Sunday, April 12, 2009

Giants Opening Week Observations

Despite an opening day win, it's been a rough start for the Giants during Opening Week


After a promising opening day where we actually scored 10 runs despite a lousy pitching performance from Tim Lincecum, the Giants look like they're going to finish like everyone expects: at best, in the middle of the pack, at worst, near the cellar.

The problems this season appear to be the same problems from a year ago:

A.) no run support.
B.) inconsistent pitching.

The problem for the staff last year and so far this season is they have really rough "bad" innings. Randy Johnson looked great for four innings, and then he gives up a three-run bomb to the pitcher Gallardo. Same thing with Jonathan Sanchez. Strikes out the side in the second, and then gives up two homers to journeyman catcher Henry Blanco. I think the inconsistency on the staff can be credited to the offense somewhat, especially since it seems as if the staff is throwing a lot of pitches because they're not confident that their team can cover them, so they're trying to strike everyone out. The Giants are pretty solid defensively, so I don't know why the staff doesn't trust their defense more (even tough it isn't as good as last year). Yeah, runs is going to be a problem, but if you're throwing 100 pitches by the fifth inning, you're not doing your team very good. Lincecum, Johnson need to cut their pitches, quit trying to get the big K's and just trust the defense. It'll make for quicker innings and thus get the offense in and out more often which might help them out. Batters can get more into a rhythm and the staff won't feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Nonetheless, bad rhythm or not, this Giants offense needs a lot of help. Bengie Molina is going to have that big day every now and then, but he is no way consistent enough be the cleanup hitter. Fred Lewis is doing pretty well to start off the year, but he would best be served at the bottom of the lineup in the seven or eight hole. You can tell he just doesn't like being the target of a pitcher in the three hole, as he looks very uncomfortable up there. I don't think he should be leadoff, because he doesn't get on base well enough, but in a seven hole position, I think he could see more pitches to hit, which would benefit his free swinging style.

Overall though, the whole lineup is a mess. I could go on forever about who doesn't fit where (Randy Winn at leadoff, Emmanuel Burriss in the lineup period). There really is just not a lot to like about this lineup, which makes me angry on why we didn't look into Manny Ramirez more. Sure he would have been a cancer, but god...Lewis at three hole followed by Molina? They really thought they could contend with that combo? Ramirez would have made this lineup jettison because really, all you need is that one great hitter followed by that good complimentary hitter. The Giants have plenty of candidates for that. Pablo Sandoval is a bit hit or miss kind of guy, but he could be that good hitter to follow Manny and even Aaron Rowand, with the way he's swinging, could have been a solid five guy to follow Ramirez as well. Rowand is hitting great lower in the order, which he has always done in his career. His best years in Philly and Chicago were when he was batting in the six and seven hole, not the three like he did last year. I really hope Bochy doesn't move him, even though I'm sure he'll be tempted because he's hitting the best out of anyone in the lineup. Rowand will revert to last year's form I think if he is moved up. Then again though, if I had to choose between Rowand or Lewis, I probably would go with Rowand just because he seems more consistent than Lewis and he has that veteran savvy that Lewis doesn't quite have.

Here are some quick awards for the first week:

Best offensive player:

Honorable mention: Lewis, Rowand.

--Winn has looked good. He has shown good pop and good patience at the plate so far. He looks a lot like how he did a few years ago when he first arrived with the Giants, which I think is a good sign. Lewis really has had a good start as well and is statistically better than Lewis, but I like Winn a lot more because he has 3 SB in comparison to Lewis' zero and he has one of the team's 3 home runs. Rowand is another close pick because he has come up with some clutch hits. However, Winn so far has just looked better overall in my mind at the plate out of the three.

Best pitcher:

Honorable mention: Bobby Howry

--Cain looked awesome against the Brewers. He was on target, looked confident and didn't seem to let the "let's not score runs for Matt Cain" factor that has haunted him the past two years affect him. Great performance and I think he could be the guy the Giants will be leaning on until Lincecum gets his stuff and mojo back. Sanchez looked great at times, but he also looked awful on others. He really needs to get his control harnessed. His stuff is awesome, but he just gives up that mistake pitch way too often. The honorable mention goes to Howry because he looks like a fantastic set up guy. I wasn't to keen on him, but I think he could give the Giants a good 8-9 inning combo along with Brian Wilson.

Most disappointing:

Honorable mention: Randy Johnson, Burriss, Edgar Renteria

--This was tough, mostly because there's a lot to be disappointed with in the Giants so far. Guys I didn't list on my honorable mention include Sandoval (who's batting .217 with a sub .300 OBP) and Travis Ishikawa (who's batting average and OBP is .211). The reason I didn't put those guys on though was because I expected Sandoval to get off to a slow start because he had so much hype going in. He's actually doing better than I thought considering the pressure put on him by the media and the fans. As for Ishikawa, I didn't expect much from him period. I think he's the second-coming of Lance Niekro: a high profile farm system guy that is not as good as advertised.
Lincecum takes the award naturally because he's coming off a CY Young season and he's off to an awful start. One bad start is one thing. Sabathia had a bad first start this season. But two is never a good sign, especially considering last year Lincecum did all of his damage in the beginning of the season. I don't think he's going to completely implode, but anybody thinking that he's going to match his CY Young numbers from last year is crazy. Renteria is an honorable mention because he was the Giants big signing, is my starting shortstop on my fantasy baseball team "Bring Back Barry" and he's batting .190. I'm not even going to be patient with this guy. I'm dropping him tomorrow. As for Burriss, I was never really bought on the idea of him being the starter this year.While Eugenio Velez has turned into a total bust and Rich Aurilia is way too old, Burriss in my mind just doesn't cut it as the starter. I don't think any amount of ability on defense is good enough to merit playing time with a .111 average. The worst part of this situation is out of the entire possible second base candidates, Juan Uribe is looking like the best option. That's right, Juan "I can't take a walk to save my life but I was still able to win a title" Uribe. I don't know how we couldn't have gotten a Craig Counsell-like second baseman. Anything at this point is an upgrade.

Granted it's just a week and maybe next week Burriss might make me eat my words with a seven hit week. But I'm not that much of an optimist and I'm not that hopeful the Giants are going to do better than third in this division. And considering how weak this division is, it makes the state of the Giants even more depressing.

Now if you don't mind, I'm going out to the bar while wearing my Eliezer Alfonso jersey-shirt.

(A question though for the road. I'm going to incorporate this now more often in the blog)

Giants 2009 Season Question

How Will the Giants Do This Year?
They will overcome this slow start and win the division
They will come in second place behind the Dodgers.
They will hover around third or fourth, but won't be the worst team
They're awful. Looking to 2010 already.

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