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March 12, 2004

Team Health Reports

San Francisco Giants

by Will Carroll

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Lineup

CF Marquis Grissom
2B Ray Durham
LF Barry Bonds
3B Edgardo Alfonzo
C A.J. Pierzynski
RF Michael Tucker/ Jeffrey Hammonds
1B J.T. Snow
SS Neifi Perez

Rotation

SP Jason Schmidt
SP Kirk Rueter
SP Jerome Williams
SP Dustin Hermanson
SP Brett Tomko

Closer

CL Robb Nen

Every March, there's some college basketball team that climbs on the back of some player and makes a run deep into the tournament. It happens nearly every year and probably always has, but it's burned into my memory with the Kansas Jayhawks' championship run behind Danny Manning. Now known as "Danny and the Miracles," Manning simply carried an inferior team to the top.

Baseball has similar runs from time to time--Orel Hershiser's amazing run through the 1988 season comes to mind. But as the Giants essay in BP04 shows, General Manager Brian Sabean and Assistant General Manager Ned Colletti are expecting more from Barry Bonds, even as he becomes less likely to be able to deliver. Bonds' homers may defy gravity, but there's a point where his body will no longer be able to defy age.

Finding a player that can be called "comparable" to Bonds is only possible in baseball superlatives. Names like Ruth and Williams are valid, but for our purposes, let's look at the man Bonds is chasing: Hank Aaron.


YEAR  NAME  AGE  HR  VORP  YEAR  NAME  AGE  HR  VORP
-------------------------  -------------------------
1954  Aaron  20  13   9.1
1955  Aaron  21  27  50.8  1986  Bonds  21  16  18.2
1956  Aaron  22  26  52.4  1987  Bonds  22  25  20.7
1957  Aaron  23  44  71.8  1988  Bonds  23  24  39.9
1958  Aaron  24  30  61.1  1989  Bonds  24  19  21.7
1959  Aaron  25  39  81.8  1990  Bonds  25  33  68.8
1960  Aaron  26  40  53.2  1991  Bonds  26  25  61.4
1961  Aaron  27  34  55.2  1992  Bonds  27  34  94.1
1962  Aaron  28  45  71.4  1993  Bonds  28  46 104.9
1963  Aaron  29  44  78.9  1994  Bonds  29  37  65.6
1964  Aaron  30  24  56.8  1995  Bonds  30  33  64.0
1965  Aaron  31  32  61.2  1996  Bonds  31  42  86.3
1966  Aaron  32  44  47.6  1997  Bonds  32  40  86.6
1967  Aaron  33  39  62.9  1998  Bonds  33  37  84.7
1968  Aaron  34  29  46.9  1999  Bonds  34  34  37.9
1969  Aaron  35  44  57.7  2000  Bonds  35  49  80.1
1970  Aaron  36  38  53.2  2001  Bonds  36  73 154.0
1971  Aaron  37  47  77.1  2002  Bonds  37  46 146.6
1972  Aaron  38  34  40.1  2003  Bonds  38  45 114.6
1973  Aaron  39  40  48.3
1974  Aaron  40  20  16.5
1975  Aaron  41  12   9.0
1976  Aaron  42  10   5.3
As this shows, Bonds certainly had a higher peak value, but the age comparison is the one that has to worry Giants fans. Let's credit Bonds and his workout regimen at getting him not only the higher value, but an extra year of slope when the inevitable decline comes. It's likely that when Alex Rodriguez breaks the home run record in a few years, it will be Bonds he passes last.

I'll take a brief trip into the world of steroids here. Sadly, addressing Bonds and a few other players in the came can't be done without staring down this issue. I'll remind everyone that there's no definitive study on the effects of steroids or even strength on the game of baseball. I'll invite anyone to try to keep up with Barry's workout regimen. Finally, I'll demand that you look at the steroid situation like we should look at baseball: with an open mind and focused on the facts.

Yes, there are other players on the Giants. Some of them even have injury concerns. With Stan Conte leading the medical team, don't expect the flukish injury results of last season to recur, but he's going to have to work hard with this bunch. The pitching staff is the biggest concern, with Jason Schmidt coming back off of elbow surgery. Schmidt should be OK and the early results are good, but he won't be "full go" on Opening Day. Expect a slower start, and enough risk factors to net him a red light.

More concerning for the rotation were the repeated shoulder problems that put Kirk Rueter down at times last season. He'll bear a close eye, but Rueter is the type of pitcher that works more on control and guile than any physical gift. He can probably lose something and remain effective, especially in This Week's Phone Company Park.

Robb Nen is a big glowing question mark. Comments made by Conte were misinterpreted to be overly negative, but in fact, no one will know how well Nen can pitch until he actually gets to the mound. Nen is currently working towards a return, finishing up an interval throwing program and starting some mound work. The signs are starting to look positive, but this is pure risk--an all-or-nothing arm on a closer.

Dustin Hermanson has been injury-prone at multiple points during his career, and while he was effective when healthy, he wasn't often healthy. He'll duel for a spot with Kevin Correia, but a commitment to conditioning is a definite positive. His red-light status is based on his history and because he's years removed from clearing 150 innings, something he'll be asked to do if he stays in the rotation.

Beyond Bonds, there's a number of expected yellow lights on this team. Again, having Stan Conte on hand makes any yellow light less serious. Alfonzo has back issues, Durham has ankle issues, and Marquis Grissom is still Marquis Grissom. Jeffrey Hammonds predictably is hurt already, this time with a broken thumb. Expect something else to go wrong later his year.

The Giants often seem risk averse, running their team under the principles of modern portfolio theory and hedging with a strong front office and medical staff. In the NL West, they'll go as far as Barry carries them.

Related Content:  Barry Bonds,  Marquis Grissom,  Hank Aaron,  Robb Nen

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