Last week, we kicked things off in the season review section by going over the things that went well, or positives the Giants took out of 2008, albeit there wasn't much. Today we will get into why the Giants lost 92 games, as we examine the things that didn't go so well.
WHAT WENT WRONG: First and foremost, the Giants' 126 million dollar man, Barry Zito, pitched even worse than he did in his first year with the club. The team's "ace" went 10-17 with a 5.15 ERA that was in the 6's for most of the year. He set career lows in strikeouts and innings pitched while setting new career highs in the categories you don't want to be in: ERA (5.15), WHIP (1.6), walks (102), and BAA (.270). I will be the first one to tell you that while the Giants overpaid, I was actually on board with the Zito signing at first. I thought he was built more in the mold of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and would be able to learn how to pitch as his stuff deteriorated. However, his stuff has deteriorated a little quicker than I think everyone thought, and he certainly hasn't learned how to pitch with the stuff he has known. I am still holding out hope that Zito will be laughing at all the doubters in a few years, and wins comeback player of the year in 2009, but as of now, Zito is a number 5 starter, at best. Everybody else in the rotation did their jobs for the most part, although Kevin Correia wasn't great and Jonathan Sanchez struggled mightily in the second half of the year.
As far as the positional players go, the Giants were the worst collective offense in baseball this year, so things weren't too pretty when the team was at the plate. Out of all 32 teams in baseball, the Giants finished dead last in home runs, second to last in runs scored and 30th in slugging percentage. In other words, yes they missed Barry Bonds, and it showed. It was pretty easy to see how the team lost 92 games when you look at that line. It wasn't like anybody had a particularly bad year though, the team wasn't expected to score many runs and they didn't. Aaron Rowand showed his grit and his all-out style of play, and was also a leader on the team in his very first year in San Francisco. However, he's getting paid 12 million dollars a year and needs to produce better numbers than the .271, 13, 70 line he put up this year. Yes, everyone knew his power numbers would go down at AT&T Park, but I was expecting him to have more extra-base hits and be more of a run producer while sporting an average closer to .300. That said, I am not ready to call him a bust and I fully expect to see improvements in his second year in SF. However, I said the same for Zito last season, but look how that turned out. Omar Vizquel's season wasn't one to remember either as the future hall-of-famer looks to probably have played in his last game. Other than that, everyone else was very mediocre.
The Giants didn't have much production out of their corner spots, which is normally where you get the most. 1st and 3rd base were revolving doors all year long, but for the most part it was Jose Castillo (.244, 6, 35) at third and John Bowker (.255, 10, 43) at first, and while Bowker is still young and has upside, you need better production than that from your corner infield spots. The corner outfield spots had two similar players in Randy Winn and Fred Lewis. Both are sort of top of the order, high on-base percentage, base stealing threats. It's good to have one of those guys in the outfield, but two along side Aaron Rowand doesn't exactly portray a strong offensive outfield. Lewis has a little bit of pop and is still improving, but finished the year with 9 homers in 468 at-bats, while Winn had only 10 in 598 at-bats. The Giants will need more than a combined 19 home runs from their corner outfield spots next year.
The bullpen, overall, wasn't great, but it was better than it's been in recent years. There were a major improvements overall from last year as the Giants have finally found a closer to rely on in Brian Wilson and a few set-up guys in Sergio Romo, Alex Hinshaw, and Merkin Valdez to help get him the ball, but it took almost all year to find the right formula. Tyler Walker was a colossal (in all senses of the term) mess and take away his decent April and June and his ERA would probably have been in the 7's or 8's. Jack Taschner also proved that while he shows glimpses of solidness, he is pretty much garbage as well. He sported a 1.69 WHIP and a .292 BAA, both of which where highest on the team. He can get a strikeout, but he also gets pounded and shouldn't have a spot on this roster next spring.
The Giants also got bitten by the injury bug this season. The team leader in wins from last year and a big piece of their rotation, Noah Lowry, ended up missing the year with nagging elbow soreness. Also, the teams projected starting second baseman, Kevin Frandsen, a guy who hit .370 last September, missed the season as well with a blown out achilles tendon. Frandsen isn't very well known around the league so that injury may not seem as serious as the Noah Lowry one, but this team got very little production out of second base this year and you can't help but think of what Frandsen could have done if given 600 at-bats there. He did heal up in time to sneak in one at-bat before the end of the year and both him and Lowry should be at full strength come spring training. Dave Roberts was another guy who missed the majority of the season with an elbow problem. In his 2 seasons in San Francisco, Roberts has really done nothing. Fred Lewis is a better hitter and has a way better arm in the outfield than Roberts and has leaped over him to take over as the everyday left fielder for this team. Maybe the Giants can find a taker for Roberts, who has only one year left on his contract, over the winter, but that's probably wishful thinking.
This post is running a little long, but I could go on for days about things that went wrong this season, but I'll leave it at this. Bruce Bochy and to a lesser extent, Dave Righetti, if I were running the team, would be let go. Bochy is a lop, and maybe he is different behind closed doors, but from what we see, hear, and read, he seems almost incompetent out there at times. Nobody expected the Giants to be very good this year and it's like Bochy played it like that. Why on earth was Jose Castillo starting at third for the better part of the season or why Omar Vizquel was repeatedly used daily when he wasn't producing worth a lick is beyond me, but Bochy is the guy who was filling out the lineup card daily. He still has 1 year left on his contract as well, but the Giants need new energy and new life at the manager position.
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