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Monday, August 23, 2010

Giants' Rotation Laboring Through August

What's been the strength of the team for the last couple of seasons has all of the sudden become a liability. The starting rotation which was one of the ML's best throughout the first half has looked downright bad through most of August.

A big reason for the rotation's downfall has been the struggles of Tim Lincecum, which we broke down in our last post. However, it hasn't just been Lincecum. Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez have all been pretty inconsistent lately. And the bullpen hasn't been much of a help either. The Giants lost 2 of 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals, again losing to a first place team, and gave up 17 runs in the process. Even when the Giants offense is on, it's asking a lot of them to score 17 runs in a 3-game set, and they just can't keep up with teams when they get behind by a large margin early in ballgames. Surprisingly, it's been rookie Madison Bumgarner who's really been the most consistent Giants' starter throughout the month of August. Cain and Sanchez have sprinkled in some decent starts as well, but have been terribly inconsistent. The excuse some of the pitchers and fans are hinting at is that the loss of Bengie Molina has had more of an impact than people originally thought. Not that Buster Posey is a bad game-caller, it's just that he's only caught a handful of games at this level and doesn't know these hitters nearly as well as Bengie did. I'm hoping this staff though, which is packed with Cy Young winners, perennial all-stars and top-prospects, will be just fine eventually no matter who's behind the plate.

The Giants also made another move which added some depth to their outfield Sunday, grabbing Cody Ross off waivers from the Florida Marlins. I think they claimed Ross to block him from somebody else (my guess is the Padres, Cards or Braves), but ended up with him. And since he's here, they might as well use him. Ross brings value to the team in a number of ways. Although he's not having his best year (.265, 11 hr, 58 RBI, 60 runs, 9 SB) he's been a pretty solid hitter over the last couple of seasons. In 2008-'09 he averaged 23 homers, 82 RBI and a .799 OPS with a .265 average. Not too shabby considering he's a pretty darn good defensive center fielder, with the ability to play either corner outfield spot flawlessly as well. That said, I don't think he's going to get a heavy playing load right off the bat here. I don't think he'll play over Guillen in right or Burrell in left, but could be used as a defensive replacement late in ballgames or insurance for Andres Torres incase he fades down the stretch. If Ross catches fire though, like Burrell did, he'll undoubtedly find himself in the lineup more days than not. He's also under team control through the 2011 season, meaning the Giants can either use him as trade bait this winter, or they could keep him in the mix as a viable center/right field option for 2011. Everybody in the Giants outfield, outside of Schierholtz and Rowand will be free-agents after the year, so Ross would immediately become their best outfielder on the roster once everyone files for free agency. I really like the move considering they didn't have to give up anything, and, again, now posses a 29 year-old right-handed hitting outfielder who plays good defense and will give you 20 hr/85 RBI per year.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Giants Struggling Vs. Top Teams

I've been noticing a pattern here lately with the Giants, and it's becoming a tad disturbing. Yes, the team is still 13 games over .500 and in pretty good position to make their playoff push in the final month of the season, but they just can't seem to figure out the NL's better teams lately.

First off, the Giants were punished by the Padres, once again, in their own home ballpark, losing 2 of 3 to the first place Friars in a series the Giants really needed to make a statement in. Just a few weeks back, they were really cruising but lost 3 of 4 to the NL East leading Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, then beat up on the lowly Cubbies before sinking vs. the first place Padres. Now they're struggling again vs. a solid Philly squad. It seems like the Giants just can't seem to win the big series vs. these winning ballclubs, and that's going to hurt them down the stretch. A big reason for that is the fact that their dominant starting rotation has hit a bit of a bump in the road, especially ace Tim Lincecum. Fans are starting to worry about "The Franchise" after his era's blown up to 3.62 (a staff high) and he's lost his last 3 starts in a row. Not too mention, his fastball that once averaged 94-96 mph is down around 90, and he just doesn't have that uncanny command that he's used to. I've seen Lincecum win without his best stuff. I've seen him dominate teams even with the 91 mph fastball consistently, but he seems like a different pitcher right now. The logical guess is that maybe all his work over the last 3 seasons is catching up with him (450+ innings last 2 seasons). I'm not at all panicked over Lincecum right now, but I think it would be wise for the Giants to consider sitting him down and missing a start to get some extra rest. Not sure if that's the issue or not, but I'm sure taking an extra 5 days off wouldn't hurt the matter.

It's not just Lincecum though either. It seems that the rest of the Giants' starting rotation have all had their era's balloon here in the last couple of weeks. Luckily, they've gotten some clutch offensive performances that have won some games for them recently, or else they'd really be in a tail-spin. The two right-handed power hitting outfielders the Giants added in-season have both been paying dividends. Jose Guillen just arrived, but has arrived in style, going 5-12 in his first 3 games as a Giant, including an impressive homer run off of Roy Oswalt to bring the Giants to within 1 late in Tuesday's game (a game the Giants eventually got blown out in). But it's really been Pat "The Bat" Burrell who has really exploded here lately. Burrell's taken sole reigns of the everyday left-field job and has prospered. In his last 10 ballgames, Burrell has gone 11-39 with 5 home runs and 13 RBI. One of those homers ended up winning a game for the Giants, and one of them ended up tying a game in the 8th inning in which the Giants ended up pulling out.

Besides Burrell, prize rookie catcher Buster Posey has continued his assault on NL pitching, collecting 8 hits in his last 4 ballgames and keeping the Giants lineup afloat. Bruce Bochy has recently been experimenting with Posey in the 2 hole, but I really would like to see him moved to the 3-spot permanently. I think that spot best suits him and will likely be the spot where he ends up in the long-term. With the way everyone's swinging the bat right now though, Boch doesn't have many other options for that 2nd spot. One idea I have would be to place Pablo Sandoval there for a few games to maybe get him going. Hitting him in front of Posey, Huff, Burrell and Guillen would probably be the spot that would provide him with the best possible pitches, and probably the best fastball ratio. Pitchers won't want to walk the Panda to set things up for the hot hitters in the Giants lineup, so I think they'd go right after him. Just an idea, but I don't see any harm in trying it out.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, August 13, 2010

Giants Add Guillen, Lose Game 1 vs. SD

The Giants started their most important series of the season to date on Friday, and hours before the first of three with San Diego, the Giants added that final offensive piece to the puzzle that they had been looking for.

Brian Sabean made a couple of small, but necessary moves before the July 31st trade deadline, adding some bullpen help in Javier Lopez and Ramon Rodriguez, but they saved their big move for August. The Giants obtained Jose Guillen from the Royals for some cash and a player to be named later, bringing Guillen's .255 average, 16 homers and 62 RBI to the Giants lineup likely in time for Saturday's game 2 of the ever so crucial 3-game set with the first place Padres this weekend. Surprisingly, Guillen cost the Giants less than both of those relievers did, and he has the chance to pay huge dividends down the stretch. I talked a lot about Guillen in our last post when it became clear that the Giants had a good shot at getting him, so I won't repeat all the same info again. He was told after the trade that the Giants plan on starting him at least 4 times per week, and if he takes off like Pat Burrell has recently, he'll probably become the everday right fielder. Guillen is very pleased with the deal, and who could blame him. He's going from a last place situation where he was beginning to lose time to younger players in a rebuilding effort, only to arrive on contending team in a great city with a solid cast of teammates.

Although he's played most of his career in the AL, Jose Guillen is no stranger to the NL, playing here most recently in '05 and '06 with Washington. So his transition should be relatively smooth. Speaking of transition, he also wasn't the only guy the Giants traded for this week. Brian Sabean also went out and grabbed Mike Fontenot from the Cubbies after getting news that Edgar Renteria would once again hit the DL. Fontenot brings plenty of versatility to the Giants bench, having played extensively at all infield positions besides first base, and doing so with good defense. He also will provide some occasional punch for a little guy and can be a very streaky hitter. He also brings some value as a pinch hitter, as he's got 7 pinch hits for the Cubs this year, including a homer and 8 RBI. The Giants did call up Emmanuel Burris as well when Renteria went down, and Burriss had a multi-hit game right out the gate, but he's likely destined for Fresno again on Saturday once Guillen is put on the 25-man roster. And after they add Guillen to the roster, they're going to be content with their roster and will have have one of the deeper clubs they've had here in a long while. I think on most nights, we're going to get Huff at first, Burrell in left and Guillen in right and the rest of the bunch in their regular spots. This leaves the Giants with their most potent lineup since the days of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.

Right off the bat, the new look Giants will get a huge test and they failed part 1 Friday night. Game 1 of the highly anticipated Giants/Padres series unfortunately went to the Padres. The Giants got to Clayton Richard early for 2 quick runs in the first 2 innings, but the Pads chipped away and came back to edge them out, 3-2. The Giants sure could have used Jose Guillen tonight against the left Richard, as the Giants just couldnt' get anything going after the first two innings. It's only mid-August, so this series isn't going to make or break either of these teams. The Giants needed a sweep to take sole possession of first in the west, but hopefully they can at least salvage the last 2 and they'd still end up gaining a game on the Pads. Madison Bumgarner gets Mat Latos on Saturday, then Tim Lincecum and Wade LeBlanc wind things up Sunday afternoon, so we're in line for some pretty good pitching match-ups. At least the Giants will have the new look for those games. Here's how I'd like to see Bochy put together the lineup for the next few games:

Torres CF
Sanchez 2B
Posey C
Huff 1B
Burrell LF
Guillen RF
Sandoval 3B
Uribe SS
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Giants Have Interest in Jose Guillen

The Giants have been looking for ways to add power to their lineup without giving up the farm, and their best chance to do so may be right now, as the Kansas City Royals have waived outfielder/DH Jose Guillen.

Supposedly, the Giants looked at Guillen when they were scouting Scott Podsednik back before the deadline, buy obviously didn't have enough interest in him to work out a deal. However, now they can scoop up Guillen just by assuming the remaining $3.75 remaining on his contract for 2010 and maybe sending KC some irrelevant minor league prospect. Guillen would definitely bring a potent right-handed bat to the Giants lineup, and solidify one of their corner outfield spots with a guy who's a pretty good defender with a cannon arm. Prior to his release, Guillen was carrying a .255 batting average along with 16 homers, 62 RBI. On the Giants, that would immediately place him 2nd in the HR and RBI categories behind only Aubrey Huff. The real question regarding Jose Guillen though, and a reason why teams are so leary on taking a chance on him, is his negative perception as a teammate and clubhouse presence. He's been compared to Milton Bradley, and one of the big things the Giants have going for them right now is their cohesion as a team and I don't know that they'd take on the risk of adding someone like Guillen.

I personally wouldn't mind them taking a shot on him as long as they don't need to give up anybody. Even though they've stepped things up a bit lately, the Giants still need all the offense they can get, and Jose Guillen is a guy who could come in and hit in the middle of the order with Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff and really solidify things. The Giants have only scored 6 runs over their last 3 games, and were unable to cash in on a couple of solid starting performances because they weren't able to score a couple of runs. In fact, they really should have lost their last 3 in a row but caught a few breaks in Friday nights game which allowed them to eventually win it in extra innings in Atlanta. Yes, it would probably cut into Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz's at-bats, but if those guys are playing well, Bochy could still find ways to get them into the lineup. Basically, the question the Giants need to ask is would they rather be giving crucial playing time down the stretch to Pat Burrell or to Jose Guillen, and I'd have to take Guillen right now if I had the option. Guillen is by far the better fielder of the 2, and although Burrell may have more pure power than Guillen, I think Guillen is a better overall hitter at this point in each of their career's. Unfortunately the Giants weren't able to claim Adam Dunn off Waivers from Washington recently, killing any chance of bringing Dunn to San Francisco for the season's final 2 months, so Guillen could be their last, real option at adding power. We'll be keeping a close eye on this situation over the next week or so.

And again, we here at the Giants Baseball Blog encourage all Giants fans to check out the charity event being put on by Matt Cain and his wife, Chelsea, on August 14th. It's looks like there will be some great food and plenty to drink and you can enjoy it all for just $30, check out more information here: http://baseballwivesallstarcookoff.eventbrite.com/!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Giants Sweep LA, Ready for Rockies

It looks like the Giants players were glad they didn't do anything too drastic to disrupt chemistry at the trade deadline, as they went out and completed their 3-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday, a sweep that really hurt the Dodgers in the standings.

The Giants did sweep them, but the series was a lot closer than it would appear. The Dodgers lost all 3 games by a combined 4 runs, and their starting pitching did a very good job in keeping down the Giants lineup, but when the Giants starters are on, they're tough to beat, and they were on this weekend. We already discussed Tim Lincecum's solid outing Friday night, and he was followed up with a 7 inning, 3 hit, 1 run, 6 strikeout performance by Barry Zito on Saturday. Unfortunately for Zito, the Giants didn't score until Pat Burrell hit a go-ahead 2-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning, so Zito was once again left without a decision, but everybody had to be pleased with the way he threw the ball. Zito was followed up by Matt Cain, who won his 3rd consecutive decision, going 7.2 shutout innings, and striking out 7 Dodger hitters. Fortunately for Cain, he did get a little bit of support, not much, but all he needed, on an Edgar Renteria 2-RBI triple in the 6th. The Dodgers young lefty, Clayton Kershaw, had been matching Cain pitch for pitch until that inning, and the ball that Renteria hit wasn't even much of a mistake. Still though, whether it was a mistake or not, the Giants found ways to win those games without producing much offense. They got really good at that in July, and hopefully that's something they can keep going all year.

Speaking of the offense, even though the July 31st trade deadline has passed, a big trade option may have just become available, as the Washington Nationals have placed Adam Dunn on waivers. What happens now, is the Giants have to wait for him to be cleared by each team in front of them, including the Dodgers and Rockies, before they could have a shot at attaining him. The one positive they do have going for them, is that the Dodgers and Rockies don't really have the funds available or the positional space to stick Adam Dunn at, so they may shy away from getting to serious about claiming him. If he does manage to fall to the Giants though, they'd have to strongly consider the possibility of adding the left-handed slugger. They obviously wouldn't have to part with too much, although I don't think the Nats would just give him away, even if it does save them $4 million. This is where I think Jon Bowker would have had some value to a team like Washington. They could have at least been replacing some of the power lost in Dunn with a guy like Bowker, but he's no longer an option. Travis Ishikawa could be though. Is it worth to part with a possible future, cheap, effective first base option for a couple months of Adam Dunn? I actually think that with this particular team, it just may be. The Giants are approaching the 20-game above .500 mark, and that just hasn't happened too often in recent years (not since 2004 at least). They may want to make that one move to put them over the hump, cause the NL is really wide open right now and Adam Dunn is certainly the type of impact bat that could sway the balance of power in this league.

Up Next: The Giants start another important 3-game set with a NL West foe on Tuesday night, as Jonathan Sanchez and Aaron Cook square off at Coors Field in Colorado. The Giants really put LA behind the 8-ball (they're now 9-games out of first) by sweeping them over the weekend, and can really do the same to the Rockies by at least taking the series from them. The Giants have suffered some heartbreaks in Colorado in recent years, and now that they're playing as good as they have in a long, long time, I think they're set for some revenge in the Rockies....

Also, we here at the Giants Baseball Blog encourage all Giants fans to check out the charity event being put on by Matt Cain and his wife, Chelsea, on August 14th. It's looks like there will be some great food and plenty to drink and you can enjoy it all for just $30, check out more information here: http://baseballwivesallstarcookoff.eventbrite.com/!
The Giants Baseball Blog