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

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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