A Quick Update #sfgiants #weekinreview

I’ve been in the midst of a move, staring a new job, and then also the Warriors have grabbed what little sports attention I’ve had recently (they are a good basketball team, but that’s not what we are here for).

Anyway, just a quick couple thoughts today and then I’ll try to be back in a normal rhythm soon.


First Thought: I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the Giants “road woes” and the big split between record, home and away. It still exists (Home: 19-11, Road 14-21). However, the Giants are off to a good start on the current, and long, road trip, and they have the potential to make a dent in that record. They are 2-1 already, with 4 against the terrible Marlins, and then three in LA against the Dodgers whom they have played well so far.

I cannot stress enough how important these four games are in Miami. Anything less than 3-1 would be a let down, in my opinion. The Giants will throw out Madison Bumgarner and Chris Stratton (their two “aces”) to start the series, then the rookies get the second half. They should win the first two games and (AT LEAST) split the last two. Then, if they can get 2 of 3 in LA that would be an awesome road trip and push the road record to 19-23 (.500 is the magic # for a competitive team).

Second Thought: I liked the Giants bench to start the season, but it has really become a tremendous strength for this team. Pablo and Hundly have been great, Alen Hanson a revelation, and the Gorkys and Mac Williamson resurgences have pushed Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson into more appropriate super-sub roles. I like it a lot. (And I’d imagine they drop a pitcher when Brandon Belt returns this week).

Third Thought: Speaking of Brandon Belt, when he returns the offense will be at full strength for the first time in a while, and the team will be as healthy as it’s been in a long, long time (lacking only Cueto and Samardzija). If they can keep guys healthy up to the all-star break the Giants have a real chance to make this interesting.

Fourth Thought: It’s probably going to be interesting no matter what. The last two weeks have done nothing to “unbunch” the division. Arizona is hanging on to first place, the Dodgers have crawled back to contention but still aren’t their juggernaut selves, and Colorado and San Diego are very much hanging in/around. The in-division games this month are going to be very consequential.

Fifth Thought: the Giants released Cory Gearrin this week (and there was much rejoicing). No one picked him up and he may end up in Sacramento. That may not be all that interesting to you, but it should. The Giants really needed someone to take him on, as it would have opened up an opportunity to make a trade deadline move.

All of which is going to make for an interesting July. The Giants did some very creative (and actually pretty awesome) maneuvering this offseason to both improve the 2018 team and create space to go for it again in the offseason (by not going into the luxury tax the Giants give themselves the room to make big moves next year).

As of right now, if the Giants want to make a move at the deadline it’s going to require more creativity if they want to continue with their stated goal of staying under the tax. The obvious move would be getting someone to take on Hunter Pence (maybe an old NBA style bad contract swap?). Some other candidates might include Austin Jackson or Sam Dyson. Or, the Giants may just say “who care about the tax,” throw caution to the wind and go for it. The deadline will say a lot about the team they think they have and their plans for the future.

Sixth Thought: Speaking of Sam Dyson, the Giants bullpen has become everything I hoped for and more. They suddenly have a “big three” of Strickland/Watson/Dyson, while at the same time still having three excellent arms (Melancon/Smith/Moronta) to back those guys up with. Plus, Ty Blach makes so much more sense as a long reliever.

It’ll be interesting to see how the pecking order shakes out over the course of the year, but I cannot remember when the Giants had so many guys I had so much confidence in. They’ve had better “core” bullpens, but I don’t know about a 1-7 that matches this one.

Final Thought: An ode to Brandon Crawford. Get out there on the internet somewhere and check out his game logs (like this one). His season reminds me very much of Dustin Pedroia’s rookie of the year campaign. Crawford was hitting .189 with a .560 OPS on April 30th. I was definitely worried. Crawford does not need to hit a ton to be valuable to the Giants. His defense alone is an asset, and then any sort of league average hitting makes him a ++ player. But when he hits, this team can be deadly.

Since May 1 his average has steadily increased, up to .338 after yesterday’s 4-4 (most of that damage against Max Scherzer, the easy CYA front-runner in the NL). His OPS is .921, far and away the best mark of his career.

Dave Flemming mentioned several times on the broadcast yesterday that Crawford has to be considered among the leaders for MVP at this point.

We love Brandon Crawford and have thoroughly enjoyed his contributions to many great Giants moments over the years. But, to become an MVP candidate is truly amazing and ridiculous. He was an all-glove, no-hit sort of prospect who was simply seen as a stop-gap starter when he came up and who would hopefully turn into a nice utility player.

Now we’re looking at multi-gold gloves and a potential MVP finalist. Unreal. And it’s legit too, watching him yesterday, he does not look like a guy who is just hot, he’s hitting everything on rope all over the ball park. Beautiful to behold!

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A Giant Mess? #sfgiants #weekinreview

Last Monday I bragged about how the Giants merely needed to go 2-5 to secure a .500 record on a tough/no-day-off east coast road swing. I wrote about how they were playing with house money, and a split in Philly and a series win in Pittsburg could actually produce a 7-3 trip.

Well, the Giants took one look at that, laughed, and had an absolute turd of a week, losing 6 of 7, and watching their run differential plummet to -28.

We are now at the quarter pole in the 2018 season, and so let’s examine a few trends:

  1. Feast or Famine…the top trend of the Giants season is that it seems like everything goes well or nothing goes well. They hit when they pitch, and when they don’t pitch, they don’t hit. There have not been many 2-1 losses, or even 8-7 losses. They have won their share of close games, but have also gotten blown out a ton. The offense either is clicking and hitting home runs, or nothing is happening. A turn through the rotation is pretty good, or everyone is terrible. This makes it very hard to analyze where this team is truly at.
  2. .500…Bill Parcells is famous for saying you are whatever your record says you are. Well, the Giants are a .500 team. There’s been some moments well below even and a few days with a bit of a cushion, but for the most part this a win-half, lose-half team so far. No getting around that. Now, what is interesting is that, given the spring training injury situation, this would have been very acceptable a few weeks before Madison Bumgarner’s return. However, it definitely feels like it could be/should be better.
  3. Injuries…some national commentators look at the Giants injury woes and go “oh, of course, it’s an old team.” However, the Giants have sustained injuries to their young guys at the same rate as old. (Panik, Hansen, Williamson, Bumgarner, etc. vs Cueto, Samardzija, Melancon, Pence). The “old” guys you would think of getting hurt does include Melancon, but Longoria, McCutchen, Posey, and others have all been very healthy so far. This trend started last year and continues into this year. Is there something go on here? Some of it is freaky (Williamson/Panik/Bumgarner), but some of it raises questions about the medical staff (Melancon and Cueto in particular).

All of which leads to this dramatic hot take: I still have no idea what to make of this team.

How’s that for a take? But seriously, the Giants are 3.5 games out of the wild card, 4.5 games out of the division. The Dodgers are broken and might not get fixed this year. Things are much more wide open in the NL than expected (and much more wide open than the AL for sure).

It feels like the Giants can, and will, get better. Bumgarner is not that far from a return. The bullpen has been pretty good and will probably get better as the season goes along. The offense has been horrible at times, but shown signs of life. It seems reasonable to assume that several hitters will produce at a higher level over the next 6-8 weeks.

But, do you feel confident? Is this doable for this version of the Giants? All I know, so far, is that I have no idea.

Next up: a 7 game home stand, 3 against the Reds and 4 against the Rockies. The Rockies sit ahead of the Giants in the standing and have not been good away from home. This is an important week to get back on track.

What to Look For Over the Next 3 Weeks #sfgiants

June is not trending in the right direction (at all). My hope was that the Giants could get to .500 by July 1, and as of right now, they will need to go 15-2 to get there. Probably not happening.

Here’s the rundown of the next 3 weeks and what it would take to turn this around:

  • Sweep the Royals (28-39)
  • Take 3 of 4 in Colorado (31-40)
  • Sweep the Braves (35-40)
  • Take 2 of 3 from the Mets (37-41)
  • Sweep the Rockies (40-41)
  • Beat the Pirates (41-41)

No problem, right? =)


The Giants exploded for 13 runs yesterday (finally) behind an unusual lineup, but here is what I would like to see for the next 3 weeks (at least):

  • Nunez 3B (let the man lead off!)
  • Panik 2B (Joe is someone to watch closely the rest of the season…who is the real Joe Panik and what can the Giants expect from him moving forward?)
  • Posey C (should be hitting in the 3 hole from now until the skills really fade, years down the road)
  • Belt 1B (his all or nothing approach plays best in the cleanup spot)
  • Pence RF (looks like he might be getting it going which means this is right where you’d want him)
  • Crawford SS (I know he’s been one of the most reliable bats of the last 2+years, but any lineup where he’s hitting above the 6 spot is going to struggle over the long haul)
  • Slater LF (let the dude play…if not Mac, let it be Austin, and let it be for a while)
  • Span CF (my hope is that he gets shipped out in July)

MLBTradeRumors put out some interesting info on the Giants yesterday. Here are some thoughts:

There are essentially two kinds of trades the Giants can/should make. One is trading veteran guys away to open up spots for younger players to get time. A classic example of this would be trading Eduardo Nunez so that Christian Arroyo and/or Jae-gyun Hwang can play the last two months at the major league level to show what they got.

The other trade is cashing in whatever valuable assets the Giants may have to restock the shelves. There’s not a lot of options here, outside of a blockbuster involving players named Buster or Brandon (not going to happen).

The two that are most interesting to me: Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija. Now, both have 3 years to go on hefty contracts, and both have trade clauses (Melancon has a full no-trade clause), but these are the two options that could fetch something interesting in return.

Melancon, in particular, would have to give thought to waiving that clause to go back to Washington, right? That team is a closer away from being the most dominant team in the game (yes, even more than the Cubs and Astros), so you know they are going to be willing to pay.

Wouldn’t the Cubs prefer Samardzija to John Lackey? The Indians would take him over a few their own guys I’m sure.

We’re starting to get to the point where these things need to be considered.


A small silver lining: MadBum might return sooner than later!

Swoon #sfgiants #weekinreview

Well, not much to update from my last, midweek, post. Suffice to say, June is not off to a great start.

It seemed like it might be, though. Ty Blach was outstanding in Philly on Friday night, and the offense, somehow, scored 10 runs. But, then it was right back in the tank with a poor offensive showing on Saturday, followed by all kinds of ugly Sunday.

We said the Giants needed a 5-2 start to the month on the quest for .500. That would mean a sweep in Milwaukee. At this point, splitting the series and getting back home would seem to be a big huge step in the right direction.

I am going to continue focusing on how the Giants can get themselves back in position (i.e. .500) for a stretch run, and try as much as possible to avoid thinking about the future, but if things continue to go south there are some other subplots to root for. I won’t get into all of those, but a couple should be highlighted now because of their win-win nature.

  • The resurgence of Denard Span: root for this because (a) a good Denard Span helps the Giants win, and (b) he might become a trade piece if he keeps this up and stays healthy.
  • The Ty Blach story: he’s not getting traded anywhere, and it’s been a while since the Giants have produced a home-grown starting pitcher. The Giants could/should have some holes in the rotation to fill this offseason and Blach could make the future a bit more palatable.
  • Left Field: at this point I almost don’t care who it is, but Austin Slater seems like a nice guy, so root for him, really anyone, to take ownership of this position.

That’s about it for now.

Giants have 4 against the Brewers and then 3 at home against the Twins. We said they needed to go 3-1 in Mil and 2-1 against Min, so we’ll keep hope alive for the first series, and up it to a sweep against the Twins.

Is It Turning Around? #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants survived week one of this tough section of their schedule, going 4-2 against the Dodgers and Cardinals. It feels like it could have been better since they won the first 2 games in each series. Nonetheless, this is exactly what they need to do: win each series on their quest to get back to .500 by July 1.

They need to go 22-15 over these next 37 games to get there.

How have they been succeeding?

  1. Quality Starts. The starting pitching hasn’t been brilliant, but the Giants got 4 quality starts this week: one from Cain, one from Blach, one from Moore, and one from Samardzija. They lost when they failed to get QSs in Cueto and Cain starts (although to Johnny Cueto’s credit, it would have taken far more than a quality start to beat Clayton Kershaw on Wednesday).
  2. Resilience. The offense has been much, much better. It hasn’t quite been 2000 level SF Giants (or pick your favorite juggernaut), but the Giants averaged 5 runs per win. That’s pretty much the formula: 4+ runs and a quality start, Giants baseball. The bigger issue, though, has been the toughness, especially on the road, to gut out big wins this week with timely at bats and strong situational hitting. Once again, Christian Arroyo’s stat line is not jumping off the page at anyone, but that 11 pitch at bat with the bases loaded in the 13th inning of a 0-0 game certainly grew his legend. He still has a lot of developing to do, but the foundation is there.
  3. Bullpen/Defense. The Giants have not been shooting themselves in the proverbial feet with bullpen meltdowns and dumb plays in the field. To the previous point, Christian Arroyo is proving he belongs with smart plays and versatility.

A couple of other things worth mentioning:

  • Jeff Samardzija just might be establishing himself as the ace of this staff. On the surface that sounds like an indictment of the state of the Giants rotation, and to a certain degree it is, but he has been outstanding of late. Over his last 6 starts: 42 innings (7 per start!), 47 strikeouts and only 4 walks (!), an ERA of 3.86, and a WHIP of 1.00. Those are strong numbers.
  • Eduardo Nunez has come back to life, Brandon Belt keeps hitting home runs (and getting in tiffs with Posey), and Brandon Crawford seems to be getting back into the groove. I also feel Joe Panik is due for a big week or two in the very near future.
  • Mac Williamson had a great start on Monday night and then has tapered off significantly. I still would love to see the Giants give him a long leash even if it means cutting into Nunez’s playing time.

Which leads us to: some tough decisions looming. Aaron Hill, Connor Gillaspie, and Hunter Pence should be returning soon. The easiest guys to demote would be Arroyo and Williamson, but it will be fascinating to see how the Giants make these decisions. In addition, there probably won’t be room for both Justin Ruggiano and Michael Moorse. What should the Giants do?

My vote would be to stay with the young guys, but I also understand the need for depth and the best way to preserve that is to keep the old guys on the roster and let the young guys go to Sacramento.

Stay tuned. Big week with four games agains the Cubbies, starting today. Go Giants.

More Suck #sfgiants #weekinreview

I’ve completely lost any ability to creatively title these posts. What else is there to say about the 2017 SF Giants? All evidence seems to indicate that this is one of the worst teams, not just in baseball this season, but in Giants’ history.

Who saw that coming?!

I have a few thoughts on this, but first about this week:

We ended the last week with a challenge to Posey and Pence to start hitting for power. And lo and behold Pence and Posey hit home runs in the same game last Monday, off Clayton Kershaw nonetheless, and the Giants won!

Matt Moore followed that happy day up with one of the worst starts by a Giants pitcher in years, and then the Giants pulled out a series victory behind a stunningly great turn from Jeff Samardzija.

Despite the Tuesday shellacking, going 2-1 against the Dodgers on the road, including a Kershaw game win, seemed like a massively positive turn of events.

And then Cincinnati happened. The Giants got beat this weekend 31-5, and Matt Cain and Ty Blach, two of the bright spots in an all together dim season, had their lunch handed to them.

The weekend wrapped up with a sliver of hope that Johnny Cueto would make a triumphant return to the city where he started his career and salvage a .500 record (which, all things considered, wouldn’t have been that bad of a week). It was not to be as the offense once again went AWOL, and Cueto continued to be good but not great.

Now, mercifully, the Giants move on to New York to wrap this trip up. (Of course they will have to face Cincinnati again this coming weekend, because this is the weirdest schedule of any season I can remember.)

There you have it: a bunch of suck. To rub salt in my wounds, I tried to make the case last week that the Giants had hope because there was no way the starting pitching could be as bad as it had been. I was sooooooo wrong. It was quite worse.

So where does this leave us? Why is this so bad? How did we go from expecting competitive baseball and a possible postseason run to being the worst team in baseball?

The immediate answers include the following: A Madison Bumgarner injury, slow starts by several bats, inconsistent starting pitching, ongoing instability in the bullpen, a surprisingly unsteady defense, and a black hole in Left Field.

A slightly deeper analysis involves asking the question: has the game passed the Giants by?

The 2010 Giants were, in some ways, the prototype for what we are seeing all across baseball today. That team played solid, if not spectacular defense, had home run hitters all across the lineup (sans Freddy Sanchez…more on him later), and a cadre of power/strike out arms through the starting rotation and bullpen.

The 2012 Giants were, in many ways, the most successful of the Giants championship teams, but a bit of an inverse of the 2010 version (which again serves as a sort of proto-type for the rest of baseball now). The 2012 Giants had a super star in the middle of the order (Posey) and they surrounded him with a lot of high contact, low strike out hitters (Freddy Sanchez is the poser boy for this type of player, and his career ending injury led to the acquisition of the other boy on that poster: Marco Scutaro). Sure, the 2012 Giants could hit a home run when needed, but for the most part they killed teams with balls in play. Meanwhile their pitching was still excellent and could get strikeouts when needed, but had started to rely more on a bend-but-not-break approach. Led by Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Sergio Romo, this staff would nibble on the corners, even conceding walks when necessary, but never giving up the big hit by making location mistakes.

The 2014 Giants continued this trend to an extreme, only this team it had a not-so-secret weapon in Madison Bumgarner.

All of that to say: the Giants took the bend-don’t-break model of pitching, and the just-put-the-ball-in-play philosophy of hitting to their logical ends. Meanwhile the rest of baseball, maybe even in response to the Giants, went in a different direction: power, power, and more power.

In some ways this is a return to the steroid era of baseball, although it is fueled more by metrics like spin rates of pitches and exit-velocity/exit-angle of balls off of bats than by drugs. The essence is: your hitters need to be able to hit home runs, and your pitchers need to suppress home runs via the strikeout. It’s not pretty, but it is where the game (and all the data) has led us.

Unfortunately for the Giants, it appears the game has passed them by. They are no longer doggedly outliers, and they are running the risk of being left in the dust.

One example: Buster Posey, former 2012 NL MVP, is “on pace” to hit 10 home runs and drive in 25 runs. Yikes.

Do the Giants have any hope? A couple of possibilities:

  1. Madison Bumgarner returns healthy and can pitch as he always has. This is a dangerous hope. I know the perilss of shoulder injuries intimately. It seems unlikely, but a healthy Bumgarner is uniquely suited to succeed in this modern age.
  2. The Giants still have 3 pitchers, behind Bumgarner, who can succeed in the strikeout age (Moore, Samadzija, and Cueto), especially if they fully subscribe to the Righetti school of “bend-don’t-break.” Moore, in particular, seems primed to benefit from this, but has failed to translate it into reality.
  3. The Giants need to develop more power bullpen arms. This is the one area where they cannot afford to go in a different direction than the rest of the game. The lack of power arms coming through the system into the ‘pen is alarming.
  4. Teams can win in this era by not hitting tons of home runs (see: 2012 and 2014 SF Giants, and 2015-2015 KC Royals), and the Giants are committed to an infield full of nice hitters and ball players (Arroyo, Crawdford, Panik, Belt, Posey), but they must address the lack of power in the OF. I don’t know what the answer is here. Maybe it means going nuts in free agency, maybe it means a trade, maybe it means committing to a few guys in the system, even if it involves growing pains. But the power and athleticism that is flooding the game of baseball needs to be adopted by the Giants, particularly in the outfield.

Back to 2017, let’s hope this week produces a slightly more encouraging title!

Worst April Ever #sfgiants #weekinreview

There was a moment on Saturday afternoon/evening, where the Giants took a 3-1 lead into the sixth inning.

Matt Cain was offering more evidence of a kind of resurgence.
The offense had come alive to score 3 (!) runs.
It wasn’t difficult to look into the future and see a sweep to end the home stand.

A sweep would have meant an 11-15 record, not a great start by any measure, but it would have been easy to write off the month as a bad first week, followed by some .500 ball, all setting up for a nice run in May.

But then, the bullpen, which had been a mild source of strength on this deeply flawed squad, began an epic weekend collapse (14 runs in 9 innings, including 4 home runs).

Suddenly, a 3-1 lead and visions of sweep,
turned into a blowout nightmare,
a 12-4 loss,
and an offensive hangover that lasted into Sunday.

Speaking of Sunday’s game. Some of the bad vibes from Saturday were erased by another impressive effort from Ty Blach. The offense was not outstanding, scrapping together 2 runs, but it felts like a solid lead, especially with Blach getting through the 7th. Law and Melancon were sell set up to close it out and for the Giants go home 10-16, and, hey at least they pulled out a series win.

Law did has part, shakily getting through the 8th.
But then Melancon blew it in the ninth.

Now, before we throw Melancon completely under the bus, do not forget that Eduardo Nunez made a costly error, allowing Hector Sanchez (yes, that Hector Sanchez) to represent the tying run. And remember that Nunez was playing short stop because the Giants golden gloved regular at that position is on the DL with a tweaked groin.

And therein lies what is, to me, the fatal flaw of this team: there is NO margin for error.

This is a team that cannot win games if it is missing certain key pieces,
chief among them: Brandon Crawford and Madison Bumgarner.

This is a team that cannot win games if it makes errors
(and not just that, the defense has to make plays).

This is a team that cannot win slugfests because it does not hit home runs.

Which means it must win low scoring, well-pitched games in which it’s defense makes zero mistakes and a few great plays.

Any mistakes this team makes will be punished,
and they cannot be overcome,
and that is the sign of a bad team.

I also mentioned last week the lack of energy. The call up of Christian Arroyo and the return of Michael Morse did bring some life back into the dugout, and it is going to be fun, especially, to watch Arroyo grow up this year.

But I am afraid that it is these glimpses of the past and the future that may be the most compelling part of what is rapidly becoming a lost season.

One final thought: the numbers don’t completely bear this out, but the pitching is not really the problem. And to be honest, it never really was. I’m becoming more and more convinced that the Giants bullpen issues last year had to do with a mental breakdown and a lack of trust more than anything else (have you seen Santiago Casilla’s numbers so far with the A’s?).

And while there have been consistency issues throughout the rotation and the ‘pen, I see more than enough promise in what the Giants put on the mound most of the time.

But this offense truly stinks. There were no good answers this offseason, but it is abundantly clear that there will need to be some significant changes coming.

Too many empty at bats, and the lack of power is appalling.

My new suggestion for the lineup:

  • Nunez LF (he’s been in a terrible slump, and he’s probably a little rattled by Arroyo’s early promotion, but he is still the best option in this spot)
  • Panik 2B (has looked good leading off, but Panik is way more valuable as a 2 hitter)
  • Posey C (no more clean up)
  • Belt 1B (the 2 hole experiment has been cute, but Belt needs to be here for balance and to put the little power this team has in the center of the lineup)
  • Pence RF (hit home runs fool)
  • Crawford SS (when he returns, likely later this week)
  • Arroyo 3B (probably deserves to hit higher and will while Crawford is out, but this is a good spot for him. Lot’s of possibilities for RBI’s, and this will take the pressure off the kid and buffer his ups and downs as he makes the big league adjustment)
  • CF (a cesspool of suckiness. The Giants will probably need to address all three OF positions heading into 2018, starting here)

Wish I could be more positive today, but I can’t! Brisbee points out that the Giants will need to go 81-55 the rest of the way just to be a 90 win team, which would mean they will need to be the best team in baseball the rest of the season. Good luck!