Czar's Blog #2 - Nationals, Dodgers and Padres are coming to AT&T

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.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

Astros, Nationals and the Awful Month of August

Welcome to the 10th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants! 

 

It’s August, the injuries are piling up again and the pitching is the problem

Let’s get right down to it – the DL.

The DL includes Aoki (concussion – he was beaned), Pagan (his knees are gone and I will be surprised to see him back anytime soon – maybe in September when rosters expand), Panik (back tightness, due back in mid-August, but a very troubling injury for such a young guy), Susac (also due back in mid-August from his thumb sprain) and Scutaro (he’s done and will retire at the end of the season).

On the pitcher DL are Hudson (really in reserve because of his age and inability to get through more than 4 innings without getting pounded), Timmy (no one knows when, or if, he will be ready) and, worst of all, Mike Leake the pitcher who the G-Men traded for at the deadline (from Cincinnati) and who immediately sprained his hamstring.  Leake is a real loss because he’s young, looks a lot like Heston and should be a good number two or three starter. It was, until the injury, one of the better trades in the NL.

The G-Men home grown hitters (Posey, Panik, Pence, Duffy, Crawford and Belt) are now carrying the team. The Giants are hitting the cover off the ball (best hitting team in the NL), which (incidentally) is all that is keeping them alive considering how terrible the pitching has been. Getting swept by the Cubs to finish a 3 and 7 road trip was very painful – but the Cubbies (having won something like 8 straight) are for real under Joel Maddon and will be at AT&T very soon.  Watching the Giants defense behind Crawford, Duffy and Belt and then the hitting, knowing that these guys are all home grown and here for a long time, is an incredible treat

I don’t even want to talk about Casilla (even though he got the save tonight) but let’s leave it at the bullpen has been clearly tired and not effective. For the starters Peavy has looked serviceable, Bum is nails (witness the complete game 12 K gem against the Astros on Tuesday), Heston looks very good, Vogie had his best recent game tonight (even though he only went 5 innings – he does belong in the pen) but Matt Cain looks lost, and is pitching like he is lost.

To get through this month of August while facing all of the best teams in the NL, the G-Men must have better pitching. I hope that Leake is really back next week.

One of the most intriguing news items of the last week is the confirmation that the Giants are making a run at getting Chase Utley for the bench behind Panik (Tomlinson – what a start he’s had as a Clark Kent lookalike - is fun to watch but he’s the future, and a good looking future at that).  Utley (if healthy, and he is apparently getting healthy) would be a powerful veteran force off the bench and a great pick-up for the G-Men.

For some reason I keep thinking of Ryan Theriot and the impact he had.

Can the G-Men hold off the magnificent 7 to make a legitimate run at the playoffs?

It is time to watch the scoreboard because it’s almost September and the playoff field is shaping up.  The Mets are on top of the NL east and 4 games over the Nationals, who are desperate to get one of the two wild card spots (good luck with that). 

In the current competition for those two wild card spots are the Giants, Cubs and Pirates.  That’s why these four games against the Nationals are so important – this could be the National’s season (unless the Mets collapse). There are 5 playoff spots for 7 contending teams right now. St. Louis is a lock for NL Central (73 and 51? They might be the 27 Yankee’s) and both Pittsburgh and the Cubs (3 games better than the G-Men and coming off a sweep) have better records than the Giants.  That leaves the Dodgers (2.5 games ahead of the G-Men) as the real enemy and the real opportunity.  The Giants best realistic hope for a playoff berth are to beat the Dodger’s head to head and to win enough other games to take the division. The Giants are closer to the Dodger’s than they are to the wild card.

Speaking of the Dodger’s didn’t everyone love seeing Puig put on the waiver wire?  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.  My LA sources tell me that Puig is such a cancer on the team that Grienke is threatening not to re-sign if they keep Puig. That’s what happens when too much money chases too many egos.

As this month is completed we will see the Pirates and the Cardinals back to back away starting next week, and then the Cubs and the Cardinals at AT&T for the end of the month, before we see the Dodgers in LA.  I don’t think that the schedule can get any tougher than that. These are the games to watch to see how the G-Men match up against these teams (especially the Cardinals) if they make the play-offs.

The Astros and the Nationals – it doesn’t get any better until (maybe) September

The G-Men split against the Astros (who are leading the AL West and are a scrappy little team- yes I am talking about Altuve – full of A’s refugees) and won tonight in the first game of the 4 game series against the Nationals, There are three games left against the Nationals. Tomorrow it’s Scherzer against Cain, a match-up that doesn’t look very good for us and will be the real test for Matt Cain. Saturday is Peavy.

It’s time for baseball!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

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