Thursday, March 19, 2009

Best of the Best - First Base

Man, this was tough. Getting down to the best first baseman in the game was actually pretty easy but getting this list down to five finalists was BRUTAL. There are so many good first basemen in the game today that I had a really tough time getting from 10 down to a list of 5.

So, in the build up to the Best First Baseman in the Game I'm gonna list two categories, the "honorable mention" group and the "finalists."

Honorable Mention: Prince Fielder (MIL), Adrian Gonzalez (SD), Justin Morneau (MIN), Carlos Pena (TB) and Mark Teixeira (NYY)

Gonzalez and Teixeira are the best in that group, though Morneau is awfully good as well. Fielder and Pena were clearly 9th and 10th to me.

None, however, were good enough for my Top 5.

Finalists: Lance Berkman (HOU), Miguel Cabrera (DET), Ryan Howard (PHI), Albert Pujols (STL) and Kevin Youkilis (BOS)

Man, that's a really good group. It wasn't easy making cuts here.

First to go was Youkilis because he lacks the big-time home run power of the other guys here. He's an excellent glove man, big-time run producer and one of the most patient hitters in the game but the lack of big-time HR power keeps him just below the others.

Next off the list was Ryan Howard. Great home run hitter and RBI man but the rest of his game is lacking compared to every one else. Actually, the best pure "home run hitter" in the game today but that's not enough to be the best all-around at your position.

Cabera was next to go. He's an amazing hitter, a younger Pujols/Manny type, but his defense isn't great over there given his lack of experience and that keeps him from making the top two.

The final cut was Berkman. He's a hell of an all-around player. Great bat, excellent power, great glove and good on the bases as well. He's just not Albert.

Pujols is easily the best first baseman on the planet. He does it all and he does it all exceptionally well. As difficult as it was to get the list down to the five finalists it was just that easy to come to the conclusion that Pujols was #1 on the list.

Honestly, I don't see anyone disagreeing with this selection.



Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Wow, what a comeback win by the good ol' U.S. of A last night in Miami...

You would have thought those guys won the World Series - better yet the Little League World Series - the way they dogpiled after David Wright's game winning hit. That was pretty cool.

Best Team USA win since they took Gold in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Makes up for that ugly 11-1 drubbing at the hands of Puerto Rico the other day, too.

Now they get a chance to replace some of their walking wounded on the roster and they'll need every single body they can get for the final round.

Who says the American players don't care about the World Baseball Classic?

Those boys sure looked like they cared last night.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Best of the Best - Catchers

Who is the best player in baseball at each position?

Tough question, no doubt, but it's something I've been kicking around with some friends and it made for some great debate. Okay, it led to some arguments, but it was fun...

To me, the best player at a given position needs to be the best all-around player, not just dominant in one area or another. For example, to me Mike Piazza was never the "best catcher in the game" because he was deficient on defense.

I'm looking for the balance of all things in position players - hitting, hitting for power, speed, fielding and throwing. In pitchers I'm looking for consistency and ability to dominate opposing hitters.

In other words, these guys need to do things other players at their position can't do.

I'll give you my choices, along with finalists, and you're welcome to do the same in the comments section...

Today it's the catchers:

Finalists: Russell Martin (LAD), Joe Mauer (MIN), Brian McCann (ATL), Yadier Molina (STL), Geovany Soto (CHC)

That's a tough group to choose from. They're all well-rounded players with leadership skills in addition to their game skill. Here's how I whittled it down:

Martin was the first to come off the list. He's not as good a hitter - to me - as Mauer, McCann or Soto and he's not as good a defender as Molina.

The next one off the list was Molina. He's the best defensive catcher in baseball and he has made strides offensively but he lacks the power and patience of Mauer, McCann and Soto.

Next off my list is McCann. Another excellent player but I don't like his defensive game as much as I like Mauer's or Soto's.

The last cut - Joe Mauer. Too many injuries and not enough power when compared to Soto.

Soto hits for a solid average, he hits the ball over the wall, he drives in runs, he draws walks and he's a strong defensive player as well. He's not a Gold Glover but he's good behind the plate and he can flat out hit.

Now, I realize that Soto is still young and hasn't done it for a long stretch but that's not the point of this discussion. I'm talking about a one-year setting, 2009, as things stand right now.

Right now I think Geovany Soto is the best all-around catcher in the game.

What do you think?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tweaking the WBC

I really like the World Baseball Classic.

It's not the greatest baseball competition in the world but at a time of year when I'm jonesin' for some competitive hardball it'll do. I enjoy the emotion, the passion and the competition.

All that said, the setup is far from perfect.

I'd love to see MLB move this game to the Fall, playing in it in the weeks that follow the World Series. Here's why:

1. The players are all in shape, ready to go at 100% capacity and if someone does get hurt they have until March to get themselves ready for the following season.

2. You won't have to have innings or pitch limits, making the whole thing more like "real baseball" than exhibition baseball. We're only talking about 2-3 extra starts for SP's and only a handful more appearances for RP's so it's not like they're going to "wear down."

3. Players on teams who are not in the MLB post-season could work out together, creating a little of the in-game chemistry that a country like Cuba has.

There are potential problems with this idea, like the fact that free agents could sit out so they don't get hurt and going up against football, but those problems aren't as great as the ones that exist as things are right now.

Heck, teh WBC is going up against March Madness now. At least football is primarly played on Saturdays and Sundays.

Let's set this thing up in the Fall, play the games in Puerto Rico, Florida, Arizona, California, etc. and let the games be played more like the real thing.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mailbag - How are the Cubs better than the Cards

That's the question posed to me by "anonymous" (aren't anonymous posts the greatest!)...

Rather than re-state the question, here it is:

"Anonymous said...

How exactly are the Cubs better than the Cardinals? I'm awfully tired of seeing people write that and hearing people say it. It's BS!! Let's do a comparison. I don't have time to do every play, but..."

Anonymous went on to do his position-by-position analysis, which is was hysterical. I highly recommend reading it here:

Anyway, since the question was asked I'll go position-by-position and explain exactly why the Cubs are better than the Cards and why everyone in the baseball universe thinks so...

C. Yadier Molina vs. Geovany Soto

Molina is the better glove man, though not by a heck of lot. Soto is pretty good with the leather. Offensively, they're not even close. Molina had a decent average but his .741 OPS was pedestrian. Soto posted an .868 OPS in part because of his 26 HR.

Edge Cubs

1B. Albert Pujols vs. Derrek Lee

Lee's a nice player but not in Albert's league. Easy one...

Edge Cards

2B. Skip Schumaker/??? vs. Mike Fontentot/Aaron Miles

We don't even know who is gonna be playing 2B for the Cards. The Schumaker Experiment is losing some steam and nobody will be all that excited by Brendan Ryan, Joe Thurston or Tyler Greene there.

Even if Skip wins the full-time job he'll be easily the worst defender of the group and his bat is no better than Fontenot's and Miles give the Cubs the reliability the Cards had last year.

Edge Cubs

3B. Troy Glaus/Joe Mather vs. Aramis Ramirez

How could this not be an edge for the Cubs? Glaus is gonna miss April after shoulder surgery and who knows when he'll be "right" physically? Plus, even if Glaus is healthy, Ramirez is the better player. He's more consistent at the plate, hasn't been as injury prone and isn't a horrible fielder.

Glaus is better with the glove but his throwing arm is the one that needed surgery. I'll take 6 months over Ramirez over 1 month of Mather and 5 months of Glaus.

If Glaus is 100% this is close but Ramirez would still get a slight edge.

Edge Cubs

SS. Khalil Greene vs. Ryan Theriot

I'm not a huge Theriot fan but he's a .290 career hitter and is much more consistent at the plate than Greene is. Brings an element of speed that Greene doesn't have as well. Greene has more power and is a better defender so I think that levels things out a bit.

Since I think Greene is better than is '08 numbers show I'll call it a draw.


LF. Chris Duncan/Colby Rasmus vs. Alfonso Soriano

Come on, now. This is easy. In two years maybe it won't be because I'm a "Believer" when it comes to Rasmus, I think he's the real deal. But for now Soriano is the proven star here.

Duncan figures to play a ton if he's healthy and since he's even worse than Soriano defensively I'd say the Cubs win this matchup. Soriano has 7-straight seasons with at least 28 HR (he had 29 HR last year despite missing a ton of games) and he topped 30 in 5 of those seasons.

Duncan can hit, but not like that. Rasmus has even more raw talent than Soriano but hasn't done it at the big league level.

Edge Cubs

CF. Rick Ankiel vs. Kosuke Fukudome

I'll take Ankiel, no problem. Better power, best OF arm in the game and he's capable of more than we've seen from him.

Edge Cards

RF. Ryan Ludwick vs. Milton Bradley

This has to be a draw. Ludwick has only done it one year and Bradley, with all is problems and injuries, is an incredibly gifted player. I trust Ludwick more but Bradley is the better all-around talent.


SP. Chris Carpenter vs. Carlos Zambrano

Okay, Big Z has had some arm problems but not like Carp, who has made 1 start in two years. When they're both 100% they're equals but Zambrano is the safer bet between them entering '09 because he's pitched more.

Edge Cubs

SP. Adam Wainwright vs. Ted Lilly

This is a very tough matchup. Lilly is a very underrated, consistent starter. That said, I like Wainwright better. Lilly is what he is but I think Wainwright is still getting better. I'll go with the big righty.

Edge Cards

SP. Kyle Lohse vs. Ryan Dempster

Another tough one. Both were excellent last season - and Dempster was the better of the two - but neither has proven themselves as a consistent Major League starter. It's a draw.


SP. Todd Wellemeyer vs. Rich Harden

Now, I love Wellemeyer. He's a heck of a pitcher and could get better this year but Harden is easily the more gifted of the two. Harden is an injury risk, no doubt, but even with that I can't give the Cards the edge here because when he's right Harden is a dominator. Wellemeyer is really good, just not as good as Harden.

Edge Cubs

SP. Joel Pineiro vs. Sean Marshall/Aaron Heilman

Pineiro can't be trusted, simple as that. He's been erratic virtually his entire career. Marshall is still a bit of an unknown as a big league starter and Heilman has been a reliever of late but I'd trade Pineiro for either one of them.

Edge Cubs

CL. Ryan Franklin/Josh Kinney/Jason Motte/Chris Perez vs. Carlos Marmol

Marmol was easily the most dominant pitcher of any in that group the last two years. He's a stud, plain an simple. Motte and Perez both have stuff to rival Marmol but they don't have two years of proving it at the Major League level. Neither Franklin nor Kinney can match Marmol's stuff. Kevin Gregg is a decent insurance policy for Marmol too.

Edge Cubs

BP. Cards bullpen vs. Cubs bullpen

Aside from the 9th inning I think these two teams are even. They both have depth and a combination of hard throwers and plain ol' good pitchers. Not much to differentiate these two in the pen.


Cards Manager/Coaches vs. Cubs Manager/Coaches

I'll go with a slight edge to Tony LaRussa and his staff but it's not a huge difference. Lou Piniella is a good manager with a solid staff.

Edge Cards

So, by my "tale of the tape" the Cubs have the edge in 9 spots, the Cards have the edge in 4 spots and the two teams are even in 4 spots.

With good health the Cardinals can definitely give the Cubs a run for their money in '09 but they have more question marks than the Cubbies do.

Oh yeah, and the Cubs were 11.5 games better than the Cards last year.

Even if the Cubbies drop off by a couple of games do the Cards gain 8-10 wins over '08?

Could be but that's a lot of ground to make up.

There, that's why I have the Cubs ahead of the Cards in my Power Rankings.

You asked, Anonymous, and I answered...


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The "Miracle on Turf"

I'm shocked.



The Netherlands just eliminated the Dominican Republic from the World Baseball Classic in the 1st round...


This game surely doesn't have the socio-political impact of the "Miracle On Ice" in Lake Placid, NY but it is certainly one of the biggest upsets I can think of.

A team of has-beens and never-weres - whose best hitter is remember more for his hit on a racing sausage than for his big league career - beats a collection of Major League All-Stars TWICE in four days to eliminate them from a tournament Team Dominicana cares deeply about.


These players from the Netherlands may not be Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig, Mark Johnson or Ken Morrow but they are certainly national heroes now.

Randall Simon?

Eugene Kingsale?

Yurendall de Caster?

Some dudes named Schoop, Stuifbergen and Duursma take out a powerhouse loaded with the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, David Ortiz Miguel Tejada, Pedro Martinez, Robinson Cano, Jose Guillen and some of the best arms in the big leagues?


Gotta love the WBC...


Measuring Defense w/ Statistics - No Thanks

I really admire the work that people like John Dewan and Bill James do. They are pioneers in the world of baseball analysis and they, along with countless others, have helped change the way "baseball people" go about their business.

That said, I haven't found a single defensive statistic that I find terribly useful.

I love the concept behind Dewan's Plus/Minus system ( but there are still too many things that are not quantifiable enough for me to buy into it completely. I also think some of Dewan's new "Defensive Runs Saved" concepts are interesting, yet unconvincing.

I should point out, right off the top, that to my knowledge Dewan doesn't promote either of these stats as "Be All, End All" of defensive evaluation.

The problem is that these things are all subjective, relying completely on the evaluations/decisions made by people watching video of Major League games. Even if those people are "baseball people" (former coaches, scouts, players, etc.) we're still talking about subjective analysis. "Baseball people" don't always see things the same way, afterall.

Now, defensive statistics are better than they used to be and maybe someday Dewan, James or some other forward thinker will have a break through and get it down pat. The problem, however, is there are too many defensive factors that simply cannot be measured.

Positioning, for example.

Let's say Player A has better physical ability than Player B. Quicker feet, better balance, stronger arm, more accurate arm, etc. If they're both in the same pre-pitch spot on the field Player A can make plays that Player B cannot.

On the other hand, Player B is a more "heady" player. He's more up to date on the tendencies of opposing hitters - and perhaps his team has more accurate scouting reports - and therefore he's in the correct position more often than Player A.

Player B could be making "routine" plays all the time because he's in the right position while Player A makes "excellent" plays, in part, because he's not in the best pre-pitch position.

Simply put, there is more to being a strong defensive player than physical skill. Preparation, anticipation and instinct are all significant factors in a player's ability to field his position and none of those factors are quantifiable.

Is the player in the proper pre-pitch position based on scouting information? Is he in tune with how his team is planning on pitching to the opposing hitters? Is he anticipating the play pre-pitch based on these factors?

Does the player throw to the right base consistently? Is the player a "heads-up" or "head in the clouds" kind of guy? Does he get into the proper relay position? Does he hit the cutoff man? How does he play the ball off the wall?

Is the player "saved" by his fellow defenders (like Mark Grace saving Shawon Dunston's butt all the time) or is he the one doing the "saving?"

I just don't see how anyone can place a numerical value on these things. They are bits of invaluable information when it comes to a player's ability to field his position and they are also immeasurable. You can see them with your own two eyes if you know what to look for, which most hardcore baseball observers do, but I just don't see how you can quantify it.

There are other more tangible factors that are not factored in, at least not to my knowledge or satisfaction...

1) Actual velocity of the ball hit (not just a generic term like "soft" or "hard" hit ball, actual MPH - any hitter will tell you, there is a distinct difference between 90 MPH and 95 MPH and when watching the game on video that difference won't be noticeable on a ball put into play)

2) The condition of the field (wet or dry, shorter grass or longer grass, etc. - it's not like every big league field is exactly the same)

3) Variation in spin/bounces (every ball hit is a little different - a "routine" ground ball right at a fielder isn't necessarily "routine" as some balls "kick" or "bite" at the last moment based on how they were hit)

4) Trajectory (was the ball hit at a 45-degree angle, 60-degree angle or 75-degree angle? did it have backspin or topspin? was the ball cutting or slicing? I need more detail than a simple "fly ball/line drive" label)

5) Conditions (sunny w/ a big sky? cloudy? windy? raining? twilight? shawdows? those are all factors in how plays get made, especially difficult plays)

All of those things are "known" factors but they cannot be easily converted into a number. Without those pieces of information nobody can come to an accurate conclusion about the quality of a player's defensive game. Maybe some of that evens out over the course of a 162-game season but not all of it does.

The aforementioned defensive statistics can be helpful when it comes to filling in the blanks on some players when people just don't have the time/ability to judge for themselves, but they're just not complete enough for me to value them over scouting information.

There is just no logical way to turn pages and pages of scouting information into a number. Even though "real" scouts use the 1-8 scale to grade players' physical ability (which I don't much like either) it is included in a detailed report that provides some of the nuance/detail I wrote about above. Plus, most of the "tools" scouts are grading can be measured - velocity on throws, bat speed, 60-yard dash time, home-to-first time, etc.

What all of these defensive statistics come down to, essentially, is a human being assigning a number to a play based on his own subjective analysis. In that sense, defensive statistics are no different than the subjective analysis in a scouting report.

Defensive statistics cannot provide the type of detail a written or spoken-word report can.

Then again, the defensive statistics themselves aren't the real problem.

It's the people who use them improperly - replacing detailed professional analysis with a number - that are probably at the root of my frustration....


Friday, March 6, 2009

The Baseball Gods 2009 Power Rankings (as of March 7)

Here's how I see things right now. Lots can change between now and Opening Day and I will update the Power Rankings again just before the regular season starts as part of my preview/predictions for 2009.

Comments welcome...

1. Red Sox - Bullpen gives them the edge over the Yankees
2. Yankees - Even with the potential loss of A-Rod the Yanks are still loaded
3. Phillies - World Champs might be better than they were in '08
4. Cubs - Sure, they have questions but they also have the most talented team in the NL
5. Angels - Love the addition of Abreu, gives them an OBP guy to go with the Free Swingers
6. Dodgers - With Manny in the fold from Day One the Dodgers are an elite NL squad
7. Mets - If Santana's elbow becomes a problem the Mets slip on this list by Opening Day
8. Rays - They should be even better than '08 if someone takes charge in the 9th
9. Indians - Bullpen is better and I expect rebound years from Carmona & V-Mart
10. Diamondbacks - Offense may be erratic but pitching is very good
11. Twins - Somehow they always find a way to hang in there
12. White Sox - Could be a team that slips in by April 6 depending on bottom of rotation
13. Cardinals - Could move up or down by Opening Day; so far things look okay
14. A's - Love the additions of Halladay and Giambi; they could move up
15. Tigers - They'll hit the ball for sure but their pitching will dictate where they finish
16. Braves - Not enough offense and too many pitching questions; could slip in the rankings
17. Marlins - Love the young talent here; could be a sleeper
18. Brewers - Like the Tigers of the NL; plenty of offense, not enough pitching
19. Blue Jays - They're just a little short on both offense and pitching
20. Giants - Great pitching, not enough offense; finally seem headed in right direction though
21. Astros - Pitching is horrible after Oswalt; they'll hit if they're healthy though
22. Rockies - Like the Blue Jays, just a little short all-around
23. Reds - Love the move toward athleticism but don't see enough run production
24. Rangers - Another team that can mash that's lacking in pitching
25. Orioles - Only one legit starter but I like the move toward young, athletic hitters
26. Royals - Not buying the buzz that they could be better this year. How?
27. Nationals - Pitching will come along but they still have more questions than answers
28. Pirates - Don't like their offense at all and pitching staff is loaded with enigmas
29. Mariners - Some good young pitchers for sure but lineup stinks out loud
30. Padres - Not enough pitching + not enough hitting + not enough defense = worst in MLB


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Programming Note

Just dropping in a little somethin-somethin to let you know that I'm making a change in how I do things here...

I'm cutting off the 2009 Power Rankings team profiles and doing the same for the Top 100 Prospects individual profiles because they just take too damn long to do, plus they're like War and Peace.

Based on time restrictions with my real job, and on advice from lots of friends (in and out of the sports media business), I've come to the decision that a lot of short posts with timely observations will work better than a smaller number long posts that take a lot more time to write and read.

From here on out things will be of the more quick-hitting variety. I'll post the full 2009 Power Rankings next up and save the details for responses to comments/e-mails.

E-mail if you ever have questions, comments, opinions, suggestions, etc.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

2009 Power Rankings #20

( #'s 21-30 can be found in the archive)

Note: I will have a "final" pre-season set of power rankings ready on Opening Day (along with all of my other predictions), so this is not my "final word" on how things will shake out.

20. San Francisco Giants

If these guys had a couple more proven, veteran run producers in the middle of the order they be more of a sure thing as a contender in the NL. They'd also be higher on this list...

The pitching looks just fine, thank you very much, but they'll need some kids to have strong offensive seasons if they're going to make a push for the playoffs. Things are going to be interesting in San Fran this summer.


According to the Giants' official website, here is their projected starting lineup:

C. Bengie Molina
1B. Travis Ishikawa
2B. Kevin Frandsen
3B. Pablo Sandoval
SS. Edgar Renteria
LF. Fred Lewis
CF. Aaron Rowand
RF. Randy Winn

Wow, not a lot of pop there. They will put the ball in play, however, and they have a couple of guys who can run so they'll have to scrap and claw to score runs.

Molina isn't an elite hitter but he did drive in 95 runs last season and figures to bat cleanup again this year. Bengie's still a heck of a glove man, too. Ishikawa is a very interesting player. The 25 year-old hit .299/.377/.578 (24 HR) at Double-A and Triple-A combined last season, with the bulk of that coming at the higher level. Could be a sleeper as an emerging hitter this year, though he's not a big upside guy. I'm not buying Frandsen as an everyday player at 2B, just not enough offense for this team. I suspect Emmanuel Burris (a real burner) and Eugenio Velez will get plenty of time there as well. Sandoval is a very interesting guy. He hit .350/.394/.578 in the minors last season and then .345/.357/.490 in 145 big league AB's. Was a catcher in the minors (and could still see occasional action behind the dish), played 1B for the G'men last year and now moves to 3B. Renteria has always been a better player in the NL than in the AL but I don't trust him. Cold weather seems to bother him and SF isn't exactly tropical early or late in the season.

Lewis emerged as a solid Major League outfielder last season. Not a home run guy but does hit doubles and triples, plus he'll take a walk and can swipe a bag here and there. Rowand was a disappointment last season and needs a bounce back season. I don't think it's fair to expect him to hit 25 HR but he does need to kick the average up to the .300 range and drive in some more runs. Winn has always been a nice, solid player but would be a better fit on a team with more pop in the rest of the OF. The good news for him as that the Giants don't have other options ready to push him.

Juan Uribe, Rich Aurilia, Dave Roberts and Nate Schierholtz are bench guys who could see somewhat regular playing time if they get hot.

There are some more young hitters on the way as well. C Buster Posey seems to be the heir apparent to Molina, a catcher with big offensive upside. 3B Conor Gillaspie is a good hitter who could be a factor as well, especially if Ishikawa and/or Sandoval struggle. Further down the road is power-hitting prospect 1B Angel Villalona - he's 2-3 years away.


According to the Giants' official website, here is their projected rotation and their closer:

1. Tim Lincecum
2. Matt Cain
3. Randy Johnson
4. Barry Zito
5. Jonathan Sanchez

This is an excellent rotation. Lincecum, the '08 NL Cy Young Award winner, is as good as there is in the game today. Don't let Cain's 8-14 record last year fool you, he's a stud. Every team in baseball would take him in their rotation. Johnson was 5-3 with a 2.41 ERA and 78 K's in 86 IP after the All-Star break in '08. He's still got it, it's just a matter of how many innings he'll be able to go. Zito was actually not terrible after the break last year (6-5, 4.59 ERA) and if he does that for all of '09 this team will really benefit from it. Sanchez was erratic in his first full season as a big league starter last year but his stuff is electric (157 K in 158 IP) and he's still only 26.

The team also has Noah Lowry on the outside looking in and recovering from arm problems. I wouldn't be surprised to see them trade Sanchez for a bat at some point, if Lowry is healthy of course.

Another reason why the team might be willing to move Sanchez - and maybe Cain down the road as well - is that they've got a couple of high-end pitching prospects on the way. 20 year-old Tim Alderson figures to start this season at Double-A, so he's close. The 6'6" right hander is very polished and pretty much dominated the hitter-friendly California League as a teenager last season. 6'4" lefty Madison Bumgarner is a year behind Alderson but he's a good one (15-3, 1.46 ERA and 164 K/21 BB in 141 2/3 IP at Low-A in '08). He could see Double-A as a 19 year-old in '09.

CL. Brian Wilson

Wilson had 41 saves last season but I don't trust him. His control is erratic and he posted a scary 4.62 ERA in '08. He just doesn't miss enough bats for a guy who throws in the mid-to-upper 90's. Maybe he gets better this year but I'm still not 100% sold.

Bobby Howry and Jeremy Affeldt will be the top setup man and leading candidates for saves if Wilson struggles. Sergio Romo posted a 2.12 ERA in 29 Major League games last season and he should also have a significant role.


There is a chance, with good health, that the Giants could push for the NL West title this season. They'd need a breakout performance or two on offense - or a trade of pitching for hitting - but they're a lot closer to being where they want to be now than they were just a year ago.