As a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan and a huge Dodger hater, this is an incredibly difficult statements for me to type. All right, here goes....
If Manny Ramirez re-signs with the Dodgers, LA will have a better offensive player in all eight positions on the field.
Ok, this is the part when all of my fellow Giants' fans disagree, but before you pass judgement let's take a look at each position.
Left Field - Manny Ramirez Vs. Fred Lewis
No one in there right mind could argue that Freddy is better than Man Ram.
Center Field - Matt Kemp Vs. Aaron Rowand
This is actually one of the closer battles, and I could see many Giants fans picking Rowand, but let's look at last year's stats. Kemp hit .290 with 18 HR's, 76 RBI's and a .799 OPS. Rowand hit .271 with 13 HR's and 70 RBI's and a .749 OPS.
For those of you who think that Rowand will have a better second year in SF than he did in his first, keep these two facts in mind. He will never have a better offensive year in San Francisco than he did in his best season playing in that hitters park in Philadelphia.
And two, Kemp hit .342 with more power over half a season in 2007, so there is room for improvement with his stats too.
Right Field - Andre Ethier Vs Randy Winn
This is another close one, but again, when you look at the numbers, you have to give the edge to the Dodgers. Winn had a solid year for the Giants in 2008, he hit .306 with 10 HR's with 64 RBI's and a .789 OPS.
Unfortunately, those numbers don't even come close to Ethier's .305 average, 20 HR's, 77 RBI's and .885 OPS. Sorry Giant's fans, but Winn's power numbers are awful for a right fielder.
First Base - James Loney Vs Travis Ishikawa
This is where my starry eyed Giant's are going to start talking leaps of faith and make ridiculous assumptions about how well unproven young players are going to perform. Please come back to earth for a moment and look at the numbers.
Loney hit .289 with 13 HR's, 90 RBI's and a .772 OPS. Not amazing numbers for a first baseman, but solid. Also keep in mind, the year before, Loney hit .331 with 15 HR's in a half a season.
Ishikawa received praise from the Giant's management for his strong performance after the August call up, but the numbers themselves don't exactly jump off the page. He hit .274 with 3 HR's, 17 RBI's and a .769 OPS.
Project those out over a full season, and he's still an average hitter with below average power for a first baseman. Plus, you can't ignore the fact that Ishikawa is a .218 minor league hitter against left handed pitching, so I think it's safe to say that he's not guaranteed to perform as well as he did last year over the course of a full season.
Second Base - Orlando Hudson Vs Frandsen/Burris/Velez
Please don't waste your time explaining why one of these rookies is going to have a better season than the three-time all-star. If we were comparing this crew to Blake Dewitt, we would have a decent chance to win that battle, but that's not the case anymore.
Shortstop - Rafael Furcal Vs Edgar Renteria
There is a reason why Furcal signed a three-year contract this offseason for $30 million, while Renteria got a two-year $18 million deal. Furcal is a superior player even with injury problems, according to all of the GM's in the league. I think I'll take their word for it over any fans.
Third Base - Casey Blake Vs Pablo Sandoval
This is the one that I really really really want to give the Giant's the edge on, but I just can't ignore the facts. Fact one, Blake is the model of consistency. He is going to hit around .275 with 20 HR's and 70 to 80 RBI's; he does it every year.
Fact two, Sandoval has 145 career at-bats and has only played 12 games at third base. Yes, he hit .345 over the last two months of the season, but the Pujols comparisons are ridiculous. I love Sandoval and I am very hopeful that he has a big season for the Giants, but you need to be realistic.
Giving Blake the edge is going to be very difficult for Giant's fans to swallow, but here's my final argument. If the baseball gods told you today that Sandoval was going to hit .275 this year with 20 HR's, wouldn't you take it? Guess what, that's exactly what you're going to get from Blake without taking a huge gamble on a guy who made the leap from single A to the major leagues last year.
I know it's possible that Sandoval outperforms Blake this year—I hope he does. But until he plays a full season in the majors, you need to give the edge to Mr. Consistency.
Cather - Russell Martin Vs Bengie Molina
This is another tough one for Giants' fans to come to grips with, because Bengie has been such a clutch performers in his two seasons with the Giants, as well as the team's MVP and most inspirational player. Rather than choose Bengie with my heart, I'll defer to the experts that choose with their heads.
Martin has represented the NL in the All-Star Game each of the last two season while Bengie has never made an All-Star team in his 11 year career. There are always All-Star snubs to consider, so we can't use that as our only barometer.
If you look at the stats, they are pretty close. Over the past two seasons, Martin has averaged a .287 batting average with 16 HR, 78 RBI, and a .812 OPS. Over the same period of time, Bengie has hit .284 with 17.5 HR, 88 RBI, but only a .749 OPS.
Granted, Molina has driven in significantly more runs, but he has also clogged up the base paths and cost the Giant's plenty of runs as well. In 2007 & 2008 Martin scored 174 runs for the Dodgers while Molina only scored a paltry 84 runs hitting cleanup for the Giant's. That 90 run gap over two seasons is just too much to ignore.
As much as I love Bengie and I think he has a legitimate chance to outperform Martin this year, it's a stretch to say that he's a better player.
The last facts to consider are age and speed. Bengie is 34-years old and would have a difficult time outrunning that statue of Willie Mays on corner of 4th and King, while Martin is just 25 and capable of stealing 20 bags a year. Sorry Giant's fans, it's a close one, but Martin get the edge over Molina.
I know that spring training is the time for optimism. I typically spend February and March daydreaming about a playoff run, projecting career years for the veteran players, and awaiting pleasant surprises from the younger guys.
However, after four years of losing records and colossal mismanagement by the front office, it's time to be realistic. Brian Sabean was been very vocal over the past few season about their strategy to build a team around pitching and defense. While we have yet to see any positive results in the standing, I'm willing to chalk the last couple of seasons up to rebuilding.
However, I'm looking at this year as the true test of whether pitching has a chance to compete with superior hitting. As the reigning NL West champs, the Dodger's are the team to beat in the division this year.
And with a team that is inferior at every offensive position, I find it hard to believe that the Giants have a legitimate shot at passing them in the standings, even with their strong starting rotation.
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