Saturday, September 8, 2012

2010 vs. 2012 San Francisco Giants

The Giants are looking to make another deep post-season run. Although they are currently sitting atop the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers are biting on their heels. It remains to be seen whether or not the Giants can hold onto their lead after Magic Johnson and the Dodgers’ front office decided to take on over $250 million in three players (Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford).

Regardless of the blockbuster trade, the Giants organization and fan base still has something the Dodgers do not: the sweet aftertaste that came with a 2010 World Series championship. With that in mind, how does this years’ Giants roster compare to the 2010 World Series champions?

The chart to the left shows a comparison of the 2010 World Series and the current 2012 rosters (after I have widdled down the current 40-man roster to the players who would presumably be on the 25-man roster). One readily apparent difference is the discrepancy between continuity among pitchers and position players. Lincecum, Cain and Romo highlight the eight pitchers who have remained in the orange in black. Barry Zito, of course, was a Giant in 2010 but his 14 losses and 4.15 ERA earned him a spot as a spectator in the World Series.

Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval are the only position players whose names appear on both rosters. While that isn’t such a bad thing considering both are 2012 NL All Stars and Posey is an MVP candidate, it does show how inconsistency and big contracts have plagued the Giants offense over the past couple seasons.

When you compare the overall offensive firepower, which team has the advantage? On paper, the combination of Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Xavier Nady, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence stack up only marginally better than Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria, Pat Burrell, and Aaron Rowand. Cody Ross provided an unquantifiably tremendous boost to the Giants against Roy Halladay and the Phillies as well as throughout the playoffs. Sandoval’s abysmal 2010 performance—something he has since rebounded from—is something that also needs to be factored in. He and Posey are both better players than they were in 2010. Strictly based on lack of offensive talent, the 2010 team put together an amazing run.

Comparing runs per game, the current team (4.36 runs) edges the 2010 team (4.30) by less than a tenth of a run. Of late, the Giants have been playing some of their better baseball, going 32-20 since the AS Break; by contrast, the 2010 team was below .500 in August. The 2012 squad has scored less than three runs only twice in the past 16 games.

An interesting indicator of the Giants’ offense is their tendency to get shutout by opposing pitchers. Even though the 2010 team clearly had a more powerful lineup, they still managed to get shutout 16 times by their opponent. How about the 2012 team? Thus far, only six times have they put a bagel on the scoreboard after the last pitch of the game has been thrown. This is a better representation of the two offenses.

Neither team is particularly great but the potential of the 2012 team is greater. Ross, Uribe, Renteria, Huff, and Burrell put together an incredible run and were able to pick up the slack if one of them was having an off-game. However, Pence, Sandoval, and Posey lead the way this time around and Brandon Belt has the ability to do something Cody Ross-esque if he continues his upward trend after gaining the trust of manager Bruce Bochy.

It’s a tough argument to decide which team is better and the difference is probably in the hands of Melky Cabrera, who is a huge question mark when he comes back from a PED-postive induced suspension. If Cabrera comes back and is even 80 percent as good as his juiced-up self, the 2012 team has a definite edge offensively.

2010 Player
2012 Player***
Buster Posey
Buster Posey
Aubrey Huff
Melky Cabrera
Freddy Sanchez
Angel Pagan
Juan Uribe
Marco Scutaro**
Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval
Pat Burrell
Brandon Crawford
Andres Torres
Brandon Belt
Edgar Renteria*
Joaquin Arias
*injury shortened, **stats after trade to Giants, ***stats as of 9/7

While Pence has 19 home runs this year total, only two have been for the Giants. This highlights the biggest problem of the 2012 team: power. Only two players on the current team have more than 10 home runs.

Home run totals by San Francisco’s HR leader by year
Call it the “Curse of Barry” if you will, but since number 25 hit 45 home runs in 2004 the Giants have had little success with the long ball, something that can be attributed to the lack of power hitters, steroids, and sheer size of AT&T Park.

Keep in mind that from the time Bonds was acquired by the Giants in 1993 up until 2000, the slugger never had less than 33 home runs. Since 2004, the Giants HR leader has never reached 30.

The Giants are getting by with fundamentally sound small ball. Well, what other way is there to score runs if you cannot hit the ball out of the ballpark, right?

Compared to the 2012 team, the 2010 champs look like they could be the Bronx Bombers… Yet all that matters is run total on the scoreboard, and the current team is on pace to score more than the 2010 team. Again, AT&T Park is at fault to a degree: the Giants have hit nearly three times as many more home runs on the road than at home. Being third in the league in average is something that can definitely muffle the lack of power in the lineup. At least for that reason, they should get a slight edge offensively.

In terms of pitching, there is no real comparison. The 2010 Giants gave up a mere 583 runs (3.59 runs per game) over the course of the 162-game season whereas the 2012 team has already given up 561 runs, or just over four runs per game. This is not solely a reflection of the pitching because the Giants’ defense is not good as it was in 2010. And again, let’s not diminish the pitchers that the Giants are sporting in 2012. Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner are anchoring a rotation that is trying to hide the 14 losses and 5.11 ERA of two-time Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum.

Clearly, the Lincecum and Wilson of 2010 led arguably the best pitching staff in baseball—a hard standard for any team to live up to.

So overall, it does appear that the 2010 team was slightly better than the 2012 team. But if the upward trend continues into the playoffs, that may very likely change. And this should not be a disappointing tune for the Giants faithful because October always seems to be filled with unlikely heroes. Brandon Belt, Xavier Nady and Hunter Pence are three players capable of putting it together once the playoffs roll around.

The Giants still do have work to do. New Dodgers owner Magic Johnson made it clear that he is going to battle for the NL West title in the all-to immediate future. If the Giants make the playoffs, they will have to face the Reds and Nationals—clearly some of baseball’s best teams. Cincinnati and Washington do have a combined 9-4 record against San Francisco this year, but they have little recent playoff experience. Furthermore, the Giants are capable of defeating new-look Cardinals (without Pujols) and Braves headed by Brian McCann and a nearly-retired Chipper Jones are for the Giants.

If the Giants can make it to the playoffs, they will be ready to compete well into October baseball.


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