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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Answer to Pence/Pagan Injuries: Marlon Byrd

For the most part over the last few years, when the Giants have stayed healthy as a team, they've found themselves atop the baseball world. However, in 2011 (Buster Posey the big one) and 2013 (Pagan, Scutaro missed significant time) they struggled mightily and failed to even reach October.

Here we are In 2015, and as we hit the stretch drive, the injury bug has reared it's ugly head in SF once again. Hunter Pence has been a stud when he's been been able to stay on the field this year, but the right fielder missed two months to start the year and now has re-landed on the DL at one of the worst possible times with a strained oblique. This could be tricky because, while best-case scenario has the Giants' star right fielder will be back in uniform for the first week of September, obliques are far from predictable. It's kept some players out up to a month at a time and one has to wonder with Pence's violent plate approach if it may take him a little longer than average. Also, joining Pence for yet another stint in what has been an injury plagued tenure (and a dreadful 2015) since he inked his 4-year/$40 million, is Angel Pagan. However, that may end up being a blessing in disguise for the Giants. It helped prompt them to add Marlon Byrd and it also opens up center for a guy who's playing at a much higher level than Pagan this year.

If you remember one of the areas I really wanted this team to look at upgrading before the trade deadline was getting another 4th-type outfielder that could handle starting for a stretch if need be. Pagan, again, has been so up and down and always is an injury risk, then Pence has had one of his worst years in terms of injury, and Aoki has even ran into some issues. I knew this team would likely need a little more depth there down the stretch but alas, it was not the case. Well, on Thursday, they finally got their guy, as they obtained Marlon Byrd from from Cincinnati to help keep them afloat until the shit gets right. In fact, Byrd's year in Cinci hasn't been too shabby, sans the .237 average, and he could have a chance to audition to be a regular even when Pence does return if he can out-play Angel Pagan down the stretch (if Pagan even makes it back). Pagan has been dealing with nagging back injuries for much of the year and his play has declined steadily because of it. Byrd obviously has plenty of power, which he displayed in his first at-bat as a Giant on Friday night in Pittsburgh, launching a 2-run jack into left-center to help give Madison Bumgarner a 3-0 lead before he even toed the rubber, and that's going to be a huge addition.

The newest Giant proceeded to go 3-5 in his debut with his new squad, as his home run was his 20th of the season, which now makes him the Giants team leader at the moment. It just goes to show there is absolutely no reason to dislike this move whatsoever. I mean, as I said, if he gets hot he could make Pagan irrelevant and shift Aoki to center, especially on days they face left-handed pitching. If not, he becomes a vital weapon off the bench and a legit DH option should the Giants somehow claw their way back into a World Series. I know Hunter Pence is injured and that is cause for concern, but he should be back for the majority of that last month of the regular season, but with Byrd now in tow, it makes that loss deal-able. Also, with the rise of the youngsters in that bullpen like, George Kontos, Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich along with the improvements lately from Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo have alleviated any need for an extra reliever. However, the one area I'm growing increasingly concerned with each day MadBum doesn't start is that rotation.

Mike Leake hasn't gotten back on the field after his impressive debut start with the Giants August 2nd, but he's slated to return to the rotation for a big start Saturday vs. the NL's top-ranked Wild Card, Pittsburgh Pirates. After he and Bumgarner though, the pickings are slim. Cain has been dreadful, and Heston has now been optioned back to Sacramento. Peavy was pretty decent for his first handful of starts after coming off the DL, but has been raked pretty well the last two outings, to the tune of 16 hits, 9 ER and 2 HR over 11.2 innings. Hopefully he can get right next time out but even if he does, this team could desperately take another starter should one of any value hit the waiver wire in the next 9 days... But I wouldn't hold my breath.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, September 04, 2015

Peavy passes Cain in rotation depth chart

After seeing a 6-0 lead evaporate in Atlanta on Monday night behind Matt Cain, the Giants were determined to not let another winnable game slip away Tuesday. Fortunately this time they got a strong outing out of Jake Peavy, as well as a huge Hunter Pence 3-run blast to avoid another late letdown.

For fans who were wondering why the Giants were so adamant about adding a starting pitcher before the deadline, they got their answer on Monday night. With the amount of time he's missed and questions still surrounding that flexor-tendon in his right forearm, Matt Cain has sort of become the big question mark in the Giants rotation. Tim Lincecum is shelved for the foreseeable future and Tim Hudson was ousted from the rotation after the Mike Leake acquisition so Cain has all the sudden been put under a microscope. He's made 6 starts now since his return, so we have a pretty good idea of what he's going to present down the stretch. He's rocking a 2-2 record with a 4.91 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP and a .303 BAA. Those aren't very Cain-like numbers at all, as he's always been a guy to post respectable peripheral numbers despite his win totals throughout his career. However, his stamina just doesn't seem to be there, as he's yet to go more than 6 innings in a start, and is coming off back-to-back starts in which he's allowed 18 hits and 8 ER over just 11 innings of work. Before the Leake trade I just don't think they have the confidence in Cain to throw him out there in a playoff scenario, and now they don't necessarily have to.

Peavy: 6 IP, 1 ER, 8 K's vs. ATL
Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are really banking on at least one of the Cain/Peavy duo to contribute something in the second half, and so far it seems like Jake Peavy is going to be that guy. He turned in one of his better outings of the 2015 season, going 6 strong, limiting the Braves to just 1 run on 5 hits and struck out a season-high 8 batters while walking just 1. Unfortunately, thanks to rare lead cough-up by George Kontos, Peavy wasn't able to factor into the decision but did lower his season ERA and WHIP to 3.75 and  1.19, respectively. I think he's clearly placed himself ahead of Cain in the rotation and probably would get a playoff start if the Giants are indeed able to reach October and prevail beyond a possible Wild Card bout. Obviously you have MadBum as the ace and now Leake as your number two, then after that they'd probably go Peavy in game three then either MadBum again in game 4 if it's win or go home or rookie, Chris Heston, if it isn't. First of all, the Giants need to make the playoffs though and plenty can change down the stretch as there are still 8 solid weeks of baseball left, but the former "Horse" of this staff would be appear to be the odd man out come October.

Now, switching gears to the offensive side of things, aside from that pitching meltdown on Monday in Atlanta, the Giants have continued their solid play since the All-Star break and a big reason because of it has been the offense. I mean, this Giants' offense has become one of my favorite bunches of all time just because of their ability to beat you in multiple ways, the home-grown core and the power potential each guy carries after Aoki in that lineup... The two guys, in my mind, that have set this lineup apart from others though have been Brandon Crawford (and his power surge), and the emergence of Matt Duffy. I feel like we're getting what we expected to out of Posey, Belt, Pence and maybe a little more than expected out of Aoki and Panik. Crawford and Duffy, however, have fully surpassed everybody's expectations, even their own.

Crawford leads SF with 18 HR
BCraw has always had sneaky power in that bat but this year it's shown up with consistency, and was huge in a lineup that was void of Hunter Pence for about 2 months of the season. And of course, Duffy saved the day after the Casey McGehee fiasco didn't work out and has turned out to be even better at the hot corner than even his predecessor of years before in Pablo Sandoval. I mean, remember when we all were sort of panicking on who was going to be the Giants third basemen if Pablo left them high and dry, then it actually happened? 8 months later and I don't think the Giants could have asked for a better scenario. Not only are they not on the hook for the overweight, underachieving Sandoval for the next handful of years at $18M per, but they've replaced him with a guy who's already a better all-around player right now and it probably won't even be close in another 3 years. Now, Pablo was a postseaon machine and who knows if Duffy has that same ability one the big stage, but the Giants' brass should be thanking their lucky stars that "Fat Panda" chose the "greener pastures" in Boston!
The Giants Baseball Blog