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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Giants' Dissapointing 2011 Comes to End

They managed to stay in it up until the final week, but overall, I don't think any person linked to the Giants, whether it be a fan or player, who would tell you they were satisfied with how the 2011 campaign went following the teams first World Championship.

They had a commanding lead in this division at the all-star break, and it looked like they were all but certain to return to October play and get to defend their championship, even having lost 2 key players in Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez. They made a couple of additions before the deadline, and all the sudden, the team tanked. I don't know what exactly went wrong in the final two months, but I don't believe it was a chemistry issue. What I think happened to this team, is that they just hit a wall. After that big run last year, and everything that happened this season, I think the first half took a lot out of them, and players who were having bad years seemed to be getting worse. They never really had a ton of offense all year, but when they were winning, they were getting the clutch hit, and playing tremendous defense behind their rock solid pitching staff, but there's only so long that formula will work with a sub-par offense. After everybody got healthy and the infusion of youngsters like Brett Pill and Brandon Belt allowed tired vets to rest a bit, we saw some life in this team. Beltran showed what he could do when healthy as he finished the season on a tear, but I just don't see the Giants throwing big money at him after the way they finished the season. Had they made the playoffs, it would have been a much more likely scenario, but I believe we've seen the last of Beltran in the Orange and Black. Just hoping the trading of Zach Wheeler doesn't come back to bite this team too badly in the end.

They did finish the year with a loss, but it came in a series win over Colorado, so it was good at least to see the team fighting even though they were out of it. I still don't know why Bochy was intent to keep trotting Torres out to center field and place him in the leadoff spot when there were other younger options available, but I really don't know why he put Torres back there in the first place when Cody Ross got hurt. Why this team was playing any veteran besides Carlos Beltran and Pablo Sandoval regularly was beyond me, but Bochy still managed to get some young players like Connor Gillaspie and Brett Pill some long looks, both of whom I see very much in the roster mix heading into 2012. However, on the mound, Eric Surkamp finished the year of in less than spectacular fashion after his quality two-start debut in the bigs, and I no longer pick him as the favorite for the #5 rotation spot next spring, and this team will either need Jonathan Sanchez to return to form, or go grab another starter in free agency, cause they don't have a bunch of depth there that is ML ready right now. We'll be breaking down the season in a much more specific basis in the next few posts before we get ready to dip into the offseason and explore on what the Giants can and will do to improve themselves. Just wanted to get up one last post for the 2011 regular season, a year that can't be labeled as anything other than an all-around disappointment for San Francisco.
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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Giants Officially Eliminated

Well, they certainly made it a little bit interesting with the late September win streak, but they suffered a couple key losses over the last few days that has sealed their fate.

I was a little surprised by their late season push, but as I typed a few posts back, it was just too little, and too late. As it was, they were going to have to go through 2 teams to get to the wild card, so their best bet was to stay alive in the division until this series here, but AZ clinched on Thursday, before they even arrived at AT&T Park for the weekend set. When that happened, the Giants then had to hope for the Cards and Braves to tank, but neither has so the Giants haven't been able to gain any ground on either. And fittingly enough, it was their offense that finally did do them in. They've lost 4 of their last 6 ballgames and scored just 5 runs in those 4 losses. Their starting pitching is putting a bow on another terrific year, especially by the two aces, Cain and Lincecum, but the lack of run support only allowed these guys to combine for a 25-24 record. That's not a good sign when your 1-2 starters are doing their job but barely walk out of the season above .500, and Lincecum actually has the chance to finish the year below .500 if he losses his final start of the season next week.Ryan Vogelsong also will wrap up his terrific year and 2011 story on Monday vs. the Rockies, and Vogey will look to finish off strong, sitting at 12-7 with a 2.88 era in his first year back in the Major Leagues since 2006. Madison Bumgarner was also a pretty good story, starting off the year 2-9, only to finish up ridiculously strong (12-13, 3.32 era) and show tremendous poise for a kid barely 22 years of age.

We definitely saw this organizations strength in 2011 in their pitching staff, top to bottom. The bullpen also was tremendously efficient in 2011, and is one of the top-5 bullpens in the NL, but this teams offense was slow to get going, and some guys never really did. Players who were catalysts in the offense a year ago were relied upon to deliver in the same capacity again in 2011, and they just couldn't do it. The injuries to Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez in the first half also kind of signified of what was to come, as this team had a rash of injuries throughout the whole season. I kind of had a bad feeling in my gut about this season as soon as I saw Posey take that hit from Cousins, before I even knew the extent of the injury, cause I knew it wasn't going to be a 15-day thing, and at that point, Posey was by far their best offensive player. In his absence though, Pablo Sandoval filled the shoes of the #4 hitter very well, and picked up the slack for Buster there, and the Giants would have probably been just fine had Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres each hit over .275 and the shortstop spot not have been such an offensive black hole. Then things should have definitely been fine after Carlos Beltran and Jeff Keppinger came over in trades, who each really improved the lineup, but again, the guys who were here before the trades, minus Pablo and Nate Schierholtz at points, continued to weigh the team down.

The Giants didn't have a great offense in 2010 either, but the difference between that lineup and the 2011 version was that the 2010 lineup was stocked with clutch hitters. Juan Uribe was clutch, Edgar Renteria was clutch, Posey and Sanchez were clutch and so on and so forth, but the Giants didn't have these guys in 2011. I want to see the organization stress that this offseason when assessing players. Look at their average with runners on and in scoring position and get guys in here who can hit in those situations. They'll have a healthy Posey and Sandoval they get to build around for 2012, which is a great young nucleus already, but they're going to have open spots in this lineup and they have to upgrade those spots either through trade or free agency, and the three main ones that come to mind are center field (Ross likely leaves as FA, and Torres likely moves into Rowand's former role), right field (not expecting Beltran to return) and shortstop (doubt they hand Crawford the job after hitting just .200 in the big leagues).
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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Giants Hanging On By Thread

I have to admit, with the way the Giants finished up August and started September, I was fairly certain they weren't going to the postseason. But with a little over a week left in the season, here they are, still hanging onto hope by a thread and doing all they can to keep their chances alive.

The Giants have all the sudden hit an 8-game winning streak and it's rejuvenated their season, albeit in the very final stages. The youngsters like Belt and Surkamp have provided a nice shot in the arm, but it's really been about that middle and combo of Carlos Beltran, who's definitely found his groove as a Giant, again, about a month later than everyone would have hoped, but it's happening at least. His presence though has been absolutely huge for Pablo Sandoval though, who's just turned into a power hitting machine since Beltran's arrival. For most of the season, Pablo was hitting the ball hard, but still didn't have an overwhelming number of homers at the all-star break, but now you look up and all the sudden he's at 22 on the year and coming very close to that amazing 2009 campaign he had. Put the Giants in first place in the West and take back those 6 weeks he missed because of injury and you'd be looking at a certifiable MVP-candidate. Again though, you have to credit Beltran at least a little bit for Pablo's improvements. Now that Beltran himself has gotten hot too, it's forcing pitchers to go after Pablo more and we saw what happens when they do on Sunday in Colorado (3-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI)! They say truly good players make people around them better, we'll, we're finally seeing that come out in Beltran, and I think it will show the Giants brass that they indeed need to pursue another big bat in free agency, be it Beltran or someone else, they need to enter next year with Sandoval, Posey and some other big-bat in the middle to have a formidable 3-4-5.

But, we can't start talking about next year just yet, as the Giants are just 3.5 back in the Wild Card and still breathing in the West with a series still to play vs. Arizona. What we've seen happen during this win streak is the offense break out, but the pitching, especially starting pitching, slip just a little. They can't have that any more. They're facing a hot team in the Dodgers right now and have to deal with Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp and they need their pitching on point to beat both of them. At least the Giants get to counter Kershaw with their own ace in Timmy, and it's a good thing too because Lincecum has been lights out in his last 2 starts. The Giants also have the bearded one back in the bullpen, as he threw in the 8th inning of Sunday's game and had a perfect 1-2-3 inning. I'd assume he'll retake his closers role immediately and stay there for this last week, even if he's not %100. The Giants are making it interesting, which is something we all would have taken 2 weeks ago, and it looks like this season could very well come down to the final weekend. It's time to put up or go home but the Giants have already shown that you can't bet against them or count them out until they're actually out!
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Giants Offense Showing Up Too Late

I just got back in town last night in the midst of a Giants' 6-game win streak that has kept a candle, albeit a small one, lit for their playoff hopes, and their 2011 team MVP is really the one behind it.

Pablo Sandoval's season hit a pinnacle Thursday night as the Giants 3rd basemen hit for the cycle, going 4-4 with 2 RBI in his dominant performance, hitting his 20th homer of the season and raising his average back up to .308. Panda had 4 hits and 4 RBI in the sweep over San Diego and went 3-4 with a couple of RBI in the win that started this mini win streak. In fact, it hasn't been just Sandoval though, the entire Giants offense has seemingly picked it up here in mid September, but they're a little late to the dance. Sure, they're still technically in it, and I'm not at all holding out hope, but with just 12 games to play, the Giants are still 7 out in the West and 6 out in the Wild Card, so their chances are very slim. That hasn't kept the offense from exploding the last few games though, as they scored 8 or more runs 3 times in these last 6 wins. Cody Ross has really broken out in a big way himself, as has Carlos Beltran, who's finally found his groove in the Orange and Black. Beltran had 3 homers in the last 4 games and has raised his average up from the mid .270's to .297. Ross' average is still shockingly low for the way he's played lately, as he's still at just .237, but he's been a big part of these last 6 games, finally giving the Giants a steady leadoff hitter for the first time all season, albeit of the unconventional type.

Through all the offense, the team's strength, it's starting pitching, has not went away by any stretch. Ryan Vogelsong was the latest benefactor of the newly improved offense, as he kind of struggled through 5.1 innings vs. the Rockies, but the Giants put up an 8 spot to back him, including 5 in the first 2 innings, which really relieved some pressure from the right-hander. Timmy didn't quite get the run support Vogey did in the game prior, but got the 2 solo jobs from Beltran and made them stand up with a solid, 7 inning/1 run/4 hit/6 strikeout performance vs. the Mat Latos and the Padres. What's really surprised me though, is the bullpen, which has stayed very strong in absence of their hoss, Brian Wilson. Santiago Casilla is 3 for 3 in save opps. and has solidified the spot, so the Giants can save Willy for a possible postseason series or one game playoff should they get that far. Again, there is only 12 games left, but if the Giants go, say 10-2, or 9-3 and the Braves do the opposite, then they could sneak in. It's time to start rooting for whoever is playing Atlanta as well as Arizona and do the double scoreboard watching in these last 2 weeks. At least this team is going out with a fight, and aren't just taking it as a lost season and throwing in the towel.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, September 12, 2011

Giants Bats, Season Quietly Dissapearing

Well, I would apologize for the 4 day absence from posting (been out of town and can't doing posts on my 2005 laptop), but there simply hasn't been anything exciting to even talk about. The Giants have fallen to a desperate 9.5 games out of first and have all but been eliminated in the West, and are playing like it.

Bruce Bochy has started the full on youth movement, going with Brett Pill at first and Brandon Belt in left field now on most days, and who can blame him. In an offensive nightmare that has been the last 6 weeks, these youngsters have at least breathed some fresh air of life into this offense, but it's been too little too late, and the injury to Wilson was basically the tell-tale of the season. At that point, you pretty much new things weren't good, even though the Giants were still very much alive when he did get hurt. Again though, Bruce Bochy is handling this thing the right way. It's not like he's throwing in the towel and playing all rookies, if you hit, you play at this point, and it doesn't matter about salary anymore. Right now it's all about figuring out who's going to be a part of your 25-man roster in 2012 and that's why I think the Giants ought to be doing with Hector Sanchez what they're doing with Pill and Belt. Each starter only has a few starts left so it's not like it's going to be a hardship on the pitching staff to have a rook back there, and the Giants owe it to him cause they're out of it and he earned it with his play in the minors this season. If he could be a nice offensive backup to Posey next season, that would be great. I've had about all I can take of Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart.

My other big question for Bochy right now is why not play Darren Ford? I guess they either really don't think he'll ever hit enough to be a factor at this level, or there's something physically wrong with him, cause he's looked good up here in his brief time and would be much more exciting to watch in center than Justin Christian out there each night. Ford must still be hurt because I think the Giants would rather be using him in some of these situations that they aren't, even though he's on the active roster. Play Ford! It just goes to show you how brutal this offense really is because Jeff Keppinger's hitting, and Beltran is starting to hit and they're still not scoring. They're starting to use Brandon Crawford out at short more and giving Eric Surkamp the 5th rotation spot, and it looks like the only vets who are guaranteed time now are Beltran, Sandoval and Kepp and that's the way it should be. The Giants will have big decisions coming this winter on Keppinger and Beltran and they need to see them play. So far, I really would like to see Kepp back as the utility guy/insurance for Freddy/possible shortstop. He's been a rock since coming over from Houston and fits really well in with this ball club I think.

By the way, I know I continue to say it, but I really like Surkamp and can't wait to see him throw vs. the Padres Monday night. He's going against the rejuvenated Aaron Harang, so he'll have a tough match-up, I see him doing well in his 3rd career start. My prediction: 6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K. I know it's been just 2 starts, but I think the Giants have finally found a 2nd reliable lefty to pair into their rotation with Madison! He was a college guy and has done well at every level, why not?
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Giants Enter Youth Movement as Season Slips

The Giants are 7.5 games out of first in the NL West as I type this, and depending on what the D-Backs do tonight, they could fall a season-low 8 games below. But that's not the only reason the Giants have gone into a September youth movement, they're simply beat up physically.

I'm on one of the weird computers again, so I'll keep my post short and sweet, but today I wanted to talk about the young Giants, both those getting a look at the Major League level and those still down in the minors and prepping for the Fall League. First off, as far as the young guys who are here, Brett Pill and Darren Ford need to be playing daily. Torres is pretty much toast for the year in center, so why not role with D-Ford, who at the very least, could prove himself more valuable than Torres when it comes to roster spots in 2012. Not to mention, Ford seems to swing it better in the bigs than he has in the minors this season, and scores virtually every time he's on base. Not saying he's a savior in center field, but with all the holes the Giants have in their outfield in 2012, Ford should be firmly in the mix. Speaking of outfield, it looks like the Giants are also into the idea of playing Belt in left field possibly full-time in 2012 splitting time with Huff at first, until Huff's deal runs up after next season. I fully expect the Giants to explore the free agent market big time in the outfield this winter (we'll talk that in a later post) but it's looking like Belt could have one of the spots locked up. That would leave center and right as spots to potentially upgrade. I think the club views Schierholtz as a 4th outfielder and won't want him as a starter entering 2012.

As far as some other players, I'm a bit surprised the Giants haven't resorted to using Hector Sanchez more and more often and easing him into the mix. I'm sure that the Giants would love to have his bat behind Buster next season if he can handle the pitching staff, but we won't know unless we see. Unlike Sanchez, Brandon Crawford has no question about his defense, but his bad could ultimately keep him from becoming even a utility guy. He needs a big fall league and Spring Training to make this roster in 2012. The same can't be said for Eric Surkamp. He's looked like he was in for a rough one vs. the Pardres yesterday, then held his own, completed the five innings and got his first big league W. It wasn't his best outing, but he showed already that he can pitch when he lacks his elite stuff. I keep saying it and saying it, but I'm very stoked the Giants pocketed this guy at the deadline. I don't want to say Wheeler becomes the next Tim Alderson (last top Giants pitching prospect dealt who hasn't amounted to much in 3 seasons in Pittsburgh) cause I think he actually is going to be a good ML starter, but so is Surkamp, and at least the Giants hung onto one of em. Who knows how htis Kyle Crick will be, who Giants scouts are going gaga over, so after Surkamp, the cupboard's pretty bare. There are some guys with lights out stuff, but nobody who's succeeded above A-ball. With Barry Zito's time very possibly done in San Francisco, Surkamp could and should be (barring an unforeseen signing) the #5 going into spring 2012

Speaking of A-Ball, again, in high-A San Jose, the Giants produced an offensive powerhouse. Outfielder Gary Brown had a tremendous year, .336/14/80/53, and could start helping as soon as the 2nd half of 2012. Another outfielder ready to help is Francisco Peguero, the reason the Giants felt OK with dealing Thomas Neal. Peguero's developing power and speed and reminds m of a slightly less powerful Delmon Young. Tommy Joseph (.270/22/95) had a terrific second half after a slow April/May.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, September 05, 2011

Giants Slipping Away After Loss to AZ

The Giants had their chance to get right back into the NL West race this weekend vs. Arizona at AT&T Park, and things couldn't have started off better Friday night with their new star going 4-4 and them winning in easy fashion. The next two games couldn't have been more opposite.

Instead of the Giants moving to within 3-4 games of the D-Backs, they will enter Monday a whopping 7 games down with slightly over 20 left. In essence, they'd need Arizona to pretty much tank in these last few weeks, and they themselves would need to go on an absolute tear, something they haven't done since the all-star break. A lot of people declared the season "un-officially" over Sunday after the lose, and while their backs are certainly against the wall, I'm waiting another week or so before I make any declarations myself. I still am not at all overly impressed by D-Backs roster, and I still think they could hit a hiccup. Sure, they have some young stud hitters like Justin Upton, Chris Young and Miguel Montero, not to mention Aaron Hill has regained his all-star form since he arrived in the desert, but their bullpen is average at best, and their rotation, save for Kennedy and Hudson, aint that special. I guess in comparison though, their offense blows the Giants out of the water, and right now, the Giants pitching staff isn't even at full strength, so they don't have that huge edge on Arizona there right now, and they just don't have any momentum. They're losing at home, they're losing on the road, they're getting injured left and right. I'm not going to make any excuses for this team, cause I don't need to, but I kind of knew the chance to repeat went down with Buster in May.

What's irritating to me though, was listening to Marty Lurie on KNBR today, a host who is absolutely starting to get on my nerves. All he cares to talk about are the guys they should look at for next year and refused to hold Hensley Muellens accountable for any of the Giants hitting woes. I'm not blaming all the Giants suffering on Hensley, the Giants simply don't have a lot of talent in their lineup, but I would like to see the Giants hitting coach more active in helping the veterans in big slumps like Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross. Surprisingly though, Cody Ross has taken off a bit since being inserted into the #1 hole in the lineup. Cody hit another homer to lead off the game against Daniel Hudson Sunday, but that was all the Giants would put on the board against the D-Backs #2. He narrowly out-pitched Ryan Vogelsong who took another tough luck loss despite throwing 7.2 innings of solid ball, allowing just 2 runs and 5 hits with 6 K's. Again, a Giants starter has to be left wondering what more he can possibly do to help this team win games.

The first thing I'd like to see done, is Hector Sanchez inserted into the lineup everyday at catcher for a week and see what he does. It's not like he'll hurt the pitching too much and the Giants could use the stick (remember Panda in '09). Then I'd try out Brett Pill at 2nd and move Kepp over to short. Maybe not the best defensive middle, but defense is not what's killing this team right now. Kepp' can't be that much worse than Cabrera or Tejada at short and Pill was supposedly serviceable at 2B in AAA and was ripping the snot out of the ball. The Giants don't need to make a whole youth movement makeover and give up on the year yet, but maybe a youth infusion could rejuvenate this squad.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Beltran, Giants Get D-Backs in Game 1

Those who were waiting for Carlos Beltran to come alive in a Giants uniform can wait no longer. The highly-anticipated outfielder had his best day as a Giant and just seems to be getting better after a 4 for 4 day with a homer and 3 RBI.

Carlos was just a double shy of the cycle and lifted the Giants offense in perhaps the most crucial game of their season to date. What's even better news to take out of it, was that he tore it up hitting right-handed, which was supposed to be giving him problems with the right wrist/hand. They lose that game one vs. the D-Backs and they're all the sudden 6 back with no momentum on their side, but Matt Cain would not allow it. Not only did Beltran tear the cover off the ball, but Cody Ross had the game he's been looking for, really since the all-star break ended. He had a homer and a double going 2-2 in the leadoff spot and getting on base 3 times. Perhaps the best performance of all though cannot be overlooked, and that was the effort Cain put up in a virtual do-or-die game for the Giants. Sure, if they lose, the season isn't over, but it sure would have felt like it. So Cain stepped up, going 8 innings of 5-hit ball, allowing 2 runs and a few walks but getting out of trouble like he normally does when he let's runners on. Santiago Cassilla,who by the way now sports a 1.32 era, shut the door in the 9th in a non-save situation, but did so in impressive fashion fanning 2 D-Backs. Overall, the Giants finally played Friday how Sabean and Neukom were anticipating them to play after they got Beltran (13-35, 2 HR, 5 RBI in last 8 games) and Keppinger (.297/2/as a Giant) to aid the offense.

What's going to be interesting to me over the last few weeks of the season is how the Giants go about the closers role. Obviously Brian Wilson's shoulder inflammation is a bit of mystery cause nobodies saying much about it, but actions speak for themselves, and he isn't throwing, so that's not a good sign. It just goes right along with the tough injuries the Giants have faced this season, but I think the Giants should be able to overcome this and allow him to ease back should they win the West and play in October. I have no problem with Sergio Romo or Cassilla or Javier Lopez shutting the door in the 9th right now and I believe all 3 can get the job done. Right now, it looks like it will be Romo as the main guy, which would be my 1st choice too after the year he's had and his familiarity with late-innings. Not to mention, I've heard more than a few players say he's got the nastiest stuff in that Giants pen, including Wilson. People are panicking that the rockstar closer is out and probably for the year, but if there was one spot the Giants could afford and injury, it was the bullpen because of the quality they have there. And while the Giants did lose one clubhouse leader to the DL, they got another one back in Pat Burrell, who was in the lineup Friday and was on base 2 times. I wouldn't mind seeing Burrell and Belt in a flat platoon in left the rest of the way (leaving Schierholtz in his familiar 4th OF role).

September Call-Ups: It's that time , the Giants made a few of their September call-ups yesterday, adding IF's Manny Burris, Brandon Crawford and Connor Gillaspie as well as outfielder Darren Ford. Hector Sanchez and Eric Surkamp, the Giants new young 5th starter, will be back with the team in a few days once their 10-day mandatory option runs out. I'd also expect to see a few more relievers added to the bunch as well as Nate Schierholtz when he comes off the DL next week.... And speaking of minor leaguers and names of the past. Former Giants' top-prospect, first basemen Angel Villalona, is reportedly eligible to re-join the organization this fall after clearing murder charges in his home country. Villalona is still just 21 years-old and was a top-5 prospect in 2008, so it should be very interesting to see where he lands in the Giants farm system, or if they even accept him back (I'm sure they will after spending $2 million to sign him in '06).
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________