Restoring the rosters: No. 15 – San Francisco

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
The Giants’ legendary inability to develop hitters under GM Brian Sabean doesn’t keep the team from cracking the top half of the rankings, if only barely.
Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Francisco Liriano
Jonathan Sanchez
Noah Lowry
Joe Nathan
Brian Wilson
David Aardsma
Scott Linebrink
Carlos Villanueva
Bobby Howry
Jeremy Accardo
It’s hard to beat that one-two punch, and I still have high hopes for Liriano going forward. I’m not sure Lowry is the right choice to round out the rotation, as he may never make it back after two lost seasons. He can be replaced by Shairon Martis, but it’s nearly moot, as Madison Bumgarner, arguably the top pitching prospect in the minors, will claim the spot soon enough.
The bullpen possesses perhaps baseball’s best closer, two more ninth-inning guys and plenty of other setup options. Jason Grilli was next in line for a spot, but the rotation is good enough that the team should be able to go without a long reliever. Sergio Romo was also considered. It’s a couple of years too late for Keith Foulke.
CF Fred Lewis
C Buster Posey
RF Nate Schierholtz
1B Pablo Sandoval
LF John Bowker
3B Pedro Feliz
2B Kevin Frandsen
SS Emmanuel Burriss
OF Todd Linden
C Yorvit Torrealba
INF Brian Buscher
INF Cody Ransom
1B Travis Ishikawa
The scary thing is that this qualifies as huge progress. Three years ago, this would have been an absolutely horrible list populated by Feliz, Torrealba and a bunch of fringe bench players, like Jason Ellison, Lance Niekro and Dan Ortmeier. Feliz and Rich Aurilia were the only legitimate regulars produced during the late 90s and the first half of the aughts, and Aurilia actually spent three years in the Texas farm system before joining the Giants. Even worse, it sure appears as though what did develop did so more as a result of steroid use than from any actual instruction in the San Francisco system.
The lineup above isn’t embarrassing any longer. Sandoval has played like an All-Star this year, and I think Schierholtz and Bowker are both capable of some 800 OPS seasons in the majors. Producing offense at the bottom of the order will be a major problem, but at least the infield defense should be strong.
As for Posey, well, that might be something of a reach at this point. I considered sticking Sandoval back behind the plate and going with Ishikawa at first base, but the Giants are going to need Sandoval’s bat in the lineup at all times. If Posey isn’t quite ready to cut it yet, then Torrealba could start, with Steve Holm as the backup.
The Giants have improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and they might be even higher in the rankings if they didn’t blow their 2004 and ’05 first-rounders to sign free agents. With injuries taking a toll on some quality arms, the Giants went the entire 1990s without getting a quality return on a first-rounder. However, they’ve been scoring big since with Lincecum, Cain and now Bumgarner and Posey. They should move up further when these lists are revisited in a couple of years.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.