There is way too much to cover in one post, the whole season in review, so I'm going to break it into 3 parts; what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to be realistically changed. We'll get things started on a light note and talk about what went right this season.
The starting pitching, minus Barry Zito, was pretty darn good for the most part this year. Tim Lincecum very well could win the NL Cy Young Award in November and as highly touted as he was, I don't think anybody, including myself, expected this kind of dominance, this quick. The Giants won 72 games this season and Lincecum got 18 of those, that in itself shows how well he threw this year. Then there was the 2.62 era, 265 strikeouts and .221 baa in 227 innings. The Giants other young righty wasn't bad himself, though he could have been better. Matt Cain was a little inconsistent at times, but overall, pitched pretty well, again, without much run support. He once again lost more than he won, but sported a respectable era, and was again amongst the NL league leaders in strikeouts. And Finally, the breakout performer, Jonathan Sanchez. Due to a to a tired arm from throwing so many innings for the first time in his career, he definitely struggled as the season wore on and had to be DL'd at one point. However, Before the break, Sanchez was 8-5 with a 3.97 era and 115 k's in 111 innings. His emergence made the loss of Noah Lowry a little less painful.
In the Bullpen, Brian Wilson, Alex Hinshaw, Sergio Romo and (if he can get healthy) Merkin Valdez all emerged as guys to build around. The Giants look to have finally solved their closer fiasco with Brian Wilson. Not that Wilson had the best year, his 4.62 era and 1.44 whip need to come down next year, but his 41 saves and ability to overpower batters gave Giants fans glimpses of Robb Nen. Valdez showed he could he has closer stuff as well, but only got to throw 16 innings before hurting his elbow and ending his season. Take one bad game in Coors field away from Romo and his era is in the 1's, that's how well he threw in his 31 innings. Put that along with 33 strikeouts and only 8 walks and he looks like a strong right handed set-up candidate heading into next year. Hinshaw took over as the Giants primary late inning lefty and he thrived in that role and had a very solid overall season. The pen will need some work in the winter, but there were some bright spots to look forward to.
As far as positional players go, it was all about the youngsters. Especially Pablo Sandoval and Fred Lewis. Sandoval dominated the minor leagues for 4 months, then came up and did the same in the bigs. The 22 year-old ended the year at .345 with 3 home runs and 24 RBI in just 141 at-bats. With Bengie Molina under contract for another year, Brian Sabean has stated the plan at this point is to have Sandoval penciled in as the everyday 1st basemen heading into 2009. Jon Bowker (.255 10 hr, 45 RBI, 326 ab's) could also be in the mix at first if he can learn to be a can improve his plate discipline a bit. Travis Ishikawa should also be on the the 25-man roster. In the infield, Emmanuel Burris became the Giants everyday shortstop in August and established himself very well both offensively (.283, 37 runs, 13 steals in 240 at-bats). Not bad for a 23 year-old shortstop who hadn't even played above double-A before this season. Fred Lewis made an otherwise boring outfield relatively fun to watch. His numbers (.282, 9 hr's, 91 runs, 21 steals in 468 ab's) don't stick out at you big time, but if you watched this team throughout the season you know how consistent he played and how much Lewis improved this year from last. As far as the veterans go, Bengie Molina was rock solid once again behind the plate (.292, 16, 95) and Randy Winn started playing better towards the end of the year, although Nate Schierholtz has clearly become a better option in right field heading into next season (at least vs. righties).
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