Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 Giants: Facing the Mariners

Tough series in SD, it was pretty much a worse case scenario. Now the Giants have lost 3 in a row, getting swept by the lowly 'Dres and have lost 7 of 8, to fall to 19-21, and the KNBR morning show, or specifically Paulie Mac, is in a huge snit over the offense. And it don't look to get any better going forward, we face two of Seattle's best starters, Washburn and King Felix, and basically a rookie who has pitched well thus far this season.

The sky is now not suddenly falling. The offense is what it is, it is not as good as other teams. We've all known this. However, as it has shown so far this season, it doesn't need to be with the pitching we got in order to be competitive, which we have been for the most part, being around .500 for the most part all season.

Sure, I would rather be winning hand over fist, and challenging for the title. But that is not the goal for this season. Neukom has said this for a long while now: the goals for the team are that we're going to be competitive in 2009, contending in 2010. We are competitive, as a team. Anything beyond that - like our recent run at LA - is the gravy on top.

Game 1: Randy Johnson vs. Jason Vargas

Johnson has been too inconsistent, and basically bad, to hope to come out with a win. However, he's facing basically a rookie, who you never know how they will do, though Vargas has pitched well enough in his first two starts, after starting the season in the minors, and relieving when he was first called up. He's not going to last long, probably, only going 5 IP in each of those two starts, so we should see the bullpen, which has been pretty good overall. We would have to get to him early to get the worse relievers to come up, otherwise they have a good relieving corps, led by, of all people, former Giant David Aardsma, who seems to have finally figured it out, after all these years. Still, I have to think this is probably a loss.

Game 2: Matt Cain vs. Jarrod Washburn

On the surface, it looks like this should be a tough game, both have roughly the same ERA. However, he has had two bad starts in a row, so that gives some hope. In addition, he hasn't pitched well in SAFECO since joining the team, so there is that too. However, he might have suffered from the yips, since last year was his first season with the team. And he is improved this year at home. It would seem that we have a better than 50/50 chance to win, but not much better than that, so it's basically a coin toss.

Game 3: Barry Zito vs. Felix Hernandez

This would have looked like a sure loss previously, but with Zito's resurgence, it is at least a tough game now. Plus, King Felix hasn't been so royal lately, giving up 6 runs in 3 of his last 4 starts (though no runs in the other game). And he gave up 5 runs to the A's, who have been similarly challenged offensively as the Giants. Like the Cain start, it would seem that we have a better than 50/50 chance to win, but not much better than that, so it's basically a coin toss.

Giants Thoughts

The Giants look like they are probably facing another series loss, with a strong chance to be swept again. A big factor for us this weekend is whether Jesus can save our offense: Jesus Guzman, that is.

Guzman was brought up yesterday, as the Giants sent down Steve Holm again; Pablo Sandoval is the backup catcher once again. I view the call-up of Guzman as a concession to fans, though it's also could be because Schierholtz hadn't been able to do well in his part time role thus far. Ideally, we would have used the DH to give Schierholtz more consistent ABs to see what he can do.

Instead, now we will see Guzman in that role, though I noticed talk of having Molina DH in the third game, which would mean Sandoval catches, and Guzman would have to play a position, probably either 1B or 3B. Since King Felix is a RHP, I would have to think Guzman plays 3B, his position from last year, while Ishikawa plays 1B, but if the Giants decide otherwise, Ishikawa might not even get one start in Seattle, his hometown, as the first two starters are tough lefties. Not that he has deserved it, but just saying.

As I've noted elsewhere, Guzman's topline numbers are nice, but his MLE is no better than what Ishikawa put up last season in AAA in similar amount of AB's. If he's replacing Aurilia in the platoon at 1B, then that is OK with me, but for now, it should be a platoon between Ishikawa and Guzman, and should Guzman just rakes, then Ishikawa could find himself with less and less starts, unless he can start hitting with the power he has done previously.

It could be time for our offense to light up. We were challenged in SD, as it is an extreme pitcher's park, and we faced two pitchers who have been a nemesis for us, in Young and Gaudin. And Correia, as much as Giants fans sometimes deride him, he was a good starter for us often enough that I respect his abilities. He had a good game, you just have to tip your hat to him, that is going to happen.

However, a number of hitters have been either heating up or been hot, until SD that is. Rowand has taken to the leadoff spot and been raking. Sandoval had been on a tear for a while, one difficult series in SD is no reason to think he's cooled off. Ishikawa had been on a mini-streak of getting on base and some hitting, until yesterday's game. Winn and Lewis have been on a streak as well. And Molina has been, well, big money lately. I think this series will be a better indication of the offense than the SD series, even though we are facing tough pitchers in this series too.

And people would not have such consternation right now if one player had done his job: Brian Wilson. He has a 9.53 ERA, three losses and two blown saves in his past six appearances. Had he done his job, two of those losses would have probably been wins and we'd be 21-19 right now, and fans would not be grabbing for their pitchforks.

And really, is 19-21 the end of the world? The team will go through bad streaks, it not really that good. And we all knew this going in. Sure, it does not feel good when the pitching does well and the offense doesn't back them up. However, a number of the losses were because the pitching let us down when the offense did well, including knocking out Johan Santana early. I didn't recall hearing a call to revamp the whole starting rotation because of that one bad streak there. This is just a bad streak for the offense, and since it's not that good, there will be more of those than for the starting rotation. Still, the rotation had that bad streak early in the season, and just had another bad streak. It will happen.

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