Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 Season Preview: AL East Predictions

The AL East is a division in transition with many stalwarts of the Old Guard fading from the scene, but being replaced by a lot of exciting new talent.  Here's how I see it stacking up:

1.  Baltimore Orioles- The O's lose Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and replace them with Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider.  That does not seem to bode so well.  The O's are hoping for healthy seasons from Manny Machado and Matt Wieters as well as a bounceback from Chris Davis.  The pitching is again shaky, but probably the best overall in the division.  Bucky will find a way to get them to win.

2.  Toronto Blue Jays- The Jays jumped at an opportunity to replace disappointing Brett Lawrie with Josh Donaldson.  They spent a lot of money on the belief that Russell Martin's wizardry behind the plate will make the pitching a lot better.  They have high hopes for youngsters Devon Travis at 2B and Dalton Pompey in CF.  All that may not be enough after losing SP Marcus Stroman for the season.  They need rookies Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez to step up big time and for Drew Hutchison to have his long-awaited breakout season.

3.  New York Yankees- The Yankees lose a lot of offense in the IF, but might make up for it with vastly improved defense with Chase Headley at 3B, Didi Gregorius at SS and Stephen Drew at 2B.  The pitching is the achilles heel with several arms seeming to hang by a thread, led by Masahiro Tanaka who starts the season with a partially torn UCL.  The bullpen loses David Robertson and gains Andrew Miller with Dellin Betances moving into the closer role.

4.  Boston Red Sox-  The BoSox have an incredible mix of talent, but the offseason acquisitions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez bring back memories of past mistakes with FA signings.  Boston's big problem is with the pitching.  When Clay Bucholz is your ace, you know you have problems!  They may win a lot of 12-8 games, but may lose more than they win.  I'm going against the grain here and picking them to finish 4'th.

5.  Tampa Bay Rays- The Rays made in interesting move to acquire everybody's favorite sleeper in Steven Souza.  That's about it, though.  Half the pitching staff is starting the season on the DL.  Andrew Friedman left the farm system barren.  I think it's going to be a tough season for the Rays with a lot of empty seats in their terrible stadium.  Look for relocation or even contraction talk to heat up by the end of the season.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/31/2015: Giants 4 Rockies 3

The Giants rallied for 2 runs in the bottom of the 8'th inning to top the Rockies in Scottsdale amidst several roster developments.  Key Lines:

Buster Posey(Catcher)- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .282.  Buster seems to be about where you would expect him to be at the end of spring training.  He has played sparingly enough to not be worn down from the verrry long Cactus League season.

Brandon Belt(1B)- 2 for 4.  BA= .362.  One of Belt's hits was a bunt single against the shift.  Stay hot!

Casey McGehee(3B)- 0 for 2, 2 BB.  BA= .291.  The 2 BB's doubled  his total on the spring.  He has 6 K's in 59 PA's.

Justin Maxwell(PH-RF)- 3 for 3, SF.  BA= .349.  Blanco started the game in RF, but Maxwell pinch-hit for him in his first turn to bat.  Bochy wanted Maxwell to get the feel for PH against a LHP.  He delivered and went on to get 2 more hits plus the SF.  Maxwell was rewarded with a MLB contract for $1 M.  I did not know this before, but Maxwell grew up a Giants fan.  His dad, like me, goes all the way back to the Giants of the 60's, Mays, McCovey, Marichal.  I wonder if the Giants knew that when they signed Maxwell to a minor league deal with a spring training invite?  Maxwell now has an opportunity to live a dream like Andres Torres, Gregor Blanco, Juan Uribe and Ryan Vogelsong, other players who have come in on similar deals and made the most of the opportunities.  Maxwell credits Hitting Coach Hensley Meulens for helping him find consistency in his hitting mechanics this spring.

Matt Duffy(2B)- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .385.  Duffy gets the start at 2B after Joe Panik was a late scratch for what sounds like a mild ankle sprain.  Wouldn't you know, The Duffman gets the Game Winning Hit.  Duffy was also presented with the Best Newcomer award even though he was on the 25 man active roster last season including the postseason.  It has become clear that the Giants, at least Bruce Bochy wants Duffy to make the team.  Brian Sabean may be more focused on asset conservation and Duffy has options, unlike Arias or Adrianza.  Baggs is reporting that the Giants may be working on a trade to make room for him.  The only problem I see with that is other GM's are going to ask for Duffy!

Tim Lincecum(RHP)-  5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 3 K.  ERA= 6.27.  A 3 run dinger to Arenado was the only scoring off Timmy in this one.  Bochy officially named Timmy the 5'th starter.  Timmy pointed out that this was actually one of his better and more consistent spring trainings of his career.

George Kontos(RHP)- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 4.91.  A clean inning for Kontos after getting lit up in his last appearance.

Jeremy Affeldt(LHP)- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 6.35.  Time to get serious here.  Affeldt needs some clean innings going into the season.

Santiago Casilla(RHP)- 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, Save(1).  ERA= 6.55.  Talk about needing a clean inning!

Gary Brown was DFA'd to make room on the 40 man roster for Justin Maxwell.  Brown started the spring hot, but then, as he has done so often, hit a wall and just went ice cold for the rest of the spring.  The Giants apparently have seen enough.  I am not at all sure Brown will be claimed off waivers.  Another question is if he does clear waivers, do the Giants even still want him in the organization?

The Cactus League comes to a merciful end after tomorrow's game in which Madison Bumgarner starts against Indians ace Corey Kluber.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/30/2015: Cubs 8 Giants 5

The pitching was lackluster, the fielding was sloppy and a 5 run 6'th inning was not enough for the Giants today.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik(2B)- 2 for 4, HR(3), SB(2).  BA= .220.  Panik now has 5 hits in his last 2 games and seems like the guy who came in and saved last season.  The dinger put him in a tie with Brando Belt for the team lead in spring HR's.  As Vin Scully would say, go figure!

Hector Sanchez(Catcher)- 1 for 3, 2B, BB.  BA= .289.  Did anyone read the piece on MCC about Susac and Juan Perez getting sent down?  I just don't get the hate for Hector Sanchez!  Yeah, I get the love for Andrew Susac, but not the hate for Hector Sanchez, who I honestly think gives the Giants the best chance to win right now.

Daniel Carbonell(LF)- 1 for 4, 2B.  BA= .316.  Carbonell split the right-CF gap with a long drive that drove in 2 of the 5 runs the Giants scored in the 5'th inning and the game.

Ehire Adrianza(SS)- 1 for 3.  BA= .244.  The hit was a rare RBI bunt single.  Ishikawa's back injury may open the door to keep Arias, Adrianza and Duffy.

Matt Duffy(PH-SS)- 1 for 2.  BA= .388.  Energizer Bunny.

Tim Hudson(RHP)- 4.2 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K's.  ERA= 4.32.  Huddy did not seem particularly concerned or even interested.  Gotta be brutal that these guys are still out there pitching in the Arizona heat in the middle of the afternoon.  Regular season should have started today.

Steven Okert(LHP)- 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 3.68.  Okert finally got roughed up a bit.  Gives him something to work on in the minors.

Tim Lincecum gets the start against the Rockies in Scottsdale tomorrow afternoon.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Training Game Wrap 3.29/2015: Giants 11 Dodgers 9

The Giants mounted a 21, that's right, a 21 hit attack to outscore the Dodgers 11-9.  Key Lines:

Joe Panik(2B)- 3 for 3, 2 2B, BB.  BA= .200.  That's more like it!  Hopefully this signals a turn in his BABIP luck just as the season is about to start.  Do we really have another full week of spring training?  Ugh!

Ehire Adrianza(SS)- 1 for 2, GIDP, Error(5).  The pressure from Duffy may be getting to Adrianza a bit.  5 errors in spring training is a lot, even for a SS.  More on the roster battle later.

Angel Pagan(CF)- 2 for 4.  BA= .185.  Pagan missed quite a bit of time early.  Hopefully he is getting his timing down for the start of the season.

Buster Posey(Catcher)- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .278.  Posey also threw a perfect strike to Panik to nail Joc Pederson on an attempted steal.

Brandon Belt(1B)- 2 for 2, 2 BB.  BA= .352.  I hope we see a bit more power from Belt but at least the shifts aren't killing his BA.  Oh, and if he keeps hitting .352, that's OK too!

Brandon Crawford(SS)- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .234.  Crawford started a DP that I am not sure any other SS makes just because his combination of release time, arm strength and accuracy is as good as it gets.  The ball was scorched to his right and took a big hop, but he read it perfectly and made the backhand grab.  He then transferred the ball to his throwing hand, pivoted and threw all in one motion from a long distance to 2B all while his momentum was carrying him toward the OF.  It was an absolute seed that Panik did not have to move for enabling him to easily complete the relay to 1B.  Absolute magic and Crawford made it look effortless.  Please look up the video on sfgiants.com!

Matt Duffy(3B)- 3 for 4, 2B, BB.  BA= .383.  A huge day, and the fact that he played 3B may be telling us something.  Is it just me or has Joaquin Arias pretty much disappeared from the lineups lately?  This is going to be verrry interesting.  The big thing working against Duffy here is he has options while Arias and Adrianza don't.  Another thought:  I'd be tempted to say this is a Randy Elliott spring for Duffy, except that he has been absolutely raking it since his first full pro season starting in Augusta in 2013, so he has been red hot now for over 2 full years!

Justin Maxwell(PH-LF)- 2 for 4, 2B.  BA= .316.  Don't be surprised to see Maxwell's name in the Opening Day starting lineup.  They need his HR potential in the lineup, at least until Pence gets back.

Matt Cain(RHP)- 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K.  ERA= 8.22.  Obviously not great pitching conditions today so I'm not going to worry…..yet.

Ryan Vogelsong(RHP)- 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K's.  ERA= 7.45.  Again, the conditions may well mean this was a pretty good line.

George Kontos(RHP)- 1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 5.40.  This may have sealed Kontos' fate given that Machi followed him with a Save, albeit not a clean one.

Jean Machi(RHP)- 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, Save(2).  ERA= 3.75.  I've thought Machi had the edge in this battle all along and this may be the clincher.

Travis Ishikawa came out of the game with back tightness which raises the spector of the DL coming into play in the roster battles.

Giants hit the road to face the D'Backs tomorrow.  No word on who is pitching.  Huddy?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/28/2015: Giants 9 Mariners 8; Giants 2 Giants Future Stars 2

The Giants stormed from behind to nip the Mariners in an away game while a team of Giants prospects battled a squad of mostly big leaguers to a standstill in Scottsdale.  Key Lines:

Away Game:

Gregor Blanco(CF)- 2 for 3, 3B(3).  BA= .326.  Very impressive spring for Blanco.  Stay hot!

Kelby Tomlinson(2B)- 1 for 1, 2B.  BA= .167.  Not all the prospects were in Scottsdale.  Tomlinson's double drove in 2 of the Giants 9 runs in this game.

Justin Maxwell(RF)- 2 for 4, HR(2).  BA= .302.  The dinger drove in 3 runs.  The Giants have a deadline of March 31 to put him on the 40 man roster or he can opt out of his contract.  Gotta think this performance all but guarantees him a roster spot, not only for the 40 man but the Opening Day 25 man.

Jake Peavy(RHP)- 3.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 8.22.  Let's hope Peaves was just getting his work in.  You'd sure like to see more by this time in spring training.

Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Hunter Strickland all pitched scoreless frames.  Romo and Strickland had 2 K's each and Strickland got the Save.  I'm starting to wonder if Strickland just might ace out both Kontos and Machi for that final bullpen spot.  I don't think the Giants would want to erode their bullpen depth that much as both Machi and Kontos are out of options while Strickland is not.

"Futures" game:

Austin Slater(2B)- 2 for 2, HR.  Verrry interesting that Slater got the start at 2B here.  As if the Giants don't already have a ton of 2B in the organization!  Slater drove a Yusmeiro Petit cutter the opposite way for a HR over the RF fence down in the RF corner.  Slater said he knew Petit threw a lot of cutters and was looking to take it the opposite way.

Kelvin Beltre played and got a hit in 2 AB's.

Yusmeiro Petit(RHP)- 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K's.  Petit gave up both of the runs the Futures scored. He as followed by scoreless frames from Chris Stratton, Keury Mella, Chase Johnson and Luis Ysla.

The Futures got scoreless innings from Ty Blach, Tyler Beede, Kyle Crick, Michael Santos, Sam Coonrod, Donald Snelton and Tyler Rogers.  Matthew Gage and Rodolfo Martinez combined to give up both runs the Giants scored although Gage was charged with both runs and Martinez pitched 1.1 innings with 2 K's.

Tyler Beede made some noise by unveiling 2 new pitches:  A 2-seam FB and a cutter/slider.  He gave u up a loud out to Belt then a single to Crawford and a walk, then got out of it with 2 pop-ups.

Can't wait for the minor league seasons to start.  I have a feeling that several prospects are going to make big moves this year!

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/27/2015: Giants 8 Dodgers 4

Chris Heston pitched a Quality Start against what could well be the Dodgers' Opening Day lineup while the Giants hitters were roughing up Zack Greinke and several other Dodger pitchers.  Key Lines:

Justin Maxwell(RF)- 1 for 2.  BA= .286.  Maxwell has an opt out clause for 3/30 which is coming right up.  At this point the odds would seem to favor him making the team and opting in.  So far his K rate is a manageable 22.6% in 63 PA.

Joe Panik(2B)- 0 for 2.  BA= .154.  Panik's bat continues to be quiet, but he also made a spectacular diving stop and throw on a ball hit up the middle to nail Yasiel Puig, a very fast runner, at 1B.

Matt Duffy(PH-2B)- 1 for 3, 3B(2).  BA= .385.  Duffy continues to rake.  He has been on a continuous hot streak for over 2 full seasons now.

Andrew Susac(Catcher)- 1 for 3, HR(1), BB.  BA= .222.  Susac's HR was a monster shot that bounced into the trees up on the berm in CF, just to the left of the batting eye which is a long way from home plate.  Man, is this some kind of battle for reserve catcher between Susac and Sanchez or what?  And do the Giants have some kind of depth at the position or what?

Gregor Blanco(CF)- 2 for 3, 3B(2).  BA= .302.  When Blanco is in one of his hot streaks, he is one of the better OF's in all of baseball.  If he could just stay away from the slumps!

Chris Heston(RHP)- 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, GO/AO= 11/4.  ERA= 2.40.  Wow!  Hesto Presto went up against the Dodgers "A" lineup and had them killing worms all night out pitching Zack Greinke in the process!  No K's but that must have been quite a sinker he was serving up there tonight!  With his spring performance, Heston positioned himself to be first in line for a callup if a SP is needed in season.

Javier Lopez and George Kontos had a scoreless inning each while Jean Machi gave up a late run to round out the pitching lines.

The Giants play a game against the minor leaguers tomorrow in Scottsdale with Yusmeiro Petit pitching for the Giants.  Tyler Beede will reportedly get the start for the "Futures".  Jake Peavy pitches for the road squad agains the Mariners.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring Training Game Wrap 3/26/2015: A's 6 Giants 4

Watched this one on MLB TV.  Tim Lincecum had an uneven start while the Giants offense had some nice hits here and there.  It wasn't enough against the A's, but at least it wasn't the usual blowout.  Key Lines:

Nori Aoki(LF)- 1 for 3, BB.  BA= .214.  Aoki looked confident at the plate and put some good swings on the ball.  He is fast too.  Between him, Pagan, Panik and Crawford, the Giants may set an all time record for team triples this season!

Joe Panik(2B)- 0 for 4.  BA= .160.  Panik made contact, but looked off balance on several of the batted balls and just did not look comfortable at the plate.  It was weak contact.  His starting 2B job is not in jeopardy and there is still time to for him to get comfortable.

Brandon Belt(1B)- 2 for 4.  BA= .354.  Belt continued to pepper the field, shift and all.

Hector Sanchez(Catcher)- 1 for 2, SF.  BA= .250.  Sanchez left early after taking a foul tip right at the top of the chest protector.  The fact he got the start with Timmy pitching and did well at the plate tells you he is, by far, in the lead to be the backup catcher over Andrew Susac.

Tim Lincecum(RHP)- 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K's.  ERA= 6.92.  Early on, Timmy had nothing. FB 86-88.  Threw a few good splitters but hung as many.  Everything up in the zone.  He seemed to settle down over the last 2 innings and got his pitches lower in the zone.  The velocity still has to be a concern, though.

Steven Okert(LHP)- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 2.70.  Okert throws from an odd angle. He sets up with his back foot on the extreme right side of the rubber then adds an extreme crossover step.  It's effective against RH batters, at least those who have not seen it before.  It must be a nightmare for LH batters!

Hunter Strickland(RHP)- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.  ERA= 6.75.  FB was hitting 96 MPH.  Seemed to have better command of his pitches than I've seen before.  Pitched more to contact.

Sergio Romo(RHP)- 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.  ERA= 1.93.  I think Romo faced 3 LH batters.  I don't  recall seeing him throw the slider, but it didn't matter.  Unlike last year when he was working on his 2-seamer and changeup and got hit around, he dominated batters with those pitches this time getting both called strikes and swings and misses.  As long as he can stay healthy, I expect a big season out of Romo, possibly reclaiming his closer role.

Madison Bumgarner will pitch in a minor league game today with Chris Heston traveling to Glendale, AZ to face the fearsome Dodgers.  Should be a nice challenge for Hesto Presto.