San Francisco Giants Spring Training: Grading the Giants Live from Scottsdale
The San Francisco Giants have been dominating their Cactus League opponents throughout the start of spring training.
Excited and ready to gear up for back-to-back World Series championships, the Giants seem to be heading down the right road. Veterans and rookies alike are playing great baseball, and Giants fans should be starting to get the itch that only comes when it's time for baseball to begin.
I headed down to Scottsdale, Arizona last weekend to take a look at the Giants for myself, and they looked to be in great shape. Here's how I rate their performances thus far.
Starting Rotation: B+
The Giants starting rotation is one of the best in the major leagues, and it is also one of the most youthful.
Ace Tim Lincecum has thrown 17.2 innings, allowing five earned runs while striking out 21 batters. He started off slow as usual and he has picked things up since then, so there is nothing to worry about there.
Madison Bumgarner, who was disappointing through his first couple outings, has also picked things up a bit. Bumgarner has given up quite a few long balls, but he has a WHIP only slightly over one, which is a good sign for things to come.
The bullpen has been tricky to evaluate thus far into spring training. Some players have played outstanding, while others haven't been well at all.
Jeremy Affeldt: Seven innings pitched, one earned run, eight strikeouts. He is pitching right now like the set-up man he was brought here to be.
Sergio Romo: Seven innings pitched, one earned run, five batters allowed to reach base. Romo is one of the players who Dave Righetti talked to about reaching that next level as a pitcher. Maybe this is his year to do so.
Jeff Suppan: Ten innings pitched, seven earned runs, two strikeouts. I listed him as the pitching MVP through Week 1 of spring training, but he has clearly proven to me and everyone else why he shouldn't make the team.
I watched Matt Cain throw a brilliant three innings in Scottsdale against the Milwaukee Brewers, only to see Suppan promptly mess it up.
Javier Lopez: Seven innings pitched, seven earned runs, 11 hits allowed. Lopez was one of the reasons why the Giants bullpen was so dominant at the end of the season, and I really hope things turn around for him quickly, because the Giants can't afford Lopez to struggle this year.
Power Hitting: A-
Through 21 spring training games, the Giants have 22 home runs, which isn't bad at all.
If the Giants can average over one home run per game in the regular season, it's going to be a fantastic year! Unfortunately, I don't think that these numbers will keep up, as they're probably over-inflated because of the poor pitchers who have faced the Giants.
I saw Pablo Sandoval blast a home run over the center-field wall during my trip, and he looks to be in great shape, which is a very good sign for Giants fans. Sandoval already has three home runs and he is hitting just under .300.
Contact Hitting: A-
Since the Giants are not a team centered around power, they must be good at hitting for contact.
Most probable starters are hitting excellently, and the Giants are really surprising me as a whole.
Nate Schierholtz is hitting .342 in 38 at-bats, Aubrey Huff is hitting .351 in 37 at-bats and Cody Ross and Andres Torres are both hitting .333 in 33 at-bats.
It looks like everyone who finished the year on a hot streak last year is hoping to continue it into the 2011 season.
Moving Runners Along: B
Once again, I lumped stolen bases and RBIs in this category because both have to do with how well the Giants are able to move runners from base to base.
Unfortunately, nobody on the Giants besides Darren Ford has really had many opportunities to get stolen bases. This is probably because Bruce Bochy doesn't really need to see the speed of the veterans, but it would be nice to see Andres Torres get at least one shot at a stolen base.
Ford has seven steals in eight attempts, and he could be a key pinch runner for the Giants at crucial moments in the season.
As far as runs go, the Giants are producing very well, but only Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff have reached the 10-RBI mark.
Still, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval aren't too far behind.
Ptching MVP: Matt Cain
The only problem with listing Matt Cain as the pitching MVP is that he's only thrown five innings.
In those innings, he hasn't allowed a run and he has only given up six hits. Cain hasn't had two great seasons in a row since he's been to the majors, and it would be great to see him perform the way he did last year.
Throwing five shutout innings is good enough for me to give him props.
Batting MVP: Buster Posey
Buster Posey has been a monster in spring training this year.
He's hitting .393 in 28 at-bats, he has two home runs with nine RBI and he has been walked five times. Posey is one of the keys to how well the Giants can play, and his amazing rookie season gave hope to Giants fans everywhere.
The sophomore slump is something that Posey is going to do everything he can to avoid, and his success in spring training is welcoming and relieving.
Biggest Surprise: Ryan Vogelsong
Vogelsong has been making a very strong case to make the team with his excellent pitching performance in the last few games.
In 12.2 innings pitched, Vogelsong has only allowed three earned runs, given up eight hits and struck out 11 batters.
Vogelsong won't necessarily make the cut, but the Giants can always use an extra bullpen arm, and it will be interesting to follow his performance over the few remaining weeks.
Biggest Disappointment: Javier Lopez
I've already discussed Lopez's poor performance, but here is a reminder of his stat line: 7 IP, 10 H, 8 ER, 7 K.
Lopez was originally brought to the Giants to deal with the likes of Adrian Gonzalez and other power left-handers in the NL West. He made it look easy as he was nearly flawless in the second half of the season.
Although Gonzalez has moved onto Boston, which is a good thing for the Giants, Lopez still has a job to do, and hopefully he will find his rhythm before the season starts.
Overall Grade: A
There's not too much to complain about here.
The Giants lead the Cactus League, and both their pitchers and hitters are outstanding at times, even though there is always room for improvement.
The simple fact that the Giants haven't had any major injuries is significant enough for me to give them a good grade, and it's something that not every team can take for granted.