Month: May 2014

San Francisco 49ers: Examining the Depth at the Wide Receiver Position

Dec 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 15, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

One of the San Francisco 49ers’ biggest weaknesses in 2013 was their lack of depth at the wide receiver position. With Michael Crabtree sidelined for much of the season and Quinton Patton also missing time due to injury, the 49ers had to rely on Anquan Boldin and Kyle Williams, which proved to be not enough for the 49ers’ offense.

Read the full story at Golden Gate Sports.

Golden State Warriors: Offseason To-Do List

July 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers addresses the media in a press conference after a sign-and-trade deal for Andre Iguodala (not pictured) at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

July 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers addresses the media in a press conference after a sign-and-trade deal for Andre Iguodala (not pictured) at the Warriors Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors have a lot of prove entering this upcoming season. They need to prove that they can seriously contend for an NBA title, which is easier said than done. Joe Lacob and Bob Myers have some major decisions to make this offseason in order to give this team a chance at contending.

Read the full story at Golden Gate Sports.

San Francisco Giants: Who Will Step Up in Brandon Belt’s Absence?

Apr 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The San Francisco Giants are facing some serious adversity. Brandon Belt fractured his left thumb after being hit by a pitch in Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and will be out for at least six weeks. Where does this leave the Giants?

Belt was having a breakout season. He is currently tied for third in the National League with nine home runs, just behind Giancarlo Stanton and Troy Tulowitzki. Belt is a heart-of-the-order hitter for the Giants, so they will certainly miss his offense.

The Giants will greatly miss his defense as well. He’s an elite first baseman defensively. He has great instincts, and he can make tough plays because of his height and quickness.

So who will step up for the Giants in Belt’s absence?

The player that needs to step up is Michael Morse. He is already having a great season. He’s hitting .264 and has eight home runs, 24 RBI, and a .520 slugging percentage. Morse is going to have to dig deep and step up even more though.

Bruce Bochy has said that Morse will be the everyday first baseman in Belt’s absence. Bochy likes Morse’s height, his long arms, and his “condor wingspan.”

Morse told Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group that he’s versatile and is fine with playing first base.

“No big deal to me,” Morse said. “You just try not to think about it. You go out and let your talent take over.”

Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez could occasionally get starts there too, but Morse will start most of the time at first base. Bochy decided this was the best move, even over bringing up Adam Duvall from the Fresno Grizzlies, because Morse has the most experience at first base, and this move will give the Giants more speed in the outfield.

Morse will most likely not be able to match Belt’s defensive prowess, but more importantly, the Giants need him to be consistent at the plate and continue to hit for power and get hits with runners in scoring position.

As for left field, Bochy has said that he will go with the hot hand, which is Tyler Colvin right now. In his first start with the Giants and his first game at AT&T Park last night, he hit a home run and triple. He had been hitting well in Fresno recently, and it seems as if he’s brought that confidence at the plate with him into the big leagues.

Bochy told Pavlovic that he wants to see how Colvin does with more playing time.

“Colvin has picked up his play,” Bochy said. “He’s healthy and playing well down in Fresno. He’s swinging the bat much better after getting off to a slow start. He has experience and he’s a good outfielder.”

In addition to Morse, Colvin will also have to step up with Belt out. This is the ultimate opportunity for him to prove that he belongs in the big leagues. He needs to stay confident, and hopefully for him, that will translate into consistency.

The Giants could really use a stronger bench. If Colvin can be consistent and have good at-bats, he might get a chance to stay with the Giants even after Belt comes back. Colvin has an opportunity to get consistent playing time at the big league level with Belt out, and he needs to take advantage of it.

In addition, Morse has already helped bolster the Giants’ offense so far this season, but he will be called upon even more. Morse will potentially be the key to the Giants’ success in Belt’s absence.

San Francisco Giants: Can They Keep the Power Bats Hot?

Apr 19, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) is congratulated by first baseman Brandon Belt (right) after a home run during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

So far this season, the San Francisco Giants are surprisingly one of the best power-hitting teams in MLB. They currently rank third in all of MLB with 43 home runs, which is even more impressive given the fact that they play their home games in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

Much of the Giants’ power has been supplied by Brandon Belt, Michael Morse, and Buster Posey. Belt has hit nine home runs so far, Morse has hit eight, and Posey has hit seven. Brandon Hicks has even hit six, some of them coming at big moments.

Belt, Morse, and Posey are all on pace to hit at least 20 home runs this year, if they stay healthy, and many believe that Belt could possibly hit 30.

Belt, Morse, and Posey are just the second trio in Giants franchise history to hit six or more home runs prior to May 1st. The other trio was Willie Mays with seven home runs, Orlando Cepeda with six, and Ed Bailey with six in 1962. That’s certainly good company to be in.

Belt got off to a hot start in 2014, and he finished the month of April with six home runs and 12 RBI. Belt really got the Giants’ power bats going. He has also homered in every park the Giants have played in so far.

When the Giants first signed Morse, there were questions about if his power would translate to AT&T Park. Morse was confident when he gave Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group his answer to this question in February.

“I look at the bright side,” Morse said to me this February when I asked about moving to AT&T Park. “To me, it’s a ballpark – just like every other ballpark. It plays the way it plays and I don’t think about stuff like that. If you hit the ball good, it’s going to go out. If you don’t hit it good, it’s not going to go out.”

Morse is certainly hitting the ball hard this year, as he’s averaging 427.6 feet per home run this season. Bruce Bochy couldn’t be happier with what he’s seen from Morse so far, and he shared his thoughts on Morse’s power with Pavlovic.

“For a guy to hit a ball where he hit it, a man has to do that,” Bochy said afterwards. “I guess that’s why he got nicknamed The Beast. There’s not a ballpark that can hold him, including this one.”

Posey added about 10-15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, and it has certainly translated to his power-hitting. Last season, he started to wear down in the second half of the season, and it affected his hitting. If Posey can stay healthy and stay strong throughout the season, he can certainly hit 20 home runs this year.

Not only have these players supplied the Giants with a lot of power, but Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence haven’t even gotten going yet, in terms of hitting home runs. Both Sandoval and Pence have only two home runs each so far this season.

Sandoval has been in a hitting slump this whole season. Giants fans know he’s capable of hitting at least 20 home runs though, like he did in 2009 and 2011.

Pence got off to a slow start, but he’s starting to heat up with the bat. He hit 27 home runs for the Giants last season, so it’s just a matter of time until he starts hitting for power. Also, ever since he became a full-time big leaguer, his home run totals each season have been: 25, 25, 25, 22, 24, and 27. Pence is always a threat to hit at least 20 home runs in a season.

It’ll be nearly impossible for the Giants to keep up this type of power production all season long, but with the addition of Morse, the Giants can certainly be a legitimate power threat, as a team. If Sandoval and Pence get going, the Giants will stay near the top of the standings for home runs.

The Giants will continue to get some occassional power from Hicks, Brandon Crawford, Hector Sanchez, Angel Pagan, and others. With Belt, Morse, Posey, Sandoval, and Pence though, the Giants are stacked in terms of power, and hopefully for Giants fans, they’ll hit for power all year.

Golden State Warriors Head Coach Candidates: Stan Van Gundy

Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy pumps his fist in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. (Source: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy pumps his fist in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. (Source: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors fired Mark Jackson on Tuesday, and now it’s time for management to find the right coach for this team.

One of the top candidates to become the Warriors’ head coach is Stan Van Gundy. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported last night that the Warriors have already contacted Van Gundy about taking over as head coach.

As a head coach, Van Gundy has a career record of 579-371, and his teams have reached the playoffs in each of the eight seasons he was a head coach.

In addition to those impressive numbers, in his five seasons as the head coach of the Orlando Magic between 2007-2012, he had a .657 winning percentage, 31 playoff wins, four 50-win seasons, three Southeast Division titles, and one Eastern Conference title.

Van Gundy clearly has had success as a head coach, but he also could be a great fit for the Warriors. He values defense, which is important for the Warriors given the fact that they just recently transformed into an effective defensive team.

According to Eddy Rivera of Magicbasketball.net, Van Gundy has a defense-first mindset, and he always demanded perfection on defense.

“Van Gundy demanded consistent execution, energy, and effort on defense. And he usually got it. Defense was Van Gundy’s currency in all aspects. For the players, it netted them playing time. For the Magic, it netted them wins.”

Offensively, Van Gundy employed a smart, efficient system in Orlando. There’s no guarantee that he would run the same offensive system for the Warriors that he did for the Magic, but if he decided to, it could be a fairly smooth transition for this Warriors team.

The basic principle of his offense was to exploit Dwight Howard’s strength and ability to post-up and surround him with three-point shooters. By having a threat down low, opposing defenses had to pay extra attention to post-ups or they had to double team, which allowed shooters to spread the floor and get more open looks from three.

Now, the Warriors don’t have a Howard-esque player on their team. Andrew Bogut is an elite center defensively, but his offensive talents haven’t been utilized in his time with the Warriors. Van Gundy could decide to integrate Bogut more offensively, which would loosen up the opposing defense more.

Van Gundy would make the proper adjustments to not having a dominant offensive center, and he would certainly get the most out of the Warriors’ ability to shoot threes. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are arguably the best shooting backcourt in the NBA, and Van Gundy would find ways to get them easier looks.

One way he might do this would be to use a stretch four, or a small forward who can shoot threes playing as the power forward. He used this approach in Orlando with Rashard Lewis, and the Magic’s use of a stretch four was one of the reasons why they were so successful in Van Gundy’s tenure.

There are many benefits to starting a stretch four. First of all, it makes the pick-and-roll harder to defend, which would greatly benefit the Warriors because they run so many pick-and-rolls. During a pick-and-roll between a center and a point guard, for example, the stretch four would be able to spread the floor and possibly get more open looks from three if spaced correctly.

Also, having a stretch four on the floor gives the center more room to post up and work in the paint. This puts more pressure on the defense to defend a post-up, which frees up more three-point shots. The Warriors were one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season, so they could certainly benefit from using a small ball lineup with a stretch four more, as we saw in the playoffs.

Van Gundy’s use of pick-and-rolls also benefitted players who had trouble creating their own shot, which many of the Warriors’ players struggle with. When the center is setting hard, effective screens and shooters maintain the proper spacing of the floor, the pick-and-roll becomes even more effective and rewards players with more catch-and-shoot opportunities.

Van Gundy knows how to maximize talent, as seen in the adjustments he made for Lewis and Howard. Perhaps he could help bring back Harrison Barnes’ confidence and get the most out of his talent. Van Gundy also might be more open to starting Draymond Green as a stretch four and getting Barnes more minutes as a stretch four than another coach would.

Van Gundy is a fantastic and proven NBA coach. His teams are always well-prepared and well-coached. Although he’s been known to be demanding of his players and relentless at times, he showed a looser, more positive side of himself later on in his time with the Magic.

He expects the best from his players, and often, he gets the best out of them, kind of like Gregg Popovich. His approach is very different from Jackson in that sense, but that could be a good thing. Van Gundy might be the perfect coach for this Warriors team.

San Francisco Giants: Offseason Additions Are Making an Impact

Apr 13, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson (17) prepares to deliver a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After a disappointing 2013 season, it was a little surprising that the San Francisco Giants didn’t make too many changes to their roster going into the 2014 season.

They only made a couple moves, but they’ve both had a huge impact on the Giants’ season so far. Their major offseason acquisitions were pitcher Tim Hudson and left fielder Michael Morse.

Hudson was a big-name signing for the Giants, because of the success that he’s had in his 15 years in the league. He was coming off a gruesome and potentially career-threatening ankle injury in 2013 though, so this signing had some risk. However, this risk has led to great reward for the Giants.

So far this season, Hudson has an astounding 1.99 ERA, 4-2 record, and has pitched 54.1 innings in just seven starts. He’s also struck out 36 and walked only three.

Hudson has been doing exactly what many Giants’ starting pitchers failed to do last season. He’s keeping his pitch count down, he’s staying in games longer, he’s not walking many batters, and he’s getting out of innings quickly. He’s been the dream starting pitcher for Bruce Bochy and the bullpen.

He’s also been a great addition to the clubhouse. He’s a veteran presence, he works hard, and he gets along with everyone. Who knows how long he will be able to keep up this type of production, but his impact, on and off the field, on this Giants’ team so far has been incredible.

Apr 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Michael Morse against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Morse acquisition was a little more under-the-radar, but there was still uncertainty about how much Morse could produce because of a wrist injury he suffered last season. This signing also could’ve been classified as “high risk” because of that, but like with Hudson, the acquisition of Morse has greatly benefitted the Giants.

Morse is currently hitting .294, and he has eight home runs and 24 RBI in 109 at-bats in 34 games this season. Morse has provided the Giants with another power hitter and a competent, everyday left fielder, which they severely lacked last season. Morse is known as a power hitter, but he’s been that and even more for the Giants.

Also like Hudson, he’s easily fit in with the other players in the clubhouse. He’s a hard worker, he’s easygoing, and he’s fun-loving. Morse has been an excellent teammate, so he’s greatly impacted the Giants on and off the field as well.

Lastly, Brandon Hicks has been a nice surprise for the Giants so far this season. Hicks was a non-roster invitee, and because of Marco Scutaro’s back injury, Hicks has become the everyday second baseman for the Giants.

Hicks is currently hitting .198, and he has five home runs and 11 RBI in 81 at-bats in 26 games. Although his batting average isn’t spectacular, he’s filled in nicely for Scutaro.

Apr 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Hicks against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He’s brought some more power to the Giants, and he currently has more home runs than both Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval combined. On April 27th, he even hit a three-run walkoff home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave the Giants a 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

He also has a .316 on-base percentage and a .432 slugging percentage, which is pretty impressive given his batting average. He also plays solid defense, so he’s been a great pick-up for the Giants.

The Giants are currently atop the NL West with a 21-13 record, and these three players are a significant reason why they’ve had such a successful reason so far. Hudson has been the model for consistency in the Giants’ starting pitching rotation, and he’s been the best starting pitcher for the Giants so far.

Morse and Hicks have provided big boosts in power to the Giants. Morse is second on the team for most home runs with eight, and Hicks is fourth on the team with his five home runs.

These players’ power is a big reason why the Giants are second in all of MLB with 42 home runs, just behind their division rival, the Colorado Rockies, who have the benefit of playing in the very hitter and power-friendly Coors Field.

The new guys have blended well with this Giants team, and hopefully they remain productive and effective, on and off the field.