- Big news: Huff is batting cleanup. I guess they don't want to pressure Sandoval and according to the lineup analyzer, that switch won't cost the offense much, if any. Huff is also viewed as a legit cleanup hitter, based on what he has done in his career.
- As expected, he'll be the starting 1B which sets the starting defense with Sandoval at 3B, DeRosa in LF, and Uribe, as expected, in his super-utility but really super-backup in case anybody is injured or performing badly.
- Also big news: Huff is playing everyday. I'll bet it's a concession to him to get him to sign plus they don't really have a platoon partner to go with him, and even if they did, then they would have to explain why they are keeping Ishikawa on the roster. And as Bochy noted, he doesn't envision it being a platoon, but I would note that things will change in the regular season based on circumstances.
- Top five hitters: Rowand, Sanchez, Sandoval, Huff, DeRosa. Bochy prefers his best all-around hitter batting third (the lineup analyzer would disagree about putting Sandoval third, as that leads to less runs being batted in - probably because a large percentage of the time he will come to bat with two outs already and nobody on or man on 1B - though more runs scored, because of the hitters behind).
- Baggerly hit the nail on the head that Valdez was the player designated (he's not gone until another team claims him) since Sabean said that he is next working on a free-agent reliever.
- The savings on Huff relative to the 2 year, $17M reported offer for LaRoche opens up payroll to get other free agents. Sabean noted, "It was a good twist of fate as things turned out where other avenues ended up not being pursued. This ended up being our best option and we’re glad it turned out this way.” From what I read somewhere, the Giants did not consider Huff until after LaRoche turned down their offer, and was pleasantly surprised when they investigated Huff. More Sabean: "The more we examined what he has done and what we need, we thought this would be a good fit. He’s a fourth hitter who’s been a run producer and quite frankly he’s got the track record we were looking for. Even in a down year he drove in 85 runs which is something we needed. I just saw him in Arizona. He looks in good shape, ready to go.”
- Sabean said the Giants are still looking for a catcher and a reliever, but doesn't "anticipate" signing another starting pitcher to allow Bumgarner to begin in AAA. "I don't know that the fifth starter will fit the bill as much as there might be some interesting relief choices to give us more presence." Bumgarner looks ready and by TINSTAAPP, once a pitcher is ready, it is a waste of his arm to have him throw in the minors. Still, there was talk of him being a reliever, so I would say that there is some odds that the Giants might change course and sign a starter and have Bumgarner pitch in relief.
- Sabean is convinced a catcher will fall to the Giants: "The catcher's market is remarkably still evolving. There will probably be somebody left without a place to go that we can turn to. We are willing to go to (rookie Buster) Posey but we are keeping an open mind. We’ll revisit as we go along."
- Bochy noted that RF is an open competition and Schierholtz and Bowker were mentioned while Lewis was not. Makes sense, Lewis was not very good looking defensively in LF (if statistically good because he's competing against a lot of stiffs in LF) and RF is even tougher.
As I noted, I like the deal, though I would have gone with Ishikawa, but Huff is more of a sure bet to produce at 1B and is a proven cleanup hitter and that is what we need. And he has been OK defensively at 1B, and playing everyday there should help him improve there as well. He seems like a nice guy, a jokester, from the snippet of the interview he gave on the Razor and Mr. T show on KNBR yesterday, so he should add to the clubhouse I think.
Valdez, as much as I would like to give him another chance, he had a horrible 2009 season and he was already off the team possibly anyhow with Waldis Joaquin's emergence. The bullpen was already set with Wilson, Affeldt, Romo, Runzler, Medders, and a longman, either Martinez or Pucetas. Valdez would have been competing with Joaquin for that last spot. And if we could get another good reliever, that would make the bullpen unit pretty bullet-proof.
The lineup, as I noted, with Sandoval 3rd and Huff 4th does not suffer much if any from the switch, depending on the forecaster used. Bill James forecast results in a 4.6 RS lineup while the CHONE forecast results in a 4.5 RS lineup. The former with last year's defense results in 95 wins, the latter in 93 wins.
El Lefty Malo feels that the defense overall cannot be the same but I don't agree entirely or rather that I think that is missing the Big Picture. Fielding is worse, but I think the pitching staff overall can improve or at least mitigate the loss in fielding. And the bigger picture is that the offense, at even 4.50 runs vs. the 4.06 of last season, would score an additional 71 runs. I don't think the defense would be that much worse, last year they gave up 377 runs, that would be almost 20% increase in runs allowed to negate the gains in offense. I can see losing 1 win for DeRosa, 2 wins for Huff, and 1 win for the rest defensively for 4 wins lost or 40 runs, roughly 10% increase.
Given all that, I think 90 wins is a good target for the Giants to shoot for and reach and be competitive for the division title:
- The D-gers lost Wolf, a major cog of their rotation and they should not be able to replace him easily. Pineiro is the best remaining and at his career numbers, the D-gers give up 28 more runs or 0.17 per game, which will cost them about 4 wins, putting them around 91. If they don't get him, then they lose even more and Manny isn't getting any younger either and Pierre, as horrible as he can be, was a good replacement for Manny in 2009 but now he's gone.
- Colorado lost Jason Marquis, second best starter on their rotation, but bring back Jeff Francis, who missed all of 2009, and wasn't as good as Marquis before that and he'll be 29 in 2010. That should cost them a couple of games, which would put them at 90 wins.
- Arizona made a whole bunch of changes (including reportedly signing LaRoche for $5.5M) plus will be adding back two players out in 2009 in Webb and Jackson. Still, they only won 70 games in 2009, I don't really see them adding 20 games even with their additions (and losses, they traded away two good young pitchers as well as got two older but still young starters in Jackson and Kennedy).
- The 'Dres could surprise in 2010, I like their young players coming up, they are waiting for them to firm up and produce, they could be competitive and they won 75 games last season, not far from a .500 season. But I don't see them competing either without much better pitching, which is not a forte of their farm system.
Our main competitors lost major cogs in their pitching rotations while adding no one of consequence yet while the Giants lost no major cogs (Molina might have been our cleanup hitter, but he was a drag on our offense) plus might gain one or two (Huff, DeRosa, Posey, Bumgarner, Sanchez), but many don't think the Giants can compete?
If you can't be satisfied with an 88 win season with possibilities for better after a number of losing seasons, just because we ended up in 3rd, I can't help you. I am going to enjoy the 2010 season, I am going to enjoy the next decade, as the Giants have the ingredients to be competing during this decade, the 10's. In baseball today, that is the best you can ask for, to be competitive year in, year out, and if you can't realize that and enjoy the team, oh well, too bad for you.