Speed kills, right? Well when it comes to MLB, that isn't always the case. In fact, six of the top 10 teams in base stealing in 2009 missed the playoffs.
And over the last few seasons, it is pretty much a coin flip on whether or not the top base stealing teams in baseball make the playoffs. But in particular, speed at the top of the order has proved more critical in the National League.
The NL had three of their four postseason participants from last season in the top 12 in the MLB in stolen bases.
In 2008, all four of the NL participants in the playoffs finished in the top half of MLB in stolen bases, three of which finished in the top 10.
In 2007, three of the four NL postseason clubs finished in the top 13 in MLB in stolen bases.
In 2006, three of the four playoff clubs in the NL finished in the top eight in MLB in stolen bases.
Now the San Francisco Giants finished rather high in the stolen base category in 2007 and 2008, finishing eighth and 11th respectively. However, it was their lack of power in the heart of the lineup that kept them out of the postseason those two seasons. Having the speed at the top of their order was part of the solution to the Giants' woes, not one of the problems.
Yet, in 2009 the Giants dropped all the way down to 21st in the MLB in stolen bases. And that ranking is most likely going to drop even lower. Their top base stealer from 2009 won't be back with the team and their next three top base stealers don't figure to be in the 2010 starting lineup.
Randy Winn led the team with 16 stolen bases, but is expected not to return next season. The next highest total was Emmanuel Burriss who managed 11 steals while getting in just 202 at-bats before being sent down to the minors and sustaining a season-ending injury.
Eugenio Velez also stole 11 bases last season for the Giants while racking up just 285 at-bats last season. And lastly, Fred Lewis stole eight bases in 295 at-bats last season.
The highest total of stolen bases by a Giant who still figures to be in their starting lineup in 2010 came from 34-year-old shortstop Edgar Renteria who stole seven bases.
As it stands, the Giants are projected to finish in the bottom five in stolen bases in 2010. Now if they had multiple power sources in their lineup, a postseason birth might be plausible. But that said, how would the Philadelphia Phillies have fared the last two seasons without Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins stealing 139 bases between them the last two seasons?
Right now the Giants have Renteria as their biggest base stealing threat? Even though their home ball park is catered to the running game? Why Giants GM Brian Sabean is looking to start the year without an ounce of speed in his lineup is insulting to his fan base.
Considering that two of the fastest players on the Giants roster last year in Velez and Andres Torres combined for 17 stolen bases and 43 extra base hits in just 437 combined at-bats last year, it is difficult to figure out why the Giants don't want a speed guy in their lineup.
If the management doesn't feel comfortable with platooning these two speedsters in left field due to their poor career on-base percentages then fine, but then go out and bring in someone else who can bring that speed element to the lineup.
Former White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik just signed a $1.75 million deal with the Kansas City Royals. Podsednik has posted a career OBP of .340 and when healthy averages over 40 stolen bases a season.
Now the Giants were willing to another mediocre power hitter in Mark DeRosa for $12 million over two years, but they're not willing to pay a productive lead off hitter like Podsednik $2 million for a single season?
San Francisco's management can't blame this one on "so and so free-agent hitter doesn't want to play in San Francisco" because not only is Podsednik not a power hitter, but he signed with the Royals.
If Podsednik was willing to sign with the Royals, you can be certain he would have signed in San Francisco if the money was right.
Podsednik once stole 70 bases with the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2004 and has a career success rate of 75 percent when attempting to steal.
The Giants already have the perfect No. 2 hitter in Freddy Sanchez and they could have made their team better with the perfect leadoff hitter, but once again Sabean is nowhere to be found.
With the way the roster is shaping up for the Orange & Black, the pitching staff will have to have a repeat performance from last year just to keep the team respectable. If pitchers like Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez stumble rather than improve and neither Madison Bumgarner or Buster Posey show they're ready for the big leagues, then the Giants might just struggle just to finish .500.
Having a true speed threat at leadoff would help take some of the pressure off that pitching staff, but the management doesn't seem willing to give them one.
But of course this just what the Giants management does, they build a team to be "competitive" but they don't build a team to actually win.
The Giants have a major need for speed. Unfortunately, unlike Maverick and Goose, they don't feel the need.
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