Sunday, September 5, 2010

Uribe Shines As Giants 1 Game Back In The West

If I had told you 2 weeks ago the San Diego Padres were going to lose 10 straight games, would you have believed me? The Padres were tied for the best record in baseball. Probably not.

In fact, at that point 2 weeks ago, I bet most Giants fans had given up on the NL West and focused solely on the NL Wildcard. Fast forward to today, the Giants are 1 game back of the Padres, and the Phillies may be separating themselves in the NL Wildcard. The ol' switcheroo.

This is why September baseball is great. If chills didn't run down your spine when Juan Uribe unloaded on the Jonathan Broxton hanging slider Saturday night, or if you didn't rise from your couch when Uribe repeated the act again yesterday, then you don't have a soul.

Sure, the Giants stole one from the Dodgers on Saturday, but think of it this way. The Padres are 0-10 in their last 10 games, while the Giants are just 5-5. Yes, they did grab 5 games from the Padres in that stretch, but you can make an argument that the Padres are lucky to have the lead in the NL West the way they're playing.

This last series against the Dodgers was just what the Giants needed, though. Big wins against a team they don't rather care for. In this series, the offense lit back up, and pitching, although not outstanding, was better than series previous.

By the way, if there is one pitcher I want to start a game for the Giants right now, it's Jonathan Sanchez.

On the flipside of that, the Giants need to make 1 huge move down the stretch: Switch to a 4-man rotation, Zito to the bullpen.

From LA, the Giants will travel to Arizona to face the worst team in NL West on Monday. In exchange, the Dodgers receive the Padres. Giants fans will never be rooting for the Dodgers harder than in this series.

In these next 3 days, the Giants will need to worry less about the Padres and more about beating the D-Backs, a team who got them good in their last meeting.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ex-Blackhawk Niemi To The Sharks

Former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi signed with the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, according to sources.

The Sharks had been looking for a clear-set goalie to start their 2010 season, although their recent pick-up of Antero Nittymaki from Tampa Bay seemed to be the default option, at least to start.

If you would recall, Niemi played the role of the brick wall in front of Chicago's net last season when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.

Niemi was only in net because of first-stringer Cristobal Huet's benching late in the season. Niemi surprised the world, and probably himself, when he lead the Blackhawks to the Cup.

The team most annoyed with Niemi's success last season is probably his current team, the Sharks. The Sharks were swept in the Western Conference Semi's after they couldn't get a puck past Niemi. Now that Niemi is on their side, their attitude toward him may be a little different.

But let's analyze this for a second. Next to the Anaheim Ducks, the Blackhawks are most likely the Sharks' greatest rival because of the way the two teams continuously meet in the playoffs or how they are always on top of the conference.

If you're not too much into hockey, I liken this towards the Giants/Rockies or Giants/Padres series. It's not the Dodgers, but pretty close.

Niemi coming to the Sharks is like Ubaldo Jimenez or Mat Latos coming to the Giants, just a little less talent on Niemi's end.

Whether Sharks fans like this or not, or however they feel about a goalie who single-handedly eliminated their team the previous season and now becomes apart of it, Niemi makes this Sharks team a lot stronger than they were before they had him.

Will Niemi be given the starting spot? The Sharks won't admit it off the bat, but you would have to believe that a Stanley Cup winning goalie would have to be the only way to go. Especially over Nittymaki, who last played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of worst teams in the NHL last season.

Niemi fills the void that was left after Evgeni Nabokov departed. Instead of a goalie that proved everything in the regular season and nothing in the playoffs, you now have a goalie who has somewhat proven himself in the regular season and is overwhelmingly proven in the playoffs. Nabby Who?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Giants' Pitching Could Be Downfall

Who would have thought that this far into the season, the Giants' pitching rotation would be hurting and not helping their playoff chances?

The ringleader of this circus that every starting pitcher the Giants have (except for Matt Cain) seems to perform in is Tim Lincecum. Yes, the 2-time NL Cy Young Award winner is the downfall of the Giants to this point.

Cain seems to be the only one holding this fort, that is their playoff chances, up. The Giants have a total of 2 quality starts by their starting rotation in the last 7 games, both by Cain. That's not what the Giants are about. They're about having one of the top starting rotations in baseball, and not bad bullpen either. Instead, at this point in the season, the Giants are about come-from-behind wins and staying afloat in the NL Wildcard race.

We saw glimpses of hope from Lincecum in the past couple of starts, but are glimpses of hope really what you want to see from your #1 starter? I want to see consistency and a leader that despite the rest of the rotation's problems, he would still go out there and give a quality start. We haven't seen that. And if we don't see it in the near future, you won't see the Giants past September.

It irks me to think about the possibility of the Giants missing out on the playoffs because of their starting rotation. What a topsy-turvy season this has been. The Giants had a scorching pitching staff in the beginning of the season, but they had no offense. Now they have offense, but no scorching pitching staff. I would one day like to live in a world where the Giants have both a scorching pitching staff and an offense to boot.

If the pitching staff gets kicking somewhere between now and the end of the season, we may be able to see that. For now, squeaking out wins and staying afloat may be the last option if the Giants want to remain the playoff hunt.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Freak" Not Looking "Freakish"

Although the Giants' recent power surge has distracted from the issue a little bit, the question still looms, what's wrong with Tim Lincecum?

The 2-time Cy Young Award winner has looked anything but in the last month and a half. He has been less of an ace and more of a hinderance to this Giants ball club that needs solid outings more than ever this time in the season.

Sure, maybe it's just a rough patch and we should cut the guy some slack for setting the bar so high to this point. But Lincecum picked the wrong time in the season to do it. Could Lincecum be the downfall of this Giants' postseason push? He sure isn't helping.

Blame this on several things, if you will: His hair, his mechanics, the bar he has set for himself since winning the Cy Young. I'll take 'all the above.'

He should cut his hair, that's a given. The guy looks ridiculous.

The meat and potatoes of the Lincecum problem, though, is his mechanics. The mechanics that got him to where he is today are not the one's he has used in his last several starts. And there lies your problem.

Reports are a month ago he changed his funky mechanics that he has used since forever, and things took a turn for the worst. Now that he wants those old reliable mechanics back, he can't find them. Or they're taking longer than expected to find.

What can be done to get Lincecum back in #1 starter shape? Several options have been thrown out there: He could cut his hair (I'm just gonna keep throwing that one out there), hire Chris Lincecum, Tim's dad and the man behind Tim's quirky wind-up and all his success, or keep working with him and hope it's just a speed bump in this kid's long successful career.

Good news, though. Lincecum's last outing, although a loss, seemed to show a much more sharper Lincecum. Instead of fastballs at 90-91, we saw them consistently at 93-94. The location problem still looms. He was so perfect with that location last season and early this season. Location will come with good mechanics, and it seems that Lincecum does not have that right now.

Pitchers will always have obstacles thrown their way. It is how they react to those obstacles that will tell how successful that pitcher will really be. Lincecum is at his crossroads. We will see how he reacts.

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.