Giants must rely on pitching staff
Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues at No. 17 with the San Francisco Giants.
2009 record: 88-74
Finish: Third place, NL West
2009 final payroll: $95.2 million
Estimated 2010 opening day payroll: $100 million
You figured finding a few bats to go with all that pitching wouldn’t be so hard, and that the Giants would have benefited from a series of events that included, but was not limited to, a pair of marital explosions (San Diego, Los Angeles) and a CEO/field manager turnover (Arizona) in the division and some crippling mediocrity among the league’s bigger spenders (Chicago, New York, Houston, Atlanta).
Given the Giants have what many teams want – pitching – and they were in the league’s bottom quarter in runs, home runs, on-base percentage and anything else Pablo Sandoval(notes) couldn’t save them from, the plan seemed clear.
Sadly for them, the market didn’t offer much, and Brian Sabean could be excused for believing what was there was overpriced. So, rather than have Matt Holliday(notes) or Jason Bay(notes) in left, or Adrian Beltre(notes) or Chone Figgins(notes) or Miguel Tejada(notes) at third, Sabean went this route:
Aubrey Huff(notes) will play first. Mark DeRosa(notes) will play left. Sandoval will play third. Edgar Renteria(notes), who’ll be 35 and apparently doesn’t hit NL pitching anymore either, will play shortstop. Freddy Sanchez(notes), who ordinarily can hit any pitching, has had knee and shoulder surgeries and might not be ready on opening day. He’ll play second base when he gets back.
Assuming this group scores a few more runs than last year’s group, it’s likely they’ll give a few back defensively, too. Maybe a lot back.
Fortunately, the Giants waited out the Mets and were able to re-sign Bengie Molina(notes), who, alas, is coming off the worst season of his career. But he is much closer to the problem than the solution.
They still could take advantage of a soft league, although they haven’t made it any easier on themselves.
The Giants probably could have added some offense by trade, but they would have had to relinquish Matt Cain(notes) or Jonathan Sanchez(notes) or worse, and they foresee a buyers’ free-agent market next winter.
So, in what could be a down year in the division, they’re left to hope they can throw quality start after quality start at their down offensive moments, which could be long and ugly but maybe not completely disabling.
On pitching alone, they should contend. Their starters were third in the league in ERA, first in complete games, third in innings pitched and first in batting average against and strikeouts. As a staff, the Giants were the only team in baseball to strike out 1,300 hitters.
Now they’re a year further along, so Madison Bumgarner(notes) and/or Kevin Pucetas(notes) are close to arriving, and Tim Lincecum(notes) is Tim Lincecum, Cain is grown up, and Barry Zito(notes) is a 10-win-a-year machine, for whatever that’s worth. And they’re not going anywhere for a while.
Sabean has enough depth to wait another month and see what – if anything – shakes out among the pitchers still looking for work. Maybe Jon Garland(notes) falls into his lap or Erik Bedard(notes) or Ben Sheets(notes) or someone just enough to tide him over to Bumgarner.
If the pitching gets sideways in the least, the Giants are in trouble because they won’t be able to hit themselves straight.
NEXT: Detroit Tigers