Opening Day, Part 1

The 2010 season begins today, and regardless of what the year may hold, I am so. Freaking. Excited. Baseball season holds so much meaning to me, and I’ve frankly had my fill of college basketball, plus an extra helping or two. Spring is my favorite season, and the return of baseball probably has a lot to do with that. And the idea of the 2010 season seems so fresh to me today, in no small part because the 25-man roster was only solidified yesterday.

For your edification:
Starting Pitchers (5): Lincecum, Zito, Cain, J. Sanchez, Wellemeyer
Relief Pitchers (7): Joaquin, Mota, Medders, Runzler, Romo, Affeldt, Wilson
Catchers (2): Molina, Whiteside (b)
Infielders (5): Huff, Uribe, Renteria, Sandoval, Ishikawa (b)
Outfielders (6): DeRosa, Rowand, Bowker, Torres (b), Velez (b), Schierholtz (b)

Expected Additions: F. Sanchez (DL), Posey, Burriss (DL)
Possible Additions: Bumgarner, Pucetas, Rohlinger, Martinez, Sosa
Expected Subtractions: Lewis (DL), Whiteside

So, what does this tell us? The pitching is as advertised. Our starters all seem capable of 10+ win seasons, if Wellemeyer’s spring training performances are to be trusted, and the other four all have the tools to dominate a game, though the flashes of brilliance are more common in Cain and Lincecum. Zito is still looking for that strong first half to put together a full season, and Sanchez is clearly the wild card, but it’s fair to say that when any of the four are in top form, they are unhittable. Sanchez’s line of 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11K from two starts ago is a taste of what could be ahead should he keep his mechanics in line.

The lineup is odd, if not out and out strange. With the exception of Renteria and the pitcher’s, the entire lineup is capable of hitting 15 home runs. But we can’t be lulled by the prospect of DINGERZ! The Giants’ lineup has to see improvement in its on-base percentage, fundamentals like bunting and the hit and run, and its discipline at the plate. Now, none of this is a great secret, but the Giants have already shown themselves at their best and worst in Arizona. The worst is first pitch outs when they should be working the count (Renteria, Renteria), striking out at back foot sliders (Schierholtz, Nate and Ishikawa, Travis), and 6-8 pitch innings (everybody). The best we’ve seen are late-inning comebacks, hitting for power, three or more batters with multi-hit games, and Bengie Molina drawing walks. It’s feast or famine again with the Giants, and we can only hope to see more of the former this year.

As nobody expects the Giants to run the bases very well, relegating them to the status of a “station to station” offense, the other big question mark seems to be defense. There’s no question that the right side of the field is significantly downgraded from a year ago, with Uribe, Huff, and Bowker supplanting Burriss, Ishikawa, and Winn/Schierholtz, however temporarily. The left side is mostly unchanged although it is older, for better or for worse. Whether that will cost the Giants some games remains to be seen.

I would group the player-specific questions as follows: Will Lincecum and Zito start strong this year? Will Cain tail off in the second half? Will this finally be Johnathan Sanchez’s breakout year? Will we see the 2008 model or the 2009 model of Edgar Renteria, Aubrey Huff, and Mark DeRosa? Will Pablo Sandoval continue his meteoric rise to superstardom? Will John Bowker earn a permanent place at the major league level? When and in what condition will Freddy Sanchez return? When will Buster Posey arrive, and will he hit like every expects him to? And will the Giants finally make the push to return to October baseball?

I will look at some of these questions tomorrow, after we have seen their season opener against the Astros. First up on the slab is the day-to-day management of the lineup. Exciting, right? Right?! Right.


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