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. Brewers, Giants v. Orioles

The G-Men are now 50 and 61 and 12 games back in the NL West  The season to date (at least since about May 15th when Pagan went down) has been gruesome. Like I said in the last blog, if you can’t score runs, play defense or pitch you are not going to win ball games.

Sabean did not make any trades at all at the July 31st deadline and is standing pat with the team he has. I like the attitude. The biggest moves that have been made were to bring Francoeur in from the Royals, to promote Pill (who is almost out of minor league options) and Kieschnick from Fresno and to get Casilla back from the DL. They did get Arias back from his burst appendix last week and Vogelsong is back on Friday against the Orioles.

The Positives

How about: they can’t get any worse?

On the pitching side, Bumgarner may be the best pitcher on the team and Timmy continues to improve with every start. Vogelsong returning, along with Gaudin continuing his very serviceable starts (a no-decision tonight against the Brew Crew but he still only gave up 2 runs), should give the pitching a shot in the arm. Affeldt went on the DL but Lopez continues to be a stud.

It is clear that the pitching staff is doing much better. The trouble is that the Giants can’t score runs to support the good pitching they are starting to get.

Buster Posey and Scutaro are both batting over .300 and Pence is on an 8 game hitting streak. For this series the batting order is getting shook up; with Scutaro hitting leadoff, Crawford second and Pence in the three slot. It worked tonight. Rumor has it that Pence might hit lead off tomorrow.

It also looks like the Panda has lost a lot of weight. Now we are worried that he is losing power. What do we want? A powerful fat guy or a slim singles hitter? I go with the Fat Man (who remembers Sidney Greenstreet in Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon?)

 The Negatives

How about: too many losses? The G-Men finished the last road trip 3 and 3 (against the Phillies and the Rays) and they lost two games to the Rays that they could have won if they could hit with men on base. That’s certainly improvement over the last disastrous home series against the Snakes, Reds and the Cubs (swept by the Cubs? Wow, that’s a low point).

Popular wisdom has it that the stress of the post season last year, followed by the World Baseball Classic in March (in which the Giants had more players than any other team) basically wore out the Giants pitching staff. That may be, but hitters don’t get worn out and that doesn’t explain the woeful deficiencies in the batter’s box.

What Can the Giants do? Is there any hope?

Yes, there is hope but it is fading fast. 12 games down can be made up and the G-Men are only a game behind Colorado and a game and a half behind the Padres. We fully expect that those two teams can be passed. The question is the Snakes, and the Team that Shall Not be Named. There can be a run but is has to start now. The G-Men have done against the AL East, and the series against the Orioles and the Red Sox are coming up. Before we get to the Pirates (leading the NL Central) at the end of the month.

Right now Giants fandom is split between seeing if the Giants can actually pull of a stretch run and giving it up, going for a six-man pitching rotation and seeing what the young guys can do for 2014.

We will know in the next two weeks whether or not September will bring a run, or will bring a relaxing month of playing the spoiler (a role that the Giants relish).

I will refrain from mentioning Brian Wilson – the pain is too fresh.

 The Series to come

The Brewers are practically the only team that is currently worse than the Giants, 20 games out in last place with their MVP (Ryan Braun) probably out for the year (or more) with a PED suspension. This is by all rights a series that the Giants should take, especially with Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum lined up for the next three games.

The Orioles have dropped to 61 and 51, 10 games over .500 but 6 games behind the Red Sox and in third place in the AL East, right in front of the Yankee’s. They just picked up Bud Norris from the Astros and have a 40 HR guy in young Chris Davis, a real slugger. Another test for the G-Men.

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