Are you an optimist or pessimist? Dreamer or skeptic? The 2009 Giants drew a line right down the middle of the fanbase with the "glass half-full" folks and "glass half-empty" folks picking sides and lining themselves up for 2010. How can this be? Easy--take a good look at last season. The 3rd-place Giants (88-74, overperforming by 2 games) scored only 657 runs (13th) but allowed only 611 (T1st). They had 18 team shutouts and a fantastic MLB-best 123 ERA+. Unfortunately, their hated arch-rivals in Chavez LAtrine also had great pitching, also allowing only 611 runs (T1st, 116 ERA+) while scoring 780 (4th). That was good enough for a West title (95-67, underforming by 4 games). The 18-28 Rockies fired Clint Hurdle at the end of May and surged into the Wild Card under Jim Tracy, going 21-7 in June and 74-42 overall to finish 92-70 (overperfoming by 2 games). They did it with the bats, of course, their 804 RS was second only to league champs Philadelphia, but their improved pitching (only 715 RA, 7th, 108 ERA+) was the difference. We've seen poor offenses win the West in our look back, but rarely do we see poor offensive squads beat out well-balanced teams. Both LA and Colorado present formidable obstacles to the G-men's chances of winning the West in 2010, as both have a core of young, talented players on both sides of the ball. San Diego (75-87) overperformed its Pythagorean percentage by 8 games--their RS/RA (638/15th, 769/12th) numbers were truly awful, they were lucky not to finish last. Their abysmal 84 ERA+ is hard to believe in their cavernous home yard. Arizona got the last spot (70-92, underperforming by 5 games), scoring 720 runs (8th) and yielding 782 (14th). Their ERA+ of 103 is likely a reflection of their hitting-friendly park.
The Giants finished 7 behind LA and only 4 behind Colorado, and their 88 wins were more than both Atlanta (115 ERA+, 86 wins) and Chicago (117 ERA+, 83 wins). Tim Lincecum nabbed another Cy Young, Matt Cain was an All-Star, and Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter. Even Billion-Dollar Boy Barry Zito was reasonably effective (108 ERA+). Pablo Sandoval burst onto the NL scene with a .943 OPS (142 OPS+), thus proving the organization can produce a hitter. It was a great year, marred only by the front office and their idiotic trades of top prospects Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes for Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko. FSanchez was too hurt to play, and Garko, slumping in orange and black, never got a chance and was non-tendered in the off-season (while broken-down Freddy got a 2-year, $12M deal and won't be suited up for Opening Day). It is hard being a fan of this organization. The pitching is world class and screams for the complementary pieces to round out the club, and the Brain Trust tosses us bones like Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa. One of the top prospects in all of baseball, Buster Posey, got a cuppa-coffee-call-up in September and spent his time on the bench watching the final season of the old, slow, hackmeister catcher he was groomed to replace. Oh, wait, we re-signed that guy and Buster will have to wait some more. If there is one single thing the Giants did this off-season to empty my glass, it's that. Hotshot young'un Madison Bumgarner also made his debut, he's pencilled in as the 2010 5th starter despite being much younger than Posey and having under 300 IP of professional experience. Hey, I'm all for MadBum, but the illogic of that decision makes me question the Brian Trust's competence even more than I already do.
There you have it--How the West Was Won. Next up--How to Win the West: a position-by-position look at your 2010 Giants, followed by an appraisal of our Division rivals. Pitchers and catchers report in mere weeks!