Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Put A Sock In It Chicken Little

The sky is not falling.

The San Francisco Giants are 28-24, a full 2 games behind Arizona. Colorado is sitting there at 28-24 as well.

The Giants have played well at home so far going 19-9 and outscoring opponents by 29 runs. The road has not been so kind. In 24 games on the road the Giants are a not so good 9-15 and have been outscored by 31 runs. It may get worse before it gets better. 

Possibly the toughest stretch of the schedule is upcoming. The Giants play 26 of the 43 games leading up to All Star Break on the road. Seems daunting now, but if you break it down it doesn't look so bad.

May 29 - June 5
2 games vs. A's
3 games @ Cards
2 games vs. Jays

This is the calm before the storm. It's a bit wacky with the Giants having 2 at home, then 3 on road, and then 2 at home again. We've seen what the A's have to offer. The Giants just haven't been hitting with RISP. The Cardinals are next and they have had great pitching. A 3.07 team ERA leads the NL. It will be a test of patience at Busch. The Jays series is a question mark. The Giants probably have revenge on their minds so I'm not sure how those two games may go.

Prediction: 4-3

June 7 - 16
3 games @ DBacks
3 games @ Pirates
3 games @ Braves

Luckily the Giants get to start this road trip in familiar surroundings. They have already swept the DBacks in Arizona once this year. While I'm not sure that's going to happen, the road trip east looks a little less stressful with the first stop being an NL West park.

The trips to Pittsburgh and Atlanta may be a little more difficult. The Pirates are playing good ball right now, primarily because their pitching has been great. It may not have leveled off by the time the Giants come to visit. The Braves are known for great pitching but they have been great in all phases of the game this season. The Giants will have confidence after taking 3 of 4 from Atlanta back at AT&T Park. But as of now the Braves have been scorching hot at home going 15-5, and the Giants will visit at the end of a long road trip.

Prediction: 3-6

June 17 - 23
3 games vs. Padres
4 games vs. Marlins

The Giants have a seven game homestand that should help them rest up and get healthy. San Diego is the worst the NL West has to offer. The talent is just not there. The Marlins are the worst team in baseball. Right now they are 13-39. That's one out of every four games, which is all I think they will win in San Francisco.

Prediction: 5-2

June 24 - July 4
3 games @ Dodgers
3 games @ Rockies
4 games @ Reds

This is the big one. Ten games on the road. The Dodgers have been underachieving so we really don't know what to expect in late June. I hope Kershaw is not starting the opener. That would be a bad way to start a trip. Otherwise the Giants should be ok in LA. The hex that the Giants had over the Rockies is gone. Coors may very well be an advantage for the Rockies again. I just don't see them sustaining it long term.

The Reds are what scare me here. Ending a 10 game road trip with 4 July dates in Cincinnati is just brutal. It will be hot, fry an egg on the sidewalk hot. The ball flies all over the yard there. The Reds are hanging with the Cards in the NL Central so far and should be there all season. These games can either be home run derby, or a hot mess for the Giants. 

Prediction: 4-6

July 5 - 14
3 games vs. Dodgers
3 games vs. Mets
4 games @ Padres

The Giants finally get some home cookin after the long road trip. But it's right back in to the fire with 3 against the arch rival. Then 3 against the sub par Mets to close out the home schedule for the first half. The Giants travel to San Diego for 4 games leading in to the All Star Break. Hard to really know how anyone will be playing by then.

Prediciton: 6-4

If the Giants can play .500 baseball from here to the All Star break they should be in position to make noise in the second half. The last 5 champions have averaged a winning percentage of .632 for the stretch run. 

Yes the Giants may struggle a bit in the next month and a half. But that doesn't mean the season is over. This is the toughest stretch of the 2013 schedule. If the Giants come out around .500, they should be fine the rest of the way. I mean, that's what Brian Sabean is for, right?

Eric Nathanson
Catch me on Twitter: @2outhits

Friday, May 24, 2013

Did We Just Watch The NLCS For The Next 5 Years?

The Giants and Nationals wrapped up a 3 game series at AT&T Park the other day that almost had that playoff atmosphere to it. The Nationals are built with some good talent and were picked by many, including this guy, to win the NL East. They are sitting at 24-23, 4.5 games behind Atlanta at the moment. Washington has been hit with a couple of injuries, and the hole that has become Danny Espinosa's bat, but overall they have the talent to sustain long term success.

Sound like a team we know? Yup, the Giants are poised in a very similar fashion. They are currently 26-21, in a 3 way tie with Arizona and Colorado atop the NL West. Just like the Nats there have been a couple of injuries as well some under achieving. But the Giants are poised for a future thanks to Brian Sabean. 

The General Manager of the Nationals is Mike Rizzo. He took a hit from the fans last year with the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg. Considering how he has built this team he has to still be considered pretty good at is job. The Nats have a lot of their talent locked up for a while. Much like the Giants, they should contend every year.

Here's some of the Nats core players and their contracts.

Player Name                  Age/Pos.              Contract
Ryan Zimmerman             28/3B                    7yrs/$102mil | $18mil club option for 2020
Jayson Werth                   34/OF                   5yrs/$99mil
Gio Gonzalez                   27/SP                    4yrs/$37.75mil | $12mil club option for 2017
Bryce Harper                   20/OF                    3yrs/$6.4mil | Arbitration in 2016
Denard Span                   29/OF                    2yrs/$11.25mil | $9mil club option for 2015
Rafael Soriano                33/RP                     2yrs/$22mil | $14mil club option for 2015
Stephen Strasburg          24/SP                     1yr/$3.9mil | Arbitration in 2014
Ian Desmond                   27/SS                     1yr/$3.8mil | Arbitration in 2014

Here are the Giants.

Player Name                   Age/Pos.              Contract
Buster Posey                    26/C,1B                 9yrs/$164mil
Matt Cain                          28/SP                    5yrs/$100mil | $21mil club option for 2018
Madison Bumgarner         23/SP                    5yrs/$32.5mil | $12mil club option for 2018-19
Angel Pagan                     31/OF                    4yrs/$45mil 
Marco Scutaro                  37/IF                      3yrs/$20mil
Pablo Sandoval                26/3B                     2yrs/$14mil
Sergio Romo                    30/RP                     2yrs/$9mil
Brandon Belt                    25/1B                      1yr/$532K | Pre-Arbitration in 2013
Brandon Crawford            26/SS                     1yr/$530K | Pre-Arbitration in 2013

Looking at the two lists above the names that dominated this recent series are all over it. The Giants and Nationals seemed to raise each other's game. Yes, Monday was a blowout, but that was more frustration being turned in to runs. The matchup had everything we look for in a good playoff series.

Jayson Werth and Marco Scuatro are the biggest risks by both clubs, and the young talent is sewn up for years. Both teams have good young arms, as well as young players that are stepping in on the cheap. The Brandons might cost a lot more money soon.

It was nice to see the Nats bring out the best in the Giants. The two teams match up well and have great long term futures. I know Atlanta has made some moves, and the Dodgers ans DBacks are always lurking, but this feels different. The expanded playoff round makes it tougher to line up, but these teams are poised to fight for the NL crown for the next 5 years.

Stats and Info: Baseball Reference 

Eric Nathanson
Catch me on Twitter: @2outhits

Thursday, May 16, 2013

2 Out Hits and Misses (May)

Buster Posey hits the game winning HR on May 3. Photo: Ben Margot, Associated Press

The baseball season has hit the quarter mark. The San Francisco Giants currently sit half a game up on the Arizona Diamondbacks. After 40 games their record stands at 23-17. That's a winning percentage of .575. This is a pace that wins 90 games. That's good for a ball club that has had some ups and downs.

We all know what just happened in Toronto. The Giants got creamed. Nothing worked. Thankfully it was only 2 games. They did just have a 7-3 home stand before the debacle in Canada. The last 3 games against Atlanta were especially well played by the Giants. They performed against a good opponent at a high level. Pretty much every aspect of the ball club was working.

I have to personally take a mea culpa on Marco Scutaro. I know he can be streaky and get hot, but I feared he got cold just as easily. I had him written off as a bench player. The contract he signed was just looking all sorts of scary. Then he got healthy and is on a tear. Since April 29, in a 6-4 win over the DBacks, Scuatro has hit in 14 straight games. 

During the current hit streak Marco is batting a cool ..482. That's 27 hits in 56 at bats. He's not squeaking by with a hit a game either. Scoots has 10 multi hit games during the streak. Yesterday in Toronto was the first time he didn't get a hit until his last at bat. The man is all sorts of locked in. He's hitting for power a little too with 5 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run during the streak. 

Ok, enough about how wrong I can be. On to thoughts about the rest of the ball club.

2 Out Hits

Matt Cain has shown that he can work through problems. His last two starts are what we have come to expect after watching him all these years. Against the Dodgers on May 5 at AT&T Cain went 7.1 innings and allowed 1 run. Against Atlanta he went 8 strong only allowing a 2 run home run to Brian McCann. Combined that's 58 batters faced, 11 strikeouts, 17 ground balls, 25 fly balls, and 5 walks. Minus the walks that's regular old Matt Cain.

The hitting has been better than expected this season. The calling card of the Giants was always great pitching, but the bats have carried them at times. Heading in to the showdown at Coors this weekend the Rockies and Giants are tied for the NL lead in batting average at .267. At 4.58 runs a game the Giants rank 4th in the NL. The little things are being done as well. The Giants are first in the NL with 22 sacrifice bunts and tied for 3rd in sacrifice flies with 14. They manage to score runs and still rank 9th out of 15 teams in home runs. Hitting can be contagious, and the Giants have shown that at times this season.

Buster Posey is right where Giants fans like to see him. He was locked in on the last homestand and seems to have shaken any rust. During those 10 games Buster batted .364. It all started with a walk off home run on that Friday against the Dodgers. During the home stand Posey hit 2 home runs, drove in 9 runners, and scored 8 times himself. He's really starting to drive the ball to gaps a little more. It's a good sign that Buster isn't rolling over on the ball and grounding out all the time. He has started going with the pitch and swing through the baseball.

2 Out Misses

The Giants have played some ugly defense this season. It snowballs too. One guy seems to get a brain lock and then others follow suit. Crawford has committed 3 errors in 166 chances and every one was because he was aggressive. He trusts himself, that's cool with me. The concern is Pagan and Scutaro. Marco has 6 errors in 160 chances and Pagan has 3 in 83. With the Giants pitching staff the middle of the field defense needs to shore up. These are mistakes that cost teams playoff series.

The road has not been a friend to the Giants this season. Heading into tonight's match up against Colorado the Giants are 8-10 on the road. They have been outscored 95-82. There wasn't enough offense in Milwaukee, got swept in close games by the Padres, and they got blown out of the building in Toronto. San Diego is familiar, that will happen. But what's up with performing so badly in foreign ballparks? Hopefully Coors will balance this out a little.

Angel Pagan has not been hitting like a lead off man lately. I know generally the Giants batting stats are good right now, but Pagan has been inconsistent at the top. Gregor Blanco might be the better choice to lead off. He has the same amount of walks as Angel in 52 fewer plate appearances. Blanco's got a higher batting average and on base percentage as well. I know last year sparked when Pagan took the lead off role, but it may be time to consider other options. A .315 on base percentage doesn't cut it.

Down The Line

By jumping out to a good start the Giants have positioned themselves for what should be the roughest stretch of the schedule. Between May 31 and July 4 the boys only play at home 9 times. The other 22 games are on the road. They have two long road trips coming up. First its 9 games in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. Later they have 3 in LA, 3 in Colorado and 4 in Cincinnatti. There's 2 games at home against Toronto sprinkled in so the Giants can try to get some revenge. Get used to the color gray everybody.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter