San Francisco Giants

 

 2006 Finish:  76-85, 3rd place in the NL West, 11.5 games back

Manager:  Bruce Bochy, first year with the Giants

Comings: LHP Barry Zito, CF Dave Roberts, C Benji Molina, 1B Ryan Klesko

Goings: RHP Jason Schmidt, RF Moises Alou, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, C Mike Matheny

Offense:  The offense goes as LF Barry Bonds goes.  The everyday lineup is old and succeptible to breakdown.  Bonds has looked good in spring so far, showing a spring in his step not exhibited by the surly slugger in quite awhile.  Talk has been about batting Bonds third and he surprisingly has agreed to make the switch from the cleanup spot.  Roberts was brought in to be the catalyst at the top of the lineup. 2B Ray Durham posted career highs with 26 homers and 93 RBIs while batting behind Bonds.  He is projected to hit cleanup with Bonds being moved to the third spot.  Molina was brought in to replace Matheny.  Last year Molina hit .284 with 19 HRs and 57 RBIs.  First base will be shared by veterans Rich Aurillia and Ryan Klesko.  SS Omar Vizquel would like an extension but the Giants are not sure about giving a multiyear deal to a 40 year old shortstop.  He had another very solid season hitting .295 while still exhibiting Gold Glove defense.  RF Randy Winn struggled only hitting .262 and provides a lot less power than a typical right fielder gives a team.  3B Pedro Feliz is streaky.  He had a solid first half and a poor second half.  He strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough.

Rotation:  The Giants paid Zito big bucks to come in and be there number 1.  He showed up to camp with different mechanics and larger legs and the Giants talked him in to going back to his old mechanics. He also should be much healthier than Schmidt who has had a history of injuries.  RHP Matt Morris was really bad in his first year in the Bay.  He went 10-15 with and ERA near 5.  RHP Matt Cain was good in his first complete season. He went 13-12 with a 4.15 ERA but had an ERA of just over 3 the last two months of the season.  LHP Noah Lowry is shaky but should continue to improve.  The fifth spot in the rotation looks like it could come down between veteran RHP Russ Ortiz and the Giants’ number 1 prospect Tim Lincecum.  LHP Jonathan Sanchez also has to be in the mix.  More on both below. 

Bullpen:  This definitely is the Giants’ achilles heal.  No one associated with the Giants really want the inconsistent Armandon Benitez back.  The Giants say there best closer canidate is RHP Brian Wilson who has 1 career save.  RHPs Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia both pitched well out of the pen last year.  The losers of the fifth starter competition could be put in the bullpen.  LHP Steve Kline did post a 3.66 ERA but left handed hitters hit .266 off of him last year.

Prospects:

Tim Lincecum–Giants first rounder in last year’s draft out of the University of Washington.  Listed as only 5’10”  but has a big time arm.  If he were 4-5 inches taller, he might have been the number 1 overall pick.  Lots of comparisons to Pedro Martinez due to his stature.  Struck out 58 in 32 innings in his pro debut. There is no debate on whether he will make the big leagues, but the debate is over if he projects as a starter or closer long term.  He should make his Major League debut this summer.

Jonathan Sanchez–LHP–Projects to be a durable lefty starter but made his major league debut in 06 as a reliever based on the Giants’ need. He went 3-1 in limited action last year for the Giants.

Analysis: The bullpen is weak.  Besides Zito and Cain the rest of the rotation is very mediocre.  Then there is all the Bonds drama.  Will he be indicted?  Will he be hurt?  How much will his chase of the homerun record affect the team.  Some analysts are picking the Giants to win the West, but I would be surprised if they finish above .500.

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1 Comment

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One response to “San Francisco Giants

  1. Roger

    Glad I ran into your stuff just yesterday, Whitey. Just in time for an anlysis of my favorite team.

    I think your analysis is pretty much right on, with the Giants likely a close-to-.500 team which could win ten more or 15 fewer than .500, but which likely won’t be too much better than the 76 wins they stumbled to in 2006.

    Bonds says he is feeling much better than last year and that he was fully healthy for only August and September of last year. He batted over .300 the last two months of last season and hit 12 of his 26 homers in the season’s final third. But for the Giants to break 800 runs, they would probably need him to return to his 2001-2004 form, which seems as unlikely as that he would have been able to achieve that form in the first place. And now he’s six years older than in 2001, reaching 43 years of age right after the All-Star break. The Giants have improved their hitting at first base, where it could hardly have been worse. But they haven’t replaced the bat of Moises Alou, and Ray Durham seems unlikely to forge another career season.

    The starting pitching should be improved, although while the team’s strongpoint, it is still replete with question marks. Will Barry Zito outpitch the 2006 Jason Schmidt, let alone justify his becoming the $126 million man? Will Matt Morris and Noah Lowry bounce back from injury-riddled seasons? Will Matt Cain become the staff ace before Tim Lincecum takes that honor away from him or Zito? Is Russ Ortiz truly resurrected? The beauty is that the Giants have Lincecum, Johathan Sanchez, Kevin Correia and Brad Hennessey as capable replacements for the fifth starter spot if Ortiz fails. That is a luxury now, but could become a luxury if Morris, Lowry and/or Ortiz don’t improve over last year.

    The bullpen is filled with candidates, but almost all are bouncing back from serious injury or are unproven. Relative unknown Billy Sadler could be the sleeper, but thus far he has struggled this spring after an outstanding fall after striking out six in the four innings of his September callup.

    Lincecum appears to be the Giants best prospect since at least Matt Williams, and he could be in the class with 50’s and early 60’s prospects Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. Lincecum and Cain could form the Giants best pitching tandem since Marichal and Perry. Sanchez also appears to be a solid prospect, although arm difficulties could limit him to the bullpen.

    The question about whether Lincecum starts or relieves would best be answered by the Ginats needing him to do both. And to some degree, he might be able to. Concern about Lincecum’s longevity led to his falilng to the Giants at #10 in last year’s draft,but the scouts should have asked his father, Chris, who himself was clocked at 88 mph — at the age of 55! Lincecum’s using his whole body in his pitching would seem to make him a low injury risk, and his dad thinks he could pitch relief between starts on the day he would otherwise throw in the bullpen between starts anyway — just like the oldtimers on whose composite motions Tim’s was built. Chris also thinks that Tim could pitch darn near every day as long as his daily pitches were limited. So will Tim become a closer or a super-starter? The Giants are grooming him merely to remain a starter. With him, Cain and Zito (and perhaps Lowry and Sanchez) in the Giants rotation, they could be set for years.

    They had better be, since the Giants have no likely impact position players ahead of 16-year-old third base phenom Angel Villalona. The Giants offense has feasted off Bonds for over a decade. Unfortunately there are 26 years between the ages of Bonds and Villalona, indicating a likely gap of a few years.

    The Giants of 2006 look to be a team transitioning from the hitting era of Bonds to the pitching era of Lincecum and Cain. Whether they are rebuilding or retooling remains to be seen, but in truth the everyday tools are getting quite old, lending one to believe that the Giants have little to retool with. And an improvement for them over their last two disappointing seasons could mean only .500 — if that.

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