Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: August 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

MLB Free Agents: Which Impending Giants' Free Agents Will They Re-Sign?

By Vince Cestone

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 28: Carlos Beltran #15 of the San Francisco Giants strikes out in his second at bat during the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 28, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Ge  
Carlos Beltran is batting .244, with zero home runs and two RBI, in 11 games with the Giants. 
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants will have nine big questions to answer once the 2011 season ends.

Nine men off their 2011 roster will hit free agency this winter, and the Giants will more than likely bid farewell to most of them—especially the aging veterans. Such company might include injury-prone players such as Mark DeRosa, Pat Burrell, and Carlos Beltran.

Beltran, essentially a two-month rental, was the Giants' answer to their offensive enigma that ranks dead last in the National League in runs scored. Unfortunately for San Francisco, Beltran has been an unfortunate enigma himself.

The slugging outfielder was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Tuesday with a wrist injury and has hit just .244, with no home runs and two RBI in 11 games with the Giants. Due to his frequent stints on the disabled list and his gargantuan upcoming contract standard of Scott Boras clients, the Giants will more than likely seek other offensive outfield options in 2012.

On the flip side, here are five impending free agents the Giants have a chance of re-signing this winter.

1. Cody Ross

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 9: Cody Ross #13 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates after scoring on an RBI single by Orlando Cabrera #43 against the Pittsburgh Pirates in eighth inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park August 9, 2011 in San Francis
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The 2010 NLCS MVP would love to rejoin San Francisco in 2012, and the Giants' feeling seems to be mutual.

According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News, Ross talked to Giants' officials during spring training about a possible contract extension.

While he is intrigued with testing free agency, Ross told Baggarly he would prefer to stay in San Francisco.

“I've let them know that's what I want,” Ross said. “Free agency would be cool to experience, but I know what this team is about and where it's going. We have a great thing here, and I want to stay.”

Baggarly also reported that the Giants will revisit extension talks later in the season.

Ross would be an excellent backup outfielder or possibly a starter, depending on who the Giants sign this offseason. While he is streaky at the plate, he has shown he can get a big hit, play all three outfield positions, and has a decent glove.

Plus, the Giants would probably love to keep those "Ross is Boss" shirts selling at AT&T Park.

2. Javier Lopez

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 08:  Javier Lopez #49 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the New York Mets at AT&T Park on July 8, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
While no recent news has indicated the Giants will resign Javier Lopez, the Giants would probably welcome the chance of bringing their crafty lefty back.
The Giants' strength for the last couple of years has been their bullpen. This year is no exception.

San Francisco leads the National League in bullpen ERA at 2.93.

Lopez has contributed to the Giants' elite bullpen staff with a 2.49 clip this season. He has struck out 37 batters in 47 innings pitched, while walking 24.

If the Giants want to be successful in an age where pitching dominates, combined with their hitting woes, they should maintain their strength and keep their dominant left-hander.

3. Guillermo Mota

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 16:  Relief pitcher Guillermo Mota #59 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 16, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Giants defeated the Diamondback
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
He is big, bad, reliable, a bullpen saver, and can even hit a little bit.

While he lacks the glitz and glamor of a Brian Wilson or Tim Lincecum, Guillermo Mota has been indispensable to the Giants in 2011. The quality innings he has been able to throw at age 38 has been remarkable.

Age has not compromised Mota's snap on his pitches either—in fact, Mota has been throwing with more pop. This season, Mota has a 3.92 ERA, but has pitched 61.2 innings in 40 appearances, with 58 strikeouts and just 20 walks.

During the course of a 162-game marathon season, a solid long reliever could be invaluable to a team. Although Mota's upper-90s days are past him, he could find a role in San Francisco next season as the league's best mop-up man.

4. Orlando Cabrera

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 03:  Orlando Cabrera #43 of the San Francisco Giants reacts after being tagged out at third by Cody Ransom of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the second inning at AT&T Park on August 3, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
With the Giants looking at Brandon Crawford as their shortstop of the future, they may want a veteran right-handed backup with playoff experience off their bench.

Orlando Cabrera, while not lighting it up with his .240 batting average this season, can be a valuable asset to any club making a postseason run. Cabrera has reached the postseason six out of the last seven years, including a World Series Championship ring with the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

Although he is more suited for a bench role at this stage of his career, injuries and necessity have forced Cabrera into a starting position at shortstop.

While his .228 career postseason batting average seems unimpressive, Cabrera is still capable of getting a big hit off the bench. He has a .417 batting average in 12 at-bats with the bases loaded this season.

As Giants' broadcaster Mike Krukow said of Cabrera: The bigger the at-bat, the more dangerous he is.

5. Ryan Vogelsong

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 8: Ryan Vogelsong #32 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth inning during an MLB baseball game at AT&T Park August 8, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Ge
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Just one year ago, Ryan Vogelsong thought he would never toe the rubber on a major league mound again.
A year later, he is an All-Star and second in the National League in ERA.

The Giants did not envision Vogelsong anchoring their pitching staff which contains the likes of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. However, destiny had other plans.

Now that the Giants traded away top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the Mets, their pitching depth has plummeted, but Vogelsong alleviated what could have been a disastrous situation starting-pitching wise for San Francisco. Vogelsong's contributions should be highlighted even more so with the struggles of Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito.

Simply put, without Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants might not be in the position they are in now. Arguably the ace of the Giants' 2011 starting staff, his 10-2 record is a major reason why they are just 2.5 games behind Arizona in the National League West.

While there is no recent news regarding Vogelsong's status with the Giants in 2012, they may want to lock him up for next season if they want to keep a solid staff 1-5.

It also could be that with all the misfortunes plaguing the 2011 Giants, Vogelsong could be the man keeping them going, giving them hope to finish the season strong and showing them that anything is possible in baseball.

This article was featured on the Bleacher Report.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

2011 MLB Season: 6 Teams, 6 Keys to the National League Pennant

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 09:  A member of the San Francisco Giants holds up his World Series ring before the start of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Eric Risberg-Pool/Getty  
The 2010 San Francisco Giants will wear their championship rings proudly for the rest of their lives.
Pool/Getty Images
By Vince Cestone

The 2010 San Francisco Giants won the National League Pennant, and then the World Series, with superb pitching, just enough hitting, and virtually error-free baseball--three keys to success for just about any winning team.

This year is no exception for National League Contenders. These canons for success, along with many more, could be a major factor in determining who will win the National League Crown--or even reach the postseason.

Deviating from playing good baseball, even for a week's stretch of games, could be the difference between achieving baseball immortality or going home hanging your head. With strong, well-rounded teams like the Philadelphia Phillis dominating the league with a 77-40 record, any contending team that slumps in any facet of the game come the NLDS or NLCS will probably suffer a disappointing fate.

With eyes on the World Series prize, here are some keys to the National League pennant for all six contending teams.

1. The San Francisco Giants: The Offense

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Aaron Rowand #33 of the San Francisco Giants reacts to striking out in the sixth inning of Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Stephen Du
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The San Francisco Giants may be a strong contender in the National League West, but their offensive numbers are those of cellar dwellers.

With the Giants dead last in the league in runs scored with 402, the Giants are fortunate they are just one game back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in their division. Certainly, the key to success for San Francisco is to sustain their excellent pitching staff, but more importantly, they need to improve their hitting, especially their miniscule .303 team on-base percentage.

Giants' manager Bruce Bochy offered his own explanation as to why his team is stuck in this two-week rut.

"Right now, their confidence is shaken," Bochy said to the San Jose Mercury News. "And that comes from not having success."

If the Giants want to stay in contention and ultimately win the West, the Giants better find the confidence soon.

The Giants attempted to jolt their offense by acquiring Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in exchange for pitching prospect Zack Wheeler. However, Beltran has struggled since joining San Francisco, hitting .244, with no home runs and two RBIs in 11 games.

The 2010 World Series champion Giants were at least in the middle-of-the-pack in hitting. That fateful team finished 9th in the league in runs scored, a far cry from this year's abysmal offensive team, who ranks near the bottom in just about every offensive category.

Despite the offensive struggles, Giants' outfielder Cody Ross is confident his team will turn around their offensive woes.

"We've got a lot of baseball to play yet," Cody Ross told the San Jose Mercury News. "We've got to go out and play like champions. We're not doing it. We're kind of all in a rut."

2. The Arizona Diamondbacks: The Bullpen

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 09:  Relief pitcher J.J. Putz #40 of the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrates after defeating the Houston Astros in the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on August 9, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Astros 1
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Arizona Diamondbacks' 2010 Achille's heel is starting to become their strength.

A season ago, Arizona ranked dead last in the National League in bullpen ERA at 5.74. In 2011, the Diamondbacks rank 12th in that same stat at 3.83.

What makes their bullpen stats so impressive is they were third-to-last in the league in bullpen ERA as April ended (4.89). At the end of that month, they were 6.5 games out of first place and in fourth place.

Now, as their bullpen ERA has steadily shrunk as the months wore on, the Diamondbacks climbed up in the standings. The snakes currently find themselves in first place, one game ahead of the Giants.

Part of the Diamondbacks' bullpen resurgence could be attributed to the acquisition of closer J.J. Putz. In his first season with the Diamondbacks, Putz has a 2.90 ERA, with 27 saves and a 1.066 WHIP.

With their powerhouse offense that ranks first in the National League with 132 home runs, a shutdown bullpen would undoubtedly make Arizona one of the elite teams in the National League--even one that could challenge the Philadelphia Phillies.

3. The St. Louis Cardinals: Beating the Brewers

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 11: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium on August 11, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
The St. Louis Cardinals have a formidable foe to get past if they want to claim the National League pennant.

Even after tonight's 5-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cardinals are 3-8 against their divisional rival. In their most recent series, the Cardinals were able to salvage one game of the three-game series in St. Louis, pushing them up to four games behind Milwaukee.

Despite their struggles against them in 2011, Cardinals' slugger Albert Pujols said they do not see the Brewers as any different than others teams they play.

"We approach every team the same way," Pujols told Matthew Leach of "We have a game plan and we're going to go out there and hopefully try to execute. As a player, they pitch you different until you try to adjust. But I think, as a group, we have a good approach to go out there and take it and figure it out the first couple innings. If it doesn't work, hopefully try to make an adjustment."

If the red birds want to win the NLCS, or even get there, they must climb over their four-game hurdle against the Brewers. It starts with beating their rival head-to-head.

4. The Milwaukee Brewers: Winning on the Road

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 10: Corey Hart #1 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits a two-RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on August 10, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Brewers beat the Cardinals 5-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
As the old adage says, good teams take care of business at home and play .500 on the road. Well, the Brewers got it half right--with an exclamation point.

Milwaukee boasts the best home record in baseball with a 41-15 record. As for playing .500 on the road, the Brewers have a long way to go.

Their 26-36 road record is not hurting them now, as they sit in first place four games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals, but it could have a detrimental effect come the playoffs.

If the Brewers do make the playoffs, they will have to pass through some hostile towns--Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Atlanta. This season, Milwaukee is just 3-7 against those three teams on the road.

A little road warrior spirit would go a long way towards the Brewers' march to the NL pennant.

5. The Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward

ATLANTA - APRIL 22:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves walks to the dugout after striking out against the Philiadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on April 22, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Jason Heyward sparked lots of excitement in Atlanta last year, and he looked like their future offensive star, but the old sophomore slump has plagued the tall outfielder.

After coming off a solid rookie season--.277, 18 homers, and 72 RBIs in 142 games played--Heyward is not enjoying much success in his second year in the big leagues. In 2011, he is hitting just .218, with 12 home runs and 30 RBIs.

Heyward was an on-base machine last year with a .393 OBP, but in 2011, that stat has fallen dramatically to .313. With the Phillies dominating the National League, and their division, the Braves will need every ounce of offense to get through a Philadelphia staff that is a bit better than their own.

With Heyward's struggles, hot-hitting rookie Jose Constanza has recently replaced Heyward in the outfield for a few games.

Although he is disappointed he is not starting as much right now, Heyward knows he will be that spark plug again.

“Now that I have a little bit more free time, I’m able to clear my head some more and get rest,” Heyward said to the Atlantic Journal Constitution. “It’s positive. Everybody sees I’m the same guy in the clubhouse. It’s not about me. I’m here for the long run, and hopefully I can get back to where I’m producing on a daily basis.”

6. The Philadelphia Phillies: Staying Healthy

LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 10:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies celebrates with the dugout after a two run homerun to take a 9-7 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on August 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, Cal
Harry How/Getty Images
The Philadelphia Phillies are an extraordinarily good team that is excellent in all facets of the game.

The biggest key for the Phillies is to ride the ship and stay healthy. At 77-40, they almost can sleepwalk to the NLDS, even stumble over the stairs a few times, and then kick it in gear to win the National League Championship Series.

The Phillies have a dominant pitching staff of aces that leads the National League in ERA at 3.09. They also lead the league in defense, making only 53 errors in 117 games.

Combine that with a team 7th in the league in hitting, especially in this pitching-dominated era, you have a juggernaut in the National League. The Phillies will be tough to beat--as long as they stay healthy.

Roy Oswalt is now 33, Roy Halladay is 34, and Cliff Lee is 32. While they are not checking into a retirement home in Miami anytime soon, the dynamic pitching trio has pitched a long time.

An injury to one key player might be able to be dealt with. If injuries start to pile up, the Phillies might see themselves eliminated after the NLDS.

Sure, even if the Philles pull out another Vance Worley out of their hat, it cannot replace the experience of Lee, Oswalt, Halladay, and Cole Hamels. You never know what could happen in baseball.

This article was featured on the Bleacher Report.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Pittsburgh Pirates – San Francisco Giants Series Preview

By Jimmy Morocco 

Kickin’ it Old School
The Pittsburgh Pirates seem to be in a funk lately that they can’t shake.  Some fans are being reminded of the failures of recent years with the recent losing streak.  Matt Diaz held a team meeting on Saturday and what was discussed wasn’t known, but it had to have been centered on the team’s recent performance.

A lot of people made a mockery of Diaz being the one to call the meeting because of his “singles only” performance this year.  But, the guy is a leader in the locker room.  That is for sure.

It may have not sunk in on Sunday for these young Bucs as the losing continued, but whatever was said will hopefully sink in against the San Francisco Giants when the Buccos face off against the NL West leaders.

A Closer Look at the Enemy

The Giants’ offense has looked awful since losing Buster Posey to a broken ankle on May 25.  They are at the bottom of the league in virtually every offensive category.  Former Bucco Freddy Sanchez’s shoulder surgery didn’t help the offense much either.

Pablo Sandoval has been the lone bright spot for a depleted Giants’ lineup this year.  He is hitting for a .315/.354/.516 line in 279 ABs on the year.  That includes 12 home runs, 18 doubles, and a surprising triple for the massive man they call “Pablo the Panda.”

Brian Wilson is one of the most interesting personalities in baseball.

Two trade deadline acquisitions should also help to bolster the Giants’ lineup.  Jeff Keppinger’s .307 BA should help the cause and he should fill in nicely for the injured Sanchez.  Carlos Beltran also went to the Giants as the biggest trade chip moving at the deadline.  Beltran has a .284/.378/.495 line in 398 ABs on the year.

The Giants have a ridiculously good pitching rotation this year led by the surprising Ryan Vogelsong.  The Pirates won’t have to see two of the best of that rotation in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.

One of the most interesting players in the game will be in the Giants’ bullpen.  Brian Wilson, the Giants closer, has been having a tremendous season with a 2.77 ERA and a .231 BAA.  He has only walked 28 batters in 52 IP to go along with 48 strikeouts.  Wilson has collected 34 saves, which is tied for the MLB lead with Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

Pitching Matchups
Monday 10:15 pm- Charlie Morton (8-6) 3.80 ERA vs Ryan Vogelsong (9-1) 2.19 ERA
Tuesday 10:15 pm- James McDonald (7-5) 4.23 ERA vs Madison Bumgarner (6-11) 3.71 ERA

Wednesday 3:45 pm- Jeff Karstens (8-6) 3.05 ERA vs Jonathan Sanchez (4-6) 4.10 ERA

The Opposing Hurlers

Ryan Vogelsong

Does this name sound familiar?  Ryan Vogelsong used to be in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system for five years.  He was actually originally traded from the San Francisco Giants to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal deal.  The Pirates also received Armando Rios.

Ryan Vogelsong is finally making a name for himself.

Vogelsong was considered a major bust with the Pirates and he was promptly released after the 2006 season.  He didn’t even play in the MLB from 2007 to 2009.  He had a couple short stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and then was signed by the Giants where he decided to realize his potential that was always there.

Vogelsong got his opportunity when he replaced the injured Barry Zito and hasn’t even come close to relinquishing his spot.  He now owns the NL’s best ERA, sitting at 2.19.  He’s also only giving up a .240 BAA on the year.

Those numbers may be skewed a little bit as he is sitting at a .274 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play).  That’s not a terrible number, but there is definitely some luck on his side.

Madison Bumgarner

Madison Bumgarner is one of the good, young players in the game today.  Bumgarner just turned 22 years old this month.  Last year was his first full season and he put up a 3.00 ERA over 111 innings with a 26/86 BB/K ratio.

Bumgarner still has a poor record, but don’t be fooled.  Bumgarner has received virtually no run support this year from a lack-luster, Buster Posey-less offense.  Bumgarner faced the Phillies last time out and gave up two homers, but that’s all.  He struck out seven over six innings but still gathered a loss because of no run support whatsoever.

Jonathan Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez is a testament to how good the rotation has been this year for the Giants.  Sanchez has a 4.10 ERA this year, which is the worst out of the five members of the starting rotation.

Sanchez is just now recovering from an injury.  He pitched his first game since returning from being injured on Friday and he pitched three fantastic innings.  In the fourth, however, his velocity took a dip and he lost his command as well.  That’s not good for a pitcher coming back from an injury.  So, it is yet to be seen how well Sanchez will pitch against the Pirates.

Sanchez has a career 5.17 ERA against the Pirates.

By the Numbers (National League)
San Francisco Giants
399 Runs Scored (16th)
72 Home Runs (14th)
3.18 Team ERA (2nd)
71 Home Runs Allowed (1st)

Pittsburgh Pirates
431 Runs Scored (12th)
75 Home Runs (12th)
3.73 Team ERA (5th)
108 Home Runs Allowed (t-9th)

Notes and Tid Bits
- The Pirates are 0-10 in their last ten games.  They are 54-59 overall and are in fourth place in the NL Central and trail the first place Brewers by ten games.

- The Giants are 2-8 in their last ten games.  They are 63-52 overall and are in first place in the NL East.

- Jose Tabata re-started his rehab assignment with AAA Indianapolis two days ago.  He has gone 2-5 with two walks.  He’s only struck out once.

- Chase d’Arnaud has also started his rehab assignment after going on the DL with an injured pinky finger.  d’Arnaud went 1-3 with a stolen base playing for the Bradenton Marauders.

- The Buccos may be struggling, but closer Joel Hanrahan has continued to be absolutely dominant.  He has only given up two earned runs since June 7.  He has only walked four batters in that period.  He now owns a 1.08 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP.

For more great articles, check out Slew Footers.

Carlos Beltran is out of the lineup for Giants


According to the NY Post, Giants right fielder Carlos Beltran is out of the lineup for Monday night’s series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates because of an injured right hand.

Beltran came out of Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Phillies after experiencing a sharp pain in the top of his hand while striking out swinging to end the sixth inning. X-rays were negative but Beltran had a hard time gripping the bat.

Nate Schierholtz was starting in right in place of Beltran, batting fifth.

Beltran was listed as day to day. He is batting .244 with a double, two triples and two RBIs in 11 games for the Giants since being acquired in a trade from the Mets on July 28.

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