The San Francisco Giants Season Is Over

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an obituary on the San Francisco Giants season.  As hard as that was to do, I didn’t see anything that would indicate this team was going anywhere in the 2013 season.

Since that time the Giants played well against a hapless San Diego Padre team and even enjoyed a thrill when Tim Lincecum threw a no hitter.

They came out of the All Star Break with a series win over the then first place Arizona Diamondbacks.  There was hope.

But after watching the Giants lose 3 or 4 to the Cincinnati Reds at AT&T Park, I’m more convinced then ever that it’s time to turn the page and look to 2014.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are on a tear and now inhabit first place in the NL West.  They’re not going away.

The Diamonbacks continue to play tough and will be in the race until the end.

The Colorado Rockies are hanging around, but in the end I expect this to be a 2 team race.  One of those teams will not be the San Francisco Giants.

Watching the Reds series it was painfully apparent the difference between the Giants and the Reds.  One is a playoff team with a chance to go all the way.  The other is a bad team that continues to make killer defensive mistakes and not hit in the clutch.

I’ll let you guess which is which.

The Giants are now 7.5 games out of first place and 9 games under .500 with 61 to play.

They have the worst record in the majors the past 2 months.  To expect them to all of a sudden come to life and turn it on, blasting past the Dodgers and Diamondbacks is a fantasy.

Right now my biggest concern is the 2014 season.

As it stands, the Giants have only 2 starting pitchers under contract, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.

Hunter Pence will be a free agent at the end of the year as will Javier Lopez, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Chad Gaudin and Barry Zito, unless the Giants pick up his option, which is getting less and less likely with every bad start.

The Giants would like Pence back and I’m sure Lopez as well, but those are their best trade chips before the trade deadline in 6 days.  Lincecum is a pretty nice trade chip as well.  It’s hard to tell if the Giants will want him back or not.  I’m sure they won’t if it’s going to cost them 21 million dollars a year again.

The other guys may or may not be back, depending on a lot of factors.

So if you look at the Giants for next season they potentially need 2 outfielders, 3 starting pitchers and a handful of relievers.  The infield looks pretty set, unless the Giants decide to upgrade at first base and move Brandon Belt.

Brian Sabean could decide to back up the truck and sell all of his tradable parts, Pence, Lopez, Lincecum and maybe even Pablo Sandoval, who can be a free agent at the end of 2014.  Maybe Belt as well.

We are well aware of Sabean and Bruce Bochy’s disgust for Sandoval’s inability to keep his weight down and stay healthy.  If the interest is high enough and the return is good, a trade might be in order.

Plus the Giants need to get more active in the international market, especially with the Cuban players.

The Dodgers have hit a home run with Yasiel Puig and just signed another Cuban, shortstop Alexander Guerrero to a big contract as well.  And they got Ryu Hyun-jin, who has done a great job for them in his MLB rookie year.

If they don’t do something to boost their farm system, which isn’t projected to produce much major league talent in the next few years, the Giants could find themselves at the bottom of the NL West for years to come and the 2 World titles will be distant memories.

Sabean and company have the opportunity to continue the Giants success with the right trades, free agent signings and international acquisitions.

Trading for top level minor league talent now will pay dividends as early as next season.

We see what the Cubs did, getting a nice haul of top level prospects for Matt Garza.  The Giants need to do the same kind of thing to win starting next year.

But if they don’t take the opportunity they have in the next 6 days they will find themselves behind the 8 ball (and the Dodgers) for some time to come.

San Francisco Giants: A Freaky Night in San Diego Brings Hope

Tim Lincecum throws the 15th no hitter in the history of the Giants.

As the Giants have continued to sink in the National League West, Tim Lincecum has quietly been turning around his season and maybe even his career.

Yes, I’ve said this before and every time I have Tim has disappointed me and the rest of the Giants’ faithful.  But the Lincecum we saw on this historic night at Petco Park and the one we’ve seen his last 5 starts have much more resembled the Cy Young Award winner of years past.

Lincecum has made an adjustment in his delivery that almost looks like he’s throwing from the stretch.  It’s simpler and shorter.  By doing this his delivery is a lot easier to repeat.  It’s definitely not close to the one he used in past years, or even past months.  And it appears to be working.

It was spectacular to see Tim throw the no hitter tonight and to see the Giants have something to celebrate for a change.  In fact this entire series has been quite a turnaround for the Giants.

Ever since I wrote the Giants obituary a few days ago the Giants are 3-0 and are actually hitting the ball!

Now I’m not going to say that this is the turnaround for this team.  Far from it.  Even if the Giants are able to end the pre all star break period with a 4 game sweep of the woeful San Diego Padres, they still haven’t accomplished anything.  Especially considering these are the Padres, who have won one game in the last 2 weeks.  So the Giants haven’t turned it around.  UNLESS THEY BELIEVE THEY HAVE.

The Giants are still the World Series Champions and have a lot of pride as a team.  Despite a lot of hung heads the last couple months, these guys have never given up and have continued to work hard every single day.

A 6.5 game deficit in a division can be made up in a week.  Yes, the Los Angeles Dodgers are soaring and their starting rotation is beginning to look like the class of the division if not the entire National League.  And the Arizona Diamondbacks (who the Giants open up the second half with in a 4 game set at AT&T Park Thursday) are starting to play well again.  But as my wife always likes to remind me “anything is possible”.

If these guys believe they’re in the race then they’ll be in it.  And Giants General Manager Brian Sabean will be watching very closely over the next few games to make that all important decision, should we buy, sell or stand pat.

If they decide to buy it will cost prospects.  If they sell then Sabes is saying goodbye to the 2013 season and looking forward to next year.  And if he stands pat then he’s counting on the current group to give it a good go.

With pitching prospect Chris Heston now designated for assignment we may have gotten part of our answer already.  A trade is in the offing.  Sabes isn’t going to just let Heston get away.  So there will be a trade in the next week to 10 days, probably sooner.

Once again, the Giants cannot afford to part with many prospects, because their minor league system is thin.

But with Madison Bumgarner having a great season, Lincecum’s recovery and Chad Gaudin’s amazing run as a starter there is hope for the second half.  Matt Cain was doing great until his last couple starts.  Maybe with some rest through the all star break he can bounce back and pitch well in the second season.  And the Giants expect Ryan Vogelsong back in early August.  With Barry Zito that’s 6 starters.  The way Timmy is pitching now, unless he’s traded, he’ll stay in the rotation.  So manager Bruce Bochy may have a very nice problem to have soon.

And many of the Giants batters who have been struggling lately seem to be coming out of it such as Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Gregor Blanco.  Plus Buster Posey is white hot and could be for awhile.

So maybe I was a bit premature with my death sentence to our 2013 Giants’ playoff chances.  Sometimes as a fan it’s easier to say it’s over, just to ease the pain.  Tonight brought some joy back to this baseball fan who desperately needed it.

San Francisco Giants: Wait Till Next Year

Watching our San Francisco Giants has been painful the last 2 months.  Since May 14th, the Giants have the absolute worst record in all of Major League Baseball.

After yesterday’s 7-2 loss at the hands of the lowly New York Mets, the Mets had done the unthinkable, swept a 3 games series over the defending World Champs at AT&T Park.

And to make it even more painful, the Mets delivered the death knell to the Giants in the series and most likely the season by starting former Giants top prospect Zack Wheeler, who allowed only 3 hits over 7 innings to get the win.

The very same day it was announced that some very sorted charges were being brought against Giants starter Chad Gaudin over an incident (of all places) in a hospital emergency room.  Whether the charges turn out to be true or false, it cast a further pall over a party that could be best described as a funeral.

Later in the day ESPN.com did what they have been waiting to do all year, write the Giants obituary.

As much as I’d love to disagree with ESPN, the subtitle of the article, “stick a fork in the Giants, they’re done”, pretty much summs things up.

The Giant are now 10 games under .500, in dead last in the NL West (which is quite an accomplishment) and 6.5 games behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks (being that far back in this division is an ever greater accomplishment).  But even more significant, the Giants are now 5 games behind the second place Los Angeles Dodgers, who now seem to be the frontrunners going forward.

I mean, the All Star Break isn’t until this coming Monday, but unless the Giants do a complete 180 between now and a few days after the break, it would be hard to imagine Giants GM Brian Sabean doing much of anything to try to save this season.  In fact now expectations are that Sabes will be an aggressive seller, parting with the likes of Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, Hunter Pence and likely more.

I have mixed feeling about letting Pence and Lopez go, but if they can bring the Giants prospects that can help as early as next year, then it may have to be done.  Anyway, there is no guarantee those players won’t turn around and sign right up with the club again when they become free agents in November.  Pence has already voiced his preference to sign long term with the club and Lopez seems very happy with his role on the Giants, which has brought him two rings in three seasons.

Lincecum most likely won’t be back, so why not get what you can for him?

As I’ve stated before, I would trade Hector Sanchez (assuming his shoulder heals in time) and Pablo Sandoval, if the return is good.

Back up the truck, load up the system with young pitching (which it desperately needs) and bring in some young arms who can fill out the 2014 rotation, which now sports only two names, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.

Not moving Lincecum would be a crime, considering the Giants are most likely to lose him to free agency and get nothing in return, except a draft choice.

Get rid of Sandoval while he still has value.  He has one more year before his walk year and that should be worth some good prospects from an American League team that thinks they can both get a ton of offense from the Panda and maybe finally persuade him to slim down.

Sanchez is turning into an all hit, no defense catcher.  At his young age that could change.  But with Buster Posey behind the plate, why hold onto Hector until he PROVES he can’t play the position.

I know it’s still relatively early and 6.5 games can be made up in a week, but this is a very flawed team and by now we all know it.  So does Sabean and don’t believe for a moment he won’t squeeze every ounce out of his current trade value to make next year’s team a contender once again.

I wish I didn’t have to write such a morbid piece, but it’s time for everyone to realize this isn’t our year.  Just like many of the teams I grew up with in the 60′s and 70′s, it’s “wait till next year”.

San Francisco Giants: Is it time to look to next year?

I’m still recovering from last night’s 10-2 shellacking our San Francisco Giants took at the hands of the dreaded blue slime, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Truth be known, I turned it off when Dodger third baseman Juan Boo-ribe hit a 2 run homer.

7 RBI’s by one of your former players, are you kidding me?  I’m sure it could somehow hurt more, but I’m not quite sure how.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  Right now our San Francisco Giants are a very bad baseball team in every phase of the game, pitching, hitting, defense, you name it, we’re bad.  We stink!

I know that in baseball it’s never as bad as it looks when you’re losing and never as good as it looks when you’re winning, but right now I couldn’t be more depressed about the Giants chances.

Our boys in orange and black are in last place, tied with the San Diego Padres, 5.5 games behind the very fortunate Arizona Diamondbacks, who still hold the top spot in the NL West.  And the D’backs are not in first because of their great play.  Recently everyone but the resurgent Dodgers in the NL West have absolutely sucked.

With that said, there are still 77 games to play for the Giants.  And that could be good or bad.

It’s good if they recover and get back in the race and maybe even win the division again.

It’s bad if they don’t and Giants management chooses to trade prospects in the hope that they do.

My thought is, don’t be a buyer at the trade deadline for anyone who won’t be with the team in 2014 and beyond.  That rules out rent a pitchers like Ricky Nolasco.

First of all, Nolasco is far from a sure bet.  He hasn’t exactly been a world beater in recent years.  Second, there is no assurance he would come back, so you stand to lose prospects who could help you down the road.

Rumors have the Giants and Dodgers in the thick of the Nolasco bidding war.  Hopefully Giants GM Brian Sabean is just trying to get the Dodgers to overpay.  I’m all for that.

And other guys like Nolasco come with the same danger.  They are no sure thing and they might not even be back.

And let’s face it kids, this team is a lot more than one starting pitcher away from a division title the way they’re playing.  The Giants have the worst record in baseball since mid May.  Another starter doesn’t change it when your team is getting no hit.

So what if you somehow do win the division, as unlikely as that seems at the moment?  How far are you going to get in the playoffs with a flawed team.  And the Giants goal shouldn’t be to win division titles anymore.  It should be to win the World Series!

My preference at this point would be to become sellers.  Trade Tim Lincecum and pick up some prospects who can help next year and beyond.  Maybe even trade Pablo Sandoval if you can get enough of a return.  I know it’s a risk, but my sense is that the Panda will never get control of his weight issues.  Then he’ll have to go to the American League and everyone will know it.  Trade him while you can get a good return.

Another Giant who could bring a lot in trade is catcher Hector Sanchez.  I don’t think Sanchez will become a good defensive catcher and the last time I looked the Giants had the reigning MVP behind the plate in Buster Posey.  Buster will probably be behind the plate for at least the next 2-3 years.  Trade Sanchez now and get some prospects.

Same with Jeremy Affeldt.  Quite frankly I think the resigning of Affeldt was a feel good thing after a World Championship (remember Aubrey Huff?).  If you recall, Affeldt has had a very up and down career in San Francisco and he’s been bad as much as he’s been good (maybe bad more than good, but I decided to be kind).  Lefty relievers are always in demand.  Again, get some prospects.

If the Giants moved all of those guys they actually could stay in the race about as well as they would without them.  Lincecum has been for the most part terrible (a tad better lately, so trade him now!).  Sanchez has been a non entity.  Affeldt can easily be replaced.  And Pablo, well, when he’s not hurt he isn’t hitting.  Joaquin Arias can handle third base.  And if this keeps up the Giants will be in the same situation with the Panda that they are with Lincecum, they’ll be staring at his free agency a year from now and may get nothing in return.

Granted trading Sandoval is a risk.  He could turn into a superstar somewhere else (need I mention Orlando Cepeda).  But Brian Sabean will get a lot more in return for the Panda then a modern day Ray Sadecki (look him up kids, he wasn’t great, but we traded him for a future Hall of Famer).

Look across the Bay and note how the Oakland Athletics got so good again.  They shuffled their cards, trading some very good players for prospects.  The A’s had Matt Holliday (sorry to mention an expletive) as well as Carlos Gonzales.  They traded both of them and got boatloads of prospects.  And that’s just two of the ingenious trades made by the deal master Billy Beane.

As good as Sabean is at building a winner, he may just have to acknowledge that this isn’t the Giants’ year.  Winning 2 out of 3 titles is fantastic and the Giants could win a lot more in the very near future if they play their cards right.  And that means pretty much throwing up a white flag and making some smart moves for the future.  The Dodgers will continue to spend big money and put together an All Star team in LA.  The Giants can’t outspend them, so we’ve got to outsmart them.

And along those lines, it’s about time the Giants jump in with both feet into the international market.  Every time I hear of some stud from Asia or Latin America the Dodgers are in the bidding, along with the Yankees, the Cubs and quite a few other teams.  Almost never do I hear the Giants mentioned.  That must change and change in a hurry.  That’s one way to get better fast, or haven’t you heard of Yasiel Puig?

Time to change with the times Giants or in future years when you look up it will be nothing but blue slime you’ll see above you.  And isn’t that a horrible thought indeed?

San Francisco Giants: It’s Not Time to Hit the Panic Button…YET

Any time our San Francisco Giants get swept by the hated blue slime, the Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s never a good day. In fact, quite the opposite.

Yes, the Giants have flat out sucked in the month of June, let’s face it.

Their record in June is 9 wins and 15 losses and they have slid from the top of the division to 4th place.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the rest of the division hasn’t done so well either.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have come down to earth lately, the Colorado Rockies haven’t played much better than the Giants and the San Diego Padres are now in the mix.

So despite now being 2 games under .500, the Giants are still only 3.5 games out of first place and a half a game out of second.

However the Dodgers are now only 2.5 games behind the Giants and finally getting healthy with their 215 million dollar payroll.

So the Giants are closer to last place than first place and can feel their arch rivals, the Dodgers, nipping at their heels.

I spoke yesterday about the trade deadline and how I felt the Giants should handle it. With caution.

There are 35 days until the trade deadline.

That’s plenty of time for Giants General Manager Brian Sabean to assess the situation and decide just what kind of a team he has.

Yes, this team was built to win now.

But again, if that doesn’t look too likely, the Giants can’t afford to mortgage the future for a very uncertain present.

If a team like the Miami Marlins want to do a salary dump, then hey, Sabean will take the gift. But with multiple suitors for starters like Rickey Nolasco, it may be better to wait.

If however this team can catch some fire prior to the trade deadline, there are players out there that could help the Giants make another run at back to back World Series titles.

There are some good signs.

Before Giants catcher Hector Sanchez messed things up in the 6th inning, Tim Lincecum was on his way to back to back nice performances. Timmy was consistently ahead of the hitters and throwing his fastball for strikes. Hopefully it becomes a trend. The Giants could use Timmy’s A game the rest of the way.

He also seems to finally be pitching more to contact, which he has to do to survive in this game as a starter, if that is indeed his future.

Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain continue to pitch well and rookie Mike Kickham showed me a lot in his start against the Dodgers yesterday, although the numbers may not show it.

The Giants have been hitting a little better the last few days, with Buster Posey catching some fire, hitting homers on back to back nights, including a shot against Clayton Kershaw tonight.

Tomorrow the Giants get a much needed day off before a big series in Denver against the Colorado Rockies.

This will be two teams trying to figure out which direction they are going, into contention or in the Dodgers’ direction.

The Dodgers will no doubt pass at least one team soon. I certainly hope it isn’t our Giants.

Your San Francisco Giants are a .500 Team In Every Way

With last night’s loss to the hated blue slime, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants finally fell to a level they’ve been headed to for way too long, the dreaded .500. Even. Mediocre. Nondescript. Not spectacular in any way.

The Giants have more problems than you can count and they keep mounting.

In an evening that saw the return of Pablo Sandoval, his replacement Joaquin Arias went out with still another hamstring injury for the Giants. And this was the same day the Giants found out that Angel Pagan is likely out for the season with his hamstring problem, not just a month or two.

The Giants hitting, especially their hitting in clutch situations has gone cold. Last night they left 10 runners on base, including Buster Posey, who tripped rounding the bag at third base in the 5th, instead of scoring the go ahead run. The Giants never got that run.

Their starting pitching is getting better, but now the hitters are wasting nice performances by the starters. Last night it was Madison Bumganer who threw a gem, only to lose. The day before it was Matt Cain, who pitched well enough to win, but lost. The day before that Barry Zito should have gotten a win, but didn’t. At least the team did for a change.

The bullpen has been a disaster, blowing lead after lead, the few times lately the Giants have had the lead. And when the Giants are close, like on Sunday, down by a run in the ninth, their bullpen puts it out of reach, the latest victim being Fresno Grizzlie righthander Jean Machi.

And the pen is thin. How many guys will the Giants need to add to the pen to make a difference. And what will that cost?

The Giants just came off their first losing home stand in over a year. One thing you’ve been able to count on this season is strong performances at home. Yet the Giants lost 4 of 7, including 3 of 4 to the team with the league’s worst record, the Miami Marlins.

Yet despite all of this the defending World Champions are just 3.5 games out of first place, in 4th in the NL West, ahead of only the last place Dodgers at this point in time (I love saying last place Dodgers).

And as we near the trade deadline (just a bit over a month away) the question is, how aggressive do the Giants want to be in the trade market to try to improve this team and make another run?

In 2011 the Giants were still in contention in July and pulled the trigger on the trade that sent their top prospect, righthander Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets for Carlos Beltran. And we all know how that worked out. Beltran was in and out of the lineup, hurt much of the time and didn’t make a significant contribution, as the Giants ended up out of the money.

My feeling is this. If the Giants are still playing the kind of ball they are at the moment come mid July, I wouldn’t part with any significant prospects to make a late season run.

Last year the team had 5 legitimate strong starting pitchers. What do they have now? Cain, Bumgarner and then, well, you get the picture.

How nice would Wheeler look in the Giants rotation at the moment?

Let’s face it, the Giants farm system is getting thin, especially in the pitching department. Young kids like Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta and Heath Hembree are the future. And most of them aren’t real close to being ready for the bigs.

Before Brian Sabean parts with one or more of these guys, you would hope he’s pretty much given up on them being an important part of this team in the future.

I understand you need to trade value to get value, but anyone the Giants get in return should be around for a couple years to come at least.

I do like the idea of getting a guy like Ricky Nolasco. However with Nolasco being a free agent to be, there is no telling what the Giants’ chances would be of signing him for next season and beyond, no matter how much he tells the papers he’d like to be here.

If this team starts playing like they can make a run, then absolutely stock up, because championships don’t grow on trees as we well know. But proceed with caution.

I’d hate to see the Giants end up like they did in 2011 with a near empty farm system to show for it.

Your San Francisco Giants: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Let’s start with the positive from tonight’s thrilling 5-4 San Francisco Giants win over the San Diego Padres. Rookie centerfielder Juan Perez.

I find it kind of funny when I think about all the hype that has surrounded Los Angeles Dodger phenom Yasiel Puig after such a short time in the big leagues. Yes, Puig is phenomenal, but we have a pint sized Puig in San Francsico in Perez.

No, Perez hasn’t hit any HRs yet. But he’s nailed 2 guys on the bases, would have had a walk off hit if it wasn’t for the play of the year by Will Venable and had a go ahead 2 out RBI hit that proved to be the winner tonight and a crazy infield hit.

And that was all in the last 2 games!

In his first inning of work he crashed into a wall to make a spectacular catch.

Of course, Puig plays in the media capitol of Los Angeles. Perez does not. But Puig also plays for the cellar dwelling Los Angeles Dodgers.

Perez plays for the almost forgotten World Champion San Francisco Giants, who are in the thick of the NL West title chase once again.

Want a bet that Perez hardly gets a mention on ESPN tonight, while they show every one of Puig’s at bats? Just a hunch.

I really hope the Giants will find a way to keep this kid at the big league level so they can take an extended look at him. With Angel Pagan’s balky hamstring they can afford the luxury of taking their time with Pagan and shouldn’t rush him back. Perez is an excellent centerfielder. If he keeps this up maybe Pagan could be trade bait when he gets healthy.

Now onto the bad.

I’ll never forget former Giants manager Felipe Alou yanking Joe Natan in the playoffs against Florida when he started the inning with a walk. Alou wasn’t my favorite manager of all time, but I think Bruce Bochy needs to get more angry when guys walk people.

Jeremy Affeldt had nothing tonight. After he walked Logan Forsythe, Bochy should have been ready with another reliever, anticipating the right-handed pinch hitter Jesus Guzman, who killed his old team again with a 2 run pinch HR.

Now the ugly.

Bochy was out managed for the second straight night by the guy who succeeded him in San Diego, Bud Black.

It seems like Bochy sleepwalks through the first 4 months of the season and then wakes up and manages starting sometime in August. In a tight NL West he may wish to wake up sooner this year.

Matt Cain was brilliant again, except for 2 sixth inning HR’s.

The Giants pen cost a starter a win and almost cost the Giants a game for the second night in a row.

Santiago Casilla’s eventual return can’t come too soon. But it won’t be enough. The Giants relievers are being overworked and they are tired. Fresh arms will be needed and soon. Those can be hard to come by.

Not only is the rotation a problem, but the Giants have major bullpen issues as well. This will be a major challenge for General Manager Brian Sabean as we inch closer to the trade deadline at the end of July.

Hopefully Brandon Crawford’s finger injury isn’t too serious. Here we just get Marco Scutaro back tonight and Crawford goes down. I’m sure many Dodger fans are now saying “now you know how we feel”.

And isn’t Scutaro a gamer deluxe? How he can play with that mangled finger and still be effective is beyond me. But there he was with 2 hits and a fine defensive play. He’s amazing!

I’ll hand it to the Padres, they keep battling you.  I’m looking forward to the rubber game of the 3 game series tomorrow.

Time For Your San Francisco Giants To Make Some Drastic Moves: Trade Pablo Sandoval

So far this season, your San Francisco Giants have not been themselves.

The good news is that surprisingly they have been one of the best hitting teams in baseball.

The bad news is that their usually stout pitching has been anything but so far in the 2013 campaign.

The last couple of days have been an exception. Staff aces Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have both seemed more like themselves recently, both throwing gems the last couple games.

But we all know that Tim Lincecum has been for the most part horrible, Ryan Vogelsong was even worse before breaking his finger and Barry Zito has been great at home and terrible on the road.

In addition, the bullpen has been shaky at best and extremely overworked because of the bad starting pitching. With the exception of Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Jean Machi and Javier Lopez, the rest of the pen has sucked. Last year’s surprise bullpen star, George Kontos now wears a Fresno uniform. Chad Gaudin who was outstanding out of the pen is now a starter and has been great his first two starts.

But it’s clear the Giants are going to need both bullpen help and probably at least one if not two starting pitchers in trade.

I have an idea that may seem like sacrilege to some, but it may be necessary and could also be the smartest thing for the Giants to do in the long run, trade Pablo Sandoval.

We’ve all grown to love the Panda and he’s done some special things for us. But he also frustrates the hell out of both the fans and Giants brass with his constant weight issues and his propensity to get injured.

While some in the Giants organization refuse to blame his injury issues on his weight, the bottom line is that they ARE related. Stress fractures and tendon issues in the foot are common byproducts of being overweight. Your feet just can’t carry you if you weight that much!

And Sandoval’s other leg issues can also be blamed on his girth and his just being plain out of shape.

But his comments this spring about having 2 years to get his weight situation in check showed me that he just doesn’t get it. The young man is very, very talented and an outstanding athlete to be able to do what he does being so big. But he’ll have a very short career as well as a short life if he doesn’t lose the weight and keep it off once and for all.

My bet is that he won’t be able to do this.

Now after the 2014 season Pablo will be eligible for free agency. Just like the situation with Tim Lincecum, if the Giants wait they are likely to get nothing for him.

The team has real needs now. Pablo with a year and a half left on his contract at a very modest cost would hold a lot of value to some teams. He is both an All Star and a World Series MVP. He’s a switch hitter with power. Those kind of guys aren’t available every day.

I’m sure some American League team in need of a good DH would gobble him up in a minute. Then his weight wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Since there is no DH in the National League, Sandoval’s future with the Giants looks dim at best.

I say trade him now, or at least prior to the trade deadline.

The Giants could probably get a good starting pitcher for Pablo and a reliever, as well as some solid prospects, maybe another young starter who would be ready next season, when they’ll need starting pitching. Remember, only Cain and Bumgarner are under contract for next year, with Lincecum, Zito and Vogelsong all have the ability to walk. And let’s face it, the Giants may opt not to offer any of them contracts, although of the three I expect Zito to have the best chance of staying, due to his large buyout.

I would leave Joaquin Arias at third base, where he has proven he can do the job, both defensively and with the bat.

Then I would target someone like Josh Willingham of the Minnesota Twins to play left field.

With Willingham in the lineup the Giants would give up some defense, but get Sandoval’s power back, as well as gain defensively at third base.

They could also improve their starting rotation and bullpen.

Yes, drastic action is going to be needed for our San Francisco Giants to have a chance to repeat. It’s unlikely the wild card will come out of the NL West, so the Giants are going to have to beat the Arizona Diamondbacks and others for the division title to have a chance to get back to the World Series. And even if they do make it to the playoffs, the current pitching staff would never get out of the first round.

We’ll see what Brian Sabean has in mind. Only 46 more shopping days till the trade deadline…

San Francisco Giants: I’ve Had it With Tim Lincecum

I’ve had it, I’m fed up, I’m over it, I’m done.

That just starts to describe my emotions when it comes to former San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum.

In Lincecum’s last outing a week ago he looked outstanding, almost unhittable.  Tonight he was anything but that as the Giants lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-2.

But let’s focus on Lincecum.

As we all know, this is Timmy’s walk year.  The two time Cy Young award winner will be a free agent at the end of the season.  And the chances of the Giants even offering him a one year deal diminish with every lousy start.

Now granted, Lincecum only gave up 2 earned runs in his short 4.2 innings of work.  But the way he did it was particularly galling and part of a recurring theme for the righthander.

He threw 102 pitches.  Only 61 for strikes.  He was continually behind in the count.  And as usual, his couldn’t throw his fastball for strikes.

Here’s the bottom line on Lincecum, his fastball is no longer a weapon.  Not only has his velocity diminished to the low 90′s, but he can’t put it where he wants it.  Now please name one successful major league pitcher EVER who couldn’t locate his fastball.  Exactly, you can’t and neither can I.

Lincecum has 2 pitches that work for him, his slider and his changeup, the split.

The problem is that without the fastball, the split is only marginally effective.  The reason it’s called a “changeup” is that when the batter expects a fastball he is way out in front on the changeup, especially one like Timmy’s split, which can be devastating with it’s downward breaking action.  And it’s thrown with the same motion as the fastball.  But if the batter isn’t worried about the fastball, the split gets taken every single time.  It’s just another ball in the dirt.

Plus in his 7th big league season he still doesn’t hold runners on base. He doesn’t even look at guys half the time.

Memo to Tim Lincecum; Tim, you don’t have a 97 MPH fastball anymore and you can’t even control it! You throw too many pitches, you don’t run out ground balls and you still haven’t learned how to hit. Gerrit Cole, in his first big league at bat evened your hit total for the season.  And that 2 RBI single was a result of your letting the count go from 0-2 to 3-2.  Against a pitcher with no professional hits!  Tim, You’re not working on getting better! You’re getting worse and letting it happen.

If you want an example, watch the kid you faced tonight. Strike after strike. Granted Tim, you don’t throw smoke anymore like Cole, but you have stuff. Use it!

Tim, you still act like that Cy Young award winner that nobody can hit.  Tim, you’re not that guy anymore.  You’re an average major league starter hanging on to his spot in the starting rotation.  If the truth be known Tim, you would have been out of the rotation long ago if it wasn’t for that 21 million dollar salary you make.

Tim, you need to get better and work your ass off to get there and do whatever it takes to win games.  Because outings like tonight are walking you just a little closer to the door.  And the Giants aren’t going to be too sad to see you walk out of it at the end of the season.

The San Francisco Giants Tim Lincecum Stands Up and Responds

First it was Angel Pagan. Now Tim Lincecum.

Man, my writings are becoming popular among Giants players.

Tonight Lincecum was not only good. He was the type of pitcher he needs to be to further his career as a top of the rotation pitcher.  Or as a starting pitcher period.

He went right at the Toronto Blue Jays hitters. Only walked one. Never threw more than 17 pitches in an inning. Besides the homer by Encarnacion only one Blue Jay got as far as second.

Tim went 7 innings, giving up 3 hits, the only run coming on the home run.

He relied on his breaking stuff, with fewer fastballs. A new approach? Might just work.

For one of the few times in his career Timmy PITCHED, he didn’t THROW. Whether he finishes his career as a starter or as a reliever, this is how he must pitch to be successful.

There are few Nolan Ryans who have electric strikeout stuff their entire career. Even Justin Verlander is taking his lumps this year, indicating a change could be around the corner for the Tiger ace.  Knowing Verlander and how smart a pitcher he is, he will make the necessary adjustments and not skip a beat.

Could Chad Gaudin’s tremendous start Sunday have been the turning point for the Giant’s starters? Lets hope so.

Success breeds success.  Failure brings more failure.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday, talking about how all of the starters were letting each other’s struggles get to them, putting more pressure on each pitcher.  We’ve seen the pressure mount to the point where otherwise great pitchers are having horrible outings over and over.

Guys will have good outings and bad outings.  How many times have we seen this rotation get on a roll, with each guy trying to outdo the other one?  This is what the Giants starters need to get back to.  And if a guy gets shelled it’s up to the next guy to be himself, play his game and make pitches, not worrying about what the guy did the day before.

We know the talent is there.  2 World Series crowns in 3 years prove that.  The Giants are only 2 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, who after winning tonight in 14 innings have made it clear they won’t make it easy for the Giants or anyone else for that matter.

Barry Zito is up tomorrow in the finale of this 2 game series against the Blue Jays.  Zito is 4-0 with a sparkling 1.40 ERA in 7 AT&T Park starts.  Barry, it’s your turn to shine.

A Reliever Shows Your San Francisco Giants’ “Aces” How It’s Done

Leave it to a reliever to show our San Francisco Giants starters how to get the job done.

Chad Gaudin was brilliant, efficient and effective against the hard hitting St. Louis Cardinals yesterday as the Giants beat St. Louis 4-2 to salvage not only a game in their 3 game NLCS rematch, but a little bit of pride.

After that ass whooping the Giants took the day before, being outscored 15-1 in a doubleheader, a win was a must.

Gaudin’s performance wasn’t only much needed, but it was the best start by a Giant in a long time, especially on the road.

After staff aces Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner got pounded in embarrassing twin losses the day before, Gaudin looked like the Cy Young candidate, not a spot starter who hadn’t made a big league start in 4 seasons.

Gaudin went right at guys, mostly with his heater, registering as high as 94 MPH.

He went 6 innings, gave up 2 runs on 4 hits, no walks and had 5 strikeouts.  All in all a very solid, if not spectacular performance, when you compare it with the way the rest of the rotation has been performing.

The only blemish was a 2 run homer by David Freese that tied the game at 2 in the 4th.

Fortunately the Giants were able to go ahead in the top of the 7th to get Gaudin a much deserved W.

So as of now there is little doubt who the Giants starter is to replace Ryan Vogelsong.

Looking ahead, if Gaudin continues to pitch this well, manager Bruce Bochy could have some tough decisions when Vogelsong comes off the DL.

And I know I’m really going out on a limb here (I tend to do that), but if Gaudin keeps pitching well and Tim Lincecum doesn’t, the thought of Lincecum moving to the back end of the Giants bullpen isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Don’t forget how Timmy sparkled as a reliever in the post season.

It could also allow the Giants to see if keeping Lincecum beyond this season as a reliever is workable.  Because the chances of him returning as a starter are fading with each disastrous start.

Timmy went on record yesterday that he would be open to being a reliever later in his career.

It could happen sooner than later.  Like this season.

And how about Brandon Belts clutch 2 RBI double to put the Giants on top in the 7th, going opo taco against lefty relief specialist Randy Choate? Belt must have heard me yelling all the way from Bangkok to split the gap in left center, which he did on the very next pitch.

Not to mention Brandon Crawford, who made 2 absolutely sick plays, one that was so amazing, Yadier Molina got so pissed off that he hadn’t hustled faster down the line (assuming he had a base hit) that he fired his helmet down, got tossed from the game and then went berserk at the umpires, bumping all 3 of the ones in the area by my count. Should be good for a 15 game suspension for the All Star catcher.

His brother Bengie, now a Cardinals coach tried to save him, but to no avail.  Is it just me, or has Bengie doubled in size since leaving the Giants?

Crawford’s play saved a run and he made still another gem deep in the hole at short, spinning around and getting his man at first.  If this guy doesn’t win the gold glove this year they should abolish the award.

All in all a great way to end the 3 game road trip as the Giants return home for their extended 2 game homestand.  What a screwed up schedule!

Angel Pagan should be back in the Giants lineup Tuesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays and hopefully Pablo Sandoval won’t be far behind.

Time for these boys to shine and show the baseball world what they are truly made of.  A game like this certainly doesn’t hurt at all.

Your San Francisco Giants Are a Really Bad Team

Yup, I said it.  It’s real simple.  The San Francisco Giants are a very bad baseball team right now.

Can that change?  Of course, but I don’t see any signs of that happening anytime soon.

The first inning of tonight’s loss to the Oakland Athletics was a microcosm of the Giants recent struggles.

They allowed 2 runs in the first inning for the third time in the last 6 games.  They committed an error that allowed a run to score and would have gotten them out of an inning.  They gave up a leadoff walk.  And their starter, Tim Lincecum seemed to be throwing batting practice to Yoenis Cespedes.  Cespedes first fouled straight back a fastball at the belt on a 3-1 pitch.  Undeterred, Lincecum threw him still another belt high mistake on 3-2.  This time Cespedes didn’t miss, lacing an RBI triple.

In the bottom of the inning after a leadoff single by Andres Torres, Marco Scutaro grounded into a double play, one of three the Giants grounded into during the game.

Getting into early holes are killing this team, especially with the recent slump they’ve been in.  They’ve also been slumping with runners on base and in scoring position, a strength earlier in the season.  Tonight they were 1-6 with RISP and left 10 on the base paths.

Tonight Lincecum had still another shaky start, not getting out of the 5th inning, throwing 101 pitches in 4.1 innings.  The bullpen is getting torn to shreads.

A big question is, what starter can now be trusted?  Matt Cain is throwing better, but even he was roughed up recently in Colorado.  Madison Bumgarner has slumped lately.  Barry Zito has been on and off, mainly off as of late.  And just who is the Giants 5th starter?  With Ryan Vogelsong on the shelf for a while and Michael Kickham being knocked out early, before being sent back to Fresno today, the Giants are in a world of hurt with their starting pitching.  Chad Gaudin is supposed to make the start Sunday, but after that it’s anybody’s guess.  And just how many innings can he be expected to go?

All this from the team that as of last season had 5 aces.

Again tonight the Giants defense killed them.  Besides the first inning collision between Scutaro and Hunter Pence that resulted in an error on Scutaro, Andres Torres made a fatal error in the 9th, letting a ball go by him that resulted in 2 runs eventually scoring.  The Giants had clawed their way back into the game, trailing by just a run at that time.  A 3 run deficit proved too much to overcome.

It’s almost like this team is waiting for the other shoe to drop and inevitably it does.

And it’s not likely to get better real soon.  The Giants play 12 of their next 14 games on the road against some very tough opposition.  After the finale of the 4 game home and home series with the A’s on Thursday, the Giants go to St. Louis to play 3 against the St. Louis Cardinals, the team with the league’s best record.  Then it’s back home for 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that destroyed the Giants in 2 games in Toronto earlier this month.  And then back on the road again for 3 against the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks, 3 more against the red hot Pittsburgh Pirates and finally 3 in Atlanta against the Eastern division leading Atlanta Braves.

By the way, who came up with this ludicrous schedule anyway?  2 on the road, 2 at home, 3 on the road, 2 at home and 9 on the road?  Must have been Butt Selig himself.

To top things off, the Los Angeles Dodgers are starting to make some noise from the cellar of the NL West, indicating they won’t be there for long.  They are starting to get healthy and their starting pitching is coming together.

All in all, lots of bad news for your Giants.

The name of the game in the next few weeks will be surviving this stretch, playing better ball and staying healthy.  How they come out of this could have a lot to do with what direction the rest of the season goes.

San Francisco Giants: Great Hit Angel Pagan. But…

I’m glad to see that Angel Pagan reads my blog religiously. He really responded to the criticism I gave him after yesterday’s game.

But seriously, despite Pagan’s heroics (and wasn’t that a great moment in Giants’ history?), he has no place in centerfield for the Giants.

That misplay in the fourth inning, where he misread the ball and then dived, only to let the ball get by him for a double shouldn’t happen to a little leaguer, let alone a major leaguer like Pagan. Could you imagine Gregor Blanco misplaying a ball like that? Or Andres Torres? Not in a million years.

That error cost the Giants a run and opened the floodgates for a 2 run rally that could have been much worse had Barry Zito not pitched his way out of it.

It didn’t cost them the game. Nor did Angel Marquez’ horrific plate umpiring, that cost the Giants one run, when Brandon Belt was clearly safe at the plate in the 7th and it might have cost them another run when Marquez called Marco Scutaro out at third in the 8th, despite the fact he was never tagged and was not out of the baseline at third. Absolutely horrible! It’s no wonder that Bruce Bochy got himself ejected after the second bad call. And those weren’t the only clearly bad calls against the Giants in the game.

Anyway, back to Pagan. His misplay didn’t cost them the game because of what he did later, but more times than not it would have. Those types of plays normally equal losses.

The Giants are already having major pitching problems. Bad defense like that cannot be excused, even when the pitchers are going good.

It would be amazing to me if Bochy and Brian Sabean aren’t seeing the same things I’m seeing.

The time is now to get Pagan out of centerfield and have him swap positions with the leftfielder Blanco, who is a gold glove caliber centerfielder. And on the days that Blanco is platooned for, Torres can do an equally great job out in center.

Yesterday the Giants had to not only beat the Colorado Rockies, but the umpires and themselves. It makes the win all the more impressive. Now it’s time for the Giants to tighten up their defense with the changes mentioned above. As for the umpiring that’s up to Butt Selig. And I’m not holding my breath on that one. Know what I mean A’s fans?

The San Francisco Giants Jekyll and Hyde Season

Watching the San Francisco Giants this season has been like watching two teams, the one at home and the one on the road, and one doesn’t even resemble the other one.

On the mound the Giants have been stellar at home.  Going into tonight’s game their team ERA was 3.16.  They had allowed only 3.4 runs per game.  The opponents had a meager .227 batting average, an OPS of just .628 and the team WHIP was an outstanding 1.19.

On the road they’ve been a different team.  The ERA is 5.06.  They’ve allowed 5.7 runs per game.  The bad guys are hitting a crisp .281 with an OPS of an impressive .813.  And the team WHIP jumps all the way to 1.49.

A lot of this has to do with team defense.  The Giants came in tonight ranked 28th among the 30 MLB teams with 35 errors.  And although I couldn’t find the breakdown, I’d be willing to bet that about 80% of those errors have been on the road.

Plus the team just hasn’t played with the same mental crispness, making numerous mental errors to go along with the physical ones.

This has affected the Giants hitting as well, playing behind in just about every road game.

Coming in tonight their home average was an impressive .282 but only .260 on the road.  Their on base percentage was .343 at home before tonight.  On the road it is only .303.  And their .781 OPS drops to an almost invisible .685 on the road.

This has a lot to do with the Giants being 17-9 at home and only 9-13 on the road.

On to other matters, right now the Giants are in a bit of a mini slump as well as a team.  After being shutout tonight, they have scored one sole run in the last 2 games.

One of their issues is coming from the leadoff spot.  Not only is Angel Pagan playing a less than stellar centerfield, his hitting leaves a lot to be desired as well.  Despite getting one of the Giants 5 hits tonight, Pagan is only hitting .260 with an OBP of only .314.  Both numbers are very sub standard for a leadoff batter.  Plus he has been the one true weak link in the Giants lineup so far this season, with the rest of the team hitting well.  Pagan has only 2 home runs, only 12 extra base hits and has walked only 15 times.

Now we saw how Pagan can slump for a couple of months last season and then really pick things up last season and I expect it will happen again.  But in the mean time it would be wise for Bruce Bochy to shake things up a bit with his slumping team.

Move Gregor Blanco, who is hitting .291 with a .351 OBP from the 7 hole to leadoff.   When a lefty is on the mound, Blanco’s platoon partner and stunt double Andres Torres can leadoff, or Pagan can as well, since Torres’ numbers are very similar to Pagan’s.

The rest of the lineup is producing, but when the Giants start at the top of the order it seems Marco Scutaro is almost always batting with one out.

Scutaro is having an outstanding season, hitting .324, among the league leaders.  The Panda, Pablo Sandoval is at .299 with good power numbers. Buster Posey is over 300 as usual, at .303.  Hunter Pence is standing firm at .274 with good power numbers.  Brandon Belt’s average keeps rising with the thermostat at.253.  And Brandon Crawford continues to make his All Star push with an average of .283.

This is a good hitting team and a minor adjustment, swapping Blanco and Pagan could take some pressure off Angel, while allowing Blanco to spread his wings a bit more.

Meanwhile the Giants continue a tough series against the division co-leading Colorado Rockies and sit only a game behind the Rocks and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

After that it’s the Oakland Athletics in a 4 game home and home series, so things won’t get much easier anytime soon.

San Francisco Giants: The Road Trip From Hell Continues

In the second inning of the second game in Toronto, against the Toronto Blue Jays, as the San Francisco Giants faced still another seemingly insurmountable lead, my thought was “can’t they just get out of town now”?  Well, be careful what you wish for, because against the Colorado Rockies have now beaten the Giants 2 of 3 games in this 4 game series, and it hasn’t been pretty.

The Giants have been plagued by errors, both mental and physical, which has left the team’s starting pitchers facing an uphill battle on a nightly basis, as they continue to struggle with their stuff.

How about these numbers in the first 5 games of a thankfully abbreviated road trip; 12 errors (and those were just the physical ones) and an ERA for the Giants starting rotation of 10.27!  No Giants starter has gone unscathed, not even Matt Cain, who got the one win on the trip, or Madison Bumgarner who gave up a career high 9 runs, 7 of them earned yesterday.

The Giants starting rotation for the season now has an ERA of 4.81.  These are the exact same guys who dominated in last year’s postseason, culminating with a 4 game sweep of the powerful Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

As a team the Giants are 20th in the majors with a 4.18 ERA, behind pitching poor teams like the Miami Marlins!

Defensively the Giants are tied for 28th among the 30 MLB teams with a .979 fielding percentage and a staggering 33 errors!  They have dropped like a rock in that department on this road trip.

These are both areas that need to be turned around and fast.

The season is now 27% complete.  It’s not that early anymore.

The good news is the Giants are a game back in the NL West, behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.

By the way, the Diamondbacks are the best fielding team in baseball with an amazing .993 fielding percentage and their team ERA is only 3.38, tied for third in all of baseball.

The Diamondbacks aren’t hitting near as well as the Giants, but they are a sound fundamental team with good pitching.  And their pitchers have pitched up to their potential so far.  The Giants certainly have not.

But we know from the Giants experience that pitching and defense win championships.  If the Giants continue to give away runs with walks, bad pitch placement and errors, they can’t possibly be expected to score enough runs on a daily basis to make up for it.  They are certainly an improved hitting team and their comeback abilities have been amazing, but this road trip shows if you put yourself in a big enough hole, there’s no way to climb out of it.

But the ability is certainly there.  This is largely the same Giants team as 2012 that pitched and fielded their way to a championship.  And their hitting as I’ve stated many times has been outstanding and timely.

Time for the Giants pitchers to get in the groove on some kind of consistent basis and get on a roll.

We know from past experience that Cain, Bumgarner and to a lesser degree Barry Zito can do the job.  Tim Lincecum I’m not so sure about anymore, nor do I have the same confidence then I used to in Ryan Vogelsong.

Because of this the Giants might have to trade for starting pitching.  No help looms in the minors for quite some time.

In the pen I think George Kontos will be in the minors soon.  Kontos has thrown batting practice (during games) on a nightly basis.  It’s been ugly.  Relievers can also be had either through trade or promoting some of the Giants minor league studs like Heath Hembree.

Time for the Giants defense to do the same.  These guys aren’t bad defenders (maybe with the exception of Angel Pagan in center).  Buster Posey behind the plate, Brandon Belt at first base, Brandon Crawford at shortstop, Pablo Sandoval at third base, Gregor Blanco in left (although he should be in center), his stunt double Andres Torres and Hunter Pence in right are all gold glove caliber players and Marco Scutaro at second base isn’t far behind.  These guys need to start picking em like they are capable of.

However if these trends continue there is no way the Giants will continue to even win at the clip they’re winning now.  You have to hope this road trip will be a wakeup call.  It better be.  The Washington Nationals visit Monday, followed by the Rockies and then a home and home with the crossbar rival Oakland Athletics.  After that it doesn’t get any easier, as one of baseball’s hottest teams, the St. Louis Cardinals host the Giants as the G men begin still another road trip.

The time for the Giants to start playing like they know they can is NOW!

Time to Revolutionize MLB Umpiring

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

OK, now that I have your attention, it’s high time that Major League Baseball do something about it’s putrid umpiring situation.

Yes, I am mad.  Mad on a daily basis.  I’m mad because the MLB umpires make mistakes on a daily basis and go virtually unchecked.

We all heard about the Adam Rosales home run that was taken away and not overturned by replay a week or so ago.  There was another huge mistake the next day.

The most important thing about officiating in any sport is to GET IT RIGHT!  But MLB umpires seems to be more concerned about satisfying their own agenda.  I’m not saying this is the case with all umpires, but a high percentage don’t seem too concerned that they are blowing calls that cost teams games and there is absolutely no recourse.  In Rosales situation, MLB admitted the mistake, but the A’s still lost the game.  Nothing changed.

What is even worse is that MLB doesn’t seem concerned with the situation.  As usual, Butt Selig, the grand poopa of Major League Baseball has his finger up his arse and isn’t doing a damn thing.

Maybe he can form a “blue ribbon” committee to discuss the situation for the next 20 years, like he’s doing with the A’s and San Jose.  My sense is that all this committee does is sit around and drink Blue Ribbon.

Tonight the San Francisco Giants won the game, so I shouldn’t bitch.  But I’m going to anyway.

Plate umpire Chris Guccione was in a word horrible!

Colorado Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin threw 4 or 5 of the same pitch in the same spot.  It went something like this, ball, strike, strike, ball, strike.  It was like the guy was pulling his decisions out of a firkin hat!  And all along when there was a strike Mike Krukow would chime in “Guccione looks for strikes”…

Well I would frikin hope he looks for frikin strikes!  He’s a frikin umpire for god’s sakes!  Yes, he should call a strike a strike and a ball a ball, just like the rest of his distinguished colleagues should do!  It’s their job!

But each and every ump seems to have his own strike zone and it’s getting worse as opposed to better.

Some umps have a high strike zone and will call a pitch at the letters, but not at the knees.  Some have a low strike zone and won’t call anything above the belt, but sometimes will call pitches strikes at the shoe top.  Some have a wide strike zone and on and on.

The bottom line is, players, coaches and fans have no idea what’s a strike and what’s a ball.  How would you like to be a hitter and have to guess what the ump is going to call.

CALL THE DAMN STRIKE ZONE ALREADY!  The strike zone is in the rule book and it’s very clear.  It’s supposed to be from the bottom of the knee cap to two baseballs above the belt (effectively at the letters).  It’s side boundaries are supposed to be the black of home plate on either side.

But nobody calls the rule book strike anymore!

I remember about 15-20 years ago, there was a huge uproar among umpires when they had a computer grade the umps as to whether they were doing a good job calling balls and strikes.  That quietly went away and I’m guessing the umpires union had everything to do with that.

The umpires union is not a friend of good quality baseball, that’s for certain.

And umps don’t only make mistakes calling balls and strikes.  They blow calls on the bases and  they blow calls on balls caught or trapped, not to mention foul or fair.  The only areas that are now subject to replay are border calls and home runs.

The first order of business is to bring replay into play on all calls except balls and strikes.  And it should be run by a team of reviewers in New York and one or two at the ballpark.  This would make the process quicker then the umpires huddling up and then going to their room to review the play.  It could be done very quickly.  And like football, if there isn’t irrefutable evidence to overturn the play, the call will stand.  There should be 3 reviews per game, per team.

Second, balls and strikes need to be called by a computer, not a human being.  The MLB umpires have made it clear that not only are they unable to call balls and strikes properly, but they just don’t want to.  They all want their own strike zone.  Computers won’t do that.  They’ll just get it right.

The technology is in place, let’s use it.

I would also put technology to work calling balls down the line, fair or foul.  The same computer system that makes line calls in tennis has been tested and is now available for baseball.  USE IT!

And fire the umps that continually do a bad job.  The minor leagues are full of young, experienced and able umpires who would love a shot to go to the show.

Umpires will never totally be taken out of the game of baseball, but it’s time to take certain aspects out of their hands and use technology to make the game a better one.

By the way, I really hadn’t seen this story before writing the post.  I should apologize to Butt Selig, butt I won’t.  Now if they can just do something about balls and strikes.

Trouble Up the Middle For Your San Francisco Giants

The old axiom in baseball is, you have to be strong up the middle.

This means your pitching, catching, middle infielders and centerfielder must be solid to have a consistent winning team.

Of course, there are other factors involved around the diamond, but this old saying tends to always hold true.

Right now the San Francisco Giants are anything but strong up the middle.

Their catching and shortstop positions are solid indeed, with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford delivering gold glove caliber performances night after night.  And even when the front line guys aren’t in, Guillermo Quiroz and Joaquin Arias are strong backups.

As for the pitching, we’ve gone over this before.  The Giants starting pitching has been inconsistent with Madison Bumgarner being consistently good, Barry Zito being good most of the time and Matt Cain finally looking like he’s coming around.

Tim Lincecum is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.  His last start was encouraging, but we’ve been down this road before.

Unfortunately with Ryan Vogelsong you do know what you’re going to get and it hasn’t been positive.  Vogey got slammed again tonight, this time by the Toronto Blue Jays, who won the game early for the second consecutive night.  He now sits at 1-4 with an eyesore of an ERA, 8.06. Vogelsong may be skipped in his next start.  Not a bad idea at all IMHO.

The bullpen has been good at times, shaky at others.

Last year’s surprise standout George Kontos has been in a word, terrible with a 4.71 ERA.  He may be due for a demotion soon.

Jeremy Affeldt’s WHIP is north of 2 and he has been hot and cold.

Even closer Sergio Romo has had some bad days with 2 blown saves and 2 losses early on.

Marco Scutaro has been surprisingly inconsistent at second base, making some key errors.  I get the sense that his back is still bothering him and that may be the issue.

But in the middle of the diamond the biggest issue is in centerfield, with Angel Pagan absolutely stinking up the place night after night.

Yesterday he made a key error that helped open the flood gates for the Blue Jays and may have cost Barry Zito any chance of success.

Tonight Pagan whiffed on a first inning line drive for a 2 base error, helping the Jays and giving Vogelsong another tall mountain to climb.  Scutaro had another error himself.

Last year I talked a lot about Pagan early in the year.  I said he should be moved to a corner outfield position, like left, where it’s easier to hide a sub par defensive outfielder.  I also said that Gregor Blanco is a far superior CF.  That still holds true, as it does for Andres Torres as well, although Torres has had his own defensive struggles this season.

As the 2012 season went on, Pagan got better, making some nice plays.

But the fact remains that Pagan is a below average defensive centerfielder.  In 2012 he ranked 15th in MLB defensively with a defensive WAR of 0.  This year he has a NEGATIVE WAR OF .8!

With Blanco now playing every day, why in the world would Bruce Bochy not put Gregor in center and stick Pagan in center?

Well, I think I know why.

Last year it was painfully obvious to make the move, but Blanco didn’t play every day.  So Pagan stayed in the lineup, because he’s the better hitter and excelled (eventually) from the leadoff slot.

Second, I get the impression that in Pagan’s mind he’s a centerfielder, not a corner outfielder.  I get the sense that his ego is a large one.

He may even have some kind of a clause in his contract to that effect.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the kid’s toughness, fight and heart.  He plays the game the right way.

But he gets poor first steps to the ball, takes bad routes and when he makes a “great play” it’s normally a routine one for a good CF like Blanco.  Blanco on the other hand (as well as Torres) gets good jumps on the ball and glides.  Pagan is far from fluid out there and it’s hurting the Giants.

And Pagan isn’t hitting either, with an average of .264 and an OBP of only .315.  That’s poor for a leadoff hitter.

I love the fact that the Giants are so good at coming back in games, but factors like Pagan being in center is helping put the team behind in too many games.  That results in losses.  It also torches the bullpen.

It’s time for Bruce Bochy to man up and put his outfielders where they’re best suited, Blanco and Torres in center and Pagan in left.

In fact, it might be good to give Pagan some days off, leadoff with Blanco and put Brett Pill in left, where he might provide some much needed power.  That Colorado air would do him well as the Giants limp in to play the Colorado Rockies Thursday for the first of four in a big NL West matchup.

The Giants are still leading the west, despite their faults.  I still believe this team will pull it all together and be perhaps the best team in the National League.  Moves like this will help make it happen.

Memo to Major League Baseball – The San Francisco Giants Can Hit

This has been a strange season for your San Francisco Giants.

It’s not strange that they sit in first place in the National League West with a record of 21-15, tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a game and a half ahead of the Colorado Rockies.

For a team that has won 2 of the last 3 World Series crowns, winning is not only not surprising, but becoming expected.

But it’s the way the Giants are winning that has been unexpected.

This is an organization that has built it’s reputation on pitching and defense and most recently team speed.

The team speed has most certainly been there and been a big factor in the Giants success in 2013.

But the Giants defense has struggled and their pitching has struggled even more.

Prior to tonight’s stellar performance from the guy who was supposed to be the staff ace, Matt Cain, he had only one win and a string of bad outings.  Based on this and his last start against the Dodgers, it appears Cain is coming out of it.

But Tim Lincecum has continued to struggle and Ryan Vogelsong is on the cusp of losing his position in the starting rotation by throwing batting practice every 5 days.

The bullpen has also been inconsistent.

If it wasn’t for the 2 lefthanded rocks on the Giants staff, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, the Giants would be staring up at most of the other teams in the NL West.

But the way the Giants have been winning is something that has been foreign to Giants fans since the days of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.  They’ve been hitting and doing a lot of it!

And they’ve had an amazing number of comebacks, many resulting in wins.  More on that later.

On a night like tonight, it’s a scary thing for the opposition, with the Giants pitching coming through for a change.

The Giants roughed up old nemesis Tim Hudson for 6 earned runs in just 3.2 innings.  The way the Giants sliced and diced Huddy was almost surgical.

So far this season the Giants are averaging .262, good enough for 4th in the National League in batting.  Their 159 runs are only 10 less then the league leading Colorado Rockies.  The Cincinnati Reds are second and play in a band box, as do the Rockies.  Neither yard has the Grand Canyon type dimensions of AT&T Park.

While still not a home run hitting machine, the Giants have 28, which is 13th in the 15 team league.  You may recall in 2012 they were last in baseball and by a good margin.  But homers are not their game.  This team is 4th in doubles and tied for 5th in triples.  They are a gap to gap speed team and they are working it to perfection.

They also rank 8th in walks.  Considering the state of this team 2 years ago, that’s next to shocking!

And they are the second toughest to strike out, only one K behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.  That is just as shocking.  The Giants also lead the league in sacrifice bunts.

Best of all, this team is hitting in the clutch.  The Giants are 4th in baseball with a .298 average with runners in scoring position!  With RISP and 2 outs they are 7th in the game and also second in the NL at .272.

Many Giants hitters have contributed.

Hunter Pence has completely changed his approach, going the opposite way more, waiting more on the pitch.  Pence’s new approach has paid off with an early season .285 average, 7 homers, 22 RBI’s, many of them huge clutch hits.  Pence’s OPS is a cool .820

Pablo Sandoval is batting .314 with 4 homers and 24 RBI’s.  The Panda has also become a clutch machine and has played an outstanding defensive third base.

Buster Posey, after starting the season in a slump, has bounced back with a vengence.  Buster Ballgame is up to .295 with 5 homers and 23 RBI’s.  His .919 OPS is off the charts.

Marco Scutaro, who also scuffled early is up to .295 with 18 runs scored.  However his bad back has been apparent with some recent errors.

Angel Pagan is at .262, but has driven in 16 runs and scored 25, which ranks him among the league leaders in that department.

Brandon Crawford is also at .262 with a surprising 5 homers and 15 RBI’s.  His .811 OPS is 4th among NL shortstops.

Brandon Belt has struggled at times, but has 15 RBI’s and has delivered some big hits.

And the two headed leftfield machine of Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres has 19 runs scored and together have more then held up their part of the bargain.  Blanco is hitting .271 with a .344 OBP.  Perhaps not having to play every day, neither one of these mighty mights will wear down as the season goes on.  But this is a position that could be due for an upgrade at the trade deadline, since the two have combined for just one home run.

So from the offensive end, the Giants are pretty much doing everything right.

The days of being down 3-0 and counting the game in the loss column are now in the past.

Cain’s second straight solid performance is great news to the Giants and their fans.  With Cain hopefully on the straight and narrow, that gives the Giants 3 pitchers on the top of their game.  With either Lincecum or Vogelsong (or even a pitcher not yet on the team) holding down a solid number 4 position in the rotation, the Giants could be unstoppable.  You know their defense will get better.  Last year they started slow defensively and were playing some of the best defense in all of MLB by the end of the season.  And you also have to guess the bullpen will raise the bar as the season goes on.

But even if neither Timmy or Vogel find themselves anytime soon, the Giants have proven they will go out and compete every single night.  They are never out of a game as evidenced by their 11 comeback wins, tied for most in the majors.  That means the Giants have come back to win over half their games!  That’s remarkable, even more remarkable than their 21-15 record.  If and when this team gets it all together it will be a scary time for the rest of the National League.

The San Francisco Giants New Ace – His Name Might Surprise You

As we sit here on May 9th, about 20 percent into the 2013 season, this has been anything but a usual one for the San Francisco Giants and their starting rotation.

Their “ace” Matt Cain has struggled horribly.  With the exception of bookend games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one on opening day and one a couple of days ago, Cain has been a train wreck.

His 1-2 record and 5.57 ERA has been anything but Cainlike.  And he only picked up his first win in his 7th start against the Dodgers.

Cain has been getting the ball up a lot and that has helped explain the fact he’s given up 9 home runs already this season.

Tim Lincecum has continued to struggle.  While he had back to back solid outings recently, he has regressed in his last two starts, giving up 10 earned runs in 12 innings.

Tim is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA.  Pretty much the same pitcher who limped through the 2012 season, before turning it on in the playoffs and World Series as a reliever.  With this being his walk year, he may be allowed to do just that, or even be traded before the season is over.  More on that in my next post.

Ryan Vogelsong was the Giants best pitcher in the first half the last 2 seasons.  But this year has been very different for the veteran right-hander.

Vogelsong still hasn’t found his stride.  He is 1-2 with a horrible 7.20 ERA.  And his WHIP is a very high 1.66.  All of a sudden his place in the Giants rotation is in jeopardy.

Madison Bumgarner has been yet another story.  The kid lefthander who acts like a veteran has been nails for the Giants in 2013.  He is 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA and a WHIP of just 0.94!  But even Mad Bum has not been immune from having a bad game.  He lost his last outing to the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up 5 runs in only 6 frames.

I’m sure when many of you who follow the Giants saw the headline, you thought I would be writing this article about Bumgarner.  However the real ace of the Giants to this point in the season is none other then Mr. Barry Zito.

Z has been nothing but spectacular in 2013.

With his latest 7 inning performance in yesterday’s extra inning win over the Phillies, Zito reduced his ERA to 2.75.  He is 3-1 with a nice 1.30 WHIP.

However those numbers don’t tell the entire story.  Zito had a real bad outing in Milwaukee on April 16th where he gave up 9 earned runs in only 2.2 innings of work.  Those numbers look even worse because Giants Manager Bruce Bochy failed to see that Zito had nothing that day and didn’t get him out of there sooner.  If he had, 4 of those runs probably wouldn’t have been charged to Barry.

But if you take away that game and look at what Zito has done in his other 6 starts he becomes ace material.  In 36.2 innings of work, Zito has allowed only 3 earned runs!

And the Giants are 5-2 in his starts, continuing a trend that carried over from last year.  In 2012 the Giants were 24-12 in Zito starts, including the postseason.

Out of those other 6 starts, 4 times Zito has completed 7 innings.  The Giants have won all of those games.

As I mentioned last year, Zito seems to have turned a corner in his career.  Now he’s the classic crafty lefthander, getting guys out by taking the sting out of their bat and pitching to contact.  At AT&T Park that strategy works very well indeed.

This is the last year the Giants are obligated to keep Z on the team.  But as I’ve stated in this space before, the odds are they will pick up his 17 million dollar option for 2014.  With a 10 million dollar buyout, spending 7 million more on a pitcher who is as dependable as Zito has been is a no brainer at this point.

Of course a lot can change between now and November as we well know, but this is one thing I don’t expect will change.

In MLB, Money Can’t Buy Happiness

As play beings on May 8th, we stand about 20% through the 2013 MLB season.

Yes, there is certainly a long, long way to go, but there is a trend so far, that if it keeps up, it will be pretty amazing.

Namely 5 of the top 10 payroll teams in the majors would not make the post season.  And some of the teams that wouldn’t make it are a bit of a shock to the system.

We start with the number one spender in all of baseball, by a good margin, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers fueled by the deep pockets of Guggenheim Partners, have spend over 220 million dollars to put together the best team money could buy.

The Dodgers have the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Beckett, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, free agent signing Zack Greinke and Carl Crawford.

In a word they looked loaded.

But a series of injuries, bad luck (the Greinke injury to name just one) and bad play have caused the Dodgers to fall to the cellar in the NL West.

If we want to look at another serious disappointment at this stage of the season, we only have to look a few miles down the I 5 freeway to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Angels made the biggest splash of the off season by signing free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, only one year removed from signing still another former MVP, Albert Pujols.

So with those 2 big bats to help an already potent lineup, the Angels looked ready to pass Hamilton’s former team, the Texas Rangers and the Oakland Athletics and cruise to the top of the AL West.

How’s that working out for you Artie Moreno?  Not so good I’m afraid.

The Angels with the 7th highest payroll in baseball are sitting barely ahead of the woeful Houston Astros and their 21 million dollar payroll at the bottom of the division.

Hell, Hamilton makes more than the entire Houston roster and the Astros are only 2.5 games behind!

Jumping back to third place in the salary rankings are the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies didn’t do a ton this off season, because they couldn’t afford to.  They added former Ranger Michael Young, who has been a nice addition.  They also added outfielders Ben Revere and Delmon Young.

The Phils are doing a little better then the rest of the teams I’ll mention in this article, but they are still 2 games under .500 and 4 in back of the division leading Atlanta Braves.

At least they haven’t become a serious disappointment (yet).

The Chicago White Sox sit 8th in the salary rankings but dead last in the AL Central.

Then there’s the Toronto Blue Jays.  Remember them?  They didn’t have a bad year in 2012, despite falling short of the playoffs.

In the off season they made a blockbuster trade to acquire Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and others from the Miami Marlins.  This was the trade that was going to propel them past the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.  Oh and they also signed the Melk Man, Melky Cabrera for good measure.

Where do the Jays sit 20% into the season?  At 13 and 21, in the AL East cellar.

Meanwhile, the other 5 high payroll teams are doing very well.  The New York Yankees have somehow battled injuries to remain near the top of the AL East.  The Boston Red Sox have defied logic and lead the AL East by a game over the Baltimore Orioles and 2 games over the Yankees.  You remember how bad the BoSox were in 2012 with many of the players who now call themselves Dodgers.  The Detroit Tigers have stayed ahead of the two surprise teams, the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians and the Washington Nationals are on the heels of the Braves in the NL East.

Oh and not to forget the World Champion San Francisco Giants.  The Giants have somehow overcome poor starting pitching and shaky relief and defense at times to hang a half game behind the upstart Colorado Rockies in the NL West.

Again, the season is only one fifth over and a month from now things could look totally different, but it kind of makes you shake your head when you see teams like the Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays and White Sox paying so much and getting so little.

Of course as I’ve said many times and my Giants have proved over and over, scouting, health, team chemistry and sometimes luck can carry you a very long way.  You can’t use a statistic when you talk about winning 6 elimination games and then sweeping what looked like the best team in the game 4 games straight, with the prospect of perhaps the game’s best pitcher poised for 3 starts in 7 games.

So no, money can’t buy happiness. It can’t always buy you a title either.