Running down the rosters: San Francisco Giants

10 Comments

Coming off a disappointing 86-76 finish in 2011, the Giants’ big moves this winter were a pair of underwhelming trades: Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera and Andres Torres plus Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan. To say the least, they didn’t make the kind of splash their fans were hoping for (but have come not to expect).

Rotation
Tim Lincecum – R
Matt Cain – R
Madison Bumgarner – L
Ryan Vogelsong – R
Barry Zito – L

Bullpen
Brian Wilson – R
Sergio Romo – R
Santiago Casilla – R
Jeremy Affeldt – L
Javier Lopez – L
Guillermo Mota – R
Clay Hensley – R

SP next in line:  Eric Surkamp (L), Dan Runzler (L), Brian Burres (L), Ramon Ortiz (R)
RP next in line: Runzler, Danny Otero (R), Steve Edlefsen (R), Jean Machi (R)

The staff remains one of the game’s very best, with three of the NL’s top 10 starting pitchers leading the way. I doubt Vogelsong will come close to matching his All-Star 2011 season, but as a fourth starter, he shouldn’t be a liability.

The bullpen is also exceptional, though Wilson is a bit of a question mark after last year’s elbow problems. Fortunately, the Giants can cover any absence from Wilson. Romo, Casilla, Affeldt and Lopez are probably the game’s best setup crew, and Hensley should do well in replacing Ramirez’s innings.

Rotation depth is a big issue here. Surkamp didn’t appear ready in his six starts last season, and while I like Runzler as a reliever, I’m not sure he has any future in the rotation. Any injury to one of the big three starters — or even to one of the lesser lights — is going to take a heavy toll.

Lineup
CF Angel Pagan – S
2B Freddy Sanchez – R
3B Pablo Sandoval – R
C Buster Posey – R
LF Melky Cabrera – S
1B Aubrey Huff – L
RF Nate Schierholtz – L
SS Brandon Crawford – L

Bench
C Eli Whiteside – R
1B-OF Brandon Belt – L
INF Mike Fontenot – L
INF Ryan Theriot – R
OF Justin Christian – R

Next in line: C Hector Sanchez (S), C Chris Stewart (R), 1B Brett Pill (R), INF Emmanuel Burriss (S), 3B Conor Gillaspie (L), INF Joaquin Arias (R), OF Gregor Blanco (L), OF Gary Brown (R), OF Roger Kieschnick (L), OF Tyler Graham (R)

The Giants needed a star — Jose Reyes, in particular, would have been an outstanding fit — but they settled for a pair of switch-hitting outfielders. For what it’s worth, Cabrera did play like a minor star last year, and he’s just 27 years old. If he can do it again, then the middle of the order has the potential to be very good.

I don’t see either Cabrera or Pagan lighting it up, though, and the Giants might be better off sacrificing some outfield defense in order to get Belt in the lineup regularly. That could mean playing the hot hand between Pagan and Schierholtz.

The bench appears set except for the last spot, which could go to Christian, Pill, Burriss or Blanco. I’m going with Christian, even though he was bumped from the 40-man roster last week. Pill would only make sense if the Giants decided to commit to Huff in the outfield and turn first base over to Belt.

As for the lineup itself, the Giants will likely experiment this spring so that they don’t end up with the three lefties in a row at the bottom of the order (making it a bigger problem is that their two best pinch-hitting options are also left-handers). I think they’d prefer having Melky bat fifth, but using him at the top of the order and sticking either Pagan or Sanchez in the seventh spot would solve the issue.

The Giants finished second in the NL in ERA last year, but dead last in runs scored. A healthy Posey can help there, but there is just so much ground to make up. The Phillies had the worst offense among last year’s NL playoff teams, scoring 713 runs. The Giants were all of the way down at 570. They’ll probably have to up that total to at least 630-640 to have a shot.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

Astros
AP Images
20 Comments

Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.