Thursday, June 25, 2009

Giants need more power to sustain surprise playoff run

MLB: JUN 23 Giants at Athletics

I am impressed with the Giants' pitching and the fact that they are leading the NL Wild Card Race. They have a really impressive group of pitchers if they do happen to make it to a playoff series. Tim Lincecum is one of the top pitchers in baseball and already has a Cy Young under his belt. Matt Cain is having a great year and the wily old vets Barry Zito and Randy Johnson have shown (some) flashes of their former selves. No one would want to face Lincecum twice in a 5 game series. He hasn't been in the playoffs yet, but it isn't hard to imagine him pulling an Orel Hersheiser or Josh Beckett and taking over a playoff series and carrying them to victory.

Then you look at the offense. It isn't just that they don't score runs (and they don't), its that they have no one who should be doing much better than they're doing. They have some good, professional players, like Edgar Renteria, Randy Winn and Aaron Rowand. They are all guys you want on your team, but none of them has a consistent history of being a run producer. Rowand had 27 home runs in 2007 for the Phillies, but it was an aberration. The Giants are dead last in the Majors in home runs and that will make it nearly impossible to go deep in the playoffs.

Now, the lack of power is almost surely due in part to their enormous stadium which is great for pitchers and terrible for hitters. That is not an excuse, though, for not having a single player on the roster who is legitimately expected to hit even 25 home runs. This just is another reason why giving Barry Zito 423 trillion dollars (only slight exaggeration) to be at best a 3 starter was stunningly bad. There are plenty of guys in baseball who go into every season expected to hit 30 home runs. They might not do it, but every team needs one. The last Giant to hit 30 home runs in a season other than Barry Bonds was...Jeff Kent in 2002.

They were too dependent on Barry Bonds for offense for too long and it is hurting them now. Against the odds, this might be a year where they can do something special. Cain and Lincecum might be the next Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. They have Randy Johnson too, still dangerous at 45. The bullpen is one of the best in baseball. As I said before, they have some veteran professionals who know how to win.

MLB: JUN 24 Giants at Athletics

It was rumored that the Giants were interested in Dan Uggla and Nick Johnson. If the Marlins would be willing to part with Uggla, that would make sense for the Giants. He is just the sort of home run hitting, big strikeout, mediocre batting average player they need. In order to get him, they may have to give up young starter Jonathan Sanchez, who is 2-8 for them now. If Sanchez still has value, they should move him for a power hitter. Make the move and try to win before Lincecum becomes a free agent and prices himself out of their range (he's only making 600k now). They have not had a new, genuine offensive leader on their club other than Barry Bonds since Matt Williams burst on the scene in 1990.

Maybe the current offense will be jolted to life with the presence of a new power hitter who will take some of the pressure of them. The San Francisco Giants have only won 2 playoffs series in their history (the NY Giants won the 1954 World Series) and they were both in 2002. Decent chances to make it deep in the playoffs are few and far between. I am not rooting for the Giants over anyone else, but it is a great story that they have come out of nowhere to lead the Wild Card Race. They are putting too much pressure on their pitchers to be perfect every time out. It might not be enough, but they need more home runs to have a chance at competing. Plus, it is time for them to really get past Barry Bonds and that means getting someone new who can produce runs on a consistent basis.

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