San Francisco Giants 2010 preview

If the Giants ever reach the playoffs, they will be difficult to beat because of their standout pitching. Last season, ace Tim Lincecum won his second consecutive NL Cy Young award, Matt Cain finished 10th in the majors with a 2.89 ERA and Jonathan Sanchez tossed a no-hitter. Closer Brian Wilson had 38 saves. But before they worry about October, the Giants need someone to step up and help Pablo Sandoval pump up the offense.

The Giants know Pablo Sandoval can hit, but where will the rest of the offense come from?
The Giants know Pablo Sandoval can hit, but where will the rest of the offense come from?

Three questions

1. Do they have enough offense?
The Giants have one of the NL’s best hitters in the "Kung Fu Panda," 23-year-old switch hitter Pablo Sandoval. In 2009, Sandoval hit 13 homers at AT&T Park, the most by a Giant since Barry Bonds hit 16 in 2007. Instead of pursuing Jason Bay or Matt Holliday in free agency, however, the Giants brought in veterans Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff.

In addition to new hitting coach Hensley Meulens, will the newcomers be enough to turn around an offense that took fewer pitches and reached base less than any in the majors last season? "Lack of consistency was what got us in trouble," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That’s why this winter, (GM) Brian Sabean and the organization got some guys who could not just get on base, but be a little more selective at the plate and also drive in runs."

2. Where else are they lacking?
Another reason San Francisco had such a low on-base percentage was because it had no one with the speed to leg out infield hits. And still doesn’t. This could be the majors’ slowest team; not a single regular has plus speed. The Giants’ center fielder is Aaron Rowand, who is known more for his fearlessness than his wheels. Shortstop Edgar Renteria never was a blazer and is going on 35. Catcher Bengie Molina is one of the slowest runners in the game.

The lack of team speed won’t hurt only offensively. The Giants will be hard-pressed to cover their roomy outfield, and except for Freddy Sanchez at second, none of the infielders can be expected to cover a much ground.

3. What about that pitching?
Forget Lincecum’s struggles this spring. It took him awhile to get rolling last year and when he did, he was the best in the NL. Lefthander Barry Zito never will live up to his $126 million contract, but he proved huge in the second half when he put up better numbers than Cain. If Zito can begin 2010 like he finished 2009, the Giants will have the best 1-2-3 starters in the division — and perhaps in the NL. The fourth and fifth starters are less stable, with Sanchez still seeking consistency and Todd Wellemeyer coming off a subpar season. Madison Bumgarner, 20, would give the rotation a third lefty if eventually promoted.

The bullpen, led by Wilson, should continue to be a strength even though it could feature only one lefthander — reliable Jeremy Affeldt.

Projected lineup
1. CF Aaron Rowand: .341 OBP when leading off in ’09; .319 overall.
2. 2B Freddy Sanchez: Will start season on D.L. (shoulder surgery).
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval: .387 OBP, .330 AVG, .943 OPS last season.
4. 1B Aubrey Huff: Career lows in ’09: .241 AVG, .310 OBP.
5. LF Mark DeRosa: 23 HRs despite second-half wrist injury.
6. C Bengie Molina: More HRs (20) than BBs (13) last season.
7. SS Edgar Renteria: Career lows in ’09: .250 AVG, .307 OBP, .328 SLG.
8. RF Nate Schierholtz: 6 HRs in 472 career at-bats.

PROJECTED ROTATION
1. RHP Tim Lincecum: Past two seasons: 452 1/3 IP, 2.55 ERA.
2. RHP Matt Cain: Tied Lincecum for NL lead with 4 CGs in ’09.
3. LHP Barry Zito: 2.83 ERA in 15 second-half starts; 5.01 in 18 first-half starts.
4. LHP Jonathan Sanchez: 3.83 ERA in 15 second-half starts; 4.69 before break. 5. RHP Todd Wellemeyer: 3.71 ERA for Cardinals in ’08; 5.89 in ’09

Projected lineup
RHP Brian Wilson: Converted 79 of 92 save chances the past 2 seasons.

Grades

Offense: C. The Giants had the fewest walks in the majors last season, so it should be no surprise they also had the lowest on-base percentage (.309). They didn’t have much power, either, as their 122 homers surpassed only the Mets’ 95. DeRosa and Huff should provide Sandoval more support than he had last season.

Pitching: A. It doesn’t get much better than Lincecum and Cain at the front end of the rotation and Wilson coming in for the ninth. There are plenty of quality arms in between, as well, including Zito, Affeldt and righthanded reliever Brandon Medders.

Bench: B. First baseman Travis Ishikawa, outfielder Eugenio Velez and infielder Juan Uribe all return after playing regularly for much of last season. Velez is the rare Giant with speed. Ishikawa will, at the least, be used often as a late-inning defensive replacement at first. It remains to be seen whether the Giants will carry top prospect Buster Posey as a backup catcher/infielder.

Manager: B. Last year’s 16-game improvement gave Bochy his first winning season in San Francisco and helped him secure a two-year extension. In 12 seasons with San Diego before being hired by the Giants, Bochy took the Padres to the playoffs four times.

Sporting News prediction: Even if the offense is improved, the Giants lack the firepower to hang in there with the Rockies and Dodgers over a 162-game season.

Coming Thursday: Padres preview

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

If the Giants ever reach the playoffs, they will be difficult to beat because of their standout pitching. Last season, ace Tim Lincecum won his second consecutive NL Cy Young award, Matt Cain finished 10th in the majors with a 2.89 ERA and Jonathan Sanchez tossed a no-hitter. Closer Brian Wilson had 38 saves. But before they worry about October, the Giants need someone to step up and help Pablo Sandoval pump up the offense.

The Giants know Pablo Sandoval can hit, but where will the rest of the offense come from?
The Giants know Pablo Sandoval can hit, but where will the rest of the offense come from?

Three questions

1. Do they have enough offense?
The Giants have one of the NL’s best hitters in the "Kung Fu Panda," 23-year-old switch hitter Pablo Sandoval. In 2009, Sandoval hit 13 homers at AT&T Park, the most by a Giant since Barry Bonds hit 16 in 2007. Instead of pursuing Jason Bay or Matt Holliday in free agency, however, the Giants brought in veterans Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff.

In addition to new hitting coach Hensley Meulens, will the newcomers be enough to turn around an offense that took fewer pitches and reached base less than any in the majors last season? "Lack of consistency was what got us in trouble," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That’s why this winter, (GM) Brian Sabean and the organization got some guys who could not just get on base, but be a little more selective at the plate and also drive in runs."

2. Where else are they lacking?
Another reason San Francisco had such a low on-base percentage was because it had no one with the speed to leg out infield hits. And still doesn’t. This could be the majors’ slowest team; not a single regular has plus speed. The Giants’ center fielder is Aaron Rowand, who is known more for his fearlessness than his wheels. Shortstop Edgar Renteria never was a blazer and is going on 35. Catcher Bengie Molina is one of the slowest runners in the game.

The lack of team speed won’t hurt only offensively. The Giants will be hard-pressed to cover their roomy outfield, and except for Freddy Sanchez at second, none of the infielders can be expected to cover a much ground.

3. What about that pitching?
Forget Lincecum’s struggles this spring. It took him awhile to get rolling last year and when he did, he was the best in the NL. Lefthander Barry Zito never will live up to his $126 million contract, but he proved huge in the second half when he put up better numbers than Cain. If Zito can begin 2010 like he finished 2009, the Giants will have the best 1-2-3 starters in the division — and perhaps in the NL. The fourth and fifth starters are less stable, with Sanchez still seeking consistency and Todd Wellemeyer coming off a subpar season. Madison Bumgarner, 20, would give the rotation a third lefty if eventually promoted.

The bullpen, led by Wilson, should continue to be a strength even though it could feature only one lefthander — reliable Jeremy Affeldt.

Projected lineup
1. CF Aaron Rowand: .341 OBP when leading off in ’09; .319 overall.
2. 2B Freddy Sanchez: Will start season on D.L. (shoulder surgery).
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval: .387 OBP, .330 AVG, .943 OPS last season.
4. 1B Aubrey Huff: Career lows in ’09: .241 AVG, .310 OBP.
5. LF Mark DeRosa: 23 HRs despite second-half wrist injury.
6. C Bengie Molina: More HRs (20) than BBs (13) last season.
7. SS Edgar Renteria: Career lows in ’09: .250 AVG, .307 OBP, .328 SLG.
8. RF Nate Schierholtz: 6 HRs in 472 career at-bats.

PROJECTED ROTATION
1. RHP Tim Lincecum: Past two seasons: 452 1/3 IP, 2.55 ERA.
2. RHP Matt Cain: Tied Lincecum for NL lead with 4 CGs in ’09.
3. LHP Barry Zito: 2.83 ERA in 15 second-half starts; 5.01 in 18 first-half starts.
4. LHP Jonathan Sanchez: 3.83 ERA in 15 second-half starts; 4.69 before break. 5. RHP Todd Wellemeyer: 3.71 ERA for Cardinals in ’08; 5.89 in ’09

Projected lineup
RHP Brian Wilson: Converted 79 of 92 save chances the past 2 seasons.

Grades

Offense: C. The Giants had the fewest walks in the majors last season, so it should be no surprise they also had the lowest on-base percentage (.309). They didn’t have much power, either, as their 122 homers surpassed only the Mets’ 95. DeRosa and Huff should provide Sandoval more support than he had last season.

Pitching: A. It doesn’t get much better than Lincecum and Cain at the front end of the rotation and Wilson coming in for the ninth. There are plenty of quality arms in between, as well, including Zito, Affeldt and righthanded reliever Brandon Medders.

Bench: B. First baseman Travis Ishikawa, outfielder Eugenio Velez and infielder Juan Uribe all return after playing regularly for much of last season. Velez is the rare Giant with speed. Ishikawa will, at the least, be used often as a late-inning defensive replacement at first. It remains to be seen whether the Giants will carry top prospect Buster Posey as a backup catcher/infielder.

Manager: B. Last year’s 16-game improvement gave Bochy his first winning season in San Francisco and helped him secure a two-year extension. In 12 seasons with San Diego before being hired by the Giants, Bochy took the Padres to the playoffs four times.

Sporting News prediction: Even if the offense is improved, the Giants lack the firepower to hang in there with the Rockies and Dodgers over a 162-game season.

Coming Thursday: Padres preview

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*