The Giants have been rebuilding for a couple years, and I guess you could say it has gone well. The Giants have done a great job developing prospects and now they almost have too many great pitching prospects. But, the Giants have had a hard time devloping a good hitting prospect. The last all-star to come through the Giants farm system was Matt Williams, and that was over ten years ago. Pablo Sandoval, Travis Ishikawa, Fred Lewis, and Emmanuel Burriss are youngsters who the team will be relying on quite a bit.
The Giants have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum will be the ace, and hall of famer Randy Johnson will penciled in as the number two starter. Matt Cain is probably one of the best number 3 starters in the league, and Zito is definetly the highest paid number four starter in the league(a blog about Zito will be made later). Holding down the backend of the rotation will be Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez has shown promise after he started off last year with a 9-4 record, but he stumbled towards the end of the season. This is common for a rookie starting pitcher once hitters start to figure you out.
The bullpen was addressed this offseason(thank god). The Giants brough in veterans Bob Howry and Jeremy Affledt. Both are proven relievers and their experience will greatly benefit the guys like Sergio Romo and Alex Hinshaw. Brian Wilson was an all-star closer in his first full season, and you can bet the team will have a lot of close games going into the ninth inning.
You see the rotation and bullpen and it gives you hope that the Giants are turning into a contender. But the hitting has a long way to come. Winn and Renteria will hold down the top two spots in the lineup with either Fred Lewis or Pablo Sandoval batting third. Neither Sandoval or Lews have shown much in the major leagues, so the Giants are really banking on one of those two guys having a great year. The old catcher Bengie Molina will bat fourth. (I will also go into detail about Molina in a later blog). Lewis/Sandoval will bat fifth with Aaron Rowand batting sixth. Rowand struggled and only hit .270 after the Giants signed him to a contract of $12 mil per year. Ishikawa, or whoever wins the starting first base job, and Burriss will bat seventh and eigth.
The Giants pitching staff is good enough to keep the team in ball games. But hitting is the Giants biggest concern heading into the season. The team doesn't have a homerun threat. Look at the two teams in the world series last year, the Phillies and the Rays. Both teams had good pitching, but they also could hit the longball on any pitch, and the homerun ball was the difference in the series. The Giants only hit 94 homeruns last year, which was last in the league. Barry Bonds hit 73 homeruns by himself one season, yet the Giants have a roster full of guys who can't hit 100 combined.
If the Giants don't trade for another hitter, I could see the team finishing around .500 this season. 85 wins won the NL West last year, so it is possible the Giants can be competitive all year. If Sabean trades for a good hitter(my guess is he will considering he is in the last year of his contract) I could see the Giants winning 90 games and the division. Their starting pitching is that good to where they are only one hitter away from being a contender. Of course, everyone might get hurt or just have an off year, but based off how the Giants finished last season(28-27 in last 55 games) I think this is a team that can go deep into the playoffs because of their pitching. Call me crazy, but who thought the Rays would make a world series run last year?
Anything is possible in baseball. And I guarantee that if Sabean makes a trade before the deadline to acquire a good power hitter, the Giants will go deep into the playoffs. I might sound crazy, but that just might be from the past 4 losing seasons I have had to watch.
Check back again soon.