The decision this year that back-fired
The Giants were worn out this year. The decision to allow 8 starters to play in the World Baseball Classic in March after going deep into October to win the WS was a terrible decision. The Giants rely on defense, finesse and pitching. When the starters get worn out they put more of a load on the bullpen and the pen that was so stalwart last October started to give up runs; which the poor offense (historically poor) could not overcome. The other terrible decision was not to sign a power hitting left fielder mid-season. I’m not saying that the right person was available but Alex Rios would certainly have looked much better in left field than Gregor Blanco.
The good decisions were to sign Pagan and Scutaro to long term contracts and to lock up Matt Cain long term. Unfortunately when Pagan went down following that incredible walk-off inside the park homer run on May 25th (I was there, it was awesome) it seemed like the spark went out of the team. June, July and August was a tail-spin that wouldn‘t stop. People were plugged into and out of the line-up and (with a few exceptions) no one sparked the team.
The G-Men have, however, been playing much better in September. They have pulled out of the cellar and took 3 out of 4 from the Dodgers in LA and were 6 out of 10 on latest road trip. The Dodgers series was really fun. They were denied on their home field and left frustrated. Loved it.
The Positives and what might happen
This has been a banner year for the Brandon’s. Crawford did better at shortstop than anyone could imagine (he will be a gold glove shortstop yet). He spent much of the season in the .270’s and recently has slumped back to .253. However if anyone had said that he would even hit .250 that would have been a surprise. He is just going to get better and better. Belt, once he accepted the need to change his batting stance, is suddenly a legitimate number 3 hitter. He’s a big man (and a hell of a First baseman) and if he can learn to play left field he might be the answer to that question next year. He’s currently batting .289 with 16 dingers and 64 RBI’s. Not bad.
Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Pray that they are both Giants for the long term. Buster is in a three week long slump (2 for 31 on the road trip) but his average is still at .295 with 15 homers and 72 RBI’s. Buster is the future of the franchise and should be shifted to First and Hector Sanchez should catch (he’s good back there!). Hunter Pence is the big story. He’s a free agent after October with a .286 BA, 25 homers and 93 RBI’s. He’s an iron man who has played EVERY game this season. He might go over 100 RBI’s on this home stand. The Giants MUST sign Pence and they know it. The current speculation is 4 years and $60 million. In my view that would be a bargain. That’s what we paid for Rowand who wasn’t half the player that Pence is, and will continue to be (and Pence just turned 30; he’s a kid).
There are two other notable free agents that the G-Men should sign at all costs. Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval. Timmy is a Giant and should stay a Giant. Yes he has had his ups and downs (10 and 15 record, ERA over 5 this year) but he is learning how to really pitch (only the 3rd pitcher in MLB history to strike out 1,300 by his 6th season) and he’s only 29 years old with 2 Cy Young’s and two WS rings. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Panda seems to be learning how to control his weight and his defense recently has been really good. Anyone who can hit 3 HR’s in a game is our kind of guy, and he’s done it in the WS and in the regular season against the Dodgers. It’s hard to believe that he has only 13 HR’s and 73 RBI’s with a .275 BA. This off-season will be really important for the Panda. Getting his brother as a live-in cook may be paying dividends.
If the pitching rotation comes back next year refreshed we could be in for a very good year. I’ll take the playoff’s every other year, maybe with a ring J. Bumgarner is a stud and next to Kershaw is the best pitcher in the NL. He’s only going to get better. Coupled with a fresh Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong (a question mark only because of his age, certainly not for his attitude –he is the pitcher equivalent of Will Clark, a guy who always played angry) the top of the order should be solid. The 5th starter must be Petit. What a story. I was there for the almost perfect game. Awesome. His pitching against the Yankee’s yesterday (on Mariano Rivera day when Andy Pettit pitched his last game) was a thing of beauty. He is deserving of a really good shot in the spring.
That frees up Gaudin for the bullpen (where he is strong) along with Casilla, Romo, Lopez (another awesome reliever) and hopefully Heath Hembree next year. Please (prayer to Brian Sabean) get rid of Jean Machi and Jose Mijares. Every time they come in they seem to allow the men on base to score. I shudder.
The young guys that you will see in the upcoming series to watch: Jose Perez, a young fielder with a great arm and tremendous defense; Nick Noonan and Tony Abreu, both potential good bench players but both ticketed I suspect for AAA to season some more.
Our bench this year. The bench was very weak. The only player that could really be counted on was Arias, who had a .271 BA with 17 RBI’s off the bench and played every infield position except pitcher and catcher. The bench is also where Blanco belongs. He’s good in spots and is a professional but he shouldn’t be a starter. That’s why I think that the brain trust is looking so hard at Perez right now. Peguero and Keischnick are headed back to AAA, as is Brent Pill (who might end up somewhere else where his right handed bat will be welcome, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a Cubs uniform with Nate). This will be an area that the management (I suspect) will be looking at long and hard in the off-season and in spring training, which for the young guys starts now.
What will the off-season bring?
Possibly a free-agent left fielder with power and maybe another starting pitcher. There are a lot of starters going into free agency this year and the power hitters on the market like Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury, maybe even Puig’s Cuban cousin (a team mate on the Cuban national team) the sensational Jose Abreu, will be available. Of course Robinson Cano will be on the market but he is expected to demand A-Rod money and the Yankee’s are not going to let him go. If the owners go for it and the team payroll gets up around $150 million it could be a really interesting off-season.
The two home series
It’s the Dodgers and the Padres and the NL West.
The Dodgers may lay down and die because they have taken the division (they are crybabies in the best of times) but the Dodgers fans will be at the ballpark in droves and it might get ugly at AT&T. I hope not but I’ve been there with blue dressed drunks trying to blow up beach balls in our park. Back in 1993 a Dodgers fan jumped over my five year old and took a ball from him. Really bush league. Another good example is what the Dodger’s did when they took the division in AZ. They dissed the Snakes by celebrating on their field and then jumping in their pool in centerfield. Very juvenile (even Senator McCain got in the act) but what do you expect from a team of high-priced superstars with prima donna complexes? Puig is the worst but Hanley Rameriz is right behind him. The Dodgers pitchers (except for Kershaw, who is the second coming of Sandy Koufax) are hot dogs and headhunters. That’s also why I think that the three strongest playoff teams in the NL are St. Louis, the Reds and Atlanta. Personally I’m rooting for Dusty. This should be his year.
The Padres have always been the Giants nemesis. The two teams just match up well and we close the season against each other fighting for third place (maybe second if the Snakes take a dive) in the NL West. Those games will be hard fought and fun.
It’s too bad that we are at the end of another season but it’s been (as always) a great ride.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!