After taking a week off to fully enjoy Tucson, I'm back profiling an NL West team. The feature has somewhat organically migrated to answering "Is this team better than the Rockies?" The answers have been terrifyingly purple, but maybe Colorado's long-time 2009 sparring partner will change things. Naaaah....
The Giants let Brad Penny, Rich Aurilia and Randy Winn go this offseason, while Randy Johnson retired. This from a roster that over-performed in 2009 just about any way you slice it. Bruce Bochy's offense posted a team OPS+ of 81 , five points worse than any other offense. The club over-performed their Pythagorean Win Percentage by two games. Matt Cain had a "career season" despite posting precisely his career FIP, and until it is proven differently, I'll assume Tim Lincecum can't post a third straight 7.5 WAR season. It's just too rare due to injuries, fatigue, regression, etc.
So to improve upon their 88-win season and third place finish, Brian Sabean was going to have to upgrade his roster, especially the offense, considering there's not much potential for improvement from the youth.
So who did Sabean bring in?
- Mark DeRosa (1.3 WAR projection from CHONE) for LF, a position I calculated was worth 4.66 WAR in 2009. Their primary left fielder last year, Fred Lewis, was good for 1.1 WAR.
- Aubrey Huff (1.1 WAR projection from CHONE) for 1B, again a downgrade from the 1.8 WAR they got last year as a team. It's not an upgrade of Travis Ishikawa either, who had 1.1 WAR in just 363 PA.
- Todd Wellemeyer, who would get as much publicity as Tim Redding if he were in Rockies camp.
Rotation: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Barry Zito
Bullpen: Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Medders, Sergio Romo, Dan Runzler
Infield: Bengie Molina, Eli Whiteside, Aubrey Huff, Pablo Sandoval, Edgar Renteria, Freddy Sandoval, Juan Uribe
Outfield: Mark DeRosa, Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz, Aaron Rowand
Fifth Starter: Madison Bumgarner was the in-house hopeful to be in the rotation. His velocity issues are well-documented, and he didn't strike out a single batter in Spring Training until Saturday in a minor league outing in which he gave up four runs in four innings. But the Giants are optimistic. Bumgarner apparently finally hit 90mph for more than one pitch. Meanwhile, Todd Wellemeyer has a 1.20 ERA in the spring and should be a shoo-in for the spot at this point.
Two Bullpen Spots: One bullpen spot is sure to go to a swingman, likely Joe Martinez in the event of Wellemeyer taking the last spot in the rotation. The Giants selected Steven Johnson from Baltimore in the Rule 5 draft, but he was offered back to the Orioles last Wednesday, so the the last spot is up for grabs between Guillermo Mota, Tony Pena, Jr., Santiago Casilla, Byung Hyung Kim.
Bench: Eugenio Velez' versatility is likely to put him on the team, while Fred Lewis and John Bowker could make some noise as fifth outfielders.
I won't break down the team by position as I did with Arizona, partly because I'm tired and partly because I don't think that acute of analysis is necessary. I never bought the Giants as a playoff team last year - they just don't have much talent outside of their top five to sustain that kind of success. Re-signing Bengie Molina and adding Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, all of whom are decidedly on the back end of their careers, doesn't improve the offense much, if at all. More importantly, it blocks the remote possibility of a second coming of the Kung Fu Panda unexpectedly blossoming. The offense just is just flat out terrible, and there's nowhere to be optimistic for improvement (unless you count the clamor of Edgar Renteria being injury-free now...HAR).
The Giants need everything to go right with their pitching staff and a moderate miracle with their offense to be one of the top four teams in the National League. If something goes wrong with Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum, they might not even be one of the top four teams in the National League West.