30 Teams in 30 Days: San Francisco Giants Preview

Giants

San Francisco Giants – National League West

2009 Record: 88-74, 3rd Place in the National League West, 7.0 Games Back

2009 Review: The Giants won 16 more games in 2009 than they did in 2008. The Giants arguably had the best pitching staff in the majors. Led by Cy Yong Award winner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Randy Johnson, the pitching staff gave up an average of 3.77 runs per game. Yet they still finished in third in the National League West, the team and the fans considered the season a failure as they did not make the playoffs and the division was won by the Dodgers.

With four of the five starters in the rotation making at least 32 starts, the Giants pitching staff finished in the Top 5 in the National League in Wins, Earned Run Average, Complete Games, Shutouts, Hits Allowed, Runs, Earned Runs and Home Runs Allowed. Lincecum had 15 wins, Cain had 14 and each had an ERA under 3.00. Closer Brian Wilson had 38 saves, setup man Brandon Medders had 5 wins and an ERA of 3.01 in 61 games. Other bullpen stalwarts included Jeremy Affeldt, Merkin Valdez, Bob Howry, Justin Miller, and Sergio Romo all pitched in over 40 games each, adding an additional 14 wins to the team.

If not for the emergence of Pablo Sandoval (aka Kung Fu Panda), the Giants offense would be considered abysmal, at best. Except for Sandoval, only three Giants had more than 10 home runs. Only Sandoval had more than 80 runs batted in. Besides Sandoval, only two other Giants had a batting average above .270. In the National League, the Giants ranked worse than tenth in runs, doubles, home runs, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage and total bases. No matter how good your pitching is, you cannot consistantly win without the offensive ability to score runs. The Giants did not have that ability.

One of the reasons for this issue was the Giants inability to spend money wisely. In 2009, Barry Zito made $18.5 million dollars. Barry Zito was 10-13 with an ERA of 4.03. The cost per value of this pitcher is very low. Aaron Rowand was signed to a five year contract in 2008 that paid him $9 million in 2009. Rowand had 15 home runs, 64 runs batted in and hit .261. Another player the Giants had that was not worth his contract. Edgar Renteria hit .250 and was paid $7 million. Randy Winn hit .262 with two home runs. His salary $9.25 million. The team was also paying Dave Roberts $6.25 million and he was not even on the team. Add that up and $50 million was spent on five guys that were not worth their contract. Many teams have this issue, but nowhere was it as obvious as it was in San Francisco.

With great pitching and a poor offense, the Giants had a good season winning 88 games, a big improvement over the previous season. However, the season came up short, four games out of the wild card race and another long off-season for the fans and front office in the City by the Bay.

Key Losses for 2010:
I am not really sure how to go through this. I do not think the Giants had any “key” losses from the team in 2009, as they kept their best pitchers, best player and resigned their catcher. However, here is some of the more well known players that will not return.

Rick Aurilia (2009 Salary – $1 million) left for free agency. He will be 38 this year and played in only 6o games last year, hitting .213.

Bob Howry (2009 Salary – $2.75 million) left for free agency. Howry leaving will hurt the Giants. He pitched in 63 games ou of the bullpen, with a 3.39 ERA and a WHIP of 1.147. Although only having a 2-6 record, be was a good addition to the bullpen.

Randy Johnson retired (2009 Salary – $8 million). Johnson was 8-6 and is one of the career all-time leaders in strikeouts. However, he spent part of the season on the disabled list. He will be in the Hall of Fame in 2014. The question will be, “What hat will he wear in the Hall?”

Randy Winn (2009 Salary – $9.25 million) left for free agency. For a team looking to get younger and save money, this was a smart move.

Other Giants not returning for the 2010 season include: Ryan Garko, Noah Lowry, Justin Miller, Brad Penny, Merkin Valdez.

Just as a note, Giants will be saving themselves over $22 million in salary from the players listed above not returning.

Additions for 2010:

The San Francisco Giants signed two free agents to major league contracts for the 2010 season, Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff.

Mark DeRosa signed as a free agent after a career year in 2009, split between the Cardinals and the Indians. In his 12 seasons in the majors, he has a batting average of .275 and hit 23 of his career 92 home runs in 2009. He also drove in 78 runs in 2009, second most of his career. He is a player that can play nearly every position in the field. In 2009, he played first, second and third base as well as left and right field. He will be a quality upgrade over Randy Winn in the outfield.

Aubrey Huff was signed to play first base for the Giants. By signing Huff, Panda can focus on third base, instead of playing some games at first as he did in 2009. Huff should rebound from a poor hitting season in 2009, where he hit .241 with 15 home runs, splitting the season between the Orioles and the Tigers. He is a career .282 hitter and averages over 20 home runs per season. If he gets back to his typical form, the $3 million is money well spent.

Other players signed by the Giants to minor league contracts: Denny Bautista, Kevin Cameron, Santiago Casilla, Eric Hacker, Byung-Hyun Kim, Guillermo Mota, Horacio Ramirez, Todd Wellemeyer

2010 Preview: Once again, the strength for the Giants will be the starting pitching. They have the returning Cy Young Award Tim Lincecum and 25 year old Matt Cain, who on many other rosters would be ace of the staff. The Giants are hoping that Barry Zito can add onto the 10 games he won in 2009 and he should as he “re-found” his curveball in 2009 and should improve again in 2010. The other two starting spots should go to young pitchers. Jonathon Sanchez was 8-12 in 2009 and should improve as he struck out 177 in 163 innings. In the fifth spot, look for Madison Bumgarner to come out of spring training even though he is only 20 years old. In his minor league career, he is 27-5 with an ERA under 2.00 and 256 strikeouts in 273 innings. This starting five should be formidable once again and expect them to potentially win 60 to 65 games as a starting staff. In addition to the starting staff, expect the bullpen anchored by closer Brian Wilson to once again be a strong spot for the Giants.

The Giants infield has potential to be solid in 2010. Pablo Sandoval is back and is a year older. He will be able to concentrate on third base and continue to get comfortable against National League pitching. If he improves on 2010, expect him to compete for MVP. The Giants will have the double play combination of Edgar Renteria and Freddy Sanchez (obtained from Pittsburgh in 2009). Sanchez is a career .299 hitter and former league leader in batting average. He doesn’t strike out too often and gets on base. Put him at the top of the order with Renteria, who should bounce back from 2009, and Sandoval will flourish even further. The resigning of Molina is also a huge accomplishment as he will continue his spot in the heart of the batting order and taking care of the pitchers once again in 2010.

As mentioned before, the signing of DeRosa will improve the outfield immediately. He will have a better season than Winn had and will make less money. The Giants are expecting Aaron Rowand to have a better season than 2009 and the last outfield spot is up for grabs. Look or Nate Schierholtz to be a starter. In parts of three seasons, he has hit .284 in the major leagues but has very little power. In his minor league career, he has averaged around 15 home runs per season. The outfield will be younger and faster. The Giants only hope the word improved can also be added.

Looking at the Giants and the National League West, I would look for them to win around 90 games and compete for the Wild Card in the National League. If their pitching staff stays healthy and their starters perform as expected you may see October baseball in San Francisco for the first time since 2003.

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