It’s prediction time for MoreSplashHits. But first, a history lesson.
MoreSplashHits has predicted the Giants’ final record each of the past four seasons. And here they are, with the results.
2008: Prediction, 70-92; Result, 72-90
2009: Prediction, 83-79; Result, 88-74
2010: Prediction, 90-72; Result, 92-70
2011: Prediction, 94-68; Result, 86-76
The Giants exceeded our predictions in every year but 2011, when coming off a World Series victory filled us with a bit of optimism.
And the Giants could have reached 94 wins in 2011, if Buster Posey didn’t miss four months, if Freddy Sanchez didn’t miss almost four months, if Pablo Sandoval didn’t miss six weeks; if Brandon Belt, Miguel Tejada, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff weren’t so gawd-awful.
So when you compare the 2011 opening lineup and the 2012 opening lineup, there aren’t many changes.
Here they are: 2011 starter/2012 starter
1B Brandon Belt / 1B Brandon Belt
2B Freddy Sanchez / 2B Emmanuel Burriss
SS Miguel Tejada / SS Brandon Crawford
3B Pablo Sandoval / 3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey / C Buster Posey
OF Pat Burrell / OF Melky Cabrera
OF Andres Torres / OF Angel Pagan
OF Aubrey Huff / OF Aubrey Huff
That would not give you reason for optimism. But MoreSplashHits is going off the premise that the 2012 offense CAN’T be as bad as in 2011. It CAN’T.
Belt HAS to be better. Huff HAS to be better. Crawford, Cabrera and Pagan HAVE to produce more than Tejada, Burrell and Torres. Posey and Sandoval HAVE to be healthier.
These aren’t lofty goals. The bar was set so low in 2011 that exceeding those expectations should not be difficult.
Plus, the Giants’ 2012 bench is deeper.
Nate Schierholtz was slated as a starting in RF in the offseason. Now, he provides solid depth. Gregor Blanco brings speed and defense that was sorely missing from the 2011 lineup. We like what Brett Pill could bring to the plate, and Hector Sanchez brings a ton of promise.
We’re not all that excited with Ryan Theriot, so we’ll set the bar low there.
But you add it all up, along with stellar pitching that returns, and THAT does give us optimism for 2012.
And are prediction is?
Alright. First pitch for opening day is quickly approaching. So I guess it’s time for a prediction.
But first, a history lesson.
In 2008, the first year of the post-Barry Bonds era, MoreSplashHits was asked to predict a win-loss record for the Giants. We said 70-92. Others scoffed, saying the Giants would be lucky avoid a 100-loss season.
The result: 72-90.
In 2009, the question was posed again. MoreSplashHits said 83-79. The reaction was: Really? A winning record?
The result: 88-74.
Last year, on this very blog, MoreSplashHits projected a 90-72 season.
The result: 92-70 .. and a World Series title.
OK, so I didn’t project that latter fact. But then, who did?
So what about 2011?
Some might look at the lineup and say the 2011 team is almost the same that ended 2010, with the exception of Brandon Belt at 1B and Miguel Tejada at SS.
But really, you need to look at last year’s opening-day lineup.
Players who are the same: Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval. That’s it.
Last year’s opening eight were: 1B Huff, 2B Juan Uribe, SS Edgar Renteria, 3B Sandoval, C Bengie Molina, LF Mark DeRosa, CF Aaron Rowand, RF John Bowker.
This season, Brandon Belt is new at first base. Freddy Sanchez did not debut until May because he was recovering from shoulder surgery. Tejada takes over at shortstop. Buster Posey didn’t get called up until late May. Pat Burrell didn’t join the Giants until June. Andres Torres didn’t become a regular until May. Cody Ross joined in August.
Some critics say that Huff’s numbers last year were an anomaly and that he’s due for a drop-off. But his numbers this spring say something different.
Sandoval looks primed for a big bounce-back season.
Players who were starters last year are back as reserves this year: DeRosa and Rowand.
And the rotation is stronger because the 2011 Giants have Madison Bumgarner in the mix instead of Todd Wellemeyer.
So, the 2011 Giants have the potential to be better from start to finish than the 2010 squad.
So what does that mean for wins and losses?
Well, MoreSplashHits mantra has been “Win series at home, play .500 ball on the road.” And if the Giants follow that model, they’ll finish 94-68. So that’s what we’ll go with.
In 2008, the author of moresplashhits projected a 70-92 season for the Giants. They finished 72-90.
In 2009, More Splash Hits projected a 83-79 season. The Giants went 88-74.
So what do we project for 2010…………90-72.
We debating all spring about this number, ranging in win totals between 85-90. But we went to the high number, and here’s our reasoning.
Now many Giants fans were not enthusiastic about the Giants’ offseason moves, not securing the really big bat that the team has been lacking.
But if you step back and look at the lineup as a whole, and compare it to last year’s team, it’s hard not to conclude this year’s team is better.
1B (2009) — Rich Aurilia/Travis Ishikawa
1B (2010) — Aubrey Huff
Huff is not a superstar, but he does have a solid bat. His glove may be lacking, but Ishikawa remains to provide defensive support when needed. Overall, the Giants are better in 2010 at 1B than they were in 2009. 2010: Improved
2B (2009) — Emmanuel Burriss
2B (2010) — Juan Uribe/Freddy Sanchez
Last year started with hope at 2B. Hope that Burriss would blossom into a solid starter at 2B. It never really happened as Burriss got hurt by midseason, eventually leading to the decision to get Sanchez via a trade. This year, the Giants know what their getting in Uribe, who was one of the team’s most consistent bats last season. The good news with Sanchez’s offseason surgery is that it gets Uribe into the lineup regularly, at least for the first month. If Sanchez comes back healthy and can produce, it will make the Giants all that stronger. 2010: Improved
SS (2009) — Edgar Renteria
SS (2010) — Edgar Renteria
Renteria was a disappointment in 2009, struggling much of the season. He has offseason surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, and he looked much stronger this spring. Whatever he can produce above what he provided last season is a bonus. 2010: Same
3B (2009) — Pablo Sandoval
3B (2010) — Pablo Sandoval
There’s been a lot of chatter this spring about Kung-Fu Panda. Some of it lists Sandoval as a candidate to disappoint this season, painting his 2009 as somewhat of a fluke. But the more observant Giant fans know that Sandoval perform in 2009 the same way he performed after getting called up at the end of 2008. That tells us that last season was no fluke. Again, if Sandoval replicates last year’s number, the Giants are happy. If he continues to improve, watch out. 2010: Same
C (2009) — Bengie Molina
C (2010) — Bengie Molina
One of the surprises of the offseason was the return of Molina. But it really helped complete the Giants offense. While Posey gave us a good glimpse of what is to come in the future, the importance of Molina’s bat and his handling of the pitching staff cannot be disregarded. And this season, the Giants won’t depend as heavily on Molina. No cleanup spot. No starting six days a week. That could keep Molina fresher longer. 2010: Same
LF (2009) — Fred Lewis
LF (2010) — Mark DeRosa
Left field was another position where the Giants opened the season with hope — hope that Fred Lewis would blossom as a full-time player. He didn’t. This year, they go with a veteran player with a professional bat. DeRosa is not a great outfielder, but he’s better than Lewis. And he can be depended upon offensively, more so than Lewis. 2010: Improved.
CF (2009) — Aaron Rowand
CF (2010) — Aaron Rowand
This is another player who the Giants might expect to perform better this year than last year. Rowand moves into the leadoff spot. He’s not your typical leadoff hitter. But his performance from the spring indicates that his leaner body and new approach at the plate gives hope that better days are ahead in 2010. Last year, Rowand led the Giants in strikeouts. If hits more and whiffs less, that’s good news for SF. 2010: Same
RF (2009) — Randy Winn
RF (2010) — John Bowker
Last year’s lineup was filled with players who had more promise than past production. In most cases, that promise didn’t happen (Burriss, Lewis, Ishikawa). So the Giants are going with more proven players this year. RF is one position where the Giants lose a proven player and go with one with promise. The Giants could improve at RF in 2010, or they could miss Randy Winn. 2010: Declined
Starting pitching (2009) — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, Randy Johnson
Starting pitching (2010) — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, Todd Wellemeyer
If the Giants can match last year’s pitching performance, it’s a good year. But there’s room for improvement. Remember the first-half struggles of Sanchez before his return and his no-hitter? If he can build off his second-half success, it makes the rotation that much stronger. Johnson was a nice addition, but his season was basically over by July. If Wellemeyer can provide some good starts, the Giants will be fine. If he struggles, Kevin Pucetas is ready for a call in Fresno. 2010: Same
Closer and setup (2009): Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Bobby Howry
Closer and setup (2010): Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo
The end of the game was in good hands last year. But the middle relief was a bit shaky at times. The end again looks in good hand, but the bullpen looks much strong top-to-bottom. Plus, the Giants have plenty of good options waiting in Fresno. This looks to be a strength of the Giants in 2010. 2010: Improved
So, in review, there are several positions in which the Giants are improved, and only few where they appear to have lost something from last year. That’s got to be worth two more wins in 2010.
Also, consider this: the Giants won 22 games last season — one-fourth of their total wins — when scoring three or fewer runs. So even a few more runs this season will pay big dividends. And last year, the win total could have been much better if the Giants can play better on the road. They got off to a poor start in this category, dropping their first six in LA and San Diego. The Giants actually hit better, hit more home runs, scored more runs at home than they did on the road. And AT&T Park is consider a pitchers’ park. The road to success must start on the road for the Giants. If they can go .500 on the road, 90 wins should not be hard to reach