3 Thoughts on The Game 2 Debacle #SFGiants #Royals #WorldSeries

1. Don’t Panik. Or is it panic? I forget now.

There are two ways to look at last night:

  1. THE SKY IS FALLING. EVERYTHING IS HORRIBLE.
  2. The Giants won the game they needed to win, got a split in KC, and now have home field advantage in a best of 5 series.

I can tell you right now that the actual players on the San Francisco Giants share the perspective of point 2. There are some clear issues (see below), but if you take out the emotions you were feeling in the 6th inning last night, this is far from the worst case scenario heading back to SF (in fact, we more or less predicted this here).

One of the big keys for me was seeing how the Giants looked against the “Big 3” of the Royals pen. They all came in throwing gas and looking nasty, but the Giants looked far from overwhelmed. They had some especially good at bats against Kelvim Herrera. Greg Holland will blow a save in this series I am convinced of it. Hitting these guys is no easy task, but to quote Krukow: “one to measure, one to rake.” The Giants don’t look completely overmatched here, they can hit these guys.

The Giants walk away from round one impressed but not intimidated.

2. Let’s Freak Out For a Minute. Bochy has done so many great things in managing games and the bullpen over the years that he’s more than earned the right to have a mulligan. But, like Game 2 against St. Louis, I thought he made a critical mistake in how he handled Peavy, and in relying on Machi and Strickland.

Despite Jake’s low pitch count he should have had guys warming up at the start of the inning, and he should have had a “get outs/stay in…give up a baserunner/come out” policy for Peavy for all innings after the 5th. The only issue he’s had since coming over to the Giants come up the 3rd time through the order (astutely pointed out on the broadcast by Tom Verducci…Harold Reyonlds should be muted but listen to Verducci!). I would have liked to see Peavy come out when Cain singled. (Actually, I would have loved to see them start the inning fresh with Petit). Then you bring Lopez in for Hosmer and go from there.

The second mistake was bringing in Jean Machi. He has failed, again and again, down the stretch and in the postseason. He threw 2 balls that weren’t even remotely close to the strike zone and did nothing to set up the batter, and then he threw a fastball right down the middle of the plate that he was fortunate to only give up a single on.

In a moment I’ll share my thoughts on Stickland and Lincecum and all that, but for now, the game was really lost for me in the first 3 batters of the inning.

The real issue, underneath all of this, is that the Giants starters after Bumgarner just don’t have what it takes at this point to get deep into the ballgame. This is where the Giants really, really miss Matt Cain. Bochy should have been thrilled that Peavy recovered and got through 5.

The three guys most responsible for the loss against the Cards were the culprits again (Peavy, Strickland, Machi). Bochy learned his lesson and you never saw those guys again the rest of the way in the NLCS. I think the same applies here.

3. Oh, hello Tim Lincecum. Yesterday I broke down how Bochy used Hunter Stickland in Game 1 and what it revealed about Tim Lincecum. Five batters into Lincecum’s first 2014 postseason appearance I was ready to throw that out. Then Timmy tweaked his back. The word is that it’s probably not serious. He’s dealt with this before.

But, it is serious because can you really trust a guy who is a pitch away from tweaking his back? He was so close to being back in the circle of trust, especially with the next three game in SF. He may be fine and he may pitch again, and pitch well, but whatever air of confidence was building up around Lincecum late in the game last night, seems to have been let out rather quickly by his balky back.

Looking Ahead: The Giants have some serious issues with their bullpen moving forward. I don’t see how Hunter Stickland can be used again in a high leverage moment in this series. He may well be the Giants closer in 2016 (the next time we do go through all of this), but he can’t go out there again with the game on the line.

Neither can Jean Machi.

Which means, and it seems entirely impossible that this can be true, but Yumseiro Petit just got even more valuable. Bochy has to hope he can get 5 to 6 innings from Tim Hudson, use Petit as a bridge, and then go with the trusted 4 (Lopez, Affeldt, Romo, and Casilla) in the late innings. Maybe Lincecum works his way in there too.

But Petit can no longer be a caddy for the starters, he needs to be a primary bullpen weapon.

To reiterate, as ugly as things got last night, pull the camera back and the end result (1-1 tie heading home) is a good result. The Giants are experienced, know how to shake it off, and will play Friday loose and confident. The Royals lose Billy Butler, and loss of a DH allows Ned Yost to meddle, which is a good thing.

No reason to freak out yet, Giants fans. The biggest things to look for now: The Posey/Panda/Pence dingers and can the Giants bridge the middle innings?

Go Giants!

-SB

3 Thoughts on Game 1 #WorldSeries #SFGiants #Royals

1. I’ll Take Bumgarner. I live in Boston and as I drove around yesterday, listening to sports talk radio, desperately hoping they would mention the WORLD SERIES, I finally got my wish during the last 5 minutes of an afternoon show. The guys discussed the “goodness” of the Royals’ story, shared their amazement at the Giants 3rd trip to the Series in 5 years, and wondered aloud about the lack of star power between these two teams.

Which is all fine. There are no Derek Jeter’s, Mike Trout’s, or Bryce Harper’s in this series. There are no Clayton Kershaw’s, or Felix Hernandez’s, or Justin Verlander’s.

One of the guys suggested that Posey is a “rising” star, and that this Madison Bomgardner (how they pronounced his name) was an ok pitcher, not really an Ace, but probably/maybe the best starter between the two teams.

I know that baseball is a regional sport at this point in time, and that guys in Boston may not know much about the Giants, but it is embarrassing that one could talk about sports as a profession and not know a THING about Madison Bumgarner, who is one of the five best pitchers in baseball right now. It’s unthinkable. I hope he gets to start again just so more people can see him pitch.

Of all the things that are amazing about Bumgarner (the scoreless streaks, the postseason wins, etc) this one takes the cake for me: He is STILL younger than Tim Lincecum was when the Giants won it all in 2010. Unreal.

Bumgarner did what he needed to do and more in this game. For the Giants to win this series they need(ed) to win Bumgarner’s starts, get out in front, and take the wind out of the Royals sails. This series could not have started any better for them.

2. Pence and the Law of Averages. One of the reasons I favored the Giants coming into this series is because the Royals have gotten above average play from almost everyone in their lineup. With the exception of Salvador Perez (who promptly homered last night) and Billy Butler, most of the Royals are hitting better than normal (especially in terms of power).

Now, the postseason is short and guys can get on weird power surges (hello Cody Ross), but one could reasonably expect the Royals to come back to earth a bit in this series.

On the other side, the Giants went 8-2 through the first three rounds with exactly zero home runs from the middle of their order. Posey, Panda, and Pence have all had nice enough postseasons, but no extra base hits for Posey and no home runs for any of them. Even though none of those guys is a true power hitter, it is difficult to imagine the Giants playing 14-17 postseason games and not getting a home run from any of those three.

Cue Hunter Pence. While I still fully expect to see some power from both Panda and Posey, Hunter Pence is the kind of player who when he gets hot, he gets ridiculously hot. Pence could carry the offense in a series like this. We’ve yet to see that in two postseasons with Pence, but it is entirely possible.

I’m not saying that is going to happen, but it easily could. And even if it doesn’t I do expect to continue to see these three guys get some big hits in this World Series.

3. Wherefore art Thou, Timmy Lincecum. I texted my dad after Bumgarner came out that we would see Timmy in this game.

We did not.

Which means that we now know, without a shadow of a doubt, why he is on the postseason roster. Lincecum is here because the Giants staff does not trust the 2-4 starters. He’s not here to be a 6th inning bridge. He’s not here to be a late inning strikeout weapon. He is simply an insurance policy.

Some people have criticized the Giants for using him in this way. Why waste a roster spot on a luxury insurance item when it could be used more practically? Why handcuff yourself to a 24-man roster, when you don’t need to?

Here’s a scenario for you, though. Let’s say, win or lose, Peavy pitches well enough to get through 6 innings, and Bochy doesn’t have to use Petit in Game 2. And let’s say that in the second inning of Hudson’s Game 3 start something goes terribly wrong: his hip flares up and he has to come out, or he doesn’t have it and he’s getting hit around the yard. Petit comes in and does his hero act, saving the day (and the bullpen) by pitching 4 strong innings.

That’s all wonderful, but he’s not going to be available the next day when Game 4 rolls around and Ryan Vogelsong’s got nothing left in the tank. Now where do you go? Jean Machi? Hunter Strickland in the 4th? Javy Lopez for a couple of innings? Nope. It’s Tim Lincecum time.

Again, the Giants don’t have enough confidence in their starting pitchers to keep Lincecum off the roster. They obviously hope they never have to use him, but they need him around just in case.

We know this because last night was the perfect time to give a guy a chance (in low pressure World Series situation) to show the team that he can be trusted in a bigger spot later on down the line.

Bochy gave that chance to Hunter Strickland (who handled it extremely well and demonstrated that against this lineup he is a great 6th or 7th inning option).

If you were wondering why Tim Lincecum is still here, now you know.

Looking Ahead: As good as we all feel coming out of Game 1, and we should feel good because that was the best possible outcome, the series changes dramatically today. From here until Game 5, the starting pitching matchups are very even and, especially for the Giants, very difficult to predict.

Will Peavy pitch like he did in Game 1 against the Nationals, or Game 2 against Cardinals? Can these old dogs make it more than two times through the Royals lineup?

The Giants starters are more likely to pitch like Bunmgarner did in Game 1 than any of the Royals’ guys, but they also are more likely to implode. We are dealing with volatile stocks here!

Hoping for good Peavy tonight, and more dingers!

Go Giants!

-SB

How The Giants Can Win the LCS in 6 #sfgiants #nlcs

Before I break it down, a couple of thoughts:

  • Based on the results it sure looks like the Cardinals are a superior team to the Dodgers. Also, the Giants and Dodgers played each other straight up all year (10-9 in favor of the Dodgers to be fair), so, sure the Giants could have beat them in a seven game series. But man, if it doesn’t feel like the Giants caught a huge break in getting the Cardinals instead. The Giants have always struggled against Clayton Kershaw (apparently the Cardinals have no such issues), and Zach Grienke really had their number this year. Having to face those guys four times in a week was going to be a tall order. Plus there’s the whole rivalry distraction, the Puig/Bumgarner silliness, and the specter of Brian Wilson that no one has to think about now. Somehow, this series feels much more open and winnable.
  • Heading into the 2012 postseason the Giants were platooning X Nady and Gregor Blanco in left field. And then the Giants never faced a left-handed starter in any of their 16 playoff games, which means that Blanco’s glove (and bat) got a lot of time (really all of the time) during the championship run. Imagine if they had to play the Phillies (with Lee and Hammels) or any team with a left-handed starter. Either we’d mention Nady in the pantheon of heroes, or we might not be talking about the potential for a 3rd World Championship right now. I mention that because the Cardinals have nothing but right-handed starters. The Giants have a lefty heavy lineup. Relatively subtle things like this seem to end up playing a large role in the Giants’ success. Blanco (as well as Joe Panik and Brandon Belt) will need to come up big in this series.
  • Along those same lines, it appears that Mike Morse will be available and play in this series. Which raises the question: start him or save him on the bench? Bochy loves to go with what-is-working-right-now in the postseason. Travis Ishikawa hasn’t been setting the world on fire, but it’s worked so far. Morse is unknown at the moment, and having to get your timing back against Adam Wainwright is kind of cruel. BUT, the Giants will need to hit some home runs to win this series. So, do you keep starting Travis because it’s working, he is left-handed, he plays better defense than Morse, and because when Matheny brings in a lefty to mow down the bottom part of the Giants order it would be nice to have Morse around to pinch hit? Or, do you gamble that Morse won’t kill you in the field and can get a hold of one at a key spot? Three run home runs are going to be extremely valuable in this series. Watch carefully how this plays itself out.
  • The only player on the Giants’ roster to not make an appearance in the NLDS was Tim Lincecum. He didn’t even get the call in the 18 inning game. Something tells me, though, that he could play a role in this series. Look for Lincecum to have a Barry Zito moment before this one is done. (UPDATE: Grant thinks it’s a bad idea to have Tim on the roster).
  • Finally, as if you didn’t have enough reason to root wholeheartedly for the Giants, the Cardinals will feature two of Giants’ fans least favorite players: John Lackey and A.J. Pierzynski. Also, Matt Holiday. Good grief.

How the Giants can win in six (by the way, SI and McCovey Chronicles also pick the Giants in six…not sure what that means):

  • Game 1: Wainwright vs. Bumgarner. If I were a fan of some other team, say the Mets, I’d still love to watch this game. There’s been a lot written about “not-the-Cardinals-not-the-Giants-again,” but this kind of pitching matchup is what makes baseball awesome. Watch and enjoy world. As I see it playing out, unless Wainwright really is broken, game 1 and game 5 are coin-flips. It really could go either way, and it will probably be something weird that changes the game. I think the Giants will win game 1 because Bumgarner seems to do better on the road, but lose the rematch at home (see below). I’ll say Giants 3-2.
  • Game 2: Lynn vs. Peavy. My guess is that the Cardinals really wanted Peavy at the trade deadline, but the Giants beat them to it and the Cards had to settle for Lackey. That makes me smile. The Giants have destroyed Lance Lynn in each of the five times he’s pitched against them (including 2 starts in the 2012 NLCS). However, this year’s version of Lance Lynn is better than previous versions. Again, I see this being a coin-flip. This time the Cardinals will prevail to even the series as it heads to the Bay. Cardinals 5-3.
  • Game 3: In the NLDS preview I wrote that the Giants MUST win every Bumgarner start. In this series I actually believe that does not apply. The reason for that comes down to the crucial games 3 and 4 matchups. First, the Giants haven’t announced who is starting yet (well-played Boch). So some of this is a shot in the dark. Second, both teams had surprisingly successful starts in the first round from the likely starters in these games. My tendency is to trust the Giants’ results more than the Cardinals. I think Tim Hudson is more likely to repeat his performance than John Lackey, and Ryan Vogelsong than Shelby Miller. Third, I think Bochy will not start Petit (or Lincecum, ha ha) in these games and have a very short leash with the starters and bring one (or both) of them in if needed. I do think Lincecum could have a moment here, at home, saving the day in a big game. I see Game 3 being Lackey vs. Hudson, with Huddy out pitching the other old dog and the Giants getting a modicum of revenge for the 2002 World Series. Giants 6-3.
  • Game 4: Miller vs. Vogelsong. With the Giants up 2-1 I see Bochy turning to Vogey who certainly earned the right to get another shot with his Game 4 performance in the LDS. Again, though, with a short leash and a call to the ‘pen as soon as trouble starts. I think both starters will be solid the first time through the order, and so who can manage round 2 will be critical. I think Vogelsong will adjust, but Miller will struggle. The bullpens will be called earlier than usual, and the Giants will fight and hang on in a close, tense game. Giants 4-3.
  • Game 5: As I said before, Bumgarner vs. Wainwright, assuming Wainwright is healthy, is a coin-flip. For some reason Bumgarner struggles more at home. Plus, I just don’t see the Cardinals going down in 5. In a very close, low scoring game, the Cardinals prevail and send it back to St. Loius. Cardinals 1-0.
  • Game 6: Lynn vs. Peavy, round 2. Much like the 2010 NLCS, the Giants will miss a chance to clinch at home and have to go on the road to finish it off. Much like 2010, they won’t mess around with a game 7 and they will get it done here. I see Peavy pitching the game of his life, spitting and yelling, and the Giants good mojo against Lance Lynn will once gain prevail. Giants 4-2 (for the 4-2 series win).

One final thought: despite what I just wrote, I see this series being much more fluid than the last round. There will be a million twists and turns. Unlike last time I don’t see any “must-win” matchups for the Giants. I think they have a fairly good chance in every game (no Jordan Zimmerman’s here). Undoubtedly this will be a wild ride, I hope we are happy with the result on the other end!

-SB

Timmeh, Part 2

All sources seem to indicate the Giants will be signing Tim Hudson to a 2-year, $23 million deal. We can argue for days about whether this is a better baseball move than, say, signing Josh Johnson, but it’s a solid move for two reasons:

  1. Length of deal
  2. Relative expected production

In other words, we aren’t going to be cursing Hudson’s lengthy contract in a few years when the team is trying to figure out what to do with him (ala Rowand and Zito), he won’t be blocking any young, fresh arms, and while a healthy and productive Josh Johnson is a better pitcher than a healthy and productive Tim Hudson, the certainty that Hudson is healthy and productive is greater than that of Johnson.

So, you know what you’re getting and you are not married to it forever. Hopefully that’s not damning by faint praise. Hudson should be a great number 4 starter for a major league team competing for the playoffs in 2014, and if Cain and Lincecum are good, he will.

One other thought on this move. The Giants are never thought of as money-ball/market inefficiency exploiting organization, but over the past couple of years they have done two things relatively well compared to other teams:

  1. Find gems on the non-roster invitee lists. From Chad Gaudin to Juan Uribe to Ryan Vogelsong, they have exploited this no other team.
  2. Act quickly. This is either a stroke of genius or foolish impatience, but it sure looks like genius from where I sit right now. The Giants jumped the market on their biggest needs: outfield/power and the rotation. I think when it is all said and done the deals cut for Pence, Lincecum, and Hudson are going to look pretty good. Those guys still need to come through and produce, but when compared to what a Ricky Nolasco or a Sin Soo Choo will get this offseason, it will be tough to argue the Giants could have done much better.

Time will tell of course, but good moves Giants.

(-SB)

What the Cardinals and Red Sox Can Teach the Giants

It’s been fascinating living in Boston this year, watching people react to the Red Sox. At first, it was apathetic (Napoli who?), than it was resignation (we’re going to suck again), then it was mild interest and excitement (we don’t suck), than it was sentimental (Boston  strong and cute beards), then it got serious (playoffs!), and then it got out of control (the city nearly threw the parade after the game victory).

Now it’s back to worrying about curses, and can a team without stars actually win a world series (um, yes).

Anyway, those are just some thoughts, and now for the real heart of the matter: what this world series teaches our beloved SF Giants.

  • The Red Sox Way:

We’ll begin here because their situation most closely resembles where the Giants are at right now. Last year everything fell apart for the Sox, which led to a major, house cleaning, trade with the Dodgers. In the wake of all that transition the Red Sox did two things: (a) take short term gambles on players who could potentially produce what the needed most (power, defense, and character). (b) they hoped and prayed their starting pitchers who used to be good, got good again.

This is applicable to the Giants because they do not have tons of money to spend on free agents. And there aren’t any big name free agents that really get your blood pumping. And recent history suggests it is very unwise to go all in on name brand free agents anyway (just ask the Angels).

In fact, the Red Sox stole strategy A from the Giants (Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Juan Uribe, Pat Burrell, Gregor Blanco, Marco Scutaro, etc). The Giants are going to need to replicate this success somehow this offseason.

And it sure looks like strategy B is where we are headed as well. The resign of Tim Lincecum follows the same kind of logic the Red Sox have employed with John Lackey and Jon Lester. Hope the magic comes back. And it has. I have no idea how, but it has. I’d be shocked if Ryan Vogelsong wasn’t in the rotation to start 2014. Same strategy.

Employing these two strategies together seems foolish (more on this later), but it worked for the Red Sox (and aren’t the Giants the Red Sox to the Dodgers Yankee’s in this crazy new baseball world?).

  • The Cardinals Way:

The Cardinals are in the World Series (and are the best organization in baseball) because they produce their own quality players year in and year out. And there are more on the way. It’s actually quite scary and hard to fathom.

For a while this was the Giants‘ strategy. The core of the two championship teams includes a long list of home grown talent (Cain, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Wilson, Romo, Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Crawford, even Jonathan Sanchez and Nate Schierholz helped with their play and by getting traded for good things).

And there is another wave coming, especially in the pitching department. But, not much help for 2014.

  • And what about Moneyball?

This might seem like a non-sequitur, but hear me out. Let us all remember that Moneyball is not about on-base percentage, it is about market inefficiencies and exploiting resources other teams neglect.

Over the past couple of years, the Giants have (to the surprise of many around baseball) been on the front edge of a couple of trends: (a) run-prevention (i.e. pitching and defense), (b) minor-league free agent gold (like Juan Uribe or Santiago Casilla or Ryan Vogelsong), (c) dramatically undervalued veterans (like Aubrey Huff and Marco Scutaro), and (d) creating a contact heavy, low strikeout lineup.

[a quick aside about D. recent post-season history has borne out the reality that high contact teams are much better suited for playoff success than low contact/high power teams…the last 3 world series bear this out, as does the on-going frustrations of the Atlanta Braves and the Detroit Tigers, two teams that strikeout way too much. the current world series matchup is, perhaps, the greatest test of this to date: the Cardinals should win this series because they strike out dramatically less than the Red Sox. so far, games 1 and 2 hold true: whoever strikes out the most at the plate loses.]

All of which leads us to the Giants strategy this offseason: last year they pretty much brought everyone back and it didn’t work. So far, the are doubling down on that strategy and paying a steep price for it. Most pundits have been very critical of both contracts, seeing them as overpays and pre-reactions to a yet-to-be-determined market.

Are the Giants crazy, lazy, or are they on to something? 

Both the Red Sox and the Cardinals are testament to the importance of doing hard things. Many, many people in Cardinal nation thought the world was coming to an end when Albert Pujols left. That turned out fairly well.

No one thought there was any way the Red Sox could really get out from underneath the mess they had made with bad contracts and bad hires. They did it (thanks to the Dodgers), and they went deep into the unknown and came out of it with a pennant.

The Giants, though, like to return to what they know. The did it with Barry Bonds, they did it with guys from the 2010 team and with the 2012 team. They are doing it again now.

I’d love to see them be bit less sentimental and more imaginative. However, the Giants have proven to be able to see things that others have not been able to see, and so maybe we’ll never regret paying Hunter Pence so much and maybe Tim Lincecum will pull a John Lackey.

In sum, every pennant winning team is a strange combination of design and great fortune, and if the Giants return to the heights in 2014 this will no doubt be true of them.

In a strange way they reflect both of these “ways” of team building. Here’s to hoping they do know what they are doing.

(-SB)

A New Chapter

The majority of our posts over the past two months have focused on trades the Giants might make today. Most of those scenarios were predicated on the Giants being in contention and going for it in an attempt to repeat as champions.

Welp.

By the end of the day the great Javier Lopez should be gone, and there’s a good chance Hunter Pence is too. If something crazy happens, Timmy might be in a new uniform as well.

Who knows how it all goes down, Brian Sabean doesn’t always go by the book, but the Giants are now looking ahead to 2014. This season, unfortunately, is over.

Of course it isn’t, which means that the next two months are about answering one, huge, important, complex question:

  • Was the strategy to keep the team together for 2013 a faulty plan needing a major overhaul, or did the Giants simply get caught in a perfect storm of suck?

My opinion is nuanced here. I think there were parts of the plan that were faulty:

  • The lack of depth at starting pitcher was always going to be a problem. With only 5 major league ready starters available (I’m not counting Gaudin here because no one really saw that coming), the Giants needed health and solid performances from all 5 guys to make a run. That did not happen and the lack of depth has been sorely exposed.
  • I have no way to quantify this, but it does seem like there was a bit of a hang over for the starting staff from last year. Was it the extra innings? The extra strain? The early Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic? I don’t know, but they’ve looked tired all year.
  • It’s also not like the starting pitching problems dropped out of the sky either. Vogelsong really struggled down the stretch last year before finding new life in the post-season. We all know about Lincecum’s 2012. Matt Cain was good, but not dominant in the post-season (and many have pointed to his decreased effectiveness post-perfect game). Madison Bumgarner was essentially benched in the NLCS and we all head our breath when he started against the Tigers because he was struggling so badly. And Barry Zito is Barry Zito. Enough said. It’s alarming really that the team didn’t do more to back up the staff during the offseason.
  • I’ve said all offseason that Left Field was going to be a problem. Losing Pagan really exposed the Giants in the outfield. Somehow we now have Jeff Franceour on our roster. That’s how bad it is.

But the plan wasn’t all bad:

  • The offense has actually been better than 2012.
  • There are still plenty of good players on the squad, players who will be around for a while too.

So, here are a couple of conclusions and a couple of questions for the rest of the offseason:

  • Conclusion 1: Barry Zito is gone. He’s the odd man out here. Prediction 1: Unless something crazy happens today, I think Lincecum is back next year, probably on a one year deal. The other three pitchers are back too, and I think the Giants will make some kind of move to find an improvement over Zito. I also think they’ll look for a few Gaudin-types to create depth.
  • Conclusion 2: The Giants are not in rebuilding mode, they are going to continue to go for it. This team has too many good player (and good young players) to blow it up. Prediction 2: That said, I expect the Giants to make a big trade in the offseason. This is what Sabean loves to do, and the market these days favors trades over free agent signings. Sabean has worked some magical trades (see Kent, Jeff) and some foolish trades (see Pierzynski, AJ). Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Belt on the move this offseason.

This is an interesting moment for the Giants. Theoretically, they still have enough to be competitive (any team with Posey, Cain, Bumgarner, etc under control for several years is well set up to be competitive over the long haul). They also have some intriguing help at the lower levels of the minor leagues.

But how the Giants choose to bridge the gap between the present and future is going to be fascinating.

In many ways, it begins today.

(-SB)

2nd Half Questions and a Prediction

The Giants get the “second half” (66 games left) tonight against the First Place Diamondbacks. The Giants continue to stand on strange ground. 6.5 games behind the D-Backs, but 8 games under .500. What the?

Here are the pertinent questions:

  1. Buy or Sell? In or Out? Two questions, I know, but essentially the same: are the Giants really in this thing, or is the 6.5 games out just a fantastical mirage meant to befuddle and entice the weak of mind and heart? If they have a good weekend and sweep, or even take 2 of 3, from Arizona, I’d expect the Giants to think they can go for it. If, the reverse happens, then I think it’s time to bite the bullet and see what they can get for various pieces. In the end I think the Giants will straddle the fence for as long as possible, make a minor move, and see if the core crew can’t find some magic.
  2. What of Tim Lincecum? He just threw a no-hitter. Other teams want to add him to their bullpen. Maybe he wants to be a Giants for life. Maybe he wants a fresh start. My gut tells me he stays through the season, but probably not beyond that. I could be wrong here in many directions. No matter what, enjoy every opportunity to see him from here on out…it might be the last time you see him in this uniform (tear).
  3. Can the Pitching Recover? Finally, a true on-the-field baseball question! This is a huge question, not just for the rest of the season, but moving forward as well. In 2009-2012 the Giants were among the best staffs in all of baseball, not just during that span, but historically. There is no doubt the team has the talent to put together an 8-10 turn run of excellence. In order for that to happen Madison Bumgarner and Timmy need to keep at their current pace. Matt Cain needs to get it together and fix his mechanical issue out of the stretch (or whatever the heck is wrong with him). Ryan Vogelsong needs to come back soon and he needs to be 2012 playoff caliber Vogey, not early 2013 Vogey. Finally, the Giants need to leave Gaudin in the rotation and send Zito to the pen. Not only does that give the team a stronger rotation it ensures that Zito won’t hit his inning mark (thus locking him in for one more expensive year), and gives the Giants a lot more flexibility heading into next year. The reality: that’s a lot of “what-ifs”…not out of the realm of possibility, but unlikely.
  4. Who Will Hit? Pablo seemed to be getting it together in San Diego before the break, but the Giants will need Pence to get hot and they will also need the Brandon’s to continue to contribute down the stretch. I never thought this team would miss Angel Pagan so much, but they do, and they need a couple of other guys to step up and take some pressure off the pitchers.
  5. What About the Future? As uncertain as the next couple of weeks and rest of the season may seem, it still doesn’t compare to what lies ahead this off-season. 3/5 of the rotation will be up in the air. Pence is likely gone, leaving 2 outfield spots open, plus lingering questions about Pagan’s ability to stay healthy as he ages at a tough position (CF). The Giants don’t have immediate help waiting on the farm, and will have to bridge the gap somewhere. Lot’s of interesting moves lie ahead.

Bold Prediction: As crazy as it sounds, I’m going to go with my heart, and not with my head, and predict that the Giants will win 87 games and the NL West. That will require them to go 44 and 22 over the final 66 games. Seems like a tall order for this club, but IF the pitching can get on a roll it is entirely possible. This is the Giants’ version of the 2000 Yankees, the final year in their great run, where they were able to sneak in despite being an inferior version of their former selves. Bring on the second half.

(-SB)