Last year at the beginning of Spring Training, when this website was in its infancy (as opposed to the mature, adult blog you see today…OK, OK, I understand laughing at that last statement, but spitting out your beverage for dramatic effect was total overkill), I wrote the 2008 San Francisco Giants: Best Case Scenario, followed by the 2008 San Francisco Giants: Worst Case Scenario. Both posts were aimed to be (somewhat) realistic depictions of the ceiling and floor one could expect from the Giants, with reality presumably falling somewhere in the middle.
Not quite. Instead of just an indulgent pile of pessimism for pessimism’s sake, last year’s Worst Case Scenario ultimately became a Nostradamus-like vision of the 2008 Giants’ future.
The only part of the 2008 BCS (Best Case Scenario, not Bowl Championship Series) which came true was the part about Brian Wilson, about whom I wrote, “Brian Wilson makes Giants fans forget for a second about trading away Joe Nathan to the Twins, never relinquishing the role of closer.” OK, maybe it’s still tough to forget A.J. Pierzynski for Nathan/Francisco Liriano/Boof Bonser, but at least Wilson made an All-Star team and fulfilled the closer role as well as anyone could have hoped for a team still reeling from the Armando Benitez disaster. Otherwise, most of last year’s BCS consisted of delusional musings about unrealistic trades for power hitters and the resurgence of Barry Zito.
However, the one subject where I underestimated how good things could possibly get was in regards to Tim Lincecum. I had Timmy winning 15 games, hitting 25 batters and even missing two weeks with the chicken pox, when in fact he won the Cy Young, hit six guys and only missed the All-Star Game due to an illness that definitely wasn’t chicken pox.
Now things are a little cheerier at Mays Field, and Lincecum is the reason why. Last season the Giants had nobody guaranteed to produce numbers anywhere above the league average, unless there was somebody out there who actually thought Aaron Rowand was worth the ridiculous price the Giants paid for his services. Now Lincecum is this team’s anchor, the face of a team that seems so much younger than before, even though there will be several times this season when seven of the nine players on the field will be over 30 (especially during the later innings).
As a result of Lincecum and the youthful vim and vigor he provides, this year’s BCS will probably end up being much more hopeful than last year’s — we’re talking “pie in the sky” here (and that’s without too many fictional trades that have no chance of happening). Whether or not the Giants will trend closer to the 2009 BCS than last season’s WCS, we’ll soon see:
Randy Johnson goes 16-9 in 32 starts for the Giants, only missing a couple turns due to back stiffness and one due to the birth of his first great-grandson. Matt Cain learns so much from The Unit about pitching, he grows a tribute mullet and mustache (the latter of which he refers to as his “lip unit” in the company of his teammates), averages seven innings a start and gets 4.1 runs per game from the Giants’ offense, leading to his first All-Star selection and an overall record of 17-10 with an ERA under 3.30 and 210 strikeouts.
Jonathan Sanchez comes back from his burned finger and pitches most of the season like he did the first two months of 2008. The injury ends up becoming such a joke in the clubhouse and on TV with Kruk and Kuip that Mays Field starts serving “Jonathan’s Chicken Fingers,” which end up trumping the Oakland Coliseum’s chicken fingers in a nationwide taste test by a solid 3-1 margin.
Zito keeps the ball in the park for the most part, raises his fastball to a consistent 87 mph and ends the year 14-12 with a 4.10 ERA (hey, at that point for Zito that IS the Best Case Scenario). Lincecum? You know; 20 wins, another Cy Young and the opportunity to replace Ol’ Dirty Bastard in the Wu-Tang Clan (an opportunity Lincecum’s handlers force him to decline).
Brian Wilson lowers his walks per nine innings from 4 to 2, leading to Wilson enjoying the best season of any reliever in the National League: 47 saves, only 2 blown saves, an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP under 1.20. It helps that only three times (during extra innings) does Wilson have to pitch more than one inning all season, due to a dominating righty/lefty setup tandem of new free agents Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry.
The rest of the bullpen is so good Sergio Romo has a difficult time making it back to the Majors even after getting healthy. Alex Hinshaw holds lefties to a .194 BA, Luis Perdomo is an absolute strikeout machine***, Merkin Valdez stays healthy and Joe Martinez (I’m still giddy they chose him over Keiichi Yabu and/or Ramon Ortiz) becomes a candidate to become the Giants’ fifth starter in 2010 after the Giants trade Barry Zito to Tampa Bay for Carl Crawford…
Sorry, I just had one of my famous “Best Case Scenario Unrealistic Trade Impulse” relapse. I need to calm down, maybe take a timeout for a few minutes.
And we’re back!!! The Giants end up with a bullpen that walks 25% fewer hitters and utilizes seven fewer pitchers than in 2008. As Lincecum says in the “Let’s Play” commercials after talking about hitting a game-winning grand slam: hey, it could happen!
***Update: apparently the Giants just announced that Brandon Medders made the team ahead of Perdomo, who was designated for assignment. Now my projection has been changed to “Medders doesn’t lose any games for the Giants outright, and is sent back to Fresno once Romo returns from the disabled list and pitches just as well as he did in 2008.”
It becomes clear as a cold San Francisco day in April that Fred Lewis was badly injured last year, and his foot is healed this season. Helped also by a move out of the leadoff spot, Lewis hits 20 homers, steals 30 bases and plays left field with the grace of a pre-steroids Barry Bonds, looking like the poor-man’s Eric Davis everyone always hoped Freddy would become.
Aaron Rowand starts off slow but gets better as the season progresses, with the help of regular days off. Rowand’s average hovers around .290 most of the season, but more importantly he hits a team-leading 48 doubles and collects 90 RBI’s. Randy Winn goes into contract-overdrive, flirting with the batting title all season and finishing in the top ten in hits, runs and outfield assists.
Nate Schierholtz doesn’t get as much time in the field as he’d like, but ends up with the most pinch hits in the National League (94% of them in the hole between first and second base). Andres Torres plays well enough to allow Rowand to take 20 games off. Eugenio Velez becomes the best sixth-OF/backup-2b/emergency-catcher/pinch-runner in the history of the game, and doesn’t get picked off once all season.
Pablo Sandoval hits .340, with 28 homers, 118 RBI’s and is ranked by an expert as one of the top fielding third basemen in the league. OK, the “expert” ends up being Mike Krukow, but he’s actually not that far off. Fans in the Bay Area become so obsessed with Sandoval, the question of whether to call him “Fat Ichiro” or “Pandaval” shuts down McCovey Chronicle’s servers for nine hours one night in August, after Sandoval scores the winning run from first against the Dodgers in the ninth inning at Mays Field and barrels through Russell Martin, ending Martin’s season. Sandoval’s nickname controversy becomes one of the heated issues for the Giants, who as a winning team (you’ll see how many wins soon) won’t have much to complain about in 2009.
Travis Ishikawa becomes the third (and final) Giant to hit 20 home runs in 2009, ending up with 22 for the season in just over 500 AB’s. Edgar Renteria hits .320, loses ten pounds over the course of the season and re-learns how to steal bases before the playoffs (that’s right), proving there actually is such a thng as a “National League shortstop.” Emmanuel Burriss never relinquishes the 2B role all season, leading the league with 27 bunts for hits along with stealing 44 bases.
Juan Uribe and Rich Aurilia somehow amass over 300 AB’s apiece even though nobody remembers half of them, and combine for 25 homers and 85 RBI’s. Bengie Molina starts out as the second-hottest hitter on the team behind Fat Ichiro, and the Yankees make a desperation trade for Bengie after Jorge Posada falls into a sinkhole outside the new Yankee Stadium, never to be found again.
The reason why the Giants were more than happy to make that trade was the play of one Gerald “Buster” Posey, who hit .421 in his first month at San Jose and was quickly promoted to Fresno where he hit .395 with 5 homers in May, in the process throwing out 8 of 9 baserunners attempting to steal. After two weeks backing up Molina, Posey gets his shot after Bengie gets sent to New York for Phil Hughes, and Posey goes off over the last three months: .318 AVG, 15 homers and a .403 OBP.
Best Case Scenario Record: 94-78 (NL West Champions)
After a shockingly awesome regular season (I know, the BCS can sometimes get a little ridiculous…but that’s the point!) highlighted by four All-Star selections (Lincecum, Cain, Wilson and Pandaval, who scores the winning run for the NL in the All-Star Game), the Giants roar into the postseason for the first time after a five-year drought. After a narrow victory over the Phillies in a series that goes five games, the Giants travel to Chicago for a rematch of the 1989 NLCS.
Twenty years after winning their first NLCS battle four games to one, the Giants eliminate the Cubs in Game 5 once again on a ninth-inning inside the park home run by Sandoval, which was aided by Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley running into each other in “Triples Alley” in pursuit of the ball.
Once in the World Series, the Giants…
Wait, you think I’m going to jinx the Giants by predicting a World Series victory, don’t you? Oh no, you’ll never catch me doing that — I’m far too superstitious for anything that brash. The Giants will face the New York Yankees in a rematch of the 1962 Fall Classic, with Willie McCovey throwing out the first pitch in Game 1. From there, let your imagination do the rest.