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San Francisco Giants series preview with Grant Brisbee

The Reds old NL West rivals come to town for a big stinkin' 4 game series.

None of these guys are playing right now.
None of these guys are playing right now.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

I've always had a weird appreciation for the San Francisco Giants despite that godawful debacle in 2012.  As if watching Kevin Mitchell mash 49 dingers and make barehanded grabs in the outfield wasn't enough, I spent my entire Little League career on the Giants being a foot shorter than everyone else and jumping away from each and every pitch thrown while at bat even if they were right down the pipe.  Stupid late growth spurts.

And, as many of you know, this was one of my most prized possessions.

The former NL West rivals of the Cincinnati Reds roll into town tonight to begin a four game weekend series, and each time these two teams clash I get a bit extra excited.  Nostalgic, too.

After their loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 19th, the Giants sat just 4-10, losers of 9 of their last 10, and it looked as if the weird odd-year curse was once again settling in for the reigning Wolrd Series champs.  Since then, however, they've gone 13-7 - including a 5 game win streak to begin the month of May - and they'll face off tonight against Cincinnati with both teams sporting identical 17-17 records.  How the two teams have gone about getting to that point couldn't really be any different, though.

While the Reds have bashed 42 dingers and seem intent on fielding a low average, low OBP, high pop offense, the Giants have built a squad that has hit .260 as a team and sports 21 more doubles than the Reds.  They've had a hard time turning those doubles into runs, however, as the 3.3 runs they've averaged per game is better than only the Philadelphia Phillies among NL squads.  In fact, their -0.5 run differential per game is the 4th worst in the NL, but that's been largely mitigated by a pitching staff that has kept them in most of the games they've played and a bullpen that runs laps around what the Reds have rolled out.

They've done this all without the services of All Star RF Hunter Pence, who has missed the entire season thus far with a broken forearm, though he appears to be rehabbing that quite effectively.  The Giants have also been without the services of their highest paid pitcher, Matt Cain, who has been sidelined with a flexor tendon issue akin to the ones that befell both Jonathan Broxton and Homer Bailey in the past.  As of yesterday, Pence appears set to return to the Giants next week, while Cain is still weeks away, so neither should factor into this weekend's series.

The Giants still have Buster Posey, who is doing fairly typical Buster Posey things, and they've been buoyed by the healthy return of Angel Pagan and the RF signing many Reds had hoped for in Nori Aoki.  Coupled with the torrid start to the season from SS Brandon Crawford, and their offense has rebounded from a sluggish start to show decent depth and ability.  On the mound, the familiar trio of Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong are all around and will each face the Reds this series, with Lincecum finding success again, albeit in a much different way than in his flamethrowing, Cy Young days.  The Reds will miss the ageless Tim Hudson, and instead will get to face 27 year old rookie Chris Heston, who has transitioned from relative unknown reliever and minor league starter to a guy on pace for a 4+ bWAR season.

In other words, the same core that has won three of the last five World Series championships is still largely around and intact, and there really shouldn't be too many surprises on the field as the teams clash this week.  Their success has been annoying as hell to some - and there's no denying that the 2012 NLDS has a holy hell of a lot to do with that - but the way I look at it, the Giants are the one thing that has kept the filthy St. Louis Cardinals from establishing a dynasty over the last half decade.  So, for that, I thank them.

For more insight into the Giants, I reached out to McCovey Chronicles' Funnies-In-Chief Grant Brisbee to see what he had to say.  Here's that:

Wick Terrell - Tim Lincecum's average fastball velocity wouldn't even get pulled over on most highways out West, yet he's sporting a 2.00 ERA through six starts, and both his FIP and BABIP suggest that isn't terribly out of line.  And, of course, he's in a contract year.  Where you do you see his 2015 going, and do you think it'll be enough for the Giants to keep him around once more?

Grant Brisbee - He's keeping the ball down, and he's become something of a sinkerballer, which ... I mean, it should work in theory, considering that even with the velocity drop, he was still deceptive enough to miss bats, so the added bonus of grounders would be a good thing. But it took a lot of work to turn me away from being perpetually optimistic that the old Lincecum was going to return. It took three full seasons. Six starts isn't enough to undo the callous cynicism we've all built up.

But I'm rooting for it!

WT - Brandon Crawford really is going to start the All Star Game, isn't he?

GB - He started last season hot, too, but my word, is he hitting everything hard. FanGraphs has him 14th in the NL for hard contact percentage -- just a tick before Bryce Harper. My secret hope for years was that he would turn out to be J.J. Hardy, but it was so ridiculous I didn't actually tell anyone. If this is real, though ...

WT - The Giants bullpen features a bevy of guys with ERAs that start with 1s and 2s and what the hell is that about and how do the Reds get one or five?

GB - First step: Don't worry about strikeouts. It's okay if you have one showoff, maybe two, but for the most part, just forget about it. Let the batters hit it -- the defense will figure it out.

Second step: Give long-term contacts to relievers. This works without fail. The Giants have had four relievers on the team since 2010, and it was totally obvious that all four of them would still be relevant five years later, because that's how bullpens work.

Third step: Seriously, don't worry about strikeouts and give out long-term contracts. It's worked for every bullpen before this one, so I don't see what the mystery is.

WT - Barry Bonds had his obstruction of justice conviction overturned and Pete Rose is now a Fox baseball analyst who'll be allowed to participate in All Star Game festivities in Cincinnati this summer.  How many pages into your Pete/Barry buddy cop screenplay are you, and do you have any need for an extra who can grow a mean mustache?  I may know a guy...

GB - Still knee deep in my Pete Rose, Jr. novel, where he spends a month each living with Al Weis, Ken McMullen, and Pedro Gonzalez, who were the other three prospects on his dad's rookie card. It's called Charlie Hug-stle: Finding the Dad Who Should Have Been.

WT - Tim Hudson will likely retire after 2015, and both Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong are in the final years of their contracts.  Mike Leake - who is also about to reach free agency - has always had that "he's going to end up a Giant" feel to me.  What do you think the chances are the Giants make a run at signing him this offseason?  You probably like his socks.

GB - I like jokes about his shirt, at least.

Leake seems very Giants, but so did Bronson Arroyo. I'm pretty bad at figuring out who's going to be a Giant, other than Michael Morse. He was very, very obvious for some reason.

WT - Buster Posey, Joe Panik, and Nori Aoki combined have an equal number of walks as they do strikeouts (at least, they did on Tuesday when this got asked).  What is this devil magic and why don't they swing out of their shoes at everything like the Reds do?

GB - See, when you watch them, you're convinced they do swing out of their shoes. It's the dangdest thing.

Aoki and Posey have been doing this to some extent for years, but I'm just tickled with Panik doing it. He some very tiny hoops to jump through if he wanted to be successful, and he's been doing most of them. People grumbled about him as a prospect because he had a limited ceiling, but at least he's been ramming that ceiling at full force so far.


Many thanks, Grant.  For more on the Giants and Hunter Pence's laser cannon eyeballs, stop by McCovey Chronicles.  Be sure to say hello to Cy Schourek while you're there.