Every day, I will be presenting a season preview for individual MLB teams. Today we look at the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants set out this off-season in search of offense. Ranking 26th in all of baseball in runs scored, the Giants had far too many holes throughout their lineup. One player who is not a hole is Pablo Sandoval, the loveable free swinging third baseman. He led the team in RBI, HRs and AVG. He carried the Giants into contention for the NL West and the wildcard. Without him, the Giants would have had nothing offensively. So GM Brian Sabean traded for Freddy Sanchez at last year's deadline. He welcomed in Aubrey Huff and his 203 career HRs. He signed highly-sought-after utility man Mark De Rosa and inserted him into LF. Finally, he brought back valuable bench man Juan Uribe. Uribe, who doesn't light the world on fire with his glove, offers a powerful punch off of the bench with his bat. Look for him to steal the SS job from an aging Edgar Renterria if he falters. I like Sabean's series of moves because this team doesn't need to be a great hitting team to win, just a good one. As long as their offense is middle-of-the-road then the Giants will win games. Which brings us to their pitching...
Matt Cain's resurgence last season was a welcome sight for Giants fans. The former 25th pick in the draft shook off the inconsistency exhibited early in his career and dominated. His 2.89 ERA put him in the top ten of MLB starters. His emergence, coupled with the continued dominance of two-time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, gives the Giants a duo that could win post season series' by themselves. Barry Zito continues to flummox fans. If he can ever return to the form that won him a Cy Young award in '02, the Giants could buzzsaw through the best lineups in MLB. But that's no guarantee. He's lost double-digit games every year since he won the award. There's more pitching talent on the way. Former 10th overall pick Mason Bumgarner is only 20, but he could get a shot this season. There aren't many veterans standing in his way. Johnathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter last season but had trouble pitching consistently which has been a problem for the native of Puerto Rico throughout his career. At best he's a number 5, no-hitter or not.
The bullpen doesn't have the same strength of the starting rotation. However, Brian Wilson is a guy a lot of teams would like to have. His quirky mohawk aside, the man had a stellar year last season anchoring the Giant bullpen. He saved 38 games and sported a miniscule ERA of 2.74. Jeremy Affeldt is a valuable lefty in the bullpen. Losing Bob Howry will hurt. Look for youngsters Sergio Romo and Brandon Medders to pick up some of the slack.
2010 will be a tough fight for the NL West title. The Dodgers, Rockies and Giants all look pretty comparable and it will come down to A) Who has a good hitting year across the board and B) Which team can stay the healthiest. I'm looking forward to seeing another year of the Giant's formidable rotation and a year of the Panda smacking the ball around AT&T Park. 2nd in NL West. Wild Card Winner.
By Erik Lambertsen