Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the San Francisco Giants. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
Ladies and Gentleman, meet your 2009 darkhorse for the National League. Many people will laugh at this but they’re going to win the NL West and they’re going to scrap their way to more 2-1 victories then any team in baseball. All of the variables are in place for this team to breakout all at once. These variables of course include their player personnel, their ballpark, their division, and the fact that we just have that gut feeling.
Everyone knows about 2008 NL Cy Young Tim Lincecum. He’ll make a run at that award again this year. Matt Cain is going to become a very dependable #2 and he’ll have numbers that are sub-spectacular. Randy Johnson has made it clear that he’s pitching to prove he’s not finished and not for just 300 victories (which he should reach this season). Barry Zito isn’t nearly as bad as he’s been so far in the bay, he’s going to rebound as well. Then for the 5th spot you’ve Noah Lowry or Johnathan Sanchez, take your pick. Either guy is a higher end 5th starter if they produce at the levels that they should.
The fact that they made a serious run at Manny Ramirez tells us that they know they’re not as far from reaching the top as many outsiders might think. Major league front offices usually know more then we fans do. That was a telling sign that they think an elite player might get them over the hump. When they open up hot behind strong and fresh pitching and a mixture of good speed and fielding, they’ll go get an elite player that will be available in June or July who was not this past offseason.
The one area they lack is power, evidenced by their usual cleanup hitter catcher Bengie Molina. It doesn’t really matter because their home park isn’t known for being a big home run park anyways. With the team they have in place right now, you have to realize that it favors them to have a park that helps their pitchers. As we said, look for this team to win a ton of 3-2 ballgames, where speed and defense make the difference.
The main part of that speed is Freddy Lewis, an outfielder who could go out and steal 70 bases this year. The guy is going to be a star, and we’ve thought that since we first saw him a couple of seasons ago.
They have some of the most elite prospects in baseball. It happens when you struggle to win for a few years and now it’s time to reap the benefits of that. A Double-A trio of Madison Bumgarner, Timothy Alderson and especially Buster Posey could be great additions for the stretch run.
Pablo Sandoval is going to break out and hit between .280 and .300 with a surprising 25-30 home runs and approach 100 RBI. The addition of Edgar Renteria gives them one of the most capable 2-hole hitters in the game and great defense at the shortstop addition. Renteria plays everyday and also has enough speed to still cause problems on the basepaths. The leadoff hitter will be Randy Winn to start the season most likely but look for Lewis to eventually take this role. Winn is another guy who steals big bases during clutch situations and has some pop. Aaron Rowand can hit a little bit, and he’ll be in the center of that lineup in the 3-hole. Kevin Frandsen and Travis Ishikawa round out the bottom of the lineup. They’re scrappy just like the rest of this team.
Rich Aurilia, Juan Uribe, and Dave Roberts are perfect bench guys. More speed, more versatililty, and more experience then most benches around the big leagues.
Our favorite part of this team is Bruce Bochy, who knows all about winning with less. This team isn’t a lot different then that cinderella squad he took to the World Series in San Diego in 1998. While they won’t have an MVP in their lineup, Bochy can get this team to win 90 games. He’s a great manager who adjusts well in-game and knows when to hook a pitcher or go with his guy and play out a guy about ready to enter a hot streak. Brian Sabean will do his job as the GM seeming to add the perfect guy at the right time who fits in well from a chemistry standpoint.
So let us be the first to say it, the Giants are headed back to the playoffs. When midnight hits if the slipper fits it could go a bit further then that. At least for 2009, Giants fans are in for a treat.