Your 2006 Giants: Big 6 Questions

The questions are pretty obvious but I gotta make a list, it's in the blogger union guidebook:

  1. What will Bonds be healthy enough to produce in 2006? While I don't think his presence is necessary to making the playoffs, given our potentially great rotation, good bullpen, and poor divisional opponents (I'm waiting for the Dodgers' injured list to start growing anytime now) I think this should be possible even without Bonds in the lineup as long as the other players hit like they are capable of, I think Bonds is crucial (duh!) to the Giants going all the way. So far, so good, Bonds is happy with his brace means that we Giants fans are happy with his brace. I think all bets are off until he starts playing regularly and putting pressure on that knee.
  2. Which Schmidt will show up, 2004's version or 2005's version? This is probably more important to the Giants NL Division hopes than Bonds, so maybe I should have put it first but Bonds (to steal from Mr. October) is the straw that stirs this lovely orange and black concoction. If he is on and pitching like he has most of his Giants career, then anything Morris, Lowry, and Cain can do is not as critical so then they can pitch with less pressure on them. If he is wildly off like he was in early 2005, then the rotation will depend greatly on Morris, and while I think he is good, he's just not Schmidt good, you know?
  3. Will any of these regulars play without injury or poor performance taking away a lot of games: Alou, Durham,Winn? These players are the key supporting offensive players behind Bonds. If they can hit like they have proven they can hit and stay uninjured, then the offense should be running along nicely enough to win a lot of games, given our potentially strong rotation. Last year, it didn't work out, Alou and Durham missed a number of games, Grissom could only hit very poorly, and Alfonzo, after seemingly returning to his pre-Giants days as a Met for the first two weeks of the season, apparently the fountain of youth stopped flowing and he declined into a year-long hitting funk worse than anything he had before as a Giant (and that's doing some).
  4. Which Finley will show up, 2004's version or 2005's version? The spector of age and injury in the outfield makes Finley's performance important. He plays a pivotal role on the 2006 team. He needs to be able to hit like he did in 2004 so that the offense won't take such a big hit when Bonds, Alou, or Winn is taking a game off, like it did in 2005 when Ellison or Linden came into the game. If he hits like he did in 2005, then the margin for error for the rest of the hitters is reduced greatly, as he will be getting a lot of at-bats this year in place of the starting outfielders. In addition, he adds a needed left-handed pressence to the bench or the lineup.
  5. Will new regulars Feliz and Niekro play as good as they are capable or as bad as they are capable? As good as the top of the lineup can be with Winn, Vizquel, Durham, Bonds and Alou, the bottom of the lineup can become this big gaping hole if Feliz and Niekro don't hit like they have shown they are capable of doing. Feliz started off the year nicely but perhaps the wear and tear got to him last season and he started fading offensively by the middle of the season. Niekro had a great start but after his injury he was not able to hit at all. Was that the injury's fault or did the league catch up with him? Given that he has been able to hit - and well - all through the farm system, he has shown that he has been able in the past to adjust to the league while the league was adjusting to him and adjust to a new level.
  6. Will the bullpen hold together? Last year Benitez failing and then falling injured, set off a domino effect through the bullpen. None of the relievers expected to pick up the slack was able to, not Brower, not Herges. It fell to Tyler Walker, who was the reliver at the bottom of the totem pole in 2004 to pick up the slack at closer, which of course meant that there were no set-up men to speak of. This year, we have Worrell, who did a admirable job of stepping in a couple of years back plus Munter, Taschner, and Accardo look like they are able to do well in a expanded role on a short term basis if necessary, should any of the big boys - Benitez, Worrell, Kline - falter.

Sabean felt that depth was one of the big problems with last year's roster composition and he has worked this off-season to correct that. In the starting rotation, the addition of Wright into the mix gives the Giants 6 legitimate starters going into the season - should any of the opening 5 falter or falls to injury, the 6th starter can move into the mix. In the bullpen, the addition of Worrell provides a "proven" closer should Benitez falters again for whatever reason plus Accardo and Munter show signs that they might be able to handle the job as well. In the lineup, Finley provides a good backup should Bonds or Alou succumb to any injury.

However, there is no equivalent backup in the corner positions of the infield. Vizcaino could man shortstop adequately - offensively and defensively - in place of Vizquel and Kevin Frandsen looks like he might be able to come up and take 2B should Durham be out for an extended period. However, there is no legitimate 1B or 3B in the farm system to come up should Niekro or Feliz, respectively, falters and Vizcaino would be horrendous for the offense if he started at either corner IF position.

But Sabean can only do so much when you don't have all the money in the world to spend and Benitez, Bonds, Durham, Finley, and Schmidt are taking up $51.1M of their $85M budget and Alou, Morris, and Winn another $15M, leaving about $20M to spend on the rest of the team. And if Niekro does falter, the Giants could always bring up Travis Ishikawa and give him a shot, assuming he is doing well at AA early in the 2006 season.

Sabean is knocked, and factually so thus far, for not deliverying young players via the farm system. But it is interesting to note that four pre-arb players should be on the 25 man roster when the season start - Cain, Lowry, Niekro, and Munter - and up to five others - Accardo, Ellison, Hennessey, Linden, and Taschner - could make the roster if the numbers game don't work against them. Plus there was previous talk about Eliezer Alfonzo and Angel Chavez perhaps making the team. And some think that Frandsen could play in the majors right now, though he probably wouldn't be a starter. So if things continue to develop well, nearly half the team could be composed of pre-arb players at some time in the not-too-distant future.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As important as Schmidt is to our hopes and dreams, he cannot possibly compete with Bonds in terms of importance.


Sat Mar 11, 11:06:00 AM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I am definitely in love with offense and I know where you are coming from and I was going to hash over this in another post - what the hell - but in the last few years, I have wavered in my belief on how important offense is. Obviously you need a good offense, otherwise forget it. But it seems to me that defense is what wins it for you.

It all started with the 49ers'. I've been following them since the days of Nolan Sr with Brodie and of course greatly enjoyed the Walsh era, which Seifert shepherded afterward. As great as the offense was with Montana and Young, it was always the defense that kept things close enough for Joe to do his magic. Look at San Diego with Air Coryell and Miami with Dan Marino, all the offense they could generate and they could never win the big one.

Then there was the NBA, and the Warriors could never do it all with their great Run TMC offense, it was the teams who could play defense who could win it all. Even Jordan couldn't win it all based on his offense, he played great defense plus they got players who could play good defense too.

Then look at the Giants themselves. The Giants of the 1960's were probably one of the greatest offenses in history and they got zip. The Giants who won were led by great pitchers, Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell, though obviously Mays did it in 1954. But it was the teams with the pitchers who dominated the 60's, Dodgers had Koufax and Cards had Gibson, and Baltimore had 4 20-game winners in the early 70's.

So I think the starters are key ingredients toward winning in the regular season, and it starts with Schmidt being the Schmidt we Giants fans have known and loved, which allows Morris, Lowry, and Cain to feel like they just need to do what they can do, and not feel like they need to do more. If they all do what they have shown they can do, we have a great starting rotation and perhaps a dominating one.

And if that happens in the regular season, then Bonds isn't that important for the long distance run that is the MLB season of 162 games, particularly if he is playing only 100-120 games. However, in the short series atmosphere of the playoffs, he'll be playing every game and he can make a huge difference for the Giants then, particularly if the pitchers are able to continue their great pitching into the playoffs.

Consistently good pitching, overall, will win you a lot of games. If your starting pitching is inconsistent, then you are screwed because offense is inconsistent too and can be shut down by the other team at inoportune times (hello Bobby Jones).

But I understand your point, this is where my thinking on this stands at the moment.

Sun Mar 12, 01:33:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really disagree martin. Research has shown that the breakdown between offense and defense (IE both pitching and fielding) in terms of importance is something like 49% 51% respectively.

The dominant pitching in the post-season argument has merit; however, in terms of the regular season, multiple ways exist to skin a cat (having done so in cocllege, I can say from personal experience that: "no, pretty much only 1 way exists to skin a cat" but whatever).


Sun Mar 12, 03:26:00 PM PST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot about Sweeney backing up Neikro at first. He is pretty good.


Sun Mar 12, 09:12:00 PM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

First, Stonewall's comment: Sweeney has never had over 200 AB in a season until last season, when he was, what, 36? He's a good hitter, great pinch-hitter/bench player, he's just a finger in the dike in backing up 1B, if Niekro don't play to his first half performance, Sweeney will not be able to take over.

Second, I have no problem with what you said Kenshin, about 50/50. However, Bonds is not as significant to the overall offense, to me, as the whole starting rotation is the defense, and I think if Schmidt struggles again, the rotation will struggle too, as they will try - consciously or unconsciously - to make up for Schmidt's lack of performance, possibly pushing everyone downhill. At least, that's my fear right now.

Sun Mar 12, 09:32:00 PM PST  

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