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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Giants Sweep Double Header in Chicago

Well, just like the Giants, we're doing a Double-Post today, but I'm going to keep this one really short cause the Giants did all the talking on the field today.

If you were fortunate enough to watch or listen to the ballgames today, you know exactly what I mean. It felt good to be a Giants fan today, starting off with the offensive out-poor in game one, followed by Barry Zito's triumphant return in the night cap. The unsung hero of the night has to go to Mr. Brandon Crawford, who I admit, I've been particularly hard on at this site in recent weeks, but the kid showed big league ability in that game 2, and that defensive save deep in the hole off taking a hit away from Aramis Ramirez was just as important as any hit of any one's bat today. Who knows what would have happened had that ball gotten through and another run crossed the plate to give the Cubbies a 3-1 lead and keep the inning alive. Zito did what he was supposed to do, pitching brilliantly after that spotty 3rd inning, locating the change-up and fastball throughout the night for 7 strong innings. It was a nice rest for the bullpen after Ryan Vogelsong could only get through 5 innings in game one, thanks largely in-part to some horrendous defense, but he'll be the first to tell you he didn't have his A-stuff today.

Offensively, Cody Ross (4-9, with 2 doubles and 2 runs scored), Nate Schierholtz (4-5, 3 RBI), Brandon Crawford (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI), Miguel Tejada and Pat Burrel (each with 3 hits and a home run) all were standouts throughout the day, but everyone on the team from Aaron Rowand to Manny Burris got in on the action as well. The bullpen pitched great in both games too, and though the defense was in-sufficient in game 1, they had their A-Defense out there at night and it showed. Now they get 2 more in Chicago which is feeling like home away from home right about now, and they get another couple of starters who have seen better days, starting with Ryan Dempster going up against Timmy tomorrow night. As far as the lineup, it should be interesting, after all the players who played so well today, to see how Bochy fills out the card for Wednesday's game when they'll enter play a season high 12 games above .500 and 2.5 up on the D-Backs in the West!
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June Minor League Report

Well, as I type this, the Giants are in the midst of beating up on the Cubs in the first game of a doubleheader, as Pat Burrell's bat has come alive and Chris Stewart has quietly started to heat up. We'll have more on both games upon completion, but in this particular post, I wanted to take a look down on the farm and see just who may be on the horizon as far as the next in line of Giants' call-ups.

The only guy in Salem playing right now worth really talking about is first rounder Joe Panik, who I'm ecstatic about after he signed so darn quickly. Panik's already gotten in 9 games at low-A Augusta and is tearing the cover off the ball to the tune of .378 Avg./3 HR/7 RBI and a 1.101 OPS. The rest of the rookie bunch won't likely start until rookie ball later this summer. Panik looks almost certain to be a San Jose Giant in due time though, and as far as his pace of advancement, really anything is possible with this youngster due to all his experience already, especially with the wood bat in the CCBL. We'll talk more about him and the rest of the Giants' draft with Amateur/NCAA baseball guru Brian Foley in a few days, but with all the baseball this kid has played in the Cape Cod league and his 3 dominant years at St. Johns, I'd say we're looking at the same type route to the bigs as Buster Posey took. The first-rounder could also keep Giants management from pursuing a longer-term option in a shortstop-heavy market this winter, with guys like Jose Reyes, J.J. Hardy and Bay Area native Jimmy Rollins hitting the open market.

Up just a level at high-A San Jose, it's been all about '09 and '10 first rounders, SP Zach Wheeler and CF Gary Brown. They're the lone-standing top-10 prospects in San Jose after the likes of Chris Dominguez, Francisco Peguero and Hector Sanchez have all been promoted. It shouldn't be long before the speedy, .320 hitting Brown joins them, but Wheeler is still just 19 years old and may be in San Jose a while longer, despite a nice 6-3 record, 3.84 era and better than a K per inning. Another arm I'm keeping an eye on in is 22 year-old righty Michael Main, the prize of the Bengie Molina trade, who's looked good in his 4 outings, limited due to injury, but looks healthy now, going 3 2/3 shutout innings with 8 K's in 2 outings since his return June 17th. He should be back in the rotation for his next start and should be able to throw 90 pitches.

Up in Richmond, there are a few fresh call-ups, guys I mentioned above, who have arrived on fire. Chris Dominguez is actually hitting the ball better in the Eastern League right now than he was in San Jose, and he was leading the team in HR and RBI with a near .300 average upon his call-up. Though they've had far less at-bats then the rest of the members of the team, Dominguez is hitting .333 with 2 HR and 15 RBI in 46 at-bats and Peguero, in a much smaller sample size, is hitting .350 in 20 at-bats. After that, it's a huge fall-off to the .262 hitting Roger Kieschnick who also leads the team with 8 HR and 41 RBI. As far as pitching goes, the minor league starter and releiver who are each having the best year of all in the organization have been 23 year-old left-handed starter Eric Surkamp, and 21 year-old releiver/closer Heath Hembree. Each are quite possibly the most overlooked Giants' prospects out there too. Surkamp has done for Richmond what Ryan "The V" has done for the Giants this year but even better, going 5-3 with a 1.74 era and 87 K's in 77 innings (I don't care where your pitching, an era and strikeout rate like that is straight dealing). I don't believe it will be much longer before we see Surkamp in Fresno, possibly after the AA All-Star game. Closer Heath Hembree (5th rounder from 2010 draft) has 23 saves in 30 minor league games, starting out with a 0.74 era and 44 K's and 16 hits in 24 innings in San Jose. He's since been called up to Richmond and has just a few outings there, already though with 2 saves and 6 strikeouts in just 3 innings.

Up in Fresno, there are two bright young prospects getting a lot of playing time, and could be prepping for playing time in San Francisco this season. Those two players are The Panda 2.0, I mean the switch hitting, 5'10", 250 pound power-hitting catcher, Hector Sanchez (remind you of anyone?), and one of their top outfield prospects, Thomas Neal. Both have held their own quite well too. In 160 at-bats, Neal's hitting .313 with 2 homers and 22 RBI for the Grizzlies, and if I were to bet, I'd guess the 23 year old right-handed slugger will be the next in line as far as Giants' outfielders. The 21 year-old Sanchez started out the year in San Jose and tore it up like Sandoval did in '08. He hit .301 with 8 homers and a whopping 46 RBI in just 176 at-bats. Putting him on pace for a 135 RBI season had he stayed put in San Jose. However, once Buster Posey went down, I think the Giants felt some urgency to try and speed him along, possibly with the thought in mind to use him just as they did Sandoval in that 2008 season, as a late season, offensive charge call-up. The Giants have 2 defensive minded catchers up at the big league level right now, and I'm sure at some point, they'll want an option back there who can hit a little bit, right now that would be Sanchez. Either way, I'll be watching the group mentioned in this post (Dominguez, Peguero, Wheeler, Sanchez, Neal, Surkamp, Hembree, Main, Panik and Brown) under a microscope for the rest of the season, because they're the next wave of big league talent in this organization.

Injury Report: As we all know by now, Buster Posey's out for 2011, and Freddy Sanchez is out until at least September, so gone are the Giants #2 and #4 hitters from opening day. One guy they will get back soon though is Brandon Belt, the teams #1 prospect heading into 2011, who's been lost on the DL for the last month after just regaining his stroke in Fresno and carrying that with him to San Francisco before taking a heater off the wrist. His rehab is still going along slowly, but the Giants believe he'll be back around the time they return from the All-Star break. When he does return (assuming no major trades are made), I'd like to see him starting in left field almost daily and battling it out with Nate Schierholtz for the outfield at bats vs. right-handers, with Burrell getting the nod vs. lefties. I'd expect about the same time return for Jonathan Sanchez, who I don't think is really injured, but certainly needs to work some kinks out over these next few weeks in order to get his rotation spot back.

Another guy who should help this team immediately upon his return and is getting closer to full health is infielder Mike Fontenot. He'll give the Giants another option at 2nd and short and will likely be a near-everyday player for Bochy when he gets back with the struggles this team has encountered up the middle since Sanchez's injury. Crawford had a nice debut and does have a shot to be a starting SS in the bigs, but his bat isn't ready, so I would have him down in Fresno working daily on his hitting rather than splitting time with Miggy, who's quietly heating up as we approach July. After a home run and 3-hit game in game in game one of the double header in Chicago on Tuesday, the shortstop has gone 6 for 16 with 4 runs scored and 2 RBI over his last 4 starts and appears to be heading in the right direction offensively (his quality of at-bats have improved a lot).
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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Giants Keep Winning, Despite Injuries

Well, were inching in on the All-Star break, at which time you can usually tell which teams are for real, and which aren't. A lot of people expected the Giants to fade by now, after losing their best player as well as their #2 hitter for the season (though Sanchez may return in September) but even when they look like they may start faltering, they right themselves and return to doing what won them the World Series last November.

Saturday's game was a beautiful example of how the Giants season has gone, in a nutshell. Matt Cain was brilliant, once again, throwing 7 shutout innings, allowing just a handful of base runners and striking out 6. He most likely solidified his spot on the NL All-Star team with the victory, if he hadn't already. But again, the Giants offense failed to show up for the right-hander and didn't drive in a single run as a team. The only run of the game came on a bases-loaded balk by Todd Sipp, and that's all the scoring the Giants pitching staff would need on that particular day. They've won a lot of ballgames just like that, though not on bases-loaded balks, but by taking advantage of other teams mistakes and errors, which is something they do as well or better than any team in baseball. It's the reason why they could move up 1 1/2 games on the 2nd place D-Backs with a win tonight as they throw out tough luck lefty Madison Bumgarner vs. one of the most hittable pitchers in baseball, Fausto Carmona. If the Giants can't get their bats going tonight, I don't know when they will. The Indian's opening day starter has allowed 105 hits in his 96 innings of work this year and is sporting an era just .02 points shy of 6 (5.98). One thing is certain though, Nate Schieholtz needs to be playing daily, especially vs. righties, and I would like to see Bill Hall get some more time at 2nd base. Thomas Neal is the next guy in line in Fresno I'd like to see get a look as well, and I wouldn't mind seeing them throw catcher Hector Sanchez into the mix (more on those fellas in the Minor League Report next post) if they aren't going to add another backstop. Manny Burris is a nice young player, but he's not an everyday guy, and isn't a very good hitter from the left-side. Not saying Hall is going to be infinitely better, but he would bring pop to a lineup that badly needs it.

The other big thing in the news regarding the Giants this weekend has been switch from Jonathan Sanchez back to Barry Zito. Sanchez was struggling badly over his last few starts, not getting hit by the other team but having a hard time finding the strike zone with regularity. The Giants say he officially has tendinitis in his biceps, but I think it's more of a move to give Sanchez a break and Zito back into the mix. Zito has been throwing quite well in his rehab assignment and is certainly ready for big league action again, but if he doesn't pitch well in his next 3-4 starts and Sanchez rehabs well in Fresno, we'll be back in the same spot. I know a lot of people have wanted to deal Sanchez for a hitter, but his stock is at an all-time low right now. However, if he throws well when he returns, and Zito's pitching well too, they could re-visit that option. I'm not sure what type of players the Twins are looking for, but there are a few guys on that roster I wouldn't mind plucking away in Michael Cuddyer and Alexi Cassilla. Cuddyer could move right into left field and Cassilla could man shortstop or 2nd base. Another team that will be looking to deal is the Chicago Cubs, who have a bunch of guys the Giants could use too. Even though it's not been discussed, I'd be very intrigued by a possible Alfonso Soriano/Barry Zito swap. Both have identical contracts and the Cubs need pitching while the Giants need hitting. Zito would immediately become their #2 starter behind Zambrano, while Soriano would be a nice fit in LF for SF. I know Soriano has his doubters and haters, but he's still a threat at the plate and a dangerous, all-star caliber hitter who's good for a .275/30/80 line when healthy. I think it would be great if the Giants could get that kind of player, a power threat they really haven't had since Barry left!

Even though Posey and Sanchez are out, I just can't see Brian Sabean sitting on his hands thinking of 2012. The Giants, even without Posey and Sanchez, look to me like the 2nd best team in the NL right now, behind only the Phillies. The Albert Pujols-less Cardinals don't scare me, and I'm pretty sure the Giants can handle the Brewers and D-Backs. Even if Buster was out there, the Giants still could use another bat, so they should definitely be proactive. That said, Sabean should only deal for players who he feels have a good chance staying in San Francisco beyond this season. Meaning no trading away the farm for a rental like Jose Reyes or Carlos Beltran (as much as I'd like to have them in San Fran) unless those guys agree to an extension before hand.
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Lincecum Ends Losing Streak

It was no secret that a big part of the Giants struggles recently have been because of their ace not pitching up to his standard, but Lincecum once again silenced all critics and helped the Giants beat the Twins, 2 out of 3.

Timmy was on his game in all areas Thursday, throwing in the mid-90's with ease and accuracy, and he also had the big curve ball going for him as well. Whenever he's in command of just his fastball, he's a tough assignment, never mind when he's in command of all his pitches. He ended up going 7 strong, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 12 batters, leaving the Giants bullpen with a 2-run lead that they held on strong to. Brian Wilson did give up a run in the 9th, then got out of it, but that wasn't the problem. It was the sputtering offense that did nothing much to help out the Giants ace, only mustering up 2 runs and a handful of hits vs. Twins swing-man Brian Duensing, leaving Timmy hardly any room for error, which is a tough way to constantly pitch. Had it been anyone other than Cain or Timmy out there in that ballgame, they may not keep their composure, with the lack of run support and all. And it's not like there is a quick fix on the horizon either. Pablo Sandoval has returned but he's come back down to earth after having a tremendous April, which I think everyone knew would happen eventually, just not so abruptly. If Pablo Sandoval is the 2010 Pablo Sandoval, this team is in trouble, plain and simple. They need him to be a .290+ hitter and run producer.

I don't care how good their pitching is, if their lineup is full of .240 hitters with no pop, and their defense is mediocre at best, they won't be major players the postseason, even if they did manage to sneak in. Now, I'm not saying this team still can't turn some things around, cause they can. Torres can pick up some slack, and I still think Sandoval is going to be a very good player, but without Posey, and with Huff hitting .230, they need those things to happen now, not 2 months down the line in September... As far as my J.J. Hardy watch, the dude continues to put up massive numbers, almost to the point where he's going to start garnering a nice little market for himself, if he hasn't already. He's now up over .300 with 10 homers and 30 RBI in less than 200 at-bats. Oh yeah, and he plays shortstop just as well as Brandon Crawford with a great arm. Even a J.J. Hardy wouldn't be quite enough to help overturn this offense as it sits now though. Unless Torres turns it around in a hurry, they're going to need another leadoff option. Whether they want to give Darren Ford a look, or try Aaron Rowand again, they need a spark at the top, especially now with Freddy Sanchez out of the 2-spot.

Jonathan Sanchez gets the nod Friday night in a nice matchup of youngsters, going against Cleveland righty Carlos Carrasco (7-3, 3.76 era). I'd sure like to see Sanchez stick around in this game, and not be bounced out by the 6th inning cause it seems like any time he gets the ball deep into games, he tends to come out victorious. At the same time, if I were Bochy, I'd have the short hook too. It's a warm June evening and if Sanchez isn't on, he can accumulate base-runners in a hurry... Should be a very interesting weekend series though going up against the best team in the AL Central, providing the Giants with another test to see just where they stand here in late June with all their injuries and slumps!
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Giants Draft Analysis

Well, for most of the 2011 season, Madison Bumgarner has been the bad luck pitcher in the Giants starting rotation, the Matt Cain of 2008. However, after Tuesday night's meltdown vs. the Twins, he has nobody but himself to blame.

The Twinkies put up a 9-spot in the first frame and sent the Giants 21 year-old to a cold shower before he could exit the first inning. It couldn't have happened to a tougher luck pitcher either, as Bumgarner has been one of the most steady arms in that rotation, only to be rewarded with a 3-8 record coming in (3-9 after tonight's mess). Some silver lining to come out of Tuesday's game though was 8 scoreless innings of relief by the bullpen, and another 2-2 night out of Aubrey Huff to help the struggling offense (We need Hardy, We Need Hardy!!!). But anyway, in the midst of a blowout, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the draft and what kind of players the Orange and Black have brought into the organization.

Giants Draft Talk

As we all know by know, the Giants selected St. Johns Jr. shortstop Joe Panik at #29, who I've now had a chance to watch a bit, and he seems like a very nice player, certainly worth a top-50 pick. Top-30 pick though, I'm not so sure? I guess if I had my druthers, I would have taken LSU outfielders Mikie Mahtook or Brian Goodwin, possibly even 6'6" Prep lefty, Henry Owens, all of whom fell just a few picks behind Panik, so I can't help but think they could have gotten two of those names mentioned above. But the Giants have ended up with Panik, he's now our guy and will be rooted for like family. He's a good sized shortstop with a strong arm and average range, but his strength lies at the plate, where he's got an above average offensive skill-set. After watching some extensive video on the shortstop, I can't help but vision a younger Stephen Drew with that compact, balanced stroke. Also, if you check out the videos, you'll be hard-pressed to find him actually swinging and missing. I know they're doctored up some and scouting tapes, but the kid makes contact. First he was a Freshman All-American, then a All-Big East selection (3rd team) as a sophomore, hitting .374 in 60 games supported with 10 HR, 55 RBI and a rock solid 1.098 OPS. He was also recognized as one of the better defensive shortstops in the East. Then, as a senior, he hit over .400 with 9 HR and 50 RBI and had decent success in the Cape Cod League, hitting near .300. Again, I like Panik, and he fits an organizational need, but I really think Goodwin has extraordinary upside, and believe the Giants could have gotten Panik just a few spots later with their compensation pick. Baseball America had Panik as the 66th best prospect out there, just to give an idea of what the national scouts, writers and coaches think of the kid. He's definitely set out on a rampage though, showing up hungry and tearing dominating in Salem to the tune of 10-17, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1.474 OPS in 4 ballgames. Look out San Jose, it's only a matter of time!

After Panik, again, it was the "Big Project", Texas prep right-hander, Kyle Crick. The 6'4" throws in the mid-90's with ease, but has pitched just a few seasons in his baseball life, and still has plenty to learn. If your expecting Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner-type ascending from Crick, you'll be disappointed, cause he's got some learning to do. Speaking of Cain though, Crick reminds a lot of Giants scouts of the 26 year-old rightie, a hard thrower who goes right after hitters and throws 70% fastballs. He's a guy I could certainly see in late-relief down the line if he can't pitch 6-7 innings per start. I wanna say they were hoping for Andrew Chaffin or Michael Kelly to fall a few more spots, cause they just missed out on two of the drafts top-25 arms in those two. They did have a potential ace fall to them in round 6 though, where they selected Oregon State lefty Josh Osich. The guy had a huge 2011 season following Tommy John Surgery in 2010, and if he can stay healthy, he could very well could end up the steal of this draft.

After the selection of Crick, the Giants went with another catcher in Oregon State's Andrew Susac, which was a bit of a head-scratcher at first, being they just drafted Posey a few years back and have another top ranked cathcer in Tommy Joseph coming along. However, I started to see the logic in it very quickly. Susac is a MLB-caliber catcher and was a projected first rounder coming into the year. Also, Buster's injury may force him out to 2nd, 3rd or 1st base in a few years. Susac is a solid defender with pull power which could translate to 15-20 HR/year. I liked this selection, and I think he's a guy we'll see sooner than later up in San Fran! Heck, I already think he's better than Chris Stewart... Rounding out round 3 was the powerful, USC first basemen Ricky Oropesa, who I'm very intrigued to watch develop. Oropesa led the USC team in the triple crown categories each of his last 2 seasons, including a .357, 20 HR, 67 RBI campaign in 2010. Had he entered the draft last year, he very well could have been a first rounder/Compensation A selection. So again, very solid value pick for the Giants. (Here's a video of catcher Andrew Susac connecting for a long homer to left field last summer)

*Other names to follow taken after the 10th round*

(10th Rnd) CF Kentrell Hill, Arkansas Baptist
: Very Brian Gordon-like with speed and power out of center field. 5-tool caliber player could have gone 5-6 rounds earlier, easy. Some character issue, but nothing serious. Giants hoping he's the long lost outfielder they haven't developed in 20 years?

(14th Rnd) 3B Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma: 2-time Big-12 coaches selection, .343 career hitter, but needs some work on defense. Reminds me a bit of Connor Gillaspie coming in, but hopefully we see more positive results in him. Has more pop than Gillaspie, so should be a fine fit at the hot corner as long as the defense comes around.

(21st Rnd) RHP Andrew Triggs: The 6'3" righty isn't very flashy, but is extremely effective. He was USC's ace in 2010 but pitched through a ton of bad luck. In 2011 though, he turned it back on, finishing 5-4 with a 3.67 era and 72 K's in 90 IP in a tough Pac-12. He saved his best start for last; a 7 2/3, 13 strikeout performance that probably solidified his spot here. Sign-ability could be an issue here though.

More Draft Analysis?: We will have one more small segment on the draft to cap things off as we get an up-close and personal look at some of these players as covered by the site that watches these guys day-in and day-out. CBD's Brian Foley so wrapped up in the CWS right now, so I may want to give him another week or so before bombarding him with Giants' draft questions, then again, he's a good buddy of mine and he may end up feeding us something very nice before the end of the Series, so stay tuned!

GBB's Overall Grade for the Giants 2011 Draft: B
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Monday, June 20, 2011

Offensive Help Needed!

Well, it's no secret that the A's play comfortably vs. their cross-bay rivals at home in the Coliseum, but I don't even thing hard core A's fans were ready for what the A's did this weekend vs. the reigning World Champs.

They kicked the weekend off by shutting down the Giants and lighting up ace Tim Lincecum and drop his season record below .500 for the first time that I can remember, they didn't slow down after that. The A's proceeded to beat Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, arguable the Giants best three starters, and although Cain and Sanchez threw better than Lincecum did, the bats were no where to be found. The Giants scored a total of just 5 runs vs. Oakland pitching this weekend, and were kept in the ballpark too, outside of a Cody Ross solo homer on Friday. Speaking of Ross, he's been the one bright spot in an otherwise decaying lineup. While everyone else in the Giants batting order's average keeps falling, Ross's keeps rising, and he keeps coming up with the clutch hits. Other than that, it's a mess all around right now, and it happened very quickly. It wasn't but a week ago that I was starting to gain some optimism about this team with Billy Hall in tow and Pablo returning, thinking they may just stay afloat until Freddy Sanchez and Brandon Belt return, but it appears that was wishful thinking. Leadoff man Andres Torres' lineup has now dipped down to .236, nowhere near where you want your leadoff man to be. Huff is still harboring around .240, but has shown some signs of breaking out, and at the very least, he produces with running in scoring position. And then there's Brandon Crawford, who I'm rooting for just as much as anyone else, but his bat is clearly not ready, and if the Giants don't want to add a catcher, they must, absolutely add a good shortstop.

The one guy I've been watching extremely closely over the last few weeks has been Baltimore's J.J. Hardy, a guy I really wanted the Giants to push for this offseason. The 28 year-old Hardy is just entering his prime and coming off a few injuries that have hurt his stock a bit, but he's certainly on right now. Hardy has been the best hitting shortstop in baseball this June, hitting .369 with 6 homers and 12 RBI to go along with a 1.140 OPS. He's going to be a free agent at the end of the year, and I highly doubt Baltimore will have interest in re-signing him, especially if he keeps up his offensive surge. He's a solid defending shortstop, but the only question with Hardy has been his health. He played hurt in 2009 and missed 40 games, then missed 60 games last year, then another bunch at the beginning of this year. He does look healthy now though, and that's what matters. Again, he's on a 1 year deal too, so if worst comes to worst and he gets hurt again, it's not like their married to him for the long term. This is the exact move the Giants need to be looking for in order to help jump start the offense and solidify it all at once. It would allow Boch to go back to using more of a regular lineup each day rather than mixing and matching... Would a healthy Hardy be enough to help overcome the loss Posey? No, but the Giants are good enough to win a World Series without Buster, as long as they make the right move(s)!
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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lincecum's Struggles Continue

Well, I'm not nearly ready to say I'm worried about the Giants young right-handed ace, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't the least bit concerned over his last handful of outings. Lincecum was already coming off of a couple forgetful outings his last 2 times out, otherwise the Giants could be 3-4 games in first right now instead of tied.

After shutting down the A's over at AT&T Park 2 weeks ago, the A's got their revenge vs. Timmy. The A's were on their game Friday night and Lincecum has dropped to 5-6 on the year as he struggled through 6 innings allowing 10 base-runners to reach across the bay. He held the A's to just 6 hits and 3 runs while striking out 7, which is pretty close to his norm, but his era is climbing bit by bit to the point where he'll be approaching 4 by mid-July at this pace. Again, Lincecum has had these spurts throughout his young career, which has before caused some panic, only to have him revert right back to form after a few bad weeks. The most recent example would be last August when he went 1-4 I believe, but then look how darn nails he was down the stretch and into October for the Giants. He was the Tim Lincecum we all know and expect when it came down to it and I don't see any reason to believe that will be different this time around. He seems plenty healthy and energetic and just has been a little off in his last few outings. Wouldn't surprise me to see him now turn and go 5-0 with a 1.50 era and 60 K's in July, even with the break. He loves proving his haters wrong, as much as any professional athlete I've really followed and very much like that old Left Fielder that wore #25 in SF for 15 years.

So, what do the Giants need to do to get back on track and take the next two from the A's? Well, they're going to have to hit. Even though Lincecum would even tell you he was off, he really was good enough to give the Giants the chance to win, but their offense came up way short vs. rookie journeyman Geoff Godfrey. Once again, the Giants made a mediocre pitcher look like the staff's ace, collecting just 6 hits and 2 runs in the 6 innings vs. Godfrey before being shut down by Andrew Baily and Brian Fuentes. The A's played like they needed to to win ballgames (pitch tremendously, limit mistakes and cash in on opportunity) and the Giants did what they'll do when they lose ballgames (offensive slump, impatience, rough defense). Only Cody Ross had 2 hits and a long home run, which weren't nearly enough in the end. On a positive note though, they get to send two of their best arms to the hill in the final 2 in order to get it done, and those guys need to be on their game. Jonathan Sanchez goes Saturday night, and I'd really like to see him focused from the first pitch and maybe take a game into the 8th or 9th inning, something he's rarely done since his no-no 2 years ago. Cain just needs to be Cain, and he'll get it done, although he does face a formidable opponent in Trevor Cahill on Sunday which should make for one helluva pitchers duel.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Giants Take 2 of 3 in Arizona

First of all, I'm very sorry for our long, week and a half hiatus. I usually never take breaks that long in season, but unfortunately I got sick last week with the flu and am just know getting back into typing shape.

One thing the sickness did allow me to do, was really take a good long look at the San Francisco Giants from afar. It's been about a month now since I've been out to AT&T for an actual game, so I have been watching everything on TV, which I'm not so much used to. Normally I'll watch about %20 live in attendance, %20 on TV, and listen to the other half or so, mostly just away games, but I got to watch them play all homestand against the Cards and Cininatti as well as this Arizona series so far, and they've really caughten some fire. Their bats were starting to heat up over the weekend, as you could start to see signs, but it wasn't until Aubrey Huff started going to left field like a natural righty, Billy Hall's signing and immediate impact in place of the oft-injured Freddy Sanchez and finally capped off by The Panda's anticipated return Tuesday night. They were looking so locked in offensively, they even go some surprisingly good play out of Eli Whiteside and the catchers spot over these last 5-6 games. We know this team will battle injuries all year long and should be deep enough to override most of their lineup mishaps. I liked the move for Hall, another low-risk possibly huge-reward type player who looks hungry. I mean, the only guy who's really been healthy and in their since Game 1, 2011 has been Huff, and he was hitting just .230 with 30-RBI heading into Arizona June 15th. (though he did have a few 3-hit games to add 14 points to his batting average) They didn't pull off the sweep, thanks to Justin Uptons game winning walkoff shot, but the Giants are still up 2 on the D-Backs in the West... Good series overall for Giants!

There is no doubt in my mind, that if the Giants are indeed intent on winning another World Series, which, barring any setbacks to the rotation, looks like a legit possibility. That said, this lineup isn't producing quite as well at this pace as they were last year after the arrival of Posey lifted them to that next level. Even with Sanchez and Sandoval out there, that ".175 hitting catcher" and whoever has been at short, is going to rear up and bite them in the behind later on in the year if they don't end up upgrading. Again, they don't need another Posey, but someone who can handle the day-to-day duties and at least support a respectable average up over .250. I still wouldn't mind Pudge, but would rather have a little bit younger of a guy like Miguel Olivo or John Buck if they could pry him from Florida! Right now, I like how Sabean is going at it though, not making any panic moves and staying the coarse while his team writes the ship. It's a weird thing to say, since he hasn't done too much to add to the team, but I think Sabean is the perfect guy to be leading this club's pursuit of players and I do think he'll get something done before the 31st of next month!

Giants Draft Picks: I also didn't get a chance to talk much about the Giants draft picks, but I did watch it. I didn't hear too much about SS top pick Joe Ponik before the pick and haven't had a chance to look at him play yet so I'll hold off on comment on him until a later date, but I really liked the 2-3 picks in Prep right-hander Kyle Crick out of Texas and Oregon State catcher Andrew Sussac, who I actually watched play a few times in the College World Series over the weekend as part of my slumber-stupor. He looks like a nice young player, quite possibly Buster's replacement a few years down the line at catcher, allowing Posey to go to 2nd or 3rd Base full time (which will eventually be his destination at some point especially in light of injury)? Could certainly be if Sussoc develops like he's supposed to! The Giants stuck mostly with polished college guys for the most part of the top of the draft, and we'll look at it a lot closer in the coming days after I get back in touch with our College Baseball Daily guru, Brian Foley! We should be back onto a normal schedule now, going back to every other day or so, possibly more, so check back after the game each day for updates! Thanks guys!
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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Vogelsong, Giants Take Rockies Series

As the weeks go by, Giants fans have been waiting for Vogelsong to come crashing back to earth, but the 33 year-old right-hander has just kept getting stronger and stronger with the more time he gets.

Last year, the Giants got the great performance from Andres Torres, who's already over 30, and nobody had any big expectations for. This year, their getting that same effective play out of Vogelsong, who moved to 4-1 with a 1.68 era and a 1.04 WHIP after beating the Rockies and Jason Hammel Sunday at AT&T Park. While Barry Zito's expected to make a start for San Jose Monday night, I don't think there is anything he can do at this point that would put him back on the big league roster. It's been speculated how well Zito would work in relief, but I think that's the approach the Giants should be taking with him. He's been starting games all his life and if they need to move him back into the rotation, it shouldn't be any problem whatsoever. He can actually help the team coming out of the pen, where they're only getting consistent left-handed relief out of Javier Lopez (although Jeremy Affeldt has been coming along better lately). But right now, the only person who can bounce Vogelsong from this rotation should be himself. At this pace, it would be tough for Bruce Bochy not to select the right-hander for the NL All-Star team next month in Arizona, never mind taking him out of the Giants rotation. The only pitcher that's been close to Vogelsong in his 8 starts this year, has been Tim Lincecum, and even Lincecum doesn't have as low of era as Vogelsong. So, even if Zito throws back-to-back perfect games in the minor leagues, until Vogelsong hiccups, or somebody else gets hurt, he doesn't belong in the Giants starting rotation.

A player who is coming back to earth a little after a big first week, is rookie shortstop Brandon Crawford. The 24 year-old had just 1 hit in the Rockies series and committed 2 errors over the weekend. I'd still trot him out there until his average dips below .200, as his defense is still so much of an upgrade to Tejada's, that it would be worth the lesser bat in exchange for that great glove. That said, the Giants aren't scoring a bunch of runs, so they need all the offense they can get in their lineup, and for that reason, I'm not sure how much longer the Giants will stick with the light-hitting shortstop unless his bat starts heating up again. Still, that said, I think the Giants should be focusing their search on catchers right now, as they badly need to upgrade Whiteside and Stewart if they're indeed serious about contending for another World Series. I think they can get by with the combination of infielders they have now, whether it be Burris or Crawford or even Tejada again at shortstop, they have options. At catcher, they simply don't. It hasn't been a huge problem thus far, but right now, they're essentially getting no production from the catching position after starting the year with their cleanup-hitting catcher. That's what's going to weigh this team down come August and September if they don't upgrade, and I said it as soon as Posey went down! No longer is shortstop atop the Giants priority list, they need a MLB caliber starting catcher, which they simply don't have.

Draft Day Monday: I didn't get the chance to preview the draft as much as I'd liked to before the first day of selections, but I have an idea of who could possibly fall to the Giants at pick 29. The highly respected Rivals Draft site has them mocked to select Hawaii second basemen Kolton Wong, as he looks much like a 2nd coming of Freddy Sanchez, with a great average and defense but average power at best. I say they take the best available player, whether it be a pitcher or hitter. Most people believe they need to focus on offense, but if some strong pitcher falls to them like Taylor Jungmann, Matt Barnes or high school lefty, Henry Owens. But I think it will ultimately be an outfielder. I'd like it to be the Miami JC outfielder Brian Goodwin or high school outfielder Josh Bell, regarded by many as the best prep bat in the draft. These are some of the names to look for as this deep draft falls down to pick #29.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Giants Comeback in St. Louis

Tim Lincecum pitched through some bad luck and finally got a lead Wednesday, only to save his worst inning for last, allowing the then go-ahead homer to Allan Craig to give the Cards the 5-4 lead. You could get the feeling of, oh no, here we go again. But it was all good in the end for San Fran!

It was all good for the Giants in the end thanks in large part to two very key hitters, well make that three, actually, in Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez, who had 3 hits and scored the go ahead run. Lincecum was really strong for 6 innings, but used up a lot of pitches, collecting 9 k's through 6, then came the 7th inning, in which the right-hander ran simply ran out of gas, giving up 4 consecutive hits, including the Allan Craig, pinch hit, go ahead home run. It was somewhat rare for the Giants ace to get a late lead like that and cough it up, but it didn't phase the Giants. Cody Ross had a 4-hit game in which he looked absolutely locked in, and steady Freddy Sanchez had the 3 hits in the 3-hole. One of the biggest hits of the night for the Giants, though, came off the bat of a guy who really needed it, when Aubrey Huff hit the, then go-ahead solo home run in the 7th, his first since early May I believe. Nate Schierholtz was the hero Wednesday though, providing the game-tying hit in 9th and the go-ahead hit in the 11th, which was followed by a Brandon Crawford RBI-single to pad the lead. Ross looks like he's starting to come around, putting 30 points on his average over the last few games. Crawford also continues to be a nice surprise with 2 more hits Wednesday and, again, providing noticably improved D up the middle. They got the production out of the middle of the lineup they've been looking for, as the 3-6 hitters in the lineup went a combined 11-21 with 1 HR and 4 RBI.

There was some more good news to come out of Wednesday besides the Giants win, as Pablo Sandoval supposedly put on a very impressive batting practice session, hitting from both sides of the plate, before the game. I think the injury still is limiting him just a tad right-handed, but apparently he lit it up from the left-side. It encouraged the Giants to the point where they may send him down to Fresno for a rehab assignment when they return home on Friday. Depending on how that goes, he could be with the team by Monday or possibly one week from today on Wednesday (fingers crossed). That will definitely help the Giants in two ways; it will get Miguel Tejada's bat out of the everyday lineup (why they decided not to try Connor Gillaspie at third in Pablo's absence still amazes me), and it will get the Giants home run leader (despite being out since April) back into the everyday lineup. When that happens, I wouldn't put it beyond the realm of possibility that the Giants eat Tejada's contract and let waive him. Now, that, of course, would indicate they have complete faith in the Brandon Crawford/Manny Burris/Mike Fontenot combo at short for the the time being, which I really think would be the best move. Though likely it will result in Manny Burris (who stepped up big to play a decent first base in absence of Brandon Belt) recall to Fresno.

So they head into Thursday night's game 4 up 2-1, with Jonathan Sanchez taking on some rookie call-up, which is a huge lift for the Giants, who were due to face Jaime Garcia, the best lefty in the NL to date in 2011 in my opinion (was at 5-0 with a 1.91 era before getting shelled in his last start in which he wasn't 100%, we later found out)! So even though it would have been an intriguing match-up of young lefties, the Giants' chances to take this series, as long as Sanchez is on his game, just rose about 75%. They're still a half game back on the D-Backs, who just refuse to lose, but you can see things moving in the right direction for the first time since Posey went down, and once Sandoval comes back, it will provide a sense of regularity this team hasn't had since that nasty incident. They'll look much more like the Giants again, even though they'll still be missing the big guy behind the plate.
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