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Thursday, April 27, 2006

NL West Again NL Worst.

Here we are, approaching May, and everybody in the NL West is within striking distance of the first place Colorodo Rockies. The Rockies lead the division with a record of 12-10, and the Giants are a 1/2 game out at 11-10. I am not expecting the team that wins the division to be a .500 team again, but it is starting to look like 87-89 wins could win this division with relative ease. Right now the Giants bullpen as a whole has an atrocious era. Only Armondo Benitez, who has appeared in a total of 3 games, has an era under 5. Tim Worrell started out the year on a roll, but all the sudden hit a brick wall wall in Arizona and has yet to regain himself. The Giants are going to need big things out of Worrell and Steve Kline this season, and so far their era's are 7.84 and 5.14 respectivley. Scott Munter needs to get that sinker back down in the zone so he can get his era out of the mid 5's.

Barry Bonds is finally starting to hit some jacks, but he is limping more and more each game. Amazingly opposing managers are still walking him at a tremendous rate. Barry is still hitting below .250, but it looks like he is starting to make some adjustments at the plate. Pitchers have been pounding him away on a consistant basis. He is now basically going up there thinking away and he has hit 3 home runs to left field in the last week including the game tying, pinch hit 2 run home run off of Billy Wagner to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning on Wednesday(Pictured to the above). Barry Bonds is way too smart of a hitter to get beat by the same pitch over and over. Now that he's adjusted, even with the bum knee, as long as he's in the line-up, he's a threat to go deep. Even when he wasn't hitting, Bonds' presence alone gives the Giants line-up a huge lift. Moises Alou is making it hard on pitchers to walk Bonds' as well. Alou is hitting .349 with 5 home runs and 19 rbi's and has been extra hot over the last 2 weeks. With Bonds and Alou hitting the ball well, it looks like the Giants offense is starting to come around a bit. Winn and Vizquel have been solid at the top, but the Giants have yet to find a 3rd place hitter who Felipe Alou feels comftorble with. I really think he needs to start toying with the idea of Barry hitting 3rd and Moises 4th. Ray Durham and Lance Niekro have not been getting the job done in front of the big guys.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bullpen Blowin' It!!!

What started out as a solid first 2 weeks of the season, turned very ugly in week three as the Giants bullpen has been beaten very badly over the last few outings. It started out in Arizona when Jeff Fassero had to make a spot start. The Giants got an early 5-0 lead, only to hand the lead back to the D-Backs before pulling it out late. Then Kevin Corriea and Scott Munter give up 5 runs in 3 innings the next night. The next night the Giants where unable to hold onto a 6 run lead after Jamie Wright dominated the D-Backs for 7+ innings, luckely they pulled that one out as well. However, in game one in Colorodo last night, the Giants' bullpen gave up 4 runs, in the ninth, and the Giants could not do anything about it. The only person with an era under 5 on the Giants staff is Steve Kline at 3.18. Armondo Benitez is back, but he was rocked in his first outing as well. The Benitez signing still has yet to pay off in any way, shape or form and it's gotta be eating at Brian Sabean.

I don't think Sabean would make a move this early, but I think it's becoming obvious early on here that the bullpen could start to be the teams downfall again. Remember how the nightmare all started last season? It was the faulty bullpen that was atrocious early, and it really put the Giants behind the eightball for the rest of the season. They can't let it get to that point again. There is no doubt this Giants team is better than last years version, but They do still have some glaring weaknesses. They made a move recently in adding minor leaguer Brian Wilson and releasing reliever Tyler Walker and Wilson dominated the Rockies in his big league debut.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, April 17, 2006

Still Not Scoring, But Winning

The Giants are 7-4, but they have one of the lowest ranking offenses in baseball. They are last in the league in home runs and rank near the bottom in all other major catagories. Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel and Moises Alou are carrying the offense right now with virtually no help from Barry Bonds, Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz. Bonds revealed last week that he is playing with bone chips in his left elbow, and the surgically repaired right knee is starting to act up a little bit. Barry's swing is still looking good and quick, but he's having trouble planting and driving the outside pitch, and that's where pitchers are working him. He is hitting below .200 and has yet to hit a jack, but I am still not ready to panic. I really believe Barry will go on the DL at some point in the first half, for rest if nothing else, but I do expect him to start heating up before he starts taking days off. He has played in almost all of the 11 games so far this season, and I think he will continue to do so untill he gets his swing and timing down. As far as the fielding goes, Bonds is looking uncomftorble on the wet surfaces the Giants have played on so far, but he is still getting good jumps and making the plays he should. The series in Arizona should be a nice change of climate for the Giants who have been playing in a wet and cold California for the past 2 1/2 weeks. Now on a dry field with warm weather, maybe the cold bats will start to heat up a little. Pedro Feliz has always swung it well in Arizona, his bat is despratly needed at the bottom of the order. His start has me thinking of what could have been had the Giants signed Bill Mueller this winter. I think part of the reason why Barry hasn't done much is because Ray Durham, who has been hitting 3rd most of the year, has been colder than Barry has. I have witnessed far to many groundouts to 2nd and pop-ups to third base by Ray Ray so far, he has yet to start driving the ball with any authority. I think the Giants should start experimenting with Durham back in the leadoff spot and Randy Winn in the middle of the order. Durham has lead off his whole career, I think he's most comftorble there. Winn is an exceptional leadoff man, but he may help the Giants out best in the 3rd spot. If the Giants continue to score 2-3 runs a game, even if they're winning, I hope Felipe realizes this and makes some moves.

Who would have thought that the teams ace so far through Aprill would have been Jamey Wright? Wright has thrown 15 quality innings for the Giants so far, more than any other starter, and is 2-0. I excpect to see him lose some games, but read my posts from before the season, I would not be surprised at all to see this guy break out and win 13-15 games and make a name for himself. I really think he has more knowledge of how to pitch than Brett Tomko, and he definetly is more level headed. Untill Noah Lowry gets back, it looks like Brad Hennessy will get some starts, and that may not be a bad thing. Hennessey shut down the Dodgers for 7 innings in LA on Sunday, and he looked like he had all his command, which wasn't the case in spring training. Right now, the Giants need to thank their lucky stars for the way Wright and Hennessey have stepped up so far and the way the bullpen, lead by Tim Worrell, has stepped up, or else we could be looking at a 4-7 team instead of 7-4.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, April 10, 2006

Week 1 Report

Well, week 1 is in the books in Major League Baseball, and contrary to last year, the Giants are actually fairing pretty well. They now sit at 4-2 and atop the NL West after taking 3 of 4 from the Braves this weekend at AT&T Park. The Giants offense started out very stagnant, and it took a few games for it to get going, but they are starting to come around. Amazingly, the offense exploded over the weekend vs. the Braves without much contribution from Barry Bonds. Barry is still searching for his first home run and RBI of the 2006 season, but he is content with how things are going, as long as the Giants are winning. The "Is Barry done?" question is slowly being thrown out there. I've been watching Barry's at bats very closely. He is getting maybe 1 decent pitch per at bat to hit. Even the strikes pitchers are throwing him are corner pitches, off the plate away. They really seem as scared as ever to face him. I fully expect to see him get going soon, and I am no where near ready to hit the panic button. Moises Alou and Lance Niekro have begun to pick up the slack big time. Alou finally showed some power, hitting the Giants first home run of 2006 on Friday night, then he hit another Saturday in a Giants win. Lance Niekro had some tremendous at bats vs. Smoltz Sunday. Early in the Game, he came up with a 2 out, 2 strike hit to center to drive in the first Giants run. Then, in the Ninth inning, he came up with a huge solo home run to tie the game with the Giants eventually winning on a Randy Winn single. The offense has definetly started to pick up. I am still a little worried about Pedro Feliz and his slow start. Feliz strives off confidence, and if he doesn't get it early, he may not get it for a while.

The starting pitching did an admirable job over the weekend. After Noah Lowry left early on Thursday, the Giants got solid starts from the Matt Cain, Jamey Wright and Jason Schmidt. The bullpen had a off-night on Friday, but other than that, they have been nails. The Giants have yet to reap the benifits of a healthy Armondo Benitez, and when that happens, they will have one of the best pens in the NL. The Giants defense must not go without notice as well. Omar Vizquel is still the best shortstop in the game, and Steve Finley has already shown exceptional range in the outfield. Even Bonds has made some nice plays in left. The Bench has been red hot. Vizcaino and Sweeney are both very good at what they do. Vizcaino provides great defense up the middle, something Devi Cruz did not last season. Mark Sweeney is undoubtedly the best pinch hitter in the game. Finley is maybe the best non-starter in baseball as well. I've said it before, this is the deepest team they've had in San Francisco in a long time. The starting talent may not be as good as the 2002 NL Champs, but they are deeper.

The Giants will be hosting the Astros for 3 starting Tuesday night. The forcast is for rain thourout the week, so there is a solid possibility that there will be some rain delay's this week in San Francisco. I said the Braves series was a nice early season test for the Giants, and they passed that with ease. Now the reigning NL Champions roll into town, and again the Giants will have a tough early season challenge.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lowry Headed for DL

Noah Lowry has a strained oblique muscle and has been put on the disabled list. The Giants have recalled Kevin Corriea from Fresno to take Lowry's spot on the roster and in the rotation. The Giants now have two very key pitchers on the DL in Armondo Benitez and now Lowry. Strains like that one can nag all season long, so the Giants may be extra cautious in bringing him back. We may not see Lowry again untill May. Supposedly Armondo Benitez is on his way back and should be there when he is eligable to come off the DL. When Benitez comes back, the Giants bullpen (which has been the teams strength though the first 3 games) will become even stronger. I am really likeing the potential the bullpen has this season, especially if Tim Worrell continues to pitch like he has.

Looks like Fridays game will be rained out. I was definetly looking forward to Matt Cain's 2006 debut. Cain and Jamey Wright now become extra important due to Lowry's absence. Cain now becomes the teams #3 and Wright the #4 and they are going to need to provide innings. I'm not sold on Corriea as a starter, I think he's best suited for long relief, but apparantly Brad Hennessey is having some control issues and is not ready to return to the major league team. Even though the Giants are 2-1, I am still leary on the offense. The Giants have done all their scoring in bunches this season. It gets frustrating to watch other teams mediocre starters routinely stroll through the Giants lineup with batters hacking at first pitches. The Giants have also yet to hit a home run. I couldn't be sure, but I'd have to guess that they are the only team to play at least 3 games without a home run.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Giants Offense Sputtering

Well, two games are in the books and the Giants have scored a total of 4 runs. I expect the Giants offense to improve over the next few weeks as everybody gets into the mix, but I have been looking at other scores around the league and their have been some big scores. Granted the Giants did open up vs. Jake Peavey who was throwing 96 mph with movement all night long, but game two was against Shawn Estes who should be a #5 starter and the Giants mustered 3 runs barely on a barrage of infield singles and walks. I don't think anyone besides Bonds has even hit the warning track yet with a fly ball. This offense looks very sluggish. Moises Alou and Pedro Feliz are especially concerning. Feliz looks as impatient as ever, and Alou's swing is starting to look like Edgardo Alfonzo's. The Giants open up at home today vs. the Braves and Jorge Sosa, hopefully they put some runs on the board.

The bright spots so far have been the performance by Matt Moriss and the performance by the Giants bullpen. Morris shut down the Padres through 6 1/3 innings in his Giants debut. The Pads never really even threatened. As I've said, I am definetly expecting big things from Morris this year. If he goes 220 innings, there is no reason he won't win 16-17 games with this team. Also the bullpens' performance lead by Scott Munter on Wednesday night was very impressive. Munter got the biggest outs of the game in the 7th and 8th, then former fill-in closer Tim Worell looked as cool and calm as ever recording the final 3 outs, even after a missplayed flyball in the infield. This series vs. the Braves is going to be a very good early challenge. We don't really know what these Giants can do quite yet. They looked bad on day one, a little better the next day, now with a 3 game set vs. one of the best teams in the league, we should get an idea of what this team will do.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Playoff and Award Predictions

AL MVP: Eric Chavez (better supporting cast, team should ride him to playoffs)
NL MVP: Andruw Jones (hit 50 hr's last season, now just needs to get his avg. up to be truely great)

AL CY YOUNG: Roy Halladay (when healthy, the best rightie in the AL)
NL CY YOUNG: Carlos Zambrano (has the talent, age and fire to stack up a ton of these awards throughout career)

AL R.O.Y.: Francisco Liariano (him and Johan Santana could provide nasty 1-2 punch)
NL ROY: Matt Cain (21 yr. old has already gotten his feet wet in the bigs, should win 15 this season)

AL M.O.Y.: Ken Macha ( will have A's in playoffs and dominating the AL)
NL M.O.Y.: Felipe Alou (will figure out a way to keep the Giants healthy and fresh throughout season)

Playoff Prediction:

ALDS: White Sox over Blue Jays
A's over Yankees

NLDS: Giants over Cardinals
Braves over Astros

ALCS: A's over White Sox
NLCS: Braves over Giants

2006 World Series: Atlanta Braves over Oakland A's
I'm picking Atlanta, because I think they will find a lights out closer at some point in the season. The Braves won the division without a healthy Chipper Jones or Tim Hudson last season, so now with even more depth and power, they should be even better. John Smoltz will have a Curt Shilling type post season as he and the Jones boys lead the Braves to the promised land.
The Giants Baseball Blog

NL West Preview

1. San Francisco Giants *Division Winners
CF Randy Winn
SS Omar Vizquel
2B Ray Durham
LF Barry Bonds
RF Moises Alou
3B Pedro Feliz
1B Lance Niekro
C Mike Matheny

RHP Jason Schmidt
RHP Matt Morris
LHP Noah Lowrey
RHP Matt Cain
RHP Jamey Wright

CL: Armondo Benitez (starts season on DL)
RHP Tim Worrell
LHP Steve Kline
RHP Tyler Walker
LHP Jeff Fassero
RHP Scott Munter
RHP Jeremy Accardo
LHP Jack Taschner

1B/RF Mike Sweeney
IF Jose Vizcaino
C Todd Greene
OF Steve Finley
OF Jason Ellison

OFFENSE: The Giants will get a healthy Bonds to start out the season, so that alone improves their offense immensly. Plus, the Giants added Steve Finley for insurance, and I think he can still play at a pretty high level. In '04 he hit 36 jacks, and he looks as good as ever so far this spring. I'm still a little worried about the corner infield spots, and the Giants need Alou and Durham to stay healthy, but I like their depth. Offensivly, they probably are the deepest team in the NL West.

PITCHING: The addition of Morris will help out. He has had a tough spring so far, but he will be alright once the bell rings. Matt Cain should be a good bet for 200 innings and 13-15 wins if he stays healthy in his first full season. The pen is overall better than what started the season last year, but the team still lacks a true set-up man, and the Giants have yet to see the Armondo Benitez they thought they where getting when they signed him last winter.

2. Los Angelos Dodgers
SS Rafeal Furcal
CF Kenny Lofton
RF J.D. Drew
2B Jeff Kent
1B Nomar Garciapara
3B Bill Mueller
LF Jose Cruz Jr.
C Dioner Navarro

RHP Brad Penny
RHP Derek Lowe
LHP Odalis Perez
RHP Brett Tomko
RHP Jae Seo

Key Relivers:
CL: Eric Gagne
RHP Dannys Baez
RHP Yhency Brazoban

OFFENSE: I like the Dodgers top 5 if healthy, but all five of thoe players either are nursing injuries to start the season, or have a horendous past of injury problems. Kent is nursing a bad wrist, Furcal is hurting, we all know the story on Nomar and Drew has played only 1 full season in his big league career. If the Dodgers can keep their top 5 healthy, it should make up for a sketchy bottom 1/3 of the order.

PITCHING: The Dodgers lack a true ace, and their top 3 aren't very impressive. Derek Lowe is a career .500 pitcher with one great season. Perez and Penny are ok when they are healthy and on, but Penny is injured a lot and Perez is very inconsistant. Their bullpen is undoubtedly the best in the west, and if they make the playoffs, it will be on the shoulders of Gagne and Baez.

3. San Diego Padres
LF Dave Roberts
CF Mike Cameron
RF Brian Giles
C Mike Piazza
1B Ryan Klesko
3B Vinny Castilla
SS Kahlil Greene
2B Josh Barfield

RHP Jake Peavey
LHP Shawn Estes
RHP Chris Young
RHP Chan Ho Park
RHP Dewon Brazelton

Key Relivers:
CL: Trevor Hoffman
RHP Scott Linebrink
RHP Clay Hensley

OFFENSE: The Pads made some changes to their offense this season with the additions of Piazza and Cameron. I don't think either will do too much in that park and they are counting on big things from those 2 guys. Piazza is slated to cleanup and Cameron will likely hit second. The Pads offense isn't going to be as strong as last years.

PITCHING: San Diego overhauled their whole staff. Gone are key starters Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence as well as relievers Akinori Otsuka and Rudy Seanez. I Think the Padres are by far the least improved team in the division. What are they expecting to accomplish with Shawn Estes slated as their number 2 starter?

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
SS Craig Counsel
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Chad Tracey
LF Louis Gonzalez
RF Shawn Green
1B Conor Jackson/Tony Clark
C Johnny Estrada
CF Eric Byrnes

RHP Brandon Webb
RHP Orlando Hernandez
RHP Russ Ortiz
RHP Miguel Bautista
RHP Claudio Vargas

Key Relievers:
CL: Jose Valverde
RHP Luis Vizcaino
RHP Brandon Lyon

OFFENSE: The D-Backs traded away Troy Glaus and his 35+ home runs to get younger and more athletic. I like Connor Jackson, Chad Tracy and Orlando Hudson, but the rest of the lineup is getting old or is just not that good.

PITCHING: The D-Backs added Bautista and Hernandez, but lost Javy Vazquez. Brandon Webb is a stud, but the rest of the staff is anyones guess. Russ Ortiz had his worst season of his career last year, and their is no telling how much El Duque will be able to contribute. Their bullpen has some young power arms that could be dangerous if they control the ball. Miguel Bautista could always rejoin the pen if need be.

5. Colorodo Rockies
SS Clint Barmes
CF Corey Sullivan
1B Todd Helton
LF Matt Holliday
3B Garrett Atkins
RF Brad Hawpe
2B Luis Gonzalez
C Danny Ardoin

RHP Jason Jennings
RHP Aaron Cook
LHP Jeff Francis
RHP Zach Day
RHP Josh Fogg

Key Relievers:
CL: Bryan Fuentes
RHP Mike DeJean
LHP Ray King

OFFENSE: The Rockies have a lot of new starters and youngsters in their lineup. They still will be dangerous at their home in Denver, but when they get on the road, they become a below average offense and a really bad team. Barmes, Sullivan, Atkins and Holliday are all young up-and-coming players, maybe this will be the nucleus in Colorodo that finely gets the Rockies out of the cellar, but it won't be this season.

PITCHING: The Rockies have some very good arms on their staff. I've always liked Jennings and Francis, but no pitcher has ever figured out how to be a dominant ace at Coors Field. I think this is actually their deepest pitching staff they've had in years. They now have a true closer and a few good set-up guys.

The Giants Baseball Blog