So far this season, most of what I thought was happening did not happen and a lot happened that I didn't expect. And yet my prediction on the Giant's newsgroup still held: It's going to be beautiful. What I didn't know is that it would be a baby only a mother (or a Giants fan) would love. An overall 34-20 record but a 19-7 start in March/April followed by a 15-13 May. Horrible slumps by players the Giants were depending on were more than balanced by incredible performances neither unforeseen nor contemplated.
Top of the Lineup: Many have done well so far which is why the Giants have been leading the division all season long. Ray Durham leads regulars with .323 batting average, Benito Santiago follows with .321, and Marquis Grissom is third with .315. Benito has been a wonder again batting behind Barry again, taking that role by the force of his performance. Grissom saved the team with his stellar performance leading off in Durham's absence.
Barry is Barry, as Bonds leads, of course, in OBP and SLG with .492 and .631 respectively.
Some have said that he is slowing down but he's .298/.492/.631, hitting at a rate of 39 HRs in a season in what he admits is underachievement as he hasn't felt totally right at the plate. This is still superstar territory in my book and only pales compared to his last two years. Else, it is basically what he has done the past decade. His father's health has also weighed on his mind so that has been a factor in his decline as well.
Many surprises from the reserves as well. Neifi Perez gets kudos for stepping in at 2B in Durham's absence and doing way better than anyone could have expected. I think most of us expected an average in the low 200's not in the high 200's. Maybe he IS a National League hitter after all, though I would want a season's worth of results to feel better about saying anything as radical as that. Andres Galarraga just kills and would be starting if his body could only handle it a full season. Yorvit Torrealba could start now and probably will next year as Santiago is playing himself out of the Giant's budget.
Bottom of the Lineup: Rich Aurilia has done as well as his career has indicated but not as well as fans have hoped. It appears that 2001 was a totally fluke year and he really is a .260-.280, 15-25 HR, 60-80 RBI guy. He is not playing like it is the last year of his contract but then again, we may be able to afford him next year, big free agent or not, if he continues to hit like this.
J.T. Snow was stellar in April though he cooled way off in May. Hopefully Felipe Alou can bring out the magic again. Jose Cruz Jr. also did well in April and tanked in May. Without both great performances in April, though, the Giants would not have done so well starting off the season.
Pedro Feliz has done much better than expected, playing decently in part-time duty but still nothing to rave about. Alou still talks of him as a full-time player, which scares the dickens out of Giants fans everywhere. Could he be our future 1B? (Say, since Aurilia may be affordable, could Aurilia play there?)
Scrubs: Not too many of these, which is one reason why we have done so well. Unfortunately, Edgardo Alfonzo has been the biggest disappointment of the season and has not delivered the way he has been expected to. The big surprise is that the Giant's have been able to do well without him delivering RBIs. If he can get his big bat going full blast, the Giants may be able to pull away from the pack. In May, he has hit .283/.351/.455, 3 HRs, 13 RBIs in 99 Abs from the bottom of the order so perhaps he is on his way.
The reserves have a couple of non-producers as well. Ruben Rivera has been a disappointment in almost every way and his release appears to be a matter of when now. Marvin Benard has also been a disappointment but at least he can blame his knee, so I'll give him an incomplete for now.
Aces and Closers: Many have done well. Among the starters, Jason Schmidt and Kirk Rueter have pitched like the veterans that they are and as expected. Barring any injuries, they should both be headed for a high winning percentage year. The Giants are 7-4 in Rueter starts and 9-1 in Schmidt starts. Damian Moss has done very well and it is looking like last year was not a fluke. He is keeping hitters batting a low .205 against him, but his many walks have been frustrating. Schmidt leads the staff with a 2.54 ERA and .172 batting average against and 0.94 WHIP.
Among the relievers, Tim Worrell has jumped into the closer's role and made it his own. He leads the relief corp with a 1.48 ERA. He is most probably pricing himself out of the Giant's plans for next year. Scott Eyre has done well in his lefty specialist role.
Middle Relief: Kurt Ainsworth has done very well at times and is turning out the way many have expected him. He had a 2.95 ERA in May but not the wins to show for it. Walks have been his nemesis, as it is for others on the staff. Jesse Foppert has been better than most rookies but has not flashed consistently the form that made him the top pitching prospect in all of baseball on many of the pre-season lists. However, he is 3-2 in May, 3.86 ERA, 35 innings, 29 hits and 29 strikeouts but 20 walks and has keep the hitters to a .189 average, second best on the staff to Schmidt. If he can get his walks down, he will be dominant.
Felix Rodriguez has become a cipher again, like last year, pitching very well in the early season but was absolutely useless in the middle of May. Hopefully that is all due to the debilitating flu that he contracted as he has pitched well the last week of May. Nathan has been a wonderful surprise this year and one of the feel good stories of the year for the Giants, coming back finally and fully from his arm surgery a couple of years ago. He leads the relief corp with a 1.11 WHIP and .203 batting average against.
Gasoline: Brower has been the cliché, when he is good, he is good, but when he is bad, he is baaad. However, he has been wonderful in eating up a lot of innings that the starters have been leaving for the relievers. His main problem is walks as batters have only hit .231 against him but his ERA is a ghastly 5.40. Manny Aybar was up mainly because a road trip to Colorado. He ate a few innings and was promptly sent back down once the Giants got back home. Don't know if any other team has claimed him or if he is back with Fresno. Chad Zerbe apparently had problems in spring that he could not work out so he was sent down to work things out and has been OK since returning. Ryan Jensen lost his starting job with his horrible pitching and probably ticked off management with his comments disagreeing with being sent down a second time. He may end up being traded for middle relief or may come back up and eat up some innings if the bullpen gets overworked.
If They Play Like This for a Whole Season: Hitters
The leaders in batting averages were noted above. If all the other data were extrapolated, we would get the following leaders:
Runs: Bonds (111), Cruz (102), Aurilia (99), Durham (88)
Hits: Grissom (186), Durham (175), Santiago, Cruz, Aurilia (156)
Doubles: Durham (38), Bonds (33), Cruz and Aurilia (30)
Triples: Perez and Snow (9), Grissom and Alfonzo (6)
Homers: Bonds (39), Santiago (27), Cruz (24), Grissom (21)
RBI's: Santiago (105), Bonds (78), and Grissom, Snow, and Cruz (75)
Walks: Bonds (147), Cruz (117), Durham (92), and Alfonzo (69)
SB's: Durham (21), Grissom and Cruz (15), and Bonds (12)
Comments: Overall, our hitters have been doing great compared to other NL teams, 3rd batting average, 3rd on-base percentage, 4th slugging, 5th homers but only 7th in runs, unsurprising because of all the left on bases… The Giants have three regulars hitting over .300 plus Bonds just under plus two key reserves hitting over .300 and another key reserve - Perez - hitting .284 for the season so far... Despite all the complaints about nobody driving in and protecting Bonds, he is on pace to score 111 runs, about what he scored last year despite his much lowered batting average and on-base percentage this year… Our catchers combined have 47 RBIs and our firstbasemen combined have 41 RBIs, which would rank among the league leaders in the NL... The Giants, if they continue at this pace, will have five players driving in 75 or more RBIs this year, plus another six in the 40-60 range, and three players hitting over 20 homers plus Bonds near 40 production... That would work out to 783 runs scored and 186 homers for 2003 compared to last year's 783 runs scored and 198 homers... I guess the Giants aren't missing Kent, Bell, Lofton, or Sanders much...
If They Play Like This for a Whole Season: Pitchers
In pitching, the leaders would be:
Games: Worrell and Eyre (81), Nathan and Rodriguez (78)
Wins: Moss (18), Nathan, Rueter, and Ainsworth (15)
Saves: Worrell (42), Brower (6), Eyre and Rodriguez (3)
Innings: Schmidt (219), Ainsworth (198), Rueter (197) and Moss (196)
K's: Schmidt (243), Ainsworth and Foppert (144), Moss (99)
K/9: Schmidt (10.0), Nathan (9.1), Rodriguez (8.0), and Foppert (7.5)
Comments: 5th in the NL in ERA and 4th in total runs given up… Some commentators have criticized the Giants for overworking their relief but only Nathan is headed for a games pitched that is higher than what they have done before... The starting staff has been putting up the innings as well, with most expected to be at 190+ innings pitched or more… Worrell is put down for not being a fire-balling reliever but he is striking out the opposition at a good pace of 7.1 per nine innings. More importantly, he isn't walking that many hitters either…
Results So Far
Many of our hitters are doing well, so if we can get Alfonzo and Cruz hitting the way they are capable of doing, we should go on another big winning streak again and maybe pull away from the Dodgers, our main and only competition so far, once and for all… However, it looks to be a dog fight with the Bums of L.A. throughout most of the season, as it appears that both teams have been inconsistent in enough areas to keep them close most of the season... The pitching staff appears to be in good shape with Schmidt and Rueter deliverying ace's results, very encouraging and good recent outings from Moss, Ainsworth and Foppert, especially after Joe Morgan's comments came out, good relief outings from everyone lately and Rodriguez and Zerbe appear ready to contribute more now... the year is still looking "to be beautiful." Whether that extends to the World Series will depend on injuries, continued performance, and how the matchups play out in the post-season. Go Giants!
Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fan's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He has been a Giants fanatic since 1971 when he got his first glove from his dad (a catchers mitt that his dad immediately had to return for an outfielders mitt). He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player. He is GoGiants on the Giants discussion board. His e-mail is GoGiants_25@yahoo.com if you would like to reach him.