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.

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Signs of Life #sfgiants

The Giants went 3-3 against two 2016 and 2017 playoff teams (although writing this just might jinx the Cubs…haha). That 3-3 is pretty good, especially considering the odd nature of this weekend’s series in Washington DC. The team didn’t play for 2 straight days, then experienced another rain delay, and then played 3 baseball games and extra innings in just over 24 hours.

If you back the clock up to August 1, when the Giants hit an unofficial reset button, they are 7-5, and 5-4 against playoff teams (I’m including the Diamondbacks).

They are not setting the world on fire, and they are not going to dig themselves out of any holes (think: get back to .500), but this is encouraging nonetheless. If nothing else, they are playing baseball more typical of the good Giants teams we’ve seen in the past: better starting pitching, better defense, just enough offense.

Some thoughts:

  • Last week Jarrett Parker looked like the greatest Giants outfielder of all time not named Bonds or Mays. This week, he looked a lot more like Jarret Parker. This is who he is: he’ll bunch together some good at bats, and he’ll bunch together the strikeouts. I’m still interested in him as a power bat off the bench, but this week helps bring balance to the force and remind everyone that Jarret Parker is not the answer to the Giants OF problem.
  • Chris Stratton had a great start on Sunday. He’s sort of the Jarrett Parker of the Giants system when it comes to pitching. He’s a little too old to be super intriguing (Madison Bumgarner is almost exactly one year older). But late bloomers are a thing. And he could contribute if he can find consistency. More likely than not, he will have some good starts like yesterday that involve a lot of strikeouts, and he’ll have some rockier starts that involve a lot of walks. But this is where my pro-Righetti bias shows in full force: I have way more faith in the Giants developing Stratton into something useful than I with Parker.
  • Joe Panik having the best day/series of his season (6 for 12 with 2 walks, 3 RBIs, and a home run), and then getting thrown out/doinked on the head at home plate is very emblematic of the season. The Giants don’t get to enjoy much of anything for long in 2017.
  • The Giants have two key guys now, Panik and Brandon Belt, who have struggled with concussion issues. This is not something baseball teams normally have to worry about with non-catchers, which means this is not a good sign for the Giants already fragile core.
  • We need to talk about Pablo Sandoval. He has not taken the world by storm, but he doesn’t look bad either. And then, that home run he hit yesterday, off of a top Cy Young candidate, was something else. If I were good enough of a scout to know if he was still useful I wouldn’t be writing this blog, but it does look to me like there is something left in the tank. Now, there are limitations with Pablo (his inability to switch hit anymore), but I’m intrigued to see how this year plays out and if there might be a spot for him in 2018.
  • Finally, we need to talk about Matt Moore. I have always been high on Matt Moore, and he was a large part of my fantasy baseball strategy and when some doofus drafted him right before I was going to draft him I was upset. I was so confident he was going to have a great year. I’ve felt a lot better about that doofus stealing Moore from me as the year has gone on, but THE mystery of 2017 to me has been Matt Moore. I don’t know what to make of his start last night. Maybe it’s nothing, but those are the kinds of results I expected to see all year-long. Did you see how everything was down and sharp and nasty. Where has that been?! For now, it’s going to be start to start until he regains consistency, but yesterday was a positive step for sure.

Enjoy watching Giancarlo Stanton for the next couple days!

So Far, So Meh #sfgiants #2017

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and I expect to be blogging less this year, so our weekly recaps will probably look a bit different. But here we are, and away we go!

The Giants are, as of today, 3-5, and they have given us glimpses of hope and more than a few things to worry about.

Let’s start with the worry:

  • The bullpen. Hmmm, I seem to remember there was some sort of issue with the bullpen last year, let me check, um…OH SWEET JESUS…yeah, it was pretty bad. So far, it hasn’t been horrible, but it also hasn’t been great. The good news is that Mark Melancon is settling down into his new digs here and, my expert opinion is that with the 9th inning locked down, the other pieces should fall into place and this will prove to be a servicable ‘pen.
  • That being said, it was an odd thing to go with one lefty, and that lefty being Ty Blach. Why isn’t Ty Blach in AAA, starting every day, keeping himself sharp to take over for Matt Cain? Why no Josh Osich, no Stephen Okert? These are two guys who need to pitch in the big leagues and get the experience and build trust with Bochy. I know the Will Smith injury is all part of this, but still. This is odd!
  • Sometimes Matt Moore/Jeff Samardzija can suck and sometimes they can be great. Sometimes in the same game (looking at you Jeff). I’m still very bullish on both of them (more in a few)
  • Matt Cain sucks. I need to go vomit. I actually typed that. But it’s true. I’ve been as hyped about a Matt Cain resurgence as anyone in Giantsland, but I’m over it now. I just don’t see it happening. I would love to be wrong, but 2012 is now 5 years ago, and that was the last time we really saw good Matt Cain.
  • LF. Left field has produced 2 hits in the last 2 games, which is 2 more than the first 6. I still have to believe that Mac Williamson is the every day left fielder before this over, but what do I know. The Giants are taking a “throw the pasta against the wall and see what sticks” with Parker and Marrero, and now signing Melvin Upton and Drew Stubbs. LF will be weird for a while.
  • The lineup, overall, is nice, but there are not a lot of dingers. This worries me. Also, Posey took one in the head today.

Reasons to not worry/Reasons for Hope:

  • The bullpen (see the good news I shared above).
  • The starting pitching. Bumgarner and Cueto look as good as ever, and I am convinced Matt Moore is going to have a huge year. Samardzija is still a bit of a wild card in my mind, but I tend to be mostly positive that year 2 could be even better than year 1.
  • Brandon Belt is off to a great start.
  • Brandon Crawford is a stud.
  • Joe Panik is back.
  • Eduardo Nunez is off to a great start.
  • Seems like Posey should be fine.

Overall, a 3-5 is not how anyone wanted the year to start. I’m convinced, though, that this is a good team that will ride 4 above average starting pitchers to the postseason.

Let’s enjoy the ride together. See you next week!

Week [21] In Review (8/22-8/28) #sfgiants #weekinreview

As with all things 2016 Giants, this is a hard week to recap. The cold, hard facts: the Giants fell another game back of the Dodgers (they start this week 2 in the hole, versus 1 at last week’s writing).

And yet, this feels better. I can’t totally explain it, but it feels like the corner has been turned.

In the end, the Giants may look back on this week, and in particular, on the 1-0 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday night, and wonder about that Brandon Crawford deep fly out in the 8th inning. If that ball goes 5 more feet, and the Giants win that game, how different does this year turn out?

Who can know, but we can say that the Giants got 4 quality starts, won 3 of them, and seem to be waking up with the bats. If nothing else they took some frustrations out on the hapless Braves and sometimes you need that to get it going.

Our two key players for the Dodgers series, Buster Posey and Matt Moore, did well. Buster didn’t hit any home runs, but hit over .400 for the week and is doing his best with all dings and bruises he’s dealing with.

And Matt Moore was magnificent. He was pitching under the worst case scenario we described last week (sweep prevention), and he nearly threw a damn no-hitter. Welcome to San Francisco, Matt.

I was at the game on Friday night: Samardzija pitched well, there was a home run (a lot more of those this week!), and the Braves looked every bit the last place team that they are, but the thing that stood out to me, and it was a repeated theme this week: the defense is back.

Brandon Crawford made several outstanding plays at the game I attended, and Panik, Belt, Span, and Nunez added their own gems throughout the week.

That is a very good sign.

Week in Review: 1 of 3 from the Dodgers in LA, 2 of 3 from the Braves in SF. 71-59, 2 games back in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Posey hit .444 for the week, but Joe Panik welcome back to earth old friend. He hit .375 with 3 home runs, 8 rbi, and 4 walks. If Joe can turn this into an extended good run, the Giants are going to be in fine shape.

Pitcher of the Week: It’s nice to have some choices this week, but it’s a no-doubt tip of the cap to Matt Moore, who not only got a big win, but did it in dominant fashion. No one was asking for a no-hitter, but he nearly provided it.

There’s been a lot of rightful debate about leaving a post-tommy-john pitcher in for 130 pitches, and I do have my own concerns about that, but in Bochy’s defense, the team needed it. And Matt Moore needed it. And I always feel better about 130 pitches when a pitcher is locked in and repeating his mechanics, than 100 pitches on a day when it’s a struggle. To me those are different things.

Looking Ahead: Another weird week schedule-wise. It feels like I’ve written that several times this year. A day off today, at home, then two more in SF against Arizona. Strange to have a 2 game series with a divisional opponent. Then 4 in Chicago. Yikes. Especially, yikes, because they back that up with three in Colorado. The pitchers need to eat their Wheaties this week.

Go Giants, and Go Rockies (BEAT LA).

Week [20] In Review/Week [21] in Preview #sfgiants

I am getting tired of trying to explain the buffoonery we’ve been watching since the All-Start break ended, so today we are going to focus on the future, and some keys to a critical week in the season.

One thought of hope to act as our week in review: it is getting better. Slowly and still painfully, but better.

This week is huge, obviously, because we get the first of the 3 remaining series with the Dodgers. That’s 9 more games where the Giants hold their destiny in their own hands. I don’t trust their hands right now with their destiny, but these games are happening whether we want them to or not.

One of the interesting things about the last 6 years is that for the most part both the Giants and Dodgers have been very good. They’ve spent money, made big trades, have stars and talent, and yet it hasn’t felt like a rivalry.

This is not a Giants’ fan making a dig at the fact that the Dodgers haven’t won a world series while the Giants have won three. There’s plenty of time for that.

It’s more just a statement of fact, and I think it has to do with the fact that both teams have been successful, but not really at each other’s expense. In 2010 the Giants crushed the Padres hopes, and in 2012 and even in the 2014 the Giants and Dodgers avoided knocking each other out contention.

This is really the first time where the stakes are high and these two teams stand in each other’s way. There’s still a very good chance the division loser makes the wild card, but for some reason that feels like a significant defeat. Perhaps it’s because the Giants have frittered away such a large lead.

Whatever it is, 2016 is shaping up as either an opportunity to further mock our LA friends, or really, really hate the Dodgers. And that makes it kind of fun!

Series Preview: The “big story” is the Giants are skipping the 5th starter spot to lineup Bumgarner, Cueto, and Moore for this three game tilt. The other big story is that this allows the Giants to throw two left-handers against the Dodgers lefty heavy lineup.

Remember, also, this is part of the reason the Giants made the trade for Matt Moore. Matt Moore’s day of reckoning is Thursday. He can erase any questions about the trade by shutting the Dodgers down.

The Dodgers counter with Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill (finally making his debut), and TBD. Those first two are formidable opponents, but this sets up well in the Giants favor. Taking less than 2 of 3, even in LA, would be disappointing.

The Giants get to come home and beat on the Braves over the weekend, while the Dodgers have to do battle against the Cubs, so there’s good potential for this to be a big swing week.

Key Pitcher of the Week: I want to pick Santiago Casilla because the bullpen is going to be important and will need to be on against the Dodgers, but the key really is Matt Moore. He will be starting under one of the following conditions:

  • Pitching for a sweep (and a 2 game division lead)
  • Pitching for a series win (and to tie for first)
  • Pitching to avoid a sweep (and avoid falling, gasp, 4 games back)

Any one of those scenarios will be significant. He’s also pitching against a front office that knows him well, so he will need to make adjustments and bring his control of the strike zone with him to the office on Thursday.

Hitter of the Week: This may seem too obvious but Buster Posey needs to hit well against the Dodgers. A big Buster series takes the pressure off, and one big problem for the Giants right now is you can see Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, and Joe Panik trying to do too much in every at bat. Those dudes need to chill, and Buster going off will do wonders for their chill factors.

That’s all I got this week. It’s time to win games. Go Giants.

Week [18] In Review (8/1-8/7) #sfgiants #weekinreview

It’s hard to say what’s most frustrating about the Giants right now. Is it the mistakes in the field and on the bases? Is it all the runners left on base? Is it the bullpen implosions? Is it Jeff Samardzjia? Is it Denard Span? Is it wasting great Madison Bumgarner starts?

It is hard to be critical of Bruce Bochy after so many years of great decision-making and pushing the right buttons time and time again.

But, I have two beefs with Boch, and  they have to do with the starting lineup and with the bullpen. One disclaimer before I offer my humble suggestions: so much of writing a lineup or making bullpen decisions has to do with individual matchups. Given that fact, these suggestions are based on the “ideal,” game by game, and game tweaks are not considered here.

For the lineup…here’s what the Giants lineup should look like if everyone is producing at their normal capacity (based on what we saw earlier in the season):

  • Span CF
  • Panik 2B
  • Pence RF
  • Posey C
  • Belt 1B
  • Crawford SS
  • Nunez 3B
  • Pitcher
  • Pagan LF

Now, certain guys are not producing at their normal capacity (Belt was in a horrible slump coming out of the break, and Pence and Panik have been struggling since coming off the DL), and so Bochy has been modifying a lot. But he’s yet to do this:

  • Nunez 3B
  • Pagan LF
  • Posey C
  • Belt 1B
  • Pence RF
  • Crawford SS
  • Panik 2B
  • Pitcher
  • Span CF

One of the struggles with making out an ideal Giants lineup is that they are so left handed heavy, there’s almost no ideal way to slice it. Once everyone is “back”, here’s what I would do:

  • Nunez 3B
  • Panik 2B
  • Posey C
  • Belt 1B
  • Pence RF
  • Crawford SS
  • Pagan LF
  • Pitcher
  • Span CF

The keys to me are: Nunez should lead off and Span absolutely should not. We’re deep enough in to this season to feel good about this move. It’s time.

Second, Posey/Belt/Pence/Crawford creates a nice R/L balance, and pushes Posey higher in the lineup, where he should be.

On to the bullpen: this is harder, because matchups are even more important here, but on the whole this is how I would want to use the guys who are presently active:

  • Starters for 6
  • 7th: Strickland
  • 8th: Smith or Law (or both)
  • 9th: Casilla
  • Romo/Lopez as specialists to get 1-2 right or left-handed batters in the 6th and 7th innings.

The bullpen has been doing much better recently, and Bochy is heading more in this direction, but far too often he’s been using guys either earlier (Law) or later (Romo/Lopez) than I would like to see.

In Review: 1 of 3 at Philadephia, and 1 of 3 at Washington; 63-48, 1 game lead in NL West

Hitter of the Week: After the Philly series it seemed a no-doubter that Denard Span would take this, but he reverted back to his meek ways against his former teammates in Washington, and so I deem Brandon Belt hitter of the week. One of the issues with the Giants right now is that they do not hit enough home runs. They have been far too reliant on the magical “big hit,” a dependence that is eased by home runs. Belt can hit home runs and he can hit them in bunches when he gets hot. He hit two this week, so hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.

Pitcher of the Week: Matt Cain continues to battle. It’s not pretty, but he’s been very effective, and the more reps and confidence he can get in his new elbow and current stuff the better both for the finish to this season and to the future. I am encouraged.

But, the pitcher of the week goes to newcomer Matt Moore. Moore wasn’t perfect in his debut, he did walk 6, but it seems he was squeezed by the umpire, plus there was probably some adrenaline flowing in these new environs. Either way, a strong quality start, and he showed great stuff: 95 mph fastball, big-fall-off-the-table curve. So far, so great.

Looking Ahead: the Giants are still on the road, now in Miami, where they face more good pitching and another team fighting for the postseason. Then, a day off, and finally back home, where they need to continue dominating (a huge key to the season). Hopefully the can start building their lead back in NL West.

Whoa There Giants…(aka Week [17] In Review) #sfgiants #tradedeadline

What a roller coaster of emotions the past week, days, hours, even minutes have been.

Let’s try to recap, even as news is still unfolding:

  • Some thought the bottom of the Giants tailspin was a 1-8 post all-star break  start, culminating in a dud of an AL East road trip. No the bottom it turns out was coming home and immediately losing 4 of 5, including 2 to the lame-o Reds.
  • In the middle of that the Giants made a move. Finally. They bolstered the hapless lineup, acquiring jack of all-trade 2016 All-Star, Eduardo Nunez from the Twins (we’ll get to what the Giants gave up in a moment). A nice move. Not splashy, but helpful, and it’s already paid dividends (the Giants lineup just feels better with him in the lead off spot).
  • Then the Giants turned it around a bit, winning on Saturday and Sunday. They got middling efforts from their 4th and 5th starters (Peavy and Cain), and GREAT efforts from the bullpen. They scored just enough runs to win, and win they did, to regain a bit of life, hope, momentum, and most-importantly another game back on their lead over the Dodgers.
  • Now, to today: the infamous trade deadline. Word came in on the way home from Costco that the Giants acquired Will Smith (so many Will Smith jokes), for…well, again, we’ll get to that in a minute. Anyways, Smith helps the bullpen for sure, and will be around for a couple of years (also true of Nunez, a fact that might be important here in a few moments).
  • Currently word is coming in that the Giants have probably, hopefully, indeed acquired Matt Moore from the Rays for a couple more…WE’RE GOING TO GET THAT IN A MINUTE OK.

For now, let’s say this: the Giants improved everything. A decent hitter who can play multiple positions and who works off the bench or in the starting lineup, and who will be around for another year? Win.

A good, young bullpen arm who gets out left handers and misses bats at an elite level, and who will be under team control for another 3 years? Win.

A good, young starting pitcher who is left-handed (we see you Dodgers), and who is a VAST improvement over the current version of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, and who will also be under team control for the next 3 years? Big Win.

…Except…

Oh, what price did the Giants just pay?

  • For Nunez: Adalberto Mejia, who seemed to project as a mid/back-end rotation piece (think more Samardzija than Cueto), but, most importantly, was the closest guy in the Giants system to helping at the big league level. Not the most painful price, but it means the Giants have some confidence in Cain and Suarez being able to hold down the 5th spot for the foreseeable future.
  • For Smith: now we’re getting pricey…the Giants gave up last years #1 pick, Phil Bickford, a strikeout maven and Andrew Susac (remember him!). Giving up a number one pick for a relief pitcher seems insane, but these days this is how it goes. What was most disappointing for me, hearing the news in the car, was the thought that Bickford could have brought a bigger catch. Could he have helped the Giants acquire Chris Sale? Andrew Miller? Or what about Matt Moore?
  • Which brings us to Matt Moore: the deal is not completely finalized, so I’m writing commentary that is still based on speculation. But it looks like Moore for 1B Chris Shaw (best power bat in the system, expendable given the extension of Brandon Belt), Lucious Fox (not a guy I was in love with, but after years of the Giants finishing second on international players, here was one we actually got!), and wait for it…………………………Matt Duffy. Gulp.

There are two ways to skin this cat:

  • You are super ticked. I get it. You love Matt Duffy (the Duffman), you love his fat cat, you love his goatee, and he seems to embody all the best qualities we’ve seen in the Giants over the past 6 seasons. He was the final piece of the golden era infield puzzle!
  • Phil Bickford, you don’t care too much about, but damn, how do you trade a top pick/prospect for a relief pitcher?
  • A power bat (Chris Shaw)! The Giants actually have one of those?! Come on.**
  • And then, Mejia, we’ve been hearing about him for a while now, how come he never got a shot? How could he be worse than Peavy/Cain?
  • Conclusion: this was too much…way too much.

Counter point:

  •  Matt Duffy came out of no where. Remember, we are not that far removed from a Pablo Sandoval extension, which was then the Casey McGehee era. Two years ago, Matt Duffy was Kelby Tomlinson. Turning him into Matt Moore is a golden move.
  • Plus, there’s the not-so-small issue of Duffy’s achilles. The Giants have been taking it slow with him because they feared a Kevin Frandsen redux moment. Blowing out the achilles can be a career ender. Before the Moore deal, Nunez was here, in part, as Duffy insurance.
  • All the other pieces traded were prospects, and prospects are prospects. Meaning, you don’t know. We all lamented the Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran deal, but Wheeler, who could still be quite good, has struggled with injuries, including Tommy John. He hasn’t done much since 2011 (?!). You don’t know how those guys will turn out…it’s all projections.
  • Also, the Giants did all this without moving the two pieces that I most covet and look forward to seeing on the big league club someday: Pitcher, Tyler Beede, and INF Christian Arroyo. Arroyo has always been the real answer to the golden infield question***, and Beede was the first round strikeout maven before Bickford was drafted. The cupboard is not bare, and to improve every facet of the team in the meanwhile is kind of amazing.

My official take: wow, that was expensive. But it was bold. The biggest development in the Giants front-office since Bobby Evans took over is the boldness. This team went hard after Zack Grienke. Then it got Cueto AND Samardzija. Now all these trades.

This is a boldness that is about cashing in on the prime years of Posey, Belt, Crawford, and Bumgarner. The Giants have arguably the best starting pitcher, catcher, shortstop, and first basemen in the NL (Arguably, calm down people). There is no need to wait for the “window” to open. It’s wide open.

Of course, the other side of this prime window could be ugly. We all remember 2006, 2007, 2008. Ugly. But this team is going to be competing for the World Series this year, and next year, and the year after that, and probably the year after that. Enjoy it. Embrace it. This kind of thing doesn’t happen often in the history of a franchise.

My only concern and criticism is that this does feel like a Bonds-era kind of boldness. The Giants have succeeded incredibly well by going in the opposite direction: trusting their own guys, and making smaller, but excellent, moves to bolster areas of need.

And then there’s this:

The Giants have also succeeded mightily with their fabled “chemistry.” Did they just ruin it?

My counter to my own criticism is that the Bonds era was an era of urgency, and so is this one. Now is the time. Chemistry is not an issue in a clubhouse ruled by Bochy and Posey and Pence. So, well done Bobby Evans.

**Note: Chris Shaw is not involved. The Giants still have thier power bat. The other prospect there is Michael Santos, who I know nothing about =)

***