The Giants Biggest Home Stand of the Year

And so it comes to this.

The best first half in the majors and the second-worst second half in the majors sums to the most important home stand of the year with twenty games to play.

Seven games: three against the Padres and four against the Cardinals who are outside looking in and trying, with the Mets, to pry us from atop the National League Wild Card standings.

The difference between eking out the Wild Card and seizing the division from the nemesis lies in these next seven games. We have to take five.

We were happy in June. This team looked built to make the run. The pieces all made sense and our record was the result of beautiful play. We were happy because we won without Pence, Panik, Duffy and Romo. If anything we were enthused because we knew we’d have them all back healthy for the stretch run. The pain of last year when all the injuries hit in August was fresh in our minds. (To be honest we’ve been pretty lucky in that regard).

Johnny Cueto tore it up and started the All-Star Game. We voted Belt into the summer classic with vigor. Cain and Peavy were mostly bad, but it didn’t seem to matter. Until he went down Romo was a great set-up man for Casilla who collected the majority of his 31 saves and looked like he could be the closer. (That team still exists).

Then this epic collapse of hitting and failures in the bullpen in the second half necessitated re-engineering the rotation, forced us to deal beloved Duffy.

I for one fully support what I think was swift and bold decision-making by Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean, Larry Baer, Bruce Bochy and staff. We had to do something quick and if we didn’t pick up Matt Moore, I am not sure we would even have a chance right now. Add to that the success Eduardo Núñez has had at third and at the plate, and I’m more than pleased we made the deal.

If we have to play the Mets or Nats in the play-in game I am confident we can send out MadBum and have a great chance to win. But thanks to the trade, I now also feel, with Cueto starting against the Cubs, then Samardzija/Moore and back to Bumgarner, we actually have a shot to beat the league leaders, to win the NLCS.

and today, David Schoenfeld, the SweetSpot Blogger on ESPN says,

“Consider:

  • The Giants are due to play better. Maybe they weren’t actually the best team in baseball when they ended the first half with a better record than the Chicago Cubs, but clearly they’re not the second-worst team in baseball.
  • Baseball teams are streaky. While the Giants’ extreme splits are abnormal, a bad stretch doesn’t necessarily predict more losing. They’re just as likely to go on a nice winning streak now. That’s baseball.
  • The Dodgers play 13 of their remaining 20 games on the road, and they’re 47-27 at home and just 33-35 on the road.
  • The teams have six games remaining against each other, including the season-ending series in San Francisco.
  • Hunter Pence is hot, with eight hits in the Arizona series. Buster Posey is due to get hot as well, right?
  • Strickland, if he does win the closer’s role on a regular basis, will be fine. He has a 2.41 ERA in his major league career and has held opponents to a .202 average (.213 this season). He has been the Giants’ best reliever over the past two seasons. So why has Bruce Bochy been so hesitant to name him the closer? It probably goes back to the 2014 postseason, when Strickland, with just seven innings of big league time, allowed six home runs in eight appearances. It’s tough to trust a guy in close games after seeing that, but Strickland is a solid reliever and has earned the opportunity. (As a bonus, rookie Derek Law, with a 1.94 ERA and excellent peripherals, is due to come off the DL this week.)”

Which brings us to the biggest home stand of the year.

Our biggest concern is a big one: the bullpen is a mess. Our second biggest concern is an ongoing lack of timely hitting, a situational slump at the plate particularly with runners in scoring position that has made #RISPsigh a thing now.

But on the positive side we got what we asked for, all the pieces we need and we are healthy. Hunter Pence just decided to turn it up several notches. Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey know the stretch.

Panik has to follow Núñez who has also been making it happen. Span and Pagan gotta get hot at the same time and Belt … I need you Brandon, I need some power from you. More aggressiveness at the plate. I love the walks and the on-base percentage, but take a chance and rock that thing.

The sharpness is returning to the starters. I like that. And the bullpen? Well I know this, they can’t do it without our support. I can’t be there, but the yard better be rocking.

Let’s Go Giants! Take ’em one day at a time and win ’em all.

25 Guys One Common Goal

Win Today!!!

 

 

 

 

Love,

MTK

 

 

 

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September Baseball

September is a funny time for baseball fans whose teams are in the running. My nails are all chewed down to the cuticle. My hair gets a little greyer each year in September. There is agony and joy wrapped up in this beautiful game that confounds and delights us.

I can remember my son’s first SF Giants game like it was yesterday. It was a September 17th game against the division-leading Rockies. This was 2009 and my kid was seven years old. It was Randy Johnson Poster night and he still has his orange My First Ballgame certificate from the Giants and his poster celebrating The Big Unit’s 300th Win, which came that year with Johnson in a Giants uniform.

The Giants trailed the Rox by just two games and Matt Cain was on the mound facing Jorge de la Rosa. We had watched and listened to the Giants all summer and I bought tickets to that game because I figured it might be the one that either got us into a playoff chase or ended our run at the Rockies.

In the ninth, down 4-3, the Giants had runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, and we were standing and yelling our guts out when Edgar Renteria grounded out to end the game. The Rockies took a three-game lead with them out of town and we never got closer to the playoffs that year.

The following September of course was our epic run-down of the Snakes that culminated in us stealing the division on the last day and eventually the 2010 World Series Championship And since then, like clockwork, we’ve had a good September every other year and taken it all the way to the World Series, winning twice more. Amazing.

Our runs and collapses in perfect order these last six years have added a powerful, albeit false, pressure to this year.

We ought to be realistic about the incredible run we have just made and see it as unprecedented in quality. We ought to acknowledge we may be fading now not because we cannot do it, not because we don’t have the talent, but rather because we may just finally be out of steam from what has been an exceptional amount of success.

Changes to the team are at the heart of this: the loss of pitchers Petit, Vogelsong and Hudson and the fading of Lincecum and Cain have weakened our formidable staff. Even Javier Lopez doesn’t look as dominant as he has these past few years (not to mention he can’t be spelled by Affeldt anymore either).

Our attempts to just plug in Cueto and Samardzija and Matt Moore and a slew of relievers cannot be expected to align with our every-other-year success. It’s a different team.

In terms of hitting, we lost Pablo and I know how much you all love Matt Duffy (I do, too), but the Panda was a special part of our Championship years. We’ve had four third basemen since Sandoval left … just two years ago. We squeezed out much of the last talent from other hitters: Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff (THE BUNT ON NOVEMBER 1ST!), Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Theriot, a doping Melky Cabrera. And despite Posey, Pence, Panik, Pagan and Crawford hitting well, hitting remains a problem whether we win or not, which is why winning the World Series the way we have has been even more amazing.

Point is, I don’t want to get all wound up and agonized if we don’t manage to find success all the way to the World Series again. I think the expectation we should is inflated, unrealistic and for some solely predicated on the fact it’s an even year – which is meaningless.

This September may be the end of an amazing dream. If so, I would rather celebrate how successful these last six years have been and lose with the grace of a winner.

I am not giving up. I am in this fight daily and rooting for our boys to do it again. It would be unreal if they did it again. I mean, what a dream – a dream that just keeps not ending? Wow. I want it. I believe we can do it … because we have.

But to expect it isn’t cool.

So let’s turn that even year expectation down a bit, yeah?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The GBC Reader, Issue Thirteen: Headed to the Ravine to Seize Back the Division, Beat LA

I was all excited to start the 13th Reader with a link to David Laurila’s excellent interview with Dave Righetti for Fan Graphs – a rare opportunity to hear Rags speak about pitching. It’s fascinating – particularly the comments concerning speed control and its importance to command.

I read it right when it came out and it was just so cool. I learned so much from just those few questions and answers. I was going to write about it, but then found Brisbee had already gushed, and since we agree materially that you should immediately go check it out, I didn’t.

Anyway I was all excited to get up and put it into this issue of the reader … but then this morning I had to endure Ken Rosenthal on Rich Eisen’s show talking about the gritty team in Los Angeles and how tough Chase Utley and Justin Turner and – “even the young guys”- Corey Seager are … gimme a break …

Then I had to watch them score 18 runs in Cincy in the day game that puts them a full game ahead of the Giants as we head into this week’s three game series down at Chavez Ravine – and now this reader is headed toward what’s wrong with us.

I am convinced we are the better, more stable and more experienced team. We’ve been on a streaky collapse, a downtrending rollercoaster, but it isn’t from injuries or bad play as much as difficulty getting things to gel.

We’ve been inconsistent in many aspects of the game at different times and we have a hard time getting it all to come together at once. But when it does, anyone can see we’re built to win.

We’re struggling to get long missing pieces to fit back together. Panik returned and took a while to warm up, and right when Pence got back he got a black eye. Here’s Brisbee on Hunter Pence‘s struggles since returning from the DL.

We’re working to bring on new guys – Eduardo Nunez and Matty Moore and Will Smith and others – Joe Nathan, possibly. Some of these are having moments of brilliance, but it isn’t easy to make it all work together right out of the box and there has been disarray.  Here’s Baggs on the Newest Giants and their struggles.

Make no mistake, we are going down there this week to Beat LA and seize back the division for good for the rest of the season. However, since we’ve fallen so mightily, there’s no shortage of “What’s Wrong With The Giants?” pieces.

John Shea did a genuine and honest inside-the-clubhouse piece about what the Giants themselves think is wrong with the energy or vibe of the team.

Around the Foghorn’s Laith Agha focuses on the hitting woes of the G-men and intends to address pitching as well, next.

Somebody called Mike Schwarz writing for something called isportsweb led with “The San Francisco Giants have been the worst team since the All-Star break.” – in this analysis of our woes.

On a lighter note, Speaking of Hunter Pence, ESPN Sr. Writer Eddie Matz did a nice little Burning Questions segment with the lanky, right fielder – such a personable and likable guy.

And Gregor Blanco’s White Shark Blog this week is a really heart-warming post about the guys on the bench – Conor Gillaspie, Ehire Adrianza, Trevor Brown and himself.

It was a well fought game that almost was a no-no for Samardzija: CSNBA posted the AP piece on Yespedes busting up Samardzija’s no-hitter.

Phil Rogers of MLB.com says the nemesis is better than us and will win the division.

But I believe in our team. Man, I hope we go down there and sweep the nemesis.

Beat LA.

 

 

 

 

Love,

MTK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Believe In Our Champions Blood

We have endured the East Coast and LA bias from national networks for so long they’re irrelevant to us. In fact sometimes it feels better to ride the role of underdog, knowing we have the most experienced, smartest and most tightly knit coaching staff in all the majors.

The mainstream sports media and the hulking brutes of NYC and Chicago always count us out. They have no comprehension of the nuances of the game or teamwork.

They counted us out when we were chasing the D-Backs in ’10 and again vs. the then-Champion Phillies and again in the World Series – even after seeing what MadBum, Timmy and the Beard could do. Not to mention the quietly peerless Buster Posey.

They counted us out when Melky went down for PED use, and we all agreed WE wouldn’t allow him back for the playoffs – though we could have – but rather try to soldier on. This one is always my favorite of the three, because of Pablo’s 3HR, with two off Verlander (him saying “wow,” watching the second one go out – best bad ball hitter ever: Pablo Sandoval). How Romo dismissed Cabrera is maybe my favorite SFGiants WS moment ever.

Then in 2014, they counted us out as a wild card has-been! and we just Madbummed the shit out of them. They counted us out against the Darlings of the Nation and we sent MadBum out to finish them off in their house.

So we are USED to being the ones counted OUT.

But what we know is different. We know we have Rags, Skip, Bam-Bam and Wotus in place. We know that losing Flan for the more conservative Kelly is really just an adjustment, not a loss. We have a Hall of Fame manager who has been through it all.

We know these guys know how to win with their backs against the wall. We know if we just get in to the playoffs, we have as a good a chance as any and a better chance than most because we have CHAMPIONS BLOOD.

I for one, believe that the moves we made are good moves. It hurts so much to have lost Vogey and Petit and Duffy. It hurts a LOT.

But I understand what Evans and Sabean are trying to do and I approve. These are aggressive and expensive moves – Samardzija and Cueto were $90million! We’ve never paid that kinda money for two players before. Duffy was just awesome in Panda’s place for a critical WS series year and more. But I get the trade. Getting the right puzzle pieces is hella expensive.

Here’s what I know: they can’t win if we don’t believe.

and I do.

I believe in this team of managers, coaches and players. I think the new guys need to tune in to a culture of winning and realize that petty losses should be dumped immediately. This is a tightrope walk, not whack-a-mole.

I know Posey, Pence, Bcraw, Belt, Panik, Pagan, D-Span, Nunez and our pitchers that rake can get out of this slump and start producing like the machine they were earlier in the season. It’s all about getting hot at the right time and we have the machine that can do that.

We dispensed with injuries to Pence and Panik and Pagan early so they are ready and playing well.

We dealt for better – read more experienced – pitching help for the bullpen and starters. We’re doing all the right things.

(EXCEPT I STILL REALLY THINK WE OUGHTA BAT THE SP IN THE 8 SPOT AND LET PAGAN AND D-SPAN BECOME BACK-TO-BACK LEADOFF HITTERS).

Anyway, all that is left is:

for us to believe and

for the guys to never quit.

 

We believe.

 

so, guys? …. Never Quit.

 

Love,

 

MTK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The GBC Reader, Issue Twelve, As In a Dozen – with Four Dozen Games Left to Play, BCraw’s 7 Hit Game

With 48 games left to play, the San Francisco Giants hold a one game lead over the nemesis in the NL West and have returned home to the confines of AT&T nee´ Pac-Bell Park for a much needed ten game home stand.

Hunter Pence came home with a black eye. Buster Posey’s face was all busted up. We lost a 1-0 CG by Bumgarner and we pounced on and beat Strasbourg. Brandon Crawford had a seven-hit game! We won a 1-0 game for Samardzija. It was a crazy trip.

But now we are home and we’re up a game and there are four dozen left to play. Here at Giants Baseball Corner we changed the avatar of the Twitter account to the one we have used for the stretch run since 2012, our photo of the dugout sign that was featured in the Emmy-award winning Episode 7 of SFG Productions Orange October.

25guys

I only have one wish left and that’s to see Bruce Bochy vs. Joe Maddon in the NLCS.

But I must be patient, be filled with fear and hope. I must focus on today. Win today.

ON TO THE GBC READER NUMBER 12:

Brisbee posted a really nice analysis of the way we swing the bat. What we hit, what we miss and how. I encourage you to read it ’cause there are silver linings galore.

Brandon Crawford had SEVEN HITS in a game! It was insane. He went 7 for 8! His batting average increased by 13 points in one night. It was boss. Doing what they do best, which is archiving, CSNBA and AlPav did a really cool bit covering two men to have seven hits in a game. While in Miami, they found the previous and they got them together. Was awesome.

Berman even wrote about Crawford’s wonder.

Baggs has a nice piece on a turning point for the bullpen. Stricky looking better, with more pitches and some command. Casilla coming back with a vengeance from the humiliation of the balk. Derek Law putting up numbers.

48 to play. Let’s get this done.

Win Today.

Have fun.

 

love,

MTK

 

 

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The GBC Reader, Issue Eleven: Post-Trade Deadline Talk, Saying Hello to Will Smith and Bye to Duffman

Welcome gentle reader to The Giants Baseball Corner Reader, Issue 11, a compendium of links to stories and stuff about the Giants since the last GBC Reader.

BTW, You can always read all the Readers as a summation of the season to this point by clicking on the GBC Reader Category link to the right, and they all come up.

Steve Berman, Bay Area Sports Guy, hasn’t been writing much about the G-men this season, but the trade deadline brought this very nice analysis of what he figures the Giants did and why. Good piece.

AlPav has a nice get-to-know-ya with Will Smith, the Giants’ newest left-handed reliever. I am already on the record that anyone who makes an OBVIOUS pun about his name and the Hollywood actor who shares it, is boring me.

Brisbee still isn’t over the loss of Matt Duffy, which is kinda good because it inspired him to do one of his cool retro-looks at awesome Matt Duffy plays from his tenure with los Gigantes.

and the Rays decided to move Duffy to SS when he comes back up and their current SS was none to pleased to hear that news according to Baggs.

Oh! and in a crazy move in Philly, Balkin’ Bob Davidson threw out a drunk fan for yelling at him from behind the backstop. weirdness.

wild.

 

 

Let’s Go Giants!

bust the slump.

love,

MTK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Trade Deadline Was Smart and Effective Use of The SF Giants System Under Sabean, Boch, and Evans

A lot of fans were emotional yesterday upon hearing the news the SF Giants had traded Matt Duffy, but I was surprised long-time fan Grant Brisbee was among them – he practically wept. I figured old guys like us were used to the business of baseball and would leap to the evaluation of the statistics of the swap – which he did of course, through his tears.

Me, I found the trade an excellent use of a system we’ve developed with great effort and the right balance of stats and human evaluation in the near-decade since Barry Lamar stalked off into the sunset of post-Giants life.

Sure, I’ll miss Matt Duffy, but he only played for us for two years. It was an intense and impressive couple of years because he had to step into Pablo Sandoval’s big shoes, but I don’t grow that attached to players that fast no matter who they are. It takes me a while to want to make someone “untouchable,” as Posey and Bumgarner are.

Actually, I can remember when fans – terrified about the absence of Panda and failure of McGehee – wanted to trade Matt Duffy for a “real third baseman,” in his rookie year.

And speaking of Panda – a home grown third baseman who was with us through three World Series wins and instrumental in at least one – I do and will miss the Pablo we all loved: an incredible Giant, with huge personality, beloved for his simple, crazy humanity.

Besides, I know Matt Duffy has a long career ahead of him and will excel wherever he plays. I will be watching this guy for a few years to come and heck, he could end up back with us with the way the business of baseball works.

We have done what we set out to do. We have grown our talent at home and added missing pieces to create championship teams, not once, but thrice in the last six years. It has been a stunning achievement, and I think a lot of fans have taken the subtle moves for granted.

It was inevitable that at least one or two or even some of all this home grown talent would have to be used as chips to gain the missing pieces needed. In this case we gave up a lot to get the specific missing elements of our pitching staff, and I for one, am glad we had the guts and aggressiveness to go all-in.

I do not know if Matt Moore and Will Smith are the answer, but I DO know that once they get in Buster Posey’s capable hands for the month of August they’re likely to be much better prepared for a championship run than they have ever been in their lives.

What the Giants have done these last six years is almost unheard of in the modern era. We have kept our coaching staff intact, core players aboard in Posey, Bumgarner, Cain, Lopez and Romo. Turned homegrown talent such as The Brandons, Crawford and Belt, into All-Stars and snagged and locked-up Hunter Pence.

We managed Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco in balance with rotating OFs. We squeezed the last bits of greatness from Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Theriot, Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson.

We’ve had great coaching at farm club levels resulting in consistently good play from rookies and newcomers to the team. Bruce Bochy is a first-ballot Hall of Fame Manager at this point, and his staff, again mostly intact (MISS YOU, FLAN!) are an amazing group.

If we had rested on our laurels and not made a trade for the essential relief and starting pitching support we needed, I’m not sure we could beat this year’s Cubs. Now I feel we have a legitimate shot not only to achieve that in Bochy vs. Maddon I, but go on to win it all.

Matt, you were a great Giant and that is what made you valuable and in-demand. We will miss you and I wish you all the best in Tampa. I am confident you will excel. I hear you are returning to SS and it must be cool to be with your Dirtbag mentor, Evan Longoria. Enjoy yourself and knock ’em dead.

Meanwhile, turning back to August …

Welcome aboard Matt Moore and Will Smith. Get your gear from Murph, perk up and pay attention. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND LISTENING TO BUSTER POSEY.

Let’s all pull it together and go out there and Even-Year-the-Shit-Outta-This-Thing.

Go Giants,

Love,

MTK

 

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