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Running down the rosters: San Francisco Giants

Feb 16, 2012, 11:47 PM EDT

Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey Getty Images

Coming off a disappointing 86-76 finish in 2011, the Giants’ big moves this winter were a pair of underwhelming trades: Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera and Andres Torres plus Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan. To say the least, they didn’t make the kind of splash their fans were hoping for (but have come not to expect).

Rotation
Tim Lincecum – R
Matt Cain – R
Madison Bumgarner – L
Ryan Vogelsong – R
Barry Zito – L

Bullpen
Brian Wilson – R
Sergio Romo – R
Santiago Casilla – R
Jeremy Affeldt – L
Javier Lopez – L
Guillermo Mota – R
Clay Hensley – R

SP next in line:  Eric Surkamp (L), Dan Runzler (L), Brian Burres (L), Ramon Ortiz (R)
RP next in line: Runzler, Danny Otero (R), Steve Edlefsen (R), Jean Machi (R)

The staff remains one of the game’s very best, with three of the NL’s top 10 starting pitchers leading the way. I doubt Vogelsong will come close to matching his All-Star 2011 season, but as a fourth starter, he shouldn’t be a liability.

The bullpen is also exceptional, though Wilson is a bit of a question mark after last year’s elbow problems. Fortunately, the Giants can cover any absence from Wilson. Romo, Casilla, Affeldt and Lopez are probably the game’s best setup crew, and Hensley should do well in replacing Ramirez’s innings.

Rotation depth is a big issue here. Surkamp didn’t appear ready in his six starts last season, and while I like Runzler as a reliever, I’m not sure he has any future in the rotation. Any injury to one of the big three starters — or even to one of the lesser lights — is going to take a heavy toll.

Lineup
CF Angel Pagan – S
2B Freddy Sanchez – R
3B Pablo Sandoval – R
C Buster Posey – R
LF Melky Cabrera – S
1B Aubrey Huff – L
RF Nate Schierholtz – L
SS Brandon Crawford – L

Bench
C Eli Whiteside – R
1B-OF Brandon Belt – L
INF Mike Fontenot – L
INF Ryan Theriot – R
OF Justin Christian – R

Next in line: C Hector Sanchez (S), C Chris Stewart (R), 1B Brett Pill (R), INF Emmanuel Burriss (S), 3B Conor Gillaspie (L), INF Joaquin Arias (R), OF Gregor Blanco (L), OF Gary Brown (R), OF Roger Kieschnick (L), OF Tyler Graham (R)

The Giants needed a star — Jose Reyes, in particular, would have been an outstanding fit — but they settled for a pair of switch-hitting outfielders. For what it’s worth, Cabrera did play like a minor star last year, and he’s just 27 years old. If he can do it again, then the middle of the order has the potential to be very good.

I don’t see either Cabrera or Pagan lighting it up, though, and the Giants might be better off sacrificing some outfield defense in order to get Belt in the lineup regularly. That could mean playing the hot hand between Pagan and Schierholtz.

The bench appears set except for the last spot, which could go to Christian, Pill, Burriss or Blanco. I’m going with Christian, even though he was bumped from the 40-man roster last week. Pill would only make sense if the Giants decided to commit to Huff in the outfield and turn first base over to Belt.

As for the lineup itself, the Giants will likely experiment this spring so that they don’t end up with the three lefties in a row at the bottom of the order (making it a bigger problem is that their two best pinch-hitting options are also left-handers). I think they’d prefer having Melky bat fifth, but using him at the top of the order and sticking either Pagan or Sanchez in the seventh spot would solve the issue.

The Giants finished second in the NL in ERA last year, but dead last in runs scored. A healthy Posey can help there, but there is just so much ground to make up. The Phillies had the worst offense among last year’s NL playoff teams, scoring 713 runs. The Giants were all of the way down at 570. They’ll probably have to up that total to at least 630-640 to have a shot.

  1. Gamera the Brave - Feb 17, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    The real pisser is that apparently Beltran would have been happy to stay, but by all means let’s continue to upgrade so incrementally that we will get back to the playoffs in about 10 years…
    Problem is, here is a likely lineup BA –
    CF Angel Pagan – S – .260
    2B Freddy Sanchez – R .290
    3B Pablo Sandoval – R .290
    C Buster Posey – R .285
    LF Melky Cabrera – S .275
    1B Aubrey Huff – L .255
    RF Nate Schierholtz – L .260
    SS Brandon Crawford – L .240
    And frankly that’s with some luck. Sigh…

  2. buffalomafia - Feb 17, 2012 at 3:34 AM

    You cheapskates need a bat or two!

  3. jlhc5530 - Feb 17, 2012 at 6:41 AM

    I think Pagan’s impact is being overlooked here. With injuries, his power and babip dipped last year. He still remained one baseball’s best contact hitters and baserunners (2nd in the majors by EqBRR). Add in above-average CF defense and I think he could create substantially more run opportunities leading off.

    Couple that with a simple upward regression of the G’s historically bad BA w/ RISP (.219, worst in a generation I hear), and I’d be willing to bet on 100+ more runs out of their offense this year easy.

    Moreover, it’s incredibly likely when you factor in the likely positive offense additions of cabrera, belt, sanchez, and posey as well. Yeah, they should have a better SS and 1b, but even there it’s more likely than not that the numbers will improve relative to last year.

  4. jlhc5530 - Feb 17, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    You’ve got me thinking about defense, too. Using your lineup, that’s above average defense at every single position. Swap Huff for Belt and it gets even better. Impressive…

    • spaverson - Feb 18, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      Huff certainly is not an above average fielder, and the jury is out on Pagan and Cabrera, albeit the latter will benefit from playing in a corner, if his historical splits hold up. Of course, there is still hope for Pagan, who was a pretty good corner OF and had a nice start in CF in 2010, but struggled there last season. To be fair, Pagan played through injuries for much of last season.

      • spaverson - Feb 18, 2012 at 2:27 PM

        Actually, I stand corrected. According some advanced metrics, Huff rates out as about average and maybe slightly above defensively. Baseball-reference has him below replacement level for last season, though, and this is his age 35 season, so things could get sketchy.

  5. whosgotitbetter - Feb 17, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    Torture is back! Lol the Giants have upgraded defensively and with speed on the bases. They didnt make to many moves in the offseason and really they didnt have to because 2 of the teams best hitters were injured for more then half the year last year. Hopefully everyone can stay healthy and the rotation is steller so it should make for a good season

  6. loungefly74 - Feb 17, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    i love the optimistic statements on here as i am a Giants fan…but i just wish they would have added a couple big bats…i just see us losing a lot of games with the score of 2-1, 1-0, 3-2, etc…
    If that line up could produce 4 runs per game…every game, this could be a 100 win team.

  7. simon94022 - Feb 17, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    If they got rid of some of the dead wood (huff or any outfielder) and instead gave those wasted PAs to Belt, they might at least have a mediocre lineup.

    But they won’t.

  8. spaverson - Feb 18, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Pablo Sandoval is a switch hitter (he’s listed above as batting right only).

    And why would anyone expect Clay Hensley to do well as a replacement for Ramirez? Except for two seasons (one of which he had a confirmed PED violation), he’s really been pretty awful, including last season. Ramirez in contrast has been pretty consistent throughout his career.

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