It was a bit of an up and down season for Giants' fans coming off the high of winning the 2010 World Series. The season didn't quite go as planned, and we sat down with Baseball Nation writer and manager of McCovey Chronicles Grant Brisbee for 5 Questions about the Giants, and some of the main events of their season.
ON BUSTER POSEY:
MLBDD: Probably the biggest loss of the season for the Giants was the season-ending injury to 2010 Rookie of the Year Buster Posey. Do you feel this had a greater impact on the lineup or on the pitching staff? Also, do you think he'll be ready and back to his prior level of performance at the start of 2012?
GB: Considering the pitching staff was just as effective, or close to it, as they were in 2010, it was clearly a bigger blow to the lineup. Even by backup-catcher standards, Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart were simply awful. From August 1 until the end of the season, Whiteside had a .382 OPS, which almost made Stewart's .193/.264/.337 line during that time seem like Posey was back. The early reports of his rehab have been positive, as he's caught some bullpen sessions, and he's running the bases now. I don't think it's a guarantee that he'll be the same player, but the reports have been encouraging -- with each one, it seems like there's less of a chance that he'll have the same problems as Kendrys Morales.
My Thoughts: Grant is right that the pitching staff didn't really miss a beat. The lineup clearly struggled though, and having Whiteside and Stewart were basically making the lineup only 7 batters long in some games. I hope that Posey will be able to return to form, as he clearly showed the potential to be one of the top 5 catchers in the game. Hopefully he won't follow in the same path as Morales.
ON BRANDON BELT'S PLAYING TIME:
MLBDD: There seemed to be concerns outside of San Francisco with the management & playing time of Brandon Belt. How do you feel about how they used the prospect in 2011, and do you think it was effective, both for the player and the team?
GB: They pretty clearly fouled up his 2011, giving and taking his starting job based on ludicrously small samples. Even worse, after the season Bruce Bochy admitted that Aubrey Huff wasn't in great shape, but that still wasn't enough for him to make a switch. The Giants have said that Huff is on notice -- as if they should be applauded for announcing that one of the least valuable players in baseball might face some pressure from a top prospect -- but I'll believe it when I see it. If Huff hits .260 with a little power, he'll start for the whole year.
My Thoughts: The way Belt was used in 2011 clearly wasn't to his benefit, and I'm wondering if we will see an impact on his performance again in 2012. It seems like everyone would be best served by naming Belt the starter either at 1B or in LF at the start of Spring Training, and allow him to either play his way into form or out of the lineup.
THE SURPRISE PERFORMANCE OF RYAN VOGELSONG:
MLBDD: The biggest surprise of the season was the re-emergence of Ryan Vogelsong. Do you think he can repeat his performance in 2012, and what role do you see him playing next year?
GB: He always had the stuff and the strikeout rate, but his problem was his control. Always with the control, no matter where he played. He went from something like a 5.0 or 6.0 BB/9 in AAA in 2009 to a perfectly manageable walk rate in the majors for the first time in his career. That seems like the kind of gain that will stick -- it's not like his BABIP shot down, or he stopped allowing homers for the first time ever. But he's not a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher, so there will be some regression. Still, considering that I wouldn't have even offered him a AA roster spot in March, he was an amazing, amazing story.
My Thoughts: He should still be able to perform reasonably well in 2012, and just gives the Giants another solid starting pitcher for the season. If he can keep his control that made him an All-Star in 2011, there's really no reason to think he can't post an ERA between 3.00 and 3.50 to go with the peripheral stats.
ON THE BARRY ZITO SITUATION:
MLBDD: We are 4 full seasons into the Barry Zito contract, and it appears he may not be in the rotation for next year. Do you think at some point in 2012 we could see Zito in a different team's uniform?
GB: There's a chance the Giants will eat the contract, but I think there's a better chance that he'll be swapped for another bad contract -- Alfonso Soriano, or something. The best chance, though, is that he stays with the Giants in the Guillermo Mota long-man role for as long as he can.
My Thoughts: I know we all were shocked by the contract at the time, and didn't think he's perform to the level to earn it, but I don't know how many people saw this coming. A swap of Alfonso Soriano's contract actually isn't a bad idea - Zito could probably use a change of scenery, and the Cubs could probably use to be rid of Soriano's contract as well.
ON THE TERRITORIAL RIGHTS OF THE GIANTS:
MLBDD: One of the things that seems to be holding up the cross-bay Athletics' quest for a new stadium are the Giants' territorial rights to Santa Clara County. Do you think the Giants would ever be persuaded by MLB to relinquish these rights?
GB: They won't be persuaded by MLB. They will be persuaded by a cartoonish sack with a dollar sign on it. The Giants bought their A-ball team, the San Jose Giants, to further establish their link to the region. It's a great place for the A's stadium, but you can also see how it would cut into the Giants' business. The reach of a team in San Jose would creep up north into towns like Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Redwood City, which are all clearly Giants country right now.
My Thoughts: It seems like it is the best move for MLB to get the A's into San Jose and figure out what that cartoon sack of money will have in it, but I think that if MLB had wanted to do that, it would have already happened. It's understandable why the Giants don't want to cede that area, given that it is actually a larger population base than San Francisco and could easily have more income as well. It really seems like this isn't going to end anytime soon, which is not good for anyone involved.