Talking Giants Baseball: A San Francisco Giants/Baseball Blog: August 2014

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.

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