Baggs makes his fearless predictions for MLB 2012

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Baggs makes his fearless predictions for MLB 2012

PHOENIX Tim Lincecum is about to twirl and deal for keeps,which means Id better hustle to get my 2012 predictions out there.

Annual reminder: Infotainment purposes only. Please do notpawn any belongings on your way to the sportsbook. (Unless its that euphonium.Youre never actually going to learn to play that thing, are you?)

AL WEST: Rangers, Angels, Mariners, As
Not sure if Texas can get back to the World Series, but Ilove their power-packed lineup. Even though the Angels staff might be bettertop to bottom, Texas has plenty of live arms in the rotation and bullpen.

AL CENTRAL: Tigers, Royals, Indians, Twins, White Sox
You heard it here first: The Royals will score more runsthan the Tigers this season. Youre welcome, Jonathan Sanchez. Justin Verlanderis still better than you, though.

AL EAST: Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles
Anyone who thinks about picking Baltimore also thinks aboutself-appendectomies. I like everything about the Rays except Joe Maddon dyeinghis hair.

WILD CARDS: Yankees, ANGELS
Id love to take the Royals as my dark horse team. But itshard to pick against the second-place clubs in the West and East. Mike Sciosciamight resemble the Kool-Aid man more and more every year in that redwindbreaker, but the man knows how to beat the Yankees.

NL WEST: Diamondbacks, Giants, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres
Very, very tough call here. Im going with the Diamondbacksbased on their farm system in addition to the major league roster. Where theGiants have little rotation depth, Arizona could call up Trevor Bauer or TommySkaggs. Theyve got more in their system to trade in late summer, too. Plus Imnot sold on the Giants leadoff situation.
NL CENTRAL: Brewers, Reds, Cardinals, Cubs, Pirates, Astros
Houston will be baseballs only sixth place team, but thatsonly because by rule, they cant finish 187th. Lets go withMilwaukee here. Theyll still hit plenty, and their top three starters are theclass of the division.

NL EAST: Phillies, Marlins, Nationals, Braves, Mets
The Phillies lineup is getting so old, I half expected themto sign Steve Finley on general principle. But, hey. Halladay, Lee, Hamels.That gets you a hand stamp. Plus the Marlins will be in a fishbowl, literallyand figuratively, as the newest subjects of The Franchise. Cant wait for theshow where Zambrano and Ozzie go to the Sunglasses Hut together.

WILD CARDS: GIANTS, Reds
The Giants have not fared well in one-game wild cardplayoffs. Dont worry. Mark Gardner will not start this time.

ALCS: Tigers over Rays
NLCS: Brewers over Giants
World Series: Tigers over Brewers
Viva la Rust Belt. Prince Fielder clubs a game winner offJohn Axford, and all six people who live in downtown Detroit celebrate.

Awards!
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
NL Cy Young: Zack Greinke
AL Rookie: Matt Moore
NL Rookie: Zack Cozart
AL Manager: Whoever the Royals manager is. Wait, its NedYost? I may have to rethink this whole dark horse thing
NL Manager: Ron Roenicke
Choco Tacos I will consume in Coors Field press box: Atleast eight.

Enjoy the season!

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.