04 November 2011

Locking up the lefties.

Forget for a moment that the Giants just committed $9.25M to two relievers for the 2012 season — one of them an above average LOOGY, the other a very bad chef.

Forget that they'll pay Javy Lopez another $4.25 in 2013.

Forget that our team was woefully inept hitting with RISP in 2011.

Forget all of that, kick back, grab yourself a Racer 5, and think about this double-down move in the appropriate context: reality.

Barring the highly unlikely — as in never gonna happen — possibility that Sabean and his Minions take a break from kicking tires long enough to make a serious offer to a serious free agent bat, the offense is going to be the offense. In other words, they can't afford to scrimp on the team's strength in a vain attempt to upgrade its biggest weakness.

But look at it this way: Buster will be back in the middle of the order, Freddy will likely be back near the top of it. This team will score more runs than they did in the final months of 2011. But unless Andres Torres finds a pill that helps him rediscover his baddass self, they'll probably top off between 4 and 4.5 runs per contest.

It's because of this #fact that the front office absolutely must do everything it can to recruit and retain the finest pitching staff in all of baseball. A staff that can not only withstand the load of narrow deficits and nail-biting leads but also the mental fatigue of looking up at a bunch of zeroes from your bats. A staff that pitches every night like it's Game 7 of the World Series. And they've done just that.

Top to bottom, first inning to ninth, there is no staff with more talent, more grit, more moxie, more, well, whatever Zito brings to the table. Lopez and Affeldt are key parts of their collective success, bridging the gap to Romo and Wilson by setting down some of the nastiest lefty hitters in the game.

As always, the challenge becomes holding it all together. Tim's gonna cost a penny and a half, even though he can't r-u-n-n-o-f-t just yet. Matt Cain's juicy three-year extension is almost up. And if you know what to do with Dirty, please let me know.

In short, Sabean's already dealing with a lot of s***. Now, he's hearing it from a fan base that somehow got it in their heads that the Giants would make a run at Albert Pujols or Jose Reyes. Guys, it just ain't gonna happen. Things may have changed post-Bonds, but this is still the Giants Way: Just Enough.

The irony is that the underlying problem here is already being addressed. During the Bonds Era, the Giants weren't tending the farm. In recent years, they've been more reluctant to give up draft picks to sign veteran free agents to crap two- and three- and five-year deals. The results are Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Gary Brown...

The primary thing that separated the 2010 Giants from version 2011 was health. If the boys can find a way to avoid the DL, they'll score just enough — and this pitching staff will do just enough — to put them in the hunt for a playoff spot. And once you make it to October, anything's possible.

Right, Tony?

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