Giants Are Not Bad As Is

Some fans are frightened by Sabean's statement that the Giants are as good or better than last year. Let's examine that premise.

After the Giants re-signed JT Snow and signed Michael Tucker, Sabean said that the Giants team is now "as good or better than last year's ballclub," and that send some Giants fans into a tailspin. Supporting the fans' stance was Rob Neyer of ESPN who commented that the Giants team right now would win at best 85 games in 2004. But I think you can make the argument that the Giants are better than last year as is or no worse than equal.

Better Offense
We should be improved offensively at 2B, 3B, and C in 2004 vs. 2003, about the same or slight decline at LF, CF, and 1B, big decline at SS, and question mark in RF, though maybe better.

First, Durham should be healthy, playing a full season, after playing 150+ games the previous 7 seasons, so no more Neifi playing so many games at 2B. Second, Alfonzo figured out how to hit at Pac Bell Park in the second half and should have a full season of splendid play in 2004. And Pierzynski should be much better than Santiago offensively.

Bonds, Grissom and Snow cannot be expected to play as well as the year before, but they have all been performing at about the same levels as before for the past few years, so they should be at about the same or with a slight decline. Obviously, there will be a big drop from Aurilia to Neifi, but not enough to negate the gains noted above especially since Aurilia had an off-year himself, with his tear-duct problems and the appendicitis and was replaced by Perez. Lastly, a Hammonds/Tucker platoon may outplay Cruz Jr. offensively because Cruz was not able to adjust to hitting 8th last year, hitting .234/.302/.359/.661 in 145 at-bats there, his most anywhere in the lineup (in his second most AB, he hit .187/.350/.275/.625 in 91 AB in the fifth position in the lineup; his ABs batting first, second and fourth should be taken care of by Durham, Snow and Bonds if Alou continues).

Among the reserves, the Giants lose with Big Cat gone but Hammonds or Tucker, whoever's not starting, should be a huge improvement over basically Rivera/Benard last year, so that should be a push. Feliz is still here and Neifi should not be hard to replace and probably is replaced by Ransom. Lastly, Torrealba is still the backup (plus could see more play since the Giants asked Pierzynski to play some 1B in 2004).

Defense Probably Worse But Not By Much
Defense probably takes a slight hit due to age and change in personnel. But nothing serious IMO except for right field and Neifi is suppose to be better than Aurilia at SS so it evens out a little bit. So the defense is probably worse but not by much.

Starting Rotation Better
The starting rotation of Schmidt, Rueter, Williams, Hermanson, Correia looks equal to if not better than what we had overall last year: Schmidt, Rueter/Ponson, Moss/Spare Parts, Ainsworth/Williams, Jensen/Foppert/spare parts. Schmidt seems to miss a few games every year anyway then pitch great, so he should be about the same. Rueter should stay healthy this year, as his stint on the disabled list last year was his first with the Giants so he should outdo what he and his replacement Ponson did last season.

I expect Williams to continue to pitch like last year only over a full year which is basically the same as Ainsworth/Williams did last year. Hermanson should be able to equal what Moss and all the spare parts starters including himself did, and Correia couldn't be worse than Jensen/Foppert/spare parts and could be much better. Thus, overall, we should see improvements in a number of positions, especially at the bottom of the rotation, and no expected declines.

Bullpen is a big question mark because of Nen. But assuming he is back, Nen is better than Worrell, F-Rod is F-Rod, I think Herges will replace Nathan fine, Christensen should be better and fully recovered from his surgery, Eyre should be fine, and Brower should be fine too. So as long as Nen comes through, the bullpen could be just as strong next year as currently constituted and perhaps can be better.

Overall: What Sabes Said
Offense could be better or no worse than equal. Defense is not significantly worse. Starting pitching looks to be better than last year overall. Bullpen looks to be about the same if Nen comes back the same or better. All this supports what Sabean said, that the Giants right now is the same or arguably better than last year. Once again he is no idiot.

Get a Big RBI Guy
That said, and kudos to Sabean for once again doing the magic tightrope walk every year splendidly, the Giants need to get a high impact hitter for the lineup. As I noted in before, there are not that many great seasons left in Barry Bonds body, certainly less than one handful and perhaps none - for example, Willie Mays dropped from 52 homers to 37 to 22 in successive seasons, while Ted Williams went from 38 to 26 to 10, though he then rebounded for 29, when they had their big decline in homers in their late 30's. We need a big bopper hitter to bat behind him and drive him in. Alfonzo is fine but he needs a tag-team buddy who can help him drive in Bonds.

Right now it appears that rightfield is the logical place for such a player though there has been rumors that the Giants are trying to trade Neifi Perez to another team. In addition, Hammonds and Tucker would make splendid reserve outfielders for the Giants should a RF be obtained. The only premiere rightfielder on the market now is Vladimir Guererro. However, there has been talk that Carlos Beltran or Magglio Ordonez could be available for the right package of players. Any of these young players would be great as the successor to Barry Bonds, though obviously I have been advocating that the Giants get Vlad.

Whatever backtracking the Giants need to do to get it done, if they were actively negotiating to get Gary Sheffield, as Ned Colletti said that they were, they should be close enough in dollars to pursue Vlad with a creative contract package. And with potential bidders for Vlad falling by the wayside (Montreal is now out and the Yankees and Braves look out and perhaps the Mets if they sign Kaz Matsui since they still need pitching) it doesn't look like there will be wild bidding by any of the teams, especially the team that could do it, the Baltimore Orioles, who still has Albert Belle's wasted contract as a reminder of what's possible with big dollar contracts. I strongly believe that the Giants will be pleasantly surprised if they would only negotiate with Vlad's agent and find out what is possible, as I've outlined in previous articles. Go Giants!

Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fanatic's View' for when the mood and muse strikes him. He wants to teach and share his love of baseball and, in particular, his love for the San Francisco Giants. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player and should be in Cooperstown. Please feel free to e-mail him at if you have a question or comment.

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