Giants vs. Diamondbacks: Position-by-Position Breakdown Heading into 2012 Season

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIFebruary 7, 2012

Giants vs. Diamondbacks: Position-by-Position Breakdown Heading into 2012 Season

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    In 2011, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants battled back and forth for the NL West division lead until the D-Backs finally managed to pull away to clinch in mid-September.

    In 2012, the Diamondbacks and Giants will be at it once again, with Arizona campaigning for a back-to-back NL West championship performance and the Giants looking to return to postseason prominence after winning the World Series in 2010.

    With the 2011 Diamondbacks finishing eight games ahead of second-place San Francisco, the Giants have taken some offseason strides to narrow the gap.

    Heading into the 2012 MLB season, the following is a position-by-position breakdown of the NL West's top two teams of 2011.

    For each comparison,'s team depth charts have been used to determine each team's candidates at each position.

Starter No. 1: Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy

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    The San Francisco Giants head into 2012 with returning starters Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner leading their starting rotation.

    The Giants also appear to be considering Barry Zito for the No. 5 spot, while newcomer Clay Hensley also remains a candidate for that last starter's position, though's depth chart favors Zito.

    The Diamondbacks return Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Josh Collmenter, with former Oakland Athletics pitcher Trevor Cahill set to take over in the middle of the rotation.


    No. 1: Tim Lincecum vs. Ian Kennedy

    2011 Lines: 13-14, 2.74 ERA, 220 K's vs. 21-4, 2.88 ERA, 198 K's

    This should be the closest matchup of starting pitchers between the Giants and D-Backs. Lincecum is a former two-time Cy Young winner and NL All-Star, while Kennedy finished in fourth place in Cy Young Award voting in 2011.

    Kennedy did not make the 2011 All-Star team, but that may be entirely due to 2011 NL All-Stars manager Bruce Bochy (who is also on the Giants' payroll) opting to choose a few San Francisco players instead, regardless of their actual on-field performance.

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Kennedy's 2011 success and momentum heading into 2012

Starter No. 2: Matt Cain vs. Daniel Hudson

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    No. 2: Matt Cain vs. Daniel Hudson

    2011 Lines: 12-11, 2.88 ERA, 179 K's vs. 16-12, 3.49 ERA, 169 K's

    In his second season as a starting pitcher, Daniel Hudson truly impressed in 2011 with 16 wins—a career best—while hurling three complete games in the process.

    Cain was doomed by his club's lack of offense, while still recording a 2.88 ERA and 179 K's, stats that prove his talent even in the face of his team's struggles at the plate. Cain's best season was his 14-win effort in 2009 when he hurled a 2.89 ERA—which is still one point higher than his ERA in 2011.

    Advantage: Giants, because of Cain's history of success and consistency

Starter No. 3: Madison Bumgarner vs. Trevor Cahill

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    No. 3: Madison Bumgarner vs. Trevor Cahill

    2011 Lines: 13-13, 3.21 ERA, 191 K's vs. 12-14, 4.16 ERA, 147 K's

    Madison Bumgarner completed his first full season of MLB service with a 3.21 ERA over 33 games started in 2011.

    With the Athletics, Trevor Cahill threw a ho-hum 2011 season, a far cry from his 18-8, 2.97 ERA performance in 2010.

    As Cahill transitions to the National League, he likely will be helped by the elimination of the DH, while Bumgarner has momentum on his side.

    Advantage: Giants, because of Bumgarner's 2012 potential

Starter No. 4: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Josh Collmenter

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    No. 4: Ryan Vogelsong vs. Josh Collmenter

    2011 Lines: 13-7, 2.71 ERA, 139 K's vs. 10-10, 3.38 ERA, 100 K's

    Ryan Vogelsong's first full season of starting pitching since his horrendous 6-13/6.50 ERA/92 K campaign in 2004 and since his return to MLB action for the first time since 2006 was a resounding success, as Vogelsong recorded a sub-three ERA and a winning record.

    Josh Collmenter completed his MLB rookie season in 2011 with a 10-10 record in just 24 starts and 31 total appearances.

    Collmenter recorded a WHIP of 1.07 and batting average against of .237 in 2011, while Vogelsong's WHIP was 1.25 and his BAA was .244. Vogelsong's career WHIP is 1.47. 

    Advantage: Giants, because of Vogelsong's slightly better numbers over the long haul and since his return to MLB service

Starter No. 5: Barry Zito vs. Joe Saunders

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    No. 5: Barry Zito vs. Joe Saunders

    2011 Lines: 3-4, 5.87 ERA, 32 K's vs. 12-13, 3.69 ERA, 108 K's

    While Giants pitcher Barry Zito pitched just 53.2 innings in 2011, his full-season performance in 2010 netted him a 9-14 record with a 4.15 ERA and 150 K's.

    Like Zito, Joe Saunders is hoping to return to MLB prominence after a few seasons below his career-best numbers. Saunders pitched for the D-Backs and Los Angeles Angels in 2010, combining for a 9-17 record with a 4.47 ERA and 114 K's. In 2009, Saunders was 16-7 following a career-best 17-7/3.41 ERA performance in 2008.

    The Diamondbacks only brought Saunders back after being unable to lure former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, losing out to a much richer New York Yankees payroll.

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Saunders' better current numbers

Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Miguel Montero

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    Catcher: Buster Posey vs. Miguel Montero

    2011 Lines: .284 AVG, 4 HRs, 21 RBI vs. .282 AVG, 18 HRs, 86 RBI

    Giants catcher Buster Posey's 2011 season was unceremoniously cut short with a catastrophic leg injury in late May. Prior to that, Posey's only full MLB season occurred in 2010, when he hit .305 with 18 HRs and 67 RBI. He was named MLB's Rookie of the Year that season.

    Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero was named to his first All-Star team in 2011 after a wonderful start to a year that saw Arizona's backstop throw out 32-of-80 base stealers (40 percent). By comparison, Posey was 15-for-27 (36 percent) before his injury last season.

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Montero's proven success versus uncertainty regarding how Posey will respond to rehabilitation

First Baseman: Aubrey Huff vs. Paul Goldschmidt

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    First Baseman: Aubrey Huff vs. Paul Goldschmidt

    2011 Lines: .246 AVG, 12 HRs, 59 RBI vs. .250 AVG, 8 HRs, 26 RBI

    Though the Giants list Aubrey Huff as their primary first baseman, don't let that distract you from the impending first baseman of tomorrow in Brandon Belt, who hit .225 with nine home runs and 18 RBI in 63 games in 2011.

    The Diamondbacks will start rookie Paul Goldschmidt at first base in 2012, a player who has been named a minor league organizational All-Star in both 2010 and 2011 and who skipped Triple-A completely to make his MLB debut in early Aug. 2011.

    Goldschmidt hit an impressive .438 (OPS of 1.339) during the 2011 NLDS and is backed by veteran Lyle Overbay, a .234 hitter in 2011 with nine home runs and 47 RBI.

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, for giving the chance to a promising youngster over a declining veteran

Second Baseman: Freddy Sanchez vs. Aaron Hill

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    Second Baseman: Freddy Sanchez vs. Aaron Hill

    2011 Lines: .289 AVG, 3 HRs, 24 RBI vs. .246 AVG, 8 HRs, 61 RBI

    While Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez played just 60 games in 2011, he hit an impressive .289, just eight points lower than his career batting average of .297.

    Sanchez is backed by second baseman-shortstop Mike Fontenot, who played 85 games for the Giants (23 at second base) in 2011, hitting .227 with four homers and 21 RBI in his 220 at-bats.

    The Diamondbacks start Aaron Hill, a former Toronto Blue Jay who played 137 games last season, 33 in Arizona. A change of scenery might have been the trick for Hill, who hit .315 with a .492 slugging percentage for Arizona last year.

    Willie Bloomquist is Hill's backup, having hit .266 with four home runs and 26 RBI in 350 at-bats last year.

    Advantage: Giants, though questions remain regarding Sanchez's ability to return from injury

Shortstop: Brandon Crawford vs. Stephen Drew

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    Shortstop: Brandon Crawford vs. Stephen Drew

    2011 Lines: .204 AVG, 3 HRs, 21 RBI vs. .252 AVG, 5 HRs, 45 RBI

    Giants rookie Brandon Crawford hit just .204 in 2011, though the Giants are hoping he settles down in his sophomore season by increasing his average and power. Mike Fontenot will back Crawford at shortstop in 2012.

    Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew was injured following a down year in which the veteran hit 18 points lower than his career average of .270. Arizona is hoping Drew rebounds after a long offseason, while keeping Willie Bloomquist available as the primary backup shortstop.

    Youngster John McDonald is also available to serve the D-Backs' needs up the middle. 

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Drew and Bloomquist's better numbers

Third Baseman: Pablo Sandoval vs. Ryan Roberts

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    Third Baseman: Pablo Sandoval vs. Ryan Roberts

    2011 Lines: .315 AVG, 23 HRs, 70 RBI vs. .249 AVG, 19 HRs, 65 RBI

    The Giants are glad to bring back 2011 All-Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who returned above the .300 mark in 2011 for the third time in his four-year career, recording a .909 OPS, which is the Panda's second time above .900 since breaking into the bigs in 2008.

    The Diamondbacks bring back "Tatman" Ryan Roberts, who won the organization's Heart and Hustle Award in 2011 following a remarkable season that saw Roberts return to a .768 OPS after recording a .783 OPS in 2009. 

    Advantage: Giants, because of Sandoval's significantly better numbers

Left Fielder: Melky Cabrera vs. Gerardo Parra

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    Left Fielder: Melky Cabrera vs. Gerardo Parra 

    2011 Lines: .305 AVG, 18 HRs, 87 RBI vs. .292 AVG, 8 HRs, 46 RBI

    After finishing 2011 a disappointing dead last in several NL offensive categories, the Giants vowed to restructure their offense heading into 2012, and with left fielder Melky Cabrera, that's exactly what they did.

    The Diamondbacks also made a personnel move in left field over the offseason, signing former Minnesota Twins outfielder Jason Kubel. Kubel hit .273 in 2011, with 12 HRs and 58 RBI over 99 games played.

    Advantage: Giants, because of their serious dedication to improving the left field position in San Francisco

Center Fielder: Angel Pagan vs. Chris Young

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    Center Fielder: Angel Pagan vs. Chris Young

    2011 Lines: .262 AVG, 7 HRs, 56 RBI vs. .236 AVG, 20 HRs, 71 RBI

    To complement Melky Cabrera in left field, the Giants have added former New York Mets center fielder Angel Pagan to the roster. After hitting .306 in 2009 and .290 in 2010, Pagan continued his downward trend with a .262 performance last year. From 2009 to 2011, his on-base percentage accordingly dipped 28 points, while his OPS dropped by 143 points to .694.

    2010 NL All-Star Chris Young also experienced a batting average drop in 2011, losing 21 points while shedding 42 points in the OPS column, to fall to .751.

    Nonetheless, Young's 2011 on-base percentage of .331 was a full 95 points higher than his batting average. Pagan's on-base percentage in 2011 was .322.

    While Young stole 22 bases and was caught nine times in 2011, Pagan swiped 32 bags and was caught two times fewer than Young.

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Young's better on-base percentage, power and familiarity with the D-Backs' outfield

Right Fielder: Nate Schierholtz vs. Justin Upton

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    Right Fielder: Nate Schierholtz vs. Justin Upton

    2011 Lines: .278 AVG, 9 HRs, 41 RBI vs. .289 AVG, 31 HRs, 88 RBI

    Nate Schierholtz experienced a fairly underrated 2011 season in San Francisco, hitting a consistent .278 with a .326 on-base percentage and .756 OPS. He also stole seven bases while being caught four times.

    Two-time NL All-Star (2009, '11) Justin Upton finished fourth in NL MVP voting, thanks to his second 20/20 season and .369 on-base percentage. Upton's 21 steals were a career high, while his .898 OPS helped earn him a Silver Slugger and two NL Player of the Week Awards.  

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Upton's better all-around play

Bullpen: Romo, Affeldt, Casilla vs. Hernandez, Ziegler, Breslow

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    Bullpen: Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Dan Runzler vs. David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, Craig Breslow, Bryan Shaw and Joe Paterson


    2011 Lines for Giants


    Sergio Romo: 1.50 ERA, 70 K's (48.0 IP)

    Jeremy Affeldt: 2.63 ERA, 54 K's (61.2 IP)

    Santiago Casilla: 1.74 ERA, 45 K's (51.2 IP)

    Javier Lopez: 2.72 ERA, 40 K's (53.0 IP)

    Dan Runzler: 6.26 ERA, 25 K's (27.1 IP)


    2011 Lines for Diamondbacks


    David Hernandez: 3.38 ERA, 77 K's (69.1 IP)

    Brad Ziegler: 2.16 ERA, 44 K's (58.1 IP)

    Craig Breslow: 3.79 ERA, 44 K's (59.1 IP)

    Bryan Shaw: 2.54 ERA, 24 K's (28.1 IP)

    Joe Paterson: 2.91 ERA, 28 K's (34.0 IP) 

    If we wipe out Giants reliever Dan Runzler's atrocious ERA and new Diamondbacks pitcher Craig Breslow's mark, we are still left with two relief staffs in which one is slightly better than the other.

    That better crew hails from San Francisco, from strikeout-to-walk ratio to WHIP, and most importantly, to ERA and keeping leads intact.

    Unfortunately, the Giants offense wasn't conducive to too many leads last season, but with Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and other offensive tweaking, that may all change come 2012.

    Advantage: Giants

Closer: Brian Wilson vs. J.J. Putz

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    Closer: Brian Wilson vs. J.J. Putz

    2011 Lines: 36 Saves, 3.11 ERA, 54 K's (55.0 IP) vs. 45 Saves, 2.17 ERA, 61 K's (58.0 IP)

    After a dominant 1.81 ERA season in 2010, Giants pitcher Brian Wilson saw his innings dwindle from 74.2 to just 55.0 primarily because of his team's lack of save situations. Wilson was 36-for-41 saves in 2011 (87.8 percent) with a 1.47 WHIP and .240 batting average against and for the first time since 2007, Wilson failed to record at least one strikeout per inning pitched.

    Putz was a big part in the Diamondbacks' NL West championship 2011 season, throwing a career-best 45-for-49 saves (91.8 percent) with a 0.91 WHIP and sizzling .195 batting average against, which follows a 2010 season with the Chicago White Sox in which Putz recorded a 1.04 WHIP and .204 batting average against.

    An AL All-Star with Seattle in 2007, Putz will hope to make his second All-Star team in 2012, having been shunned by All-Star manager Bruce Bochy in 2011 in favor of his Giants' Wilson.

    Advantage: Diamondbacks, because of Putz's better saves conversion rate, WHIP and batting average against

Manager: Bruce Bochy vs. Kirk Gibson

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    Manager: Bruce Bochy vs. Kirk Gibson

    By all accounts, the 2011 season was a huge disappointment for San Francisco and a huge success for Arizona.

    The Giants went from a World Series championship in 2010 to missing out of the playoffs in 2011, Arizona turned a last-place finish in 2010 into an NL West championship in 2011.

    Diamondbacks skipper Kirk Gibson won the 2011 NL Manager of the Year Award for his efforts, having taken over as interim D-Backs manager in mid-2010, finally earning a promotion to full-time manager on Oct. 4, 2010.

    Bruce Bochy was MLB's 1996 NL Manager of the Year after leading a third-place 1995 San Diego Padres club to a 1996 NL West championship, just one game ahead of the wild-card-winning 1995 Los Angeles Dodgers.

    In 1997, the Padres dropped to last place in the NL West, followed by another climb to the top in 1998, a year in which the Padres reached the World Series.

    2012 marks Gibson's second full season as an MLB manager, so it is too early to tell whether Gibson will succumb to Bochy's fate in 1997.

    Advantage: Kirk Gibson, if for no other reason than his status as reigning NL Manager of the Year