Thursday, July 16, 2009

First Half Recap and Second Half Preview

Fellow Giants Fans,

First and foremost, I'd like to apologize for not making a post in a couple months. I had a good run going there and I let this slide. I promise not to let that happen again. This is a long one, but I have a lot to say.

With that being said, our Gyros are sitting at 49-39 heading into the stretch run. We're all diehards, but you cannot in all good conscience tell me that you expected them to be this good this late in the season.

It is this remarkable turnaround that has us all flying high and expecting crazy things.

Crazy things like:

1) Giving the Los Angeles Assholes a run for their money in the NL West

2) Securing the Wild Card spot over a potential group of 7 decent teams (St. Louis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Colorado, Florida, New York)

3) A second consecutive Cy Young for Timmy Lincecum or even a first Cy Young for Matt Cain.

4) Calling up one of our super prospects earlier than September

5) Going for it by making a deal to secure another bat or even the unthinkable-- another "A" list starting pitcher.

We'll get back to all of this later... Right now, let's talk about what went right in the first 88 games of the year.

1) Starting Pitching

Timmy Ballgame is enjoying another Cy Young/All-Star season. He's tied with the resurgent Justin Verlander for the ML lead with 149 K's. He's 2nd in ERA at 2.33. He's got 10 wins. Beast.

The best story thus far has to be Matt Cain, who also has 10 wins.

After years of growing pains, mind-bogglingly heinous run support, and some inconsistency, Matt Cain has had the type of first half befitting of any team's #1 starter-- let alone a #2.

What do the following names have in common? CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Cole Hamels, Carlos Zambrano, Daisuke Matsuzaka?

They all suck compared to Tennessee Thunder Cain halfway through the season.

Seriously. And a serious bargain as well.

Consider this table and just look at what each pitcher earned for each first half win:

What Cain and Lincecum are doing is just remarkable. Hell, even Tim McCarver's Cream of Wheat brain has put this together.

The angle that no one has been talking about in regards to Cain is his new and improved physique and endurance. Cain hit the weights hard in the offseason, and most likely changed his diet in a serious way. He's a good 10-15 pounds lighter this season and you can tell by looking at him that he's stronger in his upper body. This, along with some run support and his new badass mentality has really given us a helluva ballplayer-- someone who has re-established himself as an "untouchable" commodity in the organization.

2) Pablo Sandoval

The Kung Fu Pandoval phenomenon is in full swing. Even the East Coast-centric ESPN jerks are into the Panda. It's just a goddamn shame that he wasn't invited to the all-star game.

After a bit of a slow start, Pablito has truly hit his stride. How a guy playing 3 positions with a 15/55/.333 stat line doesn't get an all-star berth is simply baffling.

Unfortunately he just doesn't have the name recognition yet.

But here, this is not an issue. We have people showing up to games in full panda suits and putting on panda masks during his AB's. Pablo is the coolest guy around, and truly rivals Timmy Ballgame as the Giants' most popular player.

As Krukow would say, "The guy was born to hit."

3) The Bullpen

What was a disaster last season is now a strength.

When the two worst ERA's in the 'Pen belong to Brian Wilson (3.66 ERA, 23 SV, 10.30 K/9) and Merkin Valdez (4.97 ERA, 0 ER & 7 K's in last 7 appearances), you don't have much to complain about.

Surely Brian Wilson drives us nuts and has blown some saves in ugly fashions (ahem... Milwaukee), and Bobby Howry has been a disappointment at times, but other than that, we've got some seriously solid arms in there.

The best of which has been 8th inning beast Jeremy Affeldt.

The 30 year old southpaw has had an all-star caliber season thus far notching extreme stats in the process:

34 IP, 19 Holds, 1.32 ERA, 8.21 K/9, and he currently has a 23 game scoreless streak going right now. He's an absolute bargain at $3.5 million and has been nothing short of incredible.

I see a lot of promise in Sergio Romo as well.

4) Aaron Rowand's resurgence

Ever since Bruce Bochy became desperate and plugged A-Row into the leadoff spot, we've seen a payoff for Rowand's huge payday.

No one really knows why Rowand hitting leadoff has clicked, but it must have something to do with the constant diet of fastballs he's feasting on.

Whatever it is, he's hovering around .300 and is no longer the whipping boy he once was. That of course is still Zito.

Issues for the second half:

1) Get Bengie Molina back on track

Bengie has been really hacking up there-- I mean swinging at balls a foot off the plate. He's not right mentally. He is still very upset about losing his father and is not happy that he hasn't been offered an extension by the Giants. He feels a little under appreciated, and is trying too hard and thinking too much.

However, check this out little bit of "Fitz & Brooks-esque mojo" action.

Bengie missed Jonathan Sanchez's miraculous no-no because of the birth of his daughter. This, combined with a couple of days "off" recently (as if he got any rest with that crying baby), as well as signs of life heading into the break, leads me to believe that Bengie may make a comeback as the reliable power source he was earlier in the year.

2) Settle the rotation

What is the extent of Randy Johnson's injury? Will he be back as soon as planned? If he does come back, what do we do with Sanchez and Ryan Sadowski? And Zito?

Despite Sanchez's no-hitter, I can't say he's a shoo-in for a starting spot, although he's certainly bought himself some more time.

The Big Sadowski has been pretty damn good, but will the magic end for the goofy Floridian?

3) What kind of move to we need to make? Who's out there?

We've heard a lot of rumors out there. Some are legitimate, some are not. With the blogosphere/talk radio/ESPN cycle going 24/7, random crap gets thrown out there constantly. I of course, am contributing to this phenomenon.

We all know the Giants need power, we've spoken and heard about this ad nauseum. There are very few guys out there that can supply that at a price that doesn't include our sacred gems of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain.

Let's be real here, this is a core of players that is going to be together for awhile. The future is bright.

Do you really want to trade Tim Alderson, Jonathan Sanchez, and a third minor leaguer for a slumping, Boras-represented, expiring contract, good-as-gone guy like Matt Holliday?

Absolutely not. He is one of the few impact bats out there, but his price is too hefty and his returns are not guaranteed.

The other rumor out there right now is the Giants going after Roy Halladay.


Look, it isn't as crazy as it sounds. The price will be extremely steep, as it should be, and pitching is not of great need.

However, there are only a handful of teams with minor league systems deep enough to make a legitimate trade offer to the Blue Jays.

It would take Sanchez. It would include either Bumgarner or Buster Posey in all actuality. That sucks. It really would suck.

However, the playoffs are built for disgusting pitching staffs like this fictitious one we're talking about here. Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay, and Matt Cain is the closest thing to the holy trinity that could ever wear the same uniform.

Tell me who could compete with that. The Dodgers? The Cardinals? Phillies? Mets? Brewers? Rockies? Red Sox? Yankees? Rays? Rangers? Angels? Tigers? White Sox?

No one.

Halladay is signed for another year after this one, and will be nearly 34 when he becomes a free agent. But, he's also a future hall-of-famer.

We are all enamored with the modern day legends of Angel Villalona, Bumgarner, Posey, and Alderson, but I really think we should be living in the here and now. We could win it all... NOW.

Our system is deep.

Hypothetically, let's say we give up Madison Bumgarner and Conor Gillaspie and a third near major leaguer like Manny Burriss for Roy Halladay.

We have our holy trinity until the spring of 2011, plus Tim Alderson (a Matt Cain type pitcher) ready to break into the rotation, Jonathan Sanchez, and presumably a serviceable 10 win-capable Barry Zito.

We'll have Buster Posey ready to rock, the powerful Angel Villalona and Roger Kieschnick still in the system, and 3, count 'em 3 solid middle infielding prospects in Brandon Crawford, Nick Noonan, and Ehidre Adrianza. One of which, presumably the UCLA-groomed Crawford, will be major league ready by 2011 right when Edgar Renteria's contract is up.

So the Halladay for Bumgarner deal would not be the end of the world-- it would be the beginning of something incredible. And remember, the goal is to win a World Series. Look where Billy Beane has gotten thinking this way-- constantly looking towards the future and a bunch of unproven prospects. Why not us? Why not now?

More realistically though, Brian Sabean will play it safe, and keep our entire future intact.

Consider the following needs:

A reliable second baseman who can hit.

A reliable corner infielder who can hit.

A reliable corner outfielder who can hit.

Then, consider the following players available: Freddy Sanchez (2B, PIT), Austin Kearns (RF, WAS), Josh Willingham (LF, WAS), Nick Johnson (1B, WAS), Elijah Dukes (OF, WAS), Brian Roberts (2B, BAL), Aubrey Huff (1B, BAL), Luke Scott (LF, BAL), Mark Teahen (Util, KC).

These guys are all gettable, trust me.

How about this scenario:

Jonathan Sanchez, Nick Noonan/Brandon Crawford, and 10th rated prospect LHP Scott Barnes for Brian Roberts and Aubrey Huff. I do that in a second. Roberts is signed through 2013 and would be a great fit. Aubrey Huff can play 1B or 3B, and has a 11/56/.260 season going, in addition to an expiring contract.

Would you deal Sanchez and Crawford for Brian Roberts and Huff? I would. In a second.

The holes have miraculously been filled!

2B Brian Roberts
CF Aaron Rowand
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
C Bengie Molina
RF Nate Schierholtz
SS Edgar Renteria
LF Randy Winn

Rotation: Lincecum, Cain, Johnson, Zito, Sadowski.

Does that weaken our pitching situation? Yes, a little, but before Sanchez threw that no-no, he wasn't in the rotation anyway.

The other guy who would be great to snag is Mark Teahen. He can play anywhere and is a solid hitter. Why not? Let's plug the holes!

Okay this is getting long and crazy, but here's one last absurd idea that's been floated around...

Keep The Spaniard, and get rid of Zito.

How you ask?

The Blue Jays have 2 horrendous contracts and must unload one. Their names are Alex Rios and Vernon Wells.

Both can play center or left, and both are extremely talented, under performing players.

To rid themselves of one of these players, the Blue Jays would theoretically take Zito off our hands, if we ate some of his deal.

Hmmm.... interesting. Zito is owed basically $94 million through the remainder of his contract ($83 million when he's bought out- which he will be).

Vernon Wells is owed $98.5 million over the next 5 years.

It's almost an exact match of salaries.

But, to make Toronto give up the clearly superior player, we will have to sweeten the deal, by eating some of Zito's contract, and/or throwing in another player like Gillaspie.

Let's say the Giants eat $20 million of Zito's deal. That would then make Toronto responsible for $63 mil ($83-20), as opposed to the $99 still owed to Wells.

Despite Wells' poor performance, he still provides a much better option than Randy Winn or Fred Lewis in left and is not nearly the lost cause that many think Zito has become. The Zito signing was a disaster, and as Tim Kawakami writes, it's time to move on, at nearly any cost.

Whew. There we go. More to come.

Oh yeah... we haven't done this in a while:


Matt Kemp

According to multiple sources, Dodgers OF Matt Kemp was " drunk at the ESPYs that at one point during the evening, he stumbled and fell.

Even worse, in the process of falling, he grabbed a woman’s (who appeared to be his date) dress and completely pulled down her top. When those on the scene first attended to the prone Kemp, the woman shrieked, “What about me?!”"

Pure class Matt. Pure class.


And please enjoy this great fan perspective of Sanchez's no-hitter via Youtube.

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