Well we've got 7 days ONE WEEK left until Opening Day, which means it's season preview time. We'll be running it down team by team, with an added new wrinkle this time around: the beer of choice for fans of the team to enjoy whilst watching their team take the field! Nothing like that to help get you through a baseball season, especially if you're from Pittsburgh. Up next: the San Francisco Giants.
Lineup: The lineup is, how do you say...weak. Pablo Sandoval is literally the only guy we feel comfortable saying will be good. For most of the rest, league average is a dream, not a possibility, and for some even that dream went by the wayside years ago. Edgar Renteria is probably one of the worst shortstops in the league at this point, and his double play partner Freddy Sanchez is a former batting title champ whose one saving grace is a decent batting average. Unfortunately, he's got no plate discipline or power to accompany it. Rounding out the infield is Aubrey Huff, who was once very good, but now...is not. And the outfield is similarly comme on dit disadvantaged in terms of talent; Mark DeRosa is a fine utility player, but not an everyday left fielder. Aaron Rowand cashed in big time on one great season, and is now firmly mired in mediocrity. And Nate Schierholtz once held promise, but he's not a starting MLB RF. Eugenio Velez and Fred Lewis back up that trio, though, so at least there's decent depth. We would argue for DeRosa to play second and have Velez or Lewis take over in left, but then we're not paid the big bucks to make such decisions. However, it gives us hope that we could one day be paid to do so to see that the team resigned Bengie Molina instead of letting Buster Posey do a fairly passable Matt Wieters impression. Dumb, dumb choice.
Rotation: The rotation is the strongest part of this team, by far. 2-time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum heads up this group, and he's certainly an ace in any sense of the word. Matt Cain is another very good young starter, and is a solid bet for a well-above average performance this year. Barry Zito has been disappointing considering the money thrown his way, but he made a marked improvement last year, and if you don't consider the exorbitant amount of money they'll be paying him, he makes for a fine third starter. Jonathan Sanchez is one of our favorite candidates to break out this year; the lefty has filthy stuff and showed great promise in the second half of 2009. He could have Randy Johnson-esque strikeout numbers if all breaks right for him. And then Todd Wellemeyer and top prospect Madison Bumgarner - who's lost a considerable amount of sheen due to a serious and disquieting drop in velocity - will battle it out for the fifth spot, though we'd like to see Wellemeyer take the job and Bumgarner try to prove that he can work without elite velo in the minors. Even we can't believe that we just advocated choosing against the young gun. Let's move on.
Bullpen: There's decent pieces to be had here. Closer Brian Wilson has become quite proficient at striking fellas out, and Jeremy Affeldt is coming off a career year - albeit one he's unlikely to repeat. Brandon Medders should be a real asset as well. However, there's a lot of dross beyond them; Sergio Romo, Guillermo Mota, and Santiago Casilla are unlikely to contribute much, and any other spots will be a veritable revolving door of marginal talent. If and when Bumgarner gets the call, though, Wellemeyer will make a nice long man to help eat up some of these innings.
Overall: There's not a whole lot to like about the Giants, but they sure can pitch, and Pablo Sandoval is an exciting guy to have installed in the 3-hole. Unfortunately, they can't really hit or defend, and the bullpen depth is very weak. Having one major strength may have been enough to compete in the NL West just a scant few seasons ago, but not anymore.
Predicted Record: 82-80, 4th place NL West
Beer: Cuddly Panda Porter. As you probably know, Pablo Sandoval's nickname is Kung Fu Panda. Never mind how Dreamworks feels about it; it's going to stick. Now, Cuddly Panda is sort of the opposite of Kung Fu Panda, though we would argue that any panda is fairly cuddly. But the Cuddly moniker sort of fits this team, who should be overall pretty punchless - except for the Panda in the middle of the lineup.