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SF Giants Team Preview
by Matt Fargo - 02/20/2008
2007 Record 71 Wins 91 Losses - 5th National League West
2007 Money -$2,067 moneyline -1,414 Runline 72-84 Over/Under
Now that the Barry Bonds circus is over, the Giants can concentrate on winning baseball games and not having to deal with home run records and steroid allegations. He was a huge draw but this is a better team with him gone. The Giants were a MLB-worst -$2,067 last season, the third straight year they were in the red. After winning the division in 2003 and finishing 20 games over .500 in 2004, it has been three straight losing seasons in what has been considered as the weakest division over that stretch.
With Bonds out of the picture, the offense definitely takes a hit but there will no doubt be less pressure. The big acquisition in the offseason, the only big one actually, was outfielder Aaron Rowand who will take over in center. He will be asked to lead the offense as well as be the main clubhouse leader. With hardly any other big bats around him, Rowand might not be seeing a whole lot of pitches this season. Omar Vizquel hit just .246 last year, a 49-point drop from 2006.
Also in the mix are veterans Dave Roberts, who could be traded before spring training ends, Randy Winn, Ray Durham and Bengie Molina. Those names just make this offense sound really old which it in fact is. It is blended with some youth and none more talented than outfielder Nate Schierholtz, the main reason Roberts is looking to be dealt. He hit .304 in 39 games last season following a .348 average and 16 home runs in AAA. Kevin Frandsen and Daniel Ortmeier could make the lineup as rookie corners.
2008 Starting Pitching
The potential is there for a solid rotation. Veteran Barry Zito had a very disappointing debut season in San Francisco as he went 11-13 with a 4.53 ERA. He pitched well down the stretch however, going 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA covering 12 starts in the final two months. He will be the opening day starter and a big season will help the young pitchers behind him. Tim Lincecum had a very solid rookie campaign, going 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA. Take away a horrendous June and his ERA went down to 3.20.
Matt Cain had a rather ugly 7-16 record but it was hardly his fault. Cain led the Giants' starters in ERA, innings, strikeouts and quality starts, tied for sixth most in the National League. He had no run support while the bullpen blew five leads. Lefty Noah Lowry was 14-8 with a 3.92 ERA before he was shut down with forearm tightness in the final month. He has set a goal to stay healthy and strong throughout the season. The final spot will likely go to Kevin Correia. The Giants can get a lot out of these guys.
Overall, the Giants were 9th in baseball in ERA but it says a lot about the starters as the bullpen finished 18th with a 4.12 ERA and 23 blown saves, fifth most in MLB. Armando Benitez was the closer to start the season last year and he was horrible after a solid April. He lost his job to Brad Hennessey who eventually lost the job to Brian Wilson. Wilson had just one blown save and his ERA of 2.28 dropped to 0.80 by removing that one bad outing from the mix. He has already been tabbed the opening day closer.
Middle relief is where things could be dicey once again. Hennessey and Tyler Walker are the leading candidates to setup Wilson, neither of whom are overpowering. Steve Kline and Jonathan Sanchez are the two top lefties with the inconsistent Jack Taschner also looking to make the squad. The bullpen had only 355 strikeouts last season which was second worst only to the White Sox and there does not look like there will be much to make that better this year. Young starters mean a lot of innings from the pen.
2008 Overall Outlook
Bruce Bochy certainly did not have a great debut in the bay area but to his defense he came into a difficult situation as he had to try and find continuity on a team that was clearly divided. He did some great things with very average teams in San Diego and if he can get the most out of his starting pitching, the Giants could be a surprise in the National League West. The offense needs to hit however. San Francisco will get some looks now that Bonds is out as this team is not the public team it once was.