With improved starting pitching and more speed and depth in the outfield, the San Francisco Giants sure look set to re-create some of that even-year magic this season.
The San Francisco Giants currently have a 6-10 record, which is the worst in the National League West and fourth worst in the National League and MLB. They are coming off a very impressive 6-2 win over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night though.
In this week’s Giants Mailbag, we will discuss Brandon Belt’s struggles so far this season, if Justin Maxwell deserves a bigger role on the team, and if the Giants can win with Chris Heston and without Matt Cain and Jake Peavy.
The San Francisco Giants have the best record in MLB at 35-19, and they’ve had an incredible start to their 2014 season.
The initial National League ballot figures were released on Wednesday, and the Giants had seven players near the top of the voting for their respective positions. Buster Posey is second at catcher, Brandon Crawford is second at shortstop, Brandon Belt is fourth at first base, Pablo Sandoval is fifth at third base, and Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, and Hunter Pence are eighth, ninth, and 10th for outfielders.
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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.
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.
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
The San Francisco Giants have played great baseball and shown much improvement so far in the 2014 season. The Giants knew that 2013 was disappointing in many different ways and that they would have to go back to fundamentals in Spring Training to have a more successful season in 2014.
Obviously, it’s still very early in the season, but the Giants have improved in several areas that they struggled with last season. There are still some areas that need work, but thankfully for the Giants, they have lots of time to improve in those areas.
Here are three good signs from the first 10 days of the 2014 season for the Giants:
1) Brandon Belt’s hot streak at the plate has carried over from last season. Belt is currently hitting .342 and has a .737 slugging percentage with five home runs and nine RBI. He leads the Giants in home runs, RBI, and runs.
After hitting .350 with five home runs and 13 RBI and having a 1.051 OPS in August of 2013 and hitting .341 with two home runs and 15 RBI and having a .910 OPS in September of 2013, Belt was set to have a breakout year in 2014. Even though it’s early, it seems as if that prediction will come true.
Belt is on pace to have an All-Star caliber year, and he could possibly even hit 25-30 home runs this season.
2) The Giants’ offense so far this season, specifically their power numbers and their hitting with RISP, has been impressive. As of Wednesday, the Giants rank first in MLB with 13 home runs, whereas in 2013, the Giants ranked second to last in MLB with 107 home runs for the whole season. Obviously, it’s early in the season and the Giants played their first four games in the hitter-friendly Chase Field, but the power displayed so far by Belt, Buster Posey, Michael Morse, and others has been impressive.
These are all impressive, especially given the fact that the Giants struggled so much with runners in scoring position last year. In 2013, the Giants left an average of 3.70 runners in scoring position per game, which ranked 26th in MLB.
The Giants’ offense has looked more powerful than last season, and Angel Pagan deserves a lot of credit. Pagan is hitting .447, which leads the Giants, and has a home run and eight RBI. He also leads the Giants in OBP with .488 and hits with 17. Pagan has also hit safely in all nine of the Giants’ games so far. Pagan is healthy, and the Giants’ offense is benefiting greatly from his presence and his hot hitting.
3) Tim Hudson has become a fan favorite because of his dominant pitching so far. He’s started two games so far, and he’s gone 2-0 and has a 1.15 ERA, 11 strikeouts, no walks, and a 0.64 WHIP in 15.2 innings. He’s allowed opponents to hit just .182 against him, and he’s allowed just 10 hits and two earned runs.
Every single one of these stats is excellent, but one of the important stats to the Giants is the fact that he’s pitched 15.2 innings in two starts. So far this season, Hudson is the only Giants starting pitcher to complete seven innings, and he’s done this in both of his starts.
Last season, Giants’ starting pitchers threw too many pitches, made too many early exits, and this taxed the bullpen and Posey. Hudson’s efficiency and low pitch counts are already greatly benefiting the Giants.
Here are three bad signs from the first 10 days of the 2014 season for the Giants:
1) Besides Hudson, the starting pitchers haven’t shown some much-needed stability. One of the main reasons why the Giants failed to make the playoffs in 2013 was because their starting pitchers struggled, besides Madison Bumgarner. They need this to change in 2014, and so far, they haven’t proven they can be more reliable as a staff.
So far, Matt Cain has a 5.73 ERA, Tim Lincecum has a 9.90 ERA, and Ryan Vogelsong has a 9.00 ERA. Bumgarner has a 1.74 ERA, but he hasn’t pitched more than 6.1 innings yet.
Vogelsong’s struggles have been the most concerning, because he has faced serious velocity and mechanical issues since returning from injury last season. Hopefully Vogelsong, and the pitching staff as a whole, can bounce back.
2) Marco Scutaro started the season on the DL, and there haven’t been any updates so far on his status. Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group reported that Bruce Bochy has no idea when Scutaro will be back with the team.
“I really don’t know,” Bochy said when asked about Marco Scutaro. “I know he’s doing baseball activities. I don’t even have a target date for you and I don’t think Dave Groeschner can even have that for you.”
So far, Scutaro’s absence hasn’t been too troublesome for the Giants because of the emergence of Brandon Hicks, the versatility that Joaquin Arias possesses, and the defensive prowess of Ehire Adrianza. However, it has to be a little concerning that the Giants don’t have a timetable for the return of their 2012 NLCS MVP and 2013 All-Star.
3) The Giants struggled mightily with defense last season, and they’ve shown some inconsistency on defense this season too. During the first game of the season, they committed two errors but it easily could’ve been more than that. They struggled with executing simple rundown plays, handling bunts, etc.
It even prompted Bochy to ask bench coach Ron Wotus if they needed to start spring training again. The Giants made a point during spring training to get back to the fundamentals on defense, and it certainly didn’t show during that first game.
The Giants have played better defense since then, but they need to keep improving.