Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Giants Decline Barry Zito's Option, Pay $7 Million Buyout

The Barry Zito era in San Francisco has ended.

Barry ZitoThe San Francisco Giants have officially parted ways with left-hander Barry Zito by not picking up his $18 million option, electing instead to pay him a $7 million buyout, according to a tweet from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. This officially completes his seven-year, $126 million contract the Giants signed him to in 2007.

The 35-year-old posted a mediocre 63-80 record with a 4.62 ERA in 197 starts in San Francisco (208 appearances), but he probably will be best remembered for his spectacular Game 5 performance in the 2012 National League Championship Series. In that he game, he helped the Giants stave off elimination by pitching 7.2 scoreless innings, earning the win.

The Giants went on to win that game 5-0, fueling the Giants' series win after they were down 3-1. Zito later beat Justin Verlander in the World Series.


Although Barry Zito pitched horribly for most of his Giants career, it's hard to say the contract was not ultimately worth it. The Giants won their first two championships with Zito under contract with them, including his clutch pitching in the 2012 playoffs.

Although, the other side may say it was a bad investment that hindered the Giants from signing offensive talent during the dismal years of 2007-2009 (even though they won 88 games in 2009). The Giants may have won in spite of Zito, rather than because of Zito.

It is a tough call on how to assess Zito's worth in terms of his contract, but his positive attitude, good work ethic, and clutch postseason pitching, speaks for themselves.

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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Could Tim Lincecum's No-Hitter Be a Turning Point?

The San Francisco Giants, losers of eight of their last 11, badly needed a spark.

They may have been ignited by the San Diego Padres and Tim Lincecum.

The Freak hurled 148 pitches to accomplish the 15th no-hitter in franchise history. The result was a team-wide spirited celebration at the pitchers mound that started with a sneak-attack bear hug by catcher Buster Posey to Lincecum.

Could the sweep at the hands of the New York Mets truly have been rock-bottom? Is this the turning point the Giants have been looking for?

The team needed something to give them energy--some hope--but recent history may dictate that the no-hitter may not matter too much.

Last year, after Matt Cain's June 13 perfect game, the Giants went 2-5 in the games after the no-hitter. That included a June 14 loss to the Houston Astros 6-3 on the next day.

After Jonathan Sanchez's July 10, 2009 no-hitter, the Giants won the next game 2-1, but lost the next six-out-of-seven after that.

And how did the Reds do after Homer Bailey's no-hitter about a week-and-a-half ago? They are 4-6 since then.

The difference among those others teams is they were well above .500 at the time of their no-hitters. The Giants have no time for the hangover effect--every game right now is too important.

After the no-hitter, the Giants are still seven games below .500, and six-and-a-half games behind the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. The Giants have put themselves in a position in mid-July where they have to get closer to .500 fast--and it starts with taking advantage of a struggling Padres team by sweeping them in four games.

If there's one thing on the Giants' side going forward, it's that the no-hitter lifted and energized a team that was badly struggling--and well under .500. Today's game means going into the All-Star break eight games or six games below .500--and the latter sounds much better.

The Giants should celebrate the no-hitter, but they can't get complacent. Winning three-out-of-four in San Diego keeps the Giants alive, but a four-game sweep would put them truly right back in the National League West race.


Lincecum (5-9) has evolved from thrower to pitcher. He carved up the Padres in a completely different way than vintage Lincecum would have.

Instead of blowing hitters away with a mid-90s fastball, Lincecum relied on good location with all of his pitches. Just like Homer Bailey threw almost exclusively fastballs to Giants hitters late in the game at the time of his no-hitter, Lincecum threw change-up (or splitter) after change-up.

Lincecum was just as effective.

More importantly, this proved to him that he could still be a premiere pitcher without a blazing fastball. It will give him confidence going forward and teach him how to pitch to contact.

Even so, as long as he has that change-up, the strikeouts will be there when he needs them. He had 13 in his no-hitter last night.


It's good to see the Giants' offense finally return to something more normal. In the first inning, Pablo Sandoval turned on a 94-mph fastball and raked a RBI double.

Brandon Belt, who looked overmatched at the plate, also turned on a good fastball. Instead of swinging and missing, like he has been doing almost automatic, he ripped a 95-mph fastball over the right-center-field fence for a two-run home run.

The hitters' timing is coming back.


The Giants cannot stop now. Barry Zito (4-6, 4.62) will take on Eric Stults (7-7, 3.50), who threw a complete-game shutout against the Colorado Rockies in his last start.

They need to keep playing good baseball and battle if they want to get back over .500.

It starts by kicking a team that is down, like the Padres--meaning a sweep. There are no more mulligans if you are seven games below .500 and are serious about climbing out of the hole.

Stats from

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

At Least Three Giants Heading to 2013 All-Star Game

NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro

Buster PoseyMadison Bumgarner (2)

The world-champion San Francisco Giants will have at least three representatives at the 2013 All-Star Game  at Citi Field in New York.

 To the victors go the spoils--the old saying rings true in this year's Midsummer Classic. The defending world champions are six games below .500, and are in fourth place in the National League West, but have the most All-Star representatives among National League teams below .500.

Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Marco Scutaro are the trio of Giants that will be at the 2013 All-Star game in the Big Apple.

St. Louis Cardinal's catcher Yadier Molina beat out Posey in the voting. Although Posey has more home runs and RBIs, Molina leads baseball with a .346 batting average and may be the best defensive catcher in the game.

Bumgarner probably got his spot because--well--Bruce Bochy is the National League manager, and the 23-year-old right-hander has been the most consistent pitcher for the Giants. After his masterful seven-inning, two-run performance Saturday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Bumgarner has a 3.05 ERA and the fourth-lowest WHIP (walks and hit per innings pitched) in the league at 0.97.

Scutaro is having a solid season following his career year in 2012. He is hitting .311 with a .346 on-base percentage.

Aside from the recent road trip, he continues to be a spark plug at the top of the Giants lineup.

Scutaro is honored Bochy selected him.

"I spend 10 years in the big leagues and have never been there," Scutaro told the San Jose Mercury News. "I'm kind of at the end of my career and to be able to live that experience, it's special."

This is Scutaro's first All-Star appearance in his 11-season big-league career.

And the Giants could have one more--but that's unlikely. Right-fielder Hunter Pence is in the final vote between five All-Star hopefuls, but he has the worst numbers among the quintet.

He is also mired in a slump. He is 2-for-23 in his last seven games (.087 average) and has to compete with Dodgers' rookie sensation Yasiel Puig--who is batting .407 with eight home runs in his first month as a big-leaguer.

But one cannot underestimate the passion and support Giants fans have for their players. Last year, fans voted Pablo Sandoval over David Wright as the starting third baseman in the 2012 All-Star game, even though Wright was hitting 50 points better than Sandoval, with more home runs and RBIs at the time.

Sandoval was leading in the polls a few weeks ago, but his recent 3-for-28 road trip shrunk his batting average from .293 down to .269. Wright is hitting .304 and has five more home runs that Sandoval (with 13)--and has a .393 on-base percentage.

The fans got it right in 2013 by voting in Wright as the NL's starting third baseman.

Giants' manager Bruce Bochy will be managing this year's NL All-Star team, so he may try to sneak in another one of his players if there is a need for an injured reserve.

Closer Sergio Romo is a possibility. He has a 2.25 ERA, with 20 saves and a 0.97 WHIP.

And striking out Puig and Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the ninth inning of yesterday's game against the Dodgers doesn't hurt his cause either.

Full All-Star game rosters can be found here.

Photos by By Eltiempo10 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons, SD Dirk, and Michael Marconi.

Stats from

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Help on the way from San Jose for struggling SF Giants pitchers (but not this year)

The San Francisco Giants are 11th in the National League in earned-run average (4.15 ERA).

That's right. The same starting rotation as last year's World Series-winning team is among the bottom-feeders in National League ERA.

But the same starting five is just a shell of its former self. Giants starting pitchers rank third-to-last in the league with a 4.82 ERA.

Despite the pitching struggles, the Giants remarkably sit just two-and-a-half games out in second place in the NL West at 31-28.

While the starting pitching has been abysmal, the stellar bullpen has continued from last year--along with good hitting. The Giants rank third in the National League in bullpen ERA (2.85) and are second in the league in team batting average (.268).

Few would have thought, after years of experts touting how deep the Giants' farm system was in pitching, the Giants would be in this mess. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner--and recently--Barry Zito, have carried the Giants, but it's a rotation-wide struggle this year.

But there's some good news and bad news.

The bad news--the Giants have no major-league ready stud in the upper minors to save the day. The Giants tried to bring up Mike Kickham from Fresno to make a start, but it was well--a disaster.

They sent him down shortly after. Kickham has a 4.57 ERA in 11 games started in Fresno.

The good news--the Giants have a surplus of pitching talent down in the lower minors.

According to Baseball America, The San Jose Giants, the SF Giants' Class-A team, have three-out-of-six pitchers in the organization's top 10 prospects.

Kyle Crick is the SF Giants'
number 1 prospect of 2013.
Kyle Crick, the SF Giants' number 1 prospect of 2013, is making a great impression right now. In three starts, Crick has a 0.93 ERA--but has only pitched 9.2 innings due to injury. His longest outing of the season was four innings.

In those nine-plus innings, Crick gave up 10 hits and struck out 12. He is currently on the 7-day disabled list and has not pitched since April 18.

Contrasting with the big-league Giants, the Class-A Giants lead the California league with a 3.53 ERA. They also lead the league in strikeouts (552), saves (19), fewest runs allowed (241), and fewest home runs allowed (35).

Even though he is not on the top-10 prospects list, Chris Marlowe, who Baseball America said has the best curveball in the organization, is lighting up the California League with his pitching.

In seven starts, Marlowe is 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA. He has only given up 33 hits in 37 innings pitched, but he is currently on the seven-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue.

The SF Giants have pitching troops in reserve--but they need a bit more training. For now, the current starting five will have to figure it out.

The biggest problem for them is command. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and the injured Ryan Vogelsong--all former San Jose Giants--must hit their spots and avoid location mistakes down the middle of the plate.

Last night against the Toronto Blue Jays, Lincecum was a model example of what good location in the strike zone can do. The Giants should hope his seven innings of one-run ball becomes the norm more than the anomaly because help from the minors is still a couple of years away.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Re-Starting the Blog

The blog will re-start next weekend. We will have lots to talk about then. The Giants are playing horribly right now, making multiple errors in every game on the road trip.

Is it mental? Is it physical? It seems like the former is bringing on the latter.

We'll see how they do against Washington.

There you have it...

The soap opera called baseball.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Talking Giants Baseball Will Be Back

I apologize for the hiatus, but I've been extremely busy building my sports broadcasting demo reel. I got lots to say about the Giants, so don't worry. I'll be back!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Comparing Perceptions and Excitement Levels of Baseball and Poker

By Daniel Smith

The games of baseball and poker are both games that have roots in American culture.  Many of use have played the game at one time or another or watched the game on television.  Both of these games are very similar in how they are perceived and even their relative excitement levels.  Today we take a quick look at both games and compare these areas.

Someone that watches the game of baseball for the first time might be convinced that there isn't much going on.  For long stretches of the game, the pitcher throws the ball and the batter either strikes out, grounds out, or hits a fly ball out to result in each side going down in order.  While true fans of the game love pitching duels, casual fans can quickly become bored.

However, that all can change within an instant as a player gets on base as a result of a base hit and a power hitter comes to bat.  The coach decides to gamble and pitches to him.  On a 1-1 pitch, the crack of the bat is hit and the pitcher watches as the ball flies about 435 ft into the left field bleachers for a home run.  Fans are now cheering and screaming and there is a ton of excitement as the runners circle the bases to give their team the lead.

In a lot of ways, poker is much like the game of baseball. When a casual fan watches a typical poker game, they usually see numerous hands folded without any actions to speak about.  Someone raises and everyone folds is a common theme in many poker games.  Real poker fans appreciate this part of the game, but this can be boring to normal fans.  That is why pre-edited poker shows are much more highly rated than non-edited shows.

Like in baseball, the excitement level can change in a minute.  There is a raise, followed by a call and multiple players see a flop.  A check is followed by a bet, and then a raise.  Fans start to pay attention to see what the original raiser does, and that player moves all-in.  He receives a call and now fans are on their feet and once the cards are revealed, fans either cheer for their player's hand to hold up or they start screaming for the needed card.  Once the hand is played out, the fans of the winning player explode in celebration as the loser heads over to be consoled by friends after suffering a colossal defeat.

As you can see, both baseball and poker are very similar in how the games are perceived and their relative excitement levels.  They are both games that are deceptively boring but can explode into high drama action at any moment.  That could by why many baseball players have picked up the game recreationally and some even enjoy it as a career after their days of playing are through.

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