Follow by Email

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The San Francisco Giants are the Best Team in Baseball

We are at the halfway point of the season, and heading into the All-Star break, no team in baseball has a better record than the San Francisco Giants. At 57-33, they have a better record than any of the championship teams in recent years. It is certainly starting to look like that "Even Year Magic" has some merit to it after all.

The Giants are wining with pitching. They are led by All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Bumgarner has the numbers to back up being the team's ace, but Cueto has actually been statistically better. Cueto is 13-1 with a 2.47 earned run average and 115 strikeouts. "Johnny Beisbol" might already be the best free agent signing by the Giants since Barry Bonds.

The Giants are winning despite only 50 games so far from Hunter Pence, who has been out with an oblique injury as well as a hamstring injury and 58 games from Angel Pagan, who has also been out with various injuries. Pence and Pagan have been a huge part of what has made the Giants offense work the last several years, and yet the Giants have had to rely on young players from their system to help fill the void. Rookies Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker have been called up this season to play the outfield and their contributions have helped continue the team's winning ways.

The infield is just as unhealthy, with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy each playing only 70 games so far this season. Both are still out as the team heads to the All-Star break. "The Brandons," Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, have picked up the offensive slack, along with the team's best hitter Buster Posey. Posey, who is starting at catcher once again in the All-Star game for the National League, is expected to be the best bat in the Giants lineup. What might be more surprising is that Belt has actually had the better year so far. He leads the team in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. He has certainly earned his first trip to the Midsummer Classic.

The Giants bullpen has struggled mightily all season, blowing 17 leads overall. Sergio Romo, who has been one of the best relief pitchers for the Giants in their championship years, was also hurt for most of the 1st half of the season. Romo has only seven appearances, where rookies Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland have 43 and 41 respectively. Relying on young, unproven arms has made things difficult for manager Bruce Bochy in the late innings. Closer Santiago Casilla has four blown saves, but he also has converted 21 saves with a 2.86 ERA. The team is still the hottest team in baseball heading into the break.

In 2011, 2013 and 2015, injuries were one of the reasons the Giants missed the playoffs. So how do the 2016 Giants have the best record in baseball despite missing so many key players? The Giants have had dominant pitching before, but the staff has been especially good this year. Bumgarner and Cueto have led the way, but the team's other big free agent signing, Jeff Samardzija, has also been excellent. I wrote earlier this season how strong Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija has been historically in Giants history. Jake Peavy has had a roller coaster first half. Peavy's first nine starts were rough and fans were clamoring for Peavy to be sent packing and the team was wondering what to do with the veteran. His next nine starts were excellent and has re-established Peavy as one of the team's most reliable pitchers. As I noted on Twitter Sunday, Peavy has had a tale of two seasons already in 2016.

Matt Cain has also had a rough season so far, as well as multiple trips to the disabled list. I wrote more about Peavy and Cain's early struggles in an article earlier this season. Minor league free agent Albert Suarez has stepped in during Cain's absence and really helped solidify the rotation.

That's the other huge component to this year's steady play is the contribution made by several minor league call-ups. Conor Gillaspie, Ramiro Pena, Grant Green and Ruben Tejada have stepped up and helped the Giants find ways to win. Each has been let go by other organizations and are embracing this chance to be a part of a pennant race.

Ultimately, having the best record in the game means very little in July. It will only matter if the record at the end of the season is good enough for a playoff berth. If 2016 is going to be another magical even year for the Giants, they will have to keep this momentum into the Fall. Getting healthy could be as important as any trade they could make, but don't be surprised if the Giants front office looks to address their bullpen before the trade deadline. All things considered, there isn't much to complain about when you are the best team in baseball.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Giants Big Three are Historically Good Already

The San Francisco Giants went into the off-season with a desire to improve their starting pitching. Bobby Evans went out and signed Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto to help shore up a staff that had trouble pitching deep into games. When asked about why the team signed the two right handed pitchers, both were labeled as "innings eaters."

Cueto and Samardzija have done much more than that. Along with Madison Bumgarner, all three have an ERA under three, and are a combined 20-5 in their 30 starts. These three pitchers are the main reason the Giants are in first place and have won 12 out of their last 13 games.

If you look at a pitchers Game Score, anything over 57 is considered excellent. For more on what Game Score is, you can refer to Beyond the Box Score here. Using Game Score to look at Giants history, no pitching staff has pitched this well through 48 games since 1969. That staff included Hall of Famers Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Marichal, Perry and Mike McCormick combined for 18 starts of 60 or higher in 1969. The Giants top three pitchers in 2016 now have 22 starts with a Game Score of 60 or higher this season. In those starts, the staff is 17-2. In more recent history, the Giants championship staffs in 2010, 2012, and 2014 didn't have as many strong starts as this 2016 club has. The entire starting staff in 2016 so far has 25 games of 60 or more with Matt Cain pitching two and Jake Peavy pitching one. The 2010 staff had 23 games of 60 or higher to this point in the season, while the other two championship teams have less as a group than just Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija. The Giants top three pitchers are also in the top 10 in all of baseball for their total Game score.

The Giants were expecting their two prized free agent signings to help take the pressure off of incumbent starters Bumgarner, Cain and Peavy. But it was also to take pressure off a bullpen that was overworked in 2015. Both Sergio Romo and George Kontos, who were used heavily last season, have already been to the disabled list this season. The team also has put added responsibility on young arms like Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland.

Regardless of the reasons the Giants brought them in, it is clear that Cueto and Samardzija have been as good as any free agent signing this season and that we are also witnessing one of the strongest staffs in San Francisco Giants history.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Jake Peavy, Matt Cain and the Giant Problem

Jake Peavy and Matt Cain are struggling. They have been bad enough in the first month of the season, that fans want them removed from the starting rotation. Trying to find two worthy replacements in May is hard enough, but trying to figure out what is wrong is even more difficult.

According to Jacob Fagan of Baseball Essential, Peavy and Cain have combined for an 8.10 ERA and a 5.15 FIP, which are brutal numbers for two veteran pitchers.

With numbers like that, it is no wonder fans have been calling into the the local sports call in shows and demanding something be done. Peavy and Cain both struggled with injuries last season and came into 2016 healthy. Peavy, when healthy, was good last year and there was optimism that his numbers could be strong this season. Cain, who has been injured for parts of the last three seasons, had a setback during Spring Training and didn't return to the mound until right before the start of the season.

The Giants added free agent starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija in the off-season, so there was less concern about Peavy and Cain. Because they wouldn't be asked to be at the front end of the rotation, there would be pitchers to back them up if they struggled. Unfortunately for Peavy, Cain and the Giants, the struggles have been bad enough that the Giants are 1-9 in the last 10 starts between the two.

Surprisingly, the Giants are still in 1st place because of how well Madison Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija and because the rest of the National League West is also struggling. This is also another reason for concern because most of the games so far this season has been against the NL West and the road the rest of the way will be tougher.

To make matters more intriguing, Tim Lincecum is scheduled to pitch in front of scouts today. Lincecum, the former two time Cy Young award winner for the Giants, would be a savoir if he can be productive once again for the orange and black.

So who is already in the system that might help? According to Connor Penfold of Giant Potential, there are a few possible options in the minor league system. Former 1st round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, Ricky Romero, is currently pitching in Triple-A along with Chris Heston and Clayton Blackburn. All three have struggled so far in Sacramento this season, so there is no clear cut answer.

Brian Murphy, co-host of the Murph & Mac show on KNBR, brought up a good comparison to the Peavy and Cain problem from a decade earlier. In 2004, Kirk Rueter was 9-12 with a 4.73 ERA and 4.95 FIP. Rueter was not only a fan favorite since his arrival from the Montreal Expos in 1996, but he also was productive. Rueter ended his Giants career with the most wins by a left handed pitcher in team history. He never had ace "stuff" but he always seemed to keep the Giants in games, field his position and find ways to win. However, in 2004, the winning slowed. By 2005, Rueter stopped being effective. He went 2-7 with a 5.95 ERA and a 5.35 FIP. After 8 straight seasons of at least 27 starts and 7 of the those 8 with at least 32, he ended 2005 with only 18.

Rueter had been such an important part of those previous 8 seasons, that seeing his production fall so dramatically was tough. The team wanted to give him the chance to turn things around. Mike Krukow, a former Giants ace himself and current team broadcaster always points out that there are only so many innings in a pitcher's arm. 2005 was the final season for Rueter as a Giant in part because his arm ran out of innings. 

2005 wasn't a great year for the San Francisco Giants either, and one of the reasons that Rueter still started 18 times despite poor numbers might have been because of the entire team's lack of success. In Peavy and Cain's case, the team is still in first place and can't afford to fall out of the race. With so much talent on the roster, the Giants will either need Peavy and Cain to turn things around themselves or find replacements before it's too late. The question for Bruce Bochy, Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean and the rest of the Giants decision makers will be how many more starts for Peavy and Cain in 2016.

Of course, looking at things another way, Murphy did point out that winning 3 out of 5 is a great way to make the post season.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Johnny Cueto Ya Es Un Favorito De Los Fans

Johnny Cueto Ya Es Un Favorito De Los Fans Por Michael Saltzman

Johnny Cueto fue un fichaje sorpresa por los Gigantes de San Francisco en la temporada baja. Después de entintado Jeff Samardzija a un contrato de $ 90 millones a principios de invierno, los aficionados no estaban seguros de lo que los Gigantes ver con su otro lugar abierto en la rotación.

Iban a dar el trabajo de Chris Heston, quien lanzó un juego sin hits el año pasado en un fuerte 1ª mitad de su temporada de novato? Iban a tratar de traer de vuelta a Tim Lincecum o Ryan Vogelsong por una temporada pasada? Iban a firmar un lanzador menos proclamada sea para poner en la parte final de la rotación, con la esperanza de un rayo en una botella? En cambio, los Gigantes no hizo ninguna de esas cosas y firmaron Cueto por $ 130 millones y lo colocaron justo detrás del as Madison Bumgarner en la rotación.

La medida ha dado sus frutos a principios de como los Gigantes están 3-0 en sus aperturas y sus 21 1/3 entradas lanzadas conducir el personal. Él ha lanzado al menos 7 entradas en cada inicio, incluyendo su primera apertura contra el rival de Los Ángeles Dodgers, donde se rindió 5 carreras en la primera entrada y todavía fue otro 6 entradas.

Vencer a los Dodgers dos veces, la segunda vez en el Dodger Stadium, es la manera más rápida al corazón de cualquier fan de los Gigantes. Pero es la forma en que ha ganado y cómo él va sobre su negocio que él en una estrella en los ojos de los aficionados ha hecho. Se niega a ser convencionales en el montículo, a partir de lanzadores rápida, a shimmying antes de que él lanza, para todo tipo de otras peculiaridades antes de que él lanza. Todos estos movimientos están diseñados para interrumpir el tiempo bateadores y hacer que el bateador incómodo. Se ha estado trabajando.

Cueto es el mejor amigo de un jugador defensivo como parece odiar a tomar cualquier tiempo entre lanzamientos. Su insistencia para quitarse el sombrero al segundo se le permite después de una entrada termina se darán cuenta real rápido en AT & T. Podía ver la multitud retirar sus gorras al final de un turno como un tributo a Cueto a medida que camina de nuevo en el banquillo.

En última instancia, la producción es siempre más larga que la espectacularidad y entretenimiento. Pero esto es un juego y esto es dólar de entretenimiento de un ventilador. En este momento, si le preguntas a un fan que estarían dispuestos a pagar para ver el lanzamiento, la mayoría podría decir aún Madison Bumgarner, no sólo por su habilidad en el montículo, pero para ver a oscilar la madera en el plato también.

Cueto, por el momento, ha producido más que cualquier otro lanzador en la rotación, y si se sigue produciendo, a su pitcheo solo se convertirá en la estrella del espectáculo en 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

Johnny Cueto is Already a Fan Favorite

Johnny Cueto was a surprise signing by the San Francisco Giants in the off-season. After inking Jeff Samardzija to a $90 million contract earlier in the winter, fans weren't sure what the Giants would do with their other open spot in the rotation.

Would they give the job to Chris Heston, who threw a no hitter last year in a strong 1st half of his rookie season? Would they try to bring back Tim Lincecum or Ryan Vogelsong for one last season? Would they sign a less heralded pitcher to put at the back end of the rotation, hoping for lightning in a bottle? Instead, the Giants did none of those things and signed Cueto for $130 million and placed him right behind ace Madison Bumgarner in the rotation.

The move has paid off early on as the Giants are 3-0 in his starts and his 21 1/3 innings pitched lead the staff. He has pitched at least 7 innings in every start, including his first start against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers where he gave up 5 runs in the first inning and still went another 6 innings.

Beating the Dodgers twice, the second time at Dodger Stadium, is the fastest way to any Giants fan's heart. But it's the way he's won and how he goes about his business that has made him an instant star in the eyes of the fans. He refuses to be conventional on the mound, from quick pitching, to shimmying before he throws, to all sorts of other quirks before he pitches. All of these motions are designed to disrupt the hitters timing and make the batter uncomfortable. It's been working.

Cueto is a defensive player's best friend as he seems to hate taking any time between pitches. His insistence to remove his hat the second he is allowed to after an inning ends will catch on real quick at AT&T. I could see the crowd removing their caps at the end of an inning as a tribute to Cueto as he walks back into the dugout.

Ultimately, production is always longer lasting than showmanship and entertainment. But this is a game and this is a fan's entertainment dollar. Right now, if you asked a fan who they would pay to see pitch, most might still say Madison Bumgarner, not only for his ability on the mound, but to see him swing the lumber at the plate as well.

Cueto, at the moment, has produced more than any other pitcher in the rotation, and if he continues to produce, his pitching alone will become the star of the show at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.