Okay, so here's where I think the Giants should stand after the 162 game season comes to an end:
98 wins - 64 losses.
Obviously, it might be easier to handle some of my pre-season predictions now that we've already played 20 games so far, but here they are anyways. And there are some peeps out there that heard me say these things over a month ago. They know who they are, and I'm not just now jumping on these bandwagons.
First off, just how good is Tim Lincecum? Well, midway through last season I did some research and put together some stats. Then, I updated them at the end of last season. I was interested to learn how Lincecum stacked up against some of the pitching legends in MLB baseball. So, I went and found out for myself.
These are stats from the first three seasons of some of the very best pitchers in MLB history. Sure, complete games and innings pitched are different today than in earlier times when there was only a four-man rotation and there wasn't really such a thing as a pitch count. The red are "best in category" or years where they won the Cy Young Award. Click on the image to view a larger image size.
But I think Tim's numbers speak volumes about the potential of what may still lie ahead for this right-hander. And yes, I believe he is still getting better. If he gets a good snap throw to first, learns to make sure to hold runners on base better. If he starts getting great control back over the curveball he had thrown successfully through his UW college days. And his walk total is still going down each year.
Lincecum usually works pretty fast too. I mean, if you ever go to a game that he's pitching, you could almost double-park your car outside. It doesn't seem unusual for his games to finish in 2:15 to 2:25. Maybe there is room to still add some subtleties in as well, like changing his tempo to disturb the rhythm of the hitters. Quick pitching or delaying on the mound to make the batters more anxious. I think he's unbelievable and these little nuances aren't going unnoticed by the best this game has to offer.
So, why do I think the Giants can win 98 games this year? Well, pitching. Not just starting rotation- but the bullpen too. Clearly I think the Giants made great strides in the off-season to trim their staff to be better. Howry was likely the largest liability last year, with Miller and Valdez being less notable compared to Affeldt, Romo, and Wilson. Now, Runzler has earned a true place, I think Mota is a fantastic addition for a low salary... And I truly believe Romo will be a premier closer in two- or less than three years' time.
I only recently learned that Romo was brought up through the minors as a closer. But he's got the stuff to be unbelievable, and I also think he thrives on big time situations. I am really impressed by Sergio Romo, and am curious to see what his younger brother, Andrew Romo, can bring to the Giants in the future. It is my hope Sergio Romo can stay with the Giants for many years to come.
Okay, back to my season predictions. I think it is pretty easy to say the Giants can win the NL West. I don't think the Dodgers have enough pitching. And last year Ethier had a career-type year. Will he and Kemp be able to continue that pace? I don't think so. And their pitching hasn't been able to hold up anyways. Now, with Manny in and out of the lineup and the runs against they've been posting... It might be easier to see why I don't see the Dodgers as very competitive. Heck, I think they might be third in our division.
Sure Arizona might be putting up some big scores, but honestly... I don't see them being all that competitive by the time the season comes to a close. I would be surprised if they win more than 75 games this season. Yup, seriously.
So, then you might guess I have the Colorado Rockies as coming in second to the SF Giants? Nope. Going against all logic, I was talking about the Padres before the season even started. I think they might be sneaky this year, I said. No, they aren't supposed to be very good. No, their pitching isn't really that solid. On paper. But I think Adrian Gonzalez is the centerpiece of a pretty solid offensive lineup.
And oh yeah, let me start with my "strength of schedule" discussion now. I don't really hear any analysts talk about strength of schedule in baseball. I guess with a 162 game season, it seems less relevant. But that's just not true. Here's how I've rated the strength of schedule in the NL West division (based solely on my fairly uninformed opinions of how 'competitive' I think teams will be for this entire season).
Arizona Diamondbacks have a +/- of ZERO games.
Colorado Rockies have a +2 game advantage in schedule.
San Francisco Giants have a +7 game advantage in schedule.
San Diego Padres have a +9 game advantage in schedule.
Los Angeles Dodgers have a -8.5 game disadvantage in schedule.
Okay, but what does this mean? How about a "for example"?
The Giants play the Astros 9 games
the Dodgers play the Astros 6 games, the Twins 2 extra games and the Cardinals 1 extra game.
I'd say that is favorable to the Giants, right?
The Giants play the Orioles for a 3-game series
the Dodgers instead will face the Yankees for a 3-game series.
Here's the bottom line about strength of schedule. I just don't see the Dodgers being able to survive the month of June too easily (specifically the 25 games from June 3rd onward). Unless they have at least an 8-game lead in the West by June 2nd... And for that to happen within the next six weeks, well simple mathmatics will explain to you how unlikely that is (from the current standings).
All in all, I think the strength of schedule is yet another contributing factor to the makings of what could be a very special season for the SF Giants. Add in the pitching (I'll talk more about how I think Zito will have 16-18 wins this year, and the 5th starter position will likely have 10 or 11 wins). An even stronger bullpen than last year. Professional bats (both acquired like DeRosa and Huff, and retained like Uribe and Renteria).
After the Giants were swept by the Padres I figured I would have no hope of them holding to my early pre-season predictions (14-8 in April). But maybe it is still within reach. Can the Gigantes sweep the Phillies (behind Tim's pitching) and win the opener against the Rockies? By month, here's how I see the Giants season record shaping up:
April 2010: 14 wins - 8 losses.
May 2010: 20 wins - 8 losses (overall 34-16)
June 2010: 17 wins - 10 losses (overall 51-26)
July 2010: 15 wins - 13 losses (overall 66-39)
Aug 2010: 14 wins - 14 losses (overall 80-53)
Sept/Oct: 18 wins - 11 losses (overall 98-64)
With all the talk surrounding Posey and how many fans want him up right now, I think this is ridiculous. Soon, I'll talk about Buster Posey and when I think he'll be brought up. Or should be brought up and why.
(hint: Monday June 14th at home vs. Baltimore w/ Matt Cain starting).