Category Archives: Giant Thoughts

General opinions and thoughts on the team, players, ball park, seagulls, etc

Giants Reign Over Kansas City

At the beginning of the 2012 All-Star game, it was hard not to feel like the ESPN commentators, Joe Buck and the always eloquent Tim McCarver, didn’t really appreciate the amazingness that is the SF Giants. It might have been in part that at least two Giants trotted out in the first inning in lieu of two NY Mets (Cain for Dickey, Sandoval for Wright). Before the game, they were calling Dickey “unbelievable” and Cain “good”. They brought up the allegations of ballot stuffing and even implied that Yadier Molina should be starting (if you read between the lines with a healthy dose of west coast cynicism). That, of course, was before the Starting Four put on a clinic on how to do the All-Star games right.

After the game, McCarver could only say that they were “freaking amazing” and Buck couldn’t stop talking about how much he wanted a pair of those bright orange cleats. Ok, maybe my DVR screwed up and I didn’t see anything past the 7th (not that there was anything to watch at that point) but I can imagine they said something along those lines.

So yes, the Giants ruled Kansas City, Melky got the much deserved MVP award (for which Pandoval must have been a close second), and the NL is officially on a winning streak. However that doesn’t negate the fact that for about a week, the entire country was a little more anti-Bay Area than normal. But Giants fans didn’t do anything wrong. Aren’t we allowed to vote 25 times each? And if you happen to have more email addresses, aren’t you allowed to use those as well? This is no different from when I used to amuse myself as a kid at Candlestick by making designs in as many ballots as possible. Mets GM Sandy Alderson sent barbs via Twitter at Giants fans, but you know the Mets were trying just as hard to get their fans to stuff the boxes.

When you step back and look at it, the All-Star game is really a popularity contest, not two carefully selected teams showcasing the best of the best. This is unavoidable when the decision is made by a mass of relatively uneducated people who vote as many times as they can for their favorite players. Is Pablo Sandoval the best 3rd baseman in the game? He’s damn good, but David Wright might be a little better than him right now. Is Pablo the most popular 3rd baseman? You betcha! If you want the players with the best statistics, then have a computer pick the All-Star team. If you want the best athletes, have the players vote on all the starters. But don’t whine about the system when it doesn’t work in your favor.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Baseball Thoughts, Giant Thoughts

Giant All-Stars

Today will be the first time in history that four All-Stars don black and orange (figuratively) on the field in the first inning of the mid-season classic. There have thrice been three Giants starters, most recently in 2001 when the front office strategy was to surround superstar Bonds with slightly lesser superstars. While there could easily be more Giants on that lineup, the four that made it each have their own great stories.

Pablo Sandoval is making a return appearance and brings a batting average of 1.000 into this game. While it’s his second appearance, it is his first start. Also, he got snubbed in 2009 when Shane Victorino was chosen by his own manager over Sandoval as a last minute injury replacement. Melky Cabrera gets to return to the stadium of a team that traded him away in the off season. I’m sure you are aware of how that trade went; Giants get a possible team MVP while the Royals get a pitcher who has only thrown 6 innings once this year, is on the DL, and likely would have been released or demoted to the minors by the Giants. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives.

Matt Cain has the third best story of these four. He has pitched in shadows most of his career, most recently in the shadow of Lincecum. He picked a good year to discreetly burst forth and is finally getting that national recognition he deserves. He even was an All-Star quietly, getting to two previous games but never pitching in them. In a rather controversial decision, he gets the starting nod over R.A. Dickey. By far the best story of the bunch is Buster Posey.  A little over a year ago, he was writhing on the ground with a broken leg and multiple ligaments torn. An injury that would have ended many careers, or been substantial setbacks at a minimum. Heck, I probably would have taken more rehab time to get back to my desk job than he did to get back into the crouch. He has shown very little trace of such a significant injury so far this year, and even has a stolen base (bringing his career total to 4). And now he is an All-Star, setting the record for number of NL All-Star votes. (Not that I’m keeping track, but Scott Cousins has hit .190 with Miami this year and is currently in the minors. Correction, Cousins is on the active Miami roster).

Near misses:

Ryan Vogelsong was just edged out for ERA leader by Ryan Dempster, who accumulated enough innings on his last start to qualify for the league leader board. But Vogelsong has been lights out since he came off the DL, and is now one of the top 4 pitchers in the NL (by ERA), all of whom were left off the All-Star roster. In fact, 7 of the top 10 pitchers (again, by ERA) are watching the game from their couch. Vogelsong is tied for second in the league for tough losses (losses despite quality starts) and leads the majors in quality start percentages at an amazing 94%. He has pitched into the 6th inning in every start so far this year. Just a teensy bit of extra run support and he would have likely been on the roster.

Santiago Casilla has been an amazing fill in closer. He is actually 3rd in the league in saves, with 21. However, he has somewhat imploded over his last 5 outings, with one save in 5 opportunities. That also raised his ERA from 1.59 to 2.84. I have to imagine that if he came in with to the break with a sub 2.00 ERA and three extra saves under his belt, he would also be on the roster.

Did anyone else catch the Old-timer and Celebrity game? I almost didn’t watch it, but at the last second I realized I had absolutely nothing better to do. I’m glad I did. It was much more entertaining than the HR Derby (and isn’t this all about entertainment?). It was also amazing and inspiring watching the wounded veterans out there playing ball.  And if I hadn’t watched it, I wouldn’t have seen Jon Hamm hit his HR. I thoroughly believe the only thing that would have made his trot around the bases better (as it is, he officially leads all major league players in HR trots) would have been a three-piece suit and a scotch on the rocks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Game, Giant Thoughts

2010 vs 2012: Building a Dynasty

The Texas Rangers are coming into SF for a “2010 WS Rematch”. The only problem, the Texas pitchers will face a whole new lineup. Sure, the pitching staff is nearly the same. Swap out Vogelsong for Sanchez and you have the same starting rotation (if we had to choose right now, would Timmy be the starter left off the WS roster? That’s a weird thought). Ramirez, Mota, and Wilson are missing from the bullpen. But Affeldt, Casilla, Romo, and Javier are still anchoring the late innings for us. Yes, the Giants are built on pitching. But who from the WS lineup remains? Buster Posey. Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez are the only other members of that lineup that have a shot at starting this year, but they are both on the DL. Schierholtz and Huff are the only other two left over from that team; neither are starting now.

But when the Rangers come to bat, it’s going to look very familiar. Elvis Andrus, Nelsen Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, and Michael Young all remain in the Rangers starting lineup. They are only missing Bengie Molina and Vladimir Guerrero from the 2010 team. Is it any wonder they were back in the WS last year? Or that they are first in their division this year? It’s the same team!

I want to make it clear that I loved the 2010 Giants, I don’t know who couldn’t have loved them. They put SF on the map as a legitimate baseball town and filled out of town ball parks with orange and black. That was the team where Timmy was Timmy and real men wore red thongs. Huff and Burrell reigned supreme, rewarding homeruns with solid punches to the chest and holding court in the Marina after home games. But that was a team of stop gaps. Everything went right, everyone performed as advertised, or better. Everyone was healthy. But most of the players weren’t chosen based on their long term potential; based on their ability to form a baseball dynasty.

Let’s look at some of the 2010 Giants hitters:

  • Aaron Rowand – I don’t need to talk about him that much. He was meant to be a key component to the team when he was signed in 2008, but by 2010 he was a bench player and clearly declining at a player
  • Andres Torres – I love this guy and he was a significant part of the World Series team. His value was even greater given that he filled two very glaring holes; CF and leadoff. But looking at the rest of his career, the Giants clearly got lucky with him. Even if he had been able to do a repeat performance in 2011, he was already entering his mid-30s, so his long term value in terms of building a dynasty was limited
  • Juan Uribe – Signed to be a utility infielder, Uribe definitely supported a rather shaky infield in 2009. He split his starts evenly between 2B, SS, and 3B (35,34,35). He established himself as a SS in 2010, starting there in about half of the games. Given what he has done with the Dodgers, the Giants were wise not to bet on him for the long term. In 2010, he was only 30 (if you believe his birth certificate), but was never intended to be a long term part of the team
  • Edgar Rentaria – I always thought this was a bad signing. Again, they Giants were buying high. Yes, he was still relatively young, but you can’t sign a 32 year old middle infielder and expect him to be an impact on the team for years to come (unless, of course, his name is Omar Vizquel). Best case scenario, he over performs for his 2 year contract…which would have meant being an average player
  • Huff – The Giants had a back log of promising first-basemen in the system, they had all but given up on Ishikawa as a starter, so they bought low after a bad year from Huff. They were hoping to get the 2008 Huff (.304, 34 HR) rather than the 2009 Huff (.241, 15 HR). Turns out, they got a satisfying compromise, .290, 26 HR, plus a good clubhouse presence. But despite that, it’s clear that he was never intended to be stationed on the right corner of the diamond for the next 5-8 years
  • Jose Guillen – no comment
  • Burrell – He is one of my favorites from that team. I will never begrudge Sabean from signing a player past his prime to a minor league contract, just like Brad Penny this year, in the hopes that a fresh town and start will revive a storied career. If Burrell couldn’t cut it, he wouldn’t have made the team. But he could and did and was a huge part of that team. That said, even he didn’t see himself as a long term member of the orange and black
  • Cody Ross – the NLCS MVP was a great pickup. But let’s face it, he was a mistake. Sabean claimed him off waivers to keep the Padres from getting him. He was sure surprised with the Marlins just let him go. He was great for us and had the potential to be a longer term player at just 29 in 2010, but we all know that didn’t pan out (currently hitting .271 with 8 HR in Boston)

Now you look at 2012 Giants lineup:

  • Posey – We know he is going to be on the team for a long time, and a key contributor on the field, at the plate, and in the clubhouse
  • Brandons – While these guys are still a little shaky, I don’t see the Giants giving up on them as long term prospects. They have both proven they can do it in the field, they are both young and under team control for quite some time, they just need a little confidence with the bat to be key contributors to this team for years to come
  • Pagan/Cabrera/Blanco – Not only does he anchor the trio in CF, Pagan is also the elder statesmen in the OF at only 30. Blanco is 28 and Cabrera is 27. A lot has to happen for this trio to be long term contributors, including repeat performances, but they have the tools and age on their side
  • Pablo – His ability to contribute to the team is directly related to his ability to grow up. Once he realizes that he can’t do (or eat) whatever he wants, that he can’t be at bars at 1am when he should be rehabbing (even innocently), that goofiness is fine and good in the clubhouse but he has to be serious at times, then he can be considered a long term solution. If he grows up, I can see him anchoring the IF for the next 3-5 years. And by then, Selig will have likely forced the NL to adopt the DH rule, so Pablo can do that
  • That only leaves 2B unanswered, and possibly RF. But it is potentially 5-7 players who can produce for this team for the long term

I, and the rest of Giants Fandom, will forever remember the winning, unique, thong-wearing, beard-growing team of 2010 very very fondly. There is nothing like seeing a rag-tag bunch of outcasts get a second chance, pull together, win the World Series, and make a whole city go crazy with Giants mania. I will forever dedicate a substantial portion of my limited memory to that year. But it was hard to feel the promise of that team. Even as the streamers stopped falling and the dried champagne was cleaned off the floor at Texas Stadium, I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those guys we would see again. Two years down the road, I know the answer, and I couldn’t be more excited about the Giants I’ll see for the next five years. Lock ’em up, Sabes!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Giant Thoughts

aMAYzing

May was a fun month to be a Giants fan. The Giants eeked out a winning record in the month, going 15-14, the team batting average was .258 (15th in MLB), 24 stolen bases (7th), and 3.39 ERA (5th). Those are nice stats, not great; stats of a .500 team. It’s nice to see the lineup hitting over .250 and smack dab in the middle of the majors rather than trailing. We are starting to see some speed on the bases and the ERA was pretty good.

However, those middle of the road but acceptable stats don’t tell the whole story. May was a month in which the team seems to have found itself. I was listening to Sergio Romo on KNBR yesterday morning and he talked about how everyone on the team is beginning to figure out their rolls. Half of the starting fielders weren’t on the team last year; with that many new players they don’t automatically know how they fit into the team. But now they are really starting to mesh and figure out their roles. It turns out Pagan isn’t the leadoff hitter, but that’s ok because Blanco is. Don’t worry about 3B; Arias, who has barely ever played that position in his career, is doing a solid job of shoring up the defense at the hot corner. Vogelsong is the staff ace and Casilla is holding down the 9th inning. These were all question marks coming into May.

Out in the field

When was the last time the Giants had a consistent outfield that was hitting .333 with an OBP of .443? Oh ya, and they have 25 steals. The numbers get cartoonish when you look at what that trio did in just the month of May; a .378 average and .498 OBP. On top of that, Cabrera, Pagan, and Blanco have started 79 out of 87 starting opportunities in May. That is just a model of consistency. Not only that, but these are three center fielders. We don’t have any stop gaps out there or a LF who is there just to get his mediocre bat in the lineup. Even if these three guys weren’t producing at the plate like Mighty Casey, this would be a great outfield. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that they probably won’t hit .378 for the rest of the year; they probably won’t even hit .333. But it seems likely that these three players will be a driving force on this team through September

The ‘Pen

The bullpen, which has been a strength of this team for the last few years, had an ERA of 2.75; if you adjust for Lopez’s uncharacteristic 3 run inning due to “Bullpen Phone-gate”, it would go down to about 2.45. That is a very solid crew to finish up games. Affeldt threw 7.1 innings without allowing a run. Romo was in for 9.1 innings, only giving up one run. Cassilla threw an impressive 14.1 innings, allowing only two runs and notching up 10 saves. The bullpen hasn’t missed a beat since losing Wilson for the season. I think this is something that we can count on continuing throughout the season.

Individuals

Obviously, Melky Cabrera has been unbelievable in May. His 51 hits tied the Giants franchise record for most hits in a month (tied with Randy Winn) and he is currently leading the majors in total hits with 78. He beat Willie Mays’ hits record for a month, and being mentioned in the same sentence as The Say Hey Kid is always a good sign. The numbers extend across the board, with 3 HRs, 5 triples, 7 doubles, 17 RBIs, 24 runs scored, and 4 stolen bases. Not to mention flawless fielding and one of the best plays of the year. It made me tired just writing all that. He hit for an amazing .429 average in the month, and his year average of .373 is 2nd, trailing Paul Konerko who is hitting .381 right now. He has done all that while starting 50 out of 51 games. Last year, he displayed some solid durability, so it seems safe to expect the same from him this year.

With the video game like numbers that Melky put up, it was hard for anyone else to stand out. But Ryan Vogelsong had an amazing month as well. His ERA for the month was 1.51, lower than any other starter. In 6 starts, the Giants won 5 and he was credited with 3 wins and 1 loss. He’s been consistently putting the Giants in a position to win. He leads the team in innings pitched for the month, with 41.2 innings, which is 3rd in the NL behind Hamels and Kershaw, both with 44 innings pitched. It seems undeniable that he is the ace of one of the best pitching rotations in baseball.

Matt Cain actually raised his ERA this past month, but had a good one nonetheless. His May ERA was 3.10, which I think most pitchers would be satisfied with. He also had a rather lucky month, especially for a Giants pitcher; he added 4 wins to his total and only 1 loss. Two of those wins came in starts in which he gave up 4 runs. He also struck out 40 batters in 40.2 innings pitched.

 

Other standout May performances:
Jeremy Affelt – 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, .130 Opp BA, 7 K, 6.2 IP

Sergio Romo – 0.96 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, .097 Opp BA, 16 K, 9.1 IP, 6 holds

Santiago Casilla – 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .193 Opp BA, 12 K, 14.1 IP, 10 saves

 

Angel Pagan – .375 BA, .884 OPS, 13 runs, 11 RBIs, 8 SBs

Gregor Blanco – .315 BA, .884 OPS, 20 runs, 7 RBIs, 5 SBs

Leave a comment

Filed under Giant Thoughts

Small Ball, Its a Good Thing

The Giants play in a ball park with very unusual dimensions and deep gaps. The line up doesn’t have a whole lot of power, especially with Pablo out. Melky hit 18 HRs in his best season. Posey is capable of 25-30 HRs if he has a good year. Other than those two (and the hurt Panda), there isn’t a whole lot of opportunity for power on this team right now. Some of the guys (Pill, Belt, Sanchez, etc) have potential, but they are unknown quantities at this point.

However, the team does have a lot of speed (ever think you could say that about a Giants team?). For about the last week we have consistently seen a line up that includes Melky, Pagan, Arias, and Blanco.  Pagan has had two 30+ SB seasons, plus one minor league year when he swiped 67 bags. Melky peaked at 20 steals. Blanco’s MiLB seasons range from 25-40 steals a year, while Arias has gotten 40-64 a year in the minors. All guys who can cause an impact on the base paths if they hit well, which they are all doing at the moment. That seems like a team  primed for playing small ball.

Then why don’t they play small ball?

After the game in which they left 13 runners on base and went 2-17 with runners in scoring position, Bochy lamented that the hitters have to do better in those situations. Let’s take a look at some. In the first inning, after Timmy threw a very rare 1-2-3 11 pitch top of the first, our table setters immediately did their job and got on first and second with two consecutive walks. With our lead-off hitter at second, we got a strikeout and two flyouts to end the inning. What would the game have looked like if Bochy had played some small ball there to get his struggling ace a 1-0 lead to start the game? Instead, he plays for the big inning with three players who have 6 hits all year with runners on first and second and are hitting a combined .225 with runners in scoring position.

I know some would argue that it doesn’t make sense to play that way with the heart of the lineup coming to the plate, but what about at the bottom of the lineup? In the 4th inning, they had Charlie Culberson at 3rd and Crawford at 1st with one out. Burris (.227 at the time) was up with Lincecum on deck. This was a great time to try some small ball, something like a squeeze play. What’s the worst that could happen? An inning ending double play with the pitcher on deck, that’s all. Instead, Bochy let his 8th place .227 hitter swing away, striking out, leaving it to the pitcher to get it done (which doesn’t happen). In the 6th inning, there were again runners on 2nd and 3rd, this time with three sub .230 hitters coming to the plate; Bochy has them all swing away. In the 8th inning, after Rex Brothers (who has one of the best names in baseball) walked the bases loaded with 12 balls and 1 strike, Bochy sees and opportunity for the big inning (at a time when we only need 1 run to take the lead) and Belt hacks away at the first pitch. A pitcher who clearly couldn’t find the strike zone strikes out Belt and Cabrera swinging on 7 total pitches.

I know that small ball isn’t always the proper tactic and the Giants have some hot hitters right now. But this team and this ball park seem custom made for that brand of baseball, why not give it a try?

—-

What are the odds of the Giants making the post season if they end the season with 207 errors, which they are on track to do?

Leave a comment

Filed under Game, Giant Thoughts

The Belt/Pill Conundrum

This debate was born last year when Brett Pill decided to kick it into high gear in Fremont and hit .312 with 25 big flies. That’s 14 points and 6 HRs higher than his previous career high. Thanks to that production in the minors, he got the coveted September call up and continued to impress in the big leagues, albeit in a small sample size (50 ABs).

Brandon Belt, on the other hand, proved he could hit at the minor league levels before making the squad out of spring training last year. While he had a much bigger sample size than Pill, it didn’t look quite as impressive, hitting only .225 with 9 HRs in 187 ABs and earning a few thousand Greyhound frequent rider miles along the way.

Now that they are both on the team vying for the same spot, a decision must be made. The opportunities for both to get into the lineup are dwindling now that the OF of Cabrera, Pagan, and Blanco is getting established. And I don’t think anyone wants to hear the dreaded word (I’m talking about “platoon”).

Both are performing slightly sub-par so far this season; Pill is batting .234 with 3 HRs and Belt is at .246 with no long balls, but a team leading 5 doubles. Belt is nearly even in his splits between right and left handed pitchers, while Pill favors righties.

Pill, 27, has taken a while to sprout into a big league ball player. Looking at his career numbers, he never forced the issue. I think the conversations around him would have gone something like “Well, he doesn’t suck, so we can’t send him back down. Let’s just promote him to the next level.” He didn’t force the decision until 6th season when he finally put up some big numbers. (Stats courtesy of Baseball-reference.com)

Baseball-reference.com

Brandon Belt is just 24, and 3 years is an eternity in the majors. Unlike Pill, he steamed his way through the minors with much better numbers than Pill forcing his promotion to the big show. While he left those numbers in the minors for the time being, it’s not hard to argue that Belt has more upside than Pill.

baseball-reference.com

Extra Baggs and The McCovey Chronicles both present compelling arguments for each player. However, I think this showdown should be decided on what they will potentially do, not what they are doing today. I realize that it is Bochy’s job to win games today and field the most competitive team he has available at the moment. But I think this is a flawed strategy and contributed to the epic crash of 2005, when the Giants fell to 4 straight losing seasons.

Now, if you want my opinion, and the fact that you’ve made it this far tells me you do, I favor Belt. No, this isn’t because he’s younger, or he’s the more highly touted prospect, or because he has won me over with his baby-giraffe-like antics. I like his approach at the plate better. With the new changes to his stance, he is more upright and has more potential to drive the ball into a gap. He has pretty good speed for a first baseman (27 SB in 189 MiLB games) and can take advantage of the dimensions of AT&T park. Remember that he’s leading the team in doubles so far this year. While Pill often takes a better approach with 2 strikes on him, all other times he gets up there and hacks. He reminds me somewhat of John Bowker at the plate. Big strong hacks, and if he connects he’s likely to do damage. We’ve seen these types come and go more times than we would like to remember at this ballpark; they don’t work. So why don’t we go with someone who can compliment the ballpark and take advantage of the gaps.

—-

Random stat: Aubrey Huff had the second most steals for the Giants in 2010. 7 steals in 7 attempts.

2 Comments

Filed under Giant Thoughts

Is Vogelstrong for Real?

Is it a coincidence that I decide to start this blog after a significant win at Chavez Ravine against Giants killer, Clayton Kershaw? I’m not gonna say, but it does give me good subject matter for my first post. Ryan Vogelsong had one of the best stories in baseball last year. A long time journeyman returning to American baseball with the team that originally drafted him, resurrecting his career and emerging as one of the strongest, most consistent pitchers in a rotation made up of mostly studs. A perfect baseball fairy tale.
Naturally, the skeptics come out after a season like that. Can he keep it up? Was it a fluke year? The same questions were asked of Andres Torres after his breakout season in 2010, and unfortunately, with no help from injuries, he couldn’t lay those skepticism to rest in 2011. I was a little hesitant to fully back the next Giants comeback kid and wasn’t totally sure if Vogelsong could continue what he started on April 28, 2011 in Pittsburgh, when he earned his first major league win since 2005 (when he ironically was a relief pitcher for the Pirates). So far this year, before last night, he hadn’t impressed me. Yes, he hurt himself and didn’t get a full ST to warm up, so one could argue that could excuse his first few starts. Not that they were all that bad; his first four 2012 starts went 6 innings or greater, with two of them counting as quality starts (a stat I’ll get into more in a future post). He even managed to keep his WHIP respectable. I’ll excuse his 0-2 record, because, you know, it’s the Giants. But his 3.42 ERA wasn’t inspiring and he never seemed all that confident on the mound. So going into yesterday, I wasn’t ready to proclaim that 2011 Vogelstrong was back for good.

He laid my skepticism to rest.

Maybe it was the hour long mental prep at his locker. Maybe it was watching Magic Johnson sing along with the National Anthem. Maybe the customary wave that the Dodgers fans started got his mind focused. Whatever it was, he was in every pitch last night. His pitches were vintage Vogelsong (and by vintage, I mean last year). Abreu showed his amazing plate discipline by taking those sliders that were a hair off the plate on both sides. 9 out of 10 other professional hitters would have struck out in that AB. It was such a shame to watch Vogelsong leave the game with the bases loaded. Luckily, Javy Lopez was in 2010 form as well. Not only did Vogelsong pitch masterfully last night, he did it against the (sorta) red-hot Dodgers, managed to not let Kemp beat him (despite two hits), and most importantly, out dueled Kershaw, who turns into Cy Mathewson whenever he sees Black and Orange.

Both the Giants and Ryan Vogelsong have a long season ahead, but last night at Dodgers Stadium was a crucial step in the right direction. Let’s hope that Lincecum can capture what he has been sniffing at the past two starts and get us a series win against the Dodgers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Game, Giant Thoughts