Giants v. Phillies; Giants v. Braves

Greetings to all of our friends who love the two-time World Champion SF Giants! The G-Men are now 16 and 12 and having a weird year so far

Let’s start this blog off on a philosophical note.  There are a 162 games in a season and you can’t win every one.  If the G-Men finish with 92 wins they are an almost certain lock to win the NL West (they are now in 2nd place behind the torrid Rockies) or to get into the playoffs. 92 wins translates to a .567 season long wins versus losses ratio.  The Gigantes are currently winning at a .571 clip.  They are where they need to be so undue worry isn’t justified.

April has been weird. For example, the G-Men have already been involved in 5 series where there were sweeps.  The Giants won three of them (Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks) and lost two (Brewers and Padres).  In addition, it seems like a majority of the games that they have won have been come from behind victories after the starters got pounded. Lots of late inning heroics (like Belt’s three run homer in the 8th inning against the Snakes on Wednesday night in AZ).

So, let’s see what May will bring us, besides flowers and margaritas.

The Positives

Come from behind victories are a sign of character in a ball club; that means they never give up and they have confidence in themselves.  The G-Men have character to spare.  The fact Zito is still leading the team in batting average shows that.

In terms of players, Brandon Crawford (who has started every game but has cooled off at the plate) is making people forget all previous Giants shortstops (except maybe Omar and Richie). He is awesome, seldom makes errors and has shown enormous extra base power (tied with Pence with 5 homers, wow!).  Nick Noonan is a total gamer.  Who would have known?  He is batting something like .310 and will soon be pushing Scutaro for a starting job. He has already pushed Arias out of his usual late inning role.

Belt went into a slump but came out of it in a big way with game winning homers and hits.  It seems that the flu that caused him to lose 20 pounds in April and lose his stroke may have run its course.

Buster is picking up the pace after a totally flat April (he’s up to .267) and the Panda (4) and Pence (5) are blasting homers and generally looking like we expected them to look (fearsome at the plate with power to spare; the 470 foot Pence home run in Arizona was pretty awesome).

The Negatives

The starting pitchers are getting hammered.  They all (except Bumgarner, who is now the stopper) keep giving up big innings.  If someone had told me in March that Cain would have a 6.8 ERA and no wins in April I would have said they were crazy. Vogelsong is not far behind Cain, and Timmy is also over 4.  Zito (who is pitching tonight against Kershaw) has had a couple of meltdowns but is generally pitching well with 3 wins so far.

One of the really strange things is that the hitters the starters are not getting out seem to be the opposing teams 8th and 9th place batters. Opposing team pitchers are feasting on Giants pitching (first career home runs and the like).  That is a sign of a loss of concentration.

The bullpen (especially Romo, who has 11 saves already) is steady with Kontos and Gaudin being the best long guys.  The question now is what will happen when Affeldt gets off the DL (hopefully soon). Machi has been a revelation (he was brought up when Affeldt went down) and it will be hard to send him down again.  The problem is that he is a right hander.  The G-Men also seem to have a plethora of good young pitchers in the minors so if someone isn’t cutting it (do you hear footsteps Javier Lopez?) there are alternatives in Fresno.

On the defensive side of things there have been some brain fart type of errors (especially in the outfield) that have cost games.  Blanco and Pagan (both batting well above .280) both allowed the same guy to advance to 2nd in two different games and in both he scored what turned out to be the winning run. Hopefully the coaches are working on this.

The Series to come

The Dodgers are 2 and half games back of the G-Men but hitting better as a team (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzales and Matt Kemp are total studs).  The Dodgers problems have been injuries, pitchers and head cases (mostly pitchers but I put Hanley Ramirez in the head case category).  Tonight Kershaw goes against Zito.  This weekend will be a good test of the G-Men sucking up April and starting to play more consistent ball.

The Phillies are in 3rd place in the NL East and basically playing .500 ball right now. Their big hitters are Michael Young and Chase Utley.  They have Kevin Frandson (remember him?) at third base. They also have some struggling starters (Halliday with an ERA of almost 7?) so the series should be very interesting. The Giants have a real chance here to make up some ground in the standings if they can hit the Phillies starters hard.

The challenge is going to be the Braves.  The tomahawk team is seriously hot right now. They are 17 and 11 and leading the NL East.  They are the team to beat.  Their big boppers are Justin Upton (traded from the Snakes because he was a head case) and Brian Johnson, the best catcher in the game not named Buster Posey. Their pitching has been great (most of their starters are hovering in the 3 ERA range) and the pitchers can hit (Tim Hudson has the best BA on the team – he and Zito were once teammates – maybe it was in the water in Oakland). If the Giants can take this four game series (or even split) they will have established themselves as the team to beat.

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar