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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Giants Make Another Move, Add Cabrera

Well, I can't say I completely love this deal like I did the Beltran trade, but the Giants felt they needed to add one more hitter before Sunday's 1 PM trade deadline and Sabean apparently felt Orlando Cabrera was the best, most attainable option.

Now, don't get me wrong, Cabrera is an upgrade over what the Giants are currently trotting out to shortstop each night, but only slightly, and I think they could have packaged Neal up to get someone of more value. Thomas Neal (pictured) isn't an A-prospect, but he's no slouch, and with Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Carlos Beltran all coming off the books next year, the Giants could have used the extra insurance in the outfield. While the Beltran deal does get an A in my book, this one is more like an average C, C+ move. Cabrera's numbers are pretty identical to those of Miguel Tejada's, and his defense isn't as good as Brandon Crawford's. He's hitting a modest .244 with 4 homers and 38 RBI and was slowly losing playing time to rookie Jason Kipnis. My guess is that Cabrera will come in and hit in the lower part of the order, either 7th or 8th, and although the Giants could still go after an upgrade behind the plate, I don't see them doing anything else between now and tomorrow's 1PM deadline. There were a couple other names floating out there linked to the Giants as well, and they were Baltimore first basemen Derek Lee (since dealt to the Pirates) as well as Houston Astros center fielder and leadoff man Michael Bourn but I just don't see anything else serious materializing. They could get a backstop before the waiver deadline of August 31st, but I'd expect closer to Pudge Rodriguez than Ramon Hernandez.

Something tells me Sabean watched these first two games in Cincinnati and made the decision that he wanted to add more offense to shortstop without getting a big drop off in defense from Brandon Crawford. Tejada is becoming a defensive liability out there and this move allows him to move around the infield and be more of a utility guy. The Giants had thoughts of adding Cabrera this winter too, but felt they'd get more offense out of Tejada and added him instead. Should be interesting to see if Cabrera will be in Cinci Sunday for the Giants finale. The one area where Cabrera will absolutely help, and is probably a large reason why the Giants got him, is in the clubhouse and during pressure situations down the stretch. He's a guy who's been to the postseason 6 different times and knows how to play on that stage. I don't think the Giants would have felt comfortable trotting Brandon Crawford out there in a potential NLCS game as he's still trying to get his legs under him at the big league level. He's been great defensively, but his sub-.200 average left too much to be desired offensively. Not that Cabrera is a whole lot better, he's a vet and the Giants are pining hopes that he'll be their "Edgar Renteria" in October this year.
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Lincecum Strong, Giants Beat Philly Again

Well, their prized new acquisition went 0-4 with a couple of K's, but the Giants got a gutsy return performance from ace Tim Lincecum to complete their series victory over the Phillies, once again frustrating Philly fans and getting into the head manager Charlie Manuel.

Although Lincecum was probably still feeling many effects from the flu that's had him down all week, he rose to the occasion Thursday night, throwing 6 shutout innings allowing just 3 hits while striking out 6. After his team was again shut down by Giants' pitching, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel called the Giants pitchers "good pitchers, not great pitchers", which to me is a comment out of pure frustration. I don't want to jump on Manuel and beat this to death cause I really don't care what he thinks about a team who all the sudden has his number, I'd rather talk about what good baseball the Giants have been playing. Especially on the pitching side of things. Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz each had nice games Thursday and drove in runs to help support Timmy. Also, even though he didn't have a direct impact with the bat, I think Carlos Beltran's presence was felt throughout the lineup and everyone was carrying a new level of confidence. Apparently Beltran suggested to Sandoval to try and go the other way before his first at-bat vs. Kendrick, and the result was a Sandoval solo homer to left field. Beltran also made very nice grab in right field that had everybody holding their breath a bit as he landed on that surgically repaired right knee and carved out some ground in right field.

Again though, it was really all about the arms vs Philly, the one bad start by Zito turning into a loss, then the two dominant outings by Cain and Lincecum. Had the Giants thrown Philly killer Jonathan Sanchez at Philly instead of Zito, I'm sure things would have come up different, but we'll have to wait until early next week before Sanchez reclaims his spot over Zito. Matt Cain more than atoned for Zito's ugly outing Wednesday with 7 innings of 1 run ball with that 1 run being of the unearned variety. The Phills couldn't touch Cain or Timmy, then when Bochy brought in the left-handed relievers, it really exposed the Phillies middle order hitters. They're so left-handed heavy and the Giants have such good left-handed relievers that the Giants just match up terrifically with Philly as each team stands now. It's prompted talk in Philadelphia that he Phills will try desperately to add Hunter Pence before Sunday's trade deadline in order to break up all those lefties in the middle for Philly. The Giants themselves may not be done either, in fact I'm kind of expecting Sabean to make another move. The Giants have had upgrading catcher on their mind ever since Buster Posey went down in May, and they may be squaring off against the best possible target this weekend in Cincinnati.

Ramon Hernandez has been the latest name linked to the Giants, and I think it would be a great move to get a .300 hitting catcher with some power and solid defense in here. Although Whiteside's bat seems to be picking up, his defense and decision making is falling off the map and I just can't imagine this guy behind the plate in the heat of late playoff game... Also, the Giants have yet to announce a starter for the Sunday game in Cinci which is supposed to be Zito's spot. Sanchez just threw for Fresno on Wednesday so he won't be ready, some have even mentioned new top pitching prospect Eric Surkamp as a possible replacement for Zito Sunday, but I doubt he makes the jump up from AA. I expect Zito to get the start and depending on how it goes, it could be his last one in quite a while for the Giants.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Carlos Beltran Coming to Town

It was a deal that's been in the making for the better part of the month, and it appears to have finally come to fruition Wednesday. The Giants will send top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler to New York for outfielder Carlos Beltran, the top bat on the trade market, in a deal expected to be announced Thursday.

I've been discussing Beltran here a lot in recent weeks, so you know I'm pretty pro-Carlos Beltran, I just really hoped the Giants could get the deal done with Peguero or Surkamp and could have hung onto Wheeler. I've seen Wheeler pitch, and I think he can be a #2 of 3 starter, but he hasn't dominated the minors like Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner did and he's not really standing out in A-ball this season, so who knows when he'll be ML ready. Also, the Mets had other offers for Beltran who was the prize bat of this market by far, and the Giants made a bold move in order to ensure their spot in the playoffs and boost their chances for a repeat. Beltran should come right in and take over the everyday job in right where he's most comfortable, forcing Cody Ross Nate Schierholtz and Brandon Belt scurrying for AB's in LF. It's also possible Beltran could see some time in center field too if Andres Torres can't get his batting average up. Carlos Beltran easily becomes the Giants best outfielder since the Barry Bonds era and is quite possibly the biggest trade deadline acquistion in decades for the San Fran. Wherever he's playing, he'll be entrenched into the middle of the batting order with Pablo Sandoval and Nate Schierholtz, giving the Giants two strong switch hitters in that middle which bodes very well for late inning relief match-ups. My guess is that Beltran will hit 3rd in front of Sandoval, Huff and Schierholtz. It should also be interesting to see what happens to Brandon Belt's PT, and who exactly will be out of a roster spot with the arrival of #15?

Though I wasn't hoping for the departure of a top prospect, I do approve of this move. The Giants don't need to eat all of Beltran's remaining salary which adds more to the pot for a potential contract extension after the season. Speaking of which, I do think Sabean and Co. will be very serious about keeping Beltran in San Francisco beyond this year. Even though the Giants dealt from strength, Wheeler was their prized arm in their minor league system and I don't think Sabean dealt him away without any plan of trying to keep Beltran for a few more years if all goes well. The Giants do have a few bright young outfielders in the minor leagues, but nobody too close or with the extra-base power of Beltran. Plus, a potential Giants lineup for 2012 that includes Beltran, Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Sanchez and Huff (hopefully he rebounds) is mighty compelling. I just hope that this deal doesn't mean less playing time for Schierholtz. Nate's having a much better season than Cody Ross, and until Ross gets into one of his hot streaks, he should be relegated to left-handed pitching and righties he's crushed in the past. Then again, with Torres' struggles, it wouldn't surprise me to see Beltran in center flanked by Schierholtz in Ross a lot of nights as well. Again, no matter how you look at it, the Giants gave up a quality young arm to get a very good outfielder who'll help them win now and drastically help out their faltering offense. I give the deal a double thumbs up, now if Sabes could get him to ink a reasonable 3-year extension, that would be icing on the cake!

Back on the field, the Giants just finished off a win over the Phillies to even up the series at 1 apiece for Thursday's rubber match. Beltran apparently left Cinci Wednesday and is expected to be in the lineup for the finale in Philly. The Giants will either trot out Tim Lincecum if he can finally shake the flu, or it will be Vogelsong. Either way, the Giants will be in good shape going up against Kyle Kendrick who's very hittable if the Giants can be patient. It should also be noted that he Giants may not be done on the trade front either. I still think they would like to upgrade catcher if they can.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beltran, Outfield Decision Looming Large

We're now just 5 days away from Sunday's MLB trade deadline, and like I said in our last post, it appears to be a 2-team race for the services of Carlos Beltran. The two favored teams happen to be starting a crucial 3-game set tonight vs. each other, and by the end of it, I'd be willing to bet that on either Philly or San Fran will make a move to grab Beltran.

There is the rumor floating out there that the Braves could be in the running as well, but they'd probably jump in only if Philly or the Giants can't get a deal done and the price for Beltran drops. Either way, their is no reason for the Mets to hang onto him at this point. If they keep him and offer him arbitration, he could take them to court and win $18-20 million bucks for 2012, though chances of him not landing a multi-year deal with someone after this season he's had isn't likely. So if it came down to it, would the Giants eat the salary and sweeten the pot with a prospect like Francisco Peguero or Thomas Neal? I'm starting to think they just might be. I've been saying all along this team is definitely good enough, as is, to win their division, just because the Rockies are having an off-year and the Dodgers are a mess. It would be a dissapointment if they didn't win this division. But the point of adding Beltran isn't to help him get you to the playoffs, it's to help you win it all, and that's what Sabean should be focusing on right now. We've mentioned B.J. Upton here a few times as well, but he's going to cost more in trade than Beltran and isn't as effective right now in his career as the Mets outfielder. Upton would still improve this teams offense by bringing in power and speed as well as providing a 26 year-old all-star to build an outfield around, but the Giants don't need another sub-.250 hitter in their lineup and that's where Upton's at right now. The more I look at the Giants situation and the trade market, the more Beltran's starting to make sense. We can't forget that if the Giants don't get him, another NL contender will and be that much tougher in October!

On the field, as I said, the Giants are taking on these vary Phillies in a match-up of last years NLCS and you know that Philly will be hungry for some payback and the fans will be wild. If you thought the Brewers/Giants series over the weekend was exciting, fasten your seat belts for these next three cause they're bound to be nail-biters. Unfortunately, the Giants got some bad news right off the bat, as ace Tim Lincecum was scratched from Friday's start and replaced by Barry Zito due to a flu. So Zito will have the honers of taking on bright young right-hander Vance Worley, and this is going to be a huge test for Barry. Jonathan Sanchez is pretty much through with his rehab work and rearing for a chance to get back on the mound for the Giants, and if Zito bombs tonight, it could happen sooner than later. There was speculation that Sanchez would re-join the Giants in relief if Zito kept his strong pitching up, but Sanchez has worked as a starter during his assignment which tells me the Giants indeed plan to return him to their rotation. Luckily for Zito, most all of Philly's thump comes from the left-side of the plate, so he won't be totally exposed out there, but this 83 mph fastball paired with that live yard doesn't bode well on paper. Offensively, the Giants need some production out of that bottom of the lineup if they're going to keep up with Philly's offense. Their 6-7-8 hitters for Tuesday are hitting a combined .236!

Trade Talk
: Besides the pursuit of Carlos Beltran, things have been pretty quiet on the Giants rumor front. Surprisingly, I haven't heard them asking about any catchers or shortstops, both areas where the Giants are sorely below league average. They may be banking on Mark DeRosa returning and playing 2nd while moving Keppinger to short, but I sure hope they're not pining hopes on a guy who's spent the last 2 seasons on the shelf. I know the catching market isn't booming with potential targets, but I don't know if I can put up with another 2 months of Whiteside's soft hitting and overrated throwing arm. I think personally think Miguel Olivo's 14 home runs and 45 RBI would look beautiful in the 7th or 8th spot in San Francisco without missing a beat behind the plate.
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Strong Pitching Prevails Over Brewer Bat's

It's no secret that the Giants offense cannot match blows with powerful teams such as the Brewers, so they need their pitching and defense to be on point in these types of series, and they received some tremendous outings from their starters this weekend.

The Giants finished off the 3 game set on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the NL's top offense behind the arm of 21 year-old lefty Madison Bumgarner. MadBum had a rocky start in the first inning allowing a solo big fly to Ryan Braun, but that was all the scoring the Brewers would do on the afternoon. Bumgarner settled down after that and was nails, going 7 2/3, allowing just the 1 run with 8 strikeouts. Over the whole weekend set, the Giants allowed the Brewers to score just 8 runs, thanks to the starting performances by Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. Cain and Vogelsong didn't even have their best stuff, but Vogelsong still pitched well and won his 8th game despite some rocky control. Cain did suffer the only loss in the series opener on Friday night, as he was out-dueled by Shawn Marcum, but he didn't pitch badly. I said in Friday's post that this series would tell us a lot about the Giants and whether or not they can beat a team with great offense as well as strong pitching like Milwaukee's, and although they prevailed and won 2 of 3, the Brewers were just a couple swings away from a series sweep, that's how close it was. It also proved a wise move by Bochy to skip Barry Zito's turn in the rotation this weekend, cause I think he would have been doomed vs. this right-handed heavy lineup.

The Giants had very little room for error this weekend, and when they made one like they did on Friday night, it cost them. Overall, they looked strong, they pitched well, got good relief, got some timely hits and played pretty good defense, but I still see room for improvement, especially offensively. Pablo Sandoval came back down to earth a bit this weekend, and Nate Schierhotlz has quieted down a bit but a guy who has really disappeared over the last few weeks has been Cody Ross. The outfielder really has been quiet all year long after exploding in the postseason last year and it could be his spot that's in jeopardy if the Giants indeed add another outfielder like Carlos Beltran. In 9 games since the all-star break, Ross has just 1 home run and 5 RBI paired with a .133 average and a .510 OPS. That's hardly the production the Giants can afford out of a corner outfielder and it wouldn't surprise me to see Ross start to lose a little bit of playing time to Brandon Belt in the outfield. Belt has gotten just one start in the outfield since his return and it came Sunday. He went 2-2 with a walk vs. Brewer ace Yovanni Gallardo and played a nice left field in the process. I said it in out last post and I'll say it again, Belt needs to be playing a near daily basis, whether it's at first base, left field or a combination of the two, he needs at-bats.

Also, speaking of Carlos Beltran, it seems like we can't get through a single post lately without mentioning his name, and with the deadline just days away, things are starting to heat up. According to Yahoo! Sports reports Sunday, the Beltran sweepstakes is narrowing down to just a few teams, and those close to the situation believe Beltran to be on the move and it will be either the Phillies or the Giants that end up with him. The Giants have supposedly been most active because they're willing to take on Beltran's contract but they cannot agree with the Mets on what prospect(s) would got to New York in the deal. The Phills don't have the money to pay Beltran his $6M over the next 10 weeks, so they'd need to give the Mets at least 1 of their top-3 prospects for Beltran's services. I think this gives the Giants the edge in acquiring him if they choose to do so, but they'd still likely need to part with at least one young promising player.
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Friday, July 22, 2011

Brewers vs. Giants: Playoff Preview Series?

Well, we're still over a month away from Postseason play, but as things currently stand on July 22nd, this Brewers-Giants match-up could very well be a preview of a possible postseason series, with an atmosphere sure to match that of October baseball.

Right away we get a playoff caliber pitching match-up Friday night between All-Star's Matt Cain and Shawn Marcum. Cain has really been terrific all year for the Giants, as evident by his 2.99 era and 1.09 WHIP. His walks are way down this year and it's allowed him to go deeper into games and factor into more decisions. In his 2 starts since the All-Star break, Cain has thrown 12 innings, allowing just 1 earned run on 8 hits with 13 strikeouts. After Cain, the Giants will trot out fellow All-Star Ryan Vogelsong vs. Randy Wolf and then Madison Bumgarner vs. Yovanni Gallardo in game 3. Needless to say, all 3 should be fine pitching matchups, but at home with the three arms the Giants are set to throw at the Brewers, I feel pretty good about the Giants chances. Cain and Vogelsong have been great, but Bumgarner has been the tough luck pitcher on the staff this year, with twice as many losses as wins despite terrific numbers. I'm also looking forward to seeing how Bruce Bochy fills out his lineup card now with Keppinger in the mix. I was a little surprised he wasn't out there Wednesday vs. Clayton Kershaw, but I absolutely expect him to be a regular in this lineup and entrenched into the #2 spot unless he absolutely tanks in his first few weeks as a Giant, which I don't see happening. Keppinger isn't an All-Star and is probably a notch below Freddy Sanchez, but he's a darn good hitter and a very tough out (.305 avg with just 7 K's this season). He should strengthen the top part of the order for this team and allow it so Bochy doesn't need to keep using .220 hitters in the 2 hole.

The Brewers also, along with the Giants, are one of the few teams said to still be in the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes as apparently the Mets are asking for either prospects or for a team to absorb the remaining $6 million left on Beltran's contract. If that 2nd option is on the table, it would put the Giants in excellent position to grab Beltran without having to give up anyone too promising in return. They'd still have to give up a prospect or 2, possibly someone as high up as Thomas Neal, but it wouldn't cost them Brandon Belt, Hector Sanchez, Zach Wheeler, Gary Brown or Erik Surkamp. Having a chance to get a star like Beltran without having to give up too much in return may be too good for the Giants to pass up. That said, even if they do pass on Beltran, it doesn't mean they don't have their sights set on somebody else. We all know Brian Sabean, and I highly doubt he's just sitting on his hands right now. The Keppinger deal was a nice additive to the infield and strengthens the team up the middle, but in order to keep up with the offense of teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia's, the Giants will need another bopper in the middle of that lineup. It doesn't need to be Beltran, but I really think he may be the most logical option. Sure, Hunter Pence or B.J. Upton are a lot younger and better long-term options, but in order to get one of those guys, the Giants would most assuredly need to part with at least one of Zach Wheeler and Brandon Belt combo.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brandon Belt Makes Splashy Return

Just before he got beamed on the wrist and missed about a month of action, Brandon Belt was quietly heating up and appeared primed to break out at the Major League level. Now that he's 100% healthy again, he's picked up right were he left off.

Belt carried the Giants on Tuesday night, going 2-4 with with a homer, his 2nd, and 3 RBI to back another strong effort by Madison Bumgarner. Belt got the start at first base in place of the struggling Aubrey Huff, and got the start their in Wednesday's game as well. It should be interesting to see what Bochy and Sabean do now that Belt is back and playing effectively. I doubt the Giants will turn Aubrey Huff into a bench player and keep throwing Belt out at first base, so that means one of them will likely need to move to the outfield for more at-bats. I think we'll eventually see Belt out in left-field, but again, if he's getting regular playing time in the outfield, that means that either Cody Ross or Nate Schierholtz would be out of a spot. That said, Belt is the teams future, and I think Bochy should do whatever is necessary to get this guy into the lineup if he's producing like he did Tuesday night, and if the way he played in Fresno is any indication, Belt isn't going anywhere. This could also change Sabean's trade strategy as we inch closer to the July 31st trade deadline. It was highly speculated that the Giants were focusing on adding another outfield bat, but with Schierholtz's emergence, Belt's promising play and the addition of infielder Jeff Keppinger, Sabean should shift focus to potential catchers.

Speaking of the Keppinger deal, I think it leaves the Giants in excellent shape for these last 2 1/2 months of the season. As I type, they're up 2-0 on the Dodgers after 2 games and have their ace on the hill going for the sweep, they have increased their lead to 4.5 games in the NL West and are are a comfortable 16 games over .500. They're playing extremely well, yet 1/2 the guys in their lineup will tell you they need to pick their game up, so I'd say the Giants are in tremendous shape right now. Pablo Sandoval has started another mini-hit streak and looks as focused at the plate as I've ever seen him. He's spiked his average up to .315 and climbing as he's settled right into the 3 spot in the batting order. The Giants also added Keppinger without having to part with anyone of their top prospects, which gives them a .300 hitting middle infielder on the cheap. I really like this move, as it gives the Giants a true starting 2nd basemen (or shortstop) and allows Mike Fontenot to move to a utility role while Tejada is on the DL. Keepinger will also provide insurance at short in case Brandon Crawford falls off the map again, and will likely get a lot of time there vs. left-handed pitching. Either way, I expect him to be in the lineup and hitting in front of Sandoval in the 2 hole, starting Friday night. Keppinger was hitting .307 with 4 homers and 20 RBI in 160 at-bats with Houston.

Trade Deadline Notes: Well, since we're within striking distance of the MLB trade deadline and there will be tons and tons of rumors thrown out over the next week and a half. The Giants aren't going to stand pat after adding Keppinger, and already Sabean is said to be turning his focus to another player. The Giants could add a center fielder. Andres Torres hasn't had a strong season and the Giants have expressed interest in the Mets' Carlos Beltran and Tampa's B.J. Upton, each center fielders. Then there's the guy said to be at the top of the Giants radar lately, Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer, who Sabean was originally interested in as a 2nd basemen. Sabean could re-visit the idea of adding Cuddyer and playing him at 2nd base, moving Keppinger to shortstop. However, the position I think the Giants will most likely upgrade between now and the 31st is the catcher spot, even if it's only a move to get a back-up to Whiteside with more offensive potential. Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart have had some nice moments, but down the stretch, I'm not so sure that's who the Giants' brass will want behind the plate. Cinciantti's Ramon Hernandez, Florida's John Buck and Seattles Miguel Olivo are likely at the top of the list, so I'd definitely keep an eye on those guys between now and the 31st.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Giants Stay Hot, Take 3 of 4 in San Diego

Some fans were a little worried about how the Giants would start the 2nd half, that they may flatten out a bit after the All-Star break, but if this first series is any indication, this team looks just as good as they did in the first half, and have reinforcements on the way!

Matt Cain pitched brilliantly Sunday, just a day after Barry Zito struggled through his roughest start since his return from the DL last month. Cain went 6 strong innings, allowing just 1 earned run on 3 hits and 2 walks to go with 9 strikeouts. However, he didn't factor into the decision because two other un-earned runs crossed the plate while he was on the hill and he actually departed with the Giants down 3-2. Like they do so often in tight games though, the Giants wouldn't go down without a fight, and had a couple of un-likely heroes come through for them in the late innings. Andres Torres, who's shown some signs of life since the 2nd half started, had the game-tying single in the 8th inning, then catcher Chris Stewart came up with the big go-ahead suicide squeeze in the 11th inning. Brian Wilson then came on and did what he does best, made it interesting, but got the save. I was a little surprised Wilson did get out of this one though, as he allowed 3 free passes in the inning, which typically will lead to at least 1 run. However, Stewart made a great play on a bunt attempt and turned it into a double play which saved the game for the Giants. Once again, their bullpen was tremendous, throwing 5 scoreless innings in which they allowed just 2 hits and Wilson's 3 walks. Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez bridged the gap between Cain and Wilson and did so perfectly.

Offensively, the Giants had a pretty good weekend in Southern California. Torres and Nate Schierholtz each had multi-hit efforts and an RBI Sunday afternoon, but it was the teams' effort on the base paths which stuck out for me in this game. They stole 7 bases on the afternoon, 2 by Torres, Schierholtz and Burrs and one by catcher Eli Whiteside. I don't have all the box scores in front of me, but I'd say the 7 steals were the most by the club in a single game this year, and I hope we see a lot more of it in the coming games. A lot of people don't realize what kind of speed the Giants actually have on their roster. Not one single player in that starting 9 is what you'd consider to be a slow runner. Aubrey Huff is probably the slowest of the bunch, but I wouldn't call him slow. Schierholtz is one of the faster guys on the team, and I definitely would like to see him running more often like he showed Sunday. Same thing with Burris and Torres. A huge part of those two guys' game is their running abilities and they need to put it in the opposing pitchers head that they will indeed take off at any given time. As I watched Bochy over the years, if there is one are in which I'd like to see him a bit more aggressive is the running game. This team can't rely on the 3-run homer every night, so in order for their offense to create those runs, they need to get aggressive and creative.

Health Report: As I said at the top of the post, the Giants will be gaining some re-enforcements very soon. They just got back Mike Fontenot and he's already making an impact, going 7-20 with 3 runs scored in his first few games back from the DL. Also in the midst of a rehab assignment as we speak and on the doorstep back to the majors is Brandon Belt. I was surprised the Giants didn't recall Belt when they put Pat Burrell on the 15-Day DL, but I think it's only a matter of days before he takes Hector Sanchez's spot on the roster. Belt is on fire in Fresno, hitting .354 with 3 HR and 8 RBI and an OPS just shy of 1.200 over his last 10 games. Again, I assume that the Giants won't be carrying 3 catchers for much longer, and the next move would be most certainly to bring Belt back. That said, with Nate Schierholtz's emergence, the Giants don't really have an everyday spot for Belt, which could also be why he's still down in Fresno (why call him up if he's just going to ride the pine?). Either way, a team desperate for offense shouldn't keep their best offensive prospect down when he's major league ready now, and I don't see any positive by having 21 year-old Hector Sanchez up here as a 3rd catcher when he should be piling up AB's in Fresno!

Mark DeRosa and pitcher Jonathan Sanchez have also begun rehab assignments with each player down in San Jose this weekend. DeRosa's really been obsolete this whole season and ever since he signed with the Giants, trying to overcome a surgically repaired wrist. DeRosa had a double and a walk in his first rehab game with San Jose, and although it will likely take him a few weeks to get back into the swing of things, a healthy DeRosa can only help out the Giants infield depth. Sanchez has been on the 15-day since late June with what's being labeled as tendinitis but was primarily meant to just give Sanchez a few weeks off to rest and re-evaluate his approach so his rehab won't be nearly as rigorous.
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Friday, July 15, 2011

Bumgarner Strong in 2nd Half Opener

Well, the formula that worked very well for San Francisco in the first half won them the first game in their unofficial 2nd half Thursday night. They got a great starting performance and great relief work, but were shutout through 8 innings until finally tying the game in the 9th and winning in the 11th.

Madison Bumgarner got the nod to kick off the 2nd half, his first start since July 6th, and he was brilliant. He allowed just 1 run and 7 hits with no walks and 4 K's over 6 innings vs. the Padres, but didn't get a decision because the Giants failed to give him any run support. It's something that Bumgarner has gotten used to by now, so even though he's not getting great run support and despite his 4-9 record, the 21 year-old hasn't let it faze him whatsoever. He just keeps on going out there and throwing quality ballgames and his wins will certainly come in due time if he keeps it up. All-Star Pablo Sandoval kept his hitting streak alive with a 2-hit night with 2 RBI, but the biggest swing of the night came off the bat of Aubrey Huff in the top of the 9th, and the Giants are hoping it's a sign of things to come for their first baseman in the 2nd half of the season. Huff hit a home run off of Heath Bell, a guy who's been deadly vs. Giants hitting over the years, sending the game into extra-innings where the Giants feel very comfortable. Aubrey had a rough first half, and although he's knocked in a fair amount runs, his 8 home runs and .240 batting average in the first half were down drastically from the 26 HR/.290 campaign he put up last year. Still though, I don't believe Aubrey Huff is washed up or done with by any stretch, so I'm expecting a big finish out of him in these last few months.

Outside of Huff, if the Giants aren't planning on adding any outfield help, they really need Andres Torres to step it up as well. There has been a lot of talk of Carlos Beltran possibly joining the mix, and if that were to happen, one would think it would be Andres Torres' spot who he'd take in center field. With the emergence of Nate Schierholtz and power/clutch hitting from Cody Ross, Bochy probably wants those two in the lineup on a near daily basis, leaving Torres, who's fallen off badly in 2011 after a breakout 2010 season, the odd man out. That said, the Mets are holding Beltran in high regard and have said publicly they won't deal him unless they get a top-prospect in return, so even though he appears to be a nice fit for San Fran, chances of them actually dealing for him are a lot less than 50-50. Right now they really need Torres healthy and confident heading into this 2nd half, or else they're going to have to look elsewhere for a leadoff man. A .224 average and .317 OBP just aren't ideal for the #1 spot in the lineup. Problem is, the Giants don't really have a better option for that top spot. Again, I think Schierholtz would be a nice fit, but Bochy seems to want him in a run producing spot, so you see why Torres all the sudden becomes the center of attention in the 2nd half.

Also, I really think the Giants are going to need to add some catching depth. I think this team as is should definitely win the West, but that shouldn't be the Giants only goal. With their strong pitching, even without one of their premiere players in Buster Posey, this team has a legitimate shot at winning another championship. Right now though, I don't think this team could get through Philly again unless they get another bat and can upgrade the catching department, even just slightly.

Roster Note: The Giants placed Pat Burrel on the DL Friday and called up 2011 catching phenom Hector Sanchez. We've discussed Sanchez in our minor league report just recently here, so click on that or type Hector Sanchez into our search box in the upper-left for more details about the player. I really like the move, giving the Giants an offensive threat behind the plate and giving a shot to a player who really deserves it. I've compared him to Pablo Sandoval in his quick rise, now lets see if he can succeed like Pablo did during his first stint in the Bigs at the end of the 2008 season.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Revisiting the Draft With Brian Foley

As promised, we caught up with Brian Foley, the College Baseball guru and host of College Baseball Daily, and asked for his thoughts on the Giants draft last month. Here you go:

Q1) What are your thoughts on Joe Panik, and how long do you think before we see him in San Francisco? He's already started off red hot with their Single-A team, showing power and average, and kind of reminds me of Stephen Drew. Do you think he'll be a Buster Posey-type, sort of overnight success, or does he still have a few years of development to undergo?

B.F.) Panik was the best shortstop I saw with my own eyes this season. I was extremely impressed with his hitting while he is a solid defender but will not win any gold gloves though. Panik seems to do all the little things right from moving players over and coming through in the clutch.

Video: College Baseball Daily Joe Panik Scouting Video

Q2) Would you have selected Panik when the Giants did, or would you have gone another route? He does fit a organizational need at shortstop, but wasn't projected in many mock drafts to go in the first round and many feel they could have gotten him in the compensation round. Do you think that's true, or did the Giants make the right choice?

B.F.) I think the Giants made the right pick with the need in the organization but I was surprised that Panik was a first round pick. Another reason why they selected Panik is the signability of him over a high schooler who will be demanding “overslot” money.

Q3) After Panik, the Giants took a bunch of College players. They grabbed another catcher in the 2nd round in Oregon State's Andrew Susac, who many thought would be a first rounder. Within their first 6 picks, the Giants ended up with 5 College players grabbing USC first basemen Oropesa in round 3 and then pitchers Bryce Bandilla (Arizona), Chris Marlowe (Oklahoma State) and Josh Osich (Oregon State). I think Osich projects out to be the best of all three arms. Give us a your thought on each these players selected within the top-5 rounds.

B.F.) Susac is by far the most highly regarded out of the five players as he probably should have been a first rounder at Oregon State but never put “it” together with the Beavers.

Oropesa is a pure power hitting first baseman that has a future as a DH-type player. Every time I see him, he is hitting bombs including this one off of UCLA's Gerrit Cole.

Video: Rickey Oropesa Homers of Top Pick Gerrit Cole!

Bryce Bandilla served as a reliever throughout the 2011 college season where he appeared in 32 games and struggled with his control walking 36 batters in 46.2 innings.

Osich was outstanding all year for Oregon State but had some injury issues at the back end of the season which dropped him. I would consider Osich the best candidate to get to the league if healthy first.

Q4) One of my favorite picks of the draft was Arkansas Baptist JC outfielder Kentrell Hill taken in round 10. I've heard many scouts compare him to Miami-Dade JC sensation Brian Goodwin. Are you familiar with the toolsy outfielder, and do you think he has a future in the Major Leagues?

B.F.) If he puts it all together, he will be in the major leagues as scouts were drooling over all the tools that he possesses.

Q5) Who was your favorite pick in this Giants draft, outside of the obvious choice of Panik?

B.F.) David Fischer from Uconn. If they sign him he could be a good middle reliever at the next level. I also like Michael Williams out of Kentucky as he could be a solid “backup” catcher to Buster in the coming years.

Q6) As always, give us a give us your grade on the Giants draft?

B.F.) I would say it is a B and could be a B+ depending on how many of the guys that they sign.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Giants Take 3 Game Lead Into Break

Well, is it me, or did that first half kind of fly right by? It seems like it was only yesterday that the players were getting their rings on the field during the ceremony, and all the sudden we're at the All-Star Break. Either way though, we're here, and if you told the Giants they'd be 3 games ahead in the NL West and without Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez, they'd take it in a heartbeat.

The Giants started off the weekend series with Brian Wilson blowing the save Friday night, but he got chance for redemption Sunday, and he cashed in to give the Giants the series win and seal the 8th victory for fellow All-Star Matt Cain. As good as Cain was in tough situations Sunday, and as well as everyone pitched all weekend, the man who really stuck out in this series for me was Nate Schierholtz. Nate had 2 more RBI and 5 more hits in Saturday and Sunday's game, including a 4-4 day Sunday to raise his average up to .293 after being in the low-.260's 10 days ago. The kid started getting regular playing time with all the injuries that the Giants have suffered this season, and like I said in the last post, he just keeps getting stronger with the more at-bats he gets. His numbers entering the break don't really jump out at you until you look at the amount of at-bats he's had. While most Giants' regulars are up above 300 at-bats, Schierholtz got just over 200 in the first half, so his numbers, with regular PT, would look a lot better. I'm very curious to see how he does in the 2nd half and what Bochy decides to do with the outfield when Cody Ross comes back after the break. I really think Schierholtz has nailed himself into the Giants lineup vs. right-handers, but will still likely give way to Burrell or Rowand vs. lefties. Who would have thought Nate Schierholtz would be the one to step up in Posey and Sanchez's absence?

He hasn't done it alone though! The Giants added another all-star to the mix Monday, as Pablo Sandoval got named as an injury replacement. Pablo has been focused since opening day, but is now in the midst of a career-high 21-game hitting streak and has been the one constant in the Giants lineup before and after the broken hand. I think it's great for Pablo to be there as he probably would have challenged for the starting gig had he not got injured and missed a month. Still though, even with the missed time, his numbers and value to the Giants couldn't be ignored by his own manager. Over the last couple of weeks, it's really been all about Pablo and Schierholtz carrying this offense. Add that to the fact that the NL is paper thin at third base this year and you get a very deserving player in the Panda. The 24 year-old will appear in his first all-star game, but one that I think we all knew would eventually come when we saw him burst onto the scene in 2008. He becomes the first Giant homegrown position player to make the squad since Matt Williams in the 90's and something tells me this isn't going to be his last either. He joins fellow Giants Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson on the NL All-Star roster headed up by manager Bruce Bochy.

Up Next: Giants 1st Half Review/Grades and a look ahead to the 2nd half Thursday!
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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Brian Blows Another One

Well, Brian Wilson has had a very up and down last couple of weeks, starting with the water cooler incident and ending with the most recent struggle last night with Wilson allowing 2 runs in a tie game. The Giants lost that game after being shut down by Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom half of the inning and lost a game on the D-Backs in the NL West, who enter Saturday now just 1 game back of the Giants.

The Giants two All-Star pitchers weren't particularly sharp Friday night, as Ryan Vogelsong only allowed 2 runs but labored through 7 innings, allowing 5 walks and 7 hits while striking out just 2 Mets batters. He did manage to get out of tough situations and kept the Giants in the game, but he'd be the first to tell you he wasn't on his game Friday night. The same can be said for closer Brian Wilson who's now either lost or blown a game in 3 of his last 5 outings. Wilson came in in the top of the ninth trying to preserve a tie game and get the Giants back up to bat, who were gaining momentum with the knuckler R.A. Dickey finally out of the ballgame, but was unable to do so. He left a cutter out over the plate to notorious Giants killer Scott Hairston, and Hairston did what he does best against the Giants in late inning, tie ballgames. I can't tell you how many times Hairston has hit a home run against the Giants to give his team a lead, whether he was with Arizona, San Diego and now New York. After Hairston's home run, Andres Torres failed to run down a deep line drive off the bat of Angel Pagan, who also had a great night at AT&T Park for New York, and that run also ended up coming around to score, charging the Giants closer with 2 runs, 1 of which was earned. That swing of the bat by Hairston was all the Mets would need though, as the Giants were unable to come up with anything in the bottom half of the inning.

It wasn't all bad news for the Giants however, Nate Schierholtz continues to cement himself into the everyday lineup with yet another impressive showing. "The Great" hit one over the right field wall that got wet, and drove a deep fly ball to center field that netted the Giants other run, making Scheirholtz the Giants only offense Friday night. Pablo Sandoval hit a double early off Dickey, but the guys behind him had a tough time with Dickey. That really was the case for most of the Giants lineup, as nobody had a multi-hit game, which is rare even for the Giants. Getting back to Schierholtz though, the 27 year-old has absolutely staked his place amongst the Giants regulars and proven he is too valuable vs. right-handed throwers to take out of the lineup. In 8 games this July, Nate is 12 for 32 with 3 homers, 6 RBI and 6 Runs and is now hitting .280 with 7 HR and 29 RBI and 5 steals on the year in a hair over 200 at-bats. Mix in that his defense in right field and you have what is shaping up to look like another Randy Winn. Winn was always a nice player, but didn't really peak until his late-20's when he started getting ample playing time, and then he took off. I really think that is the case here with Schierholtz. Now I'm not ready to go on record saying he's going to be a future batting champ and all-star like Winn was, but he's rounding into that .280-.300 hitter with 20-20 potential and terrific defense, and that is very much like Randy Winn in his prime.

Beltran To Travel With Giants: Well, I'm not taking it as sign of a potential deal-in-the-making with Beltran flying to the All-Star game with the Giants all-stars like many are, but I do find it a little interesting that he wouldn't just fly on his own? I know it's just a short skip over to Phoenix, but the Giants who desperately need offense, and Beltran, who will be a free agent after the season and is very available for trade could end up being a nice match and I certainly find it interesting he'll be kicking it with the Giants during the trip. Again, their is likely no significance to the flight arrangement, but if ever their was a time for the Giants to recruit via player influence, now would be it.... Also, the Giants finally be getting back their utility infielder, Mike Fontenot, who's been out half the year on what originally seemed like a 15-day minor groin strain. The infielder will likely figure right into the 2nd base mix as he takes the place of the DL'd Bill Hall.
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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

GBB's All-Star Selections, Giants Notes

The AL and NL All-Star rosters for July 12th's mid-summer classic were released Sunday, and as usual, there were many snubs and guys left off that were absolutely deserving while guys who weren't as deserving managed to sneak onto the teams. So here is the way we'd fill out each team's 32-man roster, including 6 replacement options for each team (3 position/3 pitchers):

American League All-Star Team

Lineup:
CF Jacoby Elsburry Bos
LF Curtis Granderson NYY
1B Adrian Gonzalez Bos
RF Jose Bautista Tor
3B Alex Rodriguez NYY
SS Asdrubal Cabrera Cle
2B Robinson Cano NYY
C Alex Avila Det
P Jered Weaver LAA

Reserves:

1B Miguel Cabrera Det
1B Paul Konerko Chi
3B Adrian Beltre Tex
3B/OF Alex Gordon KC
OF Adam Jones Bal
SS Johnny Peralta Det
OF BJ Upton TB
OF Adam Lind Tor
IF Michael Young Tex
C Victor Martinez Det
C/1B Carlos Santana Cle

Pitchers:
SP Justin Verlander Det
SP James Shields TB
SP Michael Pineda Sea
SP Gio Gonzalez Oak
SP C.C. Sabathia NYY
SP Scott Baker Min
SP Felix Hernandez Sea
SP Dan Haren LAA
RP Kyle Farnsworth TB
RP Mariano Rivera NYY
RP Sergio Santos CWS
RP Chris Perez Cle

Replacements:

OF Melky Cabrera KC
1B Mark Teixeira NYY
SS Elvis Andrus Tex
SP Alexi Ogando Tex
SP Phil Humber CWS
SP C.J. Wilson Tex

This wasn't a very easy roster to pick, as there are a lot of guys who have had deserving years like Dustin Pedroia, Brennan Boesch and Mark Teixiera who wouldn't make my squad, but every year you have a few of those type of players. What I think is a crying shame is that Derek Jeter is the voted starting SS for the AL while J.J. Hardy doesn't even make the team... Jose Bautista is the top vote getter, and rightfully so, he's been the best in the game over the last year and a half... The AL is stocked with power hitters and strong starting pitching and should take this years game if they play like they can. Ideally, Scott Baker is replaced with someone more deserving, but Minnesotta has to have a rep and he's the most deserving.


National League All-Star Team

Lineup:
SS Jose Reyes NYM
2B Rickie Weeks Mil
CF Matt Kemp LAD
1B Prince Fielder Mil
LF Ryan Braun Mil
RF Lance Berkman Stl
C Brian McCann Atl
3B Aramis Ramirez ChC
P Jair Jurrjens Atl

Reserves:

1B Ryan Howard Phi
1B Joey Votto Cin
OF Carlos Gonzalez Col
OF Hunter Pence Hou
SS Troy Tulowitzki Col
OF Justin Upton AZ
OF Mike Stanton Fla
2B Danny Espinosa Was
3B Pablo Sandoval SF
C Miguel Montero AZ
C Jonathon Lucroy Mil

Pitchers:

SP Cole Hamels Phi
SP Roy Halladay Phi
SP Tim Lincecum SF
SP Cliff Lee Phi
SP Tommy Hanson Atl
SP Matt Cain SF
SP Clayton Kershaw LAD
SP Ryan Vogelsong SF
RP Craig Kimbrel Atl
RP Joel Hanrahan Pit
RP Heath Bell SD
RP Brian Wilson SF

Replacements:

SS Starlin Castro ChC
OF Andrew McCutchen Pit
1B/OF Michael Morse Was
SP Johnny Cueto Cin
SP Jeff Karstens/Kevin Corriea Pit
RP Drew Storen Was

In the NL, you have to take a Pitsburgh starting pitcher, they've been great, even with limited run support. Either Karstens or Corriea, but Hanrahan will likely get their spot... I take Lincecum not on what he's done over the last few weeks but what he's done for the Giants for the last year, Vogelsong and Cain are more than deserving. The NL's bench is pretty thin though with Daniel Murphy being the 2nd most deserving 3rd basemen (hence Pablo Sandoval as possible replacement). Even the guy with the best numbers there, Aramis Ramirez, wouldn't sniff the AL roster, though their top-7 hitters do match up well with the American League's. The NL looks slightly outmatched again this year in overall depth, though with better pitching and the starting lineups are evenly matched! Like with Baker in the AL, Mike Stanton should be replaced with McCutchen on my NL roster, but outside of Gaby Sanchez (roster already stocked with 1B'men), he's the man in Fla.

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Giant Help on the Way: Finally, it looks like a couple of key Giants are making good progress on their rehabilitation assignments. Brandon Belt has accelerated his rehab assignment and is now in Fresno after 2 impressive games in San Jose. and should be ready to return when the Giants return from the all-star break. As long as he picks up where he left off, he'll give the Giants a valuable left-handed power bat in left field and another option to relieve Huff at first. Also on the amends is infielder Mike Fontenot, who should immediately grab stronghold of 2nd base when he comes back, though he's been less than stellar during his rehab in Fresno. Manny Burris could stick to play vs. lefties, as he's much stronger from the right-side. Either way, the Giants should be a much deeper, stronger team upon their return from the break, and that's an interesting prospect to think about seeing how well they've managed while using so many different 2nd basemen since Freddy Sanchez went down... That said, they may have another injury to deal with yet, as Cody Ross went down with a bum hamstring in yesterday's game. If he goes on the DL, Belt could be called up sooner than later and become the starting left fielder while Schierholtz mans right.
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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Giants Just Miss Sweep of Detroit

The Giants had more than a fair shot at sweeping the Detroit Tigers Sunday, and returning to AT&T Park Tuesday a season-high 13 games above .500. However, something that rarely happens, became a recurring theme on this road trip; the Giants bullpen imploded.

It's tough to say in hindsight, but I'm convinced that had the Giants bullpen been on their game like they have most of this season, the Giants could have went 6-1, if not 7-0 on this mid-west road trip. Brian Wilson had his share of struggles in the Motor City, as we all know by now, but luckily the Giants prevailed in both those games. They couldn't do it a third time on Sunday, however, after providing their season's best starter a 3-1 lead into the 6th inning and things were looking right on point. Ryan Vogelsong wasn't bad, but like in Chicago, he again didn't have his A-stuff out there, as evident by his 4 walks in 6.2 innings. He's normally uncanny with his command and control around the strike zone, but in his last two starts, he's lost a bit of that accuracy. Still though, even through his 4 walks, he allowed just 4 hits in nearly 7 innings, and only made one damaging mistake to Brandon Boesch in the 4th which was hit out for a solo home run. In the 7th inning though, the defense (Ross and Miggy) made a mistakes behind him and, then Affeldt, who's been awesome over the last few weeks, and Santiago Cassilla, who's been one of the best relievers all year long, were unable to hold down the lead for "V". The two allowed 4 runs to cross the plate while they were on the mound in the 7th and 8th. And unlike Saturday night (15 runs scored), the Giants didn't have any left over offensive firepower to overcome the late-inning deficit, allowing a Vogelsong winning effort to be turned into a Jeremy Affeldt L.

Even though the trip ended bad, and the Giants will likely endure a quiet plane ride back to San Fran, there were a lot of good things that happened in this road trip, mainly the offense showing some signs of life. Somebody who I really thought the league had adjusted to and was not long for Major League pitching was Brandon Crawford, but the kid did some re-adjusting of his own this road-trip and added 30 points to his average along with a home run and 7 RBI in 5 starts. He was a huge part of the Giants win Friday night and really could make an argument for being the MVP of this road trip, as he looked like a completely different player than what he showed most of June. A big part of the kids recent success has been his improved plate approach and patience. He's not trying to pull every strike he gets like he was after he started off hot and wanted to be a home run hitter. He makes good enough contact to where he can just go with a pitch and drive the ball, and he did that this road trip driving numerous outside pitches to the left-center field gap area, over the shortstop's head. When he gets to thinking like that and taking that approach, the home runs will come and his average will climb quickly like it has over the last week. Migeul Tejada was also very active at the plate on this road trip, though he made a key error in Sunday's game that helped the Tigers score a run. Tejada himself added 10 points to his average on the road trip and hit two of his 3 home runs and knocked in 6 of his 24 RBI over the last week.

All-Star Team's Set

It was selection Sunday for the MLB mid-summer classic today, and as expected, the Giants had there foursome of pitchers named to the squad, but not a single position player from the reigning World Champs. There really weren't any surprises, as all four pitchers selected were very deserving. Ryan Vogelsong will make the trip to Arizona for his first all-star game in his long, trying career, and may end up starting that ballgame on July 12 with the way rotations are shaping up. Joining the NL era-crown challenger will be returning all-stars Tim Lincecum (6-6, 3.04, 122 K's) Matt Cain (7-4, 3.02, 92 K's, 1.09 WHIP) and Brian Wilson (24/28 in save opps, 3.02 era, 36 K's in 38 IP), who are all well deserving. I found it interesting that Timmy, "V" and Cainer were all selected by Boch while Wilson was a player selection. It's too bad Wilson had his scuffle just this weekend cause it's ballooned his era up 60 points and WHIP up about 25 points in just 2 bad outings but he's still got numbers any manager would take out of their closer at the halfway point. Buster would have started if he were healthy, but instead, Pablo Sandoval is the one positional guy who could somehow manage to find his way onto the team if someone gets hurt or decides not to participate and Panda continues this hot hitting over the next week (He most certainly would have made it had it not been for those 5 weeks he missed throughout May and early June). And he has his manager on his side to pick him if a spot opens up and Pablo fits the bill... We'll have our own version of who we think should have filled out each respective teams roster in our next post!
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Friday, July 01, 2011

Panda Saves Wilson's 2nd Straight Blunder

After a really weird series in which the Giants dominated the Cubs on Tuesday and swept the double header with ease, only to go on and get shut down in the final two games of the Series to split, and Friday nights game was very similar to that of one of the last 2 Cards games, only the Giants came out on top of this one.

Both offenses were really irrelevant, though the Giants collected 11 hits and Detroit 7, they only scored 3 runs between them, with the Giants taking it, 2-1. It certainly wasn't an easy journey though, to say the least. Like against Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano, the Giants lineup was unable to string together hits. They got some hits, but they spread them out, then hit into a double play and really were unable to come up with that big hit with a runner in scoring position. All except for Pablo Sandoval that is (2 RBI on the night). They did carry a 1-0 lead into the 8th but Brian Wilson blew save #2 in as many days and looks a little over-worked and desperate for the All-Star break (and no, I'm not at all worried about him). The Panda, on the other hand, came up huge Friday night in a game in which he hit 2 doubles and drove in 2 runs, including the eventual game-winning, RBI double in the top of the 10th. Nate Schierholtz added an RBI-walk with them loaded up off of a rattled Jose Valverde to drive him out of the game, and it was another comeback for the comeback kings, where once again, pretty much all the guys got into the action in some way or another. Neither Huff nor Brandon Crawford got hits, but Huff had a big walk in the 10th and Crawford was on three times the same way, including driving in the 4th Giants run (Crawford is improving 10-fold at the plate before out eyes ladies and gentlemen). So the Giants only needed a few knocks here and there, and certainly took advantage of the late mistakes made by the Detroit bullpen.

As far as the Giants pitching, it was good all week in Chicago, and Madison Bumgarner picked right up where Lincecum, Cain and Zito left off.The 21 year-old lefty went 7 1/3 strong innings, allowing just walk which ended up turning into the 1 run the Tigers scored, although it came in with Brian Wilson on the hill. Just goes to show you what walks do to pitchers, even if they aren't giving up hits, they come back and bight you in the tail! It cost MadBum his 5th win and instead he got stuck with a no decision and stays stuck at 4-9 despite a strong 3.65 era and about 8 K's per 9 innings. That's strong for a 21 year-old, period, don't even look at his record, just look at all his other stats. A left-handed horse who's set to go 200+ innings and sport and era in the mid-3'rs is a rare bread. Just think about what he'll be doing 4-5 years down the line when he hits his prime and really knows how to pitch. They say he already throws like a 10 year vet and is a student of the game, so this guy is just going to get better. He'd certainly be on my "off-limits" list as far as tradeable Giants players are concerned and I think Sabean and Tidrow are well aware of that. Not that I really want to deal him, if someone in the rotaion has to go, it's gotta be Vogelsong or Sanchez. "The V" has a value that's at an all-time high, and could possibly bring in some stud bat. I do believe he'll be free at the end of the year anyway, and the Giants have Zito and Sanchez with Wheeler and Surkamp knocking on the door. Again, not advocating dealing an arm, but the 3 guys that are off limits need to be Cain, Timmy and MadBum.

Well folks, the calendar has officially turned to July, and the Giants sit 2.5 (2 or 3 depending on the D-Back outcome tonight). With only a few weeks until the trade deadline, The Giants have been quiet, but I don't think it will stay that way. They could use a back-up middle infielder, a la Jason Carroll, or preferably a starting middle infielder or corner outfielder. I also think they're OK with going with Stewart and Whiteside behind the plate until Hector Sanchez is ready.

So, who are some middle infielders and outfielders who could be available in the next few weeks? Here are just a couple of names who Sabes very well could be entertaining, if not as I type, then certainly in the coming weeks, I can guarantee you there's more than a few names here on the Giants board too, now obviously, the Beltran's and Reyes' can be had, but it would definitely cost the Giants, but here we go:

SS Jose Reyes, OF Carlos Beltran, OF Adam Lind, SS Alexi Ramirez (if/when ChiSox go into fire-sale), 3B/OF Alex Gordon, OF Hunter Pence (would cost the farm, but attainable), SS Hanley Ramirez (see Pence) 1B Carlos Pena, OF Carlos Quentin, 2B Brandon Phillips,
3B/1B Aramis Ramirez (Pablo/ARam to 1B, Huff to LF if needed for offense), SS J.J. Hardy, 1B Gaby Sanchez, OF Bobby Abreu, OF/1B Carlos Lee (if Houston would take on Rowand and Giants worked out a money deal), 2B Dan Uggla (If ATL falls out and sells, great 1 year stopgap), OF/IF Michael Cuddyer, 2B Aaron Hill, C Ramon Hernandez, OF Alfonso Soriano (see Carlos Lee), 2B Omar Infante, OF Melky Cabrera, 2B/OF Adam Kennedy, IF Jeff Baker, 2B Alexi Cassilla, 2B Jeff Keppinger, OF Jeff Francoeur, 2B Chris Getz, OF Josh Willingham, 2B Orlando Hudson, C John Buck, C Ivan Rodriguez...

There will be many more names that surface in weeks to come, but these are just some players who could will be available and could fill immediate, and some long-term, needs for the Giants and provide upgrades to their position offensively!
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