The San Francisco Giants relied on stellar pitching, clutch late relief, and the bats of Bengie Molina and Pablo Sandoval (the Kung Fu Panda). With very little offensive support for the pitchers, the Giants still were in playoff contention in September. Ace Tim Lincecum won his second straight CY Young award (15-7 with a 2.48 ERA in 32 starts and 261 Ks) and fellow starter Matt Cain was in contention for the award late into the year (14-8 with a 2.89 ERA in 33 starts). Jonathon Sanchez surprisingly threw a no-hitter and finished the year 8-12 with a 4.24 ERA in 29 starts. Giants’ fans witnessed veteran Randy Johnson win his 300th game. Barry Zito put up an average season a lot like everyone he has had since joining the Giants (10-13 with a 4.03 ERA in 33 starts), though he had a successful second half. Even top prospect Madison Bumgarner got in the act late in 2009. The Giants pitching staff was second in the National League in ERA (3.55), first in complete games (11), and first in strikeouts (1302).
Fans voted lefty setup man Jeremy Affeldt the best at his job (2-2 with a 1.73 ERA in 74 games with a .197 opponent’s batting average). Veteran right-hander Bobby Howry joined Affeldt to dominate the seventh and eighth innings, though he is now a free agent. Closer Brian Wilson is eccentric but gets the job done (5-6 with a 2.74 ERA in 68 games, converted 38 of 45 saves, and had 83 Ks).
The Giants offense was dismal all year, even with Kung Fu Panda’s MVP type season (.330 in 153 games with 44 doubles, 25 homeruns, and 90 RBIs). Despite his size, Sandoval moved from catcher, to third base, and first base all season, without losing a beat offensively. Catcher Bengie Molina provided the defense that is typical of a Molina brother but he also provided an offensive lift (.265 with 20 homeruns and 80 RBIs). The Giants were 11th in the NL in batting average (.257), 13th in scoring (657 runs), 15th (in a 16 team league) in homeruns (122), and last in walks (392) and on-base percentage (.309). The Giants did not have a hitter with 100 RBIs or more than 25 homeruns. The Giants proved that good pitching can stifle a good offensive team.
The pressure the Giants pitching staff was under all season cannot be replicated. It cannot be expected for the starters to give up 2 runs or less in every outing just to get a win. Manager Bruce Bochy needs to get the offense clicking around Sandoval for the Giants to win the NL West or at least win the wild card. Here’s their wish list:
- Offensive players: This is not a surprise need. The Giants could add a hitter at every position. Having a healthy Freddy Sanchez for the full season batting in front of Sandoval should help as Sanchez is a career .299 hitter. Rumors have the Giants interested in the versatile Mark DeRosa, rightfielder Jermaine Dye, the injured Xavier Nady, and third baseman Adrian Beltre. The Giants do not want to trade for a hitter because it will cost them a young arm in either Jonathon Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner (trading for Freddy Sanchez cost them the number two prospect Tim Alderson). The goal is to sign free agents that get on base and won’t be an embarrassment defensively.
A catcher to mentor top prospect Buster Posey: It is expected that Posey will start in 2010 for the Giants (it would have made sense to let Posey catch more games at the end of 2009 instead of just 4 starts). The baby-faced Posey hit a combined .325 between Single-A San Jose and Triple-A Fresno with 18 homeruns, 80 RBIs and 62 BB/ 68 Ks. Giants fans have been clamoring for his full season debut since he was drafted in 2008 out of Florida State. Posey is my preseason pick for NL ROY. The Giants will need a valuable back up to provide leadership to Posey (maybe Jose Molina or Paul Bako?). The Giants could also stay in-house and allow back up Eli Whiteside to continue (he caught well when Molina missed time in 2009; think Sanchez’ no-hitter). They are also interested in former Colorado Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba.