Giants v. Braves, Giants v. Marlins

How do you like our first place best in baseball G-Men?  

I’m live blogging Hudson’s start against Kershaw in LA right now and the G-Men are up 3 to 2 in the 8th. This last two weeks has been awesome, and a little bit unreal because the Giants haven’t been exactly blowing everyone away – they are just doing all the little things right and showing incredible balance in the process. The boys are 6 and 3 on the current road trip and if they beat the Dodgers today they would finish the road trip at 7 and 3. With a 10 and 5 home record and a 13 and 9 road record the Gigantes are 23 and 14 -  the best record in baseball (tied with the Brewers, who are beat the Yankees 6-5 today). The reasons are pretty simple: solid rotation, really good defense, timely hitting, great game management (I’ve never seen so many defensive shifts from the Giants that paid off) and a shut-down bullpen.

 

Probably the best part about this April to May run is that it’s been almost all against the NL West.  This will make September a lot more fun because everyone else in the division will be pressing to improve their divisional record while the G-Men work on just winning games.  It’s much too early to say that we are looking at a playoff team but I’ll go out on a limb and say that if anyone in Vegas bets against the Giants, they will lose their money.

 

Now we get down to the grind of the regular season where every game teaches us something more about the Giants, the NL West and the rest of the National League. Interleague has been fun (and sweeping the Tribe was a blast, not to mention sweeping the Braves in Atlanta) but the interleague games are still a sideshow.

 

The Players and the team so far

 

There are several issues that are cause for concern.  The bench is not hitting very well except for Hector Sanchez, who while hitting only .222 seems to get big hits and RBI’s in the clutch (15 RBI’s so far, for a bench player that’s pretty damn good). Tyler Colin was just brought up from Fresno to replace Belt but hasn’t had any real AB’s yet. The Panda continues to struggle, batting below the Mendoza line, and the worry is that his contract year is really getting to him. That might be the biggest issue to worry about right now but Bochy (who has Pablo batting 4th today) is doing his best to give him a chance to work through his struggles.  If the Panda starts to rake, May and June will be really fun. Pablo’s got 2 hits today, a good sign.

 

Posey on the other hand is back up to .300 and is just absolutely solid (someday when he gets into the HOF you will telling your grandchildren that you saw Buster play – two great tags at home plate today). Morse is the team leader in RBI’s (24) and is second behind Belt in HR’s with 8 dingers.  Morse is a force of nature. Crawford is making everyone forget Omar. Brandon is one highlight reel play after another, and with 4 HR’s, 17 RBI’s and a .263 BA. Speaking of the Brandon’s, Hicks is only batting .198 but has 6 HR’s, 12 RBI’s and is playing a stellar 2nd base (after starting out a little bit raw).  Hicks also hit a 2 run dinger against Kershaw, which put the G-Men ahead 3 to 2.  We like this young man J Stay tuned on this game.

 

I still love Angel Pagan, hitting .307 (tops on the team) with 3 HR’s (all to start off games), playing an awesome center field and being the straw that stirs the drink (speaking of Pagan, he hit a double off Kershaw in the 6th).  That said, Pence still has to get hot. When he does the offense will only get better.

 

On the pitching side, Hudson is money (ERA under 2, and 4 and 2) and is leading the team even with Bumgarner at 2.83 and 4 and 3. The rest of the staff is coming around.  Vogelsong (who you might remember I thought might be done) is back under a 3.93 ERA, Lincecum and Cain have both had consistent quality starts and what can you say about the bullpen except best bullpen ERA in baseball. It’s hard to pick anyone out.  Machi has 5 wins, Romo is 12 for 12 in saves and Casilla and Affeldt have been stellar.

 

The Injury Report

 

The injury report now includes Belt (broken thumb yesterday, soon to be replaced at 1st by Morse) as well as Scutaro and I think that Cain is still hurt (he couldn’t control his fastball yesterday because of the sandwich cut injury to his finger). Scutaro has apparently started rehab games in AZ but being placed on the 60 day DL is not encouraging.  The thing to watch on this homestand is how well Morse handles 1st (apparently Morse came up to the Majors as a 1st baseman, which is encouraging) and if the LF position can deliver some pop without Morse there.  Belt will be back in 6 weeks they say, which would be the end of June for the Padres and the Reds series.

 

This next six weeks will be a real test for the bench and we may see more action from Fresno if Colvin can’t cut it.

 

The Homestand, and the NL West

 

This seven game homestand against the Braves and Marlins will be followed by three games on the road against the Rockies, then home again for six games against the Twins (interleague) and the Cubs (always fun).

 

The Marlins and the Braves are both at the top of the NL East, with the Braves on top by one game (21 and 15).

 

The Braves are angry after the sweep they took at home.  This is going to be tense series of nail biters.  Look for Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman to be big hitters, with Teheran (1.71), Wood (2.87) and Santana (1.99) all with stellar ERA’s.  The Braves series will be all about pitching and defense I expect.

 

The Miami games, on the other hand, will be power and pitching. Hopefully the better defense of the G-Men will carry the day. Look for Giancarlo Stanton (.296 and 11 HR’s) and (of all people considering the ex-Brewer was in Japan last year) Casey McGeehe batting .307. The pitchers all have low ERA’s and in a stroke of luck I understand that we will miss the phenom - Jose Fernandez.  Trust me, that is a good thing.

 

A last word about the NL West. The Rockies are the surprise team, one game behind the G-Men, the Dodgers are playing down to their attitude (poor- though I must admit that the beach chair promotion was entertaining – no one could blow them up), the Padres are where they were expected to be and the Snakes are busy self-destructing. However with three teams above .500 (the G-Men, the Rockies and LA) the division is clearly one of the best in baseball.

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

Giants v. Dodgers, Giants v. Padres

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.

 

The Negatives

 

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!

 

The Czar

Giants v. Pirates

The G-Men are almost officially out of the race  

This is one of the worst seasons of Giants baseball that I recall. The G-Men are 18 games out of first place and seem to be mailing it in. Right now and through September the reason to be going to the games is to see the line-up shifts and to watch the young guys.

 

The Positives

 

There are a few good signs. Roger Kieschnick is one.  He looks good but he’s young. Brandon Belt’s power numbers are another. Pence is still playing every game and playing hard. Sandoval is losing weight, Scutaro is professionalism personified, Crawford is performing beyond expectations and Hector Sanchez (since coming back up from the DL) is looking good behind the dish and Vogelsong is looking good coming back from his broken hand.

 

The Negatives

 

The G-Men simply cannot hit with runners in scoring position (inning opening triples and stranding the runners in successive innings?). The outfield needs Pagan, badly. Blanco and Torres may be good guys off the bench but they are not front line starters. There are too many errors and too much sloppy play. Why?  Same players that won the world series and same coaches and management. Maybe it is fatigue from the extended season and the tension of last year, and the WBC.

 

What Can the Giants do?  Is there any hope?

 

Realistically, there is no hope. The Giants are now in the spoilers role beginning with the series against the Pirates that starts today. The surprising Pirates (led by Andrew McCutchen with a .319 BA and shot at MVP) are in first place one game ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central.  For the G-Men the games will feature line-up experiments and young folks (like Brent Pill in Left Field) before the September call-ups.

Giants v. Diamondbacks, Giants v. Reds

The G-Men are now 43 and 51 and 6.5 games back in the NL West Greetings to all of our friends who love the two-time World Champion SF Giants! This is it, the second half of the season. The last two months (since about May 15th when Pagan went down) have been the worst Giants baseball since the mid-1980’s. 2 and 18 in the last 20 games before taking three out of four from Padres on the road in San Diego (which included Timmy’s no-no), probably the worst BA in the majors, the most men LOB, the worst defense and the most inconsistent pitching. If you can’t score runs, play defense or pitch you are not going to win ball games.

Why was this happening?  Injuries are one factor. I talked about this in the last blog. Scutaro’s back and finger, Crawford’s finger, Pagan’s hamstring (maybe Pagan will be back in September?), Panda’s weight, Casilla’s oblique, Aria’s hamstring and Sanchez’s whatever.

Well, in the second half we expect Casilla back (on Sunday), the Panda has been looking a bit slimmer (maybe it was an optical illusion but he played some really good D in San Diego), Crawford looks back to normal and has started hitting, Scutaro is steady and we expect Vogelsong back at the end of July.

Another factor (besides healing up) is that the Giants play most of their second half games at home, where they are still 5 games over .500.

In my view the next ten games will tell us whether or not the G-Men are buyers or sellers at the July 31st trade deadline.  Sabean has already said that he isn’t trading Timmy (who has the most value of the Giants) and Cain and Bumgarner are untouchable.  Lopez on the other hand is vulnerable if the price is right (Atlanta is desperate for the left-handed reliever – who is in their farm system?).  The Panda also has value but only for a good starting pitcher to replace Zito (of course if Vogelsong comes back strong Gaudin could back to long relief).

If the Giants lose the three upcoming series (the Snakes, Reds and Cubs), or even two out of three, I suspect that Sabean will go into rebuilding mode.  However if the G-Men play over .500 (maybe 7 out of 10?) then they might be buyers. Sabean has made moves at the trade deadline before. In 2011 he got Keppinger and Beltran and last year he got Pence so expect something to happen.

So, these games are incredibly important and I expect each one to be a sell-out.

The Positives

The Giants have made some good moves. They brought up Tanaka, who is a really smooth player and who might be a factor because he is so versatile.  He looks and plays like Ichiro and was a Japanese All-Star (he’s 32 and hungry and he gave up a big contract in Japan to try to make it in the show – you have to love the attitude and confidence) . He is certainly a better player than Shinjo (remember him, of the neon orange armbands?). They also picked up Jeff Francoeur who, while well-traveled (Atlanta, the Mets and then the Royals) is a really solid defensive player who has hit for power in the past. He sucked with the Royals but maybe the change in scenery will do him good.  I’ve always liked him and he allows Boche to platoon Torre and Blanco in center, which plays to their strengths.

All in all this makes for a solid team.

On the pitching side, Bumgarner is money and Timmy seems to be finding his groove. Gaudin has been solid (the Las Vegas arrest notwithstanding) and with Casilla back in the 8th inning maybe Affleldt will relax.  The G-Men bullpen is actually pretty good but has been overworked.

When they are clicking the infield of Crawford, Scutaro and Belt is solid. Tanaka is listed now as the utility infielder, which is pretty cool because he looked good in left field also. Belt has been hitting with power and may finally be coming into his own and Pence (as wildly streaky as he has been) is capable of carrying a team if he gets hot.

Finally, Buster Posey.  He is one hell of a player and worth coming to watch all by himself.  He’s Bonds without the attitude.

The Negatives

Matt Cain looks lost.. Maybe he can find his groove in the second half but he lasted on one inning in his last start at home. Barry Zito cannot win outside of AT&T.  Thankfully most of the second half games are at home but, regardless, this is his last year as a Giant.

The biggest negative is bad attitude. If the Giants believe that they can win they will. It starts with Boche. Keep your fingers crossed.

What Can the Giants do?  Is there any hope?

Yes, there is hope.  This team won 2 out of the last 3 world series.  That alone earned them the right to be watched no matter what else happens.  I’ll take finishing out of the playoffs every other year for a world series in the other years. The Giants of 51 came from 13 games down on August 15th of that year to tie the Dodgers, win a sudden death playoff and go to the world series.  The 62 Giants did the same thing.  Last year this same team won two sudden death playoff series when they were down to their last game, and then swept the world series. Until the G-Men are mathematically eliminated, they are in it.

Also, I have to point that the Dodgers are getting back into their insufferable mode; arrogant, testy, full of themselves and, what’s the word for it?  Oh yes, assholes (especially that hot dog Puig, there isn’t enough mustard in California for that guy). At the very least if we keep the best team that money can buy out of the playoff’s the season will have been worth it. Rooting for the Dodgers is like rooting for Voldemort.

The Series to come

The Snakes are In first place in the NL West. If the Gigantes sweep, they will be 3 ½ out. If they take 2 out of 3, they will be 4 ½ out. Arizona is steady.  They are 5 games over .500 and won 6 out of their last ten games.  They are 23 and 25 on the road so they are vulnerable. Who comes out of the gate hungrier will decide this series.

The Reds are 11 games OVER .500 but still in 3rd place (5 back) in the incredibly hot NL Central. They are full of All-Star hitters (Joey Votto and Jay Bruce among them) and pitchers like Homer Bailey (who no-hit the G-Men earlier this month).  The Reds are the real test and Dusty Baker likes nothing better than doing it to the G-Men at home.

The Cubs are in 4th place in the NL Central (15 games back) and are going to be sellers for sure, so they will be showing off their trade bait, Matt Garza for sure and probably Soriano, Rameriz and, yes, Schierholtz. That will be an entertaining series, more important for the Giants than the Cubs I expect.

That's it. The clock is on.

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

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  91. Illinois Qui Tam Lawsuits—Private Enforcement Of a State Claim: A Bonanza For A Plaintiff’s Lawyer And A Rip-Off Of Retailers
  92. BOOZE RULES OF SOCIAL MEDIA: The Retailer Right to Pay Exception
  93. LIONS AND TIGERS AND TWEETS, OH MY!
  94. AB 2004: Brewer's Incremental Parity with Wine Makers
  95. Expanding, Proud Of It, and Wanting to Tell the World
  96. DC Weighs in Strongly on Third Party Marketer Delivery Services
  97. “Visual Links” between Beer, Wine and Spirits Labels and Retailers Ruled Unlawful in California — the tied house laws run amok
  98. Hard Cider Legislative Update
  99. New Marketing Model for New York – Lot 18 and the NYSLA
  100. Sweeping Changes in Proposed NYSLA Bill Include Expansion for Craft