Sunday lineups: Miscommunication could land Belt on DL, Scutaro starts as Giants go for sweep

The San Francisco Giants have first place in the NL West all by themselves, a full game over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Life should be good, we should be getting ahead of ourselves, but instead, the Giants are forced to continue worrying about the depth of their roster. Brandon Belt told the media that during batting practice before Saturday’s game he was looking at shortstop for a throw when a ball was thrown from second base and hit him in the face. Belt said he was fine at the time of his RBI double, but ultimately Belt’s reports of headaches, nausea, and dizziness caused manager Bruce Bochy to pull the plug on Belt for Saturday. There was a lineup card posted earlier on Sunday that had George Kontos‘ name on it, but that was taken down, reported to be another miscommunication that Kontos was getting called up when no official decision has been made. As I write this, the results from Belt’s concussion test have not been in yet, and the Belt and Giants are waiting for the results on it. All the arm-chair doctors probably won’t be surprised if Belt lands on the 7-day DL given his current condition and the fact that a baseball hit him in the face. Hope he feels better soon.

Sunday’s lineup features a Marco Scutaro, and Hector Sanchez is behind the plate today as Tim Lincecum toes the rubber. Brandon Crawford gets a day off and Buster Posey takes Belt’s spot at first for the day.

Giancarlo Stanton is starting so the Marlins will score at least one run today.        

Two straight games of scoring five or more runs for the Giants, and that should be enough for Lincecum as he looks to continue his recent dominance on the mound. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw on the mound tonight in St. Louis as the Dodgers try to avoid being swept to start the second half against the Cardinals. Can’t say I’d be mad with a two game lead going into Philadelphia.

First pitch is scheduled for 10:10AM PST.

Saturday’s Lineups: O Scutaro, Where Art Thou (plus today’s trade rumors for the NL West)

Marco Scutaro has started one game in the five games he has been eligible to be in the lineup, and since you remember the one game he was in, you have figured out he’s not in Saturday’s lineup. It was reported yesterday that Scutaro is dealing with a stiff neck, this probably in addition to his imperfect back is making it too difficult for Scutaro to play. While the Giants try to figure out if they need to deal for a second baseman, Scutaro in this very small sample size of games is making the case that he is an upgraded Freddy Sanchez. He has the chance to use another small sample size of games upcoming to prove he’s better that.

Tim Hudson‘s on the mound today as he goes up against another pitcher named to the All Star team in Henderson Alvarez. The lineups:

The trade deadline is approaching, so there will be plenty to think about as the 31st comes around. Cleveland is one game over-.500 and only two-and-a-half games back of the second Wild Card spot, so this may be a bit unlikely for July. Certainly “a big if.”

Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles would come with much different price tags, Cabrera being the more valuable.

I wrote about the Huston Street trade very quickly. Street isn’t the only Padre that was being looked at, as Chase Headley, Ian Kennedy, Chris Denorfia, and Joaquin Benoit‘s names been floated around from the media regards to other teams being interested in the last twenty-four hours.

Meanwhile, from Arizona, the Diamondbacks reportedly think holding on to a reliever with another year and at least $6.5 million owed to him is a fantastic idea instead of getting back some help for the farm.

Perhaps when the D-Backs heard what the Tigers would be offering they felt the return wouldn’t match what Ziegler has produced.

First pitch in Miami is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST.

Draft deadline passes as Giants get twenty-three picks, but biggest news is about the Astros

Friday at 2:00 PM PST, the deadline to sign players in the Rule IV player draft passed, and the Giants ended up signing twenty-three of their forty draft picks, including their first fourteen picks. The Giants also reportedly signed four additional undrafted players. The haul in quantity is not as good as in 2013, when the Giants signed thirty-three of their picks, but we will see what the quality of this crop ends up being, some of them have already been getting going in the lower levels of the Giants system. The Giants went over their budget, but will not be penalized in the form of draft picks being taken away from them.

The biggest news for me came out of Houston, as the Astros were unable to sign first overall pick of the draft, LHP high schooler Brady Aiken. As Jim Callis’ notes, the Astros were poised to give Aiken $6.5 million until his physical revealed some trouble in his elbow and the Astros then changed their offer to Aiken of the minimum of just above $3.1 million. Aiken and his team did not accept, and now the Astros are guaranteed to have the second overall pick in the 2015 Draft. Callis reminds the public that their fifth round pick Jacob Nix was waiting for Aiken to sign so Nix could get a seven-figure deal, but that number they agreed on would only work if Aiken signed, otherwise the Astros would lose future draft picks if Nix signed that large deal without Aiken putting the pen to the paper. Both Nix and Aiken are UCLA commits, so the Bruins figure to be big winners, loading up their rotation with two pretty good arms. I have no idea how the Astros wind up in all this, but the MLBPA is looking into making them pay.

We’ve known that Tony Clark and the MLBPA have had their eye on the Houston Astros, and in Callis’ piece Clark goes on to talk about “exploring all legal options” as it relates to the Astros not signing Aiken and possibly try to cheat the system so they can sign other picks. This wouldn’t be a problem if there were not spending caps, but I find it hard to see we’ll ever go back to those days, since it benefits both the owners and the current members of the MLBPA. The Astros say they kept MLB abreast of the situation with Aiken as they were going through the negotiation process, and I’m wondering if the MLBPA won a suit against the Astros, what would the penalty be? Money? A draft pick? It’s too bad this situation has come about, and I know the MLBPA won’t look itself in the mirror on this one, although this should spur conversations as to how these matters can be prevented in the future. Suggestions include an MLB Combine, which I’m sure would be great viewing for scouting fans and teams would get another free look at players.

Callis also mentions that as long as prep players like Aiken and Nix go to UCLA, they will not be eligible for the next two Drafts. Should they play in independent ball or community college, they could enter the next draft. So until then, UCLA is stacked, and we wait to hear if the MLBPA will do anything against the Houston Astros.

NL West trade news: Padres make another trade with Angels, this time trading Huston Street

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have added another Padres reliever to their roster, once trading for Ernesto Frieri, now getting Huston Street and another pitcher for four minor league players in the Angels system. Jim Bowden was first to report, and gave these details:

Reliever Trevor Gott is now rated by MLB.com as the #15 prospect of the Angels with an above-average fastball. High-A SS Jose Rondon and Triple-A 2B Taylor Lindsey are now rated #9 and #10 respectively in the Padres’ system. RHP R.J. Alvarez is a reliever at Double-A and Elliot Morris has been a reliever at the High-A level. You can read more reports about them in MLB.com’s article.

Street was present at last night’s Padres game, so though it looked like there was an agreement in place before the game started, fans were probably on hug watch. Street has thirty-four strikeouts in thirty-three innings pitched with only seven walks. Those numbers are similar to what Street has been able to do career-wise against the Giants, but has allowed two home runs in four innings against them this year. Street will reportedly be the closer for the Angels while Joaquin Benoit, whom has also been the subject of trade rumors, steps into the closer role for the Padres.

The second-half arrives: 67 games left for the Giants and 65 left for the Dodgers

One game in the standings separates the two, but the Dodgers have two more wins than the Giants and the same amount of losses at forty-three. I broke down the Giants schedule in 2014 in a post before the season started to remind all of us what they have upcoming. Sixty-seven games left with thirty-nine of them away from the friendly confines at AT&T Park. Below is what the Giants have left this season, including twenty-nine games with the NL West. Nine of those come against the Dodgers.

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 (comes on the same day as the trade deadline)

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

So, if the road seems relatively easy for the Giants, it’s because by win-percentage, it is:

The Giants have a birth to the playoffs put on a silver platter for them, and the question is are they going to trip all over themselves, not stay healthy, or get close to the team that was putting on a 107-win pace? As Angel Pagan was winding down his first-half, the Giants were starting to trip all over themselves, then not be healthy, and then at the end of the first-half (arbitrary endpoints warning) they were able to put together a 5-4 ending — a winning stretch they hadn’t gone through since the home series against the Nationals had finished in early June. The Giants are reminding themselves they can win games, now can they keep those ways consistent and even become more dominant in the process as the season winds down? It doesn’t matter how the Giants get in to the playoffs if they get there, it’s a matter of if they get hot in October, and if they get some breaks to go their way as they work towards their third parade in five years. Here are some questions I have about the Giants as the season continues:

When will Angel Pagan return and how will his return help the Giants? 

Odd, but probably telling, that last season the Giants season crumbled when he left (hello, outfield depth), and now again things were not the same after he left for an extended time only to be put on the DL anyway. The Giants are not blessed with having four starting MLB players on their roster and one in the MiLB like the rival Dodgers are, so they’ve dealt with Gregor Blanco, Tyler Colvin, and Juan Perez all getting time. Gregor Blanco when hot can be a decent replacement for Pagan, but that’s not who he is. Pagan at the top will extend the lineup, which the Giants apparently really need.

Do the Giants trade for someone or someones?

I have no doubt that GM Brian Sabean can get a reliever or some bench help by the deadline if he needs a guy, finding a second baseman or a starter will be predictably more difficult. Trying to pull Daniel Murphy or even get Ben Zobrist will not be easy, and the Giants probably won’t be taking on too much money after this 2014 season from a trade.

Does Sergio Romo find his form and what if he doesn’t?

Manager Bruce Bochy has proclaimed his faith in Romo that he’ll be back to work, but if Romo can’t adjust at the pace the league has adjusted to him, the Giants higher-leverage bullpen depth takes a hit, and all of a sudden the holes in the ship get larger. Does Heath Hembree or Derek Law find their way on to the big club to save the day? May not be reliable to have Jean Machi continue his high leverage spots, that wave of hot Machi may have calmed.

How does Marco Scutaro hold up?

Can he do four days a week? Three? Five? What are we talking? As the beat writers have pointed out, the front office wants to see how Marco does through the next week so they have an idea of whom to target at the deadline, if anybody at second base.

Those are my biggest questions as we head into the second half. I think the Giants can and will make the Postseason. Perhaps that’s optimistic, but I don’t think it’s unrealistic. The Giants are almost back to full-strength and about to embark on a schedule that is not the most threatening, but will still have its challenges. I’m not expecting an insane finish like that insane beginning, but I believe the Giants will pull be able to make the playoffs, even if it’s as a Wild Card team, that’s still something.

Giants notes: All Star Game appearances, Hicks to Fresno, another draft pick signs

Less than a couple hours until game time in Minnesota, and we know who the Giants will be having in the dugout: Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, and Hunter Pence. Bumgarner pitched Sunday, so he will not be throwing today, which leaves room for Hudson to be in the game. However, with guys like Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw due up first, that probably takes out the first three to four innings. Then you throw in Zack Greinke, and Julio Teheran, those guys could eat up another two to three innings, you figure Greinke more if things get bad for Wainwright or Kershaw. With seven innings hopefully logged by those four studs, you likely will see the bullpen come into play in the form of Francisco Rodriguez, Aroldis Chapman, and Craig Kimbrel, probably leaving guys like Tim Hudson, Tony Watson, and Tyler Clippard on the outside looking in for some action (among others). Maybe Alfredo Simon and Huston Street get some time if the score is lopsided and/or the NL starts getting situational. With all that in mind, John Shea confirming things like that makes sense:

Wouldn’t bother me at all to have Bumgarner and Hudson just soak in another All Star Game. Not one bit. In not-so-All Star news, Brandon Hicks was out-righted to Triple-A Fresno this morning, per multiple sources. No other team thought Hicks could help their squad, so with the Giants he remains.

In Draft news, Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game broke that the Giants and their second round pick have an agreement.

You can find a gathering of notes on Aramis Garcia in this post I did the day of the Draft.

Tonight’s All Star Game’s coverage will begin at 4:30PM PST on FOX, with the first pitch probably beginning closer to 5:00PM PST.

News around the league: Selig press conference (Derby, smokeless tobacco, A’s, Wahoo, MiLB pay), Billy Bean, tonight’s lineups

Plenty going on in the last twenty-four hours to write about, and let’s start with Commissioner Bud Selig taking the spotlight, talking to the media about some of the many issues baseball has on its mind these days.

The Home Run Derby went a long, long time last night, and a lot of the reaction that came across my timeline were complaints and jokes about how long the event was. Nevertheless:

So, maybe we get another three-hour show in 2015 when the All Star Game is in Cincinnati, but after that? Perhaps there is some potential for change. Tony Gwynn‘s losing battle with cancer  has moved players like Stephen Strasburg and Addison Reed to quit dipping, and while MLB has reportedly pushed hard to ban it from the game, the MLBPA has pushed right back.   

The football team in Washington got some press for their logo, and some have wondered what comes next for the Cleveland baseball team, which has been seen more with a red block “C” on their caps than Chief Wahoo these days. Selig says that the team will have to eliminate the logo themselves.

Hopefully they are already making an effort to phase it out, nobody needs that logo for a sporting team. Another huge issue that hasn’t been going away is the pay of Minor League baseball players. If you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription, Russell Carlton throws out some numbers and ideas to consider. Bud Selig, however, is playing the role of the owner’s ambassador here:  

I am hoping MLB will decide to, or will be told to, raise the pay for MiLB players or provide food and a place to live for their players. After reading the recent material that’s out there, it isn’t right what those boys are going through.

Here’s something else that owners will love: saving money on players from outside the country!

Of course baseball’s owners will love the idea of saving money, and the MLBPA can sell it as more money focused towards the players they represent. I feel an international draft is inevitable, and that is too bad for the players and their families that are out there that will be subject to this.    

That has been going on for a while, and Adam Kilgore appeared to be a little surprised at the tone of optimism from Selig. Speaking of problems:

How about if the A’s were going to move out?   

Well, at least Montreal gets some love here, after they hosted some exhibitions in March:

More A’s Coliseum plans:   

That would be interesting, because I would imagine they would need a place to play in the mean time a new place were to be built, same as the Oakland Raiders. Might AT&T Park and Levi’s Stadium be considered for a one-season use?

Great concerns:   

I feel really bad for fans that can’t watch their team, and the Dodger faithful are no exception. I’m not putting blame on one side or another in this fiasco, but it’s ridiculous. Sports Net LA went on a little rant yesterday spitting out facts about their negotiations, but they still leave questions on the table about what the numbers are.

Joe Torre also said in his part of the press conference that the catcher collisions rule (rule 7.13) would not be cancelled, and of course that they are looking to speed up instant replay.

An excellent move by Major League Baseball was announced today as former baseball player Billy Bean (different from A’s GM Billy Beane) was hired by Major League Baseball to be their Ambassador For Inclusion, as he works with MLB and MiLB clubs to talk about LGBT issues, as well as race, gender, and other issues of diversity, per OutSports. Naturally, you will find people that don’t see what the big deal is and that MLB is just trying to make it look like it’s with the times, but this is an important step as Bean as a big and important challenge on his hands to combat the homophobia, racism, and misogyny that exists in the clubhouses and front offices.

Lastly, your lineups for tonight, starting with the visiting National League:

For the home American League:  

Coverage will begin on FOX at 4:30PM PST, with the game hopefully beginning at, or soon after 5:0o PM PST.

Going Cuban: My HR Derby picks

There will be much homering at Target Field in just a few hours, and the internet is already super excited about Chris Berman and John Kruk being at the mic wishing the World Cup was still going on. However, just because many are announcing their protest doesn’t mean you can’t mute your television or kick back to watch some rockets get launched. To refresh your memory, here are the participants in the Derby tonight, coverage beginning at 5:00 PM PST on ESPN:

Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics

Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics

Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies

The Derby will have the American League and National League players homering to see who gets the top three individual homer totals from each league, and then from there a bracket set-up will ensue with the three remaining players from each league. This set-up guarantees that there will be one American League player and one National League player in the finals. Stepping back for a moment, the round after all ten players get their chance will see the players with the number two and number three homer totals battle for the right to go up against the player that hit the most home runs in the first stage. From there, there will be the AL semi-finals and the NL semi-finals, and then after someone out-homers the other within those two separate groups, it’ll be AL vs. NL. I filled out a bracket on MLB’s site for a chance to win money and you should, too. Round-by-round, here’s how I chose:

AL Round One

#1 Adam Jones

#2 Yoenis Cespedes

#3 Jose Bautista

Brian Dozier

Josh Donaldson

NL Round One

#1 Yasiel Puig

#2 Giancarlo Stanton

#3 Troy Tulowitzki

Todd Frazier

Justin Morneau

AL Round Two

#3 Joey Bats beats #2 Yoenis

NL Round Two

#2 Giancarlo beat #3 Tulo

AL Round Three

#3 Joey Bats beats #1 Adam Jones

NL Round Three

#1 Puig beats #2 Stanton

Finals

Puig beats Bautista

Any prediction is a good prediction since really there’s no pattern between in-season performance and the Derby. All my picks will probably be wrong and Todd Frazier will beat Yoenis Cespedes or something. Who knows, we’re just hoping it’ll be lots of fun. In the end, I think another Cuban player will be hoisting the trophy in a pretty fun set of final rounds.

Yesterday’s news today: Tim Hudson, NL All-Star

Madison Bumgarner pitched on Sunday, so that opened the door for another player to be put on to the NL All Star roster so they would be available to pitch for the National League squad. Manager Bruce Bochy and all Giants players and probably all Giants fans hoped that Tim Hudson would be that player to replace Bumgarner, and so it was.

Also of note is that today is Tim Hudson’s 39th birthday. As John Shea notes, Hudson was an All Star twice with the A’s, once with the Braves, and in his first season with the Giants.  

Hudson is top-20 in MLB in ERA (2.87), top-40 in innings pitched (119.1), is 22nd in FIP (3.22), and is also fourth in the majors in ground-ball percentage among qualified starters (56.8%). Hudson started the season off so strong, whispers of a Cy Young award were being made around Giants circles, but since those first couple months, Hudson has shown his human side.

Split ERA GS IP H ER HR BB SO HBP WP BF WHIP SO9 SO/W
April/March 2.17 6 45.2 32 11 3 2 31 1 1 170 0.745 6.1 15.50
May 1.46 4 24.2 24 4 1 4 13 2 0 101 1.135 4.7 3.25
June 3.86 6 37.1 44 16 2 10 26 2 1 164 1.446 6.3 2.60
July 5.56 2 11.1 12 7 1 3 8 0 0 47 1.324 6.4 2.67
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/14/2014.

While we all wish that 31/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio never would have left, we know that Hudson is more of a two-to-one K/BB pitcher than a 15.5/1. Even his June and July are a little higher than his career average, although they would not be an outlier were they to be season-to-season data points. Here’s how opposing hitters have done against Hudson so far this year (via BrooksBaseball.net):

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.25.44 AM

While his four-seam fastball may not be fooling hitters, his sinker is still doing the job and his other pitches are doing enough to fool hitters, though the BABIP on those other pitches do not suggest the same quality of the pitch that his sinker is.

Hudson joins a loaded National League rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke and a handful of solid relievers. If Kershaw and Wainwright give the NL squad two innings a piece, I’d expect Hudson to get one inning at the most. Manager Bruce Bochy has said that if Hudson doesn’t have a long outing in the All Star game, he’ll be slotted to be #2 in the rotation upon return from the All Star Break.

The All Star Game begins airing at 4:30 PM PST on FOX.

Video: Giants battery first ever to each go grand in MLB history

The Giants won their game on Sunday over the Diamondbacks 8-4, finishing the “first half” at 52-43, one game back and two wins less than the Dodgers. Sunday was not without it’s “wow” moments, as you always hope to see something you’ve never seen before in a baseball game you’re watching, be it a defensive play, a perfect game, perhaps, or a day at the plate to remember forever. For Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, they didn’t make history individually, but through both of their grand slams off of Diamondback fastballs, they combined for history.

The video with the call by Dave Flemming for your viewing pleasure can be seen here. Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner both have two career grand slams, as Flemming notes in the video. Once I see the video is embeddable I will take the link off and embed it here.

There is technically currently a three-way tie for the first and second wild card spots in the National League between the Nationals, Braves, and Giants. The Nationals and Braves are tied for first in the NL East.

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