For everything that went wrong for the San Francisco Giants in 2008, there were still reasons to smile as the future pieces of the club also made an impact in the present day.
The Giants may have only picked up one more win than they did in 2007 and the offense was one of the worst in the entire majors, but the strides that were made in 2008 will undoubtedly help the team in the future.
Expectations were obviously not very high, look at any season preview and that statement will be supported. Hell, ESPN pondered whether the Giants might have one of the worst offenses in the history of the game.
Yet despite the low expectations, the new wave of Giants talent staked their claim to their respective spots on the roster.
Obviously the name that everybody will remember is that of Tim Lincecum. He may still look like he is a freshman in high school, but his mid-90s fastball is one 95 percent of high school pitchers dream of. His hammer for a curve is another weapon of his, but the evolution of his change-up from spring training to his start on the final day of the season was remarkable.
Those three pitches enabled The Franchise to not only lead all of baseball with 265 strikeouts, the first Giants pitcher to do that in over 60 years, but also win just about every pitching award he was eligible for, obviously with the National League Cy Young being the biggest of them all.
However, the man who is expect to accompany Lincecum into the next generation of Giants baseball, Matt Cain, endured another season without run support.
For Cain, seeing he was on the wrong side of another one-run decision must be like Jeff Spicoli seeing an F on his report card.
So what's the next best thing than having two young aces on the pitching staff? A young closer to develop with the young starts.
And that's what the Giants have with 26-year-old Brian Wilson, who went from being on the bus between Fresno and San Francisco in 2007 to being named to the National League All-Star team in 2008.
His 4.62 ERA may not have blown anybody away, but going 41 out of 47 in save opportunities is nothing to complain about.
And you have to expect while Cain, Lincecum, and fellow young stud Jonathan Sanchez continue to develop, so will Wilson, who will now know he has a tight hold on the closing job.
However, despite everything positive coming out of the starters and Wilson, the rest of the staff was nothing really to write home about.
You can pretty much some up the middle relief in one word: terrible.
While Alex Hinshaw and Sergio Romo made solid debuts, the other cast members of the Giants' pen didn't do anything to win people over. And don't worry, the person who caused a lot of people stress, Tyler Walker, won't be returning in 2009.
Romo and Hinshaw weren't the only rookies to make their debuts. In fact, 22 other lucky players debuted for San Francisco over the course of the 2008 season.
From Brian Bocock to Merkin Valdez, there were quite a wide variety of players that appeared on the Giants roster.
The best of the bunch might have been somebody very few people had ever heard of before his Aug. 14 debut. He is catcher/infielder Pablo Sandoval.
With his swing at almost everything approach, Sandoval burst on to the scene, hitting .345 in just 41 games. His versatility made him a valuable aspect down the stretch. Sandoval proved he is more than capable behind the dish and that he can also pick it in the field when he sheds the catchers gear.
And although it seems like he is going to play at least the next season or two on the other side of second base, Emmanuel Burriss had the same type of rapid rise through the system that Sandoval did.
In 95 games Burriss hit .283, which is pretty impressive considering he was playing at Single-A during the 2007 season. His speed, recording 13 stolen bases this past season, is something that the Giants will depend on if they want to successfully win with the pitching and defense way of life.
However, despite the best efforts of the youngster and Bengie Molina driving in a career-high 95 runs, the offense was still terrible.
The Giants were the only team in the majors to not hit 100 home runs and scored the second-fewest runs in the bigs.
Not exactly what you want to do to support a young pitching staff. This might be why Cain is 15-30 over the past two seasons.
Aaron Rowand was great in the clubhouse and roaming center field, but the Giants didn't pay $60 million over five season for just that. His average dipped from .291 to .271 after the All-Star break and added just 13 HR and 70 RBI.
That other big-money guy, you may have heard of him, went through another up-and-down season in San Francisco.
Barry Zito thought his 2007 start was the worst of his career. Well, that was before his 2008 season started. He was 1-8 with a 5.53 ERA in the season's first two months. His ERA never was below five after April 22. The list can go on and on really.
And while the Giants headed into the offseason with many questions still to be answered, they seemed to revert back to their old ways, signing veterans for higher than their market value.
Well, Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry were definitely an upgrade over what was there before, but the biggest signing of them all, shortstop Edgar Renteria, has more than a few questions to answer coming off of one of his worst seasons, and at the age of 33. is heading towards the twilight years of his career.
And of course there were the stars of the Giants minor league system, which has been rebuilt in just three short years into one of the best in baseball.
2007 first round picks Madision Bumgarner and Tim Alderson proved their worth in their first-full seasons in the minors. The Giants nabbed one of the best and possibly most polished hitters in the 2008 draft, Golden Spikes winner Buster Posey. The top prospect heading into 2008, first baseman Angel Villalona, progressed a considerable amount considering he played all but one month of the season at age 17.
Not too bad for a team who used to dump their picks for over-priced veterans.
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