Third in NL West: 11.5 Games behind the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers
Home Ballpark: AT&T Park
Barry Zito: Signed 8-year contract
Ryan Klesko: Signed 1-year contract
Damian Moss: Signed Minor League contract
Bengie Molina: Signed 3-year contract
Rich Aurilia: Signed 2-year contract
Dave Roberts: Signed 3-year contract
Russ Ortiz: Signed one year contract
Looking for Greener Pastures Elsewhere:
Steve Finley: Team Declined Option
Jamey Wright: Team Declined Option
Moises Alou: Free Agency (NY Mets)
Todd Greene: Free Agency (Padres)
Shea Hillenbrand: Free Agency (Angels)
Jason Schmidt: Free Agency (Dodgers)
Mike Stanton: Free Agency (Reds)
The Skinny: Even though the Giants are still one of the older teams in the league they do appear to have improved by a tad—and to have gotten a little bit younger. The signing of Barry Zito was, unquestionably, the story of the Giants off-season—even considering Barry Bonds. While it seems their offense isn’t much improved (9th in NL in R/G in 2006), their pitching looks to be better as some young arms should mature, and of course, the addition of Zito will help.
Strengths: By default, the title of the Giants’ “strength” goes to their starting rotation. The aforementioned addition of Zito should only solidify a unit that already ranked 7th in the NL in starting pitcher’s ERA last season. Matt Cain (13-12, 4.15 ERA, 179/87 K/BB in 190.7 IP) is still very young (22) and should only improve. Noah Lowry, while not having impressive statistics last season (7-10, 4.74 ERA, 84/56 K/BB in 159.3 IP) is only 25 years old and it was only two years ago when he went 13-13 with a 3.78 ERA and had a 172/76 K/BB in 204.7 IP. Matt Morris, as the “number four” man in this rotation, is clearly not what he once was (4.98 ERA in 207.7 IP last year) but will give the Giants innings—something every team needs. The fifth slot in the rotation is a question mark with Jonathan Sanchez and Brad Hennessey battling for the title; but pretty much every team is unsettled in the final slot of their rotation.
Weaknesses: The bullpen, currently listed with Armando Benitez as closer, followed by Kevin Correia, Vinnie Chulk, Jack Taschner, Brian Wilson, Scott Munter, Billy Sadler, Steve Kline and Patrick Misch doesn’t look to be much improved over last season when it ranked 15th out of sixteen NL teams in reliever ERA. Even with that ranking though, the trio of Correia, Kline, and Benitez were actually very productive as all three posted ERA’s under 3.70. When you consider that their bullpen’s cumulative ERA was 4.73, you don’t need a degree in calculus to tell you that the rest of the bullpen was horrible. The good thing is that all the arms in the ‘pen besides those three are still young…very young for the San Francisco Giants—none are older than 28! This means improvement is not out of the realm. But, until results are seen, this is the Giants glaring weakness.
Even with Barry Bonds manning the number four slot in this batting order, this offense is still a weakness. As mentioned earlier, they ranked 9th in the NL in Runs per game last year, and the small improvements they made won’t make this unit a “strength” by any means. Klesko will be 36 years old next season and was injured for all but 4 AB’s last season—but he could be a sleeper if completely healthy…a big if. Last season the Giants got a cumulative .271/.311/.434 batting line from its catchers, and Bengie Molina doesn’t look to be much of an improvement as his career batting line is a worse .274/.310/.406. Dave Roberts brings an ability to get on base and steal the next base, but nothing more as he has fast-fading power. He does appear to be a decent lead-off hitter though; which every team needs. Rich Aurilia, slated to start at first base, is coming off the second-most productive season in his career (as a Cincinnati Red) but will be 35 years old next season. Ray Durham, while an extremely underrated offensive player, will be 35 years old next season and is coming off the best season of his career (offensively); meaning, downfall is all but certain. With all the question marks that go hand-in-hand with the ages of most of their players, this offense--which wasn’t very good last year, even with a great Barry Bonds (.343 EqA, 156 OPS+) -- can only be classified as a weakness.
1. Dave Roberts (CF)
2. Omar Vizquel (SS)
3. Rich Aurilia (1B)
4. Barry Bonds (LF)
5. Ray Durham (2B)
6. Randy Winn (RF)
7. Pedro Feliz (3B)
8. Bengie Molina ( C)
Keys to Success: The Giants are going to need a lot of things to go right for them to make the playoffs this season. The bullpen is going to have to dramatically improve for them to have a chance. The offense is going to have to get some great years from players that you wouldn’t expect to do so. This is going to be especially hard when you consider than not one player in the above “Potential Lineup” is below 30 years old. And lastly, even though I listed their rotation as a strength, that doesn’t mean it’s good enough to make the Giants a playoff team.
Prediction: I would never predict this team to finish last in the NL West, but I’ll say that I won’t be surprised if it happened. While they are clearly inferior to the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, there can be arguments made that they are equals to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies…I just won’t be the one to make those arguments. Whatever you believe, though, the Giants will not make the playoffs in 2007.