Monday, March 31, 2014

A Victory In Spite of Themselves

I was all set to write a glowing review of Madison Bumgarner's opening day start, but there was little glowing about it.  In fact, I was rather depressed part way through the game, asking myself - how can these guys be so unready to play?

Madison did not look sharp.  He walked batters in the first and second innings, and threw 40 pitches between the two.  The Giants, meanwhile, were letting Brandon McCarthy set them down with ease.  In the third, Brandon Crawford broke the drought with the Giants' first hit, and then scored the first run on Angel Pagan's rbi double.  Madison looked a little better in the third, but the Giants conspired to lose this thing in the fourth.  Belt error, Sandoval error and a single to load the bases.  Another single scored two.  Then a couple of outs before Aaron Hill doubled home two more runs to make it 4 - 1 Arizona.  In all of that, no earned runs were charged to Madison Bumgarner although he was now up to 78 pitches.

In the fifth, the Giants were able to chip away.  Michael Morse walked and Brandon Crawford's second hit of the game, a good looking double, sent him to third.  Morse scored on a Gregor Blanco ground out, batting for Madison at the bottom of the order.  Arizona tacked on two more in the bottom of the fifth, to make it  6 - 2, again on Giants lack of defense, this time off of Yusiermo Petit.  Then in the sixth, Brandon Belt, up to now useless in two at bats, crushed one into the right field stands with no runners on to make it 6 - 3, but of course the snakes' Goldschmidt and Trumbo combined for a run to make it 7 - 4.  The snakes appear to have some pretty good hitters with those two and Montero.  This was the point at which I was not having fun.  Mike Krukow later remarked that the Giants should have been charged with six errors, and that didn't include the mental ones.

But they must believe in themselves, or something like that.  They got really a whole bunch of hits, mostly with two outs, and including some flukey ones in the seventh to score 4 and tie the game at 7.  Hits from Morse, Adrianza in an impressive at bat, Pagan, Belt, Sandoval and a walk issued by Brad Ziegler to Hunter Pence.

How about some late drama?  In the ninth, the snakes' new closer, Addison Reed, induced Pagan to fly out.  Belt singled, but Sandoval K'ed on a slider inside.  Buster the man was having no losses today, however and hit a very big fly into the left field bleachers (actually, it looked to hit the scoreboard hanging from the upper deck in left in that oddly-configured park.  The Giants up 9 - 7, even though Sergio Romo gave up a home run to start the season with a save and a horrendous 9.00 era.  Machi got the win, and he looked great with a fork ball or split or both.  Sometimes, I guess you get lucky.  Sloppy, but a win is a win, and I have to say that the offense seems like they have confidence, or savvy or something.  They kept scrapping and it paid off.  Go get 'em, Matt.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Final 25

Five starters:
Madison Bumgarner
Matt Cain
Tim Lincecum
Tim Hudson
Ryan Vogelsong

Seven relievers:
Sergio Romo
Santiago Casilla
Javier Lopez
Juan Gutierrez
David Huff
Jean Machi
Yusmeiro Petit

Juan Carlos (J.C.) Gutierrez is thirty years old and has played for the Astros, Diamondbacks, Royals and Angels in his career. He was signed by Houston as an amateur free agent in 2000 at the tender age of 17 and made his debut seven years later. In 222-2/3 big league innings he has 197 strikeouts (8.0/9). The Giants sent righty reliever Derek Law to AA-Richmond. He has ridiculous strikeout numbers (188 in 149 IP or 12.1/9) but is only 23 and has not yet played above A-level. I imagine we'll see Law again in September and I'll bet he makes the team in 2015. Jeremy Affeldt could come off the DL by the first home series. David Huff is the other southpaw in the 'pen. He was a first-round pick for Cleveland in 2006, made his debut in 2009, and spent three years as a starter before being waived and picked up by the Yankees who used him mostly in relief. He's 28 years old and has over 320 innings of big-league experience (1435 batters faced).

Six infielders:
Brandon Belt
Joaquin Arias
Brandon Crawford
Pablo Sandoval
Brandon Hicks
Ehire Adrianza

Brandon Hicks spent last season at Las Vegas in the PCL (Mets organization) and the year before across the Bay in Oakland. The Braves drafted him out of Texas A&M in the third round in 2007 and he made his debut with them in 2010. He's primarily a shortstop but only has 98 big league plate appearances. He had a great spring (.348/.456/.692) and will likely start against tough lefties depending on how well B-Craw is swinging the bat. As a prospect he was rated as a plus-defender and compared to Jose Hernandez. Speaking of plus-defenders, I'm happy to see that Ehire Adrianza got the last infield spot. The 24-year old has been in the organization since he was 16, signing as an international free agent from Venezuela. He's never hit well(.679 OPS in 2899 PA) but showed some growth at Fresno (.301/.409/.441) last year. He managed only four hits in his 20 PA with the Giants but one was a home run in Yankee Stadium off Andy Pettitte. Unlike Hicks, who is listed at 6'2" and 215 lbs., Adrianza is more like the shortstops of yore at 6'1" and 170 lbs. He's a switch-hitter. Marco Scutaro's 15-day DL stint is retroactive to March 21st, meaning he could be available before Affeldt.

Five outfielders:
Michael Morse
Angel Pagan
Hunter Pence
Gregor Blanco
Juan Perez

Juan Carlos Perez dazzled with the glove last season (8 assists in 32 games) and had a nice Spring (.313/.389/.563) as well. He shares my November 13th birthday--he'll be 28 this fall (I'll be 55). He's a bit old to be called a prospect, and in fact has 2499 plate appearances over five full seasons in the minors. He's been an everyday player at A, AA and AAA but never quite cracked the glass ceiling despite his superb fielding skills. Too many strikeouts (472), not enough walks (119), and a lack of pop (.429 slugging) probably doom him to a fifth outfielder role, but that's a big deal with the 2014 Giants. Newcomer Michael Morse, as we know, is going to need some help in left field, and having two expert glove men to step in for the late innings will be a nice luxury for Bochy. Gregor Blanco had a very rough patch as a starter last year, but still finished the year as a 2.5 WAR player. We know he has skills, and it will be up to Boch to find the right spots for him and take advantage of what he can do.

Two catchers:
Buster Posey
Hector Sanchez

Hanchez is only 24. He's a switch hitter. Remind yourself of those two facts when he flails at a pitch or fails to catch one of our Two Tim's sinker balls. The Giants are fortunate to have him has a backup. He's been in pro ball since he was 17 (.804 OPS in 1407 PA) and made it to the majors when he was 21. He is still raw, but I think we saw a lot of growth in his fielding last season. No one better to learn from than the guy he's playing behind.

That's it. That's the Final 25.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Contused Tim

Is that even a word? Oh, who cares, it is still Spring Training so I can make up words.

Speaking of which, if there was ever any doubt that Spring Training is TOOO LONG, last night's loss to the Athletics must have ended that debate.  I mean we almost had a major injury in that stupid meaningless game!  By now I'm sure everyone has heard about Tim getting nailed by a Daric Barton line drive. It seems like he will be OK, maybe miss a start, but BOY HOWDY that sure was a moment of sheer dread.

My dreadful feeling of panic was not just over the injury to my favorite all-time Giant, it was more about our horrible lack of depth, especially in the pitching staff.  Isn't lack of depth what did us in last year?  Sure, Hudson is better than Zito (except in terms of injury potential) but otherwise everyone is just a year older. Derek Law may be a big plus, but that is asking ALOT of the youngster.  Unlike Ron, I view middle relief as CRUCIAL to a team's success and Affeldt's injury hurts bad.  Our games are won and lost in the sixth and seventh inning, more like the fifth and sixth when Lincecum and Vogelsong pitch.

So, even though Tim doesn't look to be seriously banged up, I am still quite shaken.  It doesn't help to see the Athletics look like a vastly superior team. Do we ever beat those guys?  Personally, I think a rainout today would be for the best.  Ten days ago I was quite hopeful, now .... Not so much.

THANK WILLIE,  SPRING TRAINING IS OVER!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The only thing I wanted from Spring Training was . . .

. . . no major injuries.

So much for that. You can put a positive spin on the Jeremy Affeldt injury news. You can, trust me. It goes like this: "hey, at least (insert prospect name here) gets a chance to pitch now!" Marco Scutaro will likely not be ready for the Opener, either, but I was prepared for that. And I would like to see Ehire Adrianza get some playing time. But the bullpen is another matter. The Giants have to pitch better this season than last season. There's no way around that. And the guys who've got the talent and experience need to be on the field getting the other guys out.

Like I said before, let's get the goddamn season started already.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Let's get this show on the road

Baseball Musings takes a look at the Giants offense. I like this part:
The Giants might end up less dependent on their pitching this season, a more balanced team. That would make their third world title in five years a bit more likely.
The 2012 team was more balanced than the 2010 team. The 2010 team allowed 3.60 runs per game, second only to San Diego's 3.59, but the Giants rated a 117 ERA+, best in the game. The 2009 club ruled the charts as well, finishing first in runs allowed and ERA+. That kind of dominance doesn't need much help, and unfortunately that's what they got: their 4.06 runs scored per game was the 5th worst, and their 82 OPS+ was dead last. Offensively the 2010 team was just a tick below average (4.30 to 4.38 rpg), but flashed a bit of power (162 HR, 10th) to make up for it. Their 98 OPS+ rated 14th. It was enough, as we saw.

In 2012, the pitching was good but not great (4.01 rpg, 8th, and a shocking 20th--96--in ERA+), but had the depth, experience, and star power to compensate. The offense, despite a lack of home runs, was 4th in baseball in OPS+ at 106, and 12th overall at 4.43 rpg, well above average (4.32). The Giants were the best road offense in the game after the All-Star Break. That team relied on putting the ball in play, good baserunning, and productive outs. I thought of it as a "death by a thousand paper cuts" offense, and it sure worked. They got big performances as well in the post season from the entire staff, best exemplified by 2010 ├╝ber-ace Tim Lincecum finding his mojo in relief.

I think the 2014 team will pitch more like the 2010 team but without the league-leading dominance. There are a lot of clutch guys who can take the ball, and some studs waiting in the wings as well. I think the 2014 team will hit like the 2012 team but have more pop. In short, I think we will see a well-balanced club. The Dodgers are the front-runners, and the consensus pick in the West, but the Giant have two things in their favor. One is team defense. I think we will see better fielding in San Francisco than in LA. That can make a difference--at least a couple of wins--over the long haul of 162 games. The other is the manager. Bruce Bochy is probably worth at least a half a win and perhaps even one win per month over the average manager. One projection has the Giants at 85 wins and the Dodgers at 91, and if six games is all the team needs to make up, I think we should feel pretty good.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Gotta like perfect . . .

. . . even if it is only Spring Training.

Matt Cain: 15 up, 15 down.

I like it.

Matt Cain.


--M.C.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Matt Cain!

Warning: gratuitous Matt Cain post.

Matty got his first spring start today and put up three zeroes. Gameday says he threw 14 pitches for 14 strikes. (I guess Spring Training Gameday has a few kinks.) His previous start was axed due to bad weather, but I heard on good authority that he was "dominating" in his workout. Way to go, Matty.

We all had to endure a Matt Cain who was not Matt Cain for the first half of the season last year. Then the Matt we know and love returned. Please stay forever, Good Matt.

I love Matt Cain. I can't wait to watch him pitch for real.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.