A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Twenty seven: San Francisco Giants
Looking at the respective ranks for San Francisco’s separate units really makes it clear who were the problems for the Giants. The hitters came in 28th in the league, the starters 12th and the relievers 27th.
That the rotation came in above average despite the anchors of Barry Zito and Kevin Correia is a testament to just how awesome and Cy Young-worthy Tim Lincecum was in 2008. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez were both stable members of the rotation, also helping to offset the Zito disaster. It’s notable though that if you regressed home run per fly ball rates among starting pitchers, the group gets a lot worse.
Contrast that to the bullpen where Sergio Romo was truly the only hurler to claim a significant amount of positive contribution. Beside him were a few average-ish relievers surrounded by a hodgepodge of flotsam of the Gino Espineli and Erick Threets ilk.
The real culprits though were among the hitters, who generated about 75 runs below average according to wOBA and also lost about 20 runs on the defensive side as well. Interestingly, with the dismission of Barry Bonds, the offense clearly felt his absence, but possibly left field as well. Certainly Aaron Rowand played a part as well, but San Francisco’s outfield defense improved by 44 plays according to John Dewan. However, letting Pedro Feliz leave contributed to a collapse in their infield defense, falling 54 plays on the corners.
Back to the outfield, the Giants’ outfield of Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn were contributors with the bat as well, which coupled with that outstanding defense mentioned above, makes them one of the better and unheralded units in the game during 2008. It’s just everyone else who ruined the nice bed that the outfield made.
Can San Francisco recover? Barry Zito is going to be a big part of that answer as he’s not going to go anywhere with that salary. With Sanchez, Lincecum and Cain in the fold, the Giants have the foundation for a good rotation. Rebuilding bullpens can be done easily and cheaply, so really it comes down to overhauling their infield. With the weakened NL West, there is a chance for the Giants to make strides quickly.
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