San Francisco Giants: Victories not point of spring training
The San Francisco Giants have won only four games in the early going this spring, while losing eleven. I have said repeatedly that spring training is not for winning games, but rather, for both allowing veterans to get back up to full stride at their own pace, and for assessing the pool of talent in camp for only a short time. Could this be a case of, “Methinks he doth protest too much?”
Is there a legitimate cause for concern?
The quick answer is-big shock-no. There are six weeks afforded to sort through and adequately classify both the 22 non-roster invitees, many being seen for the first time by Giants management, and those fifteen players on the forty-man roster who will not make the squad out of spring training. Six weeks is a minuscule amount of time for such a huge undertaking.
Whereas two teams in the National League West, the Dodgers and the Padres, have stripped their teams down to the frame and rebuilt them, the Giants have chosen to replace two key components, and then rely on the same core of players who have functioned successfully enough in the past five seasons, to have brought the ultimate prize home to San Francisco three times.
Both Los Angeles and San Diego have a total of six weeks to allow their new guys to meld into cohesive units, capable of competing successfully against the Giants. The Padres, who gutted their lineup and replaced five of the starting eight, may still be a year away from asserting themselves, but the Dodgers look as strong as ever.
May 26, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) pinch hit into a double play in the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Gone are Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and A.J. Ellis; in their stead are Joc Pederson, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendricks and Yasmani Grandal. Whether LA set out to gut the center of its defense, or whether those players were simply the best available is not clear, but when a team replaces its catcher, second baseman, shortstop and center fielder, there would appear to be a method to its madness.
Actually, Yasiel Puig was playing center field at the end of 2014, but by installing Joc Pederson there instead and shifting Puig back to right, the Dodgers have effectively removed and replaced the center of the diamond with new personnel.
In San Diego Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton will play in the outfield, instead of Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Seth Smith and Carlos Quentin. Derek Norris will replace Yasmani Grandal behind the dish, while incumbents Yonder Alonso, Jedd Gyorko and Alexi Amarista team up with newly acquired Will Middlebrooks to form the infield. Veteran utility man Clint Barmes is capable of stepping into any of the infield slots should the need arise.
So spring training for both of San Francisco’s biggest rivals has a lot more at stake. How closely will either of these SoCal teams be able to examine their backup resources? The question is rhetorical except to say that any opportunity either has, will be a lot narrower of a window than that of the Giants.
That’s one advantage to being World Champions [again] with a proven commodity; it gives the Orange and Black the luxury of taking a much more comprehensive look at who might be able to fill in, should the need arise.
I will give you one example that emphasizes my point. I started to think about Joaquin Arias and wondered how secure his position as backup infielder is. After all, prior to Monday’s big fly, Arias’ bat had been ominously silent (6 G/13 AB/2 H/1 RBI). He now has a line of
Then I look at Matt Duffy. This kid is out to prove that he has a bat to go along with his highly touted intangibles, and that he knows how to use it.
He has appeared in 10 games and has 24 ABs, with nine hits (.375) including three doubles, a triple a home run. His line looks like this:
Whereas spring training is not for winning ballgames, it is for the purpose of seeing a kid like Duffy flex his MLB-readiness. Unfortunately, Duffy is a second baseman/shortstop, which leaves Arias still in the driver’s seat.
Arias has always had value because of his versatility, filling in at all the infield positions, but he is needed as a backup at third base most of all.
Adam Duvall is getting a long look at third, also, because he hits for power (27 HRs last season at Triple-A Fresno), but he is struggling, not only at the plate, but defensively.
Five seasons in the minor leagues: 100 home runs. How does that translate to AT&T park?
His line of .161/.235/.258/.493 speaks for itself and he has a pair of errors. It goes without saying that this is only the briefest of glances at the players, but they are all in the same boat together, and Duval has gotten a lot of reps.
While Casey McGehee is settling in (.500/.522/.682/1.204), and the other position players are getting their work in, the laser beam is zeroed in on the rotation, with its collective ERA hovering somewhere around the 9.00 range. And in case you are drawn to Tim Hudson’s 0.00 ERA in 4.1 innings pitched, be sure and check out his 3.00 WHIP.
From best to worst, in terms of ERA, here are Jake Peavy (3 G/7.0 IP, 7.71 ERA/1.57 WHIP), Ryan Vogelsong, (3 G/7.2 IP, 9.39 ERA/1.43 WHIP), Matt Cain (2 G/3.2 IP, 9.82 ERA/1.64 WHIP), Madison Bumgarner (3 G/6.1 IP, 9.95 ERA/1.89 WHIP), and Tim Lincecum (3 G/4.0 IP, 13.50 ERA/2.00 WHIP).
Does Tim Lincecum still have that magic going for him?
Lincecum has a sore neck and is improving but the others are all healthy and pretty much on schedule to start the season in a timely manner. In looking at the bloated numbers, keep in mind that none is faced with imminent elimination. Release points, specialty pitches and arm strength are areas of focus, not ERAs and WHIPs. Not for the
There is nothing wrong with Dodger fans being happy to be situated where they are in the standings, but Giants fans have a slightly different perspective.
With somewhere in the neighborhood of 47 World Series rings accumulated on their team, the Giants are an elite group of veterans. If ever asked about being at the bottom of the spring training standings, compared to the Dodgers being at the top, they would look at you blankly. “Standings? It’s March. No one cares about standings.”
Except for Dodger fans.