Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2011 Giants Spring Training News So Far

Don't got time to link to everything (but basically everything is from Baggarly's blog or Schulman's blog), but I wanted to run through various news about the Giants so far and give comments as needed:
  1. Rotation is not set, though Lincecum is the opening day starter.  Lincecum admits that his conditioning wasn't as good in 2010 as it could have been but he's learned his lesson:  watch out majors!  With his pitches to get swings and misses against both sides, Lincecum should take another leap forward in 2011, I'm thinking at least a bettering of what he did in 2008-9 and I wouldn't bet against a sub-2 ERA.  Bochy would not be afraid of starting three lefties in a row since styles so different nor is Bumgarner starting out in majors out of the question.  But right now going with 5 throughout full season:  I would bet on this.  Among relievers, Suppan is trying to win long-relief spot, but that is not necessarily a spot Giants will fill.  There is also Marc Kroon who I like more for the last spot in the bullpen, he was a former closer in Japan and throws in upper 90's.  Giants also picked up variety of starters on minor league contract including Ryan Vogelsong, who we traded to Pittsburgh for Jason Schmidt.  He says he's glad to be back where all his friends are.
  2. Posey looking good, but Whiteside had an injury, though it doesn't seem to be serious.
  3. Huff is playing 1B, but Belt will focus on 1B this spring, so if he is to make the roster, he has to impress as a 1B.  Makes sense as ulterior motive, gives him higher bar to achieve offensively and thus easier for Giants to say he's not ready and put him in AAA.  Still, I think Belt should start the season in AAA and prove himself, the thing is that each level is a challenge, if it were easy, there would never be disappointments like Sean Burroughs or Andy Marte, you could just annoint them the second coming.  If you push Belt to majors and he's not ready, then the Giants would have had to drop someone who they like and could play some in the majors (probably Ishikawa and/or Schierholtz), and would not have anyone equally good to replace that player if Belt is sent down.  Wait until Belt proves he can handle AAA, then bring him up.  Also, by then, would know if Sandoval is OK or not, on the off-chance he flops, he can still be sent down to clear a spot for Belt.
  4. Sanchez looking good, shoulder surgery seems to be healed up nicely, but he hasn't been cleared yet for swinging at live pitching.  DeRosa is slated to focus mainly on infield work this spring, he is probably backing up 3B, 2B, and 1B in that order, plus some SS as needed.
  5. Sandoval looks great, lost a lot of weight, though if the numbers are right (30% fat to 19%, plus drop from 278 to 240), the head of the training company that has been working with Pablo is wrong, it is not 45 pounds of fat lost and 7 pounds of muscle gained.  The math works out to about 38 pounds of fat lost and Pablo keeping his non-fat weight basically the same, no muscle gain in terms of weight, though I'm sure his muscle is now in relatively good shape.  He also hit a homer first thing in batting practice, then another.  Latest news is that Sandoval was so out of shape that he was huffing and puffing on defense and it affected his swing against LHP, which explained why the Giants said that they sat him down because of defense, not offense, and why his great numbers vs. LHP in 2009 was so bad in 2010.  Sounds like he got all that fixed now.  Sandoval returning to 2009's form would go far in proving wrong those who said that the Giants stood pat during the off-season, it would be like adding a legit clean-up hitter to the lineup if Pablo is back.  I think 1000+ OPS is not out of the question.
  6. Tejada finally showed up:  he sounded all eager to join the team and win a championship, both when he signed and when he arrived, but almost all the position players had showed up early and Miggy showed up on the first day he was required (or maybe one day early), which does not jive with his talk.  Still, he should do OK here, we got .260/.318/.419/.736 from SS in 2010 and he has basically been around that the past three seasons, just under, around .730 when he wasn't down about being with the Orioles.  Ex-Giant Renteria explained that his pride kept him from accepting the Giants $1M offer (which they eventually upped with incentives):  too bad pride didn't keep him from accepting $9M from the Giants in 2009 when he hardly played and when he did, he was horrible.  I appreciate what he did for the Giants in the playoffs and helping us get our first World Series championship in SF, but don't trot out pride as a reason when you don't show any pride in accepting very good money for no production worth mentioning for two regular seasons.  Just say you have to watch out for your family and mention that there are good schools in Cincinnati.  :^P
  7. LF is the only competition of the spring, Pat Burrell is competing with Mark DeRosa for LF (even though DeRosa will mainly focus on the infield), though if Belt hits well enough to take 1B, he would push Huff to LF, ending the competition there and pushing any possible competition to RF.
  8. CF looks to be Torres, but the news here is that Rowand is NOT going to play any other OF position, he will only play CF, which a lot of people have berated because Rowand is now a bench player.  But the way I see it, all this means is that when Rowand IS playing, he would move into CF and Torres would play in a corner OF position.  And frankly, Rowand creates more player value in CF because he has not hit that well while with the Giants, whereas Torres actually hits well enough to create value in the corners.  Plus, this would explain the stance that Bochy won't name Torres as the starting CF, implying there is a chance that Rowand could win a spot in the OF, taking CF and moving Torres to LF.  I was hoping Rowand would be inspired by Pablo's fitness focus, but he reports that he once again trained by riding his mountain bike.  That is the problem with long-term contracts, the player isn't motivated to do anything to improve himself, it is all self-motivation.  He did at least work on his batting stance and it is reportedly not as "squatty" as it was in the past.  At least there's that.  And remember, as great as Torres played the past two seasons, he's never put in a full MLB season as a starter yet, as El Lefty Malo reminds us, he's prone to hamstring problems, and he's already 33 YO for the 2011 season, so age will cause a decline at some point.  Torres says, quote, "he's the in best shape of his life" but at his age, I find that hard to believe.  Still, better than riding a bike for fitness.
  9. Ross looks like the starting RF.  Schierholtz has been asked to play all three OF positions.  He has done this in the past, including CF, he will need to be flexible since Rowand is only playing CF and Burrell should really only be playing LF at best.  But don't forget, DeRosa can play RF at a high defensive level.  I see him splitting starting time at 2B, 3B, LF, 1B, and RF, roughly in that order, plus occassional SS, to give all the players some extra rest so that they will be that much more fresh later in the season and, should they make the playoffs (and they should), be that much fresher there as well.  Posey noted that he was tired late in the season (though it didn't seem like it since he hit so many homers in September), but got some of his gas back with the days off in the playoffs, and he's young, so I would think the old guys could use a break as well.  The MLB season is a grind, and having a DeRosa, who can hit well and field well at so many positions is a luxury and a great insurance policy should anyone fall injured or fail to perform, much like Uribe the past two seasons.
I still think that the Giants will go with only 11 pitchers to start the season, 5 starters and 6 relievers, holding Suppan and Kroon in reserve in AAA, assuming Suppan wants to stay.  That would allow the Giants to hold onto all their position players without losing one immediately and you don't need that much pitching typically at the start of the season because of all the off-days. 

I still think that Ishikawa is the first to go, particularly once Belt joins as a starter or when a reliever needs to be brought up.  I like Ishikawa as a player, he's not going to lead a team but is a great addition to any team with great defense at 1B and OK hitting there (OK as long as you have hitting elsewhere but he ain't bad either, would have been good in platoon, especially now that he's shown some expertise in hitting off the bench).  Too bad Seattle got Smoak, it would have been nice for him to go back to his hometown team. 

Then Schierholtz also looks like he'll be the next to go, once another reliever and Belt are added to the team.  Whiteside is necessary, and DeRosa and Rowand are not going anywhere.  That leaves Burrell, Schierholtz, and Fontenot.  I would rather drop Fontenot, but having only one backup MI is inviting disaster.  And Burrell presumably will be hitting well again, which means Schierholtz would be the one to go.  Burrell would have to hit like he did in Tampa Bay to get dropped, but he might accept going to Fresno and being around for September.

I have to think that the Giants are hoping to trade Rowand, some way, some how.  Lots of money will be shuffled along as well, but the hope has to be that some team really needs a starter, for whatever reason, and there usually will be at least one team in such a position by the time the Giants want to bring up Belt, which would be June-ish.  By then, Rowand only has 1.5 seasons and $18M left on his contract, making his contract that much easier to swallow for the Giants.  That would allow the Giants to keep Schierholtz, who I still think can be pretty good in RF (as in an average RF, with potential to be pretty good). 

I see no way beyond a disasterous injury for the Giants to keep both Ishikawa and Schierholtz.  Plus, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to keep Ishikawa with Belt around, presuming Belt is all he appears to be.  But even if he isn't, by the time the Giants give up on him, we could have other choices at 1B, such as Joseph, Dominguez, maybe even Sandoval too.  And, of course, Huff as long as he is hitting would be fine there.  Ishikawa is really the odd guy out on the roster right now, even if Rowand were somehow magically traded away.

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