2014 Giants: It's an even year, look out

Al Zarilla

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Just swept a three game series in Atlanta, second best record in the majors (Milwaukee?), and so far this year it's been from the long ball almost as much as pitching. They are second in the majors in HRs to Colorado and you know about that team's home park. Michael Morse is the beast every other team wish they'd signed, Angel Pagan is healthy again for excellent leadoff production and Brandon Crawford looks like he may finally be a hitting shortstop, including hitting homers off lefties. If Pablo Sandoval ever gets out of his yearlong funk, look out. But then, this team has a habit of going into deep overall team slumps. Then again, Posey and Pence are still there and streaky Brandon Belt can provide power when he gets hot.  Maybe they do have enough overall offense this year. I think a big key is if Morse is back to what he was in Washington and if he can stay healthy. He's definitely a new spark at the plate and a real popular guy in the dugout.
 
Two of the wins in Atlanta were from the end of their rotation (Lincecum and Vogelsong). Maybe they'll have the Dodgers and their huge and second only to the Yankees team salary beating their heads against the dugout walls again. But it is still early.
 

gaelgirl

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The problem with the Giants is that they seem to be capable of going bad very quickly. Just before this hot stretch, they looked like a horrible team. 
 
But, I think they have PLENTY of talent. Even if Crawford doesn't hit, he saves ballgames with his defense (as seen over the last few days, actually). Belt is a conundrum, but I'm a huge fan. I like Hicks at second, so much so that I'm wondering how I'll feel when Scutaro finally comes back (he's reportedly hitting in a cage, so that's good). Sandoval is... upsetting. But I can't think he'll be at .175 all season long. He'll bounce back. Morse has been incredible thus far, and his defense hasn't hurt us. Pagan is just a great signing. Pence is Pence, I just love that guy's all-out effort even if he's not hitting. Posey still hasn't come on completely.
 
It should scare other teams in the division that the Giants aren't quite firing on all cylinders yet and are still in first place. Posey and Sandoval and Pence could all get better.
 
Our bullpen has been spectacular. And we still have extra arms in the minors should we need them.
 
Great team, these Giants. Really easy to root for, too. They seem like a very fun, loose bunch.  
 

Spacemans Bong

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The Giants are pretty clearly getting some outsized contributions from people. Mike Morse is not going to hit like an MVP candidate for the rest of the year, the Brandons in the middle infield are also not going to hit like MVP candidates, etc. The bullpen's also been the savior of the pitching staff and they're likely to regress.
 
But Matt Cain and probably at least one of Vogelsong/Lincecum are not going to pitch below replacement level, Bumgarner will pitch better, they'll likely get contributions from the bench, and Belt and Sandoval will at least be productive. Belt, statwise, looks like a guy who is trying too hard to hit dingerz. Overall, though, it's a good team.
 

nattysez

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Spacemans Bong said:
The Giants are pretty clearly getting some outsized contributions from people. Mike Morse is not going to hit like an MVP candidate for the rest of the year, the Brandons in the middle infield are also not going to hit like MVP candidates, etc. The bullpen's also been the savior of the pitching staff and they're likely to regress.
 
I mildly disagree.  Morse's numbers aren't that far off from his 2011 and 2012.  Brandon Hicks has always had power, but was never given a chance to play every day in the majors.  And Crawford has clearly focused on hitting lefties. I think the more likely issue for the Giants is that Sabean managed to add no depth at all even after last year's disaster.  Having Blanco as their fourth OF is going to spell disaster once one of the starting OFers gets hurt. 
 

gaelgirl

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I am so stoked Vogelsong seems to be coming around. He's still laboring through games, but they just put up a graphic that his ERA is 0.90 over the last three starts. And that's after one of the worst outings in his entire, not-always-illustrious career. I'm a huge Vogey fan.
 
Also, the music at Dodger Stadium is RIDICULOUSLY loud. I'm not a "get off my lawn!!" kind of person, but at times you can barely hear the announcers over the music. Maybe the TV mics are placed too close to a speaker or something.  
 
Also just saw the Puig at-bat in the bottom of the 8th. That dude is such a fucking jackass. I want to cut him some slack because I think he's had it tough and pretty suddenly went from nothing to a multi-millionaire, but the whining and arguing is totally lame. 
 
Having said that, Pagan rarely gets a called strike that he doesn't agree with. But it seems different somehow... 
 

rembrat

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I'll be in SF for the Mets (unbelievable that I leave NY and still have to watch a Mets game) series and I'd like to catch a ballgame. Any cool seats or should I just go for the closest to home plate? Thanks.
 

Lars The Wanderer

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You are in for a treat as other than the extreme upper deck left field seats, there really isn't a bad one in the house. If you have a chance, get there early and walk around the ballpark before the game starts. It is beautiful.
 

Lars The Wanderer

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So with Brandon Belt out for at least 6 weeks with a broken thumb, the Giants talked about moving Morse to 1B. However, since it happened, Arias has been taking Belt's place at 1B and Morse hasn't moved. I'm not sure if that was a matchup thing because of the pitchers they were facing or if they changed their minds. In any case, Belt is going to have surgery tomorrow and we'll get a better idea of how long he will be out after that.
 
Giants recent roster moves. Cain was activated from the DL. George Kontos was sent to Fresno. Tyler Colvin was called up from Fresno and Belt was placed on the DL. Marco Scutaro was moved to the 60-day DL.
 
The Giants completed a 10-day road trip through Atlanta, Pittsburgh and LA with a 7-3 record. Brandon Crawford continues to be a ninja.
 

gaelgirl

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rembrat said:
I'll be in SF for the Mets (unbelievable that I leave NY and still have to watch a Mets game) series and I'd like to catch a ballgame. Any cool seats or should I just go for the closest to home plate? Thanks.
Lars is right -- most seats at AT&T are good to great. Obviously, the best seats are near home plate. The third deck behind home, though, isn't bad. You get a nice overhead view of what's going on, plus a great view of the East Bay hills and the San Francisco Bay itself. I'd say most anything in the first tier is good, though you might avoid the ones far out into left field. I'm not a big fan of the bleachers, but if you like that atmosphere and style, go for it. I like seat backs and unfettered scoreboard viewing access, hence why I'm not a big fan. However, there's great food out there and a ton of bathrooms. For the view reserved/view level seats, you're still getting a great view. Just avoid the far left-field view level seats. Everywhere else is awesome for one reason or another. I've sat in almost every area of the park, generally speaking. Everywhere from the worst seats out in the last rows of that left-field view reserved area, to the best seats a few rows behind home plate. All the seats have their attributes. 
 

gaelgirl

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Lars The Wanderer said:
So with Brandon Belt out for at least 6 weeks with a broken thumb, the Giants talked about moving Morse to 1B. However, since it happened, Arias has been taking Belt's place at 1B and Morse hasn't moved. I'm not sure if that was a matchup thing because of the pitchers they were facing or if they changed their minds. In any case, Belt is going to have surgery tomorrow and we'll get a better idea of how long he will be out after that.
 
Giants recent roster moves. Cain was activated from the DL. George Kontos was sent to Fresno. Tyler Colvin was called up from Fresno and Belt was placed on the DL. Marco Scutaro was moved to the 60-day DL.
 
The Giants completed a 10-day road trip through Atlanta, Pittsburgh and LA with a 7-3 record. Brandon Crawford continues to be a ninja.
 
I think the Giants will tinker with first for a while. Personally, I'd be happy to see Buster Posey at first most of the time. However, I think Buster likes catching and I don't want him to lose skills there just because the Giants have a good backup in Sanchez. I'm not sure Sanchez can handle working most every day yet, either. 
 
Losing Belt is very sad. He's been streaky, but he's also been very, very good. I don't want six weeks without him. Can Hicks play first? Maybe when Marco Scutaro comes back (if?), Hicks can slide over to first? 
 
I think as long as Pence, Sandoval, Posey and Pagan can play good ball, the Giants will be okay without Belt for a while. Still, it's sad. And it especially sucks that it came off a HBP. 
 

Lars The Wanderer

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Matt Cain and Santiago Casilla both went down yesterday with hamstring injuries in yesterday's win in Colorado. Casilla has been placed on the DL. George Kontos was called up from Fresno. No word on Cain yet but he is expected to go on the DL as well.
 
Interestingly, the Giants were already carrying 13 pitchers on their 25-man roster before yesterday. They may call up a position player to replace Cain and move Petit into the rotation.
 
Edit: Some good news on Cain. Grade 1 strain. He is getting treatment and has not been ruled out of his next start yet. Casilla has a grade 2 strain. Out probably 4 weeks.
 

Al Zarilla

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So, Cain goes down again and sixth starter Yusmeiro Petit  is pitching like Maddux (the good one) for the second straight time. Everything is going for these guys right now. Even in the first inning today, Sanchez, catching on Posey 1/2 day off, guns down a potential base stealer. How often does that happen? Rizzo gets two low balls called strikes and then goes way down for a bad ball, striking out. Giants up and Samardzija drops a throw on a grounder to first and the runner comes around to score when Pablo gets a hit after apparently being struck out (outside corner pitch). I wouldn't be surprised if this team is up by 10 game at the all star break. They are getting every single break lately, even considering Romo's bad blown save and loss in CO. But, old friend Nate Schierholtz goes deep. 
 

rembrat

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Thanks, Lars and gaelgirl! I went with Field Club 110, about 2 sections over to the right behind the plate, and about a dozen rows back from the field. I'm stoked.
 

Lars The Wanderer

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Don't ask me why, guys. I am just as surprised as any of you...
 
The Giants have the day off today before starting a 3-game series against the Reds. They just finished taking 3 of 4 in St Louis and have a MLB best 37-20 record. They currently are 7.5 games in front of the Dodgers; the biggest lead in any division. Their run differential is +59, the 2nd best in baseball behind Oakland.
 
Edit: In the wake of the Astros signing Singleton to a multi-year deal, can we discuss how great of a deal it was to do the same thing with Madison Bumgarner back in 2011? 6 years for $35 million with 2 team options of $12 million. That turned into a super bargain with the way salaries have inflated.
 

Lars The Wanderer

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The Giants completed a 7-game road trip through St Louis and Cinci with a 5-2 record. Their run differential now stands at +60 and their record is 39-21.
 
Madison Bumgarner went 8IP while giving up 3 hits and 1 run in the Reds' tiny ballpark. He was ridiculously filthy. Just your periodic reminder that this 2-time World Champion is only 24 years old.
 

Al Zarilla

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Lars The Wanderer said:
Don't ask me why, guys. I am just as surprised as any of you...
 
The Giants have the day off today before starting a 3-game series against the Reds. They just finished taking 3 of 4 in St Louis and have a MLB best 37-20 record. They currently are 7.5 games in front of the Dodgers; the biggest lead in any division. Their run differential is +59, the 2nd best in baseball behind Oakland.
 
Edit: In the wake of the Astros signing Singleton to a multi-year deal, can we discuss how great of a deal it was to do the same thing with Madison Bumgarner back in 2011? 6 years for $35 million with 2 team options of $12 million. That turned into a super bargain with the way salaries have inflated.
Taking advantage of a Hickory, NC boy like that. Wow, that was a deal and a half for the Giants. They'll tear up that contract and do another one, I would think. 
 

rembrat

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Sat next to a little old lady who had been going to games since the 60s. She is an absolute gem. San Franciscans love their Giants.
 

nattysez

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The Giants have only a .5 game lead in the WC race and are playing like hot garbage.  Having the two teams I follow most closely simultaneously collapsing like this is ... unpleasant.  At least the Sox have a farm system -- the Giants registered zero entries in Baseball's America mid-season Top 50 prospects report. 
 

Al Zarilla

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Hoo hoo, Duane Kuiper, outstanding, IMO, announcer for the Giants, drops the big one after the Giants - A's game tonight: "Angel Hernandez is not a good umpire. IMO, he should not be in the major leagues. MLB knows this. They just don't know how to get rid of him". That was Kuiper's assessment of Hernandez after, really, just a typical bad, run of the mill job by Hernandez. I mean, he's always bad. Kuiper just had the guts to say it. Kuiper wasn't emotional or anything, just matter of fact. I love that guy, and his podnah, Mike Krukow. 
 
Can they fine announcers? Maybe a note to Giants management and then a slap on the wrist to Kuiper?
 

nattysez

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Larry Baer will give him a quiet talking to.  Hawk Harrelson went on an inning-long rant against the umpires last year and got a visit from Bud and a talking-to from Reinsdorf.  But what Kuip said is (1) accurate and (2) milder than what Hawk said.
 

nattysez

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So what now?
 
I assume Scutaro will not give away $6.7mm by retiring, so they're going to have to carry him on the payroll for a year while potentially getting nothing from him (it sounds like his back is a chronic issue that is unlikely to improve without career-ending surgery).  
 
All reports are that Pagan and Cain will be back at full strength.  
 
I don't expect anyone is going to overpay Romo, so they should be able to bring him back at a reasonable number.
 
Assuming Lincecum is the fifth starter and Hudson returns healthy, they need to find a better fourth starter than Vogelsong, sign Panda or find a 3b, and figure out what to do about LF (including possibly bringing Morse back). 
 
If I were Sabean, I'd pay Panda what he wants, then figure things out from there.  Maybe see if Righetti can fix Masterson and they can bring in someone like Aoki or Markakis to play LF?  Or do you re-sign Vogelsong as your #4 as a one-year bridge until Crick is ready (which may be assuming far too much about Crick)?
 
One last thought -- is there any sensible scenario where you deal Belt, make Posey the 1/2 time catcher, and bring Morse back to play first/LF?
 

Al Zarilla

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nattysez said:
So what now?
 
I assume Scutaro will not give away $6.7mm by retiring, so they're going to have to carry him on the payroll for a year while potentially getting nothing from him (it sounds like his back is a chronic issue that is unlikely to improve without career-ending surgery).  
 
All reports are that Pagan and Cain will be back at full strength.  
 
I don't expect anyone is going to overpay Romo, so they should be able to bring him back at a reasonable number.
 
Assuming Lincecum is the fifth starter and Hudson returns healthy, they need to find a better fourth starter than Vogelsong, sign Panda or find a 3b, and figure out what to do about LF (including possibly bringing Morse back). 
 
If I were Sabean, I'd pay Panda what he wants, then figure things out from there.  Maybe see if Righetti can fix Masterson and they can bring in someone like Aoki or Markakis to play LF?  Or do you re-sign Vogelsong as your #4 as a one-year bridge until Crick is ready (which may be assuming far too much about Crick)?
 
One last thought -- is there any sensible scenario where you deal Belt, make Posey the 1/2 time catcher, and bring Morse back to play first/LF?
Good summary. Another possibility is they let Panda go and try Posey at 3B (he played some SS at FSU, so third should be no problem). His range at third might be as good as Panda's. Susac becomes the catcher. They are concerned long term about all the baseballs Posey takes off the mask on foul tips. Not sure if part time catcher alleviates that enough. I'm beginning to think more and more though that they do pay the Panda. I've heard twice now from Sabean that he's a guy they want back. 
 

gaelgirl

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I am not sure if the Giants threw a parade to celebrate the World Series win or if it was all an elaborate setup to convince Panda not to leave. I think they'll pay him a reasonable amount, but my guess is he's not going to get the Pence deal ($18.5 million for the next four years). There's a big difference between Pence and Panda, namely that Pence is obsessed with healthy living and sticks to a strict diet and workout regimen. Panda has done well to slim down, but has never demonstrated an ability to keep the weight off. I don't know his workout habits, but suffice to say that his weight and conditioning is a concern. So, whomever signs him is doing so with the knowledge that he may not be able to do so in the future (and that his ability to trim 20-45 pounds in the off-season may not continue as he ages).
 
I think they will keep Vogelsong. I am not sure they can keep Peavy. MadBum, Cain and Hudson are the only three certain to get a spot (assuming Cain is recovered from his surgeries), but there are essentially two open spots. Will Petit gain a regular starting role? Lincecum? Will Peavy be back after all? It's a lot of question marks and Vogelsong gives them an answer and a backup. He's only going to cost about $4 million, which seems reasonable enough. I am not sure Lincecum will be the fifth starter. I don't know if anyone knows what to expect from him. At this point it might be safer for the Giants to assume he won't be a starter and work from there. 
 
Romo's a great option to have, but I don't know if the Giants will spend a lot to keep it. They seem to invent spectacular bullpen guys, so it feels like Romo is replaceable. But he's nice to have back. Morse would be nice, too. 
 
Looking forward to seeing what's next. 
 

jimc

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I hope and expect to see:
 
- Panda back if the bidding stays below $90m/5yrs (a.k.a. The Pence Deal). If it goes beyond that, I still expect him back but I'm less confident. He's going to get paid well.  
 
- Lincecum to enter spring as the presumptive 5th starter. I think he gets another shot. Petit will be the caddy and the replacement in case of suck.
 
- One of Vogey and Peavy to be back. If Peavy can be had for $30m/3yrs or less I think there's a shot at him, but I see Vogelsong as more likely.
 
- Romo back. Bullpen continuity has been a constant theme of this run of success.
 
- Morse gone. I love him and this makes me sad, but I think he's gone. His HR against Neshek in NLCS game 5 was the sneaky biggest hit of the series. Without that hit, Rosenthal is in instead of Wacha and the series probably goes back to St. Louis where who knows what happens. But I just can't see any NL club winning the bidding for the big guy. I think they roll with Blanco as option 1A in left to start the year (we'll see what he gets in arbitration but it will certainly be less than Morse gets on the open market). Blanco-Pagan-Pence is just about a passable outfield.
 
- Posey to catch just as much next year as this year. I want to believe he can play something other than C/1B, but I just don't.
 
How soon until pitchers and catchers report?
 

gaelgirl

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Posey is a good athlete. In college, he once played all nine positions in the same game. However, I think the issue is less getting him used to another position and more that he really, really enjoys catching. The Giants have invested a ton of money into him, if he wanted to change positions, they'd have him at first or third or wherever else in a heartbeat. They have Blanco and Susac to be catchers. Posey's value as a first baseman or a third baseman is less than him as a catcher, but they want him to be healthy and productive long-term, so I don't think it matters exactly where he is out there. Belt and Sandoval are great players, but the Giants aren't as invested in them as they are with Posey. Plus, they could have been traded for outfield or pitching help.  
 
So, I think Posey isn't moving positions, at least not for another season or two. The Giants had seven different players start at first base this season, and Posey only started there in 30 games. That pretty much cements that he's not moving. Belt was out for basically four months; he only started 56 games. If Posey wanted to explore a change, this would have been a great season for it. 
 

nattysez

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gaelgirl said:
  So, I think Posey isn't moving positions, at least not for another season or two. The Giants had seven different players start at first base this season, and Posey only started there in 30 games. That pretty much cements that he's not moving. Belt was out for basically four months; he only started 56 games. If Posey wanted to explore a change, this would have been a great season for it. 
 
I generally agree with you, except that (1) Belt's injury gave them a perfect place to hide Morse on defense while he was hot, so that made it tough to have Posey play 1b, and (2) the Giants have never had a backup as good as Susac supposedly is.  If Susac can hit and call a good game, that might give them a chance to consider moving Posey around.  But since they can't be sure about Susac's hitting yet, I agree it'll probably be at least a year before they move Posey.
 
I was stupid to forget Petit when discussing the rotation, though I'm not sure he'll ever be more than a spot starter.  In any event, Petit being around, and my assumption that they are not going to pay Lincecum all that money to not be a starter, probably means that returning Vogelsong and essentially going with the rotation they started the year with is a possibility.  
 
I think Panda is the linchpin for the offseason, so I suspect they either sign him or give up on signing him fairly quickly.
 

nattysez

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Sabean on KNBR:
 
Sabean: "I don't expect us to sign a big money pitcher."
 
Sabean: "With what we're paying Timmy, Timmy does have to start the year and pitch the way he did in the first half."
 
I've got to think that means they start 2015 with the same rotation as 2014, with the possible addition of a guy on a "make good" deal.  
 

Lars The Wanderer

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The topic of Matt Cain's elbow issue came up in the Lester thread on the main board. I didn't want to pollute that thread (further) with off topic stuff so I am going to address it here (where it will continue to be ignored). Matt Cain had surgery to remove "loose bodies" from his elbow. He was pitching with it for years until the discomfort got too much for him. It wasn't an "elbow injury" or anything reconstructive. It was actually a pretty minor procedure.
 

nattysez

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Lars The Wanderer said:
The topic of Matt Cain's elbow issue came up in the Lester thread on the main board. I didn't want to pollute that thread (further) with off topic stuff so I am going to address it here (where it will continue to be ignored). Matt Cain had surgery to remove "loose bodies" from his elbow. He was pitching with it for years until the discomfort got too much for him. It wasn't an "elbow injury" or anything reconstructive. It was actually a pretty minor procedure.
 
Worth noting is that they also cleaned up his ankle during the off-season.  He could be back to being really, really good next year.