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Sunday, April 15, 2018

What have we learned about these 2018 Giants after two weeks?

So the 2018 season didn't start well for San Francisco. The Giants lost Madison Bumgarner on the last day of Spring Training after they had already lost Samardzija to a strained manboob a week earlier. Then there was more vagueness about Mark Melancon and it turns out his arm will likely need a Winter Soldier type remake (probably). Then Cueto went down after his 2nd start of the year because he slipped getting off his horse. Or something. Eesh. The good news is Will Smith hasn't had any setbacks. The bad news is that it still meant Josh Osich was our 2nd best lefty option  in the pen and it's already cost the Giants some runs in the middle and late innings. Regardless, missing your top 3 starting pitchers, your closer, and your set-up man the first month of the season is not a good way to come out of the gates.

As for the squad that actually lined up for Opening Day? Well, they're 6-9 after 15 games which is exactly where they were last year after 15 games. That left them 4 games back of the Diamondbacks then and it's left them 5 games back of the Dbacks now. The symmetry is beautiful. Fun fact: The Dbacks did NOT actually go on to win the division last year. That honor belonged to the Dodgers of course, who started last season out at 7-8 after 15 games. This year they're 5-9. So at least there's that? We're better than the Dodgers for now!

What's to be made of THIS year's 6-9 start though? Well, it's been a bumpy ride. The injuries are cause for optimism that the squad can start playing better ball when they get Cueto and Samardzija back soon. The team will have to wait on Bumgarner until Memorial Day at the earliest. Who knows about Melancon but Will Smith should kick Osich off the roster in the next couple weeks. These are all pretty sizable improvements. It deepens the rotation by having guys that can actually pitch past the 5th or 6th inning and it deepens the surprisingly okay bullpen by pushing one of the current starters into a pretty decent long reliever role (I'm kind sorta looking at you Ty Blach).

Now let's talk about that bullpen. The bullpen hasn't been all that good for a few seasons now. But there are signs of life. Pierce Johnson (he's my adopted Giant this year) and Reyes Moronta have been excellent contributors thus far. Who knows once the league gets a book on them but for now they're taking full advantage of their opportunity. Hunter Strickland has taken over the closer role and has thrived with confidence and new found slider command. He's been a beast. Tony Watson may go down as the best free agent signing EVER if he keeps doing what he's doing. However, the other half of the bullpen, the guys that the Giants were hoping would be better this year than last year, have been inconsistent at best (Gearrin, Law) and awful at worst (Dyson, Osich). The Giants don't have a true long reliever (yet) and Bochy is still feeling out roles for guys. It's safe to say that Osich, who has really struggled, may be sent packing to Sacramento soon to work on his mechanics and his confidence. Can the Giants afford to keep him up until Will Smith comes back? Probably not. They're in survival mode and Osich has already appeared in 9 games and has a 6.14 ERA and 2.18 WHIP so far. Not going to cut it. Dyson can't be sent down and it's doubtful the Giants would cut him this early in the season but Bochy can't rely on him right now. His numbers are ostensibly worse than Osich's. But so far the 'pen looks like it could become a strength. Could.

The rotation will rebound when the veterans come back and they've been pretty decent so far. The issue is the starters not going all that deep into games. Which is taxing a bullpen that could use some relief (see what I did there?). Chris Stratton has carried over his success from last season and he's having a good start to 2018. As a number 4 starter, he's looking like he may become the guy the Giants selected in the 1st round of the 2012 draft.

The biggest issue for this team is the offense. This is slightly concerning because the starting line-up is completely healthy. Unlike the rotation, the Giants are not waiting for any big bats to come back. What we see is what we got. And what we got isn't looking very good right now. The team is striking out a lot, not walking very much, and absolutely not hitting with runners in scoring position at all. They have hit a bunch of homers. That's somewhat surprising but after an offseason where Bobby Evans decided to focus on fixing the lineup it's the line-up that is the weakness right now. Sure, some guys are off to slow starts and will rebound. But there are some scary factors here. The K's, the stranding of multiple baserunners game after game when one hit would change the fortune of the game, the pressing that is tangible. It's all bad. It's not like this team has multiple ways to beat you. They're not fast, they're not all that powerful, and they're not a bunch of high average or high on-base types. They basically have to string together hits to score runs and just like last year, they're not playing good fundamental ball offensively. They're not moving runners over to make productive outs, they're not hitting sac flies with runners on third base and less than 2 outs, and they're just not hitting at all once a guy gets to second. Some of this will change. The law of averages. But I spent a lot of 2017 thinking that too and, well, it never changed. The offense will be better than it was in 2017 but after these first couple weeks, it hasn't been. It arguably has been worse.

The result is an identical 6-9 record just like last year with the Giants looking up at 3 other teams in the division again. They will need to start playing better soon before they wind up too far back and the return of Bumgarner is a footnote in another lost season. They have the pieces to turn it around. They just need to do it on the field and it starts immediately with the next series when they face the first place Diamondbacks.

As always, Beat LA (and the Snakes, Rocks, and Padres)...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

MLB Predictions 2018

In this winter of our free agent's discontent, we've finally seen the last significant free agent sign with a team just over a week to go before Opening Day. Congrats Alex Cobb on holding out for the contract you deserved. Now that the majority of rosters are set, it's time for my annual dart throw as to how the 2018 season is going to unfold. My 2017 predictions turned out to be all over the place. I got 4 division winners right (Astros, Indians, Red Sox, and Cubs) and got 6 out of 10 playoff teams (Nationals, Dodgers). My World Series prediction was mostly awful since I had the Indians beating the Giants and the Indians choked in the first round while the Giants were the worst team in baseball (technically they tied the Tigers but c'mon). I got all of the major player awards wrong. But just like the return of spring allows teams to dream of glory, I too can hope this will be the year all my predictions come true. Here they are...

(Division winners bolded, wildcard teams italicized)

AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles
AL Central: Indians, Twins, Royals, White Sox, Tigers
AL West: Astros, Angels, Rangers, Mariners, A's

NL East: Nationals, Phillies, Mets, Braves, Marlins
NL Central: Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Reds
NL West: Dodgers, Dbacks, Rockies, Giants, Padres

ALWC: Red Sox over Angels
NLWC: Phillies over Cardinals

ALDS: Astros over Red Sox, Yankees over Indians
NLDS: Nationals over Phillies, Cubs over Dodgers

ALCS: Yankees over Astros
NLCS: Nationals over Cubs

World Series: Nationals over Yankees

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals
AL CYA: Luis Severino, Yankees
NL CYA: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
AL ROY: Shohei Otani, Angels
NL ROY: Ozzie Albies, Braves

A look at the AL East: The AL East is looking like it's going to settle back into a New York/Boston showdown for the foreseeable future. The addition of Giancarlo Stanton to what was already a very powerful line-up is going to have the Yanks living up to their nickname as the Bronx Bombers. There's a chance, albeit slight, that every member of their starting line-up hits at least 20 home runs. That's stupid. Pair that offense with an above average bullpen and a capable rotation and you have arguably the American League's best team though they'll have to prove they're better than Houston come the playoffs. Boston added JD Martinez to counter the Stanton get by New York. Both of these teams should be vying for the division title though I think the Yanks power will push them over the top. The Jays are interesting because their rotation could be sneaky good but their line-up has really gone down the tubes from the days when they had Donaldson, Tulo, Bautista, and Encarnacion in their primes. Tulo and Donaldson remain but the rest of the Jays line-up leaves something to be desired. Tampa Bay is young. They gutted their team and even got rid of young guys that could play. However, they always have pitching and it'll carry them enough to avoid last place. The Orioles are a mess and will likely trade their tradeable vets by the deadline, including their superstar shortstop Manny Machado. Once the vets go, the O's will likely be competing for a top 5 draft pick in 2019.

A look at the AL Central: The Indians didn't do much this offseason which is somewhat shocking given they have a really good opportunity to go to the World Series. It would have been nice to do a little more to replace Carlos Santana aside from sign Yonder Alonso but the Tribe are still well rounded enough to take a weak division. The bullpen is still good enough with Cody Allen and Andrew Miller in the backend and the rotation should be above average with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco as the co-aces upfront. The Twins were surprise contenders last season and snuck into the wildcard game. Their line-up is talented and deep but there are some question marks surrounding their pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen. Anytime a team is relying on Fernando Rodney to close games, you can't quite take that team seriously. The Twins had a great chance in a ridiculously slow free agent market to make some solid additions to their rotation where they really could use upgrades. They signed Lance Lynn and traded for Jake Odorizzi but Twins fans have to be asking why couldn't they have done more? However, in a weak division, the Twins should be able to contend again for a wildcard. The Royals rebuild is in full swing and despite having some talent it would take a lot to go right for KC to become a legit contender. The more likely scenario is they trade some guys come the deadline and go for a full rebuild that will start in earnest in July. The White Sox and Tigers are equally bad but in different ways. The White Sox are in the middle of their rebuild and will have a lot of young talent on display this season. But they'd all have to breakout for the Sox to become competitive. The Tigers window has slammed shut but they also have some large contracts to veteran players they won't be able to move. Their rebuild is just beginning and they may sell off their best pitcher in Michael Fulmer for a king's ransom come July.

A look at the AL West: There's only one sure thing in the wild AL West and that is that the Astros will win their second consecutive division title. With a strong rotation, decent bullpen, and deep line-up the Astros are well equipped to defend their title and on paper seem to be the best team in the American League, if not all of baseball. The rest of the division, however, is a toss up. The Angels are a trendy pick to contend due to the signing of Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani, the free agent addition of Zack Cozart, and the re-signing of Justin Upton to pair with Mike Trout. But the Angels rotation is a patchwork of hype and health concerns and the bullpen is a question mark. They should be in the thick of the wildcard but it's also easy to see the pitching imploding and the Angels being the Marlins of last season - a good offense with little pitching to support it. The Rangers are fascinating. They could be really good. Or they could be a complete mess. They have a nice mix of vets and young guys but the pitching is a total gamble from top to bottom. Every year the Mariners seem like a team on the brink of contention yet every year they fall short. With question marks surrounding the rotation and a second baseman in centerfield, it'll be interesting to see where the M's wind up in the standings. They could be wildcard contenders or they could be a huge disappointment. Then there's Oakland. The A's could be surprisingly good this year. Alas, in this division, they are more likely another season away before truly being able to contend. Yet you can never count out a Billy Beane team. However, the A's are young everywhere and it probably is wishful thinking they'll be in the hunt this year.

A look at the NL East: The East has been the Nationals playground for the past few years except that one time the Mets forgot they were the Mets. This season the division is a bit more interesting with the Phillies sporting a nice blend of veterans and young kids looking to prove themselves and a rotation that has a strong 1-2 punch but has question marks in the back end. Throw in the Mets who are hoping their strong rotation can stay healthy while being complemented by an intriguing lineup and you got a division that is a little stronger than it has been the past couple of seasons. That being said, the Nationals are still the best team in the division and one of the elite National League teams. While the Phillies and Mets may be a bit annoying for Washington to deal with, they still should win the division. Bryce Harper is in his contract year which means he's going to be Mr. Bionic Man and hit 100 homers. The Nationals are going to take full advantage of it being Harper's last season as a National by going hard after the playoff success that has thus far eluded them. The Phillies and Mets will compete with each other for a wildcard berth but the Phillies have some breakout performers that may turn the tide. The Braves are not quite where they need to be yet to be a serious contender and the Marlins are a joke.

A look at the NL Central: The NL Central is quite the opposite of its AL counterpart. The NL Central has 3 teams that could be fighting for the division and even the Pirates, who got a lot of crap for trading away McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, aren't exactly devoid of talent. Even the hapless Reds have some potential, though it'd take a minor miracle for them to be relevant. That being said, there's no cakewalks here. The Reds line-up is still capable of scoring runs while the starting pitching is young and inexperienced but does have some guys that could be good, most specifically Luis Castillo (former Giant prospect, sigh). The Cardinals are always going to be the Cardinals, which means they'll find some no name prospect and he'll be a top 3 candidate for rookie of the year. The addition of Marcell Ozuna is huge. The only thing really holding back the Cards is surprisingly their pitching. Their rotation is iffy but has high ceiling arms. The bullpen has been begging for a Greg Holland signing and honestly I have no idea why that hasn't happened yet. But the Cardinals should be in the division and wildcard hunt because they're the Cardinals and that's what they do. The Brewers were sort of an enigma this offseason. They came up just short of making the playoffs last season (mainly because their front office didn't do anything at the deadline) and they had a lot of outfield depth and not so much starting rotation depth. So of course they went out and traded for Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain. Now they have way too many good outfielders and still question marks in the rotation. Odd strategy Brew Crew. The Cubs still look to be the class of the division. Adding Darvish helps replace Arrieta and Chatwood is sneaky good... he's ChatGood. Like Chatwood is That Good. I don't know what that means but I'm rolling with it and the Cubs have my permission to use it. Morrow is a risky choice as closer but hey, Greg Holland is still out there. The Cubs have the best rotation in the division and that is why they should win it.

A look at the NL West: The NL West is a tough division. As a Giants fan, that kind of sucks. The Dodgers aren't as good as they were a year ago. Their depth is a little less this season and they're trying to stay under the luxury cap which means they might not actually go out and get all the players at the deadline like they did last season with Darvish and to a lesser extent Tony Watson and Curtis Granderson and Tony Cingrani. But they're still really good unfortunately. And unless they get the post World Series Runners-Up blues, they probably will win the division again. The Dbacks had a lot go right last season which helped them make the playoffs. One of the biggest pieces was getting JD Martinez. He has morphed into Steve Souza and I'm not quite sure everyone will be quite as good as they were last year for the Snakes. They still should be in the wildcard conversation but it may be hard for everyone to be quite as good as they were a season ago. Ditto the Rockies. The Rockies tried to part with Carlos Gonzalez this offseason but he just wouldn't go away so there he is, back again in their outfield. The Rockies last great chance at a run with their current group is this season. Blackmon is a free agent after the season and he'll be hard for the Rockies to replace. It's hard to take the Rockies seriously though with the rotation they're going to trot out most days. Everyone behind Jon Gray is a question mark. Given Coors Field, it's hard to see the Rockies making the playoffs two years in a row for the first time in franchise history. Then there's the Giants. Prior to Samardzija's strained pec and Bumgarner's devastating broken left hand (damn you Baseball Gods, it's an even year!!), I had the Giants as finishing 2nd in the division and taking the wildcard. Now? 2-3 months (or more) of no Bumgarner? Again? 3-4 weeks without Shark? The rotation going into the season is Cueto and 4 other guys. While the Giants imported Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria and Austin Jackson and Tony Watson while exporting Matt Moore, Denard Span, Kyle Crick, and Christian Arroyo (among some other names you won't remember), the key to their whole offseason was getting their Big Three to pitch as much as possible. That's Bumgarner/Cueto/Samardzija. Now that plan has burned up and the Giants just don't look deep enough to avoid another year finishing in the tail end of the division. Luckily, we still have the Padres who are young but boring and the Giants can probably finish ahead of them. (Checks last year's standings). OK, the Giants can HOPEFULLY finish ahead of them.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

We found out what the Giants would do with no Giancarlo Stanton

The Giants never were going to rebuild this offseason. They had too many guys getting paid too much money to initiate a successful sell off. They weren't going to take the publicity hit of trading Madison Bumgarner coming off a 98-loss season. So they did what they always do... they traded and signed some veteran players that should make the team better in the short term.

The interesting part about this is that they actually got some name players. This in and of itself isn't that surprising. The Giants are somewhat of a marketing team first and a sports franchise second. The Giants have always had bankable stars: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, Will Clark, Barry Bonds, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner...

Now they've added Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen to that list. There's a catch though. McCutchen may only be here for one season (or half a season if the Giants don't get better fast). And Longoria, the face of the Rays for the entirety of his career, is here for five more years. That leaves him with the back 9 of his career left to go, which will now be played wearing a Giants jersey. It was an interesting way to go for the Giants. Third base was a pretty big hole once they traded away Eduardo Nunez. And signing Nunez back wouldn't have really improved the position. Sandoval is not the Kung Fu Panda anymore and Arroyo botched his first call-up by batting under .200 and then getting unlucky with bean balls. While some wanted Arroyo to get the job outright to see what he could do with 500 at bats, the Giants saw a position that could be upgraded. They decided not to pull a McCutchen by sending all of their farm system to the Orioles for Manny Machado. They decided to pass on consistent veteran free agent Todd Frazier who offers a lot of what Longoria does but without the name recognition and with an ugly batting average. No, they went with the "name" player. Longoria. A player casual fans would casually recognize.

Also, Bobby Evans performed some voodoo and somehow got Tampa Bay, a notoriously cheap franchise, to take Denard Span's contract off our hands while also throwing in money to offset some of Longoria's salary for the remaining 5 (Five!!!) years. And that's really the catch with Longoria. He had a very down year in 2017 in regards to his offensive performance. But his defense was solid enough where he won a third Gold Glove. And the Giants like defense. And they like ballplayers. And Longoria is a ballplayer. He's also under contract for FIVE MORE SEASONS when he'll be 32, 33, 34, 35, and 36. And it's not like we have flexibility to move him anywhere besides third base. I mean, where are the Giants going to put him if he declines at third base and needs to be moved off?First base? Belt is there until after 2021. And even if he wasn't, don't we think Posey might be manning 1B at that point? But those discussions are for a later time. In the meantime, the Giants upgraded at 3B with a former franchise star who should help the team this year.

So they didn't get Giancarlo Stanton. They did the ol' Vladimir Guerrero rope-a-dope. They went after the big money, big name guy then didn't get him then spread the money around for lesser guys that better filled out the roster. In this case however, instead of getting some Michael Tucker's and Dustan Mohr's they got Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. And Austin Jackson. And Gregor Blanco. That's not bad. They still have holes in their rotation and their bullpen. I mean, they're really putting their eggs in the young pitching basket with Beede, Suarez, Stratton, and Blach expected to man 2 spots in the rotation and they may be haphazardly putting way too much faith in a young bullpen that has failed to prove they belong so far. Yeah, I'm talking to you Derek Law, Josh Osich, Steve Okert, and kinda sorta Hunter Strickland.

That being said, for a team that wasn't going to rebuild and didn't want to blow their budget all to hell the Giants did a pretty good job. Spring Training is days away and while the Giants may continue to tinker and monitor the waiver wire or keep an eye out for a desperate free agent that somehow fits their budget in the weirdest offseason of all time they have a chance to be substantially better in 2018 than they were in 2017. In fact, if you look at all the mularkey that went on in 2017 and figure none of that mularkey happens in 2018 and the new guys upgrade what were downright woeful areas last season, you might even see the outline of a contender on this Giants roster sheet.

Regardless, according to me the Giants needed to get Stanton, they didn't get Stanton, and this is what they did after Stanton spurned them. All in all, not too bad. Now let's get ready for some preseason baseball!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

So the Giants didn't get Giancarlo Stanton... now what?

First and foremost and by far the most important piece of information in all of this: Giancarlo Stanton is NOT a Dodger. The Giants have basically won the offseason already because Giancarlo got traded to the Not-Dodgers. Oh, and the 2nd biggest offseason sensation went to the Dodgers geographical rival, the Angels. Now the Angels have the best player in the sport and one of the most intriguing Japanese imports since Ichiro. Take that you bullies in blue and white! Now go suck on your Game 7 World Series loss while we Giants fans exalt in a glorious offseason where you for some reason decided not to trade for the reining NL MVP despite him essentially begging you to get him.

God, that felt good.

Ok, so Giancarlo isn't a Giant either though. In fact, he's a Yankee. There was a time when I would have been infuriated that one of the top 5 players in baseball was traded from a small market team (or a team that operates like it's in a small market but is actually in a pretty large market) to the New York Yankees. The rich get richer. A team that constantly wins World Series gets yet another legendary player to eventually enshrine in the Hall of Fame. I mean, if you're a fan of probably any other team outside of the NL West,  you're appalled the Yankees got Giancarlo Stanton for essentially nothing but a willingness to absorb the majority of his contract. And that is well within your right. A line-up that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez in the middle of it is one that should keep pitchers up at night. The Bronx Bombers indeed.

But Giancarlo in a Yankees jersey is much much much better than Giancarlo in a Dodgers jersey. At least for Giants fans. Sure, it's not quite as cool as Giancarlo in a Giants jersey where the team would have petitioned MLB to change their name to the San Francisco Giantcarlos. And sure, the Giants and Marlins had an agreement in place to actually make this a reality except for the minor fact that Giancarlo didn't want to come play in San Francisco because, well, no power hitters like to come play at AT&T Park, not even apparently the most prolific power hitter in the game. It also may have had something to do with the fact that the team was awful in 2017 and it was hard for him to envision the Giants contending in 2018, let alone overtaking the Dodgers. Giancarlo wants to win and the Giants were the furthest thing from winners last season. So he chose to go someplace where he knew the team would win and win often. New York. Where the line-up is young, the money is endless, and the team is set up to start a whole new dynasty. The drama is over. Giancarlo might as well change his name to Gotham Stanton now and we Giants fans can move on.

But move on to what? Therein lies the rub. The Giants were atrocious last season. If you squint your eyes a bit though, a lot of that atrociousness was bad luck. Bumgarner thought he was Super Dave Osborne (spoiler alert: he's not), Cueto was allergic to the new baseballs MLB insists were not different but are, Belt had a magnet in his helmet to attract beanballs, Matt Moore forgot how to pitch, and Mark Melancon and Will Smith's arms decided they needed a tune-up.

However, there were some other underlying bad things that weren't really a product of bad luck but the product of poor decisions or inevitable declines. Signing Denard Span for 3 years to play CF didn't seem like the greatest of ideas considering Span was coming off injury and every other tea seemed wary of giving him more than one guaranteed year. Evans signed him for 3 (with an option!) expecting him to be the same solid defensive CF'er and leadoff hitter he had been in the past. Span was not great defensively 2016 and he fell off a cliff in that department in 2017. He was largely an embarrassment in CF all season long. While his offensive numbers were ok, the Giants clearly need someone that has some speed and can take good routes and catch the ball in CF. Also, relying on Hunter Pence who had not stayed healthy in 2015 and 2016 was too optimistic. Pence stayed relatively healthy in 2017 but his skills both offensively and defensively clearly declined. LF was a black hole to begin with but the team really wanted one of their guys to step up and seize the job. After the season they had, it's hard thinking the Giants will give Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker another shot at locking down an outfield job in 2018. Sort of unfair for Parker but he also probably didn't show enough in his return from a shoulder injury that cost him half the season to really be counted on again. Maybe he can lock down a 4th or 5th outfield role with the team. And finally, there was 3B. 3B was fine with Nunez and started promising for Arroyo until Arroyo started swinging at sliders away every AB. That led to the reunion with Pablo Sandoval and as expected that turned out about as poorly as one could have anticipated.

Due to the above, the Giants started the offseason by saying they needed help in CF, 3B, and the bullpen. They then immediately went hard and fast for an MVP that plays RF and a two-way Japanese player that throws 100 MPH in the rotation and crushes bombs as a DH in the batter's box. Not that the Giants didn't need either of those guys. They need all the help they can get regardless of position. But now that the Stanton and Ohtani dream is over, what does this team do now?

This is a tough call. Getting Stanton and/or Shohei Ohtani (and how fun it was to dream of getting both for awhile) would have been transformative. You could almost imagine a 98 loss team, with a little luck and a new franchise star, rebounding to contend in 2018. But now those dreams are gone (though again not turned to nightmares since the Dodgers got neither as well) and the Giants are left trying to fix that team that lost 98 games. So what will they do? With the winter meetings starting tomorrow, it's easy to see them shift back to the areas they wanted to address: CF, 3B, and RP.

There's some problems here. The Giants due to their extremely crappy season have been rewarded with very high draft picks. That is great news. But it's bad news if you want to sign a free agent that was offered a qualifying offer from their previous team and declined it. That would mean if the Giants signed one of those players they'd be punished by having their draft picks lowered. A team in the position of the Giants right now should NOT be forfeiting high draft picks. So that would rule out a few free agents that otherwise would have been pretty good pickups. Namely CF Lorenzo Cain, 3B Mike Moustakas, RP Greg Holland and Wade Davis, and SP Jake Arrieta. If the Giants sign any of these guys, Giants fans should be pissed. None of these guys are transformative players. Are they improvements over the status quo? Yes. But they wouldn't magically make the Giants a winning team. So the Giants should avoid these guys like the plague.

However, the Giants farm system also just got finished being shat on during all the Giancarlo talk. The Giants don't really have any really good prospects. Their lone true blue chipper was drafted last June in the form of Heliot Ramos. He likely is now untouchable unless the Yankees decide they now want to trade Giancarlo Stanton. The Giants have tradeable prospects but if they target a player they want to trade for there's an unfortunate reality where another team will likely be able to offer something better. This goes for the likes of maybe available players like Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Evan Longoria, and Eugenio Suarez.

Couple ALL this with the fact that the Giants have so many holes to fill that they probably really ought to rebuild but won't and you'll get whatever happens this offseason. What will happen this offseason? The most likely scenario is that the Giants may sign some players with underwhelming name value or trade for players that aren't exactly awesome that fill some holes and don't tie down their payroll. That means no JD Martinez no matter how many people assert the Giants will target him now that they didn't get Stanton. JD Martinez's right handed power bat is great and is exactly what they need. But his not-so-great defense in the OF makes him less ideal and he'll turn 30 shortly after Opening Day. As a free agent, that' not too bad actually in terms of age. But he's looking for a 6 year deal and the Giants probably don't want to pay a 35 year old JD Martinez something like 24M in 2022. The Giants also want to get under the luxury tax. This should not be overlooked. They were willing to blow by it for Stanton. They will not be willing to do so for JD Martinez or any combination of free agents that don't truly improve the team by several wins all at once.

If you ask me, the Giants are probably going to do the following: They'll sign either Eduardo Nunez or Yunel Escobar to be a stopgap at 3B until Arroyo proves he can hit MLB pitching. I'd say Todd Frazier but Frazier is a power hitter and will not choose SF if he has a choice and he'll have choices. Repeat after me: Power hitters don't come to play at AT&T Park willingly. For CF, they'll make a minor trade to upgrade the defense (Billy Hamilton or Kevin Pillar) or they'll just sign Jarrod Dyson or Rajai Davis. Finally, they'll sign a reliever like Jake McGee. They'll hope and pray everyone has a bounceback year while not tying themselves down to any new onerous contracts. They'll sell the Bumgarner and Cueto got hurt narrative and that they were a playoff team with the same guys in 2016 (nevermind that terrible 2nd half). It's not glamorous but it's smart. They keep what little prospects they have, get another shot at drafting the next great Giants in June, and improve on areas of need.

It likely won't lead to a postseason appearance in 2018 but it may make the team better in the short term and long term. And that's really all we can ask for now that the two guys that could have had a major impact for this team are now both with the Not-Dodgers.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Why the Giants need Giancarlo Stanton

I'm not sure if you all have heard this but... the freshly minted NL MVP might get traded this offseason.

I know! Crazy right?

What else -- it seems like the San Francisco Giants might have a legit interest in getting this MVP. They might even think it'll fix the attendance issues that plagued the team for the first time since World Series parades became a thing in San Francisco.

It's no secret that Giancarlo Stanton (oh, that's who we're talking about by the way) would love to play in LA and let's not be foolish, if LA has any interest whatsoever that is where he'll land. But if LA doesn't have interest in adding him, and Andrew Friedman hasn't showing any type of willingness to take on those type of contracts in his Dodger GM tenure, then SF is the next best spot. I do think it would be kind of cool if Arte Moreno surprised everyone and picked Stanton up to pair with Trout and Upton but that ain't going to happen.

Stanton wants to win, yes. And the Giants lost 98 games in 2017. However, he also allegedly wants to play in stadiums with big crowds every night. He prefers a coast, and most prefers the west coast, and he doesn't want to endure a rebuild.

The Giants, aside from not winning in 2017, offer all those things. They're never going to go full rebuild at least not until after 2022 when Buster Posey's contract ends. The fans are not going to stop showing up unless 2017 happens over and over again and the likelihood of that is slim. A lot went wrong for the Giants in 2017 and for it to all happen again... well that would really just be devious of the Baseball Gods. 

Despite AT&T's rep for not being friendly to hitters, it DOES have a rep for having great fans, a great atmosphere for players, and despite what WE think a front office and coaching staff that actually has respect from other players on how they treat players and their families. The park itself is of course sold out almost every single night win or lose which has to appeal to Stanton who, even during an epic and record threatening pace of home runs, had a hard time getting the citizens of Miami out of their rest homes or nightclubs to come see him hit baseballs over the fence. 

From the Giants perspective, getting Stanton would mean getting a legit Major League superstar that would reinvigorate a fanbase that forgot what it was like to lose so much. That in effect would mean the park would start selling out again regularly and don't think that notion isn't important to the key decision makers. Also, it would give the park a player to buzz about that is hasn't had since Bonds retired and Timmy Lincecum's magic ran out. I mean, those awesome World Series runs were something but are people really buying tickets on a cold Monday night to watch Buster Posey hit? No, they aren't. And as awesome as Bumgarner is (and he is... super effing awesome) he doesn't have that megawatt star power that would get the casual fan to come out to the yard. Giancarlo Stanton crushing 450 foot homers might however. 

Also, I know it SEEMS very highly unlikely, but don't count out Stanton opting out of his contract after 2020. If he has 3 more seasons of MVP level production, he'd still be a free agent at age 31. Would he be able to surpass in theory an 8yr/233M deal at age 31? By then who knows whatsalaries would be but I would imagine it's not automatic he would stay locked into his contract. Especially if the Giants were sucking. And especially not after Bryce Harper and Manny Machado get somewhere around 400M-500M each next offseason even though they're several years younger. 

Here's a look at Stanton's contract breakdown. It actually declines towards the end when Stanton is older.

2018: 25M (28 yrs old)2019: 26M (29)2020: 26M (30)2021: 29M (31)2022: 29M (32)2023: 32M (33)2024: 32M (34)2025: 32M (35)2026: 29M (36)2027: 25M (37)2028: 25M or 10M buyout (38)

What's interesting is you're only paying 30M+ for him 3 seasons out of that contract. To put this into perspective, JD Martinez is asking for 30M per season for the next 7 seasons right now and he's older, slower, and not as good defensively.

The Giants have an impossible task when it comes to adding superstar hitters to their line-up. Bonds came because this was home. Otherwise he would have gone to the highest bidder. No other free agent superstar wants to come here for multiple reasons (the park, California taxes, the park, and maybe the weather. Also, it's expensive as **** to live here and the Giants would have to overpay just for them to say yes. Think Aaron Rowand. Also, the park.)

I guess what I am trying to say is... the chances of the Giants signing another hitting star is basically a pipedream. They would have to draft one. And they haven't been exactly stellar in that department.

To date in the AT&T Park Era, they have not drafted anyone capable of hitting 30+ homers. Posey has been their best hitter drafted by far and he topped out at 24 homers in 2012. Sandoval (think about this)... SANDOVAL is probably their 2nd best farm system hitter produced and his career high in home runs was 25. Good ol' Richie Aurilia is the only prospect that came up through the Giants system and wound up hitting over 30 homers for the team and that happened in 2001 when he was hitting in front of Barry when all he did was set the single season record in home runs. And let's remember Richie came to the Giants via trade (granted, as a prospect). Otherwise, the only other hitter that comes close to qualifying as a legit home run threat is Adam Duvall, who has hit 30+ the past two seasons in Cincinnati, one of the easiest parks to hit homers.

There you have it. If the Giants ever want to get a legit home run hitter, they either have to get extremely lucky in the draft or trade for one.

Stanton is easily the best chance they've had since Bonds to acquire a franchise altering superstar hitter and an opportunity they won't get again any time soon. Like I said, there's no way Harper or Machado come here next offseason and there is no other elite home run hitting franchise star coming available anytime soon after those guys.

They need to make it happen. The time is now San Francisco Giants. Go get the MVP.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Is it 2018 yet?

To say this season hasn't gone according to plan would be an insult to all poor planners out there in the history of planning. The Giants season hasn't just NOT gone according to plan, it essentially was replaced by a stink bomb gag season that came wrapped in glorious wrapping paper and pretty bows but was unveiled to be what it truly was: a foul smelling piece of crap.

We are halfway through this 2017 season, the Giants have nearly 60 losses already (and about half as many wins) and the only thing that Giants fans care about right now are what aging declining veterans might get traded just to trim the fat off a roster that has monstrously underperformed. The Giants are sellers, they are a bajillion games behind the first place Dodgers, and are vying with the atrocious Phillies for the worst record in baseball. That's a pretty crazy turnaround for a team that a year ago had the best record in baseball. Granted, the very very poor 2nd half of 2016 maybe should have served as a warning sign. But the Giants still made the playoffs and gave the Cubs all they could handle so if anyone said they saw this downward spiral coming, ask them for the weekend's lottery numbers.

Are we witnessing Murphy's Law? Whatever can go wrong will go wrong? Because very little has gone right for the Giants this season. Aside from Buster Posey having another All Star season and putting together what might be his 2nd best season overall as a major leaguer, the Giants aren't seeing many positives. Let's go through the laundry list:

Madison Bumgarner made 4 starts and then severely injured himself dirt biking on an off day. Bumgarner may only pitch once every 5 days but he's a monster piece of the team in terms of swagger, attitude, and confidence. Losing him for months (hey, he's back today!) may have deflated an already seeping air Giants balloon. It was the straw that broke the Giants backs.

Brandon Crawford has struggled offensively and had a personal tragedy. Players are human and have emotions and feelings. Losing a sister-in-law unexpectedly and then having to go out and play baseball like nothing's wrong could have a toll on a man who values family so much. Crawford hasn't been the B-Craw we've gotten used to the last few seasons. Is he just having an off year, is he declining, or is he just grieving? Who knows but his offensive decline has impacted a line-up that needs its cogs to click.

The LF experiment was DOA. Look, we all know the Giants are pretty antsy about their budget and the luxury tax. They signed Melancon and decided they were done retooling the team hoping someone would be able to play LF capably at some point. Well, that plan was questionable at the start anyways and it was exposed when the rest of the line-up struggled. It has essentially been an open tryout all season long. It was solved briefly when Austin Slater came up and, unlike all the others, decided to NOT suck, but as the season has gone, he got injured and will now miss most of the 2nd half. Maybe there's a reason the Giants are being mentioned in Giancarlo Stanton talks. It'll never happen but it's fun to dream of once again having one of the best power hitters in the game playing left field.

The Mark Melancon signing had an ominous beginning and never got better. Last year's Giants bullpen was a mess and the closer role was definitely one of the culprits. So the Giants went out, signed the closer everyone thought they'd sign, and called it a day. Never mind the rest of that awful bullpen from 2016, if you gave them a leader, they'd for sure fall in line and perform. Right? Wrong. The bullpen is equally as bad this season with not one of the incumbents showing any sign of real improvement. Hunter Strickland has probably been the best reliever all said and done and he got suspended for a week for hitting Bryce Harper because Hunter Strickland never forgets. The fact that Strickland is your best reliever says all you need to know about the bullpen. Maybe we should have known this year was going to be terrible when Melancon blew his very first save opportunity on Opening Day. That should have been an ominous sign that the pen had NOT been fixed. Or that we were going to get punished for whatever reason. Regardless, the pen has been awful and Melancon was not the stress-free closer the Giants thought they were getting. He also may be damaged goods as he's now on the DL for the second time this season with no return date set.

The bench? What bench? The Giants spent the rest of the offseason after signing Melancon trying to find lightning in a bottle. They signed a bunch of veterans and probably hoped one or two would turn out to be an okay bench piece. None have. Michael Morse has been out with a concussion since Jeff Samardzija inadvertently tackled him in the Bryce Harper/Hunter Strickland title match. Jimmy Rollins never made the team. Melvin Upton Jr was probably close to getting a look-see from the minors then got his hand broken on a hit by pitch. Nick Hundley has been okay as the backup catcher but has he really been any better than Trevor Brown would have been? 2016 Postseason Would-Be Legend Conor Gillaspie has been mostly a ghost and has himself seen more DL time than playing time. The bench has no scary bats on it and is just another example of the Giants failed plan.

The rotation is pretty bad. The rotation was supposed to be NOT pretty bad. The rotation wasn't even supposed to be average or good. The rotation was supposed to be great. One of the best in the game. Two aces in Bumgarner and Cueto. A solid number 3 in Matt Moore who once had number 1 stuff who looked good down the stretch and in the playoffs in 2016. A reincarnated, reinvented Jeff Samardzija as your number 4? A 200 innings horse who could give you quality starts? And then, a blackhole in the 5th slot where Matt Cain was going to reside as a farewell tour but with hope and promise waiting in the wings in Beede, Andew Suarez, and Joan Gregorio. Well, Bumgarner got hurt, Cueto became ordinary at best, Matt Moore morphed into the worst starter in the National League, and Matt Cain, well, he's been the same Matt Cain from the past few seasons... a not very good starting pitcher. The only bright spot has been Samardzija who's peripherals look really good but who's classic stats look mediocre (E.R.A. and wins and losses). Beede has struggled in AAA, Joan Gregorio got suspended for PED's, and Andrew Suarez... well, he's actually doing okay so we might see him after the Giants trade Bumgarner (kidding!). Ty Blach actually took Bumgarner's spot when he got injured and he's actually pitched like a serviceable MLB starter so that is a positive as well. But it doesn't offset all the other rotation issues. The Giants will need to figure out what they want to do here moving forward. Cueto's opt out looms despite him having a mediocre season and now's on the DL with blister problems which probably means he doesn't get traded at the deadline. So the Giants will either watch him opt out for nothing or be stuck with him for 4 more seasons and 84M. That's not bad if he goes back to being the Cueto of old. But who knows?

Bright spots keep getting dimmed. In a season where the only thing Giants fans can really look forward to is seeing glimpses of the future, the brightest futures have already been shelved. As noted, Austin Slater is out for most of the 2nd half due to injury. And top prospect Christian Arroyo, after getting a cup of coffee for a couple weeks, went back down to the minors, got hit by a pitch that put him on the DL, then on the day he returned to the line-up got hit by a pitch again that broke his hand. He's out for most of the 2nd half now as well. What this means is that, in a lost season, the Giants lost two of their players that had the best chance of having an impact now and into the future. It's been that kind of year.

The worst of all of this is that it's not just that the Giants are boring, terrible, awful, and literally one of the worst teams in baseball. It's that the DODGERS are the exact opposite. The Dodgers are the best team in the National League and have all the makings of a true World Series contender. They're having amazing comebacks, they're having fun, they have a rookie that came out of relatively nowhere to go bonkers on the league...

It would be fitting for this crap season to end with those bums in blue winning a title. So I guess we can really only hope some other team can knock them off. The Giants won't have that opportunity this season. And yes, I'm STILL annoyed we didn't get a Dodgers/Giants NLCS in 2016 (damn you bullpen!!). So the Giants play now for 2018. What can they do and who can they take a look at to make 2018 not suck like 2017 has sucked. We'll find out in the coming weeks as the trade deadline looms. But as each Giants loss mounts, the only question is...

Is it 2018 yet?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

MLB Predictions 2017

The time is now. Opening Day is upon us. With rosters set and most of the free agents in new homes (sorry Pagan, can't believe you're still unemployed dude!) it's time to take a gander at all 30 teams and the 6 divisions to see how SFGiantsGuy sees them shaking out. In my 2016 predictions, I got 6 out of the 10 playoff teams correct (though not necessarily right in terms of their place in the standings) and the NL Rookie of the Year and NL Cy Young Award winner pegged. My World Series prediction of Rays vs Giants however did not com to fruition. No worries! New season, new guesses! Here we go - may the 2017 season shake out almost exactly like this...

(Division winners bolded, wildcard teams in italics)

AL East: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, Rays
AL Central: Indians, Royals, Tigers, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Astros, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, Athletics

NL East: Mets, Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Marlins
NL Central: Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds
NL West: Giants, Dodgers, Rockies, Dbacks, Padres

ALWC: Rangers over Jays
NLWC: Dodgers over Nationals

ALDS: Indians over Rangers, Red Sox over Astros
NLDS: Dodgers over Cubs, Giants over Mets

ALCS: Indians over Red Sox
NLCS: Giants over Dodgers

World Series: Indians over Giants

AL MVP: Mookie Betts, Red Sox
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Nationals
AL CYA: Chris Sale, Red Sox
NL CYA: Noah Syndergaard, Mets
AL ROY: Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
NL ROY: Hunter Renfroe, Padres

A look at the AL East: The East has been a hard division to predict the past few seasons but with the Yankees committed to a youth movement and the Rays continuing to be a farm system for other teams (thanks for Matt Moore!) the cream rising to the top is much easier to see. The Red Sox had a great offense last season and it's hard to imagine it being any less stellar in 2017 despite the retirement of Big Papi. The Red Sox got the best starting pitcher available in the offseason in Chris Sale to pair with David Price and their Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and having those arms to support their powerful offense should clear a path to the top of the division. The Blue Jays let Edwin Encarnacion go and that may come back to haunt them in October but Toronto is still plenty good and should be in the running for the wildcard. The Orioles continue their strategy of having a powerful line-up with really questionable starting pitching. It worked for them last season in terms of getting into the wildcard playoff game but Buck Showalter inexplicably decided a one-game playoff was not a good time to use his best pitcher (closer Zach Britton). Not sure it'll work this season but I've written the O's off plenty of times only to see them defy logic. I'm usually a Rays supporter as I always think they'll contend considering their pitching depth but not this time. The Yankees will be interesting to watch and may surprise but they probably need one more year of their rebuild before they're ready to be serious contenders.

A look at the AL Central: The Indians were missing their #2 and #3 starters down the stretch last season, not to mention one of their most dynamic offensive players in Michael Brantley who missed almost the entire season and yet Cleveland wound up one win away from winning the World Series. Since that tough loss, they added power hitting clutch RBI guy Edwin Encarnacion, will get back Brantley, and have Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar back in their rotation. Oh yeah, they'll also have Andrew Miller for a full season. The Indians were some peoples sleeper last season. Not this season. They should be one of the AL's best teams and in a weak division, should easily make it back to October. The Royals window has all but closed but there's still talent there to give the wildcard a run. They may want to make one last run at it given the Royals of 2018 will look a lot different than the World Series bound teams of 2014 and 2015. The Tigers are another year older and they're not doing much to get younger. While they have a lot of talent still, they may have too many miles on the core group to sustain a playoff run. Fulmer and Castellanos may be part of the next great Tigers teams but Verlander, V-Mart, Kinsler, Francisco Rodriguez, and Miguel Cabrera all can't defy father time forever. The White Sox are in full blown tear down and rebuild mode so the only questions will be where does Jose Quintana wind up, how many vets get traded during the season, and when does Yoan Moncada get called up? The Twins have some intriguing young guys but their pitching is a disaster and the only thing they'll contend for in 2017 is the worst team in the American League.

A look at the AL West: The AL West could be the battle of Texas. The Rangers and Astros should be competing amongst themselves all year for the AL West crown. The Rangers have a top heavy rotation with Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish and a decent line-up while the Astros have a very strong line-up and some starting pitching that is hard to gauge. They are constantly mentioned as suitors for Jose Quintana which would help them a lot but they need to get Dallas Keuchel right too. If they can do that, they will be very tough. The Mariners are searching for that magical year where they break their playoff drought. This year could be the year if things break right. But Felix Hernandez needs to be King Felix and the rest of the rotation has to keep the team in games. The Mariners could be a solid sleeper this season. They eventually will see October again one of these years. The Angels and Athletics will likely sit at the bottom of the standings in 2017. The Angels are not in an enviable position. They have the best player in the game but can't surround him with talent. It's sad to see Mike Trout waste away in Anaheim but that is what he'll be doing this season. The A's have some intriguing prospects and young pitchers (Jharrel Cotton, Sean Manea) that could make them fun to watch, but they won't be challenging for a playoff spot.

 A look at the NL East: The East is a battle between the Nationals and Mets. The Marlins aren't sure what they are doing and it was an impossible task for them to fill the void left by Jose Fernandez's sad departure from this life. The Phillies and Braves are working on being relevant in a season or two and don't have real plans for contention. They both have interesting players littered all over their rosters but it would be a surprise if either contended for a wildcard slot. The Mets have their Big 5 intact. Their starting rotation may be the deepest in the game, even if it starts off missing Steve Matz. The offense should be good enough to support their starters and establish the Mets as one of the NL's best teams. But they're going to have a dog fight with the Nationals who's line-up and rotation is on par with New York's. It'll come down to health most likely as whichever team stays healthiest likely wins the division. The other should be right there for a wildcard spot.

A look at the NL Central: The NL Central used to be the Cardinals nest but there were always good teams nipping at their heels. The Cardinals are still a well run franchise but they no longer are the darlings of the division. The World Series Champion Cubs (still weird) are the new hotness. They have youth, attitude, and a ton of talent. They had the best record in baseball in 2016 and the scary part is their offense should keep getting better. However, it's realistic to believe the pitching may take a step back but Chicago should still be deep enough to conquer all division rivals. The Pirates are in an interesting spot. They have a lot of young talent emerging but will they be consistent enough for Pittsburgh to challenge for the playoffs? Here's thinking McCutchen will rebound from a bad 2016 and will lead the Pirates to a winning record that will have them fighting for a wildcard spot in September. The Cardinals are always going to contend but the Cubs and Pirates have likely passed them by unless Adam Wainwright returns to form, a tall order for an aging veteran. The Brewers and Reds will provide fodder for wins for the other 3 teams as they are both in rebuilds.

A look at the NL West: The Giants and Dodgers have owned this division for several seasons now and that won't really change in 2017. The Dodgers have won 4 consecutive division titles and the Giants once again should be their main threat for the NL West crown. The Dodgers depth helps them continue to win but the Giants rotation may be the 2nd or 3rd best unit in the National League if they all stay healthy. The division should come down to the September divisional games. The Rockies do seem interesting at the very least given that they seem to be thinking they can contend. Their pitching staff will always be strained due to the altitude in Denver but if they can keep games close, the Rockies line-up should be able to score some runs. They should be a wildcard contender this season. The Dbacks, like the Rockies, have a good line-up that can score plenty of runs. But their pitching will have to improve if they want to avoid a losing season. They have the ingredients to be a decent team but they also are essentially returning the same cast of characters that only won 69 games last season. The Padres completely have gutted their MLB talent to restock a farm system that may start producing players in a couple seasons. They will likely combat the Reds for the number one pick in the draft next season.

And dem's the picks for the 2017 season to be revisited in November or December!

Welcome back baseball. You've been missed.