March 2012

What if Giants spring training were like March Madness?

It’s March Madness time, and everyone is busy filling out NCAA Tournament brackets (well, except MoreSplashHits. We need to get busy on that).

But it did get us thinking. What would Giants spring training look like if we set the players in camp up into a March Madness-styled bracket.

So we based these seedings on the probability of each player in camp this spring making a significant contribution to the success of the Giants in 2012.

And this is what we came up with. Debate at will.

MAYS BRACKET

(1) P Tim Lincecum vs. (16) P Danny Otero

(8) P Heath Hembree vs. (9) OF Francisco Peguero

(4) OF Nate Schierholtz vs. (13) OF Tyler Graham

(5) 2B Freddy Sanchez vs. (12) SS Ehire Adrianza

(6) C Eli Whiteside vs. (11) 3B Chris Dominguez

(3) OF Melky Cabrera vs. (14) C Jackson Williams

(7) P Barry Zito vs. (10) 3B Conor Gillaspie

(2) P Ryan Vogelsong vs. (15) IF Joaquin Arias

MCCOVEY BRACKET

(1) P Matt Cain vs. (16) P Shane Loux

(8) C Chris Stewart vs. (9) C Hector Sanchez

(4) P Santiago Casilla vs. (13) OF Jarrett Parker

(5) SS Brandon Crawford vs. (12) OF Justin Christian

(6) IF-OF Emmanuel Burriss vs. (11) C Andrew Sugac

(3) 1B Aubrey Huff vs. (14) IF Nick Noonan

(7) P Clay Hensley vs. (10) P Hector Correia

(2) P Sergio Romo vs. (15) OF Juan Perez

MARICHAL BRACKET

(1) P Brian Wilson vs. (16) P Matt Yourkin

(8) OF Gary Brown vs. (9) SS Joe Panik

(4) 1B Brandon Belt vs. (13) OF Roger Kieschnik

(5) P Guillermo Mota vs. (12) P Andrew Kown

(6) IF Ryan Theriot vs. (11) P Brian Burres

(3) P Javier Lopez vs. (14) P Seth Rosin

(7) OF Gregor Blanco vs. (10) C Tommy Joseph

(2) C Buster Posey vs. (15) P Stephen Harold

MATHEWSON BRACKET

(1) 3B Pablo Sandoval vs. (16) P Jake Dunning

(8) P Eric Surkamp vs. (9) P Steve Edlefsen

(4) P Jeremy Affeldt vs. (13) P Dan Otero

(5) 1B Brett Pill vs. (12) P Wilmin Rodriguez

(6) IF Mike Fonteno vs. (11) P Ramon Ortiz

(3) OF Angel Pagan vs. (14) P Justin Fitzgerald

(7) P Dan Runzler vs. (10) 2B Charlie Culberson

(2) P Madison Bumgarner vs. (15) P David Quinowski

Cubs 5, Giants 4: Angel Pagan makes an appearance

BOX SCORE

Hey, aren’t you Angel Pagan?

With all the talk this spring circulating around Melky Cabrera’s hot bat, the return of Buster Posey, Freddy Sanchez, Brian Wilson, and Tim Lincecum’s shaky early starts, we’ve sort of forgotten about the other new addition in the outfield.And that’s Angel Pagan.

Maybe we haven’t talked a lot about Pagan because there wasn’t much to talk about.

He came into Tuesday’s game hitting .227 (5 for 22). And it didn’t get much better when he made out in his first two at-bats Tuesday.

But then connected on a gapper to left for a triple and later added a double, lifting his spring average to .269. He also made a couple of nice grabs in the outfield.

“I like it,” Pagan said of all his running. “That’s the way it’s going to be in the season.”

Well, let’s hope so.

In the meantime, Pagan won’t be able to build off his success Tuesday in the next couple of days. He’s getting a wisdom tooth removed Wednesday.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Madison Bumgarner gave up three runs on seven hits in four innings. He said he was experimenting with a new slider grip with mixed results. He did strike out four and walked none. Manager Bruce Bochy said he was wild in the strike zone.
  • Buster Posey caught four more innings and reported no problems. The plan is to get him stretched out to six innings in a game next week. For now, he’ll work on his batting stroke. He went 0 for 2 Tuesday, making him 0 for 5 for the spring. But no strikeouts. He’ll play DH on Wednesday.
  • Mike Fontenot, who had been nursing a groin injury, got into the game and got a double, walk, RBI and run in two plate appearances.

UP NEXT

Matt Cain takes the hill as the Giants face the Indians in Scottsdale at 1:05 p.m.

Giants ready to throw Freddy Sanchez in at 2B

The demise of Freddy Sanchez was apparently exaggerated

When Sanchez made his spring debut as a DH last Friday, we heard that he could make his debut in the field on Monday.

Then Bruce Bochy corrected himself, saying it would not be until at least Wednesday.

Then Cal Steward of the San Jose Mercury News wrote Sunday that it might not come until Friday, and even that was in doubt.

It made some wonder if Sanchez might not be ready to open the season.

But then Monday came, and there was Sanchez in the field before Monday’s game against the Royals taking groundballs.

Sanchez took groundballs and flipped the ball toward second base, simulating the start of a double play. Then he started to take tosses from shortstop Brandon Crawford and completed the turn with a throw to first base.

“He’s turning it up a notch and getting ready to go out there and play,” Bochy said.

Bochy said the hopes are that Sanchez will make his first defensive start on Thursday.

OTHER INJURIES

Ryan Vogelsong: The pitcher threw 35 bullpen pitches on Sunday, and will throw another 45 on Wednesday as he makes progress after suffering a sore back to open camp. But with the starters now on their third round of spring starts, time is working against Vogelsong. However, Bochy did mention that the Giants don’t need a No. 5 starter until April 15 (which is what MoreSplashHits has been saying all along).

Buster Posey: Posey will catch four innings on Tuesday, then play DH on Wednesday.

Brian Wilson: After his nine-pitch debut Sunday, The Beard will pitch another inning Wednesday.

ROSTER CUT DOWN

After Monday’s game with the Royals, pitchers Seth Rosin, Shawn Sanford, catcher Andrew Sugac and infielder Joe Panik were reassigned to minor league camp. Also IF Ehire Adranza was optioned to Triple-A. Earlier, OF Francisco Peguero was optioned to Triple-A and C Tommy Joseph and pitchers Stephen Harold, Jake Dunning, Austin Fleet and David Quinowski were assigned to minor league camp.

Giants 2, Royals 1: The Freak is back on

BOX SCORE

Well, that’s more like it.
Tim Lincecum made it a full trip through through the rotation with solid starts. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and now Lincecum pitched at least three innings with no earned runs.

Lincecum cut his spring ERA in half by pitching four innings, giving up one unearned run on one hit and one walk with four strikeouts.

Heck, even Eric Surkamp, who would be the fill in for Ryan Vogelsong if he’s unable to go, gave up only one run in three innings.

“A lot better than last outing,” Lincecum said. “The fact that I doubled my innings helps and my arm still feels good, my body feels good, and I still kept my mechanics so I’m just trying to take that as a positive and run with it.”

Lincecum threw 37 of his 58 pitches for strikes. The lone run he allowed came when Jarrod Dyson got an infield hit that deflected off Lincecum’s foot. Dyson then stole second and took third when Eli Whiteside’s throw went into center. Dyson then scored on a groundout.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • OF Gregor Blanco continued to keep pressure on Giants brass by going 3 for 3 with a walk and his sixth stolen base of the spring. He’s hitting .545.
  • Freddy Sanchez started again at DH, going 0 for 3 with a walk.
  • 1B Brett Pill went 2 for 4 with a double.
  • 3B Conor Gillaspie belted a solo home run in the second.

UP NEXT

Madison Bumgarner gets the start as the Giants play the Cubs in Scottsdale at 1:05 p.m. Buster Posey is scheduled to catch four more innings.

Giants 7, Mariners 5: Beard appeared, so fans cheered

BOX SCORE

The Giants won another spring training game, beating the Mariners to improve to 7-3. But the real story was the progress of Buster Posey and the return of Brian Wilson.

Posey made his second spring start, catching four innings and going 0 for 2.

“I felt good today and I was happy again with how my ankle felt,” Posey said.

Posey grounded out to short in the second and grounded out to third in third, both against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez.

“I got ahead 2-0 in both at-bats,” he said. “I saw some good pitches in the first at-bat. Got a pretty good pitch 2-0, just rolled over it. I feel good at the plate … I feel like I’m seeing the ball well.”

Posey said the plan was to catch four more innings Tuesday against the Cubs, but manager Bruce Bochy would see how the catch feels Monday before finalizing Posey’s next appearance.

Wilson made his first spring appearance as the Giants take a cautious approach after The Beard’s elbow problems last season.

He was slated to throw between 20-25 pitches, but needed only nine to get through a scoreless fourth inning.

Wilson threw only fastballs and cutters, with his fastball clocked at 93-94 MPH.

“The ball was coming out really well,” Posey said. “The cutter was good. He looked great.”

Posey and Wilson finished their day with a flourish, with Wilson striking out Vinnie Catricala and Posey hosing Carlos Peguero trying to steal second in a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play.

“It’s nice to see Buster behind the dish throwing people out,” Wilson said. “Although the ideal situation is not to have a guy on. But I’ll take it.”

Wilson is scheduled to pitch again Wednesday against the Indians.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Another day and Melky Cabrera continues to rake. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI. He’s hitting .542.
  • Another young catcher shined on Sunday. Hector Sanchez belted home runs from each side of the plate, finishing 2 for 2 with 3 RBI. He’s hitting .500.
  • OF Gregor Blanco continues to give the Giants something to think about, going 2 for 3 with a stolen base. He’s hitting .474 in his push to make the club as a reserve outfielder.
  • Emmanuel Burris went 2 for 3 with two runs and a stolen base. He started at 2B, but moved to 3B late in the game, where he committed a throwing error.
  • C Chris Stewart, known for his defense, had rough day behind the plate, allowing a run to score on a passed ball and committing a throwing error.
  • P Eric Surkamp, the first candidate to step into the rotation in case of injury, bounced back from a rough first start. He gave up a run on three hits and three strikeouts in three innings.

UP NEXT

Tim Lincecum is slated to take the mound as the Giants take on the Royals in Surprise at 1:05 p.m.

Giants’ Zito finds new Brewer to plunk

GIANTS 13, BREWERS 3

BOX SCORE

ANGELS 9, GIANTS 5

BOX SCORE

 

Well, it wouldn’t be spring training if Barry Zito didn’t hit a Brewer with a pitch.

The past two springs Zito plunked Prince Fielder with pitches (one intentional, one less-than-so). But with Fielder gone to the Tigers, Zito plunked Nyger Morgan with a pitch in the second inning.

Considering that Morgan is a much smaller target than Fielder, Zito’s control is clearly getting better.

“It was a curveball, so I mean sometimes you just throw through it,” Zito said of the pitch that plunked Morgan on the helmet. Morgan stayed in the game through the end of the inning, then left as a precaution.

Besides the hit-by-pitch, Zito gave up just one hit — an infield hit at that — no walks and one strikeout in three innings of work. He might have come out and pitched some in the fourth if the Giants hadn’t batted around for an eight-run inning.

Despite the solid results, Zito was mildly critical of his outing.

“I felt like I could’ve been better being down in the zone with the fastball,” Zito said. “If you look at strike ratio and how many balls were down in the zone, today was not as good as last game. But there were other positives today.”

Zito threw 30 of his 45 pitches for strikes, compared to 28 of 35 pitches for strikes last Tuesday.

Also, the Brewers’ lineup did not include the likes of Rickie Weeks, Aramis Ramirez or Ryan Braun.

Well, it doesn’t matter whose in the lineup, we’ll take three scoreless innings from Zito any day. And the plunking of the mouthy Tony Plush was just a bonus.

That makes consecutive scoreless outings from Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Zito.

Now if we can get the Lincecum kid to come around ….

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS 

  • 3B Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 4 with a double and home run in the Brewers game. He also whiffed twice.
  • 2B Ryan Theriot got things going with the bat, going 2 for 2 with a double, walk and two runs.
  • C Tommy Joseph continues to impress, going 2 for 3 with two home runs and 4 RBI. To read more on Joseph, click here.
  • SS Brandon Crawford, who worked on shortening his swing in the offseason, continues to swing a hot bat, going 2 for 3 with a double, triple and 3 RBI.
  • P Justin Fitzgerald gave up 3 runs on five hits in 2/3 of inning. The other six pitchers gave up no runs on four hits and no walks in 8 1/3 innings. They included Guillermo Mota, Sergio Romo, Steve Edlefsen and Hector Correa.
  • The lineup in the split-squad at Tempe against the Angels was comprised mostly of younger players. But two veterans had nice games. 1B Aubrey Huff went 2 for 3 with a home run.
  • Freddy Sanchez, playing DH vs. the Angels, went 1 for 3 with a run scored. Manager Bruce Bochy said Sanchez won’t play a game in the field until Wednesday at the earliest.

UP NEXT

Brian Wilson will make his spring debut and pitch an inning as the Giants take on the Mariners in Scottsdale. Eric Surkamp will get the start for the Giants and Buster Posey is slated to catch four innings. He reported no soreness after catching two innings on Friday.

Early returns on battles for jobs on Giants’ roster

One week is gone in spring training, so we have a small sample of statistics to compare players competing for jobs in the lineup and on the roster.

There are still almost four weeks worth of spring training games, and right now a 3-for-4 day or an 0-for-4 day can quickly swing a slumping player into a hot player and vice-versa.

But these numbers at least provide a starting point for comparisons.

FIRST BASE

Aubrey Huff — .214 (3 for 14), 1 HR, 1 RBI, .313 OBP
Brandon Belt — .389 (7 for 18), 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2B, .389 OBP
Brett Pill — .350 (7 for 20), 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 2B, 3B, .364 OBP

Huff is guaranteed a spot on the roster, and the Giants likely will only keep either Belt or Pill. Both players have minor-league options. Pill would give the Giants another right-handed bat. All three can also play in the outfield.

BACKUP CATCHER

Eli Whiteside — .375 (3 for 8), 0 HR, 2 RBI, .444 OBP
Chris Stewart — .273 (3 for 11) 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 2B, .273 OBP
Hector Sanchez — .444 (4 for 9), 1 HR, 4 RBI, .400 OBP

Whiteside has the inside track so far. The Giants liked Stewart’s defensive ability last season, but Whiteside has shown that his elbow problems that slowed him last year are a thing of the past. There has been talk of the Giants keeping three catchers to take pressure off Buster Posey. But that’s doubtful, at least to open the season, leaving Sanchez a long shot to make the club.

BENCH SPOTS

IF-OF Emmanuel Burriss — .500 (6 for 12), 4 2B, 1 RBI, .538 OBP

IF Mike Fontenot — .500 (4 for 8), 2 2B, 1 RBI, .600 OBP

IF Ryan Theriot — .167 (2 for 12), 2 runs, 1 RBI, .231 OBP

OF Gregor Blanco — .429 (6 for 14) 5 runs, 2 RBI, 4 SBs, .500 OBP

There likely will only be room for three of these four players on the roster. More if Freddy Sanchez is unable to open the season healthy. Even though he has a non-guaranteed contract, Ryan Theriot is coveted by Giants management for his veteran presence and right-handed bat, setting up a right-left platoon with Brandon Crawford. Crawford has struggled against left-handed pitching. But if non-roster invitee Blanco keeps hitting and Theriot does not, it may force the issue for the Giants. Blanco provides speed and is a true reserve outfielder. If Blanco doesn’t make the team, the Giants’ backup outfielders are likely to be converted infielders Huff, Belt, Pill and/or Burriss.

Baseball Prospectus predicts NL West title for Giants

Baseball Prospectus projects the 2012 San Francisco Giants to win the NL Western Division title with an 86-76 record.

It’s the same win-loss record the Giants posted in 2011, when they finished eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Baseball Prospectus projects the NL West to finish like this (these rankings are as of March 8)

San Francisco 86-76
Arizona 83-79
Colorado 80-82
San Diego 79-83
Los Angeles 78-84

Well, we like that fifth-place finish for the Dodgers. But BP is basically saying that the spread between first and second in 2011 will be the same between first and fifth in 2012. In other words, they project a very competitive 2012 season.

NL West Division champions have won at least 92 games in each of the past three seasons. But the Dodgers won the 2008 title with 84 wins. And the Padres won the title in 2005 and 2006 with fewer than 90 wins.

The low projected win totals can be attributed to BP’s prediction that the NL East will be solid with the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and Nationals having solid seasons. So that’s where they believe the wins will go.

But More Splash Hits believes it will take at least 90 win to win the West.

Giants 6, Reds 3: Buster and Freddy back on the field

BOX SCORE

Don’t worry, Matt Cain. We still love you.

When Cain left the bullpen Friday and walked onto the field at Scottsdale Stadium, he was greeted by huge roar from the Giants fans.

“I thought everybody really loved me,” Cain quipped. “And then I looked behind me and saw Buster.”

Buster Posey returned to live action for the first time since May 25 of last year, catching Cain two innings and flying out to right in his lone at-bat in the Giants’ win over the Reds.

“It was fun,” Posey said. “I’ve put in a lot of work. Even though it was only two innings, it was nice to be out there.”

Posey will get Saturday off, then return Sunday to catch four inning, according to manager Bruce Bochy.

“It was good to see Buster back out there playing again,” Bochy said. “I know he was excited. It was great to see the ovation he got when he walked out to the bullpen. … Everyone was happy to see Buster playing again.”

Well, that’s for sure. And it was also good to see Freddy Sanchez, too.

Sanchez went 1 for 4 as the Giants designated hitter Friday in his first game since a shoulder injury ended his season last June. But the big test will come Monday, when he plays his first game at second base.

“Playing defense will be a big stepping stone for me,” said Sanchez, who will DH again on Saturday and Sunday. “I feel like I’m getting a little stronger each day.”

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Matt Cain pitched three scoreless innings, giving up three hits, no walks and striking out four. He has not allowed a run in five innings this spring.
  • OF Melky Cabrera continues to rake. He went 2 for 3 with a two-run homer in the third inning. He’s hitting .588.
  • Aubrey Huff made his first spring start in left field. He went 0 for 3 and is hitting .214 this spring.
  • Meanwhile, Brandon Belt came off the bench and replaced Nate Schierholtz in right field. He went 2 for 2 with a double and an eighth-inning home run. He’s hitting .389.

UP NEXT

The Giants play split-squad games on Saturday. Barry Zito will start at Scottsdale against the Brewers, where he won’t have Prince Fielder to throw at anymore. Right-hander Shane Loux gets the start in Tempe against the Angels.

Giants 30-in-30 preview set for Saturday, other TV games

The Giants’ 30 clubs in 30 days preview on the MLB Network will make its debut at 7 p.m. Saturday.

There are other opportunities to watch the Giants this season. Any game broadcast for TV, whether it’s MLB Network or otherwise, is available on MLB.TV live. Other games will be on MLB.TV only.

Here are the March games you can watch.

Thu., March 15, 7 p.m. at Mariners, MLB Network

Sat. , March 17, 1 p.m. vs. Athletics, CSN Bay Area

Sat., March 17, 7 p.m. at Dodgers, MLB Network

Wed., March 21, 1 p.m. at Indians, MLB Network

Fr., March 23, 7 p.m. vs. Rangers, NBC Bay Area, MLB Network

Sun., March 25, 1 p.m. at White Sox, MLB Network (delayed)

Tue., March 27, 1 p.m. vs. Angels, ESPN2

Thu., March 29, 6 p.m. at Rangers, MLB Network (delayed)

Fri., March 30, 7 p.m. at Padres, MLB.TV

Sat., March 31, 3 p.m., NBC Bay Area, MLB Network (delayed)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 324 other followers