Where are the Champs?

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I thought this would be a good time to take a quick break from my mid-season prospects list and address the serious funk that has bestowed itself upon our defending World Series champions. Every baseball season is full of ups and downs, as we all know, but the last month of play from the Giants has been downright dreadful – and it’s coming to a head in the middle of another lengthy road trip. 

I’m going to try my best not to rant here, but I will say this: When the Giants entered June as a middling club, we knew they had a very grueling month of road games ahead of them.  20 to be exact.  But that wasn’t anything to get too anxious about, because the Giants are a team that always manages to weather the storm, even on the road. The only problem with that theory (and it’s a big one) is that the 2012 Giants were a good road team. The 2013 Giants are an awful road team.  20 road contests in a month for an awful road team just don’t bode well, and I’ll honestly say that I wondered whether this stretch would sink them… but I didn’t truly believe they would fall 4 games below .500 (and counting).

I think this is a good time to remind everyone (and myself) that we haven’t even reached the All-Star break. It is not time to panic. But at the rate the Giants are stumbling, I think it is time to stop making excuses and ask the question: Where in the hell are the world champion Giants? 

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Trusting the Brass

Losing five out of six to last-place clubs will put a team and its fan base in a sour mood, and that’s exactly what has happened after the Giants dropped below .500 for the first time since they started the season 0-1. On the field, the Giants have been injury-riddled and mired in slumps. Off of it, there have been a bevy of trade talks, and we’re still a month from the trade deadline.

Brian Sabean recently shed light on these topics, and in the process showed why the Giants are one of the most successful franchises in the game these days. You can read Andy Baggarly’s recap of the GM’s comments here, but here are the main points: The Giants know their weaknesses right now, but will not rush to make a desperation trade. They likely will make some moves eventually, but they’d rather take on salary than send prospects when that happens. Until then, they trust the current roster to step up and play competitive baseball.

On the minor league front, Sabean did reveal the organization’s feelings about two of their top prospects – Gary Brown and Heath Hembree – saying that neither will be moving from Fresno until they show some consistent play (which dispatches my theory of calling up Brown to replace Angel Pagan). Now it’ll be interesting to see if either of the two players are part of a trade.

Sabean’s comments were well-timed, and should be reassuring to the loyal Giants followers out there. Despite the pressure to win, the brass will stick to their plan in building this team. Now it is up to the fan base to trust that brass going forward.

Round 2 for Kickham

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The Giants placed Chad Gaudin on the DL yesterday, as his banged-up elbow just wasn’t ready to go for tonight’s start in LA. Gaudin’s injury is another bummer for the Giants, but it is good news for one person: Mike Kickham.

Kickham was recalled from AAA Fresno for the second time this season after pitching all of 2.1 innings in Oakland in his MLB debut last month. He’ll start tonight against Stephen Fife, and likely again in homer-friendly Cincinnati next week. The 24-year old lefty is looking to show a little more this time, and honestly, he may very well be pitching for a spot in the rotation going forward.

I made a joke in a previous post about Kickham “looking good while he missed pitches off the outside corner” in his previous start. But really, I did think he showed flashes of electric stuff, especially with his sweeping slider. The A’s have a solid lineup, Kickham was obviously trying to be careful, and the Giants had a very short leash with him in his debut. He’s got swing-and-miss stuff, and if he can show a bit more confidence and locate his fastball this time around, he should pitch deeper into the game. 

I don’t think the Giants would be too upset if Kickham showed enough improvement to send Gaudin back to his spot in the bullpen. That would certainly solve one nagging team issue. So, for Mike Kickham, audition number 2 has come. Show us what you’ve got, kid.

Giants/Dodgers: Welcome to “Puig-a-mania”

The Giants hit the road (again) tonight to renew their National Puig West rivalry with the Victory Dodgers in LA.  The Dodgers were supposed to be one of the Puig’s best teams entering the season… that hasn’t happened. However, Yasiel Puig (pronounced Ya-seal Pweeg) has happened. In a first half that’s seen some pretty sweet call-ups (Gerrit Cole, Mike Zunino, Zack Wheeler, Wil Myers), Puig may be the most talented of them all. The only thing the talented Cuban outfielder hasn’t done on a diamond is snare a pitch from mid-air, toss the ball up to himself and club it 500 feet.

Seriously, it would behoove the Giants to keep Puig-a-mania under wraps, if at all possible. The Dodgers are playing better than their 32-42 record would let on, while the Giants haven’t exactly overcome their road woes. We’ll see some solid pitching matchups, with Bumgarner and Ryu going tonight and a Cy Young pitchoff of Lincecum and Kershaw in the series finale on Wednesday. There’s a very good chance Mike Kickham will return to make his second big league start tomorrow night in place of the banged-up Chad Gaudin. Kickham is probably a downgrade from Gaudin at this point, but he just looked so good missing pitches off the corner in Oakland, so this could be an entertaining series.  

Some positives for the Giants: Pablo is back at the hot corner tonight, and the Dodgers are still incredibly good at losing. I’m guessing we find a way to win this series.        

Time to Wake Up (in 150 words)

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In a 162-game season, you can’t get too high or too low. The best teams don’t anyway.  But it’s hard to think the Giants aren’t a little let down after dropping 3 of 4 to the 50-loss Marlins…. at home! Mistakes on the bases helped kill most of the few offensive chances we had, and the bullpen has really been scuffling.  But I tell you what, I was very impressed with Miami’s pitching. I had no idea Nate Eovaldi threw that hard.  The Dodgers may regret giving him away in a couple years.  Regardless, you can’t lose 3 of 4 at home to a last place team, so maybe this stretch will wake up the troops on their way to Lala Land.  Wouldn’t this be a great time to beat up on the big (blue) spenders?!

Pablo’s back tomorrow night after slugging a couple homers down in San Jose. Time to wake up Giants.