Welcome to the 9th Czar’s blog of 2016.
We are now at the 82 game mark, half way through the season. The G-Men are 51 and 31, 20 games over .500 and on track for a 100 win season. These next six games lead up to the All-Star break. After the break we start an 8 game road trip leading off with the Padres and ending up visiting the Red Sox and the Yankees in the AL East. Bum may or may not hit if he pitches one of those AL games but you have to believe that the national press will be all over it because of what happened in Arizona on Thursday.
Regardless, if the playoffs started today it would be the Cubs against the winner of the wild card game (either the Dodgers or the Mets) and the Giants against the Nationals, with the Cubs having home field advantage throughout the playoffs and the Nationals at AT&T. Anyone for a Giants/Cubs NLCS (Bochy versus Maddon)? It’s a distinct possibility based on what we have seen so far.
The injury list, the story of the season so far
The Giants have 10 players on the injury list or the DL right now, including five starters (if you count Tomlinson, the 4th infielder, as a starter). The real losses are Pence (August return), Duffy (Achilles strain, still out), Panik (7 day concussion DL) and Span (day to day). On the pitching side Cain and Romo are out but are due back soon (both are on minor league rehab assignments). Adrianza has been out all season, and Pena (one of the River Cats brought up when Duffy went down) is out for a week with a left ankle strain.
Injuries are not, however, limited to the G-Men. The Dodgers have 12 players on the injury list, including 8 pitchers, the most notable being Kershaw but also including four other pitchers that have started games this season (Ryu, Anderson, Wood and McCarthy). Starters on the injury list include Puig, Pederson, Hernandez and Eithier. While I find it difficult to be sympathetic for the boys in blue, this injury list has to hurt.
The fact that the Dodgers are playing as well as they have (keeping pace but 6 games back) is very scary. We don’t see the Dodger’s until mid-August in LA and then at AT&T for the closing series of the regular season. Both teams should be healthy by that time so we can certainly expect to see good baseball. The Dodgers will not go quietly into the night.
However, as Tom Hanks so memorably pointed out, there is no crying in baseball so every team has to suck it up and perform regardless of injuries.
How are the Giants coping with so many players going down?
The answer to this question lies in Sacramento. The River Cats have arrived in town and are doing a hell of a job. Gillespie (looking every inch a starter, unlike the last time he was up), Grant Green and Pena have covered third for Duffy and second for Panik and all have played well and hit well. The G-Men did pick up Ruben Tejeda, an historically good hitter and decent fielder who went bad and got released by the Cardinals after being released by the Mets. Tejada hasn’t had a hit yet as a Giant and I expect he will be the first to go down (or away) when one of the regulars comes back up.
In the outfield, Pagan is back with a vengeance and Williamson and Parker (both always an adventure in the outfield) clearly have the power to make a dent in what we are missing with Pence out. Parker’s dinger last night to the opposite field was a thing of beauty, as was the Williamson HR against the Pirates a week or so ago.
Regardless, while we watch re-runs of General Hospital there is baseball to be played.
The Giants are winning – why?
Let’s start with the basics. That would be the fact that the Giants are playing evenly in all aspects of the game; 6th in pitching in MLB, 8th in hitting and 10th in fielding. You can’t get much more balanced then that.
However, I can’t say it too many times. It’s really the pitching. Bumgarner (2.20 ERA, 9 W’s) and Cueto (2.57 ERA, 12 W’s) are both having Cy Young type years. Samardzija has been good and bad and we are all holding our breath for tonight’s start in Arizona. The three top starters have 29 wins between them (think about that stat for a moment – evened out over an entire season that could translate to three 20 game winners, shades of the 1962 G-Men). The rumor mill says that Bochy is considering moving Suarez’s start on Sunday of next week to give Bum another start before the All-Star game (Bum won’t be eligible to pitch in the AS game if that happens, but who cares as long as we get another W). Every W is cherished.
The bull-pen continues to perform well and is giving the team time to come back in the late innings, which recently seems to be a Giants specialty. I don’t know where the Giants stand in come from behind victories but it has to be close to the top of the MLB list.
The hitting, fielding and the Coaching staff
Fielding also wins games, as anyone who saw the Crawford/Belt DP last night understands. Crawford and Belt both deserve the All-Star honors they are going to get. Between them they have turned first base and the up the middle defense into a ballet of web gems plays. Span has been no slouch in Center field either, and Buster behind the plate is simply the best catcher in the game, period, and is a deadly hitter. We are watching a hall of fame career unfold before our eyes.
It’s kind of a mystery why the Giants are hitting so well (.265 team BA) when it seems like they don’t hit a lot of HR’s, or a lot of doubles. My take is that the hits are timely because of good coaching, good intelligence on opposing pitchers and good baserunning. However without Belt, Posey and Crawford (team leaders in BA, RBI’s and HR’s) the team would be in a world of hurt.
Finally, team management and the coaches are mixing and matching without any sense of panic whatsoever. Whenever they need another piece they find it – most recently from Sacramento. Pretty awesome in all aspects of the game.
The Upcoming Games
The upcoming games are all division contests. The Rockies always play the G-men hard, and they are relatively healthy. You can watch the Snakes tonight (as this goes out the Giants are up 3-0) but remember the April series where the Snakes swept a four game series at AT&T. The Diamondbacks like AT&T. That series, hopefully, will be payback.
May the force, and seven innings from the starters, be with you always.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!