As the San Francisco Giants enter the second month of the season, we see that their offense has improved over last year, but still has a way to go before we can call it "good." The Giants offense lacks consistency, and opposing pitchers are exploiting weaknesses in the swings of certain hitters.
A potentially key improvement to the offense could come about when Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez return to the team. Simply put, the Giants are not getting enough production out of the first base position, the third outfield position and the middle infield.
If healthy, I believe Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez could make a positive impact to the Giants offense this year. The real question is, can the Giants count on them at this point?
In the case of Aubrey Huff, I believe the Giants have a better chance of seeing him return to form. In 2010, Huff was one of the Giants' best hitters, with 26 home runs, 86 RBI and a .290 batting average.
If it were not for Huff's contributions in 2010, there is no way the Giants would have even made it to the playoffs, let alone won the World Series.
2011 was an entirely different story for Huff. He struggled at the plate all year and finished with a .246 average, with 12 home runs and 59 RBI.
Then, in 2012, Huff came to spring training in excellent shape and looked poised to have a big year. Huff struggled out of the gate, and we now know that he was also struggling with some personal issues that forced him to the disabled list.
I will not get into the reasons for Huff's anxiety issues, except to say that problems both on and off the field undoubtedly contributed to his need to step away.
Huff is getting treatment and also a great deal of support from the Giants organization and his teammates. When he's ready to come off the disabled list in a few days, I fully expect Huff to be a lot more productive than he has been recently.
I do not expect to see Huff approach his 2010 numbers, but I do believe he will play better than he did last year. Huff is on a contract year, and will be focused on doing the best he can to put himself in a position to get another decent contract after this season.
The time away from the pressures he was under should help clear his head. That will also help him relax and simply play the game. If Huff can do that, we will see a very positive improvement in his play and his emotional stability.
I can't say with certainty that the Giants can count on Huff at this point, but I do think he will play much better when he returns. The fact that the Giants have not had consistent production from first base nor their third outfielder, means that Huff will see action when he's ready to rejoin the team.
The case of Freddy Sanchez is much more of a concern to me. Following surgery last year, I felt that Sanchez would be ready by the beginning of the season. His shoulder is not responding well, and it now looks like it will be late May at the earliest when we could see him back in the lineup.
Ever since Sanchez joined the Giants in a 2009 trade-deadline deal, he has had injury issues. He has had multiple knee surgeries and also operations to fix his shoulder.
The fact that Sanchez is still unable to really throw effectively and is experiencing pain in his throwing shoulder is alarming. His rehab assignment has been stalled, but he hopes to get back on the field to resume his rehab assignment very soon.
Sanchez is now 34 years of age, and he has become very injury-prone over the past three seasons. I cannot foresee him being healthy for any extended period of time. Although the Giants really could use him, there's no way they can afford to count on him.
While I do hope that Huff and Sanchez can return and be productive, there is no way the Giants can count on either of them.
Both Huff and Sanchez are in the final year of their respective contracts. Do not expect either of them to return to the Giants for 2013.
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