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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

SF battling, but coming up short most nights

The bad news for the Giants since their quick 2-0 start in LA is that they've gone just 3-6 over their last nine. On a positive note, the losses haven't been bad at all, and most of them have been 1-run ballgames. I mean had they come up with a couple of clutch hits in certain situations that were very doable, they could just as easily be looking at 7-4 instead of 5-6 as they heading down into San Diego for a four-game stretch.

The most impressive game they've played all season thus far, at least in my opinion, was not their huge offensive output in game two of the Mariners' series. It was that 14-inning victory over LA on Saturday night after not playing the previous two nights. We all saw Andrew McCutchen's game winning home run in the best pitcher/batter battle I've seen in 2018, and I really thought that would get them jump-started but they've gone just 1-3 since that game and have scored only 9 runs in their last 4 games games combined. You can't really blame the pitching though. Two of the last three losses were 2-1 ballgames, and if they aren't able to score more than one run most nights, they really have no business winning. So basically the main reason for their losses early on have been due to the inability to hit with runners on and in scoring position and offensive inconsistencies. The newcomers were supposed to help fix that issue, and although 'Cutch broke out in that game vs. LA with a 6-hit night, he has been very quiet over his last few games. Evan Longoria also homered in the home opener vs. Seattle, but aside from that jack and a 2-hit game vs. LA on Sunday, he's been virtually non-existent with the bat.

It's not surprising to see Longo off to a slow start though, as he's spent his whole career in the AL prior to this season, so it may take him a couple more weeks to get acclimated to the new league and pitchers he really hasn't faced much, if at all. So we can't panic quite yet about the .114 AVG and .396 OPS after 35 at-bats, but they're going to need this guy to start hitting. The same can be said for Austin Jackson as he really hasn't made much of an impact at the plate at all in the early going. Jackson has collected 29 at-bats, and despite hitting a reasonable .258, he's scored only 1 run in his 9 games which is extremely low for a leadoff guy. So far, Gregor Blanco has blown him out of the water production wise. Granted, you can't really blame Jackson for the lack of runs scored because they aren't stringing together a bunch of hits and knocking guys in that way. Still, I would like to see his average closer to .300 and I would also like to see Boch start using the steal more when he does reach base.

Not only did they lose the series to Arizona Wednesday, they also got the news that Johnny Cueto now joining Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Will Smith and Mark Melancon on the DL with a sprained right ankle. They now are essentially throwing a glorified Triple-A starting rotation at teams until Shark and Cueto get back on the hill. I haven't seen an exact timetable for Cueto's return yet but the fact that he didn't leave the game when he injured himself, and was close to avoiding the DL stint and making his start Wednesday, I'm hoping it won't be much longer than the 10-day minimum. I do remember the play in which he tweaked it trying to throw out Dee Gordon on a little dribbler in front of the mound and it didn't look terrible but it did bring the Dave Groeschner and Bruce Bochy out to check on him. The move was made retroactive to April 7th, so the earliest we could see Cueto back is April 17th. That's hopefully right around the time Samardzija will be re-joining the rotation too as he'll get his rehab assignment started this weekend in San Jose. Shark will likely pitch in two rehab starts, unless he comes out of this weekends outing crisply and pain-free. He hasn't pitched competitively in almost a month now though, so two rehab starts seems feasible but with the rotation in disarray, one solid one may suffice.

The Giants are still sort of looking for their identity here two weeks into the season. The only guy off to a really nice start is Buster Posey (.389/..439/.611 w/2 HR, 6 RBI). Posey will always hit for average, but his power has dipped the last two years and that's something they need to bounce back, and it looks like it's on the way to doing that. They've had some big home runs, and their pen  has been better than I expected as Dyson has been the only real weak spot. Unfortunately, so far, it's been a team bitten by the injury big as they keep getting bad break after bad break within their pitching staff. Yes, it's better you get this junk out of the way and have these things pop up in April if at all.  it will also give us at least a couple of starts in which we can see arms Suarez and Beede and see what the hype is about.  It would suck if all these guys hit the DL late in the season in a pennant race, so all they can focus on now is trying to get these guys as healthy as possible before getting them back out on the mound. Until then, we'll be seeing a rotation of Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Derek Holland, Tyler Beede and Wednesday's starter Andrew Suarez.

Speaking of the young pitchers, both Beede and Suarez made their MLB debuts this week. Beede looked a little over-amped in his debut Tuesday, as he only made it through 4 innings, allowing 8 base-runners but limiting the damage to only two runs and the Giants went on to win that game despite Beede not factoring into the decision.. Suarez was a little more impressive in his start Wednesday, as he really made two mistakes and unfortunately one of them was to Paul Goldschmidt with a runner on. Suarez ended his debut with a line of 5 1/3 innings pitched, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks and 4 runs on 4 hits. He pitched better than his line showed, and kept the Giants in the ballgame, which is all they could ask someone to do in their debut. And although the bullpen didn't pick him up in this one, with Sam Dyson looking like early 2017 Dyson and gave up 3 runs in his inning (raising his ERA to 8.31 and WHIP to 1.85). In fact, aside from 'Strick and Tony Watson, Reyes Moronta has been the pen's most reliable arm and Johnson isn't too far behind. Even after the Watson signing I still thought this team needed another reliever, but even with guys shelved right now, they've done better than I expected and I don't think a reliever at this point is a "must add".

I wouldn't mind seeing them grab another starter so they maybe aren't forced to use Holland and/or Blach every 5th day, but I don't think the Giants will risk making a move like that and going over the CBT without a more clear view as to what it will take to get them into October. For once, I don't see reliever being part of that list, at least if Melancon and Smith both come back strong soon. That in itself will almost be like trading for two veteran relievers without giving up a thing. The same can be said for getting Bumgarner back, hopefully in the second part of May at some point. If and when everyone is healthy, it will likely shift Blach or Holland back to the fifth spot.

Moronta has already earned the trust of Boch to be used in big games, and he delievered big time in the team's previous 2 wins (4 IP, 1 H, 9 K's,). Moronta's only blemish has been the BB category as he's averaging a walk per inning. Luckly his stuff has been electric and they haven't been hitting him all that hard and one of the unfortunate side-effects with live arms with movement is that you can sometimes lose command with pitches and allow base on balls. Luckily for the 25 year-old , those are the only types of base runners he's been allowing because he's just been too hard to hit (oh yeah, his BAA is down at 0.91 in 6 outings). It doesn't look like a fluke either cause Moronta is looking like he may be set-up for a breakout rookie campaign for this club. He reminds me a bit of a young Armando Benitez, stuff wise. Just wait until Smith and Melancon return. When those two do get back, your likely looking at a pen of Melancon and Stick in 8th/9th inning roles, not sure if Melancon starts as a closer upon his return but I do expect him to be closing again for this team this year.

After those two, they'll have Smith, Tony Watson, Moronta, Cory Gearin and Josh Osich. If they still are rocking an 8-man bullpen time then I would hope Johnson would get that final spot over Dyson but I almost can guarantee that won't be the case unless Dyson doesn't have another good outing between now and then. If it is the bullpen I envision, and Melancon/Smith get back in the next few weeks and are back at 100% then they will really have turned things around from the last couple of seasons.

The Giants are now over 10 games into the season, and I said at the beginning of the year that if they can stay right around .500 at least until they start getting a couple of the key pitchers off the shelf, they should be in decent shape. They've managed to do that so far, sitting at 5-6 heading into play Thursday in San Diego. However, now that Cueto will miss at least another start or two, it makes things that much tougher.

Injury Updates: As far as the other injured pitchers are concerned, I already mentioned Samardzija headed to San Jose this weekend and he won't be alone (more on that in a second), but Madison Bumgarner and Mark Melancon are both still too far out to have a more clear expected return date... Another injured thrower is set to start his rehab assignment quicker than many had anticipated, as Will Smith will be joining Samardzija in San Jose in the coming days. Smith has already thrown in extended spring training in Arizona and is said to be feeling well. The guy hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2016 though, so it may take him a couple of weeks in the minors until the Giants deem him ready for big league duty again... If things go as planned, the Giants could have both Cueto and Shark back in the rotation, as well as Will Smith back in the pen within the next two weeks.

Down on the Farm: The hot spring that Mac Williamson had in  Arizona has carried over into the PCL with Sacramento. The 27 year-old corner outfielder leads all PCL hitters with a 15 at-bat minimum, rocking a monstrous 1.638 OPS. He's second in the league in HR's with 3 and has 8 RBI. It's only been 6 games, but this guy is proving spring training was no joke and his new approach at the plate is working. Obviously McCutchen isn't going to removed from the lineup, but Hunter Pence may start to feel some pressure with Mac toying with AAA pitching, doing his best to stick out and get Bochy, Bobby Evans and co.'s attention... Don't be surprised if Pence hits the 10-day DL with something in order for the Giants to give Mac a look....Fellow River Cat, and one of the team's consensus top-5 prospects, Chris Shaw, has also looked good at the dish for Sac. He enters play Thursday with a .333 AVG, .988 OPS plus 2 HR and 7 RBI in 30 AB's....Steven Duggar, the bright young cetner fielder that was close to making the team out of camp hasn't quite torn the cover off the ball like Shaw and Mac have. The 24 year-old is hitting just .250 with a .618 OPS, 0 HR and only 1 RBI.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Antawn Casser said…

    You took the thoughts right out of my head comparing Moronta to Benitez. Both have untouchable stuff when on, but can walk guys. Benitez would give up long balls too though if I remember correctly. Moronta has been the 2nd best relief pitcher in my eye, better than Watson so far but not by much. I love the year Gearin has last summer, and he's looking pretty solid, but I think Moronta should be the RH set-up guy to Strickland. Cannot stand Sam Dyson cuz he gets raked on the regular (sounded like a rap bar, lol), Johnson has looked good but in low pressure games and Osich has had a few hiccups but the Giants brass love this guy and I don't think he's going anywhere.

    The Giants needa put the hammer on SD. I don't care if they're gonna trot out less than ideal starting pitching, they got all these batters for a reason and none are hitting over.250 and only my new favorite player McCutchen,

  • At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey at least we're not getting blown out though. A couple lucky breaks that went against them cost them and they could easily be 7-4 like you said, or even 8-3. I think this team is way better than 2017 team though. They're a game below .500 right now but only by a game and we have SHark on his way back and Smith shortly after him. THey're only gonna get better.

    I'm still heated over the stupid Bumgarner injury though. Can't imagine what the record would be if he was there for those first 3 starts but Blach was pretty decent for 2 of them anyway. I just have a good feeling about this team. Nobody is hitting really well, and they don't have their 4 best pitchers, but they're still winning. Last year, they probably would be 2-9 instead of 5-6.

  • At 2:28 AM, Anonymous J.T. Moreno said…

    We just can't put together any winning streak yet. I think we've played better than our record shows now at 6-7. Stratton was a beast the other night and that's what we need. Not sure about this Ty Blach guy though. Seems like he's getting hit hard ever since his opening start in LA. I'm excited to see Suarez and Beede get shots though. Hoping SHark and Cueto get back next week and that will be a huge help. THe offense will come around, they're still getting into their rythem but have shown that they can score already. Just need to be more consistent.

    Good post though I like your insight and your ideas. First time coming across this. I will be back for sure!

  • At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Trying to stay optimistic but the Giants look pretty bad. Maybe not as bad as last year but they're no playoff team for sure. I don't know if Bumgarner Samardzija are even going to make that much of a difference. The starting pitching isn't even a big problem now, they need to excute at the plate.

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