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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Starting pitching still an issue

We're approaching the 2 week mark here at the start of the season, and with just about everybody in the rotation having had two starts (besides Vogelsong who goes Thursday night), it's pretty obvious where the question mark lies with this team.

Tim Lincecum was roasted by the D-Backs for a second straight start Wednesday night, and he once again has people wondering out loud if this is the Lincecum we're stuck with going forward. We all know how bad things were for him throughout 2012, especially the first 2/3 of the season and although he had his moments in 2013, his numbers at the end of the year left much to be desired. This is why it was so crucial for him to get off to a good start this year but instead, if his first two outings are an indication of things to come, 2013 all the sudden doesn't look so bad. He's thrown 10 innings over two starts, allowing 11 earned on 15 hits (including 4 big flies). On a positive, he's walked just 1 batter and struck out 12, so maybe it's just the curse of the D-Backs and Paul Goldschmidt, but if Timmy wants to alleviate some of this early season worrying he's putting Giants fans through, he's going to have to reel off a string of impressive starts, beginning next week Timmy hasn't been the only one who's started off the year in less than impressive fashion though as both Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong are each searching for their first victory and first quality start of 2014. Thanks to the great work by the offense, and the terrific outings from Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner, the Giants have gotten off to a healthy 7-3 start, but if 3/5 of their rotation continues to struggle, they aren't going to stay atop the NL West for very long.

Speaking of the offense, I really can't say enough about how they've performed through these first two weeks. Michael Morse has played a significant role early on and looks like one of the steals off the offseason so far and Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey are all looking like shoe-in All-Stars at the moment. To me, Morse's addition has caused a domino effect in the lineup, stretching it out and providing an imposing right-handed threat teams need to really account for. One can only imagine how this lineup would click if and when a healthy Marco Scutaro gets back on the field. Brandon Hicks and co. have done an admirable job in Scutaro's absence, but the Giants need their steady 2-hitter back in the lineup and on the field. Bochy said earlier in the week that Scutaro had an outside shot at returning to the team by the end of the homestand, but how effective he'll be upon his return, and how much he'll be able to play is still very much in question. If it looks like he can only play a couple games a week, I wouldn't be opposed to them going out on the market and looking for more of an everyday guy. I know it's a little early to be talking replacements, but let's face facts; Scutaro's approaching 40 and cranky backs at that age don't really just go away without lengthy rest. Having a backup plan would seem like a smart idea, and one I'm sure the Giants' brass has been pondering since early spring.

Now, as far as backup plans, April 10th is way too early to be putting them into effect, but you can be sure the Giants' brass are exploring alternative options for the fifth spot in the rotation (Lincecum's $17.5M price-tag pretty much assures they'll try and ride him out) and 2nd base. There's a ton of pitchers who will hit the market over the next few months, and the Giants may even look internally at guys like Yusmiero Petit and Edwin Escoabr should Vogey continue to falter. They could take a much more wait-and-see approach at second though, as they have Joaquin Arias and Hicks filling in admirably for the time being and still have to see how Scutaro's back responds once he returns. If it comes down to it though, there are second base options out there on the trade market (Daniel Murphy and Danny Espinosa are two that immediately come to mind).
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Opening Day: Giants Prevail Despite Defense

Well, I'm sure I wasn't the only one shaking my head and wondering if this team was still mentally in Spring Training mode as they repeatedly fumbled playable balls and failed on routine plays like a simple run-down.

It was certainly a forgettable game on the defensive front for Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias and Brandon Belt, but luckily for those three, the Giants tapped into some of their comeback mojo, 2012 style, and erased a 7-3 deficit in the late innings.

San Francisco got on the board first as Angel Pagan drove in Brandon Crawford with an RBI single in the 3rd inning but Arizona came answering back with a 4 spot in the bottom of the fourth inning. They were all of the unearned variety as Madison Bumgarner pitched through some tough luck. It was a strange game in which Bumgarner wasn't really as sharp as he is when he's on and there were runners on seemingly all night, but none of the four runs the D-Backs plated vs. him were earned. He wasn't throwing particularly hard and he was missing with a lot of stuff up in the zone, but he's still good enough with that elusive delivery to get by when he's not on his A-game. The defense played like they were still in the Cactus League Monday and the offense took some time to get woken up, but they all the sudden found their groove in the 6th inning and put up a 7 spot over the last few innings of the game to re-take the lead. Brandon Belt hit a majestic shot over the right field wall in the 6th to make it 6-3 D-Backs (helping him cover for his mistake on that blown rundown), and that shifted the momentum back into the Giants dugout and they never relinquished it. The final blow of the night came off the bat of Buster Posey, breaking a 7-7 tie in the top of the ninth inning with a 2-run, no-doubter off the facing of the second deck in left served up by new D-Back closer Addison Reed.

While the defensive mishaps had me a bit flustered, this was an exciting opener, and one that gives you optimism if your a Giants fan. Again, Bumgarner's start wasn't quite the efficient outing he was hoping for in his first ever OD assignment. His end line wound up 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K on 78 pitches. Not terrible, but the blemish here was the 8 base runners allowed in 4 innings (a clear indication he didn't have A-stuff). He pitched through some bone-headed defensive mishaps, and kept the team in the game which they ultimately were able to come back in. The comeback can be attributed to the lineup which answered the bell when they needed to, even after Petit allowed a few more runs putting them further behind. It took them a few innings to get McCarthy figured out, but they did indeed do just that and managed to get into Arizona's beatable bullpen. Brandon Belt (3-5, HR, 3 R), Buster Posey (2-5, HR, 2 RBI) and Angel Pagan (2-5, 2 RBI, R) were the offensive catalysts for the night, as the Giants new and improved lineup certainly looked the part in game one. Newcomer Michael Morse even got into the mix with a hit, walk and run scored in 4 plate appearances. The only Giants' starters without a hit were Hunter Pence and Joaquin Arias, but Pence made his presence felt in the field with a crucial assist gunning down Mark Trumbo at third base early in the game to help avoid what may have been a huge inning for Arizona. I'm definitely liking the depth in the Giants lineup right now compared to where they were at this point last year.

This one felt good for a number of reasons. Obviously, it was opening day which is always sweet victory, but in addition it was on the road vs. a solid inner-division team where the Giants got themselves in a hole, then dug themselves out by erasing a 4-run deficit and prevail for a win in impressive fashion. The bullpen wasn't great, as Romo was touched up for a run and made things more interesting that I'd prefer in the 9th, but ultimately got the job done. Also, Yusmiero Petit had trouble fooling anyone, allowing 6 hits, a walk and 3 runs after taking over for MadBum in the 5th. The bullpen depth is something I'll be watching very closely early on, as it's one area that I have a slight concern with. The Giants don't have 3 shut down guys down there that can shorten a game like the Dodgers do and some of the other elite teams in the game.

To wrap it up in a few shorts sentences, Opening Day has to be deemed a success because of the win and the fact nobody got hurt. There were some things that happened that need to be addressed and fixed immediately, but all in all a successful opener and onto the next... Go get 'em Cainer! It looks like the Bochy mixed some things up in terms of the batting order for Tuesday's game vs. the lefty Wade Miley with Hunter Pence moving up into the 2-hole for the first time in his Giants' tenure.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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