How the Giants 2006 Season Looks Right Now
Of course, any chance of us making hay is predicated on Bonds playing and contributing. So we have to assume that and, from his history, he should be healthy and ready to rock and roll in 2006. Any mention of his 2005 stats have to be asterisked with the fact that he was basically running with one and a half legs, that had to have had some effect on his hitting and his base running when he did hit the ball.
Fans need to remember that while our team is different, I think it is very similar to the 2004 version, which I have noted before was 2nd in runs scored. Vizquel is an improvement offensively and defensively over Neifi/Deivi. Winn is arguably an improvement offensively and defensively over Grissom.
While we lose with Matheny over A.J. offensively and probably at 1B with whomever we get over Super Snow of 2004, I think we gain a lot of that back with Alou in RF over Tucker and Mohr, plus the gains noted above. Even if Durham is injured again, he only played 120 games in 2004; we should not suffer a sharp drop in production at 2B, not with Neifi getting 40 games there, Durham still hit well in 2005 and should continue to do so, as long as he is in the lineup. And Feliz vs. Alfonzo, probably a push overall, give up additional runners vs. a lot more power.
Plus any dropoff from Bonds both in less games played plus reduced production. All the other factors look, at face value, like they balance out for the most part, with the main decline being whatever Bonds don't produce. As long as he doesn't fall off the cliff, we should still have a potent offense with him in there, relative to the league.
Pitching, I expect Schmidt to rebound in 2006 - his stats weren't all that bad relative to his overall career, he mainly needs to get his walks down and he'll be fine. Lowry looks like he will be fine in 2006 with a middle of the rotation role, his second half numbers were very good, it shows that he can adjust back and with great success. I think Hennessey will do well at the #5 starter, he was dominating at times and very hittable other times, basically a #5 starter in 2005, the upside is that he could be a middle rotation guy if he just improves his consistency a little, perhaps higher if he improves a lot.
With a middle rotation guy expected to be picked up, that leaves Cain as the tipping point of the pitching staff, just as Bonds is the one for the offense. What do we have in Cain? Can he pitch well enough to be a top of the rotation guy that we need to be competitive during the season and especially during the playoffs?
I will admit going overboard on Ainsworth and Williams but I cannot help but gush over Cain. As I've noted, he wasn't solvable enough for Colorado or Arizona to figure him out in their second game against him. He had that beautiful game against Chicago. Despite his walks, he dominated otherwise. And he was only just short of 21 years of age.
And hearing him talk about himself on the radio, he's really level headed, feels he has a lot to work on, in spite of the way he really dominated major league hitters in his short stint, he seems hyper mature for not only his age, but any age. He'll never need a sports psychologist to help him. So as long as we acquire a decent starter I think our starting rotation will be fine.
The bullpen is a question mark, from aging Fassero having a role to losing Eyre to having Walker, Hawkins and Benitez as our top relievers to Munter, Accardo, and Taschner having their sophomore season. As much as people don't like Hawkins and Benitez (particularly their pay), they have been successful in their roles, for the most part, throughout their careers. And I think at least one of the three sophomores should be able to break out and, along with Hawkins and Benitez, anchor the bullpen, taking Eyre's place. With Fassero and Walker probably doing competant work, the bullpen should be OK during the regular season (playoffs, we'll see) and could be good if the sophomores could duplicate what they did in 2005.
Overall, I see the concerns that people have but think that the odds favor a return to the playoffs for the Giants in 2006, particularly if the other NL West teams don't improve themselves much. Obviously Bonds is a huge IF, but I think the odds favor good production overall (remember, he's essentially replacing Alfonzo's offense, since Feliz is taking over 3B) as long as he's playing 120+ games in 2006. And the pitching rotation should be not much worse than 2004's (Rueter, Hennessey, and Hermanson got a lot of starts and poor stats, something that Hennessey and the free agent starter should be able to duplicate if not improve on, plus Cain/Lowry is an improvement over Tomko/Williams, leaving Schmidt probably doing a lot worse but balancing out improvements in other areas). And the bullpen, while possibly worse than 2004's, we need to remember that Herges, Christiansen, and Franklin got a lot of innings to mangle in 2004 and that Benitez/Hawkins is a huge improvement over Hermanson-Herges/Brower, as the top relievers; if the young guys can build on their 2005 season, we could possibly have a better bullpen. So the playoffs should be doable; advancing, as always, will be the bigger question.