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Monday, July 31, 2006

Deadline Passes, Giants Left Without a Direction

July 31'st has been one of my favorite times of the year over the past decade. All the way up until the 2003 season, it was almost a given that the Giants where going to improve themselves in some way shape or form at the trade deadline. For some reason, after the 2002 trade for Kenny Lofton, the deal that ultimately put the Giants ahead of the rest of the National League, Brian Sabean has had trouble finding the right piece of the puzzle. Not just through trades, but through free agency as well. On July 31'st 2003, Sabean aquired Sidney Ponson from the Baltimore Orioles and it seems like the Giants have gone downhill since. That to me marked the second phase of the Brian Sabean era. Since then, he has made some moves that have not transpired to much. It seems like Sabean has been making moves just to make them, rather than really trying to address weaknesses or shape for the future. This July was a perfect example of what I'm saying. It was obvious the Giants needed at least a first basemen and a few relievers if they where going to continue to give Giant fans hope of a playoff run. Yes, Sabean made a deal for a decent hitting first basemen, but he didn't do enough to put the Giants in a favorable position to win the division or make any noise in the playoffs. Giants' fans have witnessed Armondo Benitez wilter in July, coughing up save after save. I don't remember any team that has won the world series with such a question mark at closer. So basically Sabean has given the Giants some more offense for a couple months, while giving up a very bright young arm that was probably the best closer on the roster at this point. The thing that gets me most about this is that the Giants will likely have nothing to show for this deal next season. Hillenbrand is a free agent after the season, and I highly doubt the Giants will give him the 7+ million dollar a year contract he'll likely be seeking. What Sabean has done is subtract from the teams future without giving them much of a shot at doing anything this year. Jeremy Accardo was the teams most impressive young bullpen arm, at least he could have brought in a player who is locked up for a few years instead of a 2 month rental. I had a different view of this deal a week ago when I thought that Sabean would follow it up by adding a legit late reliever/closer, but the deadline has passed and the Giants' prize bullpen acquisition is the ancient Mike Stanton. I know my outlook has a little to do with the 8 game losing streak they are currently in the middle of in which they were swept by two last place teams consecutively, but even before this stretch, this team has been average (.500) at best. Sabean should have went after another reliever and starter, or he should have listened to offers for Jason Schmidt and Ray Durham.

In what was the quietest MLB trade deadline I've seen in years, the Los Angeles Dodgers where the team that was most active Monday as they acquired Julio Lugo from the Devil Rays and Greg Maddux from the Cubs. I am a little surprised they added another infielder after they got Wilson Betimet from the Braves. This is telling us that Jeff Kent is not too close to returning to action. The Dodgers improved though and if Kent and Garciapara can come back healthy soon, they may be the divisons dark horse over the final 2 months. The Padres added Todd Walker to help them out at 3rd base. If Walker can handle it defensivley, he will give that line-up a nice boost. If I had to make a pick with who takes this division after the deadline has come and gone, I'd have to stick with the team that has the position now and that's the San Diego Padres. It's only a matter of time before Jake Peavey gets his era out of the 5's, and once that happens, the Padres will be that much better. They have the most balanced team in the division, plus they can run like nobody else in the NL.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rumors Surface As Deadline Approaches.

The pre-waiver trade deadline is only 4 days away and rumors are starting to fly like crazy. Of course, the Giants are not being mentioned in any of the huge Miguel Tejada and Alex Rodriguiz rumors, but it does look like they will make another addition or two before the July 31'st deadline. KNBR reported earlier Wednesday that Brian Sabean was in discussion with Pittsburgh Pirate general manager Dave Littlefield. The Pirates have somewhat of an abundance of relief pitching and apparently the Giants have inquired about Roberto Hernandez and Salmon Torres. I think Giants fans have seen enough of Salmon Torres in San Francisco, but a Roberto Hernandez type late reliever is just what this team needs. Hernandez is having a solid year for Pittsburgh with an era right at 3.00 in 42 innings pitched. Dasmaso Marte is another guy who has been rumored available, but Sabean seems to be confident in Jonathen Sanchez and Steve Kline to hold down the left-handed duties. The one thing that this Giant bullpen lacks is a true set-up guy. Brian Wilson, Steve Kline and Jonathen Sanchez have done an ok job sharing the duty, but the Giants need more than that. Sanchez and Wilson are a couple of the most important arms on the staff, and those guys haven't even played 1/2 a big league season yet. The Bully needs experience big time and I think Sabean will find it. Sabean had already had talks with the Pirates earlier about Sean Casey and will have plenty of time to talk with Littlefield personally as the Giants visit the Pirates for a 3 game set starting Friday. Something tells me there is a good chance the Giants and Pirates will be swapping some players this weekend.

Shea Hillenbrand has yet to get going since his arrival in San Francisco, but it should be only a matter of time before he starts gets it going. He's feeling comfortable in San Francisco and he should definitely start reaping the benefits of hitting in front of Barry Bonds sooner rather than later. Plus he has shown some nice flashes with the leather and looks like he's a much better defender than Lance Niekro. Speaking defense, I wouldn't totally count out the Giants adding another positional player. They may quietly be going after a catcher. Mike Matheny is still in St. Louis recovering from multiple concussions and his return for this season is looking more and more doubtful. Elizer Alfonzo has done a tremendous job in filling in for Matheny, especially offensivley. Alfonzo hasn't been a terrible defender either, but neither him or Todd Greene throw particularly well. I wouldn't call it a huge need, but adding a defensive minded catcher with a strong arm wouldn't hurt. Maybe even a guy they could send to Fresno until the rosters expand to 40 players on September 1st. Every time a runner with above average speed gets on first vs. Armondo Benetiz, it's almost a sure bet he'll end up at second a few pitches later.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is Shea Hillenbrand Enough?

The Giants definetley addressed a huge need Friday when they dealt for 1st/3rd baseman Shea Hillenbrand. Toronto had already cut ties with Hillenbrand and had 10 days to deal him. For that reason, the Giants got a solid deal for Hillenbrand. I'm pretty sure Sabean was planning on parting with more than just one pitcher this July. It is to bad they had to part with Jeremy Accardo who some think was going to be the next closer for this franchise, but it takes quality to get quality. Not only do the Giants now have the best line-up in the NL West, they may have the deepest overall line-up in all of the NL. Ray Durham who has been on fire will now likely drop to the 6th spot and Pedro Feliz down to the 7th. The dominoe effect by adding Hillenbrand to the middle of the order now makes the bottom half that much stronger. I don't know of many teams who's 7th hitter has 16 home runs and 66 RBI's at this point. It's going to be interesting to see what Alou does with Durham if he keeps on hitting the way he is. Going into Saturday nights game, I think Shea Hillenbrand will hit 3rd, but it may be his and Durham's spot to share. Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling Shea Hillenbrand the savior for this club, heck I'd rather have had Nick Johnson, but for what they gave up I'm not complaining.

The Giants also aquired right-hander Vinny Chulk in the deal to make up for the loss of Accardo in the Pen. Chulk was decent last season posting a 3.88 era in 72 innings pitched, but this season he's been getting roughed up a bit. The Giants are now going to lean on Brian Wilson even more for late inning work with Accardo out of the mix. Wilson has shown some shades of belonging, but his 6.59 era does say something. Right now, I think Sabean should and will be focusing on a way to deepen the bullpen without giving up any more young arms. Joe Borowski has had a sensational year so far with the Florida Marlins, that's the type of guy who the Giants should have interest in and go after. They need another veteran righty, Mike Timlin type, who can come in late and help shorten the game. Armondo Benetiz has been ok lately, but they are going to need someone else to help him out down the stretch. I don't want to see Benitez start being called on to pitch 2 innings. Bullpen arms are usually the most plentiful thing on the market at the deadline, so I'd put my money on another addition there. With the Hillenbrand trade, I think the Giants did take a step ahead of the rest of the pack in the West, but I still don't think the team is strong enough to run away with any division or make huge noise in the postseason.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Giants Salvage Series vs. Brew Crew.

Up untill about the sixth inning of Tuesday nights game vs. the Brewers, the Giants where looking like they where going to maybe start showing their age. It is no secret that this team is old and old teams tend to tire down the stretch in the second half. The Giants where handled with relative ease by the Philidelphia Phillies at home, and then got absolutley spanked by the Brewers to kick off that 3 game set. If you take away a few lucky bounces and a hit, the Giants could very well have been looking at a 1-5 begining to the second half. The main reason why the Giants are still a game above .500 after that stretch is Ray Durham. There hasn't been a hotter Giant hitter over the month of July than Durham. After 3 years of underachievment and injuries in the orange and black, Durham is finally starting to show some shades of the all-star second basemen he was with the Chicago White Sox. His speed/running game isn't much of a factor anymore, but the dude is easely on his way to career highs in home runs and rbi's. He is currently sitting with 15 home runs and 52 RBI, and his average has climbed from the .220's to .270 in 3 weeks and is still rising. After his last 3 seasons, I don't know if a 25 hr, 80 RBI season would be good enough to get him another deal in SF, but he is having the best season out of all potential free agent second basemen (including Jeff Kent).

Lance Niekro was finally sent back down to Fresno after struggling through the first half. Again, Niekro had problems with his health, and not only was he lost vs. right-handed pitching, he started to lose it vs. lefties as well. Niekro hit .233 with no home runs and 3 rbi's in July (30 ab's). That's flat-out "not getting it done," and while Brian Sabean said Tuesday that the team was not close to aquireing a first baseman via trade, it sends the message to the fans that he is working on it. Felipe Alou said it best when discussing Lance Niekro's situation. Alou said Niekro is way behind for his age due to injuries, and it's going to be tough for him to stay healthy enough to learn consistancy. I've been wrong before, but something tells me that Lance Niekro's days may be numbered as a member of the Giants. I see a lot of Damon Minor when I look at Niekro, a guy with huge power and a big offensive upside, but is still stuck on that line between AAA and the big leagues. Yet another failure at an attempt to develop a hitter by the San Francisco Giants.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Giants' Mid-Season Report

The first half of the major league baseball season is over and it seemed to me like it flew by. The Giants are sitting right at 45-44, one game above .500, right where they've been all season. The Giants never fell anymore than 2 games below .500 at any point in the first half, but they also never got more than 5 games above .500 either and have yet to hold sole possesion of first place at any point. If you look at the first half as a whole, the Giants where very average, and their record does not lie. They really only had one guy who deserved to make the all-star team (Jason Schmidt) and although a few guys are having solid seasons, the team as a whole has been somewhat dissapointing. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the team's best player is hitting .249 with 12 hr's and 39 RBI. Everybody is banking on Barry Bonds turing on in the second half, and he needs to if the Giants are going to win the division and make any noise whatsoever in the playoffs. Here is a my quick take on the first half.

1ST HALF MVP: Pedro Feliz- He's played in every single game up to this point, and he is definetley on his way to a career year. He leads the team in home runs, RBI's, games and he is playing gold glove caliber defense at 3rd base. Only knock on him is his lack of patience, but that's improving, his OB% is improving, but still needs to improve another 10-15 points.
Runner Up: Omar Vizquel

SURPRISE OF THE HALF: Jonathen Sanchez- You really can't go wrong with either Sanchez or Elizier Alfonzo. I'm choosing Sanchez because you can't overlook 2-0 with a 0.69 era, especially out of a youngster in the pen. On top of that, the 23-year old lefty has taken the ball in tough situations, late in games and has always answered the bell.
Runner up: Elizier Alfonzo

DISSAPOINTMENT OF THE HALF: Barry Bonds- I know he's 42 and you can't expect him to keep putting up the numbers he has over the years, but I don't think anyone would have predicted Bonds' average to be as low as it has been all year. He's been stuck in the .240's all season, has yet to put together any kind of hot streak, and has become one of the worst outfielders in the league. I think he'll turn it around in the second half and I expect to see him around 25-30 home runs with his average up around .280 by seasons end. If not, expect the Giants to be at home in early October, and I'm not talking about SBC Park.
Runner up: Lance Niekro

OVERALL GRADE/SECOND HALF PREDICTION: If I where to grade the Giants on overall performance in the first half, I'd have to give them a C. It's tough to give a .500 team anything but that, and the Giants have been as average as anyone in the league. The offense is finally starting to hit a little bit and get healthy and the starting pitching has been pretty good all season long. The bullpen continues to be a quesiton mark. For every power armed youngster that has come up and impressed the Giants (Kevin Corriea, Jeremy Accardo and Jonathen Sanchez) there have been injuries or sub-par performances by the veterans (Amrondo Benitez, Tim Worrell, Tyler Walker etc.). The bully has yet to get on the same page and get everyone throwing well as a whole. I think the Giants have been playing better ball as of late June and early July, and I expect to see them continuing to play well. The NL West is not as bad as it was last season, but everyone is hovering around .500 and there isn't a team that is out of it. Right now, I'd say the Giants and the Dodgers have to be the two favorites. Both teams have their holes, and it will probably be based on who makes the better deal at the trade deadline, but If I had to put money on somebody right now, I'd put it on LA. I think Ned Colletti has more resources than Brian Sabean does to strengthen the Dodgers come July 31'st, and I guarantee he will be makings some moves. He already added Mark Hendrickson and Toby Hall from Tampa Bay, which isn't huge, but it's shoring up weaknesses. Unitll Sabean shows he's ready to shore up the Giants' weaknesses (first base, relief pitching), as much as I hate 'em, I think the Dodgers have the better overall team. Hopefully things change by July 31st.

MESSAGE: I will be out for a week on vacation in South Lake Tahoe gambiling all my money away and I will not be posting untill next tuesday. Thanks.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Offense showing up in LA.

The Giants are finally starting to hit the ball with some consistancy. Ray Durham has been the hot hand lately as he has already hit 4 home runs on the road trip including a few big ones over the last few days in Los Angelos. Even though the Giants pitching didn't get it done Friday night in LA, the offense did their share to win that game. Barry Bonds had arguably his best game of the 2006 season so far going 2-4 with a huge 3-run home run and an RBI single Friday, but the Giants pitching couldn't hold up. The Giants are starting to set a trend with all these late inning losses at Dodger Stadium in the past couple seasons. Bonds has yet to get his average up above .250, but he has showed some bright spots lately. The Giants are a much better team with Moises Alou and Bonds in the line-up at the same time and they've finally been able to string a couple games together. Only Lance Niekro is noticably stuggling as he has been all season. Brian Sabean has stated recently that the Giants are looking for a "right-handed power bat," and with the teams current set up, it looks like first base is the only spot where the Giants are really lacking. That being said, I can't really think of any right-handed first baseman that may be available that would get anyone excited. Nick Johnson and Sean Casey are a few first basemen who's names have been mentioned in trade rumors, but both those guys are left handed. I wouldn't mind to see either hitting 3rd for the Giants, but if Sabean sticks with his plan, he has something else in mind.

On a much somber note, Mike Matheny doesn't look like he's getting any closer to returning to the Giants. Unfortunetley he hasn't made much positive proggress in recovering from his multiple concussions. Matheny has been out since May 31'st and probably wouldn't be able to return untill at least August if at all this season. There have even been whispers of the issue forcing Matheny out of the game for good. Fortunetley, Elizer Alfonzo has been one of the best rookie catchers in the league hitting around .300 all season with clutch home runs and RBI's. Where the Giants are really missing Matheny however, is behind the plate. Alfonzo is nowhere near the defender, thrower or game caller that Matheny is, but the Giants pitching staff seems to be pretty comfortable with him. The bullpen has still had it's shakey moments, but I still like all the youngsters they have out there. I haven't lost any confidence in Jeremy Accardo, but I do think Alou should start using Steve Kline more in set-up situations. It seems like Alou may have worn down Accardo a little bit, his era is right at 9 over his last 10 outings. For a while there, Accardo was the throwing the ball better than anyone else in the pen, but Alou can't expect that to continue if he throws him 5-6 times a week. I think it's time to give Kline the ball in the 8th, regardless of the matchups.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, July 03, 2006

Matt Morris finally earning his money.

Up untill the begining of June, it looked like Matt Morris was in line to be another Brian Sabean free-agent bust. At the very begining of the year, I thought Morris was a sure bet to win at least 15 games. After the middle of May rolled around and Morris was 2-5 with an era in the low 6's, I started to think I had totally blown that prediction. However, Morris has strung together 4 consecutive wins, and has produced quality starts in each of his last 7 straight. He now sits at 7-7 with a 4.12 era and a 1.23 WHIP ratio. With Jamey Wright continuing to struggle and Matt Cain going through his up-and-down, first full big league season, Morris and Noah Lowry are needed for innings more than ever. Felipe Alou is going to have some decisions to make regarding his pitching staff. If Kevin Correia and Brad Hennessey keep throwing the way they are, and Wright doesn't regain his early season consistancy, we may see some musical chairs in the starting rotation. Brad Hennessy had one questionable relief appearance in Oakland in June, but other than that, the dude has been lights out. He has allowed only 6 earned runs in his last 29 innings and shut down the division leading Padres during his spot start over the weekend. I'd lean toward keeping Corriea in the pen where he seems to really be finding his niche, but Hennessey has proved he's ready for he ball every 5th day. The pressure is really going to start being put on Jamey Wright.

Looks like Jason Schmidt will be representing the Giants in Pittsburgh at this years mid-summer classic. There definetley wasn't a more deserving Giant on the squad. Omar Vizquel continues to amaze fans night in and night out and I'm sure he'll be pretty high on the all-star alternates list.It would be tough to argue against him being the teams MVP through the first half of the season. Not one particular statistical category jumps out at you when looking at Vizquel's numbers, but the guy does a ton of things that don't show up a box score. Another guy who may have a chance if a few guys bow out is Pedro Feliz. Longshot, but he has been on fire lately, especially late in games with clutch hits. Seems like every other night Feliz is giving the Giants the lead with a big swing of the bat with the latest coming Monday night in Colorodo. He still needs to get the on base percentage up, but Feliz is quietly on pace for a 30 hr, 115 RBI year. Some where wondering whether Barry Bonds should be selected just because of who he is. Now I'm as big a Barry Bonds fan as anyone, but a guy who is hitting .240 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in July doesn't deserve to go to the all-star game, regardless of the name on the back of the jersey. I know he's still walking a bunch, but he's had some pretty good chances to do damage and he just hasn't really gotten it going. Now if Barry where hitting at least .280 with a little more run production, then you could cut him some slack, but he'll be the first to tell you that he doesn't deserve to be an all-star this year.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________