Giants are flawed, but should win NL West
Despite concerns over Romo, Lincecum, team has best pitching in division
Published: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 7:46 p.m.
With the Giants it's the pitching.
Never forget that.
The Giants are a pitching staff supplemented by Buster Posey and the “other guys.” The other guys change from time to time, but the pitching stays the same, at least for now. The Giants have those great starters, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito et al. And the Giants have that shut-you-down bullpen — Sergio Romo (lots more on him later), Jeremy Affeldt (the best quote on the team), Santiago Casilla et al.
And the Giants ride that pitching through the regular season, winning enough close games — they play a ton of close games because they don't hit for power — to get into the playoffs, where they flip the switch and the pitching dominates, just dominates those short series. And the Giants, if the script is solid, ride that pitching to the world championship as they did two of the past three years. That's the theory. And it's a good theory.
Let's not mess around or build to a delayed conclusion a few paragraphs from here. Let's say it right now. Let's shout it from the Golden Gate Bridge. The Giants should win the National League West, almost certainly will win it. They are the best team in the division — it's the pitching. And the other teams have problems.
Like the Dodgers: Hanley Ramirez has a bum thumb suffered in the World Baseball Classic — well, isn't that just classic — and is out until May, give or take. And big-deal pitching acquisition Zack Greinke is hurt and won't make his first start.
Like the Diamondbacks: Cody Ross is hurt and so is Willie Bloomquist and so is Adam Eaton — bum elbow.
Like the Padres: Chase HeadlyHeadley, the Padres' most productive hitter and 2012 National League RBI champ, has a busted thumb.
None of this is to say the Giants are problem-free. None of this says they live in the Garden of Eden before the Fall. The Giants live in the real world with real-world concerns, three in particular. The Giants must be vigilant with the three concerns, which are:
Concern No. 1: Sergio Romo.
Romo is the closer but he's not your prototype closer, a bruiser who blows away hitters in the ninth inning, a borderline sociopath who gives up a walk-off homer, wipes his hand across his mouth and forgets the loss before he hits the shower.
That's a closer. At least it used to be.
Romo is 5-10, 183 — a regular-sized human being — and he throws sliders. Not fastballs. Sliders, for heaven's sake. Some of them approach the plate at 75 mph. This is new and different.
So, what's the problem with that?
A slider puts pressure on the elbow — the right elbow in this case. From time to time, you hear reports that Romo has a “tender” elbow and that means it hurts like hell from throwing all those funny pitches, from twisting the elbow like elbows never should get twisted.
Romo is a closer who has not closed for an entire season and the Giants don't know if he can. Neither do you.
There's more with Romo, and this is about temperament. Closers lose a game, then face the media, no shame, no apologies. They are standup guys because nothing bothers them — not reporters, not Albert Pujols. Brian Wilson was a standup guy in his Giants' tenure.
After he blows a game, Romo hides. After wins, he sometimes hides and he sometimes cries. There's no crying in baseball, or something like that. All this means he does not have a closer's temperament. That may be OK. He could be a new kind of closer, a sensitive closer. That is to be determined.
There's more with Romo. He became aggressive with a TSA agent at the Las Vegas airport on New Year's Day and appeared to be under the influence. It made national news. During the 49ers season, you could see him at Candlestick basking in his notoriety, signing autographs in the locker room.
So, we ask. Does Sergio Romo have trouble handling his stardom? Does this matter?
Concern No. 2: Tim Lincecum.
Big concern here. Lincecum is supposed to be the fifth starter. Yes, the two-time Cy Young hero has fallen that far. Sure, he may work his way up the ladder. But he may not. He is a former power pitcher who must learn how to pitch minus the power. Has he learned the art of pitching?
He flopped in 2012, had the highest earned run average in the National League for pitchers who qualified for that indignity. He lost 15 games. Ugh!! If he's not careful, he will become a relief pitcher. Worse, he could be a non-Giant after this season when his contract runs out. Lincecum is pitching for his life as a Giant.
If you're keeping count, the Giants have two pitching issues — troubling for a team based on pitching.
Concern No. 3: Pablo Sandoval.
With Sandoval it's always something. He's had both hamate bones in his wrists deleted through surgery. There are no more hamates to worry about. That's progress of sorts. Now his elbow hurts, and the season hasn't even started.
And he's a tub. No other way to put it. He came into camp overweight and promptly told reporters he has two years to slim down. Two years? FYI, his contract is up after 2014 so he's probably thinking he needs to be svelte to get a big new deal.
How about losing some poundage now? It might make the big Panda less injury prone, might make him more mobile at third base, might prolong his baseball life and certainly would show passion and desire for baseball as opposed to passion for a plate of meatballs and spaghetti.
We mention the Giants' three concerns in the interest of balanced reporting. But these concerns should not matter. The Giants have the best general manager in baseball, Brian Sabean, and the best manager, Bruce Bochy, and these guys know what they're doing.
Plus, the Giants have pitching. That pitching. The best pitching.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.
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