May 2012

MoreSplashHits back in Top 50 of MLBlogs

MoreSplashHits is back in the Top 50 of MLB Fan Blogs, and I guess we thank Tim Lincecum’s haircut for that.

MoreSplashHits came in at No. 46 among MLB fan blog in April. It’s the third time we’ve manage to work our way into the top 50. But there’s a funny explanation about that.

When we started this blog back in the postseason following the 2009 season, we really had no idea what we were doing in terms of generating page views. Nor did we really care.

The blog was more a cathartic process to vent about the Giants. Eventually, we began to share it with friends and fellow G-men fans in the Pacific Northwest.

Then after generating some page views amid the Giants’ run to the 2010 World Series championship, we began to go to work at getting this blog listed among the top 50 in a month and hopefully work toward making it a top 100 blog.

That work eventually paid off by making it into the Top 50 at No. 50 in February 2011. We moved up to No. 44 in March 2011.

We got derailed a bit in April, but then looked to regroup in May when MLBlogs transferred to the WordPress platform.

OK, so we switched the blog to WordPress, which offered some cool new templates. MoreSplashHits chose a design in which we incorporated a photo of the 2010 World Series celebration as the blog banner and used photos for a nice look, then went back to work blogging.

Page views started going up, yet MoreSplashHits could not work its way back into the Top 50. Hmmm. Puzzling.

Then the answer came in March 2012, when we noticed this disclaimer on mlblogs.com

“Reminder: Blogs only can be tracked for this list if they use an MLB theme. If you switch to a different WordPress.com theme for a day or two during that month, those page views will not be included for these purposes because they cannot be recorded by MLB.com.”

Oh, great.

So after deciding that getting back into the Top 50 was more important than a cool layout, we switched back to our current theme.

The switch likely came too late to make it into the March Top 50, so we’re excited about making the April Top 50.

But it’s always interesting to see what posts generate the most traffic. Our biggest day in April came when we blogged about Tim Lincecum’s haircut prior to his second start of the season. That post generated more than 800 page views IN ONE DAY.

In past years, that would be a good month.

Now that we’re back in the Top 50, we look to stay there in May, maybe even more up from our No. 46 position.

Maybe we could convince Brian Wilson to shave his beard.

San Francisco Giants Friday Farm Report: Heath Hembree is dealing

The Fresno Grizzlies are off to a 21-7 thanks to an offense that is hitting .300 as a team. But it’s the team’s pitching that leads the Pacific Coast League with a 3.25 ERA.

And Giants fans have seen some of that pitching in the bigs.

Eric Hacker threw a quality start in his one spot start last week. Hacker returned to Fresno and earned his fifth win on Wednesday, improving to 5-0 on the season.

Steve Edlefsen and his 1.42 ERA got called up last week. Then came Travis Blackley and his 0.39 ERA to aid the Giants’ bullpen.

We haven’t seen Shane Loux and his 0.55 ERA in 16.1 innings. Nor have seen Heath Hembree … yet.

Hembree, the 23-year-old Fresno closer, is 1-0 with 1.64 ERA and seven saves. He’s fanned 10 batters in 11 IP with three walks.

And he seems to be getting better. He’s recorded saves in his last five outings dating back to April 26. He hasn’t allowed a hit in any of those outings, walked just one and struck out five.

Here’s a look at other Giants minor-league players:

TRIPLE-A FRESNO

OF Justin Christian has cooled off a bit from his torrid start. But is still hitting .370 with 3 HRs and 15 RBI. His 11 walks gives him a .438. If he could play 3B, he could get a call. But the Giants don’t need outfielders now. OF Roger Kieschnick is in the same boat as Christian. He’s stuck in Fresno with 6 HR, 17 RBI and .342 average. After scuffling at the start, OF Francisco Peguero seemed to find his stroke. He’s hitting .316 over the past 10 games. His season numbers sit at 2 HR, 19 RBI, .237 AVG.

DOUBLE-A RICHMOND

The Eastern League’s reputation has being tough on hitters continues to be true. Some Flying Squirrels are hitting like 3B Daniel Mayora (0 HR, 12 RBI, .308) and OF Juan Perez (2 HR, 7 RBI, .281). But most of the Giants big hitting prospects continue to struggle. 3B Chris Dominguez, who had started off well, has slumped, hitting .135 in his past 10 games and now sits at 1 HR, 12 RBI, .258. Others who started off really, REALLY bad are showing signs of improvement. C Tommy Joseph (3 HR, 7 RBI, .244) had a two-homer game on Monday. SS Ehire Adrianza (0 HR, 6 RBI, .233) is hitting .300 over the past 10 days, and his 13 walks have given an .327 OBP. OF Gary Brown (0 HR, 12 RBI, .230) is hiting .275 over the past 10 games and has doubled his stolen-base total with three steals in four attempts. He now has 6 steals in nine attempts for the season. He’s raking left-handed hitting (.353), but his .205 average against righties won’t get him to the bigs anytime soon. Relief pitcher Brett Bochy, son of the Giants manager, has not allowed a run and only five hits in 15.1 IP. He’s struck out 14. Starter Chris Heston is 2-2 despite a 1.21 ERA in five starts. He’d fit in great with the Giants. He has 25 Ks in 29.2 IP.

CLASS A SAN JOSE

High prospect C Andrew Sugac (.239) continue to get most starts, but C Jeff Arnold is off to red-shot start (.520 in 25 ABs). OF Jarrett Parker, a second-round pick out of Virginia in 2010, has gone from bad to downright terrible. He’s hitting .165 with 4 HRs and 10 RBI with a whopping 43 Ks in 79 ABs. Over the past 10 games, he’s 1 for 30 with 15 Ks. SS Joe Panik also is struggling (0 HR, 11 RBI, .216). But at least he’s hitting the ball with 12 K, 15 BB in 97 ABs. Jack Snodgrass is 3-1 with 1.23 ERA with 21 Ks and 4 BB and 29.1 IP in five starts. Ryan Bradley is 2-2 with 1.98 ERA in 5 starts. Seth Rosin has 2.79 ERA and three saves with 16 Ks, 4 BB in 9.2 IP.

CLASS A AUGUSTA

If the Giants need a power-hitting 3B, look at Jose Cuevas, who has 4 HR, 18 RBI with .255 AVG and .770 OPS. Kyle Crick is 0-1 with 2.30 ERA, but he needs to control his walks (14 BB in 15.2 IP).

Miami Marlins 3, San Francisco Giants 2: Trying to find a silver lining to sweep

BOX SCORE

Thursday was a dark day for the Giants.

They learned Pablo Sandoval would be on the DL for 4-to-6 weeks. Then followed up with another anemic offensive game, another tight loss to the Miami Marlins.

But rather than pile on what went wrong Thursday, we’ll instead try to shine some rays of hope, knowing that some of these may be stretches.

  • Gregor Blanco had a nice game in the leadoff spot. With the Aubrey Huff on the DL and Nate Schierholtz mired in a slump, manager Bruce Bochy put Blanco in the leadoff spot Thursday and responded by going 3 for 3 with a double and walk. He scored both of the Giants’ runs. He also was thrown out stealing on a perfect throw from Brett Hayes.
  • The Giants avoided a shutout. They have not been shutout all season and are one of four NL teams who have not been shutout (Reds, Cubs and Diamondbacks).
  • The Giants avoided being shutout by Anibal Sanchez at AT&T Park. Sanchez threw shutouts in his only other two starts at AT&T.
  • Angel Pagan extended his career-best hitting streak to 17 games.
  • Ryan Vogelsong rebounded from a 33-pitch first inning to throw a quality start — 7 IP, 1 ER and 5 Ks. It was the Giants’ 15th quality start of the season.
  • The Marlins leave town, having won their last seven games in San Francisco. The Brewers come town Friday. Reigning MVP Ryan Braun is questionable Friday with a sore Achilles.

UP NEXT

Tim Lincecum returns to the mound to face Zach Greinke and the Brewers at 7:15 p.m.

On Saturday, Madison Bumgarner takes on Randy Wolf in a 1:05 p.m. FOX game of the week.

On Sunday, Matt Cain faces Shawn Marcum at 1:50 p.m.

Here we go again; San Francisco Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval fractures hamate bone

Sometimes, I feel, as a Giants fan, like a child being coddled by Bruce Bochy.

The Giants manager last night said he was very concerned about Pablo Sandoval, but was hopeful for better news Thursday.

What news was he hoping for? That the Yankees would release Alex Rodriguez?

The Giants announced Thursday that Sandoval would be out 4-to-6 weeks after suffering a broken hamate bone in his left hand.

Almost exacly one year ago, Sandoval suffered the exact injury on his right hand. He missed 41 games (about six weeks), in which the Giants went 25-16. They’d be extremely lucky to expect a repeat of that feat, although a portion of those games were also played without Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez.

Giants trainer Dave Groeschner added that there is hope that Sandoval can be back sooner that last year because this injury is not to his throwing hand. Also, Sandoval hits more from the left, and this injury would be to his top hand when batting left.

Sandoval said he initially hurt his hand Sunday. But it appears he notified the team on Tuesday and got X-rays, which were inconclusive. He would try to play through the injury.

Sandoval hit home runs on Sunday and Tuesday.

But the hopes of playing through the injury ended Wednesday when the pain became unbearable after grounding out in the sixth.

The expression on Bochy’s face showed clear concern. Yet he said afterward, he was hoping for good news.

And then the Giants called Connor Gillaspie in Fresno at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night. He caught a 7 a.m. flight to San Francisco Thursday and will get the start against the Marlins. Gillaspie was hitting .316 at Fresno this season.

On Thursday, Bochy said he hopes Gillaspie “takes the job and runs with it.” He also added that Joaquin Arias, Ryan Theriot and Emmanuel Burriss could see time at third base.

That’s a lot of hoping.

The timing is particularly frustrating, given that the Tigers released veteran 3B Brandon Inge last Thursday. On Monday, he signed with the A’s.

Also Thursday, Bochy said Aubrey Huff will be activated from the disabled list when eligible on Monday.

For what it’s worth, Huff has played 360 big-league games at third base, although he hasn’t played any since playing 33 games there for the Orioles in 2008.

The next question the becomes: Who gets sent back to Fresno when Huff is activated?

Miami Marlins 3, San Francisco Giants 2, 10 inn.: Pablo Sandoval injures hand in loss

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, and batting coach Hensley Meulens appear rather concerned in the seventh inning Wednesday after Pablo Sandoval left the game with an injured hand. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

BOX SCORE

Geez, I hate it when the Marlins come to town.

Last season, when the Fish were in town, the Giants lost Buster Posey to a season-ending injury.

On Wednesday, they lost Pablo Sandoval, for a little while at least, maybe longer.

Sandoval left Wednesday game after grounding out in the sixth inning and was said to be in “quite a bit of pain” in his left hand.

Manager Bruce Bochy didn’t say when Sandoval hurt himself. But after looking at Sandoval’s at-bats Wednesday (MLB.TV is cool), the Panda wasn’t showing any signs of discomfort until he swung at a low 89 mph pitch from Carlos Zambrano on a 1-0 count leading off the sixth.

Sandoval appeared to hit the ball of the end of his bat and rolled a grounder to second. Sandoval immediately dropped his head and jogged to first, grimacing as he reached the bag.

A couple of media reports said that Sandoval broke his hamate bone in his right hand swinging a bat on April 29 of last season. But as I recall, the Giants said back then that they didn’t know how or when the injury occurred, saying to could have happened on a slide into the bag.

That injury sidelined Sandoval for six weeks, after requiring surgery.

In this case, Sandoval’s left hand was the top hand on the bat as he batted left handed, so hitting a 89 mph pitch down on the end of the bat would hurt the top hand.

Bochy said he was concerned for Sandoval, who was seen leaving the park with a brace on his left hand.

“Oh, quite a bit, to be honest,” Bochy said of his concern for the Panda. “For him to come out of the game, his hand is pretty sore. There’s a lot of concern there. We know what this guy means to our club and our offense. You hope for the best, that’s all you can do. … We’re hoping we get some good news with this.”

Nothing further will be known until Thursday. If there’s a positive note, it came from CSNBayArea’s Andrew Baggarly, who reported that Sandoval was scene leaving the clubhouse in the direction away from the stadium’s X-ray machine.

If a DL stint is needed, left-handed hitting Conor Gillaspie would be the apparent replacement. Gillaspie is hitting .362 with three home runs and 13 RBI for Triple-A Fresno.

UP NEXT

Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound against Anibal Sanchez at 12:45 p.m. Thursday as the Giants try to salvage the final game of the three-game series. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad vibes on this but …. last year on the day after Posey was injured (in an extra inning game, mind), the Giants played a day game against the Marlins and Anibal Sanchez threw a complete game shutout for a 1-0 victory to complete a three-game sweep. Who was the opposing pitcher for the Giants that day? Ryan Vogelsong.

San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt taken out by 4-year-old

To paraphrase a lyric from the song “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam

“Clearly I remember
Picking up the boy
Seemed a harmless little …..”

That may have been the best way for Jeremy Affeldt to greet the media when explaining his most recent trip to the disabled list.

Instead, he took a different route.

“I was separating frozen hamburgers, and I slipped on the floor.”

In fact, Affeldt sprained his knee when his four-year-old son Walker greeted the pitcher as he came home Saturday night by jumping off the sofa and into his father’s arms.

My first reaction to the news was: What was a four-year-old stilling doing up that late?

But then I remember Saturday’s night game started at 6 p.m. and only lasted 2 hours, 18 minutes. So Affeldt wouldn’t have come home that late.

My second thought was: the knee? He hurt his knee?

As a father of a young son who is big for his age, I know how dangerous they can be.

But I would have expected an injury like a strained back. I have had that happen to me. Kid jumps into your arms, and you thrown out your back.

The groin might be another susceptible area. Kids jumps into you, and you take it in the family jewels. Oh yes, I can see that.

And if that did happen, I’d say “Jeremy, take your 15 days. Heck, take 60 days if you need to.”

The Giants said Affledt’s knee sprain will take 7 to 10 days to heal, and then he’ll head to Fresno for a rehab stint. So it’s hoped he’ll be back by mid-month.

In the meantime, the Giants called up lefty Travis Blackley from Fresno, where he was 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA with three walks and 19 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.

When asked for comment, former Giant Jeff Kent said: “Hurt by one of your kids jumping into your arms? Man! Why didn’t I think of that in 2002?”

Miami Marlins 2, San Francisco Giants 1: Does Bruce Bochy really look at the numbers?

BOX SCORE

San Francisco Giants were looking for someone to take the blame for Tuesday’s loss to the Marlins.

They looked at first-base umpire Jerry Meals. Meals called Ryan Theriot’s grounder down the first-base line foul when replays appeared to indicate that the ball bounced right over the first-base bag and down into the right-field corner.

But you can’t blame Meals when you can’t guarantee that Theriot would have eventually scored from second with two-out in the ninth.

Matt Cain tried to take the blame — as he often does.

“I made a couple more mistakes than (Ricky Nolasco) did,” Cain said.

No, you didn’t, Matty.

Cain gave up a laser of a home run to left to Giancarlo Stanton.

Nolasco gave up a laser of a home run to right to Pablo Sandoval.

The only difference is the Marlins were able to get a runner home from second with one out, and the Giants weren’t able to get a runner home from third with no outs.

So the question is: Does Bruce Bochy carry some of the blame for the loss?

We all know Bochy likes to play matchups, likes to play the numbers … with his lineups, with his pinch-hitting choice, his double switches.

But maybe he should have looked at the numbers before making decisions in the bottom of the eighth.

Now I know the book says when you have runners at first and third and no outs, with your Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters coming up, you let them swing away.

But the numbers says something else.

The Giants came into Tuesday’s game hitting .193 with runners in scoring position. And your No. 2 and No. 4 hitters were part of that problem.

Melky Cabrera (No. 2) is hitting .217 with RISP. Buster Posey (No. 4) is hitting .222. Only Sandoval (.292) has solid numbers in that situation this season. And as it turned out, he never got to hit.

So the question then becomes: Was a squeeze play in order with Cabrera at the plate?

Given the Giants’ troubles in this position, getting that runner home from third was paramount. And the situation was prime for it.

You had speed at third in Gregor Blanco, and a good bunter at the plate in Cabrera.

Cabrera has 35 sacrifice bunts in his career and a 78 percent bunt percentage.

If played right, the Giants could have a 2-2 game with one out, Angel Pagan at second and Sandoval and Posey still to bat.

This wasn’t the fifth inning. It was the bottom of the eighth. We weren’t lucking for a big inning. We were looking for a run, possible two to take the lead.

Instead, the Giants got nothing.

Cabrera bounced a slow chopper to first, with Blanco holding at third and Pagan taking second. One out.

That took the bat out of the hands of Sandoval, who was intentionally walked.

Posey then came up, got ahead of the count, but eventually bounced a custom-made 4-6-3 double play.

UP NEXT

Barry Zito faces Carlos Zambrano in the second game of the series at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. It led Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com to wonder how many times two pitchers with the last name that starts with a Z have faced each other. The answer is four times: Carlos Zambrano vs. Victor Zambrano in 2005, Zito vs. Carlos Zambrano in 2004 and Zito vs. Victor Zambrano in 2003. Also Paul Zahniser of the Red Sox faced Tom Zachary of the Senators in 1925. But there has never been a matchup of two Z’s who make a combined $37 million.

Statistical look back at San Francisco Giants in April

A lot has been made about the Giants’ production with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Last year, the Giants hit .173 in those situations, a historically low number. Most Giants fans went into this season figuring there’s no way the 2012 Giants could do worse than that.

And they were right. Through one month of the 2012 season, the Giants are hitting, with runners in scoring position and two outs, .173.

Yet, the 2012 Giants are scoring at a higher rate in 2012. Their 90 runs ranks ninth in the NL, much better than the 16th ranking they had last season.

So what’s the difference?

For one, the Giants are creating more RISP, 2-out situations in 2012. Their .261 team batting average is third in the NL.

In 2011, the Giants averaged 4.42 RISP, two-out situatons per game. In 2012, it’s 5.14.

And the 2012 Giants are making better contact in those situations. In 2011, they fanned 19.7 percent of the time in those situations. In 2012, it’s down to 15.9. You may say, so what, an out is an out. But when you put the ball in play, there is a chance the fielder boots it or throws it away.

You may be surprised to learn that the Giants have struck out a league-low 129 times in 2012. And it’s a league low by a longshot (34 Ks). That means the Giants can make every out by strikeout in their next game and still have the fewest whiffs in the league.

The Giants’ BABIP (Batting average for balls in play) is close to their 2011 average, up slightly to .289 from .281. But by putting more balls in play, they are creating more opportunities.

And while the Giants are not hitting well with RISP, they are hitting when runners are not in scoring position.

The Giants hit .252 with a runner on first in 2011. This year, it’s .294.

Also, last year the Giants his 121 home runs, of which 79 were solo shots (65.2 percent). You’ll remember that the record stretch of solo shots the Giants had last July?

Well, this year the Giants have 20 home runs, of which nine are solos (45 percent).

So with all this improved offense, why are the Giants playing at a rate (.545 win pct) not much better than last year (.531)?

Well, for one, the pitching this season hasn’t been quite as good. The 2012 team ERA is 3.38, compared to 3.20 in 2011. But that rise can be attributed to the 17-8 game the Giants lost in Game 5.

But it also can be attributed to a bad start. The Giants opened 1-4. They’ve played eight games in which the starting pitcher did not have a quality start. Four occurred in the first five games. Since that 1-4 start, the Giants are 11-6.

But it’s not the starters. Last year, starters had a 3.28 ERA. This year, it’s 3.25.

The bullpen hasn’t been quite as sharp. Last year, the bullpen had a 3.04 ERA and a 1.233 WHIP. This year, it sits at 3.71 and 1.631.

But again, it’s early, and a couple of bad outings (like the bullpen giving up 11 runs in that 17-8 loss to Colorado and six runs in a 9-2 loss to the Reds) can throw the numbers out of whack.

Also the fielding has been less than stellar. The Giants ranked second in the NL in errors with 25. Yet, they committed nine of those errors in the first five games, 14 in the 17 since.

So going forward, it’s looks as if the hitting will be fine, the starting pitching will be fine and the defense will be fine. And minus a few bumps, it looks like the bullpen should be fine.

Now, they just need to stay healthy.

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