MLB Handicapping: Will Giants Rotation Make Them a Contender?
by Matt Severance - 03/27/2009
The San Francisco Giants easily have the worst batting order in the league heading into 2009. Don't believe me? Here is their projected batting order:
1. RF Randy Winn.
2. SS Edgar Renteria.
3. LF Fred Lewis.
4. C Bengie Molina.
5. 3B Pablo Sandoval.
6. CF Aaron Rowand.
7. 1B Travis Ishikawa.
8. 2B Emmanuel Burriss.
Whatever team you might be a fan of other than the Giants, tell me which of these guys would make your team's starting lineup? Maybe Molina, but a cleanup hitter shouldn't be coming off a 16 homer, 95 RBI-season, although that's pretty good for a catcher. And who is surrounding Molina? A guy at No. 3 that had nine homers last year and a guy at No. 5 who has 145 career at-bats and three career homers.
Rowand, at No. 6, is decent in the field but regressed big-time last year in his first season with a big new contract. Wynn and Renteria are past their prime, and I'm guessing you've never heard of Ishikawa and Burriss.
Yet for all that horridness at the plate, this team is a sleeper because of one of the majors' most intriguing rotations, one that could carry the Giants into contention in the NL West - San Francisco is a respectable 9/2 to win the division on Bodog.
Of course, the leader of that pitching staff is reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who happens to be the Bodog 2/1 favorite to win again.
The 5-11, 170-pound boyish-looking right-hander became the first Giants pitcher since Mike McCormick in 1967 to win the Cy Young Award, going 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA and an MLB-leading 265 strikeouts last year. Not bad for a team that went 72-90, even if he is playing in a pitcher's park.
"He looks like one of the Jonas Brothers," said five-time Cy Young Award winning teammate Randy Johnson, "somebody my daughter would listen to."
Ah, the Big Unit. He was a great free-agent addition to the Giants and slides in at No. 2. He was great in the second half of last season (2.41 ERA after the All-Star break with 78 strikeouts in 86 innings). But the Diamondbacks only offered him $2.5 million to come back; he snapped up $8 million from the Giants.
This is the first spring since 2006 that he isn't recovering from back surgery.
"I feel really good," he said.
Johnson will be a nice veteran buffer to No. 3 Matt Cain, a righty who had 14 losses despite a 3.76 ERA last season. He also had 21 quality starts.
At No. 4 is Barry Zito, who has a 4.83 ERA as a Giant since getting $126 million. But indications are his stuff is good this spring, and many feel the weight of no longer being considered a staff ace or co-ace will free Zito to at least resemble the Oakland version.
Last in the rotation is Jonathan Sanchez, a lefty who is the biggest question mark coming off a season with a 5.10 ERA in 29 starts. But he also struck out 157 in 154 innings. The Giants are banking on the guy who had a 3.97 ERA before the All-Star break as opposed to the 7.47 ERA.
While the 2009 San Francisco Giants might not reach the playoffs, the Bodog over/under of 80.5 certainly seems achievable. And there's one thing you can probably bet on with this group of arms: the Giants' pitching staff will lead the league in strikeouts.