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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Belt's success, Pence's return difference makers

For the first month or so of the season, the Giants had some roller coaster moments. They had a few upswings, then a few downswings with some injuries, but as we inch towards the end of May, they've really have seemed to have gotten things on track.

Duffy Makin' Pablo Loss Easier
First off all, the big news over the last week or so has been the reassignment of new third basemen Casey McGehee to Triple-A Sacramento, a role in which he didn't have to accept and could have collected his paycheck regardless. Instead he chose to continue to be a part of this organization and go work on his game over in Sacramento where he's just a 90 minute drive from AT&T Park should the Giants need him at any given moment. That move officially opened the door for Matt Duffy to become the team's full-time third basemen and the Giants couldn't have asked for better results out of their 23 year-old infielder thus far. He himself has been a big part of this team's May resurgence, as the kid has hit .343 with 2 jacks and 15 RBI since sort of taking over at third earlier this month and it's no wonder the offense has picked up since the move. Casey, while great in the clubhouse, just simply wasn't getting it done on the diamond and his rally-killing double-plays ended up really being his downfall. For a team that doesn't hit a ton of big three-run home runs, they can't give up extra outs with double plays and McGehee had become a DP machine. So, if you couldn't tell, I'm a huge supporter of the move. Give Duffy a couple of months to see if he can take this position down the stretch or figure out if they'll need to go out and get someone else. So far though, he not only looks up to the challenge, but heaps and bounds better than his predecessor.

Now, I know the insertion of Duffy into the lineup has been key, but that didn't become official until last week, and before that move the whole lineup had been starting to pick it up. Pence, coming back and coming back strong and ready to go was a huge, huge shot in the arm, and the fact that Brandon Belt may have finally figured out how to hit some home runs without changing his approach and keeping his average respectable has sort of been the difference. Posey's been healthy and in the zone and Brandon Crawford's continued growth at the plate has also helped things. Another guy I wanted to mention and a guy who I think has been overlooked quite a bit during this huge turnaround of late and that's the guy that gets it all started, leadoff man Nori Aoki. Sabean seems to strikeout consistently with multi-year deals for free agent positional guys, but it seems like all his one-year deals tend to work out OK. Aoki is the latest case as he's been one of the more effective leadoff men in baseball, slashing .326/.357/.439 with 11 swipes and 21 runs scored. Now that we're at the quarter point of the season, you can multiply that production by 4 and your looking at a 44-steal, 84-run pace for Aoki right now with that +.300 average. Needless to say, he's pretty much locked the leadoff spot down and unless he tanks for a month while Pagan skyrockets, he's staying right where he is.

Extras: With the open spot left by McGehee, the Giants decided to give right handed reliever Hunter Strickland another look-see at the big league level. So far up here, it's been a case of the "Jekyll and Hydes" for Strickland but he's hoping this time around with postseason experience under his belt, things will go differently... Larry Baer said on KNBR Wednesday that the Giants are indeed expecting Cain to produce for them this season and although there has been no official timetable, sometime in July is the the Giants' Boss' best guess. That's some good news I guess. I'm still not really counting on much out of Cainer and with the way the staff is throwing right now, and Peavy hopefully on his way back, they don't necessarily need him at the moment. So unless Cain is 110% and ready to rock like he was back in 2010-12, then OK, but if not, let the guys they have take care of things and if need be, use the resources saved this winter to go out and land a Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto. Just cause things are fine now on the pitching front doesn't mean the Giants should be settling. Lincecum could always go into a funk again at anytime, Huddy could eventually start to look his age (as he has for much of 2015 anyway) and Ryan Vogelsong is about as unpredictable as they come...

Also, as you've noticed, Bruce Bochy's A-lineup has indeed changed with Hunter Pence settling in, but not quite in the way most had expected. Angel Pagan has been moved into the 7th spot for the time being, with Hunter Pence sliding into the 3-spot, Brandon Belt 5th behind Posey, Crawford 6th and new third basemen Matt Duffy hitting 8th. Things could change but right now that seems to be a pretty solid set-up, especially with the way each guy is currently swinging, I could see Duffy and Pagan at some point swapping if Duffy continues to rake up RBI's, then if Aoki ever hits a cold streak or needs a day off, Boch can swap Pagan into the leadoff spot and Blanco/Maxwell into the 8th spot.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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