Thursday, April 28, 2011

Is The Magic Gone Already?

23 games into the 2011 season and the Giants are a mediocre 11-12.

They look mediocre too.

The hitting is mediocre, the defense is mediocre, and even the pitching is mediocre.  Is this really the same team that had the majors best record over the last 50 games or so last season?

The naysayers are probably having a field day with the Giants record right now.  There were some prognosticators who were predicting that the Giants would finish in fourth place this season.

Fourth Place!

I have been mostly upbeat about the Giants so far this season despite their early season struggles.  I keep comparing them to last season when they had a rough start to the season.

But this isn't last season.

Are we going to keep living in last season?  Is every development from the 2011 season going to be looked upon in context to last season?  The simple answer is yes.  We are going to be hearing comparisons to the Giants of last season until this team does something that makes us believe that last season was not a fluke.  We can't help it.

It is really tough to separate the two seasons from one another.  Even though last season has nothing to do with this season, there is nothing else for us to really compare what is happening with the Giants to.  Later in the season, we can look back at this stretch of the season and compare things but that probably won't start until around the all-star break or so.

This and that;

  • Looks like Mark DeRosa is going back on the disabled list.  I'm not surprised about this development. I am somewhat surprised about the timing of it.  I thought that he would go on the DL when Torres got back.  But we will get a little glimpse of Emmanuel Burris.  It's either going to be Burriss or Ford who go down when Torres is healthy.
  • Madison Bumgarner pitched like the guy we were all hoping that he would be against the Pirates yesterday.  But he got Matt Cained as the Giants failed to score a single run on the day which dropped his record to 0-4.  Hopefully he can string together 2 good starts in a row and get that first win next time around.
  • Ryan Vogelsong gets the start tomorrow against his old team.  The Giants have been really high on this guy and he is really set up to succeed.  Really, all the guy has to be is a serviceable #5 starter until Zito is healthy.  Hopefully he can make the decision to activate Zito a tough one.
I'm reading "A Band of MiSFits" by the San Jose Mercry News' Andrew Baggerly.  I'm only into the third chapter right now, but I will do a review of the book when I get finished with it.  (no promises on how soon that will be)  It's interesting looking at some more of the background on the storylines that we followed as the season progressed last year.  For example, the reasons that Buster Posey was brought up when he was are explored a little more in depth than was possible during the season. 

It's a good read so far.  I got it from Amazon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Rolling Giants set for NLDS rematch

After their terrible first series to open the season, the San Francisco Giants have met every challenge that has been thrown at them.  They split a two game series in San Diego and they have taken two out of every three games since then.  I know a lot of fans are disappointed that they haven't swept any teams (they should have swept the D-backs) but if they keep winning 2 out of every 3 games, then they are on pace for a 108 win season.

The series against the Rockies was absolutely as big of a series as you can get this early in the season.  The Rockies were rolling over the competition and had a nice lead over the Giants coming into the series.  To take 2 out of those 3 games, in Colorado no less, reminds the baseball world that the path to the World Series still runs through San Francisco.

That brings us to the series starting today.

The Giants and Braves meet for the first time since their NLDS series last October.  Atlanta is struggling a little bit with a 4-6 record over their last 10 games and an 8-12 record overall.  I wouldn't put all that much stock in their record because I still think this team is at least as good as last season and I doubt that they will finish the season below .500.

The Giants, as I mentioned before, are rolling right now.  Despite this stupid schedule that had them in Colorado Wednesday, home for 3 games starting today, and then in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.  I think they are set up to have a good series with Bumgarner going today and then Timmy, and Dirty going on Saturday and Sunday.

I also think that today's start is going to be the one where we see the Madbum of last season.  Remember, he had a rough beginning to last season and it ended with him twirling a shutout in the World Series.  Plus, I think his last start against, Arizona was a big deal.  He gave up the four early runs and then stayed in to shut the Dbacks down.  I really am glad that Boch left him in there to clean up his own mess.

I want to just say one last thing about Brandon Belt.  I think that the Giants handled the situation about as good as they could have handled it.  His season last year, plus his spring this year earned him a shot at sticking with the big club.  Whether it was because of Ross' injury or not.  The bottom line is he didn't hit well enough to stick, small sample size or not.  If he had been hitting .280 or had 3 or 4 HRs, then Darren Ford would be in Fresno right now.  Also, if Aaron Rowand hadn't got off to such a hot start, then Belt may still be around.  The bottom line is, the only way to know for sure if a guy is ready for the bigs is to let him play in the bigs.  Sure, in a perfect world, you want to get the guy 100 or so ABs.  But this world isn't perfect and the Giants gave him all the opportunity that they could.  They can't afford to let the guy hit .180 for much longer and it really would be mishandling him to have him sit on the bench.  Now, he goes to Fresno where he can work out the kinks in his swing and he already has all the lessons he learned from the big boys.  It's all just a part of a young player's development.  This kid isn't Buster Posey.  Those kind of guys are once in a generation type players.  He is gonna have to take a little more time to develop like 90% of big leaguers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

2 out of Three isn't so bad

The Giants took 2 out of 3 games from the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona.  While a sweep would have been nice, a series win is almost as good.

There were still a lot of positives to take from this series.

  • Pablo Sandoval.  The guy is absolutely on fire.  He hit two more homeruns in this series and is still batting a robust .340.  I now understand how his weight was holding him back last season.  A lot of people said that his weight was not keeping him from being able to swing the bat.  I actually agreed with those people.  But we were wrong.  Pablo's weight was tiring him out.  He wasn't able to last an entire game without getting gassed.  It's no wonder that his struggles worsened as the season went on.  This season, he has energy, a bounce in his step, and he just looks ready to go in the later innings.  I think we are going to have to start another push for the all-star game for Pablo.
  • Madison Bumgarner.  I really think yesterday's game was a turning point for him.  Sure, giving up 4 runs wasn't a great outing, but the fact that he was able to settle down and keep the D-backs at bay for a few more innings proved to him that he can still get guys out.  I think he will start to right the ship even more in his next start.
  • Buster Posey.  The guy is raking now and Huff hit his first homer so now the Giants have a 3-4-5 of Huff, Posey, and Sandoval.  If these guys are all hot at the same time they are up there with some of the best 3-4-5 combos in the league.  Add Freddy Sanchez in the mix at #2 and that is a lot of offense.
  • Aaron Rowand.  I am a little more tepid on this guy because he has been so tremendously bad for the Giants up until now, but maybe getting angry over being replaced in centerfield by Torres is a good thing.  He is going to have some more time to keep it up.
This series did have it's share of negatives though.

  • Barry Zito.  His injury is big considering that the best guy that they could find to fill his spot in the rotation is Ryan Vogelsong.  Sure Zito has looked pretty weak to begin the season, but I think he has what it takes to turn it around and to be an effective #4 starter for the rest of the season.  Hopefully the ankle doesn't become more of an issue than his 15 day stint on the DL.  Remember, he has never been injured before and he may not know what it takes to come back from an injury.  This could be a recurring thing with him this season.
  • Brandon Belt.  It seems like it was just yesterday that this guy was hitting a homerun in his second big league game.  Since then, it hasn't been too good for the big first baseman.  He has more strikeouts than he has hits and with 12 strikeouts in 50 ABs, he is on pace to strikeout 144 times over the course of a 600 AB season.  Sure, we all like the kid and want him to succeed in the bigs, but the fact of the matter is, he just may not be ready for the show.  I understand that the sample size is small but this is the big leagues.  80-100 PAs is about all you are going to get in order to show what you can do unless you are playing for a team that is on fire, or a team that has no pennant hopes that season.  He probably has about a week to start hitting or he will be on the bus back to Fresno.  Although he may already be on his way back to Fresno when Ross gets reactivated.  It's either gonna be Belt of Ford going to Fresno when Ross comes back.
I finally watched the 30 minute preview of "The Franchise" last night.  This looks show looks like it's going to be great.  I can't wait until July!  We all know these guys from the interviews and what not that they give but this show really goes into much more than that.  The part at the end when they Marc Kroon going down and Brandon Belt making the club is something that you just don't see every day.  I know that we already love these Giants but I think that we will all come away feeling even closer to this bunch of misfits.

Off to Colorado!  Tomorrow is Timmy day!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Giants Win the First homestand of the season!

It's been an exciting 2 nights since my last post!  In case you hadn't noticed (or cared even) I am going to be posting roughly every day this season.  With 2 small kids, a full time job, and a full load of college classes this season is going to be hard to post after every game.  I won't be posting game recaps so much as observations on the Giants and any current developments, trends, or news that I can find!

So, after losing the first 3 out of 4 games to the Dodgers to start the season, the Giants finished their first homestand a winner with a record of 4-2.  Going back to the 2 game series with San Diego, they have split one series and won 2 series.  This is the way you win divisions and concentrating on Colorado's hot start will just give you ulcers.  Colorado just does not have the pitching to keep it up over a full season.  They are just Jimenez and a bunch of other guys.

Other observations from the last few days:

  • Pablo Sandoval's homer from the right side matched his HR output from that side for ALL of last season.  The fact that it came within his 1st 12 right handed ABs this season is huge.  He didn't hit his first HR right handed last season until August!  Hopefully this is a good sign that we will see the Pablo of 2009 instead of 2010.
  • Brian Wilson is ready.  His first two outings weren't pretty.  The defense didn't help him too much in one of those outings.  How do you fix that?  Just strike everybody out.  With 4 Ks in the last 2 nights, Wilson has shown the dominance that we have come to expect from the bearded one.
  • Were you worried about Buster Posey?  The Dodgers certainly were after going 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs on Tuesday, the Dodgers elected to just hit Posey twice.  The games later in the season could get ugly between these two teams.  Just a fair warning.
  • DeRosa's wrist.  Mark DeRosa was scratched from a start at second base Wednesday because of soreness in his wrist.  Yes the same wrist which basically sidelined him for last season.  I would not be shocked at all to see DeRosa go on the DL with this wrist injury when Ross returns.  That or a trade of some sort (unlikely).  Before Rowand's hot hitting, I would have thought that Aaron Rowand's days in San Francisco were over, but the Giants just refuse to get rid of this guy.  Unless he gets traded (again, unlikely) then Rowand is probably gonna play out the rest of his contract in San Francisco.
So now the Giants will have another day off before taking travelling to Arizona to whip up on the Snakes.  They had a 13-5 record against the D-backs last season so hopefully the fact that Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner take the mound for the first 2 games after looking shaky so far this season is a chance for them to get right.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Giants fall to Kershaw again

The San Francisco Giants have no answer for Clayton Kershaw.  He has a 23 2/3 scoreless inning streak against them and they just looked clueless against him tonight.

It's tough to be positive when your team is sitting at 4-6.  But Lincecum and Cain are pitching great, Sanchez is throwing solid, The bullpen (aside from Wilson) is pitching okl, Burrell has 4 homers, and Pablo Sandoval is hitting well.  

However more seems to be going bad.  The aforementioned Wilson, ZIto and Bumgarner, the Giants' defense, and just about everybody on the Giants' offense.

The fact of the matter is that it's early,  If there was one thing that last season taught us is that there are going to be rough stretches to the season.  The season is long and the rough spots don't mean that they won't make the playoffs.  The defense will come around, the offense will come around, and Zito and Bumgarner will even get some wins.

All of these struggles are magnified because they are at the beginning of the season.  But every team goes through stretches like this.  We just need to keep watching the games, cheering on our team, and basking in our World Series championship glory!

And cheer up!  Timmy is pitching tomorrow!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tejada comes up big in the 9th!

Miguel Tejada looks like he is happy to be back in the Bay Area.  After he homered in his first AB at AT&T (As a member of the Giants) he came up with a huge 2 out, 2 RBI double in the 9th inning to send the Giants home winners on the day that they received their World Series champion rings.  During the ring ceremony Tejada, and Brandon Belt, took part in the team picture where all of the players were holding up their hands with their new rings on them.  Tejada had his hand behind his back and from the looks of his 9th inning heroics, he is hungry to get one of his own.

Say what you want about whether Rasmus should have caught the ball or not, but this is what Tejada was known for in Oakland.  He was always coming up with the big hit for the A's.  I remember being at the Coliseum  back in 2002 when they were on their 20 game win streak and Tejada hit a late inning homer to give the A's a victory (it was like their 16th or 17th in a row).  But that was what he was known for.  The guy is obviously not the player he was in 2002, but if he can come through with some clutch hits like he used to, I think the Giants fans will be happy to have had him play for them.

Cain turned in another solid performance and the team actually pulled one out for him.  More evidence that we could see big things from Cain.  This is the type of game that the Giants always seemed to lose for him in the past so the baseball gods are smiling on him now!

As for Rasmus' miscue in the outfield.  Well it's about time.  The Giants have given away enough games due to poor defense this season.  it's about time they won one due to poor defense.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Despite 2-4 road trip Giants are ahead of where they were last season

Obviously they are nowhere near their 6-1 record to start the season, but that wasn't the biggest issue that they had last season.

Their biggest problem last season was their 7 game losing streak to the Padres.  That is what haunted them all season long and the biggest reason that it took them  until the last day of the season to clinch.  Think about it.  If the Giants won just 2 of those 7 previous games (they easily could have since they lost two of those games 1-0) then the final series would have been meaningless.

There is plenty to be excited about.  They are coming home for 6 games, they are going to have their ring ceremony, and Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff came out of their slumps today.

That is the biggest development of all.  The pitching has been outstanding, but the offense has been lacking.  Sure they busted out for 10 runs against the Dodgers but that was with Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand.  The Giants regular starting lineup was only averaging 2.5 runs per game up until today.  They only scored 1 run in 2 out of 4 games!  

Look, I'm not naive enough to think the Giants are going to score 8 runs a game on a consistent basis.  But with Sanchez, Huff, Sandoval, and Posey all hitting well at the same time, the Giants pitchers aren't going to be constantly pitching in tight games.  Add a nice game from Brandon Belt into the mix and the Giants look very tough.  Forget about all the doomsayers and the talk about a 1-4 start.  The Giants hadn't won a world series for 50+ years before last season so they are used to overcoming long  odds.

7 IP 3H 1ER 0BB 13 K

That's the line put up by Tim Lincecum today.  The fact that there really isn't much new to say about this performance by the freak just shows how good he is.  Most guys put up a line like this and people start to lose their mind.  But Timmy puts up this line and Giants fans just say "That's Timmy for you."  If their is one guy who is going to overcome the east coast bias and the near inevitability of the Cy Young award going to some Phillie, it's Timmy.

Home opener is Friday, after another off day, and Johnny no-no gets the nod.  He pitched great against the Dodgers, but was done in by errors.  He pitches better at home then on the road, plus the Giants face Jake Westbrook who go lit up in his last start (16.62 ERA), so it should be a great opener!  

Monday, April 4, 2011

Giants glad to be leaving Los Angeles

The Giants pitched and hit well enough to be 4-0.

They defended well enough to be 1-3.

That really is what the series against the Dodgers boiled down to.  The Dodgers caught the ball when they had to and the Giants didn't.

Even a World Series championship hasn't kept Giants fans from being fatalists.  If you peruse Twitter and take a look at some of the blogs you would probably be convinced that this is going to be the downfall of the 2011 Giants.  Now, this could very well be the case, but I don't think it's going to make a huge impact on the team over the long run.

The reason why I don't think that it's going to be such a huge impact on the season is that the bad defense isn't characteristic of the Giants.  Over the last 2 seasons, they have been pretty good defensively.  The lapses by Pablo Sandoval (despite what fans think) and Buster Posey are uncharacteristic of their play normally.  Miguel Tejada has also been a capable defender of the course of his career.

The only real defensive liability the Giants have right now is Huff in right field.  The game on Sunday put that liability on display for a national audience.  The problem is that the only solution to that situation would be to put Huff back at first.  But then what do you do with Belt?  Put him in right?  I'm not sure if Belt is any better in right than Huff but the idea doesn't appeal to me.

Offensively there are a few concerns.  Tejada has been terrible and his AB with 2 outs and the bases loaded was the picture of getting yourself out by being too aggressive.  Pat Burrell has two homers but other than that he is 0 for 12.  Also, despite his big homer in the second game of the season, Belt hasn't done too much offensively.  Really, other than Freddy Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval, the offense hasn't been too impressive statistically.

Despite all of this, the Giants scored 18 runs in four games.  Which breaks down to about 4.5 runs per game. As long as they are putting up 4.5 runs a game I guess you can't complain too much.  (although if you take the 10 run game out of the equation, they have scored 8 runs in 3 games for an average of 2.6 RPG)

So what does it all mean?

At this point, it doesn't mean a whole lot.  Does anybody really think the Padres are going to continue their success of the first 3 games?  Or Kansas City?  Or Baltimore?  Sure, it's frustrating to a lot of the experts because they "predicted" these struggles but the so called "Giants" experts are the same guys who said the Giants would never win anything with Bochy and Sabean at the helm.

The Giants could stumble this season, there is no doubt about that.  But this is largely the same team that won it all last season, so they deserve some benefit of the doubt.  They had some stretches last season where they were terrible and the pitching has been good so far this season, other than one bad inning by Runzler which was directly related to poor defense(although that didn't show up in the box score).

So, ask me in a week or two if I am worried.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Belt Belts one but Sloppy Giants fall to 0-2

It was the moment that Giants fans have all been waiting for.  Brandon Belt's first big league homerun.  IT came in his second big league game and he hit it where the big boys hit em!

The excitement lasted for about an inning and a half.

That was how long it took for the Giants to literally give the lead to the Dodgers for the second straight night.

Their two errors in the sixth brought their total to five for the last two games and the unearned run total to 3.  But there were positives in the two games.

Brandon Belt.

Belt has looked like every bit the big league player we thought he might be.  He doesn't look overmatched at the plate and, the two unearned runs aside, he almost was the hero of the game.  I saw a tweet, from John Shea I think, that said Will Clark hit a homer in his first game and Belt hit one in his second game.  If this guy turns out to be as good as Will "The Thrill" we will be happy for a long time.

Jonathan Sanchez.

Ol' Dirty pitched well enough to win.  Unfortunately, his error in the 6th inning was basically the deciding factor of the game.  But 8 strikeouts in 5.2 IP is something to get excited about.  If Johnny No-No pitches like this all season then not trading him for Prince Fielder was a good move.

Pablo Sandoval.

I know he made a throwing error tonight, but if Sanchez fields Gimenez's comebacker then all is forgotten.  The bigger story is the fact that he is leading the Giants in hits (sure it's only 3, but it's a start) and he has looked much improved on defense.  (error notwithstanding).  I think this season is going to be a return to the Panda that we all know and love.

I'm not gonna dwell too much on the fact that the Giants are 0-2 right now.  I know they looked pretty bad but everybody has stretches.  It looks like the little tailspin they went into at the end of spring training has kind of carried over into the regular season.  Hopefully they can pull out of it behind Cain today.