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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Offseason Starting Quietly

Although the Major League Baseball off-season isn't quite a full-month old yet, I'm pretty surprised at how quiet things have been. As far as the Giants are concerned, the only news to come from them in recent weeks, besides Tim Lincecum winning his second consecutive Cy Young award, has been Brian Sabean hinting that they'll steer clear of the top offensive free-agents, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay, this offseason.

Now, this shouldn't come as a surprise to Giants fans, the team hasn't added a big time offensive player in decades, but for a team that has a need for offensive as much as the Giants do, I am a little surprised that Brian Sabean is already dismissing the idea of pursuing either of them. I made a post here a couple weeks back comparing Jason Bay and Matt Holliday here, so I'm not going to be comparing them as players today, but I'm just not sure what the Giants are waiting for in terms of building their offense? One bat like Holiday's or Bay's would certainly give this team an offensive boost, maybe even make them the favorites in their division. They have such a good pitching staff, that even a league average offense would probably be good enough to keep this team atop the NL West. Now, I understand that Bay and Holliday are far and away the best offensive players in this free agent market, and whoever gets them will wind up spending some serious dough, but that doesn't mean the Giants should completely remove them from their plans.

The Giants pitching staff is on the rise and is one the best in baseball, but they're not going to have Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathon Sanchez, Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt ect... all together forever. When these guys become free-agents, they're not going to want to stick around if the Giants are still hovering around .500 and struggling to score runs. At some point they're going to have to figure out whether they'll need to deal from within or use free agency in order to get some offense, cause they're going to need it. I'm not talking about dealing for a Ryan Garko or Freddy Sanchez, I'm talking about making a play for a Prince Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez. They need someone who will come in and anchor their offense, much like Barry Bonds did during his 16 year stay in San Francisco. I think Matt Holliday is that type of player and could impact the team in a way that Gonzalez or Fielder could. Is he the best player in baseball? No, he's probably not even in the top-15, but he's a legit middle of the order hitter who is going to be good for a while, and he would allow the Giants to hold onto Cain, Bumgarner and Wilson.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lincecum Wins Consecutive CY Young Awards

Tim Lincecum has done something that no other Giants pitcher in history has done, win two consecutive Cy Young Awards. In fact, the only two NL pitchers to ever win the award in consecutive seasons were Randy Johnson and Sandy Koufax.

It was definitely a close call though, and by no means did the 25 year-old ace run away with the award. Adam Wainright, who led the NL in wins with 19 and innings pitched with 233, received 12 first-place votes, one more than Lincecum's 11. However, Lincecum received more second place votes and more total points. Chris Carpentar finished second in the voting with Wainright coming in third. Atlanta's Javier Vazquez and Arizona's Dan Haren also received votes. Lincecum only finished the year with 15 wins, but his 261 strikeouts, 1.05 WHIP and his .206 BAA made up for the lower win total. The lanky one who most call "The Freak", but I call "The Franchise", struggled a bit down the stretch and went just 1-3 with a 3.60 era in September. I thought at the time that his slow finish may hurt his chances for the award, but he did enough in the first half of the year (10-2, 2.33 era before all-star break) to allow some sputtering towards the end. The scary part about this kid is that he's still getting better and better and probably a couple of years away from his peak.

I think all Giants fans knew there was something special about this kid when he first started dominating in the minors after the Giants drafted him, but I don't think anyone could have predicted 2 Cy Young awards within his first 2 full-seasons at the major league level. The future of the Giants pitching staff is about as bright as it can be at this point. Matt Cain didn't get any Cy Young consideration this year, but I really think this is the year the Cain broke out and realized that he could be a dominant pitcher in this league. He's been well above league average over the last couple of seasons, and has never been an easy assignment for opposing batters, but this year he seemed to really learn more how to pitch rather than trying to just throw the ball by every batter. Between Cain and Lincecum, the Giants have a duo of right-handed power arms that should contend for Cy Young award for the next 10 seasons. They'll also soon be joined by a left-handed phenom as well, as Madison Bumgarner could do in 2010 what Linceucm did in 2007 (become a full-time member of the rotation by May-June). And these 3 guys could form the best young rotation in all of baseball.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Giants Showing Interest in Uggla, Damon

It's been a couple of weeks since the start of free agency filing, and the Giants apparently are wasting no time making contact with potential help for their ball-club. The team is apparently interested in free agent Johnny Damon, and have had talks with the Marlins about a potential Dan Uggla trade.

The Giants have been interested in Uggla, it seems, for the better part of the last two years. The Marlins are always looking for ways to cut payroll if they can, and Uggla is entering the expensive phase of his career. He's got 2 more years of arbitration left and then will be a free agent after the 2011 season. The Giants desperately want and need his power, but they'd need to do some shifting in the infield if they were indeed going to make a major play for Uggla. Yahoo Sports reported yesterday that Uggla doesn't want to change positions if he's dealt, which means the Giants would have to move Freddy Sanchez to the hot-corner, while placing Pablo Sandoval over at first full-time. Although, I would have my questions about how that infield set-up would play defensively. Uggla isn't a very mobile second basemen, and Edgar Renteria is declining quickly, so they'd lack range up the middle. I think Sanchez would be OK at third base, he's played there for long stretches of time at few different points in his career and handled it well. I also think Sandoval would be a fine first basemen full-time, although he doesn't have ideal size for the position. I also wonder what the Marlins would want for Uggla. I think the Giants may be able to start a package around Jonathan Sanchez, but the Marlins would probably want a young positional prospect as well, possibly Emmanuel Burris. We'll definitely keep our eye on the Giants/Marlins discussions over the next few weeks to see if anything becomes serious.

On the Johnny Damon front, I haven't seen too much out there that links him to San Francisco, but KNBR did report over the week that the Giants have interest and plan to speak with Damon's agent. The Damon report kind of had me scratching my head a little bit. I don't know why the Giants would want to spend big dollars on a 36 year-old outfielder who hits left-handed and doesn't posses the type of power they're seeking. Don't get me wrong, Damon is a fine player, and would definitely help any team that he lands on, but if this Giants team is planning on spending big money on an outfielder, why not just go all the way and get Matt Holliday? So take the Damon rumor with a grain of salt, because I'm hoping Sabean won't continue to make the same mistakes. In this free agent market, the only outfielder the Giants should be considering giving multi-years to is Matt Holliday. Jason Bay was really struggling for Pittsburgh before being dealt to Boston, and I just don't think he'd be a good fit back in the NL in the spacious AT&T Park. Holliday knows this division all to well, and no, I don't think a dropped line drive in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers last month should detour the Giants from pursuing the .318 lifetime hitter who's averaged 30 homers and 110 RBI over the last 4 seasons and hasn't even had his 30th birthday yet.

Note: Angel Villalona has had his US Visa taken away by Domincan Republic officials and won't be allowed to join the Giants even if he does avoid prison. This situation continues to look worse and worse for the 19 year-old, but we'll keep an eye on it and relay any new info as it comes.
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Monday, November 09, 2009

Off-field Issues Surround Giants

The Giants organization has been in the news quite a bit lately, and it's not the kind of news that you hope for. I'm sure most Giants fans are aware of the trouble that "The Franchise" got into a couple of weeks back after being caught with an illegal substance, as well as the tragic news out of the Dominican that involves Giants' elite 19 year-old infield prospect, Angel Villalona.

Now, these two issues are drastically different and on completely different levels, but both seem to be making news each day over the past week or so. The Lincecum news isn't something that is going to get him into any kind of legal trouble, or get him any suspensions from the MLB or the Giants, but it is something that will likely follow him wherever he goes in the immediate future. I'm not in anyway comparing steroid use to marijuana smoking, but I'm expecting the same type treatment from road fans towards Linceucm as Barry Bonds got after the steroid scandal. Obviously not to the extent Bonds got, as Lincecum is generally well-liked in opposing cities, but you'll definitely be seeing some signs and hearing some rants, and he's going to have to keep focused. I can't wait to see what the fans at Dodger Stadium, or in New York have to say to Timmy once he takes the mound in there yards. Again, this is not something that is going to hurt Lincecum's status as an elite pitcher or anything like that, but I guarantee you that this is going to be something that won't go away as quickly as I'm sure he's hoping.

As far as the Villalona case goes, things are starting to pick-up in the investigation and it's not looking pretty for the 19 year-old. Andrew Baggarly reported yesterday that two new witnesses have come forward and are set to testify against Villalona, the main suspect in a homicide in Santo Domingo in September. However, Villalona apparently has reached an agreement with the victims family in which Villalona will pay them 150,000 to drop charges. Even if they do drop the charges though, Villalona is still facing trial and the possibility or 20 years in prison if convicted. This situation really cannot end up well for the Giants no matter what happens in the case. If Villalona is found guilty, his professional baseball career will be finished and he'll be incarcerated until he's 40. However, if he's found not guilty and avoids prison, then what do the Giants do with him? I'd hate to speculate on a case I know very little about and accuse Villalona, but how on earth do you employ someone in his situation if he does manage to get off? I guess only time will tell, but my feeling is that Angel Villalona's career has ended before it really got a chance to start, and it's such an unfortunate situation in all aspects.

AFL Stuff
: The Arizona Fall League has been going now for a few weeks and the Giants have a few prominent youngsters getting some action in. SS Brandon Crawford, OF Thomas Neal, C Buster Posey, as well as pitchers Joe Martinez, Daniel Turpin and Scott Edlefson are all playing for the Scottsdalle Scorpions. Neal and Crawford are both having respectable offensive showings. The 22 year-old Neal, who tore up the California League for San Jose in '09 with a .337 avg, 22 HR/90 RBI season, is hitting .288 with a homer and 7 RBI and leads the team with 8 stolen bases for the Scorpions. His play over this year has put him on the map as one of the Giants' top outfield prospects. Crawford, who had a terrefic start in A and a solid finish in AA in '09, is hitting .309 with a .845 OPS with a home run and is second on the team in runs scored and walks. Both of those guys have played much better than Buster Posey, who's hitting just .224 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 15 games. On the mound, Joe Martinez has looked pretty good, sporting a 1-0 record with a 4.32 era and 17 k's in 16 2/3 innings spread over 5 starts.
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Giants Still Need Infield Help

On Saturday, the Giants finalized a 2 year contract extension with Freddy Sanchez, who they acquired in July for Tim Alderson. The new deal for Sanchez will pay him 12 million over the next 2 seasons instead of 8.5 million for just 2010, which was his option for 2010.

I've voiced my disappointment in Sanchez a few times here since the Giants dealt for him over the summer. He wasn't able to stay on the field full time to help this club with their run at the NL Wild Card, and even when he was in there, he didn't seem to make much of an impact in the lineup. Now, I wasn't necessarily hoping the Giants would cut ties with Sanchez (they probably would have had to pay 4 million or so to buy him out), just didn't think he was worth upwards of 10 million dollars, and would have liked to see the Giants pursue someone like Orlando Hudson with that money. The Giants already have an infielder who's being paid about 3-4 times what his play over the last 2 seasons would indicate. However, I really can't say I'm too upset with the terms of his new deal. I think Sabean did the best he could given the situation in this case. Sanchez has shown that he's capable of hitting .300 if he stays healthy, and I think his gap power could translate into dozens and dozens of doubles for the second basemen here at the spacious AT&T Park. So, to sum this situation up in a sentence; I wasn't looking forward to having Sanchez back at 8.5 mill in 2010, but having him around at 6 mill is much more reasonable and in line with his value, and it also gives the Giants an extra couple of mill to use on more infield help.

With Sanchez (2b), Renteria (SS) and Sandoval (1B-3B) all penciled in for starting spots in the Giants infield, it would appear that their is still one opening in which the Giants may be able to store that big bat they so desperately need. Travis Ishikawa and Ryan Garko will be the returning options if the Giants fail to upgrade in that department, and they also have potential free-agent Juan Uribe who they appear to have sincere interest in keeping. I was stoked on the performance that Uribe gave the Giants last year, playing for the ML minimum, but being truly honest, I don't think he's an everyday player, and I'd hate to see Sabean give him something like a 2-year, 10 million dollar deal with the belief that he can be. I want Uribe back on this team next year, just not as a guaranteed starter, and I can't help but think that there are going to be other teams out there that are going to want Uribe's services after the year he put up for the Giants in '09, and I certainly wouldn't get into any kind of bidding war if that's the case. Uribe is especially valuable to the Giants because of his ability to play shortstop, where Edgar Renteria may need a caddy throughout the year.

Yankees Win World Series: The New York Yankees reeled in their 27th World Championship on Wednesday night, defeating the Philidelphia Phillies and Pedro Martinez to clinch the Series in 6 games. The Yanks' starting pitching was the superior of the two, and the Yankees were only using a 3-man rotation. What was really surprising to me though, was how well the Yanks bullpen threw. I think the pen was key for them in this series as they really held the potent Phills lineup in check. Offensively, everyone knew the Yankees would score enough runs, and they certainly did. Series MVP Hideki Matsui sported a ridiculous .625 batting average with 3 home runs and 8 RBI in the 6 game set. Mr. November, Derek Jeter, continued his November brialliance, hitting .407 with 6 runs scored and led both teams with 6 hits in November. The Yankees were definitely the best team in this postseason and as much as it pains me to say it, they certainly deserved to win this thing.
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