Monday, April 21, 2008

Cup Half Full or Half Empty on the 2008 Giants?

I see confusion on the part of Giants fans of how to take the 2008 Giants. Some are buoyed by the flirting of .500. Others want to point out how lousy their record would look if their record was extended to a 162 games season.

This reminds me of season's past when fans got really down on the Giants but was missing something essential about all the bad times: either someone was injured and out, or not performing well, essentially not producing what they were expected to do. One that sticks out in my mind was a few seasons past, when Schmidt missed the season until around the third week of May, and some proud fans boasted that they had foreseen this before the season. I pointed out that we don't really know what the Giants are truly capable of, we had a key reliever out in April and Schmidt was out but coming back soon. They went on a winning streak basically once Schmidt returned.

Another good example is the year the Marlins won the World Series by tagging out JT Snow at home plate. They were one of the worse teams, if not the worse team, for much of the first two months of the season, but then when Dontrelle Willis joined them, they just took off. They were a different team after he joined them, but it was also other factors, probably like playing Miguel Cabrera more or something. Whatever the reasons, the post-Dontrelle Marlins were a totally different animal than the pre-Dontrelle Marlins.

Sames can go for the 2008 Giants, though clearly not as World Series champs, but probably better than the epic losers many have proclaimed them to be.

So let me say first, that I don't foresee things. I try to see things as likely or unlikely, probable, possible, improbable; or at least I try. I try to see scenarios.

Here's how I see this season.

Lineup is Apples and Oranges

People looking at the Giants season so far are comparing apples with oranges.

First off, if your leadoff hitter is hitting .118/.167/.118/.285, you are not likely to win many games. Heck you would be lucky to win any games, in my opinion. And the Giants didn't with Roberts doing that in his first six games of the season. They went 0-6 in the games that he started. The one win in the early season was the one where he didn't start.

Well, guess what? He isn't hitting lead-off anymore, Lewis has pretty much taken over that role. So while the 6 losses do matter in terms of how the final standings of the 2008 Giants is, it has no real bearing on the 2008 Giants we see going forward. So their 8-12 record (after today's loss to the D-backs) is really an 8-6 record with the crew of players they have now contributing.

Now, the first thing I would note here is that this is all small samples, so I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that they are a winning team that can compete for the division title. I am not that optimistic. Particularly when they got a big boost from John Bowker hitting 3 homers in a week's time or so.

But here's another factor that people have been missing as well: Aaron Rowand hasn't been healthy for much of the season. After he hurt himself in Milwaukee, he didn't really do that well, which hurt our lineup. He hit .200/.259/.320/.579 over the next 8 games he played, with little power. Even if the pessimists are right about Rowand, he's at least a high 700 OPS hitter.

I still think that he's a mid-800 OPS hitter when he is healthy. He was hitting .385/.357/.462/.819 up to the game where he got hurt. And he has hit like two Aaron Rowands for the past four games, including today's game, plus got his first homer of the season (on the road, natch). That is something that will be different going forward as well.

And speaking of Bowker, that brings up another player who has been horrible, Rich Aurilia has hit a sickly .182/.237/.182/.419 as our full-time 1B. He's been so bad that the Giants have rushed Bowker a bit to get him ready to start at 1B since the OF is full with Lewis (who, BTW, has been playing well), Rowand, and Winn.

And speaking of Winn, he hasn't been hitting as well as he normally does (though oddly, despite the dumping on Aurilia, Durham, and Roberts this season by the Giants nay-sayers, I haven't seen much carping on Winn, which is 180 degrees from many of their stance last year when Winn came off a bad year) and thus that should bode well going forward assuming that he reverts back to his normal, consistent, self. Though that will be balanced most probably by Lewis doing a bit worse.

Really, the whole lineup has been sub-par, though obviously Castillo and Bocock probably are not going to be any better going forward (who thought we could find anyone who is worse than Feliz? Too bad Frandsen was injured, I would have loved to see how he did there, but he might not get the opportunity next season, it truly was as bad a time to get injured, and not just injured but out the whole season), but there should be marked offensive improvement relative to early and mid-into this short season, at LF, CF, RF, and 1B.

Pitching Has Underperformed

Meanwhile, the pitching has not been super great, if anything, they have been a little disappointing and underperforming what I was expecting them to be in 2008, except for the Kid, Tim Lincecum. The relievers have been good overall, their high ERA due to one or two bad outings, but no one has been pitching lights out better than could be expected, they are all around what we could expect or worse, and all the starters except for Lincecum, should see some improvement going forward, particularly Cain, but I think Zito as well. I still think that he can get his stats looking good this season, he's been turning it around the last couple of starts.

So I think the pitching staff could and should do better going forward, relative to the first few weeks of the season. Particularly the pitching rotation, where Cain and Zito should settle down, plus perhaps Sanchez finally learns to be consistently good instead of on and off. Correia has pitched about what I would hope for on the good end, so he's at risk for some fall-back, but not much I think, I think he's a good pitcher, and a great #5 starter compared to the dreck that most teams have.

And with a better bullpen backing them up, relative to last year, with Wilson, Walker, and Valdez leading the way, where they weren't even on the team last year until late, the starters will start having more luck in winning this season versus last season.

Giants Thoughts

I'm more jazzed about the Giants than I was pre-season. Sure, the vets have sucked and we are probably not going to get much for them in mid-season trades, but Lewis and Bowker have sure looked nice, eh? And Rowand has shown enough, I think, to say that his acquisition was a good thing.

On the pitching side of the ledger, except for that one game, his last start, Cain had looked very good paired up with Lincecum as our 1-2 punch in the pitching rotation. Plus Zito has looked better sabermetrically with each start, so I am buoyed by that. Then there's the excitement that comes with Sanchez's starts and Correia's steadiness that I like. And Valdez is reminding me of when Nathan had his nice season with us, pitching in middle relief. That's often where the game is truly on the line, still in the balance, not at the end when the closer finishes up a 2-3 runs lead.

Go Giants!

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post. Glad I'm not the only one who doesn't know quite what to make of this year's team. Or the NL West at large, for that matter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well said. I am a big Giants fan and I've been enjoying watching the 2008 team far more than the 2007 team.

    Last year, it was Bonds and then 8 other people. This year, the current, rookie-heavy starting lineup has been a lot of fun to watch. A lot of these guys won't make it but it's fascinating to watch the kids working it out rather than veterans dogging it.

    ReplyDelete

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