These are the Giants overall offensive production by position from 2010:
|at Def. Pos.||.267||.323||.420||.743||.298||104||108|
|at Off. Pos.||.266||.340||.434||.773||.296||112||100|
What people are missing is that there was a lot of non-productive PA in 2010 that went to people no longer with the team or who won't be playing there much in 2011. The infield has plenty of upside. Bengie Molina spent a lot of time at C, 212 PA, bringing down the stats with his .264/.321/.342/.663 batting line. Buster Posey should hit much better than .274/.333/.430/.764. Both Travis Ishikawa and Pablo Sandoval stunk up 1B offensively in 2010, 161 PA, but neither should do as much in 2011. Juan Uribe hurt 3B with his 88 PA and .215/.295/.329/.625 batting line. In addition, Pablo Sandoval should do much better than his .268/.323/.414/.737 at 3B in 2010. He is in Kung Fu Fighting form this spring and I hope the Giants can sign him to an extension this spring.
The outfield also has upside. Aaron Rowand had 332 PA in CF, batting .230/.278/.369/.647; Andres Torres would have to fall a lot from his overall .268/.343/.479/.823 batting line and .264/.321/.489/.810 in CF to not improve on the .250/.304/.434/.738 we got from CF in 2010. And as down a season Cody Ross the Boss had in 2010 before joining the Giants, it still wasn't as bad as the overall .246/.314/.393/.708 we got in RF in 2010, and that includes Ross' .353/.353/.529/.882 he added to the RF mix. Even in a down year he hit .269/.322/.413/.735 and his strikeout and walk rates were right in line with his prior good seasons. What was missing, for some reason, was his power, his ISO, XBH%, X/H% were all down, same for his HR/FB until he joined the Giants, but even with that boost, his XBH% was not that great with the Giants.
The only spot that is looking like a pretty sure regression to the mean is LF with .264/.365/.485/.850, only because it is so high and Pat Burrell was just so bad before joining the Giants. However, I would note that Burrell's .266/.364/.509/.872 for the Giants in 2010 is basically that which he delivered in Philly's offensive homepark prior to his Tampa Bay crash and burn:
The Giants Did Not Stand Pat
The Giants are not standing still, or worse yet, regressing. Sure, there are some regressions, but for the most part, they are mild. Few project Huff to beat that 1B batting line, but most have him right around .800 OPS, so I would call that a push. Same for Freddy Sanchez at 2B, most have his just under the .734 OPS 2B delivered in 2010. Same goes for SS and Miguel Tejada, again, just under the .736 OPS SS delivered in 2010.
However, Buster Posey is projected to easily beat .800 OPS in 2011 and despite Pablo Sandoval's poor 2010, most projections still have him producing easily over .800 OPS in 2011. Both would be huge jumps over 2010. Same for Andres Torres in CF, most projections are for high 700 or around 800 OPS in 2011, also a huge jump on 2010's CF. Cody Ross is projected for mid-700 OPS in 2011, a big boost over 2010's RF totals. Any one of these improvements would make up for the projected loss in LF and the slight drops in the infield positions. Plus then there is Brandon Belt coming up something mid-season if he's an improvement. People are missing these huge improvements over 2010's overall offense while focusing on the older players plus not realizing that there is not much regression versus what the Giants produced at those positions in 2010.
Run Score Per Game Improvement
I plugged in the OBP and SLG, projected by a number of different well known sources of such information, into the lineup calculator and the majority of them have the team much improved over their 4.30 RS/game in 2010:
Bill James = 4.74 (been known to be high)
Baseball Forecaster (Ron Shandler) = 4.56 (I like their system because it takes age and minors into account)
ZIPS = 4.52
Marcel = 4.46
Baseball Prospectus = 4.28 (no wonder they don't like Giants every year, it seems, and demanded that Brian Sabean be fired in their 2010 annual; I wonder what they will put in their 2011 annual)
With the Giants 3.77 RA that they had in 2009 (assuming some sort of regression from 2010's 3.60 RA), the Giants would win 90 games with BP's low 4.28 RS/game and 96-7 games with Bill James calculated RS. With Shandler/ZIPS mid forecast: 93-94 wins in 2011. And if the Giants pitching hold up the way I think they will, and repeat their 3.60 RA from 2010 (remember, there is potential for improvement because of the loss of Wellemeyer and the poor relievers), that works out to 93 wins, 99-100 wins, and 96-97 wins.
Projections Are Naturally Conservative
I would note that these projections' assumptions include areas for upside because projections are naturally conservative in nature. An average Pablo Sandoval, for example, is projected. If he returns to Pandoval of 2009, that is another boost to RS and wins (2 addition wins with ZIPS projections plus another win with move to #3 position, pushing to 99 wins). Same for Burrell and Huff. If either or both return to 2010's form, those are boosts to the RS and wins as well and probably adds about 1-2 wins as well. Same for Posey, if he hits more like his mid-season form than second half form, that would add 1-2 wins as well.
Then there is the wildcard in the lineup: Brandon Belt. He is not even in the lineup and most projections have him over 800 OPS. If he comes up and delivers that, he could take over 1B, shove Huff to the OF, and either Burrell or Ross out of the starting lineup (Torres or Huff as well if either isn't producing). It could become like last year's "every day is a new lineup" situation. That would also add 1-2 win, particularly considering how well he fields 1B.
And remember, these projections include the projected drops for the older players, so if the players do not drop in performance as the projections assumes older players will, those will be improvements as well. Plus, if Belt crushes AAA, that could even force Cody Ross out of the starting lineup, as someone (between Huff and Belt) would move into LF, pushing out Burrell,
However: Not For 162 Games
Of course, the caveat here is that this will not be our lineup for 162 games. Posey is not going to start every game, they will need to give him some rest during the season where Whiteside will start, and will of course bring the RS down. He might not even meet his projections, he only hit .283/.340/.472/.812 in the second half (which could have been because of the stamina problem he had in 2010, as the Giants had said he might, and which he talked about in a recent interview, but what if it was not, that it was his true level?). The older guys like Huff, Sanchez, Burrell, Tejada, and Torres could suddenly become injury prone, like we saw with Durham and Renteria. Sandoval could hit more potholes that sets him back to 2010's form. That would reduce the number of wins by 1-2, maybe more if a lot of hitters are under-performing.
Offense Looks Ready to Produce 90-100 Wins and More Importantly Win NL West
Still, given how high the projections are on the Giants offense, which, combined with the pitching of 2008 or 2009, still leads to 90-100 wins, the team looks capable of withstanding some injuries and poor performances and still win enough games to easily win the division. 90 wins looks like a gimme for this Giants team, even with injuries, and yet the teams below them did not do much to improve themselves and only SD had 90 wins out of them in 2010 and while they added nice pieces, really, they got rid of A-Gon and I think that is all you have to say about their chances, but then on top of that they lost Garland and didn't get anyone who should replace that great performance, they are hoping Harang rebounds, but the odds don't look good there.
The other two pretenders - LA and COL - are flawed in ways that many miss. The way people are blind to the Giants offensive improvements over 2010, they are similarly blind to the D-gers lack of offensive improvements now that they are Manny-less. Colorado stood pat as well, but because many of their players are young, the assumption is onward and upward, but can they make up so many games behind (8 wins, according to Pythagorean) based on that?
LA's Offense Suspect, Not Giants
Many are touting the D-gers because of all the pitching they added (though they just lost one in Vicente Padilla), and yes, they did improve their pitching signing Ted Lilly and Jon Garland, but just because they now have a pretty good rotation (still not up there with the Giants, in my opinion) does not absolve them of not improving their offense, which nobody picks up on and yet harangues the 2011 Giants over and over again when that is not even true. It is like people's impression of offense is based on how the team was in early 2010. Adding Juan Uribe is an improvement at 2B for the D-gers, but the Giants have equal if not better chances to improve with Huff, Burrell, Sandoval, and Posey. And he is certainly no replacement for Manny Ramirez, and neither is Jay Gibbons or Marcus Thames.
And nobody is looking at the post-Manny D-ger offense: in the second half of 2010, they averaged 3.30 runs scored per game! Even the Giants pitching can't win with that putrid an offense. And as I noted, the D-gers didn't really add anyone really good to their lineup, Uribe is a nice cog, but nothing more, they needed someone like Huff or Burrell in the lineup, not Uribe. Right now James Loney is their projected #5 hitter, and he would be pushed down to 7th or 8th in the Giants lineup.
Colorado Has A Lot of Games to Make Up, Yet Also Stands Pat
I don't see anyone saying that Colorado is standing pat, but they basically are like the Giants, doing that. I understand that because they have a young lineup, there is upside, plus they have Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Same for the rotation and pitching staff in whole. However, they are depending on both Tulo and CarGon to hit like that again, plus lost Miguel Olivo, who hit much better than Iannetta, so the rest of the lineup will have to make up for that, though perhaps Jose Lopez might do that at 2B. Still, Todd Helton isn't getting younger either, if people are going to blast the Giants older vets. And Brad Hawpe is now 32, if he even still have a role.
And the pitching is relying on starters who either need to rebound or prove that 2010 wasn't a fluke. Jason Hammel and Aaron Cook had pretty bad years, yet to match the Giants rotation (probably Zito and Bumgarner), both would have to do much better PLUS Ubaldo Jimenez would have to repeat his year, which he couldn't even do in the second half: 2.20 ERA first half, 3.80 ERA second half.
And as well as Jhoulys Chacin did, his K/BB isn't as superlative as his 3.28 ERA, suggesting some regression in 2011. Looking at his splits, he had a 4.09 ERA with .299 BABIP in the first half, 2.24 ERA with .278 BABIP in the second half, but virtually identical K/BB of 2.29 and 2.23, respectively. In other words, his great season was largely the result of a lowered BABIP, and he will have to prove that he's one of the rare pitchers who can do that consistently. Obviously, the odds are against him.
On top of that, only Jimenez pitched a full season in 2010, though Hammel was close with 30 starts. The rest will be stretched in 2011 to pitch a full 32 game season. And their #3 starter, Jorge de la Rosa, is roughly equal to Barry Zito, arguably the worse starter in the Giants rotation. And he has only pitched a full season in 2009 plus 2010 was his best season ever in six seasons, career 5.02 ERA, so he would be hard pressed just to match Zito in 2011 most probably.
On top of that, they need to make up 8 wins in performance when you look at Pythagorean. The Giants were at 94 while the Rox were at 86. As good a crop of young players they got, they stood pat needing to make up 8 wins, while assuming repeat peak performances and that the older players don't decline drastically.
Giants Have Risk Mitigation Backup Plans
The Giants look very capable of beating out the main NL West contenders. Their conservative projections for the lineup already adds up to 90+ wins, get a few probable plus production from Sandoval, Posey, Huff, Burrell, and that puts him ahead of last year's win total. Meanwhile, the other teams have not addressed the weaknesses that they had and/or are hoping for good performances in order to compete, and that is a house of cards that falls down if their hoped for good performance don't come, there is no backup plan for them.
The Giants, on the other hand, has a number of backup plans. Their rotation is so good overall that they could lose anyone and not be set back as badly as, say, St. Louis or Phillies would. With a poor #5 overall - Randy Johnson, Ryan Sadowski, Joe Martinez, and Brad Penny - in 2009, they still had a 3.77 RA/game. They can easily pick up a #5 type starter for peanuts and try to upgrade with a mid-season trade. Relievers, they got Mota, Dan Runzler, Marc Kroon, Waldis Joaquin, and others waiting in AAA.
The only position where the Giants would be stuck is at catcher and cleanup should Posey ever be out. 1B could field Huff, Belt, Sandoval, DeRosa, in that order. 2B, Franchez, DeRosa, then probably Culberson or Crawford. 3B, Sandoval, DeRosa. SS would probably field Crawford after Tejada, but really not expecting much out of SS offensively right now, so shouldn't be big drop, Tejeda looks like #8 hitter if Sandoval gets bumped to #3 with his hitting returning. And obviously, we have a lot of candidates in the outfield, Torres, Burrell, Ross, Huff, Belt, DeRosa, Schierholtz, Rowand, Ishikawa, Thomas Neal.
The Giants are covered in a lot of different situations. This is the risk mitigation strategy that they have been using the past couple of seasons