The Long Road to the Playoff's

Welcome to the 11th Czar’s blog of 2016.

This is a special blog in that it covers the rest of this home series, and the next.  That is because the Czar is heading to Indonesia for almost three weeks of scuba diving and trying to pick up the Giants scores from what internet might be available in the far reaches of the Labuanbajo-Maumere corridor. 

We are at the beginning of August and anyone who watched today’s Casilla meltdown (3 run HR in the top of the ninth to finish the bullpen blowing a 6 run lead) that cost us a series win against the Orioles, understands torture, frustration and gnashing your teeth so hard that a visit to the dentist is not only mandatory but desired, just for the pain medication.

The Orioles, who now have the identical record of the Giants (66 and 51) and are a half game back of Toronto in the AL East, are a good team (huge guys with big bats – true monsters) with an excellent closer and will be in the playoffs.  But they are not that good, and today’s game should not have been lost. We hope that the kick in the teeth administered today by the Orange birds shakes something up, like demoting Casilla and establishing Law as the closer.

The only saving grace in all of this is that the Dodgers (one of the best hitting teams in baseball mind you) also lost.  That leaves the Giants one game in front of the NL West, which at times (considering the 8 and 18 record since the All-Star break) should be considered a miracle. Someone out there is saying their prayers and its working.

It’s not all dark. The Giants are still 11th in MLB in hitting (.258 team BA), 4th in pitching (3.68 team ERA) and 10th in fielding (.985 fielding average).  That is, of course, reflective of the excellent play before the last 25 or so games when they have basically tanked.  Regardless, that also means there is room to come back in the next two home series (Pirates, Mets, Braves and Snakes), to see what can be done in the showdown coming at Chavez Ravine next week, and perform well at the beginning of the stretch run during the first week of September in Chicago against the rampaging Cubs.

There is a lot of baseball left and it’s time to suck it up.

What about the trades, will they pay off?

Most of the scribes agree that the Giants trade deadline moves improved the team.  I agree with the consensus but I don’t think that they did enough and I don’t think that the value exchanged was necessarily even.

Matt Moore was picked up from the Marlins. Matt has a career 3.86 ERA with good strikeout pitches. This trade cost Matt Duffy (still on the DL but playing now) going to the Marlins with some prospects.  

Getting Moore as a starter freed up Peavy to go to the bullpen for what will likely be the last few months of his major league career.  Peavy is enough of a gamer that even a few innings of vintage Jake out of the bullpen will be worth it in the playoffs.  Think Jeremy Affeldt against the Cards in the 2014 NLCS to advance to the WS. Seriously.

Duffy was expendable (no matter how much everyone liked him) because of the outstanding play of Eduardo Nunez, a .300 plus hitter and base stealer with adequate to good defense (great grab of the game today), who arrived from Minnesota earlier in the month in return for a well-regarded minor league left hander – Mejia.

Finally, the Giants picked up another middle to late inning reliever, Will Smith, from the Brewers for Andrew Susac and Phil Bickford.  Smith is an expensive player considering the trade value given up.  The rationale I hear was that Susac is stuck behind Posey and Trevor Brown and while Bickford was a top pitching prospect Smith is young and under team control for another three years. However Smith hasn’t shown much yet.  Now if he could have replaced Casilla maybe this would have been a good deal. Personally I’m ready to ask if Trevor Hoffman is ready to come out of retirement.

The trades were made specifically to improve the bullpen. Now consider the number of leads that the bullpen has squandered recently (including today) and tell me if the improvement is there. Just saying.

Can the G-Men put it back together?

The most important moves over the last four weeks have been getting Panik and Pence back from the DL. Panik is starting to hit with regularity and his defense is sparking, although he still looks like he should be on the inside cover of a high school yearbook as prom king.

Pence is an animal.  Check out his black eye from hitting himself in the eye with a foul ball.  He ranged all over the outfield today and hit a huge dinger.  If he gets untracked he and Buster can carry the team over the next seven weeks all by themselves.  Speaking of Buster, he is a hall of fame catcher and a true joy to watch.  Do not miss a Posey at-bat, ever, and check out his percentage of base stealers thrown out. I believe that it’s the best in baseball.

The hitting should be there, but hasn’t been for some reason. Belt looks like he is getting untracked, Crawford had the first 7 hit game in the history of the Giants (after another bullpen meltdown), Pagan is on a 12 game hitting streak and Span is getting clutch RBI’s.  It shouldn’t be as tight as it has been.  These guys are good regardless of the number of runners left on base with less than two outs. I don’t know where the clutch hitting went but unless it returns we are in for a very long seven weeks.

Finally, a word about the pitching.  Bum and Cueto look really good and we will see what Moore and Samardjiza can do but none of them can carry the team. The starters and the relievers need to pick up their game if they expect to taste anything more than the wild card or maybe the NLDS in October.

The answer to the question posed above is YES.  However they need to improve in every facet of the game and play like the champions they are.

The Upcoming Games

The Pirates come into town tomorrow after handing some pain to the Dodgers. The Bucs are chasing a wild card spot one game behind the Cards (in a division with the Cubs 13 games up) and just whaled on the Dodgers. The Lumber Company wants it and the G-Men had better be prepared. Everyone likes the Pirates, and Vogelsong will get one hell of a welcome when he shows up to pitch at AT&T.

Then the Mets come into town, one game over .500, hurting and out of sorts.  Of course that means they will play like the 27 Yankees against the G-Men.

The series after the show-down and shoot-out in Chavez Ravine will feature the Braves and the Snakes.  Two teams way down in the standings but two teams who have historically played well against the Orange and he Black. However that will start September and I will be back then with my glove in the stands trying to catch a foul ball while balancing an Irish coffee and eating a crab sandwich.

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

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

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