What’s the best rotation in baseball?

Being a San Francisco Giants fan isn’t hard right now. It’s easy to fawn over Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and for the more criminally insane of us, Barry Zito. Plus, we’ve got the Panda Bear.

The rotation is deep, as has been noted many times over. Even with the exodus of certain prized, yet perennially injured members of the elite group. (Ahem, Noah Lowry.) Or the retirement of a future hall of famer (Randy Johnson).

But how does the Big Three stack up with the rest of the majors going into the 2010 season? One would argue that if you look outside the National League bubble, there’s only two teams that are easily more stacked in all of the right places.

The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees each have the ability to have six-man rotations this year (in fact, that’s what the Red Sox are doing), with prized prospects waiting in the wings. We’re talking aces at the No. 3 spot for each team (John Lackey and Andy Pettitte).

Their scraps are other teams’ sought after trade bait.

So which rotation is the best? If you’re wondering where I stand, you shouldn’t. I still think the Giants are the cream of the crop. And yes, the basis of my reasoning is the lousy run support the Big Three have received in years prior. I’d like to see how the Yankees or the Red Sox could do without an A-Rod or Big Papi in their lineup.

What do you think?

Flipping the channel to baseball

Been off the wagon for awhile now. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a full fledged column, or reason to know the next time I’ll pump one out. But I do know that in the next five days the Major League Baseball season will be opening, right here in Boston with the New York Yankees and Red Sox getting the party started. And that’s a good enough reason to put a smile on my face and fingers back on the keyboard.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the San Francisco Giants fare in the National League West with a revamped lineup (most notably with Aaron Rowand pushed back in the lineup and Randy Winn gone) and how much baseball differs in Boston. It’s a culture shift I’m looking forward to experiencing.
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And then there was one … Matt Holliday

Matt Holliday is on my 2010 wish list for the San Francisco Giants.
With the signing of Jason Bay causing galactic waves in Red Sox nation, Matt Holliday remains the last viable free agent on the market.

Wish list dreaming over here.

C – Bengie Molina
1B – Pablo Sandoval
2B – Freddy Sanchez
3B – Mark DeRosa
SS – Kevin Frandsen
LFMatt Holliday
CF – Aaron Rowand
RF – Fred Lewis

A couple things about this list:

  1. I know the knock on Fred Lewis. His fielding is terrible and he’s been inconsistent at the plate, but I’d argue for upside over downside on him any day.
  2. Bengie Molina isn’t great, but Giants fans shouldn’t expect him to be either. He’ll get his numbers — slowly and untimely — and will look good on paper at the end of the year. But the positive is he’ll modestly provide stability at catcher and coach up the pitching staff, which is still relatively young, well throughout the year.
  3. I haven’t given up on Kevin Frandsen — or Nate Schierholz — but the time for patience is coming to a close. If they can’t prove that they’re worthy of their roster spots (you can throw Freddy Lewis in this mix) after 2010, the black and orange will need do a total restructuring without these fellas.

Am I the only one who thinks Mark DeRosa is a step sideways, rather than a step forward?

G-men, your move.

Hey Giants, still waiting on that big move

I wouldn't mind either Matt Holiday (left) or Jason Bay. Would you?

I woke up this morning, Christmas Day, and I was very disappointed.

Wonder why? Because I live in Red Sox nation and my baseball team is almost forgettable.

For shame.

If San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean were Santa Clause, Giants nation would be unwrapping Matt Holiday or Jason Bay for the 2010 season.

That would be a really nice gift. In fact, it’d be the best thing they’d done in a couple of years for the black and orange.

If the Red Sox and the Yankees don’t want to pay the money, then mid-level teams like the Giants, the Cubs, the Rangers and the Angels, need to swoop in and make an offer these guys can’t refuse. And seeing how Holiday is already acclimated to the Bay Area, it would be a good fit for him. And I’m positive we could stick him in the outfield anywhere.

To finish off my holiday wish list, I’ll take Adrian Gonzalez for the cherry on top.

Hey, I can dream, right?

Does your ball club suck? Don’t worry, they’re just consistent

Doesn't it look happy? (AP photo)
Doesn't it look happy? (AP photo)
The San Francisco Giants have been on the cusp of being a really good ball club for the last two seasons. This has been exemplified by the great staff pitching, and highlighted by two Cy Young awards for righty Tim Lincecum, the star of a very deep rotation that can extend to six pitchers if it really wanted.

And that’s where the highlights end.

Giants fans have promise in young guys like Pablo Sandoval, but are remiss to find golden nuggets elsewhere. In fact, if you asked any true fan of the black and orange, they’d be willing to throw in half the club — including Aaron Rowand — for another dynamic hitter. One which opposing teams would have to account for in the lineup. (I think all ball clubs are looking for that special hitter.) But you won’t see the Giants make a move for one. And neither will your sucky ball club.
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Giants have me on edge — and I like it!

Jonthan Sanchez is my homeboy -- so long as he keeps winning.
Jonthan Sanchez is my homeboy -- so long as he keeps winning.

Two days in a row the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies have pulled off wins. For the last three days, they’ve matched wins and losses. In the last 10 games for each team, the Rockies have gone 4-6 and the Giants have gone 7-3.

Yes, things have been interesting.

This is a playoff chase people. This is the nitty gritty that we always talk about. And the No. 1 thing in our way — in front of destiny — is the Godless Rockies. Even worse, a dependence on the Arizona D’backs to step up and win some games for the home team (the Giants).

I’m on pins and needles over here and I think I like it. Watching the game today with Jonathan Sanchez up against Braden Looper of the Brewers. Yeah, we’re playing the Brewers and I’m seeing fireworks.

That’s awesome.

The National League Wildcard standings as of Sept. 5, 2009.
The National League Wildcard standings as of Sept. 5, 2009.

Is it do or die yet for the Giants?

My San Francisco Giants have had the pleasure of going most of the season without me penning at least 10 end-of-the-world columns in which I disparage this player or that, take Brian Sabean’s name in vain, and curse Bruce Bochy for his … being him.

Football has been on my mind, as you can tell. Along with Tim, we’ve been on football nonstop since two months ago. Last month, we wrote 22 football posts. That’s crazy. (Also, I think it’s the most we’ve ever written in the blog in one month. Chalk half of it up to our Super Bowl predictions, which are getting crazier every day.) But now I’ve got to focus in on what’s important: The National League Wildcard race.

(Yes, the start of the NFL season is going to be my No. 1 and I’ve still got two more fantasy football drafts to go, but I have to take into consideration a viable playoff chance for one of my favorite teams. Get off my back already!)

With Brad Penny riding in on a white horse, the Giants beat up on the defending World Series champions 4-0 Wednesday afternoon to edge the Giants closer to payday. He put in eight innings of bliss, making me still wonder — no, believe — that the Giants have the best five-man rotation in all of baseball and bats be damned, the team’s pitchers are going to will them into October.

It’s the only way.
Continue reading “Is it do or die yet for the Giants?”

Raising Barry Zito from the dead

Barry Zito is an enigma. He knows this. You know this.

He’s coming so far from the bottom, he can’t even see the top. This season has been a delightful surprise for one of the San Francisco Giants’ most poignant punchlines because of his demurred star quality in black and orange. With his last three starts worthy of making any pitching coach’s mouth water, the enigma has extended a leaf of hope to what he may offer this season for the Giants and for this ever-critical fan.

Zito’s got quirks. If you’re following him on Twitter, you know he’s a hoot. And apparently he’s got his swagger back. He’s allowed three runs in his last three starts, given up 13 hits, walked four and struck out 11. All of these games have been no-decisions for the Giants’ No. 4 pitcher, making his 0-2 record not representative of his body of work which has bordered on beautiful.

(Somebody, start knocking on wood.)

This coming from the man who showed up in spring training three years ago with a changed delivery.

“Uh, coach, I think I’m going to try something new.”

“But you’re a Cy Young winner,” says pitching coach Dave Righetti. “Why would you want to change anything?”

“Yeah, I’m getting bored with success. I’m going to try losing for a while and see how it feels.”

I swore I wouldn’t even mention Zito at the beginning of this season, or at least overindulge in my critiques of him because there is still a sensitivity to the $18 million failure characterized as “last season.” He’s a sore spot in an otherwise bright rotation that has been consistently — up until two weeks ago — a source of my absolute hatred. So much so, that criticism of this wayward pitcher has depleted all flavor in the tongue lashings he has respectfully deserved.

Can we say, no more?

His two-hit outing this weekend against the Rockies brought me absolute joy. It was reminiscent of a different Zito. A Zito that was almost feared on the mound at Network Coliseum.

As a Giants fan, I haven’t seen much of that Zito. That Zito was thought to be long dead. Or at least buried deep within the mind of this zombie that Twitter’s quotes from Helene Lerner Robbins like, “The evils of the world that confront me are a reflection of my own internal state, and no one can protect me from my own mind.”

Coming deep from within that abyss of his mind has been the pitcher the Giants paid $126 million. He’s summoned the talent that we all expected of him and were excited for in these last three starts. The results haven’t been anything less than inspiring.

But I have to tread carefully here. I don’t want Zito to get comfortable. He still hasn’t recorded a win. We’re just getting a glimpse of Zito recapturing his form. The end product is still undetermined. For God’s sake, he’s Barry Zito. He’s disappointed us before. What says he won’t do so again?

Zito is getting my hopes up. And for the first time in two years, I am earnestly waiting for him to turn it around — on his time. He’s got a long way to go before memories of seasons past are forgotten. But his last three outings are a start to some healthy amnesia.

I’ll take the amnesia any day.

Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in The Union.

Who I should’ve picked in my fantasy baseball draft

Tim Lincecum / AP photo
Been taking heat from people about my “homer” pick, a pitcher in the first round of our fantasy baseball team.

I’m still laughing at that one.

I posted here my entire fantasy draft. There are 10 people in my league to give you some sort of idea of how long it took people to draft. As noted before, I took Tim Lincecum fourth overall. That’s the same Tim Lincecum that led the majors in strikeouts and took the Cy Young last year.

What I realized, before any criticism could be leveled and my draft had occurred, is that some players are invariably more valuable than any particular formula designed for fantasy sports. Football is a good example.

In fantasy football, generally speaking, users are encouraged to select a running back with their first and possibly second picks. But if you’ve been following the league in the last three years, there really is only five top backs. After that, they are all middle of the road in terms of production (rushing yards, touchdowns, receiving yards). After that top five, if there is a player that equates in terms of production points, it would be wise to take that player. Most recently, quarterback Tom Brady filled that role. Fifty passing touchdowns in one year will do that to a formula. Tony Romo also comes to mind. When Michael Vick returns, he’ll also be a player to look at in that situation.

My point is, Lincecum fills that role. With 265 strikeouts in 227 innings last year, he averaged 1.16 an inning. One in every 3 1/2 batters, he struck out. That’s absolutely amazing. In fact, so amazing, they gave him a nice piece of hardware for it. That’s pretty valuable. More so than some corner infielder that will possibly slump for a month.

Admittedly, after Lincecum’s rough start, I worried that he was making the “homer” remark look very accurate. But he’s bounced back, tallying 13 strikeouts in his last start. (That’s the Timmy I love.)

But I digress. If I didn’t pick Lincecum at the No. 4 spot, I would’ve had some very nice options available to me. In fact, you could say I jumped the gun in that regard. (What can I say, I’m a biased Giants fan). There were easily seven players to choose from who are absolutely dynamic. I was lucky enough to pick up two of them in the next two rounds. But out of my reach and off the table at No. 4 were Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes.

Personally, I don’t think Ramirez was worthy of the hype. And if Pujols was there at No. 4, I would’ve grabbed him. He’s just dope.

While I don’t regret taking Lincecum, I could see with conventional wisdom going after Josh Hamilton (went No. 8) or Dustin Pedroia (No. 11 in 2nd round).

(How sad is this, I can’t even make a decision between those two.)

It’s weird, after I took Lincecum, the guy after me took Johan Santana. CC Sabathia was the next pitcher taken in the second round, 16th overall.

What’s your fantasy baseball draft strategy? Top player on the table? Or your favorite player on the table? By need first, or want first? Answer below.