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

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

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