. Seemed like he had been quiet early on, but he’s actually having an extremely good season. Projecting out: he’d finish with a .293 average, 30 home runs, and 120 rbi if he keeps up this pace. That’s a BIG year.

Pitcher of the Week: Madison Bumgarner has “struggled” early on, but he’s also pitched once with the flu, and faced off against Kershaw (twice), Grienke, and then young phenom Noah Syndergard on Sunday. All to the tune of a 3-2 record, a 3.03 ERA, and 45 strikeouts in just 35 innings. He is allowing too many baserunners, and he continues to say he hasn’t found his good mechanics, but he still had a great week wining both of his starts in commanding fashion.

Looking Ahead: The Giants don’t have a day off again until May 16th, which means a couple of full weeks. This week they have three in Cincinnati, then it’s back home for four with Colorado. Theoretically, there are a lot of winnable games this week with 2 Cueto and 2 Samardzija starts to look forward to.

Week [1] In Review (4/1-4/7) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well…

Quite a lot has happened since I last posted, far too much to cover!

My goal is to keep this going for another year, so stay tuned.

Let’s start with a quick preview/keys to 2016. I’m not saying anything new here, but want it in writing before we get too deep into it. Here we go:

  1. Health: this goes without saying, and yet it must be said. The Giants have a nearly perfect roster right now. Most everything fits, it all makes sense. But, lose one or two or (gasp) more, for an extended period of time, and it quickly stops making sense. Guys are going to get hurt, of course, but let’s hope for nothing devastating.
  2. Matt Cain. This is both personal and logical. On the personal level, there’s an almost desperate longing for Matt Cain to be good again. And even if he’s not good, to be healthy and contributing in some way. To the logical: if Matt Cain is good again, the Giants go from pretty good to potentially great. Like one of the best Giants’ rosters of all time great.
  3. Brandon Belt. Belt is sort of the Cain of the lineup: a guy I root for on a personal level, but also a guy who could potentially transform this team. As it stands, the Giants’ lineup is very strong. There are no holes, and as I said, everything fits nicely right now. If Belt realizes his full potential (30 homers, 150 starts, .850+ OPS), then the team goes into elite status. The front office clearly has confidence in him too, given the extension he just signed this weekend.
  4. Winning at home.  The Giants have had a winning record at home every year since their recent run of success started in 2010. But they have not won 50+ games at home during that window (their highest total was 49 in 2010). That’s good consistency, but it’s not dominating in your home ballpark. Because the Giants’ pitching is so strong, they’ve traveled well and won a lot of road game, but this is a roster that could/should win 50-55 games at home.
  5. Integrating the new guys. Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span sure do look good in the Orange and Black. And it’s great to have such quality reinforcements. But will they really integrate into a tight clubhouse culture? One good sign already: Samardzija was right in the middle of the scrum after Crawford’s walk off home run the other night. It’s one thing to be a good pro and show up and do your job, it’s another to fit into the chemistry and character of the team. We’ll see how they do.

I believe this is a 95 win team, and a team that can compete in the post-season. The five NL teams who make it into the tournament this year will be very quality teams, meaning this may be the most challenging post-season for the Giants ever, assuming they can get there.

On to the week in review: 2 of 3 from Milwaukee, and 3 of 4 from LA, and the Giants are 5-2 with an early season 1 game NL West lead.

Hitter of the Week: Every single opening day/regular starter hit a home run this week and two of the bench guys and one the pitchers chipped in with dingers too. It may be that this is the first year where picking this award is harder than the pitcher of the week. Kind of a fun new challenge!

I’m going with Matt Duffy this week. Every year Sports Illustrated comes out with its predictions for the season, and the last two years they’ve added a “Scout’s Thoughts” section in the preview. The scout is from a rival divisional team, and it’s anonymous. Last year the “scout” said Brandon Crawford would never be a good major league hitter and then he went out and had an incredible year, winning the silver slugger and cementing his reputation as the best SS in the national league.

This year the “scout” deemed Matt Duffy a fluke, in particular harping on his bat speed and lack of power. He went out and hit two home runs this week and leads the team with 7 rbi’s. Maybe there’s some weird SI voodoo at work here. I’ll take it.

Pitcher of the Week: Cueto and Bumgarner went twice, each turning in a vintage performance and then a gutsy-stick-it-out-and-save-the-bullpen-and-still-get-a-win start. Samarzija and Peavy left a lot to be desired, and Matt Cain turned in a quality start.

Given what I’ve already written, I’ll go with Matt Cain this week if no other reason than there had to be a moment on Friday, around the fifth or the sixth inning, where he thought to himself: “I’m back, I have good feel for my pitches, I haven’t been perfect, but I like the results, and, of course, our juggernaut offense is getting no hit by a rookie in his first game. Perfect.”

The more things change…

Looking Ahead: Two important things to keep an eye on. First, it will be wise for Giants’ fans to have some patience with Jeff Samardzija. He’s on his fourth team in three years. This means four different pitching coaches, four different organizational philosophies, four different sets of catchers. My sense is it will take at least 8 starts for him to fully absorb Dave Righetti’s message, and to get used to working with Posey. I would predict/hope that sometime around mid-May it starts clicking.

Second, the most interesting bullpen development of 2016 will be watching how Bruce Bochy handles Hunter Strickland. He should be the closer (and I’ve thought this before Saturday’s Casilla meltdown). But, he’s also the biggest weapon in the ‘pen and so there’s something to be said for using him in the most high leverage situations whenever they come. Let’s see how this all plays out!

Off to Denver and LA. I think we’ll be sick of the Dodgers by next weekend for sure.

Go Giants.

April! #sfgiants

Here we are folks: days away from real, meaningful baseball games that count (for realz) in the standings. It is about time, and I cannot wait!

The two big themes to come out of the Spring are: the starting pitchers have been really bad, and the team is not hitting any home runs.

Pitching Thoughts:

This can’t be all that surprising. The Giants failed in their bid to land another big-name starter and the rest of the guys are old, and/or coming off injury/surgery.

So, the question is: Spring aberration or signs of impending doom. I think it’s both. I know this a wishy-washy position to take, but I think it’s the truth. I have no worried about Bumgarner. None. I think Cain will have some ups and downs out of the gate, but I think he will be fine in the long run and even quite good as the season goes along.

Peavy will be adequately average, but this is where the questions begin. The biggest concern with Peavy is can he get through an opponent’s lineup three times. The Giant’s can’t afford a 5 inning starter in the third starter position.

The Timmy’s (Hudson and Lincecum) have actually provided some of the more positive moments of the spring, but also seem the most likely to not finish the season in the rotation. Hudson wins “most likely to spend significant time on the DL,” while Lincecum seems destined for the bullpen.

The likely replacements: Yusmeiro Petit and Ryan Vogelsong. It’s all about depth this year with the seven man rotation. The way the spring has gone, it may not be bad to see one or both getting starts.

The really big question is: what if it needs to go beyond the magnificent mediocre 7? Chris Heston has had a nice spring, but it’s slim pickins’.

Bold Prediction:

I’m sticking by my “Matt Cain” has a very good season prediction. But, I think the back-end of the rotation will struggle, and the Giants could get desperate and make a play for Cole Hamels in July.

Hitting Thoughts:

Again, the big concern here is lack of power. Can anyone be surprised? Even with everyone healthy, the Giants are expecting to start only three guys who could reasonably be expected to hit more than 15 home runs (Pence, Posey, and Belt). Of course, they will be starting the season sans Pence.

We’ve also heard all spring about Belt not playing the outfield. We’ve also heard about Baseballmonk’s favorite, Matt Duffy, starting the season at AAA. And then lo and behold today, the Giants started Belt in LF and Duffy at 3B, and it looks like the Duffman will make the team.

All of which communicates that the Giants are a work progress.

So how much of this is the plan, and how much is just winging it? Who can really know, but I think the answer, again, is both.

The Giants do have a general plan: high contact guys who can do a lot of different things. But they also are fearless about trying things on the fly (see: Ross, Cody; Burrell, Pat; Panik, Joe; etc). It just feels like there is more winging it being planned on this year.

Bold Prediction:

The Giants will struggle on offense, especially in the power department. If they experience more injuries things will get even more dicey. That’s not much of a bold prediction, but I also don’t know where the help will come from this year. Some of the best trading partners are in the Giants’ own division. And, do you really want Allen Craig? Shane Victorino? Didn’t think so. We may see more of Belt in LF and Posey at 1B than anyone expects.

(-SB)