Tag: Javier Lopez

Madison Bumgarner ,Buster Posey

2015 Preview: San Francisco Giants


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

The Big Question: Will they do it again?

The Giants came roaring out of the gate last season and looked like one of the best teams in the majors early on, but they stumbled through the middle of the year before playing better in August and September (and getting some help from the collapsing Brewers) to secure a Wild Card spot with 88 wins. Of course, we all know what happened after that. They beat the Pirates in the Wild Card game before upsetting the Nationals in the NLDS and the Cardinals in the NLCS. On the strength of one of the best individual postseason performances of all-time from Madison Bumgarner, the Giants beat the Royals for their third World Series title in the past five years.

“Will they do it again?” is the operative question for any defending World Series champion. The Giants have looked like a mess in spring training, but I’m not going to dismiss them outright because 2015 is an odd-numbered year. It’s cute to joke about it, but there’s no such thing as an odd-year jinx because jinxes aren’t real. We’re all adults here. We can admit it, right? However, I will say that the path back to October has its share of challenges.

After fan favorite Pablo Sandoval signed a five-year, $95 million contract with the Red Sox, many wondered if the Giants would use the cost savings to make a big splash in free agency. It didn’t happen. They re-signed Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, and Sergio Romo while adding Nori Aoki to their outfield, but that was about it. Chase Headley was briefly mentioned as a possible alternative to Sandoval, but the Giants ultimately acquired Casey McGehee from the Marlins. Not the most exciting offseason, but Brian Sabean has a knack for keeping the band together and winning the offseason isn’t everything.

I can spend a lot time talking about the greatness of Bumgarner and Buster Posey here — and man, are they are great — but what the Giants get from some key rebound candidates will likely tell the tale about where this team goes. Matt Cain didn’t pitch after July 9 last season due to an elbow injury which eventually required surgery. He also had ankle surgery in September. The 30-year-old owns a 4.06 ERA over his last 45 starts dating back to the start of 2013? Can he revert to his old form? Angel Pagan was a key to the team’s World Series run in 2012, but he has been limited to just 167 games over the past two seasons and is coming off back surgery. He’s currently shut down with more back discomfort. Can the Giants count on him at this point? Brandon Belt might be a better bet than those first two. The 26-year-old had some tough luck on the injury front last year, as a fractured thumb and concussion issues limited him to just 61 games, but he has looked great this spring and should produce if healthy. His best baseball is likely still ahead of him. The Giants don’t have a lot of pop, so it would be helpful if 2015 is that year.

What else is going on?

  • The rotation has a bunch of questions even beyond Cain. The workload for Bumgarner last year (270 innings between the regular season and playoffs) can’t be ignored altogether. Tim Hudson is 39 and is coming off surgery in January to remove bone spurs from his right ankle. Peavy has avoided arm problems for the past three years and should benefit with a full year in a pitcher-friendly ballpark in the NL, but he’s going into his age-34 season and has a major injury in his past. Tim Lincecum is getting another shot in the starting rotation despite a 4.76 ERA (73 ERA+) over the past three seasons.
  • If things don’t work out with Lincecum (and it’s hard to believe it will, as fun as a sudden revival would be), Yusmeiro Petit is someone to keep an eye on. With his lights-out curveball, the 30-year-old compiled a 3.69 ERA with an excellent 133/22 K/BB ratio in 117 innings across 12 starts and 27 relief appearances last season. He’ll likely begin 2015 in Bruce Bochy’s consistently-excellent bullpen along with the likes of Vogelsong, Jean Machi, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Romo, and Santiago Casilla, but he deserves a long look in that rotation. I’m guessing he’ll get it one way or the other.
  • Hunter Pence has been one of the game’s most durable players since entering the league, but he suffered a freak injury earlier this month when he was hit by a pitch and suffered a non-displaced fracture in his left forearm. He’s likely to miss most or all of April. We should see a lot of Gregor Blanco in the meantime and potentially guys like Travis Ishikawa, Justin Maxwell, and Juan Perez too, especially if Pagan’s back keeps acting up. It’s only a month, but Pence’s production will be missed in this lineup.
  • Hey, remember when the Giants had Dan Uggla play a handful of games at second base last season? That was fun. Fortunately, rookie Joe Panik eventually emerged and proved to be a solid contributor down the stretch and had some big moments during the postseason. What does the 24-year-old have in store for his first full season in the majors? There’s still some question about how much he’ll hit, but between him and Brandon Crawford, it looks like the Giants might not have to worry about their middle infield for a while.

Prediction: There are definitely ways I can see this working out, but I have too many doubts about the rotation and I don’t think there’s enough power in this lineup. It’s going to be close with the Padres and the numerous other teams in the Wild Card race, but I’m going with…Third place, NL West.

Brian Sabean pushed all of the right buttons this year

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 11.30.36 PM

KANSAS CITY — On July 25, this man played second base for the San Francisco Giants:

source: Getty Images

Yes, that’s Dan Uggla. He of the complete and utter nosedive in production and the albatross contract in Atlanta. The Giants picked him up when the Braves released him because, really, they had no other options. Marco Scutaro suffered a gnarly back injury which basically put him on the shelf for the year and none of his replacements were really getting the job done. They had almost completely frittered away their lead in the NL West which, at one point, had been as big as ten games and the Giants were desperate.

Uggla failed of course. I guess he still gets a World Series ring because the Giants give them to everyone, but he failed and he was sent packing just a few days later. At that point Sabean decided to let Joe Panik, one of those replacements for Scutaro, have the job. Panik improved all season long. Tonight he made the key defensive play of the game, turning a sweet double play that halted a would-be Royals rally. Sabean’s decision paid off.

As did many others. Trading for Jake Peavy who, while he laid an egg in the World Series, certainly helped the Giants stay afloat when they were sinking. Taking a chance on Michael Morse when a lot of teams passed. The Tim Hudson deal. Not that this is new for Sabean and the Giants. In the past he picked up Burrell, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross. Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. Way back in the day he got Jeff Kent when everyone thought he should keep Matt Williams.

Obviously there are a couple of great players here, both drafted by Sabean, in Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. But the Giants have not, at really any time in Sabean’s tenure, been a dominant team. A team everyone looked at in March and said “yep, they’re gonna win the World Series.” But here they are tonight, hoisting their third trophy in five seasons. And one of the biggest reasons for that is the guy in the front office, always doing little things to make the Giants better.

Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead


There was much hagiography about the Royals’ bullpen, and for good reason. During the second half of the regular season, only four teams’ bullpens posted an ERA better than the Royals’ 2.87. The back end of Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA), Wade Davis (1.00), and Greg Holland (1.44) was nearly unhittable. According to Inside Edge, the Royals lapped the competition when it came to throwing heat, registering 2,287 pitches at 97 MPH or above.

So no one was exactly surprised when the Royals’ bullpen held the Giants hitless for four innings once starter Jeremy Guthrie departed. Herrera did struggle, walking two, but recorded four outs before giving way to lefty Brandon Finnegan, who retired both batters he faced. In the eighth, Davis flashed his high-90’s fastball and a devastating curve to strike out two of the three batters he faced. And in the ninth, with the Giants needing one run, Holland retired Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence in order to end the game and notch the save.

The Royals hit the scoreboard early thanks to Alcides Escobar doubling to start the ballgame, then coming around to score after a pair of ground outs. In the sixth, the Royals tacked on two more runs against Giants starter Tim Hudson to make it 3-0 when Alex Gordon doubled to center field to drive in Escobar, and Eric Hosmer lined a single to center against reliever Javier Lopez to score Gordon.

The Giants finally mounted an offensive attack against Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie in the bottom of the sixth. Guthrie had retired 10 batters in a row, but Brandon Crawford singled to lead off the frame and promptly scored when Mike Morse ripped a double down the left field line. Manager Ned Yost relieved Guthrie with Kelvin Herrera, but the right-hander had trouble finding the strike zone, walking Gregor Blanco. Following the Royals’ M.O., the Giants then used a pair of ground outs to score Morse, making it 3-2. But that was it for the Giants, unable to handle the Royals’ relievers.

Guthrie got the win (the first post-season victory of his career), allowing the two runs on four hits with no walks and no strikeouts in five innings. Hudson got the loss, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

The Royals take their 2-1 World Series lead into Saturday night’s Game 4. Lefty Jason Vargas is slated to oppose right-hander Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong could be scratched if the Giants decide to start Madison Bumgarner on short rest instead.

Update: Vogelsong is starting Game 4 for the Giants, Bochy says, via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

Royals add on, lead Giants 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning

Alex Gordon
1 Comment

Royals outfielder Alex Gordon gave the Royals an insurance run when he doubled to center field in the top of the sixth inning, scoring Alcides Escobar from first base. Escobar had singled with one out off of Giants starter Tim Hudson, ending the right-hander’s streak of 12 consecutive batters retired. Hudson got Lorenzo Cain to ground out to third base for the second out of the inning before manager Bruce Bochy took him out of the game to bring in lefty reliever Javier Lopez. After a long at-bat, Eric Hosmer emerged victorious over Lopez to score Gordon from second base. Lopez got out of the inning with a strikeout of Mike Moustakas.

Hudson finishes the night having allowed three runs on four hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Jeremy Guthrie has been solid on the mound for the Royals, having retired 10 Giants batters in a row. Manager Ned Yost questionably allowed Guthrie to hit for himself to lead off the top of the sixth, rather than using a pinch-hitter and going to a reliever in the bottom half, perhaps Brandon Finnegan given that the Giants have several lefties due up (Brandon Crawford, Gregor Blanco, Joe Panik). Guthrie grounded out to second base.

Thus far, Guthrie has limited the Giants to just two hits in five innings. He has yet to record a strikeout nor has he walked a batter. If the Giants can’t get to Guthrie in the bottom of the sixth, they stand having to do so against the Royals’ fantastic bullpen.

At least Hunter Strickland entertained us last night

Hunter Strickland

Giants reliever Hunter Strickland had a memorable night, even if it was one he’d probably like to forget.

Things were already unraveling in the sixth inning due to Bruce Bochy probably sticking with Jake Peavy too long and Jean Machi not putting out the fire immediately, allowing the Royals to score the go-ahead run. Javier Lopez did his job in retiring lefty Alex Gordon, but then Strickland entered in a tough spot: two men on and one man out with the Giants down a run.

And he clearly didn’t have it. A wild pitch (nerves?) and a two-run double later (more nerves?0 he was facing Omar Infante, who is not a serious home run threat. Of course he left him a big fat pitch over the plate and it went out of the yard. Now, Strickland has allowed a good number of home runs this postseason. That’s a big reason why, maybe, it’s not a good idea to call on him with runners on base. Either way, if the young and inexperienced Strickland has experience with anything, it’s with watching opposing hitters take their home run trots. Strickland, however, acted like he’d never seen such a thing before and started jawing at Sal Perez, who was waiting at home to congratulate Infante. The highlight, embedded with the players talking about the little dustup:

Strickland blamed “miscommunication.” Whatever makes you feel better dude. You were the only one communicating, and what you were telling the world was that you lost your cool after letting the game get totally out of hand.

He’s young, and as Bruce Bochy noted in that clip, he’s intense. And with stuff like his, he’ll eventually be the kind of guy who is routinely called on to get his team out of jams. But for the moment, however, he has played and ranted his way out of the World Series. Or at least he should have.