Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Can I get a Productive K anyone?

Trying something new today. Watching the game and putting my thoughts down as they come. Bear with me:

Randy Johnson just struck out the first batter and reminded me how much I love listening to Mike Krukow. He always finds the fat guy eating or the little kid sleeping. Then there is the occasional umpire dig. After this strike out we got a great rendition. "Do your thing Bill! HEEAAYYYY!!!!!" If nothing else this year, at least the broadcast booth is entertaining... Then again, if we're counting on our broadcasters for enjoyment, the Giants must suck...

First inning down. Randy Johnson's slider is fantastic tonight. only 8 more of those innings and the Giants can hope for a 0-0 tie...that counts for a win this year right? well, maybe the offense can go on another 5 hit onslaught like this game & we won't have to worry.

Nice single by Edgar Renteria! I knew he was a great signing this offseason.

And that is why you cannot have your cleanup hitter as a guy who runs a 9.6 40 meter dash. Also why you cannot count on the big bad single to score your runs. Might just have been the easiest double play the Braves have ever turned.

Kenshin Kawakami has wicked good movement on his fastball tonight (plus I really like saying his name). Against teams that don't wear Orange & Black, he supposedly throws straight. Thankfully he can't find the strike zone, otherwise the Giants would be in trouble. Kawakami is the p....

HOLY SHIT!!!!!! I got way to much enjoyment out of that Ishikawa foul ball into McCovey cove...

...annnnd....back to reality. Ishikawa had a productive K right there. Fred Lewis stole second on the swing. I mean, it must be right? When Emmanuel Burriss grounds out and a runner gets to second, don't we call that a productive out?

Holy Crap. I think Ricky Vaughn is on the mound. That ball sailed "just a bit outside" OK, OK. Inside and 5 feet high.

Juan Uribe just singled in Fred Lewis. Alright, so maybe we can win on singles.

WHOAAA, whadua know. Aaron Rowand doubles to lead off an inning. Things are looking up. Don't waste a precious extra base hit.

AND THAT IS HOW IT'S DONE!!!! STEAL HOME, THAT IS THE WAY TO SCORE. Great job Aaron Rowand. When you can't count on the offense, you must get creative.

Arrgh. What might be more frustrating than the final scores we've seen this year? How about the number of times the Giants have had runners in scoring position & less than two outs, AND NOT SCORED!!!

Emmanuel Burriss is looking more & more like he'll be a phenomenal defensive second baseman in the years to come. I really think the Giants need to stick with him. His offense will come around, as will his power. Not suggesting he'll ever have numbers like this, but he may end up being a 10 homer/30 double/10 triple/50 stolen base guy some day...remember, he was here until last season.

Did I say Bengie Molina is incredibly slow? I can't believe he made it to second on that play in the 5th.

Nevermind, he made up for it at the plate, thanks Frenchy...

Speaking of him, Jeff Francour is on the trading block. Anyone else want to see a Randy Winn for Jeff Francour & a prospect deal? He could platoon in right with Nate Schierholtz... One hell of a cannon he has...then again, i think I could still throw out Bengie...

SEE, RIGHT THERE... That was a productive out. Richie Aurilia grounds out & Manny gets to third. Can't we give Ishi some credit for his productive K? I mean, the stolen base cannot be allllll Fred Lewis right? Give the guy some frickin slack

Then again, I'll take that double anyday... Thanks Manny, except somebody needs to tell him, SABEAN LIKES SINGLES!!!

I have an idea for Giants management... How about a foot race between Molina & Randy Johnson? I'd pay money to see that...

Hey, another Rowand double scores a run. Be careful, this could trigger a fad... what would we do without our singles.

Speaking of singles, nice RBI Nate!!!

Good day by Johnson by the way, hopefully the bullpen can hold this 4-1 lead. 79 pitches, that is about his limit these days. I'm glad to know Bochy appears to be cognisant of this.

Damn bullpen, 4-3 now. Is #299 ever gonna happen? Not that they can help the error, so they don't get all the blame this inning. Can the Giants actually score more than 4?

Thanks Manny, just when I give you praise on defense, you make an error.

Ishikawa & Uribe, keep them singles coming.

WAY TO MAKE UP FOR IT EMMANUEL!!! Burriss knocks in a run on a single with his third hit tonight.

Nice to see Andres Torres back in the game. He was sure a nice story early on...Looky there, single in his first AB back, & an RBI.

Damn Renteria, flies out to end the 7th. I always knew he was a bad signing!!!

Wow, look at the score, 6 runs through 7. Nicely done so far. Maybe next season the Giants can schedule the Braves 156 more times...

Never thought I'd see the day when Chipper Jones struck out 4 times in a game...First time in his career...

Merkin Valdez in the 8th, 17 pitches... 96, 94, 88, 97, 98, 97, 98, 97, 97, 98, 99, 98, 99, 88, 99, 88, & 99... WOW!!! If this guy ever can stay healthy...

GIANTS WIN! GIANTS WIN! GIANTS WIN! Typical 1-2-3-4 Brian Wilson Save...With the throw in double just to let them think they have a chance. I love it when he gives us the nail biter, just love it...

Good to see Randy get #299...How long until Randy gets #300 now?

Great Sweep. I always love beating the Braves. They aren't the Dodgers, but I rank them right up there with the Angels...

Guzman sent down, Torres back up

Lost in the scuttle last night over the offensive explosion by the Giants that culminated in scoring an incomprehensible 4 runs, is the latest roster move.

Andres Torres has finally returned from his extended rehab assignment & trip on the DL. To make room for him, the Giants optioned the fans proclaimed offensive savior, Jesus Guzman. He's obviously not needed now, after Travis Ishikawa proved Brian Sabean right with his 4-4 effort and a homerun 2 days ago, then the offense exploding last night with 5 hits and 4 runs.

Actually, Guzman needs to be in Fresno right now. He needs to be playing everyday. Until the Giants decide to make changes, Guzman does them NO good on the bench.

Torres should provide a spark on the basepaths and lets hope he continues the flashes of firepower he showed us in spring training.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Trade Winds a Blowin'

Do you think anything is brewing? According to those in the know, something is...

Without beating the dead horse and stating the obvious too much, the Giants offense is floundering early in this 2009 season, with nary a promise for a reversal of fortune. Things are bad. Things could get worse soon if Brain Sabean begins to think he may be a lame duck GM and goes for broke with his job.

In the last 48 hours, the Giants have gone through multiple roster moves and have been linked to many players via trades...Some of them good, some of them scary. The roster moves tell me a last ditch effort is underway to try and put pressure on certain hitters to begin producing, as well as the timing is related to returning players.

Roster Moves-
-Noah Lowry & Joe Martinez placed on 60 day DL, clears open 2 temporary 40 man roster spots.
-Eli Whiteside & Jesus Guzman placed on 40 man roster & promoted to Big club.
-Pat Misch, Steve Holm, & Eugenio Velez demoted to AAA Fresno.
-Kevin Frandsen promoted to Big Club
-Edgar Renteria returned from DL
-Juan Uribe returned from Bereavement leave
Expected Roster Move-
-Sergio Romo should come off the DL within a week or so, expect it tobe timed with a potential trade, possibly Merkin Valdez for Nick Johnson (or some form thereof)

Players linked to the Giants via trade this week-
-Mark DeRosa, Indians
-Nick Johnson, Nationals
-Dan Uggla, Marlins
-Matt Holiday, Athletics (late tonight, Henry Schulman shot this down)

Other Players I envision are a legitamite target-
-Chris Davis, Rangers
-Nelson Cruz, Rangers
-Hank Blaylock, Rangers
-Adrian Beltre, Mariners
-Russell Braynon, Mariners
-Jorge Cantu, Marlins
-Aubrey Huff, Orioles
-Felipe Lopez, D'Backs
-Paul Konerko, White Sox
-Magglio Ordonez, White Sox
-Brandon Inge, Tigers
-Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

Now some of these names aren't going to come cheaply, but could be had. The question is, what are you willing to give up?

Matt Cain has been dangled today by Brain Sabean, supposedly to see his value.

This one, I pray is false

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nick Johnson, the deal to make...NOW!!!!

So when are the Giants going to discuss the Elephant in the Room? It's becoming obvious on two fronts, that this team is pitching well enough to make a run for the post season, yet the hitting from the current roster (or within the organization) is not enough to make that run. This puts the Giants in an interesting dilemma. To make a trade or to not make a trade?

Let me start of by acknowledging it is too early in a typical season to make a deal. Teams still are a month out from externally admitting they might need to be buyers or sellers so the cost of a player is remarkably higher today.

Let me also start by saying, that in NO WAY am I advocating abandoning the youth movement in favor of a win at all costs this season mentality. The Giants are leaps and bounds behind the Dodgers, even without Manny, on the offensive side...and the Dodgers entire staff is pitching better than the Giants... Don't believe me? Check this out by Raising Matt Cain. But he Giants can make a significant external improvement without mortgaging the farm.

The Giants are in position to compete for years with guys like Bumgarner, Alderson, Posey, Noonan, Villalona, or Gillespie. But they can improve without including the likes of them in any deal, the offense has been that bad.

Like many of you, I've been thinking about what to do for a long time. The best scenario, and what I think a significant improvement would be, is Nick Johnson. I know, it's not an original name, courtesy of Andrew Baggerly here. But never-the-less, the correct player to be going after. Before I say Why? specifically him,or better yet a first baseman... I want to cover why not another position quickly.

Right Field- Randy Winn, he's in a contract year & yet to hit consistently for a long period of time, yet he will improve. He knows that corner he best. Has little trade value right now and is in a saturated market for his position. If the Giants decide to move him, it won't be until the July deadline if at all.

Center Field- Aaron Rowand, at $12 million per for another 3+seasons, along with his perma-slumping (thank you Hank Schulman for the phrase and Andrew Baggerly for passing it along), are virtually untradeable. Think Barry Zito the last two seasons (Although his on-field performance has improved,his tradeability has not).

Left Field- Fred Lewis, Fred could actually be traded and bring back a decent return, but why do it? His current on field production makes him a sell low candidate, so why make that deal? Besides, he still is one of the better hitters, is just entering his prime, and is cheap. I covered him in the first Why? series here.

Third Base- Pablo Sandoval, do I need to say more. His first error last night (which wasn't an error at all). You should be forgetting names like Beltre, Adkins, Crede, Encarcion right now.

Short Stop- Edgar Renteria, forget about a replacement for this season. His contract is restrictive enough. Still, his offensive production IS an improvement over last seasons. I'm not trying to justify the signing, because I'm still not happy with it,but he's here irregardless. The Giants have the option for next season, so wait till October on him.

Second Base- Emmanuel Burriss, I think the Giants have found the 2B of the future, you may not agree. Young, Cheap, strong defense only getting better. (think Gold Glove 2011 & beyond). He's showed flashes of what he can do offensively and will only get stronger, so those extra base hits will come. (he's only 24)

Catcher- Bengie Molina, what can I say. He's kinda like Barry Bonds right now, except he's nice...he doesn't draw walks...he doesn't scare pitchers...he could never run...and he only hits about 1/3 the Home Runs. OK, so he's not really like Bonds except that he's really the only offense. If Bengie goes this year, forget about the team winning, they will be in serious Sell all mode.

So that leaves First Base as the only real viable place to improve. Travis Ishikawa plays nice defense, sometimes very nice, but the combined offense between him & Richie Aurilia is sad.

32/147, 5 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 12 R, 22 RBI, 10 BB, 39 K, 0 SB, .218 BA, .281 OBP, .265 SLG, .546 OPS.

For a historically very productive position, that is sad. So how to improve?

Looking at realistic trade candidates, taking into consideration if/when their teams might decide on sell mode, and comparing what it might take to get that player (not to mention the sooner the Giants can get help, the better their chances in '09 are. Come July 31st, at the current rate, they may just be too far back), as well as what other teams are vying for similar players, I come to the conclusion of Nick Johnson over & over.

First, other teams maybe in need of 1B help now: The Mets lost Carlos Delgado for 3 months. The Red Sox are getting little production there/DH.

Second, other players who may be made available:
-Aubrey Huff, (33) Orioles. Currently buried at the bottom of the tough AL east, surely to become sellers.
-Russell Braynon, (34) Mariners. Losing but in a fairly weak AL west, may not decide to sell until July.
-Jorge Cantu, (27) Marlins. Always a late season strong team, competitive in the NL east even with a losing record.
-Garrett Atkins, (29) Rockies. Not looking like a competitive team, but in the NL west, you're in the race for a long time regardless. May not want to trade inter division.
-Victor Martinez, (31) Indians. Buried at the bottom of the AL central, they won't decide to deal (especially Martinez) until near the deadline.
-Adam LaRoache, (30) Pirates. Never ending NL central bottom-dweller, still there. Will certainly become a seller.

Of those named, all but Cantu & Atkins are free agents after this season. LaRoache looks like a more advanced John Bowker, he's going to bat around .250 and hit 25 homeruns, but for more money. Braynon is off to a hot start, I can't knock him...but he is playing much better than history suggests. Plus his defense isn't that good. Huff would be an improvement, but is he worth the prospects.

Cantu has been talked about all winter, but he's on fire right now. A trade for him would be a buy extremely high deal. The Marlins already wanted Jonathan Sanchez this winter, and with his early season sell low status, the Marlins would certainly require him and another prospect. Not a smart move right now.

Atkins, like I said, would be an inter division trade, so the Rockies would require a very steep price from the Giants. Think Sanchez +Sosa/Pucetas & Downs. With the Rockies in need of pitching, they might hold the Giants to a super prospect as well, just because they can. Possibly Noonan/Gillespie. Just a thought. I wouldn't make this deal any time. Atkins isn't necessarily going to succeed in S.F., has stuggled this year in a Matt Holiday-less lineup, and would require a position change.

Martinez, while he may just be the best of all of them, is going to fetch the Indians a super-prospect. They are looking for another Matt Laporta if they deal Martinez...and they want a pitcher. So unless you are willing to deal Alderson or Bumgarner for a half season to 3/4 of a season of him, forget about it. I'd bet a deal would have to look something like this... Alderson, Bowker/Ishikawa/Guzman, & Sosa... Then the Giants have to sign him to a long term deal.

This brings me all the way around to Nick Johnson. The current National/former Yankee is a F.A. after this season. He is currently owed only approx $4.2 million this year. He looks healthy, although has been plagued by injuries over his career. He's a local guy, growing up in Sacramento, playing at McClatchy H.S.. The Nationals have Dimitri Young (fairly untradeable) & Adam Dunn making significant money capable of playing 1B. They own the worst record in baseball. They need pitching...

Johnson doesn't have exceptional power, but IS a 20+ homerun guy IF he stays healthy and can get 500 AB's. But it's not his power that the Giants need. It's his on base skills. Johnson WILL get 100+ BB's, and he'll hit near .300. He's a 35-40 double guy, and will knock in 85-90 Runs. But even better, his defense is really good. Johnson is as good a defender as Ishikawa is.

Better yet, Johnson will not require nearly the package to land him, plus there is a real opportunity to lock him up for the future if they want to. Johnson is only 29, and if finally healthy, could be the Giants first baseman for a number of years. Think JT Snow, think Will Clark. A good hitter, who gets on base a lot, who plays good defense, and sets up his teammates, as well as a clubhouse leader...and he should be cheap next year as well considering his career misfortunes.

I think, given the Nationals farm system and pitching staff, I think the Giants have a number of combinations to get him. Henry Sosa & Travis Ishikawa, or Kevin Pucetas & John Bowker/Matt Downs. Maybe less.

I think it's a deal worth making now!!! Without mortgaging the future. Keeping with the youth movement, and allowing for a potential run at the division.

Make the Deal!!!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Noah Lowry, MisDiagnosed or accidently MisHandled?

As you've probably heard by now, Noah Lowry had surgery today. Surgery to remove a rib, now allowing his body to "facilitate circulation". Henry Schulman reported earlier that Lowry has been diagnosed twice in the last 5 days differently than he had been previously.

Lowry's agent, Damon Lapa, came out later and stated the Giants had misdiagnosed Noah all along and eventually performed an unnecessary surgery last year, followed by an incorrect rehab program. Then he basically accused the Giants of neglect, without saying that specific.

The Giants came back later and aggressively shot down any notion of wrong doing, citing their inability to comment cue to patient confidentiality.

So the Ground work has been laid.

Lowry, for what it's worth, is in the final year of his deal. The Giants hold a team option for $6.25 million for next year. The surgery is a 3 month recovery, putting him into late August/early September before he can begin throwing.

His season his done.

So what happens now?

The way I see it, Lowry's agent is laying the ground work for a case against the Giants. A suit is possible. 2 years of lost time is significant if a jury/judge finds negligence. But that is a long way off.

More likely, Noah is mad & excited at the same time. Happy to finally find a cure and know he'll pitch again, upset that he could have been back on the field last season had the Giants found the cause in Sept. '07.

I'd say he is probably ready for a fresh start, and given the depth of starting pitching the Giants have throughout, he may not want to have to "prove" himself here. Yes, I think the ground work is being laid alright.

At 6.25 million, a healthy Lowry is a good deal. I think the Giants wanted to pick up his option but can't justify it now. That doesn't make him a free agent yet though, as he doesn't yet have the service time to be one. The Giants can non-tender him, take him to arbitration, and pay him less, about 20% probably since he hasn't pitched.

Lowry's agent knows this. This is their ticket to more security. If Noah comes back at $4.5 million, fighting for a rotation spot behind Lincecum, Zito, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Alderson, Martinez, Pucetas, etc., he's potentially going to end up in F.A. 2010 with very little to show for the previous 3 seasons. If they make enough noise though...

They can force a trade. If the Giants are fed up with the agents antics and Lowry is upset, potentially suing him, they might be able to force a trade giving him a place for a fresh start. A shot at a rotation. Lowry is still only 28 and twice led the Giants in wins. He's going to get healthy again. He's going to be a solid #3 in the league somewhere.

It's too bad it won't be least that is how I see it.

I'd love to see the two sides work this out and bring him back for next season. I just don't think they will. Stay tuned, this could get ugly...

Why we'll see Jesus Guzman in a Giants uniform this week

2 words...

Brian Bocock

you want 2 more?

Designated Hitter

Fine, 2 more...

Offensive Boost

What more do you want?

Don't answer that... I know what you want, be patient. All we may get this road trip is Jesus Guzman (or if they decide Bocock is still just to good to leave unprotected out of A ball, then John Bowker gets the call, either way by game time tomorrow one is up.) Come next home stand, more changes will be in store.

A New Friend to the Fans- Tubesox Nation

I came in contact with a new Giants Blog out there I think you might enjoy. It's kinda like a media watch dog group, except it's focus is toward the Giants ownership and the penny pinching weenies trying to milk us for every cent possible.

I have to say, Tubesox Nation is not only a very entertaining read, but extremely informative. John is taking a stance against the marketing dept and the management. If you're looking for informative stuff, take a few minutes here. You'll enjoy it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Important Road trip looming

Whewww!!! Now that that homestand is over and the Giants are still standing proudly 1 game above .500. They can hang their heads high after pulling out the final game against the Mets 2-0,but we all know the Series win could have and should have gone the other way, 3-1 to the Giants. Then again, coulda/woulda/shoulda the past all we want, but the past is the past. Or as Sawyers uncle in "Lost" said, "What's Done is Done!" Best we can do now is fix what went wrong for the future. Speaking of the Future...

A 6 game road trip against San Diego (16-22) & Seattle (18-20) is looking pretty tasty right now...Or maybe, pretty miserable....

On one hand, limping into these two cities after posting a 3-4 homestand that could have easily been 5-2, on paper the Giants couldn't find a better recipe for success.

San Diego is a very beatable team that relies on 1 Ace (Peavy) and 1 Slugger (A. Gonzales), and have had surprising success from Scott Harrison...but that is all. The Giants aren't even facing Peavy this go around (for a head-head matchup comparison, click here). Better yet, the Giants get to face Kevin Correia so maybe he'll give back a little of what he owes us. The Giants hitting is coming around some (key word, some) and so is their plate discipline. In their first 30 games, the Giants had a total of 77 BB's (2.56/game), 222 K's (7.4/G), & 109 Runs (3.63/G). On the 7 game Homestand, they scored 41 runs (5.85/G) while drawing 21 BB's (3/G) & only 42 K's (6/G). While it is still not the offense we all are craving for, it's enough to win behind once the starting pitching gets back to form.

Seattle is similar to San Diego, except San Diego is playing way above expectations. The Mariners have a very good 1-2-3 front line with Hernandez, Bedard, & Washburn. A healthy Bedard is scary, as he could be the #1 on 23 teams out there by next season. Fortunately,the Giants will miss Bedard this time, but it looks like they will get one of Hernandez/Washburn, and possibly both, going against Cain/Zito. The Mariners are living behind Ichiro...and Russell Branyon??? as they are the only consistent (and good) hitters for them this season. Adrian Beltre, Ken Griffey, Jr, Jose Lopez, & Kenji Johjima are hitting well below standards and the pen had looked, well, very Giantish so far. So if ever there was a quick road trip the Giants could capitalize on, this is it...Or is it?

As my mother always told me, I have a selective memory. This must be the reason I don't remember the 3 game sweep the Padres laid on the Giants back in early April down in S.D. (Nor would I ever recall the same thing in L.A.). So this must be a typo, a misprint I see here on April 10-12, because there is no way my Giants got swept in S.D.... But then again, it must have. If it happened once, could it possibly happen again. Sometimes teams have anothers number, especially in their home park. I hope this isn't one of those years.

And Seattle... And Seattle... Like I said before, they could have 2 of their best going for them and like we love to see first hand, you don't always need to score runs to win. Just take a look at the 5 games the Giants have already won 2-0 or 1-0 this season. Also going against the Giants is history, specifically interleague play. The Giants are .500 in interleague play over 12 seasons. The Mariners, .547. In total head-to-head, the Giants are 9-10 against the Mariners, but only 4-7 in Seattle.

Hopefully an energized Randy Johnson will come out and pitch against his old team like he did against the DBacks.

One thing is for certain, with 16 of the next 22 games on the road,the Giants desperately need to take advantage of 6 very winnable games.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A little magic

Long live Pablo Sandoval!!! Bobby Howry needs a non save situation...again...

What a great finish. 3 run HR with 2 on, 2 out,2 strikes. Little Panda 3 run HR.

Time to go for a sweep tomorrow

Monday night at AT&T notes

Quick Notes from last nights game. My phone was down, so i couldn't upload directly from the park.

Randy Johnson looked good. Right now, he's on the every other start routine, meaning this saturday might not go so well. As for last night, with the exception of 2...actually mistake pitches that were launched for solo homeruns, he looked sharp. He didn't fall apart until after spending an excess amount of time walking around the bases. I see him being a 5-6 inning starter all year so bullpen beware.

Emmanuel Burriss is the real deal. He batted leadoff for the first time and didn't get a hit,but did draw an important walk. No, I'm not talking about his hitting. Burriss defense is spectacular. He plays second base like veteran. He has a cannon for an arm and one of the quickest releases i've ever seen. His double play turn is improving quickly and he has plus range. I always wanted to see him as the everyday SS, but if he keeps this up,he's not going anywhere. Stay tuned because his hitting is coming. I think Kevin Frandsen needs to find another position in a hurry.

Randy Winn looks like he is heating up.His stroke looks good and his confidence is up. He's a very consistent hitter so this may be the end of possibly his only real slump this year.

Fred Lewis needs a day off. Maybe 3... Expect to see Schierholtz in the next game.

Travis Ishikawa had an outstanding game.I'm not sure whats better, seeing him come out of his slump,or that over the railing catch down the line.

And last but not least, the Giants won that game based on capitalizing Nationals mistakes. They took walks,HBP, WP's,and Errors...It's amazing how far solid defense & pitching really will get you

A pitching change with 40 man roster implications

Quick news to pass along. Osiris Matos was sent back to AAA Fresno today and Pat Misch was recalled to take his place. I have to assume Matos was shipped out partly due to his performance as in his 5 games, he had an ERA of 9.00 & WHIP of 2.00. Another reason has to be the recent heavy use on the Pen combined with the extended stretch between off days.

Pat Misch wasn't exactly pitching lights out in Fresno, but was coming out of the pen. He has some starting experience so he should give the bullpen more flexibility come long relief.

I tend to believe this may be Misch's last chance with the Giants. He's been up multiple times over the last 3 seasons with very little success at the MLB level. He also seems to have regressed at AAA recently. The Giants no he can pitch, but will he? It seems tome that it's do or die in the organization for him right now. If he does well over the next week or two, he might survive the return of the pitchers on the DL. Or...

The Giants are a team in need of a plce on the 40 man roster soon. If the Giants decise they need offensive help from within, 2 of the most likely candidates, Jesus Guzman & Dallas McPherson, are not currently on the roster. By my calculations, the two most likely to be bumped are Misch & Brian Bocock (currently in A San Jose, a long way from opening day 2008 in the bay).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games

This just in... A big name power hitter has been suspended for violating the MLB Drug policy, and there are major implications possibly effecting the Giants season...and it's not Barry Bonds...Who you ask?

Manny Ramirez is who.

(Damn, that felt good to say.)

The Dodgers just lost there savior today. Manny-wood is on hold. Dodgers fans are trembling in their flip flops...

(That all feels even better.)

I have to admit, when I first heard the news, I got so excited I think I peed a little. After a few hours of toasting to the Dodgers Misery, I came down to earth. What does this really mean to the Giants? I mean, anything to make the Dodgers suffer makes me happy, yet we're talking a winnable division here and to make matters worse, the Dodgers are leading the way. So what might this actually effect?

For starters, I am so glad the Giants didn't sign this guy. Back when the Jan 1st news first broke of the Giants reported interest in Manny, I was leaning toward trying to bring him in at many unreasonable conditions... Am I glad they didn't find a way to sign him cheaply, then again word was they were looking for a clause to protect them in this exact case so Manny to the Giants probably never had any real legs.

As for the next 50 games and beyond, the Giants have an obvious opportunity to make significant progress on the Dodgers. I saw on ESPN earlier that the Dodgers were expected to win three less games over the next 50... from the current standings, that brings the Giants to3 games back. It could be much worse than that though...Could being the premium word.

The Dodgers aren't going to keepup their undefeated home record, especially now. Their offense is built around a lost slugger, even though they have plenty of firepower left. The keys for them are going to be how the younger players adapt to the Manny-less offense, such as Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, & James Loney. If they struggle with the added pressure, the Dodgers suffering escalates. My guess, they don't. Still, things can get worse.

The Giants have the next three games to control their own destiny and that is all, unfortunately. Barry Zito vs. Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Sanchez vs. Eric Stults, & Tim Lincecum vs. Jeff Weaver. I think we can assume the Lincecum game is a win (I think I'm going to assume every Lincecum start this year is a win and anything less is total disappointment). Sanchez has been very rusty the last two starts since being skipped so he should be due for a good game...yet the Giants tore Stults a new asshole April 29th so there is significant hope there. I think it all comes down to the Zito game. If he steps up and pitches like his last 3 outings, the Giants have a great chance for a sweep. Unfortunately, Billingsley has had everyone's number this year including the Giants twice, April 13th & 28th.

Even is the Giants don't sweep, the Dodgers schedule isn't exactly looking up between now and July 3rd. Of the Dodgers first 29 games, they are 21-8. Their opponents have been mostly the NL West and the combined records are 68-97, or a .412 winning %. The Next 50 are a lot tougher as they their opponents records are 182-198, or a .479 winning %. of those games, they have road series in Philly, Texas, Florida, Chicago White Sox & Cubs, and LA Angels. All good teams, all at, above, or should be above .500 teams when the series rolls around. Losses probably would have begun to pile with Manny, and now...

Looking closer at the pitching matchups, I can see about a 25-25 record, give or take a game or two, with 22-28 a stretch but possible. if the Giants continue to play ball like they are, come Manny's return, they should be in a dead heat with the Dodgers...

...And that is all we can ask for...Competing within the division heading into July, a month before the trading deadline...and doing it without much offense. Anything is possible; If they they are in this position, Brian Sabean will have an interesting decision to make mid July.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Changes are a comin'

Lookout, things aren't going to stay the same for long. Problem is, there is not much room to tinker with the offense...but they are about to try...

After a miserable night at the plate today, in Coor's Field of all places, GM Brian Sabean must be grinding his teeth down to the nerves... After 1 Month... After 26 games... After a 13-13 record which the starting pitching has kept them in 22 games...After watching the offense produce one of the two worst starts to the year...Sabean is ready to make a move and tonight may just have been the final straw.

For a refresher, the Giants rank last in the NL in HR's, SLG, BB, RBI, Runs, 2nd to last in OBP, Hits, & fourth to last in BA, 2B. Actually, the only thing they have succeeded in is SB's & 3B...So what is the next move then?

First off, you can all but rule out a trade right now. It's too early. Teams usually wait until after the owners meeting at the end of May, and really early mid season trades go down in June. So for a team in dire need now, might have to give up more than want to this early. That means they will have to fill from within.

Options within are limited, as the most major league ready hitters usually make the team out of spring. Fortunately for the Giants, 2 guys are heating up in Fresno at the right time. John Bowker & Jesus Guzman. But who do they replace?

The obvious answer isn't so easy to come by.

Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn, Bengie Molina, & Edgar Renteria all may be trade candidates later on this season, but are firmly locked in for now.

Pablo Sandoval isn't going anywhere for a long time as he is part of the answer, not the problem.

Fred Lewis, while slumping, is here to stay. He may lose playing time, but not his job. He showed last year his hitting ability and they know it'll come back.

The pitching staff is currently at 12 with Sergio Romo due back soon. For the Giants to drop one pitcher for extra hitting on the bench, they'd actually have to give up two to get there. As Wilson, Howry, Affeldt, & Romo are locks, Miller & Medders have been about the most consistent pitchers, and Valdez is out of options, Matos is the only logical player to get sent down. So that leaves 7 ball players to choose from...

Manny Burriss, for all the flak he's taken for his slow hitting start, needs to play. He's shown great maturity and significant improvement in his decision making process as a second baseman. His defense is already in the top half in the league and as the everyday second baseman, he has the ability to be great. That's a far cry from what I was saying going into spring, and while I still think he could be the SS of the future, I don't think they can move him from second. As for his hitting, he has been the hottest Giant hitter over the last 7 games, he is 9-20, 2B, 2 R, RBI, 3 BB, HBP, 3 SB. That is .450 BA, .542 OBP, .500 SLG. Not bad, hard to ignore. Even more prevalent is the fact that both AAA second baseman, Matt Downs & Kevin Frandsen aren't running away from the league with their hitting and would both be a defensive downgrade. (That doesn't mean Franny shouldn't be here though). Actually, I think Manny is shaping up to be their best option at leadoff.

Juan Uribe & Richie Aurilia are both loved by Bochy and Sabean, as well as are highly regarded for their veteran presence. They have faith in Aurilia that is well deserved, especially since he's swinging the bat as well as anyone right now. They have faith in Uribe that...well, ummm...I actually have no idea why they have faith in him. He hasn't hit yet, not at all. He gets his due because he can play SS, but I don't see it. (actually, for my money, I get rid of him and bring up Kevin Frandsen and let him split B/U SS with Burriss, but this is not what they will do.) Uribe is safe for now, and probably will be through June.

Andres Torres is hurt and safe.He played his way onto the team and has shown no reason why they should second guess their decision.

Nate Schierholtz...Nate Schierholtz...Nate Schierholtz...what can I say you don't already ask for. He's about to get his chance. With Fred Lewis struggling, Nate is only a few days away from some significant PT. Lewis has a great track record in CO, so expect him to play tomorrow. I bet you see Nate start all three games in LA. Schierholtz is out of options and would definitely get grabbed by someone else, so don't expect any changes there unless more PT is the change.

That leaves 2 players...Eugenio Velez & Travis Ishikawa. Velez still has an option, so expect to see him go first. As a 5th/6th OF, he is expendable. As 2B is his only decent IF position and an unwillingness to lose Uribe, he is covered there. Kevin Frandsen makes a logical defensive replacement, but we're talking offense, not that Franny can't produce that. Ishikawa is a much stickier situation. To dump him would mean to give up on him completely as he likely would not clear waivers. After 4 years invested in him, I'm not sure the Giants are there yet.

This makes it seem as Velez is the odd man out. in that case, the two hottest hitters in the minors are Bowker & Guzman. Guzman brings the highest offensive upside, yet hasn't taken a major league AB, nor is he on the 40 man roster, so Bowker makes more sense right now. Both can play 1B & OF. Bowker's experience might just win out for now...

In other words, expect to see John Bowker on the major league roster by the end of the Dodgers series, with Velez MIA. If you see a 40 man roster spot open up, this tells me the Giants are feeling the pressure and we'll see Guzman up. If not then, he'll probably be up before June anyway. Also, don't be shocked if Franny makes his way up within the next month if not sooner...

As for the offense, stay patient and pray...Pray that the Giants can stay close,long enough to get their offense clicking, because what we see is what we're going to get.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Zito's Rabbit foot?

It's hard to argue with numbers... It's hard to argue with facts... It's hard to argue against Pablo Sandoval...

Heck, it has been hard to argue for Barry Zito...

So why do I find myself trying to argue with all those things?

Fact: Ever since August 18th of last fall when Pablo Sandoval gave Bengie Molina a day off and caught a Barry Zito masterpiece, the two have worked like a well oiled machine. Many people have begun to wonder if there is more to this than mere coincidence. I think the answer is as easy as Yes... and No!!!

It's no secret that Barry Zito has not performed up to the expectations that came along with his 7 year, $126 million deal. Not fans expectations, not managements expectations, and certainly not his own expectations. So after a little more than 1.5 seasons with the Giants, why did Zito suddenly find a groove that coincided with a catcher change?

The stats don't lie, the simple facts of them...

From the beginning of 2007 thru his August 13th, 2008 start, Zito was caught by Bengie Molina and a few different reserves with similar results. Since then, he has been caught 7 times by one Pablo Sandoval and the results are unquestionably great.

In those 7 starts, the Giants are a perfect 7-0, with Zito going 3-0, in 47Inn, with 37H, 16R, 15ER, 18BB, 30K, 2.87 ERA, 1.67 K/BB, 1.17 WHIP, 5.75 K/9

In the other 62 games he has pitched, the Giants are 22-40, with Zito going 18-32, in 352Inn, with 353H, 217R, 200ER, 176BB, 236K, 5.11 ERA, 1.34 K/BB, 1.50 WHIP, 6.03 K/9

There has to be more than mere coincidence...

Many pitchers over the years have used personal catchers. Most great pitchers will say there is just something to the feel of specific catchers. Pitchers work on rhythm & feel. When they aren't in sync,they don't perform.Some pitchers have to keep a certain pace, some like it fast, some slow. Hitters are constantly trying to throw that rhythm off. Barry Zito had a personal catcher before, Jason Kendall, it just worked that he was the everyday catcher for the A's. Others have done it too.

Tim Wakefield found Doug Mirabelli was the best for his knuckleball. Zito's teammate Randy Johnson used John Flaherty one season. Greg Maddux used a few over the years, Henry Blanko, Paul Bako, & Eddie Perez. Steve Carlton employed Tim McCarver specifically for 4 consecutive years, from 1976-1979. In fact, Carlton, Maddux, & Smoltz all won Cy Youngs with Catchers who would later be a personal catcher. In 1977 Carlton one a Cy Young with his personal catcher. Check out this Baseball Prospectus article from 2006.

So maybe there is more to the Zito/Sandoval battery than pure luck... But I also find it hard to argue against Zito's drive to be great again, his will to bounce back, his refocus on his game.

Zito went into this offseason with a commitment to get better, to make a change. He moved in with his BFF Brian Wilson, a renowned workout nut, to try a different tactic. Zito had always been a "core" guy and mental toughness when it came to his focus. Wilson changed him into an all around physical guy, focusing more on his legs and upper body, as well as his core, than ever before. One way to put it in perspective, in under 3 months, Zito went from 2 pull ups to 19. This workout program is already showing it's effects.

Last year, Barry Zito was pitching in the low to mid 80's, really his fastball was topping out around 82-83 on good days. The last few games, Zito has hit 90 at times and has been around 87-88. It's still not his old 92-94, but it is still early. He has never been an early season guy, with very little success coming in April, yet so far, April of 2009 has been his best since 2003. Don't believe me, has the monthly splits here.

The fact is, Barry Zito is in shape and focused. He is still a good pitcher and could very well be back on track. It is still early, but I think we are seeing the beginning of something special. Whether or not Pablo Sandoval has more to do with it than Zito himself is debatable, but it's hard to argue the facts. I tell you this much, I hope Sandoval catches every Zito start for the foreseeable future.

Friday, May 1, 2009

News and notes from last week

News I forgot to pass along last week but you probably heard about anyway...

Eugenio Velez was sent to AAA, then recalled a few hours later. Needing to make room for an additional reliever, Velez had been optioned to Fresno before the game 3 days ago for Osiris Matos, then when Andres Torres came up lame that same game and was placed on the 15 day DL, Velez was recalled. Velez doesn't lose his option as the rules state a player must be in the minors for 20 consecutive days.

Barry Zito is looking fantastic if you haven't seen his recent starts...tune in to Sunday's game to catch a look yourself.

Barry Bonds stopped by the other day and thrilled not only fans, but the team and management alike. He's still not retiring and honestly, I don't think he'll ever make that announcement. Too much to lose in the case against collusion. Andrew Baggerly has a great take on it, I recommend you read this.

Scott McClain, the real life Crash Davis, signed on in Japan. At 37, he has undoubtedly seen the writing on the wall when it comes to a big league opportunity. After last fall when he the minor league career homerun leader finally got his first major league dinger, some thought he may get a chance at the open 1B job this spring. After Travis Ishikawa played himself into it, Jesus Guzman learned he might need a new position, and Dallas McPherson signed on in Fresno, AB's surely would begin to fade. To McClain's credit, he is definitely playing for the love of the game. Most of us would love to be in his position and I hope he finds success as long as he keeps playing.

As for Dallas McPherson, he is still yet to report to Fresno... lingering back injury??? that is what is sounds like... many people had called for his signing the last two offseasons and touted him as the power factor the Giants need, but let me point out again...Once a back injury, always a back injury. More on this to come...

In Howry we trust??? Not me...

Watching the game right now at work, 3-0 Giants top of the 8th... I'm trying not to panic but I find myself working myself up... Is anyone else? For some reason, Comcast sports lostthe feed for the tube, yet can still give us the play-by-play...

I can deal with that except Randy Johnson just got pulled after 7 exceptional innings and Bobby Howry is in... Good Lord, please help us...

Nevermind, Howry gave up a homerun, I guess my worries are confirmed...

Thankfully it looks as if Bruce Bochy has about as much confidence in Howry as I do right now. Best managerial descison so far this season... Affeldt in, I'm feeling better...

Here's to a strong outing by Affeldt/Wilson for the 8th/9th...

(and now that the TV feed is working again, i'djust like to thank Comcast fromsaving me from witnessing the Bobby Howry gaffe)