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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Giants look bad, but is there hope?

Last week, the Giants took two out of three from the LA Dodgers and looked like they were primed to start shaking off the rust that caused them to fall 9-10 games below .500 in the matter of a month. However, they hit the road, leaving California and head to the mid-west where they endured one of the toughest to watch 4-game series' I've seen in recent memory.

They looked solid in LA, taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers and the starting pitching was on point. The bright spot, in my opinion, was Jeff Samardzija's brilliant outing, his best since he's dawned a Giants uniform here early on in year number two of his five-year deal (unfortunately he got rocked in his follow up outing). What was disturbing though about that Dodgers series is that the Dodgers outscored them 17-13 in the three game (despite the Giants winning two of three). The reason I mention that is because it carried over into what I think was the worst series so far on the young '17 season for the Giants in Cincinnati. After regaining some momentum heading into the series, the Giants were absolutely hammered by Cinci at Great American Ballpark. Matt Cain got raked in game one, Ty Blach essentially mirrored Cain's abysmal outing in game two, then Johnny Cueto gave the team a chance with a solid 7 inning, 2 ER, 10 K performance on getaway day but of course the Giants didn't even supply a single run of support for the magnificent outing by Cueto.

It's a tad disturbing when your team rolls into one of the most offensively live ballparks in all of baseball and gets outscored to the tune of 31-5 in a three game set. Now I know that Denard Span and Brandon Crawford, two of the teams most important bats, where still on the shelf for this series, but the lack of run scoring seems to be getting even worse. I mean, they got shut out by Scott Feldman, a 35 year-old righty who's, at best, a 5-starter at this point of his career.

Things didn't get much better in New York either as the Giants lost 2 of 3 in this set. However, they played a little bit better baseball and each of these games were actual ballgames whereas the contests in Cinci were just laughable really. They lost two games by a run and each of those games could have gone in the Giants favor with a lucky break here or there but New York got all the home field advantage and had the luck on their side as well.

So, now we find ourselves in a sort of "early season panic mode" as a Giants fans. As I type this the Giants and Reds are in extra innings in game two of their set at AT&T Park (^15th to be exact). Of course, the Giants could not complete their comeback at the end of game one, continuing their bad luck against the Reds in 2017, but they have a chance to comeback in tonight's ballgame, then take the next two to take the series . They're in the midst of perhaps one of the tougher part of their schedules right now dealing with the highly improved Reds, then hosting the Dodgers before heading to the mid-west to play the Cardinals and Cubbies then returning home to play the best team in the league, Washington Nationals. They do have a three-game set with Atlanta sprinkled in there somewhere but I think this is going to be the stretch that determines what the Giants' strategy in terms of mid-season trading.

This stretch of games will take them into June and that's about the time when you have a pretty good grip on your squad's weaknesses and needs, and most importantly, are there enough attainable upgrades out there that can legitimately help this team. If they go through that stretch and find themselves in the same situations they currently are in, over 10 games below .500, then it could be the first time since before 2010 that the Giants won't be looking for deals to upgrade in July. I'm still holding out hope that they won't let things get too far out of hand. The scary part about this team though and the thing that makes me worry about their chances to rebound from this abysmal stretch of play to start the year is the fact that they just can't seem to string together any wins. I'm not pulling up the schedule or researching this part, but I know it's been a minute since the Giants put together any sort of winning streak, even a measly little 2-game winning streak. The fact that they're struggling to do that makes me wonder how the heck they'll string together enough victories to make it back to .500. That's the good thing about baseball. It's a long season, the Giants will string together more than one win again at some point and we're hardly a 1/5th of the way through the season.

As far as Friday night's game, that just entered the 14th. I was hoping to hang around long enough to post a little about the finish to this one. The Reds have two runners on and nobody out and things aren't looking too great now so I'm gonna end it here. If they do pull it out in the next few innings I may check back for quick thoughts at the end of this post, otherwise we'll be back tomorrow with more Giants talk and maybe a look down at the minor leagues check on the intriguing players who are next up on the Giants call-up list should the seasons really get away from them or some injuries keep hurting this club to the point where they're going to need some in-house help. It doesn't look like they'll be making any deals anytime soon, and it's getting pretty boring repeatedly saying how the Giants aren't getting the big hit, aren't pitching consistently or even fielding consistently and their mishaps all seem to be biting them in the rear-end during this down period.

So, at this point, all Bochy, Evans and Giants fans across the universe have got to cross their fingers and hope the return of BCraw and Denard Span will give the offense a huge shot in the arm they need. Craw is steady and I don't think anyone is worrying about him (aside from him staying on the field). Span, however, is a wild card for the Giants. He hadn't done a whole lot so far this year battling injury, but showed up in a big way in his first game back, with a 4-hit night including a big fly. We've yet to see Span really healthy and 100% since he came over to the Giants but they're hoping he's getting there. I can certainly see the difference in the guys swing (he's getting his lower body into it, creating more power than he was showing) and the way the balls are coming off his bat. For a while there it was weak ground balls to second or first with the occasional pop-outs or strike outs. Span, as the leadoff hitter and with his track record, still obviously has the talent, the question with him remains his health, whether it's his hip (hampered him last season) or shoulder (slowed him in '17 so far), the Giants are a different team when he's out there and playing at close to 100%.

Because this team doesn't homer regularly so they have to manufacture runs, and that's Spans ballgame. I'm telling you, a 100% Span in the leadoff spot is a different animal, with extra-base pop, plenty of speed, great defense, .300 BA and his clutch abilities are needed. In his absence, the Giants have used anyone from Gorkys Hernandez, Joey Panik, Hunter Pence and Eduardo Nunez in the leadoff spot and none are even close to your prototypical leadoff guys. Panik is probably the best suited of that bunch but doesn't have the top of the order speed you really look for. The top of the order sets the tone for the game and the rest of the batting order, so if the Giants can get that on track it should do plenty in terms of helping them get some runs early and consistently.

Posey Walk-off Jack Friday night!
Just as I was about to hit post and call it a night, Buster Posey ends it off with a night-cap, walkoff home run to finally end the Giants horrendous losing streak vs. the Reds. The Giants had lost their previous 4 games to the Reds early on here, so Friday's win has to feel pretty good. Well, folks, that was a much needed victory, and Buster Posey, the teams cornerstone, made it happen with a huge walkoff in the bottom of the 17th inning to send Giants' fans home happy Friday night. I originally started this post anticipating being able to talk much more about today's game but it kept going on and I didn't think I'd be able to do so tonight. Anyhow, I won't write too much more, just that my oh my was it refreshing to finally see a victory and the offense come up with that elusive clutch hit.... And of course let's not forget Cueto and the bullpen. Cueto went 8 strong allowing 2 runs and struck out 6 then the bullpen didn't allow a run for nearly 10 innings and that's the was the most impressive part of this win, in my opinion. The pen certainly got it done in all aspects tonight!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, May 04, 2017

Should SF be agressive or wait things out?

Needless to say, the San Francisco Giants have gotten off to a pretty bad start. Especially coming off a year where they were a few breaks away from making another NLCS appearance then who knows what would have happened.

However, they failed to make it out of that divisional round because of multiple reasons, the most important being that bullpen, but we all know that story and I'm not here to re-hash the same old stuff. My question for Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean and Co. at this point would be are you guys seriously planning on turning this ship around or you more in a "hey we made the playoffs last year, the fans won't go too crazy if we miss it this time around". Of which, I'm sure they're more on the side of the former, and if that's the case, this team is going to have to act sooner than later. They may not be able to wait until mid-summer to pull the trigger on an upgrade(s) to this roster. I'd say give this unit maybe until mid-May and if this still haven't climbed back up around .500 then I don't really see things getting much better.

The rotation has been on point, as the only guy in the rotation who isn't pulling his weight, and sure a lot of it has to do with "bad luck" is Jeff Samrdziaja. "The Shark" sports an 0-4 record and a 6.32 ERA but he's also struck out 32 in 31 IP so the stuff is there and hopefully the results start showing up in May. Everyone else has been pretty nails, although Matty Moore's outing Tuesday night in LA was his worst as a Giant (I believe). They're even getting strong starts out of Matt Cain and Ty Blach, in replacement of Madison Bumgarner until at least mid-season, has thrown well himself a couple of gems his first two starts of the season. The thing is, the movement from Blach from the Giants bullpen into the rotation has prompted Stephen Okert into the primary left-handed reliever out of the pen. Okert has the stuff and has had a little bit of success in his brief amount of big league time, and although he's thrown a lot better than his 5.14 ERA shows, he does have a 0.857 WHIP. He also doesn't give up the long ball or walk guys (two great traits for RP's).

Speaking of that bullpen, as a hole they seem to slowly be getting things together. They still have those games where if one gets roped then it's typically gonna cause a domino effect. I still would consider the bullpen a work in progress, but at least roles seem to be getting a little more defined. The one dagger the other afternoon was Mark Melancon blowing that 2-0 lead in Blach's start, which ended up costing the Giants the game, series, Blach a W and Melancon his 2nd BS in 7 opportunities. Now I'm hardly worried about the new closer, but it's just an example of what's happening that's causing the team to consistently be 5-8 games below .500.

So why is the team 8 game below .500 at the time of this post? Well, the defense has left a lot to be desired, no doubt on that, as they've cost the team a handful of games. The main reason why the Giants enter play on Wednesday night with a troubling 10-18 record, as we all know,  is largely in-part to the lack of offense this team is getting and the inability to put runs on the board. I know, surprise, surprise. right? Now Boch has tried just about everything. They've called up guys left and right, they've completely overhauled the batting and aside from Denard Span's shoulder, the starting lineup is pretty darn healthy. Unfortunately there is no clear timetable for Span's return after he sprained his right shoulder slamming into the wall in Colorado April 22nd. He was expected to be ready to rock when first eligible to come off the 10-day DL, but suffered a set-back last Thursday. So while Bochy is hoping he could be ready to go in the next week or so, it's Span we're talking about so even if he does return in a week, who knows how long it will be before he strains his hammy next or has the recurring hip problem pop back up?

With all this going on, the major question I want the answer to is if: A. They're going to keep trotting out this unit for another month or so and go from there: or B: They're actively searching right now for possible help in the outfield already and will upgrade before they fall to far out of things. If the answer is the ladder like most of us are hoping, the name that keeps coming to mind because he is one my fantasy team but I'm not quite sure how I feel about him is Andrew McCutchen. He's still  right in the middle of his prime at 30 and I highly doubt he's going to turn in another sub-par season like he did in '16, if you wanna call it that. By his standards then yes, but still, he slashed .256/24/79/.766 last season. He isn't hitting for his usual high average to start the year, but the power is there as he's amassed 4 jacks with 13, both would lead the Giants.

The especially intriguing things about McCutchen is he's a free agent after the season, so he should hit the block as long as the Pirates don't surprise everyone and go 30-12 over the next 6 weeks. Ryan Braun is a lot another name we've talked about here before, but I still think McCutchen would be the guy to get. They  wouldn't need to be tied to him long-term (maybe he loves SF like Pence did and signs a team-friendly deal), and he's a gold glove center fielder which would be a welcome sight in the Giants' circus of an outfield this season (aside from Pence). Braun is in his age 33 season and although he's still producing like a $20M player, he's under contract through 2020 and who knows if he'll be producing like this in 3 years? My guess is yes, Braun will continue to hit, as long as he stays healthy, and the end of that deal will take him through his age-36 season which isn't too bad at all. There are plenty players still thriving on the back half of 35 these days and Braun is one of the most talented players of the last decade.

The one thing we didn't mention, but obviously we all know, is that these guys would cost a massive return in prospects. We're talking probably Beede, Arroyo and maybe even Ty Blach. The Giants seem to have been spot on on picking who to trade and who not to trade in recent seasons so lets hope they keep that trend going this year as well.

There are going to be trade options, more than the ones I just named, much more, I just find McCutchen and Braun the two most intriguing (bug again, also likely the most costly). One reason why they'd both be attractive options for the Giants is because play outfield and both are above average defensive outfielders (in McCutchen's case he's got a couple gold gloves in center). Secondly both are right-handed hitters of which power plays a big role in their effectiveness. Both are 25 HR a year guys, and because they're right-handed, a move to AT&T wouldn't drastically diminish their numbers. Heck, McCutchen hasn't been hitting in a hitters paradise by any stretch playing half his games at PNC Park, the AT&T Park of the NL Central. Finally, both these players are true, tested middle of the order guys and could slot right in there ahead of or behind Buster Posey and alleviate a lot of pressure off of Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford. Also maybe not make Chris Arroyo feel like he has to be "the guy" to sort of turn this ship around.

Decisions aplenty await the Giants, and it really shouldn't come to many people's surprise. I didn't expect them to be this bad and still trying to find their sea legs in May still, but I also didn't expect them to be more than a .500 team or slightly above until they figured out LF and their bullpen roles. I'm also sick of hearing about how it's early. Yes, of course 20 games into a 162 game season is just a fraction, but the worrying thing, in my opinion, is that they don't seem to be showing signs of improvement. Boch's massive lineup overhaul and their numerous call-ups and send downs they've done over the last two weeks have been sort of hit and miss, but I'm willing to give this group another 3-4 weeks to get things turned around. Once June approaches and they're still losing games on the regular by scores like 4-1, 3-2 and so on, then somethings gotta be done, or they'll essentially be waiving the white flag on the season.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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