The good news is that the Giants have virtually all of their players locked up under contract for next year, with the sole exceptions of undead soldiers Rich Aurelia (age 45?) and Omar Vizquel (age 50?). The bad news is that these locked-up players constituted an absolute stinker of a team that went 72-90 and was outscored by 119 runs.
The real culprit was offense. While the Giants pitching staff could hide its mediocre veterans (and its one terrible veteran, Barry Zito) behind the blinding light that was Tim Lincecum’s Cy Young 2008 season, and thus posted a middle-of-the-pack 4.48 ERA (17th in the MLB), the offense was truly abominable, fielding a squad that couldn’t walk its way to first on a moving sidewalk, and couldn’t slug its way out of a paper bag. Altogether they scored a piddling 640 runs, 29th out of 30 in the majors and just 3 runs more than the San Diego Padres, who at least had the excuse of playing half their games in cavernous Petco Park.
Even their supposed “stars” on offense were more weakness than strength, more flash than substance. To the die hard, rose-colored-glasses-wearing Giants fans, Randy Winn’s .306 batting average masked his not-even-average .790 OPS out of a corner outfield spot, Aaron Rowand’s defense and “grit” masked his .339 OBP, Bengie Molia’s .292 average masked his steeply declining defensive skills, Fred Lewis’s youth and hustle masked his inability to hit for power, and Eugenio Velez’s blazing speed masked his total lack of ability in any other area.
The lone bright spot on the offense was late-season AA call-up Pablo Sandoval, who was a revelation at the plate down the stretch. But his seemingly brilliant .345 batting average hid the lousy OBP and SLG betrayed by his .847 OPS. That OPS was almost all batting average, which in turn was almost all the result of an unsustanibly high BABIP. Sandoval is still young, at a mere 22, and gets the nod as the starter at 3B next year, but there is no way he even comes close to his 2008 numbers over a full season.
But perhaps more importantly, in no real way will Sandoval contribute to solving the Giants’ most pressing problem of all, which is a total lack of power. As a team, their major-league-worst 94 home runs were a full 17 homers behind the 29th best team (the Twins). Molina “led” the team with a mere 16 dingers, and only one other player (Rowand) even had more than 10. Even adding a single 30-homer power hitter would increase the team’s home-run output by 1/3, so that is clearly the area of greatest need.