Organizational Thoughts

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been able to post on here, but please don’t fret. Cove Chatter is not dead! Baseball season is so crazy, I swear. One minute it’s Opening Day, you blink your eyes and it’s game 25. Holy smokes. I realize I really haven’t had a chance to reflect on things in a while (I really haven’t reflected on the MLB club at all since the first week of the season), so let’s take a few minutes to get caught up.

Giants: 14-10, 1st place NL West

Key Hitters: Angel Pagan, Mike Morse, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey

Key Pitchers: Tim Hudson, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Entire Bullpen

The Gigantes are looking to sweep the Tribe out of AT&T Park today, with Vogey making his 5th start of the season. The starting pitching hasn’t exactly been the strong point of the team so far, but each man in the rotation will have started 5 games after today… that’s a major rarity in baseball this season, and its importance really can’t be overstated. Bumgarner has shown flashes of dominance, but hasn’t quite hit his stride yet. Same for Cain, who has also had some ups and downs. Hudson is without a doubt the early-season ace of this squad, and has been one of the best pitchers in the NL out of the gates. Heck of a signing right there.

The bullpen took some serious heat this winter, but those guys have really picked up the slack this month, especially in Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong’s starts. You really never know what you’re going to get from those two, but the pen has saved the day on many occasions already. Quick trivia question: who leads the team in wins right now? Would you have guessed Jean Machi? Fans seem to dog that guy big time, but he’s sitting 4-0 with a cool 0.84 ERA. Santiago Casilla’s is even better, 0.68; Jeremy Affeldt and Javy Lopez have yet to allow a run, and Sergio Romo is 6/6 in saves. That group is absolutely rolling right now, and their continued health (and performance) will be huge as the season goes along.

On the offensive side, we’ve already seen this team’s peaks and valleys. Pagan has really been the difference-maker in April, and we’re seeing more and more how important he is to this club. Belt is hitting bombs and striking out like crazy. 7 HR in 23 games… is Belter becoming a power hitter? Posey’s bat has been mired in a big slump, but he continues to pump the ball out of the yard as well. I think Buster will be just fine. How about Morse? Another guy who people mocked the Giants up and down for signing… how’s that looking now? I just love that guy; he’s got some of the most impressive right-handed power in baseball, and he’s showing it off big time right now. Stay healthy, Mikey!

On the flip side, Pablo continues to struggle mightily at the dish. This is usually his time of year, but he’s hitting .165. The Panda was supposed to be a lock to have a career year… what will his month of May look like? Hunter Pence looks to be coming out of his own slump, and just in time. The Giants have been missing his bat, and we all know what he’s capable of when he’s hot. Finally, where’s Marco Scutaro? Not that I was expecting him to be on the field at this point, but there’s absolutely no updates on his condition. How did the front office overlook this during the winter? Brandon Hicks looks ok for now, but I don’t see him as a long-term solution. Don’t look now, but Joe Panik is holding his own in Fresno. Even hit his 1st HR of the season a few nights ago.

Overall, I’m very happy with this team right now. They’re hanging around, and staying healthy for the most part, while a good amount the league is not. In all honesty, I think this is one of the better teams in baseball that nobody’s talking about right now. That’s just how we like it, here in Giants Land.

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(SFGiantsphotos.mlblogs.com)

Minor Leagues:

I wanted to touch on the farm system briefly. I entered the season very excited about this system, but I have to admit I’ve been a little letdown early on. We all know about the wealth of starting pitching the Giants have on the farm right now, and a few of those guys have shown up big this month. Joan Gregorio and Kendry Flores have to be the names to watch down in San Jose, and Keury Mella is holding his own in Augusta. Yep, the international guys are taking charge. Esky Escobar is learning how to pitch in Fresno, and his results are starting to get better. I think a lot of people are learning just how tough it is to throw in the PCL. Just ask Mike Kickham!

What’s going on with the Richmond pitching staff? That’s supposed to be the bread and butter of this organization, and the results have been a little disappointing so far. Clayton Blackburn has arguably been the ace of that group through four starts, while Adalberto Mejia is heating up. Ty Blach is keeping runs off the board, but he’s not striking anyone out. Kyle Crick has 14 BB in 12.2 IP. His control has been absolutely MIA lately. I think that’s been a little deflating for me, as I was hoping to see Cricky start hot. Let’s hope he can settle in a little bit, and start pitching deeper into games.

One more name to keep an eye on. Christian Jones, down in Augusta. The Oregon Duck lefty looks very good early on. We knew he had a nice pedigree, but I had no idea he’d be working in a starter’s role at this point. But he is, and the results have looked dang good so far. Jones pitches tonight, and David Lee has him working 88-91 with his fastball, showing a decent curve and a plus-potential changeup. That’s an 18th round pick who slid after having TJ surgery. Nice work on the draft front, Gigantes.

On the offensive side, Gary Brown has probably been the nicest surprise so far. Browny is looking much better in Fresno, and has been a difference-maker to this point. Christian Arroyo is struggling with the bat in Augusta, although Lee says he hits everything. He’s not playing SS (which I think is a mistake), and maybe that’s having an impact on his offensive performance. Mac Williamson is hitting much better in San Jose… I hope he gets to try AA soon. Andy Susac was off to a very nice start in Fresno, but has found himself on the DL. That’s been the theme of his career. Get healthy, kid. Our other sleeper, Matt Duffy, has played well in the Eastern League. The power has been zapped, but his approach at the plate looks good, as do the reports on his defense.

I think that’s enough for one post. Believe me, I’ve missed not writing on here. But sometimes, as we all know, life gets very busy. I’ll try to return soon, but hopefully this will wet your appetite for the time being. Thanks for following Cove Chatter, and go Giants!

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(Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

7 Comments

Playing another position has to be affecting Arroyo, if only because he’s focused on learning the defensive intricacies of handling 2B, and not as much on his hitting. He’s also another year younger than the league in Augusta than when he was in rookie ball, another hurdle for him.

Yeah, really wondering why he was shifted in favor of Ryder, did he do that poorly at SS in rookie ball? The BA profile noted that he (and Ryder) will have to shift from SS at some point, both apparently profile well at 3B, and Arroyo apparently look like he can handle 2B as well, per the scouting report. Taking a quick look at other rookie teams, Arroyo’s fielding pctg and range factor, while middle of the pack, was probably better than worse than average.

Given that players like Joseph and Panik who were viewed as likely to move to another position, yet played at that position all or most of the way up, while they shifted Arroyo almost immediately, implies that the Giants saw something lacking. Though it could also be that, given Arroyo appears to be a leader and have advanced maturity, they felt that he could handle such a move so early and young. Also, Ryder was a SS coming into the draft too, so maybe the Giants wanted to see how he is at SS as well as Arroyo, and they could be swapping back and forth as they rise together. Hopefully we can hear more about this move in the future.

I went and searched and David Lee had a twitter exchange recently, noted that Arroyo is handling 2B defense fine, and still making contact, but just not barrreling the ball and making good contact. Lee also quoted the manager as saying that Arroyo will see a lot of time at 2B this season. I see that Arroyo has played a little at SS and took 3B briefly, so he’s not exclusively there, but mostly 2B.

Found something else by Lee: http://chronicle.augusta.com/content/blog-post/david-lee/2014-04-25/greenjackets-wrap-arroyo-shows-ability-shortstop

He really likes Arroyo’s defense at SS, though might not be good enough for MLB, thinks he should start there until he proves otherwise. Meanwhile, apparently both Jones and Arroyo are getting rest every 5 games or so, and Arroyo has been starting at SS when Jones rests.

Belt has been a belter from the very beginning of his MLB career, in my view, his problem had always been repeating his offensive success on a consistent basis. Anytime a hitter is oh-fer-12 with 9 K’s, he’s in a funk, but that happens to the bbest hitters. After he was pretty consistent with his hitting last season, I’m not as worried about him hitting.

If it were me putting together the lineup, I think that I would bat them in this order: Pagan, Pence, Pablo, Posey, Belt, Morse, Crawford, 2B. Pagan is our best leadoff guy, though I would note that the Giants won in spite of his poor hitting early in 2013, he actually had a pretty bad batting line when he went down. But yeah, he can revv our offensive engine nicely.

I like Pence and Pablo up next. Pence because he has good speed and steals some bases as well, plus with his power, he’s either driving in Pagan or getting into scoring position for 3/4/5 guys. Per sabers, batting 3rd is for your worse hitter of your top hitters, because there are a lot of 2 outs bases empty situations than any other position. Because Pablo has been so up and down in his career, his downs will not hurt as much in 3-hole, but when he’s up, he will drive in a lot of runs.

Posey: nuff said!

Then I want R/L/R/L so that if they bring in a tough righty to face Pence or Posey, then they will need to bring a tough lefty to fact Pablo and Belt, and vice-versa, if they bring in a Loogy to face Pablo or Belt, they then need to bring in a righty to face Posey and Morse. This is pick your poison time for the opposing manager: burn your best relievers on one batter, one inning, leaving them exposed the rest of the game, or risk giving one of our top hitters the platoon advantage.

This is where the Giants have a huge advantage, we have a Loogy in Lopez to shut down their best left-handed hitters but also a closer-capable lefty in Affeldt who can pitch 1-2 innings when necessary, shutting down both lefties and righties. I think Affeldt is as key to our recent period of good performance as anyone else.

I think that’s a fallacy to say the Giants overlooked Scutaro’s condition this off-season. No good starting 2B free agent is going to sign here with Scutaro working actively to come back to the starting lineup. They will not want to come into a situation where they will have to sit at some indefinite point in the future. You will get a Huff type of free agent, who had a really bad season the year before, and that would still bring on the jeers that the Giants overlooked Scutaro.

Meanwhile, if the Giants do that, they basically may as well trade away Adrianza, because there would be no space for him on the roster. And I view Ehire as a future infield Blanco, OK enough offensive, superior defensively, producing a lot of value via his defense.

Lastly, given how well Hicks has been playing so far, both offense and defense, it can be argued that the Giants did well in covering Scutaro’s potential absence given that a legit starting 2B was not going to sign with us. Plus, given the depth of our lineup, all that the Giant really needed from 2B was an 8th place hitter. This season 8th is hitting .227/.298/.327/.625, not far from the .238/.302/.346/.648 from last season. That’s basically Arias likely offensive production, and at worse, you have a Morse/Blanco situation at 2B with Arias starting and Adrianza coming in the 6th or 7th when necessary.

My point is that not much was put in place, when Scooter’s health was a big problem early on. Hicks has done a nice job, but he was an afterthought in February. Things are working out fine for now, but there were plenty of FA who would have made sense. Mark Ellis, Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker. I advocated for them early on, as did Shankbone. A move like that would have been very appropriate. Not dissing the Giants here, but it does seem goofy to not have planned for Scutaro’s health. In a sense, Hicks has bailed them out… For now.

Ellis isn’t playing well right now in minimal playing time, albeit, Punto isn’t hitting that well either and playing as a semi-regular, and Schumaker is injured right now. That’s my point, the options for replacement isn’t that good and, more to my interests, would have probably forced Adrianza off of the roster had Scutaro been healthy.

And, oh my gosh, Schumaker is so horrible defensively that it totally negates any offense he generates, his defense cost his team 2 wins last season. Punto for $3-5M is only OK offensively, at best, derives most of his value via defense, so I would rather risk having Adrianza’s youth and developing bat to go with superlative defense. Ellis, I can see being a nice option, but at $5.25M, and a semi-regular player previously, I don’t see him signing with the Giants to be mostly a bench player if Scutaro turned out to be healthy. So Adrianza looks like the best option to me in each case.

I viewed Arias as the main backup pre-Hicks plus Adrianza as the floor should Arias faltered. That Hicks is working out, yes, a bit of an afterthought, but still part of their pre-spring training decision making, so I’m not sure what your point is.

I had no problem with that plan because I like Adrianza’s developing bat, love his superlative defense, and, most of all, acquiring such a replacement 2B would have meant the Giants would have no space for Adrianza and they would have lost him. And maybe he’ll never develop, but players like him who play great defense while not having much of a bat, are a bit in demand, and we already got one on the cheap. It is not ideal, but it is what it is.

So your ideal scenario is not just acquiring such a replacement player, but also losing Adrianza. I am not OK with losing Adrianza. He has some value which would be totally minimized if they were forced to waive him. And he could develop into more. That’s the balance of current and future needs, so the only way I would want to get such a replacement player for Scutaro would be if I didn’t think Adrianza would be that great defensively to make up for his offense. I think he can be.

Re: PCL, you can ask Heston as well.

Yeah, AA has been a huge disappointment, totally agree, particularly since they are coming out of a high offensive environment in the CAL to a more even environment in the EL (all the AA leagues have roughly the same OPS). Crick, yes, those walks!!! And I have to wonder if there is something going on with him, I actually had a good first start, then has had three short starts in a row, plus a huge jump in walks. Hopefully it’s only because he’s trying something new starting with his second start, but that don’t make sense. The only good news is that he’s not giving up that many hits either, nor homers, it is just his walks that are severely elevated.

I have to wonder what’s happening period in Richmond with walks. Basically 2nd worse (3.9 BB/9 is third, but second is 4.0, so basically; first is 4.5). Bandilla, Casilla, Crick, Fleet, Hall, Osich, and Snodgrass all have elevated walk rates, above their prior performances.

Villalona had been hot until a week ago. He was at .310/.364/.551/.915 on 4/21, but in the 6 games since, oy, his 11 K’s in 21 AB tells pretty much the whole story of his .143 batting average.

And as you probably heard, Mac Williamson just went down for TJS, which is not that major for position players, but does mean he loses this season for development. I guess all that pitching he did before entering college finally caught up with him.

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