The Giants improved sixteen games in the won-loss column, which is quite an accomplishment. They spent the last two years hardly being a factor and losing over 90 games a season and this season, they even flirted with the wild card race right into September. You would have to consider their season a success as they carried superior pitching and great defense to 88 wins. Now if only they could get some offense besides Sandoval.
The offense is what kept this team from staying in contention. It really has been going on for quite some time too. Before, it was Barry Bonds and a cast of lesser beings. It's no different now with Pablo Sandoval and a cast of lesser beings. Sandoval, who had an outstanding and break out season, accumulated a 144 OPS+. Nobody else among the starters finished higher than 96. The team finished dead last in OBP and OPS, next to last in slugging and of course, last in runs scored. Benjie Molina walked 13 times in over 500 plate appearances. Rentoria had a horrible year at the plate as did Randy Winn. Aaron Rowland finished less than league average. Travis Ishikawa didn't work out. Only Juan Uribe had a nice year in a part time role. Everyone else did not fare well at all.
There isn't a whole lot of help coming on the short term for the Giants. All of their best position playing prospects are like 16, 18 and 19 years old. It will be a few years before we see any of them. The exceptions might be Buster Posey, the all world catcher who, if the world were the right place, should win the catching job in Spring Training. Molina was in the last year of his contract and it will be interesting to see if the Giants bring him back. Posey not only hits line drives all over the place with good patience at the plate, but his arm behind the plate is evident by the fact that he was his college team's closer. In a short look at the end of 2009, Posey threw out his one base stealing attempt. Molina finished at 28%.
The Giants should really consider moving Sandoval to first (he is not a good third baseman) and give Conor Gillespie a shot to win the third base job in Spring Training. He's a very good prospect who has showed good patience and a quick bat. They could also use a second baseman to fill that space until Nick Noonan is ready. But what this team really needs is a high on-base guy with some pop to tandem with Sandoval in the lineup.
The pitching is all roses. Not only do the Giants have the best pitcher in the league in Lincecum, but they have Cain who slots in nicely behind him. Sanchez showed enough to prove that he is here to stay and even Barry Zito had a much better year. Randy Johnson was adequate in his 96 innings except he had trouble keeping the ball in the park. Brad Penny was a nice surprise at the end of the year. And the good news keeps on coming. Two of their best prospects are pitchers. The top prospect is Madison Bumgarner may be as good as Lincecum. The Giants should bring him to Spring Training and give him a shot this coming year.
The bullpen was good for the Giants too. Brian Wilson has become a good closer and Brandon Medders, Bobby Howry and Justin Miller all had good seasons. Jeremy Affeldt has become the best LOOGY in baseball.
The Giants allowed the fewest runs in the league. Their pitching was so good that despite the worst offense in the league, the Giants had a positive run differential. That's hard to do. Their one Achilles Heel is bases on balls. They were ninth in the league in walks allowed and could really see some improvement in that area. But if the offense can pick up a bit, that will allow the pitchers to attack the strike zone more freely instead of feeling they have to be perfect to win the game.
With the Giants' current offense, it's hard to see them improving on their 88 wins next year. So it seems imperative for Sabean and the front office to find a hitter with a high OBP to help them move up in the win category.