There being 162 games in the season, 16 games in seems like a fine place to check in with 10% of the regular season finding its box checked by the Giants. The Giants are 9-7 after getting swept by Milwaukee, but I can’t say that these last three games speak to what we’ve seen out of this team so far. They’ll be in second or third in the NL West depending on how Arizona does tonight against the Yankees tonight, and I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t concerned if they had the record of the Marlins (3-12), but the record you have today shouldn’t be a predictor of where you finish.
Baseball Reference won’t have all sixteen games until tomorrow, but this is what the Giants season has looked like so far:
More of the “W” than the “L,” and have swept the division leading Colorado Rockies (what year is this?). Sure, the Giants are suffering their longest losing streak since the end of July last year, but I think they just needed to get out of Miller Park. There may be some obvious stars and goats from this first ten percent of the season, but there are also some legitimate questions for each player we look forward to see being played out.
Some of the Heroes
Brandon Crawford is always known for his defense, but have you noticed his productive start at the dish? How about a very handsome .352/.435/.593 line, tied for first in fWAR with Justin Upton at 1.3, so his value isn’t only coming with the glove. Crawford’s fWAR last season? 1.7.
Barry Zito didn’t have a very productive third start in Milwaukee, but then again, anyone who pitched there wished their day went a little bit better. Being a contributor with his pitch hand and his bat, Zito was a welcome surprise, continuing his postseason success with two straight starts with his defense helping him to two victories.
Sergio Romo had been called on to work in a eight of twelve game stretch, which is plenty of games for any reliever and wouldn’t bode well if that’s the rate at which he was being used when worrying bout fatigue. A 41.4% strikeout rate with no walks is pretty incredible work so far, and to have the guy that comes into the 9th inning not walk anybody saves all of us a few years of our lives.
Some of the Goats
Brandon Belt is the obvious choice for the guy that’s having the slowest start. His .214 BABIP has kept his hit count low, despite the line drives we’ve seen him hit. His nine hits in fifty-nine plate appearances don’t look stomach pleasing, and Nick Noonan is actually catching up to him in hits since the rookie already has seven himself. The ropes Belt’s hitting right now aren’t finding the ground, maybe it’s me being an apologist for him, but I gotta believe he’s close.
Tim Lincecum‘s struggles continue, and while Hector Sanchez did cost Lincecum strikes in his first start with his framing abilities, Timmy has not been helping his batterymate out with his lack of control. It’s amazing that a) he has gone at least five innings in each start, and b) the team has won each of the three games he’s started. His walk count in his three starts have gone from 7 to 4 to 1, so that is encouraging.
George Kontos is my choice from the reliever corps, though it’s not like it’s a runaway. His 15.2% left on base rate is pre-tttty low, and that will go up as the season goes, and his Opening Day homer to Clayton Kershaw still burns in my brain. He is not a question mark for me, just not a hot start.
Some of the Questions
How real is this personal catcher situation? Last year, we experienced the Hector Sanchez-Tim Lincecum experiment with Buster Posey at 1B. With Guillermo Quiroz getting a hit today, now the question is if he is being auditioned to take Sanchez’s spot. Also of note, since Posey got a day off today in a day game after a night game, might that set him up for catching #55 on Saturday? While Hector has given the team a better walk rate recently, his bat is not the answer.
Speaking of Posey, what the heck’s going on with the 2012 MVP? One more hit than Belt, and a slash line that you’d expect more out of 2011 Brandon Crawford than 2013 Posey. Articles on him suggest it’s just a slow start, that he’s feeling fine. If he’s feeling fine, I’m not worried about him catching back on. Same goes for Matt Cain.
When does Heath Hembree get the call-up? I believe it was Pavs that said when the Giants call him up, the Giants want it to be for good. When it comes to that, you’ll see MLB teams calling their prospects up in June so that they may hold on to their players for an extra year.
What the Chad Gaudin? I know, right? He’s been surprisingly better than decent, but has been used in more low leverage situations than in a situation you might see Santiago Casilla or Kontos showing up in. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Giants are with Gaudin as the year goes on, especially when Gaudin regresses.
What to look forward to
How about five straight series with NL West opponents? Padres, D-Backs, @ Padres, @ D-Backs, Dodgers that will carry us into May, all of these sets lasting three games a piece. Arizona gets to have six straight series with NL West opponents, so that should be fun for them.
The Giants, students of the comeback for some of their victories, are indeed lucky to be where they are, but the record is probably around what you might have expected out of them. You cannot win the division in April, but so far, they are not losing it.
Looking forward to more of those.
With Spring Training happening now, prospect lists are coming out, from Baseball America and MLB most notably, fans start to compare farm systems and search within themselves how much that farm system matters to how they feel about their team. If you’re the Cardinals, you take pride in knowing the club you have at the major league level is of very good quality, and your farm provides plenty of promise. If you’re the Padres, you hold out hope for the future, because your farm has been good for some time while fans in San Diego have been left with a 2010 rush but not much else recently. If you’re a fan of the Giants, you’ve been given proof in postseasons and parades that the team at the major league level is worthy of being taken seriously, while the system may not be as top-heavy as it has been in the past, so you wonder how long the current MLB club can hold on until you will need reinforcements from the farm, not just on journeymen AAAA players.
While many of the Top 10 prospects of national lists have an estimated time of arrival in 2013, the MLB should expect to see plenty of new, highly-touted arms and bats before the end of the season, we’re not sure who from the Top 10 lists (or really any list) of San Francisco Giants minor leaguers that haven’t had their shot will crack the 2013 rosters AND be a useful piece.
Sure, Francisco Peguero could be useful here and there if one of the corner outfielders find the disabled list, but I haven’t seen a recent report that suggests he has the profile for an everyday spot. Gary Brown, the former number one prospect of the Giants could be that guy, especially with his strong second half he put up in Double-A Richmond. Roger Kieschnick‘s name got whispered last year by some fans, and he’s on the 40-man.
Conor Gillaspie has 48 PA across three different seasons, and you just hope he’ll be a good backup when the time comes, and you hope the same for the featured Fanfest kid Nick Noonan. All we’ve heard about Kensuke Tanaka is from Marty and his “Japanese feet.” Brock Bond has a cool name. That’s pretty much it when it comes to Giants prospects and who makes their living on the dirt.
The big names are all years away, although Chris Heston could be of use if one of the five go down. If he’s no good, then the Giants will probably draw from the AAA well, none of the others being prospects, mmmmaybe before checking in on Michael Kickham. Eric Surkamp is the wild card in all this, who says he’ll start resuming activities in July. Keep all this in mind as you consider whose contracts and service time with the Champs could be coming to a close after 2013.
If there’s anything we’ve seen with Sabean in the last few years, it’s that he’s got this, and this year he may not have to even trade any fringe major leaguers to shore up the ‘pen. Prospect Heath Hembree, still thought by Jonathan Mayo to be a potential closer, could start the year in Fresno and then force the issue after the first month of the season if someone in the bullpen goes down or gets consistently lit up. Perhaps Bochy sees that the front office calls up son Bret Bochy. Jason Martinez of MLBDepthCharts (who also wrote a “window of opportunity” article for ESPN that you should read) also has minor leaguers Jake Dunning and Fabio Castillo as other names to watch that haven’t had a taste of the Major League coffee yet.
Whose Swan Song Might 2013 Be
The Giants have about $70MM of their nearly $140MM budget committed to their rotation this year, but this could be the last year San Francisco pays to have two guys in Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito on their roster. Unless Ryan Vogelsong magically disappears this year, his $6.5MM option will be picked up, and the Giants will still be left wondering who to fill in to the 4th and 5th spots of the rotation with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner still leading a formidable 1-2 punch out of the gates. Do they commit the money that comes off the books to pitching? Posey? (<–the right answer. your argument is invalid.) Other offense?
The Giants got Hunter Pence for his bat, but his price tag is also very high, but one wonders how much it goes down if he continues what he did as a Giant in the regular season in 2013. If it doesn’t, though, do the Giants put out? Andres Torres, Javier Lopez, and Jose Mijares might also be tipping their caps to SF when the last game ends.
The Future is, and has been, now
Since the Giants have had a stable of young arms (plus Zito), people wondered what would happen if a team drew San Francisco in a best-of-series. 2010 was pretty much what some thought could happen, even if it did with a group of misfits. 2012 was a different set of happenings because the Giants went from three guys they could rely on with Jonathan Sanchez either walking everyone or finding his release point in ’10 to now in three guys and omg what about Lincecum and Zito? Still though, if you have a good to great rotation, and a strong top three for the playoffs, life might not be so bad for you (part of the reason why teams like the Nationals and Tigers should scare you). After this year, the questions arise: Who will be that #4? #5? Who will pick up the offense for an aging Marco Scutaro? (I’m pretty certain he isn’t going to be hitting what he did from acquisition & playoffs throughout his contract time.) Can Gary Brown be an answer?
This doesn’t mean that this is the very last year the Giants will compete in forever, but I believe if Lincecum is let go (which could be the right move in the long-term), and another offensive piece is not found/brought on, 2014 will be a difficult year with some of the top prospects starting to knock on the door for 2015. Therefore, if any big injuries happen to the rotation, or to the offense in 2013, Giants fans could find themselves grumbling for a couple of years before they can realistically start dreaming of parades again. Hopefully, health will be on their side, and everyone’s side, for that matter.
Straight from beat writer Andrew Baggarly:
” Second baseman Freddy Sanchez had surgery Thursday to remove a portion of a disc in his lower back, ending any chance of returning this season and likely bringing an abrupt conclusion to his career as a Giant.
The Giants medical staff said Sanchez’s micro discectomy, which was performed by spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, went as anticipated.”
The Giants extended Freddy during the 2011 season to a $6MM deal for 2012, knowing well how uninspiring the middle infield market was, and still is. While it would not be surprising to see Freddy Sanchez being done with the Giants, it also would not be shocking to me to see Freddy Sanchez brought back on the cheap if the market doesn’t see Freddy as a trustworthy option/solution. He could be one of those high risk/mediocre reward type of middle infielders if he can stay healthy, and that is a big IF.
Should it be the end, thanks for everything, Freddy.
Also we heard that possible future closer, and 23 year old Heath Hembree could be on his way to hitting the 15-day DL with a flexor strain in his pitching arm, which just keeps us from relying on him should anything happen to any reliever currently on the 25-man roster. In 30.1 IP for Fresno, Hembree has a 7.42 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, a 58% LOB%, a 4.15 ERA, and a 4.09 FIP. He is seen by some as the #2 prospect in the farm to Gary Brown.
So all in all, just another day in the life of a baseball season. Just sucks when the injuries happen to your guys.