Who to bring up to take a start?

The Giants were already forced to bring up somebody to take Jerome Williams turn next Tuesday but apparently Schmidt's arm hasn't rebounded as fast as expected and now there is talk about pushing his start Sunday to Monday to give him more rest (ironic since they skipped Williams turn in the rotation, after he pitched so well in his first game and thus screwing up his rhythm, so that Schmidt could pitch on his normal day). So who to bring up to take his start on Sunday?

Right now the two main candidates are Brad Hennessey and Matt Cain - Jesse Foppert would have been in the mix if he wasn't walking so many batters. Misch has done well also but Cain has a 1.75 ERA in 4 games, 25.2 IP with only 10 hits but 11 walks and 29 strikeouts while Hennessey has a 2.45 ERA in 4 games, 25.2 IP with 19 hits and 9 walks and 21 strikeouts, whereas Misch has a 3.05 ERA in 4 games, 20.2 IP with 20 hits and 6 walks and 13 strikeouts. Foppert, FYI, has a 3.46 ERA in 3 games, 13.o IP with 12 hits and 10 walks (!) and 13 strikeouts. Those are all good ERAs in any setting but they are especially good for pitchers in the offense-happy PCL.

Hennessey would seem to be the front-runner on a number of fronts. First, he has had major league experience already and so there would be less of an adjustment and less of a surprise for him. Second, bringing up Cain would start his clock ticking on callups. Third, perhaps most important of all, he is probably the best trading chip of the pitchers that the Giants has not made untouchable (I assume Cain, Foppert, Aardsma, and Valdez are untouchable) though perhaps Misch is pretty close right now and this would be a good way to showcase him.

I normally would not advocate trading him because he seems to be a pretty good prospect with less question marks than, say, Boof Bonser, but the Giants are loaded with strong pitching prospects and so he and Misch (who is Lowry-like, only better thus far) are probably the ones most valuable that they have on the block.

I've also wondered if since Misch has outperformed Lowry at equivalent levels, the Giants might package Lowry in a trade once Misch is ready to come up or perhaps once Cain is ready to move up to the MLB. Perhaps Detroit would be willing to take Lowry for Urbina mid-season if they were interested in Jerome Williams previously.

Repentance and secret of Giants success

With the uncertainty of the closer situation clouding the Giants 2005 season, I just wanted to repent on my approval of the Pierzynski-Nathan trade. On paper, it still looks like a great trade but obviously the results speaks for themselves: Sabean's worse trade ever. And it could be a trend as I think his second worse was trading F-Rod for Ledee later that season.

I repent because I bought what a number of other Giants fans on a community board had convinced me: that relievers are easy to get. I thought the risk of giving up Nathan to get Pierzynski was worth it because it is not everyday that you can pick up an offensive catcher of his caliber, especially lefthanded hitter, but I was told that relievers were not worth that much because they don't pitch that many innings, they are easy to replace, and they are easy to get cheaply. Plus Nathan stunk in the playoffs.

Well, I'm still waiting on all that. It has not been easy to replace Nathan nor to get cheaply. And they might not pitch that many innings but finding someone who can pitch those limited number of innings SUCCESSFULLY appears to be harder than was presented to me. I think I will be holding relievers closer to my heart from now on. Of course, it is much more poignant given the Giants great need for a lights out closer as Nathan as appeared to have become. Then again, we don't know that Nathan would have done the same for the Giants - perhaps the trade gave him the push he needed to utilize his talents in such a way.

Another thing they convinced me of was the lunacy of paying so many millions of dollars for a closer, like the $9M for Nen. Of course, the Giants then went out and paid Benitez $21M for 3 seasons (though "only" $4.5M, or something like that, for this season). Obviously this injury colors that but the risk of injury exists for all free agents and you never know who will get hit by the injury bugaboo. I thought it was a good deal because while he has had issues in the past with pressure situations, he has usually dominated during the season and in particular last season and we needed someone to come in and take over that position and allow our other pitchers to focus on their role instead of dream of being the closer. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

There is talk about making Fassero the closer because he has had prior and successful experience there. While I don't think he is the best candidate for this - I think Brower/Eyre are out of the bunch we got now - this would be a good move as it would allow the other relievers to, again, focus more on their roles than on anything else plus not make another hole somewhere else in the bullpen. However, his recent performance in his career has been spotty at best so I would be more inclined to keep him where he is now, long-relief plus extras.

If there is anyone I would go to, it would be Walker just to see what he can do, with the idea of giving Correia a little more time to get used to the idea of being the closer in AAA before having to bring him up if Walker falters at the role. This would keep everyone else in their important roles, give Correia more time to get ready, plus get to see what Walker is made up of. Maybe he will thrive in such a role. Maybe he will stink. But it shouldn't hurt much since we are still close to the leaders of the NL West and wouldn't fall out that much with him in place as closer.

Addendum: oops, forgot about the second part of my title. The secret of the Giants lack of greater success this season seems to be my fault: I'm not wearing the right t-shirts. :^) Yes, the Giants are something like 6-0 when I wear one of my Barry Bonds t-shirts but are 4-11 with my other t-shirts and other clothing. I resolve to wear my Barry Bonds t-shirts for every game until they lose with me wearing it!


"Slim and None"

What is Sabean's answer when asked about the chances of the Giants trading for another closer.

But is that the answer for the Giants chances for making the playoffs this year? No, I don't think so, but it sure as heck is going to be much harder to achieve without a closer. This is a huge punch in the gut. It is gut check time for the Giants pitching staff.

It is still too early to give up and the Giants are still close. What we need is someone to step up and do the job for us. Unfortunately, we don't have any obvious choices in the minors as Aardsma, who would have been the obvious choice, was so in need of development that the Giants took to making him a starter in AA to get him more innings, so we have no Chad Cordero or Huston Street in Aardsma.

As is abundantly clear to any Giants fan, the Giants don't have any obvious choices for the closer position on the major league roster either. On the trade market there are not many viable options other than Ugeth Urbina but Detroit is rumored to be asking for a young pitcher, either experienced like Jerome Williams (who they were rumored to have asked for last season) or a topline prospect like Matt Cain (who is probably the first name out of the mouth of any GM talking trade with the Giants). The most I would be willing to give up would be Brad Hennessey and another prospect, Correia?

There is a rumor that Feliz Rodriguez might be released by the Yankees because they have 13 pitchers and want to scale back to 12. While I would not make him a closer, I would try to get him because he could help with our setupman situation for the Giants since probably one or more of them will become the closer.

But looking at last year's staff stats, both Brower and Eyre have low OPS for their first 15 pitches. But they get a lot worse for pitches 16-30. Tyler Walker and F-Rod are pretty good for those pitches, near the top for the staff, but are pretty bad their first 15 pitches. Someone else who was good for pitches 16-30 and 31-45 was Brad Hennessey. Perhaps we can go back to the days where the closer would relieve for 2-3 innings at a time, he would be good in that situation based on how he pitched as a starter but I don't know if his mindset is ready for that. Also, he can't come into a bad situation, you would have to bring Brower or Eyre in first to clean up the situation then bring Brad in to pitch.

Desperate actions for desperate situations, perhaps it will take thinking out of the box to solve this problem. A caller on KNBR suggested that the Giants take Schmidt out of the rotation and a la Smoltz, make him the closer. Then the Giants would bring up Hennessey and/or Cain to pitch in the rotation. While that sounds interesting, I think the Giants should try other options first, like Brower/Eyre combo, to see if that works first. Then they could try the trade route by the end of May and then by the end of June, if there's still a problem, perhaps we can try the Schmidt route since Cain should hopefully be ready to come up at that time.

However, if we were to do that to a starter, I would rather go with Tomko instead of Schmidt. Tomko has a pretty good fastball that he could key on if he relieved. That was part of his success last season, focusing more on throwing his fastball instead of secondary pitches. In addition, he pitches OK for pitches 1-15 (.822 OPS), then is stellar for 16-30 and 31-45. Then we could bring up Cain at that point (assuming he is ready) or Hennessey to take his spot in the rotation. Because he is again inconsistent in his starts, his great second half last season was masked by the fact that he had a stellar month and two thoroughly ordinary other months. Perhaps if he had to focus on his two best pitches he can have more consistent success.

Oh, by the way, the Giants mashed the Pads, 10-3 to win the get-away series, as the Giants travel to lovely Pittsburgh for a three game series. The offense awoke with Feliz' 3-run homer to back Rueter's great outing for his first win of the season.

Even when the Giants win, they lose

Giants finally win one from the Padres, first of the season, 6-5, but ended up losing Benitez on the last play of the game to a hamstring injury. It was so bad that he was carried off the field (and that is some doing if you've ever seen him, he is a gargantuan man).

I still think the Giants have a good team overall but injuries have obviously been sapping their potential. Losing Benitez for potentially a month or more can be the straw that finally breaks the camel's back. However, thus far the Giants have been doing what I've been hoping they could do, which is play around .500 without key players. So while I would love it if they would just win a lot of games, this slow start, while always frustrating, is a good thing, we could be much worse off. We just need some players to suck it up and outperform, like some did initially when the season started.

There was a mention in one newspaper about throwing Herges into that role again but he has flamed out twice as the closer, I don't think we need another try to confirm it. No one in the minors look like they are close to being ready to take over being closer, Correia just started learning the art of being a reliever last season and of being a closer this season, Aardsma is learning at AA by starting, Munter hasn't been on fire either though he was the one brought up to take Benitez' spot when Armando was put on the 15-day DL today.

What will probably happen is what Alou said, closer by committee, probably between Eyre and Brower, depending on matchups. There is still the small hope that Benitez will only be out a few days (not like the Giants are on a win streak here so how often would they need him over that period?) and not 4-6 weeks, but it's never good when a player is carried off the field.

One key that needs to happen soon is Durham breaking out of this slump. If Durham had been playing the way he is capable of during this first part of the season, we could have been neck and neck with the Dodgers right now. Hopefully Alou putting him down in the 6th spot of the lineup will get him going, we really need him leading off and creating runs for us, as our margin for error got even less with the loss of Benitez. He has made the leadoff spot the most productive in terms of OPS the last two years and he is a key to our offense, the second most important after Bonds.

Addendum: this wasn't reported in the newspaper (bad Mercury! :^) but Alfonzo left the game early because of a strained hamstring. That explains why Alou sat him out today to give him two days of rest to recover from it. The announcer said that he could have played and that Alou would have no problem PHing him if necessary so I guess that is good news, relatively. With a 10-3 lead, I don't think that's going to happen; enjoy your days of rest Fonzie!


Giants Position Prospects - Last of Series of roundtable discussions

Here is the final installation of the series of roundtable discussions a number of Giants bloggers have had on the prospects in the Giants farm system. It was posted on Fogball. Notice how many we had on pitching and only this one on position players...

However, we do hope to bring up another discussion on position prospects a little further into the season to examine how the promising crop of hitters are doing in the lower levels of the farm system, High-A and below, particularly in San Jose where the Giants' arguably best position prospects are playing right now - Eddy Martinez-Esteve, Nate Schierholtz, John Bowker, Clay Timpner, Kevin Frandsen, and Travis Ishikawa. Also, Marcus Sanders is making an early splash in Augusta for the Greenjackets.


Ouch, losing two to the lowly Brewers

The Giants offense and starting pitching has suddenly turned cold and the addition of Moises Alou hasn't sparked much of anything yet. While it is too early to overly worry plus one must acknowledge that the loss of Bonds did and continues to hurt, this offense should be good enough to be generating the 5+ runs necessary to win, not the 17 runs over the past 5 games that it has. Durham and Alou are the only players to not get hot and push the team, every other batter has contributed in some substantial way to the offense, it is time for them to pick the team up.

Jerome Williams just got sent down to the minors to work out whatever kinks that developed from skipping his turn and throwing him into a relief role - he pitched great in his first start. Hopefully the regular starts without the pressure of MLB will help him relax and figure out what he needs to do to get the job done. He is too good a pitcher to be scuffling like this, but it is not entirely his fault, he shouldn't be the fifth starter, losing a turn to days off, Rueter or Tomko should have been. But he has been a mature player and he should be able to turn things around in Fresno and get things going for the Giants once he gets back to the majors.