Monday, February 28, 2011

Team Report: San Francisco Giants

After winning the World Series over the Texas Rangers, the Giants kept the most important element of their team - the starting rotation - intact from last season's historic run. From top to bottom, Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, RHP Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner looks like the best rotation in the majors (Philly may argue), especially with Lincecum and Cain the only righties.

While those two combined for 29 wins, the lefties logged lots of innings and will be expected to go deep in each outing. San Fran's pitching was what got them to the playoffs and through the championship season. Having Brian Wilson backstopping all efforts is a great comfort. His 48 saves and 1.81 ERA will be hard to match in 2011, but the closer has 127 saves over the past three seasons, a good reason to believe the Giants will win a lot of close games.

The major departures were in the infield, where aging vets Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria (WS MVP) were released, though sending Renteria to the Reds is a sketchy move, considering that he may be around for the playoffs and is one of baseball's best players in the clutch. The Giants opted for free agent Miguel Tejada, who will start at short and brings a lively bat. Turning 37 this year (May 25), Tejada will be expected to provide the pop needed in the middle of the lineup, though third baseman Pablo Sandoval may get back to 2009 form and take over the #5 spot.

Working the middle infield opposite Tejada will be Freddy Sanchez, who blossomed into a dependable #2 hitter late last year. Aubrey Huff returns at first base will bat third, in front of NL rookie of the year Buster Posey, who remains the main catcher.

In the outfield, center fielder Andres Torres will bat leadoff. The Giants probably won't run him often (he swiped on 26 bases in 2010), but will be looking for improvement on his .268 average and .343 OBP. Flanking him will be Pat Burrell in left and Cody Ross, the surprise of the post-season, in left. Ross was a valuable contributor after arriving from Florida, and Burrell, who has been bouncing around the past few years, may have found a home.

Following San Diego's late-season collapse and the under-performance of the year from the Dodgers, the Giants may not have much competition in the NL West, though Colorado looks like the other contender in the division. Should the Giants reach the playoffs again, they're certain to be a tough out, due to strong starting pitching and capable, and now tested veterans in the field.

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