Feb 16, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28), the heart and soul of the Giants, warms up during camp at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
What are the chances of the San Francisco Giants playing well enough in 2014 to make it to the National League playoffs? Based on a scale of one to ten, I have rated the starting position players in terms of skill, experience and context, or that which is happening in each player’s career at the present time. Using this information, I will be able to more accurately assess this unit’s overall chances of success with a fair degree of accuracy. Tomorrow I will present the pitching with the same focus on assigning a numerical value to the team’s chances of attaining postseason action.
In order to assign a specific worth to each Giants’ player, I have considered stats not only from last season, but from this spring too. I have also included intangibles in my reckoning that I feel have bearing on each player’s value to his team, those components that do no appear on paper. The goal here is to see how many points each player accrues, so as to be able to assign a numerical percentage to the team’s chances of trumping one of those Wild Cards and making it into the playoffs. Here we go.
I must begin with the foundation, Buster Posey, (.294, .371, 15HR, 75 RBI’s in 2013) the guy who stores all of that scouting information in his mind, and accesses it as needed to guide the pitching staff. Buster is coming off of a subpar season considering he won MVP the previous year. I think he tried to do too much and take on the weight of the team during 2013. Over the winter he bulked up a bit, though he downplays it, and he had one of the best springs on the club (.367, 18 hits in 18 games, 2HR). One of the intangibles that I mentioned above is that Buster Posey has the key to unlock the potential of our pitching. Buster is an incomparable catcher, already establishing bench-marks that stand alongside the best of them; he’s so well-rounded that we simply know he will excel. Scale says: 9.9
Brandon Belt, center, celebrates with Joaquin Arias, left, and Hunter Pence after Belt hit the game winning hit in the tenth inning. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Brandon Belt is personally the most intriguing to me because of the changes in his batting grip and the results he has already recorded last August and September. His changes in particular have helped those long arms of his reach outside pitches more effectively. Through July 31st, he hit .191/.321/.267 on outside pitches. From August 1st onward, he hit .373/.424/.542 on outside pitches. That’s too vast a difference, over a two-month period, to ignore. Belt has had the proper demeanor since he arrived in the bigs, and contrary to those who feel his first season was not well-orchestrated, I think the experience he gained led him to the conclusion that he needed to listen to his coaches. So he did. Scale says: 9.8
The Marco Scutaro saga is a mess. Signing him to a three-year contract, which seemed like such an emphatically good idea at the time, is now giving every Giants‘ fan in the building an acute case of deja vu. Scutaro’s playing time has been pushed back since the week he arrived. He is starting the season on the disabled list, with Joaquin Arias as his replacement. I see Marco as out of the picture for the moment, which isn’t fair because he may come back full strength…just like Freddy Sanchez didn’t. Arias has done a splendid job in stints at third for Pablo Sandoval, and at all three other infield spots, since he has been with the Giants these past two seasons, batting .271 in 102 games last season with 19 RBI’s. Arias accounted for the final out of Matt Cain’s perfect game with a sterling play deep behind the third base bag, throwing the runner out at first. Scale says 8.
Because there is no Scutaro, Brandon Hicks will make the team along with Ehire Adrianza, at least until Scutaro gets back. Hicks has played in all of 129 major league games over five seasons, with 50 big-league hits. In 205 AB’s he has never hit a triple. I don’t know what to think of his blistering spring, except that sometimes it “takes” and sometimes it doesn’t. Ehire Adrianza looks llike a good fit, because no matter what he does with the bat, he’s going to speak loudly with his glove. Also, he showed good pop this spring.
Brandon Crawford won his starting shortstop position primarily because of his glove, and then developed into a more than capable hitter. He started off last season very fast, batting .272 in April with 5 home runs, and .293 in May. However, in mid-June he was slowed down by an issue with his right middle finger, which he hurt while sliding into second base in a 5-4 Giants’ win over the San Diego Padres last June 13th. He never went on the DL and he downplayed the extent of the injury in latter parts of the season, but he only batted .248 for the season, after coming out the shoot so fast. He has not had an especially loud spring, (19 games, .236, 7 RBI’s) but then he does not have to prove that he is the best option at shortstop any longer. Praise be. Scale says 9.5, based on way he came out the gate last year until he got hurt. He was smoking hot.
May 5, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon (9) attempts to steal second base against San Francisco Giants infielder Brandon Crawford (35) in the fifth inning at AT
Pablo Sandoval, aka The Panda, arrived in camp considerably more twinkle-toed than in recent years. It made me jump back in my memory- all the way-to maybe a couple/three seasons ago when we saw him running up and down that steep hill and up and down the steep stadium steps and all that drama that accompanied it. It was hard for The Panda to stick with it and now the Giants have to decide if they want to pay him the hefty salary. Last season, in 140 games, Sandoval batted .276 with 144 hits and 14 home runs. This spring, he batted .258, in 22 games with 62 AB’s and three home runs.
However, the intangibles with Sandoval are significant. There’s his eternal buoyancy, his charisma and his optimism. Plus, there’s that electrifying ability to seize the stage at its biggest moment and deliver, as he did against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. That’s show biz; for purposes of this survey, I am only interested in the here and now. Scale says 9.6 because Pablo wants to radiate.
Hunter Pence in right field just capped last season by signing a five-year mega-contract, which is only fitting for the most hustling player on the team. He played in all 162 games in 2013, hit the most home runs on the team (26) and leads, both on and off the field in the most beneficial and healthy of manners. He has five home runs this spring, and is capable of delivering in the clutch in a big-time way. I give Preacher Pence credit for emotionally jolting this team back from the dead in the 2012 playoffs, and now we have him locked up and loaded for five seasons. Scale says 9.8.
Apr 12, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; San Francisco Giants center fielder Angel Pagan (16) makes a catch against the Chicago Cubs during the fourth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Angel Pagan is the conduit through which the electricity of the team must pass, in order to keep it surging forward. The very thing we admire the most about Pagan is what caused his injury last May 25th. He wanted to win badly enough to ignore the rebellion going on in his hamstring, and ended up blowing a circuit. He’s back, another guy who spent time in the off-season working out with iron, trying to build up not only the strength of his legs, but that of his upper torso. We need to see that salute flashing out again, after he has channeled that electrical current from his bat to put the ball in play. Scale says he wants to, er, even the Scale from last year: 9.5.
New to the Giants, Michael Morse has not made anyone forget about Barry Bonds, nor is he likely to play more than 130 games this season. That being said, he has blended well with the outgoing Giants, though he has been slowed by a calf strain that Bochy described as minor, but still needful of time and attention. The difficulty with rating Morse is that he could be wildly successful without doing a huge amount, because the Giants have had no one in left who could handle the spot since Bonds. The other side of the coin is that he could get injured early on and Gregor Blanco could be locked in from the outset. This is where a Juan Perez adds a little insurance. Scale says 8.
Before I tabulate the results, I would also like to point out that every one of these starters has been to at least one World Series except Morse, with a core of nine Giants who have two World Series rings. That comes under the category of intangibles, because they will need that experience to get past some very formidable opponents. Let’s see what we’ve got.
If I add up the eight scores, I get 74.1, and if I divide by eight I get an average of 9.2625, which rounded off is 9.3. Now in the language of the classroom, 93% is an A, making this unit’s chances of making the playoffs excellent. As I have said all along, the Giants do not have to take the division outright; they only have to net a wild card spot. Once they gain entry to the postseason tournament, we let history and tradition take over, not to mention our starting pitching. It’s looking good so far; tomorrow, I will examine the starting pitching.
September 5, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop John McDonald (16, right) collides with San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48, left) for an out during the eighth inning at AT