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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Are the Giants Playoff Contenders or Pretenders?

I haven’t written an entry for several weeks because I’m still staggered at how Brian Sabean and his staff looked at this 2014 team they put together, looked at the pool of NL contenders, and decided that standing pat at the Trade Deadline was an amazing idea. 

I get that it wasn’t a buyer’s market and all that.  What I do know is that a lot of teams made a lot of moves at the deadline and the Giants (and thankfully the Dodgers) were not one of them.

I wanted Ben Zobrist but at least I understand why the Giants did not get a second baseman.  Joe Panik has caught fire since being given the every day job and the Giants don’t have the budget (chuckle, they have it, they just don’t want to spend it) to have an All-Star at every position like the Dodgers aspire to have.  Panik is a cheap option now and hopefully into the future.  He doesn’t need to be a bopper, he just needs to be an adequate #2 or #7 hitter.  I think he can be.  He strikes out rarely, handles the bat well, and can take a walk.

So I can see passing on getting a second baseman.

What I can’t understand is not upgrading the pitching or the bench.  This team has shown it has zero depth.  Zero.  Pagan has returned but if another outfielder goes down we’re back to Blanco and/or Juan Perez every single day.  That’s not good.  I like Blanco as a bench guy.  I don’t like him being counted on to be Angel Pagan, Mike Morse, or Hunter Pence.  Because he can’t be those guys no matter how hard he swings.  I also look at the bench and see a bunch of guys that were playing every day in the minors and are now being asked to assume a very tough role of being pinch hitters and playing sporadically against Major League pitchers they have never faced.  Sabean mentioned winning and developing at the same time?  This isn’t the way you do it. However, the other bench members have been terrible all year.  Joaquin Arias?  Hector Sanchez?  Joe Panik and Andrew Susac have come up and outplayed them in less opportunities.  What's that say about the bench?  

Then there's the pitching.  Casillla was removed from the closer’s role in 2012 when the team opted to go with Sergio Romo.  Sergio Romo was removed from the closer’s role in 2014 when the team opted to go with Santiago Casilla.   If the team wasn’t going to make a big move for a starting pitcher, then solidifying the bullpen would have made sense.  I mean, it’s the bullpen.  Brian Sabean’s speciality is finding bullpen arms at the deadline.  Bruce Bochy’s strength is molding a bullpen.  Huston Street would have been a great get.  There were other guys out there that could have helped this staff.  Instead, Sabean saw a team that was flawed and wasn’t sure what to make of it so he sat on his hands.  That doesn’t make sense, does it?  He saw a flawed team that was contending and didn’t do anything to increase the chances of them actually making the playoffs.  Why?  The asks were too high?  The farm wasn’t that good?  Sabean made it clear that he got nibbles on a variety of his minor leaguers which he said was like “free scouting” which should be sort of concerning.  If your GM has to rely on other teams to know the value of his own prospects, what exactly does he know about his prospects?  And what’s the difference in trading those prospects at the deadline as opposed to the offseason.  Because if you read in between the lines when Sabean was asked about his lack of moves, he insinuated that due to this new found value in his prospects he apparently didn’t know he had, he could make some moves to fill some holes in the offseason with those prospects.

That’s the offseason.  Where is the sense of urgency for a team that is actually playing for a playoff spot RIGHT NOW?  Sabean said he didn’t see much from this team that told him one way or another if it had the pieces to be a championship caliber club.  So if that’s true, shouldn’t he have gone out and got the pieces?  


Pagan is back.  But Belt and Hector Sanchez are concussed.   Pagan’s return hasn’t resulted in the spark that the Giants thought they’d get from his return.  The offense is still maddening and has trouble scoring at home.  Beating the Phillies for their first home series win in forever is nice and all, but the Giants need to start winning consistently to get to October.  They need to regain the swagger at home.  They need to re-learn how to beat teams that are actually good (i.e. above .500).  And they need to pitch.  Lincecum has become a mess again.  Hudson has not been as sharp.  Bumgarner finally had a nice start at home for once but his bullpen blew it.  This team has bad timing.  When the starting pitching shows up, the offense goes cold.  When the offense and starting pitching shows up, the bullpen decides to go into the shitter. 

So how do you evaluate this team?  The Dodgers, contrary to popular belief, are NOT running away with the division.  The Giants somehow are only 3.5 games back and only 2 games back in the loss column.  The good news for us Giants fans is that September is mostly going to be against NL West teams.  That means playing a bunch of games against some not so good teams minus that one team that plays in Chavez Ravine.  The Giants can beat those teams.  What they need to figure out is how to beat the good teams.  Fortunately for them, both they and the Dodgers seem to have this problem.  Which means the Dodgers/Giants series in September should play out relatively evenly.  But the Giants still have the likes of the Nationals, Brewers, and Tigers to deal with as well.  They need to be competitive against those teams. 

Regardless, Sabean and his cohorts are not bringing in reinforcements.  If they didn’t make a move at the end of July, it’s hard envisioning them pulling the trigger at the end of August.  They won't spend what it takes to get the best player out there for them (Cuban export Rusney Castillo) so Giants fans will have to hope that the run of sub .500 teams they play the remainder of the schedule will be enough to keep them ahead of the Braves, Reds, Pirates, Cardinals and Marlins.  And maybe those Dodgers as well.  Because shockingly enough, if the playoffs ended today, the Giants would be in them.  No thanks to Brian Sabean and his lack of moves at the deadline. 

Go Giants.  Beat LA. And, ya know, all those other teams...