Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Good Break: Giants Win Protest in Cubs' Tarp Debacle, Bad Break: Belt Could Be Out for Season

The weirdness of the 2014 San Francisco Giants season continued Wednesday with two instances serving as a microcosm for the season.

The Giants had their ups-and-downs all season. Fans know all about the incredible record to start the year, followed by a dead-ball-era offense from June on.

But Wednesday's Wrigley Field tarp fiasco (and it's eventually outcome) and disappointing news on first baseman Brandon Belt illustrate how when something good happens for the Giants, something bad always seems to follow.

I'll start with the good news...

With the Giants losing 2-0 to the Chicago Cubs in the middle of the fifth inning, a heavy downpour littered the field in Chicago and the game had to be stopped. After the Cubs' grounds crew made a mistake and could not cover the entire infield during the 15-to-20 minute downpour, umpires deemed the infield unplayable and called the game official--Cubs win 2-0.

Keep in mind, the only reason the Cubs had the win was because of a rare mistake from the Cubs' grounds crew--with no malicious intent--on something they do at least 10 times a year.

But then, like Michael Morse's recent hot streak and the Giants' 3-2 homestand last week, San Francisco had reason to stay sane. After the Giants protested the game on a loose interpretation of mechanical tarp failure as stated in Rule 4.12(a)(3), Major League Baseball agreed with them, and the game will be resumed Thursday at 2 p.m. Pacific Time.

As rare as the tarp malfunction was, the last upheld protest was 28 years ago, when the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed umpires did not wait the minimum amount of time before calling the rain-shortened game a victory to the St. Louis Cardinals. This is just the 15th time in baseball an upheld protest resulted in a resumed game.

This is great news for the Giants because they have to like their chances against the Chicago Cubs' middle relief.

“They listened, and we appreciate it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Andrew Baggarly of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. “(A chance) is all we wanted.”

Although they rank seventh in the National League in bullpen ERA, the suspended game gives San Francisco four innings to come back two runs against somebody other than the tough Tsuyoshi Wada (2-1, 2.75 ERA). And that somebody, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times,  is 4-7 with a 5.80 ERA--Jacob Turner.

Now on to the bad news...

Brandon Belt, who led the team in home runs before his broken thumb injury in May, now may be out for the season with another freak injury.

Photo by SD Dirk via Flickr
After Belt came off the disabled list in July, more weirdness happened for the Giants two weeks later. Belt re-injured himself during batting practice when Marco Scutaro hit him in the face on a throw to first.

Belt played for a couple innings in the game, had an RBI double, but had to come out after he complained of dizziness. Turns out, Belt had a concussion and has less than exciting news after seeing a specialist in Pittsburgh Tuesday.

Belt did come back at the beginning of August but perhaps prematurely. According to a concussion specialist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Giants' first baseman needs at least two-to-three weeks of rest before he can even resume baseball activity.

And since concussions are not something players want to mess around with or try to play through (think Mike Matheny), there is a strong possibility the Giants may want to be extra cautious and give Belt more time than that--perhaps the rest of the season.

Given the seriousness of concussions and Belt's value to the Giants, it would not be wise to rush him for one season. The Giants do not exactly have a major-league ready backup plan in the minor leagues, and they need to make sure Belt is ready for 2015 and beyond.

So, the Giants need to be 150 percent sure Belt's concussion has passed before putting their possible future All-Star first baseman back on the field. For now, Travis Ishikawa and Adam Duvall will have to pick up the slack in Belt's absence, and one of those players shined at Wrigley Field Wednesday night.

Even with all the weirdness this season, where the Giants have looked like the worst team in baseball for about two months, the Giants are just three games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West and 1.5 games up on the second Wild Card spot.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Angel Pagan Should Help San Francisco Giants Score at Home

Photo by SD Dirk via Flickr
The San Francisco Giants were anticipating leadoff hitter Angel Pagan's return from the disabled list for weeks--and with good reason.

Although the Giants are 1-5 since his return from a back injury, Pagan was the difference in Wednesday's 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox. He served a sinking 94-mph fastball the opposite way for a bases-loaded, two-run single that gave the Giants a 3-1 lead in their seven-run, seventh-inning rally.

Disciplined plate approaches like Pagan had in the seventh inning is what most of the Giants' hitters have not been doing in key situations. Instead of overswinging on the Ronald Belisario outside fastball and rolling it over into a ground-ball out, or whiffing at the pitch, he hit a solid line drive.




It's good at-bats like this the Giants hope to see again at the top of the order to get the offense going in front of sellout crowds at AT&T Park. Line drives can be contagious, and they are one virus the Giants hope to catch--instead of the crud.

The numbers suggest Pagan has been putting up similar quality plate appearances at home. In 127 at-bats at home, he is hitting .323, with a .360 on-base percentage and an above-average OPS of .778.

But throwing the numbers out the window, it is those not trying to do too much at-bats that succeed at the Giants' expansive home ballpark. Even if a long swing makes enough contact for a deep fly ball, there is a very good chance it will find a glove.

Pagan's ability to spray the ball to all fields, take the extra base, and steal some bases should help the Giants start more rallies at home--and get the sellout crowds into the game.


Follow me on Twitter @vintalkingiants

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Budweiser, Ozzie Smith hope to make MLB Opening Day a national holiday

Children playing hooky from school to catch an Opening Day baseball game could be a thing of the past if Budweiser has its way.

Budweiser, the official beer of Major League Baseball, said it wants to make Opening Day a national holiday. The beer company said in a YouTube video it has received more than 100,000 signatures, enough to get a formal response from the White House.

"The White House has heard us," former St. Louis Cardinal Shortstop and spokesman for the campaign Ozzie Smith said in the video. "Let's make Opening Day a holiday."

Other retired players and former managers are joining Smith in Budweiser's "Make Opening Day a Holiday" campaign, a Budweiser spokesman said. Budweiser has released a video on its YouTube page with former baseball players talking about what Opening Day means to them.

Among those supporters are former Oakland Athletic Eric Byrnes and former Cincinnati Red Sean Casey.

It is fitting that a Red is featured in a YouTube video because for many years, the first pitch of the season was traditionally in Cincinnati.


 

Budweiser is not stopping there. They are also releasing a limited-edition San Francisco Giants Budweiser can, one of 23 MLB teams featured.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Bruce Bochy: San Francisco Giants Second Baseman Marco Scutaro "days away from live BP"

Marco Scutaro at the Giants 2012 World Series Parade.
San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro's return to full baseball activity has been pushed back for at least another week, according to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.

The Giants originally planned for Scutaro to play this weekend, but Bruce Bochy told CSN Bay Area that will not happen. In fact, Bochy acknowledged the club might have to make alternative plans for Opening Day if Scutaro is not ready to play soon.

“If you ask me at the end of next week and he’s not playing or close to playing, we’ll have to have another plan here,” Bochy said after Friday's 5-0 win over the Kansas City Royals.

The Giants planned to limit Scutaro's spring training anyway as he recovers from chronic back and hip issues which hampered him last year, but Bochy said he would like Scutaro to get at least 30 to 35 at-bats before the season starts.

As the calendar turns towards April with no Scutaro playing in exhibition games, the likelihood of him starting at second base on March 31 in Arizona is becoming less and less.

Joaquin Arias or Tony Abreu would probably get the nod on Opening Day if Scutaro is not ready to go, although infielder Ehire Adrianza has opened some eyes in the infield this spring.

But don't tell Scutaro he won't be ready when the bell rings. He told John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle Friday he will be ready for Opening Day because he has seen improvement with his back.

And his bat would be hard to replace in the second spot of the batting order. Scutaro hit .297 with a .357 OBP last season in 127 games, playing many of those games with an injured finger.


The good news, as Scutaro told the Chronicle, is there's still three weeks left in the Cactus League season. If Scutaro is not close to returning by this time next week, Brian Sabean may need to explore adding more depth to the position via trade.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Giants starting pitchers sharp early in spring training

Starting pitchers Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Hudson were question marks coming into 2014, but they have made a good first impression early in spring training for the San Francisco Giants.

Hudson made his spring debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday and proved his fractured ankle was behind him, pitching two no-hit innings. He was somewhat efficient, throwing 27 pitches in two innings, and he effectively pitched to contact with that sinker--like classic Hudson.

Vogelsong followed Madison Bumgarner, who pitched two scoreless innings of his own Friday, with two shutout innings and a strikeout against the Milwaukee Brewers. Vogelsong was throwing strikes and with movement, a formula that made him successful in 2011 and 2012.

Vogelsong is hoping his 2013 season was an aberration, where he had a 5.73 ERA in 19 starts. He was injured for half the year with a broken hand after he was hit by a pitch while batting in May.

Tim Lincecum pitching against the Padres in the Cactus League
Perhaps the most anticipated spring training start was from Tim Lincecum, who beefed up his offseason workout by throwing in a warehouse he rented out. Lincecum, who has not been the sharpest in past spring trainings, is looking to come out of the gate strong.

Although he ran into some trouble in his Cactus League debut Monday, it was almost a perfect tune-up for him.

After pitching a 1-2-3 first inning against the San Diego Padres, Lincecum gave up a leadoff double and a one-out walk in the second inning. But he got out of the jam by showing good command--retiring the next two hitters on a strikeout and groundout.

Instead of nibbling and losing his composure with runners on, Lincecum kept throwing quality strikes with good location and movement. It was a perfect outing for because he proved early on he could get out of his own mess and avoid a big inning that happened all too often last year.

Last season, hitters had a .352 OBP with runners in scoring position against Lincecum, which perpetuated rallies.

And in 2014, Lincecum's runners left-on-base percentage was about 69 percent, which is below average, according to MLB FanGraphs. In comparison, FanGraphs said Bumgarner's left-on-base percentage was nearly 76 percent, which is above average.

Lincecum is hoping to stop rallies this season instead of fuel them.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

VIDEO: Josh Reddick robs Michael Morse of two home runs in Cactus League opener

Josh Reddick chases down a fly ball at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Credit: Keith Allison via Flickr.
The Oakland A's routed the Giants 10-5 in Wednesday's Cactus League opener, but that wasn't the story.

A's outfielder Josh Reddick robbed new Giant Michael Morse of a home run not once--but twice, leaping over the right-field wall to bring back at least four runs the Giants would have scored in the game.

The first case of highway robbery happened in the second inning against Jesse Chavez. Morse thought he could make an impression right away by hitting an opposite-field shot, but Reddick would have none of that.

Here's the video of both incredible catches:

 
Although the stats do not count on Morse's baseball card, he for sure wanted to make a good impression on the Giants by showing them right away he will be a power force in the lineup.

Morse was in disbelief after the second home-run robbery and understandably so. That would have been two home runs and four RBIs right away to show the Giants his wrist has completely healed.

But Morse laughed it off after the game, according to MLB.com's Chris Haft.

But the Giants do have to like how Morse is displaying opposite-field power, whether or not he is rewarded on his baseball card.

Morse will have another chance Friday against the Brewers, as Opening Day starter Madison Bumgarner will take the hill in his Cactus League debut.

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