Madison BumgarnerÂ was at it again Wednesday night as he held the Diamondbacks to two runs and five hits over six innings. He has posted 10-straight quality starts to drop his ERA four and a half runs from where it was on April 22nd (it was 7.79 and it now rests at 3.21). Oh yeah, he even picked up his third victory of the year, against eight loses, as the Giants scored five whole runs in the win. Will wonders never cease?
I forgot to mention it when it occurred, probably because I was so shocked, but Pat Burrell hit a homer on June 11th. Usually a home run from Burrell, who has hit 291 of them in his career, wouldn’t register at all unless it was a significant bomb to help the team win the game or something. In this case it was a big deal even though the Giants lost 2-10 to the Reds. Why? It was Burrell’s first homer since April 18th a span of 42 games. From a guy who has hit 27 or more homers on six occasions, it simply boggles the mind that he could go a quarter of a season without a big fly. In addition to the complete absence of power, he also knocked in only nine runs in that stretch and posted an OPS of .701. Amazingly bad, that OPS mark isÂ .133 points below his career level. It would still be the sixth best mark on the team, however, if we set the bar at 100 or more at-bats. That’s frightening.
I feel like the proverbial broken record seemingly writing the same thing in every entry, but how can this team keep winning given their offense? The leading hitter on the club is the injured Freddy Sanchez (.289). And his loss really hurts the club’s infield offense. Miguel Tejada is batting .223, Brandon Crawford is batting .224, and Mike Fontenot .207. That’s just not going to get it done at this level. When Manny Burriss is your star up the middle with a .267 average and a .545 OPS, you should be ashamed of yourself Giants management.
Pablo Sandoval had another hit an run scored in his second game on the field. He’s the only player on the club hitting over .290 who has more than 10 at-bats this season as he is hitting .308 in 91 at-bats. Pablo doesn’t have enough work to qualify for the batting title, you need 3.1 plate appearances per game, which is why Sanchez officially leads the team in batting average.
Brian Wilson picked up his 20th save on the year as he extended his scoreless streak to 14.1 innings to drop his ERA to 2.53. Can we finally put to rest the absurd belief that his off the field antics are going to ruin his ability to close out games? Wilson is a free spirit, a guy who clearly has no use for blindly following what others do, and for that he will always be a target for those who seek to tear him down. As long as he isn’t breaking the law or hurting anyone away from the field, I could care less what he does. He works hard, is in great shape, and is totally dedicated to his craft. That’s all that matters to the Giants, an it should be all that matters to you as well.
As has become common place in these pages, the Giants are continuing to deal with injuries all over the field. Unfortunately it seems, as soon as one player is ready to return, another goes down with injury.
Freddy Sanchez hopes that he will be able to return before the end of the season from his shoulder injury. However, an MRI showed that there was damage done to his labrum, including â€śunnatural stretchingâ€ť of the shoulder capsule, bad news after he had offseason surgery on the shoulder. Sanchez will rehab for a couple of weeks before deciding how to proceed. At some point he’ll likely need surgery on the shoulder, it’s just a matter of whether or not he will need it before the season is over.
So what do the Giants do at second base since it seems likely that Sanchez is done for the year? Emmanuel Burriss has seen some time there, but he’s offered nothing at the plate during his big league career with a pathetic .264/.323/.267 slash line in his 507 at-bat career. He does bring speed with 28 thefts, but the Giants need offense. They will look to remedy that with the addition of Bill Hall. Though he’s hitting only .221 on the year, Hall did power 18 long balls last season in less than 350 at-bats. His main trait at this point is his versatility and his ability to power the odd long ball. Still, this guy owns a .308 career OBP and he’s hit a mere .224 over his last 1,231 at-bats. The Giants did well to add him for virtually nothing off waivers, but if they are expecting him to be an offensive asset they just haven’t been paying attention to his work the past three plus years.
Matt Cain is only 6-4 on the year, but as is his lot in life, the record isn’t really reflective of how he has pitched. The Giants, for some unknown reason, simply don’t like to score runs when Cain is on the hill. In each of his four loses this year the Giants have scored two or fewer runs, and that isn’t going to help anyone rack up the â€śW’s.â€ť Cain has been uncharacteristically wobbly of late though. He’s won his last three decisions, but in two of his last four outings he has permitted five earned runs, and in three of his last five starts he’s permitted four or more earned runs. Luckily the two middle outings consisted of 16 innings with only two runs allowed.
Pablo Sandoval is back off the DL as his wrist is ready to handle the grind of playing every day. In his first game back he hit third while producing a hit, a run, an RBI an a walk.
Ryan Vogelsong, to the surprise of no one, will remain in the rotation when Barry Zito comes off the DL shortly (his next start is Thursday at Triple-A Fresno). Vogelsong is 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA since Zito went to the DL.
Brian Wilson last allowed a run on May 18th as his ERA is down to 2.61. His WHIP is still elevated at 1.39 thanks to all the walks though. In 74.2 innings last year Wilson walked 26 batters, and the year before it was 27 in 72.1. He’s already issued 19 in 31 innings this season, but the strikeouts are still there (32 in 31 IP). In terms of results they’ve been there as well as he is 19-for-21 in save chances. He’s only blown one of his last 20 chances.
You can read more of Ray Flowers’ work at BaseballGuys.com and you can follow his random musings on the baseball universe at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
The Giants continue to rely heavily on their pitching which has come through like their holding pocket aces in a game of Texas Hold Em. Problem is, the offense has been akin to endin up with a two of hearts and a three of spades in your possession.
This is the backbone of the squad, we all knew that coming into the year.
Tim Lincecum looks as good as ever.
Matt Cain is doing what Matt Cain does â€“ giving the club solid work on the hill every five games.
Jonathan Sanchez certainly has his issues, not the least of which is his inability to throw strikes at times which drive up his pitch counts so he can’t work deep into games, but he has allowed more than three earned runs only once on the year and has more strikeouts than innings pitched.
Madison Bumgarner started slowly, but he has tossed 5-straight quality starts and he’s been even better than that fact would attest allowing a total of six earned runs in his five outings.
Ryan Vogelsong is pitching so well in relief of the injured Barry Zito that it’s now an honest question to ask â€“ would the Giants send Zito, who has made 356 of his 358 career appearances out of the rotation, to the bullpen? After all, Vogelsong is mowing them down on the hill with a 3-0 record, 1.93 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 29 Ks in 32.2 innings.
I wrote yesterday about how Sergio Romo might be the best right-handed setup man in baseball in Winning the Close Ones. Javier Lopez has posted a 1.06 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and help batters to a .213 average as the lefty specialist out of the pen, and after a rough start Brian Wilson has converted 13 of his last 14 save chances.
Given all of that wonderful work, it’s hardly surprising that the Giants are third in the NL in team ERA (3.21), WHIP (1.22) and saves (15) and fourth in strikeouts (383 â€“ one behind the Brewers for third place).
This aspect of the club is a totally different story than the pitching side that has excelled. The club has struggled, to put it mildly on offense. Here are their ranks amongst National League ball clubs.
13th in batting average â€“ .242
13th in homers â€“ 34
16th in RBI, dead last â€“ 156
16th in runs scored, dead last â€“ 164
14th in OBP â€“ .308
12th in SLG â€“ .367
As good as the pitching has been, there is simply no way that the Giants can reasonably expect to win the NL West with an offense that is this bad.
You want to know who on the Giants offense has performed as expected? It won’t take long to list them.
Pablo Sandoval was hitting .313 with a .904 OPS before he was hurt. Buster Posey leads the team in RBI (21) and is hitting .287. Freddy Sanchez is hitting an empty .281.
That’s about it, and that’s being kind since Sandoval has only appeared in 24 of the clubs’ 47 games, Posey’s OPS this season is .095 points below his rookie mark of .862 last year, and Sanchez has scored only 15 times with a .716 OPS.
The Giants veterans, and you know who you are Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Rowand, you had better get to hitting or this pitching staff might collapse under the weight of having to hold the opposition to three or fewer runs each night if they want to emerge with a â€śW.â€ť
The Giants are in a bit of flux right now. The team is not winning, players are under performing, some are injured and some are just losing their minds. Let’s explore each scenario.
Pat Burrell is up to 14-straight games without a homer. In that time he’s also struck out 11 times and he is hitting a poor .230 on the year.
Buster Posey is on pace for something like 20 homers and 80 RBI, but he has been pretty darn brutal of late. He hasn’t knocked a run in for eight games and has just five hits in his last 30 at-bats to drop his average down to .248. “He set the bar so high last year,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You have to remember where he is at this stage of his career. He’s doing OK.”
Miguel Tejada is hitting an anemic .196 on the year and he hasn’t been above .224 at the end of any game since April 16th. An aging vet who’s bat isn’t what it once was, it’s still shocking to see Tejada turning old before our eyes. If you are looking for something positive how about this. Tejada has never finished a year with a line drive rate under 17.0 percent. Currently that mark is just 11.5. When it rises, his average should follow.
Mark DeRosa says his wrist is feeling great and that he anticipates coming off the DL on the first day he is eligible (May 10th). With Tejada struggling so mightily, he may only have a couple of more days to prove to management that he shouldn’t lose starts at the hot corner when DeRosa returns.
Freddy Sanchez has a sore thumb, but no one seems too worried about the situation being a long-term concern. Emmanuel Burriss will likely see a few starts at second until Sanchez is back to feeling better. Sanchez hasn’t been hitting at all with his average dropping .049 points in his last 10 games down to .259 anyway.
Andres Torres has started his rehab assignment with the Triple-A Grizzlies as he works his way back from an Achilles injury. He won’t return on Friday as hoped, but he should be back with the club at some point in the next week, barring a setback.
Jonathan Sanchez can dominate one night and walk everyone in the ball yard the next time he takes the hill. Consistency has never been on of his strong suits. Still, his outing on Thursday when he allowed five earned runs ended a run of 13-straight outings in which he allowed three or fewer earned runs. Obviously that’s not much to get worked up about, everyone has a bad day sometimes, but there is something to be concerned about with Sanchez â€“ he often lacks clarity during his starts. “Jonny looks like he lacks concentration,” Bochy said. “He’s drifting mentally. He’s got to get it going. We can’t let the guy going No. 2 in the rotation go four or five innings.â€ť Arguably the most talented pitcher on the staff, scouts will tell you that his stuff is actually superior to that of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, Sanchez’ mental lapses extend from his work on the hill to his his work on offense (he’s bunted into a double play on a ball he thought was foul, and missed a couple of other bunt signals). The guy is as frustrating as any player on the club. If he could harness his talents the Giants would be nearly impossible to beat three out of every five days. As it is, they only get the best that Sanchez has to offer about two thirds of the time.
The Giants have experienced a slight World Series hangover, entering the weekend with a 12-12 record.
The Nationals’ ended their three game losing streak last night when they edged out the Mets 4-3. After barely avoiding a sweep at home, they will hope to improve their homestand against the World Champion Giants, a team that has sputtered out of the gate with a pedestrian 12-12 record.
Last Season vs. San Francisco
The Giants won two of three games in both series against the Nationals last season. It started in May with a series victory in San Francisco, where the two teams split the first two games and third was decided on a seventh inning come from behind rally by the Giants, something that became a theme for San Francisco throughout the season. Freddy Sanchez’s two-run single gave the Giants’ the lead and victory in that third game. Back in Washington in July, it was top prospects dominating all three games. A solid outing by Stephen Strasburg gave Washington a victory in the series opener, but then it was a four hit game by Buster Posey that gave the Giants the win in game two and a great start by Madison Bumgarner in the third game to give San Francisco another series victory.
A Quick Look at the 2011 San Francisco Giants
The Giants enter this series at an even 12-12, partially thanks to being swept by the Atlanta Braves at home last weekend. Even so, the Giants have dug themselves an early hole in the NL West as the Colorado Rockies have sprinted out to a 4.5 game lead in the division. Offensively, the team isn’t scoring a ton of runs. Pablo Sandoval has been hitting well out of the gate with a .325 batting average and a team-leading five home runs. However, Miguel Tejada and Aubrey Huff are barely hitting above .200 and even Buster Posey is hitting a disappointing .259, though he leads the team in RBIs with 17. On the mound, the rotation is being held back by the struggles of Bumgarner and Barry Zito, each of whom have ERAs above 6.00. If they can come around, the Giants will take off on a trip towards the top of the standings.
Scouting the Opposing Pitching
Friday: Tim Lincecum â€“ This is guy is scary good. He has a rather goofy pitching motion that involves a very high kick. Some people believe it will hurt his arm in the future, but for now he has just blown hitters away with some of the best variety of pitches in the game. He has a fastball that can hit up to 95 MPH, as well as a sick curve ball with a lot of break and a change-up that is regarded as the best in baseball. All of pitches have superb movement and Lincecum has such good command of his pitches that he rarely walks batters. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Saturday: Jonathan Sanchez â€“ Sanchez reminds me of a loose cannon, his fastball and breaking pitches are like dynamite, as long as he can keep control of them. Fortunately for him, his command has improved with experience at the major league level. Sanchez throws a hard fastball that tops around 94 MPH, as well as a sharp-breaking slider and a change-up. His big out pitch, however, is a splitter that runs down with some lateral movement as well. As I stated before, Sanchez throws hard, but lets his pitches get away from him at times. The Nationals need to be patient and if Sanchez is wild of Saturday, allow it to get to his head.
Sunday: Matt Cain â€“ Cain is another pitcher who could easily be an ace on many staffs around the league, but is instead 1B in the Giants’ rotation. He throws a fastball that can move up or down and tops out at 94 MPH (sensing a pattern here?). His ability to change speeds and move his fastball and change-up wherever he wants makes him a hard pitcher to face, his change-up is around 82-84 MPH. Cain also throws a hard slider and a big, slow curve-ball that can catch any hitters that are sitting on his fastball off balance. Cain doesn’t quite have the same stuff as Lincecum or Sanchez, but his command adds to his value.
Monday: Madison Bumgarner â€“ It’s been a disappointing start to the season for Bumgarner, as he enters this weekend with a record of 0-4. He throws a fastball, like his rotation brethren, around 92-94 MPH. The problem has been that is velocity is a little down, nothing alarming, but the issue is that Bumgarner lacks the off-speed stuff that guys like Sanchez or Lincecum have. Though Bumgarner his great command of his fastball and corresponding change-up, he rarely throws his curve-ball and when your fastball isn’t working, that becomes a problem. I think Bumgarner will pitch his way out of his slow start, whether he starts that on Monday remains to be seen.
Three Things to Watch For This Weekend
Washington’s Offensive Slide â€“ The Nationals didn’t exactly light the world on fire against the Mets and now have to face one of the best rotations in baseball. Jayson Werth had a nice series and Ian Desmond was red hot on Thursday night, but can Washington carry any momentum over to the weekend?
Was Desmond’s Thursday Night a Fluke? – Desmond had a triple and home run after coming back from the birth of his child on Thursday night, helping contribute two of Washington’s four runs in their victory over the Mets. For a guy that has slumped at the plate in the early going, is it a sign of good things to come?
Tom Gorzelanny Needs a Good Outing â€“ The Nationals have little hope this weekend, but on Monday they will face the struggling Bumgarner. To win, however, they win need a good start from their #5 guy, Gorzelanny. Gorzelanny is 0-2, but has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last three starts. If he repeats that again, Washington has a shot of ending this series on a good note.