Welcome to Czar’s blog #2 of 2018
We are 21 games into the season – can we tell anything yet?
The G-Men are 9 and 12 and in 4th place in the NL West. Of course that doesn’t say a lot when the vaunted (picked to be all-world before the start of the season) Dodgers also have only 9 wins, the Padres are one game back and the leader (Snakes) are on a torrid pace.
Today’s historic win against the Angels (a really good team) marked the first Giants series victory of the year, and was historic because of Belt’s 21 pitch at bat to open the game. Maybe Belt’s big day (and 4 homers in the last 4 games, 5 total) is a sign of things to come. It sure was a lot of fun to listen to the call of that at-bat.
There is much discussion about the age of the roster. They are an older team for sure but are they too old, or are they just adjusting and trying to find the right pace? While I’ll really worry when I see them asking for the softball rule that allows courtesy runners for old batters (I know that rule well) the adjustment to new core players (Jackson, Longoria and McCutchen), and well as the new managers and coaches (Bochy is the stability factor) should be allowed to play out.
On a side note Pence (and we all love Pence) may be done. Mac Williamson is an awesome batter, plays a great left field and looks like the left fielder of the future. Pence’s bad “thumb” is not an good excuse for batting .172. Wally Pipp. Enough said.
The bottom line is that it’s too early to tell what we have yet. Let these guys play together for a while longer and then, if we remain in the middle of the pack, worry. However taking a series from the 14 and 8 (after today) 2nd place Angels (with all-world Mike Trout) is heartening.
The Offense – where is it?
This is the real worry.
The G-Men have the lowest team batting average in the NL, and for sure have the lowest batting average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP) in the majors. But, then you look at the new stat (speed of the ball on hits to the outfield) and you realize that the guys are scalding the ball – they are just hitting directly at the fielders. According to this stat the Giants are hitting the ball harder than any other team. Does that mean they are pressing? I suspect so. Longoria is not a .243 batter, McCutchen is not a .213 batter and Posey is not a .265 batter.
The old guys hit on this last road trip (Longoria with 4 dingers, one behind Belt, McCutchen with 3 dingers, including 2 game winners, and Posey with 3) and this next series of games at AT&T (as the weather warms up) will be a test.
Regardless, RISP must be brought home. I am noticing that Bochy is constantly fiddling with the line-up, which tells me he hasn’t found a fit yet. I like Panik at the top of the order though, and bringing Williamson up higher in the order will probably happen in the upcoming series at AT&T.
BTW: has anyone else noticed that Blanco is playing better than Jackson, both at the plate and in the field? Keep an eye on that contest. Jackson feels Blanco breathing down his neck.
The Pitching – the Winchester Mystery House makes more sense
We all knew that the starting rotation would be in flux until Bum came back but the Giants have actually pitched well (lots of one and two-run games). Cueto is a stud (.035 ERA), and Stratton is the real deal. Unfortunately, Blach has choked and Holland is a middling replacement. That leaves us waiting for the real starters to come off the DL. The Shark started yesterday, went 5 innings and got the victory. He looked good. Now we are looking for Bum to come back (the pins were just removed from his hand) and for the rotation to stabilize.
As for the relievers, Tony Watson is looking good and Moronta is pitching like he wants a permanent job. Law, on the other hand, is back in the minors where he belongs, we are waiting for Melacon and Will Smith (like waiting for Godot) and Strickland is reverting to form (fastball down the middle and then over the wall). I do not understand what happened to Dyson over the winter but if he can be the pitcher he was last fall that fills a lot of holes. We all watched Gearrin almost give away the game today. He worries me, as any reliever with a 6.43 ERA will do. The relief core needs work.
Will Bum and the Shark returning change the team?
Yes. The Shark is back. Bum will come back. They will stabilize the roster of young pitchers. If we can hang in until that happens, and hit better, maybe the spring won’t be such a nail-biter (although the “torture” manta is returning).
What does the Western Division look like?
Right now the Snakes are running away with the division. I don’t think that will continue. The division will tighten and parity will reign until either the Giants or LA jells and beats up on the other teams.
That’s why the Giants/Dodgers upcoming series next weekend is so important. The teams are more even than anyone realized and if the G-Men can stabilize the batting order, continue with the good defense they have played (how many one-run games can one team play?) they can go into mid-summer as the team to beat.
It’s an even year.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!