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San Francisco Giants: Why It’s Too Soon to Panic for the Giants

After the most recent road trip, when the San Francisco Giants went 1-5 against the Toronto Blue Jays and Colorado Rockies, fans are starting to run around like Chicken Little, proclaiming that the sky is falling. And while it was undoubtedly a disastrous week in terms of pitching and defense, there is reason to be optimistic about how the rest of the season will unfold for the Giants.

The first issue with the Giants as of late has been their atrocious defense. During the six-game road trip, the Giants committed 13 errors, some of which came on more-than-routine plays, like Marco Scutaro‘s drop of an easy pop up that he would’ve normally caught blindfolded. It was uncharacteristic for the Giants, who are generally a very sound defensive team.

On the season, the Giants have accumulated 35 errors, which is tied for the second most in the majors. That is certainly an alarming amount, but there is no reason to believe this trend will continue with the individual fielders the Giants have on the roster.

Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey all have potential to win Gold Glove awards in the future, and Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Gregor Blanco are all plus fielders as well. And while Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence aren’t going to find themselves making web gems on a regular basis, they are by no means liabilities in the field. A team does not devolve into a bad defensive team overnight.

The starting pitching, however, is a bit more problematic at the moment, and there is some cause for concern. On this road trip alone, the Giants’ starting pitching had an ERA of 9.82. As a result, the rotation’s ERA on the season is now 4.78, which is eighth highest in the major leagues.

It has been quite some time since the Giants’ starting pitching has struggled this much. In fact, you’d have to look all the way back to 1999 to find when the rotation had a higher ERA than it has now, which was 4.96. It’s even a tougher pill to swallow now since the Giants have had a top-five rotation in baseball for the past four seasons.

While it’s too soon to say that those days are nothing more than a distant memory, the inconsistencies of Tim Lincecum over the past two years and the recent injury to Ryan Vogelsong makes one wonder if it’s time to shake up the rotation for the first time since the beginning of 2012.

While it is impossible to predict how the Giants rotation will fare for the rest of the season, the law of averages tends to balance itself out over the course of the season. If you were to tell me that Matt Cain, Lincecum and Vogelsong would finish with ERAs of 5.43, 4.70 and 7.19, respectively, I would probably bet against that.

And even with the struggling pitching staff, the Giants have been evolving as a team over the past year anyways. Believe it or not, the Giants have scored 210 runs this year, which is the third most in the NL. They also have a .274 batting average, which is the highest in the NL.

The Giants are no longer an offensively challenged team like they were in 2010. They can put runs on the board with the best of them and have multiple come-from-behind victories this season.

And when it’s all said and done, the Giants are still five games over .500 and only one game behind the first-place Diamondbacks.

The rotation may not regain its dominance, but it’s only a matter or time before it gets better. And once that happens, there won’t be a scarier team in the NL.

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MLB Players Poised for Power Surges in 2013

Every season there are some MLB players who see their power numbers climb seemingly out of nowhere.

Edwin Encarnacion, Billy Butler and Chase Headley all finished with career-highs in home runs last season by a large margin. 

In 2013, despite the fact that home run totals continue to decline, different players will emerge as the new crop of sluggers.

Here are three players that are poised for power surges in 2013.

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San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner Remerges as a Cy Young Contender

After Madison Bumgarner out-dueled the reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw Monday night on national television, he threw his name back into consideration for taking the award home himself this year.

The Bumgarner vs. Kershaw matchup between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers was sure to be a low-scoring game, but no one anticipated it to be one for the record books.

The two southpaws are considered to be the top left-handed pitchers in the NL, and they proved why after becoming the third pair of pitchers in the live-ball era to each strike out 10 batters and walk none.

It was truly magnificent to watch both of these lefties carve through the opposition. Kershaw was buckling knees all night with his devastating curveball, and Bumgarner was matching him by running his cutter in on the hands of righties—which prevented them from making solid contact all night. 

While both of these pitchers deserve recognition for their rare and momentous performances, Bumgarner put himself in the national spotlight and is now considered to be in the thick of things for the NL Cy Young Award.

Here’s a look at how Bumgarner’s numbers match up to all the other pitchers being considered for the award.

Name Wins ERA WHIP Innings Pitched K’s K/BB Ratio
Johnny Cueto 16 (T-1st) 2.44 (1st) 1.13 (T-8th) 169.2 (6th) 135 (18th) 3.65 (13th)
R.A. Dickey 15 (T-2nd) 2.82 (4th) 1.03 (4th) 175.1 (3rd) 181 (1st) 4.53 (5th)
Gio Gonzlaez 16 (T-1st) 3.23 (13th) 1.16 (13th) 153.1 (18th) 154 (5th) 2.78 (26th)
Clayton Kershaw 11 (T-16th) 2.87 (7th) 1.00 (2nd) 178.2 (1st) 175 (2nd) 4.17 (7th)
Matt Cain 12 (T-10th) 2.90 (8th) 1.01 (3rd) 167.2 (7th) 154 (7th) 4.67 (4th)
Stephen Strasburg 14 (T-5th) 2.91 (9th) 1.13 (T-8th) 139.1 (42nd) 173 (3rd) 4.12 (8th)
Madison Bumgarner 14 (T-5th) 2.83 (5th) 0.99 (1st) 171.2 (4th) 160 (6th) 5.00 (3rd)

I believe this award is Johnny Cueto’s to lose, but there is still a lot of baseball to be played. All it takes is a few bad starts for everything to change.

Just look at R.A. Dickey. He saw his ERA inflate from 2.40 to 2.97 in just four July starts. He has lowered it back down to 2.82, but it was only a month ago that Dickey was considered to be the unanimous choice for the award.

However, the Cy Young Award is generally won and lost in the last couple of months of the season, and that bodes well for Madison.

Since the All-Star break, there hasn’t been a better starting pitcher in majors than Bumgarner.

In 56 innings pitched, he has posted a 4-2 record with a 1.93 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 61/9. His WHIP is a microscopic 0.76.

Those are the kind of jaw-dropping numbers that will get people talking about you; the type of people that are responsible for deciding who actually takes home the hardware at the end of the season. 

There is also reason to believe that Bumgarner’s success isn’t just a hot streak that will fizzle out down the stretch. In his young career, Bumgarner has proven that he is a second-half pitcher who saves his best for last.

During his first three years in the majors—2009 to 2011—Bumgarner has accumulated a 2.75 ERA after the All-Star break, a much higher mark than his 3.60 average prior to the midseason point. That doesn’t even take into account the 1.93 ERA he’s had since the halfway point this season.

Last year, Bumgarner went 9-4 with a 2.52 ERA following the Midsummer Classic, and coupled it with a K/BB ratio of 99/19.

Pitchers are generally supposed to slow down in the second half of the season, but not Bumgarner.

And after throwing 123 pitches in Monday’s game against the Dodgers, manager Bruce Bochy said it perfectly.

“He’s a big, strong boy, and I wasn’t concerned with the pitch count,” said Bochy. “It’s probably harder to take him out.”

Bumgarner is built for the long haul—considering his size, strength and pitching philosophy. If need be, Bumgarner could easily touch 94-95 MPH with the fastball, but he elects to cruise at an easy 90-92 because it’s a speed he can control. This will not only prolong the longevity of his season, but quite possibly his career.

When it’s all said and done, Bumgarner is not the frontrunner to win the Cy Young this year. But I wouldn’t call him the dark horse either because the baseball world is now well aware of the season he is having.

Bumgarner is scheduled to make at least six more starts this year—at Chicago, Los Angeles, at Arizona, Colorado, Arizona, at Los Angles—hence there is plenty of time for him to build upon his already exceptional season. 

Considering his history of improving as the season progresses, there is a very good chance that Bumgarner could become the third Cy Young Award winner in the Giants’ rotation.

If not this year, it’s safe to say there is at least one in store for Bumgarner in the near future.

Let’s not forget that he’s only 23 years old.  


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Five Potential Atlanta Braves Trade Targets

Over the years, the Atlanta Braves have been very active in the trade market. Whether it be to add a smaller piece such as a middle reliever or a key cog such as a power hitting first baseman.

It has become apparent that this year’s Braves team is looking to add to an already impressive division leading team.

The Braves have already made one acquisition, in the form of veteran shortstop Alex Gonzalez, but they may need to add another player to push them over the top.

They seem to be optimistic about Nate McLouth returning to the lineup soon and rediscovering his ’08 all-star form, but this may not be a possibility and they could be looking to add to an inconsistent and injury-plagued outfield.

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Five Reasons the Atlanta Braves Will Be in the Playoffs

The 2010 Atlanta Braves seem to be a very determined ball club that has turned the corner. This team has great chemistry with a great group of guys that will help push through the “dog days”.

Whether they will admitt it our not, this team is also trying to get their future hall of fame manager Bobby Cox back to the postseason and to the world series one more time

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