Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Giants' Bullpen is a Mess

Romo down. Flexor Strain.
Kontos out. Flexor Strain.
Lopez: 12.00 ERA.
Heston: 10.00 ERA
Strickland: 5.06 ERA
Casilla: Two blown saves, and a close call or two.

This is not the way you want to start a season. At all.

Despite their hot start, there are some serious issues going on with this team at the moment-- things we're not really used to dealing with. First of all, the injuries are ridiculous-- not that they happened, because you know, shit happens-- but that they're the same injury!

I can't say a "Flexor Strain" (if that is its real name) is one of the most common injuries I've ever heard of, but it seems to have made itself a home on the Giants' DL. Think of it as the hamate bone of pitchers I guess.

This is the very thing that shut down Cain for extended periods of time over the last year and occasionally leads to surgery. From the aptly named ThrowingInjuries.com:

The tendon on the inner side of the elbow is the Flexor Tendon. This is major attachment for the muscles in the forearm and wrist that power wrist and finger bending (“flexion”) and rotation of the hand into a palm down position (“pronation”). These muscles are clearly important in throwing a ball, from gripping the ball to putting spin on a breaking pitch. With frequent throwing, this tendon can become overloaded. This leads to inflammation of the tendon (“tendonitis”) and sometimes degeneration of the tendon. In more chronic or severe cases, the tendon may partially tear little by little. Rarely, the tendon may tear completely. Fortunately, most of the time these flexor tendon injuries will respond well to rest and time, but sometimes they don’t. In that case, surgery to remove degenerated tendon tissue and repair of the tendon is necessary. Though infrequently needed, the results are good, and the recovery is much faster than after UCL reconstruction.
So no, it doesn't mean Tommy John, but sometimes it is a precursor to something worse. Considering the abuse that Romo subjects his arm to by throwing that slider on a near daily basis, it's a miracle he's managed to stay mostly healthy for the duration of his career.

In the meantime, there are some holes to fill and some ships to right.

Lopez may be pitching his final season, but he's a crafty veteran and I expect him to figure out how to be successful one last time.

I'm not worried about Strickland really because he's got such an electric arm. He will figure it out, and he will one day be this team's closer. With him, I think it's mental more than anything. His confidence and firebrand of country hardball will one day mix with some constructive thought-- like a delicious series of mix-ins combined with Cake Batter ice cream at Cold Stone. At that time, he'll be great.

Old Jairo sounds like a budget bottle of Mezcal in a Tijuana liquor store. But that's what Casilla has been pitching like. He's hanging balls right in dudes' wheelhouses and they are getting hit a long long way. This is not something you want to see so much of so early. The weird thing is that there's nothing that suggests he is off-- at least on paper. His velocity is the same, his pitches aren't rated poorly. The only discernible difference between last year and now is that he's throwing his slider about 6% more and his curveball about 6% less. That's it.

So it comes down to pitch location and guys not being fooled. If this trend continues, we're going to have issues. The encouraging thing is that he's still throwing pretty hard and doesn't seem to be injured.

As far as Heston goes, I don't think he has a bullpen mentality. Some guys are just more comfortable starting games, and he may be one of them. I'm not quite sure what to do with him then, because clearly we need healthy arms with Kontos and Romo out.

{UPDATE: He was optioned to Sacramento today}

What's Jeremy Affeldt up to? Oh. Never mind. He cut his hand again.

A photo posted by Jeremy Affeldt (@jeremyaffeldt) on

Somewhere down in Texas, Jeff Kent is wistfully stroking his mustache and nodding, his orange-lensed Oakleys reflecting the sunset. He knows all too well the dangers of washing a truck.

As far as what to do? Here's the AAA roster with the AA roster below it. Some interesting names in Triple A right now like Vin Mazzaro and Ricky Romero, but I doubt those two would be called up anytime soon as they try to rehabilitate their major league careers. I also doubt there will be any top starting prospects called up like Stratton, Beede, Crick, or Blackburn.

Steven Okert and Mike Broadway look like a good bet though.

{UPDATE: That's exactly who they called up. I was right. That's scary!}

In case you're curious, here's a list of our top prospects.

Also, I wonder what Tim Lincecum is doing? We seem to have a need to fill. Just saying...

Monday, April 11, 2016

Brandon Belt is one of the best 1Bs in MLB?

Really? He is?


I have always had lots mixed feelings about Brandon Belt. He's too streaky, he's always finding ways to get hurt. He's too moody. His body language sucks. He strikes out too much. He's not clutch. When is he going to hit 30 home runs like a real first baseman? Is he ever going to change his walkup song? When is he finally going to put it together?

I can't be alone in all this. No way. I still find my mind poisoned by these feelings despite his significant role in two titles and on this roster since 2011. Is it fair?

Apparently it's not even remotely fair.

Apparently, he falls into the top third of first basemen since he entered the Majors in many rankings; both in traditional methods and in futuristic outer space metrics. It's surprising to me, even as someone who pays close attention to these things.

Since his first full season in 2012, he qualifies as 11th in both WAR and OPS. I'm not a huge WAR guy as you know, but I am an averages guy, and his .277/.353/.462 slash line has him at an .815 OPS-- putting him firmly among the game's truly elite 1Bs. Don't believe me? Look at this list. 

Who amongst us would have put Belty in the same category as the rest of these guys? These are literally the best the game has to offer offensively, and there he is, The Baby Giraffe with the Gumby Shoulders.  

Were you aware that Belty had a higher on base percentage than Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols during this time frame? I wasn't. 

Furthermore, nearly every defensive metric available has Belty in the top 3 or 4 of active first basemen. This is everything from advanced Fangraphs jibberjabber and gobbledygook like DEF, UZR, and UZR/150 to traditional methods like errors and fielding percentage. He's right up there with the best of the best. I hope this is the year he'll break through with a Gold Glove like Crawford did last year, but it'll be tough with Goldschmidt having won two of the last three and being one of the best players in the world.

Where he doesn't compare to the Goldy Goldschmidts and the Miguel Caberas of the world is in traditional power stats. I like seeing a guy with a sweet 30 HR/ 100 RBI season. It makes a man feel good, you know? It's a porterhouse and potatoes-- MEDIUM RARE. Hell yeah. God bless America. That's what a 30/100 season is.

If you need any more cliches, I've got plenty left, btw.

I think that's where some of the uneasiness around Belt stems from-- at least with me. Part of that is due to AT&T Park killing him constantly with 420 foot outs and balls off the brick that would be massive dongs anywhere else-- lest we forget.

But I have learned over the years that you can still be a really good player at a power position without putting up Edwin Encarnacion or Crush Davis power numbers. Sometimes, like we did here, you just need to read between the lines.

As for his contract, it's no biggie really in the scheme of things. Sure it's a significant raise, and will add another long term contract, but the Giants organization is loaded with soggy garlic fry money (they are terrible now FYI... poor quality control), and they can afford him.

"The new contract calls for a $6 million signing bonus, payable next Jan. 15, a $2.8 million salary for 2017 and $16 million annually from 2018-21. Each Nov. 1 starting in 2017, Belt may designate 10 teams he cannot be traded to without his consent."

So yeah, it's a chunk of change, and at first glance it's like, "Whoa. Brandon Belt is going to be making what??" But when it starts kicking in, they'll have Cain's albatross off the books, and (hopefully) the back two spots of the rotation will be taken over by prospects that are firmly and cheaply under team control.

Plus, don't forget that Panik and Duffy are still making absolute peanuts for years to come, and Pagan's salary comes off the books as well. In fact, between Peavy, Pagan, Lopez, and Romo, who are all free agents in 2017, a total of  $40,250,000 is coming off the books.

This is another shrewd move by a team that seems to always be one step ahead and never manages to be weighed down by under-performing contracts.

More importantly, this organization has made a point of eschewing crazy splashes (although I suppose the Cueto/Samardzija moves were flashy), in favor of a bottom up approach and locking up its homegrown stars. I know they're all professionals, but it's gotta mean something special for all these guys to grow up together, to know each others' families and kids, and to be all locked up together on a team that gives a damn and does things right.

(We just became the Cardinals and Yankees by the way).

In a league with no loyalty and regular roster overhauls, it's sure nice to know that if a good young player comes out of the farm system, he'll be extended before he's out of arby years and that those high dollar shirzeys won't be irrelevant. We're lucky.

That's more than most fans can say.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Who the hell is Trevor Brown?

No. Seriously. Who the hell is Trevor Brown? I don't even remember him from last year as a callup. That's how bad of a blogger I've been. I haven't even read up on randoms that made the roster. This isn't my job, per se, but people are hounding me to write something, and I'm not even prepared to do so! I suck.

Let's do some research together, Catfish style. Ok. Google Image search!

Click to enlarge. Borderline NSFW. And you will likely have nightmares.

I see mostly disturbing art by some sick son of a bitch that is into either abusing dolls or having dolls abuse him. Looks kind of like that weird school girl stuff the Japanese are into-- but way darker and more bizzare. Throw a sweaty, near-sighted serial killer from his mom's basement in Van Nuys with a Japanese pervert into a Vitamix blender and you have The Other Trevor Brown's art. I'm serious. Look at this stuff.

This is me right now. I feel you, Nic Cage from 8MM.

Mixed into this episode of Law and Order: SVU, I do see a couple of  team mugshots of a guy that appears to be the goofy love child of Tim Lincecum and Matt Duffy! That's him!

The Giants took Brown in the 10th round back in 2012, and of course it's news to me that he plays a pretty damned good second base as well. In fact, he played 95 games as a 2B and 90 as a catcher between 2012-14, but they had him catch exclusively last season. 

That's not only impressive, but it's super rare. More often than not catchers end up being more Bengie Molina than Craig Biggio (who began as a catcher), but the Giants really seem to have put an emphasis on versatility and fluidity. Hell, look at Posey. Even Susac fits into a similar body type with the ability to do more than just catch. 

Susac of course lost the job in spring partially due to a sore wrist and Brown's hot start in AZ.

While I like what I'm reading about him, I don't think we can expect too many huge moments like the one Friday night against LA in which he:

  • Caught Matt Cain's first decent performance in forever and looked fine doing it
  • Broke up a combined no-hitter by hitting his first major league home run 
  • Tied the game
  • He did so in the rain, AGAINST THE DODGERS
  • His moment ended up being bigger than Crawford's walkoff, which is insane
  • Most importantly, he endured and enjoyed the postgame Amy G interview like a true champ
Despite his red hot spring performance in which he hit in the high .300s, his track record in the minors stat-wise does nothing to move the needle. He only hit 7 career minor league homers, and sported both a .244 average and a .616 OPS. In case you're wondering, he hit .261 last year at Sacramento.

His moment was a great one despite its early season occurrence. In an early April game that felt like late September against the hated Dirtbags, he really rang the baseball bell for me, announcing that yes indeed, the boys were back in town.

While I wouldn't expect many more big hits from Mr. Brown, he's intriguing and I've enjoyed his presence thus far.

Odds & Ends

-- I'm really hoping that this pitching staff doesn't end being one where we "pray for rain" if you know what I mean. Remember those years when it was "Lincecum, Cain, or pray for rain?". Seems crazy, but let's say between Samardzija, Peavy, and Cain, we have 3 huge friggin wild cards-- Peavy and Cain being the least predictable, what are the next moves? Heston as the long man is there to fill a spot if Peavy or Cain go off the rails on a consistent basis, but when do they consider bringing up a Crick or a Blackburn-- neither of which seem ready.

What we should hope for is that Samardzija doesn't suck and regains his Cubs form that didn't take place all that long ago. As for Cain and Peavy? Just keep us in the game because I like this lineup.

-- Pitchers hit Eighth? I'm ok with it. It's certainly interesting. When Tony La Russa or Joe Maddon do it, it's quirky and weird, but when Bochy does it, he's got a reason, and the reason is probably a good one. Let's see where it goes.

-- How nice was it to see Dave Roberts picking up right where Mattingly left off? I like DR, I really do, but I'm going to have to make fun of him at every turn. He's the one that made that poor life choice.

-- What would you have done with Ross Stripling? Leave him in to give up a hit and risk running up the pitch count? Expose him to possibly ruining his own no-hitter and bumming him out? Now that I've slept on it, I don't have a issue necessarily with Roberts pulling him. He's a rookie, it was his first start, and it's better for a young pitcher's psyche to know he left the game with nary a blemish on the field. Hopefully he's not going to be a pain in our ass for years to come and regresses toward the mean.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Giants sweep LA and find their footing

There are few things more satisfying than neatly piling up dust, debris, and various garbage, then unceremoniously removing it from the ground in which is lays. Sweeping they call it.

Indeed these Giants, weirder and more unpredictable than ever, managed to remove blue pieces of trash from their unsullied yard in their first three game set of the year against LA.

I for one, did not see this one coming.

But hey, baseball is a funny game, sometimes a team needs to hit the road for two weeks or face a tough rival while at their lowest to get their minds right.

Certainly this team has major holes, but sweeping the dreaded Blue Bastards before hopping a flight to Denver could certainly be what the doctor ordered. Being on a team means rolling with the punches, lifting each other up, and celebrating when things go well.

I'd say a sweep including back to back walkoffs, followed by a happy flight is a helluva good way to get some revenge on the Rockpile and get this ship sailing in the right direction.

Thoughts about stuff

  • This Justin Maxwell sure is helping us out. It's going to be a shame that he'll likely ride pine once Pence comes back.
  • Same with Matt Duffy. When does he play? Who loses time? Do you simply rotate him through the infield giving guys a day off?
  • Belt is looking better, but we need him to get hot. We've been waiting so long for this guy to have a complete breakout year, and he's struggling horribly. Hopefully this Thursday performance will help get his confidence up. He's streaky, remember?
  • Casilla is not exactly inspiring much confidence right now, but he's not doing horribly. I'd say a couple blown saves puts him on the hot seat, but that hasn't happened. If he does continue to walk this tightrope and starts to fail, Bochy will probably just go back to Romo, which sounds even less enticing. I'd almost rather have Affeldt do it if it comes to that. Fingers crossed he gets his affairs in order.
  • Lol Don Mattingly. I love when he gets mad.
  • Who the hell is this Alex Guerrero guy? Whoever he is, I just picked him up in both my fantasy leagues. Sorry, gotta take a chance.
  • Nothing could screw up this Dodger-sweeping high like going to Denver and having the New Blake Street Bombers light up all our starters leading to an obliterated bullpen. Again. Fingers-crossed. Those guys can hit.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Giants can't score

I looked up from my sushi at the TV briefly. I had lost track of time getting back from work and stopping home. The Giants were on already. Damn, I'd missed the beginning!

Then I squinted across the restaurant at the score.


First thought that popped into my head? Honestly?

"Ah shit, that's all the Rockies are going to need, isn't it."

And it was.

Then I took a swig of my Sapporo, the only beer on draft, made a disgusted face and thought, "Ugh. Seriously??" That stuff is gross. Truly awful beer, but at least it's not Kirin Ichiban. That stuff should be illegal. I think if I ever go to Japan I'm going to order anything but Japanese beer (unless Aoki buys it for me).


Sure we're only a few games into a marathon and they've had injuries, but there's really no good excuse for a capable team like this being so offensively inept. Capable of winning a game every now and then by feathering the ball into the gaps or stealing a base mind you-- I never said they would hit any home runs.

(Unless you own a 41 pound cat and are named after a fringe Simpsons character).

No one is here to freak out, but this team has too many guys that have started out cold.

Pagan (.378), Aoki (.375, 6BB, 3 SB), and Duffman (.333) are the only guys on the roster hitting over .250 right now, and save for Buster who has 2 HR with a .219 avg., no one is doing much of anything. I mean look at these guys below.

It's totally gross. Belt is hitting .118.

These guys really need to figure it out if this team is going to stay afloat-- let alone succeed.

Thoughts and stuff

  • How good is Nolan Arenado? Just another all-world talent that is going to waste away in a Rockies uniform. I'm developing a serious baseball crush on him. Sorry, but you can't deny how good he is. Just think what this cat is going to make when he's a free agent if Doofus Sandoval got what he did. Speaking of cats...
  • I'm already tired of hearing about Matt Duffy's giant cat, and yet I've brought it up like six times in this post. I'm part of the problem.
  • Tim Lincecum didn't look horrible in his debut, which is good. What's bad is that he gave up that dong to Arenado early on. This team already has problems scoring runs, it doesn't need first or second inning deficits to worry about. 4 runs is too much to overcome these days.
  • How do we keep Matt Duffy's bat in the lineup once McGehee returns? It's pretty clear that the Duffman means business. My thought? Put him at 3B, move McGehee over to 1B, and sit Belt down vs. LHP until he shows any signs of life. It's too early to declare any sinking ships, but we're leaking already. Or sit Crawford. Or Panik. Sit them all.
  • This whole 14 days in a row thing is rough on the Giants. Even though they haven't had to fly much and started the year 20 minutes from their Spring Training facilities, it's a difficult thing to be thrust into two straight weeks with no off days. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have already had 3 off days. CONSPIRACY. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Great Hesto Presto saves the day

I still find myself thinking Chris Heston's name is Hansen or Hester. I almost have to write it on my arm so I remember who this guy actually is. That's how little I knew of him before his callup and subsequent victory over Arizona Wednesday.

Of course you could point to my lack of obsession with our unexciting farm system as the culprit, but I don't care. What I do care about is that this dude could turn out to be something.

Based on his interesting mix of breaking/sinking stuff and composure during a rough 1st inning, I'd say we could have possibly found a back of the rotation guy for the future.

NOW, this is based on one start following an unexceptional minor league career and 2014 callup. So let's do our best to reserve judgement for awhile. With Heston scheduled to toss the Giants' home opener next week, his level of gusto should be on pretty good display sooner than later. What's nice about his '15 debut is that he got to get his feet wet in front of 20,000 quiet people against a beatable Diamondbacks team. Kinda different than a home opener with 42,000+ nuts and a flag raising ceremony. He'll be nervous alright, but let's see how he buckles down. It's a good litmus test.

Notes & Stuff

-- Nice to see Casey McGehee get off the schneid so soon and dong that HR on Wednesday. People ripped the Aoki/McGehee moves as unexciting and weak, but they are the type of players that win ballgames. Think back to some of the hackers we've had on this team over the years. Pablo/Pedro Feliz/Brandon Hicks types that swing at the first pitch and take more poor ABs than good ones. Not a problem with these two. They don't care if they reach on errors every game, take a HBP, or single a Texas leaguer up the middle. They just love playing and contributing. They are perfect Giants. I don't care if it's only 3 games in. They're my kind of players. WAR be damned.

-- Matt Duffy rules. 

-- I like that the Duffman is getting into the lineup and contributing, but I hate to see it at the expense of Joe Panik's ABs. Something will have to give at some point. Maybe Duffy will replace Joaquin Arias as our go-to utility guy and he'll end up playing more. I just like his energy.

-- Last year, I painstakingly made this Duffyman picture by hand-coloring his cape and hat orange and his boots black. I also added little 'y's to all the things that say "Duff", including the beers on his boozebelt, his chest, and hat. My S-Pen got a good workout that night. Please tell me you love it and it was worth my time.

-- For those of you that listen to KNBR in the morning, how nice has it been that Gary Radnich has been on vacation? Hate to say it, but Pauly Mac on vacation has been nice too. Anything that gives us less filler and more susbstance-- aka more Kate Scott, is good. Same goes for Ray Ratto on Mr. T. They really need to shake up some of these pairings.

Brian Murphy, Kate Scott, Larry Krueger, and Tolbert should be kept. Fitz and Brooks is awful (mostly due to Rod Brooks, Fitz is okay) and needs to be re-done or cancelled. The guy that needs more daytime exposure is Ray Woodson. He gets banished to Sportsphone 680 or fill-in duties, and he's just so much better than some of th
e guys I mentioned.

The other guy who no one talks about is Ted Ramey, who took over for Damon Bruce over on 1050. Since Fitz and Brooks is so painful to the ears, I listen to Ted Ramey a lot on my lunch break. I'm glad he got a shot. He deserves to be on 680 doing something.

If they only make one move over at The Leader though, it has to be canning Radnich. He is the worst kind of entrenched curmudgeon. Completely un-listenable, out of touch, uniformed, obnoxious... I could go on forever. Do people actually listen to him? If so, why?

-- At least we don't have that issue with our announcers. I can't tell you how nice it's been to get regular doses of Kruk/Kuip/Miller/Flem again. Best in the business.

-- Anyone excited for this Padres series? I know they went out and got themselves a team all the sudden and we want to dismiss them as hype, but you can't.

I personally love it when the West is competitive. It's so much more fun when these games matter. September in Denver, San Diego in April, they all matter, baby.

-- When Madison Bumgarner retires at age 46, he clearly needs to be our Head Groundskeeper/Seagull hunter/Security/Criminal beater-upper.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Good thing the Giants re-signed Vogelsong, huh?

Scarcely a day has passed in this ODD YEAR, and things are getting really weird already (See the title of my Opening Day post).
Cain giving the finger to his pitching arm.

No one quite knew the state of Matt Cain, but we were all expecting him to pitch in Phoenix this week. The excitement of his triumphant return has been quashed, like cow shit shoveled by a rancher onto an out of control burn pile. No, he's not set for Tommy John, but my God does that cow manure fire smell terrible.

That fire smells even worse now because a bunch of animal hair blew into it, and it's all Jake Peavy's back's fault.

Vogey is getting chainsaw angry.
Downwind of this shitty hair fire started by Cain and Peavy stands Ryan Vogelsong, the King of Shoulder Chip Mountain, calmly eating an enchilada, nostrils flaring, intense eyes burning-- not due to acrid smoke, but because he's ready to prove everyone wrong for the 417th time.

This fragile, inconsistent, aging rotation (minus Bum of course) was an issue from day one. Fortunately the Giants have a solid quantity of potentially quality arms ready to step in and piss on a few fires. Vogelsong, who thought he was destined to a season of long relief, becomes the first man up during the first series of the season.

No one knows whether he's going to be a guy that can rack up more quality starts than not, but as we know, he seems to thrive on doubt and pressure. He wills himself to get big outs, and has resurrected his career more times that anyone can count.

I love Vogey's fight and his spirit. Hopefully, we will love his pitching, as he attempts to fill the void left by Cain and Peavy, however long it may last.

Thoughts and stuff

  • HAY PABLOO! HAVE ANOTHAH LOBSTAH ROLL YA BASTAHD! (Pablo went 0-3 with a Silver Sombrero in his first game as a Sawk. Good.
  • Unfortunately, Pablo's BFF Hanjob Ramirez hit two home runs. Can't win em all I guess.
  • I feel like Game 1/162 is going to be a microcosm of 2015. Everything from the Romo double to Roberto Kelly's stop sign, to...
  • ...the top of the order being AWESOME. How bout those OBP machines Aoki, Panik, and Pagan?? Yeah!!! I can't tell you how nice it is to have a team that gets hits. I don't even care that they just hit a bunch of singles. We've had years when we don't even get THAT.
  •  I'll take a team that hits a bunch of consistent singles than a team that hits a HR once a game.
  • It's ironic that a guy that is just so awesome is referred to as "Bum" so often.
  • Anyone see how the Marlins had a rain delay in their retractable roof stadium? Apparently how they judge whether to open or close it is based on three executives who check apps on their phones and let stadium staff know. Perhaps it's time to consult an expert. Good luck getting Jeff Loria to sign off on that.
  • List of new Dodgers that we have to hate: Jimmy Rollins, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Howie Kendrick, Yasmani Grandal, and Joc Pederson. 
  • I was watching the Madres-Doyers game at work yesterday and Jimmy Rollins hit a 3 run homer because Shawn Kelly and Yonder Alonzo couldn't figure out where first base was. Rollins is on my list now, whether we like it or not. It's a shame.
  • Also a bummer that we have to hate Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy, who absolutely OWN Twitter. McCarthy just called some Yankee fan a "tit" the other day. Gold Jerry! Gold!
  • Classy move by Arizona to honor Lon Simmons. Kuiper was surprised that they did that, because he has been retired for some time and didn't have connections to Arizona. But, Kuip forgot that Lon Simmons has connections to the Oakland A's, and Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart now run the Diamondbacks. So classy move, TLR and Old High Voice.
  • When new Cubs manager Joe Maddon hit Jon Lester 8th on Sunday, do you think Tony LaRussa called him to congratulate him or did he ask for royalties? #PitchersHit8th
  • Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki will be fan favorites almost immediately. Guaranteeing it.