The San Francisco Giants come into Dodger Stadium this weekend feeling pretty good about themselves. The pitching has been even better then expected, the offense surprisingly effective, resulting in the best record in the NL at 7 - 2 (tied with Philly). Last year the Giants rode their pitching to 88 wins, this year they hope to top 90. Their hopes took a huge hit when top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner inexplicably lost 5 MPH on his fastball and became very hittable. One has to think an injury has taken place but so far he just keeps pitching and getting hammered in AAA. Possibly the best catching prospect in baseball Buster Posey also sits at AAA waiting his turn. Luckily for us that is where he might stay most of the summer.
This is a well rested Giant bullpen we will be facing. They were off on Thursday and pretty much watched Jonathan Sanchez dominate the Pirates on Wednesday Night when he twirled a three hitter for eight innings with 11 punchouts.
The Giants who were expected to be at the bottom of most offensive categories are instead in the top five in multiple categories. Fourth in slug% (.470), 3rd in OBP (.362), fourth in runs scored (51). This will probably not last and while the had their way with the Astro pitching they also beat up on the Braves. It actually doesn't need to last, they have good enough pitching that they should be in every game they play.
Pitching is the bread and butter of the Giants and with Zito holding his own, Sanchez doing what we hoped Kershaw would do the 1 - 4 in the rotation is the best in the NL. Their 2.75 ERA is on top of the leaderboard, they have only given up 5 home runs so something may have to give when they run into Matt Kemp.
The Dodgers will miss Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez so they will get a shot at the two weakest pitchers in the rotation. Unlike other teams if you get past the rotation they bullpen is solid all the way through.
Notable Additions: Mark DeRosa, Audrey Huff, Mota, Wellemeyer
Old Friends: Mota
1st Base-Aubrey Huff comes over as a free agent to fill the gaping hole the Giants have had at first base. Huff has to deal with declining power and the fact his home park is particularly tough on home runs to right field. As the season progresses I don't really see Huff being a big upgrade for them.
2nd Base- Juan Uribe had a career year in 2009. So far in 2010 he's matching what he did in 2009. If he does this all season he will be a valuable asset to the offense.
SS - Edgar Renteria is enjoying a renaissance at the start of the year but he should slide back once he wakes up. At one time Renteria was one of the better offensive SS in the NL but that was years ago. This fast start is a mirage built on a 44% hit rate. His norm is 31%, the regression should come fast.
3rd Base - If Pablo Sandoval wasn't a Giant he'd probably be my favorite player to watch hit. Everything seems to be a line drive off his bat and while he swings at everything, he also seems to hit everything. He's the real deal and fun to watch hitting, fielding, or running. A lot of players have tried to claim the throne from Vlady but I think the throne clearly belongs to Pablo at this point.
C -Giants brought back Benjie Molina instead of giving the job to Buster Posey. Molina is a hacker who doesn't know what a walk is, but he can also put the ball into the seats. The Giants love how he handles their staff which is why he's back behind the plate.
CF -Aaron Rowand was part of the trio of disappointing center fielders who signed contracts with California teams in the winter of 2007 along with Pierre and Matthews. He's the only one still on his original team and is trying to earn his salary this year. He hasn't had a good year since his contract year and is usually an OB failure.
RF - John Bowker beat out Nate Schierholtz for the starting gig. Bowker has failed to impress during his other stints as a starter so this is a fluid situation. Even if he sticks as a starter the ceiling is limited. It is kind of like having Xavier Paul starting in RF.
LF -Super Uber Utility man Mark DeRosa was signed to be a left fielder. DeRosa can probably add value to a team as 2nd baseman or maybe even a 3rd baseman, but if he's your left fielder, your team is probably a little devoid of power. He's Casey Blake playing LF, a good player but when your CF is Rowand, and your RF is Bowkers, you probably need a little more from your LF then what DeRosa can deliver.
On the DL: Burbank High star Freddy Sanchez
Starting Pitching for our Series:
Game One -Wellemeyer - the ex Cardinal won the 5th starter job with an excellent spring. This spot was expected to be handled by top pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner but Bumgarner lost about 5 MPH off his fastball and was batted around this spring. Wellemeyer is the weak link and the Dodger offense should have no problem with him.
Game Two -Tim Lincecum - you might have heard of this guy, probably the best pitcher many of you have ever seen.
Game Three - Barry Zito after having a solid 2009 campaign is doing it again so far in 2010. After two starts he's only given up eight hits in 12 innings. He may never earn the silly salary he was given but he's more then adequate as part of this rotation. I consider him the fourth best pitcher on the staff and not many teams can run out a Zito in the four spot.
Bullpen: The bullpen is another big strength for the Giants. You won't find any soft tossing veterans in this group. Most of the names are unknown but collectively they will do a good job. Only Runzler is young but they don't have anyone over 30 that they use in critical situations. In a close game these are the guys we will likely see. Sergio Romo brings a multitude of pitches and arm angles to confuse the hitters during his short stints. He doesn't have high velocity (high 80's) but he still gets his share of strikeouts due to the command of the variety of pitches he does throw (FB, slider, curveball, splitter, and changeup). Jeremy Affeldt is still only 30 after having been in the league for what seems like forever. The hard throwing LHP induces a high% of ground balls and has been an effective setup man for quite a few years now. Dan Runzler give the Giants the 2nd lefty in the pen. He has struggled so far this year but has the capability to post double digit K rates. Brian Wilson is an excellent closer even with the annoying habit. The rest of the bullpen is made up of ex-Dodger Mota, and Brandon Medders. Medders is the weakest link.