Are the Giants Contenders in 2009?

December 31, 2008 at 2:09 pm 9 comments

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The Giants finished the 2008 season 72-90 and in 4th place, 12 games behind the NL West winner Dodgers. The Giants boast a great rotation that just added veteran Randy Johnson as their 3rd or 4th starter but they need some help on offense. With a lot of ground to cover and some holes to fill, do the Giants actually have a shot at contention in 2009?

The strength of the Giants is their starting rotation which is anchored by 2008 Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum. Following Lincecum is Matt Cain, a potential #1 starter that has already put up #2/3 stats. Then you get three lefties. Randy Johnson we all know about, Jonathan Sanchez is a breakout candidate that has 252 strikeouts in his 250 career innings, and then Barry Zito. They also have Noah Lowry returning at some point and if he’s healthy it could lead to a trade for a bat (most likely Sanchez going in the trade). To mix up the arms and gove different looks, the rotation probably will look like this in 2009:

1. Lincecum
2. Johnson
3. Cain
4. Zito
5. Sanchez

Fangraphs uses “Win Values” and projects the rotation to be a +15 win rotation which could be one of the top 5 in the majors.

The bullpen has some new faces, which were much needed. GM Brian Sabean added lefty Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry to the pen. Affeldt uses a fastball/curveball combo that can get both lefties and righties out so he won’t be used as a lefty specialist. He could easily improve on his season from last year when he posted a 3.33 ERA. I wouldn’t rule out an ERA under 3.00 in that big ballpark since he is more of a flyball pitcher. Howry could be a bargain. He had an awful 2008 posting a 5.35 ERA and watching his K rate drop while his homer rate skyrocketed. His previous four years sported ERAs of 2.74, 2.47, 3.17, 3.32. All very good numbers but with a steady upward trend. If he can even come inbetween last year and the previous four years he could post an ERA below 4.00 and I see no reason why he can’t post one in the mid-3s. The bullpen should look a little like this:

RP – Brian Wilson
LP – Jeremy Affeldt
RP – Bob Howry
LP – Alex Hinshaw
RP – Sergio Romo
RP – Merkin Valdez
RP – Billy Sadler

Not too bad at all. The bullpen should be at least league average.

The defense is very good in the outfield but below-average in the infield. Randy Winn and Fred Lewis are above average in the corners and Aaron Rowand is average, maybe a tick below average in center. The infield has no plus defenders projected to start. Overall the group should be average to slightly below-average.

The achilles heel of the team is the offense. Sabean went out and signed shortstop Edgar Renteria to help boost the offense. The only other addition he made was adding firstbaseman Josh Phelps.

The offense hit less than 100 homers last season and they will be close to that mark again next season with their current group. So will the offense score enough to put this team into contention? Well, that depends on what “enough” means. Enough for the Giants may not even be league average which I wouldn’t expect the Giants to be. Here is what the lineup will most likely look like:

Versus LHP:
1. Edgar Renteria – SS (.310/.392/.468)
2. Aaron Rowand – CF (.293/.354/.510)
3. Josh Phelps -1B (.297/.364/.495)
4. Bengie Molina – C (.294/.329/.476)
5. Randy Winn – RF (.289/.343/.444)
6. Fred Lewis – LF (.275/.345/.382)
7. Pablo Sandoval – 3B (.237/.268/.289)
8. Emmanuel Burriss – 2B (.278/.366/.318)

Versus RHP:
1. Edgar Renteria – SS (.284/.333/.386)
2. Fred Lewis – LF (.289/.362/.448)
3. Pablo Sandoval – 3B (.383/.389/.561)
4. Bengie Molina – C (.271/.303/.391)
5. Aaron Rowand – CF (.279/.337/.428)
6. Randy Winn – RF (.289/.347/.419)
7. Travis Ishikawa -1B (.277/.325/.446)
8. Emmanuel Burriss – 2B (.292/.340/.348)

This is a lineup that will do better against lefties than righties but additions are needed. Orlando Hudson would be a nice addition but it doesn’t seem likely. Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, or Pat Burrell would all be nice fits but it would hurt the defense and force a trade of Randy Winn.

One likely name that wouldn’t block anybody and can play 3B, 2B, and LF is Ty Wigginton. He could play 3B against lefties (.288/.364/.514) and play anywhere else against righties (.264/.317/.440) but only if the matchup is favorable.

The Giants also have some very good minor leaguers that are close to playing. Buster Posey should take over catching duties no later than June 2010, and starters Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson have top of the rotation ability and could be ready out of the pen as soon as 2010.

But it comes down to 2009. Can they win?

If the Giants could add Wigginton and Hudson I would place the Giants as my favorite to win the NL West but even without them they are legit contenders in the NL West and they could win the division with 83-85 wins which seems likely with San Diego rebuilding, Colorado losing Matt Holliday and Brian Fuentes, Arizona losing Dunn, Hudson, Randy Johnson, and Los Angeles losing Derek Lowe, Jeff Kent, and potentially Manny Ramirez.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Erik  |  December 31, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Giants have an okay pitching staff with Johnson added to give veteran leadership (Although I could have sworn that was what Zito was supposed to do). They have a good player in Fred Lewis that had a break out year and Sandoval is intriguing. They have lots of fill ins. Rentaria makes the jump back to the NL where he seems to hit. But are they contenders?

    Probably but a lot depends on if the Dodgers resign Manny.

    Arizona has too many holes

    Colorado now Holliday less don’t really stand a chance.

    So with everyone else in the West being so horrid, it stands to reason the Giants can win the NL West with a 87 win season. Ugh!!! Damn you Curt Flood and the free agency era you brought. I miss the days of competitive balance when teams like the Royals, actually had a chance to beat teams like the Yankees.

    Reply
  • 2. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  January 1, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Okay pitching staff? They have a top 5 rotation and a good pitching staff overall. They really need to add some offense, though.

    Reply
  • 3. erik  |  January 2, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Yes, an okay pitching staff. Lincecum is good and solid, Johnson is 40+ years old and is no better than a #3 starter. Cain is overrated has flashes but is no where near as good as people give him credit for being, Sanchez is okay. Zito has been on a steady down since his CY young year.

    Wilson as a closer is okay. Affeldt is lucky he went to SF, Howry has flashes of being good, but you got to think why the cubs gave up on him.Hinshaw and Romo don’t know much about them. Merkin did good but is coming off another injury so you don’t know much about how he will come back. and sadler is eh… Hence the OKAY. Is it better than the Dodger, Diamondback and Colorado rotation? Probably not. San Diego depends if they trade Peavy or not.

    Reply
  • 4. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  January 2, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I think Cain is underrated. His peripherals are great. Johnson is very good, Sanchez is on the verge of breakout, and the pen is decent. Only time will tell, though.

    Reply
  • 5. Erik  |  January 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I will continue to agree to disagree

    Reply
  • 6. Danno  |  January 2, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Have to say that while their pitching staff is impressive, and will continue to improve. The offense, in my opinion, is a mess. Aside from Rowand, who in this lineup scares opposing pitchers? As of now, this team looks like it will score less runs than almost any other NL team…even Pittsburgh.
    And while I like the direction the pitching staff, Sanchez is inconsistent, Zito seems dazed and confused, and Johnson is no spring chicken.
    If the season started today, I’d still have to predict a 4th place finish.

    I understand the reasoning that the rest of the NL West has regressed, but I don’t think the Giants have improved enough.

    Reply
  • 7. Jonathan C. Mitchell  |  January 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I wouldn’t even say Rowand scares anybody except maybe lefties. He’s awful versus righties. Sandoval and Lewis are really the only ones that should be of any worry to opposing pitchers. They really need to add a good bat or two.

    Reply
  • 8. Charlie Nehl  |  January 4, 2009 at 8:33 am

    The Giant’s rotation is fairly good with the exception. I think Johnson is going to be a better senior leader than what Zito can do (who is scary to say the highest paid 5th starter in the league regardless where in the rotation he pitches).

    I like Cain as he’s young, and still has a lot to learn. Sanchez is more than adaquete as a 4th or 5th starter. He’s striking out a lot just really needs to hone in and not have either a fantastic game, or get shelled ala Oliver Perez. Lincecum is obviously the ace now due to the CY Young Award last season.

    The bullpen could be much better, but also much worse. I don’t like the Howry trade, whom was a free agent and the Cubs didn’t “give up” on him.

    They really, really need to concentrate on the lineup and not playing with the rotation/bullpen. It’s the least of their worries. Reports show they’re trying to go after Manny to play left. Assuming we see old Renteria, he’ll help the top of the lineup, but they need the beef to drive in some runs severely.

    A good rotation and staff can only do so much if only they get 2-3 runs of support for the game at most.

    Reply
  • 9. Erik  |  January 4, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Just a clarification on Howry, and “give up”, meaning the cubs had a window to re sign him and they didn’t so they let him walk and going from a legit contender to a team like the giants has got to make you think that Howry has lost something.

    Reply

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