Monday, June 21, 2010

Giants/A's All-Star Game Hopefuls


Despite the San Francisco Giants' first-half success and the Oakland A's early success, the two teams' sexiness is at a minimum, which is why this year's All-star game could see each team being represented by the minimum of one player.

A's

The Oakland A's (34-37) got off to a great start by recent season standards, but they have slowly but surely tapered off and the AL West has become what everyone thought it would be, a 2-horse race between the Rangers and Angels.

Because of that, do not expect to hear a lot of A's All-star game talk going around, as if you predicted you would in the first place. The A's are 28th in HR's and 26th in RBI's, and the best they have to offer the All-star roster offensively is Kevin Kouzmanoff with 36 RBI's. So scratch the A's offensive prospects from the All-star roster competition, or whatever you want to call it.

Pitching-wise, the A's don't have much to offer either. It really comes down to a who's who of "not much done lately." Closer Andrew Bailey seems to be the favorite with a so-so total of 13 saves. You can also throw in Dallas Braden if you want to. He did have a perfect game, not that it matters, but he hasn't done much since then so rule him and his 4-6 record out. Trevor Cahill has statistically been the A's best starter, but his 6-2 record with a 3.21 ERA isn't going to get him an honorable mention onto the All-star team.

My pick is Andrew Bailey, mostly because he made it on the All-star team last season and the fact that he seems to be the best the A's have to offer.

Giants

The Giants ( have players worthy of the All-star game, but they don't have names that are attractive outside of the Bay Area. Juan Uribe, without a doubt, is the Giants' MVP so far this season. Down this mean he will get on the All-star team? Definitely not. In fact, we may be able to kick him out of the conversation because there is no way the MLB will let Uribe's .279 and 43 RBI's even touch the field. His name isn't of All-star caliber. Should he be on the team? Of course. Will he? No.

Tim Lincecum is a gimme if we're talking golf. Back-to-back Cy Young's and long flowing hair is enough to get any guy voted into the All-star game. So he's in.

But it really comes down to 3 players for the Giants. Brian Wilson, Barry Zito, and Matt Cain. These three could possible be battling for one All-star spot because, honestly, I do not think the MLB would take kindly to accepting 3 or 4 Giants pitchers onto the National League roster. So let's try to get it down to 1 even though all 3 deserve an All-star game bid this season.

Brian Wilson's 19 saves is good for 2nd in the National League behind Matt Capps who would seem to represent the Nationals in the All-star game. Wilson also boasts the lowest ERA of any closer with more than 15 saves.

Matt Cain is 4th in the NL with a 2.16 ERA, but a 6-5 record could cost him a trip to Anaheim.

Barry Zito has been the Giants' best pitcher in the first-half. He is 7-3 with a 3.13 ERA and is one of the top pitchers in the MLB for the first-half. What might get Zito is the long list of other NL pitchers who have much better ERA's than 3.13. In fact, there are 30 other pitchers with better ERA's.

My prediction is Lincecum and Wilson get nods to Anaheim, with Zito and Cain feeling robbed without an invite.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Martinez, Not Bumgarner, To Start Tuesday


It's not often a fan base gets a sense of relief after hearing a starting pitcher is being placed on the disabled list. But in this case, it might be the right feeling to have.

Giants' 5th starter Todd Wellemeyer and his buzz killing 5.52 ERA has been placed on the DL with a right quad strain, an injury that is not at all serious but could keep Wellemeyer out of the starting rotation for good because of, well, other reasons like his road ERA of 9.67.

The replacement for Wellemyer is, no, not phenom Madison Bumgarner, try Joe Martinez. Remember him?

Martinez has spent the year thus far in AAA-Fresno, where he went 5-2 with a 3.07 ERA.

Is Martinez the right guy to bring up? Is he the best guy to bring up? Of the starting pitchers in Fresno, the Giants had a choice of 3 players: Hacker, Bumgarner, and Martinez.

Eric Hacker is arguably the best overall pitcher for the Fresno Grizzlies (8-3, 3.91 ERA). But the fact that he has pitched 3 total innings in the Majors is something the Giants do not want to take a chance with, at least not right now. They are not trying to bring someone up to let them learn or to teach them. The Giants need wins, and for that they need experience in the Bigs, something Hacker does not have.

Bumgarner (6-1, 3.13 ERA) would be the right guy to call up. He's young and everyone wants to see what this guy can do given that #5 spot in the rotation. But a shaky outing for Fresno in his previous start probably had the Giants a little worried.

So Martinez is the man. Maybe by default, or maybe not. He has experience in the Majors and can go out there and give the Giants 5-6 innings of work, which is all they need from him. Also, he is coming off a complete game on June 4th.

What does this mean for Bumgarner and all others who can't wait long enough to see him? I think it's a great move not bringing him up. This relieves some pressure from him. After all, he is only 20 years old.

Don't rush him. Sure, he might be ready, but a start in the Majors after a bad outing in AAA is not the best way to bring your best pitching prospect into the Major Leagues.

Bumgarner will have his chance, just not now. Martinez will hold the fort down, though. He has that kind of stuff. But he may be just the temporary solution until Bumgarner is ready.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Things Are Looking Up, If You Look Closely


Although the Giants' record doesn't prove it too much (31-25, 3rd in the NL West), there have no doubt been changes for the better in the last week or so for this team.

The call-up of Buster Posey not long ago headlines them all. He made his 2nd coming to the Majors by putting up intense numbers in his first 2 games an then some and has bolstered this offense that needed it so bad.

But it's more than just Posey, although he is the sexy name to pin it on. Aubrey Huff may be responsible for this sudden change in aerial scenery that the Giants needed so badly a few weeks ago. Arguably the hottest player on the Giants right now, Huff has made the gracious switch to left field making way for Posey at 1st base and giving Benjie Molina one last try at catcher before the Posey Era officially begins. Which may be sooner than we thought.

Another bright spot for the Giants in the last week or so has been the return of Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez is the hottest Giant average-wise batting .379 since his return, and has been a bright spot defensively as well. He sparks that line-up giving them something that the Giants were not seeing in the first month or so of the season, contact with the baseball.

We have managed to see bright spots offensively on this team while the Giants' best asset, its pitching, is struggling, to some extent. Lincecum is not himself lately for several reasons that could be pointed out, one of which is that the opposing batters are just plainly bringing their better game when facing him because he is a 2-time Cy Young winner. They have figured him out, or so it seems. The challenge here for Lincecum is figuring out how to get back to form and make batters miss again. That's what the great pitchers do, learn.

But despite the bright sides of the offense right now, there have been a few who have been stuck in slumps, which is an understatement, especially if your name is Pablo Sandoval. Yes, we are getting a little greedy saying that Sandoval batting .281 is in a slump, but this isn't like him. It's not something we have seen before out of him. The Giants have tried just about everything to try to pull him out of this slump, even sending him down to the 8th spot to prove a point, I guess. Didn't work. The only thing left is the one punishment that should have been used first and maybe we wouldn't be having this issue...sit him down. Let him take a look around and see the game, learn the game. He has 30 more at-bats than the closest Giant, give him a rest. Sure, fatigue is probably not his problem right now, but the bench may be swift kick in the ass he needs to snap out of it. Then the Giants have a line-up.

Another swift kick in the ass needs to be headed Molina's way. It appears as if Molina is on the way out, at least to the back-up role. The only thing keeping him starting right now is his feel for the pitchers, and if you have noticed, the Giants are trying to get Posey up to par with the pitchers as well, making it a easier transition for when Molina gets the boot.

But we have to look at the numerous bright spots right now. The Giants are winning...at least more than half of their games. That is with their best hitter and best pitcher not producing as they should. Posey got called up, Sanchez is on point, Uribe is doing his thing, Torres is a spark, and we might see Bumgarner sooner than we think.

Things are a'changin for the Giants, they've gotten younger and seem to be playing a better style of baseball than we have seen in months past. Seems like this should have been done a lot sooner. Blame that on the call-up of Posey or whatever you want, but if the Giants get the rest of the team up to par with the guys who are going out there every night and contributing, they might have something here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Just What the Doctor Ordered


It's amazing what a series against the Arizona Diamondbacks can do for a ball club's morale. The Giants swept the D-Backs over the weekend behind 3 solid starts by Cain, Sanchez, and Wellemeyer.

It's also amazing what bringing up your #1 prospect from the minors can do for a ball club. The Giants brought up Buster Posey on Saturday in an attempt to add some much needed fire power to a line-up that lacks sexiness.

Coming into this weekend, the talk was about how in trouble the Giants were that they could not hit after enduring a road trip that just about sent Giants fans over the edge, where runs came at a minimum and good pitching took the road trip off.

But everyone and their mother knew what was coming next. It was the Giants' organization's only move, and that was to call up Posey in an attempt to hype the line-up as well as their fans.

He's captivating, I'll give him that. Not since Bonds have I taken time out of my day to watch his at-bat and his at-bat only. And his start to the 2010 season didn't let anyone down. Honestly, if he hadn't had success in these first two games, I'm not sure what the fans would have done. But no disappointment from Posey, he's not like others. Raw ability and good contact with the baseball is what the Giants' line-up has been needing their players to do all year, they just left it up to a 23 year old kid in AAA to show them how to do it.

Posey has seemed to psyche up the rest of this line-up as well. I haven't seen the Giants make so much contact with the baseball in days. It's not like them. In that D-Backs series they played like a real line-up. Granted, it was against the D-Backs, but as a Giants fan you have to take 'em where you can get 'em. And we got 'em this last weekend.

After a road trip that spelled disaster, it's amazing what a couple good starts and a stud prospect can do to make a fan base forget how awful you played against the Oakland A's...

No matter, the Giants are playing well right now and I will accept that. Posey is a Major League ball player who can spark a frachise in two starts, at 1st base mind you. And for the Giants, Posey is just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Treading Water


Is it just me or is a sense of panic come over the city of San Francisco? May has not been kind to the San Francisco Giants. Last night's loss at the hands of the Washington Nationals put their record at 10-13 for the month and 1 game over .500 for the season. Not to mention 4th place in the NL West.

But last night's game may have sent Giants fans over the edge, because even though the Giants were slumping after a terrible road trip, there was still the thought of Tim Lincecum pitching and all being right with the world once again. Except this time, things couldn't get more worse. Lincecum struggled with 5 walks and 6 runs allowed, and Giants fans went home thinking disaster for this team that was so promising.

Even this early in the season, the Giants have experienced more ups-and-downs than any team in baseball. Sure, they need a bat, but that won't solve all their problems. Freddy Sanchez came back from injury, but he hasn't produced to the extent that everyone wants him to, let alone your #3 hitter.

It seems like all the hopes that the Giants had may be running out. There was the pick-ups of Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, but DeRosa is hurt and Aubrey Huff has done his job, even moved to the outfield, but the most you're going to get out of him is what you're getting already, a .270 average with moderate RBI numbers.

Then Freddy Sanchez came back and hope sprang again. But if you thought a contact hitting 2nd baseman batting 3rd was going to change this team around, you were sorely mistaken. He may have even hurt the Giants more because now they must find a place to put him while cutting time from someone else.

Then there was Lincecum, the go-to guy, the guy you can count on when things just aren't going right. The Freak. But not last night. For the 2nd straight start, Lincecum did not have a good outing, and he received the loss last night. Is he just in a bit of a 2-time Cy Young slump? Or have teams slowly began to figure him out? We'll find out in his next several starts.

So Giants fans are holding on to the 2 hopes they got left, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.

Bumgarner may not be needed right now, plus there may be a few AAA pitchers that are in line ahead of him. But let's talk Buster.

Posey is the jolt they need right now, maybe to save their fan-base at the moment. The team is struggling, they need changes. Posey isn't tearing up AAA, but it seems like he is ready enough for the big leagues, and now is the time because they couldn't need him more.

The Giants will find a place for him, they must. But Posey is the kick in the pants the Giants need right now, for morale purposes.

The Giants need a bat and Posey is probably the 2nd or 3rd best bat the Giants have, then why is he stuck in AAA?

You are going to see several more ups-and-downs coming from this team during the rest of this season, so get used to it and just go with it. Sure, they're going to tug at your heart strings but hopefully it will all pay-off in the end. But for now, changes need to be made, and quick.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

That's It And That's All


The San Jose Sharks' season is over after a disappointing series against the Chicago Blackhawks resulting in the Sharks being swept 4-0.

A long season for the Sharks came down to this dream series featuring the Western Conference's top 2 teams. After this series, we found out who truly was the #1 team.

The Sharks could not have had more momentum coming into this series after previously defeating the Red Wings in 5 games. Yet, the Blackhawks seemed to be the wrong team for the Sharks. This series simply came down to match-ups, and the Blackhawks were a horrible match-up for the Sharks. It's the only way to describe it.

The Blackhawks were too quick, too prepared and too good for the Sharks. It felt that way from the drop of the puck in Game 1.

What impressed me about the Blackhawks was several things, but one stands out. Each game of this series, the Sharks came out with intensity, wanting to get on the Blackhawks quick. Every game, the Blackhawks answered and made the adjustments needed to turn the pace of play around, as well as momentum, in their favor.

Even in the games where the Sharks had chances to win, like Games 1, 3, and 4, the tempo for the game was still controlled by the Blackhawks, it sure seemed that way, and you were just waiting for Chicago to score, and they did.

Antti Niemi, what can you say, hot goaltender, wrong time for the Sharks. The Sharks could simply not figure him out, the 40+ shots on net in Game 1 shows that, as do clutch save after clutch save at the end of every game.

All around, the Sharks were outplayed and it is extremely disappointing to see as talented a team as the Sharks look so befuddled as to how they were going to solve the Blackhawks. No answer.

Where do the Sharks go from here? Patrick Marleau has been rumored to leave the Sharks for the last couple seasons, but that was because he was who everyone put the blame on for losing in the playoffs the past several seasons. Now, he is the only bright spot, and there are several other players who you can blamed for this one. Yet, he is a free agent. The Sharks would be wise to sign him, but maybe he rather not.

Evgeni Nabokov has played his last game as a Shark, that's my opinion. The free agent will depart San Jose in disappointing fashion, as he was never able to get the Sharks over that hump to greatness or the Stanley Cup Finals. Some would say it was because of him. Duh.

Lucky for the Sharks, the free agent goalie class of 2010 is impressive. With guys like Ray Emery, former Shark Vesa Toskala, and Marty Turco headlining, as well as several other starting goalies for other teams, the Sharks should have no problem replacing Nabokov. There's not much to replace.

In my opinion, the Sharks should sign Marleau and let Nabby walk. This is too good of a team to split up, and for the Sharks to go out and let Marleau leave along with others would set this franchise back even farther than a series sweep at the hands of the Blackhawks would.

With possible free agent pick-ups and the best top-line in all of hockey hopefully staying together, expect the Sharks to be back contending again next season, but the Stanley Cup Finals still looming.