Welcome to the 11th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants!
It’s the end of August, the dog days are here and the Giants are facing their biggest challenge - themselves
- The DL remains the main issue. Panik is not back yet and his back is not healed (how serious is the injury, really? The Giants are vague and that is troubling). Pence is out with an oblique (a hard to figure injury that might mean he’s out until mid-September) and Pagan was due back tomorrow (but was delayed today, he is not healed either). At least Aoki is back and is playing himself into September shape.
- Bobby Evans (with an able assist from Sabean we expect) has been working the waiver wire and three days ago picked up Marlon Byrd from the Reds (an experienced 38 year old veteran outfielder with power and decent defense), and it is a good trade although Byrd is no Pence. Rumor has it that the G-Men are still in the market and are looking at infielders (they did make a run at Chase Utley but he went with the team that shall not be named).
- Blanco deserves kudos for holding the outfield together through this trying period. He is playing very well at the moment on defense and at the plate and looks like he wants to keep the starting CF job – look out Pagan.
- Duffy is playing out of his mind. He is one of seven Giants batting over .300 and if he isn’t rookie of the year there is no justice league of America. His defense is good and his cat is totally cool.
- Posey on the other hand had a terrible road trip (as did the rest of the team – 2 and 5) and looks very tired. The consensus is that he needs to rest his legs for the stretch run - - but we need his bat in the line-up and his skill set behind the plate. A puzzle to be sure.
- This month has been a test and the test is not over yet. Losing 2 out of three in St. Louis and 3 out of 4 to the red-hot Pirates was not fun but we certainly did get to see playoff baseball over the last week. Game after game of one run differentials, great defense (how about that homer robbing Juan Perez catch?) and good hands (yes, we are talking about you Brandon Crawford).
- We are seeing rookies make an impact. Tomlinson is batting .326 and looking so cool doing it (Clark Kent?) that he might be up permanently before long. However his second base defense does leave a bit to be desired.
- On the pitching side Bum is already in playoff form with 2 complete games in his last three starts, not to mention 5 dingers and a pinch hit. However behind him we have issues. Heston is in Sacramento to get a rest before the September call-ups (his pitches were out of control), Cain may be back strong in September (the jury is still out), Lincecum is on the DL (expect to see him in September) and Leake and Peavy look pretty good. Vogelsong is a cipher – decent one day and throwing batting practice the next. Hudson is still on the DL but he could be a surprise activation for September.
- Finally, the bullpen looks good as long as its rested. Every one of the bullpen rotation has been beat up at one time or another during August ( Affleldt, Romo, Strickland, Lopez, Kontos and Casilla have all been dinged for home runs). They need a rest by getting the starters to go more than 5 innings. That is going to be a key from here on out. If a starter goes 6 full or 7 the bullpen has a great shot at shutting down the opposition.
- This is the time of testing. Do the G-Men have what it takes to make a another run for a ring? They are certainly capable of hitting, pitching and playing defense with the best of the NL teams. The next six games in August will answer a lot of questions, so pay close attention.
Can the G-Men take the Dodgers and make the playoffs?
- The road to the playoff’s lies through Chavez Ravine. The Giants and the Dodgers are separated by a game and a half for the division lead (although the Snakes are not that far behind and are playing great ball right now).
- The wild card does not look good with six games between the G-Men and other wild card contenders, the Cubs and the Pirates (or maybe it will be the Cubs and the Cardinals in the wild card because the Pirates are so hot right now that they may overtake the Cards in the NL Central).
- The LA team with the $300 million payroll (highest in baseball and a $140 million 40% luxury tax) is busy self-destructing. The G-Men have another 6 games left against the Dodgers, who are drama personified. LA has lost 5 games in a row (the only saving grace to the Giants horrible road trip), their rookie of the year is on the bench, Puig was put on waivers, their starting infield was imported from the Phillies, they only have 2 good pitchers (one of whom, Kershaw, looks tired), their bullpen is useless until they can get to their all-star closer and their manager is looking over his shoulder at the third base coach.
- Can LA be overtaken? Yes they can and that’s why September is going to be the most fun month of the season.
The Cubs, the Cardinals and the Dodgers – this is the playoff’s
- The next 9 games are against the leaders – the Cardinals who have great pitching but are in a bit of slump at the moment (they look tired also) and the Cubs, who are everyone’s darlings. Joel Maddon was the manager that the Dodgers really wanted and couldn’t get and what he is doing to motivate the Cubs is nothing short of phenomenal.
- Can the G-Men get back at the Cubs for the sweep in Chicago last month? We will find out starting tomorrow night when Matt Cain takes on Arrieta and his 2.30 ERA.
- Then the Cardinals come into town and then the G-Men go to LA to face the Dodgers. This is not an easy schedule, to put it mildly but as theatre it can’t be beat.
It’s time for baseball!
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!