Often timing doesn’t work out the way we want… I got caught up with other things and didn’t get a chance to put up this blog until after the Giants’ first game in LA. That said, it is interesting to see what I had to say before the season began. I was wrong a lot, but I don’t mind; this has been a very interesting start to the season. So, without further ado, my preseason thoughts:
So begins the 2013 season. While many of us in the Bay have been wrapped up in football, the Giants’ division got very interesting. The Dodgers, concerned about the massive pile of highly flammable cash littering their front office, continued buying up contracts at the rate it had last season. The reigning champs suddenly found themselves second place in the eyes of the baseball media, the Dodgers becoming the undisputed kings of an overstimulated marketplace, rivaled only by the Angels and the suddenly aggressive Blue Jays. I will withhold my personal feelings about this form of team-building for now, saying simply that the Giants are still the best team in the National League West.
All that aside, there are several question marks around the Giants’ offseason and how well their retention of a team that was successful in 2012 will work in 2013. Much like the offseason after 2010, Sabean opted to keep a high percentage of the players who went all the way in 2012. For the pitching rotation and bullpen, this was a no-brainer. Giants pitching, for all its flaws, earned the accolades it received last year. However, holding on to a few of the later-season acquisitions, namely Scutaro and Pence, were decisions that could easily prove problematic in the next couple of years. Scutaro was the safer of the two bets. Despite his age, his experience will prove invaluable. He almost always puts himself in a position to run up pitch counts and is always a tough out, even for the most experienced pitcher. I don’t think there is any way that he can replicate his run after he signed with the Giants, but I would not be surprised if we saw occasional flashes of his .362 talent.
© David J. Phillip, AP
Pence, on the other hand, feels like a gamble. While he may have been the source of the rallying cry that brought the Giants back from the brink against the Reds and the Cardinals, the only tangible skill he brought to the table was clutch hitting. He is decent in right field but he never really became the spark plug the Giants thought he would be. I commend him for playing a crucial role in the dugout through the postseason, but he needs to become a more patient and more consistent batter to be truly useful.
© Lea Suzuki, San Francisco Chronicle
Lincecum is the biggest question. Long hair or not, Lincecum is going to be feeling even more of a pinch than he did last year. It is pretty useless to try and ‘figure out’ what was going on last year, but whatever it was, it is clear that he cannot go forward with a perspective and style identical to that of the 2008-11 seasons. His speed is lower and his ability to complete strikeouts is lagging, but he can still get outs and maybe even climb back to the top of the rotation. His future with the Giants is tenuous, at best, but if he shows an adaptability that equals his ability to rack up K’s, I don’t see the front office letting him go.
A part of me is worried about Romo as the closer. Bochy’s initial concern with his durability in that role was valid, but Casilla’s struggles as closer forced his hand. Romo may have had a great postseason, but his style is more reliant on pitch movement and deception than power. This may prove difficult to sustain. Romo is a notorious perfectionist who does not take any shortcomings lightly, which may shake up his confidence a bit. I do think he is the best choice in the Giants’ current bullpen, but I could see Bochy returning to closer-by-committee at some point.
© San Francisco Examiner
I am very excited to see how the infield evolves this season. Between Posey’s possible move to first base and the emergence of the Brandons as potential star athletes, I foresee a lineup far stronger at the plate. If either Belt or Crawford can up their average they will do a lot to ensure the Giant’s return to postseason play. Belt, in particular, will be exciting to watch. If he can curb some of his streakiness and become a consistent hitter, his considerable power will come into play, finally giving the Giants a competent home run hitter alongside Sandoval.