Reds, Nationals and Charles Dickens

Welcome to the 10th Czar’s blog of 2016.

With apologies to Dickens it truly is the best of times and the worst of times. It is the best of times with 2/3rd of the season behind us and the G-Men being in first place in the NL West 3.5 games in front of the Dodgers. It is the worst of times limping home 1 and 7 from a post-All Star road trip against the Padres (swept in San Diego), the Red Sox (swept in Fenway) and the Yankees (lost 2 out of 3), and looking generally horrible.

What happened? It wasn’t so much an epic meltdown as a succession of lethargic games punctuated by moments of total and abject bullpen failure. When Casilla fell off the mound and balked home the winning run in the 10th inning after having come back against the Padres it was probably the most “not good at all” moment in recent Giants history (not on the scale of Dusty taking the ball out of Russ Ortiz’s hand in inning 7 of you know what game, but up there).

I’m glad though that Jim Rome enjoyed the “desperate, spastic throw” towards the plate.  At least someone had fun.

It’s still about the injury list as the Trade Deadline (August 1st) approaches

The Giants are down to 6 players on the DL right now, including three starting position players. The real losses continue to be Pence and Panik (both on minor league rehab assignments and coming along slowly) and Duffy (about to start rehab). On the pitching side only Gearrin is still on the DL and he is expected to start bullpen work this week.

By way of contrast, the Dodgers are up to 14 on the DL, with Kershaw going into surgery and maybe out for the season. That might partially explain the reason the G-Men continue to lead the division. However no one, and I include the Dodgers players here (not the Dodgers fans though, until they dump the wave and the beach balls it will always be juvenile delinquent time in Chavez Ravine), wants to limp into the play-offs on someone else’s injury list.

Bobby Evans is for sure working the wire as the trade deadline approaches and I have to believe that conversations were being held in NY over the arms available out of the Yankees bullpen, especially concerning Chapman (is the domestic violence charge reducing his value?) and Andrew Miller, both really hard throwers.

Does anyone remember George Plimpton’s Sidd Fitch, he of the 168 mph fastball for the Mets?  Well, Chapman (with a 105 mph fastball) is the closest I’ve ever seen to the legendary Fitch.  In fact, anyone that watched the game today should have spotted Brian Sabean in the stands directly behind home plate.  He could have been looking for Fitch.

Short of getting Chapman, Miller or another reliever to heal a seriously leaky bullpen, the G-Men have correctly noted that there is no position player out there better than the three guys on the way back from the DL, especially Pence and Panik. 

This week will be dominated by trade stories I’m sure, and the Giants will be in the thick of it, but don’t expect a deal for a position player, unless it’s giving up Parker or Williamson for pitching. They are both (especially Mac, who looks like he stepped out of GQ) making the most of their time with the big club and increasing their trade value by the day.  Mac is a serious bopper and if we can keep him I see left field in his future.

Can the G-Men put it back together?

Yes they can.

We who worship at the church of Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti have faith. JoBu is taking the fear from our bats as we speak. Of course, the Reds pitching might help.

The G-Men still have a stellar defense, led by Crawford with the best defensive stats in baseball (at least until his 3 error game against the Yankees which followed a puff piece in the NYT that clearly put a jinx on him).

We also still have MadBum and Cueto, with Samardjiza right behind. We will see Peavy and Cain over the next two days. The starters have been the strength so far this season and if they get it together in August we have a great shot at staying in front of the division.

The bullpen has clearly been the problem (well, an inability to hit with men in scoring position also has something to do with it) because you can’t blow as many leads as they have blown and expect to survive through the playoffs. Still, we have Romo and Lopez in the bullpen looking historically good. Osich, Law and Strickland are looking average at best but maybe coming home will help them. Casilla has been a disaster. He needs a long break or a demotion to the 7th inning.

The Upcoming Games

This will be a vitally important homestand.

The Reds (30th in MLB - out of 30 teams - in pitching) come in for three games starting tomorrow night (I’ll be there Tuesday). The Reds, who are last in the NL Central (21.5 games back of the Cubs) are sellers at the trade deadline but are not to be trifled with.  They play well at AT&T and they have Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.  That said, if there ever was a team coming into town to try and get healthy against, it’s the Reds.

Then the Nationals (1st in pitching in MLB) come in for four games.  This is a playoff gut check series. Dusty Baker’s Nationals have almost the same record as the G-Men (58 and 41), and lead the NL East by 4.5 games over the Marlins. Scherzer, Strasburg and Roark are three of the top pitchers in the NL and Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper are nails. This will be October baseball and we all just hope that Panik at least (if not Pence) will be back for the series. We will need every break we can get against a very hot, and very good, nationals team. Friday night is Cueto and I’m not going to miss that game!

It should be fun. We play both ends of the MLB pitching stat list in back to back series.

May the force, and seven innings from the starters, be with you always.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar