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The Coors Effect


January 24, 2010 3:36 PM

2010 Preview Series: San Francisco Giants

While the Coors Effect is, always has been, and always will be a Rockies-focused blog, the Rockies don't play in a vacuum.  Entering the season, it's important to know just what is going on with the rest of the teams in the majors; hence, we're going to take a day to preview each of the other 29 teams in the league.  Don't worry -- we'll keep up with any Rockies-related news during this time.

In 2009, the Giants had one of the best starting rotations in the league.  They also had one of the league's worst offenses.  Neither of those has changed much over the offseason.

The rotation remains superb.  Tim Lincecum is as good as his two Cy Young Awards say he is, and there's nothing to suggest any sort of dropoff.  Matt Cain is a very strong number two starter -- he'd be the ace of quite a few pitching staffs in the majors, including the Rockies.  There's Jonathan Sanchez, who tossed a no-hitter in 2009, and Madison Bumgarner, one of the top pitching prospects in the majors who made his MLB debut late last year shortly after his 20th birthday.  Barry Zito may be grossly overpaid, but he's a competent back-end starter (though he's being paid like an ace.)  That's certainly a playoff rotation.

However, there is one drawback to paying your fifth starter $18 million a year, and that's that the Giants don't really have a lot of money to throw around to improve a bad offense.  In 2009, just two regular players posted an OPS + over 100: star Pablo Sandoval, who had a very strong 142 in his first full year in the bigs, and Juan Uribe, who posted a 111 in a utility role (though he did get over 400 plate appearances.)  The rest of the offense slumped badly in 2009, and it's a testament to the pitching staff that the team was able to win 88 games.

The Giants made a few tweaks to the offense, but this was hardly an offense that was going to be improved with a few tweaks: a major overhaul is more like what the team needed.  The team let Ryan Garko walk, presumably because he slumped after coming over from Cleveland in a trade, but they replaced him with Aubrey Huff -- who slumped even worse after going to Detroit in a late-season trade.  Huff had a strong year in 2008, but he's also 33 and is coming off a .694 OPS season -- that's worse than Travis Ishikawa did in regular duty last year.  Mark DeRosa was also brought in, but he'll be 35 on Opening Day and appeared to hit a wall last season, as his batting average dropped 35 points.  The team also re-upped Freddy Sanchez, who at this point is mostly an empty BA guy.

For a team with a couple of holes to fill, these wouldn't necessarily be bad moves.  Huff, Sanchez, and DeRosa have all shown themselves to be capable role players, though certainly not the kind of players you would want to build an offense around.  But for a team that really needed a major overhaul (on offense, anyway), the Giants really didn't do much to improve themselves.  At the very least, Huff and DeRosa aren't that much better than the players they replaced (Ishikawa/Garko and Fred Lewis), and both are at an age where there's a decent chance they'll become pretty useless.  The bigger issue is that the Giants' farm system hasn't produced much premium offensive talent -- or, really, any offensive talent, aside from Sandoval.  Sandoval, Ishikawa, and Lewis were the only regulars on last year's team who were originally signed by the team.  Buster Posey should be given regular playing time in 2010, though the team's recent decision to bring back Bengie Molina calls that into question.

Aside from Posey, the Giants don't have a lot of offensive talent that's close to being ready for the majors.  That's not to say there aren't players with potential, but many of those players are still raw, far from the majors, or have pending murder trials going on.  The pitching staff should be set for the next couple of years either way.

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