Atlanta & the Pirates - the NL East and NL Central is in Town

Welcome to the 5th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants!  The rules are below. 

 

 

It was the worst of times, and now it is the best of times

 

It’s now hard to recall the month of April, when the G-Men were in last place in the NL West. On April 17th the Giants were 4 and 17 and had lost 5 straight at home.  Since April 18th the boys have been 23 and 11 and are now one game back in the NL West behind the Dodgers, who have cooled off from their torrid start. 

Put another way, a quarter way into the season, if the playoffs were to start tomorrow the G-Men would be the wild card (and how scary would that be to the rest of baseball?)

Why the turnaround?  Well, for one thing, the team is leading the NL in batting average, and is in the top 5 in on-base percentage, slugging and OPS.  The situational hitting is awesome and they are batting .307 with runners in scoring position. Crawford alone is batting .444 with RISP and the entire starting infield is batting at or around .300. On the pitching side the starters for the last 34 games have an ERA under 4 and Bum’s ERA is 1.80 over his last four starts.

The numbers however don’t really tell the story.

What does is the precision with which the team is playing since mid-April. The G-Men now look like a fine-tuned machine hitting on all cylinders (as versus a minor league team trying to find their way).  The Giants are like a Ferrari playing against muscle cars. Bochy and Wotus (his defensive adjustments are genius)  putting players in and out, adjusting the line-up for the best match-ups, using the bullpen at exactly the right time and keeping the players fresh are playing baseball like they are conducting the SF Symphony Orchestra. What a joy to watch.

Getting Hunter Pence back didn’t hurt one bit either.  He is an essential piece and his hitting and presence are clearly major contributing factors to the May run.

The problem with being a Ferrari in a field of Dodge Chargers though is that it’s awfully easy to get out of tune.  Regardless, the personnel changes cannot be faulted.  McGehee is now at Sacramento and Duffy is starting at third (making the entire infield home-grown Giants players – Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford and Duffy – I don’t think that there is another MLB team that can say that). That’s a testament to the front office, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans

It is really unfortunate that there wasn’t room for ishikawa (who came off the DL this week) but it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him to be parked at Sacramento for a call-up when needed. 

More personnel changes are clearly also in the works. Matt Cain will soon come off the DL and someone will have to be moved. Who will it be?  Right now all the starters are playing well, including Vogelsong. Strickland came up and is pitching lights out in the 7th and fits smoothly into the relief core. Maybe Strickland goes down because he has options, or maybe Machi (the least effective of the relievers) goes down.  Peavy is in rehab starts at San Jose and is getting shelled.  He might be done.

 

Can this pace be sustained?

 

Traditionally the Giants have loved May and hated June.  The month to come is really significant. Right  now the Giants are on a pace for a 110 win season. If they can keep it up that would be in the territory of the 1927 Yankees (who finished 110-44).  I don’t think that we are in that league (certainly not from a HR perspective – that team had Gehrig and Ruth) but again the Ferrari versus muscle car metaphor is a good one. In June the long grind begins.

Looking back at the last month of baseball (not to mention the last road trip) the G-Men swept the Angels and the Dodgers at home (the LA sweep was truly sweet – not just a sweep but a three game shutout) and the Brewers on the road.

There is no hotter team in baseball right now than the Giants and in every series from now on the target will be on their backs.  That is how it should be for the world champions.

I watch every game in awe. Bochy is the master at keeping an even keel and almost all of his moves are working right now.  When the biggest open question is how many of your starters are going to make the All-Star team (Crawford, Posey and Bumgarner for sure) you are having a pretty good time. 

The bottom line is that it’s time for the manager and the coaches to keep the team on an even keel and playing at this level.  We are one game behind the Dodgers and headed upward.  The Dodgers are still living off their torrid start in April. We could pull into first place over the next seven games at home.  That would be sweet.

 

The Upcoming Series against the Braves and the Pirates

 

The Braves are playing .500 ball and are holding strong in 3rd place in the NL East.  They just beat the Dodgers at home (but lost the series) and are coming into AT&T with something to prove. So far Atlanta has been steady, sweeping the weak teams (the Marlins and the Brewers), playing well against the teams out of their division and losing to the Nationals and the Mets.  This four game series will be a test for the Giants playing at home. The G-Men are the stronger team on paper but the Braves are solid and have always played well against the Giants.

After the Braves are the Pirates, who are in third place in the NL Central (2 games over .500), which is a dog fight all of its own.  The Pirates are holding their own (barely) against the Cardinals and beating up on Miami and the Mets (who are leading the NL East).  The Pirates are a good team and will be a test for the Giants pitching staff,

These are two good teams and the next week of baseball at China basin will be a lot of fun.

It’s time for baseball!

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar