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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The City Says Goodbye to Barry

Bonds in from Left 1 last time
If your a Giants fan, hopefully you had a chance to make it out to the ballpark on Wednesday night to give Barry Bonds one final farewell. We all knew this day would eventually come, but it sure did feel weird cheering on Bonds for the last time. Even though the Giants were once again shut down by Jake Peavy, it certainly was a special, surreal night at AT&T Park. Bonds came about 10 feet short of putting a perfect ending to his Giant career when he hit a ball out to warning track in right center in the 6th inning, his final at-bat as a Giant in San Francisco. It wasn't until after he came running back into the dugout when he stopped and gave Jake Peavy a hug and waved goodbye to the Padre bench that it sunk in; This is the last time we get to see Barry. After that at-bat, Bonds waved goodbye to the fans and that was it. I'm not sure Giants fans are fully aware of the greatness they have been able to witness firsthand over the last 15 years, but if they aren't, they will be soon. It's going to be a lot different next season when you go to the games and are watching Freddie Lewis and Randy Winn roam left field instead of #25.
Barry tips cap after last AB
The Giants payed tribute to Bonds by playing his career highlights on the big screen in-between innings as well as a final tribute video after the game. I was hoping he would come out for one last farewell tour around the ballpark after the ballgame (a la Cal Ripken Jr.), but he didn't, and the Barry Bonds era in San Francisco has officially come to an end. So, once again, thank you Barry for all the memories and inspiration. I have never seen a person as mentally tough as Bonds and to perform at the level he has through all the years of hatred and scrutiny is simply amazing. I hope like hell you find that elusive World Series ring before you hand 'em up, you deserve it.
One last curtain call
*note:The Giants Blog will be on vacation until Thursday, no updates until then*
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, September 24, 2007

Who Is Going to Replace Bonds?

Now that the Giants have made it official that Barry Bonds will not be with the team in 2008, the search begins for his replacement. Obviously the team isn't going to find another Bonds on the free agent market to carry them for next 15 years like they did in winter of 1992, but they are going to have to find another player outside of the organization to help build a lineup around. I don't think Brian Sabean is looking to head to spring training next season with the heart of the order consisting of Randy Winn, Ray Durham and Bengie Molina, so here are just a few options that could be available this winter:

Possible Free Agents:

Tori Hunter: Will likely be the most sought after free agent on the market this winter. His speed and exceptional defense would fit very well at AT&T Park and his right handed power bat would be more ideal for this ballpark than a lefty. He also expressed some interest in San Francisco when he was here for the All-Star game in July. The only problem with him is that he is going to get more money that I think he's worth and the Giants would be willing to go. He's been a solid offensive player but your lineup is not a very good one if Torii Hunter is your best bat.

Andruw Jones: More offensive upside than Hunter and 2 years younger, but that's about it. His defense and range has declined over the last couple years and he's struggling through his worst offensive season since he became a regular in 1998. Due to his subpar offensive year (.220, 26, 93) and declining range on defense, he will come cheaper than Hunter, but isn't as good a player. Still, he's only 30, has the potential to hit 50 home runs a season and despite his declining range, he's still an above average outfielder with a cannon.

Adam Dunn: *potential free-agent: It seems like he would make a lot of sense. He has the type of powerful bat that could actually succeed in AT&T Park's spacious right field. He strikes out a ton, but cut them down this season. He's as sure a bet to hit 40 bombs a year as anybody else in the game and gets on base at a very high rate despite not hitting for a very high average. The most intriguing thing about him though is that he's still just 28 years old and could get even better offensively which would be scary. Remember, the Giants signed Barry Bonds when he was 28 as well. The only downside on him besides the strikeouts is that he's not a great defender.

Alex Rodriguez: A long shot, yes, but what better way to keep the buzz around AT&T Park in the post Barry Bonds era? If you'd consider spending 15-17 million a year on a guy like Andruw Jones, why not go 30 a year on ARod, it would make more sense. He's the best player in the game and will likely be among the best for 7-8 more years. Like Bonds did at his age, he seems to be ascending and getting even better as he gets older. He's also a guy who could keep this ballpark packed for the foreseeable future now that the main draw is moving on. On top of it all, Rodriguez has also expressed a great deal of interest in playing in San Francisco and AT&T Park. Now this would actually be a realistic possibility had the Giants not broken the bank on Barry Zito last winter.

Kosuke Fukodome: The Japanese All-Star will be a free agent and is looking to come to play in the Major Leagues in 2008. The Giants have reportedly expressed some interest. He had his best year hitting .351 with 31 home runs and 104 RBI's in the Japanese league in 2006 and also played for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. MLB Scouts project him to be a high average hitter with gap-to-gap power. In a spacious park like AT&T that could translate to 50 doubles. Will likely come cheaper annually than the other outfielders, but the Giants would need to bid on his negotiating rights. I don't think he has the power the Giants are going to need.

Trade Option:
Manny Ramirez: If the Red Sox want to make a play on ARod, they would likely need to clear some salary and the most logical move would be to deal Ramirez. The Giants explored this option last winter but nothing ever got done. ManRam would not be a likely fit in San Francisco but is not totally out of the question. I'm not sure the Giants have anything the Red Sox would want, but the option a of 3 team deal could be there. I would steer clear of the 35 year old declining Ramirez if I were Sabean but something tells me the Giants name will pop up when he becomes available. If the Giants are serious about rebuilding, they won't even discuss it.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bonds' Final Homestand As A Giant?

The teams' final homestand of the season gets started Thursday night and it could be the final time Giants' fans get to see Barry Bonds wearing the orange and black at AT&T Park. Bonds is going to become a free agent after the world series ends and while I have a tough time picturing him in any other uniform, I don't think Bonds will be back with the Giants next year. He had his spurts at times early this season in which he carried the club with his bat, but it's clear that he no longer is the offensive catalyst he once was. Bonds currently has 28 home runs on the year and is hitting .279 which are still very good numbers for a 43 year old, but his play has dropped off significantly over the second half of the season and he just isn't worth the 18+ million dollars he's being paid this season. September has been the roughest month of the year so far for Bonds as he's gone deep just once and has battled nagging injuries. As much as I support Bonds and appreciate what he's done for the Giants over the years, I will not be upset to see the Giants part ways with him after the year. It's a move that has to be made in order for this organization to take the next step forward in rebuilding. So Giants fans, try your best to get to the ballpark during this last week because it's likely to be the last time you see the great Barry Bonds playing for the good guys.

In addition to Bonds' potential farewell homestand, I am also looking forward to getting a better look at the rookies who Bruce Bochy has pledged to play consistently over the last 2 weeks of the season. The two guys I am most intrigued with right now are Nate Schierholtz and Dan Ortmeier. Both these guys could have significant roles with this team next season and both have been getting a lot of playing time lately. Schierholtz is especially intriguing because he's only 23 and has hit .300 or better at every level in his pro career and is hitting .306 through 85 big league at-bats this season. In my opinion, he has the best shot of any of the young players on the club at eventually becoming an everyday player. The one area I would like to see Schierholtz improve on is his plate discipline. He's walked only 2 times in his 87 plate appearances with the Giants and had only 17 walks in over 400 at-bats in Fresno this year. I'd also like to see him show some pop. After hitting 16 jacks in 4 months at Fresno, he's still looking for his first major league home run.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, September 17, 2007

Giants Offense Can't Help Cain

Two trends that have haunted the Giants all year continued this weekend in San Diego. While the Giants offense has looked downright horrible a lot this season, I don't think I have been more frustrated watching this team at the plate than I was watching Saturday's game vs. San Diego. The Giants' hitters were once again shut down, but it was the fact they where dominated by Brett Tomko that really magnified things. Tomko was 2-11 with an era in the high 5's coming into that start and had been released by the Dodgers just a few weeks earlier, but he looked like an ace vs. the Giants' pathetic bats. And not only was the offense embarrassed by a very hittable pitcher, they once again failed to support another quality start by Matt Cain. They couldn't even muster a run off Tomko or anyone else to get Cain off the hook for the game, so he suffered another loss in a game in which he gave up 1 base runner in 6 innings pitched. Matt Cain has to be wondering what in the world he has to do to string together some wins. His record now sits at 7-15 but in reality should be closer to 15-7.

The Giants are quietly starting to put in motion ideas for next years squad. It was reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that the Giants and Omar Vizquel are working towards a deal that would keep the shortstop in San Francisco for another season. Omar mentioned earlier this season that he's looking for a 2 year extension but will likely drop his demands after his subpar year. I think that would be a wise move if they can keep it at a 1 year extension. This years free agent class is not a deep one and it is very thin in the middle infield department. If the Giants were to let Vizquel walk they would be looking at guys like Ramon E. Martinez and Cesar Izturis as their fallback options because they have nobody in their system ready to play shortstop everyday at the ML level. I had always considered the possibility of moving Kevin Frandsen to shortstop, but he doesn't quite have the range to play the position everyday. So, while bringing back Vizquel doesn't fit into the grand scheme of getting younger, but it does make sense to keep him around for another year.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Look Towards '08

There are still about 3 weeks left in the regular season, but with the season winding down and not much going on with the club, I figured it would be a good time to throw out some wild guesses as to who might fill out the San Francisco Giants roster in 2008. So here we go:

Trade: (Jonathon Sanchez and Kevin Frandsen to Cincinnati for Edwin Encarnacion)
FA Signings: (*Adam Dunn, Tony Clark, Scott Linebrink) *potential free agent
FA Losses: (Barry Bonds, Pedro Feliz, Ryan Klesko)

1. CF Dave Roberts (still under contract for 2 more seasons, will likely platoon with Davis)
2. RF Randy Winn (like Roberts, not going anywhere)
3. 3B Edwin Encarnacion (*obtained from Cinci via Jonathon Sanchez trade)
4. LF Adam Dunn (the Giants will need a big bat to replace Bonds and Dunn could be the guy)
5.C Bengie Molina (the solid backstop will be here for 2 more years)
6. 1B Dan Ortmeier (Giants are talking like Ortmeier will be starting next year)
7. 2B Ray Durham (under contract for another year and will be tough to trade)
8. SS Omar Vizquel (Brought back on a 1 year deal)

Starting Rotation:
LHP Barry Zito ( still the staff ace, even with his subpar year)
RHP Matt Cain ( way better pitcher than his career numbers show)
LHP Noah Lowry (elbow injury cut short potential breakout year for Lowry)
RHP Tim Lincecum (hopefully there is no sophmore slump with Timmy)
RHP Kevin Corriea ( has showed he's capable of taking the ball every 5th day)

CP Brian Wilson ( I think he's finally ready for the job)
SU Scott Linebrink (numbers declining slightly, but Giants could use his steadiness)
RHP Brad Hennessey (most consistant Giants reliever for 2 years in a row)
RHP Tyler Walker (Dominant in his return to the bigs this year)
LHP Pat Misch (great year in Fresno in a relief role, struggled after being made a starter)
LHP Steve Kline (back for another year)
LHP Travis Blackley (outside shot, but could make team as long reliever/spot starter)

1B Tony Clark (brought in for extra bat off bench and to help Ort at 1st)
OF Nate Shierholtz (Bochy will play him over Winn if he keeps hitting)
OF Rajai Davis (speedy center fielder could take time away from Roberts)
IF Rich Aurillia (should rebound after horrible year)
C Elezier Alfonzo (one of the better back-up catchers in the league when healthy)

Again, these are just wild guesses, but this is a roster that could be put together within the Giants budget. The lineup would be younger, although not by much and the pitching staff could stay intact. A Jonathon Sanchez for Edwin Encarncion trade is highly unlikely, but Encarnacion is being dangled and could be had.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Giants Beat LA

The Giants did their part to help keep the Dodgers reeling by taking 2 of 3 over the weekend at AT&T Park. Sure, a Giants-Dodgers series' in September is a lot more interesting when both teams are fighting for something but this weekends series was entertaining nonetheless. The Giants won both Friday night's and Sunday's game with late inning heroics, 2 wins that push the fading Dodgers even further behind in the NL Wild Card race. The hero on Friday was Daniel Ortmeier as he untied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a shot to the deepest part of the ballpark of one of the better relievers in the league. Ortmeier has been getting a lot of time at first base recently and is performing better with the more consistent playing time. Sunday's game winner came off the bat of the struggling Ray Durham. Ray Durham came off the bench in the 8th inning to hit a go-ahead 3-run home run that gave the Giants a lead they didn't surrender. Durham had to feel some relief after that blast as he has struggled through his worst season of his career has been the biggest disappointment of the season as far as the Giants offense goes. Durham was supposed to be the man behind Bonds this season but his .216 average and .343 slugging percentage aren't quite what you look for in the middle of the order.

In a year with so many inconsistencies, the starting pitching and defense have been good enough to have this team fighting for a playoff spot. The Giants again received quality starting pitching this weekend as well as some nice defensive plays to help them take the series from LA. Rajai Davis had the web gem of the weekend Sunday in the ninth by saving extra bases with an amazing catch. Jonathon Sanchez had his best start of the year and maybe his career on Friday night by pitching a career-high 7 innings and keeping the Dodgers in check without walking anybody. The no walks really stuck out because Sanchez has always had issues with consistency in his delivery and release point, but to go 7 without walking a batter has to give Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti some confidence. It was also nice to see Cain rebound nicely after a shortest outing of the year in Colorado last week. He looks like he has jumped back on the track that he was on in August in which he went 4-1 with a 2.18 era.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Rest Lowry and Lincecum

The Giants have to keep Noah Lowry on the shelf for the rest of the year. It makes no sense at all to let him make another start with his elbow not at 100% and the Giants playing for nothing but pride. It's too bad for Lowry because he was on pace for a 17+ win season, but it's a lot more important to have him healthy for 2008 than stretch him out in a meaningless 2007 season. I also think they should do the same thing with Tim Lincecum as his velocity has plummeted in recent starts, an indicator that he's getting tired. During his latest start in Colorado, he was being clocked around 88-89 mph which is a huge drop off from the 97-98 he was throwing just a few weeks ago. A drop like that in velocity usually means injury or tired arm and in Lincecum's case it's a tired arm. Resting Lowry and Lincecum for the last 3 weeks of the year would also give the Giants an opportunity to asses some of the other younger pitchers in their system. They are going to have to fill at least one spot in the rotation next year and it's time to start holding auditions.

Leading the audition at this point for the 2008 5th starters job is Kevin Correia. Correia won his 3rd straight start on Wednesday with help from Barry Bonds' 762nd career home run and more good relief pitching from Brian Wilson and Brad Hennessey. More importantly, the win ended the Giants 4 game losing streak. Correia has all of the sudden become the Giants stopper after being inserted into the rotation to take over for the Lowry 2 weeks back and has looked very comfortable moving back into the starting role. Corriea was brought up as a starter and used in that role until 2005 before being moved to the bullpen. Wednesday's start was his best yet; he didn't walk anyone and shut down one of the best offenses in the league in the most offensive ballparks in the league. He has always had pretty good stuff, and I thought he was going to become one of the Giants better relief pitchers over time, but he clearly has the capability to hold a rotation spot.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, September 03, 2007

Callup Notes

The Giants have started expanding their roster with September call-ups from AAA Fresno, and will continue to do so over the next week or so as Fresno's season winds down. So far, none of the call-ups have been too surprising and it's been mostly players who were up with the team at some point earlier in the season.

There are two guys who have an outside shot at being called up that I hope make it. I would like to see Eugeno Velez and Travis Blackley both up with the Giants once the Grizzlies season comes to an end. The 25 year-old Velez has put together his second solid minor league season in a row combining to hit .300 with 54 stolen bases at both AA Connecticut and in Fresno and earned a trip to the AA all-star game. He has the same sort of game as Rajai Davis, but can switch hit and has a more potent bat. The only thing about his season that sticks out is his huge drop off in the power department. After collecting 64 extra base hits (14 long balls) in Single A last year, he has dropped down to 27 this year and only 1 has left the yard. Other than that, he's been causing problems on the base paths all year long in the minor leagues and I think he should be given an opportunity to see some big league time this year.

Travis Blackley should also be given a shot at starting a game or two. Blackley has had sort of an up and down year in Fresno this season, but he has been pitching well of late. He's gone 7 innings in 4 of his last 6 starts and in those outings he has been very impressive. He is probably 4th in line for starts at this point behind Kevin Corriea, Jonathon Sanchez and Pat Misch, but he also is the only guy who has been used exclusively as a starter during his career and it shows in is ability to get deep into ballgames. Corriea has pitched well in his two starts and has earned the opportunity to continue getting them. Jonathon Sanchez threw well in his first start of the year on Saturday too, so he has put himself in position for more as well. However, with the Giants resting Noah Lowry and Tim Lincecum a little bit, they are going to need at least another guy to step in and start a few games and I think Blackley should be next in line.
The Giants Baseball Blog