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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Giants hoping to have found their groove

The Giants have had some interesting stretches already through the season's first five weeks, but they're going to have to put together some form of consistency, sooner than later, if they want to keep atop the NL West. And it looks as though they may have found some!

It's just been such a strange pattern of events that this team has been going through. Generally, through much of April, scoring runs wasn't a problem for this team. Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence have anchored the middle of the order while Buster Posey, Matt Duffy (although he's been much better in May) and Co. sort of coast along looking to find their grove. Over about the last week though, it looks like they may have finally done just that. I mean, nobody in the lineup has been particularly bad to this point. None of them are hovering down near .200 or anything and everyone has had at least a handful of games in which they've helped contribute to victories, but they just haven't been able to get one the same page together as a unit, at least until lately.

All of the sudden, the offense appears to be heating up just a little bit, although still plenty of room for improvement. Joe Panik, despite currently carrying an average in the .250's, has come up with some big hits time and time again. And then there's Denard Span, who is showing the value of a true leadoff hitter, even though his average isn't quite up where he'd like it to be yet. Buster still hasn't hit his hot streak and while Pence has been steadily solid, he himself hasn't gone on a week's long tear where he hits .500 and knocks 5 balls out of the ballpark, which shows the upside of this offense. I mean, imagine if Buster and Span were up at or around .300 and Duffy wasn't invisible at the plate for much of April, we're probably looking at a team 10+ games above .500 (rather than a squad barely trying to stay afloat at that mark). Their problem has been getting all their big hitters on track at the same time. They'll have Pence and Belt heat up for a week, then cool down just as Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey find their stroke. Lately though, they've started getting more guys going at the same time and if that keeps up they should start creating separation between them and the .500 mark.

Now, I'm completely aware of the pitching situation; both what's going in the 4th and 5th rotation spots as well as they musical chairs they've been playing in the bullpen, both in mid and late relief. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain are still anchoring down the 4th and 5th spots in the rotation and while each has shown a minor glimmer of bouncing back into form from time to time, neither have been major league caliber starters since the beginning of the year, period. I mean, these two have not been struggling since spring, but Cainer's struggles really date all the way back to before he went down in 2013. Seeing how the Giants had a stretch at the end of April/early May in which they went 10-2 and were both hitting the ball and pitching successfully, shows that they can still be successful with Cain and Peavy in the mix, but they're gonna have to strengthen up and become almost perfect in every other aspect. That being said, if one or both don't shape up by the end of May, changes are going to be made. They did bring up a minor league starter Friday, re-calling RHP Clayton Blackburn from AAA Sacramento. Not surprisingly, they kept Alberto Suarez and the 13-man staff, rather optioning Jarrett Parker back to Sacramento instead.

The Giants' pitching, outside of Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija and Casilla, as well as Josh Osich and Cory Gearrin (also Derrick Law has been impressive) at times, has been extremely hit or miss. Even notoriously tough Javier Lopez has an ERA up in the north 4's here in mid-May. Obviously, the bullpen and staff has drastically missed Sergio Romo and hopefully his return isn't that far off (he's started throwing off flat-ground again but still no concrete timetable, which likely means 2nd half or later). They've also missed the veteran influence and consistency from recently retired Jeremy Affeldt. I think that's why Bobby Evans has been so adamant about the team seeking relief help at the moment, despite 2/5 of their rotation performing well below league average.

With Sunday's win, the Giants moved into sole possession of 1st plate in the West at 21-18 and are playing particularly good baseball, winning their last four in a row. I think the highlight of the last few games though has to be Jake Peavy's performance Saturday, by far his best start of the season. The veteran right-hander who's come under so much scrutiny in the early season for ineffectiveness, threw 6 strong innings Saturday, giving up just 3 base hits and a couple walks to go along with 5 strikeouts. With that quality outing, Peavy has bought himself some more time and now puts Matt Cain primarily on the hot seat heading into his start Sunday, although he is coming off a nice start last week, he's still 0-5 with an ERA north of 6. So, despite him making 20+ million dollars this season and being an untouchable in this rotation as recent as early 2014. he just hasn't been that good for a while now and the ice is getting thinner. Eventually, if things don't turn around, the Giants will have to do what they did with Zito for Cain's last couple seasons under contract. They may need to DL him with a phantom injury to give him time to work on things, or move him into the bullpen. Whatever they decide to do, we're 1/4 way through the season and somethings gonna have to give. Lets just hope he follows up Peavy's solid outing for now.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    Gotta say, I'm really excited about Peavy and Cain's recent starts. Cain had his second good one in a row and Peavy is coming off his best outing. And what do you know, the Giants are in a 5 or 6 game winning streak now. Just shows how those two were anchoring down the starting pitching rotation the first month. If they can pitch like they have the last 10 dayys then the Giants are gonna be better than just fine.

    Still would like to see them get another releiver or two especially if mr. romo is still 2 months out.

  • At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    Don't know what it is, but like you Trevor, I still don't have 100% faith in Casilla this year especially. Seems to be walking the tight rope a lot but his numbers are there and he hasn't coughed up too many yet so I'll still ride him out but how nice would it be to have an Andrew Miller on hand or someone like that just to provide the safety blanket.

  • At 6:23 PM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Yeah, Casilla has been pretty solid to date, but he just has those hiccups that can lead to huge innings. He's also prone to giving up the long ball and while 8/11 in save opps isn't bad, 10/11 is a little more what your looking for in an ace closer.

    I wouldn't mess with anything right now, as he's been pretty good the last few weeks. But yes, having a backup plan is place is a wise idea. I think the Giants' brass was hoping Hunter Strickland was going come on and sort of be the next Brian Wilson, with his quick rise and incredible high-velocity movement. However, he's just not looked ready for that next step and is too shaky in 1-run games to be the last line of defense (not ideal for a closer). Derrick Law is a little more intriguing but he too has a ways to go. I still think this is an area they're gonna have to deal for in order to strengthen it this year. I mean, unless Kontos comes back throwing like a set-up man and Romo gets back on the field, effectively, before the All-Star break. Fortunately for them, late relievers (not necessarily closers though) are typically among the easier targets during trade season.

  • At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Giants have been super awesome the last couple weeks but why does it seem like they still aren't playing their best baseball yet? I think they can be even better.

  • At 12:48 AM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Re: Anonymous-

    Your 100% right, they've gotten back on track, yes, but they still aren't clicking on all cylinders. The difference we've seen the last 2 weeks or so has been a drastic improvement to the pitching, both relief and starters. We know for the most part the front-3 in this staff are going to give you 7+ innings and typically give the bullpen, at least the middle relievers, a bit of a breather. Well, with Peavy and Cain coming around here in May and the big-3 (Bum, Cueto and Shark) all pitching just as the Giants had envisioned, the bullpen's work-load has been cut way down and they've been fresher and more effecient because of it.

    That's been the key behind their recent 8-game win streak, the pitching. The reason why they don't appear to be playing their best all around ball though, is because they still aren't. Offensively, they've got some guys struggling and/or not playing up to their potential. Mainly, the two that they'd really like to see take off are two of their middle-order thumpers, Buster Posey and Matt Duffy. Duffy has had some struggles all year and while Posey has shown a few glimpses of being on verge of a breakout here and there, it hasn't happened yet. I'm sure he'd like his average up around .300 like typical and that OPS up around .900 (currently .763). Also, he's on pace for just 15 HR and about 60 RBI at this current pace, but we all know that's not going to last.

    So once those guys get it going, and that pitching keeps doing what they've been doing, this team is going to show why they were so highly touted coming into 2016!

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