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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Giants Stay Quiet at the Deadline

As many expected, the Giants stayed very quiet during the final hours of the non-waiver trade deadline Thursday. In fact, most of baseball was pretty quiet outside of the Ken Griffey deal and Manny Ramirez getting shipped to LA. I am a little disappointed the Giants couldn't unload Randy Winn and get something halfway decent in return, but not at all surprised. Winn seemed like the one logical piece the Giants have that could have made sense for a team like the Mets. As far as trade targets, there was an article out of the San Jose Mercury yesterday that confirmed that the Giants and Rangers were discussing a potential Hank Blalock deal as the Giants had scouts in Texas watching him over the last week. However, Blalock was just placed on the DL after getting injured a few days ago, which killed any potential trade in the works. The name that was mentioned regarding who the Rangers were targeting from the Giants was Jonathon Sanchez. If that was the case, I'm glad no deal was made. Although he has struggled in July, Sanchez has busted out this season and finally shown some of that potential he has. Though there wasn't any deals made Thursday, that doesn't mean the Giants still won't unload a few veterans before the August 31'st non-waiver deadline. If Winn and maybe Omar Vizquel or Dave Roberts can heat up over the next few weeks and some team suffers and injury or gets desperate, the Giants may still be able to clean some house, but I'm not expecting it.

Even though Ray Durham was the only veteran dealt before Thursday's deadline, the Giants need to stick to the plan of playing the younger players more and more over the last 2 months of the season. Nate Schierholtz is once again dominating in Fresno (.314 avg, 15 hr, 65 rbi, .931 OPS in 88 games) and he really needs to be playing everyday in the big leagues. If the Giants need to turn Winn into a part time player at this point, so be it, but Schierholtz needs to play. The Giants offense has gone stone cold over the last couple weeks. They haven't even scored a run in the last 23 innings which is nearly 3 full games without a run. Add that with the fact that they're 7-16 since June 30th, and I'd say it's time to mix things up a little. I do realize calling up Schierholtz and playing him and Fred Lewis over Dave Roberts and Randy Winn would be sitting 14 million dollars on the bench, but Lewis and Schierholtz are the better options for this team at this point. I like Winn, and I expect him to be back next season and play a big role with this team, but Schierholtz is more than ready, and the Giants need to find a way to give him a legit look this year.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Giants Rebound In LA

After sweeping the Washington Nationals for their first home series win since mid-May, the Giants again slumped back into their losing ways getting swept at home by the Diamondbacks, before rebounding in LA on Monday night. That's pretty much the Giants season in a nutshell there: play good for a few games, then look horrible for a few and vice versa. Last nights game in LA could have been disastrous, as the Giants defense fell apart behind Kevin Corriea in the fifth inning after staking a 7-0 lead. Corriea had one of his better starts of the year, carrying a no hitter and not allowing a base runner into the 5th inning, but the team got sloppy behind him and it almost cost him the game. It was good to see "KC" throw well as he has had a tough year battling injuries. His line doesn't look great, but if you saw the game you'll know that he pitched a whole lot better than the box score shows. He was also helped out by the bullpen as they came through in getting the final 11 outs of the game. Bruce Bochy made an announcement that he's going to start using Jack Taschner as the 8th inning set-up man to Brian Wilson and in his first test holding a game, Taschner passed with flying colors. Taschner's promotion pushes Tyler down in the bullpen depth chart and with the way Sergio Romo has thrown since his call-up, Walker may be moving down even further here pretty soon.

As far as the trade deadline rumors are concerned, it has been pretty quiet on the Giants front since they dealt Ray Durham to Milwaukee last week. There was a report out of Florida that the Marlins have Bengie Molina at the top of their wish list of possible catchers to target. Molina is the one Giant veteran who the team isn't actively shopping and they will need to be blown away by what the Marlins or possibly the Angels are going to offer for him. The Giants don't have any catcher that is anywhere close to taking over an everyday role yet and Molina does a terrific job with the young Giants' pitching staff. The one guy who everyone has been talking about in the Marlins system this year is Dallas McPherson, who all the sudden has become a "late-blooming" prospect again with 38 bombs in AAA. I wouldn't do a Molina for McPherson deal straight up, but if Florida threw in top ten first base prospect Gaby Sanchez, I think the Giants would need to consider a deal like that. Another team linked to the Giants this weeks has been the New York Mets. The Mets have inquired about both Molina and Randy Winn. Surprisingly, Sabean said he is not actively pursuing trying to deal Winn, who if dealt would open up a position for Fresno's top hitter, Nate Schierholtz. Winn's a good pro and not hurting the team by any means, but Schierholtz is ready and will probably be just as productive, if not more. If the Giants pass on a deal that would give up Winn, they better have a good plan for this winter because they still have an abundance of outfielders lined up to return next season.
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Friday, July 25, 2008

Giants Win a Home Series

For the first time in 2 months, the Giants won a series at home vs. the Nationals, and like always, it was the pitching that lead the way. Barry Zito made his first start of the second half and it was a success. I know I shouldn't be saying that when your so called ace scrapes out a quality start, you shouldn't be praising him, but that's become the case with Zito. Matt Cain did a little more of good ol' fashion dominating in his start yesterday. Cain's sea saw year continues as he seems to keep following up sub-par starts with dominant ones. As a matter of fact, over his last 5 games, Cain has gone shutout, loss, shutout, loss and shutout again, in that order. If only he could start stinging together some of these dominant starts like Tim Lincecum did in the first half of the year, he'd really start coming into his own. Cain's era is falling though and he's almost back to .500, a place he hasn't seen much of over the last 2 seasons.

However, Cain and Zito weren't the only ones to come through on the mound this week. The young bullpen that seems to get younger each week put together a nice series vs. the Nats. Alex Hinshaw has been nails since he arrived back in May and the Giants may have found a right-handed counterpart to him. Sergio Romo has been very good since his promotion as well. The 25-year old righty has been dominating the minors over the last 2 seasons and has 9 k's and has only allowed 6 hits and 2 earned runs though 9.2 innings pitched with the big club. He's not striking out quite as many as Hinshaw, but he's proving equally hard to hit and score off of.

Another trade rumor surfaced in recent days as we inch closer and closer to the July 31st trade deadline. According to CNNSI.com , the Giants have expressed interest in Texas Rangers' third basemen Hank Blalock. The 27 year-old would fit the Giants mold of trying to get younger, and would give them a pretty legit power bat at third base for the first time since Matt Williams, but Blalock comes with some red flags as well. He hasn't put together a healthy, full season in a couple of years and he hasn't been really productive or been a high impact player ever since he hit that home run in the all-star game in Chicago in 2005. Another cog in any potential Blalock deal would be the return the Rangers would want. Texas knows that the market for 3rd basemen, outside of Joe Crede, is going to be small this winter and Blalock will be a commodity. I have a hard time believing they'd part with him for anything short of a few sure thing starting pitchers. One name that comes to mind immediately is Noah Lowry, whom the Rangers have expressed interest in during the past. Lowry is still recovering from elbow surgery and probably won't pitch in the bigs this year, but that doesn't mean his name won't be discussed in trade rumors. I'd think a package of maybe Schierholtz and Lowry could get Blalock, but that's too much to part with on the Giants half. The Rangers and Giants just don't match up well for trading and I highly doubt that Blalock goes anywhere before the deadline, just had to throw it out there.
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Durham Sent to Millwaukee

With a little less than 2 weeks before the July 31st trade deadline, the Giants have made the first of what hopes to be a string of moves in order to rid their roster of their veteran players.

Ray Durham had been scouted by the Brewers for the last 2+ weeks and on Sunday night after they finished their 3 game series, the Giants and Brewers agreed on a deal that sent Durham to the Brew Crew for a couple of minor leaguers. The guys the Giants got in exchange for Durham aren't 4 or 5 star prospects, but I am at least little bit intrigued by 22 year-old Darren Ford who was playing for the Brewers high-A affiliate. Ford was ranked as the best defensive outfielder and base runner in a Brewers' system that featured some big time talent before the year. He is only hitting .237, but has 48 stolen bases which ranks second in all of minor league baseball. He also has scored 57 runs which isn't bad and made the FSL all-star team in June. Ford's bat looks like it has the potential to improve. Last season, he hit .335 with 5 home runs, 33 rbi, 31 steals and 48 runs in only 51 games at the low-A level. Most likely, the Giants have themselves a younger version of Rajai Davis, an extremely fast athletic outfielder with a below average bat, but he has upside and the Giants are finally giving players with upside and still has time to develop at 22.

The other guy the Giants acquired in the trade is 26 year-old lefty, Steve Hammond. I'm not too intrigued with Hammond outside of the fact that he's left handed. He was a former 6th round pick, so he he's got ability, but he's never really done much since being drafted. He has an era in the 7's with the Brewers AAA affiliate, but he was throwing well in AA earlier in the year. I don't expect to ever see Hammond dawn a Giants uniform, but I have no complaints at all about his deal. Ray Durham was a solid Giant, and outside of his huge fall off last season, and a few too many trips to the disabled list, he has been one of the Giants most consistent offensive performers during his tenure here. However, he's 36, a free agent after the year and there's no way the Giants were bringing him back. Now they open the door at second for the likes of Eugenio Velez, Travis Denker and Emmanuel Burris to soak up at-bats and see if any of these guys can claim that spot heading into next season. I have to say, job well done by Sabean on this deal, but I would still like to see Omar Vizquel, Rich Aurilia and Randy Winn moved before the 31st.
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Giants Stagger Into Break

Heading into this month, the Giants were probably playing their best ball of the year. They were still 8-10 games below .500 at the time, but they were only 3.5 games out of first place at one point in early July. However, they lost 7 of their last 9 leading up to the break and the pitching is starting to look tired. The bullpen hasn't been great, but it hasn't been bad either over the first half of the year, but everyone in that pen could use a few days rest and the break couldn't have come at a better time. The offense has been tailing off over the last 2 weeks as well, mainly the run producers in the middle of the order. Aaron Rowand hit only .225 in June after tearing it up and leading all NL outfielders in batting average over the first two months of the year. The teams' cleanup hitter, Bengie Molina, has hit only .234 since June 1st and hasn't homered since May 27th, not quite the numbers you look for from your cleanup spot. The team's number 3 hitter, Randy Winn, has performed more along the lines of a 2nd or 7th place hitter. Winn only has 5 home runs on the year which is low even by his standards. The more disturbing stat for Winn is that he has only one extra base hit since June 20th. Winn's numbers would be a little easier to take if he were hitting for a high average and getting on base a ton, but that's not the case.

Over the next couple weeks leading up to the trade deadline, I will most likely be mentioning something about that in each post. Lately the Giants have had a few players come up in rumors as the Milwaukee Brewers have supposedly inquired about Jack Taschner and Ray Durham. Rickie Weeks has been un-productive for them this year and they would like Durham to come in and platoon with him. The Brew Crew also only sport one left-hander in their pen at the moment and he's a rookie. They would like to solidify that are as they prepare to make a push for the Cubs and/or the wild card spot. Not that Durham and Tascher would get anything major in return, but even a couple mid-level, offensive prospects would be better than having them leave after the year for nothing. They have two guys who I wouldn't mind nabbing in Alcidas Escobar and Stockton native Chris Errecart. Escobar is probably a stretch, but Errecart could probably be had as he won't ever see time at first base with the Brewers as long as Prince Fielder is there. Again, just pure speculation, but the Brewers are the first team I've hear linked to any Giants players so I thought I'd throw that out there. Either way, the Giants need to be sellers leading up to the deadline. Everybody should be available besides the the obvious keepers and the only ones I see on the big league roster are Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jon Sanchez, Brian Wilson, Alex Hinshaw, Merkin Valdez, Jon Bowker and Fred Lewis.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

NL West Again NL's Worst

Back in 2005-2006, the NL West was widely regarded as one of the weaker divisions in the game. Then 2007 came around and 2 teams from the West made the playoffs and all of the sudden the NL West was starting to look like the class of the National League. However, As we sit in mid-July in the 2008 season, not a single team in the division is sporting a record higher than .500. In fact both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are tied for first place, both at 45-46 and even though the Giants are over 10 games below .500, they sit only 6 games back of first. In a way it makes it exciting to watch games knowing your team is only a handful of games out of contention, but I think it could be hurting the Giants a little in this case. It would still take a small miracle for this team to work itself into a position to make the playoffs but right now, Bochy and Co. are taking that approach. I'd hate to see the Giants hold onto their veterans come the July 31st trade deadline just for the simple fact that they are still within striking distance of first place. This year is supposed to be a rebuilding season and I would much rather see Travis Denker, Jon Bowker and Emmanuel Burris getting the bulk of the playing time over the likes of Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham and Omar Vizquel. Not that Aurilia and Durham have been struggling, but they aren't going to be here next season, and the Giants need to be focusing on the future. So whether the Giants are 5 games back or 15 out come July 31, they should approach as sellers, and fully plan on playing the youth full time over the last 2 months of the season.

Another guy who figures into the Giants future (whether they like it or not) is Barry Zito. It looked like Zito had turned the corner with his first start in July with a 7 inning, 2 hit, 10 strikeout performance. In Thursday's start, Zito took another step back. Once again, the overpriced lefty was bitten hard with wildness and barely made it through 5 innings while walking 6 and throwing over 100 pitches. It seems like every time Zito makes a good start, one that you think he can build on, he always follows it up with a couple rough ones. He wasn't the only one to take a loss in New York though. All-Star Tim Lincecum also got lit up in his start on Tuesday as he suffered his second loss of the season. Lincecum still has as good a shot as Volquez and Webb at starting the all-star game for the NL, but this latest outing certainly won't help the matter.
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Monday, July 07, 2008

Lincecum and Wilson All-Stars

The all-star selections were made official on Sunday, and surprisingly to some, two San Francisco Giants were selected. Everybody across the nation has heard of Tim Lincecum and is recognizing his dominance this season, so he was a lock to make the team. At this point, he has as good a shot at starting the game for the NL as anybody. The other Giant selected to the team was closer Brian Wilson. This selection came as a surprise to a lot of baseball fans as Wilson does lead the league in saves, but his 4.37 era and 1.40 whip is nowhere near the other elite closers in the league. One guy who some felt should have gotten the node over Wilson was the Dodgers' Takashi Saito. The Dodgers closer is marginally better than Wilson in every statistical category this year except for saves. Other than that, I am glad to see Wilson get the nod. Young closers can never have too much confidence and Wilson should feel like he's officially arrived as one of the games better closers with this selection. The Giants also Aaron Rowand on the 5-man list of potential final picks, but every other player on the list has had a better year than Rowand and it would be extremely surprising to see him get voted in over the likes of David Wright and Pat Burrell.

The two Giant all-stars weren't the only talk around town on Sunday. Barry Zito also was gaining some headlines after he turned in a great performance on Saturday. Zito struck out 10 batters for the first time since mid-2004 and only allowed the Dodgers two hits over 7+ innings pitched. One reason why he was able to dominate like he did Saturday was because of his increased velocity. He had been around 83-85 for most of the first 3 months of the year, but over his last couple starts, his velocity has risen to 86-87 on a more consistent basis. He now has 20 strikeouts over his last 3 stars and his number of strikeouts has finally surpassed the number of walks allowed on the season. I was begining to think that that was impossible about a month ago. Zito's win on Saturday also pushed to within 4 games of the first place Diamondbacks. I said in the mid-season review that if Zito can pitch better in the second half, the Giants will be a much better team and I do expect that to happen. Not expecting Zito to make it back to .500, but I am expecting to see his era drop back into the 4's and I don't expect his whip to be around 1.80 all year long.
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Thursday, July 03, 2008

All-Star Picks

With voting for the all-star game over with and official selections right around the corner, I wanted to pick my own version of how the all-star teams should play out, based purely on performance with no popularity taken into consideration.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Starting Lineup:
SS Hanley Ramirez Fla.
2B Chase Utley Phi.
3B Chipper Jones Atl.
1B Lance Berkman Hou.
DH Albert Pujols Stl.
RF Ryan Braun Mil.
LF Carlos Lee Hou.
C Russel Martin LA
CF Nate McLouth Pit.
P Tim Lincecum SF

Bench:
3B David Wright NYM
1B Adrian Gonzalez SD
SS Jose Reyes NYM
2B Brandon Phillips Cin.
2B Dan Uggla.
OF Ryan Ludwick Stl.
OF Matt Holliday Col.
C Brian McCann Atl.
OF Corey Hart Mil.
3B Aramis Ramirez ChC.
OF Carlos Beltran NYM

Pitchers:
RH Edison Volquez Cin.
RH Ben Sheets Mil.
RH Brandon Webb AZ
RH Kerry Wood ChC
RH Dan Haren AZ
RH Brad Lidge Phi.
LH Cole Hammels Phi.
LH Billy Wagner NYM
LH Johan Santana NYM
RH Jon Rauch Was.
RH Jake Peavey SD

The toughest choice here seems to be who's going to start on the mound for the NL. They've been neck and neck all year, but I picked Lincecum over Volquez because he's been better over the last month.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Lineup:
CF Grady Sizemore Cle.
RF Ichiro Suzuki Sea.
3B Alex Rodriguez NYY
LF Josh Hamilton Tex.
DH Milton Bradley Tex.
2B Ian Kinsler Tex.
1B Justin Morneau Min.
C Joe Mauer Min.
SS Mike Young Tex.
P Roy Halladay Tor.

Bench:
CI Kevin Youkilis Bos.
OF Jermaine Dye ChW
OF Manny Ramirez Bos.
OF J.D. Drew Bos.
OF David DeJesus KC
OF Carlos Quentin ChW
2B Dustin Pedroia Bos.
3B-OF Aubrey Huff Bal.
IF Carlos Guillen Det.
C AJ Pierzynski ChW.
SS Derek Jeter NYY
3B Evan Longoria Tam.

Pitchers:
LH Cliff Lee Cle.
RH Justin Duchsherer Oak.
RH Mariano Rivera NYY
RH Ervin Santana LAA
RH Jon Papelbon Bos.
LH Joe Saunders LAA
RH Joakim Soria KC
RH Josh Beckett Bos.
RH Gavin Floyd ChW
RH Joe Nathan Min.

The AL squad, lead by MVP candidates Josh Hamilton and Alex Rodriguez, doesn't look as strong on paper as it has in the past and their dominance may come to an end this year.
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