In a collaborative effort with Lasorda’s Lair, the Los Angeles Dodgers blog here on FanSided, Kenny and I put together an opening series preview that you’ll be able to find on both blogs. The effort will be broken up into two pieces, one today and the final part tomorrow. Enjoy.
- Game 1 – Tim Lincecum vs. Clayton Kershaw – This matchup of potential Cy Young candidates doesn’t need much of a preview – we’re talking ace versus ace here. Clayton Kershaw is absolutely filthy and outside of inner baseball circles, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. In five career starts, Kershaw holds a 1.46 ERA versus the G-men while Lincecum holds a career 3.43 ERA versus the Dodgers in 9 career starts. You couldn’t ask for a better opening day matchup. Runs should be at a premium and the game will likely come down to which bullpen can hold the lead, the Giants will be without All-Star closer Brian Wilson who will begin the season on the DL.
- Game 2 – Jonathan Sanchez vs. Chad Billingsley – Many might expect to see Matt Cain here, but, the Giants are again going with the righty/lefty split in the rotation this year, so Dirty Sanchez gets the call in Game 2. In three starts (and four appearances, overall) Sanchez dominated the Dodgers last season with a 2.33 ERA and a WHIP of 0.88 – the only NL West foe he did better against were the offensively challenged San Diego Padres. On the other side, Chad Billingsley is another Dodger starter that doesn’t get the type of publicity he deserves. While he’s no Kershaw, Billingsley has been incredibly solid for the Dodgers outside of a few extended struggles. In 5 starts vs the Giants last year he was 2-0 and only gave up 3 ER in 36 IP, including a complete game shutout. He’s a very capable number two starter and expect both starters to pitch well, assuming both can control the walk issues that plagued them, especially Sanchez.
- Game 3 – Matt Cain vs. Ted Lilly – While Ted Lilly is no Matt Cain, Lilly is still a crafty vet who probably has another good season or two left. Lilly was roughed up bad in his one start against the Giants at AT&T last year but in his only other start versus the black and orange; he threw seven quality innings of two run ball. I’d expect a typical solid Lilly performance, but he’ll have trouble outdueling Matt Cain who was 2-1 vs. the Dodgers in 4 starts last season, interestingly in Cain’s 4 starts he gave up 4 ER, 0ER, 4ER & 0ER.
- Game 4 – Barry Zito vs. Hiroki Kuroda – The series comes to an end Sunday afternoon, which means the ball should be flying out of Dodger stadium as the sun domes over the Ravine. Zito had a solid ERA but struggled with control issues for the Giants during the spring (shocker…) so I’d expect both offenses to have a little more life in the series finale. Zito pitched well vs the Dodgers in 2010 but was 0-1 in 4 starts and the game he lost was a 1-0 affair. Kuroda has struggled this spring and only faced the Giants once in 2010 going 0-1 as he pitched 8 innings and gave up 3 runs in a 3-0 Giants victory.
1. Are you worried about any kind of World Series hangover.
It’s always possible – though the collection of personalities on this squad is a rare thing, so if anybody can handle it – they can. Certainly always a risk though.
2. Can a slimmed down Panda rebound from his rough 2010 season?
Ah – the million dollar question. One thing we’ve already seen with Panda is the improved defensive range. He’s far quicker and doesn’t struggle to get to balls like he did last season. His bat does look a bit quicker, so as long as he stays away from the buffet and balls in the dirt, I’d expect at worst a mild rebound.
3. We’ve heard a lot about Brandon Belt, what are the chances that he is the everyday first baseman this year, or is there another minor leaguer who will make an impact in 2011?
The general concern with Belt is that his offensive game isn’t ready just yet – let’s not forget the kid was in AA last season. He’s been working with former Giant J.T. Snow on his glove work and it shows. Some of the defensive plays I’ve seen the kid make are wizard like. He’ll be up at some point, and I expect big things from him. Maybe not totally Buster Posey like in terms of impact, but, close.
4. Aside from Matt Cain and Brian Wilson are there any other injury concerns the Giants are facing?
The Giants look generally healthy outside of the Cain, Wilson, and Ross situations – but three of your best players hurting isn’t the way anybody wants to start the year. Cain looked pretty solid last evening in his last Spring start, so the concern isn’t too large there. Wilson and Ross though on the other hand – neither are thought to be too serious right now, but both have the tendency to become nagging injuries as well.
5. What do you feel is the Giants biggest weakness heading into the season.
I think one of the big concerns is the amount of innings they tossed last year. I’m not too worried about the offense – it’ll be average and that’s all this staff needs to win games, but, they threw a considerable amount more than they were used to last season. Hopefully, it doesn’t wear them down as the season comes to a conclusion.
6. Can the Giants repeat as NL West Division champs with the Bullseye on them all year long?
It won’t be easy – the NL West is almost always a dog-fight and I don’t expect any changes this year. Outside of the D’Backs, it seems like everybody feels as if they have a legit shot. The homer in me says they can, but, I know it won’t be a cakewalk.
Injury Updates: Giants
Brian Wilson – Wilson will begin the season on the DL and Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt should share the closer duties to begin the season.
Cody Ross – Ross’ leg strain is thought to be of the more mild variety, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that the Phillies felt the same way about Jimmy Rollins last season who had the same injury, and it clearly hampered him for the entire year. Hopefully Ross heals a lot better…*crosses fingers*
Injury Updates: Dodgers
Jon Garland (Oblique), Vicente Padilla (Forearm surgery), Dioner Navarro (Oblique), Jay Gibbons (Contact Lenses), and Casey Blake (Oblique, Back, just being old) will all begin the season on the DL. The Dodgers don’t plan on using a 5th starter until April 10 but the club has said they will not rush Garland back to make that start. Blake could be back by April 6. Navarro and Padilla could be out until early May. As far as Gibbons is concerned I hope he is ok but I’m not sure if anyone really cares when/if he comes back he should be in AAA.