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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Giants second-half skid getting worse

This series the Giants just finished up with the Pirates was one of the toughest I've seen all year. In all three games, the Giants coughed up comfortable leads and have now fallen 1.5 games back of LA in the West for the first time since early May.

Whats been especially rough is the way they're losing these games though. It seems like each day it's a particular area of the team that isn't pulling their weight. For example, Matt Moore, a guy the Giants paid heavily to get, wasn't able to give them a quality start on Monday and that, coupled with some bullpen deficiencies caused the Giants to lose a game they should have won. Then on Wednesday, Jeff Samardizja was solid, allowing 3 runs over 6 innings, but the Giants offense just couldn't quite figure out rookie Jameson Taillon and lost the game 4-3. Then, perhaps the toughest of all three losses came Wednesday, when the Giants staked Matt Cain a 4-run lead early and Matty looked like he was on his game through 4 innings, shutting down the Pirates. However, he not only coughed up the lead but allowed 6 runs in that brutal fifth, and the Giants only scored one the rest of the way, losing 6-5.

So yes, it was one of the more painful 3-game series I've seen them play all season and it's just now resonating with me that the Giants were vastly overachieving in the first half and that this team may not be a playoff team. They're not a good comeback team, and they have trouble scoring throughout the game. Most there damage usually comes in one or two innings. A big reason for that is there really isn't one guy in their lineup who's having a standout year (aside from Crawford and the RBI output) and after MadBum and Cueto, their rotation hasn't given any sort of consistency the last 6 weeks. Then of course there's the bullpen, which has been one of the worst in the league since the All-Star break as well. No lead seems to be safe right now and that's a scary thing.

None of the three trades they made at the deadline have paid off as of yet. Will Smith has been downright terrible, sporting a 12.26 ERA in his 7 games in the orange and black. Eduardo Nunez, who was a dynamic offensive player during an all-star first half in Minnesota hitting for average, power and stealing bases regularly, has come over to the NL and seemingly forgotten how to hit. He did finally connect  for his first home run as a Giant on Monday, but otherwise has been dreadful since the deal, hitting just .200 with that 1 HR and 3 RBI in 18 games. Granted, he spent his career in the AL, so an adjustment period was certainly expected, though it's carried on longer and has been worse then everyone was anticipating.

At this point, they have no choice but to ride it out and hope things turn back around for this final 6-week stretch run. We all knew the Giants were over-achieving in May and June, especially offensively, as they seemed to always find ways to scrap together enough runs to win but I didn't expect them to hit a wall like this (especially with everyone healthy). Pitching wise, they haven't been anywhere near as good as they were during that May/June run so it makes you wonder, which is the real 2016 San Francisco Giants? This team hasn't looked at all like a playoff-caliber squad for a considerable amount of time now and even if they got lucky and landed another reliable starter to take Cain's spot, or another bat or relief arm via waivers wouldn't make that much of a difference. In May/June they just kept figuring out ways to beat you like a good team does but now it's the complete opposite as they're finding different ways to lose ballgames. 

What they can do, and something I would like to see is them shake something up though. Whether it's dropping Cain from the rotation and giving a youngster like Tyler Beede or Ty Blach a shot or maybe doing something different with the top of the lineup, they have to make some attempt to get this team going. Usually Bochy's pretty good at knowing what strings to pull in this situation and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't made some switches by now. The only positive about losing their hold of first place over LA right now is that they'd have first priority on the waiver-wire and maybe they'll get lucky and find someone to come in and give them a shot in the arm like Cody Ross did in 2010, but they certainly cannot bank on that. They have to figure this out with what they have and while what they have may not be the best team in the league like they were heading into the All-Star break, they're better then what they've showed since.

Extra: As I'm sure you all know by now, the Giants brought back and old friend this week, signing Joe Nathan to a minor league deal. I think they did this more so with September in mind when rosters expand and they can use another veteran arm out in that bullpen, however, the 41 year-old did appear in a couple games with the Cubs earlier in the year and threw very well and may arrive sooner than that.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Giants need more from big hitters

Much of the Giants struggles in the second half have been because of a major offensive drought the team has been going through the last month. Before the break, the Giants were figuring out ways to scrap together runs despite missing a couple of key contributors like Pence and Pagan.

Now fast-forward to mid-August, entering the stretch drive and the final 6+ weeks of the season, and the Giants lack of offense has become a trend that's lasted much longer than any of us were anticipating/hoping. Over the last 10 games the Giants have scored four-plus runs just four times, have been shut out twice and put up just a run in two of those contests. There pitching is good enough to where they're going to win most games in which they score more than 4 runs but that just hasn't been happening with any consistency. One of the reasons has been Hunter Pence. Hunter is a guy they were expecting a ton of run production from this year, yet he was knocked out for a couple months and has really struggled to get back on track since his return. Even before the injury he wasn't quite producing runs at a rate he's accustomed too though his average was up around .300 all year. Since his return however, neither the average or power has been there, as he's gone just 9-48 with 0 HR's and just one RBI while sporting a anemic .464 OPS! Before the injury, Pence was on pace for his typical .290'ish 20+ home run, 90+ RBI season, but he's not performing anywhere near that level right now and it's really hurting.


Pence's struggles have forced Bochy to drop him down in the lineup to the 7th slot recently. I personally would like to see him maybe shifted up into the two-hole with Belt or Crawford third then Posey fourth and maybe that will get him some more fastballs and get him back on track a little. Speaking of Posey, he's another guy who's not performing up to his career norm either. He's had such an odd season to say the least. He's gone through short mini bursts in which you think he's about to break out and turn back into that .320 hitting Buster who's hitting balls all over the yard and in the gaps, driving in runs. However, as the Giants enter play Saturday, Posey's sporting extremely pedestrian numbers for his standards with a line of .288/12/54/.818. Again, not bad at all for a catcher, but I'm sure the former MVP would like to be closer to 20 HR, and around 75 RBI at this point in the season than he is. To his credit, he is on pace to score the most runs of his career, which is more of a testament to Belt, Crawford and the guys behind him, but I'd like to see him step it up himself down the stretch.

If the Giants continue to get lackluster games from Pence at the plate and Buster stays on his current, very mediocre pace and can't hit another hot streak that can carry on for a few weeks and give this team some offensive life, the Giants are going to be in trouble. The Dodgers are right on their heels, just a game back, and they still have big reinforcements on the way in Rich Hill (back next week) and Clayton Kershaw (who is expected back by September). A month ago it was looking as if the Giants were going to just run away with this division. They were thriving despite rough back-end rotation performances and not having Pence and Pagan out there. Now, everyone is healthy, and they've even strengthened their rotation big time and found themselves a sorely lacking, top left-handed reliever, but they just can't find that rhythm they had going strong in May/June.

This is going to be a telling home stand in my opinion. After the Orioles the Giants get the Pirates and then the Mets. All these teams are beatable teams and the Giants should be able to take each of these series'. After this stand they have a tough stretch heading out on the road to face the Dodgers, Cubs, Rockies and D-Backs. The Rockies and D-Backs have given the Giants trouble in 2016 and the Cubs are the best team in baseball right now. Needless to say, some momentum going into that rough road stretch would be crucial.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Giants ultra aggressive as deadline dust settles

The Giants parted with a lot of well known names in the organization over the last week, culminating with two big deals before Monday's 1 PM trade deadline. While I don't think they got away with any steals this summer, I'm leaning toward liking two of the three deals, but only time will tell how they really play out.

First the one I thought was a little too much for a little, well, too little. The Giants gave up Andrew Susac, an aging, albeit still valuable catching prospect, but also their top pick from 2015 and a guy who's looked it in his brief stint in pro ball in Phil Bickford for a middle reliever. Now, granted, that middle reliever has been one of the best in the game the last few seasons and should give the Giants exactly what they needed most in that bullpen, the price was a little too steep for my liking. I would have preferred more of a 2nd rate pitching prospect with Susac, someone along the lines of a Chris Stratton or Kyle Crick (who still has upside but has fallen in prospect ranks a bit recently). Instead the Giants parted with a guy some (including myself) believe to be their very best pitching prospect (yes over Beede because of age) for a middle reliever and that's a bit crazy when you really think about it. However, the Giants have a window they see of about 3-5 more seasons where they'll have this core group in-tact and in their relative primes and with that championship window open so it was clearly a go-for-it-now move and it did meet a need. Also, it gives the Giants get a top of the line LH reliever who will stick around for cheap through 2019 which I think was the selling point for Bobby Evans. He figures with the money saved in this move the Giants may be able to sign an international prospect who can come in and take right over for Bickford, but again, only time will tell.

As for the Matt-for-Matt trade, in which the Giants sent infielder, fan favorite and reigning ROY runner-up Matt Duffy along with top-10 pitching prospect Lucious Fox to Tampa for a guy who just two seasons ago was looking like he was becoming a premiere left-handed starter in this league, Matt Moore. At first, I was extremely bummed they had to give up Duffy, and I still am. I like him, I think he's a good player and does have the capability to be a solid major league regular like we saw in 2015, for years to come. However, we didn't see that this year, as he's been one of the worst offensive 3rd basemen all year long. Not too mention, the Giants just added a guy who needs to be in the starting lineup daily and really didn't have a spot with Pence and Panik both making returns. Nunez brings more pop and speed than Duffy but the ladder is the better defender (although Nunez hasn't looked too shabby in his brief stint here thus far) and had the knack for the clutch hit, especially in '15. I like that the Giants had a back-up plan in place for Duffy and probably will upgrade now at third base for the stretch run and have Nunez under contract for 2017 as well. Duffy, however, would have been under team control through 2019.

As for Matt Moore, as I said above, this guy was considered a rising star back in 2012/13 before getting injured. In fact, he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA with the Rays in 2013 (despite missing all of August), earning himself an All-Star appearance. However, he had to undergo the dreaded Tommy John Surgery in 2014 which essentially took away much of his last two seasons. He's looked liked he's rebounding nicely this year though and he's been respectable, although not the 2013-type successful. A move to the NL West and AT&T Park will be a huge positive for him and I'd be surprised if he didn't emerge as the Giants #3 starter down the stretch. He has that kind of potential. Also, he too is under team control with team options through 2019 that will pay him significantly less than others in his class would get. I mean if this guy were to become a FA after this year and finishes say, 13-13 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, like he's basically on pace for, he'd easily get a deal similar to what Jeff Samardzija just signed, if not more because he's only 27. And the Giants will have him for 8,9 and $10M over the next three seasons as long as he doesn't blow his arm out or something like that. So when you combine Moore's potential not only this year but into the future and at that cheap price along with the fact the Giants upgraded from Duffy with Nunez at third before hand made Duffy expendable this trade looking better than I originally thought upon first hearing it.

So in summation of the three deals, I do like the Nunez deal, although it took me a second to come around, sort of like the Moore deal, I give that deal a B- for the Giants. I like that they got Will Smith and certainly needed a competent left handed reliever but I hate that they gave up Bickford for him so that deal I give a straight C for. Finally, the big one, the Duffy for Moore deal, it too took a moment to digest but when taking all things we've mentioned into account, I'm leaning more in favor of it than I originally was. I give that one a B-/C+. If Moore goes on to be Barry Zito while Duffy becomes an all-star in Tampa, it's gonna suck. But Duffy, while always hitting for a nice average, was never a dominant minor leaguer and was really a surprise last year on an average team but this year the league seemed to catch up to him at the plate. Plus, with Cain and Peavy each a couple bad starts from being relieved of their starting duties down the stretch and Samardzija struggling, you can see why they wanted someone with Moore's capabilities.

Anyway, Let me know what you guys think down in the comment box! Did the Giants do enough to keep fending off the Dodgers, who themselves got a lot better on Monday, or could they have done better, different moves, or done nothing at all? I think this deadline was slim pickings so prices where high. Considering that, the Giants got themselves guys who aren't just rentals and should be around to help them win ballgames for the foreseeable future!

Extra: Here's a cool video on Matt Moore showing in-depth highlights in a recent start back in June. As you can see by evident of the 94 mph heater, the big hook and fall-off-the-table change-up, the guy can be really good and appears fully recovered from Tommy John. And again, coming from an AL East that features predominantly hitter-friendly yards to the NL West which offers quite the opposite.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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