Friday, May 1, 2015

Thoughts on the Month of April

The first month of the season is in the books and it was a rough one for the Giants and their fans.  Were it not for an almost miraculous home series sweep of the Dodgers, this team might well be completely out of the postseason race already.  As it stands, the Giants are in last place, but only 4.5 games out of first which is whole lot better than it could be, thanks to the aforementioned sweep.  It's always hard to summarize a whole months worth of games in one post.  I'll break it down into the Good and the Bad and go from there.

The Good:

Norichika Aoki- What a nice offseason FA signing Aoki has been!  He has been a veritable on-base machine at he top of the lineup while playing an acceptable LF.  A bonus is he seems to make at least very fun to watch play every game whether it be jackknifing out of the way of inside pitches or scrambling around tags on pickoff attempts or pratfalling in the OF.

Angel Pagan- Pagan has been mostly healthy and has been slashing out of the 3-hole.  Ideally you'd like more power in that lineup slot, but the XBH's should start to pile up if he can stay in the lineup.

Justin Maxwell- Maxwell is looking like a terrific no-cost offseason pickup.  Lightning in a bottle, if you will.  There will be an OF crunch when Pence gets back, but that's a good problem to have.

Madison Bumgarner vs Clayton Kershaw- two matchups last year's regular season ace and postseason ace.  I'd say Bummy came out on top as the Giants won both games and Bummy got one decision in the Win column.  These matchups compare favorably with Juan Marichal vs Sandy Koufax of long ago.

Chris Heston- He does not appear to be a future ace, but Heston has come up and pitched remarkably well for a guy who has long profiled as a AAAA guy.  Can he keep it up?  He does seem to have 4 solid pitches and good command.

The Bad:

Injuries- Maxwell has been good, but only for a short stretch.  It's not like Hunter Pence never goes into a slump, but this team misses the guy you can put in RF and the middle of the lineup then forget about.  2/5's of the starting rotation is on the DL.  That is very bad.  Casey McGehee did not go on the DL, but probably should have.  He just does not look right at all!

Pitching Rotation- Aside from the two Kershaw matchups, Bummy has not really been himself.  The rest of the rotation has had a good game here and there, but mostly looks like it's held together with bandaids and bailing wire.  Whether or not this rotation makes it through the season or not, it is quite clear it will need to be completely rebuilt by the start of next season, hopefully around Madison Bumgarner.

Brandon Belt- Belt continues to be a guy with tantalizing potential who never quite delivers on it.  He also seems to have a penchant for getting hurt just as it looks like he is about to break out.  Belt finding himself would seem to be a big key for the rest of the season.

The Rest:

The Bullpen has been good, not great.  Brandon Crawford has flashed some power and played his usual terrific defense.  The BA should come up a bit, but it's looking like Crawford will never hit more than about .250 which is just fine given what else he contributes.  Joe Panik started slow, then heated up.  Right now, he's right about where he finished last season, which is a good thing.  Matt Duffy started hot, but has cooled off.  Susac seems to have wrested the back up catcher gig from Hector Sanchez, although the Giants are carrying both backup catchers.  Don't know how long that will last.

The Future:

Early returns look like all the teams in the division are improved, except the Giants.  The Dodgers have their warts as their rotation after Kershaw and Greinke is just as shaky and injury prone as the Giants and their bullpen remains shaky.  Thay also have a doofus for a manager. On paper, though, the Dodgers continue to look like the team to beat in the division by a large margin.  The Padres can certainly hit, but their OF defense has already hurt them.  The Rockies started out hot, but just lost their new closer to injury and their pitching in general does not look like it will hold up.  The D'Backs are young and play with a lot of enthusiasm and aggressiveness.  Again, their pitching may not hold up.

The Giants need to get Pence back.  That will almost surely happen, but it could take a month for him to get his timing down after he returns.  They need Cain and Peavy to get healthy.  That may or may not ever happen.  They need McGehee to get fully healthy or else move on to plan B or C at 3B.  The Giants have a full schedule in May.  It will most likely be the key month of the season.  If they can get through May without being buried, they may stand a chance the rest of the way.


  1. I have gone into this year as we are "re loading". Not just because of the WS, but merely just the aging pitching staff and questions in the offense. I actually think you are dead on about where we stand. If we are not out of it by early summer, I think that gives us a chance to get to the playoffs. For me, the positivies are more focused on long term:

    Panik appears not to be lightning in the bottle and the real deal
    Crawford is playing as we'd hope. By that I mean, he can hit for .250 in the 8. With stellar defense, that is fine.
    I'm intrigued by Duffy at 3b and wonder if he is a Bill Mueller type guy who can be a longer term answer, if not necessarily Panda.
    I think Heston has a shot at being a 5th guy in the rotation.

    Once I get there, I'm very positve since I'm also looking to advancement within the minors. Houston, Osich, Broadway, Okert and Strickland give me a ton of comfort as guys ni our RP need to be replaced. I'm less so on starters, but that is because I'm neither buying into early good performance nor necessarily worrying about early bad performance. Overall though, I think we certainly have guys to fill the breach when the Tims come off the rotation. I will say, part of that assumes Cain comes back.

    On offense/position players, gotta love an entire starting infield of home growns. I think ultimately Susac forces a move and Belt is traded. I also like the fact that we appear to be building the next generation of folks in the miinors, at all IF spots other than maybe first base (which is presumably easiest to fill because we can always put a guy like Duvall there if he can hit).

    The only real area of longer term concern for me is OF. Pence is obviously solid and Pagan I think has shown he's healthy. But he's also coming up on his contract sooner rather than later. We need 2 if not three guys. I see Parker as maybe one. But Carbonell has disappointed so far in AA. Maybe guys in A, but they're a long way away.

    1. I didn't see any need to reload. I thought we could compete for a back2back, and still think we can, though both Peavy and Cain put a real crimp into that plan (I thought one would go down, but not both). The offense is not as bad as people thought or early on during the losing streak. It don't help when Posey is batting in 600 OPS in clean-up spot, that was worse offensively to me than McGehee sucking.

      I would note that Crawford's real offensive value is his power, and with that, he's fine batting higher, like 6/7. Particularly since he hits LHP as well as or better than RHP, keeps the offense balanced against whichever SP. Same with Belt, who hits both equally well.

      Not sure who is Houston, but I would add Law and Hall to the list of potential relievers. I also like McVay.

      I've been very encouraged by both Beede and Crick. I think Beede will move as fast as he shows the performance, I think the Giants will be more aggressive with promoting him, particularly if there is a need on the MLB staff when he is ready. Crick is just doing consistently this season what he was doing the past two seasons inconsistently, his overall walk numbers look bad, but if you look at his starts, he would have good ones and bad ones, and there were a lot of good ones. Mella has done OK too. Disappointed by Blackburn being DLed again. But maybe he becomes a reliever if necessary.

      Yes, love the homegrowns! Belt is not going anywhere, he's a good power hitter, if he leaves, it will be through free agency. I think LF will be his new home at some point. I'm hoping that Posey and Susac can share starting duties of C and 1B, to transition Posey over to first at his pace. That's the beauty of picking up a lot of up the middle infielders, they can play other positions. But 1B, at least while Sabean is around, has always been a defense important position for the most part. So I don't know if Duvall will ever play regularly for us, but he could be a good trade chip or maybe bat off the bench.

      Yeah, lots of question marks in OF. I would add RafRod, Chuckie Jones, and the guy who severed his hand on glass, Gustavo Cabrera, as long term possibles, but yeah, lots of disappointments so far, including the guy we lost, Brown. But that's development for you, you can't develop and find something for every position on the field, what the Giants have done is pretty rare, from what I've seen of other good teams, filling up rotation and infield is pretty darn good, and it looks like we will have even more once the bullpen turns over, that's older than the rotation.

  2. Positives:

    Heston looks like a solid 4/5 guy who will struggle in conditions that lessen his vertical pitch movement. My only 'gripe' is that he really needs rely more on his good slider when he's in those conditions while staying away from his so-so curve & change-up. And assuming what we're seeing is 'the real Heston' I'd be perfectly happy to see him displace someone in the rotation or bullpen.

    Meanwhile, Bumgarner has 'righted the ship' though, frankly, I think it was just variation. And, as 'bad' as he's pitched, hs ERA this April is a full half-ERA better than it was last April. But like I said, I don't think there was anything particular about his start Bumgarner has great months, he has poor months. It's just the way pitching is...

    Panik continues to prove his 'detractors' wrong, which is sweet. His early season defense, at 2B, has been among MLBs best and he's hitting fairly well and doing what he's supposed to be doing when he's at the plate. Aoki was an excellent signing, his batting has been what I expected and his defense has been excellent. Maxwell shares in those accolades, especially in his defense which has really impressed me.


    Pretty much the same ones we all share. Starting pitching isn't looking so hot. Belt is crazy-making. McGehee is really struggling and has put a serious drag on the offense and defense at times. We don't have a true third baseman to replace him though both Duffy and Arias have done well in their spot-starts.

    Then on top of that, we've got Cain, Peavy, Ishikawa & Pence on the DL. Something will have to break somewhere in order to get them all back. I could see Duffy going back down as his bat has cooled off. Sanchez may have permanently lost the back-up catcher role to Susac. Vogelsong is looking really bad as he keeps hanging his pitches and, at this point, looks to be a waiver casualty now that Heston has 'established (and I use the term lightly)' himself. But still leaves another reliever to be let go.

    1. Moses- You nailed the Positives, couldn't agree more. As for the Negatives, I pretty much agree, but I don't know what "something will have to break somewhere in order to get them all back" means. The only thing I don't see happening (despite how poorly I think the Giants have treated him) is Vogy being subject to the waiver wire as the Giants tend to be gentle with guys who have been so important in the WS runs. I'd guess he goes on the DL if anything.

  3. Outside The Lines on ESPN is focusing on pitcher's protective gear tonight.