Welcome to Czar’s blog #4 of 2019.
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A Quarter Way Into 2019 – Where are we? What can we tell?
The first quarter of the Giants’ season has been a strange, weird, trip down a rabbit hole. Many of you out there will ask me “what can I expect with a team that is picked to finish last and is in the midst of a serious re-building”? Well, I expect stability, well played baseball games and enjoyable evenings at the most beautiful ball park in baseball (I’m still wrapping myself around “Oracle” – is there such a thing as the curse of Larry Ellison? We might have better luck if he puts the Giants logo on his Americas Cup sailboat)
The Giants are without direction on the field; 17-23 through last Monday - -the quarter point - - and could not sync their pitching and hitting enough to win consistently. As of today the G-Men are 20 and 22; marginally better after splitting the series against Toronto, and taking 2 out of three from the Snakes in Arizona this weekend. The Grateful Dead keeps ringing in my head – I just hope that the long strange trip of this season will take a turn for the better. The team just doesn’t feel like its jelled.
Since Opening Day, the front office has made at least 31 major-league roster transactions (six related to the injured list) involving 23 players, and 37 different men have suited up. Eleven played at least one game in the outfield. Can’t tell the players without a scorecard? Join the club. The players don’t like it either.
Derek Holland expressed a “What’s going on here?” complaint of frustration when his friends and colleagues were being yanked back and forth to the minor leagues like yo-yo’s (that was right before he went down). Derek, I feel for you. Come up in the stands and talk to us who buy the tickets, drink the wine, buy the crab sandwiches and have to listen to fans of opposing teams cheering their teams and screaming into our ears at our house.
What will the next quarter of the season be like?
The reports from inside the clubhouse are that the Giants will try to get settled over the next 40 games with a common purpose, from the top of the front office down to the 40th man on the roster. The Giants still hope to contend. They genuinely want to push for the playoffs in Bochy’s final year. They are fortunate that they have not fallen off the map completely despite playing losing baseball.
Buster was quoted in the paper as considering the Giants “still within striking distance.” They had better hurry up. The consequences otherwise go beyond a potential third straight losing season. As Buster said “It’s no secret there are going to be some things happening around the trade deadline if we don’t start to win more games.” No doubt that is true and even Buster himself could be trade bait if things get bad enough. Bum is gone before the trade deadline unless there is a serious turnaround. No one can accuse of Farhan of sitting on his hands.
The Giants made 22 major-league roster moves in the first 11 days of the month. Farhan is apparently trying to live up to a decision that management and ownership made after he was hired to not give up on 2019 even if his main charge is building for the future. Farhan feels like a kid in grammar school riffling through TOPS baseball cards to make trades for cards he didn’t get.
Can the Giants walk and chew gum simultaneously?
Regardless of whom Farhan and Bochy suit up, the Giants will not improve unless they can hit and pitch at the same time. It seems kind of basic, doesn’t it?
For the first 25 games, the staff had a 3.20 ERA but the offense scored 3.1 runs a game. In the past 15 games, the offense surged to 5.3 runs a game but the ERA surged, too, to 6.51.The Giants could not sync their pitching and hitting over the first quarter of the 2019 season. The first 25 games and past 15 tell different stories.
The starters have an 8.10 ERA since the April 26 start of a three-game series at Oracle Park against the Yankees but the bullpen has been rock solid over the entire 40 games, ranking second through Sunday in the NL in ERA (3.58) and tied for third in fewest inherited runners scoring (23 percent). The rotation that counts just two regular starters: Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. Dereck Rodriguez is in the minors, Holland is in the bullpen and Pomeranz is just off the injured list today. However, the reports are that Cueto is throwing hard and is coming back from Tommy John quicker than expected.
But what can you do with a lineup that features just two everyday players batting over .250 (Panik, .252, Steven Duggar, .250) and one with an OPS over .800 (Brandon Belt, .827). The Giants have been winning with big comebacks, a lot of clutch hits from the Panda (including a 10th inning shot today to beat the Snakes and take that series) and (mostly) shutdown work from relievers whom Farhan wants to leverage by having them pitch more innings.
At the plate, the batting averages of the regulars have inched up, and their .345 average with runners in scoring position since April 30 is encouraging. Their home run disparity — 57 allowed, 38 hit — is not. We need power. Pillar has been very good, Panik is on a hitting tear, Buster is coming back (although the concussion is a real cause for concern) and Stephen Vogt is a great back-up catcher. In the power rankings Mac Williamson hit the snot out of the ball in the minors but is below the Mendoza line up here. Mac, if there was ever a time for you to show you are a real major leaguer and not just a fashion model for Nike, this is the time.
What are the fans doing?
Attendance is in the tank. Evening games (even though the announced crowds are larger because of 26,000 season ticket holder like me) feel like Candlestick park in 1995. This is the time to come out because anyone can support a team on top – it takes a real fan to feel the frustration and the pain that comes with willing the team to get better and cheering every good play. I expect to hear from the faithful taking tickets!
The Upcoming Series
This is a short series against the Braves and the Snakes. The Braves are a half game back of the Phillies (featuring Bryce Harper of the soap opera – what could have been?) in the NL East and looking to feast on the G-Men. Similarly, the Snakes are in 2nd place in the NL West, 5 and a half games in back of LA. These are good teams and good test of the next quarter of the schedule.
On the board ready to be picked up are:
MON 5/20 v. Braves – (6:45 -4)
TUES 5/21 v. Braves (6:45 – 4)
WED 5/22 v. Braves (6:45 -4)
THUR 5/23 v. Braves (12:45 – 4)
FRI 5/24 v. Snakes (7:15 -4)
SAT 5/25 v. Snakes (1:05 -4) Brandon Crawford shirt day
SUN 5/26 v. Snakes (1:05-4) – Giants Trucker Flag Hat (I know, how weird is that)
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!
THE PROTOCOL: the firm has four seats in Section 118 (Premium Lower Boxes), Rows 25 and 26. These are awesome seats directly below the press box and 25 rows behind home plate on the left side behind the screen. It is foul ball territory for left-handed batters so bring your glove – I have collected 16 foul balls myself over 19 years, and I am looking for more (although since the screens were raised in 2018 it’s become tougher to get a ball). If we can't use all the tickets ourselves (or clients and friends of the firm don't claim them by calling me and reserving a game), then my next step is to give the tickets TO THE FIRST PERSON WHO GETS BACK TO ME PROVIDED THAT THEY ARE SERIOUS. If you ask for the tickets and don't use them, you will be taken off the list unless there is a seriously good reason. There will be a wait list.
When there are four seats available (we split up a lot of games) we will allocate the tickets two and two if the first people back just want two tickets. You can also go for four and might get them. I'm the Czar, my call.