Thursday, August 12, 2010

Giants/Padres NL West Showdown Preview

Thanks to Jonathan Sanchez, this sort of bland, unsexy series featuring two teams at the top of their division but out of the ESPN spotlight, may have regained some of its sexiness. At least a smidge.

If you're not familiar, Sanchez' guaranteed a sweep of the 1st place Padres in this weekend's pivotal series in San Francisco. The obnoxious thing about it, Sanchez had just come off 4 innings pitched while giving up 4 runs in a loss. What was he thinking? Probably trying to psyche his team up. Not smart from your #4 starter.

The Giants came off a nice series against the Cubs, in which they took 3 of 4 games, which is what they were supposed to do. The Cubs are a poor team.

But it was a good challenge for the Giants. They knew who they were going to meet over the weekend, but they didn't let that psyche them out and possibly lose ground to the Padres.

Quite the opposite in fact. In this Cubs series, we were introduced to two new faces that could lead this Giants' penant run: Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval...finally.

Burrell had a gargantuan series, easily the hottest player on the Giants, and Sandoval is getting going just when the Giants need him the most, making the fact that Sabean has yet to get a legit bat in the line-up very miniscule at this point. Sabean can thank these two players.

As for the weekend shindig at AT&T Park, the Padres may have the edge. San Diego sends 2 of their best starters against the worst the Giants have to offer. Lucky for the Giants, both Sanchez and Bumgarner (the worst the Giants have to offer) are just about in tune with Richard and Latos, who are throwing for SD.

But in this first game of the series, all eyes will be on Sanchez. He opened his mouth, now he has to back it up. And an outing like he had in Atlanta will get him booed right out of the starting rotation come playoff time.

These Padres are for real, though. Don't belittle them. No matter how much the analysts told you they wouldn't be this season, or even how much they are going to go down in flames in the 2nd half of the season. They're here to stay. They made the moves at the trade deadline that they needed, and they have the young, solid pitching willing to go the distance for the rest of the season. Also, they haven't faltered at all this last week, and expect nothing less this weekend.

The series will be pressure-filled, maybe even a little dirty with some words exchanged, but this is a statement series for one team in a 3-game series. The Padres riding high, the Giants riding higher. This weekend series will tell us a lot about how this NL West race will go down.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Pressure On Giants To Make A Move?

Sure, the Giants have won 21 of 27 games or something like that. But there may be one story that overshadows that at this time in the season.

Two big moves went down the other day, and they didn't even involve the Giants. At least at this point.

The Washington Nationals placed "country strong" Adam Dunn on waivers the other day. Then the KC Royals designated Jose Guillen for assignment this afternoon.

Both players have been discussed in the Giants organization within the last year, and both players are prime for the picking now that they are technically on the market and on the Giants' immediate radar.

Already, we have heard hints of the Giants "discussing" the option of acquiring Guillen.

And just the other day we heard Dunn's options for a trade could be down to the Rockies or Giants. So if GM Brian Sabean wasn't stressed and tired after the trade deadline, you better believe he will be after this hooplah is over with.

The chances of acquiring Adam Dunn are far less likely than the Giants acquiring Jose Guillen. Dunn is front page news, and the Nationals are going to want to front page talent in return for him. For the record, Jonathan Sanchez is not front page talent. It would seem like the Nationals would want Madison Bumgarner and maybe more for Dunn's services. I doubt that will sit well the Giants' front office.

As for Guillen, he is on the move. The Royals quit on him and his struggles in the past weeks. Good for the Royals to move out such a big name as him and focus more on their younger players they have coming up.

Guillen is batting .255 with 16 HR's and 62 RBI's this season.

The Giants have several options here. Either wait and see how the market reacts to Guillen, or pursue him like he will actually make a difference. The Royals are desperate to get rid of him, possibly by any means necessary. This means if they cannot find a suitor for him, you may see him signing with a contender on his own.

My advice, Guillen is struggling, and I hope that the pressure on Sabean to get a bat and get a bat now doesn't affect his thought-pattern on this player who is clearly overpaid and not producing like his paycheck says he should.

Back to Dunn. The asking price may be too high for the Giants, but it won't hurt to try. Honestly, I just want the Giants to show a little interest in him, maybe throw Jonathan Sanchez out there. And if it doesn't work out, it's totally understandable because Dunn was far out of their price range to begin with.

What I don't want the Giants to do is panic and give up good young players because of the pressure to get a bat. The Giants are cruising right now. Don't fix something that didn't need to be fixed in the first place.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Bat, No Big

Sure, it would have been nice to get a solid big bat in the heart of the line-up, but was it really going to change the make-up of this team?

Jose Guillen would have been nice. Maybe even an Adam Dunn if we're really getting silly. And where were the Giants on Ryan Ludwick? The Padres and Dodgers made their teams better (on paper), but there was no counter-punch from the boys in SF. Why not?

Let's be reasonable here. AT&T Park is no place a big bat wants to go if they want to continue being a "big bat." So we knew it wasn't going to be any game-changer. But even I expected the Giants to make some kind of offensive move. Turns out the only offensive move was shipping their best offensive player in their farm system elsewhere (John Bowker).

This is not to say the Giants didn't do a good job in getting what they needed to get. They needed a left-handed reliever and they got him in Javier Lopez. So you won't be seeing Jonathan Sanchez in the 8th inning anymore. Both Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, legitimate reliever acquired by the Giants from the Red Sox, are going to play big parts for the Giants in the stretch run.

What does that mean for the rest of the Giants bullpen? It means they can stop using tools like Santiago Casilla and Denny Bautista, who are either on point or obviously off. The Giants don't need that, they can't afford that. Not with the Padres playing genuine baseball and making trades to back it up.

Don't panic. Deep down we knew Corey Hart or Prince Fielder wouldn't be entering the Bay. No that we wanted them (which we did). The Giants are hitting well right now, why break that mojo up? There was no need for a big-time trade for a slugger. The fact that Pat Burrell and Pablo Sandoval haven't been hitting is the reason why the Giants were looking elsewhere for a bat in the first place. If Burrell or Sandoval start hitting (preferably Burrell AND Sandoval start hitting), then there's your bat you were looking to trade for. It was there the whole time.

The Giants addressed the need that was going to affect them the most down the stretch. A continuous savage starting rotation now paired with a stable bullpen is just what the Giants needed. And the bats will follow their lead.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Giants Try To Stay Hot In Chavez Ravine

The Giants bring their hot 2nd-half start to Chavez Ravine this week. Probably one of the more important series thus far this season.

The Dodgers are coming off being swept in St. Louis, while the Giants are coming off taking 3 of 4 from the NY Mets. Seems like the perfect time for the Giants, right? Not quite, remember the last series against the Dodgers...

The Giants have not faired well against the NL West, and this is the perfect test for this team that has gotten off to a hot 2nd-half start, both with their pitching and their hitting. And they will take the heart of that into LA this week. Bumgarner, Lincecum, Zito sounds like the perfect rotation against the hated Dodgers.

This is a pivotal series for both teams. The Dodgers are treading water fast, and the Giants are making their move in the division, although they lost a 1/2 game in the division in that Mets series despite taking 3 of 4. How that happened, I have no idea.

But expect that. The Padres are for real and are not going down without a fight. Expect no different from the Rockies as well. No Tulowitzki, no problem.

The test this week for the Giants, beat an NL West team, and let's go from there, because so far that is a rarity.