Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bullpen Blunders or Offensive Blues?

The Giants squandered the game last night against the Dodgers...They freaking gave them the victory! It was bad all the way around. Coaching decisions came back to haunt them. Umpires calls went against them. Poor base running hurt. The offense hit, but not when it counted. The starter was rusty. The bullpen couldn't hang... Is this going to be their thing?

When it counts, they just can't seem to come through right now. The Giants are in a funk. All winter long we heard about the offensive blues... All winter long we heard about the rebuilt bullpen... So why does this first few weeks seem like deja vous?

Taking a look at the full season, the bullpen has been faltering more times than they should. Brian Wilson has had 2 early season blown saves, both behind Matt Cain strong outings... but those happen. Wilson, for all his lore and promise, is still young. He is still only 27. He's just entering his prime... but remember, he's just coming off his first full season in the bigs, as well as one season removed from fighting his way to make the team. Wilson has shown the stuff to be elite closer... he's still learning how to pitch though. He has to go through more ups and downs while learning how to use his dominating stuff against major league hitters...Wilson is not the problem, he's part of the solution...

The rest of the bullpen has had it's share of up's and down's. Brandon Medders has pitched great, but should have never pitched a third inning the other night, then was probably tired 2 days later when he was off. Justin Miller has looked good. Jeremy Affedlt has looked like he should be the "setup" man, but is stuck being the only lefty in the pen (Will Ohman is looking so much better now). So that is the good...

And for the bad. Merkin Valdez has looked off...Straight...hurt??? It's unexplained still why the Giants went with virtually a 5 man pen for 10 days. Is Valdez still hurt? Are they hiding him so not to lose him? It makes some sense, as he has the tools to be a very effective reliever if he can ever stay healthy. A big "IF" as he's coming off his second serious arm injury and is only 27. He seemed to come back much sooner than expected. Another problem has already been addressed as Alex Hinshaw pitched his way to Fresno with his inability to throw strikes. Too bad, the Giants need another good lefty. He will not be back until he can prove himself. (for what it's worth, Osiris Matos has been called up and pitched a nice 1-2-3 inning, his forte. If Bochy can get past his love for Bobby Howry, Matos should find himself in some critical spots.)

And then there is Bobby Howry... Already, he has blown leads three times, including last night. He reminds me right now of Tyler (gulp) Walker. When he's on he's on, but when he's not...well, look no closer than last night. Cubs fans warned us about this. "Better you than us" "Have fun with that signing". But I never thought I'd be scared when he came in...IN APRIL!!! It's too early to call for his release, hell it's too early to think he's not gonna work out...but it's not to early to sound the alarm... Be on the watch and pray Bochy does setup man by committee...But is he really the problem?

The short answer, NO...The long answer, still NO!!! For all the crap I/we have given the pen, it's not their fault they are coming into games with scores like 2-2, 3-2, 3-1, 0-0, 1-0, & 1-2... Those are the 6 times in 19 games the bullpen has blown a lead or tie which ended in a Giants loss. Then again, that is only 11 runs in games scored for the starters...or 1.8 runs... Think it's still the pens' fault for the losses? Try this number... 3...

3 is the number of times the Giants offense has put more than 3 runs on the board for their starters. 11 is the number of quality starts (6+ innings, 3 runs or less) Giants starters have in 19 starts. 3/11...3/19...No matter how you look at it, the Giants aren't scoring runs. To expect the bullpen to be perfect is to expect Barry Bonds to play left field's just not gonna happen. The Giants need to give them some wiggle room. Last night showed all the flaws.

Ishikawa getting doubled off third. Flannery holding back Ishikawa just before that. Randy Winn getting screwed at home. But all those pale in comparison to the 9 runners left on base. The 2 times the bases were loaded and the Giants failed to get a hit. The 6 runners left in scoring position with 2 outs.... This is the problem they've had all year. The are hitting better than last year, but they can't get the big hit. Until they can, this is shaping up to be a long year...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Jekyl & Hyde

Randy Johnson was lifted today after a poor 3 1/3 innings today where he gave up 10 base runners and 2 runs. Johnson threw 81 pitches to his 42 strikes and had 7 BB's to only 2 K's. Johnson's fastball was not at his peak, but was no where near the 84mph crap he was throwing a few starts ago in LA.

Thankfully the bullpen stepped up and pitched brilliantly, as well as the offense came through to recapture the lead. Edgar Renteria continued his hot hitting and Randy Winn found another good swing. The offense didn't do alot, but the hitting was timely and came through with runners in scoring position. In fact, Johnson was the only issue...

It's not the bad day he had, I can live with those. Hell, I have bad days ALLLLL the time. No,what troubles me is it came from our 45 year old fireballer, that has more of a smoking gun now. That and it's happened now twice. I know, he has only had 4 starts and it's to early to see patterns, probably to early to get worried, but that doesn't mean the hair on my next isn't standing up a little right now. I think there is some reason to fret...

If you look closely, Johnson had a very good game going against the brew crew before losing stamina at around pitch 75-80 in the 5th. He was throwing in the low 90's, up to 93mph.

Against the Dodgers, Johnson looked exhausted. Johnson was wild and got pounded (OK, give me your best joke now) More importantly, his velocity was down around 83-84mph, and his offspeed in the 70's. He didn't last long.

The next game was against his old team and he was pumped. He took a no-hitter into the 7th and was eventually pulled to keep fresh. His pitch count was still low, 73 total, but his fastball was topping out at 94-95mph.

And then there was tonight...

I'm not sure what the solution is yet, but the problem seems to be visible. Johnson is getting older and starting to really show his age. Including spring training, he has now thrown 35 innings. His arm should be showing more improvement than a consistant 65-70 pitch limit before fatigue. Also, his age and rest are probably a factor. Johnson doesn't appear to be recovering by his next start. Maybe he needs more rest, maybe he needs to pitch through this.

It would be nice to augment him with a 6th starter and work a crazy funk rotation to keep him fresh, but the Giants pickings are slim. With Joe Martinez out indefinately & Kevin Pucetas struggling,the Giants don't have a quality armquite ready. Bumgarner should realistically wait until fall before seeing action....Maybe Pedro....One things for sure, the Giants need tobaby his arm

Friday, April 24, 2009

A continuing theme...

For the 6th consecutive game, a Giants starter has been lights out!!! Tim Lincecum threw 8 strong innings tonight with only 1 BB and 5 hits to go along with his 12 K's... and his 1st Win...It was another typical Lincecum performance, although I find it hard to assume a typical performance from him would be expected to be like this for fear of jinxing him. Then again, my superstitions should have zero affect on Lincecum, never-the-less, I still have them. Fortunately, for Lincecum the Giants offense was working today.

Bengie Molina had a big day, hitting a solo homerun as well as a 2 run double. Edgar Renteria hit a solo homerun as well. Fred Lewis & Pablo Sandoval got 2 hits as well. Common theme is these hitters have been carrying what little offense the Giants have been producing over the first 2 weeks.

Another unfortunate common theme is Randy Winn & Manny Burriss both struggled again. Winn at least had a triple late, but has failed to produce in meaningful AB's all season and spring training. Burriss is just in an awful funk. His swing is off balance and he looks lost. He seems to be swinging like he has 2 strikes on every pitch and has only hit the ball hard once in his last 4 games. For Winn, a day off is in store. He needs to sit. He's a hitter and will find his way out, but give him a day off to think that far through...besides, Nate Schierholtz needs a start!!! Burriss on the other hand needs some confidence. It's to early to call for a change, but if this pace stays the same the Giants cannot afford to wait until 150 AB's to make a descision.

Then again, if Randy Johnson, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, & Jonathan Sanchez match Lincecum start for start like they have this week, Winn & Burriss can go hitless for the season and the Giants will still win the World Series...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Zito back on track (I'm serious)

5 in a row!!! 5 consecutive games in which Giants starters have been terrific...That is 5 starters have pitched a gem... 2 runs allowed over the 5 games... Any way you look at it, it always looks good... Yesterday included...

Barry Zito looked like his old self... 7 innings of shutout ball... only 6 scattered hits... 5 strikeouts... 0, that is Zero walks... most importantly, he pitched well.

Call it what you may... Pablo Sandoval was the catcher and they have chemistry, it's hard to argue with their record together... The unseasonably warm weather... A good night sleep for the day game... I think it may just be hard work...

Zito has taken abuse for his contract, me included at times, but his work ethic has never been an issue. He took a different approach his offseason by moving in with Brian Wilson to try and get in better shape...and I think it's paying dividends. Zito's fastball was consistantly around 87-88 yesterday and reached 90 mph at times... Something he just hasn't been able to reach since 2006... His curve ball was sharp, and his changeup more effective. His mental makeup has never been an issue, nor has his desire to win. I think we may be seeing the Barry Zito we've been waiting for...

Keep in mind this was only "one" start, but it's the fourth "one" start like this including spring. All pitchers take a little time to get up to speed( Zito longer than others as history might suggest), but one cannot argue that Barry is improving each time out. We should not expect to see this every time, just like we cannot expect Lincecum to throw 8 shutout, 13 K innings everytime, nor Matt Cain to go undefeated, but I think Barry is in for a great season...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Matt Cain's New Best Friend

Matt Cain must really be enjoying himself right now. He is pitching fabulously. He isn't walking batters. He looks like a smarter pitcher...and the Giants are scoring runs for him. Now lets just pray the bullpen can start t close things out for him.

After the first four seasons of his career, we've seen him lose brilliantly pitched ballgame after ballgame due to the ineptitude of the offense, and the inability of the bullpen to close out games. Given the average pitcher goes through this, but no one at Cains pace. Right about now, Cain must be praying for whatever he can get for help. He must be loving Edgar Renteria right now. After his 3-4, 2 R, 5 RBI (including a grandslam) performance, he must be Cain's best friend. Actually, the Giants are scoring runs for Matty. After the first three games, they are averaging 6.3/game. Much better than the last few years.

2009- Already this year, the Giants are 2-1 on days when Matt Cain pitches. They are also 2-1 on days when they score more than 3 runs for him. Given the one loss they didn't score runs 2, 3, & 4 until a homerun in the 8th, an inning after Cain left with a 1-2 deficit, still the bullpen managed to blow the 4-2 lead in the 8th and 9th, something all to familiar to all Cain fans. As for the other two games, 7 & 8 runs has been plenty, has been refreshing, and has been more than enough to give Cain a warm fuzzy feeling in his stomach to make him think maybe they do care. Kinda like that second (or third) Hot Tottie at Christmas time. Even still, it is early, yet maybe the Ghosts of Cains' past seasons are put to bed. Already, the Giants are at 23% oflast years total number of games they scored 4 runs or more when Cain pitches & 30% of 5 or more.

8-5, when scoring more than 3 runs for Cain. Out of those 13 starts, the Giants scored 5 or more runs only 7 times, with the team posting a 5-2 record. Of those two losses, Cain left one game in the 7th with a 5-2 lead, only to watch the team squander it and falter 7-8 in the 10th. The other wasn't such a good day for him but Cain still left after 7 with a 6-6 tie, only to watch the bullpen give up another 7 runs in 2 innings.

7-4, 3-1. Of the three 4 run losses, once Cain left with a 4-2 lead, only to see the Pen give up 4 in the 9th. Another time he was pulled after 6 with a 4-1 lead,only to see the boys give up 4 in the 7th, Once he just got flat knocked out by giving up 7 in the third.

15-6, 12-4. In Cain's first full season, the Giants had an offense...and they needed it at times with him. 13 times Cain . Of those 6 losses, once Cain left with a 6-4 lead so he could watch the Pen give up 10 runs in 3 innings. Another time he left after 6 with a 3-2 lead to see the Pen allow 4 more runs, and 4 times he got lit up like a Disneyland Parade.

2005- Matt Cain was called up late in the season and made 7 starts. Of those 7 starts, the Giants scored me than three runs 3 times, going 2-1 in those games. One of those games they scored 5 or more runs, winning it.

As we know, the Giants bullpen has excelled at blowing up following a Matt Cain lead. Actually, in Games where Cain has left in position for a Win, or the team has been tied, the bullpen has been worse than bad. It has been horrific. In 2005, out of 7 starts, the Pen blew only 1 lead. In 2006, the blown games grew to 4 out of 31 starts. In 2007, out of 32 starts, the staff lost 8 games for him. In 2008, it was another 7 games out of his 34 starts. This year, the pen has already lost 1 out of his 3 starts. In total, the bullpen has Failed to keep a Matt Cain lead 21 times out of his 107 starts, or 20% of the time. Friggin awful, but the offense has been no better.

As for the offense, it has been no better. In those same 107 games, the offense has scored Zero or One run while Cain is still pitching 39 times, or 37% of his starts. In 2005, it happened 3 times, in 2006 it was 6. In 2007 it happened 13 times and in 2008,it was a full 16 times, nearly half of all his starts. Already this season it has happened once.

Hopefully, things have finally changed for Matty.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First Week Notes and a Vacation

Been off the grid for a few days. Went to CO to visit family for Easter and stopped by Coor's stadium to see the Phillies pound the Rockies on Saturday night. Also saw the Giants play last week, game 2 vs. the Brew Crew before we hopped a plane to Denver. A few quick thoughts before we move on.

First, the Giants looked good in person. A lot of hustle. Everyone on the top rail in the dugout. They looked to have confidence and swagger. The hit...not great, but they looked decent. A one game sampling just isn't close to enough to tell though. Randy Johnson pitched and looked great. His fastball was topping out around 92 mph, so he's definitely not the same ol' Randy. Hopefully he isn't fully ready yet and still has a few mph left in the tank since the word on him coming into the season was he could still it 94. With the exception of one pitch to Yovanni Gillardo, Johnson was rolling. Then again, the game is made of a whole lot of "one" pitches and Johnson should have never put the ball in a position that a pitcher could hit a 3 run HR off him.

Second, watching the Brewers struggle to hit the Giants staff made me think our pitching might be just good enough to pull us through this season in contention. The bullpen is much better than last year but the jury is still out. I want to see them come in while we are in the lead in a close game a few more times. The Brewers have a very good lineup and it was nice to see them off balance so often.

Third, the Rockies don't look as good as I expected, but they can still hit. Then again, I was at Coor's field. They are definitley going to score some runs this year, but their pitching looked horrendous. De La Rosa threw and looked nothing like the kid who came on strong late last year. Again, it is early...I mean,if Lincecum is struggling then I guess everyone else is allowed a free pass for a while.

Finally, the Phillies....The Phillies... They looked every bit like the world champs. They hit the crap out of the ball. Brett Meyers looked like any good pitcher should while throwing in Denver... Vulnerable yet extremely productive. He limited the Rockies to hits,yet 3 were HR's that just kept carrying. As I watched the 15 hit parade the Phillies put on, I began to,more like question the Giants own lineup. It is nowhere near the Phillies. It still has potential, but that was a world series lineup. Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Werth, Ibanez, Feliz...and that was with their backup catcher. I tried not to compare to the Giants,but who couldn't?

The Giants have exactly 1 hitter I think the Phillies would trade straight up, position for position. Bengie Molina, and Bengie would probably bat 8th in that lineup...4th in ours. Now, that is not to say, the Giants are not better at other positions, I just think the Phillies may not view it that way. Personally, I would keep Fred Lewis over Raul Ibanez anyday. As for the rest, well, the ones I want, (Ishikawa, Sandoval, Burriss) they are still so new to the big leagues and unproven, you just can't really compare yet. Although, it would take a long, very longtime for Ishikawa or Burriss to reach even a sniff of a breath of being mentioned in the same paragraph as Ryan Howard or Chase Utley...wait, they are in the same one here. Ok, I promise this will be the last time until the day the may actually warrant it. As for Sandoval, if he hits like he should, I don't think their is a Giants fan alive that would rather have Pedro Feliz back instead of him.Then again, Feliz did have some faithful followers. Honorable mention goes to Randy Winn over Jason Werth. Werth really came on strong last year after getting comfortable in the starters role. He has more pop than Winn and is younger, but Winn knows RF at AT&T and is such a consistent hitter. Reality, I'd stick with Winn, Fantasy, give me Werth.

As for the rest of the season, being in Colorado, I was only able to see opening day, the game I went to, and last nights miserable loss to the damn Dodgers. It doesn't appear I missed much in the way of positive things over a 2-5 start. The hitting has been awful, at least that is what it sounded like between catching a few innings on my IPhone and watching Internet updates. The Pitching has been worse, and only because it is supposed to be so good.

One of the early bright spots, Joe Martinez, was crushed by that line drive...Hopefully he is recovering well...And I hope that isn't an omen for the season. As for Martinez, lets just hope he recovers back to full strength and his normal self. He's lucky he cracked his skull because the swelling from his brain could have killed him had it not cracked. He may get back on the mound someday...probably will try...but let's just take it one day at a time. He may never have the same confidence he once had and therefor may not ever be a decent pitcher again. First though, the recovery.

Also, the Giants made one minor Major League FA signing...or was that one major Minor League FA signing? Either way, the Giants made a great move in my estimation,by bringing Dallas McPherson into the organization on a minor league deal. McPherson, a third baseman, as already covered here, has always been considered a top prospect, but never lived up to expectations. He has power that is currently unmatched in the Giants organization, yet doesn't hit consistent enough nor play good enough on defense to have ever broken past that "AAAA" label. The minor league deal allows the Giants to stash him away in Fresno while they see how the Ishikawa/Sandoval tandem works itself out. He can compete with Jesus Guzman for time there and try to learn the skills of another position, like 1B or RF. Realistically, the Giants will give the current corner IF's 100-150 AB's to see if they can get on track, then look to make a move if needed. Look for both McPherson & Guzman to be called upon in June if either Ishikawa or Sandoval falter, or the more likely scenario of an injury to Aurilia or Uribe.One other possibility is a deal. The Giants might just have enough going right for them this year to pull off a major deal.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Final Roster Set...For Now...

The Giants released the official 25 man roster they will open the season with today. A surprise last minute change appears to have happened which should make the bullpen significantly better. They went with a 12 man pitching staff, 5 bench players, and no dedicated backup catcher...Sandoval shall do for now. Our 2009 San Francisco Giants looks like this:

-Tim Lincecum
-Randy Johnson
-Matt Cain
-Barry Zito
-Jonathan Sanchez

-Brian Wilson
-Jeremy Affeldt
-Bobby Howry
-Merkin Valdez
-Alex Hinshaw
-Brandon Medders
-Joe Martinez

-Randy Winn
-Edgar Renteria
-Fred Lewis
-Bengie Molina
-Pablo Sandoval
-Travis Ishikawa
-Aaron Rowand
-Manny Burriss

-Andres Torres
-Nate Schierholtz
-Eugenio Velez
-Richie Aurilia
-Juan (gulp) Uribe

Overall, I like the team. As I've stated before, I'm not too fond of Juan Uribe. Otherwise, with the injuries to Noah Lowry & Sergio Romo, this is a pretty good lineup. I don't fall in line with the thought process that it's good the Giants are keeping their options open, but the fact they let Perdomo go means they are willing to make some tough decisions this year. Not that allowing a rule 5 pick to go is tough, but they certainly limited their options by cutting him loose.

The camp I do fall into is that this roster is most definitely not the roster we will see come May 1st. Sabean will keep working the phone lines. Hinshaw could get wild. Bengie may need more time off. Guzman & Frandsen may play themselves up. Romo may get healthy. Martinez may fizzle. Uribe may strike out...a lot. Valdez may still be hurt. Velez may be, well, Velez.

As for now, I think it's timeto just see how they play it out...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dallas Mcpherson anyone?

Dallas McPherson was cut by the Marlins the other day and is now being linked to the Giants through rumors.

My first thought was GREAT!!! Maybe we can pick up a power hitting corner IF off the scrap heap for cheap...Then I remembered, we already have, actually three...Maybe I shouldn't jump the gun on him.

There is a reason a talent like Mcpherson has been let go by two teams now in two years. There is also a reason he hasn't made that final leap above being a great AAAA player. He sure can hit the long ball. In 2004, he hit a combined 43 HR, between the minors and majors. In 2005, he hit only 16, but was buried on the Angels bench, and out with hip surgery. In 2006, he hit 24even though he rode the pine quite a bit once again on the big club. He was hurt all of 2007 because he had back surgery. In 2008, after signing on with the Marlins, he hit 42 HR in their minors. This spring, he seemed to be struggling mightly. He has always been able to hit for average, with his worst minor league batting season coming in 2008 while batting .275, other than that,he has been a .300+hitter.

His problem has been defense. Just looking at his statistics on, his third base defense looks atrocious. His career Fielding % of .917 and his Range/game of 2.37 are far below average...very far. Last season he was quite a bit better, but still below average. He took up 1B a few seasons ago and has done well, but not spectacular.

Bringing him on to the team now would force the Giants into a tough spot. Sandoval needs to play until he proves otherwise. That would mean Ishikawa would be out. Would the offense McPherson brings be enough to offset his defense? Or a better question should be would the total package McPherson brings be enough to offset what Ishikawa brings? I don't think so.

Coming into this spring, Ishikawa had the job based on his defensive history. He has continued that play sofar. It's his offense that has been surprising, at least to me. He has hit for power, hit for average, and spread the ball around. In my view, he has earned the job until he proves otherwise as well, barring the Giants bringing in a proven veteran who is remarkably better.

I would love to see the Giants sign Mcpherson and stash him away in Fresno, along with Jesus Guzman. Let the season play out with what they have and if an opportunity presents itself, give them both a chance.

Personally, I find it hard to believe the Yankees don'tbring him in until A-Rod is back, or the talent starved Padres to give him an opportunity.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Giants Beat The Dodgers

I just love the sound of those 4 words together. With a final score of 10-8, the Giants beat the Dodgers today for the second time this spring.

Much has been made about the spot start outing Madison Bumgarner made, specifically in striking out Manny Ramirez. More so than this outing though, is what he has shown this spring as a whole...The maturity of a major leaguer. Don't get me wrong, he still has a lot to learn, but it's sure fun to think we might actually have another Tim Lincecum in the minors. Bumgarner has been nothing short of flawless. 8 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits, 2 BB, 10 K...not bad at all...Looking forward to seeing him this septmeber...