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Thirteen Things About The Season So Far…

April 14, 2014

The Giants have reached the totally arbitrary all-important 13 game mark, with a record of 8-5, good enough for second place in the NL West. It’s still April, so everything we’ve seen so far might mean nothing. Or it might mean everything. Baseball!

But let’s go ahead and draw some conclusions anyway, because this is a blog…

1. Last spring I wrote this

Madison Bumgarner will have the best season of any Giants pitcher, and it won’t be close Betting against Matt Cain is like, well, betting against Matt Cain, and I think Lincecum will rebound. But I’m picking this as the year Bumgarner asserts himself as the ace and stays in the Cy Young race to the end.

(Ignore the crossed out stuff in the middle; I don’t recall writing that at all.) Flash forward to this spring, when I wrote this

Brandon Belt is entering his age-26 season. He has shown marked, consistent improvement in each of his first three MLB seasons, after lighting it up on the farm. So predicting a good year, with modest statistical upticks across the board, ain’t exactly bold. But that beard. It’s doing funny things to my head. I’m seeing visions…

Belt has cooled down a bit, but he’s still on pace to hit 62 home runs. Conclusion: I am a prescient genius.

2. Hey, look, here’s something else I wrote before this season…

There’s [a] chance [Tim Lincecum] will emerge from his pitch-to-contact cocoon, spread his wings and fly off, a beautiful butterfly. That looks like Greg Maddux.

tim

Riiiiight.

3. There’s something oddly comforting about watching Matt Cain lose 1-0, considering his struggles last season and his shaky start to 2014. It’s like a warm blanket. That your dog peed on.

4. Every time Brandon Crawford hits a walkoff home run, a guy with male-pattern baldness gets a hair back. Just one, but still.

5. Brandon Crawford is hitting .308/.417/.564. He did this last April, then stopped. It’d be cool if you didn’t stop, Brandon…just a thought.

6. Doesn’t it kind of seem like Tim Hudson has been a Giant all along?

7. I’ll admit to worrying a tad about the bullpen. There’s still time. And bullpens are like drunk gibbons behind the wheel of an F-250, but less predictable. Still, so far they’ve given up nine runs in 39 1/2 innings. It’d be cool if you didn’t stop, bullpen…just a thought.

8. In 2010 the Giants signed a 33-year-old clomper coming off a dreadful season, in the hopes that he’d bounce back and inject a little power. Several months later this happened…

huff

I’m not saying Mike Morse is going to finish seventh in MVP voting and lead the Giants to a championship with the help of an inspirational undergarment. But I’m not not saying that.

9. I own two bobbleheads: a Brian Wilson and a Hunter-Pence-on-his-scooter. My kid has broken both. This feels like an omen, but I’m going with “coincidence.” (Also, “my kid breaks a lot of stuff.”)

10. When Madison Bumgarner hits a grand slam, a snot rocket gets its wings.

11. There’s a perverse part of me that hopes Sandoval doesn’t have a monster year, and is instead just a so-so player on an excellent team, so that his price tag stays in a stratosphere. Then I remember he’s going to be a Dodger next year regardless, and a little piece of me dies.

12. There is a world where Ryan Vogelsong is not a piece of hot garbage who makes us all sad. I’m not sure it’s this world, though.

13. Angel Pagan’s salute has a (kind of boring) Twitter account. Might mean nothing, might mean everything.

Baseball!

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Opening Series Wrap: Desultory Derivations From The Desert…

April 3, 2014

2014-04-03t224634z_991931213_nocid_rtrmadp_3_mlb-san-francis

Well then.

That was a disappointing Bumgarner start punctuated by widespread defensive asshattery followed immediately by a stirring comeback capped by a Buster Posey special that caromed off the left field scoreboard and into our hearts.

That was Matt Cain looking like Bizarro Matt Cain before he turned back into regular Matt Cain before A.J. Pollock was out twice in the same inning and scored a run in a game that was decided by one run.

That was noted not-Zito Tim Hudson sinkering and splittering magnificently for 7 2/3 shutout innings and the Giants winning 2-0 like the good lord intended.

That was Tim Lincecum, mustachioed finesse pitcher, acquitting himself pretty darned well except a couple dingers and another stirring comeback capped by Angel Pagan saluting.

Also…

– Brandon Belt: on pace to hit 121 1/2 home runs!

– The Mike Morse/Late Defensive Replacement Experiment: looking dandy four games in and an excellent name for a prog rock band.

– Instant replay review: apparently going to make things even more annoying. Somehow.

– The Diamondbacks: also annoying, even when losing three of four.

Next up, the Dodgers in LA. Welcome back, baseball. Take off your shoes and stay a while.

 

 

2014 Roster Preview Part Seven: The Actual Roster

March 30, 2014
We're sick of spring training, too, Timmy.

I’m sick of spring training, too, Timmy. And I bumped my knee on the coffee table. So I totally feel your pain.

The Giants finalized the 25-man roster yesterday. Tomorrow there will be actual baseball to write about instead of these interminable captivating previews. A quick look at who made the cut…

C
Posey, Buster – Heard good things about this kid. Maybe it’ll be his year.

Sanchez, Hector – Has taken grounders at first; should probably take a few at third before Pablo Sandoval becomes a Dodger (pukes a little in mouth, swallows).

INF
Adrianza, Ehire – AIR-ay Ah-dree-AHN-za. So yes, you’ve been saying it wrong.

Arias, Joaquin – Your starting second baseman until 38-year-old Marco Scutaro’s injured back heals or our sun becomes a red dwarf and envelopes the Earth in its fiery embrace, whichever comes first.

Belt, Brandon – That beard.

Crawford, Brandon – Those locks.

Hicks, Brandon – Brandon quotient reached.

Sandoval, Pablo – Svelte future Dodger (puke dribbles down front of shirt, begins weeping silently).

OF
Blanco, Gregor – Light-hitting, speedy, glovey, white shark.

Morse, Mike – Power-hitting, clompy, wears glove on elbow, needs animal nickname (the mule?).

Pagan, Angel – No inside-the-park-walkoffs-that-precipitate-hamstring-injuries-that-in-hindsight-ruined-everything this year, OK?

Pence, Hunter – Let’s play some Candyland.

Perez, Juan – Light-hitting, speedy, glovey spare.

SP

Bumgarner, Madison – 😆

Cain, Matt – 😀

Hudson, Tim – 🙂

Lincecum, Tim – 😕

Vogelsong, Ryan – 😯

RP

Casilla, Santiago – 6.23 ERA (spring stats don’t matter…)

Gutierrez, Juan – I had to look him up, too.

Huff, David – Huff void filled!

Lopez, Javier – 9.00 ERA (spring stats don’t matter…)

Machi, Jean – What’s that smell?

Petit, Yusmeiro – Claimed the obligatory sixth starter/mop-up man/almost-perfect-game thrower role.

Romo, Sergio – 12.38 ERA (dear god please don’t let spring stats matter)

2014 Roster Preview Part Six: Bullish On Bearded Belt

March 24, 2014

I have a theory. It’s just a theory — not like I have hidden camera footage or anything, because that would be awesome creepy — but hear me out: this offseason, Brandon Belt grew a spite beard. He was sitting at home, plowing through some Häagen-Dazs, thinking about this…

…and he snapped. He didn’t like the direction of those questions, and he still doesn’t. He was tired, simply, of being bested by his co-Brandon on the follicular front. So he took action.

MLB: San Francisco Giants-Photo Day

 

Look at that beard. Cloooooooser. Keeping looking…

You already can’t imagine what he looked like before, can you? In ten seconds, that beard performed a full Men In Black memory wipe, ate all your food and banged your girlfriend. The baby giraffe is gone, replaced by a hirsute lumberjack picking his teeth with a railroad spike.

Maybe it’s Brian Wilson-induced insanity, but I think — nay, I’m convinced — beards mean something. Cosmically. Not that they have magical properties and can make a guy instantly better at baseball or anything…but, well, maybe. It’s possible, right?

OK, fine. Dang it, though…look at that beard! The Giants’ marketing department doesn’t have to do a thing, because that beard will automatically duplicate itself in novelty form, available at the dugout store next to the panda hats and in front of the lonely Tony Abreu jersey. That beard found the missing Malaysian 777 a week ago, but it wasn’t telling. That beard went on Between Two Ferns and swallowed Zach Galifianakis whole. That beard.

***

Brandon Belt is entering his age-26 season. He has shown marked, consistent improvement in each of his first three MLB seasons, after lighting it up on the farm. So predicting a good year, with modest statistical upticks across the board, ain’t exactly bold.

But that beard. It’s doing funny things to my head. I’m seeing visions. So…

AB: 521

AVG.: .317

SLG.: .497

OBP: .390

HR: 24

RBI: 92

Beard: Yes

Call me crazy. Go ahead, I probably am. Maybe not, though.

***

That.

Beard.

Brandon Hicks Is A Baseball Player You Should Know About

March 19, 2014

As we wait to see whether Marco Scutaro and his angry back can reconcile their differences for the good of the children, it’s worth paying attention to the backup middle-infielder race, since the winner could find himself the starting second baseman by default.

Enter Brandon Hicks (via Giants Extra):

It was another good day for Brandon Hicks, who has really put himself in the mix for the Opening Day roster with his play in the field and at the plate. He’s an aggressive hitter with some pop, and he’s hitting .419 after his second spring homer. Backup second baseman could a very important job with the Giants, too, what with Marco Scutaro’s health situation. It’s a real job to win, and it’s hard to see how Hicks isn’t in the lead at this point.

Hicks has a grand total of 90 MLB at-bats under his belt, during which he slashed a cool .133/.204/.289. He was cut loose by the Mets. And the name “Tony Torcato” should be all the reminder you need that spring stats come with a silo of salt. But someone has to claim the annual Andres Torres Player Who Comes Out Of Nowhere To Be Unexpectedly Awesome Award. Go ahead, Brandon. All yours.

Plus, if you squint he kinda looks like the lovechild of Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, which is both amazing and disgusting.

Mostly amazing.

Mostly amazing.

2014 Roster Preview Part Five: Tim Lincecum

March 18, 2014

I’m writing this post while drinking my second third cup of coffee and listening to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and perusing Carl Steward’s latest Lincecum-related update over at Giants Extra. If you want to play along.

It might seem crazy what I’m ’bout to say…

Tim Lincecum has been throwing Koufax style his entire life. He lived by the strikeout, and went after them with zeal. Now, as he approaches his 30th birthday in June, he appears seriously committed to abandoning the strikeout mindset and going Maddux style — command the zone with his vast arsenal of pitches and just get outs.

Here come bad news talkin’ this and that. Give me all you got and don’t hold it back…

Lincecum faced 25 batters Monday against the Los Angeles Angels and did not record a single strikeout. He only has four whiffs in 14 2/3 innings this spring (along with six walks). It’s the second time this spring he hasn’t had a strikeout.

Can’t nothing bring me down…can’t nothing bring me down…can’t nothing bring me down…

I asked him after his outing whether he ever believed it would come to this, that he would become a pitch-to-contact pitcher. He was honest in his answer. “Never,” he said. “In my mind, I always knew that I was always trying to strike out guys. That was even my mindset coming up.”

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof…

Lincecum said he will do more study of opposing hitters this year, trying to discern their weaknesses. Ultimately, he wants to locate a reduced-velocity fastball much more precisely, which will set up his slider, curveball and changeup.

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth…

It can only help to have Tim Hudson and Matt Cain, two veteran pitch-to-contact masters, serving as sounding boards for his quest. It can’t be an easy transition, but sounds like Lincecum has made it mentally. Now it’s simply a matter of refining and executing this new style. If he can master it, he could still be a highly successful starter deep into his 30s.

***

Oh, Timmy. Timmy, Timmy, Timmy.

Over the past two seasons, Tim Lincecum has been one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball with a regular starting gig. Them’s the stats. But look closer.

No! Not at that!

No! Not at that!

Look into your heart. So many warm, happy Lincecum memories in there. Yes, many come circa 2010. But there’s this. And, of course, this.

There’s a chance Tim Lincecum will not be worth $35 million over the next two seasons. There’s a chance he’ll keep missing his spots and losing velocity and melt into a little puddle of tears and mustache hair. But there’s also a chance he’ll emerge from his pitch-to-contact cocoon, spread his wings and fly off, a beautiful butterfly. That looks like Greg Maddux.

That isn't Greg Maddox, but it is the first thing Google Image gives you when you search "Greg Maddox butterfly."

That isn’t Greg Maddox, but it is the first thing Google Image gives you when you search “Greg Maddux butterfly.”

I like that story. I like it very much. So I’m in. Sunshine she’s here. I’m a hot air balloon. I’m happy.

Tim Lincecum.

2014 Roster Preview Part Four: Marco Scutaro’s Angry Back

March 13, 2014

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First, some happy Marco Scutaro tidbits…

1. Marco Scutaro is arguably the greatest mid-season acquisition in San Francisco Giants history, seeing as his arrival coincided neatly with a World Series win (Cody Ross also gets votes, and Kenny Lofton was six outs away from being in the conversation but let’s sop thinking about that right fucking now because these are happy tidbits).

2. Marco Scutaro had a very Marco Scutaro 2013 — .297/.357/.369, hits sprayed hither and yon — mallet finger be damned.

3. 226020_web_Jocks-marco-2-col-Color

Those were fun, right? Right!

OK. You knew it was coming: a few less-than-happy Marco Scutaro tidbits…

1. Marco Scutaro is 37 years old, an age when a player’s health and skills tend to erode. Especially if that player is a second baseman.

2. Marco Scutaro is a second baseman.

3. This quote:

In the offseason, I worked hard, but [my back] didn’t get any better… For me, the hardest part is hitting and rotating. When it moves, some muscles aren’t working and other muscles are working extra hard. That’s the reason they start getting mad at me.

So other than hitting and moving, he’s good.

This is spring training, a time when even the guys playing beer pong behind the bleachers are in the best shape of their lives. And 37-year-old Marco Scutaro has yet to play an inning, because his back is mad at him.

Second base is not the deepest part of the Giants’ depth chart, but this feels like a good time to peer down there. Joaquin Arias is a fine utilityman/creepy Kobe Bryant impersonator. Ehire Adrianza is a light-hitting, unproven non-second baseman. Tony Abreu is a baseball player.

Eeesh.

A Scutaro-less or Scutaro-sparing 2014 wouldn’t necessarily doom the Giants; all teams deal with injuries. But losing your second baseman and number two hitter right out of the gate to a nagging back injury doesn’t fall under “auspicious.”

You’re feeling depressed aren’t you? Here…

All better?

All better?