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2010 Season Preview: San Francisco Giants
Christopher Reina. 25th March, 2010 - 1:55 pm

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The Giants were surprise contenders in 2009 with the excellent one-two combination of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, a strong bullpen and a breakout season from Pablo Sandoval. Barry Zito was the best he'd been since signing with the Giants and Jonathan Sanchez alternated between brilliance and rough starts.

They finished seven games behind the Dodgers, but just four games behind the Wild Card Rockies.

2009 Opsera Finish:

What Happened In The Winter

I'm not entirely sure if the Giants are still gun-shy over what happened with the Zito and Aaron Rowand signings, but they didn't even kick any tires on Jason Bay or Matt Holliday in free agency despite their need for a left fielder. The Giants should have enough money to at least be involved in the conversation with free agents where they have a need, but it seems as though they don't really trust their own judgment anymore.

Instead of spending money on the single impact bat they so desperately needed for the middle of their lineup, they spread the wealth around (to borrow from Barack Obama) and signed Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff and ultimately also re-signed Bengie Molina, the last of which was particularly surprising.

The Giants won't get burned on any of the three, but they represent a similar kind of value proposition as Edgar Renteria, being low risk, medium reward type guys.

Freddy Sanchez, who was acquired for the hefty pricetag of Tim Alderson, was re-signed on a $12M, two-year contract. It is great money for a guy who is hurt all the time an routinely has a below average OBP.

Giants Offensive Preview

Other than Sandoval's at bats, the 2009 Giants were painful to watch offensively and embarrassingly anemic. The Giants finished 26th in runs scored, last in OBP (.309) and last in OPS (.699). An OBP of .309 is unacceptable no matter what kind of payroll is at hand. It is a fail and the blame can't just land on hitting coach Carney Lansford as the epidemic is organization wide.

The addition of DeRosa and hopefully the eventual call-up of Buster Posey, the Giants should be at least a little better offensive, though I see a .720 OPS being their high point.

Sandoval is the real deal and I see him staying above an OPS of .900 with the possibility of improving his .943 of 2009. He is an excellent middle of the order guy even though he doesn't like to walk.

The dropoff after Sandoval is severe as it took a surprise season in 2009 from Juan Uribe to have another regular with an OPS over .738.

Rowand had an OPS of .738, largely as an unconventional leadoff hitter, Randy Winn and Renteria were in the .600s and Bengie Molina had a down season at .727.

First base was a disappointment with Travis Ishikawa not hitting well enough and then Ryan Garko's acquisition did nothing. This year it will be given to Huff to at least start the season, who isn't very good defensively and had a .694 OPS after a somewhat flukish .912 with Baltimore in 2008. Unless he figures out how to pull the ball to the short foul pole in right field, I don't see him being anything more than an .800 OPS hitter.

I'm not terribly optimistic on Nate Schierholtz in right field to be much more than replacement level and Eugenio Velez will always be an inconsistent hitter.

Giants Pitching Preview

While the Giants will struggle to score runs, their opponents will continue to struggle runs at least when Lincecum and Cain are pitching.

Lincecum is the most dominant pitcher in the game right now and Cain would be an ace on a lot of other clubs.

Sanchez continued to show progress in the second half after his no hitter, posting a 3.83 ERA and 10.4 K/9 rate. He is a very good and affordable middle of the rotation guy.

I feel Zito has finally figured out how to pitch effectively without the velocity he had early in his Oakland days. He had a 2.83 ERA after the break and while that is an unrealistic mark for him to duplicate, I would be surprised if his ERA isn't under 4.00.

The fifth starter will be Todd Wellemeyer after Madison Bumgarner was a virtual no show in the competition. Wellemeyer's best chance at success is pitching to AT&T Park's spacious right centerfield as much as he can, because he is clearly barely qualifiable to start.

In the bullpen, Brian Wilson is the eccentric closer. He lowered his ERA from 4.62 in 2008 to 2.74 in 2009, while striking out 83 batters in 72.1 innings, all with a lower walk rate.

Jeremy Affeldt was excellent in 2009 and I expect him to be again in 2010. Brandon Medders is another solid arm, though I'm not completely sold on Sergio Romo, Henry Sosa and Joe Martinez after him.

What Are Their 2010 Chances?

The NL West is without a true favorite, so they should be in contention again, but I think the lineup will hold them back one more season. The lineups in Arizona, Los Angeles and Colorado are vastly superior to the Giants, a margin that I don't believe their pitching can overcome.

It is unfortunate because the Giants probably would have a better chance in short playoff series than those teams because of the strength of Lincecum and Cain, good enough to win a World Series in spite of the offense.

The Giants were 21-22 in one-run games in 2009, something that must improve because they'll have to win a lot of 3-2, 2-1 affairs. They also must fare better against opponents like the Dodgers and Padres, since they will be unlikely to go 13-5 against the D-Backs as they did in 2009.

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