Let’s get one thing out of the way, first.
The San Francisco Giants, as presently constructed, will not win the World Series in 2013.
(“Doubter! Bandwagoner! Miserablist! Pessimist! Realist!”)
Gee, Captain Obvious, where would you come up with something like that? Well, it wouldn’t have to do anything with the fact that I sat through 16 innings of absolute crap at a cold ballpark on Monday night.
The truth is, this team is flawed in many, many ways. Let’s count them:
1. The starting pitching, the backbone and pride of 2 championship teams, has virtually disappeared. Tim Lincecum, a 2-time Cy Young Award winner, is a shadow of his former self. A low-velocity, quiet, short-haired shadow who walks a lot of people. It shows in his stats. Matt Cain has shown signs of returning to prior form recently, but seemingly took a step back Friday night against the Dodgers. You know, the game where Juan Uribe knocked in 7 runs and fell a single short of the cycle.
Yes, THAT Juan Uribe. Madison Bumgarner has been the lone bright spot in this rotation, and he’s made the All-Star team as a result. Ryan Vogelsong was absolutely ABOMINABLE before he got hurt, with an ERA up around 7000.05 or something. Finally, Barry Zito. Where to begin. The single-biggest free agent bust in franchise history seemed to have turned a corner last year, and followed it up by beating the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS, and then outdueling the best pitcher in baseball in the World Series. This year, he has been Sandy Koufax reborn at home, but a pile of poop on the road. Either way, he walks a lot of guys. Mike Kickham hasn’t been very good in his few appearances in the big leagues, while Chad Gaudin, Vogelsong’s injury fill-in, has been relatively decent.
Folks, there are 2 guaranteed spots in the Giants rotation next year. Those go to Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Tim Lincecum (and his $20 million salary) will be a free agent, while Zito will be bought out for $7 million, and Vogelsong has a $5-6 million team option with a $300k buyout. If somebody doesn’t start stepping out, they’ll be stepping out.
2. Every single person in the lineup except for Buster Posey has forgotten how to hit. Now, tonight’s 13-hit effort was an improvement, and they did score 6 runs, but…that doesn’t excuse the last 3 weeks of offensive….um…inepititude? I mean, come on. You got no-hit by a guy whose name is Homer. (Yet everyone got hits off a guy who was nicknamed “No-Hit”) Monday night, Brandon Belt went 0-for-8 with 5 strikeouts. 5. For those of you who don’t know, that’s called a platinum sombrero, and there’s a reason you’ve never heard of it. Pablo Sandoval is listed at 240 pounds. The eye test says he looks more like Isaac Sopoaga. Hunter Pence may be the most frustrating hitter of all of them. He was a great hitter before he came here. A perennial All-Star. The Phillies basically sold the farm to get one season out of him. .290 batting average, 30 homers, 100 RBIs, and the wackiest at-bats you’ve ever seen. He came to SF and the RBI’s continued, but the home runs and BA dropped considerably. He’d be a viable trade candidate if the Giants didn’t have plans to resign him.
Since the Giants took 2 of 3 from the Padres earlier this season, they’ve dropped series to the Marlins, Rockies, Dodgers, Reds, Dodgers again, and now the lowly Mets. They’ve been no-hit, walked off twice, batted out of order, rained out, lost in 16 innings, and had the tie or lead taken away from them in the 6th inning or later 11 times. That’s 11 games that, last year, the bullpen puts away, or that the offense puts away. Those 11 games, if recorded as wins, would put the Giants record at 51-38, good for a 4.5 game lead in the division. Instead, they’re 6.5 back, and their postseason probabilities are shrinking with every loss.
So the question remains: how to fix it?
Though the Giants aren’t contending this year (yet), they still have pieces to win a championship. They proved that last year. It starts with retaining Hunter Pence. Even though he hasn’t shown it much in his time in SF, he is the team’s one, true power threat. If he can be had for 3 years, $40 million, do it. I would also recommend that Sabean negotiate with Lincecum during the offseason to bring him back as a cheap setup man. Chad Gaudin has been an integral part of the pitching rotation and should be retained. Which brings me to Javier Lopez. As much as we all love Javier Lopez, the Giants are paying him to record 1-2 outs/game, 3-4 times/week. That’s a lot of money for not a lot of work. He’s 35 years old, and will be a Free Agent at the end of the year. If Sabean can get some decent prospects in return for one of the game’s premier specialists, I would definitely pull the trigger on a deal. Besides, left-handed specialists grow on trees.
My guess is that Zito will be bought out, and will not return to the team next year. Whether or not some other team takes a flyer on him remains to be seen, but my guess is that he retires quietly back to his yoga-zen ways in LA. Vogelsong’s future with the team will depend entirely on how well he pitches upon his return.
I honestly think it is time to move on from Pablo Sandoval. His weight and injury issues have caused him to miss time basically his whole career. Sabean can get some nice prospects to restock the system for Sandoval this offseason. He’s only 26, after all. I think the Giants should look into trading Jeremy Affeldt at the deadline this year. He’s under contract for two more years at an awfully expensive price for a guy who can’t give you much at this point in his career. Additionally, he will be eligible for 10-and-5 rights this offseason, meaning that he will have to approve any trade that occurs after this year.
So while the Giants may not contend this year, it would be in their best interests to retool, not rebuild, over these next 6 months. That way next year they can contend for a title. They’ve got the core, they just need the complementary pieces. And Brian Sabean is awfully good at finding complimentary pieces.