Angels, Padres and the Marlin's - 10 game series

Welcome to the 3rd Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants! 

 

The Giants really are that bad but if so how come they are doing as well as they are?

Anyone who has watched the Giants in April should be wondering how a team that appears to be so wretched has actually won10 games.  The Giants have a team BA right north of the Mendoza line, have stranded 174 men on base, have hit into more double plays (21) than any other team in baseball (thank you Casey McGehee), are scoring an almost MLB low of 3.0 runs per game (thank you Phillies for being worse) and have a pitching staff ERA somewhere above 4. In short, when you only score an average of 3 runs per game and give up an average of 4 runs you can’t expect to win many games.

Sure there are excuses, plenty of them. Injuries abound. Pence is still out with a broken arm (due back at that end of May), Cain is still out with a tight forearm but is starting to throw and may be back this month, Peavy is out with back problems and Ishikawa has a bad back. However a lot of team have much longer injury lists than the Giants.

So how come the G-Men are only 4 and half games back in the NL West (maybe the toughest division in MLB) after the worst April start since 1991 (not a memorable year)?

The answer to the question, I think, is Bruce Bochy and the bullpen.  The pen continues to be exceptionally strong and most of the games the G-Men won (like last night with a bottom of the 9th walk-off) were one run nail biting affairs. Those kind of games tell you that the manager has kept the team in the game until something good happens (like taking two out of three from the Dodgers or winning on the road).

It’s now May and let’s see if the torture of one run games can’t be abated a bit in favor of better baseball. However I still suspect that we are in for low scoring tense games for quite some time to come.

Who is good, who is not good and who cares?

The good includes the team’s only .300 hitters, Aoki and Pagan.  Nori is a gamer and the best lead-off hitter we have had in quite a while.  He gets on base, leads the team in steals (with 6 as of last night) and is an all-around pesky player. Pagan (clearly healthy now) hitting in the three hole has been a revelation.  He has been a tough out and leads the team in hits (with 32).

The RBI and HR leader is Crawford, who continues to be probably the smoothest shortstop in the game.  Maxwell has been a breath of fresh air with good defense in RF, the most dingers behind Crawford (tied with Posey who is, well, Buster Posey) and a dazzling smile.  However, and watch this when you see the game, the league is starting to figure him out and he is now getting a steady diet of off-speed pitches and junk, which he is going to have to learn to handle

After that it gets really thin.  Belt is really scuffling, McGehee should be sent down to the minors to get rid of the yips (and his reputation for hitting into double plays is, as it turns out, well deserved – how much rope Bochy will continue to give him is the real question) and find his stroke and the bench has been quiet. The G-men have very little power, and it shows.

Future bright lights continue to be Panik and Duffy (and Susac off the bench) but they are basically rookies and it shows (although Panik’s walk off last night was a thing of beauty).

The real problem is the starting pitching.  The best pitcher on the team (from an ERA perspective) right now is Heston. Bum however looked great beating Kershaw this last week and I think that his season is going to just get better and better.  Beyond that it’s a wasteland. Peavy was a train wreck before he went on the DL, Vogelsong is giving up HR’s in bunches (it’s tough to come back from two three-run dingers in 4 innings) and may be done. As for Timmy, well which one are we going to get is always the question, the Timmy that throws strikes and pitches like an All-Star or the one that is throwing batting practice to the other team?

Hudson, for his part (and he pitches today) looks ready to retire.   He is adequate if the bullpen can support him but I don’t see any fire there and if that is the case it’s going to be a long year for him  before he retires at the end of this season.  We need a healthy Matt Cain back for starters. There is no pitching depth in the farm system so maybe Sabean has something in mind; if so, we will have to wait and see what happens.

The bottom line is that the G-Men are lumbering along like an old car not hitting on all cylinders but doing just enough to get us to the next stop. Maybe Pence returning (to continue the analogy) will be the sparkplug we need to start playing better in every facet of the game

I guess that we all have to remember that THE GIANTS  ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS and everyone else is not.  That felt good to write.

The Upcoming Series - a cage match

This series coming up, the Angels, Padres and Marlins are important from a number of perspectives.  All three teams are playing around, or below, .500 ball so it will be a good test of the Giants will.  All three teams have better team ERA’s, BA’s, runs scored (and every other conceivable stat) than the G-Men so we will be underdog’s in every series.  If the Giants can hang in there at home, or win more than they lose (and last night was a great start) then we can start to move up the ladder of the NL West.

It’s time for baseball!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

The Czar's Blog - Halloween Parade Edition 2014

Welcome to our friends who love the San Francisco Giants, and to the last Czar’s blog of 2014 – the Halloween (my birthday present) Parade edition!

 

There isn’t anyone on the planet that doesn’t feel in awe of Madison Bumgarner after his MVP performance in the NLCS and in the World Series.  However the G-Men are a team and, as it turns out, a team of destiny.  Was there anyone in SF not watching that game last night?  I’m still speechless.

 

Warriors or Cockroaches – or both?

 

Brian Sabean said that this is a team of cockroaches – they will not die! And they did not die. Bruce Bochy, a manager that is destined for the Hall of Fame with Miller Huggins, Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy and in the modern era, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, said it best: “These guys are warriors.”

 

The first team since the “We are Family” Lumber Company (the 1979 Pirates with Willie Stargell) to win a WS game 7 on the road, and the first Giants team since the 1905 Giant with Christy Matheson to have a pitcher that essentially won 3 WS games, the last one on two day’s rest.  Clayton Kershaw might get the Cy Young and has been designated as the “Best Pitcher on the planet” but, if so, MadBum is the best pitcher in the Universe. 

 

Move over Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, MadBum is now your teammate!

 

I was there for the Bumgarner shutout at home in Game 5, the Ishikawa walk-off in Game 5 of the NLCS over the Cardinals, the Juan Perez double off the top of the wall that sealed Game 5 and we all saw the Crawford Grand Slam in the Wild card game but nothing beats the look on Hunter Pence’s face (batting almost .500 in the WS – are you kidding?) when he comes to the plate with the swing that looks like he is trying to destroy the ball with the bat.

 

YES! YES! YES!

 

This incredible post-season was the ride of a lifetime. Every player contributed. No one was selfish and no one pouted about not playing as Bochy masterfully shuffled the players like chess pieces across the board of the game.

 

The Panda was clutch (the best third baseman in the game – will he return?  We hope so!), Joe Panik found his groove (especially on that double play in the 3rd last night!) and may be the best 2nd baseman to play for the Giants since Joe Morgan and Jeff Kent (although Marco Scutero and Robbie Thompson are up there also), Brandon Crawford’s arm and range was the difference in the defense (we can watch him all day long – so smooth), Gregor Blanco played a center field for the ages (up until that 9th inning error last night that MadBum had to work through), Michael Morse came through with the big hits when needed (“May the Morse be with you”), Brandon Belt’s defense and bat were key and, most important, Buster Posey was nails even though he is clearly exhausted. 

 

Buster – take the next two months off and savor what you just did in directing this pitching staff!  If Pence is the heart of the team, you are the brains and the will.

 

Think about it: 18 innings over the Pirates in the Wild Card game; which the G-Men were in only because of a great April, May and September that overcame a swoon for the ages in June, July and into August (including being swept by KC in KC).  Then the NLDS against the Nationals (probably the most talented team in baseball this side of that LA team that won’t be named), then beating the Cardinals in the NLCS on a walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Game 5 by the most unlikely of hero’s – a 1st baseman cut in May, put on waivers, picked up by the Giants and sent to AAA and then converted to LF.  Travis Ishikawa lived the dream for all of us.

 

Hats off to the starters and the bullpen! Hudson playing at 39, Peavy who came in from the Red Sox to replace Cain when he went down, Vogelsong (who has the best game face since Will Clark), LInceum who pitched a no-hitter and then made himself available for relief, Romo, Affeldt, Casilla and, of course, Yusmiero Petit.  We would not be there without Petit. Kudos to the bench - Arias had key hits, Duffy  and Susac were nails for rookies, Perez literally saved Game 7 with an awesome catch. 

 

The point is that everyone contributed (including Strickland - who appears to be a special Bochy project).  Finally don’t forget the coaches (underrated all, especially Wotus and Flan) and the front office, Baer, Sabean, Bobby Evans, the scouts (like Pat Burrell, still contributing after all he did in 2010) and all the wonderful people who are part of the Giants family – as are every one of us.

 

We are told that both Bochy and Pence gave a speech to the team before Game 7.  Bochy said to remember the tough teams they defeated on the road over the last five years (and make no mistake the G-Men are a GREAT road team) and that they have won (now) 9 consecutive post season series.  Pence got up and simply said to remember what he told the team in spring training – they were playing for a parade in October.

 

Well, it’s October and it’s parade time. We will all be at our office on California street on Friday and will be walking over to Market Street about 11 am to get our place to greet the  2014 World Championship San Francisco Giants as the floats come down Market Street.

 

Join us at the Parade, and then mark your calendars for the Black and Orange Big Bottle Party on December 4th at 4 pm at the University Club.  This year will be truly special and we have a 12 liter Balthazar of a specially bottled zin (made with love by the Michael David Winery) from the 2012 WS as a feature.

 

The next Czar’s blog will be during Spring training before the 2015 season.  The G-Men will have a major target on their back and the title of dynasty in the making.  It will be a great year and we will all be part of it. There is nothing more special than baseball.

 

I can’t wait!

 

Let me leave 2014 with this thought, and with the picture below:

 

“…They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”  - Field of Dreams

 

Ciao,

 

GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

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