Bruce Bochy

San Francisco Giants: Is Pablo Sandoval Pressing?

Apr 21, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Pablo Sandoval has had a lot on his mind recently. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, the San Francisco Giants told Sandoval that he had to lose weight and keep it off if he wanted to get consistent playing time in 2014 and possibly get a contract extension. Sandoval took this seriously and lost at least 30 pounds in the offseason.

In addition to his weight loss program, Sandoval had to deal with the weight of a potential contract extension hanging over his head. The Giants and Sandoval weren’t able to come to an agreement on an extension before Opening Day. Sandoval turned down a three-year, $40 million offer, and the conversation between the Giants and Sandoval about a possible extension has stalled.

So far this season, with all this extra “weight” hanging over him, Sandoval is hitting .165 with a .258 OBP, .278 slugging percentage, two home runs, six RBI, and 18 strikeouts in 21 games and 79 at-bats.

For a career .294 hitter, these numbers are extremely baffling and disappointing, especially given his weight loss in the offseason. So what can his poor offensive numbers be attributed to? Is he pressing? Is he hiding an injury? Is he lacking confidence? Are the contract negotiations weighing too heavily on him?

When discussing his recent struggles with Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group, Sandoval insisted that none of these things have affected his performance at the plate this season.

“You got good games, you got bad games, so you have to keep humble and keep your head up,” Sandoval said. “Try to do the best that you can out there, try to do all the things you can do, keep working hard. Good things are going to come.”

Bruce Bochy has employed several different strategies in order to break Sandoval out of this uncharacteristically long slump.

After hitting .171 on the season and going hitless against the San Diego Padres on April 19, Bochy told Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group that he was going to give Sandoval a day off on the 20th.

“He needs a mental break,” Bochy said. “Tonight I thought he was pressing more than any other game.”

The day off didn’t seem to help Sandoval that much though. On the first day of a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies on the 21st, the day after his day off, he struck out once and went hitless in four at-bats. On the 22nd, also against the Rockies, he had one hit (a double) and one walk in three at-bats. On the 23rd, he had no hits, a walk, and one strikeout, in two at-bats.

Bochy also tried dropping him in the lineup. Bochy only dropped him from the third spot to the fourth spot, so it wasn’t a drastic change. However, Bochy was hoping this type of change would ease some pressure off of Sandoval. This didn’t help either.

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

Whether Sandoval is pressing at the plate or not, Bochy might have to find some new ways to get the Panda going. One option is dropping him further down in the lineup, maybe down to sixth. For example, Bochy could have a batting order like this: Angel Pagan, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Michael Morse, Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Hicks, and the pitcher.

It’s impossible to predict if this would reignite Sandoval offensively, but this sort of a “wake-up call” could perhaps give Sandoval a fresh start.

Another option is to give him two or even three days off in a row, which would give him a mental break and would allow him to re-focus. Bochy has used this strategy in the past with struggling players, and it usually works.

One last option is for Bochy to keep playing Sandoval as he normally would and hope that he will find a way out of it soon by himself. Bochy is a players’ manager. He believes in his players, and he won’t criticize them or punish them for poor play.

The clubhouse has been very loose, despite the struggles of the offense recently (besides yesterday’s win in Colorado). It doesn’t look like any of the Giants, including Sandoval, are pressing, and that’s why Bochy has been patient with them.

There are many benefits to a team with great team chemistry like the Giants, but one of the drawbacks is that if one person starts to struggle, others start to struggle too. This might be Sandoval’s problem. Other Giants such as Gregor Blanco and Posey are in their own slumps right now, so Sandoval might be unintentionally feeding off of that.

There isn’t a clear answer to how Sandoval can break out of this slump, but Bochy has a few options on how to try to wake up Sandoval offensively. Hopefully for the Giant, one of these options will work.

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San Francisco Giants: 3 Good Signs/3 Bad Signs From First 10 Days

April 5, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) celebrates the 7-2 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Apr 6, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) follows through on a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers defeated the Giants 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to their power, the Giants lead MLB with a .393 average with runners in scoring position. They also lead MLB with a .462 average with runners in scoring position and with two outs.

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.

Apr 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (32) in the third inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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.

San Francisco Giants: Is Michael Morse The Answer?

Sep 20, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Michael Morse (38) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The San Francisco Giants have finally found their everyday left fielder. The Giants agreed to terms with Michael Morse on a one-year contract worth $6 million plus incentives based on plate appearances, which could lead to $3 million more. Morse has played nine seasons in MLB for the Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles. Morse, who will be 32 on Opening Day next season, is expected to be the starting left fielder for the Giants, but he can also play right field, first base, and even some third base.

Last season, he struggled at the plate because of a wrist injury as he hit .215, had a .270 OBP, and a .381 slugging percentage. He did have 13 home runs and 27 RBI though in 88 games. The Giants are hoping that he can re-create the great production he had in the 2011 season with the Nationals when he hit .303 with 31 home runs, 95 RBI, and he had a .360 OBP and a .550 slugging percentage.

“For me, I thought he was our best option and it’s certainly what I wanted,” Bruce Bochy said. “I’ve always liked him. He’s a threat up there.”

Morse brings many things to the Giants that they severely lacked last season. First of all, the Giants needed a left fielder with right-handed power. One of Morse’s strongest qualities is his immense power. Last season, the Giants had some of the worst production from left field in all of MLB. Giants’ left fielders hit just five home runs last season, the fewest in the majors, and had a collective .651 OPS, the lowest of any position for the Giants.

AT&T Park is known as the ballpark where power goes to die. However, Bochy believes that Morse will be able to translate his power to the confines of AT&T Park, even to the more daunting right field side.

Another quality that Morse brings to the Giants is his versatility. He’s not known for his defensive prowess, but his ability to play multiple positions will prove to be advantageous for the Giants. He was drafted as a shortstop, and, as mentioned before, he can play both corner outfield spots, first base, and third base. Bochy has said that Morse will be in the starting lineup every day, mostly at left field, but also sometimes at one of those other positions.

Lastly, Bochy believes that Morse will be a great fit in the clubhouse. Bochy knows Morse already, because he coached him on a traveling All-Star team in Taiwan in 2011. Bochy commended Morse’s impressive work ethic and energetic personality. He seems like a Hunter Pence-esque type of presence in the clubhouse and on the field, mostly because of his quirkiness and awkwardness.

Aug 4, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Michael Morse (38) doubles in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants have a history of acquiring players who are coming off of a poor year, production-wise, and getting fairly good production from them the next year. The Giants saw this pattern when they acquired Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, and Pat Burrell in 2010. They’re hoping to receive this same type of result with Morse.

“He’s a great for us and what we need — a right-handed bat with power,” Bochy said. “I guess you could make a comparable to when we acquired Pat Burrell in 2010. When this guy is healthy, and he is now, he can do some damage. It’s well worth any risk to bring him aboard.”

The Giants will have many options in terms of their batting order. Bochy said that he likes putting Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Pence, and Pablo Sandoval in the number three through six spots in the batting order, but this might change with the addition of Morse. Bochy said that Morse could possibly hit fifth, sixth, or seventh. He likes keeping Belt in the three-hole, but depending on pitching matchups and who is hitting well at a given time, the lineup could change day-to-day.

The Giants will have a starting lineup that will look something like: Pagan CF, Scutaro 2B, Belt 1B, Posey C, Pence RF, Sandoval 3B, Morse LF, Crawford SS, and the pitcher’s spot. If everyone is healthy, this is a pretty strong lineup. The Giants will certainly have more power than they had last year with the addition of Morse, and they will have a good balance of speed, power, opposite-field hitting, etc.

In addition to a better starting lineup, another great part of the Morse signing is that it allows Gregor Blanco to come off the bench. Blanco was over-exposed last season because he had to play an everyday role. Blanco was supposed to platoon with Andres Torres, but when Pagan went down with his hamstring injury, Blanco was forced to start every day, which affected his offense.

Blanco will most likely be the Giants’ fourth outfielder and come into games as a defensive replacement in the late innnings for Morse. Since he can play all four outfield spots, he will earn some spot starts too, in order to give a rest day to any of the outfielders. This is the best role for Blanco, and he will be a valuable player off the bench for the Giants this upcoming season.

Morse has been labeled as injury-prone, but if he can play the majority of next season, he will be an excellent fit for this Giants team. As Bochy said, Morse will prove to be worth the risk. He provides some much-needed power, versatility, and a strong work ethic. If healthy, Morse could be the answer to many of the Giants’ problems from last season.

San Francisco Giants: The Case to Give Younger Players More Starts

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The San Francisco Giants were officially eliminated from the NL West Monday night. The Giants won’t be winning a wild-card playoff spot either, so it’s officially time for the organization to start looking towards the future.

February 20, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Heath Hembree (72) poses for a picture during photo day at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants called up many young, promising players from their AAA affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, at the beginning of this month. They brought back some familiar faces such as Jake Dunning, George Kontos, Francisco Peguero, Nick Noonan, and Juan Perez. They also brought up some prospects that hadn’t made their major league debuts yet such as Johnny Monell, Ehire Adrianza, and Heath Hembree.

Since the September call-ups, not many of these prospects have started games or seen a significant amount of playing time though. Bruce Bochy seems adamant about starting his regular players for the rest of the season.

“I’ll find my spots to get [the callups] in the game,” Bochy said. “Some of them will start, but at the same time, we’re going to be playing to win every game. Our regulars are going to be out there.”

Bochy’s stance is understandable. After an extremely disappointing season, Bochy wants this team to finish this season strong. Even if it’s impossible to make the playoffs, they could still finish off the season on a run and carry some of that momentum into next season. If they finish on a good note, then it’s more likely that the returning Giants players will come into spring training with a better attitude and will be more focused on getting back to the playoffs next season.

Although that argument verifies that Bochy should continue to start the regular players, it’s time to at least start mixing in some of the prospects. Bochy doesn’t necessarily have to do a starting lineup with just the prospects, but it would be wise to give each of them some starts occasionally. This will give them some experience in the major leagues, it will make them more confident about their game, and it will potentially put some of them in a better position to make next season’s roster.

For example, Hembree has a great shot at making an impact next season for the Giants. In fact, Hembree almost made the 25-man roster coming into this season. He has only appeared in three games so far this season for the Giants, but he has been very impressive so far. He currently has a 0.00 ERA with three strikeouts and two walks in three innings. He also has only allowed one hit.

He has shown great command of all his pitches, and he throws hard. He could easily make the 25-man roster next season and be one of a couple right-handed set-up men for Sergio Romo. After gaining some more experience in Fresno this year, he looks like he’d be ready to contribute effectively next season.

February 20, 2013; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Johnny Monell (79) poses for a picture during photo day at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Although he most likely won’t make next season’s roster, it would be interesting to see Monell get some starts too. Since Buster Posey is still playing with a small fracture in his right ring finger, it’d make sense for the Giants to rest him more or at least give him a break from catching.

Hector Sanchez will certainly get a fair number of starts at catcher for the rest of the season, but Monell could really use some more experience behind the plate. Monell has great power, but he needs to work on his defense. Giving him a few starts would be a great opportunity to see what he can do and what he can work on.

Adrianza is another prospect that should get a few starts. Adrianza is known for his defense at shortstop, but he started to improve on his offense once he was promoted to the Grizzlies earlier this season. The Giants should give him a couple spot starts to see if he truly has become more proficient with the bat.

The Giants, for the most part, already know what they’ll get out of Dunning, Kontos, Peguero, Noonan, and Perez. Dunning and Kontos will definitely get some consistent playing time out out of the bullpen, since Bochy wants to utilize his larger staff of relief pitchers. Perez and Peguero will most likely get some spot starts in left field, and it’s not clear how much playing time Noonan will get, besides pinch-hit opportunities.

The 2013 season for the Giants is almost over, but it’s not too late to give their prospects a chance to prove why they deserve to make next season’s roster. It’s time to focus on 2014 and which prospects could make an impact.

Should the San Francisco Giants Shut Down Buster Posey?

Aug 18, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) looks on from the dugout during the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

During the San Francisco Giants’ game against the San Diego Padres on Tuesday, Buster Posey injured his right ring finger on a pitch from Madison Bumgarner. The fingernail on his right ring finger was ripped off, but it was later revealed that Posey actually has a “small fracture” on the tip of his finger.

Posey said, based on what the training staff has told him, that he’s hopeful that it’s a manageable injury. It won’t require surgery, but he might have to wear a hard plastic piece on his finger when he returns.

“From everything I’m hearing, hopefully in a couple days it’ll calm down and I can play through it,” Posey said.

Is it worth it to the Giants to let Posey play through it though? The Giants are out of the hunt for a playoff spot, so, even though it’s a minor fracture, should the Giants instead just shut down Posey for the rest of the season?

There are a couple reasons why the Giants should consider shutting him down. First of all, if Posey keeps playing, there would potentially be a higher risk of him injuring his finger even more. The Giants are playing meaningless games right now, so it simply doesn’t make sense to keep playing one of their most important players just so he can finish the season.

Bruce Bochy has already said that fatigue is probably a major reason why the Giants have struggled so much this season. Posey is too valuable to this team to risk any further injury, especially if his body is already fatigued.

Second, by shutting down Posey, it will give Hector Sanchez an opportunity to be the everyday catcher for the rest of the season. This will allow the Giants to evaluate how much Hector Sanchez has improved since last season and since his slow start this season.

Bochy said that he plans on giving Sanchez plenty of starts.

“I’m probably going to keep running Hector out there,” Bochy said. “He needs to play. He’s making progress, but there’s still work to be done. You’ve got to remember how much time he missed and his age.”

Aug 27, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Hector Sanchez (29) hits an RBI double during the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Sanchez had a quality 2012 season when he hit .280 with three home runs and 34 RBI’s in 74 games. He’s only played in 47 games so far this season, and he’s hit .264 with three home runs and 18 RBI’s. He’s shown improvement in his at-bats as he’s become more patient at the plate. He currently has a .330 OBP this year compared to a .295 OBP last season.

Sanchez has been a solid backup catcher for the Giants, and he could be a valuable piece to this Giants team next season. He’s a switch hitter, which would give the Giants some versatility off the bench. When he’s healthy, he has a strong throwing arm, and he has some power too. He could improve on blocking balls and his footwork behind the plate, so this would be the perfect opportunity for him to work on that.

In addition to evaluating Sanchez for the rest of the season, the Giants could also get a better look at Johnny Monell, who they brought up from Fresno with the other September call-ups.

Monell had a great spring training with the Giants, but they decided to bring Guillermo Quiroz onto the final 25-man roster, because Quiroz is a better catcher defensively than Monell. This season with the Grizzlies, Monell hit .275 with 20 home runs and 64 RBI’s in 121 games, and he had a .364 OBP and a .494 slugging percentage.

Monell has great power and has above average arm strength as a catcher. Monell could improve defensively though, which is exactly why the Giants should consider starting him a few times before the end of the season.

Even though the Giants are playing meaningless games right now, they still should try to finish the season strong. There is an understandable argument to have Posey play after a few days of rest, so he can possibly help the Giants go on a run and carry some of that momentum into next season.

However, the Giants should rely on someone else, perhaps Angel Pagan, to bring the energy into the last stretch of the season. Posey is the best player on this team, and the Giants need to make sure he’s healthy going into next season.

San Francisco Giants: Should They Call Up Gary Brown and Heath Hembree?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Gary Brown and Heath Hembree (Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports)

The San Francisco Giants are starting to focus on the future.

They currently have a 52-65 record, are 15.5 games back from the Los Angeles Dodgers, and are in last place in the NL West. Based on their disappointing season, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy will perhaps decide soon to play their regular players less and call up more players from AAA, such as Gary Brown and Heath Hembree, to see who could possibly contribute to the team during the 2014 season.

However, the Giants are not in complete rebuild mode, since they already have several valuable pieces on their roster who can contribute next season. The Giants have to finish this year strong. If they completely give up now, they will have no momentum whatsoever going into the offseason and going into next season.

Also, Sabean wants to be cautious with rushing players’ development. He said recently that the Giants might have rushed Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford too quickly throughout the minor leagues. He said this might be the reason why they have taken more time to develop as hitters.

Because of this, it seems rather unlikely that Sabean will call up Brown or Hembree soon. When the rosters expand in September, the Giants could easily decide to call them up. For now though, the Giants want to stick to the group that they have, especially because their current roster is very similar to the roster that won the World Series last year.

Besides getting a closer look at some of their prospects, the Giants don’t have a lot of reason to call up Brown and Hembree now based on their performances this year.

Brown has had a disappointing 2013 season. The center fielder currently has a .228 average, 12 home runs, 46 RBI’s, a .286 OBP, and a .384 slugging percentage. He also has 13 stolen bases, but he’s been caught 10 times.

Brown had a promising year in Richmond in 2012 when he hit .279, had a .347 OBP, and had 33 stolen bases. After such a strong year, the Giants have certainly been tracking his progress this year in AAA to see if he should be called up.

However, Brown started off the 2013 season struggling, as he hit .180 in April and .248 in May. After a promising June when he hit .278, Brown has continued to struggle, as he hit .233 in July and .128 in August.

The Giants are in dire need of some help in the outfield and the leadoff spot, but Brown is not the answer, right now at least. He has a low OBP this year, and he hasn’t had success stealing bases.

They could also use his right-handed bat off the bench to hit left-handed pitching, since Jeff Francoeur has not been productive and Joaquin Arias has been injured off and on this season. However, Brown has struggled against left-handed pitchers though, as he’s only hit .247 off them this season. He hasn’t hit right-handed pitchers well either, as he has hit .223 against them this season.

The Giants have also struggled all season with clutch hitting, which hasn’t exactly been a strength of Brown’s this season either. He’s hit only .205 with runners in scoring position so far.

Mar 11, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Heath Hembree (72) pitches during the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

As for Heath Hembree, he has had a fairly disappointing season in Fresno also. The right-hander currently has a 4.15 ERA with 26 saves in 47.2 innings pitched. He has struck out 58, but he has allowed 47 hits and given up 15 walks.

Hembree got off to a hot start, as he had a 2.19 ERA and seven saves in 12 games in April. However, he had a dreadful May and June when he had a 5.73 ERA with six saves in 11 games and then a 7.84 ERA with only three saves in nine games. He has bounced back relatively well though. He had a 2.53 ERA in July with seven saves in 11 games, and, so far, he’s had a 0.00 ERA with three saves in four games in August.

Hembree has been an intriguing prospect for the Giants. He’s shown that he’s a promising closer, but he still needs more time to develop. He has a 2.60 ERA against right-handers, but he has a 6.30 ERA against left-handers. He also has a 6.75 ERA with runners in scoring position, which is unacceptable for a closer.

There is a strong possibility that when the rosters expand in September that Brown and Hembree could be called up. However, before then, it doesn’t make much sense for the Giants to rush their development.

They’d much rather stick to the players that rode them to their second World Series title in three years, even if making the playoffs is impossible. The Giants are a loyal organization, and they want this group to finish out this season strong.

San Francisco Giants: Are Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean Given Too Much Credit?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After winning two World Series titles in the past three years, the San Francisco Giants are having a disappointing 2013 season. The Giants are seeing why it is so difficult for reigning World Series champions to win the World Series again the next year.

In 2011, the Giants had an excuse for why they weren’t able to repeat as champions. Buster Posey suffered a gruesome left ankle injury in May of 2011 and was out for the rest of the season.

This season though, the Giants have an almost identical roster as last season’s championship team. Yes, there have been some injuries to key players such as Angel Pagan and Ryan Vogelsong, but this isn’t the main reason why the Giants are struggling.

Jul 23, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Giants infield players watch as San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo (54) warms up during the eighth inning in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at AT

The Giants have been inconsistent all season. Right now, they are consistently bad. They are a season-high 12 games below .500 and have a 46-58 record. They also are 10 games out of first place and fifth in the NL West.

So have Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean been given too much credit for constructing and developing this team that’s played so horrible this season?

The simple answer is no. Despite the team’s struggles this season, Bochy and Sabean have found the winning formula. The team just hasn’t displayed it this season.

The Giants have done so well in the past few seasons because they have followed the general formula for success in baseball: pitching wins championships. The Giants have had stellar starting pitching and relief pitching the past few seasons.

With quality pitching, it takes some pressure off the offense, because it allows hitters to play more naturally and not grind too hard to get hits. If the starting pitcher is struggling, players feel more pressure on defense too to limit the damage the starter caused.

The Giants haven’t been known for their high-powered offense in the past couple seasons, so their starting pitching carried them. If the Giants were only able to score a run or two, they knew they could still win the game behind a quality outing from their starter.

This hasn’t been the case for the Giants this season though. Bochy and Sabean brought back the same starting rotation from last season’s World Series run: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Vogelsong.

Cain has struggled with command all season, and he’s supposedly not dealing with any hidden injuries. Bumgarner has been the most consistent starter. Lincecum, despite throwing a no-hitter recently, has also been inconsistent, even though he has been pitching better in the past couple months. Zito has been good at home, but, on the road, he is a completely different pitcher with a sky-high ERA. Vogelsong has been out with a right hand injury since May, but he started to show improvements in his command in the start where he got injured.

There’s no way that Bochy and Sabean could’ve predicted these types of struggles. In fact, no one predicted that Cain would be as inconsistent as he’s been. Lincecum and Zito’s struggles might have been predictable, but Bochy and Sabean weren’t going to trade them or demote them after some incredible pitching performances in last season’s playoffs. Of course, Vogelsong’s injury couldn’t have been predicted either.

Because of the inconsistent starting pitching, the Giants’ offense has felt more pressure to score more runs, especially recently. In the month of July, the Giants are hitting .230, which ranks last in the NL. Posey has had a fantastic season so far, but as of now, he hasn’t gotten a hit in his last 18 at-bats.

Apr 27, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) prior to the game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, the Giants are one of the worst teams in the league, which probably can be connected to the team’s poor starting pitching, as mentioned before. The Giants have 76 errors so far this season, which ranks second-to-last in all of MLB.

Given all these problems, some fans have criticized Sabean for not being active enough at the trade deadline. Right now, with the Giants struggling as much as they are, they don’t even really have the option to be buyers. The Giants haven’t been playing well enough to be able to score a deal (other teams could be wary of the Giants’ struggles or raise the price due to their desperation).

Some fans say that the Giants need to be sellers at the trade deadline. This past homestand was a key part of the Giants’ schedule, and they went 3-7. This might be the time that Sabean should concede the season and starting building for next season.

With Lincecum and Zito becoming free agents at the end of this season (Vogelsong has a team option for next season), the Giants need to address their need for a starting pitcher soon. The Giants don’t have many starting pitching prospects in AAA, so perhaps they can start selling some players, such as Hunter Pence or Javier Lopez, in order to start re-building their starting pitching rotation.

Sabean has been questioned for some trades in the past, but in the past few years, he’s made several key trades that have allowed the Giants to be as successful as they have been. In 2010, he brought in players such as Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Andres Torres, Juan Uribe, and Lopez. Even though these players were outcasts and misfits, Bochy believed in them and put them in a position to succeed.

In 2012, Sabean brought in Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. Bochy again made it possible for his players to succeed by putting them in new roles and constantly encouraging and believing in them. For example, he made Sergio Romo the closer, used Lincecum out of the bullpen, and stuck by his young players, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, despite some struggles at the plate.

Even though the Giants have had a disappointing season, it does not mean that Bochy and Sabean have been given too much credit for this team’s past success. They were the two masterminds behind constructing teams who won two World Series titles. The Giants have won two World Series titles in three years for a reason, and both Bochy and Sabean have played key roles.