Monday, March 31, 2014

Game Wrap 3/31/2014: Giants 9 D'Backs 8

Buster Posey capped a furious Giants comeback from 6-2 and 7-3 deficits with a monstrous 2 run homer in the top of the 9'th inning.  Sergio Romo then held off the Dangerous D'Backs in the bottom of the 9'th for the Save.  Key Lines:

Angel Pagan- 2 for 5, 2B.  Pagan looked bad in his first AB against Brandon McCarthy, striking out, but came back to score a run and drive in 2 in the Giants epic comeback.

Brandon Belt-  3 for 5, HR(1).  Belt had a rough day in the field and struck out in his first two AB's, but redeemed himself with with a long HR to RF and 2 other hits scoring a total of 3 runs in the game.

Buster Posey- 2 for 5, HR(1).  Buster also did not look so hot in his first couple of AB's, but hit a scorching single to LF and then crushed a ball that hit the facade of the second deck of the LF bleachers for the game winning HR.  He also gunned down Cliff Pennington on a strike 'em out/throw 'em out to shut down a potential D'Backs rally.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4, 2B.  Crawford had a nice game.  The double was crushed to dead CF and banged off the wall.

Ehire Adrianza- 1 for 2, 2B.  IMO, Adrianza had THE key hit of the entire game!  The Giants were down 7-3 in the 7'th.  Morse had opened the inning with a single, but Crawford flied out and Arias hit into a force.  With 2 outs and the rally looking like it was dead, Adrianza came up as a pinch hitter took some nice looking hacks and eventually turned on a pitch, scorching it down the RF line into the corner for a double that scored Arias from 1B.  He then came home on Pagan's double and the rally that tied the game was on.  Adrianza took some pretty good looking swings in his second AB too.  He definitely looks like he's up there intending to do some damage with that bat.  He also seems to have some clutchiness to him.  Love this kid!

Madison Bumgarner- 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K's.   Bumgarner wasn't the sharpest I've seen him by any stretch, but his defense let him down in the 4'th.  Belt muffed a groundball to open the inning then Sandoval bobbled a potential DP ball, then pulled Crawford off the bag with a hurried throw.  2 runners on, nobody out on 2 consecutive errors.  That is a recipe for disaster in that ballpark and it ate Bumgarner up.  He got out of the inning with 4 unearned runs allowed but by then his pitch count was way up there and he was lifted for a PH in the top of the 5'th.

Yusmeiro Petit- 2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  Not a great pitching line for Petit, but it could have been a whole lot worse as he pitched his way out of a bases loaded no out jam in the 5'th after 2 runs had already scored.  On a night when the ball was carrying and the infield was playing like the I-5 truck lane, Petit did well to limit the damage.

Jean Machi- 1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K's.  Machi was the pitching hero of this one as he shut down the D'Backs on a crazy night and preserved the tie long enough for Buster to unleash his power.  Machi gets a very well deserved W.

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 1 K.   Romo did not start off well, allowing a solo HR to Montero to start the bottom of the 9'th.  He then gave up a bunt hit to Owings that Pablo probably should have fielded.  After Owings was sacrificed to 2'nd, up came Eric Chavez, who you might remember as the guy who broke up Petit's perfect game last year.  Romo struck him out with a very gutsy changeup.  Getting the RH hitting AJ Pollack was then a piece of cake to end the game.

The Win puts the Giants into a tie for first place in the NL West with the San Diego Padres percentage points up on the 2-1 Dodgers.  The Padres and Dodgers were idle today.  The Colorado Rockies were clobbered 10-1 by the Miami Marlins and are a game back, and of course the D'Backs lost and are 0-3, 2 games off the pace.

Matt Cain takes on Wade Miley tomorrow evening in Arizona.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Meet the New Giants!

This year's Giants 25 man active roster at the start of the season has 5 players who are completely new to the organization:  Tim Hudson, Michael Morse, David Huff, JC Gutierrez and Brandon Hicks.  I thought it would be fun to take closer look at who these guys are and where they came from.

Tim Hudson, RHP

Tim Hudson is new to the Giants organization, but is well known to Bay Area baseball fans from his days as an Oakland Athletic.  He pitched for Oakland from his MLB debut in 1999 through 2004 and was part of the terrific trio of SP's for the A's that included Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.  He won 20 games for the A's in 2000 and compiled a W-L record of 92-39 during his A's tenure.  He was traded to Atlanta for the 2005 season and pitched 9 seasons with Atlanta including parts of the 2008 and 2009 seasons due to TJ surgery.  Late in 2013, he suffered an ankle fracture in a collision while covering 1B which appears to be fully healed.  He is a groundball pitcher with a career GO/AO= approximatel 1.5.  He is one of just 2 active pitchers to accumulate more than 200 career wins with a 205-111 record.  Part of what enabled him to get all those W's is an ability to conserve his pitch counts and get deep into games.  He signed a 2 year FA contract this offseason and takes over the rotation spot vacated by Barry Zito who had his option declined by the Giants at the conclusion of the 2013 season.

Michael Morse, OF/1B.

Michael Morse has had an enigmatic career up to this point, and that is probably putting it mildly.  He is an amazing physical specimen who has shown flashes of superstar potential when fully healthy, while his value has been sapped by poor defensive play and frequent injuries.  He is coming off another poor season caused by yet another injury, hoping for a bounceback season.  He was drafted in the 3'rd round of the 2000 draft by the White Sox out of high school as a SS.  Despite his 6'5" 195 lb frame, he continued to develop as a SS and eventually landed in the Mariners organization making his MLB debut at SS in 2004.  He hit a respectable .278/.349/.370 but committed 12 errors in 72 games.  Over the next several years, he bounced around the Mariners organization playing sparingly at the MLB level as a utilityman.  He was traded to the Washington Nationals in 2009.  By this time he had grown into a 6'5", 245 lb monster and the Nationals put him in LF and 1B.  He opened a lot of eyes in 2010 by slashing .289/.352/.519 with 15 HR in 266 AB.  A breakout in 2011 was widely predicted and he made good with a .303/.360/.550, 31 HR campaign.  He continued to hit well when healthy, but missed a lot of PT in 2012 and 2013.  The two big questions with Morse are 1.  Can he stay healthy?   2.  Can he play LF well enough to not be a net liability on the field?  If the answer to both questions is yes, he could give the Giants offense a huge boost in 2014.

David Huff, LHP

David Huff was a member of the 2006 Pac 10 pitching class that included Tim Lincecum, Greg Reynolds, Brandon Morrow and Ian Kennedy.  Huff pitched for UCLA and more than held his own in   those legendary Friday night pitching wars.  I saw him pitch on TV that year.  He had a low 90's FB with excellent command, but his out pitch was a very good changeup.  He was drafted in the supplemental first round, #39 overall but Cleveland.  Huff has never had eye popping stuff and has had trouble gaining traction on his professional career.  Since his MLB debut in 2009, he has compiled a record of 21-27 with a 5.31 ERA  with time spent in the minors every one of those seasons.  Last year, he recorded a decent 4.76 ERA in a very tough pitching environment with the Yankees, but was dropped from their roster in the offseason.  The Giants were looking for long relief/spot starter options and gave him a spring training invitation.  He has pitched extremely well this spring showing a 92 MPH FB with some zip to it along with the very good changeup and curveball.  The Giants wore out their bullpen several times over last year overusing guys for 1 inning at a time.  I have long advocated for carrying more pitchers in the bullpen who can go multiple innings, so I get to see my theory tested this year as Huff joins Yusmeiro Petit who can also go long relief and spot start.

JC Gutierrez, RHP

JC Gutierrez is a 6'3" 200 lb reliever who joins the Giants Venezuelan contingent of players.   Giants fans may remember JC as a former closer for the division rival D'Backs.  He came up through the Houston Astros organization but made his MLB mark with the D'Backs winning and eventually losing the closer role from 2009-2011.  He recorded a total of 24 saves in that span but also had an ERA over 5 in 2010 and 2011.  He spent 2012 in the minors with the KC Royals organization and pitched with the Royals and Angels at the MLB level last year with similar numbers to his D'Backs days.  JC's stuff looks good on TV featuring a mid-90's FB.  My impression is that the FB is not dominant enough to be a stand-alone pitch and he does not have much in the way of secondary stuff.  He pitched well in the spring, but it remains to be seen if he can consistently get outs at the MLB level.  He makes the 25 man roster because Jeremy Affeldt is on the DL and will be on the bubble when Affeldt comes back, probably within a couple of weeks.

Brandon Hicks, IF

Hicks was drafted Texas A&M in 2007 by the Atlanta Braves.  He hit well with double digit HR power in the minors and got a couple of cups of coffee with the Braves before being cut loose.  His longest MLB stint was with the Oakland A's where he hit 3 dingers in 22 games in 2012.  He spent last year in the minors.  The main thing holding him back seems to be a K rate of around 30% which is too high for a guy with middling power.  You just can't get a viable BA with that kind of K rate!  Hicks came to camp with the Giants this season as a longshot to make the 25 man roster.  He had a sensational spring and squeaked in when Marco Scutaro could not answer the opening bell.  How he does and how long he'll stay at the MLB level remains to be seen.  I could see him doing a Mike Ivie and hitting a walk off, pinch hit HR against the Dodgers or something like that.  I think he actually did that with the A's in 2012!

Let's all give a big welcoming cheer to the New Giants!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Your 2014 San Francisco Giants!

Giants Opening Day roster is finalized with JC Gutierrez, Brandon Hicks and Juan Perez making the final cut.  Derek Law goes to Richmond and Tyler Colvin to Fresno.  Roger Kieschnick gets the DFA to make room on the 40 man roster for Gutierrez.  Affeldt and Marco Scutaro start the season on the DL.  So, here it is:

Position Starters:

C  Buster Posey
1B  Brandon Belt
2B  Joaquin Arias
3B  Pablo Sandoval
SS  Brandon Crawford
LF  Michael Morse
CF  Angel Pagan
RF  Hunter Pence

Starting Pitchers:

Madison Bumgarner
Matt Cain
Tim Hudson
Tim Lincecum
Ryan Vogelsong

Relief Pitchers:

Sergio Romo
Javier Lopez
Santiago Casilla
Jean Machi
JC Gutierrez
David Huff
Yusmeiro Petit

Position Reserves:

C  Hector Sanchez
IF Ehire Adrianza
IF Brandon Hicks
OF Gregor Blanco
OF Juan Perez

Affeldt will likely be back in 2-4 weeks.  I have a feeling Scutaro might miss a good chunk of the season.

I am happy the Giants decided to keep 2 long relief/spot starters in the bullpen.  Huff was impressive in preseason games!  I'll stick with my prediction that Blanco finishes the season as the starting LF.

Around the League:

Dodgers put Clayton Kershaw on the DL which means he will miss the first Dodgers-Giants series in LA.

Thoughts on MLB 2014: NL West

The pre-season mercifully came to a close today with a rainout of the final game of the Bay Bridge Series.  I don't think anyone really wanted to play this game anyway, at least on the Giants side.  I thought we could do a quick rundown of the NL West.  I will summarize the teams in the order I think they will finish in the division.

1.  Los Angeles Dodgers.  Roster:  C  AJ Ellis, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B Dee Gordon, 3B  Juan Uribe, SS  Hanley Ramirez,  LF  Carl Crawford,  CF  Matt Kemp,  RF  Yasiel Puig, SP's  Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren, Paul Maholm,  RP's  Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, JP Howell, Chris Withrow.  Key Reserves:  Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke.

The Dodgers are a hot mess, but a talented hot mess.  If everybody stays healthy, a big question mark for this team, they should win the division and quite easily.  The biggest wild card is Clayton Kershaw. If his injury sidelines him or renders him ineffective for an extended period, the Dodgers could struggle.  Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford are other important pieces with significant injury histories.  Puig is another wild card who could be an emerging superstar or struggle to hit the Mendoza Line while alienating his teammates.

2.  San Francisco Giants.  Roster:  C  Buster Posey,  1B  Brandon Belt,  2B  Marco Scutaro, 3B  Pablo Sandoval,  SS Brandon Crawford,  LF  Michael Morse, CF  Angel Pagan,  RF  Hunter Pence, SP's  Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong,  RP's  Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, David Huff, Yusmeiro Petit.  Key Reserves  Hector Sanchez, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco.

The Giants lineup should score runs.  Bumgarner is an emerging ace who I think could challenge for the Cy Young Award.  The rest of the pitching needs to have a collective bounceback.  That is asking a lot.  I think there is enough of a chance that enough players will bounceback enough that I am picking the Giants to finish second in the NL West and gain a Wild Card playoff spot.  The season hinges on the pitching, though.

3.  Colorado Rockies.  Roster:  C  Wilin Rosario,  1B Justin Morneau,  2B  DJ Lemahieu,  3B  Nolan Arenado,  SS  Troy Tulowitzki,  LF  Carlos Gonzalez,  CF Drew Stubbs, RF Michael Cuddyer,  SP's  Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Jorge De La Rosa, Tyler Chatwood, Brett Anderson, RP's  LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, Adam Ottavino, Key Reserves  Charlie Blackmon, Jordan Pacheco, Brandon Barnes.  Franklin Morales will fill in for Chacin in the rotation to start the season.  He could edge out someone else and stay on after Chacin comes back.

The Rockies have the makings of an offensive juggernaut if they can keep everyone healthy.  The top 3 SP's are solid, but with some injury risk.  Anderson is a wild card.  Tremendous talent with extensive injury history and inconsistent performances.  The bullpen is a mess and will probably be what does this team in.

4.  San Diego Padres.  Roster:  C  Yasmani Grandal/Nick Hundley,  1B  Yonder Alonso,  2B  Jedd Gyorko, 3B Chase Headley,  SS  Everth Cabrera,  LF  Carlos Quentin, CF  Cameron Maybin  RF  Will Venable, SP's  Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Eric Stults, Josh Johnson, Ian Kennedy,  RP's  Huston Street, Joaquin Benoit, Robbie Erlin, Key Reserves  Chris Denorfia, Kyle Blanks, Seth Smith, Alexei Amarista, Tommy Medica.

The Padres are slowly putting the pieces of a competitive team together but are probably not quite there yet.  Grandal should emerge as the starting C.  Quentin and Josh Johnson both start the season on the DL to nobody's surprise.  Tommy Medica is a heckuva hitter who will challenge for a starting spot at 1B or LF.  Padres need a big bounceback year from Headley to be at all competitive.

5.  Arizona  Diamondbacks.  Roster:  C  Miguel Montero, 1B  Paul Goldschmidt, 2B  Aaron Hill, 3B  Martin Prado,  SS  Chris Owings/Didi Gregorius,  LF  Mark Trumbo,  CF  AJ Pollack,  RF  Gerardo Parra.  SP's   Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, Randall Delgado, Bronson Arroyo,  RP's  JJ Putz, Addison Reed.

You look at that roster and lineup and this is a shockingly bad team!  It's compounded by Manager Kirk Gibson doing weird things like batting Prado 4'th and Montero in front of Trumbo against a LHP as well as starting Didi Gregorius over Chris Owings against a LHP.  Patrick Corbin is out for the season as is RP David Hernandez.  Paul Goldschmidt is one of the best hitters in baseball, but he is not going to get much help this year.  I've been wrong about this team in the past, but they look like a last place team to me.

Thoughts on MLB 2014: Final Standings and Awards

It's silly time again where we make predictions for the season that we know have very little chance of turning out right.  Part of the problem is if you go with conventional wisdom, it's boring as heck. If you go bold, you are likely going to be wrong.  We'll try a mixture here.


AL East:  Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays.  Yanks pitching will be improved with the addition of Tanaka and a bounceback from CC.  Sox aren't able to replace Drew and Ellsbury.  Rays have great pitching, but not enough offense.  O's and Jays just don't have the pitching to compete.

AL Central:  Tigers, Indians, Royals, White Sox, Twins.  Tigers have some holes in the field, but still have the best pitching in the majors.  Indians and Royals are competitive, but not quite there.  ChiSox beefed up their offense, but still can't pitch.  Twins are in a slow rebuild.

AL West:  Angels, A's, Rangers, Mariners, Astros.  Angels pitching is better and they'll get bounceback years from Pujols and Hamilton.  A's will have some players regress and the pitching injuries will take their toll.  Rangers seem to have the injury bug.  Mariners are slowly improving, but not enough for this year.  Astros are in a long-term rebuild.

NL East:  Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins.  Nationals will play up to their expectations this year.  Phillies will surprise some people.  Injuries have decimated the Braves rotation.  Mets are ahead of the Marlins in their rebuild.

NL Central:  Cardinals, Pirates, Reds, Brewers, Cubs.  This one is tough because there are 4 competitive teams in the division.  BrewCrew might be a sleeper team with the addition of Garza and a bounceback from Braun.  Cards will miss Beltran's bat.  Pirates will miss AJ Burnett.  Reds did not do anything to improve.

NL West:  Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, Padres, D'Backs.  This is another tough one.  Dodgers are a hot mess, but have the talent.  Kershaw's health is a huge wildcard.  Giants offense should be solid, the last two games against the A's notwithstanding, but the pitching is very shaky once you get past Bumgarner.  Rockies are a sleeper team.  If they can keep CarGo and Tulo healthy all season, they could give everybody fits.  Padres still have a ways to go.  D'Backs talent hemorrhage will catch up with them this year.  That lineup they put out against LA was a joke!

WILD CARDS:  Red Sox, A's, Giants, Pirates.


NL PENNANT:  Nationals


AL MVP:  Miguel Cabrera

NL MVP:  Andrew McCutchen

AL Cy Young:  Max Scherzer

NL Cy Young:  Madison Bumgarner

AL ROY:  Nick Castellanos

NL ROY:  Javier Baez

Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/28/2014: A's 4 Giants 1

For the second night in a row, the Giants offense was completely shut down by the A's pitching, or by it's own futility.  Their lone run was scored in the 9'th inning long after this one was over.  Key Lines:

Tim Lincecum-  4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 5.79.  Timmy was shaky, but hanging in there until he was hit on the left knee by a comebacker and had to be helped off the field.  X-rays were reportedly negative and the diagnosis is a contusion.  He'll likely be day-to-day for awhile.  Prior to the injury, Timmy looked a lot like the Timmy of last year:  FB 88-91, erratic command, sometimes showing his frustration.

Jean Machi- 1.1 IP, 0 R.
Yusmeiro Petit, Santiago Casilla- 1 IP, 0 R.
Lopez and Romo divvied up the 9'th inning.

Dan Runzler- 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 0 K.  Runzler started out OK but gave up a couple of BABIP hits and a couple of walks.  I thought he pitched better than his line indicated.  I'm pretty sure that is not going to win him a roster spot, though.

Ryan Vogelsong was scratched from tomorrow's start due to concern that the game may be rained out.  He will pitch in a minor league game in Arizona instead.

Around the League:

RHP Jenry Mejia of the Mets was hit on the forearm by a comeback line drive and had to come out of his exhibition start.

The Angels signed Mike Trout to a 6 year $144 M extension which looks like a pretty good deal for the Angels at this point, although I'm not sure why anybody is still worrying about the money.

Thoughts on Comments

One of the reasons, maybe the main reason, why I started this blog was that I found it increasingly unpleasant to participate in the comments sections of many other established Giants and sports oriented websites.  Most websites have official commenting policies, but apparently find them difficult to enforce.  As a result, comments on many sites are dominated by bullies, people with agendas, tangential comments, "insider" jokes, group thought and generally anti-social discourse.

At their best, I find comments sections to be a lot of fun and educational to read.  Many times, I learn more from reading the comments than I did from the original post.  I believe one of the biggest reasons for the success of When The Giants Come To Town is the excellent insightful comments from our readers.  I am determined to keep it that way!

I spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to maintain the comments sections.  The host site provides a screen for obvious spam and automatically filters it out.  "Banning" does not work.  Other sites "ban" problem commenters, but the most problematic commenters seem to easily get around the "bans" and come back even more disruptive than before they were "banned."  Also, "banning" may unfairly punish someone who just had a bad day or a bad week or just got fed up with somebody else on the board.  Asking people to ignore "trolls" never works either.  Many people are just not able to ignore and end up getting into arguments, which is what the "troll" is looking for in the first place, negative attention.

I settled on a simple plan that is easy to implement.  It might not work so well on other sites, where multiple posts in multiple locations draw many simultaneously ongoing comments.  This format is small enough and focused enough that I can easily and quickly monitor the comments and delete offending ones without comment.  It is effective because most people who post disruptive comments are looking for attention.  Simple removal of the offending comments deprives them of that attention and they lose interest in pursuing it.  This, and the great readers of the site have kept the need for policing the comments section to a minimum.

So, what are my rules for deciding on which comments to delete?  I really have just one simple rule, the  Jim Rome rule:  Have a take, don't $&#@!  The only difference is pretty much all of Romey's regular commenters $&#@ and he doesn't seem to know it!  I have one other secondary rule:  Nobody gets banned!  Deletion of an individual comment is only a judgment on the comment, not on the person or on other comments they have made or will make.  Each individual comment is judged on its merits, not on the source of the comment.

I will admit that my decisions to delete comments are largely subjective.  I do not claim to strictly follow any rigid set of criteria enshrined in a policy.  Occasionally, I have deleted comments for no other reason than they just annoyed the heck out of me!  At the same time, I do have some general thoughts of what types of comments get me to thinking of deleting them which I will now share with you.  Hopefully this will shed some light on my thought processes(I think you will find that most of them follow very closely the policies of other sites:

1.  Comments containing socially unacceptable or abusive language.

2.  Personal attacks.

3.  Tangential posts that get too far off topic.

4.  Repeated comments hammering at the same point over and over without consideration of alternative points of view.

5.  Dogmatic statements without evidence to back them up, especially if they are made repeatedly.

6.  Comments that appear to be part of an agenda.  An example of this would be repeated criticisms of failed decision-making by Giants management without any significant acknowledgement of their successes.  BTW, that also goes for repeated and excessive praising of Giants management decisions without any acknowledgement of their failures or weaknesses.

7.  Excessively lengthy, rambling comments containing contradictory, cherry picked and irrelevant information presented under the guise of evidence based analysis which by their nature discourage any type of coherent response.  In short, throwing dust in the air!

8.  Repeated ranting on the same subject.  An occasional rant is OK, even therapeutic.  They can be quite humorous to read.  Repeated ranting on the same subject gets tiresome, boring and can become abusive.  If I see that happening, I will hit the button to re-direct you into more constructive future comments.

You are all a great audience.  I appreciate my readers and commenters to no end.  I apologize for even bringing the subject up.  With the exception of one particular troll who comes around every once in awhile, I would estimate that I have deleted fewer than 20 comments in the entire 4+ year history of the blog, so I believe I have used the power of deletion judiciously.  I just want to keep the comments sections something that people want to come here, read and enjoy.  Comments that distract from that goal will get the button!

Thanks to everyone for their patience!!

Dr B

PS:  If I do delete a comment, the system automatically deletes all sub-comments under that comment.

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/27/2014: A's 4 Giants 0

The fans did not get their money's worth at AT&T Park for the opener of the Bay Bridge Series as the Giants sleepwalked through the game while everybody else just went to sleep.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .371.  You might figure that Pence was the only guy who looked like he wanted to be out there.  Well, maybe Pablo Sandoval too, but he was too busy diving for screamers down the 3B line.  More on that later.

Michael Morse- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .303.  Giants fans got an eyeful of the dark side of having Morse's bat in the lineup as he misplayed a ball in the corner, dropped a short flyball and whiffed on a sinking liner.  I suppose I should cut him some slack like everybody else seems to be doing because of his lack of experience playing LF in AT&T, but man, that was brutal!  In the end, he probably only gave the A's 1 extra run and 1 run was not the difference in this game, but it could have been more and if you give up 1 extra run every night, it's going to put a dent in the W-L.

Tim Hudson- 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 6 K.  ERA= 4.26.  Not all BABIP's are created equal.  When Huddy tried to hit the inside corner against RH batters, they were waiting for it, dropped the bat head and sent one screamer after another down the 3B line.  Poor Pablo must have felt like a shooting range target out there!  Huddy's a veteran and a competitor so he was able to limit the damage until Reddick got all of one with a runner on base and hit it off the top of a flagpole that sits up on the arcade.  Still a big improvement over what we got from Zito last year.

David Huff, JC Gutierrez, Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 0 R each.  Huff almost certainly has the team made.  I'm picking JC over Law, but the Giants seem to really want Law to make the team, so who knows? Cordier's FB is truly impressive!  Kind of barely hung on to his command of it, though.  He could be back later in the season if he can get his command ironed out a bit more in Fresno.

Scott Kazmir(A's)- 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 1.62.  Kazmir spent the night pitching backwards off a very good changeup.  He typically started the hitters off with 2-3 off speed pitches then zip in a 92-93 MPH FB which would either freeze them or induce a late swing.  The only guy who had success against him, Pence, sat off speed early in the counts.

Around the League:

Miguel Cabrera gets an enormous extension from the Detroit Tigers which, combined with his current deal gives him the largest 10 year payout in MLB history.  Miggy turns 31 early this season so that takes him to age 41.  I fully understand just how great a player Miggy is, but man, it sure seems to me that MLB teams are almost desperately trying to give away their money right now, and enormous amounts of it!

Speaking of, everybody thought the Fielder and Fister trades were salary dumps so the Tigers could re-sign Max Scherzer, but this kind of makes a mockery of that theory.  At any rate, after a terrible spring training, Fister will start the season on the DL for the Nationals with a strained oblique.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/26/2014: Giants 8 Rockies 6

On Getaway Day from the 2014 Cactus League, the Giants fell behind the Rockies 6-0, then stormed back with 8 runs over the final 3 innings for the win.  Key Lines:

Juan Perez- 1 for 1, SB(4).  BA= .311.  Colvin drew a walk and scored a run, but Perez has this thing locked down, right?

Hunter Pence- 1 for 2, HR(5), BB.  BA= .362.  We know Pence is not going to hit .362, but it sure is great to see the continuation of his power surge from last year.  Far from a regression, I think we are going to see another big year from The Rev.

Jarrett Parker- 1 for 1, HR(1).  BA= .222.  Parker's blast cleared the batter's eye which is quite tall and 430 ft from home plate, a truly prodigious blast even by Cactus League standards.  Oh, and Parker wins the award for Most Valuable Hair in camp too!

Ehire Adrianza- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .255.  Adrianza played 2B and teamed up with Crawford on a sensational force play in which Crawford made a diving stop and Adrianza barehanded the feed.  I bet that got the wheels turning inside the Ol' Melonhead!

Hector Sanchez- 2 for 3, HR(2).  BA= .340.  I'm tellin' ya.  Anytime the Giants need or want to move Buster out from behind home plate, this kid is ready to go with a full time catching gig.  Oh man, what a talent!

Matt Cain- 5 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 7.47.  OK, not gonna fret about a start on the final day of Cactus League with the wind blowing like crazy.  Hmm, Hmm, no I'm not!  Just getting his work in, that's all!

Yusmeiro Petit- 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K's.  Very nice tuneup for Petit.

Santiago Casilla, Jean Machi- 1 IP, 0 R.  Machi walked 2.

Marco Scutaro said the diagnostic injection did not help his back.  He then underwent a third epidural injection, which hasn't seemed to help much either.  Scutaro conceded he will start the season on the DL and probably won't be ready for the second series either.  This is sounding worse by the day. I'm beginning to think we are going to be fortunate to see Scoots at all this season!

Jeremy Affeldt goes on the DL with a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee.  Am I the only one relieved to hear this news?  Affeldt has been raving about how great he feels, but he sure has not looked good!  This opens up another bullpen slot to start the season.  Dan Runzler and Heath Hembree are accompanying the team to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series.  JC Gutierrez might have the inside track on Affeldt's slot, though.

Speaking of Buster Posey, he was scratched from this one for "very, very, very" minimal hamstring tightness.  Buster reportedly wanted to play.

Around the League:

Huge news out of LA!  I have said all spring that Clayton Kershaw does not seem right.  There was a piece by Kyle Boddy in Hardball Times yesterday about how even though he had good numbers in the opener in Australia, Kershaw's velocity was down and his mechanics were off.  He had an MRI showing inflammation in his upper back and will miss his next start.  He's hoping to be ready for the Giants series.  I have to say, I have no idea what kind of a problem this might be, but it does not sound like something that is going to resolve in a few days.

Remember Seth Rosin?  The Dodgers put him on waivers and he was claimed by the Texas Rangers.  The Rangers will be the third team to hold his rights after he was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Mets.  If he does not stick with one of these teams for a full season, he has to be offered back to the Phillies for  $25 K.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/25/2014: Giants 5 Brewers 4

Madison Bumgarner's streak of scoreless spring training innings came to an end, as he gave up 3 HR's in his last 2 innings of work, but the Giants rallied for 3 runs in the ninth inning to pull out the win.  Key Lines:

Angel Pagan- 1 for 3, BB, SB.  BA= .265.  The line doesn't look like much, but if your leadoff hitter does this every day, your team will be alright.

Gary Brown- 1 for 1, 2B.  BA= .350.  Brown has quietly had a strong spring in limited opportunities.

Michael Morse- 2 for 3.  BA= .296.  Morse played LF for the first time in awhile and made a couple of nice catches.

Pablo Sandoval- 1 for 4, HR(3).  BA= .278.  Hoping for more dingers from Pablo this year.

Ehire Adrianza- 3 for 4.  BA= .250.  Adrianza looked lost at the plate about a week ago, but has bounced back nicely.

Juan Perez- 1 for 2.  BA= .300.  Tyler Colvin went 0 for 2.  Perez should have this wrapped up.

Madison Bumgarner- 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K's, 3 HR.  ERA= 1.19.  Probably better that he does not go into the season with a 0 ERA.

David Huff, Derek Law- 1 IP, 0 R.  Huff did nothing to unlock his roster spot.  Law may still be in the running after Machi gave up a run yesterday.

It was already all but official that Marco Scutaro would start the season on the DL.  Today he got yet another opinion on his back and received a "diagnostic" nerve block.  That sounds to me like it portends a possible surgical procedure or at least some type of radio ablation procedure.  Bochy said he could still get in 3 minor league games and be pronounced fit to start the season, but it doesn't take a medical degree to figure out that ain't happenin'.

Gettin' antsy to start the season, especially for my fantasy team!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts on Pablo Sandoval and the Future of Third Base for the Giants Part II

In Part I of this series, we looked at the difficulty in placing a value on Pablo Sandoval without the input of the open market.  The less certain a player's value, the less likely that player and his team will agree on a long term contract.  There is a high probability that Pablo Sandoval will become a free agent at the end of the 2014 season.  As Brian Sabean said back in December, if Pablo does hit free agency, he will have "no shortage of suitors, regardless of his weight," or something to that effect.

Indeed, some of the biggest spending teams in MLB could use a third baseman including one to the south of San Francisco whose GM has a fetish for signing Giants players.  The Yankees may well be in the market for a 3B, the Red Sox could be while the Tigers could move Nick Castellanos back to the OF and put Pablo at 3B.  Yeah, Pablo is going to get paid.  It's just a question of whether whether he is going to get paid a lot or get paid a whole heckuva lot!  Pablo's agent already threw cold water on any idea that the Giants might be able to make a last minute below market deal like they did with Hunter Pence by saying that if an extension is not signed by the All-Star Break, Pablo will be a free agent.

Assuming Pablo does become a free agent and signs with another team, which is more likely than not if  he is a FA, what are the Giants options for filling the position in 2015 and beyond?  Let's take a look.  We will first look at the Giants 3B depth chart, then outside FA options, trade options and finally some "outside the box" options.

Giants 3B Depth Chart(for a complete 3B depth chart discussion you might want to look up my post from the fall of 2013):

MLB:  Joaquin Arias:  Arias is a superior fielder but kind of a scattershot hitter.  I could see him putting up 2 WAR on defense alone!  The Giants have historically played well when he subbed in when Pablo was injured.   Probably not the guy you want as your starting 3B for more than a few weeks.

AAA:  Chris Dominguez is an older prospect with tremendous power potential. He found some success last year in Fresno by dialing back on the power a bit and increasing his contact.  Still strikes out at a frightening rate and it is difficult to see him hitting much above the Mendoza Line at the MLB level.

AA:  Adam Duvall is a ferocious hitter who has struggled with his throws to first base.  I think this guy can hit at the MLB level. The only question is if he can field the position.

High A/AA:  Ricky Oropesa has been working at 3B in minor league camp and looks like he's slated to play 3B for Richmond this year.  He's still at least a year away from contending for a MLB roster spot and probably 2 years away.

Low Minors:  Mitch Delfino, Ryder Jones and Jonah Arenado show future promise, but all have a long way to go.  Last year's first round draft pick, Christian Arroyo could eventually move to 3B.

Outside FA Options(Here's a list of potential 2015 FA 3B:

Alberto Callaspo, Chase Headley, Hanley Ramirez.  In other words, nobody!  Yeah, there are other names on the list, but do you really want me to list Yuniesky Betancourt and Wilson Betemit?  Just one more reason why Pablo is going to get paid!

Trade Options:  If there was anybody available, there are plenty of teams who would have already acquired them.  Maybe a Connor Gillaspie comes free on the South Side of Chicago?

Outside the Box:

Buster Posey:  Bruce Bochy is on record as musing that Buster might eventually become a pretty good third baseman.  I don't see it as any more than musing, but the Giants do have much better options at Catcher behind Buster than they do at 3B behind Pablo.  It is an elegant solution to several thorny problems:  It gets Buster out from behind the plate where he has already absorbed a pretty bad beating.  It keeps Brandon Belt at 1B assuming that Belt continues to grow as a player and makes himself indispensable.  It opens up opportunities for 2 of the Giants better young position players in Hector Sanchez and Andrew Susac.  Heck, as long as we're on the topic, wasn't I reading recently that The Hector was taking some ground balls at 3B?  Susac seems athletic enough to move to any of several positions including 3B.  Of course, there is a big gap between musing about Buster playing 3B and him actually playing the position.

Brandon Crawford:  If Crawford continues to grow as a hitter, he might get to a point where his bat would not be a liability at 3B and he looks like he would make a heckuva defender there.

As Brian Sabean said, the conventional wisdom would be to re-sign Pablo.  As we have seen, there are barriers to that happening.  The alternatives are all very iffy, but interesting to contemplate.

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/24/2014: Angels 11 Giants 4

Santiago Casilla allowed 4 runs without retiring a batter in the 7'th inning to let a close game get away from the Giants.  Key Lines:

Joaquin Arias- 2 for 3, BB.  BA= .319.  Arias was leading off today and managed to get on base 3 times.  He did not score or drive in a run.  Giants to 17 runners on base and had just 4 runs to show for it.

Michael Morse- 2 for 5, 2B.  BA= .250.   Good to see Morse' bat in action, but he has not played in the field seemingly all spring.

Tyler Colvin- 2 for 4, HR(2).  BA= .207.  Is it possible for Colvin to make a late run at the 5'th OF spot?  Juan Perez went 0 for 4 today.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 3, 2B, 3B.  BA= .265.  Crawford is on fire.  He apparently felt something click a couple of games ago and has been raking ever since.  Good timing!

Ryan Vogelsong- 4 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 2 K.  ERA- 9.00.  The good news:  Vogie's first 3 IP were scoreless.  The Bad News:  It seemed like he ran out of gas in the 4'th and 5' innings which is becoming a familiar pattern.

It became all but official today that Marco Scutaro will begin the season on the DL.  He is participating in baseball activities but does not appear to be particularly close to appearing in a game.  Bochy said his chances of starting the season on time are "way down."

Around the League:  

The injury bug continues to bite the Rangers as starting C Geovany Soto has a torn meniscus in the knee and will miss 10-12 weeks.

The Braves released RHP Freddy Garcia and signed Aaron Harang to a 1 year contract.  The Braves long run of unproductive drafts is finally catching up with them.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/23/2014: Giants 13 Royals 9

The Giants offense stormed back from a 7-1 deficit to win going away in Scottsdale.  Key Lines:

Angel Pagan- 2 for 5.  BA= .256.  Good to see Angel get a couple of hits after some time off for a sore back.  Giants need him healthy and hitting.

Brandon Belt- 2 for 3, 2B, 2 BB.  BA= .295.  Perfect numbers for a #2 hitter!

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 3, 3B, BB, Sac.  BA= .279.  Blanco has been hot.  If Morse is not ready to start the season in LF, Giants will be fine with Blanco and his great glove.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4, HR(1).  BA= .239.  Crawford got off to a slow start, but has been hitting better lately.

Ehire Adrianza- 1 for 1, HR(3).  BA= .205.  Mendoza line or no, this dinger almost surely nailed down a roster spot!

Juan Perez- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .315.  It's looking more and more like Perez is the guy for the 5'th OF slot.

Tim Lincecum- 4.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 3 HR.  ERA= 6.52.  Timmy found his strikeout pitch again and only walked 1 batter.  On the other hand, we see a familiar pattern of when things start to unravel, they fall completely apart and quickly.  On the other hand, I'm not convinced that he gives up those 3 dingers in AT&T Park.

Dan Runzler- 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.70.   Amazingly, Runzler apparently had an option left and got sent down after the game along with George Kontos who struck out the 2 batters he faced in this one.  Life is definitely not fair!

Derek Law- 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 5.40.  Law did not get sent down, but it's probably only a matter of time.  He probably needed to be perfect to unseat Jean Machi for the last of the setup relief slots.  This outing will probably be the one that gets him sent out, even if it doesn't happen right away.

Marco Scutaro did not appear in any games this weekend.  Gotta assume he's starting the season on the DL.

Michael Morse drew a walk in his one plate appearance and came out for a PR.  What's your over/under for him starting the season on time?

Around the League:

TB Rays LHP Matt Moore became the latest pitcher to take one off the grille today.  MLB needs to act fast, but won't!

Despite his 3 hits in yesterday's game, Yasiel Puig is apparently annoying his manager Don Mattingly.  Apparently the references to an MRI and bone scan were sarcasm from the manager who is getting sick of Puig grabbing a different body part every time he strikes out.  Getting thrown out on the basepaths twice did not endear him to the manager either, I'm sure.

Cubs sent Javier Baez down to sit out his Super 2 service time.  That has to change!

Cardinals named Joe Kelly their 5'th starter and announced that Carlos Martinez will open the season as the 8'th inning setup man making a mockery of the charade of spring training competition.

Early returns on the D'Backs are they do not have a very good team.  On top of that, Manager Kirk Gibson has made some head scratching decisions in game 2 against the Dodgers in Australia:  1.  Hit Miguel Montero in front of Mark Trumbo with a LHP on the mound.  2.  Played Didi Gregorius, a LH hitter instead of Chris Owings who hits right and hits better.  3.  Allowed Trevor Cahill to face 2 LH batters then took him out with a RH batter coming up after he walked the 2 lefties.

Texas Rangers 2B Jurickson Profar is out for 10-12 weeks with a torn shoulder muscle.  Most likely they will fill the void with internal options including a possible promotion for prospect Roughned Odor.    This is bad news for fantasy baseball players who took a chance on Profar having a breakout year.

Thoughts on Pablo Sandoval and the Future of Third Base for the Giants Part I

 A small dust storm blew up today in Arizona as Pablo Sandoval's agent responded to a lukewarm Brian Sabean comment in regards to the likelihood that a contract extension for Pablo would get done before the end of Spring Training which is the usual time for such things to occur.  Baggs may have goaded Pablo's agent into a statement by reporting that Pablo is asking for a contract "well north" of the 5 yrs/$90 M that Hunter Pence signed for.  Pablo's agent countered by confirming that Pence's contract was the "starting point" for negotiations, adding that the Giants offer was a comparatively paltry 3 years/$40+ M.  The happy news is that both sides appear to be willing to keep talking until at least the All-Star Break.  The unhappy news is that they are a very long way apart on numbers.

A big part of the difficulty in working out a contract in the absence of a free market is that Pablo's career so far has fluctuated widely.  He had a 5.5 fWAR season in 2009, followed by just 1.4 in 2010, a season marred by an extreme lack of conditioning and overweightness.  He rebounded to 5.1 in 2011 despite missing time with a hamate injury.  He suffered another hamate break in 2012 putting up a WAR of 2.5 but winning the World Series MVP Award.  Pablo was once again out of shape to start the 2013 season, missed time with plantar fasciitis and finished with a WAR of 2.3.  Part way through the season, word got out that Pablo was finally serious about losing weight and getting in better shape.  He hired a personal trainer and hired his brother, who graduated from culinary school to be his personal chef and cook healthy for him.  There was also a comment, possibly apocryphal, about waiting for his contract year to get in shape which raised some hackles among fans and questions about how long term his commitment was.

Brian Sabean, for one, was still obviously not convinced and sounded annoyed with Pablo at his postseason press conference.  Sabes did say that he would be open to an extension if Pablo came to Spring Training in shape.  What he didn't say was how long of an extension he would consider or for how many dollars.  Obviously, Sabes and Pablo's camps had very different ideas of just what he meant by and extension.

Baseball salaries are determined by a rather strange combination of past performance, anticipated future performance, anticipated team needs and market forces.  It is not unlike investing in a stock.  As such, you have to weigh not just past performance of the stock, but also growth potential and stability, quality of company management and the anticipated future performance of the overall economy.  Let's take a look at these factors as they relate to investing in Pablo Sandoval:

Past Performance:  One problem with evaluating Pablo is that his past performance has been so inconsistent.  Is he a 5+ WAR player or a 2.5 WAR player?   If you just look at the numbers in a vacuum, it certainly looks like Pablo has settled into a 2.5 WAR/season performance level.  On the other hand, it certainly seems possible that he is capable of putting up another 5+ season, especially with his newfound health consciousness.   Hunter Pence has had a remarkably consistent career and both sides had a clear idea of what his value was and what it is likely to be going forward.  With Pablo, it is much less clear what his historical value has been.

Growth Potential/Stability:  When you invest in a stock, especially one that has a maturity several years down the road, you want to know not only the growth potential of the company, but the risk of financial collapse.  In Pablo's case we've seen his likely ceiling and it's around 5+ WAR.  We've also seen the risk and it's not something that is pleasant to contemplate.  Again, this makes it difficult to place a value on Pablo going forward.

Personal Management:  Again, it's a mixed bag here.  Pablo certainly brings added value to his on-field performance.  He is a unique talent and character who plays the game with obvious enthusiasm.  The fans are drawn to him.  There is little doubt that tickets have been sold to people who were more interested in experiencing Pandamonium first hand than in seeing the Giants.  He certainly has been a boon to merchandise sales.  On the other hand, he has shown a disturbing tendency to return to bad eating and conditioning habits and had at least one other incident involving poor judgement in his private life.  We've seen Pablo get in shape before, only to balloon in weight again.  His alleged comments about getting in shape for his contract year do not create a swell of confidence going forward.

Future Performance of the Economy:  MLB is flush with money right now, but there are a few small clouds on the horizon which temper confidence that the good times will continue forever.  The Giants have historically been a cautious organization and are undoubtedly more aware of those clouds, no matter how small, than many other organizations.  The Giants are already something like 3'rd in all of MLB in future salary commitments and it is quite possible that ownership is pumping the brakes on getting in any deeper.  They have shown remarkable generosity with their homegrown players up to this point, but every organization has its limits, except maybe the Dodgers.

The Giants extension offer is probably a lowball, some might even say insulting, designed more to make good on Sabes' promise to consider an extension if Pablo came to camp in shape.  It is, however, based on his performance in WAR over the past 2 seasons and tempered by his uneven health history.  Pablo's camp has to believe that there is a much bigger pot of gold awaiting him at the end of the season and the Giants offer is his absolute floor in free agency.  In that light, gambling on another 5+ WAR, season which would almost surely result in a huge payday, is an easy decision.  The distance between those 2 calculations is why it is unlikely Pablo will sign a contract extension and will most likely become a free agent at the end of the season.

Part II will address the Giants future at third base with or without Pablo Sandoval.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/22/2014: Giants 8 White Sox 5

Tim Hudson pitched 6 strong frames while Juan Perez and Brandon Hicks bolstered their cases for roster spots with supporting dingers.  Key Lines:

Buster Posey- 3 for 4.  BA= .405.  I'm starting to believe in a big season from Buster.

Brandon Hicks- 3 for 4, HR(3), BB.  BA= .432.  Hicks is absolutely unconscious right now.  Definitely into Randy Elliott territory in terms of Giants history.  Made a nice play at both 2B and 3B on defense to boot.  Gotta think he's closing in on a roster spot.  Speaking of….When was the last time Tony Abreu played?

Juan Perez- 1 for 4, HR(2), BB.  BA= .308.  Perez broke a 1-1 tie with a 3 run dinger.  I noticed his swing on that hit.  Short, quick to the ball.  Holds the bat high and just drops the bat head down.  That's a swing that will play in the majors.  Hicks has a similar swing.

Tyler Colvin- 0 for 3, K.   BA= .167.  If there is a true competition for 5'th OF, gotta think Perez has it won.  Maybe Colvin senses that too?  He did make a nice sliding catch in RF on a Texas Leaguer.

Tim Hudson- 2 for 3.  BA= .800.  Wow!  Giants pitchers have always taken pride in their hitting, but Huddy is coming in and schooling them on how it's done!  No DH for him!  I'm thinking we're going to see him as pinch hitter a few times this year.  No wonder he didn't want to go to an AL team!

Tim Hudson- 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K, GO/AO= 6/8.  ERA= 3.72.  I didn't think Huddy was quite in mid-season form.  To many flyballs.  Then again, this is Arizona.  That ball is going to be sinking a lot more in AT&T!  Showed how to shut down rallies even without the strikeout pitch twice.

Jeremy Affeldt- 0.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 10.50.  Another reason why David Huff might be in line for a roster spot.  Affeldt clearly was not himself out there.  Just doesn't look strong and his mechanics seemed to be all out of whack.  On the other hand, he was the victim of some BABIP luck as the leadoff double had seeing eyes down the RF line and the next hit was a bouncer up the middle that would have been an out if it had been close to a fielder.

The game was on the White Sox station on TV.  Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone made my ears bleed once again.  Those two clowns started talking about Kyle Crick.  One of them asked the other what they thought of drafting HS pitchers in the first round.  "That's the worst thing you can do with a draft pick!"  Uh, hate to break it to you guys, but Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez and Madison Bumgarner would like to have a word with you!  LOL!

In addition to the spring training cuts announced yesterday, Kameron Loe saw the writing on the wall and took his option to be released.  I also learned that Carter Jurica left minor league camp on his own accord.

Around the League:

This is for those of you who wanted the Giants to sign Josh Johnson.  He's going to start the season on the DL with a flexor muscle strain in the forearm.

Dodgers and D'Backs about to start Game 2 of the regular season Down Under with Hyun-Jin Ryu facing Trevor  Cahill.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/21/2014: Giants 3 A's 0

Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff were both sharp in multiple innings as were Derek Law and Sergio Romo at the end of the game, and the Giants offense scratched out 3 runs with the help of some poor A's defense for the shutout win.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 1, 3B.  BA= .256. Blanco has been on fire of late.  He drove in an insurance run in the 8'th with a triple down the 1B line then came home on Brandon Crawford's sac fly.

Hector Sanchez- 2 for 3.  BA= .325.  The Hector had a rough start to the game taking a foul tip off the left shoulder and a bouncer to the groin in the first inning, but he hung tough, caught a good game and had 2 nice base hits.

Ehire Adrianza- 0 for 3, 3 K.  BA=     .  Adrianza made a couple of sparkling plays at 2B, but looked completely overmatched at the plate.

Yusmeiro Petit- 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K's.  ERA- 5.25.  Petit was locating and mixing speeds well in this game keeping the A's hitters off balance the entire 4 innings.  Kruk and Kuip interviewed Bochy during the game.  This was clearly a big game for Petit.  Bochy said the reason Matt Cain pitched in the AAA game was because he wanted to see Petit facing a major league lineup. He said he has some very tough decisions coming up.  He made it clear he needed to see Petit pitch well tonight and the big guy came through.

David Huff- 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 1.29.  If Huff is in direct competition with Peit, then he did not make Bochy's decision any easier.  I have to say I was impressed!  I did not know that Huff could get the FB up to 92.  Put that with a nice breaking ball and a top notch change and you have something to work with.  I wonder if Bochy might just keep both Petit and Huff?  Not only would that give him 2 backup starters on the roster, it would give him 2 guys who can go more than 1 inning at a time plus a third lefty out of the pen, something Bochy has made use of in the past.

Derek Law- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.93.  Law is a big dude with a funky delivery that comes right over the top after turning his back to the batter.  The ball just explodes out of nowhere.  I would call him nasty!  Another tough decision coming up for Bochy!

Sergio Romo- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 17.47.  Romo's two seamer and change up looked much better tonight.  Having a better FB and changeup allows him to be less dependent on the slider and makes it more effective.  I think the sacrifice of early spring numbers to work on improving those two pitches will pay off big time once we're into the season.

7 players got sent down today with a few eyebrow raisers:  Heath Hembree, Jake Dunning and Erik Cordier were assigned to Fresno.  Brett Bochy, Guillermo Quiroz, Mark Minicozzi and Adam Reifer were sent to minor league camp.  I had though Hembree was almost a slam dunk to make the opening day roster.  Shows how much I know!

Around the League:

The regular season starts early tomorrow morning with the Dodgers facing the D'Backs in Australia.  No offense, Australia, but I hate that!  Although, I would be down with starting the full regular season tomorrow.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/20/2014: Giants 11 Padres 3

Madison Bumgarner pitched 7 innings of shutout ball while Buster Posey let the offense with a grand slam HR.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 1 for 3, 2 BB, SB.  BA= .237.  Blanco has been heating up and setting the table at the top of the lineup.

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 3, 2B.  BA= .325.  Sandoval looks ready for a big season.  Hope so X 2. He's my fantasy 3B.

Buster Posey- 2 for 4, HR(2).  BA= .364.  Buster's dinger was a grand slam.  He's looking ready to start the season too!

Hunter Pence- 3 for 4, SB.  BA= .364.  Pence and Posey with matching .364 BA's   How great is that?

Hector Sanchez- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .297.  The Hector's double came with the bases juiced and he cleared 'em.  Does he have a knack for the big knock, or what?

Brandon Crawford- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .231.  Crawford has been hitting better in the last few games.

Madison Bumgarner- 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Midseason form, baby!  Bummy has yet to allow a run this spring!

Juan Gutierrez- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.29.  Gutierrez keeps hanging around and quietly pitching very well.  Is he a dark horse for a bullpen spot?

Marco Scutaro got an epidural injection for his aching back.  Official line is he's 50-50 to start the season.  I'll take the under on that.  

Got a nice tip from Shankbone on Gotta Like These Kids.  As if the Giants needed more pitching in their system, they landed another one from the IFA market, Kendry Melo, not to be confused with Kendry Flores or Keury Mella.  Melo was originally signed by Toronto for $100 K.  MLB voided the contract due to paperwork/age problems.  While sitting out, Melo gained strength and velocity.  Giants signed him for $500 K and Toronto is PO'd.  Giants have lost a few signings for similar reasons, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

Also on Shankbone's site, a list of recent releases.  I'll let you go look them up if you are interested. The most surprising to me was 1B Joey Rapp who I thought came on strong in the second half last year for Augusta.  I had him on my Honorable Mention list.  It is quite a long list and shows how strong the Giants system is that they can just let all those guys go.

Thoughts On Comebackers

Comebackers are usually good things for pitchers.  They are generally weakly hit balls back to the pitcher and result in easy outs.  Over the past few years, though, we have witnessed a sharp rise in the number of hard hit balls back through the box resulting in a series of serious injuries to multiple pitchers.  As Giants fans, we witnessed one frightening example a few years ago when Joe Martinez suffered skull fractures.  2 years ago, Brandon McCarthy of the A's underwent emergency surgery to drain a hematoma on the brain caused by a drive that went off the side of his head.  Last night, Aroldis Chapman was hit in the eye by a comebacker in a spring training game and suffered lacerations and fractures in the orbit.

It isn't just pitchers.  A few years ago, a minor league first base coach was instantly killed by a line drive that caught him on the side of the head lacerating his vertebral artery, the same injury that killed Dale Earnhart, the NASCAR driver.  It is no longer a question of if someone at the MLB level is going to be killed by one of these comeback drives, but when.

To its credit, MLB seems to be taking the problem seriously introducing helmet-like caps for pitchers to wear.  To their uncredit, many pitchers are balking at wearing the protective headgear.  The problem, as I see it, is the caps are not adequate to protect the pitcher from the most serious potential injuries.  The most serious injury potential comes from balls that hit in the temple area and the orbits of the eyes.  To have effective protection, a helmet would have to cover the temples and there would have to be some type of cage in front of the face.  I'm thinking of something similar to lacrosse helmets.

Pitchers will fight any changes tooth and nail.  We've already seen that.  Pitchers need every bit of peripheral vision they can muster to keep track of base runners and fielding positions.  Anything that so much as gives them the feeling of reduced visibility will be hated.  On the other hand, are we really prepared to watch a star pitcher die on the field from a violent encounter with a hit baseball?

To me, safety has to come first.  Protective headgear for pitchers may take some getting used to. It may take away a small amount of peripheral vision.  Whatever adjustments need to be made, I am confident they are doable and something the players can all learn to live with.  MLB needs to move this issue to the very top of its to do list.  They are sitting on a ticking time bomb.  The first pitcher to die in action could meet his fate today or tomorrow.

Fantasy Focus: Free Agent Market Report

First, a post draft update on Savvy Vets.  Our commissioner allows unlimited adds/drops until Opening Day, then we get a total of 40 for the rest of the season.  After the draft, I found Javier Baez undrafted, sitting on the FA list.  Baez has massive upside and may even start the season on the Cubs MLB team.  Even if he doesn't, you don't want to take the chance of being late on the trigger when he does get called up.  This is not a keeper league, but he's that kind of talent!  I figured I could afford to drop one of my 15 SP's and use a bench slot to stash Baez until his status is clarified.  I dropped Tyson Ross and picked up Baez.  Right now, he just has SS eligibility and I already have Ian Desmond at SS, but he will likely pick up either 2B or 3B once he starts playing, and I could use Baez in a IF or Utility slot.  Other than that, I am very happy with my drafted team and will probably not make any more moves before the season starts, barring serious injury to one of my players.

Here is an all-star team of players currently available on the FA list in my league.  We roster a total of 260 players so it is a reasonably deep league despite being only 10 teams:

C   Jason Castro, Astros.  Quietly hit 18 HR's last year.

1B Justin Morneau, Rockies.  Hard to not think of him as a Minnesota Twin but he hit 17 HR's in a very tough ballpark last year.  If he can stay on the field, he could improve that by at least 8-10 HR's in Coors Field.

2B Brian Dozier, Twins.  Quietly hit 18 HR's with 14 SB's last year.

3B Todd Frazier, Reds.  Hit 19 HR's last year and still seems to be slowly improving.

SS  Chris Owings, D'Backs.  It looks like Owings is winning the starting SS gig in Arizona.  He's the better hitter between him and Didi.

OF  Kole Calhoun, Angels.  His minor league record suggests last year's partial season stats are not a mirage.

OF  Khris Davis, Brewers.  Had a great partial season as a rookie last year.  Having a strong spring.

OF  Avisail Garcia, White Sox.  Prime breakout candidate.  Seems like a lock for 15/15 with an outside chance at 20/20.

SP  Ivan Nova, Yankees.  Yankee Stadium and the AL East are brutal for pitchers, but Nova still put up respectable numbers last year and should get plenty of run support.

SP  Brett Oberholtzer, Astros.  Very interesting partial season numbers from last year.  Not much run support in Houston, though.

SP  Henderson Alvarez, Marlins.  Won't get you many K's and won't get much run support in Miami, but give great WHIP.

SP  Michael Pineda, Yankees.  A physical beast, he finally seems to be healthy and is pitching well in spring training.  Again, pitching for the Yankees is a mixed blessing.

SP  Nate Eovaldi, Marlins.  Hard throwing who gets K's.  Gets a wild hair up his nose and becomes hittable when he loses command.  Sleeper/breakout candidate.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/18/2014: Indians 12 Giants 11

The Giants came up short in a desert slugfest.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 4, BB.  BA= .222.  Blanco was setting the table last night.

Tyler Colvin- 1 for 5, HR(1).  BA= .158.  Colvin has not done much this spring, although if he hits a couple more dingers between now and Opening Day, the Giants might prefer his LH power off the bench to Juan Perez' overall play.

Brandon Belt- 3 for 4, BB, SB.  BA= .333.  Belt seems recovered from his virus.  It's great to see him pepper the field with base hits but where is the power?

Hunter Pence- 2 for 4, 2 2B.  BA= .325.  Judging from his spring performance, Pence is ready to repeat his fantastic season from last year.

Hector Sanchez- 3 for 4, 2B, HR.  BA= .286.  Terrific game for The Hector.

Juan Perez- 1 for 4, 2B, HBP.  BA= .318.  Perez answers Colvin in the same game with a double.

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4.  BA= .222.  About time for Crawford to get untracked.

Brandon Hicks- 1 for 1, HR(2), 2 BB, HBP.  BA= .419.  The 4 times on base might be the most impressive part of his night.  Gotta think he's a serious player for a reserve IF spot on the roster and could well be the opening day starter at 2B unless Scutaro can step it up in the next 10 days.

Ryan Vogelsong- 2.2 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 9.00.  Vogie said he felt good and had good stuff.  Admitted to a few mental mistakes.  This line looks a lot like some of what we saw last year where is peripherals weren't too bad, but the BABIP was through the roof.  After awhile, you tend to stop believing it's due to luck.  On the other hand, we've seen a lot of high scores coming out of the desert in the last week.  That air must be sucking every molecule of water out of those balls which makes them light.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Scouting The Draft: Update On Michael Chavis

Michael Chavis seems to profile as the type of hitter/position player the Giants have been targeting in the John Barr era, in the Buster Posey/Joe Panik/Christian Arroyo mold.  He is a HS SS who profiles as a 3B in the pros with a tremendous hit tool.  He has above average speed a good arm and present power.  He is not physically impressive at 5'11", 190 lbs but the hit tool looks special.  He is not showing up in the first round of most mock drafts but that has never stopped the Giants in the past.  Here is an update I found linked over on Big League Futures that makes me think he just might be a guy the Giants would seriously consider taking at #14 overall.  It's an article about HS prospects whose stock is rising early in the HS baseball season from Through the Fence Baseball:

"Chavis just continues to mash.  The 5'11", 190 lb right-hander went 3 for 3 with 2 more home runs on March 14 upping his total to 6 over his first 11 games.  He is also hitting .656/.738/1.344 with an OPS of 2.028,4 doubles and 9 stolen bases.  He is playing shortstop now, but with his tremendous power, should make a move over to third base where his arm, glove and footwork will play well."

Yup, he's right there in the Posey, Panik, Arroyo mold with possible more power.  I have seen him comped to former Dodgers 3B Ron Cey.

Fantasy Focus: Stars and Scrubs vs Spreading the Wealth

This year, there is a clear top tier of just 2 players in MLB:  Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.   In a traditional snake draft, there isn't a whole lot to think about.  If you have one of the first two picks, you there is absolutely no downside to taking one of them.  In an auction, it is more complicated as every player has a chance to get one, both or neither depending entirely no how much you are willing to pay.

A well known rule of thumb in fantasy baseball auctions is you should not pay more than $40 for any single player.  With that rule as point of reference, Trout and Cabrera are commanding an average of $60 each!  The problem for an auction player is that even if you have no interest in spending that much, you also cannot afford to just ignore those players and let someone else grab them for a bargain.  You have to think about price enforcement!

I went into my auction draft last night with 2 distinct plans in mind hingeing on how Trout and Cabrera played out.  I felt that in order for a "spread the wealth" strategy to work, someone else had to be forced to pay more than $60 each for the big 2.  Going in, I had a contingency plan for bidding up to $60 and taking both players for a total of $120 if I had to.  Although it would not be easy to build a competitive supporting cast with that much money off the table, I felt it was doable and looked forward to the challenge.  My preferred plan, though, was to spend no more than $40 on any one player and try to accumulate as many 5 category offensive players as possible while saving money on pitching by punting Saves and loading up on undervalued pitchers at the end of the draft.  Fortunately, the prices for both Trout and Cabrera blew right no through the $60 ceiling eliminating at least 2 managers from competing for the players I really wanted.

The manager who took Trout ended up paying a whopping $66 for him.  Now, I have no doubt that Trout is going to be a beast of a player this year, barring serious injury which is possible with any player.  The only question is was it worth it to pay that much for his elite production if it prevents you from paying for a top player at another position.  This same manager spent $1 on Brett Lawrie to be his 2B later in the draft.  My most expensive player was Ryan Braun, also an OF, at $41.  My 2B is Jason Kipnis who cost me $27.  The other guy spent a total of $67 on his top player and 2B while I paid a total of $68, essentially the same combined cost.  With that in mind, let's take a look at the projected combined stat lines for those 2 positions for both teams(Using ZIPS which I believe is the most accurate projection system):

Other Guy:

Mike Trout:   119 R, 29 HR, 95 RBI, 43 SB, .300 BA.
Brett Lawrie:   64 R, 16 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB, .266 BA.

Combined:    175 R, 45 HR, 157 RBI, 55 SB, .283 BA.

Savvy Vets:

Ryan Braun:  99 R, 33 HR, 116 RBI, 22 SB, .300 BA.
Jason Kipnis: 88 R, 17 HR,   83 RBI, 25 SB, .263 BA

Combined:  187 R, 50 HR, 199 RBI, 47 SB, .282 BA.

As you can see, for the same price, the other guy has a small advantage in SB's, I have a modest advantage in R and HR's and a substantial advantage in RBI with BA being essentially tied.  Most likely 4 of the 5 categories are within the margin of error while the RBI's are probably a safe advantage for me.

This exercise does not show a clear advantage for 1 approach over the other.  It slightly favors spreading the wealth.  In a 10 team league, you can get surprisingly strong value at the very end of the draft which gives you cover for overspending early.  The difference might be significantly greater in a deeper league where the quality of the scrubs would be lower.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/17/2014: Angels 8 Giants 7

Tim Lincecum got cuffed around in this one as the Angels won a see-saw battle in Cactus League action today.  Key Lines:

Marco Scutaro- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .500.  Scooter made his spring game debut today and hit a double down the 3B line in his first AB.

Tony Abreu- 0 for 3.  BA= .167.
Ehire Adrianza- 0 for 3.  BA= .194.
Brandon Hicks- 1 for 1, 2B. BA= .400.  Is Brandon Hicks this year's Randy Elliott?

Tim Lincecum- 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 4.30.  When you live by BABIP, you die by BABIP.  Tim Lincecum recorded no strikeouts and just 2 BB's in his 5.1 IP, but 7 batted balls found holes, and that added up to 5 runs allowed. Maybe Timmy can reinvent himself as a contact pitcher, but contact pitchers generally don't get paid $20 M per season.

Yusmeiro Petit- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 7.88.
Jean Machi- 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 6.35.  With Huff, Cordier and Hembree all pitching well, you have to wonder whether Petit and Machi are in danger of not making the final cut.

Around the League:

The A's announced that Jarrod Parker will undergo Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career.  An awful lot of the recent rash of TJ's seem to coming from pitchers who have previously had the procedure which raises a whole host of questions.

The Detroit Tigers announced that SS Jose Iglesias will miss most, if not all of the season with shin problems that are reportedly due to stress fractures.  The Tigers do not have in-house replacements who have played above AA.  We'll see if this generates any interest in them signing Stephen Drew.  The Tigers are build to win now, so losing the late first round draft pick should be a secondary consideration here.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fantasy Focus: Savvy Vets 2014

My fantasy league had their draft today.  It's a 10 team H2H with standard 5X5 categories, auction with $260 for 26 roster spots.  I present to you the 2014 Savvy Vets:

C    Jonathan Lucroy $1
1B  Brandon Belt $3
2B  Jason Kipnis $27
3B  Pablo Sandoval $7
SS  Ian Desmond $19
IF   Mike Napoli $1
OF Ryan Braun $41
OF Carlos Gomez $31
OF Shin-Soo Choo $21
UT Jose Bautista $20
UT Alex Gordon $6
SP  Max Scherzer $25
SP  Dan Haren $5
SP  Homer Bailey $11
SP  Alex Cobb $7
SP  James Shields $5
RP  Andrew Cashner $3
RP  Tyson Ross $1
RP  Alex Wood $1
P     Danny Salazar $5
P     Jake Peavy $2
Bench  Hector Santiago SP $1
Bench  Chris Archer SP  $1
Bench  Rick Porcello SP $2
Bench  Corey Kluber $1
Bench Carlos Martinez $1

I am obviously punting Saves completely and hoping to dominate Win and K's with shear numbers while remaining competitive in ERA and WHIP.  I am not happy that I left $12 on the table.  I should have spent it on Gerrit Cole but had to leave my computer for just a minute to attend to a family matter just as he was nominated.  He went for $14.  Someone nominated Haren early and he seemed like a good deal for $5 at the time, but now he looks a bit pathetic when you look at the back end of the draft. I am afraid Belt may be a weak link, although he does have upside as we know and hope.

Both Mike Trout and Miggy went in the mid-$60's.  Kershaw went for over $49.

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/16/2014: Indians 5 Giants 1

Not much to say about todays Cactus League loss.   Key Lines:

Juan Perez- 1 for 2, 3B.  BA= .325.  Perez left the game after fouling a ball off his foot.  Barring serious injury, it sure looks like he is in the driver's seat for the 5'th OF roster spot.

Tim Hudson- 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K.  ERA= 4.73.  Uncharacteristic wildness from Huddy.  He did get his work in throwing 100 pitches.

David Huff- 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 2.25.  Huff seems to have recovered nicely from his initial shoulder soreness and has pitched well in his opportunities.

Heath Hembree- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 2.25.  Hembree has also been pitching well.  A Bullpen spot should be his to lose.

I think we've hit the dog days of spring training.  Hard to believe we still have 2 weeks to go while the official regular season starts in just 8 days in Australia for just 2 teams.  Man, am I glad the Giants aren't the ones doing that.  On the other hand, I don't think a whole 2 more weeks of spring training are really necessary.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap: Giants 13 Mariners 6; A's 8 Giants 1

It was as tough day for the Giants as they had two starting pitchers knocked around.  They managed to outhit the Mariners in the early game, but were dominated by the A's in game 2.  Key lines:

Game 1

Hector Sanchez- 2 for 4.  BA= .250.  I don't think reserve catcher is an open position.  It's Hectors.

Brandon Hicks- 2 for 4, 2B, SF, SB.  BA= .370.  Brandon Hicks is stating his case to be the dark horse that wins the reserve middle IF roster spot.

Juan Perez- 3 for 5, 2B, HR, SB.  BA= .316.  If the 5'th OF spot is open to competition, then Juan Perez is winning it.

Edwin Escobar- 2.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 2 K's   ERA= 5.19.  Escobar faltered a bit in this one, but it seemed like a tough day for pitchers all around in Arizona.

Game 2

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, HR(4).  BA= .313.

Ehire Adrianza- 0 for 3.  BA= .222.  Adrianza has had some big hits, but his BA is sinking into Mendoza Line territory.  Abreu is hitting just .188.  Are they leaving the door cracked open for Brandon Hicks?  Can the Giants handle 3 Brandons on one team?

Matt Cain- 2.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 3 K.  ERA= 5.91.  Maybe Matt Cain should not have any more perfect starts!  Come to think of it, maybe the Giants don't need any more perfect games or no-hitters for awhile!   Apparently the wind was blowing out in Scottsdale and in some other ballparks in Arizona.  That, combined with the high sky made it a tough day for pitchers and OF's.

Mike Kickham- 2.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Nice job by Kickham in this one.  I suspect he just needs to get a few more of these under his belt and get some confidence out there and he'll be just fine.

Casilla, Romo, Cordier- 1 scoreless IP each.  Derek Law gave up a run in the 9'th.

Around the League:  Clayton Kershaw got knocked around yet again in his final tuneup for the season opener in Australia.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/14/2014: Giants 4 Rockies 0

Hunter Pence hit 2 home runs and Giants pitchers combined on a 2 hit shutout as the Giants dominated the Rockies today in Scottsdale.  Key Lines:

Hunter Pence- 2 for 3, 2 HR(3).  BA= .276.  Is it conditioning?  Experience? Better swing mechanics? Pence started hitting some very long taters last year and now he's hit 3 this spring.  Are we seeing a mid-career surge in power?

Madison Bumgarner- 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K's.  ERA= 0.00.  Bumgarner looks like he's ready to start the season right now and ready to take his place among the elite pitchers in baseball if he hasn't already done that.

Bochy(2.45), Affeldt(2.25), Hembree(3.00), Machi(3.38)- 1 scoreless IP each.  A Heath Hembree sighting!

Nick Noonan and Roger K sent down.  Noonan seemed to tick up and got some nice hits after a lesson with Barry Bonds.

Forgot to mention yesterday that Jeffrey Leonard aka Hac Man/Penitentiary Face has signed on to be a community representative for the Giants.  He has a very active Foundation advocating for Breast Cancer Awareness called One Flap Down.  Who knew?  Great to see that side of a guy with a pretty rough exterior showing through!

A couple of thoughts from perusing Giant Potential:  1.  It sounds like Jonah Arenado is barreling up the ball with some regularity in minor league camp.  2.  Ryder Jones is working out and playing with the San Jose group.  Check out the site, linked to the left for Giants minor league spring training news.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/13/2014: Giants 4 Rangers 4

The Rangers rallied late against Jose De Paula to tie the Giants who built a lead on strong performances by starter Ryan Vogelsong and catching prospect Andrew Susac.  Key Lines:

Brandon Crawford- 2 for 4.  BA= .185.  Hopefully this will be the start of better results at the plate for Crawford.

Andrew Susac- 2 for 2, HR, 2 BB.  BA= .308.  What a game for Susac!  He was given the start as a reward for his strong work this spring before being optioned to Fresno.  He only added to his already impressive resume as a catching prospect.

Roger Kieschnick- 2 for 5.  BA= .130.  Roger K has struggled at the plate this spring.

Ryan Vogelsong- 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K, GO/AO= 6/2.  ERA= 5.11.  Strong start for Vogey coming off a poor previous start.  Hopefully this is something to build on.

Jose De Paula- 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 4.50.  De Paula had been sensational up to this point.

Derek Law- 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  Law came in and re-established order bailing out De Paula.  I'm sure Bochy took note of that.

David Huff, Jake Dunning- 1 scoreless IP each.

Michael Morse will miss 4-5 more games due to a sore calf.   Angel Pagan has lower back pain and sat out.

Around the League:

Fantasy Alert- Remember Carlos Martinez, the fireballing rookie who was lights out in the postseason for the Cardinals last year.  Well, he's being used as a starter this spring and is expected to make the starting rotation out of spring training.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/12/2014: Giants 4 White Sox 3

The Giants played a see-saw game with the White Sox today building a 2 run lead only to fall behind 3-2 and then pulling it out with 2 runs in the 9'th.  Key Lines:

Gregor Blanco- 2 for 3, BB.  BA= .238.  Blanco doing his thing, getting on base.

Michael Morse- 1 for 2, 2B.  BA= .235.

Buster Posey- 2 for 3.  BA= .450.

Nick Noonan- 1 for 1, 2B.  BA= .263.

Tim Lincecum- 4.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 1.93.  One of the runs was an inherited runner that Runzler allowed in.  Timmy said he was starting to elevate his pitches in the 5'th.  Oh, and the pornstache needs to go!

Dan Runzler- 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 3.00.  Good to seen no walks, but allowing the inherited runner to score was not so good.

Yusmeiro Petit- 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 9.00.  The unearned run was a result of Petit's own error.  Otherwise a better looking line here.

Santiago Casilla and Mason Tobin- 1 scoreless IP each.

Cutdown Day:  Gary Brown, Jose De Paula, Adam Duvall, Mike Kickham optioned to Fresno.  Kendry Flores, Hunter Strickland optioned to San Jose.  Jason Berken, Mitch Lively, Chris Dominguez, Andrew Susac reassigned to minor league camp.

I thought De Paula and Berken might stick around a bit longer.  Susac gets a start tomorrow as a reward for his impressive work, then will head to minor league camp after the game.

Around the League:  With Kris Medlen out, the Braves were forced to sacrifice a draft pick to sign Ervin Santana to a 1 year deal for $14 M, essentially a QO except with a different team than originally offered it.  The Braves might be wishing they had not given Huddy the brush off.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/11/2014: Giants 8 Reds 5

Tim Hudson had a tough start, but Buster Posey was a triple short of hitting for the cycle while Ehire Adrianza strengthened his case for a roster spot with a 2 run HR.  Key Lines:

Joaquin Arias- 2 for 4.  BA= .400.  Arias has been all but forgotten in all the interest in the Adrianza/Abreu debate, but he's having a solid spring.

Buster Posey- 3 for 4, 2B, HR.  BA= .412.  Buster drove in 4 of the Giants 8 runs.

Ehire Adrianza- 1 for 4, HR(2).  BA= .267.  Another statement by Adrianza.  This one was from the right side.  His other one in the first game of the spring was left-handed.

Tim Hudson- 2 for 2, BA= 1.000.  Huddy was quite the hitter in college.  He's definitely going to have bragging rights among the pitchers a lot this year.

Gary Brown- 1 for 2, SB(2).  BA= .267.  Brownie needs to string a few of these lines together and get into a rhythm.

Tim Hudson- 3.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 2 K.  ERA= 4.15.  3 walks is a lot for Huddy in a 7 inning start, so he didn't have his A game today.

Jake Dunning- 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 2.08.  A bit of wildness from Dunning.

Erik Cordier- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  The key to success for Cordier is putting up 0's in the BB slot.

Marco Scutaro is "not close" to facing live pitching according to Boch.  It's becoming more and more likely he will start the season on the DL, thus opening up the possibility that the Giants can delay their choice between keeping Adrianza or Abreu.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/10/2014: Cubs 3 Giants 2

Matt Cain pitched 5 perfect innings but the Cubbies came back with the help of some poor fielding.  Key Lines:

Pablo Sandoval- 2 for 3.  BA= .381  Pablo drove in the only two runs as Morse and Pence scored on his single in the bottom of the 4'th inning.

Matt Cain- 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K.  ERA= 0.00.  It doesn't get much better than that. I didn't see what his stuff looked like, but the line would indicate that he was in complete control of everything.  Wow!

David Huff- 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 9.00.  Huff makes his spring debut with so-so results. He's getting a late start, but the door is still open for that long relief/6'th starter slot.

Jeremy Affeldt- 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 3.00.  Not a great outing by any stretch, but Affeldt was hurt by a Keystone Cops play in which both Brandon Crawford and Tony Abreu committed errors.

Jose De Paula- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 0.00.  De Paula continues to make impressive appearances in different roles.

Barry Bonds arrived in camp today for a weeklong stint as a special instructor.  The press conference went as well as could be expected and better under the circumstances.  He sounds happy and eager to be part of the Giants organization again.  Great to hear he's living in SF now.  He sounded humble when he said he isn't sure if he can be a good coach or not.  He's here to find out.

I kind of feel like the 2 rings have taken a huge weight off the entire organization.  Just think of how frustrating it would be to remember Barry's career if we were still waiting for the first one.

If you are interested in getting some great firsthand information about minor league camp, check out the website Giant Potential linked over to the left.  Connor Penfold is the proprietor and he has terrific information with pictures and videos.  Just a teaser:  If you are impressed by the Giants wealth of young pitchers who were and are in big league camp, they have at least 2 more ready to join that group:  Luis Ysla and Keury Mella.  Remember those names and check out Giant Potential!

Around the League:  While the Atlanta Braves await the outcome of Kris Medlen's MRI, Brandon Beachy, another TJ survivor, came out after 2 innings of a planned 4 inning start complaining of biceps tightness.  The Bravos may be starting to regret thinking Tim Hudson wasn't needed anymore.

Fantasy Focus: All Non-Drafted Team- Pitchers

Pitching is deeper than ever this year.  You can get good pitching late in drafts and several rosterable pitchers are going undrafted in many leagues.  If you have no innings limit in your league, these guys make good streaming options.  Here are some undrafted guys I find interesting:

Scott Feldman, Astros.  2013:  12 W, 132 K, 3.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 181.2 IP.   The W's may be harder to come by with that Astros lineup, but I always look for low WHIP's and he gives you that.

Rick Porcello, Tigers.  2013:  13 W, 142 K, 4.32 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 177 IP.  Porcello is an extreme groundball pitcher who should benefit greatly from the Tigers improved IF defense.  He also started to strike more people out in the second half last year.

Henderson Alvarez, Marlins.  2013:  5 W, 57 K, 3.59 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 102.2 IP.  Alvarez is an extreme contact pitchers who won't get you many K's and he has a pathetic lineup backing him up, so W's may be hard to come by.  Don't forget that WHIP is a category, though, and he has a great WHIP!

Nate Eovaldi, Marlins.  2013:  4 W, 78 K, 3.39 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 106.1 IP.  Eovaldi is sort of the mirror image of Alvarez. He gets K's, but is going to have a higher WHIP.  He throws really hard and I like his upside.

Erasmo Ramirez, Mariners.  2013:  5 W,  57 K's, 4.98 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 72.1 IP.  Ramirez was a big disappointment last year, mostly due to injuries.  He will be as high as the Mariners #3 starter this year and has pitched well in the spring.  A nice sleeper to draft late.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/9/2014: Giants 3 Dodgers 2

3-2 seems to be the Giants magic score this spring as they won by that score for something like the 4'th time in 5 games.   Brandon Hicks took Clayton Kershaw deep in the second and drove in all 3 runs while Edwin Escobar overcame the butterflies and some squeezing by the ump.  Key Lines:

Brandon Hicks- 1 for 2, HR, 2 BB.  BA= .429.

Edwin Escobar- 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 1.50.  I was following on Gameday.  There were several pitches called balls by the ump that were well within the K zone on the Pitch Fx monitor.  I thought the kid did a good job of keeping his composure settling down to limit the damage.  Afterwards, Bochy hinted that Escobar might be getting close to being the first option for reserve starter.

Jason Berken- 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 4.50.  Nice effort by Berken who has MLB experience and could work his way into the reserve starter mix.

Jean Machi- 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 4.15.  Machi certainly did not hurt his cause in making the roster as he bailed out Melonhead Jr in the 8'th and then slammed the door in the 9'th all with just a 1 run lead on the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw(Dodgers)- 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 10.00.  Better than his first 2 starts of th spring and better than his last start of 2013, but still not exactly what you expect from Kershaw.  I don't know what his velocity was, but it looked like he laid a lot of pitches right out over the plate on the Gameday strike zone.  The pitch that Hicks hit out was belt high and down the middle with nothing on it.

Madison Bumgarner pitched 5 shutout innings in the Future's Game.  I could not find  boxscore, but the Giants won that one 8-0.

Long article by Alex P on Extra Giants about Gary Brown.  Sounds like he and the Giants are still not quite on the same page.  Kind of a mixed reaction from me here.  I agree with Brown that he should not become a slap/groundball hitter, especially since he only bats from the right side.  That approach just isn't going to work.  Agree with Bam Bam and the organization that he needs to hold his hands higher.

Barry Bonds arrives in camp tomorrow.

Around the League:

RHP Kris Medlen, Braves, left today's game holding his right elbow and was diagnosed with the dreaded "forearm strain."  He will likely start the season on the DL.  The next headline you read in those kinds of injures is usually about a visit to Dr Andrews.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fantasy Focus: All Non-Drafted Team- Batters

One of the exercises I like to go through in preparing for a fantasy draft is to look at the worst case scenario for every position.  In other words, who might I be able to count on getting if I leave a given position to the end of the draft or if I get too exuberant about spending money early in an auction.  With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to compile an All-Star team of players likely to be non-drafted.  I looked up players at each position who are less than 20% owned in Yahoo leagues right now.  Since this covers all Yahoo formats, it means that if you are in a standard 10 or 12 team league, there is close to a 100% chance that these guys will go undrafted, unless you take them at the end of your draft.  Let's take a look:

C  Welington Castillo, Cubs.  2013:  41 R, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB, .274 BA, 428 PA.  Castillo was widely regarded as a sleeper last spring.  Nobody is paying him any attention this year due to a somewhat disappointing 2013.  I would just call your attention to his second half stat line:  .288/.388/.475, 6 HR in 165 PA's.  Projected over a full season, those are monster numbers!  Not saying you can just multiply his second half stats by 3 and get his 2014 projection, but HR's in the high teens with a .270 BA is not at all unreasonable as an expectation.

1B  Justin Smoak, Mariners.  2013:  53 R, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 0 SB, .238 BA, 521 PA.  First base is a thin position this year and Smoak was the best I could find.   The 20 HR's is mildly interesting but he hit 19 in 2012 with a .217 BA.  You might want to use this information to decide to fill your 1B slot before the end of the draft.  On the other hand, if Smoak could just find a way to get his BA into the .250 range, he could become rosterable in CI/IF/UT slot in deeper leagues.

2B  Rickie Weeks, Brewers.  2013:  40 R, 10 HR, 24 RBI, 7 SB, .209 BA, 399 PA.  2B is another thin position.  2013 was a lost year for Weeks as he lost his starting 2B job.  The Brewers appear to be given him a chance to win it back this spring and he is swinging the bat better.  Personally I would not draft him, but his situation is worth watching closely in case you need to add a 2B from the waiver wire after the season starts.

3B  Cody Asche, Phillies.  2013:  18 R, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 1 SB, .235 BA, 179 PA.  For better or worse, Cody Asche is the Phillies starting 3B for 2014.  That alone makes him worth considering as a fantasy 3B as this is another thin position.  Whether he can sustain his 2013 performance is open to question, but it wasn't bad projected over a full season's worth of PA's.  Worth monitoring on the PA market after the season starts.

SS  Pedro Florimon, Twins.  2013:  44 R, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 15 SB, .221 BA, 446 PA.  At 6'2", 180 lbs, Florimon is large for a SS.  His 2013 numbers get interesting if projected over a full season's worth of PA's with double digit HR's and Steals an excellent possibility and 20/20 not out of the question.  Again, I would not draft him, but he's worth following closely on the FA market once the season starts.

OF  Raul Ibanez, Angels.  2013:  54 R, 29 HR, 65 RBI, 0 SB, .242 BA, 496 PA.  Ibanez just keeps going as he enters his age 42 season.  He is slated to be the Angels' full time DH which may bump his PA's close to 600.  Nice power source at the end of your draft.

OF  Justin Ruggiano, Cubs.  2013:  49 R, 18 HR, 50 RBI, 15 SB, .221 BA, 472 PA.   It looks like Ruggiano will be playing nearly everyday in the Cubs OF.  His .260 BABIP suggests the possibility of a bounceback in BA which should also help his counting stats. The move from Miami to Wrigley Field won't hurt a bit.  A 20/20 season is a strong possibility.

OF  Michael Morse, Giants.  2014(ZIPS):  48 R, 14 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB, .253 BA, 427 PA.  Morse's season hinges on his health.  He will come out of game in which the Giants are leading in the late innings for a defensive replacement, so the projected PA's may not be too far off.  He could put up significantly better numbers if he remains fully healthy.

OF  Ryan Ludwick, Reds.  2014(ZIPS):  36 R, 13 HR, 52 RBI, 0 SB, .244 BA, 354 PA.  Ludwick's 2013 season was lost due to injury.  He appears to be healthy this spring and new manager Bryan Price is talking about batting him 4'th against LHP's and 5'th against RHP's this year.  He is a good bet for 20+ HR's if healthy and batting in the middle of the Reds lineup should push his R/RBI up considerably.