Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Molina Traded to Rangers

Wow, the Molina era is over, long live the Posey era!

According to John Shea of the SF Chronicle, the Giants have traded Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers for Chris Ray and a player to be named later.  It was first reported by Foxsports possibly involving getting Chris Davis or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and perhaps still involve them later as the Giants don't have a 40 man spot to accommodate either right now, so perhaps one of them might come over once the Giants figure out a spot.  I wouldn't mind getting Saltalamacchia, who I consider a better prospect, but obviously Davis would provide power and that is something the Giants have been searching for.  Molina is important for the Rangers as they lead the AL West and are many games over .500, and catcher has been a rotation among rookies and prospects, and a sore spot, so they wanted the vet.

Clearly, this has a few larger meaning for the team.  Obviously, that means that Posey is now the starting catcher, for better or for worse.  For worse, see how Matt Weiters has done for the Orioles in 2009 and 2010.  Hopefully Posey can get untracked, apparently he was kept out of the lineup to showcase Molina for this trade.  This might get him in the flow of things better, he'll be more comfortable and can start hitting again.

It also means that firstbase is now open.  That could mean more Uribe at 3B and Sandoval at 1B.  It would also mean more Huff at 1B, opening up an outfield position for Rowand or Schierholtz to play more, assuming that Torres and Burrell are the current starters.  It could also give Ishikawa some starts, as Bochy noted that the Giants are having problems with RHP.

In addition, Chris Ray was the former closer for the Orioles once upon a time, until, I think, injuries held him back.  He is not doing so well in striking out guys, so that is a negative, though, but his ERA is good.

I assume he's going into the bullpen to shore it up, but then who would go down?  He's RHP so that would suggest one of Bautista, Romo, Moto, or Casilla would go down, but it could also mean Runzler, though he had a great appearance the last time he pitched, so I wouldn't think that.

Both Romo and Runzler have options, so even though Romo's ERA is good right now, I think he gets the short straw and get sent down, unless the team decides to carry an extra reliever right now in light of the poor outings by the starters lately, in which case there is no problem.

Update:  Baggarly report other details.  Ray still have an option so he can be sent down.  The Giants are sending money to offset the difference between Molina and Ray's salary.

Your 2010 Giants are 40-37: D'Rox-ing the Boat

Now THAT was torture!  Getting swept by the D-gers is about as bad as things can get.  Almost nothing positive happened at all, other than Aaron Rowand's re-emergence as a hitter.  He'll be getting into the mix now that Andres Torres has cooled off a lot, though I suspect that Bochy will mix and match Huff, Burrell, Torres, and Rowand in the OF, and Uribe and Sandoval at 3B, and Sandoval, Huff, and Posey at 1B.  And the Giants were lucky not to end the homestand 0-6, that win had some elements of luck, coming back.

Posey didn't start the first two games of the series, but he continued to struggle, though he got a hit today (but only after three strikeouts).  But he wasn't the only one, it was almost everyone struggling to mount any offense at all.  He was just the worse of the bunch in the past 3 weeks.

Now we face Colorado.  D-Rox passed us up during this series and is third now, while we are fourth, a half game behind them and 5.5 games behind the 'Dres.  They are now 7-4, 11-6.  Hopefully playing in the climes of Colorado will get the offense going, which will be necessary as the team is going on the road for 11 games before the All-Star break. Unfortunately, with Colorado, we don't know how that will affect our pitchers.

Game 1:  Aaron Cook vs. Bumgarner

MLB Notes:
Giants:  In his first start of 2010, Bumgarner allowed two homers en route to earning the loss for his first career decision. After giving up a three-run homer in the top of the second, Bumgarner settled down and allowed only two hits the rest of the way, pitching seven full innings.
Colorado:  Cook was victimized by just one bad pitch on Saturday against the Angels, when he allowed a first-inning grand slam to Hideki Matsui before settling down to a throw a complete game. His sinker was on, as he recorded 17 ground-ball outs.
Cook has not pitched that well against the Giants in his career, 4.99 ERA. But we can't tell how Bumgarner will handle pitching in Colorado. Call it a coin toss, with a lean towards D-Rox because they have been going well and we have been scuffling.

Game 2: Jhoulys Chacin vs. Lincecum

MLB Notes:
Giants: Lincecum's last start was his shortest outing since Opening Day 2009, as the right-hander lasted only three innings against the Red Sox. In those three innings, Lincecum threw 79 pitches and walked three batters, allowing four runs on five hits.

Colorado: Chacin struck out a career-high 12 batters in six innings on Sunday but was plagued by a three-run homer by Mike Napoli after an error by third baseman Ian Stewart in a 5-3 loss to the Angels. In all, he allowed five runs, two earned, over six innings.
Chacin handled the Giants previously, but that was in SF and he hasn't pitched well at home this season, 4.80 ERA. Lincecum has pitched well in Colorado before and been beat upon there as well. Given his recent struggles, have to call this a coin flip with a lean towards Lincecum, though normally I would say it was probably a win. Luckily Lincecum misses going against Ubaldo.

Game 3: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Zito

MLB Notes:
Giants: In his last outing against the Dodgers, Zito pitched six innings, giving up two runs on two hits while earning a no-decision. He experienced trouble in the third inning, when he gave up both his runs a sacrifice fly and RBI double.

Colorado: Somehow it's fitting that Jimenez throw on a fireworks night, although there have been unexpected pyrotechnics in his last two starts. He has given up 10 runs in 11 2/3 innings. In both, he has started strong but fallen behind hitters in the middle innings.
Unlucky for Zito, he gets to face Ubaldo Jimenez. At least Jimenez has been human lately, but still, despite Zito's 1.95 ERA in his career in about 12-15 starts against Colorado, have to say that Colorado will probably win, given how poorly our offense has been going lately and they have Ubaldo starting.  He's their win-day starter.

Game 4: Jason Hammel vs. Cain

MLB Notes:
Giants: Cain once again failed to beat the Dodgers in his last outing, taking the loss after giving up four runs on seven hits to fall to 0-8 all-time vs. L.A. In Cain's last start against Colorado on June 2, he held the Rockies to one run on four hits in eight innings.

Colorado: Hammel held the Padres to three runs in 6 1/3 innings, and no runs until the seventh, in his last start. He overcame a bad start against the Red Sox in his previous outing and has posted a 1.83 ERA in his past six starts by concentrating on first-pitch strikes.

Hammel is probably the least talented starting pitcher we face in Colorado, but he's had a 3.03 ERA against the Giants in his career. Cain, however, has a 2.96 ERA against Colorado. Plus, Hammel is pretty good at home this season, but so is Cain in Colorado, 3.60 ERA in his career. However, Hammel has been going good while Cain has had a couple of horrible starts. Call it even with a lean to Colorado.

Giants Thoughts

Doesn't look to get easier against D-Rox after that horrible homestand. It is possible to split but looks like it will be another series loss. Particularly with our offense sleeping for so long.

As I noted in my previous series discussion, the entire offense has been slumbering for a couple of weeks now, led by Posey's horrible hitting line. But I won't put it on his head, he's still learning. He's clearly overmatched right now, going through the first of his many adjustments he will have to make if he's to have a long major league career. I'm OK with him sitting out starts if that allows the hot Renteria to start.

What we need to start hitting is the leadoff guy, whether that's Torres or Rowand, Uribe, and Pablo Sandoval. Renteria, Huff and Burrell have been the only guys hitting well recently, so if we can get offense out of two of these other three positions, that should get the offense scoring runs again. I would put it on their heads.

Rowand has been hitting, but been mostly sitting. I don't know if he'll ever start regularly for us again, he and Torres looks to be sharing CF for a while, unless Torres slump continues for the rest of the season. They could both play if Huff starts playing 1B if Posey sits more, but with Renteria hitting well, we could see more of Uribe at 3B and Sandoval at 1B. But given Pablo's struggles against LHP, he could be sitting more often, opening 1B for Posey to play.

It would also help if Bengie Molina were healthy and hitting again. If he got hot again, as he periodically has done in his Giants career, that would also be a boon to the lineup. Sitting more with Posey catching more will help.

I wonder if Bowker might come up at some point, given how well he is hitting down there and the talk about needing more left-handed hitting in the lineup (which of course meant that both Schierholtz and Ishikawa were not seen as good left-handed hitters to turn to), though that would then cause some dominoes to fall because there is nobody to send down, unless they sent Posey down or DFA either Schierholtz or Ishikawa.

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

It is like none of the guys crying about the Giants have ever gone through a complete season before. The stuff being said about the Giants now? It is the same stuff people were saying when the Giants lost four straight to LA and SD early in April, leaving us 8-7. It is the same stuff people were saying when the Giants lost 5 games in row in mid-May, leaving us 22-21. It is the same stuff people are saying now, after losing four series.

For that matter, it is the same stuff they were saying last season when we were 88-74.

And really, it is not that hard to predict that this stuff is going to happen. We live on the edge, I readily admit that. A rebuilding team takes a while to get all the pieces together - it took Atlanta six years of 100+ loss seasons plus a few more after they were winning to get all their pieces together, basically once Chipper Jones joined the team. The Giants are not perfect and will live and die with their starting pitching, at least for this season, but things are looking up next season with Posey and Sandoval in the middle of the lineup and, hopefully, hitting to their potential.

And when the pitching goes awry, which it will do because they are all human, then that puts pressure on the offense. And that pressure often leads players to try to do more than they can, leading to worse performances because that is when they switch off their MLB baseball skills and switch on their skills when they were first learning to be a ballplayer.

Still, with our great pitching and good fielding, we don't need much of an offense to win with that type of defense. We cannot trade our way to a better offense without either hurting our pitching or losing very valuable prospects we will need in future seasons if we want to hope to have a long stretch of winning. We will have to live with what we got. And we have a number of good hitters, but unfortunately, none except Huff has been very consistent in delivering that offense, leading to our ups and downs.

More Darkness Before the Dawn

I see more hurting in store for the Giants in Colorado, but it could also start up the offense again, loosening them up, which would help in facing the Brewers and Nationals afterward. Those are two teams we should have a better chance of playing even against, and that's the goal when you are on the road, playing for .500+.

With so many games played straight without a rest, you will see a lot of mixing and matching in the lineup, and I would prefer it that way because none of the players, except for Huff so far this season, has earned the right to be the full-time starter (though Renteria is nearing that if he keeps on hitting like this). So play those who are swinging the bat well, and sit those who aren't, but give plenty of rest to everyone so that everyone gets regular chances to show what they can do.

Vote for Pablo: We Need the Panda Back!

However, I would just continue to play Sandoval regularly, though one day of rest per week shouldn't hurt him and that would allow us to play Renteria more. We need for him to get untracked, out of everybody on the team. We need him to regain the joy of playing baseball and not the grind of reminders about his weight, about the way he hits, about all the things that annoy people.

You know what? I think people injured the goose that laid the golden eggs with Sandoval. A hitter's swing is pretty hard to adjust on the fly, and I think Sandoval is reaching the point where he's taking a micro-second to consciously decide whether that ball is a strike or not, and that slight delay is causing him to not connect as solidly with pitches this year the ones he was blasting last season. The article on Torres said that it took him a full season plus the off-season to incorporate all the ideas and thoughts into his swing and getting it to work, so Sandoval could be like this all season.

Plus, we don't know how hard he is driving himself to lose weight. A person could get too obsessive about that and be working at it all the time. The body can't take that type of work all the time, it needs rest to recover. Maybe he's not giving his body time to recover, it is not like the Giants can watch him 24x7.

He looked like he was going to come out of his funk a couple of weeks again when he homered twice, but now he looks as lost as ever. I think his confidence has taken a hit, and that is always a winding road to take when you go down that road for the first time, there will be lots of ups and downs plus second guessing that will just delay his recovery and return to hitting.

Our season's hopes rely strongly on his being able to hit the way he was able to over the first year and a half of his career, from August 2008 to April 2010. His two month funk we've been able to handle because some hitters got hot in May and early June, but most of the team has been scuffling the past three weeks. We can't keep relying on someone stepping up and hitting, we need the steadiness of production that Sandoval gave us since he reached the majors.

But first, Colorado...

Go Giants!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 40-34: Ducking the Fodgers

Tough series against the Red Sox.  People got to remember that they are a good team, and we are going to lose series to good teams sometimes.

Plus, our starters have appeared to fall into a collective funk all together, Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez all had tough starts in this turn of the rotation, probably the worse start for each of them all season.  Luckily our offense came through in Sanchez's start plus he re-grouped and held the fort after that, else we would have been swept.

Now we face the D-gers, losers of 8 of 10, 11 of 15, a pretty bad tailspin that knocked them out of 2nd place.  The offense fell a little, averaging 4.5 runs scored, but their pitching fell off the cliff, allowing 4.9 runs on average during that 15 game stretch.  They are rumored to be looking for starting pitching and is so desperate for pitching that they just picked up Jack Taschner, whom the Pirates just recently released (but to be fair, Taschner looks like he was just having some bad luck, he's been striking out a lot of batters and not walking that many).  And dame fortune smiles on us as Matt Kemp is apparently having some sort of injury issue and is out of the lineup for today's game, the second day in a row.

Game 1:  Chad Billingsley vs. Zito

MLB Notes:
Dodgers: Billingsley is returning from a stint on the disabled list with a tight groin suffered in his last start, but he passed a simulated game test Thursday and reported no stiffness Friday. He is 4-2 lifetime against the Giants and 2-1 at AT&T Park.
Giants: Zito lasted only four innings in his last outing against Houston, giving up five runs on seven hits. In Zito's last start against the Dodgers in April, the lefty tossed 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball en route to a no-decision.
Hard to say what is going to happen. Billingsley should be fresh but he should also be rusty. Zito was horrible, but that was at Minute Maid park and there were a lot of dink hits, which will find their way of falling in eventually and give you a bad start.

Billingsly has a 3.15 ERA lifetime against the Giants in SF, so he will be tough to beat here, no matter what, so we will need Zito to put up a game like he's been doing this season and not like the one he threw in his last start.  It is like the starters caught a collective cold this time around the rotation, hopefully Zito can get them out of the slide.  He does not typically give up so many hits, so it should not be a repeat performance.

Billingsly has history on his side but Zito has 2010 on his side and Billingsley is coming off the DL, so I would lean towards Zito, though I would call it even for the most part.  I am thankful that the 'Dres are facing Ubaldo today and probably will lose as Correia is their starter, and while I love Kevin, I don't think he's better than Ubaldo right now.

Game 2:  John Ely vs. Cain

MLB Notes:
Dodgers: Ely bounced back in Anaheim after repeated wobbly starts, allowing only one earned run in seven innings and drawing the loss because his offense ran out of a tying rally in the ninth. He's a strike thrower who doesn't throw hard enough to get away with misses.
Giants: Cain's steady streak of impressive outings went up in smoke against Houston in his last outing, in which he last only 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits. The seven-run outing caused Cain's ERA to jump from 2.16 to 2.72.
Soft tossers typically have their way with the Giants, though they did beat up on Wakefield and Moyer.  But Cain has been dominating this season, particularly at home, and his horrible start in Houston was his first disaster start of the 2010 season, so I expect him to bounce back with another strong start against Ely.

I would call this pretty even with a lean towards Cain for dominance this season, because Ely had been pretty good himself this season until that bad three game start streak, but recovered nicely with that game against Anaheim, going 7 innings.  Being a young guy in his first season, hard to say if he won't struggle again or if he figured things out in his last start.

Game 3:  Vincent Padilla vs. Sanchez

MLB Notes:
Giants: Sanchez struggled early in his last outing against Boston, including a 37-pitch first inning in which he gave up a three-run homer to Kevin Youkilis. Sanchez managed to regrup and pitch into the sixth inning, only giving up those three runs but walking four.
It has already been announced on KNBR that Padilla will be starting, so I don't know why they list the game as TBD for LA.  Should be an interesting game, particularly if the Giants had won the first two games.  Padilla is the guy who hit Rowand in the face in April, but then did not call to apologize or even to check up to see how Rowand was doing.  Perhaps the Giants can put a hex on the D-gers like they did to the Red Sox, who lost Dustin Pedroia, Clay Buccholz, and Victor Martinez on successive days against us (interesting idea I heard on KNBR after the game is that the Red Sox needs a catcher and we have Bengie Molina available;  don't think it will happen for a 4-6 week need, as they still have Jason Veritek while Martinez is healing, but I thought I would throw it out there).

Padilla has not been doing well this season, but I think almost anybody except for the people in the D-gers front office knew that one.  He did pitch great for them after they traded for him last season, but his history was not pretty at all.  He has also just returned from the DL, and concurrent with that is the D-gers recent slide into losing a lot.  They are 1-5 in his starts this season, though he probably should have won one, maybe two, other starts.  He definitely should have won his last start, he did pitch well.

Hard to say which way to go with this start.  I can see Sanchez giving Padilla and their top hitters some close inside pitches, but we don't have a lot of games where we can screw around and be head-hunting, particularly against a team we will be competing closely with for a playoff spot.  He recovered nicely from his early hiccups and enabled the Giants to win Friday's game against the Red Sox.

I can only lean towards the Giants though because Padilla was very good in his last start, and he can have consecutive good starts.  But Sanchez has been pretty good this season so I have to give the edge to him.

Giants Thoughts

Pretty close games but I would lean towards the Giants winning the series.  However, Posey's bad streak of hitting continued during the Boston series:  he's not hitting, not walking, not hitting for any power.  He has been cold as ice in his last 12 games, hitting a freezing .152/.167/.196/.362.  He got 3 hits on Friday, giving hope that he'll snap out of his cold streak, but then went oh-fer the rest of the series.  He will need to get untracked for us soon if we are to win more games than we lose while he is starting.  I expect that we will be seeing him sit more often until he gets untracked.

But it is not all on Posey either in the last three series, a lot of people need to start hitting.  Sandoval (.185/.214/.222/.437), Torres (.182/.250/.273/.523), Molina (.263/.300/.263/.563), Sanchez (.161/.229/.290/.519), Uribe (.161/.257/.355/.612), even Huff (.222/.300/.333/.633) has been scuffling.  It is pretty hard to win when your top three hitters are hitting so poorly, as Torres, Sanchez, and Huff has been doing, and Uribe has not been that good either, though at least he hit for power.

Only Burrell and Renteria have been hitting well, with a batting line of .250/.357/.500/.857 for Pat the Bat and .417/.500/.542/1.042 for Edgar.  Rowand did poorly still, but just not as poorly as most everyone else:  .250/.318/.350/.668.  That's still not good enough to push either Huff or Uribe out of the lineup, but good enough to get him into the lineup still.

And the starting pitchers all had bad starts to boot in the last time through the rotation, so they will need to rebound from that and start pitching well again, particularly since we are facing the D-gers and especially because they have been struggling themselves.

This is the time to put our boot to their neck and take a giant step forward in the division.  A sweep would put good distance between us and them plus help to get us closer to the division leaders, San Diego.  It would also be a great statement.  We can only do that if the hitters start hitting again and the pitchers pitch like they usually do.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bumgarner's Here, Best Time of Year

Just had to post this: Madison Bumgarner will be brought up to start Saturday's game. This was reported on KNBR after the game.

That will put together the battery of the future, as Posey was already slated to start at catcher on Saturday. It is certainly good marketing on the Giant's part as that game will be televised nationally, and now their top two prospects will be the highlight of the game.

Very excited to see what the two of them will do. Looks like the Bumgarner era will begin, as unless he gets blown out of the waters, I doubt they will send him back down. They will probably give him to the All Star Break, then keep him if he does at least OK or use the break as an excuse to send him back down if he is scuffling really, really bad. Remember, they did not send Lincecum back down when he was having his problems his second month in the majors so he would have to be horrible to get sent down.

I am betting he stays, heck, with his funky delivery, I think he has a good chance to shut down the Red Sox. And I don't say win because Buchholz is going against him, so it would be a tough game to win.

But what a great statement to the rest of the majors it would be if he did shut down the powerful RedSox offense and win the game!

In any case,it looks like the Giants are going all in by bringing up Bumgarner now. They are going for it hard now by promoting Bumgarner. I would venture the guess that the Giants wanted to see where he is at now - there is no way to do that except bringing him up - so that they can see if he can hold the spot in the rotation or if they need to bring in another starter via a trade.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 39-32: Bogarting the BoSox

The Giants lost a tough series against the Astros.  As much as fans like to blame the offense, it was our starting pitcher, Matt Cain, who let us down yesterday.  If he had even an average outing - for all pitchers, not just for him - we would have probably won the game and the series.  It was his worse outing of the season and could cost him a shot at the All-Star game, though that is the least of our worries.  He was so bad yesterday that you have to wonder if something is up or if it was just one of those days.  His next start will give us a better indication of what might lie ahead.

Now Los Gigantes get to face the mighty Red Sox.  They have been hot recently winning 7 of 9 and 9 of 12.  However, they lost 2 of 3 against D-Rox the past three days, so maybe their bats, going from the lovely Coors Field to AT&T Park, will be out of sync.  Afterall, most reports from players new to AT&T Park notes a learning curve to how to hit here, and a number of their key hitters are left-handed:  David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. Also, Victor Martinez does not hit LHP well this season either, and while the Giants are slated still to start Martinez on Saturday, I wonder if starting Bumgarner is something the Giants management is considering, after his nice last start in AAA.

Game 1:  Tim Wakefield vs. Sanchez

MLB Notes:
Red Sox: Wakefield turned in a solid performance in his last start, giving up five hits and three earned runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Dodgers. He left with the lead, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. The Red Sox went on to win the game on a walkoff hit by Dustin Pedroia. Wakefield has made four starts in June, going 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA. Wakefield has made just one career start at AT&T Park and it came in 2004, when he gave up four hits and seven runs (six earned) over four innings. Wakefield took a no-decision in that one. He is 2-3 with a 6.03 ERA lifetime against the Giants.
Giants: Sanchez is coming off his shortest outing of the season, a 2 2/3-inning, three-run effort at Toronto last Sunday. Sanchez walked five in that game, which the Giants still won, 9-6. San Francisco is 8-6 in Sanchez's starts. Though he has thrown only six quality starts, opponents have hit just .205 off him. Sanchez has excelled at AT&T Park, where he's 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA, with an opponents' average of .190.
The history has to favor the Giants, but given that Sanchez was bombed in his last start and that the Giants have tended to be free swingers, who are usually exploited by a knuckleballer like Wakefield, I have to call this one even, though if Sanchez can return to form, we should win.

Game 2:  Clay Buchholz vs. Martinez(?)

MLB Notes:
Red Sox: With his win on Sunday against the Dodgers, Buchholz joined four other pitchers as the only 10-game winners in the Majors this season and continues to make his case for why he should be selected to this year's All-Star Game in Anaheim. While nothing was easy for the righty in the first two innings of Sunday's contest -- the first inning required 30 pitches -- he settled down to pitch 6 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, giving up only three hits and striking out four. He also did not give up a hit from the third through sixth innings. In his past eight starts, Buchholz is 7-1 with a 1.62 ERA. The righty has an overall record of 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in Interleague Play and has never faced the Giants.
Giants: While working a career-high 6 1/3 innings in his only Giants start this season, against Baltimore on June 15, Martinez allowed four runs and eight hits in a 4-1 loss. The sinkerball specialist had his best pitch working, but several grounders found holes or went for infield singles. Scheduled off-days prompted the Giants to skip Martinez's next turn, but he tuned up for his outing against the Red Sox by throwing a scoreless inning of relief, though he left the bases loaded by allowing two hits and a walk.
I would have to notch this as a win for BoSox, unless the Giants bring up Bumgarner, then I would call it a coin toss depending on how well Bumgarner does:  his 2009 MLB version or his 2010 unsteady version.  Don't see how Martinez can out-pitch Buchholz.

But all signs point to Bumgarner staying in the minors and Martinez starting.  He was pretty bad just one start ago.  Even after figuring out his mechanics and a new pitch (the cutter), he has not been shutting down AAA hitters, which means that he'll be vulnerable in the majors to being battered around.  If they brought him up, he'll be on national TV and pitching against one of the best offensive teams in the majors in Boston.  Plus, he'll be going up against a very good pitcher in Buchholz, which would make it a very hard game to win.

I don't see how they bring him up but we are not privvy to all the inside info.  Maybe Bumgarner hasn't been using all his repertoire this season, maybe he's been using his time to learn that new pitch and only recently started mastering it.  Maybe he's cold as ace and can handle the national spotlight (though his recent blowup with the umpire would suggest that he's a bit of a hot-head at least some of the time) and pitching against a top pitcher.  Maybe the Giants say screw it, so what if he's good, it's Bumgarner Time!

Game 3:  Jon Lester vs. Lincecum

MLB Notes:
Red Sox: The power lefty continues to turn in one solid outing after another. His last start was no different as Lester gave up six hits and one run over six innings against the Rockies. He walked one and struck out six, throwing just 90 pitches. Lester could have gone longer in that start, but manager Terry Francona sent up David Ortiz as a pinch-hitter with the bases loaded. Lester has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts. In seven road starts this season, Lester is 3-2 with a 3.12 ERA. This will be his first career start against the Giants. In his four starts in June, Lester is 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA.
Giants: Lincecum has successfully put his May slump behind him by winning his past three starts. He has a 1.64 ERA in that span, a start contrast to the 4.95 ERA he logged in six starts last month. Lincecum, who has never faced the Red Sox, is 5-2 with a 3.13 ERA at AT&T Park. Of his 15 starts this year, 12 have been quality outings. He has recorded 10 strikeouts or more in four outings this year and has pitched 23 such games in his career. Facing tough opponents is nothing new for Lincecum, who has confronted teams with winning records in 10 starts. 
Should be a great battle between two great pitchers.  Toss-up, but I would note that our lineup does worse against LHP generally, so it will be an upward battle.

Giants Thoughts

Of course, it was disappointing to lose the series to the Astros, but we had two of our starers blow up on us.  That rarely happens, but one must remember that this is Minute Maid Park, which helps homerun hitting right-handed hitters but penalizes left-handed hitters and hitters who get their power from doubles and triples.   That is basically our team's main offense, at least until Sandoval gets untracked against LHP.

The Giants look to have a tough series against the Red Sox, facing three pretty good pitchers.  And it can go either way right now, though the second game looks to be pretty much in their pocket right now, and overall I would lean towards the Red Sox since they pretty much got the second game.  It will be tough to win the series against the Red Sox, but not out of the question.

Giants Gauntlet

And now the Giants are entering into a tough stretch.  First we face Boston and LAD at home, which will be tough even though they are playing at home where they have generally ruled.  Then they go on the road for an 11 game stretch against Colorado, Milwaukee, and Washington.  Coors Field always messes with our team, Miller Park has always been tough on us and the Brewers have played better in June (though the Brewers have actually played better on the road than at home this season), and the Nationals have played well at home this season and played us tough last season at home, even though their team wasn't that great.  All without a rest until the All-Star Break.

Then they start another stretch of games with no rest until August 2nd.  That is 18 games in 18 days.  Then another 13 straight days of games before the next rest on August 16th.  The 9 straight days of games before their last rest for August, August 26th.

6-man Rotation

That is why I have been advocating for a 6-man rotation.  That is roughly two months without much rest in there for the players, except for the All Star Break, which will give them too much rest then.  A 6-man rotation would result in less pressure on our young starters' arms.  Look at Cain's start last night and I don't see how you cannot help but wonder if his string of starts with over 110 pitches per game had an effect on his arm strength.  After Lincecum's skipped start the other season and his decreased velocity on his fast ball, I think it is clear that we need handle him with a little more kid's gloves.  And Sanchez has not been proven yet to go a full season.

Going with a 6 man rotation would reduce the load on the top starters by 2 starts, 3 for Sanchez and Martinez, or roughly 12-14 IP for 2 starts, 18-20 IP for 3 starts.  This would also give Bumgarner 12 starts to get his feet wet, like how the Giants did it with Cain at the end of his AAA season, bringing him up in early August.  This would also give each pitcher 6 days of rest between starts, which is basically what they were getting in early April this season when they had 5 starters plus regular days off.  April was when the pitchers all were pitching well (well, except Wellemeyer) and May was when some struggled.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Your 2010 Giants are 38-30: Aceing the Astros

The Giants are back in second place despite losing two of three to the Blue Jays, as the Red Sox put the hurt on the D-gers and swept them.  They have lost four straight and seven of nine now.  The rumor mill have them searching for pitching.

Speaking of rumor mill, the Giants are reportedly interested in KC's OF David DeJesus.  Where he would play, I have no idea, but a Giants official was reported by Yahoo to say that there is "nothing happening" involving a deal for him.  I suspect the Giants are just looking at all the available players and checking to see how much the other team wants for him.  KC probably said "Bumgarner" and the Giants said "Thanks but no thanks."

Game 1:  Roy Oswalt vs. Lincecum

MLB Notes:
Giants: With two off-days in five days, the Giants were given the chance to skip a turn in their rotation. With the two off-days, Lincecum will already be pitching on one extra day's rest, so why hold back a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner? In his last start, Lincecum mixed his historical dominance (10 strikeouts) with his recent struggles (four walks, eight hits) in six innings of work, earning his seventh win of the season. He exited after six innings after being grazed on the back of his right shoulder by a ball hit by Miguel Tejada. Bochy said Lincecum would have left after the inning regardless, having thrown 111 pitches, and Lincecum expects nothing to come from the hit.
Astros: As the Astros kick off a three-game home series against the Giants, they will send their ace to the mound in search of his sixth victory of the season. Coming off a stellar performance in which Oswalt tossed seven innings, allowing only two earned runs on six hits with one walk and a strikeout, the hard-throwing right-hander will look to pick up right we he left off. With his last victory against the Royals, Oswalt now has 142 career victories, just two shy of tying Joe Niekro's franchise record.
Going to be a tough game, particularly on the road against Oswalt, but Lincecum has beaten Oswalt in every matchup they have had so far.  Have to lean towards Lincecum, but Oswalt can be tough too, though the Giants handled him well enough this season.

Game 2: Brett Myers vs. Zito

MLB Notes:

Giants: Despite taking only his third loss of the season, Zito was fantastic Friday night against the Blue Jays, throwing his first complete game of the season. If not for a first-pitch changeup to Alex Gonzalez that was belted for an eighth-inning solo home run, Zito may have come away with the win. What is worrisome for the left-hander is that six of the seven home runs he has allowed this season have come over his past five starts. Zito will look to continue his success against the Astros, whom he is 3-1 with a 3.69 ERA against over five career starts.
Astros: In his last start, Myers was done in by one inning. The right-hander coasted through 6 2/3 innings before the Royals lit him up for a four-run seventh inning, thanks in part to a three-run home run from Scott Podsednik. Myers ended the day hurling 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs, with two walks and three strikeouts. Four of those seven hits came in the seventh inning. Myers will look to get back on track and climb back to .500 as he takes on the Giants at Minute Maid Park. In his career, Myers is 1-4 against the Giants with a 6.30 ERA in nine games.

Can never write off Myers but his history of futility against the Giants, tied with Zito's mastery of the Astros, suggest that the Giants have the edge in this start.  Still, Myers is good enough that I would call it even with a lean towards the Giants.

Game 3: Wandy Rodriguez vs. Cain

MLB Notes:
Astros: Rodriguez got roughed up in his last start against the Rangers, where he gave up six runs in just three innings. He was sailing along through the first two until Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman hit a double off him with one out. From there, walks and hits led to a long inning, which would be his last in a 9-3 loss. Rodriguez will look to end his three-game losing streak against the Giants, who beat him 3-0 on April 6 in his first start of the season.
Don't have to say much about Cain, he wasn't up to recent standards in his last start but he still pitched well enough to win but was let down by the offense once again.  He has given up more than 3 runs in a start one in his last 10 starts, which for most pitchers would result in a 9-1 record, but he's only 6-4.  Meanwhile, Wandy has been struggling lately (as well as struggling all season), so it looks like it should be a Giants win.

Giants Thoughts

Looks like the Giants should win this series, with a possibility of sweeping again.  But the Giants already swept them in two previous series, meaning that they would have swept the entire season 9-0 against the Astros if they were to repeat.  Odds of that happening for any team is pretty low, so I would be happy with a series win, 2-1, which would leave the Giants with a 3-3 road trip, which is what you hope for on most road trips, coming out even, then winning at home.

The Giants struggles offensively in recent games is related to a short humdinger of a slump for Buster Posey:  3 for 31, .097/.125/.161/.286 in 8 games.  He is getting a rest today, Bochy probably thought it best to do that against Oswalt, against whom many hitters either take a rest or continue a slump.

I'm sure there were plenty of fans who thought that they knew how to manage better than Sabean and Bochy after Posey broke out and hit well for many games, but his struggles now underscore what I've been saying all along about Posey and Molina:  Posey is a wildcard as to what you get in a performance while Molina is more  reliable.  Molina hasn't been as good this season, but that is mainly related to his injury in May from a foul tip that eventually required a cortisone shot.  He had a great April and I think if they would have rested him more after his injury (or better, DLed him and brought up Posey), he would not have hit so poorly.  And in his last 8 games, he has hit .296/.296/.444/.741.

That is the thing with prospects, even top prospects, none of them are ever sure things, and many of them will struggle in their initial run in the majors before righting themselves.  Some never do and fade away, another cautionary tale for prospect hounds who count their eggs before they are hatched.  That is why it was a great move by the Giants to sign Molina and keep Posey in the minors so that he could continue learning to hit and handle catching.

People don't realize it but there is a huge difference in the talent level between AAA and the majors, so just because Posey was killing the ball in April, his MLE (a methodology which converts minor league stats into equivalent major league stats) had Posey only hitting in the low 700 OPS in April.  He only started hitting in May, then went on a mini-slump like the one he is currently in, in mid-May, before hitting again and getting the call.   That's a huge amount of small sampling problem, as that is his most MLB worthy stats, as his 2009 stats, as nice as it was, wasn't really that good in equivalent MLB stats term.

Hopefully Posey will figure things out soon.  Houston is a good place because it is a nice hitter's park.  But we don't know what will happen, which has been my point all along, that none of us knew what was going to happen with Posey, he could hit like crazy or he could be cold as ice.  Who knew that he would do both in the space of about a month?

The Giants seem to give their position players about one month of stink-a-tude before they give them a kick in the rear and try other options more frequently (contrary to popular misconception, Fred Lewis got two months to get his butt into gear in 2009).  Today's rest is just the first he's getting until he starts hitting again because our lineup cannot handle an automatic out like that (that is worse than the average Giants pitcher, I think) for very long.

The good news is that Renteria is back from the DL, and as much as fans seem to hate him, when healthy and in the lineup, he has been one of our better hitters.  He is batting .337/.392/.424/.816 for the season.  In today's lineup, despite his better hitting, it appears that Bochy is trying to keep the lineup as regular as possible giving all the moving parts, so he's batting Renteria 7th while the top of the lineup is Torres, Sanchez, Huff, Uribe, Burrell, and Sandoval.  Molina will bat 8th, which is great because him hitting his regular self is a plus in the 8th position.  And Renteria 7th is great, because his numbers are good at almost every position in the lineup except for cleanup and maybe batting third.

I am assuming that Bochy will be moving Uribe between SS, 3B, and 2B to give Renteria some regular starts, plus start giving Uribe a game of rest as well.  That should get Renteria 2-4 starts per week for a while.  And if Posey does falter and need to be sent down, then Renteria at SS, Uribe at 3B and Sandoval at 1B would be the regular configuration until the next cold spell on the part of someone.

Torres, however, appears to have cemented a starting role, as well as Sanchez, Huff, and Uribe.  Molina and Renteria would probably start as long as they are healthy.  Burrell has been great so far, but he was horrible with Tampa Bay, so we will have to wait and see what happens with him.  Look at Posey, he was hot then now ice cold.  Until Burrell does cool off, neither Rowand or Schierholtz will be seeing playing time, let alone regular playing time.

I would also note that Bumgarner had a masterful start in his last game, striking out 11.  He has had a rough season up to now.  But that is a combination of not having enough to handle professional hitters like those in the majors and AAA this season and him still young and learning.

I had forgotten, but one of his weaknesses as a prospect was that he only used his fastball in high school (father's orders) and only played with breaking ball pitches.  So his dominance in the minors was related to how great his fastball is but he needed to add other pitches to his repertoire so that he could start in the majors.  Most starters need at least three pitches, and he has been adding them to his fastball.  Hopefully, the cutter he added this season is the last piece in the puzzle.  His 11 strikeouts suggest that he is near and he could get the next #5 starter spot, which is the upcoming Saturday game against Boston.

I'm still pushing for the Giants to go to a 6 man rotation after the All Star Break.  Bumgarner would be the 5th starter and either Joe Martinez or a free agent pitcher (Pedro Martinez?) would be the 6th starter.  It would keep them on the 6 day schedule that they had at the start of the season with 5 starters and many off days early in the season.  That would also take a couple of starts away from the other starters, giving their arms extra rest during the tough part of the season.  It gives Bumgarner an opportunity to start regularly in the majors.  It takes away starts from the #5 starter, assuming he is someone like Joe Martinez, Todd Wellemeyer, or Kevin Pucetas.  And there is little letdown, hopefully, in taking starts away from Lincecum, Zito, Cain, and Sanchez and giving them to Bumgarner.

If we didn't have Bumgarner to put in the rotation and soak up starts, I don't think that would work as you would be taking starts away from your best starters and giving it to your 6th best starter, typically.  But hopefully Bumgarner is not your 6th starter, hopefully he is good enough to have his name up there with Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez.

Other Giants News:  DeRosa Out; Draft Signings

As tweeted by @JohnSheaHey and @extrabaggs earlier today, Mark DeRosa is officially out for the season.  Baggerly notes that the surgery is not yet scheduled but that the tendon sheath will be fixed and carpal tunnel will be released to free nerve.  It appears that this nerve to be freed is the one causing the numbness in DeRosa's hand that has been delaying the other sheath surgery that the leading expert who looked at DeRosa's condition said, "I can fix you."

The Giants have their draft signings posted here.  Round 3 pick SS Carter Jurica and Round 4 pick RHP Seth Rosin has already signed.  Another notable signing is Round 7 pick CF Charles Jones, high schooler, very raw but lot of potential power, very athletic, good defensively but, like most prospects, working on his hitting. They also reportedly signed Brett Bochy, which I saw tweeted during the day, but that is not on the site yet.  But that was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  Another name to watch, LHP Andrew Barbosa, whom the Giants had drafted two times before, who is 6' 8" and now a senior, has not signed yet.

Of course, Gary Brown is the main unsigned player, not surprising since he is handled by Scott Boras.  The experts think that he will almost certainly sign with the Giants but that because it is Boras, he might hold out until the last minute to wring every dollar out of the team's hands.  I have seen no pronouncement on slots, but it sounds like most of the early signers are basically around the slot for last season.  The #24 pick last season was slotted for $1,242,000 (and that is what he signed for too).

I suspect that they probably want something in the $2M range (or around 10th pick), but frankly, none of the mock drafts had him selected that high, the highest I think was around 20th or 21st and none of the experts drafts had him in the teens, I'm sure of that.  I'll write more on him soon, but I think he'll (that is, Boras) probably stalls until the last minute, which for someone late in the first round would be within a week of the signing deadline (only his top picks get to wait until the last minute) and he would sign from something in the $1.5M range.

Haven't heard anything on Jarrett Parker yet.  His name never showed up on any first round draft mock draft and he barely made BA's Top 50 ranked by talent list.  I suspect that he was selected partly because he fell but also because he'll be a backup should the Giants fail to sign Brown for whatever reason (not that I'm expecting that, I think that only happens if Brown has unrealistic expectations about the bonus he is going to get, and he might since he hit so well in his Junior season).

Here are all the draft picks and all the signings up to now:

NamePosB/THtWtDOBRoundPick #Signed
Gary BrownCFR / R6' 0"17009/28/1988124Unsigned
Jarrett ParkerCFL / L6' 4"21001/01/1989274Unsigned
Carter JuricaSSR / R5' 11"18509/23/1988310506/17/2010
Seth RosinRHPR / R6' 5"23511/02/1988413806/17/2010
Richard HembreeRHPR / R6' 4"21001/13/19895168Unsigned
Michael KickhamLHPR / R6' 4"20512/12/19886198Unsigned
Charles JonesCFR / R6' 3"23507/28/1992722806/21/2010
Joseph StaleyCS / R6' 1"23505/08/1989825806/21/2010
Chris LoftonCFL / R6' 1"17505/20/1990928806/17/2010
Daniel BurkhartCL / R5' 11"21503/06/198910318Unsigned
Adam Duvall2BR / R6' 1"20509/04/19881134806/18/2010
Stephen HarroldRHPR / R6' 1"20003/12/19891237806/16/2010
Mark ChristmanRHPR / R6' 2"18008/26/19891340806/21/2010
Raynor CampbellIFR / R5' 10"17507/15/19871443806/17/2010
Andrew BarbosaLHPR / L6' 8"20511/18/198715468Unsigned
Austin FleetRHPR / R6' 1"17504/17/19871649806/16/2010
Ryan BeanRHPR / R6' 4"22503/09/19901752806/21/2010
Brandon AllenRHPR / R6' 6"19008/15/199118558Unsigned
Austin SouthallCFL / R6' 2"20805/01/199219588Unsigned
Brett BochyRHPR / R6' 2"18208/27/198720618Unsigned
Zachary ArnesonRHPR / R6' 2"19011/17/198821648Unsigned
Robert HaneySSL / R6' 0"14708/16/198822678Unsigned
Alec AsherRHPR / R6' 4"21510/04/199123708Unsigned
Kyle Wilson3BS / R6' 0"19502/04/198724738Unsigned
Brett KrillRFR / R6' 4"19501/24/198925768Unsigned
Jeff ArnoldCR / R6' 2"20501/13/19882679806/17/2010
Eric SimCR / R6' 2"21501/03/19892782806/21/2010
Gaspar SantiagoLHPL / L6' 0"20009/23/19892885806/21/2010
Jose CuevasSSR / R6' 2"19004/05/19882988806/14/2010
Ryan BradleyLHPS / L6' 1"18007/15/19883091806/14/2010
Kyle Hardy1BR / R6' 3"22007/29/198931948Unsigned
Kevin CoutureRHPR / R6' 0"17004/20/19883297806/17/2010
James BirminghamLHPL / L6' 5"18008/02/1988331008Unsigned
Johnathan DeBerryCFR / R5' 9"21007/22/198834103806/15/2010
Stephen ShacklefordRHPR / R6' 1"18505/05/198935106806/14/2010
John LeonardRHPR / R6' 0"19005/17/1989361098Unsigned
Eric SiscoRHPR / R6' 3"20012/09/1991371128Unsigned
Jacob McCaslandRHPR / R6' 2"21509/13/1991381158Unsigned
Tommy TremblayCL / R6' 3"19005/11/1991391188Unsigned
Wes Hobson2BL / R6' 0"18711/12/198740121806/15/2010
Ryan HoneycuttLFL / R6' 0"19509/06/198841124806/15/2010
James RobertsRHPR / R6' 2"18012/11/1991421278Unsigned
Raymond RugglesRHPR / R6' 2"20008/17/1986431308Unsigned
Jake ShadleRHPR / R6' 2"17504/25/199044133806/21/2010
Gregory GreveRHPR / R6' 3"20001/05/1992451368Unsigned
Caleb Hougesen3BR / R6' 1"21511/17/1991461398Unsigned
Ray HansonRHPR / R6' 7"23502/27/1990471428Unsigned
Devin HarrisRFR / R6' 3"22504/23/198848145806/21/2010
Dan Pellegrino      C    R / R5' 11"19011/02/1988491488Unsigned
Golden TateCFL / L6' 0"18008/02/1988501518Unsigned


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