Fire up the Stove

As of yesterday, the options for Andres Torres and Barry Zito have officially been declined, making them free agents. No shocker there. Both guys had their time in the sun with the club, but it was time for the Giants to move on. Neither guy really made any significant contributions all season, when both were expected to play somewhat significant roles… the organization can’t let that happen next year.

The free agency period is nearly upon us. The exclusive negotiating window teams have with their potential free agents will end in the next day or so, at which point the offseason will officially begin. As it stands, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong’s status with the Gigantes is still very much up in the air. In his live chat last week, Baggs’ stated what most of us know on the Lopez front: there’s mutual interest, but no deal is in place. Javy’s been a huge (and underrated) piece in Bruce Bochy’s bullpen since he came over from Pittsburgh, and I expect there’ll be a deal announced shortly… probably another two years for the lefty extraordinaire. The Giants specifically didn’t trade him at the deadline because they wanted to bring him back. Generally, when a player and the club have mutual interest, a deal gets done.  I’ll say this though: if Lopez doesn’t sign, there are a few other intriguing lefties out there. A guy I’ve always liked is JP Howell. He had a very good year for the Dodgers, and he’s only 30.

As for Vogey, Baggs has been indicating for a while that the Giants won’t pick up the $6.5 million option for next year, but they’ll renegotiate a cheaper deal. There hasn’t been much talk either way so far, which isn’t all that surprising when it comes to Sabean doing business… but I did find the comments on from Vogey’s agent last week interesting. I can’t seem to find the article now. Essentially, that there hadn’t been any contact from the Giants yet… Can you picture Vogelsong sitting by his phone, staring intently, waiting for the call to come in? Me neither, but it really didn’t sound like there’d been a whole lot of communication. Vogey wants to come back, but Sabean would be absolutely nuts to give him anything more than $1 million at this point. If they could come to some reasonable terms, I’d gladly have him back to compete with Petit/Surkamp/Kickham for the 5th starter spot. I wouldn’t expect anything more than that at this point.

With Lopez and Vogey being the last remaining free agents-to-be on the club at the moment, the Giants aren’t going to be offering any qualifying offers. There’s some significance here, as at one point they could have potentially been looking at a couple of potential first round picks… but they weren’t willing to take the chance of losing Hunter Pence or Tim Lincecum to free agency. I have to admit, the more I think about the Timmy situation, the more I wish they would have waited and made the qualifying offer. It’s all water under the bridge at this point, though. The Giants will take their 14th pick in next year’s draft, and they’ll like it.

A few more offseason thoughts here. CSN has had a few free agent power rankings posts on their site lately. If I remember right, they basically copied and pasted the left field, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher rankings from I want to address the site comments on these posts. It’s amazing to me how unrealistic or distorted a view people have on Sabean, the Giants and their offseason agenda. The front office has said numerous times already that they aren’t going to sacrifice their first round pick, which is not protected. So… Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo are out of the picture, as are any other players who receive a qualifying offer. If you aren’t familiar with the qualifying offer and draft pick compensation, take a look at this article from SB Nation. Pretty good explanation of the process.

Also, you have to look at the market for free agency. There’s not much talent out there this year. Cano, Ellsbury, and Choo are going to make some major green. Even if you take the qualifying offer out of the equation, when’s the last time Sabes forked out $100 million for a free agent not named Barry Zito? It’s not the way he does business, and the Giants have already committed nearly $130 million to the payroll for next season. Barring something very unforeseen (like a hard push for Masahiro Tanaka), Sabean has already spent his big money for the offseason. As hard as it is for those of us who support the orange and black to watch what the Dodgers are doing down in La-La Land, you have to understand the way the Giants do business. Every team has holes that need to be filled, and while the Dodgers may be willing to empty their pockets and farm system to acquire talent, the Giants just don’t play that game. They never have. You may disagree with the way they do business (as I do from time to time), but this club won the World Series only one year ago. Sabean is banking on his key players from 2012 having a bounceback season in 2014, despite his comments about windows closing.

Personally, I don’t see any indications that the Giants will be in on Tanaka. I don’t think they’ll even make the final three teams involved. The estimates being tossed around for his services are pretty outrageous, but there are teams willing to spend that kind of dough. Tanaka could be a game-changer, but I’m really not getting my hopes up anymore. I’d bank more on a Bronson Arroyo or AJ Burnett. Maybe Sabes ponies up a bit more for a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez.

One thing I do expect to take place this winter is a trade or two. Every indication I’ve gotten is that the Giants don’t think too highly of the free agent class (and how can they?). If that’s the case, maybe they’ll put some packages together to land a pitcher or left fielder. But who do they trade? Other than Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar and Adalberto Mejia (all mentioned by Baggs last week as “untouchable”), I’d think every other minor leaguer in the organization is available. I think Clayton Blackburn could be a nice trade piece… Add Joan Gregorio and Chris Stratton to that list, as well as any of the high-octane relievers. Stratton is a guy I’d like to hold onto, though. On the hitting side, I’d have to think Sabean would listen on anyone. I’d like to see Susac and Williamson be off limits, but those are probably the two most coveted guys. Either way, the Giants understand the limitations of modern-day free agency, and may try to get creative in strengthening the roster.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to talk about in the coming weeks, but that’s all for now. The hot stove is almost upon us, so things should start to get interesting (or not interesting, depending on your expectations) very soon.


13 in the Books

Quite a lack of posts on my part lately, and I apologize for the slow period. Work travel season has arrived, which means much time spent bouncing around airports, hotels and time zones. Wasn’t really able to catch a lot of baseball down the stretch, which was a bummer, but getting mathematically eliminated early in September didn’t leave a lot to be desired for the Giants over the final couple weeks of the season. I was, however, able to catch the final orange and black at-bat of the year, getting off the plane just in time to see the Bay Area’s newest $90-million man take a shoulder-high fastball from Huston Street to deep center. Typical Pence!

So it was Walkoff City, Giants variety on the final day of the regular season, followed by on-field speeches of gratitude from Bochy, Posey and Zito. I don’t know many teams who have the kind of relationship the Giants do with their fanbase. Pretty special stuff, even in a season of epic failure. Zito got one of the biggest ovations I’ve ever heard, which had to feel good for him. I always think it’s funny when players go from whipping boy to hero in the fans’ eyes, and that’s certainly the case with Zito. I guarantee you the majority of those people were ready to wash their hands of him many times over the past 7 years (if they were even Giants fans in 2007), and now he’s an icon.

To be clear, I have no beef with Zito. The Giants spent the money, and they didn’t get the individual production they paid for. They did, however, bring home two titles, and Zito was a part of that. So… yes, I’ll forever remember his Game 5 start in St. Louis, and his Game 1 performance against Verlander in the World Series. Gutsy. But I’ll also not deny that I would have had supported the Giants cutting ties with him on multiple occasions during his tenure in SF… I guess it’s a damn good thing they didn’t, huh?

Back to the story at hand. As October rolls in, the Giants will be watching from home, and hopefully resting and preparing for a redemption campaign next year. I love playoff baseball, but it will be a little bittersweet this year. Who’s our favorite team this postseason? Anyone playing the Dodgers…

As for the Giants, they combined a 43-51 first half with a 33-35 second half, bad enough for a 76-86 finish. They tied for third place in the NL West, and will have the 14th pick in next year’s draft. A 16-11 final month of the season was all that kept them from a top-10 pick, but I do think they regained a bit of that lost morale, which may be just as important to their chances next year.

There were so many things that factored into this season’s collapse; injuries, pitching, hitting, fielding… what am I missing? Personally, I don’t feel like digging into the negatives anymore. I’d rather look to the future, as there are certainly some changes necessary to get this team ready for contention again… which we, the fans will expect of them next year. Two rings in three years sets the bar pretty high, but that’s the way it should be.

Sometime in the very near future, I’ll try to dive head-on into the offseason. I’ve got big plans for my first winter in the blog universe, including a look at the stability of this team going forward, position-by-position. There are many minor league topics to keep in mind as well, and I’ve already started working on a major offseason prospects list. Of course, the Arizona Fall League is coming up as well, and we’ll keep tabs on Crick, Mejia, Susac, etc. Should be pretty fun stuff. If only there were 36 hours in a day!

As always, thanks for reading. Not the best first season to begin a blog, I know. But nobody said it was going to be roses every season, right?


The Barry Zito Era

Barry Zito started for the first time since September 2 last night, and did something that he hasn’t done very often this year: he earned a victory, against the Dodgers no less. It was only his 5th win of the year, and his first since May 30, against the A’s. Odds are, it was Zito’s last start as a Giant, and the club will probably buy him out this offseason and call it a day. $7 million to tell a below-average pitcher goodbye… Man, the Giants really flopped on that contract. Big time. However, all of that aside, it was very nice to see ol’ Zito flip a few good benders in there in his final start.

CSN Bay Area ran a story this morning saying Zito was a little miffed he didn’t get a final ovation from the fans, being he was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 5th. He still had more in the tank, and wanted to stay out there longer. I love it how the media plays this crap up, especially in a losing season. Last time I checked, Zito is about the last guy in the league who would criticize his coaching staff for anything. So the crowd didn’t get to give him a hero’s ovation in his final start? Give me a break. What if Zito had come back out for the 6th, walked the bases loaded and let the Dodgers tie it before Bochy took the ball out of his hand? It’s happened many times during his Giants career, so maybe, just maybe old Boch was looking out for the lefty’s best interests. Either way, I think Zito is and should be happy with a win in his final AT&T performance. After all he went through, it was a nice way to go out.

For the Giants’ beats, Baggarly and others, I think it might be time to find work elsewhere. Baggs’ himself seems to be getting bitter with Giants’ management. Maybe I’m off base here, but some of his comments lately make you wonder.

It feels a bit weird saying this, but Giants baseball in my lifetime has been as much about Barry Zito as it has been about Barry Bonds. Hell, Zito is one of only a handful of guys to ever start multiple Opening Days for the Giants. I had just begun my senior year in high school (2006) when the Giants finished below .500 for the second season in a row. That was a big transition season for the pitching staff. You had Jason Schmidt’s last year with the team, Matt Cain’s first full season in the bigs, and two hard-throwing rookies in the pen (Brian Wilson and Jonathan Sanchez). Jamey Wright, Matt Morris, Armando Benitez and Kevin Correia were on that team. Steve Kline and Noah Lowry too. Holy smokes.

Those Giants also had one of the oldest offenses ever fielded by a Major League club, including 41 years-old Bonds and Steve Finley, and 39 year-old Omar Vizquel. But that’s a topic for another time. Long story short, Brian Sabean needed to find a frontline pitcher that offseason that he could plug in front of guys like Cain and Lincecum, who was getting seasoned on the farm. Sabean found his guy that winter, and made him the richest pitcher in baseball history.

I knew much less about baseball in those days than I do today (and I still don’t really know all that much). What I did know then: baseball teams have plenty of money, and Zito was the hottest pitcher on the market. 7 years, $126 million were just numbers to me then, not much else. Zito was a Giant, and that’s all that mattered. I followed the A’s loosely when I was younger. I wouldn’t say I was a big fan or anything, but I still remember having a Zito poster in my room in middle school. It was a mock ad with the line, “Zito’s curveball; guaranteed to buckle your knees,” and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Now, 4-5 years later, he was trading in the green and gold for orange and black, to replace my favorite pitcher in the game (Schmidt) as the Giants’ ace. Sounded like a plan to me.

I’ll never forget that first spring. After a decent debut on Opening Day (albeit only 5 innings pitched), the wheels came off in Zito’s second start, against the Dodgers. When the dust settled, he’d allowed 8 ER. I think that’s when I had my “wake-up” moment with Zito. Like I said, I knew very little about the game then, and apparently knew nothing about Zito aside from the big curve. I remember seeing that fastball and thinking… “86? What the hell is that? This is the guy who’s replacing Schmidt?” That was TWO starts into his Giants career, and I don’t think I ever really regained my initial excitement for the guy.

Seven years later, I think the greatest thing you can say about Barry Zito is that he made it through that contract with class and resiliency. If you were there for those years, as many of us were, you know how many times it seemed realistic that the Giants would cut ties with him. But you don’t cut the highest-paid player in your franchise’s history, and eventually you knew he would continue to take the mound every 5th day until that contract expired. If you’re like me, you rooted for him every time out, but you also hoped he wouldn’t give up a 6-spot in the process. 17 losses and 102 BB in 2008; being left off the playoff roster in 2010; falling flat on his face and losing his rotation spot in 2011; there were some serious down points on the front end of that contract. I seriously thought he was done after 2011.

Once again, he bounced back. Would there still be a second championship flag flying above the ballpark if not for Zito? What are the odds that Sabean finds another 5th starter who hits his stride down the stretch like Zito did last summer? Pitching 7.2 shutout innings in St. Louis, beating Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series… those are two of the unforgettable efforts in recent Giants history. Does any other 5th starter do what Zito did there?

Seven years and $126 million are more than just numbers to me now. Eleven years removed from his Cy Young season in Oakland, Zito is wrapping up his roller coaster career in San Francisco. What the future holds for the crafty lefty, I guess we’ll find out. If history tells us anything, I wouldn’t put it past him to catch on with somebody out of spring training and make an Opening Day roster. The dude has an amazing ability to bounce back, and has to be one of the most positive people in the game. Somebody better make a movie about the damn guy some day. When they do, it’ll probably put Moneyball to shame. And I’ll be there in the theater when it comes out, I can tell you that much.

The Barry Zito era is over, for better or worse. It’s been real, Barry.


Walking (Off)

When you’re 17 games out and you steal a win from a first-place team like the Red Sox, I think that’s cause for a little celebration. The Giants definitely stole one last night, gutting out three runs to overcome a 2-0 deficit. Buster tied it with a sac fly in the 8th, and Scutaro walked on a very close pitch with 2 outs and the bases loaded, and the Sox left the field pouting. I’m not sure when the Giants last walked off, but it feels like it was probably back in May. A literal “walk” off is kind of awkward, and the Giants almost didn’t know how to react at first. Scooter didn’t even think the pitch was a ball. I’m guessing the Red Sox didn’t think so either, but the whole ordeal just made the win that much sweeter.


Ryan Vogelsong still didn’t have his normal fastball velocity, but he threw over 100 pitches while working 7 strong. That’s the Vogey we’ve all become accustomed to over the past couple years, digging in and working himself out of trouble. It’d sure be nice to see a few more starts like this from him down the stretch. Sabean needs someone to step up and lock down a rotation spot for next season, and the Giants would gladly pick up his option in a heartbeat if he finishes the year strong.

Another 3-hit night for Belt, and this one may have been the most impressive to me. He hit a mammoth triple off the wall in right-center in the 4th, then doubled down the line in right in the 6th. Belt’s bat has been strong all month, but he crushed those pitches last night. I can’t help but think he’s found that next level as a hitter that many players spend their entire career striving for. If he really has turned the corner, that’s a huge positive for the Giants going forward.

Speaking of 3-hit nights, Roger Kieschnick went 3-4 last night with 2 runs, including the game-winner on Scutaro’s walk (off). Roger K. continues to gain confidence at the plate. He still only has one extra base hit in the big leagues, but he’s taken 6 walks to only 4 strikeouts over the last 10 days. After starting his career with a bb/k ratio of 1/16, he’s starting to make nice adjustments. We know the guy has power in his bat, and I think we’ll start to see it as he gains more confidence. For now, he’s taken a pretty nice hold on the everyday left field spot.

Roster News:

Francoeur DFA’d; Machi and Kickham recalled; Dunning and Hembree are probably pissed.

Zito moves back into the rotation… and I can’t find any good reasons why. Not one.

Angel Pagan is getting close to returning from the DL. Pagan’s presence could make the Giants a much happier (and more competitive) team closing out this season.

Francisco Peguero and Juan Perez should be back September 1. I’d think Nick Noonan will be as well. Andres Torres should be sent the way of Francoeur… and that’s that.

More Bad Baseball

My apologies for the lack of activity lately. Busy schedules combined with crappy baseball don’t really cultivate the most ideal environment for blogging. As I type this, the Giants appear to be blowing another getaway day game against the Orioles. An early 2-0 lead has turned into a late 7-2 deficit, which if it stands will ensure the Giants another series loss at home… Yikes, make that a 10-2 deficit as Adam Jones parks a Barry Zito offering into the LF seats.

Let’s not beat around the bush here people; this season royally sucks. Embarrassing losses like this one, especially at home, just add salt to the wound. At this point, it’s hard to imagine the Giants not losing 90 games this year. If not for the pitching staff lately, we may have the worst record in all of baseball. If you’re someone who thinks about draft positioning, then maybe the worst record in baseball isn’t so bad. But from a realistic, competitive perspective, being one of the worst teams in the league is an embarrassment. It has been absolutely brutal watching the Giants this summer, and when you consider the expectations coming into the season, it’s even tougher to swallow. Yes, the high draft pick next June will be nice, and the Giants have done well with their top 10 picks recently, but that alone doesn’t make me feel good about the opportunities that were wasted this year. 

Baseball, on the outside, can seem like such a simple game. There are three key components: hitting, pitching and fielding. If you can do all three well, you’re usually very successful. If you keep those basic tenants in mind, there really isn’t a huge difference between strong play and poor play, especially at the professional level. I think that’s what has made this season so maddening for the Giants and us, the fan base: they really could have been so much better. Eventually though, when you fail to field the ball and hit with runners in scoring position like the Giants have, you can only hold up for so long.

So, yes, the Giants continue to pitch well for the most part – although their pitching let them down in the late innings of today’s game – they still cannot produce good at-bats consistently, and their games continue to be a buzz kill. I am hoping to do a series of posts looking at ways this team can be improved for next season, but I will likely focus a bit more on the minor leagues from here on out. There is a lot to talk about on the prospect front, and again, you can only write about crappy baseball so much before you run out of things to say.

Now, we’re off to Washington, DC, where the orange and black haven’t exactly been successful lately. Keep your head up, if you can. 


Giants Drop Final Two in Tampa

The Giants lost by a run for the second day in a row in Tampa Bay this afternoon. The Rays took two of three from the Orange and Black, who probably feel like they should’ve had a road sweep against one of the top teams in baseball. If this were any year but 2013, the Giants probably would have swept the Rays. Guillermo Moscoso made his first start since coming over in a trade with the Cubs, and was decent for four innings. His control wasn’t great, he didn’t have amazing stuff, and he served up a monster home run to Wil Myers. But he gave the Giants a chance to win. Ultimately, he didn’t make it out of the 5th, but I’d say he was effective enough. This might have been his only start anyway, as Ryan Vogelsong cruised through another rehab outing in AA Richmond. I haven’t heard anything official yet, but I’d guess we’ll see Vogey back in SF some time next week.

Moscoso wasn’t the reason the Giants lost today. Nor has starting pitching been the reason the Giants have lost six of their last nine. Take a look at what the starting hurlers have done during that span, starting with the Cubs’ series: 

7/26 vs Chc: Cain 7 ip, 1 er, 7 k (ND)

7/27 vs Chc: Bumgarner 8 ip, 0 er, 7 k (ND)

7/28 vs Chc: Lincecum 7 ip, 2 er, 10 k (L)

7/30 at Phi: Zito 3.1 ip, 4 er, 2 k (L)

7/31 at Phi: Gaudin 7 ip, 1 er, 5 k (W)

8/1 at Phi: Cain 8 ip, 1 er, 7 k (W)

8/2 at TB: Bumgarner 7 ip, 1 er, 11 k (W)

8/3 at TB: Lincecum 7 ip, 1 er, 5 k (ND)

8/4 at TB: Moscoso 4.2 ip, 3 er, 3 k (ND)

Total: 9 gs, 59 ip, 14 er (2.13 era) 57 k (3-2)

That’s pretty impressive stuff. Take Zito and Moscoso’s starts out, and you get seven starts that rival even the greatest stretches from 2010 to 2012. The difference; the Giants are 3-6 during is stretch. So, no, starting pitching is not the problem right now. Actually, if Vogelsong can post even average numbers the rest of the way in the #5 spot, the Giants will have a very strong rotation. Essentially, guys like Vogey, Gaudin and Timmy are auditioning for spots on the team next season, so I’d expect them all to be competitive this month and next.

Honestly, the dominance of the Giants rotation right now makes those lousy two months of play sting even worse. Had the team been able to win a few more games against the Marlins, the Mets, the Cubs, or anyone else for that matter, we may be looking at a very exciting last couple months of the year. Instead, it’s 12 games below .500 and an offense that inspires little confidence these days. In a 162-game season, all you have to do is avoid the awful month, because you never know what might happen down the stretch. The Giants couldn’t do that this season.

I read a tweet from Baggs this afternoon that Giants’ leadoff hitters own a .150 average since the All-Star break. Can we please see someone besides Blanco or Torres out there? What’s Francisco Peguero doing these days? How about Juan Perez? If you don’t like those options, maybe you move Scutaro up. Wanna get crazy? How about Javier Herrera in AA? Either way, this offense needs someone to be a rally-starter at the top, and neither Blanco nor Torres is doing that anymore. I think we all understand why the Giants gave Angel Pagan $40 million this offseason. You have to have a good leadoff hitter, and Pagan is ours.

The Giants head back home for four with Milwaukee, which may be a great opportunity to get some momentum going into a tough stretch of games. With the offense still sputtering (aside from an upstart Brandon Crawford), here’s what I would like to see: address the leadoff position – try someone different! Also, no more platoons please. Play the hot hitter. Belt nearly hits for the cycle against Chris Archer, then sits the next day against David Price. Francoeur gets three knocks off of Cy Price, then he sits today. I don’t care if lefties aren’t supposed to hit lefties and righties aren’t supposed to hit righties. If a guy is swinging the bat well, let him hit against whoever is pitching.

Ok, that’s enough ranting for one day. The Giants are at least playing better ball lately, and hopefully they can defend AT&T with a little more authority this time around.


Deadline Day

With the trade deadline looming today, it’s still not clear at all whether the Giants will be active. We’ve talked about this before; this could be a great opportunity to strengthen the club going forward, if the right deals are made. It sounds like Sabean is still very interested in finding partners for Javier Lopez and Hunter Pence. Apparently, Pence told the team last night that he’d be open to signing a contract with them in the offseason, even if he is traded today. I’ll tell you what, Pence is a class act… and even if you look at this game strictly from a business perspective, it’s hard not to want guys like that on your team.

Here’s my take on this whole ordeal. If Pence gets traded to a team like Cincinnati or Pittsburgh, and goes on to play in or even win another World Series, his love for San Francisco will probably be the last thing on his mind. To put it simply, if the Giants trade him today, don’t expect Pence to be coming back in the offseason. If you trade him, you lose the qualifying offer with draft pick compensation (although he probably would accept the offer and the subject would be a moot point anyway). So, Sabean has some tough decisions to make. If he does swing a deal, he’d better be certain he’s got a realistic option in mind to help make up Pence’s production.

I’m not saying Pence won’t get traded, and he really could fetch us some nice pieces if he is. But I’ll be honest, after giving this a lot of thought lately, I’d rather hold onto him, make a qualifying offer when the season is over, and bring him back on a two or three year deal. He’s not a superstar, but the Giants need his 20-HR bat and diligent work ethic in their clubhouse.

Another note on the trade front. I had no idea the A’s were willing to move Grant Green! They swapped him for Alberto Callaspo last night, and I think the Angels came out with a nice middle infield prospect. I like Green a lot, and wouldn’t have been upset if the Giants threw Scutaro’s name over to Billy Beane… maybe he wouldn’t have been interested, but that would have been a nice swap for the Giants.


It was quite a night for Giants pitching, at all levels of the organization. Here’s a quick rundown:

San Francisco – Barry Zito floundered in another road start, and it was reported that he had a closed-door meeting with Bruce Bochy after the game. If the Giants want to get any kind of momentum back in the second half, they’ll probably need to get Zito out of the rotation. Maybe they’re looking to move him to the bullpen for now, but I wouldn’t be shocked if his up and down career with the Giants is coming to a close.

Fresno – Eric Surkamp had an impressive start last night in AAA, going 7 strong with 5 K. He allowed only 3 hits and 1 ER, and walked only 1 batter. Outings like that definitely help build Surkamp’s case for rotation spot in San Francisco down the stretch.

Richmond – Ryan Vogelsong continued his rehab with a start in AA last night, where he looked very good. He opposed Anthony Ranaudo, one of the Red Sox’ top arms, and Vogey won the battle. He threw 5 shutout innings, allowed 5 hits, struck out 3 and surrendered only a single walk. The Giants need a healthy Vogelsong back in the rotation soon, and it sounds like he’s well on his way.

San Jose – Top prospect Kyle Crick took the ball last night after giving up 9 hits in his last outing. This time, he was back to his dominant ways. His line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 11K. The 11 strikeouts are a season high for Crick, and possibly a career high too. His fastball was 95-96 according to Joe Ritzo, and was overpowering as always. Crick has now made 10 starts in San Jose, and I don’t think a promotion to Richmond is out of the question at this point.

Augusta – Kendry Flores made sure every level of full-season ball for the Giants had stellar starting pitching last night. The 21 year-old righty is having a very good season in Low-A, and tossed 7.1 shutout innings last night. He allowed 6 hits and struck out 7, without a walk.

That’s what I’d call a pretty impressive night of pitching… with the exception of Zito, of course. But these days, the major league Giants don’t really resemble a team.

Writing on the Wall

The Giants split an old-fashioned double header last night with the Reds, dropping the first game in ugly fashion and gutting out a win in the night-cap. The split kept the Giants at 8 games under .500, but they lost a half-game in the standings to the division-leading Dodgers, who made a furious comeback last night in Toronto.

Game 1: Reds 9 Giants 3

Eric Surkamp made his first big league start in nearly two years after recovering from Tommy John surgery… it did not go well. Surkamp’s start was eerily similar to Mike Kickham’s against the Reds in Cincinnati earlier this month; after breezing through a 1-2-3 first inning, Surkamp could not locate his pitches, and the Reds teed off. Apparently somebody forgot to tell Votto, Cosart, Bruce and the rest of the Cincy hitters that AT&T Park is not a hitter-friendly stadium, because balls seem to leave the yard frequently whenever they’re in town. Ultimately, Surkamp was tagged for 9 hits and 7 runs in less than three innings of work. Yusmeiro Petit, who was called up with Surkamp to provide some bullpen relief, did just that, eating 5.1 IP and allowing 2 ER. I know it probably wouldn’t have been a popular decision among the fan base, but maybe Petit should’ve taken the start rather than rushing Surkamp up before he was ready. Either way, Petit’s efforts may have saved the night for Bruce Bochy, who needed all the bullpen help he could get in the second game.

Game 2: Giants 5 Reds 3

After two embarrassing losses to start the series, the Giants needed a win badly in the night game. Luckily, the offense came out hacking, posting 3 runs in the 1st and another in the 2nd. Sandoval and Pence had two hits apiece in this one, which was nice to see. The four early runs were enough to earn the win, although it didn’t come easy. Zito allowed three ER and couldn’t make it out of the 5th, but Bochy used five relievers to seal the win, including a 4-out save from Romo, who allowed a hit but recorded all four outs by way of the K. The win marked #1,500 for the skipper Bruce Bochy, who is building himself quite a lengthy list of accomplishments. Way to go, Skip!

A few thoughts here:

The Giants are 6.5 back of the Dodgers right now, with a week left until the trade deadline. That really isn’t a huge deficit, especially for how the Giants have played. But let’s be honest here, are the Giants really a good baseball team this year? To me, the eyeball test is sometimes a better indicator than any statistic on how a team is performing. They’ve been battling injuries and inconsistency most of the year. They’re still not scoring many runs. They’re not playing good defense. They don’t have three, let alone five reliable starting pitchers. They can’t beat anybody outside the NL West, and they haven’t proven they can compete on the road… they play nine games against the AL East alone in August.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are surging. They’ve won 22 of 27 and 9 straight on the road – and they’re doing this with a cooled-off Puig and almost entirely without Matt Kemp. To me, it’s pretty clear that one team is headed in one direction, while the other is headed in the complete opposite.

You’d have to think that Brian Sabean and his team know all of this much better than any of us, and I hope they use the trade deadline to make some tough decisions. There really isn’t one player out there who can transform the Giants into a contending team, but this certainly isn’t a time to completely sell the ranch either. The Giants are a proud franchise, but 8 games below .500 is a steep hill to climb. I think it was a mistake to publicly declare Lincecum safe at the deadline, but maybe they toss Romo’s name out there in the next couple days. Why not get some value for a few of these guys while we can? Yes, you’ll probably lose some casual fans in the process, but if the sellout streak at AT&T Park ends and the team is forced to lower ticket prices, allowing the die-hards to start attending more games again, that wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit.

The Giants have given its fan base so much to be thankful for in the past few years, so there really shouldn’t be too much complaining here. And if today marks the start of a historic resurrection and they end up playing their way back into the playoff race, I’ll gladly look like an idiot for saying all of this. But I just don’t see it happening this year. At this point, though, what takes place between now and July 31 is really anybody’s guess.