In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to know Craig and his community of posters over at THE San Francisco Giants Blog. We had such a good time interacting during last year’s NLCS than I wanted to touch base with Craig as the two teams meet again tonight for the first time this season. Craig shot me some questions (you can find them over here) and he was gracious enough to answer some of my own.
C70: Given the different divisions and time zones, I’ve not kept as close of an eye on the Giants as I should. A quick look at the stats seems to show a fairly balanced mix of hitting and pitching. So what’s the snapshot of this season so far? What seems to be the regular strengths and weaknesses?
Craig: I think we are all surprised by the offense this year, considering we lost Pablo, Pence was out for several weeks to start the year and Pagan has been horrible at the plate and at bat. And then you look at their hitting stats and they are at the top or near the top of the National League in several important categories. Doing that in a pitchers park has been almost unreal. The starting pitching has been underwhelming and that has taxed the bullpen to the breaking point. In fact, if we don’t get starters to go deeper into games (Bumgarner is the only guy I ever feel confident about going 6+) it could end up being the reason we fade in the standings.
C70: Even though it’s an odd year, the Giants sit 2.5 back of the division and 3.5 of the last wild card. Are folks optimistic that they’ll be able to cut either gap?
Craig: The Cubs beat down was an eye opener (first time they’ve swept us in 4 since, I think, 1977) and kind of dulled the shine of a potential wild card berth. The Dodgers have their problems and I think we all believe that the division is the most realistic goal for us this year. If we make it through this rough August stretch no more than 5 games back of LA we will have a good shot of chewing up games quickly on them in September.
C70: Tell me about this Chris Heston who starts tonight. It looks like he’s the new face in the rotation and that he’s done fairly well so far.
Craig: Heston came out of nowhere. Actually we have several players that were never ranked highly by any of the baseball prospect pundits (Duffy and Panik to name two more). Their success has made me question the validity of the people ranking prospects. Regardless, Heston is the real deal. Earlier in the year I compared him to John Burkett and I stand by that comparison today. His ball has a lot of downward movement, when he’s on you’ll see a lot of ground balls. But he can get the K’s too. I’m a little concerned with his workload and he’s a guy who could definitely start to fade like a lot of young players do at this time of year. But he is our #2 and he is critical to the success of our season…….
C70: Who’s been the big surprise this year? Who’s been the big disappointment?
Craig: Duffy and Heston have been the biggest surprise. Pagan has been impossible to watch. Cain has been the most disappointing because I really thought he was going to come back strong. But after getting chips taken out of his elbow he’s been able to extend his pitching arm for the first time in years and while that SOUNDS good it’s been a struggle for him to find a consistent motion. It’s like trying to pitch with someone else’s arm. His location has been abysmal and I’m wondering if Matt Cain had one way to pitch and if that one way is gone forever…..
C70: What are your expectations for this series?
Craig: I would be ecstatic if we could bank one for sure but don’t feel super confident about that. Of course, I didn’t think we’d sweep the Nats this weekend and we did that easy as pie. What exactly does “easy as pie” mean anyway? The cliche doesn’t seem to match up with the intended meaning.
My thanks to Craig for not only answering my questions, but tossing out a thought exercise to end the whole thing. I mean, he’s right. I don’t know that making a pie is all that easy. It surely wouldn’t be if I were trying to make it. And eating a pie, depending on the type, isn’t necessarily easy either as the filling could fall out and make a big mess. Something to ponder this evening! Again, I encourage you to head over to Craig’s blog and say hi. They aren’t going to bite, I don’t think!