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.

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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