Word out on the street has it that the San Francisco Giants are talking about batting Brandon Belt third in the lineup for the 2015 season, which is getting ready to commence down in the desert in a scant two weeks or so. If nothing else, shifting the spotlight from the mechanics of retrofitting the team, to discussion about actual on-the-field activities, is a sure sign that we are hitting the late innings of the offseason “game.”
With a seventh-inning-stretch sort of mentality, I would like to do a brief synopsis of what has taken place so far, and then lay out the rest of the line-up as per Henry Schulman, Friday. Regardless of how you feel the front office has handled the job, especially with regards to third base, left field and the starting pitching, Bruce Bochy has been handed his set of instruments for the upcoming surgery. This is what it looks like:
Pagan, Panik, Belt, Posey, Pence, McGehee, Aoki, Crawford
Bochy is the chief of staff on a team of specialists, attempting to reconstruct what was a world championship team only three months ago, using parts assembled to replace the gone-but-not-forgotten Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse.
Aug 22, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) celebrates with Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) and Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) after hitting a three- run home run against the Washington Nationals in the fourth inning at Nationals Park. The Giants won 10-3. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
While discussing key departures, bear in mind that the FlanMan, Tim Flannery, is also gone, having left to follow the next on his list of quixotic pursuits. The hope is that he instilled enough of that magic amidst those who remain, to continue on with the tradition of success he has helped implement on the team. These are the main developments:
Matt Cain is said to “feel eighteen again.”
Bochy says Angel Pagan’s back injury is completely healed.
Casey McGehee was signed to replace the recently-departed Panda at third base.
Sergio Romo was outspoken in his reason for re-signing with the Giants, while forfeiting the opportunity to close elsewhere: He likes it here.
Jake Peavy remembered how well his family had been treated by the Giants and re-signed for two years.
Ryan Vogelsong listened to the “chirping” in his ear from his better half, and returned for one season, taking a cut in pay to do so.
Tim Lincecum has been working with his father Chris, according to Bochy, the first offseason that Timmy has done so, since prior to his last winning season in 2010.
Jun 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (middle) is congratulated by his teammates after throwing a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park. The San Francisco Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
There were arbitration signings but those did not impact the structure of the team. What they did indicate was an ongoing sterling effort on the part of San Francisco, to avoid the distraction of a bitterly contested contract status on the eve of spring training opening up.
Nothing can divide a locker room down the middle like a curtain of dissension and deceit.
Being able to sidestep what can be a factor in other clubhouses, is just one more element being stirred into the Giants’ chemistry beaker.
Much to my satisfaction, I noted that Bochy had seen fit to agree with my reasoning that Aoki should bat in the bottom half of the lineup. I had suggested in the comments to longtime readers of Around the Foghorn, that putting the fleet Aoki at the top of the lineup was great, but that left the bottom part pretty much the same as last year.
In order to complete the transition, Aoki needed to combine with Brandon Crawford, so as to have speed in front of the offensively-surprising shortstop, who hit in double figures in home runs (10) and triples (10) in 2014. BCraw also drove in 69 RBIs last year, the same number as Sandoval, most of them from the eighth position in the lineup. In a game with MadBum starting, that gives Bochy a 7-8-9 combo of Aoki, Crawford and last year’s Silver Slugger Award winner.
Angel Pagan has always been most galvanizing as the team’s leadoff player, and Joe Panik was so effective as the club’s number two hitter, that to ignore that was to ask for misfortune. Belt is the better number three choice than Hunter Pence, because he is a more patient batter; with his expected increase in power numbers, the third spot in the order makes the most sense.
Buster Posey will be Bochy’s cleanup hitter from Day One, and Pence will bat fifth, giving Posey some measure of protection. Casey McGehee will follow Pence, and though he will not hit home runs at anywhere near the pace of Michael Morse, hurlers will still have to face a player who will make any pitcher in the National League regret it, if said pitcher decides to look past him at Nori Aoki. McGehee just needs to get on base to keep the rally going, not end it with a big fly.
I like the lineup Bochy has unveiled and I like that we are getting close enough to spring training opening up, to be able to bandy about opinions as to Aoki’s placement in the order. Number two or number seven?
I like lucky seven myself, but as valued reader carmot is want to say, YMMV. *
[Your mileage may vary]
Aug 3, 2014; New York, NY, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) is greeted by third base coach Tim Flannery (1) after hitting a home run during the fourth inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports