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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Giants Bite the Bullet, Tejada and Rowand Out

Fans who've despised Brian Sabean's desire for over-the-hill veterans and players who have passed their prime had to breath a little easier when they went online today and read the latest Giants news.

The Giants have cut ties with their second highest paid player, Aaron Rowand, and finally admitted the center fielder never came close to fulfilling expectations the team had for him. ARow had a few clutch hits in his time as a Giant, the last 2 opening days stick out especially, but let's face it, he was never going to be a starting outfielder for this team again, and there's just no reason to keep him and his $13 million ego on the pine. I've heard teammates say a lot of good things about Aaron Rowand, but with my few dealings with him, I've never been a fan. I met him at a Giants event in '07 and he gave a real "brush off" type of attitude. Then there was his interview this year in Chicago which he praised Chicago, but declined to say a word about San Francisco and his teammates when asked in the interview (then had the audacity to call out Bruce Jenkins for reporting the story). But these aren't the reasons Rowand's DFA'd. The dude forgot how to hit a baseball and either failed to work on his game or simply declined at an amazing rate. Either way, a change of scenery will be best for all parties, but the only thorn left in the Giants side is the huge dollars they'll be committing to nobody in'12 ($13 million). I'm sure talk of Aaron Rowand on this blog isn't quite over yet, he'll pop up somewhere, but I must say, I'm happy I won't be forced into watching him and his bazaar, useless, uncomfortable batting stance that yields no results.

A lot of the stuff said about Rowand, can be said about Tejada, just on a smaller scale. The big difference with Miggy and Rowand though, is that the Giants aren't biting nearly as big of bullet by letting him walk. Tejada was on just a one year deal and was free after this season anyway, so the Giants are only out a month's pay on his contract. That to me was a no brainer, especially after Tejada made the whole organization look bad by 2nd guessing a bunt call, then actually calling timeout to argue with Tim Flannery about the call he just received. I think he forgot he was hitting .230 with zero pop and little run production, so I don't know exactly where that outburst of attitude came from, but I'll bet you it had a lot to do with his release Tuesday. I'm honestly surprised Tejada lasted this long to tell you the truth, cause he looked odd with this team, like he didn't fit in from day one.

So, the Giants are finally putting their foot down and with those two moves, they basically are telling guys, we don't care what we owe you, we don't care who you are or what you've done in the past, if you're not producing and are an anchor to this team, then your gone. I can't tell you how psyched I am to see Sabean and Co. starting to take that approach, just wish they would have done it about 2 weeks sooner and maybe we wouldn't have been in this mess. Now some fans are going to see these moves and take them as a sign of the team throwing in the towel, releasing veterans in favor of younger un-proven guys for the playoff run, but if you've watched those two play this year, you know how little of an impact these guys were actually having on the field. To me, it's not a white flag at all, it's a cry for help if anything. It's a message to the young guys that if they're doing their job in the minors, they'll get a look, and if they aren't at the ML level, then you'll be set aside. The two guys taking their spots are Pat Burrell and Brett Pill. Burrell returns from the DL and gives Boch his right-handed pinch hitting weapon back and, depending on how Burrell is swinging, another option in LF. Pill's a guy we talked a bunch about in this post, so check it out for more on him, but he'll play some 1st, 2nd and a little outfield I'd assume and must be thinking to himself, FINALLY! Pill has done as much as any minor leaguer with the Giants the last 3-4 years to not get a shot in the Bigs.
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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Minor League Depth Put To Test

With the rash of Giants' injuries that's wiped out a good portion of this clubs top contributors, the Giants have been calling on more and more minor leaguers to step up and fill some pretty big shoes.

The latest and perhaps biggest minor league call-up came Friday, as the Giants brought up new top pitching prospect, Eric Surkamp, who was absolutely dominating AA Eastern League batters. Surkamp was 10-2 with a 2.02 era in 142 innings in AA, striking out 162 batters while sporting a WHIP slightly over 1. With Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito each shelved with ankle problems, the Giants basically had to call on the 23 year-old lefty by default, but he sure didn't pitch like an emergency starter Saturday in Houston. The newest Giant went 6 solid innings, allowing just 1 run on 6 hits with 4 strikeouts. He got out of trouble a few different times and really looked a bit like Bumgarner and Cain in the way he was able to mow through the Houston Astros despite allowing a few base runners. I was extremely psyched that the Giants ended up holding onto the prize lefty with all the trades they made and prospects they dealt, cause I truly think this kid's going to be a solid big leaguer. The Giants will need that to be the case too because it looks like Jonathan Sanchez's ankle injury is serious enough to shelve him for the remainder of the season and there just aren't any options after Surkamp with Zito down. The Giants could still add another veteran starter as insurance before the 31st, but Surkamp's solid showing may allow them to hold off. It would sure be something if this kid can supply that shot in the arm this pitching staff needs and provide a boost for the September run.

Speaking of September, it can't come fast enough for Bruce Bochy, who's seen his team ravished by injuries all season long, and a whole slew of them in August. Boch has been relegated to using Mark DeRosa way more than he should and I like DeRosa, but his wrist has turned him into a fraction of the player he was before he came to San Francisco. With Sandoval and Keppinger each banged up, the Giants need some help on the infield, and I think a guy like Connor Gillaspie would bring more to the table than DeRosa right now. Another guy who's really tearing it up in AAA and having perhaps the best year of any Giants' minor leaguer is 26 year-old 1B/2B Brett Pill. Unfortunately his main position is first base, and he kind of got lost in the shuffle behind Brandon Belt, but Pill has been a monster this year in Fresno, finally realizing his power potential, and has always been a solid average guy. Because of Belt, the Giants tried Pill out at 2nd base and the outfield as well, so he can play either of those positions too. He's hitting .310 with 24 HR and 104 RBI so far this year, and hit 35 HR with 193 RBI in 2009/10. He's one of the guys I'm definitely looking forward to being called up September 1st.

Other minor league Giants that should get the call-up September 1st and factor into the mix is outfielder Darren Ford. The speedy center fielder would probably be up with the club right now, but he's been injured and was slow to get going with the bat, but has come around in August. Still, he'll be up and be used as a pinch runner/defensive replacement quite often when the rosters expand. Hector Sanchez, who's bounced all around the Giants system this year will likely re-join the club in a few days as well. Sanchez came up for a day on the 23rd and had an RBI hit, then was sent back down the next day to make room for Surkamp. Besides youngsters like Sanchez, Ford and Gillaspie, the Giants will also likely be getting Pat Burrell back when the calendar turns, which will also help out a ton. Burrell's days as a starting left fielder are likely gone, but it will be nice for Bochy to have him on the bench to pinch hit.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beltran Finally Makes Impact

In his first start since coming off the 15-day DL, Carlos Beltran finally showed why the Giants sent their top pitching prospect to the New York Mets for the All-Star right fielder.

Beltran had his best day as a Giant, hitting a Tim Stauffer sinker on a line into the arcade above the right field wall. Beltran finished the day 2-4 with his first home run since July 20th, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The Giants got yet another outstanding performance out of their ace right hander, as Timmy shut down the surging offensive juggernaut that are the San Diego Padres. Although they've had a down year all the way around, ever since the Padres inserted former Giant farmhand Jesus Guzman into their lineup, they've turned into a team to be reckoned with when at the plate. Not to mention, they always seem to play their best ball against the Giants, but Lincecum had their bats quiet all night, going 8 strong innings, allowing just 4 hits with 7 strikeouts. The one number that was a little high for Timmy and cost him his shot at a complete game were the 5 free passes he handed out to San Diego. Outside of that, he was his typical Timmy self, and if you take away that little blooper down the right field line that Beltran nearly came up with, he would have had his shutout. In this save situation, Boch went with Santiago Cassilla, and there aren't many relievers in baseball having the type of year Cassilla is, so I'd expect to see him stick in that role until Wilson or Romo return. If your wondering about Heath Bell, who the Giants claimed off waivers yesterday from San Diego, I wouldn't expect him to head north to San Fran. They did it more so to block him from Arizona rather than take him for themselves. He certainly would make the bullpen freakishly strong, especially if Wilson comes back strong soon, but he won't come cheaply.

The other standout offensively on Wednesday night was Brandon Belt, who continues to impress with the more consistent playing time he's getting. He played left field and did so in front of perhaps the greatest left fielder of all time, certainly the best in Giants history, in attendance. Barry Bonds was in the first row next to the Giants dugout and was getting about as much camera time and attention from fans as the actual ballgame itself, and just maybe he is the Giants good luck charm. The new left fielder had another multi-hit game, going 2-3 with a double and a run scored. Belt's average is slowly but surely climbing, and he's now sitting at .243, so it's good to see Bochy recognizing that and making it a point to get the giraffe into the lineup. He's again in the lineup Thursday night and hitting in the 7th hole. Also in a new spot in the lineup is shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who I've been lobbying for to get a shot in the leadoff spot. He got on just one time in 4 at-bats Wednesday, but I just think he's a much better option there than guys like Rowand, Ross and Mike Fontenot. Bochy again has Cabrera in the leadoff spot Thursday, so he's another guy to keep an eye on to see if he could possibly be the Giants answer at leadoff where they've been below league average all year long. With a few days left for waiver trades to go down, I'd love to see the Giants snag a center fielder/leadoff man, so hopefully Torres returns strong, or Cabrera works out, cause you don't win a division or get very far in October if your leadoff guy is hitting .230.

Why Heath Bell Won't Be a Giant: Like I said at the top of the post, I highly suspect the Giants only had intentions of keeping Bell away from Arizona by claiming him, but it just so happens, they could actually use a guy like Bell right about now. Still though, San Diego is looking at two supplemental picks if they hang onto him and he inks elsewhere this winter, but the risk there for SD is that he accepts arbitration and wins $15+ million. So there is incentive for the Pads to deal him rather than risk him accepting arbitration, but they'd still want at least one top prospect, a la Eric Surkamp or a Gary Brown-type guy, and he's just not worth it for a month rental.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Belt's Bat Saves Giants in Houston

Well, the Giants got some more bad news on the injury front this weekend in Houston, but thanks to Brandon Belt, they were able to salvage the finale Sunday and move back to within 1.5 games of first in the West.

On the injury front, Brian Wilson's arm was bad enough to the point that they DL'd him, which I'm sure was the last thing they wanted to do with Sergio Romo already down. Luckily, the Giants bullpen hasn't missed a beat without their two best arms, even though the team struggled again in Houston. They were shut down in the first two games, as they were shut out in game one, then Madison Bumgarner was rocked in game 2. They did, however, manage to figure it out just in time to avoid being swept back to San Francisco though, thanks in large part to the bats of Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval. Brandon Belt has all the sudden found his stroke at the big league level, and I think it's going to be impossible for Bochy to sit this guy with the way he's played this last week. Belt had a 2-HR game earlier on the trip in Florida in the only game the Giants won there, then had the day of his young career Sunday at home in Houston, going 4-5 with another HR and 3 RBI. The hit total and RBI total were each career highs at the big league level, and more than anything, a statement from Brandon Belt that he can help this offense in a big way. The Giants don't win the game though if not for outstanding relief work in place of emergency starter Dan Runzler, and one big swing of the bat by Pablo in extra-innings. Sandoval hit the game winning 2-run homer in the 11th inning to send the Giants back to San Francisco on a positive note.

Now, with their return home, the Giants should have some reinforcements on the way. The club is very much hoping to have their all-star right fielder back in the lineup on Tuesday when he's eligible to come off the DL. If not Tuesday, Carlos Beltran should return to the Giants lineup at some point this week, and I expect him to take off when he does. I'm just going to be very curious as to what Bruce Bochy does with the lineup card once Beltran does return, cause someones going to be the odd man out. With the way Belt is swinging the bat, I'm sure Bochy wants to have him in there more often than not, and he also has to find a spot for the teams best defensive outfielder and one of their steadier bats, Nate Schierholtz. The logical choice would be to just throw Belt at first and move Huff into a bench/platoon role, but I just don't see that happening. Huff has started to pick it up a bit with the bat lately (.294/3/6 in August) and we all know how Boch likes those vets in a pennant race. Therefore, I could see Schierholtz losing the most at-bats once Beltran returns, with Belt getting 1/2 the starts in left and about 25% of the games at first, which would put his bat in the lineup 3 out of 4 nights while still giving Schierholtz and Huff plenty of at-bats. I'd still like to see Beltran in center with Nate in right and Belt in left, but that won't likely happen.
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Offense Spiraling Downward

The Giants were shut out in the series finale in Atlanta Thursday, and were once again held scoreless in Houston Friday night, as their offense continues a tailspin of epic proportions.

How this team is still 2.5 games out of first in the West with the way they've played since the calendar turned to August is beyond me. Perhaps the worst game of the stretch came Friday night, as the Giants rolled into Houston to take on the worst team in baseball, and had their rear-ends handed to them in a 6-0 loss. Within 24 hours of being shut down by Braves rookie left-hander Mike Minor, the Giants went up against another quality left-hander in Wandy Rodriguez, and were once again held scoreless. The batting order Bruce Bochy trotted out was one of the worst I've seen the Giants use in a couple of seasons at least, featuring a top-3 of Aaron Rowand, Mark DeRosa and Cody Ross. No Beltran, no Pablo and no Keppinger. In fact, Nate Schierholtz was the only hitter in Friday nights starting lineup with an average better than .244, so it really shouldn't surprise anyone that the Giants were held scoreless. There are some PCL lineups that would have had a better go of it than what the Giants showed Friday night, but that's what happens when your squad is banged up late in the year. The Giants had to put another player on the DL Friday after Eli Whiteside suffered a concussion, prompting the re-call of Hector Sanchez and I wouldn't mind seeing him get some at bats this time around. He was briefly called up earlier in the year, but had only a handful of at-bats before being sent back down to Fresno.

As far as the other injured Giants go, the Giants are desperately hoping to get their big fish, Carlos Beltran, back into the lineup when he's eligible to return from the DL Tuesday in San Francisco. Seeing that the wrist was supposedly barely bad enough to warrant the DL stint, I would expect him to be back Tuesday, or shortly thereafter. Hopefully by that time Pablo Sandoval and Jeff Keppinger will each be feeling a lot better too, and can resume their everyday roles, cause we're seeing what this offense is like without those guys in there and it's not pretty. I'm still very curious to see what's going to happen at the leadoff spot. Bochy has tried Rowand, he's tried Ross and he tried and re-tried Andres Torres, but they just can't seem to get anything consistently going in that spot. Torres is starting his rehab assignment in AAA and is eligible to return in 10 days, but he may not be returning to his starting center field spot. With the waiver-trade deadline approaching, and the Giants desperate for a spark for their offense, primarily in the form of a leadoff hitting center fielder, I wouldn't put it past Sabean to go out and grab someone. We talked before about Coco Crisp and Angel Pagan each going through waivers, and I really think either of those guys would help. If they can't get someone via waivers, it's time for Bochy and Sabes to consider giving Darren Ford a look see.

Catching Situation: With Whiteside now shelved for at least a week, it could prompt Sabean's search for a backstop on waivers. Chris Stewart is a fine defender and OK getting a start per week, but he's one of the worst hitters in the big leagues in an offense that's been putrid. 21 year-old Hector Sanchez should get another brief look, but Bochy probably won't give him too much time (Boch likes experience in pennant races). If the Giants weren't desperate for a catcher 2 weeks ago, they sure are getting there now and the guys I'm looking at are Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Doumit. I have no idea if either will go through waivers, but if they do, the Giants should kick the door down to obtain one.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Injury Bug Ripping Through Giants

The Giants have lost the first two games of this important 4-game set with the Braves, and ballgames are not all this team has been losing. Over the last week or so, the Giants have watched nearly 1/2 of their lineup go down with some sort of injury, and it's landed their prize trade acquisition on the DL.

What has been discussed about as much as pertaining to the Giants over the last week is when the heck is Carlos Beltran going to get back into the lineup. What was supposed to be a minor tweak of his right hand has now turned into a 15-day DL stint, leaving the Giants without their 2nd best hitter until at least August 22nd (retroactive to Aug. 7th). Joining Beltran on the DL is top set-up man Sergio Romo, with right shoulder inflammation, and leadoff man Andres Torres (contusion) leaving the Giants paper thin in the outfield. Those three could also soon be joined by Jonathan Sanchez, who pulled a Barry Zito and sprained his left ankle coming in to field a bunt. That's four, very important pieces to this team that will not be able to help for a while, and it's caused Bruce Bochy to do some interesting things with the lineup. On Tuesday night, do to the lack of outfielder options, he put Aubrey Huff and Brandon Belt each in corner outfield spots flanking center fielder Cody Ross. Outfielders Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz as well as 2nd baseman Jeff Keppinger are also banged up and weren't available Tuesday, though it's not likely they'll need DL stints. Even Pablo Sandoval was forced out of the game on Monday night because of a foot injury.

With the injury bug spreading through this team like a bad flu, it's very plausible Brian Sabean could feel obligated to go out and try and bring in help via the waiver wire. Three names that surfaced Tuesday as players who have either been put on or cleared waivers that I believe would be perfect additions to this team right now are a couple of A's, Coco Crisp and Rich Harden. With Torres now down with injury, and having a real off year in general, I think Sabean would be open to the idea of bringing in another center fielder/leadoff option. I don't want to say Crisp is in the league that Kenny Lofton was, but remember what a spark K-Lo brought to the Giants when they got him in that summer of '02? That's exactly what this lineup needs, a jump start at the top, something they haven't really had all year long. Torres has never gotten going, and it hurts because Keppinger was hitting well in the 2-spot. The other leadoff/center field candidate who doesn't intrigue me as much as Crisp but still would be an upgrade is the Mets' Angel Pagan. As far as Rich Harden is concerned, I think after watching Sanchez pitch the last few outings and now the injury pretty much proves they can't expect anything from him the rest of the way. With Zito shelved, that leaves a plethora of un-experienced minor leaguers as options for the 5th starters spot, and believe it or not, it's going to be a place that the Giants need a solid arm and Harden has looked strong since his return July 1st.

Note: Also unavailable in Wednesday's game was all-star closer Brian Wilson, who's suffering from an inflamed right arm and had it checked out by Dr. James Andrews. The check up revealed no damage and Bruce Bochy believes Wilson should be ready to go by the weekend, but you never like to see shoulder inflammation at this point in the season in your star closer. That's something that can stick with you the rest of the way and that's not what the Giants need. With top non-closing reliever Sergio Romo shelved for the next 2 weeks, the Giants absolutely need Wilson available so they're not so short handed. Until Willy's ready, I expect Santiago Cassilla or Ramon Ramirez would get the nod in a save situation.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Brandon Belt Returns With 2 HR Game

Well, the first game of the Marlins series looked a lot like what we saw all home stand from the Giants, good pitching, and very little offense. Luckily, they sparked the offense enough to salvage the last 2 games and win the Florida series, thanks in large part to the bat of Brandon Belt.

With Carlos Beltran missing the last week of play with his bum wrist, the Giants haven't had anyone really step up and fill his shoes. Cody Ross had a nice game 2 in his return to Florida, and Aubrey Huff has picked it up a lot in the month of August, but the only 2 guys in this lineup that are playing up to their standards are Pablo Sandoval and Jeff Keppinger. Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy each knew that they needed another bat up here while Beltran's recovering, and the team once again recalled top prospect Brandon Belt, who's destroyed AAA pitching this year and really has nothing left to prove down Fresno. Belt responded in a big way, hitting 2 balls out of Sun Life Stadium for his first multi-home run game in his big league career. Giants fans all across the Bay Area that had been pining for more Brandon Belt had to be thinking in their minds "Ha, I told you so!" With Aubrey Huff's struggles at the plate this season, the Giants have given Belt a few brief looks at first this season, but he's never been given a big stretch of playing time at once in the big leagues and Giants fans are hungry to see what he can do. I get the logic in playing Huff down the stretch in the pennant race, but it's mid-August right now, I don't think throwing Belt out there for a week's stretch of games will hurt the team, and it may end up paying huge dividends.

Not that I'm advocating relegating Huff to the bench. If the Giants offense is going to "Go" and they're going to reach the playoffs and make noise there, they need Aubrey Huff to be Aubrey Huff. Why not give him a 5-7 game stretch to just regroup and work on his swing, then if Belt isn't hitting after that, then Huff re-takes his spot, if Belt is hitting, then they use Huff accordingly. That's kind of how I'd do it right now. It's still not clear whether Carlos Beltran will land on the DL with this nagging wrist issue, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me, and that would open up another spot in the outfield so Huff and Belt could each be in the same lineup. The Giants just don't have enough offense to pick and choose who they play, they have to play the guy who's hitting, and right now, it certainly looks like that's Brandon Belt. The Giants recent losing stretch has cost them their strong hold of first place in the West, and for the first time in months, their looking up at a team in front of them. Now there's 6 weeks of baseball left, so a 2 game lead is really nothing. The Giants need to just forget about Arizona for a little while and concentrate on getting back to where they were in August of last season. It was about this time last year that the Giants went on the epic tear that ended with a parade down Market Street.

The Giants' road trip heats up a little bit today as they start a 4-game set with the Braves in Atlanta. It's the Giants first trip to ATL since they beat the Braves in the NLDS last fall and you know the Braves will be hungry for some payback. This should be another great measuring stick for San Francisco to see exactly where to stand against the NL Wild Card favorites.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sanchez's Struggles Cost Giants Series

The Giants have lost their mojo, and if they don't get themselves right on this upcoming road trip they're going to find themselves looking up at the Arizona Diamondbacks before long.

What was supposed to be the teams strength, the starting pitching, was really roughed up this whole home stand. Jonathan Sanchez's start on Wednesday was just the boiling point, as it was Sanchez's second start since returning from the DL and 2nd ugly loss in is many starts. The Giants 28 year-old lefty continues his Jekyll and Hyde season which has seen him really tank in his last 4 starts, including the last 2 before his DL stint. Over those last 4 starts, Sanchez is 0-3 with a 9.88 era and 15 walks in just 17 innings pitched. Wednesday was basically those 4 starts in a nutshell, as all 4 batters Sanchez walked came around to score. The DL stint apparently did nothing for the left-handers confidence for effectiveness, cause he looks like a deer in headlights out on the mound. It's a tough situation for the Giants now too, because all the sudden, they have themselves a little problem with their fifth starter. We've seen Barry Zito get rocked in his last few starts so it's almost like a pick your poison situation for Bochy now. Do you want Sanchez, who has better stuff but will likely walk 4-5 batters a night, out there or Zito, who's much more accurate, but also throws just 84 MPH and has become a batting practice pitcher on most nights. I don't really expect the Giants to bring any youngster like Eric Surkamp up to throw in the heat of a pennant race, so it makes me wonder if the Giants would actually look into bringing in a 5th starter through waivers, a la Brad Penny from a couple years ago. There are a ton of starters out there who could get put on waivers, like Bruce Chen, Javier Vazquez and Rich Harden.

While the pitching was roughed up pretty good all home stand long really, the offense looked even worse. Carlos Beltran missed the whole Pirates' series and could miss some time in Florida as well. On a positive note, one of the guys who the Giants are really hoping turns it around for these last months is slowly starting to get it going. Aubrey Huff has started contributing on a much more consistent basis over the last few games, hitting .400 with 1 hr and 3 RBI over his last 7 games. He's gotten his average up to the .250 mark, which is the first step, and he just has to keep chipping away. It's especially key for the other outfielders and Huff to step up big with Schierholtz and Beltran each down. That includes Andres Torres, who's been way too easy an out in the leadoff spot. I really believe a solid .275 hitting leadoff man would really help kick start this offense, and it's really to bad Sabean couldn't find someone before the deadline to help out. There's still a chance he could look to upgrade the roster, mainly catcher and center field, if anyone of note gets put on waivers. That list includes Coco Crisp and Juan Pierre as potential leadoff hitters to look for this August. I'm surprised the Giants didn't go harder after Coco Crisp, who I'm sure the A's would have parted with before July 31st. I'm not sure what it would have cost the Giants in trade, but I sure know that Crisp's .275 avg. and 37 steals would look pretty nice in center right about now.

The One That Got Away? It sucks watching the Giants offense take a nose dive, while one of their former farm-hands is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball for the Padres. Jesus Guzman, who spent 2009 in the Giants organization, has gotten a look with San Diego and he's been one of the best hitters in baseball since taking over at first. The 27 year-old first basemen enters the weekend with a .350 average, 6 HR, 30 RBI and 21 runs in only 123 at-bats (roughly 33 hr and 160 RBI projected into a full season) as the Padres new first basemen and their heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez. I know their not in it now, but Guzman is young and will likely have the Giants kicking themselves a few times over the next few years for letting him slip away. Dude can rake!
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Giants Salvage Finale Vs. Phillies

A wild weekend series that saw a bench clearing brawl and the Giants lose 3 out of 4 despite getting terrific starting pitching came to a close Sunday, and despite the rough weekend, the Giants escaped the mess still clinging to first place in the West.

Lincecum was huge as stopper on Sunday, going 7.2 innings allowing 7 hits and a run with 5 K's en route to his 10th victory on the season. The starting pitching was really strong all weekend outside of Jonathan Sanchez's blunder on Friday night. Bumgarner and Cain each gave up an early lead, but ended up with strong starts overall. The bats didn't step up until finally showing some signs of life Sunday. The Giants collected 13 base hits, but only 2 went for extra-bases, and they didn't hit well with runners in scoring position, so they only came up with 3 runs on those 13 hits. Two guys who haven't had a problem with runners on are a couple of the newest Giants, Orlando Cabrera and Jeff Keppinger. Their new second basemen led the team's offensive charge with a 4-4 afternoon and came up with a key sac fly in the 6th that put the Giants 2 runs ahead of Philly. Their new shortstop continues to have a knack for the clutch situations, as Cabrera had a double and a big sac fly in the 5th inning that put the Giants ahead of the Phillies for the first time all weekend. We talked about Cabrera's value to the team in our last post, and he just keeps impressing. He's a rare veteran who brings a burst of energy to the field like he's still a rookie. Plus, they haven't missed a beat defensively from Crawford to Cabrera, and he's more potent with the bat than I was expecting.

I can't necessarily say the same about fellow newcomer Carlos Beltran. The star right fielder has been especially quiet since trading in the blue and orange for the black and orange, and if you take away his 3-hit game vs. Arizona Wednesday, he'd be sub-.200 with the Giants with an OPS in the .500's. He's now played 11 games with San Francisco, and has 45 at-bats, so his transition period should be over with, and I'd be surprised and somewhat concerned if he doesn't fire up this week. Even though he himself hasn't hit since coming over to the Giants, he's had a positive effect on the middle of the order, Pablo Sandoval especially. The Panda has been a monster since moving into the 4th spot behind Beltran, and the guy in front of Beltran, Jeff Keppinger, is starting to reap the benefits as well. I think Carlos is still pressing just a bit and trying to do a little too much. I don't think it would be a bad idea for Bochy to sit him down for a game just to kind of settle him down. He's been on go and hasn't gotten a breather since the Giants traded for him and he arrived in Philly on the 28th. He was removed in the 7th inning of Sunday's game with a bothered wrist, but it's not anything that should cost him any games. Regardless, I hope Bochy gives him a much needed night off Monday vs. Pittsburgh and allow him to start fresh on Tuesday.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Giants Right Offense In Time For Philly

Well, the Giants barely escaped that Arizona series with sole possession of first place in the West, and things aren't about to get any easier.

The Philadelphia Phillies arrive in San Francisco today for a big re-match of the series in Philly in late July which the Giants took 2 games to one. It was only about a week ago, so it's still pretty fresh in every body's memory, as are the comments made by Charlie Manuel about the Giants starting pitching, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum especially. Luckily for the Giants, they got out of their offensive skid just in time to keep hold of 1st place and inject some confidence into the lineup in time for a big 4-game weekend set with their newest rival. The Giants broke out for their biggest scoring output at home this season Wednesday, and all of their new toys contributed in big ways. Carlos Beltran went 3-5 with a triple and an RBI. Orlando Cabrera was 1-4 but had a 2-run double and drove in 3 on the afternoon hitting in the 5-hole. Cabrera has looked very strong up the middle on defense and looks focused with the bat in his hand, and I'm starting to feel a little bit better about his addition. Jeff Keppinger also continued his steadiness in a Giants uniform with a 2-hit day as well. The guys who were here before the trade also played well, as Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff, each in need of big games, each had one. Pablo Sandoval also continued his tear with another multi-hit effort driving his average up to .309.

It wasn't just about the offense on Wednesday though, the Giants got a strong start out of Ryan Vogelsong who played the role of stopper extremely well. He had some spotty control early, but ended the day going 6 innings, allowing just 1 run with 7 strikeouts and improved his record to 9-1. Tim Lincecum also pitched pretty well on Tuesday night, but unfortunately, the Giants offense didn't show up and the bullpen didn't hold up their end of the bargain that night either. Still, it was very key for this team to get going in that finale so they aren't heading into this Phillies series on a 6-game losing streak, cause Philly has been red hot since the Giants left them last week. Ryan Howard has come alive over the last week, and Chase Utley is heating up after a slow return from his injury, but the big change the Giants will be seeing in the Philly lineup for the first time is their new prize acquisition Hunter Pence. Now the Giants won't just be able to trot out a lefty to get Howard/Utley/Ibanez with Pence sandwiched in between them. Pence not only provides the Phillies with just a replacement for Jayson Werth for the first time since he left, he's an upgrade over Werth if you ask me, and he makes that lineup a whole lot better and more dynamic. This is an early August match-up with a late October feel, and it should be interesting to see where the Giants stand on Sunday.
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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Trades Yet to Pay Dividends

Since the Giants made their blockbuster deal and added Carlos Beltran to their roster, they've won just one time. Granted, he's only played 5 games as a Giant, a 1-4 start after obtaining the sought after right fielder isn't the start Brian Sabean had in mind.

Beltran took a few games to get acclimated, but he looked a lot better at home in Monday night's loss to the surging Diamondbacks. Despite the teams 5-2 loss, Beltran put up his first multi-hit game as a Giant going 2-4 with a triple. Surprisingly, it hasn't really been the offense that's tanked here these last few games. Sure, they haven't been on fire, but the Giants pitching has hit a rough patch over this last week. We saw Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito each get lit up in Cinci, then Matt Cain turned in his worst performance in months on Monday night to allow the D-Backs to move within 1 game of first place. Cain threw 5 2/3 innings, allowing 8 hits, 3 walks and 5 runs, certainly a night to forget for the 26 year-old horse. It started off well for the Giants, with Cody Ross possibly finding his new home at the leadoff spot. Ross homered in his first at-bat in the bottom of the first, and ended up going 2-4 on the night. With Andres Torres and Aaron Rowand both struggling, Ross, Schierholtz and Beltran are the team's top outfielders and if they can find a way to have them playing together like Boch did Monday, then I think it will benefit the offense. I also like slotting Ross in the leadoff spot ahead of Keppinger and Beltran where he's certain to get some fastballs.

So the Giants will hand the ball to their ace Tuesday night and ask him to give them some more breathing room atop the division. Tim Lincecum is coming off an impressive performance last week in Philadelphia when he shut down the Phillies lineup despite being struck with the flu. The Giants don't necessarily need him to keep the D-Backs off the board all night, but I think it's crucial that Timmy has a clean couple of innings to start the game so the team doesn't get down early. That's been a big problem for the team, and even with Beltran in tow, they still don't really have an offense built to overcome 3-4 run deficits. Some say the team has struggled these last few days because their chemistry has been disrupted, but I don't buy that one bit. There isn't one player on the Giants who would tell you they don't want Carlos Beltran in town and although a lot of the fans didn't care for the Cabrera trade, plenty of Giants have already voiced their endorsement of the cagey shortstop. There was certainly going to be an adjustment period for these new players but that's not going to last more than a week. I'd be surprised if we don't see things turn around tonight behind Timmy.
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