The Padres and the Rockies

Welcome to the 7th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants! 

 

The question of the day - - Will the G-Men win another series at home?

It really hurts to lose 9 out of the last 10 games at home (does anyone remember what Tony Bennett sounds like?). Somewhat balancing that disaster the G-Men currently possess the best road record in the NL. What goes here? We take 2 out of three from the Dodgers and then get swept by the Snakes and the Pirates? It is a strange season for sure. Up and down is putting it mildly.  This is like a roller coaster.  Last year the G-Men had an outstanding May and went into the tank in June but even then (at June 22) they were 45-30 as versus today’s 38-33.  That’s a shot of perspective. The G-Men really need to get it on.

The question is which direction are we going in?  I say we maintain the momentum, start hitting at home (it’s hard to win when you don’t score runs), get our pitching back and start a winning streak.

To break the home losing streak I also suggest that the Giants keep the team in a hotel on this home stand – I’m just saying that if they play that well on the road maybe we should pretend they are still the away team.  I think another team somewhere did just that it break a home losing streak but I can’t recall who or where (any idea out there?)

Certainly injuries are taking their toll, the worst being Pence’s wrist.  The most current information is that Pence will most likely be out until after the All-Star game.  We need his energy, badly.  The latest injury is Aoki’s leg bruise.  He’s not on the DL but we also need him (certainly he’s the best off-season acquisition the Giants have made since Cody Ross in 2010) leading off and batting..317, with 33 runs, 19 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases.  This does give Pagan some shot at lead off again and he thrives there.

It is also true that the stars of tomorrow are playing for the Giants today.  I’ll take Panik, Duffy, Crawford and Posey any day over a Bryce Harper or Mike Trout.  We will be telling our grandchildren that we saw this infield.  Panik and Crawford deserve to be All-Stars, Posey already is, and I wonder if Duffy will be eligible for rookie of the year.

So, bottom line, all is not lost and we are looking for a good week at home.

Right now Maxwell is in for the duration at right field, McGeehee is on the bench as a pinch hitter (where he has been surprisingly effective as long as there are no men on first base so that he can hit into a double play) and Blanco is showing what he can do with more playing time (a lot because he isn’t worn down yet).

On a side note, the G-Men resigned Marco Scutaro so that he could retire as a Giant.  That was an incredibly classy move. No one will ever forget the arms to the heaven in the rain moment at the end of the 2012 NLCS. The only thing that I wish for is a snow globe of Scutaro at that moment for my bobblehead wall.

Anyone for a six-man rotation?

Cain and Peavy are almost ready to come back.  A healthy Cain is a number one or two guy, a healthy Peavy is maybe a number three guy, at best.  The book right now is that Lincecum goes to the pen (lasting an inning an half yesterday might have sealed it, although he still has a better ERA than Hudson, Vogelsong and Peavy).  That would be because Timmy has shown in the playoff’s that he can be effective out of the pen. My prediction is that either Vogelsong also goes in the pen and Strickland and Broadway (I love that name) go to Sacramento or that Strickland stays and Hudson comes down with a mysterious (but not serious) 39 year old muscle pull somewhere that is enough to place him on the DL for a month.

Lining up after the All-Star break (probably) will be Bum, Cain, Heston, Peavy and Hudson.  No need to talk about the pen because they have been nails, and Strickland does look like the real thing as the closer of the future.  Does anyone else see his resemblance to Robb Nen? He has Nen’s fastball and Wilson’s attitude.

The Upcoming Series against the Padres and the Rockies

Winning at home is the goal over the next six games against the NL West where the Giants are 9 and 17 against NL West teams not named the Dodgers. Unfortunately the 9 and 17 record is mostly against the Padres and the Rockies.  Everyone knows by now how tough those two teams are and what a dog fight the next six games will be – I want to see it and I want the G-Men to win. We are a game and half behind the Dodgers and it’s time to start pulling away.

 

It’s time for baseball!

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

Giants versus Dodgers

Welcome to the 4th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants!  The rules are below. 

 

Hunter Pence is back and we are in awe of Brandon Crawford

This has been a good road trip for the G-Men. A split with the Astros and taking three out of four against the Reds, a team that usually hits the snot out of the ball at Riverfront stadium, except that for this series the Giants were the big boppers, with multiple HR’s and double digit scoring for the first time this season. The Giants really like Riverfront and a lot of guys (not named McGehee) got very healthy there.

The biggest news of the road trip was Hunter Pence coming back from the DL and his broken arm (early for the Saturday game) and raring to play.  The storyline was that Hunter was hitting the ball hard in Sacramento for the Rivercats and texted just about everyone on the team (including Bochy) telling them that he was an “offensive machine” and ready to go.  He was not lying: 2 for 3 on Saturday night and 2 for 4 with a dinger today.  How long he can stay at .500 with a 1.000 slugging percentage is anyone’s guess but welcome back Hunter Pence – he is energy personified.

Hector Sanchez went back to Sacramento when Pence came up (good, Hector needs to play and Susac is the better catcher right now) and Maxwell went to the bench where he will be a dependable power bat in pinch-hitting situations. This is a much more well- rounded team than it has been for the last month without Pence.

Good hitting is contagious.  Belt (“Mr. Streaky Hitter”) suddenly got hot, hit three HR’s in Cincinnati and is batting .321.  But the real story is Brandon Crawford, .285 BA, 6 HR’s, 8 doubles, running away with the team lead in RBI’s with 25 and playing all-star caliber shortstop. It does seem that that a couple of grand slams helps the RBI totals.  Let us not forget Aoki, Pagan, Duffy and Panik - all doing well and playing solid baseball. Buster, as always, is in a league of his own – and he does own Riverfront.

The bullpen continues to be the strength of the Giants, who have played in (and won) more one-run games (usually low scoring – this trip was an aberration) than any other team in MLB. Casilla’s three K’s today in the 9th inning on 9 pitches was about as inspiring as a bullpen can get, especially after watching Chapman blow 102 mph heaters past the Giants hitters and still getting touched for hits. The starting pitching is also coming around.  Bum is rounding into mid-season form and the other starters (including Heston who had a complete game in Texas but got knocked out in the third inning today) are delivering 5 or 6 good innings, which sets up the bullpen.  We are seeing the beginning of a pattern that might hold throughout this season. I still don’t trust Vogelsong but he has looked real good in his last two starts.

Right now though, it’s all good.

Good Defense, good pitching, timely hitting and above .500 in second place in the NL West

The mantra of the season will be good defense, good pitching and timely hitting.  While it seems like we should care a lot more about the obscene number of runners left on base in scoring position, or the low team BA, or (until the recent series and ignoring Buster Posey) the incredible lack of power, the fact that the G-Men are two games over .500 and behind the Dodgers in second place the NL West is something that would have seemed like a pipedream three weeks ago  And, as noted below, the LA team is coming into town on Tuesday night for a 3-game series (which will culminate on Thursday with another Bumgarner/Kershaw shootout).

The two biggest lingering questions that I see right now are: (1) what is going to happen when Cain comes back and will he be the Matt Cain of old, and (2) when is Bochy going to get fed up and lose all patience with McGehee, who is still hitting below the Mendoza line and is on track for the all-time MLB record for hitting into double plays. Even when he hit his grand slam on the last home stand (nice to be sure) he followed it in the same game with two more double plays.

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that Matt Duffy (the “Duff Man”) shouldn’t be our starting third baseman?

The Upcoming Series against the Dodgers – early season at the OK corral?

This may be the most important early three game series of the year. First the G-Men swept the Dodgers at home in April to break the losing streak and start what is now a really impressive winning streak but then lost two out of three at Chavez Ravine.  These three games will either tighten up the NL West and show the Dodgers what a world series championship team can do when clicking on all cylinders, or it will showcase the powerful offensive Juggernaut that is the team that shall not be named and further separate them from the pack. Get ready for fireworks.

After this series the G-Men go on the road to face the Rockies (will they – or can they? - trade Troy is the question there) in Colorado and then onto the Braves in Atlanta for another Tim Hudson homecoming.

It’s time for baseball!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

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

Welcome to MASH -- McCovey Cove style

Welcome to the 2nd Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants!  

 

It is hard to believe how many injuries have occurred four games into the season, and how quickly many of them seem to be healing.  Pence broke his arm in the spring but the cast is off and he should start hitting soon, meanwhile he is a super cheerleader.  Cain was scratched before his first start with forearm tightness and is on the DL, hopefully not for long. Belt hurt his groin on a pop fly but didn’t get put on the DL and is expected to be playing this weekend. Ishikawa remains in Sacramento where I expect he will be for a while and Peavy’s back stiffness seems to have abated enough for him to start Sunday against the Padres.

Regardless of this litany of owies, the G-men are 3 and 1 in their first 4 games. They took their first series of the year against the Snakes, and won a 12 inning stunner against the Padres last night behind Hudson, who looked very good, and a parade of relievers including Kontos, who got the W.

Does anyone else feel like we are still in the playoffs?

 

How are the pre-season offensive projections working out?

Well, it is really early but right now the top of the order looks REALLY good.  Nori Aoki (.412) and Joe Panik (.250 but timely hits) are setting the table, Pagan (.333) is hitting like the second coming of Joe DiMaggio, Buster is hitting game winning HR’s and Crawford (.278)  is absolutely awesome, with clutch hits and clutch defense.

Casey apparently has a case of the yips (at least looking at his two errors last night) but is still hitting .293 with a dinger in his first three starts.  We haven’t really seen Belt break loose yet but Duffy, with 7 at-bats, is hitting .429 and Hector Sanchez, with 8 at-bats, is hitting .375. Not too shabby.

The point is that the lack of offense in the pre-season hype is not what we are seeing at the beginning of this season, at least in Arizona and San Diego so far. The G-Men are scoring runs with style, grace and regularity. It is a really fun team to watch, especially when stuff like Pagan getting brushed back in the “gum” incident and taking it out on Craig Kimbrell for a triple happens.

 

Is the pitching there, as advertised?

With the exception of Cain going down and Vogelsong giving up two 3-run dingers in Arizona in the game that was lost down there (you don’t win games where you give up runs like that), the pitching has been strong.  Last night was awesome. Hudson for 6, then the bullpen through 12 in a one-run game that felt like the playoffs.

Tonight is Lincecum. Saturday is Bum, Sunday is Peavy and Monday is Heston.  Not like they drew it up last week but the G-Men are carrying 13 pitchers to get through this run of 23 games without a day off so the depth is there.  The bullpen looks strong and everyone is contributing, with arms in Sacramento if we need them.

I think, based on what we have seen so far, that we can feel  real good about this team.

 

The Defense – just hit it to Crawford

The defense has been good. The runs against isn’t bad defense but three-run homers (we are a little worried about Vogie, he needs to pitch less innings), which are not defendable.  Crawford is starting out the year like a human highlight reel, reaching balls beyond the range of any other shortstop in the game, doing trick tosses for double plays and having an arm like a cannon.  Supposedly Tulo is the best SS in the game.  You will have your chance to compare them next week.

What impresses me the most is the team balance and the coaching.  Lose Pence and put Blanco or Maxwell in, shift Duffy all over the infield (he is taking balls at 1st base in practice today), Lose Belt and shift Posey to 1st and put Hector behind the plate so he can get two hits and catch a great game.  Because of the managing, coaching (except for Roberto Kelly getting the yips in his first game) and the set-up of the team the Giants right now are playing like a well-oiled machine - - like, dare I say it - - world champions!

 

The NL West and the next series

The NL is certainly going to be a dogfight.  There are three games left against the Padres and, frankly, if we split in San Diego that is a great opening road trip.

On Monday the Rockies come into AT&T, as yet undefeated (but they opened with a sweep of the Brewers and are playing the Cubs right now – the G-Men will be their first NL West series). The Rockies will be a test for the pitchers and I’m just sorry that I’m going to miss that series. Things to watch are, obviously, all of the Rockies hitters who have a team batting average right now hovering around .400. This will be a serious test of the defense.

On Thursday the Snakes come back into town.  I don’t expect them to do much better than they did in Arizona but they are not a group to be overlooked.

Then, starting on Tuesday the 21st the Dodgers come into town for their first series of the year.  LA might only be 2 and 1 at this point but they are not to be trifled with considering Kershaw and Grienke and the ability of Adrian Gonzales to hit 7 HR’s in 3 games and to be batting almost .800

That’s it. It’s time for baseball!

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

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