Keith's Worst Team Predictions of 2009

San Francisco Giants

by Keith Glab,
November 16, 2009

Many people considered the Colorado Rockies to be the biggest surprise team of 2009 and the Chicago Cubs among the biggest disappointments.  Both teams did about what I had expected them to do.  I missed Colorado's win total by five wins, but had them winning the NL West, a division I had underestimated as a whole.  I also correctly predicted the Cubs would miss the postseason, overshooting their overall winning percentage by just 15 points.

This isn't to say that my predictions were immaculate.  I missed three teams' actual win totals by more than 15 games, the worst of which was a 27-win differential.  That's pretty embarrassing, so I sat down to examine why I was so wrong about each club.

Bad Predictions: Mets | Indians | Giants

2009 Standings
Keith's 2009 Predictions

San Francisco Giants Actual Record: 88-74
Keith's Giants Prediction: 61-101
Difference: 27 games

This is the biggie, and unlike Cleveland and New York, the Giants exceeded my expectations.  The biggest difference, I suppose, is that while the Mets and Indians each suffered injuries that I wasn't expecting, I was anticipating injuries to the Giants that never occurred.

I took one look at Tim Lincecum's 50-inning jump between 207 and 2008 and saw red flags.  I saw 18 pitch counts of 110 or more and three of over 125 in a four-start span and got sympathy pains in my elbow.  I watched a world-class athlete who looks like a little girl whip some of the league's fastest fastballs and sharpest breaking balls with a violent delivery and cringed.  But after a pair of rough stats to begin the 2009 season, Lincecum went 15-6 with a 2.28 ERA, .198 BAA, and .535 OPSA, including 251 strikeouts, 62 walks, and nine homers over those 217 innings.  Whoops.

But I'd figured that even if Lincecum were to manage to stay healthy for another year, Matt Cain might be due for a fall.  Cain has no injury history to speak of, but is one of the hardest throwers in baseball and logged 654.2 major league innings before his 24th birthday, including 63 starts of 100 or more pitches thrown.  All Cain did was set career-bests in wins, ERA, and BB/9, although his strikeout rate dipped and home run rate increased.

Then there was Jonathan Sanchez, winner of the 2008 Mark Redman Award based on his injury-influenced second half mark of 1-7 with a 7.47 ERA.  Naturally, he rebounded to toss a no-hitter and strike out nearly 10 batters per nine innings en route to a 4.24 ERA this year.  Barry Zito, whose durability was never in question, similarly managed to improve his ERA by a full run over his disastrous 2008 campaign.  How about Jeremy Affeldt, a career 4.55 ERA pitcher before posting a 1.73 mark in 2009 despite the fact that he walked a batter every other inning?

The only pitcher who really disappointed them was Randy Johnson.  While the 96 innings was about all you could realistically expect from him at age 45, you had to figure that he'd post a lower ERA than 4.88.  As it was, The Big Unit represented the only significant injury for the Giants all year, and the injury may have actually helped them. Johnson's absence opened the door for the acquisition of Brad Penny, who went 4-1 with an ERA of 2.59 over his six starts.

Indeed, the snowball effect we saw with the Indians happened in reverse here.  Everything for the Giants went right injury-wise, which kept their bullpen fresh, kept them in contention, and precipitated their addition of players at the deadline.  In fairness, Ryan Garko only helped the Giants because Rich Aurilia was so very poor, and Freddy Sanchez was only useful in that he was not Matt Downs, Kevin Frandsen, or Emmanuel Burriss.

Yes, this was a bad, bad offense, though still not as bad as I had anticipated.  Sure, I predicted that Pablo Sandoval would lead the NL with 48 doubles and he wound up finishing third with 44, but his overall numbers were far better than I would have expected.  His season wasn't shocking at all compared to Juan Uribe's, however.  Someone must have told him that it was 2004, because he nearly matched that career year's offensive numbers.  Or maybe the spirit of Jose Uribe infused him with the power of 1987.  Whatever the case, Juan was the Giants' second-best hitter in 2009, and that wasn't quite as bad of a situation as it sounds.

But again, this was a case of the Giants being remarkably healthy.  Bengie Molina wasn't good by any stretch of the imagination, but what if he had gotten injured and turned the catcher's job over to Eli Whiteside?  Rich Aurilia hit .213 playing primarily against left-handed pitchers.  What if Travis Ishikawa had gotten injured and Aurilia had to play full-time?  As bad as the San Francisco offense was, it could have been - and probably should have been - even worse.

The Giants are going to disappoint a lot of people next year.  Being a fairly young team who won 88 games necessarily engenders high expectations the following season.  But virtually everything had to go right for them to win those 88 games, and the teams beneath them in the NL West may not be such easy pickings next year.  Barring some uncharacteristically deft moves by Brian Sabean, this is a team that will finish with a losing record in 2010.

Bad Predictions: Mets | Indians | Giants

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at