San Francisco Giants: 10 Biggest Surprises of 2010
2010 has been a year packed with surprises, from the success of unsung heroes to the struggles of previous years' stars. Let's take a look at the Giants' 10 biggest surprises.
Pablo Sandoval's Sophomore Slump
After his big season in '09 when he posted a slash line of .330/.387/.556, we came to expect the Panda to perform like that. This year, he's been a big let-down, posting a pedestrian slash line of .269/.329/.399. Operation Panda turned out to be a failure, as Sandoval actually gained weight in the offseason. After a disappointing season, though, he'll surely be more motivated to become fit. Hopefully, he'll surprise us once more in 2011 by returning to form.
The Padres' Success
The Giants were supposed to be in playoff contention this year, but not with the San Diego Padres. The Padres' rotation was expected to be the worst in the NL West, but the combination of LeBlanc, Latos, Garland, Correia, and Richard has put together a fine performance this year. The Padres' hitting was expected to be wretched also, with the obvious exception being Adrian Gonzalez. However, Headley, Venable, the Hairston brothers, and Torrealba have put together respectable seasons, contributing just enough run support to get wins for the Padres. The acquisitions of Ludwick and Tejada have improved the offense even more. The biggest success for the Padres, however, has been their bullpen. Gregerson, Adams and Bell have been completely dominant and Mujica, Thatcher, and Stauffer have gotten the job done as well.
At age 32, nobody expected Andres Torres to suddenly enjoy great success, but he's performed admirably this year. He has developed into a five-tool player who can do almost anything to put runs up on the board for his team, and prevent the other team from scoring. He's posted 5+ WAR with a top-notch UZR and is tied for the National League lead in doubles.
After winning back-to-back Cy Young awards, Tim Lincecum was expected to once again be in the Cy Young race. However, his fastball velocity has decreased, and his BB rates and HR rates have gone up. His ERA, 3.62, while quite respectable, isn't of the Cy Young caliber that most people expect from Tim Lincecum.
At age 35, nobody expected Huff to suddenly put up MVP-type numbers. He's done just that, though, as he is on pace for his first ever 5+ WAR season. He's hit .295 with 20 HR all while playing in a pitcher's park for half of his games.
When Brian Sabean signed Aubrey Huff, his defense at first base was the subject of much criticism: so nobody would've ever expected him to move to the outfield, let alone play it well. He's been an above-average defender in the outfield, though, posting 7.0 UZR/150.
When Mark DeRosa was signed by the Giants, he was expected to be an impact player. His versatility as a guy that could play almost any position was expected to be valuable, and he was also supposed to bring a little power to the Giants, after hitting 23 HR in 2009. His reputation as a supportive teammate was also going to be a great impact. DeRosa has been injured for nearly the whole season, though, and while he might be having an impact on players in the clubhouse, he certainly hasn't done anything for the Giants in the field or with his bat.
Jeremy Affeldt put up amazing numbers in 2009, with a 1.73 ERA and a major league-leading 33 holds. He won the 2009 TYIB Setup Man of the Year, and even received a 10th place vote on one writer's MVP ballot. He was expected to once again be the Giants' go-to guy, but his season has been less than inspiring, as he has posted a 4.11 ERA and been plagued with injuries.
On opening day, John Bowker was the Giants' starting right fielder. He was expected to finally become an impact player, providing much-needed pop. His stint in the majors, however, would not last long, and he was eventually traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates along with Joe Martinez for left-handed specialist Javier Lopez.
When the Giants signed Pat Burrell to minor league contract in the middle of the season, they likely didn't expect much out of him. He could possibly be a viable pinch-hitting option, providing some power. Burrell has been quite impressive, though, batting .285 with 10 HR and showing great plate discipline (13.8% walk rate). He is now the Giants' starting left fielder.
Sergio Romo has done a fine job stepping up as the Giants' setup man this year. He's posted a 2.02 ERA with an impressive 9.37 K/9 and a 2.02 BB/9. His first-strike rate has gone up by 13% from last season and his swinging-strike rate has gone up by 3% from last season.