Tag Archives: Giants

2016 Season Preview: Division Winners

Ah, Spring. There’s something special in the air this time of year. It’s that deceivingly warm April sunshine—pleasant for now, but you know better than to not pack a jacket. It’s the freshly-mowed grass that just smells like hope. Hope for a new baseball season, a fresh start, and for the 29 teams that aren’t defending World Series champions, hope that maybe, just maybe, this could be the year.

But the most beautiful thing about this time of year are the picks. It’s preseason prediction week, and this is when the claws come out. Everyone’s got an opinion about which teams will over- or under-perform this year, and thanks to the wonder of the internet, we get to read every last one of them.

As you read about the teams which I expect to excel in 2016, please note that my picks are probably wrong—just like yours, as well as the rest of the predictions out there. Let’s face it: no one can ever predict this sport. An unexpected contender will emerge from obscurity and make the playoffs. Expected 100-win teams will plummet, and start eyeing next year’s early draft picks. The real beauty is in the unknown, and that’s why we watch.

National League Wildcard: Diamondbacks over Cardinals

The Diamondbacks are the tailgating drivers in the rearview mirrors of the usual NL West contenders—obnoxious, and closer than they appear.

A somewhat under-the-radar breakout season by A.J. Pollock last year should’ve removed any doubts about these guys being for real, as he and perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt look to terrorize the league all the way to a playoff spot. New additions Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller give them a very formidable rotation—don’t be surprised if the D’backs hang around for a while this Postseason.

The Cardinals find a way every year. They’ll withstand the departures of Jason Heyward and John Lackey with the help of a new infusion of youth—Kolten Wong, Carlos Martínez and Randal Grichuk are now the core of this team, and will be for several years to come.

With the veteran guidance of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, count on the Redbirds to be around come October, but they’ll need some luck if they want to advance.

American League Wildcard: Rays over Royals

The Rays finished a distant fourth in the AL East last year, but in a division that is pretty much up for grabs, they have a good shot.

They’re built on the defensive wizardry of Kevin Kiermaier, and a very strong pitching staff whose 3.74 ERA ranked fourth in the AL last year. Keep an eye out for the long-awaited return of pitcher Matt Moore, and a potential breakout season for fellow lefty Drew “seriously, that’s all we got for David Price?” Smyly, who since joining the Rays in Mid-2014 has quietly posted a sub-1.00 WHIP in 114.1 innings.

The defending champion Royals will be tough to oust in the Postseason, but I’ll take Rays ace Chris Archer any day in a winner-take-all Wildcard match.

National League Division Series: Nationals over Diamondbacks

There’s no reason to think the Nationals, who were NL East favorites across the board a year ago, should be any less so in 2016.

When ace Max Scherzer is on his game, he’s the most unhittable pitcher in baseball. Anthony Rendon will be looking to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2015, and his .412 spring batting average is an indication that he’s planning on starting the new season strong.

New manager Dusty Baker is a proven winner in October, and he should be able to guide his new club to a first-round Postseason series victory.

National League Division Series: Giants over Cubs

The Giants’ mix of established veterans, boosted by the signing of free agent pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, will make them a very well-balanced team.

People know about Buster Posey, but the real MVP of this ball club might be Joe Panik. With only 42 strikeouts last season, his ability to put the ball in play is the key to the Giants’ offense.

The Cubs put the nation on notice last year that these kids are truly ready for the big stage, with an NLCS appearance that capped a very successful season. Despite the playoff run being cut short, that experience will only make them more of a force.

Expect Kris Bryant to build on his Rookie of the Year campaign, and for Jake Arrieta to silence the critics by showing that last year’s Cy Young season was no fluke.

The Giants are the favorites in this series, because the Cubs’ youth has been shown to be volatile in the Postseason. But a Bumgarner/Arrieta matchup in Game 1 will be one for the ages.

American League Division Series: Indians over Rays

The Indians finished 2015 just a game above .500, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: they ended the season on a 32-21 run, much of which was keyed by the performance of rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was called up midseason. Now, with Lindor leading the charge, the Indians are one of the strongest teams in the league, both offensively and defensively. Jason Kipnis, who also started to find his groove in the middle of last season, will also be a major contributor, along with Michael Brantley, who will be on the Disabled List to start the season, but should return in early May.

On the pitching side, don’t count out Carlos Carrasco for Cy Young consideration, whose 10.6 K/9 last year ranked third in the American League.

This will be an excellent series if you like good defense, but the Indians are just a bit more of a well-rounded ball club.

American League Division Series: Rangers over Yankees

The Rangers won the AL West last year thanks in part to the midseason acquisition of Cole Hamels, who solidified the rotation, the main weak spot of the team. Now he’s back for another year, and Yu Darvish, who should still be considered one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game, will rejoin the rotation this summer.

If their offense, which was never a problem, can hold up, the Rangers will have a very formidable Postseason squad.

The Yankees squeezed a lot of value out of aging veterans last year, and you have to wonder how much they realistically have left.

But what they’re expected to lose from the old guys, they’ll make up for with young talent. 22-year-old Luis Severino will be one of the kids on whom the Yankees pin their playoff hopes. 27-year-old Michael Pineda should be hitting his prime years, and, one would hope, his full potential. And maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery is all Starlin Castro (still just 26!) needed to regain his All-Star form.

National League Championship Series: Giants over Nationals

The Giants get to face their old manager, and the Nats get to face their old center fielder. I foresee a well-fought series in a rematch of the 2014 NLDS, but the Giants have been here before, and will prevail.

American League Championship Series: Indians over Rangers

The Indians have the edge in terms of pitching and defense, which is what wins in October.

World Series: Indians over Giants

A rematch of the 1954 Series, which the Indians are probably still sore about losing?

Juan Uribe trying to win his third ring with as many different teams?

Carlos Santana playing the National Anthem AND playing in the game? (Okay, it’s two different guys, but still)

This series will have it all, and will probably go the full seven games. I’m giving it to the Indians, who deserve to see an end to that nagging championship drought.

My only question is whether they’ll bring back Coach Lou Brown for an on-field ceremony—or hell, even let him manage the series. It’s what the world needs.

San Francisco Giants 2015 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the defending World Champion Giants, who despite very few roster changes since a year ago, are being picked by almost no one to repeat as champions. But that’s okay—this team seems to thrive on being the underdog.

Projected Lineup: LF Nori Aoki*, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, CF Angel Pagan, 3B Casey McGehee*, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford

Projected Rotation: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Matt Cain, RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Jake Peavy

* new additions

In last year’s World Series, Madison Bumgarner dominated on the mound, Joe Panik made highlight-reel plays on defense, and Hunter Pence batted over .400.

But people forget that for most of the season, the Giants were not a great team. And with almost all the same cast returning for another season, it figures that they still won’t be a great team.

Let’s start with the rotation.

Outside of Bumgarner, you don’t know what to expect from anyone. An optimistic outlook would be that Matt Cain comes back strong after elbow and ankle surgery, and Tim Lincecum throws a couple more no-hitters. But that’s a best-case scenario.

What’s more likely is that it takes a whole squad of guys to get through the season. That’s why the Giants gave new contracts to departing free agents Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy—for reinforcements. As the dog days of the season wear on, the older guys might need some extra rest, or someone may get injured as a result of standing too close to Jeremy Affeldt. Any number of things could happen that would require the Giants to dig a little deeper for starters. Watch for super-reliever Yusmeiro Petit to even make a few starts, and possibly lock down a rotation spot if the other guys aren’t pulling their weight.

At the start of the offseason, the world was concerned that the Giants wouldn’t have enough power in their lineup. The Giants gave zero fucks about what the world thought.

They replaced the departed Michael Morse with his physical polar opposite in Nori Aoki. They replaced Pablo Sandoval with Casey McGehee, who hit as many homers last year as Madison Bumgarner.

Essentially, they’re an offense built on speed, little dinky base hits, and the occasional Buster Posey bomb.

But is that really a bad thing?

What the Giants have upgraded is their on-base ability. McGehee is good at drawing walks, having posted a .355 on-base percentage last season with Miami. Aoki was just as proficient with Kansas City, sporting a .349 on-base clip. On last year’s Giants, those numbers would have ranked 2nd and 3rd on the team, behind only Posey. Now they join other pesky pitch-takers on this team like Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt, forming an epic lineup of guys who take walks.

How well might that work out? Just ask that “Moneyball” team that played across the bay in the early 2000’s.

The Giants aren’t a great team. But they don’t seem to mind being the underdogs. In their recent run of championships, there hasn’t been a single postseason series in which they’ve been viewed as the odds-on favorites, yet they’ve emerged with three titles.

Maybe the key to success in this crazy game is to be a not-great team. I can’t pretend to know the formula. All I know is that the Giants seem to have mastered it as much as anyone ever has.

Projected Finish: 84-78, Second place in NL West, Wildcard berth

Woods Baseball Podcasts – Coming Soon!

Hello readers!

Now that the season is officially underway, I’m working on starting up a regular podcast with Guest Asian Columnist Alex Hom. I’m hoping that it grows into a weekly thing, where we can discuss day-to-day events in the baseball world, prospects, the playoff picture, and the ever-intriguing state of Tim Lincecum’s mustache.

Here’s what I need from you guys:

a) Questions! Got something you’d like to ask us? Email your questions to woodsbaseballoracle@gmail.com for us to answer on air! The podcast can’t happen without good material, so send us your most probing, most ridiculous questions and you won’t be disappointed!

b) Guests! A podcast gets boring if it’s just the same two or three guys talking about baseball every day. Especially if they all have the same team allegiances (and we at Woods Baseball are all Giants fans). If you’d like to drop some baseball knowledge, send us an email at woodsbaseballoracle@gmail.com to apply to be a guest on our podcast!


Here’s a sample: Our first podcast for Duck Hunt Dynasty where we discuss division winners and World Series picks. Give it a listen! And if you like it, please support our endeavors by emailing in your questions!

San Francisco Giants 2014 Season Preview

This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.

Today we look at the Giants, who still boast the same pitching rotation that won two World Championships, and they’re ready to bring that trophy back to San Francisco.

Projected Lineup: CF Angel Pagan, 2B Marco Scutaro, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Michael Morse, SS Brandon Crawford

The Giants’ disappointing 2013 season reached a low point when a quiet October culminated with Kim and Kanye’s engagement ceremony at AT&T Park. Such a violation of the field should give the Giants extra incentive to ensure the only ceremony taking place this October will be of the World Championship variety.

The key player that hinges on is Brandon Belt. Belt reportedly made a change to his grip in the batter’s box in early August, lining his knuckles up on the bat. It sounds like a pointer you’d get from your little league coach, but nevertheless, Belt responded, hitting .346/.408/.576 in August and September. Manager Bruce Bochy rewarded Belt by elevating him to the third spot in the lineup. That comes with added responsibility, however. Belt now needs to be “the dude” in this lineup. Sorry, I’m using very technical baseball terms here—by “dude”, I mean the guy you want at the plate in a critical spot, feared by pitchers throughout the league because of his ability to come through in big situations.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about home runs. Belt’s value has always been greatest when he’s getting on base, ever more important now that he’s hitting ahead of Posey, Pence, and the rest of the power hitters. Belt’s career-high for drawing walks in a season is just 54, but he’s absolutely capable of reaching 80 or 90. If he does, that’ll be what keeps the line moving in the Giants’ lineup.

A winning team also needs a spark plug. That’s the guy who starts rallies by becoming a presence on the basepaths, getting into the heads of opposing pitchers. And that role on the Giants belongs to Angel Pagan. The Giants were 39-32 last year in games in which he played, and 37-54 when he didn’t. Talk about a crucial piece of the puzzle.

The Giants also added Michael Morse, addressing their subpar left field situation. Morse will be a great fit for San Francisco because of his raw power, something the Giants have severely lacked in recent years. Along with Hunter Pence, it also gives the Giants the ultimate one-two punch of ridiculous on-deck circle routines.

The pitching staff remains a strength for the team, despite the recent struggles of ace Matt Cain and former ace Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is still struggling to find a rhythm after the perils of aging took hold of his velocity about two years ago. The good news for Lincecum comes in the form of Tim Hudson, the new member of the staff. Hudson is a veteran with the same body type as Lincecum, who has learned to pitch effectively with limited velocity, and who can hopefully help Lincecum find a little consistency. Lincecum doesn’t need to throw a no-hitter every night, but avoiding the early-game implosions and throwing a solid six innings every time out could be within his reach.

With the ever-consistent Madison Bumgarner anchoring the staff, the Giants’ rotation can tolerate a few rough outings here and there, and still vie for the division.

Projected Finish: 89-73, First place in NL West