I realize that I’ve been absent for some time now but I needed to take a few steps back before wrapping up the 2009 Giants. It was quite the rollercoaster season here in my inaugural year of Giants coverage and I didn’t want to just come out firing as the season ended with such disappointment and bitterness. The hated Dodgers took the division and our race for the Wild Card fell short. The Giants were eliminated with still a week to go in the season and the final seven days were filled with criticism and finger-pointing.
Now I’m not saying I wasn’t a part of some of those end-of-season debates, but for a legitimate analysis, I needed to take some time. It’s not like my opinions of the players and the front office aren’t already cemented in my brain, but I honestly feel that the Giants, this year, should be looked at through two sets of eyes. The first, compares the Giants performance in relation to the rest of Major League Baseball — how our hitters, pitchers and coaches stacked up in comparison to the rest of the league, and the second is how the Giants played and finished with respect to our pre-season expectations.
It may not matter, in the grand scheme of things, how the Giants fared with respect to our expectations since you don’t get bonus points for effort and/or desire, but in building a ball club and figuring out who stays and who goes, a player exceeding expectations definitely gets an extra look. So for that, each player is going to get two grades. The first will be the player’s actual grade (AG) which is how he fared with respect to his peers in MLB and the second will be the player’s “expectation grade” (EG) which will reflect his performance with respect to how we thought he was going to perform this season. Personally, the AG is where it most counts for me, but if we’re all going to be on the same page for next season, then the EG should come into play.
This may sting a little.
Bengie Molina — His 20 HR and 80 RBI were second on the team and right about where we thought/hoped he’d be at year’s end. Unfortunately, his .265 average was 11 points lower than his career average which tells me that he was pressing at the plate all year and trying to do too much. He was also slowed by injuries this year, which, when you’re carrying that much weight, seems inevitable. Defensively, a big concern was the career high 85 stolen bases allowed. You can’t survive as a backstop in the NL throwing out only 22.7% of baserunners. AG: B EG: B-
Eli Whiteside — A .228 avergae with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 127 at bats as the primary backup this year is neither gratifying nor disappointing. It is what it is. Defensively, he’s solid and you’re not really looking for or expecting much else in a backup. Still gets those bonus points for catching Jonathan Sanchez’ no-hitter. AG: C EG: C
Buster Posey — A great minor league year for the Giants backstop of the future where he hit well on all levels. Not much to talk about for his major league experience as his 17 at bats are an insufficient sample size. His lack of playing time had more to do with Bruce Bochy being annoyed that he was brought up to “light a fire” under Molina than his ability. AG/EG: Incomplete
Travis Ishikawa, 1B — A batting line of .261-9-39 in 326 at bats for your first baseman??? Ishikawa fooled the higher ups with some power in the spring and then failed to deliver throughout the year. He was so bad that the team went and picked up a shlub in Ryan Garko (up next) to try and improve. Average glove + no power = no job in 2010. AG: D- EG: F
Ryan Garko, 1B — He was hitting .285 with 11 HR and 39 RBI in 236 at bats with Cleveland before we traded Single-A prospect Scott Barnes to get him and hit .235 with 2 HR and 13 RBI in 115 at bats with us. Terrible. I think he had one hit that even meant something and before long he was relegated to pinch hitting duties. He was already on the outs with the Indians and for some reason we (well, I did) didn’t see that in July. AG: D- EG: F
Emmaunuel Burriss, 2B — Remember him? Won the second base job after barely beating out Kevin Frandsen in spring training and then proceeded to do diddly squat the rest of the way. Was supposed to have greta speed at the top of the lineup and then failed to get on base enough to even matter. Then we demote him and he breaks his foot and is lost for the season. Like I even need to post a grade here… AG: F EG: F
Kevin Frandsen, 2B — The only reason I’m including him here is to get another chance to talk about how he blew that sacrifice bunt towards the end of the season and killed a rally that could have gotten the Giants back on top of the Wild Card chase. AG: F EG: F
Juan Uribe, 2B/SS/3B — Without a doubt, our best free agent signing of a position player. Uribe was supposed to add some depth at third and short and ended up as our everyday second baseman most of the way. He hit .289 with 16 HR and 55 RBI in just under 400 at bats and became a cult hero at AT&T Park. His late season slump and free swinging ways sent his average below .300, but overall became the infielder we wished we had more of. AG: B EG: A
Freddy Sanchez, 2B — The other deadline acquisition for the Giants, and probably just as disappointing as Garko. His knee was banged up when we got him and then it and his shoulder kept him out of the lineup for most of the second half. He only played 25 games for the Giants and was pretty much a non-entity and looked like exactly what he is — a decent hitter on the downside of a career. AG: C EG: C-
Edgar Renteria, SS — Not being forthright about a shoulder injury is not the way to get into anyone’s good graces, and one of my sources told me about it back in May (Thanks, Big E). He failed to help on the offensive front with a feeble .250 average an an OBP barely above .300 and was finally shuttled down to the bottom of the order by year end. Adequate in the field but with limited range and definitely not worth the $4M+ a year we signed him for. Maybe next year when he’s healthy, but I’m not holding my breath AG: C EG: C-
Pablo Sandoval, 3B/1B — What can I say about Kung Fu Panda that hasn’t already been said by everyone and his bat? His 145 at bats in ’08 put him 10 over the limit to qualify for Rookie of the Year honors this season which he would have handily won as he led the Giants in each and every offensive category — hits, average, runs, home runs, RBI, OBP, OPS, slugging….you name it. He was more than sound defensively at the hot corner and should be considered a strong candidate for a long term contract as soon as possible. AG: A EG: A+
Aaron Rowand — Talk about an up and down season. First off, there’s nothing I can say about his defense. He’s got great range and covers more ground than most center fielders in the game today. He also goes all out and gives 110% in the outfield. Hitting, however, is a much different story. Rowand started off the season pretty cold as he remained buried in the bottom third of the order, however, Bochy had a hunch and moved him up to leadoff and for about a month there, he was unstoppable at the plate, hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of .400 during his time there. But the bat went cold and he returned to the bottom of the order and slowly became as guaranteed an out as you can be. AG: C- EG: C
Randy Winn — A perfect example of a guy winding down his career. The .262 average matched the second lowest average for his career and his pair of home runs marked the first time he failed to hit double digit homers since 2001. He’s a solid outfielder, but at some point you need to say ‘out with the old and in with the new’. Your corner outfielders should be hitting for power. Winn is not. AG: D EG: C-
Fred Lewis — A bust with the bat and an even bigger bust with the glove. We all knew Lewis wasn’t a power hitter, but he was supposed to be a quality table setter at the top of the order and a defensive whiz out there in left. Well, neither was true this season and Lewis eventually lost his starting job. He had a few nice pinch hitting moments, but was that what we were expecting? Nope. AG: D EG: F
Nate Schierholtz — A solid late season development for the Giants as he gradually became a cornerstone in the outfield in the second half. Again, not much power and the .267 average and the 58 Ks in 285 at bats shows poor plate discipline, but blame for that will fall elsewhere…you’ll see. Still, Schierholtz was a good callup for us and should be a great 4th outfielder down the line. AG: B- EG: B+
Andres Torres — He was a decent backup this year and actually could be in line to replace Rowand once the contract is up or the team finds a trade. Torres hit .270 in 152 at bats with 6 HR and 23 RBI and was a great defensive replacement in the corners in the latter part of the year. He’s definitely got potential, but not likely to advance further with the club so long as they’re still paying Rowand’s contract. AG: B EG: B+
Eugenio Velez — Labeled a bust at the beginning of the season, Velez came back to rejoin the club in the second half and produced like a champ. From hitting .194 in 36 ABs and a demotion in the first half to hitting .277 with 5 HR, 31 RBI and 10 stolen bases in the second, Velez entrenched himself in the everyday lineup. Sadly, as good as he was for the Giants down the stretch, he’s a dime a dozen in the majors. AG: B+ EG: B+
So that’s the hitters for today. Stay tuned in the next day or so as we evaluate the pitchers and the…(gulp)…coaching staff.