Week [22] In Review (8/28-9/4) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Once again, it is hard for me to come up with something to say about this stretch of the season. I will say this: the Giants are competing. They aren’t laying down. But they are coming up short more often than not.

If there is any encouragement from the last week, they hung with the Cubs. They could have easily swept the series, and they could easily have been swept. That’s the frustration of 1-run games. They’re in it, but right now they are just not doing enough to get wins, even in close games.

So, instead of getting into all that: two significant questions both for the rest of the season and moving forward into 2017.

1. A question about Buster Posey.

No one wants to go there and when the subject is broached it is usually quickly shot down, but this is the third straight year where Buster Posey has worn down as the season has gone on. This is not really a criticism of Posey. He’s a catcher, this is what happens. This is more a statement of reality.

One of the things that will always stand out to me about the 2014 postseason run was that Posey did very little with the bat. We’re seeing a similar thing right now. Again, can’t blame a guy for struggling to hit, and especially for power, when he’s so beat up, but it is a glaring issue.

The argument is that Posey is far more valuable as a catcher than any other position. And it’s true: what Posey brings in terms of defense, pitch framing, working with pitchers, and then being a middle of the order hitter is a rare gem of a quality. It’s what made the Giants lineup successful for the last 6 years.

But one has to wonder how much longer this can go on.

One other significant issue: first base is claimed by Brandon Belt for a while. That extension had as much to do with the Giants confidence in Posey as anything else.

But, now that Matt Duffy is off to Tampa, is there a spot for Posey over at third (he was a shortstop before moving behind the plate)?

2. A Question About the Closer

Obviously, many fans are ticked at Santiago Casilla for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was yesterday’s blown save.

The problem with moving on from Casilla now is that there isn’t a great option. I would have been all in with Derek Law by now if he was healthy, but alas, he is not.

Hunter Stickland was the presumed closer of the future, but the team doesn’t seem confident in him in that role, and neither do I. I like Strickland a lot, but he leaves far too many pitches in the fat part of the zone to inspire the needed confidence. He would also benefit from a nasty secondary pitch.

I have a feeling that if this season ends in tragedy the Giants will spend some money on the bullpen, and the closer slot in particular, something they haven’t done since Armando Benitez.

Looking Ahead: The long road trip from hell continue in Colorado today. Then off to Phoenix. This week scares me and yet these are beatable teams and winnable games. The Giants could really use a 4-2, 5-1 week, so go get ’em!

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 [19] In Review (8/8-8/14) #sfgiants #weekinreview

I have no idea what to say today. Part of me wants to write about the positive signs, because there were many this past week: better starts, better offense, better bullpen (until Sunday).

Part of my wants to burn AT&T to the ground, because this team should not be allowed to play baseball anymore.

The week highlights the fundamental issue with this team: each facet of the team is pretty good except when it isn’t.

At times the rotation has been outstanding, the backbone of success. But the Giants have given a lot of starts to Matt Cain, Jake Peavey, and Alberto Suarez. Jeff Samardzija has been brilliant AND horrible. Madison Bumgarner is having a career year but didn’t win a start for almost a month.

At times the lineup has been outstanding, even carrying the load during different swings. But it’s also been banged up, some guys have been mired in inexplicable slumps for extended periods, and certain guys (hey there Denard Span) can look great one day and then go 0-14 the next 3.

The defense has been, maybe, the most consistent force for good all year, but there have been some glorious meltdowns, and Angel Pagan still plays in the field on a regular basis (which is not a good thing).

And then the bullpen: oh sweet bullpen. Just when Bochy was starting to follow my advice (see last week’s post), just when roles and expectations were clarifying, just when it seemed like the ‘pen was taking the place of “most confidence inspiring,” yesterday happened.

And so, I just don’t know.

This is a good baseball team, except when it isn’t.

Week In Review: 2 of 3 in Miami, and 1 of 3 from Baltimore. 66-51, still, somehow 1 game up in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: No question this award goes to Brandon Crawford who accumulated a week’s worth of hits (7) in one incredible game. Crawford’s name has come up several times in “overall best player in baseball” conversations. No one is saying he is the best, but who ever imagined that he would even be in the conversation. Remarkable.

Pitcher of the Week: Madison Bumgarner had a great start the other night, and finally got credit for a win, but we’re going with Jeff Samardzija. Shark had been struggling with control and the home run ball, but to hear some of the guys who follow the team closely, there were predictions of a turn around. It appeared to start in his last turn where two things happened: better control (still walked 3, but seemed to leave less pitches out over the plate), and the return of the curve ball (too much hard stuff was making life too easy for opposing batters). Keep it up Jeff!

Looking Ahead: the long home stand continues with 3 against Pittsburg and 4 against the Mets. Keep putting the positives together!

Oh, any maybe it’s time for Derek Law to take over the 9th?

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.

Week [16] In Review (7/18-7/24) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Last post I covered the pessimistic and optimistic views of the Giants situation entering the second half. Well…

It’s been a horrible stretch for the Giants since the All-Star Break ended. They were swept by the Padres last weekend. The same Padres they had beaten in all nine previous contests this year. They followed that up with a 1-4 east coast swing against the Yankees and Red Sox.

There are many culprits right now: the starters haven’t been great, the offense has been terrible, and the bullpen and defense have had a few untimely meltdowns.

It seems as if the lack of depth, with all the injuries that have piled up, has finally caught up to them.

The covering grace of that lack of depth had been the middle of the order combo of Belt and Posey and Crawford, but that tandem has struggled mightily out of the second half gate (Belt especially).

The other grace has been the starting pitching, but even that has hit the skids.

To top it all off, it looks like the Cubs just got even more scary.

The Giants return home, get out of the heat, and have soft-landing with a 3 game series against terrible Cincinnati. But then it gets more serious with four games against the Nationals this weekend.

Hitter of the Weak:

All hail Mac Williamson who continues to make a case for himself both as a legitimate starter when Hunter Pence returns, and as a future fixture in the Giants’ outfield. His two home runs and 6 rbis accounted for the majority of the offensive output over the last 8 games.

Pitcher(s) of the Weak:

Here’s the crazy thing: despite all the angst about the bullpen, despite all the rumors the Giants are involved in, despite all the cries for heads, 6 of the top 7 performances this week came from the bullpen (Cueto was the only starter to sneak in there). Casilla had a huge outing in the lone win, Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland are quietly back in good grooves, Derek Law has been a revelation (my new top candidate for closer duties), and Sergio Romo has been great since his return.

By far the biggest issue right now, in my opinion, is that the Giants are not getting out in front in games. They’ve been behind almost every game post-break and that’s just not how they are built to play.

Looking Ahead: We already previewed the schedule above. The Giants need to enjoy and take advantage of this home stand, because it’s right back out to the humid east coast to start August. The Giants will also be playing a lot of contending teams over the final two months, so this series against the Reds is must win/sweep scenario.

There is a lot of hand wringing about the Cubs acquiring Aroldis Chapman. While he certainly makes them even more formidable, in some ways I find this kind of exciting for the Giants. Every even year run they’ve had to take down the “impossible,” whether that’s been the 2010 Phillies, the 2012 Cardinals, or the 2014 Nationals/Royals. They’ve never been favored to win a series in any of those post-seasons, so  why not add another behemoth to that list?

First things first though, and that’s righting the suddenly off kilter ship.

Week [11] In Review (6/13-6/19) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Um, ok.

I think we all knew the Giants were doing well, but dang!

No June swoon so far, in fact everything is looking pretty rosy right now: Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto are having historic seasons, Jeff Samardzija is the best(?) third starter in baseball, Jake Peavy has figured out how to be competitive again, and the Suarez/Cain combo is holding its own (though Matt Cain is out again with yet another hamstring issue).

The offense is starting to come to life, especially in the home run department (more on this in a moment), Pagan is back, and the lineup feels somewhat normal again.

The biggest positive sign, however, is the resurgence of the bullpen. It seems things have start to get sorted out. I don’t love Cody Gearrin as the 8th inning guy, but, hey, I’m not Bruce Bochy and he has a fairly good track record with bullpens. Whatever the combination, it is finally working, and could get even better once the irrepressible Sergio Romo returns (he struck out Yasiel Puig in a rehab game this week, which is pretty cool).

The Giants face an interesting week. Four games with Pittsburg and then the long flight back to the west coast for a three game weekender with the Phillies. This is a sneaky tough week. The Pirates aren’t playing well, but are still a talented bunch, and four games in Pittsburg feels like a lot. The Phillies are not great, but they are young and have a few good pitchers and they could be a tough matchup coming off the road trip.

Back to the positive vibes: the Giants have nearly caught the Cubs for the best record in the NL, something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago!

Week In Review: Swept the Brewers in 3 at home; swept Tampa Bay in 3 in Tampa; 44-26 overall, 6.5 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: As surmised last week Buster Posey did in fact break out, hitting .522 while collecting 12 hits. Brandon Belt continues to affirm his new contract and make his case for the All-Star Team pounding two more home runs. But the hitters of the week are Matt Duffy and Joe Panik who came alive to the tune of  .409 and .346 averages, respectively. The Giants lineup is pretty devastating when these guys are hitting well. They also both homered, and Panik had a couple huge, clutch moments in the Tampa series.

Pitcher of the Week: You could throw a dart at a chart of the starting rotation and get a pretty good candidate this week. As mentioned above, Bumgarner and Cueto added to their legendary starts to this season. Cueto won his 10th! game of the season already, while striking out nine. Peavy pitched well, adding 8 punchouts of his own.

But, the POW goes to Jeff Samardzija for nearly throwing a shutout (a 2 out, ninth inning home run ruined it for him), and getting himself back on track after a few lesser quality starts.

Looking Ahead: I’ve already gone over the schedule for the week, and the challenge it presents, so now for the good news: this a 2 start week for both Bumgarner and Cueto. Get excited for that!

Week [9] In Review (5/30-6/5) #sfgiants #weekinreview

All off-season, as the Giants were spending money on good players inside and outside the organization, we heard the refrain repeated time and time again: this should be a good, competitive team as long as they stay healthy.

Well, here we go. It’s June and in the last two weeks:

  • The Giants got bad news on Sergio Romo (i.e. he’s out a while longer)
  • Put perpetually hamstrung Angel Pagan on the DL (after already missing a week with the same injury)
  • Saw Matt Cain pull a hammy after getting his groove back
  • And then, lost Hunter Pence for two months to hamstring surgery

Dang hamstrings.

In addition, Johnny Cueto, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy are all dealing with various aches and pains.

Which leads us to a 5-5 road trip that felt a whole lot worse, probably because the Giants lost their first series in a month this weekend in St. Louis, thanks in large part to two blown leads.

There’s still plenty of bright spots: Bumgarner’s having a historic year, Belt is great, Crawford is proving himself the best shortstop in the game, the overall work from Cueto and Samardzija has been awesome, and this team still has Buster Posey holding it all together.

The next five games, at home, are against good teams (Red Sox and Dodgers), but after that the June schedule seems fairly forgiving.

But, this is test time. The “they must stay healthy” clause will not be fulfilled in 2016. Can they hold it together, keep pitching well, and get enough offense to hang in there until they are back at full strength?

Week in Review: took 2 of 4 from Atlanta, and 1 0f 3 in St. Louis. 35-24 with a 3.5 game lead in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Brandon Belt righted his mini-slump in a big way this week: 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and 1.128 OPS. Belt is going to have to carry a larger load than normal over the next two months with Pence out. He does not seem to thrive in these situations, but now has an opportunity to change the story by providing this kind of production (and protection for Posey).

Pitcher of the Week: George Kontos is not anywhere near my favorite arm in the Giants bullpen but he had a very good week (5 appearances, no runs), and, like Belt, represents a guy who has a chance to really make himself valuable. The bullpen continues to struggle to find consistency and continuity. Bochy likes and trusts Kontos (not totally sure why), and so he’ll have his chances to help bring some badly needed stability to the ‘pen.

Looking ahead: This is a weird, rare, 5 game week, featuring 2 games against the Red Sox and 3 with the Dodgers. As mentioned above, record-wise, this is one of the toughest stretches of the month, but a chance for the Giants to prove themselves against one of the AL’s best, and then a chance to get more distance from the rival Dodgers.

Week [3] In Review (4/18-4/24) #sfgiants #weekinreview

The Giants struggles at home, and in recent times against Arizona, continue to baffle me. Outside of the D-backs sweep, the Giants are 5-2 at home, and those two loses are could-have/should-have wins. But, overall they are under .500 at AT&T. Makes no sense!

Yes, it is early, and, yes, taking 2 of 3, or even sweeping the Padres to start this week would shiny up that record quick, but I am going to keep harping on this until it isn’t an issue any more.

The Giants haven’t truly struggled at home during their run of success, and this isn’t the NBA where you can win 90% of your games at home, if you are a good team.

But, I can’t help shake the sense that they should win more often in San Francisco. And, of all the teams the Giants have had in the last 6 years, this one seems ideally created to do well at home (i.e. 50+ wins). Perhaps in a month we’ll look back at the Diamondback series and laugh, but right now, the lack of home domination concerns me.

It does seem like the offense is picking up again, and there are some bright spots all around: Samardzija, Cueto keeps on trucking, Duffy and Panik seem to be warming up, and the young arms in the bullpen are impressing.

It was fun to see Bonds too.

Week in Review: Swept in 4 by the Diamondbacks, then took 2 of 3 from the Marlins. 9-11 overall, 4th place in the West, 3.5 games behind the Dodgers.

Hitter of the Week: Matt Duffy had 10 hits this week, and saw his average climbing back to normal. Hat tip to Gregor Blanco for continuing to be the best 4th outfielder in baseball. He went 6 for 12 this week with 3 triples.

But the hitter(s) of the week are two starting pitchers: Jeff Samardzija and Jake Peavy, who both came through with big RBI hits in their starts (the only 2 wins of the week). With the Giants continuing to employ alternative lineups, these kinds of at bats are extremely valuable.

Pitcher of the Week: I want so badly to write about Jeff Samardzija (as I did last week). I finally got to see him pitch in real-time this week and it was awesome. The results were great, obviously, but he pitched like a stud pitcher should pitch: in control of the game and his pitches, nasty stuff, and able to dominate all over the strike zone with 4 different kinds of pitches. He was very impressive.

I’m going to name Jake Peavy pitcher of the week, though, because who knows if he’ll ever get in this space again. Peavy is, admittedly, my least favorite of the five starters, and the one with the lowest upside, but even if he pitches well, there are too many other good pitchers on the roster. The chances of Peavy outshining them are small.

So, while we have the opportunity, let’s thank Jake Peavy for not sucking, and for beating one of the best young pitchers in baseball. Well done old man.

Looking Ahead: the Giants start the week by finishing the home stand with 3 games against San Diego. It would do them well to take full advantage of the inferior team here. They have their 3 best pitchers set to go, at home, so don’t mess around because after this it’s off to New York. The Met’s haven’t been lighting the world on fire, but that’s still a fine pitching staff to have to face after a long plane ride and the first big time zone change of the young season.

Week [2] In Review (4/11-4/17) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Week 2 was not as fun as Week 1, but sometimes trips to Colorado tend to have that effect.

There were highlights. Jeff Samardzija got the trip off to a great start with a great start in Colorado. Johnny Cueto looked like a 130 million dollar man on Saturday night against the Dodgers. Brandon Belt continues to mash. Matt Cain was pitching great again, until he wasn’t. Trevor Brown was/is a great story.

There were plenty of lowlights. Two injuries (Romo and Adrianza) weaken any sense of depth the team has. Jake Peavy continues to struggle. Madison Bumgarner can’t get Kike Hernandez out. The bullpen was less than awesome. The defense had a few lapses. Most significantly, the vaunted offense is not looking so vaunted right now.

In particular, Matt Duffy, Denard Span, and Joe Panik are struggling. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford are fine, but not lighting the world on fire. There are some signs of life (Panik homered yesterday), but it would be encouraging to see a few of those guys (Span in particular) get it going soon.

Week in Review: 1 of 3 at Colorado, and 1 of 3 at the Dodgers. 7-6, 3rd place in NL West, 1 game behind LA.

Hitter of the Week: Brandon Belt had a very nice week, but let’s talk about Angel Pagan for a moment. He was the forgotten man, a guy many fans wanted to be replaced by a Mac Williamson this spring, a proud player “demoted” to hitting ninth and playing left field after a solid career in center and at the top of most lineup cards.

As long as he was somewhat serviceable at the plate and didn’t embarrass himself in left, it seemed fine that he would start the season there. Over time the Giants would inevitably make the move to Williamson, and Pagan would ride into the sunset, always to be remembered for his key role in the 2012 championship.

It’s early, but so far, Pagan looks fresh, healthy, and dynamic. If everyone else is doing their thing, he makes this lineup extremely dangerous. He’s been running so hot, you have to wonder if Bochy doesn’t hit him leadoff while Span tries to get it going from the nine spot.

Pitcher of the Week: I feel tempted to put Samardzija here because he pitched twice and one of those starts was a dominant effort in Colorado. I still think it will take him a little time to settle down in SF, but it may happen faster than I anticipated.

I have to name Johnny Cueto for the incredible effort he turned in on Saturday night. The Giants had lost 3 in a row, their 6 -2 sprint out of the gate, ground to a halt. They were Kershawed the night before. They’d had some tough games in Colorado.

They needed a pick-me-up and they got one in a huge way from Cueto.

It’s always interesting to me to see how a pitcher does when he has back to back starts against the same team. In Cueto’s week 1 start again the Dodger’s he got nailed for 5 first inning runs. Since then: 13.1 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 2 ER, 15 K. Awesome. He figured it out and then he backed it up, and it was exactly what the team needed.

Plus he’s so much fun to watch.

Looking Ahead: The Giants begin a 10 game home stand tonight, which brings us back to one of our keys for the season: dominating at home. During the week we’ll see Arizona 4 times, and then the Marlins this weekend for 3.

The Giants need to see a few guys get it going with the bats, and a quality start from Jake Peavey would be a welcomed development. Going 5-2 and taking back first place would be pretty great as well.

Week [7] In Review (May 19-24) #SFGiants

What a week, what a weekend. First, the Giants swept the Dodgers again at home, this time never allowing them to score. Then they traveled to house-of-horrors Coors Field and split an annoying, rain delayed, 4 games in 3 days, sordid affair of a weekend. The Giants now sit 2 games behind the Dodgers (3 in the all important loss column), and are very much in the conversation as far as the division is concerned.

Second, there’s been a flurry of roster moves that deserves some consideration. On Friday the Giants called up the fiery Hunter Strickland. If you casually follow the team you may recall he gave up some home runs in the postseason last year, culminating in an emotional meltdown against the Royals in Game 2 of the World Series. He’s been downright dominant in AAA so far this season, and his 2 innings on Saturday continued that trend and helped save the bullpen during the brutal series in Colorado.

Strickland was so good in fact that the Giants chose to keep him around, and he continues on with the team as they head to Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the Giants finally made a call at third base. They cut Casey McGehee on Sunday (although if wants to he could accept a demotion to Sacramento and stay with the team…this may, in fact, be his best option). Our #FreeMattDuffy worked! The kid now has about 7+ weeks to show the team what he’s got before the trade deadline.

Finally, in an interesting move today, the Giants also released Travis Ishikawa, who may remember from that one home run hit against the Cardinals in the 2014 NLCS. Yeah, that was awesome. But, baseball is an unsentimental jerk sometimes. Ishikawa could also accept a demotion back to AAA and stay with the organization.

Something tells both guys will choose to stay and hope they can work their way back up. The most interesting move to me was Ishikawa. I thought that maybe the Giants would send one of their catchers down (probably Andrew Susac) and have Ishikawa around as a pinch hitter, especially since he’s shown he can handle the outfield, but the team made the right move for now. It seems they have the best combination of a players and roles lined up now that they’ve committed to Duffy. Stay tuned though, because more moves are likely to come in the near future.

One of those very well may be sending Chris Heston down and bringing Jake Peavy back into the rotation. Stay tuned.

Hitter of the Week:

Once again, the choices are plentiful. Brandon Crawford continues to make his All-Star case. Buster Posey actually had a better week than Crawford, hitting a home run, driving in 6, and hitting over .400. Joe Panik continues to impress and put to be any fears of a sophomore slump. He led everyday players with a .417 average, and 6 runs scored.

But, the HOW goes to Madison Bumgarner for his “big boy” home run off Clayton Kershaw. Awesome.

Pitcher of the Week:

Ryan Vogelsong is also awesome. May we never question him again. Tim Lincecum shut out the Dodgers. All hail the freak. Madison Bumgarner beat reigning Cy Young and MVP winner Clayton Kershaw FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS SEASON. But, we’re going to go with a relief pitcher for the second week in a row. Hunter Strickland really did come up huge for the Giants this weekend. More importantly, if he can prove himself to consistently get major league hitters out, he is a major weapon in the bullpen. We saw a foretaste of that in the playoffs last year. We also saw the Strickland dark side. But, he has the pure stuff to be a dominant bullpen piece, and on this team, with its amazing, but aging bullpen core, another strikeout arm in the pen would be a significant addition. Plus, no more Jean Machi. Go get ’em Hunter.

Looking Ahead:

The Giants will play three in Milwaukee and then head home for a nice home stand, starting with 4 against the Atlanta Braves. Hoping to see their momentum continue to build through the end of the month and possibly close the gap on the Dodgers by another game.

Go Giants! Happy Memorial Day!

-SB