Dan Runzler

Giants vs. Braves: quieting the haters

The Giants are the hottest team in baseball right and … what’s that I hear? I that the sound of haters picking apart the team? Well, of course it is. Until the Giants finally win a World Series, the complaints will always drown out the praise (and let’s face it, even if they do win a WS there will still be complainers). And the Giants, like every team — especially in the National League — are far from perfect.

And it takes more than clubbing teams like the Brewers, or even those NL West squads that give San Francisco so much trouble. If you want to turn the hate into love, there’s no better way to do it than rolling into the home field of the NL East leader and giving them a nice spanking. The Giants are stretching and taking BP at Turner Field as I write this, preparing to answer five hateful questions the haters just love to keep on hating over.

1. Can the Giants beat good teams/pitching?

Deserved or not, the Giants are getting the rep as a team that can beat up on the little guys but a little bit of pee comes out every time they face stiff competition. Just read this bit of Negative Nancyism. I have a hard time complaining about the whys and wherefores of a team with the highest run differential in the National League, and even though they’ve been beaten by guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Chad Billingsley, they also seem to have Roy Halladay’s number and spanked the great Jimenez himself just a few weeks ago (wow, two spanking references in the same post…probably a record, but maybe not). Regardless, this series against the Braves pits the Giants’ top 4 starters against the top 4 on the Braves. And if the Giants get swept while scoring 7 runs combined, everyone’s going to be catatonic.

2. Is Tim Lincecum part Eskimo?

We have a Pomeranian, and if there’s any animal who doesn’t like hot weather it’s her. San Francisco is perfect for her since the temp doesn’t rise over 60 degrees during any month not named September or October, but her thick fur coat means even unseasonably warm days (like 69 degrees with sun) make her pant uncontrollably.

She’s also a spoiled fluffball who weighs less than 8 lbs. Tim Lincecum should be a little tougher.

The sad thing is everyone’s already predicting Lincecum’s demise because the weather’s humid and in the 90’s today in the ATL. So what? He’s only required to move faster than a turtle once every five or six days, he can’t man up and drink a little extra Gatorade when he isn’t in San Francisco or Seattle? It’s not like he’s a bloated pink-face like Tyler Walker. Today would be a good day for Lincecum to prove he won’t melt in extreme temperatures.

3. Do the Giants really need a 13-man pitching staff?

Whenever Todd Wellemeyer gets called up and there’s a celebration, you know the guy he replaced had an extremely high SAR (suckiness above replacement). And Denny Bautista leads the league in SAR (or is it SARS?) after his outing yesterday where he hit two Rockies, one in the jewels.

But do the Giants really need 13 pitchers, especially when that means they only get 4 replacement position players and one of those is Aaron Rowand? Sergio Romo hasn’t pitched since last Friday, for Favre’s sakes. Even with Madison Bumgarner’s workload set to become much lighter and more sporadic, the Giants are in full audition-mode right now. Guillermo Mota probably saved his spot with an amazing 5-out performance on Saturday against the Dodgers, but Santiago Casilla and his 6.5 BB/9 are on shaky ground. And with Runzler and Affeldt probably not back until the rosters expand (if Affeldt even comes back), the Giants are probably content to ride with a 13-man staff until Sept. 1. Good news for Bumgarner: this probably means more pinch-hitting opportunities for him.

4. Pablo Sandoval: will he hit or get off the pot?

Frankly, the most overplayed and annoying subplot of this season has to be Pablo Sandoval and his battles with weight, marital life, eyesight and high fastballs. He looked like he was set to get hot in the second half, as his average climbed from .263 to .272 and he collected doubles in five of the first six games after the break. Now the average is back to .263 and he hasn’t hit a homer since June 15 (40 homerless games). The Giants gave Sandoval an undeserved vote of confidence by not trading for a third baseman who can hit right-handed (Sandoval has 7 extra-base hits in 108 right-handed AB’s). Clearly Sandoval has too much going on to be trusted as the No. 3 hitter; but he needs to prove he can at least be a No. 6 guy.

5. Run, Torres, Run! (And other guys, too.)

The Giants are a curious team, or at least they’re curiously managed (or both). They aren’t a very powerful team (99 homers through 108 games), but they’re also a team that never runs either (41 SBs this season puts them only ahead of Chicago in the NL — the Cubs have 39). Brian McCann is clearly the best hitting catcher in the National League until Buster Posey wrests that crown away — but he’s Bengie Molina-esque when it comes to throwing out baserunners (29% this year, which is actually higher than McCann’s career average). The Giants can give themselves a much better chance of success in this series against Atlanta if they push the action a little. Don’t just hit-and-run, get a good lead and go! That means you, Nate Schierholtz.

(Semi-related note: Everybody talks about claiming guys like Adam Dunn, but if the Giants claim any offensive players before the end of the season, they’re more likely to be speedy types who can be used to pinch-run. This is what happens when Eugenio Velez gets clocked in the dome by a foul ball and Darren Ford decides to be a bad boy.)

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