April 2010

Random thoughts: Does Bochy have water on the brain?

It’s Sunday afternoon, it’s raining hard in San Francisco and the Giants-Braves game is officially in a rain delay.

Like anyone couldn’t see that coming. Anyone, except Bruce Bochy.

Bobby Cox saw it coming. That’s why he took his No. 1 pitcher, Derek Lowe, and moved him up to pitch on Saturday. Kenshin Kawakami was slated to pitch Saturday, but with Sunday’s rainy forecast, Cox thought it better to throw Lowe on Saturday and keep him on the every-five-day schedule. The theory is it’s better to keep your No. 1 starter on schedule and let your No. 5 guy deal with the headaches of rain delays or postponements.

Maybe that’s why Bobby Cox is going to the Hall of Fame as a manager one day. Maybe that’s why Bruce Bochy won’t.

Faced with the same situation, Bochy pitched Wellemeyer on Saturday night, and now Lincecum is the battling the rain. If today’s game is rained out, Lincecum will go Monday against the Pirates, on six days rest.

Would it not have been better to pitch Lincecum on Saturday, and let Wellemeyer deal with the rain? If Sunday’s game were rained out, then you skip Wellemeyer and have him available in the pen and keep the rest of your rotation on schedule.

Water on the brain, part II .. with a catch

There’s another twist with this Lincecum-Wellemeyer-rain weather issue. It involves catcher Bengie Molina.

Molina sat out Saturday’s game against the Braves. Bochy said he’s was fine health-wise, but wanted to rest his catcher after playing 10 innings on Friday. Also, he wanted Molina to catch Lincecum on Sunday and didn’t want Molina to catch Saturday night and then again Sunday afternoon.

All sound logic, if you were paying no mind to the weather forecast!!!!

Given Sunday’s forecast, it would have been better to pitch Lincecum Saturday and catch Molina Saturday. Then Bochy could have sit Molina Sunday and start Whiteside, if the game is played. If the game gets rained out, Molina still gets his day off and the Giants don’t miss his bat in the lineup.

Yes, Molina played 10 innings Friday, but he had Thursday off with the travel day and he didn’t play Wednesday. So we think he could have handled it.

As it was, the Giants definitely missed his bat on Saturday. Whiteside appears lost at the plate. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Saturday and stranded seven runners on base.

The Braves seemed to see this right away, and it looked as if Lowe was pitching around Juan Uribe to get to Whiteside. Need evidence? How about the three walks Uribe had on Saturday. Normally, it takes Uribe two months to amass three walks. The Braves gave him three in one night!

Oh, Buster Posey???

Whiteside’s struggles, not only at the plate but behind it (the Giants had four wild pitches Saturday with Whiteside catching), it might make Giant fans wonder what Buster Posey is up to down at Fresno.

Well, in his first three games at Fresno, Buster Posey is 7 for 13 and he’s reached safely 10 times. He had a single and triple on Saturday night.

The decision to send Posey to Triple-A was based on the principle that the Giants wanted him to catch every day, instead of getting three starts a week with the Giants.

But if the Giants plan on resting Molina more this season than last season, sending him out to start only two of every three games, can the Giants afford to create another hole in the lineup by starting Whiteside?

More news from Fresno

It may be time to starting worrying about Madison Bumgarner.

The Giants heralded pitching prospect got lit up in his Triple-A debut Friday against the Reno Aces.

Bumgarner gave up four runs on a career-high 11 hits and two walks in just three innings of work. Bumgarner topped out at 88 mph on the stadium radar gun.


Fred Lewis, on a rehab assignment with the Grizzlies, started in center field for Fresno on Saturday.

Fred Lewis? In center field?

More Splash Hits is trying to envision that.

Hmmmmm. Nope! Too scary! Can’t do it.

Good times had to end; Giants take first loss

Braves 7, Giants 1
Giants record:
4-1, first place in NL West, 1 game ahead of Arizona
Losing pitcher: Todd Wellemeyer 0-1
Giant home runs: None.

Well, Guess the dream of a 162-0 season is gone.

Losses are going to happen, but Saturday’s 7-1 setback to the Atlanta Braves was particularly irritating. The loss seemed to be the result of a 1,000 self-inflicted pin pricks than any one big stab from the Braves.

Todd Wellemeyer pitched well enough through six innings, limited the Braves to one run on Jason Heyward’s opposite-field home run.

But manager Bruce Bochy sent Wellemeyer out for the seventh inning, a lot to ask of your No. 5 starter on his first start of the season. The seventh seemed to wear on Wellemeyer, as he started to lose control he depends on to get people out.

But because Bochy ransacked his bullpen securing the win on Friday, he needed Wellemeyer to pitch as long as possible.

The seventh started with a hit by pinch-hitter Melky Cabrera. Nate McLouth tried to bunt Cabrera to second, but Wellemeyer couldn’t throw him a strike to bunt on. Wellemeyer eventually bounced a curve in the dirt, allowing Cabrera to take second. When McLouth tried to bunt Cabrera to third, Wellemeyer walked him. Martin Prado bunted the runners to second and third, but Wellemeyer was still in position to get out of the inning after intentionally walking Brian McCann to load the bases.

If Wellemeyer, a groundball pitcher, could get the slow-footed Troy Glaus to hit the ball on the ground, the Giants could likely escape the rally with a double play. But Wellemeyer instead hit Glaus, actually only brushed his uniform with a pitch. But it was good enough to get the go-ahead run home and get Wellemeyer out of the game.

Brandon Medders came into the game and did what he was supposed to do, get Yunel Escobar to hit a double-play ball. However, Edgar Renteria threw the ball just enough behind Juan Uribe at second to prevent Uribe from making the turn. The Giants only got one out, and the Braves got another run. They would add a third on a single by Heyward.

Not that it mattered, because the Giants offense could not must more than two runs despite getting loads of opportunities. Derek Lowe walked a career-high seven batters over six innings. Seven walks …. to the free-swinging Giants!!!! But the Giants only managed four hits off Lowe, and one run. Why? Because Giant hitters insisted on pulling the ball off Lowe. Lowe was making a living by working the outside half of the plate, and wasn’t having a lot of success. Of the 112 pitches Lowee threw, 52 were balls. When Lowe did throw the ball over the plate, the Giants were too eager with their swings, helping out Lowe by pulling the ball weakly into groundouts.

One time the Giants went with the pitch? Juan Uribe’s single in the fourth that plated Aubrey Huff with the Giants’ first run. Bochy used the hit-and-run with perfection on the play. On a 3-1 count, Bochy sent John Bowker from first. It was a smart move because if the pitch is a ball, Uribe walks and Bowker takes second. If it’s a strike, Uribe, who is hitting .412, makes contact. That’s what happened, Uribe hit it to the right of second. With Bowker running, 2B Omar Infante went to cover second, and Uribe hit it in the spot vacated by Infante.

But then on the next at-bat, the Giants ran themselves out of the inning with a botched hit-and-run. We don’t know whether to blame this on Bochy or Uribe, but on the first pitch to Eli Whiteside, Uribe broke for second. Whiteside swung and missed, and Uribe was hung out to dry, stopping about two-thirds of the way to second before retreating and being tagged out. Uribe actually stood a good chance of stealing second on the play even though the throw clearly would have beaten him. However, the throw was high and offline, so Uribe might have slipped under if he had continued.

But the real question is why was he running on an 0-0 count with a pitcher on the hill who hasn’t been throwing strikes, with a batter who hasn’t been hitting or even making good contact, and with the pitcher on deck. Not a smart move.

Renteria for MVP! Giants are 4-0!

Edgar Renteria had another huge day at the plate as the San Francisco Giants survived to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-4 in 13 innings on Friday.

Renteria went 3 for 5 with a double, and home run. His double led to two runs in the seventh. His two-run home run off Billy Wagner tied the game in the ninth.

So the Giants are now 4-0 on the young season, even though they almost “Bochied” it.

The Giants cleaned out the bullpen and the bench on Friday, using 21 of the 25 players on the active roster to earn the victory.

In the series in Houston, More Splash Hits was starting to wonder about manager Bruce Bochy’s penchant for double switches and late-game defensive replacements often puts the Giants thin on bench players.

Given that the Giants decided to carry 12 pitchers, it only leaves five bench players on game day.

Here’s how Bochy managed Friday’s contest.

Top of the fifth: Brandon Medders replaces Jonathan Sanchez on the mound.

Bottom of sixth: Nate Schierholtz hits for Medders.

Top of seventh: Guillermo Mota relieves Medders

Top of eighth: Waldis Joaquin relieves Mota; Dan Runzler relieves Joaquin; Eugenio Velez replaces Mark DeRosa in LF in double switch.

Top of 10th: Travis Ishikawa replaces Aubrey Huff at 1B/Brian Wilson relieves Runzler in double switch

Bottom of 10th: Eli Whiteside runs for Bengie Molina

Top of 11th: Sergio Romo relieves Wilson

Bottom of 12th: Andres Torres hits for Romo

Top of 13th: Jeremy Affeldt relieves Romo

It’s hard to debate most of Bochy’s moves. The bullpen gave up one run on four hits in 8 2/3 innings pitched, even though the pen also walked seven batters.

But the one curious move came in the 12th. Pablo Sandoval led off with a bloop double down the left-field line. At this point, Bochy needed to make one of two decisions: 1) used Torres to pinch-hit for Romo, and allow Torres to try to drive Sandoval home; or 2) opt to sacrifice Sandoval to third. Bochy opted for the latter, but why use Torres for this. Why not use one of his four starting pitchers on the bench to bunt Sandoval to third? Instead, he burned his final bat on his bench.

That left Ishikawa and Whiteside to bring Sandoval home. They didn’t. Ishikawa his a slow chopper to second. We don’t know why Sandoval wasn’t running on contact. The ball was weakly hit and Sandoval had a fair shot of scoring. Instead, he left it to Whiteside, who struck out.

Fortunately, some aggressive running and good breaks in the 13th got the Giants out with the win and without having to go on playing any longer.

In the 13th, Uribe walked (the Giants’ only walk of the day). He stole second. Aaron Rowand swung and missed on the pitch, and his backswing made it difficult for Braves catcher Brian McCann to make the throw to second. The throw went into center and Uribe went to third.

Rowand then pulled the ball into the hole at short. The Braves’ Yunel Escobar made a play on the ball, but could not throw Rowand out, and Uribe scampered home with the win.



Giants notes: Velez plays for San Fran…what?

No, that wasn’t a clever marketing ploy by the San Francisco Giants to try to raise awareness about dyslexia in America. It was just a plain old error.

Giants Astros Baseball.jpg
Giants infielder/outfielder Eugenio Velez wore a uniform Wednesday in Houston that had the C and S in San Francisco transposed on his chest. Velez’s uniform read “San Francicso.”
Apparently, Velez had no idea about the misspelling and only learned of it when reporters asked him about it after the game.
“Increible!” Velez said.
Wow! Even when Velez speaks, he misspells words! No, wait. That was actually Spanish. Our bad.
Apparently, Majestic, the company that makes the big league uniforms, are really wishing that Giants had gone back to their retro road unis, when all it had on it was a big “SF.”
Lewis begins rehab stint
Outfielder Fred Lewis, placed on the disabled list to the start the season with an abdominal strain, began a rehabilitation stint with the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies on Thursday.
Lewis started in left field against the Reno Aces and went 1 for 3.
No word on how long Lewis will be on the rehab stint, as the Giants’ outfield is still very crowded. 
If, and when, the Giants decide to activate Lewis, the leading candidate to be sent down could be Eugenio Velez. Of the current outfielders on the roster, only Velez and John Bowker have minor-league options remaining. And as Bowker is currently starting in right field, Velez seems the likely candidate to be wearing “Frenso” uniform in the near future.
Whoops, we meant “Fresno.”
Posey watch
Also in Reno on Thursday, Buster Posey started at catcher for the Grizzlies and batted third. he went 3 for 5 with two runs scored.
Trivia answer
I did miss the trivia answer from the Giants’ opening day broadcast.
The question was: Who were the five pitchers to start on opening day for the Giants from 2000-2009?
I got four of five right. But I was thinking about the correct fifth pitcher.
They were: Livan Hernandez (2000-02), Kirk Rueter (2003-04), Jason Schmidt (2005-06), Barry Zito (2007-08), Tim Lincecum (2009).
Dang! I guessed Russ Ortiz, but Rueter was lingering in my head.
Braves come to town
After Thursday’s games, the Giants became the last undefeated team in the majors. One of those teams to suffer their first loss on Thursday was the Atlanta Braves, who lost 2-0 to the Chicago Cubs.
The Braves will come to San Francisco for the Giants’ home opener. Game time is set for 1:35 p.m. Friday at AT&T Park. The game will be carried live by the MLB Network.
The Giants may have caught a break by avoiding the Braves’ talented young pitchers Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend series.
Jonathan Sanchez (0-0) vs. Tim Hudson (0-0), 1:35 p.m. Friday (MLB network)

Todd Wellemeyer (0-0) vs. Kenshin Kawakami (0-0), 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Tim Lincecum (1-0) vs. Derek Lowe (1-0), 1:05 p.m. Sunday

Break out the brooms! Giants are 3-0

The Giants smashed out 19 hits and the Giants are 3-0 after a 10-4 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

There is a lot for Giants fans to be excited about the G-men’s three-game sweep of the Astros.

For instance:

  • 400px-Broom_icon_svg.pngEdgar Renteria went 5 for 5 with a walk, raising his season average to .727. More Splash Hits apologizes for any reservations we had about Renteria batting in the No. 2 hole.
  • Aaron Rowand broke out of an 0-for-10 start by going 4 for 6.
  • John Bowker belted his first home run of the season.
  • Matt Cain pitched six stellar innings before giving up three runs in the seventh. Aaron Rowand almost saved Cain, but he was unable to corral Cory Sullivan’s long drive to center and it went for a triple.
  • The Giants bullpen came through with 2 1/3 scoreless innings. Other than Brandon Medders, the Giants pen is unscored upon this young season.

Despite all this good stuff, there are still areas of concern. So, in the spirit of keeping enthusiastic Giants fans grounded, here are some other things to think about.

  • The Giants still need to show some discipline at the plate. For the second time in three games, Aaron Rowand swung at the first pitch of the game. On Wednesday, he swung and missed on a Brett Myers curveball. We’re guessing he wasn’t looking curveball on the first pitch, so why swing??? In another Rowand at-bat, he got ahead 2-0 then swung on a pitch a foot outside the strike zone. The good news on both at-bats is Rowand followed up by getting hits.
  • Double plays. The Giants grounded into two more Wednesday and should have grounded into a third when Astros reliever Tim Byrdak threw wide to second trying to turn two on a comebacker by Pablo Sandoval. The Astros were only able to get one out. The other two DPs killed potentially big innings. In the first, Rowand and Renteria singled, but Sandoval grounded into a DP. In the third, Renteria, Sandoval and Aubrey Huff singled to load the bases. Mark DeRosa grounded into a DP that scored Renteria. That’s seven double plays in three games.

It may be nitpicking. I mean, the Giants are 3-0, and what’s even better, they are 2.5 games ahead of the Dodgers. They are 3-0 on the road. They’ve hit well when the pitching faltered, and pitched well when the hitting struggled. But the law of averages will eventually catch up with them, so fixing the holes now will pay off in the end.

Magic number to clinch NL West: 158

Zito pitches Giants to best record in majors

OK, OK, so it’s only a 2-0 record. But it’s the only 2-0 record in the majors, and the Giants own it.

Barry Zito threw six shutout innings, limiting the Astros to three hits and one walk. He struck out five.

It’s the kind of season-opening start the Giants have been waiting four years for from Zito.

The Giants got their first shutout of the season, as Zito got help from four relievers. If not for Brandon Medders’ struggles on Monday, the Giants might have had back-to-back shutouts.

And they needed a good pitching performance, because the offense struggled to put together rallies.

But the Giants got enough in the sixth inning, set up by back-to-back walks by Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval. Aubrey Huff singled Renteria home. Mark DeRosa beat out a potential double-play ball, with Sandoval taking third. Bengie Molina got Sandoval home on a sacrifice fly, with DeRosa taking second. Then DeRosa scored on Juan Uribe’s single.

That’s the Giants’ offense. It’s not one guy. The Giants need to score runs as a team.

But it wasn’t all good news for the G-men.

The pessismist might point out these facts:

The Giants killed several rallies by hitting into three double plays.

Aaron Rowand went 0 for 5 with a strikeout, making him 0 for 10 for the season.

They had eight scoreless frames.

But in the end of the day, they are 2-0, both wins coming on the road, with Matt Cain set to go to the hill on Wednesday for the sweep.

And no one is going to complain about that.

Oh, and the Giants’ magic number to clinch the NL West? 160.

Opening Day Live blogging: Giants 5, Astros 2, FINAL

More Splash Hits will blog live as we watch the game via Kruk and Kuip:

First inning

Aaron Rowand’s first at-bat as the Giants leadoff batter and ……. he grounds out to short on the first pitch from Roy Oswalt.


Giants go 1-2-3.

Tim Lincecum looks very sharp. Sets down the Astros in order with 2 Ks.

Second inning

Welcome to the Giants, Aubrey Huff! Sharp single to right to open inning.

Welcome to the Giants, Mark DeRosa! Walks on 3-2 pitch.

Welcome back to the Giants, Bengie Molina! A single only Bengie could hit, off the wall in left. Huff scores.

Welcome to the opening day roster, John Bowker! A single off the left field wall. You should feel ashamed, though, John. Molina went from first to third on the play, but you’re still sitting at first! Bengie Molina!!

Uribe hits sac fly to scores speedy Molina from third.

Lincecum bunts Bowker to second.

Rowand grounds out. But the Giants lead 3-0!

Lincecum gives up two-out single to Feliz. Apparently, he didn’t get memo to throw nothing but off-speed stuff to Feliz. Got out of the inning on a nice catch in right by John Bowker 

 Third inning

Renteria walks, Sandoval singles. But rally quashed by a double-play ball from Huff.

Lincecum goes 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.

Fourth inning

Giants only manage a single by Uribe in the fourth.

Astros only get an off-the-wall single by Carlos Lee.

Fifth inning

Aaron Rowand’s debut as a lead-off hitter, not so impressive. Two groundouts and a K.

Renteria gets first hit of year, but is erase on a DP from Kung Fu Panda

Lincecum sets down Astros again in order, even though he gave up a loud out to Feliz that had to be tracked down by Rowand in center. On a fastball when he was ahead in the count. Again, slop to Feliz, out of strike zone.

Did you get the trivia answer? The question was: Can you name the five pitchers to be the Giants opening day starter from 2000-2010?

More Splash Hits has a guess

Sixth inning

Oswalt starting to settle in now, although he’s getting some help from the ump and his Eric Gregg-like strike zone. Molina reached out to dunk a single to right, but Bowker fanned an 3-2 pitch to end inning.

Cory Sullivan bats for Oswalt, knocking the Houston ace out of the game. Lincecum gets in a bit of trouble with back-to-back singles by Bourn and Matsui. But he got Pence to ground out and Lee to pop out.

Seventh inning

Edgar Renteria is having a very nice opening day. Uribe had a leadoff single and was bunted over to 2nd by Lincecum. After advancing to third on Rowand’s dribbler to short, Renteria drove him home with a double to left-center.

Hey, someone must have gotten to Lincecum. He got ahead of Feliz with a first-pitch fastball, then through him nothing but junk, striking him out on a 2-2 splitter in the dirt. Another 1-2-3.

Eighth inning

Mark DeRosa becomes the first Giant of the year to deep yard! DeRosa smacked a one-out solo shot to right.

Sergio Romo came into the game. Apparently, he had been watching Lincecum set down the Astros 1-2-3 so often that he must have thought all he had to do was face three batters in the eighth. However, Serg, when one guy reaches base, you have to face four batters. Romo bounced off the mound and headed toward the dugout after striking out Michael Bourn for the second out of the inning. He did eventully get three outs.

Ninth inning

Hey, did I miss the trivia answer? My guess was Russ Ortiz, Livan Hernandez, Jason Schmidt, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum. If I did miss it, now I’ll have to do some research.

Giants went quietly in the ninth, with Rowand finishing the day 0 for 5, three weak grounders to short and a pair of whiffs.

Brandon Medders’ spirng struggles carry over to the regular season. He gave up a leadoff infield single to Carlos Lee when Renteria made a nice play in the hole, but Ishikawa (now in the game for Huff) could dig out his throw. Geoff Blum followed a with double to right on a hanging breaking pitch. Pedro Feliz’s groundout to short plated Lee. J.R. Towles spanked a double to left center to score Blum. Bochy went to get Brian Wilson into the game. And it’s a save opp for Wilson. Manzella strikes out. Jason Michaels hits for the pitcher. Michaels grounds out. The Giants WIN!!!!!!

All-around good game for the Giants. They scored more than three runs, got another Lincecum-like performance from Lincecum, Brian Wilson seals the day and the Giants win on the road!

Magic number to finish ahead of the Dodgers: 162 

More Splash Hits projects 90-win season

In 2008, the author of moresplashhits projected a 70-92 season for the Giants. They finished 72-90.

In 2009, More Splash Hits projected a 83-79 season. The Giants went 88-74.

So what do we project for 2010…………90-72.

We debating all spring about this number, ranging in win totals between 85-90. But we went to the high number, and here’s our reasoning.

Now many Giants fans were not enthusiastic about the Giants’ offseason moves, not securing the really big bat that the team has been lacking.

But if you step back and look at the lineup as a whole, and compare it to last year’s team, it’s hard not to conclude this year’s team is better.

Let’s look.

1B (2009) — Rich Aurilia/Travis Ishikawa
1B (2010) — Aubrey Huff

Huff is not a superstar, but he does have a solid bat. His glove may be lacking, but Ishikawa remains to provide defensive support when needed. Overall, the Giants are better in 2010 at 1B than they were in 2009. 2010: Improved

2B (2009) — Emmanuel Burriss
2B (2010) — Juan Uribe/Freddy Sanchez

Last year started with hope at 2B. Hope that Burriss would blossom into a solid starter at 2B. It never really happened as Burriss got hurt by midseason, eventually leading to the decision to get Sanchez via a trade. This year, the Giants know what their getting in Uribe, who was one of the team’s most consistent bats last season. The good news with Sanchez’s offseason surgery is that it gets Uribe into the lineup regularly, at least for the first month. If Sanchez comes back healthy and can produce, it will make the Giants all that stronger. 2010: Improved

SS (2009) — Edgar Renteria
SS (2010) — Edgar Renteria

Renteria was a disappointment in 2009, struggling much of the season. He has offseason surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, and he looked much stronger this spring. Whatever he can produce above what he provided last season is a bonus. 2010: Same

3B (2009) — Pablo Sandoval
3B (2010) — Pablo Sandoval

There’s been a lot of chatter this spring about Kung-Fu Panda. Some of it lists Sandoval as a candidate to disappoint this season, painting his 2009 as somewhat of a fluke. But the more observant Giant fans know that Sandoval perform in 2009 the same way he performed after getting called up at the end of 2008. That tells us that last season was no fluke. Again, if Sandoval replicates last year’s number, the Giants are happy. If he continues to improve, watch out. 2010: Same

C (2009) — Bengie Molina
C (2010) — Bengie Molina

One of the surprises of the offseason was the return of Molina. But it really helped complete the Giants offense. While Posey gave us a good glimpse of what is to come in the future, the importance of Molina’s bat and his handling of the pitching staff cannot be disregarded. And this season, the Giants won’t depend as heavily on Molina. No cleanup spot. No starting six days a week. That could keep Molina fresher longer. 2010: Same

LF (2009) — Fred Lewis
LF (2010) — Mark DeRosa

Left field was another position where the Giants opened the season with hope — hope that Fred Lewis would blossom as a full-time player. He didn’t. This year, they go with a veteran player with a professional bat. DeRosa is not a great outfielder, but he’s better than Lewis. And he can be depended upon offensively, more so than Lewis. 2010: Improved.

CF (2009) — Aaron Rowand
CF (2010) — Aaron Rowand

This is another player who the Giants might expect to perform better this year than last year. Rowand moves into the leadoff spot. He’s not your typical leadoff hitter. But his performance from the spring indicates that his leaner body and new approach at the plate gives hope that better days are ahead in 2010. Last year, Rowand led the Giants in strikeouts. If hits more and whiffs less, that’s good news for SF. 2010: Same

RF (2009) — Randy Winn
RF (2010) — John Bowker

Last year’s lineup was filled with players who had more promise than past production. In most cases, that promise didn’t happen (Burriss, Lewis, Ishikawa). So the Giants are going with more proven players this year. RF is one position where the Giants lose a proven player and go with one with promise. The Giants could improve at RF in 2010, or they could miss Randy Winn. 2010: Declined

Starting pitching (2009) — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, Randy Johnson
Starting pitching (2010) — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez, Todd Wellemeyer

If the Giants can match last year’s pitching performance, it’s a good year. But there’s room for improvement. Remember the first-half struggles of Sanchez before his return and his no-hitter? If he can build off his second-half success, it makes the rotation that much stronger. Johnson was a nice addition, but his season was basically over by July. If Wellemeyer can provide some good starts, the Giants will be fine. If he struggles, Kevin Pucetas is ready for a call in Fresno. 2010: Same

Closer and setup (2009): Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Bobby Howry
Closer and setup (2010): Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo

The end of the game was in good hands last year. But the middle relief was a bit shaky at times. The end again looks in good hand, but the bullpen looks much strong top-to-bottom. Plus, the Giants have plenty of good options waiting in Fresno. This looks to be a strength of the Giants in 2010. 2010: Improved

So, in review, there are several positions in which the Giants are improved, and only few where they appear to have lost something from last year. That’s got to be worth two more wins in 2010.

Also, consider this: the Giants won 22 games last season — one-fourth of their total wins — when scoring three or fewer runs. So even a few more runs this season will pay big dividends. And last year, the win total could have been much better if the Giants can play better on the road. They got off to a poor start in this category, dropping their first six in LA and San Diego. The Giants actually hit better, hit more home runs, scored more runs at home than they did on the road. And AT&T Park is consider a pitchers’ park. The road to success must start on the road for the Giants. If they can go .500 on the road, 90 wins should not be hard to reach

Giants finalized their roster

The Giants picked a right fielder and finalized their 25-man roster for Monday’s opener in Houston.

John Bowker get the start Monday in right field as the Giants face the Astros. Bowker’s hot spring, which included a home run Saturday against Oakland, thrust the left-hander into the starting lineup over Nate Schierholtz.

Two things to note about this move: One, the Giants placed greater importance on Bowker’s bat than Schierholtz’s glove. Two, the season opener is in Minute Maid Park, and not AT&T Park. So Bowker gets three games to solidify his job in right field. If he doesn’t produce early, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Schierholtz in right for Friday’s home opener against the Braves.

We also wouldn’t be surprised to see Andres Torres or Eugenio Velez get starts against left-handed pitchers.

In the other move, the Giants chose Guillermo Mota to fill the final roster spot, sending pitcher Denny Bautista to the minors

Spring training: Giants 10, A’s 6

The Giants’ offensive struggles at home the previous two nights may very well have been related adjusting to night baseball. Because on Saturday afternoon in Oakland, the Giants broke out for 10 runs and 12 hits in a 10-6 win over the A’s.

John Bowker, Eugenio Velez and Pablo Sandoval each belted two-run home runs and Nate Schierholtz went 3 for 5 with two doubles.

Jonathan Sanchez threw four innings of one-hit ball. Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Medders and Dan Runzler followed with scoreless innings, giving up just one hit between them.

The A’s tallied five runs in the ninth. Alex Hinshaw, who will open the season at Triple-A, gave up four runs on no hits, believe it or not. He walked three hit and hit one. Felix Romero came in with the bases loaded and allowed all three runs to score.

The Giants will complete their exhibition schedule with 12:05 p.m. game Sunday at home against the Mariners. Todd Wellemeyer will start for the Giants.