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Friday, June 19, 2015

Time to shake up lineup?

Prior to Thursday night's nice little offensive output of 7 runs in Seattle, clutch hits and runs were about as tough to come by as they've been at any point this season. My suggestion, and frankly something I'm surprised Bochy hasn't tried to do more of is mix up the lineup a bit.

One of the big moves I have been pondering over in my mind is possibly swapping Matt Duffy and Angel Pagan in the batting order, at least while Hunter Pence is out. Matty D seems to be putting it together right now and is one of the Giants' better clutch hitters with runners on base and in scoring position. Mix that in with his respectable .293 average and .789 OPS to go along with 6 HR and 31 RBI and you'll see why I like the kid as a 3-hole option in Pence's stead. Not to mention he didn't start playing regularly until roughly a month into the season, and it makes the 24 year-old's numbers pop out even more, especially those RBI. Pagan has had a pretty decent year at the plate up until the last couple of weeks as he's taken a bit of a fall (slashing just .167/.227/.183 in June). He's hit for no power whatsoever, so unless he's at or above .280 and his OBP is at least .330, then he's really not much of an offensive threat. I understood starting the year with him in that spot as the Giants had limited options and Pagan had shown the ability to hit for at least a little pop in prior years. This year, it hasn't been there, at least not yet, and his pedestrian .266 average with a dreadful .303 on base average and weak .330 slugging percentage and whopping 16 RBI's must be moved from that three-spot, and quick.

I mean, I don't wanna turn this into a Pagan bashing, because I still like the player a lot and I know he's just in a slump and is going to get hot again at some point. He's another guy that's gotten clutch hits in big situations so he's earned some leeway, but there's no reason to be hitting him third right now with Matt Duffy just raking to all fields with pop. A lineup (sans Pence of course) of Aoki-Panik-Duffy-Posey-Belt-Crawford-Pagan-Maxwell (swap Pagan and Maxwell vs lefties) would look a lot better, in my opinion at least.

Anyway, that's really been heavy on my mind the last couple of days and I just haven't gotten around to writing it until now. The offense has been the the team's main concern of late and with Hunter Pence sidelined again, and this time for something that may nag him and effect his swing significantly the rest of the way when he eventually does return. I mean, unless he tears something and absolutely cannot go, I have a hard time seeing Hunter go under the knife with baseball still to be played, especially if given an option to play through. However, the fact that the Giants and Pence are being so hush hush about this as well as the fact that he was due back today (June 18th) and he still hasn't made enough progress to be given a firm timetable makes me wonder. They did say he'll be shut down another two weeks but who knows what will happen at that point. Tendons can be tricky, especially ones in the forearm for a guy with a violent hack like Pence's. Also, there has been a lot of talk on Marty Laurie's KNBR show, with credible guests such as Hank Schulman, that would suggest the Giants may be heavy in the market for outfield help.

Their pitching staff has seemed to right itself a bit, and they're getting nothing but positive feedback from Cain and his rehab assignment thus far. You can never use too much pitching, and I'm sure Sabes and Bobby Evans will be monitoring that market too, but with Pence's nagging injuries, along with Pagan's history of running into injury himself as the season wears down, the outfield would certainly make sense as a main area for upgrade. Plus we're starting to hit the part of the year where losing teams are going to start entering selling mode. I'd be all for an upgrade at the utility infield spot over Joaquin Arias if they could find one but that's not a priority. So, as far as outfield targets, I'm not sure who's going to be out there and available. I do like Cameron Maybin from Atlanta, or a couple of guys they just faced with Seattle in Seth Smith and Mark Trumbo. The ladder, Trumbo, is really intriguing actually, because if the Mariners continue to tank, they;re likely going to re-deal him before the deadline and he's just the type of Pat Burrell-esque type of bat they could use, only Trumbo is heaps and bounds better than Burrell, younger and more versatile. He could step into right field and take over for Justin Maxwell while Pence eases back and would allow Boch the ability to actually give guys like Pence, Belt and Aoki nights off and still having a solidified offense.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Monday, June 08, 2015

Giants select RHP Phil Bickford at 18

Well, as the Giants pick at 18 in the MLB's annual June Amateur Draft approached, one huge name stayed available that I was hoping would end up falling to the Giants, but alas, Brady Aiken was taken one selection before the Giants pick at 18. Instead, the Giants went with another young arm, and one that many had going in the top-15 in Southern Nevada's right-hander, Phil Bickford.

SF takes RHP Phil Bickford 18th
I don't know a whole lot about Bickford other than what I've read and watched in recent draft coverage and player previews. Bickford has bounced between the pen and rotation in his early baseball life, but the Giants' will most likely develop him as a starter and go from there. He's not as polished as Tyler Beede (the Giants top pick a year ago), but appears to have explosive stuff and a solid frame at 6'5" and 210 pounds. He's already been a top-10 pick, by the Blue Jays in 2013, but chose not to sign and instead attend CSU Fullerton. From the sound and looks of his stuff, a mid-90's explosive fastball and a hard-biting hook, it would appear he could be destined to possibly close at some point down the line in the Majors, although the Giants may want to start him out as a starter just in case. The thing is, I don't know if he has enough plus pitches to fool big league hitters more than one-time through, so again, all signs point towards possible future closer. Once I checked in the ticker though at pick 12 and didn't see Aiken selected yet, I was starting to get giddy. I know he has some health concerns but that guy could be one of the best lefties in the game in 3-4 years if he stays right. Here's a cool video about the newest Giants' first-round pick, talking about pitching and showing some off his stuff!

Take Chris Shaw w/31st pick
With the 31st pick in the round one and the Giants 2nd pick in the round, they went from a pitcher with power stuff to a third basemen with big time power with the bat, and I liked this selection because the Giants took a chance on a guy with raw power. BC OF Chris Shaw is a guy who's got plus power and the ability to play either corner outfield spot or first base, depending on team needs (although lack of range makes him best suited for first). He's shown the ability to hit and hit for power with the wood bat already in the Cape Cod League. From the looks and sounds of things, he reminds me a lot of Brandon Belt in a way. Big time power, and the ability to get hot and hit for average, but he's still got to get a handle on the strike zone, I'll tell you one thing though, he sure does have a pretty left-handed stroke and it's easy to see why the Giants liked him. Here's a video of him taking BP then going yard in-game the very same night... Just take a look at that swing!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Duffy/Aoki outplaying Sandoval/Morse

Remember when everybody was worried about how the Giants would replace the offensive production they got from The Panda and Michael Morse when both departed as free agents over the winter? Well, a third of the way through the first year post-Sandoval, and without Morse's presence from 2014, the incumbents have outperformed their predecessors.

First off we'll take a look out in left field, where Nori Aoki took over for Michael Morse and allowed Bruce Bochy the flexibility to drop Angel Pagan (who, let's face it, isn't the world's best leadoff hitter) down in the order and it's worked out for both. Although Pagan's power has yet to show up, he's been at or above .300 for most all the season and has adapted well in his move down the order. I'd like to see a little more pop and a few more free passes but I do like the average. Also, Nori Aoki has taken the leadoff spot by the reigns and hasn't looked back. Although he's had a few small down periods, he's been pretty solid throughout, sporting a solid .314/.385/.401 slash with 12 swipes and 24 runs scored. He's been a rock at the top of the lineup and sure-handed (and footed) in left field as well, so much so that I mentioned here in our last post that the Giants seriously ought to approach him about a possible extension for 2016. It's nice when your leadoff guy has a OBP north of .350 (no offense Angel)... Oh by the way, if you were wondering how 'ol Michael Morse was doing in his new digs over in South Beach, you'll feel even better as the big 1B/OF'er is slashing a petty .211/.268/.289 with just 2 long balls and 10 RBI in 50 games. So far, major win for Aoki and the Giants in this one.

Now onto the hot corner where nobody expected that Casey McGehee, who played a season in Japan because he had very little Major League interest just two seasons ago in 2013, would be able to replace postseason hero and long-time Giants' fan favorite, Pablo Sandoval. Well, McGehee didn't, but in stepped Matt Duffy, who has indeed outperformed the former Giants' third basemen through the first 1/3 of 2015, and he's done so with 3/4 the playing time. While Pablo Sandoval carries a pedestrian .239./.306/.352 line with 5 homers and 17 RBI in 198 plate appearances (playing in a hitters haven and a top lineup mind you), young Duffy has put up a respectable rookie slasher of .277/.318/.404 coupled with 4 HR and 23 batted in less than 150 plate appearances. Not only is he outhitting Sandoval, he's driven in more runs, gotten on base at a higher clip and probably would be out-homering the Panda as well with another couple dozen at-bats. Again, I'd say advantage Matt Duffy, and by a long-shot thus far. When you throw in the fact that Pablo's raking in roughly $19 million this year while Duffy's under team control till 2020, just puts icing on the cake.

EXTRAS: Losing Streak Snapped: The Giants finally snapped that 5-game skid, as getting out East and playing in front of literally handful of Phillies fans may have allowed them to loosen up a bit. Tim Lincecum was decent, although he made a couple of mistakes and they each accounted in long balls, which accounted for 3 of the 4 runs charged to the Giants' right-hander, yet he still escapes with a 6-3 record and a decent 3.29 ERA. I'd really like to see him get that WHIP down around 1.20 rather than in the 1.3's but so long as he keeps the ERA sub-4 that's all that really matters... As far as the bats, Matt Duffy and Justin Maxwell each had big flies and multi-hit games while Buster Posey hit number 9. The Giants just recalled Casey McGehee with Duffy sliding a bit the past week, but he immediately showed he's nowhere near ready to reliquish third base to McGehee. I like having Casey up there as a bat of the bench though with the ability to play both 2nd and 1st as well as 3rd, in a pinch, but eventually he's going to have to start hitting... Also, with Hunter Pence suffering from tendinitis in his left wrist and Nori Aoki battling the flu, Gregor Blanco and Maxwell could see themselves back in there for Saturday's game and possibly even Sunday's finale, although if I were to bet, I'd assume Pence will do his best to work himself into one of those games, whether it's pinch-hitting or starting in right, I think Boch wants to give him an at-bat back in Philly.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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