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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Giants Trade Alderson for Freddy Sanchez

Well, I am on vacation, and didn't plan on making another post until the weekend, but anytime the team makes a big-time trade, that always calls for immediate posting.

I'm sure most of you baseball fans are aware by now that the Giants have traded one of their top pitching prospects in Tim Alderson to the Pittsburgh Pirates for oft-injured all-star second basemen Freddy Sanchez. The first I hear about this move was actually on line, as I was scrolling through Yahoo Sports and saw the headline "Giants acquire Sanchez from Pirates". I read said article, but that article only had information about the player the Giants attained and didn't give any info about who they gave up. At that point, I figured they may have gotten him without dealing anyone too significant, otherwise the Yahoo writers would have included it in their article. However, that couldn't be any less the case. The Giants had to part with their number 2 pitching prospect, and a guy who a lot of scouts see as a future ace in Tim Alderson, to get a hold of the steady-hitting second basemen.

Now, I'm not going to sit here all post and beat this subject to death, I just want to say it once and leave it at that; I would not have made this deal if I were Sabean. Not because I don't think Sanchez will help, but because I would have rather seen a bigger deal go down if it had to involve Alderson. I can't help but think that the Giants could have gotten someone a lot better than Sanchez for a package with Alderson and a few other guys. Now, I'm on vacation and trying to keep the mood good, so I'm not going to spend my day dwelling about this because there are some positive sides to this move. Sanchez is an all-star caliber second basemen, and although he doesn't posses the pop that the Giants lack, he's a career .300 hitter who will come in and stabilize a position of need for the orange and black. He's also under contract through the 2010 season, so he's not just going to be a one-and-done type player over the last 2 months.

Freddy had somewhat of an off year in 2008, but in '06-'07, he hit .344 and .304 respectively, and had over 80 RBI in each of those seasons. He is a guy who can hit with runners in scoring position and immediately becomes the teams best all-around right-handed bat. He's also more than capable defensively at second base, which should strengthen the Giants up the middle. Again though, he's battling a bum knee right now that could keep him out another couple of days, which is fine, as long as this thing doesn't linger all season. With the news of Edgar Renteria ailing and needing offseason surgery, it was pretty immanent that the Giants added another infielder, and Sanchez had been on their radar for much of the past month. He's a good player, and he along with Ryan Garko may be enough to jump start this offense and bring them to a respectable level, but giving up Alderson was too much if you ask me!

Note: Again, I'm in Southern California until Monday, so unless something big goes down between now and then (like a deal for a starter?), we probably won't have another post here until Monday, August 2nd! Thanks for checking us out, and be sure to check on Monday!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Giants Add Ryan Garko, But Not Finished

The Giants made a move in attempt to jump-start their waning offense on Monday, adding first basemen/outfielder, Ryan Garko from the Cleveland Indians. They sent to the Indians one of their better young pitching prospects in left-hander Scott Barnes, and they may not be done quite yet as the trade deadline looms just 3 days away.

Right off the bat, I have to say, this move reminded me eerily of the one that landed the Giants Shea Hillenbrand back in the 2006 season, as has been pointed out by a couple of media members already. Garko is a solid hitting first basemen, though not great, and not necessarily a middle-of-the-order type of guy, much like Hillebrand was when the Giants dealt for him. However, that's about where the comparisons stop if you ask me. Garko seems like a much better teammate and is getting better, whereas Hillenbrand was a cancer who's career was spiraling downward. Not to mention, Garko is under team control for another 3 years, and should be a main cog on the Giants roster for a while. This year, in 239 at-bats in Cleveland, he hit .285 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI to go along with a respectable .825 OPS. Although he's only been in the league 3.5 years, he's proven himself as a run producer, as he's driven in 235 runs in his 408 ballgames. He hasn't hit for quite as much power as the Indians were hoping he would, but he did tally 35 home runs spread over the 2007-08 season without playing full-time, and his 11 jacks in just 235 at-bats this year proves that his power is still developing.

I can't really find much to dislike about this move here. He'll probably take over first-base on a regular basis, although Travis Ishikawa will still get some time vs. tough righties and as a defensive replacement late in ballgames. He's not going to cost the Giants big money at all anytime soon (he'll be eligible for arbitration this winter, but probably won't bring in anymore than $3-4 million a year). Is he a game changing, big-time power bat? No, but he's another solid, .280+ hitter who can drive the ball out of the park (or as Sabean refers to, a guy who can hit the 3-run homer) and can hit with runners in scoring position. I'd look for him to bat fifth after Sandoval and Molina when he makes his Giants debut hopefully Tuesday night. Like everyone who changes leagues, there will be some sort of transition and learning for Garko in the new league, but he seems like a good enough hitter to start contributing right away.

While Garko was a nice add, he certainly isn't the guy who's going to push the team over the top, and Brian Sabean may not be done making trades before July 31st. The Giants are still said to be very interested in Pittsburgh's second basemen Freddy Sanchez, as that position has been a black hole for the Giants all year long. The Giants only had to part with one guy, albeit a solid pitching prospect, in order to land Garko, so there still is some resources available on the farm that could be used for another bat like Sanchez. Since Garko is a first basemen/corner outfielder, it doesn't seem like Giants will be looking to add another corner guy, but you never know. Another second basemen who could be available to them, and a guy we've mentioned here while back is Brian Roberts. He was a guy who'd be on the trade block every summer there for a while in Baltimore, but apparently that's no longer the case. Brandon Phillips is another one who would be a perfect fit here in San Francisco, but he's the type of talent that would probably require one of the top prospects in return. Anyway, I'll be on the edge of my seat to see what Sabean comes up with between now and Friday, because I really don't think he's done.

Notes: The Giants sent left-handed starting pitcher Scott Barnes to Cleveland in the deal. Barnes, a 21 year-old lefty, was one of the Giants top-20 prospects and one of their brighter arms from the lower minors. After Bumgarner and Alderson, there were many that felt Barnes was number 3 in the organization coming into the year. He was 12-3 with a 2.88 era and 99 k's in his time with A San Jose this year... Also, I'm going to be on vacation in Southern California until Monday. I will probably put up a small post between now and then, and definitely something if the Giants make another move, but the Giants Baseball Blog will not be updated as frequently until Monday, August 2nd.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Giants Stumbling Into Trade Deadline

The non-waiver MLB trade deadline is just 5 short days away, and the first big move of the summer has already taken place (Matt Holliday trade to Cardinals). Giants' fans are still on edge waiting to see what general manager Brian Sabean can pull off before Friday's 1 PM deadline, as the team continues it's downward spiral since the all-star break.

If Brian Sabean is going to make a move to help this team for the stretch drive he still could get something done after the trade deadline, but that would involve waivers and is a much more complicated process which doesn't always work out. Therefore, if the Giants are going to add another bat or two, or maybe another starting pitcher, chances are it will be done before July 31st. The thing is, there hasn't been much talk about the Giants over the last week or so. They've really struggled out of the gate after the break, and they're on their way to another series defeat as they trail Colorado 4-2 in the seventh inning as I type. And I think those struggles may be what's keeping Sabean from pulling the trigger. Their main spot for need coming out of the break was on offense, but with Randy Johnson's injury, and Ryan Sadowski pitching a lot more like a minor league call-up over his last few outings, the Giants pitching staff isn't in the best shape itself. Something tells me that Sabean isn't ruling out adding another starter and he may be trying he darnedest to pull some sort of multi-player deal in order to bring in both a hitter and another quality arm by Friday afternoon.

As I pointed out in the last post, the team that really seems to match-up well with the Giants, trade-wise, is the Washington Nationals. They have an right-handed hitting outfielder (Josh Willingham) and a couple of first base options in Adam Dunn and Nick Johnson, who could really help the Giants. However, if they're trying to add a pitcher into the mix, Washington likely isn't the place to look. They do have John Lannan, who's a young lefty and would fit perfectly in behind Cain, Lincecum and Johnson, but asking the Nats to get rid of him is like asking the Giants to get rid of Lincecum or Cain. That's how much he means to that rotation. One team that may have an arm available to the Giants though are the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have both Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang who should be available. Neither has had particularly good years so far, but Harang is just 2 seasons removed from a 16-6 campaign, and Arroyo has been one of the games most steady right-handed arms over the last 6 years (keep in mind both are pitching in one of the most hitter friendly yards in the big leagues). Both of those guys would be major improvements over Ryan Sadowski, and neither would likely cost the Giants too much in return.

Notes: While the Giants have struggled since the break, one of their outfielders has got himself going again. Fred Lewis had been in a major funk, as he hit just .167 in June, but he had a couple of multi-hit games over the weekend in Colorado, which were his first multi-hit games since late May. I pointed out in this post about a week ago how I'd give Lewis another shot in the outfield again to see if he's gained anything while riding the pine, and it looks like has... Another young outfielder who recently got called up, John Bowker, has really struggled to get going since he's arrived in San Francisco. The powerful outfielder/first basemen has gone just 5 for 32 in his first 11 games back in the bigs. He better turn it around asap, or he'll find himself back in Fresno, building on those ridiculous numbers he was putting up there.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Giant Trade on the Horrizon?

The Giants offense has gone into an absolute tail-spin since the second half of the season started up for them on Friday. Fortunately they did muster up enough runs late in Thursday's game vs. Atlanta to support Barry Zito's stellar outing, but the Giants offense had totaled only 11 runs in their first 6 games out of the break.

The stagnant offense has caused fans to start getting antsy for the Giants to make a move to bring in a hitter, and with trade deadline just a week away, Brian Sabean is likely making his last minute inquiries. Henry Schulman reported in his blog earlier Thursday that the Nationals had a couple of scouts in Connecticut over the last few days, scouting out some of the Giants AA prospects. The Nat's have a number of players who could actually help the Giants out. Of course, the two names that have been bandied about the most have been Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn, but those aren't the only guys on the Nat's roster that could provide the Giants and offensive punch. I talked about Josh Willingham a while back here, as he's a right-handed hitting corner outfielder with above average power, and really is an all-around solid hitter. Heading into play Thursday, Willingham is carrying a .297 average with 13 home runs, 29 RBI and 40 runs scored in just 209 at-bats. The 13 home runs are better than any other current Giants outfielder, and actually matches the teams' top two, Aaron Rowand (9) and Fred Lewis' (4), put together. That said, I think the Giants would welcome Willingham to one of their corner spots with open arms.

An Adam Dunn/Josh Willingham to the Giants deal would be really be just what the doctor ordered for this team, but I'm just not sure they could pull it off without giving up one of their elite three prospects in Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson and Buster Posey. A few other guys in Connecticut who the Nat's could be looking at are 23 year-old righty Henry Sosa and 24 year-old lefty Ben Snyder. Sosa currently leads the Giants AA affiliate in winning percentage, with 6-0 mark to go along with a 2.36 era. Snyder has been lights-out in his first year since transitioning to the bullpen. He's got a 2.10 era and 67 k's in 68 innings of relief this year. Both of those would probably immediately become a couple of the Nat's top pitching prospects, as their system is pretty bare on young arms.

Whether it's Dunn and Willingham, Johnson and Willingham, just one of them, or someone like them, the Giants need to add some offense. Not necessarily a guy who hits 30 homers a year (though that would be nice), but at least another guy who hits .300 or so and can keep innings and rally's going. They've lost their lead in the NL wild card race, and have shown over the last week (2 wins, 5 losses) just how bad things can get when this team goes through offensive struggles. The clock is ticking towards the July 31st trade deadline, and I fully expect to see Sabean and the Giants active before that date. Both Sabean and Bochy are in the last years of their contracts and both need this season to finish well in order to have any shot at resigning with the Giants, and they just may have the team to make a little noise in the post-season with an addition or two to their lineup!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Giants Minor League Report: July

With the Giants offense still in a rut, and there's not much new to discuss since the last post, we're going to use today's post to take our overdue look down on the farm.

At the beginning of the year, most of the hype in the lower ranks of the organization surrounded the San Jose Giants, the teams single-A affiliate. However, as the second half of the season gets underway, most of the teams top prospects that started out in San Jose have been promoted to other levels within the organization. The most recent move the team made was sending their top non-pitching prospect, Buster Posey, from A San Jose to AAA Fresno. A leap up of two levels is something that the Giants don't do too often, but apparently they've seen enough in Posey (.326. 13 home runs, 58 RBI) to warrant that jump. Even though Posey is no longer on the roster, there still are a few hitting prospects making plenty of noise in the California League. Roger Kieshnick leads the team with 19 home runs and 76 RBI while carrying a respectable .301 average. 21 year-old Thomas Neal currently leads San Jose in hitting with a .342 mark, to go with 16 bombs and 60 RBI. A promotion for those two could happen as early as August 1. Not all the teams notable prospects in San Jose are swinging a hot bat though. Top-5 organizational prospect Angel Villalona (.267, 9 HR, 42 RBI) and Nick Noonan (.249, 5 HR, 46 RBI) hope to improve on their sub-par first halves.

The two pitchers that were promoted out of San Jose earlier in the year have been doing just fine in AA Connecticut. Top dog Madison Bumgarner is sporting a 1.59 era to go along with his 6-1 record. Tim Alderson hasn't been quite as dominant as Bumgarner, but the 6'6" right-hander is doing pretty darn well in his own right, sporting a 3.29 era to go along with his 6-1 record. The only area that has seen somewhat of a decline for the two aces is their strikeout rate. They both are striking out about 7 batters per 9 innings in AA, which isn't bad at all, but wasn't anywhere near where they were at in A ball. Brandon Crawford, the shortstop from UCLA who was promoted with Alderson and Bumgarner, has really been struggling of late. His average has dipped down to .241, and his power and RBI numbers a declining with the average. I didn't fully support promoting Crawford so soon back when they did, even though he had a spectacular start in San Jose, and I think it would be best for his development to send him down and let him finish the year in San Jose and hopefully finish off they way he started the 2009 season.

Up at the AAA level in Fresno, the Giants don't really have much right now as far as young prospects go. They did just call up Buster Posey, and I'm really excited to see how he takes to AAA over the next few weeks, but outside of Posey and Jesus Guzman, there aren't really any "prospects" in Fresno at the moment. John Bowker, who was putting up numbers worthy of PCL MVP consideration, got the call-up before the all-star break. The one guy who I'm keeping a close eye on is 2B/SS Emmanuel Burris. The 23 year-old started the year as the Giants starting second basemen, but a prolonged slump caused his demotion, and he really hasn't gotten right down in Fresno yet either. Burris is hitting just .268 with a measly .312 OBP, which won't cut it for a guy with little extra-base power. The only guy you can really consider a pitching prospect on the Fresno roster is Kevin Pucetas, and he's continued to be a steady anchor atop their rotation. Pucetas is carrying a 3.43 era and a 9-2 record in a team-high 115 innings pitched. He's not a big strikeout guy (67:32/K:BB ratio in those 115 innings), but he really has good command and knows how to get out of innings and limit the damage. He should be the next guy in line for when the Giants need someone to make a spot start or two, a la Ryan Sadowski.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Offense Obsolete in Pittsburgh

The Giants did manage to score a couple of runs on Sunday to support Matt Cain's strong start and salvage their finale in Pittsburgh, but look no further than the offense as far as why the team lost this series.

In the first two games after the all-star break, the Giants mustered just 1 run on 12 hits in 23 innings of play (Friday nights game went 14 innings). So it's pretty easy to see why they lost the first two games of the second half, despite getting superb pitching performances out of Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. Zito's start was especially intriguing because he had been coming off a horrible one, and his 5-9 record was starting to cause some chatter. His record did fall to 5-10, but he gave a quality effort, throwing 6 1/3 innings and allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits while striking out 4 batters. So yes, he did take another loss, but it was another loss in which he pitched well enough to win but got zero run support from the offense. Lincecum's start the night before was prototypical Lincecum. Dominating for 7 strong, striking out 10 batters and making only one mistake on the night, in which the newest Giants' killer to come along, Garrett Jones, hit over the center-field fence. With Randy Johnson on the shelf for for foreseeable future (a return before mid-August is looking less likely at this point), it's key that guys like Zito, Sanchez and Sadowski step up, and right now they're doing it.

They did their best, but the Pirates couldn't keep the Giants offense completely down all weekend. They did show up on Sunday (mainly just in the sixth inning) in order to support another brilliant outing from Matty Cain. Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker all had RBI's while Bengie Molina provided a 3-hit effort himself. One guy who didn't get a hit, and who's gone stone cold since the start of July is Aaron Rowand. The center fielders' success at the leadoff spot over the last 6-8 weeks has been a big reason why they've put themselves where they're at in the standings. Before Rowand moved to the leadoff spot, the Giants were hovering around .500, but after the move, Rowand took off, and so did the Giants offense. Now, I'm not blaming the icy second half start solely on Aarond Rowand, but it's apparent that the Giants need to have people at the top of the lineup that can jump start this offense and right now, Rowand is not doing so. I'm sure the Giants would love to see Randy Winn take off, and play himself back into the leadoff spot, but he's battling out of a long slump himself at the moment. The Giants are kind of an odd team in that they don't really have a prototypical leadoff guy, but in their type of offense and with their type of game plan, they really do need one. It may be time to give Fred Lewis a few starts to see if he's learned anything while riding the pine for the last 5 weeks? We'll see what Bochy comes up with if Rowands' average continues catapulting down, cause he's going to have to make a change.

GBB Notes
: It's been a while since we reviewed whats taking place in the minor leagues for the Giants. In June, we talked about the draft for the first couple of weeks and never did get to doing our Minor League report for that month, so we'll be taking an extra long look at the Giants farm teams in the next post, so stay tuned!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Giants First Half Review - Part II

Even though they sit atop the NL Wild Card standings and carry the second best record in the National league as the second half kicks off on Thursday, the Giants still have some issues that need to be addressed if they're serious about making a real run for the postseason. Last post we broke down the first half and what went right for the Giants, today we'll look at what didn't go so well and what needs to improve.

The Giants offense, while it's been a little better than expected coming into the year, has still been below league average throughout the first half. The teams combined average of .262 isn't bad, but their 368 runs scored ranks towards the bottom of the national league and a big reason for that is they've only hit 63 home runs as a team. Heading into the break, there really isn't one guy in particular though who is in danger of losing his job. A few guys who could improve in the second half though are Randy Winn (.275, 2 homers, 35 RBI) and Fred Lewis (.250, 4 hr, 12 RBI, who's struggles at the plate cost him the starting spot in left field. I don't think Lewis is completely out of the Giants plans, and since Nate Schierholtz hasn't completely ran away with an outfield spot over the last few weeks, Lewis could find himself back in the mix to start the second half. Winn has been up-and-down all year long, as he's seen his average get up as high as .312, and down as low as .261 over the first couple months of the season. Since he doesn't bring a lot of pop, it's crucial that Winn keeps his average around .300 in order to be of value to the offense. Bengie Molina and Edgar Renteria are a couple of other bats who have been solid in clutch situations, but who's averages could certainly use a boost.

The starting rotation, which has carried the Giants to where they're at right now, has been very good as a whole this year, but things can definitely get better. Barry Zito started to show some strides early in the year that looked as if he'd bounce back and possibly be a .500 pitcher with a sub-4 era. In fact, on June 5th, Zito was sporting a 3.86 era and was really looking like the pre-2007 version of hiself. However, after that start on June 5th, things have been all downhill for the overpriced lefty. As we sit at the break, Zito's carrying an era over 5, a WHIP of 1.41 and a win-loss record of 5-9. The other Giants lefty at the back end of the rotation, Jonathan Sanchez, hadn't fared much better until his most recent start before the break. In fact, even after Sanchez's masterpiece no-hit effort, he's still sporting a 4.89 era, a 1.50 WHIP and 3-8 record. These two have been a big reason why the Giants aren't actually a little bit better than where they're at right now, but I think both can do better, and will do better in the second half. Zito's always been a better second half pitcher throughout his career, and Sanchez is coming off the best start of his life, and should only feed off of it.

So, what needs to happen for the Giants to stay atop the wild card race and keep their pace with the Dodgers you say? Well, health would be the first thing that comes to mind. The guy who I'm thinking about in particular is Randy Johnson. The Big Unit has been huge for this team, and if he has to miss a bunch of time due to his shoulder strain, it will effect the team acordingly. The Giants rotation now has 3 guys (Sanchez, Zito and Ryan Sadowski) who are either unproven, or have proven to be inconsistent. That's 3/5 of the rotation that really is unpredictable. Sadowski has been a nice surprise, and I'm not too worried about him yet, but once he starts facing teams for a second time or goes up against premiere lineups, I'm not sure what to expect. Everyone wants to talk about how the team needs a bat or two to push them over the top, but depending on Johnson's status, they may need another starter just to keep them where they're at now. In a perfect world, Johnson comes back before the trade deadline and doesn't miss a beat, and the Giants are able to acquire a nice, middle of the order bat without giving up one of their top-5 prospects, and if that happens, they'll run away with the Wild Card. If they don't add another bat, and Johnson's injury starts lingering into August, then this team will struggle to keep their hold. It should be an interesting second half for the Giants as they zero in on a playoff birth for the first time since 2003, and it will all come down to health!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Giants First Half Review - Part I

With the first half of the Major League Baseball season completed, and the all-stars of baseball all gathered in St. Louis for tonight's mid-summer classic, I figured today would be a good day to break down the Giants first half. So in the first part of review, we'll take a look at what went right that has the Giants atop the NL Wild Card standings and with the second best record in the NL.

Coming into the season, nobody but those in the bay area had very big expectations for this team. People figured that they had a young exciting staff that should keep them in ballgames, but ultimately their offense would struggle to support it. However, that really hasn't been the case. Even though the offense hasn't been great, they've done enough to support their starters for the most part this season. Pablo Sandoval (.333, 15 hr, 55 RBI) has led the offensive charge and even though he didn't get all-star honors, he's may just get himself some MVP recognition if the Giants make the playoffs and he has a second half that mirrors his first one. In addition to Sandoval, Bengie Molina (11 HR, 50 RBI), Aaron Rowand ( .288, 9HR, 40 RBI, 44 runs) and Edgar Renteria (.364 avg with runners on base and 38 RBI's out of the 2 hole) have all been solid veteran presences in the Giants lineup. Juan Uribe has cemented himself into the Giants everyday lineup at second base and is hitting .301 with 4 homers and 20 RBI in 187 at-bats. Youngsters Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz have also put forth some solid efforts over the last month or so. Ishikawa, who struggled mightily through the seasons' first two months, has finally hit his groove and he's helped carry with a few big home runs in recent weeks and his play in particular has the Giants easing off a little in their pursuit for a bat.

While the offense has done just enough to get by in the first half, the pitching has been spectacular, both relief and starting. The starters seem to be getting better as the season wears and the only issue going on with the starting rotation is the question of when Randy Johnson will return. The Giants front 3 starters have combined to win 28 ballgames through the first half of the season, and an emergence from Ryan Sadowski and a no-hit performance from Jonathan Sanchez could provide a lift to the bottom half of the rotation to start the second half of the year.

Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have each won 10 games apiece and have lost just 2, and both have ridiculous numbers to go along with those 10 wins. Lincecum is second in the NL with a 2.33 era and a 1.05 WHIP and leads baseball with 149 strikeouts in 127 innings. Cain isn't far behind with a 2.38 era and a 1.26 WHIP along with 95 k's in 117 innings. Randy Johnson also put together a solid half. Minus his final appearance in which he was obviously not %100, he was 8-5 with a 4.60 era with 78 k's in 88 innings. His last 8 starts leading up to his injury though were all very solid outings and he was 5-1 over that stretch.

In the bullpen, things have been just as good as they've been in the rotation. In fact, the Giants collective bullpen era as a whole is the best in the National League. They're once again being led by closer Brian Wilson, who's had a few disastrous outings this year, but is 23 of 27 in save attempts and has really gotten the job done for the most part. His numbers are all improving on last seasons, as he's k'd 45 in just 39 innings and is sporting a 3.66 era, a 1.25 WHIP and a .230 BAA. The cast that get Wilson the ball have been equally as effective too, led by Jeremy Affeldt. The Giants' free-agent acquisition from last winter has been impeccable as a late reliever for the Giants in '09. The 30 year-old lefty is sporting a ridiculous 1.32 era and has 31 k's in his 34 innings pitched while keeping opposing hitters to a .209 average. Oh yeah, he's also leading all of baseball with 19 holds. The Giants right-handed set-up man, Sergio Romo, missed the first 2 months of the season, but has picked up right where he left of last season since his return. Romo is 2-0 with a 2.77 era and 16 k's in 13 innings along with 7 holds.

The middle relievers have been doing their job as well. Long-reliever Justin Miller (2-1, 1.98 era in 41 IP) and middle man Brandon Medders (2-1, 2.72, 32 k's/36 innings) have pleasant surprises after barely making this team out of camp (Miller actually was called up in mid-April). Bob Howry, who signed with the Giants over the winter, has been getting steadier as the season progresses as well, as he's got his era down to 3.38 in his 32 innings pitched. His era was up in the high 5's earlier in the year, but now Bochy feels confident using him in the 8th inning again.

-First-Half Team Awards-

MVP: Pablo Sandoval
Top SP: Tim Lincecum
Top RP: Jeremy Affeldt
Surprise Player: Juan Uribe
Top Rookie:
Travis Ishikawa
Defensive Player: Randy Winn

UP Next On GBB: Be sure to check back Thursday for Part 2 of the first half review in which we'll take a look at some of the things that haven't gone so well for the Giants. We'll also look at what's on tap for the second half as far as needs and things that have to improve for them to keep their place atop the Wild Card Standings.... Depending on what happens in the all-star game, we could give a quick recap of that on Wednesday, so check back tomorrow as well! Good luck to Tim Lincecum in his first ever all-star game start tonight, should be fun to watch!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Giants End First Half on a Roll

Even though the Giants couldn't complete the 4-game sweep of the Padres on Sunday, they still took 3 of 4 from San Diego, and enter the all-star break with the second best record in the National League at 49-39.

Once again, it was the starting pitching that paved the way for the Giants in the Padres series. Although it's kind of old news by now, we didn't get a chance to touch on Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter Friday Night yet, and I wanted to do so. Sanchez was bounced from the Giants rotation at the end of June, do to his struggles at finding the strike-zone, but he went to the bullpen for a few weeks and had a couple of really nice outings in relief. He showed enough improvement to where Bruce Bochy felt comfortably inserting him back into the rotation in Randy Johnson's spot, and he did he best impression of "The Big Unit", no-hitting the Padres and striking out 10 batters in the process. Almost as impressive as the no-hits though, was the goose egg in the walk column. Sanchez has been averaging about 5 walks per 9 innings pitched, and that was really the area which was getting him into trouble. If fact, it was the only time this year in which Sanchez pitched 4 or more innings without allowing at least 3 walks. Only a booted ground ball by Juan Uribe cost the 26 year-old lefty the perfect game. Sanchez was probably also feeding off of Tim Lincecum's brilliant start from the night before. Lincecum carried a no-no into the seventh inning on Thursday night, but unraveled a bit in the 7th and ended up being removed from the game before he could get out of it. Nonetheless, taking away Zito's start on Sunday, the Giants pitching staff, both starting and relief, was nearly untouchable for most of the weekend.

Even though the Giants are really playing good baseball right now, and are one of the hottest teams in the league over the last 6 weeks, there are a lot of players on the roster who could use a three-day rest. Edgar Renteria, Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand are a few guys who have been playing a ton, and not taking many days off. Molina got a few days off in the Padres series in addition to the upcoming 3 day break, so Bengie should be nice and rested for the second half. Renteria's only had one day off over the last 15 games, and his average is starting to take a bit of a dip because of it. Rowand is the type of guy who will fight Bochy to stay in the lineup everyday, so the all-star break is about the only time that Boch can give him a rest without having Rowand in his ear about it. The Giants actually are off on Thursday as well, so their all-star break is essentially 4 days long, although they will be traveling to Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Update on Cain: Matt Cain, who was selected to his first all-star game last week, took a line drive off the right-elbow in the second inning of his start on Saturday, and his status for the all-star game is looking doubtful right now. The X-rays revealed no break or fracture, and the injury is being classified as a bruise at the moment, but its going to be swollen and stiff for a couple of days, and due to the fact that it's on his pitching arm, likely means he'll be unavailable to pitch for the National League on Tuesday. Cain will still make the trip to St. Louis and hopefully he'll still get to enjoy everything else. Either way, the Giants don't think the injury will keep him from missing any starts at the beginning of the second half, although they may re-align the rotation and have him start the fifth game after the break, which would give him about 10 days in-between starts.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pablo Appreciation Post

Well, the final verdict came on Thursday, and Pablo Sandoval just missed being voted onto the NL all-star team, as he finished second in the voting behind Philadelphia's Shane Victorino.

Now, there is still a slight chance the "Big Panda" will sneak onto the team if someone gets injured between now and then, or to a lesser extent, if somebody decides to bail out on the game. Unfortunately, Charlie Manuel decided to take Jayson Werth as a replacement for Carlos Beltran, who will not be available for the National League. I understand supporting your own players and what not, but Sandoval's hitting .328 which is 60 points higher than Werth's .268 clip. Whether he gets to go or not, Pablo Sandoval's first half has to be appreciated, as he's become the most exciting offensive Giant since the days of Barry Bonds. Heading into Friday night's game, Sandoval's also got 13 bombs and 50 RBI to go along with that .328 average. What's more impressive though, is the way he's putting up these numbers. He's been one of the most clutch hitters on the Giants, and puts up his numbers when the team needs them, not when the games already decided. Coming into the year, I was expecting Sandoval to be around .280-.290 with his batting average, and possibly finish the year with 15 homers and 75+ RBI, and I would have taken those numbers. However, the 22 year-old versatile beast is on pace to hit .330 with 27 home runs, 98 RBI. Maybe he won't end up in St. Louis for the all-star game this season, but I think he's aware that he's deserving, and I would certainly expect to see Pablo Sandoval be in the running to make many, many more mid-summer classics in the future.

Speaking of Giants and the all-star game, Tim Lincecum made his final start before what likely will be his first ever all-star game starting assignment. Lincecum was brilliant for 6 innings, as he took a no-hit bid into the seventh vs. the struggling San Diego Padres, but allowed a leadoff single to Tony Gwynn Jr. and eventually was 3 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. Not a bad start at all, but not one that Lincecum was too pleased about after straight dominating the Padres bats for most of the night. The outing was still go enough to net "The Freak" his 10th win of the year and should still keep him right on track to start in the all-star game on Tuesday evening. Matt Cain, the teams' other all-star, won't pitch until Saturday afternoon, but that would still give him a couple of days rest before the all-star game, so 'Cainer should be available to pitch in the game as well. Bochy said he plans to speak with Manuel about the Giants two pitchers, and will relay that he would like Lincecum to go no more than 2 innings (which is pretty standard for starting pitchers in the all-star game) and Cain to be held to 1.

Bowker Returns: After placing Randy Johnson on the 15 day DL, the Giants re-called outfielder/first basemen Jon Bowker from Fresno. Bowker was absolutely tearing the cover off the ball for the Grizzlies, hitting .347 with 17 jacks and 64 RBI and 10 steals. Giants fans have been clamoring for the powerful lefty to be recalled for a few weeks now, and with Johnson's shelving, it finally became a possibility. The Giants are out of options on Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz and Travis Ishikawa, but can still have one on Bowker, which could actually work against him staying permanently on the roster. If he starts hitting like he did in Fresno though, the Giants will find a way to have him stick. He didn't have the best 2009 debut Thursday, going 0-3 with a strikeout, but based on the numbers he's put up in Fresno, I'm very intrigued to see how Bowker does this time around.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Giants Take 2 of 3 From Florida

Even though they failed to pull off the sweep on Wednesday, the Giants beat the Marlins two out of three times this week en route to pulling off yet another series victory.

The big bright spot in the series for the Giants was Barry Zito's magnificent start on Tuesday night. The Giants 18 million dollar fifth starter put forth one of his best efforts since dawning a Giants uniform in 2007, going 8 1/3 scoreless in his victory over Florida. This start was a huge one for a few different reasons. With Randy Johnson recently hitting the disabled list, the Giants are going to be without their #2 starter for the next couple of weeks, and while The Unit is out, the Giants need their starters to step it up a bit. The two guys in particular who will have the spotlight on them are Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, who's taking Johnson's spot just about 10 days after he lost his own spot in the starting rotation. Although he won three games in the month, Barry Zito did not have a particularly strong June, as he 5.81 era and a 1.52 WHIP in the month. The Giants are going to need him to be more like the Zito from May, in which he sported a 3.53 era spanned out over 40 innings of work. Sanchez has really struggled in the rotation all season long, but he had a few nice outings out of the bullpen, and maybe this time off will get him focused again. If the Zito and Sanchez do not pull their weight, the Giants rotation isn't going to be the strength that they have been throughout the season.

While they did do just enough to give the Giants the series victory, the team's offense didn't necessarily have their best offensive series vs. the Marlins. They mustered only 8 runs, as they were shutout in the final game on Wednesday, and part of the reason for that was due to Aaron Rowand's struggles at the plate recently. The Giants leadoff hitter could do no wrong for the first few weeks he was moved to the top spot in the batting order, but over the last four games, Rowand has sort of disappeared offensively. He went 0-11 with 3 k's and just one walk in the three-game set with Florida, and because of it, his batting average has dipped below .290 for the first time since late-May. Not that I'm panicking whatsoever about Rowand's mini-slump, just pointing out why the offense has been somewhat stagnant over the last couple of days.

Vote For Panda: Also, remember tonight is the last night to vote for Pablo Sandoval to get the final National League All-Star team roster spot. It's basically coming down to Pablo Sandoval or Shane Victorino from Philadelphia, and I believe Sandoval still has the slight edge in total votes right now, but a lot can change over the next 12-24 hours. Sandoval's numbers trump Victorino's in every single category besides stolen bases and runs scored, not too mention Sandoval has the versatility to play three positions and play them all pretty well. If Sandy doesn't get the nod, I would rather it go to Matt Kemp or Mark Reynolds, as those two have been much more deserving than Victorino in my opinion... Anyway, get to the online polls and vote for Pablo Sandoval; he definitely deserves it!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, July 06, 2009

Cain and Lincecum Named All-Stars

The 2009 Major League Baseball all-star rosters were announced on Sunday, and, as expected, the Giants had their top two starting pitchers named to the NL's squad. However, not all the Giants that were deserving of the honor got the nod.

Pablo Sandoval, who's leading NL third basemen in OPS and average and is amongst the leaders in all other major offensive categories, did not get named to the team as a reserve, but he is on the ballot of five NL players with a shot at that final roster spot. Sandoval's numbers are more impressive, all around, than the NL's starting third basemen, David Wright, but with the fans deciding who gets to start, Sandoval never really had a shot at getting more votes than the Mets third basemen, but I'm a little perplexed that he wasn't named as a reserve. Whens the last time you saw a guy who's fourth in the league in hitting? Not only does he have all these impressive offensive numbers, but he's also got the ability to play multiple positions, which would make it easier for Charlie Mannuel to actually work into the game. Giants fans, hit the Internet and start voting, because The Big Panda deserves to be in St. Louis for the mid-summer classic!

In addition to Sandoval, Bengie Molina and Brian Wilson were two others who had the numbers to get selected, but did not make the team. Wilson's numbers are quite as spectacular as what Sandoval's doing on the offensive side, but the Giants' closer is tied for second in the NL in saves and ranks third among NL closers in strikeouts. Wilson's 1.22 WHIP and 3.41 era, while still very impressive numbers, weren't quite up there with the league's other elite closers though, and those are likely the areas that separated him from the guys that were selected. Molina leads all NL catchers in homers and RBI's and he's leading in RBI's by a landslide. The closest full-time catcher to Molina's 47 RBI are Brian McCann's 33, just to show how much more valuable he's been to the Giants than other catchers have been to their respective teams. Molina's also catching and doing a great job with one of the best all-around pitching staffs in baseball. He's certainly done enough in this first half to warrant a selection, and probably should have actually gotten the start, based on the numbers.

OK, enough about the guys who didn't make it, or are on the bubble, and back to the guys who will actually be there. Tim Lincecum will be making his second appearance at the mid-summer classic, while Cain will take it in for the first time in his career. However, Lincecum missed the game last year due to illness, and wasn't able to fully participate in all the games' festivities, or the ballgame itself, so it's almost like these guys will be enjoying the whole process for the first time. It was pretty obvious that Lincecum, who's 9-2, with a 2.23 era, 1.05 WHIP and a major league best 141 strikeouts in 121 innings pitched this year, was going to get named to the squad. In fact, he's probably the favorite to start the game for the NL at this point. It wasn't as sure of thing that Matt Cain would make the team, so hearing his name get announced was certainly re-assuring. Cain has really been a lot better pitcher over the last couple of years than what his record shows, and this year, the Giants are finally giving him some support. His numbers on the year are very impressive: 9-2, 2.48 era, 88 k's and only 90 hits allowed in 108 innings pitched. This is year in which it's kind of all coming together for the big 24 year-old righty, and it's been a pleasure to watch. Can't wait to see both of these guys represent the Giants on July 14th, and hopefully Pablo Sandoval can be there with them!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Offense Comes Alive Vs. Astros

The Giants put up one of their most impressive offensive showings of the year Friday night at AT&T Park against the Houston Astros, banging out 15 hits and scoring 13 runs en route to a 13-0 victory!

Leading the offensive charge for the Giants were Nate Schierholtz, Pablo Sandoval and Edgar Renteria. Schierholtz rebounded after a couple of o-4 nights by going 3-4 with a double and 2 RBI hitting out of the fifth spot in the lineup. Sandoval had his typical multi-hit night, going 2-5 with his 12 home run of the year while knocking in 3 runs to give him 43 on the year. Finally, Renteria, who's temporarily been moved to the sixth spot in the order because of his solid RBI output, provided a three hit night as well and both scored and drove in a run. A couple of other Giants who haven't been quite as productive as the three guys mentioned above, but have been starting to turn things on lately are Randy Winn and Travis Ishikawa. Both of them had multi-hit nights on Friday as well Travis Ishikawa has been really flexing his power lately, as he's know hit 5 home runs over his last 12 games after not hitting his first of the year until May 25th. Winn's average had dipped down to the low .260's towards the end of June, as he was really struggling there for a while, but now he's back up to .279 and rising. The Giants showed Friday night just what this offense could do when they're clicking on all cylinders.

Of course, the Giants offense wasn't the only headlining act in Friday nigh's ballgame. Ryan Sadowski, making just his second career major league start, recorded his second straight major league victory, and was even more impressive than he was last week in Milwaukee. Sadowski held a potent Astros' lineup scoreless over 7 innings, and only allowed 3 hits on the night while striking out 4. With Rich Aurilia due to come back from the bereavement list at any time now, the Giants are going to have a tough decision regarding Sadowski. I don't know how they can send him down after the way he's thrown the last two games. My guess is that Matt Downs will be sent down, but then that would leave the Giants with just Juan Uribe as an option at second base for them. Another option could be sending down Eli Whiteside for the time being, which would leave the Giants with just Bengie and Pablo, but with the all-star break right around the corner, now might be a good time to do that. No matter what they decide, Sadowski needs to be given the ball every fifth day until he proves otherwise.

Saturday In-Game Notes:
As I'm writing this post, the Giants are in the middle of their game with the Astros and Pablo Sandoval both drove in and scored a run to give the Giants and Tim Lincecum a 2-0 lead over the 'Stros in the 6th inning. That should probably be enough for Timmy with the way he's thrown lately! Sandoval already has another 2-hit ballgame as well and Timmy's allowed only 2 hits while striking out 8 through 6 scoreless!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Giants Keep On Rollin'

The stretch of baseball that the Giants have put together since late May up to now (July 1st) is probably the best 6 weeks of ball the Giants have played since 2004. After winning the first two games of their 4-game set with St. Louis on Monday and Tuesday, the Giants upped their record to 42-34, a season-high 8 games above .500.

Once again it was brilliant pitching, from both the starters and relievers, which carried the Giants in the first two games of the St. Louis series. Tim Lincecum provided his second straight complete game, and his third in his last four outings on Monday night. He held the mighty Cardinals lineup, led by Albert Pujols, to a measly two hits en route to his second shutout of the season. Lincecum may have cemented his place as the NL's starting pitcher for the upcoming All-Star game in a few weeks. The kid just keeps getting better and better with each start. His June stats were ridiculous, as he threw 48.2 innings over the month, allowing just 8 earned runs on just 35 hits and an amazingly low 9 base on balls. Lincecum was 4-1 in June, striking out 48 batters over that stretch while keeping an era of 1.48 and a WHIP of 0.90. "The Franchise" either leads or is in the top-3 in all major categories for NL starting pitchers. He's second in innings pitched and era to only Dan Haren, and leads the NL in strikeouts, complete games and shutouts which gives you an idea on just how dominant he's been compared to the rest of the league. He also took the era lead on his own team for the first time all year with his most recent outing, as he's now 20 points better than Matt Cain's 2.57 mark.

The bullpen wasn't really needed in Monday night's game, but they did shut the door on the Cards for Randy Johnson on Tuesday. The "Big Unit" improved his record to 8-5, as he went 5 1/3 allowing 3 runs on 4 hits while striking out 3 batters. It wasn't his best outing on the year, but it was another solid, winning effort for the Giants 45 year-old legend. Johnson has been improving as the year goes on as well. The lanky lefty went 4-1 in June, sporting a 3.25 era, a 1.14 WHIP and a .218 BAA. However, he got plenty of help on Tuesday, as the Giants bullpen provided 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Jeremy Affeldt, who's arguably been the Giants best reliever, went another 2 scoreless frames, dropping his season era to 1.48. Brian Wilson also came up big on Tuesday, as he came in in the eighth inning in order to get his 21st save on the year (good for second in the NL).

In addition to the great pitching, the Giants have been having little trouble scoring runs over the last 4 games. In fact, the Giants have scored 29 runs in those last four games, and Bruce Bochy may finally be figuring out which lineups are working well. Lately, it's been the lineup with Nate Schierholtz and Travis Ishikawa in it. Both Ishikawa and Schierholtz have been a big part of the teams' last few victories. We've talked about Schierholtz plenty here over the last couple of posts, as he hit .375 with 3 homers and 8 RBI in 64 at-bats in June. He did most of that damage towards the end of the month too, as he really wasn't playing to often at the beggining. Ishikawa hasn't necessarily been tearing the cover off the ball as of late, but he's coming up with clutch hits and driving in runs when he's got the opportunity. The Giants' young first basemen has 4 home runs and 10 RBI's in his last 10 games, and had a homer and 5 RBI in the Giants last 3 wins. He's really turned it on lately, and although his numbers for the year pale in comparison to most NL first basemen, his numbers over the last few weeks don't.

Trade Talk: The newest player to be mentioned in the Giants' on-going search for a bat is Bay Area native Jermaine Dye. KNBR reported on Tuesday that the Giants had some people in Chicago watching the Cubs-White Sox series over the weekend. Dye would be ideal for the Giants, as he's a right-handed power bat who can play a good right field and help them beyond this year. He's not quite a spring chicken at age 35, but he's one of those types of athletes that will probably be plenty successful into his late 30's, so I wouldn't really worry about age with Dye. I still wouldn't give up Bumgarner or Alderson or any of the teams top-5 prospects, but for the right price, I think Dye could be a nice fit for the Giants for now.
The Giants Baseball Blog