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Monday, May 30, 2011

Giants Bat's Heat Up In St. Louis

After a rough Memorial Day weekend in Milwaukee, in which the Giants really struggled, losing 2 of 3 and looking really bad in the process, their bats actually showed some signs of life Monday in St. Louis.

First off, as has been the trend all year long, they got a terrific start out of Madison Bumgarner, who even was a threat at the plate, hitting his 2nd double of the season and scoring 2 runs to raise his batting average to .211! He's swinging it better then some of their everyday players, and is probably the best pitcher in baseball with 6 losses, so he probably felt like he had to get it done himself! But on this day, they got all the runs they would need on just one swing of the bat by Andres Torres, who hit a high, deep fly ball that looked like a deep fly out, but carried over the wall for a fourth-inning grand-slam. Before Torres did that though, the Giants already gave MadBum the lead, thanks to a Cody Ross solo homer, and RBI singles by Miguel Tejada and Brandon Crawford. The 24 year-old Crawford had yet another strong showing, reaching base 2 times, putting up good at-bats in all 4 plate appearances and stealing a base, while providing the rock-solid defense up the middle. In some ways, his UCLA background and his patient plate approach remind me a bit of a less-powerful version of Chase Utley, not saying he's going to be the next Utley, just that there are similarities! But Monday's game really was all about Bumgarner, who just got stronger and stronger as the game went on. Madison left after 7 strong innings, allowing 6 hits and and 2 runs while striking out 5 vs. the tough, right-handed dominant Cardinal offense.

After Bumgarner departed, the game kind of went quietly into the afternoon. The Giants got the big hit from Torres and they made it stand! Only and Albert Pujols solo homer would mark up the scoreboard for both teams after the 7th, and the Giants held on to win 7-3. Sergio Romo, the bullpen's most consistent arm since opening day threw another scoreless inning in the ninth to shut the door in the non-save situation, lowering his season WHIP to a ridiculous 0.55, which has to one of the best WHIP's, if not the best, of any reliever in baseball right now. So now they'll likely go back to the hotels and do some watching of their own as the Diamondbacks play host to the Marlins this evening. In the midst of their offensive breakdown and the loss of Buster Posey, they also lost their place atop the NL West, when they had a 4 game lead on the D-Backs before Posey went down. Monday's win was the first victory since Buster went down in which the Giants controlled from the beginning. They had that comeback win Friday night behind Timmy, but even in that game, they were playing from behind for most of the game, so it was a nice change of pace to get out to an early lead for a change. It just goes to show you what will happen when this team scores a couple early runs, with their starting pitching.

MLB Draft: It's not as significant this year as it's been for the Giants over the last 4-5 seasons when the team has had a top-10 pick, but June's MLB amateur draft is set to take place just 1 week from today on June 6th. We'll do a draft preview post between now and then discussing some of the players that could fall to the Giants, who have the 28th pick. And we'll also get in touch with our draft and college baseball expert, Brian Foley who runs College Baseball Daily, the best NCAA baseball blog around, hands down! Just wanted to remind Giants fans that we will have a whole new batch of prospects joining the organization here in a few days!
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday's Win Preceds Tough Losses

After a huge comeback win Friday night, a game in which the offense finally stepped up for their ace when he needed them too, the Giants offense went right back into hibernation on both Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

The hero of Friday night's game, Brandon Crawford, surprisingly, wasn't even in Saturday's lineup after going 1-3 with a walk and the game winning grand-slam. Not to mention the outstanding range and incredible arm we've all been told about, and finally got to witness in action. The starting pitcher, Timmy Lincecum, was probably his best friend after the game, as not only did Crawford's blast give Lincecum the W, his defense saved at least 3-4 extra hits for the Brewers, balls Tejada or Fontenot don't turn into outs. Lincecum himself didn't have his best stuff, as he gave up a few more hits than he's accustomed to and hung a ball to Rickie Weeks that Weeks absolutely crushed for a 2-run homer in the 3rd inning. That put the Giants behind the 8-ball early and now with the Posey-less, struggling offense, a 2-run deficit seems like a 5-run deficit. I myself thought the Giants would probably go quietly into the Wisconsin night, letting yet another quality Tim Lincecum start go to waste, but they showed some of that magic they've had at AT&T Park all year on the road for once and turned a late 3-1 Brewer lead into a 5-4 victory. Freddy Sanchez, Nate Schierholtz and Aubrey Huff each had 2-hit's in the win.

The Giants came up with another late-inning comeback tie Saturday, but went down in the bottom of the ninth. I have to give it to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, for the suicide squeeze to win the game, that was a heckuva call. Once again, the Giants got a very good start from starter Jonathan Sanchez who walked a few guys, but allowed just 2 hits and K'd 8 through 7 strong innings of work. The Giants starting lineup, again which was without Friday night's hero Brandon Crawford, was held without a hit until the 5th inning. They collected just 5 hits and 1 extra-base hit all day long. They were making Randy Wolf look like Cliff Lee until finally getting him out in the 8th inning and getting to Kameron Lowe, thanks mostly to Casey McGee's error. Pat Burrell came up with a big, game-tying single after that, making it a brand new ballgame. If it weren't for that error by McGee, they likely don't even score a run Saturday, cause it would have changed everything. Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff are supposed to be the 4-5 hitters but are hitting a combined .229, and we're almost into June! I'm also already tired of Whiteside (that throw was horrible) behind the plate, and it's just been 2 or 3 games.

I have a thought in mind that came up when the Giants announced that Santiago Cassilla, which is huge shot in the arm for this bullpen, was activated. That, along with Brandon Crawford's big game last night, had me thinking about the minor leagues and the guys they have playing third base down there, and Connor Gillaspie came to mind. Gillaspie was in the draft, matter fact taken within 30 or so picks, as Buster Posey, but didn't tear through the minors like the catcher did. Still, Gillaspie's playing solid ball down in Fresno, hitting .277 with 3 homers and 28 RBI. The 28 RBI is good for 2nd on the club and that's run production, exactly what this team needs. Why not give Connor a look at third base? He can't be any worse than what Tejada's done in Sandoval's absence! Not saying Gillaspie would be a cure-all for the offense, but he reminds me a lot of Billy Mueller and the Giants could use a guy at 3rd who can drive the ball and hit with runners in scoring position.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giants Busted: Posey Out for Season

Well, one of the Giants worst nightmares came to fruition last night, and if you saw the play that snapped Posey's shin bone, I think every Giants fan in America felt that one a little bit!

There just isn't much to say but when Scott Cousins collided with Buster, it was a "WOW, the Giants' best player's leg just practically snapped!", reaction from me. Then the severity of the injury started to sink in as he lie there (you know it's bad when the opposing player sticks around). I mean, look at it, I didn't want to post the picture at first, but this is the last of Posey we'll likely see in 2011, going out like a champ and putting his body on the line in effort to save the game for his team. It was a clean play by baseball standards though, and Cousins feels horrible about it, tearing up in an interview. It seemed too surreal to be happening, such a weird baseball injury and it happens to the last guy in the world it can, if your a Giants fan. He was the last guy on that roster they could afford to lose and they've lost him. Even a Tim Lincecum season-ender wouldn't bring the daily impact that losing Posey will, so if you think losing Lincecum for the season would be worse, your wrong (everyone knock on wood). The Giants clear strength is their pitching, so much so that they have a guy getting paid $18M on the DL because they're simply too deep with starters. They needed every single bat they could afford to get, and some. Pablo Sandoval's injury was a big set-back, but he's coming back in a few weeks, Posey's done for the year. The great game-caller with the stellar arm, the leader, the captain, the all-around best ball-player on that team is no longer in use for the 2011 season, barring a medical miracle, but the Giants still have to play on, and hope Sabean has something up his sleeve like he did last year!

I don't think it's settled in quite yet, still. Reading the words on the Yahoo Sports page this morning saying: "Season Over?" over the picture of Buster Posey, it was like being punched in the stomach. I knew last night it wasn't good, but I was hoping for a sprain or a 2-month thing, back by the All-Star break, maybe, but with the leg broken, a return this year is about 99% unlikely. So in the short-term, it looks like it will be Eli Whiteside playing daily, as they don't really have any other options that are major league ready. They could go out and try and woo Bengie Molina back out of retirement, as Giants pitchers raved about throwing to Bengie over the years, and he's more of a threat with the stick than Whiteside or Chris Stewart (Posey's call-up replacement). Brandon Belt is also back in attempt to help out the offense, as he and Brandon Crawford (replacing Mike Fontenot) also took the bus to San Fran with Stewart. However, I highly doubt they stick with the Stewart/Whiteside combo all year. They'll have to deal for one, which everyone now knows they need and can make them pay in trade accordingly, or hope Bengie hasn't added on an additional 20 pounds in retirement, cause it wasn't too long ago that he was playing in the World Series and playing well. Another name mentioned by some writer was Pittsburgh's Ryan Doumit, who I'd be all for, but Pitt. probably would want too much for in return.

Then there's the shortstop situation still waiting to be resolved, although I think that will take a back seat for a week or two while the Giants figure out their catching situation. Young Hector Sanchez is tearing it up in San Jose right now, who's got 8 homers and 38 RBI hitting .313. Problem wth that, is that it would be literally throwing the 21 year-old into the fire, as he's never been above A ball and has caught only 150 games total in the minor leagues. That leaves the likes of Ivan Rodriguez, Chris Snyder and Miguel Olivo (my #2 choice behind Doumit) as the most likely targets for Sabean.

Again, I think Doumit would be choice if they can get him, then you could do a 3-way rotation with him, Posey and Brandon Belt at 1st base next season (doubt Posey catches full-time right away when he does return). However, the Pirates will want somebody in return of value like Nate Schierholtz or a prospect or two for him. Doumit does also have experience in the outfield, though not sure how good he is out there... This is just a sucky situation, and in every article I'm reading about it, you can see the sympathy in even the national writer's work, mentioning that no baseball fan wants to see that kind of stuff happen to a player like that or any player, even if your in the same division. It was very similar to the situation with Stephen Strasburgh last year, where all of baseball kind of felt for the guy after all the hype the such success early on.

Anyway, all I can say Giants fans, is keep your heads up, and lets hope this brings the team closer together and everybody steps up and fills Buster's shoes! We know this team never will quit, and there's still a long ways to go. The Giants are a first place team, reigning champs, so even with a solider down, they'll focus on baseball, and settle back in after a day or 2.
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Giants Sweep Bay Bridge Series

Well, I've wanted a day off for a few days now, but this Giants team just will refuse to partake in extremely exciting ballgames, forcing me to halt my scheduled Sunday to get in a quick post about the Giants sweep.

First off, Jonathan Sanchez dealt, and had it today, and my first beef is with Bochy for taking him out in the eight inning, especially the way the A's were struggling against him. Then, why Bochy brought in Jeremy Affeldt in a 1-run game when he's admitted to not having confidence right now, is beyond me? I'm so over the lefty vs. lefty jive, just let a good pitcher like Ramon Ramirez or Guillermo Mota throw if you insisted on removing Sanchez. Jonathan was only at 100 pitches, so I would have let him at least start the 7th, then he gets in trouble, go to your good arms you trust in close games, not a guy who doesn't even believe in himself right now? I put this one on Boch, and I don't normally like to use the manager for the scapegoat! He's should thank his lucky stars tonight that Nate Schierholtz bailed everyone out with that towering home run to right field in the bottom of the 8th, which tied the ballgame at 4 and put momentum back on the Giants side. The dude is earning the nickname "Nate the Great" and I'm not big on corny nicknames like that, but for short, like I'm calling Volgelsong, the "V" on this site, I will now be occasionally refer to Schierholtz as "The Great". Cause it was right then and there I knew it was going to be another one of those crazy Giant finishes, ones we're quite used to and darn good in, and surely enough, the Giants collected their 7th walk-off victory of the year!

On the Game went, into the 10th until Darren Ford, a guy who's just begging for more PT with that uber-amazing speed, led off the inning with a single then the stolen base to move into scoring position. That brought up the guy who's come up and somewhat re-invented himself this year with the Giants, Manny Burris. Manny came up with one of the biggest hits of his young career, an RBI single to right of A's closer Brian Fuentes that drove in Ford from 2nd base to win the game.

So basically in this game, I learned a few things about this team today. One is, Mark DeRosa is basically toast, and shouldn't be counted on anymore this year. Two, that opens the door for infielder Manny Burris to up his playing-time load, and I say he should start at short for a few games to see how he does. He can't be any worse than what they have their now, can he? And finally, it may be time to add left-handed reliever to shortstop on the list of needs for the Giants as they approach the trade deadline. Watching a Fontetnot(.218)-Tejada(.224) left-side that isn't too good defensively is eating me alive, and when a big leaguer (Affeldt) loses confidence publicly, it's not a good thing. That means you pitch him in a few blowouts or DL him or something, not put him in with the game on the line? Still boggling me with that one Boch?

Side Note: This isn't directly baseball related, and I didn't touch on the Bryan Stow situation much here because I felt other sources were a lot better informed and I didn't want to put out any mis-information, so I didn't touch it. But now he's making progress, and there's a suspect in cuffs, I had to give some praise for the LAPD and the medical staff that's worked with Mr. Stow. It's great to see the progress he's making and it's icing on the cake they have a suspect in custody who they believe is one of the two men involved in the beating that put Brian Stow on the brink of death. Those two deserve what's coming, then some for kicking a defenseless man in the upper body and head area, when he's down and un-conscious, that should be attempted murder with the right prosecution, but that's a whole other case/story!
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Timmy Shuts Out Oakland

I'm going to keep this one short (I know I always say that and write 1,000 words) but I'm going to enjoy this victory.

Lincecum pitched his tail off and I'm glad Bochy showed the stones to keep him out there after that 9th inning hit. He made the right move with Sanchez last night removing him in that situation and made the right move tonight by keeping in Timmy. That's just plain knowing your players and good managing. Besides Lincecum's dominant shutout, in which he went the distance, striking out 4, and allowing just 3 base hits and no walks. He wasn't crazy high with the strikeouts Saturday, cause the A's know Timmy, they see him in Spring Traning a lot and in interleague and they'll hit him, so that just goes to show you how dominant he was, and how on point he was with his stuff. To shut down an offense that knows him as well as anyone like that was something, I don't care who was out there hitting. I know the A's are like the AL's version of the Giants offensively, only worse, that takes nothing away from what #55 did Saturday night. What was the most important, is that the Giants actually got a few runs for Timmy this time, when all he needed was one. Linceucm's record is 4-4 now, despite his 2.07 era when it should be closer 7-3 when you look at his game log. Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey each came through for Timmy at the plate delivering 2-hits each. Buster, especially, really seems to be coming alive and acclimating, finally, as he had 2 more hits and an RBI, raising his average to .284 (check May numbers), but still not flexing much power. Each of those guys were little banged up on the road so it's good to see them back at full health here at AT&T. One thing the Giants cannot afford is injury to any more players.

So the Giants sent the Jekyll-and-Hyde one of the Giants rotation takes the mound tomorrow in Jonathan Sanchez, in a really nice match-up of young lefties, going up against Oakland's Gio Gonzalez in a game where MLB Odds are favoring San Francisco. Sanchez's first 6 starts of the year were typical Sanchez and he was rolling at 2-1 with a 2.73 era, great K numbers and a .204 BAA. Then all the sudden, the calendar turned May and Sanchez has been a different pitcher. In the month, Sanchy is 1-2 in 18 innigns over 3 starts with a 5.5 era and a .239 BAA. Now, nothing to get to alarmed about, but I've noticed a difference in Sanchez's body language the past few starts, kind of a negative vibe, whether he's getting pissed at the umpires or maybe he's not physically right. Maybe it's just me but his May numbers are backing up the point here. Either way, I will be watching closely Sunday to see if Sanchez and the Giants can sweep the A's back to Oakland. Big start for Sanchez who's coming off a head-scratcher in Colorado last week (7 innings shutout ball, then imploded in 8th).
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bats Finally Show Up for Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner is the youngster of the Giants staff, at just 21 years of age, and tonight he goes up against a tough opponent in Chad Billinglsey, a guy notoriously tough on San Francisco hitters. Bumgarner takes the hill tonight, desperate to get into the winning column for the first time all year, but, more than likely, it's going to be the Giants' hitters that decide his fate.

Sometimes I worry a bit about Bumgarner when I look up and see that he's sitting at 0-6 with a 4.25 era for the season entering Thursday. This kid deserves a W more than anyone in the league with the way he's been throwing, and the Giants have to give him one to ease his mind. His season is reminding me of the year Matt Cain had in the 2008 season when absolutely nothing went his way and he finished the year at 7-16 despite having a 3.65 era and a .234 BAA. The Giants just didn't score for him, and when they did, the bullpen couldn't hold opposing teams down, but all Cain did was kept hustling and it's made him the pitcher he is today. I really hope this same stretch helps Bumgarner get stronger, mentally, on the mound, and more apt and able to take on distractions and the occasional rough start. In the playoffs last year, he seemed cool as a cucumber, but earlier this year, it seemed like he was pressing a bit. His last 4 starts have gotten him right back on track though, and any worry should be relieved. Over those outings, Madison has gone 25 innings, allowing 5 earned runs on 19 hits and 6 walks while 25 batters. Unfortunately, he's gone 0-3 in those 4 outings because the Giants scored a total of 7 runs and the bullpen imploded in his most recent outing. That's why tonight's match-up in LA is so big. Not only do the Giants need to sweep LA to keep stronghold of the division, they need to get their young lefty's mind right.

With the way the Giants offense has been in such a funk lately, it was so nice to see Cody Ross step up Wednesday night and hit that game winning, 3-run shot. Ross missed a lot of spring training with that injury, and played only 9 games in April in which he was far from impressive, but you could tell he was just getting his time back. Now since May's hit, he's found his groove, and I expect him to keep on producing the way he has over the last few weeks. In fact, all 3 of his homers and 9 of his 10 RBI have come in the month, along with a .325 batting average and 1.026 OPS. It's just too bad they can't take one of their plethora of outfielders and plant him over at third or shortstop. I know Nate Schierholtz (check his minor league career) and came up playing 3rd base, and in a blowout, why not give him an infielders glove and let him play. He's got the cannon arm, so even if he knocks ground balls down, he'll get the guy at first. I know it's a big move, but hey, I'd be willing to bet Schierholtz plays a better 3rd base than Aubrey Huff did RF.

Still though, it's been so long since he was a 3rd basemen, it would jeopardize the defense too much I think, otherwise they would have already explored that option (though with Belt down now, they don't really have another first basemen besides Buster). All I know is, the Giants have 4 outfielders who deserve to be in the lineup most days in Burrell, Torres, Ross and Schierholtz. All of those guys really are outperforming the infielders, and by a wide margin. Also, on a side note, with at least one corner outfield spot opening up next year (Burrell on 1 year deal, also believe Ross is a 1st time FA too), Nate's playing like he wants consideration for that spot, the Giants have to give him at least 450 at-bats to see what he does with them. I personally say he takes off, like (.300/15/60/.850/15 SB) kind take off, by years end if given the opportunity.

And they Do, Kind of: Well, the bats certainly didn't explode by any means, collecting just 3 runs vs. the Dodgers tough righty Chad Billingsley. Fortunately, all Madison Bumgarner would need was 2 runs, as he took a shutout into the 9th inning with 2 outs before yielding an RBI double to Jerry Sands. That brought on Brian Wilson who subsequently, after walking 2 batters and making things interesting, closed out the game and the sweep with the 3-1 victory... Offensively, the Giants were led by Migeul Tejada, who had 2 hits and an RBI and is now hitting .222. Freddy Sanchez also had a hit and drove in two runs in two big at-bats vs. Billingsley. So even though they didn't bust out and score 8 runs for him, Madison showed his maturity by pitching like it was 1-0 the whole game. It's hard to believe it's taking until May 18th for this kid to get his first W... By the way, Nate Schierholtz's catch cannot go un-noticed, that get's by him, we have the opposite results.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rockies Sweep SF, Take Back 1st Place

It started off with one of Tim Lincecum's wildest starts of his big league career, and little help from the bullpen, in an ugly 7-4 loss, dropping his record to 3-4. Game 2 started out well, but finished up in very much the same fashion, as the Giants dropped both games of the 2-game set to Colorado, and their possession of first place in the NL West.

You could tell early on in Monday night's game that it was going to be an interesting one. Tim Lincecum was all over the place early, walking guys, and getting tattooed like Lincecum rarely does when he did come into the zone, just because he was always behind in the count. He walked 6 guys and threw a ball into center field when trying to turn a double play. He allowed 9 hits (2 HR, albeit 1 one was F9 anywhere else) while not even making it out of the 6th inning. It was an outing you'll rarely see the 27 year-old right hander make, and It'll occupy his mind until he laces them up next this week in LA. And it was finally a game in which you really couldn't blame the offense. Although they came up with a few big hits, Nate Schierholtz's 3-run blast to right along with Andres Torres solo job to dead center, you expect 4 runs to be enough for your ace to work with, but the Rockies rallied, as they so often do, in their home ballpark for the late inning victory. Speaking of Torres, that guy has been a godsend since returning from the DL, and hopefully he's just what they need to help kick-start the sputtering offense.

Game 2 started out a lot like game one did, with the Giants jumping out to an early lead, except for this time, Jonathan Sanchez was absolutely dealing (up until that 8th inning). Through the first 7, Sanchez allowed just 3 hits, 0 walks and 5 strikeouts, his one mistake being a solo home run to Troy Tulowitzki, but outside of that, he was the Jonathan Sanchez we all expect to see when he takes, tough to hit. But then the 8th inning rolls around and he ran into a little bit of trouble. He allowed 2 quick singles to Spilboroughs and Iannetta and I think right then and there is when his concentration drifted, cause the next batter laid down a bunt and Sanchez, trying to get the lead runner, threw the ball into center field, which ended up opening the flood gates in a 4-run Rockie inning. I know it's hindsight now and I was only just thinking about it at the time, but after the 2 quick singles in the 8th, I began to think that was it for Sanchez. Problem is, the Giants had nobody ready in the bullpen yet, and Boch couldn't make a move right then and there. The only lefty who Boch has any kind of confidence in right now out of the pen is Javier Lopez, and he's been getting a lot of work. He had to get the call, and he wasn't himself either, allowing a few hits and a run.

On Deck: So now the Giants are down a game to the Rockies in the standings, and it's only mid-May, so it really means nothing in the long scheme of things, but there are some issues I'm a little worried about as the team heads to LA for Part. 2 of their mid-week mini-series. First off, the LH bullpen situation is starting to become a problem. Santiago Cassilla (albeit a righty) is close to being ready, and when he comes back, he has to take Dan Runzler's spot. Bochy should not be using the Lefty vs. Lefty as a priority, at least until the 7th or 8th inning of really close games, but you cannot over-work Lopez. They need to start looking at RH relievers who have success at getting lefties out, and use them vs. left-handed pitching when Lopez is out and Affeldt struggling. Again, another reason to bring Zito back in relief!
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shortstop Posing Giant Problem

Through the first month and a half of the season, the Giants have played pretty good baseball, but they've had one particular glaring hole in the lineup, and that hole has been at shortstop. Not only offensively, but there has been a significant defensive downgrade as well there, and it may be a position the Giants need to address if they're serious about repeating.

Miguel Tejada has come up with a few big hits here and there, but for the most part, wasn't getting the job done as the everyday SS. Then Pablo Sandoval got hurt and it's put Tejada at third for the most part while Mike Fontenot takes over short. Fontenot has been better offensively than Tejada at short, but still not what the Giant are looking for, and he's been exposed some as he's playing out of position (2nd and 3rd baseman most of career). Now Bochy is pretty much running out of options. The more you look at the situation, the more it seems like the Giants will have to, again, like they did so successfully last year with Burrell, Ross etc..., go outside the organization to get some help.The big name that was tossed around a lot a few weeks back when the Giants were in New York was the Mets' Jose Reyes, who would be just what the doctor ordered for the Giants at the shortstop position. Tons of speed, defense and average with surprising power, and would fit live a glove in the clubhouse. A guy who would probably excel hitting into AT&T Park's large gaps and provide Omar Vizquel-like defense. There's just one little problem, the Giants don't have the money to keep Reyes, and I certainly wouldn't give up top prospects for 2-3 months of Jose Reyes.

He'd be a great candidate for an extension, at age 28 and just entering his prime, but with $30 million alone booked in Rowand/Zito combo for 2012, another $100 contract would be pretty hard to fit into budget. Then think about the raises and contract extensions coming up for guys like Cain, Lincecum, Posey, Wilson and Sandoval! Even after the World Series win and budget increase, these are still the Giants, not the Yankees or Red Sox who can just go buy any player they so please. I think they have a good thing going right now, where they're producing some really good players like Sandoval, Posey, Belt, Schierholtz, Torres, all the pitchers, etc., and I say Torres because the Giants developed him in their system after attaining him. They have been making the right moves with the veteran adds ever since the Rowand and Zito blunders. So no, I would not give up Zach Wheeler, especially after watching him dominate Lancaster in the Cal League a few nights ago, or Brandon Belt plus someone like Ehire Adrianza or Francisco Peguero and Thomas Neal. Not for a 1/2 year rental, no way, and I just don't see any realistic way the Giants sign Jose Reyes with Rowand, Zito, Huff and Lincecum making the money they are and the Giants' budget where it's at. Maybe they can stretch the payroll $5-$10 million to add someone, but I don't think they can take on another $18M-a-year player until either Rowand's or Zito's contract is off the books.

So, where does that leave the Giants, who still need a shortstop. Well, Reyes, albeit the best option, isn't going to be the only shortstop available on the market. The Giants may need to wait another month or so until teams decide they're out of it, but a few guys I'm keeping an eye on are Toronto's Yunel Escobar, San Diego's Jason Bartlett and Pittsburgh's under-achieving Ronny Cedeno, who's hitting 50 points better and is better in the field than Miggy. The I really think should be their top target though (and should have been this offseason), the Orioles' J.J. Hardy. Consider this the beginning of my "Trade for J.J. Hardy" campaign. Not the biggest names, but upgrades. Prying Ian Desmond from the Nats would be great, but that's a no. Hardy, Escobar then if maybe Cedeno or Bartlett as backups (if you get them fairly). All would cost a fraction of what Reyes will (both in trade and contract), are more likely to stay with the team beyond 2011 at reasonable rates, and all would be welcome upgrades to Tejada/Fontenot.

Game Note: Ryan Vogelsong moves to 3-0 after 6 shutout innings vs. the Cubbies, collecting 7 K's in a rain-shortened, 3-0 complete game win at Wrigley. Nobody really stood out offensively, as it was a wet, ugly day in Chicago, but Buster Posey manged to drive in a run, going 1-3. Also going 1-3 with runs scored were Aaron Rowand and Freddy Sanchez.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Giants Move Into First Place Tie

Well folks, it took a little longer than expected, but the Giants are right back where they belong, atop the NL West. Only problem is, they're currently sharing the position with the Rockies (technically speaking, the Rooks have a 10th of a percentage point of a lead) but an essential tie, but will move a few percentage points ahead themselves with a win tonight!

The Giants offense is still ridiculously in-efficient, yet they're getting tremendous starting pitching, and continue to get this big hits late in close ballgames. In the last two games, it's been Mr. Cody Ross, as the man they call "The Boss" around these parts of the Bay Area, has completely come alive after missing much of the spring and the first portion of the season. Ross drove in the game winning run in a 1-0 win Tuesday night vs. the D-Backs, in a game in which Tim Lincecum was brilliant yet again, but suffered from the Giants disiase I'm dubbing the "Matt Cain Run Support Syndrome" (if you wonder why he gets that name, just look at his 2008 record, then his era, strikeouts and BAA and then you'll get it). The Giants didn't come up with anything off young D-Back righty Ian Kennedy, who looked decent, but nowhere near shutout material like Lincecum did. Timmy K'd 9 in his 8 shutout innings of work, allowing just 4 hits and 2 walks, yet Kennedy nearly mirrored him, pitch for pitch. It wasn't until Darren Ford (who'll we'll get to in paragraph 2) scored on Cody Ross's drive down the left-field line did a runner touch home plate Tuesday. A classic pitching duel, which ended in Ross's 4th RBI in his last 2 ballgames. If you had any doubts about Ross, they have to be flying out the window cause his last 2 games: 3-6, 2 BB, 1 HR, 1 R, 4 RBI. That's the Ross we remember from October!

Now the Giants made a few roster moves before the game with the return of Andres Torres and Mark DeRosa. I think the demotion of Manny Burris and the sustaining of Darren Ford certainly raised some eyebrows for some Giants fans, especially the ones fed up with Tejada. Here was Burris, who can play all over the infield and provide some speed and another SS option with Tejada struggling. The Giants chose to keep their secret weapon instead, and he showed you just why they made that decision just hours later. I must say, I was surprised Rohlinger or Burris didn't stay with Ford going to Fresno with the Sandoval hurt and Tejada's struggles, but I liked it when I heard it. Ford is basically untouchable (as long as he's paying attention) on the base-paths and is a guy who can steal third at pretty much the drop of the dime. He's a game changer on-base, as he showed by immediately stealing 2nd (after coming in to run for Posey in the 9th), which allowed him to be driven in by the Cody Ross hit down the line that sent everyone happy, and the Giants into a first place tie with the Rockies.

Tonight, they have odds on their side with Jonathan Sanchez on the hill vs. Armando Galarraga. As long as Sanchez stays focused (he's had a bit of a focus issue this year at time) and puts last weeks start in New York behind him (5 IP, 5 ER, 6 BB, 6 K in loss), he'll be just fine. For the Giants hitters, they have to make Galarraga throw strikes and get the ball up and they'll be fine. As you can tell by his 5.79 era, he can be hit. I'm just curious to see what lineup Boch throws out there, still no posting of it on the net as of 3 PM Wednesday, but I fully expect Burrell to be back in left, Torres in Center and Ross in right. For the first time all season, the Giants starting outfield together. Infield wise, I like DeRosa back at third, Tejada at short actually (better #'s vs. Galarraga) and the rest as normal. Closest thing to the Giants projected Opening Day lineup in a mightly long time (still waiting for Pablo)
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Monday, May 09, 2011

Giants Bring Out Brooms for Rockies

It's Mother's Day and the Giants gave the best gift they could to all of you moms out there, their 5th victory in 6 games. Even on the holiday, I just had to get something up after the huge win Sunday that completed the 3-game sweep of the Rockies and moved the team to within a game of first place.

First, I wanted to touch on Ryan Vogelsong a bit, who I'm now dubbing "The V" by the way, and his brilliant start vs. a powerhouse of a ball-club. Giants fans were a little on the fence with Vogelsong after his rough outing in New York, but I think today's game was a so called "game changer" for the 33 year-old. Let's face it, he's no spring chicken, and doesn't have the upside the other 4 starters do, but still, he's giving better quality outings than his injured predecessor Barry Zito was (just click on his link and look at the hideousness he was bringing to the mound), and I root for Zito. Now "The V" just made his 5th outing of the year, and his numbers blow Zito's out of the water. After the 6 1/3, 1-hit winning effort Sunday, Vogelsong now sits at 2-0 with a 3.05 era, 0.97 WHIP with 17 K's and 7 BB's in 20 innings of work for 2011. He almost reminds me of an older Matt Cain the way he attacks with fastball after fastball and has control of it. He keeps this up and Zito has to comeback as a long-reliever/spot starter, unless (fingers crossed) there is another injury to the starting rotation. I know he's making $17 million, and it would be a shock to the career and reputation of Barry Zito to be demoted to the pen, but that's what has to happen if the Giants want to sure up that 5th rotation spot.

Now, don't get me wrong, Vogelsong allowed just 1 hit in his 6 1/3 innings, but he most certainly had some help behind him with the on his side. Most notably that nice over the shoulder catch by Cody Ross off the bat of Ian Stewart that if Aubrey Huff had been in right field for, would have most certainly been extra bases, and most likely a Rockies run or more. Cody didn't just do it with the glove either, it looks like his stroke has finally come around after missing the end of Spring Training and the first 3 weeks of the year. The Boss went 2-3 with a 2-run homer and an RBI single, accounting for all 3 of the Giants runs. A big reason this offense has been in such a rut is because Ross has not been swinging the bat like he did last fall, but he's 3 for his last 5 now with 2 extra-base hits. He's always been a bit of a slow starter anyway, but I think the game he had today ( he made another nice catch after being moved to LF on that foul ball late in the game) was one that he'll feed off of and it wouldn't surprise me to see him take off from here. Nate Schierholtz has had some nice games and deserves a role, but let's not fool ourselves, Ross is this team's right fielder, and I expect him to be there 90% of the time here on out.

Roster Moves Expected
: The Giants will finally get leadoff man and speedy center fielder, Andres Torres, back from the DL for Tuesday night's tilt with AZ. It's an easy decision as to who gets send down to make room for him, Darren Ford (actually, Ford has done some positive things up here with his legs), but the question is how the playing time will get divided. Some people think Schierholtz should play everyday, and Aaron Rowand has been swinging one of the better bats on the team (2nd on active roster with .271 average). I think Boch will indeed mix-and-match more with the idea of Nate and ARow getting more PT, but I expect the first unit to play most the time together. I would also like to see the forgotten man, Mark DeRosa (look what he was doing before getting nicked up), get some time at 3rd base when he's ready to play.
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Friday, May 06, 2011

"Giants Hits" Internet Show

Happy 80th Willie Mays! Best living ballplayer today and hopefully it will stay that way for many years to come. Not only a the greatest ballplayer of all-time, he's great to the Giants organization (look at all the time he spends with young players and at the park, even as his mobility has declined), and to the community of San Francisco, and the world needs more people like Willie.

OK, that was my Mays bit for the day, have to shout out the greatest that ever played. However, the point of our post here is a new little internet radio/TV show deal I just signed with UnifySports.tv, and wanted to give a sample to my great readers of the videos that will be offered on our site as well as our normal posting. We will have all new videos posted at the bottom of the site if you haven't already noticed (eventually, we will re-arrange our site and videos will be in the sidebar towards the top, though that won't be until after the season).

Today, we just wanted to give people an idea of what these videos are. Keep in mind I have a bit of a head cold and wasn't quite as sharp as I normally am, but figured to post it up anyway as they'll be airing on The Giants Baseball Blog! I will be hopefully following tonights game with a traditional post, albeit a short one, and recap the game, but this is just kind of to let you guys know what's new. If you like it, if you think I'm/It's horrible, whatever your feelings are, we want feedback and I have no ill-will towards anyone and please feel free to leave comments. So without further ado, here is a little Giants-Rockies talk, and again for all future videos, just scroll to bottom of the page, or check out our page @ UnifySports.tv:

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Giants Take Game 1

Well, as I said at the top of the post in the pre-game, I wanted to do a short take on tonight's game with a post-game wrap segment here, nothing too big, just a couple of points about tonight's game.

First off, helluva job by Matt Cain staying focused after the early deficit. I mean, he's always pretty collected out there, but things were really starting to go against him when it was 3-0 there for a while... But then the bats came out of hibernation. Unfotunately for the Giants, it wasn't the same Ubaldo Jimenez they faced last week in Colorado as he was much sharper tonight. The Giants had to force him out of the game by making him throw a lot of pitches (I said one of the keys was to be patient with him) and he walked 5 batters again which allowed the Giants into their bullpen in the 7th inning. And there were three big keys to their late offensive rally comeback:

1.) Pat "The Bat" is getting that average up, now at .239 after getting on base 4 times on Friday night (3 walks, 1 hit). Burrell is showing he'll hit around .250, but with those walks and homers, it's a loud and productive .250 and you want him in your lineup. When that average dips below .220 like it did, then problems occur. Let's hope this is a step in the right direction, otherwise it could be Ross in LF and Nate in RF in a couple of weeks!

2.) Mikey Fontenot and Nate Schierholtz just keep coming up with big hit after big hit. As great as Cody Ross was in the playoffs last year, I don't think his job is necessarily cemented. It's pretty locked, but if Nate's hitting .280+ with RBI hits and doubles all over the place, how are you going to sit him.

3.) The pitching was again phenomenal once again as Cain gave the 7 strong and another quality start, followed by a scoreless 8th by Affeldt and another perfect 9th for B-Willy, who's allowed just 1 hit in his last 6 appearances and the dude is in the zone. It's just too bad there aren't more guys hitting. It leaves a manager in a tough spot when things like this are happening daily. Your 3-5 hitters not performing and your 2nd basemen welter as the heat rises.

We just gotta ride the offensive drought out, and hope the Panda heals quicker than expected and Cody Ross starts coming around. Burrell is starting to come around and Andres Torres is eligible to return Sunday and feels great and they need him too. So there will be some shake-up and hopefully they start scoring 4-6 runs per night with more regularity!
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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Giants Blog Interviewed By Amazination

I was recently approached by Ian Bozsnyak, author at Amaziation (www.amazination.blogspot.com), with some questions about the upcoming Mets-Giants series. (Keep in mind, this was done on Monday, before the series and the Jose Reyes rumors became so rampid)

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Q1) Last Season Brian Wilson adopted the phrase "Fear the Beard" and Wilson also adopted the term to some, "the best closer in all of Baseball." Wilson went on the DL during Spring Training this season with an oblique injury. Since returning though converting 8 out of his 9 save opportunities, he has an ERA that through 11 games, stands at 6.97. Wilson has also walked 9 batters in 10.1 innings. Trevor to you what is the major problem with Brian Wilson, and is he beginning to become a concern for not only the fans but Bruce Bochy and his staff as well?

TC: The problem with Wilson, if you want to call it a problem, was that he just didn't throw much in the spring and it took him a few games to get going. The large era came from his first 2 games, since then, he's been nails. Since the blown save on the 8th, he's gone 8 innings allowing just 4 hits. Those first few outings really were like Spring games for him since he had such little work. I would say he finally hit his groove around April 10th and you go on what he's done since then than the first 2 games of the season... Not to mention, seems like a lot of closers had the early season jitters going too, not just Wilson.

Q2)
Players such as Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez, and Cody Ross were just a few of the many offensive players that helped the Giants bring San Fran the title in 2010. In 2011, these players are struggling tremendously. What are the thoughts around the Giants organization about these players struggles, and which player to you is the biggest question mark?

TC: Your right on about them struggling, matter of fact, the whole offense is struggling (4 runs scored in 4-game series in Washington over the weekend). Sanchez and Posey each started off real hot, but have gone stone cold the last 10 games. Posey isn't really "struggling", still leads catchers in hr's and RBI, just has to bring the average up a bit Huff right now is the biggest question mark to me, just because has steadily gotten worse as the season goes on after being their most consistent offensive player last year. Now that Sandoval is out, it's magnified even more.... Burrell's average is actually slowly climbing and he brings that big home run stick, which is why Boch plays him out there... As far as Ross, that guy didn't play any baseball for a month, and all the sudden he's back in the big league's, I'd like to give him another 2 weeks before we asses were he's at.

Q3) During the Mets-Giants series, the Mets will see Ryan Vogelsong on Tuesday night against R.A Dickey. Tell me a little about Vogelsong, and what Mets fans should expect to see.

TC: Vogelsong has been around the block a bit and has returned home to the team that drafted him back in 2000. The 33 year-old will feature a fastball that will go low 90's, not really overpowering. He's got a nice change-up that will keep hitters off-balance which he showed last week vs. Pittsburgh. He can also strike you out (8 in 5 2/3 last start) and he's in the zone a lot. But there is a reason why he's bounced around so much. If you get to him early, he doesn't often regain composure. Could be a whoever scores first kind of game.

Q4) A pitcher that stood out too me in 2010 postseason for the Giants was Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner through five starts this season is 0-4. What is the problem with Madison this year and did his last start in Pittsburgh show promise for the Giants going foward?

TC: Well, Bumgarner is 21 years-old and yes he did have a few bad starts to begin the year with. He misplayed a bunt in San Diego in his very first start which resulted in 3 runs scoring in the inning, and I really think that stuck with him. Then when he'd get in trouble, he'd get the feel, "here we go again". But like I said, he's a young arm and things like that will happen with young arms. Anyway, his last 2 starts have been brilliant (13 IP, 1 ER, 14 K's and only 11 base-runners allowed) and he was tagged with losses in each because the Giants offense went non-existent. So in reality, he should be 2-2. And for him to get his era down from the high 7's where it was in mid-April to 4.75 so quickly is pretty impressive. I think Bumgarner will be fine.

Q5)
I read a portion of a post you wrote that explains how much you want the Giants to get Jose Reyes. Reyes as we all know is an exceptional talent that does not show up every day. As we can all assume, Sandy Alderson and his staff will be asking for a ton is return for Jose. The Mets going foward when trading ball players away want a ton of pitching, and hard throwers. They also would like their share of pop, and speed as well. This may be a hard question to answer but could you possibly put together a few young talented players that you believe could fit that bill that i mentioned the Mets would be interested in but at the same time be a realistic package that could be shipped to New York.

TC:
Giants fans would go gaga over Reyes, but your right, I don't think they'd give up what the Mets would want or match up well in a trade scenerio. I think a chance of scenery would do Reyes wonders. Not too mention, he's the kind of athlete you can move to CF or 2B later in his career. I just like him as a player, when he's healthy. But again, whatever team get's him, has to sign him, or else you give up all those players for nothing.

My proposed package for Jose Reyes I guess would go a little something like this: 1.) CF Gary Brown (A-Ball;Giants #1 pick 2010) 2.) LHP Eric Surkamp (AA Richmond- Giants #2 P prospect), 3.) OF Thomas Neal (AAA Fresno- Top 5 prospect), 4.) RHP Sergio Romo (27 YO with closer stuff now, KRod perfect mentor)

That's about what I could come up with as far as players I think New York would want and the Giants may give up. No way they give up Brandon Belt or Zach Wheeler for a guy who could walk in the winter.
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Monday, May 02, 2011

Giants' April Minor League Report

Well, with the Giants hitting the wall at the end of April, and pretty much every writer and their mother knocking them on the internet and radio waves, I figured I'd go a different route. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for our April Minor League Report. Now, again, forgive me for the shortness in the post, I've been battling some bad ligament issue in my right hand rendering it pretty much useless on the keyboard.

Anyhow, like has been the case recent years, the San Jose Giants are the cream of the crop as far as the Giants minor league teams go. They lead all in the organization with a 16-8 record and like they seem to have done every year since 2008 with Pablo Sandoval (Posey in '09, Belt in '10) and they're hoping that 2011 will be no different. They have a few candidates down there doing well for themselves so far, but nobody really jumping off the page. Chris Dominguez leads the team with 6 homers, 18 RBI and a .286 avg., but is still striking out too much and still making errors. Supplemental 2010 pick Tommy Joseph started off the year red hot with 2 homers and 10 RBI in the first week, but has cooled mightily since. The two guys who are under the microscope the most are the last 2 season's #1 picks, CF Gary Brown and SP Zach Wheeler, and both are looking very good early. Brown doesn't hit for much power, more in the mold of Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, but is hitting .333 with 17 steals (by far most in Cal League), a .418 OBP. He looks a little under-matched in A ball right now, and that's a good thing.

Wheeler, the first rounder from '09 has been coming along a bit slower, but he's throwing the heck out of the ball right now. In 4 starts, Wheeler's 2-0 with 3.38 era, 15 h, 6 bb and 27 K's in 22 innings. Good for a WHIP of 0.98, and the Giants finally feel the 20 year-old is ready to take off... Another young right-hander I'm keeping my eye on in SJ is 23 year-old Kelvin Marte (3-1, 0.94 era in 5 starts).

In the upper level's, AA Richmond and AAA Fresno, the demotion of top-prospect Brandon Belt has livened the atmosphere up back in Fresno. Belt has been getting a lot of reps in LF where he could see a lot of PT when he returns to San Fran. In his 8 games since his demotion back to Fresno Mr. Belt has been on fire, hitting .458 though 24 at-bats with 2 homers, 8 RBI and a 1.427 OPS. Basically saying to the Giants, I'm ready if you need me. In AA, 2B Charlie Culberson is the lone, semi-bright spot on offense, hitting .293 (most on that team are in the .230's) with 40 total-bases while the next closest is at 29. On the mound, my boy Erick Surkamp is dealing, but is getting no luck, much like the Matt Cain of 2008. He's got a 2.21 era in 4 stars and 31 K's in 20 innings, but an 0-2 record to show for it. I'd like to see him in Fresno, ASAP... Speaking of Fresno, things are worse up there. There are a few things I am watching though, and that is Thomas Neal, who's been injured and missed 1/2 the games so far, but is hitting .333... As far as pitching though, it's a mess. Only recent call-up Ryan Vogelsong had respectable numbers as a starter, the rest have era's in the 5's and 6's. Relief wise, Marc Kroon has been lights out with 13 K's in 9 innings and a 2.25 era, but needs to get those walks down.
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