Padres, Reds and Cardinals, Oh My

Let’s get the Bad Karma out of the way right now:

The G-Men are coming off their worst losing streak of the year.  Up until winning 2 out of 3 from the Snakes in AZ this weekend, they dropped 9 out of 10.

  • The Gigantes lost the series to the Nationals (1 and 3) and just flat out got outplayed. The Nationals are for real and right now it’s even money we see them in the NLCS. They are a scary good team.
     
  • Dropping 3 games to the Rockies was like a nightmare.  In every game the bullpen melted down which, coupled with bonehead plays from Pagan and the Rockies figuring out Romo’s slider, was really painful.  I was at two of those games. Very ugly. We need to put those games in the rear view mirror.
     
  • The White Sox series was like the Twilight Zone with Rod Serling calling the pitches. Nothing went right but you saw the glimmerings of hope in a comeback before they went to Arizona and blew another game – up until taking two this weekend.
     
  • Why did this happen?  The answers are depressingly obvious.  The starting pitching was poor, second base is a sinkhole, some injuries are taking a toll (bad backs – Pagan, Posey, Pence and Scutaro – and maybe Morse) and our bench players (except for Hector) pretty much suck.
     
  • Is there a “June Swoon”? According to the statistics (see below) the answer is YES with the worst swoon being in the early years at the stick. What can we do about it?  Nothing. Let it pass and it will.  The team will survive the rough patch and its almost July.
     

The state of the team and the players

For all of the issues, the G-Men are still in first place in the NL West, 4 games in front of the Dodgers and 11 games in front of the Rockies. The Dodgers, it seems, are becoming more harmonious and Matt Kemp is playing out of his mind. It’s a two team race in this division and will be for the rest of the year.

The biggest concern is the starting pitching.  Even Hudson lost it during the swoon (which is hopefully over). The pitchers have to put it together. Cain, Lincecum and Vogelsong have all been inconsistent and they must have stronger, more focused, outings from here on out, and they know it. If they don’t Sabean will be looking to shake up the staff through trades because the arms at Fresno and San Jose don’t look to be quite ready for prime time. However, the bullpen (other than during the Rockies series) has been the savior.  Machi is money (best reliever ERA in the game, .029 over 31 innings!), Casilla is back strong and if Romo can overcome the yips and learn to trust his fastball he will continue to be the closer that won a WS ring.

One thing that the Rockies did against Romo (and that I saw Crawford do today in the 9th inning in AZ against their closer who throws the same kind of slider) was to go way off the plate to reach the outside slider, which they expected because it is his money pitch, and slap it into the outfield.  It worked for the Rockies, and it worked for Crawford. Perhaps the way to solve that problem is to crack them inside with a fastball on the hands and then go out.  I suspect that I’m not the only one making that suggestion.

In terms of position players Arias, Hicks (the strikeout king, but great defense) and Adrienza are all hitting way below the Mendoza line. That’s why bringing up Joe Panik from Fresno (a shortstop moved to second base) was the right thing to do.  He had two hits today in his first start and showed flashy glove work. He could be the answer.  I expect that Bochy will give him five or six starts to see what he can do because if he plays up to his potential it will be an incredible compliment to Crawford and would neatly solve the 2nd base problem. Wouldn’t it be nice to see another Jeff Kent at 2nd base?

 

The injuries continue to take a toll.

  • Scutaro has been gone but is coming back (we are told) to do whatever he can that his bad back (caused by Holliday’s take-out slide last year) will allow; he could be the anchor to a great bench and is a consummate professional.
     
  • Belt is maybe 10 days away from returning from the broken finger. It will probably be after the All-Star break but maybe before. When Brandon comes back it will be like making a trade for a front line hitter.  Belt has apparently been hitting line drives all over the park in practice.
     
  • Pagan may very well go on the DL tomorrow when the G-Men return home because the Giants need another outfielder badly and have no backup. As much as we all love Pagan with his speed, hitting and attitude, he looks tired and is making stupid errors, which are a sign of fatigue.

 

The Trade Picture

It’s no secret that the Giants are in the market for another starting pitcher. David Price from the Rays and Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs are both rumored to be high on the Giants wish list.  That would move Lincecum to the pen in long relief (where he thrives) and strengthen the rotation generally.  Both Price and Samardzija have another year on their contracts, which Sabean likes (because he doesn’t like to rent a player for half a season and then lose him to free agency). The G-Men are also (obviously) in the market for a second baseman.  The rumor mill has a trade from Chase Utley from the Phillies (he’s 36 but a career .288 hitter with 222 HR’s) in the works but there is also Daniel Murphy from the Mets available.

My take is that a trade for a second baseman will not be necessary if Panik continues on the path he started today.  We get Belt back pretty quickly, Pence, Pablo, Morse, Crawford and Posey (who is getting really hot) are all playing well so offense should not be an issue. This is a good team that deserves to be in first place but it’s all about the pitching.

 

The upcoming Home Stand

The G-Men are at home for 10 games against the Padres, Reds and Cardinals. There are some tickets available for 5 of the games.

The Padres always play the G-Men tough but they are in 4th place in the NL West (13.5 games back) and looking to be sellers in the trade market.  They are 4 and 6 in their last 10 games and just dropped another game to the Dodgers. The G-Men have to take advantage of them.  Pay particular attention to Chris Denorfia.  He’s a career .277 hitter (approaching 10 years of ML service) and is rumored to be on the block and the Giants may be interested. He would be a great bench player and extra outfielder (a huge upgrade over Juan Perez). Also, this just in; the Padres number one starter (Andrew Cashner) was just scratched from his start tomorrow and is probably going on the DL.

The rest of the home stand is against the NL Central – the Reds and the Cardinals. Both St. Louis (2nd in the NL Central behind the Brewers with a record close to the G-Men) and the Reds (3rd in the NL Central at 37 and 37) are playing really good ball, especially the Reds.  Expect a series of nail biting games with some bad blood (in the Cardinals series).

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar