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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Giants Look Strong vs. NL Elite

Although they just barely missed finishing a 3-game sweep of the 2008 World Series Champion Phillies, the Giants have handled their first real tough stretch of the season very well.

After struggling through that rough Southern California road trip last week, the Giants returned home in strong fashion, taking care of the Cardinals in 2 of 3, then followed that up with another 2-win series victory vs. the Phillies. They got timely hitting, and amazing starting pitching over the homestand, and have fought their way back atop the NL West because of it. The latest dominant start was delivered by Tim Lincecum on Wednesday afternoon, as Timmy went 8 1/3, allowing just 3 hits and 2 runs while striking out 11 Philly hitters. Unfortunately, Brian Wilson couldn't hold the 3-run lead and the Giants eventually lost the game in extra innings. It was a tough no-decision for Lincecum to take for sure, and definitely will leave a bad taste in the Giants' mouths for the moment, but overall, they have to be very pleased with the way they bounced back after their tough road trip. They are starting to swing the bats a little bit better and will be getting one of their catalysts back this weekend in Aaron Rowand. They aren't out of the woods yet though, as the Rockies come into San Francisco for a 3-game set starting Friday night.

The offense was what stuck out on this homestand for me, especially the way they handled Roy Halladay on Monday night. The Giants banged out 10 hits, including 4 extra-base hits, and put up a 5 spot against the guy everybody wants to call the best pitcher in baseball. A big reason for their recent offensive improvement has been the play of Andres Torres. Right after I posted about Torres needing to improve in a hurry, or else he'd be out when Rowand came back, the speedy center fielder got it going offensively. Torres is hitting .409 on the homestand, with 4 RBI, 4 runs, 2 steals and 4 2B. He's now hitting a respectable .275 for the season after entering the homestand at .111. It hasn't been all about the bat with him either, as he's really made some tremendous plays out in center field as well over the last week. Both Torres and second basemen Matt Downs(.308, 1 hr, 1 RBI, 2 runs, 13 ab's ), who actually took Rowand's roster spot, are both making an argument to stay on the team when Rowand comes back. Their play has caused there to be whispers about Eugenio Velez, who has 1 hit in his last 20 at-bats, possibly being sent down in place of Rowand over the weekend.

GBB Notes: Again, I'd like to apologize for the lack of posting over the last 2 weeks. Things have been pretty busy with school and computer issues. I should be back to normal though now, so we should be updated every other day or so like normal again.... We also haven't had a chance to discuss much minor league stuff yet, so be on the lookout for April's minor league report in the next week or so, as we take a look down on the farm and see what the likes of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Darren Ford and Thomas Neal are up to!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Giants Stumped in SoCal

For the second year in a row, the Giants have rolled into Southern California for their first road trip of the season and have had their hands full with the Dodgers and Padres. The Giants suffered their first series loss of the young 2010 season over the weekend in LA, then were defeated Monday night in San Diego in the first game of that series.

The Giants' pitchers made just a few mistakes in LA which really ended up costing them the series. After another brilliant Barry Zito outing Friday, in which Zito went 7.1 innings allowing just 4 hits and a run with 3 strikeouts. However, the man who came in to replace him in that 8th inning, Sergio Romo, surrendered a 2-run homer to Manny Ramirez that ultimately won the game for the Dodgers, 2-1. In the other two games, the Giants offense exploded for 17 runs, but they still only managed to win one of them. The game they did win was the Tim Lincecum show in the series opener on Friday night. Timmy went 7 shutout innings, allowing just 4 hits while striking out 7, but that wasn't his only strong showing that night. He also went 3-4 at the plate and drove in 3 runs. Now the fact that the Giants lost 2 of 3 in LA didn't bother me too much, because had a few things gone a bit differently, they easily could have swept the series. What does concern me is how well the Dodgers played. They have been looking to really hit their stride in the early season and they may have done it against the Giants, cause they did really outplay the Giants.

It was even more disturbing to see them roll into San Diego Monday night and lose in extra innings via a David Eckstien walk-off home run off of Jeremy Affeldt. Matt Cain must be feeling a little bit of the '07-'08 curse he was struck with; lack of support from the bullpen and offense. Cain's thrown 3 quality games to start the year, including a 6 inning, 2 run, 4 strikeout performance on Monday night, and has nothing to show for it yet. I still have high hopes for Matty this year, and still believe he can improve on last years huge step forward. I just hope he doesn't start losing any confidence whatsoever, and I don't think that will be an issue. What is an issue though, and something we've discussed a few times here already is Andres Torres' lack of contribution. Bruce Bochy is still giving the guy a bunch of starts, and I understand that he's the only true center fielder with Rowand out, but the guy is just not hitting. Torres is just 2-18 so far with no runs or RBI. I also wouldn't mind seeing Darren Ford thrown into the fire so to speak. He isn't exactly hitting well in AA to start the year, but after the spring he had with the Giants, I think he'd come up with the confidence that he belongs.

The Giants must salvage these last two games in San Diego, as I'd hate to see them lose both of their series' down south, especially after such a strong start. They'll send Jonahtan Sanchez, who's coming off a dominant outing vs. Pittsburgh last week, to the mound vs. young Padres righty, Mat Latos. In Wednesday's finale, the Giants will again hand the ball to Todd Wellemeyer who really lost a lot of his room for error in his last start, to the mound hoping he can rebound from his outing in LA.

Note: I've recently been experiencing major computer problems, and haven't had full access to a computer over the last few days, hence the lack of posting over the last 5-7 days. I apologize for the inconvenience and we should be back to a normal posting schedule shortly!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Giants Cruise to 7-2 Start

As the Giants head back out on the road Thursday, and have to feel pretty darn good about themselves and the way they've performed at the midway point in the first month of the season. They sit atop the NL West at 7-2 and have the 2nd best record in all of baseball behind the 2008 World Champion Philadelphia Phillies (7-1).

The Giants continue to get tremendous starting pitching, as Jonathan Sanchez was the latest starter to put together a masterpiece. Sanchez was almost un-hittable against the Pirates on Wednesday afternoon, throwing 8 shutout innings, allowing just 3 hits and 3 walks in route to an 11-strikeout performance, a season high for Giants' starters. It had to be a nice confidence builder for Sanchez too after failing to get through five innings in his first start. The 27 year-old lefty was backed by homers from Aaron Rowand, Eli Whiteside and Aubrey Huff (inside-the-parker), as the home run ball attributed for all the Giants runs on Wednesday. In just about any other park in baseball, Huff would have likely had a three homer day, as he hit 2 balls off the right-center field wall and one just shy of the 421 marker. Mike Krukow made a good point mentioning that Huff cannot get frazzled by some of these balls not leaving the yard. Huff looks like he's starting to heat up, and as long as he keeps that same swing going that he had yesterday, he'll have plenty of homers, not to mention a ton of extra base hits in general, by the end of the year. Both he and Mark DeRosa are already making their mark on the Giants lineup, although neither are hitting for a particularly high batting average. DeRosa's hitting just .200 entering the weekend series in LA, and is slumping a bit, but you can tell by his approach that he's going to be just fine.

DeRosa should hit his groove any day now, much like Aaron Rowand did upon returning to AT&T Park last week. After going 0-10 to start the year in Houston, he's responded by going 14 for his last 34, good for a .412 batting average over that span. The one area of Rowand's game that has to be causing Bochy a little bit of concern with him being at the top of the lineup, is that he's yet to take a walk this season through 9 ballgames. I like the way he's hitting in the 1 spot, and he seems to be getting the lineup going, but he has to start taking more pitches and show a little more patience up there, especially when he's the first batter of the game and the Giants try to get a look at their opposing pitcher. If Rowand can start doing that, his walks will come and he's going to be an even better hitter. I'd also like to see Eugenio Velez put up there when get starts games, and after his big home run Monday in the ninth inning off Octavio Dotel, I'd think his next start will be coming soon. Andres Torres isn't a bad role player to have around, but I don't agree with him getting all these starts over Velez. Granted, it's mostly vs. lefties which Eugenio doesn't handle quite as well, but he seems like more of a spark to the lineup than Torres. I'd like to see Boch try DeRosa in right and Velez in left vs. the next lefty the Giants face.

The Giants are off to their best start since 2003, a year that they ended up going wire-to-wire to win the NL West and also sport the best record in the NL if my memory serves me correctly. This team kind of reminds me of that squad in some ways. Both teams aren't the most powerful, but send up a very solid 1-8, and the starting pitching and bullpen from both '03 and '10 were/are one of the best in baseball. It's easy to have all this positivity towards the team cause they still have a major hurdle yet to pass. There is going to come a time where they aren't going to lose ballgames and go on losing streaks and have players slump. Seeing how they pull themselves out of those situations will show us what this team is really made up, but so far, you have to be pretty pleased with just about everything with the club if your a Giants fan.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, April 12, 2010

Interview With Andrew Baggarly

Over the weekend, I had a chance to catch up with the San Jose Mercury's fine Giants beat-writer, and the guy who seems to be as good as anyone out there in relaying Giants information, Andrew Baggarly. I stuck to mostly minor league talk with Baggs' as I want to try and get a feel for what the organization's top prospects will have planned for them in 2010.

-Q: I was impressed with what Henry Sosa did this spring and was hoping the Giants' brass would try and keep him in the rotation, but it looks like they are scratching that idea and going to keep him in the pen. Do you think Sosa will ever be moved back to the rotation, or is he a reliever from here on out?

-A: Looks like organizational need at this point. Also, they think Sosa might have an easier time staying healthy if he's used in shorter stints. The stuff plays, that's for sure. I'd say there's a strong chance we see Sosa this season, and perhaps sometime soon if there are injuries or under-performing guys.

-Q: I was equally impressed with 24 year-old speedster Darren Ford. With the Giants lack of speed and without a true leadoff hitter, do you think Ford could realistically get a look in 2010 if Aaron Rowand isn't cutting it in the top spot?

-A: Ford could get a look as a bench guy, kind of how Rajai Davis broke in a couple years ago. Let's see if the bat plays against upper-level pitching. He sure had a tremendous spring, though. If nothing else, his glove and range in CF will get him to the big leagues in some capacity.

-Q: Thomas Neal didn't get as much playing time during the spring as I was hoping for after a huge 2009 season. It really reminded me of Pablo Sandoval's 2008 minor league season. What is the Giants plan with him? Do you think he'll be in the outfield mix with the big club at all this season, or are we likely looking at a 2011 debut for the Giants #2 hitting prospect?

-A: The Giants had a glut of outfielders, so there were fewer innings to go around. (They wanted to get a better read on Schierholtz and Bowker, etc.) Neal was sent out so that he could be on the field on a regular basis. Not every scout thinks Neal is a can't-miss type of hitter, but he's got a lot going for him. He's got huge power and yet he's a high-average hitter, too. Like Ford, we'll have to wait and see if he can make the all-important Double-A turn.

-Q: Brandon Crawford got off to a terrific start in 2009, then tailed off a bit when he was promoted to AA. To me, he still seems at least a year or two away. Do the Giants envision him as their starting shortstop in 2011 with Edgar Renteria in the last year of his deal, or is it a little too early to tell?

-A: Too early to tell. Crawford has gone through some huge peaks and valleys, even going back to his last two years at UCLA. He struck out a ton at Double-A toward the end of last season. That's why he's repeating the level. The Giants kept him till the end of the exhibition schedule because they know he's their only true shortstop who's up the upper levels. If something were to happen to Renteria or Uribe, he'd be somewhere on the depth chart. I like him, and with Renteria's contract coming up, it'd work out perfectly for the Giants if he is ready to take over the position next year. Not sure we can bank on that, though.

-Q: When do you foresee Buster Posey making his '10 big league debut? I don't see him completely taking over for Bengie behind the dish, unless Bengie is truly struggling offensively which I don't see happening, so what exactly will be the plan with him when he does arrive?

-A: My guess is that Posey forces his way to the big leagues like Timmy did in 2007. If that happens, how would Bochy divvy up the playing time at catcher? Wow. Let's just say I'm happy I don't have to handle that grenade.

-Q: Have you seen any of 2009 first-round right-hander Zach Wheeler or the C/1B they took early in the draft, Tommy Joseph? I've seen only brief youtube clips each one of them from the instructional league last fall. I haven't heard either of them mentioned too much since the draft though, so I'm curious to see where they'll start the year.

-A: I have not seen them, other than a pitch or two on a back field. They'll be at Augusta to start the year. Joseph is going to DH and play first base on the days he doesn't catch. I've used the Paul Konerko comp with him because I'm guessing he won't stay behind the plate.

Giants Notes: On Monday night, the Giants go for their 6th win of the year, after beating the Braves in 2 of 3 in the season opening series at AT&T Park. Barry Zito will set out for win #2 against the Pirates, who are one of the weakest teams in baseball. The Giants will have be in the drivers seat to sweep this series with the pitching match-ups they'll be exploiting, and after the way they played vs. Atlanta and Houston, I'm really not expecting anything less than a sweep.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Giants Victorious in Home Opener

The Giants continued their winning ways at the start of their first home-stand of the 2010 season. Jonathan Sanchez didn't have his best command and the team had to come from behind for the first time in this young season, but they did manage to pull off their fourth consecutive victory.

The guy who continues to grab the headlines is the guy who everybody wrote off after his first year here and that's been Edgar Renteria. I'll admit myself, after his '08 and '09 seasons, I was skeptical on whether Renteria would ever be just an average major league shortstop again, but he's turned out to be so much more than that in this opening week. We've already mentioned how much lighter on his feet he looks defensively, and he continued his offensive rampage in the season's first week Friday. Renteria hit a game-tying 2-run homer off Billy Wagner in the bottom of the ninth to push the game to extra innings, part of another 3-hit day for the Giants shortstop (3-5, 2 runs, 2 RBI). Although the Giants blew an opportunity (0 outs, runner on 2nd) in that same bottom of the ninth, they did manage to pull out the victory eventually, on an Aaron Rowand RBI infield single in the bottom of the 13th to score Juan Uribe. This win had to be a huge confidence builder for this team early on to now know that they have the ability to come back in ballgames and have already gotten to one of baseball's most elite closers over the last decade.

On Saturday night, the 4-0 Giants will send out Todd Wellemeyer in his Giants' debut and he'll be opposed by Atlanta's Derek Lowe. This will be the one pitching match-up in the series that clearly favors the Braves, so the Giants will once again have to be on their game if they are going to keep their undefeated start going. One big key for the Giants in Friday's game was limiting the damage done by the Braves 20 year-old phenom right fielder, Jason Heyward. The left-handed slugger went 0-5 with a walk vs. Giants hurlers on Friday afternoon, and stuck out 4 times. I'll be willing to bet that he doesn't go 0-5 against Wellemeyer on Saturday night though, so the Giants are going to have to keep him in the yard when he does put the ball in play. I'm curious to see how Wellemeyer does in his Giants debut. There really is no pressure on him whatsoever, as he's just supposed to keep the fifth spot warm for Madison Bumgarner, so I think Wellemeyer has a chance to surprise some people early on. In his 2 seasons with the Cardinals before 2009, he compiled a 16-11 record with a 3.51 era spread out over 255 innings with good WHIP and BAA numbers. I think he's going to end up being one of those Juan Uribe type steals by Sabean, as Wellemeyer is playing for the minimum and could ultimately be a very effective player for this team in a couple of different roles.

GBB Notes
: On Saturday evening, the Giants' Tim Lincecum will also be presented with his 2nd Cy Young Award in a ceremony before the ballgame. Then the Giants' ace gets to go out and make his 2nd start of the season Sunday, so it will be a busy weekend for the Giants franchise arm...Also, I recently had a chance to catch up with my favorite Giants' beat-writer in the San Jose Mercury's Andrew Baggarly. I got a chance to talk with Baggs' about some of the key Giants' minor league players and what will be expected out of them this season. Keep an eye out for that either Sunday or Monday!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Giants Off to Strong Start

The Giants swept the Houston Astros in the season opening series, and it really wasn't that close. Now they come home to host an Atlanta Braves team that is one of the best in the National League.

The consistent theme throughout the Astros series was stellar starting pitching, and timely hitting. Giants starters' Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain combined to throw 19 2/3 innings, allowing 3 earned runs (all by Matt Cain in one bad inning) on 13 hits and 1 walk while striking out 17 batters. That's good for a WHIP of 0.67 and an era of 1.22. Granted, they did get a break here and there (Jeff Keppinger's "double" should have been a home run of Zito in game 2), the starters looked brilliant, and just as good, if not better than advertised. I think we are in for big things with Barry Zito in 2010. I thought the Astros in Minute Maid Park with all those right-handed hitters would give him some trouble, but he looked like the Barry Zito of 5-6 years ago. He had his location working, and had his changeup going for him so much so that he really didn't even have to throw his big curveball as often as he normally does. Cain looked good on Wednesday too, but Aaron Rowand couldn't come up with Corey Sullivan's drive in the 7th and it ended up costing the Giants 3 runs. It wasn't an error on Rowand cause it wasn't a routine play, but the ball bounced out of his glove and he probably catches that one 9 out of 10 tries. If Rowand catches it that time, Cain gets out of the 7th unharmed and probably would have finished with 7 innings of 1 run, 4 hit baseball.

The Giants were able to overcome the defensive mishaps though, because their offense did what it had to do in the series, and provided the starters with all the run support they would need. John Bowker quietly had a nice series, going 3-9 with a homer and 3 RBI and if he keeps it up for the first couple of weeks of the season, his confidence will build and I think he'll be in for some big things in 2010. Edgar Renteria was probably the player of the series though. He played a terrific shortstop in all three games, making a plays that he wouldn't have come close to making last year, and he also raked the baseball, going 8 for 11 for 3 RBI. I know it's early, but Renteria is looking much more like the player he was in Atlanta in '06-'07 ( .312 avg, 13 hr, 94 runs, 65 RBI, 14 SB per season with Atlanta). I don't think he'll be that good, but I bet the Giants would take something like .280, 75 runs, 10 hr, 50 RBI, 10 SB, .350 OBP. Aaron Rowand, who we talked a bit about last post along with Renteria, finally got out of his funk in the series finale. Rowand was a big part of the Giants offense, going 4-6 with a triple, 1 run scored and 2 RBI. That came after Rowand collected an 0-10 with 3 K's through the first 2.

So as they enter their home opening series vs. the Braves, the Giants are really clicking on all cylinders. They'll throw Jonathan Sanchez out on the mound in Friday's opener, as he'll be opposed by Atlanta's Tim Hudson. Sanchez finished off his spring training with a solid, 10 strikeout performance vs. the A's, so he's as ready as he can be heading into the home opener. The Giants will be getting a much tougher test in the Atlanta Braves though, than what they faced in Houston. The Braves are my favorite for the wild card spot this year, as they have a load of talent, both young and old, up and down that roster. I'm looking forward to getting my first up close look at Jason Heyward, who has lived up to the hype here early on with a massive home run on opening day. This should really be a very good duel between two of the better teams in the National League and will be a good barometer to see just where this Giants team is at.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Lincecum Sharp in Opener

There was a lot of concern over the Giants' 2-time Cy Young award winning 25 year-old after a sub-par spring and a significant drop in velocity. However, Lincecum alleviated all concern with a stellar outing on opening night, defeating Roy Oswalt and the Astros 5-2.

Lincecum's velocity and location were both right about where they should be, and he was a tough assignment all night for Houston hitters. He constantly got ahead of hitters, and put himself in favorable pitchers counts, and his fastball was right around 93-94 all game long. Not quite where it was when he was first called-up in '07 (he was averaging 95+ mph that summer), but not at all bad for the first start of the season. Lincecum allowed just 4 base runners (all base hits, no walks) and struck out 7 in 7 shutout innings. The Giants' offense also pitched in to help him out. Bengie Molina, John Bowker, Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe all drove in a run apiece for the Giants. The Giants new additions played well in the opener, as DeRosa hit an impressive opposite field home run off Tim Byrdak in the 8th to help give the Giants a bigger cushion while Aubrey Huff contributed a hit and a run scored while making a few nice plays over at first base. If you checked out our pre-game post yesterday, you'll see that my prediction that at least one of the middle 3 hitters would have gone deep, and DeRosa made me look good. Bowker missed a home run by about 3 feet as he singled high off the Crawford Boxes out in left field for his RBI.

The player who really impressed me the most on Monday though, was shortstop Edgar Renteria. Sure it's only opening day and one game of 162, but he looked like a different ballplayer out there, and even talked before the game about how excited and optimistic he was for this season. Renteria made an incredible play, going deep into the hole between 2nd and 3rd base, to grab a grounder off the bat of Carlos Lee, and made a tremendous, cross-body throw to get the ball to Ishikawa in plenty of time, but Ishi couldn't come up with the short-hop, a ball he probably catches 9 out of 10 times. That ball would have been a base hit to left field last year, but Renteria is clearly much lighter on his feet after dropping around 15 pounds over the winter. Oh yeah, he also went 2-3 at the plate with a walk and an RBI double. While Renteria looked great in the 2 hole on Monday, the Giants other top of the order hitter, Aaron Rowand, didn't fair so well. He had an 0-5 night with a couple of strikeouts and didn't display much patience at the plate. The Giants are going to roll with Rowand in the top spot for a while, but he's got to start being more selective if he's going to stick there all year long.

Tonight, the Giants will send Barry Zito to the mound, who will duel it out with Astros lefty Wandy Rodrguez. The Giants will have to get to Rodriguez early, and Zito is going to have to find his rhythm early if the Giants want a repeat performance from last night. Once Rodriguez gets going, he gets really tough to hit. If the Giants can get to Rodriguez though, and with Matt Cain scheduled to pitch tomorrow in the finale, the Giants could be on their way to an opening series sweep with a victory tonight.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, April 05, 2010

Giants Set to Open Season

Opening Day 2010 has officially arrive, as the Giants are just a few hours away from taking on the Houston Astros in Houston, as they send 2-time reigning Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum to the mound vs. Astros' ace Roy Oswalt.

The Giants starting lineup for today's game is as follows:

CF Aaron Rowand
SS Edgar Renteria
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Mark DeRosa
C Bengie Molina
RF John Bowker
2B Juan Uribe
P Tim Lincecum

The only semi-surprise in there would be Bowker getting the nod in right field over Schierholtz, but after the way he finished up in Fresno in 2009, and played during spring training this year, it's tough to argue with Bruce Bochy's decision. Schierholtz brings a more stable defensive presence in right-field, but Bowker has really torn the cover off the ball since last June. And in a Giants lineup that could use all the pop it can get, they are going to give Bowker all the opportunity to translate those AAA numbers into big league production.. Other than that, Boch has decided to go with Edgar Renteria in the second spot in the order with Freddy Sanchez out. Renteria will probably be on a short leash this year once Sanchez does return, especially if Uribe keeps swinging the bat like he did last year. As a matter of fact, both the guys at the top of the lineup for the Giants really do hold the key to the offense's success. If Rowand and Renteria can get on consistently enough in-front of Sandoval, Huff, DeRosa, Molina and Bowker, then the Giants offense should be just fine, but that is a big "if" though.

The Giants have a better all-around team than the Astros, and I expect them to take this series, although it's going to be a good test early for their offense. They face two of the better arms in the NL in Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez in the first two games, then get Brett Myers, who's always been pretty tough on the Giants, going in game 3. I like the way Huff, DeRosa and Sandoval have all been swinging lately, and I believe at least one of them will go deep in the opener. Hopefully Timmy's rough spring training performance doesn't carry over into the regular season. The Giants have always faired decently vs. Oswalt so I think the Giants will pull it off in a close one, 6-5. Keep an eye on Lincecum's velocity though, cause if he pitches like he did during the spring, it won't matter that he's 2-0 with a 1.67 era, just 16 hits allowed and 40 strikeouts in 31+ innings in his career vs. Houston.

We'll be back tonight after the game with a small post-game wrap post, so be sure to check us out and drop your opinion on what the Giants looked like on opening day in our comment box!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 MLB Awards and Playoff Predictions

Here is our picks for the major National and American league post-season awards, as well as the playoff tree and how we think things will transpire this October.


AL MVP: Mark Teixeira, NY- Teixeira really could have won last season and you wouldn't have gotten much argument from anyone after he hit .292 with 39 jacks and 122 RBI to lead the Yanks to a World Series championship. I expect much of the same power wise in '10 out of the Yanks' first basemen, but I'm expecting him to have an even higher avg. in 2010.

AL CY Young: Justin Verlander, Det.- The flame-throwing righty is coming off a nice 19 win year in which he k'd 269 batters. Surrounded by an improved Detroit team, I expect him to have his best season yet, possibly winning 20+ ballgames and again being amongst the league leaders in strikeouts.

Rookie of the Year: Neftali Feliz, Tex- The 21 year-old right-handed phenom has gotten his feet wet at the big league level and has looked even more dominant than he did in the minors. Look for him to be closing games in Texas before long, and I see him getting the same results that a younger Jonathan Papelbon got. I still would like to see him eventually moved to the rotation, but he's going to be big for Texas in 2010 whether its relieving or starting.

AL Batting Champ: Joe Mauer, Min- Really is not only the best left-handed hitter in the AL, but probably the best all-around hitter in that league, and possibly in all of baseball. Look for him to be back around .350+ again, and probably be right there in MVP talks as well as long as he stays healthy for 130+ games.

Home Run Leader: Alex Rodriguez, NY- He's fully healthy coming into the year, and I expect him to stay that way. If he can play 150 ballgames, he should be right around 45-50 homers, especially as he gets comfortable in the Yankees new bandbox, I mean ballpark.

Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen, Chi- The mouthy White Sox manager rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but I think he is primed for a good year with a talented pitching staff. If Guillen can push the right buttons and get that Sox lineup to match-up with their pitching staff, they could surprise people in 2010.

Comeback Player: Francisco Liriano, Min- The talented lefty is coming off a horrible year, but he's got more than enough talent to still figure things out. With no pressure on him in the fifth spot of the rotation, and surrounded by a talented Twins team, it wouldn't surprise me to see him flip-flop his win-loss record from a year ago (5-13) and drop that era (5.80) by about 2.5 runs.


NL MVP: Chase Utley, Phi- With all due respect to Albert Pujols, who probably will end up winning this, Utley has been on the brink of MVP status each year, and I think this will be the year, with all that talent in the Philly lineup, that he actually does it. I think he ends up around .315, 35 hr, 120 RBI, 25 sb while helping lead the Phillies back to the 'Series.

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Phi- Tough not to pick reigning 2-time winning Tim Lincecum, especially being a Giants Blog and all, but Halladay is just primed for big things in the NL. I'm thinking 22+ wins, 2.75 era, 220 K's in 200+ innings big with that talented team around him. The only small issue he'll have to deal with is the Phills suspect closing situation, and the fact that he's in a much more hitter friendly yard this year.

Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward, Atl- Look for Giants' Buster Posey, Brewers' Alcides Escobar and the Reds' Aroldis Chapman, among others, to be firmly in the mix too. However, Heyward is starting the year on a solid Braves team and will probably be in that lineup all year which should yield big results (.300, 25+ HR, 85+ RBI).

Batting Tittle: Ryan Braun, Mil- The 27 year-old left fielder is just entering his prime years, and I think 2010 could be his best year, average wise, to date. He's coming off a .320 season, and a 20 point spike wouldn't be out of the realm at all for a talented player like Braun.

Home Run Leader: Mark Reynolds, AZ- He's coming off a 44 home-run year and he's still really learning how to hit. He made marked improvement in his strikeouts at the end of last year, and if he can put more balls in play in 2010, he's bound to hit even more home runs. Yearly favorites Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols will be right with him though, and you wouldn't get an argument for picking any of them.

Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox, Atl- In his last hoo-rah as the legendary skipper of the Atlanta Braves, look for Cox to go out with a bang. I think the Braves, with their mix of youth and productive veterans, should be right in the thick of the wild card race, and should win it if their pitching does what it's supposed to.

Comeback Player: Geovanny Soto, Chi- The Cubs backstop is coming off a pathetic year offensively, in which he hit just .218. Look for him to be back to his rookie form in which he hit over .280 with 23 homers and 80+ RBI. Atlanta's Troy Glaus is another good probability.

Playoff/World Series Prediction
American League

Angels over Red Sox
Yankees over White Sox

ALCS: Yankees over Angels

National League

Phillies over Rockies
Cardinals over Braves

NLCS: Cardinals over Phillies

World Series
Yankees over Cardinals (6 games)

Back to the Giants: Check back Monday around noon-1 PM as we get ready for the Giants and the Astros to open the season in Houston. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:05 Pacific, with Tim Lincecum opposing Roy Oswalt. We'll have pre-game notes, the Giants lineup, a short Schierholtz v. Bowker debate, and more to get ready before the game so be sure to check us out before the game Monday! Happy Opening Day to everyone!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, April 03, 2010

2010 NL West Preview

Finally we finish up in the NL West, which could be the closest division in baseball and definitely one of the tougher ones to predict.

1st Place, Colorado Rockies

CF Dexter Fowler
LF Carlos Gonzalez
1B Todd Helton
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Brad Hawpe
C Chris Ianetta
3B Ian Stewart
2B Clint Barmes

RH Ubaldo Jimenez
LH Jeff Francis
RH Aaron Cook
LH Jorge De La Rosa
RH Jason Hammel
SU: Franklin Morales
CL: Huston Street (DL'd until May)

The Rockies are an overall young team who knows how to win. They were one of the best teams in baseball during the second half of last season, and they did that without one of their best starting pitchers (Jeff Francis). A big key to their success was young outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who came over from the A's in the Matt Holliday trade and immediately made an impact (.286, 13 hr, 29 RBI, 16 SB, .878 OPS in 276 at-bats) upon his arrival in Colorado in June. Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Fowler, Hawpe and Stewart give the Rockies a young core of solid ballplayers who they can build around. They also have veteran first basemen Todd Helton, who continues to be a model of consistency and productivity for the Rocks. The pitching staff is always the area in question for the Rockies, but it looks like they may have finally answered those questions as all starters (besides the injured Francis) finished 2009 with winning records and all of them can pitch at Coors Field. The bullpen is a bit of a question though, where closer Huston Street is out indefinitely, and may not return until mid-season.

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants

CF Aaron Rowand
2B Freddy Sanchez*
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Mark DeRosa
C Bengie Molina
RF John Bowker
SS Edgar Renteria

RH Tim Lincecum
RH Matt Cain
LH Barry Zito
LH Jonathan Sanchez
RH Todd Wellemeyer
LH Madison Bumgarner*
SU: Jeremy Affeldt
CL: Brian Wilson
*Bumgarner starts year in AAA
*Sanchez out until May

The Giants definitely improved their offense with the additions of DeRosa and Huff, but it's not like those guys are going to push them over the top. Overall, they have a better team entering 2010 than they had entering 2009, and that team managed to win 87 games, so this team should be right around that total too. The pitching staff is their strength, as Cain and Lincecum can match up with any duo in baseball, Sanchez is coming off a solid second half last year that started with a no-hitter in mid-July, and Barry Zito looks like he's finally hit his comfort zone in San Francisco. Their young, hard-throwing bullpen is led by closer Brian Wilson (2.74 era, 38 sv in '09), set-up man Jeremy Affeldt (1.73 era in '09) and a couple of youngsters who are nearly as effective as those two and they are lefty Dan Runzler and righty Sergio Romo. The Giants don't have much team speed, although they have smart base runners, and their defense isn't great, but I don't think those two areas will keep the Giants back. If Huff and DeRosa have good years and the Giants offense can average 4+ runs per night, then they'll be right in the thick of the playoff race.

3rd Place, Los Angeles Dodgers

SS Rafael Furcal
C Russell Martin
CF Matt Kemp
LF Manny Ramirez
RF Andre Eithier
3B Casey Blake
1B James Loney
2B Blake DeWitt

RH Vicente Padilla
LH Clayton Kershaw
RH Chad Billingsley
RH Hiroki Kuroda
RH Charlie Haeger
SU: George Sherrill
CL: Jonathan Broxton

The Dodgers went through a lot of turmoil with their front office and ownership situation this winter, and the didn't achieve very much during the offseason due largely to that. They had some holes in their starting rotation that didn't really get fixed. Billingsley and Kershaw are very good young arms, but besides those two, I don't like their rotation too much. The bullpen should be solid though, led by all-star closer Jonathan Broxton and another guy who's been a successful closer in recent years, George Sherrill. The lineup has some studs. Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier and Manny Ramirez make up the best offensive outfield in baseball, and I'm expecting rebound seasons out of Furcal and Martin. The Dodgers are just hoping Manny has another burst left in him to lead their offense. If Manny plays like he did after being sent to LA in '08 (.396, 17 hr, 53 RBI in just 187 ab's) then he'll win MVP and the Dodgers will win the West. If he plays like he did in '09 after coming back from his suspension, then the Dodgers will likely miss the playoffs for the first time in a few years.

4th Place, Arizona Diamondbacks

LF Connor Jackson
SS Stephen Drew
RF Justin Upton
1B Adam LaRoche
3B Mark Reynolds
C Miguel Montero
CF Chris Young
2B Kelly Johnson

RH Dan Haren
RH Edwin Jackson
RH Brandon Webb*
RH Ian Kennedy
RH Rodrigo Lopez
RH Billy Buckner
SU: Juan Guttierez
CL: Chad Qualls
*Webb will be out until at least June

The D-Backs have a young lineup that is ready to do their part to get AZ to the playoffs, but their pitching staff is another story. If only Brandon Webb were healthy, but he's not. He's probably going to be out until June, if not later, and the D-Backs will once again sorely miss him. They added Edwin Jackson which is a very nice add and Dan Haren is constantly in the mix for the CY Young award, so the top half of the rotation is still strong. The bullpen is OK, but they're relying on a lot of younger arms to get Chad Qualls the ball. Justin Upton is ready to start entering the MVP mix, and everybody else in that lineup (besides 1 year free agent add Adam LaRoche) is 28 or younger and all are primed for breakout seasons. If that happens, the D-Backs could be scary, because Webb will be back at some point, and that lineup has the ability to keep them in it until he does.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

CF Tony Gwynn Jr.
2B David Eckstein
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Kyle Blanks
3B Chase Headley
RF Will Venable
SS Everth Cabrera
C Yorvit Torrealba

RH Jon Garland
RH Chris Young
RH Kevin Corriea
LH Clayton Richard
RH Mat Latos
SU: Mike Adams
CL: Heath Bell

The Padres are the only team in the division that really have no shot at competing for a playoff spot. They do have some decent starters with Young, Corriea and youngsters Richard and Latos, but they don't really have an ace (as evident by Jon Garland getting the opening day nod). Their lineup has a few boppers in Gonzalez and Blanks, and a couple of possible future stars in Cabrera, Gwynn and Headley, but they just don't have enough offense right now to keep up with most other teams. Their bullpen is probably their strength, with closer Heath Bell (2.71 era, 42 sv in '09) and set-up man Mike Adams (0.73 era, 0.59 WHIP in '09).
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, April 02, 2010

2010 NL Central Preview

The NL Central will once again be dominated mostly by the Cardinals, but there are a few up-and-coming ballclubs in an overall solid division. The division also possesses two of baseball's best right-handed hitters in Albert Pujols and Ryan Braun.

1st Place, St. Louis Cardinals

2B Skip Schumaker
SS Brendan Ryan
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Holliday
RF Ryan Ludwick
CF Colby Rasmus
C Yadier Molina
3B David Freise

RHP Chris Carpentar
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Brad Penny
RHP Kyle Lohse
LHP Jamie Garcia
SU: Jason Motte
CL: Ryan Franklin

The Cards are once again the clear cut favorites in the 6-team NL Central. They have it all, power, average, great pitching and solid defense. The one area which their team lacks a bit is team speed, but with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick anchoring down the middle of the order, scoring runs shouldn't be much of an issue. The front end of their rotation can be untouchable when they're on, as both Carpentar and Wainwright are coming off tremendous years in which they both posted sub-3 era's and each won at least 17 games. If Penny and Lohse both pitch up to their capabilities, then the rotation will be a major strength. The bullpen is a tad shallow though. Ryan Franklin had a memorable season shutting the door last year, but he's 37 years old and I wouldn't count on a repeat performance. They do have Jason Motte ready to go if Franklin struggles, so the Cards should be just fine.

2nd Place, Chicago Cubs

SS Ryan Theriot
RF Kosuke Fukudome
1B Derek Lee
3B Aramis Ramirez
LF Alfonso Soriano
CF Marlon Byrd
C Geovany Soto
2B Mike Fontenot

RHP Carlos Zambrano
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Ryan Dempster
RHP Randy Wells
RHP Carlos Silva
SU: John Grabow
CL: Carlos Marmol

The Cubbies are returning practically the same roster that finished second behind the Cardinals in the Central last year. They swapped out Milton Bradley for Marlon Byrd which should be a wash, although I think Byrd will give them more than Bradley did in '09. The two keys to the Cubs lineup though will be Ramirez, Soto and Soriano, who are coming off injury shortened seasons. Their rotation is a veteran heavy bunch, as Zambrano and Wells are the only two starters under 30 years of age, but Zambrano has more mileage on him than your typical 28 year-old. The key to their pitching staff will be the performance of their bullpen. The Cubs seem to try someone different each year at closer, but they're hoping Carlos Marmol is the guy who will hold that spot for the foreseeable future.

3rd Place, Milwaukee Brewers

2B Rickie Weeks
CF Carlos Gomez
LF Ryan Braun
1B Prince Fielder
3B Casey McGehee
RF Corey Hart
C Greg Zaun
SS Alcides Escobar

RHP Yovani Gallardo
LHP Randy Wolf
LHP Doug Davis
RHP Dave Bush
LHP Manny Parra
SU: LaTroy Hawkins
CL: Trevor Hoffman

The Brewers definitely have some holes in their team. Fielder and Braun are both legit MVP candidates year in and year out, and I think Rickie Weeks is primed for a breakout season. Weeks missed most of last year after going down in mid-May, but was on pace for a career year before that (.277, 9 HR and 24 RBI in 135 at-bats). Young shortstop Alcides Escobar is a potential gold-glover and all-star caliber player and should help out one of the weaker defensive teams in the NL. I really like the top of their rotation, led by Yovani Gallardo and followed by Randy Wolf, but after that things are very uncertain. Their 3-5 starters totaled 35 losses last season and had a combined era in the 6's. In their bullpen, the ageless wonder, Trevor Hoffman, continues to pitch at a high level at age 42 and is coming off one of his best years ever.

4th Place, Cincinnati Reds

CF Drew Stubbs
SS Orlando Cabrera
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Scott Rolen
RF Jay Bruce
LF Johnny Gomes
C Ramon Hernandez

RHP Aaron Harrang
RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Homer Bailey
LHP Travis Wood
LHP Aroldis Chapman*
SU: Nick Masset
CL: Francisco Cordero

*Chapman Starts year in AAA but will be up by June

The Reds are finally putting together a respectable pitching staff, in both their rotation and bullpen. The rotation has a few solid vets at the top in Harang and Arroyo, and then a couple of bright youngsters on the rise in Cueto, Bailey, Wood and Chapman. They also should get a huge shot in the arm when their ace Edison Volquez returns around mid-season. The bullpen is rock solid as well with closer Francisco Cordero, and a handful of very effective set-up guys like Masset, Arthur Rhodes, Jared Burton and Daniel Herrera. Their offense should score runs, but they really need Jay Bruce to play up to his potential to be clicking on all cylinders. Defensively, they are a very solid all-around and don't really have any below-average defenders in the lineup.

5th Place, Houston Astros

CF Michael Bourn
2B Kaz Matsui
1B Lance Berkman
LF Carlos Lee
RF Hunter Pence
3B Pedro Feliz
C J.R. Towles
SS Tommy Manzella

RHP Roy Oswalt
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Brett Myers
RHP Bud Norris
RHP Felipe Paulino
SU: Brandon Lyon
CL: Matt Lindstrom

The Astros would really need everybody to play extremely well, have no injuries, and they'd need their young pitchers to start 30 games each if they want to put themselves in mix for a playoff spot, but I just don't see it. I like the top and middle part of their order, but the bottom half looks very weak. Bourn and Pence are two bright young outfielders and Lee and Berkman provide the veteran stability. The rotation will be just fine if Brett Myers can pitch like he should, and Bud Norris builds off his solid rookie campaign, but that's not at all a given. Their bullpen is there biggest weakness, as they have two guys who shouldn't be near the late innings (Lindstrom and Lyon) setting up and closing for them.

6th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates

CF Andrew McCutchen
2B Akinori Iwamura
RF Garrett Jones
C Ryan Doumit
LF Lastings Milledge
3B Andy LaRoche
1B Jeff Clement
SS Ronny Cedeno

LHP Zack Duke
RHP Ross Ohlendork
LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Daniel McCutchen
SU: Brendan Donnelly
CL: Octavio Dotel

The Pirates have a lineup full of other teams castoff prospects (Milledge, LaRoche, Clement, Cedeno and Jones), which tells you that they aren't that great. A lot of these guys are still young enough to improve and figure things out, but I'm not expecting much out of anyone in their lineup besides McCutchen, Jones, Doumit and LaRoche. Their rotation, which has been their strength in recent years, is not so much anymore. The bullpen will be OK, but they just won't get the chance to pitch with many leads. In the low-pressure atmosphere, I expect Dotel to thrive in the closer role though, and their top-3 starters at least have had success at the big league level. They'll also play pretty well defensively, but they just don't have enough firepower to keep up with the other teams in this division.
The Giants Baseball Blog