Related Articles: Baseball, All

Giants

Pre-Season Lookout

Quick – whose line is this?

.264 AVG/.327 OBP/.417 SLG/.744 OPS

Could it be one of the Giants also-ran outfielders? Not Marquis Grissom (.279/.323/.450/.733 last year). Not Michael Tucker (.256/.353/.412/.765). Not Dustan Mohr (career .262/.339/.415/.754). Not even Jose Cruz Jr. (.242/.333/.433/.766). No, that's what Moises Alou – the Giants new "power-hitting" rightfielder -- hit away from the friendly confines of Wrigley Field the last three years.

So let me get this straight…The Giants just shelled out $13.25 million for two years of an outfielder who, when he wasn't in the one of the best hitter's parks in the majors, hit worse than the three guys they had on the roster already? Not to mention that Alou is 38- years old, hasn't played Right Field regularly for three years, and put up poor defensive stats in Left Field at that.

Of course, Alou doesn't make the team worse -- just no better -- so why does it matter how much the Giants spent on him? Well, since 1996, the NL Wild Card winner has averaged 93 wins, while the League Champion has won 96 games. Last year, the Giants finished 91-71, though they scored 850 runs and allowed 770 -- normally good for an 89-73 record. The Giants need to improve by 2-4 wins in 2005 just to be 50/50 for the Wild Card, and 5-7 wins to have a good shot at the World Series. When they go out and spend extra millions to round out the payroll, they need to get better!

Did they do that? Let's look at how the 2005 lineup stacks up to 2004:

C: Matheny vs Pierzynski (a wash for now)
SS: Vizquel vs Perez/Cruz (improvement)
RF: Alou vs Tucker/Mohr (same)
RP: Benitez vs Herges/Hermanson (waaaay better)

Among position players, Snow and Grissom can expect declines, while no one looks primed to bounce back. Assuming Barry Bonds is the same old Barry Bonds as always, the Giants will probably score 800 runs -- not a league-leading 850. In order to get into the 95-win range, the pitching staff will need to allow 100 fewer runs. The starters should be better as Noah Lowry and Jerome Williams mature, and if Brett Tomko can keep it together. The faster they get Kirk Rueter out of the rotation the better. Other than Benitez, the bullpen is the same bunch of guys and shouldn't be any better or worse. Will they save 100 runs? That's a half-run ERA reduction, and none too likely -- I'd guess they allow 70 fewer runs and I'll go with a 92-win prediction.

So are they a great team? The second-coming of the 2004 Cardinals? The 1998 Yankees? Not a chance. To get anywhere near those lofty heights, they needed to upgrade Center Field and Right Field. They did neither. With so little time left on Barry's biological clock, it is unacceptable to spend $93 million for 92 wins and yet another first round playoff exit.