As the San Francisco Giants complete the three game home sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks, one thing is for sure; the lineup put out by manager Bruce Bochy produced wins. Regardless of the fact that they received rather stellar pitching (except for the outings by Affeldt and Mota), the offense managed to score a combined 23 runs, which has not been accomplished by the Giants in a three game set since defeating a weak Houston team last summer. Therefore, serious consideration needs to be taken to maintaining this lineup throughout the year, with emphasis placed on the one opening the Sunday game.
With an outfield missing Mark DeRosa and a struggling Aaron Rowand, the Giants have instead sent out professional journeyman Andres Torres, Olympian Nate Schierholtz, and converted first baseman Aubrey Huff. The proposed opening day outfield, (Rowand DeRosa and John Bowker) has maintained a line of .213/.269/.342/.611, whereas the outfield shown Sunday has a line of .294/.379/.453/.832. Similarly, production has increased. Andres Torres, who has lead off as of late, has scored 3 more runs in 25 less at bats than Aaron Rowand, and Nate Schierholtz, even out of the bottom of the order, has scored twice as many runs as Mark DeRosa (18 to 9) who hit largely 5th, granted with 22 more at-bats.
Similarly, the defensive upgrade in the outfield is substantial, as even though Aaron Rowand won a gold glove, he does not have the range of Torres, and Nate Schierholtz has recorded 6 outfield assists in only 30 games started, which by the way is second in major league baseball. Both DeRosa and Huff are converted outfielders and therefore of comparable defensive ability, although with that in mind Huff still has a better fielding percentage of .992 compared to DeRosa's .931.
The only reason this outfield can work, however, is due to the upgraded infield, due largely to the welcome emergence of one Buster Posey. With only 2 games under his belt, Posey has managed to knock in 4 runs on 6 hits in 9 at bats, showing poise in the box and the ability to give professional at bats. Although it can be noted that he will not continue to hit .667, he is a career .333 hitter at the minor league level, with the ability to hit for power and average while driving in runs. So far, he has not missed an opportunity to drive in a run.
While Buster's amergance allows Huff to move to left, that greatness of Juan Uribe has allowed Giants fans to not pray for the health of Edgar Renteria, which looks like it may never come. Even so, the Giants need what Uribe provides, regardless of Renteria's hot start. Uribe leads the team in HR with 7 and RBIs with 29. He maintains a high average at .288 and a slugging percentage of .474 which is only bested by the surprisingly powerful Andres Torres at .496. With the Giants showing now that they can get men on base, they need some pop in the middle of the order with the decline of Bengie Molina, coming off of his 20 HR 80 RBI season with a meager 11 RBIs and 2 HR. However, this is largely due to a 2 for 30 rough spell, similar to a streak Bengie suffered last year before finishing strong.
The final reason, and possibly the most important reason to stay with this lineup is the fact that it looks like a complete, major league lineup. Andres Torres puts speed at the top with the ability to get on base. Freddy Sanchez will always give a professional at bat, and if he doesn't get on base he will work the pitcher or move someone over. Pablo is Pablo, and will end up hitting over .300 with power. Aubrey Huff, Molina, and Juan Uribe supply much needed power to help drive in the top three table setters. Buster Posey shows poise in the batters box, driving in runs in clutch situations. And Nate Schierholtz puts a solid 8 hitter with potential to hit for average and power, and puts speed on the basepaths. The Giants have not seen such a balanced lineup in years, and the balance will surely pay dividends as we enter the heart of the exciting 2010 season.