The Giants pitching needs to be perfect in 2009
- Updated: March 9, 2009
Pitching is the strength of the 2009 San Francisco Giants. It’s the one hope they have for being competitive this season. Well, that’s at least what’s been bought and sold thus far by the organization and the media.
Truth is the staff could be pretty good. But the Giants may be in for a surprise as they’re not much farther from being great then they are from being a disappointment.
Competitive is the favorite word of new owner Bill Neukom. It’s used widely in regards to the Giants pitching keeping them afloat. It’s also a word that sounds strong, but leaves plenty of room for backpedaling in the end.
What may cause the Giants brass to backpedal on their lofty predictions for their team come August, September or sooner? The pitching not living up to the hype.
Tim Lincecum will be great, again. The team rose to the occasion during most of his starts in 2008, and the new face of the Giants, and really Bay Area sports, hasn’t yet reached his full potential. Though, it should be noted that Bill James and CHONE predict a very slight fall off in 2009.
Matt Cain is a hall of famer in waiting. Unfortunately when it comes to Cain’s success he pitches with the run support of the Irish, rather than their luck. This may be an unfair generalization of Ireland’s offensive prowess, but considering they won’t even field a team for the WBC I’m comfortable with my analogy.
Randy Johnson’s back. RJ was an aggressive signing by Brian Sabean, but there is no sure bet when it comes to a 45 year left hander with a chronically bad back. If healthy he will be serving a duel purpose; solid middle rotation starter and he’ll allow Barry Zito to pitch out of the fourth slot. If unhealthy the Giants will kiss goodbye the $8 million they’re paying him and the anticipated boost at the gate he was thought to provide.
Barry Zito has been such a huge disaster in his first two seasons in San Francisco that he’s gone largely unnoticed this winter. I for one am anticipating a bit of a bounce back for the aloof lefty, but that may be more optimism than anything else. True objectivity leaves little to convince me of any real resurrection for baseball’s worst investment (any help here, Obama?)
Jonathan Sanchez has a world of talent, and he showed that during the first few months of 2008. The question Sanchez must answer is was his second half melt down due to fatigue or did the league figure him out? Fangraphs.com is anticipating a breakout season for Sanchez, but with his history of control struggles it’s going to be vital he throws strikes.
The bullpen has certainly been overhauled, but so was congress, and that hasn’t yet panned out.
Brian Wilson was an All-Star last year, but beyond his 41 saves his numbers suggest the Giants are vulnerable in the ninth.
Sabean jumped quickly on free agent veterans Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry. Affeldt will prove to be an upgrade as a set up man over Tyler Walker. But Howry is coming off a terrible year with the Cubs, and at his age, 35, I’d suggest caution before assuming a bounce back is in order.
Youngsters Sergio Romo and Alex Hinshaw impressed down the stretch last year, and were considered to be virtual locks for the pen in 2009. However, both have suffered setbacks this spring. Romo has been forced out of action with a sprained right elbow, and Hinshaw has been brutal in the Cactus League.
Certainly on paper the pitching provides reason for optimism. But the expectation that all of the question marks on this staff are going to perform to the point where they’re one of the best in the game is a bit naïve, and the result of a successful campaign by the front office. The 2009 Giants: “Half our team is really good, just trust us.”
Theo Fightmaster also writes for The San Francisco Giants Examiner. Please follow the link provided to read his work there.