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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Strong Pitching, Clutch Hitting Beats Padres

After tough loss Friday night in which the Giants youngster Eric Hacker pitched well but not quite as good as Padres youngster Corey Luebke, the Giants tightened up and beat the Padres Saturday and Sunday to take the weekend series from San Diego.

Timmy Beats SD
It really was all about starting pitching and timely hitting for the Giants, as they didn't go crazy on offense, but did just enough in each of their wins to support excellent starting performances by Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner. Lincecum's gem was especially re-assuring, as it was by far the right-handers most dominant outing of the young season (8 IP, O ER, 4 Hits, 5 K's) to improve to 2-2 and drop his ERA down to 5.74, which is good considering he went into that start with a 8-something ERA. He's know won his last 2 starts and is starting to look much better. He's still not hitting his location as often as he's used to, as I think he was a bit out of whack with his mechanics but is now getting a more steady rhythm and release point out there on the mound. Madison Bumgarner didn't quite match Timmy's start Sunday, but came about as close to it as possible, going 7 2/3 strong, allowing 1 run on 6 hits with 6 K's. The lefty improved to 4-1 on the young season, leading the Giants staff in wins and dropped his ERA to a staff-low 2.54. In the month of April, there wasn't a better starter for the Giants than Bumgarner, as he'll likely get some consideration for NL pitcher of the month after wrapping it up with a bow Sunday afternoon. It hasn't just been the starters either, Santiago Casilla has done everything in his power to eliminate any discussion of the Giants needing a new arm for that 9th inning. Casilla had his 4th save in 4 chances Sunday, after shutting down the Padres for his 2nd save Saturday night, saving Lincecum's win. It's not just the fact he's closing the games out successfully, but it's the manner in which he's doing it, dominating with high-90's fastball and a huge uncle charlie. He's got two dominant strikeout pitches with that heater and 12-6 hook, which is why I think Boch felt so confident in declaring him closer after Wilson went down. I still think they may need to deal for another bullpen arm at some point during the season, as their pen has been a little suspect and may be looking for an upgrade over the Steve Edelfsen/Dan Otero combo.


The Giants offense, which started out the year with like 7 or 8 straight games scoring over 5 runs, have slown down a bit as a unit, but as I mentioned earlier, they did enough this weekend to win the series, and seem to be figuring out which players to play and when to play them. I've talked a lot lately about Angel Pagan's huge improvement over the last 10 days, and he continued his ascendancy this weekend going 4-13 with another home run, an RBI and 2 runs scored and improving his hit-streak to 14 games. His average, which was in the .100's last time the Giants were at home, is now up to a much more respectable .250, and he continues to hit with surprising power. 10 of his 22 hits this season have been for extra-bases, including 3 triples. Along with Pagan, both Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval continue to rake as well. Posey and Pablo each hit their 4th home runs of the season in this series, and Posey managed to keep his average over .350 for the whole month of April. What a great comeback story he's
Buster Posey April's MVP?
been, and he's easily on track to win comeback player of the year, and maybe more than that. I really like how Boch is starting to use him more over at first base, which should keep his bat in the lineup more often and give him a lighter load on his legs, not needing to catch every game he plays. The player that's made that possible has been young Hector Sanchez. The 22 year-old missed some opportunities in Sunday's game, though the Giants were able to overcome them, but he went into play Sunday with a .313 average, 1 HR and 7 RBI in just 32 at-bats. The more PT he gets, the more he continues to produce, and if he can keep hitting .280+ with pop and clutch hits, I don't see any reason not to play Posey over at first vs. every left-handed pitcher with Brett Pill moving out to left. I hate to say it cause I really like him, but it's almost like the DL'ing of Aubrey Huff has cleared up a clogged situation at first base/left field. Now, Boch has worked a pretty good routine of playing Belt and Schierholtz vs. righties, and then giving way to Sanchez and Pill vs. lefties, and it's served them well so far in Huff's absence.

With Sunday's win, the Giants moved to season high 2-games over .500 at 12-10 as they finish April, and get a day off to enjoy at home before playing host to the new Miami Marlins for the first time ever. The Marlins, a team a lot of people, including yours truly, had high expectations for coming into the season have had a rough April and will be as pleased as any team to see that calendar turn to May. Hopefully the Giants can keep them in April mode for a few more games though, as that team just cannot win right now. They're showing you exactly what it's like to play with a closer who's not getting anyone out. Heath Bell's been one of the best relievers in the game in recent years but has been horrible in 2012. So, with the losing of Brian Wilson early, still playing without Freddy Sanchez, and the Giants starting pitching (sans Bumgarner and even Zito) having a roller-coaster month, entering May at 12-10 isn't the worst situation in the world.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pagan Heating Up, Hacker to Start Friday

Well, in what will go down as quite a bizarre road trip in which the team saw it's first basemen leave the team in the middle of, just before they played a double-header, had a nice ending to it Thursday, as the Giants beat the Reds to avoid being swept and return home at 10-9.

Pagan Had 3 HR's on Trip
One guy who really has caught fire on this road-trip has been Angel Pagan. The Giants leadoff hitter was so slow out of the gate this year, that there was prompt talk about him possibly being moved from the leadoff spot, or out of the lineup all together in favor of Gregor Blanco, but he's put that non-sense to rest on this roadie. He hit 3 home runs, the third of which won the Giants the game in Cinci Thursday to avoid the 3-game sweep, a clutch, towering 3-run shot in the top of the 9th inning with the Giants down 2. Pagan entered this road-trip hitting down around .200 with 0 home runs and 2 RBI, but returns home with his average up to .241, and climbing, with 3 bombs and 7 RBI. That's a nice 7-game road trip right there, and he's showing something that the Giants haven't really had at the top of their lineup in long while, and that's true power. Andres Torres had a surprise 16-home run season in 2010 hitting in the leadoff spot, but came back to earth in 2011, and Pagan's bigger and stronger than Andres, and has the ability to hit 20 jacks, which Torres doesn't. The only place I'd like to see Pagan improve upon in this next home stand is getting that OBP up where it should be. He's still not getting on base like your normal leadoff hitter does, with an OBP of .269, but like his average and power numbers, everything seems to be on the up for the 31 year-old center fielder. I also have to say, the trade Sabes made to get Pagan was a steal looking back on it now. I mean, Torres as much as I like him, looks shot as he's on the DL again, and Ramirez has been ordinary in the Mets bullpen. Pagan seems to just be hitting his stride and looks like he can be a difference maker at the leadoff spot. This offense as a whole has come a long way since 2011 though. A 6-4 deficit late in a game last year was a guaranteed loss, now, the Giants have shown the ability to climb back in games and that's a sign of a winning ball club.

In other notes from Thursday, the Giants posted on their website that Bruce Bochy explained to the team Aubrey Huff's situation, and that he expects the first basemen back with the club in San Francisco this weekend. However, I saw some of the comments players made about the situation and it continues to sound fishy to me. Zito said Wednesday that Huff was the last guy you'd think would have anxiety problems, as he's always the guy keeping the players loose in the clubhouse and seems to always keep an even manner, even if he's struggling. I mean, we saw that on "The Franchise" last year, as the camera's followed him around, he
Erick Hacker: 4-0, 2.16 ERA in AAA
was as loose as any .230 hitting, underachieving first basemen I've ever seen. Anyway, unless something else comes of this or it becomes more serious, this is the last we'll discuss of the Aubrey Huff saga here at GBB. Hopefully the guy can get his head right and is back by early May and contributing like he can. If he doesn't come back strong though, that could spell the end of his Giants tenure... Also, the Giants, due to the double-header played Monday and no off-day since, have been left scrambling for a starting pitcher for Friday night's game at AT&T Park. Apparently, Eric Hacker is the first in line as his agent tweeted that Hacker's contract would be purchased by the Giants Thursday night or Friday morning. Hacker's an interesting choice here as he won 16 games for Fresno in 2010, then got signed by the Twins last season, only to return to the Giants this year, and he's been brilliant (4-0 with a 2.06 ERA, 16 K's and a 1.1 WHIP in 24 innings). The question then is, who's place does he take on the 25-man roster if he indeed is called up. Do the Giants turn and send Joaquin Arias back down after the way he's player up here? Doubt that, though they could just do a 24-hour move, where they call-up Hacker to pitch the one game, then re-call Arias the next day, never even sending him away from the team. That would be my best guess as to what happens, especially after the way the Giants bullpen's been taxed this week.

And of course, it seems like we can't go a day without talking about the "Freddy Sanchez Watch", which took another bad turn Thursday as Sanchez reported more stiffness in his throwing shoulder after just a few games DH'ing only in San Jose. I'm telling you, I hope like heck I'm wrong, but this just doesn't look good for Sanchez's prospects for 2012 right now. I mean, even if he does get healthy which is a big "if" right now, who knows how long he'd stay that way before popping that shoulder out of socket again? Sanchez has been a rock at the plate for the Giants since he got here, but he's spent about as much time on the DL as on the field, and it might be time the Giants start planning to be without Sanchez for the year, just in case... In some good news though, the Giants interim-closer had about as dominant outing as one will see to close out Thursday's game. Casilla struck out the side, including 2010 MVP Joey Votto, and looked almost like a young Mariano Rivera in doing so. I'm still not sure how I feel about Casilla being the closer for the rest of the year, but he sure gained my confidence with Thursday's outing.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's Up with Aubrey Huff?

Aubrey Huff's struggles last season have carried over into 2012, and on Monday morning apparently, he sent Bruce Bochy a text message saying he had urgent matters to attend to in Florida, and had to leave the team.

Huff Goes on Bereavement
It took until Wednesday for the Giants to put Huff on the Bereavement List, which will give him a week to figure out his personal matters and return to the team, otherwise he'd have to go on the DL. The Giants, playing shorthanded over the last couple of games, and that big double-header Monday, have purchased the contract of Joaquin Arias, who was on fire in Fresno (.330, 2 HR, 17 RBI) and had a terrific Spring Training for the club. He'll take Huff's spot on the 25-man roster until Huff's situation is resolved, but the Giants have been hush-hush on that front and it only makes you wonder what the heck is going on. Normally, bereavement leave is reserved for players who need to leave their team to attend to family matters such as a family death, birth or illness, however, if that's the case, there's been no public knowledge of it yet. I've been so busy the last 2 days that I noticed Huff wasn't in the lineup, but I wasn't even aware that he had left the team until Wednesday morning when they did announce he would go on bereavement. Huff's started the year with a .188 average and just 1 homer and 5 RBI through April 21st, the last game he appeared in. It's caused some speculation that Huff may have gotten so frustrated with his performance, and felt like he had to get away from the team. I'm not sure I understand that concept, but it's been bantered about on radio waves and sports sites here in the Bay Area. Hopefully, for Huff's sake, everything with his family is fine. That to me is first and foremost. If he really does have a family issue to take care of, I'm glad he's got his priorities in line. Boch cleared it up a little Wednesday saying Huff has "a legitimate excuse" so hopefully he's back and clear-minded this time next week.


Pill Needs More AB's
Whatever it is that's caused Huff to bolt from his teammates with just a text-message as notice, it's opened up first base, for the short-term at least, for Brett Pill and Brandon Belt to possibly claim as their own. I mean, if Belt goes on a tear this next week and hits .400 with 3 homers and drives in 10 runs, would Boch really just give Huff the job back upon his return? Or if Pill continues to hit .350+ with pop and consistency, is Boch really going to take the bat out of his hands. And there's even a third party that should see an increase in PT if Huff's absence becomes something that carries on longer than expected, impressive rookie catcher Hector Sanchez. The 22 year-old has done nothing but rake in his limited ab's this season, and it's time he start getting a little more regular at-bats. If that means moving Buster out to first base, then I'm all for it. Right now, especially vs. lefties, I think Buster and Sanchez have to be in the lineup together with more regularity. As much as I like Belt's abilities and potential, Sanchez is hitting now and hitting with authority. Not only authority, but Sanchez has come up with some big hits early on, and shown he's got ice water in those veins in clutch situations. That's a sign a true winning ballplayer, a guy who comes up with the big hit that wins the game or puts your team ahead, and Sanchez has done that on more than one occasion this year, and that's impressive considering he's got a homer, 7 RBI and is hitting a hard .280 in just 7 games. And finally, this will really open the door for Schierholtz (3 HR, 9 RBI, 1.053 OPS), who along with Sandoval, have been the team's best hitters over the last 2 weeks.

Huff To DL: The Giants have just announced, before Wednesday's game with Cincinnati, that Aubrey Huff will be moved to the 15-day DL, retroactive of April 21st, with anxiety issues. It's rare you see a guy get DL'd because of anxiety, that's like a Rick Ankiel thing from back when he was a pitcher, and it's going to be a tough thing for Huff to battle back from, especially if he continues to lose ground to Belt, Pill and Sanchez. If those guys keep hitting, it could force Huff out of the picture for good, reminiscent of what happened with Rowand and Burrell last season. At least, on a positive note, Freddy Sanchez has started his rehab assignment off well, despite being held to DH duties. He's 3 for 7 with 3 RBI in two games with San Jose. He's still at least 2 weeks away, as he's still not throwing with 100% confidence, but the fact he's out there playing is a great sign. It's been so long since Sanchez has contributed to this team, it'll be like they traded for a .300 hitting second basemen when he does return in a few weeks, granted it's a successful one.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, April 23, 2012

Giants Sweep Double-Header, Take 3 of 4 in NY

After a couple of nail-biters to start the series on Friday and Saturday, the Giants and Mets paused for mother nature Sunday due to rain, only to play two Monday, and it couldn't have worked out better for San Francisco.

Lincecum gets first win
Tim Lincecum pitched game one, and although he was once again off with his command and, as Dave Flemming was saying, "all over the place" but he managed to minimize the damage he allowed, and the Giants gave him a nice cushy lead to work off of early on and it was easy sailing from there. The reason they got off to the cushy lead was thanks to a Pablo Sandoval RBI single, followed by a Buster Posey blast, that put the Giants up 2-0 before the Mets even went to bat. They tacked on in the third and fourth, as Nate Schierholtz, who continues to look like a man possessed, hit a line-shot, three-run home run to right field to really open up the game for the Giants. Then Brandon Crawford had an RBI double the following inning for the teams 6th and final run, and the pitching did the rest. Again, Timmy wasn't lights out, but he did strikeout 8 batters in those 5 innings, despite walking 5. That's what kept him from pitching past the fifth inning, and he's been pitching out of the stretch a ton in these first few starts of his. The good news though, is that he did turn it on when he had to, gave the Giants 5 solid frames, and the Giants bullpen followed up with 4 shutout innings of their own. Guillermo Mota and Jeremy Affeldt each went over an inning, and rookie Dan Otero shut the door in the 9th in the non-save situation.


And just as quickly as the first game ended, the second game has gotten underway, and the Giants wasted little time again, jumping on the board early with a 3-0 lead after 3 with Madison Bumgarner on the hill and dealing. Pablo Sandoval started the Giants off in this one with a big two-run homer to right in the first. Also, Nate Schierholtz tripled then scored on rookie Hector Sanchez's deep drive which he almost squared up and got out of Citi Field. Nate also knocked out a hit in his 2nd ab, driving his average up to a team-high .375. Gregor Blanco also shined in game two, going 2-3 with a 2-RBI double that put the Giants up 5-0 and
Sanchez, Pablo each  homer
they never really looked back. Two guys that weren't really playing in the first week, Nate and Gregor, have started getting more time, and they've produced. Speaking of producing, Manny Burris is even hitting the ball with as much authority now as I've seen him do at the major league level right now. Not much HR power, but he's hitting line drives and finding holes, which with his speed, is all he has to do, put the bat on the ball and get on base. Also, Brett Pill got a rare start in game two, and has responded with a 2-3 start, raising his average up to .353. He hasn't had near the at-bats Schierholtz has had, so it's not as impressive, but nonetheless, we're seeing what life without Huff would be like and I'm liking it. Not to mention, the forgotten man, Hector Sanchez. I knew there was something special about the kid after watching him in San Jose last season, and the ball is jumping off his bat like it was last spring, right now. I just felt a big fly was coming when he came to the plate in the 7th, just because of the way he's been swinging. I wouldn't be surprised to see more of Sanchez behind the plate and Posey over at first, especially as the Giants pitchers grow more accustomed to throwing to slugging backstop.

The Giants didn't just get good news on the diamond Monday either, as they announced that Freddy Sanchez will begin what they expect to be a 2-3 week rehabilitation, starting down in San Jose this week. The Giants lineup has been without their 2nd place hitter since June of last year and they've sorely missed him. Manny Burris has played well in his absence lately, but the Giants are likely counting the days until they get their smart, .300 hitting 2nd-sacker back.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, April 20, 2012

Giants Hold on late in New York to beat Mets

Well, if you would have told me that the Giants would have gotten swept out of the gate in Arizona this season, lost their closer for the year with a torn elbow ligament, and are still playing without former all-star and batting champion, Freddy Sanchez, I'd expect something like a 4-9 start or something.

Zito has another strong start
Luckily for them, they've stayed strong as a team and thrived in the absence of their closer, as they got another decent outing from Barry Zito as he continues his attempt at a comeback season. Zito went 5.1 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 4 hits, though he did allow two long balls and walked 4 batters. He did a decent job though at getting himself out of trouble and kept the Giants in the game against the Mets top arm, Jonathan Niese. Say what you want about Santana, but fact is, he's nowhere near the arm that he was when he threw for Minnesota. I've actually watched Niese pitch a few different times this season already and he is the true ace of New York's staff, so another solid effort by the offense to be able to get to him early like they did. They did most their damage in the third inning, as Angel Pagan made his return to New York in fashion, going yard in the third to kick of the Giants scoring, followed by an RBI double from Buster Posey and a run scored on a wild pitch to give the Giants a 3 spot that they wouldn't give up until the 9th. Santiago Casilla's second save opportunity didn't go quite like his initial one, as he allowed a run on hit and a walk and failed to record an out in the 9th before giving way to Javier Lopez, then Sergio Romo. The Giants found out what it's like not to have a sure thing running out there in the 9th inning for the first time, and I'll say what I've been saying since the injury, I think they need to bring in a closer rather than rolling with Casilla/Lopez/Romo/Affeldt or whoever matches up well that particular night. They need a sure-fire 9th inning man, whether it's Heath Hembree or an arm from another team. I just think it's going to keep biting them in the rear, like it did Friday.

The Giants did manage to pull off the extra-inning win though, thanks to a big RBI single from young Hector Sanchez, as the kid continues to do good things with the bat. The rookie backstop had a 2-5 night with his 4th RBI of the season, raising his average to .300. Another thing I liked about this game is that we finally saw Buster over at first base, and I'd like to see more of Posey at first and Sanchez behind the plate if Sanchez keeps raking like he has. The Giants have only so many potential .300 hitters, and obviously, Sanchez is one of those guys, with plus power and is only 22 years-old. He's been a bit overshadowed by
Hector Sanchez's Game-Winner
Brandon Belt, as fans continue their outcry for more Belt, but I personally have been more impressed with what Sanchez has done on the young season than what Belt is doing at the plate right now. Just like last season, Belt had a scorching spring, but seems to have hit a wall here as soon as the team broke north. He's hitting below .100, and has basically played his way to the bottom of the bench. Huff and Pill look like they're going to get some looks here at first for a while as Nate Schierholtz has been hitting too well to remove from the lineup, especially vs. right-handed pitching. Belt's still a young kid, and has some time to develop and obviously has a bunch of tools, but he's not getting playing time, and when he is, he's not succeeding, which is basically stunting his growth. I think the Giants need to strongly consider sending him down to Fresno to work on things and get back to where he was towards the end of last season when he dominated AAA then finally started looking good at the big league level in September.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Giants Walk-Off with Series Win over Philly

After their ace got banged around yet again Monday night, the Giants responded extremely well vs. the reigning AL East champions, as they won their 3 game series vs. the Phills 2 games to one on a Melky Cabrera walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday night.

In a series that started out pretty badly Monday, then took a complete 180 Tuesday night, the Giants were able to put the finishing touches on another brilliant outing from Matt Cain. Unfortunately, the Giants bats didn't come up with any runs while Cain was out there, as Cliff Lee was on his game tonight as well, but Cain threw 9 scoreless, allowing just 2 hits and a few walks. That's 3 hits allowed over his last 18 innings pitched, and if he keeps that up, the Giants will be thanking their lucky stars they signed him before he had a chance to go free. I didn't get a chance to post about Tuesday's game, but that was another strong starting effort as Madison Bumgarner went out and dealt in his first outing since signing his nice new contract. He went 6 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with 2 K's improving his record to 2-1 on the young season, and we got our first glimpse of the Giants new bullpen arrangement. Well, not too much changed, as Bochy is sticking with Romo, as expected, in the eight inning, and will likely use Santiago Casilla for most save opportunities. He could also role with Jeremy Affeldt depending on match-ups or if Casilla needs rest after throwing 2-3 games in a row. The Giants bullpen followed up 3 scoreless innings Tuesday night in relief of Bumgarner with a crucial zero put up in the top of the 10th Wednesday despite allowing a runner to third with less than two out.

I know it's akward to say since they're missing their closer and their leader down there, but this Giants bullpen literally has not missed a beat. They say in baseball that it's rare to win with the same bullpen year in and year out, that you have to interchange pieces, but the Giants have had largely the same group since 2010, and they're still getting the job done as most of the arms down there are sporting 0.00 ERA's. One surprise has been Clay Hensley, who was called upon Wednesday in the 10th with that runner on third and ended up getting a tough hitter in Jon Mayberry. I know it's still early, but Hensley is starting to look like another one of those Sabean bargain busters, a guy making under $1M, but is outperforming his salary. Another positive sign to come out of Wednesday's game was that the forgotten man, Brandon Belt finally got up there and had success. He started the game winning rally in the 10th with a single to center and scored the game winning run on Melky Cabrera's base hit. They only managed the 1 Wednesday, after scoring 2 in game one and 4 in game two. The Giants offense is coming back down to earth a bit after scoring 5 or more runs in 9 of their first 11 games, but they're obviously improved over last year. The presence of Posey alone in the middle of the lineup, who had a 3 for 4 night with a stolen base (showing his legs are feeling great), has made all the difference in the world. Also, I've talked a lot about Melky Cabrera's early season success, but it also looks like Angel Pagan is slowly but surely working his way back to normalcy as well, as he's got his average up over .200 for the first time all year.

So, in a hectic week these last 7 days, the Giants have lost their closer for the year, but went on to play very well, winning 3 of 4 games since the news broke that Wilson would be down. I still think that at some point they're going to need to add another reliever to help late in ballgames. I know Casilla has done a good job, but I'm not sure if he's the guy for the next 6 months, especially for a team with not only playoff aspirations, but NLCS and World Series expectations. Again, they're doing a more than admirable job right now, and have gotten back to .500 at 6-6, but Casilla's going to really have to take this job by the reigns and leave no doubts that he's the man, as I'm still not quite convinced yet. We'll see though, good to have this problem in mid-April rather than Mid-August or something though, that's for sure. At least they have a little time to figure things out, find out what works and what doesn't, as they figure out how to fill Wilson's void long-term.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, April 16, 2012

Giants Give Bumgarner Five-Year Extension

On the heels of some really tough news over the weekend that they're star closer and one of their team leaders was out for all of 2012 after he undergoes Tommy John Surgery on that blown out right elbow, the Giants started the week off some good news, as they announced an extension with Madison Bumgarner that will keep the lefty in a Giants uni along with Matt Cain through 2017.

The deal is in the neighborhood of $35 million, so the 22 year-old lefty will stand to make an average of $7 million per season, starting next year, in a deal that should look very good in a couple of years as long as Madison keeps on the same path he's been on since 2010. For such a young arm, he's already so accomplished, dominating a World Series game, winning a ring and giving the Giants another horse in the rotation behind Cain and Lincecum. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of this signing, and am completely behind it. It also gives the Giants financial certainty with yet another one of their core players for the next couple of seasons, as they map out a plan on whether or not they extend Tim Lincecum long-term or even give Posey a deal to buy him out of his arbitration years like they did Sandoval. Unfortunately, one guy I think this deal doesn't bode to well for, is Brian Wilson, as he's due to become a free agent after the season, and after undergoing Tommy John, could miss a good chunk of 2013 season as well. There's also no telling as to what kind of pitcher Wilson will be assuming he does heal up in a year and a half. This will already be Tommy John Surgery number 2 for the 29 year-old, and it's rare you see a guy who relies on hard stuff like Wilson does, successfully comeback from two of these types of surgeries in a matter of 8-9 years.

So, as one key piece of this Giants pitching staff could be headed for career ending surgery, and may wear a Giants uniform again out there, another has been assured that he's headed absolutely nowhere for the next 5 years. It's a bittersweet ending to a tumultuous weekend, one in which the Giants continued to play well, except for Sunday, despite the news of losing their 9th inning ace. Also, it's still uncertain who exactly Bruce Bochy will go to when the Giants face their first save situation coming up here. He's mentioned guys from Mota, Affeldt to Cassilla and Romo. It's rare you see a closer-by-committee approach work for a team with playoff aspirations, but that's how Boch could play it until he feels comfortable with a certain guy. My choice would be for either Romo or Affeldt. They could slide Cassilla into Romo's 8th inning slot and keep that back-end strong. Then again, they could do what they did last year, and go with Cassilla, keeping Romo as their primary set-up. As I said though, I expect Boch to play match-ups, as he so often likes to do with his relievers, and if there's a situation where there's 3 lefties scheduled to hit in the bottom of the 9th when the Giants need to preserve a lead, he'll likely go with Javier Lopez or Affeldt. After thinking about it further though, I think the Giants need to go after another closer, or bring up Heath Hembree. I just think their bullpen really works as is, and throwing someone else into the 9th inning, out of their normal role, could have a ripple effect on the whole pen.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Brian Wilson Injury Mirrors Posey's Loss in 2011

Well, I won't quite categorize it as big of a loss as losing Buster last season was, but the news breaking Saturday that closer Brian Wilson has structural damage on his right elbow and is most likely headed under the knife for season-ending surgery.

Wilson first sustained the injury late last season, then really never recovered, as he was used sparingly in Spring Training, then in only a few games to start the year. His velocity had been down early on, and didn't quite look right in the games he did appear in. There's really nothing else the Giants are saying at this point other than there's structural damage to the right elbow and Wilson will be out indefinitely. He'll most likely hit the DL tonight, opening up the spot for Ryan Vogelsong to make his start tomorrow afternoon. They were carrying 8 relievers, so the swap of Wilson and Vogey won't require another reliever be called up as they'll be back at the normal seven that they typically carry. I can't help but think about last season's loss of Buster Posey when thinking about what Wilson's loss to this team will mean. The one upper-hand the Giants have with this one is that the Posey injury really decimated the Giants offense whereas at least the Giants are pretty deep in the bullpen, and showed last season that they could withstand short periods of getting by without their ace closer. Especially Santiago Cassilla, who may now move into that role again, though Sergio Romo, who's arguably the pen's most dominant arm now, could slide in there. However, once again, the Giants will be without a huge piece of their puzzle and a key to their expected playoff drive. There's really nothing else to say that doesn't just beat this issue into the ground, it's a rough loss early on and hopefully it doesn't hold the team back in any way. What makes this even tougher to swallow, is that Wilson is a free agent after the season and, I hope is not the case, may have played his last game in a Giants uniform. This really reminds me of Rob Nen's injury way back when, so hopefully he's back strong for 2013, wherever he's throwing.

Hopefully, the Giants use this injury like they used Posey's last year, as they really propelled after losing their catcher, and took control of the West for the better part of the first half of the season. Then we all know how the injury bug reared it's ugly head late last year, biting nearly every single important Giants' player at at least one point there. Now, not only does the rest of the bullpen have to step up as a whole, the Giants, as I said, need to figure out their long-term 9th inning situation or this season. Again, Cassilla could be the guy they turn to, though they also could use Sergio Romo, who's been ridiculously dominant the last couple of seasons. There's also flame-throwing youngster Heath Hembree (my first choice) lurking down in the minors, who's very close to being ML ready with 2 saves, no ERA and 4 K's in 3 games in Fresno thus far after a nice showing in Spring. Whether it's one of their own, or they go outside the organization for someone like a Francisco Rodriguez or Toronto's Fracisco Cordero, who just last year had 40 saves and a 2.45 ERA for the Reds. Those two would be the first two names I'd look at, in that order, as their proven closers with recent success each play for teams that have young closers already in that role. K-Rod, if healthy, has more effective stuff and is younger, but also more expensive than Cordero.
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Friday, April 13, 2012

Giants Back Cain's 1-hitter Win in Home Opener

The Giants have looked like a completely different team the last two days than the team that started the season 0-3. They've pitched terrifically, gotten timely hitting and have finally gotten those jitters out in the field and have tightened up on defense.

Friday's opener was really all about Matt Cain though, as the new 112 million dollar man showed you exactly why the Giants felt comfortable giving him that deal, throwing his 5th career complete game shutout, and yet another 1-hitter. I'm telling you, for all the 1-hitter's this guy's thrown, I'm surprised he hasn't thrown a no-no yet. He had everything going Friday, with his fastball running in in righties and away to lefties in the low 90's. His off-speed stuff was right on as well, as his slider and curve ball were each un-hittable at time and his new found friend, that change-up, has given a dominant pitcher another trick to play with out on the mound. There really isn't anything else to say other than Cain was the epitome of brilliance on Friday, and had it not been for opposing starter Jason McDonald's single, he would have gone down in Giants history as the only Giants starter to ever throw a no-no in the home opener. Regardless, it felt like a no-hitter, as Cain was backed with plenty of offense, including a Buster Posey (who making his first regular season start at AT&T since last May) RBI double off the top of the wall in center in the first inning that really set the tone for the game. That was followed by an RBI knock from Aubrey Huff, who had one of his better games of the young season, going 2-3 with 3 RBI and his first home run of the new year.

Again though, the offensive catalyst at the top of the order getting things going was Melky Cabrera, who's just gelled into that 2 spot before Panda and Posey terrifically. He had another 2-hit day Friday, scored another two runs and raised his early season average to .414 while also collecting his first stolen base of the season. It's also nice to see Huff and Schierholtz really getting it going. Especially Huff, who the Giants need to have that 20-25 HR bounce back season. His swing has looked much more compact and quick than it was last season and the ball was just jumping off his bat today. That first inning single was raked as well as the line drive 2-run shot. As for Nate, the one thing I've noticed differently about Nate this year is that he's wearing batting gloves. I'm pretty sure this season is the first time I've ever seen Nate play a game and bat with batting gloves, and it's yielded some pretty nice results to start the year. He got another couple of knocks Friday, as Bruce Bochy choose to roll with the Schierholtz over Belt, and if Nate keeps hitting like he has these last few games, and Huff's bat continues to look strong and quick as it did Friday, then the kid is going to have a tough time finding at-bats. The only other guy in this lineup outside of Belt that's had a slow go of it out of the gate has been Angel Pagan, and had another sub-par effort at the plate Friday. Bochy's made no bones about it that he'll give Pagan some time to try and iron things out, and to Pagan's credit, he's hit the ball hard a few times, just right at guys, then Boch will start rolling with Gregor Blanco in center and leadoff.

I would say Pagan will be safe through about April 20-25th, but if he's still hitting sub-.200 come plate April, Bochy will go a different route. It's an even further showing of just how solid Cabrera has been in that two-hole, as he's really been the guy to get things going and has this offense performing at a much better level than last years.
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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bumgarner Brings Giants Home With Series Win

Well, after opening up the season getting swept in Arizona, Giants fans were biting their nails a little bit hoping this team would come home with at least a victory under their belts. However, a lot that tension was eased Thursday as the Giants starting pitching, that had been suspect early on, got right back on track behind the left arm of 22 year-old Madison Bumgarner.

The lefty held the potent Rockies lineup down to just 1 run on 4 hits in 7 1/3 innings work, striking out two and walking two before yielding to Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez after getting an out in the eighth, then Brian Wilson in the ninth. Wilson's outing was the roughest, as he allowed a run on 3 hits and put the tying runs in scoring position before getting the final out. Every Giants fan held their breath there for a while, as Wilson started off the inning looking solid, throwing 95 mph cutters like he normally does, then all the sudden, he started throwing his fastball in the mid to high 80's, and it brought Giants trainers and Bruce Bochy out to the mound in order to check on their closer. Wilson talked them into letting Boch keep him in the game, and got out of it pretty well considering he was basically pitching on one foot. It was revealed after the game, perhaps the best of all scenarios, as Wilson apparently just suffered a mild sprain of his left foot, and it's not serious enough to land him on the DL or keep him sidelined for any stretch of time. He may miss a day or two to heal up and let the swelling go down, but I'd be surprised if he weren't ready if needed for the home opener Friday afternoon or at some point for this home opening weekend series. All in all, it was a 180 from the night before, as the team did not commit a single error, and pitched terrifically after playing like it was their first spring game Wednesday.

So, as I mentioned in yesterdays post, the 2-4 road trip doesn't look all that bad considering the 0-3 start and how badly the Giants played fundamentally and pitched (sans Zito and Bum's outings in Denver). Fortunately for them, hitting has yet to be an issue this year, and Melky Cabrera looks like difference maker the Giants were hoping to obtain when they parted with Jonathan Sanchez last November. "The Melk Man" as they're starting to call him around the Bay Area delivered again Thursday, going 2-4 with his 3rd double of the year and drove in two runs, giving him 5 in the season's first 6 games. The performance also raised his average to team-high .385, which is just 40 points above Pablo Sandoval's, who went just 1-5 Thursday, though added a run scored. The biggest surprise to come out of this Rockies series though from an offensive standpoint, has been the bat of Brandon Crawford, who looked like an offensive shortstop in Coors Field. The Sophomore shortstop worked so very hard on his hitting in the fall league and winter league and performed well in both, and it's showed here early on in the season. His .261 batting average does scream out at you, but when you look at his hits and what they've meant, it seems a lot more like .361. He's 2nd on the team in RBI's with 6 and is tied for the lead in doubles with 3. His hits have certainly been clutch and big ones, and if he continues to hit above .250 and drive in runs like he is, he's going to cement himself into that SS spot like Panda has 3rd and Posey has catcher. That would be a great scenario.

Speaking of young talent, the Giants may want to consider getting Melky Cabrera locked up beyond this season, as next winters free agent market is less than flattering, and a big year from Melky will likely net him a pretty nice contract, considering he's just 27, can play all outfield positions, and is a 5-tool player who's learned how to properly use all those tools. I'm not talking anything earth shattering, but I wonder if he'd be open to, say, a 2 year/$16M extension, or something in that neighborhood. That would give him a 25% pay raise over what he's currently making and still allow him to become a free agent again at age 30. It would give him security, just in case he gets injured or something this season, and it would probably save the Giants a whole bunch of money if they do intend on keeping him beyond this season and have to bid against others for him... I know, it's still way too early to be thinking about that kind of stuff, but it's tough to think about this offense right now without Melky at the top, especially the way Pagan (.130) has struggled out of the gate.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Lincecum, Starters Struggling

For a second straight start, Tim Lincecum was lit up pretty good, this time in Colorado by the Rockies. Not the start he was looking for after getting lit up for 5 runs in the five innings on Opening Day vs. Arizona last week.

It was much of the same for Timmy Wednesday, only this time he didn't get out of the messes enough to last till the fifth like he did last Friday. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings (6 runs, 8 hits, 3 K's), for his shortest outing of his Major League career, and put the Giants behind the 8-ball early again. It's a shame too, because, once again, their offense showed up, and a halfway decent performance out of Timmy on any other ordinary night would have netted an easy 8-4 victory or something like that, certainly not a football score-type loss. The Giants offense hasn't scored less than 4 runs in any of their 5 games this season, which was the supposed magic number for them to get to in order to support their "dominant" pitching staff. Problem is, the pitching staff, sans Barry Zito's brilliant performance on Monday night, hasn't been all that dominant, which is extremely odd, considering pitchers tend to have the advantage on hitters earlier in the season when they're fresher. This Giants staff looks like they're still in spring training mode or something, like they're still just going through the motions out there in this first week of play and they aren't playing with any fire whatsoever. Now, I'm in no position to panic, they could go 3-17 to start the year and still have a decent shot at making the playoffs with the new format, but they're expected bullet-proof pitching staff has been slow to the party, something that's never happened with the Cain-Lincecum era. That said, I completely expect things to turn around for the Giants, especially after they come home Friday, and if Timmy doesn't go 7 innings of 2-run ball in his next outing back in the friendly confines of AT&T, I'll be surprised.

The Giants were also down a solider Wednesday, in what will hopefully just be a short-term issue. Buster Posey was a late scratch on the lineup card due to suffering symptoms of Shingles. It's supposedly a minor case, and in the pre-game show, Bruce Bochy said Buster would have played had it been a playoff game or in the pennant race, but they're taking it easy with him and I don't blame them. They're considering him day-to-day, which is a good thing, considering a lot of these cases would land a player on the 15-day DL. Also, luckily for the Giants, is the fact they have young Hector Sanchez in Posey's absence back behind the plate, as the kid showed again Wednesday that he can hit Major League pitching, tacking on two more RBI's to his nice start to 2012. Also, Nate Schierholtz, in his first start of the season, showed up in "Don't forget about me" mode, as he was dialed, going deep twice in what should have been a game the Giants took control of. They battled back from the early 6-1 deficit to take a 7-6 lead, at which point I thought they would take off and score a few more runs and seal the deal with their pen, but it was completely the contrary. The Giants bullpen got absolutely smashed, as Guillermo Mota and Jermey Affeldt alone got lit up for 10 runs and 12 hits in 3 innings of work. Not good in a game in which your ace gets knocked out early and you need your bullpen to come through for your.

They have Thursday's rubber match to kind of make good on this awkward opening road trip, that has seemed like an extension of spring training in a way. I guess it doesn't all feel real until we see them play at AT&T, but the play from both them and their opponents thus far, with the errors and mistakes in the field, has been an odd ordeal. Hopefully Madison plays Zito Thursday and ends the Giants roadie on a high note.
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Monday, April 09, 2012

Zito's Best Start as Giant Gives Them First Win

Well, after that first series in Arizona in which the bats showed up, for both teams, and the Giants came up a run short in each of the three games. It had fans starting to wonder what the heck was going on? The Giants were scoring 6-7 runs a game but they weren't winning, which was supposed to be automatic with this staff.

Unfortunately, the Giants pitching staff made a few more mistakes than Arizona's did in that opening series, and they ended up sweeping the series and taking a strong-hold early on the NL West. However, the Giants looked like a completely different team on Monday in Colorado, behind perhaps the most enigmatic arm they've had over the last decade in Barry Zito. The 33 year-old shut down the potent Rockies lineup for his first complete game shutout in 8 seasons, long before he became a Giant! Needless to say, this was his most crisp outing as a Giant and they absolutely needed it as they came out of the game 0-3 despite actually putting some runs on the board and giving the pitchers some support. The problem with the first two games in AZ is that the team got down early and couldn't quite comeback. Game 3 was one you'll rarely see, as Matt Cain was given a 5-0 lead and the Giants ended up blowing the game. That's not like them and that particular game gave me some cause for some concern. However, Zito's start Monday pretty much wiped that weekend set out of the mind and has me wondering what may be in store for San Francisco if Zito has finally figured out National League hitting. Another terrific performance that should not get overlooked from Monday's game was his catcher, Hector Sanchez who has become Zito's personal catcher and he not only impressed defensively but hat a multi-hit game and an RBI, showing exactly why I was hoping this kid would make the squad over the "WhiteStew" combo.

I wanted to talk a bit more about the offense though, which has obviously been the bright spot early on in the regular season, and was being hyped as being much improved this spring. Through the first 4 games, they haven't disappointed as newcomers Angel Pagan (2B, RBI, R) and Melky Cabrera (2 hits, 2 Runs) where each a big part of Monday's win and the Giants also got some production out of "all glove, no bat" Brandon Crawford, who connected for his 2nd double of the season, a 3-run knock that blew the game wide open and gave the Giants the ultimate 7-0 lead and victory. And wouldn't you know it, after 4 games, the young shortstop, despite having just 2 hits in 4 games, is 2nd on the team with 5 RBI. His 5 RBI trail only one Giants batter, and that Giants batter is looking like he's in MVP form right now and I aint just saying that cause this is a Giants blog. Pablo Sandoval has been just about as tough of out as there is in baseball early as he connected for his 2nd long-ball of the year, and drove in his 6th run of the season while also collecting a couple of runs scored himself. Keep in mind, again, the Giants did this without their best hitter in Posey (day off to rest), and are still without offensive catalyst Freddy Sanchez, who's working on his rehab down in San Jose and hopefully will be back before the end of the month.

It's just good to get some good vibes after such tough, 1-run losses to you divisional nemesis in AZ like the Giants did, and get back on the winning track. And I have to say, if this is just a preview of things to come for Zito (9 IP, 0 R's, 4 hits, 4K's), then the Giants may finally be getting some return on their $126 million investment.Better late then never, I guess. Now I really can't wait to see what he does next weekend vs. Pittsburgh. Hard to believe just days earlier at the end of spring, Giants fans were calling for his head. Now, I can't wait to tune into KNBR and hear the singing of a different tune. I've always liked Zito, ever since he and his publicist gave me 3 free VIP passes to his "Strikeouts for Troups" concert back during his first year in SF, happy to see him finally not only win, but dominate a good lineup like he did Monday! What if he does in 2012 what Vogey did in 2011? Wouldn't that be something!
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Saturday, April 07, 2012

D-Backs Show They're Alpha Team of the West

Well, both Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner didn't throw bad games in these opening two games to the 2012 season, however, after two, the Giants find themselves 0-2 and scratching their heads a bit as they try and figure out how they're going to turn things around.

Bumgarner wasn't quite as sharp as Timmy was in the opener, though neither had their A-stuff, and the D-Backs like the young hungry team they are, took advantage of early mistakes made by the two star pitchers. There's really no other way to suger coat things. It's not like the D-Backs were hitting the Giants all over the yard, but they're were just a few location mistakes and a few walks by Bumgarner that really set-up Arizona for their two big innings. I just can't get over the fact they kept throwing Aaron Hill fastballs in that AB after his first homer when Bumgarner got ahead. As Byrnes said on the telecast, those pitches should have been off-speed away and not heaters right into Hill's wheelhouse. And it wasn't just Aaron Hill to time our MadBum, as Chris Young was seeing the lefty pretty good as well. Young's a scary talent. He's 30 and has yet to really have a breakout year. I'm starting to feel that this may be it. He's on everything, had a helluva spring and is using the whole field as opposed to being the pull-happy, swing for the fences type of bat. If he becomes a .300'ish hitter with his pop and speed already in that lineup, the D-Backs could win this division running away. It's still early, but what a statement this Arizona team has made with these first two victories, and really have put the Giants back against the wall heading into the series finale.

The Giants need to make some lineup changes, as Bruce Bochy eluded to after the game, and one of those lineup changes should be shifting Brett Pill, whether it be first, 2nd or left, into the everyday lineup. Over on the other side, we saw a similar guy with similar skill-set in Paul Goldschmidt, and he's made a huge impact with Arizona in his brief time there. Much like Pill, he's a bit of a late bloomer too, as he's 25 and is just now getting an everyday job. Pill may not be the specimen that Goldschmidt is, and may not put up the numbers, but in a left-handed heavy lineup with little pop, the Giants sorely need that bad. He was one of the positives taken from Saturday's game, as he had a nice pinch-hit 2-run job to get the Giants back in the game in the 7th, but to no avail as the Giants failed to score after that. Pablo looked good again, and looks primed for a huge season if he can stay healthy. I think I predicted around .315 with 25 homers for him, but he may get to 30 this year with how he's swinging it. He and Cabrera, and Posey in the opener, have looked good. Everyone else though, not so much. It's been just two games and I can see why the Mets didn't really consider Pagan a true leadoff man, as he really doesn't take many pitches and makes a lot of outs. He makes contact, but again, the lack of walks and ability to get on base could make him expendable at the top. Gregor Blanco, who was key in Friday night's near comeback win, could eventually supplant him from his duties if his struggles continue.

I know it's early, and I for one am no where near ready to panic. The Giants are playing a good Arizona team in their house and lost by just one run each game. Now, if they go on and get swept tomorrow, I'll be a little more down on things, but there's still 160 of these things left, and I expect the Giants to find a formula that works offensively, sooner or later... It should be noted that Freddy Sanchez will play tomorrow's game in Fresno, and looks to be inching closer to a return to the bigs. Boy what a difference a healthy Sanchez would make in that lineup. Most people just look at Posey as the key loss of 2011, but Sanchez, perhaps the Giants 3rd best all-around hitter behind Pablo and Posey, was a big reason why this offense has struggled as well. I can't wait to see #21 back out there manning 2nd on a daily basis. Hopefully it'll be this month!
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Friday, April 06, 2012

Giants/D-Backs Open 2012, Post-Game Notes

Well guys, it's been a long winter, but we're finally here on the eve of opening day, as the two division favorites, Giants and D-Backs, prepare to square off in the desert Friday evening.

Pre-Game: It's been a while since the Giants opened up a season with a night game, as opening days are traditionally day games, but the Padres did it Thursday vs. LA and the D-Backs will do the same Friday with against the Giants. All the rosters are set and the comeback begins as the Giants try and fight their way back to October with a more feisty, 2010 like bunch that has sort of gone through a youth movement of sorts from how they ended 2011. Out 35 year-old Carlos Beltran, 36 year-old Orlando Cabrera, 32 year-old's Andres Torres, Cody Ross, Mike Fontenot, and 34 year-old Eli Whiteside. Instead, the Giants have replaced those guys with Melky Cabrera (27), who already looks like an impact player and should soften the loss of Beltran, in the brief time I've seen him play this spring. Also, Brandon Belt (24) will play a bigger role, Hector Sanchez (21) is the new backup catcher and they've given shortstop to young Brandon Crawford (25) and are really hoping he proves himself at the plate this year. Also, making the bench was Brett Pill another under-30 right-handed bat that needed to get onto this roster some way or another. One of the most intriguing heading in though, is the overlooked Gregor Blanco (28), who just may take Angel Pagan's job from him if his Spring Training success carries over into April. The Giants still have much of the same players that won them the 2010 Series, but mostly in the pitching staff. Their lineup has been pretty much remade from the one that was standing on the field in Texas on November 1st 2010. The only starters left from that team now are Posey and Huff (Pablo struggled that year and was relegated to bench duties in the playoffs). Freddy Sanchez was also a key member of that team but won't be out there for the opener and it's still unclear when exactly he will return to the Giants.

Anyway, here are tomorrow's likely opening day lineups, as each team will be missing a key to their middle infield. The Giants, without Freddy Sanchez, and the D-Backs, without Stephen Drew, need to have other guys step up in those guys spots as they're two very key bats two each respective ball club. Last year, the D-Backs rode their young talent and solid, improving bullpen and rotation to the postseason, and this year the Giants are hoping a healthy Posey and new offensive approach will pay-off.

UPDATE:
Giants Lineup:

CF Angel Pagan
RF Melky Cabrera
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
LF Aubrey Huff
1B Brandon Belt
2B Ryan Theriot
SS Brandon Crawford
P Tim Lincecum

D-Backs Lineup

SS Willie Bloomquist
CF Chris Young
RF Justin Upton
C Miguel Montero
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Jason Kubel
3B Ryan Roberts
2B Aaron Hill
P Ian Kennedy

If there are any tweaks to the lineup, I'll be sure to update them here, and I'll be back after the game tomorrow for some post-game thoughts, but the Giants have to be one their A-game Friday as they face a guy who went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in a hitters yard last season. The Giants key is obviously going to be scoring runs, so all eyes will be on the Giants bats, especially newcomers Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, as well as youngster Brandon Belt, who's likely getting the opening day start at first and looks as if he's made that his spot for good with Huff going out to left. It's going to be fun, the opening day jitters are already here, hopefully they start out with a statement and Posey goes 3-4 with 2 HR's... Wouldn't that be something in his first game back!

Post-Game Notes: I'm going to keep it short, cause it was a loss and I don't want to dwell on any particular thing to early. As expected, the Giants had trouble scoring early off Kennedy and couldn't back a strong Lincecum outing (minus that first). After those three early runs AZ put up, I knew it was going to be a tough one to come back in. The good part is, they did come back, but they were a tad short. Lincecum settled down and ended pitching nicely, however, I'm a little worried about his velocity which topped out at 91. With him not throwing the slider and the fastball losing life, that may be a bad sign of things to come for that right arm. Let's just hope it was early day jitters and he didn't want to overthrow.... Anyway, Melky looked good, going yard, and Posey had a 2-hit return, but the Giants were beaten by the better team Friday, let's see if they can turn that around Saturday. A few balls were nailed right at people too, as Pagan and Sandoval were robbed of some hits and I believe a few others, so a few more inches here and there and it could have been a different outcome. Never want to start with a loss, but it wasn't a bad loss. They did commit 3 errors, though knocked out 11 hits to help make up for that, but they need to tighten up on D.

Note: Also, for the updated Player Predictions, they start on this page here with Pagan and Sanchez and go down through the projected lineup at that time. They've since been tinkered with a few different times, but should be fairly easy to follow!
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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Giants Finalize Opening Roster

The Giants went down to the wire to figure out their roster situation, but they've finalized their opening 25-man roster Wednesday, and there weren't a whole lot of surprises.

The guy I'm most stoked upon earning a roster spot is rookie backup catcher Hector Sanchez. The Giants optioned Whiteside to Fresno and will trade Chris Stewart, basically putting all their faith in the 22 year-old to help Posey through the season. His bat this spring is what earned him the spot, as it's not secret the Giants need all the power they can get and will give them a big left-handed bat off the bench. As I said a few posts back here, the Giants had a chance to go with veterans or go with youth on the bench, and they went with the ladder. Other guys on the bubble to make the 25-man out of the gate are Brett Pill, Brandon Belt, Manny Burris and Nate Schierholtz. In fact, Belt did so much this spring that Boch is moving Huff to left field and inserting Belt into the everyday lineup. Schierholtz had become a hot topic of discussion of late because of this, and his bat has not been there all spring and has looked bad in the Giants games vs. Oakland, and there was some discussion as to whether or not he would make the team out of the gate. I think the Giants made the right move by keeping him on. Nate's still just 27 and I like him as a role player that may eventually bloom late (Jose Bautista was a 5th infielder before breaking out in Toronto at age 30, just saying!). Perhaps the biggest surprise though to see his name on that 25-man was a guy who absolutely dealt this spring, rightie Dan Otero. The 26 year-old has been on the radar for a few years now after dealing in the minors, and finally will get Vogelsong's spot until Ryan returns April 15th.

So, just to keep things simple, I'll post the official 25-man below, and will be back tomorrow to talk Giants/D-Backs and the build up to the opener. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised Brandon Belt was announced as the starting at 1st basemen (with Huff moving to left where he'll have to fend off Gregor Blanco and Nate Schierholtz) and I really like the fact that Hector Sanchez will see some big PT as Posey's backup, on Posey's days off or days when Buster plays first. Those days will add up, especially early, and the Giants now have a hitter they get to replace him with rather then an out-creating backstop and barely serviceable defender like Whiteside. Anyway, enough of my thoughts on the roster announcements, needless to say, I'm stoked the Giants went young and decided against carrying the near useless Whiteside in favor of Sanchez. A move that probably assured Brett Pill would make this team.

Pitchers (12)
Tim Lincecum RH
Matt Cain RH
Madison Bumgarner LH
Barry Zito LH
Dan Otero RH
Clay Hensley RH
Santiago Cassilla RH
Guillermo Mota RH
Javier Lopez LH
Jeremy Affeldt LH
Sergio Romo RH
Brian Wilson RH

Catchers (2)
Buster Posey R
Hector Sanchez S

Infielders (7)
Brandon Belt 1B
Ryan Theriot SS/2B
Brandon Crawford SS
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Manny Burris IF/OF
Brett Pill 1B/OF
Aubrey Huff 1B/LF

Outfielders (4)
Melky Cabrera S
Angel Pagan S
Gregor Blanco L
Nate Schierholtz L

15-Day DL: 2B Freddy Sanchez, RHP Ryan Vogelsong

Note: Also, for the updated Player Previews, they start here with Pagan and Sanchez and have since been tinkered with!
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Monday, April 02, 2012

Matt Cain Staying Put, Signs Five-Year Extension

Well, Giants fans that were starting to worry about Cain possibly bolting after the 2012 season get to breath a lot easier Monday afternoon, as the Giants and Matt Cain are reportedly closing in on a new 5 year/$110M extension that would keep Cainer in the Orange and Black through 2017.

If these numbers are correct, then I think the Giants have to consider themselves lucky they made out by only having to give up 110 mill over the 5 years. There were some suggesting he'd get at least $25M annually for 6 years if he hit the open market, so $22M for 5 years is definitely a lot more palatable. Now, the deal isn't even final yet, and I'm not sure on the specifics, but my guess is that the Giants have back-loaded the deal so Cain receives the majority of his money once the Zito contract comes off the books. Rowand's $12M comes off after this season, which will help, but it's Zito's $18M after 2013 that will really give this franchise some breathing room. Chances are all that money goes right back into their pitching though, as Timmy will be up again in 2 years, which is about the time Madison Bumgarner will start earning legit dollars. This is why I also believe it would be wise, if Bumgarner were open, to lock him up to a 5 year deal like the Royals just got Alex Gordon on. Give him $30M for 5 years, and buy him out of arbitration and a year of free agency, and get him now at half the price you'll be paying in 2-3 years. That's only if MadBum were open, he could be like Timmy and want to go year to year in arbitration to get the most dough.

Anyway, just to finish up on Cain, the fact that they did get the guy locked up, then it definitely validates Brian Sabean and the front office's philosophy of saving all their big money for their young players. Still though, Matty could again be looking at the same problems that have haunted him throughout his Giants career in 2012, as their offense has gone suspect here late in spring, after a surprisingly hot start. When you look up and down their stat sheet right now, the players that are really sticking out are guys like Blanco, Cabrera, Burris, Hector Sanchez and Brandon Belt. Now, there's whispers of possibly taking Pagan, a switch hitter, out of the lineup and putting Huff in left and Belt at first, adding more lefties to the mix. That's become the norm with Giants' lineups without Freddy Sanchez, as Buster Posey has become their only true right-handed threat in the lineup. It's a reason, again, why I would have looked into Cody Ross or Ryan Ludwick late when you could have gotten them for cheap, but now they could be looking at a real problem, especially in the outfield. They don't have a single "natural" right-handed hitting outfielder, and although Cabrera is efficient from that side, (a big reason why I think Sabean targeted him), he's still most comfortable as a lefty. They were discussing this on KNBR the other day and the possibility of the Giants adding another right-hander like they did Pat Burrell in 2010. Problem is, nobody of value is really out there right now, and it's so early that teams aren't ready to part with usable pieces quite yet. I just fear that left-handers are going to eat tear this lineup apart and it's a big reason why I hope both Brett Pill and Belt each make this roster.

Trade Proposal: Now, I was checking over different team reports today, and I saw that the Mets may be looking to platoon someone in LF with Jason Bay, and it got my mind going a bit. Both Bay and Zito are owed similar deals over the next two seasons, then are free agents. Zito is owed a little more money than Bay, but they're pretty even. With the Giants need for a right-handed bat, this may be an opportunity to find another diamond in the rough, so to speak. Bay needs out of NY, and thrived in ballpark in Pittsburgh build similarly to AT&T, only tougher on righties than lefties. I think throwing him into the outfield mix wouldn't be the worst idea out there, seeing the Giants sore need for a right-handed bat with the potential to be thumper. Problem is, the Giants have little in space of rotational depth and would need to get another starter on board if that were to happen. The Mets wanted Zito when he was free though, and you'd have to think a change of scenery for both may not be the worst thing.
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