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Friday, August 31, 2007

Giants Bullpen Finally Performing

During the 2007, the Giants haven't given fans an abundance of things to get overjoyed about. Sure, there has been the emergence of Tim Lincecum as well as the historic Barry Bonds pursuit of 756 home runs to keep fans interested during the teams' 3rd straight losing season, but that's about it. However, they has played a lot better as of late, and a big part of the reason is because of their new closer, Brad Hennessey. The job that Hennessey has done has to have Brian Sabean and the Giants front office taking a breath of fresh air right now as it looks like they can cross closer off of their "to-do" list for 2008.

It's been a while (2004) since the Giants have had consistency in the bullpen, especially late relief, but they're getting it now. Friday nights save was Hennessey's 15th straight save without blowing one, something no other Giants closer has done since Robb Nen did it back in 2002. And it's not just Hennessey who's getting the job done. Brian Wilson and Steve Kline have both been flawless over the last couple of weeks. I mentioned a few posts back about how good of a job Wilson has done since his recall, and he looks like he's getting better with each outing. He's now gone 11 games without giving up a run and he's still allowing less than 1 base runner per inning. It's taken a while, but the Giants finally have structure in their bullpen and a late lead is a lot safer now than it has been for years.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Giants Cruise to 5th Straight Win

The Giants came back to win their 5th straight game on Monday night and have won 10 of their last 12 games. Bruce Bochy has been mixing young players into the lineup on a more consistent basis and it's giving the team some life. The latest youngster to step up and contribute big has been Kevin Frandsen. Frandsen hasn't gotten consistent playing time this season, but has been getting some starts in August and is delivering. The team has gone 7-0 since August 13th in games which Frandsen has started. During that stretch he has gone 7-21 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. He was a big component in Monday nights come from behind victory coming up with a clutch, 2-RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning that gave the Giants a 3 run lead. It's too bad they couldn't have came up with some offense earlier to support another brilliant outing by Barry Zito. After a horrific first half with his new club, Zito needs to have a very strong finish over the last part of the season in order to avoid being absolutely roasted by the fans and media over the winter. He has gone 7+ innings in his last 3 starts and he looks like a completely different pitcher now than what he showed in the first half.

The Giants also completed the Matt Morris-Rajai Davis deal on Monday. The team selected 21-year old right-hander Steve MacFarland who has spent most of the season in relief with Pittsburg's single A affiliate. I don't know anything about MacFarland, but I did look at his numbers and they show he is wild, but also has the ability to strike batters out. He's struck out over a batter an inning this year, but also has a WHIP of 1.61 which is why his era is at 4.80 and also why he has yet to make it out of single A. I already like how the trade has turned out for the Giants as Rajai Davis has been a huge part of the teams success this month and even if MacFarland never makes it out of the minor leagues, I have no complaints.
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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bonds To First In '08?

I was reading the sports section in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and came across this article the other day, discussing a possible position change for Barry Bonds in 2008. Bonds has already stated that he is certain that he is going to play baseball again next year, but is scheduled to be a free agent, and as good as his bat still is, he will have a hard time finding somebody to sign him as an everyday outfielder. The most likely scenario is that he signs on with an American League club to be a DH, but moving to first base would give him a chance to stick in the National League and possibly with the San Francisco Giants. Bonds was quoted in the article saying "I can play any position at any time", so he seems like he'd be open to the idea. Even if Bonds were to try and make a transition to first base, it wouldn't guarantee him a return to the Giants, but it would give him his best shot. However, if Barry indeed wants a good shot to get a ring in his final year, returning to the Giants wouldn't be in his best interest. The Giants want to start getting younger, and resigning Bonds wouldn't fit into that philosophy. Either way, it has an unidentified Giants' official "intrigued" with the possibility of Bonds moving to first, but I still call it a long shot.

Noah Lowry's good luck along with Matt Cain's hot streak continued this week. Cain turned in his 7th straight quality start and also provided himself with some offense by hitting his 2nd home run of the season. He wasn't the only Giants starter to go yard this week as Lowry did it as well during his start on Friday night. Lowry went on to win his 14th game of the year in one of his worst starts of the season. Lowry allowed 6 runs in the first 3 innings of work vs. the Brewers Friday, but settled down to get through 5 to qualify for the win. Most of the win has to be attributed to the Giants offense, but Lowry again showed resilience in being able to gut out 5 innings on a night which he had below average stuff. The Giants young trio of Cain, Lowry and Tim Lincecum are getting better by the start and if they are all held intact, they're going to be a force next season. I'm just still waiting to see who is going to emerge as the 5th guy in the rotation.
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wilson Pushing to Close

Back before the season starter, early on in spring training, Brian Wilson was a guy who got a lot of talk regarding the Giants and their late inning relief situation. A lot of baseball experts and Giants fans thought that Wilson would battle Benitez for the closers role and ultimately take the closers job once the season got started. Wilson battled control issues all spring and didn't even make the Giants opening day roster. In fact, he hadn't seen any big league time this year before being recalled on August 11th. All Wilson has done since that time is prove to the Giants that they should have given him a call earlier. Wilson hasn't given up any runs on 2 hits in 6 innings pitched while striking out 5 and collecting a save. Bruce Bochy seems to have bought into Wilson as he's trotted him out for the ninth inning in the last 2 games. Brad Hennessey had been closing ever since Armondo Benitez was dealt to Florida back in June and has done and admirable job, but I think the Giants view Hennessey as more of a setup/late inning reliever rather than a closer. Wilson has the closer mentality and certainly posses the weapons to be a successful closer at this level. He was lights out in his 4 months doing the job in Fresno and it has carried over into the major leagues. His cutter, when controlled, can be a premier pitch and his mid-90's fastball and hard slider are both plus pitches. I don't see any reason not to keep Wilson in the closers role the rest of the way.

Barry Zito has looked the best I've seen him since he joined the Giants. Zito has turned in 3 consecutive good starts and in the last 2, he showed shades of why the Giants gave him the huge contract that they did over the winter. He has looked like the staff ace that he's supposed to be and the reason why is his control. When looking at Zito's starts over the season, there is a trend. Every time he walks 2 or less batters in a game, he turns in a good start. When he walks more than 2, things can get ugly and they normally do. The same thing applies for Matt Cain and the person I question for this is Dave Righetti. I think it's time the Giants explore other options as far as their pitching coach goes. I've never been too impressed with Righetti or with the lack of progress Cain has made this year as well as the decline of Zito. Even Noah Lowry walks too many batters, though it doesn't effect him the way it does Cain and Zito. I'm ready for a new teacher.
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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Davis and Lowry Carrying Giants

Ever since Rajai Davis dawned a Giants uniform for the first time, he has done nothing but impress. Right off the bat he showed how valuable he was on the base paths and in the outfield. It was no secret that he could fly and Giants fans realized within his first game that he was an exceptional defender with an above average arm. The only question about Davis' game was whether or not he had the bat to stick in an everyday lineup. He never really got much of a shot in Pittsburgh, but he's getting one here with the Giants, and he's taking full advantage of the opportunity. He hit his first major league career home run on Friday night to help the Giants passed the Braves, and he also has made some very good defensive plays. Since joining the Giants almost 3 weeks ago, Davis is hitting .364 (20-55) with 12 runs scored and 8 stolen bases. He's also getting on base with regularity (.462%), a key trait for a successful leadoff hitter. Most importantly however, is that the Giants are winning with Davis in the lineup and leading off. They are 5-2 in the last 7 games in which Davis has started. It's wishful thinking to hope the Giants find a taker for Dave Roberts this off-season, but at the very least, the Giants will have a nice platoon set up in center field heading into the 2008 season.

Another Giant who has carried more than his weight is Noah Lowry. It has certainly been the Noah-Showa of late in San Francisco as the lefty has gone 7-1 with a measly 2.57 era over his last 9 starts. If he wouldn't have exited early in San Diego a few weeks back, his numbers could look even better. The more I am seeing of Lowry, the more I'm becoming convinced that he's a keeper and should be untouchable in trade talks right there along with Cain and Lincecum. Sunday's outing in Florida wasn't one of Lowry's best in recent weeks, but he still managed to keep the Giants in the game without his best stuff or command. If Lowry can take that next step and learn how to challenge hitters in the strike zone with more regularity, he will become an all-star pitcher. He still has games in which he is wild up and away to right-handed hitters and he is still averaging close to 4 walks per game. Again, this is a spot in which I would expect the Giants pitching coach, Dave Righetti, to help but Lowry has been having the same issue all year long. When he's on and locating the changeup and curveball with precision, he reminds me of Tom Glavine. When he's off, he's still good enough to win for you. That's the definition of a keeper folks and Lowry should be a Giant for years to come unless he is traded for a twenty something year old rising all-star position player, and nothing less.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bonds Stays Hot, Giants Stay Cold

Barry Bonds continued his hot streak on Wednesday night, belting career home run number 759. It was Bonds' 5th home run in his last 9 games and his 25th on the season. At this pace, it's very possible that Bonds could reach the 800 home run plateau before he decides to retire, which he has stated would likely be after the 2008 season. There is still about 6 weeks left in the season and ending the season with 770 or more home runs is looking more and more likely by the day. However, Bonds' hot streak has not translated into Giants wins, and the team has looked terrible since Bonds broke the record 10 days ago. The Giants are 2-8 since the historic blast and they have fallen to a season low 20 games below .500. It's almost like their going through a post-Bonds hangover. They played their best ball in a while when ESPN was airing every game due to the Bonds chase, but since the spotlight has left the team, they have gone back to the lackluster, tired old squad that they have been for most of the first 4 months of the season.

It's not all bad news around Giants land though. The team did agree to deals with 2 of their first round picks just beating Wednesdays' deadline. The teams top pick, left-handed starter Madison Bumgarner, received the 2.3 million dollar signing bonus that he was asking for to keep him from attending the University of North Carolina. The teams 3rd pick, outfielder Wendall Fairly, signed for around a 1 million dollar bonus. Fairly would have attended Southern Mississippi State if the deal had fallen through with the Giants. Both the players will join the rest of the Giants 2007 draft class for the Instructional League which starts in mid-September. I will be following that league closely and keeping you updated on how these kids are doing.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, August 13, 2007

Giants Yet to Sign Their Top Pick

The deadline in which teams have to agree on contracts with their draftees is approaching fast and the Giants still have a couple of their top picks waiting to be signed. The teams website is reporting that their top pick, Madison Bumgarner and their 3rd overall pick, Wendel Fairly are the two players who haven't agreed to contracts and if they don't do so by Wednesday afternoon, the Giants would lose rights to them. I don't see why it's taking this long to get something done, but it is expected that the two will sign before the deadline. Bumgarner was the first left-handed pitcher selected in the draft and is looking for a bonus in the 2.5 million dollar range. That would be about a 1/2 million dollars more than the team gave Tim Lincecum last year after they took him tenth overall. Fairley has signed a letter of intent to play ball at Southern Mississippi, but wants to sign with the Giants. Fairley is the guy from this draft that I would first expect to see in San Francisco playing with the Giants, and with their lack of outfield depth in their system, he's needed badly.

Brian Sabean also revealed that the Giants would be getting a pitcher off the Pirates 40 man roster as the player to be named from the Matt Morris trade last month. There aren't a whole lot of exciting options on the list, but the two guys I would target would be Brian Bullington and Romulo Sanchez. Bullington is a former first round pick and has accomplished a lot in the minor leagues but has never really been given a shot with the Pirates. He wins and has a respectable career era, but doesn't strike people out and seems to get hit relatively easily. I have never heard of Sanchez before checking the Pirates roster, but he seems to be the guy who would make the most sense but also is likely to be unavailable. A powerful throwing 23 year old reliever who is having a very good year in double A. The Giants have been given a list of a few players to choose from and it should be a matter of days before they make their choice.
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Friday, August 10, 2007

Sweeney Sent To LA

In the first trade between the Giants and Dodgers since 1985, the Giants sent Mark Sweeney to LA in exchange for a player to be named. This move makes all the sense in the world at this point for the Giants. Everybody likes Sweeney and he still is a valuable weapon to have on a bench, but he doesn't make a whole lot of sense with this Giants club. I actually had a chance to meet and talk with Sweeney a little bit during his time with the Giants and I don't think I've spoken with a nicer ballplayer. It's going to be tough seeing him in Dodger blue. He did good things here, but the Giants don't need a veteran pinch hitter, they need to get younger as fast as they can. I'm not expecting the Giants to receive a noteworthy prospect in this deal, but at the very least, this trade enables them to bring up a younger player and start giving them the at-bats that veterans have been getting. It looks like it's going to be Dan Ortmeier getting the call-up rather than Freddie Lewis which would have been my choice. I hope this trend continues and the Giants are able to get rid of a few more veterans (Ryan Klesko, Pedro Feliz, Steve Kline and Omar Vizquel) before the August 31st waiver deadline.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The New King Stands Alone

Barry Bonds Home Run #756
August 7th, 2007 is a day I, along with many baseball fans, will never forget. The day Barry Lamar Bonds passed the great Hank Aaron and moved into first place on the all-time home run list. Number 756 was hit in typical Bonds fashion, a majestic shot over the right center field wall that stands 419 feet away from home plate, 5 rows deep into the bleachers. I have had the privilege to watch Bonds closely ever since he dawned a Giants' uniform for the first time in 1993 and he has provided me with numerous memories that I will never forget and on Tuesday night he added one more to the bank. Congratulations Barry Bonds, I have never seen an athlete dominate their sport the way you have done baseball over the last 15 years, and you deserve this. I want to pay my respects to Hank Aaron for the message he sent Bonds after the home run was hit. In my last post I bashed Aaron about how distant he made himself from this record chase, but he showed true class by telling Barry that he is now "The King", in a video memoir right after the home run. Now that Aaron has passed the torch, I think everyone needs to put the controversy aside for a moment and enjoy this. Love him or hate him, if you can’t take a moment to enjoy Bonds' feat, you need to question yourself as to whether or not your really a baseball fan or a fan of politics.

Pictures of #756:

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bonds Getting Praise

Through all of this controversy surrounding Barry Bonds and the steroid era as well as the home run record, a few of American sports' biggest icons have stepped forth and shown their support for Bonds. A few weeks back, right after Bonds hit home run number 754, Michael Jordan sent a video message to Barry that was played on the big screen at AT&T Park. Jordan essentially wished Bonds the best and said how happy he was for him. Then, last night before the Giants-Nationals game, a video was shown of the great Muhammad Ali congratulating Bonds on 755 and giving Bonds a double thumbs up. I'm sure Bonds had to find those messages very reassuring. For all the hate he's received in recent years, it has to feel good to know that two of the biggest stars in the world are behind him 100%. It also makes me wonder about Hank Aaron. It's no secret that Aaron isn't happy that Bonds is the guy who is going to break his record, but the fact that Aaron wants no part of this guy, while Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali are cheering him on has to make me think that Aaron is a little bit jealous. I hate to use the term "hater" but that's really what Aaron is looking like in this situation. Even if he's not going to make an attempt to see Barry's record breaking home run in person, it wouldn't be the worst thing for baseball to have Aaron send Bonds a congratulatory memo like Jordan and Ali did.

Lost in all the Bonds hoopla over the last week was a solid pitching performance from a recent call-up. Pat Misch had a terrific first career start, as he struck out 8 batters while allowing 2 runs in 5 innings of work. I was most impressed by his command as he walked nobody in his 5 innings, and also his big sweeping curveball. He certainly has the control to be able to pitch up here, and he has a very good strikeout pitch in that big hook. I was not very high on the prospect of starting Misch over Jonathon Sanchez as Misch had been dominant in relief all year in Fresno, but he showed why the Giants have hopes of him being in the rotation. Misch has more command and more pitches he can throw strikes with than Sanchez, but I still would like to see Sanchez get stretched out whether it's in San Francisco or Fresno as I think his future one as a starter. Plus, if the Giants are going to deal Sanchez at some point, he will have more value as a starter than reliever.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Sunday, August 05, 2007


Barry Bonds finally matched the most glorified record in all of sports on Saturday night, and I must say, it's about time. What people predicted would happen in late June finally came to fruition on August 4, 2007. And like most of Bonds' milestone shots, this one was a no doubter. He went opposite field off the facing of the second deck in one of the most difficult places in all of baseball to hit a home run. Clay Hensley served up the historic shot and became the 465th different pitcher that Barry Bonds has taken deep. It is actually kind of fitting that Bonds did it in San Diego, against a team in which he's hit 1/8 of his total career home runs against. And after all the dominance he's had over the Padres, the fans were still embracing after they realized what they had just witnessed. I expected the boos to heavily outweigh the cheers, but that wasn't the case. It was actually the opposite and the crowd in San Diego gave Bonds a standing ovation and a lot of them where showing their respects. After the syringe incident on opening night last year, I didn't expect to see Padre fans cheering like they were. The only person who wasn't cheering it seemed was baseball's commissioner Bud Selig. After the home run, the camera's went to Selig and he just kind of sat there, expressionless. After the game, Bonds said he didn't speak with Selig, and that the hardest home run to hit in his career was now behind him. Now he gets to come back home to San Francisco to break the record and start on his way to setting a new one.
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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sanchez Should Start

With the trade of Matt Morris, it opens up a spot in the Giants starting rotation. With the way the season has gone, and since the team is so far out of the playoff race, I think it makes a lot of sense to let Jonathon Sanchez take Morris' spot for rest of the year. Sanchez showed some potential when he got a few spot starts last year and I think it's time he gets a chance to start this year. He has been pretty inconsistent in the bullpen so far but has always seemed to pitch well when he gets stretched out and gets into a rhythm. I was a little surprised when the Giants sent Pat Misch down to make some starts in Fresno rather then sending Sanchez. Misch had dominated this year in Fresno as a reliever and pitched terrifically in his short time with the Giants in that same role. I don't see the logic in tinkering with Misch, especially when the Giants are in need of bullpen help. I have little doubt that Misch could be doing a better job than Jack Taschner right now and that's what he should be doing. However, whether it's Misch, Sanchez or even Travis Blackley, I really would rather see a young pitcher take the spot rather than Russ Ortiz. Blackley, obtained from Seattle in the Jason Ellison trade, is actually an interesting candidate. He had been pitching pretty well until his latest outing where he got knocked out in the second inning. Prior to that start he was 8-5 and had an era in the low 4's which is pretty good for the offensive rich PCL.

Rajai Davis looked pretty good in his Giants debut on Wednesday night. He brought some energy and a ton of speed. I was most impressed with the play in which he threw out Ramon Martinez by a mile at second from the left-center gap. I thought they had no chance to hold Martinez to a single, but Davis not only has speed on the bases, but he can cover some ground in the outfield and has the best arm I've seen on a Giants' outfielder since Jose Cruz Jr. I didn't expect much out of Davis, but I think with his speed and defensive abilities, he could actually develop into a right handed Dave Roberts with a little more strength. The reports on him coming in were that he had 50+ stolen base potential if given the at-bats and they weren't wrong. I hope he stays up when the Giants call on another pitcher to take Morris' spot and the Giants cut a veteran. I am looking forward to seeing him and Freddie Lewis rooming around center and right in the spacious AT&T Park outfield and I hope to see it sooner than later. Maybe they won't turn out to be anything more than 4th and 5th outfielders, but you have to play them to see what you really have.
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