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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sandoval Shelved for 2 Months

Just when the "Panda" re-gained his stroke and was one of the hotter hitters in the league, the 24 year-old went down Saturday with a broken wrist that is expected to cost him up to 8 weeks. There's even a chance he may not be back until August. All we can do right now is hope for Sandoval cause he was the catalyst to this Giants offense this April.

Unfortunately, I'm also still battling a bad injury to my right wrist, and won't be able to do a post today. Just wanted to give my thoughts on Sandoval who will be sorely missed both in the lineup and in the clubhouse. It really stinks too cause Pablo was off to a career start hitting .313 with 5 HR and 13 RBI hitting back in the middle of the Giants order.

I'll also tell you what a good thing the Giants have a guy like Mark DeRosa now, otherwise they'd be in a mess over there. It would probably have meant Tejada at 3rd and Fontenot at short, hardly a defensive left-side you want if your Bochy. Instead, I'd expect much of the same, just with DeRosa filling in at 3rd (in about 10 days when he returns from the DL) and probably swapping batting spots with Ross or Burrell.

What does worry me is the injury bug that's attacked the Giants this year, but on the bright side, Andres Torres is just days away from his return. Whoever it is, they need somebody to jump start this stagnant offense!

Couple Points on Today's Game: I just wanted to point out how big it was for the bullpen to come up with those 4 scoreless in relief of Sanchez, who was untouchable, but also couldn't find the plate... So it appears that while DeRosa is shelved, Migeul Tejada is now the 3rd basemen with Mike Fontenot taking over at short; pretty much expected... I fear that if Sandoval's injury lingers (broken wrists for a hitter can take up to 4-6 months to fully heal, especially for a guy who carries Pablo's weight) and if Mark DeRosa isn't the same player when he returns, that could be the department in which the Giants go shopping. Then again, Pablo is lining up to be this teams 3B'men of the future, so they have a tough situation.... Let's hope he's back before the All-Star Break!
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Changes Could Be in Store for Giants

As the Giants get set to take on the Pirates in game 2 of their 3-game set, rumors are starting to spark around the clubhouse of some possible player movement. It's only April, but the team is simply under-performing and the front office apparently isn't happy with what it seeing.

Sitting at 11-11 and on the heels of getting swept at home over the weekend by the Braves, it's really got the front office moving to figure out ways to improve the team in the near term. A few reports are suggesting what I did in the last post, and that is that Madison Bumgarner could be on a short leash. The 21 year-old goes Wednesday night in Pittsburgh in a match-up that heavily favors him, so he's got all the odds on his side. He enters the game at 0-3 with a 7.79 era and not a single "quality start" on the 2011 campaign yet. His release point isn't staying consistent, and he's not brushing off bad starts like he should, and those are things that get young pitchers sent down to AAA. Not saying Bumgarner's on the verge of that happening, but he won't make it too far into May with the big club if that era doesn't come down. Problem here though, is that the Giants are pretty thin in the starting rotation as is, with Barry Zito out until May. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens with Ryan Vogelsong in his first start in Zito's place tomorrow, but so far, he's thrown exceptionally well.

The other bit of news floating around is in regards to Mark DeRosa, who is apparently being scouted aggressively by the Florida Marlins where they have a veteran pitcher in Javier Vazquez who isn't pitching well in South Beach. Now I have no idea if and what the Giants would ask for in a trade for DeRosa, but I could see it happening since they seem to favor using Mike Fontenot over DeRosa. I was beginning to think his lack of PT may have something to do with his injury from last year, but he's apparently 100% healthy, so I do wonder why he isn't played more often. Especially when Brandon Belt had to face those tough lefties when he was up, or when Pat Burrell was going through his dry spell. The value of DeRosa is his versatility, and either he's lost it, or the Giants don't have much confidence in him anywhere else but 3rd base, and he certainly isn't unseating Pablo. I just don't see any reason why he didn't get an AB in last nights close game, or doesn't at least start 1-2 games a week somewhere. During that whole time Cody Ross was out, DeRosa was never used in right field, even though he'd played there with regularity in prior years.

Ford "Steals" Giants a Win: A couple of Giants who've been instrumental in the last couple of wins have been the guys filling in for Cody Ross and Andres Torres. Darren Ford basically single-handily won Tuesday night's game vs. the Pirates with his blazing speed. They don't have Ford on the base paths last night and they probably don't win that game, but then again, it's tough to validate a roster spot with just speed. Ford still hasn't hit enough to stay in the bigs though. Fellow reserve outfielder Nate Schierholtz has also had some big moments recently, and he's showing Bochy he wants to play more. That homer he hit in Colorado was mammoth, and had to have given him a jolt of confidence. Not only did he hit that 467-foot blast, but he had a 3-hit night to go along with it, then came up with a big double in Tuesday's game... Meanwhile, Cody Ross has gone 3-19 with 7 K's since his return (not bashing, just pointing out that he may not be quite ready).

Roster Alert! Adding even more fuel to the fire of my above post, Mark DeRosa's frustrating run in San Francisco took another bad turn Wednesday. The same wrist that's caused him 2 surgeries already is flaring up again, and DeRosa has gone on the DL. Called up in his place is the 25 year-old Emmanuel Burris, who was playing well in Fresno (.344 with 15 steals in 16 games)...BTW, our April Minor League Report is right around the corner!
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Braves Get Revenge for NLDS Loss

Well, somewhere in a nice Georgia suburb, Bobby Cox had to have been smiling after seeing the team he built finally get over on the team that sent him into retirement last fall. The Braves took care of the Giants in a way that reminded me of 1996 all over again.

Braves pitching was on point, as Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson put on clinics vs. Giants hitters and kept the normally thunderous AT&T Park pretty quiet all weekend. First, Hanson made Cody Ross' return to AT&T Park miserable, handing the right fielder an 0-3 with 2 punch-outs. The Giants only mustered up 3 hits in the 7 innings Hanson threw and you could tell early on when Madison Bumgarner started losing his cool, it was going to be a long night. That start by MadBum has to re-spark talks of possibly sending him down to Frenso to work on finding a consistent release point, which has bothered him since Spring Training. However, the Giants are already short a starter with Zito shelved and aren't exactly loaded with adequate replacements, and they certainly don't need to trade for one. If Bumgarner can't turn things around in the coming weeks and has an era over 5 still, maybe I'd look into some of the veteran free agent arms who are still looking for work, Jerrod Washburn and even though I don't care for the guy, Jeff Weaver is still floating around as well. Problem there though, is those guys probably would want significant roles rather than injury fill-ins and even though they're still looking for work, would cost a helluva lot more than just purchasing a minor league deal. Still, if the Giants starters keep dropping like flies, something will have to give.

Now with all that said, Madison Bumgarner has a bright future, and is a guy who will be with this team for years to come. They don't win the 2010 Series without Bumgarner, remember that. So, even if he were to go down briefly, he's very much in this teams plans going forward for this year. What's a little more disconcerting is the fact that this lineup is sputtering along all of the sudden. "Miguel Tejada drawing complaints left and right", "Pat Burrell strikes out way too much" and "Aubrey Huff was a one-hit wonder in 2010", is just some of the banter we're now starting to hear as the team hits it's first rough patch of the season. And to be fair, the complaints, at least as far as Tejada and Patty, have been valid in large part. Tejada isn't playing up to his $6M price-tag shows and Burrell is tough to critique cause he'll go 0-4 with 3 k's Friday night, then come back and hit a huge 3-run homer Saturday afternoon. He certainly has a spot on the team, but as I've said numerous times at this site, just not as an "everdayer". Give him the right 300 ab's per year and he'll pay off. I still want to give Miggy more time to settle in, but if he doesn't, that could be the place where Sabean goes in-season shopping. I'm not the least bit worried about Aubrey Huff or Brian Wilson. It's still April, and I'm not ready to start sitting any players, especially who just won you a world series, until they've played 50-70 games and we have a good sample size. I hate to think of what we'd have to part with to get him, but the more I see he's healthy, the more I want Jose Reyes in a Giants uni (in the right circumstances of course)!

With the Giants sitting at 10-11 closing in on May, they don't look like a playoff team, and that concerns me. They looked like a World Series team during the stretch against the Cards, Dodgers, D-Backs and Rockies, even in the games they lost, they were in, but they didn't look the part vs. Atlanta in their own home ballpark. And even though I still have total confidence in B-Willy closing out games, I'm just hoping he doesn't lose that swagger and that aura that's helped him become so successful (and trust me, that's not likely). Wilson is such a grounded fellow though, so I don't think that's something we have to worry about. But my gosh, he's blown some bad ones and as a guy who's in a huge year as far as post-season contract negotiations (I believe he'll be getting mighty rich this winter in arbitration, so long as he keeps doing in 2011 what he's done since 2008). A good season could be the difference in a $9 million deal or a $4.5 million deal I know, boo hoo, poor them, the average person can't spend that in their life!).

GBB Note
: Hey GBB faithful, thank you all for actually reading! I'm still battling an injury to my right thumb and hand area so for another week or so, I'll be forced to do minimal posting and shorter posts (Doc says don't type at all for a week... Yeah Right!!) But as soon as my hand allows, we'll be back to a near daily-basis.
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Short Post Saturday in Giants Loss

Short Post: One Handed- GBB Writer Trevor Cole has suffered a (hopefully) short-term injury to his right hand and cannot function properly with it. For that reason, I'll keep it simple and stick to the banter on the first two losses in the Atlanta series.

The Giants had a great time on the road, and have now returned for a short weekend series with the Braves, and they've all the sudden hit a wall. Everyone was expecting the team, myself included to take off once Cody Ross returned and guys got back into their 2010 rhythm. But through 2 games, that hasn't been the case. The Giants offense was shut down by Braves' youngster Tommy Hanson, who out-dueled fellow youngster Madison Bumgarner in the win. Hanson held the Giants to just 3 hits and a run in 8 strong before relinquishing duties to right-handed, flame throwing Billy Wagner -clone, Craig Kimbrel. What was more concerning for Giants fans was the outing had by stud lefty Madison Bumgarner. The guy who had a 2.18 postseason era in '10 is sporting a 7.79 mark with more walks than strikeouts in 4 stars. Now keep in mind, MadBum is still crazy young at age 21, so to expect him to be Tim Lincecum/Matt Cain already is unrealistic. That said, if he can't make it out of April with an era down closer to 5, the Giants may need to consider giving him some work back in Fresno.

Saturday's game was a little better offensively, but they still mustered just 2 runs off of Timmy Hudson. The Braves didn't get to the Giants' Timmy early, which normally bodes well for the right hander, but they knocked him out in the 7th before opening the game with a hit off of Javier Lopez (the first RBI hit I think I've seen him surrender in an SF uni, LOL). Lincecum didn't have his A-game, but once again, the offense hid under a rock and wasn't heard from at all. The ace suffered through his roughest start of the year, allowing 6 runs and 6 walks in 6.1 innings of work. Then Lopez came in and the flood gates opened. What surprisess me though, is that the Cody Ross-infused lineup hasn't produced better results. Now, don't take my concern for worry, cause these guys will figure it out, just would like them to take advantage of their home time before leaving for the road again on Monday... Another point I wanted to touch on was the fact that Pat "The Bat" seems to have found his stroke. The long ball has been there all year for Burrell, but the average hasn't, and now after a 3-hit game Saturday, he's at a respectable .250. Respectable only because he's amongst the league leaders in home runs. Now for most players hitting sub-.250, it'd likely cost them their everyday gig, but as long as Burrell can stay there (with his power), his spot is safe.

Note: Again, sorry about the incapacitated hand, which I hope relieves itself in the coming days. Regardless though, stay tuned cause we should keep our normal posting schedule, though the posts may be shorter. Again, THIS IS ONLY TEMPORARY and I probably should take a week off, but now I know what players feel like when they're told they can't play but itch to so badly. I couldn't rest right now! Certainly not with this team, this early in the year!
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Giants Now 3 Games Back of Rockies

Although the Rockies were able to salvage the series and win game 3 on Wednesday, the Giants won their 4th consecutive series, and are now just 3 games back of first place Colorado.

If you've been watching Matt Cain throw all year, then Wednesday's start had to take you by surprise a little bit. It was Cain's roughest start of the '11 season and really his only bad start he's had since the 2011 season started. Cain gave up 6 runs over 4.2 innings, allowing 9 hits and 2 walks along with 6 strikeouts, and the Giants bullpen didn't fair much better. After Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez were so brilliant on Monday and Tuesday night, the bullpen probably grew a tad restless, cause they looked mighty rusty in Wednesday's game, especially Dan Runzler. Still though, after the Giants first two games, it's tough to get really upset about Wednesday's performance. Prior to the game, they also made a few roster moves, which I think a lot of fans saw coming, sending Brandon Belt down to Fresno and activating Cody Ross from the 15-day DL. Bochy didn't waste any time getting Ross out there either, immediately placing him in right field and in the fifth spot in the lineup. After Aaron Rowand was forced to leave Tuesday nights game when he took a Ubaldo Jimenez fastball off the right forearm, there was a lot of concern as to the severity of the injury. Rowand is known as a guy who won't come out of a game unless he absolutely cannot go, and by him taking himself out, it raised some flags. However, Rowand woke up in much better shape Wednesday, making his way into the lineup and allowing Ross to stick in right field.

Unfortunately, the Giants didn't have the guy who's been their most impressive offensive performer so far this year for Wednesday's series finale. Pablo Sandoval strained his triceps in batting practice and although the injury isn't supposed to be serious, Bochy didn't want to take any chances with the rejuvenated 24 year-old "Panda". Sandoval is leading all Giants regulars with a .328 average, 5 home runs and 13 RBI to go along with a 1.003 OPS through the first 3 weeks. He's also looked like a different man on defense as well, showing much more range and a lot more confidence. He's settled very nicely into the 5th spot behind Posey and Huff, and has finally allowed Bochy to use the same 1-5 order on a consistent basis. Now with Ross back, I'd assume that he'll slide into the 6th spot behind Sandoval and in front of Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada, and that's probably the lineup we'll be seeing most of the time. A lot of people were speculating early on what would happen with everyone once Ross returned, but with Belt's struggles and Andres Torres' injury, things worked themselves out. And even though I agree 100% with the move, I'm certainly not down on Brandon Belt by any stretch. The kid just turned 23, and is only going to get better, but needs to be playing everyday in Fresno right now, fine tuning his swing and plate coverage.

Belt is taking a path very similar to that of Buster Posey's. Remember what Buster Posey looked like in his first stint in the bigs at the end of 2009? He didn't get quite the opportunity that Belt received over the last 3 weeks, only getting 18 at-bats in total at the end of September, but he hit just .118 in that short stint. Posey also had very limited experience beyond AA ball at the time, much like Belt did coming into this year. Posey then started the 2010 season in Fresno in very strong fashion, resulting in him coming up for good last May. I expect much of the same with Belt. He's got to cover that middle-in part of the plate, and get his confidence back, and believe me, he'll be back sooner than later.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Giants Miss Sweep, Take 2 of 3 in AZ

The Giants have officially found their rhythm, and they still have reinforcements on the way. Although they were unable to complete the sweep of the Diamondbacks Sunday, they still took 2 of 3 from Arizona, and now head to Colorado to face the 1st place Rockies.

Like I suspected, the Giants have been a completely different team since getting their rings and all of the early season festivities out of the way. The weekend didn't end exactly the way they wanted it to, but they're getting better and better as the season wears on, and still are without their best offensive player from last years postseason in Cody Ross. The right fielder was scheduled to stay behind in Arizona a few extra days after the Giants take off tonight, as he'll continue to get reps in extended spring training before heading to Fresno for a quick rehab assignment. Andres Torres, the center fielder and leadoff hitter who was hurt in the first homestand, is also progressing well from his ankle strain, and could be back shortly after Ross. The Giants don't necessarily need either of them to rush back though, as their depth has allowed them to not only survive without the two starting outfielders, but thrive. Aaron Rowand had another multi-hit game Sunday in place of Torres, and now hitting .364 on the young season. Also, Brandon Belt is starting to gain more comfort at the plate, collecting 5 hits in his last 11 at-bats heading into Sunday's game (though he did take an 0-4 in Sunday's game).

What's been key for the Giants, especially in Arizona, has been the long-ball. They didn't hit many homers in the first 10 days of the season, but since then, it's like the offense has exploded. Pablo Sandoval, who's been the hottest hitter on the team since game 1, is tied for the team lead now with 4 home runs, 3 of which have come in his last 4 ballgames. Buster Posey now has 3 on the year and two of those have come in this series with the D-Backs. The long ball again helped them in Sunday's game allowing them to score 5 runs on just 6 hits and gave Madison Bumgarner a chance to win after he surrendered 4 first inning runs. That's been the Giants combo for wins lately, great pitching and timely hitting. On the mound, Matt Cain, especially, has looked tremendous this year. He won his 2nd game of the year on Friday night, and has allowed just 3 runs in 21 innings of work this season. People were calling into KNBR after Friday night's start and mentioning "Matt Cain for Cy Young" which is certainly premature, but gives you an idea of how strong he's been in April. I don't think I've ever seen him throwing with the confidence he is right now. The Giants are going to need all their starters on their game now too with Barry Zito hitting the DL Saturday. Ryan Vogelsong has been called up to take Zito's spot in the rotation, after having a terrific spring with the club.
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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Giants Take 2 of 3 From LA, Head to AZ

The Giants responded nicely vs. the Dodgers after their first series this season down in Los Angeles yielded just 1 win in 4 games. We all anticipated things would get better for the Giants after they came home and capped off their World Series ceremony, and it sure looked that way with the performances they put up against the Cardinals and Dodgers over the last week.

The Giants had a very solid, 4-2 homestand after a rough 2-4 road trip to begin the year, and now sit at .500 for the first time since opening day, at 6-6. They've been getting solid pitching all year long, but closer Brian Wilson was a little late to get going. However, all concerns people had for the bearded closer have been swept under the rug after his last two outings vs. the Dodgers, both perfect outings in 1-run save situations. I made mention the last time we talked about Wilson, that his rustiness to start the year should be expected, since he missed so much of spring training, so I'm not really surprised to see Wilson back on track. Not only did they get Wilson going in the LA series, but rookie first basemen Brandon Belt also contributed in the last two victories. Belt is still hitting well below the league average over at first base, but it was good to see him get some confidence going, cause I was starting to worry about his morale a little bit. I kind of wish Boch would give him some more time off, but right now with Torres banged up but not DL'ed, it's especially tough to remove Belt from the lineup. If Torres get's back in the next few days and avoids the disabled list, I could see Rowand moving over to right field, as hot as his bat has been, with Aubrey Huff back over at first base. I'd definitely use that set-up vs. left-handed pitching, where Belt has really been exposed.

While Belt had really been struggling up till the last few games, one guy who has been hot seemingly since day one, has been Pablo Sandoval. Not only does this guy look better at the plate, but he looks like a whole new player on defense as well. Sandoval is 2nd on the team, behind only Rowand, with a .357 average, 2 homers and 6 RBI through his first 12 games. He was a big part of the win Wednesday, hitting the game-tying solo home run in the 6th inning, which was followed by Mike Fontenot's solo job, which was the difference in the ballgame. Fontenot's day was very impressive, as he was inserted into the lineup right before the first pitch, subbing in for Mark DeRosa as Freddy Sanchez got his scheduled day off. Fontenot got the late start, and like he did early in the 2010 postseason for the Giants, made big impact in the outcome. The Giants are starting to get into rythem now, and starting to look more and more like the team that won it all last fall. And keep in mind, they're still without one of their most valuable pieces to their outfield in Cody Ross. "The Boss" though, has been making nice progress over the last week, and is now participating in full baseball activities. He'll travel with the team to Arizona, we're he'll stay behind a few extra days, play some extended spring training, then likely head to Fresno or San Jose for a quick 2-3 game rehab assignment. It wouldn't surprise me to see Ross with the Giants at this time next week, or at least by next weekend.

A Look Ahead: The Giants could definitely use Cody Ross too, and sooner than later, as they get ready to embark on a stretch of play which will involve 16 of the next 19 games they play to be on the road. The first stop on that trip will be Arizona for 3 this weekend, then to Colorado for 3 before returning home for a brief 3-game homestand vs. the Braves.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Giants vs. Dodgers: Round 2

Just like everyone expected, the Giants came home and finally begun looking like the team that won the 2010 World Series. They took 2 of 3 from the Cardinals, winning both games in comeback fashion in the 9th inning or later, and now get their shot at LA again after losing 2 of 3 in Pasadena to start the season.

I think the Giants made it clear both Friday and Saturday, that they are simply a different team at home, a much more confident bunch. After the banner ceremony on Friday, they lost a late lead behind closer Brian Wilson, but stayed strong and won in the 12th. They had the same type game Saturday as once again, they failed to give Matt Cain proper run support and were down to their final strike before mounting a 2-out rally, capped by Miguel Tejada's deep drive to the left-center gap. Both times, the Cardinals had their closer, and a guy who's quietly been one of the most successful closers in the NL over the last 2 seasons, on the mound, and the Giants got to him. After the first two games, I think everyone was just waiting for the team to mount their comeback in the 9th inning of Sunday's ballgame, but the Cards held on and won 6-1. It was a game in which Bruce Bochy rested Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada, so the Giants certainly didn't have their A-team out there, but anytime you take 2 of 3 from a team like St. Louis, you have to consider it a successful series. Not too mention all the festivities that came this weekend; the flag raising, the ring ceremony and the Buster Posey ROY celebration, it was a weekend I will not soon forget. Time to bring on the Dodgers!

The only scare of the weekend for the Giants came when Andres Torres strained his achilles heel while going for a low line drive on Saturday night. Luckily for the Giants, Torres won't need to go on the DL, but likely won't be available for use in any capacity for the upcoming 3 vs. LA. Aaron Rowand has gotten off to a very nice start to this 2011 season, so I don't think anyone will mind that he'll be out in center for the next couple of games, he certainly has earned it. I'm just curious to see who Boch decides to put in the leadoff spot over these next few games? I don't think he wants to mix everybody up and move the whole lineup around, plus Rowand has a .389 average, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Boch keep the center fielder in the leadoff spot. I guess I'm also kind of curious to see how Brandon Belt is used from here on out. It's no secret he's struggling to get much going at the plate, as evident of his .163 batting average, but Belt hasn't looked bad, by any stretch. He's had some very nice at-bats, and hit a few had balls that found gloves, and is a few breaks away from hitting .300. He's also played exceptional defense and is by far the best defensive 1st basemen on the roster. Cody Ross hasn't even begun his rehab work yet, so he's probably not going to be back before late-April, but I'm just not sure the Giants will keep trotting Belt out there if his average doesn't come up. It wouldn't surprise me to see more of Huff at first base and Nate Schierholtz out in RF vs. tough right-handers.
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Friday, April 08, 2011

Giants Go 12 to Win Home Opener

It was a seasaw battle between the Giants and the Cardinals Friday at AT&T Park. It was the Giants first home game since winning the World Series last November, and in the end, they were celebrating on the field again.

In a game that had a very similar feel to a 2010 Playoff game, the Giants beat the Cardinals after relinquishing a 9th inning lead behind closer Brian Wilson. It was just Wilson's 2nd appearance on the season and since mid-March, and I think it's fair to say he's still a little rusty, but the Giants picked him up in a big way. Pablo Sandoval continues to be one of the hottest hitters in baseball, and tied the game in the bottom of the 9th with 2-outs on a single to right. Then Aaron Rowand came up big with the bases loaded in the 13th and sent everyone home with a deep drive off the wall in left-center field. Rowand and Sandoval have both been men on a mission since opening day, driven to eliminate fan's doubts after each had rough 2010 seasons, and both are absolutely tearing it up in early April. Listening a little bit to Eric Byrnes on KNBR after the game, and he made a good point in saying he thought Pablo has quietly been the team's MVP so far in 2011, I certainly wouldn't argue with him. Rowand has clearly been the best player off the bench (6-10, 1HR, 4 RBI), and I think it's clear that he needs to start getting some more plate appearances, along with Mark DeRosa. With the left-hander Jaime Garcia on the mound tomorrow night, it wouldn't surprise me to see Rowand in center, Huff back at first and DeRosa out in right.

The only side-effect with having the depth the Giants have is that they don't have enough at-bats to spread out to everyone. Not to mention, everyone in the lineup, for the most part, has been doing their job. Burrell doesn't have a great average, but leads the team with 3 home runs, including a big-fly Friday that helped stretch the Giants lead. Huff has been a little up-and-down, but he's their 3rd place hitter and team-leader in RBI, and even with his struggles in the outfield, his bat makes him tough to replace. And just think about the options Bochy will be presented with once Cody Ross comes back from the DL.

The Giants just looked like a different team at home in their yard, a much more confident bunch, and it made me the fan, a much more confident fan watching. Even when Wilson gave up the lead, and the momentum was sucked right out of the ballpark, I had a gut feeling that this thing wasn't quite over, and the Giants, indeed, saved some home magic for late. Now looking back at Friday's game, the only complaints we'll probably see are from people worrying about Brian Wilson and the fact that his 2 appearances have resulted in the opposing team scoring a boat-load of runs, but again, I tell those worrier's to relax. Wilson threw in a handful of games this spring and we knew that coming in. He's not worried, he feels fine physically, and we know what kind of mental psyche he has, so it's only a matter of time before he's back to himself. Matter of fact, he didn't look all that bad Friday if you actually watched him pitch and didn't just glance at the box score. He was squeezed on 3-4 decisive pitches, and then barely nicked John Jay to set things up for St. Louis. It's not like they were knocked him out of the game or anything. His stuff is good, and looks good, he just needs another outing or two to really get control of it, and then he'll be fine. Wilson will be fine!
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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Giants Head Home After Split in SD

They rebounded nicely Wednesday after a rough one Tuesday, as their ace and stopper, Tim Lincecum, absolutely dominated the Padres offense. And now they're coming come for the ring ceremony and to hopefully really right their ship.

I just couldn't bear another "beating a dead horse" post after yesterday's game, so I was really hoping they'd do better today so I'd have something positive to say in today's post, and boy did they ever. The Giants survived a 9th inning scare from the Pads to hold on to win 8-4, behind the arm of their ace. Lincecum went 7 strong, allowing just a run on 3 hits, 13 strikeouts and no walks. Timmy has now gone 14 innings this year with just 1 earned run allowed, 16 strikeouts and 3 walks (notice the 0 BB's in Wednesday's start). He clearly had it from the start Wednesday, but it didn't hurt that the offense put up runs early and often for him. They got things started right off the bat in the first with a Buster Posey 3-run jack, and that's really all Lincecum would need. He only made one real mistake all game long in that hanger to Hundley, but after that, he bared down and was outstanding. He did stumble into a little bit of trouble in the fifth inning, throwing over 25 pitches, which probably cost him from going 8 full innings. I don't think he was going to go the complete 9 no matter what, being that Brian Wilson has just gotten activated and hadn't pitched in a competitive atmosphere since mid-march in the Cactus League (and no, I'm not worried about his outing).

It's just too bad they didn't save some of that offense for Tuesday's 3-1 loss, cause they more than made up for it Wednesday and did it in a game in which Lincecum didn't even need it. Even though Bumgarner had a game all 21 year-old's will have now and again, the bullpen came in and threw 6 innings of scoreless releif, but the Giants weren't able to put up 3 measly runs off of Aaron Harang. In fact, in their 2 wins now, the Giants have score 18 runs, so when they win, they're winning big, but for some reason, they aren't winning those low scoring affairs, which is a big difference from last year. Wednesday night, they didn't have to worry about runs, hits were contagious throughout the lineup, as the lineup received multi-hit efforts out of Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt. Posey was the most impressive, finally finding that breakout game for the first time in 2011. He went 3-5 with a homer (1st of the year) and 4 RBI (now has 5 on the year). Huff and Sandoval also had 3-hit games. Sandoval has been swinging a good bat since the opener, but Huff, although he's had some clutch hits, hasn't had a great average or a real big game either until Wednesday, going 3-5 himself with 2 doubles and 3 RBI.

The one bat who didn't show up, again, was Pat Burrell. "The Bat" left 6 runners on base, grounded into 2 double plays and saw his average sink to .143 after an 0-3 effort. Don't get me wrong, Burrell is still a big part of this team, and should be in the lineup every time a lefty is on the hill, but I'd say it's about time Bochy gives Mark DeRosa a shot out in left. DeRosa has looked hungry and healthy in the brief playing time he's seen this season, but also had a terrific spring, so I don't see why Boch is so hesitant to throw him out there. I also believe he has more range out in left field than Burrell, so not only do they improve offense, but they improve their defense. It's a move that needs to happen starting in Friday's opener vs. St. Louis. Again, Burrell vs. lefties, he's a masher, but vs. righties everyday at this point is becoming exposed.

Notes: The Giants will play their first real game at AT&T Park since the World Series Friday, which will include a host of festivities, non more famous than the ring ceremony. I, unfortunately, won't be there, I'm jealous to those that are, but it's going to be one hell of an atmosphere at that ballpark that we'll even feel through the TV's and radio's... To make room for Wilson, Santiago Casilla was placed on the 15-day DL.
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Monday, April 04, 2011

Defense Costs Giants in LA

The Giants defense was their one question mark coming into the season, and it really reared up and bit them in the backside on Sunday, costing them a split of the Dodgers series that they had under control.


It was a Sunday Night, nationally televised game, so I'm sure most Giants fans at least caught some portion of the contest, so I don't want to sit here and nit-pick all the little things that happened. It basically came down to the fact that the Giants couldn't catch he darn ball when it counted. I knew Aubrey Huff wasn't an ideal fit in the outfield, but I didn't know he was this bad. He butchered two plays that accounted for 5 of the Dodgers runs, yet the Giants pitchers get charged with earned runs. What was a pretty nice start out of Barry Zito, after a rocky first inning, was ruined on two plays that weren't routine can's of corn, but plays Cody Ross makes, and 95% of big league outfielders make. He allowed just a couple of base runners and 5 strikeouts in the 5 innings after that rough first inning, an inning in which Huff played a hand in as well. His routes to the balls off the bats of Carrol and Thames were horrible. He looked like a little leaguer trying to catch a fly ball for the first time running back on that back and twisting around on that Thames' drive. I can't even imagine what it'll be like for him at AT&T Park, where there's way more wind to deal with and a lot more ground to cover. We'll see how it goes in San Diego, but if Huff doesn't improve, it could ultimately cost Brandon Belt his roster spot when Ross returns (which cannot come soon enough)!

Now off to another SoCal destination that's been good at kicking the Giants when they're down, that's San Diego. The Padres played pretty well in their first series of the year vs. St. Louis, getting good pitching, solid defense and some timely hitting. They're young trio of Nick Hundly, Cameron Maybin and Chase Headly all have big-time potential which they've yet to find, but if they find it this year, the Padres will be a player in the West. The Giants will send Madison Bumgarner to the hill Tuesday night to oppose Aaron Harrang, in a match-up that clearly favors SF, but again, their pitching can only take them as far as their defense. Offense wasn't much of an issue for the Giants in the LA series, outside of game one vs. Kershaw, and they'll see more young pitching in SD after Harang on Tuesday. Pablo Sandoval's bat is looking a little better and Freddy Sanchez has been one of the toughest outs in the league to start the year. Giants fans are finally seeing a healhy Freddy, and are now getting a glimpse of that '06 NL Batting Champ and 2-time all-star and seeing indeed why the Giants were so eager to jump at extending his 2012 option. Just need to keep him healthy and on the field.
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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Giants Get Back on Track Saturday

They followed up the opener with another ugly loss Friday night, but the Giants are finally got themselves on track Saturday, behind a strong outing from Matt Cain and an offensive explosion.

They're still in the middle of play as I write this, but with a 9-0 lead in the 9th, It'd be a a tough one to blow. The Giants bats finally got going Saturday afternoon, and it started with Mark DeRosa's single to center field in the 5th. I couldn't stress enough how important DeRosa would be this season if healthy, and he showed why. Miguel Tejada came up later in the inning with a professional at-bat, driving in DeRosa with an RBI ground-out to put the Giants on the board. Tejada is such a key component to this team, it's so crucial to get him going especially. The Giants have no other options at short, so if he tanks, they're stuck with Fontenot and he was right in the middle of that rally too, with the hit that drove in Rowand. That was followed by one of Freddy Sanchez's 3 hits (3/4, HR, 3 RBI), a double off of the 3rd base bag. Then it was Aubrey Huff's turn to contribute, and Huff-daddy got going with 2 hits and 3 RBI. For the first time in the 2011 season, the Giants put up a crooked number in an inning, and they did it with a barrage of hits, not the 3-run homer. Nearly everyone got involved, with the exception of Pat Burrell. "The Bat" has hit one of his rough stretches since his opening day home run off Broxton, as he's just 0-10 with 4 whiffs without that big fly. I'd be willing to bet he'll get a day off Sunday against Kuroda with DeRosa or Rowand getting another starting nod.

Speaking of Rowand, it will be Sanchez, Huff, Tejada and DeRosa that will get a lot of the credit for the offensive breakout, but as much as we bash him around here, you have to applaud him when he plays well, and Rowand played well Saturday (2-4, 1 R). It also wouldn't surprise me to see Rowand play again tomorrow afternoon especially with Burrell needing rest. Boch plays the hot hand, and when his team scores 8 runs after combining for 4 in the first two games, why not re-play the lineup? But as good as that lineup was Saturday, it all would be for not without Matt Cain's outing. He was nails, like he normally is after Giants losses, and actually got some run support this afternoon. He kept the Dodgers off the board and when the Giants finally got that run for him, Cainer' looked like he was determined to carry this team on his back. Cain finished the afternoon with a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, and 3 K's. The big zero here is in the base-on-balls column. Obviously, the zero in the run column is the one that really counts, but the zero free passes is what allowed him to keep LA off the board. I'm glad Bochy took it easy on him and didn't put him back out there in the 7th. No need to stretch Matty out in his first start of the year after his short spring.

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Quick Points on Friday's Game: Hate to re-visit a low after such a good outing, but I just wanted to point out a few quick items from Friday nights game (didn't re-cap).
*Don't get why Bochy is so set on the R-L-R-L combo from his rotation. Matt Cain should have started game 2 of the season, he's their second best pitcher, simple as that.
*The worst was why did Bochy go to Guillermo Mota, the 12th man on the staff when Affeldt or Runzler could have turned Furcal around?
*On a good note Brandon Belt was the silver lining. He's the real deal. I think it's pretty clear he'll be at first and Huff will be in left when Ross returns.
*The Giants need Cody Ross back ASAP!
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Friday, April 01, 2011

Giants' Bats Dissapear in Opener

You have to tip your cap to Clayton Kershaw, cause he did pitch one helluva ballgame, but the product the Giants put out on the field Thursday was not the one I expected and hardly resembled a World Championship team.

First off, Lincecum was a little off and wild early on, but settled in nicely and pitched fine, plenty good enough to win. It's tough to take the L when you pitch 7 strong innings and not allow an earned run, and that's what Timmy did. But he did walk 3 batters, which didn't help matters, and surprisingly, it was the defense and young Buster Posey that let him down. If Posey doesn't throw that ball into left field in his attempt to catch Matt Kemp sleeping at third, but it wasn't necessary and Pablo Sandoval couldn't come up with the short-hop. Again, Posey is still a young player, but he needs to know who's on the mound, who's at the plate and what the situation is. But back to Tim, how did Kemp get on in the first place? A walk, which I'd have to say was Timmy's kryptonite on this opening night. Not only the walks, but the fact that he would get behind batters, and he was hanging a lot of stuff. He didn't seem to have that confidence in his fastball like he normally does, but again, a lot of that came as the game wore on, so it's not going to get too much attention. After Lincecum gave his 7 strong, Santiago Cassilla allowed an RBI double to James Looney in the bottom of the 8th, which gave the Dodgers an extra run of breathing room, a run they ultimately needed to win the ballgame.

The offense just wasn't there. They looked over-patient vs. a pitcher who was right around the zone, then they'd get behind in the count and have to swing at Kershaw's pitches. Again, it's not like I can just sit here and bad mouth San Fran's hitters all post, cause it's not like Kershaw is some scrub. He looked like a legit Cy Young contender last night. Once he left the game, the Giants woke up a bit, as Pat Burrell hit that big fly off Jon Broxton in the 9th to inch the Giants to within one, but they just didn't have it that night. Brandon Belt looked pretty good though, very patient at the plate, smooth swing and looked very good out there on defense. I know it's one game, so we'll see how he continues to play, but he certainly looked like a pro Thursday. Other than that, nobody did anything too noticeable. The team collected just 5 hits, non for extra bases. They made some nice defensive plays, especially that full extended dive on that grounder off the bat of Barajas with Kemp and Looney both on base to save 2-runs. Only to be negated by the ball Posey ended up throwing into left.

Now I'm not going to sit here and beat a dead horse, it was one game, and there is really nothing you can take out of it. Nothing too bad happened, nothing much happened at all, it just looked like they were still in spring mode. Blame it on the March Opening Day schedule or something, but I expect them to be back to normal very quickly, probably tonight as they send Jon Sanchez to the hill vs. Chad Billingsley. They should be able to see Billinglsley better, but he's certainly no easy assignment either, so the Giants need to improve on last night to avoid the 0-2 start. I expect the same exact lineup as last nights set, but much better results. The bats need to be aggressive and swinging early in counts if Billingsley's in the zone.

Note: The Giants just announced they extended 2nd basemen Freddy Sanchez's contract through the 2012 season ($6 million), and I can't really say I blame them. I don't love Sanchez as a player, I've always thought Sanchez is fragile, but he's good when he's healthy, as he started showing in the 2nd half of '10 (.298/6/21/.762). Plus, the only potential FA's who are better (Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips and Kelly Johnson) will likely stay put, or cost $10+ million per.
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