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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Remaining FA's that could help SF

Well, we're about halfway through the MLB offseason and what few big name free agents that were out there have started to find homes, leaving just a select few options remaining for teams looking for help, including the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants completed their primary objective with the Melancon signing earlier this month, but have yet to address left field or add any other veteran arms into their bullpen mix. I recently scoured over the list of remaining free-agents and although there doesn't appear to be a left field answer waiting for them right now, there are still a couple of guys that I think can come in and compete for a roster spot and legitimate playing time if not a starting gig. I went ahead and composed a short list with a brief description on each player and how they may be able to fit in with the Giants.

Jose Bautista OF: We'll start with the only remaining right-handed power bat capable of playing the outfield on a regular basis (sorry but Trumbo in left at AT&T would not be a good fit long term). If the Giants would be willing to sacrifice some defense for offense out there, then he could be their guy (if he's willing to take a one year deal). He's gonna hit for power wherever he goes, but the Giants big selling point to him should be to come over for a year and take a shot at winning a tittle. He could see them as more likely to reach World Series then his other suitors and may be willing to give the Giants a try for a year. A big year or a World Championship could put him in even better position next winter too. He wanted 5/$150M before the season, but now he'll be lucky to get half of that after a major, major drop-off in production from '15 to '16. Still the most exciting bat on market not named Trumbo and better defensive fit although neither would be great out there.

Luis Valbuena, UT: The Giants have Connor Gillepsie under team control, but could view Valbuena as an upgrade. He's got more pop than Gillespie, although Connor's postseason heroics may have cemented his spot on the '17 roster. Still though, Valbuena is the type of bat any manager would love to have at his disposal as he's capable of lift-off every time he steps up. Sort of the left-handed version of Juan Uribe, and remember how big he was at times for this club for 2010's World Series run! Valbuena could really give Boch some flexability though. He could move Nunez into left field and play Valbuena at third if need be or even use Valbuena or Nunez over at 2nd should Panik's struggles/injuries return in '17. For a guy who won't break the bank and can do a number of things for you, Valbuena is certainly an intriguing player.

Rajai Davis, OF: The Giants are losing Gregor Blanco, and Rajai Davis would be a fine choice and an upgrade in his vacated role. He can play all three outfield positions well, and while he doesn't usually hit for much power, he has a propensity for the big hit and still is one of the faster players in the game. He could find himself a starting job somewhere but if he wants to contend he may have to settle for a 4th outfield spot. He is going on 37 years of age but still plays like he's 28, leading the AL in steals in '16 and showing he still has plenty in the tank. I mean, right now, Gorky's Hernandez is lined up to take over Blanco's former role and this is the type of area the Giants usually overlook and it usually costs them. Say Denard Span, who's no spring chicken, goes down for two months with some bad hamstring tear or something? Nobody else on the current roster can play center on a daily basis besides Hernandez and I'd much rather roll with Rajai.

Jae-gyun Hwang, LF/3B: He's a interesting guy because scouts compare him favorably to Ben Zobrist, who the Giants loved and tried desperately to sign last winter before he wound up in Chicago. Hwang is 29 years-old, and like Zobrist, hits for moderate power, good average, has a good eye at the plate, provides some speed and can play all over the field, but he's not necessarily a standout star. From what I hear, he could be a .285/15 HR/15 SB type with decent run production depending on where he hits in the lineup. It seems like more and more serviceable big league talent is surfacing from Asia and although the Giants don't usually get involved in international free agents like this, but look at how effective Jung Ho Kang was in Pittsburgh last year and if Hwang can produce on that level he'd be well worth the investment.

As for the remaining arms, obviously they aren't looking at any starting pitchers, but there are a few bullpen guys who I would certainly take on this team in an instant. Gone are Romo, Casilla and Lopez and so far, they have replaced them with just Melancon. I still think they need at least one more proven arm down there to help Melancon out even though Derrick Law is lining up to be the 8th inning guy and Hunter Strickland is coming off a very nice year as well. However, what happens if Strickland struggles and Law, who's had injury problems in his career, hit speed-bumps? This bullpen would be up a creek without a paddle to say the least. Ideally, I'd like to see another late inning right-hander added to the mix as well as a lefty specialists a la Javier Lopez of 2010.

Brad Zieglar, RHP: He's a guy who's been about as consistent as they come over the last half decade, but as he approaches 40 his luck is bound to run out sooner than later. I think he'd be worth a dice roll for the Giants, as he could provide some veteran stability to what is now a very young and in-experienced pen. Derick Law and Hunter Strickland will compete for the set-up role, but neither has carried that role full-time and the Giants got into trouble last year with lack of depth in the pen and not having guys with defined roles. Zieglar could be that low-stress, steady as a rock 8th inning guy much like Romo's been with the Giants and in very similar style as well. Plus the Giants have lost a lot of veteran leadership now down in that pen and could really use another guy like Zieglar who can be a leader.

Jerry Blevins, LHP: After the 2014 season Javier Lopez's production took a nose-dive and the Giants haven't been able to find that "LOOGY" through their farm. I'm not a big Josh Osich guy as I think he's had ample time to prove himself and hasn't done a whole lot. Okert is intriguing, but I would feel a lot more comfortable with Blevins in the mix with the old Lopez role while Will Smith hopefully has a good year and sort of rekindles the Jeremy Affeldt slot and then things would be OK I think.

J.P. Howell, LHP: See Blevins above. Whether it's Howell or Blevins, SF could still use that one, proven left-hander to come in and get an Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager or Carlos Gonzalez out when needed. Again Smith's stats actually favor him facing righties more, hence the reason I see a need for one of these two. Maybe Osich or Okert eventually become that, but for a team with aspirations like the Giants', they need all the sure-fire talent they can fit onto their roster. Travis Wood is another guy who you could put in this mix too.

Drew Storen, RHP: Now he and the next guy are more reclamation projects. Storen had a dreadful first half of 2016, but finished strong and could provide a legit set-up man to Melancon and a strong veteran presence in the ladder stages of the game. Strickland and Law have the ability to be that guy, but you can never have too many good relievers and Storen's an under-30 guy who's notched a few 35+ save seasons on his resume.

Daniel Hudson, RHP: I saved the best potential set-up guy for last. Hudson is really the guy I'd like to see brought in along with one of the lefties listed above to really make this bullpen a strength. I like George Kontos, but I think they can upgrade. I didn't quite get the rush to re-sign Cory Gearin either, but I suppose that wouldn't detour the Giants from a guy like Hudson if they had a legit chance at getting him. Outside of the three closers, Hudson is the consensus next best reliever on the market so he may be priced out of the Giants range but I really think they need a player like this. Look at all those guys who were throwing 95+ the Cubs and Indians where throwing out there. The Giants need more of those guys. They have one in Strickland but that's about it. Speaking of Indians' relievers, Hudson's career path has sort of followed that of now phenom relief ace Andrew Miller. Former top starting prospects with huge stuff that never translated in the rotation, but could translate great in releif.... Just sayin'!

Wild Card Relievers: RHP Greg Holland and RHP Neftali Feliz: Both these guys are likely going to take a one-year, make good deal and really try to cash in next winter with a solid season. Holland has been an elite closer with a heater in the high-90's but TJ Surgery has taken a few MPH off his fastball and he still hasn't found a team to bite on him since his showcasing in November. Feliz is coming off a decent year and was once a highly touted reliever who is still just 28 years of age, but he showed why nobody trusts him to close full-time with his bad second half. That being said, if you got one of these guys and they turned out to be pitch closer to their potential than not, they could have themselves a steal. Feliz would seem to be a better bet although having him and Hunter Strickland on the same roster with very similar stuff may seem redundant. Now had they not signed Gearin to that one year deal, I certainly think they could have used that spot to upgrade but what do I know? That's why I'm typing on this site rather than directing the Giants player personnel decisions. 

Of course Sergio Romo is out there too still, and on paper looks close to being as good as any of the guys I mentioned above, but I think we all saw Romo sort of hit a wall last season and I think he's only got so many seasons left with getting people out with his 85-mph sinker and 72-mph slurvy slider that's lost a lot of bite and quickness the last two seasons.

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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Giants find their closer but work remains

Pretty much ever since Brian Wilson went down with his shoulder injury at the start of 2012, the Giants have used a few different guys to close out games. Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla, career set-up guys, basically shared the duties, with Casilla becoming Bochy's #1 choice the last couple seasons. But after that epic second half collapse, largely attributed to that bullpen, and the team getting knocked out in the NLDS because of the bullpen, the Giants made solidifying that 9th inning as their number one priority this winter.

On Monday, the Giants finally found a guy they hope is their answer to their ninth inning woes that reared their ugly head in 2016, signing Mark Melancon to the richest contract in relief pitcher history (although both Kenly Jansen and Aroldis Chapman will most likely set new records after they sign). The Giants will pay the soon to be 32 year-old $62M over four years, which is right around what I thought he'd get. Chapman and Jansen are most likely looking at deals in the triple figures, so the $15.5M annually should be a bargain compared to the other two elite closing options. Not to mention, if you look at all three of their numbers over the last few seasons, aside from strikeout rate, Melancon has been neck-and-neck with those two. I would have loved to see the Giants pry Jansen away from LA, but I knew that would be a long-shot, so this move is the next best thing in my opinion. Chapman is flashy and hurls that 103-mph heater, but we saw him walk the tight-rope quite a bit in the postseason and blow a couple big saves, including one to the Giants in the NLDS that resulted in the Giants one and only win of the series.

Now, Melancon's numbers over the last four seasons are what got him this very lucrative deal, as they have been about as good as any relief pitcher in the game during that span. His highest ERA posted since the 2012 season has been 2.23 (2015) and in the other three seasons he's gone 1.39, 1.90 and 1.64 last season between Pittsburgh and Washington. During that span, he also posted a sub-1 WHIP in each season as he doesn't walk hitters and very rarely gives up the big fly. Since becoming a full-time closer in 2014, he's posted save totals of 33, 51 and 47 while blowing just 10. I don't have the exact number that the Giants blew last season but I'm pretty sure they blew 9 or 10 in September alone. All these reasons, along with him being a fine clubhouse personality and he being a good bet to age well over the course of the deal because he doesn't rely on a 100 MPH heater, are why many baseball people felt like he was the ideal fit for the Giants. Instead of the high-90's fastball/cutter like with Jansen or a 100-MPH laser beam and hard slider Chapman throws at you, Melancon can get you out in a number of different ways. For the most part, we'll be seeing a hard cutter in the low-90's as well as a big sweeping curveball though. He's got a change and a 4-seemer as well.

It's definitely a big sigh of relief for the Giants club and Giants fan alike. Their ninth inning problem is fixed and they did it without dueling out 100 million bucks or parting with half of their farm system. However, they still have question marks pertaining to that bullpen. I'd imagine that the plan is to roll with Derek Law as the primary set-up man with Hunter Strickland also getting an opportunity, but the Giants problem in the pen wasn't just with the closing situation. They struggled all over the place in the second half and although Melancon does change that landscape majorly, I think this pen could still use another sure fire arm or two. The need 2 guys like Romo and Casilla were back at the beginning of the Giants championship run, and strong left-handed presences like Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt (let's cross-our fingers that Will Smith's rough 2016 was just a down year and he's back to norm in 2017 cause that would help a ton).

There's still a long way to go in the offseason, and I expect the Giants to keep all options open regarding both left field and the bullpen, but it sure is a relieving feeling knowing they have a legit, premium closer now on the roster; the one thing many feel cost them their shot at another even year tittle. I personally think they needed another bat as well but who knows what a legit closer could have done with that bunch. They probably win the West and avoid the wild card game and maybe they avoid the Cubs all together or at least face 'em with home field advantage. Anyway you slice it though, that Cubs team seemed to have what other teams didn't this year and I don't know if any team was going to stop them. That was an epic postseason on the north side of Chicago. One very similar to the Giants' huge Fall in 2010, but only about 50+ more years in the making!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Giants exploring all closing options

The World Series is over, with the Cubs ending their 108-year drought, and the 2016 awards are in the midst of being passed out which means that coming next is the kick off to free agency and it should be a busy one for the Giants.

First off, after seeing the Cubs win it, I'm sure we all immediately wondered what would have happened had the Giants landed Andrew Miller or Mark Melancon at the deadline themselves. They likely aren't even facing the Cubs in round one but if they still did, they likely win game 4 and who knows what happens game 5 with Cueto in Chicago? Anyway, that's all done and over with and no use bantering on about the past and what could have been when such an important offseason awaits for the Giants. They wasted no time at all getting things going and kicking the tires on the free agents they intend on pursuing over the next 6+ weeks. They inquired with all three of the big closers (Melancon, Kenly Jansen and Aroldis Chapman) and apparently have even reached out to outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who opted out of his final 2 years and $50+ million from the Mets. And I'm pretty sure they came away with one general consensus, and that it won't be cheap at all to upgrade their current roster.

There are whispers that Chapman is seeking something in the 5 year/$100M range, and with Kenley Jansen being not only younger but I'm sure most would agree, more effective than Chapman, you can only imagine what his asking price will be. I've heard 6 years/$140M wouldn't be too far fetched of an asking price for the 27 year-old which leaves Mark Melancon as the the cheapest and most attainable. That being said, hes 31 and doesn't necessarily posses that dominant stuff that Jansen does or the 103 MPH heater that Chapman does, but is pretty damn nasty in his own right. Melancon has posted sub-2 ERA's in 3 of the last 4 seasons and a 2.28 in the other, combining for a 0.90 WHIP. All he did in 2016, split between Pittsburgh and Washington was post 51 saves to go along with a 1.64 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 65:12 K/BB ratio and only 3 long balls allowed in 77 innings of work. That last part would be such a re-assurance after Santiago Casilla seemed to be giving up a jack every other time out. That being said, he doesn't strike out a batter an inning, which is something you really want out of your closer- someone that can get an out when they really need it by throwing the ball by hitters. However, he posses a four-pitch repertoire which many closers do not, un-hittable at times bit curveball.

So after preliminary talks with all three of the elite closing options, Melancon emerges as the most logical and plausible fit for the Giants, according to MLB's website. Unlike Jansen and Chapman, I haven't really heard a number that Melancon is supposedly reporting, but after seeing what the two under-30's are seeking, a 3/4 year deal at $15M may be what it's gonna take to get Melancon. I mean, after him we're talking a huge drop-off, down to Francisco Rodriguez and the Tommy John reconstructed Greg Holland. I mean, Holland could be good, but these Giants need a sure fire bet and aren't really in position to roll the dice on a Holland unless they're 110% sure he's not only physically sound, but also going to be as sharp as before the injury.

As far as the outfielders, the only name so far to be mentioned, and likely the only free agent outfielder the Giants may seriously pursue this winter has been Cespedes. Mark Trumbo won't be coming here. Jose Bautista, unless for some reason sees the Giants as his best road to a tittle and wants to come here for a short-term deal before going back to the AL to DH for good, isn't coming here. Ian Desmond could be a back-up plan but isn't that big time power hitting bat the Giants are seeking and hasn't been great in his move to the outfield, leading all of MLB in errors among outfielders in 2016. Angel Pagan isn't coming back and there aren't really any other options that jump out at you in the free agent market. One interesting scenario mentioned on ESPN would be the Giants going after the other Dodger big free agent, Justin Turner, and playing him at third for 2017 while moving Eduardo Nunez into left field on a full-time basis. I don't really see that one happening but like they said in the article, the Giants will look for any way possible to lengthen that lineup and preferably a for guy who's capable of putting one in the seats on a semi-regular basis.

The trade route may very well be the best way in order to do so if they don't wanna give Cespedes 120 million or whatever he's gonna want. J.D. Martinez is one guy who could be a target, but again, anyone like that and worth trading for is going to cost the Giants heavily in terms of farm talent and they're in a bit of a shortage after dealing away a good chunk of them in July. Sure they still have Beede, Stratton, Blach, Arroyo, Shaw and Slater but that's about it. Plus none of those guys, really aside from maybe Arroyo, Beede and Slater, would be enough to headline a deal and if your talking J.D. Martinez, your probably looking at giving up at least two out of that bunch.

 It's time to get ready for things to heat up though, as a couple free agents (Kendrys Morales and Bartolo Colon) have wasted no time in finding new homes and my guess is the Giants find their new closer sooner than later. The outfield situation may take a month or two to play out but I do expect them to show more urgency as far as their next 9th inning guy, and if I were to bet on who that would be I'd say Melancon on a 4 year, $60 million deal, or thereabouts.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, October 14, 2016

Giants' needs for 2017 quite apparent

I didn't really have the heart (or the time) to muster up a reaction post to Tuesday's heartbreaking loss to the Cubs, but I'm sure we all had the same sort of reaction and thoughts. It was a sadly poetic ending to what was an epic second-half collapse by a team that, outside that starting pitching, had no business being in the postseason. Most importantly though, it leaves the Giants and Bobby Evans with a clear "to-do list" for the winter.

A lot has been said about how Bruce Bochy handled that ninth inning Tuesday. Many people, including myself, would have liked to see Matty Moore go out there and at least start the ninth inning. I know the pitch count was way up, but he was pitching on 10 days rest and threw north of 130 pitches just 2 months prior while chasing a no-hitter with the Giants. Plus Moore mowed through the 8th inning and was looking as strong as he was all night. Once the move was made though, I wish he would have had the guts to go with one guy and ride him out. Whether it was Sergio Romo to start the ninth, Derick Law or Will Smith, I would have liked to see Boch go with a reliever and stick with him rather than go into that inning with the idea of playing the match-up game the whole time. In a sense, you can't really blame him, the Giants don't have a true closer, but I can't help but think that had he just left Law out there, maybe the next guy grounds into a double play. As soon as I saw the musical chairs being played with the bullpen I knew it was bad news, and that's all I can say about that game really.

Now, the game is done, the series is over, we've had a few days to mourn and it's time to move on. First off, Matt Moore was awesome in that game. He looked like MadBum 2.0 and in my mind justified the Matt Duffy trade with that outing and showed us that the 2017 starting rotation is going to have an extremely strong front-3, probably as good as any team's in the game. My guess is the 2017 rotation is pretty much set in stone with MadBum your ace, Johnny Cueto the two, Moore the three, Jeff Samardzija the four and Ty Blach the five. Matt Cain is still under contract and may be given a shot at the fifth spot but Blach not only finished the season with some strong outings, he threw very well in two NLDS outings as well which should cement his 2017 status on the roster. So, unless the Giants find some amazing bargain and get a quality starter to take a discount to come pitch for a contender. Maybe they add a lower level third wheel to the fifth starter competition (C.J. Wilson or Jaime Garcia would be interesting on one-year type prove yourself deals) but my guess is they won't even look at the starting pitching market. It's a good thing too cause the only FA starter that's maybe better than current Giants' fourth starter Samardzija is Jeremy Hellickson.

Instead, all of their attention will lay in the relief market as well as the outfield market. The Giants will be losing Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez and will need to replace those three with upgrades. They certainly need a closer and there are going to be some intriguing ones out there this winter. They also need to look at ways to upgrade their offense. Despite their starting rotation being a strong one, they can't bank on winning games 2-1 and 3-2 every night and they need to lengthen that lineup.

Luckily for them, they have upwards of $50M coming off the books and probably won't be retaining any of their own free agents. I could possibly see Romo returning if he takes a discount on a one-year deal but it won't be as a closer and probably not even as an 8th inning guy. He'd be a situational right-handed reliever to face predominantly right-handed batters and I don't know if the Giants will have a strong enough pen to carry one of those. As of now, the only people I'd say guaranteed spots in the 2017 bullpen would be Derick Law, Will Smith and Hunter Strickland. Everyone else will probably have to earn their way on, and that includes Matt Cain (despite his $20M price tag). As far as their outfield, the only two guys they have under contract are Hunter Pence and Denard Span, so they'll need a starting left fielder and hopefully an upgrade to Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder. I hope to never see Gorkys Hernandez forced into the starting lineup in a playoff game for this team ever again. I think their infield is pretty much set, with Nunez and Gillaspie both under team control and likely to return to shore up third base. Some are worried about Joe Panik's collapse but they'll keep rolling with him and maybe look to change only if Panik's hitting below .250 again through mid-season.

As far as the guys they could target, it's pretty early to say as we don't know who's going to re-sign where yet and who will or won't opt out of their contracts. Mark Melancon seems to be a popular choice amongst Giants' fans and pundits to be their next closer, but Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland (despite missing all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery) and Francisco Rodriguez are out there as well. Aroldis Chapman is also hitting the market but my guess is he'll be at the top of every team's list and will end up getting the largest contract for a relief pitcher in the history of baseball and the Giants may not want to get into that bidding war. Jansen most likely returns to the Dodgers on a deal similar to what Chapan gets, and Holland is still sort of a crap-shoot because he hasn't thrown since September 2015. This is why the 31 year-old Melancon seems like the best fit. If I had my way, I'd love to see Melancon signed to close and K-Rod brought in as the set-up man, though he probably will still be looking to close, coming off a 44-save season. It would be expensive to get two guys of that caliber but they have the money and the overwhelming need for quality at the back-end of that bullpen.

As far as the outfield market is concerned, that is much more thin and the Giants may need to go the trade route in order to fill that need. Yoenis Cespedes is the name that keeps getting tossed out, but he's going to want something the 3-year, $75M he signed last winter. He's the best all-around outfielder on the market and could easily get a deal similar to the one Jason Hayward signed with the Cubs last December. I wouldn't really want to go more than five years with the 31 year-old but I don't think the Giants would do 5/$150M. As bad as the Giants need one, I don't know that an outfielder with a career slash of .272/.325/.494 and has avoided the DL in just 2 out of 5 seasons in the big leagues is necessarily worth $25-30M per year but in this market he may get that. However, his big arm and bat and gold glove defense in left are pluses and his feel of the strike zone is improving. Also, he's coming off his two best years at the plate, is right in the middle of his prime (turns 31 this month), and his growing feel for the strike zone could mean his best is yet to come (look at how Jose Bautista thrived after turning 30). Add all these things up and you see why he'd be such in intriguing option and fit for the Giants.

Jay Bruce (though the Mets likely retain him), Bautista and Mark Trumbo are the only other big time hitting corner outfielders potentially hitting the market but their value really only comes through their power whereas Cespedes is far better in the outfield and will hit about 20-30 points higher than all of them. Bautista would be the main man if we're talking 4/5 years ago, but he's turning 36 this month and is coming off a very unproductive season. His best bet at this point in his career is to stay in the AL.

It's going to be a big winter for the Giants though, as they have the core guys still here and playing well and that starting rotation set for the foreseeable future, but they need that big bat, another decent role player and somewhat of a bullpen overhaul in order to get back to their championship-caliber level. Had they had a legit closer this year, they probably don't melt down in the second half like they did and probably are still playing right now, so that's certainly where you start if your Bobby Evans. This winter though, they need to cover all facets of the team or else next year it maybe it won't be the closer/bullpen that melts down, maybe Pence gets hurt again and their lack of depth and ability to score runs bites them in the rear. That's why I say never just assume your bench and bullpen will fall into place in spring. If your a team with Championship aspirations, you have to go into the year fully confident in all areas of your squad, from player 1 through 25.

We'll be on a short hiatus here at the Giants Baseball Blog, as there isn't likely to be any Giants' related news until after the World Series ends, but if something does pop up we'll be here. Otherwise, we'll be back in November once the offseason gets rolling and we can really delve into the free agent class and guys who could fit onto this team aside from the big names you've already heard. So enjoy the rest of the postseason if your still up for watching baseball after that. Hopefully the Cubs dismantle the Dodgers and go on to win it all to give us some justification to losing to them. The only way this season gets a little worse for Giants' fans is if the Dodgers are crowned 2016 Champions so I guess there is still something to kind of root for over the next couple weeks. Until then, it was a roller coaster ride in 2016 and I very much look forward to what the offeason has in store for this club with plenty of money to work with.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Legend of Bumgarner grows in New York

This isn't the first time we've seen Madison Bumgarner pull out all stops in an elimination game, and hopefully it won't be the last. The Giants rode a MadBum complete game shutout and a Connor Gillaspie 3-run jack in the top of the 9th inning to victory and an NLDS match-up with MLB's favorite to win it all this season, the Chicago Cubs.

First off, let's talk about the game that transpired tonight. As I suspected, it was a well pitched game, but both pitchers lasted a little longer than I was expecting. I was hoping Bum would at least get through 7, but he went 9, and I was thinking the patient Giants' bats would have Sydergaard's pitch count up and out after the 6th, but he wound up carrying them through the 7th. Fortunately, the Giants didn't have to delve into their bullpen as MadBum was so economical with his pitches for the games first three innings (21 pitches total) and that, in the end, made all the difference in the World. Not that things would have been as tight for Sergio Romo had he went out in the 9th after they just took the three-run lead, but at least we didn't need to go there this time. MadBum did it all, including almost putting the Giants on the board in the 3rd with a jack himself, knocking it to the warning track in left center only to be ran down by Yeonis Cespedes. As far as his mound work though, he was his typical "Big Game" self, allowing just 6 base runners and using 119 pitches to send the Mets home for 2016!


As amazing as he was, Bumgarner doesn't get all the spotlight for Wednesday's victory though, as perhaps the most unlikely guy in the Giants lineup came up with the biggest hit of their season. Connor Gillaspie's a guy who wasn't even on the big league roster for much of the 2016 season, but he took over for an injured Eduardo Nunez the last week of the regular season and ended up finishing the season strong at the plate and it carried over into this Wild Card game as he not only came up with the deciding big fly, but was the only Giant to collect multiple hits in Wednesday's showdown. Brandon Belt was robbed on a great play by Curtis Granderson on a ball that would have knocked in a run and put Belt in scoring position for Buster Posey and at that point I have to admit, I felt like the luck may be leaning toward the home team. Also that non-reverse on that steal by Denard Span in which it was clear he was safe and there was no hard evidence of him coming off the bag. So the Giants had to keep their heads up through a few tough breaks, but they stayed in it and Gillaspie made all the hard work pay off in the ninth. It was eerily similar to the Travis Ishikawa jack back in the 2014 postseason in the NLDS game clincher.

So, before we talk about the Cubs and what great series' both NLDS match-ups have in store, the Giants will have a couple days to figure out how they want to configure their roster for said series. The big wild card will be Eduardo Nunez. He was not well enough to make this roster, and my guess is that not much will change over the next 48 hours with his hammy to the point where Bochy and co. feel comfortable trotting him back out there. So, it wouldn't surprise me to see Gillaspie as the third basemen for the upcoming NLDS as well and Nunez once again excluded from the roster. Gillaspie may get the starting nod there (at least vs. right-handers) anyway if Nunez does make the roster as I think he's playing better than Nunez right now and is certainly more healthy.

Anyhow, I do expect there to be changes to the NLDS roster. Obviously Matt Moore will be back on there and it wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants roll with another right-handed bat off the bench like Mac Williamson, just to be ready for any potential Aroldis Chapman appearances. Other than that, I expect much of the same as we got today. One thing Boch will have to figure out is the order of his rotation. It's pretty clear Cueto will get game one and MadBum game three but it's not clear whether Samardzija or Matt Moore get that game two start in Chicago. If I were to guess I'd say Moore gets the nod with Samardzija saved for a possible home start in game four. Some food for thought for Bochy; in his one start at Wrigley this year, Samardzija went just 4 innings, giving up 3 runs and 8 base-runners while the Cubs have never faced Matt Moore.

What a game though guys, as the Giants improved to 11-0 in elimination games under Bruce Bochy in the postseason. That's pretty impressive and hopefully that streak keeps growing over the next few weeks. Not sure if I'll get a chance to do a preview post for the upcoming series as work will have me tied up through the weekend but I will check in periodically throughout the NLDS with short reaction posts. Also, if you aren't doing so, please follow us on twitter for our in-game banter and analysis.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

NL Wild Card Game Preview

Well, the day that most Giants fans have been anticipating since late August when we pretty much knew the NL West was out of the picture has arrived. And sure, it's a team sport and there will be numerous factors at play, it really all comes down to two people: Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard.

First off, both pitchers going have had very strong seasons, as we know by watching MadBum all year what he's been up to, but young Noah Syndergaard has matched him nearly number for number despite the amount of innings pitched. Sydergaard strikes out a ton of batters, doesn't walk many and doesn't give up the long ball, mostly because he brings a nasty sinker that can hit the upper-90's when he's on along with an array of other above average pitches. The Giants, however, are no strangers to facing big pitchers in big games and certainly won't be intimidated by any stretch traveling into New York and what will be a rowdy Citi Field. In fact, I think the Giants thrive on these underdog type scenarios. Not saying they're the underdogs necessarily, most people over at Yahoo Sports have the Giants walking away from this one victorious but they're gonna have to figure out a way to get to the young Mets' righty early, or else their in for trouble.

One area in which the Mets have the clear upper hand is in the bullpen. The Giants' pen have been dreadful in the second half and although multiple factors have been at play, the bullpen has been the epicenter of their second half meltdown. They just couldn't manage to keep leads after the 7th inning of ballgames or else we're not even talking about this game and talking about an upcoming NLDS vs. the Washington Nationals.

For MadBum it's not going to be anything new, and we all know he thrives on the big stage like this, but Bumgarner hasn't quite been the dominant MadBum we're used to recently. Not that he's been bad but he's carried an ERA around 4 for the last two months of the regular season and gave up 8 runs over his two starts to end the season. Nevertheless, I expect Bum on his game tomorrow, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him help himself at the plate. In fact, I could see it being a 0-0 game into the middle innings and having an unlikely person from either side put the first run(s) on the board like a big hit from one of the starters or a big defensive mishap that opens the door for the opposing team. I can definitely see a game where runs are scored late in the game and that's when it could be decided, which would be bad news for the Giants. They're best case scenario is to have MadBum get it at least to the 8th inning with a lead, therefore Boch won't be forced to go to the pen often at all. If we're seeing the bullpen in the 6th inning (even if it's happening with the Mets as well), the odds sway heavily in New York's favor.

The Giants have the experience and the big game pitcher, however their bullpen is a crap-shoot and they could be without their starting third basemen. The Mets have the home field advantage, which is big in a one-game playoff like this, and are coming in on a roll, having won four of their last five ballgames to close things out (and pitching terrifically in the process). Lets not forgot that this is pretty much the same team that represented the NL in the World Series last season too, so their bunch is far from timid in the October spotlight. One positive for MadBum and the Giants though is that most of the Mets' big "thumpers" (Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jay Bruce and Lucas Duda) are left-handed, but two of their other top hitters, Jose Reyes and Yeonis Cespedes, both feast on lefties and have been hot.

All that said, this is such a tough one to predict, and I don't know that I can make a guess as to who will win this ballgame, I think it's that even. The Mets are hungry and finished strong, they also came within three victories of a World Championship last fall. These Giants sort of just wound up in the postseason based on their incredible first half because if you just saw their second half alone, you'd think they'd have no business being in the playoffs whatsoever. Being completely objective and based on the lineups being thrown out by both squads, I'd say the needle leans ever so slightly in the Mets favor, but until I see him fail, I can't bet against MadBum in October. So I say the Giants squeak it out, 5-4. Either way, I think it's going to be a tight, 1-run game that's going to undoubtedly have us all on the edge of our seats through the ninth inning.

We'll be back tomorrow with the reaction and I gotta say, even with the three championships the last 7 years, and covering the team through all it's success, I'm just as nervous for this game as I've been for any other early round playoff elimination game. As well all know, if the Giants do make it through, they're in pretty good shape for five and seven game series', just because of that starting pitching and the way they're all throwing the ball. Of course, they get the best team in baseball if they do make it through tomorrow, but let's just take this one day at a time! Good luck getting any sleep tonight Giants faithful!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Giants righting the ship just in time?

We all know how forgettable the second half of July through most of August was for these San Francisco Giants. They lost their stranglehold on the NL West lead and went from one of the top teams in all of baseball in the first half to a team that's going to have to kick and fight their way into a postseason spot down the stretch.

None of the deals they made at the deadline seemed to give the team the shot in the arm they were hoping for that first month or so after the deals (aside from a few decent starts from Matt Moore). The beautiful thing about baseball, however, is that you can go through prolonged rough patches, but as long as you figure things out by September and are still in the hunt, your never really out of it. We're seeing something like this go on with these San Francisco Giants. I mean, they've been one of the worst teams in baseball after the break and it's not like they've had a bunch of injuries or anything to blame that on. However, Since the calendar flipped over the September, the urgency in the Giants' play has picked up a bit, and although that recent three-game sweep suffered at the hands of the Padres earlier this week, it came on the heels of a three-game sweep of Arizona and they've no taken the first two of a four game set with the wild card hopeful Cardinals. As things stand on September 17th, the Giants are still 4 games out of the West, but they'll have ample opportunity to make up ground on the Dodgers there even though there's less than 15 games left in the season. The Giants have 6 of their remaining 16 games left with their SoCal rivals so the West isn't quite as done of a deal as many believe.

As far as the wild card situation, unless the Giants have a complete meltdown, which is entirely possible with the way their unpredictable second half has transpired, but their starters are throwing very well right now and I just don't see them relinquishing their top Wild Card spot. The Giants and Mets hold the two spots right now, and the next closest team to them is the very team the Giants are facing this weekend and have already taken the first two games of the series against in St. Louis. If the Giants can finish them off and sweep the Cards these next two games, I think that will pretty much lock them into a postseason birth. They currently sit 3 games back of the Giants who hold the first WC spot and 2 back of the Mets who hold the 2nd. Two more wins vs. the Cards would put the Giants 5 games up on them with 13 games left at that point so these next two are big for the Giants if they want to ensure their spot in the postsesaon.

So, it can shake out plenty of different ways, but as of now, with the Giants' play looking much more fundamentally sound and consistent, they should have themselves a spot in the playoffs, most likely via the Wild Card though and probably vs. the New York Mets. And, as we've said all along, this Giants team is built for playoff series with the strong starting pitching and a lineup full of hitters who've excelled on the big stage often more so than they do during the regular season. In other words, if they get in, they have as good a shot as any, including the Cubbies and Dodgers, at keeping that even year magic alive.

Now, you ask, what has changed between the Giants team we've seen the last couple weeks from the one we saw stinking it up for 6 weeks after the break? First and foremost, that starting pitching, which did run into a bit of a hiccup in August, looks like they've fallen right back in line as to where they expect to be. Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner have been there all year, but Matt Moore has started to string together some pretty nice outings himself. He's gone 4-1 over his last 5 starts, allowing just 11 earned runs and a 30:9 K/BB ratio over 28 innings of work. It's been his best 5-game stretch as a Giant by far. So yes, the objective of that widely unpopular deal to trade Matt Duffy away for Matt Moore is starting to pay dividends and has indeed has looked like the guy the Rays were gushing about a few seasons back when the left-hander went 17-4 and looked like a perennial all-star in down in Tampa. With those three heading the rotation and Jeff Samardzija rounding out what would be a four-man playoff rotation, the Giants have to feel pretty good with the way things are transpiring inside their staring rotation .

Extras: Saturday night's game is about to start so I'm having to cut this post a little short. I wanted to talk a little bit about the bullpen and of course give my thoughts on the lineup and maybe some different combos I'd like to see Bochy use over the next couple weeks heading into October. Be sure to check back after the game though for Saturday's game recap and more! This is the most exciting point of the season and there isn't any shortage of topics to talk about... We'll be back in few hours!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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