Sunday, March 31, 2019

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SD 3  SF 1
It was more of the same anemia offensivia infecting the Giants today in San Diego. Rookie phenom Chris Paddack lived up to the hype and stymied the lineup for five innings, yielding only two hits and a run along with seven strikeouts. Jeff Samardzija labored (86 P, 21 batters, 4 BB, 1 R) in his five but was effective enough to leave with the game tied. The second-tier bullpen (Nick Vincent and Sam Dyson) weren't as impressive as yesterday's varsity squad (Moronta-Watson-Smith). They surrendered two and it was another loss. The Giants score 5 runs in 4 games for a sizzling 1.25 rpg. Oh, and they made three errors, two of them by Pablo, both leading to runs.

Otherwise I had a lovely Sunday.


p.s. Drew Pomeranz gets his first start tomorrow night in LA at 7:10 Pacific.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

A Win!

SF 3  SD 2
The Padres 22-year old phenom Nick Margevicius--who made the leap to the bigs from A-ball (with one start in AA)--kept the Giants quiet for five innings on his debut. Somehow the Giants conjured up a rally in the 6th: a pesky Steven Duggar led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch, Yangervis Solarte looped an RBI double, and Evan Longoria followed that with an RBI single. With two outs Joe Panik added another RBI single and it was 3-0, the first lead of the season. Dereck Rodriguez hurled five scoreless but also ran into trouble in the 6th, putting two guys on, and Erik Hosmer's two-run double off Travis Bergen made it much too close.

Enter Reyes Moronta. He struck out the side (Machado-Myers-Renfroe) to complete the 6th and notched two more strikeouts in the 7th to keep it 3-2 Giants. Wow! Tony Watson threw a scoreless 8th and Will Smith a two-strikeout 9th to close it.

The Padres have another phenom pitching tomorrow, 23-year old Chris Paddack, he'll go against Jeff Samardzija (1:10 Pacific). It sure is nice to see the team in the win column, let's hope they keep it up.



Friday, March 29, 2019

A run!

SD 4  SF 1
The Giants broke their 17-inning scoreless streak in the 9th inning when Evan Longoria led off with a homer against Padres reliever Phil Maton. They loaded the bases with one out against closer Kirby Yates, but Gerardo Parra and Brandon Belt both struck out looking to end it. Home plate umpire Lance Barksdale got an earful from both hitters and the Giants bench as both final strikes were borderline calls. He probably had a hot date and needed to finish up! Regardless, the lineup struggled once again to execute and create scoring chances. The Padres didn't exactly batter Derek Holland (4 IP, 3 R, 5 K) and Trevor Gott (1-2/3 IP, 1 R, 2 K) but they did enough with seven hits (including two doubles and a homer) and four walks. Travis Bergen, Mark Melancon, and Sam Dyson completed the final 2-1/3 yielding only one hit and whiffing two. Holland looked like he had a nice fastball-slider combo working but the Padres wore him down (18 batters, 71 pitches) anyway. Gott has some nasty stuff but looked a little wild. It was a revamped lineup (Posey batting second and Longoria cleanup--I like those choices) but a familiar result.

Tomorrow's game is at 5:40 Pacific with Derek Holland facing 22-year old Nick Margevicius.

Go Giants!


Thursday, March 28, 2019

2019 Opening Day: Goose Egg

The Giants were not built on 3-true outcome guys, where the players swing for the fence and if they hit the ball, it stands a good chance of going out.  They were built of a philosophy of a bunch of guys hitting, all together, to produce runs.  Today they got 5 hits spread over the game and didn't look particularly good at the plate in their first test of 2019 in San Diego.  The net result: San Diego 2, Giants 0. 

5 hits isn't going to do it.  Brandon Belt, for one, needs to hit - he looked particularly inept (which he can do from time to time).  Buster Posey got 1, but was immediately erased on a fielder's choice.  Brandon Crawford got 1, Evan Longoria got 2, and Madison Bumgarner got 1, but was quickly picked off.  Add 1 walk, by Connor Joe, and that describes the Giants familiarity with the basepaths.

It's too bad, because Madison Bumgarner pitched a great game.  7 innings, 9 strike outs, only 1 walk.  A lot of swinging strikes.  He only gave up 5 hits, 1 of those a solo shot by Wil Myers, and 1 was an rbi single to Wil Myers.  Madison succeeded in putting Manny Machado down 3 times, 2 of them on strikeouts.  Nick Vincent threw a hitless 8th.

Aren't hitters supposed to be ahead of pitchers early in the season?  Well, the doggers hit 8 home runs today, hanging 7 runs on Greinke in 3 2/3 innings, and 12 runs total.  They won the National League last year and have a couple of rookies set to crack their roster.  The Giants will see them in their next series, then Tampa Bay at home followed by San Diego again and Colorado.  That's 14 games against NL West teams in the first 17.  A chance for the Giants to prove they aren't a lost cause this season, but it will take a bit of scoring to do it.

Here We Go

The 2019 Giants season brings with it few expectations. After a disastrous 2017 (64-98, last place) and an improved but not-so-pretty 2018 (73-89, next-to-last place), the fans are hoping for something better. The pundits and the projections are pessimistic and expect more of the same: a sub-.500 club battling to stay out of the cellar.

Farhan Zaidi was brought in to rebuild the team. He hasn't done anything flashy, other than a futile pursuit of superstar Bryce Harper, but he has stockpiled talent in the upper minors and overhauled the parts of the Active Roster that he could move. We all know the problem: the Giants are loaded with aging, expensive veterans whose performances have declined from their former All-Star levels and are thus impractical trade chips. In essence FZ's hands are tied by what he's inherited. It is going to take time to improve and fans aren't noted for their patience.

What's the best-case scenario? The veteran core stays healthy and produces value. The pitchers hold the line and keep the games close. The young talent plays at a major-league level all season long. The new depth in the organization comes through at key times. The team won nine more games last year than the year before, if they do that again they'll have a winning (82-80) record. That would be something! Of course the whole thing could implode (they went 5-21 last September) and the Giants could be out of the race by June. Changes that we know are coming will happen a lot faster if that's the case.

It's Bruce Bochy's final season. It might even be Madison Bumgarner's last go-round in a Giants uniform. Team CEO Larry Baer dug a hole for himself, he might not crawl back out. An organizational shake-up is already happening! That's good, the time has come. The glory days are past and now we have to face forward. So let's watch and see how the franchise gets back on its feet again. If they are committed to the improvements needed and do the work that has to be done then all is OK in the world. Bad times often follow the good ones and that's when the real tests come. As a fan I want to believe the organization is up to the task and will put out the necessary effort to get better. I'm actually looking forward to the process. We've been here before, right? We're pros at this.

It's the San Diego Padres Home Opener at Petco Park this afternoon, 1:10 Pacific. MadBum squares off against Eric Lauer.



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Twelve

Bruce Bochy announced the twelve position players yesterday. Around the diamond are Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria. That's five. Two utility players, Yangervis Solarte and Pablo Sandoval, make the list. Gerardo Parra is the presumptive right fielder and Steven Duggar has been anointed center fielder and leadoff man. That's nine. You have to have a backup catcher and that's Eric Kratz. Ten. The last two spots are Connor Joe and Michael Reed. They will be left field and the other two spots in a pinch. That's the full squad as they are carrying thirteen pitchers. I neglected to mention Trevor Gott earlier when I was counting up the hurlers.

I can be forgiven. It's a constantly buzzing transaction wire in Farhan Land!

The Giants lose Mac Williamson and Alen Hanson, both out of options, we'll see if they get picked up somewhere.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Lucky 13

Giants notch their thirteenth win (against thirteen losses) in their final Cactus League game. Pablo Sandoval had two hits and a run scored and Alen Hanson hit the game-winning homer. Both of those guys are "on the bubble" and fighting for a spot. The Panda actually has minor-league options, but his veteran status means he does not have to accept a demotion and can ask for his outright release (at least that's my grasp of the Byzantine MLB roster rules). We'll see what shakes out. All assumptions are off: FZ is still wheelin' and dealin' and I don't expect The Final Twenty-Five to be named until the last possible moment.

Giants face the A's tomorrow at 1:05 in Oakland and follow that with two evening games (6:45 start times) in San Francisco (what are we calling The Park--The Big O? The Orifice?). The real thing starts on Thursday in San Diego. It's the Padres Home Opener!


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Connor Joe

This guy makes my All-Name Team on the first try. As we had surmised Drew Ferguson was cut loose. Connor Joe is a utility man who has yet to appear in majors. Here is MLBTR:
Joe, 26, is a former first-round pick who had largely struggled until a breakout 2018 season. In 435 plate appearances in the upper minors, he turned in a robust .299/.408/.527 slash with a career-high 17 home runs and sixty walks to go with 88 strikeouts.
Joe was drafted in 2014 and was the 39th pick. Tyler Beede was the 21st. (Of those 41 picks only 20 have made the bigs.) The Giants had to trade for Connor, he was acquired for righty pitcher Jordan Johnson who was at AA last season.

Here's Baggs:
He plays first, third and outfield and hits right-handed. That was to be Pablo Sandoval's role. If the Giants carry 13 pitchers, and Joe, it's hard to imagine Panda making the club.
Hard to argue, not to mention they gave up a player to get him. I always root for the Panda, but maybe this is the end of the line for him.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring is Here

Baseball had its earliest opening day ever with the Mariners defeating the Athletics 9-7 in the Tokyo Dome. The vernal equinox occurs at 2:58 p.m. PDT today, but spring really starts when the games count. Well, that one counts, and they play another one before returning home and resuming the exhibition schedule (A's have three vs. Giants starting Sunday). Cory Gearrin and Hunter Strickland each threw a scoreless inning for Seattle.

The Giants see the Indians tonight and the Cubs tomorrow afternoon, with a split squad matchup against the Royals and Rockies Friday. Then it is the Diamondbacks on Saturday before the Oakland series. The real thing is only a-week-and-a-day away: Thursday the 28th in San Diego!

I was hoping there would be more roster cuts by now but it seems that waiting until the very last minute is the new m.o. and I guess I can't complain about that. Roster cuts give me something to write about. I'm ready for the 2019 season even if the team isn't.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Rotation

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has reportedly named sophomore Dereck Rodriguez as one of his five starters. Of course Boch hedges his bets:
Right now, he’s part of this rotation,” manager Bruce Bochy said following the Giants’ 8-0 loss to the Cubs on Saturday. “That’s where he stands. He’s throwing the ball well.” (I added the italics!)
That's one of those definite 'maybes' that managers are good at. That's fine. You have to win ballgames and thus you have to use the players who are performing. And D-Rod's performance last season was one of the few highlights, and so far this spring he isn't doing anything to discourage the brass. That likely bumps Andrew Suarez who still has three options left. A crowded 'pen means he'll start the season in AAA, probably alongside Tyler Beede, the 2014 first-round pick who has impressed everyone so far with a rebuilt repertoire.

Obviously Madison Bumgarner is the centerpiece of the 2019 rotation. Two injury-shortened seasons interrupted a run of six straight 200+ IP campaigns, and his two-year peak (2015-2016) was worth 10 WAR. Lots of questions are buzzing around the big lefty what with dropping fastball velocity, reduced break on the curve, and an increased walk rate, but he's not yet 30 (that happens in August) and ought to be able to return to form. If he stays healthy I should think we have a good chance of seeing a rejuvenated MadBum. Will they trade him? Only if they are in last place by the deadline. Aging players and analytics are one thing--fans in the seats are another. I think the Giants would love to keep him and will try to if he has a strong year. At the very least they can make him a qualifying offer in the off-season and get compensation if he bolts. Publicly Bumgarner has said he wants to stay, I believe him, and I hope he can.

The rest of the group seems pretty easy: Derek Holland, Jeff Samardzija, and Drew Pomeranz. With Chris Stratton in the wings (swing man in the 'pen?), who is out of options, and Ty Blach also down in AAA (along with Jose Lopez and Merandy Gonzalez), the Giants have some flexibility. Samardzija's main value has been his durability and long outings, coming off injury maybe they'll use him a little less and try to maintain his effectiveness with some shorter stints (it looks like a strong bullpen this year). The Dodgers only used Rich Hill for 25 starts in each of the last two seasons, for example, and that kept him fresh. Even Clayton Kershaw maxes out under 180 IP these days. We may see that with Pomeranz, who was a 6+ WAR pitcher in 2016-2017, his career high is 173-2/3. Holland made 30 starts last year, I'll take the under on that one.

The projection systems aren't kind to the Giants, but I think this bunch has a lot of talent and if they are used creatively they could be strong all season. I mentioned the Dodgers because Farhan Zaidi is much associated with the revolving-door rotation that LA has employed lately. I can't argue with it. The Giants had that big-arm innings-eating style way back in 2016 with Johnny Cueto joining Bum and Smardj in the 200+ club, but them days is past.

I know this post is about the starters, but keep an eye on 2018's phenom Reyes Moronta. This guy is fun to watch and has made it clear he wants to be a closer. Well, 79 whiffs out of 262 batters (30%) ought to get you some notice!


Monday, March 4, 2019

On the field and off

Some things don't change. The Giants will go with infield stalwarts Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford at first base and shortstop. Those guys have been around for awhile. Joe Panik still looks like the second baseman at this point, that's another familiar face. And of course Buster Posey will be the catcher. He's been there (mostly) full-time since 2010! The only new old face is Evan Longoria who debuted for the Giants last year at third base, and his 2018 was pretty forgettable, so perhaps to casual fans he'll feel like a new face. Pablo Sandoval, who came up with the Giants in 2008, will likely be the utility man (alongside newcomer Yangervis Solarte). My point is that those are the guys in uniform and under contract and if the team is going to win ballgames the infield will have to play at or near their career norms. They haven't done that lately, what with aging and injury and bad luck and all that messy stuff.

Speaking of messy stuff, the Giants may be looking down the road at even bigger changes. Larry Baer has stepped aside, at this point described as "personal time away from the Giants," but there are rumblings he'll eventually have to be replaced. He doesn't own the team, but he is the public face of the ownership group, and domestic ugliness isn't just bad, it's bad for business.
“Mr. Baer has acknowledged that his behavior was unacceptable, apologized to the organization and is committed to taking steps to make sure that this never happens again. He has also requested, and the Board has accepted, his request to take personal time away from the Giants beginning today. The Board has asked the Giants executive team to manage the day to day operations of the Club during this period, reporting directly to the Board.
“As leaders in the community, we at the Giants hold ourselves to the highest standards and those standards will guide how we consider this matter moving forward.”

I took this from Baggs' story on The Athletic (paywall) although the Giants website has it as well. That sounds a lot like the first step in a dismissal, but I don't really know. We'll see how it plays out.

In the meantime they are still playing baseball. I've been avoiding a post about the pitching staff because there are too many damn arms and I keep feeling like some of the veterans (bullpen, especially) will be traded before the final roster shakeout. Perhaps with the CEO on the outs some of the potential transactions will be delayed or shelved. Again, I don't know. Larry Baer made a stinkin' mess for himself and the organization, we'll see how the team copes. As for Mr. Baer, he got caught acting like an asshole, his task is something much bigger, I should think.


Friday, March 1, 2019

The Outfield

The Giants made a push for outfielder Bryce Harper that ultimately came up short. According to Andrew Baggarly's article on The Athletic (behind a paywall), it was Farhan Zaidi who led the charge and not Larry Baer & the Ownership Group. All that tells me is FZ is willing to go after talent, be it Rule V draftees or free agency. Guess what? That's good! You want your ballclub to be ready to sign the players they need, don't you? I'm willing to give our new PoBO (he's not a GM, but a President of Baseball Operations) a fair chance and that means I'm not going to judge him after a mere four months or so on the job. I expected the Giants NOT to pursue high-dollar free agents (I note they stayed away from Manny Machado) so the fact that they took a chance on Harper means I don't really know what their roster-building strategy is. And I'm OK with that. I also think it means I was right and they have heaps o'money and they'll cough up the big bucks when they think they need to.

So, where do we stand? The outfield is still a big question mark. I know they really want Steven Duggar to shine and take over CF and the leadoff spot. But they are hedging their bets by signing Cameron Maybin. I could see a platoon there, but I also think Maybin has his sights on a full-time job. The Giants generally treat players well and I imagine that the veterans on minor-league deals will be traded if they don't make the 25-man roster (or don't get assurances about playing time). Gerardo Parra is in the same situation as Maybin, he probably expects to win a corner OF job since he's competing with borderline candidates. Mac Williamson is at that fish-or-cut-bait point in his career, and with no options left I suppose he'll be traded or DFA'd if he doesn't make the grade. The Giants would love to see him swing a major-league power bat and I hope he can do that. Rule V man Drew Ferguson would seem to have an inside track as a fifth outfielder, but that's only because they'd have to give him back to the Astros if he fails to make the big-league team. But I don't know--maybe they are willing to eat that cost.

Chris Shaw and Austin Slater have options left, as do NRIs John Andreoli, Mike Gerber, and Anthony Garcia. Henry Ramos, the older brother of hot prospect Heliot Ramos, was signed as a free agent, as was Craig Gentry. I'm not sure anyone else in camp has a legitimate shot to open the season with the big club. That leads me to believe a trade is coming. The list of remaining free agent OFs is not too encouraging. With the surplus of relief pitchers--some of whom are established late-inning guys--it seems almost too obvious that's who will get moved. Then again I did not see the Harper push coming so it's anybody's guess what our PoBO has up his sleeve.

Madison Bumgarner has his second spring start this afternoon. Both Chris Stratton and Jeff Samardzija threw well in their recent outings--all positive starting pitcher news is good news as far as I'm concerned! I'm wondering when we get to see Drew Pomeranz again, he pitched two innings on Monday.


p.s. Melissa Lockard at The Athletic says to keep an eye on Jacob Heyward (Jason's younger brother), Aaron Bond, and Malique Ziegler as up-and-comers in the Giants system. All are OFs and projected for A, A+, or AA this season.

p.p.s. The game is tonight, and televised (NBC-Bay Area).

p.p.p.s. Ugly shit about Larry Baer ( just popped up in the Twitter feed.