Monday, June 28, 2010

Sandoval's Struggles Continue...and Continue


What happened to our beloved Panda? Yes, the guy who was the focal point of this Giants' offense; yes, the guy with the happy-go-lucky attitude and funny personality; yes, the guy this team was supposed to built around for the next several seasons.

These days, the Panda is costing the Giants wins. Sure, it takes a whole team effort to do that, but Sandoval has hurt this team more than you think.

Last night, it seemed like it all came to a head. The talk after the game was Sandoval's base running mishap and how it could have turned this game compeletely around for the Giants. And it most certainly could have. With no outs and Rowand bluffing at tagging on a shallow fly ball to right field, Sandoval takes it upon himself to make a play, the wrong one. Sandoval would be tagged out trying to tag from first base, a rookie mistake. The play really showed how inexperienced Sandoval still is in the majors.

Probably not what you would expect from the "focal point" of your offense. Is that what we are calling his role on this team these days?

Sandoval's plunge in the line-up has hurt this team more than we know. The guy who was supposed to be the #3 hitter on this team for years is now your #7 and sometimes #8 hitter. Maybe it is Bochy trying to send a message to him, or maybe this is where he actually belongs in the line-up. The 2nd half of the season will tell is, because good hitters get out of slumps.

If you had told me at the beginning of the season that Sandoval would be pinch-hit for in the bottom of the 9th inning with men on 1st and 3rd base with the Giants down 2 runs, as he was last night, I would have figured that Bochy would have been fired the next day for making such a bonehead move. "Who pinch-hits for their best hitter in such a crucial spot?" I would have said to you.

Last night, I believe I uttered the words, "Great move."

But these days, a pinch hitter in that situation was the best move for the ball club last night. It gave them a better chance. Sure, Buster Posey struck out, but it goes to show what faith the Giants have in their so-called prized hitter. Sandoval could have bounced into a double play. Posey is smarter than that.

Call it what you want, sophomore slump or just a bad first-half of the season. But the Pablo Sandoval we are seeing now may be the real one, and everything we saw before from him was just a good run by a so-so player who gave a fan base too much to hope for.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bay Area Departures- Nabby and Maggette


Evgeni Nabokov

Hopefully, many saw this coming, or at least wanted to see this coming. Sure, Nabokov is the greatest thing to ever happen to the San Jose Sharks franchise, but season after season of coming so close can only get you so far. And for Nabby, his time is up in San Jose.

There was the possibility that the Sharks would make an offer to Nabby, but GM Doug Wilson sat down this Nabby yesterday and notified him that would not be happening.

Was this the right move to make? Yes. There are a handful of free agent goalies that the Sharks can have their pick of. You know what you are getting with Nabby, a good regular season, but ultimately falling just short in the playoffs.

The Sharks now have the ability to move on in building a better team that is more built for the playoffs. It is nice to see a team that continues to improve upon what they lack. And because of that, the Sharks will improve next year yet again.

Corey Maggette

This move shocked most, but in a good way. It think that we can definitively say that the trade of Corey Maggette to the Bucks in exchange for basically nobody Tuesday was a good thing for the 'new look' Warriors. It freed up a lot of money for the team, but bottom line is the Warriors finally got a sucker team to take-on Maggette, his contract, and his 'me first' style of play.

The Warriors now have the option of going out and getting someone if they wish, and don't count on that. A good move for the Warriors at a time when the team morale is at a low going into next season is a good sign? Yes, that's what we're going with.

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.