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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Molina's Bat Carrying Giants

Bengie Molina has almost single handedly carried the Giants over the last 2 weeks and his hot bat may find it's way onto the NL All Star team if he keeps raking like this. Molina has raised his average nearly 80 points over the last 10 games and has carried the Giants to a 5-2 record over the last 7 games. Molina normally gets a rest every 3 or 4 games, but has started every game over the last week, including both games of a double header. Bruce Bochy cannot afford to keep his cleanup hitter out of the lineup with him swinging the bat like he is. Aaron Rowand has also stayed solid at the plate over the first 2 months of the season as he has his average up at .337. These two as well as Jose Castillo have held up their end of the bargain offensively and providing just enough offense to support the solid starting pitching the team has gotten recently. Coming into the year, I would have thought there was no way a Giants positional player would be able to earn an all-star spot playing in this weak offense. However, at this rate, both Molina and Rowand could easily work themselves onto the roster as both are leading their respective positions in hitting.

Jonathon Sanchez also has been throwing well recently as he turned in his third straight quality start on Wednesday. Sanchez is still walking more than he should which is keeping him from going deeper into games, but he also is learning how to pitch through those walks and minimizing damage with runners on base. It sucks that Noah Lowry has been injured and unable to go all year, but it has brought on the emergence of Jonathon Sanchez who may have eventually been dealt if Lowry and Corriea never got hurt. Another young lefty who has been emerging in the Giants bullpen is Alex Hinshaw. The 25-year old lefty has been nearly untouchable since his big league call-up 2 weeks ago. In 4 1/3 innings pitched, Hinshaw has allowed only 1 base runner while striking out 9 batters. That's dominance folks. While 2008 has mostly been a struggle for the Giants, they are shaping up a young bullpen and pitching staff that could be a strength for the next 8-10 years. Brian Wilson, Merkin Valdez, Alex Hinshaw and Billy Sadler look like they may lock down the bullpen for years to come.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Zito Gets First Win

It took nearly 8 weeks of regular season action but after 10 starts, Barry Zito is finally in the win column. The Giants 126 million dollar man got his first win since last September and the Giants have now won three in a row. Zito has definitely turned things around in the month of May. He still isn't where he needs to be, but after a horrific April, he's gone 1-2 with a 2.79 era and 16 k's in 22.1 innings pitched during May. He's still walking more batters than he should, but he's done a very good job at stranding runners on base and pitching out of trouble. I think the few starts that Zito took off have helped him refocus. He looks like a different pitcher now than he did in April. Zito also finally got some offensive support as the Giants scored more than 3 runs for just the second time in Zito's 10 starts. Getting win number one will certainly ease Zito's mind, and now with the monkey somewhat off of his back, I'd expect to see him continue pitching more like he has in May rather than the way he threw in April. Again, not saying that Zito is now suddenly fixed and returned to form. No, he will never live up to the contract he signed, but it doesn't mean he still can't be a quality pitcher.

The Giants have also been getting more consistent production out of Jose Castillo over the last couple of weeks. Castillo has sported a decent slugging percentage all season due to his knack for hitting doubles, but his OBP had been below .300 for most of the season. Now his OBP is up to .327 which has his OPS at a respectable .774. Castillo is still below average offensively for a third basemen, but he's still relatively young (27) and versatile enough to play both second and third base very well. He's still got some upside. Also, with Ray Durham's contract expiring after the year, and Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen unproven, Castillo could position himself to become the Giants everyday second basemen in 2009. He's on pace for a .260 average, 13 home runs, 70 RBI and 80 runs scored which are by no means all-star numbers, but pretty good for a spring training pickup at the league minimum.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Velez Optioned to Fresno

The Giants optioned Eugenio Velez to Fresno and called up Travis Denker Wednesday. Velez couldn't carry over the swing he had this spring into the regular season and had been struggling since the Giants left Arizona in March. He was hitting just .207 with 9 RBI and 11 runs scored. He did have 8 stolen bases which is tied for the team lead, but had only 1 hit in his last 18 at-bats and just wasn't becoming much of a factor offensively. Ray Durham has been getting the majority of the time at second base lately and playing well which has cut back on Velez's at-bats. Velez seemed to start wanting to pull the ball and try and hit it out of the ball park rather than going with pitches and putting his speed to work. The offensive struggles seemed to start affecting his defensive play as well at least one critical error that cost the Giants a game in early May, one that really contributed to the Giants most recent losing streak. I still think Velez can be a serviceable big leaguer and I think he'll be re-called as soon as he gets back on track.

Travis Denker should be an interesting player to watch as he seems destined to get a bulk of at-bats at second and third base over the next couple weeks. The Giants got Denker from the Dodgers for Mark Sweeney last August in a deal that could end up being a steal for the Giants. Denker was hitting well in Fresno (.315) and can play the infield better than Velez. He had a solid first half of spring training as well with the Giants but tailed off a bit in late. I'm expecting to see a some of offense out of Denker. Not expecting a Jon Bowker like debut, but I do think Denker will hold his own with the stick and even show a little pop. The 22 year-old had never played much above single-A until his recent promotion to Fresno so he's been fast-tracked. The Giants have been calling players up left and right and most of their call-ups have worked out so far. Jonathon Bowker, Manny Burris, Alex Hinshaw and Billy Sadler have all performed well and have earned roles on this team. It wouldn't surprise me to see Denker come in and do the same.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, May 19, 2008

Giants Slipping After Homestand

The Giants started out this 10 game home stand with a series win over a tough Phillies team that was playing well and it looked like things were improving. Vizquel was back and playing well and the team was getting solid pitching. Now after the home stand, the team stands at 4-12 in May and are a season low 11 games under .500. The solid pitching is becoming less of a regularity now especially in the bullpen. All the sudden Tyler Walker is becoming in-effective and with Walker not throwing well and Merkin Valdez on the shelf, the Giants pen is looking a little thin. Brian Wilson also had a rough outing in Sunday's game, but it was his first appearance in 5 days and the Giants were already down in the game. I'm not worried about Wilson or even Walker yet, but the fact that Walker is now sporting an era in the 7's shows that he's off right now. As a matter of fact, the bullpen's most reliable arm going lately has been Keichi Yabu. The Giants have gotten ok performances from call-ups Alex Hinshaw and Billy Sadler but it's still to early to determine exactly what roles they will have in the bullpen.

The Giants should be getting at least one arm back in the next week or so. Kevin Corriea and Noah Lowry are both being sent to Arizona to participate in extended spring training. Corriea has been throwing and could be one or 2 minor league starts away from being activated. Lowry is a little slower along in his recovery, but at least it's good to know that he's beginning to throw and if he can avoid any set-backs, a mid-June return may not be out of the question. The Giants rotation has been so inconsistent over the last month and this team will be helped out immensely if Corriea and Lowry can get back sooner than later. Brad Hennessey has also been throwing well down in Fresno as he's trying to find his way back to his pre-2008 form. Hennessey is 2-0 in 2 starts in Fresno as the Giants are getting him as many innings as they can by using him in the rotation. If he keeps winning down there, it's tough to imagine the Giants keeping him down for too long.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vizquel Returns

The Giants got Omar Vizquel back over the weekend, and as expected, it showed immediately. Vizquel had three hits on his first day back, then was walked three times the following game and provided his signature defense all weekend. The Giants are 2-1 since his return and look like they have definitely gotten a boast. Now all the sudden the team has some depth at the shortstop position. Vizquel looks like he's close to %100 and Emmanuel Burris is looking like a playable option at short the more he plays. Burris is actually slowly starting to take some at-bats away from Eugenio Velez who just hasn't had the same success in the regular season as he did in Spring training. Bruce Bochy started last week that even with Vizquel's return and Burris outplaying Velez, sending him down to Fresno is not an option at this point. Velez is out of options so would be placed on waivers and available to the other teams before he could be sent down to the minors. With Velez struggling in the two hole, I think it could make some sense to give Vizquel another shot there early on to see if he reverts back to '06 form. Velez has struggled there and asking Burris' to become a number two hitter on a nightly basis is asking too much at this point.

Barry Zito had his second start in which he was not too good, but not too bad either. Zito went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits but really only made 1 crucial mistake that hurt him. That mistake was giving up a two out, 2-run homer to Lance Berkman that tied the game. No, he's still nowhere close to a 126 million dollar pitcher, but the Giants are stuck with him so it's good to at least see him moving in the right direction, hopefully. The team could use it as their pitching staff has been roughed up a bit lately. The rotation is ridiculously young and green right now with Misch and Sanchez each in there (they both have a combined 22 big league starts between them. Kevin Corriea is looking like he's starting to make some progress in returning from his injury, but Noah Lowry is still a ways off, so the Giants are going to need Zito now more than ever to start eating up innings.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, May 09, 2008

In"Cain"sistent

The Giants return home after a disappointing 6 game road trip in which the team went 1-5. Matt Cain had another rough outing as his inconsistent start to the season has carried over into May. Cain had been terrific in his previous 3 starts, but was credited for 5 runs in 6 1/3 innings Thursday as his record fell to 1-3 and era rose to 4.50. The Giants #1 and #2 starters are now a combined 1-10 with a 5.76 era. Granted, most of those losses and era are due to Barry Zito's horrific start. Zito had his best outing of the year on Wednesday so expect to see him stay in the rotation for the time being. Cain continues to be a mystery though. He isn't quite struggling, but he certainly hasn't pitched up to his potential for the most part early on this season. I don't put a huge stock into the quality start stat (6+ip, 3 er or less allowed), but Cain has only been deemed "quality" in 3 of his first 8 starts which isn't a very good ratio. He has the arm and body type to throw 120 pitches a night but he needs to learn how to make those pitches last 7-8 innings rather than 5-6. Cain has been known for getting deep into games his first couple of seasons in the big leagues but has yet to complete more than 7 full innings this year. Again, not saying that this is anything to really worry about with a 23-year old pitcher, but at some point I would like to see more consistency out of Mr. Cain.

The Giants will receive a huge lift, both defensively and most likely offensively, Saturday when Omar Vizquel comes off the disabled list. The most logical move at this point would be to send Bocock to AA Connecticut when Vizquel returns. The Giants shortstop position has been a black hole offensively as Giants' shortstops are hitting under .200 in the early season. Vizquel had a bad season at the plate last year but will look like a slugger compared to what Brian Bocock has done at the plate this year. Omar had a nice September to end the '07 season so hopefully he carries that over into this year. Bocock has been pretty solid in the field but his at-bats are getting worse and worse as the season goes. He started out the year respectable at the plate and had his average around .250 for a while, but over the last 2 weeks he has really been exposed at the big league level. Emmanuel Burris is a little more bat ready for the big leagues and although he doesn't quite have the glove that Bocock has, he still is a solid defender and one the best base runners on the squad.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Zito Makes Rotation Return

Wednesday nights' game in Pittsburgh is going to be a big one for Barry Zito, maybe his biggest of his 1+ seasons' with the team. After being sent to the bullpen to miss a start and get a chance to clear his head, Zito returns to the rotation to make his first start and appearance since April 27th when he gave up 8 runs in 3 innings to the Cincinnati Reds. Zito has a few things going for him as he is trying to get back on track. He will be pitching in a spacious yard and although the Pirates have been scoring a lot of runs lately, this is one of the weaker offenses and best pitching match-ups Zito has faced all season. That said, a lot must still go right for him to get his first win of the season. Zito's key will be getting through the first two innings without giving up a crooked number. He's been having trouble giving up big innings early which really seems to take the life out of the team. It's tough to stay mentally focused when your pitcher goes out and gives up a 6 spot before you even get to step up to the plate and it's no surprise that the Giants' defense and offense hasn't been as sharp on the days when Zito pitches. Anyway, tonight will be a chance for Zito to get back on track and while I'm not expecting a great outing, but I do expect to see improvement. Fearless Prediction for Zito's start Wednesday night: 5.2 ip, 7 h, 4 er, 3 bb, 3k (no decision).

One Veteran who has gotten back on track recently is Rich Aurilia. Aurilia has really turned his season around over the last week and is starting to really help the team offensively. He should be in the lineup on a nightly basis while he's swinging like he is and Jose Castillo struggling. Fred Lewis also needs to be in the lineup on an everyday basis. Fred Lewis has been sitting a lot vs. left handed pitching which doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I understand giving Lewis a day off here and there and picking a night when a tough left-handed starter is on the mound is a good time to give him one, but it seems like Bochy is tentative to give Lewis consistent ab's vs. left-handers. Lewis has been out of the lineup the last 2 games in a row as the Giants have faced left-handed pitching each night. It doesn't make much sense to me either because Lewis hits very well vs. southpaws and has a swing that is designed to hit the ball the other way. I don't think he looses much as a hitter vs. lefties other than a little bit of power. Fred Lewis has clearly been the standout on the team as far as the young players are concerned and the Giants shouldn't be having him in any kind of platoon. If it weren't for Lewis and the few exciting spurts shown by Jonathan Bowker, this offense would be a whole lot less exciting and those two are slowly becoming fan favorites around San Francisco.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Misch Struggles In Zito's Place

Pat Misch took Barry Zito's turn in the rotation Friday night in Philadelphia but didn't fair much better than Zito has over the first month of the season. Misch gave up 4 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks over 4 innings and put the Giants in a hole early. A couple clear mistakes were made by him facing former Giant Pedro Feliz. The Giants know better than anyone Feliz's love for first pitch strikes and in both of his at-bats vs. Misch he got them. His second at-bat is was the big blow as he hit a first pitch, hanging changeup into the left-field seats at Citizens Bank Park. Even with early deficit, the Giants came back and forced extra-innings but Brian Wilson blew the save in the bottom of the thirteenth to cost the Giants what would have been an impressive come back win. Misch has now had 1 solid outing and one bad outing so far this year but what has really stuck out is his knack for giving up the long ball. In only 10 innings this season he has already given up 4 home runs. You don't really like to see a pitcher giving up anymore than 1.5 home runs per 9 innings so Misch has to work on that. Misch is in line to get at least 2 more starts as Kevin Corriea will not be back until mid-May at the earliest and Zito will likely be in the pen for at least a week in order to get a couple of outings in. The Giants have said that Barry Zito will be available for relief use starting Saturday so it should be very interesting to see how he does as he's trying to get his rotation spot back as soon as possible.

It was good to see Aaron Rowand have success in his return to Phily as well. While he probably isn't going to make the all-star team again this year, he is still performing up to expectations in my opinion. He has played through cracked ribs early on and other than the grimaces he'd have after diving of sliding, you couldn't tell he was even hurt. He has had his average up over .300 all season long (currently at .330) and he hasn't been a huge power source but his three home runs on the year have come in clutch situations. It seems like every time he has come up with a chance to drive in a run, he does it. Sure the Giants still overpaid by about 2 million per season and gave him 2 years longer than everyone would have proffered, but after one month, Rowand looks like a he's going to work out. Him and Bengie Molina are becoming very consistent in the middle of the Giants order but I would like to see Bengie hitting behind Rowand in the fifth spot rather than in front of him. Hitting behind Bengie is costing Rowand RBI's and the Giants need to have someone in front of him who can score from first when he hits one to the gap.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________
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