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November 5, 2010
San Francisco Giants
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade -- whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines a broad overview of this season from Buster Olney, a take from Baseball Prospectus, a look toward a potential 2011 move courtesy of Rumor Central and Kevin Goldstein's farm system overview. You can find all the teams on one page by going here.
Here's the last one of this series: the champs are here, as we kiss the San Francisco Giants goodbye.
After Buster Posey was promoted from the minors and shifted to catcher, the Giants evolved into a power driven by incredible pitching. Tim Lincecum made adjustments in August and was spectacular in September and October and on the first day of November, and Matt Cain was the reliable and steady mule who gave the Giants a chance to win in every start. Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner performed well in rounding out the San Francisco rotation, which was supported strongly by Brian Wilson and the rest of the Giants' bullpen. General manager Brian Sabean added a bunch of veterans during the year, giving manager Bruce Bochy enough options to pick and choose the hottest and most effective players on a given day -- and Bochy rode this strategy right through the World Series, when Edgar Renteria emerged from two months of down time to win the Most Valuable Player Award.
The Giants' surge, though, nearly came too late; the postseason history of 2010 might have been very different if the San Diego Padres hadn't collapsed with a 10-game losing streak late in the year.
The Giants will have their backbone of pitching back in 2011, which should make them the favorites to repeat as the National League West champions, but Sabean will have to reconstruct the everyday lineup around Posey. It's possible that the Giants will have new players at first base, shortstop, third base and at least two of the three outfield spots. Mark DeRosa, who missed most of 2010 because of injury, will be back in the mix, and presumably the Giants will try to re-sign first baseman Aubrey Huff -- who emerged as a leader in the San Francisco lineup -- and Juan Uribe, whose versatility and power make him a very attractive free agent. Look, the Giants won't be viewed as a team likely to repeat as champions in 2011, but their pitching will again make them as dangerous as they became in 2010.—Buster Olney, ESPN Insider
Baseball Prospectus' take
What went right: The pitching was outstanding; the Giants were second in the major leagues in runs allowed behind the Padres, giving up 3.60 a game. Cain, Lincecum and Sanchez formed an effective trio at the top of the rotation, each providing more than five wins above a replacement pitcher, and rookie left-hander Bumgarner added four wins above replacement in just 18 starts. The Giants backed their pitchers with strong defense as their .709 defensive efficiency (percentage of balls in play turned into outs) led the National League and was fourth in the major leagues. The Giants hit it big with a pair of journeymen, as first baseman/outfielder Huff had a .316 true average (TAv) and center fielder Andres Torres had a .293 mark as the leadoff hitter, as well as a castoff in left fielder Pat Burrell, who posted a .304 TAv after being released by the Tampa Bay Rays in May.
What went wrong: The offense was spotty all season as the Giants were ninth in the NL and 17th in the major leagues with 4.30 runs scored a game. Center fielder Aaron Rowand, in the third season of a five-year, $60 million contract, lost his starting job to Torres and finished with a .238 TAv, while third baseman Pablo Sandoval failed to build on his fine 2009 season as his TAv was .263. Left-hander Barry Zito became a cheerleader in October, despite his $18.5 million salary, as he failed to make the roster for any of the three postseason rounds. Despite being the MVP of the World Series, shortstop Edgar Renteria was just 1.4 wins above a replacement player in the final year of his two-year, $18.5 million contract.
The key number: 2.38. The starting pitchers' ERA in the World Series as Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner held the Rangers, the majors' fifth-highest scoring offense, to nine runs in 34 innings. None are older than 27.
What won't happen again: Renteria won't have the World Series-winning hit for a third time in his career, following up on this year and with the Marlins in 1997.—John Perrotto, Baseball Prospectus
Rumor Central: 2011 options
Eyes on the bottom line: Sabean had the magic touch, ending a World Series title drought of more than half a century and doing it with a reasonable payroll of just under $100 million. The payroll will likely pass that threshold for the first time in 2011, but team president Larry Baer has warned fans not to expect any lavish free-agent spending spree. At the same time, there will be no repeat of 2002, when the NL champs were forced to unload Game 6 World Series starter Russ Ortiz for budgetary reasons. The imprint for success is to build from within. All four World Series starting pitchers, as well as Wilson and Posey, were drafted and signed by the Giants. About $20 million is coming off the books, but some of that will be used for raises for arbitration-eligible players. While Sabean says publicly he wants to keep Zito, he would dump the left-hander in a minute if a team would take a portion of the $64 million left on his deal. Zito's status became even shakier with the plans of possibly moving reliever Dan Runzler to the rotation. Renteria may be headed to retirement and Uribe is a free agent, so a fiscally conscious move will be needed at shortstop. A possible alternative is Orlando Cabrera, whose option was not picked up by the Reds.
Huff: The key issue for the Giants is at first base, where Baer will make every effort to retain Huff, who will earn far more than the $3 million he made this season. The Giants kicked the tires on Milwaukee's Prince Fielder in the weeks leading up to the July trade deadline, but it seems unlikely that they would pay a king's ransom (top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler) to get him, especially if Huff is retained. One rumor had the Giants kicking the tires on outfielder Carl Crawford, but that appears unlikely. Sabean is not afraid to deal prospects -- he acquired second baseman Freddy Sanchez for 2007 first-rounder Tim Alderson -- so a trade for a veteran is not out of the question. The Giants used to have trouble scoring runs, but that became an afterthought with the arrival of Posey and the postseason explosion of waiver claim Cody Ross. The Giants know that Ross' numbers have to come back to earth, but they still appear willing to tender him a contract. Sabean would love to unload Rowand, and a return to Philadelphia isn't out of the question if the money can be worked out.—Doug Mittler, ESPN Insider
With Huff's comeback season and outstanding showing in the postseason possibly setting him up to be overpaid by someone in free agency, the Giants might be ready to give Brandon Belt a look at first base. A fifth-round pick in 2009, Belt began the year at High-A, finished it in Triple-A and hit at every level, amassing a combined line of .352/.455/.620 that included 43 doubles, 23 home runs and 93 walks in 136 games. With hitting mechanics that were rebuilt in spring training, many scouts view the 22-year-old as one of the better pure offensive prospects in the minors.—Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus.