Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye to 2013

It was indeed a year for the Giants to forget. Like most fans of the team, I had high hopes for another playoff run. It seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and they spiraled into mediocrity and never recovered. So, I'm excited to turn the page and get a fresh new number. "2014" looks pretty good. It's strange that the Giants have mostly the same team--they added starting pitcher Tim Hudson and left fielder Mike Morse--but otherwise the same crew that did poorly last season is coming back for another go-round. I suppose we expect ball clubs to make big changes every year in the volatile world of pro sports, especially when needing to improve, but San Francisco is taking the conservative approach. They already have a large payroll, and a star-studded cast, but the talent base is still mostly under thirty, and with a couple of rings already there's confidence that the core has another real shot left. The minor leagues aren't quite ready to produce the replacements, but appear to be on target for 2015 and 2016, so the Brian Trust is putting all its chips in the pot on their current 40-man roster. The battle for the final 25 will take place in Spring Training with maybe three spots up for grabs, and with possibly a yet-to-be-acquired lefty reliever also in the mix.

Should make for a dull time, and I'm not complaining. I want fit and healthy ballplayers who can deliver 500+ plate appearances or 30+ starts. The talent is there, it just has to be on the field and in shape to play. The only thing I'm worried about, besides one of our guys getting seriously hurt, is Masahiro Tanaka. If he signs with LA, that's bad. Otherwise I don't care. So, let's hope the Cubs or the Yankees or the LAnaheimers grab him instead.

The 49ers played their last game at Candlestick, and they are tearing the old place down some time in the near future. A lot of Giants folks have been writing about the old days in the concrete beast, and I thought I might do so as well, but I feel like I'm tapped out on that topic. We put our time in at that place, and had a lot of fun and good memories, but the best things that ever happened to the Giants have happened since the new park was built, so I'm fine with leaving the old stomping ground behind. I thought the 49ers should have fixed up the 'Stick rather than move to Santa Clara, but I really don't care. I put too much time and energy into RMC and the boys in orange-and-black to have any left for other sports or teams. El Lefty Malo has a particularly good column if you are in the mood for reminiscing. He's younger than me (he mentions being in the second grade in 1977 and that's when I graduated from high school), but he caught the vibe. Check it out.

Happy New Year to Everyone!


Saturday, December 21, 2013


I'm a big fan, if you haven't noticed, of Baseball-Reference. It's my go-to site, and almost all the images on the blog link to B-R. I've always made a point to sponsor a page or two, starting with the likes of Billy Sadler and Brad Hennessey up to Conor Gillaspie and Nick Noonan. I would prefer to only sponsor Matt Cain's page, and have in the past, but because he's now a big star his page costs a lot--currently $195. I like to pony up some cash when I believe in something, but that's a bit much. I considered hitting up my blog-mates to kick in a little, and even thought of asking the hecklers in the peanut gallery as well, but it was just too tacky. After all, this is supposed to be fun and not cost anything except your monthly internet fee, am I right? Long story short--I decided to sponsor Brandon Crawford's page. He's my lovely bride's favorite (after Buster Posey, but she has a thing for catchers), but that's no surprise, just about every female I know thinks B-Craw is the hottie of the club. I think B-Craw is a terrific player, and I have high hopes for a big year from him.

Here's his OPS+ for the last three seasons: 67, 86, 96.

Here's his wRC+ for the last three seasons: 68, 80, 91.

Trending upward, wouldn't you say? I think B-Craw has shown he can pick it with the best, despite logging fewer than 3000 innings in his brief career. In the minors he was a .266/.331/.403 hitter (.734), and last season he managed a .248/.311/.363 line (.674), all career highs. With his superb range, soft hands, and rocket arm, he's immensely valuable to the club even if he never leaves the 8-spot in the lineup. I think he's going to hit damn close to league average in 2014, maybe even a little better. When you do that at a premium defensive position you are one of the elites. For the record, the NL average line last season was .251/.315/.388 (.703). In fact, B-Craw was pounding out an .800 OPS the first week of June in 2013. He sprained two fingers on his right hand a little later in the month and saw his numbers drop as the season went on. With improved health and a little more experience under his belt I don't see why he can't hit well all season long. Last year I wrote that I was looking forward to watching him play more than anyone else on the team. Not that the Giants don't have lots of wonderfully watchable guys, but a 25-year old lefty-hitting shortstop with a World Series ring and a bright future is hard not to fixate on. So, bring it on, Brandon!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

12 and 13

If the Giants go with 12 pitchers, that means 13 position players. Ten are easy: Brandon Belt (1B), Marco Scutaro (2B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Pablo Sandoval (3B), Buster Posey (C), Mike Morse (LF), Angel Pagan (CF), Hunter Pence (RF), Gregor Blanco (OF), and Hector Sanchez (C). That means three spots for the backups. Veterans Joaquin Arias and Tony Abreu seem the most likely to be picked and that suggests to me a fifth outfielder (like Juan Perez*) for the final spot. Ehire Adrianza, Nick Noonan, and Roger Kieschnick will wait in the wings under this scheme. Brett Pill looks like the odd man out. I suppose Adrianza, being a true shortstop, might have an inside track to displace either of the older utility guys. He'll turn 25 in August, and has eight seasons and 708 minor-league games under his belt. If not 2014, then when?

Twelve pitchers also means only three spots up for grabs. The starting rotation (Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and Ryan Vogelsong) is set, and the lefty-lefty righty-righty four-headed beast (Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Sergio Romo) is in place as well. Jean Machi, George Kontos, Yusmeiro Petit, Eric Surkamp, Heath Hembree, Edwin Escobar, Jake Dunning, and Mike Kickham are all on the 40-man roster along with Erik Cordier, Jose De Paula, Kendry Flores, and Hunter Strickland. The Giants are supposedly still looking for bullpen help, so it will be a battle royal for a seat at the table.

I think the Giants need another lefty. Last year it was Jose Mijares, but he's been cut loose. Escobar, De Paula, Surkamp, and Kickham are all southpaws, but all have been starters in their careers. Escobar and De Paula are too young, and Surkamp and Kickham have yet to impress in their short stints. I don't think a reliever is coming from that bunch. Perhaps that's what the Giants will pick up between now and Spring Training. For the other spots, the experienced Petit is hard to ignore for long relief and occasional starts. Machi had much better results last year than Kontos--both were in similar roles and faced about the same number of hitters. If two of those three are named and the Giants scoop up a lefty that leaves the much-hyped Hembree and the promising Dunning still on the outside looking in. Should be interesting. Considering how much of the team is set, there's still a lot that needs to be figured out.

What does your 25-man roster look like?


*that's Juan Carlos Perez not Juan Pablo Perez

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vogie's Back

The Giants reached a deal with Ryan Vogelsong for 2014 and he seems to be the final piece of their starting rotation. With Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner at the head and the Tims in the middle, the fifth spot might have been a free-for-all among Yusmeiro Petit, Eric Surkamp, and a host of minor-leaguers. I think the only thing preventing Vogie from taking his turn will be his health, that is, I don't expect he'll be fighting for a job. (Chad Gaudin, I believe, is a free agent, and it doesn't seem like the Giants are interested.)

I'm happy with the move. I don't understand why they didn't just pick up his option instead of re-negotiating, but that's why Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans, and the rest of the crew run the roster, not me. Things look good, don't you think? Cain will be Cain again, like he was in the second half, and Bumgarner is only 23 and still getting better. That's a formidable 1-2 punch, and newly-acquired Tim Hudson is a perfect fit. This guy is a ground ball/quality start machine. Tim Lincecum is the big question mark for most people, but I'm not one of them. Last year I saw a guy recovering his form and mastery of the game. He may never again be The Franchise, but he'll be really good, and may even be great. The way this team works, any one of the four front men could be the ace for a series or a stretch--they've all been in that role and all have it on their résumés. And lest we forget, in 2012 Ryan Vogelsong was the best of the bunch in the post-season! It's almost always about injuries, and if the Big Five are healthy all year long I don't see why they can't be among the best in baseball.

I'm not worried about the rest of the pieces. They'll add some depth in the outfield and the bullpen, but the guys they got is the guys they got, and they're the ones they're going with. Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, and Brandon Crawford will all be there, as will Gregor Blanco, Joaquin Arias, and Hector Sanchez. Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo will be back, too.

What say you, mates? What do the 2014 Giants need to do before Opening Day on March 31st?