Tomorrow is Opening Day!
Having returned to full strength just in time for the 2016 baseball season, I am donning anew my prognosticator’s hat, dusting off my sports writer’s jersey, and trying on a chest protector as I resume my long-time habit of offering my thoughts on the San Francisco Giants and the 2016 season. I hope all 10 of my loyal readers enjoy the ride. 😀
Injuries Be Gone!
The G-Men have just finished their best spring training in years from the perspective of injuries They begin this year with zero players on the DL. That’s not only amazing, it’s crucial to their chances.
It’s beyond doubt that one of the biggest single contributors to the team’s 2015 performance was injuries. Key players were injured at critical moments and on the DL for far too long for the team to have a realistic expectation of post-season success.
This year, not only are the Giants healthier coming out of Arizona, they’ve also made a significant staffing change, adding a full-time physical therapist to their staff. Tony Reale, who’s been with the club for 10 years but has heretofore held forth in Arizona dealing strictly with rehab chores, is now with the team full-time and will travel with them as well. PT is about more than rehabbing an injury; it’s also about preventive maintenance. Reale’s primary focus will be on the premium-priced pitching staff but he’ll be available to work with other players as well. I expect his presence and his expertise will have a salutary effect on the team’s injury picture in 2016.
Good move, Larry (Baer) and Brian (Sabean)!
Offensive Power and Speed Will be Featured
The Giants’ starting pitching rotation was beefed up during the off-season with the signing of two pricey free agents, Johnny Cueto and Mike Samardzija. Cueto signed a 6-year, $130 million deal, all of which is guaranteed. Samardzija inked a five-year, $90 million deal. For those of you who are math-challenged or stunned into unconsciousness by those numbers, that means the team has sunk almost a quarter billlion into two pitchers.
In early Spring Training, the entire rotation — including returning stars Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain — seemed pretty weak. Things improved in the final week and could bode well for the team.
The Giants had a huge 6.37 ERA, second worst in the MLB, gave up 222 runs (second worst), handed out 43 homers (fifth worst) and compiled a puny .394 winning percentage (sixth worst).
On the offensive side, things were much brighter. The team’s batting average (.287) was the fifth best in all of baseball, and the orange-and-black rang up 203 runs (second best) while compiling a .351 OBP (fourth best). While homer power was a bit lacking (39 for 11th place), it wasn’t terrible.
One of the biggest surprises of the spring for me was the measly 23 stolen bases in a surprisingly small number of attempts (27). That was good for 11th place in the final tally, but with three alleged speedsters in the lineup, I was disappointed in Manager Bruce Bochy’s failure to send more runners.
So it might be the Giants Secret Weapon this year is to distract opponents with their stellar pitching roster — on paper anyway — and sneak up on them offensively.
So What About the Season?
I think the team will be more offensive minded than it has been in recent years, that it will see a significant drop in the number, severity and impact of injuries, and that it will make the playoffs, though more likely as a wild card than as a division titlist.
That said, it is always pitching that determines a team’s fate in short series and for that reason, I’m doubtful the G-Men can rack up another World Series appearance, let alone win.