Springtime Storylines: Is there a snowball's chance that the Giants' offense will improve?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of
the 30
teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally
breaking down their chances for the 2010 season.  Next up: Los Gigantes


The
big question: Is there a snowball’s chance that the Giants’ offense will improve?

The Giants had the worst offense in the National League last year, yet they won 88 games on the power of some excellent pitching.  You’d think that based on that performance, and on the Dodgers’ curious decision to stand pat, Brian Sabean would have gone out and done something about the offense. And I suppose in his own special way he did. Unfortunately, Sabean’s own special way is to ignore anyone on the good side of 30.

The big additions: Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, neither of whom figure to have the bats to carry the positions for which they were hired (1B and LF). Oh, and Bengie Molina was re-signed too, which has now officially occasioned Buster Posey’s demotion to Fresno despite the fact that there is every reason to believe that, if given the chance, Posey would rank higher than Molina on every list short of “years left before social security eligibility.”  Service time games are fun and everything, but when you have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain firing bullets every time out you’d think that you’d want to give them a little damn support.

The Giants are going to give off the appearance of being competitive as long as Lincecum and friends continue to do what they’ve been doing the past couple of years. But without upgrading the offense in any appreciable way, they’re not going to be competitive. Not in a division with the Dodgers and Rockies.

So
what
else is
going on?

  • The one place where the Giants do appear poised to go with the younger player is the wrong place to do it, and that’s in picking Nate Schierholtz to start in right over Fred Lewis. Neither are superstars, but at least Lewis is capable of taking a walk once in a while.  But hey, the local press likes the move so it’s not like Sabean is alone in his ignorance of what helps teams score runs.
  • No offense? Fine, it’s pitching and defense. Except the defense really isn’t there. Freddy Sanchez won’t be back for a while, but once he returns he and Edgar Renteria should help form one of the lease effective double play combinations in the game. Renteria because he’s just bad anymore, Sanchez because you have to figure that his range and arm and everything has been impacted by his multiple offseason surgeries.  Aaron Rowand is famous for crashing into walls but his defense is not what it used to be. Pablo Sandoval, well, he hits real good.
  • But of course, at the end of the day, this team is all about the pitching. And it is good. Lincecum and Cain need no introduction. Neither does Barry Zito who, contract aside, is a dependable guy who will give the Giants a lot of league average innings and maybe a bit better. Jonathan Sanchez has flashed brilliantly on occasion but has yet to put it together. If he does, look out.  The fifth starter’s slot will begin with Todd Wellemeyer, but top prospect Madison Bumgarner will no doubt get starts at some point this year.  
  • The
    pen is pretty decent too. The Giants had one of the better bullpens in baseball last year.  Brian Wilson anchors things. Jeremy Affeldt and Brandon Medders are excellent as well. Lincecum’s offense and defense will let him down a lot this year, but his pen won’t.

So
how
are they gonna do?

The Giants’ offseason moves didn’t do much to improve the team. Betting on DeRosa and Huff to cure the team’s offensive ills was foolish, as is giving money to Bengie Molina when Buster Posey is more than ready to take over.  It will be very tough to score runs on the Giants this year, but it will be no tick whatsoever to keep them off the board. I see no way for them to make up the ground that separated them from the Dodgers and Rockies last year.

Prediction: Third place in the NL West. Less than 700 runs scored.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.