Videos and GIFs — #BELTED: Belt’s Four Dingers in Seven Games

There are those that say Brandon Belt will not keep up the pace of hitting four home runs in every set of seven games. They are probably right. After all, when was the last time you saw somebody in real life hit 92-93 home runs in a 162 game season? Despite the pace Belt is not having for 100 home runs, his hot start is still pretty cool to celebrate, as you’ve no doubt heard Belt was a top prospect in the Giants system and he has changed his position in the batter’s box, stance, and the way he grips his bat! If you weren’t aware of this, you probably missed the Sunday Night Baseball feed on ESPN. Off we go, to the four home runs Belt has launched in the past seven:

Home run #1 vs. Brandon McCarthy

The homer came on an 92 mph fastball

Home run #2 vs. Wade Miley

The homer came on an 82 mph slider

Home run #3 vs. Bronson Arroyo

The homer came on a 77 mph slider.

Home run #4 vs. Zack Greinke

The homer came on an 83 mph changeup.

So far, Belt has two home runs in the first inning, and two home runs in the sixth inning. I think I was most impressed by the third homer Belt hit because he looks the least balanced and gets to show off his pull power there. I think the bat drop in the first shot is my favorite of the four. From the catcher’s perspective, here’s where Belt has lifted off from:

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 5.28.12 PM

Both low, and inside. So far, no home runs on outside pitches. However, he is not without hits on the outer third, but so far this season, he is without hits in the upper third. You usually don’t want to live in the upper third against MLB hitters, or any professional hitters. By the end of the season, I wonder if we will see more home runs from the inner third or the upper third of the zone from Belt. Whatever it ends up being, if Belt gets his dinger count into the upper-twenties or beyond, I’m pretty sure most Giants fans will be pretty happy campers. Hopefully I can do more of these posts with more of the Giants players. Would probably mean the 2014 season is going overwhelmingly well.

After Saturday Goes the Way We Expected, Cain and #SFGiants Go For Sweep Against Greinke and #Dodgers

Saturday’s showcasing of Madison Bumgarner throwing double-digit K’s against Paul Maholm and the Dodgers, I was relieved that the Giants took care of a game they should have had. Maholm is a back-end guy that hitters can take advantage of, while your chances are normally fewer against a starter like Bumgarner. While the Giants bullpen isn’t perfect, they’re not an awful bunch, especially when you get into the higher leverage situations. Still, having a 7-1 lead when Bumgarner left and winning 7-2 is right along the lines of what I expect to see when the Giants throw out one of their top four guys and the opposition sends out someone that is not of the front-line variety. Tonight’s game will not fit that description, as Matt Cain and Zack Greinke are both solid #2 guys in a top-heavy rotation, and while I hope the Giants sweep and win 18-0, seeing a low-scoring one-run game should be the expectations of near everybody.

The Starters — A recap of their first games

Zack Greinke and Matt Cain both went five innings in their first starts, not really reaching the distance fans know they are capable of. Both saw their pitch counts get into the nineties at the close of the fifth inning and each walked two batters. Cain saw seven hits get allowed, but no home runs, while Greinke fell victim to only two hits, one of which suffered the wrath of the hot start by Seth Smith. Both are pitching on four days of rest.

The Bullpen — Who’s Probably Out

Santiago Casilla threw thirty-seven pitches for the Giants in five outs of relief, so I’d say he’s to be used in emergency situations only. For the Dodgers, Jose Dominguez has been used in two straight games, so I’d expect him to be in the same boat as Casilla. Jamey Wright has also pitched in two straight, but only needed two pitches to do his work on Saturday, though I’d imagine Don Mattingly would like to avoid using Wright tonight. Paco Rodriguez leads the league in appearances at five, and it’s not difficult to remember that Paco got tired at the end of 2013, possibly due to overuse. The Dodgers have played seven games so far, and I’d hope Paco is getting a day off.

The Lineups

For the sweep-minded Giants:

Thoughts on the lineup: A good lineup, I just might like Buster up in the 3-spot a little better. No Giants player has more than ten plate appearances against Greinke, so the players are still getting used to him, relatively speaking. That, as opposed to some of the Dodgers and Matt Cain, who’s been pitching in the NL West since 2005.  For the close-to-.500 Dodgers:

Thoughts on the lineup: Andre Ethier has a .441/.467/.574 career line against Matt Cain and Adrian Gonzalez has four career HR off of Cainer, so it’s no surprise that they are in the so-called “heart” of the lineup, but I don’t think I agree with him being this far down. I think you can take Dee Gordon and put him behind Juan Uribe and get better results.

The Prediction

The Giants have won five straight at Dodger Stadium dating back to September 13th of last season, and have won seven of their last eight meetings with LA. I think they continue to deliver the pain, winning tonight against Greinke with most of the damage coming against and often-used bullpen in a 4-2 victory on national television.

Buster Posey Ranked 3rd-Most Indispensable Player in MLB by ZiPS

ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski posted an article Sunday morning about the ten most indispensable players in Major League Baseball. He used the projections from the 2014 ZiPS, their playoff odds when the player was odd and whatever back-up that team would likely use in the case the player would be absent due to whatever awful scenario. Giants fans remember life without Buster Posey in 2011 and remember how it went with Eli Whiteside hopping and Chris Stewart first-pumping. Life just wasn’t that great. Szymborski’s list would probably put Posey higher up on the list three years ago since the supporting cast wasn’t as strong, but in 2014, Posey is still pretty high up the list: third. Here’s what the Szymborski noted on Posey:

With a healthy Posey, the Giants won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. With an injured Posey in 2011, they missed the playoffs. While that’s oversimplifying matters, the drop-off from Posey to Hector Sanchez is massive. With the pitching not what it was a few years ago and the Dodgers’ being the favorite, losing Posey drops the Giants clearly below the most likely wild-card candidates (Braves, Pirates, Reds, Diamondbacks).

Not sure Giants fans would disagree with that. Here’s the list, and you can read the full article here if you have insider access:

1. Justin Verlander (chances of making the Postseason down 24.8%)

2. Clayton Kershaw (-21.2%)

3. Buster Posey (-20.6%)

4. Yu Darvish (-19.7%)

5. Miguel Cabrera (-19.6%)

6. Max Scherzer (-19.6%)

7. Joey Votto (-18.9%)

8. Mike Trout (-17.5%)

9. Anibal Sanchez (-17.2%)

10. Yadier Molina (-17.1%)

That’s four Detroit Tigers in the top ten! That can mean a number of things, the ones I’ll choose would be: they have some pretty good players, and ZiPS does not look highly on the back-up options for those guys. I thought Trout would be higher, but he may be that low because the Angels’ postseason odds aren’t that great to begin with. Interesting that half this list are also players that only make their rounds every fifth day.

The Giants and Dodgers play the last game of their series tonight at 5:00 PM PST on ESPN2.

One Time Through the #SFGiants Rotation: Velo, WalKs, and the 7th Inning

Five games in and the Giants are 4-1. In most of the recent years before 2014, you would imagine that the .800 winning percentage is due to the lights out pitching featuring Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner. Ryan Vogelsong was a late bloomer, sure, but my pessimism on him these days sees the 4.0 IP, 2 HRA, 7 H, 4 ER as closer to what we’ll see from him than in his VogelStrong years. I hope I’m wrong, I really do. I hope he gives Edwin Escobar more time to develop and doesn’t even let Yusmeiro Petit or David Huff even think about sniffing a spot start. The other current starters have given the fans this, all in their starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks:

ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WP BF WHIP H/9
Tim Hudson 0.00 1 7.2 3 0 0 0 0 7 1 27 0.391 3.5
Tim Lincecum 6.00 1 6.0 8 4 4 2 0 7 0 25 1.333 12.0
Matt Cain 3.60 1 5.0 7 3 2 0 2 2 0 23 1.800 12.6
Madison Bumgarner* 0.00 1 4.0 6 4 0 0 2 3 0 21 2.000 13.5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/4/2014.

Got to be careful how much you’re reacting to everything. Tim Hudson‘s performance is what we know each of those four listed are capable of, and yet we enter Saturday’s game with the Dodgers with a bullpen that has definitely gotten its exercise, having to eat up 17.1 innings in the five games of play. An average of a little over 3.1 IP a game of work. Something to watch for the next time through the rotation:

Velocity: Across the board, the velocity is down for the four starters in the box score. An incredibly small sample size to be sure, though if this continues, we’ll want to see how the command is — these pitchers still have enough pitches to be effective against the opposition, be they Dodgers or Twins.

Timmy walKing the walK: Lincecum isn’t going to face Paul Goldschmidt in every start (he will in his next one, though!), so he may not allow a homer every time he goes out, but throwing up a “0″ in the walk column is always a welcome sight. The other Tim also put up zero walks, and I imagine we’ll be seeing a low walk total out of him. The strikeout count was a little higher than usual, though. Of course, I would say that’s likely that won’t continue at that rate.

Completing six innings or pitching into the 7th inning: The level of competition is such that I believe getting through six innings gives your bullpen a chance at work and at rest across the days, especially with a twelve-man pitching staff. Naturally, you want your starters to throw complete game shutouts in less than 100 pitches, but let’s be realistic. Here’s how many times the starters didn’t complete six innings of work in their starts in 2013:

Bumgarner — 6/31 (19.4% of starts)

Cain — 6/30 (20%)

Lincecum — 12/32 (37.5%)

Hudson — 6/21 (28.6%)

Vogelsong — 10/19 (52.6%)

Keep in mind some of this may not have been under the starter’s control and may have been up to the manager to lift the starter for a pinch hitter, so the percentages aren’t truly representative of how long the starter’s could go in a game. How close can Bumgarner and Cain get to copying those numbers and can Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong improve on theirs?

——

So now the starters will get their chance at round two against both the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks (again) and we shall see what kind of learning they will apply to their second time around. Easy to be optimistic about Hudson, and easiest to be pessimistic about Vogelsong because of his age, but just like Michael Morse in Left Field, we need to give all their fair shake before we bail on them or declare them King.

Breaking Down the 2014 #SFGiants Schedule

The 2014 season is upon us (again), with the undefeated LA Dodgers at 2-0 going up against the also undefeated 0-0 San Diego Padres at PetCo Park tonight on ESPN. The San Francisco Giants don’t get going until Monday night at Chase Field. Spring Training broadcasts have given Giants fans some warning as to what they should expect when the tougher times roll around. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have three series with the Astros, and none of the NL West teams look so awful that you can ask your Minor Leaguers to just take them out for you. I’ll divide the schedule into parts to give you an idea of what’s happening when.

March 31st-April 30th: Hello, 2014 NL West, Nice to Meet You

4 @ Arizona

3 @ LA Dodgers

Day Off

3 vs. Arizona

3 vs. Colorado

Day Off

3 vs. LA Dodgers

3 @ San Diego

3 @ Colorado

Day Off

3 vs. Cleveland

3 vs. San Diego

The first month of baseball features two series against every NL West team, and one against the play-in team from Cleveland. The Giants play the Dodgers nineteen times in 2014, and will get ten of those games done with by May 12th. My wife and I may be enrolled in marriage counseling by then.

May 1st-May 19th: The 2013 Playoff Team Gauntlet… and the Marlins

Day Off

3 @ Atlanta

3 @ Pittsburgh

4 @ LA Dodgers

3 vs. Atlanta

4 vs. Miami

Day Off

The Braves twice, Pirates, then Dodgers, and all but three of those games on a ten game road trip. This will be a seventeen day stretch in between days off, and this promises to be a trying time of baseball. I think if the Giants went a game above .500 against the three 2013 playoff teams, I’d be happy with that. Miami will probably sweep the Giants because baseball.

May 20th-June 19th: Stock up on Wins

3 @ Colorado

3 vs. Minnesota

3 vs. Cubs

4 @ St. Louis

Day Off

3 @ Cincinnati

3 vs. NY Mets

4 vs. Washington

3 vs. Colorado

Day Off

2 @ White Sox

Day Off

Rockies twice, Cubbies, Mets, White Sox make up for seventeen games here, and this is where you’ve got to get those wins because when you’re going up against St. Louis, Cincy, and Washington, losing each of those series wouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. They are good teams.

June 20th-July 13th: West Coast Best Coast

3 @ Arizona

3 vs. San Diego

4 vs. Cincinnati

3 vs. St. Louis

3 @ San Diego

2 @ Oakland

2 vs. Oakland

3 vs. Arizona

During this stretch of time, the Giants never go further East than Phoenix, which is a nice pace for any team that resides in the Pacific Time Zone. Hopefully the nice weather and familiar confines will provide a nice stretch of quality baseball for the Giants before most of them rest during the All Star Break.

All Star Break

July 18th-September 4th: All over the place and a sixteen-game stretch

3 @ Miami

4 @ Philadelphia

3 vs. LA Dodgers

3 vs. Pittsburgh

Day Off

4 @ NY Mets

3 @ Milwaukee

3 @ Kansas City

Day Off

2 vs. White Sox

Day Off

3 vs. Philadelphia

Day Off

3 @ Cubs

3 @ Washington

4 vs. Colorado

3 vs. Milwaukee

3 @ Colorado

Day Off

I didn’t know how to break this one up (I’m sure you could tell), but this is another part of the schedule where the Giants will have a chance to play over-.500 ball against teams like the Marlins, Brewers, ChiSox, Rockies, Mets, Phillies, and the Cubs. Teams like the Dodgers, Royals, Nationals, and Pirates could make things tense and for make for possible Sunday Night Baseball material.

September 5th-September 28th: The Tigers and the NL West

3 @ Detroit

Day Off

3 vs. Arizona

3 vs. LA Dodgers

3 @ Arizona

Day Off

3 @ San Diego

3 @ LA Dodgers

4 vs. San Diego

All I’m looking forward to is the weekend of 2012 World Series highlights during the Tigers series and then the last ten games when the Giants are fighting for a wild card spot should be just spectacular. Unless everybody gets injured during the season then whatever, go for that unprotected draft pick! I wrote on Saturday that I expected the Giants to be an 86-win team. I don’t feel that’s pessimistic, but a little optimistic, and very achievable for this group. Hopefully, this post gave you a better idea of what the 2014 season looks like, and are now 100% ready for the season to begin on Monday night if you weren’t ready already.

Probably the Final Pre-Season #SFGiants Roster Moves

After the Saturday Oakland-San Francisco game was cancelled, the cuts, options, and assignments had come out. From the beat writers, here’s the news:

First, coming out of “what the heck” land:

I’m sure that will go over well. Next, it’s safe travels for Roger Kieschnick:

No surprises in the news of Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro. Derek Law, the reliever of intrigue, does not go to AAA-Fresno, but AA-Richmond:

The Opening Day Lineup:

I’m sure Joaquin Arias is excited he gets to start an Opening Day. Minor news with Nick Noonan:

Another note from Baggs:

And, if you hadn’t heard, the first round pick from the 2013 Draft is off to Augusta:

I think that’s a reliable source.

The Giants have no more Spring Training games and open their season on Monday in Arizona against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 6:40 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Mike Trout and the More Than $140MM Gamble

When we go to Las Vegas, one of the games we always look for is the Deal or No Deal interactive game. Not the slot machine, but the one where you have to spin the wheel and land on the briefcase in order to play the actual Deal or No Deal game. Once you start playing and you make your arrangement with the banker for a deal, at the end you have the chance to play Double or Nothing. You don’t have to play it, you can just take your guaranteed money and get the heck out of there despite the prospect of being that much richer. Mike Trout took his guaranteed money and got the heck out of there. While the metaphor to the game suggests Mike Trout could have got “nothing,” I know that’s not true at all, I just wanted to talk about the Deal or No Deal game. Trout could have earned in the neighborhood of $40-$60 million through arbitration, and after that is now anybody’s guess. If you’re paying the healthy Mike Trout of now to a free agent contract, maybe you go with a ten-year, $350 million deal and become a free agent at 36. Instead, Mike Trout signs a six-year extension worth $144.5 million and will become a free agent at 29.

I like Rosenthal’s point about the last three years of Trout’s contract, and while it’s nowhere near close to paying the $5-6 million per Wins Above Replacement might deserve in this current market, it sure as heck is a pretty darn good payday. If you went by the $ per WAR method, Trout’s market value would be in the $50-60MM a year range, which is stupid money, but it’s an idea of how good he’s been.

That Mike Trout will become a Free Agent at 29 instead of 26 did make some on social media upset Friday afternoon and evening, noting how big of a payday Trout could have missed (double the guaranteed money, $200MM more guaranteed money). While I agree he probably missed a PowerBall-sized payday, anybody that’s been paying attention to contract signings know that even if you’re in your thirties, teams will have no problem signing you to an irresponsibly large deal. Isn’t that right, Miguel Cabrera? Now, it’s not Miguel Cabrera’s fault the Detroit Tigers wanted to throw that money at him. Someone offers you that kind of guaranteed money to play baseball going into your age 31 season, you take it. With Mike Trout, the decision was a little more difficult at age 22. Even if Trout plays as 80% of the player he is now for the next six years, you don’t think the market will pony up a ten-year deal? Front offices don’t judge players by runs, runs batted in, and probably have better metrics than batting average to use, so they’ll take a look at the whole package. Hopefully, we’re beginning to be witnesses to one of the Top 15 MLB position player careers ever, and if that’s the player Trout becomes, he’s going to deserve a big ton of money at age 29.

I’d be worried for Trout if baseball were on the decline, but as it catches up to American Football in revenues, I think as long as Mike Trout keeps playing baseball at a Hall of Fame level, he’s getting his now and will continue to cash in later. What would have been interesting in addition to the contract Trout would have received at 26 would have been the contract he would have also received in his late-30′s. That’s probably a topic for the off-season when news slows way down, or in thirteen years when I’m in my forties. Oh my gosh, I’m going to be in my forties in thirteen years.

Tim Lincecum Taken Out By a Line Drive to the Leg, Doesn’t Know If He Will Miss Next Start

On Friday night at AT&T Park in a Spring Training game between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants, you may have heard the stadium go silent in the 4th inning. It happened when Daric Barton hit a screamer right back up the middle that went off of the left leg, Lincecum’s landing leg when he pitches. Lincecum did his best to stay up and walk it off, but it wasn’t happening, as he would fall to the ground, pointing to the back of his left knee as the Giants trainers tended to him. He was assisted off the field with a man on each side, making an effort to put weight on his left leg as he walked off.

If Lincecum’s out, as Baggs said, the Giants could load up on eight relievers, which means Derek Law could get some big-league time, which would be cool for him. Front office has given hints though that they’d want him to go down once Law’s at the MLB level. So, could Edwin Escobar get called up? I believe he’s the story like Law is, so no to that one. With Timmy’s statement, it looks like we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see where we’re at. So until then, enjoy the last thirty seconds of these Sweet 16 games.

Bochy: Chances of Marco Scutaro Breaking Camp with #SFGiants “Way Down”

When I was scrolling through Twitter on Sunday, a lot of fans were convinced Marco Scutaro would hit the DL at the beginning of the season. They live on Twitter a lot better than I do these days, and MLB Depth Charts had their back (no pun intended) with Scutaro projecting to start on the DL. This is probably as close to an official word as we’ll get before Scutaro is announced to start on the DL:

That means Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Hicks, maybe you don’t have to compete against one-another for the time being, perhaps you will both make it on to the Opening Day roster. Manager Bruce Bochy may not know exactly at the moment which hitter might be best for the 2 spot, but you will find plenty of supporters for Brandon Belt over the likes of Joaquin Arias and Brandon Crawford. Belt may not have been the best contact hitter last year, but he sure as heck did produce offensively, so why the heck not have him in the 2 spot? We certainly know Belt can be patient, even if he has his share of strikeouts. Expect Belt’s projected run total to receive a boost and his projected RBI to take a hit if he is indeed placed behind Angel Pagan in the order.

Until then, get well soon, Marco Scutaro.

Tony Abreu Released, Clears the Way for Ehire (or Brandon Hicks)

The San Francisco Giants released infielder Tony Abreu on Sunday morning. Abreu was out of options, as is Ehire Adrianza, whom I’d consider the favorite to nab the remaining backup infielder role on the 25-man roster. It’s Ehire, the 24-year old glove-first prospect, against the 28 year old Brandon Hicks, former member of the Braves and Athletics, who hasn’t played in the bigs since 2012. I hate doing this, but for your entertainment, here are their spring stats:

Ehire

Year Tm Age G PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS GDP OppQual
2014 SF 24 17 40 38 7 1 1 2 6 0 0 2 9 .184 .225 .421 .646 0 8.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2014.

Hicks (too many Brandon’s on the team)

Year Tm Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS GDP HBP OppQual
2014 SF 28 20 48 37 10 16 7 0 3 11 2 0 8 9 .432 .532 .865 1.397 1 1 8.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/23/2014.

You can see which one has had a better spring with the bat, and really it’s not close. The question for Bruce Bochy and company will be if they believe in Brandon Hicks’ bat enough to be a contributor for the 25-man roster. The glove of Adrianza is ready for the bigs, and being groomed as a shortstop will help his versatility in the middle infield. Hicks has spent time 2B, SS, and 3B this pre-season, with most of it coming at the middle infield spot. Hicks has put up decent MiLB numbers at the AAA level, but my question would be is that his ceiling?

I’d be surprised if the Giants released the 24 year old for Hicks, who probably doesn’t have much upside left. You could argue that with Joaquin Arias on the bench for defense already, that the Giants don’t need another glove, that a bat would be more important. That brings us back to the question of whether you believe in the bat of Hicks or not. Spring Training can a dangerous measuring stick, especially for Giants fans really strong on Hicks. Give me the defense, and whatever offense will be a bonus.

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