Over the past few years, I’ve developed an affinity for the community that’s established around THE San Francisco Giants Blog. Craig Vaughn is a passionate Giants fan and has an active and tight-knit group of commentors at the site. They’ve always been great to interact with me, asking questions about the Cards and putting up with my questions about the Giants when the two teams meet.
As one of those meetings is coming in this weekend, I thought I’d spend some time this week in conversation with Craig. We started emailing Monday and finished up this morning. If you want to interact with a good group of fans this weekend, head over to the blog. They also have a thread set up for today’s discussion that includes some of this back-and-forth. Enjoy!
Daniel: All right, let’s go ahead and kick this off, if you are up for it. The Giants have scuffled so far this year, though I’ll pass along thanks for sweeping the Reds this past weekend. Back before the season I asked if this was going to be a pitching-focused, score-just-enough team. Has that been the case and the scoring just hasn’t actually been enough?
Craig: Well, we are last in HR’s and OPS and runs scored. We are mid pack in SB’s but most of that was done with Nunez earlier in the season when he was still trying. I think I suggested we’d be screwed if Bum or Cueto got hurt and with Bum down I couldn’t be any less optimistic about the rest of this season.
The Cardinals started the season off horribly and then rebounded to be in first place. So which Cardinal team is it? The underperforming team that started out the season or the one that’s in first place today? I am not a believer in your SP by the way 🙂
Daniel: Believe, my friend! They may not be a classic Bumgarner, but I don’t think there’s any real regression coming for most of these guys. I mean, Mike Leake (I know, I know, you and your site just involuntarily twitched at the name) won’t continue to have an ERA under 2.00, but he did better last year than some of the traditional numbers indicated. I don’t know why he can’t have a 3.5 or so ERA the rest of the way and that’s pretty solid. Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez are doing things that are well within their abilities. We have to worry about Michael Wacha’s health, of course, and Sunday’s shutout innings aside I’m not as confident in Adam Wainwright as in years past, but I’m not terribly worried about the starters overall. (That is, of course, subject to change with a bad run through the rotation.)
I think the true Cardinal team, as is normally the case in questions like this, is somewhere in between those two extremes. I mean, in the month since they returned from being swept by the Yankees, they’ve won at a .750 clip. That won’t continue, but I don’t think they’ll return to the 3-9 version that we saw earlier. Winning against the Cubs this weekend gave some confidence that this is a team that is pretty good, not just being propped up by a weak NL Central and a favorable schedule. The rest of the month should give us a good tell, with Boston, y’all, then a trip to LA and Colorado.
So who is doing well for the Giants? Is there a player or two that folks cling to as hope (or at least make the games more watchable)?
Craig: Giants fans are tired of the retreads getting forced down our throats. My pre-season fav, Huang, continues to languish in AAA while hitting over .300 but there really isn’t a spot for him right now. I think we’d take just about any low level prospect in the system and be excited to see him play in LF over the Ruggiano/Morse/Gorks/Stubbs/Hill nonsense that’s periodically gotten trotted out this year.
Arroyo is easily the most exciting at bat we have. And Belt too if you like betting with yourself if he’s going to walk or strike out. Oh my. Span is a fun at bat just because we’ve got so many guys who equally hate/love him. Makes for good banter no matter what he does.
What do Cardinal fans think of Matheny? Same general sustained frustration with his line ups/moves? Or has he gotten better?
Daniel: You know, winning does help a lot of things. There’s still a bit of frustration, but when the club came back from New York in April, there must have been a sit down with Matheny and John Mozeliak. After that, Matt Adams stopped playing outfield. Kolten Wong played every day until Saturday. Jhonny Peralta sat (and then was put on the DL). Lineups started looking better. There were fewer and fewer moves that made no sense. The last month might have been the best we’ve seen Matheny in a long time.
That doesn’t mean everyone is over the moon with him, of course, and some grudges and feelings run deep. Overall, though, I think there’s been a general easing of folks on his back. Because it was getting bad enough during that early stretch that you actually started wondering if he was safe in his job. I mean, we knew he was, but it was the first time you could actually start entertaining the question.
What about Bochy? From the outside looking in it seems like he should be one that is always well-received. Is that the case as the team struggles? Does he get some of the blame for the retreads or is most of that ire directed upstairs?
Craig: I think most Giants fans, at least at the blog, are worried about Bochy’s health and kinda wondering why he’s still sticking around for this night in and night out of absolute suckage. I highly doubt that run-of-the-mill Giants fans blame Bochy for any of this. The harder core guys probably wish he wasn’t so stubborn with his vet-love. But he’s mostly unscathed right now.
I watched an inning of Waino yesterday while we were waiting for our lunch table to open up. His ball seemed like it was really moving quite effectively. He struck Montero out and made him look helpless. Where did that start come from? Has his ball been moving like that all year? Also, the Cubs don’t look too hungry this year to me. Like they won it all, now they’re just out there being baseball stars. Thoughts?
Daniel: I’m not sure really where that start came from. He’s been able to have an inning or two of pretty good in most starts, but this was the most extended version we’ve seen this year. He’s starting to slide into the “crafty veteran” stage of his career, I think. We’ll get some games like this, where he’s prepped well and everything is working. We’ll also get a lot of ugly games where things just don’t move like he wants or he just gets overpowered. It’ll probably take 4-5 good starts in a row for any real confidence to accrue in Wainwright. Even last year, he had a couple of runs like that in an overall miserable year. We’ll see if he can this season.
I don’t know about the Cubs. It would only be natural to have a little less drive, a little less hunger after ending a drought like that. They also basically had everything go their way last year–even Schwarber’s injury was something they could fairly easily absorb–and we know baseball doesn’t do that two years in a row. Their pitching has always been a bit suspect in my mind. I think they’ll improve and odds are still in their favor to win the division, but the longer this mediocrity wears on the harder it is for them to get into the mindset of really pushing, I’d think.
If we’re talking rivals, the Dodgers seem to be off to a pretty good start. Y’all are hosting them for three games starting tonight–would taking two of three give some hope to this squad, especially after the sweep this weekend? The Dodgers are still the team to beat, right–or is anyone buying into Colorado or Arizona?
Craig: I think every team in the NL West is better than the Giants right now so whoever they beat should be considered a huge accomplishment.
Daniel: That’s a tough sentiment to have this early in the year. I’m not saying you are wrong, by any means, but it’s rough if that’s true before you even get to the traditional Memorial Day marker. It’s not something the Giants are all that familiar with over the past few years either, given all their success. How does that affect your watching and following the team the rest of the way? How do you stay sane?
Craig: Three WS trophies in the bank, in such a short period of time, go a long way to mellowing me out. I’m irritated at the front office for half-[blank] their way through last off season, but I can’t be frustrated with the team. They have given me too much over the last several years.
Daniel: A great attitude to have. Is there a point where the club will start, in fact if not in name, start waving the white flag and bring up whatever is on the farm? The All-Star break, perhaps?
Craig: I mean, they haven’t really ever done that. Same with the Cards, right? That’s one thing about our two teams that brass should get credit for. Remaining competitive counts for something. Unlike the 76ers in bball or even the Astros for nearly half a decade when they were basically trying to lose. Not sure how the fan base deals with that. My best friend is an A’s fan and he seems completely comfortable with Beane’s approach and focusing more on who they draft and who they get in mid season trades. I couldn’t be a fan of that. Just sitting around thinking about what the future could hold. And all the while never getting a *present*. Know what I mean?
Daniel: Completely agree. When the Cards started off so badly some of us wondered how bad it’d have to be to make the club a seller at the deadline. I’m not sure we ever figured it out. Smaller divisions help–some things might have been different if we were back in those old two-division leagues–but the club has an unspoken agreement with the fan base. Keep showing up, we’ll keep trying to win. With how they stand now, it’s much more likely Mo makes a deal to bring in some help (small is it may be) than to try to ship someone out.
And, if nothing else, you get to watch Buster Posey all the time. Looks like he’s off to another good start. Does he still occasionally play some first base and are there still conversations about when he’ll move more to the corner and less from behind the plate?
Craig: He won’t move to first base and that’s irritating. I feel (as most Giants fans feel) that he would hold up much better and have a more productive career going forward if he got out from behind the dish. I don’t like Belt at all. I would trade him in a nano second for an OFer and move Posey to first base.
Daniel: It sounds like Belt is a polarizing figure, if your comments and this article are compared. I remember when he was coming up as the hot prospect, then the guy that couldn’t get playing time. Did the club not develop him correctly or is this more on the player?
Craig: This is just who he is. I wouldn’t mind all the strikeouts if they came with more home runs. I wouldn’t mind all the walks if he was on a team where he was expected to be more complimentary. But on this team he needs to drive in runs and he strikes out and walks too much to do that.
Daniel: Reasonable enough. It’s one of the complaints we’ve had about the Cards is that there are a whole lot of complimentary pieces, good-if-not-great players, but no big star to go with them.
So what’s your prediction for this weekend? Right now it looks like Matt Moore vs. Michael Wacha on Friday, Jeff Samardzija vs. Carlos Martinez on Saturday, and TBA vs. Adam Wainwright on Sunday.
Craig: My prediction is….pain. Clubber Lang style. Enjoy the W’s coming your way…..
Again, if you have the time, go say hi to the folks over at THE San Francisco Giants Blog. Thanks to Craig for the chat!