Five Things Giants Fans (and Players) Will Probably Forget from 2009
I did the good parts about the Giants season already, now I figure it's time to be a little pessimistic. Granted, in the long run, this really was a good season from the boys in Black and Orange, but there was plenty to stew about if you were a San Francisco fan (and chances are, the Sabean and Bochy extensions didn't help things very much either ).
1. Merkin Valdez: Glorified Mop-Up Man
Let's face it. Valdez simply doesn't have a future on this Giants pitching staff. Sure, he can throws heat, but that's about it. He doesn't have very good second or third pitches (as evidenced by him throwing his fastball 80.3 percent of the time), he doesn't know how to locate (especially on 0-2 counts) and he can't be depended on in tight games (I think his 5.66 ERA and 1.72 WHIP say enough).
And the worst part? He's old. He's 28, and he pitches like he's only been in professional baseball for less than a year, when in fact, he's bounced in and out of the majors and minors since 2004 (granted, he was out for the year in 2005 and 2007 because of injury, but that doesn't change his old age factor). I mean, Waldis Joaquin, has better command and he's only 22. Furthermore, he has only been in the Majors for 10 games total in his career, all coming this season.
Is that a sign of how good Joaquin is or how bad Valdez has pitched for the Giants? Both I guess. Joaquin is great, and he could be a deadly stopper behind Sergio Romo, but for the most part, that is an indicator of how far Valdez has fallen.
Remember, in 2004, this guy was the next big reliever not just in the Giants farm system, but perhaps in the Major Leagues. He was being compared to a better Armando Benitez (who ironically, pitched, badly of course, with the Giants).
Now though, Benitez looks like a Hall of Famer in comparison to Valdez. At least Benitez had that good 2004 season with Florida.
2. Sanchez and Garko: The Typical Brian Sabean Trade Deadline Acquisitions
Giants fans knew it was going to happen. It had happened before countless times. Ricky Ledee. Sidney Ponson. Shea Hillenbrand.
Yes, the Giants needed to do something to get better offensively. Yes, they needed a power threat and had to solidify their middle infield (especially with Edgar Renteria having the season he was mired in).
Yet two home runs from Cleveland's Ryan Garko and 25 games from a "broken" Freddy Sanchez was far from what the Giants needed. And to make matters worse, those two "acquisitions" came at the expense of two very good pitching prospects in left-handed Scott Barnes and No. 2 pitching prospect (behind Madison Bumgarner) Tim Alderson.
I know you have to give something to get something, but this trade deadline was far too characteristic of Sabean's past deals where the Giants seemed to give up more than they received. While the Brad Penny signing in late August did ease things a bit (mainly because he performed well so cheaply), this Trade Deadline was another classic case of where less (e.g. not making so many drastic trades) probably would have ended up in more.
3. Burriss, Frandsen, Lewis, Bowker: Not living up to potential
A lot has been expected from these four guys who have come within the Giants farm system. That being said, they have not lived up to the hype in 2009 despite many fans and experts thinking big things out of them.
Despite a solid 2008 campaign, Emmanuel Burriss struggled in his transition to second base in 2009, especially defensively. He registered a UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating in runs above average per 150 defensive innings played) of -8.7 (Juan Uribe playing second base this year in comparison had a UZR/150 of 10.5). And to make matters worse, Burriss was a mess at the plate as well. While his inability to hit for any kind of power was well-known prior to this year (his slugging percentage has never hit the .400 range at any level of professional ball), Burriss struggled to get on base (.292 OBP and .560 OPS) despite his excellent speed (he had 11 stolen bases in 61 games).
Basically, Burriss, a ray of hope for the Giants after posting good numbers in 2008, suddenly became a huge question mark, especially when it comes to his future in San Francisco which looks shaky with Renteria and Freddy Sanchez likely holding down the middle of the infield next season due to financial reasons.
Though if you think the future is cloudy for Burriss, his year was nothing in comparison to what Kevin Frandsen experienced. After missing all of 2008 due to an Achilles injury, Frandsen simply couldn't catch a break. Frandsen lost the second baseman job in Spring Training to Burriss, and he couldn't buy a hit during the regular season, as evidenced by his .140 average, .204 OBP, and .384 OPS.
Sure, you could complain Frandsen hasn't got his shot at the Major League level, but other than a great last couple months of the season, Frandsen hasn't really shown the Giants brass enough to merit regular playing time. In order to play, he has needed to show more in his rare playing stints, and constantly, when Frandsen needs to show something to prove he belongs, he has often fallen flat.
As for Fred Lewis and John Bowker, here are two guys who came off great starts in 2008, only to have mediocre years in 2009. Lewis eventually lost out to Randy Winn, and eventually Eugenio Velez after struggling mightily in June, and John Bowker, despite putting up excellent minor league stats (.342 average, 21 home runs in Fresno), never really found a groove in his Major League tenure this season (.194 average, two home runs in 73 PA).
It's likely that Giants brass will stay patient with Bowker, mainly because his stock is so low and he still is relatively young (he's only 26). As for Lewis, who is 28 and has played two full seasons with the Giants, the future doesn't look so bright and most likely will be gone next season to make room for Velez, Torres and even Bowker in the outfield.
4. Aaron Rowand: Continuing the "Freefall"
Giants fans have seen bad in their tenure in San Francisco. Rick Wilkins at catcher in 1997. A.J. Pierzynski in 2004. Armando Benitez's whole career as a Giant.
Yet Rowand's 2009 season may have secretly ranked down there with the worst of them.
Sure his stats don't scare you "Tony Pena, Jr."—style, but if you look deeper, you can see how detrimental Rowand was to the Giants. While he hit more home runs (15 in comparison to 13 in 2008) and scored more runs (61 in comparison to 57 in 2008) in eight less games played, Rowand had alarming stats in many other areas.
He led the team in strikeouts with 125 and ranked fifth on the team in walks with 30 (and so you know, this is a team that was in the basement of the league in terms of walks. The leader for the Giants was Pablo "I swing at anything and everything, but still hit it" Sandoval who had 52.)
Couple that with a .319 OBP and a .738 OPS (his lowest numbers in each category since 2006), and Rowand has been a flat out bust that has been a classic example of Sabean's overpriced, under-performing acquisitions.
Can Rowand turn it around? Maybe, but unless he gets a serious grasp of the strike zone, the chances of that happening seem very slim.
5. Bruce Bochy: Managing the "Right Way" (And "Right Way" meaning the opposite of common sense)
Giants fans knew Bochy played favorites. In fact, that's partially why Sabean hired him in the first place: he was one of the only managers in the league that would please the egomaniac known as Barry Bonds.
Yet that was in 2007, and in 2009 the best players available on the roster were not veterans like in the Bonds-Days.
Unfortunately, Bochy seemed to miss the memo.
While Nate Schierholtz wasn't having as great a season as many people thought, he certainly deserved some more playing time in 2009. Yet Bochy continued to rely not only on Randy Winn, but on Rowand as well, despite it being obviously clear Rowand was having an atrocious season. Bochy was more concerned about where Rowand should bat in the order at times than finding the best lineup possible, and that proved to infuriate Giants fans on more than one occasion.
Furthermore, Bochy continued to rely on Edgar Renteria even though Juan Uribe was clearly a better option. He buried Ryan Garko in September even though Garko should have gotten at least some at-bats when the Giants were facing left-handed pitching. He constantly forgot he had Brian Wilson as the closer and not Trevor Hoffman as he continued to stroll out Wilson to get four and five out saves (which usually ended disastrously).
There was so much to gripe about in terms of what Bochy did as a manager in 2009.
Thankfully, Giants fans will get to do plenty more in 2010.
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