The Giants: Spring Training Assessment 1.0
Past the halfway point in Spring Training, it’s appropriate to start taking a hard look at the San Francisco Giants baseball team. Prior to recently losing four games in a row, the Giants were cruising at 8-8, and forensic evidence to support a run at the National League Western Division title was actually sticking to the wall.
With their record now 10-12, the wall has been hosed off and is again a blank slate.
Grizzled old timers will tell you that pitching and defense wins games (much in the same way that wily old timers will tell you hitting and offense wins games), and if any of this is true, the Giants are only halfway there. Giant starting pitching appears set to dominate the National League and a retooled bullpen has the ability to carry the load beyond the 6th inning, but along with the now-tired assessment that the Giants lack sufficient offense to contend, you can begin to add “lack credible defense to contend”.
The current infield situation has all the stability of a Bernie Madoff Christmas fund. On opening day, Pablo Sandoval will heroically stand to the left of the third base bag, crouch down, and do his best impression of a major league third baseman. As a fan, I wouldn’t want to be in the seats behind first, directly in line with third, without comprehensive medical coverage and a completed living trust.
Even though it’s clear that Emmanual Burriss needs to lead off for this team, the race for second base was set up as kind of super lotto contest between Kevin Frandsen, Burriss, and Eugenio Velez. Only there’s no clear winner. With Velez batting over .300 this month, he is now being groomed as an infield/outfield back-up with blinding pinch runner speed. Frandsen was pushing .300 until just recently, and Burriss is batting over .370, no doubt making him wonder just who he has to consummate a relationship with to get a job on this team.
In comparison, the outlook at first base appears to be rock solid. The front office has decided to back up the team’s all star pitching, and potential multiple 20 game winners, with Travis Ishikawa: 45 big league games, 119 at bats, .277 average, 3 home runs. But, for once, a truly great glove.
Shortstop will be anchored (like an oversized supertanker) by Edgar Renteria, still the best Major League player name for a spot-on Howard Cosell impression.
The bad news for the Giants is the competition looks feisty: the Dodgers will score bushels of runs, although their pitching could easily implode like blue jello in a microwave; and it’s hard to recover from that kind of global disaster within the regular season. Quietly, it is the Arizona Diamondbacks who have morphed into the most balanced and experienced team in the National League West. At the past-the-halfway-point in Spring Training, it appears the Dodgers will contend with vulnerable starting pitching, the Giants are still one or two offensive players away from glory, and the Snakes are sniffing a Division win (with their tongues, of course).
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