Saturday, April 4, 2015

2015: Thoughts on the New Season

What do I look forward to most this season? That's easy, it's watching Matt Cain pitch. The big righty has been the center of my Giants universe for the last ten seasons and I'm happy that he's back. The Giants are counting on him to return to form. That's a tall order--age and injuries ultimately catch up with everyone and there's way no way to know who's next. It's going to be fun--like the Giants I think Matty will rediscover his game. He's always been the reliable workhorse, not the flashy star, so he'll have to grind it out. The fancy numbers, like pitcher-wins, have never favored Cain. He's someone you appreciate only after the quality innings pile up. At some point this year we'll get a sustained run of excellence and all will be right with the world. It will be even better if Buster has one of his legendary hot months at the same time!

I'm also looking forward to Matty's antithesis, Tim Lincecum. The days of the transcendent superstar we called The Franchise may be in the past, but The Freak is still alive and well. It's a bad idea to underestimate the oddballs and outliers of this world. Timmy is one of those, and I'm excited about what he's going to show us this year.

I think newcomers Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee will play good ball. The Giants have a knack for finding undervalued veterans to plug key holes. And they like all-rounders, guys who have broad skill sets that can help the team in multiple ways. I'm going to enjoy watching a couple of fresh faces.

Speaking of fresh faces, we might have to wait a while on Matt Duffy. There's still a chance he'll make the team straight away, but there's a bit of a logjam with Ehire Adrianza and Joaquin Arias ahead of him, so it's hard to know what will happen. I expect they'll either trade Adrianza or cut Arias if they want Duffy on board. I'm just glad it isn't my decision! I haven't see enough of Ehire to know how I feel about him, but I'm definitely intrigued and hope he can show us what he's got. I love Joaquin, he's done everything the team has asked him to do, but there comes a time when the youngsters will take his spot, contract or not.

Another youngster, Hector Sanchez, has been a favorite of mine since his arrival. I'm happy he made the team. Clearly they are grooming Andrew Susac for a bigger future role and need him to play everyday in the minors. I'm excited about his development and want to see more of him. But it's Hector, a man who might have seen his career evaporate due to head injuries, who gets the spotlight for now. I'm looking forward to him pinch-hitting late in games and getting a start behind the plate once a week or so. Maybe he'll be Tim's personal catcher again. He doesn't handle the ball as well as Posey, and that might mean more missed chances what with Lincecum's goofy arsenal, but it's a small price to pay to protect a superstar. Buster doesn't need the extra work, he's got the toughest job on the team already!

Last year I told everyone who asked that I was looking forward to watching Brandon Crawford play more than anyone else on the club. There's just something about his easy grace and preternatural calm that I can't take my eyes off. He consistently makes amazing plays and makes them look easy. That's the best compliment you can give any athlete, I think. Guys who make hard things look routine are special. People complain about his errors, but people complain about a lot of things. The man is a brilliant fielder, one of the best I've ever seen. And his hitting has gotten better every season. At 28, he's just coming into his peak. Can't wait to see what he'll do this year.

The Giants have, of course, two of the best players in the game with Madison Bumgarner and his battery-mate Buster Posey. They will, naturally, be fun to watch. The Core Four in the Bullpen (Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla) are another special bunch. Three rings apiece for all six of those fellows listed above! Wow. How can you not appreciate that?

And I'm also looking forward to this seven starters thing. It's going to require some creativity. Good thing Bruce Bochy is in charge. If anyone can sort it out it's Ol' Boch. I'm looking forward to another season with The Skipper.

I'm looking forward to the whole package. I know I've only talked about a few individuals that have piqued my particular interest, but I want to see everyone. This is the best time ever to be a Giants fan, and I'm prepared to enjoy all of it.




Zo said...

Cain pitched well yesterday, and Hudson pitched well today. Those are good things. In 2010, 2012 and 2014, it was all about pitching, pitching and pitching. So I am encouraged that there seems to be pitching. Offense I still am not so sure about. I read somewhere about how San Diego did a lot with their team, and Los Angeles did a lot with their team, but Colorado and Arizona did not do enough. The Giants were picked third, but they really should have been picked "did not analyze." But who else has seven starters? That might be huge.

M.C. O'Connor said...

The Giants were 10th in the majors in ERA and FIP in 2014. Exactly the top third, but certainly not league-leading. I'm not sure I'd call that "pitching, pitching, pitching." In the post-season it was "Bumgarner, Bumgarner, Bumgarner" so I suppose that counts. The offense was just about league-average, FWIW.

In 2012 it was 7th and 9th in the same two categories, but married to a very good offense meant 94 wins, the best of the regular-season records for this group. (Nothing will come close the to the 2009 and 2010 teams in terms of pitching dominance.)

Giants do a lot of things well, like play defense. And they hit just enough. I'm not so sure why everyone is worried. This is a good team. They are going to win some games!

nomisnala said...

Just not sure how the impact of losing Sandoval, and Morse will impact this lineup. As weird as Sandoval's at bats were for us, he drove the opposition crazy. They just could not plan on how to pitch to him. Once they thought they had him with either a high fastball or a ball bouncing in the dirt, he came back and burned them in the next at bat. He especially gave us value from the left side. Morse started the season hot, and his streak helped catapult the giants into a good start despite Sandoval's slow start. You can win without power, but it is much easier to win with power. I am hoping that Belt becomes a legitimate power hitter, but if not, a trade deadline move for a power hitter, if the giants are still in it, may be a move that is waiting in the cards.

obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Love this post, love your comments!

The only other thing I would add is seeing Brandon Belt put together a full season of dominance. He has been building up to it and he just needs to stay healthy.

About the Giants finding vets and getting more out of them, I would note that a study of managers found that experienced hitters joining Bochy-led teams, for whatever reasons, on average added a win per season, due to improved performance.

About Duffy, after a spring like that, pretty hard to keep him down. I agree, not a decision to wish for! I really like Adrianza's bat from the minors and his defense is to die for, so I see him as a Blanco in the infield, providing just enough offense to go with sterling defense, so it would totally shock me if they get rid of him. I mean, they kept him last season for some reason, why would that change? Plus, the beats brought up Arias as being in play in order to keep Duffy, so my guess is that they are actively looking to move him, and might wait until mid-April to DFA him, in order to stash him in AAA when nobody wants to pick him up for their 25-man roster (or his contract).

About the seven starter scheme, I didn't really follow LA close enough to say definitely, but the last couple of seasons, they seemed to have starters coming out of their ears.

And amen to that last paragraph, I'm going to enjoy it greatly too. I think people are worried about the offense because Pablo and Morse are gone, but don't realize how badly Pablo was over a full season nor realize how badly 2B performed as a whole over a full season, nor realize that Belt was gone for most of the season. I plugged all the projections into the lineup calculator. 2015's lineup is basically as good as last season's lineup, just based on projections.

And that account for very possible outliers. If Belt has his breakout year, that's a huge boost. If Pagan can stay healthy and hit like he has in the past, that is a huge boost. If Posey gets a month of volcano hot hitting like he did in 2010 and 2012, that will be a huge boost.

And I would add in Panik and Duffy's surprising spring power. Yeah, it's spring, and a lot of mistakes happens. But Duffy added weight and the Giants clearly overhauled his batting mechanics for him to go from what little he did in college to how he hit in AA last season.

These surprise upsides I think helps balance any negatives we might run into, and leave us in the middle, around the same offense as last season.

Go Giants!

carmot said...

New season and Opening Day are always things to be excited for. What lies ahead? The promise, the pain, the torture, the joy? The RINGS. Oh, all will play out- somehow. And recently we've been treated to a magical, mystical ride!

I feel there are lots of questions. The journey embarks, and we will find out how these are answered. Tough to see Pence not in there right away. Being pushed right up against the CBT makes me wonder if it's even possible to take on *ANY* salary at the deadline. What will become of Kontos, Machi, Adrianza, Arias, Sanchez, Susac, Duffy? Do we have a prospect break through? Duffy? Heston? Susac? Okert? Law? Blach? Blackburn? Can we stay healthy?

I agree, I expect good things from Cain. I'm truly excited to watch Joe Panik all season. But, this is not going to be easy. ARI & SD just got infused with lots of new media money. Here's to hoping for a great Giants season.

Dream big. Dream GIANT!

Russian River said...

Play Ball!

M.C. O'Connor said...

Adrianza DFA'd--I did not see that one coming. Duffy makes the squad as well as Arias. Machi and Kontos both make it. Vogey to pitch Tuesday instead of Peavy.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Wow, Padres get Kimbrel from the Braves. What the hell is going on in Atlanta? That's a great addition to the SD pitching staff. The guy pitches 60-70 innings and is worth about 3 WAR every year. Guess we'll have to get used to seeing him more!

nomisnala said...

The Padres are quite serious about making their mark in 2015. They should not be sold short. Changing the subject for a moment, what I like about both Panik and Duffy, is that when they are not over matched, they give some really good at bats. They are tough outs, and these type of at bats lead to good things happening for the offense.

JC Parsons said...

Kimbrel for Quentin! Wow, what is Atlanta thinking? Maybe they know something is wrong with him. Otherwise, SD just got way better. Man, that sucks.

I'm not too surprised about Adrianza and I bet no one grabs him so he will just go back to Sactown. Like I said, all glove no bat infielders are pretty easy to find. I think it is just a matter of time until Arias is released, he is well liked around here, but his numbers are horrible and getting worse each year.

I think Duffy made the team last post season when he scored from second on a wild pitch. They were totally ready to love him and he played great all spring so that made it easy. He and Maxwell look hungry, so that is a good thing to have on a well established team.

The back half of the rotation is the key for us. Hopefully Hudson will get off to a good start like last year but figuring on him to last all year is a stretch. Peavy is probably the opposite; not ready early but better in the second half. And then there is Timmeh.... a total crap shoot. All we need him to do is be a serviceable FIFTH starter, yet I have little or no confidence in that. Luckily we have two other guys that I feel very good about. In fact, I predict that Petit ends with more innings than Lincecum. He will be a big key for us.

All told I feel great about this team. We need more pieces but we are very good at that. I can't wait to see all the surprises in store for us. Hopefully they are happy ones. Play Ball!