General Sports: May 8

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-The Pistons fired head coach Stan Van Gundy after a few mediocre seasons with the team. Granted, the Pistons were a shitshow before SVG got there, but they haven’t been able to get above “contending for the 8 seed” territory, which is about the worst place you can be in today’s NBA (not good enough to contend for a title, not bad enough to get a top Draft pick, which tends to be franchise-altering nowadays). The Pistons made the playoffs once in his 4-year tenure but failed to win a playoff series. It wouldn’t shock me to see SVG land another job sometime in the near future, as his resume speaks for itself (led the Orlando Magic to their only NBA Finals appearance back in 2009) and he certainly won’t be the last NBA head coach to get his walking papers as the offseason moves along in these coming weeks.

-The San Francisco Giants continue to get ravaged by the injury bug as this time it has hit Johnny Cueto. Cueto suffered a sprained elbow and will miss the next 6-8 weeks. This couldn’t come at a worse time for the Giants as they’re one of the hottest teams in baseball at the moment, having won 13 of their last 18 games entering Monday night (this is being written before the conclusion of their tilt with the Phillies). Cueto was bouncing back in a MAJOR way this season. After having an ERA well over 4 last season, Cueto was pacing the Majors in that category at 0.84 and was pitching some of the best baseball of his life, which is saying something considering the run of success he had with the Reds in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the game. It’s a tough blow for the Giants, who are looking to try and make the playoffs and considering how good the Diamondbacks and Rockies have been looking of late, that task seems to be made even tougher without Cueto for up to 2 months.

-The Carolina Panthers are signing former Broncos runningback CJ Anderson to a 1-year deal. After releasing Jonathan Stewart in the offseason, I was surprised the Panthers didn’t get another bigger runningback to shoulder the bulk of the carries in the Draft so that Christian McCaffrey can continue to do scat back stuff. Anderson isn’t a flashy player by any means but he’s consistently solid and was the Broncos’ #1 back when they beat the Panthers in Super Bowl L. He’s also a very similar style of player to the departed Stewart and is 4 years younger so one can argue it’s an improvement on multiple fronts.

-The Saints are releasing tight end Coby Fleener after 2 years of a 5 year deal. Fleener was a pretty big disappointment in New Orleans as he and Drew Brees never really developed the connection you would’ve expected given how much Brees liked to target Jimmy Graham in the past. However Fleener managed just 72 catches for 826 yards and 5 TD’s over his 2 years with the team. The Saints were reportedly interested in bringing back Graham, but he signed with the Packers instead, leading many to speculate the Saints had tight end as a high priority. Then they traded up 13 spots in the Draft, including giving up next year’s first round pick, to select UTSA’s Marcus Davenport and didn’t draft any tight ends, making this release a little more surprising to me. As of right now, the tight end roster in New Orleans features a 37 year-old Ben Watson, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Josh Hill of note. Watson has had success in this offense in the past so perhaps that’s the reason why they weren’t in any hurry to get another tight end and were comfortable in letting Fleener walk.

-I didn’t blog about this when it happened due to my being in my finals-related hiatus, but on April 20, White Sox reliever Danny Farquhar suffered a brain aneurysm and collapsed in the dugout during the game. He had to be rushed to the hospital with this affliction that has taken so many lives. Luckily, Farquhar survived and he was finally able to return home yesterday for the first time. Hopefully Farquhar is able to make a full recovery and can continue to create a positive impact on this world, whether that be on the baseball diamond or in other ventures.

-So Vlad Guerrero Jr continues to be the most talked-about minor leaguer in the game today. Here’s something from a segment he was doing with Carlos Pena for MLB Network.

I don’t think the average person quite understands just how impressive this is. A lot of the power behind hitting a home run comes from how fast the pitch is being thrown. Normally guys don’t hit the ball very far off the tee because it’s just sitting still. Well Guerrero Jr is 19 years old and he’s putting a still baseball into the right field seats. This kid is going to be something special and if he’s just half of what his father was, the Blue Jays will have a guy to build around for the next 10 years.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: San Francisco Giants

I’m going to skip the intro to this one mainly because I’m writing this before I spend the entire day on the plane so if any big news happens in the sporting world, whether it be March Madness or NFL free agency or something else, I implore you to look elsewhere because I will be unable to provide you with any of those services. However I can preview baseball teams, which is what I’ll be doing today with this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the San Francisco Giants.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 40 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 23 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Andrew McCutchen, RP Tony Watson, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Austin Jackson, SP Derek Holland

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Matt Cain (retired), LF Michael Morse, CF Denard Span, 3B Christian Arroyo, SP Matt Moore, RP Kyle Crick

Best Offensive Player: C Buster Posey

Best Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner

Depth Chart:

C-Buster Posey, Nick Hundley

1B-Brandon Belt

2B-Joe Panik, Kelby Tomlinson

3B-Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval

SS-Brandon Crawford

LF-Hunter Pence, Jarrett Parker

CF-Austin Jackson, Gorkys Hernandez

RF-Andrew McCutchen, Mac Williamson

SP-Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton

Bullpen-Mark Melancon (CP), Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, Tony Watson, Cory Gearrin, Josh Osich

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bruce Bochy (12th season with Giants)

Hitting Coach-Alonzo Powell

Pitching Coach-Curt Young

1st Base Coach-Jose Alguacil

3rd Base Coach-Ron Wotus

Bench Coach-Hensley Meulens

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I don’t know what the Hell happened to the Giants last season but they are way too good a team to go 64-98 and tie for the worst record in all of baseball (the Tigers will hold the #1 overall pick in the draft thanks to a tie breaker after Pablo Sandoval hit a walkoff home run on the season’s final day). Injuries did play a factor but there was also a ton of ineffectiveness from Bruce Bochy’s squad. However they made several moves that should have Giants fans excited for the coming season. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. Andrew McCutchen-RF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Brandon Belt-1B

5. Evan Longoria-3B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-LF

8. Austin Jackson-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s a pretty solid lineup. Buster Posey is the highlight, of course. The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL MVP was the lone bright spot for the Giants last season. In 140 games, Posey hit .320 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI while playing above average defense behind the plate and being worth 4.3 WAR. However his efforts were wasted because other guys had down years. Brandon Belt’s 2017 was particularly poor as he only hit .241 with 18 homers and 51 RBI and was second on the team with a 2.3 WAR. I expect a bounceback year from him, though, as he dealt with injuries that limited him to 104 games last season. The Giants scored the second fewest runs in the Majors in 2017 and their shortstop Brandon Crawford was the team leader in RBIs at 77, which is not what you want to see, especially considering Crawford is better known for his defensive prowess than as a hitter. In fact, despite his typically stellar defense, Crawford was a league-average player with 2.0 WAR in 2017, as he only slashed .253/.305/.403 with 14 home runs in 144 games played. AT&T Park is up there with Kauffman Stadium as one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game so it’s going to hurt the overall numbers, but still, this lineup is too talented to repeat their 2017 performance, especially after the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, both of whom quietly had very strong seasons. Last season Longoria hit .261 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI while winning the AL Gold Glove for third basemen. McCutchen was also very good despite the fact that he’s far removed from the player who won the 2013 NL MVP. In 2017, McCutchen hit .279 with 28 homers and 88 RBI while being worth 3.7 WAR in what was probably his best season since he cut his dreadlocks. He was coming off an abysmal 2016 and a poor performance in the World Baseball Classic so to see him come together was encouraging. Where he actually slots in the lineup will be interesting to see because the Giants lack a true leadoff hitter and I think McCutchen or Joe Panik could be capable of taking over that role.

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Giants pitching fell on some hard times in 2017. Madison Bumgarner missed half the season due to injury while Jeff Samardzija had some of the worst luck on the mound and Johnny Cueto had an unusually below-average season. Matt Moore had the worst ERA in baseball and was shipped to Texas while Ty Blach had the worst K/9 rate in the Majors at 4.01. A healthy Bumgarner is a Cy Young candidate and can be downright untouchable, as we see every time the Giants are in the postseason, particularly the 2014 World Series. In 2016, his last healthy season, Bumgarner went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and nearly struck out 10 batters per 9 innings. Cueto started the All Star Game for the NL in 2016 but was strangely ineffective in 2017 as he had an ERA of 4.52 that wasn’t affected by his defense, as he had a 4.49 FIP. Samardzija had a below average ERA of 4.42 however he had a very respectable FIP of 3.61, which could suggest that he’s in for an uptick in production in 2018. On paper this is a very talented pitching rotation that really didn’t perform up to its capabilities in 2017 but I anticipate them being very solid in 2018.

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The Giants bullpen was decent in 2017, however closer Mark Melancon had a year he’d like to forget. He had an ERA of 4.50 while saving 11 out of 16 opportunities. He dealt with injury in 2017 and he will look to return to the form that made him an All Star with the Pirates. Sam Dyson had an ABYSMAL start to the 2017 season with the Rangers as he carried an ERA over 10 for much of the season before being shipped to the Giants. He still struggled by the bay but at least this performance was respectable, as he carried a 4.03 ERA in 38 appearances with the Giants. He’s been a successful closer in the past and the Giants are going to need him to return to some semblance of that form if they hope to have a solid option for the 8th inning. Hunter Strickland throws really hard but he holds grudges, as you may have seen when he pegged Bryce Harper for an incident that happened 3 years prior. However he was arguably the Giants’ best reliever last season as he posted an ERA of 2.64. Cory Gearrin had a strong season as well, posting a 1.99 ERA however that was helped immensely by the defense behind him as his FIP was near 4, so there may be some regression. There’s talent in this Giants ‘pen but they’ve got some work to do.

Overall, I think the Giants’ 2017 season was a fluke and I think their trend of bad odd-numbered years and good even-numbered years will continue this season. I’m not sure if it will be enough for them to make the postseason, as the NL West looks to be very challenging in 2018, but they will certainly be in the hunt for the Wild Card if not the division title at the very least.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Seattle Mariners, who always seem to be threatening to be really good but never quite reach that potential. Let me know what you think of the Giants’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.