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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Morris Sent to Pittsburgh

Matt Morris got traded Tuesday, just as everyone had suspected, but I don't know if anyone could have told you he would have been going to the Pittsburgh Pirates. When I first saw the headline, "Morris A Pirate", I thought maybe, just maybe the Giants could have pulled something off here and stolen one of the Pirates many up and coming bats such as Adam LaRoche or Xavier Nady, but then I remembered that this is Brian Sabean and not John Shuerholtz. Instead of a solid young bat, or even a promising prospect, the Giants got a guy who is a little too old to be dubbed a prospect and hasn't done anything at the big league level. Rajai Davis has always been a speedster as he's swiped 40 or more bags in his 4 full seasons he's spent in the minors, but has showed little else. Sounds to me a lot like Freddie Lewis without the bat. I know the whole objective was to get rid of Matt Morris' salary and try and get what you can in return, but I just can't stop thinking about what Morris could have brought in when he was throwing well and everyone in the league had their eye on him. If you would have told me at that point that Morris would eventually be traded to the Pirates, I would have laughed. I'm getting tired of bashing Brian Sabean as it seems too much like the easy thing to do, but why he didn't deal Morris back in early June when his value had peaked and the Giants falling faster than any other team in the division I will never understand.

It was really a relatively quiet July 31'st with the Padres and Braves stealing most of the thunder. The Padres added Morgan Ensberg and Rob Mackowiak just before the deadline, but it may be the additions of Milton Bradely and Michael Barret that happened a few weeks ago that make the most difference. I think you have to put the Padres ahead of the pack in the NL west after all the things they've done to improve. Also, after looking at what the Braves have added, it's tough pick anyone against them. Mark Texiera stuck in between Jones' is going to be a hellish middle of the order for opposing pitching. Plus, adding Octavio Dotel further strengthens an already solid pen. The Braves continue to amaze me. Nobody has been as successful as they have for as long as they have. They rebuild yet they put together a winning product all at the same time and then they have the master, John Shuerholtz, add pieces where they need to be added without giving up too much. If the Braves aren't representing the NL in the World Series this year, they choked.
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

History In the Making

The Giants won their 3rd straight game on Friday and overcame another bad outing by their overpaid, so called ace. Nobody was talking about the win after the game though. Barry Bonds is now one home run away from claiming a share of the Major League Baseball home run record. Bonds hit a long jack in the first inning of Friday nights and then was walked 4 consecutive times after that. I think it's pretty apparent that nobody on that Florida staff wanted to be the one to give up number 755 and I don't really blame them. Barry looks locked in and focused on not just breaking the record, but trying to turn this season around a bit for the Giants. I think it's going to be very interesting to see how pitchers go about pitching Bonds now that every home run he hits' from here on out will be part of history. This is one of the most (if not the most) recognized record in all of sports and I'm sure no pitcher in the game wants to have his name in the record books as being the one who surrendered 755 or 756. The Giants have two more home games before they head down south for a six game road trip. Unless Barry hits two home runs in the next two games, he is going to be in position to break this thing on the road in Southern California.

Barry wasn't the only Giant who was in the midst of making history. Mark Sweeney passed up Manny Mota to move into second place on the all-time pinch list and just a few days ago, Omar Vizquel passed up Ozzie Smith as the leader for most games played at shortstop. You know you have an old team when records of longevity are being set left and right, but I do think some of this hype has helped ignite the team a little bit. The bats have been coming alive with Dave Roberts and Omar Vizquel finally finding their stroke a at the top of the lineup. Roberts has been the hot hand lately as he's added about 30 points onto his average over the last 10 games. The team has won 3 games and 5 out of their last 8 and they have been playing with a different energy than what they'd showed over most of the first 3 1/2 months. They don't have a realistic shot at getting back into a postseason race, and with most of the guys on this team under contract, they have 2 months left to evaluate what they will have going into next year.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Trade Deadline Approaching

The Giants where shut down by the Braves for 8 2/3 innings on Tuesday night before finally breaking through in the 9th inning by scoring 4 runs to send the game to extra innings. Even though they went on to loose in extra innings, the team showed some life in that ninth inning that I haven't really seen with this bunch all year. Matt Morris also turned in his best start of July (which didn't take much) going 6 innings and giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and maybe put a little stock back in his trade value. It has been widely mentioned throughout the internet sites and sports media that Matt Morris is one of the top starting pitchers available on the market and the other names available don't come close to Morris' talent and experience, especially postseason experience. The other names being thrown out there are guys like Kyle Lohse, Jose Contrares and Steve Trachsel. If Dontrelle Willis isn't put on the block by Florida, which seems the most logical move, than Morris will be the top dog and his next start could make or break what the Giants get in return for him. He is scheduled to go one more start before the deadline on July 29th and if it's a good on, the Giants must pull the trigger.

As bad a season as the Giants have had, they have some other players who have garnered some attention as well. Other Giants who have apparently been asked about are Ryan Klesko and Omar Vizquel. There is talk that the Red Sox would have interest in Vizquel as a replacement for the disappointing Julio Lugo. If there is anyway the Giants could pry Willie Mo Pena away from Boston for a package like Vizquel and Dave Roberts or Randy Winn, I would be all over it and would even send Boston some salary. The Padres among others have contacted the Giants about Ryan Klesko as he seems to be an attractive, cheap option for a team looking for a left-handed bat with pop. This is going to be the first summer in over a decade in which the Giants are heading into the deadline as sellers and they need to take advantage of this. Time to be on the other side of a Pierzynski/Nathan-Liraino-Bonser deal for once.
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Lincecum Looking Like "The Franchise"

The Giants two best pitchers at the moment helped them to a series win in Milwaukee over the weekend. Noah Lowry won his 10th game on Friday as he turned in another solid, quality start. Tim Lincecum turned in his 5th straight quality start on Saturday and he did it in impressive fashion going 8 shutout innings while striking out 8 and only allowing 5 baserunners against one of the best lineups in the National League. Those who had their questions about whether Tim Lincecum should be sent back down to triple A or be sent to the bullpen when he was struggling a few weeks back are now seeing the answer. The rook has now turned his season around in a few short starts as he's knocked about 2 points off his era in the last month while continuing to strike out over a batter per inning. Lincecum is really starting to find his groove. With the season pretty much all but over as far as contending for the playoffs, I like focusing on the young players, and I'm definitely looking forward to the final two months of Lincecum's rookie season. He looks even more dominant than Matt Cain did after his first couple months in the big leagues and that is really saying something. I've noticed in his recent starts that Lincecum's control has been a lot better and he was keeping balls low in the zone when he was missing. When he's down at the knees with that 97 mph two seam fastball, and controlling his curve and split, he's almost untouchable. It's shown, as he's only allowed 15 hits in his last 27 innings pitched.

In the latest on the "Bonds Watch", Barry Bonds went homeless over the weekend and returns to AT&T park still 2 home runs shy of tying Hank Aaron. With a seven game homestand on the horizon, It's going to be very interesting to see if the next time Bonds goes back on the road, it will be as the all-time home run king. I thought he would have hit at least one in Milwaukee over the weekend and would have come back to San Francisco just 1 shy from 755, but he didn't and now he'll have about a week to try and hit 3 home runs if he wants to try and break this thing at home. Isn't it fitting that the first stop on the road after this homestand is going to be down in Southern California for 3 vs. the Dodgers? It is very possible that Bonds makes history is the spot where he's been hated the most. I predict he'll break it at home, but not until the first homestand in August.
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bonds Blast's Off, Team Loses

Just when you thought he was fading away, and some questioning whether he would ever get to 756, Barry Bonds had his best day in about 10 weeks. Bonds went 3-5 with 2 jacks and 6 RBI's in Thursday's loss to the Cubs. Barry Bonds is not the Bonds of a 5-10 years ago, but he can still get hot and if he does, he can hit 5 home runs in a week. He's now moved to within 2 home runs of Hank Aaron and is 3 away from holding the record all by himself. It looks like things are setting up so he'll be in position to either do it in Milwaukee (where Aaron played the majority of his career) or back in the bay in San Francisco. I have tickets to Tuesday nights' Braves game so I am hoping to have a chance to see either 755 or 756 in person. It's too bad this can't be a more celebrated time as far as the Giants go. You know your going bad as a team when your best player plays his best game of the season, and you still can't pull it out. Matt Morris turned in another abysmal performance Thursday and whatever trade value he had before July is falling faster than the team itself. Matt Cain's record fell to 3-11 on Wednesday, and for the most part has pitched as good or better than some of the guys leading the league in victories. This team has the worst problem a team in their position can have: All their big contracts and guys who they want to get rid off, have no value. Normally you get a team that's out of it at the break, and they have some pieces that can acquire help for the future. The only guy who can bring something back whose name has been mentioned is Noah Lowry. And unless your getting a young player who's proven himself and has all-star potential, Lowry stays put.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Time to Make a Deal

The Giants kicked off the un-official second half of their season much like they played the first half. The age on this team is really catching up with them. A few of the players on this team are on line to have their worst season in their careers, and if the Giant's brass haven't already written this season off, I think it's time to do so. This should be the first summer in over a decade where the Giants sell at the deadline rather than stand pat or add to their roster. I just wish they would have gotten to business a little bit earlier. I mentioned in a few posts back in early May that the Giants should seriously consider dealing Matt Morris at that point because of how well he was pitching. I wasn't the only one who felt this way. I knew it was only a matter of time before Morris came back to earth and now he's looking more like the Morris of 2006 than ever. I did see some reasons to keep Morris, he was the teams ace and seemed like the Giants would win every time he took the hill. But even those reasons can't outweigh the fact that starting pitching is where the Giants have the most depth and Morris was in a great position to be used as a bargaining chip. Maybe I had Morris overvalued, but there were whispers that teams like the Mets and Mariners had some interest and if there was anyway the Giants could have gotten a player like Lastings Milledge or Carlos Gomez and passed, then that would be a shame. Any value that Morris had has dissipated and it it won't come back. He has gone from a guy who could have possibly brought in a young everyday player, to a guy who may be able to bring in an above average, low level prospect. Another thing I could see coming and for some reason Brian Sabean and the brass couldn't. Now we get at least 2 more years with this same management.

Things have gotten so bad that even Barry Bonds, who hasn't shown much frustration throughout the ugly 38-51 start, had a melt down over the weekend after being shut down by Dodger pitching. Bonds is now mired in a 0-20 slump and really hasn't been himself for about 2 months. I was on vacation this weekend and didn't catch any of the games for the full 9 innings, but Barry looked tired and was looked real bad against mediocre guys like Brett Tomko and Joe Beimel. He blasted out at himself saying how disgusted he was in his own performance. The only thing I am wondering is what the hell took so long? Barry has been solid overall throughout the first half, but with the way his team has played and time running thin for his shot at a coveted world series ring, I would have thought I'd see more frustration and a lot earlier in the year than July 15th. I'd like to see some more players get angry with the way they have played and with teams' record. I hate to say it, but from the outside looking in, this squad seems very content with where there at.
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Sunday, July 08, 2007

First Half Report Card

The All-Star break is officially underway and it's time to take a look back at how the Giants fared in the first half of the 2007 season.

Lineup: There are a couple of guys hitting the ball well at the moment, but only Bengie Molina and Barry Bonds seemed to stay healthy and somewhat consistent throughout the half. Bonds went on about a 6 week cold stretch in May and June, but has rebounded well and is on pace for another Barry Bonds type year, even at age 43. Molina has arguably been the best Giant pickup of the offseason as he's worked well with the staff and has come up with one clutch hit after another. The rest of the bunch has been anywhere from below average to dismal. Pedro Feliz, Rich Aurilia and Omar Vizquel seem to hurt the offense more then they help and Ray Durham is not coming anywhere close to matching his career year last season. Ryan Klesko and Randy Winn have been serviceable. With a consistent offense, this team would be at least .500.
Overall Grade: D

Rotation: The only question mark in this bunch has been the 126 million dollar ace Barry Zito and he is the one and only reason why they are not worthy of an A. Matt Cain has pitched through some of the worst luck I have ever seen in the first half and his record is 3-9 because of it, despite having an era of 3.53 with hitters hitting just .237 off of him. Matt Morris carried the staff early, but it has been Noah Lowry who has stuck out in my mind. Lowry is the staff leader in wins (9) and era (3.35) and has had only one bad start in his last 11. The rookie Tim Lincecum has gone through his ups and downs but has proved he indeed belongs and is already an extremely tough assignment for NL hitters.
Overall Grade: B+

Bullpen: Not much needs to be said here. You don't need to be a baseball fanatic or even have any baseball expertise at all to realize that this bullpen is pathetic. The quest for a legit closer has gone on for 3 1/2 years and counting, and it doesn't look like things are changing anytime soon. I am ready to give Messenger a shot. Sabean could cut every single reliever on this team besides Misch and Messenger, and you wouldn't hear a complaint from me. Henessey and Corriea are ok at times but are middle relievers, not 8th and 9th inning guys.
Overall Grade: F

Defense: The defense hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be. The outfield has been average, but the infield defense has been spectacular for the most par, thanks to the magnificent Omar Vizquel. Bonds has been a little better than I expected in left field. Dave Roberts is an inconsistent center fielder who makes the tough plays, but also blows some of the easy ones.
Overall Grade: B

Bench: The rookie call-ups have done a pretty good job this season, with Freddie Lewis standing out. Elizier Alfonzo was one of the best backup catchers in the league before getting hurt in June. Ryan Klesko started the year off on the bench but has taken hold of the first base job vs. right handed pitching. I am surprised at each passing roster move in which Mark Sweeney manages to stay on the roster, but he can still pinch hit with the best of 'em.
Overall Grade: B

Managing/Coaching: You can't really blame the on field coaching staff for what they were dealt. This lineup is very old and there really isn't one arm down in the bullpen that you can count on night in and night out. I think Bochy has done a good job at playing the hot hand and he isn't shy to play a rookie over a veteran if that rookie deserves it. Two things I think are crucial signs in a good manager. He tried to set up some structure in the bullpen, but things fell apart when Armondo Benitez did.
Overall Grade: C+

Biggest Surprise: Freddie Lewis. He's come a long way to get to the bigs, and now that he's here, he doesn't look like he wants to leave. Although his defense can use some work, and he still has some baseball maturing to do, he possess the tools to be able to be a good major league player, something the Giants haven't developed through the farm since Bill Mueller.

Biggest Dissapointment: Barry Zito. You could put Benitez here as well as some other people, but the Giants expected a better start to the Zito era than a rough 6-8 start. He's been knocked out of games by the 5th or 6th inning routinely. He'll be better in the second half, but those who said Zito was on the decline are looking right on at this point.

Will Make the Playoffs If: The rest of the of the division suffers some major injuries and the aging Giants somehow come up with a way to play with more energy and passion than they did in the first half. They would also need to make some additions to the team which at this point wouldn't be the right thing to do.

2nd Half Prediction: The Giants will be better in the second half than they were in the first, but that isn't saying much. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants play .500 ball from here on out and maybe eventually even get back to .500. However, a lot of things need to go right for that to happen and way too many things would have to go right for them to think about sneaking into the playoffs. As far as the standout players, I say Noah Lowry will go on to win 18 games, and Barry Bonds will end up with 33 home runs while the Giants end the year at 79-83, 13 games back from the division winning Dodgers.

*Blog Note: Like the players, I am taking an all-star break myself. I will be in Tahoe for the next week or so and the Giants Blog will not be updated again until Monday, July 16th.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Play Freddie!

Freddie Lewis has been red hot since coming off the disabled list. He started with an excellent rehab assignment period in Fresno in which he hit close to .400 with 2 home runs and had 8 rbi in about a weeks time. In his two starts since being called back up with the big squad, he is 5-8, with 1 home run, 4 rbi, and 4 runs scored. I know Lewis has been inconsistent at times this year, and he has shown some inexperience in the outfield, but he is the only Giants youngster who can really fill out a stat sheet. Kevin Frandsen, Dan Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz all have shown some glimpses of being able to stick, but Lewis sticks out a little bit from them in my eyes. It's obvious that he can fly and with time should become an above average base stealer, but the spot that separates Lewis from the others is his plate discipline. He also has a little bit more pop than the other 3 Giant rookies. Granted he's only had 99 at-bat's (118 plate appearances) he does carry a .790 OPS which is good for 3rd on the team behind only Barry Bonds and Ryan Klesko. Way back when Lewis first came up for Roberts, I really wanted to see Lewis get a good shot at staying, and hoped he would at least get 100 at bats to prove himself. I think he's earned another 100, and playing him over Dave Roberts and Randy Winn may not only be best for the future, but fore this year as well.

I was a little surprised to see Bonds declare that he wouldn't participate in the home run derby next week before the all-star game. I am pretty disappointed because I am planning on being there and figured Barry would be a lock. Is there a better time to participate in a derby than the year that your going to become the all time home run king, and the game happens to be in the place you've called home for the last 15 years? I am certainly amazed that Bonds decided the way he did, especially after being voted in as a starter mostly because of the fans in San Francisco and the fact that they wanted him to be there. After hearing his reason for not participating, I understand it to a certain point, but this is part of the game. So much for looking forward to seeing Bonds and Griffey tee off into the 'Cove. Who knows, he could have a change of heart over the next week, but I wouldn't bet on it.
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Monday, July 02, 2007

Barry Bonds: The Only Voted Giant

Two things surprised regarding the Giants and the All-Star game selections. I cannot believe Barry Bonds made up the 120,000 votes he needed to beat out Alfonso Soriano to start in the outfield and he did it in the final 72 hours of voting. When it comes down to the numbers, Bonds deserved the spot over Soriano, but with all the hatred most baseball fans have towards him, I was surprised to see him gain that many votes in that little time. There was no question he was going to make the team in some, but most people, including myself, did not expect to see him in the starting lineup, just for the simple fact that the fans choose the starters All-Star team. Let's face it, outside of San Francisco, Bonds is baseball's most hated ballplayer, and he still somehow gained enough votes to crack the starting lineup. I'm sure that having the game in San Francisco had something to do with it and I wouldn't be surprised if there were some strings pulled that enabled Bonds to start this game. However it panned out, I am glad to see him in there because he really does deserve it. He leads the world in OBP and OPS and even though he's still walking more than anyone else in the game, he's still among the league leaders in home runs. On top of all that, he's 43 and there isn't another all-star positional player within 5 years of that. Say what you want about Barry Bonds, but your being biased if you fail to recognize the fact that he is a greatest players this game has ever seen.

The second thing that I was surprised about regarding the Giants and the All-Star selections was the fact that Brain McCann was voted in as the second catcher over Bengie Molina. Molina is hitting 20 points better, has more RBI and home runs and is one of the top hitters in the national league with runners in scoring position. Not to mention he has done a terrific job calling games for a very young starting rotation. The only other Giant who had a shot at making the team was Matt Morris, but with there are just too many pitchers having good years in the NL this season and Morris picked the worst time to have his two worst starts of the season in late June. There is still a shot Molina could get chosen if a position player opts out, but I would give it about a 10% chance of happening. The one thing in Molina's favor is the fact that the NL only has 2 catchers and it's standard for there to be 3.
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