Yesterday, I wrote some predictions about the 2012 baseball season. Today, I post the second edition of the SF Giants Heat Check, which is my attempt to discuss my favorite team in depth alongside some of the smartest Giants fans I know.
The first edition of the Heat Check was posted last month. Here’s part two:
(These questions were sent out before the season started and the Giants currently sit at 1-3 to start the season.)
1. The 25-man roster is now set. The Giants chose to keep Hector Sanchez and traded Chris Stewart. The goal looks to be to put the best offensive team possible on the field, including playing both Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff at the same time. What did you think about the roster changes and would you do anything differently?
@ButchHusky (http://www.butchhusky.com): Two words: Balls out. I have love for Eli Whiteside — refuse to call him “Whitey” — and Stewart’s got one of the quickest arms I’ve ever seen, but Hector Sanchez can downright mash. As someone who sat through more than my fair share of weak offensive performances last year, I’m starving for anything that can give this pitching staff a lead. Have you seen them pitch with a lead? It’s scurry, brau.
@DRey2531: I like the changes. Trading Stewart gives him a chance to succeed in another organization. I think keeping Hector Sanchez up shows that the organization is treating him differently than they treated Belt. However, I think the move brands Sanchez as the back up catcher to Posey and not Posey’s replacement in a few years. I wouldn’t do anything differently. If Sanchez was going to be Buster’s replacement I would’ve kept him in Fresno for a season, but I like him as the back up.
@themarywalton: It is refreshing to see the front office opt for offense and “youth.” The Stewart trade brought in a much needed right-handed relief pitcher (George Kontos), and even though our staff is difficult to catch, optioning Whiteside was a testament both to Posey’s recovery and a huge vote of confidence for Hector Sanchez. Gregor Blanco was a no-brainer after the spring he had. Brett Pill’s bat was undoubtedly the reason he made the squad, but I hope he contributes as more than a bench player. Burriss … a wait and see guy. As happy as I am with the roster moves, I am still unsure that carrying Huff AND Belt is what is best for the team right now or in the long run. Both are mediocre outfielders at best and will undoubtedly give their best performances at 1B. I worry Belt’s playing time at 1B will diminish if he struggles offensively.
@RealStephenMar: The roster changes appear to be what I expected. Was surprised Stewart or Whiteside wasn’t added. I did not anticipate Sandoval would be the 3rd catcher.
GG: I always worry when they lean offense over defense (Sanchez over Stewart), but then again, when you have the type of season offensively that the Giants had last year, I don’t blame them. My true worry is how Bruce Bochy and the rest of the organization handles Brandon Belt. The best case scenario for the team is to give him all the chance to succeed because if he does, it’s a shot in the arm to the team offensively. We know what Huff can do. We know what Nate Schierholtz can do with the bat. We need to find out if Brandon Belt can be the middle of the order bat that we desperately need. He needs every opportunity to succeed or they may as well get rid of him. Brett Pill is much better as a right-handed hitter off the bench than a true prospect. Giving him Belt’s at bats would be akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.2. Matt Cain re-signed with the Giants for the richest contract for a right-handed pitcher. He’s not their ace, but as their most consistent starter, is paid like one. What did you think about the contract?
@ButchHusky: Two words: Just deserves. Matt Cain is the horse, the rock, the pillar of this franchise. Forget Lincecum, forget Posey, it’s Cain. Pure, unadulterated Cain. Without him, the whole staff falls apart. Forget the wins and losses. His peripheral numbers have consistently improved, and he’s just entering his prime. This is gonna chap the Doyers’ hide until 2018…
@DRey2531: What I like the best about Cain’s contract is that it was done before opening day. If he got more money I would’ve been okay with it. The piece of mind that he’ll have knowing that he’s going to be a Giant for a long time is most important.
@themarywalton: I normally don’t advocate anything over 4 years for a pitcher but Cain is the exception. His stuff gets better every year and I don’t think he has peaked. I only see him developing into an ever better pitcher and, with run support, possibly winning the NLCY at some point in the near future. Dig it.
@RealStephenMar: It was a win/win for both sides. The sabermetrics community calls Cain a “sabermetrician’s nightmare”. Cain’s homerun/fly ball ratio is absurd. Cain is fortunate to have Rags (Dave Righetti) as his pitching coach and for playing half his games in such a pitcher’s friendly park.
However, the deal could backfire for San Francisco as Lincecum will no doubt try to ask for more money and cite his 2 Cy Young Awards as ammunition. However, I’ve always been the proponent of locking up Bumgarner and letting Lincecum go if he doesn’t want to resign with the team.
GG: I thought the dollar value was high, but what I liked was that it was similar to a basketball player’s contract. The Giants aren’t going to pay him more at the end of the contract, where he’ll more than likely be a lesser player than he is now. He’s a number 2 who is being paid like an ace, but it’s smart because it gives them some security in case Tim Lincecum tries to break the bank and they don’t want to pay him.
3. It looks like Bruce Bochy has decided to start Brandon Belt at first base, at least at the start of the season. If Huff, Melky Cabrara and Angel Pagan also play in the same lineup, Nate Schierholtz could be the odd man out. If you were Bochy, how would you handle the outfield situation.
@ButchHusky: Bochy and I may share the same cap size, but I won’t begin to attempt to think about dissecting what goes on inside his massive dome. Observing from without, I’d say he’s got the right idea for now. Nate is one of my absolute faves, but the dude needs to swing it. We don’t have room for two Professors in this lineup. I like what I’m seeing from Belt in terms of poise. I think he’s ready to finally break out. With Huff Daddy (seemingly) back in shape, he should be able to hold down left field a shade better than a certain aging slugger who used to patrol that ground. As long as Melky can play the archways, they won’t embarrass us out there.
@DRey2531: I would start Huff and use Nate as a late inning defensive replacement.
@themarywalton: I think Schierholtz and Pagan are the biggest question marks at this point in regards to true outfielders. Nate HAS to stay healthy but he is my choice for right field. His arm and ability to play arguably the toughest right field in baseball saves quite a few runs. Pagan HAS to get on base with his speed. But I dont see both of those wishes coming true and think eventually, Blanco will be starting in the outfield for one of those two. Huff is not suited for the outfield and while I think Belt isnt either, he is young enough to develop some kind of understanding of the position.
@RealStephenMar: It will take less than 10 games for the Giants to realize having Huff in the outfield will be a big mistake and backfire drastically. He’s better suited for the bench since the Giants have been lacking in that department dating back to the 2002 NL Championship team. A good team is about defense and more so, preventing runs. Nate knows right field well and is the best outfield defender. A downfall is his bat of course, but given the additionally help defensively it’s worth the risk.
GG: I would probably stick with Melky through thick and thin, have a short leash on Pagan, keep Blanco loose by spot starting him and getting him into nearly every game as either a late inning defensive replacement or base runner, and tell Nate that he’s my secret weapon. I take Nate as a bit sensitive and quirky based on how often he decides to change things like using batting gloves, the length of his pants, and things that figure very little into how well he plays the game. There will be injuries and whoever is going to be out there is going to need to be ready to play at the drop of a hat. I don’t think Huff is going to stick it out in left field and my biggest fear is that Bochy just decides to sacrifice Brandon Belt for Huff’s “veteran” “leadership”.4. Their pitching is their backbone, which is the obvious statement of the year. Buster Posey is back and they traded for two outfielders. Can they score enough with this current lineup to win 90 games?
@DRey2531: I think they will score more runs this year, but I think the pitchers’ mind sets will be different this year. The staff collectively will be more relaxed and not feel the need to be near perfect. Hopefully the team can score more than 4 runs a game and the pitching staff won’t give up more than 4 when they do.
@themarywalton: If our core stays healthy and the younger guys can hit consistently against big league pitching, I think they can score 90-100 more runs than they did last year. Division wins and a somewhat consistent lineup are key to hitting that 90-game benchmark. Beating Clayton Kershaw is a must. And containing Arizona and Colorado in their respective ballparks. But yes, they can score enough to win 90 games.
@RealStephenMar: Giants should be able to score more runs than 2011 by default since Posey is back. However they were very lucky last year and their record should have been lower based on Pythagorean’s Win/Loss. They can win 90 games because the division is still lousy even with Arizona and the NL Central is pretty bleak. Plus interleague play this season is against the AL West so potentially, an easy series against the A’s and Mariners is on the schedule.
GG: I would place 85 as over/under. Can the Giants get up to 90 wins? I think it’s possible. With that second wildcard in play, is it a must? I think that playoff mark could be 88 wins. They only used 17 pitchers last year so they were extremely lucky with the lack of injuries to their staff. They probably won’t be as lucky, just based on probability. But they probably won’t be as offensively bad either. I’m going to say 90 is high, but they’ll sit right at that 88-win mark.
5. What is your prediction for the Giants? Will they make the playoffs?
@ButchHusky: First place in the West, though it will be a fight, and the loser will get to the play-in game. I’d have to align with Mark Purdy (San Jose Mercury News sports editor) and say 92 wins gets the flag. Once they get there, we’ve all seen how this staff can carry a meager offense through October. Let’s not forget that the NLCS and World Series clinchers in 2010 hinged on home runs from Juan Uribe and Edgar Rentería. Pujols? We don’t need no stinkin’ Pujols.
@DRey2531: They will win the West. With the new expanded playoffs, winning the West is the first priority. I would be okay with either of our top 3 pitchers starting the “play-in” game but I want the West.
@themarywalton: Giants win the West 92 wins.
@RealStephenMar: Giants win NL West 92-70.
GG: I have the Giants winning one of the wildcard spots with 88 wins. Like Butch said, you just have to get in and then it becomes all about the pitching.