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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Giants Get Much Needed Day Off

For the first time in three weeks, the Giants received a much needed off-day Thursday after taking two of three from the Diamondbacks at AT&T Park. Needless to say, some of the players were running on fumes and looked it lately, so this day off couldn't have come at a better time.

Cabrera up to .373
The Giants got off to a good start in their series with Arizona, taking the first two games and holding the D-Backs offense to just 2 runs in 2 games. Then the much anticipated match-up of Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy came around Wednesday, and the Giants bats were nowhere to be found. For the first time in almost a month, Lincecum pitched solidly, allowing just one earned run over 7 innings of work, but he did walk 5 batters and couldn't quite match the D-Backs ace. All the Giants hits came out of the top-5 slots in their lineup, and their problems with the bottom half of the lineup continue to bite them in the worst possible situations. Luckily for them, they may have found at least a short-term answer at 2nd base with Ryan Theriot. The Giants took him off the DL 5 days ago and he's raised his average 20 points since then. It doesn't hurt that Bochy has slotted him in between a few of the hottest hitters on the team in Melky Cabrera and Gregor Blanco. That should help him see some hittable pitches and he's a guy who can put the ball in play and allow Bochy to do hit and runs when Blanco gets on. Also, speaking of the "Melk Man", his average now sits at .373 after he set a Giants record for hits in a month during May with 50. Without a doubt, he gets my vote for player of the month for this team, and he has a real shot at winning that honor for the whole NL as well.

If only they could have worked around the Giant-killer, Paul Goldschmidt, the Giants may have been able to pull out the sweep. That's the only thing about Lincecum's performance Wednesday that had me scratching my head. Timmy threw very well, but Goldshmidt has owned Lincecum in his young career, with 4 of his 13 career HR's coming off the Giants ace. Low and behold, he was the guy to come up with the game changing swing of the bat vs. Lincecum. Still though, all in all, the Giants have to look at Lincecum's most recent start
Vogey's ERA Now 2.31
as a breath of fresh air after the way he struggled in May. His record has fallen to 2-6, but at least he got his ERA down out of the 6's and probably would have won the game had it not been for the swing of the bat from Goldschmidt. One guy who's gone in the opposite direction of Timmy lately has been the Giants veteran, Ryan Vogelsong. Vogey didn't get a decision in his start Tuesday, do to the Giants late victory, but he did a tremendous job maneuvering through 7 innings, and striking out 8 D-Back hitters. The 34 year-old has been so strong lately, that some believe he's become the best pure pitcher on the staff right now. Of course Cain and Bumgarner are doing their thing as well, and can't be discredited, but Vogelsong has been the one guy who's mirrored his performance week after week since coming off the DL. The Giants desperately needed someone to step up while Timmy was in a funk, and Vogelsong rose to that challenge. Now if they can get all five guys throwing well together, it would certainly spark this team.

Next up, after their off-day Thursday, they'll play host to the sputtering Chicago Cubs who enter the weekend set at 18-32 on the seasons. This match-up is another one that the Giants should be able to take care of business in, as they're playing much better than Chicago, have a better team and are playing host. This has sweep written all over it if you ask me, and that would put the Giants at 30-24 for the year if they can pull it off, a season-high 6 games above .500. With Sandoval on his way back, and the pitching really rounding into form, the time is know for the Giants to create some separation from the .500 mark. Also, for any of our weekend warriors who play in baseball leagues this summer, with summer kicking off, you can upgrade your game with fastpitch training as well as AETC pitching machines. I got back on the diamond last summer for the first time since high school, nearly a decade, and had a blast. If you get a chance to play in a rec league, I strongly suggest you take it.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, May 28, 2012

Giants Return Home With Win Over AZ

After a tough battle in Miami in which the Giants salvaged the series and ended up splitting with the Marlins in a close game Sunday, San Francisco returned to AT&T Park Monday to play host to the D-Backs for 3 games.

Belt Goes 2-4 Monday
Game one went a lot like Game four went in Miami, a pretty low scoring affair in which the Giants jumped out early and their strong pitching made the lead stick. Barry Zito continued his home dominance, improving his record to 4-2 and ERA to 3.33 after a 7-inning, 2-run outing in Monday's game. It was largely the same recipe for success that the team has been having lately, as once again their outfield helped carry the offensive weight for the team. Melky Cabrera (.368) and Angel Pagan (.309) each went 1-3, and Gregor Blanco (.290) had a 2-4 day at the dish, but perhaps the guy that needed a big day with the bat the most, finally had one. We all know how second base has been a black hole for this team ever since Freddy went down last June, which we'll discuss more of below in the next paragraph, but another spot that has been vastly underachieving has been the collective group of first basemen the Giants have used early on this season. Aubrey Huff's anxiety issues and under-performance really opened the door, but nobody has stepped in yet. The consensus is that Brandon Belt will eventually be the guy to take off and take that position by the reigns, and he made a stride in that direction Monday going 2-4 with a triple and an RBI. It would be a huge relief for Giants management if Belt can lock this down before the trade deadline and prove to Bochy and Sabean that he can be their guy down the stretch.

Arias Hitting .260
Now, back to the second base position, which has been bad news all year for the Giants. Manny Burris was out there Monday, but his .219 batting average is less than inspiring. Also, the Giants noted over the weekend that Freddy Sanchez had yet another setback with his surgically repaired throwing shoulder, further putting into question if he'll ever make a return for the 2012 season. One potential option for the Giants could be to move Joaquin Arias, who's played decently of late at third in Pablo Sandoval's absence, over to his more natural position once the Panda returns, but I still think Sabean may go outside the organization for help in this department. The thing is, they may need to wait awhile before someone they have interest in becomes available. I mean, just going up and down the list of teams that are pretty much out of it already, there aren't many impressive options on those teams. The one guy who I do like and will probably be available at some point is Toronto's Kevin Johnson. However, he's a lefty and the Giants are already pretty left-handed heavy. That's what makes Sanchez so vital to this team. Not only is he another solid bat you can count in the lineup, but he balances that lineup out greatly as the team's 2nd best right-handed bat next to Buster Posey. That's also an attribute that Arias has in his favor as well, and I think the Giants do like Arias as a potential utility guy, but if they have a chance to upgrade over him at 2nd when Panda returns, they have to jump all over it.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lincecum, Bumgarner Roughed Up By Marlins

Well, just when it appeared the Giants were starting to put together a nice string of ballgames, they again witnessed their ace get knocked around Friday night, then saw the same happen with Madison Bumgarner Saturday.

Lincecum's ERA: 6.46
After Thursday's blowout win, and the team taking an early lead in Friday's game, it went all down hill. Lincecum started out the game pretty nicely, going into the 6th with a 3-1 lead, just what he needed to take some pressure off. However, like he has so often the last month, he came unraveled in the 6th inning, surrendering 5 earned runs, never to make it out of that horrendous 6th. It seems like it keeps on being one huge inning in which Timmy just loses everything, command to the zone and perhaps most importantly, confidence. You can read it in his body language that the dude is just not in sync out there right now. I mean, he was like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Friday, looking brilliant through 5 innings, then out of nowhere just melting down. It was his 5th consecutive start in which he didn't earn the coveted "quality start" tag, and it seems like it's just getting worse for the right-hander, with his ERA now at a career low for this deep in a season at 6.46. His bad luck rubbed off on Madison Bumgarner Saturday, and the Giants star lefty has yet record a victory since May 5th. Now, Bumgarner is throwing a whole lot better than Lincecum currently is, but he typically thrives in games after tough Giants losses, and it was tough to watch him get lit up a bit by the fish. His ERA rose up over 3.00 for the first time since April 23rd, and his record is now 5-4 after starting the season 5-1. To Bumgarner's credit though, he's had some tough luck, most recently his last start in Milwaukee in which he was brilliant but didn't get any offensive or defensive support, and Timmy can't really say the same thing. Am I worried about him yet? Absolutely not! But I also don't think this team is a playoff contender with Lincecum throwing the way he is.

Despite their ace going through some hard times, the Giants offense really needs to be given credit for pulling their weight, especially when you take into account they are vastly underachieving at first, second and third base. Luckily for them, they know they have third base covered and will have their man back in a few weeks. Unfortunately, they can't say the same about first or second. I've been pulling for Brandon Belt to get as many at-bats as possible and Bochy has given him a lot rope lately, but he's just not grabbing the bull by the horns like everybody was hoping. That doesn't mean I'm ready to give up on him, but the answer for him
Blanco Has +.800 OPS
could end up being to go back down to Fresno for a bit, just to rebuild some confidence if nothing else. I know he doesn't really have anything left to prove in the minors, but he's of no use to this team if he's not hitting for power or average or getting on base. Thankfully, their lack of offense in the infield has been offset greatly by their thriving outfield which we talked a great deal about last post but it's tough to go a day without these guys doing something great. In the first couple of games in this series, we saw Melky Cabrera take over as the league leader in hits, and on Saturday we saw Gregor Blanco show his abilities with a 3-5 day putting his average at .290. I think the Giants ought to seriously consider looking into extending all three of these guys, but most importantly, Melky Cabrera. I mean, the dude is built perfectly to hit at AT&T Park, and his tremendous start to the season is not a fluke. It's only and expansion on what he started last season in KC. He'd be at the top of my list in terms of extensions if I'm Brian Sabean, and not far beneath him should be Pagan and Blanco. I think all three are liking it here in San Francisco, and their play is reflecting that. The Giants already have a tough enough time luring hitters here, so when they find guys that work like they have, they need to find a way to keep them.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Outfield Play Defining Giants

The Giants put out their best offensive performance of 2012 Thursday in Miami, as they backed Ryan Vogelsong's strong outing with a 14 run, 15-hit parade in their series open win vs. the Marlins.

Giants Beat Miami
The Giants made their first appearance in the new Marlins park, which has been one of the most pitching friendly confines in the Major Leagues early on in the season, but you wouldn't have known that by watching the Giants hit Thursday. The Giants beat Miami with a football score, 14-7, and the big reason behind their offensive surge was the play of their 3 outfielders. Blanco, Cabrera and Pagan combined for 7 hits, 7 runs and 8 RBI in Thursday's win, accounting for half the team's hits and over half the team's runs scored. The 3 outfielders have continued their steady play throughout May and have really given this team an offensive identity in absence of Pablo Sandoval and while Buster Posey was getting going. Now, Posey's heating up, and Panda's only a few weeks out, so this team still has some major upside coming on offense. Buster's raised his average back over .300 for the first time in weeks, and now leads the team with 6 homers and 24 RBI after another 2-hit effort Thursday. It's taken nearly the first two months of the season, but this Giants team finally appears to finding their offensive identity. However, not everyone is hitting and luckily for the Giants, Cabrera's outstanding .362 batting average has helped make up for the lack of production the team's currently getting from it's corner infielders. Brandon Belt saw his average dip back into the .220's after Thursday's game, and whoever the Giants have put in Sandoval's place at third has not answered the bell. As long as they stay afloat and keep above .500 until they get Panda back, they should be just fine. Sandoval is expected to come off the DL in early June, barring any set-backs.

Lincecum Needs Win!
So the Giants started their 4-game weekend in Miami off with a bang Thursday, but in order for them to take this series, they're going to need their pitching on point. The Marlins yard is a offensive graveyard, and the Giants should not expect to go out and put up crooked numbers like they did Thursday, each day this weekend. That said, there will be a lot of eyes on tomorrow's game especially, as Tim Lincecum will try and get back in the good graces of Giants fans who have started to wonder what's gone wrong with the ace right-hander. His stuff is still there, as evident by his strikeout ratio, but what's killing him right now is his lack of location. It would be a huge swing of momentum of the Giants can get behind him Friday and help get him back on track. It won't be an easy assignment though as he draws the Marlins ace Josh Johnson. Again, I'm not expecting another offensive outburst like we saw Thursday, but a couple runs early on to help take some pressure off Timmy could go a long way. We've seen him go through this kind of funk before, and he righted himself in time for the Giants run to a World Series Championship. Luckily for them, his struggles have come early on and not in August, so he's still got some time to hash things out before the race picks up. Still, the sooner the Giants get Lincecum back to being Linceucm, the better off this team will be as a whole. Right now he's looking like the 4th or 5th best starter in his own rotation, when he came into the year as one of the top-5 in all of baseball. It's been nice to see the offense step up, especially the newly acquired outfield, but this teams' best asset is still their starting rotation, and they're going to need Timmy right down the stretch.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Crawford's Error Costly, But Giants Still Hang On

Madison Bumgarner provided one of his better starts of the season, but it still took the Giants 14 innings to take game one of their series in Milwaukee thanks to a tough defensive mistake. The normally sure-handed Brandon Crawford committed his 9th error on the season in the 8th inning, leading to a big blow that cost Bumgarner the win and a shot at a complete game.

Bumgarner and Buster
Brandon Crawford and Joaquin Arias each came up with crucial errors late in the game to help allow Milwaukee climb back from a 3-1 deficit. The Giants got on the board early with a big swing of the bat by Buster Posey, as their star backstop connected for his 5th home run of the season in the top of the first inning, giving MadBum some breathing room right off the bat. Bumgarner hasn't won since May 5th, but the left-hander went 7 2/3 strong, allowing 1 earned run on 5 hits while striking out 10. Unfortunately, Bumgarner was also charged with 2 unearned runs, which cost him a shot at his 6th win, when Ryan Braun hit a 2-run jack in the bottom of the 8th. Luckily for the Giants, their bullpen was up to the task Monday night and provided 6 scoreless innings of relief, capped off with Santiago Casilla's 2-inning finish to earn the win. Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Clay Hensley and Javier Lopez each had scoreless appearances as well. There were two things to like about this game; the late inning heroics and clutch hit by Hector Sanchez, a guy I continue to get more impressed with the more I see him, and also the way the team kept it together and held on after their defense almost cost it for them. The Giants have been walking a dangerous line with really poor infield defense all season long know, and it really got worse after Pablo Sandoval went down. These dumb errors have cost the Giants many of games so far, but they managed to play through the mistakes Monday, and that win gives me some inspiration that things are on the upswing.

However, if this team wants to create some separation between them and .500, they're going to have to make some improvements. It seems like this team has been playing really good ball of late, and yet they still sit just 2 games over .500 heading into play Tuesday. We mentioned one big reason for that in the last post, that being Tim Lincecum's early season struggles, but the other thing that's killed this team has been their inadequate defensive play. Surprisingly, this teams offense is scoring some runs. Melky Cabrera is a monster and Angel Pagan is starting to catch up. They've helped keep the offense afloat in absence of their slugging
Sanchez Still Having Trouble
third basemen, and had this team gotten consistent defensive play through the first 2 months of the season, they'd be sitting a lot prettier than 22-20 right now. I've never seen defense be such a problem for a Giants team in many seasons. They've taken steps at ensuring strong defense behind their excellent starting rotation over the years, and they've always played fundamentally sound ball up until this year. A big part of that has been the shuffling going on in the infield with Panda and Freddy Sanchez out. Not to mention, one of their prime middle infield backups signed in the offseason, Ryan Theriot, has also been on the DL for most of May. At some point, this team is going to have to make a move for some insurance at 2nd base. Arias is not the answer, Culberson is not ready and Manny Burris is not a starting caliber player. I still am very surprised they couldn't woo Orlando Hudson to come north and play for a winner after San Diego released him. I mentioned him in our last post and the more I look at potential targets coupled with the fact the Giants will have to deal more prospects, the more Hudson made sense for this team. They could have gotten him for nothing at all, and despite his slow start, he'd have been heads and shoulders above anyone else their currently trotting out to 2nd base and given them defensive stability up the middle.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Giants Take First Interleague Series of 2012

The Giants had their first interleague series of the 2012 season this weekend as they played host to their cross bay rival Oakland Athletics. Unfortunately, they couldn't manage to pull out a victory in Sunday's game to sweep the A's, but they did take 2 of 3 from Oakland and have beaten the A's 11 out of the last 12 times they've played at AT&T Park.

Lincecum's ERA Raised to 6.04
It wasn't all a cake walk though, as the Giants ace was once again knocked around in Sunday's start, and it cost the Giants a chance at a sweep. Tim Lincecum had perhaps his most frustrating start of this season Sunday, lasting just 4 innings while giving up 4 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks. He also got his clock cleaned at the plate by Colin Cowgill while covering on a past ball, which had everyone holding their breath for a moment there. He appears to be fine physically, but his effectiveness is not there right now. His last good start and victory was over San Diego on nearly a month back on April 28th, and since then Tim's averaged just 5 innings per start in 4 outings, and has given up 16 runs in just over 20 innings of work. He's witnessed his ERA balloon up to 6.04 and his record fall to 2-4 after Sunday's loss. Luckily for him though, the veterans really picked up the slack this weekend, as Barry Zito took care of his former team, with a huge assist from the offense, and saw his record improve to 3-1 in Friday night's 8-6 victory. That was followed up by another strong outing from Ryan Vogelsong, who had his best start of 2012 on Saturday as the Giants shut out Oakland. The 34 year-old right-hander continues to make good on the 2 year/$8.4 million deal the Giants gave him over the winter, and he just keeps getting stronger with each outing. In his start Saturday, he went his typical 7 strong innings, allowing just 1 hit, 1 walk and 0 runs paired with 5 K's. I've said it a few times before, and I'll say it again, the back end of the rotation is really what's keeping the Giants afloat right now. Cain is pitching nicely and Madison Bumgarner leads the team in wins, but Lincecum's struggles have been somewhat neutralized by Zito and Vogelsong's dominance.

Melky Hitting .353
At the same time, the offense is still kind of sputtering along. They need to hit a hot streak in order to create some separation between .500 as they've been hovering around that point seemingly all season long. They had another inconsistent weekend with a very nice night Friday, followed by one good inning Saturday, then being shut down by Bartolo Colon in Sunday's game. There are some players who continue to do their job, but there are too many guys still not pulling their weight, especially in the infield. In fact, the lack of infield depth, coupled with the injuries to Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez have the Giants in the market for infield help. One guy who's been linked to them over the last few days was Padres castoff Orlando Hudson, but he landed with the White Sox just yesterday. Luckily for the Giants, their outfield had been producing to help make up for the lack of production in the infield. We've talked at length about Angel Pagan's surge in May, and after Sunday's 2-4 effort, he's now got his batting average up over .300 for the first time as a Giant. Melky Cabrera also continues to rake, and now has himself in to top echelon of NL hitters with a .354 average after a 4-4 day Sunday. And finally, there's Gregor Blanco, who's been a huge breath of fresh air in the leadoff spot, allowing the Giants to create some sort of stability while their top offensive threat heals from his broken wrist. Blanco has played so well that he'll likely keep his spot in the lineup when Sandoval does return, with Pagan staying lower in the order. With Blanco out there, the Giants have tremendous speed in the outfield and really have a good formula going there. I just wish we could see this team all healthy, with Freddy Sanchez and Pablo out there and the outfielders hitting like they are. Unfortunately, that day may never come with Sanchez's struggles to stay on the diamond, so don't be surprised if the Giants do deal for a more impacting 2nd basemen.

In a minor roster move, the Giants added some rotational depth by inking Brad Penny to a minor league deal. Penny was released by Detroit earlier in the season after struggling and comes to the Giants in a very similar circumstance to 2009, when he went 4-1 with a 2.59 ERA in 6 starts down the stretch. The Giants hope they won't need to use Penny as a starter like that this season, though they have very little depth after their starting five right now, so this signing does make some sense. Also, if your looking to do any wagering on upcoming games, check out the TopBet online sportsbook!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Giants Rebound Thursday After Tough Loss

The Giants offense once again hid under a shell for Madison Bumgarner in Wednesday night's mini 2-game series opener vs. the Cardinals. However, they rebounded just in time in Thursday afternoon's match-up to avoid being swept by the reigning World Champs.

Crawford's 2-Run Single
Matt Cain did not provide one of his better starts of the 2012 campaign, but the Giants offense showed up in bunches throughout Thursday's game in order to overcome an early deficit and take the game over in the late innings. They took big advantage of some defensive mistakes by St. Louis, and it was finally good to see the opposing team struggle in the field for a change. The Cards put up two early runs against Cain in the first, but as he does so often, he got stronger as the game wore on. He left after 6 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits with 6 K's, but the Giants did manage to score enough for him to provide him the victory. The two Brandon's each really stood out in this ballgame, as they combined for 3 doubles and 3 RBI. It was especially nice to see Belt hit with a little bit of authority. I know he's had some moments here early on in 2012, but for the most part, he hasn't been driving the ball like the Giants were hoping, and that changed Thursday with his first career multi-double game. Also, looking for some way to spark the Giants stagnant offense, Boch made some moves in the order Thursday, and I'll be curious to see if they stick moving forward. Brandon Crawford was moved up to the two spot in the order, and despite his low batting average, I'll tell you what I like about that move. The one component Crawford has displayed as a young big leaguer, is the ability to take some pitches, and the Giants were getting too many quick outs from the top of their order since Pablo went down and changed everything up. I wouldn't mind seeing Crawford in the 2-hole a few more times after the solid performance Thursday. Until the surging Angel Pagan can get back into the top of the order, they need production there, and Blanco has provided it out of the leadoff spot, but that 2-hole has been a problem since Cabrera was moved to the 3-spot.

Casilla: 9/10 in Save Situations
Also, I must say, I was thinking that Santiago Casilla would only be a short-term answer at closer, and that the Giants would have a different man in that spot by the trade deadline, but he's been brilliant in the role since the Giants lost "The Beard". So good in fact that he'll likely get some All-Star votes. Most of these Giants wins have been close ballgames, nail-biters, and Casilla has surpassed all expectations in my book. The Giants bullpen is still not quite clicking on all cylinders, as they still haven't adequately replaced Guillermo Mota and need to get Jeremy Affeldt back in a groove, but other than that, the pen has held up decently for losing two key cogs early on. Thursday may have been a move in the right direction for Affeldt, as he had his second consecutive perfect outing after a pretty rough April. The good thing about Affeldt, is he has a rubber arm and can go 2-3 innings when needed, plus when he's on, he's just as effective vs. righties as he is vs. lefties, and could be huge if he could lock down that 7th inning bridge to Romo/Lopez./Casilla. I still think Heath Hembree will be up at some point before September, probably not as closer, but with the Giants lacking some in middle relief now, he could be their savior if they can't find a reasonable arm on the market.

Roster Notes: It's been over a week now since Aubrey Huff was recalled from the DL, and he hasn't gotten a single start since and has only 1 hit in 6 at-bats. I have no idea what the Giants plan is for Huff, but at this point, he's really serving no purpose other than a left-handed pinch hitter who isn't doing all that much off the bench. He managed to make contact in a key spot in Thursday's game, but hit a weak grounder to third that David Freese made a throwing error on. I wonder how much longer the Giants will give Aubrey to work through things. One factor that is favoring him is that none of the Giants young hitters are coming up and making a statement. Charlie Culberson hasn't shown much of anything, Gillaspie did nothing and Joaquin Arias and Manny Burris are not MLB starters. It's amazing how much one injury (Sandoval's) effects the whole outlook of a roster.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

With Kemp Out, Window Opens for Giants

The Giants caught a lucky break this week, after losing their best hitter and starting 3rd basemen a few weeks ago, the division leading Dodgers suffered their first big blow of 2012, as Matt Kemp is expected to miss two week with a hamstring pull, opening a window of opportunity for the Giants to move up from 6 games back in standings.

Blanco Striving in Leadoff Spot
Now, the Giants have looked like a completely new team the last few games, and have won 3 straight with outstanding pitching and timely hitting. Their offense isn't performing nearly as badly as I was expecting without Sandoval, as others have stepped up, and if they continue to do so, they're just going to keep climbing in the standings. Losing Kemp, even for a couple of weeks, is a huge blow to LA, as he was by far the early season MVP in the NL and hitting a ridiculous rate. The dude had 12 HR and 28 RBI with a .359 average through mid-May. In comparison, despite being out most of May, Pablo Sandoval still leads the Giants in HR and RBI with 5 and 15, just to give you an idea of the year Kemp is having. Now with both he and Juan Rivera on the DL, the Dodgers are running out of outfielders, and the time for the Giants to be hitting their stride is now, and they look to be doing just that. It wasn't the prettiest win Monday night, but the Giants still beat Colorado to move up over .500 again, and has them riding a decent 3-game win streak.

The guy who's really come out of his shell the last few games has been Gregor Blanco. With Sandoval sitting, the Giants had to re-arrange the lineup a bit, moving Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera down in the order and placing Blanco in the leadoff spot. Blanco's scored 5 runs in these last 3 games, and has really exploded with the bat raising his average up from .237 to .286 and even has a big fly, 4 RBI and 2 stolen bases during that stretch. He's done exactly what the Giants needed from him in the leadoff spot, now they just need him to keep it up. What's allowing Blanco to stay in the leadoff spot is the fact that Angel Pagan is still in the zone. Even after having his 20-game hit streak broken last week, he's since started a new one and keeps seeing that average creep up. He's still not getting on base nearly as much as the Giants would like (.306 OBP), a big reason why this team is dead last in OBP.

One guy who I've not been impressed by lately is Joaquin Arias. Sure, he's been decent at times for the Giants filling in at 2nd and at 3rd now in wake of Sandoval's injury, but I can't help but think there are better options in the organization suited for 3rd base. Arias has made some big errors over there, including one that almost cost the Giants the game on Monday, and his bat hasn't been anything special. Even Connor Gillaspie seemed better suited to play 3rd in Sandoval's absence, as at least you didn't need to hold your breath on every ball hit to him. I still think the best option on the roster is Brett Pill. If your going to sacrifice some
Belt Needs Regular AB's
defensively, you might as well get some power into the lineup. Pill has come through in big spots for the team early on and really does deserve to be getting more at-bats than he currently is. I know he doesn't embody the patience that this team needs in their order, but he'll at least hit the three-run homer for you and come up with the routine plays. I doubt Bochy will really tweak with much as the team has performed these last few games, but if there's one move I'd like to see be made, that would be it. That would also open up the door for more at-bats for Brandon Belt, who really needs a good 7-10 games straight where he plays everyday. I know I've been a little down on Belt here lately for his lack of production, but it is hard to sustain any kind of rhythm at the plate when you play him one day then rest him two, then play him again. He needs steady diet of at-bats so the Giants can determine whether or not he's ready to be a big leaguer and take first base from Huff once and for all.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Giants Beat AZ to Move Back to .500

After a couple of tough losses to the Dodgers, followed up with a loss in Friday night's series opener vs. Arizona, it looked like the Giants were about to hit a bit of a wall. They weren't scoring and their bullpen and defense have been suspect all year, however, they righted the ship in time to take the series in Arizona which has been Giants kryptonite over the last 2 seasons.

Melky Goes 4-5 Sunday
Madison Bumgarner got knocked around a bit in Friday's opener, after Lincecum lost yet again in the finale vs. LA, but Matt Cain and Barry Zito got the team back on track Saturday and Sunday. Cain did it with both his arm and his bat Saturday night, throwing 6 innings of 2 hit ball, allowing 1 run with 8 K's to beat Trevor Cahill. He also had a 2-3 night with the stick, knocking in two runs with a big double off his counterpart. The Giants also got 3-hit days out of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan to help the team to 5 runs and a 5-1 victory. On Sunday, it was much of the same, as Zito provided a solid start throwing 6 innings and allowing 3 runs and Melky Cabrera figuring prominently in the final score. The Giants 27-year old switch hitting right-fielder went 7-8 in the final two games vs. AZ, driving in 4 runs and raising his batting average to a team-high .348. Pagan also had another multi-hit effort Sunday, going 2-5 while seeing his average move up to .277. The big blow Sunday though, came off the bat of Brett Pill, who got another start, and provided yet another big fly in support of Zito. Pill's now got 3 HR and 8 RBI in 40 at-bats on the season, though his .234 average is an area that could use some improvement. Speaking of plummeting batting averages, the one guy who was scorching the ball to begin the season, catcher Buster Posey, has seen a major decrease in the hit column, as his batting average has nose-dived from the .350's at the end of April, down to .282 after Sunday's game. I'm sure it's just a little slump for Posey, and hopefully Sunday's breather will give him a good rest. He's played a lot more than I was expecting and I think the Giants had planned heading in, and he's not playing first nearly as often as I thought he would. Those are two great signs for Posey, but in Sandoval's absence especially, they need Buster to be around .300 and driving in runs for them.

Casilla Thriving in CL. Role
The Giants have also made some roster moves over the last few days, changing a lot things up. In wake of Guillermo Mota's 100-game suspension, the Giants called up former Angel, Shane Loux. The 33 year-old righty has spent most of the last two seasons with Fresno, and was pitching well for them, but is hardly going to provide the stability Mota did. He's a career AAA guy who's had a few sips of coffee in the bigs and all of the sudden, the Giants bullpen has been taken over by a bunch of guys they were hoping they wouldn't need. From Travis Blackley, to Steve Edlefsen and Dan Otero. The Giants bullpen has gone from top-3 in the NL to mediocre at best. Santiago Casilla has done a fine job in place of Brian Wilson, and the 8th inning is still locked down with Romo and Lopez, but anytime a starter doesn't go at least 7, things get a bit uncertain and that has to change. The Giants also have a couple new positional players, one making his return and one making his big league debut. Aubrey Huff was taken off the DL during the trip, but has yet to start a game since then and has only made a few appearances in pinch-hit roles. The big move, and a move I was waiting for though, was the calling up of 2nd basemen Charlie Culberson, who we just talked about at length in our minor league report. He was crushing the ball in Fresno, and if given a shot, could provide some offense at 2nd base. Burris has been OK, but has seen his average drop with the more playing time he gets, and Joaquin Arias seems to have taken over at third in absence of Sandoval. The 23 year-old Culberson got his first career start in Sunday's game and went 1-4. It wouldn't surprise me if we start to see more of the youngster after the way he was swinging at Fresno and this team's desperate need for offense.

Still, even when Panda returns and if Freddy can make a successful comeback, this team will only go as far as their pitching will take them. With Lincecum still sputtering, and a suspect bullpen, they have to be thanking their lucky stars they aren't worse off than they are at 17-17. When Linceucm gets back on track, and Panda returns, it will certainly help, but I have a feeling this team will need some reinforcements for the bullpen at some point. Heath Hembree may be one of them, but this is an area their likely going to have to improve via trade.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Giants Do Just Enough to Beat Kershaw

With the way the Giants have been swinging, and their lack of right-handed bats, I was thinking Clayton Kershaw would mow down this lineup Tuesday night, but the Giants got to him early and Ryan Vogelsong delivered and made 2 runs hold up vs. the reigning Cy Young winner.

Sanchez Making Progress
The big blast came off the bat of Brett Pill, a guy I've been campaigning for getting some regular at-bats over at third in Panda's absence. Pill's obviously shown a knack for coming up with the big hit when his team needs it. He only has 37 at-bats on the year, but has 2 HR, 6 RBI and an .855 OPS. That's production the Giants could use on an everyday basis, the only question would be where to stick him. I don't mind giving him some looks at third, as I said, but one of the teams downfalls early on has been their defense, so Bochy is caught in somewhat of a rock between a hard place with Pill. Whether it's 2nd base, 3rd base or left field, I think this guy's proven enough in a short amount of at-bats that he needs to play. However, it'll be interesting to see how the playing time get's distributed with Aubrey Huff scheduled to return soon and Freddy Sanchez finally playing the field in a minor league game. Sanchez played 3rd base in an extended spring because he's still having trouble with cross the body throws. I love the idea of moving Sanchez over to third if that will get him up here. The Giants desperately need that right-handed bat, and without Panda, have a gaping hole over at third base which Sanchez could lock down until the big guy returns. That could also give Sanchez more time to build strength in his arm preparing him for his move back to 2nd upon Pablo's return. Now Freddy hasn't faced big league pitching in a year, so it may take him some time to get acclimated once he does get back, but the fact that he played the field without any set-backs Tuesday is a great sign for the Giants.

Tuesday was just a good day all around for the Giants, they beat Kershaw who had a ridiculous 6-1 record and 1.24 ERA vs. them heading into the game, but it really wasn't the offense that won this game. Pill came up with the huge blast early in the game, but it only netted the Giants two runs, and that's all they got. It took an outstanding effort on Ryan Vogelsong's behalf to out-pitch Kershaw and Vogey did just that. It's sort of
Vogelsong Beats LA
been sort a a tough start for Vogelsong in the since that he's gotten little to no run support in his starts and that was the case Tuesday, but the Giants gave him a couple runs early, which always takes some pressure off a starting pitcher. As a result of low run support, that was Vogey's first win of 2012, despite sporting a 2.94 ERA with 26 K's in 33 innings. The Giants have scored 15 runs through Vogelsong's first 5 starts of the year, which needs to improve. Vogelsong's a strong pitcher, but he's not Cain or Bumgarner and you can't really count on him going out there and pitching 8 innings of 1-run ball like Cain and Bumgarner have been doing. He is going to give you 6-7 innings of quality baseball though, and give the team a chance to win the game like he did Tuesday. After that start, the Giants now have 4 of their 5 starters with ERA's below 3, but are still just a .500 team, and a big reason for that has been the early struggles of Tim Lincecum who's the only starter without an ERA in the 2's and is still trying to get his feet under him here in 2012. The Giants are 2-4 in games their ace starts, and that has to improve for this squad to be clicking on all cylinders. I mean, typically for Timmy those numbers would be swapped and if that were the case, it would have the Giants 2 games above .500 and just 2 games behind LA despite all their early season injuries and spotty defense. Lincecum goes tonight vs. Chad Billingsley with a chance to give the Giants the series and get himself back on track and the Giants sorely need him to cash in on it.

The Giants did lose another player in Tuesday night's game to injury, and a guy who's been instrumental to the offense early on as Angel Pagan left the game with tightness in his hamstring. Both Pagan and Bochy said it's not serious, and should only keep the center fielder sidelined for a day or two, but that's certainly something to keep an eye on. Pagan had his 20-game hit streak snapped on Monday, but he's been quietly building up numbers after an extremely slow April which even sparked discussion of him being removed from the lineup all together. He's another switch hitter with some power and speed and the Giants need him healthy, so if they need to rest him 4 days to be on the cautious side, I say do it. No need rushing him back in early May at the risk of having him tear or further injure the hamstring and lose him for a couple of months, especially with the way the Giants are battling injuries early on.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Brandon Belt Hitting, But Not for Power

When I was scrolling down the Giants roster today to see where each player stood heading into play Sunday, I couldn't help but notice Brandon Belt's .295 average. By looking at that number, you'd think he'd be putting up some numbers, but as of May 6th, he's yet to go deep in a game and has just 5 RBI and 5 extra-base hits on the season.

Belt's April: .295, 0 HR, 5 RBI
In fact, 2 of those 5 doubles were defensive misplays, which if you take away, drastically lowers his OPS and slugging percentage. The one bright spot is that he is carrying a very respectable .379 OBP, but the Giants aren't counting on Belt to be a table setter and get on base, they're counting on him to be the one to clear the bases and knock guys in. He's been hitting in the 5th or 6th spot in the lineup every time he plays, so it's hard to imagine that he hasn't come up with 5 RBI yet. Even 8th place, .208 hitting Brandon Crawford has knocked one out and has 8 RBI. I know Belt has had to share some PT, and Crawford has pretty much had SS all to himself, but regardless, both the Giants and Belt would tell you they need more run production out of his bat, especially if this offense intends on surviving with Pablo Sandoval for the next 6 weeks. Aubrey Huff has cleared some of his issues up, and should be ready to come off the DL when eligible next week, but the Giants really need Belt to assert himself. Heck, even leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, who had all of 7 HR in over 400 at-bats last year has knocked out 4 while Belt still sits with a zero in that column. He's hitting more like a 2-hitter than a 4-5 hitter the Giants need him to be the guy he was in his minor league career and Huff will be back soon. If Belt doesn't start hitting with more authority and driving in runs when he gets the chance to, then his PT will significantly decrease once Huff comes off the DL.

Luckily, for the Giants, who have a struggling ace and a beat up offense, they have the impressive lefty Madison Bumgarner, who stopped some of the bleeding Saturday night, winning his 5th straight and dropping his ERA to 2.22. Matt Cain goes today in the rubber match vs. the Brewers, and hopefully the Giants can give him some early support this time around, as they've had trouble scoring early in ballgames lately. In fact, they didn't score in Saturday's game until Bumgarner drove in a run himself in the fifth inning, then the Giants offense came alive a bit in the 6th to take command of the game, but they have to put more
5-1, 2.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP
pressure on opposing pitchers earlier in the game. Bochy knows this and it's part of the reason why he's been experimenting with different lineups since Pablo went down. We've seen Pagan moved into the fifth spot, then back to leadoff, with Gregor Blanco getting looks at the top of the lineup as well. Pagan's surprising run production early on has him producing more like a middle of the order hitter, and if the Giants could find a suitable leadoff man, I think Boch would prefer to have Pagan hitting in the middle of the order while Sandoval's shelved. A Cabrera-Posey-Pagan, 3-4-5 isn't the most imposing, but provides a lot of speed and three guys all swinging a solid bat at the moment. Again though, these guys were performing well even before Sandoval went down, so it's got to be another bat that steps up and again, it brings me back to Brandon Belt. I said a few posts back that he's the one guy in this lineup with the rare ability to put up a power-streak and go off for 4-5 HR's in a week, which is why the Giants keep trotting him out there. If he can get hot and the Giants can maybe get something out of Huff in Sandoval's absence, this lineup should be just fine, but if Belt continues to hit for no power, and Huff returns in the same shape he left, this team is going to have a long month ahead of them, I don't care how good the pitching is.

Mota Suspended 100 Games: Well, the Giants have had trouble keeping players healthy, and sane through the season's first month, but on Monday, they lost their first player to drug-related punishment, as reliever Guillermo Mota was suspended for 100 games for his 2nd infraction for testing positive for PED's. I know losing Mota isn't like losing Wilson, but that's just another large blow to this bullpen, and may in turn speed up Heath Hembree's ascendance to San Francisco. Mota had kind of took over Casilla's role with Casilla the new closer, but now with Mota out, the Giants are really lacking proven right-handed relievers. I like Mota, and I hate to see him go, but this could be a blessing in disguise for the Giants if it leads to them going younger in the bullpen and that formula working. Hembree has been lights out in Fresno as the Grizzlies closer and could be eased into the bigs as a mid-reliever like Mota and Casilla were, then depending on his success, and how Casilla continues to fare as closer, Hembree could take over closing duties. It's becoming quite clear, with the amount of players this team is losing that they're going to need some guys from the minors to step up and pick up some of the slack if they intend on being competitive.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Down on the Farm: Giants Minor League Report

Well, with the big club struggling, injuries and anxiety moving through the clubhouse and even the un-beatable Tim Lincecum looking like a mere mortal, I figured we'd switch gears today and talk a little minor league baseball. The Giants are struggling and we all know why that is, you can just scroll down to our last few posts and find everything we would have just repeated had we continued to discuss their struggles.

Gary Brown Struggling
Down in A-Ball is where most of the Giants top prospects are currently residing, whether it's low-A Salem or high-A San Jose, but nobody has really stuck out this first month at the lower levels, including 2011 first round pick Joe Panik. The Giants hopeful future shortstop has really started slowly after having a strong 2011 campaign, hitting just .240 with no home runs through 27 games. Outfielder Jarret Parker, taken after Gary Brown in 2010, has 4 HR and 4 SB through the first month, but is hitting a Brandon Crawford-like .172. Some of the arms the Giants selected in recent drafts have looked well though. Highly touted right-hander Kyle Crick (taken as a supplemental pick in last years draft) has looked dominant at times with a 2.45 ERA and over a K per inning in his 5 starts for Salem, but his BB:K ratio is practically 1:1 and that needs to change. Perhaps the best arm down in A ball going though has been reliever Josh Osich. He was a guy who we talked about a lot after he was drafted, as he has the makings to be a star, but battled injuries in college which held him back. He no-hit UCLA last season to beat the 2011 drafts 8th overall pick, Trevor Bauer, but the Giants have used him in relief to start the year and he's cashed in with 8 scoreless outings and 10 strikeouts in just 7 innings of work. I'd like to see him shifted back to the rotation if his arm can handle it.

Up in AA Richmond is where the Giants currently have their two best offensive prospects in Gary Brown and Tommy Joseph, but neither has looked the part and both have struggled mightily in the Eastern League. Brown is hitting just .243 and slugging .291. He does have a .344 OBP and 7 steals, but the Giants would have liked to see him start off a lot better than he has. Joseph has shown some pop, leading the team with 3 homers in a notoriously tough league to hit home runs in, but he too is struggling to get hits on a regular basis, with his average just a point higher than Browns right now. Down in AAA Fresno though, the Giants are having no such problem hitting and scoring runs and one has to wonder whether the Giants may move Brown and Joseph up to the PCL just to give them a change of scenary and a warmer environment to hit in. The bright spot as far as Giants prospects go in Fresno has been Roger Kieshnick. He leads the
Roger Kieschnick: 7 HR in AAA
organization with 7 HR, and has 20 RBI and a 1.076 OPS to boot. With that production, and the Giants lack of power and outfielders, I'm a bit surprised he hasn't gotten a call-up yet. If he were right-handed, it may be a different story, since the Giants are already so left-handed heavy. Also, before he got called up, Connor Gillaspie was leading Fresno in hitting with a .368 average, 3 HR and 12 RBI. Fresno's middle-infield combo has perhaps been the most impressive though, as two prospects that were thought to have been losing value have gotten off to huge starts. 23 year-old Second basemen Charlie Culberson had a big year in 2010, then a solid year in 2011 with AA, but has started this season just as hot as Kieschnick. He's got 5 HR and leads the team with 23 RBI while hitting a solid .286. That puts him on pace for a 25/100 season, which for a 23 year-old AAA 2nd basemen is huge production. His double-play partner, SS Nick Noonan, taken in the same draft as Culberson, but has had nowhere near the success yet, is hitting a strong .333 with .400 on-base percentage.

With the Giants lacking depth in the middle infield, especially without Freddy Sanchez and Brandon Crawford struggling to hit his weight, if Noonan and Culberson keep raking like that and Brandon Crawford keeps struggling in San Fran, we could see some changes in the coming weeks. Especially after the Giants learn more about where Freddy Sanchez is on his rehab. He suffered another set-back while playing in San Jose last week and has been shut down since. As I said upon hearing that news, it now wouldn't surprise me if Sanchez misses all of 2012, in which case Culberson could get a look. Last but not least is the bright outfielder Francisco Pegeuro, who's had an up and down year to start out (.235/2 HR/18 RBI), but at least he's producing.

All in all, the Giants top-prospects haven't performed the way the Giants were hoping to start 2012. They had thoughts of possibly bringing Gary Brown up as soon as this summer, but after seeing him struggling in Richmond, that thought process may have changed. Same can be said for Joe Panik, who looked to be on the fast track after hitting nearly .400 in the minors last season after being drafted and signing his contract. However, they have had some bright spots, like Kieshnick, Culberson and Gillaspie. Also, the team's top reliever in the minors, Heath Hembree, has been dominant as Fresno's closer, prompting talk that he could be on his way up to the Giants sooner than later. One of their top arms, starter Eric Surkamp, is still recovering from the injury he suffered in spring and has yet to pitch in any games, though he's getting a lot closer to being ready. There have been some pleseant surprises too, for instance, 24 year-old Chris Heston, who's got a 1.23 ERA and a 2-2 record in 5 starts in AA Richmond. And of course, we know about Erick Hacker and Travis Blackley's success in Fresno, as each have been up with the big club, though both are a tad old at 29 and 30 to be considered "prospects".
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Pablo Sandoval Could Miss Up to 2 Months

Well, just about the worst news a team still trying to find their offensive identity could get came through the Giants clubhouse Thursday morning. If you watched the game last night, you know that star 3rd basemen Pablo Sandoval left the game after grounding out in the 6th and all we could do at that point was hope it wasn't too serious.

Pablo Hits DL
Unfortunately it is. It's the same injury that sidelined Sandoval for almost 2 months last season and caused him to miss over 40 games, this time injuring his left wrist instead of his right. It's the same hamate bone injury, just in the left wrist instead of his right wrist this time, and it's almost exactly a year ago to date when he injured himself the first time. I know the term gets used loosely, but he really was the one guy, along with Buster, that they couldn't afford to lose for any length of time and it's happened. Panda and Posey were really carrying this teams offense all through the first month, and they're already shorthanded in the infield with Freddy Sanchez still a ways off from returning and Aubrey Huff's return still unknown. The 25 year-old all-star was hitting .323 with 5 HR and 15 RBI, again, very similar numbers to where he was last year before going down with the same injury to his other hand. I'm hearing that the way he holds the bat, with the end-nob deep in his palm, is causing pressure on the hamate bones in his bottom-hand and gives him problems on some swings or pitches he doesn't square up properly. And that's what happened on that ground-out last night. I knew when I saw it, it was something that would at least require a 15-day stint, cause you never see Pablo dog it down the line wincing like he was then. On the positive, Panda's gone through this injury before and knows how to deal with it by now, and maybe he can get back a little quicker from this one, especially since this ones in his non-throwing hand. In his absence, the Giants have re-called 3B Connor Gillaspie, a guy I was set to talk about in our upcoming Minor League Report, as he's had a strong start down in Fresno, but will have some mighty big shoes to fill in helping take over for Panda the next 6 weeks or so.

Pill Needs Look at 3B
And, as such, the Giants find themselves at a bit of a cross-roads. They already were a borderline offense with Sandoval healthy, now if he's out till mid-June, then that's a large chunk of games they're going to have to account for without their best hitter. Luckily, unlike the Posey injury last year, this isn't something that will keep Sandoval out all year or even linger with him once it heals, and in best case scenario, he could be back with the club the first week of June, ready to go with as his official timeline is 4-6 weeks. One option I was thinking of this morning immediately after hearing the news and going over in my head who could step up at third if Gillaspie doesn't, and I came down to Buster Posey and Brett Pill. Posey played infield in college and has played 1st base flawlessly at the big league level. Third base is tougher but I think he could do it, heck Pablo figured it out after coming up as a catcher. Why not move him over to the hot corner and take some pressure off his legs for a few weeks? Then there's Pill, who's got some experience at the hot-corner and has a right-handed power bat this team sorely needs in their daily lineup. The big question I have in wake of this injury, is how the lineup is going to shake out now with their number 3 hitter shelved along with their 2 hitter. My guess is that Cabrera slides into the 3-spot, or maybe even Pagan moves down as he's performed more like a middle-of-the-order hitter with his extra-base production, than a leadoff guy with his low OBP. That could lead to moving Arias into the leadoff spot, who's been a breath of fresh air since his call-up. I also think "The Pill" needs to be given at least look-see over at third base too. The Giants need some thump to replace Pablo and Pill is the one bat on this roster who could provide that with consistency. Oh, and if you thought Aubrey Huff was done with the Giants, after this injury, think again, cause now they really need him and they really need him to be that 2010 Huff again, just until Sandoval returns. They're simply running out of infielders and were already short on guys who can knock balls into the bleachers.

That's all I really have to say about the Sandoval injury right now. It sucks, but it's baseball, what are you gonna do? I'll tell you this though, with all these injuries the teams suffered the last year and a half, every Giants fan has got to be feeling that this team will never get healthy at the same time! Hopefully Panda is back at the start of June and the Giants are able to stay afloat until then, but again, somebody else is going to have to step up and fill the void. Be it Brandon Belt, be it Aubrey Huff or Brett Pill or whoever, they need someone to at least replace some of the production Pablo was giving them if they want to avoid sinking in the NL West standings.

UPDATE: The first post-Panda lineup has taken the field for the game against Miami, and indeed, Angel Pagan has been dropped in the order. Blanco got the start in right and led off, with Gillaspie at 3rd hitting 2nd, then Cabrera-Posey-Pagan as the middle 3 followed by Brandon Belt in the 6th spot. However, as I type this update, their offense is being shut down again as Annibal Sanchez has held them to 3 hits through 4 innings and the Marlins have a 2-0 lead thanks largely in-part to a few errors from the "sure-handed" Brandon Crawford. 
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

2011 Offense Rears Its Ugly Head

Well, the exact problem that haunted this team for much of 2011 came back to rear it's ugly head Tuesday night at AT&T Park, as Matt Cain's 8-inning gem went to no avail and the Giants couldn't score 2 runs against the Ricky Nolasco and the Miami bullpen.

Cain Goes 8 Strong, Gets L
Even though he got the win, Nolasco didn't pitch as well as Cain, giving up 7 hits over 7 2/3 innings compared to Cain's 8-inning, 4-hit outing. Problem is, the Marlins came up with the hit with RISP (Hanley Ramirez) and used Mike Stanton's big fly as just enough amo to beat a Giants offense that has started slumping back to it's 2011 ways. Now, that sentiment doesn't hold true for everyone in the lineup, as Sandoval continues to rake, hitting his 5th jack of the year and driving in his 15th run as the Giants only score Thursday. However, everyone else in this lineup besides Angel Pagan, has seen their batting average take a nose-dive over the last week or so. Melky Cabrera, who was hitting around .330 just a week ago, is down to .285, which isn't bad, but with his lack of ability to walk, makes him an easier out than when he's got his average up over .300. Also, Buster Posey had an 0-4 night Tuesday which dropped his team-leading average from .360 down to .333. A lot of baseball people wonder how Matt Cain got such a huge contract despite carrying a losing career record, well, he showed you exactly why Tuesday. Most of his losses come in this fashion, close, 1-2 run games in which the Giants fail to support him, either from the bullpens side or the offensive side. Heck, I even remember a few years back in Denver when the defense fell apart late in one of Cain's masterpieces when he had a 1-hitter going or something, and blew that game for him. The Giants right-hander pitched into a little better luck last season, but still only had 12 victories. With the quality of games and starts this kid provides, there's no reason he shouldn't win 15 games each year, even on a sub-par offense. It's like the Giants hitters feel they can ease up when they have Cain and Timmy out there cause they feel they have a certain victory, but that's not the case. They have to play as focused and hard for Timmy as they do for Zito or Vogey.

April: .323, 5HR, 15 RBI
So, as I was saying at the end of April, the Giants offense was one of the pleasant surprises of the first month, but over the last few days, they've gone into a rut, scoring just 8 runs over their last 4 games and it makes you wonder, which is the real Giants offense? The one we saw for most of April put up 4-6 runs per game, or the one we've seen this last week, averaging just 2.5 runs per outing? My guess is that it's a short rut and the team will dig out of it, but one problem that has been there all year, even when they were scoring, was their hitting w/RISP (5 for 32 on the season). They're speed has them better equipped this season to deal with avoiding pro-longed offensive slumps, but you still have to hit to drive guys in. I was hoping that more speed at the top would lead to more running, but they haven't really opened up the gates on the base paths yet. I'd like to see Boch start giving more guys "green lights" to his base-stealers. Most guys in the Giants lineup right now, even Buster and Panda, have the ability to swipe a base, but especially Pagan and Cabrera. I was hoping those guys would each have about 10 steals by now, but Boch has either been conservative with calling steals, or those guys just haven't gotten off to great starts in terms of running. Cabrera does have 5 steals, which has him on pace for 30, and that's good, but Pagan needs to run more, as does Schierholtz, Burris and Blanco. I mean, Gregor Blanco was put on this team primarily to be that late-inning pinch runner to be able to take a base when every one's expecting it, but he enters May with a measly 1 stolen base and 3 runs scored. The silver lining in wake of the offenses recent struggles, is that the horses, Cain and Lincecum, appear to have put their first starts behind them and are now pitching like we all expect those two to pitch. Now, if this team can put the two together and actually play some defense, they'll maybe take off on a 5-game winning streak or something and put them right back up their with LA.

On-Tap Tonight: The Giants will look to Barry Zito to carry over his success from April into May and play stopper against the Marlins' Carlos Zambrano tonight. The Giants need to force Big Z to come into the zone cause he's been wild all year long. The Giants are 3-1 in Zito's 4 starts this year and Zito was quietly the starter of the Month in April, posting a 1.67 ERA with 14 K's to just 6 walks. The key to Zito's success this year has been his ability to cut down on walks, and he has to keep that control going tonight to keep the Giants above .500... Also, we'll be taking a look down on the farm in one of our upcoming posts, as there have been some nice stories going on down in the Giants minor league system to start the year and we'll check on what the top prospects are up to.
The Giants Baseball Blog