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April 1, 2008

Prospectus Today

A Cruel, Cruel Summer

by Joe Sheehan

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Yesterday, the Giants played their first game without owning the rights to Barry Bonds since 1992. If it was any indication of the next 161, it's going to be a very long summer for their remaining fans. Take a peek at their Opening Day lineup-the day for putting your best foot forward into the new season-against the Dodgers' Brad Penny:

Dave Roberts, LF
Rich Aurilia, 1B
Randy Winn, RF
Bengie Molina, C
Ray Durham, 2B
Aaron Rowand, CF
Jose Castillo, 3B
Brian Bocock, SS
Barry Zito, P

That's a lineup that just screams, "StubHub!" Or a weekend in Napa. Or sailing on the Bay. Anything-anything-but watching this team hit. Let's see…Dave Roberts is probably the best news here, actually. He gets on base against righties (.347 career, .342 in 2007) and is an excellent basestealer by both quantity (238 career, 31 last year) and percentage (80 percent career, 86 percent last year). Rich Aurilia is miscast as a #2 hitter, as a first baseman, and as a starter against right-handers; other than that he's not a bad player. Randy Winn hit .332 OBP/.404 SLG and .341/.404 against righties the last two years, which is slightly below par for an MLB #3 hitter. Bengie Molina's last three SLGs against righties: .431, .389, .361. You might figure that he's probably suboptimal as a cleanup man.

Ray Durham was hideous last year in the first year of a two-year contract awarded following his stone fluke 2006 season. He's actually likely to bounce back and be acceptable at the plate; unfortunately, his range at second has dwindled to the point that he's a detriment afield. Aaron Rowand is a nice little player; on the other hand, if your big $60 million free agent signing bats sixth, isn't that an indictment of the contract? He's not an impact hitter, anyway. Jose Castillo was on waivers about a week ago, released by one of the five worst teams in baseball after losing his job to a guy, Jorge Cantu, who isn't really a third baseman and who spent almost all of 2007 in the minors. Brian Bocock…I've beaten up Brian Bocock plenty. It's not his fault. Barry Zito is a league-average or so starter who happened to hit the market when everyone had money to spend. It's really not his fault, either.

The problem isn't that this is a bad team. It's that it's a bad and boring team, with veterans who weren't good enough to win when they had Bonds as a teammate, and now form a lineup that calls to mind the waning days of the Rachel Phelps Era. In a legitimate rebuilding, the Giants would eat the contracts of Roberts, Aurilia, Winn, and Durham. (Molina is miscast as a cleanup hitter, but he's not a bad player, and he's not blocking anyone of note.) They would play Fred Lewis, Nate Schierholtz, Rajai Davis, and Eugenio Velez. It's not like those players are anything special, either, but there's at least some chance of upside, and you can sell inexperienced players under the guise of a youth movement. (Although of that group only Velez is actually young.) The Giants don't have the stomach for this, however, so they have this desiccated group of role players starting. In a related story, they lost 5-0 yesterday.

This isn't an effort at rebuilding. Frankly, I have no idea what it is, and I suspect the Giants front office doesn't, either. The 2008 roster, the 2008 season, seems to be more about pretending that the 1993-2007 seasons didn't happen than anything else, which is a ridiculous way to put together a baseball team. Do this instead:

Fred Lewis, LF
Eugenio Velez, 2B
Aaron Rowand, CF
Dan Ortmeier, 1B
Rajai Davis, RF
Bengie Molina, C
Jose Castillo, 3B
Brian Bocock, SS

I'm not going to tell you that that's a better lineup than the one Bruce Bochy started yesterday. Quite frankly, I'm astounded that a professional baseball organization could be so ill-prepared for injuries that upon losing one shortstop and one third baseman, it was left with waiver bait and a guy who was overmatched in A-ball as its best options. With that said, this lineup is a more watchable one, and it's a better idea than pretending that people are coming to AT&T Park to watch Rich Aurilia.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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Related Content:  Bengie Molina

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