Game On! #sfgiants #weekinreview

Holy smokes a lot happened this week with our beloved baseball club. Let’s recap:

  • After a heart warming sweep of the first place Diamondbacks, the Giants road-woes came right up and slapped them across the face. They dropped 3 games in Colorado, managing to score a grand total of 3 runs in those 3 games. That’s basically getting shut out for 3 straight games in any other park. Then, they had a somewhat frustrating split against the Cardinals, frustrating because the series marked the return of two pitchers who were supposed to help (more on this later).
  • Joe Panik got hurt and is on the DL, probably for a while. This makes us all sad, but it also forces us to face the harsh reality that Joe Panik is not having a good season, and it may be in the Giants best interest to let Alen Hanson play everyday. Hanson has been far superior with the bat, and I think he makes them a better, more dangerous team for now. Nonetheless, get well Joe!
  • The Giants welcomed back Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. My pre-season naming of Cueto as the MOST IMPORTANT player this season, still stands in many ways. If he can be good from here on out, the Giants have a puncher’s chance. He was not very good in his start on Thursday, however, and there will be a dance the rest of the season around when to pull the plug. If he continues to stink (and the Giants fall out of contention), he’ll go back on the DL and the Giants will hope he can heal up for 2019. If they stay in the race and Cueto can give them anything positive, he’ll hang in the rotation as long as they need him. Meanwhile, Samardzija showed signs of life in his return, but he still hasn’t looked better than some of the other options available to the team.
  • Speaking of that, the Giants went ahead and kept both Andrew Suarez and Derek Rodriguez in the rotation and that sure looks like a good idea. Chris Stratton was sent back to Sacramento to keep pitching every 5th day and try to get some consistency back in his curveball and location. I hate to say it, but he has not been the same since becoming a dad.
  • The Giants sent Derek Holland to the bullpen, even though he had been one of the most consistent starters recently, and they continue to carry 13 pitchers on the roster. Some of this is due to having a high number of pitchers who require baby gloves at this point. The Giants don’t want Cueto or Samardzija throwing 100+ pitches right now, so that means it is wise to have Holland and Blach in the bullpen. But also, Will Smith and Mark Melancon (and now Ray Black) need to be managed in how often they are used, since they are still building up strength coming off injuries. I can’t remember a staff that had so many issues like this.
  • Speaking of Will Smith he is finally the closer and he’s been nasty so far and DANG IT BOCHY WHY WASN’T HE THE CLOSER IN 2016.
  • And then (I told you it was quite the week) the Giants made a trade yesterday. They FINALLY got rid of Cody Gearrin (hallelujah), and shipped out the suddenly redundant and underused OF Austin Jackson. In order to do this, the Giants sweetened the pot by including pitcher Jason Bahr. Bahr is a guy who created some buzz this season, and seems like a nice prospect, but the Giants have traded away a lot of buzzy prospects who were never heard from again. This move is a win, in my mind, because it creates “cap” space, gets rid of two guys who were no longer useful and created space for the Giants to see what they have with Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, Ray Black, and maybe another bullpen arm or two before this is all said and done.
  • You read that right: Steven Duggar is here! Sounds like the Giants will use him and Hernandez interchangeably in CF, but then Gorkys just pulled a muscle, so we may get a good stretch from Duggar, which is excellent news.
  • That was a lot! Somehow, in the midst of all this roster churn and losing (2-5 on the week), the Giants are still only 3.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Which brings us to the question: what does this all mean? The Giants are still very much in this thing in 2018. They are finally at “full strength” in their starting rotation, the bullpen is pretty good, and they should (in theory) be able to score enough to be competitive.

One could look at the trade as a step towards more moves to strengthen the squad for the stretch run.

Or, are the Giants coming to grips with the reality that they are a bit lucky to be 47-45 (with that ugly -27 =/-), and it’s time to get ready for next year?

It feels more like the latter. Here’s my take:

  1. The Giants brass realize this is a down year in the NL West and so are willing to give the Cueto’s of the world an opportunity to make a run. Who knows maybe they get hot and sneak into the playoffs this season. So, they are not going to blow the whole thing up, but they are going to want to see and invest time in the guys who might be around next year.
  2. They’ve made one trade to make sure they stay beneath the tax threshold (the “cap”) so that they can be sure to reset and go into the offseason with a clean slate. This will allow them to extend Bumgarner, pursue Bryce Harper, or do whatever it is they want to do with their “extra” money to get younger and better.
  3. Now, to the big rumor: there are more moves probably coming. Word is the only Giants’ who are off-limits this July are Posey and Crawford. That means Bumgarner, Belt, your favorite prospect, whoever, is on the table!
  4. I don’t think the Giants are going to trade Belt/Bum/etc, unless someone fills AT&T park with gold and prospects. What this means, though, is that Giants will listen. They want to get a good sense of what a different future could look like, and shopping will allow them to do this.

So, hang on tight Giants fans, the next 3+ weeks are going to be very interesting.

Advertisements

Early Returns

We are a couple of weeks into the spring and so we have stats. Taken with a grain of salt of course…this is spring training and it’s still very early…but, SWEET, SWEET stats!

So, while we will attempt to not read too much into any of this there are a couple of interesting develops thus far:

  1. Steven Duggar is hot. It sure sounded like the Giants brass wanted Duggar to crack the lineup at some point in 2018, and it also sounded like the door was open to the opening day roster heading into Spring Training, and so in a great carpe diem moment Duggar has responded. The defense has been there. The bat has been there. He looks like the real deal so far. Slash line: .412/.474/1.000, plus 3 home runs. Pencil him in!
  2. Somewhat out of nowhere, Mac Williamson has reasserted himself into the conversation. I really thought after the 2016 season that he was well set up to join the Belt/Crawford/Panik/Duffy parade of homegrown lineup additions, but he never got a fair shake (in my opinion) and was always hampered by injuries. Now, he has tried to revamp his swing and reinvent himself, and if his early success continues there just might be a spot for him on the 25 man roster. Meanwhile, Jarrett Parker, who I thought had the inside track on the 5th outfield spot, has already struck out 14 times in 21 at bats, while walking 3 times and homering once. Compare that to Williamson’s .429/.429/.952 with 3 home runs (no walks and 6 ks is not great either, but not as alarming as Parker). Williamson will have to continue to rake: his addition to the 25 man roster would require some maneuvers to bring L/R balance to the force, and he may need some time in AAA to keep working on the swing change. But, I still love his ceiling far more than other options (i.e Parker/Hernandez/etc).
  3. Finally, it is too early to get excited about relief pitchers, but the contenders for the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation have not disappointed with their early efforts. Ty Blach, in particular, has been outstanding, striking out 7 in 5 innings. If he could somehow take a step forward in his development, he may actually be the Giants 4th best starter. I’ve really been thinking of him as a bit of after thought (more of a long relief, spot starter role), but if this keeps up he could help steady the rotation significantly. Derek Holland has looked good, second only to Bumgarner in strikeouts with 8. Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede have not been as dominant, but very solid, and Stratton in particular seems to be approaching this camp with confidence.

This next week we will start to see more regulars ramp up, and it will be interesting to see if any of these early developments turn into substantial story lines.