Now the Giants get to go on a 10 game road trip. I'll bet the home "series" probably felt more like a road trip than being at home, because you fly in and you fly out. They will face the Pirates, Nats, and Mets, in that order, 3-4-3. They are 9-12, 10-10, and 9-13, respectively.
The Giants are playing three beatable teams and thus need to play up to their potential and come out of this trip at least 6-4, if not 7-3 since they got swept.
Game 1: Cain vs. Morton
Matt Cain: Cain struggled through his first bad start of the season in his last outing, giving up six runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs and 14 hits over his first 19 innings of the year.
Charlie Morton: After throwing a complete game against the Reds on April 15, Morton struggled mightily against the Marlins in his latest start. The 27-year-old allowed six runs on 10 hits over five innings to earn his first loss of the season.Matt Cain has been stellar in a park that favors LHB homers, probably because he does so well at neutralizing flyballs. 3 starts, 20.1 IP, 20 K's and 5 walks, only 20 hits, 1 HR. Somehow they bunched them and he only has a 3.98 ERA in Pittsburgh, but his peripherals says that he has been dominant here before. And he has, he has had 3 DOM starts - PQS 5, 4, 5 - here against the Pirates in 2007, 8, 9. And against current Pirates, he has mostly shut down the hitters he has faced previously, only Garrett Jones has given him real trouble, most either have never faced him much or not done well.
Morton has pitched twice against the Giants in Pittsburgh, with a 2.08 ERA in 13.0 IP, 12 K's and 4 walks. However, he's been beaten pretty badly in SF, and while no batter has more than maybe 3 games against him, Rowand, Tejada, Whiteside, Huff, Burrell, and Fontenot all have OPS of over 1.000 against him. But it looks like he might have turned a corner last season, he was much better in the second half of the season with a 57% DOM, and appears to be continuing it into this season, though it also looks very flukey so far, his 3.33 ERA, because he only has 12 K's in 27.0 IP against 15 BB's, a horrible ratio no matter how you look at it.
I think Cain should win this game, he has been remarkably steady in delivering DOM starts and avoiding bad starts and since he had a bad start in his last outing, I have to think that he should have another good outing in Pittsburgh, whereas Morton, while he has a good ERA this season, looks like a train wreck waiting to happen, he has lucked out with a .250 BABIP so far this season.
Game 2: Vogelsong vs. McDonald
Madison Bumgarner (my take): After having a much improved start in his third start of the season, he imploded in the third inning of his fourth start after getting squeezed by the umpires, for seemingly the umpteenth time this season. He has been mediocre and lousy this season, up and down, and needs to get himself together. He needs to loosen up and chillax.
James McDonald: Despite working on his mechanics, McDonald's early struggles continued in his last outing. The right-hander gave up eight runs on six hits over just three innings in a loss to the Marlins.As was hinted by Bochy earlier, by noting that Vogelsong will get the 5th starter spot, Bumgarner pitches this game and Vogelsong the next. Bumgarner gets the easier assignment facing McDonald, who has been struggling a lot, while Karstens has not. Bumgarner probably needs the lack of pressure so that he can let go and not try to force the matter with his pitching, as he appears to be trying to strike out batters 1-2-3 strikes yer out with each pitch (the pitcher's equivalent of a hitter trying to hit a 5-run homer).
Bumgarner has no history in Pittsburgh but as a LHP, has an advantage here in suppressing LHB power, as this park boosts LHB's power and hitting, while suppressing RHB's power and hitting. So this could be the park to get him out of his funk this season, as he and the Giants struggle to figure out what is wrong with their wunderkind, who already has 2 DIS starts out of 4.
McDonald has a 10.13 ERA in 4 starts, 12 K's vs. 12 BB's in 18.2 IP, 25 hits, 5 HRs, so far in 2010. He has a career 4.00 ERA against the Giants in Pittsburgh (and maybe also LA, hard to tell easily). He has struggled to stay in the majors and continue to struggle, obviously. Any other team, and he might be gone already and still might be soon, depending on how he handles the Giants. Lots of guys with OPS over 1.000 against McDonald, albeit in 1-2 starts against him: Sandoval, Schierholtz, Franchez, DeRosa, Posey, Rowand, plus Ross good.
Have to think that Bumgarner would normally be able to take down McDonald in this start, and the Giants win. But we really have no idea whether he's back to normal or still the struggling starter, and thus it would be a toss of the coin for this game with a strong lean towards Bumgarner because of his success in the majors last season, whereas McDonald is struggling for his major league life in this start.
Game 3: Vogelsong vs. Karsten
Ryan Vogelsong: Vogelsong has been great in the short time he's been in the majors with the Giants this season. He has earned this starting assignment and looks good for a good start, given how well he pitched in AAA and majors so far.
Jeff Karstens: This will be Karstens' third spot start for Ross Ohlendorf. Karstens was strong in his last outing, giving the Pirates six efficient innings in a win over Washington. The only concern is that Karstens tends to tire when his pitch count gets near 75.Andy Baggarly has a great article on Ryan Vogelsong today. Great story, was traded from Giants to Pirates in Jason Schmidt trade, and after a long journeyman's journey which included a 3 year stay in Japan, he returns like a prodigal son to the Giants, the team he wanted to be with now because he enjoyed the organization when he was here before. That is why he did not ask for an out option when he signed, he wants to stay here, unlike Suppan. And he has pitched great and the comments by Bochy is that Vogelsong has learned to become a pitcher rather than a thrower.
Karstens has not been that good a pitcher in the majors, so what he has been doing this season is a bit of a surprise, though obviously over two games, anything can happen. However, his peripherals last season was much better than his ending 4.92 ERA, as he had 72 K's vs. only 27 BB's, but unfortunately he had 122.2 IP and those balls fell in last season, 146 of them, including 21 HRs, and .311 BABIP. And what people have to remember is that while generally pitchers mean BABIP is around .300, borderline pitchers like Karsten might legitimately have a higher BABIP than the mean. FYI, his BABIP this season is also .311, though his career BABIP is .295 so far. And if he's out by 75 pitches, the Giants get into their bullpen.
Hard to call this game. Vogelsong vs. Karstens could go so many different ways. Just call it even and see how it goes.
First, I have to point out a columnist's complaint against the Giants over the weekend. I like his prose, so I won't out him, but he basically complained that the Giants showed Brandon Belt no patience whereas it took them all season to sit Pablo Sandoval in 2010. Of course, the HUGE difference, clearly to me, is that Sandoval had a monster year in the majors in 2009 and thus earned the creds and respect to be kept up in 2010, whereas Belt has no experience at all in the minors and we don't know how well he will eventually do in the majors. Had Sandoval started out in the majors in 2008 as Belt did, he would not have been given the starting job in 2009 nor given all year in 2010 to figure things out. And as I showed with my analysis previously, he was still good in spurts during the 2010 season.
Second, I've seen some article questioning whether Sandoval is back because he was good in April 2009 as well and then sunk down in performance. Again, it appears clear to me that Sandoval was affected by personal issues last season, and his ups and downs in the second half, against publicly known personal issues (flying down to sign divorce papers, his mother's close brush with death) shows that he is unable to put such issues aside. Still, that's my analysis against others.
However, one good indicator that this is the old Pandoval and not the Sadoval of 2010 is his homers. In 2009, he had 25 homers, and according to HitTrackerOnline.com, 10 of those homers were No Doubts homers. And remember, he didn't start really hitting them in bunches until June 2009, so the total number is suppressed by him only really hitting homers in 4 of the 6 months, and he averaged roughly 2-3 No Doubts per month. He still was tied for 7th in No Doubts homers in the NL in 2009; prorating would have put him either in the lead or tied for 2nd.
In 2010, he only had 3 No Doubts homers, out of 13 total homers. He was way down the list for both, as a result. And he didn't even average one No Doubts per month, he had one in April, one in June, and one in August, about two months apart.
In 2011 so far, only 21 games, he already has 3 No Doubts homer, which matches what he had last season after only 21 games, and he reached that #3 on April 19th. That is exactly like what he was accomplishing in 2009, and nothing like his 2010. And I don't recall my stats exactly, but I'm sure that the odds are very low that someone whose true talent is 0.5 No Doubt homers per month, as he was in 2010, could randomly produce 3.0 No Doubt homers as he did this April. Sandoval is back, no question.
Third, there is the rumor about Nate Schierholtz being on the trading block and thus may be DFAed when Torres returns. This is why you don't want to listen to rumors from non-Giants analysts or Giants fans who are not analysts. Schierholtz has been on the block since spring training, that rumor has been out there for a long time. Somebody is just refreshing that rumor.
To anyone who has paid attention to the Giants 25 man roster situation and analyzed the consequences of Brandon Belt being promoted, it has been clear since off-season that there is a 25-man crunch this season. We saw that first with Ishikawa, there was no space for him to start the season had Ross been healthy, and the Giants instead used Ross's injury as an opportunity to kick the tires on Belt and see if he was ready or not (turned out not).
And when Belt is ready again for his promotion, four of the spots will be taken by Whiteside, DeRosa, Fontenot, and Rowand, and the fifth will be taken by who ever sits when Belt comes up, either Huff (1B), Burrell (LF), or Ross (RF). The Giants could put him in a platoon because Ross was clearly a platoon player by his 2010 performance, and Burrell doesn't play a full season in LF anyway. And that would push Schierholtz off the 25-man roster at that point.
That is why the Giants have been looking to trade Schierholtz since spring training, something any Giants close observer would have noticed, but the non-Giants baseball writers wouldn't. Schierholtz could start for other teams and the Giants will want to harvest that value rather than put him on waivers and lose him for essentially nothing.
As I've made clear in recent posts, I would rather keep Schierholtz around for 2012, because we have question marks regarding the outfield - Burrell age, Torres age/legs, Ross age - and might need him as a starter. Thomas Neal probably will be ready by next season, but I think Schierholtz could be good for us as a starter, providing superlative defense in RF while also providing power and speed. And I think he'll eventually be a good enough hitter as well. However, unless the Giants either trade or release Rowand, Fontenot, Burrell, Ross, or DeRosa, Schierholtz is the one who will go.
But the good thing is that Belt most probably won't be coming up until June-July, and by that time, things will be much clearer about who is performing and who is not, plus there could be an injury to keep a spot open. In addition, with Aaron Rowand hitting so well, I can see him continuing to get regular starts, particularly against LHP with Torres sitting, and by then the Chicago White Sox might be ready to trade for Rowand, who they still like, in a deal similar to the deal that brought them Juan Pierre, with the Giants taking on most of Rowand's salary in 2011 and another, say, $4M so that they only pay $8M in 2012 and getting an OK prospect back in return. Pierre has not been hitting, so they might want the upgrade offensively in LF. Long shot, I know, but I think is still a possibility since the ChiSox has clearly not been adverse to odd deals, like them picking up Alexis Rios when he looked liked a dead contract too.
About the rotation, between putting Vogelsong in the Pirates series or skipping and inserting into 5th spot later, I think either rotation works. The main difference is that inserting Vogelsong now results in Cain getting two starts against Colorado in our next three series (to June 5th) while Lincecum gets two starts if they skip.
Regarding this series, the Giants look like they can handle their pitchers. But can our pitchers handle their hitters? Much will depend on how Bumgarner and Vogelsong pitches, obviously, and we are not sure what we will get out of them. Could be two good games, could be two bad, could be mix, can't really say. Plus, this being a lefty park, look for Sandoval and Huff, and maybe Posey (since he hits opposite field bombs) to lead the way offensively if we are to win the series.
But clearly the Giants need to get back on their winning ways, though I must say that this season is turning out a bit like last season's, where things went up and down, two steps forward, one step back, and so forth.
And it is tough without one of the big reasons for last season's results, Andres Torres up top of the lineup, out on the DL.
Plus Aubrey Huff has scuffled - again - in the early season. This was around when he started heating up seriously last season, though he is a little late heating up, but with the cold weather lingering, maybe that is why his poor hitting lingers? His homers looked like him re-heating, then he went Oh for 12 in a three game stretch. He has only hit .286/.395/.371/.767 in Pittsburgh, though, in 11 games, 9 starts there. However, with forecasts for rain in Pittsburgh, it should not be any warmer there.
Then again, the offense has actually been producing, it has been the pitching and fielding that has been letting the team down, as you can see in the team's W/L performance in the box off to the right. The team will probably not take off until the pitching starts coming through, they have not been delivering the 3 runs or less defense that we had last season, while the offense has been producing more often than not, despite missing Torres.
Last Series Preview For At Least a While
Lastly, I will note for those who like my series summaries that I will stop doing them for at least a while. Just haven't been up for them this season. Part of it is that I'm still seeing the brainiacs who think they are smarter than the Giants management continue their attacks on him, and that saddens me like I can't explain. And if they were making sense, I could accept it, but sadly, I'm not seeing it, it is the same old crap as before.
Also, I think the Giants World Championship has taken away a bit of the urgency I felt before. Not that it's a sure thing, but knowing that the team is in pretty good shape overall makes each series matchups not as important at the moment. Particularly knowing that the team is battling short right now, as Torres and Zito are out and Bumgarner is struggling. I will probably start it up again as we get closer to the playoffs and there is more urgency to each series, but I'm just not feeling it (though perhaps it is also because I've been battling bugs for a while now and am just run down).
The only urgency I can sense right now is that Miguel Tejada is struggling defensively and thus many have already given up on him. I am OK with him in there, as long as we are not that far behind, maybe if we get to 10 games back it would seem like more of a problem. But as we saw last season and prior seasons, a team could start their run in the June-July timeframe and still end the season well and get into the playoffs.
I think the Giants are willing to let him play for May and if he's still going poorly defensively, then I think the Giants would look to make a move for a trade for a better fielding SS and DFA him in the mid-season timeframe. The Giants are only 1.5 games behind the wildcard leader, the Cards, so there is plenty of time before they have to make a move. For example, had Bumgarner been pitching the way we expected, we would be in fine shape in the win column at the moment.
ADDENDUM: I will continue to post whenever I feel the need to. Heck, I might end up posting more posts, as I've been waiting for the previews to voice some opinions.