Stop Picking on Vogie

Ryan Vogelsong, the 37-year-old 15-year veteran pitcher for the Giants, has been the subject of a lot of negative commentary so far this season. I’ve been one of his loudest critics.

Time to shut up.

RYAN VOGELSONG -- Roaring Back with a Vengeance

RYAN VOGELSONG — Roaring Back with a Vengeance

Vogie has followed a rocky start with three consecutive gems in which he’s given up just 3 runs in 19-2/3 innings for a freezing ERA of 1.37. His WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) is just under 1.00, a super performance. He’s dropped his season ERA to 5.31, which is still too high but it’s certainly headed in the right direction and fast.

Reports say that Vogelsong took a hard look at his pitching after he started the season with three consecutive games in which he gave up seven or more runs as the Giants lost all three. Then he had a scratched-out win on April 23 vs LA at AT&T Park before he really bombed on April 29 against the Dodgers in LA, losing by 7-3.

He apparently decided he was pitching too carefully, trying not to lose instead of to win. He switched his outlook and what a difference it’s made!

Tim Hudson gets the ball tonight against the Dodgers, who are in town for a freakishly scheduled three-game home stand and his teammates are on a three-game streak. He’ll be facing Carlos Frias, who’s started the season with a 3-0 mark and boasts a 2.89 ERA. Despite the fact that in the pitcher-friendly home field the Giants’ sizzling bats are likely to be considerably cooled, I think the team will rally behind a Hunter Pence-fueled crowd as the Giants win by three.

Go, Giants!


Giants, Scraping Back to .500, Aren’t in As Bad Shape as They Could Be

I had some surgery recently. It went fine but the post-surgical experience was, shall we say, unexpectedly below optimum. I complained to the head of my surgical team. “It could have been worse,” he said.

I hate when people say that. Sure, it could. I could have freaking died from the so-called “minor” surgery! Still, he wasn’t wrong.

Which brings me to today’s Giants. They find themselves at .500 (18-18) just short of 1/4 of the way through the 2015 season. But they are just a half-game out of second place and only 5-1/2 games behind the division-leading Dodgers (and you know they’re going to fail, probably have a June swoon). So it could be worse.

Now if you stop to consider the key players the Giants have been playing without so far, things could actually be painted an almost pink color.

Giants OF Hunter Pence is due back today (5/16)!

Giants OF Hunter Pence is due back today (5/16)!

Hunter Pence, the core of the power and The Presence in the clubhouse, has yet to take a single at-bat this season. He is scheduled to return to the team tonight in Cincy, though it’s not clear if he’ll be in the starting lineup, come off the bench, or just be on the bench. He’ll help in whatever capacity he’s there.

Rookie pitcher Chris Heston deserves a spot in the rotation

Rookie pitcher Chris Heston deserves a spot in the rotation

Pitchers Matt Cain and Jake Peavy have both missed considerable time, leaving the Giants to depend on Ryan Vogelsong as a part of their weakened rotation. The good news there, of course, is Chris Heston, who’s been terrific as a starter. While neither Cain nor Peavy is a great pitcher, they are both seasoned regulars who were expected to be helpful in stabilizing the rotation and they’ve been missed.

When they are back at full-strength, if the Giants can stay within shouting distance, they may yet be able to salvage a decent season. I don’t see them as division champs (and haven’t from the season opener) but they can be respectable, give the Dodgers and the Padres a run for their money, and keep their fans excited.

I wouldn’t want to be Bruce Bochy, though. When Pence returns, how do you sit Justin Maxwell with the way he’s performed at the plate and in the field? You have to, of course, unless you platoon him and Nori Aoki in left. And how do you take the ball out of Heston’s hands at this point? Peavy will probably be ready to replace Vogelsong soon (not sure that’s a serious upgrade but we can’t stay with Ryan) but when Cain comes back, I suspect Peavy will sit in favor of Heston.

Tonight’s game in Cincy is the third of a four-game set that ends tomorrow afternoon. The aforementioned and much-maligned Vogelsong (1-2, 5.67 ERA) will start for the Giants. The Reds will answer with Mike Leake (2-1, 2.36). If Pence is in the starting lineup, I predict the Giants get a big lift and win their second straight in Cincinnati. If Pence isn’t on the field, I like the Reds by one.

Go, Giants!

After Split With Houston, Giants Drop Opener to Reds

The Giants had a major success on Tuesday night in Houston when they took on the smokin’ ace of the Astros rotation and clobbered him behind a two-hit performance from Chris Heston. Then they dropped two 4-3 outings in a row with the two Tims on the mound. They are sending Madison Bumgarner to the mound tonight, which would ordinary bode well for the G-Men but MadBum has been dismal against the Reds over his last seven starts, with a 2-4 record and a 5.05 ERA.

On Tuesday, the Astros sent Collin McHugh to the mound sporting an amazing 11-game win streak stretching back to last season. The Giants made short work of him in their 8-1 victory in which for one of the rare times this season the offense and the pitching just clicked.

Then on Wednesday, they returned to form. Knocking out 11 hits, they managed a meager three runs behind Hudson, who gave up six hits and three earned runs over 5-1/3 innings, hardly a quality start.

In Cincinnati last night, Lincecum looked wild all night as he gave up five walks against only four strikeouts over 4-2/3 innings. He not only gave up five hits (two of them round-trippers) and three earned runs, he also tossed a rare wild pitch.

If the Giants (17-18) have a shot at winning one or splitting this series against the 18-17 Reds, it’s tonight. The Reds are throwing their equivalent to Ryan Vogelsong, Jason Marquis, who has a ballooning 5.66 ERA and a dismal 1.51 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched). Despite those horrendous numbers, he has a 3-2 record as the Reds have provided him with lots of offense.

Tough one to call and it starts in like 15 minutes but I’m picking the Giants to win one that depends on the bullpen to saved MadBum’s bacon. Call it 4-3 just because they like those numbers so much.

Stupid NFL Rule Encouraged Deflategate

So New England Patriots’ QB Tom Brady — an authentic legend of the game — has to sit out four games for his role in “Deflategate”. Oh, and the team gets a light tap on the wrist and must pay a $1 million fine plus give up two draft picks.

As I reviewed the story today, it occurred to me that if the NFL didn’t have one stupid rule, the whole incident would have been negated.

deflategateSo I ask you, why is it that in the NFL — and only in the NFL — each team supplies its own balls which are then supposed to conform to some standard? Are you kidding me? I never knew that until this scandal broke. In all the other pro sports that involve the use of balls, the home team supplies all that are needed for the game, the equipment is inspected prior to the game by officials, and that’s it. If the NFL had the same rule, wouldn’t both teams have been given the same advantage of the softer, easier-to-throw-and-catch footballs?

And doesn’t the very idea that each team contributes — and therefore to some extent controls — the balls it and it alone uses suggest that their might be some differences between each teams’ footballs? Isn’t this a tacit encouragement of that kind of practice. Following that line, how many other teams do you suspect have, over the years, increased or decreased air pressure in the footballs they use to gain some perceived advantage?

The NFL is a stupid league in many senses of the word. Their handling of concussions, spousal abuse and general criminal violence and behavior has been despicably short-sighted and selfish. This case produced a massive tome of a report that weasel-worded its conclusions so badly that I’m convinced that if the Pats and/or Brady decide to appeal, the NFL will sneak quietly back into the shadows.

I hope when they get there, they change this ridiculous rule.

Giants Win Another Close One But Offense Sputters When It Counts

The Giants pulled out another one-run win yesterday by registering two runs in the bottom of the 9th to trip the Miami Marlins 3-2. The win gave them a 2-1 series victory gave them a break-even 2-2 series and brought their record to an even .500 (16-16). [Thanks to Michael Payan for pointing out my mistake.]

But the continuing low power being turned in by the offense has to be a source of great concern to Bruce Bochy and the Giants’ front office.

It’s not like the Giants can’t hit at all. Their team average of .257 is seventh in the NL and they rank fourth in hits with 281. But their hitting in the clutch is…well, let’s face it…missing in action. They rank:

  • 13th in the NL in homers with 20
  • 15th in the NL in runs with 101 (Just over 3 per game!)
  • 12th with runners in scoring position (.223), 7th with runners in scoring position with two out (.250) and next-to-last with the bases loaded (.160).

Pretty abysmal picture of not getting hits when they count.

Contrast these figures with the 2014 stats, when the Giants finished their championship season at:

  • 4th in BA (.255)
  • 4th in hits (1,407)
  • 7th in homers (132)
  • 5th in scoring (650)

And situationally, the difference is like night and day. Their 2014 RiSP? .267, thirfd best in the NL. With two outs, they hit a league-leading .257. Apparently the Giant don’t like to load the bases because even in 2014 they ranked 10th of the 16 NL teams with a .238 average in that situation.

Meanwhile, the pitching, despite some real shabbiness in the back end of the starting rotation, is above-average in the two most important stats, ERA (3.63, sixth best in the league) and WHIP (1.27, fifth). Partially as a result, the Giants have already played 12 one-run,nine-inning games (in which they are a remarkable 9-3) and four extra-innings affairs (3-1).

So the 2015 season so far can be summed up quite easily. The Giants are not getting the hits when they count.

The Giants had the day off today for travel to Houston where they open up a rare 2-game stand against the AL West-leading Atros. Then it’s on to Cincinnati for four with the Reds before coming home to square off with the Dodgers in a one-series home stand.

Giants Sign ex-Jay Top Pick Ricky Romero in “Why Not?” Move

Word today is that the Giants have signed Ricky Romero, late of the Toronto Blue Jays, to a minor league deal that will essentially cost them nothing.

Romero, a 30-year-old first-round draft pick by the Jays in 2005, showed star value early on and even made the All-Star team once. But he began to run into injury after injury, hasn’t played in The Bigs since 2013, and was in rehab when the Blue Jays released him April 25. His former team is on the hook for his $7.55 million salary plus a $600,000 buyout so the Giants will likely have to part with little or no cash.

The Giants will start Romero in “Extended Spring Training” camp to see if he can be rehabilitated enough to make the major league roster.

He’s kind of a long shot but in the end, it won’t take a lot to be as good as or better than either Tim Hudson or Ryan Vogelsong, who are both complete wipe-outs in the starting rotation so far.

Niners 2015 Draft: Mostly Mediocre Picks at All the Wrong Positions


The San Francisco 49ers did themselves no real favors in the 2015 draft that was conducted last Friday-Sunday. They picked up some good raw talent but I thought they misused at least half of their top 10 picks including wasting one on a punter. That’s right: a punter!

As I saw it — and several other pundits agreed (or did I agree with them? hmmm) — the Niners’ primary draft needs, in order, were: inside linebacker, wide receiver, corner, defensive line and offensive line.

So what did Trent Baalke and “Head” Coach Jim Tomsula actually pick?

They started with three defensive grabs: two defensive linemen and a safety. Then they focused the next seven picks exclusively on offense, picking up two tight ends and a wide-out, one running back, a lone offensive lineman and — as I’ve already exclaimed — a freaking punter!

Color me unimpressed.

Their top pick, Derik Armstead, is an impressive physical specimen (6-7, 292) but his stats at Oregon were mediocre at best. Tomsula is a former DL coach and he undoubtedly is enamored of his ability to whip someone like Armstead into shape, but I don’t see him as the heir apparent to Justin Smith that the Niners really needed to find.

Second pick Jaquiski Tartt, aside from having one of the more interesting names in the draft, is a safety who looks like he’s above average for a position the Niners didn’t need to fill. They already have Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid at safety and spending so high a pick on a position that isn’t pressing isn’t a great draft strategy. But then a “head” coach with no experience probably doesn’t know that. Sheesh.

I’m more impressed with the Niners’ third pick, OLB Eli Harold out of Virginia. He’s big enough for the role (6-3, 247) and he’s a proven pass rusher (36.5 tackles for a loss in three seasons of college ball). Harold’s capable of playing DE as well as OLB and while he doesn’t address the more serious need at ILB, he’ll probably start as a rookie and contribute to the pass rush.

I didn’t see tight end as a 2015 need but Baalke and Tomsula apparently did. The guy they grabbed fourth, Blake Bell of Oklahoma (6-6, 252) seems a bit weak. He was slated to go in the fifth round by the pre-draft speculators. With just 214 yards and four TDs receiving in his senior year, he’s a bit of a yawner for my money. I know Vernon Davis is a free agent after the season but drafting this high for a mediocre possible replacement just didn’t show me much savvy.

Running Back Mike Davis of South Carolina was the fifth selection by the Niners. In another case of filling a need that didn’t exist, the Niners probably did end up with a guy who might help in 2-3 seasons after Kendall Hunter and Reggie Bush may depart via the FA route. So an insurance pick but like all insurance, too expensive unless the risk actually occurs.

DeAndre Smelter out of Georgia Tech was the first wide receiver the Niners picked and they grabbed him way earlier than they probably needed to. Because of a torn ACL that kept him out of much of last season, he’s not likely to contribute in his first year, which is when the Niners needed the wideout help. I don’t like this pick at all, even though he’s a big-bodied (6-2,226) player who could give Colin Kaepernick a decent target if he ever gets healthy.

With their seventh selection, SF picked up — are you ready? — a PUNTER! Completely wasted pick, I don’t care how good the guy is. Andy Lee is one of the best and although he’ll be gone at some point, punters are always lying around for easy pickup even mid-season. To waste a top-10 pick on Bradley Pinion of Clemson — the first specialist taken in the draft (there’s a reason seasoned coaches don’t waste high draft picks on these buys, Tomsula!) shows a serious lack of football chops. A very telling pick.

Baalke focused on the O-Line with his eighth and ninth picks, selecting Ian Silberman of Boston College and Trenton Brown of Florida. Offensive line was probably the lowest priority need but at least it was a need. These two guys are likely longer-term prospects but are not likely to have a near-term impact on a line that needs some shoring up.

Tight End Rory Anderson of South Carolina was the 10th pick made by the Sad Sack Niners. Again, at the risk of repeating myself, they didn’t need one tight end, let alone two. Anderson is another big target (6-5, 244) for Kaep but without wide-outs, tight ends are not all that useful in the passing game.

So my bottom line on the Niners 2015 draft?

In terms of drafting to meet the greatest needs: D

In terms of picking up raw football talent: C+

Overall, not a great draft in a year when they really needed one. Hope for the season now dashed!