Back from the boonies, and I'm scanning the box scores and game recaps. Ugh. It looks like everyone deserves some blame for the four-game losing streak: the starters and relievers in Cincy, the hitters in today's weakfest at Coors Field.
With one month to go, the big story for the Giants is the pitching. Sanchez is coming off shoulder problems and, despite his good showing today in a losing cause -- three earned runs, only three hits and six K's in seven mile-high innings -- there is no reason to push him hard down the stretch. The same applies to Cain and Lincecum. Perhaps the remaining off-days, this Thursday and Monday the 22nd, are enough to ease up on the young guys, but I have a better idea. The bullpen has been dreadful in recent weeks, so with the extra arms arriving -- Brad Hennessey today, perhaps Misch, Espineli, even a little more Matt Palmer in the next couple days -- why not cap Lincecum and Cain at 5 or 6 innings and turn September into an early competition for bullpen spots next year? It could get ugly: nearly everyone except Sergio Romo produced mediocre or worse numbers in August.
But the rotation isn't a question mark for next year; the bullpen is. The more the team can evaluate next year's candidates in real-world situations, the better. If that means sacrificing a couple wins for Lincecum or Cain down the stretch, so be it. If I were Bochy et al, I'd give the relievers a motivational speech: you'll get your chance to pitch down the stretch and impress us. Don't blow it.
A few other numbers to note in the final few weeks:
* Emmanuel Burriss's .363 OBP for the season. Maybe the power will arrive, maybe it won't. But Burriss, whom I've said all summer should spend '09 in the minors to refine his game, keeps getting on base. His August OBP was .402. Some of his recent surge came in Cincinnati, with six hits and three walks for the weekend. Let's see how it plays out beyond the friendly confines of the Great American Ball Park. Meanwhile, my early favorite for starting SS in '09, Ivan Ochoa, slumped in August.
* Pablo Sandoval, one walk in 60 at-bats. Yes, he's a hitting machine, and his ability to smack line drives the opposite way bodes well. But an unwillingness to take walks gives opposing pitchers a chance to study the video archives and put together a plan to get Sandoval out in 2009. Watch his remaining at-bats very carefully.
* Dave Roberts's .383 OBP / .450 SLG in August. Not counting his first few games back from the DL in July, Roberts has proven valuable as a bench player. I still think the Giants will trade either Roberts or Winn this winter, but trading both will be a tough task. If Winn is the easier one to trade, at least there's some sign that Roberts can still contribute in a limited role.
SMALL PRINT UPDATE: Hennessey, Scott McClain and Steve Holm are up. To make room for McClain, Guillermo Rodriguez was released.