The offseason is done, pitchers and catchers are entering camp, and the Giants are full of youth and excitement. Hopefully, they can improve on a better-than-expected 2008 season.
But just like last year, it’ll be up to the pitching staff to deliver.
San Francisco had three goals heading into the offseason: address the middle of the lineup by acquiring a big bat, work on solidifying what was a shaky infield, and improve a bullpen that cost the Giants a number of games last year.
Well, a few months later, they have improved the bullpen with the signings of Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry, strengthened the starting rotation by adding former Cy Young winner Randy Johnson, and found a veteran shortstop in Edgar Renteria. All these acquisitions complement the Giants' youth well.
The only problem with all this is they didn’t get the big bat, which means Bengie Molina will most likely occupy the cleanup spot for the second season in a row.
Without the ability to drive in runs with the big fly, the Giants' pitching will need to work as hard as last year if the team wants to compete in the tough NL West.
The Giants are set at the top of the rotation with 2008 Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum anchoring the staff. Matt Cain, the aforementioned Johnson, and Barry Zito will hold down the three other slots in the rotation for a formidable one-two-three-four punch.
Johnson will be chasing down career win No. 300 during the season, which should only fuel the fire for him, and Zito is in desperate need of a rebound from a less-than-spectacular first two seasons in San Francisco.
The thing to watch will be what happens with the fifth and final spot. Noah Lowry appears set to come back from injuries that caused him to miss the entire 2008 campaign, and Jonathan Sanchez has a lot to prove to the organization that has so much faith in him.
If Lowry comes back strong from his injury, you can expect him to lock down that fifth spot and Sanchez to move to the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, there will no doubt be some fierce competition for the relief roles as Brian Wilson, Jack Taschner, Affeldt, and Howry appear to be the only locks.
That leaves four to five spots up for grabs, and you can expect the youngsters and contributors from last year to battle to the end for those coveted roles.
All in all, the Giants will be in good shape if the pitching staff can hold and close out games, the veterans remain consistent, and the youngsters continue to improve.
Of course, if Pablo Sandoval continues to rake the way he did last season, they may just have their middle-of-the-order bat. It should be an interesting season of ups and downs for the young club, so jump on the roller coaster and enjoy.