Thursday, September 3, 2015

Supposedly Fun Things I'll Probably Never Do Again

Disclaimer, per this blogger's legal counsel, Jackie The Attorney: This piece is entirely fictional, and any similarities to "real" events or "real" people discovered by the reader is a sign of his or her own delusional nature, and not the responsibility of this blogger. "Real" being surrounded by quotes due to the ephemeral nature of reality. 


The truth is that when I try to write like a real writer, it comes off even worse than the shit I normally spew out.

I took this Advanced Fiction Writing class in the spring, and the students and the prof thought my writing was funny, had a strong voice, but was usually too telly and missing something. So I asked the prof, like, how do I get more good at this? And she was all, well, keep writing, keep reading, and it'll keep improving, but I get the sense you don't really like writing.

Who, in our current neo-liberal epoch, would actually like writing? You'd have to be insane. I was delusional enough to leave a job that paid money and health benefits to pursue this shit in 2012 and again in 2015. The contrast there being that this shit doesn't exactly pay.

For the sake of accuracy, I should note that by the end of my third tour at TPS Reports, Inc., there wasn't much choice in the matter of me staying or going. In fact, just this morning, I had a dream that, 7 months after leaving the company, they sent me a note indicating that I was retroactively fired. So I got on the horn with my lawyer and immediately filed suit. I was asleep, and yet I was livid. Like, even though I was dreaming, I could feel my fucking blood boiling. Can you believe these passive-aggressive bastards? Just when I'm getting my life together, doing new jobs, not drinking, taking my meds, and going to therapy, they have the audacity to tell me I didn't quit, but was fired! Oh, they fucked with the wrong Marine in his sleep today, those Stalinist lunatics!

I guess 7 months isn't enough time to get the 5 years and 6 months of gainful employment there out of my system.

Initially, most of my antics there were harmless. I wrote a Giants blog from time to time. I also wrote a Stanford Law lecture series which was e-mailed to a few colleagues, hoping my hero at TPS Reports, Inc. would see my work and tell me it was good. He gave me a smoothie one day, and another day he told me that my writing was good but that I seemed deeply troubled. That made me feel it had all been worth it. He also once gave me an invaluable swim lesson as I swam laps in his pool in my boxers in an attempt to stave off rolling blackouts during a company party gone astray.

Even in my darkest moments, I like to think my third tenure had its bright spots. The media, meaning the critics of this blog, only remember the negatives. But, what about all the times I made you laugh? What about all the blogs I wrote, allowing you to get through another 10 minutes of the day? What about the time I got the database working after hours? All the TPS Reports I filed? The time I threw my sweatshirt over a puddle of water after someone spilled? The reading of the Giants lineup? I made mistakes, sure. I had too many temper tantrums, wrote too many blogs that crossed the line, used foul language, drank too much during Tour 3, talked too much shit, and didn't handle things in a constructive way as Tomasula did when one manager was rude with him and he replied, "Don't you ever fucking talk to me like that." The only thing I'd change is instead of blogging and talking shit and being passive-aggressive and ranting and raving like a lunatic, I'd have told anyone who was rude to me in that very moment, "Don't talk to me like that." That would've solved the issue; the issue being the negativity, passive-aggressiveness, toxicity, and blaming nature of the general communication there. Aggressively, affirmatively confronting that behavior would've been a much more constructive approach than bottling it up and vomiting it out on an internet blog no one reads or having a million supposedly confidential closed door meetings that were only used to further drum up the gossip mill.

During my first tour of duty, when Mac and High Pockets would complain about the job on our state-mandated 3 pm breaks, I'd agree with them, but in the back of my mind I knew I wasn't really qualified to do anything else and they did, after all, give me money every two weeks. Mac being a heavy-set, boisterous Bostonian fellow TPS Report Specialist, and High Pockets being a very thin female Specialist from East of the Bay in the suburb Castro Valley, where she exchanged love letters with current Astros catcher Jason Castro. Mac and High Pockets commuted from San Francisco--Mac from the Inner Richmond, High Pockets from the Castro--into Marin County, where our office was located on what I guess is San Pablo Bay? What do we call the part of the Bay that touches San Rafael?

In our society, is there anything more important than money? Of course not. We've built our entire culture around the making and spending of a resource that is in no way real. It's a total illusion, but I suppose it could be a lot worse. North Koreans don't sound like they're having any fun out there, for instance.

When Mac left, we hired Offenbach to replace him because we needed a Patriots fan from Boston to occupy the seat to the right of my throne in our cubicle dungeon. I loved Offenbach, in a very platonic way. Like my former father-in-law and No. 1 hero in life, Kwang-Soo Park, Offenbach was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin. Mac had gone to Tufts; High Pockets to Columbia. So we know they were all much, much smarter than me, and thus could survive life after TPS Reports, which I still, somehow, cannot. I should note here that Offenbach is a woman. Rumors starting during summer 2005 at Chico State University about my homosexuality were and remain untrue. 

Another harmless thing I did was to pretend to have a fake affair with Offenbach over the company e-mail. A lot of my antics there, like this blog, were just a cry for attention, a desire to be noticed, a need to have my existence affirmed and approved of!

So I left TPS Reports, Inc., tried to be a sports writer, failed, came back to TPS Reports, Inc., didn't really like it at all this time, caused problems, and thought maybe I could still be a sports writer. Meanwhile Sonya, who kept herself at a safe 3,000-mile distance from me for most of our on-again, off-again, seven-year relationship, dumps me as she sees the increasing hopelessness of my ability to succeed in the age of global capitalist hegemony.

So I went to a baseball game with Mac during this period of utter hopelessness and despair, the second such episode during my life at this time, and he summarized the situation well for me.

Mac So, you have no job.
Mike (Me): Correct.
Mac: No source of income or health insurance.
Mike: Correct.
Mac: And no girlfriend?
Mike: Correct.
Mac: And your ex-girlfriend has a new boyfriend already?
Mike: Correct.
Mac: And you are probably constantly playing the image of your ex being boffed by some other dude in your head all day?
Mike: Not until you just mentioned it like that....Jesus.
Mac: And no prospects for a girlfriend?
Mike: None whatsoever.
Mac: Do you have any conceivable reason for getting out of bed in the morning?
Mike: Well, I guess I like to check my Twitter feed?

Later during that game, I came up with a plan. I'd get my job at TPS Reports, Inc. back, set up a dating profile, and call that kid I met there during my second tour. What was his name again? "Diamond" Donnie Silverstein, I think. A good Jewish lad like myself. He went to Chico State, so he's got to like to drink. And, sure enough, he did.

So one late August Friday in 2013, a few months after Sonya made clear to me I was old news, I re-entered the world of alcohol consumption, online dating, and gainful employment. Well, I'd been doing those things for a couple months now. On this particular Friday, I was a little hungover. So, over coffee and donuts in the kitchen, I decided to tell Offenbach that I really did love her and it was time to stop pretending. And, of course, this never really happened because this blog is entirely fictional, and Offenbach had ceased employment at TPS Reports Inc. several months earlier.

Offenbach rejected my overtures and married, as Mac might call him, Different, Other Man Who Isn't Mike. This blog being written by me about me, the reader should be sad for me right now. Please, dear reader, feel my pain. I was devastated. I went into one of my 87 boss's offices, Shelly her name was, and I told her I just didn't feel well at all. This was around 9 am, with tears streaming down my face.

I thought of calling Sonya on the drive back to grandma's house (where I live), but I overcame the urge. I went to Red Box and rented a bizarre Ben Afleck movie with no dialogue and, sadly, no cock shots. I got on Tinder or OK Cupid or Coffee and Donuts and had a lengthy correspondence with a co-ed at the University of Utah. This was while watching the bizarre movie in bed. My stomach legitimately still hurt. I thought maybe my appendix was about to burst. Grandma was on vacation, as I recall. At 87, she's living a more active life than me. My parents were also out of town. At one point, it was decided I would go to the airport and fly to Utah that very night. Then, that fell through.

So what I decided I'd do was drive over to my parents house because I knew they'd have ginger ale. And who wants ginger ale without whiskey? So I had a few cocktails, which helped me get over the loss of Offenbach. All of a sudden, this absolutely gorgeous girl enters my parents house with my niece.

My first thought was, the Lord taketh away, but the Lord also giveth. My next thought was, why did a beautiful woman kidnap my niece?

I got up, cocktail in hand, and introduced myself to the woman.

"I'm Mike The Blogger--the uncle," I said, and when she looked at my cocktail, I continued, "I left work early today. Bad stomach. Just having some ginger ale."

She could probably smell the booze, but since she was young, I thought she'd be cool with it. Here she is, her first day on the job, walks in the house, and the uncle is downstairs on the couch drinking alone.

"I'm Camille's nanny," is probably what she replied.

What I did next was text Silverstein to let him know that I had a new love interest, that I was feeling much better, did Offenbach say anything about changing her mind?, and what time were we gonna start drinking and by the way I've already started.

What I did after that was call my brother, Ringo, tell him about the nanny situation, and have him pick me up so we could hit some golf balls and drink beer. The beer didn't sit as well in my stomach as the whiskey-gingers. Besides, I had to sober up for the drive to Richmond Town Business In The House, CA.

Before that, however, I wanted to watch the New England Patriots second pre-season game. Touchdown Tommy was dropping dimes all over the field to undrafted gamers called Kenbrell Thompkins and Zack Sudfeld while Touchdown Timmy Twinkle Toes Tebow got loose on the sideline. Would this team ever lose a game? Probably not.

Finally, I began the drive to Richmond. As per usual, the night consisted of Coop, Silverstein, Tomasula, and me drinking heavily before stumbling out of Contra Costa County across the border into Alameda County's Club Mallard, where we were members.

At the bar, I saw a woman wearing jean shorts with long brown hair. I said, fellas, watch this.

I approached the target. I was wearing a black leather jacket over a hooded San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, Silverstein's cargo pants, and black Giants sandals covered in orange glitter.

The woman in addition to wearing jean shorts, had on some sort of shirt, probably. She had brown eyes and milky white skin. Her lips were red, as I recall. Coop, Silverstein, and Tomasula looked on, expecting me to strike out as per usual.

Only this time, lightning struck.

Me: What are you drinking?

Her: [Pointing to her glass of beer] My beer.

Me: Let me buy you another.

Her: I just got this.

Coop: [sensing this is already going very badly and approaching the bar with Silverstein and Tomasula] Let's take a shot.

Me: No more shots.

Coop: Drink it. [Handing me a very nasty concoction, as Friday nights at this time at Club Mallard patrons received surprise shots for $2, meaning we had no idea what the fuck we were drinking.]

Me: If I drink it, I'll puke.

Me: [After taking the shot, running to the bathroom and vomiting; noticing the vomit is red, panicking at the thought of my imminent death, then feeling relieved when I recalled drinking a bottle of $2.99 red wine from Trader Joe's earlier in the evening. I then walk back to the bar to find them forcing this poor woman to read my blog, which you are also, right now, being forced to read].

Me: Guys, come on, she doesn't want to read this shit.

Silverstein: [Pretending to be an NFL referee, mimicking an illegal contact penalty] Illegal vomiting, #3 of the defense, that results in an automatic first down. Timeout.

Her: What the hell is going on? Are you people insane?

Tomasula: Listen here, Hillary Rod Man Clinton, I don't know just who you think you are, but there's this blog. Okay? Let me tell you something, this guy right here, he's got a blog. Do YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOU have a blog?

Her: As a matter of fact, I do. I'm also a blogger.

Tomasula: Well don't I feel like a fucking dick.

Coop: Another round, barkeep.

Me: No more shots.

Coop: Are you a man or a mouse, Reynolds?

Me: A mouse. So, where ya from little lady?

Her: Southy.

Me: South Whaty?

Her: South Jersey, I said.

Me: Well aren't you in luck. I only date women from the Garden State. I actually played Zach Braff in Garden State.

Silverstein: WE NEED TO SET THE EDGE AND PLAYER POWER FOOTBALL.

Tomasula: BLUDGEON HER!

Her: You people are insane. This is like an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Me: Let's go to the airport, hop on a flight to Jersey, and get married?

Her: That might be moving a little fast.

Me: Let's go back to the Annex and shoot pool?

Her: Okay.

And anyone who would go back to the residence of we four lunatics is certainly a keeper.  

This blog may or may not be continued at a later date in time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Why Your Team Sucks: The 2015 San Francisco Giants

Well, if it wasn't over before Monday night, it certainly is now. The Giants, nursing a 3-1 lead into the 6th inning at Dodger Stadium, went a bridge too far with starter Jake Peavy. Trailing the Dodgers by 4 games in the loss column with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw lined up in Games 2 and 3 of the series, Monday night's game was a must-win. Only manager Bruce Bochy didn't get the memo.
Peavy's ERA is 8.68 in the 6th inning this year and 27.00 in the 7th. The third time through the order, opponents are hitting .382/.432/.721 against him. When Peavy gets tired, the opposition turns into peak Barry Bonds against him. Even so, Bochy stuck with Peavy with the season on the line and power lefty Josh Osich in the bullpen. The results were predictable: Adrian Gonzalez, a left-handed batter, hit a game-tying home run before Andre Ethier, another lefty, hit the go-ahead dinger as Osich looked on. After the Ethier dinger, Bochy finally summoned Osich to get Carl Crawford, but the damage was done.

The Giants would lose the game 5-4 in 14 innings to fall to 5 games back of the Dodgers in the loss column with 31 to play. Given that the Dodgers have Kershaw and Greinke, two Cy Young candidates, pitching every fifth today, a collapse seems extremely unlikely. We're just about done here; the season is over for the Giants.

This is the Los Angeles Dodgers division now. The Giants haven't won the division since 2012. I hear a lot of complaining about the Dodgers running a $300 million payroll, but San Francisco is approaching $200 million, and if the cost of winning the division is $300 million, maybe the lament should be at the Giants owners rather than the Dodgers. Barring a miracle turnaround, this will be LA's third straight division crown. The Dodgers have been no-hit twice this year, but who gives a shit what happens in the games you lose? In the end, all that really counts is your record after 162. Every year now, the Dodgers are better in the only category that counts.

The most frustrating part of 2015 for the Giants is that they wasted a historically good performance from their infield. As of this writing, on September 1, the Giants are 2nd in the league in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from their position players. They are 3rd in hitting, 4th in on-base, 7th in OPS, 7th in weighted on-base, 3rd in weighted runs created, 13th in slugging, 6th in avoiding the whiff, 5th in defensive runs saved, and 2nd in ultimate zone rating. The position players, on the whole, have been excellent. Catcher Buster Posey (.321/.377/.475, 4.9 WAR), first baseman Brandon Belt (.283/.359/.485, 4.1 WAR), second baseman Joe Panik (.309/.374/.443, 3.9 WAR), third baseman Matt Duffy (.302/.342/.445, 3.9 WAR), and shortstop Brandon Crawford (.263/.324/.477, 4.3 WAR) have all had All-Star caliber seasons. They each are among the best players in the game at their positions, and they were all drafted and developed by the Giants.

Gregor Blanco (.294/.375/.406, 2.2 WAR) has had a career-year filling in for injured starters Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, and Nori Aoki (.289/.355/.382, 1.5 WAR), who was a brilliant scrap-heap pick-up this offseason. Pence has only been on the field for 52 games amidst three different trips to the DL, and the Giants looked like a totally different team with him in the fold. Pence hit .275/.327/.478 with 9 home runs in those 52 games, giving the Giants a potent No. 5 hitter behind Posey. Post-deadline acquisition Marlon Byrd has been exceptional replacing Pence, however. He's hit .286/.348/.643 with 17 RBI in 10 games with San Francisco. Likewise, another unheralded minor leaguer, Kelby Tomlinson, has been excellent filling in for Panik. Tomlinson has hit .328/.394/.469 in 71 plate appearances since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento, though his defense at the keystone has been pretty bad (-3 defensive runs saved).

The only offensive sink holes have been center fielder Angel Pagan (.258/.290/.308, 0 HR in 424 plate appearances, -1.1 WAR) and the departed Casey McGehee (.213/.275/.299, 15 double plays in 138 plate appearances, -0.7 WAR). At least in the case of McGehee, the Giants moved on quickly. With Pagan, Bochy stuck with him about two months too long, just like he stuck with Peavy an inning too long last night.

Which brings us to the real issue with this club: the tire fire that is the starting rotation. Peavy, Tim Hudson, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum combined to make $65 million this year. They've combined for exactly 0.0 WAR, meaning the Giants would've been better off going with freely available Quad-A starters like Chris Heston, who emerged as the No. 2 starter before losing his rotation spot when regression finally caught up with him. The expensive, veteran five-some of Peavy, Hudson, Cain, Vogey, and Timmy have combined for a 4.57 ERA over 417 innings spanning 76 starts. The average National League pitcher has an ERA of 4.05, and he doesn't get to pitch half his games at AT&T Park, either. In addition to wasting All-Star seasons from their outstanding infield, the Giants threw away another All-Star campaign from Madison Bumgarner (2.97 ERA, 4.4 WAR).

For all the credit Brian Sabean and Dick Tidrow have gotten for drafting and developing Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner, the reality is that since they took over in 1997, those are about the only starting pitchers this organization has developed. Jonathan Sanchez had a nice run in San Francisco before flaming out, and Francisco Liriano is the only other above-average starter this regime has developed. I suppose you could credit them for Vogelsong, too, but he didn't develop until they signed him as a 33-year-old minor-league free agent prior to 2011. You'd expect to develop more than five capable starting pitchers over a 19-year period, particularly given all the accolades thrown at this regime for the first-round picks spent on Cain, Lincecum, and Bumgarner.

2012 first-rounder Chris Stratton never really developed, and 2014 first-rounder Tyler Beede has been pounded at Double-A this season (5.23 ERA). Looking ahead to 2016, there's no one on the farm who is poised to step into the big league rotation.

Sadly, like the Giants season, it's all she wrote for Cain and Lincecum. Conventional wisdom says players peak at age 27, and that's exactly how it went for these two former aces. Three years into a 5-year, $112.5 contract extension inked prior to 2012, Cain has posted 4.40 ERA while missing most of 2014 and 2015 due to an assortment of elbow problems. The 30-year-old righty appears to have been done at 27 when he pitched the Giants to their second championship in three years. It was also all over for Lincecum at 27. Since 2011, he's posted a 4.68 ERA, and he appears to have thrown his last pitch as a Giant. He's currently on the shelf with degenerative hip problems. Undeterred by bad seasons in 2012 and 2013, the Giants inked Timmy to a 2-year, $40.5 million deal that will expire at season's end.

It ended too soon for Cain and Timmy, and that was bad luck for the Giants. Trading for Mike Leake at the deadline only to see him immediately go on the DL was another stroke of misfortune. Panik, Pence, Aoki, Crawford, Pagan (thankfully), Jeremy Affeldt, and probably someone I'm forgetting followed Leake with injury in a terrible August stretch that knocked the Giants from contention. Since heading to Texas to open a brutal stretch against mostly contending teams, the Giants have gone 13-17 while suffering injury after injury.

With Blanco, Tomlinson, and Byrd filling in admirably for Pagan, Panik, and Pence, the Giants still might've won this thing with a competent starting rotation. Even with an exceptional season from Bumgarner and a surprisingly good year from Heston (3.56 ERA in 25 starts, though he now appears done), the Giants enter play tonight just 8th in the NL in starter's ERA.

If the Giants don't find a way to get some starting pitching in 2016, the Dodgers will win their 4th straight NL West crown next year. Behind Bumgarner, the Giants currently have the impending free-agent Leake and three giant question marks. If you can't pitch, you can't play, and that's been the disappointing story of the 2015 Giants.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Belt WAR Continued

Part of me is convinced that noted blog characters Redacted, the left guard on my high school football team, and Nacho, the tight end and the precursor to Rob Gronkowski, are still pissed at me for throwing that season-ending interception all those years ago. I think that's what this is all about.

Recently, I mentioned Nacho on a blog, and the very next day he showed up at my place of work wearing a Madison Bumgarner jersey, slugging beers, and threatening a cease and desist order with a Louisville slugger in tow.

To add insult to injury, I'm in the midst of another Twitter Dot Com WAR with Redacted. Now, let me give my opponent some credit here: he said Joey Pancakes was going to be the next Robbie Alomar Junior when I was calling Panik a slap-hitting utility man at best. He was also right about the fact that David Blatt is a moron and that the Golden State Warriors would be champions of the NATIONAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE. Redacted gets them right more often than he gets them wrong, in large part because his life doesn't hinge on his sports teams winning games to provide his life with a sense of meaning and purpose. It's a pathetic lack of want, but apparently some people think that wives and children are more important than being the best sports fan you can be.

And so but Redacted looks at the San Francisco Giants roster and sees a problem at first base. Now, a lot of Giants fans would agree with that assessment. Brandon Belt strikes out a lot, he strikes out looking which is a big no-no in little league, he has gumby shoulders and other displays of below-average body language, he tends to get mired in slumps, he dropped the fucking ball in Texas, he's failed to dig some balls this year that should've been dug, he's got less than ideal hitting mechanics, and he's not as good as Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, or Anthony Rizzo. He's not a perfect player by any means. I once told long-time reader and first time blog character Harry that I thought Brett Pill had a better swing than Belt. I've mostly been on team #FreeBelt, but I've had my days off the wagon with a fifth of Jack asking Brandon why he does this to me.

Alas, the perfect has always been the enemy of the perfectly acceptable with Belt. For instance, entering play today--and Belt just fucking struck out looking on a fastball right down the pipe as I write this for God's fucking sake--Belt was second on the team in a stat called Weighted Runs Created Plus, which is the most comprehensive offensive statistic available because it's park-adjusted and attempts to put a value on every offensive event. Here's a comp between Belt and the Giants best hitter this season:

Player               AVG/OBP/SLG  HR  2B  3B   W%  K%
Buster Posey   .314/.371/.472     16    20   3      8.8   8.8
Brandon Belt   .274/.351/.483      17   29   0      9.9   26.7

Posey has a better hitting tool, better contact skills, and a more pleasing swing to watch. Posey almost never strikes out, and it's more enjoyable to watch someone make outs by putting the ball in play than whiffing. But Belt is a more patient hitter who hits for more power and has more speed. Comparing them just by their offensive numbers, they are almost dead even when you take a comprehensive approach. If you still evaluate players by batting average and RBI., then you should never read my blog because I don't speak German.

Now, when I made this comparison to Redacted, he was outraged. How could you compare Belt to a perennial MVP candidate? Offensively, you can compare the two players. However, there's more to baseball than offense. Posey is a perennial MVP candidate because he hits like an above-average first baseman while being an elite defensive catcher. And that's an argument in favor of statistics like Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Because Posey provides outstanding offense at a position where offense is hard to come by, and because he's a very good defensive player, he's a full win more valuable than Belt right now despite their similar offensive numbers. And that doesn't include Posey's pitch-framing skills, which are elite. He's probably two full wins better than Belt when you factor that in. Unlike Posey, Belt plays a position that is relatively easy by comparison, and which has a higher offensive standard.

If you buy the argument that, despite their similar offensive numbers this season, Posey is vastly more valuable than Belt because of his position and defense, which I absolutely agree with, then you have just accepted an argument in favor of WAR. That's exactly what WAR tries to do: determine a player's overall value based on their offense, defense, base-running, and positional value. It isn't a perfect stat because defense is extremely hard to measure. Like democracy, WAR is the worst stat we've got except for all the others. And by WAR, Belt ranks as the 5th best first baseman in baseball.

Now, you might say that you don't give a shit about WAR or Belt's above-average defensive stats. You want a 35-dinger guy at first base, and so you're gonna find one. You are legally allowed to have that opinion. Sadly, I don't think such a guy is going to become available. GM Bobby Evans can't call the Reds, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Tigers, or another team and say, "Hey Bro, KNBR callers really want a slugging first baseman, so we'll need to grab Votto, Goldy, Rizzo, or Cabrera from you. Thanks." Even if one of those guys became available, the Giants didn't have the prospects to fill an actual need when they attempted to acquire David Price and Cole Hamels at the trade deadline. Further, Belt is young and cheap while Votto, Cabrera, and Albert Pujols are old, more injury prone, and extremely expensive. Thus, if you want a more expensive first baseman, you'll have to divert resources from elsewhere. The Giants don't have an unlimited budget, after all. Our ownership group doesn't want it quite as much as the Dodgers.

If you look at this roster and see Brandon Belt as part of the problem, I just don't know what you're looking at. We've put the worst player in baseball out there in center fielder for most of the year. The starting rotation, despite throwing in a pitcher's paradise, has relied on a 27-year-old journeyman passed over by all 30 teams who is currently in Sacramento as its No. 2 starter. The rotation and the center fielder are the reasons why this team is currently out of the playoffs. Hell, on Sunday night, the Giants got three innings out of Ryan Vogelsong, and that seemed like a decent start! Next year's rotation is Madison Bumgarner, Chris Heston, a potentially washed-up Matt Cain (he's definitely washed up) and Jake Peavy, and then Ed Undecided. The center fielder is almost certainly finished. The right fielder's body might be starting to break down. If you look at this team and see problems anywhere but in the outfield and in the rotation, we're just not watching the same game.

I don't think Belt is some elite player or a perennial All-Star. But I do think he's a well-above average player. I do think he's one of the top 5 first basemen in the league. I'd take Rizzo or Goldschmidt over Belt. When you factor in their age and contracts, I wouldn't take Votto or Cabrera, though I'd prefer them in a one-game playoff where contracts don't matter.

Matt Cain just gave another home run. Fuck it all.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Adventures of The Blogger Continued

They've cycled some fresh blood through The Firm once more which, at first, saddened me horribly.

Silverstein and Tomasula couldn't crack it, so they fled to San Diego where they continue to live in denial about who they really are. Just because Coop thinks homosexuality is a sin, they both continue to pretend to like women instead of each other. Coop has just one name because he's Brazilian maybe, and over there you only get one name instead of a first and last name. That might not be right. Then, Von Leigh decided that he didn't want to end up suffering years of emotional abuse like the deranged Blogger, so he fled the scene with his boy Fresh.

You cannot replace a "TSpoon" Silverstein, a Tomasula, a Coop, a Fresh, or a Von Leigh. Come to think of it, that Coop cat might not have even worked at The Firm. I can't remember? Pretty sure we hired him there to run the unit for a bit, but when productivity went up 800 percent in Q3 2013, The Firm looked into it and discovered that he was giving out bumps in his office for each TPS Report we filed. He'd come in through our cubicles at 7 AM sharp wearing a blue Sky Vodka tank-top, cargo shorts, and sandals while screaming at us, "LET'S GET BETTER TODAY!

"REYNOLDS, WHERE YOU AT ON THE PENSKE CASE?!

"SILVERSTEIN, LET'S MEET AT OH-NINE-HUNDRED TO TALK ABOUT OUR FANTASY FOOTBALL DRAFT.

"TOMASULA, WHY DON'T YOU GET ON THE HORN AND GET SOME STRIPPERS IN HERE FOR THE EVENING PROCESSING?

ALRIGHT, EVERYONE ON IT. LET'S WIN EACH MOMENT. WHO NEEDS A GREENY?"

More and more, I'm coming to think those memories may just be an LSD flashback. In fact, I think what happened was one night we blacked out and just pretended he was our boss. But if giving your employees amphetamine to get ready to process and cocaine for good processing is wrong, then I'm of the opinion that our neo-liberal, free-market economy is no longer functioning correctly. If there isn't money in the budget for copious amounts of drug use, resources are not being allocated correctly. We got 11 million Wall Street fuckoffs jerking off on the stock market everyday and we can't even get this much right? If it's illegal to do blow off strippers in the office, perhaps we need new laws. Do we want to take our country back for real, or no?

And so but you just can't keep losing that many free agents and hope to keep the locker room happy. The good news is they brought in a new Petaluman, so at least I've got someone to commute with again. The better news, it seemed, was that they brought in a few girls from our Sacramento office to hold the fort down for a few weeks.

One of those aforementioned folks, I was convinced, would be the future Mrs. Blogger. Like, I could sense that we'd fallen horribly in love. Everyone could see it. Everyone, that is, except for her, the one person who so desperately needed to see it.

It was an odd thing to fall in love again. I wasn't counting on that happening, certainly not at The Firm in year 7 of my tenure. I'm like that B'Iraq Hussein NoBama or Hillary Rodman Benghazi, in that I've been in office for two terms here now. And so but this girl showed up on Monday to process some processes for the next couple of weeks until we can make a long-term hire. It wasn't love at first sight, to be honest. It was one of those things where, the more I ran into her, the prettier and prettier I noticed she was. She wore glasses, which was a sign of intelligence. For example, I forget to where my glasses every day. She also wasn't overly skinny in that weird coked up way you see a lot these days. I know that I'm bordering on that shallow sexist line here, but I'm a writer, so I can say shallow, sexist things. It's like my mom, Pun, told my boy Black Poo way back when, "I'm white, so I can say racist shit."

But this girl, her voice was also, somehow, arousing. I could sense she was competent at processing her processes, too. I like competence. Her Facebook profile didn't indicate a boyfriend. If you don't have a boyfriend, there's really no reason I can think of that you wouldn't date The Blogger. I told Redacted earlier in the week, I told him, I says to heem, "Redacted, if this babe doesn't want to date The Blogger, that's on her. Not me. Also, do you still think Adnan did it? You're crazy, bro."

And Redacted seemed to agree that this girl would be crazy not to marry me, and now he's thinking that Raubia Chaudry probably did it so she could start a podcast about the whole thing.

Redacted played left guard on our high school football team. I was the QB 1. The other weekend, I went up north to Middletown to kick back and relax with Redacted, his family, and The Four Loko Crew, and to remember the final act of our failed high school football careers. It was at Middletwon that the Mojo Magic ran out, after all. They threw a phantom flag on us for an illegal motion penalty, killing our drive for the winning score. I haven't been able to score since. The NFL suspended me for the final game for PED use and deflating balls.

Nacho didn't show, but I saw him on the Fourth of July. Nacho started a competing blog a few years back that Lifetime picked up for a made-for-TV TV show, so he's living off the profits of that while I blog away for pennies on the dollar. My attorney refuses to sue him for plagiarism on the senile grounds that, "Nacho didn't commit plagiarism, hundreds of millions of people have blogs, and Nacho is not a real human being. Further, I am not, nor have I been, nor will I ever be, your attorney." To which I replied, like, just who in the fuck do you think you are. After I saw Nacho and Redacted on the Fourth of July, I had a dream that later in the night, after they'd put the women and children to bed, we went to Club Mallard, where they pressured me into illicit drug use. If getting crunk at the Club doesn't symbolize freedom, nothing does.

Next, the real kicker here, is the Four Lokos run off to fucking Oregon this week to drop a bunch of goddamn acid with Ken Kesey and not with me as I'm in the throes of a love bender from which I may never recover. Can you believe those goddamn selfish smack-heads? Then, Tamara is texting during the trip about how they're smacked out of their minds and contemplating whether or not they should murder my attorney and please don't blog about that just in case they go ahead with it and I'm like, no one tells me what to blog about. It's all on the record. YOU ARE ALL IMPLICATED.

To recap: Tomasula and Silverstein are off in San Diego doing god knows what; my attorney, Tamara, and the Prof are in the throes of an Oregon drug bender the likes of which we haven't seen since 1969; and then, yesterday, when I had finally worked up the courage to ask The New Girl if she wanted to run down to San Diego for the weekend to get hitched, I hear her talking to the other two new girls about her boyfriend this and her boyfriend that, and oh me oh my my boyfriend blah blah blah.

So the first thing I do is run in the bathroom and cry my eyes out. Next, I get on the horn with Silverstein to see if he can find a loophole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that could somehow lead to an arranged marriage. We agreed that since this guy has not put a ring on a girl who is so clearly deserving in the opinion of America's Number One Blogger, I at least am deserving of the opportunity to kick his ass and win her heart. Next, I called my attorney and left her a voicemail explaining that she was shit-canned; Silverstein was my new attorney now. I then told my new co-worker that the New Girl had refused my marriage proposal. He looked confused so I said, "Yeah, she's got some stupid fucking boyfriend who isn't man enough to marry her I guess. I'm gonna kick his ass. First thing's first, we gotta split this joint. You're gonna have to drive my car home. I had about 11 too many cocktails at lunch [which was actually the first thing I did after hearing of this boyfriend] after this latest Unrequited Love sitch."

"I don't know how to drive," he replied.

"Are you a man or a mouse?"

"What?"

"Don't get uppity with me, Maxx. We'll take the back-roads. It'll be fine."

What we decided to do instead was get dropped off in downtown San Rafael to avoid having to drive because you should always be safe when blacking out. Everyone knows that.

"Can you believe she left me at the altar, man?"

"Who left you where?"

"Take another sip of your drink."

"....."

"I haven't been this in love since I was 19. You know when you know, bro. What am I gonna do now? Blogger's don't do online dating. That's ridiculous. Oh, for fuck's sake. My ex-wife is calling now. Why me? Why me? Why do bad things happen to the best bloggers?"

"You need to smoke some weed. Calm down a little."

"Let's not get crazy here. That's a controlled, Schedule I Substance bro. I could citizen's arrest your ass just for thinking about that shit. But what we ought to do is get on over to Zanzibar ASAP because if I have to think about this fucking boyfriend again, it's gonna get real ugly. Then we'll get over to The Mallard and just go on an absolute tear. Do you like to eat pussy?"

"Of course."

"You're gonna be alright, kid. I think we made a good hire here. Ya know, I remember a time when men were men and we could be honest and tell a girl that, ya know, if you don't mind too much I'm gonna eat your snatch and we'll get married and whatnot if you like. But something has changed in this country where we can't tell each other the truth anymore."

"So true."


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Notes on the Giants, Indians, Padres, Sonny Gray, Etc.

Some things I think:

It's beginning to look a lot like August 2011 for the Giants in August of 2015 with Mike Leake and Joe Panik going down and Angel Pagan doing his best Orlando Cabrera impersonation as Boch runs him out there day after day even with the superior Gregor Blanco available. Pagan is arguably the worst player in the game this season, he doesn't look healthy, he can't play center field, he hasn't hit a home run all year, he doesn't get on base, and yet there he is again on Saturday leading off and playing center field. I just don't get this at all. Why hit your worst hitter first? Why play him when you have someone who is clearly having a better season?

Starlin Castro is having a horrific year for the Cubs, and on Friday and Saturday Chicago manager Joe Maddon benched Castro to keep outstanding rookie Kyle Schwarber in the lineup. These are huge games, and Maddon is putting his best team on the field while Boch sticks with Pagan. Maybe the Cubs deserve to win the second Wild Card.

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I liked this from Grant Brisbee after Friday's loss:
That doesn't mean that it's not a little weird that the guy who should have been on the Giants [Jon Lester] was scheduled to pitch against the guy the Giants traded for [Leake] because the guy who should have been on the Giants [Lester] wasn't on the Giants, but that guy was hurt [Leake], which meant they had to start the guy [Ryan Vogelsong] who was on the Giants because the Giants didn't sign the guy who should have been on the Giants [Lester].
As Brian Sabean once told Ralph Barbieri, you can only do what you can do. The Giants tried to sign Lester with a very competitive offer; he signed with the Cubs. They tried to sign James Shields; he signed with San Diego. They tried to trade for Cole Hamels at the deadline; the Phillies chose the Rangers package over San Francisco's. The Giants then tried to trade for David Price; Detroit sent him to Toronto instead. The Giants got the next best available starter in Leake, who promptly goes on the DL. Sometimes, things you do, like re-signing Pagan, don't work out. Other times, things you try to do just don't come to fruition. The end result is that Vogelsong, who is a below-average pitcher at this point, faces Lester in a big game and the Giants get hammered.

Where would the Giants be if Lester had chosen San Francisco over Chicago? Well, Lester has been worth about 3 more wins than Jake Peavy and Vogelsong, so instead of being 1.5 games behind the Cubs, maybe they'd be 1.5 games up.

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I didn't understand what Atlanta was doing when it traded Chris Johnson for Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and $10 million yesterday. The Braves will save $2.5 million this year and $10 million in 2017 at the cost of losing $21.5 million next year. On the whole, they are taking on $9 million more than Cleveland in this deal for two players who can't play anymore. Shouldn't they get a good prospect for their troubles?

Cleveland will be able to take that $21.5 million and get something useful this winter. They have three excellent starters at the top of their rotation in Cory Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer is decent. They also have star second baseman Jason Kipnis, outfielder Michael Brantley, and developing rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor, plus some bounce-back candidates in Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, and Lonnie Chisenhall. They did very well at the deadline by turning the struggling Brandon Moss into 2013 first rounder Rob Kaminsky. Offloading $21.5 million in dead money next season for Johnson, whose had a few decent offensive seasons in the past, is another move that could get Cleveland right back into contention next year. The Indians won 92 games and tied for the second Wild Card in 2013 and 85 last year before struggling in 2015. With the core they have in place, a few bounce-back seasons and shrewd moves can get them right back in 2016.

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I must have been drinking a lot during the offseason, because I thought San Diego would win a Wild Card spot in 2015. How's that working out? The Padres are 52-58, 9 games back of the Cubs for the second Wild Card.

Wil Myers played in only 35 games before getting hurt. He cost San Diego two top 100 prospects in Joe Ross and Trea Turner. Ross is now in the Washington rotation where he's posted 2.80 ERA in 7 starts. Turner is hitting .323/.372/.467 as a 22 year old between Double-A and Triple-A this season. He'll take over for Ian Desmond at shortstop for Washington next season. Ross and Turner are under Washington's control for the next 12 seasons, while Myers will be in San Diego for four more years.

Matt Kemp, acquired with cash for catcher Yasmani Grandal and prospects, is hitting .253/.302/.394 for the Padres while Grandal is having a breakout season for the Dodgers. Grandal, an All-Star selection, is hitting .289/.394/.504 for the first-place Dodgers. Grandal, who will turn 27 in November, is under the Dodgers control for three more seasons at arbitration prices while the Kemp subsidy from the Dodgers goes from $18 million to just $3.5 million for the final four years for his deal.

Derek Norris, acquired for Jesse Hahn and R.J. Alvarez to replace Grandal, has hit only .241/.289/.402.
Hahn has posted a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts for the A's.

The Padres biggest acquisition was outfielder Justin Upton, who has put up a mediocre .251/.329/.435 slash line in his final year before free agency. He cost San Diego former first pick Max Fried and prospects Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith, and second baseman Jace Peterson (.250/.326/.355). The Upton gamble made some sense, and I don't think the package San Diego gave up was an overpay. Additionally, they'll get a compensation pick for losing him this winter. Still, I would've traded him to the Mets for Zack Wheeler at the deadline. Instead, GM A.J. Preller decided to stand pat, continuing the delusional notion that this team could contend for the postseason.

The Padres signed 33-year-old starters James Shields to a four-year, $75 million this winter, costing them their first-round pick. Shields has been decent (3.75), but he's currently setting career-highs in walk and home run rates, which isn't a good sign given his age and the ballpark San Diego plays in.

Finally, San Diego dealt Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, pitching prospect Matt Wisler, and a draft pick to Atlanta for closer Craig Kimbrell, Melvin Upton's albatross contract, and prospect Jordan Paroubeck. Upton, who had three years and $46.5 million left on his deal, has a .680 OPS in 42 games. Kimbrell has been decent (2.70 ERA, 31/33 in saves), but not as dominant as he was in Atlanta. He's also making big money for a closer on a small market team ($34 million over three years at the time of the deal including a 2018 buy-out). Meanwhile, Maybin is having a bit of a bounce-back year in Atlanta while Wisler ranks among the game's top 70 prospects. To add insult to injury, San Diego had a chance to send Kimbrell to the Yankees at the deadline before Preller decided that prospect shortstop Jorge Mateo wasn't close enough to the big leagues to help the Padres, as if this team is close to contending.

Oh, I almost forgot, they also traded Seth Smith to Seattle for reliever Brandon Mauer. Smith (.784 OPS) is hitting better than Upton and Kemp this year.

To recap, most of the Padres top prospects are gone, they lost two picks, they added a ton of future payroll in a market that can't support a very large budget, they traded away an All-Star catcher for an outfielder who might be on the decline, the teams sucks, and now the future looks as bleak as the present. The fact that I liked their offseason is a good reason to stop reading. To be fair, I don't think I was paying much attention.

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Sonny Gray is ridiculous. The short righty--Gray is listed as 5'11"--trails only Zack Greinke in ERA this season after throwing a complete-game against Houston last night. Gray is 11th in ground-ball rate but third in batting average allowed on balls in play. Since grounders are much likelier to fall for hits than fly balls, it's very odd to see such an extreme ground-ball guy getting so many outs on balls in play. What that tells me is hitters just cannot square Sonny up. 444 innings into his career, Gray has a 2.65 ERA. With all due respect to Madison Bumgarner, the 25-year-old Gray is the Bay Area's best pitcher. If the A's had held onto Josh Donaldson, they'd have two of the game's best players under club control for the foreseeable future. Now, it looks like they're poised to waste the rest of their best player's prime.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Better Know a Giant: Series on the Brink and Mike at The Firm

"They'll blow it in Chicago--they will." - me, on the big show-down between the Giants and Cubs this weekend.

Today was one of those days at the office where I just wasn't sure how much I really have left in the tank as far as capitalism goes. I will celebrate my 7th anniversary at The Firm this September*. It's the only job I've had since college, and I'm the longest tenured TPS Reports Specialist here. I say here because I'm writing this from my cubicle**--I didn't want to deal with traffic tonight, so I watched the Giants game in the kitchen when I got done processing at 5. I shouldn't say too much about work since I don't want to get in trouble or anything. All I can say is that I really miss Silverstein and Tomsula, who left The Firm recently to coach the San Francisco 49ers. It was weird for the 49ers to replace a great coach like Jim Harbaugh with a 24-year-old former defensive lineman from Pacific Grove High School, but Tomsula was willing to work for the minimum wage. If you're worried about it, Tomsula wants me to relay the following message to you: a 34-ounce Louisville slugger to your stupid head.

*The author quit working at The Firm 6 months ago. **He is writing this from his parents' basement. 

Thank God Galindo is still here to listen to my complaints about the Giants. A-A-Ron has been ignoring me for months now. High Pockets appears to have left this place years ago. Last I checked, she was in Kansas trying to find a mountain lion to kill even though Kansas has no mountains. Mac is playing left field for the Boston Red Sox now. Turkleton, did you ever work at The Firm? I think so. He's DHing for the Sox now. He spends his time between innings reading David Foster Wallace, and everyone hates him.

And so but the Giants are 2-0 since I declared the season over. They'll blow it in Chicago--they will.

The Good Guys head north to the Great Lakes this weekend to take on the Cubbies in a four-game set. The Giants have a tenuous grip on a half-game lead over the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot in the National Football League.

When you compare these lineups, well, nothing compares to us. No one is as good as the San Francisco Giants position players. Buster Posey is having another MVP quality season, Hunter Pence is not only excellent but also the emotional heart and soul of the team, Matt Duffy is apparently Pete Rose, Brandon Crawford is the best shortstop in the game, Brandon Belt is very good, Nori Aoki and Gregor Blanco are having career years, and Joe Panik was making a case as the game's best second baseman before he hit the DL, and that's no matter because we have what I assume is former Jets third-string QB Kelby Tomlinson holding down the keystone now. Come what may, and come what not, we've got Tomlinson, and the enemy has not. Other than the departed Casey McGehee and the hopefully-to-remain-benched Angel Pagan, every Giants regular has been well above-average this season.

The Cubs, on the other hand, are a bottom-ten offense. Anthony Rizzo is a star, Kris Bryant is a potential star, Chris Coghlan has resurrected his career on the North Side, Miguel Montero and Dexter Fowler are decent, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler have shown flashes amidst their struggles, and Starlin Castro has been horrific.

The Giants are much better offensively and either a tiny bit better defensively24 runs better defensively, or 10 runs better defensively. When it comes to defense, there's just so much we don't know.

The Cubs (3.40 ERA), however, have pitched better than the Giants (3.70 ERA). The Giants will face Jason Hammel (3.13 ERA), staff ace Jon Lester (3.26 ERA; Lester, of course, chose the Cubs over San Francisco this winter), Kyle Hendricks (3.67 ERA), and the outstanding Jake Arrieta (2.50) this weekend.

Dan Haren (3.49) and Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (3.28) threw on Thursday and won't be available this weekend.

The Cubs have the advantage of having their four best pitchers lined up for this weekend. Still, San Francisco, with deadline acquisition Mike Leake in the fold, counters with Chris Heston (3.24), Leake (3.52), struggling former ace Matt Cain (4.91), and surging veteran righty Jake Peavy (3.77 in seven starts). With Peavy struggling earlier this year before an extended stay on the DL and Cain yet to find his form, the Cubs clearly have had the better rotation. And, you'd probably take Arrieta and Lester over Bumgarner and Heston at the top of a rotation in a short series given Heston's lack of a track record. Still, Leake and a healthy Peavy are comparable in the middle of the rotation, so the Cubs starters are no longer clearly superior to San Francisco's. In the bullpen, the teams are about dead even.

On paper, the Giants are the better team, even though they only lead the Cubs by a half-game and the teams are projected to both finish 88-74, causing a play-in to the play-in game. The Giants have outscored their opponents by 51 more runs than Chicago, suggesting that they ought to be about 5 games ahead instead of dead even, though more advanced stats show the teams are as even as their records show.

With 55 games left, this weekend, by itself, won't decide things. Even if the Giants swept Chicago, they'd only be 4.5 games up, and the lurking Nationals are only 3 games back right now. There's still a long way to go after this weekend. Yet, it's always later than you think. With the projections showing these teams set to finish with identical records, one game can make all the difference. Who can forget 1999, when the Giants lost a one-game playoff at Wrigley Field? Hammering the Cubbies this weekend would begin to ensure the 2015 Giants avoid suffering such a fate.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Giants Thoughts: Cain and Casilla Bad, Panik and Duffy Good, DL Pagan

Last night was the first time in a long time that I can remember being legitimately pissed off about a regular season baseball game. Like, cursing and shit. Despair. In fact, that was the first temper tantrum thrown by Mike T. Blogger (me) since his career as a TPS Reports Specialist ended in his dishonorable discharge. He was released for bad behavior (blogging about people, drinking, throwing temper tantrums, calling people on their bullshit) and for time already served.

Santiago Casilla laying a fastball into A.J. Pierzynski, who launched it for a game-tying two-run homer, was seventh layer of hell stuff. If we're going to get beat there, let's see how far he can hit it the opposite way, not to his pull side. What are we calling there, Buster? And, if Matt Cain can't beat Atlanta with a 6-0 lead, we're probably not going to the dance this year. If we can't hang onto a 6-0 lead against that crappy team, maybe we don't deserve another shot at October.

So I took Bill Simmons' dog for a long walk, lashed out on Twitter Dot Com, and harassed [Redacted] while vowing to never watch baseball again. Tonight, we were back into the breach once more despite yesterday's resolutions. My name is Mike T. Blogger, and now that I'm not drinking, I am addicted to the San Francisco Giants Baseball Associates LLP, which is a helpless, powerless type of feeling.

Getting back to Cain, we're in year three of his contract extension which also happens to correlate with year three of his decline. I supported the contract extension! It was a good call, even if the club knew he had bone chips in his elbow. He helped them win the World Series in 2010, and he'd be the staff ace on the 2012 World Series team after signing his extension that spring. I wrote at the time of the extension:
If over-paying for the best number two starter in the game isn’t the most rational move in purely logical, economic or statistical terms, well, that’s no matter.  Tomorrow, and through 2017, for better or for worse, Matt Cain will be a San Francisco Giant.  The front office wanted it, the fans wanted it and Cain wanted it.  There is always risk in predicting future human performance.  Matt Cain is a human, or a cyborg, that I am comfortable betting the future on.
A few weeks later, Bleacher Report figured that I was so correct on my Cain views that they'd let me spew that drivel for their website! Sadly, our cyborg has looked decidedly human for three years now. Cain had a 3.27 ERA through 2012. Since the beginning of 2013, his ERA is 4.15 over 51 starts. He's undergone surgery on his elbow and ankle, then suffered a setback during his rehab from the arm injury. Long able to suppress home runs despite being an extreme fly-ball pitcher, Cain has seen his home run rate per nine innings jump from 0.8 to 1.2. In six starts since returning from the DL in 2015, his ERA is 4.91, his strikeout rate is at a career low 16.7 percent, and his fastball velocity is down 1.2 miles per hour from last season. He'll be 31 soon, and he hasn't been good since he was 28.

Luckily, Jake Peavy has thrown well since his return from the DL, Mike Leake should be solid in the middle of the rotation, and Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston have been steady at the top. The Giants need Cain to pitch better, but they no longer need him to be an ace.

Well, that's not right. We need everyone to throw well every night! They all need to throw like aces! We're two games behind the Dodgers with 56 games left. We're a half-game behind the Cubs for that stupid play-in Wild Card thingy. I mean, come on.

Theo's young studs Addison Russell, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant were supposed to take the baseball world by storm this year, but Joe Panik and Matt Duffy have stolen the show:

Panik .309/.374/.443, 3.8 WAR
Duffy .301/.340/.457, 3.1 WAR
Bryant .246/.354/.436 3.4 WAR
Russell .237/.303/.368, 1.3 WAR
Baez: Not in the Big Leagues per Mike Krukow

Panik and Duffy were never ranked as top prospects, while Bryant was ranked #1 by Baseball America, Russell was ranked #3, and Baez was ranked #5 last year. I'm not saying Panik and Duffy will be better than Russell, Bryant, and Baez in the long run. Bryant is already very good, and Russell should get much better. What I am saying is no one saw Duffy and Panik ever producing this much, and it's a blessing the Giants need to take full advantage of in 2015.

Then, we go over to shortstop were former #15 ranked prospect Starlin Castro is having the season from hell while minor league afterthought Brandon Crawford is having the year of his life:

Crawford: .266/.328/.492, 3.6 WAR
Castro: .236/.270/.301, -1.3 WAR

So, how exactly are these guys ahead of us in the standings right now? Because they pitch better.

I don't think the Giants will catch the Dodgers, but I do think they have a decent shot to hold off the Cubs and Mets in the Wild Card, though the Mets are looking awfully 2010 Giants-y with a much-maligned GM trying to shut everyone up with a rotation that has three front-line young arms in Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey, who could play Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain at a theater near you this October.

---

This is all a meandering way of saying that last night's game really sucked but we can almost laugh about it now that there was another game today and the Giants outstanding offense came storming back after another bullpen meltdown. Then again, when we miss the playoffs by one game, we won't laugh about it as much!

LOL Moment, Mike.

My writing has gone to shit here recently as I've been taking care some off-the-blog issues and whatnot and also working again. Work, man. What a bad idea. And so but the Giants are as creative as I can get these days.

---

Speaking of work: Angel Pagan should take some time off work. Since Gregor Blanco was inserted in the starting lineup for Pagan last night, the Giants have scored 16 runs. Small sample size, chicken or the egg, causation and correlation, and all that good stuff, but it almost seems like removing an injured dude with a .297 OBP and no power from the leadoff spot for a healthy guy having a career year with a .370 OBP is a sensible move when every game could be the difference between making or missing the playoffs. Blanco might not play as well down the stretch as he has so far in 2015. He might play better. He might play just as well. But what have we seen from Pagan this year that gives you the impression he's going to get any better this season? He's not healthy, he's not producing, and there's someone who can play his position better right now on the roster. It's not like there isn't another option waiting in the wings.

As for the closer job? My solution after Casilla's meltdown was Ryan Vogelsong, who promptly blew a save later in that very game. As always, all my bullshit is wrong, or your money back!