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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Giants Deal for Pence, Can't Land Reliever

 I woke up to some good news this morning, flipping on KNBR to hear the Giants and Phillies have agreed on a deal that will bring in a much needed impact bat.

Hunter Pence Coming to Town
After seeing their offense wilt over the weekend vs. the Dodgers, it was clear the Giants needed a boost. They got just that Tuesday, sending young catching prospect Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz and an minor league arm to Philly for the guy I think was the best bat in this trade market, Hunter Pence. The thing I really like about this move is it's not a half season rental. Pence will be around for 2013 and could give the Giants a good security blanket in case they can't re-sign Melky Cabrera this winter. He's going to come right in and hit in the middle of the order and should provide a huge boost to the sputtering offense. Giving up Joseph certainly isn't easy to do, but the one area the Giants are pretty deep at is catcher so that was the area of strength to deal from. With the Dodgers improving left and right (adding Brandon League and Shane Victorino), it was inevitable the Giants would try and answer for a splash of their own. I'm just glad they aren't needing to part with a slew of prospects in order to get to get it done.

Another thing I really like about this deal is Brian Sabean finally made a splash for an impact player in his 20's. It seems like every time the Giants make a deal, it's for a veteran at the end of his career, but Pence is right in his prime at 29 and could very well become a long-term fixture here. All I know, is the Giants middle of the order just got a whole lot better and it's going to be exciting to see this guy play with Panda, Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera.

At this point, I would be surprised if the Giants do make a move for a closer though. The details of the impending Pence deal, but they will be parting their best power hitting prospect, and Sabean probably isn't looking to pick over the minor league system much more. Also with Brandon League being dealt to LA, that takes one potential target off the market and just drives the price up on the others. I certainly hope are able to get another good late reliever, but I'm not holding my breath.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Bullpen Slips in Fifth Straight Loss

The Giants losing streak hit four games Monday night after losing a late one to the Mets and they've really seen their bullpen get lit up over the last few days. Now it's decision time!

It was just 5 days ago everybody was talking about sweeping LA again and running away with the West but now just about 12 hours away from the non-waiver trade deadline, plenty of Giants fans are singing a different tune. The rival LA Dodgers further improved their team Monday night, acquiring a guy I was hoping the Giants would make a run at in Seattle closer Brandon League. The Giants sure could have used him Monday night too, cause their bullpen just couldn't get the job done in support of Madison Bumgarner and a gutsy offensive performance. The Giants got beat with their best as Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla each took turns surrendering a lead. Both gave up long home runs to infamous "Giant Killer" Scott Hairston and the pen just couldn't lock down the victory. It was a gutsy performance by the offensive as a whole and Bumgarner, but the Giants aren't going to win many games that their bullpen gives up 6 runs in. As bad as this team could use another middle of the order bat, I think their primary need was exposed Monday night and that's a true closer!

Now, the thing about getting late relievers is that you can usually find some good ones available after the non-waiver deadline in August, but that's a little risky if you bank on that. The fact is, the Giants need two big components pretty equally right now and it's likely going to come down to which position/player is the most easily attainable. San Francisco has been linked to numerous players over the last 12 hours alone, from Justin Morneau, to the continuing Hunter Pence talks and were even capped off with an Alfonso Soriano rumor. According to reports late Monday, the Chicago outfielder either used his no-trade clause to void a deal to San Francisco, or he made it clear he would in the event one took place. In any case, that's probably a good thing for the Giants. The don't need another guy in his mid-30's with an outrageous contract. I don't know if there is any truth to that rumor, but if so, it makes me wonder if Sabean's panicking a little bit after this rough stretch. Pence is the guy I'm holding out some hope for as I think he could really ignite this offense and make an impact, but I really don't see Philly dealing him unless they get a big time return.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Is Marco Scutaro Enough?

The Giants made a move I'd been anticipating all month, adding some infield depth and another right-handed bat, sending Charlie Culberson to Colorado for veteran Marco Scutaro.

Giants add Scutaro
No, it's not a blockbuster move, but it will help. Scutaro is a solid infielder and has a clutch bat and should be a welcome addition to a thin San Francisco infield. With Pablo Sandoval and Hector Sanchez each on the DL, it has cut into the Giants infield rotation heavily and the addition of Scutaro should help out on that end. One thing I do like about this deal is the Giants didn't have to part with too much in order to add the middle infielder. I've always liked Charlie Culberson and he's still pretty young, but I don't think the Giants really saw him as a potential future starting second basemen. I'm just kind of curious to see how Bochy will work Scutaro into the lineup? We could see him move into third base, sending Pablo across the diamond to first when he returns. Or if Brandon Crawford goes into a funk again, he could take over at shortstop, though benching Crawford for a veteran didn't work out too well last time around. With everything considered, I like this move, but I don't think it's enough to put the Giants over the top. The Dodgers just added a star in Hanley Ramirez, and we all saw how that paid off in game one. Hanley would have been nice, but Scutaro certainly fills a need.

Belt fighting for his job
So, with the Giants pulling the trigger on journeymen infielder, I don't really see them making another significant move for a positional player before the 31st. A lot has been made of Brandon Belt's slump and whether or not the Giants would search for a big hitting first basemen, but I think they saw Scutaro as a possible fall back (at 3B) if Belt doesn't turn it around. The young first basemen had a big showing in Friday night's series opener with the Dodgers, going 3-5 and tying the game in the 8th with a 2-run single, but he has to start showing some consistency day in and day out. Sabean is still going to be searching for relief help though. The Giants bullpen has been getting taxed lately, and they're starting to cough up more leads or ties late in ballgames, which is not a good trend. I appreciate the way Santiago Casilla stepped up in the first half and took command of the closing role, but as I've said here many times, I really don't see him being the guy down the stretch. We've all heard the Chris Perez rumors, and their have even been rumblings of the Giants looking into Seattle's Brandon League. Whether it's one of those two, or another late reliever/closer, I don't think this team is quite finished dealing yet.

With the Giants are down a game already in this series, Bochy is wasting no time getting the newest Giant into the starting lineup. Scutaro gets the nod at third base Saturday, and will hit 7th as the Giants attempt to gain back the game they lost in the standings Friday night.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Another Series Win, Another Missed Sweep

Something about game three's are giving this team trouble as they failed to complete a three-game sweep for a third consecutive series. The Giants have won every single series since the All-Star break, but have swept just one team.

Lincecum back-steps
First off, the most important thing to point out is that they are managing to take each series they play, and are playing good baseball all in all. It's tough to complain too much when they're in first place and beating teams they should, but they had a great opportunity for a sweep today vs. San Diego and both their offense and pitching did not show up. Tim Lincecum took the hill again after two very impressive outings to start the second half, and he had his swing and miss stuff again Wednesday, but unfortunately his command eluded him. He managed to mow down 8 batters in 4 2/3 innings, but he also allowed 10 base runners and  two home runs in under 5 innings of work. On the other side, Jason Marquis, who's been so good vs. the Giants over the years, got back to his owning of Giants hitters. Two of the three runs the Giants scored Wednesday came on a passed ball and sac fly. The bats didn't fair much better the previous night in game two either, but luckily Madison Bumgarner shut down the Pads and Brandon Crawford came up with the big hit in the 9th to win the ballgame.

A big reason for the offensive fall off the last two games has been loss of Pablo Sandoval, who left Tuesday's game with hamstring soreness and didn't return Wednesday. With their huge series vs. LA coming up this weekend, there was no way the Giants were going to risk rolling Panda out there Wednesday, but they may
Sandoval "hamstrung"!
end up having to play LA without their slugger anyway. There should be plenty of fireworks this weekend regardless though, as the two favorites in the West kick off what should be an interesting two-month stretch drive. The Dodgers will have a new face in the lineup this weekend as well after completing their blockbuster deal with Miami to bring in Hanley Ramirez. We talked about Ramirez here a bit the last few days as a possible target for the Giants in which they may be able to get him at a bargain as long as they absorb all his salary.  Unfortunately someone beat them to the punch, and even worse, it was the team they're trying to hold off in order to win their division. I don't think this move will force the Giants into making one themselves in "knee-jerk reaction mode, but this move will definitely gives the fading Dodgers a huge shot in the arm.

There's still a bunch of baseball to play in 2012, but this series really reminds me off last July's matchup with Philly at the deadline. The Giants ultimately fell off after that road trip and the acquiring of Carlos Beltran while the Phills took off after their acquisition of Hunter Pence. This upcoming matchup with the Dodgers could set the tone for the rest of the season and they need "The Panda" ready!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, July 23, 2012

Search for Bullpen Help Intensifies

The Giants have hiked up their efforts to find late relief help after losing in extra innings to narrowly miss sweeping the Phillies this weekend.

Giants Interested in Perez
A lot of Giants headlines Monday revolved around Cleveland Indians' closer Chris Perez. It's no secret the Brian Sabean has been searching high and low for relief help this month, especially late relievers, and apparently Perez may be the best, most attainable fit for this team. This really shouldn't come as a surprise though. Perez has been on the block seemingly every year since arriving in Cleveland via the Cardinals, and the Giants just happen to be the one contender searching desperately for relief help. I've never been overly impressed by Chris Perez, but he's had a solid year this season, converting 26 of 28 save opportunities. He's not a particularly overpowering right arm or elite closer, but he typically gets the job done. He's also been closing out games a lot longer than Santiago Casilla has, and would provide a more experienced option for Bochy down the stretch.  I'd prefer Huston Street, but at the right price, Perez wouldn't be a bad fallback.

There's been a lot of talk about the Giants lack of trade chips too. They don't have much in their minor league system, and they could be auditioning some players on their major league roster. Nate Schierholz is one guy who's seen his playing time spike over the last week, and he's responded terrifically. Schierholtz had a two-homer day in Philly on Sunday, capping off a nice weekend for him with the bat. He was inserted into the lineup in place of the slumping Gregor Blanco on Friday, and even though Boch and Sabean aren't saying publicly that Nate's on the block, that's the general consensus around the Bay Area. The other guy that the Giants could be shopping is first basemen Brandon Belt, who's gone back into a funk and has struggled with the bat since late June. Bochy has started using Pablo Sandoval more and more often over at first base, but unfortunately that moves Joaquin Arias into the starting lineup which pretty much offsets the benching of Belt.

HanRam Could Play 3rd or SS
So, there's a little over a week left before the non-waiver deadline, and the Giants indeed have some decisions they need to make. Do they have enough resources to go after a good closer and then turn around and deal for an infielder, or would they have to pick and choose just one? Also, which hitter does this team see as a possible fit. I've mentioned Hanley Ramirez here before, and there was a lot of talk about him on KNBR Monday. He'd be my top choice in terms of any available player out there on the block right now cause he's a guy who could come in and have an impact beyond this season. He's signed for two more seasons after 2012 at top dollar, and I know the Marlins had discussions about moving him over the winter before he committed to third base. The more I look at Ramirez's situation, the more I think he's the guy to get. He likely wouldn't cost the Giants a bunch of players in return, just a bunch of dollars, and that's the type of move this team is set up to take on right now. They don't have a bunch of five star prospects in their system right now, so making a move to take on salary for a good young player like HanRam would make some sense!

There was the first big move of the trade season made on Monday, with Ichiro being sent to the New York Yankees. It usually takes one big one to get the domino's rolling, and I'd look for trade activity to pick up over the next few days!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Giants Peaking Again

Just about a month ago, the Giants were playing very similar to the way they are right now, and took over first place from the LA Dodgers. Now it will be interesting to see if they can hang onto the lead this time around.

Lincecum gets back in W column
San Francisco just got done taking game two of their three-game set with the Phillies, after another valiant effort from Tim Lincecum Friday night followed by a comeback win in extra innings Saturday. That gives the Giants another shot at a sweep on this road trip that they've absolutely dominated. This team has shown they can beat you in a variety of ways, especially since the break, and that's what makes them such a tough matchup right now. The difference between their play now and their play a month back is that they finally appear to be getting some consistency out of Tim Lincecum. His start on Friday again was reminiscent of his Cy Young-winning form and defeating Philly should be an even bigger step in the right direction for him. It wasn't as lights out of performance as the one vs. Houston last weekend, but for him to string two goods one together like this is a great sign. Sure the Phils aren't what they were when the Giants faced them in 2010 right now, but they still have some heavy hitters in their lineup and guys who have had good lifetime success off Lincecum. That coupled with the fact that he got back in the W column again should be enough to get part of that monkey off his back.

Cain connects off Hamels
Matt Cain wasn't able to follow up Lincecum as strongly as he would have liked on the hill, but he let his bat do some talking for him, and ultimately gave the team a chance to win Saturday. And they cashed in on that opportunity. Although Saturday's win wasn't as crisp as you'd like to see them, the fact they were able to pull that one out, and they way they did win it was further testament to just how well this team is playing right now. If your struggling as a team, comeback victories just don't happen. Luckily the Giants have won 7 of 8 since the break and haven't had to battle back in many, but they've shown their not only capable, but capable of beating a premium closer like Jonathan Papelbon. Whether they need someone to come up with the big base-clearing hit like Brandon Crawford did Friday, or someone to lay down a successful bunt like Gregor Blanco did Saturday, this team is getting it done. It also doesn't that Buster Posey has been a mad man since the break too and is finally giving this team a consistent power threat in the middle of the order. Posey collected four hits in a game for the 4th time in his young career Saturday, including home run number 13.

I'm seeing more and more of the 2010 team in this years squad by the day.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trade Chatter and Deadline Obstacles

The Giants couldn't quite pull of the sweep of the Atlanta Braves Thursday afternoon, but they'll head to Philly with a firm 2.5 game lead on the Dodgers and are reportedly expanding their search for outside help.

Pablo Getting Looks at 1B
With the Trade Deadline inching closer and closer, the rumors have started to run rampant regarding the Giants and who they could target in the next 10 days. One of those players is said to be in Philadelphia, as numerous sources have them interested in third basemen Placido Polanco. I came to the realization this team needed another infielder when it was clear Freddy Sanchez wouldn't be returning, but I still don't see a terrific fit out there for this club. I'm sorry, but the aging, slow Polanco isn't what this team needs and I can't understand why Sabean would even pursue that target. Didn't he learn anything last year with the Orlando Cabrera deal? Plus, Polanco has been playing third base for Philly, and unless the Giants plan on moving Pablo permanently to first base, Polanco would be moved out of position. I wouldn't be opposed to moving Sandoval across the diamond for the "right" third basemen, but certainly not Placido Polanco. The right third basemen in my mind would be a guy like Hanley Ramirez (who is also apparently on the trading block), someone who will be around for a few years and is right in his prime, but the Giants don't have the minor league depth to pull off those deals every summer.

Another Marlin's name that was mentioned in the Andrew Baggarly chat yesterday is a guy I hadn't thought about much is Miami's 2nd basemen, Omar Infante. The 30 year-old infielder has the versatility to play 3rd, short and 2nd and is a plus-hitter. He could free up Ryan Theriot to be more of a utility guy and contribute at shortstop as well. Infante is hitting .281 with 8 home runs and 33 RBI and swings from the right-side which is
Infante: A Realistic Target?
something the Giants desperately need, good right-handed bats. The best part, is he's not a headline player and likely wouldn't cost an arm and a leg to get. The Marlins are clearly open to dealing him too, but the latest news out of Miami has the Marlins attempting to package Infante together with Josh Johnson and deal them to the American League. This is a really tough year for teams looking to add pieces. Too many clubs still feel they're in contention and the ones that aren't are well aware of their situation and the plethora of buyers heading into the deadline. I just don't see the Giants having enough ammo to pull off a big deal for offense, which is why I still think if they add a piece or two, it'll be to the bullpen. They're still trying to assess their own system and figure out just who they feel is expendable, and again, after the moves last season, I have a hard time seeing another blockbuster getting done this July.

Perhaps the most sensible and attainable target I've heard linked to the team the last few days has been Royals closer Jonathan Broxton. It's clear the Royals will deal him at some point, they have Joakim Soria returning next season, but the Royals could be detoured away from the Giants after their luck with the Cabrera/Sanchez deal. I'm not holding out hope for a big bat like I was last summer, even though they could sure use one. However, a closer-type, especially with the inconsistencies Casilla has run into, makes a whole lot of sense.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Break Out the Bats!

In what could very well be a preview of an upcoming playoff matchup in Atlanta, the Giants got off to a perfect start. They backed Barry Zito's excellent performance with a hit parade, scoring 9 runs by the fifth and knocking Jair Jurggens out before he could exit the fourth.

Posey Leads SF with 52 RBI
Buster Posey again was the offensive catalyst Tuesday, going 3-5 with 2 doubles and 5 RBI. The Giants' catcher has been on a tear since the Giants came out of the break, single-handily carrying the offense in their sweep over the Astros over the weekend, and has carried that right into the Atlanta series. The difference between last weekends games and Tuesday night's affair was that he wasn't the only one doing the damage. He did drive in half the teams runs but was only able to do so because the top part of the order got their job done. The top of the order has been a bit of an issue lately, but they showed what will happen when they get on for the middle part of the order. They didn't even get anything out of Pablo Sandoval Tuesday and they were still able to run up the score and put the game away early. I've said numerous times here that the under-the-radar key to this lineup is Gregor Blanco, and he showed why Tuesday. It just seems like every time he has it going, this offense flows so much better. He was thriving in June and that's when they were playing their best ball and hopefully this is just a sign of things to come for speedy outfielder.

The Giants offense decided this game before it was even halfway through, but the start Barry Zito provided
Zito Improves to 8-6
cannot be overlooked. The reason why this team swept Houston and are back on top in this division has been because their starters have been ridiculously efficient since the All-Star break. And as good as those three starts were in San Francisco by MadBum, Cain and Timmy, Zito's was equal to or better than all of those. He allowed just 3 hits over 7 shutout innings and even chipped into the offensive effort with a hit and an RBI. The thing that I was curious to see was how he threw once Hector Sanchez left the game with the knee injury, cause that's been a topic of discussion around the Giants lately. Bruce Bochy has been a big advocate of the pitcher/catcher matchup game playing lately and now he looks set on using Sanchez for 2 of the 5 arms in the rotation. Buster Posey showed a little frustration in an interview before the series saying "he can catch anybody" when the topic was brought up. Hopefully this doesn't become an issue going forward. I don't have a problem with Sanchez being out there if he's playing better than Belt and pitchers are comfortable with him, but you can't alienate your best young player.

Note: The verdict on the Melky Cabrera/Jonathan Sanchez trade was in early, but it became official when the Royals DFA'd Sanchez earlier Tuesday and the Giants clearly won this deal. I still remember various people upset with the Sanchez trade back after it happened early in the winter, but we've seen Melky develop into the league leader in hits, an All-Star MVP and a guy who could be a mainstay in this lineup for years to come. I wish Sanchez all the best, he's not yet 30 and should land on somewhere else.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Giants Alone in First After Sweep

The Giants went limping into the All-Star break last week, but they've come out sprinting in the second half. After sweeping the Astros at AT&T this weekend, the Giants moved back into sole possession of first place in the NL West.

Lincecum Shut Down Houston
This team certainly looked like a rested bunch for this weekends set, especially in the starting pitching department. They got terrific starts out of all three starters in the series, including a 7-inning, 2-hit victory by Madison Bumgarner Friday night, and a strong start by Matt Cain in the finale Sunday. Oddly enough, the most dominant outing came from the guy that absolutely needed to start the second half off strong, but didn't even factor in the decision (Tim Lincecum). Granted, it was against the Astros, hardly the most imposing lineup in the NL, Lincecum looked like a completely different pitcher than the guy who was knocked out in the 4th inning in Washington during his last start. The one big difference was his command of his fastball. When he's controlling that pitch, it makes all his other pitches so tough to handle, and he had uncanny control of it Saturday night. It wasn't overpowering, sitting in the low 90's, but it didn't have to be. He struck out 11 batters over 8 innings, and was focused all the way through that last out in the 8th. I've never seen a pitcher run down a passed ball third strike and gun the runner down like he did. That was reminiscent of an '09 Lincecum outing and was a real treat to watch. He didn't get the win, but the team did, and it was probably his best start of the season so he'll take it!

They picked a good weekend to be on their A-game too, because the starting pitchers didn't receive a ton of help from the offense. Buster Posey had the big 2-run shot Friday night as well as a 3-hit game Sunday, and
Posey Leads Team in HR's
Hector Sanchez made up for his defensive lapses with a 4-hit night Saturday. Other than that, it was an uneventful weekend with the bats. It goes to show you just how this pitching staff can carry this team when everyone's clicking. Santiago Casilla had a bit of hiccup on Saturday night, which cost Lincecum a victory, but it was more dumb luck than it was a bad outing. The one thing I'll be looking forward to is what Bochy does behind the plate with Tim Lincecum's starts moving forward. I like how Boch rolled with Sanchez again on Saturday night with Timmy, and if he thinks this team is better off having Sanchez catch both Lincecum and Zito, I'm all for it. Why not go with what works until it doesn't? The only thing I'd like to see in that case is Buster Posey playing a lot more first base. He's by far this team's best bat from the right side, and I just don't want to see him on the bench just for matchup purposes. If he needs a day off, give it to him, but Bochy has to be smart and choose wisely the times to rest him.

Next Up: The Giants get the day off Monday before embarking on their next road trip starting off in Atlanta. Luckily they'll will be leaving San Francisco as the sole possessors of first place in the NL West, but only by a game over LA. The Dodgers are scuffling though, and this is another good chance for the Giants to create some space before Kemp and Eithier get back into rhythm.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keys to the Second Half

The second half of the baseball season kicks off Friday night, with the Giants hosting the Houston Astros for three at AT&T Park. With the Giants still a game out in the West, and the Dodgers still missing their top hitters, first place is easily reachable, but they need some things to change.

Lincecum Key to 2nd Half
First and foremost, obviously, they're going to need Timmy to be solid if nothing else in this second half. I'm not expecting Lincecum to all the sudden find his groove and become the ace of this staff again overnight, but he's got to start stringing some quality starts together. Not only does he need to get off to a good start for his own sake, but I've said all along that this team isn't a serious playoff threat with Lincecum throwing the way he has been. The Giants are losing every game the guy pitches and it's got to start taking a toll on the everyday players too. It's a shame this is happening to Tim this year too, because all the other Giants starters have been brilliant up to now. Both Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain are in the hunt for 20-win seasons, and Ryan Vogelsong again has one of the lowest ERA's in baseball. Even Barry Zito has had his moments in the first half, and completed what many believe to be his best three months as a San Francisco Giants. As good as the starters were in the first though, they'll have to be even better down the stretch if they're not getting anything from "The Franchise". The starting pitching is the most important element of this team, and they just aren't right when #55 isn't clicking.

Another area on this team that will be under a microscope between now and July 31st is the bullpen. After they lost Brian Wilson in April, I thought this bullpen would take a major hit, but surprisingly, they pulled
Romo: 0.72 ERA
together and pitched very well for the most part. Santiago Casilla hit a wall there at the end of the first half, blowing 3 of 4 save chances, and was ousted (at least temporarily) from closing duties. The bullpen is an area I definitely expect to see some movement at in the next couple of weeks. Brian Sabean has been diligently searching for relief help, and it's just a matter of time before something goes through. One of the reasons I believe the starting pitching is so key over this second half is because I just don't see the Giants being able to add another legit starting pitcher as easily as a reliever. They should be able to find a bullpen arm or two that can help them in the second half relatively easily compared to other positions. The big thing they need to figure out is who their closer will be. I think it's time for Romo to shine, he's the best reliever on the roster and should be the one closing out ballgames. Casilla has done a fine job, and could be used there again, but I'd swap his and Romo's roles and see how things go.

Surprisingly, I'm not too worried about the Giants offense right now. Pablo Sandoval (who was cleared on his charges in Santa Cruz Thursday) looks primed for a big 2nd half, and I'm hoping Gregor Blanco can turn back into the player he was in May and June. We kind of all kind of know what to expect from Melky, Buster, Pablo and Pagan, but it's going to have to be the other 4 guys that show some consistency. If Belt hits like he can, Blanco gets back to the basics and Theriot keeps that average up, they'll be alright. If those guys start off slowly after the break, then it's going to put Sabean in a very tough position. I know he'd rather not make a big deal for a hitter like he had to last summer if he can help it. I'm sure they'd like another right-handed power bat, but not necessarily a full-timer. However, if Blanco's average continues to plummet, and Belt goes back into one of his funks, Sabes could be left without a choice.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Melky Takes All-Star Game MVP

If your a Giants fan, you had to love how things turned out in Kansas City Tuesday, with the Giants four starters stealing the show from right out of the gate.

Melky Gets MVP Trophy
First off, for all the New York Met fans that were very bitter over the fact that Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval beat out R.A. Dickey and David Wright to start the game; time to start singing a different tune after the way those two played. In fact, all the Giants' All-Stars proved their worth and were instrumental in helping the NL beat the AL for home field advantage in the Fall Classic. Melky Cabrera got the NL going in the top of the first inning with a bloop hit to left field, a knock we've seen regularly from the all-star right fielder. That really opened things up for the National League, as they started roping Justin Verlander. The biggest blow though didn't come until Pablo Sandoval stepped up and cleared the bases with a 3-run triple that scored starting catcher, Buster Posey. The NL had a 5-0 lead before the AL even stepped up to the plate, and Matt Cain did what he does so well, and shut down the AL in the first and second innings. Cabrera wasn't done though, and connected for a 2-run jack off Matt Harrison in his old stomping grounds which had to feel good. Melky wound up with a 2-3 night, 1 HR, 2 runs and 2 RBI and showed the baseball world that it's no accident he's leading the league in hits.

The "Melk Man", as they've come to call him in the Bay Area, was presented with the MVP trophy just minutes after the NL finished off the 8-0 romp on the junior circuit, and that capped off a terrific day for the Orange in Black. Not only did all the Giants' starters impact the outcome, but the two players Met fans where bickering about both delivered big. I said immediately after Sandoval was voted in as the starting 3rd basemen that David Wright was the more deserving player. However, there have been so many times when a New York or Boston player who's built a rep off his name alone gets voted into the game and deserving
Pablo's 3-Run Triple
players from lesser markets are left off. The way I see it, Pablo got this start for how well he's played when he's been out on the field the last 2 seasons. I know he's gotten hurt each year and missed a significant chunk of time, but if he were healthy all year, I have no doubt he'd be out-producing Wright. Not saying Wright didn't deserve to start, but Pablo made it this year, and he showed you exactly why once he stepped up to bat in the first inning. Now with Cainer, that was a decision by LaRussa, to match Cain up with Posey, and it too worked terrifically. Sure, R.A. Dickey's had a great first half, but LaRussa was managing to win and nothing else. He made the right move.

The All-Star break is barely 2 days in, and I'm already primed for the 2nd half. We'll glance back at the Giants' first half, and give some keys to the second here on Thursday.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Giants Fade Into All-Star Break

The first half of the baseball season officially ended Sunday, and the Giants finished just about as badly as they could. They lost 5 of their last 6 games and have seen their pitching come unraveled a bit here in July.

Lincecum Running Out of Rope
After a rough three game set in Washington, I knew the Giants were heading into Pittsburgh needing a series win for morale, but they didn't fair much better vs. the Pirates than they did in Washington. They did manage to squeak out a victory in the series opener with a nice offensive output, but their offensive output Friday night was about the only positive thing to come out of this series. Tim Lincecum took the mound in the rubber match Sunday after a solid outing from Ryan Vogelsong in Saturday's loss, but Lincecum was again atrocious. If there's one Giant who needs these next 4 days off more than anyone, it's number 55. I've said since the day Lincecum started struggling that they Giants would need him to turn it around if they had serious playoff aspirations, and it's going to be time for Timmy to face the music once the 2nd half kicks off. What's making his hopeful turnaround even more prudent is the fact that Barry Zito has started to skid a little bit as well. When Zito was pitching consistently in the first part of the season, it made Lincecum's bad starts a little easier to swallow, but they don't have the offense to survive two horrific starting pitching lines per week. Again, the All-Star break couldn't have come at a better time for this club.

Romo Should Close
Now, as they prepare to open the 2nd half, the pressure moves into the Giants front office. They have about 3 weeks to decide whether they want to shake things up with a big move like they did last season with Beltran. I don't think Sabean wanted to make another splash move like Beltran was, especially since it didn't work out so well the last time. However, after watching this team flop in July, Brian Sabean may be re-thinking the team's needs. One thing I was glad to see in Friday's game, and a big reason why they won it,is because Bochy finally gave in and used Sergio Romo in the 9th inning. Romo has been this team's most consistent reliever for 2 seasons now, and if they aren't going to add a closer via trade, I would certainly like to see Romo given the opportunity. I'd swap his and Casilla's role and let Casilla be the 8th inning right-handed specialist, but no matter what they figure out, the Giants will make a move for another reliever or two. They're always the easiest position to come by at the trade deadline and normally don't require parting with top prospects. Still, they need to figure out what they're after and what they need the most. Are they going to stick with Romo in the closers role? If so, they should be looking at set-up guys. Brad Penny has been excellent in his few outings in relief, and he's a guy I'd also expect to take on a bigger role in the second half.

The Giants are just lucky the Dodgers have been having much of the same luck, and they'll only enter the break just a game back of first place. They're going to have to use these next few days wisely though. Let any player who's not at the all-star game take the week off. They don't play again until Friday and if I were Bochy, I'd tell them not to report back until Thursday night. There's still plenty of baseball to go, but the Giants have already had multiple chances at taking control of the West this season and they just aren't doing it. Time to mix things up!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Giants Go Winless in Washington

In a series that many baseball people were calling a potential NLCS Preview, the Giants certainly didn't look the part in their matchup with the East-leading Washington Nationals.

Even Cain couldn't beat the Nats
The Giants were blown out in the first two games of the series, then had a late 5-1 lead in Thursday's finale that they coughed up. The pitching in Washington was just brutal all series, outside of Matt Cain's first 6 innings on Thursday. Tim Lincecum started things off in Tuesday's rainy mess by taking a huge step backward after a couple consecutive promising starts, and that really set the tone for the series. The Giants looked lost at the plate and especially out on the mound. The starters, Lincecum and Bumgarner really were responisble for letting Washington get out to huge leads early on in Tuesday and Wednesday's game, but Matt Cain did a pretty good job of giving the bullpen some rest and giving the team a quality outing Thursday, only to see it wasted by the bullpen. Jeremy Affeldt got knocked around in relief of Cain, but Sergio Romo managed to come in and have a quiet 8th to get the Giants to the ninth with the lead. Santiago Casilla wasn't as lucky, giving up 2 runs in the bottom of the ninth and coughing up save number 4 on the year, and watching his ERA climb up to 2.84 and WHIP to 1.33. Those numbers don't sound that bad, but when you look at how Casilla's fallen off the last few weeks from where he was in April/May, you get the feeling the Giants may be looking to make a move there.

With the All-Star break coming up Monday, this isn't exactly how the Giants wanted the sun to set on their first half, especially after their surge in late June, and now they get another first place team as they travel to Pittsburgh for the weekend set. These bad outings in Washington could push Brian Sabean into 2nd gear in his search for upgrades to the bullpen, which was physically taxed in this series. Not only that, but the pen is
Blanco's average falls to .253
starting to get stretched a little thin and it seems like every reliever's performance has suffered lately (besides the amazing Romo). Also, with the trade Deadline coming up a few weeks after the All-Star game, the time for the Giants to act, if they're going to make a move, is approaching quickly. I haven't heard too many promising bullpen arms linked to SF yet, but I'd imagine Sabean will be looking for late relievers, possibly even a closer. Andrew Baggarly reported yesterday that the Giants could inquire about Shane Victorino, but I don't think this team needs another light hitting switch-hitter. If they're going to add a bat, it should be one they need, and not another leadoff type hitter. Granted, Gregor Blanco has struggled lately, but they still have a few guys they could leadoff if it comes down to it (Pagan would be my first choice).

In some roster news, the Giants officially announced that Freddie Sanchez would be undergoing surgery on his back which will end any chance of him returning in 2012. It looks like his career in SF may be finished as he's a free agent after the season. With that now becoming official, I'm curious to see if the Giants don't try and upgrade 2nd base too. Not that Ryan Theriot has been bad, but I just don't see him holding up through the rest of the year. Also, down south, the Dodgers got some more bad news on the injury front as bright young shortstop Dee Gordon has joined Matt Kemp and Andre Eithier on the DL. The Dodgers have had some rough luck on the injury front early, yet the Giants are again looking up at them in first place. The break can't come quick enough for the Giants right now!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, July 02, 2012

Giants Sending Four to All-Star Game

It's been a while since the Giants had three starters in an All-Star game, but that's exactly what they'll have next week at the annual mid-summer classic in Kansas City.

Posey Led NL in Votes
Pablo Sandoval was voted in as the starting 3rd basemen, Buster Posey as the starting catcher and Melky Cabrera as a starting outfielder. Those names really shouldn't surprise anyone, as they were at the top of the voting at their respective positions for a while now, but the one that does kind of surprise me is Pablo Sandoval. He's been solid when he's been out there, but to miss a month in the first half and still get voted in takes some help on the fans behalf. Melky was leading the league in hitting for a good portion of the first half and certainly deserved the nod, so it was good to see the fans show up late and help get him in. Buster has been the leading catcher for the NL since balloting opened up (finishing with an NL-high 7.6M votes) so he'll be attending his first career All-Star game as a starter. The big surprise to me though, was that Tony LaRussa didn't pick any other Giants pitchers to join Matt Cain. Matty became very much a potential starter for the NL after his perfect game last month, but I'd say both Bumgarner and Vogelsong were deserving as well as Sergio Romo and possibly even Santiago Casilla.

The All-Star selections really capped off what was a positive week for the Giants as an organization. They overtook the Dodgers for the NL West lead, they finished the week off strongly vs. the Reds after a couple bad losses on Friday and Saturday and will head into a series some people are calling the NL Championship
Gustavo Cabrera
preview between them and the Washington Nationals. The team also made some personnel moves that will bring more depth and talent to their lower minor league ranks. Although the Giants haven't yet confirmed either deal, it's been reported that they've inked two top-20 international prospects, including #1-ranked Gustavo Cabrera. I heard a little bit about Cabrera after he won the RBI World Series MVP in 2011, and the 16 year-old outfielder looks legit. Scouts have drawn comparisons between he and Justin Upton and believe he'll be an impact player at the big league level by his early 20's. At 16 years old, he'll have plenty of time to figure out baseball in the states. The Giants also got themselves the #11-ranked Nathanael Javier, a 16 year-old third basemen who's said to not only posses skills but uncanny baseball smarts for a kid his age. Two big signings for a team thin on impact youngsters in their minor league system.
The Giants Baseball Blog